Vatican Has A Long Way To Go In Righting Clergy Child Abuse Issues
A recent statement surprised and angered critics who point to the church's poor record on abuse.
by Kim Bellware
As the Catholic church reckons with decades of indifference to clergy abusing children, some followers are finding both their faith and their patience tested.
Catholics world wide are intently watching how the Vatican addresses the issue, while a new controversy has revealed just how far the church has to go in making amends for this dark chapter.
Training guidelines for new bishops prepared by French Monsignor Tony Anatrella, a controversial psychoanalyst and clergy member, include a section that says bishops are not legally obliged to report abuse.
"According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds," Anatrella said, according to Crux.
As several reports note, the guidelines were drafted without any input from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, the group created by Pope Francis to highlight “best practices” for stamping out clergy abuse.
Anatrella's remarks and the guidelines themselves prompted anger and disbelief from critics.
Barbara Blaine, president and founder of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said the training document is evidence that secrecy and the protection of perpetrators in the ministry -- not children -- remains the priority for the Catholic church.
"Its so blatant when they won't even train the new bishops to make such a simple statement to call police," Blaine said.
"We believe it's really simple: if there is adult and a child and sex, it's really clear [bishops] should call the police," she added.
SNAP has been highly critical of the Vatican's response to child abuse revelations, with Blaine characterizing the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors -- made of up both clergy and laypeople -- as little more than an empty gesture.
On Tuesday, the commission reportedly tried to oust one of its members, abuse survivor Peter Saunders. Saunders said the commission accused him of being difficult to work with and too open with the media, Reuters reported. Saunders, head of Britain's National Association for People Abused in Childhood, resisted pressure to step down.
A spokesman for the Holy See said Anatrella's statements were interpreted by critics in the media as a passive position that amounts to encouraging bishops to cover up abuse. Father Federico Lombardi refuted those claims in an interview with the Catholic News Agency.
“Anatrella does not say anything new or different than what has been said by the competent ecclesiastical institutions,” Lombardi said.
Lombardi noted that Anatrella's remark is “not in any way – as someone has mistakenly interpreted – a new Vatican document or a new instruction or new 'guidelines' for bishops.”
A church official familiar with the pope's commission told The Guardian that reporting abuse to authorities outside the church was a “moral obligation, whether the civil law requires it or not.”
The official said the papal commission would be more involved in designing training going forward.
The pope has previously stated there must be "zero tolerance" toward the abuse of children.
Draft legislation to remove time-bar for child abuse cases to be introduced
by Angela Constance
Draft legislation to remove the three-year time limit on bringing civil cases to court – also known as time-bar – is on track to be introduced before the end of the current parliamentary session on March 24, Education Secretary Angela Constance has told adult survivors of alleged abuse.
Ms Constance and survivors also discussed what further work is needed to fulfil the government's commitments to meet all of the recommendations of the Scottish Human Rights Commission Inter-Action Plan. The SHRC work, which began in 2009, called for:
effective apologies and Apology Law
National Confidential Forum testimony to become part of the national record
a review of lessons from previous inquires
removal of time bar
national survivor support fund
a public inquiry
Survivor groups will continue to have the opportunity to meet with Ministers from education, justice and health.
Ms Constance said: “Since the publication of the SHRC recommendations we have engaged extensively with survivors and the services which support them. We have worked with survivors to expand and enhance the existing support available to them; to remove the restrictions preventing many from seeking legal redress; and in setting the extensive remit for the Statutory Public Inquiry.
“I am grateful to all survivors who have taken part in the consultations since this work began so many years ago and appreciate that there are a range of views on several issues of importance about how best we can support them. As announced last year, in setting the remit of the inquiry, we have sought to strike the right balance between widening the scope of the inquiry and the definitions of in-care and abuse from the original calls made. Throughout I have been determined to ensure survivors don't lose hope that it will report back within a reasonable timescale.”
She added: “It is also important to recognise that this inquiry, unlike others, is looking at physical, psychological and emotional abuse, as well as sexual abuse, and can use its discretion to go further and consider medical experimentation, spiritual abuse, unacceptable practices and neglect.
“The inquiry must be sufficiently focused to make clear and meaningful recommendations that will avoid a repeat of the systemic, institutional failings that saw children abused by the very individuals who were entrusted by the state and others to care for them over an extended period.
“Through intensive engagement we know that survivors have a wide range of requirements and views on how we can respond to the call to action that the SHRC work gave us. Survivors have told us this is what they need and we are committed to seeing through on the commitments we have made.”
To keep survivors informed on how these recommendations are being delivered, the Scottish government has proposed to extend written updates used during the consultations on InterAction and establishing the public Inquiry. Due to its independence, it will be for the inquiry to provide its own updates and engagement.
Couple faces over 200 child abuse complaints
by Adam Snider
OKLAHOMA - A man and woman arrested, each accused of more than 100 counts of sexual child abuse.
Jamala Monroe, 28, and Zicole Monroe, 22, were each arrested last week, accused of abusing a 14-year-old girl.
The alleged acts, taking place in an apartment off of N. Macarthur.
With more complaints brought forward on Thursday, their jail registry now reads like a horror story.
The alleged pattern of assault seems to have spanned months.
"A total of 137 counts of sexual abuse of a child were added to both people," said MSgt. Gary Knight with Oklahoma City Police.
According to court records, the assaults may have started last summer.
Jamala is accused of raping the young girl multiple times, coming up with code names for his different sexual assaults.
He even allegedly planned out his crimes by writing them out on a calendar inside the apartment.
Zicole reportedly told investigators she watched many of these acts take place.
"Each count represents one incident where this occurred," Knight said. "So, this is obviously a case where, over a long period of time, this girl was repeatedly sexually assaulted."
The assaults stopped last week, when a junior high employee was tipped off on what was happening.
Zicole and Jamala were arrested, each facing over 140 complaints, including sexual abuse of a child, lewd or indecent proposals and two first-degree rape charges for Jamala.
This story, though, may have remained hidden had it not been for someone who was concerned for the girl's safety.
"It's good somebody finally came forward and said something because, otherwise there's a good chance this would still be going on," Knight said.
Officials said all children in the residence have been removed and placed in safe hands.
Zicole and Jamala remain in the Oklahoma County Jail, each with a bond of more than $1 million.
Glad to see Bevin, Beshear work together on child abuse initiative
We have editorialized many times about the harms of child abuse and what can be done to make it less prevalent.
While we are realistic and know that child sexual abuse will unfortunately never fully be eliminated, we do believe there are ways to reduce it.
Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear and first lady Glenna Bevin understand the problem and recently announced a statewide campaign to try to reduce child sexual abuse.
Beshear called it an epidemic and said that sexual abuse is a difficult and uncomfortable topic to talk about, but is one that must be addressed.
We agree with Beshear's comments.
Bevin, who has made child protection and adoption her priority as first lady, said by expanding training in communities more people will be able to learn how to recognize, report and educate others on child abuse.
The program, which is aimed at a broad group of adults who work in that field including police, prosecutors, social workers, teachers and others, will feature a nationally recognized expert on sex offenders to provide training on techniques commonly used by predators. It will begin next month with an eight-hour training offered in the 15 area development districts in coordination with Kentucky's 15 Child Advocacy Centers, which serve children and families affected by sexual abuse. After the initial round of training, the program will expand to offer additional programs in the spring aimed at law enforcement and victims' advocates as well as a program on using technology safely.
One interesting aspect of the training features Cory Jewell Jensen, co-director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention. Jensen has spent her career working with sex offenders.
Jensen has the potential to provide a lot of insight into how child sexual offenders think and operate which could be a very useful tool in detecting child sexual abuse victims and helping locate and eventually punish those who violated them.
Beshear and Bevin are both on the same playing field. We are glad to see that political differences didn't get in the way of fighting this most serious matter. Beshear made a really good point when he said, “Child abuse is not political and should never be political.”
The program put forth by Beshear and Bevin sounds like it has the potential to do some real positive things in battling child sexual abuse in our state.
We are hopeful that it does.
Child Abuse Costs Nations Billions of Dollars a Year: Panel
by Robert Preidt
Child abuse costs nations worldwide billions of dollars a year, experts report.
In high-income nations, the median cost of child abuse equals a loss of 1.2 percent of per capita income, or $150 billion a year in the United States. The estimated cost in China -- a middle-income country -- is $50 billion a year, the experts added.
In East Asia and the Pacific, the cost of emotional child abuse alone is more than $48 billion a year, the researchers said.
The findings, from an international panel of experts, were to be presented Feb. 12 at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.
"Violence against children is prevalent across countries at all income levels, in all forms," panel co-organizer Sue Horton said in a news release from the University of Waterloo in Canada, where she is a professor and chairwoman in global health economics.
"In addition to a rights-based case, there is now a stronger than ever economic case for protecting children against violence," she added.
The financial cost of child abuse includes treatment of physical injuries, future loss of productivity due to injuries, as well as lower levels of education and future income. Also, child abuse is associated with higher health costs in adulthood.
Child abuse rates are higher in low-income countries. For example, 90 percent of children in West and Central Africa are either physically or mentally disciplined at home, and the rate is 74 percent in East Asia and the Pacific, the researchers said.
"While child abuse rates are tied to a country's economic status, that is no excuse for the continued prevalence," panel co-organizer Susan Bissell, director of the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children at UNICEF, said in the news release.
"There are known interventions which are effective in preventing violence and supporting children who have experienced violence. Many of these are cost-effective and provide good value for public money," she added.
Laws to protect children from violent punishment are highly effective, the experts said. Parent education programs, home visits and sex abuse prevention programs are also proven strategies.
Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
'I just hate it': Child abuse victim speaks out about sentence
by PAULA MCCOOEY
Sabrina-Riki Moreau's first childhood memory isn't a boisterous kids' birthday party or a trip to the zoo. Rather, the scene forever embedded in the young woman's mind involves a dark basement and an encounter with her grandfather that began a decade of sexual abuse.
Moreau's Cummings Avenue brick rowhouse was linked to her grandparents' home by its backyard. Her mother, a single, working parent entrusted the grandparents to care for her kids.
Moreau remembers being four years old and having dinner with her brother at her grandparents' home almost every night. They had their own rooms there and her grandfather would put her to bed every night, she says. And every night, there was abuse.
Richard H. Glarvin pleaded guilty to sexual assault and sexual interference last September for the abuse that occurred between 1995 to 2005. A snapshot provided in the statement of facts showed how he turned a position of trust into an opportunity to prey.
"The incidents happened at the victim's residence, at the accused's residence, in the accused's vehicle when he would pick her up from extra curricular activities, outside in the backyard, and anywhere and time the accused had an opportunity to be with the victim."
On Feb. 1, Glarvin was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison.
That's hardly justice, in Moreau's mind.
"This guy admitted to doing this to me for 10 years. Why are you not giving him 10 years?" the 24-year-old asks.
Since the sentencing, she has had the publication ban on her name lifted to encourage other victims to come forward.
"I know now in my heart that if I can gone to the police when I was 4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14 years old, they wouldn't have called him after I went to the police two months later, they would have gone to his house with the sirens on and they would have cuffed him."
Glarvin's defence lawyer, Rodney Sellar, asked Justice Ann Alder that his client be sentenced to four years, while the Crown requested a five- to seven-year prison term. Moreau fears her grandfather, now deemed a pedophile, could potentially serve as little as a third of his sentence and qualify for day parole.
The defence attorney said the the fact his client pleaded guilty, in addition to the fact he has dementia and a psychiatrist has deemed him a low risk to re-offend, were mitigating factors.
"The victims obviously have different concerns, but the judge has to balance all the interests and I think she did it very well," said Sellar. On the possibility of being granted parole, he said that may be an "optimistic view."
"It's much more difficult to obtain parole than it used to be," he said.
That's cold comfort for Moreau, who feels the justice system is "flawed" and fails victims.
"So I have to call the parole board if I want to be updated (on whether he is) eligible ... just like this whole process, that's another time where I have to tell somebody his name. ... Just me saying his name, I get the chills. I just hate it. And it's another time I have to call someone and say 'Hey, I was sexually abused by this person.'"
Heidi Illingworth, executive director at Connecting Ottawa, a victims advocacy group, said that if the case had been tried in the United States, he may have received up to a life sentence. But in Canada, where judges rely on previous case law, sentences are shorter.
"It sort of feels like a slap in the face (for victims) when you go to court and you go through all the difficulty with telling your story publicly," said Illingworth. "They can often feel negative if they are not satisfied with the sentence and that can often be a set-back from trying to move forward with what's happened to you"
At 14 years of age, Moreau said, she had the confidence to tell her grandfather to stop the abuse, but by then the damage was done.
She couldn't concentrate in high school and became suicidal. After confronting him five years later, he admitted to having nightmares the abuse.
She then told her mother and he admitted to her what he had done.
As Moreau continued to suffer the effects of her abuse, she decided to report the incidents to police in 2014 and Glarvin soon turned himself in. He told the detective he, too, was molested as a child. He said he hadn't hurt any other children and needed medical help.
In Moreau's lengthy victim-impact statement she titled each sentence with a succinct single word: Shame, Insecurity, Anxiety, Anger, Depression, Trust.
Moreau has spent thousands on therapy and lost the relationship with her grandmother, who stuck by her husband's side.
"I stopped believing in God at a very young age. How could I pray to and believe in someone who let this happen to me. What did I do at such a young age to deserve that?"
A Pained Life: Does Child Abuse Cause Chronic Pain?
by Carol Levy
The idea of childhood trauma or abuse leading to chronic pain in adulthood has always bothered me.
The idea that trauma/abuse can change the neural system sounds intriguing, but has yet to be proven. The studies I have seen do not prove a connection, only a link.
I was abused as a child. I have almost no memory of my childhood, but I fit the profile. Two siblings also circumstantially validated it.
My trigeminal neuralgia is a symptom of a neurovascular birth defect that I was unaware of until the pain was diagnosed. My pain started as typical trigeminal neuralgia; out of the blue a horrendous, excruciating, world bending pain. It lasted only a few seconds then disappeared.
I have a birthmark in the exact area of the pain which anatomically corresponds to the pained area and trigeminal nerve distribution in the face. It's presence, as well as the fact that it is 'vascularized' (can change color), is a sign of the birth defect.
Growing up my sister would sometimes say, “You're upset.” I'd deny it and she'd smile knowingly, “Yes you are. Your birthmark's out.”
I am lucky in that this birth defect often comes with other terrible consequences; paralysis, blindness, intellectual deficit, and psychiatric disorders. That may be the only time the words “luck” and “trigeminal neuralgia” have gone hand in hand. I could have had some or all of those awful things. Instead it was only trigeminal neuralgia.
My signs and symptoms of abuse are many, among them that I do not like to be touched unexpectedly. I often flinch when it happens. Trigeminal neuralgia can be triggered when something touches the pained area, even something as benign as the slight wisp of a strand of hair.
Circumstantially, one could put those two together; I don't like to be touched and I developed disorder that makes touch horrendously painful.
The negative to that is twofold. I did not know I had the defect, and trigeminal neuralgia in my case has very specific neurosurgical attributes. Although the cause has been theorized, no one is completely sure of what causes trigeminal neuralgiait. In my case though, there is no doubt: dozens and dozens of tiny vessels throughout the affected side of my brain.
I moved to New York City six months before the pain started. I shared a two- room apartment with someone I knew slightly. We never developed chemistry and one day I came home to find a note on the table saying, “I'm going back to Washington.”
I now had the unexpected responsibility of full rent, which I could barely afford. To top it off, I had just been fired. I hated my job but was not aware my employer also knew it until 3 days before Christmas, when he said, without preamble, “You're fired.”
Not surprisingly, I became very depressed. Now, did the depression change my neurochemistry so that the birth defect suddenly became active? I can see that as a possibility. Is there a way to prove it? None of which I am aware.
I think it is too easy to make a connection between two disconnected things, like chronic pain and childhood trauma/abuse, and turn it into an explanation.
Many articles and studies conclude that there is a high prevalence of childhood abuse among those with chronic pain. Often the studies rely on self-reporting, so there is also a question of reliability and constancy as to what constitutes abuse. Too often the authors go on to postulate that there is a connection.
But the presence of one does not mean it causes the other.
Without true studies, such as MRI imaging or other forms of measurement, to compare and contrast the brains of those with chronic pain and childhood abuse histories to those who have chronic pain but suffered no abuse -- we are left with a theory in search of a proof.
Carol Jay Levy has lived with trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic facial pain disorder, for over 30 years. She is the author of “A Pained Life, A Chronic Pain Journey.” Carol is the moderator of the Facebook support group “Women in Pain Awareness.” Her blog “The Pained Life” can be found here.
New bill could have big affect on child sexual abuse cases
by Kim St. Onge
DES MOINES, Iowa —A new Iowa law being proposed by lawmakers would remove the statute of limitations for victims filing criminal charges in sexual abuse cases.
Right now, the statute of limitations for pressing charges is 10-years after the victim's 18th birthday. After that point, you can't file criminal charges.
Jessica Henderson said she was sexually abused by a family member for nine years from age 6 to 14. Right now, Iowa law prevents her from pressing charges in the case.
"I believe everything that has destroyed my life and made me feel like this, made me feel like nothing is from the abuse," said Henderson.
She now suffers from depression, chronic anxiety, PTSD and was diagnosed with HPV, a sexually transmitted virus.
"I abused alcohol, I abused my body just to not think about it," said Henderson.
The now 30-year-old woman missed the deadline to press criminal charges by two years.
"We know that victims of child sex abuse often times aren't able to articulate what they've been through until the statute of limitations has already lapsed," said Sen. Janet Petersen.
Petersen is backing the bill that would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations.
The bill passed in the Iowa Senate last session and has been sitting in the House awaiting consideration.
"If you're really looking at the safety of children and making sure we are protecting Iowa children, you would favor this bill," said Petersen.
Henderson said she is not telling her story for sympathy. She wants to help other victims so they don't have to live through her nightmare every day.
"It could be anybody. It could be your aunt, it could be their aunt, it could be their daughter one day. Why would you want them to live through this?" asked Henderson.
The House majority leader said Thursday that he would like to see some version of the bill pass.
Learn more about the bill House File 6 at https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=86&ba=hf6
New child sexual abuse statutory authority proposed for the ACT
by Tom McIlroy
Under the plan put forward by Chief Minister Andrew Barr, organisations with responsibility for children will be legally required to report any allegations of abuse or neglect to a new statutory authority. The move is designed to end internal reporting and handling mechanisms, previously used by churches and other organisations seeking to handle abuse allegations outside legal structures.
The scheme would be based on systems already in place in NSW, which the government believes would bring effective reporting requirements to the territory and complement measures already in place in the ACT.
The proposed scheme would to increase statutory responsibility by creating a new independent oversight body armed with powers to provide further protection for children and young people.
It is also designed to provide additional assurances to the community that all investigations into allegations of child abuse and neglect against employees would be carefully monitored and reviewed.
Mr Barr said the plan was designed in response to the ongoing Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The government will conduct a month-long community consultation on the plan.
"The commission has already uncovered a number of shortfalls in the investigation and reporting of abuse or neglect against children around Australia, and it's important the ACT government has the best possible system in place to protect our children," Mr Barr said.
"We are determined to ensure our children remain safe. A new ACT scheme is important in developing the right levels of scrutiny on organisations investigating the conduct of employees in relation to allegations of child abuse.
"Under this scheme no organisation will be able to sweep allegations under the carpet."
The royal commission's final report is due to be handed to the federal government by December 2017.
Leonie Sheedy, the chief executive officer of the Care Leavers Australia Network, said the government should engage with victims advocates as part on consultation, running until March 18.
"It is imperative that organisations and institutions are totally removed from hearing these allegations of abuse.
"They won't be independent in any way. They will set out to protect their own and their organisations, as they have proven to do so over many years and decades."
Ms Sheedy said the standards and integrity of the new organisation would depend on who is chosen to lead it.
"It sounds very promising but I would have to wait to see who they select to do this job and what mechanisms they have to support people going to the new authority. It sounds like a step forward," she said.
Ms Sheedy will meet with representatives of federal Attorney-General George Brandis in Canberra on Thursday to discuss the need for a national redress scheme for victims of child abuse.
The federal government is opposed to a national redress scheme, which it says would be too expensive and time consuming to implement.
Ms Sheedy said some victims, including those children raised in orphanages and foster homes, had been abused in more than one jurisdiction and needed consistent national standards of redress.
The Numbers: Child Sexual Imposition in the United States
by Harry Leibowitz
The following piece was originally written by World of Children Co-Founder Harry Leibowitz as part of the World of Children Award Child Protection Blog Carnival.
Let's look at some truly horrifying numbers...
116,000 internet queries each day are related to child pornography
300,000 or more children in the United States are forced into the commercial sex trade each year
68% of children trafficked into the sex trade have been in the care of social services or foster care
1 out of every 10 children under 18 will be the victim of sexual abuse (1 in 7 girls and 1 in 25 boys)
These numbers represent a growing plague of child sexual imposition in this country. Why are we - a society that prides itself on speaking out against atrocities around the world - allowing these numbers to stand? Why are we not doing more to protect our children and their innocence?
The full answer is no doubt incredibly complex, but I believe there are two main forces behind these numbers - our unwillingness to hear and believe they are true and the economics of the situation.
Hear No Evil, See No Evil
Childhood sexual abuse, whether in the home or on the streets, is a painful subject. We shut it up and believe that if we do not talk about it or cannot see it, it must not be happening here. Or we look at police statistics and believe they tell the whole story. In reality, most cases of child abuse go unreported, either because the child targeted as a victim is disenfranchised to begin with, and therefore not likely to have a safety net to report abuse to, or because the stigma of identifying oneself as a victim seems worse than remaining quiet.
This desire to remain quiet may seem tempting to many but in reality, it can have long-term psychological effects. An Australian study found that, "Young people who had experienced child sexual abuse had a suicide rate that was 10.7 to 13.0 times the national Australian rates... Thirty-two percent of the abused children had attempted suicide, and 43% had thought about suicide since they were sexually abused."
This surely shows us that a "hear no evil, see no evil" attitude does not mean that there IS no evil. It just means that we prevent ourselves from recognizing and reaching out to those that most need our help.
Supply and Demand
There is an incredible income stream available to human traffickers and pimps through the commercialization of child sexuality. There are no accurate statistics on the dollars of revenue generated by the child sex trade but it runs to the billions of dollars. Take as a proxy the internet pornography industry. It is estimated to produce $180,000 in revenue every minute. Estimates say that approximately 25-30% of this is child-related pornography. Even if we take a conservative estimate, the child internet pornography business is worth billions each year. That doesn't even include other kinds of child sexual abuse and imposition that happen every day, some of which are incredibly profitable.
Additionally, from a purely economics standpoint, the child sex industry holds more potential profit than something like the drug trade because, while drugs are used up and must be replaced, the same child's "services" can be sold dozens or even hundreds of times. Keeping costs low by leaving the child in inhumane conditions, without proper food, water, clothes, or medical care, makes the profit margin that much better.
We all know that where there is money to be made in this world, someone will step in to capitalize on it. Demand drives supply. As long as there are people willing to pay to abuse children, there will be someone willing to supply it and make a profit from it.
Something Must Be Done - Where Can We Start?
I have heard some people say that "if" this is a problem, the police will take care of it. They will not. It is so much more than something the police can handle. It is an incredibly complex issue that needs a complex, multi-stakeholder response.
Efforts to curb the supply-side alone are not enough. Criminalizing acts of "prostitution" by children and charging their pimps are not enough. As long as there is a demand, there will be a supply. No matter how many children we rescue, more vulnerable children will be pulled in to replace them. So in addition to revamping the systems that are currently failing our children (foster care, child protective services) and making supply relatively easy to access, we must do more to intercede on the demand side of the equation. We must provide more education around child-trafficking and more heavily pursue cases against so-called "johns", prosecuting them for the crime of rape (no child can consent, even a "prostitute") rather than just solicitation.
As we address the demand side of the equation, this will begin to decrease the profitability of the enterprise. We need to go further in cutting access to the inflow of money the perpetrators are currently seeing. We should recognize that "following the money" to bust criminals in this enterprise could be as fruitful as it has been for busting gangs and drug traffickers.
Most importantly, we must bring all of those currently involved in fighting this issue together to work cooperatively. Right now there are many great NGOs, law enforcement agencies, legislators, educators, and many other groups and individuals are trying to do something to fight this plague. But as long as our efforts remain scattered, there will be holes in our approaches. We need to consolidate and work together for the children.
Millions of dollars and countless hours have been expended on this issue. But the best we've done for our children, according to the Justice Department, over the course of three years, only about 2,500 people were arrested and charged with trafficking in the US and only about half of those charges involved children. Given what we know about the numbers, this is barely scratching the surface of the problem.
So many more children need our help and protection. It is time for bold action. If you have ideas or just want to be involved, please connect with me by sending a note through the World of Children Award contact form.
Also, if you're interested in reading stories from different Child Protection initiatives supported by World of Children Award around the world, please visit our January Blog Carnival. We've pulled together stories that represent a breadth and depth of thinking and on-the-ground intervention that we are incredibly proud to support through our Awards program. Read through stories from Honoree programs protecting children from child-trafficking, abuse, neglect, and the vulnerabilities associated with being poor, orphaned, or disabled in countries as widespread as Colombia, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Mexico, India, Ukraine, and Haiti. Visit the Blog Carnival to read the stories.
After being raped by a Catholic camp leader, his hatred almost killed him – then God stepped in
ATLANTA, Georgia -- Eleven-year-old YG Nyghtstorm was excited to be going to summer camp. He would be away from his abusive household where his dad’s occasional visits with his mom always seemed to end in nothing but yelling, swinging fists, crying, and destroyed furniture. The young boy would be away from his mom who had become more and more hostile and abusive towards him the more he had begun to look like his dad.
YG hoped that summer camp would help him forget his worries as he learned how to survive in the wilderness, how to build a fire, how to handle a canoe, and maybe even how to make friends with other people. But at camp, he found that he did not fit in. He was embarrassed by his lack of basic social skills. He found himself unable to trust anybody. He felt isolated from everyone else in the camp.
That was when one camp councillor noticed YG and encouraged him to open up and join in with the group activities.
One night around the camp fire, people started sharing stories about things that scared them. When it came to YG’s turn, he suddenly found the courage, thanks to the counselor, to let everything pour out that had been bottled up for his entire life.
“The thing that scared me the most at 11 years old back in 1985 was the fact that my mom and dad were always constantly at war. Dad was always gone, but whenever he did come home, he and mom would get to fighting. He would abuse her, and then he would leave,” YG told LifeSiteNews in an exclusive interview over the phone from his home in Atlanta.
YG remembers the camp counselor, who would have been around 30 years old, opening up to him after that camp fire and sharing a similar past.
“He took me under his wing. He told me he had also grown up without a dad. He shared a lot of the same story that I had. So I instantly gravitated toward him. His empathy for my situation allowed me to see him as a father-figure that I could trust,” he said.
Even though it was a non-religious camp, the counselor began telling YG about God and about the Catholic Church.
“He told me about how much God loves me and how God wants to help me get through these trials.”
The last day of camp had arrived. The busses were already lined up, packed, and ready to depart within the hour. It was at this moment of confusion and hubbub that the counselor decided to strike.
“He told me to come into a cabin, saying he had to give me something. And, of course, I said ‘Okay.’ That's when he took advantage of me and raped me,” YG related.
With the door locked, the trusted counselor who had become a friend and father-figure now turned into an enemy and monster. He violated the young boy, forcing him to do unspeakable things.
“I felt worthless as he used his strength to pin me down and had his way with me,” YG said.
The monster muttered scripture quotations as he violated the young boy, telling him that his actions were ordained by God. The monster’s words burned like red hot coals into YG’s memory.
“He said, ‘Don’t fight this. This is what God wants. God gave you to me like he gave me to a priest 20 years ago. If you ever tell anyone, God will send his angels to kill you and your mom. Your dad won’t save you and your life will be destroyed.’”
YG remembers later pulling up his pants and staggering out of the cabin. Waves of humiliation and pain washed over him as he stumbled through the woods towards the departing busses. He managed to find his seat in the bus and put his head down on his knees before breaking down and crying, his whole body shaking. A different counselor approached him and asked what was wrong. As YG raised his head to answer, he looked out the bus window and saw his tormentor standing there, glaring at him. He remembered the warning.
“I did not want God to kill me and my mom, so I stayed silent. The bus pulled off and the wicked man’s secret was safe,” he said.
Out of Control
YG’s life began to spiral completely out of control. He started having a sexual identity crisis.
“First I wondered if I really was a boy, because, if I was a boy, why did this man do this to me? Was I a girl? Was I gay? What was I?” he related.
He started feeling utter contempt for himself.
“I felt that God did not love me and that I was not worth anything, because if God had loved me, this evil would not have happened to me. If my father had loved me he would've saved me. If my mom had loved me, she would not be punishing me for the sins of my father, and just for the fact that I looked like the man.”
“I was surrounded by negativity, and confusion, and darkness, and I just started to hate myself,” he said.
As YG’s hate for himself increased, his hate for Christianity, especially for the Catholic Church, under which name unspeakable evil had been inflicted on him, increased even more. In his pain and anger on account of the horrible injustice that had been committed against him he felt tempted to burn down every Catholic Church he came across.
YG was now in his teenage years. His mom’s aggression towards him had reached a point where he realized it would be safer for him to be homeless on the streets of Atlanta than to live in her home and be subject to her violent rampages.
It was around this time that YG began to feel utterly cursed. He tried to commit suicide several times.
“I would walk into traffic hoping that someone would run me over. Nobody ran me over. I caused a traffic accident, but nobody ran me over. I tried to kill myself in several different ways, but somehow I kept surviving.”
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘See, I'm so messed up, I can't even kill myself right. That's how much God hates me,’” he said.
As the years passed, YG eventually left the streets, but the untreated wounds he had received as a young boy continued to fester and slowly ooze the poisons of hate and self-pity into his heart and soul. The wounds became so toxic that it seemed to YG that every relationship he was involved in became poisoned by his touch. He went on to experience two failed marriages, the tragic abortion of his twin sons as a form of revenge from a girlfriend, and the loss of his youngest daughter to social services.
A power stronger than hate
YG was now 34. He began to realize that something was wrong with his life, that something in him was causing him to lose everyone and everything he cared about.
“I was thinking there's something wrong because I'm always losing everything,” he said.
He continued to hate the Catholic Church for what the "wicked man" had done to him. Instead of burning down churches, he self-published a book in 2005 titled “Ghost in the Room” in which he told the story of an evil pope, who, along with the Catholic Church, was responsible for leading Satan’s army on earth as millions of people died.
“Let’s just say that I wanted the Catholic Church to fall and pay for the sins of all its members who had hurt children,” he said. “I was just consumed by my hate and was in a lot of pain and darkness. And when you are like that, the only thing you want to do is to lash out."
The wounds, the poison, the self loathing, the hate, all reached a tipping point in 2008 when YG lost his oldest son through a tragic accident.
“When I looked at the body of my son — and there's nothing more real to a parent than seeing your child take his last breath and die — that really started to wake me up.”
“I looked at my wife and my other children and I said, ‘I have to stop the darkness, because darkness has covered my life. This curse has been on me and I can no longer allow this negative power, this wicked man, to control my life. God, I need your help.’”
YG realized that he needed a bigger power in his life if he was to overcome the all consuming darkness that had surrounded him up until that point.
“So, I decided to allow Jesus Christ into my life completely at that time. I invited Christ into my life, because I realized that I had no control of anything around me, as long as I was walking in darkness. I saw that only he could help me take back the power in my life.”
YG also came to the realization that the more he hated the "wicked man," the more destructive power the wicked man wielded in his life. He saw how hate had became the volatile fuel that had powered the darkness and destruction in his life. His new found faith in Jesus Christ told him that there was only one effective way to get rid of hate: forgiveness.
“I realized that the moment I could forgive this man and let this go was the moment that I was going to be truly free,” he said.
But forgiving one’s enemy is much easier said than done. For YG, it took a visit to the doctor because of his high blood pressure to convince him that forgiveness was the only way forward.
“I was suffering from nightmares of the abuse. That moment was reliving itself in my mind, constantly. And it was controlling me. At one point I had been clinically diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression. The memories were hurting me to the point where I couldn't focus on any job I was working. The constant stress made my blood pressure just ridiculously high.”
The doctor told YG that he must let go of whatever it was that was causing him stress.
“She said, ‘YG, whatever is causing this is going to kill you. If you want to die, just hold on to whatever is causing this stress. But, if you want to live, you’re going to have to let go of it,’” he remembers her saying.
YG started thinking what life would be like for his wife and six children if he allowed the evil of the "wicked man" to kill him.
“Then, he wins. He would have not only destroyed my childhood and my innocence, but he would have destroyed another whole generation of fatherless children, and possibly the next generation after that, all because of what I'm holding onto.”
“In order to save my life and to save my children and my grandchildren from receiving this pain and this curse, I realized that I had to break the chain. But, in order to break the chain, I had to forgive.”
‘Forgive…from your heart’ - Matt. 18:35
Close to this time YG had accidentally stumbled across a group of Catholic men who had invited him to join their prayer group. He had been out one day driving his convertible with the top down when two children ran out on the road in an aggressive campaign to sell lemonade. He was so impressed by the kids’ manners that he asked if he could meet their parents. The dad and YG talked over beer about raising children with ethics, accountability, and faith. YG loved every minute of it. Then the dad asked YG if he would like to join their Catholic prayer group.
“I must admit, I was apprehensive because I still secretly carried a grudge against all things Catholic because of the ‘wicked man.’ But they welcomed me and embraced me after I told them my story. They were angry at the ‘wicked man,’ and some even vowed to help me hunt him down for justice. They did not care that he was a fellow Catholic. They wanted to do all that was within their power to finally bring me peace,” he said.
With his new faith in Jesus, his doctor’s warning about high blood pressure still ringing in his ears, and with the strong support of his new Catholic friends, YG knew the time had finally come to forgive his enemy of nearly 30 years and hand his hate and self-loathing over to God.
In his heart he forgave the camp counselor of the brutal rape when he was a child. He gave everything else over to God.
“I forgave and gave it to God. I tried it, and I realized it worked. It really did work. And honestly, just to be fully transparent, I found peace. And things just started to get better. I said I would no longer be a victim.”
“After I forgave the ‘wicked man’ there was this huge weight that I felt lifted off of me. At first I thought that this was probably just emotional, because, I'm from the Protestant church, and in the Protestant church we like to use emotionalism to make people feel good for right now. So, I thought this was probably just some emotional thing, and that I would probably be hurting again next week. But I realized that what had happened was far more than an emotional change. It was a deeply spiritual change,” he said.
YG saw his wife and children respond positively to the change. They galvanized around him. He suddenly found himself receiving the support and love from others that he had so desperately needed since when he was a child. He began to experience that he was valued by God and was worthy in his sight.
“So, this wasn’t about emotions. It was about real hard-core transformation in my life that became spiritual and tangible. I could see it. I could feel it. I could see it reflected in my wife, my children, and in the people who were around me. My life started to open up. Opportunities to touch other people’s lives with my story we're opening up. The change was real.”
YG said he now has no regrets in choosing to forgive. He just wishes he had done it sooner.
“I now want to show the world the power of forgiveness and how one is able to move forward once you get this newfound power through Christ.”
YG even found the courage to reach out to his mother and begin the road towards healing and forgiveness.
“In full transparency, we are taking it one day at a time. The love is still there between mother and son, but we have a lot of issues to work out. The fact is that we are both trying and doing our best,” he said.
To anyone who finds themselves locked in unforgiveness towards someone who has grievously hurt them — whether it be one spouse unable to forgive the other, a woman unable to forgive her rapist, a grown child unable to forgive a parent who hurt them — YG has nothing but sympathy followed with a word of advice:
“I was just like you. I hated this person’s guts, too. I couldn't stand this person, too. But the only thing it ever did to me was lock me away in a pit of darkness where it almost killed me.”
“I ask you, is this unforgiveness worth your life, your happiness, and your future? If so, then go ahead, hold on to it, and you will suffer and maybe die. But if it's not worth your life, happiness, and future, then you have to let it go. You have to forgive. And with God, you can do it.”
“Holding on to pain does nothing but kill you from within and destroy your life. Seek help for your sorrow and know that God will put people in your life to make you whole. I am no longer cursed by the ‘wicked man.’ I stepped out of the darkness of despair through forgiveness, and pray that you do the same.”
Editor’s note: YG and his wife Toby will enter the Catholic Church this Easter. YG's ministry, including radio show and videos, can be found at www.nyghtstorm.com.
Miami Beach learns about child sex trafficking in the community
by ALEX HARRIS
Human slavery is often considered an uncomfortable truth that's rooted firmly in the past, but sex trafficking is alive and well, globally, as well as locally.
A crowd of nearly 50 people gathered Tuesday night in the Colony Theatre on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach for a documentary screening and a Q&A about sex trafficking in South Florida.
Sex trafficking is whenever someone sells sex due to force, fraud or coercion, or whenever the victim is under the age of 18. About 400 cases are reported in Florida every year, just a few of the estimated 100,000 cases in the United States annually.
The group watched a 25-minute documentary titled Chosen, about two teen girls in Washington. One was groomed to be trafficked, but was saved at the last minute. The other victim was abused, trafficked and exploited before she got help.
Moderator for the night was Jorge Veitia, executive director of the Life of Freedom Center, an organization that helps female survivors of sex trafficking get back on their feet. The group provides free therapy, advocates, food, clothing and 24/7 support.
The center tackles human trafficking in a two-pronged approach. By day, the volunteers drop off informational posters at businesses and educate the owners on the signs of human trafficking.
By night, they look through the nearly 300 new ads on Backpage, a craigslist-type site for buying sex. Volunteers call and email the women posting the ads, offering help, resources and a caring ear.
Veitia told the crowd that last year, major credit card companies removed Backpage's ability to accept credit cards when charging for their ads, but the website's response was to make the adult advertisements free to post.
“That gives you an idea of the demand,” he said.
The typical victimized child is a runaway or homeless, he said. They may have a history of abuse and feel disconnected from their friends and family.
Only 1 percent of sexual trafficking victims are identified.
Women are the traditional face of sexual trafficking, but as many as half of sexually trafficked teens are boys, said Nathan Earl, founder of Ark of Freedom, a nonprofit anti-trafficking organization.
Men and boys face unique problems when it comes to reporting. A big part of the issue is the stigma of a boy being forced to have sex with a man.
LGBT children, who are at higher risk for homelessness, are easy targets for sex traffickers, Earl said.
“The commonality of trafficking is vulnerability. Targeting these groups increases their vulnerability,” he said.
The root of the problem is simple, Veitia said: demand.
A study found that in Miami-Dade, 6 percent of men (or 140,000 people) over the age of 18 regularly buy sex, according to a study by Arizona State University's School of Social Work.
Traffickers can make up to $250,000 a year off one child, Veitia said.
“Everyone here is living within five miles of a commercial sexually exploitative situation,” he said. “It's strip clubs, massage parlors, even fancy hotels.”
Veitia displayed mug shots of South Floridians convicted of trafficking teen girls.
One case, in which a pair of Southwest Miami-Dade brothers forced a 16-year-old girl to have sex with 24 men a day for a month, brought an edge of disgust into his voice.
“For that month, none of those strangers did anything for that teenager other than what they paid to do,” he said. “Their desire for sex superceded their desire to help a child in need.
“They [the buyers] are free and they are out there in our community,” he told the audience.
The drive to jail more sex traffickers isn't going well in Florida, but recent federal changes to the law make it easier for U.S. Attorneys to prosecute the johns for human trafficking.
Special Agent Victor Williams, the coordinator for the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force, talked about the 2014 case of a 13-year-old girl trafficked into stripping and prostitution at Club Madonna in South Beach.
“What services are available for those kids?” he said. “We're culturally built to think if people are walking around free, they're making a choice. But they're not.”
The women, men and children who walk away from sex trafficking leave with PTSD, borderline personality disorder and triggers, Olivia Turner told the crowd.
Turner, South Florida director of Refuge for Women, said the triggers are for average things like social media and cellphones — commonplace in the lives of regular people, but tools of oppression for people forced into attracting clients for prostitution.
“The law is doing what it can, but the more people we have talking about it — that helps,” Turner said.
That's why Karla Garcia, a 30-year-old employee of St. Thomas University law school, came to the event with her friends.
“Miami is ‘sex everything,' so I don't think a lot of people think it happens here,” she said. “They tell themselves ‘It doesn't happen in my backyard,' and that's just not true.”
Rape victims have a right to be believed by the police
by Joan Smith
For many years, women and girls who told the police they had been raped faced an uncertain outcome. In Rotherham and other English towns, underage girls were not believed when they said they had been targeted by gangs, and the abuse continued for years. In London, serious flaws in the handling of allegations led to cases where extremely violent men remained free to commit further offences.
Now the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, has suggested a controversial change to reforms that were introduced after a series of damning reports by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The IPCC found that John Worboys, the black-cab driver who is believed to have drugged and sexually assaulted at least 85 women in London, attacked seven more women after he was arrested and released in 2007. One victim said she had been “lied to and laughed at” when she reported the assault.
Another IPCC report into the conduct in south London of the Sapphire sex crimes unit found that an officer encouraged a woman to drop a rape accusation against a man called Jean Say, who went on to murder both his children in 2011. The report said the Southwark team's wider failure to believe victims was “wholly inappropriate” and criticised a lack of resources, describing the team as “under-performing and over-stretched”.
It was scandals such as these that prompted the Met to declare that rape victims would be believed in the first instance. This was a turning point in the history of sex crime investigation, finally placing reports of serious sex crimes on the same footing as other offences. You wouldn't expect a police officer to laugh in your face if you reported a burglary or to suggest, without evidence, that your car hadn't really been stolen.
That's why I disagree profoundly with Hogan-Howe's suggestion that the policy of automatically believing victims could be reversed.
Let's be clear about this: an initial response of belief doesn't mean that the allegation shouldn't be swiftly and thoroughly investigated, as with any other crime, and terminated if it turns out not to be credible. Historical allegations present special difficulties, but the successful prosecutions of Stuart Hall, Max Clifford and Rolf Harris show that these are not insurmountable.
The discovery of further victims is a key part of the process, which is why I'm also unconvinced by Hogan-Howe's suggestion that men facing allegations of sexual offences should be offered anonymity until they are charged. Some suspects won't even get to that stage unless other victims come forward.
Hogan-Howe's intervention comes at a time when he is having to respond to fierce criticism of Operation Midland, his force's inquiry into historical allegations about an alleged VIP paedophile ring. Headlines demanding an apology or his resignation have continued for days, and Hogan-Howe has announced a review of the investigation. But one apparently mishandled inquiry into historical allegations is no reason to reverse reforms that were intended to address a much wider issue.
My personal view is this: the most serious problem about rape in this country is that the overwhelming majority of rapists get away with it. A Home Office study published in 2009 estimated that between 75% and 95% of rape offences in England and Wales went unreported each year, mainly because victims were too afraid or ashamed to go to the police.
The number of reports has risen substantially since then, but most rapes never even appear in crime statistics. The Metropolitan police recorded 5,410 rapes in London last year, an implausibly low figure for a city with a population of 8.5 million. That's an increase of 9% cent on 2014, but it's happening at a time when police resources are being cut to the bone.
Attrition rates in rape cases in London are above the average for England and Wales, and there is little support for victims. Most will never get to meet an independent sexual violence adviser, whose role is to support women through the gruelling trial process. Senior officers complain to me that London has far too few – with estimates as low as 25.
Those of us who work in the field of sexual violence already fear that the criminal justice system won't be able to cope with the rising number of rapes reported. The risk is huge: if police and prosecutors don't manage to bring more cases to a successful conclusion, we'll go back to the dark days of victims automatically distrusting the police.
And if Hogan-Howe is serious about reducing horrendous levels of sexual violence, he should be arguing for more resources for his officers, greater support for victims and compulsory education in schools about sexual predators.
Indiana Senate unanimously passes legislation to create child abuse registry
Database would be similar to sex offender registr
by Emily Wood
INDIANA —New legislation is making its way through the Indiana General Assembly to create an online public registry for convicted child abusers.
ndiana State Sen. Carlin Yoder authored the bill known as Kirk's Law in honor of a 19-month-old boy who died under the care of his babysitter in Northern Indiana.
The Senate unanimously passed the bill 49-0. It is currently in the House, recently referred to the Committee on Courts and Criminal Code.
"Lots of perpetrators are very good at being perpetrators and gain the trust of parents and children and everything, so it's really hard to find perpetrators," Sarah Brichto said.
Brichto is the executive director of the Children's Advocacy Center of Southeast Indiana. She works primarily with victims of child abuse and supports creating an online registry.
"Lots of times, they feel guilty because it's a parent's job to protect their children and lots of parents feel like they weren't up to the task or somehow failed," Brichto said.
The online database would be similar to the state sex offender registry and run by the Indiana State Police.
"It's really smart because the sexual offender registry, it works," Brichto said. "People, offenders will do almost anything to not get on that list because people really pay attention to that."
In Kentucky, Jennifer Diaz is working on creating Sophie's Law after her daughter Sophie was abused by the babysitter when she was six months old.
"I can't take away the fact that that woman hurt my child, I can't erase that and that's painful," Diaz said.
Diaz is still in the early stages of contacting doctors, prosecutors and lawmakers to author a bill, but she is willing to do the work to help protect other children.
"I don't want that to happen to any other child," Diaz said. "If I can prevent that from happening just by creating this registry and having everyone who's ever been convicted of child abuse on this registry, I'm hoping that's going to prevent them people from working with any children."
Senate passes Whatley bill to strengthen penalty for child abuse
A bill by State Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, that passed in the Alabama Senate this week would strengthen the criminal penalty for aggravated abuse of a child. Under Ava's Law, a person could be charged with murder if they commit aggravated child abuse that results in a child's death.
"What this law does, this clears up the gap, and it makes sure that if you abuse a child, if you commit aggravated child abuse and because of that the child dies, that you can be charged with felony murder," Whatley said Thursday.
Under current Alabama legal code, aggravated child abuse that leads to the unintentional death of a child is limited to prosecution as manslaughter, the maximum punishment for which is 20 years in prison.
“This closes a loophole in the law and gives our district attorneys the authority they need to fully prosecute people who abuse children so violently a child dies,” Whatley said. “If an innocent person is unintentionally killed during the course of a robbery, that death can be prosecuted as murder. Under Ava's Law, child abuse that leads to a death could also be prosecuted as a murder.”
Ava's Law is named after Ava Zapata, a 4-year-old girl from Lee County who died in May 2012 after being abused and killed by her mother's boyfriend.
Ramiro Delreal-Contreras was found guilty by Lee County jurors Dec. 12, 2014, of causing intentional and fatal blunt force trauma to the child.
Doctors testified the upper area of Ava's small intestine was severed as the result of blunt force trauma to the abdomen. The defense maintained Delreal-Contreras accidentally kicked Ava in the stomach as she was running toward him while they were playing in the living room.
The prosecution argued Delreal-Contreras stomped the child to death.
"This was probably the hardest case of my career. I pray I never have another case like this," Assistant District Attorney Jessica Ventiere said after Delreal-Contreras' conviction.
This week, she praised Whatley and District Attorney Robbie Treese for their work on drafting the legislation.
“Ava's Law bridges the gap between capital murder and manslaughter. It offers an option stronger than manslaughter when the evidence shows an intent to abuse but not necessarily the specific intent to kill, which is required to prove capital murder. Aggravated child abuse is a cruel and intentional act that deserves to be set apart from the recklessness of manslaughter. This law will establish a penalty appropriate for the crime.”
Whatley added, "It's a crime that's being committed on the weakest in our society, the most vulnerable in our society and the most trusting in our society. To commit a crime on those who trust you the most, look up to you and have no way to defend themselves, and … because of that they die, you don't need to be around us anymore in society, and you're going to be charged with felony murder.”
The legislation passed the Senate on Tuesday, and is now being considered in the House of Representatives.
Whatley represents District 27 in the Alabama Senate, which includes all or parts of Tallapoosa, Lee and Russell counties.
Former children's TV show host is linked to child abuse case
by The Associated Press
A California judge has determined that a man recently arrested in a San Diego suburb is a fugitive wanted in a 1979 child sexual abuse investigation in Louisiana, where he was a children's TV show host known as “Mr. Wonder.”
A San Diego County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday after a brief identity hearing.
Authorities say Frank John Selas III assumed a new identity in the San Diego area, where he often invited children to his house to swim and was a Cub Scout leader. He was arrested in January.
The ruling sets the stage for extradition proceedings to begin.
Support transparency in child abuse, neglect cases
by Jill Seyfred
One topic around which Kentuckians can unite is that of protecting the commonwealth's youngest citizens. How we do that, of course, is often debated and discussed.
One idea that has been introduced the past two years to our elected officials serving in Frankfort is that of opening child abuse and neglect proceedings within the juvenile court system.
This marks the second consecutive year in which Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R.-Louisville, has proposed legislation to move our state in the right direction by allowing the creation of a small number of pilot sites in courts.
Senate Bill 40 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday and is now headed to the full Senate for a vote.
The intent of this legislation, is to promote transparency, accountability and systems improvement. Children benefit when decisions made by the professionals operating in the system are subject to public scrutiny, and the public will benefit from a greater understanding of the complexities of the child-welfare system.
SB 40 utilizes a commonsense approach to moving our state toward greater openness. Beginning with pilot sites, it will allow Kentucky to identify and refine best practices before implementation in every jurisdiction.
SB 40 also contains safeguards which effectively balance the public's need for information with a child's legitimate interest in confidentiality.
This balance is achieved by exclusion of all child sexual-abuse cases, prohibiting the use of recording equipment in juvenile-court proceedings, and allowing the judge to close hearings upon a motion and finding that opening the proceedings would be detrimental to the child.
Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky strongly supports this important legislation. As evidenced from the past two reports released by the Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Panel, this legislation is an important step in preventing child-abuse deaths.
We encourage the General Assembly and the Bevin administration to support this effort to provide a safeguard for our children.
Contact your elected officials at 502-564-8100 to ask for their support of this important piece of legislation.
Jill Seyfred is the executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky.
How to Report on Child Abuse: Tips from UK Charity
by Sydney Smith
The National Association for People Abused in Childhood, a UK charity that advocates for abuse survivors, has released guidelines advising journalists how to sensitively report on child abuse.
The guidelines recommend what terminology journalists should use, suggesting news outlets don't casually use words like “rent boy” “fling” or “kiddie porn” in reporting on sex abuse of children.
NAPAC recommended journalists ask sources how they want to be referred to — if they would rather be called a “survivor” or a “victim” or something else altogether. “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,'” the guidelines explain.
Phrases like “child porn, “kiddie porn,” “child pornography,” “affair,” fling,” “rent boy” and “child prostitute” shouldn't be used, the guidelines explain, because they may minimize what happened or harm those affected.
“Child abuse” is a broad term,” NAPAC reminds. “When adults are violently raped or tortured, it is described as serious crime. If you are referring to child rape, call it rape rather than abuse. Refer to sexual assaults and sexual crimes.”
When it comes to sources, NAPAC reminds journalists that sources granted anonymity need to be fully protected and news outlets should be sure to not accidentally provide enough detail about the person or case where the person would be identified. Also, when covering court cases, NAPAC warns that journalists shouldn't include too much detail about the alleged abuse.
NAPAC also provided tips for interviewing sources. For example, “quietly acknowledge the survivor's feelings and emotional responses,” and “ask open questions” instead of “leading questions” or “assumptions.”
NAPAC emphasized the importance of accuracy, noting that false or sensational reporting doesn't help. “Inaccurate or manipulative reporting may lead to survivors being portrayed in the media as unreliable,” NAPAC says.
Review the guidelines here. iMediaEthics has written to NAPAC for more information about its guidelines.
Catholic bishops not obliged to report clerical child abuse, Vatican says
Vatican guide says ‘not necessarily' bishop's duty to report suspects to police despite Pope Francis's vows to redress Catholic church's legacy of child abuse
The Catholic church is telling newly appointed bishops that it is “not necessarily” their duty to report accusations of clerical child abuse and that only victims or their families should make the decision to report abuse to police.
A document that spells out how senior clergy members ought to deal with allegations of abuse, which was recently released by the Vatican, emphasised that, though they must be aware of local laws, bishops' only duty was to address such allegations internally.
“According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds,” the training document states.
The training guidelines were written by a controversial French monsignor and psychotherapist, Tony Anatrella, who serves as a consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family. The Vatican released the guidelines – which are part of a broader training programme for newly named bishops – at a press conference earlier this month and is now seeking feedback.
Details of the Catholic church's policy were first reported in a column by a veteran Vatican journalist, John Allen, associate editor of the Catholic news site, Cruxnow.com.
Allen noted that a special commission created by Pope Francis, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, had appeared to play no role in the training programme, even though it is supposed to be developing “best practices” to prevent and deal with clerical abuse.
Indeed, a church official familiar with the commission on abuse said it was the committee's position that reporting abuse to civil authorities was a “moral obligation, whether the civil law requires it or not”. The official said the committee would be involved in future training efforts.
The current guidelines written by Anatrella make only passing references to prevention policies. The French monsignor is best known for championing views on “gender theory”, the controversial belief that increasing acceptance of homosexuality in western countries is creating “serious problems” for children who are being exposed to “radical notions of sexual orientation”. He did not return a request for comment.
The guidelines reflect Anatrella's views on homosexuality. They also downplay the seriousness of the Catholic church's legacy of systemic child abuse, which some victims' right groups say continues to be a problem today.
While acknowledging that “the church has been particularly affected by sexual crimes committed against children”, the training guide emphasises statistics that show the vast majority of sexual assaults against children are committed within the family and by friends and neighbours, not other authority figures.
The training course began in 2001 and has been taken by about 30% of Catholic prelates. The guidelines on child abuse was presented to new bishops last September in the annual training course organised by the Congregation for Bishops, Allen noted.
Pope Francis has called for the church to exhibit “zero tolerance” of sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults by clergy and that “everything possible must be done to rid the church of the scourge of the sexual abuse”.
He said in a 2012 interview – when he was still a cardinal – that he was once called by a bishop asking him for advice on how to deal with an allegation of sex abuse. Cardinal Bergoglio – as he was then known – allegedly told the bishop to take away the priests' licences and begin a canonical trial that would deal with the matter internally.
SNAP, a US-based advocacy group for abuse victims that has been very critical of Pope Francis on the issue, said the news outlined in John Allen's Crux article proved that the church had not substantially changed.
“It's infuriating, and dangerous, that so many believe the myth that bishops are changing how they deal with abuse and that so little attention is paid when evidence to the contrary – like this disclosure by Allen – emerges,” the group said in a statement.
The news comes just days after the abuse commission forced one of two abuse survivors who had personally been appointed by Pope Francis to leave the committee following a vote of no confidence. Peter Saunders, a British abuse survivor and vocal critic of the church's alleged lack of action on abuse, said he was blind-sided by the vote.
According to a recent press release over the weekend that did not mention Saunders's removal, the committee has been busy finalising proposals for Pope Francis's consideration, including whether the pope ought to remind all church authorities of the importance of responding directly to victims who approach them, and the finalisation of a day of prayer for victims. It is also developing a website to share best practices for children all around the world.
The Vatican declined to comment.
Police: Death of Ohio Newborn Bitten by Dog Ruled Accidental
by The Associated Press
Authorities say the mother of a 3-day-old Ohio boy who died after he was bitten by a dog won't face any charges after a coroner ruled the death accidental.
The (Youngstown) Vindicator (http://bit.ly/1PCh0DN) reports police Detective Sgt. David Sweeney says there was no evidence the mother intentionally tried to harm her child.
The pathologist who performed the autopsy on the infant said the he died from four puncture wounds on the skull when a dog in the home tried to pick up him out of a clothes basket on the floor next to a couch where his mother was sleeping.
Youngstown police say Kristy Grim called 911 Sunday after waking to find her child injured and crying. The infant died before paramedics arrived.
The dog's fate was not immediately determined.
Texas couple charged with forcing nanny to work for no pay
by Juan Lozano
HOUSTON — A Houston-area couple forced a Nigerian woman to care for their five children and home without pay during a two-year period in which she was physically and verbally abused, made to work nearly 20 hours a day and told to sleep on the floor, federal authorities say.
Chudy and Sandra Nsobundu were arrested Monday on charges of forced labor, withholding documents, conspiracy to harbor an illegal immigrant and visa fraud. Authorities say the couple seized the nanny's passport, so she was unable to leave.
The 38-year-old nanny, whose full name is not given in the criminal complaint, told authorities she was promised $100 per month but has never been paid in her two years working for the Nsobundus in their home in the Houston suburb of Katy.
"She regularly endured physical and verbal abuse and was not treated like a human being," the criminal complaint said.
The Nsobundus made their initial court appearances Tuesday during separate court hearings. U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson granted Sandra Nsobundu, 50, an unsecured bond and Chudy Nsobundu, 56, a $5,000 bond.
It wasn't immediately known if both would be released later Tuesday. Prosecutors had asked that Chudy Nsobundu be held without bond, arguing he was a flight risk.
Joan Nwuli, Sandra Nsobundu's attorney, declined to comment after her court hearing.
The judge asked Chudy Nsobundu to hire an attorney after he didn't qualify for a court-appointed lawyer. During his court hearing, Chudy Nsobundu said he runs a business that provides home health care services.
The Nsobundus each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Ruben Perez, one of the federal prosecutors handling the case, said after Sandra Nsobundu's hearing that the nanny was "enslaved" by her employers. Perez said cases in which immigrants and others are forced to work in homes in harsh conditions as nannies or caretakers are more common than people think.
"We know they are out there. When it comes to our attention we'll act on them," he said.
The nanny, who was living in Lagos, Nigeria, started living with the Nsobundus in September 2013, according to the criminal complaint. The Nsobundus are naturalized U.S. citizens originally from Nigeria.
The complaint said the nanny would work every day from 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., couldn't take breaks and had to eat leftovers and not fresh food, including being forced to only drink milk left in bowls in which the children had eaten cereal. She also couldn't take hot showers, according to the complaint.
The nanny alleged Sandra Nsobundu repeatedly hit her if she thought the woman wasn't doing her job correctly. The complaint said Sandra Nsobundu is accused of once striking the nanny across the face with a slipper and threatening to "shoot her and kill her" after not liking the socks the woman had put on one of the younger children.
After the nanny found out that she hadn't been paid in two years, she reached out for help and was rescued last October following a tip to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, the complaint said. It's not clear who made the tip.
Perez said the nanny is being cared for, but he declined to offer more details about her status.
Special Report: Exposing the Truth, Saving our Children
by Taylor Holt
"I grew up in a really broken home. There was a lot of different abuse. I started doing drugs at a really young age and I got myself into trouble," said Monica Miller, a survivor of sexual exploitation.
Monica Miller says she grew up under a roof of abuse and alcoholic parents. As a child, she had dreams to be a lawyer. Never did she think she would be standing in front of a large, concerned audience in Itasca County telling her story of sexual exploitation.
"My mom tried to get me help. She ended up getting a Chips Petition on me because I was running away. They ended up putting me into a treatment center. From that treatment center, I went to a halfway house," she said.
And that's where she met her first pimp.
"He went to the school I went to. I was thirteen and he was sixteen and he started to bring me cigarettes and different things that I wanted and made me believe that he was my boyfriend. He knew how unhappy I was and convinced me runaway and it will be better," she added.
Amanda Ysen is an Executive Director at "Support Within Reach." She says the exploiters know what to look for in children.
"The exploiters are essentially creating a relationship with the youth and they're looking and they're targeting youth that are vulnerable," said Ysen.
"The first night that I ran away with him, he took me to a party that he had planned. I ended up getting drunk. I didn't realize he had spiked my drink and I woke up and I was in a room. I couldn't move and there was a line of men lined up and he was at the door taking money as they took their turn with me," said Miller.
"I ended up passing out again. When I woke up, he had sold me to a Mexican man who had me locked in a basement and didn't speak any English. He kept me drugged. I don't know how long I was there. I know eventually he brought me back to my pimp. I actually got really lucky, they were about to transport me to Texas," said added.
Once in the life, it's hard to get out. After her first rescue, Monica went to another half-way house in Mora, but ran away to Minneapolis with another girl.
"And then she started tricking me out and kind of got me into the life and brought me to who would be my second pimp. He kept me in a crack house and had me working on lake street," said Miller.
When she was rescued a second time, ironically she was not happy. It reveals what Ysen calls a mental state of captivity…Trauma Bonding.
"At least with my exploiter, I felt like I knew what to expect. I learned to disassociate. I knew how to associate. I knew how to enjoy the good moments and how to take away the bad," said Miller.
Under the Safe Harbor Law, Minnesota youth on the streets engaging in prostitution are no longer seen as criminals but instead victims and survivors. They are directed to supportive services including a safe harbor regional navigator. One is located at PAVSA in Duluth.
Between April of 2014 and 2015, navigators provided services to 163 youth. 97% were women. Two-thirds had a history of drug use, depression or running away from home.
"A lot of times, whenever there is a child involved there is an adult that intercedes or causes this action to occur," said Victor Williams, Itasca County Sheriff.
Every county is affected. And St. Louis County Attorney, Mark Rubin, says at any given time, up to 50 girls can be involved in this type of activity.
"Even when they do come forward, they don't really want the police involved and they don't want it to go further for an investigation," said Rubin.
Amanda Ysen says the exploiters play with their victims' minds.
"When we say you can report this, they'll literally hang up the phone. That's not what they're interested in. They are interested in how do I get out and how do I be safe," said Ysen.
Rubin says some exploiters have been sent to prison, but that prevention is the key. It takes understanding why a child's life is so terrible that they make the initial bad choice.
"We have to figure out what's going on in their lives going further upstream that makes this somehow a palatable decision," said Rubin.
But Monica says it was not a choice for her.
"This is not what I wanted to grow up to be. That was not a choice that I made. It was an option and for me, it was the only option that i had," said Miller.
Thanks to her second rescue, Monica did find her way out of that life.
"I had this deep dark secret that I couldn't talk to anybody about. I thought anybody who saw me saw who I was," Miller added.
It took support and therapy before confronting her experience.
"For the first time, I wasn't judged when I would bring it up. For the first time, I didn't get these looks like of disgust so that started to heal that wound for me," said Miller.
And she says our whole community has a role to play.
"Our society needs to change about what is okay. It's not okay to be able to buy sex. It's not okay to treat women like objects," she said.
Awareness is the key to saving a child's life. And that's what it did for Monica.
"Every day I'm just so grateful and I know it's a gift. But then that gives me that strength to help other victims to say, you can get out too. You can have your dreams come true too," she said.
Nationally, the average age for children entering into prostitution is 12-14 years old. Among those most at risk? Youth living in poverty or with a history of sexual abuse, communities of color, and vulnerable populations such as homeless youth.
If you know of someone or suspect a child is being sexually exploited, please contact your Regional Navigator for support.
Renowned Family Therapist Cites Oscar-Nominated "Spotlight"
"A Rare Motion Picture Which Has Had Immediate Remedial Effect On Abused Children And Has Already Made The World A Safer Place"
by PR Newswire
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 9. 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- "Why can't Hollywood do this more often?" asks famed psychotherapist and family therapist Stacy Kaiser whose book "How To Be A Grown-Up" and frequent appearances as an expert on national television have established her authority on childhood abuse which distorts adult lives.
"The riveting motion picture 'Spotlight,' which so powerfully has disclosed the extent of pedophilic abuse under the cover of priestly authority, has already been literally a God-send to perhaps tens of thousands of abused young people, their families and the children whose future abuse this film will prevent," Kaiser reports. Her comments were issued in support of two key organizations, SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) and Bishop Accountability, which assist victims of such abuse and who have found "Spotlight" an important ally in that effort.
Kaiser, who has treated dozens of young people subjected to such abuse and parents afflicted with guilt for having failed to discern or believe their children's living horror, notes that "I have seen the immediate impact 'Spotlight' has achieved in lifting the terrible burden of perceived stigmatization and guilt which ties thousands of young people's lives into psychic knots.
"I know from the parents who have sought my help and from other experts in the field the vast increase of sexually oppressed young people who are now sharing with their families the shame, fear and self-doubt which these terrible incursions… revealed by this film to have flourished under the protection of church policy throughout the world… have scarred and limited their lives.
"The greater tragedy, if that is possible, is that for every child who reports abuse to parents or other adult authority, there are hundred and more likely thousands who cannot climb over their own irrational but paralyzing sense of guilt to reveal how they had been afflicted and used and terrified into silence," Kaiser states.
The long-time family trauma practitioner in addressing such stresses "which literally tear families apart" as she puts it, says she has recently seen breakthroughs in the attitudes of "young patients who had struggled with the hidden dark place the abuse created and the dark paths into which it had directed their lives. 'Spotlight' has very definitely shed light into that darkness and even defined the way to rescue."
Kaiser says she understands Hollywood now is dealing with its own need to diversify, "but it must explore the great number of tragic circumstances its films can explore and help resolve as 'Spotlight' has explored and already helped resolve the problem of sexual enslavements by childhood's authority figures. This film reveals all of the personal and social good our motion pictures can and so rarely do promote."
The family therapist asserts that "not only individuals but entire families have already been set on the road to recovery by 'Spotlight's" revelations. Parents tell me they will now explore how such possible turpitude could be destroying precious childhood. No longer, they tell me, will they be so apt to turn the deaf ear."
To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/renowned-family-therapist-cites-oscar-nominated-spotlight-as-a-rare-motion-picture-which-has-had-immediate-remedial-effect-on-abused-children-and-has-already-made-the-world-a-safer-place-300217676.html
Congress moves to confront military child abuse with Talia's Law
by Drew Gerber
The House on Tuesday passed a bill that would require anyone employed by the Defense Department to report cases of suspected child abuse on military installations to state child protective service agencies in addition to reporting such suspected crimes up their chain of command.
The legislation was approved by voice vote and sent to the Senate for consideration.
Called Talia's Law, the bill is named for five-year-old Talia Williams who was tortured and beaten to death by her father — an active-duty Army specialist at the time — and step-mother in 2005 at Wheeler Army Airfield in Hawaii.
Talia's mother, Tarshia Williams, sued the U.S. government in 2008 for what she argued were failures by military officials to report suspicions that her daughter was being abused. Williams was awarded $2 million in a settlement last May.
The Defense Department had signed a memorandum of understanding with the State of Hawaii in 2013 that said the state's child welfare services agency was “primarily” responsible for handling instances of child abuse on military bases. But DOD also has its own parallel system for child and domestic abuse investigations.
Suspected cases of child abuse are reported to military police or the installation's Family Advocacy Program, which work in coordination to identify and investigate instances of child abuse. Those mandated by law to report suspected child abuse are usually professionally involved with children, such as day-care workers and doctors.
The U.S. District Court of Hawaii, where Williams brought her suit, found that various individuals failed to report Talia's case, including members of the military police, doctors, and an employee with the Family Advocacy Program – all covered by the House bill.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, speaking about Talia's case on the Senate floor last June, said information about the abuse never reached the Army provost, whom she said was the only person required to report to the state's child welfare services.
However, groups like the Department of Defense Education Activity and military law enforcement are required to report to local and state child protective services, as well as to the Family Advocacy Program, according to existing law.
Additionally, a defense official said that the Pentagon has previously recommended passage of legislation to improve communication between the Defense Department and states' child protective service agencies.
Hawaiian Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Mark Takai, both Democrats, introduced the bill in the House last November. Both are active-duty military officers in the Hawaii Army National Guard.
Citing the 29,000 cases of child abuse and neglect in the military in the past decade, Gabbard said on the House floor Tuesday that her bill creates the same protections for military children that exist for any other child.
Rates of child abuse and neglect in the military, though half the rate typically seen in the civilian population, have been on the rise since 2010, according to a 2014 memorandum from Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Rosemary Williams.
Incidents of child abuse and neglect rose 10 percent in 2014, a Defense Department spokesman, Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson, said last September. On Tuesday, Sakrisson said via email that it is Defense Department policy to not comment on pending legislation.
Kelly Hruska, director of government relations for the National Military Families Association, said the focus now should be on preventing the system from failing any more children.
“We need to make sure children have the best protection possible. We need to make sure potential reports are not being ignored or falling through the cracks,” she said.
Military children serve a strong support role within their families, according to Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who asked her colleagues to support the legislation. Forced to move frequently, military children face greater academic and emotional challenges and rely on their relationships with the adults in their lives, she said.
It is inexcusable, Stefanik said “when those adults that these children trust the most hurt them in any way… Anyone who abuses or neglects a child … must be held accountable.”
Statistics about the victims, perpetrators of child abuse and neglect
by Matt Rocheleau
A new report from the US Department of Health and Human Services shows that Massachusetts had the highest rate of child abuse and neglect in the country during fiscal 2014.
The annual Child Maltreatment Report also included other data about both the victims and perpetrators of child abuse and neglect in the state:
• 31,863 children were victimized.
• Neglect was by far the most common type of maltreatment, representing about 87 percent of the total, followed by physical abuse (10 percent), and sexual abuse (2.5 percent).
• The age children were most likely to be victimized was less than 1, with children that age accounting for 13.8 percent of the total.
• About 38 percent of the children were white, 26 percent were Hispanic, and 13 percent were black. The rest were either another race or their race was not identified.
• About half were boys; the other half were girls.
• 30 Massachusetts children died because of neglect or abuse in fiscal 2013, up from 20 such deaths in 2012; 23 in 2011; and 17 in 2010. State officials said such figures for fiscal 2014 and 2015 had not been finalized.
• 25,721 people were identified as maltreating children.
• About 81 percent of perpetrators were identified as parents. Another 5 percent were an unmarried partner of a parent of the child, and another 4 percent were relatives of the child other than a parent.
• Perpetrators were most likely to be between 25 and 34 years old. That group accounted for 42 percent of all perpetrators.
• About 41 percent of perpetrators were white, 19 percent were Hispanic, and 13 percent black. The rest were either another race or their race was not identified.
• About 55 percent of perpetrators were women.
What Can You Do About Child Abuse?
by Alyssa Martin
(Video on site)
WEST POINT, Miss. (WCBI) – It's a serious problem that affects thousands every year.
Even though you might not see it, child abuse plagues every community.
In 2014, statistics show around 8,700 child abuse cases in Mississippi.
Now, an 11-year-old boy remains in the hospital while his mother is behind bars charged with child abuse.
Whitney Fountain is charged with child abuse in two counties.
Webster County deputies alerted Calhoun County investigators that the child was possibly abused there as well.
“We have come to learn this woman did live in Calhoun County latter part of 2015 and during that time, the child in question was in pretty bad shape. Hopefully we can get this woman charged and this wont happen again,” said Calhoun County Deputy Kenneth White.
Shelia Brand is the Executive Director of the Sally Kate Winters Home in West Point.
The shelter serves as temporary housing for children and teens who have been abused or neglected.
“It is children that our children go to school with, that our children ride the school bus with. It is among all kids in every community,” said Brand.
Brand says there are several types of abuse.
“Child abuse is physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse and neglect,” said Brand.
While abuse isn't limited to one socioeconomic group, there are some with greater risk factors.
“Real young parents who are not really prepared emotionally to be parents those kids are at greater risk. Also single parent homes where the parents have very little support and so they are just kind of trying to balance everything on themselves, and then families that are experiencing poverty, or divorce or a child with special needs,” said Brand.
Sally Kate Winters has several programs to keep children safe, including a national program called “Safe Place”.
“What we have done is coordinated with different businesses within each community to identify safe places for kids to go when they are in crisis. A child that's in crisis can walk to the fire station and ask for help, and those individuals have be trained to contact our agency,” said Brand.
Brand says people should report any suspicion they have about child abuse to the hotline at 1-800-222-8000
Knowing the signs of child abuse and neglect
by Katie Caler
HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Days after a Staunton man and his girlfriend face felony child neglect charges, child abuse victim advocates say there are signs you can look for.
Steven Decker also faces a second-degree murder charge in the death of 6-year-old Ezra Decker.
Advocates for victims of child abuse and neglect say maltreatment can't always be recognized, but there are signs teachers and neighbors can look for. Some of those include unexplained physical marks or sensitivities and also withdrawn or aggressive behavior with no explanation for a change in that behavior.
Child abuse and neglect don't always go hand in hand, but are often associated with each another. Neglect means the child is not getting the resources they need to thrive, including food and clothing.
Advocates say any suspicion of abuse or neglect should be reported to police or child protective services.
"Always always report child abuse if you can, when you witness or suspect it happening. Your suspicions may very well be real and well-founded, " said Molly Jenkins, a research analyst for the American Humane Association.
Beshear Announces New Child Abuse Prevention Training
by STU JOHNSON
A new program aimed at expanding training to better protect children from sexual abuse is being launched across Kentucky. Attorney General Andy Beshear and First Lady Glenna Bevin are partnering in the effort.
Beshear said 1 in 10 Kentucky children will be sexually abused before age 18. He says we have a moral obligation and a legal duty to report abuse. “The abuse affects their interaction with society, impacts their education and careers, and often leads to substance abuse and mental health issues later in life,” said Beshear.
The training will focus on protecting children from molester selection, engagement and seduction. Participants will also hear tips from sex offenders by way of nationally recognized child advocate Cory Jewell Jensen. Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky Director Jill Seyfred says that's a new approach. Seyfred says some predators want to offer advice. “If they have an opportunity to share their experiences, especially as it relates to their home environment and what brought them to the point of being a predator, then regardless of those circumstances we want to learn from those behaviors so that we can stop them,” noted Seyfred.
The Kentucky Association of Child Advocacy Centers will coordinate trainings offered at each of the state's 15 area development districts. Director Caroline Ruschell says better communication among agencies that assist children may lead to more victims coming forward. “That's one of the biggest issues we face at children's advocacy centers is a delayed disclosure," Ruschell said. "If we can get children talking earlier, we can prevent more child abuse.”
The training will initially be held for law enforcement, prosecutors, social workers, educators, and other child advocates.
Child abuse survivor hopes her artwork calms others
Piece donated to Children's Justice Center dedicated to man who helped give her support
by Emily Gillespie
While she was creating a piece meant to calm children who have been abused, artist Sue Clancy didn't have to try very hard to imagine what her audience would be experiencing.
The 47-year-old Vancouver woman is a survivor of childhood abuse. She said that donating one of her pieces to the Arthur D. Curtis Children's Justice Center was an honor.
“When I was a kid, I would look at whatever was on the wall and that would help calm me down,” she said. “I'm hoping it helps with that. I desperately needed something to help me feel OK. I hope that it provides that function.”
The bright, colorful piece on display in the center's lobby was unveiled Monday. The artwork depicts a cat playing with a bus and a dog — the center's therapy dog, Tabitha — reading about modes of transportation. Sprinkled throughout the piece are symbols that hit on the theme: Life is a journey and this is a stop along the way.
“It's more than just a gift to the center,” Executive Director Mary Blanchette said. “This is something special because it's something very personal as a survivor of abuse.”
Blanchette said that Clancy's story is inspiring because it shows that survivors of child abuse can go on to be incredibly successful.
“What we're trying to do for kids is give them a chance,” Blanchette said. “If you give them a chance — I mean look at her. I find it inspirational knowing her, and I love it when I see that people do escape these circumstances.”
Clancy's story starts in Norman, Okla., where she experienced a childhood full of verbal, emotional and physical abuse. When she was 5 years old, she was shoved down some steps and hit her head, losing her hearing.
Many more years of abuse followed, escalating when she came out as gay.
Through it all, she kept faith that she wasn't an abomination, and even eyed college — even though her strict, religious parents would have preferred her to marry a boy before she left high school.
“The women I knew that were in that religion, they didn't even change a light bulb without a man's involvement. I didn't want to be like that,” she said. “I wanted to go to college that bad; I was just desperate to do it.”
Clancy left home at a young age, living in her car and on other people's couches. She graduated from high school and enrolled at the University of Oklahoma to study fine art.
She finally found an ally when she met Dr. Bob Hoke and his wife, Penny Hoke, at one of her student art shows. The couple commissioned Clancy to do a piece and quickly took her under their wing.
“(Bob and Penny) became mom and dad. They became my chosen parents.”
The Hokes helped Clancy find a therapist who didn't try to force her to “go straight” and helped her navigate the legal system to get a victim's protection order. She met her future wife, Judy Sullens, a supportive woman who liked to visit the Pacific Northwest area every chance she got. Sullens brought Clancy along and Clancy said she remembers when she knew Vancouver was home.
She was in the passenger seat of a car staring at a map when Sullens poked her.
“She said, ‘Look, everybody's smiling,' ” Clancy said. “I looked around. and every pedestrian, every person on a bike, every person in a car — everybody's smiling. We were just floored. I'd never seen so many smiles in one spot.”
When the two planned their move, their real estate agent told them about the children's justice center — a place where investigators, social workers, advocates and medical and mental health personnel work together to help victims of child abuse.
Clancy didn't hesitate to donate one of her pieces for an upcoming fundraiser.
“I loved it,” Clancy said. “The fact that there is a place that tries to make it as non-labyrinth-like as possible, given how many agencies need to be involved, that was just amazing.”
In the year it took to make the piece, Bob Hoke passed away.
“Talk about having your heart ripped out,” she said.
She found that the best way to honor Hoke was to dedicate the piece to him — the man who provided her support like the kind provided by the children's justice center.
On display at the center's lobby, the piece includes a plaque, which reads that Hoke “taught her that life was a journey and that the best response to bumps in the road was to go on and live well.”
“Art is another way to respond to difficulties in life, a way to go on and live and respond well,” Clancy said. “So I hope that my artwork can help comfort the children as they come in the CJC doors. I also hope that my art will help support and encourage the adults who work there as they do their important work.”
2015 was the deadliest in 15 years for Manatee County's child abuse victims
by RICHARD DYMOND
BRADENTON -- Last year was an extraordinary year for child abuse deaths in Manatee County.
Four children died, including Janiya Thomas, the 11-year-old whose body was discovered in a freezer.
After Janiya's death, Manatee County Sheriff investigative bureau chief Connie Shingledecker decided to dig into the 15-year history of child abuse deaths in Manatee to see if there was a common thread that investigators and social workers could use as a "red flag" in future cases.
Shingledecker discussed the disturbing trends she found during "Helping Children at Risk," a panel discussion sponsored by The League of Women Voters of Manatee County Monday.
Since, 2000, there have been eight confirmed child abuse deaths. In six of them the children died at the hands of men their mothers were dating, Shingledecker told a record crowd of 60 at the Bradenton Women's Club luncheon.
Seven of the eight homicides were from head injuries, Shingledecker added.
Five of the seven young head injury victims were male, Shingledecker said.
Knowing that most of the victims were male is important for both social service workers and law enforcement, Shingledecker said.
"I think that's important to know because, again, we are looking at our most vulnerable," Shingledecker added.
Shingledecker brought a pamphlet to the panel discussion called, "Who's Watching Your Child." The pamphlet includes the statement: "Children who lived with adults not related to them are nearly 50 times more likely to die of inflicted injuries as children with two biological parents."
All seven fatal head injury cases were to children younger than age 5 with most of them being 2 or younger, Shingledecker said.
"They can't communicate what is happening to them most of the time," Shingledecker said.
Shingledecker said most of the head injury deaths occurred while the mother was at work or out of the house.
"Of those seven head injury cases, six were male perpetrators and all were boyfriends," she added.
Shingledecker joined Lucia Branton, director of external affairs, Safe Children Coalition, and Gigi Kelly, chief operations officer at Manatee Children's Services on the panel.
"What's the one anomaly that we have?" Shingledecker asked those attending.
"Janiya," she answered.
The crowd learned that Janiya doesn't fit the pattern of past Manatee child homicides over the last 15 years.
Besides being much older than the other children who were killed since 2000, Janiya's death has been reported so far as a drowning not a head injury, Shingledecker told the crowd.
Janiya's mother, Keishanna Thomas, has been charged with first-degree murder, another difference.
From 2008 through 2010, the county had one child homicide death each year, Shingledecker said. In 2012 there was one homicide and in 2015, four child homicides, Shingledecker added.
Social work can be intense
Even those who work in child protection were apparently impacted by Janiya's death and the death of the three other children in 2015.
The overwhelming stress of the job was a factor in the 49 percent turn-over rate in child investigators in 2015, Shingledecker told the crowd.
"We had 15 child investigators leave for various reasons," Shingledecker said. "But the sad reality is that many of them only had maybe a year with the agency. We are trying to address this more up front now when we hire."
Branton agreed that finding and keeping good people to work with children and families can be a challenge.
"More money doesn't necessarily mean they are going to stay," Branton said.
"Social services is a very challenging field. You go into it for more than money. We have done polls with staff who have left over the years and money is not the No. 1 reason they leave. It's the stress. It's the toll that it takes on them emotionally, the hard work, the long hours, the nature of what they see everyday."
Safe Children Coalition typically receives about 30 to 35 children per month who have been removed from their homes, Branton said.
But that changed recently.
"Since September, we have removed at least 100 children per month," Branton said. "That's a huge influx on our system."
‘Gaps' led to children's deaths, DFCS admits
by Alan Judd
For the first time, Georgia's child-protection agency is acknowledging that “significant gaps” in its performance have contributed to the deaths of children under its supervision.
The admission appears in a new report analyzing deaths in 2014 of children whose families had histories with the Division of Family and Children Services, or DFCS. The report counted 169 such deaths, down from 180 in 2013.
But in the report and in interviews last week, DFCS officials identified serious problems in how the agency investigates reports of child abuse and neglect. DFCS had closed cases on the families of about half the children who died in 2014. Fourteen died in homicides — six in the first 12 months after DFCS ended its involvement with their families. The rest of the children, including nine homicide victims, were in families under active DFCS supervision.
Heaven Woods, for example, was the subject of an abuse report in May 2014 — the ninth involving her family in the 5-year-old's lifetime. DFCS took no action after a cursory investigation, and Heaven was beaten to death three weeks later.
The new DFCS report, in a section headed “Systemic Factors,” said the agency “recognized significant gaps in the delivery of services and meeting the expectations of the citizens of Georgia.” It added: “Special consideration should be given to lessons learned from child deaths.”
This year, the agency is introducing a new “practice model” intended to guide caseworkers dealing with volatile families suspected of maltreatment. It also will begin meeting with every child who is the subject of an abuse or neglect report before deciding whether to open a formal investigation or refer the family to less-intrusive services, such as parenting classes or counseling.
For now, DFCS Director Bobby Cagle said, the agency faces “a recipe for disaster” created by persistently high caseloads and a 36 percent annual turnover rate among its caseworkers. “That does not make providing high-quality services a realistic outcome,” Cagle said.
In past years, DFCS occasionally admitted mistakes, especially in death cases that attracted news coverage. Even then, it usually blamed specific employees for oversights. Children's advocates said they could not recall the agency's assigning blame to fundamental flaws in its own operations.
The agency assumes this new posture as it continues to deal with the legacy of a decade of budget cuts. It has 20 percent fewer caseworkers than in 2006, but maltreatment reports have mushroomed. In 2014 alone, DFCS logged 102,003 reports, about 25,000 more than the year before.
To handle the higher volume, DFCS wants to hire 175 additional caseworkers and supervisors. Still, the average worker would have 18 cases, more than the 15 that social work experts consider ideal.
The report on 2014's deaths underscores the agency's challenges.
DFCS received reports of 296 children's deaths in 2014, including the 169 from families that had contact with the agency during the previous five years. Almost one-third of the 169 children died from natural causes. But caseworkers substantiated abuse or neglect of about half the children, either at some time before they died or in connection with their deaths. Homicides accounted for 14 percent of the deaths; suicides for 6 percent; and accidents, many of them preventable, for 20 percent.
Authorities could not determine the manner in which 44 children died – 26 percent of the total. Thirty-nine of those children were less than 1 year old, and all 39 died in improper sleeping situations, such as sharing a bed with a parent. In a majority of sleep-related deaths, parents or other caregivers had allegedly used drugs when the family was under DFCS supervision. DFCS, the report said, “believes the majority of these deaths were preventable.”
DFCS' new “practice model,” developed by a consulting firm, is intended to guide caseworkers in assessing how much risk children face in their homes. For decades, the agency has swung between two extremes: aggressively removing children from families, or leaving them at home even when red flags were apparent. Now, Cagle said, the agency will train workers to “engage” with families to ensure the best outcomes for parents and children. The first step will be to “normalize” behavior in tense situations, Cagle said, partly by mixing positive reinforcement with the hard questions workers must ask about a child's wellbeing. The workers, he said, will make clear that they “are not in there only to take children away, but to help families.”
The agency will begin using the new approach this year in Fulton and DeKalb counties before expanding it statewide. Fulton and DeKalb comprised the region that recorded the most deaths of children whose families had DFCS histories – 24 – and has historically experienced some of the toughest cases.
“This will introduce a more consistent and substantial framework into our practice,” said Ashley Fielding, a DFCS spokeswoman. “Every situation is not going to fit into a particular policy. But (caseworkers) can feel empowered to make a decision based on the tenets of the practice model.”
While acknowledging systemic problems, Cagle said his agency's workers often succeed, protecting children who might otherwise suffer serious injury or death.
Quantifying those successes, however, is impossible.
“If we weren't doing what we do,” Cagle said, “where would we be?”
How children under DFCS supervision died
The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services says 169 children died in 2014 in families that had been under the agency's supervision during the previous five years. Here is a breakdown of the manner of death in those 169 cases:
Natural causes: 54 (32 percent)
Accident: 33 (20 percent)
Homicide: 24 (14 percent)
Suicide: 10 (6 percent)
Pending investigation: 4 (2 percent)
Undetermined: 44 (26 percent)*
* Thirty-nine of the 44 cases for which a manner of death could not be determined involved children less than 1 year old. All 39 died in inappropriate sleep situations, DFCS says.
People Convicted of Child Abuse Could be Facing Longer Sentences in Ohio
by Todd Cummins
Two Democratic Ohio Senators have proposed a new law that would allow county prosecutors the chance to recommend an additional 1 to 5 years in prison time for people found guilty of felonious assault against someone under the age of 13.
According to the bill, the victim would have had to receive "serious physical harm" from the accused. Currently, people accused of child abuse are charged with felonious assault and face between 2 and 8 years in prison, if they are found guilty, which is the same as a crime against an adult.
Allen County Prosecutor Juergen Waldick says criminals convicted of sex crimes against and murder of children under the age of 13, will get an additional sentence because of the victims age, so this proposed law will do the same for child abuse. While the proposed law would allow prosecutors to recommend an additional sentence of 1 to 5 years, it will be up to the judge to decided on how many extra years will be added.
Why your child needs touch
by John Muturi
Touch communicates as nothing else can, and it is irreplaceable in our lives. Think of the times in your life when you felt most comforted and most loved, those moments involved touch.
When it comes to how much and what types of physical contact are important for a child, research offers a clear answer: young children need positive human touch, and lots of it, in all its forms-carrying, swinging, rolling, holding, a backrub, a hug, a pat, a high-five, rough-and-tumble play, even massage.
Nurturing touch from their parents and caregivers is essential for children to feel loved and secure, interactions with their peers help develop social and emotional competence. Parents and teachers should understand that withholding touch can be just as physically and emotionally harmful to a child as sexual abuse or physical abuse such as hitting, grabbing, spanking, and shaking.
When children of any age are denied touch or when they experience it only in the context of aggression or punishment, they are deprived of the nurturing environment they need to thrive and grow.
They also will lack experiences to prepare them to discern touch that is loving and appropriate from touch that is dangerous and inappropriate and thus they are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
In the realm of emotional and social development, touch is critical in fostering bonding between children and their parents and other caregivers, as well as contributing to social and emotional competence.
Touch in physical and cognitive development
The physical benefits of touch begin as soon as a child is born. Newborns who experience skin-to-skin contact with their mothers soon after birth cry less, sleep longer, and have longer periods of quiet alertness, which is when most learning often occurs.
They also have higher blood sugar levels, a positive outcome in newborns. Skin-to-skin contact is also important for successful breastfeeding. Conversely, without adequate touch, infants may fail to thrive or may even die. Research has documented instances of child deaths from lack of touch.
Touch as therapy
Kangaroo care: Mothers instinctively embrace their newborns, and science confirms the therapeutic benefits of that natural impulse. One therapeutic intervention originated in the late 1970s in the overcrowded clinics of Bogota, Colombia. Because incubators were in short supply, mothers of premature babies were given their infants to hold 24 hours a day.
They tucked the infants under their clothing, like a baby kangaroo would be in its mother's pouch. Doctors studying the practice noticed that the babies thrived; mortality rates fell from the typical 70 per cent to 30 per cent.
They, and later others elsewhere, began prescribing the practice, referred to as “kangaroo care.” This touch technique involves having the naked (but diapered) newborn lie in an upright position on the mother's (or father's) bare chest, with the baby's head turned so that her ear is directly over her parent's heart.
Massage: Touch therapy in the form of massage also provides benefits in pre-term infancy and beyond. Massaged infants experience fewer colds and fewer episodes of diarrhoea than non-massaged infants.
Pre-term infants also gained more weight when massaged regularly. In one study, pre-term infants treated with massage grew faster and gained more weight, and they were more alert and responsive than non-massaged infants. Massage has therapeutic benefits with later health conditions, too.
Children who have suffered burns report less pain during treatment after they receive massage therapy, and children with cerebral palsy become less spastic and gain in muscle flexibility and in fine motor and gross motor control.
Many studies have confirmed the therapeutic benefits of touch for newborns. Touch is also needed to support and sustain healthy brain development. Touch, particularly skin-to-skin contact, acts to stimulate and suppress the release of powerful hormones and other chemicals that affect a variety of functions in the body including emotion, behaviour, growth and thinking.
Was Cosby Raped As A Child? Disgraced Star Probed In Deposition — Refuses To Answer
Bill 'said there was no way he was going to answer.'
Bill Cosby has faced dozens of women who claim he's a rapist, but is he actually a victim too? RadarOnline.com has learned that attorney Gloria Allred asked the disgraced comedian about any physical or emotional abuse he suffered as a child, but he refused to answer.
Allred is representing Judith Huth, who claims Cosby sexually abused her in a 1974 incident at the Playboy Mansion, when she was just 15. Cosby was previously deposed in the case at an undisclosed location in Boston last year.
During the tense proceedings, “Bill was asked about any physical or emotional abuse he may have endured growing up,” an insider revealed.
“Bill became very, very caustic when the questions were asked. He said the questions were just too invasive, and there was no way he was going to answer.”
“The refusal to answer was very revealing,” a source told Radar.
In court proceedings on Tuesday, Cosby was ordered to be deposed for a second time, after Allred filed legal docs asking the judge to compel the fallen comedian to answer key unspecified questions during the first deposition.
The upcoming deposition will be placed under seal and must take place by February 29.
Cosby's legal team deposed Huth last week, but the comedian didn't attend.
Cosby, 78, is currently free on $1 million bail after he surrendered himself to Pennsylvania police Dec. 30 on sexual assault charges related to his former protégé Andrea Constand.
In 2005, Constand claimed that Cosby drugged and sexually attacked her while she worked as a manager for the women's basketball team at Temple University. At the time, police ultimately opted to drop the case due to “lack of evidence.”
Survivors & Mates Support Network: Victims charity saved with half-million-dollar funding
by Eric Bagshaw
A charity dedicated to supporting adult male survivors of child sexual abuse has been saved after it received a $517,000 funding boost from the NSW government.
The Survivors & Mates Support Network was formed in 2010 by a group of male survivors of child sexual assault who, when they couldn't find a support group, decided to start their own.
SAMSN now delivers counselling services across the state, connecting that connects survivors with specialist psychologists and social workers and offering support during police investigations and court appearances.
"We have thrived on the simple message of 'mates supporting mates'," said co-founder Shane McNamara, who hopes the boost will enable the charity to expand its operations. The charity also works with NSW Victims Services to help men seeking financial assistance or child sex abuse recognition payments.
The charity's co-founder, Craig Hughes-Cashmore, said he and Mr McNamara were at the end of their tether running the operations on a significantly smaller budget and not enough support staff to meet demand. "We've been lobbying hard for years," he said.
NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton said the network played a critical role for the families of men to heal and recover from the devastating impact of child sexual abuse.
"The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse revealed the impact of abuse on men, who were represented in over 60 per cent of personal sessions," she said.
She said the NSW government was proud to support SAMSN's crucial work to help thousands of men and their families across NSW take the steps to recovery.
"This investment means SAMSN can continue to treat survivors with care and compassion in 2016, and reflects the NSW government's commitment to ensure victims of abuse get the help they need, when they need it."
Repeated Sexual Assault of Children Lands Life Sentence for Texas Man
by Bob Price
A Texas man has received a sentence of life in prison following his conviction on two counts of sexual assault of a child. The man had previously been convicted of sexually assaulting another child in 1993.
Ernest Amaya Landin, Jr., 41, was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in a Texas prison following his conviction in Fort Bend County, Texas. Landin had previously been convicted in 1993 for aggravated sexual assault, according to a statement from Fort Bend County District Attorney John Healy obtained by Breitbart Texas.
Prosecutors in the case proved that the defendant had been hired by the child's parents to perform construction work in January 2010. While carrying out that project, Landin began a friendship with the family and was allowed to live in the family's home for some period of time. During that period, Landin befriended the teenage girl and manipulated her into performing sexual acts with him.
The investigation began in 2010 when the mother of the child found Landin kissing her daughter. At that time, the daughter denied any sexual contact because she was afraid of her mother's opinion and she wanted to protect the Landin.
Evidence in the case showed that Landin “groomed” the child and manipulated her into a sexual relationship. Some of those grooming acts included telling her “she was beautiful, that he loved her, and he wanted to be with her,” the DA's statement revealed. At one point the child attempted to stop the sexual activity. Landin told her he would stop being her friend and that her parents would find out what she had done.
Fiona Remko, Program Director of the Fort Bend Child Advocates Center, testified that disclosure of sexual abuse is a process, and it is not uncommon for children to initially minimize or deny abuse and then later disclose it, according to the statement from the DA.
Assistant District Attorney Lisa Gregg said in the statement, “It is not easy for people to tell when someone has sexually abused them, and it is very emotional when the abuse occurred when the person was a child. The perpetrator in this case is going to prison for life and I hope children know that adults do listen when they tell.”
During a pre-trial hearing, not in front of the jury, the now adult victim from Landin's 1993 sexual assault testivied about what Landin had done to her.
Lead prosecutor Natalie McKinnon indicated that child abuse cases are among the most difficult to prosecute. This is because the crimes happen in secret with only the child as a witness. Requiring the child to testify in court often complicates the prosecution process.
“The trials of child abuse cases involve facts that are difficult for adults, let alone children, to talk about. We are extremely proud of the witnesses who testified in this case. We commend the strength it took for them to reveal the truth. When they stood up for themselves, they stood up for other child victims of abuse.”
In addition to his conviction in a 1993 aggravated sexual assault case, also in Fort Bend County, court records revealed that Landin also had a 2004 conviction for aggravated assault in neighboring Harris County (Houston).
“Texas law provides that a person who commits Sexual Assault of a Child be sentenced to Life imprisonment if the individual has been previously convicted of another sexual offense committed against a child,” the DA's statement revealed.
Local Authors Invited to D.C. to Address Prestigious Conference of Specialists in Group Work
by Denise Lang-Grant
BRIDGEWATER, NJ - According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), there is a new victim of sexual assault in America every 107 seconds. For licensed professional counselor Denise Lang-Grant, of Bridgewater, and licensed clinical social worker Irene Colucci-Lebbad, of Basking Ridge, statistics like this are a rallying cry.
And their expertise in the field of helping survivors is being recognized by their peers.
Lang-Grant and Colucci-Lebbad will be speaking at the national conference for the Association of Specialists in Group Work in Washington DC Feb. 18 through 20. This nod of recognition is an honor, say the authors of the new psychology book, “No More Secrets: A Therapist's Guide to Group Work with Adult Survivors of Sexual Violence,” which aims to empower experienced and new counselors, psychologists, and social workers using a step-by-step guide to conducting a psycho-educational group for adult survivors.
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“The national conference draws experts from all over the country and we are thrilled that there is a recognition that not only is there nothing in the market like this book, but that psychologists, social workers and therapists are ready to address this growing problem,” Lang-Grant said.
According to the authors, many clinicians are reluctant to tackle the topic of sexual assault and abuse due to a lack of knowledge or personal anxieties regarding the topic. Complete with weekly curriculums, handouts, and evidence-based interventions, Lang-Grant and Colucci-Lebbad structured this ground-breaking and practical program to take survivors from “traumatized” to “thriving.” The interventions have been successful, according to the authors, who have conducted survivor groups for the last eight years utilizing this program.
“Sexual assault is the only felony crime in this country where the victim becomes the first one under attack from the media and general public,” Lang-Grant said. “As a result, victims carry misplaced guilt and shame which can fracture the rest of their lives. And if they do ask for help, many therapists are reluctant to address the sexual violence but would rather concentrate on the resultant depression, eating disorders, addictions, and broken relationships.”
As a social epidemic, Colucci-Lebbad said, “sexual violence is labeled the most underreported crime by the United States Department of Justice."
It is often the deep secret that is often at the root of depression, substance abuse and suicide attempts,” she said.
The authors have also been asked to address the annual conference of social workers to be held in Atlantic City in May.
Lang-Grant is a licensed professional counselor specializing in sexual assault and other traumas. She is the author of nine other non-fiction books on family relationships, health, and true crime, including “The Dark Son” about former Basking Ridge resident, Matthew Heikkila who, 25 years ago, killed his parents and then pleaded Adopted Child Syndrome as a defense. The former director of Atlantic Health System's rape crisis center in Morris County, New Jersey, she is also the state's point person for strengthening community response to returning veterans who are survivors of military sexual assault, and has created an educational program for colleges who wish to improve their response to sexual assault on campus. She has a private practice with offices in both Somerset and Morris counties.
Colucci-Lebbad is a licensed clinical social worker with extensive background in sexual abuse, domestic violence, and behavioral health. She is the former director of the Somerset County, New Jersey, Sexual Assault Support Services program and is currently one of the principles in a group practice specializing in sexual violence and abuse. She continues to conduct trainings and workshops for community organizations, law enforcement, and other professionals and works with Rutgers State University as a clinical supervisor for social work graduate students.
The authors are available for workshops and trainings.
Laws In 36 States Still Criminalize Child Trafficking Victims; New Report Offers Solutions
by Linda Smith, President/Founder, Shared Hope International; Congressman Ted Poe (Texas)
As National Human Trafficking Awareness Month draws to a close, and with the Super Bowl around the corner, it is important to keep in mind that while these opportunities to bring awareness to the scourge of sex trafficking are significant, American children are being bought and sold for sex every day all over the country. They make up some of the tens of millions of victims of human trafficking all over the world. Trafficking victims walk among us, often unnoticed. This should embolden our commitment each day to change our country's response and provide justice for victims of trafficking. That commitment must be made on the federal, state and local levels.
On the federal level last year, we celebrated the enactment of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, landmark legislation that shifted the focus of criminal responses from the victims to the perpetrators of this horrific crime including the buyers of sex with children. While going after the demand, the bill also provides support for domestic child sex trafficking victims to ensure that they are treated with the trauma-informed, individualized care and support they deserve.
However, there is still more work to be done. While recent shifts in federal and some state policies has led to a now widely accepted fact that commercially sexually exploited children are victims of human trafficking, 36 states still have laws criminalizing child victims under adult prostitution laws or other trafficking-related crimes. This is unfortunate and unjust. No other victim of child abuse would be classified this way or would face drastic measures like jail time as human trafficking victims face today.
Opponents of non-criminalization laws assert that their concern is rooted in safety, that without other resources in place, they have no other option than juvenile detention to protect youth from exploitation. However, knowing that arresting and charging trafficked children with crimes related to their abuse not only has the potential to further victimize them, it also may undermine efforts to restore these children while reinforcing negative stereotypes used by exploiters to control victims. Under our justice system, a minor simply cannot consent to sell their bodies for sex. The laws should be amended to reflect this.
Governments should look to a new, important resource, the Non-Criminalization of Juvenile Sex Trafficking Victims policy paper and field guidance by Shared Hope International's Juvenile Sex Trafficking (JuST) Response Council, a group comprised of survivors and other leaders in the anti-trafficking movement. The JuST Council's report provides solutions to the complex challenges associated with keeping our youth safe and empowering them to live a life free of exploitation while also recognizing that non-criminalization of juvenile sex trafficking victims must be a component of a comprehensive protective response.
We hear stories of young girls over and over again who have been arrested while their pimps and buyers are overlooked. If we do not protect, shelter, and restore these children, we are just as much a part of the problem as their abusive family, their trafficker who told them they were worthless, or their buyer who put a price tag on their body. In order to stop this crime, we must empower victims and put away the real bad guys—traffickers and buyers because they are both as much part of this modern day slave trade as the other.
As we approach the Super Bowl and learn even more about the trafficking of humans in the greatest nation on earth, let's take those lessons and put them into practice throughout the year so that we can prove ourselves to be the best by caring for our most vulnerable. We will be judged by how we treat the defenseless among us. Let us do the right thing - save our children - and be judged well.
Congresswoman Linda Smith (ret.) is the President and Founder of Shared Hope International, which provides leadership in awareness and training, prevention strategies, restorative care, research, and policy initiatives to mobilize a national network of protection for victims. For more information about Shared Hope and the JuST Response Project visit www.sharedhope.org/justresponse
Arizona Lawmakers To Consider Definition Of Child Abuse And Neglect
by Alexandra Olgin
Arizona lawmakers are scheduled to consider a bill about child abuse and neglect Monday afternoon. The legislation would limit what the state's child welfare agency is required to investigate.
Current Arizona law requires the Department of Child Safety to investigate every report of child abuse and neglect that comes into the hotline. This proposal would exempt non-criminal reports of child abuse and neglect if the alleged conduct happened more than a year ago and if victim was at least 12 years old when it occurred.
That concerns Dana Wolfe Naimark of the advocacy organization Children's Action Alliance.
“Once you start putting exceptions into state law saying you don't have to take this as a report, you don't have to investigate this,” she said. “I think we're in danger of creating so many exceptions it will be hard for the department to operate and for community members to feel confident that they are responding to children in need.”
The agency has said it's working to redefine the legal definition of child neglect so investigators don't have to look into certain types of old reports.
Kid's House seeking 'street team'
by Kevin Robinson
Two local organizations are getting ready to paint the town blue, and they are looking for help.
The Gulf Coast Kid's House in Pensacola and the Santa Rosa Kids' House in Milton are recruiting "street teams" to help raise awareness of Child Abuse Prevention month through the "From Blue to Better" campaign.
Much like how pink is displayed prominently in October to support breast cancer victims, the two kids houses are asking the Gulf Coast to put up blue decorations to aid in the fight against child abuse. Staff and street team volunteers will be out in the community throughout the month helping businesses, organizations and citizens get involved.
"We've got bows, we're going to have stickers, lots of different ways we can help you guys go blue...any way that we can draw more attention to the cause," said Megan Chapman, Gulf Coast Kid's House outreach and development director.
According to the organization, the Department of Children and Families receives 4,300 reports of suspected child abuse in Escambia County each year.
Keith Ann Campbell, executive director of the Santa Rosa Kids' House, said there were more than 2,400 initial reports of abuse in Santa Rosa County.
"It's a much bigger problem than people think it is," Campbell said, noting that victims of childhood abuse often grew up to have substance dependencies, social and criminal problems and other life-derailing issues. "(Abuse) has a huge impact on their futures. We're trying to make a better future for everyone."
Chapman said people are often hesitant to report their suspicions of child abuse because they are afraid of being wrong.
How do we work out who to believe on child sex abuse?
by Zoe Williams
Lord Bramall, the former chief of defence, has complained to the police about how they investigated a claim against him of child abuse. His home was raided last March as part of a Metropolitan police inquiry into an allegation dating back to the 70s and 80s. All charges were dropped 10 months later, and Bramall accuses the Met of failing to follow up leads and alibis that could have exonerated him months before.
Lord Bramall calls for police review after historical abuse case dropped
But there was a more profound complaint underlying the question of competence: “I just don't see how a level-headed policeman could believe one word of it – without corroboration, which he did not bother to get. It was I who had to prove that I couldn't have done it.”
The case is unusual because of the defence role Bramall held at the time of the alleged abuse: his phone calls and meetings were monitored, so it would appear he could prove, more or less, where he was every second of every day.
There are two features of the sexual abuse of children that make this criminal territory treacherous; pitted with contradiction and collective self-deceit. First, abusing children is vile to the point of being incomprehensible – so repellent that the “level-headed person” proves their level-headedness by not believing it. Second, it is generally the word of one person against another, and the most a victim can hope for in seeking justice is that his or her abuser victimised other people as well.
Yet we know it does happen – and if it happens at all then every victim making an allegation must be taken seriously. But at the same time, given our collective horror over the crime, once somebody has been accused they stay accused. They are cast out of the realm of the imaginable. The reputational damage is profound and irreversible and, whatever the verdict, the sentence is passed the minute the allegation is taken seriously.
Consequently we never appear to make any progress towards dispassionate justice, instead swinging on this pendulum – from the bad old days when police would return victims to their abusers, a helpful bobby recounting the charges to the perpetrator, thinking it a “family matter”, to the present that Bramall describes, in which the presumption of innocence has been replaced by the impossibility of exoneration.
Every time an allegation is made that is not proved, it is taken as proof that due process has not been observed. Every time a historical allegation stands up, especially one against a paedophile who abused serially, the horror of it becomes more difficult to accommodate, to fit into one's vision of a benign world.
Last week I interviewed four people who were abused as children: it was by chance – I wasn't writing about sexual abuse. One was an interview with a personality who was repeatedly raped by her brother. One was a writer, abused in a public school. One was for a housing story. And one was an activist; she was raped over a period of years by her father.
One male victim, three female. One predator taking advantage of an institution, three abusing family members. I'm guarding against thinking this happens all the time, like the A&E nurse who thinks everyone in the country is a problem drinker. But whatever the true incidence it's clearly not “never”. Just because we find it hard to accept doesn't mean it doesn't happen. The next thing that struck me was how devastating it is to press charges: within a family, it is permanently destructive. Even to say it to anyone, in a relatively positive-case scenario, splits the family down the middle, half believing the accuser, half the accused. In the worst case, your family never speaks to you again.
This doesn't mean false allegations of child abuse never occur: they are a documented, though not prevalent, factor in high-conflict divorces. But those are generally made by one parent about the other. Children rarely make these false claims.
Has an adult ever made a false historical claim? Of course. We cannot say every acquittal has been a mistake. It is simply useful, when considering the matter as a whole, to think of the destruction it wreaks in the victim's life to bring this to court – psychological as well as social, permanent and life-altering.
When the abuse has been within an institution, the pressures are different but the stakes are still dauntingly high: one is held liable for all the trust that has been stripped from the institution, which is particularly marked in charges against the church.
But that fact of being exiled from the world of normality and respectability applies to the abused as much as it does to the abuser. This is rarely ever said: there is simply a tacit change in one's status, a new question mark over one's credibility. This is before you even consider the court case itself, the fallout from openness, the tactical mendacity of those who, for reasons of guilt or squeamishness, don't want to hear you.
The pianist James Rhodes – who was raped as a child and then had to fight in court to publish his memoir because his ex-wife claimed it would damage their son – told me last year: “I don't think anyone I have ever met could name one of the victims of Savile or Rolf Harris. We never get any fucking airtime.”
The other thing that struck me, listening to the activist, was my own natural tendency to disbelief: she told me she was raped by her father (whom she had never prosecuted), and of course I believed her. But then she told me about a fellow activist who was apparently bred for the purposes of abuse; when she finally escaped, the police took her back to the family who abused her.
My first response was disbelief: who would have a child in order to sexually abuse it? What possible interruption of human instinct would have to occur for that to be possible? Yet my incredulity is driven by what I need to believe of other people, of the species; it has nothing to do with that woman or her case. Often the failure to hear these claims dispassionately has an element of group narcissism, in which it is more important to maintain a collective delusion than it is to discover the truth.
In 2013, when Keir Starmer was director of public prosecutions, he revolutionised the way in which sex crimes were approached, by asking a series of simple questions: what do we ask of victims before we will take them seriously? Are we asking them to report the crime immediately, not a decade later? Are we asking them to have clear, consistent, consecutive memories, unblurred by time and trauma? Are we asking them to be perfect, to be demure, to be drug and alcohol free, to be likeable? And to all those requirements, in the case of children, are we asking that the crime perpetrated against them should not be too grotesque before we will consider its veracity? And if we're raising all these hurdles to justice, are we excluding those who deserve and need it?
Both the accuser and the accused would be better served if we could reach some new normal, in which our need to believe in human goodness came second to the pursuit of justice.
Report shows allegations of child sex abuse not always acted on -One in Four
by Maeve Lewis
Survivors' support group One in Four has said Tusla's (the state's Child and Family Agency) investigations into entirely credible allegations of child sexual abuse throughout the State regularly conclude with no action being taken.
Executive Director Maeve Lewis said she believes this results in many children being unnecessarily exposed to the risk of sexual harm.
Referring to the current fostering controversy in the southeast, she predicted there would be more revelations of sexual abuse of vulnerable children because of the State's failure to act.
Ms Lewis's comments follow yesterday's report by the Health Information and Quality Authority into the State's Child Protection Services in Tusla's Dublin southeast/Wicklow area.
The report found 177 cases of retrospective referrals of child abuse were awaiting allocation to social workers last August.
Ms Lewis said the report confirms the experience of its clients - adult survivors of child sexual abuse - in engaging with the services.
She welcomed the watchdog's finding of very good practice in relation to allegations of current sexual abuse of children.
She added, however, that the report highlights the failures of the service to adequately investigate allegations against people who are still alive which have been made by adults in relation to sexual abuse in the past.
HIQA's report concluded that this may pose a significant risk to children. She said the support group notified all these concerns to Tusla.
"Just because the sexual abuse took place ten, 20 or even 30 years ago does not mean that the sex offender has stopped abusing children" she said.
"Through our sex-offender intervention programme we have learned that abusers tend to continue abusing until they are detected.
"The father who abused his children may now be abusing his grandchildren, the teacher who abused a pupil may be abusing the next generation of schoolchildren" she said.
She said One in Four's experience of making notifications to Tusla is reflected in the HIQA Report.
"Cases languish on waiting lists for long periods. Assessments of retrospective allegations are complex and we are very dissatisfied at the quality of many assessments. Staff interviewed by HIQA acknowledge the lack of training they receive in this regard.
"Investigations into allegations that we believe to be entirely credible regularly are concluded with no action being taken. I believe this means that there are many children out there who are unnecessarily exposed to the risk of sexual harm" she said.
Ms Lewis described as "very encouraging" HIQA's ushering in of a new level of transparency and monitoring to child protection services.
She said the failures identified in the report are partly due to too few social workers being in place and a lack of adequate training for staff.
"However, HIQA also highlights how retrospective allegations are treated less seriously than those of current abuse.
"Unless increased funding is made available to Tusla to invest in child protection services, it is likely that these failures will continue.
"In the past weeks the people of this country have been horrified, yet again, at failures in child protection" in the southeast.
"A this report shows, we can expect future revelations of the sexual abuse of vulnerable children because we failed to act," Ms Lewis added.
No excuse for Seattle Archdiocese's omissions in sexual-abuse cases
The continued evasion perpetuated by the Catholic Church is nothing short of a denial of the pain and suffering that countless children who are now adults continue to suffer.
by Janice Palm
THE recent story in The Seattle Times of one man's struggle to heal from being sexually abused while a student at St. Benedict School in Wallingford brings to light both the lifelong, often silent, struggle for those who have been sexually victimized in childhood and also the critical need for adults to act when children divulge abuse.
Steve O'Connor's story [“Victim speaks out on archdiocese's omissions from list of accused child sex abusers,” Jan. 25] depicts the all-too-familiar pattern for sexually abused children who grow into adulthood carrying the secret of abuse. Many, if not most, victims wait decades before coming forward to speak of the abuse. In that time, they carry on with life, attempting to outpace the self-doubt, the fears and the pervasive and often debilitating sense of shame.
Unfortunately, the effects of the childhood violation of one's body and ability to feel safe in the world do not dissipate as time passes. The demands and responsibilities of adulthood, including the need and desire to form close relationships, actually compound the effects of abuse, often leading to struggles with anxiety, deep depression, addictions and a number of other chronic mental and physical difficulties across a lifetime.
O'Connor's outrage that the Seattle Archdiocese's list of known perpetrators did not include the name of his perpetrator, who was a teacher and principal at his school, is justifiable. The need for accountability provides validation of the life-altering harm that was done. The continued confusion and evasion perpetuated by the Catholic Church is nothing short of a denial of the pain and suffering that countless children who are now adults continue to suffer.
Certainly, and regrettably, the harm caused cannot be undone. Offering sincere and thorough transparency that allows victims to receive the vindication they deserve seems to be the least the church can offer.
It is stunning and heartbreaking to read of O'Connor's efforts to tell of the abuse at the time it was occurring and of the denial and threats he received from those who had the ability to intervene to end the abuse. It is nearly impossible to imagine anyone, much less someone in authority, silencing a child's plea for help with such vicious and intimidating threats, virtually ensuring both the continuation of the abuse and the victimized child's sense of isolation and powerlessness.
This is all the more reason for those who are currently in power to take an honest and honorable stand to acknowledge and take responsibility for the wrong that was done under the watchful eye of the church.
If there is a lesson to emerge from this difficult story that could help us all to protect children, it is the reminder of the absolutely critical need for adults to be aware of the vulnerability of all children, to know the signs that a child may be abused and, most important, to listen and believe a child who dares to tell of being abused. We know from statistics that the majority of children never speak up about their abuse. And, incomprehensibly, when children do gather the incredible courage necessary to risk divulging their terrible secret, they are not always believed.
The reflexive need to turn away from the horrible reality of an adult sexually abusing a child, thus protecting the abuser, appears to be all too common. We know the certain outcome of this egregious failure: Children are left to silently bear continued abuse and a lifetime of nearly unbearable struggle and abusers remain at large, free to continue to perpetrate.
It is the job of all adults, most certainly those in positions of authority, to unequivocally put the needs of each and every child before their own, to be alert to the opportunity and the signs of abuse and, most of all, to listen and believe a child who asks for help.
Sold for sex — teens trafficked in Indy
by Tim Swarens
Marilyn Moores pauses as we pore over a thick stack of court records. The files document the sale of girls, as young as 15, for sex.
“This is evil,” Marion County's longtime juvenile court judge says.
I read through a case file that underscores the judge's anguish. It details the ordeal of a 15-year-old girl, diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression, who ran away from her home on Indy's east side last May.
The child, still in eighth grade, soon crossed paths with a man and a woman who lured her to a hotel room. She was photographed and a classified ad, promoting her availability, was posted in the “Escorts” section of a website.
Then, the men — as many as 11 in one night, according to the case file — began to arrive.
She didn't want to have sex with these strangers, the girl later told investigators. But she was forced into submission.
Men continued to show up at the hotel room, night after night, for nearly a week, until finally her mother was able to find her and secure her freedom. (The pair accused of selling the girl have been charged with a string of felonies, including trafficking of a minor. They are awaiting trial.)
Stop to think about this ugliness: A child was exploited by adults in the worst of ways. Sold for sex. Against her will. To a string of men, fixated on their own desires, no matter the harm they inflicted.
If rape is defined as forcing a person to have sex against her will, then this girl — this lost and wounded child — was raped 50 times or more in less than a week.
And she is far from the only victim of Indy's teen sex trade.
Judge Moores has piled atop a table records from 16 similar cases, each heard in her Indianapolis courtroom in the past year, each documenting the prostitution of children.
“This is evil,” she says again.
I do not doubt her assertion.
The girls arrive at the shelter on Indy's east side bearing the deep scars of the sex trade.
Some carry bruises and choke marks, inflicted by customers and pimps. Some bear Taser marks, punishment for breaking rules set by those who have exploited them. One girl, held in a room for days, collapsed from malnourishment as she walked into the treatment center.
Many suffer from sexually transmitted diseases, passed on by the men who purchased them for sex.
Others have been so emotionally and mentally manipulated that they've come to believe their abusers are their protectors and champions.
“When they come in, the girls are just exhausted,” Megan Jessup says in a conference room at Lutheran Child & Family Services on the east side. “This lifestyle wreaks havoc on their bodies. They work nonstop, and they have to be in a constant state of awareness for survival.”
Jessup, chief operating officer of a Carmel-based ministry called Ascent 121, helps coordinate teams of therapists, doctors, social workers and educators to deliver comfort and healing in the aftermath of soul-crushing trauma.
In 2014, Ascent 121 partnered with Lutheran Child & Family Service to launch IMPACT, an 11-bed unit where victims of trafficking receive intense treatment. It's a pilot program, launched with support from the state Department of Child Services, and for now, the only one of its kind in Indiana.
George Hurd, chief operating officer of Behavioral Health at Lutherwood, told me he was initially skeptical about how many girls would need such services. His idea at first was to house trafficking victims in the same units as other residents in Lutherwood's treatment programs. But the number of girls, and their special needs, forced a change in plans.
In the past year, 36 trafficking victims, most from Central Indiana, were sent to IMPACT for treatment. The program works with girls ages 12 to 18, but Jessup said most are 14 to 16 years old. Ascent 121 assisted another 11 survivors of trafficking in community-based programs.
One of them was a 15-year-old former Ben Davis High School student taken into custody in December at an Indianapolis hotel after an undercover police officer responded to an online advertisement featuring the girl.
Her case illustrates how authorities' approach to prostitution involving teens has changed in recent years. In the past, the girl likely would have been arrested and sent to the juvenile detention center. Instead, police called Family and Social Services to report her as a victim of human trafficking.
A state case manager, dispatched to interview the girl at the hotel, found that she had run away from home a month earlier, and, under the direction of an adult, had been advertising herself online for two weeks. Two men, whom she paid “gas money,” drove her to the hotel to have sex with a customer, who turned out to be the undercover officer.
The case manager reported the girl as a Child In Need of Services case; she eventually landed in Moores' court and from there was sent to IMPACT for treatment.
That change in approach — recognizing that these children are victims, and not criminals — is the result of years of hard work by advocates to raise awareness about sexual exploitation and to train police and others in how to spot signs of trafficking.
The victims almost invariably are runaways, in many cases fleeing deep dysfunction and abuse at home. Once a girl is on the streets, it often doesn't take long for predators, both men and women, to find her. (I asked Judge Moores and others: What about boys who are on the streets? The consensus is that boys almost certainly are victims of trafficking, but the cases, for whatever reason, are not being identified locally.)
“They're preying on the vulnerability of that age group,” Jessup said. “The girls are looking for food and shelter, and money, and love. They know the kids are looking for those things, and they provide them to build relationships.”
But those relationships soon turn to exploitation.
Over coffee on a cold January morning, Abby Kuzma explains how the business of selling sex works in the digital age.
Kuzma, chief counsel for consumer protection in the Indiana attorney general's office, helped drive efforts in 2012 to pass state legislation that increased penalties for sex trafficking ahead of the Super Bowl in Indianapolis. Since then, she's traveled around the state to help educate the public and policymakers about the dangers and the frequency of teen prostitution in Indiana.
In the Marion County court records, a common factor emerged in many of the cases — the girls were trafficked on a website called Backpage.com.
“We started tracking Backpage ads before the Super Bowl,” Kuzma said. “At the time, we saw a few hundred ‘Escort' ads in the state. A survey by the attorney general's office found 90,000 ‘Escort' ads in the last year in Indiana on Backpage.”
In 2011, Indiana's Greg Zoeller and 45 other attorneys general sent a letter to Backpage demanding that company executives explain their efforts to prevent human trafficking and child exploitation on the site. A year later, under pressure from advertisers and anti-trafficking activists, the site's owner, Village Voice Media, spun off the company.
Backpage officials now insist that ads are monitored to prevent child trafficking. But the case of a 16-year-old girl from Indy's northeast side is a horrific example of the damage inflicted when that monitoring fails.
A runaway, the girl told a state caseworker that she stayed with older men whom she met on Facebook. One of those men was a predator.
According to court records, the man forced the girl to post ads on Backpage, forced her to charge men for sex, then took the money she was paid. She was later passed on to other men who also used Backpage to prostitute her.
After an arrest for public intoxication last year, the girl reported that while working as a prostitute, she had been beaten and sexually assaulted, and at one point, a gun was held to her head. A psychological evaluation determined that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
She represents only one commercial sex ad on Backpage. Last week, 75 to 100 “Escort” ads were posted each day on the Indy page of the site.
One of those ads, for a girl said to be 18 years old, offered “fresh meat” for $150 for 30 minutes, $250 for an hour.
A single hour passes quickly. The wounds inflicted in those 60 minutes can last a lifetime.
At Lutherwood, I asked Jessup and Hurd an admittedly naive question: Who buys a 15-year-old girl for sex? Do men specifically want girls that young?
The answer, sadly, is yes, in some cases.
And Hurd noted that some men will pay a premium for underage teens.
In one high-profile example, last year's shocking downfall of Zionsville resident Jared Fogle, it was revealed that the restaurant pitchman had purchased a 17-year-old prostitute in New York City. He later asked her to help him find a younger child. “The younger the girl, the better” was his request.
But often, Jessup said, men don't want to know the true age of the girls they are buying. Just as they don't want to know about the pain their exploitation leaves behind.
“I have worked with abused and neglected children my whole adult life," George Hurd said. “But in the year I have done this (worked with trafficking victims) I have been left with very difficult feelings. To hear what these girls have been through, what they have endured, it's hard.”
It is hard. And it is ugly. It also is real, and it happens every day to children in our city.
Contact Swarens at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @tswarens.
To learn more
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children provides resources on how to identify and help victims of sex trafficking at missingkids.com.
To learn how to assist survivors of child sex trafficking in Central Indiana, visit ascent121.org or lutheranfamily.org
Four children dead or nearly died from abuse had prior DHS contact
by Ginnie Graham
Child welfare involvement prior to the deaths and a near death of four children since 2014 involved complaints of an unclean house, questionable broken leg, four referrals at the home of a 10-year-old Carter County girl and a trial parental reunification turned violent, according to reports from the Office of Juvenile System Oversight.
The reports were released last week by the Oklahoma Commission on Youth, which houses the Office of Juvenile System Oversight.
The law allows for summary reports of prior involvement by the child welfare division of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and judicial proceedings be made public in cases where a child death or near death resulted in charges filed against their primary caregiver.
On July 10, 2014, emergency crews were called to the home of 7-month-old Alex Legates on a report he was not breathing and turned blue. Medics found the infant with no cardiac activity, cold and purple. The crew was able to get a heart beat, but he was still unresponsive when the ambulance left the home.
Upon arrival at the hospital, the baby was in critical condition. Blood found from his rectum indicated internal bleeding due to low hemoglobin levels.
His mother, Crystal Hoglan, told officials she was sleeping in the same bed with the baby when she rolled over on him. Later, it was determined they were not co-sleeping. DHS removed the siblings, a 3-year-old and 7-year-old.
When Alex died four days later, DHS found the family home in deplorable condition: Piles of trash, dirty dishes, cockroaches and flies throughout the house and stained mattresses covered with dirty blankets.
The family gave conflicting stories, such as the mother saying the baby was found on the bed but others say he was on the floor by a wood-burning stove. At times, they denied knowing anything.
Medical officials found ligature marks around the baby's neck and numerous bug bites and scratches on his body. The Medical Examiner's Office ruled it a homicide with the probable cause of anoxic encephalopathy due to ligature strangulation.
Hoglan, 30, pleaded guilty to murder in the first degree and four counts of child abuse. The father, Jimmy Legates Sr., 36, pleaded guilty to four counts of child abuse and a judge made a finding of guilt on a murder in the second degree charge. Both are set for sentencing on April 11.
The order made by Judge J. Dwayne Steidley described the home as "a living hell" and "incubator for disease" not suitable for a sick child. He states the parents for three days made no effort to get medical attention until the boy was unresponsive.
"The final act being to feed formula to the child to get him to sleep in a filth laden bedroom wrapped in a filthy pink baby blanket," the order states.
DHS had a prior referral with the family on Sept. 30, 2011, which was before Alex's birth. Child welfare workers received an allegation of inadequate and dangerous shelter of children and placed it as a priority assessment.
The home was found "filthy and covered in roaches," including on the ceiling above their 4-year-old's bed. The family agreed to stay with a relative until they could find another place to live or clean up their current home with an extermination for bugs.
DHS followed up four days later and found the family "had made substantial progress" with a clean kitchen and roach bombs throughout the house. The worker observed some roaches in the home but they were dying off from the bombs. DHS closed the assessment stating the children were safe.
A 2-year-old boy from Bethany died after suffering from a fractured skull, brain injury, internal abdominal injuries and bruises on multiple areas of his body. Prosecutors say his mother's boyfriend beat Kreedin Brooks to death, and medical officials found older injuries consistent with physical abuse.
Dustin Melvin Davison, 22, is charged with first-degree murder. His case is set for a jury trial Dec. 5.
Davison originally claimed to medics that he was the babysitter and hit Kreedin with a pillow, and the boy fell on a coffee table. He told police he was in the shower when the injury occurred. Court records show he admitted to smoking marijuana the previous night.
The mother, Jennifer Young, stated he had been her boyfriend, roommate and babysitter. She said Davison had abused her on three or four prior occasions, so she ended the romantic relationship months before her son's death. However, she allowed Davison to live in the apartment and watch Kreedin while she worked.
Court records show Davison was on probation for a 2011 burglary conviction.
DHS substantiated the allegation of abuse by Davison and also a neglect-failure to protect by Young. The agency also substantiated the claim of neglect for inadequate or dangerous shelter against Davison and Young.
Young is not charged in the death.
Previously, DHS screened out an allegation of physical abuse on Nov. 20, 2014, after Kreedin was taken to the hospital for a leg fracture. On Oct. 23, 2014, the child arrived at his child-care provider complaining of pain in his right leg, which could not bear his weight. His mother told workers he must have fallen at a park the day before, according to the juvenile system oversight report.
Young then took the child to a hospital where a cast was put on the leg. A doctor told DHS that the injury could have been caused by a fall and did not appear to be abuse, but it was hard to tell. DHS interviewed Young, Davison and a step-grandfather and generated a report on the unsubstantiated claim.
Three months before an 18-month-old girl was beaten nearly to death on Sept. 28, 2015, she and her three siblings in Lawton were reunited with their parents after being in foster care.
The state law does not allow for the release of records in child deaths or near deaths related to previous removals, under the argument those do not relate to the death or near-death incident.
The report only states the judicial proceedings found the parents had been actively working on their service plan and demonstrating behavioral changes to regain custody. On June 17 last year, the children were placed back with their parents for a trial reunification.
Known only as "L.C." in the report, the girl was taken by ambulance to a hospital after a call of a unresponsive child. L.C. underwent surgery for a subdural hematoma, and doctors found other retinal hemorrhages not consistent with accidental injuries. Other injuries were a bump on her forehead and bruises on her upper left arm, back, buttocks, sides, neck and along her jawline. The neck bruising is consistent with being grabbed, according to the doctor.
DHS placed the siblings with a relative with the stipulation of no unsupervised contact with the parents — Joann Faith Garza or Eddie Pette Cano. Cano at first denied involvement, then said he spanked her with a sandal 10 or more times. Garza said she knew Cano disciplined the child but didn't know about the bruising or forehead bump.
Cano, 25, is charged with two counts of child abuse by injury. Garza, 24, is charged with one count of enabling child abuse by injury. Both have pleaded not guilty and will appear in court on May 13.
DHS substantiated findings as abuse for the near death to Cano and threat of harm to children for both parents. The agency recommended a "shocking and heinous" petition by filed on both parents and termination of parental rights to not reunite the family. The children are in foster care.
DHS investigated four abuse and neglect allegations of Ashley N. Milligan, of Wilson, before her 10-year old disabled daughter died in their home. Jacee L. Sanner weighed 23 pounds at a height of 43 inches when brought to the hospital on Aug. 10, 2014.
Jaycee had a normal birth, but a fever at 6-months-old led to seizures and a traumatic brain injury. She had multiple handicaps that left her completely reliant on others to survive.
Emergency medics found the girl wrapped in a blanket with rigor mortis setting in and lividity present. She had not seen a doctor in more than a year. Her mother said she did not seek medical attention for fear officials would think she was starving her daughter and lose custody of her children. The last doctor's visit in June 2014 showed Jacee weighed 48 pounds.
Jacee had lived with other family members from August 2012 to August 2013. Then, she returned to her mother's care. There is also an older sibling and two younger siblings.
Previous DHS referrals have similar allegations as those surrounding Jacee's death. No judicial proceedings were instigated prior to Jacee's death.
• June 11, 2011: An allegation that 6-year-old Jacee had a large scab and scrape on her chin and carpet burns wrapped in gauze on her knee. Her mother said she was cooking dinner when Jacee rolled on the couch and received the injuries. Child welfare workers determined those non-life threatening but recommended contacting the Developmentally Disabled Services Division for assistance and work with the school counselor for education home visits.
• Sept. 29, 2009: Allegation that 5-year-old Jacee was neglected by her mother and stepfather due to confinement, failure to provide medical attention, failure to provide adequate nourishment and inadequate physical care. Workers found the girl weighing 26 pounds, the start of a bed sore on her tailbone from not being moved and insect bites on her body. The mother stopped seizure medication a year earlier resulting in at least 30 seizures a day. Workers noted the girl was "skinny" but observed her eating oatmeal. A physician evaluated the bed sore but said it was not a concern. Workers closed the case noting the children were safe.
• Feb. 2, 2009: A complaint was lodged that Jacee was receiving inadequate physical care. DHS workers found that the children's primary care was being handled by other family members and "all needs are being minimally met." It was recommended Jacee attend school more regularly, receive DDSD services and be taken to the doctor more often. The conclusion was the children were safe.
• Sept. 9, 2008: An allegation was made that Jacee and her siblings were being neglected and living in a filthy house, and Jacee was malnourished DHS workers found the home to be cluttered but had no safety threats. Jacee's mother and father said she could eat on her own but not drink. No other people were contacted during this investigation, and workers concluded the children were safe.
Democratic senators propose longer prison time for child abuse
Up to 5 years of mandatory sentencing under bill
by Joshua Lim
COLUMBUS – A person who causes serious harm to a child may face harsher prison sentences if a bill related to child abuse is passed.
The bill, sponsored by two Democratic senators, would allow a prosecutor to recommend an additional mandatory sentence of up to 5 years if the offense resulted in “serious physical harm” to a person under the age of 13.
The judge, however, will be the one who will make the final decision on the sentence.
Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, said the bill would provide law enforcers with the tools necessary to sufficiently punish people who harm children.
Currently, an adult who inflicts serious harm on a child would typically be charged with felonious assault and would receive the same punishment as a person who causes serious harm to another adult, Schiavoni said.
“It's a sad thing to watch and it's very upsetting,” Schiavoni said. “Somebody that does knowingly and purposely hurt a child, they deserve to face a stiff penalty, in my opinion.”
A person convicted of felonious assault could face a minimum prison sentence of two years and a maximum sentence of 8 years.
If the bill becomes law, the child abuse specification would increase the minimum prison time to three years and the maximum to 13 years, said Jeff Bruzzese, an assistant prosecuting attorney for Jefferson County.
Bruzzese said the bill would be a useful tool for prosecutors and judges to make sure the penalty matches the crime.
“I don't think the general public understands the constraints on the courts and the judges when it comes to sentencing,” Bruzzese said. “You have situations where people that abuse children, causes serious physical harm, can be out of prison in under a year, which is not satisfactory to the victims, to the families or this community.”
The bill would also apply to other serious crimes, including murder, assault, kidnapping, railroad vandalism and domestic violence.
Under the bill, the cutoff age of a child is 13, but Schiavoni said that number might be lowered.
Keary McCarthy, the president/CEO of Innovation Ohio, said it is too early to know if the additional prison time would have a financial impact on the prison system.
“It does strike the right balance between stiffening the criminal penalties for very serious cases of abuse for a defenseless child and the discretion of a prosecutor or a judge to make the right decisions at the local level,” McCarthy said.
The bill had its first hearing on Jan. 20.
Joshua Lim is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaLim93.
Biker club helps children suffering from abuse
by Christian Betancourt
When children suffering from child abuse in Oklahoma hear the thunder of engines and see men with leather vests riding their bikes, they feel relieved.
Guardians of the Children, Red River Chapter, a non-profit organization in Oklahoma, advocates for children in the state.
“We exist to educate the public about child abuse and create a safer environment for abused or neglected children,” reads their mission statement. “As a body of bikers, we help empower children to be courageous, even in the face of their ordeals. Our mission is to send a clear message to all who would abuse children that we are prepared to protect these children through our physical and emotional support.”
The groups states they do not condone violence in any manner but will use any means to protect children.
“If we as a group or as an individual, must act to prevent the abuse of another child, we will do so,” said the statement.
Dale “Chief” Wilmeth is the current president of the club. He said their group is not affiliated with Bikers Against Child Abuse due to political reasons, but in the need the only thing that mattered was the well being of the children.
“When a child suffers from abuse, it's very difficult for them to face the person that abused them,” he said. “We meet with the child ahead of time and we more or less adopt them into our organization and showed them they have adult friends out there that care about them. We give them a cut – a vest with our patches on them – and if they have to go to court, we show up too to give the child to have the support they need.”
The group offers support, but Wilmeth said they're willing to step up to protect victims.
“Don't get me wrong, if the abuser approaches the child we will stand between them,” he said. “We're not going to seek him out, but we're not going to let him abuse the child while we're there.”
In 1970, Wilmeth joined the police force. He said officers of the law are very restricted about what they can do to protect abused children and stop the cycle of abuse.
“I have seen the cycle over and over again and we need to do something to stop it,” he said. “It's a fact that a lot of people that are abused as a child grow up to be abusers. We need to do whatever we can do to stop that cycle.”
Jeremy Wilson, Sergeant of Arms for the group, is a also a youth pastor of his church. He joined after seeing several cases of abuse and children being failed by the system.
“I see a lot of it going on and someone needs to stand up (to help the children),” he said. “Sometimes we can do more than law enforcement can do from a legal perspective. We don't condone violence in any way but we will step up if a child is afraid. We don't want to see any child beat or hurt in any way. A lot of times (The Department of Human Services) DHS does not do their job. Sometimes a child can be injured or hurt and ... DHS files their report, it goes up their chain of command and whatnot and it's decided by somebody else up the chain of command. With us if the child needs help, we go, we don't have a chain of command.”
The group not only focuses on child advocacy during court appearances, but also help the families of the children the 20 member group “adopts.”
“We have some really great people in our chapter,” said Wilmeth. “We do whatever it takes to help these kids even beyond the scope of things. We went out and bought Christmas for a family that wasn't going to have one without us. We're not going to limit ourselves to just going to court with these kids.”
The group, according to Wilson, will camp out outside the children's house – with the family's permission – if an abuser is bonded out and wants to harass the child.
“We'll escort the child to and from school, we will stay with that child until the case is closed,” he said. “The child has all of our contacts. If the child is ever frightened, they make a call to one of our member and we roll.”
The 501-C3 program also has an outreach program to help the children in different aspects of their life.
“We remember the child on their Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, graduations, we go to their soccer games, ball games since sometimes the parents are not able to go but we will be there,” he said. “Somebody will be there to support the children and their activities.”
Most people in the chapter live in Oklahoma. The group used to operate in Texas and broke off to serve the state they live in and hope to have a strong presence in Stephens County.
“I just hope more people would know who we are and what we do and how we can help,” he said. “Law enforcement is not allowed to divulge the names of victims of child abuse. The parents can. The only way we can find out about the victims of child abuse is through the parents or another family member gets in touch with us.”
The group adopted a shelter in the area and Wilson said they are willing to participate in fundraisers or if the services of the group are needed.
“All they have to do is call us,” he said. “We make the Cave B.A.S.H. every year, we sponsor it. We pretty much adopted the Stephens County Children's Shelter. We redid their playground, did some work on their equipment, we built a dollhouse the kids in the yard. All they need to do is give us a call and we will show up.”
For more information, search www.guardiansofthechildren.com for Red River Chapter or call Wilmeth at 580-530-2673.