Child sex abuse victim in Nottinghamshire care homes: 'I still wake up sobbing in my sleep'
by Nottingham Post
A woman with a brain tumour who says she suffered sex abuse in Nottinghamshire children's homes has come forward to tell her story in a bid for "justice" – before it is too late.
Between the ages of 12 and 15, Toni Edwards, now 55, lived at five Notts care homes – three of which are now under investigation by police over historical allegations of abuse.
She says that, after being put into care at her own request to escape repeated sexual abuse by a man close to her family, she was branded "a liar" when she told her story to social workers in the 1970s.
She claims she was beaten, subjected to "mental abuse", and watched by male staff while getting changed.
Official records, seen by the Post, put her "rebellious" behaviour down to "her age" and being "menstrual".
Now, Mrs Edwards (née Goldhawk) has waived her right to anonymity to seek justice.
Speaking to the Post at her home in Bilborough, she said: "I was the victim but they made me out to be a liar. If they thought I was playing up, they would hit me. They didn't listen to me;
"I was let down. I want to get this all off my back and I want justice before it's too late."
Nottinghamshire Police launched Operation Daybreak in 2010 to look into historical abuse at 13 homes. It was followed by Operation Xeres, focusing on ten homes. More than 260 people have spoken to police officers.
Mrs Edwards – who also has cirrhosis of the liver – said she tried to take her own life three times due to the abuse.
The man who she claims abused her has already been convicted of four charges of sexual activity with a child. But these did not relate to her. He cannot be identified for legal reasons.
"I still wake up sobbing in my sleep," she said.
Documents seen by the Post suggest social workers knew there were other issues. One report said: "She is very alienated and suspicious of adult figures."
Nottinghamshire is among the first places to be investigated as part of the national Goddard Inquiry into historical sex abuse.
Nigel O'Mara, chairman of the East Midlands Survivors group, said: "We've spent 30 years campaigning for this inquiry.Whether they are a victim, a witness or someone who worked in care and didn't think things were done correctly at the time, they should all come forward."
Nottinghamshire County Council ran local care homes from 1974 to 1998.
Colin Pettigrew, director of children's services, said: "We are very sad to hear of Mrs Edwards' circumstances. Anyone with information about criminal offences against children is encouraged to contact police on 101."
A Nottinghamshire Police spokesman said: "A member of the public has contacted Nottinghamshire Police to report sexual offences dating back to the 1970s. It would not be appropriate to comment any further at this time."
21st Century Public Shaming
by DAVID ROSEN
On February 8th, Pres. Obama signed the “International Megan's Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking” (H.R. 515), but made no formal public statement to go along with the signing.
The White House issued a press release accompanying the signing of the new law arguing that it accomplishes two goals. First, it empowers the Department of Homeland Security's “Angel Watch Center” and the Department of Justice's “National Sex Offender Targeting Center” to monitor the international travel of registered sex offenders. Second, it requires the Department of State to include a unique identifier – the 21st century scarlet “A” — on passports issued to registered sex offenders.
Some are calling it “the international Scarlet Letter law,” recalling Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 classic tale. In the novel, the Massachusetts Puritans of the 1640s force a local woman, Hester Prynne, to wear a scarlet “A” on her dress, thus publicly displaying her shame for having engaged in adultery (with the local pastor) and having an out-of-wedlock child.
The International Megan's Law is the first law in U.S. history in which a special symbol will be placed on a citizen's form of personal identification, a passport, to denote that the individual was convicted of a sex crime. Nearly four centuries after the witch trials, in which women were hung for having sex with the devil, those in authority continue to publicly shame people convicted of engaging in unacceptable sexual practices.
The original “Megan's Law” was named for Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted and murdered in 1994. She was abused and killed by a young man who lived across the street from the family in Hamilton Township, NJ; he had been convicted in two prior cases of child molestation and spent six years in prison — and nobody in the neighborhood knew of his past.
The New Jersey legislature hurriedly passed the law in 1994 and, in 1996, Pres. Clinton signed a federal version, requiring all states to warn the public of sex offenders or lose federal funding. Today, all 50 states and the District of Columbia enforce a version of the law.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the Congressmen from Megan's district, promoted the original law as well as the international version. Under the original law, state governments were required to notify communities when a convicted sex sinsexsuboffender moved into a neighborhood. The new version extends notification to foreign countries by monitoring – and sometimes preventing — the international travel of a convicted sex offender. It also requests foreign countries report if any of their convicted sex offenders travel to the U.S. A 2010 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that in fiscal year 2008 at least 4,500 registered sex offenders received a U.S. passport.
Sex offender registration preceded Megan's Law. Karne Newburn, in a detailed legal analysis, “The Prospect of an International Sex Offender Registry,” carefully lays out the history of such regulation. She points out that the same year New Jersey passed the original Megan's law, 1994, the U.S. Congress passed a law named after Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year-old abducted in St. Joseph, MN, that called for states to voluntarily register convicted sex offenders.
In '96, the Congress enacted the “Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act” requiring the U.S. Attorney General to establish the National Sex Offender Registry and required lifetime registration for certain types of sex offenders. In ‘98, it extended the legislation to include sexually violent offenders; in 2000, it passed the “Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act”; and, in 2006, it passed the “Adam Walsh Act” that increased the number of specified sex-crime offenses required for registration.
Newburn details what is involved in “registration.” The convicted offender “must provide their names, social security numbers, the name and address of their employers, the name and address of places where they attend school, and the license plate number and description of vehicles they own or operate.” The offender's criminal record is also made public, including the dates of any prior arrests, convictions or outstanding warrants as well as parole, probation and supervisory release status. The registration includes a physical description, a current photograph, set of fingerprints, palm prints and a DNA sample.
In 2014, there were 796,598 people on the national sex offender registry. Unfortunately, while the popular media promotes the image of an isolated male sex predictor ready to strike everywhere at anytime, most sex offenses against children are incestuous acts that take place in a child-care setting, too often the home.
Civil liberties advocates have raised serious reservations about the new law.
Human Rights Watch argues that U.S. “registration laws are overbroad in scope and very long in duration.” Chrysanthi Leon, a professor of gender studies at the University of Delaware, argues that registrants are unlikely to commit new sex crimes. More so, she warns, such monitoring could harm members of family who will be blocked from travel.
David Post, writing in The Washington Post, took offense at the new legal designation comparing it to the Nazi use of “yellow star” identifying Jews. He sternly insists that this is the first time in U.S. history that a special designation will appear on a citizen's passports. The definition of a sex offender includes anyone previously convicted, at any point in his/her life, of a sex offense.
Janice Bellucci, a civil rights attorney and president of the advocacy group, California Reform Sex Offender Laws, rhetorically argued, “Who is going to have a unique identifier added to their passport next? Is it going to be Muslims? Is it going to be gays?” The group filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco challenging the new law.
The true number of people trafficked in the sex trade, especially children and young girls, is difficult to determine. In a 2015 assessment of sex trafficking, “Sex Trafficking of Children in the United States,” the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported that “the exact number of child victims of sex trafficking in the United States is unknown because of challenges in defining the population and varying methodologies used to arrive at estimates.”
In 2012, David Finkelhor and Lisa Jones, with the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, released an influential study, “Have Sexual Abuse and Physical Abuse Declined Since the 1990s?,” noted: “There was a 56% decline in physical abuse and a 62% decline in sexual abuse from 1992 to 2010.”
In 2009, Finkelhor, Richard Ormrod and Mark Chaffin found, in a Justice Department study, “Juveniles Who Commit Sex Offenses Against Minors,” that more than one-quarter (25.8 percent) of all sex offenders and more than one-third (35.6 percent) of sex offenders against juvenile victims were other juveniles; most of these offenders (93%) were boys between 12 and 14 years of age. These youths are likely registered as sex offenders and swept up by the new law.
Unfortunately, child sexual abuse is widespread. According to one study, in the U.S., 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. Some self-reporting studies claim that 20 percent of adult females and 5-10 percent of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident.
The U.S. has come a long way from the Puritan world depicted by Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter. Four centuries ago, violation of the social order was conceived of as a “sin,” a moral failing; today, a violation is considered a “crime,” a civil offense. Violations include rape, pedophilia, child porn, sex trafficking, infecting with an STD/AIDS and lust murder. Today's moral order is based on a belief in the equality of each participant, no matter which gender, but whether they are rational (i.e., capable of saying No!) and age-appropriate.
Today, those who violate mutual consent are considered immoral, pathological or criminal. And the worst — the most socially stigmatized segment of those who violate sexual consent — is the man (or, far less often, woman) who perpetrates a child sex crime. These crimes include harming the young person through sexual abuse, prostitution, pornography and lust murder.
The International Megan's Law, like the original Megan's Law, is not an act of legal punishment. While the Eighth Amendment bans cruel and unusual punishment, public shaming has deep roots in the American legal system and, according to a 2015 report in Prison Legal News, seems to on the increase. Public shaming is form of dehumanization, of stigmatizing the offender with a scarlet “A” or “yellow star” or passport symbol. The ostensible goal is to prevent the offender from committing another sex crime. However, it's unclear how effective such shaming is in terms of 21st century law enforcement and moral values.
Reporting error inflates Md. child abuse cases
by John Fritze
A recent report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services included a startling statistic: The number of abused or neglected children in Maryland in 2014 had climbed 27 percent, the second-sharpest increase in the nation.
But state officials say that the figure was inflated because of a reporting error. It turns out that the number of cases depends on how a state defines a victim.
The federal government has been gathering state-level child abuse and neglect data for more than two decades, tracking the time it takes for Child Protective Services to respond to a report of child abuse, for instance, and the number of cases that are substantiated after an investigation.
The most recent installment of that data, which was released in late January and covers 2014, identified 15,800 children in Maryland who were victims of abuse or neglect — up from just over 12,000 cases the year before. Only Massachusetts had a larger year-over-year increase in abuse cases.
But officials at the Maryland Department of Human Resources said the federal number should not include children who are assisted through a new effort to segregate "low-risk" cases and work with those families to improve the situation at home rather than conduct a formal investigation.
That effort, known as "alternative response," was fully implemented in Maryland in 2014.
"We have determined that Maryland should not have counted any of the children receiving alternative response as victims," DHR spokeswoman Paula Tolson said in a statement. "Maryland therefore will be resubmitting 2014 data to correct this error."
The alternative response approach is designed to lessen the adversarial relationship between families and caseworkers. While many child advocates regard it as a best practice, some critics question whether the two-track system does enough to keep children safe.
Federal child abuse data are voluntarily reported by states, and individual state law determines who is a victim.
Instead of a 27 percent increase, Tolson said, the updated data would reflect a 20 percent decrease in child victims from 2013 to 2014.
The number of child fatalities in the state from abuse or neglect fell slightly, from 27 in 2013 to 23 the following year, according to the federal report. The state also reduced the amount of time it takes for Child Protective Services workers to respond to a report of abuse to 50 hours, under the national average of 75 hours.
The federal report found a 3 percent increase in child abuse and neglect cases nationwide. Federal officials have pointed to substance abuse and domestic violence to explain the national increases in cases.
Seeking for Safety: Sexual abuse of children includes more than 'stranger-danger'
by Monica Vendituoli
It came as a surprise to many when sheriff's deputies accused a former Cumberland County Schools high school teacher of having sex with a 17-year-old student.
Laura Garrigus, 30, of the 1600 block of Barber Avenue, was charged Feb.8 with four counts of taking indecent liberties with a student and two counts of sexual offenses with a student, a Cumberland County Sheriff's Office news release said.
Part of the shock comes from the common perception that sexual abuse of children and teenagers is often framed as an issue of "stranger-danger."
Child Advocacy Center Outreach Coordinator Faith Boehmer said it is the biggest myth she hears from adults in workshops designed to prevent childhood sexual abuse.
Located in the 200 block of Rowan Street adjacent to Festival Park, the Child Advocacy Center is a nonprofit that helps interview and support sexually abused children and teenagers under the age of 18.
The nonprofit provides a space, both safe and friendly, for law enforcement agencies in Cumberland County and surrounding counties to conduct forensic interviews of children who have been sexually abused.
In 2015, Boehmer said the center served 661 children. In the majority of cases, Boehmer said the children knew the people who sexually abused them before the abuse occurred.
"That takes a twist on that 'stranger-danger' thing," Boehmer said.
Often times, Boehmer said perpetrators of sexual abuse take great efforts to get close to their victims and their victims' families.
The trust that victims' parents may develop with the perpetrators can make it even more difficult for parents to realize that their children are victims.
"They will groom them to get to know their families," Boehmer said.
Boehmer said certain behavioral changes often occur when children are sexually abused.
One of the biggest signs that a child has been sexually abused is the child acting out sexually in a way that is inappropriate for their age.
Boehmer said children might use more sexually charged language than usual or attempt to commit sex acts.
Last year, Boehmer said the majority of victims interviewed or helped by the center were between the ages of 7 to 9, which is much too young to be acting out sexually.
Boehmer said parents also should look for drastic behavior changes in their children. When children are victims of sexual abuse, Boehmer said, they may start spiraling out of control.
Victims may start having angry outbursts or lower grades.
Boehmer said the opposite might also happen. Victims might start displaying "too perfect behavior," Boehmer said.
If children display these signs, Boehmer encouraged parents and other caretakers to call law enforcement agencies who can then set up forensic interviews with the center.
In addition to helping victims, the center offers child sexual abuse prevention classes that teach adults how to stop and spot child sexual abuse.
Boehmer said that all adults, not just parents, can take the course, which is offered in partnership with the "Darkness to Light" program out of Charleston, South Carolina.
There are 70 organizations in the Cumberland County area that have participated in the program.
To learn more about the classes or child sexual abuse, call the center at 910-486-9700.
'Facebook child sexual abuse party' smashed by cops who stopped 40 teen girls heading to 'exploitation' event
by John Shammus
Cops have stopped 40 teenage girls - some as young as 14 - from attending a party that was organised on Facebook 'to sexually exploit them'.
Police officers took the action on February 5 after worried parents and care workers had alerted the authorities.
Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police Jane Sawyers said: "The purpose of arranging the party was so that some children could be exploited."
However Staffordshire Police refused to confirm to Mirror Online if anyone has been arrested.
A spokesman for Staffordshire Police added: "An operation stopped groups who were organising parties through social media to attract young females in North Staffordshire with the intention to carry out child sexual exploitation."
Officers believe there have been similar gatherings in Stoke-on-Trent and that they are becoming an increasing issue for local authorities.
Police say they had been made aware that "some sexual activity" had taken place at the parties after youngsters gave information to teachers, care workers and parents.
A spokesman added: "The response by police and partners has been to look to identify when and where such parties were taking place with a view to ensuring they are being properly managed and young people attending them are safe.
"On the occasions where we felt it appropriate to disrupt, or prevent parties from taking place, we have done so."
Staffordshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis also reiterated the need for youngsters' activities online to be monitored.
He said: "I'd urge all parents to take simple steps to improve their children's online safety.
"This is crucial to reducing the risk of the sexual exploitation of children."
A spokesman for Stoke-on-Trent City Council added: "We take our responsibility to tackle child sexual exploitation very seriously, and work in partnership with the police and other responsible agencies.
"We will not tolerate the sexual abuse of children and are committed to supporting vulnerable children, and in this case, a range of support work is underway."
Vulnerable children at risk of parental sexual abuse
by Erica M. Allen Winslow MD,MHP
There is a problem with the Child Protective System in Northern Virginia which often fails to detect cases of sexual abuse - particularly when the abuser is a parent. Decreased capacity to detect cases of parental sexual abuse is largely due unrealistic expectations of the child's disclosure of abuse, gender bias and irregularities in the conduct of abuse investigations, thereby placing children at further risk of abuse. Additionally, parents report law enforcement detectives decline or under-investigate such cases- disbelieving the parent to whom the child disclosed, (commonly mothers) and limiting their involvement to whether there is enough evidence for criminal prosecution rather than to protect and serve the child.
In review of cases where a child discloses to a parent in their home, Child Protective Service (CPS) agents sometimes inadequately investigate reports of sexual abuse justifying irregularities in the conduct of investigations on adherence to organizational policies discordant with major abuse science and standards of care known to physicians and mental health professionals who interact with clients in other settings.
Extracted from cases in Northern Virginia, an interview of a child by a CPS agent lasted a total of 5-6 minutes in a police station under the expectation that the 4yo child could have disclosed in such short time frame despite lack of familiarity with the interviewer. Further concerning, one CPS agent interviewed children with the reported abuser in the waiting room after brining the children to the interview site unsupervised. Ultimately, the respective investigations were classified “unfounded”. Surprisingly, Law enforcement declined to investigate subsequent reports of abuse relating to the referenced cases because the outcomes were deemed “unfounded” by Child protective Services and since there was no disclosure by the children.
Barriers to disclosure of sexual abuse to third party professionals include, direct and/or indirect intimidation by the perpetrator, fear, reluctance, plastic memory and recall, guilt, shame and inadequately trained evaluators performing forensic interviews of children yet lack pre-requisite skillsets for performing such assessments. Given the barriers to childhood disclosure of sexual abuse children are often reluctant to disclose in single interview or during the timeline of investigative proceedings (45-60 days, 90 days with law enforcement involvement). Although an investigation may remain open for 45-90 days, the child is often only interviewed once and not referred for counseling during the investigative window for later disclosure to occur. Although there were multiple reports of abuse received for each child, none of the aforementioned cases were referred for evaluation in one of the four Children's Advocacy Centers in Northern Virginia.
A falsely classified CPS determination of “unfounded” carries much weight in the judicial system- influencing the increasing numbers of children placed under unsupervised custody of parent sex abusers despite ineffective investigative processes for which evidence was or was not obtained. Obtaining protective orders or emergency motions for custody to remove children from their abuser is reportedly difficult to achieve in “unfounded” cases despite failures in organizational policy which limit acquisition of substantiating evidence. Important to note, counter-allegations of other forms of abuse are often filed to create the perception of a “tit for tat” relationship between conflicting parents, thereby weakening the validity of the sex abuse allegation and manipulating investigative outcomes.
Long-term outcomes of child sex abuse include, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions, lack of self-esteem, poor school performance, sexual promiscuity, prostitution and undesired pregnancies. Given the impact of these outcomes on children and families, we must urgently correct deficiencies in our child protective system to accurately detect sexual abuse and to protect the well-being of the children affected by this issue. Looking forward, perhaps a “reasonable concern” disposition could be added to CPS policy in addition to the “founded” and “unfounded” classifications. On another note, should we continue to rely on CPS to handle these cases in the future?
Kids born small and targeted by bullies may face lasting effects
Children born at extremely low birth weight may face greater risk of bullying than their normal-sized peers and be more prone to suffer lasting effects from victimization, a Canadian study suggests.
Among adult survivors of childhood bullying, people who had been tiny infants appeared more likely than those born weighing 2,500 grams (5.5 pounds) or more to be depressed, anxious, antisocial, avoidant, and hyperactive or experience obsessive-compulsive or panic disorders, researchers report in Pediatrics.
"While bullying has detrimental, long-term effects on every child, adults who were extremely low birth weight babies may suffer more because of all the hardships they have to overcome throughout their lives," said lead study author Kimberly Day, a researcher at the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
Infants weighing less than 1,000 grams (2.2 pounds) at birth are considered to be extremely low birth weight babies. Some die as infants, and those that do survive may have complications like chronic lung disease, cognitive delays, behavioral and emotional problems, physical disabilities and impaired vision or hearing.
"The same differences that make them more sensitive to the effects of bullying may also put them at greater risk for experiencing bullying," Day added by email.
To assess how birth weight influences the lasting effects of childhood bullying, Day and colleagues examined psychiatric disorders in adults at two points in time, between ages 22 and 36.
More than half of the 275 participants dropped out after the first assessment, which was done by age 26.
Among those who completed both adult evaluations, the 84 low birth weight babies had weighed about 829 grams (1.8 pounds) on average when they were born, while the control group of 90 normal sized infants weighed about 3,400 grams (7.5 pounds).
At the first adult evaluation, researchers asked participants to recall how often they endured physical or verbal abuse before age 16 using a 10-point scale, with the lowest scores meaning little to no bullying and the highest results indicating routine victimization.
Participants who were tiny babies reported average bullying scores of about 5.1, compared with just 4.4 for those who arrived in the world at an ordinary size.
By age 26, researchers found that for each one-point increase in the victimization score, the adults who were too small at birth had 67 percent higher odds of depression, 36 percent greater likelihood of anxiety, 92 percent increased risk for antisocial behavior and a 39 percent higher chance of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Between ages 29 and 36, a one-point increase in the original peer victimization score predicted 69 percent higher odds of panic disorder and a more than tripled risk of obsessive-compulsive disorder for the low birth weight babies.
For normal-weight infants, bullying predicted increased odds of antisocial problems at ages 22 to 26, the study found.
In addition to the high dropout rate, it's possible that some adult participants didn't have an accurate memory of how much they experienced bullying during childhood, the researchers note.
Improvements in neonatal care since the participants were born in the 1970s and 1980s might also mean the findings could be different for future generations of kids, the authors also point out.
It's also possible that children who were born at an extremely low birth weight might perceive childhood bullying differently than kids who were bigger babies, said Dr. Matthew Davis, a pediatrics researcher and deputy director of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation at the University of Michigan.
Medical challenges might also affect their long-term learning and socialization, and they might develop differently as teens and adults than children born at normal weight, Davis, who wasn't involved in the study, added by email.
"Being a victim of bullying behavior is bad for children's health, period," Davis added. "What this study reminds us is that childhood bullying can have long-term effects on mental health, well into adulthood - especially for individuals who were born at extremely low birth weight."
Life with Gracie: Sex abuse victim honored for fight to change law
by Gracie Bonds Staples
Last summer the Georgia legislature passed House Bill 17, extending the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse.
It was a huge moment for the more than 2 million adult victims in Georgia who report being sexually abused during their childhood. The bill essentially cleared the way for them to have their day in civil court by opening a two-year retroactive window for claims of abuse at any age, no matter how long ago the abuse happened.
The law allows victims who were shut out in the past by Georgia's short statute of limitations to file claims between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2017. It also gives victims up to two years from the time their abuse is disclosed and documented by medical or psychological evidence in which to sue their accused attackers.
You would think that would make Justin Conway, 38, a satisified man. He'd finally stood up to the karate coach who he said sexually abused him beginning at age 13 and then fought hard to see “The Hidden Predator” Bill signed into law.
But it proved bittersweet for Conway. One moment he felt welcome relief that Warren Craig Peeples, the man he alleges left him a damaged man from years of sexual abuse, might finally get his due in civil court. And the next, deep sorrow that Peeples will never face criminal charges because the statute of limitations had expired.
If he had it to do over again, would he tell?
“One thousand percent yes,” Conway said. “As a father I had no choice. Even if this law and this process doesn't help anybody else, it will have helped me become the man that I need to be. There is no greater calling than to advocate for the protection of children's innocence. If nobody stands up, nothing will ever change.”
Conway first came forward with his story in the summer of 2013. From age 6, he began training at Pak's Karate in Camden County, where Peeples was the Olympic hopeful's coach. For years, Conway says, he felt ashamed and did not speak of the alleged abuse.
“I had always thought it was just me, that it was my fault,” Conway said. “The moment that I came to know that I was not the only one, I reported it to law enforcement.”
In a March 2014 letter to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent, Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson said she had sufficient evidence to prosecute Peeples for “multiple acts of sodomy, aggravated sodomy, child molestation, aggravated child molestation and sexual battery” allegedly perpetrated upon students at Pak's Karate, “beginning as early as 1988 and continuing up until 2001.”
But the state was barred from proceeding with criminal charges because the statute of limitations had expired.
The statute of limitations also had expired for a civil case, but Conway decided to do something about that.
For the next two years, he fought alongside Voice Today, the Marietta-based nonprofit that advocates for child sex abuse victims, and state Rep. Jason Spencer to get the law changed. He testified at House and Senate hearings, served on a task force for the bill, made media appearances and rallied support from around the state.
The bill became law on July 1. In August, Conway, along with six other alleged victims, filed the first suit under the new law. It is now in the discovery phase.
“That was the only option we had to face the perpetrator in the court of law,” Conway said.
For his contribution in passing the bill, Conway will receive the Voice of Courage Award at the third annual Legacy Ball benefiting Voice Today on March 5.
“It's very difficult for a man to disclose that they were sexually abused as a child,” said Angela Williams, founder of Voice Today. “He showed great courage in stepping out and fighting arm-in-arm with us on behalf of other victims to get the civil statute of limitations extended. He's a great role model for other men who have been sexually abused.”
Peeples, who continues to run the karate studio, has steadfastly denied the allegations. He refused to comment other than to say, “I don't know why anyone would honor someone who is an habitual liar. Call my attorney.”
The Legacy Ball will be hosted by former University of Georgia Football Coach Vince Dooley and his wife Barbara.
An estimated one in 10 children will be the victim of sexual abuse before the age of 18. There are an estimated 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse in America today
When Barbara Dooley learned those statistics, she was startled.
“I absolutely had no clue how many young men and women had been abused and what it does to them,” Dooley said.
She and her husband signed on to host the Legacy Ball after they met Williams and learned about Voice Today.
“When you hear the stories you can't help but jump right into action,” Dooley said. “Hopefully others will join us. Come to the Legacy Ball. We need you.”
Catholic Church Sex-Abuse Survivor, Laid Off By Vatican Commission, Praises 'Spotlight'
by Scott Feinberg
Peter Saunders, who is on an involuntary "leave of absence" from the Vatican commission to which he was appointed by the Pope, tells THR, "All Catholics and all thinking people should watch this film."
"It's been an overwhelming few days, but also a really encouraging few days because so many people are coming forward and so many people are offering support," Peter Saunders told me when we spoke by phone Tuesday morning.
Founder of the U.K.'s National Association for People Abused in Childhood, Saunders is a British survivor of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest that took place decades ago when he was a child. In 2014, Saunders became one of two survivors appointed by Pope Francis to serve on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, the group investigating the international scandal for the Vatican.
Saunders arranged a Feb. 4 screening of Spotlight — the Oscar-nominated film about Boston's Catholic Church sex abuse scandal — for the commission. While the Vatican itself has not commented on the screening, Vatican Radio last fall called the film "honest" and "compelling." After the screening, Saunders told the Los Angeles Times, "The film is extremely worrying about the cover-up of abuse in the Catholic Church, and I think it would be a good moment for the Pope to see it."
Two days later, the Vatican announced that the other commission members had voted for Saunders to take a leave of absence. Saunders — who in the past had been critical of both the workings of the commission and of the Pope's defense of Chilean Bishop Juan Barros, who has been accused of covering up clergy sexual abuse — refused to accept the commission's decision and requested a meeting with the Pope.
Saunders tells me that he feels his freedom of speech has been violated and that he is now "thinking about whether or not to remain on the commission," but that he has been heartened by those who have rallied to his defense for refusing to remain silent — including the co-writer and director of Spotlight. "When Tom McCarthy mentioned me by name at the BAFTA Awards, I was taken aback," says Saunders, who's a fan of the film, which he's seen twice.
Saunders is well aware of the Oscar race in which Spotlight now finds itself. "All Catholics and all thinking people should watch this film for an education," he says. "It would get my vote. It is a superb piece of film and makes a superb comment on the reality of our culture." He subsequently sent THR the following remarks about the film.
It's not often that a Hollywood film connects to my own life profoundly, but as a survivor of abuse from a Catholic priest, I relate to Spotlight on a visceral level.
I admire the work of the Boston Globe reporters who didn't cower before the church's threats. (After all, the church uses its power to perpetuate the secrets, the cover-up, the obscurity. Keeping secrets is second-nature for the church, and keeping secrets is what has allowed — and continues to allow — pedophile priests to abuse children.) And I identify with the survivors who demand to be heard, who refuse to be quiet, because we cannot afford to be silent. I learn this every day in working with millions of survivors through my nonprofit, the National Association for People Abused in Childhood. To be blunt: The safety of Catholic children around the world is at stake.
Spotlight has brought this discussion back to the forefront in a way that's making it difficult for the Vatican to ignore. It's no longer possible to hide this systemic lesion when audiences see the film and begin to understand that reform is imperative. This film really does have the power to create demonstrable change that will protect our most vulnerable.
I spent a portion of my life hiding what happened to me; as an adult, I am empowered by the truth. I will remain loud until the Vatican takes concrete steps to ensure that abuse is ended once and for all, and I will not be patient about demanding this reform. Protecting children cannot happen at a glacial pace.
The din that Spotlight has contributed to around the issue of pedophile priests makes this an immediate, timely priority. When I left the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors earlier this month, my complaint was that transformation was not happening rapidly — and the church said I was being too strident in pushing for fast movement. But it only takes a moment for a child to be raped, and the church has had years to devise ways to stop the abuse. There is no more time to waste, and there is absolutely no need for posturing. As I've said before, when Jesus walked into the temple 2,000 years ago and found people up to no good, he didn't form a committee to discuss reform. He just threw the bastards out.
Transparency in all institutions is crucial, and the church is no different. But as long as bishops are not required to report suspected cases of abuse, transparency is elusive. As Spotlight demonstrates, these stories must be brought into the light — for the sake of the survivors and for the sake of preventing future victims. Indeed, it's time for a worldwide summit to tackle this massive cancer in our midst.
Tavares police: Child abuse suspect blamed 9-year-old
by Elyna Niles-Carnes
LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — Educators at a Tavares school sounded the horn to the Florida Department of Children and Families about a 9-year-old who may have been abused when they noticed bruises on the child.
The child told school officials that he had fallen, but they said they didn't believe that story because of their training and quickly reported it to DCF.
Eyewitness News stopped by the home of the suspected abuse, when an unidentified woman began yelling and cursing at the reporter.
Police said the suspects, who Eyewitness News is not mentioning to protect the child, are both facing child abuse charges, stemming from an incident in January. Police say a woman slapped, kicked and slammed the child down. During questions, the woman blamed the child for the abuse.
Police said a man witnessed it and didn't do anything about it and told the other six children inside the home to lie about it.
When the child went back to Tavares Elementary, school officials said they noticed bruising the shape of a hand imprint, bruising over the left eye and even noticed the child's eye was bleeding, so they contacted DCF.
Lake County school officials said all school employees are trained each year to spot signs of child abuse.
“Our teachers are on the front lines. They're the ones who see the students every day, much more so than those of us who work in a district office,” said Sherri Owens, with the Lake County School District.
School officials said staff members are required by law to report abuse.
The child has been removed from the home.
Court slaps Ky for $1M over child-abuse records
by Deborah Yetter
Finding the public has a right to know about child-abuse deaths and serious injuries, a state Appeals Court panel has issued a forceful ruling in a case brought by the state's two largest newspapers.
In a major rebuke to state officials who fought to withhold such records, the Appeals Court ruled the Cabinet for Health and Family Services must pay legal costs and penalties of nearly $1 million to The Courier-Journal and Lexington Herald-Leader.
Calling the cabinet's conduct "egregious," Appeals Court Judge Irv Maze, who wrote the opinion for the panel, said the case reveals "the culture of secrecy" at the cabinet and "its misguided belief that the Open Records Act is merely an ideal, a suggestion to be taken when it is convenient and flagrantly disregarded when it is not."
"It's a terrific ruling, just terrific," said Jon Fleischaker, who represented The Courier-Journal in the case. "We hope this puts an end to it."
The administration of Gov. Matt Bevin on Friday blamed the outcome on his predecessor, Steve Beshear, whose officials denied access to the records in the case that dates back to 2010.
"The court's opinion is based on a serious coverup during the Beshear administration that has now led to an unfortunate million-dollar liability for the commonwealth's taxpayers," Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said. "In the Bevin administration, things will be very different – we will hold ourselves accountable and be accessible to the public, particularly regarding the most vulnerable members of society."
In his opinion, Maze cited the cabinet's "systematic and categorical disregard for the rule of law" as grounds for upholding penalties of $756,000 against it for refusing to follow the open records law or previous court orders of the trial judge in the case, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd.
The panel also included Judges Jeff Taylor and Janet Stumbo.
Shepherd had sharply criticized the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services for withholding key records in several high-profile child abuse cases in which it had been involved.
One involved the 2011 death of Amy Dye, 9, who was beaten to death in her adoptive home in Todd County. The other involved the 2009 death of Wayne County toddler Kayden Branham, who died after drinking drain cleaner from a meth lab in a trailer where the child's teenage parents were staying.
Shepherd at one point found the cabinet "intentionally adopted a legal strategy designated to delay, obstruct and circumvent the court's ruling," a finding cited by Maze in his opinion.
Friday's Appeals Court ruling comes after a legal battle of nearly six years by the newspapers over access to the cabinet's records in such cases.
It also comes after a similar ruling in December by the same Appeals Court panel, upholding an award of $16,625 in legal costs to the Todd County Standard in a separate case where that newspaper had sought records related to the Amy Dye death.
In that case, the cabinet first ignored the records request from the weekly newspaper in Western Kentucky, then denied having any such records before eventually producing them at the order of Shepherd, who released them.
In the case decided Friday, The Courier-Journal and Herald-Leader had requested two years worth of records of child-abuse death and injuries, totally about 140 cases.
The cabinet initially refused to release any of the records, citing confidentiality. After a series of rulings by Shepherd in favor of disclosure, it began releasing some heavily redacted material. It eventually began disclosing nearly all material requested by the newspapers.
While the cabinet's investigations of child-abuse and neglect cases are confidential, federal and state law make an exception when the abuse or neglect results in a death or life-threatening injury to a child.
The Appeals Court did not rule directly on the issue of the cabinet's duty to release the records, finding the issue to be moot because the cabinet already has begun providing such records upon request, acting on Shepherd's orders.
But the cabinet also challenged the newspapers' legal fees of about $300,000 as well as $765,000 in fines.
Taylor concurred with the overall finding but dissented over whether the cabinet should pay the fines as imposed by Shepherd.
Under open records law, an agency may be fined up to $25 per day for every day it "willfully" withholds a public record.
Shepherd, finding that the cabinet had willfully withheld 140 cases, fined it $10 a day for the 540 days he calculated the cabinet had wrongly withheld records from the newspaper for the total of $765,000.
But Taylor, in his dissent, argued the fines should have been calculated by the number of persons requesting them – in this case, the two newspapers – rather than by all 140 cases, which would have resulted in a much lower fine.
The case now returns to Franklin Circuit Court for Shepherd to rule on the issue of the fines and legal fees.
Bill limits child abuse investigations from hotline calls
by BOB CHRISTIE
PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona lawmakers are working to limit the number of child abuse hotline calls that require full investigations, with backers saying the change would allow child safety workers to focus on cases that actually involve abuse and neglect.
Opponents, however, say not investigating hotline calls is what led to a scandal that prompted the overhaul of the state child welfare office just two years ago.
The changes are contained in House Bill 2522, which is poised for a formal vote in the Arizona House after being given initial approval on a voice vote Thursday night. That vote came after Rep. Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, said she was concerned the changes would formalize a process of not investigating hotline calls — a practice that led to the creation of the Department of Child Safety in 2014.
The agency was formed about six months after the discovery of nearly 6,600 hotline reports that were marked "Not Investigated," or "NI," and closed. A rush review by a special team assigned to go through each of the reports led to the removal of nearly 600 children from caregivers.
"My concern is by narrowing the definition of what call warrants an investigation, the potential to miss potential abusive situations exists," Rios said Thursday. "It is a new way to categorize 'NI.' You just do it on the front end and say 'well, we're not even going to be required to investigate them anyway, that way we can't get blamed on the back end when we didn't do it.'"
Republican Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, who sits on a special committee overseeing child safety, said the change would filter out calls that are impossible to investigate and now clog the already overburdened system.
The changes to current law would allow hotline workers to not generate reports on some hotline calls, including ones that don't involve criminal conduct, where the incident is more than three years old, and where there's no information that a child is currently being abused or neglected.
"What is does provide for is for investigators to respond to truly hot cases where they can find the child, find the family and intervene as needed," Brophy McGee said.
he hotline receives about 125,000 calls a year and currently generates about 52,000 reports that all require investigation under state law. There is no estimate on the number of reports the new guidelines will stop from being created.
Current DCS Director Greg McKay discovered the scandal of cases not being investigated in November 2013 while running a special criminal unit inside the old Child Protective Services agency. He testified before a House committee this month that the new guidelines are not designed to avoid responding to genuine abuse or neglect calls.
"We just have found that many of the efforts from the department over many years have been spent in places where there was absolutely no value," McKay said. "The intent of this is to make sure where we are is really of value to protecting vulnerable people or strengthening families and keeping them together."
Brophy McGee said the changes in the bill are the result of more than a year of work among lawmakers, Gov. Doug Ducey's office and DCS workers. She said she understands the worry of people who have seen abuse or neglect reports mishandled in the past.
"That's the big scary part for people, and one of the reasons I'm glad this bill is getting as much scrutiny as it has gotten," she said.
Md. only state without criminal penalty for failing to report child abuse
by Bruce Leshan
GLENARDEN, Md. (WUSA9) -- Prince George's County police announced Wednesday they've identified another victim of alleged child abuser Deonte Carraway, bringing the number of his suspected victims to 17.
Police believe the total number of victims of the elementary school volunteer could go as high as 55 victims. Carraway is accused of videotaping children performing sex acts on him and each other inside Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School.
So how could the teacher's aide get away with abusing that many children before someone finally reported it? Child safety advocates said Maryland's law on reporting abuse may have made matters worse.
In every state, the law requires teachers and principals to report any reasonable suspicion of child abuse. But Maryland is the only state where educators face no criminal penalty if they let child victims down by failing to call the authorities.
Judge Sylvania Woods Principal Michelle Williams is still on paid leave and she's not talking to the media. But lawyers for several of the alleged victims say she ignored the concerns students, teachers and parents were all raising about Carraway.
“There were red flags from teachers, parents and students, all of whom were complaining,” said attorney Tim Maloney, who is representing several of the victims.
Prince George's Schools CEO Kevin M. Maxwell declined to answer questions about the allegations.
Maryland state law mandates that principals call police or child welfare immediately if they just suspect possible child abuse, but advocates say the trouble with Maryland's law is there is no penalty if they don't.
“It's a massive problem,” said Jennifer Alvaro, a child safety advocate and therapist who has treated both sex abusers and victims. “It's like having laws against speeding and speed limits, but if you break that law, there is absolutely nothing anyone could do to you.”
In Gatlinburg, Tenn., three basketball coaches are facing misdemeanor charges for failing to report suspicions of aggravated child rape. But those charges could not be filed in Maryland.
Two years ago, a group of state lawmakers tried to put some teeth in the child abuse reporting mandate, but the bill died in committee.
“We're failing our children,” said Alvaro. “We're willfully and intentionally allowing a situation to occur in this state.”
Critics say there's no evidence penalizing teachers and principals for failing to report is reducing child abuse in other states. And they say it could swamp overloaded investigators with more unsubstantiated rumors.
But supporters say without clear policies and procedures, what allegedly happened at the Glenarden school is likely to happen again.
Maryland law does say teachers, doctors, and social workers who fail to report can be sanctioned by their licensing boards. But that -- and getting fired -- are the only possible punishments for now.
Judges explain efforts to improve handling of child abuse cases
by The Associated Press
Montana courts are working to streamline their handling of child abuse and neglect cases and improve the results for children and their families, officials told the Protect Montana Kids Commission on Thursday.
District Judge Ingrid Gustafson of Billings said that before she hears such cases, social workers, parents and a mediator hold a pre-hearing conference to identify what led to the court's involvement and to determine if the parents are willing to make improvements.
If the parents are open to getting help, the mediator and social workers will pinpoint what kind of treatment, evaluation or education the parents might need, she said.
The court has developed systems for getting contact information to the parents' court-appointed attorneys to eliminate other delays, Gustafson said.
Five years ago, the District Court in Yellowstone County terminated parental rights in 45 percent of abuse and neglect cases, everyone involved was frustrated and it was taking almost two years to close a case.
A retired judge looked at the system and found it was taking around six months from when children were taken away from their parents before they got a treatment plan. Parents were given a laundry list of things to do — including mental health evaluations, chemical dependency evaluations, anger assessments, parenting classes and counseling — all while getting a job, suitable housing and being available for random urinalysis.
“We had a system that set people up to fail,” Gustafson said.
Now, the pre-hearing conferences are held within 72 hours of when a child is removed, the parents' court-appointed attorneys are notified immediately and those who are willing to work with the court can get working on their treatment plan right away, she said.
The District Court in Yellowstone County is now terminating parental rights in 26 percent of such cases and is processing them more quickly, despite an increasing caseload. Gustafson's court is terminating rights in 16 percent of cases. Her court has used the same system for five years.
Gustafson said she believes the reduction in terminations, due to working with the families, has saved the state around $1 million in foster-care costs during the past five years. “I have been pretty shocked at the parents — that with the right help — have been able to get their children back and they're doing a pretty good job,” she said.
Social workers and attorneys reported they were happier with their work and felt they were doing something meaningful, Gustafson told the commission, which is evaluating the state Child and Family Services Division. The commission is tasked with forwarding any recommendations for changes in policies, practices and state law to the governor's office by late March.
Gustafson and District Judge Mike Menahan said it would be nice for the courts to have money available to help low-income parents with transportation and the cost of drug testing so they could meet the requirements of their treatment plans.
The committee also heard from panelists involved in foster and kinship care and from teenagers who had been removed from their parents' custody.
Rising child abuse reports in AZ
by Yazmine Moore
Child abuse cases within Arizona raise major concerns for school officials, advocacy centers and pubic safety departments, as advocates recognize a strong need for prevention programs and community awareness to help resolve the issue.
“There is more that can be done that is being overlooked. It's a matter of education and awareness,” said Kathy McLaughlin, executive director for the Arizona Child & Family Advocacy Network. “What is the right thing to do? How do we solve this problem?”
Each year, more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made within the U.S., according to Child Help, a national organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of child abuse. The U.S. has one of the highest rates of child abuse cases, and as a result, child deaths, among industrialized nations. On average, about four to seven children die each day as a result of child abuse and neglect.
In Arizona alone, between 2010 and 2014, the number of child victims of abuse and neglect under the age of 17 more than doubled, according to the 2014 Child Maltreatment Report. This increase is alarming as Arizona continues to be one of the top states for child maltreatment overall.
The number of child abuse victims is significantly higher for children ages 1 to 7, according to the report. With the breakdown of Arizona victims by age, 20.83 percent of children were less than 1-year-old. Of the total number of child victims, 50.57 percent were boys and 49.25 percent were girls.
2015, Arizona ranks 46th in the nation when it comes to child well-being, according to McLaughlin. Arizona, she said, is one of the worst states for children to live, as poverty rates are high and education is low, resulting in a high number of school dropout rates. Overall, Arizona has more children than most states who are uninsured, while state legislatures and school boards continue to cut program funding for youth.
A major concern is that many child abuse cases go undocumented because officials are not aware of the situation. This, McLaughlin said, is why people need to know their role in the community — able to recognize the indicators of a child abuse situation, whom to report it to and how to report it.
It starts with everyday people stepping up to act, McLaughlin said. If the public does not identify and report cases, then professionals do not know the situation at hand. “Everything starts with the community itself. If the community does not recognize the signs of child abuse, they won't make a report,” she said.
By Arizona statute, people must report to officials if they suspect a minor has been a victim to physical injury, abuse, child abuse or neglect, according to the Arizona Legislature. In reality, more cases go unreported. Under former Gov. Jan Brewer's administration, more than 6,000 reports of child abuse and neglect went uninvestigated, according to Tamecia Kariuki, a case management worker for the Arizona Department of Child Safety and the Child Welfare Education Project. “We are suppose to investigate every report that comes in,” Kariuki said.
“What we can and can't count and what we do and don't count is really quite extraordinary,” said Dr. Janet Rosenzweig, vice president of research and programs for Prevent Child Abuse America.
Child abuse can happen anywhere and everywhere. There are simply some families who have the means to do something about it. According to McLaughlin, low-income families, those dealing with substance abuse and immigrant families are in high demand for prevention programs. In some situations, these families can be more at risk because they are unable to help themselves through a traumatic experience, whether that be because of legal matters, inability to access resources or lack of support.
Children who have a family member exposed to domestic violence, especially if that child has witnessed that violence, are 50 percent more likely to experience domestic violence, McLaughlin said. “Consequences of childhood abuse can last a lifetime. That doesn't mean they have to last a lifetime,” she said.
States should be providing more support to advocacy centers, according to McLaughlin. They are the ones who are trained to deal with child abuse cases and have the resources to help get children the care they need.
There are 18 advocacy centers in Arizona. These centers provide awareness, training for professionals in how to deal with instances of child abuse and recourses on where victims can go for support, McLaughlin said. In many cases, at these centers, DCS, law enforcement, advocates and therapists are all co-located under the same roof. They report to families and figure out what they need in order to provide care for the victim.
The key is to make every center successful and sustainable, officials say. There is a need for multidisciplinary teams, which can identify training needs, bring in training and share information among members. Although there are advocacy centers available to victims and their families, a program is needed to reach out to rural Arizona, which does not currently have advocacy centers or programs, according to McLaughlin.
“Everything is based on relationship and trust,” said McLaughlin, adding that if advocacies and personnel communicate with each other, the outcome for children and their families can be greatly improved.
Providing training to personnel at schools is a key preventative measure when it comes to lowering the number of child abuse cases, according to Sgt. Sonia Pesqueira, supervisor for the homicide and cold case unit for the Pima County Sheriff's Department. Programs involving an educational presentation, information on the legalities of child abuse and how to report it, will give proper training to adults. “Advocacy centers need to reach out to schools, and schools need to reach out to advocacy centers,” Pesqueira said.
The number of child abuse cases reported to the State Advocacy Center drops significantly during the summer because victims do not have school faculty or community members keeping a close eye on them, according to McLaughlin. This shows how influential school personnel can be in looking out for children and recognizing misconduct.
Adult responsibility should be promoted, Rosenzweig said. There is a strong need for supportive parents and communities, and educational and emotional resources. Something the nation should strive for as a whole is “strong families, strong adults and strong communities,” Rosenzweig added.
Long-term effects of child abuse can vary. According to the 2013 International Journal of Public Health, 18 to 20 percent of women and 8 percent of men worldwide have suffered the consequences of child sexual abuse. Among children under the age of 18, nine girls and three boys out of 100 are victims of forced intercourse.
Pesqueira has come across adults now that she saw as children of abuse in the 1980s and early '90s. The abuse these adults endured as children “complicated and furthered illness,” Pesqueira said. Health problems the victims face now include depression, anxiety and physical ailments, such as Crohn's disease. “I've never really seen a success story,” she said.
Children may be unable to recognize what is and isn't sexual abuse or misconduct, according to The Lifetime Prevalence of Child Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault Assessed in Late Adolescence, from the 2014 Journal of Adolescent Health. This reflects “terminological ambiguity,” that ends up confusing both the victim and those who try to help the victim overcome the traumatic experience(s) they faced.
Incidents of child abuse can have a big impact on the gender identity of a victim. Male victims are more likely to not report abuse and neglect because they are afraid to admit they were a victim. They often suffer from identity confusion, self-blame and shame, which can then lead to further misunderstanding and issues in dealing with who they are, according to Suicide attempts among men with histories of child sexual abuse: examining abuse severity, mental health, and masculine norms, from the 2013 journal of Child Abuse & Neglect.
Abused children are often faced with multiple physical and psychological issues throughout the rest of their childhood and into adulthood. According to Pesqueira, typical findings include: poor body image, low self-esteem, anorexia or obesity, self-mutilation, promiscuity (mostly in females) and sexual confusion. Most of these children have trouble with intimate relationships later in life, because they are confused due to their sexual experiences with what happened in the past. This then results in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Perpetrators knowingly target young victims because they can groom the child to their liking, according to Pesqueira. “A lot of children are targeted because they don't speak out,” said Pesqueira. At this vulnerable age, children are then seen as naive and can be manipulated into situations they thought were good.
In many cases, the victim knows their perpetrator, and therefore the victim is even less likely to report the abuse. Pesqueira recalled a situation in which the daughter of a Tucson Police Department officer was sexually abused as a teen. The teen's perpetrator was her father's brother, so she chose to not speak up about the abuse because her father, through “cop mentality,” told his daughter that he would hurt anyone who ever hurt her, according to Pesqueira. As a result, she did not want her uncle to be affected.
In many cases, victims of child abuse deal with repercussions later in life and then take out their past traumatic experiences on their partners and/or children.
Kariuki said she sees many instances in which the adults harming the children were mistreated when they were children. This leads to a cycle of continuous misconduct.
“A lot of my clients were kids in foster care themselves. They were a part of the foster care system. They were sexually, psychologically and emotionally abused as kids,” said Kariuki. “This never gets resolved.”
Pope: Bishops who reassign suspect pedophiles should resign
by Nicole Winfield
ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis says any bishop who moves a suspected pedophile priest from parish to parish should resign.
Francis spoke about the church's handling of sex abuse cases while flying home Wednesday from Mexico, where victims of that country's most notorious pedophile, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, are still coping with the trauma of his abuse.
"It's a monstrosity," Francis said of clerical abuse. "Because a priest is consecrated to bring a child to God. And if he consumes him in a diabolical sacrifice, it destroys him."
The role of bishops in the abuse scandal made headlines again recently after a French priest told a Vatican course for new bishops that they don't have to report suspected abuse to police. His comments drew a swift correction from Francis' top adviser, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who said bishops have an "ethical and moral" obligation to report suspected pedophiles to civil authorities.
"A bishop who changes parish (for a priest) when he detects pederasty is reckless and the best thing he can do is present his resignation," Francis said. "Clear?"
Francis also reaffirmed the Vatican's oversight of Maciel's Legion of Christ, saying it is continuing to help the scandal-plagued religious order reform and praising his predecessor for bringing the truth of Maciel's misdeeds to light.
Maciel founded the Legion in Mexico in the 1940s, and it became one of the wealthiest and fastest-growing orders in the world. It is, however, emblematic of the Mexican church that Francis so acutely criticized during his trip, with close ties to Mexico's rich and powerful who by and large send their children to Legion-run schools.
The Vatican in 2010 took the order over after the Legion admitted, after decades of denial, that Maciel had sexually molested his seminarians and fathered at least three children.
Francis told reporters that the Vatican still plays a prominent role in running the order, even after it elected a new leadership 2014 and revised its founding constitutions. Francis recalled that while the superior general was elected from among rank-and-file Legion priests, he himself appointed the vicar, who also serves as a counselor on the governing board, as well as a second counselor.
He termed the status "semi-intervention."
"In this way, we are continuing to help them review their past," he said.
The Legion saga represents one of the gravest scandals of the 20th-century Catholic Church, emblematic of the way Church leaders protected their own at the expense of victims of clerical sex abuse. The scandal tarnished the legacy of St. John Paul II, since Vatican officials under his watch ignored credible allegations of Maciel's misdeeds and instead held him up as a model of religious orthodoxy who brought in vocations and donations.
Francis recalled that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was in charge of the Vatican office that handled sex abuse cases, had tried for years to sanction Maciel but was blocked. Francis didn't say by whom, but it is well known that John Paul's No. 2, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, prevented any action from being taken. Ratzinger later became Pope Benedict XVI, Francis' predecessor.
"Here, I'd like to pay homage to the man who fought at times when he didn't have the strength to impose himself until he could impose himself. Ratzinger. Cardinal Ratzinger. An applause for him," Francis said.
He said Ratzinger had gathered all the documentation about Maciel's crimes, conducted a full investigation into him, but couldn't execute any sentence until 2006 after John Paul had died.
"I want to remember this, because sometimes we forget this hidden work that was the basis of uncovering" the situation, he said.
Cardinal O’Malley: Bishops have 'Moral and Ethical' Duty to Report Abuse
Counters claim by French monsignor and surpasses Vatican guideline requirements
by Joseph Pelletier -- Church Militant
VATICAN (ChurchMilitant.com) - The cardinal of Boston is affirming clergy have a "moral and ethical responsibility" to report clerical sex abuse.
In response to reports that a French priest informed new bishops they were not obligated to report suspected abuse, Boston archbishop Seán O'Malley, acting as head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, asserted in a statement Monday the Church has a duty to inform authorities of potential abuse.
"Our obligations under civil law must certainly be followed, but even beyond these civil requirements, we all have a moral and ethical responsibility to report suspected abuse to the civil authorities who are charged with protecting our society," the cardinal said.
Monsignor Tony Anatrella, a Paris-based priest, quoting from a new Vatican training document, instructed a group of new prelates during a Vatican-established training program they had no obligation to divulge possible abuse cases to police. The document states:
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, who acts as a consulter to the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, is a psychotherapist known for his contentious views on homosexuality and gender theory.
According to Cdl. O'Malley, there is no official basis for the monsignor's claim, as the Vatican's most recent rule book regarding sex abuse, the 2010 "Guide to Understanding Basic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Procedures Concerning Sexual Abuse Allegations," declares "civil law concerning the reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed."
This rule, Cdl. O'Malley asserts, is "reaffirmed" at each annual training session "clearly and explicitly."
O'Malley's own Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, formed in 2014 by Pope Francis, has been heavily criticized recently by laymen panel members. British child sex abuse activist Peter Saunders, who was unexpectedly given a leave of absence from his position on the commission, has called the "Vatican system" wholly "corrupt and unwilling to do the right thing." Vatican sources have stated the leave of absence was provoked by members of the panel over a potential conflict of interest, given Saunders' role as activist and panel member.
Saunders, appointed to the commission by Pope Francis, expressed frustration that there has been "no real change" occurring as a result of the newly formed committee.
A second panelist, Marie Collins, also criticized the Roman Curia Monday for resisting proposed changes and delaying implementation of new guidelines, calling the body a "brick wall."
Predator priest sentenced to 20 years in prison
Prosecutors take priest's sex crimes seriously and he goes to prison
by Jeremy Roebuck -- Philly.com
By the time he was in high school, Mark Haynes felt called to devote his life to the Catholic priesthood.
But from a much earlier age, his lawyer said Wednesday, Haynes realized something else that set him apart - an unshakable feeling that by some accident of genetics, he had been born a woman stuck in the body of a man.
Haynes' therapist would later conclude that the dissonance between his vocation and the condition he came to view as an affliction led him to an addiction to child pornography and a series of online predatory sexual encounters with children that have landed the 56-year-old suspended priest in prison.
Federal prosecutors balked at that explanation Wednesday as Haynes, most recently of SS. Simon and Jude Parish in Westtown, was sentenced to 20 years' incarceration, in a case as notable for the charges he will never face as those to which he pleaded guilty last year.
"Transgender does not equate to sexually abusing children. It doesn't make him a pedophile," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Rotella said. "He was victimizing children from almost the start of his career."
Two former parishioners came forward after Haynes' 2014 arrest on child-pornography charges to accuse him of sexual abuse dating back more than three decades.
Their claims fell beyond the statute of limitations. But under federal sentencing guidelines the allegations could be considered by U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick in fashioning a punishment for the priest despite Haynes' insistence that he never sexually abused anyone.
In all, prosecutors alleged that Haynes had some form of sexual contact - ranging from online conversations to molestation - with at least 30 children between 1985 and 2014. As part of Haynes' plea deal to child-pornography charges involving two teens, the government agreed to halt any further investigation.
"The crimes that were committed here were outrageous," Surrick said Wednesday. "The individuals that were hurt by these crimes will spend the rest of their lives trying to get beyond it."
Church officials maintain that no abuse allegations had been lodged against Haynes before his 2014 child-pornography arrest.
But prosecutors said Wednesday that even before then, he had shown signs of emotional distress. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia paid for him to receive counseling starting in 1999, including two stints in inpatient treatment.
It was during the more recent of those stays at a church-affiliated mental-health facility outside Toronto a year before his arrest that Haynes first revealed his struggle with gender identity, his lawyer Alan J. Tauber said.
"It is something that created enormous anxieties and dissonance in his life," he said. "He internalized the message that he was fundamentally flawed."
Still, Rotella noted that while Haynes' patient files indicated he had been admitted for "cross-dressing and gender-identity issues," archdiocesan files noted he was being treated for anger management.
For his part, Haynes - a beefy, soft-spoken man whose breath appeared to fail him as he rose to address the judge - turned to the Bible as he expressed remorse to his victims, his fellow priests, and his parishioners.
"My offenses, truly I know them," he said, quoting Psalm 51. "My sin is always before me."
But Wednesday was the first time the full scope of those sins was put on display for his victims and their relatives, some of whom sat in the courtroom gallery as prosecutors quickly flashed through dozens of pornographic images and videos found in Haynes' possession.
"Oh, my God, oh, my God," came the whispered refrain from one woman - the mother of a Washington state girl who was 12 when Haynes, posing online as a 15-year-old named Katie Caponetti, solicited her to send sexually explicit photos of herself.
Chester County detectives arrested him in October 2014 after tracing his online activity to his computer at the rectory at SS. Simon and Jude.
He immediately confessed to routinely posing as a teenage girl online to swap hundreds of pornographic images of children and attempt to persuade minors to send him graphic photos of themselves.
Ordained in 1985, Haynes had served at eight parishes in the Pennsylvania suburbs, also including Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Doylestown; St. John of the Cross in Roslyn; Our Lady of Good Counsel in Southampton; St. Pius X in Broomall; Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Morton; and Annunciation in Havertown.
In addition to his prison term, he was ordered Wednesday to serve 10 years' federal probation after his release and pay a $15,000 fine. He has also agreed to leave the ministry, Tauber said.
"Mark Haynes was incredibly devoted and hardworking, and loved being a priest," he said. "He has confessed his crimes, accepted responsibility, and sought forgiveness from the victims and their families."
Just 100 days left to file child sex abuse lawsuits before deadline
by Adam Yren
Victims of historic sexual abuse have 100 days left to come forward and file an action for damages before the claim window closes in Minnesota.
In 2013, the state lifted the statute of limitations for child sex abuse through the Minnesota Child Victims Act, giving victims a three-year window to file a civil lawsuit seeking damages for abuse that may have happened decades ago.
Previously, a victim of child abuse had to file a lawsuit by the time they were 24 years old, but a temporary window for people aged over 24 was opened after advocates argued it could take many years for victims to come to terms with their abuse.
This window for lawsuits will close on May 25.
The exception is claims against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the deadline for which was moved up to Aug. 3, 2015, by a bankruptcy judge in order to speed up the archdiocese’s financial reorganization.
Victims of sexual abuse from any other Catholic diocese or other institutions in Minnesota still have until May 25 to file.
Dioceses struggling in wake of abuse claims
The Star Tribune reported last year that many of the lawsuits filed have been against the Catholic Church in Minnesota, with hundreds of people claiming they were abused by clergy and staff in churches, schools and family homes from the 1950s to 2010s.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was criminally charged last year for its failure to protect children who were abused by former priest Curtis Wehmeyer.
In January 2015, it filed for bankruptcy as it prepared to handle the raft of lawsuits filed against it under the Child Victims Act.
In December, the Diocese of Duluth also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the wake of a sex abuse case concerning “Doe 30,” who was awarded more than $8 million in damages after he was abused by a priest at St. Catherine’s Church in Squaw Lake in the late 1970s.
This week, the Duluth Diocese and attorneys representing child abuse victims agreed to enter mediation to settle victims’ claims, WDAY reports. Church representatives said entering bankruptcy would help the diocese protect its assets while allowing it to pay out what is due victims.
Going forward under the Minnesota Child Victims Act, there is no statute of limitation for filing a lawsuit for anyone subjected to sexual abuse when they’re under the age of 18. There’s also no a statute of limitation if the victim was under 24 at the time the Child Victims Act came into force on May 25, 2013.
Judge rejects Bill Cosby's appeal to throw out sexual assault case
by Marilyn Malara
NORRISTOWN, Pa., Feb. 17 (UPI) -- A Montgomery County judge has denied comedian Bill Cosby's appeal aimed at halting a sexual assault case filed against him.
Judge Steven T. O'Neill rejected the attempt Tuesday, writing in his order, "An immediate appeal from these orders would not materially advance the ultimate termination of the matter."
The appeal is one of a two-part petition filed last week by Cosby's lawyers. The other is reportedly pending with the Superior Court.
O'Neill's order is said to move Cosby's criminal case, filed by former Temple University employee Andrea Constand, to an evidence hearing. Earlier this month, the judge ruled Cosby will still stand trial for a charge of aggravated indecent assault despite an alleged verbal agreement not to charge him.
Constand accused Cosby, 78, of drugging and sexually assaulting her in his home in 2004. The allegation led to Cosby's being formally charged and arrested in late 2015; the comedian is currently free on $1 million bail.
Cosby admitted in an earlier deposition he administered Benadryl and wine to Constand, but insisted their subsequent intercourse was consensual.
Over 50 women have come forward to accuse the former Cosby Show actor of drugging and sexually assaulting them, despite many having out-waited their statute of limitations.
Constand's case is one of the very few alleged accusations which could still be heard in criminal court.
Porn sites would be required to introduce strict age checks to keep out children
by Clare Hopping
The UK government has launched a public consultation for plans to introduce age checks on pornography websites, with internet providers, charities, academics and more being asked to contribute.
Under the proposals, all sites containing pornographic material will have to introduce strict age checks to ensure users are over 18 years old. This applies to all content that would be given an 18 or R18 rating by the BBFC.
Internet Safety and Security Minister Baroness Joanna Shields said: "The internet is a tremendous resource for learning and creativity but it is important to make sure that children are able to make the most of all it has to offer in a safe way. Keeping children safe online is one of the government's greatest priorities.
"Just as we do offline, we want to make sure children are prevented from accessing pornographic content online which should only be viewed by adults."
Under the new rules, regulators will be given the power to enforce the law and monitor compliance by commercial pornography providers.
The legislation would allow the government to impose civil sanctions where breaches are found but sites will, however, be given control over how they set age verification controls.
"We all have a responsibility to protect our children and face up to new challenges presented by the internet," said Karen Bradley, minister for preventing abuse, exploitation and crime. "Our objective is clear - we want to protect children from distressing or unrealistic images of sex and from content that can harm them.
"I work closely with victims and survivors of sexual abuse, and every young person that I have spoken to who has experienced abuse themselves has told me that action needs to be taken to restrict access to pornography by children. Today is about holding companies to account, shielding young people from material that they should not be able to access and protecting their childhood."
It was thought that EU-wide net neutrality laws could delay the government's previous pledge to ban ISPs from enabling porn access by default. By introducing more comprehensive age checks, however, the responsibility of protecting children from pornographic content is placed in the hands of the sites instead.
EU-wide net neutrality laws may spoil Prime Minister David Cameron's plans to ban ISPs from letting users access porn by default, if they are implemented.
The net neutrality code proposed by the EU means that internet traffic is treated the same across all EU member states, thus stopping governments from blocking access to websites.
The Single Telecom Market proposal would also mean that parental controls can only be put in place with consent from the user, making default blocks impossible.
But the Department of Culture, Media and Sport told The Telegraph: “We are now exploring options and will be providing an update once a course of action has been agreed. We take great pride in our world-leading approach to child online safety and would never accept a position which diminished our ability to protect children online.”
The government has installed a third-party regulator to overlook the plans, ensuring ISPs have sufficient measures in place, though ISPs including Sky, BT and TalkTalk already block porn by default now.
Cameron proposed the initiative following a Childline poll that revealed a tenth of 12 to 13-year-olds are concerned they may be addicted to pornography.
Culture secretary Sajid Javid said the process would be no different than adults being asked to prove their age when buying a porn DVD or magazine. "With the shift to online, children can access adult content on websites without restriction, intentionally or otherwise," he told the BBC. "That is why we need effective controls online that apply to UK and overseas. This is about giving children the best start in life."
He added: "We do not want to prevent adults from accessing legal content but we do want to protect our children from harmful material, so they are free to develop a healthy attitude to sex and relationships."
In addition to ensuring ISPs are adhering to the rules with a regulatory body conducting checks, there would be extra measures to check ages as people try to access the websites. For example, some countries have introduced electronic ID cards that check a user's identity as they try to enter.
Javid said introducing such initiatives may occur in the future, but that the final decision would be down to the regulatory body. "The key thing is, it's not for me or politicians to decide what's effective. That will be the job of a regulator, but it is possible," he said.
Brother charged with child abuse in duct taping incident
by Ian Silver
GIBSON COUNTY, TN (WMC) - A 15-year-old boy faces criminal charges after police said he bound his two younger sisters with duct tape.
Some have called these pictures of a two-year-old and a 6-month-old duct taped shocking. Others, however, said their 15-year-old brother deserves a break because all siblings pick on each other.
However, law enforcement said charges are being filed and the actions went too far.
Gibson County Sheriff's Office said the 15-year-old now faces aggravated child abuse charges.
Monday, a disturbing picture surfaced showing a 2-year-old girl hogtied and duct taped on a bed. Another picture showed a 6-month-old girl with her hands duct taped together.
Investigators talked with the 15-year-old. He admitted to duct taping his sisters, but said it was all part of a joke.
"There's always things in any investigation that's not released to the public, not released to the press. They just have to understand the district attorney was provided with all of the facts that we had and the decision was made to charge...based on what we had. I feel like that's appropriate," Sheriff Paul Thomas said.
Thomas said the family has been cooperating with the investigation and said he has not had any problems with them in the past.
"Some of my deputies may have run across them in passing for one reason or another, but nothing that's been major. Not that's been brought to my attention," Thomas said.
The Tennessee Department of Children's Services confirmed they are involved with the case and said they have not had any dealings with this family in the past.
Sheriff Thomas said he believes the two girls are safe as long as the 15-year-old brother is out of the house. He said he believes the 15-year-old probably needs counseling, but if the child is convicted of the charges he now faces, the sheriff said he believes he should be incarcerated--if for no other reason than to keep him away from the girls.
Investigators said the 15-year-old is not currently staying with his sisters. His court date has not been set.
She was abused as a child. Now she pushes for sex-abuse prevention laws
by Ovetta Wiggins
As a child, Erin Merryn learned how to say no to drugs in her school's DARE program and how to avoid talking to strangers during “stranger-danger” lessons.
What she didn't learn in school, she says, was how to stop a person she knew and trusted from becoming her sexual abuser.
Merryn, who was sexually abused by a friend's uncle at age 6 and a cousin a few years later, recently testified before a Maryland House committee in support of a bill that could help stem such abuse. The bill would require school districts to teach “personal body safety” to their students.
“The only message I got was from my abusers: ‘This is our little secret. No one will believe you. If you tell, I will come get you,'?” said Merryn, 31, an Illinois resident who has been traveling to state capitals across the country to push passage of “Erin's Law.” “Nobody was educating me on personal body safety, on the differences between safe touch, safe secrets and unsafe secrets.”
Under the Maryland version of Erin's Law, the state Board of Education and nonpublic schools that receive state funding would be required to develop and implement an age-appropriate curriculum on the awareness and prevention of sexual abuse and assault. The program would be part of a school's health-education program.
Twenty-six states have passed laws to study or implement child sex-abuse identification and prevention curriculums for students in pre-K to 12th grade, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some states, including Mississippi and Nevada, have formed task forces; others such as Pennsylvania allow school districts to design programs; and several others, including Rhode Island and South Carolina, have required a curriculum.
Del. Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery), sponsor of the Maryland bill, said the Prince George's County case in which an elementary school volunteer is accused of abusing at least 16 students proves the need for the child-abuse prevention law. Police have charged Deonte Carraway, 22, of Glenarden, Md., with 10 counts of child pornography in connection with about 40 videos that show children performing sex acts.
“Every child should be given a simple message — which is that if an adult does something inappropriate to you, that you need to tell another trusted adult immediately,” Luedtke said. “It's the simple, most effective thing we can do to reduce abuse.”
Luedtke introduced the measure last year after three sex abuse cases in two years were reported in public and private schools in Montgomery County. The bill passed the House 138 to 2, but died in the Senate's Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. Luedtke said some senators seemed to think that the bill was about teaching sex education, and he vowed to do a better job this year educating lawmakers about the legislation.
Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Washington), one of the two no votes in the House last year, said schools should “be doing a better job” teaching core subjects instead of “delving into these things” like personal body safety.
But Parrott said his main objection to the bill was the provision that required certain nonpublic schools to teach the material.
“I think a private school should have the freedom to teach it or not teach it,” he said. “This just goes way too far into the private sector I think we should allow them to have the freedom.”
Luedtke, a former teacher, said the legislation is designed to help students who are being warned by their abuser not to tell anyone.
“Somebody has to be there with the message that, ‘You have to tell,'?” Luedtke said. In Prince George's, “had one of the first victims reported it, there would have been fewer victims. The abuser would have been stopped earlier.That's the idea.”
A different bill introduced by Luedtke that became law last year requires school contractors and subcontractors to receive background checks and was inspired by a 2014 allegation that a contractor working in a middle school inappropriately touched a 12-year-old girl in a school hallway.
Next year, Luedtke said, he wants to look at the training of teachers.
Most teachers know they are expected to report abuse but are not trained on what signs to look for, he said: “We're trying to keep advancing the law.”
According to the 2013 Child Maltreatment Report by the children's bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there were 60,956 child sex-abuse cases reported in 2013.
Just 100 days left to file child sex abuse lawsuits before deadline
by Adam Uren
Victims of historic sexual abuse have 100 days left to come forward and file an action for damages before the claim window closes in Minnesota.
In 2013, the state lifted the statute of limitations for child sex abuse through the Minnesota Child Victims Act, giving victims a three-year window to file a civil lawsuit seeking damages for abuse that may have happened decades ago.
Previously, a victim of child abuse had to file a lawsuit by the time they were 24 years old, but a temporary window for people aged over 24 was opened after advocates argued it could take many years for victims to come to terms with their abuse.
This window for lawsuits will close on May 25.
The exception is claims against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the deadline for which was moved up to Aug. 3, 2015, by a bankruptcy judge in order to speed up the archdiocese's financial reorganization.
Victims of sexual abuse from any other Catholic diocese or other institutions in Minnesota still have until May 25 to file.
Dioceses struggling in wake of abuse claims
The Star Tribune reported last year that many of the lawsuits filed have been against the Catholic Church in Minnesota, with hundreds of people claiming they were abused by clergy and staff in churches, schools and family homes from the 1950s to 2010s.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was criminally charged last year for its failure to protect children who were abused by former priest Curtis Wehmeyer.
In January 2015, it filed for bankruptcy as it prepared to handle the raft of lawsuits filed against it under the Child Victims Act.
In December, the Diocese of Duluth also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the wake of a sex abuse case concerning “Doe 30,” who was awarded more than $8 million in damages after he was abused by a priest at St. Catherine's Church in Squaw Lake in the late 1970s.
This week, the Duluth Diocese and attorneys representing child abuse victims agreed to enter mediation to settle victims' claims, WDAY reports. Church representatives said entering bankruptcy would help the diocese protect its assets while allowing it to pay out what is due victims.
Going forward under the Minnesota Child Victims Act, there is no statute of limitation for filing a lawsuit for anyone subjected to sexual abuse when they're under the age of 18. There's also no a statute of limitation if the victim was under 24 at the time the Child Victims Act came into force on May 25, 2013.
Inside the Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse at Sovereign Grace Ministries
by Elizabeth Dias
How one reporter investigated child sex abuse at a major evangelical church
Child sex abuse in the Catholic Church is now widely known—Spotlight, a film about the Boston Globe journalists who documented the massive child molestation scandal and cover-up in the Catholic Church, is up for Best Picture at this year's Oscars—but similar abuses in evangelical communities have not received the same public scrutiny.
The February issue of Washingtonian Magazine featured an exposé of long-buried sexual abuse of children in a prominent evangelical church network, Sovereign Grace Ministries. Freelance journalist Tiffany Stanley, a 2015 National Magazine Award finalist, spent 10 months uncovering reports of child rape and molestation in Sovereign Grace churches over the last three decades, particularly at the then-flagship Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Her investigation, “The Sex Scandal that Devastated a Suburban Megachurch,” chronicles the inside story of crimes against children in D.C.-area Sovereign Grace churches, explores how church leaders including founder C.J. Mahaney did and did not respond, and recounts how victims' mothers joined forces to seek justice.
Unlike the hierarchical Catholic Church, evangelical churches often function independently. But their influence is widespread—as Stanley points out, Wayne Grudem, an evangelical theologian at Phoenix Seminary, once described Sovereign Grace Ministries “as an example of the way churches ought to work.”
Stanley shares some insights from her investigation with TIME. Her reporting was subsidized in part by a Fund for Investigative Journalism grant.
TIME: How did you decide to investigate the sexual abuse in Sovereign Grace Ministries?
STANLEY: More than one church leader assumed the victims and lawyer Susan Burke brought this story to me, as a kind of trial-by-media stunt. That assumption isn't true. I had seen some local news reports about Sovereign Grace, and I approached Burke, asking if she would put me in touch with any of the plaintiffs she represented. It took months to establish trust with those involved. Many of them had been anonymous in their class-action lawsuit, and I wanted the survivors to have agency in deciding whether or not to talk to me. I started with one family, and then I met with another, and from there, I was able slowly to gain introductions to others.
Your investigation focuses on sexual abuse in one evangelical network, but it begs the question: how widespread is sexual abuse in evangelical churches more broadly?
The Catholic Church has been taken to task over abuse for decades now. Evangelical ministries are now facing their own abuse crises. In the media, we're hearing more about these stories. Some of these allegations confront abuse that is decades old. From just the past year, I'm thinking of reports about Josh Duggar of 19 Kids and Counting and Bill Gothard, a Christian homeschooling advocate. I'm also thinking about Buzzfeed's recent story on Jesus People USA and Kiera Feldman's 2012 investigation of abuse in a Tulsa megachurch. (Of course, other religions are not immune from sexual abuse scandals either.)
The sad reality is that sexual abuse is widespread everywhere, not just in religious communities. The statistics I saw were one-in-four girls and one-in-six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. The experts I spoke to didn't say these statistics are worse in evangelical churches, but they did say that abusers could prey on trusting religious communities, which give them access to children. That's why churches need policies in place to protect children and handle abuse when it happens. That means reporting suspected abuse to authorities immediately, instead of handling it internally. Abuse is a sin, but it's also a serious crime.
What challenges did you face getting the reporting?
Trauma reporting is challenging by its very nature. You take care not to re-victimize victims. And this was a complicated story to unravel and tell.
A lot of the reporting involved spending hours in courthouses around the D.C. suburbs, digging through case files, a process that I actually enjoy. But in these types of cases, which deal with minors and abuse, some court files are sealed, which is another obstacle.
The churches, for the most part, declined to cooperate. A lawsuit complicates who is willing to talk to you, and I am sympathetic to that. I talked to the churches in Maryland and Virginia very early on in my reporting process, letting them know I was doing the story, and I kept in touch with them about my progress until the very end, giving them chances to respond to my findings.
Some church leaders expressed that they wanted the story to go away, so the community could move on. They were tired of rehashing it. On one level, I understood that, but I was also talking to victims who had their lives irrevocably changed—they couldn't just move on. These survivors are women and men in their twenties, thirties, and forties, whose marriages have been affected, who have been in psychiatric inpatient treatment, who live in terror of their own kids going to a sleepover. I'm sure they wish it could all just “go away” too. But it doesn't.
What has the reaction from the church community been to you, and to your story?
The feedback from the victims and their families has been overwhelming positive, and I'm thankful for that. Right up until the article went to press, I was getting negative emails from some church members, but those messages seem to have dissipated. Others from the Sovereign Grace flock were grateful the story was being told. Since its publication, I have also been hearing from people who want to share with me stories of abuse from other ministries. The day after the magazine hit newsstands, I got a card from Covenant Life Church, signed by some of the elders, saying the pastors prayed for me that morning. That was a first for me.
Some of the leaders at Sovereign Grace Ministries had outsized influence in evangelicalism at large—Joshua Harris, one of their former pastors, wrote a book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which as you point out is an evangelical cult classic and shaped how evangelical millennials grew up understanding sex. What observations can you share now about the state of sexual ethics in the evangelical church more broadly?
I can't speak to all of evangelicalism, but I can say there are troubling messages sent to sex-abuse survivors in church cultures that prize abstinence until heterosexual marriage. What does a young girl make of her “purity” if her father molests her? What does a young boy think if a male church member sexually assaults him? Churches that advocate a conservative sexual ethic should address those messages.
Does this kind of circumscribed sexual environment give way to more sexual abuse? Some people I talked to say, yes, this is repression and it leads to abuse and acting out sexually. All the perpetrators from my story were male—several were teenage boys—and they were members of a ministry that advocated strict sexual mores. Books like I Kissed Dating Goodbye promote courtship. Modesty is important. Abstinence is too. Underpinning much of these teachings is a patriarchal understanding of Christianity, where men are in charge. In a perfect world, those power dynamics would not be abused, but as Christians teach: We're not living in a perfect world.
How does the legal system currently help or hurt victims of child sex abuse? You wrote that Susan Burke, a leading abuse litigator who is defending the Sovereign Grace victims, has called this case “the toughest” she's ever worked on.
I was surprised how much the laws vary from state to state. Statutes of limitations—which put time limits on when you can file charges or sue—can be an issue for victims. In Maryland, unlike some states, there is no statute of limitations for bringing criminal charges in felony sexual abuse cases, which is why Nate Morales went to jail decades after he abused boys at Covenant Life Church. But Maryland limits when you can sue over child sexual abuse; you can be no older than 25. In reality, victims often don't realize the long-term damage they have suffered from sexual abuse until they are much older. And as I found out in my reporting, civil lawsuits aren't just about the money. They are a tool to see if there was a cover-up. It's difficult and rare to criminally prosecute religious leaders who covered up abuse, so lawsuits are an avenue to get transparency and justice from the institution, not just the abuser.
About half of U.S. states specifically require clergy to report child abuse, but still others exempt them, through what's known as clergy-penitent privilege. I think there are real problems with these exemptions. This is an oversimplification, but basically, if a church member confesses abuse to a pastor, or the knowledge is received from a victim in a pastoral capacity, the minister may not be legally obligated to report the abuse. The information may be privileged, as it would be with an attorney. I can understand that pastoral confidentiality is important, and so are religious freedom considerations. But it seems to me that a workable compromise would be to do what states like Texas and West Virginia and North Carolina do: Clergy-penitent privilege exists, but not in cases of child abuse.
What happens next for the victims? For the church? Is justice possible?
Susan Burke, the lawyer for the victims, has said she wants to file another lawsuit in Virginia. That suit wouldn't involve all the original plaintiffs because some are too old to file suits. So it would likely involve only two of the survivors from my story. Above all, I think many of the families want Sovereign Grace to acknowledge publicly that mistakes were made. A little more transparency might go a long way. They want that accountability. It's galling to them that Sovereign Grace leaders like C.J. Mahaney are still revered, still headlining conferences, and still running churches, with powerful evangelical allies on their side. Some of the parents, like Pam Palmer and Sarah and Richard, have become activists around these issues. They know it may be too late to get justice for all of the Sovereign Grace plaintiffs, but they want the laws to change for future victims. And they want churches to better handle abuse in the future.
Sheriff: Man charged in sex assault of 2-month-old child
by Mark Tauscheck
MONROE COUNTY, Iowa —The Monroe County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday that a man has been charged with the sexual assault of a 2-month-old child.
Sheriff Daniel Johnson said deputies took a report of an infant being sexually assaulted on Feb. 4. The mother of the child brought the girl to a local hospital and then she was taken to Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines.
"Out of the cases, this has probably been my hardest one to work through having children of my own," said Johnson.
Johnson said the girl is recovering.
Deputies arrested and charged 30-year-old Justin Stickrod with felony child endangerment and felony sexual abuse. Stickrod is being held in the Monroe County Jail on a $68,000 bond.
Johnson said Stickrod has a minor arrest record but doesn't have a prior history of sexual abuse arrests.
News of the case has left those who live in the Iowa town stunned.
Stickrod waived his preliminary hearing Tuesday morning and has not entered a plea according to the county attorney. Johnson said they are looking at more potential charges in the case.
Authorities seized computer equipment during a search of Stickrod's home. It has been sent to Des Moines to be analyzed.
The Albia Police Department is assisting in the investigation.
Lawmakers may require schools to disclose abuse
by Chelsea Schneider and Marisa Kwiatkowski
Key state lawmakers said they are exploring ways to limit schools' use of confidentiality agreements with resigning educators — particularly those accused of wrongdoing. And new protections could be passed yet this legislative session.
On Tuesday, State Sen. Jim Merritt said he will propose language to require schools to disclose any incident in which an employee was reported to the Indiana Department of Child Services for suspected child abuse or neglect when a prospective employer calls to check references. Other lawmakers called for similar restrictions.
The proposals come amid the high-profile case of Kyle Cox, the former Park Tudor basketball coach, who entered into a confidentiality agreement before he resigned from the elite private school. He is now charged with coercing a 15-year-old student to send him explicit images.
Lawmakers also are looking into ways to fix gaps in the Indiana Department of Education's reporting to a national teacher discipline database. Reporting to the private database, called the NASDTEC, was at the heart of an investigation by USA TODAY Network and IndyStar released Sunday.
The Department of Education has since reported all of the missing cases to NASDTEC, ensuring that “every suspension and revocation done during this administration” has been reported, according to an agency spokesperson. The department also is reviewing records from previous administrations.
Rep. Bob Behning, the House's education policy leader, said he's exploring ways to ensure the state reports full information to NASDTEC, and that he anticipates discussion on confidentiality agreements before this year's legislative session ends by March 14.
A related IndyStar investigation of the Park Tudor case showed other instances in which confidentiality agreements were used to quietly dismiss educators accused of wrongdoing. The concern is that the agreements could allow unfit educators to simply move to another school.
After school officials signed a confidentiality agreement with Cox, prosecutors say, he texted a student: “The nice thing is I can get any job in the state. I've positioned myself to be marketable.”
Said Behning, R-Indianapolis: “There is no question I am concerned. ... It appears to me what we tried to do isn't working because in confidentiality agreements I can sign a deal and walk away without having to face anything.”
Merritt, an Indianapolis Republican, said his proposal wouldn't outright ban confidentiality agreements because he argues they serve to protect the family of the abused child. But he said it would restrict an educator's ability to hop from school to school without a new employer knowing the individual's full history.
“It's really important that we address this this year,” Merritt said.
He said the legislation will require schools to share any incident that warranted a report to DCS regardless of an existing or potential confidentiality agreement.
On the potential for legislation: “Governor Pence believes there is no higher priority than protecting our children and teachers but will wait to evaluate any legislation until it makes it through the legislative process,” said his spokeswoman Kara Brooks.
Behning said discussions he's having are centered on making sure if allegations against a teacher occur that schools turn the case over to law enforcement, rather than handle them internally.
Currently, state law requires school districts to report to the Department of Education any teacher who has been convicted of a crime. Also, state law allows any person who fails to report suspected child abuse or neglect to be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail.
Merritt and Rep. Gail Riecken, an Evansville Democrat, said the state should consider increasing the penalty.
“We need to look into raising it,” said Riecken, who serves on the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana.
On background checks, Rep. Terri Austin, an Anderson Democrat, said lawmakers should re-evaluate a proposal that would allow a set percentage of teachers to be hired by a school district with a license from another state.
Austin said that's a “dangerous precedent” because a teacher may have lost their license in that state and not have been reported yet.
“They come to Indiana. They get hired and nobody knows anything about it,” Austin said.
Indiana officials are not alone in their concerns about unfit teachers moving from school to school. A federal law signed by President Barack Obama in December will ban schools that receive federal funding from helping school employees accused of such misconduct from obtaining new jobs. That law goes into effect in October.
Three states — Oregon, Missouri and Pennsylvania — already require former employers to disclose substantiated investigations of abuse or sexual misconduct to other school districts, according to Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation. The organization's top priority is to end the practice of "passing the trash," in which educators investigated for abuse are able to resign, retire or be fired and still secure jobs at other schools.
"It saves children's lives," said Terri Miller, president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation. "It saves children from lifelong psychological, emotional and physical trauma. It saves children from suicide."
Child abuse data doesn't tell full story
Some government mechanisms being used to monitor the well-being of children are painting a rosier picture than the reality, says the Salvation Army.
The organisation today released its annual State of the Nation report, which says data assembled for the Government's Better Public Service targets are sometimes disguising other, less favourable statistics.
A Salvation Army policy analyst, Alan Johnson, said one glaring example was the number of child abuse cases, which, according to Child, Youth and Family, has dropped from 21,000 to 16,500 since 2010.
"But if you actually have a look at what's happened, Child Youth and Family have chosen not to follow up as many cases of emotional abuse or reported neglect and in turn, don't follow up as many of the 150,000 reported suspected cases of abuse or neglect from the public."
Mr Johnson said the targets should be monitored by an independent agency such as the Ombudsman or the Auditor-General, rather than the government departments responsible for meeting them.
Read the full State of the Nation report here
Other areas of poor social performance highlighted in the report included a fall in UE pass rates and the fact that less than a third of all crime was reported to police. The Maori rate of imprisonment remains seven times that of non-Maori and that reoffending rates are beginning to rise again were also matters of "serious concern".
There were some signs of optimism, with a further decline in teenage pregnancy rates, less youth offending, a 40 percent reduction in drug offences since 2010, and a decline in alcohol consumption.
But Mr Johnson warned that much of the country's social progress continued to depend on economic growth and the jobs and incomes this created.
"Should this economic growth falter, there is a very real risk that many areas of social progress will reverse. We don't yet appear to have a set of social policies to sustain this progress through an economic downturn."
Police: Man shackled girl, 15, as collateral for loan to dad
BROWNSVILLE, Pa. — Police say a Fayette County man kept a 15-year-old girl in shackles as collateral for a loan to her father.
Thirty-year-old Christopher Wiley Brown, of Brownsville, was jailed Thursday on kidnapping, indecent assault and other charges.
The (Uniontown) Herald-Standard reports that the girl agreed to care for Brown's disabled fiancée as part of the loan agreement, which also required her father to repair Brown's home.
But the girl tells police Brown restrained her Tuesday with leg shackles, handcuffs and a ball gag. She says Brown made her touch his genitals, then sleep in the leg shackles.
Police say the girl freed herself and texted her father, who called 911.
The girl's father isn't facing charges.
Brown's preliminary hearing is Feb. 17. He doesn't have an attorney listed in court records.
More grandparents taking on parental role for grandchildren
by ALEJANDRA CANCINO
CHICAGO - When Debra Aldridge became her grandson's primary caregiver, she was making $7.50 per hour as a cook. The alternative for the newborn, she was told, was to put him up for adoption.
"I took one look at the little fella, and that was it," said Aldridge, now 62. "I couldn't let go."
For more than 11 years, Aldridge, who is divorced and lives in Chicago, has struggled to feed, house and clothe her "baby," Mario. As she ages, she is sinking deeper into poverty.
Nationwide, there are 2.7 million grandparents raising grandchildren, and about one-fifth have incomes that fall below the poverty line, according to census figures.
Their ranks are increasing. The number of grandparents raising grandchildren is up 7 percent from 2009. Experts say the trend is likely to continue as the nation responds to the opiate epidemic. Military deployment and a growth in the number of women incarcerated are other factors forcing grandparents to step into parental roles.
Already, child welfare agencies are reporting an increase in the number of children, especially infants, taken from parents battling drug addictions and mental health issues. After years of declines, children in foster care rose by nearly 1 percent in 2013 and by 3.5 percent in 2014 to more than 415,000.
The increase comes as states are placing more foster children with relatives in response to research showing that children fare better with family rather than in foster care.
There is an economic incentive, too. Generations United, a nonprofit that advocates for "kinship families," says taxpayers would see significant savings by keeping children out of foster care and placing them with relatives.
But at the same time, the group says there is no comprehensive framework to keep these kinship families stable. Crucial programs, such as legal services and support groups, "exist only in small pockets of the country," it said.
Those support services are something many grandparents raising grandchildren need. Many are living on fixed incomes and managing chronic illnesses. About a quarter of grandparents raising grandchildren have a disability.
"People who step forward, step forward because there is a crisis in their family and apparently don't take into account their own limitations," said Esme Fuller-Thomson, a professor of social work at the University of Toronto, who has researched grandparent caregiving in the United States.
Maria Nanos, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Work in Chicago, said that when the state is involved, grandparents receive free legal help from the center, but informal caregivers navigate guardianship on their own. The center usually receives funds from the state's Department of Aging to help those grandparents, but Illinois has operated without a budget since July, so the center has not received the money this fiscal year.
"We have to turn people down," Nanos said.
Some states offer financial aid for informal kinship families.
In Georgia, grandparents older than 55 can get a $100 monthly subsidy per grandchild. They also have access to grants and could qualify for subsidies similar to those of foster parents (between $14.60 and $18.80 per day). But access to the assistance, which is often housed in different agencies, can be tricky, if not impossible.
To help relatives navigate the complex web of services, some states have created kinship navigators.
Lynn Urvina, is one of about a dozen kinship navigators in Washington state. She said grandparents call her seeking information about support groups, obtaining guardianship and financial help to pay bills. Every year, her case files grow.
"In our area, methamphetamines have had a huge impact," said Urvina, who is raising, along with her husband, a 12-year-old granddaughter.
Navigators in Washington serve 30 of 39 counties, with multiple counties overseen by one person. Some counties include rural communities where grandparents have little access to services, Urvina said.
"If all grandparents walked away and say, 'we can't do it,' there would be no homes for these kids," Urvina said.
To boost assistance to kinship families, Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., are working on a bipartisan bill that would reimburse states for a portion of money spent on such services as substance abuse prevention and kinship navigators.
As her grandson enters his teens, Aldridge, the Chicago grandmother, said she knows she'll need more resources to clothe, feed and keep him out of trouble.
To help make ends meet, she stands in food lines, taking two buses to reach the food depository. But she won't give up on Mario.
"He needs me," Aldridge said.
Male Abuse Survivors: Breaking the Silence
Seven men tell stories of sexual abuse
by Kim Fischer
This season, the ABC Drama "American Crime" has been tackling an issue that's often ignored because it's so taboo; sexual violence against men. Many believe a man can't fall victim to this kind of crime. But tonight, in a very powerful panel discussion, you'll see not only does it happen, it happens often.
Before we begin, we have a warning. This conversation is incredibly raw and may not be suitable for all audiences. Two of the men are still too scared to show their faces but all seven were brave enough to share their stories to protect others.
These seven men all have one thing in common.
“My entire life I felt like there's something wrong with me," Andrew Vineyard said.
Each man is grappling with a life altering experience.
"I felt that I what happened was my fault. I couldn't say that I was raped until I was 51. I'm 59 now," said Joe Ellis.
All of their stories were different.
"I was in the military in basic training and I was gang raped," said Barry Kesler.
The attacks happened in the military, and on construction sites.
"One of the dry-wallers ended up raping me. I ended up having to go to that job site every day for the next several months and see him every single day," Liam Paskett said.
Even their own homes weren't safe.
"I was sexually abused as a child by my father. The earliest memory I have is, basically, giving him oral sex on him in a shower when I was about 3 years old," Andrew Vineyard explained.
The information was hard to digest. Over the span of an hour, these men discussed their histories openly. According to national statistics, male sexual assaults generally happen when they're just children.
"Having your earliest memories be sexual, it's so confusing," Vineyard said.
While the numbers are much smaller, adult men can also become victims.
"It's really important that we as a culture move out of our denial," said Salt Lake City therapist, Jim Struve.
Struve is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who works specifically with male survivors. He says there's a real stigma around the idea of a victim being a man.
"I think our concept of masculinity, our concept of raising our boys is that men are expected to be strong and tough, therefore it shouldn't happen to boys," Struve explained.
The idea that men should be strong enough to fend off a predator created a guilt trip in each man that lasted for years.
"I felt so responsible for the things, I still feel responsible for what happened to be honest," Vineyard said.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in six men has been sexually abused, most as children. To put that into perspective, Rice Eccles Stadium seats 47,000 people. If 75% of them are men, that would mean there are about 35,800 men at each game. If you use the one in six statistic, that would mean 6,000 men at any given game are survivors of sexual violence.
Because many people don't want to recognize this kind of sexual violence even happens, many men are shunned when they do disclose their attack.
"We reached out and tried to ask for help. Got told we were going to get help, and they basically came back and asked us why we were lying," said one man, who only wanted to be called Terry.
Paskett followed, saying, "I went to a doctor to get some STD tests and I told him and his reaction was like, yeah, we'll get right on that and walked out."
Those negative reactions just compounded the feelings of shame, guilt and anger these men were already experiencing.
"Intimacy is like, the hardest thing in the world because the people that loved you were the ones that hurt you," said Terry.
Each man's response was different, but Struve said their reactions were all typical of male victims.
"When it first happened I just kind of threw myself into work. I figured if I could be perfect then it would all go away," Alan Morris explained.
Another man, who just went by the name Adam said, “For the longest time I told myself and others that there was no effect from it. That I didn't have any of the effects."
While it took many of these men years, even decades to disclose their assault, they say speaking out was life-changing.
"It's helped me a lot. I think one of the things that's helped me is having people to connect with that understand this experience," Vineyard explained.
Ellis continued, "Being able to embrace my past and no longer be ashamed of it was extremely freeing."
Now, they hope others can learn from this panel discussion.
"What would you say is the number one most common misconception when it comes to male survivors?" I asked.
Morris answered, "It happens. It happens to a lot of men. And it doesn't mean that they're weak. It doesn't mean that they're unable to protect themselves. It doesn't mean that there's something wrong with them or they're broken."
"Is there anything that you would want to tell parents?" I asked.
Ellis replied, "Well number one, believe your children. Children don't make things up. And when they say they don't want to go to somebody's house, don't make them go to the house. When they don't want to hug somebody, don't make them hug somebody."
And if you have suffered abuse these men say it's never too late to talk to someone.
"I would say if you're 20 or you're 80 years old it doesn't matter. You can start now. You can start healing now," Adam said.
Struve had more advice for parents. He said, as uncomfortable as it is to have a conversation with your child about their bodies and touch it is still very important. He says you should also create an environment where your child feels comfortable talking with you about anything.
If you are a survivor, here's a list of websites where you can get support:
Rape Recovery Center
Diocese and Child Sexual Abuse Victims Choose Mediator
by Dan Romano
The Diocese of Duluth and attorneys representing child sexual abuse victims have agreed to enter mediation for victim claims.
The Diocese of Duluth filed for bankruptcy in December, saying the move will allow them to protect assets and pay out what is due to victims. However, Judge Robert Kressel encouraged the Diocese and all parties involved to work with a mediator.
Gregg Zive, a federal judge with experience in diocesan bankruptcy cases, is expected to approved as mediator by Judge Kressel.
"He's a federal bankruptcy judge out of Nevada, and he has mediated a number of cases like this in Catholic abuse cases across the country where the diocese or religious organization was in bankruptcy. He's been very successful at that," said Mike Finnegan, attorney from Jeff Anderson & Associates, the law firm representing a number of the victims in this case.
A diocese official testified that, as of November, the church maintained net assets of more than $5 million and total liabilities of over $12 million.
Representatives for the victims are worried the Diocese is hiding funds.
"In all of these cases, one of the things that we will be doing is scrutinizing the Diocese's assets, but also separate from that, the Diocese also had insurance going back years and years. So, there are a number of insurers that will probably be involved in this case as well," said Finnegan.
Mediation is expected to begin May 1 in Minneapolis if neither side objects to the appointment of Zire as mediator.
Victims have until May 25 to file sexual abuse claims in bankruptcy court.
I'll Never Spank My Kids Because ‘I'm Terrified of What I Might Be Capable of Doing'
by Mary Ann Kiffin
Editor's Note: This essay has been written under a pseudonym due to the sensitivity of the subject matter.
There were many things I swore I'd never do as a mom before I became one, most of which flew out the window once I actually had kids and realized how little I understood about parenting. There was one thing, though, that I've stuck to — something I swore I couldn't, wouldn't, and won't ever do, and that's spank my children. I won't do it because I can't. If I ever hit my kids, I might not be able to stop. In an instant, I could become the mother I swore I'd never be — my own.
As a single parent, my mom really struggled with raising three girls on her own. She had some legitimate reasons to be angry and frustrated — raising kids is hard under any circumstances, and it's easy to occasionally lose your temper and contemplate spanking them. But my mom didn't stop at spanking. When she got angry, she lost control, spewing terrible insults while she hit us, pulling our hair and, occasionally, kicking us. She devised strange punishments and added them to her repertoire. You didn't like what she made for breakfast? Well, you had better eat it or you'd wear it.
I made lots of promises to myself back then — about what not to do in the hopes of avoiding my mother's wrath, and also of promises to my future children of things I'd never do to them. I don't think my mother was self-aware enough to recognize the pain and emotional damage she inflicted on us. To this day, she remains unable to acknowledge the true nature of her actions. Whenever I've broached the subject of my childhood with her, she sarcastically says, “I know … I know … you think I was Mommie Dearest.”
Still, growing up, I didn't think of my mother as a monster, because she was often very loving. Ultimately, this was one of the most difficult things about living with her: We never knew which mom to expect. She'd flip-flop between an extremely passive parent who acted more like a friend to a cold, abusive authoritarian who raged for no discernible reason. It was scary and sad, but all I wanted to do was be a good daughter and please her. Thus, throughout my childhood, I believed that if I could just be better, different, smarter, prettier, more talented, my mother would stop hurting me. That need to please has followed me into adulthood, leading me into some truly unhealthy relationships that I've had to fight my way out of.
That's the thing about parents — they shape us more than anything else, and, if that shape's not good, we need to work really hard to change it. Over the years, I did that work, distancing myself from my mother as soon as I could. I went to therapy — in fact, I became a therapist. I studied theories on abuse, developed support groups for abuse survivors, and mourned the mother I never had. I learned that I was resilient and that I could reshape myself and move forward.
All along, I swore I'd never be like her, but I had no idea how hard it would be to break the cycle of abuse when it came to my own children. And make no mistake here: Abuse is a cycle. My great-grandmother hit my grandmother, my grandmother hit my mother, and my mother hit me. What I learned from my mother was so deeply ingrained in me that, despite my awareness, I would still have to fight urges to hit my kids on a regular basis. I wasn't prepared to find that I, just like her, have the capacity to go from 0 to 60 in a flash, and whenever I feel myself start to rev up, I'm terrified of what I might be capable of doing.
Because, as ashamed as I am to admit it, when I reach the furthest limits of my patience, the thought of striking out at them invokes some kind of primordial desire in me. The utter release I imagine I might feel, the one I used to see in my mother's eyes when she unleashed her fury on me, is horribly, terrifyingly appealing. Whether in spite of or because I recognize that impulse in myself, I can control it.
I never want my daughters to fear me. I do want them to understand that I'm not their friend; I'm their mom — their most influential teacher and protector. I want them to feel safe and loved by me, and to respect me because I've earned it, not because I threatened or beat them into submission. I make it clear to my kids every day that, while I'm in charge, I'll always listen and try to help them find their voices. I'm honest with them — they know a lot about my childhood and of my commitment never to hit them.
But I've come dangerously close. One time I raised my hand and told my younger daughter I wanted to hit her because she had an epic tantrum and ripped up a book; another time, I grabbed my older daughter by the arm and pulled her out of a building and into the car after she loudly refused to go into the dance class she had begged to take. After both incidents, I immediately took responsibility for my anger and impatience. Then I went to my bedroom and cried uncontrollably at the thought of what it would've meant for me — and for them — had I lost control.
My intent is not to impart the message that as long as you weren't an abused child, it's OK to spank your kids. In fact, my hope is that parents who use physical discipline will reconsider once they understand the potential effects it might have, regardless of their intentions. Just because you aren't the one who needs to break the cycle doesn't mean you can't be the one to start it. I've had many heated discussions with friends about their choice to spank. Inevitably, they point out that although my mom crossed the line, I “still turned out OK”; I'm polite, generous, and loving, and am frequently praised for my resiliency — sometimes I'm even told that these traits are, in part, probably due to my mother. But is that because of how my mother disciplined me, or in spite of it? And at what price?
While those traits are lovely, they're only the parts of me that people see. Because of the abuse, I'm constantly on guard and often withholding, since that's how I learned to cope as a kid. Being resilient is a blessing and a curse because you can't turn it off.
I don't talk to my mother anymore — not because I'm still angry or I hate her, but because she hasn't changed. She can't get to me physically, but when given the chance she still comes at me emotionally. Cutting her out of my life was hard, but, ultimately, I had to do it, not only for me but for my girls. When she was in my life, my struggle not to become her was that much harder. Every time she'd verbally attack me, I'd find myself snapping at my daughters, wanting to take my pain out on them. My mother ignites this spark in me that I'm so desperate to extinguish. So, as sad as I sometimes feel, I stay away from her until she's willing to change the way she treats me. I hope that day will come, but in the meantime, I'll ensure that the cycle ends with me.
Time limit on suing for damages following child sex abuse removed by New South Wales Parliament
by Sarah Gerathy
Child sexual abuse survivors will be able to make civil claims regardless of the date of an alleged incident under legislation being introduced into New South Wales Parliament today.
The Government flagged last year that it was considering removing the time limit on suing for damages as part of its response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
"There should be no use-by date for justice for survivors of child abuse," Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton said.
"This change will remove a significant barrier in the way of that justice."
Under existing laws, victims of child sexual abuse in NSW typically have had between three and 12 years to pursue compensation in a civil court before the statute of limitations can be used to block their claims.
National redress scheme still needed, survivors groups say
Groups representing survivors of institutional abuse have welcomed the move but said it was long overdue.
Care Leavers of Australia Network (CLAN) spokeswoman Leonie Sheedy said the Government needed to ensure there was adequate support for people who wanted to make claims.
"It costs a lot of money to deal with lawyers and we are not like the middle classes, we have lived very marginalised lives, we've got limited education," she said.
She said all governments needed to work together to quickly set up a full national redress scheme, as it was difficult for survivors to pursue civil claims.
"A lot of survivors haven't got the emotional energy to take a civil case to the courts, they don't have the financial means and they don't have the emotional energy to do that ... they want justice through a national redress scheme," she said.
Ms Upton said discussions were continuing with the Commonwealth and other State and Territories about a redress scheme that could accept applications from survivors by no later than July 2017, as recommended by the royal commission.
She said the State Government believed a single national redress scheme for survivors was the best way to ensure consistent, accessible justice for survivors regardless of where the abuse occurred.
Ms Upton said the State Government would also take further steps this year to address the royal commission's other recommendations on redress and civil litigation.
"We know there is more to do, and the NSW Government will release a consultation paper in the coming months in relation to the royal commission's other civil litigation recommendations," Ms Upton said.
Signs to look for if your teen is in an abusive relationship
by FOX 61 STAFF
It's "Teen Dating Violence Awareness" month and there are young people across the world who are in abusive relationships.
Teen dating violence is physical, sexual, psychological and/or emotional violence, including the act of stalking. It can take place in person or electronically. According to a nationwide survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 23% of females and 14% of males who ever experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age. 10% of youth (in some communities over 30%) experienced some form of dating violence over the past year.
Violence, itself, is related to certain risk factors such as being angry, depressed, anxious, suicidal, alcohol/drug abuse, experiencing some sort of mental or physical trauma, witnessing or experiencing violence in the home and believing that it is an acceptable way of behaving in a relationship.
There are many young people in abusive relationships and don't need to be. I think in order to understand the warning signs of a potentially abusive relationship, it's important to identify what I'd like to refer to as the "Big Three Cs" of a Healthy Relationship that every person (young or older) should have as a core foundation to their relationship. This would be a good starting point as an indicator to whether a relationship is headed in the right direction or not:
Communication: In a healthy relationship, if something is bothering you, both individuals should be able to openly and honestly express their feelings without a fear of being scolded verbally, made to feel guilty, or physically abused.
Compromise: Disagreements are a natural part of relationships and agreeing to disagree is essential in maintaining a healthy relationship. Find a way to find a common ground or compromise in a rational way with the goal to solve the problem or resolve the conflict in a peaceful manner without it getting personal.
Care: Displaying care is about being respectful of the wishes and feelings of the other person. Showing compassion and being supportive of a partner's needs and offering reassurance and encouragement to build the person up, rather than put him/her down. Care is about respecting each others privacy and space. Healthy relationships require boundaries and space and are a great way to keep your relationship healthy and secure.
If you feel like you are walking on egg shells or afraid to provoke your partner because of how he/she will react to things (by blaming you for his/her problems, insulting or putting you down for things, telling you what to do and trying to control your actions - who you see, what you do, pressuring you into doing something you don't want to do, having temper tantrums or becoming possessive and if you try and end the relationship, they refuse to, these are signs that you are in an unhealthy relationship.
As a parent, look out to see if your child's grades are slipping, if they appear more sad, anxious, frequently crying, having to respond immediately to a call or text, if they are making excuses for the other person's poor behavior, engaging in more risky behaviors or if they appeared more outgoing and involved with family, friends, school activities before dating. Those are all warning signs that your child may be in a dangerous relationship and need help to get out.
In a serious situation that involves a person, especially a girl, needing to protect herself from a life and death violent situation, you need to remove yourself from the environment as quickly as possible, but oftentimes this is not an easy feat. Use your instincts and judgment.
If the situation is dangerous, consider giving the abuser what is necessary to calm him or her. If this isn't possible and you need to use physical force to remove yourself from the situation, target the areas of the body that will temporarily stun the person - typically by striking regions of the body like the crotch, kneecaps, shin, heels, or eyes - and then fleeing the scene and going into a room or area that has access to an exit and getting help immediately (yell for someone to call 911 or try to hide and call or text for help) You will have about 15 minutes of an adrenaline rush to fight and get out of the situation.
If you or someone you know is in a violent or abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
11 facts about teen dating violence
Newborn found in fast-food restaurant toilet; mom detained
WEST COVINA, Calif. (AP) - A newborn boy was found in the toilet of a Subway restaurant Monday, and his mother, a homeless woman, was held by police who followed a blood trail, authorities said.
Mary Grace Trinidad, 38, was found behind a nearby auto parts store in the eastern Los Angeles suburb, police spokesman Rudy Lopez said.
Police were called to the Subway on South Azusa Avenue around 8:30 a.m. after a bleeding woman was seen leaving the sandwich shop and employees saw the blood trail came from the toilet, Lopez said.
"Employees went inside and saw an umbilical cord hanging out of the toilet, then they found the baby in the toilet," Lopez told City News Service.
The crying infant was hospitalized in critical condition because being partially submerged in the cold toilet water lowered his core body temperature, police Lt. Dennis Patton told the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/1QhD6RH).
Police followed the blood trail out of the Subway and found Trinidad, who also was taken to a hospital, police said.
A transient who is well-known in the neighborhood, she was wanted on a drug-related warrant and could face charges of attempted murder and child abandonment, police said.
"I've done this for 36 years. I thought I had seen everything," Lopez told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune (http://bit.ly/1U46sTj). "I have no words to describe how I'm feeling about this."
Under California's Safely Surrendered Baby Law, the parents or legal guardians of a newborn can turn in the child at a fire station or hospital with no questions asked if it is within three days of the birth and there are no signs of abuse.
Red flags for human trafficking
"Human trafficking can happen anywhere, even right next door," said Colorado Legal Services Representative Edgar Balzac.
by Bette McFarren
"Human trafficking can happen anywhere, even right next door," said Colorado Legal Services Representative Edgar Balzac. "Human Trafficking is a crime involving the exploitation of someone for the purposes of compelled labor or a commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud or coercion. Victims can be anyone from around the world or right next door: women and men, adults and children, citizens and noncitizens alike." Balzac emphasized the "trafficking" does not refer to moving from place to place, but rather to the practice of forcing a person to do something through the use of force, fraud or coercion. Adults must prove force or fraud, but children under the age of 18 have no such burden of proof.
Sometimes people working under a visa for a particular employer may be victims of this practice. Primarily, traffickers get their victims through poverty, language barriers, physical/mental disabilities, addiction, lack of immigration status, isolation, youth, fear of harm to self or families, dreams of a better life, or criminal or immigration history, arrest warrants (causing fear of law enforcement).
Traffickers control others through threats of violence or deportation, withholding of identification or other documents. They may also provide drugs or alcohol, engage in verbal abuse or threaten to return youth to an abusive home. They operate by familiarity with the system and the community and may make direct or implied threats to family members. Withholding of food, water, affection or privileges may also be used.
Here are some red flags for human trafficking: 1. A highly controlled work setting, failure to pay wages, forcing work to pay a debt 2. Withholding of personal identification documents 3. Threats of, or actual verbal, physical or sexual abuse by an employer; refusal to treat work-related injuries 4. Forced illegal activity for profit, especially involving LGBT, foreign national, and other at-risk populations (e.g., prostitution, drug smuggling/sales) 5. Mistreatment of children or other relatives involving restriction of movement, domestic servitude, servile marriage and/or forced illegal activity. If you suspect such activity, contact the Colorado Network to End Human Trafficking 24/7 statewide hotline at 1-866-455-5075 to report tips or seek resources. El Paso, Pueblo and Otero counties are among locations in Colorado where exploitation and/or human trafficking took place in Colorado between 2008 and 2014.
Be aware of settings where severe exploitation has been identified. In labor trafficking, identified areas in Colorado are debt bondage to coyote, involuntary servitude in arranged marriage, migrant and agricultural labor, construction, hospitality (hotels), domestic work and child care, restaurant work, child labor and magazine crews. Identified areas in sex trafficking in Colorado are prostitution and escort services, exotic dancing, arranged or forced marriages, interstate sex trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation of children and family members pimping out children for sex.
Balzac said that legal service is not the only thing persons who have been the victims of traffickers need. Separated from their support system, they also need the essentials of life: food, shelter, emotional support. The service Balzac works with has had good experience with the various Departments of Human Services in the state, but volunteer organizations are also welcome to help support these people until they can get situated again. Here in La Junta, there is the Women's Resource Center, to which Delta Kappa Gamma and many other organizations contribute basic items for health, social and emotional needs.
Co-President Loretta Kerr said one effect of hearing this presentation is to make you more aware of the possibilities of exploitation wherever you go: restaurants, nail salons, even your own home when you observe a crew of young women working out of a van to sell magazines. Balzac suggested in case of suspicions, a person could strike up a conversation and inquire where the person is from, etc. Be alert; you will often get a feeling that something is just not right, said Balzac. There is often a language barrier. That's what the hot line is for: it's a hard situation to figure out, and there are people who will help.
Victims have a tendency to blame themselves and may try to defend the person who is exploiting them, or have a great fear of the trafficker or of law enforcement. They may also fear danger to their families. Nevertheless, the CNEHT is there to help, and people who have once been treated as slaves have earned their freedom to be treated as human beings with a future, usually with help from such an organization.
Wisconsin stakeholders take a variety of approaches to address human trafficking
Lawmakers, prosecutors, recovery organizations work to combat human trafficking, but some say more should be done to tackle issue
by Emily Hamer
With bipartisan bills to combat sex trafficking and Attorney General Brad Schimel's recently published opinion editorial highlighting the issue, Wisconsin stakeholders are working together to fight human trafficking.
Trafficking in Wisconsin
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, there were 50 cases of human trafficking in Wisconsin in 2015, 45 of which were sex trafficking, three of them labor trafficking and two of them both.
The number of people being trafficked could be much higher than these reported cases, Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, said. It's hard to know for sure how many people are being victimized because “so much of this is being done in the dark,” she added.
Part of the problem with how sex trafficking cases are handled, Subeck said, is that survivors of sex trafficking are often treated as perpetrators rather than victims. She said many times victims are charged with prostitution rather than receiving help for their traumatic experience. Lawmakers should go a step further and allow those who were survivors of sex trafficking to have immunity from these sorts of prosecutions, Subeck added.
Liz Marquardt, community education and strategic initiatives director at Sojourner Family Peace Center, a domestic abuse treatment center, said many victims do not think the legal system will protect them, which makes it harder for survivors to find help.
“Trafficking survivors are very likely to not believe that the criminal legal system is going to be able to protect them,” Marquardt said. “And partly that might be true … if their experience is that the criminal legal system isn't able to keep them safe, then it's not the first place they'll turn.”
Attorney general's response
Sex trafficking occurs in almost every county in the state, according to 2013 Department of Justice numbers, Schimel said in his article. He said human trafficking is an issue that needs more attention throughout the state.
“Human trafficking is an insidious crime that isolates victims and exploits them for profit,” Schimel wrote. “It is happening right here in Wisconsin, in small and large cities, towns and villages, both urban and suburban — places that you might not expect.”
Marquardt said she thinks it's great that the “top cop” in the state is talking about the issue and that there are statewide efforts to address it.
Legislation in the works
A bipartisan bill Subeck coauthored would classify child sex trafficking as child abuse, allowing child protective services to be involved in the cases. Subeck said her bill is a step in the right direction for dealing with the issue of sex trafficking in the state because it would strengthen the processes of finding justice and promoting recovery.
“I want to emphasize that [this bill] is a really good step, it's something that we absolutely should do,” Subeck said. “We absolutely should investigate these acts as child sexual abuse, but it really isn't enough, and we really should do more.”
The Committee on Children and Families passed the bill unanimously Feb. 11.
Another bipartisan bill, proposed by Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, and Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, would allow survivors to keep their private address confidential, so abusers can't find them.
The four lawmakers said in a joint statement that it's important for there to be a bipartisan effort to address this issue.
“While the four of us don't always agree, there is one thing we can all get behind; the safety of survivors of domestic abuse, stalking and human trafficking,” Fitzgerald, Shilling, Kleefisch and Taylor said in the statement.
The bill passed unanimously in the Assembly, and was unopposed in the Senate Feb. 9 and now heads to Gov. Scott Walker's desk.
Assembly passes bipartisan bills addressing sexual assault, wrongly convicted criminals
A number of bipartisan bills passed through the Assembly Tuesday including bills to protect victims of sexual assault, wrongly convicted …
Marquardt said a multidisciplinary approach is the best way to help victims. Health and social services, domestic violence agencies, crisis housing, faith-based organizations and law enforcement all need to work together to tackle this issue, she added.
Sojourner Family Peace Center provides help hotlines, shelters, legal advocacy, support groups and life skills training, such as resume help, Marquardt said. Other possible improvements include increasing financial assistance to victims so they can have access to legal services, crisis housing or clothing for a job interview, she said.
Student-run ‘A Just Brew' refreshing player in Madison's coffee scene
This autumn, some University of Wisconsin students hope to draw peers away from the cult of Pumpkin Spice Lattes to …
“We don't believe that any one of us has the answer, but that we need to work together in a multidisciplinary way, so that people have a broad spectrum of things that they can access … and that they get their health and safety needs met as well,” Marquardt said.
OSHP cracks down on human trafficking
by Amanda Plotts
Human trafficking is on the rise in Ohio and the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) is taking a stand to put an end to it. The organization has announced new steps this year to rescue potential victims.
Human trafficking takes two primary forms: labor trafficking, which involves compelling people to provide labor or services, and sex trafficking, which involves forcing individuals to perform commercial sex acts. Both forms use force, fear and coercion to keep victims working against their will.
According to the OSHP, the same Ohio roads that are used legitimately are also used by human traffickers and smugglers to transport their victims and further their operations. This makes detecting offenders difficult.
“I think a lot of people are blind to the fact it's going on,” said OSHP Sgt. Kevin Dillard.
Dillard believes that a lot of people blow off a 15 or 16-year-old as being a runaway when that may not be the case.
The OSHP reported that in 2015, law enforcement agencies across Ohio reported 102 human trafficking investigations that led to 104 arrests, 33 successful prosecutions and the identification of 203 potential victims.
The OSHP claims troopers have made several efforts to help stop criminals from exploiting trafficking victims in Ohio. The agency has partnered with Truckers Against Trafficking to ensure that trucking schools in Ohio will be required to provide one hour of human trafficking awareness training for students obtaining a CDL for the first time. Truck stops are the leading areas where sex trafficking occurs, therefore truckers will be taught in class to recognize the signs of human trafficking at truck stops.
The OSHP has also trained troopers to identify signs of human trafficking during traffic stops. In addition, state employees have been trained to identify, confront and prevent human trafficking, which was an objective of the Governor's Human Trafficking Task Force.
Dillard said that all troopers get training on human trafficking by taking a class every year at the academy.
Ohio Investigative Unit agents have been trained to identify signs of human trafficking while they conduct routine operations in liquor establishments.
To report trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline Resource Center at 888-373-7888 or text BeFree to 233733. The toll free number is available anywhere in the U.S., 24/7. The hotline received calls from Ohio regarding 303 potential human trafficking cases from 2013-2014, making Ohio the sixth highest total for potential cases reported among the states.
Advocates say you need to know the signs of child sexual abuse
by Andy Devine
There are 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse in the U.S. and some of those victims were abused by a teacher or school staff member.
That's according to National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse.
Recently, there's been incidents like these right here in the Tennessee Valley.
Former Madison County school resource officer Jerome Heard was charged in January with sodomy after an alleged case at Sparkman High School.
Also, former Florence High School nurse Lorie Earwood was charged in February with two felony counts of school employee engaging in a sex act.
Child advocates say victims of child sexual abuse suffer from post traumatic stress symptoms for years after these incidents.
"We've got 9-year-old kids, 12-year-old kids who have had bad things happen to them. They've been hurt, they've been injured by someone who they thought they could trust," National Children's Advocacy Center executive director Chris Newlin said.
Newlin says the problem is that it's hard to find out about these incidents a lot of times.
"It's not really common that children will report something that's happening by someone in school. It actually kind of gets discovered by accident," Newlin said.
If it's not typically reported, what are some of the warning signs? Newlin says you need to be observant.
"If there's an unusual amount of communication between a student and a teacher or a student and someone at the school that would be concerning, the person is coming over to the house or giving them rides," Newlin said.
Newlin says child predators often target the vulnerable, quiet kids so you also need to watch out for subtle changes in behavior.
"I think parent's can look for some changes, especially changes in mood, maybe a child's interest or willingness to participate in certain activities," Newlin said.
Newlin says parents need to have an ongoing dialogue with their kids about what's appropriate and what's not.
This way, kids know when they need to report something to their parents.
Pope's efforts to stop church child abuse appear to unravel
by Will Carless
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — A member of a commission set up by Pope Francis to advise him on child abuse says the group is a “token body” exercising in “smoke and mirrors” that won't help children stay safe from abusive priests.
Peter Saunders, the commission member, is now on a leave of absence as he considers whether to continue with an effort he says he has lost faith in.
Meanwhile, new Catholic bishops are still being taught they're not obliged to report cases of child abuse by priests to the police.
The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which Francis set up with much fanfare in 2014, was supposed to issue guidelines for the Vatican on how to deal with child abuse. But the body was never consulted about the training for new bishops on exactly that topic.
These are just some of the signs that Francis' reform efforts, and his pledge to clean up the Catholic Church's most damaging crisis, seem to be unraveling before they've even really gotten started.
The problems come as Pope Francis pays a visit to Latin America, a region where, as GlobalPost has reported, the church is accused of reassigning and protecting many alleged predator priests. Among the latest scandals in the region, Chileans are outraged that the pope appointed a bishop accused of shielding the country's most despised pedophile priest from investigation.
That the pope's efforts are faltering comes as no surprise to critics of the church, who have long claimed that Francis isn't serious about reform, and that his proposed changes are more cosmetic than concrete.
“I think Pope Francis enjoyed a longer and deeper honeymoon period than any leader I've ever seen,” said David Clohessy, national director and spokesman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. “But I think that's eroding, and justifiably so, and more quickly than many church officials would hope.”
GlobalPost recently spent a year investigating the international movement of predator priests. We tracked down several priests who were accused of abuse in the United States or Europe, and later transferred to South America, where they continued to celebrate Mass in poor, remote parishes.
The Vatican never responded to GlobalPost's requests for comment during our investigation. But we examined Francis' proposed reforms in detail and asked several experts what the pope should do if he's serious about cleaning up the church's sex abuse problem.
Back in 2014, even the pope's critics lauded the creation of the pontifical commission, expressing hope that it represented a real opportunity for change. Saunders, one of the lay members on the board, was among the cautiously optimistic ones.
A prominent survivor of child abuse himself who runs a support organization in the United Kingdom, Saunders told GlobalPost last May: “I have to remain hopeful until my hopes are dashed … This is a new future for the church.”
His optimism didn't last long.
Reached by phone in London this past week, Saunders said the last meeting of the commission was extremely heated and culminated in the group essentially forcing him to take a leave of absence. Saunders said he had lost confidence in the commission's mission, makeup and sincerity.
“I very quickly realized that I'm surrounded by a group of lovely, kind, caring people whose primary loyalty is to the church,” Saunders said. “When Jesus walked into the temple 2,000 years ago and found people trading, gambling and up to all sorts of no good, he didn't form a committee and say ‘let's discuss this,' he just picked the bastards up and threw them out.”
A spokesman for Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who chairs the commission, directed questions about the group to the Vatican. An email to the Vatican Press Office received no reply.
However, Marie Collins, another member of the commission who is also an abuse survivor, took issue with Saunders' comments.
Collins said the commission is working extremely hard on complicated policy changes that, once put into effect, will have a tangible impact on child safety. That work is incremental in nature and therefore takes time to do right, she said. Saunders doesn't seem to be willing to put in that time, she added.
Collins also stressed that the commission isn't supposed to be looking into individual abuse cases, something Saunders has been pushing for. But she said she still believes in the overall mission of the body, and she thinks tangible change can come out of it.
“I wouldn't stay there for five minutes if I didn't think so,” she said. “I would have liked things to happen overnight, but I realize that this is such a global issue that if we're going to make any progress towards change, we have to have policies that, once they're put in place, will stick.”
One recent policy the church has put in place has been generating its own headlines.
Earlier this month, the Vatican released its training guidelines for new priests at a press conference and asked for feedback on them. Veteran Vatican reporter John L. Allen Jr., an associate editor of the Catholic website Crux, wrote about the guidelines in a column last week.
The church official who outlined the rules argued that bishops have “no duty to report allegations [of sexual abuse] to the police,” Allen wrote in his column. Furthermore, the commission — which was set up to advise the church on these matters — wasn't involved in the creation of the guidelines. Allen wrote:
“What's the point of creating a commission to promote best practices, and putting one of the Church's most credible leaders on the abuse issue, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, in charge of it, and yet not having it address the new leaders who will have to implement those practices?”
The exact role of the pontifical commission has always been unclear. Further clouding the issue is the fact that O'Malley doesn't appear willing to talk about the work of the commission or its plans going forward. GlobalPost has tried on numerous occasions to interview O'Malley but has been turned down.
Clohessy said the news regarding the commission is just the latest version of a long line of promised church reforms that have gone nowhere.
“There literally have been hundreds of church panels, and there have been thousands of incredibly smart experts and law enforcement officials and psychologists, and victims, who have wasted countless hours advising bishops who pretend to listen and care,” Clohessy said.
Indiana ranks 5th for child abuse
Local expert blames rise of drug use among parents
by Jeff Wiehe
She wore a tank top, which made the needle marks on the inside of her right elbow clear as day in the light of the summer afternoon.
The police officer who responded to the crash, a fender bender at the Interstate 69 exit along West Jefferson Boulevard, could also see scab marks along the then 28-year-old woman's chest and arms. She admitted she rear-ended another car while trying to turn left onto Jefferson, but she did so with a slurred, “thick tongued and mumbled” speech, the officer later wrote.
Affixed to a diaper bag in the car the officer found a bottle of Adderall and amphetamine pills – both of which are illegal to possess if, like the woman, one does not have a prescription. Also inside her car and luckily unhurt in the crash: the woman's 23-month-old daughter.
Allen County prosecutors formally charged the woman last week with felony counts of neglect of a dependent, operating a vehicle while intoxicated and possession of narcotics. This case is like many others permeating the state the last few years and causing alarm among officials in social services: Parents abusing drugs and in turn abusing their children – or at the very least putting them in danger.
A new report released today called Kids Count calculated that Indiana ranks fifth in the country when it comes to kids being abused or neglected for the first time in the past year, with 9 out of 10 being first-time victims.
And data in the report found that 13.4 percent of children reported living with a parent who had a problem with alcohol or drugs, well above the national average of 10 percent.
Many officials see a direct correlation between the rise of prescription pill abuse, and now heroin, with a rise in the number of abuse and neglect cases social workers have been handling throughout the state.
“It's the drugs,” said Rachel Tobin-Smith, executive director of SCAN Inc., northeast Indiana's child abuse prevention agency. “The drugs are making children vulnerable.”
Drugs like heroin, which comes cheap and is in many ways easier to get because of a crackdown on prescription pills, have wreaked havoc in nearly every aspect of life, health and police officials have said for the past few years.
That includes the welfare of children.
Tobin-Smith's organization dealt with more than 840 families last year in which substance abuse was an issue, and time and time again she would run into stories about what a parent consumed by heroin turns into: someone who forgets to change diapers or take their children to school, or even clean the child.
“You might spend all your money on drugs,” she said. “And then there is no money for food or clothing.”
And there are other extremes when it comes to drugs.
A Huntington mother is accused of letting her baby suck heroin off her finger last year.
A Marion man is serving a long prison term for killing his Bluffton girlfriend's child while the couple was in the midst of a drug binge last winter. The mother is also in jail awaiting trial on neglect of a dependent charges, among other counts related to her drug use.
Reports of child abuse are also up across the state, even here in Allen County.
According to Indiana Department of Child Services records, Allen typically received about 600 reports of abuse or neglect to investigate in any given month during 2014. During the last six months of 2015, the number of abuse or neglect reports spiked, sometimes topping 800 a month.
Statewide, reports of abuse or neglect at times topped out at more than 16,000.
The situation with drugs became so alarming to state officials that Gov. Mike Pence authorized the hiring of 113 extra case workers for the state Department of Child Services this year. All of those positions have now been filled as calls to the child services hotline continue to grow.
And while heroin is possibly the new drug du jour, people might be abusing in this area, it's still not necessarily the only one statewide.
“There has definitely been an increase in the number of cases that have drug involvement,” James B. Wide, spokesman for the Department of Child Services, said in an email. “However, we cannot just [attribute] that increase to heroin, as it really depends on geography. Some areas of the state have a bigger issue with cocaine, some meth, some prescription, and some heroin.”
Despite the new hires across the state, Tobin-Smith said there is always a need for more social workers.
“We can't find enough people qualified to do the job,” she said, adding that to do such work requires a lot of education, plus time in the field as well as licensing. “(The drug problem) is stretching our resources.”
But she said there is a tinge of hope.
Several years ago it was methamphetamine the state was trying to tackle. It took time to get a handle on the problem, which, yes, still exists, but measures were taken as officials began to see and understand the scope of what was happening.
Heroin, while it's been out there, is still relatively new.
It will take the community coming together, Tobin-Smith said, plus money for drug treatment programs and other programs to get people the help they need, but they've done this before.
“We're beginning to wrap our heads around it,” she said.
At a glance
Kids Count, a survey released today, takes an annual snapshot of the health of children statewide, factoring in a number of health-related issues. One is child abuse and neglect, and the following are highlights from the survey.
• Indiana has the fifth highest rate nationally of children being abused or neglected for the first time in the past year (10 out of every 1,000 children in Indiana compared with 7 per 1,000 in the United States)
• In Indiana, 9 out of 10 victims of abuse and neglect were first-time victims
• More than 90 percent of those kids didn't have another incident reported within 6 months of the initial incident.
• In 2014, there was a substantiated case of abuse or neglect every 20 minutes in Indiana.
• For every 1,000 Hoosier kids, 16 were victims of abuse or neglect
• Nearly half of those are children 5 years old or younger.
• In state fiscal year 2013, 49 Hoosier children died from maltreatment, compared with 34 in 2012.
• Only seven of the 2013 deaths had prior contact with the Department of Child Services
• Of the 2013 deaths, 14 were due to abuse and 35 were due to neglect
• In 2013, more than 1 in 5 Indiana children who were maltreated had a disability
• The Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline handled nearly 200,000 reports – an average of about one report every two-and-a-half minutes in 2014
• Average caller spends slightly more than 12 minutes speaking with an intake specialist
• Top risk factors for maltreatment in Indiana: if the caregiver is receiving public assistance, has financial problems or has a history of domestic violence. Rate for public assistance and financial problems is much higher in Indiana than the national average.
• Insufficient income and unemployment were risk factors in 98 percent of maltreatment deaths, substance abuse in 43 percent of maltreatment fatalities and domestic violence in 47 percent of abuse fatalities.
Child Services Hotline
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call Indiana's Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline today. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Reports can be made anonymously. 1-800-800-5556
GA State Agency Admits Problems In Reviewing Child Abuse Cases
by ALYSSA SPIRATO
ATLANTA (AP) -- A new report shows that Georgia's child protection agency has identified serious problems in how the agency investigates reports of child abuse and neglect.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the agency is acknowledging "significant gaps" in its performance.
The newspaper reports that 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 states that the agency recognized "significant gaps" in the delivery of services and meeting the expectations of Georgians.
UK orphans sold to paedophiles as sex slaves by traffickers snatching children in care
BRITISH children as young as 12 are being trafficked between UK towns for sex with paedophiles to make quick cash for criminal gangs.
by LEDA REYNOLDS
Unscrupulous men are targeting orphans and other youngsters in children's homes before hiring them out to the highest bidder – with some never seen again.
With profit in mind, the children in care are also being sold on to become servants, look after cannabis farms or act as drug couriers peddling heroin and cocaine up and down the country, said the Barnardo's.
The children's charity said in 2015 around 1,000 children in the UK were referred to the government as potential victims of traffickers, but this figure was just the “tip of the iceberg”.
So concerned is the charity, it recently concluded its Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (ICTA) study.
The year-long study, focusing on a group of 158 trafficked children across 23 local authorities in the UK, was carried out to determine whether having an advocate helped safeguard the youngsters from further harm.
The majority of the children were trafficked from town to town for sexual exploitation, with some having gone missing from care after being lured away by the traffickers.
The study also found that some of the children then simply “vanished”, prompting a call for more to be done to find out what had happened to them.
A volunteer advocate was allocated a number of children and looked at all aspects of their care providing support in person, by telephone and speaking up for them.
An evaluation of the ICTA study said: “Much further work needs to be done to identify the variables that are linked to short and longer term disappearances, with a much larger sample of ‘missing' children.”
And an advocate with the focus group is quoted in the report as saying: “As one advocate noted, perhaps there was a case for a specialist advocate focusing entirely on trafficked children who go missing.
“We need an advocate for the missing to make sure that somebody is constantly going, ‘Why aren't you following this case up? Where is this person? What are the police doing?' That could be a job for one person because I'm finding with some of mine that I'm the only person who's interested.”
A total of 28 children in the study were from the UK while 110 others had been smuggled in by traffickers from countries outside the European Union (EU) including Vietnam and Albania.
The remainder were from EU countries.
Separate research by Barnardo's revealed that sex traffickers have moved children from Birmingham to Sheffield, Cardiff to Blackpool and Middlesborough to Norwich where they have been abused.
The charity has also found there were cases of children being trafficked via boat from Scotland to Belfast for sexual exploitation.
The study offers a brief snapshot into the miserable lives of some of the UK's most vulnerable children with tales of woe more akin to a Charles Dickens novel than 21st century Britain.
A Barnardo's spokesman called on the government to do more to protect children in care from traffickers.
The spokesman said: "Due to the secretive nature of trafficking and inconsistency in collecting data across several agencies, it is difficult to definitively estimate the number of trafficked children in the UK.
"Trafficked children are still going missing from care across the country.
"Some children are in a cycle of going missing then returning to care. Others vanish.
"These children are dropping off the support network they do desperately need, as they're not getting the right support to break them free from their traffickers.
"We urge the Home Secretary to establish advocates with legal powers so that they can compel public authorities to provide trafficked children with this support.
"Traffickers often use emotional and physical abuse to control children.
"Some may lure children in with false promises and others use threats, abuse and force."
Grooming habits: Predators manipulate, create trust with child victims
by Curtis Wildfong
The line differentiating a close, personal relationship between an adult and a child and one that is paving the way for potential abuse can be razor thin.
At first, they can look the same; a special bond between the two. The child will confide with the adult, share secrets and talk about their feelings. The adult is someone to lean on, a shoulder to cry on, is a mentor and a source of comfort.
But there's a reason for the similarities: It's called “grooming,” a slow-evolving process in which an adult predator can gain the trust and comfort of a child they target for abuse by taking advantage of certain vulnerabilities.
“Certainly, we're all susceptible to being taken advantage of and manipulated,” said Dr. Michael Jansen, a psychologist with Holland Hospital who provides outpatient services in behavior management and psychological assessments for children. “With that said, there are factors that lead to children being more susceptible.”
Primarily, that is the development of their brain, especially the prefrontal cortex.
This portion of the brain, a cerebral cortex covering the front part of the frontal lobe, is responsible for “our executive function skills,” Jansen said. That includes the understanding of cause and effect, grasping consequences, problem solving, decision making, impulse control and the development of social skills.
The prefrontal cortex isn't fully developed until the age of 20-25, and some research suggests even as late as 30 years old, Jansen said.
“When your prefrontal cortex isn't as developed, you're not as adept to making good decisions or understanding actions,” he said.
Establishing trust and comfort
The process rarely starts from nothing. The relationship is usually founded on some prior familiarity.
“In a majority of the cases we're talking about, there is already a level of trust, some sort of relationship, whether that be familial or something else,” said Ottawa County Sheriff's Office Det. Michael Tamminga, the primary investigator into child abuse cases in the county.
It is that initial comfort that can provide a foundation for advancing the relationship, beginning with an emotional connection.
“They pay special attention, they talk to them,” Children's Advocacy Center's Clinical Coordinator Shyra Williams said of the predators toward children. “They are the ones that are there for you when your parents are being so terrible to you.”
They are the comfort when comfort is needed. They are the motivator when encouragement is needed.
“A relationship is built on a give-and-take. While we don't keep score, in a relationship, there is giving with some expectation of something in return,” Jansen said.
Grooming begins with the giving, which can be different during different stages of development and ages.
For younger children, it can come in the form of “things;” candy, stuffed animals or toys. As children get older, they have different needs, ranging from money to transportation to friendship.
“As a child develops, being part of a group or being socially involved, having friends, is extremely important,” Jansen said, which can make even young adults, especially those with poor social skills, vulnerable to manipulation.
“A 12- or 14-year-old is very socially driven,” he said. “A child is going to be more vulnerable if this child is an outcast or is not getting those needs from others, including social relationships.
“An adult telling me as a 12-, 14- or 16-year-old how important and special I am has a huge impact on me.”
The adult is slowly becoming a very important person in the child's life. They can be an escape from whatever issue the child is dealing with at that stage in their life.
“If what they (the child) want is independence or to be their own person, (a predator) can certainly take advantage of that and encourage rebelliousness, and then use that to their own needs,” Jansen said. “For older children, the relationship is much more emotional before it becomes physical.”
From give to take
After a certain level of comfort and trust has been established, predators often begin to push the boundaries.
“The same time relationally, they have this relationship with the child and are testing the boundaries,” Williams said. “They continue to test the boundaries and see if the child tells or if anything changes.”
This can be anything from making suggestive comments, often in jest, or minimal contact that can be mistaken for accidental touching. It elicits a response, which the adult can gauge — all unbeknown to the child.
“When you're a child and this predator is giving you these things, there is a lack of understanding (that) there is this expectation of something in return,” Jansen said, noting the undeveloped prefrontal cortex in children. “They don't have that weariness or suspicion of ‘What is their motivation behind this?'”
The relationship advances beyond just a special bond, but the next step still isn't always sexual.
“Are they trying to isolate the child? If they are trying to do one-on-one's with the child, that's a red flag,” Williams said. “That's the next step of grooming, isolating a child.”
Technology has provided an arena of privacy for predators to initiate and maintain contact with a child. Both text messaging and social media have become havens for isolating children.
Martin Public Schools junior varsity boys basketball coach Raymond Brenner II is accused of inappropriate communications with a member of his team. According to court records, Brenner was using social media to interact and send nude photos of himself to the underage child.
In the case of former West Ottawa High School teacher Matthew Powell, who pleaded no contest to one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct against a 16-year-old female student, the relationship between the two evolved via texts.
The two exchanged more than 1,200 text messages in less than a month. While there was no direct communication regarding sexual contact, they could, as a whole, be interpreted as grooming.
Powell on several occasions pushed the boundaries of appropriateness, especially that between a female student and a male teacher.
The relationship in that case evolved into one-on-one interactions, with the victim claiming to have met Powell several times alone in parking lots, inside the school and at his home. It was these three meetings when he groped her.
It's in these one-on-one events the process often does go from grooming to physical abuse. A child, who to this point has known nothing but positive aspects of this relationship, can't process that it may be inappropriate. Even if they do, the other aspects of the relationship have become so important they fear losing them.
“The child is able to articulate that they don't like that part of the relationship, but love everything else about that person,” Williams said. “They are afraid of losing the positive aspects of the relationship.
This fosters secrecy, which can make child sexual abuse tough to identify.
Williams said there is no cut-and-dry way to spot sexual abuse, but the best way is to understand the child and his or her personality.
She said signs of abuse include sudden incidents of acting out and getting into trouble, avoiding certain people, nightmares, anxiety, depression, tantrums and seclusion.
Williams said anyone with any level of suspicion should contact a counselor at Children's Advocacy Center or speak with social services, even if it's just to discuss if the suspicion is warranted.
“Call and talk to a counselor,” she said. “Report it to professionals and let them decide if there is validity or concerns.”
For more information or for anyone who suspects child abuse and wishes to report it, contact the Children's Advocacy Center at (616) 393-6123 or the Ottawa County Department of Health and Human Resources abuse and neglect hotline at (855) 444-3911.
Cameron's resistance to compulsory sex education is harmful
by Sonia Sodha
Most of us probably have an embarrassing anecdote about school and sex education. I still cringe a bit when I remember mine: in the middle of casting for the Nativity play, I innocently asked my primary school teacher, “Why is Mary called the Virgin Mary?” to the sniggers of my more worldly classmates. Safe to say I wasn't cast as one of the Three Wise Men that year.
Cringeworthy as it may be when done badly, all children have the right to age-suitable sex and relationship education. It can teach children about appropriate and inappropriate adult behaviour in a world where some children will always – sadly – be vulnerable to sex abuse.
More than that, it can support children to learn what loving relationships look like, and to develop a healthy attitude towards sex.
Of course most children learn this at home with their parents, but many don't – like those forced to witness physical and emotional domestic violence at home.
While sex and relationship education is part of the secondary curriculum, there is no requirement for academies – a third of all schools – and primary schools to teach it. The government last week said it would be maintaining the status quo , despite considerable pressure for them to change it. This is the latest decision by a government that sees the role of schools in equipping young people with emotional skills for life as far less important than teaching them academic subjects.
But sex and relationship education is even more important in a world where sex has increasingly taken on an online dimension. It's hard enough to negotiate the intersection between relationships and the internet as an adult, let alone as a child.
Should you remain Facebook friends with someone you've been out with? (Unless you really don't care whom they go on to date, the answer is always no.) What's the etiquette for promoting yourself on an internet dating profile? (Believe me, by far the worst case of writer's block I've ever had).
For children and young people, this world is of course much more confusing – and potentially dangerous. Yet many of them have easy access to it: lots of children have their own mobiles and tablets. A majority of teenagers have been asked for sexual images or videos online, while boys as young as those of primary-school age have watched online porn .
Of course we should do more to protect children and restrict their access to online material. But as a primary school governor, I know how naive it would be to believe you can wholly prevent children from seeing inappropriate content online, or that all children get to learn about positive relationships at home.
Compulsory sex and relationship education won't stop abusers preying on children. It won't stop pre-pubescent boys watching hardcore porn. But it might help children become more ready for the world: by helping them to keep themselves safe online, to be able to put inappropriate material in context, and to have a fair crack at understanding sex and relationships (to the extent that any of us do). That is surely no less important than being able to read and write.
What Happens to a U.S. State When It Perpetuates Child Neglect? So Far, Nothing
by Darcy Merritt
At the end of 2014, 75 percent of all cases (the national estimate of all victims was 702,000) of maltreatment in the nation were due to child neglect, understood as raising children in unsafe living conditions. Federal legislation and state child welfare agencies define physical child neglect as the omission of vital and appropriate sustenance provisions, thus failing to provide a sufficient and acceptable level of care. Government entities have stated at a minimum, child abuse and neglect is "an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm."
U.S. society has accepted the notion that parents who neglect their children are ill-equipped to protect them from harmful situations. Hence, neglectful parents face dire consequences for their inability to appropriately care for their children, oftentimes resulting in the removal of children from their homes primarily because their parents were unable to provide the necessities our society has agreed upon are essential -- food, safe living conditions, adequate clothing.
An erroneous assumption that so many hold is that all parents possess the material resources to provide for the basic needs for their children, when in fact the causes, or etiology, of neglect is associated with the systemic problem of poverty. More often than not, the underlying reasons for this type of maltreatment are due to a severe lack of resources, and certainly unintentional. For instance, one would be hard pressed to locate a parent who intentionally denied their child safe drinking water when the boy or girl is thirsty. Yet the child welfare system mandates punishing parents severely, and by extension their children, when needs can't be met, despite earnest efforts and circumstances typically outside of their control.
The Michigan state child welfare system, as in all states, is designed as a protective structure, with a specific focus on safeguarding and enhancing the well being of children. The children of Flint, Michigan, nonetheless have been placed at "imminent risk of serious harm," not due to unintentional parental negligence, but rather as a result of state-level perpetration of neglectful care of the city's children.
The environmental quality of this economically distressed community -- once a thriving center of the automobile industry -- is severely lacking, and elected government officials have placed thousands of families, particularly children, in danger of a host of irreversible, negative, bio-socio-behavioral outcomes. There are about one-hundred-thousand residents in the city of Flint. Fifty-two percent are black, 42 percent live below the federal poverty level, and 27 percent are under the age of 18, including almost 9,000 children under the age of six. As the world now knows, since the spring of 2014, these citizens have been completely reliant on lead-poisoned water flowing from corroded pipes; a decision made by state officials in a shortsighted effort to address budget issues at the risk of our most vulnerable population, poor children - nine thousand poor young children.
The long-term adverse consequences of Michigan's having knowingly deprived children of clean, lead-free water are overwhelming and will linger in a host of ways well into the future generations of those children now exposed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that children are not safe with any level of lead in their blood stream. Journalists have uncovered official state correspondences indicating the Governor's office was notified by the EPA of high levels of lead in the water as early as February, 2015, followed by alerts from high-level state officials early last summer. At the end of July, the Governor's chief of staff sent a compelling email asking for this problem to be addressed, which was again ignored. Governor Snyder didn't take action until January 5, 2016 after the federal government began an investigation.
Given all this, it stands to reason that all the child residents require immediate testing and treatment (e.g. chelation therapy for the removal of heavy metals from the bloodstream). The potential damage to neurobehavioral developmental processes is overwhelming. Irreversible harm has been done to these children, particularly those under age six, when their brain development is most susceptible to the trauma of chronic neglect.
These children are sadly at risk of enduring, permanent brain damage that results in lowered intelligence capacity, cognitive delays, attention deficit disorders, poor academic achievement, and socio-behavioral problems. The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a policy statement calling for an Ecobiodevelopmental (EBD) approach in addressing the long-term health and social consequences of neglect, with particular attention on mitigating the impact of childhood adversity and toxic stress on poor brain development.
The state of Michigan has perpetrated this neglect and it is of utmost urgency for the state to embrace a comprehensive approach to alleviate the imminent deleterious neurobiological and developmental processes. For example, such an approach would include addressing multi-layered risk factors for neglect, such as parenting deficiencies and child characteristics within the ecological context of unsafe and low resourced neighborhoods. Further, longitudinal studies tracking well-being of these children should be implemented immediately in order to document the effects of this poisoning over time, thus providing evidentiary support to prevent this kind of government-enabled tragedy in the future.
Even before this tragedy of state neglect, Michigan did not hesitate in cutting budgets for resources and services that could eradicate or at least diminish the prevalence of child neglect within individual, distressed households and mitigating the negative outcomes. Child maltreatment prevention program budget cuts have continued in the state for close to two decades, resulting in a rise in child abuse and neglect prevalence, ranking in 2012 at 39, well above the national average.
Similarly, budgetary tactics have contributed to the state's decisions that allowed the citizens of Flint to be exposed to dangerously contaminated water. To me, it is all of a piece. Children have been bathing, drinking, and playing in hazardous waste -- at the hands of government officials, not their own parents. Intentional lead poisoning of children is certainly nothing short of child neglect. The overall rate of child neglect cases, as a result, has skyrocketed with the influence of poverty vastly exacerbated.
Historically, and a demonstrated currently in Flint, the U.S. has a tendency to react to crises, rather than prevent them. Addressing the etiology of child neglect is no exception. Addressing pervasive poverty is a first step to doing so. It will not be inexpensive to give the citizens of Flint what they require and deserve. Aside from the costs of repairing the corroded pipes and channeling safe water into the city, the financial burden of this neglect for decades to come is profound. Families and children will likely need a lifetime of special services.
Clearly, we should rethink placing the onus of child neglect solely on parents, and impartially consider structural and intentional neglect of poverty-stricken communities as the direct link. Given the penalties that exist for neglectful parents, what consequences should be deemed appropriate for the elected officials of the state of Michigan for the profound neglect of children? For a flint is a hard, tough biochemical grainy rock. Unlike real flint fashioned into sharp tools, children are vulnerable, and far less resistant to permanent damage.
Super Bowl 'Sex-Trafficking Stings' Net Hundreds of Prostitution Arrests
In addition to sex-worker arrests, 552 people "would-be sex buyers" were arrested for soliciting undercover cops, to the tune of at least $187,000 in fines.
by Elizabeth Nolan Brown
As has become customary this decade, the FBI and vice cops nationwide conducted a coordinated series of prostitution stings in conjunction with the latest Super Bowl, yielding hundreds of arrests for "would-be sex buyers." Known as the National John Suppression Initiative, the stings—which took place in 14 states and involved 23 different law-enforcement units this year—start with police decoys offering commercial sex, usually on sites like Backpage.com. When prospective clients bite, they're booked on solicitation or similar charges. At the end of the January 17 through February 7 operation, 552 people were arrested for trying to purchase sex, and officials expect to collect a minimum of $187,000 in fines from them.
But don't call it a "vice sting"—if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's actually human trafficking these days. In police press releases and FBI statements about the operation, officials trumpeted the dent they were making in "ending demand" for prostitution and thus eradicating sex trafficking.
Across all operations, 10 teens were discovered, including seven in the San Francisco Bay area, a region that includes Santa Clara, where Super Bowl 50 took place. Though almost exclusively referred to as "children" by police and press, one recovered juvenile was 14 years old and the other nine ranged from ages 15 to 17. Public details about these cases are scarce, but a few are described in local news reports as runaways; it's unclear whether most were being forced or coerced into prostitution or not (legally, anyone under 18 selling sex is defined as a sex trafficking victim).
Because of its proximity to the Super Bowl, the Bay Area operation was by far the largest, with more than a half-dozen law-enforcement units, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, more than 50 organizations, and 5,000 volunteers lending a hand. The six-county operation yielded 85 arrests for soliciting prostitution, 12 "pimps" apprehended, and 129 adult sex workers "contacted." (More on this from sex worker and author Maggie McNeill here.)
By "contacted," an FBI spokesperson specified that some were cited on prostitution charges and others were referred to social workers but will not provide precise numbers. In Santa Clara County, where 42 sex workers were "contacted," 20 were ultimately referred to social service and 22 were arrested—including at least one minor, booked for prostitution and resisting arrest, according to the Contra Costa Times. It reports that "sex workers who were arrested were offered a wide array of services, such as food, clothing and shelter."
The Bay Area operation also yielded 12 "pimps," according to the FBI, though what they mean by this isn't exactly clear. One of these so-called pimps, arrested on human trafficking of a minor and pandering charges, is a 20-year-old Sacramento sex-worker who was working alongside one 17-year-old and one older teen.
It is also unclear how many sex workers were arrested nationwide during the "John Suppression" stings, but most places where any detail is available report both solicitation and prostitution arrests. In Lincoln, Nebraska, for instance, six men were arrested for solicitation, two people were arrested for driving women to prostitution jobs, and five women were arrested for prostitution. A Harris County, Texas, sting in late January led to the arrest of 18 "johns" and one woman charged with prostitution; their bonds range from $500 to $5,000.
Overall, Harris County authorities and Houston police arrested 183 people on solicitation charges, the most of any one area. Cook County, Illinois—which includes Chicago—saw 79 potential prostitution clients arrested.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart spearheaded the launch of the National John Suppression Initiative (then called the National Day of John Arrests) in 2011; he's also been on a crusade to shut down the classified-advertising site Backpage. Twenty-six sex workers were picked up and offered "counseling" during the Cook County operation; it's unclear what happened if they refused.
Stings in Phoenix, Mesa, and Glendale, Arizona, netted 32 "johns"; Little Rock police apprehended 42; and Seattle arrested 54.
Other participating areas and their solicitation-arrest numbers: Dekalb, Georgia, with three; Lake County, Indiana, with one; Howard County, Maryland, with eight; Boston with 18; Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada, with 34; Portland, Oregon, with six; and Pittsburgh with 23. Among those arrested were at least one police officer, a Northeastern University professor, and the brother of Denver Broncos safety Ryan Murphy; Murphy himself was detained and questioned by police but not charged.
The last round of the National Johns Suppression Initiative, in which 18 states and 39 units participated last September, yielded 961 solicitation arrests and $189,170 in fines from those arrested.
Sex Slavea in SoCal: LAPD Shifts Approach to Help Human Trafficking Victims
by Elex Michaelson
"They could be your daughter and you may not even know it," Dr. Stephany Powell stated as she described victims of human trafficking.
Powell first got to know victims while working for the Los Angeles Police Department's VICE squad. Currently, she runs a non-profit called Journey Out that helps sex trafficking victims recover.
Powell said if someone engaged in prostitution is being "pimped," that person is considered a victim of human trafficking. According to Journey Out, the Los Angeles area is among the top three high-intensity child prostitution areas in the nation.
The average age of entrance into commercial sex trafficking is 12 to 14 years old.
"The biggest misconception is it is only happening to children," said Powell. "The victimization of this does not have an expiration date."
"When you're coerced or you're manipulated, you're a victim," Powell continued.
If victims complete the Journey Out program, they can have their criminal prostitution cases dismissed.
"We meet the person where they are and we help them in their journey out of violence and abuse," Powell explained.
ABC7 interviewed one of the victims helped by Powell. We agreed not to reveal her true identity for her own protection. For the purposes of this story, ABC7 will refer to her as "Jennifer."
Jennifer was a master's student at a local university when she met a man she thought was her boyfriend. Within one month of dating, he asked her to prostitute herself.
"He knew I didn't have any money in my bank account, he knew I wanted some independence and with all of this, he was conniving, manipulative," Jennifer said.
Jennifer didn't turn down his offer.
"I was so willing to be loved, so willing to be around this man, and so insecure in who I was that I allowed him," she said.
They would post profiles of Jennifer on various adult themed websites and Jennifer said she'd meet up with men at hotels.
"Every time you do it, you feel like you are getting raped for money," she described.
Jennifer said her pimp never gave her the money he promised, not even a dime. Once, a man she thought was a client turned out to be an undercover police officer on a sting.
"I lost it. I just kept yelling out, I'm a master's student, I'm a master's student," Jennifer recalled.
After some time behind bars, she temporarily went back with her pimp. Then, she ran away from him and temporarily tried to disappear from society. She was hiding with a friend as her parents searched for her. Jennifer's father eventually found out where she was hiding.
"I'd heard knocking at the door and I walked outside the door and I see my dad and the first thing he did was break into tears and he just started sobbing. He said, 'I thought something had happened to you,' and in that moment, I knew everything was done and I was flown out the state for three months," Jennifer said. "I had no hope."
Eventually Jennifer turned to Journey Out for help. The program worked so well for Jennifer, she continues to mentor other victims. Powell said it's part of a larger shift in the way police and prosecutors are treating the human trafficking issue.
She said law enforcement is now more focused on rehabilitating victims instead of simply prosecuting them.
"We need to have a paradigm shift in the way we look at this particular subject manner," Sgt. Ron Fisher with the LAPD said. "A lot of times we'll have persons who say they're voluntarily, willingly engaging in that activity and it's a victimless crime. It couldn't be further from reality."
The LAPD's vice unit invited ABC7 to shadow officers for an evening's patrol in the San Fernando Valley. Within a short time on patrol, ABC7 and LAPD spotted a man pick up a woman in his car, stop by an ATM, park the car and engage in sexual activity.
The officers took the man into custody while he was still naked. It was one of several arrests within a few hours.
"I could do this 24/7, 365 days a year, it's that much of a problem," Fisher said. "The Internet has essentially given the bad guy the key to the front door of their house 24/7."
To learn more about Journey Out, click here.
Focusing On Sexual Assault Victims Helps A Perpetrator Disappear
by Guila Benchimol -- Doctoral Candidate, Sociological Criminology, Researcher, Educator
Many assumptions have been made about the contact that all three complainants initiated with Jian Ghomeshi following their alleged assaults, which they neglected to mention to the police or the Crown. Henein, Ghomeshi's counsel, has implied that this means the victims were never assaulted, a suggestion which both women deny.
In sexual assault trials, evidence is often brought forth of victims communicating with the perpetrator or making statements that seem to downplay what went on. Such actions are in fact consistent with how victims often rationalize what was done to them.
While Christie Blatchford suggests that the lesson to victims is to report early, a 2011 study conducted by Karen Weissshows that it is not that simple.
Weiss analyzed how victims sometimes turn the crimes committed against them into something innocuous, thereby neutralizing them into something not worthy of being reported. In fact, DeCoutere explained that she remained with, and even kissed, Ghomeshi after he allegedly attacked her as a way of neutralizing the situation.
According to Weiss, the specific ways victims reframe a crime are "denying criminal intent, denying serious injury, denying victim innocence and rejecting a victim identity." These behaviours appear in the Ghomeshi trial victims' testimonies.
"Making the perpetrator disappear is the point of focusing on victims in sexual assault cases. We focus on their responsibility, which makes that of the perpetrator harder to see."
Denying criminal intent minimizes the perpetrator's blame or perceives his/her actions to be unintentional. Often, battered women act this way.
DeCoutere, too, testified how she thought "it wasn't Jian's fault" and that she continued to contact Ghomeshi because maybe "this assault was a one-off." She even likened her behaviour to "someone being assaulted by her husband and staying married to them."
Denying serious injury minimizes the severity of the harm, for example when DeCoutere testified that she "thought assault meant that you were beaten to pieces." She therefore did not go to the police because she "didn't think this qualified."
This is very common in acquaintance rape where victims fear police will not take them seriously, and the first victim testified that she did not go to police in 2003 because she thought no one would listen.
Denying victim innocence occurs when victims blame themselves for precipitating the event. DeCoutere testified that the letter she wrote to Ghomeshi after the alleged attack had a "weirdly apologetic tone like I had done something wrong."
And she begins an email to Ghomeshi by saying that she fears she has pissed him off. Furthermore, she testified "I was blaming myself for putting myself in a dangerous situation. I went to his house."
Rejecting a victim identity is when victims reject the vulnerability that comes with being a victim. Both victims only turned to police after reading that they were not Ghomeshi's only victims.
Even so, DeCoutere testified that she had difficulty defining what happened to her. She thought that "to go to police you had to be broken and raped." What would follow is a similar difficulty in defining oneself as a victim.
Nevertheless, rejecting a victim identity emphasizes victims' strength and perhaps this is why DeCoutere chose to go forward publicly, bravely revealing her identity. Unfortunately, people often do not feel sympathy for victims who reject a victim identity because they do not perceive these victims to be vulnerable.
It is clear from their testimonies that the victims knew little about the criminal justice process -- about how to report, when to report or how much they needed to include in their report. It is also clear that they could not recall many details of their post-assault contact with Ghomeshi.
As many have already explained, trauma does strange things to memory. When they gave their statements to police, the victims were most likely focused on the details of the alleged assault and the crime they were reporting, and not on how frequently they were in touch with Ghomeshi afterwards.
If the victims were not able or willing to recognize that the crucial elements of a crime had happened to them, because they neutralized or normalized them for so long, being in touch with Ghomeshi would not seem so strange.
But the details of the alleged assault which the victims focused on in reporting to police is the very thing Henein avoided asking them about. Instead, she remained singularly focused on their continued contact with Ghomeshi.
Making the perpetrator disappear is the point of focusing on victims in sexual assault cases. We focus on their responsibility, which makes that of the perpetrator harder to see, and we focus on their credibility, expressing doubts about their account.
As Vinay Menon put it, Ghomeshi seems to have vanished at trial.
Understanding how victims interpret sexual violence from their perspective also sheds light on how the perpetrator disappears in the process, and why the victims may have contacted the man that allegedly assaulted them instead of contacting police.