National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Every day we bring you articles from local newspapers, web sites and other sources that constitute but a small percentage of the information available to those who are interested in the issues of child abuse and recovery from it.

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Here are a few recent stories related to the kinds of issues we cover on the web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly.

We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
Recent News - News from other times

March, 2016 - Week 2
MJ Goyings
Many, many thanks to our very own "MJ" for
providing us the majority of the daily research
that appears on the LACP and NAASCA web sites.
Ms. Goyings is a retired Registered Nurse from Ohio.


Catholic church's secret archives key to exposing sex abuse scandal

by Matt Assad and Peter Hall

Huddled in a law office on Hamilton Street, the district attorneys of the five counties in the Allentown Catholic Diocese spent days poring over files that detailed nearly two dozen allegations that priests had sexually abused children over several decades.

That unprecedented step came in May 2002 after sex-abuse allegations exploded in the Boston Archdiocese, prompting Allentown Bishop Edward P. Cullen to grant the five prosecutors, including Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin and Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, a rare glimpse into the diocese's secret archives.

In the wake of the Boston revelations, attorneys and prosecutors across the nation have used lawsuits and criminal investigations to open those secret files to the public. Now victim advocates in Pennsylvania, where the statutes of limitations are short, are calling for legislators to give them that power too, by removing the deadlines that have kept people from suing the Catholic Church.

But some legal experts and the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, which represents dioceses and bishops statewide, say it would open a Pandora's box of decades-old allegations that age, fading memories and death would render nearly impossible for the accused to defend against.

It's a debate that figures to play out in the Pennsylvania Legislature in the coming months. Abuse survivors have scheduled a Monday rally at the Capitol to demand changes in the laws.

"It's not as easy as it may sound. Obviously we need to protect children and the statutes of limitations for those crimes should be much longer," said Morganelli, who is running for state attorney general. "But statutes of limitations are there to protect against bringing cases so old that a person can't defend themselves. It's really a very complex issue."

The Catholic Church's history of protecting child abusers re-emerged in the public's consciousness last month as the film "Spotlight," detailing the Boston Globe's investigation of the cover-up, received an Academy Award for best picture.

And the release of a new grand jury report that accuses two bishops in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese of concealing decades of abuse by as many as 50 priests now has victim advocates calling for those secret archives to be opened for all to see — or at least to victims trying to get justice.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane's grand jury report echoes that call, urging lawmakers to lift the statutes of limitations on sex crimes against children.

As long as the statutes are in place, lawyers have no key to unlock the diocesan archives.

"You need either criminal prosecution or civil litigation to force those documents into the public, and without them, there's no leverage whatsoever," said Marci Hamilton, a Bucks County attorney and professor at the Cardozo Law School at Yeshiva University in New York who pushes for statutes of limitations reform.

Under canon law — the rules that govern the church's operations — every Catholic diocese since the fourth century has been required to have a secret archive where documents detailing investigations into accusations of criminal behavior or "moral matters" are kept under lock and key.

For the Allentown Diocese, that archive, which is still on paper, is at the chancery on West Tilghman Street, where Bishop John O. Barres keeps his office. Though canon law allows the archives to be destroyed after the "guilty parties" have died or 10 years after they've been sentenced, the Allentown Diocese's archives remain intact and stored in locked file cabinets, diocese spokesman Matt Kerr said.

"They're basically treated the way any company would treat its personnel files," he said.

Only the bishop has the key to the secret archive and only the bishop can authorize opening of the archive, according to canon law.

Cullen, now retired, made that move in 2002, when he ordered select contents of that archive taken from the chancery in South Whitehall Township, where they remain today, to the law offices of diocese counsel Thomas Traud for the district attorneys to review. No criminal cases came from that exercise because the district attorneys found no allegations within the statute of limitations, which was up when a person turned 23.

Since then, the statute has been expanded, giving abuse victims until age 30 to file criminal charges and those born after Aug. 27, 2002, until the age of 50 to file. But even with that expansion, time had run out for victims in the Altoona-Johnstown files, Kane said. Those allegations mirror the real-life plot line of "Spotlight," which details the Boston Archdiocese's cover-up and how it was overlooked by police, prosecutors and the media. The Globe's revelations led to a worldwide push to force the Vatican to acknowledge the cases that for decades had been kept secret.

The Catholic church has paid more than $3 billion in out-of-court settlements since 2002 to more than 5,600 victims alleging abuse by Catholic clergy, according to, which tracks Catholic clergy abuse worldwide. Those victims are only about a third of the nearly 16,000 who have alleged abuse, and many cases are pending.

"The reason we know most of what we do … is litigation that drove disclosure," said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of

Under Pennsylvania law, victims of childhood sexual abuse also have only until age 30 to file civil lawsuits against those who molested them or institutions that concealed allegations against the accused.

Hamilton said the median age of survivors of sexual abuse by clergy who come forward is 41. The state's statute of limitations bars claims by the many who waited to report their abuse because of the shame, self-doubt and fear of blame that often follows sexual-abuse survivors for the rest of their lives.

"I personally know survivors in [the Allentown Diocese], and if a window were to be opened, they might come forward, but the vast majority are shut out," Hamilton said.

Kerr said 15 civil lawsuits have been filed against the Allentown Diocese since 2002, but all were dismissed by the court for being beyond the statute of limitations.

The diocese also settled a case in which a former Allentown priest molested a 15-year-old Texas boy, though no civil action was filed in that matter, Kerr said.

Many states have reformed their statutes, lifting limitations entirely for civil claims or opening a temporary window — of usually two or three years — to allow victims of past crimes to file suits. But the U.S. Supreme Court has blocked such provisions for the prosecution of past crimes after the limitations period has expired.

Ten years after California removed its criminal statute of limitations to allow the prosecution of any child sex abuse no matter how old, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law. In 2003, it sided with a man whose daughters accused him of raping them decades earlier, finding that the law violated the Constitution, which bars changes in punishment for past crimes.

As a result, the 39 states that have eliminated criminal statutes of limitations for child sex abuse did so not retroactively but from the time the new laws were passed. That's a view shared by Martin, who said he would have no objection to an unlimited time period to prosecute sexual-abuse allegations.

"It's an atrocious crime and it doesn't matter who commits it," he said.

Legislators in Minnesota and seven other states found a compromise, opening temporary windows for civil lawsuits on child sex-abuse cases that had exceeded the statute of limitation. So, while victims still had no power to have their abusers jailed for crimes committed decades ago, they did have a new avenue to get their stories heard, and ultimately get the church to pay for helping cover up abuse.

As a result, St. Paul-based Anderson & Associates has nearly 600 cases in five of those states — more than 350 of which were filed against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The flood of litigation pushed the archdiocese into bankruptcy, joining 14 other Catholic dioceses bowing under the weight of sex-abuse claims.

All are Chapter 11 cases that allow the dioceses to stop the flow of future suits by setting a deadline for claims, while reorganizing their finances. Though insurance carried some of the load, in most cases, dioceses were forced to sell property and tap into investments to pay settlements.

"Yes, they have to give up some of their wealth, but no church, no soup kitchen and no elementary school has ever been closed because of one of these bankruptcies," said Patrick Wall, a former Roman Catholic priest who gave up his collar to become an advocate for victims of priest sexual assault. "This is making the church accountable, not killing it."

A federal bankruptcy court judge will soon decide how much victims will get from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, but the biggest benefit, Anderson said, may be that the archives are no longer secret.

"We put all of it online for everyone to see," Anderson said proudly. "It's 150,000 pages strong and still growing. It was the most remarkable release of church documents that I've seen in my 32 years doing this."

If a window opened in Pennsylvania, it could open the archives of the state's seven dioceses and one archdiocese.

The strongest impact would be in Philadelphia, where three grand juries uncovered allegations of sexual abuse against hundreds of priests that church officials never reported to law enforcement. Despite discovering evidence of decades of abuse, prosecutors could bring charges against only three priests, the archdiocese's secretary of clergy and a Catholic school teacher.

A personal mission

A raft of bills to remove or suspend the statutes of limitations in Pennsylvania has languished in House and Senate committees over the past decade. But those bills have new wind in their sails, some of it from an unconventional advocate.

Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, is a former altar boy who says he was abused by an Allentown Diocese priest in 1984 when he was 13 years old. Rozzi said the priest groomed him for a year, first by giving him beer and showing him pornography and then by teaching him sexual positions, before sexually assaulting him in a rectory shower at his Reading church while his best friend watched in shock.

Rozzi and his friend vowed never to discuss it. And he didn't until 2009, when another altar boy friend he says was molested by the same priest committed suicide. A year later, when a second altar boy friend from the same church committed suicide, Rozzi decided to give up his position in a family business to run for state representative.

He's now the face of the movement to lift the statutes of limitations. Rozzi said, for victims, it's not about the money they can recover from the church, but bringing closure to an open wound the church has not fully owned up to causing.

While Rozzi's bill proposes a two-year window to revive older claims, state Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, sponsored a bill to eliminate the limitation outright.

"I don't want a victim of sexual child abuse not to be able to go forward because a window closed," Boscola said.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin, said that while very few states have longer civil limitation periods than Pennsylvania, he fully supports lifting the state's criminal statute of limitations.

Rozzi admits that for him it's very personal. His alleged abuser, the Rev. Edward R. Graff, died in 2002 in an Amarillo, Texas, prison where he was being held on charges that he molested a 15-year-old boy while working in the Amarillo Diocese. While serving in the Allentown Diocese from 1957 to 1988, Graff was moved nine times. And though no formal complaints were filed against him in the Allentown Diocese, a file containing "rumors" of Graff's inappropriate behavior was among the 23 given to the district attorneys in 2002, Kerr said then.

In 2003, the diocese settled a sex-abuse case against Graff, paying $275,000 to a Texas minor the priest allegedly abused. At the time of Graff's arrest, Texas authorities said there were reports of 15 victims in Texas and 12 in Pennsylvania. The Allentown diocese said after the settlement that it had not heard from any of the other alleged victims.

By the time Rozzi first reported his story in 2009, he was 39 and it was too late to file a civil suit. Though he never formally reported the abuse to the diocese, he met with Barres and the bishop issued a personal apology to him.

"The pain never goes away. You are constantly living in the aftermath," Rozzi said. "When you are a kid, and even as an adult, it's hard to deal with the idea that they never owned up to their crimes. I want to get these pricks in a court and I want to expose every last one of them."

Legal experts question whether the emotion behind the crimes has legislators going too far to target the church.

Nicholas Cafardi, a canon law expert at Duquesne University law school, said the current push to allow unlimited time to file lawsuits against the church is misguided and defies the reasons the statutes of limitations were put in place. The more time that passes after a crime, the less reliable memories and evidence are and the more difficult it is to investigate what really happened, he said.

"How do you disprove something that happened 30 years ago? This puts an intolerable burden on the accused," he argued.

Pennsylvania's limitation periods are fair, said Amy B. Hill, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, noting they were extended from age 20 for both civil and criminal cases.

"Statutes of limitations exist to ensure a just verdict can be reached. Over time, witnesses' memories fade, evidence is lost or never found, and in many instances perpetrators or witnesses may be deceased," she said.

The conference, which advocates for Catholic bishops and dioceses in Pennsylvania, has adopted the position of the Task Force for Child Protection, which was formed by the state Legislature following the Jerry Sandusky sexual-abuse scandal at Penn State University. In its 2012 report, the task force found Pennsylvania's statutes of limitations among the most "generous" in the nation in the amount of time given victims to file civil claims and criminal charges. The task force also said it would not recommend a law creating a window to revive expired claims because of the potential for stale evidence and constitutional concerns.

Under those recommendations, victims wouldn't be getting access to the church's secret archives. Cafardi said the intrigue around those archives is overblown and that they are treated much the way a private company handles its personnel files. In most dioceses, those records are merely kept in a locked filing cabinet, he said.

"Honestly, I think it was a bad translation from Latin to use the word secret. That gave it a sinister tone," Cafardi said. "A better word would have been confidential. And there's nothing in canon law that prevents the bishop from giving [authorities] access to the archives."

That's what's been happening the past 14 years in the Allentown Diocese, Morganelli said. Since May 2002, the church has agreed to immediately forward any complaint of criminal wrongdoing by a church worker to the district attorney's offices — a move that is now required by state law.

Morganelli said that in the last 14 years he's been forwarded more than 50 letters or complaints against priests. Most were well outside the statute of limitations and many were against church personnel no longer alive. None has been eligible for prosecution, he said.

A change in laws that would eliminate those limitations could push some of those into civil court, but Morganelli wasn't advocating that.

"I'll leave that for state legislators to decide," he said. "It's unfortunate, but we may have to accept that a lot of these guys got away with it. Hopefully, going forward, we can do a better job making sure they don't."


Lawsuits alleging abuse by priests have been costly to Catholic dioceses across the nation. Here's a look at the largest settlements since 2002:

Diocese/Priests or church officials involved/Settlement/Victims/Amount per victim

Los Angeles, Ca./ 221/$660 million/508/$780,000

San Diego, Ca./NA/$198.1 million/144/$825,000

Oregon Province of the Jesuits/NA/$166.1/500/$199,000

Orange County, Ca./44/$100 million/91/$659,000

Boston, Ma./142/$84.25 million/554/$92,000



More must be done to ensure everyone feels safe

by Melanie Nicholas

This is Part 1 of a two-part series on how parents and caregivers can protect children against sexual assault.

I know that I am not the only woman disheartened by the article in the March 6 Reporter-Telegram that forcible rapes were up 27 percent in 2015 compared to the year before, according to police department statistics. Equally disheartening is that in all 46 cases, the victims knew their attackers. That makes me sad and it makes me angry. My heart breaks for these victims, whose bodies and minds and trust were violated.

That article should have you up in arms, too. Nearly 50 people -- your neighbors and friends, your coworkers, your children -- will never be the same. And I am guessing those numbers actually are higher because there are many people who never report sexual assaults.

We have to demand more: more from each other, more from the justice system and more funding for shelters and victims' advocacy groups. More must be done. We have the right to feel safe.

Rape prevention starts at home. Parents, we have to teach our children boundaries. If we don't teach them not to hurt each other, not to bully and not to take things that don't belong to them, how can we expect them to act differently when they are teens or adults?

We also have to teach our children to use their words -- and we have to listen. Even toddlers should be allowed to decide how they want to touch and be touched. I have never forced my children to hug or kiss anyone if they didn't want to. How can I tell Bodacious that no one has the right to put their hands on her but then expect her to submit to someone's kisses out of politeness?

I want my children to know that no always means no, period, whether they are 3 or 23. If your children are older, encourage them to begin thinking about their own personal limits and practice role-playing with them so that they know how to say stop. Children do this naturally -- “she's standing too close to me” or “he's breathing on me” are heard in houses and from back seats all across the country. What your child is expressing is that their boundaries are being crossed and the other person needs to back off.

Helping them decide their limits and how to communicate those limits will become increasingly important as their social circles grow and they begin to date. Teaching our children how to accept another person's limits is just as important. Both of my children get very excited to be around their best friends. Consequently, they stick to them like glue. So we're working on respecting “personal space.”

Parents have to set the standard at home. Children living with abusive parents often grow up to be abusers themselves. If you are not safe at home, I beg you, get out. There are places to go, people who will help you. The Genesis Center of Midland provides 24-hour emergency shelter and victim services to women and children. Safe Place of the Permian Basin provides 24-hour shelter and support for adult survivors of abuse and their children.

We have to stand firm about the types of media we expose our children to. I was stunned last year when a kindergartener told me she watches “The Walking Dead” with her parents. Not OK, folks, not OK. Allowing children to watch television shows, listen to music or play video games that glorify violence desensitizes them to it. The Hubs and I watch “The Walking Dead,” but in our room, after the kids are in bed. I know it's a lot of work, a lot of monitoring, but it's worth it. Movies and television shows are rated for a reason, as are albums, which carry parental advisory stickers on the covers. Pay attention to them and pre-screen. We can't shelter our kids from everything but we can create a safe space at home.



‘Everyone's complicit': Why sexual abuse survivors need your support

by Chloe Booker

Warning - this story contains material which may distress some readers

Most school mornings Di Elderton spent in dread as she waited for her father, Alfred Zammit, to knock on the wall between their bedrooms. Rat-a-tat-tat. Time to come in.

But when she finally worked up the courage to tell the secret she mustn't tell, we, as a society, let her down.

Di was an only child. Her mother went to work early, so it was her father's job to take her to school from age nine to 15. The routine always ended the same. She would have to help him masturbate to climax in the bathroom.

"You'd do it if you loved me," he said, to her protests.

It was normal, he told her. It was their secret. It was what fathers and daughters did.

Sitting in the sun-filled back room of her immaculate Victorian-era inner city Melbourne home, Elderton, a business owner and graphic designer, is now at last able to tell her story without crying.

It can't be easy to speak to a stranger after years of being silenced. But she does because she wants her message to reach other sexual abuse survivors – 80 per cent of whom never report out of fear, according to the Centre Against Sexual Assault.

"Everyone's complicit," she says. "By people not supporting [victims] to do something or not reporting it themselves, I really believe you are almost protecting the perpetrator."

Elderton wants survivors to know of the healing that justice can bring.

As a child, Di was terrified of her father. She lived in fear of what would happen to her or her mother if she told. For a long time she held the secret close. The oral sex. The shame. The rat-a-tat-tat. Finally, years later, after her parents had separated, she told her mother.

Her mother's face showed disbelief. She told her not to tell anyone. Today, her mother struggles to look her in the eyes. And so it went. Her teenage friends wept but did not know what to do. Later, when she was an adult, lawyer friends warned against going to court. But most hurtfully, almost all of her Maltese family – on both sides – watched as she broke down in tears, then carried on as though the conversation had never happened.

Her father's side wasn't even surprised at the news; they had guessed it, but they continued to support him.

"The reaction was always shock," Elderton says. "It was 'Oh my god' but then it was just nothing.

"It was like, 'don't discuss it again. It wasn't that big of a deal.' There was no checking in to see if I was OK. They never asked me about it again."

Their reactions only compounded the fear she had carried as a child.

"When you're a kid ... you go, if I tell anyone, no one will believe me," she explains, "but you work up the courage to tell someone ... It's really hard when people absolutely don't mention it again. I would just go, 'I shouldn't have said anything, because now I feel just awful.'"

There were years of suffering. Anxiety, bulimia and nightmares. Abusive relationships. She didn't know who or even how to trust. Then she met Robert.

About four months into their relationship, which began a decade ago, she walked into the lounge room on a Saturday afternoon and told him what had happened to her.

Open, supportive, trusting. He wasn't like the others. "We have to resolve this," he said.

Robert's victim impact statement says he wasn't shocked at the news. Her behaviour gave away that some kind of serious abuse had occurred in her life.

"I was now faced with a simple choice," the statement says. "I could either help Di to face her past, and do so quickly, or choose a collective life embroiled in a daily battle of anxiety, trust issues and post-traumatic stress."

The couple went on to have children. Two daughters. And it was her girls, Elderton says, who finally inspired her to act. "Having kids – and having two girls especially – was the catalyst."

Three years ago, at 43, she nervously picked up the phone and called the police: "I'd like to report that I've been sexually abused." And so began her recovery.

Wearing neat, smart clothing, her black hair tied back, Elderton details her abuse for this story matter-of-factly, but its enormous weight is palpable in her voice.

Her victim impact statement makes sobering reading. One line stands out: "I constantly feel either judged or pitied for what was done to me."

This is what Elderton wants to stop.

"For society to change, I can't not come out and say this needs to be addressed and people need to support people ... That's what's allowed this whole culture to exist. It's no different than what's happening in the church. If we want to change it, we have to all stand together and make this thing spoken about."

What Elderton does not want is your pity. She doesn't need it. For she has taken her power back.

From the moment she walked into Fawkner police station on an autumn afternoon with Robert by her side, she says, the police listened to her and took her story seriously. First the gentle older male officer. Then, the young female detective, Louise Serrao, whose support and compassion helped get her get through the "hideous" process of making a statement – and the three years of waiting between then and the final outcome.

"When I first met Di, she was nervous, but she wasn't reluctant," Senior Constable Serrao says. "She was ready."

The detective says reporting can be daunting for survivors of sexual assault, but that Victoria Police's response has dramatically changed in the past decade. Officers now listen without judgment and, most of all, believe them.

"The change came when [Elderton] was making her statement, when someone, being me, sat down and listened ... and believed her. It was like a weight had come off her shoulders."

Elderton only became stronger each time she told it.

"Telling your story over and over again allows you to come to grips with it and process it," she says. "It's still awful and it's still frightening, but it becomes less shameful."

The days in court were not easy. The defence lawyer "aggressively" grilled her for up to seven hours at a time and told her she had made it all up to punish her father for leaving her mother.

Her father, whom she describes as "rotten to the core", denied the abuse throughout, and pleaded not guilty.

Elderton slept little. Her fear her father would come and hurt her and her family was sometimes overwhelming

But when the judge summed up the case in front of a jury and a handful of friends, she felt she had finally been heard.

Alfred Zammit, now 69, was found guilty of multiple sexual offences, including carnal knowledge of a girl under 10, incest by parent, unlawfully indecently assaulting a girl and gross indecency in the presence of a girl under 16.

The judge found he had shown no remorse. "You've not only done this to your only daughter, but ... you've been more than happy to watch her go through this all again," Elderton remembers him saying.

In November, Zammit was jailed for 11 years, 7½ of which were non-parole.

These days, the nightmares have stopped. Elderton describes feeling lighter. Unburdened. Safe.

"This whole lifetime of being dismissed," she says, "then ... the judge stands up there and apologises to you on behalf of the state. And that just heals so much."

Victorian sexual assault crisis line: 1800 806 292

National child abuse helpline Child Wise: 1800 991 099

National sexual assault helpline 1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732



Stop the Abuse Now: Here's How You Identify Child Abuse and Report it

by Neeti Vijaykumar

Do you know if your neighbour's son, your niece or the boy who lives in the shanty across your street is safe?

We read shocking stories of children falling prey to sexual abuse and molestation everyday. National statistics state that about 53% children are abused. The highest number of cases were reported in Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar.

Many cases of child abuse are never reported because the child is reluctant to confide in anyone. Or the family of the victim may not want to confront the abuser if he or she belongs to an influential family for fear of backlash or shame.

Many cases never come to light at all because no one notices that the child has been abused.

It's time to rethink how parents and teachers and other adults often take children's safety for granted.

Identifying signs of sexual abuse early is important. Parents and teachers especially need to be very vigilant. But it is also incumbent on all of us – as neighbours, caretakers and members of a civilized society – to watch out for and report child abuse cases. Here are a few things we need to keep in mind:

Abusers don't just pick on the quiet ones: An outgoing, friendly child is also at risk. The level of vulnerability does not depend on age, gender or perceived maturity level. The risk level remains high for everyone – from toddlers to teens. Children are vulnerable in every section of society. So, while we keep our eyes open for the children on the streets, we also need to sit up and take notice of children in our midst – in our schools, families and neighbourhoods

Being aware of a child abuse case and not reporting it is illegal: As per Section 19 and 21 (1) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, it is mandatory to report cases, not just for those being abused, but also those who are aware of the incidence of abuse. This extends to people working in media houses, hotels, clubs, studios, photographic facilities, and hospitals. Schools in Maharashtra are mandated to report cases of sexual abuse.

As an adult who knows of a crime against a child or the potential for one, failure to report can get you jailed for six months.

The process of attaining justice has sped up: After (POCSO) Act came into effect in 2012, there has been an increase in the number of cases that come to court for trial. Right after lodging a complaint with the police, an investigation is conducted within three months. A special court works on the case within a month after that, reaching a decision in less than two months.

In most cases, the abuser turns out to be someone the child trusts: A recent study by RAHAT reported that in Mumbai, 91% of cases involved a parent as the perpetrator of long term sex abuse. Examining the environment and the people around them is essential. Pay particular attention to families with a reputation for domestic violence, alcoholic parents, and children living in unsafe environments such as brothels, on the streets or orphanages. Educational institutions also need to ensure that their students are safe. In a police-led investigation in Bengaluru in 2014, 10% schoolchildren were abused by their teachers.

Beware of the ‘groomers': Tulir, a Chennai-based NGO working against child abuse, noted in a report that abusers use trickery, making the child feel special and blackmail to lure children. The report states,”This process is known as ‘grooming', and refers to a series of steps an abuser takes, such as gaining access to the child, developing a relationship with the child, making the child feel special by providing extra attention and gifts, to gradually beginning to touch the child.” This manipulation is why children find it difficult to say no.

Look for sudden changes in the child's behaviour around people: Depending on the age, behavioural manifestations of sexual abuse include sudden withdrawal from socialising, aggression, inappropriate sexual behaviour, and sleep and eating disorders. In many cases for younger children, an unusual fear of certain places (such as closed or dark spaces) or of certain people could be a telling sign. But most behavioral changes are subtle.

The important thing to do here is to let them take their time to trust you enough to talk about what is troubling them.

Not all bruises are from playing: While children are prone to cuts and bruises from playing rough, it's important to identify and examine marks that are in unusual places, such as thighs, torso, neck, or in and around genital areas. You can identify a child who is routinely physically abused by wounds that are in varying stages of healing.

Many cases of abuse come to light when the injured child is brought to hospital: In Mumbai, the Multidisciplinary Child Protection Centre, an initiative of Nair Hospital and UNICEF, works on the rationale of identifying signs of child abuse when the child is brought to the hospital. The centre consists of a team of doctors and social workers, and follows through the entire process of the case, from involving parents to working with the police and the legal system.

You need to get consent from the child before reporting: In most cases, you don't need to wait for evidence before you report. But it is extremely important to get consent. Mumbai-based NGO Arpan published a report, Mandatory Reporting, which analysed the motivations and deterrents of reporting child abuse cases. The study found that abuse survivors felt betrayed when the person they trusted had reported without their consent. “The decision to report is contextual and almost entirely based on the environment, both immediate and social, of the survivor,” the report says.

Call the national child relief helpline, 1098: Besides filing a report with the police, you can also contact child rescue organisations that are present in nearly every state and city. For instance, Mumbai-based Arpan works entirely on CSA cases, while Save The Child has centres all over the country. There's Bosco in Bengaluru, Rahi in Delhi, El-Shaddai in Goa, Tulir in Chennai, amongst many others. These rescue centres will assist the child and the family. A national helpline number, 1098, set up by the Childline Foundation has a team of volunteers in many cities and districts of the country, who also partner with over 700 NGOs and the police.



Sex abuse survivor pushes for prevention programs in schools


HELENA, Mont. (AP) — 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.

Speaking out

“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.

Tara's challenge

Doing something about it comes with 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.”


West Virginia

Weirton teens make videos against child abuse


WEIRTON, W.Va. — Local teens are working with a community activist to raise awareness about child abuse through a series of powerful videos.

The videos take viewers into the world of an abused child. They're a glimpse of what happens to too many kids behind closed doors.

In just six seconds, the message is very clear: It shouldn't hurt to be a child. The Weirton teenagers involved in making the series of public service announcements hope that message makes a lasting impression.

"It puts the audience in situations that a child could be put in and it gives the audience a new perspective," said Mikey D'Amico, filmmaker.

17-year-old Mikey D'Amico, his 13-year-old brother Nick D'Amico and 13-year-old Keilana Saunders are working with community activist James Keller on the project. Mikey shoots and edits while the others act out the horrifying reality of child abuse.

"I just had to really get the fearful expression down that I show when I look at the camera. I really had to get a fear in my eyes" Nick said.

It's a fear that has no place in childhood -- a fear that will only go away when enough people join the fight to stop it.

"I thought that everyone should do their part, and as a filmmaker I decided that I could do a part in a special way," Mikey said.

The videos cost nothing to make -- just time and dedication. They're posted on a YouTube page titled "It shouldn't hurt to be a child" and they're circulating social media, where both adults and other kids can see them.

"I hope that kids will see this video and be not scared to tell adults that they're being abused and it'll get out there and they'll get help," Keilana Saunders said.

The group plans to make more videos in the future and they want to let other kids know anyone can help raise awareness and prevent child abuse, no matter their age.



Pakistan Parliament Passes Law Against Child Sexual Abuse

Pakistan's Senate passed a bill that for the first time criminalizes sexual assault against minors, child trafficking and pornography.

The amendment to the penal code, which will go into force after being ratified by the president, also raises the age of criminal responsibility from seven to 10 years old.

Under the legislation, sexual assaults will now be punishable by up to seven years in prison. Previously, only rape was illegal.

Also, child pornography, which was previously not mentioned in the law, will be punishable by seven years in prison and a fine of 700,000 rupees ($7000).

Pakistan in August was hit by a major pedophilia scandal when hundreds of pornographic videos of children from the village of Hussain Khanwala in Punjab province were found in circulation.

About 20 arrests were made. But at the time, only the acts of rape and sodomy were illegal.

The new amendment also criminalizes child trafficking within Pakistan. Previously traffickers were only liable for punishment if they removed children from the country.

"This is a very important step to realize the obligations of Pakistan" under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Sara Coleman, UNICEF's child protection chief, told AFP.



Juveniles in Maryland's justice system are routinely strip-searched and shackled

by Erica L. Green

The Baltimore girl, 15, stood in front of the judge that spring day two years ago. She'd stolen toilet paper, laundry detergent and clothes because her grandmother was sick and they had little money. The judge said it was time for the serial shoplifter to learn a lesson.

He ordered a weekend stay at one of the state's juvenile detention centers — where she would be subjected to two increasingly controversial practices.

First, the courthouse guards shackled her with several pounds of metal that bound her ankles and connected her handcuffs to a chain around her belly. She fell to her knees as she attempted to hoist herself in the transport van.

When they arrived at the detention center, a guard surprised the girl with an order: Take off your clothes. It was a strip search, and the first time a stranger had seen her naked. She was as scared as she was exposed.

Like thousands of youths detained in the state's juvenile justice system, she experienced the same shackling and strip search practices as an adult convicted of murder. While state officials say they need to ensure safety, there is a growing movement nationwide to curb the widespread use of these methods, which medical and legal experts say are humiliating, traumatizing and often unnecessary with juveniles.

"What we're doing," said Melanie D. Shapiro, chief attorney for the public defender's juvenile court division in Baltimore City, "is treating them like hardened criminals."

The practices continue in Maryland's juvenile system despite efforts to end them. For years the state's Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit, an independent agency in the state attorney general's office, has called on the Department of Juvenile Services to stop the indiscriminate use of strip searches and shackling.

Juveniles have been routinely shackled in Baltimore City courts, even though a statewide judicial resolution called on judges to stop the practice unless there are safety concerns. With adults in most cases, the Supreme Court has ruled that shackling them in court violates their civil rights.

Measures to reform strip searches and shackling of juveniles have led to showdowns at the State House and courthouse. Some state lawmakers are seeking to restrict both practices, while public defenders have launched a coordinated legal effort to fight the shackling of juveniles in city court.

Public defenders, child advocates and mental health experts say the juveniles, most of whom have already experienced trauma, are further traumatized by strip searches and shackling. Critics contend that both tactics rob them of their constitutional rights to due process and privacy, and undermine the very goal of the juvenile system — to rehabilitate youths.

"I felt violated," the Baltimore girl, now 17, said of her experience, wrapping her arms around herself. "It made me feel like I did something wrong — I mean I did — but like I hurt somebody bad."

Officials at Maryland's Department of Juvenile Services say they need to strip search and shackle those in their care to keep everyone safe. In fact, Juvenile Services Secretary Sam J. Abed has expanded the use of strip searches. It now happens after every visit with the public — including with lawyers and supervised family visits. Before, the youths were simply being patted down.

Officials point to two escape attempts and the murder of a teacher in a facility in the past six years, and they maintain that searches and shackles have helped to prevent the facilities from devolving into the violence and chaos that used to plague the system, until the U.S. Department of Justice intervened in 2005.

"For us, this is a life-and-death issue," said Jay Cleary, Abed's chief of staff, pointing out that some of the facilities are in residential communities. "We have very little margin for error."

Under the current policy, these practices apply to every youth, many of whom are detained briefly, often for low-level offenses. The policies also apply to juveniles who have not gone to court yet, and who could be found to have done nothing wrong.

The Department of Juvenile Services declined to make its full policies publicly available, citing security. The Baltimore Sun obtained the policies from sources to detail how the practices are carried out.

The attorney general's Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit has been documenting cases over the past three years in which youths have been subjected to the practices, even when, by the state agency's own standards, the juveniles pose little to no risk.

In one photograph, a young woman who was about to successfully complete her treatment program at J. DeWeese Carter Youth Facility was shown shackled in a dentist chair, where she remained bound throughout her entire exam. According to monitors, cuff marks were visible on her wrists from her transport to the dentist office.

Another photo showed two girls being shackled as they prepared to travel to take their GED exam. Yet they had been considered so "low-risk" that they had earned weekend passes for good behavior.

The unit's most recent report shows a staff member in a Santa hat shackling a girl at Carter. She'd earned a home pass to celebrate Christmas, but her family was not able to pick her up, so she had to be taken home in chains, by a staff member from the youth facility.

That report, released a few weeks ago, also revealed how liberally strip searches are used. After a teacher lost a her building key, guards, attempting to find it, strip-searched dozens of young men at one institution. The key was later found in a staff room.

"We shouldn't be further traumatizing kids unnecessarily, without any particular and individualized reasons," said the unit's director, Nick Moroney. He said these practices should be limited to times children are physically acting out, or somehow show a risk of harming themselves or someone else.

Most vulnerable kids

The issue comes against a backdrop of a national debate over reforming policing and the criminal justice system.

In a shift to a less punitive approach, President Barack Obama recently ordered a stop to solitary confinement of juveniles in the federal prison system. In Maryland, lawmakers in the General Assembly are considering bills that would limit life-without-parole sentences for juveniles and make it more difficult to charge them as adults. Another bill would increase funding and accountability in the education system for the state's juvenile offender population.

The juvenile system is designed to be different from the adult one. Under the law, youths in the juvenile justice system are guaranteed rights that adults don't have: to education, rehabilitation and treatment programs. Also, the children are not found guilty of a crime, but instead are ruled delinquent.

An assistant public defender in Baltimore, David Shapiro, who recently joined the office after leading a national campaign against courtroom shackling of juveniles, noted that the nature of the system could allow abuses.

"The juvenile system is confidential, and that's a great thing. But because of that, some of the issues they face are swept under the rug, whereas for adults they're out in the open," Shapiro said.

The Baltimore Sun does not name juvenile offenders; the youths interviewed for this article asked to remain anonymous because they feared their record could hurt their chances of getting back on track.

At stake in the juvenile justice system are the futures of thousands of young people who, research shows, are at high risk of landing in adult prisons.

Statewide, roughly 4,300 youths cycled through the juvenile justice system last year. They have been found delinquent for crimes, but nearly 70 percent are nonviolent, according to Department of Juvenile Services data. The two most common offenses for youths placed in facilities are second-degree assault — mostly fights — and theft. More than half of the juveniles in the system are considered to be at low to moderate risk of rearrest.

Experts describe kids in the juvenile justice system as among the most vulnerable, at-risk youths in the country. National studies show that nearly all of the youths in the juvenile system have experienced trauma, and that nearly two-thirds of young men in the system and three-quarters of young women meet the criteria for one or more psychiatric disorders.

In Maryland, a study by the department in 2012 found that 46 percent of girls placed in facilities had a history of physical or sexual abuse.

Others point out that the policies disproportionately affect African-American young men, like so many other parts of the criminal justice system. The overwhelming majority of teenage boys in the state's 14 juvenile facilities are black.

The Maryland chapter of the NAACP, which has filed a federal civil rights complaint alleging incarcerated youths aren't receiving a proper education, said that strip-and-shackle policies are just one more example of how black youths' rights are being violated by the juvenile justice system.

"These practices go back to slavery time," said Wandra Ashley-Williams, the chapter's vice president. "It's about stripping them of respect. And they do become angry. They don't see any hope or future, because this is what they know, and it's a bad model."

Juvenile shackling

Shackling of juveniles became commonplace in the 1980s, attorneys say, during a period when the prevailing culture was tough on crime.

The complete set-up of chains can weigh eight to 25 pounds. Security staff is required to put shackles on the youth's lower legs, near the ankles. Those cuffs are linked with a chain.

The guards also lock the youth's wrists in handcuffs and then attach those cuffs to a chain draped around the youth's waist. That is then sealed off with a black box and heavy padlock.

"They feel like fire, like someone put hot metal into your skin. Even when they aren't tight, they hurt when you walk," recalled a 19-year-old interviewed by The Sun about his experience before a Baltimore City judge as a juvenile for a robbery charge. He was with a group of boys when one of them stole a cellphone.

Per Department of Juvenile Services policy, youths must be shackled any time they are transported by staff, including to medical appointments. There is an exception for youths placed in lower-level security facilities, such as the small camps in Western Maryland. Juveniles can also be shackled if there is a disturbance inside a facility.

"We have youth being transported all over the state, every single day," Cleary said. "The community is counting on us to keep them safe and keep the youth safe."

For years, youths have also been shackled in the courtroom.

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court stopped that practice in court for adults, ruling that shackling adults who posed no flight or safety risks violated their due process rights, because they could appear guilty before a jury or judge.

Since then, 23 states have followed suit for children, either by laws or binding court resolutions. The measures have been championed by the National Juvenile Defender Center an advocacy group that led a campaign against indiscriminate juvenile shackling.

The group says juveniles are no more likely to be aggressive or attempt to escape in states that no longer routinely shackle them.

"Many states are riding the wave, understanding that this is the right side of history to be on," said Christina Gilbert, who heads the campaign.

Following the lead of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Maryland's highest court passed a voluntary resolution in September to curtail the shackling of juveniles in court.

Though the resolution still gave juvenile judges ultimate discretion, it stated that the default should be to unshackle juveniles, as "placing children in shackles can be traumatizing and contrary to the developmentally appropriate approach to juvenile justice."

In the six months since its passage, while most jurisdictions have begun unshackling most youths without problem, public defenders say that Baltimore City's juvenile judges are still routinely shackling juveniles.

Paul DeWolfe, public defender for the state of Maryland, decided to fight it. He said his attorneys in the city are arguing every day to have their clients unshackled. "If you go to juvenile court, day in and day out, you see children and families, and it's obvious that this is not necessary," he said.

The public defenders argue that being chained makes the youths appear guilty before the witnesses and others in the courtroom. Even judges who hear juvenile cases can be affected by the image.

"We all have implicit biases," said Melanie Shapiro, head of the city's juvenile public defender office. "Because of these biases, when a child is brought before the court in chains, he looks more guilty and dangerous. Even if it's subconsciously."

The attorneys say the shackling also hampers the youths' ability to help with their defense, as they are often preoccupied and uncomfortable in the cuffs and metal chains.

"You got your feet and your hands shackled like you're a cold-blooded killer," said the young man interviewed by The Sun. "When people in the court see that … and you gotta go in front of a judge like that. … You feel like you don't even have a fighting chance in the courtroom."

In Montgomery County, where they now routinely unshackle juveniles without problem, public defender Mary Siegfried sees a change in the kids. "They're more confident when they're asked a question and speak to judges. Their body language is different, not just because they're not in shackles …. but because it doesn't seem like a foregone conclusion that they're going to walk out in them."

Judge Robert Kershaw, who heads the juvenile courts in Baltimore City, said he personally believes that courtroom shackling of juveniles is "sickening."

But he did say that the public defenders' expectations are unrealistic. He noted that youths can become upset in juvenile court, and it's happened enough that judges have to be vigilant. It's the judge's job to keep the courtroom safe, he said.

"When they got the resolution, they believed all of the shackles would be put on a truck and never seen again," Kershaw said. "In a perfect world, that would be case. It's not that simple."

But a week ago, as The Sun posed questions to the court, Kershaw issued an order to give city judges more guidance on when they should unshackle.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh was surprised and outraged to learn that shackling is still routine practice for kids. He noted that he recently attended a murder trial where an alleged gang hit man not only appeared unshackled, but also approached the judge's bench with his lawyer.

"If we don't need an accused gang hit man shackled in court — an adult — then we don't need juveniles shackled in court either," Frosh said. "When you don't treat adults that way, it seems to me indisputable you shouldn't treat children that way."

He hopes that lawmakers don't have to get involved in judicial affairs, but said that he would support legislation that stopped the practice of unnecessarily shackling juveniles in courtrooms.

Legislative and legal efforts

Officials with the Department of Juvenile Services said that its shackling policy and strip search policy are considered best practices by the American Correctional Association.

Cleary rejected the characterization of the policies as "indiscriminate," noting that the department has specific guidelines.

Abed, who has led the department since 2011, did change the department's shackling policy to limit the use of restraints on detained girls who are in their third trimester of pregnancy. He also amended the policy to comply with federal law by requiring that strip searches be conducted by two staff members of the same gender as the youth.

Public defenders and child advocates want further reforms. They say the department should follow best practices formulated by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a child advocacy nonprofit.

In Maryland, legislation filed in this year's General Assembly called for the department to limit the use of shackling and restraining, including when youths are transported, unless there was a particular security threat. The legislation also sought to ban strip searches for youths.

"They are children, and these policies have nothing to do with any particular risk from a child," said Sen. Delores Kelley, a Baltimore County Democrat who filed the bill. "If you were to look at ... 'cruel and unusual punishment,' this is it."

Kelley reluctantly withdrew the bill after it received vehement opposition from Abed, whose support she wanted for other juvenile justice-related bills. It also failed to garner any sponsors in the House of Delegates.

Abed declined to be interviewed for this article, but his chief of staff said the bill would make facilities more dangerous.

Then last month, Sen. C. Anthony Muse, a Prince George's County Democrat, filed a similar bill to restrict shackling and strip searches, stopping short of a ban on strip searches. A version of his bill has been filed in the House, and a Senate hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the strip search issue is being litigated in courts.

Individual cases have been working their way through state courts, and a coalition of 17 advocacy groups, including the high-profile Juvenile Law Center in Pennsylvania, has asked the Supreme Court to review a case.

In that case, a 12-year-old boy was strip-searched upon entering a juvenile facility. While the Supreme Court narrowly ruled such searches are constitutional for adults when arrested and jailed, the court has not ruled on the question for the juvenile system.

However, the boy's attorneys argue that the court has found strip searches of youths in other settings, such as schools, to be unreasonable without strong evidence. They also note that the court has found the searches can cause serious emotional damage in school-age children.

Strip searches

In Maryland, youths are strip-searched whenever they are admitted into facilities.

The child must be completely disrobed, and the searches include an examination of the "youth's anatomy, which may include head, hair, mouth, torso, pelvic area, legs and feet."

To ensure that the contraband is not hidden, staff are to request that youth place their legs at a 15-degree angle or take a parade-rest military stance and raise their arms during visual inspection. The juveniles said a supervised shower follows the inspection at intake.

Youths interviewed by The Sun say that the strip searches only last a minute but feel like forever. They said some staff members try to make them feel at ease, explaining that they have to do it and want it done as quickly as the youth do.

The 17-year-old girl who was strip-searched for the weekend stay said she avoided eye contact with a staff member who conducted her search.

"I didn't want to look at her," she said. "Violated is people seeing something that you don't want them to see. Even though it was allowed, still — she seen me."

The policy states that at no time should the staff members touch the youths. At one point in the process, youths are ordered to squat and cough, in case they are hiding something. If guards determine a body cavity needs to be searched, it is supposed to be done by a medical professional.

Cleary said there are consequences for staff members and youths who don't agree to the strip searches. Staff members are disciplined; youths are secluded from the general population.

"Strip searches are uncomfortable for everyone involved," said Cleary, Abed's chief of staff. But, he added: "There is no ... adequate substitute for a strip search."

One youth who spent a few years in the system said that strip searches are used as retaliation, which violates the department's policy. For example, he said, a guard can do a strip search to make an example of a juvenile, or kids can accuse each other of having contraband so they would have be strip-searched. In those cases, explained the youth, it's announced that the strip search is about to take place.

"You're telling the whole tier that another man about to go strip this man," the teen said. "He has to come back to this tier and sleep. That don't fly too well when you're in there."

Cleary said that juveniles can file a grievance if they feel staff members are abusing the strip-search practice.

The most recent juvenile monitoring report noted an incident in which a strip search turned violent. A youth alleged that a staff member punched and choked him while conducting a strip search in the facility bathroom. The staff member was removed from contact with children while an investigation is underway.

Two years ago, Abed expanded the policy to require that youths be strip-searched after visits with the public.

That means that, if a youth has earned an outing for good behavior, the juvenile still needs to be subjected to a strip search upon return. A court date and family visit in the same day would mean multiple strip searches.

Public defenders said some of their clients declined visits from their mothers to avoid the follow-up strip search.

The practice is jarring to lawyers who say they are now forced to weigh whether to meet with a client to discuss the case, or skip it knowing that the visit could mean a strip search. They question the necessity, saying they have to go through several security screenings, including metal detectors, before they visit their clients. Talking face-to-face to clients can be invaluable, especially as phone calls in facilities are monitored, attorneys noted.

"I am constantly in the position to make a decision: What is the greater harm?" said Melanie Shapiro, the chief public defender in Baltimore City. "And that's offensive."

Emotional impact on kids

Child psychiatrists say that strip-searching and shackling youths can have a lasting mental impact.

The practices can lead to post-traumatic stress, anxiety and mood disorders. In the most extreme cases, experts say that overly punitive methods such as shackling and strip-searching can lead to deep depression and even suicide.

"It's not only a demeaning process, it's also an unfair restriction of human rights and basic dignity that occurs here," said Dr. Louis Kraus, a child psychiatrist who evaluated Maryland's juvenile justice mental health services when the Justice Department had oversight over the state system.

Kraus is a member of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which, along with the American Bar Association and other groups, has denounced the practice of indiscriminate shackling as unconscionable and unconstitutional.

He said that staff in the juvenile justice system should be trained to evaluate whether or not youths pose risks that require them to be restrained.

"When dogs have muzzles put on them, they're assessed first," he said. "They're not even doing this for these kids."

Kraus said policies like Maryland's on strip searching and shackling can exacerbate whatever trauma and behaviors led kids into the juvenile justice system in the first place — and increase the likelihood that they will get into trouble again.

"You make them into little criminals, instead of kids who can be helped, and that's what they're going to be," he said. "You're going to worsen pathology that already exists."

A few years after spending roughly two weeks in the Baltimore Juvenile Justice Center, nicknamed "Baby Booking," one Baltimore teenager still remembers every detail: the hard bench that pressed into his spine, the smell of urine that filled his nostrils, his wrists inflamed for a few days from the handcuffs, how cold his skin was during the strip search.

"You still think about it every day," said the 19-year-old, who has since graduated from high school, earned an associate's degree and now works two jobs. "How you was locked up, how you was taken away from your family, how you was made to be out something that you aren't."

He doesn't have to go back, but the 17-year-old girl who stole the food and clothes is again facing juvenile court. Over the holidays, she shoplifted toddler clothes from The Gap for her niece's Christmas present.

Now a senior at an alternative high school, she recently got a job, and her grandmother is back to work part-time, so she says she doesn't need to steal anymore. She just got her senior portrait taken, and she has glimpsed another self.

So even as she is haunted by feeling bound in the heavy chains and terrified of strangers staring at her naked body, she tries hard not to think about facing that again. Instead, she likes to envision herself, one day in May, in a long burgundy gown, striding across the graduation stage.



South African woman convicted of kidnapping newborn from hospital and raising it as her own for 17 years


A South African woman was found guilty of kidnapping a newborn baby and of raising her for 17 years after an incredible coincidence reunited the teenage girl with her biological family.

A newborn baby named Zephany Nurse went missing from a Cape Town hospital in 1997, three days after she was born to biological parents, Morne and Celeste Nurse.

"My baby was crying and I saw a person dressed in maroon clothes standing by the door. She asked if she could pick up the child," Celeste Nurse said in tearful testimony in court, according to BBC. "I was in pain and under medication. I fell asleep. Next thing I remember is the nurse asking where my child was."

Zephany, it turns out, was right under their nose for 17 years, growing up just a couple of miles away.

The name she grew up with has not been revealed due to a court order to protect her privacy.

In an extraordinary twist of fate, the Nurses' younger daughter, Cassidy, attended the same high school as Zephany and their classmates noticed a striking resemblance between the two teenage girls.

When Zephany's biological parents saw the two girls eating burgers together and found out she had the same birthdate as their long lost daughter, they ordered a DNA test which proved they were related.

The 51-year-old woman convicted of kidnapping, whose name was also not released in order to protect the 18-year-old's identity, claims that she believed she was adopting the baby girl from another woman after she had a miscarriage.

She hid the miscarriage from everyone, including her husband, and passed Zephany off as her biological daughter.

“I never knew she was stolen,” the convicted woman said in a video interview with BBC news, with her back to the camera.

“No one believes me at this moment. I'm a victim myself. I was a victim of a thing I was not aware of.”

She has not been able to see Zephany since she was arrested in February 2015.

The judge who handed down the verdict, John Hlophe, said the woman's account was a “fairy tale.”

“You must have been the person who removed the child from the hospital,” Hlophe said.

“Your story, if anything, is a fairy tale and the court rejects it with the contempt it deserves.”

Zephany released a statement through her attorney, who works for the Centre for Child Law, with an emotional plea to the press to give her privacy and to not demonize the woman who she grew up believing was her mother.

“Don't you think for once that that is my mother? Whether it is true or not is not for you to toy with,” she wrote


Another view of Afghan ‘Tea Boys'

by Logan Jenkins

To a degree of difficulty impossible for you and me to imagine, Catherine McLennan sees the adult world through the eyes of stricken children.

It's no wonder she responds to news stories about Afghan “Tea Boys” in a way far different from you and me.

To most Americans, reports of our soldiers being sickened to fury by allied Afghan commanders drawn to bacha bazi (or “boy play”) reflexively triggers a surge of cultural pride.

The vast majority of Americans instinctively applauds legislation, introduced by San Diego Congressman Duncan Hunter, that outlaws the pragmatic protocol of turning a blind eye to Afghan child abuse at military bases.

Most of us would eagerly sign a petition to the United Nations urging an end to the whole spectrum of sexual exploitation, including the custom of powerful men feminizing young boys as playthings.

To McLennan, however, the First World's moral superiority over this particular species of child slavery is a reminder of the morally inferior American reality she sees in children's eyes every working day.

McLennan's glass is, to be sure, darkly colored.

The supervisor of the Child Abuse Program at Palomar Health's Forensic Health Services, she has interviewed more than 3,000 North County children who have been physically and sexually abused.

She knows the looks in their eyes as police officers drop them off.

She knows the terrified reluctance to speak. (“Besides, no one keeps a secret so well as a child,” Victor Hugo wrote in “Les Miserables.”)

She knows how to draw from kids the evidence that will help the DA send their tormentors to prison.

To McLennan, the torture of the poor and vulnerable Tea Boys is not foreign exotica akin to female genital mutilation or honor killings.

No, sexual exploitation of the young is a human virus flowing in the bloodstream of the United States. The only difference is that the screams and moans are muffled under cleaner pillows.

“We're still failing children,” McLennan says to me.

Playing devil's advocate, I point out that in this country criminal laws are zero tolerance. Knowingly touch a child the wrong way (even look at the wrong image) and you are, by definition, a criminal.

In short, we are infinitely better than a tribal theocracy so impoverished and sexually repressed that boys are treated as commodities. We are the Judeo-Christian good guys.

McLennan responds with ice-cold statistics.

In a San Diego general health study begun in 1998, Kaiser Permanente found that 22 percent of those surveyed, including both men and women, reported they were sexually abused as children. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2006 found that one in four women and one in six men recalled being sexually abused before age 18.)

Did the victims tell anyone? Probably not.

According to multiple international surveys, McLennan tells me, some two-thirds of survivors of child sexual abuse never speak up. The crime is never revealed, particularly to a person of authority.

“The degree of shame, embarrassment and culpability that is experienced by even young children is something that is grossly underestimated,” McLennan wrote a few years ago in the wake of the Penn State scandal involving a predatory football coach, as creepy a figure as any Afghan warlord.

Talking to McLennan, you can hear the fatigue in a mind exposed every working day to intimate crimes against humanity.

We're a superpower that loves to pull rank in the morality department, but we deserve no trophy in this showcase.

Before we preen over policing Afghanistan's despicable practices, McLennan suggests, let's at least admit how deeply embedded child sexual abuse is in the fabric of American life. Let's talk openly about the unspeakable that lurks within (or very close to) the family circle.

McLennan routinely meets people who, after they learn what she does for a living, say, “That was me.”

Was me.

The thing is, as William Faulkner famously wrote, “The past is never dead. It's not even past.”

We may send convicted pedophiles to prison and congratulate ourselves on the stern message sent, but when you look at the adult world through McLennan's eyes, you see millions of American kids who grew up to say, “That was me.”

So sadly, this is us.


United Kingdom


Protecting children from paedophiles means sacrificing their innocence

by Joan Smith

The myth of childhood innocence dies hard. Many parents hope that their kids won't have to deal with the complex world of sex until they are in their teens, keeping childhood as one of the last places untouched by adult desires. But such hopes seem illusory in the face of evidence that the scale of child sexual abuse in this country is much greater than we previously believed, and is increasing due to technology.

A rise in prevalence, as opposed to reporting, is the development that everyone working in the area dreads. Following the exposure of Jimmy Savile, police forces were inundated with reports of historic rapes and sex attacks, almost universally believed to reflect a greater willingness of victims to go to the police. It was widely welcomed, not because a woman revealing that she has been raped is ever good news, but because confidence in the criminal justice system is essential to stopping rapists.

Now, though, one of the country's most senior police officers is saying something very different about the increase in recorded cases of child abuse. Simon Bailey, chief constable of Norfolk and the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for child protection, believes that technology has made it easier for predators to search for victims online, driving an increase of more than 30% in recorded cases last year.

According to the NSPCC, a total of 45,456 child sexual offences were recorded in the UK, with some victims aged five or under. Shocking though that is, the figure is low compared to estimates contained in a report last year from the children's commissioner, Anne Longfield. It suggested that there had been between 400,000 and 450,000 victims of child sexual abuse in England alone between 2012 and 2014.

There is always resistance to such estimates, which are based on different types of evidence including surveys of adult survivors, while the apparent mishandling of historical allegations against some well-known individuals has led to claims of a witch-hunt. But the NSPCC's figures represent recorded cases of child sexual abuse and Bailey says that the police are seeing “exponential increases” year-on-year. He doesn't believe that there has been a rise in the proportion of the population with a sexual interest in children, but technological advances have vastly expanded opportunities for paedophiles.

No one would argue that it is possible or even desirable to keep children away from the internet. But we are already living in a different universe in terms of child sexual exploitation: in 1990 it was estimated that there were approximately 7,000 indecent images of children in circulation in the UK and predators had to take enormous risks in order to share them. In 1978 a former diplomat, Sir Peter Hayman, was investigated by the police after he left a package of paedophile material on a London bus.

Now it is believed that there may be as many as 100m indecent images of children in circulation. There is so much material, in fact, that the police have been accused of unacceptable delays in getting round to interviewing people who have been flagged up as suspects. In 2014, Essex police were criticised for waiting nine months to question a deputy headteacher from Southend, who was later discovered to possess more than 400 films and still images of children undressing at his school and a local swimming pool.

Children cannot possibly be expected to anticipate this kind of behaviour from someone in a position of trust. That is why they need to be told about warning signs, making sure they know what to look for and who to tell if they are worried by someone's behaviour. The obvious place for that to happen is in schools but a vociferous lobby exists, dedicated to opposing every attempt to introduce compulsory sex and relationships education on the ground that it would unnecessarily “sexualise” kids.

The truth is the opposite: denying children knowledge about the world puts them at risk from paedophiles who may inflict lifelong damage. But the present government flatly refuses to make personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) mandatory. Last month the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, rejected another call for compulsory PSHE, despite a campaign by MPs, peers and a coalition of 100 concerned organisations.

I regularly sit in meetings with senior police officers who deal with the horrors of child sexual abuse on a daily basis. They can't say so publicly but they are tearing their hair out over our society's failure to teach children how to spot predators. I'm afraid that childhood innocence may be something we can no longer afford if we're serious about protecting kids from dangerous people.



Restorative justice could help victims of institutional child sex abuse – report

Restorative justice could be useful to help repair harm in some cases of institutional child sex abuse, according to a UNSW report released by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The UNSW report, "The use and effectiveness of restorative justice in criminal justice systems following child sexual abuse or comparable harms", is among a suite of papers released by the Royal Commission that will inform the Commission's criminal justice work.

Restorative justice emphasises repairing the harm caused by criminal behaviour by bringing together all those involved – victims, perpetrators or institutional representatives, and people close to victims – to talk about the impact of a crime and a way forward. It also encourages offenders to take responsibility for their actions.

The Royal Commission asked the UNSW research team led by Dr Jane Bolitho to undertake a literature review to examine the research evidence on the effectiveness of restorative justice approaches in relation to child sexual abuse.

The use of restorative justice in Western countries has grown exponentially over the past two decades as an alternative to traditional criminal justice options for young offenders.

Dr Bolitho's review found evidence that suggested restorative justice is being practised to good effect following sexual abuse, in cases where the focus is on the victim, experts in sexual violence are closely involved with the programs, skilled and experienced facilitators are used, and participants are screened as suitable and adequately prepared and de-briefed.

Dr Bolitho, a lecturer in UNSW's School of Social Sciences, says there is evidence that under specific conditions, participation in restorative justice programs improves victim well being and is perceived by victims as satisfying, worthwhile and procedurally fair.

She says best practice exists in models such as Project Restore in New Zealand where restorative justice has been used for adult survivors to address sexual violence since 2005.

Useful research based on rigour, relevance and sample size relates also to the South Australian Family Conferencing models studied over many years, says Dr Bolitho.

"This work compares court to restorative conference outcomes for young people who have committed sexual offences. The findings suggest that matters are dealt with more quickly through conferencing than court, more perpetrators agree to stay away from victims, and more perpetrators offer apologies," she says.

"In addition, offenders are more likely to participate in a treatment program tailored to address the reasons for sex offending."


State legislatures take aim at child marriage

Many US states set marriage age limits set at 16 to 18 years old but allow exemptions with parental and/or judicial consent or pregnancy. Child advocacy groups hope to end these exemptions.

by Lisa Suhay

In the state of Virginia, a 13-year-old child can legally marry an adult twice her age, and all that's needed is a clerk's consent, provided she is pregnant and has parental consent.

That is expected to change this week, however, after Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signs reform legislation. If he signs the bill passed Tuesday, the Virginia law may be the first domino in a chain of legislatures around the nation.

Similar bills are in the works in New York (A. 8563), Maryland (H.B. 911), and New Jersey (A. 3091) where, as in many other states, marriage age limits set at 16 to 18 years old are easily set aside through exceptions based on parental and/or judicial consent, or pregnancy.

“Child pregnancy should trigger alarm bells, not wedding bells,” says Marlena Hartz, spokesperson for the legal advocacy group Tahirih Justice Center. The Virginia-based nonprifit, founded to help women who are survivors of a wide range of violence, including forced marriage, recently analyzed marriage data from select states and found “disturbing results.” The group is working in partnership with Hogan Lovells, Unchained at Last, and the National Organization for Women (NOW).

“A child who's 13 and pregnant – it's rarely the case that the 13-year-old is marrying a 17-year-old,” said State Sen. Jill Vogel (R), who sponsored Senate Bill 415 in Virginia, to local media. ”It's more often the case that it is a child marrying somebody decades older than they are.”

Proponents of this legislation want to see it in all 50 states, because they say that victims of forced and child marriage can face severe and lifelong consequences – including physical, psychological, sexual, and economic abuse, mental health problems, and a loss of freedom to choose and make their own futures.

“The common assumption we are seeing is the belief that child marriages don't happen that often – and when they do, it's believed they are Romeo-and-Juliet-aged peers, which is not what we are seeing happen here," says Jeanne Smoot, senior policy counsel for Tahirih.

"The data shows it's girls under the age 18, including some who are well under age 15, being married to adults and one-third of the time that adult is over 21."

The Tahirih study found that nearly 4,500 children were married in Virginia between 2004 and 2013, and more than 200 of them married at age 15 or younger. About 90 percent of the underage spouses in Virginia are girls. Among the very youngest (15 or younger), there are 13 times more underage brides than grooms.

In Maryland, Tahirih found that, since 2000, more than 3,000 children were married. About 85 percent of the underage spouses were girls. Particularly alarming was a 2012 case in which a 16-year-old-girl married a man in his late 30s.

“In 2006 the State of Georgia did away with the pregnancy exception to their underage marriage law, to respond to cases in which those being investigated on charges of statutory rape had tried to avoid punishment by simply marrying the child they were accused raping,” says Ms. Smoot.

In New York state, 16- and 17-year-olds may marry with “parental consent” and 14- and 15-year-olds may wed with judicial approval. The data show that 3,853 children were married between 2000 and 2010.

State data from 2011, excluding New York City, showed that a 14-year-old married a 26-year-old, a 15-year-old was wed to a 28-year-old, another 15-year-old was wed to a 25-year-old, and a third 15-year-old married someone age “35 to 39.”

All of those marriages were approved by New York judges.

Sonia Ossorio, President of NOW New York, says that when she met with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo about the issue, “He was strongly supportive of the bill. He said it's time for something to be done to end this.”

Overall, there has been little public opposition to anti-child-marriage legislation. “There has been no organized push-back against our efforts," says Fraidy Reiss, founder of Unchained at Last. "I don't think anybody wants forced marriage to continue.”

Between 1995 and 2012, 3,499 New Jersey children were married, says Ms. Reiss. Most were age 16 or 17 and married with parental consent, but 178 were between ages 10 and 15, meaning a judge approved their marriages. Of those children, 91 percent married adults, often with age differences that could have triggered statutory-rape charges.

“The worst case in New Jersey was that of a judge in 2006 approving the marriage of a 10-year-old boy to an 18-year-old woman,” Reiss says. “A judge in 1996 allowed a 12-year-old girl to marry a 25-year-old man.”

In Texas from 2009 to 2013, some 718 children between the ages of 15 and 17 were married. Texas, with its every-other-year legislative cycle, will see this legislation next year.

“That is just the few states where we have completed the data examination,” says Reiss. “We intend to examine every state in the nation. We are also looking for more partners to help us protect children.”

Globally, 88 percent of countries set 18 as the minimum marriage age, but more than half allow minor girls to marry with parental consent, according to the World Policy Center.



A Crime Hidden in Plain Sight: Human Trafficking in Milwaukee


The commercial sex trade industry works like any other market, with supply and demand. Experts say that a stronger emphasis on deterring people from purchasing sex in Milwaukee would address a root cause of the problem.

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.

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.

The victims

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.”

John Doe

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.

Targeting demand

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.

John school

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.”



The Scars of Young Years

by Northeast Today

Some scars are for life and the scars inflicted upon by the trauma of sexual abuse during childhood is the most ghastly of all.

Nancy Rabha is one of the most popular girls of her college. Blessed with good looks and an hourglass figure, she often gets modeling assignments throughout the year. But, since she only wants to concentrate on her studies as of now, she politely refuses every one of them. With a cheerful disposition and a group of friends encouraging her at every step, Nancy's life seems to be a perfect life to live. Well atleast on the surface.

Unknown to many, Nancy has been fighting her own demons inside her head from a long period of time haunting her peace of mind at various waking hours of her life.

A victim of sexual abuse during her childhood by one of her own relatives, she has been fruitlessly trying to get rid of those scarred images ever since. Depressed from within, she never spoke of those incidences to anyone except her best friend out of fear of judgement and grave consequences.

Speaking for the first time to a complete stranger, Nancy spoke her heart out for once. “I was barely eight or nine years old when those strings of horrific incidents happened. I was sexually abused and molested by my own uncle, every time my parents had to go somewhere due to work. As both my parents were in the tourism business, most of the times I had to stay with my uncle who was incharge of me during their absence. Taking advantage of the situation, he abused me innumerable times. This continued for around three years and with eaching passing moment fear clouded my mind. Unable to share these horrendous incidents to my parents or anyone else, I started avoiding this person as much as I could. The saga of fear and abuse only came to an end when I was put in a hostel in Dehradun for a bright future. Only I knew, how my future looked to me then! I was totally depressed and failed to trust anybody. Everyone I met, seemed like they would take advantage of me like my uncle. It took me years to cope up with the scars my childhood gave to me, coiling under the nightmare on many a sleepless nights. Today, even after a decade or so, even though the fear has subsided to some extent, I am still haunted by the graphic images that I had locked beneath the layers of my happiness ever since I can remember.”

Nancy's story is not the example depicting the aftermaths of child sexual abuse victims. Several Nancys are among us, painfully hiding their gruesome stories in their soul . One would be appaled to know that according to research 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. However, many of these cases goes unreported due to factors such as fear of judgement, pressure from the family, depression etc.

Talking about child sexual abuse or child molestation, it refers to a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for his/her own sexual stimulation. Forms of child sexual abuse include asking or forcing a child to engage in sexual activities , indecent exposure of the private parts to a child with intent to satisfy their own sexual desires or to coerce the child, physical sexual contact with a child, or using a child to produce child pornography. Whether it is home, school, work, public transports, etc child sexual abuse can take place anywhere more than often going unnoticed and unreported, causing the child to live in a traumatic world of their own.

The hidden scars: Every one of us know someone or the other who has been a victim of child abuse in their early childhood, irrespective of any gender. For instance, Daniel Lyndoh , a college student from Meghalaya has been sexually abused by his own school teacher when he was in the second standard. Out of fear of getting poor grades and failure, Daniel silently suffered the shock and distress of this incident and gulped down the bitter truth of his life for years to come. It was only when he was in college, when he shared his secret with his girlfriend. “The first time I shared this with my girlfriend, I almost cried with relief. I felt as if a huge mountain has been removed from my heart.”

Sharing her thoughts on the importance of parents talking about sex to children in a way the latter can shield themselves from abusers, actor Kalki Koechlin once posted on Humans of Bombay, a Facebook page modeled on the Humans of New York that she was sexually abused as a 9-year-old.

Kalki says, “The reason I spoke out about my sexual abuse is not to get people to feel sorry for me but to give others who have had similar circumstances the confidence to talk about it. I allowed someone to have sex with me at the age of nine, not understanding fully what it meant and my biggest fear after was that my mother would find out. I felt it was my mistake and so I kept it hidden for years. If I had had the confidence or awareness to confide in my parents it would have saved me years of complexes about my own sexuality. It's important that parents remove the taboo around the word sex or private parts so kids can speak openly and be saved from potential abuse.”

Fact o File: Research shows that child sexual abuse has been estimated at 19.7% for females and 7.9% for males. It is observed that most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims.

While almost 30% are relatives of the child; around 60% are other acquaintances; and approximately 10% of them are strangers in child sexual abuse cases. The rate of men committing such crimes is found to be more in comparison to women.

Ring a bell: Children tend to be more withdrawn and secretive if faced with child sexual abuse. If observed carefully, their very actions are enough to provide a glimpse of the early signs of something that has been bothering them. Delhi based Pyschologist Ruby Anthony says that parents should always keep a tab on any changed behaviour noticed in their children as these could be the warning signs of something that could have happened to them.

Elaborating on the effects of such events going unnoticed she says,“If not discovered on time, the effects of child sexual abuse can range from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, physical injury to the child among other problems. In extreme cases, it can even lead to suicide attempts.” She presents certain warning signs to watch out for in children and adolescents of any possible child sexual abuse:

• Insomnia, bedwetting, having nightmares occasionally

• Becoming withdrawn and unnecessarily secretive

• Sudden change in behaviour, eating disorders, mood swings, bouts of anger, insecurity etc

• Acting out in an inappropriate sexual way with toys or objects

• Self-harm

• Physical signs, such as, unexplained soreness or bruises around genitals or mouth, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy.

• Pain, discoloration, bleeding or discharges in genitals, anus or mouth.

• Not wanting to be alone with a particular child or young person

If any of such signs point towards a possible case of child sexual abuse, report immediately to concerned authorities. Also try to talk to your child and take him/ her to a pyscholgist/doctor if repercussions of the abuse doesn't subside. Try to give the child a change of environment so that he/she can cope with the trauma in the coming time.

The Key: The only way to fight the evil of child sexual abuse is through proper awarness and reporting of such heinous incidences to the concerned authorities in the right time, Parents should make their children aware of sexual abuse from a very early stage. Schools should also have certain classes dedicated on sex education so that children can distinguish the right from the wrong.

The scars are too deep to see, but it always threatens to hover at some point or the other if not talked and shared in time. Lets hold our hands together and fight this evil as one.



Let's work together to end child sexual abuse in Ky.

Child sexual abuse training scheduled across the state: March-November

by Andy Beshear - Attorney General

FRANKFORT — As a father of a 5- and 6-year-old, preventing child abuse is personal to me. I'm committed to do everything I can as Attorney General to protect all of Kentucky's children from abuse.

Like me, Kentucky's first lady Glenna Bevin feels a duty to advocate for the welfare of Kentucky's children. We decided that the best way to help keep our children and your children safe is to better educate professionals and the public on prevention. That's why we teamed up to launch three statewide child sexual abuse training programs.

Sexual abuse is one of the most devastating forms of abuse for children. It robs them of their childhood, and they often carry the scars with them forever. It happens more frequently than anyone likes to believe. There are far too many predators. Statistics suggest one out of every 214 males in Kentucky is a registered sex offender. There are also many more victims than we think, as only five to 13 percent of victims even disclose their abuse.

The trainings in your community will increase child safety, community policing and crime prevention initiatives. They are going to help us protect more children and arrest more pedophiles.

The first training, What Sex Offenders Can Teach You, features Cory Jewell Jensen, M.S, a nationally recognized child advocate and the co-director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention. Jensen will teach participants how to protect children from molester selection and grooming, and reveals advice that sex offenders have shared with her over her 30-year career.

The training will be held across the state in each of the 15 Area Development Districts (ADDs) in coordination with the 15 Child Advocacy Centers. This training is for prosecutors, law enforcement, child and victim advocates, religious affiliates, medical personnel, educators, and others who are in a position to protect children.

The second training, Protecting Our Children: Advice from Child Molesters, will also cover information from Jensen. Two participants from your community, one from law enforcement and one prevention advocate, are being recruited to attend this training. Afterwards, they will return to provide trainings to groups in your community. The training is scheduled for May 4 and 5 in Lexington.

The final training, Using Technology to Keep Children Safe from Sexual Abuse and Exploitation, is an Internet safety train-the-trainer program and features an Internet Safety Toolkit. The training will be held in Lexington on May 18 and 19. This training is open to everyone and will be available online. Parents should definitely take advantage of the online resources.

These trainings are also special in that they represent one of the largest collaborations between government and the nonprofit community. Partners who made the trainings possible include: Office of Victims Advocacy, Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, the Department for Criminal Justice Training, the Kentucky Association of Child Advocacy Centers, and the Department for Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disabilities. Only by coming together can we protect our children.

I encourage those interested in attending any of these trainings to visit my website,, to learn more and register. And, if you want to help support victims of child sexual abuse, visit your county clerk's office and request an I Care About Kids license plate or check the box on your tax return to designate a portion to the CVTF.

Remember, reporting child abuse is not just a moral obligation, it is the law. My hope is that each year this will be a growing collaboration to save children from a lifetime of fear and hurt.

I have made it my mission to protect Kentucky families. Every day my office is working to prevent child abuse, address drug abuse, seek justice for victims of rape and protect seniors.

Together, we can make our communities safer.




Closing the cycle of sexual abuse

by Thomas Murt

First, it was Penn State. Then it was the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Now, just when you think that scandals involving the sexual abuse of children can't get any worse, we learn about yet another one.

After a prolonged and extensive investigation, authorities have uncovered literally mounds of evidence of child sexual abuse and cover-ups by Roman Catholic Church officials. The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown reportedly protected priests who were known child molesters. The diocese, through church connections and pathetic public officials, protected the child-molesting priests from law enforcement and prosecution.

Perhaps the worst crime the diocese committed was never taking subsequent action to protect children from these child-molesting priests. When a priest was found to have sexually abused a child, the normal protocol was to simply move the priest to another parish, offer a cash payment to the family and/or send the child-molesting priest on retreat, only to have him returned to ministry in the future.

As ugly and painful as the latest clergy sex-abuse scandal is, this is not the last one about which we will hear. While many victims are finding the strength to come forward, we have yet to hear from the thousands of child sex-abuse victims who are still hiding in shame and humiliation. The true shame and humiliation, however, is not theirs at all. That belongs to Pennsylvania's legislators who still collectively refuse to take action to reform the statute of limitations as it relates to child sex abuse.

Changing the statute of limitations going forward might help protect children in the future, but what about the thousands of men and women already sexually abused and suffering in silence? These blameless victims had their innocence stolen by a priest or other abuser. Many have experienced a lifetime of shame, broken relationships, substance abuse or other negative behaviors. Some victims of abuse have taken their own lives. It's not hard to comprehend this pattern.

The latest grand jury report says that these victims deserve a “finite” open window on the statute of limitations so they can step forward and face their abusers and the entities that protected them.

One of my closest colleagues, Rep. Mark Rozzi, has lived this pain and anguish. He is a daily reminder to those of us in Harrisburg who care to listen to what must be done legislatively.

This bill does what every grand jury has asked — it opens a two-year window so that victims of sexual abuse, who missed the statute of limitations, can pursue civil claims against the abuser who robbed them of their innocence and childhood. Hard-copy evidence exists for many of these claims to be proven beyond any doubt. All we need are some courageous elected officials in Harrisburg who are willing to do the right thing.

Thomas Murt represents the 152nd Legislative District comprising parts of Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. He is chairman of the Human Services Subcommittee on Mental Health.



He Breaks In And Starts Beating A Teen Girl. That's When He Realized He Wasn't Alone With The Teen..


In hopes of seeing a 19-year-old girl, a young man broke into a Tulsa, Oklahoma home. Now he's been left paralyzed and no arrests have been made.

Early on Sunday morning, police responded to a call that reported gunfire. When they got to the home in question, they found the 19-year-old man lying in the backyard with a bullet wound. He was unable to move.

Allegedly, the now paralyzed man entered the home through the homeowner's teen girl's bedroom window. The two started fighting and the intruder punched the teen in the face.

When the mother heard her daughter's scream, she grabbed her revolver and shot the intruder as he ran for his life.

“He had been struck at least once by a bullet,” said Captain Steve Odom, Tulsa Police Department.

The intruder was taken to the hospital. He is expected to survive but will likely remain paralyzed.

Captain Odom thinks that there was likely a relationship between the teens but the details have yet to be confirmed.

Although the boy was shot and paralyzed, no arrests have been made.



When A 6-Year-Old Came To School With THIS On His Back, His Teacher Desperately Screamed For Help…

(disturbing pic on web site)  

When a 6-year-old didn't do his homework, the mother brutally beat the boy with a wire hanger.

Now Chinese police have decided not to press charges against the abusive mother. And this kind of abuse happens all the time…

  When Xiao Bing was changing for gym class, a teacher noticed the massive welts across his back.

Without hesitation, the teacher reported the abuse to the authorities. She also took pictures of the boy's injuries so she had evidence of the brutality.

Officers asked Bing why he was beaten. He told police that he had failed to do his homework.

“The boy's mother and father are unhappy about his performance at school, saying that he is a naughty boy who often fails to do his homework and needed to be taught a lesson,” said police spokesperson Hu Ling.

“His mother had hit him after discovering that once again he had not done his homework on time.”

The police said Bing was taken to the hospital where he received proper treatment. But cops said the injuries look much worse than they really are.

The boy's mother was taken in for questioning. But the police decided not to press charges and let her off with a warning.

The photos of the boy's back where posted online after the teacher learned that the mother wouldn't be punished. The teacher says that young students in China face a lot of pressure and abuse like this is sadly common.



Op-ed: Give survivors more time to file child sexual-abuse claims

by DeAnn Tilton and Ken Ivory

For every legal action, lawmakers decide how long a victim has to take the offender to court. Historically, the state of Utah has given survivors of childhood sexual abuse just a few years to get to civil court to seek redress for the harm done to them by those who have abused them.

While short time limits, also called statutes of limitation, can be appropriate for some legal actions, such as property disputes, where it's in both parties' best interest to get to court quickly and sort out who owns what, decades of research into the experiences of survivors of childhood sexual abuse tell us that traditional statutes of limitation are inappropriate in these cases.

We now understand, better than ever before, that there are many significant barriers survivors face in going public with the abuse inflicted upon them, not the least of which includes disclosing it to their loved ones. Other barriers include intimidation, shame, fear of losing important family relationships and the distortion that child sexual abuse causes to the mental and emotional ability of a survivor to comprehend the nature and damage caused by the exploitation and abuse. Research now shows that survivors are into their 40s, on average, before they are able to publicly disclose the abuse.

Despite these barriers, some survivors eventually heal enough to find the courage to knock on the courthouse doors seeking justice for the harm done to them. Tragically, they have found those doors were locked years ago by unrealistically short statutes of limitation. This injustice not only prevents survivors from seeking civil damages to recover some of the financial costs for the physical and mental harm done, it also prevents them from publicly informing the rest of society about those who are still free to abuse others.

Last year, the passage of House Bill 277 remedied this problem for those children whose statutes had not yet expired. Victims under the age of 22 by March 23, 2015, now have the time they need to get to civil court. However, anyone age 22 and one day, or older, cannot.

This year's House Bill 279 is an attempt to rectify this problem. If passed, HB279 affords survivors up to age 53 to bring civil claims against their perpetrators. Those who are already 53 years old would have three years from the time the bill becomes law.

Lengthening the civil statute of limitations in cases of childhood sexual abuse not only helps individual survivors, but it also helps to shift the costs of the harm done from society onto the abuser themselves. This is a critical step toward child sexual abuse prevention. Insufficiently short statutes of limitation have prevented legal enforcement of childhood sexual abuse as criminal and civil actions, creating a vicious cycle.

Up until now, claims typically expire before survivors have healed and matured enough to get to seek any legal redress, thereby silencing survivors and allowing abusers to roam free. Studies show that the average sexual predator of children abuses dozens of children before being stopped by law enforcement. By lengthening the amount of time survivors can get to court, we lower that number, helping to prevent abuse, which is a root cause of social problems like violent crime, homelessness, teen pregnancy, health problems and substance abuse. This is an important step toward creating a healthier, happier Utah.

DeAnn Tilton, M.S., is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and founder of Talk to a Survivor, an organization that supports people working to publicly identify as survivors, and also trains adults to speak up when someone is crossing safe boundaries with children. Rep. Ken Ivory has represented House District 47 since 2010 and has championed legislation protecting victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse.


Abused By Priests As A Child, He's ‘Finally Been Released'

As the deadline nears for child sex abuse victims to sue, one of the first to step forward talks about his settlement with Hawaii's Catholic Church.

by Denby Fawcett

Mark Pinkosh was one of the first in Honolulu to come forward publicly and discuss allegations of alleged child sex abuse by Catholic Church clergy in Hawaii.

Four years ago at a news conference, Pinkosh claimed he was raped by then-priests Joseph Henry and Joseph Ferrario in the late 1960s when he was a 9-year-old altar boy at St. Anthony Padua Church in Kailua.

Pinkosh, now 53, is the first to speak publicly about a mediated settlement he reached with the Diocese of Honolulu.

“I feel joyous. I feel freed up. All the anger I have been holding in for decades has finally been released,” he says.

I spoke with Pinkosh by phone Friday. After seeing the movie “Spotlight” about Boston Globe reporters who uncovered the complicity of the church in covering up sex abuse by priests, I wanted to find out more about what the Catholic Church in Hawaii is doing to address the issue.

I also wanted to learn more after seeing those local newspaper ads asking Hawaii victims of child sex abuse to come forward to file claims before the deadline expires next month.

The statute of limitations for criminal charges in old child sex abuse cases ran out long ago, but the Legislature extended the date for civil claims in 2012 and again in 2014 to the current April 24 deadline.

Sen. Maile Shimabukuro unsuccessfully tried to extend the deadline this legislative session for yet another two years to April 2018. Her proposal died when it failed to get a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sixty-three  people claiming they were sexually abused sued the church in Hawaii after the statute of limitations was extended in 2012. Since then, more than 30 of their claims have been settled in mediation.

The allegations are against 26 priests, brothers or others working at 18 Hawaii schools and churches.

Attorney Mark Gallagher, who has handled many of the sex abuse lawsuits, says that two or three more people alleging sexual abuse by Catholic clergy have been added to the mediation list.

Pinkosh hopes still more survivors act before it is too late to sue. That's why he is willing to talk about incidents of sex abuse that still make him uncomfortable.

“I'm keen to have anyone shine any sort of publicity on the recent events and past horrors being put right,” he said in an email.

I called him Friday at his hotel in London, where he is on a two-week vacation. He said the relief of settling his case had made him feel free for the first time to take a real vacation in London, a city which up until now he has visited only for work.

On Nov. 12, the Diocese of Honolulu and the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers settled the complaint by Pinkosh, who accused priests Ferrario and Henry of raping him when he was a fourth-grader attending after-school programs and serving as an altar boy at St. Anthony  Church. Both men were at St. Anthony at the time.

Ferrario later became bishop of the Diocese of Honolulu, from 1982 to 1993. He was the first Catholic bishop to be accused of sexually attacking children.

A total of five men accused Ferrario of molesting them when they were young.  D avid Figueroa went on the “Geraldo Rivera Show” in 1990 to claim Ferrario began to abuse him at St. Anthony's, where he says Ferrario sometimes paid him after having sex. Figueroa said Henry also molested him.

Ferrario maintained he was innocent. He died in 2003 of cardiac arrest.

Henry, who died in 1974, is considered the most notorious of the all the priests in Hawaii accused of molestation and sexual assault. Seventeen men say Henry harmed them sexually.

Gallagher says, “Father Henry was the most egregious offender. The most frightening thing about him is how highly he was thought of in the parish when he was doing this to all these kids. There are people at St. Anthony who still defend him.”

Attorney Randall Rosenberg, who has filed suits for clients alleging abuse, says Henry not only abused children at St. Anthony Church, he also convinced officials at the Koolau Boys Home where he was counseling troubled boys to let him take certain boys to sleep-overs at his Kailua house, where he sexually molested them.

Pinkosh says he served as Henry's altar boy. “He raped me. It wasn't just touching. It was violent sex.”

Even though he was very young, Pinkosh knew it was wrong. He says he told two nuns what had happened.

“They dismissed it. They said I was lying,” he says.

Then he went to a priest he remembers as Father Avery.

“He believed me, but he told me not to tell my parents. He said the church would sort it out.”

He says the only advice he got from others at the church was “to stay away from Father Henry.”

But Pinkosh says that was difficult. Henry took to stalking him and whispering lewd comments as he followed him around the church grounds.

Pinkosh later sought guidance and counseling from Ferrario when the latter arrived in Kailua to be a priest at St. Anthony.

He says Ferrario listened patiently as he told him in detail about Henry's sexual abuse. He says Ferrario told him not to tell anyone and then proceeded to rape him himself.

“That created quite a mess because I could never get away from him. I had to be confirmed by him and to take communion from him.”

Pinkosh finally told his parents when he was 23. He says, “They were upset but supportive. It was very hard for them. They had trusted the church. They never went back to St. Anthony again.”

Pinkosh tried to press criminal charges in the 1980s, but he was told then it was too late, because the statute of limitations had run out for prosecution.

“I wanted Ferrario to go to jail,” he says.

Attorneys Gallagher and Jeff Anderson filed a civil complaint for Pinkosh in 2012.

Pinkosh is unwilling to discuss how much money he received in his mediated settlement. He says he plans to use some it to set up a nonprofit to provide counseling for both male and female survivors of sex abuse.

I have known Pinkosh since 1991, when I saw his play “Haole Boy.” 

Pinkosh, an actor and playwright, was one of the first to deal theatrically with race and ethnic identity problems of haoles in Hawaii. I both laughed and cried when I saw his performance. After the play, my husband bought a “Haole Boy” T-shirt, which he wore for many years.

When we watched Pinkosh in the play, we knew nothing about his suffering as a child.

At the time, Pinkosh says, he felt very alone, carrying a heavy secret because he thought he was the only one who knew the two priests were sexual predators.

He said later when he would meet other young men who had gone to St. Anthony's he was surprised to hear them joke about Henry.

“It was like a given. Everyone knew Father Henry was a pervert. They laughed about how they have been able to avoid his clutches.”

Pinkosh says the chilling thing is, the priests seemed to know exactly who to prey upon.

“They picked boys who were being raised by single mothers or children from poor families, families who were struggling. They were smart about profiling kids,” says Pinkosh.

He says own family was middle class and his parents solidly married, but they were busy with demanding jobs: his father as an Army officer and his mother working long hours at a Mexican restaurant she owned in Kailua.

“My parents trusted St. Anthony's for my care.”

Pinkosh says only now, more than 30 years later, does he finally feel the weight of what happened has been lifted. “I feel tremendously lucky.”



Former Pitcairn mayor found guilty over child abuse images

Michael Warren, who downloaded more than 1000 images of child abuse while working in child protection, will serve his sentence on the tiny Pacific island

by Eleanor Ainge Roy, in Dunedin

The former mayor of Pitcairn Island has been sentenced to 20-months in prison after he was convicted of possessing more than 1000 images and videos depicting child pornography.

The tiny British territory in the South Pacific, which has a population of around 50 people, gained international notoriety in 2004 when seven of the island’s 12 men were accused of a total of 55 sex crimes, some dating back 40 years.
Pitcairn mayor charged with possessing child abuse material wants to face 'local law'

According to crown prosecutor Kieran Raferty, former mayor Michael Warren - who served as the island’s mayor from 2008 to 2013 - began downloading images of child abuse in 2004.

During the years Warren downloaded the images he was working in child protection on the island - and traveling to New Zealand and the United Kingdom in an official capacity for further training in child protection.

Raferty said Warren’s initial defense was that he had downloaded the images because he wanted to understand child pornography after the 2004 sex abuse cases.

Warren has also been found guilty of engaging in an Internet “sex chat” with a person purporting to be a 15-year-schoolgirl, and of possessing a video that showed a bound and gagged naked woman.



Kenya child abuse: US ex-missionary gets 40yrs'

Oklahoma City -- A former missionary convicted of sexually abusing children at an orphanage in Kenya was sentenced on Monday to 40 years in a US prison.

Matthew Lane Durham, 21, had faced up to 30 years on each of four counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. He was ordered to pay restitution of $15 863.

Durham asked the court for mercy. "All I wanted was to follow God's plan for me," he told the judge.

Defense attorney Stephen Jones has said Durham plans to appeal. He has described Durham, who was 19 when he was charged, as "an emotionally vulnerable teenager" who was struggling with sexual identity while being a devout Christian.

Prosecutors alleged Durham targeted orphans while volunteering at the Upendo Children's Home in Nairobi between April and June 2014. Durham had served as a volunteer since 2012 at the orphanage, which specializes in caring for neglected children.

Orphanage officials and five of the children traveled from Kenya to testify at the trial.

Prosecutors asked that Durham be placed under supervision for the rest of his life in the event he is ever released from prison.

"He raped or sexually molested by force or threat four children ranging in ages from 5 years to 14 years - some multiple times - in a span of just 33 days," prosecutors wrote.



Innocence Abused: A Lethal Combination Of Church And State Fails Pennsylvania’s Children

by Rob Boston, Americans United

Last week, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane released a damning grand jury report about the rampant sexual abuse of minors by priests in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese – and the failure of anyone in authority to stop it.

News of the report hit me hard. I was born and raised in Altoona. For 16 years I attended a Catholic church in that diocese. I spent eight years in a Catholic school appended to one of its churches.

The nuns occasionally punished us in ways that were inappropriate, but I never suffered the kind of abuse detailed in the report. Still, I felt like I’d been socked in the gut. As I read the report, I kept coming across the names of familiar towns, churches and people.

The report is not easy reading. It goes into explicit detail about the horrors inflicted on these children. Be aware of that if you decide to take a look.

I was especially disgusted by how the powers that be in both the church and the state failed the victims. If you’ve seen the Academy Award-winning film “Spotlight,” you know how church officials reacted: They created, then hid, secret files on problem priests. They did not report them to authorities. They attacked the victims. They shipped molesters off to other parishes where, inevitably, the priests sought more victims.

In Altoona, Johnstown and in other communities, government officials simply refused to act. They were completely deferential to the church. The report discusses a priest named Leonard Inman who was known to be soliciting boys for sex. Altoona police began to investigate, but all it took was some pressure from the diocese, and they backed off.

“The Grand Jury finds that Inman was actively engaging in prostitution and oral intercourse with minors at Cathedral of Blessed Sacrament Altoona,” reads the report. “Altoona Police were aware of allegations and investigated the matter. The Diocese sought to protect the image of the institution rather than protect children or hold Inman accountable. No charges were ever filed in part due to the undue influence of the diocese over local officials.”

Things were so bad in Altoona and Johnstown, the report asserts, that church officials actually had the power to pick candidates for certain municipal jobs. At one point, a law-enforcement official asked why there was no follow-up in an especially egregious case of clerical abuse in Cambria County. A judge told him, “You have to understand, this is an extremely Catholic county.”

This is a pattern that has played out in other parts of the country. In Orleans Parish, La., a priest was accused of molesting several teenage boys in the 1980s. Investigators brought the matter to the attention of Harry Connick Sr., the local district attorney. Connick declined to press charges, later admitting that he didn’t want to embarrass “Holy Mother the Church.”

People sometimes ask us at Americans United why we are so intent on separating church and state. Religion, some of our critics assert, is a good thing. Why shouldn’t it be able to help out the government and vice versa? What’s the harm in letting church and state get a little closer?

Our usual answer is often along the lines of, “That’s not what the founders intended.” But there is another answer, one that is hard for many Americans to face but is nonetheless true: Sometimes religious groups do things that are not good – things that are, in fact, evil, vile and disgusting.

When a church does these things, when its top officials knowingly violate the law as surely as its clergy violated the bodies of innocents in Pennsylvania, only one institution has the power and the resources to hold it accountable. That institution is the state.

Yet when church and the state are linked, when they are in partnership, when they are reliant on one another and when a mutual dependency is fostered, the government can’t assume the aggressive stance that’s necessary to enforce the law. So the law is laid aside and eyes are turned away – even as more and more kids are victimized.

That’s a difficult lesson. It’s one my hometown has had to learn. We must take steps to ensure that no other communities are forced to learn it anew.


I Was Sexually Abused By A Woman, But Nobody Believed Me

by Vesna Stone

Not too long ago, I was a 13-year-old closeted queer girl, naive to what dangers existed in the world. I feel like I've lived an entire lifetime since then. At the time, I was living in a traditional home. I had a wild imagination and an unquenchable thirst for the outdoors. That would all change after meeting the woman who would quickly gain my trust and eventually rob me of my innocence.

It all started while I was packing for a family trip. My mom told me I was going to be sharing a room with my friend and her older relative. I was immediately turned off at the thought of having an adult ruin our fun, but being an optimistic pre-teen, I was determined to have the best week, ever.

By the time the vacation arrived, I was so excited that I ran down the halls searching for my room. I slid the key in, opened the door, and ran to hug my friend, who was already inside with her aunt, a thirtysomething woman with long hair, green eyes, and a smile I'll never forget. This seemingly harmless woman I just described is a pedophile.

I know what you're thinking. But not all pedophiles are balding, bearded men who offer kids candy or ask them to help them find their dog. At 13, I was prepared to run from that guy, but not this woman. She seemed one-of-a-kind; she intrigued me. The way she spoke made me want to listen to anything she had to say. Her body language was so inviting that I wanted to stay with her forever.

Within six months, she had gained my trust and my parents'. She'd take me to the mall, out to lunch, to the movies — any place a 13-year-old would want to go. I ended up seeing her nearly five days a week. I was confused about my sexuality and she used that to her advantage, telling me that no one understood me like she did and confiding in me how much she wanted to be in a relationship. All I wanted was love and she gave me that butterfly feeling in my stomach. We started exchanging "I love you's." In my young mind, I truly believed it was love. She began to have a strange power over me. Her wish was my command; nothing else in the world mattered.

Although the signs of abuse were there, I ignored them. I didn't quite understand abuse, but I did understand right from wrong — and I knew what was going on wasn't exactly "right." It started a month after meeting her, when she forced me to kiss her. Within six months, my once-innocent crush turned dark and violent. After months of saying no to her sexual advances and wandering hands, she became manipulative and verbally abusive so that I'd agree to let her do sexual things to me. She would say things like, "It doesn't matter what you want," and, "It's okay, because I love you."

She would force me to have sex with her and, on occasion, she'd bring in another adult — always men — to join. When these men got involved, I became far less cooperative. I already felt uncomfortable around strange men, especially the ones she knew, who were rough-looking middle-aged men — the kind I was taught to stay away from. The first time this happened, I remember thinking to myself, This is my worst nightmare. I cried for days after and even contemplated suicide. I had reached a breaking point; I knew something was terribly wrong with this situation.

My reluctance to participate in the abuse made her angry and she'd use that anger to hurt me in any way she could. I can still see the marks she left on my body today. Handprints from when she choked me; scratches, cuts, and bruises from when I resisted; and self-inflicted wounds from when I wanted to make myself as unattractive as possible. But at the time, no amount of self-mutilation would stop such a power-hungry pedophile.

I felt utterly alone. I knew telling someone was the only way to stop the abuse, but she had told me that she'd never talk to me again if "our secret" got out. I was young, confused, and thought I should do what she, an adult, told me to do.

So, I came to the dark conclusion that the only way to end the abuse was to end my life. I was 14, and I thought it was better to die than to upset this person who said she loved me. I began searching for the right car to throw myself in front of or the right bridge for my final jump. These suicidal thoughts kept on for years after the abuse.

The 11 months of sexual, physical, and verbal abuse finally came to an end when I tried to tell a family member. I didn't have the vocabulary at the time to explain what had happened to me and I was terrified that I'd get into trouble. So, I sugarcoated the story and said that she and I had been in a "relationship." I wanted to be as discreet as possible, so I never mentioned the sexual abuse and only said that we had held hands.

It was only a matter of time before a large tribe of family members, both immediate and extended, knew the story — or thought they did. Most were quick to point fingers and place the blame on me. I was called emotionally unstable, a liar, an overly dramatic child desperate for attention. I was again told to keep quiet by the adults in my life, so I did.

Once word got out about our relationship, I never heard from her again. I went from being a happy, energetic child to a victim, a timid and fearful mute who didn't want to speak to anyone. I thought that when I spoke, people could hear the shame and guilt I felt inside. I became self-destructive and started falling down the dark hole of addiction. My abuser got away with her crime free and clear, while I was reprimanded and shamed. So, I joined the adults in my life and blamed myself.

Prescription painkillers and self-mutilation became my sources of relief. No one talked to me about what happened; I was left in the dark, heartbroken and abandoned with so many unanswered questions. I didn't completely understand that I was sexually abused and it took me years of mourning the loss of my "first love" before I realized that what I had experienced was, in fact, abuse. All I wanted was to feel that love again. I felt more alone than ever. I would cut myself to feel control over my pain and take pills to numb the emptiness.

A few years later, I lost a relative to drug abuse and reality smacked me in the face. I realized that no amount of painkillers were going to kill the pain I felt inside. It was something I needed to face head-on. So, I reached out to a few close relatives and told them exactly what had happened to me. They became my backbone as I weaned myself off addiction. Withdrawal from the pills was painful, but in the end, I emerged an addiction-free 18-year-old. I still felt lost, but I was determined to create a meaningful life.

I was lucky enough to find support around me — being able to talk about my experience helped more than anything. After I finally broke my silence, I started to set short-term goals for myself. With each achievement, I felt my life become more meaningful. I soon found a passion and ran with it, starting a career in the beauty industry. I realized that I loved helping people look and feel beautiful; nothing compares to the joy I feel when clients leave with smiles on their faces.

Ultimately, finding a support system and pushing myself to step outside my comfort zone and set goals was what helped me find happiness. It wasn't long before I was able to love myself again. That was when I came to realize that I couldn't find happiness. It's not something you find; it's something inside of you. For me to tap into that happiness, though, I had to learn to show myself the love and compassion that I lacked during those dark years.

I'm no longer a teenager and I ask myself all the time how I made it through the abuse and the awful period that followed. Was it sheer luck? Or was the universe telling me I had a purpose to fulfill here? I have to believe it's the latter.

Although my abuser still walks free and people in my own family still don't believe me, I work every day to heal myself. I want to be able to help young women and girls like me by having a positive attitude and sharing my story of survival. In this small way, I hope I can touch someone who might be feeling as abandoned and unloved as I did years ago.

I'd be lying if I said I was completely healed from the abuse. I often wonder if I'll ever go a day without thinking about it or her. When I pass places where she abused me, see the same car she drove, hear certain songs, or smell certain perfumes, I have terrible flashbacks and even panic attacks. And I still get nightmares about what she put me through. But I refuse to let any of that hold me back from healing and living my life. I won't give her that kind of power. Looking back and seeing how far I've come makes me realize how powerful I am. It makes me feel like I can conquer the world.

I'm no longer a victim. I'm a survivor. The abuse I suffered doesn't define me, but moving past it has given me the strength to tell my story and let other survivors know they're not alone.

*The author's name has been changed to protect her identity.


Teachers Bully Too

by Sarah Burleton

My nine year old jumped into our SUV after school one day last week and let out a deep breath. “Long day buddy?” I asked and ruffled his hair. He looked at me and smiled, “It was a great day! I'm just glad I'm popular!” I took my hand off of his head and shook my head at him. “What do you mean?” I asked. “I'm glad I'm popular! Because even the teachers treat you bad if you aren't.”

I sighed, “Then not much has changed since I was a kid then I guess.” We began to drive home and my son began to talk a hundred miles an hour about what he did all day, but I was only half listening. I couldn't stop thinking about what he had just said to me and remembering those teachers from my childhood who always seemed to side with the bullies who teased me and the teachers who seemed to want to fit in with the “popular” kids almost more than I did.

School was one of the safest places I could go as a child; it was the only place I could be away from Mom for at least six hours, it was one of the only places I could go where I knew I wasn't going to be hit, and it was the only place I could get some sort of positive interaction during the day. I had some absolutely wonderful teachers who inspired me, motivated me, and whose classes I would look forward to all week. But I also had some pretty awful teachers; teachers who spent more time trying to fit in with the popular kids than trying to make all of their students feel important. Teachers who didn't punish the bullies when they called me names in class, but rather snickered and giggled from behind their desk. Teachers who were supposed to be the example of a responsible adult, but at times would act even more immature than my own classmates.

I've witnessed a teacher high five one of my bullies after they made fun of me for my shaved head, had a teacher giggle at a post-it note stuck to my back with a horrible name on it, and one teacher tell me in front of the class that I made up my abuse so I could get out of a test and escape to the counselor's office. I've had a handful of teachers who made it clear that they didn't believe I could become anything in life; because I didn't fit the jock or cheerleader prototype that they treasured. The kids who bullied me had free reign to treat me and everyone else who wasn't like them like garbage in these teachers' classrooms because it was allowed, and at times, encouraged.

Without even realizing it, these teachers ended up turning my safe place into a nightmare for the entire forty minutes I was forced to be seated behind a desk in their classroom. Subjects I once loved, such as history and civics, I began to hate because of the way I was treated. Instead of feeling empowered and educated when I left their classroom, I left hanging my head, my self-esteem crushed, and my dreams of becoming a success seeming more and more out of reach.

A teacher means so much more to me and so many others like me than just a person providing us information to pass a test. Teachers were some of the only people I had who could demonstrate what good, responsible, and caring adults acted like. They were the only people I could look to for some sort of positive interaction during my day and some of the only people in my life who I could count on to make me feel as if I was worth something. Even when my peers were mocking me and putting me down, I wanted to know that I would be safe in the classroom and that my teacher would defend me and shut the bullies down. Many, many of teachers did just that; but there were the few that acted as bad as the bullies.

Teachers have a responsibility to make the classroom a loving, caring, environment for ALL of their students; not just the “popular” ones. Just because some students are shy, dress differently, act differently, or get called out to the counselor's office randomly doesn't meant that they deserve to be made fun of or mocked by their peers and their teacher. The teacher is sometimes the only friend that students may have and the only person that they can even hope to rely on; don't let them down. Don't bully the very students who need your guidance so desperately.



Rise in child abuse cases alarms Montana officials


HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Child abuse and neglect cases in Montana's district courts have more than doubled since 2010, prompting renewed alarm from court officials and children's advocates.

“It's just astonishingly frightening,” said Beth McLaughlin, the chief administrator for the state's court system.

The rising caseload threatens to further burden a judicial system struggling to keep up with it, McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin presented the startling statistics Tuesday while updating a legislative committee on a pilot program intended to help reunite children and their parents.

Across Montana, courts handled more than 2,300 abuse and neglect cases last year, up from 1,600 just a year earlier.

The number of cases in the state's most populous county, Yellowstone, more than doubled just in the last two years, rising from 223 in 2014 to 512 last year.

In the Ninth Judicial District, which encompasses four northern counties near Great Falls, there were just 18 child abuse and neglect cases in 2010. Last year, the number spiked to 114 cases, McLaughlin said.

“I bring it to your attention because it requires more than the court's efforts to do something about it,” McLaughlin told members of the Law and Justice Interim Committee. “It's not just an urban problem, but is happening all over the state.”

An increase in meth abuse could be the reason behind the rise in cases, McLaughlin said. But she acknowledged that that theory was purely anecdotal, based on comments from district judges.

Experts say a host of problems - drugs and alcohol addictions, mental illness and the stresses from poverty - sometimes collide into situations of abuse and neglect.

“While other states are currently experiencing increases in the numbers of abuse and neglect cases, Montana stands out because its increases are so dramatic and alarming,” said Joyce Funda, the executive director of CASA of Montana, also known as Court Appointed Special Advocates For Children. The group has 14 offices statewide to serve youth who have been removed from homes because of abuse or neglect.

While she partly blamed the surge in abuse cases on meth and heroin, Funda wondered if inexperience and the high staffing turnover within Child Protective Services may be leading to more children being taken from parents.

Children's advocates have been arguing for more funding, not just for social welfare programs but for more resources to help courts and the legal system better address the issue.



CASA in desperate need of volunteers as child abuse rates climb

by Lindsey Yates

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – Hundreds of Hoosier children go to court alone. They have no one to speak up for them while in foster care.

Court Appointed Special Advocates act as the voice for those abused and neglected children.

Monday marked CASA Day at the statehouse. A time for local volunteers to meet with area legislators, and shine a light shine a light on the need for volunteers.

“The need for volunteers is great, great,” said Norma Almazan, with CASA of Vigo County.

Lawmakers recently granted the organization an extra $1.5-million in funding to be divided among 63 counties. “We went there specifically to thank them for the increase in budget last year, but that money will run out, and we will definitely be hitting them up again next year,” said Almazan.

Every day the voice of another child goes unheard. There are 110 CASA's who serve 539 children in Vigo County. There are currently sixty children waiting for an advocate.

“Our need for volunteers is tremendous at this point,” said Director Nikki Fuhrmeister.

Sadly, there's been a 40 percent increase in child abuse cases in the last few years. “We can't get this meth situation under control in our county, and we're seeing a lot of meth and domestic violence,” explained Fuhrmeister.

CASA volunteers help those children get into a safe and loving environment.

“They continually change therapists, they continually change case managers, and the CASA remains the one constant person in that child's life,” said Fuhrmeister.

When it comes to volunteering the time commitment is small but the pay-off is huge. “You don't brag about it to other people. You're not winning gold medals being a CASA volunteer, but you're winning the heart of that one child your saving,” said Almazan.

There are nearly 3,500 volunteers in 78 Indiana counties advocating on behalf of 23,500 abused and neglected children.

If you want to volunteer there's a training session Wednesday night.

For more information you can contact CASA of Vigo County at (812) 231-5658.



Local rep's child abuse bill passed House

by Kyle Elder

A bill to protect the confidentiality of records of child abuse victims held by children's advocacy centers has passed through the Georgia House of Representative and is on its way to the Senate.

The Child Abuse Records Protection Act, or House Bill 725, is authored by State Rep. Wes Cantrell, R-Woodstock.

“Thank you to my colleagues in the House for supporting this important legislation to further protect Georgia's most vulnerable citizens,” Cantrell said in a release.

Cantrell spent 2015 meeting with DFACS, Superior Court judges and personnel from Georgia's child advocacy center to learn about the issue at hand. In January, Cantrell told the Tribune the state is conducting more than 8,000 forensic interviews every year of children, minors who alleged they were victims of abuse.

“The ownership of this evidence, these DVDs, is unclear in the current law,” Cantrell said.

Cantrell said the bill seeks to clear up the records law on who may have access to the videotapes of the child abuse victims.

When children experience sexual abuse, severe physical and/or mental abuse, or witness domestic violence or a violent crime, they are taken to a Child Advocacy Center to help them begin recovering from their traumatic experience.

The mission of each Child Advocacy Center is to lessen the trauma suffered by children who have been abused by providing evaluation in a safe, caring place and to encourage collaboration of services for the benefit of the child, family and community. All CACs provide additional child abuse prevention, intervention and education services.

“Not only was our previous statute outdated, but it was also unclear, even to the individuals who should have authority over these records,” Cantrell said. “With The Child Abuse Records Protection Act, we will ensure that this information is secure, thus further protecting these precious children.”

The Child Abuse Records Protection Act requires a court order before the release of child abuse records, further protecting the privacy of the victim's information.

According to a press release by the Georgia House of Representatives, the act also states that the court shall issue a protective order covering those records when a court does authorize the release of such records. This requires anyone allowed those released records must be returned to the court upon completion of the matter that caused their release. Failure to return them or to obey the protective order may be punished with contempt of court charge.

“It is our moral and legal duty to protect the confidentiality of these interviews to ensure that they are viewed only by the appropriate people and used only by the appropriate agencies,” Cantrell said in January.

For more information about House Bill 725 visit and input “HB 725” in the left panel of the website.



Events hope to shed light on child abuse

by Lauren Langlois

With Child Abuse Awareness Month coming up, advocates at Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana are collecting data through a questionnaire to track childhood abuse in communities and are getting ready for the Pinwheel for Prevention campaign.

The nonprofit organization has a 10-question survey on its website,, that Amanda Brunson, PCA Louisiana executive director, said can help participants learn about themselves, specifically whether they were affected by childhood trauma. She said the idea is to get a picture of childhood abuse locally.

“It's another awareness tool,” added Angela Vanveckhoven, PCA Louisiana communication director.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services, 10,119 Louisiana children were victims of abuse or neglect in 2013.

The questionnaire is based on a study developed in California called the Adverse Childhood Experience Study. Brunson said through the study, researchers have linked many adult health risks, such as addiction, with childhood abuse.

The study involved 17,000 patients who were examined between 1995 to 1997. The result has been 50 scientific articles and more than 100 scientific presentations on the subject.

Brunson said the field of childhood abuse prevention is relatively new, with laws against such abuse coming out in the 1970s. Childhood abuse and other family issues can have long-lasting effects not only on the family members, but on neighbors, friends and coworkers, she said. Financially, child abuse costs the state about $1.2 billion annually, she added.

The goal of the organization is to prevent the abuse by spreading awareness and connecting struggling parents to resources. It holds parenting programs and workshops, has a statewide hotline and a sexual abuse prevention program called Stewards of Children for those who work with children to learn how to recognize and stop sexual abuse.

In the Pinwheels for Prevention Campaign, bright blue pinwheels are placed in a garden. The pinwheels symbolize happy, healthy childhoods.

Brunson said the organization chose a happy image as a way to spread awareness about the importance of preventing and intervening in childhood abuse, since people tend to look away from stark, depressing images.

In Hammond, PCA Louisiana and Child Advocacy Services will mark the start of the campaign at 10:30 a.m. April 8 in the green space at Southwest Railroad and Coleman avenues.

Two thousand pinwheels will be planted in the ground, reminding people that everyone has a role in ensuring children get a happy, healthy childhood.

“It's everybody's collective responsibility,” Brunson said.

Vanveckhoven said Mayor Pete Panepinto plans to attend. Also, Brunson said people can buy pinwheels from the organization to create their own gardens in support.




Give survivors more time to file child sexual-abuse claims

by DeAnn Tilton and Ken Ivory

For every legal action, lawmakers decide how long a victim has to take the offender to court. Historically, the state of Utah has given survivors of childhood sexual abuse just a few years to get to civil court to seek redress for the harm done to them by those who have abused them.

While short time limits, also called statutes of limitation, can be appropriate for some legal actions, such as property disputes, where it's in both parties' best interest to get to court quickly and sort out who owns what, decades of research into the experiences of survivors of childhood sexual abuse tell us that traditional statutes of limitation are inappropriate in these cases.

We now understand, better than ever before, that there are many significant barriers survivors face in going public with the abuse inflicted upon them, not the least of which includes disclosing it to their loved ones. Other barriers include intimidation, shame, fear of losing important family relationships and the distortion that child sexual abuse causes to the mental and emotional ability of a survivor to comprehend the nature and damage caused by the exploitation and abuse. Research now shows that survivors are into their 40s, on average, before they are able to publicly disclose the abuse.

Despite these barriers, some survivors eventually heal enough to find the courage to knock on the courthouse doors seeking justice for the harm done to them. Tragically, they have found those doors were locked years ago by unrealistically short statutes of limitation. This injustice not only prevents survivors from seeking civil damages to recover some of the financial costs for the physical and mental harm done, it also prevents them from publicly informing the rest of society about those who are still free to abuse others.

Last year, the passage of House Bill 277 remedied this problem for those children whose statutes had not yet expired. Victims under the age of 22 by March 23, 2015, now have the time they need to get to civil court. However, anyone age 22 and one day, or older, cannot.

This year's House Bill 279 is an attempt to rectify this problem. If passed, HB279 affords survivors up to age 53 to bring civil claims against their perpetrators. Those who are already 53 years old would have three years from the time the bill becomes law.

Lengthening the civil statute of limitations in cases of childhood sexual abuse not only helps individual survivors, but it also helps to shift the costs of the harm done from society onto the abuser themselves. This is a critical step toward child sexual abuse prevention. Insufficiently short statutes of limitation have prevented legal enforcement of childhood sexual abuse as criminal and civil actions, creating a vicious cycle.

Up until now, claims typically expire before survivors have healed and matured enough to get to seek any legal redress, thereby silencing survivors and allowing abusers to roam free. Studies show that the average sexual predator of children abuses dozens of children before being stopped by law enforcement. By lengthening the amount of time survivors can get to court, we lower that number, helping to prevent abuse, which is a root cause of social problems like violent crime, homelessness, teen pregnancy, health problems and substance abuse. This is an important step toward creating a healthier, happier Utah.

DeAnn Tilton, M.S., is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and founder of Talk to a Survivor, an organization that supports people working to publicly identify as survivors, and also trains adults to speak up when someone is crossing safe boundaries with children. Rep. Ken Ivory has represented House District 47 since 2010 and has championed legislation protecting victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse.


Padma Lakshmi Reveals Childhood Sexual Abuse: I'll Never Get My ‘Innocence' Back

by Chloe Melas

This is absolutely heartbreaking. ‘Top Chef' host, Padma Lakshmi reveals in a new interview that she was sexually assaulted at the age of seven by one of her stepfather's friends and it continued for years.

Padma Lakshmi is one very brave woman. While promoting her new memoir, Love, Loss And What We Ate, the former model revealed that when she was a young girl, they lived in a two bedroom apartment in Queens, and occasionally her stepfather's friend would sexually assault her at night. Padma reveals that when she told her mother what was happening, that's when her life took a very sad and shocking turn.

Padma says that she shared a bed with a friend of her stepfather's and that this wasn't considered abnormal since they were “used to living far too many to an apartment in India.” But what wasn't normal was that this man would sexually assault Padma, who was seven-years-old at the time. “One night, I woke up to his hand in my underpants. He took my hand and placed it inside his briefs. I don't know how many times it happened before, since I suspect I slept through some incidents,” she told People & EW‘s Jess Cagle. “Once you take a girl's innocence, you can never get it back. What I remember more is telling my mother what happened and her believing me, and then she and I telling someone else and that person not believing me. And then the next week I was sent to India.”

Padma, who has a six-year-old daughter, Krishna, says that it devastates her to accept that little girls are being abused all over the world. “I think about my daughter's classmates or my daughter. And it happens. It happens a lot,” she said. “It happens more than we think. It happens to seven out of ten girls or women at some point in some way in their lives.” It's sadly true. 1 out of every six American women are the victim of an attempted or complete rape in her lifetime, according to RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).



‘Harmony & security': Serial pedophile Dutroux planned ‘underground city' with many child victims

Belgian serial pedophile Marc Dutroux, who has been convicted of sexually abusing and killing several girls, was planning first to kidnap many children and then create an “underground city where good, harmony and security would prevail,” the murderer's lawyer told local media.

Belgian weekly magazine Soir Mag spoke to the pedophile's lawyer, who led his case between 1996 and 2003. Julien Pierre revealed shocking details of the conversations with the convicted murderer.

“Do you realize that no one has ever asked why I chose that house, that region?” Dutroux once reportedly asked his lawyer. “My idea was to carry out mass kidnappings of children and then to create, in a mine shaft, a sort of underground city where good, harmony and security would prevail.”

Dutroux, now 59, kidnapped, tortured and sexually abused six girls aged from eight to 19 back in 1995-1996. He reportedly chained his victims to their beds in a dungeon of his house. It was later revealed that his wife, Michelle Martin, knew all about his activities.

Both have a long history of convictions. In late 1980s, both Dutroux and Martin were arrested for abducting and raping five girls. However, they were later released for good behavior.

Melissa Russo and Julie Lejeune, both eight at the time of the abduction, were the first victims of the murderer. He repeatedly raped the girls and shot pornographic videos of the abuse.

Then he also kidnapped 17-year-old An Marchal and 19-year-old Eefje Lambrecks, whom he soon buried alive under a shack next to his house.

When Dutroux was detained by police over involvement in a stolen luxury car racket, officers raided his house. However, police failed to hear the cries of Russo and Lejeune, who were still alive and kept in the dungeon. The girls later died of starvation.

His fifth and sixth victims became 12-year-old Sabine Dardenne and 14-year-old Laetitia Delhez. Dardenne spent about 80 days in the pedophile's house and reportedly wrote emotional letters to her family which Dutroux read but never mailed. The girls were rescued by Belgian police. They were the only surviving victims.

Dutroux received the maximum sentence of life imprisonment, while his wife, who was proved to be his accomplice, got 30 years in prison. Martin was released in 2012, after having served only 13 years in prison. Her release prompted numerous protests across Belgium.



More than 200 attend Bucks' Crimes Against Children Conference

by James Boyle

More than 40 countries have outlawed the use of corporal — or physical — punishment to discipline children since 1979, and at least one medical expert is bewildered that the United States has not joined that club.

"There are no federal or state laws prohibiting physical punishment," said Dr. Maria McColgan, a child abuse pediatrician and director of the Child Protection Program at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. "We've outlawed assaults on people, animals, even prisoners. But we still hit children and call it discipline."

Only 31 states and Washington, D.C., have outlawed the practice in public schools, including Pennsylvania in 2005. A federal bill prohibiting physical punishment in public schools currently sits in the House subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education — legislation that has been similarly introduced in 2014 and 2013.

Certainly, outright child abuse remains illegal in America, but spanking or paddling children continues to be a parental choice, one to which McColgan wishes more parents would say "No."

She talked about the long-term effects of physical punishment on a child's development and alternative forms of discipline during a presentation at Delaware Valley University on Tuesday morning at the Bucks County Children's Advocacy Center's Conference on Crimes Against Children.

"Physical punishment is used to teach children discipline," McColgan said. "Have you ever tried to learn something while in pain? It is not necessary but harmful to the child."

According to McColgan, physical punishment creates toxic stress levels on children and the emotional experiences can shape the brain's development. Adverse childhood events has been linked to heart disease, cancer diagnoses and risk-taking lifestyles such as drug use and sexual promiscuity, McColgan said.

Based on the age of the child, McColgan offered some alternative forms of discipline, such as distracting or redirecting an unruly infant, giving defiant toddlers a time-out with defined rules, withholding privileges from the older kids and actively ignoring children acting out, giving them attention when the behavior stops.

McColgan's seminar was one of 10 workshops available Tuesday to the nearly 200 participants representing local law enforcement, medical professionals and social workers. The 90-minute sessions covered issues such as how to interview offenders, best practices for the initial response to child abuse cases, the aftermath of trauma and Internet luring and social media survival.

"Social media and technology have presented all new challenges over the past 15 years," said Misha David, director of the Bucks County Children's Advocacy Center. "It's changing every year, now we are learning more about text messaging apps and communication through online video games."

According to David, the advocacy center receives more than 800 reports of child abuse each year. The center has organized the Crimes Against Children conference each of the last five years to get the information out to the professionals, David said, and help open eyes to the potential dangers in every community.

"People tend to have blinders on and don't want to accept that it could happen in their neighborhoods," said David. "Providing awareness and education are two big things that we can do to end the abuse."



Lawmaker introduces sex offender castration bill in Alabama

by CBS News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- An Alabama lawmaker is calling for convicted sex offenders to pay for their own surgical castration.

Steve Hurst, a Republican from Munford, Ala., has introduced a bill that would require sex offenders older than 21 to pay for their own surgical castration before being released from state custody.

The bill would limit the procedure to people convicted of "certain sex offenses" against victims 12 years old or younger.

Hurst has attempted to pass similar legislation for more than a decade, introducing nearly identical bills seven times since 2006, most of which never made it out of committee. He said he was moved to begin pushing for the legislation after a foster parent advocacy group visited his office some years ago and relayed a "horrible" story of abuse.

"I've often wondered what that child went through, physically and mentally, and what kind of shape he's in now," Hurst said Monday. "They (sex offenders) have marked these children for life. They will never get over it. And if they've marked children for life, they need to be marked for life."

Hurst in 2005 agreed to remove castration requirements from legislation setting tougher sentences for sex offenders. Several House members at the time told The Associated Press they feared the castration language would have made the bill unconstitutional. In 2011, Hurst co-sponsored a bill that classified the sexual abuse of a child 6 years or younger as a capital offense, allowing courts to sentence offenders to life without parole.

CBS affiliate WIAT reports that residents have mixed feelings about the bill.

"Somebody that wants to mess with a little girl or little boy that age should be castrated, and they should not be able to mess with any other kids," said Keith Dison.

"I understand prison and going to prison for a long time for some kind of crime like that, but to physical mutilate someone...that's a little out's crazy," said Jessica George.

Several states already have laws mandating chemical or voluntary surgical castration, though it's unclear how often the procedures are used. No states have mandatory surgical castration laws.

Chemical castrations allow sex offenders to receive regular injections of a drug that lowers testosterone to pre-puberty levels and reduces libido.

Civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union argue that castration is a "cruel and unusual punishment."

"Some people have said it's inhumane," Hurst said. "But what's more inhumane than molesting a child?"

Dr. Frederick Berlin, founder of a sexual disorders clinic at John Hopkins University, said lowering testosterone levels reduces libido and combats sexual urges, which could possibly reduce recidivism in some cases.

But not all sex offenses are sexually motivated, Berlin said. Offenders may be motivated by drug and alcohol abuse, anger or a fundamental lack of conscience.

"There are many sex offenders who aren't driven by intense sexual urges," Berlin said. "Some of these folks have other mental health issues, so it could just lull us into a false sense of security."

In addition, if not closely monitored, offenders could possibly reverse the procedure by taking testosterone, which can be procured online. Mandated chemical castration can be monitored more closely because doctors can notify authorities if a patient doesn't show up for a regular treatment.

"Just to do it as a one-glove-fits-all is very unlikely to be helpful," Berlin said. "I do think there is a role for medicines that lower sexual drive and enable people to be in better control. But this should be through a collaborative effort between the criminal justice and the scientific medical community."

Hurst has considered chemical castration legislation, and might again in the future, but he worries the drugs to induce chemical castration could become less effective over time. He realizes surgical castration may not stop offenders in all cases, but it makes a strong statement.

"If you take one step forward, it's better than taking no steps at all," Hurst said.



Democrat pushes to extend statutes for church abuse victims

by Brad Bumsted

HARRISBURG — When his wife was pregnant in 1996, Mark Rozzi said he “prayed to God we wouldn't have a boy.”

Rozzi, 44, a Democratic state House member from Reading, had a reason for that prayer. Rozzi says he was raped by his priest at the Holy Guardian Angel Catholic Church when he was 13. The vast majority of sexual abuse by priests is perpetrated against boys, experts and national studies suggest.

Rozzi, elected in 2012, is at the forefront of an effort in the state Legislature to provide greater criminal and civil recourse to child sexual assault victims. One bill would eliminate the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse in criminal and civil cases. Rozzi is sponsoring legislation that would raise the age from 30 to 50 years for an adult victim of child sex abuse to file a civil complaint.

He's driven to push ahead, not only because of his own reported molestation by the late Rev. Edward Graff, but for his friends who were abused and struggled with alcoholism or drug addiction, and those who committed suicide.

“I have had three childhood friends kill themselves,” he said. All were abused. Last year, before Easter, the third friend killed himself.

“He was raped by the same priest who raped me,” Rozzi said.

Graff was arrested on child sex charges in Texas and died in prison before trial. He died from a fall. Rozzi said Graff had been beaten by inmates.

“For me, it's personal. It's about my friends. It's about getting justice,” Rozzi said. It's about giving “my childhood friends a voice.”

A grand jury report released last week by Attorney General Kathleen Kane, on the heels of the movie “Spotlight” winning the Academy Award for best picture, gives momentum to advocates for a statute of limitations overhaul, Rozzi said. The movie depicts an investigation begun in 2001 by the Boston Globe “Spotlight” team into widespread child abuse by Catholic priests and the church hierarchy's efforts to cover up the incidents.

The grand jury report found hundreds of victims in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese had been abused over four decades by more than 50 priests and other church officials. No one was prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired and because victims in some cases would not testify. Some priests died.

Those events give advocates a boost, Rozzi said. “It's the accumulation of the perfect storm,” Rozzi said.

But he's quick to acknowledge the power the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has shown over the past decade in blocking such legislation. The conference could not be reached by phone or email. Its publicly stated position is that it backs a task force report to make no changes in the statutes of limitation.

There is an effort to reach a compromise in the House on statute of limitation legislation, said Stephen Miskin, a House Republican spokesman.

The grand jury report recommended elimination of statutes of limitation for criminal and civil cases.

“The attorney general strongly supports that position,” her spokesman Chuck Ardo said.

Priest abuse has occurred across the nation and around the world. Rozzi contends, “Pennsylvania is the epicenter.”

Studies have shown about 80 percent of priest abuse involves male victims.

Thomas Doyle, an inactive Dominican priest, has studied priest abuse for three decades. He agrees “approximately 75 to 80 percent of victims” are male. An expert witness in a Philadelphia grand jury case, Doyle said he doesn't believe those nationwide figures stem from the priesthood having proportionally more homosexuals than does the general population. It's a wide variety of reasons, Doyle suggests. Pedophiles who aren't married tend to be attracted to boys, he says.

“Priests are raised in an all-male environment. It is clerical culture,” he said.

Doyle said “availability” is a factor. Priests have more access to males serving as altar boys.

Some abusive priests may believe boys will be more reluctant to report abuse out of shame, he says. Some priests “may believe (women) could cause them to violate their celibacy.”

Rozzi and his wife, Jacklyn, in 1997 had a baby girl.

For that, he is thankful.

Still, his experience “makes me question everything,” Rozzi said.


United Kingdom

Essex Police launch probe into children in care abuse claims


An investigation has been launched into allegations of sexual abuse against children in care in Essex during the 1980s and 1990s.

Essex Police said the possible crimes had been raised during a meeting between chief constable Stephen Kavanagh, police and crime commissioner Nick Alston and people who worked with children in the county at the time.

Serious concerns were raised about alleged sexual offences committed against children, particularly boys in local authority and foster care, the force added.

Further concerns were raised about the protection and support offered to young people who may have been victims of abuse.

Mr Kavanagh said: "At present we have allegations but no victims, suspects or locations.

"But whether alleged abuse, especially organised and institutionalised, happened yesterday or 30 years ago, it's our duty to review it without fear or favour."

Former district psychologist Robin Jamieson, a former clinician manager of the Suffolk Child Sexual Abuse Treatment Service, Jenny Grinsted and youth worker and probation officer Rob West were present at the meeting last month, a statement said.

Concerns were raised that, although a number of allegations had previously been investigated and prosecuted and two convictions were secured, those investigations may not have been "sufficiently thorough".

Mr Alston said: "The abuse of a child, whether in the care of their parents or the state, is an abhorrent crime.

"Professionals who worked in Essex during the 1980s and 1990s have raised serious concerns with both chief constable Kavanagh and me, and it is right that Essex Police examines these allegations meticulously and seeks out any new evidence.

"For an adult to come forward and report abuse suffered as a child takes real courage. I would say to anyone in this situation: please come forward and trust us.

"You can speak to Essex Police directly, or to a specialist organisation which can provide support and help."

Survivors of sexual abuse in Essex in this period are being urged to contact the force child abuse investigation teams on 101.

Those involved can also contact the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse through the NSPCC information line on 0808 800 5000 or by visiting


It's Not 'Just a Women's Issue.' Men Are Survivors Too.

by Maile Zambuto and Steve LePore

(PSA on site)

We've all heard the dismissive refrains -- things like "that doesn't happen to guys," "what kind of guy would let that happen to him," or "he seems just fine to me."

The beliefs -- that boys and men can't be sexually used or abused -- are woven deeply into our collective consciousness. The myth that males don't experience sexual or domestic violence is central to cultural ideals of masculinity that focus on physical strength and sexual desire. Maybe you can even recall thinking or saying something similar yourself. Many men who've experienced abuse have too: internalizing those harmful misunderstandings themselves, imagining they must be the only one.

Survivors are by and large encouraged to bury our experiences -- whether that's because we may be met with a criminal justice system that doesn't adequately respond, or a community that doesn't believe. For men in particular, the response may be one of questioning their manhood or sexual orientation, or insisting that they must have wanted the sexual interaction.

We need to change that narrative so men and boys, as well as women and girls, can feel safe stepping forward to get help.

The Joyful Heart Foundation, founded by actress, producer, director and advocate Mariska Hargitay, and 1in6, a leading organization providing support and information to male survivors of childhood sexual abuse -- in partnership with Viacom -- have launched a new series of print and broadcast public service announcements (PSAs) that speak to the excuses and societal attitudes that male survivors of childhood sexual abuse are confronted with and direct viewers to resources for help.

Although this campaign was created specifically with the 1 in 6 male survivors of unwanted or abusive sexual experiences of childhood in mind, we know that men experience sexual and domestic violence in all its forms. Those men -- like the 21 million men who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse -- are from every race, ethnic group, social class and region of the country. They are our fathers and our sons, our brothers and our life partners; our friends and our colleagues. And the reason you may have never heard one of their stories is because our culture seeks their silence and demands their strength. It turns away from their experiences, their emotions and their vulnerability. This campaign is designed to alter these cultural norms.

This new Joyful Heart//1in6 PSA campaign is specifically geared toward starting conversations that engage rather than belittle those men. It is designed to alter the cultural norms for men in ways that actually encourage men to reveal deep emotions, to seek help and to acknowledge vulnerability.

There's much at stake.

Postponement of the recovery process can result in a life not fully lived; men who do not have support and help for dealing with what was done to them are at a significantly higher risk for a host of health issues (substance abuse, self-destructive behavior, chronic health conditions), mental health issues (depression, suicidal ideation, post-traumatic stress disorder) and social dysfunction (failed relationships, impeding of education and career objectives, interpersonal violence).

All survivors -- men and women, boys and girls -- have suffered silently long enough. It's time we spoke openly, intelligently and compassionately about the men who have suffered the trauma of sexual assault, abuse, and domestic violence.

Each of us can begin the conversation with a man we know -- whether he's a man who's experienced abuse himself or just a man in a position to help change the narrative.

If you or someone you care needs help, please visit:

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233)

Explore the full series of PSAs. And join us by sharing the campaign and facts on social media. It takes a few clicks and just a moment to share the powerful and important message for the 21 million men who have had an unwanted or abusive sexual experience: you are not alone.

Maile M. Zambuto is the CEO of the Joyful Heart Foundation. Steve LePore is the Executive Director of 1in6.



Drugs and Child Abuse

by Molly Cummings

Indiana has the highest number of methamphetamine incidents in the country.

That's according to 2014 data from the annual KIDS COUNT In Indiana Data Book.

Officials from the Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) believe that may be playing a big role in the state's child abuse and neglect rate.

Studies show a child is abused or neglected every 20 minutes in Indiana. Also startling is where some of our local counties rank.

Vermillion County ranked 4th worst in the state and Vigo County ranked 5th when it came to child neglect and abuse cases in 2014.

In Vermillion County, the child abuse and neglect rate per 1,000 children sits at 43.8.

In Vigo County, it's 43.4.

Experts believe numbers like these may be a result of Indiana's drug problem.

In fact, the Department of Child Services tells the IYI that they've seen a 70% increase statewide in the number of drug-related child abuse and neglect cases.

"It can have long term complications for a child. A parent who abuses drugs or alcohol may often leave a child alone for long periods of time, so they start to feel isolation or a sense of loneliness," says Glenn Augustine with the IYI.

Other counties ranking high in child abuse and neglect cases are Jennings, Miami and Scott Counties.

Officials in Scott County tell the IYI that 90% to 95% of their child abuse cases are linked to drugs.

If you suspect a child is the victim of child abuse or neglect, you may report it by calling 1-(800)-800-5566.



Indiana leaders gather to address increase of child abuse cases

by Ben Jackey

SCOTT COUNTY, Ind. —Scott County Indiana leaders came together to address a quickly growing problem affecting their kids.

The community has seen a massive increase child abuse cases and blame it on opiates.

The drug epidemic in Scott County is well-documented, but the story that often falls through the cracks is about the children permanently damaged by the problem.

County officials said 90 percent of their abuse and neglect cases are drug-related. And they admit, there's little they can do to prevent it.

Counselors, cops and former addicts gathered in one room looking for solutions. The need is urgent, but the progress is not.

"We work really, really hard on the prevention end, and it tells me we're not making a difference," Michelle Korty said.

Korty, whose sole mission is preventing child abuse, talked about the most recent data released by showing a slight increase in child abuse cases statewide between 2010 to 2014.

Floyd County cases rose by 63 percent. But Scott County was nearly off the charts with a 95 percent increase.

And 90 percent of those cases, Korty said are drug-related.

"These folks love their kids. That's not the problem. It's that their addiction has taken over, and that becomes their first priority, not their children," Korty said.

"And because of that sometimes there's no water, no electric, no heat. In many situations it makes it difficult for that child and that family," Sheriff Dan McClain said.

Scott County has seen a surge in drug busts and opiate-related overdoses in the last year.

The drug of choice is Opana, a prescription pain killer. Addicts will spend nearly a $1,000 per week on the habit according to the Sheriff's Department.

They're working feverishly to stop the drug supply, but admit prevention is nearly impossible.

That's why a group chose to focus on the only proven solution which is recovery.

"And once we get these folks in a program, get them through the DT (detox) that they may have to go through a lot of times, get them thinking straight, get them wanting to be a part of their kids' lives again, we're seeing huge changes," McClain said.

"It's like deciding to scale Mount Everest but you're climbing on toothpicks, one toothpick at a time. It's a really, really slow process," Korty said.

The sheriff said I-65 is a part of the problem, providing easy access from the Canada Drug Pipeline.

Scott County has seized thousands of dollars in Opana in recent months.


Online child abuse: 'If the internet was a city, we'd warn them about unsafe places'

by Thomas Muller

My department focuses entirely on collecting, analysing and raising awareness of the stories children tell when they contact child helplines. Listening to what they say can help us make the internet safer.

Meet Thomas Müller, head of policy and research, Child Helpline International

At Child Helpline International, everything we do is based on the Right to be Heard, which is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Child Helpline International is one of the world's largest collective impact organisations, a network of currently 183 child helplines from 142 countries. Collectively, child helplines respond to more than 15 million contacts every year from children and young people in any emergency situation, when no one else is there to listen or help.

My role

I lead the policy and research department, where we focus entirely on collecting, analysing and amplifying the stories children tell when they contact child helplines. I sit on a gold mine of information, which gives unique insights into the situations children find themselves in. It is really quite sobering when you have a closer look at these stories. Every second, somewhere around the world, a child tries to contact a child helpline and every third of these contacts deals with issues related to violence, neglect and various forms of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. And many do mention the internet playing a central role in this.

What motivates me

Despite the huge number of contacts we receive, in many countries only very few children know that a child helpline exists while others do not have the means to get in contact. Others haven't yet found the courage to talk and some might not even know that what is happening to them is wrong.

For that reason, the work my department does is so fundamentally important. We use the information provided and pass it directly to those who can make decisions that strengthen support and protection for all children. I have seen the difference our work makes in the lives of children and have personally talked to many who said that if it wasn't for a child helpline they are not sure if they would still be alive. Of course, I sometimes feel angry and appalled by what we allow to happen to our children but I take a lot of motivation and energy out of the absolute conviction I have that my work benefits so many of them.

How I see my profession in 10 years time

With the speed at which technologies develop, it is difficult to even predict the next two years and we have to acknowledge that there are, have been and always will be people who try to take advantage of children for their own interests and pleasure. Technology can be utilised to empower children and give them a voice, but it also plays a crucial role in child abuse. If we can collaborate more to tackle problems globally and raise more awareness, especially among children, the work we will do in 10 years will be more efficient, more successful and will protect many more.

My views on collaboration

I am a huge believer in collaboration. Often companies are simply not aware of a certain problem and are happy to collaborate if the issue fits their strategy and they feel they can make a difference. Governments, law enforcement, INGOs and civil society also all play a role in this effort.Governments should reward corporate activities and investments that are beneficial for child online protection. Civil society should look for win-win collaborations with the private sector and not for a confrontational approach by naming and shaming. We all need to take on this challenge together.

Why we all need to be more proactive

Just like with all other forms of abuse though, online sexual exploitation or cyberbullying are not virtual but real events in a child's life. And like with all other forms of abuse, the majority of the perpetrators can be found within the closer and extended family, people with quick and easy access to the child. I know this because children tell us. So by simply providing parental advice and control tools we are not doing well enough in protecting children.

No one has a greater interest in children being safe online than children themselves. For me, they have to be the leading change makers and we all need to empower them by educating them and raising their awareness about online risks, their rights, ways to reportproblems and support available. We need to help them to protect themselves. Whenever child abuse material is out there on the net, it is very likely that it stays there forever, or at least as long as the internet is governed, regulated and managed as it is at the moment. So rather than being reactive, I think we should be proactive and prevent bad things from happening to children by making them safe and confident users of the web.

Providing a creative solution

If the internet was a city, we would explain to children where to go and where not to go, that there are good and bad places, that there are safe and unsafe places, and that at times it can be very scary. We would hold their hands when crossing the streets, we would know which movies they watch when they go to the cinema and we would definitely have an eye on who they are talking to and what they are talking about. With the internet however we often just let them walk and find out for themselves. So I would love to provide a creative solution that takes on the role of the well-intended, protective parent for children online for example an avatar superhero that is a child's best friend as they start exploring the online environment.

I also personally find it quite frightening that there is such a place as the dark web. If I was a developer, I would probably try to create a strong protective wall between the dark web and the one that our children use every day.



Rising cases of horrific abuse push Valley Children's Hospital to increase care

by Carmen George

Dr. Philip Hyden has seen a lot over nearly 30 years of treating abused children, but nothing like what is happening to kids in the Central Valley.

“I've lived in New York City; I've lived in L.A.; I've lived in Hawaii; I've lived in Denver; I've lived in Florida and Illinois,” he says, “and I'm telling you that the amount of time I've been here and the amount of cases I see per year is bewildering. It's just overwhelming, what I see.”

And Hyden, who took the helm of The Guilds of Valley Children's Hospital Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Center in 2010, says he has seen “everything you can think of.”

“I've seen children sold for sex that are less than a year old. I've seen children sold for drugs. … I've seen kids tortured, tied in garbage bags, deprived of food to where they are actually skeletal, multiple contusions on them like hanger marks and extension cord marks, burns from cigarettes and other objects … burns from hot water and flames.”

These horrors are behind Valley Children's recently expanded child abuse program. Officials say that of 483,000 reports of suspected child maltreatment made in California in 2013 – the most recent data available – 90,000 came from areas traditionally served by the hospital.

Many victims previously were sent to other facilities before Hyden joined Valley Children's in 2010. His arrival marked the beginning of a new program with staff solely focused on evaluating and treating abused children. The work is largely funded by a $5 million endowment awarded by guilds that raise money for the hospital. The $5 million goal set in 2009 was reached last year.

The number of abused children seen at Valley Children's continues to grow. The year before Hyden's arrival, the hospital saw 159 abused children – 65 of them hospitalized for more severe injuries. Last year, the child abuse prevention and treatment center saw 974 children – 135 requiring hospitalization.

Hyden credits the growth to expanded services, along with a growing awareness of these services, but added that it “doesn't look like child abuse is decreasing in the Valley at all.”

Hyden says four or five abused children who were treated at Valley Children's die each year, on average.

“It may not sound like that many,” Hyden says, “but I remember every one of them.”

He often looks to words that sit in a frame on his desk:

“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. But the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”

The title of this, printed in large, bold letters: “PRIORITIES.”

More tortured children, drug abuse

While cases of abuse in the Valley are not so unique, Hyden says, “the frequency of them appears to be more.”

“I've seen more tortured kids here. I've seen more children here that are failure to thrive, only due to the lack of diet or nutrition. It's not because they don't have the ability to feed the children. It's either the knowledge or the bonding or the care is lacking in some of these parents.”

Alongside Hyden, who serves as medical director, the center employs a nurse practitioner, social worker, medical liaison, program coordinator, part-time nurse practitioner and two part-time nurse examiners. Someone is available at all hours for emergency evaluations and treatments.

Drug use is often connected to the abuse they see.

“I've never seen so many cases connected to someone in the family using methamphetamine. … The other thing that goes along with methamphetamine is the socioeconomic factor, generally poverty that we see in a lot of our families. The level of poverty in the Valley seems higher than anywhere else I've ever lived,” Hyden says.

Hyden and his staff treat abused children for things like sexually transmitted diseases, and connect victims with other specialists and services. They follow-up with victims – with appointments continuing for at least a year for children exposed to drugs.

“We not only are a clinic that sees kids that are abused both physically and sexually, but also neglected in all kinds of ways. We see kids that have been emotionally neglected, children that are failure to thrive because they haven't had enough to eat at home. You'll see parents come in and there is no social bonding with the children.”

Hyden says they sometimes see toddlers with internal bleeding from organs that are lacerated, fractured and ruptured, although the child may not have bruises on the outside of the body. Fractured bones from being squeezed and shaken is also common, and head trauma is the most common cause of death for infants.

A precursor to the child abuse prevention and treatment center was a Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Team, formed in 2000 to better identify, monitor and intervene in cases of child abuse seen at the hospital. It's comprised of members who work in the fields of medicine, social work, psychology, child protection and law enforcement.

The networking continues. Hyden and his staff serve as community educators, provide medical evidence to investigators, and testify at no cost in dependency and criminal court regarding child abuse cases. Most of the children seen at the center are referred by Child Protective Services across more than 10 counties.

“I really deal with the case workers and law enforcement, especially the detectives, quite frequently,” Hyden says. “Many of them have my cellphone number.”

Sgt. Clayton Smith, supervisor of the Fresno Police Department's Child Abuse Unit, says Hyden and his staff are “without question” a great support to investigators by providing expert medical opinions about injuries that appear non-accidental.

The Police Department conducted investigative reviews on 923 reports of child abuse in Fresno last year and 531 reports of sexual assault against a child. Of those, Smith says 71 child abuse cases and 343 cases of sexual assault against a child were extensively investigated.

Smith says Hyden and his team are “very professional, knowledgeable and experienced” and go “above and beyond” to provide the best care for victims.

‘We all have a responsibility to protect children'

On average, Hyden says more than 100 children that his center sees each year are also hospitalized for their injuries.

Child life specialist Marian Facciani sees many of these children in Valley Children's pediatric intensive care unit. She says she has seen “everything and anything you can think of” throughout 35 years with the hospital.

“It's things you can't even fathom. … To be honest with you, those are the things I try my hardest to put out of my head, because I don't want to remember it.”

She says parents' lack of knowledge about normal child development can lead to abuse. For example, when a toddler throws something off a high chair 25 times, the child isn't “being bad,” she says, the child is just “practicing gravity.”

“And there's a lot of modeling of bad behavior, too: ‘Well, my mom slapped me, so why can't I slap them? I survived!'” Facciani says. “Yeah, but maybe you don't have all the brain cells you are supposed to have.”

Hyden also believes more education is crucial in curbing the problem.

“I believe a lot of parents that commit child abuse don't really mean to get the results that they get. I think they are angry and frustrated and have low impulsivity, and they do things that they deeply regret.”

Hyden and Facciani say more people should be aware of child abuse, intervene and report it.

“What we see here is the worst,” Facciani says, “but it goes on every day. … We all have a responsibility to protect children.”



Lauren's Kids events highlight efforts to fight child sexual abuse

Staff report

Child sexual abuse prevention advocates from the Children's Advocacy Center, Boys & Girls Club of Gainesville, PACE Center for Girls, the University of Florida, survivors, educators, and community members will join at numerous events this week for the Lauren's Kids seventh annual “Walk in My Shoes'' to promote awareness, education and prevention.

The “Hope & Healing Tour” will honor the 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse in the United States through daily 4.2-mile walks and service projects.

The weeklong Gainesville portion of the 2016 Walk is focused on prevention and education. Events include classroom visits with Gainesville Police officers to read Lauren's Kingdom, a children's book about finding your voice written by Lauren's Kids founder and CEO Lauren Book.

There also will be Safer, Smarter Kids classroom visits; production of Safer, Smarter Schools professional development materials for beginning educators, counselors and principals with the University of Florida; campus education and awareness events in the Reitz Union, and guest lecturing in the College of Education on best practices in child protection.

Each day this week through Thursday, from 4 to 5:30 p.m., there will be a 4.2-mile walk at the Gainesville Children's Advocacy Center, 901 NW Eighth Ave.

On Friday, the walk will leave from the Children's Advocacy Center to Gainesville High School, 1900 NW 13th St., where PACE Center Girls Rock Rally will be held from 5:30 to 6 p.m.

For more information, contact Claire VanSusteren, Director of Communications, at (352) 281-9056.