Bill Cosby's court defeat: How it happened, and what happens next
by Steven Zeitchik
Bill Cosby suffered a defeat in court Wednesday evening.
Actually, he suffered two defeats.
In addition to rejecting a bid to dismiss the three counts of sexual assault against him, a Pennsylvania judge also turned down a request by Cosby's lawyers to remove newly elected Montgomery County Dist. Atty. Kevin Steele from the case. Steele had campaigned on a prosecute-Cosby platform, and the defense said he couldn't argue it fairly.
The judge, Steven O'Neill, disagreed.
Wednesday's developments mean the road to a trial is now a lot clearer. Instead of going away, the charges will now yield a preliminary hearing on March 8 to determine whether the prosecution has enough evidence to win in front of a jury. If the judge — a new one, Elizabeth McHugh — determines it does, the case moves to a full-blown trial. Experts think this is likely to happen.
A trial would be a weighty affair. The incident in early 2004, in which Cosby provided unidentified pills at his Pennsylvania home to former Temple University basketball employee Andrea Constand and then penetrated her with his fingers, is charged in its own right.
Was the act consensual, as Cosby has argued? Or was it an unwanted and illegal violation, as the prosecution has said?
Victims of sexual assault and women's groups, however, see a larger issue. A trial, they say, would offer a chance to level the scales with Cosby, against whom more than 50 other women have made similar accusations, and even settle the score in what they argue is a larger culture of privileged men who routinely get away with sex crimes.
Just a few days ago, the defense looked like it had a chance to make the charges disappear.
So how did we get to this place? Here's how Cosby's case stalled in a Pennsylvania courtroom.
The defense's star witness was Bruce Castor. Castor was district attorney when the incident happened, and the person who the defense said made an ironclad oral agreement not to prosecute Cosby in perpetuity.
Castor said he had told his intentions to Walter Phillips, Cosby's longtime criminal attorney, and no one else. The problem is Phillips died last year, leaving only one side of the party to testify to it. What's more, Castor shied away from actually calling it an agreement — he demurred when pressed by attorneys. O'Neill sought to clarify: "So it was an agreement with yourself?"
Why would Castor make such an agreement? He has some unconventional reasoning. More on that in a bit.
The news release
To provide evidence for this promise, Castor and the defense pointed to a 2005 news release announcing Castor's intention not to prosecute Cosby. Castor took the unusual step of writing and signing it himself, which the defense argued gave it legal force. But Judge O'Neill queried him on why, if he was making a binding commitment, he didn't tender something more official, pointing out the ways he could have filed it with the court.
Equally problematic for the defense was the phrasing in the news release. Castor wrote in it that he would "reconsider this decision should the need arise" — fairly open language that leaves room for it to be recanted.
The 5th Amendment
Castor said he personally believed Cosby was probably guilty. But he didn't think the case was winnable, and opted against prosecuting to help the victim — by doing so, he said, he would remove Cosby's privilege to plead the 5th Amendment in a civil suit.
The argument was undercut, however, when lawyers for the victim, Dolores Troiani and Bebe Kivitz, testified that Castor had never informed them of this rationale, a notable omission if he was in fact trying to help their case. And the idea of a prosecutor acting on this motivation is odd, experts say.
"When you cut a deal to give someone immunity you want to get something in return," said Dennis C. McAndrews, a former Philadelphia-area prosecutor, noting such benefits as witness testimony. "It's not a prosecutor's job to enhance a civil case for a victim."
Part of why the defense argued the case shouldn't move forward is because Steele reopened the investigation in the wake of the unsealing last summer of a deposition from the 2005 civil suit. In it, Cosby admitted he had previously bought Quaaludes to facilitate sex with women. And that testimony, the defense argued, was given when Cosby believed he had criminal immunity.
The judge, however, noted that details from the deposition were only a part of Steele's case — and, in any event, the specific matter of whether the deposition material was admissible could be argued in a separate hearing without derailing the whole case.
That hearing is, in fact, one of several legal matters that could be decided in advance of a trial. Another could involve Cosby's competency to stand trial in the first place. He's 78, appears frail, and his vision problems have been on display this week, with aides guiding him and out of the courthouse.
Also coming under scrutiny in a likely pretrial hearing is the hot-button question of whether testimony from other women Cosby allegedly assaulted will be allowed.
Pennsylvania does allow such testimony if it's pertinent in establishing a pattern of conduct or signature crime. That matter will be decided in a motion in limine, in which prosecutors will probably argue that the testimony is necessary for exactly these reasons and a defense will contend that it's irrelevant to this case.
One alleged victim who will certainly be testifying is Constand. She is likely to take the stand on March 8, as prosecutors seek try to convince a judge that there is sufficient evidence to win a case. She'll offer her version of what happened that night in Cosby's home.
The trial will have not yet begun, but the media storm certainly will.
Helping Prevent Family Violence
by Elizabeth Varville
AWARE is offering classes in Parenting, Anger Management (for both adults and high school age children), Mood and Stress Management, Adult Survivors of Child Abuse, Internet Safety, and Stranger Danger. Classes are $20 each. Mood and stress management classes are offered by a licensed counselor. Through these classes, individuals are provided tools and coping skills needed to understand the why and how to overcome current situations.
“Our main focus is prevention of child abuse, neglect, and family violence. For example, most people will brush their teeth to prevent from getting cavities or change their oil in their car to maintain the car. We're prevention, opposed to intervention: which is what some of the other organizations in this area do. So how we do that is through parenting classes in the cities of Waco, Gatesville, Belton, Killeen, Temple, Copperas Cove, and Lampasas,” said AWARE director of Development Harriet Brodie.
According to www.awarecentraltexas.org, formerly known as Family Outreach of Bell County, the organization started in 1986 as the volunteer arm of Child Protective Services of Bell County.
The purpose of the agency was to assist in the prevention of child abuse and neglect in high-risk families. The agency became known as Aware Central Texas in the year 2006. Their philosophy consists of education is the key to prevention and prevention is the key to diminishing child abuse and domestic violence.
The organization focuses on three levels of prevention to include primary prevention, where abuse has not been identified, secondary prevention which focuses on underserved and at-risk families, and tertiary prevention where abused has been identified.
According to AWARE, child abuse costs America $4.5 billion per year and out of 254 counties in Texas, Bell county is ranked among the top in child abuse and neglect.
The AWARE family hopes to reduce child abuse and neglect in Bell county by creating awareness in the community and beyond, educate the community about child abuse and domestic violence through offered classes, and provide volunteer family coaches to at-risk families.
The organization has partnered with Child Protective Services, the local police departments, community lawyers, and the local court systems to assist the referred individuals by offering solutions to life's challenges.
Referrals are not required for assistance.
The Aware family hopes you will join them in the fight to end the epidemic of child abuse and family violence.
For more information on classes please visit www.awarecentraltexas.org or call 254-939-7582. Donations are always welcomed at 903 N. Main St. in Belton.
More sex abuse by UN troops alleged in C. African Republic
by The Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A human rights group alleged Thursday that at least eight women and girls were raped or sexually exploited by U.N. peacekeepers late last year in Central African Republic, and the world body announced that more than 100 troops would be sent home.
Human Rights Watch said a 14-year-old and an 18-year-old alleged that peacekeepers gang-raped them near the airport in Bambari, the country's second-largest city.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic said later Thursday it had identified seven new possible victims in Bambari in cases that Human Rights Watch brought to its attention.
The U.N. said the soldiers implicated in the cases are from the Republic of Congo and Congo.
The mission said 120 soldiers from the Republic of Congo who were deployed to Bambari from Sept. 17 to Dec. 14 will be repatriated after an investigation is carried out. In the meantime, it said, they will be confined to barracks.
A fact-finding expert sent to Bambari found "sufficient initial evidence" that five alleged victims were minors and had been sexually abused, and that one adult had been sexually exploited, the mission said. The expert was unable to interview the seventh alleged victim. One allegation by Human Rights Watch had been previously reported and is currently under investigation, the mission said.
Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the U.N. envoy for Central African Republic who traveled to Bambari on Thursday, expressed outrage and shame at the latest allegations, saying it is "a double crime" to attack vulnerable women and children that peacekeepers were sent to protect.
The new cases highlight concerns about peacekeeper abuse beyond the chaotic country's capital.
The U.N. mission in Central African Republic tweeted that there have been 13 cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers in Bambari since September 2014.
The U.N. has been unable to explain why so many rapes and other sexual abuse by peacekeepers have been alleged in Central African Republic, which has been gripped by deadly violence between Christians and Muslims since late 2013. Thousands of U.N. and other peacekeepers have been in the country since then.
On Friday, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Anthony Banbury came close to tears as he described four new child sex abuse cases in the country involving U.N. troops and police from Bangladesh, Congo, Niger and Senegal. It was the first time the world body had publicly named countries whose U.N. personnel are accused, as part of a new policy.
For all of 2015, Banbury said, there are likely to be 22 confirmed allegations of sexual abuse or exploitation in the U.N.'s peacekeeping mission in CAR, though that may rise as a result of Thursday's allegations.
Human Rights Watch said it documented the latest eight cases of sexual exploitation and abuse during research in Bambari from Jan. 16-30. The organization said the temporary deployment of Republic of Congo peacekeepers to protect the city's airport corresponds with most of the cases.
The group quoted a 14-year-old saying that in November, two armed peacekeepers attacked her as she walked by the base at the airport.
"They pulled me into the tall grass and one held my arms while the other one pinned down my legs and raped me," she was quoted as saying. "The soldier holding my arms tried to hold my mouth, but I was still able to scream. Because of that they had to run away before the second soldier could rape me."
An 18-year-old was quoted as saying that when she visited the Republic of Congo troops' base near the airport seeking food or money, three armed peacekeepers forced her into the bush and gang-raped her.
"They said if I resisted they would kill me."
Minnesota lawmakers: 70,000 reports of child abuse in 2014
by Tim Blotz
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - Lawmakers in St. Paul are considering initiatives to better protect children who are either neglected or abused. It's driving a huge discussion at the Capitol to change laws, and also give families, social workers, and foster parents more support.
This is largely inspired by a single case back in 2013 when a young boy named Eric Dean died at the hands of his step-mother. The abuse was reported to Pope County 15 times, yet his case still fell through the cracks. To this day, it's still a case that haunts lawmakers.
According to the legislative child protection task force that met Thursday, 604 children were taken out of their homes by the courts in 2014, and there were 70,000 reports. 77 percent of the abuse claims were directed against a biological parent.
"It tells me that we don't spend enough time really focusing on people's basic needs,” Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, said.
Among the possible bills is one that creates an ombudsman office to advocate for families and children within state government -- "And so it wouldn't be just for child protection, it would for foster homes, for childcare centers that might not be protecting children right,” Rep. Joe Mullery, DFL-Minneapolis, said.
Other possible reforms include changing regulations that apply to foster families.
"We have to really pay attention to how we help these foster parents continue to do a better job of serving these children because a lot of them are stuck with regulations and reforms that really make it hard for them to keep these children in their homes,” Kresha said.
This all comes in an attempt to not repeat the mistakes that preceded Dean's death -- "It was so horrific. And we don't need another need another horrific example like that in this state to jump start the issues that need to be taken care of,” Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, said.
There are few issues that unite lawmakers like this one does. Last year, they passed legislation that requires abuse cases to also be reported to police. But one of the remaining problems the state still faces is a shortage of social workers in out-state Minnesota.
Minnesota lawmakers look at new round of child abuse measures
by Don Davis
Minnesota legislators are poised to consider a second round of initiatives designed to prevent child abuse.
Lawmakers last year passed legislation reacting to the death of 4-year-old Eric Dean in 2013. He died after Pope County authorities received 15 reports that he may have been abused, prompting officials to find ways to prevent that from happening to others.
While the 2015 legislation clarifies that children's safety is the most important action officials can take after receiving abuse reports, the 2016 package includes further actions, such as ensuring that every county has round-the-clock child protection coverage and reviewing whether law enforcement officers should remove children from homes.
The proposals also include an emphasis on recruiting child care workers to rural Minnesota, where many counties do not have enough workers to always have someone on duty to deal with abuse allegations.
A task force looking into the child abuse situation produced the report, and lawmakers on the panel discussed the issue Thursday.
Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, said that the proposed legislation will not end the need for changes. He and other lawmakers said they will be back with more requests.
“As with any report, this is a milestone that records our progress at this time and place; this report does not denote finality on the issue,” said Kresha, task force co-chairman. “It simply highlights our progress and prompts us that more work is needed toward the prevention of child maltreatment, reduction of racial disparities in the child protection system, better accountability and system improvements in foster care and out-of-home placements, and more evaluation and progress with Native American tribes to protect cultural heritage.”
Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, said that protecting children needs to be one of the state's top priorities.
Investigations after Dean's death showed that reports of his possible abuse were not reaching the right people, in part because state laws and rules blocked sharing of the information. Last year's work was designed to improve communication among agencies to protect children's safety.
While the state sets rules, county agencies are responsible for most of the work with children.
Late last year, Kresha and others on the task force said they did not feel counties were putting child safety first.
Some on the task force questioned whether law enforcement officers had proper training to remove children from unsafe situations, although many Minnesota counties have no one else available. The ideas lawmakers discussed Thursday include some to further examine that question and to make sure people trained in child protection are available everywhere.
Democratic Sen. Jeff Hayden, whose Minneapolis district contains many black and American Indian communities, said that the task force should result in early intervention that can prevent child abuse. He and Rep. Joe Mullery, DFL-Minneapolis, also said that discussions about protecting a family's cultural background should help change attitudes of responders to abuse reports.
Kresha and others involved in the task force refused to discuss how much the changes they support might cost. Kresha said many of the changes may not cost the state.
Baltimore Child Abuse Center to lead online safety classes for tweens, parents at Wee Chic
by Brittany Britto
Lutherville children's clothing store Wee Chic Boutique will team up with Baltimore Child Abuse Center this month to host “Tweens and Technology,” a three-part speaker series at the shop, educating parents and “tweens,” or early-age teenagers, on ways to improve online safety.
Wee Chic owner Bridget Quinn Stickline has been working on the project for almost a year and said that she was inspired to start the series after customers expressed concerns about the increased prevalence of technology and the Internet in their children's lives.
But after the recent stabbing death of 13-year-old Virgina teen Nicole Lovell, who first connected with the suspect in her murder on smartphone messaging app Kik, Stickline said the series is all the more necessary.
“I think it's an issue that has to be brought into the light and be discussed. As a parent, it's an uncomfortable topic, particularly when you're dealing with children who are 8 or 9 years old. But they are getting savvier,” said Stickline, whose store serves children ages 7 to 14.
“It's a tricky time because I think children are trying to gain their independence, but at the same time, their privacy can be very dangerous to them,” she said.
The first part of the series will be held exclusively for parents on Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. Baltimore Child Abuse Center staff will educate adults on the possible dangers children face when using the Internet on gaming systems, social networks and mobile devices, and how to communicate best with their children about these topics.
A teens-only session will follow on Saturday, Feb. 27 at 1 p.m., aiming to equip teenagers with the tools to identify and protect themselves from potential threats. A joint session with both parents and children is scheduled for Friday, March 4 at 6 p.m.
With the last meeting, Stickline said her hope is to bridge the lessons for both adults and children and open up a dialogue so each family can “go forward as a team” to create a safe online environment.
“If you hide things from your parents, you are in more danger than a child who is upfront with their parents,” Stickline said. “And if you're a parent who thinks that they can police and stay ahead of kids all the time — that's not always possible.”
Adam Rosenberg, the executive director of Baltimore Child Abuse Center, emphasized the importance of knowing how to use social media platforms.
“We wouldn't send our kid to the playground or mall without checking it out first. Just like now, with the online world, it's a digital playground that we're also required to monitor. It's a bigger playground to get in trouble in, and there are more people coming to the playground that can cause trouble,” Rosenberg said. “Facebook and Kik and Twitter and Instagram are not the enemy. They're just the tool of the bad guy. It's our job to manage it.”
Tickets can be purchased for $20 for all three sessions or $10 for session two or three individually. All proceeds will go to the Baltimore Child Abuse Center.
For more information, visit the Wee Chic Boutique website.
State Requires School Officials To Report Child Abuse Claims
by COURTNEY WHEATON
Lynchburg,VA -- Tiffany Vassar is the Senior Child Protective Services Investigator for the city of Lynchburg.
She trains hundreds of school officials each year on how to respond to reports of child abuse and neglect.
"We tell them not to determine if the report is valid. We just want them to call us and let us make that determination," said Vassar.
She says anyone can report abuse, and every suspicion should be taken seriously by those who fall under the state's mandated reporter category.
They include police officers, teachers, nurses and many others.
"They have to have good listening skills. You want to gather as much information as possible so anything they've seen or heard anything," said Vassar.
If they fail to report the abuse or neglect within 24 hours of receiving the information there could be a price to pay.
According to the Code of Virginia those who don't could be fined first up to $500 dollars, a 2nd offense could equal $1,000 and a misdemeanor charge.
City officials say the punishment may seem harsh, but it all comes down to protecting the voiceless.
" I think it's important for the people in the community to stick up for these kids so we are made aware of possible abuse and neglect so we can protect them," said Vassar.
Lawmakers working to pass child abuse prevention law in Md.
by Brian Kuebler
Erin Merryn knows about a childhood riddled with abuse.
From ages 6 to 8 she was sexually abused by a neighbor and again at 11 from a cousin.
It was a cycle that as a child, she didn't know how to break.
"I knew about stranger danger and the officer taught us every year about stranger danger, but I didn't know anything about speaking up and telling so I kept it a secret in my diary. I wrote about it all the time when the abuse was happening. I even put in there that no one is going to believe me. How do I make it stop?"
In her home state, Erin found a way.
Three years ago, Merryn helped pass Erin's law in Illinois.
The law which bears her name requires schools to teach kids about personal body safety; that if you are being sexually abused, don't keep it a secret.
In just six years, Merryn says she has been able to work with legislatures in 26 states to pass similar bills.
"It's empowering kids because without this education, kids often get only one message and it is from the perpetrator: you keep it a secret, nobody will believe you, and this is your fault. So kids are being abused for years and they are not talking about it," Merryn said.
Montgomery County Delegate Eric Luedtke wants to make Maryland the 27th state to pass Erin's law.
He became interested in the bill after several abuse cases, including one in his district.
Erin's law did make it through the House of Delegates last year but stalled in the senate.
Introducing it again today, Luedtke is confident it can become law in 2016.
"The bill will mandate that schools, both public and private start teaching abuse education. In other words they teach kids in an age appropriate way that if they are being touched inappropriately by an adult, they need to report it," Luedtke said.
It is a simple concept, but one Erin knows is crucial to prevent what happened to her.
"I know kids will speak up and tell with this because it is what would have encouraged me had somebody taught me this."
While Erin's law is already in 26 states, it was an unfunded mandate.
That changed late last year when President Obama signed the Child Sexual Abuse Awareness and Prevention Act which in part, funds Erin's law where it has been enacted.
Communities build blue ribbon tree for kids to help prevent child abuse
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) along with various community organizations are working together to build a “Blue Ribbon Tree” state. Blue Ribbon Trees will be blossoming throughout Oklahoma communities in April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Action Committee invites every community to take action for children by participating in their eighth annual “Build a Blue Ribbon Tree for Kids” campaign.
The blue ribbon is the international sign for child abuse prevention and serves as a constant reminder that all of us have a responsibility in helping to protect children. Communities are invited to participate by displaying blue ribbon trees during April. Oklahoma State Department of Human Services Child Care Licensing Supervisor Melissa Dennis said, “My goal is to get 2,016 childcare programs and licensed childcare homes to build blue ribbon trees in Oklahoma for April 2016.”
April 12, 2016 will be the official CAP Day at the Capitol. To have a tree showcased in the blue ribbon tree slideshow, thetrees must be completed and registered by April 6.
Tree photos will be highlighted in the Child Abuse Prevention Month “official” scrapbook, on the OSDH Family Support and Prevention Service web page, and on various social media sites. A "Tree Registry" form is provided for people and organizations to register their trees with the OSDH Office of Child Abuse Prevention. The registration form and submission instructions are available to print from the OSDH website at: http://go.usa.gov/c5Jad
To “Build a Blue Ribbon Tree,” select any materials you choose. If using a living tree, choose a highly visible location and secure needed permission. Decorate the tree with blue ribbons to represent any of the following:
The number of new babies born in your community
The number of confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in your county
Something significant to your agency, program or community
Or use the ribbons to show your community support for children in general
For more information contact Sherie Trice, OSDH Community Based Child Abuse Prevention Grant Coordinator, Oklahoma State Department of Health, Family Support and Prevention Service, 1000 NE 10th Street, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73117-1299, at 405-271-7611, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shocking Child Sexual Abuse in Afghanistan Makes SFC Martland's Removal from Military More Disturbing
by Wesley Smith
I read this article detailing the lurid sexual abuse of children in Afghanistan with much pain and shock. It sheds disturbing light on Sergeant First Class (SFC) Charles Martland's threatened removal from the military for intervening in a similar situation.
I witnessed (while living in the Middle East) the incongruity of the strict rules regarding women and sexual purity, in general, against the backdrop of tacitly (sometimes overtly) encouraging young men to have same sex sexual relations so as to keep themselves pure for eventual marriage as an adult male.
I personally witnessed young Muslim Soldiers getting into verbal and physical altercations with our American Servicemen when they would touch the Americans inappropriately or verbally solicit sex from them. My commander directed me to approach the Arab unit co-located with us and try to resolve this with their chaplain (Imam). His explanation was that this was no big deal. He further told me there was nothing in the Koran forbidding this. On the other hand, he said this behavior was much preferred to having a young man have sex with a woman outside of wedlock--- and "spoiling" the woman for her future husband. In other words, she would be damaged goods. Bottom line from the Imam: They looked the other way regarding this behavior.
However, this apparent Afghan/Pashtun practice regarding young boys goes way beyond this. In light of what I witnessed and related above, I can see the probable truth and validity of the reporter's story. The rationale sounds quite similar to what the Imam told me, while the particulars are different. Just today a former member of the US Air Force told me of several incidents while he was deployed to Afghanistan where a young boy was being sexually abused by Afghan men working for the US military. He said he was, in fact, ordered by his superiors to take no action, that this was a local/cultural issue.
Soldiers have told others (off the record) that what the reporter recounted is in fact true and prevalent. They were told to not get involved in this cultural and perverse activity. In other words, to look the other way. General John Campbell, Commander Resolute Support Mission and Commander of all U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, is on record as saying service people have not been told this and there is no policy of "looking the other way." I wonder if at lower levels in the chain of command they are in fact being told to look the other way and let it go. I do not know. And if this is the case, perhaps the general is unaware – or not.
General Campbell is also on record as saying the appropriate reaction by U.S. personnel is to report it to Afghan authorities. In that culture I doubt the willingness or ability of Afghan authorities to take any action. I suspect American Soldiers realize this as well.
In light of this I completely understand SFC Martland's rage and reaction. The practice of the routine sexual violence against boys and young men, if combined with American Service Members being told to take no action, leads to much repressed anger and indignation by our men and women in uniform. I believe this repression can lead to guilt, psychological trauma and "acting out" as in the case of this Green Beret. It makes SFC Martland's case all the more complicated, compelling and troubling.
I found the whole article most disturbing! I found the Airman's story, with whom I spoke, equally troubling. SFC Martland was put in a no win situation and is now being penalized for living the Army Values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage.
The American people must speak out against the silence and in support of a hero like SFC Martland who is willing to stand up against evil.
Cosby case moves forward; deposition a key trial question
by Maryclaire Dale
NORRISTOWN, Pa. — As a sexual assault case against actor Bill Cosby moves forward, a key battle will be waged over explicit testimony he gave in a deposition more than a decade ago.
Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill on Wednesday rejected the testimony of a former suburban Philadelphia prosecutor who said he promised Cosby would never be prosecuted. The decision allows the case to move to a preliminary hearing on March 8.
Cosby, 78, was arrested in December and charged with drugging and violating former Temple University athletic department employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. The TV star could get up to 10 years in prison if convicted. He has not yet entered a plea.
At issue will be whether a civil deposition Cosby gave can be used in the criminal case. In his deposition, Cosby admitted that he had affairs with young models and actresses, that he obtained quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with and that he gave Constand three pills at his home. He said he reached into her pants but insisted it was consensual.
In 2005, then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor decided the case was too flawed to prosecute. But Castor's successors reopened the investigation last year after Cosby's lurid, decade-old testimony was unsealed at the request of The Associated Press. Dozens of other women also came forward with similar accusations that destroyed Cosby's nice-guy image as America's Dad. This is the only case in which he has been charged.
O'Neill issued his ruling after a hard-fought two-day hearing. He said witness credibility was a factor but he did not elaborate.
In another setback for the defense, the judge also denied a request to disqualify newly elected Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele from the case. Cosby's lawyers had accused Steele of making a “political football” out of Cosby during his political campaign.
Cosby, who in his deposition called himself “one of the greatest storytellers in the world,” remained silent in court this week.
His lawyers tried to get the case thrown out with help from Castor, who testified at the hearing that he intended to forever close the door on prosecuting the comedian. He said he considered his decision binding on his successors.
The promise was made to Cosby's now-deceased lawyer.
“In this case, the prosecution should be stopped in its tracks,” Cosby lawyer Chris Tayback argued. “Really what we're talking about here is honoring a commitment.”
Steele challenged Castor's credibility and questioned whether the former DA ever made such an agreement, since it was never put in writing on a legal document. He argued that in any case, Castor had no legal authority to make such a deal.
“A secret agreement that allows a wealthy defendant to buy his way out of a criminal case isn't right,” Steele told the judge.
“There's no other witness to the promise,” O'Neill said. “The rabbit is in the hat and you want me at this point to assume, ‘Hey, the promise was made, judge. Accept that.'”
On the witness stand, Castor defended his decision not to bring charges, citing among other things Constand's yearlong delay in going to police, her continued contact with Cosby, and suggestions that she and her mother might have tried to extort the comic.
Most of the back-and-forth in court hinged on the wording and interpretation of a 2005 press release in which Castor announced he would not prosecute Cosby. Castor found himself sparring with prosecutors over many seemingly inconsistent statements he made over the years on whether Cosby could still be charged.
Castor tried to make a comeback as DA last fall but lost to Steele in a hotly contested race, during which Steele ran ads criticizing Castor for not prosecuting Cosby when he had the chance.
More than 50 women have accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them since the 1960s, but the statute of limitations for prosecuting the comic has run out in nearly every instance.
Senate approves bill that would create child abuse registry
by The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Indiana Senate has passed a bill that would create a public registry of people convicted of child abuse or neglect.
The bill that would create a list similar to online sex-offender registries was passed by the Senate on Wednesday on a 49-0 vote. The bill was inspired by the death of 19-month-old Kirk Coleman who died of a brain injury in 2014 while being cared for by a baby-sitter who had previously pleaded guilty to child neglect. She is awaiting trial on a charge of felony battery resulting in death.
State Sen. Carlin Yoder authored the bill. The Republican from Middlebury calls it one more tool for parents to help assure the safety of their children.
The bill now goes to the House.
Georgia child abuse investigations to become more rigorous
Georgia's child protection agency already had investigated four reports alleging abuse of a little girl named Emani Moss. The most recent had led to her stepmother's conviction on a child cruelty charge. Yet in 2012, when the agency received another allegation that Emani had been beaten with a belt, caseworkers didn't question the girl's parents. They didn't talk to Emani or check her for injuries. They made no direct contact with any member of Emani's demonstrably dangerous family.
Emani's burned, emaciated body turned up in a metal trash can outside her family's Lawrenceville apartment in November 2013. Apparently starved, she weighed just 32 pounds. She was 10 years old.
Now, more than two years later, the state Division of Family and Children Services, or DFCS, is changing how it assesses maltreatment reports like the one in 2012 that warned of the dangers facing Emani.
Agency workers will no longer decide whether such reports warrant investigations based solely on information gathered over the telephone. No case will be assigned a less-serious, lower-priority status until a caseworker meets a child who allegedly has been victimized, DFCS Director Bobby Cagle told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week.
This new approach, which will be phased in statewide over the next year, represents a monumental shift in how DFCS conducts its business. For the past decade, workers could relegate cases to “family support” or “diversion” status after merely reviewing information phoned in by people who suspected a child had been abused or neglected. In those cases, parents may have been offered counseling or asked to attend classes, but caseworkers would not always visit the family home to investigate.
Screening cases by phone became common as DFCS struggled with budget cuts and, for a time, followed a philosophy that favored leaving children with their families except under the direst circumstances. Now, Cagle said, the agency plans to deploy caseworkers in virtually every case, raising the prospect of greater government intrusion into families that may or not may not be guilty of maltreatment.
The new practice will further stress a workforce that is 20 percent smaller than it was 10 years ago. Heavy caseloads and relatively low starting salaries — $28,000 to $32,000 — have contributed to what Cagle described as a debilitating turnover rate of 36 percent.
But child-protection experts say the more aggressive approach is necessary to ensure children's safety.
“There's no way you can determine what other alternative services you might use unless you see the child,” said Janet Oliva, who was the DFCS director from 2003 to 2004.
During her tenure, Oliva said, the agency sent caseworkers to meet with every child named in a maltreatment report. “If you don't see the child and see the family and see the home, you cannot make an assessment,” she said.
DFCS has evolved from its family-preservation bias in the years since Emani Moss' death. The agency fired two workers and punished four others involved in her case. Emani's father, Eman Moss, pleaded guilty to murder last year and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance for parole. Her stepmother, Tiffany Moss, is scheduled to stand trial for murder later this year.
Changing DFCS' practices, Cagle said, will require fully staffing caseworker positions and giving new methods time to take hold. The agency has asked the Georgia General Assembly to approve the hiring of 175 caseworkers, partly to perform the new initial screenings, partly to reduce existing caseloads.
“This is a multi-year effort; this is not a quick fix,” Cagle said. But without a long-term strategy, he said, “you're never going to get to the heart of the problems.”
Child Abuse And Neglect Cases Weighing Down Montana Courts
by CORIN CATES-CARNEY
The number of child abuse and neglect cases in Montana is weighing down the state's already burdened court system.
“It's significant. It's actually startling.”
That's Supreme Court Admin Beth McLaughlin testifying before the Judicial Redistricting Committee Tuesday.
The 2015 legislature asked the committee to see if reorganizing state district court resources could help lighten the workload.
McLaughlin said she didn't believe the child abuse and neglect numbers when they first came out – there were more than 2,300 last year.
“That's an increase of over 700 cases in total of one year."
Those cases take a lot of time for judges to review, McLaughlin says.
"Child abuse and neglect numbers are the most time consuming cases in the district court. They, in our workload study, take the most time by the judge far and above anything else."
Child and abuse and neglect cases take priority above other cases because they deal with kids, and the ultimate goal is to get kids back to parents as fast as the child protective services system allows.
"And so what ends up happening if you have that many more priority cases [than] your general civil cases, your ‘Joe Smith' who's waiting for their case to be hear, they get pushed back, because you have to deal with these cases first."
"It has a ripple effect on the other parts of the calendar."
That's Yellowstone County District Court Judge Greg Todd. Child abuse and neglect cases more than doubled in Yellowstone County from 2014 to 2015.
“It is a challenge scheduling matters, and it is a challenge for everyone involved in the system.”
Judge Todd said an upsurge of meth use is a major contributor to the increase in these kinds of cases.
Reports discussed in this week's judicial interim committee said 21 additional judges are needed around the state to meet workload demands. The report said six of those judges are needed in Yellowstone County. It estimates a total of about eight more judges are needed in Missoula, Flathead and Lewis and Clark Counties.
Committee members said judges, along with supporting staff and resources, cost about half-a-million dollars each.
Getting Montana's judicial system to the point where it could comfortably handle current caseloads would cost the state about $10 million.
Judge Todd, who chairs the judicial redistricting committee, doesn't expect to get that kind of money.
"We'd be laughed out of the legislature. It'd be like going in and saying we want to win the lottery. I think realistically, asking for two additional judges in Billings and probably an additional judge in three or four most populous districts is realistic."
Judge Todd says getting five or six more judges statewide is a good goal for the next legislative session.
Supreme Court Administrator Beth McLaughlin says even with some additional judges, Montana's problem of child abuse and neglect stretches outside the court system.
"And I know that I sound like a broken record on child abuse and neglect, but the numbers are just outrageous. It is a problem that far beyond judiciary's control to do anything about.”
In early January the head of Montana's Child and Family Services Division said her agency lacks the resources and staffing needed to deal with the number of incoming cases.
A recent audit of that agency's work found extensive weakness in their documentation and problems with how the department is investigating cases.
The Protect Montana Kids Initiative created by Governor Steve Bullock last fall has a March deadline to recommended improvements to the state's child protective system. The committee last week discussed working past the March deadline.
Members of this week's Judicial Redistricting Committee were doubtful that a rearranging of resources could help significantly improve district court workload.
The question of funding more judges will be addressed by the 2017 legislature. In the meantime a few redistricting drafts will be drawn up before for the committee's next meeting in April.
Committee fails to endorse GOP child abuse reporting bill
by Bryna Godar
MADISON — A Wisconsin Assembly panel deadlocked on legislation Tuesday that would require doctors and nurses to report to child protective services when they learn one of their child patients is sexually active, a rare instance of Republicans failing to pass one of their own bills at the last minute.
The Assembly Family Law Committee voted 4-4 on whether to recommend the full Assembly pass the bill, with Rep. Jeffrey Mursau, R-Crivitz, joining with the panel's three Democrats in voting against the measure. Rep. Kathleen Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, was out of the state.
The measure now goes to the Assembly's rules committee. That committee could still schedule a floor vote but faces long odds without the family law panel's support. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos' office didn't immediately respond to a voicemail inquiring about the bill's fate.
"We'll see if we can get it to the floor, and if not, we'll continue having a conversation," said Bill Savage, an aide to Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, the bill's author.
The proposal is designed to increase reporting of child abuse by expanding the list of mandatory reporters to include probation agents, school contractors and higher education employees who work with children. It also tightens reporting requirements on health care providers.
Right now, doctors, nurses and doctors' assistants only have to report child sexual activity if they believe the child was assaulted by a caregiver, the child didn't understand what happened, was unconscious during the incident or was exploited. They don't have to report unforced sex. For example, if a 15-year-old girl told her doctor she had sex willingly with her 15-year-old boyfriend the doctor would not have to report the story.
The bill would mandate those providers report any child sexual activity. The measure has raised concerns that sexually active young people wouldn't be honest with their doctors or might avoid health care providers completely.
"In my eyes, if ... they're going to know that it's going to be mandatory reporting, would that person go to that doctor and even have anything done?" Mursau said. "They're going to steer away from that."
Mursau joined the committee's three Democrats in voting against passage. Rep. Kathleen Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, was absent.
Two dozen groups, including End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, the National Association of Social Workers and the Wisconsin Medical Society, have registered in opposition to the bill. Only the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association has registered in favor.
The bill was originally introduced with bipartisan support but in November, the three Democratic sponsors — Sen. Lena Taylor and Rep. Christine Sinicki of Milwaukee and Rep. Sondy Pope of Cross Plains — withdrew their support over the provision on health care providers.
"I know that this bill has good intentions, but what we don't want to do is deter those minors who want to do the responsible thing," said Rep. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee.
Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, emphasized the bill would protect children.
"I think the spirit of this bill is going to be that abuse be reported," Kleefisch said.
Wayne activist trains school counselors about child sex abuse
by DEBRA WINTERS
WAYNE – Counselors in the Wayne school district have received in depth guidance on the topic of sexual abuse of children thanks to a local resident.
Survivor, activist, and public speaker Leslee Frederickson recently collaborated with the Wayne YMCA for two 2-hour long in-house sessions for counselors to educate them on how to prevent, recognize and respond to child sexual abuse.
"Counselors have more knowledge of how child molesters work and have a better understanding of the impact being sexually abused has on a child. Hopefully they'll be able to think outside the box now after hearing directly from a survivor," Frederickson said.
Lauren Reszka, a nine year counselor at Packanack Lake Elementary School, said although the topic of sexual abuse can be uncomfortable to discuss, she appreciated the opportunity to take part.
"I think the training really opened up conversation on this topic and provided some strategies and resources. And it's great to know that Ms. Frederickson is in our community to advocate for and empower our children as well as be a resource for school staff," Reszka said.
District counselors, according to Reszka, have had training on children's overall safety in the past and have discussed child abuse.
"However this training did go into more detail, which was great," she said.
Following the training, Reszka acknowledged feeling more comfortable in dealing with the difficult topic of sexual abuse.
"And I took away some strategies I can use when working with children as well as some resources," she added.
Superintendent Mark Toback too was appreciative of the training.
"Child sexual abuse is on the increase. Unfortunately, it happens far more frequently than most might imagine. Having counselors trained to detect and deal with this especially damaging form of abuse can make such a difference in the lives of these young victims," he said. "Thanks to our partnership with the Wayne YMCA, the district is in a much better position to detect and help our students. We appreciate the efforts of the YMCA to develop this training program and their willingness to share this with the Wayne Township Public Schools."
The statistics speak for themselves
According to Frederickson, one out of every four girls and one out of every six boys is a sexual abuse victim. Further, only 30 percent of victims tell someone.
"It's so important to learn how to earn a child's trust to share if anything happened to them. If a kid is acting out, think outside the box, maybe something is happening to them," she said, noting that 90 percent of the time a perpetrator knows their victim.
Frederickson is a speaker with the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (www.rainn.org). On April 18, she will be speaking at Montclair State University. She will also be included in a poetry book about survivors of sexual assault that's due to be released very soon. Proceeds will support sex trafficking and awareness. And stepping outside the box, she will also participate in a rap video called, "Tell the Word" produced by YouTube sensation Rob Hustle who also shot a video called, "Tell the Cops."
"I sent in footage of me rapping from a script he supplied me with," she said. "It was an interesting experience."
To reach Frederickson, e-mail her at email@example.com. Her website is www.tellsomeonenow.org. And for everyone's safety, Frederickson encourages everyone to log on to www.nsopw.gov and search the sexual assault registry to be aware of where offenders are residing.
Foster care scandal: Bill requiring public reports on abuse clears Senate panel
by Denis C. Theriault
SALEM — Oregon's foster care officials would have to produce public reports listing confirmed findings of abuse and neglect every three months under proposed legislation that emerged from a Senate panel Wednesday.
Senate Bill 1515, shepherded by Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, cleared the Senate's human services committee in a unanimous vote that came with praise and promises of urgency — offering a flash of bipartisanship in a legislative session that's otherwise been off to a tense start.
Gelser spent months drafting the bill amid outcry over the Department of Human Services' handling of a provider named Give Us This Day. The provider closed last year amid accusations that it misspent more than $2 million in state money and tolerated more than a decade of child abuse.
Beyond compelling officials to produce quarterly reports on abuse findings, the bill would add licensing inspectors for child-care facilities, give officials more power to shut down or take over troubled agencies, and treat the failure to pull children from unlicensed facilities as a crime.
Oregon has nearly 8,000 children in foster care on any given day, many of them already victims of abuse or facing behavioral and emotional issues before coming into state care.
"Could we hold off? We could," said Rep. Duane Stark, R-Grants Pass, one of three House members who testified in support of the bill.
He noted the difficulty in vetting such complicated legislation in a 35-day session, a major concern for Republicans this month in light of other that would increase the minimum wage and make changes to housing policy.
"But the problem is children need that attention right now," he said. "I really hope we move that bill right now, so we get the positions in place right now, to get the licensing we need right now, to protect children right now. So they're not waiting."
Gelser's bill joins an outside investigation of the Department of Human Services' child welfare system, ordered by Gov. Kate Brown. The review could take up to six months. Brown's policy adviser for human services, Dani Ledezma, joined Brown's interim human services director, Clyde Saiki, to show support for the bill.
"Our caseworkers have some of the toughest jobs in the state," Saiki said. "We also have many caring and competent providers. But that being said, we still have the responsibility to provide the safest environment we can for our foster children, and we have to do better."
After Saiki took over in November, department officials released thousands of pages of internal documents detailing abuse concerns at other providers and showing that top officials had known about Give Us This Day's problems since 2009.
A 2014 log that tracked abuse reports at Give Us This Day since 2001, also released under Saiki's watch, revealed that several serious accusations, including sexual abuse, were repeatedly closed without full investigations.
Gelser's bill, because it seeks money for two licensing inspectors, heads next to the Legislature's budget-writing committee. Oregon currently has just three inspectors who track some 200 licensed child-care facilities.
The first quarterly compilation of abuse reports could come out as soon as this fall, Gelser said. The rest of the bill's provisions would take effect July 1.
"This is meaningful, real and concrete change," Gelser said in an interview. "I'm so grateful for how hard people worked."
Becoming the voice for a child
by LISA STARK
“I am for the Child” is the credo for the Hillsborough County Guardian ad Litem Program — and for Ronda O'Farrell of Sun City Center, it has become the cornerstone of her life.
“As a retired person, this program has given me focus and meaning in my life,” said O'Farrell, who has been a volunteer with GAL for more than five years now. “I'm really impressed with the program. They give their volunteers wonderful training and a lot of support, and along with the court and caseworkers, we truly function together as a team.”
In Hillsborough County alone, there are more than 3,000 children (from infants to teens) currently in the Dependency Foster Care System. The Guardian ad Litem Program serves nearly 1,800 of those children, who have been removed from their homes because of abuse, neglect or abandonment. Many of these children feel lost and traumatized as they are separated from their family and placed in the care of strangers. The role of the GAL volunteer is to be someone these children can talk to, someone who will listen to them and speak on their behalf as they navigate through an already over-burdened court system.
“By the time these kids get into the system, they've already been through a lot of trauma,” said Ronda O'Farrell, whose background includes being a social worker in the public school system. “I like working with teens the most,” said O'Farrell, who 40 years ago married a man who had six children that she raised as her own.
“As you know, it's hard enough being a teenager in today's world and dealing with normal teenage issues,” said O'Farrell. “Imagine adding physical and emotional abuse to that. A lot of these teens come from homes with parents involved in drugs, criminal activity and domestic abuse. You can see how overwhelming that would be to a child.”
O'Farrell described her most recent case in which she was the advocate for a teenage girl who had witnessed the suicide of her mother at a young age, and spent much of her formative years being shuffled through foster homes in the child welfare system.
“Sometimes I was the only one she had to talk to,” said O'Farrell, who worked with the young girl for four years, building up her self-esteem and showing her the love she was missing at home. “She ran away from one group home after another until finally, at age 17, she was adopted by a loving, stable family. She told me she couldn't believe she could ever be this happy.”
O'Farrell said she still meets with the “bright young lady” once a month for lunch or dinner, keeping a check on how her life is progressing. “I had to keep convincing her to stay in school because it was the ticket to her future. Now she's received her GED and wants to continue on to become a doctor!”
A school social worker who worked in 18 different school districts in Illinois, O'Farrell has long had an affinity with disadvantaged children and adults. When finances became tight in the public school sector, she took $5 out of her pocket and started a nonprofit organization that grew to a million-dollar corporation in St. Louis, Mo. Designed to serve adults who were severely physically disabled, the nonprofit sought to teach clients desktop publishing skills, enabling them to move out of nursing homes and live independently on their own.
Now in her retirement years, O'Farrell stays busy with her Guardian ad Litem work, as well as serving as president of her chapter of the Philanthropic Education Organization in Sun City Center, a group that has raised more than $250 million to provide educational scholarships and loans for women. In her spare time, she enjoys engaging in her “passion” — playing and teaching bridge in Sun City Center and on cruise ships for the benefit of fellow travelers.
GAL?volunteers discover that in their commitment to improve a child's life, they've also improved their own. O'Farrell urges anyone interested in becoming a GAL volunteer to attend one of the many informational seminars sponsored by the program throughout Hillsborough County.
You need not have any specific qualifications to be a GAL volunteer, said O'Farrell. “You just need to be someone who cares about kids and who will listen to them.”
GAL volunteers come from all walks of life, including real estate agents, business leaders, teachers and retirees. Currently there are more than 700 GAL volunteers in Hillsborough County whose job it is to protect a child's best interests and make sure they don't “fall through the cracks” of a less-than-perfect system.
“A lot of people complain about the system, but aren't willing to step up and try to make a change,” said O'Farrell. “I admit it's not all peaches and cream because you're going to see some kids dealing with some pretty gritty situations. But overall, the Guardian ad Litem program does a wonderful job of training and supporting their volunteers.
It only takes between 12 and 15 hours per month to volunteer and “Be the Voice” for a child.
The Guardian ad Litem visits with the child a minimum of once a month and reports observations.
They work with community partners to ensure the child is receiving the assistance and support needed to remain safe, and they advocate for the child and make recommendations to the court for their welfare.
“It's hard to describe the joy of teaching a child to learn to trust an adult and believe in someone again,” said O'Farrell.
For more information on becoming a Guardian ad Litem volunteer, contact Marilyn Garcia, volunteer recruiter, at 813-307-3585 or check out their website at www.galtampa.org
Child abuse charity urges journalists to avoid terms 'victims', 'child porn' and 'historic'
by Dominic Pensford
A charity representing adults who have suffered child abuse has urged journalists not to call such people victims.
The advice is contained in media guidelines which have been issued by the National Association for People Abused in Childhood.
The advice on language suggests using "survivors" instead of "victims" when talking about child abuse.
It also suggests the term "historic" child abuse should be avoided, as should "child porn", "rent boy" and "prostitute".
NAPAC says: "Many adults who were abused as children prefer to be known as ‘survivors' rather than ‘victims' in recognition that they have survived what they have been through, and that they are not permanently stuck in that place of abuse as a ‘victim'."
On use of the term "historic" the charity states: "Rapes are not referred to as historical, nor are child murders or even bank robberies that happened years ago. Survivors may be living with the physical and mental consequences of abuse every day. There is nothing historic about it for them."
On "child pornography", it states: "‘Child pornography' makes a comparison with adult sexual imagery and almost normalises it. This only serves to diminish what is a gross sexual violation of children – all child abuse images are crime scenes."
It says that "sexually exploited child" is preferable to "rent boy" or "child prostitute" because: "These outdated terms stigmatise and blame children who have been exploited by adults for profit."
NAPAC says as a general point: "Malicious or false allegations are extremely rare and no more likely with child abuse than for any other type of crime whether evidence is presented by children or by adult survivors."
How to Respond to Someone Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted
by Yasmin Nouh
One woman was molested at age eight. The second was 15 years old when four men blindfolded and raped her. And the third faced sexual assault twice, once as a child and the second time as an adult. Shame and fear kept all three of them silent for years before telling anyone about their experiences.
Now in filmmaker Nadya Ali's upcoming documentary called "Breaking Silence," they narrate their stories and the process of coping and coming out to their friends and family.
"Who you tell and what the response is can be very indicative of how you [as a survivor] can continue to cope and heal or not," said Navila Rashid, a forensic social worker and participant in the film, at a recent event highlighting the documentary.
In their own words, here are some do's and don'ts for how to respond when someone tells you she* has been sexually assaulted:
1. Listen to them.
Be silent and just listen. It can be uncomfortable news to hear but to sit with that discomfort, to believe them and to express your support is much more powerful than asking probing questions or trying to fix the problem. While the trauma is indelible, the presence of someone who will listen without blame or judgment is vital.
Saying things like "I'm so sorry this happened, I can't make this better for you and I am here for you," can help a lot more because it validates the survivor, acknowledges their pain and expresses support for them.
2. Don't try to problem solve.
Often we ask questions because we're trying to understand what happened in order to find a solution or digest the trauma. But it's hard enough for that person to share her story, let alone answer questions about the physical or logistical details of the event. There can still be a lot of anger and shame the person feels, and she may just want to share the story without the burden of explaining it in depth.
3. Ask about their state of mind/health.
When a survivor shares her experience, it's clear she has processed some of it or has shared it before. Getting her to talk about how she feels or where she's at in the healing process can be helpful. And if she doesn't want to talk, silence is okay.
4. Refrain from minimizing the survivor's experience.
Comments like "well, at least it wasn't worse" or "at least this didn't happen" can appear dismissive or diminishing. At the end of the day, a survivor's suffering -- regardless of the severity -- is enough to warrant counsel and support.
5. Don't make comments that indirectly blame the survivor.
Questions like "what were you wearing?" or "are you sure you weren't interested?" or comments such as "It's because you don't wear hijab" can cause survivors to blame themselves, thus making them feel more confused and isolated. They also create an atmosphere that inadvertently absolves the perpetrator of his crimes.
Additionally, just because a survivor didn't violently protest or there were no signs of physical resistance, it doesn't mean she was not assaulted.
6. Making violent statements doesn't help. This applies to men, especially.
Statements like "Where is he? I'm going to beat him up" are not always helpful. That rage comes from a place of love, but when the survivor is telling you something serious and emotionally draining, an angry reaction doesn't help her process the trauma any more. In fact, it can make her feel guilty for placing an undue burden on you. Again, be calm and just listen.
7. The person who's telling you may not be very close to you. Listen anyway.
Sometimes, survivors get to a point where they are holding in the trauma for so long that they open up to whoever happens to be there, even if the person isn't close to them. In that case, it's still crucial to stay silent and be a source of support.
8. Expressing denial can exacerbate the trauma.
If the survivor's assailant is someone you know, a common reaction is to go into denial. When you go into denial you claim that the survivor is making something up, which can perpetuate that trauma significantly more. It's important to understand that anyone is capable of committing sexual assault, whether a relative, friend or community leader.
9. Don't gossip.
By sharing this story with you, the survivor shows that she trusts you, so treat this information with sensitivity, don't gossip about it with others and respect her privacy.
In participating in the film, the three women hope to open up a dialogue on tackling sexual abuse, especially in their communities where sex is a taboo topic.
By addressing how our responses to survivors play a critical role in the healing process, the women show that dealing with sexual assault should not be an individual's burden alone, but a collective responsibility we embrace with compassion and the utmost care.
*The feminine pronoun is used to reflect the reality that most victims of sexual assault are women.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
Bill changing definition of child abuse, neglect fails to get support
by Molly Beck
The future of a bill that would change the definition of child abuse or neglect and who would be mandated to report it was thrown into doubt Tuesday.
Members of the Assembly's Family Law Committee deadlocked on the bill 4-4, with one member excused from voting. Committee clerk Matt Pulda said the bill will exit the committee but not be recommended for passage, though it could be put before the full Assembly.
Rep. Jeffrey Mursau, R-Crivitz, was the lone Republican opposing the bill.
Under the bill, authored by Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, the list of mandated reporters of child abuse or neglect would expand to include any adult who works with children as an employee or contractor in a school for at least 40 hours in a school year. Also under the bill, poverty would no longer be a reason not to report signs of a child not having proper food, clothing or shelter.
Investigations into neglect or abuse would not be triggered solely because a child was living in poverty, however.
The bill originally expanded the list of mandated reporters to school volunteers, which drew opposition from public school representatives who said it would have a chilling effect on parents volunteering in schools. Brandtjen amended the bill in January to remove the provision.
Bill Savage, a spokesman for Brandtjen, said in December that the bill sought to identify all children who don't have all of their needs met in order to put social services representatives in touch with parents.
The state Department of Public Instruction also opposed the bill, saying that because the bill removes the words “severe or frequent” from the phrase “severe and frequent bruising” in the state's definition of “physical injury,” students who are bruised from “normal child activity” would be suspected of being abused under the bill.
Current law requires all school employees to report signs of abuse and neglect and says if the signs are a result of poverty, then abuse and neglect have not occurred and therefore the signs don't have to be reported. Schoolteachers, administrators and counselors are considered mandated reporters under current state law.
The bill also would have required health care providers to report sexual activity among minors as abuse. A number of health care advocates opposed the bill.
The Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians said the bill would discourage honest discussions between a minor patient and his or her doctor.
Jehovah's Witnesses fight law on reporting child sex abuse to police
by Trey Bundy
In 2013, 30-something Katheryn Harris Carmean White confessed to elders in her Jehovah's Witnesses congregation that she had repeatedly had sex with a 14-year-old boy.
The two elders didn't tell police. They, and the congregation, now face a lawsuit from the Delaware attorney general accusing them of violating the state's mandated reporting laws. The defendants claim the elders were protected from having to report the abuse by a legal exemption for clergy.
The case highlights the struggle of courts to interpret a convoluted web of clergy reporting laws that stretches across U.S. Elevating the tension is the fact that Jehovah's Witnesses explicitly are instructed not to report child sexual abuse to secular authorities unless required by state law.
Clergy are mandated to report child abuse in 45 states, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But laws in 32 of those states contain some version of a loophole called a clergy-penitent privilege. Those exceptions allow clergy to withhold information from authorities if they receive it from members seeking spiritual advice.
Delaware law requires any individual or organization suspecting child abuse to report it. But then it gets confusing. The law allows an exemption for a priest who learns of abuse during a “sacramental confession,” wording that suggests a privilege specifically for clergy in the Catholic Church.
In the Delaware case, Jehovah's Witnesses attorney Francis McNamara argued that the law must allow Witnesses the same protection and that Superior Court Judge Mary M. Johnston should dismiss the case.
In sworn affidavits, elders William Perkins and Joel Mulchansingh wrote that Carmean White's victim had come to them “seeking spiritual advice and counsel from us as elders in a private setting.”
“In accordance with the beliefs and practices of Jehovah's Witnesses,” they wrote, “confidential information is kept confidential so as to uphold the elders' role as spiritual shepherds of the congregation.”
The attorney general's office argued that the victim and his mother were not offering a confession when they disclosed the abuse to elders in 2013 – and also that Carmean White confessed only after the boy reported his abuse to elders.
The judge concluded last week that while Delaware's clergy reporting exemption could be interpreted to include the Witnesses, Carmean White's admission to the elders was likely not a “sacramental confession.” She denied the Witnesses' motion to dismiss the case.
The Witnesses frequently have cited their right to religious freedom to justify keeping child abuse secret from secular authorities. The Witnesses' parent corporation, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, claimed its First Amendment rights in a major California lawsuit last year and in several other child abuse cases.
The Watchtower did not return calls seeking comment.
A Reveal investigation last year found that since 1989, Jehovah's Witnesses leaders have instructed elders in the U.S. not to report child abuse by members of their congregations.
The Watchtower currently is facing more than a dozen lawsuits brought by alleged child abuse victims in the U.S. The Delaware case is a rare instance in which a state agency is suing a religious organization over its handling of child abuse.
In England and Australia, government commissions have been investigating the Watchtower's child abuse policies for more than a year. Australian investigators found that Jehovah's Witnesses' officials had failed to report more than 1,000 known or suspected child sexual abusers to authorities in that country. The investigation in England is ongoing.
Reveal found last year that the Watchtower had collected the names and whereabouts of child abusers in its U.S. congregations for almost 20 years, but kept that information from authorities.
The Watchtower violated court orders in two recent California lawsuits by refusing to provide its list of perpetrators. So far, there has been no indication that federal law enforcement agencies have stepped in to investigate the organization or procure the list.
In Delaware, both Carmean White and her victim were disfellowshipped – the Witnesses' version of excommunication – in February 2013, according to affidavits.
Carmean White was arrested the same month after the boy's mother reported his abuse to police, according to news reports. Carmean White confessed to having sex with the boy about 40 times during a 10-month period. She was sentenced to six years in prison for third-degree rape, fourth-degree rape and child endangerment.
Strangers responsible in just 7% of child abuse cases: new report
In just 7% of child abuse cases in the Netherlands is the perpetrator a complete stranger, according to a new report by the government's expert committee on sexual violence against children.
The report, by the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children, looks at the types of child abuses cases which end up in court in the Netherlands.
In 36% of cases, the attacker is a member of the child's own family, the organisation said. In addition, one in six abusers is also under the age of 18. The average age of a victim is 10.
‘Many parents warn their children about child abusers and take care when their offspring come into contact with men who work in childcare or as swimming teachers,' the organisation's head Corinne Dettmeijer said. ‘But by placing so much emphasis on strangers and people who work with children, they are overlooking the victims and the perpetrators.'
Every year, around 300 adults are found guilty of child abuse in the Netherlands but many cases remain hidden and never make it to court. Most perpetrators are put on trial for abusing one or two children and multiple abuse cases are rare, the organisation said.
Girls are six times as likely to be the victims as boys and almost all perpetrators are male. Of the 182 perpetrators studied for the report, just five were female.
The organisation will issue a second report, on the sentencing of child abusers, this summer.
Local CASA branch seeks new volunteers
by Cody Thompson
The Monroe County branch of Court Appointed Special Advocates is seeking new volunteers to advocate for a child's well-being in cases under investigation by the Department of Child Services.
Volunteer advocates attend court sessions and report their observations and opinions concerning the child's welfare.
Anyone age 21 and above is eligible to volunteer after undergoing preliminary training.
“We need someone who is dependable and who has common sense,” Executive Director of the Monroe County CASA Kristin Bishay said. “People don't have to have knowledge of the welfare system or even of child development, we're here to be that resource for them.”
Cases handled by CASA volunteers are typically long, which is why the organization asks for at least a two-year commitment from volunteers.
The training process consists of 33 hours and there are two options when it comes to completing it, Bishay said.
The first option is to have the training spread over two weekends — Feb. 19 through Feb. 21 and March 4 through March 6 — with a break weekend in between. The other option is to spread the training over four weeks, which extend from May 16 through June 6.
The training is meant to prepare volunteers for the real scenarios they encounter. It is common for someone to drop out during training because he or she realized that the level of commitment or necessary emotional fortitude was not for him or her, Bishay said.
However, many do complete the training and become CASA volunteer advocates, like Gary Friedman.
“It changes your perspective on life in a lot of ways, at least mine,” Friedman said. “There's an automatic assumption that ‘what I think is correct' that we all have in our lives, and to get yourself to the point where you can look at another side of something or remove your own inborn prejudices, it's sometimes difficult to do. With CASA and seeing people in circumstances, both the parents and the children, it slaps you in the face.”
Friedman said he has been a CASA volunteer advocate for seven years, and has handled a total of seven cases.
He said volunteering for CASA is not for everybody, but one just has to think rationally and know the support system in place is strong.
This is a rare opportunity to do something and to see tangible results, Friedman said, and it has allowed his empathy for others to become practical and useful.
There are approximately 1,000 CASA centers throughout 49 states, according to the CASA
“The state of Indiana has the highest threshold to meet to be considered abused or neglected,” Bishay said. “It is easier to be prosecuted for animal abuse than child abuse in Indiana.”
In Monroe County, there are 85 children still waiting for an advocate, Bishay said. When sworn in by a judge, Bishay said advocates are told they have joined an elite group of volunteers.
Monroe County Seventh Circuit Court judge Stephen Galvin said CASA volunteers are often the difference for a child and family between a good outcome and a poor outcome.
Another volunteer advocate, Jennifer McBride, has been with CASA for almost six years. Before volunteering, McBride had an extensive background in social work.
Friedman and McBride are both parents. Friedman said his children have been a helpful factor for his CASA volunteering.
McBride said she knows what it's like to be a parent and it inspires her to help the kids she has been assigned to.
“The underlying thing with all of this is that, even though there are situations that are difficult and there are decisions that you have to make that are difficult, ultimately you're making decisions that are in the best interest of the child that you are dealing with,” McBride said.
Will Ex-DA's 'Deal' With Cosby Save Him From Sex Assault Trial?
by TRACY CONNOR
Bill Cosby will be in a Pennsylvania courtroom Tuesday to find out if a criminal sexual-assault case against him will go to trial — and the answer could hinge on what an ex-prosecutor has to say.
Cosby's defense team claims the former Montgomery County district attorney made a deal with the comedian in 2005 not to prosecute him for an encounter with accuser Andrea Constand.
The current DA says that's ridiculous — that only a judge can grant immunity and that his predecessor left open the door to prosecuting Cosby in the future. A 2005 press release announcing the investigation had ended with no charges said the DA "will reconsider this decision should the need arise."
The former DA, Bruce Castor, a political rival of the current prosecutor, is expected to take the stand as a defense witness. The attorney who represented Cosby at the time has since died.
Legal experts say the judge will have to decide if there was a binding agreement in place more than a decade before dozens of women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct and assault against Cosby.
"I think it's going to be an uphill battle for the Cosby defense team," said Linda Dale Hoffa, a former federal and state prosecutor who is now a defense lawyer in Philadelphia.
Castor has said he didn't have enough evidence to bring criminal charges against Cosby based on Constand's allegation she was drugged, incapacitated and attacked.
He wrote in an email to the DA's office in September that he believed cutting a no-prosecution deal with Cosby would prevent him from pleading the Fifth in Constand's civil case, which was eventually settled for an undisclosed sum.
"With the agreement of the defense lawyer and Andrea's lawyers, I intentionally and specifically bound the Commonwealth that there would be no state prosecution of Cosby in order to remove him from the ability to claim his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, thus forcing him to sit for a deposition under oath," Castor wrote.
He said that agreement meant that the DA's office would not be able to use the deposition or any evidence it developed as a result of the deposition in a criminal prosecution of Cosby in Pennsylvania.
Cosby's deposition figures heavily in the criminal complaint against him, which notes that he admitted obtaining Quaaludes to get women in the mood for sex and had given Constand some Benadryl and wine before the encounter in question.
He described her as a willing participant but said he apologized twice when her mother called him some months later to confront him about what happened.
"Three times she said this is a mother's nightmare," Cosby testified, then seemed to refer to himself as a "dirty old man."
"And I'm apologizing [to Constand's mother] because I'm thinking this is a dirty old man with a young girl," he added later.
Cosby, 78, would face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of aggravated indecent assault on Constand, a former basketball star who worked at his alma mater, Temple University.
More than 50 women have gone public with allegations against Cosby, who has denied all allegations of assault and has sued some of his accusers for defamation. The Constand case is the only one in which he has been charged with a crime.
Rate of abuse in organizations serving youth
The rate of abuse among children and adolescents by individuals in organizations that serve youth, including schools and recreational groups, was small compared with rates of abuse by family members and other adults, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics.
Child abuse in youth-serving organizations (YSOs) has gotten considerable attention because of news coverage of cases involving teachers, coaches, day care staff, clergy and scout leaders. Population surveys can be a source of developing information on the epidemiology of abuse in YSOs.
A study by David Finkelhor, Ph.D., of the University of New Hampshire, and coauthors combined data from three national population telephone surveys to create a sample of 13,052 children (from infants up to age 17) to calculate prevalence rates for YSO abuse and compare them with family and other nonfamily, non-YSO abuse. The sample included 105 YSO survivors of abuse and 12,947 non-YSO survivors.
The surveys collected children's exposure to violence and this analysis used only items representing physical assault, sexual abuse, verbal aggression and neglect.
Among 13,052 children and adolescents, the proportion exposed to any type of YSO maltreatment was 0.8 percent over their lifetime and 0.4 percent in the past year. That's compared with a rate of abuse by any family adult of 11.4 percent over a lifetime and 5.9 percent in the past year. The rate of abuse by a nonfamily, non-YSO adult was 5.9 percent over a lifetime and 3.3 percent in the past year, according to the results.
Most of the YSO maltreatment (63.2 percent) was verbal abuse and 6.4 percent was any form of sexual violence or assault. Physical abuse was reported by 34.6 percent of YSO survivors and 0.8 percent reported neglect, the results show.
The authors note screening questions did not specifically ask about abuse by YSO staff and YSO abuse was identified using more general abuse questions.
"This analysis suggests that maltreatment of children and youth in YSOs is a problem, but not nearly as much as maltreatment in the family. It is important that publicity about cases that come to media attention not give an exaggerated sense of frequency that creates unnecessary anxiety or deters families from making the resources of these organizations available to their children. It is also important that the statistics on family maltreatment be widely and regularly disseminated so that this reality is not obscured," the study concludes.
Child-abuse legislation 'Winston's Law' gets start in Legislature
by Marty Roney
District Attorney Randall Houston hopes that an early start in the effort to strengthen punishment in aggravated child abuse cases makes all the difference.
He recalls how it took three years for a bill to change the boating under the influence law to work its way through the Legislature. He pursued that bill after a series of fatal boating under the influence accidents occurred in his circuit.
“We hope Winston's Law can make it through the House and Senate quickly this session and go on to the governor's desk for his signature.” Houston, who represents Autauga, Chilton and Elmore counties, said. “We have picked up strong support for the bill.”
Named for the now 5-year-old boy who is at the center of a high-profile Elmore County child abuse case, Winston's Law would make aggravated child abuse cases where the victim is 6 years old or younger a Class A felony. Reserved for the most serious crimes in the state, Class A felonies have a punishment range of 10 to 99 years to life in prison.
Aggravated child abuse is now a Class B felony, with a punishment range of 2 to 20 years in prison.
The District Attorneys Association of Alabama and Child Protect have endorsed the bill. Rep. Paul Beckman, R- Prattville, and state Sen. Clyde Chambliss Jr., R- Prattville, are sponsoring the bill.
In September Winston was found unresponsive in the back of Scott Hicks' vehicle in the parking lot of the Bay County, Fla., courthouse, where Hicks went to clear up some unrelated warrants.
After deputies found Winston in the vehicle, Hicks, 38, was charged with aggravated child abuse. He remains in the Bay County Jail. The investigation shows that the abuse occurred in Elmore County. His mother, Hallee McLeod, 29, was recently indicted by the Elmore County Grand Jury on charges of aggravated child abuse and chemical endangerment of a child. Hicks and McLeod, boyfriend and girlfriend, are both Wetumpka residents, Houston said
She remains in the Elmore County Jail under bonds totaling $300,000, jail records show. She could not be reached for comment and courthouse records show she doesn't have an attorney. Houston said Hicks will face similar charges in Elmore County, when the charges against him in Florida adjudicated.
Hicks was a co-owner of Spa Rejuvenate which had locations in Prattville and Montgomery. McLeod was the manager of the Prattville location. The Alabama Board of Message Therapy suspended the business license for the Prattville location and entered a non-renewal order for the license at the Montgomery location after the couple's arrest.
At the time Sheriff Bill Franklin called the physical abuse Winston went through “the worst I have seen.”
“It certainly is the worst I have seen, where the child lived,” said Houston, a veteran prosecutor.”
Winston is now with his father, Joey Crampton, and making a “remarkable” recovery.
“Winston is in a loving, supporting environment and from all signs is doing much better than any of us could have ever hoped,” Houston said. “He has several more medical procedures that he is facing, and he may well face emotional troubles given the horrific abuse he went through.
“But now he is doing very well, and for that we are all very thankful.”
If passed, Winston's Law will not be in effect for his case, since McLeod and Hicks were charged before the law was enacted.
“If anything good can come out of a bad situation, it is ensuring that justice is for everyone going forward,” Crampton wrote on the Facebook page JusticeForWinston. “If we can have a law that protects people, humanity, children especially, that to me is what justice is about.”
New Paris woman's child abuse registry proposal debated by Indiana lawmakers in wake of grandson's untimely death
Kirk Coleman, who had been in the care of a babysitter, died in 2014 of some sort of blow to the head.
by Tim Vandenack
She lives in New Paris and works at an Elkhart County RV factory. Work, plus everyday family duties, commanded most of her attention.
Then her grandson, 19-month-old Kirk Coleman, died, allegedly at the hands of his caretaker, another New Paris woman. Garza subsequently learned the woman, who faces a count of felony battery on a child resulting in death, had been convicted in connection with a 2006 incident involving another child. She started asking questions — such as, is there a public registry containing the names of child abuse perpetrators?
Turns out there isn't, not anything that's readily accessible to the public, and that got Garza calling lawmakers, eventually Indiana Sen. Carlin Yoder. It got her researching child abuse, and the numbers she came across astonished her — 470 substantiated abuse cases in Elkhart County alone in 2014, whether physical, sexual or by neglect.
“This is all new to me,” she says, speaking from her New Paris home. “I never imagined how big it is.”
It got her clamoring for change, for a law creating a public online registry of child abuse convicts, like online sex-offender registries. Yoder jumped on board and this week Garza should find out if the resulting proposal he authored — Senate Bill 357 — has a future. The measure — Garza calls it Kirk's Law — received unanimous backing, 7-0, from the Senate Committee on Judiciary last week and it faces a likely up or down vote by Wednesday by the full Senate.
“I feel relieved that it's moving,” says Garza. If the family had had a way to research her grandson's caretaker before employing her, if someone knew about the woman's past, “we may not have been in this situation. Kirk may still have been here.”
Anissa Garza, Kirk's mom and Garza's daughter, leaves most of the public talking to grandma. But the young woman, 22, backs her efforts. She lives with her mom and dad in New Paris and their home is decorated with scattered tributes to Kirk, just 19 months old when he died on Oct. 29, 2014.
“My son was my life,” says Anissa, also incredulous at the number of abuse cases that occur year in, year out. “You see (abuse) so much now. It needs to stop.”
If the Senate approves SB 357, the proposal would face scrutiny by the Indiana House.
NO RED FLAGS
Nothing about Jackie Rolston, who lives maybe 2 miles away, raised the suspicions of the Garzas. Angie Garza's mother-in-law knew her, sold Avon products to her.
Anissa Garza remembers visiting Rolston before deciding to hire her to provide day care for Kirk, to babysit him while she was at work. She works for the same RV company that employs her mom and dad, Forest River.
“There were no, like, red flags,” Anissa Garza says.
At the same time, the court has yet to determine if Rolston is, in fact, guilty in connection with Kirk's death. The court entered a not guilty plea on Rolston's behalf in April, according to court records, and a pretrial conference in the case is set for Thursday in Elkhart Superior Court 3. Rolston, free on bond, had told first responders when called that day in 2014 that Kirk had been choking on his lunch, though an autopsy determined he died of some sort of blow to the head.
Still, the Garzas say if there had been a registry, maybe they would have known about the prior incident involving Rolston and a 2-year-old-boy in her care who suffered suspicious bruising. Maybe they would have picked someone else to provide day care. According to court records, Rolston ultimately pled guilty to a felony count of neglect of a dependent in the 2006 case and the charge was later reduced to a misdemeanor.
Kirk had been in the care of Rolston for about a year before the incident that resulted in his death.
'WE MISS KIRK EVERY DAY'
Yoder, a Republican from Middlebury, says the bill still faces some last-minute tweaks.
The Indiana State Police, which would create and manage the registry, has some concerns.
Moreover, there's no funding provision in the bill, which would cost an estimated $300,000 to establish and require additional funding each year to keep going. It's possible that actual implementation, if lawmakers give it the green light, would have to wait until 2017, after the next two-year budget cycle starts.
But Yoder says the measure is starting to generate bipartisan support. What's more, he sees the value of a registry of child abuse perpetrators since small day care operations, those caring for less than five kids, don't face the same sort of background checks by the state that larger ones do.
For Angie Garza, it's about keeping kids out of harm's way.
“If it saves one child's life, that's the main thing right now,” she said. “We miss Kirk every day.”
Child Abuse: Greatest Risk Among Family Adults, Not Teachers, Clergy, Coaches, Or Scout Leaders
by Susan Scutti
Media reports scare parents into believing child molesters hide beneath the masks of youth leaders, but University of New Hampshire researchers say your child is more likely to be abused by a family member than community volunteers. Rates of abuse by leaders of school and recreational groups, including teachers, coaches, clergy, and scout leaders, were small compared to rates of abuse by family members and other adults, their study indicates.
To calculate rates of abuse, Dr. David Finkelhor, of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, and his colleagues, combined data from three national telephone surveys to create a sample of 13,052 children ranging in age from infants to 17 year olds. Then, the research team analyzed the data collected by these surveys. While focusing on the children's exposure to violence, the team based their calculations only on physical assault, sexual abuse, verbal aggression, and neglect.
Among the children, 105 had survived maltreatment in some type of youth group, including activities run by school or church. Proportionally, this amounted to 0.8 percent affected over their lifetime and 0.4 percent in the past year, the researchers explain.By comparison, the team says, rates of abuse by family adults amounted to 11.4 percent over a lifetime and 5.9 percent in the past year, while rates of abuse by nonfamily, non-youth group adults was 5.9 percent over a lifetime and 3.3 percent in the past year.
Types of Abuse
The majority of maltreatment by group leaders was verbal abuse, about 63 percent, with little more than 6 percent taking the form of sexual violence, the researchers say. However, slightly more than a third of the survivors reported physical abuse while under the care of a youth group leader, and less than 1 percent reported neglect.
“Lawsuits have sometimes painted a picture of [youth group] environments as posing a particular risk for abuse because they have inadequate supervision and may serve as magnets for those with abusive inclinations,” wrote the researchers, who add unnecessary anxiety need not deter families from taking advantage of these helpful youth organizations.
After all, the massive amount of media attention given to past instances of priests or scout leaders molesting children means many youth organizations have made the effort to improve their staff selection and training. As a result, interactions may often occur within sight of other attending adults. Instead, families concerned about abuse should consider the many adults who come into contact with their children in other ways while also looking within.
What is the rate of child abuse in schools, rec groups?
by Janet Rosenweig , MS, PhD, MPA
As a parent, you've probably heard enough stories about child abuse in sports teams and youth organizations to make your head spin. A study published online today in JAMA Pediatrics offers both good news and cause for some concern when it comes to the rate of abuse in these groups.
This good news is that this study, whose authors are among the most respected names in child abuse research, finds sexual abuse in youth-serving organizations to be relatively rare. The researchers combined data from three national population telephone surveys to create a sample of 13,052 children, ranging from infants to age 17.
Less than 1 percent of all children report any type of abuse in “youth-serving organizations such as schools and religious/recreational groups” and only 6.4 percent of that number report sexual abuse. While this is a thankfully low percentage, it tells us that as many as 100,000 kids may experience sexual abuse in a youth serving organization and that prevention efforts by these organizations and all parents must continue.
Results from this study left me with an unanticipated area of concern: Of the children who reported abuse in a youth-serving agency or organization, 64 percent of the abuse by an adult was verbal or emotional. Based on this study, it's estimated that up to 1 million kids could answer yes to the question: “Did you get scared or feel really bad because grown-ups in your life called you names, said mean things to you, or said they didn't want you?” Emotional abuse, or bullying by an adult in a youth-serving organization, is 10 times more prevalent than sexual abuse, and the scars can be deep and long lasting. This is unacceptable, and is a call to action for parents.
Parents should consider action on two fronts: with their children and with their youth organizations. First, open communication with their children should include a conversation making it clear that coaches and other adults may say things are difficult to hear sometimes, but remarks from a good coach make a child want to work harder and do better, not make them feel bad or unwanted. Parents should encourage their children to share any concerns about a coach or staff members' behavior or language.
Secondly, parents and caregivers should also investigate the policies and procedures of any organization serving their children. Learn the basics like how staff and volunteers are screened and trained, but don't stop there. Most youth sports teams have specific volunteer or required roles to help the team operate, like “snack parent” or “equipment parent.” As the next team season approaches, think about collaborating with other parents to develop a rotating schedule for a “stand parent”, an adult to attend each game or practice to watch from the stands and cheer for each player, while keeping an eye and ear open for inappropriate treatment of kids by staff and volunteers.
This study makes another point worth taking to heart: children are more than 10 times more likely to experience abuse as defined in this study in their home than they are in a youth serving organization. While continuing to support efforts to recognize signs that a predator may be operating anywhere in the community, we must maintain our efforts to support parents to keep children safe and healthy at home.
Child abuse statistics are notoriously inexact for many reasons, including difficulty identifying people to count, and wide variations in definitions. Last week, the federal government released its major annual report which shows a much lower count of all types of child abuse than the estimates reported in the JAMA Pediatrics article. The federal report only counts children where the abuse is both known to the public child protection agency, and if the abuse appears to be serious enough to meet each state's legal definition.
The study reported in JAMA Pediatrics this week uses a very different, but critical definition: does a child feel as if they have been abused. There are hundreds of thousands of children who feel the scar from some type of abuse and there's no public agency on the way to help. Every caring adult can do their part in counteracting that by being a loving, respectful, and trustworthy presence in the lives of all children about whom they care.
All children deserve great childhoods, and all adults have a role to play in making sure that happens. These two reports remind us just how much farther we have to go to ensure safe and healthy childhoods for all.
Law enforcement, victims' groups warn Super Bowl brings increased sex trafficking
by Suzanne Phan
A buzz is underway in San Francisco and the Bay Area with the Super Bowl coming to town.
Super Bowl host cities typically see a spike in tourists. There is also a rise in some crimes -- including prostitution. Law enforcement says the Super Bowl is expected to be a magnet for sex trafficking.
With super bowl 50 a week away, local law and crime victims' advocates are worried.
"There will be a few that will be using this as an unfortunate opportunity to exploit women," said Nilda Valmores, Executive Director of My Sister's House in Sacramento. The organization works to stop domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. A big concern in our region.
In the last several years, a local FBI task force has recovered more than 300 girls being sold for sex in the greater Sacramento area. With many sex trafficking victims brought here from overseas, San Jose Airport and San Francisco Airport are teaching employees to pick up warning signs and to identify victims in advance of the big game.
They need all the help they can get. The numbers are alarming. Right before the Super Bowl last year, the FBI and local law enforcement agencies in Arizona arrested more than 400 sex buyers and traffickers. Thirty teens were rescued.
My Sister's House officials say human trafficking comes in many forms.
"You may see a spike in terms of massage parlor activities," said Valmores.
"If they don't have their papers with them, if they seem very nervous, those are some red flags." said Valmores. "If you see a person with a partner and it doesn't really seem like a normal relationship. Maybe there's an age difference; maybe there seems to be a language difference; maybe the person seems really petrified."
Victims groups and law enforcement hope educating the public about what to look out for will help reduce down on the problem. Some law enforcement experts believe women and girls are being moved from other areas to the Super Bowl because it's a big money maker.
At least one victim's advocate told ABC10 she is really worried that more women might be recruited or duped into sex trafficking.
'Saving Grace': Foster home for youth sex trafficking survivors to open in Brainerd
by Chelsey Perkins
Brainerd — Nearly five years ago, a presentation on youth sex trafficking inspired a group of advocates to form a coalition to address the problem in the Brainerd lakes area.
“Nobody grows up and says, I think I want to sell my body to anybody who wants to buy it,” said Kathy Sauve, director of youth, housing and family resources at Lutheran Social Services in Brainerd. “Nobody does that. We know that.”
On Friday, two initiatives spearheaded by the LSS of Minnesota-Brainerd office were announced to further the goal of combating youth sex trafficking.
Saving Grace, a specialized foster care program for sex-trafficked children serving Crow Wing and six other surrounding counties, is set to begin accepting residents. The local LSS office was also recently designated as one of eight regional navigators on sex trafficking through the statewide Safe Harbor Law initiative.
As part of the “No Wrong Door” model of assisting youth victims, regional navigators are tasked with providing training to law enforcement, school officials and others working with juveniles to recognize sexual exploitation and to educate these groups on the services available. They also work directly with youth victims to connect them with services they need.
Sauve said the foster care program and the regional navigator program go hand-in-hand and represent an innovative approach to assisting survivors of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. The program was named for how a youth survivor described LSS's role in her own life — as her “saving grace.”
“We want to look at it through a holistic approach,” Sauve said by phone Monday. “So what exactly are these victims going to need? Is there chemical dependency? ... Definitely behavioral health counseling with someone who's trained with trauma-informed care. Looking at their medical and dental needs, when is the last time they went to a dentist? When is the last time they went to a doctor to get checked out? Making sure they don't have any STIs (sexually transmitted infections) or anything like that.
Sauve said LSS has identified a foster home and trained the family on the specific needs of sexually exploited juveniles.
“They'll be able to stay in a nice home environment while they receive supportive services,” Suave said. “We're really excited about that.”
In December, LSS was named one of seven organizations in the state receiving funding through the Safe Harbor Law to develop the Saving Grace program. The Minnesota Department of Human Services reported the funding will increase the number of shelter beds available specifically for sexually exploited juveniles from 25 to 48 in Duluth, Brainerd and the eastern Twin Cities metro area.
Before a new central Minnesota region was identified, Crow Wing County was one of 20 counties overseen by Support Within Reach, a sexual violence advocacy nonprofit based in Bemidji. The addition of LSS as a regional navigator reduced the size of the region. Crow Wing County is now grouped with Aitkin, Morrison, Todd, Benton, Stearns, Sherburne and Wright counties.
“It was important for them to divide up the counties to give it a more reasonable approach,” Sauve said. “It was unmanageable. ... So at least here in the Brainerd lakes area, we're a little more central.”
Sauve said Alysa Morley, who was recently hired by LSS to fill the regional navigator role, is from the area and has a great understanding of the resources available in rural Minnesota.
“If you're metro-based, you really don't understand even the transportation. So, if you're on the phone with a girl from Long Prairie, and you need to get her to Brainerd, it's so different than the Cities where they can just have easy access to transportation. There is no transportation to get from Long Prairie to Brainerd. We have to go out and get them,” Sauve said.
She said the communities in central Minnesota need tailored attention, representing a wide range of diversity.
“How do we respond to an Amish girl? How do we respond to the Somali population, the Native American population?” Sauve said. “We have to be made aware of that. I know there's more diversity in the metro, but there's also more resources in the metro for different diversity needs, whereas up here, there's really not.”
Sauve said Morley will likely also have a satellite office in St. Cloud and will travel throughout the eight-county region.
LSS honors Exsted
As part of Friday's launch of programs, LSS also handed out a number of recognitions to community partners working on the issue of sex trafficking. This included Baxter Police Chief Jim Exsted, who was honored with the 2015 “Outstanding Leadership in Community Response to Sex Trafficking” award. The award was first of what leaders in the organization said they plan to make an annual honor.
Exsted's department took the lead on organizing law enforcement sting operations locally with goals to gauge the problem and reduce demand for paid sex. Other area departments, including the Brainerd Police Department and the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office, also participated in the operations.
“That coalition, that was five years ago ... it took time to gain momentum. Like everything else, it needed funding to support it, which took time,” Exsted said after he was presented the award. “Now we're really starting to see that at the state level, they recognize the problem, they've pushed hard for training in law enforcement and other areas. ... It's a collaborative effort here in the Brainerd lakes area. Like (Brainerd Police) Chief (Corky) McQuiston said, we couldn't do this alone. We don't have the resources. ... I don't think we were ignorant, but we weren't up front with the problem either for quite awhile. As society really wasn't.”
Exsted's department was selected for a $46,000 grant from the state Office of Justice Programs to support costs over the next two years associated with efforts on sex trafficking, including overtime, equipment and training.
SPEAK EASY: Sexual Abuse
by Judy Carley
UNITED STATES—History is littered with drawings, photos and historical accounts of it and today I am going to talk about something NOBODY wants to hear. THAT BIG elephant roaming around America UNRESTRICTED, stomping and killing souls: Sexual Abuse.
Nearly 62,939 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in 2012.
Thirty percent are by a family member.
Many times leading to lifetime mental disorders that are showing by age 14.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death in children ages 10-24.
Over 60,956 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in the United States in 2013.
In 2009 – 53 percent of 1.2 million children receiving social security, do so for mental illness.
A 3 million person study that took 28 years showed a “significant association” between sexual abuse and LIFETIME mental disorders.
Like so many others that have health issues: mortality fears motivate me into saying everything I need to, before I cannot do so anymore. I am one of the MANY angry Americans walking around, a victim of UN-rectified crimes. My life was wasted spiritually, mentally and even physically and although my abusers classically deny: I have the telltale broken bones to prove SOME of it.
When children are raised with non-stop violence and sexual assaults from numerous perpetrators, it creates what can only be considered as individual human time bombs, ready to destroy anything, everything, SOMETHING! It is the only way to feel better. When I hear about people suing their “attacker” and receiving millions of dollars I feel jealous, then ANGRY.
I lost the “parent” lottery and it appears I lost the child molester lottery too. It feels just as Charles M Blow of the New York Times said, like I was “exploited.”
Inside of me is a second consciousness, an angry redheaded alter-ego! This “self” is as hateful and mad as EMINEM and it is a FULL-TIME job suppressing my AILEEN WOURNOS soul.
The professionals always look at me strangely when I tell them that I equate my childhood to being much like that prostitute serial killer. Instead of giving blowjobs in exchange for smokes, my mouth was extorted to prevent the tattling that would lead to my father's belt. I learned REAL early, it was less painful to perform oral sex, than to deal with a whipping.
By the time I was 14 I had already attempted suicide more than once, and ran away every chance I got.
One such time the school counselor took me to social services where they took photos of my horrific bruises, BUT THEN just like everyone else I ran to for help: took me back home. When Uncle Sam ordered a family counselor to come work with us my father threw a tantrum and kicked him out. Running away again, a couple of years as a runaway went by before I ended up in ER in excruciating pain, typical with my menstrual. They found my uterus was tipped backwards and insisted I had been in a serious accident, but I had no recollection of it.
That was in the 1980s and I continued not having a clue until the PERP HIMSELF started going to Alcoholics Anonymous and got to the “making amends” part, disgustingly admitted “doing things” to me when I was FIVE.
Still, not sure if the DISASSOCIATION that prevents me from remembering the age of 5 is my friend or not, but I will assume it is.
I am the BLACK SHEEP, and to counter their harsh words, I remind myself of the many sayings that say the same thing, i.e Great Historian Tacitus; “IT IS HUMAN NATURE TO HATE HIM WHOM YOU HAVE INJURED.”
There are MORE THAN 2 million victims of sexual assault over the last decade, and that is just the KNOWN cases. That is a lot of DEAD SOULS walking among you. Angry because we are forced to play by the rules to a system that failed us.
Personally, as someone that suffers from a personality disorder, PTSD, and broken bones due to a MESSED UP childhood: I am sick and tired of seeing more and more victims, and blame it on the fact that mental illness is not visible, so people are unwilling to get on board with the commitment IT WILL TAKE for Uncle Sam to have a say in how children are raised behind closed doors.
Maybe this popular video will help you understand that if we can collectively decide to fight labeling, we have to do MORE to help those that are ruined with permanent labels AT THE HAND OF MAN, like: survivor and victim…(video on site).
Labeling IS BAD because it places a sticker on us that will affect the way we think forever, but as tear-jerking as this noble cause is, some labels can be removed! NOW imagine that sexual abuse drives that sticker label in with FORCE, hard enough to MURDER the soul while also engraving the feelings of worthlessness and despair in so deeply: we are rendered useless before old enough to overcome our repressive cocoons, become a butterfly, and fly away.
Slain Virginia teen mourned as investigation continues
by The Associated Press
BLACKSBURG, VA. -- A 13-year-old girl who police say was abducted and killed by a Virginia Tech student is being remembered by friends as an "angel" on Earth as investigators work to piece together the final moments of the teen's life.
David Eisenhauer, 18, has been charged with first-degree murder and abduction in the death of Nicole Madison Lovell, whose body was found Saturday in North Carolina, police said. Another Virginia Tech student, Natalie Keepers, 19, faces charges of improper disposal of a body and accessory after the fact in the commission of a felony.
Davy Draper, who said he's a close family friend of the Lovells and knew the teen most of her life, called her an energetic and outspoken girl who got along with everyone.
"She was an awesome little girl. She was an angel here on Earth and she's an angel now," Draper said Sunday.
Eisenhauer and Keepers were being held without bond at the Montgomery County Jail. A Blacksburg police spokesman said officials did not yet know when the two suspects would make their first court appearances.
Police said they have evidence showing Eisenhauer and Lovell knew each other before she disappeared.
"Eisenhauer used this relationship to his advantage to abduct the 13-year-old and then kill her. Keepers helped Eisenhauer dispose of Nicole's body," Blacksburg police said in a statement.
The investigation continued as a state police search and recovery team searched a pond Sunday on the Virginia Tech Campus. Police Spokeswoman Corrinne Geller would not say what officials were trying to find.
Authorities located Lovell's remains in Surry County, North Carolina, just over the Virginia border.
Blacksburg Police Chief Anthony Wilson told The Roanoke Times that Eisenhauer has not confessed to involvement in Lovell's death and did not give police information that led to the discovery of her body.
The girl had been missing since last week. Her family says she disappeared after pushing a dresser in front of her bedroom door and climbing out a window. Lovell's family members did not immediately return messages seeking comment Sunday.
Eisenhauer was as a standout track and field athlete in high school, who was named Boys Indoor Track Performer of the Year by The Baltimore Sun in March. The Sun said Eisenhauer had moved to Columbia from Yakima, Washington, for his junior year and quickly became a star on the East Coast. His coach told the newspaper that Eisenhauer was "the best-kept secret in Maryland."
Virginia Tech said on its website that Eisenhauer was a freshman engineering major at the school and that hundreds of students and researchers had assisted in the search for Lovell. The school said in a statement Saturday that he has been suspended from the university.
A number listed for Eisenhauer's parents was busy Sunday. A message left at Keepers' home in Laurel, Maryland, was not immediately returned. Officials at the county jail where the two are being held would not say whether either suspect has a lawyer.
Pity the Children
by Chris Hedges
Larry—not his real name—is 38. He is serving a 30-year sentence for murder in a New Jersey prison. He will not be eligible for parole until 2032, when he will be 55. His impoverished and nightmarish childhood mirrors that of nearly all prisoners I have worked with who were convicted of violent crimes. And as governmental austerity and chronic poverty consume the American landscape, as little is done to blunt poverty's disintegration of families, as mass incarceration and indiscriminate police violence continue to have a catastrophic impact on communities, Larry's childhood is becoming the norm for millions of boys and girls.
As a child, Larry, along with his sister, was beaten routinely by his stepfather, especially when the man was drunk.
“My sister and I would have to make up stories about the bruises we had, but she was a much better liar than me and I found myself telling a teacher everything that was going on,” Larry said to me. His admission to the teacher caused New Jersey child-protection authorities to intervene. His stepfather held back for a while, but he mercilessly beat and choked Larry when the boy was about 8. “I was struggling for breath and there were tears streaming down my cheeks,” Larry remembered. “He eased up on my neck and slammed my head against the tile, which split my head open and knocked me unconscious. I woke up in a hospital. I was told he was arrested and put in jail. I never saw him again. All I have to remember him now is a few bad memories and frequent migraines, which I get three times a week thanks to the concussion he gave me.”
Larry, like many others among the long-term incarcerated, made the rounds of group homes and youth shelters. When he was 10, his biological father took him to live in Florida.
“It started out as a vacation,” Larry said, “but it soon became hell. My father had gone out to a strip club one night and met some whore that introduced him to coke. It was a lifestyle he was unfamiliar with, but cocaine didn't discriminate. It stripped him. It robbed him of everything we had. He pawned everything from the TV to my Walkman. Nothing seemed to be off limits. My father had my grandparents wire him money nearly every week. It wasn't long until he drained them of their retirement fund and broke their hearts in two.
“He swore he would change his life, but it was too late for that,” Larry went on. “We moved back to Jersey. He took with us a garbage bag full of clothes and an ex-stripper that had recently turned him on to heroin. We went from motel to motel. Instead of going to school, I was taught by my father how to hotwire cars, bypass certain security systems and boost whatever I wanted. I helped support his habit that had spiraled completely out of control. He was shooting up a couple times a day. In about 11 months he had turned into this little skeleton of a man. It got so bad that he had to hit the veins in his foot because the ones in his arms had collapsed. He told me he was going to stop—‘any day now'—but he never did. He died with a needle in his leg at the Park Rest Motel in Edison from an overdose when I was a few months short of turning 14. I remember thinking it was just a bad dream, that everything was going to be fine. Rosa, his girlfriend, took what she could and ran off, leaving me with him until the ambulance arrived. He never woke up.”
Larry could barely speak for the next nine months. Until he turned 18, he again was in a succession of group homes and foster homes. Then, woefully unprepared psychologically and financially to cope with the world, he was on his own. He hitchhiked to California. He began using drugs. “Without them,” he said, “life became colorless.” He moved back to New Jersey, found a job and rented a house, but he could not keep it together. “My life spiraled out of control,” he said.
“One day, in the blink of an eye, my life had changed forever,” he said of the murder charge pressed against him. “I was in jail, facing more time than I had lived.”
Violent criminals are socialized into violence. And a society that permits this to take place is culpable. Over 15 million of our children go to bed hungry. Every fifth child (16.1 million) in America is poor. Every 10th child (7.1 million) is extremely poor. We have 25 percent of the world's prison population. We have scaled back or cut social services, including welfare. Our infrastructures—including our inner-city schools, little more than warehouses—are crumbling. Police regularly gun down unarmed people in the streets. The poor spend years, sometimes lifetimes, without meaningful work or nurturing environments. And these forms of state violence fuel acts of personal violence.
Violent criminals, like all of us, begin as vulnerable, fragile children. They are made. They are repeatedly violated and traumatized as children, often to the point of numbness. And as adults they turn on a world that violated them, as the criminologist Lonnie Athens—himself raised in a violent household—has pointed out.
All of us, Athens says, carry within us phantom communities, those personalities and experiences that shape us and tell us how to interpret the world. The impact of these phantom communities, Athens writes, “is no less than [that of] the people who are present during our social experiences.” The phantom community, Athens says, is “where someone is coming from.” When your phantom community is a place of violence, you act out with violence. Violent criminal behavior is not a product of race. It is not even, finally, a product of poverty. It is a product of repeated acts of violence by figures of authority, including the state, upon the child.
“Violent actors act violently not because they are mentally ill or come from violent subcultures or are brain damaged or have low self-esteem but because they have different phantom communities from the rest of us,” Richard Rhodes writes in his book about Lonnie Athens, “Why They Kill: The Discoveries of a Maverick Criminologist.” “The difference is the reason they attach different, violent meanings to their social experiences.”
If our phantom communities have been violent, Athens argues in his book “The Creation of Dangerous Violent Criminals,” then we will read violent intent into the motives of others based on our past experience. We are the product of our social experiences. Those who carry out violent crimes “always have some violence-related experiences in their backgrounds,” Athens writes.
“They [these phantom communities] tell us how an experience that we are undergoing will unfold before it actually ends, which can create in us a powerful self-fulfilling prophecy,” Athens writes. “Ironically, such self-fulfilling prophecies can stir such deep emotions in us that they can bring about the very experiences imagined.”
The slashing of state and federal programs for children and the failure to address the poverty that now grips half the country are creating a vast underclass of the young who often live in constant insecurity and fear, at times terror, and are schooled daily in the language of violence. As Athens has pointed out, “[T]he creation of dangerous violent criminals is largely preventable, as is much of the human carnage which follows in the wake of their birth. Therefore, if society fails to take any significant steps to stop the process behind the creation of dangerous criminals, it tacitly becomes an accomplice in creating them.”
Killers have reasons, however twisted, for killing “that they believe to be significant, not trivial, or senseless,” Athens says.
“Physical abuse,” he writes, “often causes central nervous system damage, thus contributing to impulsivity, attention disorders and learning disabilities … it provides a model with which to identify. Finally, it engenders rage toward the abusing parent, rage that can then be displaced onto authority figures and other individuals, against whom the child may vent this anger.”
“The basic assumption behind my theory,” Athens writes in “Violent Criminal Acts and Actors Revisited,” “is that crime is a product of social retardation. Social retardation exists when people guide their actions toward themselves and others from the standpoint of an underdeveloped, primitive phantom community, an ‘us' that hinders them from cooperating in the ongoing social activities of their corporal community or the larger society in which it is embedded.”
In past societies, such as medieval Europe—where corporal punishment, especially of children, was widespread, along with domestic violence, sexual abuse, public floggings and executions—there was a corresponding higher rate of violent crime. In 13th-century England, Rhodes points out in his book on Lonnie Athens, “the national homicide rate was around 18 to 23 per 100,000.” The United States has a homicide rate of 4.5 per 100,000. But when you look at impoverished inner cities you find homicide rates that are astronomical. St. Louis has a homicide rate of 59.23 per 100,000, Baltimore 54.98 per 100,000, and Detroit 43.89 per 100,000. Some impoverished neighborhoods within American cities have even higher homicide rates. West Garfield Park in Chicago, for example, with 18,000 people, had 21 murders last year. This gives the neighborhood a homicide rate of 116 per 100,000 people.
The country's 10 largest cities have seen murder rates climb by 11.3 percent in the last year.
No night class in marital counseling—David Brooks' and the capitalist elites' ridiculous response to social and economic disintegration—is going to help. These crimes are the crimes of neoliberalism, which, in the name of profit, has abandoned poor children in cities like Flint, Mich., where it forced them to drink poisoned water, and Baltimore and St. Louis. The idea that the elites are going to teach virtue to those they have oppressed is another example of how woefully out of touch our ruling classes—consumed by greed, hedonism and corruption—have become. Give the poor a chance economically by providing jobs, integrate them into the social order, provide vigorous protection and quality education for children, make possible a life of dignity for families, secure neighborhoods, end mass incarceration. If those things are done, violent crime and drug addiction will dissipate. If we continue down the road of neoliberalism and austerity, violent crime and drug addiction—the way many of the broken cope with the stress, humiliation and despair of poverty—will grow.
To understand the roots of violent crime is not to condone it. If we continue to ignore its causes, if we turn our backs as our children are brutalized, we perpetuate a world of misery for the young and create a world of misery for ourselves. Violentization, as Athens points out, is a developmental process. And, as Rhodes writes, “Violent people come to their violence by the same universal processes of soliloquy and dramatic self-change that carry the rest of us to conformity, pacifism, greatness, eccentricity or sainthood—and bear equal responsibility for their choices.”
“I am very ashamed of the man I am today,” Larry said. “I never thought this would be my life. I have tried to talk to God, but I'm not sure if he hears me or even wants to. I don't necessarily blame him, but I do feel alone.”
Pa. moves to improve training for identifying child abuse
by Tim Lambert and Radio Pennsylvania
New and enhanced training will be taking place in Pennsylvania aimed at better spotting the signs of child abuse.
The state Department of Human Services has signed a five-year, $2.5 million contract with the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, to train mandated reporters to recognize and report suspected child abuse.
Alliance President and CEO Angela Little says a recent survey from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster shows this issue needs to be taken more seriously in Pennsylvania.
"In a state, where on average, more than 30 children are killed each year due to child abuse, we learned that, in fact, only 17 percent of citizens felt that child abuse was a serious concern," she said. "We further learned that only 52 percent of mandated reporters, who suspected child abuse had actually followed through and reported it."
Little says training mandated reporters to recognize the signs of child abuse does make a difference.
"Those who undergo training are five times more likely to intervene appropriately and accurately report child abuse. So indeed, it is a beautiful day in this neighborhood and for each and every neighborhood throughout Pennsylvania where people will receive training and then therefore better protect Pennsylvania's children.
A state law passed in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky case expands the definition of mandated reporter, to include anyone, paid or volunteer, who has direct or indirect contact with a child.
Child sexual abuse support group dismayed over national redress scheme
Commonwealth accused of failing to implement recommendation for federal scheme and shifting responsibility for compensation onto states
by The Australian Associated Press
Anger and confusion has followed a federal government announcement indicating it is not likely to implement a key recommendation of the child abuse royal commission that it establish a national redress scheme for victims of institutional child sexual abuse.
Support groups for survivors of child sexual abuse have given different interpretations to the announcement on Friday that the federal government will lead development of a nationally consistent approach to redress but that responsibility should rest with state and territory jurisdictions where the abuse occurred.
The executive officer of the Care Leavers Australia Network, Leonie Sheedy, said the commonwealth's position that states and territories would bear responsibility for abuse that happened in their jurisdictions would be unfair to people who suffered abuse in state-run institutions.
“They are sending [responsibility] back to the state governments who abused them,” Sheedy said.
“We now have to go back to the abusing governments that didn't care about us as children.”
Sheedy said elderly survivors of abuse deserved a simple, national scheme to seek acknowledgement, care and compensation for their suffering.
“To expect elderly people who live on the fringes of society to go state by state and plead their case is just so wrong,” she said.
The federal attorney general, George Brandis, and the social services minister, Christian Porter, issued a joint press release on Friday saying that after considering the recommendations of the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, the government would develop “a nationally consistent approach to redress” with states and territories.
That indicates the government has taken the “next best” option put forward by the royal commission, which recommended a national scheme, estimated to cost $4.3bn over 10 years and underwritten by the federal government, as the best way forward.
The president of Adults Surviving Child Abuse, Dr Cathy Kezelman, said the government announcement did indicate support for a national scheme, after such a scheme was ruled out under the former prime minister Tony Abbott.
“It's good to see the commonwealth government getting behind a national redress scheme,” she said.
“This is definitely a shift in its engagement but we need to see a commitment of funds and a timeline, so survivors are not left wondering any longer.”
Kezelman said any system would need a “funder of last resort” and the federal government had to take a leading role to ensure the scheme was equitable.
The Catholic Church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council was also critical of the government announcement, saying it was disappointing the government was not more advanced in developing a response.
“The commonwealth and the states have had Commissioner McClellan's recommendations on redress for many months and I think survivors could have expected a bit more from today's statement,” the council's chief executive, Francis Sullivan, said on Friday.