Combating assault: Sex abuse survivor pushes for prevention programs in Montana's schools
by Marga Lincoln
When Tara Walker Lyons was 12 years old, she ran through a dark alley of Augusta one night to knock on the door of a Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Office deputy.
She had fled her home after suffering six years of sexual abuse by a relative, she said during testimony at a January hearing at the state Capitol.
Now 27 years old, Lyons is speaking out to protect other children from sexual abuse.
Lyons wants Montana to follow in the footsteps of 26 other states that have passed a law supporting Erin's Law, the Child Sexual Abuse Prevention and Awareness Act. It provides federal funding to each state for sexual abuse prevention and education in the schools.
However, Lyons' efforts face some steep challenges in Montana because local school boards decide curriculum in Montana's 413 school districts.
Lyons has been crisscrossing the state and traveling from her home in Hamilton to Helena to testify about the need to get sexual assault prevention education into schools.
Unfortunately, Lyons' story is far too common in Montana and the United States.
In 2008-2009, the Montana Child and Family Services Division received 1,406 reports of child sexual abuse, according to the Montana Attorney General's office website. In 2009, 347 rapes were reported and over half of the rape victims (188) were children between the ages of 3 and 17, it reports.
Nationally, one in four girls will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18 and one in every six boys will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18.
The U.S. Department of Justice reports that 71 percent of these children were assaulted by someone they were acquainted with or knew by sight and 10 percent were assaulted by a family member.
“I just started coming out with my story this past year,” Lyons said after testifying before the Education and Local Government Interim Committee.
So far, she is finding no one else in Montana “advocating for sex abuse prevention” education in the schools, she said.
When the abuse started, Lyons went from being a good student to doing poorly, she said. She suffered from anxiety and was constantly biting her nails.
As an adult, she turned to alcohol for solace, she said. Two years ago she was charged with a DUI and went for inpatient treatment at the Montana Chemical Dependency Center.
“That was the first time I got professional treatment,” she said. “I had felt so much shame” about what had happened.
Like other victims, she blamed herself, she said.
After therapy and treatment, she began speaking out publicly as part of the Department of Corrections' Victim Impact Panel, telling her story at various prison boot camps and prerelease centers.
Since speaking up, she's been approached by survivors of all ages, she said. “The most excruciating thing for me to ever hear is that they have never told anyone before.”
It's estimated that only 30 percent of sexual assault victims disclose the abuse, she said.
Lyons was never taught about “unsafe touch,” she testified. “Had I known what a mandated reporter was, I would have known that I could go to a teacher or counselor about what was happening to me in the middle of the night. Instead, it took six years for me to go to police directly. I had told my mother repeatedly, I told my friends, my friends even told their parents. But the abuse continued.”
Under Erin's Law there is now federal money available “to bring Montana up to speed regarding sexual abuse prevention education,” she told the interim committee.
Lyons also testified before the Health and Physical Education Negotiated Rulemaking Committee in late January, which is reviewing revised health and physical education content standards for K-12 students. She told the committee that “body safety information is missing” from the standards.
“It's almost as if we are unintentionally keeping our kids in the dark, and we are too afraid to do something about it,” she said.
Doing something about it faces a lot of challenges.
Montana's constitution requires that curriculum be done at the local level, said state Sen. Mary Sheehy Moe, D-Great Falls.
“We have such a strong local control environment in our state,” she said, “where we really believe in local school boards in terms of establishing the specific curricula. The state creates broad standards, but it's up to the local school district to come up with a curriculum.”
“That's Tara's challenge,” said Moe. “Can Tara go to every single local school board and tell her story?”
As a legislator, Moe has heard heart-wrenching stories of parents who have lost their children to suicide, as well as hearing from victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse. Parents and victims are asking “public schools to do things about issues that were never considered public school issues.”
“The Legislature is not empowered -- nor do I think they should -- to make those kind of mandates to the public schools,” said Moe, who is an educator. “The place for the kind of curriculum that she (Tara) is recommending … is at the local level.”
“I'm a supporter of parents' rights,” added Moe. Parents want to be in charge of sex education. “We want our kindergarten kids to remain innocent ... but in the absence of any kind of intervention or education on that (topic) by the schools, we are accepting the fact that one out of four girls and one out of six boys (will be victims) -- and that there is nothing we can do about that.
“The parent can deliver that same instruction, but it would not be Tara's parent (mother), would it?” said Moe.
Moe's advised Lyons to speak at the statewide teachers conference and the school board association annual meeting. Lyons is also trying to speak at the Montana superintendents conference.
“Tara's story is so compelling,” she said. “And the facts that go beyond Tara's story are even more compelling.”
School districts need to decide if they're giving their students the tools they need to keep them safe, she said.
Moe also recommends that teacher preparation and continuing education standards could make teachers more aware to watch for signs or side effects of sexual abuse that are displayed by children in their classrooms.
“There are certain things … that are telling about elementary children who are suffering abuse.”
“As an overall comment, I admire her courage so much,” Moe said of Lyons. “Her story is one that should be listened to.
“There is a place for those discussions to occur. In the past, we've been concerned we want our children to keep their innocence ... but in doing that we also render them vulnerable.
“We're hearing stories from victims of sexual assault -- not just Tara -- that require a response from society.”
To learn more visit http://youtu.be/dW8JpnlsJWQ or Lyons' Facebook page, Defending Innocence Project.
‘Soul Murder' in Altoona: Latest child abuse scandal
by Michael Reagan
If you've seen the excellent movie “Spotlight,” you know what it takes for a newspaper to expose the sexual abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Church.
“Spotlight,” which won the Academy Award for best picture of 2015, is the true story of how the Boston Globe's investigative Spotlight team uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the Boston Archdiocese.
Challenging one of the most powerful institutions in Boston, digging up the ugly truth and detailing it on Page 1 took a strong mix of principle and guts by the Globe's editor, Marty Baron.
Many journalists and editors around the country before him had heard similar charges about priests repeatedly molesting children in their cities and towns, but they had done nothing.
The Globe's in-depth investigation, which began in 2001, made headlines around the world, shamed the Boston Archdiocese and shook the entire Catholic Church to its core.
It set off a series of exposes in other cities that proved that the problem the Catholic Church — my church — was having with serial pedophiles was nothing new or restricted to Boston.
Soon after, the L.A. Times, my hometown paper, showed that for decades the hierarchy of the Los Angeles diocese “plotted to keep law enforcement from learning that children had been molested at the hands of priests.”
In 2005 and 2011 grand jury probes found rampant child abuse in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, which included moving known pedophiles around from one unsuspecting parish to another.
What went on in L.A. and Philly fit the pattern described in the 2012 HBO documentary, “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God.”
As I wrote in 2013, that powerful documentary proved that from Ireland to Wisconsin “the church's bishops and cardinals have a long and disgusting history of protecting pedophile priests, ignoring children's allegations of sexual abuse, paying the parents of victims to keep quiet and keeping the sex crimes of priests secret from law enforcement.”
We can now add the diocese of Altoona, Pa., to the Church's list of sins against children.
The headlines in Tuesday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette told a familiar story: “Grand jury: Altoona diocese concealed sex abuse of hundreds of children by priests.”
According to a graphic 147-page report by a state grand jury, at least 50 Catholic priests and other Church members in the western Pennsylvania town had molested and raped hundreds of kids between the 1940s and the 1980s.
What the pedophiles did to kids at summer camp, in their own homes and in Altoona's cathedral was not only covered up by their bishops and their immediate superiors, it also was abetted by judges, sheriffs and other law enforcement officials in two counties who knew about the abuse.
The grand jury report said the sleazy church-state conspiracy to avoid public scandal and protect known and dangerous pedophiles in Altoona amounted to the “soul murder” of the victims.
As someone who was molested by a day camp counselor in third grade, I understand what that term means all too well.
The most frustrating part of the Altoona investigation, which is ongoing, is that the abusers and their enablers — though known — are never going to be indicted or punished.
Some of the guilty are dead. Some of their victims were too traumatized to testify.
But in most cases it's too late to prosecute because the statute of limitations for criminal and civil cases that was in effect at the time of the crimes was only two or three years.
The law has been changed. Victim now have until age 30 to sue for child abuse in civil court and in some cases are able to file criminal charges until they turn 50.
But Pennsylvania should join other states and do what its grand jury report proposes — completely remove all statutes of limitations for child abuse.
If the Catholic Church is sincerely sorry for its sins, and truly interested in preventing future victims of pedophila, it will publicly support that idea.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan. Visit his websites at www.reagan.com and www.michaelereagan.com. Send comments to Reagan@caglecartoons.com. Follow @reaganworld on Twitter
No fallout from Altoona child abuse in York
by Rick Lee
While "profoundly" and "deeply" saddened by the child abuse allegations leveled by a grand jury against the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese last week, reverends at two York County parishes said there have been no repercussions here.
After mass on Saturday, both the Rev. Keith Carroll, of St. Patrick Catholic Church, and the Rev. Daniel Mitzel, of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, invoked the name of Bishop Nicholas C. Dattilo, the head of the Harrisburg diocese from 1990 to 2004, as the origin of the diocese's youth protection policy concerning child abuse by the Catholic clergy or church employees.
Last week, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane released the findings of a grand jury that determined two bishops who led the Altoona- Johnstown Diocese for 40 years were instrumental in covering up the sexual abuse of hundreds of children by over 50 priests or religious leaders.
Rev. Carroll and Rev. Mitzel said that none of their parishioners have approached them with questions or concerns about the allegations in the neighboring diocese. They have not, therefore, found it necessary to address it from the pulpit, they said.
"No one has approached me about it," said Rev. Mitzel after Saturday's evening Mass. "We do remind our congregation twice a year to be aware of and report anything of that nature."
Rev. Mitzel said the policy is the result of Bishop Dattilo's efforts and is promoted by the Harrisburg Diocese, which encompasses St. Patrick, St. Rose and other York County Catholic churches.
Mitzel said he did remind the St. Rose parish, as he regularly does, of the area diocese's youth protection policy about two weeks before the attorney general's office released the grand jury's report.
After performing Mass on Saturday evening, Rev. Carroll said no members of his congregation had voiced any concern about the Altoona-Johnstown allegations having any effect on churches in the Harrisburg Diocese.
He said he felt that was because, "Ever since Bishop Dattilo there has been a zero-tolerance in the diocese."
In accordance with the Harrisburg Diocese's Youth Protection Program, to report suspected abuse of a minor, call the toll free PA Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-932-0313.
The diocese also asks that anyone reporting suspected abuse of a minor by a church official, employee or volunteer call the diocesan toll-free hotline at 1-800-626-1608 or email: ReportAbuse@hbgdiocese.org.
For more information about the Catholic church's youth protection program, email YouthProtection@hbgdiocese.org.
Can Facebook Be a Form of Child Abuse?
The self-anointed vanguards of privacy are unwilling to protect the image rights of children
by Robert Garson
Few things drive me to web rage more than seeing a friend change his profile picture to his current favorite offspring. I want to grab the offender by his shoulders and bellow “Do you not remember The Truman Show? Did you not seethe at the intrusion into the life of one so vulnerable? Why did Jim Carrey never receive an Oscar for the pathos pinnacle he reached?” My anger usually subsides as my no-longer-a-friend nods contritely and wipes away flecks of my saliva. My levels of ire when a person posts a picture of a child who is not their own, cannot be put into words.
Being a stick in the mud is not my raison d'être, but wrapped up with my admitted pet peeve is a privacy intrusion into our children's lives that has not only become accepted but so entrenched that those who do not indulge are the exception. I have even encountered people who have websites dedicated to their children containing photographs, videos and audio recordings of them in all states of undress. At what point, if any, does a child, a parent of a child or a person upon reaching the age of a majority have the right to demand that images be removed form websites or social media? At the moment, the answer seemingly is never.
The law as it pertains to use of images vests all of the rights with the copyright holder, i.e. the person that takes a photograph. According to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the only person entitled to demand the removal of a photograph is the copyright holder. In short, this means that if somebody takes a picture of my child, I have absolutely no grounds or standing to enforce its removal. Further, if a person wants a childhood photograph of himself or herself removed, the social media platforms have shown themselves unwilling to help. This begs the question: Why the Mighty Eight (Twitter, LinkedIn, AOL, Google, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft), newly self-anointed vanguard of privacy, are unwilling to protect the image rights of children?
Maybe the answer is rooted in the fact that the social media explosion is predicated upon invasions of privacy as the public are increasingly videoing, photographing and viewing the world through their mobile devices. However, it might also be anchored in the inability of America's lawmakers to get to grips with the concept of a right to be private. Nowhere in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, nor any of the Amendments, will you see an express provision protecting the right of privacy. Case law similarly lacks the ability to define privacy properly, mainly because there are so many different types of privacy that the classic “right to be left alone” trope does not fit.
The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) made some strides in preventing the online collection of personal information by American persons or companies from those under 13 years of age. This act gives parents control of their children's online privacy, requiring “verifiable parental consent for the collection, use or disclosure of personal information” obtained from children. The law, obviously not anticipating the likes of Toddlers & Tiaras, assumes that parents have the best interests of their children at heart when it comes to online privacy, and never anticipated the raft of personal information that can be contained in or around a photograph uploaded to social media. Nowadays by virtue of tagging and checking in, posts by a parent can provide the coordinates for where the child lives, where the child regularly plays, the identities of relatives and family friends, visual clues of memories, and dependent—upon the parent's privacy settings—a playbook for groomers. Further, a photo that parents may find to be cute or endearing can wind up being used as the basis for ridicule by cyber or schoolyard bullies, and the victim is helpless to remove the source of problem. In years to come, this could even lead to a child suing the parents for years of intrusive violations.
The problem is that passing new legislation is too slow and the establishment of precedent via case law takes even longer. Facebook and the like, who have made billions from data mining, should now lead the charge in protecting child image rights by amending their privacy policies. The international legal basis is there, from the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child, Article 16, the Privacy Act 1988 in Australia through to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
For years these powers have existed to ensure that an image that conveys the identity of a child, for example, in a school uniform, outside a house, or showing a child's name should not be published on the Internet without the consent of both the child and their parent or guardian. All it now takes is the willingness to implement them. Our children must be assured that with their parents there exists a safe space where their most embarrassing moments stay within the confines of the home. Or as some might like to call it, private.
Robert Garson is Managing Partner of Garson, Ségal, Steinmetz, Fladgate LLP, an intellectual property and international litigation firm in New York. He is also a barrister qualified in England and concentrates on IP and First Amendment matters.
Initiative to fight child abuse kicks off
by JESSICA HABERLEY
WEIRTON, W.Va. — The mayor of Weirton wants to fight child abuse with unity. He's calling for help from people all over the Ohio Valley.
A new coalition is forming with the goal of protecting kids. On Friday, Mayor Harold "Bubba" Miller and other community leaders announced plans.
"You don't have to have a title. You can be just an average Joe that's tired of seeing kids hurt. Stand up, use your voice, make a difference and that's what I'm all about," said James Keller, activist.
Keller is onboard with Mayor Miller and other local leaders to share information and resources to form strategies on how to protect kids.
"We need to, as a community, we need to know this goes on in our community, our wonderful community of Weirton, West Virginia. It's a great place to live but we do have problems with child abuse," Miller said.
Keller has been circulating public service announcements on social media. The bottom line is "it shouldn't hurt to be a child."
James Penebaker, director of Comfort House Child Advocacy Center, knows how important the effort is.
"I commend the mayor for taking steps. It involves our entire community when children are hurting, because they are our future," Penebaker said.
"It takes a village, it's not just one, it's not just two. It's all of us together," Keller said.
Mayor Miller sent a letter to community leaders in Brooke, Hancock and Jefferson counties earlier this week to ask for their help. If you'd like to be a part of this initiative contact the mayor's office for more information.
Proposed Bill Would Require US Troops to Report Child Sexual Abuse
by Corey Dickstein
A former Marine Corps officer-turned-congressman said Friday it was "pathetic" that the Defense Department does not require its troops to intervene if a child is raped by allied troops on US-controlled bases.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., introduced legislation on March 3 that would require American troops to respond to any child sexual abuse on US bases, both domestic and overseas. The "Martland Act" is nicknamed for Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland, whose Army career is in limbo because he beat up an Afghan police commander who admitted he raped a child repeatedly.
"Sadly, I'm having to write Defense Department policy to make sure it's illegal to rape kids on American bases," Hunter said Friday. "It's pathetic that we have to do this ... it should not have to be done by Congress."
The Pentagon does not comment on proposed legislation, a defense spokesperson said. Attempts to reach a spokesperson for the American command in Afghanistan were unsuccessful Friday, but a spokesman told the New York Times last year there was "no express requirement that US military personnel in Afghanistan report" allegations of child sexual abuse, which is "a matter of domestic Afghan criminal law."
Though officially illegal in Afghanistan, sexual abuse of children, especially boys between 10 and 18, is prevalent in some parts of the country, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission found in 2014. A long-standing open secret commonly called "bacha bazi" is typically committed by wealthy and powerful men against boys from poor families, the commission found.
In his bill, officially entitled the ''Mandating America's Responsibility to Limit Abuse, Negligence and Depravity Act," Hunter wrote American troops "serving in Afghanistan were advised to respect cultural and religious practices of Afghans," referring to "bacha bazi."
"Because it is a culture norm we're going to turn a blind eye?" Hunter said. "This has to change."
Reports that Americans were instructed to ignore such abuse came to light last year after the Army selected Martland, 33, for involuntary separation, as part of its force strength reduction. Top American military leaders in Afghanistan have since denied such a policy existed, and the Pentagon Inspector General has launched a comprehensive investigation into the issue.
The Army on Monday delayed a final determination until May 1 on Martland's future to allow the service's Board for Correction of Military Records to consider his case. Hunter and several other members of Congress have rallied behind the soldier who aims to continue his Army career. Martland has maintained the only negative mark on his record is the reprimand issued after he and his detachment commander admitted assaulting an Afghan police commander, who had just admitted to them he'd chained up a 12-year-old boy and repeatedly raped him.
Martland and the commander, former Army Capt. Dan Quinn, were relieved of duty for the September 2011 incident in Kunduz Province and sent back to the United States. Quinn left the Army the following year while Martland eventually reenlisted and has continued serving in Special Forces.
On Friday, Hunter said it was "ridiculous" the Army had not yet fully reinstated Martland.
"He did the right thing. I would expect anyone to do the same thing he did," said Hunter, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "... I might have killed the guy. He deserves to be dead."
The congressman said his bill is about American values and keeping Martland's struggle in the spotlight "until the Army makes the right decision."
"He's an American soldier; he's a snake-eater," Hunter said. "He doesn't want to screw with all of this, he just wants to go back to killing America's enemies and serving his country, but he's stuck because of this."
Emotionally Abused Kids at Greater Risk for Later Migraines
by Traci Pedersen
Children who experience emotional abuse may be at greater risk for migraines as young adults, according to a new preliminary study. In fact, the relationship between migraine and emotional abuse was far more significant than the link between migraine and physical or sexual abuse.
“Emotional abuse showed the strongest link to increased risk of migraine,” said author Gretchen Tietjen, M.D., from the University of Toledo in Ohio and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Childhood abuse can have long-lasting effects on health and well-being.”
The study involved data from 14,484 people aged 24 to 32, of whom 14 percent had reported being diagnosed with migraines. The participants were asked whether they had experienced emotional, physical, or sexual abuse in childhood.
Researchers assessed emotional abuse by asking the participants the following, “How often did a parent or other adult caregiver say things that really hurt your feelings or made you feel like you were not wanted or loved?” Physical abuse was defined as being hit with a fist, kicked, or thrown down on the floor, into a wall, or down the stairs. Sexual abuse included forced sexual touching or sexual relations.
Approximately 47 percent of the participants reported that they had been emotionally abused, 18 percent physically abused and five percent sexually abused.
Of all the participants diagnosed with migraines, 61 percent reported having been abused as a child. Of those who never had a migraine, 49 percent said they were abused. Those who were abused were 55 percent more likely to develop migraines than those who were never abused after accounting for age, income, race, and sex.
Individuals who had experienced emotional abuse were 52 percent more likely to have migraines compared to those who were not abused, after accounting for other types of abuse as well as age, income, race, and sex. In contrast, those who were sexually or physically abused were not significantly more likely to have migraine than people who were not abused.
The link between emotional abuse and migraine remained consistent even after researchers adjusted the findings to account for depression and anxiety. Overall, individuals who were emotionally abused were 32 percent more likely to have migraines than people who were not abused.
While the study does not necessarily prove a cause and effect relationship, the results are suggestive of it, say the researchers. “More research is needed to better understand this relationship between childhood abuse and migraine,” said Tietjen. “This is also something doctors may want to consider when they treat people with migraine.”
The findings will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 68th Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada.
Sex trafficking not that far away: You might want to hear this speaker
by Debra Eliason
The idea that sex trafficking happens in the River Falls area doesn't surprise Katie Ryan, the sexaul assault services coordinator at the local Turningpoint domestic abuse shelter. But it may surprise the average local person.
After all, River Falls is a family oriented, high school sports-loving, church-going, small town.
But Ryan will be speaking at the American Association of University Women (AAUW) meeting next week about human trafficking not far away.
“People think this can only happen in cities or urban areas,” Ryan said. “But with I-94 and I-90 so close, traffickers and their victims are passing through.
“With stops in Milwaukee, Madison, the Dells and the Twin Cities, victims are transported around this loop.”
Traveling from city to city like this, Ryan explained, keeps victims disoriented, isolated and unfamiliar with their surroundings. She said this also fills the needs of the traffickers because they'll meet new victims in these cities and the small towns -- like River Falls -- along the way.
Ryan said the victims are not typically snatched away – rather, the crime takes time.
“Traffickers target people with low self-esteem, no real sense of belonging, family trouble, prior sex abuse,” Ryan said. “They put time into it. They build rapport. They make them feel special. It's easier to get them to come willingly.
“They meet potential victims at the mall, online, at school, any place kids hang out.”
Ryan said victims of human trafficking have come for help at Turningpoint -- each with a different story to tell.
“We have had multiple trafficking victims come through our doors.” Ryan said. “Some have escaped in our area and were guided here by concerned citizens. Some were trafficked by their partners and sought help from us for their domestic violence relationship.
“And some have been previous clients that have accessed our services before and were re-victimized in this way.”
When Ryan hears their stories, it sounds eerily similar to domestic abuse.
“They have injuries that haven't been cared for, they're not familiar with the area, they don't have I.D. or any documentation, they're malnourished,” she said.
“The trafficker has power over them because the victim is completely dependent on the trafficker.”
The AAUW meeting featuring Ryan as speaker is at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 8, in the upstairs meeting room of the public library, 140 Union St. Her presentation is free and open to anyone.
Business helps sex-trafficking survivors
by Francis Scarcella
LEWISBURG — Kaitlin and Ryan Schuck are simply doing it all.
With Friday's grand opening of their newly located and remodeled Threading Love boutique at 419 Market St., and the first-ever Threading Love 5K on April 30, the newlyweds are preparing for a huge summer.
Threading Love opened in August 2014 and after a year in business outgrew the 214 Market St. location.
"It is such a bittersweet feeling, because it truly all began at 214 Market Street," Kaitlin Schuck said. "It is the place where a young girl's dream became a reality.
"It is the place where more than 30 people covered the walls in Scriptures and words of encouragement before painting. It is the place where customers learned more about our mission and became passionate to make a difference through what they purchase. It is a place that sparked a movement beyond what we could imagine."
The Schucks now have the capability to reach more customers by expanding the product lines and brands, Kaitlin Schuck said.
"For those unfamiliar with our mission, we strive to bring you the best world-changing fashion that keeps you in style while helping those in need," Kaitlin Schuck said. "We do this through partnering with brands that give back to others and make it a priority to carry products with stories behind them. We have recently partnered with Oasis of Hope, a rescue home for survivors of sex-trafficking near Williamsport, to provide jobs for the girls and women in transition living at the home."
Threading Love provides full-time jobs, health-care, education, steady income and a second chance at life for survivors of the trafficking industry, Kaitlin Schuck said.
"We see poverty on television, we hear about the injustices of the world, and we read the statistics for modern day slavery, malnutrition, unclean water, and so much more, but people often don't know how to get involved," she said. "Threading Love has brought third world problems to the door step of first world households so we can work together to see true change through things we buy every day."
The 5K will take place in Hufnagle Park.
"Runners and participants will have the opportunity to run for a charity that they are most passionate about," Kaitlin Schuck said.
"There will be five local charities representing causes including anti-human trafficking, clean water, education, domestic abuse awareness, and protecting our environment. Runners and participants will be given a t-shirt to run or walk in on race day. The T-shirt color and logo will tell others what you run for."
Registration will be available on Facebook and at www.threadinglove.com starting March 15. All proceeds from the event will go directly to the charities represented.
‘I need a beer,' abandoned 3-year-old tells police before her mother is arrested
by Peter Holley
When police in Lubbock, Tex., were called to investigate a report of a 3-year-old girl wandering alone in an apartment complex, they weren't sure what they might find.
The girl was “extremely dirty,” according to police, with red bumps from bedbug bites covering her skin. A neighbor who sometimes babysits the girl told Fox affiliate KJTV that the filth was a result of the girl playing outside.
If officers had any doubts that the child needed help, those were erased a short time later, when the girl repeatedly told them “I'm hungry” and dropped a shocking one-liner:
“I need a beer,” she told officers, according to a police report cited by KJTV.
“This was a clear neglect on the mother's part,” Lubbock Police Lt. Ray Mendoza told the station. “More than anything, it was the conditions the child was living under and the fact that the mom was completely oblivious to where the child had been or where it was at the time.”
The child's mother, Shauna Bennett, was discovered sleeping by police after they knocked on her door, which was ajar, called the 42-year-old woman's name and eventually entered the apartment, according to the police report cited by KJTV.
Police described the inside of Bennett's home as extremely dirty, with cockroaches on the walls and mold-covered dishes in the sink.
According to police, when officers awakened Bennett, the mother had no idea where her child was.
Keith Graves, the neighbor who said he often babysits the toddler, told the station that he felt like police overreacted to the grime.
“It could have been cleaned a little bit better, but Shauna was doing the best that she could under the circumstances that she was in,” Graves said. “They know that I babysit. They could have just brought the child to me, and I would have held on to [her] until Shauna either woke up, or I would have went down to Shauna's apartment and knocked on the door until she woke up.”
“I had probable cause to believe that [the little girl] had not been fed, washed, or provided with any type of general medical care or treatment for an unsafe amount of time,” an officer wrote in an affidavit cited by CBS affiliate KOSA.
Authorities have charged Bennett with abandoning and endangering a child. She was being held in the Lubbock County Detention Center on a $15,000 bond.
The owner of the Corte Vista Apartments told KJTV that, only two weeks before, Bennett's 3-year-old had been found wandering the complex.
He noted that he's also asked Bennett to keep clean up her apartment.
The girl was placed with Children's Protective Services, according to KOSA.
Will British Airways' Move to Compensate African Kids Abused by Former Pilot Rectify the Situation?
by Omono Eremionkhale
British Airways has resolved to pay pecuniary compensation to victims of sexual abuse in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, who were abused by one of its pilots, 54-year old Simon Wood. The late Mr. Simon Wood who was a pilot with British Airways until his death, was hit by a moving train on the 18th of August, 2013, a day before he was to appear in a United Kingdom court. BBC Africa reports that formal inquest in 2014 ruled his death as a suicide.
Despite being dead for more than two years, the damage done to Wood's victims will stay with them forever. British Airways was sued by 16 victims for damages, they are however seeking to ease the victims' pains with financial compensation. The late Wood was charged with one count of indecent assault of a girl under 16, two counts of taking indecent photographs of a child and one count of possessing indecent images of a child. According to prosecuting firm, Leigh Day, Wood allegedly molested girls between the ages of 5 and 13 in schools and orphanages in above named countries between 2003 and 2013. Although the settlement amount was not disclosed, Leigh Day has said they welcome the British Airways payout for the victims.
Although the move by British Airways to compensate the victims is commendable, a paper on compensations and reparation by Michelle Maiese, elucidates the fact that while the money brings economic relief and helps victims attend to their material needs, it is not the most important thing. “Many note that such reparations are not primarily about money, but rather about making crucial repairs to the people's psyche and to social and political institutions,” she writes.
Suffering sexual abuse as a child is worse than enduring same experience as an adult as the victim is still in the early stages of their formative years. The Healing Place cites effects of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) as something that never really goes away. “Adults who are survivors of CSA often report a feeling of being stuck, their efforts to build and manage their lives often seem fruitless, hollow, or even hopeless,” it says.
Growing up with same consciousness could lead them to engage in damaging activities as a way of coping with the psychological trauma they are burdened with. Money may not factor into what could be of help to them at this point. “While many survivors will initially be satisfied with monetary compensation, they may grow increasingly dissatisfied as time passes. If victims do not feel that justice has been served, they will find it difficult to put the past behind them,” Maiese writes.
Child Abuse Survivors Tell Their Stories, Group Has Plan for Lewis Co.
by Renata Di Gregorio
For survivors of child abuse, it's something that can shape the rest of your life. On Thursday a presentation in Lewis County taught a new way for police and teachers to respond to children when they need it most. 5 News sat down with two women who are abuse survivors to hear the stories that molded their lives.
The two women now work to help people who are experiencing the same things they did. It was the path they followed after living with abuse since the day they were born.
"My mother was pregnant and my father went into a rage and knocked her down and she went into premature labor," said Marcia Boyles from the Victim Advocate Center for the Lewis County Prosecutor's Office. "We lived in what I would call a house of horrors. It was very unpredictable. There was a lot of rage. My only memories of my father, who finally abandoned us when I was seven, are very violent memories."
Boyles says 75 percent of violence in Lewis County is domestic violence. For her it was a pattern. Each of Boyles' sisters and each of her children chose violent partners. It's the same thing another survivor, who wishes to remain anonymous, can relate to.
"We spent a lot of our childhood running from him or hiding when he came home, you know we had hiding places. For me it was, I felt so alone. Even having older siblings I did not want to bring them into that part of my life," the anonymous woman revealed.
Her experiences drove her to the advocacy work she does today.
"These things had happened for a reason in my life and I could look on them negatively and let them tear me down, or I could use them to be stronger and to help others who have gone through it. It's how you look upon those things and if you will let them change you, for the bad or for the good."
The program Handle With Care wants to make sure it's not for the worse. It's a way for law enforcement to notify teachers that the child is going through something at home.
"All they do is send a notice to school that says, 'Handle Johnny with care,'" said Andrea Darr, Director of the West Virginia Center for Children's Justice. "It might be partnering the child with a caring adult at lunch, you know, just simple interventions that the school can do."
Click here to go to the Handle With Care website and learn more.
Johnna Janis' offers a profound look at childhood sexual abuse in film
Every child deserves to be loved, and the opportunity to lead a happy and healthy life. Unfortunately, statistics show that childhood sexual abuse is rampant in our society: One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18. There are currently nearly 40 million adult survivors of CSA; the odds are we all know someone who was targeted.
Those children who are victimized carry 'invisible scars' throughout their adult lives. Child sexual abuse is difficult for people to talk about, causing fear, shame, and anxiety, all of which promote silence. Predators rely on that silence to remain undetected and perpetrate their abuse, while imposing a lifetime of suffering on their innocent victims. The first step in the fight against CSA is to raise awareness of the devastating traumatic impact on its victims---to shatter the silence that protects the perpetrators. Invisible Scars (First Run Features) opens that dialogue.
She still has invisible scars. Although she projects strength and confidence, Johnna reveals the life-long struggles she has faced from the events that have haunted her since childhood. With the help of experts and leaders in the fight against CSA, she comes to understand how her emotional trauma has negatively impacted her self-image, her inter-personal relationships, and nearly all significant decisions in her life. Armed with this awareness, she explores tools and resources which are available to help CSA victims overcome the debilitating effects of their childhood experiences.
“I am Johnna Janis and 'Invisible Scars' is based on my life as a survivor of child sexual abuse,” says the film's director. “Many years ago someone shared their personal story of abuse, and urged me to begin focusing on healing from my past. Years later, this gave me strength and courage to begin my own healing journey.”
Should Child Abuse Victims Get More Time to Report Crimes?
by Stacy Lange
SCRANTON -- Earlier this week, the state Attorney General released grand jury findings about decades of child sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
But, none of the accused will be charged. In part, because the statute of limitations has run out. That has spurred discussions in our area about whether the statute of limitations should even exist.
There's one big exception to State Attorney General Kathleen Kane's announcement this week that the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown covered up sexual abuse of children for decades.
None of the accused church officials will be prosecuted. Some have died, in other cases the statute of limitations for the crime has run out.
Lawmakers in Harrisburg had already started work last year on changing those limitations. Two bills propose extending it for civil lawsuits. A third bill proposes abolishing the statute of limitations all together.
"In terms of serious cases, such as murder, there is no statute of limitations, nor do I think there should be. I also think that sex crimes rise to that level of seriousness, and I think it would be a great thing if statutes were eliminated," said Lackawanna County District Attorney Shane Scanlon.
Scanlon said such a bill could have helped his office in 2014. The office was forced to dismiss sex abuse charges against former Diocese of Scranton Priest Philip Altavilla because of a statute of limitations issue.
Defense attorneys think the current law, that allows child victims to report up to age 50, shouldn't change.
"I think as an individual gets older they do seek out the necessary resources to come forward, and I think the statute of limitations does prevent reporting decades down the road," said defense attorney Corey Kolcharno.
When defense attorney Ernie Preate was a prosecutor in the 1980's, the statute of limitations was only seven years after the alleged crime was committed. Preate said Pennsylvania has one of the longest limitation laws.
"Pennsylvania has already extended it out to age 30, age 50 in criminal cases, so, I think it`s going to be hard for the legislature to want to go beyond that. They`re going to try to strike a balance," Preate said.
All three bills are a long way from becoming law in Pennsylvania. They're in committee in Harrisburg.
Child abuse bill would add hearsay exception
by Katie Caler
HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The hearsay exception bill is making its way through the General Assembly.
If passed, it would allow statements from children younger than 13, made to another person, to be used in court.
The bill would also also allow the teacher, or whomever the child speaks with, to testify in court potentially on the victim's behalf.
Local child abuse victim advocates say this would give victims more rights and would also allow law enforcement and other agencies to gather necessary evidence for each case to inform their decisions.
"We know that testifying in front of their perpetrator can be really anxiety producing and can create additional trauma, it can re-traumatize the child", said Rebecca Simmons, the executive director of Valley Children's Advocacy Center.
Right now there are other ways, such as closed circuit TV, that allow child victims to testify without facing their abuser. This bill would add another way, but like those options, the victim would have to meet certain criteria for this new method to be used.
The legislation passed Wednesday in the Senate and is on its way back to the House of Delegates.
Gazette opinion: How you can help prevent child abuse in Billings
Last year, more than 500 Yellowstone County children were abused or neglected, according to cases filed by the county attorney's office. The explosion of child abuse and neglect cases is statewide.
A legislative interim committee and a special commission appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock are trying to make the state's child protection laws and system work better. Montanans also can combat child abuse in our communities. In fact, volunteers can significantly reduce the risk that a child will ever be abused.
Baby won't stop crying? Toddler won't listen? Frustrated with potty training, a hyperactive child or tween discipline?
Parents call the Family Tree Center in Billings for help. But Family Tree needs caring volunteers to deliver that assistance. The idea of in-home parent aides is decades old, but it has new urgency in our growing city as the incidence of child abuse and neglect has increased rapidly.
The Family Tree Center, 2520 Fifth Ave. S., is a National Exchange Club child abuse prevention center, supported largely by donations from the Breakfast, Downtown and Heights Exchange Clubs.
At times, students from Montana State University Billings or Walla Walla University have been parent aides as part of their human services coursework. Parent aides are asked to volunteer for a year, so students usually spend two consecutive semesters in the program. Each volunteer has just one family. Recently, the Family Tree had two staff members, Kathy Rumph and Kathy Baumann, working as family aides. Adding volunteers will allow Family Tree to stretch its limited budget to serve more families.
Family Tree has been serving about 50 families a year with parent aides, according to Stacy Dreessen, executive director. The program has been limited by the number of aides available.
The parent aide program is completely voluntary for participants. Nurses, doctors, social workers, educators or clergy may refer parents, but they have to agree to join the program.
Although the help is free, parents may be reluctant to accept it. Family Tree is working with the Best Beginnings Coalition of local child advocacy organizations on a goal of making home visits available to all parents who want them. Offering “universal visits” would help de-stigmatize seeking parenting help. In the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps Montana mindset, many parents feel like they should go it alone.
“Parenting is tough,” Dreessen said. “It's 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. At some point, every parent needs help.”
The aides are trained to talk to parents about their needs and goals. Together, the parent and aide work to meet the parent's goal.
“We know from research that working with parents early on is most successful,” Dreessen said. “We know in-home mentoring programs work. They help kids be successful later in life. We're helping to build all the protective factors that families need to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect.”
The parent aide program is based on evidence of effectiveness borne out in multiple studies. For example, parent aide services were linked with these positive outcomes in a study published in 2011 by researchers from the University of Chicago, Northwestern and Tulane universities:
Reduced maternal stress, depression and anxiety.
Increased mastery of parenting skills.
Reduced psychological aggression and physical assault toward children.
“We learn how to parent from those we were raised by,” Dreessen said. Some parents lack basic parenting skills because their parents lacked those skills. Parents might not understand what behavior to expect in normal child development. In other cases, grandparents may need help raising grandchildren. Young parents living with their parents may need help.
By volunteering one hour a week, you could make life better for a Billings family. Check the box below to find out more about Family Tree's home visiting program.
To learn more
Call the Family Tree Center at 252-9799 between 9 and 5 Monday through Thursday, visit familytreecenterbillings.org or check out Family Tree Center on Facebook.
Visit Family Tree Center, 2520 Fifth Ave. S., for the open house from 4 to 6 p.m. on March 31.
Parent aide volunteers are required to submit a resume and consent to background checks. Candidates are interviewed, receive 16 hours of training before they start and are asked to commit to volunteering one hour per week. The job is unpaid, except for reimbursement for gas expenses.
Child Abuse in Wyoming
by Regina Ahn
Casper- It's a topic no one really wants to talk about or even mention, child abuse, but it happens nationally and here in Wyoming. Hundreds of children are being abused and because it's a subject no parents wants to ever hear... It often times gets swept under the rug... I spoke with one family whose daughter was abused for several years and for the safety of their children, they chose to stay anonymous.
We had no clue she hid it very well.
We know through experience and research that the length of time the abuse goes on can really affect the outcome for the child growing up the longer the abuse is sometime that has the worst potential you know for outcome but not always the case” says Rosemary Bartle, counselor at Caspers Children's Advocacy Project.
Abuse can come in different forms such as neglect, sexual abuse, education neglect, and physical abuse. With this, healing could take as little or as long as necessary.
Parents whose children have been abused say the first step is the hardest.
It's really important parents talk to their kids about it for one thing if your kid isn't a victim then the reality is they know a child who is or is potentially a victim of some kind of abuse.
Here's a message from a parent who says for several years made an effort to ignore the signs she saw in her daughter, she says to be observant and…
Pay attention pay attention to your child you know if there's something wrong there's something wrong there try to figure it out ask questions and believe them in everything that they say believe them.
Job seekers flagged for past child abuse case on the rise
by The Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – The number of adults in Pennsylvania who sought a child abuse clearance last year almost tripled after a new law took effect in response to the Jerry Sandusky and clergy child sexual abuse scandals.
The state Department of Human Services said Wednesday that 1.5 million adults sought criminal background checks in 2015 to receive clearance to hold jobs that involve caring for children.
Of those, about 1,600 had a prior report of substantiated child abuse in a state registry, compared to about 1,100 out of nearly 588,000 seeking clearances in 2014.
The department says that, of the applicants flagged in 2015, 17 were barred from employment in the job they were seeking. The decision on whether to hire the others was up to the employer.
Reports of child abuse swamp police under updated Pennsylvania law
by Jacob Tierney
If you see something, say something.
Those six words are the philosophy behind a flurry of state laws passed in the aftermath of the 2011 Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal requiring more people — from school officials and day care workers to ministers and medical professionals — to report suspected child abuse when they see it.
The results are indisputable.
Westmoreland County's Children's Bureau saw reports jump from 2,639 in 2014 to 3,226 in 2015, up 22 percent, and Allegheny County officials saw 9,062 child-abuse calls in 2014 increase to 13,112 in 2015, a 44 percent increase, records show.
And although no one is questioning the push for greater awareness of possible abuse, the surge has created a crushing workload for police officers who say they can't keep up with the reports.
“I'm currently looking at about five (child abuse reports) sitting on my desk right now that just got here within the past couple days,” Monroeville police Chief Doug Cole said.
His 46-person department used to receive only one or two such reports a month. Now it's closer to 10.
Of the 75 cases he's seen in the months since the Safe Kids Act was passed, only one or two led to criminal investigations, he said.
The Safe Kids Act contains two dozen pieces of legislation altering how the state handles reports of child abuse, defining those termed “mandatory reporters” and spelling out a reporting process.
But Cole said the number of unfounded claims generated by the act is overwhelming.
“You're just spinning your wheels,” he said.
Greensburg police Capt. Chad Zucco is feeling the same crunch.
His 27-person department used to receive one or two reports of child abuse weekly, sometimes not even that many, Zucco said. In the past year, five a week has become the norm.
“It's a tremendous number of incidents that we get here,” he said, adding that even though one detective spends nearly all of his time on child abuse reports, few of those cases lead to criminal charges.
Allegheny County Police, who said they handle about 80 percent of the county's child-abuse cases, added eight detectives to the department's child-abuse team last year.
Lt. Thomas Ianachione said the department's caseload has gone up at least 30 percent and it's a “continuing battle” to keep up with the work, but it's a battle that needs to be fought.
“I think it's good for the welfare of children. It has caused an even more critical review, and more is being reported,” he said. “In that sense, it's worth it. I don't think you can place a cost value on protecting children.”
MORE EYES, MORE WORK
The changes in the law have sent county officials scurrying to add staff and complete system upgrades.
In Westmoreland County, the Children's Bureau added five caseworkers last year and the district attorney's office did a major computer upgrade to track incoming reports, both moves supported by local officials.
“The No. 1 key for community safety, specifically for children, is that people are aware and they are making that report,” said Shara Saveikis, Westmoreland County Children's Bureau director.
The Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families added staff and streamlined its process for handling reports.
“We are feeling much less stressed than a year ago at this time,” intake manager Bruce Noel said.
THE DRIVING FORCES
Two facets of the Safe Kids Act are the main drivers of the increase in reports, officials said.
One part of the act expanded the list of “mandatory reporters” who are required to send suspicions of abuse or neglect to the state's 24-hour ChildLine phone service.
The act requires ChildLine to forward nearly all reports directly to law enforcement agencies. Previously, ChildLine would send only a fraction of cases to police, with most going to social service organizations such as the Westmoreland Children's Bureau or Allegheny County's Department of Human Services, for investigation.
Those organizations handled the investigations and called police if they believed criminal activity was involved. The law was changed because the agencies weren't always the best at making that call, said Cathy Utz, the state's deputy secretary of the Office of Children, Youth and Families. “They were not well-versed in determining whether there was a crime.”
SHINING LIGHT ON PROBLEM
Some of the extra calls fielded by ChildLine have been from new mandatory reporters looking for guidance about what they're supposed to report, Utz said. But small issues like that don't overshadow the overall benefits of the laws to fight child abuse, she said.
State Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, who sponsored the legislation, said she is proud of its first-year impact. One illustration of that impact was a 17 percent increase — from 358 to 404 — in the number of children accepted as clients by the Westmoreland Children's Bureau after reports of abuse in 2015.
“The goal was to raise awareness and stop child abuse, and it has done that,” Ward said. “I think maybe what we need to do (is) make sure the police are not burdened with unnecessary actions ... to do a better job on educating folks on what requires reporting, on what is and what isn't abuse.”
Growing pains aside, officials agree the beefed up laws have been good for the state's children.
“The No. 1 concern is always to protect children,” said Judith Petrush, Westmoreland County assistant district attorney.
Clark County child abuse cases rise, leaders expand prevention efforts
by Allison Wichie
The number of child abuse cases reported in Clark County climbed again last year, prompting advocates and service providers to expand aid for victims and families.
The Child Advocacy Center in Springfield received more than 330 reports of crimes against children last year — the highest in recent years. The center handled about 310 cases in 2014.
More than half of those reports were of sexual or felony-level physical abuse. The other cases included emotional abuse, neglect or children who have been witnesses to other violent crimes.
“These crimes can leave a lasting impact on children,” said Wendy Holt, director of the CAC.
Of the nearly 82,000 cases of child abuse or neglect reported in Ohio in 2014, more than 17,000 physical and sexual abuse reports were confirmed through investigations, state data shows.
Services to treat victims have expanded recently in Clark County, thanks to a more than $120,000 state grant. But experts said the only way to stop child abuse is for the community to be educated on signs of abuse and trauma in children and how they can report report possible crimes.
“We as adults need to intervene — we need to get these kids, we have to get them services and help them,” she said.
Not a stranger lurking
A vast majority — 93 percent — of Clark County children victimized last year were abused by someone they knew.
“It's not a stranger lurking in the corner,” Holt said.
Many abusers were a parent, step-parent, relative or close acquaintance of the parents like a girlfriend or boyfriend, according to statistics from the Child Advocacy Center.
That was the case with Malynda Popham's children. She offered to tell her story in hopes of stopping other abuse happening in the community.
“The first thing that I feel is still just the anger,” she said when hearing about other crimes against children.
Popham's ex-husband, Larry Fitch, was convicted on multiple charges of the rape and attempted rape of his two children in 2002.
“Then it just brings up the memories and I feel sorrow, just the deep sorrow I remember feeling,” she said.
Fitch received a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 36 years. He won't be considered for parole until September 2037.
Crimes against children don't only happen in certain neighborhoods, or in families with certain profiles, said Suzanne Sunshine, director of Behavioral Health Services at the Rocking Horse Community Health Center in Springfield.
Rocking Horse offers physical and mental health services for hundreds of families in need, including child victims.
Other issues such as the economy, job availability and drug use can affect what happens to children in any home, Sunshine said.
“People are stressed out and when stress is up — it's a perfect market for abusing your children,” she said.
‘It was a sigh of relief'
The rising number of children coming into the Child Advocacy Center lead the group to add more services.
A more than $120,000 state grant has allowed the center to expand mental health services it offers to children in-house, said Sue Fralick, senior vice president of operations of Mental Health Services for Clark and Madison Counties.
Two on-site therapists now work 20 hours a week at the advocacy center, offering free mental health treatment for child victims and counseling for their families.
“By providing the services on-site we're able to help families immediately and they feel safe here — this is a safe place to come,” Fralick said.
Many families in the community have learned to trust the CAC and the team that works there. Popham said she doesn't know where she or her children would be now without the initial therapy and counseling they received from the center.
“It was a sigh of relief, just such a relief for me that there was actually a center there geared toward abuse victims,” Popham said.
The advocacy center's expansion to include on-site mental health services goes hand-in-hand with its multi-disciplinary team that handles each child's case, said Amy Smith, Clark County assistant prosecutor who handles crimes against children.
The team brings together the prosecutor's office, law enforcement, mental health services, physical health services and victim's advocates to meet bi-weekly to discuss every case of abuse reported at the center.
“We're all talking to each other and have the same information so no one is left out of the loop, which really does help to make a cohesive treatment plan as well as a cohesive investigation,” Smith said.
If children involved in abuse cases don't get mental health treatment, Sunshine said, they often become perpetrators themselves or fall victim to other crimes, such as drugs or domestic violence.
Treatment can stop the cycle, she said.
“As parents, as friends, as neighbors, as other family members — we have to not be afraid to address the issue,” Sunshine said.
Teachers and staff members in the Springfield City School District come in contact with about 8,000 students each day.
“So often times we are that first line of responders,” said Dr. Martin Johnson, the district's clinical psychologist.
Teachers are mandatory reporters of child abuse, meaning state law requires them to contact children's services if they suspect any abuse or neglect.
The district started a “Trauma Informed Learning Community” last school year as a resource to train staff members about signs of trauma in a student's life.
“It's not just a school's job to just ensure that students learn, but that students are safe,” Johnson said.
This same philosophy of looking out for all children should be the motto of the community, Sunshine said, to make sure no child is a victim to abuse.
“We have to fight this together or it's never going to stop,” she said.
‘I didn't know what to watch for'
Abuse — whether physical or sexual — wasn't something Popham knew much about before it happened in her family.
“It was something that nobody talked about and because I didn't know that it happened, I didn't know what to watch for,” she said.
Now she recalls signs of her ex-husband's abuse she missed when it was happening. She wishes she knew what to look for a decade ago so she might have helped her children sooner.
Child abuse must be talked about to stop it, advocates said..
“It's very important that we get rid of the stigma of shame and embarrassment for these types of crimes because there should be no shame for this,” Smith said.
The focus should be on how to identify potential victims and then treatment for children and families.
Education in the community about warning signs of trauma and possible abuse is the first step, Sunshine said.
Each case of abuse and trauma is different, she said, but some of the red flags include behavioral issues, acting out, aggressive behavior for no particular reason, moodiness, depression, sexualized behavior, withdrawn attitudes or changes in weight.
“Even little things like girls who want to hide their bodies, who get a sense of shame of their bodies,” Sunshine said.
These signs shouldn't elicit a response of, “What's wrong with you?” she said. Rather the behavior should make adults question, “What happened to you?”
Parents and guardians should also talk to their children about what is the right and wrong ways adults should touch children, Holt said.
“Starting at a young age, I'm a big advocate of teaching correct body parts, using the correct terminology for their body parts,” Holt said.
Children should be comfortable talking to trusted adults about “touches” or “secrets” other adults in their lives might be trying to hide, she added.
Service organizations in the county continue to expand their education outreach to families and other groups, Fralick said.
A Trauma Task Force — which includes members from Mental Health Services, Rocking Horse and CAC — continues to spread the word about trauma signs and treatment in the community, she said.
The more they spread the message about what trauma and abuse looks like, Sunshine said, the better chance they have of ending it.
“Child abuse is real; it's happening today, it's happening right now,” she said. “It may not happen right next door, but it could happen two doors down. It's happening and we need to stop it.”
BY THE NUMBERS
82,000: Reports of child abuse and neglect across Ohio in 2014
17,000: Confirmed Ohio cases of child sexual or physical abuse in 2014
331: Reports of crimes against children in Clark County in 2014
332: Reports of crimes against children in Clark County in 2015
$128,800: State grant awarded to Clark County Child Advocacy Center for expansion
The Springfield-News Sun digs deep into issues that effect public safety. For this story, Reporter Allison Wichie talked to local mental health providers, prosecutors, children's experts and victims, as well as analyzed state and local data.
PD partners with community to bring awareness to child abuse
The Bolivar Police Department is proud to announce its partnership with Missouri KidsFirst, Southwest Baptist University, Polk County Children's Division and the Bolivar R-1 School District to help bring child abuse prevention awareness to Polk County through the “Pinwheels for Prevention” campaign.
April is child abuse awareness month and the Bolivar Police Department, with its partners, will work to raise awareness by placing blue pinwheels around the city as a symbol of child abuse awareness.
Additionally, the police department will be providing information on child abuse through social media and printed materials.
Child abuse is an issue that affects all communities, large and small, and has no barriers based on economics, race or religion.
According to statistics provided by the Missouri Department of Social Services, Children's Division, in 2014 there were 6,439 substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect statewide, with 644 instances in April alone.
Missouri KidsFirst launched the Pinwheels for Prevention campaign in 2009 to promote public awareness of child abuse. The pinwheel, a symbol of childhood, represents health, hope and happiness.
The Bolivar Police Department and its partners recognize that healthy development of children is a building block for future community and economic success and growth.
For more information on Pinwheels for Prevention, or to learn what you can do to help, please contact the Bolivar Police Department at 417-326-5298 or visit the Missouri KidsFirst webpage at www.missourikidsfirst.org
UN peacekeepers could be forced to register DNA amid child sexual abuse claims in Africa
PEACEKEEPERS could be forced to register their personal details after shocking accusations of rape and child sexual abuse in a war torn country.
by CHARLIE PEAT
The United Nations probed peacekeepers last month after the claims of abuse in Central African Republic where troops were deployed in 2013 and 2014.
The victims included a 14-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman, according to the Human Rights Watch (HRW) group.
The landlocked nation has been ripped apart by deadly violence between Christians and Muslims since late 2013.
In December a review accused the UN of grossly mishandling allegations of child sexual abuse by foreign troops.
But UN bureaucrats have been unable to explain why peacekeepers have faced so many allegations of rapes and other sexual abuse.
Human rights groups say it is up to UN troop-contributing countries to prosecute their soldiers accused of abuse, making it hard to follow up on results of punishments.
A senior U.N. official said the world group wanted to tackle the problem of prosecutions being taken place quietly and being hard to trace.
He said: “Whenever there is a case that is established, that there be a court-martial that is in theatre, not back home in a sort of confidential context… but publicly in the country where the actions were perpetrated.”
He added: "We might think about DNA registering of peacekeepers when they come to a mission."
There have now been dozens of abuse accusations against international peacekeepers.
Child sexual abuse a public health priority for SD
by Rep. Tona Rozum
Child sexual abuse is an adult problem. In no other way do we make our children responsible for their own safety. We give them shelter, clothing, food, education and take care of them when they are sick. And yet, if they are being sexually abused, we leave it up to them — to tell, to endure and to heal.
During this past summer, I served on a task force (Jolene's Law Task Force) dealing with child sexual abuse. The group was composed of those in the trenches dealing with victimized kids, along with some victims. This is a serious and significant issue in South Dakota and is a public health priority for the safety and health of our kids.
For victims, this is a medical problem that demands specialty response, treatment and referrals. The most powerful lever for change rests with mandatory reporters and a coordinated system of response and early intervention. Child Advocacy Centers and Multi-Disciplinary Teams are the best response to child sexual abuse. South Dakota needs adults to lead a culture shift to protect our children.
Child sexual abuse in South Dakota:
• Yearly, 4,000 children are reported to have experienced sexual abuse.
• Female victims comprise 76.2 percent of all reports and male victims comprise 23.8 percent of all reports.
• Females are more vulnerable as they age to 15, with males most at risk age 0-5.
• It happens in all socio-economic and race groups.
• The highest percentage of offenders are known by their victims, with the most being "other known person" followed by parent/guardian and other relative; it is not about "stranger danger."
• All counties report child abuse.
• Only four counties and two reservations in South Dakota are within a county or tribal community that has an NCA Accredited Child Advocacy Center.
The work of this task force will continue as a statewide coalition of vested entities regarding sexual abuse designs action plans and a statewide infrastructure that sustains the effort moving forward.
'Stewards Of Children'
YMCAs continue efforts to prevent child sexual abuse
The J. Smith Young YMCA and Tom A. Finch Community YMCA have joined together in an effort to train five percent of the Davidson County adult population in families, schools and youth serving organizations with Darkness to Light's “Stewards of Children” child sexual abuse prevention program.
As of Feb. 15, approximately 2,200 adults have been trained, laying the foundation for a proactive, communitywide approach to prevention, according to a press release. This builds momentum toward educating and empowering all adults to protect children.
In the United States, one in 10 children will be sexually abused before the age of 18, making this likely the most prevalent health problem children face, with the most serious array of consequences, the release said. In over 90 percent of incidents, children are abused by someone they know, but in Davidson County adults are being trained to create environments that reduce the risk for abuse and allow children to learn, play and worship in safety.
Leaders of both YMCAs congratulate the adults who have already completed the training and especially appreciate all three school systems in the county (Davidson County, Thomasville and Lexington) committing to have 100 percent of their staff trained.
Building upon Malcolm Gladwell's tipping point research, Darkness to Light encourages every community to educate five percent of its population to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse, providing a foundation for widespread social change.
“Five percent is a small, attainable goal that has dramatic effects on community prevention efforts,” said Darkness to Light director of programs Cindy McElhinney. “This is the point when we see training initiatives take a life of their own, and we applaud Davidson County for their efforts to create a community where children can grow and thrive.”
“The commitment by our school systems to train 100 percent of staff is particularly powerful,” said Mary Jane Akerman, Darkness to Light facilitator and Thomasville City Schools employee. “Not only has that commitment been instrumental in reaching the 2,200 trained in Davidson County, but the impact goes far beyond. School staff are on the frontlines in providing safe places for our children. Teachers also serve as role models within our community. The challenge now goes out to others in Davidson County to be trained in Darkness to Light. Child care organizations, churches and all youth-serving organizations should consider requiring this training for all staff.”
Interested people can complete the online training at www.tinyurl.com/d2ldavidson. They can also schedule a group, in-person training by contacting Darkness to Light facilitators Akerman (email@example.com) or Orla Kelly-Rajan (firstname.lastname@example.org). The cost is $10 per person whether online or in person.
Sex Trafficking – Avoiding the Trap
by Roslyn Giles
Police say it's happening around the world and even in Columbus.
Sex trafficking is a $32 billion industry; in fact, some call it an epidemic. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime also says it's even bigger than Google and McDonald's.
According to statistics, 1.2 million children are sold as sex slaves in the US every year.
Those who fall prey to modern day slavery on average are girls between 12 to 14 years old, according to a study by UNICEF.
"When I realized that money could be made, I just started walking the streets and men would pick me up and it just became my life style," says former sex trafficking victim Dorsey Jones.
Dorsey is now a mother, wife and advocate for young girls. She says she was just 11 years old when she began selling her body for money during the 1980s.
"My neighbor knew that there was a need in my house,” Dorsey said. “We didn't always have lights, we didn't always have food. I remember him coming to the gate and crumbling up $20 in my hand."
That $20 was the beginning of a dark path for Dorsey in the small town of Bainbridge, GA, about 30 miles north of Columbus.
Two weeks later the neighbor returned to Dorsey's poverty-stricken home where she lived with her mother, stepfather and siblings.
Her mother was always gone, she says, working to clean the "well-to-do folks' homes” in the community. Dorsey says that neighbor taught her how to walk to his home through the woods straight to his bedroom.
"And that's where the abuse would take place,” Dorsey recalls. “He first started fondling me and then he would have sex with me and then he passed me to his brother and to his father."
Like so many other women and young girls, the desire to fill a need is what drove Dorsey into the arms of sexual predators.
"When you're in a 911 situation and you don't have food to eat, no clean clothes, I was introduced to that and I gravitated to that," Dorsey said.
Dorsey's clientele grew from the neighbor and his family to a laundry list of men in the community.
"You had white collar, blue collar workers, school teachers, you had ministers and men who grew up with my mother taking advantage of me," Dorsey said.
Dorsey says she walked the streets and men would pick up her. Most took her into the woods to have sex for $20 or $30 a pop.
"So when I turned 12 years old, I had slept with about 250 men," Dorsey said.
Today, walking the streets to turn tricks is no more. The big business of sex solicitation starts online.
Ads for sexual services can be readily found on sites like Facebook After Dark, BackPage and Craigslist.
"We had people who've had up to 30 Johns or pimps people who they have had to have sex with in one day up to 30,” says Lt. Joyce Dent-Fitzpatrick with the Columbus Police Department's Sex Crimes Division.
The Columbus Police Department is working to solve its first sex trafficking case.
Deangelo Walker, 24, is accused of running a sex ring along with two women out of Walker's Gleason Avenue home in east Columbus.
We were there when police raided Walker's home last December. They took bags of evidence from inside.
Police found out about that case when a 21-year-old woman was found hiding in the bathroom at the Walmart on Airport Thruway. She told an off duty police officer she and a 16-year-old girl from Clayton, GA were forced into prostitution.
That case is still pending, so police can't talk much about it.
"Most of the time the girls are not from this area,” Lt. Dent-Fitzpatrick said. “They're being brought here, transported here and they stay in a house."
Dorsey found a way out by leaving Bainbridge after high school to attend Job Corp in Atlanta. Then she got the urge to attend college. After being denied six times for bad grades, Dorsey was finally accepted at Morris Brown College on her seventh try.
A former probation officer with a degree in juvenile justice, Dorsey travels the state now with a message of hope and restoration for women and girls trapped in the sex trade industry.
"Letting them know they are valuable and that what happened to me is not going to happen to them and if is happening to them there are resources available to assist them in their crisis," Dorsey said.
Here's how you can help: Dorsey says if you see a child in lack, fill the need so they don't have to look to the wrong people for help.
If you know someone who needs rescuing call 1-888-8GA-CHILD.
Dorsey quit her job as a probation officer to start a crusade to help save young girls and women trough the Atlanta Public School and United Way.
She also does public speaking and is currently working on a documentary.
You can contact her by emailing email@example.com or visiting www.stretchbeyondmeasure.com .
Health care takes on the fight against trafficking
by Dan Gorenstein
Dr. A rolled his eyes.
It was last October, and he had just come across a triage note that said, “I have a tracker in me.”
Dr. A — we're not using his name or identifying his hospital, which is in a major American city, to protect patient safety — is 28 years old, a resident and about as green as they come.
And he's got a patient who claims she's got a GPS tracking device implanted in her side.
“When you work on the east side of our hospital, psychiatric patients are a dime a dozen,” he said.
But this patient is different. She's put together. She's lucid. She's got an incision.
A group crowded around the computer to see her x-ray.
“Embedded in the right side of her flank is a small metallic object only a little bit larger than a grain of rice,” he said. “But it's there. It's unequivocally there. She has a tracker in her. And no one was speaking for like five seconds — and in a busy ER that's saying something.”
It turns out this 20-something woman was being pimped out by her boyfriend, forced to sell herself for sex and hand him the money.
“It was a small glass capsule with a little almost like a circuit board inside of it,” he said. “It's an RFID chip. It's used to tag cats and dogs. And someone had tagged her like an animal, like she was somebody's pet that they owned.”
This is human trafficking. It's a marginal issue here in the U.S. for most of us. Part of that is because the average person isn't sure what human trafficking – or modern day slavery – actually means.
“Very plainly, human trafficking is when one person takes advantage of another person for some profit,” said Katherine Chon, director of the newly created Office on Trafficking in Persons at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Trafficking can mean being locked in a room, having an RFID chip injected under your skin, or something like your employer holding your passport. It's found in industries from prostitution to manufacturing to domestic service.
Breaking this cycle of violence traditionally has been left to law enforcement. But in the last three years, people in healthcare are waking up to the fact that they can play a critical role.
“I can guarantee you that I've placed my hands and I've examined and I've spoken to more trafficking victims than I know I have,” said Wendy Macias, an ER doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Macias is one of the nation's leading advocates to get doctors, nurses and hospital executives involved.
One report finds as many as 88 percent of sex trafficking victims end up in ERs and clinics at some point while being held.
Much different than law enforcement, healthcare providers get these moments — a sort of a privileged access into the lives of people who often are out of reach
“You know traffickers are really smart, they will move their patients around from one city to the next all across the country,” she said. “I want us to help them when we have them in our midst because it may be the last time that they're there.”
But here's the challenge: you've got to convince doctors and nurses that they are the ones uniquely placed to break the cycle of violence.
One study shows just one-quarter of providers think human trafficking touches their patients.
The Justice Department says 83 percent of confirmed sex trafficking victims are U.S. citizens.
Dr. Dale Carrison at the University Medical Center in Las Vegas hopes the case with the tracking device is so disturbing that it pushes people in healthcare to action.
“There's so many sci-fi movies where they stick a device in somebody. Well guess what? It's real. It happened,” he said. “That was a big wake up call for me personally that ‘Uh-oh we're going to another level now.' And I need to get the word out to all my colleagues, don't blow this off.”
There are some signs of life.
Money is beginning to flow to train clinicians to identify patients. More than half a dozen professional societies – including the American Medical Association – have passed resolutions highlighting the problem. The grass-roots group Heal — made up of some 600 providers — has formed.
The first step is simple awareness.
Knowledge certainly has helped change how Dr. A approaches his patients.
“It's always important to simply consider the possibility that something not obvious might be going on. And recognizing that is the first step to diagnose it,” he said.
Since that October afternoon, Dr. A says he's pulled about five patients aside, checking for signs of trafficking.
He's come up empty each time. He explains, that's what he does, rule out the bad stuff.
That, he says, is his job.
State tops list for human trafficking hotline calls
by Maytal Levi
DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Ohio is topping a list for all the wrong reasons.
The state is ranked fifth in the nation for human trafficking investigations. A recent report from the Ohio Attorney General's Office indicates 1,000 juveniles are trafficked every year.
Tony Talbott, a political science professor at the University of Dayton says it's a problem happening in our own backyard.
“It's a major problem. In absolute numbers it's hard to say because it's a difficult crime to uncover,” says Talbott, a founding member of Abolition Ohio , the Miami Valley's anti-human trafficking coalition.
Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world. According to the International Labor Force, the money illegally acquired through human trafficking is estimated to be more than $35 billion. Talbott says many don't understand the crime.
“It's one human being exploiting another for their personal gain. It's violent and callous, morally reprehensible and it's a very easy crime to stop,” says Talbott.
Ohio ranks fourth in the nation for the number of calls coming in to the human trafficking hotline according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Talbott tells 2 NEWS reporter, Maytal Levi, that's good and bad news.
“That says there is a problem with sex trafficking in ohio but it also says we're doing a good job with awareness raising because people know when they see a crime who to report it to,” says Talbott.
In 2015, 289 human trafficking cases were reported in ohio and more than a thousand calls came in to the state's trafficking hotline. A significant increase compared to the year before. In 2014, 164 cases were reported and 809 calls came in.
“The national hotline is helpnig a lot in Ohio. In a lot of ways they provide awareness. It's an essential point. So, trafficking can be reported and then get back down to the local people on the ground here and it's fantastic for research, we can see how big of a problem we really have,” says Talbott.
2 NEWS checked with the Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office and learned in 2015, zero human trafficking cases were prosecuted. Talbott says it's happening here, it's just hard to label.
“It's hard to prosecute. Crimes like drug trafficking are a lot easier because you have an illicit drug. Here, it's a victim of a crime where a child or adult has to give testimony for the investigation to continue,” says Talbott.
In 2012, Governor John Kasich's office formed the Human Trafficking Task Force to help victims and catch those responsible. To report a crime or learn more, call 1-888-3737-888.
Texas university gives police guidelines on responding to sexual assaults
The 170-page document was developed by UT System police
by The Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas System has put together guidelines to help campus police at all 14 institutions better respond to sexual assault victims.
A statement Tuesday announced what the UT System calls a "science-based, victim-centered blueprint" for police.
The 170-page document was developed by UT System police and the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault at the flagship campus in Austin.
Authorities hope the information will help the 600 officers better engage with and understand victims, as well as reporting the allegations, for improved public safety.
The UT System, with more than 217,000 students, began a $1.7 million comprehensive campus sexual assault study last summer to better assist students and staff on the issue of sexual violence.
Epidemic of shame | Sexual abuse twists lives, contorts socitey
by LOUIS WEISBERG
The courtroom testimony last month in the sex abuse case of former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was all too familiar to Milwaukeean Karl Larson.
From the ages of 10 to 16, Larson was abused by a similar kind of man – a popular, charismatic, respected local church and Boy Scout leader, he said. The stories told by Sandusky's victims mirrored Larson's shattering experience.
Like Sandusky, Larson's abuser “groomed” him, he said, courting him with flattery and attention and providing him with things that his father couldn't. The sexual abuse started slowly, with exposure, then escalated. Experts say this pattern is typical among abusers of boys, who manipulate their victims to win their friendship and then pressure them into sexual acts.
Sexual abuse thrives in silence, and Larson's abuser was menacing in his demands for secrecy. When Larson questioned what was happening, his abuser tried to console him by saying, “Don't worry, it happened to me, too,'” Larson remembered.
Sandusky, 68, was convicted this summer on 45 charges of sexually abusing 10 boys over the course of 15 years. He faces more than 400 years in prison.
Larson said he discovered that his abuser “had a farm of young men.” His perpetrator has never been apprehended, and he's continually worked in positions affording him access to boys and male teens, Larson said.
Larson's focus these days is not on perpetrators but rather on healing the psyches of their victims. He and James Kaminski recently founded the Spiritual Health Network, an educational nonprofit organization at 2923A S. Delaware that focuses on male issues.
Kaminski, who does custom artwork and interior finishing, is transforming the unassuming storefront space in Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood into an ethereal haven of safety. The entrance area, with white paint layered like clouds on white walls, is reminiscent of a high-end Third Ward gallery. The space, scheduled to open at the end of August, will become the home base for Larson's Claiming Sanctuary ministries for men.
Kaminski and Larson have created a comfortable room in the rear of the building – complete with a fireplace – where they hope male abuse survivors will establish support groups and sessions. In essence, they're creating a space that they believe will facilitate healing, and they hope male abuse victims will use it to support each other.
“There is no place for men to go to heal – it's either bars or bars,” Larson said. “Either you go to a bar or you're locked up behind bars.”
“There are so few therapists who really know about this topic,” Larson added. “It's hard to know how to heal someone from this unless you've been through it yourself.”
When Larson, 65, decided to devote his life to working with male sexual abuse victims, he obtained a master's degree in spiritual psychology and became an ordained non-denominational Christian minister. He decided against the conventional path of obtaining a master's degree in social work, because licensed clinicians are required to keep clinical records. Men are reluctant to talk about their sexual abuse “if they know it's going to wind up as part of a file,” Larson explained.
As a non-denominational Christian minister, Larson can provide counseling without even recording his client's names – which he doesn't.
Larson counsels men both one on one and in groups. He also does workshops, such as “The Men's Series,” which he conducted in Janesville. In 2002, he founded the Ministries for Men Foundation in that city.
Larson has long been active in men's personal growth programs, including the Wisconsin-based Mankind Project. It was the project's New Warrior Training Adventure weekend where he had his first emotional breakthrough surrounding his abuse. That's when he began to overcome the guilt and shame it produced in his life.
And also the anger. “He took something away from me,” Larson said of his abuser, including his innocence, his virginity and his childhood. His perpetrator, he continued, robbed him of the ability to discover his body and develop sexually at his own pace and in his own way.
Since his initial emotional breakthrough, “I've helped other groups and organizations where they have men's weekends,” Larson said. He's developed a reputation for his ability to help men access their repressed feelings and memories of abuse.
“If (facilitators) have a problem where a man is stuck, they call me over,” he said. “I get them to the point of what's really going on. And that's when the tears roll.”
While there's a large body of knowledge and established support networks surrounding female victims, the sexual abuse of boys remains a relative mystery that comes to light only occasionally, in high-profile cases such as Sandusky's. “It's a quiet epidemic,” Larson said. “People don't realize how extensive its tentacles are.”
By tentacles, he means the exponentially damaging effects that abuse has on the abuser's partners, families, friends and society.
Unlike young female victims, who tend to internalize their reaction to abuse, male victims tend to externalize the trauma, research shows. As adolescents, they're more likely to engage in extreme use of alcohol and drugs, aggressive/criminal behavior – including bullying, Larson said – poor school performance and sexual risk taking.
Among all children who suffer some form of child abuse, 59 percent are more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28 percent are more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30 percent are more likely to commit violent crime, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Even when abuse does not produce such drastic behaviors, it often results in sexual shame, based on feelings of responsibility for the abuse that occurred. This frequently leads to such adult sexual problems as excessive promiscuity and fear of intimacy.
Parents, including Larson's, often refuse to believe boys when they report sexual abuse, particularly if the perpetrator is a respected family friend, as his abuser was. The resulting anger and feelings of abandonment toward the parents can create an additional layer of emotional problems, experts say.
Although it's generally believed that one in six boys is sexually abused before age 16, Larson said he believes the real number is one in four. That doesn't include male victims molested by adult females, he added. Those incidents are seldom reported.
“You never hear about the mother, the stepmother, the aunt or the nun who sexually abuses boys,” he said. Actor/director Tyler Perry drew some attention to the issue when he announced on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that he was sexually abused as a child by three men and the mother of one of this childhood friends.
The American Psychological Association says female perpetrators represent 14 percent of the cases that are reported by boys and 6 percent of the cases reported by girls.
Specific research into the prevalence and long-term effects of male sexual abuse has been complicated by the reluctance of men to report it. Guilt, shame and the social stigma still attached to homosexual acts fuel the silence, according to experts. So does the victim's fear that he will be seen as someone who will become an abuser.
Moreover, one out of every three incidents of child sexual abuse is not remembered by the adult who experienced it, according to a 1998 study.
Larson, 65, didn't begin coming to terms with his abuse until the 1980s, when he was married and a father. “I began realizing that there was something going on in my life, that something wasn't right,” Larson said. “It's like my body was telling me something was wrong.”
He began having “troubling dreams” and experiencing marital discord as well as issues with male authority figures. Later, he was able to trace his problems to anger over his parents' failure to protect him and his loss of power to his abuser.
Larson, who was molested while he slept, developed sleep apnea so severe that it could have been fatal, he said.
His feelings about his abuse are summed up in a poem Larson wrote titled “I Can't Do This ...”:
I was trained to become one of the damned.
A paranoid male ... always looking sideways – wondering who knew?
Can they see the naked shadows clinging to me? ...
I put this veil of shame between you and me
Disguised with expert maneuverings so you can't see
The naked shadows clinging to me ...
In addition to victims, Larson has worked with perpetrators. When he facilitates perpetrator group meetings, he always lets the attendees know that he's one of their victims.
Unfortunately, Larson said, he's seen “very little regret” among perpetrators. When Larson confronted his own abuser, the man laughed at him “in a mocking way,” he said.
“They know what they're doing isn't right, but everything is OK unless you're caught,” Larson said. “And they don't think they'll ever get caught.”
Despite homophobic myths spread by fundamentalist Christian organizations to marginalize gays, statistics compiled by the American Psychological Association show that heterosexual and gay men are equally likely to sexually abuse children. “A perception that most perpetrators are gay men is a myth and harmful stereotype,” the APA states.
Many abusers of boys have conventional marriages or outwardly successful relationships with adult partners or spouses, just as Sandusky did. The relative ease with which these men blend into society limits the ability of parents and school authorities to recognize them.
There are practical measures that can be taken to protect children from abuse, such as thorough background checks of people who work with kids, screening tests to identify potential abusers and parental watchfulness for signs of abuse. Those signs might include: sudden trouble walking or sitting, a chronic state of alert and fearfulness, an age-inappropriate knowledge of or interest in sex, fear of changing clothes in front of others and unusual efforts to avoid a particular adult.
Larson and others who work in the field hope that the high-profile incidents of abuse involving youth and religious leaders in recent years have heightened public awareness of the problem and will result in greater vigilance and more aggressive reporting and prosecution of perpeatrators.
Since the Penn State scandal came to light in November, lawmakers in more than a dozen states have introduced bills adding coaches, athletic directors and university officials to the list of “mandated reporters” of suspected child abuse or neglect.
The bankruptcy of archdioceses such as Milwaukee due to lawsuits over clerical abuse has incalculably increased the incentive of religious organizations to ferret out abusers. Churches and universities also are putting more money than ever into legal defense funds to fight sex abuse charges.
The unprecedented penalties that the NCAA imposed July 23 on Penn State create a dramatic new incentive for institutions to protect youths from perpetrators. The NCAA fined the school $60 million, imposed a four-year post-season ban on Penn State football, placed the program on probation for five years and enabled any current or incoming player to transfer and play immediately without restriction.
But sports writers noted that the most stinging sanction was that the NCAA vacated all of Penn State's wins from 1998 to 2011. That means the late Joe Paterno, who successfully oversaw the university's football program for nearly 46 years but turned a blind eye to complaints about Sandusky, is no longer the all-time winningest coach at college football's highest level.
In announcing the sanctions, NCAA president Mark Emmert said he hoped the extreme punishment would deter the sort of indifferent environment in which Sandusky's abuse flourished. He said that while examining the case, the NCAA “kept foremost in our thoughts the tragic damage that has been done to the victims and their families. No matter what we do here today, there is no action we can take that will remove their pain and anguish.”
On the Web
Who are the perpetrators?
• Most children are abused by someone they know and trust.
• An estimated 60 percent of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child but are not family members, such as family friends, babysitters, childcare providers and neighbors.
• About 30 percent of perpetrators are family members, for example, fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins.
• Just 10 percent of perpetrators are strangers to the child.
• Child pornographers and other abusers who are strangers may make contact with children via the Internet.
• Not all perpetrators are adults – an estimated 23 percent of reported cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by individuals under the age of 18.
• Common characteristics of perpetrators include: a history of abuse (either physical or sexual); alcohol or drug abuse; little satisfaction with sexual relationships with adults; lack of control over their emotions; mental illness in some cases.
About last night: Stay quiet and protect daddy
by Caroline C. Ravello
“Given the prevalence of incest, and that the family is the basic unit upon which society rests, imagine what would happen if every (child) currently being abused—and every adult who was abused but stayed silent —came out of the woodwork, insisted on justice, and saw that justice meted out. The very fabric of society would be torn.”
So said Mia Fontaine (2013), in her article “America has an incest problem” as she speaks of an imagined space and time in confronting the longstanding crime of incest. I often thank God for my father whom I remember as being judicious with his daughters. Very early, I noted that my father never came into our bedrooms and I always remember how upset he'd seem when we accidentally crossed paths in towels—and that happened because we had outdoor bathrooms.
I recall how agitated he became with my mother when we wore, according to him, “clothes that look like the store robbed us of fabric.” As a child with good powers of observation, I never missed daddy's circumspection. While we are six sisters of which I'm the youngest, we were never all together growing up. Living in abject poverty then, I've reasoned why my parents felt it necessary for some of my sisters to live with relatives at times.
Therefore, when I speak of my father, it's my specific encounter with a none-too-friendly man who is regarded with respect (and humorous stories about his ill-temper) by villagers to this day. He was past 53 years when I was born and I always say that age gap accounted for our tempestuous relationship. But that's the worst I can say about Oliver Ravello. And I cannot imagine any girl or woman should ever have anything worse to say about their father.
Yet I've sat next to friends/relatives who have borne their father's child when they were still children—pregnancy being the public evidence of his “private” crime—who with their complicit mothers have “hid” those children to mask daddy's criminality.
And they and their siblings walk around (sadness etched on their faces) pretending it did not happen. They forever carry that indignity, always wondering if the next person they encounter knew/knows that daddy raped their little bodies from as early as he decided to yield to his criminal desire, above his God-given duty to defend them.
That's part of the plain, sick truth of our sweet T&T that we cannot bring ourselves to accept. Incest is the most underreported crime everywhere and, in a society of pretences as ours, if you speak out, as advocate or survivor, you touch raw nerves and set yourself up for a stoning.
Just ask activist and former government minister, Verna St Rose-Greaves after her characteristically brazen piece last week drew so much ire from the very men/women she sought to protect by her bold statements. She said, among other things, that, “Sexual abuse has been normalised in our society so even our leaders either cannot recognise it, or refuse to accept their complicity in it. “If we have not experienced it personally,” said St Rose-Greaves, “we have heard so many stories.”
In solidarity with St Rose-Greaves and all victims/survivors, I agree that “for too long we have ignored the ugly things that have been part of our daily routine.” Sexual abuse, especially incest, is a cringe-worthy subject in T&T as in many other countries, and is a violation of which little is said even though we know and suspect that people within a child's home/family account for more cases of childhood sexual trauma.
Our ugly truth bears evidence in the physical, psychosocial (mental, emotional, social, and spiritual) injury it's leaving in its path here. The problem with incest, as all sexual abuse, is that it does not go away at some time in the future, and without intervention, society is made to pay the hefty price.
Fontaine asked, “How could a whole community be in such denial?” and answered saying, “one need only realise that (we) are mirroring the long-established patterns and responses to sexual abuse within the family. Which are: Deal with it internally instead of seeking legal justice and protection; keep kids quiet while adults remain protected and free to abuse again.
“Intentionally or not, children are protecting adults, many for their entire lives,” Fontaine continues, talking about families that continue to socialise “while seated at the same table as the people who violated them.”
• Caroline C Ravello is a strategic communications and media practitioner with over 30 years of proficiency. She holds an MA in Mass Communications and is pursuing the MSc in Public Health from the UWI. She has been living/thriving with mental health issues for over 35 years.
Area bishops respond to grand jury presentment
by Christine Haines
Bishops in the Greensburg and Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese offered prayers Tuesday in response to a grand jury presentment outlining child sexual abuse in the neighboring Altoona-Johnstown Diocese spanning some 60 years.
“The story, pure and simple, is truly horrific,” said Bishop David Zubik of the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese. “People are hurt. It is a clarion call that we need to help them out.”
Among the cases were some that detailed abuse going back to the 1950s and '60s that were reported at the time but never prosecuted. One man, now in his '70s, said no one believed him. The indictment detailed a system of reporting within the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese that made the victims give detailed reports multiple times but only asked the accused to confirm or deny.
“We need to be very responsible in how we handle accusations,” Zubik said.
The Greensburg Catholic Diocese, which includes Fayette, Westmoreland, Armstrong and Indiana counties, is overseen by Bishop Edward C. Malesic.
“Upon hearing about the grand jury report regarding the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown that was released, my thoughts and prayers first go to all the victims and their families who have been impacted by the actions described in this report and to the Catholic community of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. May the healing mercy of God be with them all,” Malesic said in a prepared release. “This is the most recent reminder that the Catholic Church, along with every other civil and social organization in society, must always be diligent in our efforts to protect children and young people and to make those efforts one of our highest priorities. It is in the Diocese of Greensburg.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 adopted the Dallas Charter addressing issues such as prevention, treatment for victims and discipline for perpetrators. Zubik said then-bishop, now-Cardinal Donald Wuerl set the policy in the Pittsburgh Diocese in 1988. The Pittsburgh Diocese includes parishes in Washington, Greene, Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and Lawrence counties.
“Even before the Dallas Charter, we established a policy that any allegation that came forward was reported to civilian authorities,” Zubik said. “The bottom line is, you can never do enough in a situation like this. This calls for us as a society to work against this type of issue.
“I’m hoping people can come forward and get the help they need,” Zubik said.”
Greensburg diocesan spokesman Jerry Zufelt said policies requiring accusations of molestation to be turned over to civil authorities have been in place since established in 1985 by Bishop William Connare.
“It’s not something that’s been done and put on a shelf. It’s been constantly updated,” Zufelt said.
This past year, in response to changes in state law following the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal, all volunteers who have any contact with the public undergo a background check and training to know when suspicions should be reported to the state ChildLine service.
Zufelt said that for past victims the church must now look toward the healing process.
“The impacts were horrible for the victims and their families. We are a people of prayer and prayer is important in the healing process,” Zufelt said.
Pennsylvania Catholic diocese covered up decades worth of child abuse, grand jury says
by Steve Esack and Laurie Mason Schroeder
Fom Boston to Philadelphia to the United Nations, the Catholic Church has been accused of covering up and protecting priests and other religious leaders who sexually abused children.
Now add a slice of western Pennsylvania to the list.
A grand jury report released Tuesday accuses two bishops who ran the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown of allowing at least 50 priests and other religious leaders to sexually abuse hundreds of children for decades.
“These predators desecrated a sacred trust and preyed upon their victims … where they should have felt most safe,” state Attorney General Kathleen Kane said.
The report says the late Bishop James Hogan and former Bishop Joseph Adamec kept filing cabinets with 115,042 secret documents detailing victims' abuse claims. It tells how church officials ordered priests to undergo treatment while transferring them to other parishes, or intervened when local and state police made inquiries starting in the mid-1960s.
The report also outlines a diocesan “payout chart” of $10,000 for victims fondled over their clothes, and up to $175,000 for victims of forced sodomy or intercourse.
The grand jury report uses those documents to explain in extraordinary detail how one priest “hypnotized” children by rubbing his genitals on their feet, another priest choked boys if they refused his advances at his cabin in the woods, and another priest plied a child with alcohol and then raped him until he bled.
“Being a small child I was helpless to resist this man,” a victim's 1991 letter to Adamec says in describing abuse at the Rev. Joseph Bender's cabin in the 1970s. “I would estimate I was abused approximately 100 times.”
The 80-year-old Adamec refused to testify before the grand jury but denied wrongdoing through his lawyer. Hogan died in 2005.
The Cambria County district attorney referred the case to the attorney general's office after investigating a priest at a diocesan high school who committed suicide in January 2013 after abuse settlements with an Ohio diocese where he had worked were publicized.
No criminal charges can be filed, Kane said. The statute of limitations has run out, abusers such as Bender have died, and some victims are fearful of testifying, she said. Kane said the grand jury report recommends that the state Legislature allow the prosecution of older cases.
Under a 2007 law, child sex-abuse victims born before Aug. 27, 2002, have until their 30th birthday to file criminal charges. Victims born after Aug. 27, 2002, have until their 50th birthday.
The Altoona-Johnstown allegations are strikingly similar to the real-life plot line of the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight.” The film details the story behind Boston Globe reporters' groundbreaking investigative stories of the Boston Archdiocese sex-abuse cover-ups that occurred in plain sight of parents, police, prosecutors and the media — and led to a worldwide push to force the Vatican to acknowledge its secrets.
Every Catholic community — including the Allentown Diocese — has its hidden information.
Such secrets go back centuries to the mid-1600s or early 1700s, when the Vatican created Canon Law 489. It is a legal mechanism that allows Catholic religious orders to keep from public view a trove of documents, including personnel and financial files, that only the local bishop and his trusted few could access, according to testimony from sex-abuse prosecutions and lawsuits that rocked the Los Angeles Archdiocese in 2013.
In 2014, the United Nations accused the Vatican of “systematically” protecting predator priests from being brought to justice for the sexual “torture” of tens of thousands of children around the globe.
In 2012, some of the Philadelphia Archdiocese's secrets came to light when a 1994 memo was uncovered that showed the archdiocese's top clergy — including Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and Bishop Edward Cullen, who later headed the Allentown Diocese — ordered the shredding of a list of 35 priests suspected of sexually abusing children.
Monsignor William J. Lynn, the Philadelphia Archdiocese's secretary for clergy, became the first diocesan official in America to be convicted of endangering children — by ignoring credible warnings about a priest who later sexually assaulted an altar boy. Lynn's conviction was later overturned and is on appeal.
Prosecutors in the Lehigh Valley have not used a grand jury to pry open secret files held by the Allentown Diocese, which serves 270,000 Catholics in Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, Berks and Schuylkill counties. Rather, prosecutors asked the diocese for its priest-abuse files after Cullen announced in February 2002 that he was removing priests from active duty.
After a review of three months, Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin said in 2002 that eight abuse claims occurred in Lehigh County but could not be prosecuted because of deaths or the cases were too old.
“At this point, I am satisfied that the Diocese of Allentown has fully cooperated with my request for information pertaining to allegations of sexual misconduct by priests, which allegedly occurred in Lehigh County,” Martin said then. “I see no necessity to invoke the powers of an investigating grand jury. In my view, there is no need to seek by subpoena that which has already been provided voluntarily.”
About three years later, Martin was asked to conduct a grand jury by Juliann Bortz of Lower Macungie Township, local coordinator for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP.
“Other cities were doing it and we felt that something was there, that they didn't see everything,” Bortz said.
She said Martin listened to her and the other SNAP members for about 30 minutes but told them that he would not be going on a “fishing expedition.”
In an interview Tuesday, Martin said people should not assume the Allentown Diocese had the same practices as Altoona-Johnstown.
Since 2002, the Allentown Diocese has forwarded to his office every complaint against a priest or other employer, Martin said. None has been prosecutable, he said.
“I think the Catholic Diocese of Allentown has been acting responsibly by sending me reports about virtually anything that smacks of abuse of any nature, and where appropriate we investigate that,” Martin said.
After his own 2002 investigation, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli was critical of the way the church handled abuse claims before Cullen was installed as bishop in 1998.
Before that, he said, the diocese was focused more on the priest than on the alleged victims.
“Even when priests admitted sexual abuse with minors, they were often sent to treatment centers and continued to function as priests,” Morganelli said in a 2002 report. “A number of the priests had multiple incidents involving more than one victim.”
Like Martin, Morganelli found no basis for criminal charges against church officials who oversaw priests. Also like Martin, he noted the diocese has created a policy requiring the immediate review of allegations against priests and the instant removal of those priests if the allegations are deemed credible.
On Tuesday, Morganelli recounted the 2002 review.
“We went through boxes and boxes of files,” he said. “We identified a number of priests who might have been prosecuted back in the day, but by that time, too many years had gone by for there to be anything we could prosecute.”
Berks County District Attorney John Adams, who was not in the office when the 2002 investigation took place, said the diocese keeps his office informed of any new complaints and none has warranted an arrest.
“Our Catholic schools have also been very responsive about reports of abuse,” Adams said. “The diocese has a good track record in Berks County.”
District attorneys of Carbon and Schuylkill counties did not return calls for comment.
In 2002, the Allentown Diocese turned over every file it had involving any abuse claim, diocese spokesman Matt Kerr said. At that time, he said, the diocese also promised to report to law enforcement every sex-abuse claim, no matter how old.
“It's a promise we made in 2002,” he said.
The diocese also has worked to train thousands of children and adults on how to spot and report sex abuse, Kerr said.
The Allentown Diocese allowed the five district attorneys to review the personnel files of 23 accused priests, at least two of whom had been charged criminally in the late 1980s and '90s. A few weeks later, the diocese opened the file of a 24th priest. In addition, the prosecutors asked for the files of more than a dozen other priests. The diocese had more than 300 priests at that time.
David Clohessy, a St. Louis resident who serves as the national director of SNAP, said that number — two dozen — seems low. Seven grand jury reports made public nationwide show about 10 percent of priests have been accused of abusing children, he said.
“That, to many Catholics, seems like a staggering figure,” Clohessy said. “But that's what the math indicates.”
The Altoona-Johnstown Diocese is home to nearly 100,000 Catholics.
Statute of limitations debated for child sex abuse cases
by Susy Kelly
A state grand jury looking into allegations of child sexual abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese made recommendations in its report including abolishing the statute of limitations for sexual offenses against minors.
The report also urges the state General Assembly to suspend the civil statute of limitations on sexual abuse claims.
State Rep. Peter J. Daley, D-California, Washington County, said he would support a measure to abolish the criminal statute of limitations, given the gravity of the crimes and the nature of how they are reported.
“These children are permanently and irreparably harmed,” he said.
According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, prosecutors can file charges in sex abuse cases involving minors up until the victim's 50th birthday.
In cases involving sex abuse against minors, the perpetrators are often in positions of authority, and it can take many years for victims to be confident enough to come forward seeking justice, Daley said.
He said it makes good sense to broaden the window of time for those victims to speak out.
State Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-South Union Township, was also supportive of abolishing the criminal statute of limitations.
Mahoney said sexual abuse of children is one of the most heinous acts a person can commit. “Next to murder, I don't think there's anything worse you can do to a person,” he said.
“Whatever we can do as legislators -- as human beings -- to correct the problem, we should be doing it,” Mahoney said. He said that if possible, it would be beneficial to have help available for the offenders, to reduce the likelihood of re-offending.
The grand jurors also urged victims of crimes to report criminal activity to law enforcement.
Daley, who is also an attorney, agreed, saying since recollections diminish over time, it's good to report sexual abuse early, if victims are able.
“The process needs to start as quick as possible,” he said, so that evidence can be collected and preserved, and the chances of successfully prosecuting offenders will be greater.
“You want to believe people are not guilty,” Daley said. “But if they are, God help them.”
Fayette County Children and Youth Services administrator Gina D'Auria said she doesn't believe there should be a statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases.
“When nothing is done, it's very hurtful. It takes a long time to work up what needs to be done,” D'Auria said. “It takes years and years of therapy.”
D'Auria said that while victims want something to be done, taking a case to court is not always in the best interest of a child.
“We've had discussions with the district attorney's office whether it is beneficial for the victim. If the jury goes against them, it can be devastating,” D'Auria said.
D'Auria said that with no charges coming in the Altoona-Johnstown cases, it may make it harder for other victims of child sexual abuse to decide to report the crime.
“To have no justice as an outcome, it makes it difficult for people to come forward,” D'Auria said.
Amy Garris, the Victim Witness Services coordinator for Westmoreland County, said the lack of charges coming from the grand jury presentment could be harmful to other victims.
“It has to have an impact. Because you didn't come forward in a timely fashion for whatever reason doesn't mean it didn't happen,” Garris said. “You have to know that your voice is heard.”
Garris said it's also difficult to get a conviction when charges are brought years after a crime such as child sexual abuse has occurred.
“It's very hard to go back and get that evidence you need. Jurors live in the world of 'CSI.' That's one of the catch 22s -- is it better for the victim?” Garris asked. “Trials don't always go real well because it's a secret crime.”
Senate committee considers bills designed to combat child abuse, neglect
Proposals would keep records of alleged abuses longer, extend time frame in custody
CONCORD, N.H. —A trio of bills aimed at protecting New Hampshire's abused and neglected children got a favorable reception from a Senate committee on Tuesday, though the chairman questioned whether one measure would give police and state workers too much access to sensitive information.
The Health and Human Services Committee held public hearings on bills that would require the Division of Children, Youth and Families to keep records on file for longer periods of times, would give police and DCYF workers more time to prepare for initial court hearings after children are removed from homes, and would allow DCYF and police to access a child's medical records once an investigation is underway.
Those bills, along with another that is up for a vote on Thursday, were developed by the Commission on Child Abuse Fatalities, a group of lawmakers, state officials and advocates.
DCYF has faced increased scrutiny since the deaths of two toddlers. Sadence Willott, 21 months, of Manchester, died Sept. 6, and her mother has since been charged with second-degree murder. In Nashua, Katlyn Marin is charged with beating her 3-year-old daughter, Brielle Gage, to death in November 2014.
Rebecca Ross, a senior assistant attorney general and member of the commission, said together, the four bills aim to bridge the gaps between law enforcement, medical providers and the child protection system.
"What we need is more communication and more resources and tools to make sure everyone has accurate information" to do their jobs, she said.
The committee chairman, state Sen. Andy Sanborn (R), of Bedford, questioned whether the third bill was necessary, because investigators already can get a child's medical records by going to court and getting a warrant.
But the bill's supporters, including several police officers who testified, said that can take a long time, particularly if a judge decides to review the records before granting access. In most cases, a parent will grant access to the records, but that is not the case when the parent may be the abuser.
"I think we would use this fairly sparingly, when the suspects are guardians who are denying us the records," said Lt. Nicole Ledoux, who supervises the juvenile unit at the Manchester Police Department. "There is no other crime I can think of where the perpetrator controls the evidence that may help you determine what happened to the victim."
Under the first bill, reports deemed unnecessary to investigate would be kept for seven years instead of one, reports deemed unfounded after an investigation would be kept for 10 years instead of three, and reports deemed credible would be kept indefinitely instead of for seven years.
Sanborn suggested that records should be destroyed after a child turns 18, but supporters of the bill noted that the goal is be able to see potential patterns of abuse. The records could help an abused child bring civil claims against an abuser once he or she becomes an adult, they said, or could help prevent a grandparent who abused his or her children from later being given custody of a grandchild.
State Sen. David Boutin, a Hooksett Republican, and chairman of the commission that wrote the bills, called them critical steps toward making the state safer for children.
"I think we wish we could all wave a wand and this problem would go away, but that's not possible," he said.
Child abuse victim advocates concerned about 'religious freedom' bill
by Erin Beck
People who work to prevent child abuse and help abuse victims in West Virginia are concerned that a bill up for a final vote in the Legislature on Wednesday could be used to justify child abuse in the name of “religious freedom.”
The bill (HB 4012), which is similar to “religious freedom restoration acts” in other states, establishes a legal process for courts to follow when people or businesses believe the government is violating their religious beliefs.
The law would establish a balancing test for courts to use when determining whether the person is being substantially burdened by government action, and whether the state has “compelling governmental interest” in ensuring the law is followed.
Governmental actions could include civil rights laws, including local LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances, so civil rights advocates fear the law will be used to allow discrimination against the LGBT community and other historically-discriminated against groups.
Proponents of the bill have openly said support stems from opposition to same-sex marriage.
Jim McKay, state coordinator for Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia, is worried about effects on another vulnerable group — children. He wonders if “governmental action” would also include laws to protect children.
“We have seen the [Catholic] church protect abusers by moving them from parish to parish,” McKay said. “We have seen genital mutilation practices in some parts of the world. Closer to home, Dr. James Dobson (founder of the conservative Christian organization Focus on the Family) has compared raising a child to whipping a dog with a belt.”
Last week, a Louisiana judge ruled that a provision of the state Children's Code requiring priests and other religious leaders to report abuse is unconstitutional, according to The Advocate. A young woman said that when she was 14, she told a Catholic priest during confession that she was being abused by a 64-year-old parishioner, and the priest told her to “sweep it under the floor and get rid of it.”
Although that case involved constitutional protections rather than a state “religious freedom” law, some advocates believe it highlights the potential problems with such laws.
Emily Chittenden-Laird, executive director of the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network, said her group, which includes child advocacy centers in the state, had chosen not to weigh in on the debate over HB 4012, officially called the “Religious Freedom Protection Act.” They viewed its impact as outside the scope of child safety, she said.
“However, in light of the recent Louisiana court ruling, which held the sincere practice of a religious belief above the safety and well-being of a child abuse victim, we are now taking a closer look at the implications of RFRA for child safety in West Virginia,” Chittenden-Laird said.
“At this late stage in the game, we would ask the Legislature to step back and seriously evaluate all potential consequences of the bill, especially as it pertains to child safety.”
West Virginia state law also requires religious leaders to report suspected abuse. Bryan Minor, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, said in an email that “the law recognizes the privilege of the confessional,” and that the diocese complies with the law. The diocese supports HB 4012.
“The Catholic Diocese believes in religious liberty and its free exercise, and we maintain that religious freedom should never be the basis for discrimination,” Minor said.
Others have cited “religious freedom restoration” laws during investigations into child maltreatment.
In 2014, a judge applied the federal RFRA to a case involving possible child labor violations and ruled that a man didn't have to answer questions about the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints during his deposition, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
McKay said that while he doesn't believe bill drafters meant to encourage child abuse, he fears it could be an unintended consequence.
“It is already extremely difficult to substantiate child maltreatment and hold abusers accountable,” he said. “We should be very cautious about approaches that can make that process more challenging.”
Florida agency agrees to pay victim of horrific child abuse case - but Legislature balks
by Mary Ellen Klas
For the second year in a row, the Florida Legislature is poised to finish a session without awarding any of the legal damages owed to the surviving victim of one of the most horrific child abuse cases in state history.
Victor Barahona, the surviving twin brother of Nubia Barahona, was found near death and covered with pesticides alongside his sister's decomposing body on Interstate 95 in Palm Beach County in 2011. They were 10 years old.
The twins had been sexually abused, starved and forced to sleep in a bathtub for years by the foster parents who adopted them, Jorge and Carmen Barahona. They were ordered to eat cockroaches and consume food that contained feces and, despite numerous complaints to the child abuse hotline and warnings from teachers, the state failed to stop their parents from routinely beating and binding them inside their West Miami-Dade home.
A report commissioned by David Wilkins, then secretary of the Department of Children and Families, found that the agency's "failure in common sense, critical thinking, ownership, follow-through, and timely and accurate information-sharing" defined the care of Nubia and Victor.
In 2013, the agency conceded it was at fault and agreed to pay Victor $5 million to settle a lawsuit filed on Victor's behalf. The department said it would pay $1.25 million to Victor immediately, money from a risk-management fund used to cover liability. But the agency can't pay the rest without legislative approval of a "claim bill."
Under state sovereign immunity laws, the state is shielded from having to pay more than $200,000 when it injures someone, unless the Legislature agrees to lift the cap and authorize the payment. But because of a decision by Senate leadership, the Legislature won't pay the Barahona bill and, potentially, a host of other claim bills even though the state is at fault.
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, “does not have a philosophical objection to claims bills,” said Katie Betta, Senate spokeswoman. But there is no money in the budget for claims against the state, she said.
In the Barahona case, Victor has “received $1.25 million in state funds, while [his] attorneys have also settled with other actors involved in the case for an undisclosed sum,” she said in a statement. “President Gardiner believes those funds should made available to the claimants by their attorneys, so they can be used for needed services while the remaining claim for $3.75 million moves through the legislative process.”
Despite the lack of money in the state budget, Victor's claim bill, SB 48, sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, won unanimous approval in two Senate committees. But a companion measure, HB 3529, by Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, never got a hearing in the House.
Meanwhile, Victor, now 15 and living with relatives in Texas, continues to be haunted by the horrific trauma he endured and is in need of counseling and treatment, according to a report by a psychologist hired to diagnose his condition as part of the lawsuit.
Victor's relatives often find him "gasping for air in the middle of the night,'' according to a report written by Thomas Cibula, the Senate lawyer assigned to review the case.
He has “nightmares about bags being placed over his head. Unusual smells tend to trigger memories of abuse,” Cibula wrote. He might suddenly tell his aunt and uncle: “ 'I can't stay here, it reminds me of the chemicals in the truck,' or 'it reminds me of what [Nubia's] body smelled like after she died.'''
Cibula concluded "the department and others breached their duties" to Victor and his sister, Nubia. and the Senate should authorize DCF to pay Victor.
"No amount of money can compensate for the pain and suffering that survivor and victim endured,'' he wrote. "However, the $5 million settlement by the department in this matter is not excessive compared to jury verdicts in similar cases."
Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said Tuesday he believes the claim bill process is "miserably broken" and legislators don't “know how to fix it.”
Lee said he would decide late Tuesday whether to add the Barahona bill and others to a final meeting of the Appropriations Committee — if it meets on Thursday.
Though he did not mention there is no money in the budget to pay for the Barahona case damages, he added that “it's hard to break the seal on some of the claim bills and not do all of them.”
Part of the objection to claim bills is the fact that some cases advance because they have hired lawyers and lobbyists while other victims do not, leaving the perception that there is unequal handling of the cases.
According to the Senate report, Miami attorney Neal Roth, who filed the lawsuit, would be paid $1.25 million from the settlement. Diaz said that he understands why legislators like Lee oppose claim bills that allow lawyers and lobbyists to reap the proceeds of the case but, Diaz argues, there should be exceptions.
"I think there are times when the Legislature should make exceptions when the state really messed up,'' he said. "I think the Department of Children and Families conceded they made mistakes and things should have been treated differently and if it were not for these mistakes, maybe Nubia would still be around today."
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli told the Herald/Times he is not philosophically opposed to advancing claim bills but was not willing to push them in the House if they were never going to clear the Senate.
“I asked my staff to inquire with the Senate before session to see if the Senate had any philosophical opposition to claim bills against the state,'' Crisafulli said. “We were informed the Senate would not pass anything other than claim bills against local governments that have already been settled. As a result, the House did not move any claim bills against the state this session.”
Flores, who blames the House for not advancing the bill, believes the Legislature's approach is unfair to victims already abused once by the state.
"To me, this is not an issue we should be negotiating over,'' she said. “This is a horrible situation where the state admitted its wrongdoing. Can we just do something to make the brother's life whole again?”
She noted that the bill to allow DCF to pay Victor has moved it through two committees "we've had unanimous votes, even from people who normally vote against claim bills...because the facts are so moving.”
Eradicating Child Abuse at All Levels
by State Rep. Tan Parker
Many of you may have read recently that a vigilant mother in our area noticed an alarming and inappropriate text message sent to her 9-year-old daughter by a friend's father. The 36-year-old suspect's intentions were horrific beyond comprehension and if successful, would have damaged this little girl and changed the course of her life forever.
Child abuse is a crime that is unconscionable because it takes advantage of innocent children who cannot protect themselves. This young girl and her family are victims and will have to work through many difficult days ahead. I commend this child's mother for knowing to monitor phone activity, understand the dangers, and take appropriate steps to include law enforcement.
In one year alone, more than 65,000 cases of child abuse are confirmed in Texas. Of this total number, 71% of the children were involved in sexual abuse and 25% of them were younger than five years old. As a lawmaker in Texas, I have always been committed to strengthening the laws for the protection of our children by advocating prevention through education, strengthening laws against perpetrators or finding ways to best support victims to be able to overcome abuse.
During the recent 84th Legislative Session, I was proud to support many legislative achievements of this nature, including legislation to remove the statute of limitations for civil cases involving the sexual assault of a minor, require Child Protective Services (CPS) to more effectively report child fatality data by including figures from local child advocacy centers and increase the minimum penalties for serious physical and fatality cases involving children. The state budget, House Bill 1, also funded child abuse prevention programs at historic levels of approximately $118 million during the next two years. Yet legislation alone will not eradicate child sexual abuse, and that is why we must remain vigilant as parents, educators, neighbors, and youth leaders in knowing the dangers and methods these predators use to harm innocent children.
While lawmakers focus on strengthening state law and funding to prevent child abuse, there are many exciting efforts being developed by members of our own communities. At the frontline of the fight against child abuse are non-profit organizations including local children's advocacy centers that utilize interagency collaboration to provide substantial local and individualized support for children and their non-offending family members during a devastating time in their lives. Last year, almost 40,000 children received services at a Texas children's advocacy center and 1,700 were served in Denton County alone.
Locally, I have the privilege of working alongside the Children's Advocacy Center for Denton County (CACDC). Over the last several years we have strived to better protect the children in our community, and I am truly honored to represent them in the Texas House. By coordinating with law enforcement, child protective services and medical and mental health professionals, CACDC has mounted tireless endeavors to provide criminal justice and therapeutic services to traumatized child victims and educate the community on how to recognize and prevent abuse. Their services give children and family members hope to seek justice and find healing in their lives.
In the next month of April, this prominent issue will be recognized during National Child Abuse Prevention Month. To increase awareness and continue to discuss how we can prevent abuse and the child deaths that occur as a result, I urge you to learn more about CACDC in the future. The efforts of local children's advocacy centers have made a tremendous impact on many children's lives, and I am certain that in CACDC's hands, they will find the peace and healing they are seeking. On April 2nd, CACDC will host their “Deep in the Heart” Champions for Children Gala to engage our community and promote the safety of our children in Denton County.
For more information on the gala and CACDC's inspiring testimony of compassion, please visit: www.cacdcchampions.com
As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives and I welcome your feedback on this and any other critical state issues. If you would like to share a thought with me, please feel free to contact me at my Capitol office at 512.463.0688 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse
by Lesli Foster
Washington, DC (WUSA9) -- For decades, the people you are about to meet lived with painful secrets they were afraid to reveal. Secrets - that upended their childhoods, tore apart families and haunt them today.
WUSA 9 anchor Lesli Foster sat down with three survivors of child sexual abuse to talk about their journey from hurt to healing. It's a path weighed down with emotional baggage they didn't begin to unpack for decades.
Al Chesley is a former NFL football player and children's advocate. Joy T.J. Riley is an author and speaker. And, Valerie Meola is also an author who speaks out about abuse and prevention.
Here are their stories.
"It was something I thought I was going to take to the grave with me," says Al Chesley.
“By the time I had been told it was okay to tell, it had already happened. By a couple of abusers," says Joy T. J. Riley.
“I carried my secret for almost 50 years,” says Valerie Meola.
A close family member – among others. A babysitter, family friend and neighbor. A police officer. It wasn't strangers they needed to fear. And they were not monsters lurking in the dark. In every case these survivors were victimized by people they knew, loved and trusted.
Joy wanted to tell her story. Her family did not want to talk about it. "A lot of responses were, it's your fault. It makes you feel like, why am I still here. Let's be honest, in the African American community, there's a taboo about a lot of things. And, that's one of them.”
Valerie writes poetry to process her pain. Her mother still doesn't know about her abuse.
Reading an excerpt from her book, The Monster's Game, Joy says "She's five years old, but she's not afraid of the boogie man, cause the boogie man knows her name. She'd tell the ogre to go away, but she's too little to complain.”
In recent weeks, 17 children have been identified as sex abuse victims at a Prince George's County elementary school. Deonte Carraway, 22, is facing multiple federal charges of producing child pornography. He was a teacher's aide and volunteer.
"If you could talk to the parents and caregivers and people who are entrusted with the care of the children right now who've endured abuse, and are now just learning, what would you say to them?" asks WUSA9's Lesli Foster.
"At this point, it's not about how could this have happened. It has happened, let's deal with it. The parents are just as traumatized as the kids. They need help us as much," says Joy T.J. Riley.
Al is a retired NFL player for the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears. As a teen, he was groomed and violated by a police officer. He reported the crime years later, but was told it was too late.
"She says, well it's been 20 years. I'm sorry we can't do anything. Maybe you should get some therapy," says Al Chesley. “For so long, I felt complicit. Why didn't I run away from that guy? He'd sit his gun down. Why didn't I just take his gun and shoot him? It's just like murder. You're murdering that kid's heart.”
You can protect your children from child sex abuse. It starts with education.
"Give them the vocabulary and the language to be able to say this is what happened to me. They have to know that they can say ‘no.' Because we teach kids, never say no to an adult," says Valerie Meola.
“Get the thought out of your head that it will never be your child. That it will never be your school. That it will never be a family member," says Joy T.J. Riley.
Children who suffer from child abuse can go on to survive and thrive, with help. These survivors say sharing their stories is part of that process.
"I can't say I'm 90% healed or 99% healed. But I'm better, I'm stronger," says Valerie Meola.
"Writing and my faith have really been instrumental in healing," says Joy T.J. Riley.
"Each day I ask myself, well Al, how free do you want to be? Here I am with Lesli and Joy and Valerie. I'm grateful," says Al Chesley.
Al, Joy and Valerie all say talking about their experiences helps to free them from decades of pain. They've each benefited from various types of therapy. For Al, that included attending a 12 step program where he was finally able to acknowledge what happened to him. Al spends his time pushing for an end to statues on reporting child sex abuse. Joy wants Maryland to include penalties who know but don't report the crime. And, Valerie speaks out about the need for greater education and prevention.
Safe Shores offers a free class to help stop and spot the hands that hurt. To learn more about Safe Shores, the class and resources to protect children, click here.
Child abuse casts a long shadow
by Clif Cleaveland
The statistics are shocking and profoundly sad. In 2014, more than 3 million reports of child abuse, involving more than 6 million children, were filed with state and local authorities in the U.S.
Complaints encompassed physical, sexual and emotional abuse plus physical and emotional neglect. A total of 1,580 children died as a consequence of abuse, and many instances of abuse likely went unreported.
As victims of child abuse grow into adults, they have a significantly higher risk of violent acts against intimate partners, drug and alcohol abuse, depression and suicide attempts. They are more likely to have problems with learning and social adjustment.
Are the adults who were abused in childhood simply imitating the adults who abused them? Or has mistreatment altered the victims so much that destructive impulses against themselves or others persist throughout their lives?
Exposure to pain and fear activates automatic stress responses in each of us, whether we're child or adult, including the release of a variety of hormones from pituitary and adrenal glands. Chronic stress alters the chemical environment in which cells and their genes function. The study of these environmental influences on genetic activity is known "epigenetics."
Recent studies in the field of epigenetics suggest that sustained mistreatment of a child leads to significant, lasting alterations in the behavior of that child's genes. Genes, which are composed of long chains of DNA — the body's genetic blueprint — regulate the complex functions of every organ in our body, from brain to muscles to metabolic processes.
One way to think of a gene is as a switch that can be turned on or off. The addition of a simple organic chemical can shut off the gene, and the change may last for the duration of the life of a cell and even for generations to come. This change is independent of any alteration in the arrangement of DNA within the gene.
The brains of infants and children undergo rapid, complex development. During this interval, the brain is especially sensitive to changes in its chemical environment. Abuse at this stage of life can have profound consequences for a child's subsequent emotional development.
Studies on rodents provided the first insights into the effects of infant stress on subsequent adult behavior. The changes were attributed to epigenetic alterations due to stress and such infants grew into anxious, aggressive adults. The changes continued during subsequent generations even if normal parenting was restored.
Human studies depend upon comparisons of blood samples from adults, both with and without a history of mistreatment during childhood. Distinct differences in DNA activity are seen in samples taken from adults who were abused during childhood. Sophisticated brain-imaging studies document structural and functional changes in adults whose childhoods were marked by abuse.
From extensive research we can conclude that abuse of a child triggers lasting changes in the actions of DNA. This may lead to structural and functional change in the adult brain. A pattern of abuse through subsequent generations may be launched.
Are these epigenetic changes reversible? Could sustained, kindly therapy restore a normal environment for cells and a more hopeful future for a victim of child abuse? That is a direction for future research.
Bill seeks to extend child-abuse protections to military kids
by Morris News Service
ATLANTA — The Protecting Military Children Act sailed through the House with no objections Monday in an effort for state social workers, teachers and others to safeguard military children from abuse and neglect.
The measure, House Bill 825, is sponsored by Rep. Earnest Smith, D-Augusta, an Air Force veteran. It's cosponsored mostly by Democrats, so its passage in a Republican majority was not assured.
The bill requires doctors, teachers, social workers and others already required to notify law enforcement of suspected child abuse and neglect to also notify military law enforcement if the child is believed to be a military dependent.
State welfare agencies will also be required to contact the Department of Defense Family Advocacy Program.
Now the bill heads to the Senate.
A reader's guide to the Jehovah's Witnesses child sex abuse scandal
by Trey Bundy
Jehovah's Witnesses leaders are fighting on multiple fronts to hide what they know about child sexual abusers in their religion.
Facing more than a dozen civil lawsuits in the United States and a government investigation in the United Kingdom, the Witnesses are continuing to withhold court-ordered documents from authorities. In England this month, the religious organization went to court for a fourth time attempting to block investigators from looking at their child abuse records.
It's been just over a year since Reveal began publishing and broadcasting stories about Jehovah's Witnesses covering up child sexual abuse. Since our first story aired, hundreds of Witnesses and ex-Witnesses have contacted us, mostly to share their stories.
We're continuing to report on the issue, but in the meantime, here's a quick rundown of nine major findings so far:
1. For more than 25 years, the global leadership of the Jehovah's Witnesses has instructed elders to keep cases of child sexual abuse secret from law enforcement and members of their own congregations.
2. The Witnesses' parent corporation, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, issued the directives in a series of confidential memos dating back to 1989. The child abuse memos were approved by the Watchtower's governing body, a group of men who are the spiritual leaders of the religion, like the Pope in the Catholic Church.
3. Instead of reporting child abuse to law enforcement, elders form their own judicial committees to deal with child abusers. The process can include having the victim confront the alleged abuser in person.
4. Watchtower policy directs elders not to take any action against an accused child abuser unless the abuser confesses or there are two witnesses to the abuse.
5. The Watchtower argues that its child abuse policies are based on Scripture and that police and court scrutiny violate the organization's First Amendment rights.
6. The Watchtower says its elders report child abuse in states where they are required to by law. In many states, they get around those laws by invoking a loophole that allows clergy to keep quiet about spiritual confessions – even when the issue is first raised by a victim, not an abuser.
7. Dozens of current and former members told Reveal that they were threatened with disfellowshipping – the Witnesses' version of excommunication – if they spoke up about child abuse. Once a Witness has been disfellowshipped, he or she is shunned by all other Witnesses, including family, friends and employers. (The Watchtower says it does not discourage victims from reporting their own abuse.)
8. The Watchtower has gone to extreme lengths to hide what it knows about child abuse. Since 1997, the Watchtower has required all elders who learn of child sexual abuse in their congregations to report it to the the organization's headquarters in New York. The Watchtower keeps the names and whereabouts of known or suspected child abusers in an electronic database. The Watchtower has twice violated subpoenas by refusing to produce the database in civil court. Meanwhile, no federal agencies have stepped in to obtain the list.
9. The Watchtower's policies have allowed child abusers to move freely in communities around the world.
Government commissions in England and Australia currently are investigating the Watchtower's child abuse policies in those countries. The Australian commission found that since 1950, the Witnesses have covered up the crimes of more than 1,000 child sexual abusers. Investigators in England have not yet released any findings.
Indiana House committee gives green light to child abuse registry proposal inspired by New Paris toddler's death
“Kirk's Law,” already approved by the Indiana Senate, now goes to the full Indiana House for consideration
by Tim Vandenack
INDIANAPOLIS — Legislation to create a public registry of child abuse perpetrators, spurred by the death of New Paris toddler Kirk Coleman,moved a step closer to passage Monday.
Senate Bill 357, authored by Sen. Carlin Yoder, a Middlebury Republican, received a 23-0 do-pass recommendation from the House Ways and Means Committee. Now it faces consideration by the full House.
If approved by House, the measure, which already has been unanimously passed by the Senate, would go to Gov. Mike Pence for his signature.
Rep. David Ober, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, called the measure a means “to give Kirk Coleman some justice” and to protect other Hoosier children. He's a Republican from Albion and represents part of Elkhart County.
SB 357, dubbed “Kirk's Law,” would create a public online registry of those convicted of child abuse, much like online sex offender registries.
Kirk died in October 2014, allegedly at the hands of his caretaker, a New Paris woman who faces a charge of felony battery on a child resulting in death. He was just 19 months old. The boy's family members subsequently learned the woman, Jackie Rolston, had previously been convicted in connection with a 2006 incident involving another child, inspiring them to pursue the creation of a registry. Rolston is set to stand trial in June.
The Indiana State Police would be responsible for managing the registry under he measure, although Rep. Terry Goodin, a Democrat from Austin who serves on the Ways and Means Committee, suggested Monday the court system would be better suited to oversee the registry.
Lost in encryption debate: child abuse
by ARIEL ZWANG, MICHAEL POLENBERG
The battle to gain access to a passcode-protected phone of one of the assailants in last year's San Bernardino attack is pitting the need for data security against the need to fight terrorism.
Lost in the debate: This fight is not just about stopping terrorists. It's about protecting children and others from abusers. With current smartphone encryption, and even stronger encryption that Apple and other tech companies are developing, evidence of some of these most abhorrent and hard-to-prove crimes is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.
Staff at Safe Horizon saw such evidence all too often — until the new operating systems started rolling out in 2014. These images were key factors leading to the arrest and prosecution of several offenders.
What does one of these cases look like?
In 2014, a mother noticed that her 12-year-old daughter was depressed, and spotted some troubling posts on her Facebook page. The mother checked in with her daughter — who tearfully recounted being raped by a stranger.
They immediately went to the nearest precinct, and an investigation ensued. She provided a description of her assailant; the police eventually found and arrested him.
The young girl disclosed to police that her rapist had taken cell-phone images of her performing sexual acts — and so, the police obtained a warrant to search his device.
What they found was horrific. To start, the screen saver image on the suspect's phone was of him sexually assaulting this young girl.
Then police found images of other children on the phone. They later learned that the abuser was a recruiter for a large human trafficking ring that involved many young victims.
Such evidence is absolutely crucial in prosecuting crimes that can otherwise be daunting to prove.
Yet if this same case were to happen today, with current smartphone encryption in place, those images of childhood sexual abuse could never have been found.
And it was only because of the search of the suspect's phone that another critical piece of evidence tying the initial defendant to the larger trafficking ring was uncovered. That enabled officials to apprehend additional suspects before any additional children were harmed.
The Manhattan District Attorney's office reports that they are sitting on 175 Apple devices because the perpetrators — of assault, sex trafficking and other crimes — used devices that even Apple can't unlock.
Multiply that by many jurisdictions around the country and many years and you start to grasp the scope of the problem that's unfolding.
We urge Apple, Google and other companies to take a measured look at the need to balance individuals' rights to privacy, which are real, with the equally compelling need for duly authorized search warrants to permit law enforcement access to smartphones and other devices.
Apple wants its customers to feel secure, that by purchasing an Apple product their personal information will be safe and protected. But parents — who also purchase Apple products — want their children to be safe and protected. Today, one in five girls and one in 20 boys are victims of child sexual abuse. We shouldn't give their abusers the ability to dispose of evidence with impunity.
The devices we carry in our pockets carry more of more remnants of our lives than ever before — and therefore more evidence that can potentially hold offenders accountable.
We recognize and deeply respect the right to privacy, and oppose unwarranted intrusion. But when police have a search warrant and need to get at evidence that's locked away, they also have a right — and a duty — to protect the public. Including, and perhaps especially, young children.
Zwang is CEO and Polenberg is vice president of government affairs at Safe Horizon, a victim assistance organization.
Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse: Texas Serves As a Model
by Lyndon Haviland
Jenna Quinn is a hero, and her courage is changing the lives of children in Texas.
Sexually abused by her basketball coach, Jenna remembers all too well the fear and shame that kept her silent. From age 12 to age 14, Jenna suffered through progressive violation of her trust and physical boundaries, followed by two more years of sexual abuse. The once outgoing, popular teenager became withdrawn and troubled, coping by overeating and experimenting with self-harm.
Luckily for Jenna, family helped her break her silence and her abuser was sentenced to 20 years in prison. She overcame post-traumatic stress and depression, and now advocates for legal protection against child sexual abuse. Recently, Jenna partnered with our organization, focusing on child sexual abuse prevention, to raise awareness to help adults create safe environments for children.
Jenna's story of sexual abuse is not uncommon. One in 10 children in the United States will become a victim of sexual abuse before the age of 18. But fewer than 40 percent of them disclose the abuse. Only 200,000 cases of child sexual abuse are substantiated by child welfare agencies in the United States each year. So, we can only speculate on how many children are suffering in silence. There is a solution.
School personnel identify more child abuse cases than any other profession and yet, two-thirds of teachers do not receive specific training to prevent, recognize or react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Further, less than a quarter of school personnel are adequately prepared on mandated reporting.
Despite these staggering statistics, we are starting to build a movement to address child sexual abuse by training educators. Leading the way is Texas, with a law requiring all school employees to complete child sexual abuse recognition and intervention training. As part of this mandate and in accordance with Texas Education Agency guidelines, last August Darkness to Light provided child sexual abuse prevention training to nearly 115,000 Texas educators and other school personnel to help them identify warning signs of abuse and take action to protect children.
In October, the organization administered a follow-up survey to nearly 80,000 Texas educators who had taken the training. The purpose of this survey was to determine if educators increased their reports of child sexual abuse in the year following training.
Results showed that Texas educators did increase reports of child sexual abuse to the authorities by 283 percent. In the same period, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services data showed that reporting increased 11.2 percent. Knowing the majority of abuse cases are never identified or reported to the authorities, increased reports can mean that that a larger percentage of children are being recognized and receive services as abuse victims. Additionally, more cases were substantiated, implying that more children received support services as a result of training.
Teachers who have received child sexual abuse prevention training better recognize signs of abuse and are more ready, willing and able to protect children. According to Junior High Texas Region Five Principal Debra Jordan, “Educators have a moral imperative to foster and promote an educational climate where students are physically and emotionally safe. Stewards of Children® provides educators with proactive tools that enable them to recognize the warning signs and to implement preventative best practices.”
“I share my story to help others understand how important it is to protect children from sexual abuse,” said Jenna. “Prevention training allows adults to provide children with the chance to grow up free of the trauma of sexual abuse. I never had that chance.”
Jenna's story inspired Texas Rep. Tan Parker to lead an effort to enact “Jenna's Law.” Passed unanimously by the Texas Senate in 2009, this legislation addresses training for students, school staff and parents.
In a nation sorely lacking in legislative mandates that safeguard children against sexual abuse, Texas can serve as a model of how to successfully protect children.
In December, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, allowing states to use existing federal grant funding for sexual abuse prevention education. With no funds currently allocated by state governments for educator training in child sexual abuse prevention, this is a solid first step. The Darkness to Light study highlights the need to further dedicate resources to make educator training a national standard.
Lyndon Haviland, MPH, DrPH, is CEO of Darkness to Light, a nonprofit committed to empowering people to prevent child sexual abuse, with an immediate focus to make child sexual abuse prevention a national priority.
Advocates Hope Best Picture Win by "Spotlight" Opens Communication About Child Sexual Abuse
by BETH ADAMS
A local nonprofit is hoping a best picture win for the film “Spotlight” at the Academy Awards Sunday night leads to more open conversation about child sexual abuse.
The film tells the true story of the Boston Globe's investigation into the child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.
Mary Whittier, executive director at Bivona Child Advocacy Center, says communities need to understand how pervasive the problem is. She cites national figures stating that one in ten children will experience abuse by the time they are 18 years old. "This issue has got to become so openly talked about that there isn't shame associated with it,” she said.
After it published the abuse story, the Globe heard from hundreds of adults who had been victimized as children by priests.
Whittier says that can often happen with disclosure. "We've got a couple of cases now where (we are aware of) dozens of victims because one child had the courage to tell. And we talk about that, actually, in group therapy with kids, that you never know, with your own story, how many other lives you could be saving." Whittier emphasizes, though, that each abuse survivor is the “gate keeper” of his or her own story, and there are a complex set of circumstances that may keep them from coming forward.
She says more resources are needed to prevent and treat child abuse. "If it was cancer or juvenile diabetes or some other childhood disease we would be throwing way more research and resources at it," she said, "But we don't because, is it the dirty little secret? Is it because this affects kids and kids don't vote?"
Bivona Child Advocacy Center serves about 1,500 children a year in the Greater Rochester area.
What should we do about paedophiles?
They have committed unspeakable crimes that demand harsh punishment. But most will eventually be set free. Are we prepared to support efforts to rehabilitate them?
by Sophie Elmhirst
A photograph of Aaron Collis regularly appeared in the press while he was on trial. It showed a young man in a crowd of friends, whose faces have been pixelated to preserve their anonymity, and it appears to capture a moment of celebration. The group are bunched together, arms in the air, all wearing the same white shirts and roughly knotted blue-and-red striped ties. They could be in school uniform, or party costume. Collis is looking up at the camera, a wide smile exposing a top row of pointed teeth. The photo was taken in a dark room with the flash on, so his face is starkly lit and every pock and mole visible. His eyes are narrowed to slits and his nose seems abnormally large. You can see why the image was used: Collis's face is distorted, and disturbing. It is a fitting portrait of a paedophile.
In October 2009, Collis, then 24 years old, was convicted of committing 11 offences of sexual abuse against five children. He was given an indeterminate sentence, with a minimum five-year term. In March 2012, he was sentenced to a further five years, to run concurrently, after admitting to offences against another 13 children. The youngest of his victims was 18 months old. At the original sentencing, the judge, Gareth Hawkesworth, told Collis that he would only be released from prison once he no longer posed a threat to “life and limb”. “The hurt you have done to these young children and their families is incalculable,” he said. “These were evil and repulsive offences which any right-minded member of society can barely comprehend.”
After sentencing, Collis went to prison at HMP Parkhurst, on the Isle of Wight. From there he contributed to the February 2014 issue of Inside Time, the prisoners' newspaper: “I am a 28-year-old sex offender who has always openly admitted his crimes from the word go,” he wrote. “I hate what I have done and for four-and-a-half years now I've been in the prison system trying to find a ‘cure' for the incurable. I found a solution a while back and have been exploring it ever since, but for some reason I am finding it nearly impossible to convince people that chemical castration is the best thing for me.” Collis said he had appealed to doctors, nurses and psychologists – but had so far failed to gain access to the medication he desired. “I thought they would jump at the chance to take away my sex drive, but I was very wrong. They all seem to be trying to talk me out of it, telling me I'm young and it's not necessary. Well, I'm sorry, but it's my body and my messed-up brain which is dangerous and this is my decision.”
Collis's plea for help to “take away” his sex drive raises a number of uncomfortable questions. Paedophiles occupy an unambiguous position in society: they are the lowest of the low, the authors of unspeakable crimes – not only “evil and repulsive”, as the judge said, but incomprehensible. For some, the very idea of rehabilitation is questionable: do these individuals deserve to be helped? Can someone who has abused a child be forgiven or changed? Most uncomfortable of all, does a medical intervention – in the form of drugs that eliminate sexual desire – imply that there is a “cure”, that paedophilia is a sickness rather than the worst possible crime?
Last summer, after coming across Collis's letter to Inside Time, I wrote to him in prison. Our correspondence lasted for several months and raised its own concerns. To what extent could Collis's version of himself be trusted? He admitted that though he owned up to his crimes, he had “fabricated all sorts of rubbish in police interviews”. But writing to him was part of an attempt to answer two questions that, given the disgust that naturally attaches to these crimes, have become difficult even to ask: what makes someone a paedophile? And what should we, as a society, do about them?
When Collis arrived at Parkhurst in 2009, he took part in the Sex Offenders Treatment Programme (SOTP) – courses devised by psychologists and run to minimise an inmate's risk, and help them develop healthy sexual behaviours. But he found the programme ineffective. “I learned absolutely nothing on the SOTP,” he wrote in one of his first letters to me, last July. “All they do is overanalyse irrelevant parts of our lives, and make up random ‘risk factors' to work on.” Over his years of incarceration Collis said he had met hundreds of sex offenders who had taken part in the programme and got good reports. In his view, they were playing the system. “Not one of them was honest.”
Collis traced his attraction to children back to puberty. “To begin with I was hoping it was just a phase I was going through,” he wrote. “I soon realised that I was a paedophile and that was never going to change.” His early childhood had been happy, he said, but at the age of seven he was abused by a stranger and then by a teacher. At school he was bullied and became socially isolated. As he went through his teenage years, he felt unable to form relationships with his peers and so befriended younger children. From the age of 14, he knew that his feelings towards these children were inappropriate, and sexual.
Not long after his arrival in prison, Collis watched an episode of ITV's This Morning in which a convicted rapist talked about being “chemically castrated”. The man said he had been prescribed a course of anti-libidinal drugs that had drastically reduced his sex drive. Then Collis met a fellow inmate and sex offender who had been in and out of prison for 20 years. “He had done all the Mickey Mouse courses,” Collis wrote. After reoffending and being sectioned, the inmate was sent to hospital and later prescribed medication: “And he has never thought about sex since. It's no longer part of his life.”
Collis began to research the treatment and decided that it was essential to his rehabilitation. He believes he was born a paedophile, and that his attraction to children is unchangeable. “I did NOT wake up one morning and decide my sexual preference. I am sexually attracted to little girls and have absolutely no interest in sex with adults. I've only ever done stuff with adults in order to fit in with what's ‘normal'.” For Collis, therefore, it became a question of how to control this desire and render himself incapable of reoffending.
Collis said he repeatedly put forward requests for assessment to doctors, psychologists and prison officers, but found his efforts thwarted. “I kept getting passed on to different departments; no one wanted to take responsibility,” he wrote. He became frustrated, and so wrote his letter to Inside Time: “For some reason I am finding it nearly impossible to convince people that chemical castration is the best thing for me … WHY?”
From April this year, a new programme of chemical treatment will be rolled out across the country. For the first time on a national scale, anti-libidinal medication will be made accessible to sex offenders in prisons and through probation services. It has taken a while to get to this point. Don Grubin, a forensic psychiatrist who has spent most of his long career treating sex offenders in Newcastle, first proposed such a programme back in 2007. It was welcomed by John Reid, then home secretary, who “got the horses running”, according to Grubin.
In 2008, a pilot project was established at HMP Whatton, a prison for sex offenders in Nottinghamshire, and more than 100 inmates and former inmates on parole have since been prescribed anti-libidinal medication. Protracted negotiations followed about how the programme could be scaled up, from an individual project to a nationwide scheme, and about how it would be run and financed. Now, a new national network of clinics will finally be established. Grubin is acting as an adviser, and the programme will be funded and co-managed by NHS England and the National Offender Management System as part of the “Offender Personality Disorder Pathway”. Forensic psychologist Sarah Skett, who is leading the initiative for the NHS, described its aims as twofold: to give offenders more control over obsessive sexual thoughts and feelings, and to reduce the risk to the public.
Grubin is a short, wiry-haired man, jovial and pragmatic by nature, with an undiluted New Jersey accent despite half a lifetime spent in the north of England. He grew up in Short Hills, a quiet commuter town an hour west of New York City, and was the son of the local doctor. After spending a year of his undergraduate degree at Oxford University, Grubin decided to stay in the UK, began his medical training in 1980, and then, in 1988, decided to specialise in forensic psychiatry, working with mentally disordered offenders. “I always thought that minds were more interesting than stomachs or bones,” he told me.
Grubin never set out to work with sex offenders. Early in his career, a colleague asked him to help out on a research project in Maidstone prison in Kent, working with offenders in denial. This led to another research post, and soon enough he had established himself among prison psychologists as a rare psychiatrist willing to work with sex offenders.
“Many psychiatrists aren't interested in it,” he said. Many, too, find it morally uncomfortable, believing that psychiatrists should be treating the mentally ill, not criminals. And some do not want to take the risk: what if an offender you treated subsequently committed another crime? Over the years, Grubin became known as an expert on chemical treatment, partly because he was one of few psychiatrists willing to prescribe to offenders. (“The only bloody one!”, as one ex-probation officer put it to me.) If a sex offender was unable to access treatment in prison, he was often referred to Grubin who, if too far away to treat them himself, would try to find a psychiatrist nearby to take on the case. Some had little experience with sex offenders, and he was never sure of the outcomes of treatment. “It was very hit-and-miss,” said Grubin.
The plan to make chemical treatment nationally available was born of necessity: Grubin's one-man referral agency was not sustainable in the long term. But it was also a logical product of his bracingly practical assessment of the problem of sexual offending. An individual sex offence, Grubin told me, was estimated by the Home Office in 2010 as costing society £36,952 – taking into account the costs of police investigation, judicial proceedings and any medical treatment the victim requires, as well as the cost of the profound and often long-term emotional impact on the victim, and their “lost output”. By comparison, a year's worth of sex-drive-reducing selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) costs around £50, while more intensive anti-androgen medication costs between £300 and £2,000 a year, depending on how it is administered. As Grubin put it: “You don't need to prevent very many offences to get your money's worth.”
In recent years, Britain appears to have been gradually and painfully unveiling itself as a nation of paedophiles: Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall, Yewtree, Rotherham, Rochdale, the ongoing and controversial investigations into an alleged Westminster-based ring of child abusers. Last week, Dame Janet Smith's review of the BBC's mishandling of the Savile case reopened the ferocious debate about this country's apparently historic inability to prevent these crimes. The ongoing Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, established in March last year, is examining what appear to be chronic failures in child protection across almost all the major public institutions in the country: schools, hospitals, the armed forces, the BBC, religious organisations, charities, the police. There is a sense, particularly in a panic-hungry media, that Britain is in the grip of an epidemic, a country riddled with abuse.
The actual extent of the problem is hard to pin down. Last year, the National Crime Agency (NCA) estimated that one in 35, or nearly 3%, of men in Britain was a “potential paedophile”. Figures released by 33 different police forces last year showed that there had been a 60% increase in reported child sexual abuse since 2011. The NSPCC, meanwhile, says that one in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused, 90% by someone they know and over half by a member of their family. “The reality,” said deputy director of the NCA, Phil Gormley, in media interviews, “is that we are all living not far away from one.”
The reality, arguably, is more complicated – and an evaluation of the risk depends on how you define paedophilia. The assumption, made frequently in the media, is that anyone who abuses a child is a paedophile. But clinicians use a more stringent definition: someone whose primary sexual interest is in prepubescent children. Using that definition, the Canadian forensic psychologist Michael Seto, who has authored multiple studies of paedophilia, has estimated that fewer than 1% of the population are paedophiles. (This is based on small-scale surveys: a lack of large epidemiological studies mean that there is no accurate prevalence rate.) The number of individuals viewing child abuse images online has risen, but this is not necessarily synonymous with the number of abusing paedophiles. In a paper published in 2011, Seto examined the recidivism data for 2,630 online offenders and revealed that 2% had gone on to commit “contact” sexual abuse.
Beyond the basic definition, experts diverge in their explanation of paedophilia and its causes. Almost every psychiatrist, psychologist, probation worker and sexologist I spoke to conceptualised the problem in a slightly different way. Crime, illness, sexual orientation – all can apply. The debate can perhaps be boiled down to a question: are you born a paedophile, or do you become one?
Many experts support Aaron Collis's self-assessment, that paedophilia is an unchangeable sexual preference. In a 2012 paper, Seto examined three criteria – age of onset, sexual and romantic behaviour, and stability over time. In a number of studies, a significant proportion of paedophiles admitted to first experiencing attraction towards children before they had reached adulthood themselves. Many described their feelings for children as being driven by emotional need as well as sexual desire. As for stability over time, most clinicians agreed that paedophilia had “a lifelong course”: a true paedophile will always be attracted to children. “I am certainly of the view,” Seto told me, “that paedophilia can be thought of as a sexual orientation.”
Brain-imaging studies have supported this idea. James Cantor, a psychiatry professor at the University of Toronto, has examined hundreds of MRI scans of the brains of paedophiles, and found that they are statistically more likely to be left-handed, shorter than average, and have a significantly lower density of white matter, the brain's connective tissue. “The point that's important for society is that paedophilia is in the brain at all, and that the person didn't choose it,” Cantor told me. “As far as we can tell, they were born with it.” (Not that this, he emphasised, should excuse their crimes.)
Heather Wood – a psychotherapist and psychologist at the Portman Clinic in London, which specialises in treating violent and sexual offenders – prefers to think of paedophilia as a more developmental problem. Drawing on psychoanalysis, she described how she studies an offender's personal history to try and understand why they developed a sexual attraction to children at a particular point in their life. “In the normal course of development,” Wood said, “when you're 11, you fancy 11-year-olds, and when you're 15, you fancy 15-year-olds, and as you mature, the age of the persons to whom you're attracted develops. What we see in some of the patients is that they get stuck in adolescence, so at 11 it's 11-year-olds and at 15 it's 11-year-olds, and at 18 it's 11-year-olds. Their sexual interest doesn't mature.”
In the 2013 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the American psychiatric classification system used around the world, paedophilia is classed as a “paraphilic disorder” – an atypical sexual interest that either causes distress to the person with the disorder, or makes them a threat to others. Some believe that paedophilia should not be in the DSM at all, such as sexologist Richard Green, who successfully campaigned for homosexuality to be removed from the DSM in 1972, and argued in a controversial 2002 paper (“Is paedophilia a mental disorder?”) that paedophilia should also be removed. In the paper, Green included an exotic cross-continent tour of places where child-adult sex had historically been the norm (Hawaii, Tahiti, New Guinea), and reminded readers that for three centuries, until the Victorian era, the age of consent in England had been 10. “This was not in a period contemporaneous with Cromagnon man,” he wrote, “but continued to within 38 years of World War I.” Green's argument did not suggest that sex with children was acceptable, or should be legal, but that the desire to have it did not necessarily constitute a mental disorder. He cited previous research, which had evaluated “non-prisoner, non-patient paedophiles” – that is, non-abusing, mentally well individuals who were primarily sexually attracted to children. After examining their scores on major personality dimensions, including neuroticism and psychoticism, Green found that it striking “how normal the paedophiles appear to be”.
For many of those working directly with sex offenders, the definitional wrestling around paedophilia is beside the point: the urgent societal problem is the protection of children. “Often people will come to see me and say I've offended and I just want to know why, I want to know why I did it,” said Grubin. “And my response is, that's a luxury. The first thing is to stop you doing it again.”
Once, we cut their balls off. The first recorded castration for psychiatric reasons was performed in 1892 in Zurich, Switzerland, by the psychiatrist August Forel. In his 1906 book, Die Sexuelle Frage, or The Sexual Question, Forel admitted to having “castrated a veritable monster afflicted with constitutional mental disorders, taking advantage of the fact that he himself requested this operation to relieve him of pain in his seminal vesicles, but with the chief object of preventing the production of unfortunate children tainted with his hereditary complaint”. Forel, a pioneer in the field of sexual behaviour, also had a tendency towards eugenicist thinking. (He also admitted to “castrating” women, including “a young hysterical girl of 14, whose mother and grandmother were both prostitutes, and who had already begun to have intercourse with all the urchins in the street”.)
The procedure soon became popular across Europe. Denmark legalised surgical castration in 1929 and Germany, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia and Sweden followed relatively swiftly. The scale of its use varied: academic studies suggest that since 1910, in the Zurich region of Switzerland alone, 10,000 patients were castrated for various psychiatric reasons. Some 1,100 cases of physical castration were recorded in Denmark until they abandoned the practice in the 1970s. As recently as 2012, it was reported by the BBC and others that up to five voluntary castrations were taking place in Germany every year. The only European country that still uses surgical castration with any regularity is the Czech Republic, where 94 operations have been performed on consenting patients since 1999. Opposition, however, has mounted. In 2009, the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture heavily criticised the Czech Republic's continuing use of the procedure: “Surgical castration is a mutilating, irreversible intervention and cannot be considered as a medical necessity in the context of the treatment of sex offenders.”
Today, treatment typically consists of drugs or psychological therapy, often both. First, an individual has to be assessed. Don Grubin likes to say that there are two types of sex offenders. “Do you remember The Good, The Bad and The Ugly?” He recounted a scene where Clint Eastwood is attacked by a man coming into his bedroom. Eastwood kills him, then turns to find two more sitting in the window, guns pointed. “And Clint says, ‘There are two sorts of cowboys, the ones that come up the stairs and the ones that come through the window.' With sex offenders it's the same sort of thing – there are Those working with you and those working against you.”
The first challenge, then, is to work out what you are dealing with. When Grubin meets a sex offender for the first time, he uses a system he calls the four-box method, examining sexual arousal, antisocial attitudes, emotional self-regulation and “life management”. Grubin only gets worried if a case ticks more than one of the four boxes. “Someone who is strongly sexually attracted to kids, but sees sex with children as harmful; doesn't believe in rule breaking; doesn't, when they get depressed, see that as an excuse to harm: if you don't have any of those other boxes firing then you're not going to act on that sexual arousal,” said Grubin. “But if you do, then you become a risk to kids.”
Medication falls into two categories: SSRIs and anti-androgens. SSRIs are a type of anti-depressant that dampen libido. They are the more commonly prescribed treatment, being both less invasive and much cheaper than the alternative. According to a paper by two leading Israeli psychiatrists, Ariel Rosler and Eliezer Witztum, SSRIs appeared to be effective “solely in men with a definite obsessive compulsive disorder component”. Anti-androgens, meanwhile, have a more drastic effect. The drugs, taken as tablets or by injection, block the production of testosterone, one of a group of male hormones collectively known as androgens. They are proven to work, although there are side-effects – including osteoporosis and hot flushes. (Some men, one ex-probation worker told me, grow breasts while undergoing treatment.) Rosler demonstrated the effect of a particular anti-androgen, called triptorelin, which was prescribed over 15 years to 100 men with severe paraphilias (80 of which were paedophiles or non-paedophilic child abusers). All of the men experienced a decrease in their abnormal sexual fantasies and desires, and, while they took the drug, exhibited no abnormal sexual behaviours.
Clinical reality is a little more complicated. “There's no pretence that the treatment is somehow going to cure them of paedophilia,” Grubin told me. “I think there is an acceptance now that you are not going to be able to change very easily the direction of someone's arousal.” Grubin estimates that medication is only suitable for about 5% of sex offenders – those who are sexually preoccupied to the extent that they cannot think about anything else, and are not able to control their sexual urges. As Sarah Skett from the NHS put it: “The meds only take you so far. The evidence is clear that the best treatment for sex offending is psychologically based. What the medication does is help people have a little bit of control, which then allows them to access that treatment.”
Even then, the drugs are likely to be a temporary fix: treatment is voluntary in the UK and even the worst offender can choose to stop taking the medication at any point. In the Rosler study of 100 sex offenders, 10 of the men who quit treatment for more than six months reoffended. Other countries – Poland, South Korea, Moldova, certain US states – take a different approach, including medication as a mandatory part of a prison sentence or release package.
But enforced chemical treatment is unlikely to occur in the UK. For a start, it goes against the principles of many doctors. As Grubin said: “You're looking to the benefit of that individual, no matter how awful some of the things they've done are.” It's why he dislikes the term chemical castration: it sounds more like punishment than treatment. “As a doctor,” said Grubin, “the person that you're treating is your patient. Society is not your patient.”
Aaron Collis was a prompt and careful correspondent. In his letters, he wrote in a neat, even script on the lined prison paper. If he made a mistake, he used correction fluid to conceal it. In one letter, sent in August last year, he told me he had been diagnosed with various personality disorders: “borderline personality disorder (emotionally unstable), obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, with significant narcissistic histrionic and antisocial traits”. (He also offered a caveat: “My personality disorders are NOT an excuse for my crimes.”) As a result, he had been prescribed an SSRI that had helped to reduce his sex drive, but he was still hoping for further treatment. When I asked him why he thought he had previously been refused medication, he said that he had been told there was no evidence it would reduce his risk: “They say that the desire would still be there and I would still get emotionally obsessed with children like I used to.”
Drugs can reduce the sexual urge, but their effects are limited when it comes to complex emotional problems. Take the case of Tim – not his real name – who I met one afternoon last summer in Kent. Tim was a large man, bald, in tracksuit bottoms and a T-shirt, who had spent several years in prison for sex offences, and now spent his days wandering round the charity shops of his local town and helping his elderly neighbours with their gardening. Once a week he worked at the hostel where he had lived after being released from prison, for which he received payment in the form of Iceland vouchers. He was still in touch with only one of his siblings, though if he happened to meet a family member while out shopping, they might say hello to him.
Tim had started offending as a young man. His behaviour, he said, was partly a consequence of his inability to have a relationship with a woman and the bullying he experienced from younger colleagues at the place where he worked. “I felt, ‘Why me?' he said, ‘Why are they picking on me?' When I left work one day I went and did something sexual. Someone saw me. My ID was given. That time I got let go.” Tim started out exposing himself to women, then looking through their windows. “Then I was told: ‘How long will it be before you touch somebody or rape somebody?' They were seeing a pattern.” After one of his offences, Tim was referred by a magistrate to see a psychiatrist who prescribed an anti-androgen. He took the medication a few times – by injection in his stomach – but then stopped. “It didn't work,” he said. “I still went out and offended. It reduced the drive. But my mind … back then, I do believe it was my mind telling me to carry on. I wasn't doing it so much when I had the injection, but I still had the thoughts in my head of going out doing it. And sometimes those thoughts got that powerful. I tried to stop myself.”
Not long afterwards, Tim started abusing a 15-year-old female relative, and it was this crime that led to his arrest and imprisonment for four years. He never abused a prepubescent child, and resents being labelled a paedophile. “If you say to people, ‘I'm on the sex offenders register,' straight away they think you're a paedophile. That's not the case,” he said. “I wasn't attracted to young children.” While in prison, he took part in the SOTP courses and – unlike Aaron Collis – said he found them transformative. The courses helped him to see why he had offended: he was lonely, isolated, angry, resentful of these colleagues who were bullying him. He identified certain triggers, too, or “risk factors”, as the terminology goes: being on his own in secluded places after dark, watching too much porn. “Now I don't have any of that.”
Tim's so far successful rehabilitation has been in part thanks to the support of an organisation named Circles UK. Set up in 2002 and funded by the police and probation services, Circles recruits volunteers to support a sex offender on release from prison. A group – or circle – of these volunteers then meet with the ex-offender weekly for a year to 18 months, in the hope that by providing regular social contact they will counter the isolation sex offenders often experience after release and prevent reoffending. There is no precise way of evaluating the impact of their work but the 5% sexual reoffending rate (nine out of 181 Circles cases, according to the organisation's most recent annual report) is markedly lower than the national rate of 26%. “Giving people hope for the future is absolutely key to people turning their lives around,” said Jan Thompson, a Circles volunteer coordinator for the south-east of England. “If you make people feel that they're on the outside and there's no way back, then there is no incentive for them to change. That is the reality that for some people is unpalatable.”
To access Circles, or the new network of clinics, a person must be in prison or on probation. They have to commit a crime, in a sense, to get help. What about those who have not actually abused yet? At present, the best preemptive option in this country is a confidential helpline and email service for people worried about their behaviour or desires, called Stop it Now!, run by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation. The charity is legally required to notify the police if a caller appears to be putting a child at risk or admits to an abuse. So are doctors, if, for example, a patient admits to looking at child pornography. “I think that's wrong,” Don Grubin once said to me. “How are they ever going to get any help?”
In Germany, by contrast, a programme called “Project Dunkelfeld” runs clinics across the country offering confidential treatment to anyone experiencing attraction to children, even if they have committed an abuse. This would not happen in Britain, where the rights of a victim understandably come before those of an offender. But then it comes back to the unmeasurable – the potential offender, the man attracted to children who is yet to act. How many offences might be prevented if he could rapidly access treatment?
In August last year, the Ministry of Justice published figures showing a that sexual offender convictions had reached a 10-year high and that sentences had risen on average by 4.5 months. “These figures show that sex offenders are receiving harsher punishment than ever before for their appalling crimes,” said the undersecretary of state for prisons, probation and rehabilitation, Andrew Selous, when the statistics were released. But, despite the political support for a hardline custodial approach, the average sentence for a sex offender is relatively short: five years and three months.
Even paedophiles with long and horrifying records, like Aaron Collis, are eventually let out of prison. “I'm now 30 years old and I have about 20 months left on my tariff,” he wrote in a letter sent in July. “I'm confident I will be out by the time I'm 35 years old. I will still be young, but will I be rehabilitated?” For someone like Collis, rehabilitation – whatever form the treatment takes – will be a management of desire, not an eradication. There is no cure. However you define or explain paedophilia, the more pressing concern, therefore, is how a society responds to the problem, and protects its children.
Collis's last few letters to me, towards the end of last year and early this year, were relatively short. Sometimes they were written simply to check I had received a previous letter, if I had not responded quickly enough. His tone varied. One, written last September, seemed angry and increasingly lacking in remorse, as though he had lost patience with even the possibility of rehabilitation. “What I've told you is my version of how things have gone to the best of my knowledge,” he wrote. “I'm a lost cause. There's NO WAY I'm ever going to stop being a paedo. That's who I am and I refuse to be in any way ashamed of who I am. I don't give a shit what anybody thinks. I've done my time, and fuck everybody who turned their backs on me.” He'd signed off the letter with his signature, and then a block capital inscription: “THE BEAST FROM THE EAST”.
A few weeks later, he wrote again, apologising for the aggressive tone of his previous letter. “I've done all I can possibly do in prison,” he said in his final letter, in January this year, “and with a year left on my tariff, it's about time I start looking to the future – beyond prison! I've done my time now, I've been adequately punished. It's now time to push for the right help in order to set me up for a good, healthy, offence-free future.” At the end of the paragraph, he had drawn a smiley face.
How Childhood Emotional Neglect Affects Relationships
by Maria Bogdanos
Childhood emotional neglect (CEN) is a deep, long lasting wound that is not easily detectable in adults or by those in close relationships with them.
When you have exposure over time to an adult with childhood trauma, you will notice that the person has trouble communicating emotions or feelings, constantly withdraws instead of exploring feelings, and uses only functional, simple sentences. At first, you may wonder if you have harmed this person by something you've said, but when it becomes a continual pattern, it's best to understand the underlying elements before thinking it's something you can fix or change.
The truth of this relational dysfunction in adults is that there was some type of parental invalidation of their emotions when they were children. One can imagine a child coming home from school each day and a parent neglecting to process with them, espousing a “seen but not heard” stance. This child learns to not share emotions and cannot gain the capacity or vocabulary to understand what they are feeling.
They have no safe space and instead grow up without receiving the empathy they need for healthy development. This results in not having empathy for themselves or others around them. They are a “closed system” and unaware of the why behind their lack of healthy communication.
If someone is in a close relationship with an adult who has had CEN, they will notice continual patterns of withdrawal. They will also notice that conflict or the processes of basic daily life is a chore for the CEN adult. They will quickly go into addictions or escapes to avoid any seemingly difficult situation.
The people who are in relationships with them, whether their siblings, children or spouse, are left in a perpetual mode of irresolution with their loved one. Many times, adults with CEN mimic the persona of a two year old, throwing tantrums instead of being able to process through normal critical thinking, especially if the situation involves emotions. Their loved ones may experience a series of emotional abuses (see signs of emotional abuse) and wonder why there is a disconnect between what is being shared and how it's taken.
If you are in a relationship with a CEN adult, it's good to be aware that you will need to provide self-compassion and not expect them to be able to connect on a mature level. If you see the signs of CEN early, it is best ask yourself if you should enter into a relationship with the person, since even necessary daily communication can be a frustration.
Hopefully, these adults who have suffered neglect can find the tools to learn to process their emotions and find empathy towards themselves and others, but you may not be able to provide those tools and might risk suffering unintentional emotional abuse in the process.
Alleged Gang Rape in Brooklyn Says More About Family Than Law Enforcement
by Naomi Schaefer Riley
There is no case that has shocked New York City more in the past year than that of five teenagers who were accused of attacking and sexually assaulting an 18-year-old woman at a park in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn in January. Neighbors were outraged at the event and the fact that it took police a couple of days to even make it public. The alleged attack was seen as a failure of the police to keep the community safe, and perhaps even a failure of elected officials to ensure that the public is kept informed—but now it appears to be a case of something entirely different.
Prosecutors dropped the rape charges against the boys late last week, noting that whatever took place seemed as if it was consensual, and investigators were looking into the possibility of sexual contact between the woman and her father. There were, for better or worse, cell phone videos of some of the incident, and the woman apparently gave very inconsistent testimony and expressed unwillingness to go forward with the case. “That night, this young woman's father and the five young men engaged in conduct that was reprehensible and wrong, but because of the lack of reliable evidence, criminal charges simply cannot be sustained,” Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said in a statement.
Rather than a failure of law enforcement, this case is a microcosm of the effects of the disintegration of the family in the past 40 years. According to the New York Times, the woman in question had a turbulent family history:
She was taken from her mother, a drug user, at 2 and placed in the care of a local family, who later moved to California. The woman was eventually removed from that family, the officials said. Afterward, she had lived in a series of group homes and other facilities. Investigators learned she had a history of emotional troubles, the officials said.
When she turned 18, the woman, whose mother had died, learned her biological father's identity and contacted him through Facebook, the officials said. Last July, she came to New York to meet him.
Drugs, absent fathers, girls who don't know appropriate sexual boundaries, boys who have no guidance about behavior, the failures of the foster care system—all of these factors have culminated in this terrible incident. We don't know a lot about the teen boys here, except to note that in the case of two of the teens, at least, it was their mothers bringing them to the police station, not their fathers.
While there is not much that police or prosecutors or the mayor might have done to prevent it, we might look back at this woman's life and see a tragic pattern.
In a 1999 report to Congress, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that between one-third and two-thirds of child maltreatment cases were affected by substance use. According to data in the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), for almost 31 percent of all children placed in foster care in 2012, parental alcohol or drug use was the documented reason for removal.
The problems faced by children in foster care are often insurmountable. The effects of the abuse and neglect they have experienced before entering the system are hard to counteract. But there is also a widespread sense that the foster care system is broken.
In 2014, three private foster agencies in New York paid $17.5 million to settle a suit with eight people who claimed they were abused, starved, and imprisoned by a woman who fraudulently fostered at least 22 children and adopted 11 of them. The city of New York paid almost $10 million to those eight victims and two others because the Administration for Children's Services failed to oversee their cases properly. A group called Children's Rights has filed lawsuits in almost half the states in the country, alleging that foster care systems are failing to protect the rights of children.
There are more than 400,000 children in foster care, and they represent only a fraction of the children whose lives have been upended and in some cases destroyed by the breakdown of the American family. But if we're trying to do better by our children, helping those in the foster care system is surely a good place to start.
Lawyers argue over comfort dog in Connecticut court: emotional support or prejudicial to jury?
by Pam McLoughlin
There's nothing like a dog to melt a person's heart.
And that's exactly why there is so much debate stirred by a Connecticut case in which a young child witness in a sex abuse case involving her father was allowed to testify with a Labrador retriever at her feet for comfort.
The Hartford case was argued before the state Supreme Court Jan. 22 and is awaiting a decision.
It was believed to be the first time a comfort dog was used with a child witness in Connecticut.
The case that's bringing the courtroom dog issue to the forefront in Connecticut involves an 8-year-old girl testifying about alleged repeated sexual abuse by her father while the dog, Summer, sat under her feet in the witness box during the 2011 trial. The girl rubbed the dog's head with her feet as she testified, records state.
The defendant, whose identity is confidential to protect his alleged victims — the case is known only as the State v. Devon D. — was found guilty at trial on numerous charges and sentenced to 40 years in prison, suspended after 18 served. The alleged abuse involved two siblings as well, but Summer was not involved with their testimony.
The defense appealed, in part over the dog issue, and the Appellate Court ruled in its favor, meaning the conviction was overturned and the alleged perpetrator would get another trial. The state in turn took the case to the state's highest court to try to get the conviction reinstated.
The Appellate Court had ruled Summer shouldn't have been allowed in the courtroom because the state didn't show the “special procedure was necessary under the circumstances.”
In Connecticut, the rules governing testimony of a child in court allow certain special accommodations including proximity in the courtroom to an adult who is of comfort, use of anatomically correct dolls, the banning of anyone entering or exiting the courtroom and as a result of a later interpretation of the statute, allowing the child to hold a favorite stuffed animal or toy.
The Appellate Court recognized in its decision that the “trial court has the inherent discretionary authority to allow the use of a suitably trained dog as a comfort tool when a need is clearly demonstrated.”
But in this case, Appellate Judge Stuart Bear found “that the court had abused its discretion in allowing the comfort canine here in that it never made a finding — and the state made no showing — that the special procedure was necessary under the circumstances.”
In Bear's Appellate Court decision, he noted “that a therapist (who owns the dog) and the dog spent only an hour with the child before the therapist testified about the benefits of therapy dogs and about the calming effect that the dog had on the child once she got over her initial fear of the animal.”
The decision further states, “The therapist also testified that he had no idea if the dog's presence increased the reliability of the child's testimony, that he had never used this dog at a jury trial before, and that the dog was not yet certified as a service dog.”
The girl stated she was not uncomfortable testifying in front of the suspect, but was uncomfortable with the others in the courtroom, according to court documents.
In this case, the judge allowed the dog at the state's request — despite the protest of defense attorneys — but instructed the jury to disregard the dog in making a decision.
While the use of therapy or comfort dogs in such cases is not in the Connecticut statute governing child witnesses, the practice is gaining popularity in other parts of the country.
The New York Supreme Court, Washington Supreme Court, California Court of Appeal and most recently, the Illinois courts are among nine in the country who have decided that witnesses can use comfort or therapy dogs when testifying.
Ellen O'Neill-Stephens, a former longtime deputy prosecutor in Seattle, is the founder of the nonprofit Courthouse Dogs Foundation in Washington, whose mission it is “to promote justice with compassion through the use of professionally trained facility dogs to provide emotional support to everyone in the justice system.”
The Courthouse Dogs Foundation website was looked at by the trial court in the State v Devon D. case, as part of “Independent research,” on whether the dog should be used in court, according to court documents.
O'Neill-Stephens' dream is to have a trained dog in every courtroom in the country.
“Our position is these dogs should be involved in any criminal proceeding … drug courts, family courts,” O'Neill-Stephens said in a telephone interview. “There are a lot of applications for these dogs … They are not a special tool for the prosecution.”
O'Neill-Stephens said she's seen firsthand how traumatizing court can be for everyone, including judges, jurors, lawyers, who hear troubling testimony and view autopsy photos.
Summer was used as a result of the trial judge's ruling.
The dog was brought in at the request of the State's Attorney's Office, to make the girl more comfortable.
“Without Summer, I don't think she would have been able to speak about what happened to her,” Senior Assistant State's Attorney Anne Mahoney told the Register at the time of the trial in 2011. “Because of Summer, her courtroom experience wasn't one of trauma. She wasn't re-victimized.”
On the other side, Public Defender George Flores argued during a pretrial hearing at the time, that the dog's presence would be “inherently prejudicial” — a view common among defense attorneys confronted with the issue.
Flores told the Register in 2011 that he told the judge: “the most sympathetic thing for a jury is a kid. And the next most sympathetic is a dog.”
The Appellate Court in its decision noted the girl didn't have a relationship with Summer — they met about an hour before she testified.
Defense attorneys say they generally dislike the notion of dogs in the courtroom, because it implies the witness is vulnerable and has something to be traumatized about.
Defense attorney Hugh Keefe, who is not involved in the dog case, but represents defendants in high-profile cases, said the practice is “highly prejudicial, and ought to be banned.”
“Being overly solicitous toward any witness by the court makes that witness more credible in the eyes of the jury,” Keefe said. “Permitting a therapy dog next to the witness for comfort telegraphs a message to the jury that it's painful for the witness to testify because the truth is so painful the witness needs help to get through it.”
Keefe also said: “We've managed to have trials for 200 years without dogs in the courtroom and I think we can continue to.”
Senior Assistant Public Defender James Streeto, who is for the defendant in the Supreme Court case, said it's not so much that a dog should never be used but in this case, the witness only met the dog an hour before testifying, so they had no relationship to indicate Summer would be of comfort.
Streeto said the case comes at a time when the rest of the country is wrestling with the issue of using dogs in the courtroom with child witnesses.
“Dogs are a new trend in court situations developed over (many) years,” Streeto said. “I'd make the observation it piques everyone's interest … Our concern is the jury would have the same reaction.”
Streeto said he's a “dog person,” which is exactly why he knows their power they have and also why this is a difficult case for him to argue.
Senior Assistant State's Attorney Denise Smoker argues in the Supreme Court case that the state demonstrated the need for the dog to accompany the victim.
She notes in briefs the court has permitted similar accommodations, such as holding a stuffed animal.
But Streeto said having a child hold a favorite toy or stuffed animal is different than allowing a dog.
“We're used to seeing children trail toys anywhere. When you see a dog in a government office it's because people are disabled,” he said, then asking, “Are you elevating the witness?” by bringing in a comfort dog.
Streeto said the suspect maintains his innocence.
Streeto said that while a dog can't put words in a witness' mouth, the animal can certainly relax them and that makes it hard to read the witness because one of the signs that a witness might be lying is that they can look uncomfortable.
“If you're making them look comfortable, you're making them look truthful,” he said.
O'Neill-Stephens said she accepts the defense could have legitimate concerns about the presence of a dog with a witness being prejudicial because they may engender sympathy.
But she said many dogs used in courtrooms are trained to lie at the feet of a witness and fall asleep so the jury may not ever see the dog, which is what would affect a jury.
O'Neill-Stephens said the judge should inform jurors and others in the court that there is a dog present, because there can be glitches. In one case, she said, a dog in the witness box started snoring. In another, a tail suddenly swished out of the jury box.
O'Neill-Stephens said if a dog is available to everyone that makes it fair.
In her vision of every courthouse having a trained dog, its handler could be anyone in the courthouse — a judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, she said.
“I think we can incorporate the dog and keep it fair,” O'Neill-Stephens said. “We're trying to educate people on how to do it right.”
Children sacrificed to bring luck in Uganda elections - charity
by Yasin Kakande
KAMPALA, Feb 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Six cases of the mutilation and murder of children as "good luck" sacrifices were reported during the recent Ugandan elections, a children's charity said.
"Child sacrifice cases are common during election time as some people believe blood sacrifices will bring wealth and power," said Shelin Kasozi of Kyampisi Childcare Ministries (KCM), a charity that cares for survivors of attempted child sacrifice.
She said the cases were reported from October to February in Ssembabule, Mukono, Buikwe and Mubende districts in central Uganda. Suspects had been apprehended, but the cases had yet to go to court, she said.
President Yoweri Museveni won a Feb. 18 election, extending his 30-year rule in a vote criticised by the United States and European Union. Ugandans also voted in municipal and parliamentary elections.
Moses Binoga, coordinator of the anti-trafficking task force at the interior ministry, said children had been reported missing in the election period. But he could not confirm KCM's reports and said investigations were ongoing.
He said seven child and six adult sacrifice cases were reported in the country in 2015, compared to nine child and four adult sacrifice cases reported in 2014.
Binoga said the mutilated bodies of children and adults had been found, some with hearts or livers ripped out. In two cases reported last year the victims' heads were missing, he said.
In a 2012 case, 82-year-old Hanifa Namuyanja was sentenced to 15 years in jail for taking part in the sacrifice of her granddaughter Shamim Nalwoga.
Police found the girl's body with her tongue and eyes cut out and genitals mutilated, the court heard.
The United Nations said last year that attacks on albino people in Africa were on the rise, linked to a growing demand from political hopefuls for body parts prized in black magic in the run up to elections in several African countries.
A Crime Hidden in Plain Sight: Human Trafficking in Milwaukee
by Allison Dikanovic
Martha Kuhlman looked down, feeling outside of her body. She saw herself climb into the backseat of a car in a body-hugging dress as a man promised to go get her money. Instead of cash, he returned with a knife in hand. Before tossing her out onto the curb, the man strangled the young woman until she lost consciousness.
Kuhlman is a survivor of human trafficking. Her attacker was just one of many men who purchased sex from her while she was trafficked from age 14 to 19. Kuhlman said that an average day for her in the sex trade included eight to 10 encounters with such men, referred to as johns, and she never saw any of them face repercussions.
“Nothing happens,” Kuhlman said, shaking her head. “Nothing happens to them.”
In Milwaukee, those who purchase sex, whether from prostitutes or victims of sex trafficking — and it's often difficult to distinguish between the two — rarely face consequences in the criminal justice system.
However, most exchanges within the commercial sex industry go unreported with no arrests made. Of the cases where arrests occur, individuals who purchase sex can face criminal charges, but they also can be issued a municipal ticket, deferred to alternative treatment programs or have the charges dropped completely.
According to data provided by the Milwaukee Police Department, in 2015, 344 people were arrested for soliciting a prostitute in Milwaukee. Of those, 19 people participated in a “deferred prosecution” program instead of facing criminal charges, and 52 people were issued municipal citations for “loitering—soliciting prostitute.” In 2014, 407 were arrested, 52 completed the deferred prosecution program, and 57 were issued municipal citations.
As the number of arrests for prostitution has increased in recent years, from 65 in 2012 to 160 in 2014, the number of people arrested for soliciting a prostitute decreased by more than half, from 749 to 344. Milwaukee County community prosecutor Chris Ladwig attributed the dip in arrests of johns to programming aimed at reducing prostitution activity in Milwaukee, but he said that the numbers don't indicate a decrease in people purchasing commercial sex. Rather, he said it could be that fewer are getting caught on the street as the crime goes further underground.
In fact, no data is available on the number of adult sex trafficking victims in Milwaukee, and there are only estimates of the number of minors at risk for trafficking. But experts say the extent of the problem is staggering.
Sgt. Theresa Janick, who investigates human trafficking cases in the city as a member of MPD's prostitution unit, said that the sheer number of people who purchase sex makes it challenging for law enforcement to make a dent.
“There's so much of it that it's mind-blowing,” Janick said.
The invisible industry
Milwaukee repeatedly ranks among the top cities for human trafficking in an annual nationwide FBI sting to recover victims.
Legally, human trafficking is defined in Wisconsin as any situation “in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.” Consequently, commercially exploited children are always considered trafficking victims.
There is no data available on the number of adult sex trafficking victims in Milwaukee. A study by the Medical College of Wisconsin documented 133 minors who were trafficked or suspected to be trafficked in 2014. However, this is likely a drop in the bucket. Detective Dawn Jones, who has worked for the Milwaukee Police Department on human trafficking in the city since 2007, said that Milwaukee is known nationwide for juveniles being trafficked in the commercial sex trade.
The number of youth at-risk for trafficking gives a better indication of the scope of the problem regarding minors. Exploit No More, a local nonprofit organization, reported that there are approximately 800 youth in Milwaukee who are homeless, have run away or receive emergency support services. Additionally, in 2013, there were 5,783 cases of child sexual abuse reported. These circumstances significantly increase a young person's chances of being trafficked.
Katie Linn, the executive director of Exploit No More, said that these estimates "barely scratch the surface of what's going on."
“It's in epidemic proportions. Milwaukee has been considered a hub for human trafficking and a space for pimps to grow. It's an underground world,” said Dana World-Patterson, chair of the Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee.
The black market nature of the commercial sex trade makes it difficult to track how many individuals purchase sex in Milwaukee in a given year, and little research exists on the matter. It is “essentially a closed community between the victim and the offender,” said Assistant District Attorney Chad Wozniak. However, research conducted by the Urban Institute shows that the commercial sex industry in eight U.S. cities is estimated to be worth $39.9 to $290 million per city.
“(The victims) are a very lucrative product,” said Katie Linn, executive director of Exploit No More, a local nonprofit organization advocating for victims of human trafficking.
World-Patterson said that the city as a whole needs to focus more on decreasing the demand for commercial sex by paying attention to the people who purchase it. “In the survivors' community, we call them predators (instead of johns),” she said. “They [could] play the biggest role in eradicating human trafficking because they create the demand.”
Vednita Carter, founder and president of the nationally recognized Minneapolis nonprofit Breaking Free, noted, “The demand is what keeps this fueled.” Carter, a trafficking survivor, added, “If you can stop the guy from purchasing, the pimp is going to be phased out.” Breaking Free works to end all forms of prostitution and sex trafficking.
Research conducted for the U.S. Department of Justice indicates that “demand-focused” approaches in certain cities, including San Francisco and Jersey City, New Jersey, reduced the size of sex trafficking markets by 40 to 80 percent.
Kuhlman said that as a survivor, she is frustrated by the perceived impunity that johns benefit from and wants to see tougher sentences for sex buyers.
“I think part of the issue is there's virtually no criminal culpability (for the johns),” Linn added.
A bus full of rowdy, loud elementary school students drove past Sgt. Theresa Janick standing on a street corner near Lisbon Avenue, flinging jeers out the window as easily as they fired spitballs in class earlier that day. Janick, who has worked undercover for MPD for four years, said that catcalling from passersby, no matter their age, is not unusual.
“Putting myself in those positions and seeing the tip of the iceberg of how (individuals in the sex trade are) treated is heartbreaking,” Janick said. She recollected feeling degraded after being offered items such as a cheeseburger in exchange for sex, and said she is always shocked when solicitors try to barter with her.
From her undercover work and work with victims of human trafficking, Janick said her view of individuals in the sex trade has changed.
“They're a person. You're a person,” she said. “That could definitely be me if I had those experiences and circumstances.”
Janick and detective Dawn Jones said that many of the sex workers they encounter were driven to the streets by circumstances. The average age of entry into the commercial sex trade is 13.
“The line between prostitution and human trafficking is very blurred,” Janick said.
Community prosecutor Chris Ladwig agreed that it's often challenging to distinguish between the two situations.
“That's the difficulty in prostitution. It's very difficult to separate coercive behavior,” Ladwig said. “When you start peeling back the layers… you can oftentimes see decades of abuse and victimization.”
“What we see is an overlap of women who have had a mix of experiences, and it's hard to generalize,” added Jeanne Geraci, executive director of the Benedict Center, which provides programming for women exiting prostitution. “Many women we work with can look back and identify times they were trafficked in their lives.”
Research shows that people experiencing poverty, homelessness, abuse or addictions are more at risk of being trafficked, but survivors and advocates point out that trafficking can affect anybody.
“When I share my story, I make sure to stress that anyone can be trafficked, no matter where you're from or who you are,” said Laura Johnson, a human trafficking survivor from Milwaukee who now advocates on behalf of both survivors and victims. She wants everyone, especially young women, to be aware of what trafficking looks like.
World-Patterson, Linn and other local advocates said that often someone trusted and loved by the victim, such as a boyfriend or family member, first coerces girls to sell their bodies for commercial sex.
Janick said that she often hears from people that prostitution is a victimless crime. “It's more like a ‘victim-full' crime,” she said.
Jones agreed, saying that people justify purchasing commercial sex by rationalizing that the sex workers are consenting adults, but that is rarely the case. She said sex workers are almost always beaten and manipulated.
“Oftentimes customers have no idea how the victims are controlled,” Jones said. “It is a crime that is hidden in plain sight.”
Laura Johnson's brow furrowed as she thought about the customers who purchased sex from her when she was taken from her home in Milwaukee and trafficked from age 14 to 17, and then when she fell back into a life of prostitution.
“It was any kind of person. They can be anyone: blue collar workers, doctors, lawyers, public officials, fathers,” she said.
Police officers, advocates and survivors all agree that johns, or people purchasing sex, come from all walks of life and that many have power or influence. Although no research has been done in Milwaukee specifically, experts such as Vednita Carter say johns are relatively consistent from city to city and year to year.
“It doesn't change too much,” Carter said. “It's mainly older white guys from the suburbs that come into the community.”
In 2014, according to data collected by Breaking Free, the majority of sex buyers in Minneapolis were college-educated, married men between the ages of 30 and 49. Sixty-seven percent were white, and 66 percent had children.
Research conducted by the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) found that 40 percent of buyers were African-American and 36 percent were white in Chicago. Sixty-two percent of buyers made more than $40,000 a year and 53 percent purchased sex regularly.
“A lot of people of affluence and influence are purchasing sex from minors,” Linn said, based on anecdotal evidence from survivors she works with.
When Johnson's trafficker began to set her up on “dates,” he took photos of her in lingerie and posted them on Craigslist and Backpage. Such sites have become platforms for johns to purchase sex, experts say.
“The Internet has completely changed and proliferated this problem beyond our wildest imagination,” Linn said, explaining how it has streamlined the process of purchasing commercial sex and increased its accessibility. Research conducted by Arizona State University in 2013 shows that one out of every 20 adult males pursues online sex ads.
“It used to be that buyers would have to go out at odd hours of the night … in the community to find victims,” Linn said. “Now they can just go online and find a cellphone number of the person to call and it's very much like flipping through a book picking out the person you want to be with.”
‘You have to decide'
On a weekday early in the morning before the day shift starts, police officers wait patiently in line to talk to detective Dawn Jones of the MPD Sensitive Crimes Division after a special in-service training they just received about human trafficking.
“This could be your daughter,” Sgt. Theresa Janick said. When officers hear that the victims of human trafficking most often enter the sex trade as teenage girls, it gives them a new perspective on the issue. She added that she has never seen officers wait in line to speak with the instructor after other in-service trainings.
Jones said she has made it her mission to educate police officers on how to identify trafficking through extensive training in the department. She noted that instances of force, fraud or coercion or the exploitation of youth can be challenging to detect. “If you don't have the trained eye out there, you're going to miss that identification.”
“Street operations do lead us to trafficking, but so do any calls,” Janick said, explaining why it is important for officers in every unit to be aware of warning signs. She added that without knowing what to look for, officers can unintentionally ignore “treasure troves of evidence.”
Since 2007, Jones has trained more than 3,000 police officers in Wisconsin on human trafficking. Her objective is to have “officers as proficient in human trafficking as domestic violence.”
Both Jones and Janick said that, like domestic violence, law enforcement officers didn't originally see human trafficking as a major problem that required their involvement.
As Jones goes through the stacks and stacks of files atop her desk, she listens to church music to keep her focused on why she continues to do this difficult work. In the two years prior to starting her job, Jones said that there were no human trafficking cases opened in Milwaukee. Within her first week, she opened several cases. The number fluctuates, but about 150 are now open. Jones said that beginning to investigate them was like opening Pandora's Box.
“Prostitution and human trafficking are kind of the epicenter of every crime,” she said, alluding to drug busts and other illicit activity. “This leads to very complicated investigations that are labor intensive and time intensive.”
Jones said that some cases can require up to 30 separate search warrants and can take weeks to investigate properly because the evidence is often unconventional, underground and spread out. Conducting undercover trafficking operations is taxing on both time and manpower, occupying up to eight officers at a time, Janick added. Only three people work full time in the Sensitive Crimes Division, which handles the cases.
Law enforcement officials and advocates say that while many trafficking cases involve the victim, the john and the pimp, most investigations focus primarily on the victims and the trafficker but not the johns.
“You have to decide, do we go after the johns or do we save more juveniles?” Jones explained, adding, “We have so many child victims. I'd have to duplicate myself to be able to do all that work.”
She said that the division decides when and where to conduct sting operations and investigations depending on where juvenile victims are identified or suspected. Multiple operations are conducted some weeks, and none other weeks.
“If we suspect trafficking victims, we will do what we can to rescue them” and offer them services, Jones said. Agencies participating in the Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee work to provide a continuum of care for victims.
Jones said that her partnership with Janick and District 3 makes the operations more effective. Police districts conduct sting operations targeting those who purchase sex separately from human trafficking investigations, which focus on rescuing victims. The stings that target sex buyers occur from several times a month to once every few months depending on the district, according to Jones.
On the prosecution side, it is not feasible to thoroughly investigate johns suspected of purchasing sex from trafficking victims, even when they are arrested, Ladwig said. “If we had a lot more resources in a perfect world, every case would be looked at from top to bottom to search for any instances of trafficking,” he said.
Carter said she has seen similar resourcing challenges in Minneapolis and in other places. “Law enforcement just doesn't have the money (to fund anti-demand efforts), but they need to find it,” said Carter, of Breaking Free. “Until they do, it won't stop.”
Other cities have found resources and support for demand-focused initiatives through organizations such as Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation (CEASE Network), a Boston-based organization that provides grants and facilitates collaboration among cities working to target sex buyers.
It is more difficult to apprehend and prosecute those who purchase sex from a minor than those who purchase from adults on the street, Jones pointed out.
“It's hard to get the john red-handed with the juvenile,” she said. Sting street operations to catch johns can only be conducted with an undercover officer who is of age and acting on her own volition. As a result, these types of stings cannot be used to apprehend perpetrators for soliciting a child for prostitution or for any human-trafficking related charges.
Even if someone is found to have purchased sex from a juvenile victim in the course of an investigation, Jones said that it is often challenging to prosecute because it can be traumatizing or scary for the young victim to testify in court.
Nevertheless, Jones said anyone who purchases sex from minors should be held accountable. “Anyone who obtains a child for prostitution is a trafficker,” she said. “People think and say, he's just a john. No, he's a trafficker.”
A new approach
In an approach new to Milwaukee, Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Davis has charged both the trafficker and the john in a recent case involving a minor.
Martin Rice, a 73-year-old white man from Granville, has been charged with two felonies after purchasing sex from an underage victim: soliciting a child for prostitution and second-degree sexual assault of a child. He could face up to 40 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines if convicted.
Davis also filed multiple felony charges against Mandrell Blain and Mario Newburn, two men who allegedly trafficked the minor in the same case.
“In eight years, this is the first time I've seen a district attorney charge a john along with the traffickers,” Jones said. “She (Davis) definitely wants to attack all sides of the problem.” Jones added that she hopes this is the beginning of a trend.
In Minneapolis, charging johns for soliciting a child for prostitution, a felony, is already normal. The police department is conducting demand-focused stings as part of an effort called Operation Guardian Angel. The operations specifically target those soliciting sex from minors through fake online advertisements selling sex with an underage girl. Police officers set up “dates” with people who respond to the advertisements, and then arrest them when they show up at the designated location, usually a hotel.
From 2010 to 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, the number of people charged under the statute that prohibits soliciting a child for prostitution nearly doubled, from 58 to 102.
Minneapolis authorities said that 2015 will be a “banner year” for enforcement of the statute. In September alone, 21 people were charged as a result of the sting operations.
Carter, of Breaking Free, said anti-demand efforts are a lot of work, “but we need it to be a continuous procedure for it to be effective.”
This added attention was focused on those who purchase sex in Minnesota after Safe Harbor laws were passed in 2011, which decriminalize youth involved in the sex trade and draw a stronger connection between child sexual exploitation and trafficking. Among other things, the laws increase penalties against sex abusers and purchasers.
In May, a safe harbor bill was introduced in the Wisconsin legislature.
Complaints from residents about prostitution in their neighborhoods prompted an innovative community response to prostitution and trafficking in Milwaukee.
Community prosecutor Chris Ladwig works in close partnership with community members, the Benedict Center and the District 3 police on an effort called the Sisters Diversion Program, formerly known as Operation Red Light, which aims to address every facet of the problem.
He said one of the goals of the district attorney's Community Prosecution Unit is to change the perception that there are no consequences for purchasing sex. “(Purchasers) think they can commit these crimes without repercussion,” he said. “We're really working hard on those kinds of issues, but we could do more.”
Ladwig said the unit partners with Janick and other officers, primarily conducting street operations to apprehend sex workers, but also those who purchase sex.
The unit has begun to target the demand in several ways. If someone is suspected to be purchasing sex but cannot be arrested, Ladwig said his office sends a “john letter” to the residence associated with the car's license plate. The letter typically says that the person was seen in an area where there has been a lot of prostitution activity and is intended to serve as a warning not to return.
A study conducted by Prostitution Research and Education found that 80 percent of sex buyers interviewed said that such a letter would deter them from purchasing.
Offenders can also be given municipal citations for soliciting a prostitute, which carry a fine up to a $699 in Milwaukee. National studies show that a $500 fine would deter 66 percent of sex buyers, and a $1,000 fine would deter 90 percent of buyers.
Experts say Cook County, Illinois, is a model for ticketing those who purchase sex. Starting in 2011, the county instituted a “Johns Ordinance” that increased the penalty for purchasing sex and emphasized enforcement of the statute.
“To solicit sex was little more than a slap on the wrist,” said Ben Bright of the Cook County Sheriff's Department. “We were seeing the same guys over and over again.”
The department conducts regular street and hotel operations and also leads a national coalition of cities around the country to promote the arrest of johns twice a year.
“We really have to work to suppress the demand side if we want to take on sex trafficking, so victims don't come to be in the first place,” Bright said.
A group of middle-age men sit around a table at the Benedict Center listening to a woman talk about her former life as a sex worker.
“[They] get to hear from women who used to be engaged in prostitution,” said Jeanne Geraci, executive director of the center. “They start to really see the women as human beings instead of commodities.”
Dana World-Patterson, chair of the Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee, said that many of the men who purchase sex need help. Research shows that 83 percent of sex buyers consider it an addiction.
“A person that would purchase sex has some kind of disorder,” World-Patterson said. “Something is wrong there.”
Since 2011, the Benedict Center has facilitated a restorative justice program for sex buyers, in addition to its ongoing work with women exiting prostitution. Formally called the Community Intervention Program (CIP), the “john school” is the first and only alternative treatment program for sex buyers in Milwaukee. Geraci said it is an important program because it addresses “the other side of the issue.” CIP works in partnership with the Community Prosecution Unit and the Sisters Project in MPD District 3, but any district can refer someone to participate.
Most participants are apprehended in sting operations involving an undercover police officer posing as a sex worker. At the time of arrest, first-time offenders who are deemed low-risk and eligible to participate are either offered a pre-charge diversion or are charged with soliciting a prostitute and then offered deferred prosecution if they enroll in CIP.
To successfully complete CIP, offenders need to sign a contract agreeing not to get in any trouble with the law throughout the six-month program. They also need to pay $300 to participate, attend all 10 accountability classes and complete eight hours of community service. If they comply, they walk away without a criminal charge on their record.
The classes address the effects of the clients' behavior on themselves, their families, their communities and the sex workers. Participants also learn about the risks associated with their behavior and explore what healthy relationships look like.
Many participants begin the program unaware of the impact that prostitution has on the sex worker or the community at large, or its connection to human trafficking, according to Katie Karnold-Lynch, CIP program director.
“I'm always amazed by the growth and change that takes place with clients in the course of a CIP series,” she said.
Ladwig described the program as a “significant success,” especially in reducing the recidivism of sex buyers. Since it began in 2001, only one person who successfully completed the program was arrested for reoffending.
“When we get men into these programs, they tend to do very well,” Ladwig said.
Geraci said CIP helps the clients understand what's underlying their behavior and encourages them to shift their attitude toward women in general.
Linn and World-Patterson both say that the CIP Program is an important step, but alone, it is not enough.
“In my opinion, there's no way that one john school has the capacity to handle all those johns who are out there,” Linn said. “That's one tool of many tools that should be used to tackle the problem.”
World-Patterson noted that more “dollars that will focus on the demand side” need to be allocated to a variety of initiatives in the city.
She said that it would ultimately take a culture shift to curb the demand for commercial sex. Though men and boys also have been trafficked, World-Patterson said the crime mostly has to do with how women are valued. Experts connect the treatment of women as commodities, such as through pornography, to the demand for commercial sex.
Outreach workers such as World-Patterson are beginning to raise awareness in young men about the role they can play in ending trafficking. World-Patterson said men should talk to each other about how they view and value women.
“We need to change the mindset,” she said. “Prevention is worth a pound of cure, and if we can dry up the demand side, we wouldn't be looking at this multi-million dollar industry.”
Help end child abuse by reporting it: Rhonda Wurgler, Medina County Children's Center
by Rhonda Wurgler
Guest columnist Rhonda Wurgler is director of the Medina County Children's Center where neglected and abused children receive special services.
No child should suffer abuse or neglect; No child should be injured or abandoned by adults. No child should die at the hands of those who are meant to love and care for them. Yet sadly, these tragedies happen - even here - in Medina County.
Each year in Medina County, there are over 1,200 calls for suspected child abuse. Of those calls, an average of 500 cases are opened. If those statistics seem staggering - they should. But the reality is that child abuse occurs - even in quaint, beautiful, welcoming Medina County.
While it is troubling for most people to think about child abuse, we all have the ability to creative positive change on our community. We have the power to stop the abuse and neglect that occurs in our very own neighborhoods. The first step is realize that indeed, abuse happens here. Then next step is to understand what you can do to help.
The Children's Center of Medina County, along with the Battered Women's Shelter of Summit & Medina Counties and the Medina County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) have joined forces to bring awareness of how we are interconnected by abuse and how you can help us.
Studies show that animals are abused in 88 percent of homes in which a child is abused and 68 percent of battered women reported violence towards their animals. 87 percent of these incidents occurred in the presence of the women, and 75 percent in the presence of the children, to psychologically control and coerce them. Abusers kill, harm, or threaten children's pets to coerce them into sexual abuse or to force them to remain silent about abuse.
If you suspect child abuse or neglect is occurring, please report it to our local Child Protective Service agency through the Child Abuse Hotline 330-661-0800 or call to the police if a child is in immediate danger. You have the power to create positive change in our community by stopping the abuse and neglect that occurs in our own neighborhoods.
Be the change that makes a difference, saves a life or ends the cycle. The longer the abuse continues the more damage it will ultimately cause children.
Pell: The Vatican ‘mucked things up' on sexual abuse
by Ines San Martin
ROME — One of the Vatican's most senior officials admitted that the Catholic Church “has made enormous mistakes” in allowing children to be sexually abused by priests, as he testified via video link to a Royal Commission in Australia investigating institutional responses to child sexual abuse.
Australian Cardinal George Pell also admitted that he often believed priests over alleged victims who came forward: “I must say in those days, if a priest denied such activity, I was very strongly inclined to accept the denial.”
“I'm not here to defend the indefensible,” Pell said at the beginning of a grueling four-hour hearing late Sunday night via video from a Rome hotel. In order to be take place in the morning in Australia, Pell has agreed to appear beginning at 10 p.m. Rome time and continue until roughly 2 a.m. each day. The hearing is expected to last three or four days.
“The Church has made enormous mistakes, but is working to remedy them,” he said. “In many places, the Church certainly has mucked things up, has let people down.”
Pell, Pope Francis' handpicked finance czar, is the highest-ranking Vatican official to testify about the sexual abuse of children in the Church, and was called by the commission about his time as a priest in the city of Ballarat and as archbishop of Melbourne prior to his Vatican assignment.
The commission is investigating whether Pell responded appropriately to reports of sexual abuse. It initially asked the cardinal to return to Australia to appear in person, but upon advice from a physician that a heart condition made the long flight dangerous, Pell volunteered to testify via video. It marks the third time he's been deposed by the commission.
A group of survivors of clerical sexual abuse launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to travel to Rome to be present in the Verdi Room of the Quirinale hotel, where Pell is testifying.
The hotel, two miles from the Vatican, was chosen by the commission. About 20 people, between survivors and supporters, made the trip thanks to the campaign, which raised $130,000 in a few days. At the end of the hearing, Pell didn't shake hands with the survivors, but he acknowledged their presence and made eye contact with several of them.
Anthony and Chrissie Foster are among those who traveled to Rome to hear Pell's testimony.
Two of their three daughters were abused by the Rev. Kevin O'Donnell, and one of them committed suicide. A second struggled with alcohol addiction, and while intoxicated was struck by a car, leaving her severely disabled.
“If we don't see humility the moment he comes in, I don't think we'll get the truth,” Anthony Foster told Crux before the hearing begun. “So we need humility, we need the truth, and we need action.”
“I want him to take action,” Foster added. “I want him to change the Church in Australia, change the systems that he put in place, so that they give true justice for victims, to make sure that this doesn't happen again in the future.”
“The Church hasn't put into action all the words they've said,” he said.
It's a sentiment shared by several of the survivors who traveled to Rome. Tony Wardley of Ballarat said he wants Pell to admit that the Church got it wrong, and to “put things in place to stop these things from happening.”
“I'd rather see things changing for the future than continue looking to the past,” he said.
At the beginning of the hearing, the lead counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furnesshe, asked Pell about his current position in the Vatican, where he serves as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.
Furnesshe also asked about the Church's current position regarding the way bishops have to respond to allegations of clerical sexual abuse. Pell replied that bishops are called to “respect the law of the land.”
He was then walked through individual cases, such as the case of former Rev. Paul David Ryan, jailed in 2006 for 18 months after admitting three charges of indecent assault against one victim between 1990 and 1991.
Ryan has previously said that Ballarat's former Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, Pell's superior at the time, knew that he was abusing children in 1977, but did not revoke his priestly faculties until 1993.
Pell was also asked about the Rev. Gerald Ridsdale, one of the world's most notorious sexual offenders who was shifted around the diocese. Ridsdale is an Australian laicized Catholic priest who was convicted between 1993 and 2013 of a large number of child sexual abuse and indecent assault charges against 54 children aged as young as four years from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Regarding the way this case was handled by Mulkearns, Pell said it was “a catastrophe for the victims and a catastrophe for the Church.”
When asked directly if, while he was the general vicar of education for the Diocese of Ballarat, he had received complaints of clerical sexual abuse, he said, “I can't remember any such case, but my memory might be playing me false … it's sometimes fallible.”
Pell has long denied allegations that he was involved in transferring Ridsdale. The priest's nephew, David Ridsdale, who says he was repeatedly abused by his uncle, has also accused Pell of trying to buy his silence, which he also denies.
In a statement released by his office on Sunday, Pell expressed his support for the Royal Commission's work, reiterated his commitment to meet with the victims who had traveled to Rome, and said he hoped the coming days “will eventually lead to healing for everyone.”
The statement also said that he had joined the “Loud Fence” movement launched in Ballarat to support survivors of sexual abuse. He did so by tying a yellow ribbon on the fence in the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in the Vatican Gardens.
“I am aware of the Loud Fence movement and how it has grown rapidly,” Pell said in the statement. “This is my gesture of support, especially for the people of Ballarat.”
On previous occasions, Pell has expressed regret over meetings he had with victims seeking compensation, admitting that he and others in the Catholic Church have failed in their moral and pastoral responsibilities to make them a priority.
The group of survivors who traveled across the world to participate in the hearing sat in the first row. Many sported red or light blue shirts that read on the front, “No more silence,” and on the back, “Some don't remember, others won't forget.”
Others had ribbons hanging out of their pockets, as a sign of adherence to the Loud Fence movement.
David Ridsdale said he was not at the hearing to see Pell “crucified,” because “if we got rid of him, he'd be the scapegoat, and everyone else back home will be left alone.”
“We're not interested in a distraction,” he said. “We want change, and that can't happen unless those who were involved help us.”
“I want for (Pell) to acknowledge that this systemic abuse didn't only affect us, but our city,” Ridsdale said. “I want to make sure that the future is brighter for our children, for our grandchildren, and the Catholic Church has a moral responsibility to make that happen.”
“We need the hierarchy of the Vatican to stand up instead of hiding in legal processes,” he said. “We don't need more survivors; we need to be the last.”
How to report child abuse in N.J. | Your Legal Corner
by Victoria Dalton
This week Your Legal Corner discusses the importance of reporting child sexual abuse.
Many enjoy viewing football on Super Bowl Sunday, where we celebrate and watch, as the champion of yet another football season is determined. Yet, there are others who enjoy a different type of "Super Bowl", the Super Bowl of films also known as the Academy Awards. Here, who will receive the prestigious Oscar for best picture and a host of other awards is decided by the Academy of Motion Pictures.
While movies certainly have the ability to entertain, they can also educate us with regard to significant events and social issues. This year, the film I found most compelling was entitled "Spotlight". "Spotlight" has been nominated for 6 Academy Awards. The film shines a light on the troubling incidence of child sexual abuse.
Child Sex Abuse Statistics
According to the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18. Surprisingly, 3 out of 4 adolescents who were sexually assaulted were victimized by a close family friend or relative according to a National Institute of Justice report.
Importantly, these statistics are just estimates because so many victims of child sex abuse do not disclose or report their abuse. A 2007 study cited by the Child Assessment Center reported that 73% do not tell anyone of their abuse for at least a year; 45% takes at least 5 years while some do not disclose at all.
Reporting Child Sex Abuse
In New Jersey, any person having reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected must report this information immediately. While some states limit who is required to report child sex abuse or child abuse in general, New Jersey law provides that anyone can report child abuse.
Reports of child abuse should be reported to the State Central Registry. This registry is open 24 hours 7 days a week and can be reached at 1-877-NJ ABUSE (1-877-652-2873.) State officials will work with law enforcement to ensure an investigation is conducted and criminal charges signed where appropriate.
Whenever possible, reports should include the names and address of the child as well as the parent or person having custody of the child. The report should also include the child's age, extent of abuse and any other information that is helpful in identifying the perpetrator.
Notably, any person making a report shall have civil and criminal immunity from any liability that otherwise may be imposed. Conversely, any person with reasonable cause to believe that an act of child abuse has been committed who knowingly fails to report can be charged with a disorderly persons offense.
Warning Signs of Child Sexual Abuse
Typically, child predators prey upon children who are vulnerable and may not have the ability to report themselves due to personal or family problems. Some warning signs of younger children can include nightmares, inattention, change in eating habits, bedwetting, sudden mood swings or development of new or unusual fear of certain people or places.
Warning signs for older children may include self-injury, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, compulsive eating, running away from home, depression or suicide attempts. While any one of these factors may not mean anything, several factors should trigger further inquiry with the child.
As we spotlight the Super Bowl of Films during this time of year, let us also be mindful of the duty to report the sexual abuse of a child.
When Sex Trafficking Goes Unnoticed in America
Many cases go unreported, making it a difficult crime for law enforcement personnel to spot.
by Priscilla Alvarez
How do you identify sex-trafficking victims when such cases go largely undetected or unreported?
It's an issue with which law-enforcement agencies in the U.S. continually struggle. Detective Bill Woolf with the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force has experienced this first hand. Over the course of his tenure, he's interviewed over 300 victims. In many cases, those who have been exploited believe that they are offenders, Woolf told me. “They fear law enforcement…because they're technically committing a crime and that is prostitution,” he said.
The Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as a “modern-day form of slavery involving the illegal trade of people for exploitation or commercial gain.” In 2012, the International Labor Organization estimated that there are 20.9 million human trafficking victims worldwide. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, sexual exploitation is the most commonly identified form ahead of forced labor. Numbers released by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center suggest that also holds true in the U.S., where more than 4,000 cases of sex trafficking were reported. And as a whole human trafficking is a lucrative industry that around the globe rakes in $150 billion.
But it's unclear whether the numbers are an accurate representation of the problem, because many cases aren't reported, according to Monique Villa, the CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, which works to combat human trafficking. “The problem with human trafficking is that of course the victims are silenced,” Villa said. “We don't have good data about it. You don't know how many slaves there are around the world.” Traffickers also play into the narrative by telling victims, who are exploited for sex, that they are offenders, threatening to call the police and report them for prostitution if they push back. This makes sex trafficking particularly challenging because victims might be fearful of going to law enforcement and being charged with a crime.
It's a vicious cycle that law enforcement in the U.S. sees time and time again. Women can be pulled in to commercial sex through gangs or pimps—the former function as delivery services, taking women to houses in the area they control, while the latter focus on hotels and street level prostitution, according to Woolf. “In gang-controlled situations, it's usually going to be that the girl is from the area. When it's a pimp … it'll probably be girls from all over the place,” he said.
A woman, who I met through the Thomson Reuters Foundation and who asked that I not use her name to ensure her safety, was pulled in by a pimp when she was 17 years old. Before then, her life was fairly ordinary. She had a good upbringing—a closely knit family and comfortable home. But in high school, she learned that her mother had been embezzling money from her company, and would be sentenced to seven years in prison. That changed everything.
After her mother was gone, she acted out and her relationship with her father fell apart, she told me. So when a guy on Facebook reached out with caring messages, she took notice. “He said everything I wanted to hear, especially with my mom being away,” the woman said. After she graduated high school, the two decided to meet. Then, at 17 years old, she bought a bus ticket to see him, planning to stay with him for a week. But to her surprise, the man, about seven years her elder, immediately told her she needed to make money upon arriving, if she intended to stay with him.
For four days, she said, she worked for him by going to an area for commercial sex. Soon after, another pimp approached her, promising to fill a void—family. She stayed with him for a few months until returning home to see her mother released from prison, after two years instead of seven. Later, she told me, another man courted her on Facebook, asking her to join him in Texas. He also was a pimp.
Unbeknownst to her at the time, the man, who was part of a ring, was luring her in. The woman and up to seven others were taken across state lines to strip and engage in commercial sex. She recalls going to Colorado, Arizona, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. When she arrived to Baltimore, Maryland, she had had enough. “That situation was really, really hard for me,” she told me. But leaving was out of the question. If anyone tried to run away, the girls and the men were tasked with stopping them, she told me, adding that she also had no phone and couldn't be on Facebook. “Literally my rights were ripped from me.”
When the FBI, with the assistance of the Baltimore Police Department S.W.A.T. team broke up the ring, she, too, felt as if she were an offender. “I thought I was getting arrested. I didn't look at them like they were there to save me. I looked at them like they were there to arrest me,” she said. The FBI had been investigating the ring for two years.
Along the way, victims might encounter law enforcement, as was the case with the victim I spoke with who had been arrested twice for prostitution and, on one occasion, bailed out by her pimp. The U.S. government has pinpointed this as a concern across the country. According to the State Department 2015 trafficking report, some victims, including minors, “were detained or prosecuted by state or local officials for criminal activity related to their being subjected to trafficking” despite “safe harbor” laws in some states intended to protect victims.
But human trafficking cases can be difficult to identify and prosecute. For one, local police may not believe that it is a problem in their community, according to a 2012 study by the Urban Institute. Challenges also surface for state prosecutors, who, the study notes, “were reluctant to utilize new human trafficking laws, commonly charging offenders with offenses they were not familiar with such as a rape, kidnapping, or pandering.”
The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 sought to change that by focusing on the prosecution and enforcement against traffickers. The Department of Justice has cited the legislation after a bump in trafficking investigations and prosecutions. Between the fiscal years 2001-2007, there was a 360 percent increase in convictions compared to the seven previous years.
Despite an enhanced approach from the government, the process can still be grueling for victims. “A lot of these traffickers, particularly on the sex side of things, have developed dysfunctional relationships with their victims,” said Judge Hiram Puig-Lugo, a family court judge in Washington, D.C. Puig-Lugo arranges and oversees services for victims, while also placing emphasis on awareness. In his efforts, he collaborates with NGOs, among them FAIR Girls, an organization that also works to combat human trafficking.
The woman I spoke with is with FAIR Girls now, working as a residential counselor for the organization's Vida Home, a transitional home for victims. The leader of the ring that she was involved in was sentenced to 17 and a half years in federal prison. But three years later, she still thinks about her ordeal. “It's been a tough journey,” she said. And it continues to be for law enforcement as they work to identify victims who are afraid to identify themselves.
Woman reportedly beheads child, threatens Moscow travelers
by CBS News
Russian media reported Monday that a woman working as a nanny in Moscow had decapitated a four-year-old boy and then held his head up while shouting at people near the entrance to a subway station before being arrested.
Amateur videos posted online showed a woman in black, traditional Muslim dress, waving what appeared to be a child's head around while shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) and threatening to blow herself up outside the station in northwest Moscow.
The woman's ranting, recorded by several people who posted videos online, was largely nonsensical but included mentions of terrorism.
According to the reports, police said she was arrested immediately and that no explosives were found. Local media cited authorities as suspecting it was a case of mental illness rather than a terrorist incident.
The reports indicated that the suspect killed the child in a nearby apartment, then set the home on fire before walking out into the street.