Ohio seminary student accused of traveling to San Diego seeking sex with infants
HSI special agents arrest defendant at local airport
SAN DIEGO – An Ohio seminary student suspected of travelling to San Diego to have sex with multiple infants in Mexico was taken into federal custody Friday at Lindberg Field by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Joel A. Wright, 23, of Columbus, Ohio, is charged in a criminal complaint with two felony counts, including travelling with the intent to engage in a sexual act with a minor; and attempting to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country within the Southern District of California. Wright is expected to be arraigned in federal court Monday. Wright's arrest follows a months-long undercover child sexual exploitation investigation conducted by HSI special agents in San Diego. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California.
“This investigation opens a window into a secret world where sexual predators prey on young children around the globe,” said Dave Shaw, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego. “Pedophiles who mistakenly believe they can escape justice by committing child sex crimes outside the U.S. should be on notice that HSI will seek to vindicate the rights of those victims regardless where they live. Fortunately, in this instance, our perseverance and diligence prevented the sexual exploitation of yet another innocent victim.”
According to the criminal complaint, after receiving a tip, an undercover HSI special agent took over an email account and began chatting with Wright. Wright believed he was still communicating with a Mexico-based male tour guide he met after placing an online ad. During the email chats with the undercover investigator, Wright allegedly stated he wanted to travel to Tijuana to adopt or own a child under 3 years old and have intercourse with the child.
Subsequently, Wright booked his flight to San Diego and made arrangements to meet the friend of a tour guide at San Diego's Lindberg Field. Investigators allege the plan was for Wright and the tour guide to then travel to a hotel in Tijuana where he would meet the female infants. Wright was taken into custody by HSI special agents after his plane landed at Lindberg Field Friday morning.
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 12,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2014, more than 2,300 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 victims identified or rescued.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page. HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
Human trafficking victim shares story
Tonya spent night after night in different hotel rooms, with different men, all at the command of someone she once trusted. She was held against her will, beaten and made to feel like she had no other option at the time, all by the man she thought she loved.
She felt she deserved it. Tonya felt she couldn't escape. Afraid and confused, she thought the emotional and physical abuse she endured was her own doing.
Tonya (a pseudonym) was a victim of human trafficking. “He made me feel like I was doing it because I loved him, and in the end, we'd have a really good [financial] reward,” Tonya said.
When Tonya was 13, she met Eddie (a pseudonym) at the apartment she was living in with her mother in the Dallas, Texas, area. His estranged wife was the property manager. Tonya was classmates with Eddie's stepdaughter, so the two would often see each other at the apartment and in the local grocery store. It was there that the two first exchanged numbers.
“It was a casual relationship at first. You could see there was a mutual connection. I thought he was cute,” Tonya recalled. “I could tell he was really flirtatious with me. We would talk and flirt a lot, but it was not much more than that until we met again when I was 15.”
Things began to change one night when Tonya ran into Eddie at a bar. The two reconnected, the flirting picked up where it left off and Tonya went home with Eddie that night. Tonya was a runaway at the time, so she eventually moved in with Eddie and the two began a relationship.
It was a “normal” arrangement at first. Tonya would cook, clean and look after Eddie's kids from time to time. However, it was when the two were at a party filled with alcohol and drugs that the relationship took a turn.
“He approached me and told me in so many words, ‘I want you to have sex with this guy for money,'” Tonya said. “I was very uncomfortable and I kept saying no, I didn't want to do it. He kept telling me, ‘If you love me, you'll do this. It's just one thing. Just try it.'”
After nearly 30 more minutes of constant pressure, Tonya agreed to have sex with the man. What she thought would be a one-time thing became an everyday routine for the next few weeks. Night after night and bar after bar, Tonya would go out with Eddie while he advertised her to potential “suitors.” Tonya thought she loved him. She felt she could deal with the physical toll the trafficking took on her body. It turned out that the hardest part to deal with was the emotional and psychological effects.
“Being able to sleep with that many people and live with myself and get up every day and keep doing it and just lying there being helpless was so hard,” Tonya said.
Help eventually came for Tonya in the form of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent Keith Owens. The Grand Prairie, Texas police department had received a tip about Eddie's crimes and passed the case on to HSI Dallas. Owens and his team took over, moved in and arrested Eddie.
“As a special agent with HSI, I believe it is a duty and an honor for me to assist and protect survivors like Tonya against human traffickers who wish to exploit their innocence for greed, control and money,” Owens said. “Any individual or group who wishes to prey upon the vulnerabilities of any man, woman or child and force them into a life of sex or labor trafficking should be prosecuted to full extent of the law. HSI continues to lead this charge.”
Eddie pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 years in prison on May 29, 2015. During the sentencing hearing, Tonya had to testify. Having to hear and see the man who trafficked her was difficult, especially not knowing what the outcome would be and whether he would be convicted.
“Telling people publicly about what I'd been through made me feel more ashamed because I'd never told anyone or was open about it,” Tonya said. “Keith and [HSI Dallas special agent] Allison [Schaefer] were the only two people I've really told everything to.”
Tonya feels her life is a little better now. She doesn't think or talk about what she's been through and doesn't want people to know that was once a part of her life. Her focus is on moving forward.
“I want to finish getting my GED and go to community college, take on journalism, go to college and study political science and pre-law,” she said. “I just want to live a normal life, accept my past and not run from it.”
Eventually, Tonya knows that she will have to talk about her experience again. If she has kids one day, she wants to be able to tell them what their mother went through. She wants them to know what to look out for and how to avoid going through something as awful as she did.
Until then, she passes along her words of encouragement to anyone who may be experiencing what she did. She wants any victims out there to know they are not alone.
“You're worth something. You're very important to someone,” Tonya said. “No matter what he says, it's not true. You're worth something."
National Human Trafficking and Slavery Prevention Month
The month of January has been designated by President Barack Obama as National Human Trafficking and Slavery Prevention Month. Millions of women, men and children around the world are subjected to forced labor, domestic servitude, or the sex trade at the hands of human traffickers. A form of modern-day slavery, the inhumane practice of human trafficking takes place here in the United States as well.
Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes investigated by ICE. In its worst manifestation, human trafficking is akin to modern-day slavery. They are forced into prostitution, involuntary labor and other forms of servitude to repay debts – often incurred during entry into the United States.
ICE recognizes that severe consequences of human trafficking continue even after the perpetrators have been arrested and held accountable. ICE's Victim Assistance Program helps coordinate services to help human trafficking victims, such as crisis intervention, counseling and emotional support.
In their own words
Disclaimer: The following passages contain first-person accounts from victims of sex trafficking. Names have been altered to protect their identities. Homeland Security Investigations worked in collaboration with the FBI on their case.
“I was 17 around when I met ‘Robert.' It started off with me and my friend meeting him for social purposes. It just went on for about nine months and we were living in different hotels the entire time and I don't even remember how many men there were. I was a runaway and wasn't living anywhere stable, so since I was underage most of the time, I sort of needed him in order to get hotels and move around.
I had already been a prostitute since I was 15 and I think I just didn't even know what was right or wrong and how I should be treated. Towards the end, he held me against my will in a hostage situation and forced me to prostitute and took all the money and just beat me severely.
The last time I saw him, he was just beating me until he was absolutely tired. I was covered in bruises, my face was completely disfigured and it's causing me issue with my back to this day because of the way he was beating me and torturing me. That was probably the worst. There was a client in the room and he was having an issue with something I couldn't do because I was all beat up. I didn't want to do it anymore. I didn't want to do anything. He wanted the money back. When Robert and him were talking I ran out of the room and somehow was able to run faster than him.
I didn't tell anyone. I kept it to myself until I got a call from the FBI that he'd been arrested for something else and asked would I talk. Having to go face everything and realize how serious everything was. For the longest time I didn't even think it was that serious.
At the trial, it felt empowering to look at him the entire time. I'm sure it drove him crazy. He can never touch me but he had to look at me and listen and it made me feel good.
I had to learn that if I don't at least have some kind of love and value for myself, no one ever will. My advice to other girls would be to let people help you. It's not your fault and that you didn't deserve it. It's OK to be hurt about it because a lot of people will act like it never happened, because that's what I was going to do too.
– “Laura” 21, Mayhill, New Mexico
“I was 15 at the time and was a runaway. ‘Tom' wanted to be a pimp, so I would be in his room in his apartment and he would not let me go out for anything. He tried to intimidate me by threatening to beat me up if I tried to leave. I was scared of him so I wouldn't leave. He would drop me off at a hotel while he went to work.
It lasted from March until June or July. Sometimes it would be every day, sometimes he would say, ‘not today, but tomorrow.' Out of the week, maybe 4-5 times a week, I was with different men.
I just felt like that it was my fault and I deserved it and nobody would ever believe me or try to help me, so I just let them control how I thought about myself. They were always verbally abusive and putting you down and it got to the point that I actually started believing it. Just letting someone control your own freedom take over just what you do. I couldn't leave the room. It was like ‘wow, I'm letting someone make me feel so scared.'
I never called the police because I felt it was my fault. I felt at the time like I had to stay. One day the FBI ended up coming to my house and contacted me because my name came up in their investigation.
You have to know your self-worth. It's OK to ask for help. They don't know they are a victim. They feel like it's their fault. We are victims. You can have the worst past, but that doesn't mean you can't have a successful future.”
– “April” 18, El Paso, Texas
Maine Voices: Windham tragedy raises questions about public's role in confronting domestic abuse
A significant way to support victims is to believe them when they share their story and hold the abuser accountable.
by Rebecca Hobbs
The town of Windham was recently the site of a personal and community tragedy. Noah Gaston has admitted shooting his wife, Alicia Gaston, on Jan. 14. Alicia Gaston died as a result of the injuries. Noah Gaston has been charged with murder in connection with the killing and was ordered held in jail pending a bail hearing Feb. 8.
Although many of the details of this incident have not been made public, we at Family Crisis Services would like to thank the Windham Police Department and the Maine State Police for their swift response and action.
We would also like to address questions that typically are asked after an alleged domestic homicide: Whose responsibility is it to notice and address the risk of family violence? Can you tell if someone is being abused? Can you spot an abuser? What should you do if you think it's happening to someone you know?
Isolation is almost always a tactic of abuse. Victims of domestic violence are systematically isolated from friends, neighbors, co-workers and family. By using doubt and intimidation and promising to change, abusers make sure that everyone in the household is covering up the abuse.
Abusers frequently show a different face in the community than they do in their home. That you have not seen someone be abusive does not mean that they are not abusive when alone with their partner or family. If someone shares their story of abuse with you, it is important to believe them, help as you are able and not to doubt their story because it does not fit what you have personally witnessed.
As you listen, remember that there is no excuse for abuse and violence. No one deserves it. Please share our hotline number and other ways to connect with Family Crisis Services. Even if they don't contact us right away, they may later.
Supporting the person being abused is important, as is holding abusers accountable for their behavior. As a community, we do this through enacting and enforcing laws. Beyond that, as individuals, we can pay attention to instances of abuse and violence.
In our daily lives we may see someone belittling, devaluing and demeaning a partner as a means to control them. We may witness or hear about these behaviors and ignore or justify them because it makes us uncomfortable to confront another person.
Very often, there is something you can do to support the victim and/or let the abuser know that their behavior has been noticed and it is not acceptable. We must not look to the victim or victims to stop the violence.
At Family Crisis Services, we have a three-part mission: to enhance the safety of victims and survivors; to be an effective part of the system that maintains offender accountability, and to change the conditions under which domestic abuse occurs.
We began as an emergency shelter in 1977 and now have a full array of services. We continue to operate an emergency shelter for families fleeing violence and also support victims with transitional services as they seek to build a life free of abuse.
Our 24-hour hotline is free, confidential and anonymous. The caller is not required to share any information that they don't choose to share. Family Crisis Services' hotline is the connection to our other services which include meeting with advocates in several sites in Cumberland County, court advocacy and accompaniment, and support and education groups.
We offer specialized services, advocacy and education regarding abuse in later life and human trafficking. We work within the Maine Department of Health and Human Services' child protective services system, and in the Cumberland County Jail and Maine Correctional Center in Windham.
Our EPIC program (enhanced police intervention collaboration) is an innovative approach in which advocates work with police to reduce future domestic violence assaults, identify high-risk cases and provide victims of domestic violence with support and services.
Family Crisis Services advocates are always available to talk about members of the public about what to do if they suspect that someone they care about is being abused. Call the free, confidential 24-hour hotline: 1-800-537-6066. To learn about domestic violence and how you can help, please visit Family Crisis Services online: familycrisis.org and yaapp.org (for our Young Adult Abuse Prevention Program), as well as in our social media accounts.
Spotlight: Supporting Those Affected By Clergy Abuse
by Brian Nixon
ALBUQUERUQE, NEW MEXICO (ANS - January 28, 2016) -- In the new Hollywood movie, Spotlight, the story is told of how journalist of the Boston community took on the Roman Catholic Church over the issue of sex abuse. The priest at the center of the abuse was John J. Geoghan.
According to the Boston Globe, the "church allowed abuse by priest for years." Writer Matt Carrol and Michael Rezendes, state, "By 2002, more than 130 people had come forward claiming that former priest, John J. Geoghan, allegedly fondled or raped them ."
This is all-too-common and disturbing news; something any denomination or group of godly clergy never want to hear coming from it's ranks. But it's the truth. It happens. And hopefully the truth will set the church free, finding healing, help, and hope for both the victims and the perpetrators of abuse. Justice and judgment need to be enforced, but so, too, does love and longsuffering-extending support and spiritual sustenance to those affected by clergy abuse.
I recently participated in a Spotlight type event in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A few months back I was approached by a friend who told me his story of being raped by a priest in New Mexico at the age of 12. I was horrified by what I heard. As clergy, my heart broke, and my sense of justice was ignited. We talked, prayed, and I listened.
And this past week, at a local chapter of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests-), my friend was able to briefly share his story, the first time he did it publically since the occurrence over 40 years ago. The details are too disturbing to tell. All I can say is that by the end of his speech, there wasn't a dry eye in the room. He went from John Doe (his designation in a plaintiff) to the person he is, stating his full name-John Lund (he allowed me to use his name in this article). He was free. And I was privileged to hear his cry of liberty. And along with three other people who shared at the same event, a consensus of courage was displayed in acts of collective consolation among the victims.
John said he had no ill will against godly clergy, or a particular denomination (he as since found peace with God, coming into a vital relationship with Christ). But he was speaking out for the future: possible children who may be abused and for people who've yet found the resolution to share their story. He was speaking on behalf of the voiceless. His bottom line message was that clergy abuse must stop and the victims must find help and hope.
In addition to the victims, a psychologist (who shared stories, comparing the abuse to the holocaust) and a former Roman Catholic Church lawyer, Fr. Thomas Doyle, spoke. Mr. Doyle explained the history of abuse in the Church (going back to the early 1st Century) and how high up in the Roman Catholic Church the knowledge of the abuse went (yes, to the Pope). Doyle was one who wrote the report that was handed to individuals high in rank in the Vatican . Both presentations were penetrating and insightful in their analysis of what occurred within the Roman Catholic Church, offering the survivor's wisdom taken from SNAP: acknowledge your courage and know that you are not alone.
On the SNAP table there were three handouts for the people to take: An Information Sheet of Abuse in New Mexico, a Statue of Limitations, and the Science of Suppression. All the information was helpful, but it was the Science of Suppression information that has valuable information for people beyond the New Mexico State lines. I give the information because it is important for people-particularly in the church-to see.
* Victims of childhood sexual abuse often do not make the connection between the acts of sexual abuse when he or she is a child, and the emotional and psychological harm caused by the abuse.Victims often employ psychological coping devices shielding them form the realization of harm. Some of these coping devices include:
1) Repression: Victims of childhood sexual abuse may repress the severity of the trauma, the intensity of the emotions related to the trauma, or what they were damaged by the sexual abuse.
2) Intellectualization: Victims keep themselves from awareness by explaining away the fact that they have been harmed. That person may intellectualize they are not really harmed because it was a priest that did it or because no one knows about it.
3) Disassociation: Victims in a severe state of distress feel as if they were out of their body and the childhood rape happened to someone else.
4) Denial: The victim may refuse to accept the childhood rape happened. To them, it was either a flawed memory or imagination.
* Most experts in forensic psychology support that a reasonable victim of childhood sexual abuse would not be able to understand the extent of the harm they have suffered without professionals help.
* Although the sex abuse survivor may be aware of what happened with the abuse, and that they have a life problem, the connection between the two almost always requires professional help to process and understand, and begin to heal.
* Many years may pass where coping strategies suffice, until a triggering event breaks down those survival strategies, and the adult victim has to suddenly manage the symptoms of their childhood sexual abuse. Often those symptoms can be overpowering and debilitating, and help is needed.
I was corresponding with some friends after the event. One of my friends pointed out that clergy abuse is a form of internal persecution of God's people, an irony of sorts. We in the church are called to care, protect, and lead other members in our body, to shower them with love, compassion, and truth. But in the case of abuse, clergy are caught in opposite actions, showing cruelty and cunning deception. My friend stated, "The irony of abuse within the confines of a church which condemns persecution is persecuting its own flock."
In a day and age when the persecution of Christians is on the rise around the world, who would of imagined that some in the church are as guilty as those who don't believe, peddling persecution in the form of parishioner abuse, causing untold pain to God's people.
Now that's food for thought. But just as importantly, fodder for action: to stop the persecution of God's people-wherever it may be found.
Central African Republic: Peacekeepers accused of child-abuse
The United Nation is alleging that peacekeepers from Georgia, France and another unnamed European nation abused children while deployed in the Central Africa Republic.
The crimes were committed in 2014 but new information came into light only in recent weeks and the authorities concerned including the European Union are now conducting investigations.
“These are of course extremely serious accusations and it is crucial that these cases are thoroughly and urgently investigated. We are heartened by the initial response we have received from the countries concerned, as well as from the European Union, which show that they take these terrible allegations very seriously. We will continue to closely follow up on these cases, and any others which emerge as the U.N. team on the ground continues its investigations.,” said Rupert Colville, U.N.H.C.R spokesperson.
A statement released by the United Nations indicate that girls and boys aged 7 and 9 respectively are alleged to have been abused by the troops.
A number of girls aged between 14 and 16 have alleged they were raped by Georgian members of the EU's operation Eufor.
One girl was quoted saying that she had performed sex to French soldiers in exchange of a bottle of water and a sachet of cookies.
Arizona DCS Looks To Change Definition Of Child Abuse And Neglect
by Alexandra Olgin
Arizona's child welfare agency wants to change how it defines a report of child abuse and neglect. If passed into law, the legislation would narrow what alleged conduct the state is required to investigate.
Department of Child Safety Director Greg McKay said he is trying to redefine what neglect is so the agency doesn't have to respond to old reports. He referred to a review by a private company that found more than 40 percent of the allegations the agency investigated didn't need state intervention.
“That's looking towards lawmakers to say what we want to do as a community. Do we want to continue to go out on unnecessary cases and then hence grow the unattainable volume of what we can do? Or do we want to talk about policy makers and as community on what we should and shouldn't go out on?" said McKay.
If this legislation is passed as written, DCS wouldn't be required to investigate non-criminal reports of child abuse and neglect if the alleged conduct happened more than a year ago and if victim was at least 12 years old when it occurred. The bill also states for a report to be investigated the victim would have to be in the state and the incident must have happened in Arizona.
The bill is currently in front of a legislative committee.
Child abuse rate in Massachusetts tops all states
by NBP Staff
BOSTON – Massachusetts had the highest rate of child abuse and neglect in the nation in 2014, with almost 31,900 cases reported, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The rate of abuse or neglect rose to 22.9 cases per 1,000 children in the state in 2014, the report shows. That's up from 14.5 cases per 1,000 children in 2013, when the state ranked ninth, with about 20,300 cases.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, has focused on changing procedures and the culture of the state's child-welfare agency, the Department of Children and Families, in the wake of highly publicized cases of murder and neglect involving children touched by the agency over the past few years. The mother and boyfriend of one, known for months as Baby Doe, now face charges in connection with the death of the toddler, since identified as Bella Bond.
The department describes abuse or neglect as “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act, which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
It says there are four major categories used by most states in reporting such treatment: neglect, physical abuse, psychological maltreatment, and sexual abuse.
State officials told the Boston Globe that some of the increase in reported cases stems from greater public awareness because of the high-profile cases that have made headlines in recent years. Baker mentioned the troubled department in a speech this month that outlined his administration's priorities, and last year spent considerable time addressing the media on child abuse and DCF issues.
Study sheds light on severity of child sexual abuse images and new initiative aimed at victims
Extreme young age of victims and severity of abuse underscores need for immediate action
WINNIPEG, Jan. 28, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - A new study by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (Canadian Centre) reinforces concerns regarding the scope and severity of child sexual abuse imagery and underscores the need for additional solutions.
"What makes this particularly concerning is the very young age of the children in the images. These children are most likely being sexually abused by someone they know," said Lianna McDonald, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. "Not only is it devastating for a child to be abused, but to have the abuse recorded and distributed on the Internet adds another layer of trauma."
The report, Child Sexual Abuse Images on the Internet: A Cybertip.ca Analysis, is based on the review of close to 152,000 reports, examining 43,762 unique images and videos classified as child pornography. Nearly 80% of the images assessed by Cybertip.ca depicted very young, pre-pubescent children under 12 years of age– with the majority of those being under the age of 8, and nearly 7% were babies or toddlers. Most concerning was the severe abuse depicted. 50% of all images showed explicit sexual activity and assaults – and almost 70% of the images appeared to have been taken within a home setting.
"Child sexual abuse and exploitation is a particularly horrific crime," said RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson. "That is why we continue to focus our policing efforts to rescue victims and help bring those to justice who misuse technology to victimize children. We need to enhance the tools law enforcement requires to prevent and investigate these serious crimes against children."
The report highlights the seriousness of this issue and proves that more needs to be done to identify these victims, stop offenders and reduce the online availability of this content. Building public awareness on the issue of child sexual abuse and encouraging adults to report is another highlighted outcome.
Victims whose sexual abuse has been recorded and distributed online require specialized support services. To better understand this aspect, the Canadian Centre will be conducting a survey of the first generation of victims whose abuse has been distributed online, and has put together a working group of international experts to assist in its efforts. The goal of the survey will be to learn about the unique impacts experienced by this population, as well as determine what policy, legislative and therapeutic changes are required to respond to the unique needs of these victims.
"As a victim of this most horrific form of child sexual exploitation, I have felt alone, misunderstood and helpless. It is time for the world to understand child pornography and the unimaginable impacts it has on us, the victims. We need to find our voice to help those who wish to better understand and help us," said a survivor of child sexual abuse whose images were distributed online.
The Canadian Centre will collaborate with the working group and set out a series of recommendations in late spring with regard to improved intervention and responses to victims of child sexual abuse imagery. A report will also be shared with stakeholders on best practices and considerations related to addressing this population's needs.
"It is time that as a society, we take responsibility for the harsh realities that these victims face when the sexual abuse perpetrated against them has been recorded, posted and shared online," said McDonald. "Victims often describe the lack of control over the ongoing sharing of their abuse images and the public accessibility as one of the most difficult aspect to overcome – and this needs to change."
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection in collaboration with international partners will be reaching out to encourage other potential victims to come forward and seek assistance. A video message of hope has been recorded by a survivor whose sexual abuse was recorded and distributed on the Internet in an effort to reach other victims who are still silent.
What is the Canadian Centre for Child Protection?
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection is a national charitable organization dedicated to the personal safety of all children. The Centre's goal is to reduce child victimization by providing programs and services to the Canadian public.
What is Cybertip.ca?
Owned and operated by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, Cybertip.ca is Canada's national tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children. In operation since September 2002, Cybertip.ca was adopted under the Government of Canada's National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet in May 2004 and has continued to be an integral component of this strategy, along with the RCMP's National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre.
Cybertip.ca is mandated to receive and process reports from the public about potentially illegal material, as well as activities related to the online sexual exploitation of children, and refer any relevant leads to the appropriate law enforcement agency, INHOPE member hotline and/or child welfare agency. On average, Cybertip.ca receives over 3,000 reports per month. Reports to Cybertip.ca have resulted in law enforcement arresting at least 550 individuals, and the removal of 488 children from abusive environments.
Manatee needs 100 Guardians ad Litem as record number of children removed from homes
by Richard Dymond
MANATEE -- An all-time record 821 children were removed from their Manatee County families in 2015 for their own safety, largely victims of the county's heroin epidemic, court records indicate.
That's nearly twice the 421 Manatee children who were removed from families in 2014, according to records obtained from the 12th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida.
For every one of those 821 children, the 12th Judicial Circuit tries to provide an adult to advocate for them in their schools, their foster homes and the courtroom -- and that person is a Guardian ad Litem, commonly called a GAL. With the increasing number of children in need, the program needs more volunteers immediately.
The Guardian Ad Litem program boasts about 200 volunteers who each have one or two children assigned to their care. But the heroin epidemic has overwhelmed the program and left children without a voice.
About 100 new GALS are needed so paid court employees don't have to step in, as they have been, to advocate in the most severe cases, said Nancy Sanders, chairwoman of the volunteer recruitment committee for the 12th Judicial Circuit's Guardian ad Litem program and a GAL herself.
"We need at least 100 new Guardians ad Litem," Sanders said last week. "The reason for the critical need is that there's been a tremendous increase in the number of heroin deaths and abuse cases in Manatee County."
Only 76 percent of Manatee County children who need a trained GAL are currently getting one, Sanders said.
Not all the 821 Manatee cases involve heroin. Some of the children were removed because of domestic violence, abuse, neglect and abandonment. The court makes the decision to remove the child based on information it is given by various organizations.
"Then the judge will ask if the Guardian program can speak for the children and, if so, a GAL attorney and a GAL volunteer are assigned on an availability basis," Sanders said. "Unfortunately, right now, we don't have enough GALS for every child."
'A separate set of eyes'
Guardians ad Litem are of vital importance, said Vicki Shawvan, the first 12th Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem secretary in 1985, when the program arrived in the tri-county area.
"They are a separate set of eyes for the children," said Shawvan, now the administrative assistant for 12th Circuit Judge Scott M. Brownell, whose courtroom is often the site of emotional dramas where hard decisions are made for the safety of children.
Brownell often asks GALS for their input on cases, including their recommendations since they have been with the children and talked to them.
"The judges rely heavily on GALS, because we don't have any vested interest other than trying to speak for the children," Sanders said.
To show the strain on Manatee GALS, Sarasota County had just 385 children removed from their families in 2015 and DeSoto had 62, Sanders said.
Once assigned to a child, the Guardian meets with the child at least once a month to make sure his or her needs are being met.
"Once they are removed from the home, we check on everything from medical to educational to psychological," Sanders said.
Being a Guardian ad Litem is tremendously rewarding for most who try it, Sanders said. But being a GAL is an intense experience and may not be for everyone.
"The biggest challenge is trying to stay objective," said Ken Fletcher, an administrative assistant for the Guardian ad Litem program in the 12th Judicial Circuit. "People can get too attached to children and get into more being grandparents. We want them to advocate for the child's needs. This often is hard because the children are so adorable."
But if a person can keep from becoming too attached to a child and lose objectivity, the rewards are great, Fletcher said.
"The reward is that you get to be with a whole bunch of professionals, get to meet the judges and get to advocate for the needs of children," Fletcher said.
Although people can be Guardians ad Litem starting at age 21, the bulk of the volunteers are in their 50s, Sanders said.
The position does require going through some training, and candidates must pass a background check.
"The training is not overwhelming," Sanders said. "There are two days of in-class training at the Lakewood Ranch Chamber of Commerce. There is also some online training. Plus, you do need to sit in the courtroom and observe some court proceedings."
New volunteers will also receive a mentor.
"That mentor will be a GAL who is very experienced," Sanders said. "That person is who you go to with your questions. In addition to your mentor, who is also a volunteer, you will be assigned to a 12th Judicial Circuit staffer who will fill in the information gaps."
Sanders believe most people who respond to the court's need will be enriched.
"It becomes a passion for most of us," Sanders said. "One little boy I had couldn't remember the name and called me his Guardian Angel. In a way, I guess, he was right."
-- Anyone interested in becoming a Guardian ad Litem is asked to call Sanders at 941-264-5234 to make an appointment. For more information, visit 12gal.org
Victims of Human Trafficking Must Be Treated As Victims
by Preston Shipp
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. All month, we have had the official opportunity to contemplate the tragic fact that more people are enslaved right now than at any other time in history. The victims of human trafficking, modern-day slavery, are among the most vulnerable members of our communities.
It is estimated that half of the victims of human trafficking are children, with an average age between 11 and 14 years old when they enter the world of sex trafficking. Many of these children have run away from abusive or neglectful homes, are living on the streets, and are forced into the commercial sex trade to acquire food, shelter, and clothing necessary for survival. They are easy targets for traffickers, who lie, manipulate, threaten, and violently force them into prostitution.
These children are heartbreaking victims of terrible exploitation, but we do not always treat them as sympathetic victims in need of healing and compassion, particularly when they resort to violence against their abusers.
Cyntoia Brown was only sixteen years old when she was trafficked by a pimp who called himself "Cut-throat." Cyntoia suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, a birth defect caused by her birthmother's excessive consumption of alcohol during her pregnancy. The effects of fetal alcohol syndrome include intellectual disabilities that affect a person's ability to think rationally and appreciate the consequences of her conduct, as well as neurological, emotional, and behavioral issues. Cyntoia came from a broken home, and as a young teenager she began abusing alcohol and drugs. She eventually ran away. By the time she took up with Cut-throat, she had already been the victim of several rapes and physical abuse. She and Cut-throat lived in a motel room, which, along with his drug habit, Cyntoia paid for by selling sex. Cut-throat was physically and verbally abusive, and he threatened to find Cyntoia if she ever left him.
Late one night, a forty-three-year-old man picked up sixteen-year-old Cyntoia close to the motel where she stayed. He took her back to his house, showed her his gun collection, and bragged about being an expert marksman. The man's allusions to guns spooked Cyntoia. Having been the consistent victim of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Cut-throat, his friends, and nameless johns for months, she began to fear for her life. She believed that the man might try to hurt or kill her. Although they went to bed together, she tried to keep him from kissing and touching her. When the man turned his back to her, Cyntoia retrieved from her purse a gun that Cut-throat had given to her for protection. She shot the man in the back of the head as he lay naked in bed, grabbed two of his guns so she would not return to Cut-throat empty-handed, and fled.
Cyntoia was eventually apprehended and charged with the premeditated murder of the man who picked her up for sex. Although she was only sixteen years old, Cyntoia was tried as an adult. She was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. She will not be eligible for parole until she is 67 years old. Cyntoia's history - the fetal alcohol syndrome, the broken home, the drug and alcohol addiction, the prior victimization, the trauma of being physically abused and sexually exploited - was not taken into account when deciding Cyntoia's fate. She, a victim of human trafficking, was simply labelled a murderer and discarded for the rest of her life.
Cyntoia's story is tragic, but it is by no means unique. Numbers are hard to estimate, given the hidden nature of human trafficking, but as many as 300,000 children are trafficked for commercial sex each year in the United States. The crisis is immense and complex. There are no easy answers or quick fixes. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that the victims of trafficking are, in fact, victims.
Cyntoia, a child, was a victim of cruel exploitation before she pulled the trigger, and she did not cease to be a victim thereafter. Recent scientific data has confirmed what common sense has always taught us: children are different from adults. Children, even children who are sixteen and seventeen years old, are not yet physiologically and psychologically formed. Cyntoia is not the same person that she was when she was sixteen. She has overcome her awful past, is compassionate and caring, has a quick wit, and is a straight-A college student. Imprisoning her for the rest of her life constitutes a failure on the part of society to treat children as children and victims as victims.
As we commemorate Human Trafficking Awareness month, we should be especially concerned with healing victims of the kind of trauma caused by being trafficked for sex, even if those victims have acted out violently.
We must invest in programs that bring about lasting change because we know that people, especially young people like Cyntoia, have great potential to grow and transform into something profound and wholesome and altogether different from their traumatic past. Toward that end, I am grateful that my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, recently announced the creation of a Human Trafficking Court, the goals of which are to identify victims of human trafficking and assist them by providing drug or mental health treatment, job and life skills training, or access to housing. Nashville will be just the fifth city in the country to implement such a court. In so doing, the city implicitly recognizes that people who are forced into sex should be treated as victims, not as criminal defendants.
In spite of everything that has happened to her, Cyntoia has managed to persevere. Had she been a recipient of intervention, counseling, drug treatment, and not merely decades of punishment, there is no telling what she could have achieved.
My prayer is this: may we be mindful of the victims of slavery every day of the year. May we remember that in these exploited ones is the potential for great good, the capability to show great kindness and compassion, and a desire to move past the nightmare of being bought and sold. May we never be content to treat these vulnerable members of our society as no better than their abusers, even when they have engaged in criminal conduct or resorted to violence. Instead, may we invest in their future, trusting that new life is always possible.
Newport, Rhode Island
Sex abuse scandal rocks exclusive New England prep school
by Michelle Smith and Denise Lavoie
For more than a century, St. George's School has been part of the pedigree of some of America's richest and most influential families. Astors, Vanderbilts and Bushes have attended the exclusive boarding school, where students can go sailing, play on world-class squash courts or simply enjoy a sweeping view of the sea from the hilltop campus.
But since at least the 1970s, leaders at St. George's kept a secret.
Dozens of former students have come forward to say they were raped or molested by employees and schoolmates over the past four decades. St. George's acknowledged in a report it issued shortly before Christmas that it repeatedly failed to notify police and child welfare authorities as required by law.
The school's current leadership has characterized the abuse as a problem of the past and said it discovered the extent of the misconduct only recently. But many accusers have disputed that, and much of their anger has fallen on Eric Peterson, headmaster since 2004.
Peterson was told in 2004, 2006, 2011, 2012 and 2015 about numerous allegations of abuse, according to interviews with alumni and documents obtained by The Associated Press.
Many alumni are calling on Peterson to step down. Some want the entire board swept clean.
"It's like a charade of arrogant exceptionalism that is endemic in the school, in the leadership of the school," said Hawk Cramer, an alumnus who says he was molested by the choir director in the 1980s and told Peterson about it in 2004.
Some alumni have charged that the school's leaders hushed up the abuse to protect the reputation of St. George's, which was founded in 1896 and counts among its graduates the poet Ogden Nash, the late Sen. Claiborne Pell and Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson. The $56,000-a-year Episcopal institution just outside Newport has about 400 high school-age students and a rich endowment of more than $140 million.
A spokeswoman for both the school and Peterson declined to comment on specific allegations, citing an independent investigation underway.
St. George's previously issued a statement apologizing "for the harm done to alumni by former employees and former students." ''We also apologize that the way in which the school addressed these incidents has served to compound this harm," the statement said.
Separately, Rhode Island state police are looking into possible sex-crime charges and other offenses, including failure to report abuse. There is no statute of limitations on rape in Rhode Island.
The problems at St. George's burst into view in mid-December, about a week before the in-house report was issued, when The Boston Globe reported the story of Anne Scott, who said she was repeatedly raped by athletic trainer Al Gibbs as a 15-year-old in the 1970s.
She sued the school as "Jane Doe" in 1988. St. George's tried and failed to reveal her identity publicly and aggressively fought the case, even though her lawyer, Eric MacLeish, says evidence emerged during the lawsuit that Gibbs had assaulted four other girls. Scott dropped the case the following year, receiving nothing, and agreed to a gag order preventing her from speaking about it.
More such allegations quietly piled up in the years that followed.
It was not until last spring that St. George's sent a letter informing the entire school community about possible sexual misconduct "many years ago" and asking graduates to report anything they knew. In November, the school reported allegations of abuse to the Rhode Island state police for the first time.
MacLeish, a St. George's alumnus and a lead lawyer in the Boston Catholic Church sex abuse lawsuits, said he is aware of at least 40 people who say they were abused at the school and 12 alleged abusers, either employees or students. The most recent misconduct alleged dates to 2004.
The school did take some action over the years, firing or forcing out three teachers in the 1970s and '80s, according to its December report. They were:
— Gibbs, who was fired in 1980 and died in 1996. The school acknowledged he raped or otherwise abused at least 17 students. It did not report any misconduct to child welfare authorities until 1989, in the course of Scott's lawsuit. The agency said it had no authority to act because the alleged victims were over 18.
— The Rev. Howard "Howdy" White, who abruptly left in 1974 after a parent accused him of inappropriate sexual conduct with a student. The school said White abused at least three students. White refused to comment when reached by the AP.
— Franklin Coleman, the choir director, who was fired in 1988 after student complaints of molestation and other inappropriate behavior. The school said it did not notify child welfare authorities on the advice of its legal counsel. MacLeish said he has now spoken to six of Coleman's alleged victims. Coleman did not return messages seeking comment. Neither White nor Coleman has ever been charged. Both went on to other schools around the U.S. before retiring several years ago.
One graduate said he was molested by Coleman in 1987 during an overnight trip to Boston. The man told the AP that he reported it to the school the following year, after he learned Coleman had asked another boy to sleep in his bed during a choir tour of England.
The man said he spoke with Peterson's predecessor as headmaster, Charles Hamblet, and met with Peterson in 2006 to discuss the abuse. Both Hamblet and Peterson offered to pay for therapy, which he accepted, he said.
"This offer is an attempt to right a wrong," Peterson wrote to the man in a 2006 letter obtained by the AP. He added that the school's willingness to pay for therapy was "in no way an admission of responsibility."
Dan Brewster, a 1974 graduate, went on to serve on the board of trustees in the early 1990s. He said that then-headmaster Hamblet and Howard Dean, a former board chairman and father of the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, told him that in some past cases of teachers accused of abuse, the school would quietly let the educator go with a lump-sum payment, a nondisclosure clause and an agreement barring the faculty member from taking a job at another boarding school.
Brewster said that when he asked why the school didn't notify parents and the authorities, the two men replied that teenagers might be dragged in to testify and that their parents might also bring an "avalanche of lawsuits" against the school. Hamblet and Dean are now dead.
"I do believe they were honestly wrestling and did care about an obviously difficult issue. I also felt they came to the wrong conclusion," Brewster said. "It was because the prestige and the fundraising capacity of the school was more important than any one kid."
In the 2004 case, three students reported to then-Dean of Students Tim Richards that a teacher "was touching them in ways that made them uncomfortable," according to Richards' spokeswoman, Karen Schwartzman. Richards investigated and the teacher was placed on leave, but the authorities weren't notified. Peterson told Richards that he talked to outside legal counsel and was advised that the school was not required to contact authorities, the spokeswoman said. Richards is now headmaster at a Connecticut boarding school.
Another alumnus, Harry Groome, said he was raped by an upperclassman with a broomstick in 1978 in front of at least five students, an episode so widely known that it was alluded to in the yearbook. A photo of a laughing Groome sitting in a trash can and holding a hockey stick was captioned: "It's better than a broomstick!"
In 2002, Groome said, he sent a letter to Hamblet describing what happened. Hamblet thanked him, but nothing else happened, Groome said. In 2004, he said, he forwarded a copy to Peterson. Groome said he followed up with Peterson in 2011 and then met with him, but again no action was taken.
"I want this school to thrive in the future, but it cannot thrive until we flush out the bad, and Eric Peterson has got to go," Groome said. "This stuff can't go on anymore. It's ruined lives."
The Price of Truth
My Father Is Still Working With Children Every Day
by Genendy Radoff
Tonight , I will take the pain in my body, in my heart and mind, and stab it into this paper with words.
Words that I hope you will share publicly.
I am a survivor of father-daughter incest.
I have healed to the point where I am no longer a fragmented self. I finally feel real on a regular basis.
For me, this is a new reality. And It took me over twenty years to get here.
It is like regaining my sight and hearing, after years of living in silent darkness.
This has been my therapeutic goal for years, and I have finally arrived at this place.
And It is something to celebrate.
It's a great accomplishment, after so many years of living in a fragmented fog, wondering whether a person, a child named Genendy ever really existed.
I thought integration would be a beautiful and happy occasion.
But it is not so simple.
It's overrated in some ways, integration, although I know this is the beginning of a new level of healing.
Being real and present in my life, in my body hurts so bad I want to die.
It's sensory overload.
How do people who don't dissociate deal with the pain?
How do they deal with knowing, feeling, all of the parts of who they are, and how they were hurt as children, with no defense? No escape?
How do you get away, take a break from the trauma, when you are no longer fragmented and dissociated and can no longer pretend it didn't happen?
Please tell me, if you have been here, help me understand how you re-adjust your life, and go on?
I need to know.
I want to stab myself, to kill the pain, the reality but I won't.
I have too much to live for.
Instead I am taking my pencil and stabbing this paper with its sharp point,
like the sharp point of the needle I used to stab my hand with, when I was two-years-old.
I was self harming at two.
I was trying to fix myself.
My mother fixed holes with a needle and thread, so why couldn't I fix the holes in me that shouldn't be there?
The holes that my Tatty stabbed into me.
With something sharp.
My mother told me the story many times.
I tried to yank the needle out, it broke and I had to be taken to the hospital to have the other half of the needle removed.
I got stitches in my hand.
I was so cute.
I commented that the nurse's hat was too small.
The doctor told me to shut my mouth and stop crying, so I cried with my mouth shut.
What kind of a family do I come from, where it was normal for a two-year-old to try to sew herself?
I have worked with young children for years.
I have never yet, met another child who sewed herself.
I was creative then.
And I am creative now.
I will use my creativity to survive this therapeutic victory, this being real and whole.
I no longer have hope that I will wake up from this nightmare of having a father who raped me repeatedly when I was so small, who allowed others to abuse me as well,
and who allows an entire family and community to turn their backs and walk away...
Because they too wish I was not, and never had been real.
Because real, I now know first hand, is just too painful.
I can't get away from their cruel, painful messages...
Words I grew up with.
Words sent to me as antonymous comments on my blog four years ago, when I first started it to try to protect children from my father.
I couldn't post them then, because they were too hurtful.
I was too traumatized.
"...Your story is always changing. Your story never stays the same. You are sick and evil. You are a liar. You do have a personality disorder. You told me so. I think you need to tell people about yourself so they can decide if you are believable. Us old time friends of yours who you turned your back on because we know the truth have a job to expose you. We will figure out a way. Not because we are vicious, rather to even the playing field. Your family won't stoop to answering you. We will."
And this. Another gem:
"Oh, Genendy, you have had such a tough life. The saddest thing is, you did it to yourself. I told you not to when you spoke to me about it. People got into your head, and made you feel good. It is so sad that you chose this path. You told me you were making things up because "it is the only answer to what's happening to me." I am sure by now you believe yourself, but it may help to remind yourself that you were convinced by others, about what "had to have happened" I hope I have jogged your memory. I daven for you always. I also think it's important to publicize that your family misses you very much. You did not give them a choice. You treated them like animals, and tried to manipulate them to help your agenda. May Hashem grant you a Refuah Shleaima.
I wonder at the reality of the world I live in. How did I become such a threat simply for speaking my truth?
I am known as a kind, loving, truthful, compassionate person to those who know me. Yet, my existence is so scary to my family and the Baltimore community that they want me dead. They take the very damage caused by sexual abuse, that I have worked so hard for so many years in therapy to heal and repair,and use it to try to hurt and discredit me.
Incest causes damage.
Mental, psychological disorders, addictions, suicide.
It breaks up families as it did mine.
Today, I no longer have a dissociative disorder, to help me survive.
I can no longer numb my mind, my body, and my heart from my family and my reality.
I can no longer float away in my mind, and imagine I am dreaming and will soon awake and find it is all just a horrible nightmare. That someone in my family actually cares about what was done to me and what is still being done to me.
I always was, and I still am dead to them.
To them my pain was, and is, never real.
It is a wonder, a miracle that I survived and continue to survive.
Something else is real and won't let me rest.
My father, is still working with children every day as the principal of Torah Institute in Baltimore. A staff member told me, as recently as last year, that my father was taking children off campus alone in his car. This same staff member shared with me that he witnessed a child taped to a chair in my father's office.
And these are the behaviors my father is not hiding.
This staff member will not come forward for fear of losing his job.
And, I don't want him to lose his job, because he cares, and he would never do what my father did, and he is keeping an eye on the children in Torah Institute.
Hashem please bring Mashiach TODAY and put an end to the world of suffering, pain, and confusion that we live in.
A world where we perpetrate evil on our children and call it love and truth.
A world where we kill someone off because they were sexually abused. And, we do it in Your holy name and in the name of Torah.
Reveal your eternal Love and Truth openly and save us from our greatest enemy.
Statute of limitations
by Justice Paul Pfeifer, The Highland County Press
The question in this case – which involved a young woman named Watkins – was which statute of limitations applied to her claims against the state. Watkins alleged that between April 2, 2000, and April 2, 2001 – while she was in custody at the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility in Delaware, Ohio, run by the Department of Youth Services (“DYS”) – two employees sexually abused her.
Watkins was about 14 at the time.
On July 31, 2012, Watkins filed a complaint in the Ohio Court of Claims against DYS and the two employees. The court dismissed the two employees from the suit because, according to Ohio law, only state agencies and their instrumentalities can be sued in that court.
DYS moved to dismiss the complaint, asserting that Watkins's complaint was barred by the two-year statute of limitations for civil actions against the state set forth in Ohio law. The court granted the motion, asserting that Watkins's complaint was barred by the two-year statute of limitations for civil actions against the state because she filed her complaint more than two years after reaching the age of majority, or legal age.
The court explained that it is “well-settled that the limitations period set forth” in the pertinent law applies to all actions against the state in the Court of Claims and “takes precedence over all other statutes of limitation in the Revised Code.”
Watkins appealed, but the court of appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Claims.
After that, she brought her case before us – the Ohio Supreme Court.
Watkins maintained that the Ohio Legislature intended that the limitations period in the pertinent law dealing with child sexual abuse should apply to all claims of childhood sexual abuse, whether the person committing the acts was a private citizen or state employee.
In a case from 1994, called Ault v. Jasko, our court addressed the statute of limitations for sexual-abuse claims in cases where victims of childhood sexual abuse repressed memories of that abuse.
We held that the “discovery rule” applied in such cases.
What is the “discovery rule?”
We explained that the statute of limitations period for sexual abuse in Ohio “begins to run when the victim recalls or otherwise discovers that he or she was sexually abused, or when, through the exercise of reasonable diligence, the victims should have discovered the sexual abuse.”
In that case, we determined that the statute of limitations – tempered by the discovery rule – applied to claims against public as well as private actors.
In 2006, the Legislature enacted new legislation – Senate Bill 17 (“S.B. 17”) which substantially rewrote the child sexual abuse law, setting a firm accrual date as the date on which the victim attains the age of majority for claims based on childhood sexual abuse. It also greatly expanded the limitations period for such claims – from one year to 12 years.
The question that we faced in Watkins's case was whether the General Assembly – by enacting S.B. 17 – intended to change the statute of limitations only for claims against private citizens and not for claims against the state.
There is another law that deals with claims against the state. That law states provides that civil actions against the state shall be commenced “no later than two years after the date of accrual of the cause of action.”
By a four-to-three vote, we concluded that S.B. 17 changed the statute of limitations to 12 years for claims against both private citizens and against the state. S.B. 17 stated that the changes in the law “shall apply to all civil actions for assault or battery brought by a victim of childhood sexual abuse…and to all civil actions brought by a victim of childhood sexual abuse for a claim resulting from childhood sexual abuse…”
In that language, the Legislature allowed for no distinction between private citizens or public employees.
Additionally, one of the forms of childhood sexual abused defined in the amended law is sexual imposition committed in certain specified circumstances, one of which occurs when “the victim is confined in a detention facility,” and the person committing the act is an employee of that detention facility.
In addition to the acts of detention-facility workers, the law also applies to acts committed by other persons who could be employees of the state – for example, teachers, coaches or administrators.
Thus, the very definition of childhood sexual abuse includes the wrongful conduct of state employees. The plain language of the law that resulted from S.B. 17 reveals the legislature's intent that claims against the state resulting from childhood sexual abuse are subject to a 12-year statute of limitations and an accrual date of the age of majority.
But, the statute of limitations created by S.B. 17 conflicts with the two-year limitations period in the law concerning civil actions against the state. How to resolve that? When there's a conflict of that sort between two laws, the one enacted later in time than a preexisting law will control. Therefore, as the more recent and more specific enactment, S.B. 17 provides the limitations period for claims against the state resulting from childhood sexual abuse.
The only remaining question was whether the statute of limitations for Watkins's claims had expired by the August 3, 2006 effective date of S.B. 17. That issue was not considered by the trial court or the court of appeals. Which statute of limitations applies to Watkins's claims depends on when she discovered that she had been sexually abused.
In any event, we determined that the law resulting from the enactment of S.B. 17 is the statute of limitations for claims against the state resulting from childhood sexual abuse. The court of appeals erred in holding that a claim resulting from childhood sexual abuse cannot be pursued against the state more than two years after the claim accrued.
Therefore, we reversed the court of appeals' judgment and sent the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.
South Texas law enforcement partners launch task force to combat sexual predators who target children
BROWNSVILLE, Texas — To further protect children from sexual predators, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has partnered with other South Texas agencies to form the Rio Grande Valley Child Exploitation Investigations Task Force (RGV CEITF).
Through the RGV CEITF, local and federal law enforcement agencies are pooling their resources to jointly investigate all crimes committed against children in the Texas Rio Grande Valley. Task Force members are encouraged to share their expertise, evidence, ideas and investigative and forensic tools to help rescue child victims and pursue prosecution against their victimizers. As such, the RGV CEITF allows law enforcement to speak with a unified voice to protect the children of the Rio Grande Valley.
HSI leads the RGV CEITF, which is also comprised of the following South Texas agencies: U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas; Brownsville Police Department; Harlingen Police Department; Cameron County Sheriff's Office; Brownsville Independent School District Police Department; and Cameron County District Attorney's Office.
Each year, millions of children fall prey to sexual predators. These young victims are left with permanent psychological and emotional scars. It is one of HSI's most important missions to investigate and target those who possess, transport and produce child pornography, as well as those who engage in child sex tourism, and those who entice minors for sex. Based on the number of complaints received by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) CyberTipline, Internet crimes against children are rising at alarming levels.
"HSI is pleased to lead this important initiative which allows multiple South Texas agencies to coordinate our resources to target the increasing numbers of online predators," said Shane M. Folden, special agent in charge of HSI San Antonio. "Together, tis new RGV joint partnership will help rescue and protect our children, which are the most important and the most vulnerable members of our society."
"It is absolutely essential that members of law enforcement, social service agencies and other stakeholders work together and leverage existing resources to prevent the exploitation of children," said U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. "The U.S. Attorney's Office is proud to be a part of this initiative to protect our children."
“Whether we prosecute the cases in state or federal court, the priority here is to prosecute those who seek to harm and exploit children. We look forward to this task force allowing us to combine our resources to ensure justice is obtained for children of abuse in our community,” said Cameron County District Attorney, Luis Saenz.
“The Brownsville Police Department is committed to protecting the children within this community and will make every effort to prosecute identified child predators and sexual offenders. With an increase in this type of criminal activity, we must become more vigilant and use our resources more effectively to combat crimes against children and prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law," said Brownsville Police Department Commander Juan A. Hernandez.
“Educating families as to the dangers that exist online continues to be of paramount importance. This task force will exemplify how the collaborative efforts of law enforcement can positively impact the future of online safety and prevention of sexual predation of our children,” said Brownsville I.S.D. Police Chief, Oscar Garcia.
“The Cameron County Sheriff's Office is committed to assisting the task force in bringing to justice those that would bring harm to the most vulnerable members of our society, our children,” said Omar Lucio, Cameron County Sheriff.
This new task force was established under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 14,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2015, nearly 2,400 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 victims identified or rescued.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.
Sex trafficking ring leader sentenced in Houston to life in prison
HOUSTON — A 68-year-old woman behind a 14-defendant sex-trafficking ring that operated in Houston was sentenced Wednesday to life in federal prison.
This sentence was announced by the following agency heads: U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas; Special Agent in Charge Brian Moskowitz of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); FBI Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner; and Special Agent in Charge Richard Goss of the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation (CI).
A federal jury convicted Hortencia Medeles-Arguello, aka Raquel Medeles Garcia or “Tencha,” April 24, 2015, following a 10-day trial and about four hours of deliberations. She was convicted on all counts: conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, conspiracy to harbor aliens, aiding and abetting to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
This landmark sex trafficking case is one of the most significant in scope and magnitude to be tried to a verdict of guilty on all counts, and one of the few in which as many as 12 victims of an international sex trafficking scheme came forward to testify at trial. Twelve victims rescued in connection with this case testified at trial regarding the horrors of their ordeals, beginning with being recruited in their home countries, only to be forced into prostitution against their will in the United States. Some victims were as young as 14 years old when the traffickers recruited them, using fraud and false pretenses to lure them into the traffickers' control.
“The importance of this case cannot be underscored,” said Magidson. “These were human beings – women and children – who were treated as a commodity. They came from their home countries hoping for a better life, only to be enslaved and forced into unspeakable acts. This is a local, national and international issue, but also a humanitarian issue. We will continue to take action against these egregious offenders and seek to obtain the stiffest penalties in order to send a clear message that human trafficking will not be tolerated in this district.”
U.S. District Judge David Hittner, who presided over the trial, handed Tencha a sentence of life in federal prison. At the hearing, additional testimony from six of the victims was also presented. They asked the judge to punish the defendant for the impact she had on their lives.
In addition, 15 real properties and other assets valued at about $2.5 million will be forfeited to the United States having been found to have been purchased with sex trafficking proceeds. The funds will be used to make restitution to the victims of this horrible crime.
“Investigations and the subsequent criminal prosecution like this one highlight the significant collective and collaborative efforts of law enforcement agencies in greater Houston that are involved in the fight against human trafficking,” said Moskowitz of HSI Houston. “This sentence should also serve as a warning to all individuals and criminal groups involved in the trafficking of minors and women that we are determined to expend the resources necessary to investigate and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law all that are involved in this heinous crime.”
“Let this sentence send a message that lives are not to be bought and sold,” said Turner. “The Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA) seeks to rescue those forced into this modern day slavery and hold accountable those who wish to profit from the abuse of others. If you have information about human trafficking, we urge you to contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
Testimony revealed that pimps recruited the young girls by convincing them they were in love, making threats to their families, as well as threatening the girls themselves. Testimony revealed Tencha knew that many of the girls prostituted at her establishment were either underage or victims of the beatings by their pimps.
On the first full day of trial, the jury heard from one of the victims in the case. She detailed the horrific conditions she faced at the hands of the defendant and others, to include being forced into having sex at age 14 after she had come to this country in search of a better life. She described how she was forced to comply with demands at gunpoint and locked in a room. She was eventually impregnated by a “customer” and was moved to another area of the bar because she was not worth as much once she became pregnant. Following the move, she found a way to escape with the help of a customer who had befriended her.
“Today's sentencing closes the book on a heinous criminal organization that profited from exploiting innocent women and minors in the worst possible way,” said Goss. “IRS special agents are committed to dismantling the financial infrastructure of criminal enterprises of this nature and removing any financial incentive to exploit innocents.”
Evidence at trial indicated that Tencha made more than $1.6 million in a 19-month period by supplying the upper floor of her cantina for prostitutes to ply their trade. The evidence further revealed that many of the prostitutes were either minors or forced to engage in sex acts at the defendant's bar. The jury heard that Tencha had engaged in harboring illegal aliens, many who were forced into prostitution for more than 13 years.
She will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
All of Tencha's co-defendants who were in custody have pleaded guilty for their respective roles in the conspiracy. Many admitted they worked for Las Palmas II, a cantina located in Houston. They all knew the cantina concealed, harbored and shielded illegal aliens who worked there from detection by law enforcement and that the owners were profiting from such concealment. As part of their employment, they aided in operating the business. And their conduct substantially facilitated the concealment, harboring and shielding of the employees and patrons of the Las Palmas II, whom they all knew were illegally in the U.S. Other co-defendants pleaded guilty to helping Tencha keep track of the monies she made, including investing it in properties she purchased in the Houston area.
Abel Medeles, aka Chito, 67, Tencha's brother, operated the Las Palmas II parking lot. It was part of his job to notify his co-conspirators inside the cantina of any law enforcement presence he observed in order for his co-conspirators to be able to conceal from law enforcement the illegal activities in the Las Palmas II. Similarly, on at least one occasion, Odelia Hernandez, 47, Tencha's sister, told co-conspirators to lock the doors when she realized law enforcement was coming. Medeles was sentenced to 55 months and ordered to pay a $2,000 fine, while Hernandez received a sentence of 66 months and must pay a $1,500 fine.
Eduardo Guzman Gonzales, aka Miguel Rojas or El Pantera, 33, and Alberto Mendez Flores, aka Ardilla, 27, managed the cantina. They paid Tencha $20,000 each week out of the money received from the operation of the Las Palmas II; they kept all the monies received in excess of that amount. Both men received sentences of 88 months in federal prison.
Jose L. Uraga, aka Wicho, 36, who provided false/fraudulent identifications to employees, to include females working at Las Palmas II, was sentenced to 28 months. Jorge Antonio Teloxa-Barbosa, aka Eli, 31, testified at trial to his part in the conspiracy. He also managed the cantina with Guzman and Mendez and paid Tencha $20,000 each week out of the money received from the operation of Las Palmas II, keeping all the monies received in excess of that amount. He received a sentence of 37 months.
Graciela Medeles Ochoa, 37, Tencha's daughter, assisted Tencha in counting the proceeds obtained from Las Palmas II. She also negotiated cashier's checks for her mother and sister, Delia Diaz. The money used to obtain the cashier's checks came from the sex trafficking violations occurring at Las Palmas II. Ochoa, who also testified about her mother's unlawful conduct, was sentenced to 18 months. Diaz, 51, received 71 months for money laundering. Another of Tencha's daughters, Diana Medeles Garcia aka Diana Garcia Marquez, 50, testified that her mother had been running brothels since she was 13 years old. She received 21 months for aiding and abetting to harbor illegal aliens.
Guadalupe Valdez Lugo aka Lupe, 58, worked as a manager at Las Palmas II, overseeing the female workers as well as the regular employees. She also testified at trial about Tencha's unlawful conduct and received a sentence of 25 months as well as a $5,000 fine.
Another of Tencha's sisters, Lilia Medeles Cerda, aka Lilly, 66, received a sentence of 52 months for conspiracy to harbor Illegal Aliens. Talat Crippin, aka Chacho, 27, who was married to one of Tencha's granddaughters, pleaded guilty to being a lookout for Tencha's brothel and received 41 months.
David Garcia, 46, (Techa's son) was convicted of aiding and abetting to harbor illegal aliens, and will be sentenced next month.
Another defendant — Alfonso Diaz-Juarez, aka Ponco or El Grenas, a 45-year-old Mexican national — is a fugitive and a warrant remains outstanding for his arrest. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact the FBI at (713) 693-5000. A Clear Channel Outdoor digital billboard campaign launched in December across the Greater Houston area touted up to $50,000 reward for information leading to the location and arrest of Diaz-Juarez.
The investigation leading to the filing of criminal charges resulted from a three-year investigation conducted by members of the HTRA in Houston, which includes the following agencies: FBI, HSI, Harris County Sheriff's Office, IRS-CI, Texas Alcoholic and Beverage Commission, Department of State, Texas Department of Public Safety. and the Houston Police Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ruben R. Perez and Joe Magliolo, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.
ICE-led sting operation in Colorado nets 10 child predator arrests
DENVER — Ten child-predator suspects were arrested last week during a two-day undercover sting operation led by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in the Denver area.
During this operation, undercover HSI special agents were assisted by detectives from the Adams County (Colorado) Sheriff's Office, the Commerce City (Colorado) Police Department and the Colorado State Patrol.
“To protect the most vulnerable in our society, we must be proactive – identifying and apprehending predators who have decided to take advantage of our children,” said David A. Thompson, special agent in charge of HSI Denver. “HSI is proud to do this important work in collaboration with our state and local partners, who are vital to the success of these missions.”
The 10 men were arrested in the Jan. 20-21 operation on state charges of attempted trafficking of a minor for sexual servitude, attempted solicitation of a child for prostitution, and attempted sexual assault of a child. These cases will be prosecuted by the Adams County District Attorney's Office.
Two of the men arrested have occupations related to public trust, including an elementary school teacher and a public school employee whose job does not provide access to children.
Three others are from Mexico and are illegally in the United States. They will face deportation proceedings after they are processed through the state criminal justice system.
By taking criminal aliens who pose public safety threats off community streets and removing them from the country, ICE addresses a significant security and public safety vulnerability.
This operation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 14,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2015, nearly 2,400 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 victims identified or rescued.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.
From the Department of Homeland Security
DHS Announces Human Trafficking Training Program For Federal Law Enforcement
WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today announced that the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC) will begin to provide human trafficking awareness training as part of basic training courses at FLETC. The courses, which train federal law enforcement officers and agents from every Cabinet level Department, will equip graduates with the ability to better recognize signs of human trafficking that they might encounter in their routine law enforcement duties.
“To fight human trafficking in the United States, we are empowering federal law enforcement with the tools and resources to recognize and report this heinous crime,” said Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. “I commend the leadership and all of the women and men of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers who had the insight and innovation to incorporate human trafficking training into their curriculum.”
“We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to keep our communities safe,” said FLETC Director Connie Patrick. “Through these new training curriculum taught as part of our basic training academies, thousands of frontline federal law enforcement personnel will be able to recognize and help those who are victims of this heinous crime.”
Today's announcement, as part of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month, is one of the numerous ways the Department is working to end human trafficking and continue to bring awareness to this terrible crime. Through the DHS Blue Campaign, the unified voice for DHS's efforts to combat human trafficking, the Department works in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations, to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.
For more information about the Department's efforts to combat human trafficking, visit the Blue Campaign's website at www.dhs.gov/bluecampaign
U.S. placement program failed to protect child migrants from trafficking, Senate panel says
by MARY CLARE JALONICK AND GARANCE BURKE
WASHINGTON — Migrant children in the government's care fell prey to human trafficking after the Health and Human Services Department failed to protect them, according to a bipartisan congressional investigation released Thursday.
The six-month inquiry found that the government, overwhelmed by the influx of tens of thousands of children crossing the border to flee violence in Central America, failed to conduct the most basic checks on the adults entrusted with caring for the children.
Many adult sponsors didn't undergo thorough background checks. Government officials didn't visit homes and in some cases, had no idea that adult sponsors had several unrelated children, a possible sign of human trafficking.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, chairman of the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs investigations subcommittee, said the HHS placement program for migrant children suffers from “serious, systemic defects.” The report echoed the findings of an Associated Press investigation.
At a hearing reviewing the program, officials from the department angered Democratic and Republican senators, who dismissed their answers as incomplete or complained that they failed to take full responsibility for the children who were abused or exploited.
At times the officials said they did not have the legal authority from Congress to follow up on the children.
“We are mindful of our responsibilities to these children and are continually looking for ways to strengthen our safeguards,” said Mark Greenberg, acting assistant secretary for HHS's Administration for Children and Families.
Greenberg testified that one case was a “deeply dismaying event” but said he was not able to discuss details due to an ongoing criminal investigation. He said policies in place at the time were followed.
“It's discouraging that they won't even acknowledge the fact that they blew it,” Portman said after the hearing. “They let these kids go be trafficked in horrible conditions and they won't even say that if they had put in some basic common sense procedures they could have helped avoid this.”
The congressional investigation and hearing was in response to a case in Portman's home state of Ohio, where six Guatemalan unaccompanied minors were placed with human traffickers and forced to work up to 12 hours a day on egg farms under threats of death.
Lawmakers argue that the government weakened its child protection policies in recent years as it dealt with the influx. Portman said federal officials don't know how many migrant children they've sent to live with convicted criminals across the U.S. over the last three years.
The congressional hearing cited the AP report that found more than two dozen unaccompanied children were sent to homes across the country where they were sexually assaulted, starved or forced to work for little or no pay.
The congressional report said that as part of the subcommittee's six-month investigation, it reviewed “more than 30 cases involving serious indications of trafficking and abuse.”
Since almost all of the children have not been publicly identified, it could not immediately be determined if the children studied by the AP were among those cited by Portman.
According to emails, agency memos and operations manuals obtained by AP, some under the Freedom of Information Act, the agency relaxed its procedures as the number of young migrants rose in response to spiraling gang- and drug-related crime in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
HHS bars releasing children to anyone convicted of child abuse or neglect or violent felonies like homicide and rape. The department says it recently signed a contract to open new shelters, and is strengthening its protection procedures as the number of young migrants is once again rising.
Some of the new policies were adopted in July, after prosecutors charged sponsors and their associates with forcing the teens to de-beak chickens and clean chicken coops on farms around the town of Marion. The department placed the children in substandard trailers without setting eyes on the sponsors or the environment, and only performed such home visits in less than 5 percent of cases overall from 2013 to 2015, the report said.
At the hearing, lawmakers from both parties bristled at the officials' answers, saying they weren't adequate when the lives of children had been endangered.
The panel's top Democrat, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, said she was “disgusted and angry” by the results of the investigation.
“The bottom line is when a child is admitted into our country, the United States of America should be an example for the world of how we care for those children,” McCaskill said.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., stopped his line of questioning and left the hearing after saying that the witnesses were “the definition of non-cooperative.” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., criticized the overly legal tenor of many of the officials' responses and asked if they understood why the senators were angry.
The panel's report says the agency still can't track whether an adult is attempting to sponsor multiple children at the same time. In addition, current policies allow sponsors to prevent children from being contacted by social workers who go to the home for a check-up visit.
The report also notes that HHS did not spend all of the money it had left in the program even though it says it was overwhelmed and lacked sufficient funding to provide services. In a letter to lawmakers in December, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said a contingency fund is necessary to ensure children are not left at the border.
Faces we all must see: child domestic-abuse survivors
by RUBÉN ROSARIO
(Trailer for the film on site)
Early in the 2015 documentary “Mourning Son,” we see rock musician Dave Navarro and buddy/filmmaker Todd Newman seated in the back of a stretch limo making a crack that they are “exploiting on riding the coattails of pain.
They are referring to the 1983 slayings of Navarro's mother, Connie, and a close family friend by the woman's ex-boyfriend. I almost turned the thing off right there, even if it cost me $3.99 to rent through Amazon.
Another self-centered celebrity's ego trip captured on film. Maybe his popularity and sales are lagging, I thought.
I'm glad I decided to stick with it for a few more frames. You learn later that dark humor is part of his way, decades later, to cope with the “darkest and most horrible moment of my life.”
I wondered how many Dave Navarros are out there, child survivors of domestic violence, as I read the annual “femicide” report released this week by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.
There were at least 34 homicides related to domestic violence in Minnesota — 22 women and three men killed by a current or former intimate partner. Nine victims were friends, interveners, bystanders and family members. There were 21 in 2014, 38 in 2013, and 18 in 2012.
The overwhelming majority, as always, were women. Of course, I usually get the requisite call from some guy after this piece runs who points out that men also die from domestic violence and that perhaps it was the woman's fault for driving the poor guy to kill. And I usually do what I do: I give the guy the facts, a piece of my mind and hang up.
The report breaks down the slayings by weapon and circumstances and also highlights what sounds like a sad broken record: previous threats and police contacts, obsessive and jealous partners, red flags that went unheeded.
But I was also curious about another category: the families left behind, particularly the kids.
Since 2010, 81 minor children in Minnesota — like Navarro — were robbed of a parent, mostly mothers. Add adult children survivors, and the figure jumps to 171. This stuff easily can become a numbers game, which is why Navarro's touching, heartbreaking, riveting, disturbing story puts a face — a pained one we need to see — on the plight of child survivors.
Navarro's mother, a strikingly beautiful woman and model, comes to life through home videos, still pictures and Navarro's recollections. He clearly is the love of her life and she is his.
He was 15 when it happened. His parents had amicably divorced a few years earlier and shared custody of Navarro, an only child who described himself as a typical, happy kid at the time. His mother began dating John Alexander Riccardi, a clearly narcissistic, in-love-with-his-body type who unnerved neighbors on the block.
The man stalked Navarro's mother after a break-up; he cased the woman's West Los Angeles apartment and showed up at restaurants where she and friends went.
Connie Navarro's restraining order did virtually nothing to stop Riccardi from stalking her.
On March 3, 1983, a Thursday, Dave Navarro should have been home. He usually stayed at his dad on Wednesdays, but there was a conflict that week.
His father, Mike Navarro, picked up his son from school, took him home, and went to his ex-wife's home when he could not reach her.
There he found her shot to death, along with a female friend, Susan Jory, who Dave Navarro considered like an aunt. His father broke the news when he returned home.
“That day paved the way for how I deal with relationships, trust people, my drug addiction, the rest of my life … on that day, everything, everything changed,” he says in the film. Also that day, for the first time, “I picked up a joint and realized that it took pain away.”
What followed were years of hard-core drug use while he was crafting a musical career with bands like Jane's Addiction. The film, not exactly a Disney-funded endeavor, does show Navarro shooting heroin, getting tattoos, being suspended in mid-air by spikes through his skin and other disturbing imagery. But you cannot look away because you understand the behavior, in a way. An image repeated in the film shows his mother holding a baby while Navarro hangs Christlike in the background. I'm no metaphor expert but it says to me that his beloved mother's death crucified him for life.
For eight years, no one knew of Riccardi's whereabouts. He was featured on TV's “America's Most Wanted.” Finally, an FBI case agent figured Riccardi might have had a plastic surgeon change his appearance. The hunch paid off. The fugitive killer was bagged in Texas in 1991 and later convicted and sentenced to death. The sentence was tossed out on a technicality; Riccardi was resentenced to life without parole.
Toward the end of the film, you learn where Navarro and Newman are heading in the limo: to pay a surprise visit to Riccardi at San Quentin prison. I won't spoil what happens.
Navarro has been sober for awhile and shot a public service announcement for nomore.org, a domestic violence advocacy group.
His experience may hardly be the same as that of other child survivors. But there are enough common threads of emotions to make his film a must-see. But preview it first before you show it to a child.
Childhood exposure to domestic abuse has life-long effects
by Claire Lee
A brain scan study by a South Korean psychiatrist found specific changes in key circuits that process fear in the brains of Korean adults who were exposed to domestic violence as children. It claims that such experiences can have serious lifelong consequences on victims both emotionally and clinically.
The study raises concerns about South Korea's current child protection legislation, as well as child welfare policies that do not specifically include childhood exposure to domestic violence in definitions of child maltreatment.
The psychiatrist, Choi Ji-wook from the Catholic University of Korea Daejeon St. Mary's Hospital, claimed in her study that young adults who as children had frequently witnessed their caregiver being subjected to violence, and those who were repeatedly abused verbally in childhood, had weaker connections in two areas of the brain -- the hippocampus and the amygdala.
The two components of the brain perform functions in the processing of emotional reactions, fear and the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory.
Many overseas studies -- which have also discovered similar changes in key regions of the brains of adult child abuse survivors -- have suggested that such changes may leave them more vulnerable to a number of mental disorders as adults, including addiction and depression.
According to UNICEF, children who witness domestic violence are more likely to be affected by violence as adults -- either as victims or perpetrators. The organisation also stressed that children in the earliest years of life are particularly vulnerable, as many studies show that domestic violence is more prevalent in homes with younger children than those with older children.
In a number of states in the US, a conviction for domestic violence committed in the presence of a child may result in harsher penalties, which usually mean longer jail terms or increased fines. In five states -- Delaware, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Utah -- exposing a child to domestic violence is a separate crime that can be charged separately or in addition to the act of violence.
Ex-Charlottesville youth pastor to serve 30 days for sexual abuse
by Dean Seal
A former youth pastor at a Charlottesville church has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a teenager in his care and will spend 30 days behind bars.
Jacob Daniel Kepple was arrested in December 2014 on two charges of taking indecent liberties with a child. The 36-year-old appeared in Charlottesville Circuit Court on Thursday to plead guilty to one of those charges as part of a plea agreement with the prosecution, which dropped his second charge.
The prosecution said in court that between 2009 and 2011, while Kepple was a youth minister at First Baptist Church on Park Street, he spent increasing amounts of one-on-one time with a high school sophomore who attended First Baptist that grew increasingly inappropriate, though the two never engaged in sexual activity.
Prosecutor Elizabeth Killeen said that over time, Kepple began hugging the victim for long periods of time, grabbing the victim's buttocks and putting his hands down her shirt, though all contact was over the victim's clothing.
It wasn't until 2014, when the victim was 20 years old, that she first spoke up about the inappropriate behavior Kepple had displayed. She told an older friend, who in turn relayed the information to church leaders.
Speaking after Kepple's conviction, First Baptist's pastor, the Rev. Don Hicks, confirmed that he first heard the allegations in summer 2014, and immediately suspended Kepple with pay. He then notified law enforcement officials, who followed up with Kepple and the victim. Kepple resigned from his post soon after.
Judge Richard Moore said that while the case was a difficult one, he agreed that there was “substantial and sufficient” evidence on which to base the plea agreement. Moore said Kepple's offenses came down to three components: having taken advantage of a child in his supervision, having inappropriate sexual contact with a child, and violating the trust of the victim, the church and so many others.
Moore added that Kepple's offense fell on a broad spectrum of acts that could constitute sexual abuse, and that while he could receive a tougher punishment, Moore agreed with the sentence as laid out by the prosecution, as they had considered the victim's input in formulating the plea agreement.
Indeed, Killeen said the victim was not interested in securing a lengthy incarceration for Kepple, but to ensure he could not work with children again.
“She was never motivated by wanting Mr. Kepple to have all kinds of time in prison,” Killeen said after Thursday's proceedings. “She wanted for him to not be able to be a youth pastor or work in a school. With a much younger child, you don't really take that into account, but this is a completely adult victim choosing to bring this situation to the authorities.”
Kepple was sentenced to five years in prison with all but 30 days suspended. He will have to register as a sex offender and must never contact the victim or her family. As a felon and registered sex offender, he also will be unable to ever work with children again.
Killeen said she was pleased with the outcome of the case, as it did not put the often-traumatizing burden that usually accompanies this type of case on the victim, who is finishing college and will be getting married in May. On top of that, Killeen said that because there were no explicit sexual acts, a jury trial could have been more difficult in securing justice.
“This could have been a situation where a jury simply would have had to evaluate different words,” Killeen said. “There wasn't going to be physical evidence, there wasn't going to be DNA evidence.”
“You absolutely never know how a jury is going to go,” she added.
Speaking after the trial, Hicks said he was glad that Kepple made a confession to “save the young lady all of this pain.” He also admonished other churches to take extra precautions in hiring, because while First Baptist performs background checks, “they can still slip through.”
“When a person blends in, they can do damage,” Hicks said. “And any victims out there, who haven't gotten help, please get it.”
What we can all learn about grief from the survivors of Sandy Hook
by Chandra Johnson
Three years after losing his 7-year-old son Daniel in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Mark Barden kept a single memento: An old bicycle helmet that still has a few strands of Daniel's blonde hair clinging to it.
“I'll keep that (helmet) forever,” Barden says in director Kim Snyder's new Sundance Film Festival documentary, “Newtown.” “I still dread that every day I live I'm one day farther away from life with Daniel.”
Details like that make Snyder's tender documentary riveting for anyone who watched the news in shock on Dec. 14, 2012, when 20 kids (kindergarteners and first-graders) and six educators were killed in a mass shooting at the Newtown, Connecticut, school. The film, which premiers at Sundance this month, opens with 911 tapes, recounts frantic texts between parents and speaks to peripheral witnesses to the incident, like Gene Rosen, a nearby resident who found a handful of children on his lawn that morning who'd fled the violence.
“They just kept exclaiming, ‘We can't go back,'” Rosen says in the film, eyes welling with tears. “‘We don't have a teacher.'”
Snyder's inclusion of people like Rosen in addition to victims and their families outlines the film's overall theme in the first few minutes: How a community rebuilds itself out of crippling grief. Her decision not to delve into the details of the shooting itself or shooter Adam Lanza's background were deliberate, she said (in the entirety of the film, Lanza's name is not uttered).
“I wanted to render a mirror to the grace and dignity in a community struggling so terribly,” Snyder said. “I was drawn toward the part of it that showed what we are capable of, whether you be the priest faced with this and it's beyond you or if you're the ER doctor who's changed forever. How do you go on when you're broken?”
While the Sandy Hook shootings may be an extreme example of families trying to heal after a huge loss, Snyder's “Newtown” has a lot to teach its audience about grief, trauma and healing — emotional topics experts say Americans aren't good at dealing with.
“We don't teach people how to cope and we're just programmed to keep moving forward rather than stop and really think about what's happening,” Washington-based thanatologist (a person who studies death) and grief counselor Kriss Kevorkian said. “We want to stay neutral, we don't want to deal with it and if we do that, we're accepting it. And if things like (Newtown) became the new normal? What a horrible life.”
Michelle Palmer, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Wendt Center for Loss and Healing, says that like trauma, grief comes from fear, a feeling that results in a person's life changing in a dramatic way through loss — be it the death of a loved one, a natural disaster or violence. What it comes down to for anyone who's grieving or recovering from trauma is feeling safe when the world seems out of control.
“What I always tell people is, you can't outrun grief. Eventually it will catch up to you,” Palmer said. “It's definitely the case for children, but it's also true for adults that, really, (grief) is all about safety.”
In children especially, grief can manifest itself in what some scholars call “betrayal trauma,” or the violation of a belief a child has that a person or a place is safe and stable. When something or someone that has a profound presence in a child's life is suddenly taken away— like losing a parent in a car accident, witnessing a shooting or being abused — the child's sense of trust is eroded because life isn't going the way they've been taught it should.
In “Newtown,” parents who lost children at Sandy Hook struggle with their surviving children's newfound mistrust in the world and feelings of betrayal that school should be a safe place.
Ian and Nicole Hockley, who lost their son Dylan in the shooting, describe how their surviving third-grade son, Jake, suddenly didn't feel safe anywhere after the shooting, even in the family home.
“Jake says it was the day hell came to his school,” Nicole Hockley says in the film. “The lights always have to be on all the time now.”
Jake's drawings shown in the film depict dark, mutated figures of bulge-eyed monsters with blood leaking out of their fanged mouths, one eliciting a word bubble that reads, in black crayon, “You'll never escape.”
David Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son Ben died at Sandy Hook, struggles with his older son Nate's suspicion of his parents' reassurance that he's safe to return to class.
“What do you say to that? ‘Don't worry, you're safe,'” Wheeler says in the film. “Almost immediately, as you'd expect, the response was, ‘That's what you said to Ben.'”
If grief is handled correctly, it's less likely children or adults will experience lasting effects of betrayal trauma or unaddressed grief. But for kids who don't have a consistent source of reassurance from an adult, Palmer and Kevorkian say the impact of childhood grief and trauma can reverberate dangerously throughout a child's development and adulthood.
“We like to compartmentalize our feelings, and if you overdo that and don't deal with your emotions, it will manifest physically in your body,” Kevorkian said. “Stress, grief and loss are common denominators of most every health issue.”
Palmer cites the landmark Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study first published in 1998.
Examining the correlation between traumatic or stressful events in a child's life and health conditions in adulthood, the ACE study found that people who experienced four or more traumatic events were 4-12 times more likely to have experienced substance abuse, depression or suicide. The same group was more than twice as likely to smoke, have 50 or more sexual partners and have an STD.
For physical illnesses, the group also showed a higher prevalence of sedentary lifestyle, obesity, heart disease, cancer, lung disease, bone fracture and liver disease.
All this evidence of how grief can change people is great, says Washington-based family grief therapist David Simonsen, but it doesn't mean anything if neither adults nor children have the support they need to, as therapists put it, mourn “successfully.”
“As we grow, we start to mask our grief. We tell boys to ‘man up' and things, or I hear parents say all the time that they're being strong for the kids,” Simonsen said. “But to be strong would be to show emotion over this kind of thing, if not for ourselves than to teach our kids how.”
Some experts say Americans still have a flawed approach to loss and trauma, partially because of national identity. To get past this perception problem of grief as weak and improve emotional and physical health, Americans need to rethink their attitudes about grieving.
“We know it's tied to American individualism,” said Dr. Steven Schlozman, Harvard University professor and Massachusetts General Hospital psychiatrist. “We don't think it's safe to express emotion. What we've come to believe is that our individualism isn't compatible with letting the community know we're hurting and ask for help.”
“As Americans, we're taught that up-by-your-bootstraps outlook,” Kevorkian said. “But in reality, that doesn't help anyone.”
Because people don't like to ask for help and grief is very personal, many people miss out on a crucial piece of recovery: community.
“Having a community helps tremendously because people who are grieving need reassurance, they need offerings of support and love,” Kevorkian said. “The problem is, we're very isolated and we don't consider our actions as having an impact on others.”
Schlozman said the support of a community can help people heal, partially because they feel they're being given permission to be emotional.
“The more community comes around someone who's grieving, the less likely the individual feels alone in their grief,” Schlozman said. “There's a very real, beneficial effect of universality, where others feel what you feel and empathize, even if it's just for a little while.”
In “Newtown,” community togetherness is a key component of both grieving and recovery for the entire town rocked by Sandy Hook. Parents band together to fight for gun control, host marathons in the names of their fallen children, or commemorate the anniversary of the shooting with community-wide vigils.
“There's no making up for this. The foundation got cracked and nobody knows how wide that crack is going to get,” Catholic priest Bob Weiss, who conducted all 20 of the children's funeral services after Sandy Hook, says in the film. “But we're not going to let the darkness overwhelm us.”
The school staff that survived that terrible day in 2012 still meets regularly at each other's homes for defacto support groups, knowing that every person was affected, from the teachers to custodians like Rick Thorne.
“The teachers and the staff, we understand each other,” Thorne says in the film. “We don't even have to speak. We just know."
It's the community of survivors, the connection to people who understand his pain that sustains Thorne. Off-camera, Snyder asks Thorne the universal question for everyone navigating loss: How do you get through it?
“The kids. The laughing. The smiling,” he says.
Bullfighter investigated for child abuse over baby photo
(Picture on site)
MADRID — There is controversy in Spain as a famous bullfighter is being investigated by child welfare officials.
Francisco Rivera posted a photo to Instagram in which he is seen holding his 5-month-old daughter in one arm while having a red cape in his other hand leading a charging bull.
The photo made hundreds of people upset. Other bullfighters responded to the criticism by showing similar photos they have taken with their children, saying it is a tradition among bullfighters.
Child abuse rises 3%; Michigan a leader in child deaths
by David Crary
NEW YORK — The number of U.S. children victimized by abuse and neglect increased by nearly 3% in the latest annual reporting period, according to new federal data.
According to the report released Monday by the the Department of Health and Human Services, the estimated number of victimized children in the 2014 fiscal year was 702,208 — up from 682,307 in 2013.
The report estimated fatalities attributable to child abuse and neglect at 1,580 — up from 1,530 in 2013.
HHS said Rafael Lopez, commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, had sought input from child welfare officials in states with the increases in reported abuse and neglect. According to Lopez, the officials cited substance abuse, mental health issues and domestic violence as factors contributing to the increased maltreatment.
“We need to shift our focus to the front-end prevention of child abuse and neglect and make sure that families get the help they need when they need it,” Lopez said.
States with more than 30% increases in maltreatment over the past five years include Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee, according to the report.
About 70% of the fatalities in 2014 involved children younger than 3, and parents were the perpetrators in 80% of the cases. Georgia, Illinois, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Michigan had the highest rates of child fatalities.
Overall, white children accounted for about 44% of the victims of maltreatment, black children about 21% and Hispanic children about 23%. Smaller percentages were Asian, Native American and mixed race.
Seventy-five percent of the victims suffered neglect, 17% were physically abused and 8.3% were sexually abused. The report tallied 58,105 children who were sexually abused in 2014 — down considerably from the peak of about 150,000 in 1992.
The report, formally known as the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, is based on input from child protection agencies in every state.
Kansas child abuse victim rates rise 30 percent, state cites more people coming forward
by Josh Helmuth
According to the latest annual reporting data released Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services, Kansas' rate of child abuse victims has risen substantially over the last five years.
The Child Maltreatment report shows the Sunflower State is one of just nine states to have more than a 30 percent increase from 2010-2014.
During those five years, Kansas had a 32.8 percent increase in child victims, a large increase when compared with neighboring Missouri (.2 percent increase) and the national average (2.1 percent increase).
However, the Kansas Department for Children and Families said the increase is only due to the fact that more people are coming forward.
"The number of in-takes that have been assigned has increased tremendously. And I think that reflects on the community that has actually taken action and reported abuse and neglect,” said Kansas Dept. for Children & Families program administrator Tina Abney.
Theresa Freed is the communications director with the Kansas Department for Children and Families. She added that Kansas is still one of the top states in the country in fighting child abuse.
“According to the latest finalized federal review, Kansas has one of the safest child welfare systems in the country -- ranking second among the 50 states in the category of ‘children are first and foremost, protected from abuse and neglect.'”
While the reason for the attributed increase in reporting isn't known, the success in the system is attributed to social workers, foster care contractors, foster parents, law enforcement, judges, Guardians Ad Litem, CASAs, and “those who make it a priority to report suspected cases of abuse and neglect, including family, friends, teachers, counselors, medical professionals, pastors and more,” Freed said in a statement.
More facts from the latest national Child Maltreatment report:
Only 12.6 percent of the time was a victim's perpetrator a non-parent in 2014.
The national estimates of children who received an investigation or alternative response increased 7.4 percent from 2010 (3,023,000) to 2014 (3,248,000).
The number and rate of victims of maltreatment have fluctuated during the past five years. Comparing the national estimate of victims from 2010 to 2014 show an increase of less than one percent.
Three quarters of victims were neglected, 17 percent were physically abused and 8.3 percent were sexually abused.
For 2014, a nationally estimated 1,580 children died of abuse and neglect at a rate of 2.13 per 100,000 children in the national population.
You can see more statistics on the Kansas Department for Children and Families website or see the entire federal report from the Department of Health & Human Services here.
Report abuse or neglect:
IN KANSAS: 1-800-922-5330
IN MISSOURI: 1-800-392-3738
After Child Abuse, Impulses are Harder to Control
by Kara Gavin
A new study about impulse control adds to a growing body of evidence about the lasting effects of child abuse and neglect.
Quick “go or don't go” thinking—so crucial to everyday situations—appears to be less accurate and more impulsive in adults who suffered physical, emotional, or sexual trauma in their early years than in those who did not, the study finds.
Researchers analyzed data from the Heinz C. Prechter Longitudinal Study of Bipolar Disorder to see if people with bipolar disorder had more impulsive and inaccurate responses on a quick task than others without the condition, as measured on standard timed tests called a “Go/No-Go”test. But to their surprise, they found no differences between the two groups.
Instead, when they looked closer, they found a common thread running through nearly everyone with more impulsive responses.
Among the more than 320 people in the study who took the tests, 134 reported a history of childhood trauma. This included physical abuse or neglect, emotional abuse or neglect, and sexual abuse. It did not include one-time traumatic events. None of the participants had active substance abuse issues, and the participants without bipolar disorder did not have other mental health conditions.
Those with bipolar disorder and a history of trauma performed significantly worse on the “Go/No-Go” test, than those with bipolar alone. But those without bipolar disorder who had a history of trauma performed just as poorly.
The test measures how well a person can stop himself or herself from reacting incorrectly to rapid prompts that sometimes require a “go” response and sometime require a person to hold back the impulse to respond (“no-go”).
“Past research has looked at mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder, and even at memory function in people with childhood trauma, but few have looked at inhibitory control, or what some people call impulse control,” says lead author David Marshall assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan.
“Having the data from the Prechter research effort allowed us to see that a history of childhood trauma can impact the development of this key aspect of executive functioning that we need more of as we become adults, where we are required to engage in self-monitoring and goal-directed behavior.”
Marshall got the idea for the study after noticing that a sizable portion of the bipolar disorder patients who had volunteered for the study discussed problematic childhoods in the questionnaires that all participants fill out.
The study includes people who don't have bipolar disorder and are willing to act as comparisons for those with bipolar, so scientists can see important differences in the two populations.
Trauma and Illness
“What is intriguing about this research is that childhood trauma had an effect on impulse control that was in both groups, meaning that it is independent of bipolar illness and more strongly related to adverse childhood experiences,” Marshall says.
“This substantially changes the way we think of how trauma increases risk for illnesses. There may be brain changes after trauma that act as a risk marker for development of later illnesses, including bipolar disorder. These processes are much more fluid than we previously thought.”
The new findings, published in Psychiatry Research, highlight the importance of continuous treatment for people diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and early detection and attention to the effects of childhood trauma on anyone.
“By finding early those who may be at risk of long-term mental health effects from childhood abuse and neglect, we may be able to guide them to treatments that can mitigate these effects,” Marshall says.
While treatment recommendations vary, cognitive behavioral therapy—a form of talk therapy—can help even those whose childhood issues haven't been addressed formally for years, Marshall says. The self-control and self-talk that are key to CBT could help individuals build problem-solving techniques to assist their thinking and analytic abilities.
Although the paper only includes a small group of people with no bipolar disorder but a history of childhood trauma, he hopes to continue assessing the question as the Prechter study continues. He and his colleagues will also watch over time as the study participants who reported childhood trauma continue to respond to surveys sent to them periodically.
Other researchers from the University of Michigan and from the University of Illinois at Chicago are coauthors of the study. The Prechter Fund, the Richard Tam Foundation, and the National Institute of Mental Health funded the work.
House passes child porn and child abuse legislation
by Blair Miller and Stuart Dyson
The state House of Representatives voted Tuesday evening to pass two bills that would add more prison time for those who intentionally injure or kill children in New Mexico, as well as a bill that would strengthen child porn laws in our state.
The pair of bills would make life in prison possible for somebody convicted of intentionally abusing any child under 18 to the point of death, which is outlined in House Bill 69. House Bill 68 triples the prison time for somebody who intentionally injures a child but doesn't kill them.
House Bill 68 passed a House vote, 61-1. House Bill 69 passed by a unanimous 63-0 vote.
The legislation is part of the family of "Omaree bills" inspired by 9-year-old Omaree Varela, a 9-year-old boy kicked to death by his own mother while his stepfather did nothing to stop her or help the boy.
Albuquerque Republican Conrad James sponsors the bill.
"Obviously, there's been concern that some parents would be roped up into this because of corporal punishment – the standard disciplining of children," James said. "There's been some court precedent that separates that and raises a high bar for when corporal punishment rises to the level of child abuse."
Similar legislation passed the House on an overwhelming vote last year, but died without even getting a committee hearing in the Senate.
The legislation will now be sent to the Senate.
House Passes Child Porn Legislation
The House also voted to pass a bill, House Bill 65, that could drastically increase prison time for people convicted of possessing child pornography. The bill passed with a 60-2 vote.
It would allow prosecutors to bring criminal charges for each pornographic image – conceivably every frame in a child porn video.
Critics say it would give the criminal defendant no hope for redemption. Supporters say it's needed to fight the spread of a criminal industry that preys on kids.
‘Mr Wonder' arrested in child sexual abuse case
by David Hernandez
SAN DIEGO — A former Louisiana TV personality known as “Mr. Wonder” was arrested in San Diego on Monday on suspicion of sexually abusing children during camping trips nearly four decades ago.
Frank Selas, 76, invited children to a weekend camping retreat with “Mr. Wonder” in Gardner, Louisiana in June 1979. He is accused of abusing several of the children who attended, Rapides Parish sheriff's officials said Tuesday.
U.S. Marshal Service members and a San Diego fugitive task force arrested Selas at his home on Casa Verde Court in Bonita about 6:30 p.m., sheriff's officials said. He was booked into a San Diego jail in lieu of extradition proceedings.
“As I have stated many times before, there are cases you never forget, some that are always in the back of your mind that you hope one day to solve. And today, this person has been brought to justice,” said Rapides Parish Sheriff William Hilton, a former detective who was assigned to the case.
Selas legally changed his last name to Szeles in San Diego County in 1992, Rapides Parish sheriff's officials said. He had used several aliases before that to conceal his identity.
After the alleged sexual abuse, Selas drove to Dallas and then fled to Rio de Jinero. In the early 1980s, he returned to the U.S. and lived in cities including San Diego, Chicago and others in Connecticut, Vermont and Massachusetts.
The Rapides Parish sheriff's office said detectives believe there are more victims nationally and internationally because Selas traveled to several countries in the 1970s, including Japan and Central and South America.
Selas was 39 and hosted a children's TV program at the time of the alleged crimes. He hosted several camping trips for children ages 5 to 11, according to sheriff's officials.
Organization calls for more investigators of child-on-child sexual abuse
by Brittany Ruess
A statewide organization dedicated to preventing child abuse is requesting Missouri lawmakers increase funding for added caseworkers investigating child-on-child sexual abuse.
Emily van Schenkhof, deputy director of Missouri KidsFirst, testified in front of the Missouri House of Representatives appropriations committee overseeing mental health, health and social services budgeting Tuesday. She wants the General Assembly to approve an additional $900,000 for 15 new caseworkers to the Children's Division who will specifically look into cases in which alleged inappropriate sexual contact was made between children.
“Failure to care for our children drives every single line in the budget that you are considering,” van Schenkhof said, “and it's also the right thing to do because each and every one of our children deserve to grow up with bodily and psychological integrity.”
Lawmakers gave the Children's Division authority to conduct such investigations during the 2015 session, when they passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane. Missouri KidsFirst originally estimated the division would handle 600 cases annually after the new law came into effect in late August, but caseworkers saw 500 reports within the first month. By the end of December, the division handled more than 1,500 reports.
The state budgeted for five caseworkers, and the division was forced to have its seasoned caseworkers in other areas take on child-on-child sexual abuse cases. The Kansas City-based Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assaults trained about 175 front-line Children's Division caseworkers through federal funding, van Schenkhof said.
Caseworkers visit with victims and alleged child initiators (the term used for those who started the sexual contact) alike to connect them with resources, and each case is unique, van Schenkhof said. They meet with families to establish safety plans and discuss healthy sexual development. She added that a family member, like a cousin, is most often the child initiator.
“We need to care about these behaviors,” van Schenkhof said. “These behaviors are not OK. It is never OK to subject someone else to sexual touch that is not consensual. Starting those conversations with families is really important. What we've heard is that many families are thrilled to having someone come in and talk to them. Many families didn't know how to deal with this.”
A major component of the service is to steer initiators away from a life of sexual abuse. The earlier child initiators are treated, the better the results, van Schenkhof said. At 14 years old, minors who have committed sexual abuse are subject to punishment under law.
“When these behaviors first begin, the severity of the offense is typically smaller,” she said. “What they are doing, the seriousness of it, increases over time. Juveniles, children — they are more amenable to change than adults, and so we really believe that intervening early when we first start seeing the problems means that the problem is most amenable to change at that moment. Kids need redirection; they need boundaries; they need their own trauma dealt with.”
Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles, said expanding the service will save the state money in the long run if child initiators don't grow up to become adult sexual offenders, who can spend years incarcerated or participating in Missouri's Sex Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment Services (SORTS) in Fulton, where they receive mental health services. In fiscal year 2016, which ends in July, Gov. Jay Nixon recommended nearly $450,000 for the SORTS program.
The Legislature also appropriated more than $208 million in 2015 for the Department of Corrections Division of Offender Rehabilitative Services, which supports seven programs including sexual offender assessment and treatment.
For the upcoming fiscal year, van Schenkhof said Nixon proposed a $1 million increase in treating Missouri sex offenders.
“If we don't (support the additional funding), we're going to see a much different consequence in 10-15 years,” Wood said. “And in my time on the committee, I've had the guiding principle of: if it saves the state money and improves the services for the people in the state, it's a no-brainer. So to ask for money that does both of those things, I support your cause.”
Van Schenkhof said she is “cautiously optimistic” the additional funds will be approved.
“I still think it's always an uphill battle to talk about increased funding and increased appropriations in a tough budget climate,” she said. “I think it is going to be very challenging, but I absolutely believe that this is the right way of doing business, it's the smart way of doing business, it's the moral way of doing business, and it's something that we can all get our arms around and that we all want to be a part of.”
News Focus: Sexual abuse effects are far-reaching
by Kathy Jessup
Sturgis trauma therapist Nicole Merchant estimates about one of every three clients she treats can trace some or all of their psychological challenges to being sexually abused as children.
Frequently, that sexual trauma occurred at age 2 or 3, when the child was vulnerable to predators who believed the victim wouldn't tell or wouldn't be believed.
That experience — an “emotional yuckiness” that the young child is wont to explain — remains so embedded that it can stifle development and leaves a negative imprint on their self-image, challenging them for a lifetime.
Merchant's professional experience makes her a solid advocate for Children's Concerns of St. Joseph County, a prevention-through-education effort. As a Children's Concerns board member, she supports teaching children as early as preschool about the privacy of their bodies, good and bad touches and giving them permission to report unwanted touching to trusted adults.
“I talk to teenagers who remember today what they learned from those programs,” Merchant said. “Families are not talking about this subject at home and this is a way to open that conversation. Children need to know they have a voice and they need to know they can tell someone.”
Sexual abuse can happen to infants and toddlers, children who are as young as 2 who aren't yet able to participate in therapy, Merchant explained. Often, the young age of the victim is by design, because perpetrators believe they won't understand the experience, report it or be taken seriously if they do.”
“This topic is something these kids can understand if it's done appropriately and this program does,” Merchant said. “We're the only county doing it this comprehensively in this state.”
Remnants of unresolved child sexual abuse can be a Pandora's box for the victim, Merchant said.
“They often have a misguided self-concept because they have learned their worth and value is as a sexual object way before they are able to comprehend what that means,” she explained. “Sometimes when it was perpetrated by someone of the same sex, the victim wonders if this means they are gay.”
The “why me?” question can lead to the victim believing there must be something in them that invited the abuse or create “trust issues” because they were not “protected.”
“We see depression, anxiety, trauma symptoms and self-harm behaviors like cutting to release their pain,” Merchant explained. “They may be more open to future abuse.” (A client) was shown pornography and was expected to perform what she saw. Her abuser continually told her that her body didn't measure up to the women in the video and she almost died from anorexia.
“The effects of child sexual abuse are so much more far-reaching than people understand.”
Rather than reporting abuse, Merchant said, young children are “much, much, much more likely to internalize it, creating shame and guilt because they don't know what to do with the information.”
Merchant said different experiences throughout a victim's life can trigger reactions to abuse suffered decades earlier. And in some cases, Merchant said she's seen young children become developmentally “stuck” even though they're chronologically aging.
“Some people stop growing and start surviving when they experience trauma,”?she said.
Abuse can define victims
Merchant said the imprint of childhood sexual trauma can take several different forms.
Some feel damaged and unworthy, sometimes dropping out of school, ending up in abusive adult relationships, unable to trust and battling depression and anxiety.
Others go an opposite direction.
“They become arrogant, almost narcissistic, sexually provocative and aggrandize themselves into sexual heroes,” Merchant said. “Some victims become controlling and obsessive/compulsive, trying to control all the details in their world and over creating a sense of safety.”
Still others have what Merchant calls “this internal gift to survive.”
“Those people are finally able to say it wasn't their fault and the reality is we live in a world where things are not always fair,” she said. “They know they deserve better. Sometimes that's due to their environment.”
Merchant believes empowering young children with knowledge and permission to disclose ultimately translates into prevention.
“When a child is given the education and know they have the right to protect themselves, they can say no when something makes them feel uncomfortable,” she explained. “Pedophiles move on to somebody who won't say no.”
Dude! I'm Your Daughter, Not Your Wife!
by Lenora Thompson
Cringe-worthy. Kinda weird. Definitely uncomfortable. But also, flattering. My emotions ran this gamut every Tuesday and Sunday evening, the times Dad demanded I schedule to be spent, alone, with him. Playing music together. Gossiping about his wife/my mother to me. Pawing, I mean, patting me.
On the one hand, I was flattered (and guilty!) that he seemed to like me better than my mother, his wife of thirty years. We bonded over the pain and frustration her paranoia, her menopausal idiosyncrasies and her über-control caused us. Triangulation at its finest! (Look it up!)
On the other hand, I never felt comfortable around the man. His rages terrified me. His depressions worried me. His teasing wounded me. His hands hurt me. And the way his eyes constantly followed me freaked me out.
He never seemed comfortable in his own skin. Never had any friends. Nor many hobbies.
But he was my dad. And we were supposed to be “close,” right?
He was also the only man in my life. Oh, there were others, but most of them were my married coworkers. Unhappily married, of course. Tired of their middle-aged wives. Usually alcoholics or ex-alcoholics. I was there to listen to them, to sympathize, to provide a shoulder for them to pat, just like my relationship with dad. And what was with all the shoulder patting, anyways!?!
Occasionally, I'd date a young man, but the relationship never lasted long. If I wasn't dumped, my parents made sure I did the dumping.
Hindsight being 20-20, the dynamic is now so obvious. Covert incest! I blush at the name.
It took thirty years and getting married to make this dynamic painfully obvious to me. To reveal I wasn't just a daughter; I was Dad's pseudo wife. And had been for much of my life.
You see, when your parent is a narcissist, you belong to them. Mind, heart and body. You are theirs, baby. And if they can't have you, no one can have you.
That's why narcissistic mothers often raise “Mamma's Boys.” They're the women who undress in front of their sons and kiss them on the lips. If their son, by some miracle, manages to ditch the computer games and break out of Mamma's basement to snag an unsuspecting female (aka “that whore that stole my baby boy”), holy crap! Look out for the mother-in-law from Hell. Think Mrs. Wolowitz from The Big Bang Theory. Got it?
Personally, I wasn't allowed to move out until I was thirty-one, supposedly, for my safety. And did I mention Dad tried to renege after saying I could move out!?
Dad's jealousy was more covert. It also had a much longer history. I vividly recall Dad reacting with anger when I kissed my first-grade boyfriend on the arm. Wait! Say what!?!
On the other hand, Dad could do anything he wanted to me.
Lick out my ears. Hell yes! He just held me down while I wriggled and protested.
Slap back-and-forth between my thighs causing great pain, just to watch the “jiggle.” Of course! (Mom showed him how to do it.)
Slap the tender soles of my feet while I writhed and begged for mercy. Business as usual!
Tickle me unmercifully 'til I screamed! Oh yeah!
Thankfully, puberty stopped the licking, slapping and tickling. Other things changed too. Mother took me aside and smilingly explained it was now inappropriate for me to hug my Daddy in the usual way. “He's a man and you're a woman now,” she said. A-frame hugs were now the name of the game. Or as Catholics say, “Leave room for the Holy Spirit.”
My innocent relationship with Daddy would never be the same. Thanks to Mom, it became slightly sexualized. While other girls wore tank tops, shorts and even swimsuits around their father with nary a thought, I was horribly body conscious around mine. Clothed in stiff stabilized fabrics from neck to knees, conscious of even a gap in my neckline, I was ill-at-ease in his presence. Body conscious! Guilt-ridden if I accidentally hugged my father too close, confessing “my” mistake to my angry, jealous Mother.
It wasn't long until she started accusing me of “being cute” for Daddy. That was just a euphemism. Seduction! That's what she meant. And to this day I wonder if she was projecting something weird about him, onto me.
My own mother accused me of seducing my own father.
Defenseless, I believed her. I owned the false guilt. Only a horrible person would “be cute” for her own father. And I, a clueless virgin, was this horrible person.
But not only was I considered a seductress in my own home, I was also “slut shamed” for High School crushes.
I'll never forget that day in 10th grade. The occasion was a High School band concert. Dad took me out for a “date” prior to the concert, but I was too excited to eat. I couldn't wait to introduce my father to “Joe,” the boy I liked.
After we got home from the concert, I huddled in bed, curled up in the fetal position, adrenalin gripping my heart. I knew, just knew, I'd done something horribly wrong. But what!?!
I didn't have long to wait. In the dimness, my parents filed grimly into my room. Glowering down at me, the verdict was read. “You are never to speak to, look at or even think about him again,” Dad stated. “You'd obviously let him have his wicked way with you in a school stairwell!” Slut shamed again!
The Little Warden, I mean Mother, enforced my sentencing by daily interrogations after school. Six months later, I was removed from school and put in solitary confinement, studying alone in my room (aka homeschooling) for the next two years!
High school graduation brought some changes to my life, but not what you'd expect. Instead of going out into the wide world to try my wings, I was bribed into spending my 18th Summer in my parents' basement. It was incumbent on me to help Dad fix up their rundown house, neglected due to bringing me up. It also gave him the opportunity to be alone with me, talk about sex constantly, detail the minutiae of the female orgasm, assure me I wouldn't enjoy sex, etc.
During my early twenties, Dad's jealousy became less evident. Maybe his cancer distracted him from obsessing about me. Maybe his Little Warden did the obsessing for him. Maybe I just didn't have many dates. When I had a horrible date or got dumped, Dad was happy to take me out, proving I had a better time with him than anyone else. And if I did have a good date with a kiss at the end, Dad demanded I end the relationship…immediately. No reason given; no tears allowed.
Frankly, I was shocked when he didn't forbid me from ballroom dancing lessons. “I'm the only man who's ever held her in his arms,” he reportedly said sadly as I went off to my first lesson. Mother thought it so sweet. I just found it creepy.
But then something strange happened. Mother asked me if my father had ever molested me.
“NO” I responded, shocked and horrified. “I didn't think so,” she simpered and cooed. But she knew it was on the cards, or she'd never have asked. Was she checking to see if it had happened? Or checking to see if I remembered a specific scenario she knew occurred?
I was thirty-two before I dared to introduce Dad to another person of the male persuasion. Michael. My husband. Before even meeting Michael, Dad was meddling. He called me angrily on my first (and only!) date with Michael to demand I immediately leave because dusk was falling. The next morning, Dad attempted to brainwash me by claiming I was “just infatuated” with Michael. I wasn't having any of it. I knew what I wanted, and I wanted Michael. I secretly accepted his proposal of marriage that very day. By their vary “caring,” they forced me into a hasty marriage.
Four days later, Michael met my parents. And I was terrified. Michael couldn't keep his hands off me! He kept touching me, right in front of them. The slut-shaming from seventeen years prior had my stomach in knots.
Nine days later, we were married. Walking up the “aisle” on my father's arm, I was painfully conscious of the proximity of his arm to my chest, hoping a “boo-boo” didn't happen, so I wouldn't have to “confess” the woops to Mother after saying my “I Do's.”
When the minister spoke the words, “You may kiss the bride,” Michael and I kissed and kissed and kissed. It was the first time Dad had ever seen me lay a hand on a man, let alone kiss a man. So I snuck a peak out of the corner of my eye. Sure enough, a disapprovingly expression was frozen on Dad's face. He spent our wedding reception pouting in a corner, speaking to no one.
If I thought saying “I DO,” would exorcise Dad's disapproval, I was sadly mistaken. After years of parental lecturing on the topic of sexual immorality, apparently even my wedding vows didn't make it okay for me to kiss a man. Silly me! Naïve me! Even holy wedlock couldn't sanctify physical contact between myself and my new husband in the eyes of my Bible-thumping father.
Banish the thought Michael would touch me, hug me, lift me or (gasp!) kiss me in his father-in-law's presence. While Mother giggled and cooed, Dad averted his eyes, grimacing with rage.
Hugging Dad post-wedding was, if possible, even more awkward that ever before. He seemed to be unable to bear touching me. Had to force himself to hug me…from a respectful distance, as always.
I felt dirty, like I'd become the whore he always feared I would. Meanwhile, Mother was hugging my husband in a way that made both my new husband and myself extremely uncomfortable. Let's just say, she left no room for the Holy Spirit. WTF!?! Hypocrite, you are, Mom! I looked up at Dad to see what his reaction was to his wife's chumminess with my husband, and saw in his face only the dejection of a “whipped cur.”
I had to know what was going on. There's a famous cliché. “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a frickin' duck!” And this looked, walked and quacked like frickin' jealosy.
“Mother, why is Dad acting so weird when Michael kisses me?” I asked.
“Oh,” she cooed, clearly prepared to brainwash me with a well-rehearsed stock answer, “He's just having trouble getting used to his little girl being married.”
I wasn't his daughter! I was his “wife.” And by getting married, I'd cheated on him!
Welcome to the rotten world of covert incest.
Sexual Abusers are Mostly Family Members
by Akhila Damodaran
When a family member betrays a child's trust, they grow up with increasing fear. They refuse to attend any social gatherings and feel restless until they are able to vent their emotions and the issue is resolved. They find it hard to trust people, lose faith in the adult relationships, even in the institution of marriage.
Dr Surekha Tiwari, a homeopathic psychologist, cites the instance of girl who was raped by her own father. “She took eight years to trust someone, a co-worker, and marry him at the age of 42.”
Abusers who are close to the family usually bide their time. They gain the trust of the family and show that they care for their child, says Niyatii N Shah, sexuality educator and expert at babychakra.com. “Rape is rare for fear of being caught.”
When relatives abuse children, they are confused. “They are taught to respect and obey them,” says Dr Ali Khwaja, chairman of Banjara Academy. “They find it easier to share such a trauma for with an outsider, not family.”
Dr Tiwari says that families are now more supportive, she says, and more people share their trauma.
Children are given more freedom in their families now, says Niyatii. “They are given confidence that their parents will support them if they talk about such incidents.”
But this does not mean that parents are doing everything right.
One common mistake is the comfortable assumption that “this won't happen to my child”. Niyatti conducts workshops and counsels children and parents. “Parents are content with superficial understanding. They need to understand that these exercises should be revised with children regularly. They should be on the look out for some signs,” she says.
Sometimes parents blame the child, particularly when a family member is involved, and make matters worse. An 8-year-old was being molested by her uncle. The parents came to know of this and screamed at her. Angry, she started seeing her parents as her enemies and said that she liked what her uncle did and that it was out of affection. “We had to make her understand why it was wrong and what the consequences were,” says Niyatii.
Small gestures could be damaging, for example when a parent doubts the child. Dr Khwaja, says, “When a child approaches his parent, they are asked questions like ‘Are you sure?', ‘Why did you go to that place?'. These could be emotionally damaging. They carry insecurities for the rest of their lives which lowers their self esteem.” He advises against going for legal redress, “it can be traumatic.”
Survivors sometimes grow up fearing the dark, he adds.
According to the psychologists, the most damaging of all is guilt. “The perpetrators make the child feel guilty and responsible for the crime,” says Dr Khwaja.
Assure Your Child She's Not to Blame
by Express News Service
The first step to being supportive of a child who confides in you about sexual abuse is to tell her she's not at fault, says Ashika Shetty of Enfold.
Enfold is an NGO that strives to create ‘safe spaces' for children. The trust, founded by two gynaecologists, also works with the police, hospitals and parents to prevent abuse and rehabilitate survivors.
“You have to assure the child that it is the person who has done this to her who is to blame,” says Ashika, who heads the support programme development and communications section at Enfold. “Next, tell the child how brave she is to have come and told you about it, that it's not easy. And take the child to the doctor if there are injuries.”
Though the NGO counsels and encourages parents to file FIRs under the POCSO Act, most don't take that route. “It's also traumatic for the child because he or she has to go to court and the abuse is replayed before him or her,” she says.
That the perpetrator is most often a family member or someone known to the child only complicates matters, she adds.
Signs to look out for could range from bruises, which are rare, to inexplicable aches and pains, age-inappropriate sexual behaviour, changes in sleep- and eating-patterns, depression, withdrawal, unexplained anger and reluctance to go to school.
Most often, however, children who do not talk about child sexual abuse are very ‘resilient', and display few telling signs, she says, because pedophiles are very clever and ‘groom' the children.
Ashika says pedophiles usually pick children who have a low self-esteem. “So when they are told that they look good or made to feel that somebody cares, they seek the adult out rather than the other way around.”
What usually begins with an enjoyable conversation turns into abusive behaviour later, she says. “Even touching...it begins with holding the hand or grabbing the shoulder.”
So the way you raise your child makes all the difference. Ashika shares a few pointers she and others at Enfold follow:
*Remove the shame associated to the reproductive organs. When you teach your child the names of the other body parts, include these so he or she knows how to refer to it.
What to Do
Don't push away questions about these parts or tell the child he or she isn't old enough to understand the answers yet.
If a child comes running without his or her knickers, explain it's the social norm to cover up those parts. Don't say, “Shame, Shame!”
Children touching these parts are quite normal. Don't tell them not to do it, but tell them this kind of behaviour is not acceptable in public.
Also tell children that they shouldn't let anybody else touch the child there or in any way that makes them uncomfortable. We tell parents not force their children to “go hug that uncle” or “give that aunty a kiss”. It should be something the children want to do.
New Federal Data Shows Nearly 3 Percent Rise in Child Abuse
by DAVID CRARY
The number of U.S. children victimized by abuse and neglect increased by nearly 3 percent in the latest annual reporting period, according to new federal data.
According to the report released Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services, the estimated number of victimized children in the 2014 fiscal year was 702,208 — up from 682,307 in 2013.
The report estimated fatalities attributable to child abuse and neglect at 1,580 — up from 1,530 in 2013.
HHS said Rafael Lopez, commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, had sought input from child welfare officials in states with the increases in reported abuse and neglect. According to Lopez, the officials cited substance abuse, mental health issues and domestic violence as factors contributing to the increased maltreatment.
Physicians and Practice Staff Are Not Required to Obtain Child Abuse Clearances in Pennsylvania
by EDWARD J. CYRAN
Previously on the Fox Rothschild Physician Law Blog, we reported on the July 2015 amendments to the PA Child Protective Services Law. See our August 31, 2015 post here: What You Need to Know about PA's Child Protective Services Law. In particular, we noted that the PA Medical Society interpreted the amendments to the Law as requiring all health care practitioners and practice staff having direct contact with children to obtain child abuse clearances.
After further review of the Law and consultation with the PA Department of Human Services (DHS), the PA Medical Society issued a retraction of its prior statement. On December 1, 2015, the PA Medical Society reported that it had confirmed with the DHS that physicians and other employees of a medical practice or hospital (including administrative employees) are not required to obtain child abuse clearances under the Law. See the PA Medical Society's Clarification here: PA Medical Society Child Abuse Clearances Clarification.
Although the Law used to require physicians (and other health care practitioners) to obtain child abuse clearances, the July amendments to the Law limited the clearance requirement to certain programs, activities and services. As a result, a long-standing rule that physicians must obtain child abuse clearances appears to have been eliminated.
In our post, we also reported that the PA Department of Health (DOH), which licenses hospitals and other health care facilities, had continued to require such facilities to ensure that their health care practitioners obtained child abuse clearances, even after the amendments were passed. The DOH has not yet confirmed its position on the Law after the recent clarification by the DHS.
While the Law appears not to require health care practitioners to obtain child abuse clearances in Pennsylvania, be sure to consult your legal counsel before making an administrative decision for your practice or health care facility.
Lax US standards for migrant children resulted in sexual assault, forced labor, neglect
by The Associated Press
Reduced federal protection standards for placement of child refugees fleeing Central America resulted in cases of severe abuse, starvation, involuntary servitude, and sexual assault, according to a new report.
In the last few years, as tens of thousands of unaccompanied child migrants have flooded the US-Mexico border in search of safety, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) dropped its safety standards for moving children from federal government shelters to sponsor homes, according to an investigation by the Associated Press.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, AP accessed HHS memos, operations manuals, and emails, discovering that more than two dozen children -- at least -- ended up in dangerous situations following crucial rule changes made by HHS' Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the process of hastened placement protocol.
"This is clearly the tip of the iceberg," Jacqueline Bhabha, research director at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, told AP. "We would never release domestic children to private settings with as little scrutiny."
In early 2012, as waves of child migrants ended up at the US-Mexico border from the likes of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, child advocates urged HHS to proceed with caution, AP reported. "Fraudulent sponsors" had been identified in Colorado, Iowa, and Minnesota seeking to claim multiple minors of no familial relation.
HHS said it is reviewing its safety protocol as child refugees continue to arrive at the border. For example, HHS spokesman Mark Weber said new shelters are on the way.
"We are not taking shortcuts," Weber said. "The program does an amazing job overall."
Weber said ORR has increased home visits since July after a sponsor and others were charged with forcing six children to work on an egg farm under threat of violence for as much as 12 hours a day.
"I know we learn from lessons and keep trying to improve the system to ensure the child is placed in a safe place, and I'm confident the vast majority of the kids are," Weber said.
In July, the Obama administration called on lawmakers to approve an additional $3.7 billion in funds for border control and child health services to adequately address the flood of child migrants arriving in the US from Central America. According to US Customs and Border Patrol, the 52,193 children detained in 2014 is nearly double the 26,000 caught in 2013.
Unaccompanied minors, however, have not had time to wait for Washington to address what many have labeled a humanitarian crisis. Amid its investigation, AP found children with stories like that of Marvin Velasco, a 14-year-old Guatemalan who came to the US in September 2014. Placed in the Los Angeles home of his brother-in-law's father, Velasco said he and nine others living in the apartment were starved and were required to pay rent. He was threatened after Velasco said he wanted to study, the boy said.
"He told authorities that he was going to take me to school and help me with food and clothing, but it wasn't like that at all," he said. "The whole time, I was just praying and thinking about my family."
The sponsor's son helped Velasco escape to a church. There, Velasco met a parishioner, a Guatemalan immigrant with a family, who has become his legal guardian. He has since been granted special legal status reserved for some immigrant minors, AP reported.
AP included other instances of a variety of abuse some minors faced following HHS' decision to relax safety standards. A 14-year-old Honduran girl was forced to work in a Florida cantina "where women drink, dance and sometimes have sex with patrons." Others were forced to work at restaurants, clean houses, or watch children for little or no pay. In other cases, children were found to have been raped by relatives or others associated with their sponsors, AP reported.
Sen. Rob Portman, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said he will hold a hearing on the child placement program this week.
"We think reforms are necessary and urgently required because there are kids right now who are coming in over the border," Portman said. "This is a problem that has to be addressed."
Unaccompanied minors crossing the border has contributed to the surge in non-Mexican persons caught trying to cross the border in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center.
"The recent increase in non-Mexican apprehensions is due in part to a surge in unaccompanied Central American child migrants crossing the border without their parents,” Pew reported last month.
The 52,000 or so unaccompanied children from Central America dwarfed the number of unaccompanied Mexican children, which was about 16,000, according to US Customs and Border Protection data.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is in the process of nationwide raids of immigrant communities, particularly immigrants who entered the US after January 1, 2014, and since then have received orders of deportation. The raids -- which "should come as no surprise," according to Department of Homeland Security head Jeh Johnson -- have been widely condemned as punitive and inhumane in its targeting of immigrant families.
Late last week, the US Commission on Civil Rights, an independent body within the federal government charged with assessing civil rights issues, called for an immediate halt of the deportation raids.
"As the nation's civil rights watchdog, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission cannot stand by silent while our federal government deports refugee women and children whose due process rights may have been deprived in the first instance, to potentially life-threatening situations in their home countries," said Martin Castro, the commission's chairman, in a letter sent to Obama and Johnson. "To continue these deportations to proceed is counter to our values as Americans."
The Commission found that families in detention have not been afforded proper access to legal counsel, which "brings into question the enforceability of the orders of deportation upon which the present [US Immigration and Customs Enforcement] raids are based," the letter stated.
In December, federal officials said emergency shelters would be opening for 1,400 children migrants in California and Texas, in addition to 5,000 new shelter beds facilitated by the Pentagon at the recent request of HHS.
All parents need to wake up to the gruesome reality of Britain's child abuse problem
by Milli Hill
“How could nobody have known?” This question is being asked nationwide in the wake of a leaked draft of the review into the abuse of children by TV presenter Jimmy Savile. In spite of Savile having abused at least 100 boys and girls, “in every corner”, of the BBC, nobody, it seems, was aware – and those who had suspicions or hunches chose to remain silent.
And Mark Ruffalo, Oscar nominated for his role in Spotlight, which tells the story of the Boston journalists who in 2002 exposed widespread abuse of children by Catholic priests across the city, has this week described how “the whole city was complicit. It wasn't just the police and church…Everybody at some point looked the other way”.
I can tell you from my own time as a therapist working with both adults and children who had experienced sexual abuse, that this question, “How could nobody have known?” is not just asked about high profile cases. Often it is one of the deepest and toughest sources of hurt for abuse survivors as they struggle to come to terms with their own experiences: “Why did nobody realise it was happening?” “Why did nobody make it stop?” Often this causes the other adults around the abuser – for example, the mother – to be the focus of the most sorrow and anger, rather than the abuser themselves.
So why does child sexual abuse so often go unchecked? I think that the main reason is that it is so horrifying, that the majority of us don't even want to contemplate it. We enter a kind of collective pact of denial, for our own protection and comfort, and place even the thought of it very clearly at a distance. Child abuse is something that happens ‘over there', to other people, from different walks of life, in different places. It is not near us, it is not happening where we are.
So it is not that the adults around the abuser ‘did not know', so much as that they, ‘could not know'.
I can still remember the shock I experienced when starting work as part of a social services team offering therapy to children in care, in the town where I had grown up. As I began to read through the folders of case notes, I was forced to wake up. Child sexual abuse was happening in nearby, familiar streets. Then I met the children. They looked just like every other child. If I had not read their notes, I would have had no inkling of the horrors they had experienced.
As a parent now, I bring these experiences and this awful awakening to my current life as a mum. I am vigilant. I treat other adults who are involved in the care of my children in any way with gentle suspicion. I talk to my children about their bodies, about boundaries, and about not keeping secrets. I try to encourage openness. And even then, I am not naïve enough to think that abuse could not possibly visit my family.
Many parents are comfortable talking to their children about ‘Stranger Danger', but actually, the chances of abuse by someone entirely unknown to the child are very slim in comparison to abuse by a familiar adult. Current figures from the NSPCC suggest that over 90 per cent of sexually abused children were abused by someone they knew.
As an NSPCC spokesperson explains: “We know that most sexual abuse offences are committed by someone known to the child, such as a family member or friend. Abusers often look for weak spots to gain unsupervised access to children. As well as targeting potential victims and planning abuse they will often start grooming the child and their family.”
The idea of an abused child being ‘groomed' is familiar to most people, but less talked about is the grooming of other adults. Abusers will often go to great lengths to portray themselves as upstanding members of their community and to appear ‘beyond reproach': they will be the nice guy who always puts the chairs away after the PTA, or the person who does a lot for charity.
Donald Findlater, Director of child sexual abuse prevention campaign Stop It Now!, elaborates: “One of the biggest myths about child sexual abuse is that it is largely perpetrated by strangers. But the reality is that it is far more likely that sexual abusers are people we know, and could well be people we care about. They are family members or friends, neighbours or babysitters - many hold responsible positions in society.
“Some people who abuse children have adult sexual relationships and are not solely, or even mainly, sexually interested in children. Abusers come from all classes, ethnic and religious backgrounds and may be homosexual or heterosexual. Most abusers are men, but some are women. You cannot pick out an abuser in a crowd.”
The NSPCC estimates that one in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused. Some feel this is a conservative estimate: a report in November 2015 from the Office of the Children's Commissioner (OCC) found that around 85 per cent of UK child abuse cases are never reported. Based on these findings, the OCC estimated that the number of children abused in the two year period to March 2014 could be as high as 450, 000.
Even if we take the NSPCC figure of one in 20, this still ought to be a wake-up call to all parents. One in 20 means at least one in each classroom, at least a dozen in each school, double figures or more in every village, thousands in every city. If children were falling ill at such rates, we would have no hesitation in calling it an epidemic.
Perhaps it may be easier to ignore these facts, because our own horror or even our own past experiences don't want to let us ‘go there'. But as Donald Findlater put it so clearly to me, "Currently we are failing children so much. Child sexual abuse is preventable, not inevitable." As parents, our input is not the only aspect of abuse prevention, but we can play a vital part. If we fail to rise to this challenge, we may be protecting our own sensibilities, but we are failing to protect our children.
Talking PANTS: The ‘Underwear Rule' from the NSPCC
The NSPCC recommend you teach your child the Underwear Rule and help protect them from abuse. PANTS is a really easy way for you to explain the Underwear Rule to your child:
Privates are private
Explain to your child that the parts of their body covered by underwear are private. Nobody should ask to see them or touch them or ask them to look at or touch anyone else's. Even a doctor should explain why and ask permission first.
Always remember your body belongs to you
Let your child know that no one has the right to make them do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. And if anyone tries, tell your child they have the right to say no.
No means no
Make sure your child understands that they have the right to say ‘no' to unwanted touch – even to a family member or someone they know or love.
Talk about secrets that upset you
Explain the differences between ‘good' and ‘bad' secrets. Phrases like “it's our little secret” are an abuser's way of making a child feel worried, or scared to tell someone what is happening to them. Good secrets can be things like surprise parties. Bad secrets make you feel sad, worried or frightened.
Speak up, someone can help
Tell your child that if they every feel sad, anxious or frightened they should talk to an adult they trust. Remind them that whatever the problem, it's not their fault and they will never get into trouble for speaking up.
For more information about the Underwear rule and resources for children and parents visit here.
Create a Family Safety Plan
Youngsters are immediately safer when parents and caregivers take the time to learn about sexual abuse and its warning signs.
Know the warning signs of abuse
Watch out for warning signs of abuse in your children or for signs that an adult may have the intent to abuse a child.
Follow your instincts if you:
feel uncomfortable about the way an adult or young person plays with a child
are worried an adult is favouring a child or creating reasons for them to be alone
For more information about warning signs in adults and children click here.
Keep open lines of communication
Let conversations about your children's safety be open and ongoing, not a one off event.
Teach your children about the NSPCC ‘Pants' rules or try reading some of these books with them.
Set clear family boundaries
Children do not have to hug or kiss an adult goodbye they do not have to
Adults must knock before entering children or teenager's bedrooms
Take sensible precautions
Be a reliable adult that the children in your family can confide in, and make sure no family member is isolated.
If someone is ‘too good to be true', ask more questions. Never ignore any unease you feel about people showing interest in your child.
If you are concerned about an adult's behaviour, or your own feelings towards children, seek help. Call the Stop it Now! Helpline on 0808 1000 900, or the NSPCC helpline 0808 800 5000
If you are 18 or under and would like to talk about any worry at all, call Childline on 0800 1111
All information adapted from Parents Protect! resources.
Report: 5 of 77 western Washington priests suspected of child abuse were likely prosecuted
by The Associated Press
The Seattle Times reported Sunday that possibly five of the 77 Catholic priests and clergy members in western Washington identified as likely sex abusers of children were ever prosecuted.
The Times said it came to that conclusion after analyzing a list published this month by the Seattle Archdiocese. The list includes names of priests and other clergy who served or lived in western Washington since the 1920s "for whom allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been admitted, established or determined to be credible" after a two-year review by a consultant and an archdiocese-appointed board.
The newspaper said it could find evidence of convictions for just five, and only one of those — Paul Joseph Conn, who served at a Port Angeles church in the late 1980s — was convicted in Washington. More may have been prosecuted, the newspaper said. For some offenders, a lack of information about their whereabouts or other details makes it impossible to readily find a record of criminal charges. And some cases go back decades, before court records can be readily found.
The archdiocese declined to provide further identifying information for the listed clergy, including middle names and dates of birth, which would have made it easier to check some of the names. It also hasn't publicly disclosed their case files.
Conn was a 36-year-old priest at the Queen of Angels church in 1988 when he admitted to molesting six altar boys between the ages of 11 and 13, court records show.
"This stuff is in my past, and that's where I want to leave it," Conn told the newspaper.
Four others — Edmund Boyle, Robert Brouillette, Louis Ladenburger and George Silva — all served in western Washington at times, but were convicted of sex crimes against children in other states. Boyle, now deceased, retired from Mount St. Vincent in Seattle in 1984 and spent a total of about 15 years in the Seattle Archdiocese. He pleaded guilty in Nevada in 1987 to one count of lewdness with a child for exposing himself, according to news accounts and interviews.
Brouillette and Silva each was assigned to O'Dea High School in Seattle for a few years during their careers, and Ladenburger served four years at St. George Parish on Beacon Hill.
Another priest on the list — Dennis Kemp, who served at St. Monica Catholic Church in Mercer Island between 2002 and 2007 — was accused of touching an altar boy, but King County prosecutors declined to charge him. "It did not rise to the level of a criminal offense, based upon the information we had at the time," said King County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Lisa Johnson, who heads the office's Special Assault Unit.
Many cases of child sex abuse involving Catholic clergy surfaced years after the alleged crimes occurred — and beyond the statute of limitations for filing criminal charges, those familiar with the archdiocese's review said.
"A lot of these were just not prosecuted," said Kathleen McChesney, the consultant hired by the archdiocese's law firm to compile the list. "The allegations were either brought after the statute of limitations, or there might not have been the proper investigations done."
Mary Dispenza, Northwest director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said she's not surprised so few of the clergy were prosecuted.
"No matter how many kids they assaulted, very few predator priests are ever prosecuted," said Dispenza, herself a survivor of a priest's sexual abuse. To increase such dismal prosecution numbers, lawmakers must "repeal the arbitrary deadlines that stop victims from exposing these predators in court and increase penalties for those who hide child sex crimes," she said.
Since the late 1980s, the Seattle Archdiocese has paid about $74 million in civil settlements for 392 claims of sexual abuse of minors, including at least $1.1 million paid to three of Boyle's victims.
Former Rams, NFL Stars Team Up To Raise Awareness About Child Abuse
Child abuse is one of those things that, sadly, never goes away. But some former LA Rams players and standouts are doing everything they can to try to make sure it does.
CBS2's Adrianna Weingold reports that some former Los Angeles Rams players teamed up today with NFL legends to raise awareness about child abuse.
The players descended on the Citadel in Commerce.
They met fans, signed autographs, It was a rare chance for diehard Rams fans like Gerry Billow to meet the men who made the old LA Rams unforgettable
“I think it's so cool we've been hearing about it for years and it's finally happening. In fact it came so fast the Coliseum this year, we're going to have a brand new stadium next year. So it's great, Billow said.
It's the seventh year former Rams player and football legend Kermit Alexander has thrown a playoff party, but this year is a little different with news the Rams are finally coming home.
“I don't believe they should have ever left. I grew up selling newspapers to go and see the Rams games so they have always been my favorite team so I also got to play for them which is like a dream come true,” Alexander told Weingold.
The event and party isn't just about football, it's also about charity. All of the proceeds go to the Raise Foundation to help stop the cycle of child abuse.
“Basically the idea is if you have a healthy strong family then the chances of abuse neglect or maltreatment are going to be reduced,” said Eldon Baber with Raise.
Former Rams players say the return of the team will breathe new lifeinto their careers, allowing them to reach a new generation of football fans.
“They weren't around when the LA Rams were here, all they know is [the] St. Louis Rams and so now that we're back it brings us back too in a way that we can help the community,” said LeRoy Irvin, an NFLgreat.
To a man, the men told Weingold they were most excited to give back to the community that made them stars.
Stricter rules boost reports of child abuse
Legislation that came into force last year requires that anyone working with children must file a report of suspected child abuse not only with child welfare officials, but also with the police. While a significant share of reports are false alarms, officials say it is better to investigate all suspected cases than to miss incidents of actual abuse.
Last spring, the legal requirement to report suspicions of the physical abuse of minors directly to the police was extended to include more groups who work with children, including teachers and physicians. Steps have been taken to upgrade the reporting process since the case of the murder of an 8 year-old girl in Helsinki in 2012. A broader reporting requirement concerning sexual abuse has been in place for four years.
Even with more reports, an upswing in the physical abuse of children seems unlikely. The number of reports of the suspected abuse of minors between the ages of 15 and 17 actually decline last year.
Up by a third
Police in Helsinki have, through, received considerably more reports overall during the past year, altogether up by about one-third. The largest increase has been seen in reports filed by staff at daycare centres, schools and doctors.
Since the introduction of the new direct reporting requirements, police have not found a single case of child abuse that was not also reported through other channels and the number of cases turned over prosecutors has not gone up.
The evidence sparking reports to the police often has causes other than abuse.
"Sometimes a child's injuries have a natural explanation. For example, it comes out that marks on a child are from play with other children. Staff may report what they observe to cover their own backs," explains Helsinki police investigator Juhani Vuorisalo.
The threshold to reporting suspicions of abuse has been lowered by the new requirements. Previously, reports were first filed with child welfare officials who examined the overall situation before making a decision on whether to call in the police to investigate criminal offenses.
Questions to parents by daycare staff or by a doctor about possible abuse of their children can be disconcerting, and innocent people can and do come under suspicion of abuse during investigations.
"People have to accept this as being inevitable in order to prevent any more [killings],” says Vuorisalo.
Many physicians are concerned that some parents may have become increasing reluctant to open up about problems in the home, knowing that information may be more readily passed on to the authorities. The line between doctor-patient confidentiality and legal reporting requirements is being tested.
Tom Sundell, a paediatrician who works at the Tikkurila Maternity Clinic in Vantaa points out that no doctor starts with the assumption that a child's injuries are the result of abuse. What doctors want to know first of all is as much as possible about the injury, and the cause, so that the child can get the best possible treatment.
Candidates should address child abuse and safety this election
by Sharon Hirsch
This election year, child advocates are challenging candidates for elective office to talk about their proposals for ensuring safe, stable and nurturing environments for our children. Our state only ranks 35th in child well-being: More than 130,000 child-abuse and neglect reports are made annually; our child poverty rate is 25 percent; and 24 percent of North Carolina's children have experienced two or more Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, to name a few issues that should be addressed.
Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina joins NC Child in challenging all candidates for elective office to lead a conversation about how we can make great childhoods possible for every child. Like our partners at NC Child, we are a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that doesn't engage in electoral politics and doesn't endorse specific candidates. But we care deeply what our candidates and elected leaders say and plan to do to support child and family-friendly policies.
Our hope in 2016 is to hear candidates talk about creating a campaign for great childhoods. Did you know that experiences in childhood shape our lives for the long term? When we invest in great childhoods we are investing in safe, stable and nurturing environments for children. We are investing in school success and increased graduation rates; healthier, more productive future employees contributing to North Carolina's tax base; reduced costs in our social services, criminal justice, and health care systems; as well as reduced taxes.
It's a win-win-win for children, families and society.
But, Adverse Childhood Experiences can undermine these investments. ACEs are potentially traumatic events that can have negative, lasting effects on health and well-being. These experiences range from physical, emotional or sexual abuse to parental divorce or the incarceration of a parent or guardian. A child is more at risk for ACEs when his or her parents experience stresses such as economic hardship, social isolation, lack of health care or inability to obtain basic necessities.
In North Carolina, 32 percent of our children have parents who lack secure employment; 38 percent live in single-parent homes; and 6 percent are without health insurance.
The lifelong consequences are often devastating to individual children and families — and they are also a drain on our businesses and taxpayers. Higher health care costs, incarceration rates, lost work time and shortages of emotionally and mentally prepared workers are all directly correlated to ACEs. This does not have to happen. The answer is simple: To build a healthy future for North Carolina, we must invest in prevention and focus on strengthening our families and communities.
At Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, we work hard to build great childhoods through evidence-based program support; advocacy for public policies that foster safe, stable, nurturing environments; and public awareness about the ways all of us can prevent abuse and neglect from ever happening.
We need candidates to talk about these issues on the stump in order to build public understanding and public will to address the problems that affect children adversely. Imagine if our newly elected leaders — from school boards to city councils and county commissioners to legislators to the governor — were talking about crafting policies to create healthier families and more productive employees. Imagine if they were endorsing programs that build strong family support systems and reduce stress on families.
Imagine what a great future that would create for North Carolina. Let's all ask our candidates what they would do to address our children's problems and campaign for great childhoods: It's up to us to help set the agenda.
The writer is president and CEO, Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina.
Parents and carers who emotionally abuse children face jail under new laws
by Lia Harris
EMOTIONALLY abusing children or failing to educate them will be treated as seriously as physical violence, with jail sentences for parents and carers who are found guilty.
Sick of seeing vulnerable children suffering serious psychological injuries that are often more damaging but less obvious than physical trauma, the Child Abuse squad has proposed new laws to widen the ways they can charge those responsible for mistreatment and lack of care.
One area that could be singled out for particular attention are children being raised in drug labs, where they breathe in toxic fumes while their parents refuse to let them socialise with children their own age.
The changes would give police the power to prosecute for psychological and emotional abuse, lack of education and a lack of adequate supervision causing harm.
Family and Community Services are helping to prepare a submission for state parliament and the move has already been welcomed by Deputy Premier and Police Minister Troy Grant, who said he would support “any opportunity to reduce neglect”.
NSW Child Abuse Squad acting superintendent Andrew Waterman said his detectives and other officers were often powerless to charge parents and carers who neglect their children's emotional and developmental needs under existing laws.
He said new laws would acknowledge that children needed more than just basic food and water to become functioning adults.
“What we are looking at is psychological injuries, emotional injuries,” Supt Waterman said.
“It's more than just malnutrition, it's all the other social and welfare needs of a child growing up. Making sure they're getting access to education and making sure they're socially balanced.
“So we're looking at what sorts of other injuries a child sustains. We might even consider cases where carers may be significantly affected by drugs and alcohol in the care of children and if something happens to that child because of the affects of drugs and alcohol.
“We're looking at scoping the need for neglect offences within the Crimes Act where there was some serious criminal element to it and serious neglect.
“When you look at neglect, you've got to look at it in the broadest terms.”
Supt Waterman said new laws could be based on similar laws in other states including Western Australia, where proven psychological and emotional abuse or failing to provide adequate care carries a penalty of up to 10 years in jail.
“In Western Australia they have specific neglect offences that carry 10 years. And the ACT Crimes Act has a neglect Act, so we're scoping whether we need to look at that sort of legislation,” he said.
Deputy Premier Grant said he would be “all ears” to any new laws proposed by the Child Abuse Squad.
“I spent 16 years operationally in North Western NSW in very isolated and disadvantaged communities and I saw significant neglect, abuse, sexual assault that would just break your heart,” he said.
“They're on the front line and they're contemporary with the problem and I know that the Attorney-General and I would welcome any opportunity to reduce neglect and put the appropriate deterrent and punishment in place.”
Victims of Crime Assistance League chairman Howard Brown welcomed the proposed laws, saying they could help prosecute parents of children living in drug labs across the state.
“One of the areas where we're seeing a lot of neglect going on is the ice (methamphetamine) factories,” he said.
“Kids are living in environments which are really harmful to them because they're breathing in all these toxic fumes and often being threatened by their parents that they're not allowed to talk to anyone about it and they're being put under huge emotional stress.
“But we're almost impotent to do anything about it. It needs to be done.”
Sydney University Psychology Clinic Director Judy Hyde said emotional and psychological abuse had severe long-term affects on children into adulthood.
“People can see physical abuse quite clearly, but it's not visible when the child is neglected or emotionally abused, but the damage is quite profound,” Dr Hyde said. “This is what leads to mental health issues. It leads to a very deprived adulthood.
“(New laws) are important in saying this way of treating human beings is not acceptable in our society by having consequences for the behaviour.”
EXAMPLE OF CHILD ABUSE CASE: THE INCEST FAMILY
A FAMILY of 40 was discovered living on a property in squalid conditions, without running water and electricity, in ramshackle caravans, sheds and tents.
Twelve children under 18 were removed and subsequent genetic testing revealed that several were the children of brothers and sisters, fathers and daughters, or uncles and nieces.
Once in care, they told of horrific sexual abuse by adults and siblings on children as young as 12. They were undernourished, had developmental delays, poor dental and general hygiene, and had barely attended school.
Authorities said the children “lacked basic life skills” and that “their schooling and educational needs had been ignored, contributing to their developmental delay and deficits in intellectual functioning”.
The children were removed and despite the genetic evidence and extensive efforts by the child sex abuse squad, none of the family has been charged with any incest-related charges.
Under new neglect laws, the family members could have been charged with a range of offences relating to emotional abuse and failing to provide proper education and social skills.
The devastating effects of emotional abuse
In many ways, emotional abuse has sometimes more lasting effects that physical abuse. Emotional abuse is more personal, is more about you as a person, about your spirit. If somebody says to you “you are ugly, stupid, incompetent or that no one could love you,” you are more likely to think that you are the problem. That is because we tend to expect that those we love will care about how we feel. When loved ones fail to care that we are hurt, it feels like betrayal.
There are many ways to be emotionally abusive; you can say the most loving words with sarcasm, communicate contempt with body language, rolling eyes, disgusted looks, cold shoulders etc. Emotional abuse can happen between parent and child, husband and wife, among relatives and between friends. Emotional abuse occurs when a person in a relationship tries to control information available to another person with intent to manipulate that person's sense of reality or their view of what is acceptable and unacceptable. People who suffer from emotional abuse tend to have low self-esteem.
Areas where emotional abuse occurs:
1. Control, shame: Do you feel you must “get permission” before going somewhere or making decisions? Do they treat you as if you were inferior to them? Do they control how you spend money? Do they minimize your accomplishments? Do they give you disapproving or condescending looks?
2. Emotional distancing: Do they use the “silent treatment,” isolation, or withdrawal of affection? Do they play the victim, make excuses to deflect the blame to you instead of taking responsibility for their actions?
3. Blaming, unreasonable demands, accusing: Do they have trouble apologizing? Do they blame you for their problems or unhappiness? Are they extremely sensitive when others make fun of them?
4. Judgment, criticism, humiliation: Do they tease you, correct you, make fun of you, use mean jokes and sarcasm as a way to put you down? When you complain, do they say “it was just a joke?” Do they disregard, ridicule your thoughts or suggestions?
5. Jealousy, inappropriate behavior with opposite sex, extramarital affairs: Do they constantly threaten you with abandonment? Do you feel you can't talk to anybody from the opposite sex? Do they justify their extramarital affairs saying “I am a man and that's okay”? It is important to remember that it is not absolutely your fault.
Violence against the world's children is epidemic, report shows
by Mary Brophy Marcus
A new study reveals an epidemic level of violence against children across the globe - including kids here in the U.S.
More than one billion children ages two to 17 - over half of the world's kids - experienced violence in the past year, researchers report in the study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. The problem is equally rampant across both developed and developing countries alike.
"There are two billion children in the world. This is a minimum of one out of two, and we're not just talking about their whole life. We're talking just in the past year," said lead study author Susan Hillis, senior advisor for global health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hillis and colleagues from the CDC and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School analyzed 38 reports covering 96 countries and estimated that at least 50 percent of children in Asia, Africa, and North America experienced past-year violence, as did more than 30 percent of children in Latin America.
They parsed the data by country, age group, and type of violence: physical, sexual, emotional abuse, or multiple types.
Hillis said they were interested in creating a full picture. "Our interest was all locations - in homes, schools, the community."
The scientists also looked at detailed breakdowns of different types of violence, including if a child had been kicked, choked, beaten, whipped, burned, bullied, or had suffered emotional violence and felt unloved or unwanted by a caregiver or parent.
The study included violence by any type of perpetrator - parents, caregivers, teachers, strangers, romantic partners, peers.
Hillis believes the findings, while grim, actually underestimate the problem of violence against youth.
"The shocking and sad truth is our estimates are actually low estimates," she said, because incidences are under-reported.
She said their research carries greater weight when you consider that it's based on self-reported violence by young people themselves, aged 13 and up, or the caregivers of children younger than 13.
She said North America rated the second worst region, just below Asia and above Africa.
"We're right up there. It's a serious problem in Northern America," Hillis said. "There's absolutely no way we can say it is their problem and not ours."
Violence against children needs to be viewed as a public health issue as important as exposure to tobacco and unsafe drinking water, the author said. It's linked to increased risk for illness in later life: heart disease; infections such as HIV/AIDS; mental health problems, including depression, suicide, and PTSD; teen pregnancy; and lifelong disability.
"The consequences are so vast and enduring," said Hillis.
Dr. Joel Fein, co-director of the Emergency Department Violence Intervention Project at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and The University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, told CBS News that the new report is important and well done.
"It shows the prevalence and impact all countries have regarding violence to children," said Fein, who is also an attending physician in the emergency department at CHOP and a professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
He said hospitals and health care systems need to get involved beyond their own walls to help find solutions to the violence against children. His hospital's programs reach out to schools and communities to address the problem.
"We understand the trauma that many of our children and their families go through and how that impacts them and we really want to capitalize on peoples' strengths and build on that," Fein said.
While some of CHOP's initiatives center on teachers and students to address bullying, others focus on mothers or fathers involved in domestic violence.
"We have them take responsibility for connecting and getting support at community organizations," Fein said.
"We are providing the right care at the right time," said his colleague, Stephen Leff, a psychologist in the department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and co-director of the Violence Prevention Initiative at CHOP.
Leff agreed that the new report is a "very, very strong study."
"This supports the reason why we do this work," said Leff, also a professor of clinical psychology at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine.
"The fact that this is being published in the journal Pediatrics really does speak to the point that the health care system has a strong role in addressing this issue," he added.
But he said part of the message is also that families can be motivated to make changes.
Study author Hillis said that while the study reveals that the issue of violence against the young is "monumental and urgent and unconscionable," there is hope.
"The world appears ready as never before to act wisely, to act now, and to act together to implement effective sustainable and scalable solutions that work to protect children from violence," she said.