Senate Votes to Pursue Contempt in Sex Trafficking Probe
Resolution authorizes legal proceedings against Backpage.com
by Niels Lesniewski
For the first time since Whitewater, the full Senate voted to move forward with civil contempt proceedings.
And unlike the circumstances of the 1995 investigation into then-President Bill Clinton, senators are speaking with one voice in support of an effort led by GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri to hold in contempt a classified website they say trades in sex.
The Senate voted 96-0 in favor of a resolution to authorize the legal action against Backpage.com, which has refused to honor a subpoena to appear before a Senate committee.
"The aim of my and Senator McCaskill's investigation is straightforward: We want to understand how lawmakers, law enforcement, and even private businesses can more effectively combat this serious crime that thrives on an online black market," Portman said ahead of the vote. "Traffickers have found refuge and new customers through websites that specialize in advertising 'ordinary' prostitution and lawful escort services."
Backpage's attorneys have said the company looked forward to pursuing the matter in court, saying it was the only way to resolve the disagreement with the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, where Portman is chairman and McCaskill is ranking Democrat.
"The contempt that Backpage has shown for our bipartisan investigation has now been met with the unanimous contempt of the full U.S. Senate," McCaskill said. "This historic vote makes a clear statement — we are fully committed to getting to the bottom of this company's business practices and policies for preventing the trafficking of children, and we will get these answers."
Portman and McCaskill are not alone in their effort.
Other senators have worked to stop the use of BackPage for sexual exploitation in the past, including Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill. He authored legislation that has become law making it a federal crime to operate a website in which you knowingly allow ads for sex with children. But Kirk has not been pleased with the level of enforcement of that law.
"Backpage is the nation's number one sex-trafficking website, so it's no surprise they are hiding their role in selling children online for sex," Kirk said in a statement Thursday. "I have repeatedly called on the Justice Department to investigate Backpage and enforce my SAVE Act, and while the Justice Department has yet to act, today's vote is one more step towards stopping Backpage from facilitating modern-day slavery across the U.S."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in backing the resolution Thursday, said enforcing the subpoena is crucial to preventing human trafficking and protecting the prerogative of the Senate.
"It's hard to think of a more worthy use of the Senate's investigative authority than examining the methods used to facilitate the buying and selling of children for sexual exploitation," he said.
The last time a Senate resolution on civil contempt actually led to legal action was a couple of years before the Whitewater resolution, and it involved action against a senator.
The Senate Ethics Committee won approval of the full Senate, 94-6, to take legal action on a subpoena seeking access to the personal diaries of Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., as part of the panel's inquiry into sexual misconduct by the former Finance chairman.
Child abuse investigators urge victims and witnesses to come forward as time limit for suing is removed
by Marion Scott
SUSAN O'Brien, head of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, will hold a summit in Glasgow on Wednesday to give more details on the probe and meet victims.
INVESTIGATORS leading a huge inquiry into child abuse are to urge witnesses and victims to come forward.
Susan O'Brien QC, who is chairing the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry , will encourage individuals and institutions to contact the probe.
At a meeting in Glasgow on Wednesday, she will detail how evidence can be given.
Some sick and elderly victims who have lodged complaints have already been interviewed for the inquiry, which is expected to take several years.
The investigation will cover sexual, physical, psychological and emotional abuse at children's homes, residential schools, secure care units, schools, borstals and young offenders' institutions until December 2014.
The inquiry officially started in October. O'Brien said: “In February, we started taking evidence from people who are elderly or seriously ill and we continue to do so. “
She said more details will be given at a meeting open to the public at the Radisson Blu hotel in Glasgow at 10.30am.
Meanwhile, a new law scrapping a controversial three-year limit on when historic child abuse victims can sue could affect more than 2000 people, according to experts.
The Scottish Government last week announced a draft Bill which will remove the restriction – known as timebar – on victims who were abused on or after September 26, 1964, seeking damages.
Ministers say the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill shows their commitment to adult survivors of child abuse.
One legal firm have received more than 1000 inquiries from victims who want to raise civil actions against organisations whose care they were under.
Jim Fraser, 63, of Dundee, says he will now proceed with a civil action for abuse he claims he suffered at St Ninian's residential school in Gartmore, Stirlingshire, where he was taught by De La Salle monks. He said: “We've waited decades for this day to come so the truth can finally be heard.”
Lawyer Cameron Fyfe, of Drummond Miller, who has been contacted by more than 1000 victims, said: “The new timebar ruling gives historic abuse survivors their first real chance to have their cases heard in court.
“For decades, cases have stumbled at the first hurdle because of timebar.
“Now the only restriction will be if a case breaches human rights law – and I cannot see that being an issue.”
Pediatricians Call Gender Discordance Conditioning Child Abuse
by Lana Shadwick
The American College of Pediatricians (ACP) has issued a report urging legislators and educators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal “a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex.” They say endorsing “gender discordance” is “child abuse.”
The report published by the ACP concludes that “conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse.”
Moreover, the rates of suicide they report is twenty percent greater among adults who use cross-sex hormones and undergo sex reassignment surgery. This is true even in Sweden which the ACP says, “is among the most LGBQT affirming countries.”
These pediatricians say that encouraging gender discordance will lead children to go to “gender clinics” where they will be given “puberty-blocking drugs.” “Children who use puberty blockers to impersonate the opposite sex will require cross-sex hormones in late adolescence,” the report says. Cross-sex hormones are associated with dangerous health risks including but not limited to high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke and cancer, the ACP reports.
The ACP also reports that taking these drugs “virtually ensures that they will ‘choose' a lifetime of carcinogenic and otherwise cross-sex hormones” and will also “likely consider unnecessary surgical mutilation of their healthy body parts as young adults.”
The ACP journal states that human sexuality is an objective biological trait and human beings are conceived as either male or female. No one is born with a “gender” which is an awareness and sense of oneself as male or female. They say that gender is a sociological and psychological concept, not an “objective biological one.” They conclude that “A person's belief that he or she is something they are not, is at best, a sign of confused thinking.”
Moreover, they report, “According to the DSM-V, as many as 98 percent of gender confused boys and 88 percent of gender confused girls eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty.”
Conservatives and traditionalists believe that glorifying or affirming transgenders such as Caitlyn Jenner, is a liberal, Hollywood attempt at conditioning children to embrace gender discordance, and to accept chemical and surgical “remedies” to address this problem.
No, Adam Johnson, child abuse is not a grey area
by Victoria Coren Mitchell
All I seem to be doing at the moment is arguing about Adam Johnson. I bickered about him over dinner at a friend's house. I rowed about him in a poker game, where it's bad form to have a difference of opinion about anything other than the likely outcome of a sporting event.
At a birthday party in a pub, I quarrelled about him so bitterly that my opponent and I had to have a hug at the end of it. A redemption hug! In the middle of a birthday party! Sober!
You know, presumably, who Adam Johnson is? He's that footballer who's waiting to be sentenced for sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl.
Chances are you think he got a bit unlucky; the public shame and sacking are punishment enough and a few months or a suspended sentence would do the job. That's what everyone I meet seems to think.
Me, I hope he gets 10 years. As the old joke about the beekeeper goes: f*** him.
Questions of what the girl said to Johnson on Facebook or WhatsApp, how “only just underage” she was, or looked, or who “made the running”, are as irrelevant to me as the weather on the day.
At the birthday party, as I snarled about the ghastly things I hoped would befall that itchy-fingered dribbler during a long spell in prison, my friend (a respected author) said: “Rhetorically, you're leaving yourself nowhere you go. You'd be saying the same things if he raped an eight-year-old.”
He's right. I would. And I'm fine with that. I am bored to all hell with the “could be worse” argument. It has hamstrung us as a society for too long; it's a rhetorical game of no practical value.
The reason I've been getting into these rows, I think, is that my friends are surprised I take such a hard line on Adam Johnson and I'm frustrated that they don't. It's not just a difference of opinion, it's a mutual lack of understanding.
When I speak about Adam Johnson as a child abuser, they think I'm on the side of the 21st-century's bad guys: the absolutists, the pullers-down of statues, the Twitter mob. I would usually be on the side of nuance and complexity, grey areas and a peaceable approach. But not here.
Rape and sexual abuse have been grey areas for hundreds of years. Not so bad if it's your wife. Not so bad if it's a prostitute, a flirt, a drunk. Not so bad if they're nearly 16.
And where has all this sophistication got us? How's it going, this nuanced approach? There is just so much suffering. So many bruised souls, broken hearts, damaged psyches, awful memories. There's barely a woman alive who hasn't had some experience of sexual fear, however tiny or transient. It's embarrassing how universal that is. There's barely a girl on Earth whose sexual awareness started with her own desire, rather than the creepy stare or touch or comment or otherwise intrusion of a third party. Who knows what that does to us?
So what do we have to fear from zero tolerance? Losing the happy status quo? Hardly.
It's like drink-driving. Decades of relativism on that issue were probably fair to nice folk who were driving home after a glass or two and meant no harm. But a lot of people died. So now we have an absolutist approach and a lot of mildly tipsy drivers have been very harshly punished – perhaps unfairly in the immediate, individual sense – but far fewer people die.
My liberal, intelligent male friends are arguing with me on Johnson because they think it's not that bad to have sex with a 15-year-old – just like my father didn't think it was bad to drive after a bottle of wine. I am not a better person than my father was. But I am less likely to kill someone.
By that logic, we should be eager to try an absolutist approach to having sex with children. Let “a child” be anyone who is under the age of consent by so much as an hour. We've got to define it somehow and that's how.
If your victim is 15 and you get the same punishment as someone who abused an eight-year-old, I don't care. If this child performed the dance of the seven veils, beckoning and pouting, and you get the same punishment as someone who jumped out of the bushes, I don't care. Unlucky. Let God make those moral distinctions. It's too subtle for humans; we've failed to make it work.
It would take only one generation of “zero tolerance” for the thinking to shift and it become simply preposterous – inconceivable – for anyone who expects to be considered normal to have sex with a minor. They'll make it their business to know if someone's underage and leave them alone.
The truly ill, of course, will keep on abusing, just like some people will always drive drunk. But the goalposts will shift in ordinary people's thinking and vast amounts of suffering will be spared.
The fact that Adam Johnson might not be “a monster”, but actually sort of normal, is the very point. It's the “sort of normal” people who can modify their behaviour. Our concept of normality has caused so much misery and pain; it has to change. And if Adam Johnson gets 10 years, maybe men will stop having sex with teenagers.
Maybe they'd only stop through fear. But that's a start. They would not have become better people, but they would have become less likely to destroy a child.
I understand why I disappoint my liberal, intelligent friends when I reject their attempts at nuance. But I hope they understand my own frustration: it's like they don't want the world to change.
April Is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
by The Cape May County Herald
SOMERS POINT -- Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children is kicking off National Child Abuse Prevention Month with a Go Blue for CASA Dress Down Day on April 1. Schools and businesses are encouraged to dress down or wear blue to raise awareness of child abuse and neglect in our communities. To register for Go Blue for CASA Dress Down Day contact Karen DeRosa at karen@AtlanticCapeCASA.org, call (609) 601-7800.
“I believe, as I am sure most people do, that all children deserve a childhood that provides a safe, loving, stable home with adults that support their hopes and dreams,” said CASA Board President David Hieb. “Sadly, for many children in Atlantic and Cape May Counties, that home does not exist as hundreds of children suffer abuse and neglect each year and are placed in the foster care system. Going Blue for CASA in April is a way for us to raise awareness of the hardships these children face and highlight the roles that CASA advocates, and all of us, play in helping these children succeed.”
CASA advocates help provide a better place for children by ensuring that their families have the resources they need to keep or get their families back together. Research shows that when parents have the knowledge, skills, and services they need to care for their children, the risk for neglect and abuse diminish and optimal outcomes for children, youth, and families are promoted.
“April is a time to celebrate the important role that CASA advocates and communities play in protecting children,” said CASA Executive Director Angie Waters. “It is a time when communities come together to raise awareness of child abuse prevention and show support for programs and activities that help our children succeed. Research tells us that childhood trauma has long-term negative impacts for the child and for society. The rising cost of health care and mental health services, substance abuse, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency and drop-out rates affect us all and have a negative impact on our community. Programs that support parents and give them the knowledge that helps them provide their children with positive, nurturing environments have been shown to reverse that negative impact. I encourage everyone to get involved with an organization in our community that helps children and families, become a CASA advocate, a mentor or financially support a group that makes sure children are safe and families have access to resources.”
For more information about child abuse prevention programs and activities during the month of April, and throughout the year, contact CASA for Children at (609) 601-7800 or www.AtlanticCapeCASA.org.
About CASA of Atlantic and Cape May Counties:
CASA for Children recruits, trains and supports community volunteers to be court advocates for children living in foster care. Advocates are dedicated to ensuring these children are placed in safe permanent homes as quickly as possible. In Atlantic and Cape May Counties, over 1,000 children are placed in foster care annually. Last fiscal year, CASA served 475 abused and neglected children with nearly 200 CASA Volunteers and helped place 128 children in permanent homes. For more information about CASA visit www.AtlanticCapeCASA.org. CASA is a United Way Partner Agency.
About National Child Abuse Prevention Month:
In April 1983, President Ronal Reagan proclaimed April to be the first National Child Abuse Prevention Month to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families. The Children's Bureau National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect coordinates activities at the Federal level, including creation and dissemination of information at promotional materials. For more information about the Children's Bureau visit https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth/.
Child abuse, neglect cases double in local counties
by Megan Strickland
The number of child abuse or neglect cases in Flathead County has doubled since 2011 and the number is on track to climb even higher in 2016, mimicking a statewide trend.
Authorities say the increase in cases is likely caused by a spike in drug use and is taxing local resources to the maximum.
In 2011, 51 child abuse or neglect cases were filed in Flathead District Court, according to County Clerk of Court Peg Allison.
In 2015 that number had doubled to 102 cases.
“It is an explosion,” Allison said.
If the numbers of cases filed in January and February are an indication of how the year is going to go, Allison projects that the court could be on track to have 150 cases filed in 2016.
The numbers are not completely unprecedented: There have been spikes in the past where 90 cases were filed in a year, but the steady upward trend grabbed Allison's attention.
Next door in Lake County, the number of abuse or neglect cases increased from 20 in 2011 to 54 in 2015, according to Chief Deputy Lake County Attorney James Lapotka.
It is a phenomenon that is occurring statewide. Across Montana, courts handled more than 2,300 abuse or neglect cases last year, an increase from 1,600 a year earlier, according to Beth McLaughlin, the chief administrator for the state's court system. The number has doubled since 2010.
“I would say the bulk of it is that we're just seeing a real spike in meth use and heroin and opiate use,” Deputy Flathead County Attorney Anne Lawrence said of the local increase.
When Lawrence started handling mental health and child abuse and neglect cases three years ago, she was able to juggle all the cases by herself, with the help on one support staffer. Now, her support staffer is swamped and another attorney catches every fifth or sixth case.
“We're doing everything we can to keep our heads above water,” Lawrence said.
If the numbers keep climbing, the County Attorney's Office will need more staff, she said.
Lawrence only sees a fraction of the cases that are actually reported. The majority of cases are handled by social workers, who try to come to a resolution without having to fight it out in court.
Lawrence said one major factor in drug-related cases is the timeline set out by federal law. It basically gives parents 15 months to get their acts together or lose custodial rights to their children. That conflicts with the general nature of treating drug addicts.
“It is not a problem that can be fixed within 15 months — it is a lifelong struggle,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence is part of the Protect Montana Kids Commission, a group created by Gov. Steve Bullock late last year to come up with recommendations about how to improve the state's Child and Family Services Department.
The group has heard hours of public testimony from all sorts of stakeholders involved in the system, Lawrence said.
Lawrence notes that the problem is not isolated to Montana.
“It is a nationwide trend,” Lawrence said.
In Flathead County, Lawrence has noticed that there has not only been an increase in numbers, but also an increase in the severity of the abuse and neglect involved in the cases.
The takeaway is that the state needs more staffers for virtually every part of the system, she said.
One part of the system impacted by the increased caseload is the volunteer group, Flathead Valley CASA for Kids. Every child abuse or neglect case in Flathead County has an assigned Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer who acts as a guardian ad litem in the case.
The volunteers undergo screening and training that allows them to advocate for the child's best interests, which is required of CASA guardians. Each advocate meets with the child at least monthly, but more often weekly, and files reports with judges. Most cases take two years to resolve, but one volunteer has a case that has been going on for 11 years. Advocates typically take on only a single case, but at the moment the system is so clogged that some advocates have taken on more than one.
“The increased number of children is definitely impacting not only us, but everyone that works with this situation,” Flathead Valley CASA for Kids Executive Director Jamie Campbell said. “We don't have enough advocates. There's no question. Right now we have 30 children waiting for an advocate. That is a huge number.”
Currently, 75 advocates serve 275 children in Flathead County. That is up from the 45 advocates who served 180 children in 2013.
Campbell said she estimates that her group needs around 90 advocates, if the numbers do not keep skyrocketing. Fourteen potential advocates are currently in training.
Campbell encouraged anyone with an interest in volunteering to contact her at 755-7208. The group also has a very active Facebook page.
OUR VIEW: Talk to your children today about sexual abuse
Raising awareness to child sexual abuse is critical and it's something we cannot ignore
It seems rarely a day goes by when there isn't a report of sex abuse against children. This past week alone, we've seen reports on a former martial arts instructor accused of sexually abusing female students, a school bus driver charged with sexting a student and a father who tricked his own daughter into sending him nude photos of herself which then led to him sexually abusing her physically. He's facing up to 250 years in prison when sentenced in July. That's not long enough.
Some say we're seeing more cases of childhood sexual abuse because the media is reporting it more. Well, it's true that the media is reporting it more and that's good because in years past the lack of awareness meant that fewer victims were coming forward. Perversion isn't a new thing. But before raised awareness, young victims were reluctant to step forward and the sickos who were committing these horrendous acts against them were getting away with it because nobody talked about it.
Now we do. And we must.
Studies by David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, show that one in five girls and one in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. It could be more because despite awareness, some incidents go unreported. We all must work to prevent that from happening.
Talking about these things with our kids can be uncomfortable. If you're not sure how to approach it, there are many agencies such as the YWCA Mohawk Valley, Oneida County Child Advocacy Center or Mohawk Valley office of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that can provide information for age-appropriate discussions on the issue with your child.
Parents or other caregivers cannot put off addressing this issue. Begin a dialogue now and help your child understand that they must come to you if they are uncomfortable with anything.
And by all means, if you suspect abuse, report it by calling the YWCA's 24-hour confidential hotlines: 866-4120 in Herkimer County; 797-7740 in Oneida County. You can also call the Oneida County Child Advocacy Center at 732-3990.
Do it today. It's one of the most important things you'll ever do.
TIPS FOR PARENTS, CAREGIVERS
-- Talk. Maintain a dialogue with children identifying good touch versus bad touch and helping them understand that their bodies belong to them.
-- Tone down the stranger danger. While children need to be aware of strangers and how to keep themselves safe, the vast majority of child sexual abusers are individuals the child knows, such as a parent or other relative, a teacher, coach, clergy, neighbor or family friend.
Break the silence. Child sexual abuse thrives on secrecy. Children need to be able to tell a trusted adult if someone tries to hurt or touch them inappropriately.
-- Get educated. Encourage professional prevention programs in the local school system and throughout the community.
— YWCA Mohawk Valley
Police launch major investigation into suspected child sexual exploitation in Rotherham's Roma community
by Chris Burn
South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Council have confirmed an investigation focused around the Roma community and involving ‘a number of children' is under way.
Malcolm Newsam, one of the Government-appointed commissioners currently in charge of Rotherham Council, said the operation is in its early stages after starting in January ‘but could have major resourcing implications as it gains momentum.'
It comes after a University of Salford report into Rotherham's child sexual exploitation problem said one contributor had highlighted concerns about children in the Roma community being vulnerable to abuse ‘because of their relatively recent migration to Rotherham and a reported drug problem in the Eastwood area.'
Mr Newsam revealed details of the new investigation in a report by the Rotherham Council commissioners assessing the progress of the local authority over the last year.
The commissioners were brought in to run the council after it was assessed as being not fit for purpose in the wake of the abuse scandal, in which at least 1,400 children in the town were estimated to have been sexually exploited between 1997 and 2013 – largely by men of Pakistani origin.
Mr Newsam highlighted the recent convictions of six people for historic child sexual exploitation offences involving 15 now-adult women in his report and said the support service offered to the witnesses in the case had been an ‘outstanding success.'
He added: “In January 2016 a further multi-agency enquiry into suspected child sexual exploitation within a minority group commenced and this may become a significant challenge later in the year.
“Preliminary enquiries have so far identified a number of children from a minority group believed to be at risk of sexual exploitation and drugs misuse.
“This operation is still at the earliest stages but could have major resourcing implications as it gains momentum and it is important that the council and South Yorkshire Police continue to demonstrate the excellent practice that has led to the successful outcomes to date.”
A joint statement by Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police said: “South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council's Children's Services are conducting a joint investigation after identifying a number of girls in the Roma community who are believed to be at risk of sexual exploitation and drug misuse in Rotherham.
“The children are receiving specialist support from a range of agencies, who are working closely with affected communities.
“Anyone with concerns about child sexual exploitation should contact the police on 101 or the new national helpline Say Something on 116 000. The Rotherham Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub, MASH, can also be contacted on 01709 336 080. Always call 999 in an emergency.”
As part of the university study, a Roma mother whose daughter has been a victim of child abuse said criminal gangs would victimise the Roma girls who had been exploited, and attempt to bribe them so that they would not press charges.
She said: “The police found him after we reported him and he was sent to jail. But he sent two guys to visit us trying to bribe my daughter and to say that the guy is innocent.
“But my daughter refused to do that.
“She said, ‘Mum, he has destroyed my life - how could I let it go?' We all have suffered from this.”
A 2014 South Yorkshire Police report said ‘there is evidence locally to show that people from the Czech Republic and Slovakia in Rotherham are frequently of Roma heritage and there is an emerging community of Czech and Slovakian Roma families in the Eastwood area'.
Last year, two Slovakian brothers living in Rotherham were jailed for child abuse offences.
Eduard Peticky was given a life sentence for sexually abusing a boy aged between three and five and trafficking a five-year-old girl for sex before assaulting her himself.
His brother Ludovit Peticky was also jailed for 12 years for offences against the same two children and a third victim, who was between 10 and 11.
The offences took place between 2010 and 2012 in the Eastwood area of Rotherham.
Keri Adams allegedly didn't hear that reporting child abuse is part of the job
by CORY ZUROWSKI
The six-year-old girl scribbled pictures about things a young child shouldn't know. The developmentally disabled child showed up twice at the Minnesota Autism Center with bruised eyes.
The child was in such rough shape on February 4 that Keri Adams, a clinical supervisor at the Autism Center's Mankato facility, decided she should be sent home. The 42-year-old Adams reported the danger signs to the girl's grandmother and her boss in Minnetonka, headquarters for the state's largest service provider for autistic kids.
But she neglected to contact social services or police, people therapists must turn to "immediately" when there are warning signs of abuse, according to state law.
On February 5, someone who'd seen the girl earlier that week contacted North Mankato Police. That call led to Nicollet County District Court earlier this month.
Adams was charged with failure to properly report signs of abuse.
The 22,000-square foot Autism Center opened on North Mankato's Rolling Green Lane in 2012. The nonprofit provides behavior therapy for kids, teens, and families. Though Adams represents the first person there to face criminal charges, the most recent incident wasn't the first time police had spoken to her about reporting suspected abuse.
She'd been reminded as much back in December when another situation required that law enforcement be called out to the center.
Child Advocates Educate About Child Abuse
COLUMBUS, Ga. – One out of every ten children in the US suffers from child abuse and that abuse affects the entire community – financially and emotionally.
Child advocates say this is the most prevalent health problem facing children – and it's preventable.
Columbus Child Psychologist Dr. Brett Murphy-Dawson says, “Oftentimes, 90% of people that are the perpetrators are people that they know.”
Doctor Brett Murphy-Dawson wants the community to know the facts about child abuse.
She's a columbus child psychologist who is committed to educating the public about preventing child abuse – she's worked with many surivivors.
Murphy-Dawson is a facilitator with the community coalition – a group determined to get five percent of the state of georgia educated on child abuse.
“They may not want to spend time with that caregiver any more. They may decide not want to play at the babysitter's house anymore. They may change their demeanor.”
The goal of this day – to train adults who care for children.
Rev. JH Flakes , III, a member of Building Towards Wellness Community Coalition, says, “It's important to Columbus that we coalesce and collaborate in bringing agencies together in order to bring about a safe community.”
According to the CDC the lifetime costs one victim of child abuse is $200,000.
And the US spends $124 Billion every year for the costs of child abuse.
Educators say it's also the reason why 60% of first teen pregnancies are preceded by an incident of child sexual abuse.
They add 90% of those involved in sex trafficking were children of sexual abuse.
Tiffany Sawyer with the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy says, “If we can prevent sexual abuse we can prevent a greater opportunity to stop sex trafficking from happening.”
Dr. Murphy-Dawson says children rarely make up something like child abuse.
So if a child comes to you – please listen to their concerns seriously.
She also says many predators are in a position of authority so they won't be questioned when they groom their victims.
If you see anything suspicious please contact the authorities.
– Call 911
– Call your local DFCS office – Muscogee County DFCS Office is (706) 649-7311
– Or if you can call 1(800)-CHILDREN to talk to a person about your concerns.
Find out more about how you can spot child abuse. Check out this video:
Cardboard cutouts spark conversation on child abuse
Childsafe social media campaign begins with Cardboard Kids conversations
by Ursula Pari
SAN ANTONIO - April is Child Abuse Awareness Month and once again Childsafe plans to bring the conversation about children harmed at the hands of adults forward in a unique and colorful way. The only difference this year, is that the tens of thousands of Cardboard Kids distributed around San Antonio will break records. Instead of 30,000, Childsafe is handing out 40,000 blank figures ready for decoration.
Each sweet face represents one child abused at the hands of an adult, a real problem for our community. Kim Abernathy, president of Childsafe said, “We know that one in four girls and one in five boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. And we know that only one in 10 victims ever tell."
Abernathy said since victims remain quiet, it's up to others to put the conversation out in the open and make sure that it does not remain a silent subject.
“We want everyone to post where they put their kid, post everywhere they see them. Last year we had over 22,000 kids [abused} and we reached 3 million people," she said regarding the social media response to Cardboard Kids.
It all starts with the Cardboard Kid giveaway at local malls over the weekend. People have a few weeks to decorate them, then they can scatter them throughout the area in the hope that the cute characters are then uploaded via social media and go viral.
Childsafe is targeting Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag, #cardboardkidsSA.
For complete details on where to get a few Cardboard Kids and about Childsafe, visit cardboardkidsSA.com and childsafe-sa.org.
A toddler got meningitis. His anti-vac parents gave him an herbal remedy. The toddler died. Now his parents are on trial.
by Michael E. Miller
David and Collet Stephan have a beautiful family. On that, at least, there is little debate. In the many photos they have posted online, the devout couple's children are blond and brightly smiling and often dressed in matching outfits. Collet is pretty with a graceful posture and almond-shaped eyes. David is tall and handsome with a mane and a beard, like a classical painting of Jesus Christ.
The Canadian Rockies surrounding their home in rural Alberta complete the picturesque family portraits.
In the comments under their photos, however, there are hints that something is amiss.
“They are a poor excuse as parents.”
There may be little doubt about the Stephan family's good looks, but there is a major debate over their beliefs.
On March 5, the Canadian government opened its trial against David and Collet. The charge: failing to provide their 19-month-old son, Ezekiel, the necessaries of life.
According to prosecutors, David and Collet stubbornly refused to take their sick son to see a doctor, instead giving him home remedies such as smoothies containing hot pepper, ginger root, horseradish, onion and apple cider vinegar. Even after warnings from a family friend who is a nurse, the anti-vaccine couple took him to a naturopath for echinacea — an herb believed to stimulate the immune system — instead of to a doctor for an exam.
It was only when Ezekiel began to have trouble breathing that they rushed him to a hospital, prosecutors said.
By then, it was too late.
Ezekiel died from bacterial meningitis and empyema, two conditions routinely cured with antibiotics, a medical examiner told the court last week, according to the Lethbridge Herald.
If convicted, the parents could spend up to five years in prison.
The case has stirred outrage across Canada and the United States. It comes at a time when belief in natural and homeopathic remedies is on the rise in North America. More controversially, anti-vaccine sentiment is also surging, leading to a resurgence of once vanquished diseases like measles and whooping cough.
The toddler's tragic death raises questions of whether and when parents have a duty to take their children to the hospital, despite their personal or religious beliefs.
Ezekiel Stephan wasn't old enough to speak for himself when he died. Nonetheless, he has become a lightning rod for a raging debate.
In his death, some see dangerous medical quackery. In his parents' trial, however, others see a witch hunt.
“Isn't losing their child punishment enough?” one local wrote in the Lethbridge Herald.
“Children have a right to evidence-based medical care, not just prayer and useless folk remedies,” shot back a commenter.
That debate has dominated the lead up to and duration of the trial.
It wasn't until a year after Ezekiel's death that the Stephans were charged.
The couple was shocked.
“There's nothing in the world that will bring him back,” David told the Calgary Herald. “What good could possibly come out of this?
“What could possibly be worse than the suffering we've endured for the past year?”
Several Stephan family members suggested the family was being singled out for its beliefs. David's father, Anthony Stephan, founded a company called TrueHope that sells a natural supplement that claims to fight bipolar disorder.
“Anthony Stephan, a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Alberta, Canada, was away on business when his wife took her life by asphyxiation after affixing a hose to the exhaust pipe of the family minivan,” the Salt Lake City Weekly reported in 2013.” Stephan's wife had been diagnosed with bipolar-affective disorder, the same ailment that had afflicted her father, who had also taken his life.”
When two of Anthony's kids were also diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he “felt that traditional medication didn't save his wife and wouldn't help his children,” according to the alt-weekly. He and a friend devised a nutritional supplement, TrueHope, that they tested out on the two kids. According to a promotional video, the kids felt an effect and were able to quit their medications.
In 2004, the Canadian government's health department, called Health Canada, pressed charges against TrueHope, claiming the company did not have the scientific evidence to back its claims.
TrueHope won two years later, but the case left the Stephan family feeling persecuted.
“Whatever's going on here stinks,” Brad Stephan told the Huffington Post shortly after the child neglect charges were filed against his brother and sister-in-law. “I don't see anybody else getting charged for having meningitis.
“I almost have to wonder if we don't have an officer somewhere or someone just acting overzealous … We just feel this is just really over the top and we're not understanding why.”
Anthony Stephan insisted that the family is not anti-medicine, despite their criticism of pharmaceutical companies and vaccines.
“We don't always go to the doctor immediately. If it persists we do, absolutely,” he told the Calgary Herald.
“If there's any insinuation that they were withholding care from the child, it's absolutely wrong,” he said, saying medical records showed his family visited doctors.
“This is something that the family missed, no question,” he admitted, adding: “It wasn't a question of avoidance at all.”
On Facebook, however, David Stephan has claimed that his family has been targeted by Big Pharma and others opposed to his beliefs.
“Since this court case has begun, there has been a great deal of opposition and outright malicious attacks from various organizations, some having pharmaceutical interests and others just having a very strong opposing agenda,” he wrote on March 8, three days into the trial.
He has said his son was on a TrueHope pill called EMPowerplus — “the most powerful daily supplement in the world” — at the time of Ezekiel's death, but denied that it was intended as a treatment for his illness, which the family believed was a case of croup.
And he has bemoaned being “in the international spotlight” and criticized media for reporting that he and his wife gave the sick toddler “maple syrup.”
“Anyone in their right mind would see how ridiculous this is, and if it wasn't such a serious matter, it would be laughable,” he wrote on Facebook. “The idea of boosting an immune system with maple syrup, juice and frozen fruit is so illogical that I am left here shaking my head. As all of these items contain high amounts of simple sugars, I would suspect that they would serve to feed viruses and bacteria and actually do the opposite of boosting the immune system.”
David has dubbed the proceedings a “vaccine trial,” claiming the Crown represents the “vaccine agenda.” He says authorities are “looking to create the legal precedent through the court system that when a child falls ill, parents who chose not to vaccinate have a greater onus to seek mainstream medical attention sooner than parents that do vaccinate, and if any harm befalls the non-vaccinated child from an illness that there was a vaccine for, the parents can be held criminally liable.”
He also said his family's fundraising websites had been taken down repeatedly and that they suffered online abuse.
Indeed, Facebook photos of his family have been slapped with incendiary labels. Someone tagged David as “Babykiller” and Collet as “Murderer.”
Even the kids, alive and dead, have been targeted.
Ezekiel has been tagged “I Was Murdered” while his siblings have been labeled “SaveMe.”
So far in court, prosecutors have tried to avoid this emotional minefield.
“We're not saying the accused killed Ezekiel,” prosecutor Clayton Giles said near the beginning of the trial, according to the Lethbridge Herald. “They loved him.”
But, he added, the parents didn't do enough to help their sick toddler and are responsible for his death.
“They did not take Ezekiel to a doctor when they should have.”
Over the past two weeks, the jury has heard at times excruciating details about Ezekiel's demise.
Prosecutors claim the boy was sick for several weeks before being rushed to the hospital, where he was kept on life support for a week before passing away.
The defense insists Ezekiel had shown improvement after being given home remedies, and that it was only when he stopped breathing that he seemed dangerously sick.
On March 12, 2012, Collet called Terrie Meynders, a family friend and registered nurse who had been Collet's birth attendant, to come look at the boy.
Meynders testified that Ezekiel was asleep when she arrived at the Stephans' home. She listened to his breathing but couldn't find anything wrong.
“It did not jump out at me that he was that seriously ill,” she told the court, according to the Lethbridge Herald.
She did suggest, however, that he could have viral meningitis, and told Collet to seek medical help.
“I think you should take him to see a doctor,” Meynders testified, according to CBC.
Shortly afterwards, Collet called a local naturopath and asked about treatments for viral meningitis.
“She needed something to build up her baby's immune system,” Lexie Vataman, a naturopathic clinic employee, testified in court, according to the Lethbridge Herald. “She said, ‘My baby might have a form of meningitis and we think it might be viral and not bacterial.' ”
(That hunch was mistaken, according to the medical examiner.)
“You need to tell the lady to take the child to emergency right away,” the naturopathic doctor, Tracey Tannis, told Vataman, according to her own testimony.
“I think you should see a medical doctor,” Vataman relayed to Collet.
Vataman did prescribe Ezekiel with an echinacea mixture, however.
Echinacea is an herb “used for colds, flu, and other infections, based on the idea that it might stimulate the immune system to more effectively fight infection,” according to the National Institutes of Health. “Study results are mixed” on its usefulness, the NIH says.
By the time the Stephans drove to the naturopath to pick up the tincture, however, Ezekiel's body was so stiff from his illness that he couldn't sit in his car seat, according to an interview — played in court — the couple gave to Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Instead, the couple put a mattress in the back of their vehicle to take him to the naturopath.
A few days later, on March 14, 2012, Ezekiel suddenly crashed.
“All of a sudden his breathing wasn't normal,” Collet told RCMP.
They called 911 and performed CPR on the toddler as they drove to meet an ambulance, but the boy repeatedly stopped breathing.
“He was blue by the time we met up with the ambulance,” Collet said in the recorded interview.
Ezekiel was eventually airlifted to Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary. By the time he arrived, however, there was little they could do. Doctors testified in court that he had suffered cardiac arrest and was likely already brain dead, according to the Lethbridge Herald.
Five days later, Ezekiel was taken off life support.
The trial is expected to conclude next week.
"Thank you for getting me out"; Family defends mom guilty of child rape
by SERGIO AVILA
LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) — It was an emotional day in court as a mother who admitted to raping her own children was sentenced to life in prison.
Deborah Sena, 49, plead guilty to one count of sexual assault in case prosecutors say involved Sena's own children.
Deborah maintains it was her ex-husband, Christopher Sena who forced her into the criminal acts through extreme abuse, both emotional and physical.
Those same children, who were victims in the case, stood in the courtroom and spoke in Deborah's defense
"She helped us get out of there. She helped drive us to the safe house," said one of the children.
They asked a judge to try and understand what their mother had endured.
"I've seen Deborah take beatings for us even though they were aimed for us. I saw that she was hit by hammers, I saw she was hit over tables. I've heard the worst," said a family member. "Thank you, thank you for getting me out of there. Thank you for getting my brothers out of there. Although they say all these things about you, you are still a good mom. You did the best that you can," they continued.
Judge Kerry Early spoke about how sensitive this case was.
"I think there's a tragedy all around," said Early. "I understand that it's unfathomable but you know what, unless you walk in somebody's shoes it's awfully tough, Early continued.
Prosecutors said regardless of the mother's plight, videos prove sexual crimes happened. Not just once, but time and time again.
"She was their last line of defense and she failed them," said Mary Kay Holthus, the prosecutor of the case. "There's never a no, there's never a cry, there's never a please don't make me. None of that exists," she continued.
Deborah's attorney Josh Tomsheck says the videos show only one part of the horrors occurring in that house, but fail to document the abuse.
He told the judge Deborah taking responsibility for that action will actually put her in a better situation than where she was.
"Ten years to life in prison is a heck of a lot better than being in the prison of a home she endured with her codefendant for years," said Tomsheck.
Christopher Sena's first ex-wife Terrie Sena was also sentenced to the same term for her involvement in the case. Prosecutors say there were, at least, eight children involved.
News 3 spoke to Deborah's family after the hearing. They feel the district attorney's office has failed them for not siding completely with Deborah.
They feel the father, in this case, Christopher Sena is getting exactly what he wants by having Deborah go to prison.
Christopher Sena's case is still moving forward. It's currently scheduled for November 9th.
Self-Criticism Can Be Psychologically Devastating – How to Overcome It
Research finds internalized harsh treatment leads to mental health disorders and raises suicide risk.
by Michael O. Schroeder
From a very early age, we learn – in a manner of speaking – to nitpick ourselves. We take information from those we encounter and the world around us to fine-tune how we act and who we are, taking note of what doesn't work in an ongoing internal dialogue that stretches back to childhood. “The healthy form of self-criticism,” says Divya Kannan, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, may involve a child evaluating his or her own behavior, like what not to do, based on cues from parents and teachers.
Constructive self-critiquing can help with proper development, plus everything from preserving relationships to toeing the line professionally. But for some, harsher self-criticism, often deeply rooted in his or her upbringing, can prove psychologically – and in certain cases, even physically – devastating. “Self-criticism is a tendency to set unrealistically high self-standards and to adopt a punitive, derogatory stance toward the self once these are not met, as invariably they are not because of their ever-raising nature,” said psychologist and researcher Golan Shahar, a professor of clinical-health and developmental-health psychology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, in an email. Shahar, the author of a new book called “Erosion: The Psychopathology of Self-Criticism,” explains this internal negative bent can have severe consequences.
“Self-criticism is a trait that has been shown to lead to numerous forms of psychopathology: depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorder symptoms,” Shahar says. It can lead to psychosomatic symptoms, he says, whereby the mental struggles manifest in physical problems, such a chronic fatigue and pain; and under the weight of the mounting mental health burden, some take their own lives.
The Kids Need to Know They're Alright
The seeds of self-criticism are planted early.
It's caused by two possible factors, Shahar says: “Harsh, critical and punitive family relationships, or a very vulnerable genetics embedding the tendency to look inwardly and seek flaws.” And of course, he adds, both factors can combine to play a role. “The primary origin … [is] critical parents,” says Beverly Engel, a marriage and family therapist based in Los Osos, California. “That usually is where it starts – having overly critical parents or parents who have unreasonable expectations of their children.” Engel is the author of “It Wasn't Your Fault,” a book about utilizing self-compassion to overcome shame and self-criticism stemming from childhood abuse.
Childhood trauma, such as sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional abuse, can cause a child to feel tremendous shame, Engel says, and that “shame is at the core of self-criticism.” The same egocentric perspective healthy children naturally have that the world revolves around them makes them feel they're responsible for everything that happens to them – especially when it involves their parents. “But even when it isn't a parent, the child will blame themselves – especially with sexual abuse,” Engel says, adding with physical and emotional abuse, young children also blame themselves. “They can't even conceptualize that somebody would do this to them, if they somehow didn't cause it,” she says. “So every time a child is traumatized, that goes hand in hand with trauma is shame – this horrible, debilitating shame. That's more than, ‘I did something wrong.' It's: ‘I'm wrong, I'm bad' – and this shame is what causes people then to be horribly self-critical.”
Parents routinely don't recognize they're overly critical, Engel says. She describes overly critical parents as those “who find fault in what their children do a lot more than they give encouragement; the parents' focus is a negative focus on the child – kind of always looking for the child to do something wrong … versus encouraging or giving the child any kind of accolades whatsoever.” In so doing, parents are commonly inflicting an internal family legacy upon their children, passing on the same sort of derision they received as a child from their parents. “One of the primary forms of emotional abuse of parents to children is this horribly self-critical stance,” Engel says. Being hyper-disciplined and pushing children toward high levels of achievement alone doesn't constitute mistreatment; still experts say demanding parents, like so-called Tiger Moms, should be cautious not to go too far. "Tiger Moms are generally more overly protective than overly critical but [the way] they can inflict damage on their children is by being perfectionists and by pushing their children beyond their limits," Engel says.
Shahar says parents must be very cautious about being punitive and derogatory toward their children, since children can internalize this in the way they treat themselves. “Instructing children and ... pointing out and even sanctioning bad behavior is mandatory, of course,” he says. “But this never, or almost never, should be translated toward ?attacking the child's core being, or the child will internalize it and will follow suit.” Divya, who has studied the effects of self-criticism in adolescents and adults, says ultimately many who endure bullying or abuse incorporate that in how they relate to themselves: “You might start to kind of attack yourself in the same way you've been attacked.”
Break the Cycle With Self-Compassion
“What is interesting, in my opinion, is that once self-criticism has developed, it spreads around like an infectious virus,” Shahar says. “Self-critical children make their parents even more self-critical toward them, and they create criticism-based relationships with siblings, peers and teachers. The process unfolds over the life span, resulting in a strong, self-critical identity.”
Engel points out this creates obstacles for the children, even while parents may think they're helping kids get ahead in life. Those hurdles can trip them up as adults, too. “Self-critics fear that others might criticize and reject them, and inadvertently evoke these very reactions. They isolate themselves from people and refrain from engaging in pleasurable activities. The end result is emotional disorders, primarily depression and anxiety,” Shahar says, among other psychological issues. “In adolescence and young adulthood, such distress may feed back to self-criticism and bolster it: ‘I feel so bad, something must be deficient in me.' I call this process ‘the self-critical cascade.'”
Treatment of psychological issues can be complicated by the fact that many self-critical people blame themselves for their mental health struggles, and may punish themselves by not seeking treatment, Shahar says. But it's possible to tweak the internal dialogue and find a more positive way forward, particularly using an “antidote to shame:” self-compassion, Engel says. When a self-critical voice spirals out of control and leads to mental health issues or when a person finds, for example, that they're self-sabotaging – not allowing successes and positive moments to stand, finding ways to create problems or undermine long-term goals – it's important, experts say, to seek professional help. Therapy can also help parents break the cycle, so they don't continue to pass on the harsh legacy to children.
Shahar says he teaches adolescents and young adults about the detriments of self-criticism. “I then teach them to identify their inner critic and then to cultivate other voices inside them that are not critical,” he says. He teaches patients to base their behavior on those benign/benevolent voices, rather than self-critical ones, using interpersonal, cognitive, behavioral and psychodynamic therapeutic techniques and relying on the healing power of therapeutic relationships.
Kannan notes that psychoanalytic therapy that delves into ?negative internalized childhood experiences may help in understanding the origins of self-criticism and treating the issue, and Engel highlights compassion-focused therapy, mindful self-compassion and trauma-focused therapy as specific types of therapeutic approaches for those who are deeply shamed and self-critical. “Across approaches the idea is, you can recognize and sort of verbalize those internal attitudes – talk through what the origins were – then you may be able to separate the part of yourself that's more balanced or more positive from the self-critical part,” Kannan says. “Then you can start to say, ‘OK, that's maybe a part of me – it's not all of?? ?me.' So it's like the difference between saying you've experienced failure, versus you are a failure.”
Everybody's Business: Sexual violence in the workplace.
by Malinda Williams
Sexual violence in the workplace is a serious problem that ranges from verbal sexual harassment to rape.
Most of us know about or have experienced rough “jokes” about women and GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) people, obscene language and pressure for dates or sexual favors from supervisors and co-workers. But unwanted touching, groping, exhibitionism, stalking and rape in the workplace are also a huge problem and far too often underreported.
The United States Department of Justice estimates that 8 percent of sexual assaults each year happen while the victim is working. A 2011 Centers for Disease Control survey found more than 700,000 rapes each year in the United States, with fewer than 4 percent reported.
Under New Mexico law, workplace sexual harassment means “any unwanted and/or repeated physical or verbal act that is sexual, including sexual advances, sexual conduct, verbal or nonverbal sexual suggestions, sexual ridicule or sexual innuendos” that affect “employment status related to matters of compensation or the terms and conditions of employment.” The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (eeoc.gov) also has information and definitions about workplace sexual harassment, which includes sexual assault.
People in the workplace can be sexually targeted by co-workers, supervisors, supervisors from other departments, or a non-employee, such as clients, customers, or patients. Most victims are women and most offenders are male, but the offender and victim can be either. Like domestic violence perpetrators, workplace abusers are aware of the power they have over their victims and use it.
Victims of workplace sexual violence most commonly work in lower-wage fields, such as food service, hospitality, or retail workers. Low-wage workers often have little bargaining power and are vulnerable to retaliation if a supervisor believes the victim may report workplace harassment/violence. Reporting by a low-wage worker is deterred by a supervisor's ability to make retaliatory last-minute changes in shifts, making it difficult to get child care or transportation. And supervisors may decrease assigned hours, further stressing victims who are living on the financial edge.
Women working in agriculture, particularly undocumented migrant workers, are especially vulnerable to sexual violence. Human Rights Watch has documented extensive abuses among farmworkers from supervisors who touch women's breasts and buttocks as they picked potatoes and onions all the way through to requiring women to endure rape under threat of calling immigration or being fired. Undocumented workers are often unfamiliar with their rights under U.S. law, have language barriers, desperately need to work and fear detention and deportation if they report the violence. Undocumented workers often will seek help only when abuse is so severe that the victim has little choice but to report it. Though undocumented workers are protected by most employment laws, they are too often deported after seeking help for crimes.
We all have the right to work without sexual violence or harassment, whether from customers, co-workers, or supervisors. There are strict time limits in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. If you believe that you are the victim of workplace sexual harassment or violence, you should speak with an attorney or file a claim as soon as possible after the incident. More information about filing a claim with the New Mexico Human Rights Division can be found at dws.state.nm.us, and information about filing a claim with the U.S. EEOC can be found at eeoc.gov/facts/howtofil.html. It is against the law for an employer to retaliate against you in any way for reporting sexual harassment.
Malinda Williams is the executive director of Community Against Violence, Inc. (CAV), which offers free confidential support and assistance for adult and child survivors of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence and stalking; community and school violence prevention programs; re-education BIP groups for domestic violence offenders; shelter; and community thrift store. To talk with someone or to get information on services available, call CAV's 24-hour crisis line at (575) 758-9888. TaosCAV.org
Archbishop of Canterbury's office criticised for 'ignoring' abuse complaints
by Martin Evans
A Church of England sex abuse victim was repeatedly snubbed when he attempted to raise the matter with the Archbishop of Canterbury's office, a damning report has found.
The man, who was abused by two senior members of the clergy more than 30-years ago, attempted to alert Justin Welby on at least 18 occasions, both in writing and by telephone, but was persistently ignored, causing further pain and trauma.
An independent review into his case concluded there had been a string of "deeply disturbing" failures by senior Church of England figures to take his concerns seriously.
It revealed that he had repeatedly sought to bring the details to the attention of the Archbishop in 2015, but had been left "angry and frustrated" by the lack of response.
We should have been swifter to listen, to believe and to act. This report is deeply uncomfortable for the Church of England, said the Bishop of Crediton, Sarah Mullally.
The review concluded: "The Archbishop of Canterbury, as head of the Church of England, is not in a position where he could be expected to reply personally to each safeguarding concern that is received by his office, no matter how deserving they may be.
"However, it is important that where a survivor chooses that route they receive a response that is meaningful and helps them to move on. This did not happen in this case."
The report described how the first case of abuse occurred when the victim was a teenager and was invited to stay overnight with a priest named Garth Moore, who was a family friend.
He said after plying him with alcohol Rev Moore -- who died in 1990 -- attempted to rape him.
The following year he became involved in a relationship with another senior member of the Church, who was in his 60s at the time and was subsequently ordained a Bishop.
The victim said while he had considered the relationship to be consensual at the time, he subsequently realised that it was exploitative and abusive.
He later suffered a mental breakdown and was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder which he blamed on the abuse.
Neither of the men were ever held accountable for their actions and enjoyed very senior positions within the church.
Last year the victim received £35,000 in compensation after the Church of England accepted that his abuse had been a matter of "deep shame and regret".
Responding to the report the Bishop of Crediton, Sarah Mullally, issued a profuse apology to the victim for the abuse suffered.
She said: "We should have been swifter to listen, to believe and to act. This report is deeply uncomfortable for the Church of England.
"I know we have made some progress but we still have so much to learn and to do, and we need to do it quickly."
'I told so many bishops': survivor tells of system that protected priest
In a Guardian interview, Joe describes how a C of E priest assaulted him 39 years ago as the church is due to publish a review into its handling of the case
by Harriet Sherwood, Religion correspondent
For almost 40 years, Joe has struggled to be heard by the Church of England over the sexual abuse that has blighted his life. The depression, anxiety and occasional suicidal thoughts that have dogged him since he was a teenager were, he says, as much the product of the church's failure to listen to and act on his anguish as the original assault in 1976.
He speaks of a culture of inertia, obfuscation, denial and cover-up. "I raised core, critical issues with a very significant senior slice of the church down through the decades. I told an astonishing number of people."
Even when, finally, he formally reported the abuse, he felt "blanked". "It's a very effective device for shutting down an issue. And you leave the issue, the burden, on the survivor's shoulders -- who feels cowed, intimidated by the weight of silence."
Joe hopes that Tuesday's publication of the C of E's independent review of its handling of his case -- with its recognition of the church's failures, along with the apologies he has received from a handful of senior figures -- will allow him to finally attain an inner equilibrium. But he is in a very small minority, he says. "As things stand, most survivors will probably not receive a personal apology or any real justice. I am one of the lucky few."
His story begins when he was 15. Garth Moore, the chancellor of the dioceses of Southwark, Durham and Gloucester and the vicar of St Mary's Abchurch in the City of London, was a family friend. According to Moore's obituary, published in 1990 in the Ecclesiastical Law Journal, he was "the foremost canonist of his generation in the Church of England".
Joe -- not his real name -- was asked to serve in St Mary's Abchurch and, with his family's blessing and encouragement, was invited to stay overnight occasionally in Moore's flat in Gray's Inn. He describes Moore as his "spiritual mentor, very solicitous. He treated me as special".
With hindsight, Joe realises that Moore was grooming him. Moore took great interest in the boy, offering praise, adult conversation and alcohol during their evenings together. "He played very heavily on the fact of my adoption to undermine trust in my family," says Joe. He was, in effect, "slowly detaching me from loyalty to my parents".
One evening, when Joe was 16, he says that Moore suddenly turned aggressive and controlling, interrogating Joe and slamming his fist on the table. "Over two hours, he intensively stripped me psychologically. I could see something very sinister was happening, and I didn't know what to do. It had never occurred to me until that moment that I could be in danger. I was like a frozen rabbit."
Moore ordered Joe to undress and pinned him face down on his bed. He attempted to rape the terrified boy, in what the report describes as a sustained and sadistic sexual assault. The next morning, Joe served at St Mary's Abchurch under Moore's guidance.
He considered reporting the attack. "But I knew no one would believe me. Moore was a very senior figure in the establishment. My feeling was that I would get into trouble. Something bad had happened, and it would be worse if I told anyone."
It was a couple of years before Joe was able to speak about the episode. The number of people he told -- mostly C of E priests -- steadily mounted up. Many listened sympathetically; some offered absolution. But none took action or advised Joe to do so.
One of the earliest was Michael Fisher, the highly regarded leader of the Society of St Francis and later the suffragan bishop of St Germans in Cornwall. Fisher, who was then in his 60s and died in 2003, was acquainted with Moore and was a close associate of Peter Ball, the former bishop of Lewes, who was jailed last October for sexual abuse.
According to Joe, then aged 18, Fisher "drew the full story out of me in confession. Immediately afterwards, he led me into an intensely romantic friendship with him" -- kissing and caressing but no penetrative sex -- which lasted 18 months. At no point did Fisher record or act on Joe's disclosure of the earlier attempted rape.
"This was not the right response to a young man who was seeking help," says Joe. It "added another layer to the complexity of abuse. At the time, it didn't occur to me that this charismatic figure [Fisher] was abusing me spiritually and emotionally."
Over the years, among the senior figures whom Joe told about the abuse were three bishops and a senior clergyman who was later appointed a bishop.
Joe finds it hard to accept that, while many people remember being told his story, not a single senior church figure has any recollection.
"It's astonishing to me, looking back, to realise I told so many senior C of E priests and bishops. None came back and said: we need to help you get properly heard and you need a sense of real justice happening. No one ever came back to me. There was casual and systemic inertia all the way through. These were not bad people themselves -- they were people working in a profoundly dysfunctional structure."
One serving senior bishop wrote to Joe last month to offer a "heartfelt apology" for his lack of recollection of the disclosure. "I recognise that my not remembering set against your clear recollection may reinforce the perception of inaction that continues the hurt for you, and for other survivors. I am genuinely also sorry for this," the email said.
It wasn't until July 2014 that Joe, with the support and help of a local parish priest, formally reported Moore's sexual assault to the Church of England's safeguarding team and the police. After lengthy interviews, investigation and unseemly "horsetrading" between Joe's solicitor and the church's insurers last October -- 39 years after the attempted rape and 25 years after Moore's death -- the C of E publicly apologised to Joe and paid £35,000 compensation. It also launched an independent review into its handling of the case.
But Joe remains astounded at the way it was dealt with. On receipt of his compensation claim, the church shut down communication with Joe on the instructions of its insurers, who wanted to avoid liability. The sudden total withdrawal deepened Joe's anguish and sense of rejection -- and halted vital professional help.
"Many of the key issues I raised dozens of times were effectively blanked. Questions concerning disclosures to senior figures were treated casually or dismissed. Astonishingly, the part of my story concerning Michael Fisher was completely overlooked, as though it wasn't important," he says.
Last month, Paul Butler, the bishop of Durham, who leads the C of E's safeguarding work, privately apologised to Joe for the church's response to his disclosures. He said he had no doubt that Joe had been abused by Moore, and there were likely to be other survivors who have not yet come forward. He ended his handwritten letter, seen by the Guardian, with: "I am ... deeply sorry for the hurt I have caused you."
But there has been no apology from Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, to whom Joe reports writing 18 letters after the church began examining his case. He had one reply, from a correspondence secretary, assuring him that "the archbishop would hold him in his prayers".
After having a major breakdown in the early 1990s, Joe spent six years at an Anglican community for people in crisis. "It was a good place for me, but it took me a long time to claw back," he says. "I don't really remember a time when I have not had mental health difficulty."
His solicitor, David Greenwood of Switalskis, who specialises in clerical sexual abuse cases, describes Joe as "highly credible". Joe, he said, had the courage to press his case. "Most do not. Most harbour the psychological fallout in silence."
Greenwood has requested "core participant status" for his client in the forthcoming independent inquiry into child sex abuse, led by Justice Lowell Goddard.
Joe has plenty to say to the inquiry. "What happened to me is not unique. The case might be unique, but the church's shamefully slow response isn't. It's been a huge struggle. Never again. They must take real ownership of this issue. If I can help win that for other survivors, the fight will have been worth it."
Commission: US Lacks Strategies to Lower Child Abuse Deaths
by DAVID CRARY
The United States lacks coherent, effective strategies for reducing the stubbornly high number of children who die each year from abuse and neglect, a commission created by Congress reported Thursday after two years of sometimes divisive deliberations.
According to federal data, the number of such deaths has hovered at around 1,500 to 1,600 annually in recent years. But citing gaps in how this data is compiled, the report suggests the actual number may be as high as 3,000 a year.
Commission chairman David Sanders said a goal of zero maltreatment deaths was realistic.
"We looked at the airline industry — no one accepts a plane crash anymore. We can get that way with child fatalities," said Sanders, executive vice president of Casey Family Programs.
The report made dozens of recommendations, including expanding safe-haven programs for abandoned infants and enlisting a broader range of community organizations to help often-overburdened child protection service workers.
"We need a system that does not rely on CPS agencies alone to keep all children safe," the report said. "Other systems become key partners, including the courts, law enforcement, the medical community, mental health, public health, and education. Even neighbors who come into regular contact with young children and families are part of a public health approach."
Still, the commission, comprised of six members appointed by Congress and six by President Barack Obama, failed to reach consensus on some issues. Two members declined to approve the final report and wrote dissents criticizing one of the major proposals.
Under that proposal, states would be required to review all child abuse and neglect deaths from the previous five years, and then develop prevention plans. States would identify children at high risk, and conduct investigations and home visits to determine if their families needed support services or if the children should be removed. Some commissioners recommended that Congress immediately allocate at least $1 billion in new funding to implement the plan.
"The commission is claiming that spending $1 billion on an experiment reviewing previous deaths will immediately save lives. This claim is not supported by evidence," wrote dissenting commissioner Cassie Statuto Bevan, a child-welfare expert at the University of Pennsylvania's Field Center for Children's Policy.
The other dissenter was Patricia Martin, Chicago-based presiding judge of the Child Protection Division of Cook County Circuit Court. She expressed concern that the proposal would lead to more children being placed unnecessarily in foster care, and urged more support to keep families together. She also contended that the commission, by focusing on children under 5, had missed a chance to address fatalities among older children.
During two years of consultations and hearings, the commission uncovered little in the way of model programs at the state or local level that it could recommend on a national basis. One of the few initiatives to win praise was home visiting — visits to an at-risk mother's home by a nurse, social worker or early childhood educator during pregnancy and in the first years of a child's life.
The commission report called "stunningly high" the rate of maltreatment deaths among black children: 2 1/2 times greater than the rate for white children.
Maltreatment deaths represent a tiny fraction of the more than 3 million reports of child abuse and neglect received each year by hotlines and law enforcement agencies. According to federal data, about 40 percent of the reports are soon "screened out" — judged not to warrant further action.
The commission said states should be more rigorous, responding to all reports regarding children under 3 and children who were the subject of previous reports. It said reports about infants less than 1 year old should get responses within 24 hours.
The commission found shortcomings at virtually every sector of the child-welfare system, including at the federal level, which it said fails to provide guidance, monitoring and enforcement.
At the state level, the report decried high caseloads and stressful working conditions for child protection workers.
"Shortages of workers, funds and training may mean that inexperienced workers are tasked with making life-or-death decisions with insufficient preparation or support," said the report.
One commissioner, Jennifer Rodriguez, is a former foster child who spent six years in group homes. Now executive director of the San Francisco-based Youth Law Center, Rodriguez expressed hope that initiatives arising from the report would help provide substance abuse treatment, mental health care and other supports for parents in at-risk families, so that their children might be able to stay with them.
"Foster care is not always a safe place," she said.
Among the organizations following the commission's work was the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Dr. Andrew Sirotnak, a leader of the academy's Section on Child Abuse and Neglect and head of the Child Protection Team at Children's Hospital Colorado, said the report's legacy would depend on finding practical, politically feasible steps to reduce maltreatment fatalities.
His suggestions include strengthening child-abuse detection training for pediatricians and improving coordination between child-protection services and medical professionals who serve at-risk families.
Child abuse cases in Berks up 190 percent since 2014, DA says
by Amanda VanAllen
READING, Pa. - In the past two years, the number of child abuse cases has spiked dramatically in Berks County. "We are projecting for this year a 190 percent increase since 2014," Berks County District Attorney John Adams told 69 News on Wednesday. In 2013, there were nearly 800 child abuse cases reported in Berks, but by last year, the case count jumped to more than 1,700.
"We hired two additional detectives for our child abuse unit as a result of this uptick in a number of cases," Adams said. "We are not seeing this level off either."
The jump, according to the DA, is based on three factors:
The Jerry Sandusky case, which increased awareness of child abuse;
Changes to the state law, which have expanded the types of incidents and people that are required to report abuse; and the focus on child abuse in law enforcement.
"If anyone suspects a child is being abused, they should immediately call ChildLine," said Melissa Haydt, the vice president of Children's Alliance Berks County.
Haydt said there are several signs that can tip you off to abuse.
"Behaviorally, if you notice a difference in a child, in terms of their willingness to interact with somebody, if they seem shy, all of a sudden, if they pull away from having any contact," she said.
She added that children are usually being truthful about abuse.
"Typically, it's good to believe the child. It's a very, very small percentage out of the total number of cases where children lie about something happening to them," Haydt said.
Maine to require training of child abuse reporters
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- A Maine bill requiring training for people mandated to report suspected child abuse is headed to Gov. Paul LePage for his potential signature.
The bill is designed to require people such as doctors, teachers and religious leaders to undergo periodic trainings in how to spot warning signs of child abuse. The Maine Senate unanimously approved the bill on Tuesday.
The state designates dozens of types of professionals as "mandated reporters" who must report suspected child abuse or neglect to the state Department of Health and Human Services. The required training would happen every four years.
Pediatrician charged with misdemeanor child abuse
by Alan Prock
A Bakersfield pediatrician has been charged with two counts of misdemeanor child abuse.
The District Attorney's office filed two misdemeanor counts against Dr. Christie Yee, on Tuesday. Yee was arrested last week after police said she left her 2-year-old boy and 9-month-old girl inside her car while she saw patients in her northwest Bakersfield office.
The children had been taken into protective custody but were released back to their parents last week, according to police. Deputy District Attorney Melissa Allen says the case was filed as a misdemeanor due to Yee's lack of a criminal record and the overall condition of the children. Charges against Yee's husband were not submitted, Allen said. Dr. Yee's case is scheduled for an arraignment Thursday morning.
Child sexual abuse victim was told prosecutors didn't have time, money to pursue case
by Nicole Chettle
It is "inconceivable" that a survivor of child sexual abuse was told by the Queensland Department of Public Prosecutions it could not afford to pursue a trial against a convicted sex offender, the organisation's director has told a royal commission.
Abuse survivor Denis Dodt told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse he was urged not to proceed with a case against Graham Noyes, who abused him at Enoggera Boys' Home in Brisbane in the 1960s.
But the current Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Michael Byrne QC has told the commission it was "inconceivable to me that any prosecutor would have ever told a victim that we don't have the time to conduct a trial".
The commission heard that 14 people had come forward to say they were assaulted by Noyes, who was a trainee police officer and volunteer at the home at the time.
Mr Dodt described abuse so severe he would sometimes "blackout".
"Other times he would orgasm on my body," he said. "I would dry myself with my bed sheets and then I would be abused and publicly shamed in the morning by the house parents for having wet sheets."
Mr Dodt said on one occasion four boys decided to report Noyes to the house parents at the school.
But the first child was accused of lying. "We heard the boy being yelled at by the house parents," Mr Dodt said.
"We also heard him being physically belted. When we heard these things we all became very scared and ran away."
Victim felt like he was abused again due to DPP response
In around 1998, Mr Dodt made a statement to police and was told he would be part of a joint trial.
But in January 2000, Noyes' lawyers successfully argued to separate the 53 count indictment into 10 separate trials.
After being acquitted three times, Noyes was convicted in a fourth trial and sentenced to seven years' jail.
The trial involving Mr Dodt was due to happen next — but he said he was urged not to proceed by the DPP.
"The prosecutor told me that as the DPP already had one conviction against Noyes and it would be very hard to get another conviction for the same type of crimes," Mr Dodt said.
"He told me that they didn't have the money or time to put towards my case ... I felt like the prosecutor was encouraging me not to proceed with my complaints."
Mr Dodt said he reluctantly dropped the matter, but the department's attitude made him feel as though he had been abused again.
"I also felt that the DPP's approach undermined my credibility because it made me feel like I wouldn't be believed if the trial continued," he said.
Byrne says DPP has 'changed markedly'
When asked about what Mr Dodt was told at the time, Mr Byrne, who became the DPP in 2015, said the employee had not meant that the department did not have the money.
"But one of the issues that needs to be balanced is whether the spending of public moneys are justified in the circumstances," Mr Byrne said.
Mr Byrne said his department's attitude had "changed markedly" since the prosecution of Noyes.
"We've come a long way. I don't suggest we do it perfectly.
"I am very confident that the desire of the victim to be heard in a court of law ... would [now] be given more weight than it was 13 years ago."
The commission is considering whether group trials should be made available when a person is accused of abusing more than one child in an institution, like a school and heard overnight that allowing "bad character evidence" could see more child sexual abuse convictions.
Earlier this week, the commission heard group trials would result in more convictions for child sexual assault offenders and offenders had walked free because of the way cases were handled.
The royal commission has examined several other case studies, including child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, the Salvation Army and at music and dance schools.
Mr Dodt said splitting up the Noyes trials meant he "did not ever get my day in court to tell a jury what Noyes did to me".
"I was let down by the police, the DPP, the legal system and ultimately the Queensland government, which is responsible for our laws."
The hearing continues in Sydney.
Senate Contempt Charge Expected Against Website Accused of Sex Trafficking
by Jennifer Steinhauer
As the Senate wraps up its business before a two-week recess beginning on Thursday after a mixed period of modest lawmaking and partisan scraps, lawmakers are expected to agree on one thing: a website known for its connections to the sex-trafficking business should be held in contempt of Congress, the first time the Senate has taken such an action in over two decades.
A congressional investigation — led by Senators Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri — found that the website, Backpage.com, changed some of its adult classified ads to conceal the fact that the advertisements were for sex with minors.
The two lawmakers, who lead the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, subpoenaed documents that Backpage refused to turn over, they said. Carl Ferrer, the chief executive, was subpoenaed by a Senate subcommittee in October to answer questions about reported child sex-trafficking ads, but he did not attend.
If approved by the full Senate, the resolution would be the first in two decades in which the Senate has had such a contempt decree; in 1995, William H. Kennedy III, the former associate counsel for President Clinton, faced similar action.
Backpage has come under fire in various jurisdictions over sex-trafficking charges, which it has vigorously fought. Hundreds of cases of trafficking across the nation have been linked to the site.
Three credit-card companies have said they will no longer let cardholders make purchases on the classified advertising website, after Sheriff Thomas J. Dart of Cook County, Ill., accused the site of using its ads to promote prostitution and child trafficking.
Legislative committee advances bills targeting sex trafficking on the Berlin Turnpike
by Andrew Ragali
HARTFORD — Jillian Gilchrest, chairwoman of the state's Trafficking in Persons Council, says the Berlin Turnpike is a hotbed for sex trafficking, often involving minors who are exploited.
Sex trafficking in area motels has been the subject of several reports and at least one book in recent years. The Underground, a faith-based organization, investigated sex trafficking on the Berlin Turnpike between 2012 and 2014, identifying 36 motels between Wethersfield and Meriden, 27 of which offer hourly rates. While it's no secret what's going on at these motels, Gilchrest said, there is complacency toward the sex industry.
“For far too long, state laws and culture accepted that the purchase of sex will happen,” said Gilchrest, senior policy analyst for the state's Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. “That acceptance has allowed the Berlin Turnpike to continue. It's not like a destination spot, so why would there be so many hotels and motels. Everyone knows what's going on, it's just allowed to continue.”
The Judiciary Committee advanced two bills Wednesday to attempt to address the issue through several measures. A bill introduced by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy would make it a felony to entice or seduce someone online reasonably believed to be younger than 16. The bill would also make it a felony to patronize a prostitute “if such person knew or reasonably should have known at the time” that the individual was under 18.
Another bill raised by the committee would mandate additional training for law enforcement and employees at hotels and motels to identify victims of sex trafficking. It would also require businesses that offer lodging to maintain detailed records of transactions for at least six months. This measure would aid law enforcement investigating sex trafficking, Gilchrest said, noting that many motels only take cash for hourly stays and don't keep detailed records.
“Most of us usually have to put down a credit card for a hotel,” she said. “It was shocking to me when I first heard about it.”
The bill initially included a provision that would make it illegal to charge hourly for a room at a hotel or motel, as is the case at many establishments on the Berlin Turnpike, according to Gilchrest.
Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, a Meriden Democrat whose district includes a portion of the Berlin Turnpike, said she saw “no reason” why hotels and motels are allowed to offer hourly, cash-only rates. But the Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to strike the measure from the bill in response to testimony received during a public hearing Monday. Several people testified how hourly rates are often used by truck drivers and travelers seeking a break from the road.
Victor Antico, president of the Connecticut Lodging Association, wrote in testimony submitted to the committee that language in the bill “isolates the industry,” as opposed to working with hotels and motels on unified campaign to fight sex trafficking.
Part of the issue, Gilchrest said, is that the focus is often “on the demand side” and not on those who patronize prostitutes. Both pieces of legislation passed Wednesday by the Judiciary Committee would partially address that concern, she said.
The committee's bill would only allow those 18 and older to be charged with prostitution, a misdemeanor. Anyone 16 and older can be charged with prostitution under current law. By adopting this measure, Gilchrest said, lawmakers would be recognizing that those under 18 are victims. The bill would set a $2,000 fine for anyone convicted of patronizing a prostitute. It would also allow law enforcement to seize cash from anyone charged with promoting prostitution or caught with a prostitute.
“I think that people are always so quick to jump to the conclusion that women are choosing to do this,” Gilchrest said.
While some people choose to partake in prostitution, many don't have a choice, she said. Most girls under the age of 18 involved in the industry are abused, neglected or addicted to drugs, something that promoters take advantage of.
“It's a very exploitive industry,” Gilchrest said, noting that things will only change “when we start speaking more about who these women actually are, and not just demonizing and criminalizing them.”
Prostitutes in the state are convicted “at a rate seven times that than those who are patronizing,” she added.
Often, it's easier for police to arrest prostitutes during sting operations because most officers are men who can pose as someone looking to pay for sex, according to Gilchrest.
The International Institute of Connecticut, based in Bridgeport, seeks to help victims of human trafficking in the state, and holds a seat on the state's Trafficking in Persons Council. Alicia Kinsman, director of legal services for the organization, said minor sex trafficking in the state is growing at a “disturbing” rate.
Fighting human sex trafficking “comes down to ensuring everyone is aware of what this crime is and who the victims are,” she said, noting that “hundreds” of victims come forward every year.
Most victims have a vulnerability that's being exploited, Kinsman explained. Some are physically forced to have sex, while others are subject to psychological torture and threats, or are being paid in a drug they are addicted to.
“All of these factors are pulling them in and keeping them in a bad situation,” she said.
Children who have suffered trauma in their life are “inherently vulnerable to being victimized,” Kinsman added. “They've gone through this trauma already, and they think that sex with adults is normal. They're craving attention, especially if they grew up without a supportive family. They're looking for a family, some kind of support and attention, even if it's negative.”
Missing Texas teen ‘in grave danger' after her father is found dead
by Sarah Larimer
Investigators in Texas are searching for a missing teenage girl who is “believed to be in grave or immediate danger” after her father was found dead on a rural property over the weekend, officials say.
Adriana Coronado vanished sometime after she was seen in the Houston suburb of Katy about 1 a.m. Saturday, according to an Amber Alert from the Texas Department of Public Safety. The remains of her father, Caesar Vladimir Coronado, were located Sunday in Walker County, the Houston Chronicle reported.
“Investigators with the department have reason to believe that Adriana may have been with her father during the time of the homicide,” Walker County Sheriff Clint McRae said at a news conference Monday.
McRae told reporters that authorities were operating under the assumption that the teenager had been abducted.
“At this point in time, based on the information that we have, we do feel that that is a very strong possibility, and we're working it as if she's been abducted,” he said.
A Child Abduction Rapid Deployment team from the FBI is assisting the sheriff's office in the investigation, a spokeswoman for the FBI Houston field office told The Post in an email.
Adriana Coronado is a 9th grader at Mayde Creek High School, according to the Katy Independent School District.
“Please return my daughter back cause I'm dying with hurt,” Coronado's mother told KHOU 11 News in a phone interview. “Oh my God. This is my only daughter please return her to me.”
Coronado's mother spoke Spanish in the interview, according to KHOU. The station's report did not include her name.
Officials don't know whether Adriana saw her father's apparent homicide, according to the Chronicle, but do think someone talked to her before the death occurred.
“Right now we portray that she is certainly in grave danger,” McRae told reporters. “We are needing the public's assistance very much so. We want to confirm her whereabouts and her welfare.”
According to the Chronicle:
Investigators believe gunshots were involved in Caesar Coronado's death. His body was found burned in a rural area in northern Walker County. A pick-up truck, also burned, was found in Montgomery County that investigators believe is connected to the homicide.
Authorities are awaiting the completion of an autopsy.
In the Amber Alert, Adriana Coronado is described as about 5 feet tall, with brown eyes and black hair. Authorities say she wears black-framed glasses. The alert lists her age as 13, but at the news conference, McRae said she is 14.
Pa. legislators, advocates rally for statute of limitations reform
by Cate Hansberry
HARRISBURG -- In the wake of a grand jury report on abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese released earlier this month, state representatives, adult victims of child sexual abuse and advocates gathered Monday at the Capitol to push for statute of limitations reform.
Led by Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, the rally in the Capitol Rotunda was held to demonstrate public support of efforts to revise child sex abuse statute of limitations laws to allow adult victims to prosecute their abusers.
According to the grand jury investigation, priests in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese sexually abused hundreds of children over about 40 years. The report alleges that religious leaders worked to cover up the abuse.
Due to statute of limitations laws, the case cannot be prosecuted.
“First it was Boston, then Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and the pattern repeats itself in Altoona-Johnstown,” Rozzi, who was a victim of child sexual abuse, said. “The only way this ends is if we make it loud and clear to child rapists and those who harbor them, that they can no longer hide.”
Attorney General Kathleen Kane, whose office conducted the grand jury investigation, said perpetrators responsible for child sexual abuse deserve to be held accountable for their crimes, regardless of when they took place.
“There is no statute of limitations on murder,” Kane said, “because it is a ‘life-altering event.' And for anyone who says sexually abusing a child is not a life-altering event, I beg you to ask someone who's been through it — because it is.”
Kane said 19 states in the U.S. have already eradicated statutes of limitations on child sexual abuse. Pennsylvania is falling behind on these laws, she said.
“Sexually abusing a child essentially kills all of the childhood foundations necessary to grow into a happy adult with trust,” she said. “This is a life sentence for the child.”
The grand jury submitted three recommendations in its report: Abolish the statute of limitations for sexual offenses against minors; open a window to allow child sexual abuse victims to have their civil actions heard; and possible criminal conduct should be directly reported to law enforcement authorities.
Following the recommendations, the bipartisan movement aims to present two bills to the House for a vote.
House Bill 951, sponsored by Rep. Tom Murt, R-Montgomery, would create a two-year revival window for past victims of child sex abuse to file civil suits.
Murt said the bill would allow past victims to take their cases to court.
The burden of proof is still on the victim, he said, but one of the most important results is that the victims are validated.
“Many of these survivors who finally enter recovery mode find that it's too late to pursue their abuser in criminal court or civil court,” he said. “This is why the grand jury wisely recommends that we open this two-year window.”
Delilah Rumburg, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, said this bill is important because most survivors of child sexual abuse wait years to talk about what was done to them. Current laws prevent some adult survivors of child sexual abuse from seeking justice.
“Our laws allow offenders to go unchecked and give institutions the ability to cover up crimes,” she said. “This keeps the public — and our children — at risk. It is time for Pennsylvania to change our laws, now.”
Rumburg said PCAR served more than 3,000 adult victims of child sexual abuse in the past year and more than 7,500 children younger than 18.
She said House Bill 951, allowing a two-year window for adult victims to prosecute, would give them the opportunity to come forward and “eliminate barriers to justice.”
Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny, advocated for House Bill 655, which would eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal and civil cases of child sex abuse.
Gainey said he strongly believes in eliminating these statutes of limitations that let predators go unaccountable for their crimes.
“How can we put a limitation on the value of life?” Gainey asked. “If our greatest asset in the world is our children … how can we have a statute of limitations on their abuse when we know how difficult it is for them to speak up?”
“This should be a piece of legislation that's easy to pass,” he said.
Marci Hamilton, a nationally recognized constitutional law expert and author on statute of limitations reform, said making changes to statute of limitations laws is undeniably constitutional under federal law, despite pushback from some legislators.
“It's not even close — it's constitutional,” she said. “… The notion that (changing the laws) will take over the world and undermine the justice system is false. All these laws will do one thing — identify hidden predators.”
Hamilton said Pennsylvania is the state with the “most grand jury reports, the most facts — and the least justice.”
Many are still waiting for their chance for justice.
Brenda Dick, of Altoona, said for her, sexual abuse as a child was “a life sentence.”
When Dick first came forward at age 21 after years of abuse, her window to prosecute had just run out. She was told to get on with her life and “get over it.”
She pleaded for state legislators at the rally to change the laws that could allow her to prosecute her abuser and open the door for others to do the same.
“Put away the religious rhetoric, put away the political b---s---,” Dick said. “… Don't be misled that this is just a Catholic problem. Look around you. It is everywhere.”
Dick said she felt confident that the bills will pass, and wanted her abuser to know “that this isn't over.”
Rozzi said despite years of vying for statute of limitations reform, state legislators now have the outrage and momentum to bring these bills to the floor and pass them into law.
“Legislators have finally said ‘enough is enough,' ” he said.
Hamilton called the Altoona-Johnstown case a “tipping point.”
“(Before this case,) it was just a few people,” Hamilton said. “It's now a movement.”
WERE JERRY SANDUSKY'S VICTIMS BEYOND THEIR STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS?
Marci Hamilton said during Penn State's litigation with Jerry Sandusky's victims, the task force chose to overlook statute of limitations laws and settled with victims in civil court regardless of whether they were in statute or out.
“The Jerry Sandusky report didn't change much on statute of limitations,” she said. “Because god bless Penn State — they didn't raise the defense.”
However, not all institutions are willing to waive the statute — which is why many adult victims will not have the chance to pursue justice without reform.
Lauren Book Keeps Walking, Fighting for Child Abuse Victims
by Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster
For the past seven years, Book has laced up her sneakers and walked across the state to raise awareness about child sex abuse. It's a deeply personal issue for the Broward County resident, who endured sexual abuse for six years at the hands of a trusted caretaker.
The annual “Walk in My Shoes” campaign kicked off in Panama City on March 2 and is scheduled to end on March 26 in Aventura. This week, the “Walk in My Shoes” tour will be in Tampa. The focus of the week-long residency will be surviving and thriving after abuse.
“It's been an incredible journey so far,” said Book in an interview last week.
This week, Lauren's Kids, the nonprofit organization Book founded in 2007, will work with Alpha House of Tampa to support homeless pregnant women and mothers with young children, many of whom are victims of sexual abuse. That work goes hand-in-hand with the daily 4.2 mile walk at 4 p.m.
“It's a special to be at a place like this,” she said.
On Monday, the group had to cancel its first walk in Tampa because of a Donald Trump rally. On Twitter, Book said law enforcement resources were redirected to help with the Trump rally. Book said walks are still scheduled for the rest of the week in Tampa.
Book said the group works with organizations at all of the stops to educate community members about sexual abuse. In Panama City, Book attended the sentencing of a perpetrator who had abused children who she was walking with. The person, she said, received five life sentences.
There are more than 42 million survivors of sexual abuse in the United States. One in three girls are sexually abused before the age of 18; while one in five boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. According to the Child Sex Abuse Prevention and Protection Center, 30 percent of sexual abuse is never reported.
In Gainesville, where Book and her team spent much of last week, the focus was on education. There, Book visited classrooms as part of the organization's Safer, Smarter Kids program. She developed the curriculum to teach children personal safety information.
“It's incredible to watch their faces,” she kids. “It's so much fun and it really helps to propel us forward.”
When you're walking thousands of miles each year, every little bit helps. Book is expected log more than 1,500 miles as part of the 2016 “Hope and Healing Tour.” Since starting the annual walk in 2010, she's logged more than 7,700 miles, or nearly 300 marathons.
Book, who is currently running unopposed for state Senate District 32, said the walks give her a chance to talk with survivors and advocates.
“I feel a sense of responsibility to survivors, to shine a light,” she said.
This year the event will end in Aventura, near where Book grew up. The walk has traditionally ended in Tallahassee, where Book and others lobby lawmakers to advocate for change. Since lawmakers held an early session this year, Book stopped by the Florida Capitol at the beginning of the tour.
“It is exhausting,” she said about the month-long event. “But we make it a family.”
The 2016 Walk in My Shoes Hope & Healing Tour continues through March 26.
March 14 through March 18 — Tampa
March 19 — Gainesville Walk & Buddy Bash
March 20 — Key West Walk & Hope Fest
March 21 — West Palm Beach Walk
March 22 — Fort Lauderdale Walk
March 23 through March 25 — Miami-Dade County Buddy Bash, Walk and “The Hunting Ground” Screening
March 26 — Broward County Walk & Buddy Bash
Strengthening Idaho Families to Prevent Child Abuse
by Suzanne Potter
BOISE, Idaho - About 200 children's advocates will gather today and tomorrow in Boise for the 17th annual Strengthening Families Training Institute.
The conference will cover a range of topics. Paula Sellars, a conference speaker and author of the Stewards of Children program with the group Darkness to Light, will explain how to encourage bystanders to find the courage to come forward when they suspect a child needs help.
"Making a report is not making an accusation of abuse," she said. "It's asking for service providers to look into what a child may need, what services parents may need, to deal with the stresses in their lives."
Authorities in Idaho received more than 16,000 referrals for abuse and neglect in 2013, and launched almost 7,500 investigations. Federal statistics show that one in 10 children is a victim of sexual abuse.
Another seminar covers the Crying Baby Plan, which is used by all of Idaho's birthing hospitals to help parents learn to control their own emotions when a baby is wailing. Roger Sherman, executive director of the Idaho Children's Trust Fund, the state affiliate of Prevent Child Abuse America, said shaken-baby syndrome is the leading cause of non-accidental and non-illness-related death for infants younger than one year of age. He said parents can learn coping skills.
"No baby ever died from crying, and that baby will be fine," he said. "You've got to calm yourself down and then go back and soothe the baby, and deal with the impact of crying, so that you never hurt your baby unintentionally."
The conference. sponsored by the Idaho Children's Trust Fund, is intended as the kickoff for Child Abuse Prevention Month in April.
Conference information is online at idahochildrenstrustfund.org. Idaho statistics are at cwla.org. Information on the Darkness to Light Program is at d2l.org. Information on The Crying Plan is at cryingbabyplan.org.
State may remove ‘spiritual treatment' shield to child abuse law
by Richard Locker
NASHVILLE — Tennessee lawmakers are moving to repeal a controversial 1994 law that was at the center of a long court fight over the 2002 death of a Loudon County child whose mother refused medical care in favor of "spiritual treatment" and prayer.
Without debate, the Senate last week approved 32-0 a bill by Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, a cardiac surgeon, to repeal the "spiritual treatment" exemption to the state's child abuse and neglect statute. The House Criminal Justice Committee is scheduled to consider the bill Wednesday. It's sponsored in the House by Rep. Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville, a lawyer, and won easy approval last week in the criminal justice subcommittee.
The provision was intended to provide a shield from prosecution for child abuse or neglect if "the child is being provided treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone, in accordance with the tenets or practices of a recognized church or religious denomination by a duly accredited practitioner of the recognized church or religious denomination, in lieu of medical or surgical treatment."
The exemption was included in a 1994 revision of Tennessee's 1989 child abuse and neglect law that, ironically, increased the penalty for abuse and neglect from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class D felony. The 1994 discussion in the state Senate indicated the exemption was added at the request of the Church of Christian Science and approved with no debate.
But the exemption came into play less than a decade later in the highly publicized death of Jessica Crank, 15, of Loudon County. Her mother Jacqueline Crank was a follower of Ariel Ben Sherman, who conducted religious services under the name of the Universal Life Church in a rented house in Lenoir City.
Jessica became ill and in February 2002, was taken by her mother and Sherman to a Lenoir City chiropractor, who immediately referred her to an emergency room, but the two refused to take her. Three months later, with the girl in great pain, they took her to a walk-in clinic, where nurses instructed them to take her immediately to the University of Tennessee Medical Center, which the nurses called to make arrangements. They again refused and pursued "spiritual treatment" through prayer.
After the medical providers notified police, Jessica was removed from her mother by state and local authorities in late June and taken to a Knoxville hospital where she was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. But the cancer was too far along and she died Sept. 15, 2002.
Sherman and Jacqueline Crank were both indicted in April 2003 on child neglect charges. A long legal fight ensued, both were eventually convicted after courts ruled that Sherman's group was not a "recognized church or denomination" covered by the exemption.
Sherman died during appeals. But the mother's conviction was finally upheld by the Tennessee Supreme Court in February 2015, in a ruling that also held the spiritual treatment exemption is not so vague as to render it unconstitutional, as Crank had argued.
For Briggs, R-Knoxville, repealing the exemption is personal given his profession as a medical doctor and surgeon. In about 1979, when he was a general surgeon working in another state, a boy about 14 was brought to see him with a ruptured appendix. His parents initially opposed surgery on religious grounds.
"I don't even know why they brought the child in but they did. The parents, against our medical advice, took the child home," Briggs said last week. "They brought him back about four or five days later and I really thought he was within 24 hours of dying. He was in and out of consciousness. And finally the father, who was not as devout as the mother, consented to us operating. I think if he hadn't been 13 or 14 he would have died.
"So it was a personal thing with me that I've never forgotten," he said.
With the state Supreme Court ruling essentially upholding the spiritual treatment exemption a year ago, Briggs filed Senate Bill 1761 to repeal it.
The committee recommended approval immediately after Briggs described its purpose. And last Monday, the full Senate approved it with no discussion. If the House follows suit and the bill becomes law, the spiritual treatment exemption would be repealed in Tennessee July 1.
Grand jury: 3 religious leaders allowed sexual abuse of more than 80 children
by WJAC WEB STAFF
JOHNSTOWN -- Three religious leaders were criminally charged Tuesday for taking part in an alleged conspiracy that allowed more than 80 victims to be sexually abused by Stephen Baker, a proven child predator, and put hundreds of other children in danger.
Attorney General Kathleen announced the charges against Giles A. Schinelli, 73, Robert J. D'Aversa, 69, and Anthony M. Criscitelli, 61, were announced by Attorney General Kathleen Kane during a news conference at Pitt-Johnstown's Heritage Hall.
Baker was a former religion teacher and trainer at Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown.
"These men knew there was a child predator in their organization. Yet they continued to put him in positions where he had countless opportunities to prey upon children," Kane said. "Their silence resulted in immeasurable pain and suffering for so many victims. These men turned a blind eye to the innocent children they were trusted to protect."
Schinelli, D'Aversa and Criscitelli are members of the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regulars, Province of the Immaculate Conception, which is based in Hollidaysburg, Blair County. They are each charged with one count each of endangering the welfare of children and criminal conspiracy.
The three were the successive leaders of a Franciscan order near Hollidaysburg from 1986 to 2010. All now live outside Pennsylvania.
The three men all served as minsters provincial for the Third Order Regulars, or T.O.R., meaning they had exclusive and total control over the assignment of personnel within the organization. In other words, they made the final call on where to assign Baker, who was officially assigned for eight years to Bishop McCort.
The Office of Attorney General spent two years investigating the allegations surrounding Baker, whose 2013 death was ruled a suicide. The office's investigators in April 2014 took the matter to a statewide investigating grand jury, which heard testimony from a number of witnesses and reviewed more than 200 exhibits.
The grand jury issued a presentment recommending the criminal charges filed today. The jurors found the three ministers provincial engaged in efforts to protect the image and reputation of the T.O.R. instead of acting in the best interests of the children in their care. The grand jury also found leaders of the organization knew in 1988 of a sexual abuse allegation involving Baker. Yet he was assigned to Bishop McCort in 1992 and allowed to be in contact with children without a forewarning to school officials.
The filing of the criminal charges comes two weeks after Kane released the grand jury's other findings a 147-page report that detailed the sexual abuse hundreds of children endured for decades at the hands of religious leaders and priests associated with the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
Kane said the grand jury's review of the Baker matter revealed conduct similar to that detailed in the grand jury's report. Documentation proved leaders of the T.O.R. on at least eight occasions transferred Franciscan Friars within their organization to other locations following sexual abuse allegations involving children, the grand jury found.
"The evidence shows the organization's leaders acted callously when dealing with members accused of sexual abuse," Kane said. "No reports were ever made to law enforcement. As the grand jury found, the ultimate priority was to avoid public scrutiny at all costs."
The grand jury learned that Baker was assigned in 1992 to Bishop McCort and remained there until 2000. For several years thereafter, he regularly returned to participate in school events. Victims further stated that Baker had access to Bishop McCort facilities until 2010.
Baker is accused of molesting more than 80 children from Bishop McCort between 1992 and 2010.
Baker was allowed to "treat" children as an athletic trainer despite no formal training in the field of sports medicine. Victim statements detailed incidents involving Baker in which he would grope the genitals of male children and digitally penetrate their anuses, the grand jury found.
The alleged conduct often occurred on the grounds of Bishop McCort and a related training facility. Two victims reported they were sexually assaulted on the Bishop McCort grounds after Baker was officially removed from the school.
The grand jury reviewed evidence obtained during the execution of a search warrant on the grounds of the St. Bernardine Monastery in Hollidaysburg. Documents recovered during the search showed the T.O.R. knew in 1988 of a sexual abuse allegation involving Baker.
Schinelli, the minister provincial from 1986 to 1994, sent Baker for a psychological evaluation and was told Baker was not to have one-on-one contact with children, but nonetheless later assigned him to Bishop McCort, where he had regular contact with children, the grand jury found.
Schinelli also taught at St. Francis University in Loretto, served twice as the Vicar for Religions for the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and served as pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Altoona from 1996-2000.
D'Aversa, the minister provincial from 1994 to 2002, allegedly failed to notify school officials and law enforcement of the reason that Baker was removed from the school in 2000. His removal followed what D'Aversa believed was a new, credible allegation of child sexual abuse, according to the grand jury. D'Aversa later appointed Baker vocations director of the T.O.R.
Under this appointment, Baker conducted overnight youth retreats throughout the United States. Baker in 2008 was assigned as a volunteer trainer at Mt. Aloysius College. His position allowed him to sexually offend three additional children, the grand jury discovered. The grand jurors found this abuse occurred because Baker was kept in active ministry, which allowed him to engage the public.
Criscitelli, the minister provincial from 2002 to 2010, further allowed Baker access to children by allowing him to work at a shopping mall. He also knew Baker required "safety plans" advising no contact with minors, yet Criscitelli signed such plans while residing in Minnesota. Meanwhile, Baker lived unsupervised in Pennsylvania. He also lived at one time with another accused child predator, the grand jury found.
The grand jury also reviewed evidence that Baker in the 1980s molested at least a dozen students while assigned as a teacher and sports trainer at a high school in Ohio.
The grand jury further learned the T.O.R.'s leaders had considerable experience in hiding members of the organization who were accused of sexual abuse. The evidence allegedly showed the allegations of abuse were never reported to law enforcement.
Instead, the accused members were transferred to other locations throughout the country. Meanwhile, the T.O.R.'s leaders were routinely in contact with attorneys and insurance companies to assess liability and potential payouts related to sexual abuse victims, the grand jury stated.
Schinelli, D'Aversa and Criscitelli all live out of state. Investigators expect their preliminary arraignments to be scheduled in the coming days.
The Office of Attorney General earlier this month established a hotline 888-538-8541 for people to submit information related to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
Traumatized, Locked Up, LA Girls Starting to Get More Help
by Xin Li and Phillomina Wong
LOS ANGELES — Moriah Barrett, then 14, woke up to burns on her body one night along with physical evidence that she had been raped. She had been invited to a party the night before by someone she considered a friend.
She eventually came to realize that she had almost been looped into a human trafficking scheme. This event, among many other traumatic events, affected Moriah mentally, physically and emotionally.
“I just felt neglected,” Barrett said of her childhood.
When she was growing up her father was in and out of prison, and she turned to other kids in her neighborhood for comfort. She says she felt like she had no protection and felt lost. While she was never officially in a gang, she did hang around friends who were gang members when growing up in Fullerton, California. Many of those neighborhood friends had problems of their own.
With them Barrett started using drugs and soon struggled with addiction, she said. In high school she got hooked on methamphetamines. On one occasion, when she and her friend were trying to come up with money for drugs, they decided to steal a car.
Two days later, she was arrested for grand theft auto and spent eight months in a juvenile corrections facility. After getting out, Barrett was determined to turn her life around, but soon she started using again. She became friends with gang members and started stealing cars again for drug money. When she was 17, she was sentenced to Los Padrinos and then Camp Scott.
Girls like Moriah Barrett who experience high degrees of trauma are statistically more likely to act out than kids with fewer childhood traumas. As a result, they are also far more likely to wind up in the juvenile justice system, according to a growing body of research.
When girls come in contact with the justice system, however, new reports show it is usually for acts that present little or no threat to public safety, and for behavior that's largely a reaction to “abuse, violence and deprivation.”
Yet, while girls are disproportionately pulled into the system, new juvenile justice reforms rarely focus on the specific needs of troubled girls or on the underlying reasons they landed in the justice system in the first place.
For example, when Barrett recalls her experience at Camp Scott, what stands out to her the most from the group counseling sessions she was encouraged to attend was how many girls in the camp revealed they had been sexually abused, or were in camp for being sexually trafficked, or both.
“I thought it was really crazy,” she said. The sex-trafficked teenagers “were basically brainwashed by people who these girls thought were their boyfriends.”
Issue of trauma in juvenile justice system
The number of girls in the U.S. juvenile justice system has been rising steadily in the last decade. Trauma is now increasingly being recognized as a driving factor for pushing girls into the system.
According to a study by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), youth in the juvenile justice system have been exposed to significantly higher rates of traumatic childhood events than youth with no contact with the justice system, with rates of trauma exposure ranging from 70 to 96 percent.
The NCTSN study also shows that girls in the justice system have experienced even higher rates of victimization than their male peers.
Nationally, more than one-third of girls in the system have a history of sexual abuse, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Similarly, a 2014 study of 64,329 kids involved in the justice system in Florida found that 31 percent of the girls surveyed reported having been sexually abused, 41 percent reported physical abuse and 84 percent reported family violence as opposed to 7 percent, 26 percent, and 81 percent for boys in those same categories.
There are no definitive statistics showing the degree to which girls in the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles have experienced high degrees of trauma.
But a unique program called the Girls Health Screen, which has been running as a pilot program in one of LA's juvenile probation camps for girls, reports that one-third of the girls tested report such “urgent health needs” as a recent history of sexual assault, a chronic sense of hopelessness and recent suicidal thoughts and actions.
The Los Angeles County Probation system as a whole has made some effort to include trauma-informed programs in its juvenile camps — both the boys' camps, and the two facilities catering solely to girls. Probation officials hope that a brand-new boys camp facility due to open next year, Camp Kilpatrick, will provide a model of therapeutic and rehabilitative programing.
However, a prominent report released last year by the National Women's Law Center suggests that, both nationally and locally, the mental and emotional health concerns specific to females are largely ignored by juvenile justice systems — including LA's system. And girls suffer as a consequence.
Still, the LA-based Girls Health Screen is one promising new program that many local advocates hope will make a difference in outcomes for the county's justice-involved girls.
The value of screening
The Girls Health Screen (GHS) is a gender-responsive medical health screen that assesses the physical and emotional health needs of girls entering juvenile justice facilities. It was developed by the Girls Health and Justice Institute and its founder Leslie Acoca.
The GHS, given on a laptop, requires girls in camp to respond to 117 questions that cover multiple areas of their lives. According to Acoca, the GHS is designed to be non-intimidating. The questions are worded simply, and require only Yes/No answers. Even the look of the test, which includes inviting graphics, is designed to prevent an institutional appearance. Because of the test's design and the way it is administered, said Acoca, girls feel able to share their experiences privately, without feeling that they are being judged. Even the act of simply taking the GHS has its own therapeutic effect, she said.
Since 2012, Acoca said, approximately 400 girls at Camp Scudder, the second of LA County Probation's two camps for girls, have been given the health screen. But the GHS has yet to move beyond the pilot stage in LA, due to bureaucratic roadblocks and lack of funding, she said. All that is due to change this year thanks to a much-needed $20,000 cash infusion that LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl has managed to shake free from the county's probation department.
“We are hoping the $20,000 will allow the program to roll out in all the juvenile halls in LA,” said Kuehl, who is one of the program's strong supporters. The idea, she said, is that the information will connect girls to programs and health services they need while in camp or in juvenile hall, and that the information, while private, will also follow those same girls as they return to their communities, so that they can also be connected to needed programs when they come out of lock-up.
“The ETA for the Girls Health Screen to be ready to screen every incarcerated girl in LA is June/July of 2016,” Acoca said.
Girls and Gangs: Camp to community
When Barrett was at Camp Scott, she said there were a number of programs that helped her work through her emotional issues, including writing workshops and counseling groups. One of the programs she said influenced her the most was run by an organization called Girls and Gangs.
“I just loved the support,” Barrett said. “The impression [the Girls and Gangs staff] gave me was that they genuinely cared.”
Girls and Gangs provides rehabilitation and transition services for girls who become involved in the juvenile justice system. Their model, which operates under the nonprofit umbrella of the Youth Policy Institute, focuses on pairing girls with mentors starting from their stay at the probation camps all the way through re-entry into their community. According to the Girls and Gang staff, matching each girl with a caring adult makes the program effective and positive for young women transitioning from camp to home.
Barrett was paired with mentor Vanessa Gutierrez while she was still in camp. Then, after Barrett left Camp Scott, she explained, Gutierrez helped her with getting clothes and generally provided support.
“I just got so much support from her and she did so much for me. I didn't really know why,” Barrett said.
According to Ana Aguirre, program director of Youth Policy Institute's YouthSource & Education Department, Girls and Gangs works because it encourages girls to share their painful experiences in a safe place where they don't feel judged.
“They want to be heard. They want to express how they feel,” Aguirre said. “They're carrying a lot of weight,” yet they often don't understand the emotional weight they carry. “They might not understand that it's trauma” they are dealing with, “but we're able to identify that this was a traumatic experience that has shaped who [they] are.”
The next step in helping the girls heal, Aguirre said, is to ask them, “How can we use this to make you grow and make you stronger?”
Belinda Walker, who serves on the board for Girls and Gangs, said boys in the juvenile justice system have a high degree of trauma too.
Yet, in her observations about the nature of girls' trauma, Walker echoed what Barrett and Acoca had described. “If you were to drop into any girls' probation camp,” she said, “you would find that 70 to 90 percent of those girls have been sexually abused in their early adolescent years by trusted adults. In the conversations I have had with probation officers, they've said that every girl [they work with] has experienced some form of trauma or abuse. It can be emotional, physical or sexual.”
The broader view
Discussions surrounding trauma and trauma-informed practices are relatively recent, according to Dr. Marleen Wong, the associate dean for field education at the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California, and a nationally known expert in the field of psychological trauma and recovery.
All service sectors have begun looking at this issue of trauma and how to factor it into their services, she said.
“You can look at the national scene and see the Department of Labor talking about traumatized environments. How do you create a trauma-informed workplace? U.S. Department of Education is talking about trauma-informed schools,” Wong said. “Health and Human Services is talking about trauma-informed services. This is how our research is coming into its own, forming the foundation and the basis for thinking about ways to change the way we provide health and human services.”
A landmark legal settlement for which Wong served as the subject matter expert is helping to precipitate one of the most significant changes to how schools treat trauma.
In May 2014, a class-action lawsuit was filed against the Compton Unified School District by Public Counsel, a pro bono law firm, and Irell & Manella LLP. The suit was filed on behalf of five students and three teachers, charging that the school system had not properly educated students who have experienced repeated trauma and violence. Their argument was based on research showing that exposure to trauma and repeated violence harm a child's abilities to learn and function in school properly.
“All of the studies show that the kids with PTSD can't concentrate because they have flashbacks, they think constantly about their safety, they never feel safe, they're always anxious,” Wong said. “It's generalized anxiety, even when they're not in a dangerous situation.”
In October 2015, U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald ruled that students who experience traumatic events while growing up in poor, turbulent neighborhoods could be considered disabled. (However, this does not mean any exposure to trauma can guarantee a child will have a disability and be afforded the protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.)
The settlement sought mandatory trauma-informed training for teachers, adequate mental health and counseling services, and classes teaching students how to cope with anxiety and their emotions.
According to Wong, looking at how trauma affects children is a way to address why some schools may have huge dropout rates and how those rates factor into the school-to-prison pipeline.
“It's time for us to step up in the right way,” Wong said.
On Nov. 3, 2015, the National Crittenton Foundation published a toolkit to help identify children's exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
Crittenton's mission is to help girls and young women affected by violence and adversity become stronger, healthier and more engaged. The foundation has published a series of studies and reports relating to girls and trauma (the most recent in September 2015).
They find that girls and young women in the justice system have disproportionately high ACE scores, but are often marginalized and overlooked by that same system. The consensus is that young girls should not be given the same treatment as boys if they are to successfully heal from emotionally toxic experiences of their childhood and adolescence, according to Crittenton.
As for the Girls Health Screen, once Leslie Acoca gets the GHS to all the girls entering LA County's juvenile facilities, she intends to take it nationwide.
Supervisor Kuehl said she is very aware that LA's juvenile facilities are not doing all that is needed for girls.
“One of the interesting things I heard from women who I've spoken to who'd been released from prison, who had also been in juvenile camps, and then had offended again as adults,” Kuehl said, “there were much better programs in prison for women than they ever had in camps, so they felt like they had a better chance to turn their lives around in prison. That really told me that we're not seeing a lot of what is possible to really help our girls.”
Accoca went still further. “It's impossible to do trauma care if you don't know what trauma a girl has experienced,” she said. “With the level of injury we see with incarcerated girls, both emotional and physical, it is immoral to do anything less than identify those injuries so we can address them.”
Nevertheless, for Moriah Barrett, getting some of the proper care and guidance she needed through Girls and Gangs and her own mentor has helped her move forward. She is currently working full time and has plans to go back to school. She is also an ambassador to the Road to Success Academy at Camp Scott.
“A lot of girls got the same extended hand, but I grabbed it,” Barrett said. “You could have all the same things but if you're not ready, it's not going to happen.”
Barrett has come to realize that admitting the effects of trauma is not easy. Now that she has taken her own concrete steps into a better future, Barrett's advice to girls is this: “Never quit on yourself. Your past does not define you.”
Barrier to child abuse survivors seeking damages may be lifted
by STV TV
A draft bill to remove a barrier on people who were abused as children seeking civil damages in court has been published.
If approved, the legislation would remove the three-year time limit, also known as time-bar, on those who were abused on or after 26 September 1964, seeking damages in the civil court.
The Scottish Government said a consultation with survivors, supporters and other groups had helped shape the draft bill.
It also sets out circumstances for cases which have not succeeded in court due to time-bar being applied to be raised again.
The move has been welcomed by Sandra Brown, founder of the Moira Anderson Foundation, which supports people affected by childhood sexual abuse.
She said: "We see the draft bill, as well as the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, as huge steps forward for survivors of child abuse."
The Scottish Government said the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill is part of its "wider commitment to adult survivors of child abuse to fulfil the recommendations of the Scottish Human Rights Commission Inter-action plan".
Community safety minister Paul Wheelhouse revealed the draft bill on a visit to the Moira Anderson Foundation in Airdrie, where he met survivors and volunteers.
One of the people he met was actor Matthew McVarish, who walked 10,000 miles around Europe to raise awareness of child abuse issues.
Mr Wheelhouse said: "It has been humbling to meet today with survivors and members of the Moira Anderson Foundation who provide such vital support to children and adults who have suffered abuse.”
He said the SNP intends to take forward or support the legislation in the next Scottish Parliament and will seek feedback on the draft bill prior to its introduction. He also thanked survivors and their supporters for helping to shape the bill.
Mr Wheelhouse said: "I know how difficult it has been for many to reopen such difficult memories to help shape our understanding and my colleagues and I are extremely grateful for the insight that survivors have shared with us.
"We will continue to engage with survivors as the bill progresses through parliament to ensure their views are considered at each and every step.
"We also welcome the views of other interested parties throughout the process that will unfold.”
Mr McVarish said: "The abolition of this limitation is long overdue but another positive step by the Scottish Government in supporting our many survivors and recognising the immeasurable impact sexual abuse in childhood has on individuals, well into their adult life."
Health improvement and mental health minister Jamie Hepburn announced a consortium of three groups will administer the Survivor Support Fund for people who were abused as children while in care.
The organisations in the consortium are Penumbra, Health in Mind and the Mental Health Foundation. They are said to be supported by a further 26 groups that provide services for survivors throughout Scotland.
The Scottish Government said the support fund's budget of £13.5m over the next five years would be used to offer "more personalised, specialist services across the country".
Welcome to Parent College
Can parenting classes help end America's disgraceful child-abuse epidemic?
by Olga Khazan
The woman was young and thin, with shiny long hair and a European accent. Sitting in a parenting class at the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center last fall, she described what she had done to her son recently.
The scene would be familiar to many parents: She picked up her 6-year-old after school. The boy wanted to keep playing, so he started crying and yelling and pretending to hit her. She took him home and began preparing a snack. He went to the bathroom and, afterward, demanded his mom pull up his pants for him. She told him to do it himself. He refused and wandered about the house, trousers around his ankles.
“I reminded him about two times,” she recalled to her parenting classmates. “‘Please pull up your pants.'”
Instead, he grabbed a full gallon of milk from the fridge and clumsily toted it to the kitchen table.
What did he think he was doing? She snapped. She yelled, and he startled. He dropped the milk on the floor, where it exploded and seeped into the thick carpet. “Sorry! sorry! sorry!” the boy cried, in the way kids do when they're searching for a real-life undo button.
She fought the urge to yell again. Controlling her temper had been one of her goals in the class. The milk took two hours to clean, yes. But she realized the mess was both their faults.
“He's scared of me,” she told the group.
Molly Jardiniano, the class instructor, reassured the woman. “I like how you caught yourself, you realized the emotions going on there,” she said. Later in the class, she explained how the boy was just misbehaving for attention. “For him it's like, ‘I can make a connection. She's constantly going to talk to me because my pants are down.'”
The class included parents who had been suspected of child abuse as well as those who were simply at the ends of their ropes. This particular mother had come voluntarily for help dealing with anger.
Cracking open a workbook, Jardiniano explained how parents could avoid similar meltdowns. “If you want the behavior that makes you happy, you've got to praise it. I want you to track your praising. P-R-A-I-S-E. Praise your child.”
Praising is a core tenet of Triple P, the Positive Parenting Program, which is the curriculum behind the parenting class at the San Francisco center. Triple P is a prominent player in a little-explored corner of the healthcare realm: Programs that aim to teach parents how to be parents.
For most of human history, parents have relied on tradition and ancestral wisdom for parenting help. A major shift came in 1946, when a pediatrician named Benjamin Spock published The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, a bestseller that urged a permissive, individualistic approach to child-rearing. Before long, many experts turned to better parenting as a way to soothe domestic conflict and even cure social ills. Classes like Triple P have proliferated in recent decades, and now, more than a dozen programs strive to curb child abuse through good parenting.
Many of these programs target frustrated or isolated parents who haven't laid a finger on their kids. But others are geared toward parents who are already suspected of abuse, as well as those who are “at risk” of abusing. Social workers would rather keep kids with their parents if it's reasonably safe to do so. If a mildly abusive parent can be reformed, his child is less likely to enter foster care.
The driving philosophy is that parenting is not necessarily intuitive. You have to pass a test to drive a car or represent someone before a judge, but not to do something as important as raising a child. “Parenting doesn't come naturally to everyone,” Jardiniano told me in an interview. “And parents feel shame … if it doesn't.”
States' social-welfare agencies can choose from several different parenting programs. SafeCare, a program developed by John Lutzker, a public health professor at Georgia State University, sends visitors to help parents in their homes. In Child-Parent Psychotherapy, a clinician with a master's degree or higher might help parents instill rituals. (Therapists might suggest moms smooth out their mornings by setting a bowl of cereal on the table the night before, for example.) Other programs help parents play with their kids. When I visited one such initiative in the Bay Area, Family Connections, some 20 toddlers sat playing and making crafts at squat tables with their parents alongside them.
Triple P's advantage is scale: Facilitators preach its gospel of firm, yet calm, parenting across 25 countries. It's designed so it can be delivered to entire cities at once. It's for kids of all ages, not just toddlers, and its practitioners don't need to be social workers or nurses—with training, even clergy or police officers can administer parts of the curriculum.
Most of these programs are supported by studies showing they reduce child maltreatment rates by at least some amount. They are “evidence-based,” to use a favorite term of the social-intervention crowd. In Triple P's case, the most compelling support came in the form of a large experiment performed some 10 years ago across South Carolina, which appeared to show that the program greatly improved the child-rearing techniques of the parents who were exposed to it.
Since then, thousands of parents have been helped by Triple P. But recently, critics have called some of the evidence behind Triple P into question, and some have recommended that cities using the program abandon it. Some critics cite flaws in the studies that measured the supposed positive effects of Triple P. Their concerns raise an important question: Can good parenting be taught to wayward parents in the same way that calculus is to undergrads?
The way you're raised affects your personality, your work, and your health for the rest of your life. Abusive childhoods are linked to an array of health issues, from depression to stroke to a shortened lifespan. Even a relatively mundane form of poor parenting, emotional neglect, has been shown to compromise a person's ability to experience enthusiasm or pleasure—potentially for life. At the very worst end of the spectrum, child abuse and neglect kill about 1,500 kids each year.
Abused children arrive at school with broken bones, head injuries, bruises, and cigarette marks. Whether spanking counts depends on the state, but even some of the most conservative states have decreed that if a beating causes injury, it's abuse. In one telephone survey of parents with at least one child under age eight, 10 percent self-reported that they spanked their kids with an object frequently or very frequently.
All this crappy parenting is costly. Research from the Perryman Group, a financial analysis firm, has found that each case of child maltreatment eventually costs society $1.8 million over the victim's life-span because she is far more likely to need rehab, have a teen pregnancy, and drop out of high school.
When parents are repeatedly and severely hurting their children, or sexually abusing them, child-protection workers whisk them out of their parents' custody. But mild or unproven abuse cases are harder for agencies to handle, and they rarely result in a child's removal. The front-page reports of kids made to run or drink water or sleep outside until they die, are, thankfully, quite rare. More often, experts say, abuse happens when discipline escalates.
Foster care isn't a perfect solution, either. “Most children who are abused go through the foster care system, which is horrible,” said Robert Block, past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “It doesn't allow them time to establish new connections because they don't stay in foster homes for very long.”
Increasingly, child-welfare agencies are placing parents involved in poorly substantiated abuse and neglect cases through a process known as “alternative response.” Rather than have abuse or neglect charges filed against them in court, these parents can jump through a series of hoops to prove they can parent. Often, one of these hoops is a parenting class. According to ?a CDC study, 65 percent of parents who go through a program like this do better than controls.
Triple P is one of the most widespread and most-studied of these interventions. It began as a home-visiting program that was developed in 1982 at the University of Queensland, Australia, by the psychologist Matthew Sanders and his colleagues. With an eye toward broad dissemination and cost savings, they soon added phone consultations, class-like sessions, and mass media campaigns. “You know how vast Australia is,” Sanders told the New York Times in 2013. “Our question was how do we ensure that all families, regardless of where they lived, could access good quality evidence-based parenting interventions.”
Agencies that use Triple P can deploy it at five different levels of intensity. In its most basic form, it consists of mass-media messages about good parenting. In the middle levels, parents take a series of seminars on good parenting, and at the highest, the seminars are combined with one-on-one consultations with trainers.
“I think highly of it,” said Anthony Biglan, a senior scientist at the Oregon Research Institute who has studied such interventions. He said he likes that it's designed to reach everyone. “You don't have to wear a hair shirt to get help.”
According to Triple P, parents should praise good behavior, even on an otherwise terrible-behavior day. Small annoyances, like making faces or repeating a word, should simply be ignored. The last resort is time-out. Parents should be precise in what they say. The program's parent workbook advises, “Children may not follow instructions that do not clearly tell them what to do — Denise! or Don't be silly.” Reading Triple P's materials, you'd be forgiven for thinking kids are like tiny labradors, eager to please and easily trained.
Not every parent swallows this advice easily, Jardiniano said. Most people parent however they were raised, even if they now take a dim view of their own upbringings. (Block, an outspoken opponent of spanking, says parents often tell him, “‘Well I was spanked, and look at me,'” he says. “And I want to say, ‘Yeah, look at you.'”)
Even parents who vow not to repeat their own parents' mistakes will likely succumb, when stressed and sleep-deprived, to whatever feels instinctive. And there's a yawning gap between insufficient praising and criminal child abuse. Because of that, the parenting-class instructors have a tricky job: To show parents that, no matter what they're doing, there's probably room for improvement.
In January, I visited a Level 4 Triple P class at the Children's Advocacy Center in Plano, Texas. It was a clean, friendly-looking place hung with inspirational posters. One proclaimed, “I am not afraid of storms, for I have learned how to sail my ship.”
In a suburb with a population of more than a quarter-million, there were three parents in attendance. One of them was Marcus Palmer, a 35-year-old dad with tattooed arms who slumped into a chair, rubbed his face, and yawned.
This particular session was devoted to what some instructors say is parents' favorite subject: managing misbehavior.
The instructor, Fran Hollingsworth, told the parents to establish some ground rules.
“We respect our elders,” Palmer volunteered. “In my house, it's yes sir and yes ma'am. We don't say ‘no.'” His biggest headache, he says, is when his 7-year-old refuses to eat dinner.
Hollingsworth asked him what he would do if his daughter rejected a plate of spaghetti.
“Before this class or now?” Palmer said, laughing. Then, more earnestly: “We need to eat all our food so we can take a bath and go to bed.”
Hollingsworth nodded approvingly.
According to Triple P, when kids break a rule, parents should calmly ask them to go back and do things the right way. Hollingsworth played an official Triple P video in which a young boy runs through the kitchen. The Australian actress playing his mother said, “What's our rule? We walk through the house. Now go back and show me.” The kid complied, wordlessly and with a smile. “Thank you for showing me how we walk through the house,” his mother said.
Then come the nuclear options: “Quiet time,” in which the child is made to sit quietly to the side of the room, and the more severe “time-out,” in which he does the same thing, but in a different room. These are billed by Triple P as “good alternatives to yelling at and smacking your child.”
Hollingsworth asked the parents where they would do a time-out in their homes. Palmer said the kitchen table.
Through a Spanish interpreter, one woman said she wasn't sure where she'd hold the time-outs. She has a small apartment and three kids, and there aren't enough rooms to separate them all.
In the instructional video, a boy slammed two blocks together while the actress playing his mother was on the phone. Afterward, she told him, “you're going to stay in quiet time for three minutes.” The mother grabbed the boy by the arm. The boy immediately hopped up and sat down in a chair without complaint.
“Ignore protests!” the video encouraged, as the boy sat motionlessly and without kicking any objects or people around him.
Later, Palmer confided that he thought the sequence was a bit of a stretch. “In a perfect world, that's great,” he said. “But kids I know will say, ‘whatever, mom!'”
The next day, I met up with Palmer at the auto shop where he works. He was in the middle of a messy legal battle with his exes for the right to visit his kids. He said he had taken a second job serving chicken at Wingstop to help pay the court fees and child support. He hoped that completing a parenting class will prove to the judge that he's a good dad.
His exes lived in different states, and he had seen his 7-year-old daughter only once since 2012, for a 10-day stretch. “Ridiculously hard,” he called the predicament. Palmer and others in the Triple P class had to make “behavior charts” for their kids—posters to fill with stickers for good behavior. Palmer made one and showed it to his daughter when they Skyped. She wasn't as excited as if she had seen it in person, he said.
He was skeptical of some of the Triple P adages. About kids for whom time out doesn't work, he said, “if it was 10 years ago, I'd say, they get the belt.” These days, “People are too quick to call CPS. Kids nowadays get away with way too much.”
Still, Palmer said Triple P provides a “good foundation,” and his kids don't usually require discipline beyond a stern look or losing a privilege. His own parents were violent and absent, and he always wanted to do better. “I wanted to be there and not be physical,” he said.
About a month after we met, Palmer's ex-girlfriend, who was living in Florida, became homeless. Palmer offered to let her and the couple's 7-year-old, Madyson, move in with him and his new wife in Texas. By phone, Palmer said he's been deploying some of the Triple P lessons, like stating things in a positive way— “talk respectfully to adults,” instead of “don't talk back.”
It's been only about two weeks, but he says the strategies are working better than expected.
“Are the other adults in the house also using the Triple P tactics?” I asked.
Not yet, he said. “Adults have to be trained, too.”
Of all the parenting interventions out there, many state and local agencies pick Triple P because volumes of studies have proven its success.
In 2003, Sanders, the Australian psychologist who invented Triple P and Ron Prinz, a psychology professor and director of the Parenting and Family Research Center at the University of South Carolina, had a team of professors randomly assign 18 counties in South Carolina to two groups. In one, hundreds of practitioners within the counties were trained to deliver at least the basic level of Triple P to parents. The other counties offered whatever parent services they always had. After two and a half years, the counties with Triple P averaged 33 percent fewer confirmed child abuse cases, 16 percent fewer out-of-home placements for children, and 13 percent fewer hospital-treated child maltreatment injuries than the controls. Further analyses by an independent economist suggested the cost of the Triple P system would be recouped within a single year.
Triple P picked up speed on the winds of those results. Few interventions of this scale can claim the support of a randomized, controlled trial—the gold standard in scientific research. In 2011, it was in 14 states, and it's now in 36. Triple P America estimates the program has been delivered at more than 300 sites.
But Triple P has also come under fire from several researchers who weren't connected to its founding. Manuel Eisner, a professor of criminology at the University of Cambridge, published a working paper in 2014 describing seven ways that Sanders and Prinz failed to fully report their data. Most significantly, he argued that a closer reading of the data suggest Triple P didn't necessarily work the way it's been touted. According to his analysis, the control counties saw an unusually high increase in maltreatment cases, while treatment counties tracked with the statewide trend in child abuse. Eisner is currently trying to replicate the South Carolina study himself.
Eisner claims that Prinz, a consultant to Triple P International, and Sanders, the program's developer, may have conflicts of interest. Sanders benefits when Triple P expands because royalty payments from sales of Triple P's materials are partly distributed to the University of Queensland and the authors of Triple P. Eisner says this type of conflict has been associated with biased reporting in past studies. A meta-analysis of 116 Triple-P related studies published in 2014 found that the program improved both parenting practices and children's behavior—but that, too, was authored by Sanders. A review paper published by Eisner in the journal PLoS One last year found that of four psychosocial interventions, studies of Triple P had the lowest level of conflict-of-interest disclosure.
Sanders and Prinz deny that their roles have affected the studies, noting Triple P has a plan to carefully monitor conflicts of interest. Sanders further believes that developer-involved research is often an important step in establishing a program's efficacy.
Eisner argues child abuse is too complex of a problem to be addressed with a short, standardized training. “Families with substantial levels of child maltreatment often have histories of unemployment, mental-health problems, criminal records, and substance use,” he said. “Do we really believe that information sheets and short group seminars can address the needs of these parents and fundamentally alter their behavior?”
Meanwhile, in 2013 James Coyne, a behavioral psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, publicly argued that many of the Triple P studies had fewer than 35 participants—too few for their results to be considered meaningful. (Prinz points out that in a 2014 Triple P meta-analysis, 40 percent of the studies had samples with at least 35 or more families.)
Prinz stood by his findings in a written statement, saying, “Our population study has gone through multiple stages of scientific review by independent scientists who were not predisposed for or against Triple P.”
In an interview, Prinz also said Eisner has a history of submitting complaint letters to journals. “I think he enjoys playing that role,” he told me. “That's fine. I'm more interested in the science and how we can help families.” (Eisner disputed that characterization, though he has alerted journals about what he feels are flaws in Triple P studies three times.)
Bradley Thomas, the president of Triple P America, told me that Triple P has more than 218 evaluation papers to date, and, “approximately 45 percent of these evaluations have been conducted independently of program authors.”
But the results of those evaluations are mixed. The city of Glasgow, Scotland, provides an example of what could be interpreted as Triple P's shortcomings. The city launched a Triple P program in 2010 after Scotland's chief medical officer suggested chaotic home environments might be contributing to chronic illness in the region.
Emails from the time show that Scotland's social welfare officials in part justified the program because they thought Triple P was a nonprofit. “Triple P is provided on a non-profit making basis with all surpluses going back to [the] University of Queensland to fund further research,” read an internal document from 2010. However, that assumption was wrong—Triple P International is a private, for-profit company.
Glasgow trained hundreds of Triple P practitioners, who administered the program to more than 30,000 families. But when Philip Wilson, a professor of primary care at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, measured the program's effects on annual cohorts of 5,000 children in the city, he found it had little effect. Among the families who started Triple P interventions, more than half dropped out, and dropout rates were especially high among the more troubled families. The social and emotional functioning of the entire city's kids didn't change, and the child protection register in Glasgow grew during the period. Wilson recommended that Glasgow discontinue the program, but that was only after the local health service had already spent over 4 million pounds (about $5.8 million) on it.
“The people who needed most help were more likely to drop out,” Wilson said. “Our conclusion was that although the system was set up well in Glasgow, actually, it just didn't work. Everyone wants a solution to child maltreatment. We're all desperate and we'll cling at straws.”
The region's National Health Service rejected Wilson's conclusions, saying his data was not robust enough. In a statement, Triple P U.K. countered that emotional functioning did improve among kids whose parents actually completed the intervention, and that Wilson's was not “a study with a proper controlled design.”
Another independent study that looked at the effect of Triple P on 73 children aged four to nine in Birmingham, in central England, also found no effects—though that study examined the children's behavior, rather than that of their parents. In 2013, Flanders, Belgium, ceased funding the program after seeing lackluster results.
Triple P is not the only parenting program that seemed to work well in some places but failed elsewhere. In the U.S., a home-visiting program called Nurse-Family Partnership has been considered “proven” to boost the health of mothers and children alike. But a study in the Lancet found that a similar program in the U.K. called Family-Nurse Partnership did basically nothing. Meanwhile, Healthy Families America, a program in which trained paraprofessionals visit disadvantaged mothers, reduced incidence of physical abuse in New York, but not in Alaska or Hawaii.
It might be that these programs simply don't travel well. Some of the Scottish Triple P practitioners were skeptical that its brochures—designed for sunny, wide-open Australia—made sense for rainy, cramped Glasgow. As one of the Scottish home-visitors wrote on her blog after the fact, “in an inner-city area of … high rise flats, etc, it really got on my wick that I had to hand families a sheet which told them how they must make sure that their children don't go near the swimming pool in the garden unattended.”
Some parents I interviewed said they found Triple P helpful. Danielle Keath, who took the course in Texas, said she grew up in a family of yellers. That's how she would respond, too, when her 3-year-old squished food into the carpet purposefully. But with Triple P, she reduced her yelling by 75 percent, by her own measurements. Keath also used to think it was okay to “swat him on the butt,” but she doesn't do that anymore. “I've learned to coping skills to pull myself away,” she said.
Molly Jardiniano administers pre- and post-tests to her participants, too. At the end of this fall's course, the parents marked an improvement in both their own parenting practices—as measured by things like over-reacting or giving in under pressure—and in their children's behavior. And in the scheme of things, the intervention is fairly cheap: Each 12-week class series reaches about 10 parents and costs the San Francisco Child Prevention Center about $5,900. That figure includes Jardiniano's salary, snacks, childcare for the parents, and bus passes.
So does Triple P work? As Katie Albright, the director of the San Francisco center, mused to me when I visited, “How do you prove a negative?” For any given family, is it possible to know whether Triple P was what stopped them from hitting their kids? Unless welfare agencies make Triple P or a similar program mandatory, parents can refuse the intervention. Even when they attend faithfully, no one really knows whether parents put into practice what they learned.
And perhaps there's only so much that parenting classes can do. In conversations with prosecutors and social workers around the country, I heard repeatedly that child abuse was closely linked to drug use. And several studies have found that, while most children are abused by someone they live with, the perpetrator is often an unrelated adult, not the parent.
Abusive families' troubles might run deeper than Triple P can penetrate. In January of 2013, Emma Morrison, a one-month-old in Palm Beach County, Florida, died in the night. Her mother, Lisa Lamoureaux, had been the subject of 11 child-abuse or neglect investigations, and she had been referred to Triple P for further help, according to a Miami Herald report. But Lamoureaux declined the classes, saying she wasn't interested.
The medical examiner thought Emma had been smothered on accident while in bed with her mother. But neighbors heard “a male's voice yelling during the night and early the next day," the Herald wrote, and a "a child crying constantly throughout the night." Lamoureaux had already taken parenting classes. She also had a history of drug use, a seemingly abusive boyfriend, and so little money social workers suspected she was prostituting herself. (Lamoureaux has not been charged in her death.)
Other children have died when left, in a pinch, with a careless family friend or a violent partner. One Texas prosecutor I spoke with said what would help most with child abuse in his area is better access to affordable child care. In 2014, researchers from the CDC and Clemson College looked at 11 different policies that could potentially reduce the incidence of child abuse and neglect. They found two that actually made a difference: Increasing access to subsidized child care and health care for children.
That would be, of course, less an indictment of Triple P than of a deficit of social services in America, which according to some studies has higher rates of child deaths from maltreatment than almost any European country. Maybe being responsible for a fragile, loud, hungry human is just harder here.
If parents are finding Triple P's tips useful, it would be foolish to discount it just because it hasn't singlehandedly solved child abuse. But parents would be better able to cheerfully soldier on through whining and tantrums—as Triple P expects them to—if they had affordable childcare, good housing, and enough money for food. Better still if they no untreated drug problems or ghosts of brutish childhoods haunting them. Triple P and its ilk might be doing wonderful things at the top of parents' Maslowian pyramids. It's just that the bases are still full of holes.
Experts say hundreds of thousands of American men, women and children are sex slaves
by NICHOLE MANNA
A dysfunctional childhood led her to drink at 11, get pregnant at 14 and become a sex slave at 17.
She grew up in Omaha watching her biological dad beat her mom. Then her mom died, and she hated her stepdad. She lived with her grandmother, and her uncles drank and did drugs.
Then, at 15, she fell in love with an older guy who treated her well and bought her gifts.
The man started driving her to school, the woman told Linda Burkle in November 2011, and soon she stopped going to school.
Burkle, social services director for the Salvation Army, shared the young woman's story with state lawmakers in the hopes of sparking new legislation against human trafficking. She read the woman's story from a paper, telling it in the first person, as if she was the victim. The quoted portions below recorded Burkle's speech on behalf of the woman.
The woman told Burkle the man would drive her downtown and show her girls on the street, tell her how easy it would be to do the same and make lots of money.
"I said that I would never do that," she said.
Two years later, the man taught her about sex. He told her she was good at it and could make quick, easy money doing the same with other men.
She turned her first trick just before her 18th birthday. It was easy, she said. Just five minutes in the back of a car and she made $50. But she didn't keep it.
"I gave every dime to him because I really loved him and wanted to please him," she said. "I was with him all of the time except for when I was in a car working."
By 19, she was traveling to other states, drinking and smoking regularly. She said she tried to leave when she turned 21, but he beat her.
"I was in love with him, I thought," she said. "But afraid of him."
She did get away, but she met another man.
"He expected me to turn tricks and turned me on to crack when I was 22," she said. "He beat me a lot, and I often fought back to protect myself."
She stayed with him for five years. And soon after she left him, she found herself enslaved by another trafficker -- someone she said was worse than the first two.
"He was more abusive than the others," she said. "He would beat me with a gun, a hammer and an electrical cord."
He threatened to hurt her family if she left. Finally, when he was in a deep sleep, she ran and hitchhiked from Oklahoma back to Nebraska. But she didn't know what to do next and she was addicted to drugs. To pay for her next fix, she sold herself, without a pimp. She was in and out of jail.
Finally, she had enough. She got involved with the community, started going to church and turned her life around.
She saved herself.
Nebraska not alone
Burkle shared some of the woman's story with the Judiciary Committee in December 2011, when she testified about why she believed the state needed to address trafficking.
Since then, laws have been passed strengthening the punishment for traffickers and a state task force against trafficking was created. In January, Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks introduced a bill that would protect juvenile sex workers from prosecution.
An estimated 300,000 American men, women and children are victims of sex or labor trafficking, according to the Polaris Project, which runs call centers for the National Human Trafficking hotline.
Sex trafficking is a $9.5 billion industry in the U.S., and it occurs in both urban and rural areas, Polaris says.
Police are finding that some dealers have switched from trafficking drugs to trafficking people because the "product" can be sold over and over -- and it's relatively easy to avoid punishment, experts say.
From 2010 to 2015, the Omaha Child Exploitation Task Force rescued more than 100 women and girls from sex trafficking. Their average age was 20 -- the youngest 13, the oldest 40. In a survey done by the Women's Fund of Omaha, more than 600 human services providers, nonprofits, law enforcement agencies, state agencies and for-profit agencies in Nebraska reported they identified sex trafficking victims younger than 17 at least 176 times in the past year.
In Lincoln, Nikki Siegel, outreach director for The Bay, a skate park and outreach program for at-risk youth, said she's encountered trafficked teenagers, but until recent years, she didn't realize that's what they were.
“I found a lot of girls who were exploiting themselves, using survival sex, but I didn't have that definition to make the connection,” she said. “It took awhile for us to be aware that that's what that was called.”
Lincoln police don't have a dedicated trafficking investigator, and reported cases are sent to their criminal investigations unit, Officer Katie Flood said. They also don't have a device to track trafficking cases, which are labeled as prostitution.
Investigators have conducted prostitution stings, including one in early August when six men were arrested on suspicion of soliciting prostitution.
In September, the Lincoln Police Department was involved in a national sex trafficking sting by invitation from the Cook County Sheriff's Office in Illinois. In all, 1,032 people were arrested. Of those, 961 were would-be sex buyers, and the rest traffickers. In Lincoln, 16 men were arrested.
In the weeks leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, Lincoln police arrested 13 more people in connection with prostitution. Six of those were would-be sex buyers, two were cited for pandering after driving women to hotels for prostitution, five were cited for prostitution. None of the accused sex workers arrested said they were being trafficked, police said.
An 'over there' problem
Nationwide, officials are trying to figure out how to tackle a crime formerly thought of as an "over there" problem, said Stephen O'Meara, coordinator for anti-human trafficking efforts in Nebraska. Many states don't have the resources to overcome it yet, and others are figuring out ways to tackle the problem.
In Nashville, Tennessee, Judge Casey Moreland launched the Human Trafficking Intervention Court on Jan. 26 to provide services to sex workers, including education and long-term treatment as an alternative to jail or prison.
As a nation, "we really just started learning about domestic trafficking in 2000," O'Meara said.
It wasn't until 2010 that Congress expanded the definition of trafficking to include mental punishment by traffickers as well as physical. Now, the law allows prosecutors to look into the backgrounds of victims and how vulnerable they were as a part of making their cases. People younger than 18 and sold for sex are automatically considered trafficking victims. In the case of adult victims, investigators must prove traffickers used force, fraud or coercion to groom them for sex work.
Experts are learning that vulnerability plays a big role in how a person becomes a victim and why he or she often doesn't try to get away.
"(Traffickers) will gain your trust and fill a need or void where you're insecure," said Cindy Hultine, director of hospitality for the Omaha-based Set Me Free Project. "They create distance between you and your family and say things like, 'If you love me, you'll do this.'"
Hultine described the relationship between a trafficker and victim as "mental bondage." Many young girls don't understand what is happening to them, she said. They continue going to school or work, then meet with the trafficker at night to work.
O'Meara said this type of mental abuse can happen quickly.
In a 2011 case, a woman from Arkansas ended up in Omaha after Johnelle Lewis Bell brought her and several other women to Nebraska. He used coercion and abuse to prostitute them, according to a 50-page federal indictment.
Now serving 30 years in prison for human trafficking, Bell bought the women expensive gifts and took them on trips before getting them to work for him. In court testimony, the women talked about troubled childhoods, mental and emotional problems, bouts of homelessness, lack of familial support and substance abuse.
Bell told them he loved them and would stay with them, provide for them and help them make lots of money, they said. He promised one woman he would help her regain custody of her child if she worked for him, documents say.
The victims testified that once they started working for Bell, the promises evaporated and he took all of the money they made, isolated them from family and friends, and physically abused them.
Omaha police who busted the trafficking ring found the woman in the back of a car in the fetal position, shaking and crying.
"She had been gone for a week and her family didn't recognize her," O'Meara said.
Many people question victims' involvement and wonder why they don't run away or ask someone for help, he said.
“It's called survival sex,” O'Meara said. “If they've been given a life to live a certain way, they may not honestly know that there is a different way to live life.”
In Bell's case, victims testified that he threatened their families, telling one woman he'd have one member of her family killed for every year he spent in prison should he be arrested.
Even once they're saved, many women find themselves back in the hands of a different pimp, in a never-ending cycle perpetuated by a lack of help from service providers, such as women's shelters and mental health facilities.
Not enough help, information
Meghan Malik, trafficking response coordinator for the Women's Fund of Omaha, said 84 percent of service providers in the state don't believe they are meeting the needs of their clients who were victims of sex trafficking. Mostly, she said, they need more mental health services, emergency shelters and crisis intervention.
Malik said service and law enforcement groups still find themselves asking the same series of questions: What do we do after a victim is rescued? How do we continue offering survivors care for life? And what should services look like?
A federal grant for anti-human trafficking efforts awarded on Oct. 1 is helping Nebraska get a step closer to finding those answers, but even with 40 or 50 law enforcement agencies and service providers working together, it could take years before the state has a solid plan, O'Meara said.
“We describe these efforts as a ‘best beginning point,'” he said. “There's a lot to do, and there's still a lot of research to do.”
In order to understand human trafficking, Hultine said, experts need to understand the victims, which is something the Women's Fund of Omaha is working on.
“Who am I to say what those (care) services should look like?” Malik asked. “(The victims) are helping us figure that out. … We're looking at this now -- how do we provide services for life? What do those services look like? How do we keep them out of 'the life' and safe?”
Sriyani Tidball, a lecturer at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, began working to end trafficking in 1981, when she and her husband founded a nonprofit social services organization in Sri Lanka. She's also helped set up an orphanage for homeless, abused and trafficked women there.
“The voice of the survivors is often left out,” Tidball said. “But it's a very necessary part if we ever want to find real solutions.”
Survivors can give experts insight on what type of law enforcement training is needed or what services are lacking. Many survivors Tidball has spoken with now run nonprofits for anti-trafficking groups, she said.
“It's interesting to see the cycle of them becoming a victim, then a survivor and now an activist,” she said. “They want to change the world.”
Tidball and other researchers don't know when their work will be done, but the research and information gained by talking to survivors will help advocates prepare legislation and policies to help end trafficking as well as looking at how nonprofits can help turn victims into survivors.
One of the most powerful bills introduced to the Nebraska legislature this year will decriminalize prostitution for minors, she said.
However, Tidball argues the law should be taken further. Buying sex should come with harsher punishments, she said, and victims of any age shouldn't be arrested.
“I have never met a woman who wanted to sell themselves,” she said.
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson has said the state will shift its law enforcement efforts away from victims.
“The criminal is the trafficker and the customer,” he said.
But taking down the johns and putting victims in a social services program isn't going to be enough, O'Meara said.
“If we save a victim but we don't stop the trafficker of that victim, we have probably just made another victim,” he said. “Because this is market-driven, that perpetrator, that trafficker is going to go out and find another victim and we don't want to be in that business.”
Former state Sen. Amanda McGill, who helped pass legislation to decriminalize prostitution of minors, said education is the next step.
“With an issue that is very difficult for people to wrap their minds around, in a culture where people make jokes about pimps and prostitutes, we definitely need to help (the public) understand that these are really victims, that these women, even if they're 25, the trafficking probably started when they were 12 or 13 with sexual abuse,” she said.
McGill said there's a need for major public awareness campaigns in addition to more law enforcement training and added services.
“We need to fund these things, which is why it's important for the public to understand this problem," she said. "The people at the table aren't just looking at government, but communities, too.”
Set Me Free
The Omaha project visited Sheridan Lutheran Church in Lincoln recently to talk with middle and high school students about trafficking.
"Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery," Cindy Hultine told them. "Pimps are slave owners."
She also spoke directly to their parents, telling them to continue the "stranger danger" education passed along in elementary school and to monitor social media accounts.
"Someone who is 13 shouldn't have more than 200 friends on Facebook," she said. "They don't know that many people."
Malik of the Women's Fund in Omaha said she'll continue to help bring resources together and hopes to launch an educational campaign showing Nebraskans what human trafficking is.
“Hopefully, that will help the everyday person, medical care personnel, to be able to spot a victim and call police who have the resources to help,” she said.
Children of God sex cult survivors come out of the shadows
After decades of silence, 2 Ottawa residents recount tales of abuse, exploitation, debauchery
by Simon Gardner
If you passed Ottawa residents Danielle Fortin or Jerry Golland on the street, you wouldn't think there was anything unusual about them.
Fortin, 63, grew up in Montreal. She has a matter-of-fact way of speaking punctuated by an occasional self-deprecating laugh. She describes being "wild" in her youth, and that included taking hard-core drugs.
These days she lives quietly in Ottawa with a mildly disabled son.
Golland, 69, also grew up in Montreal, raised in a secular Jewish family. A little over a year ago he retired from a teaching position with the Ottawa Catholic School Board.
He's long been a familiar face at Ottawa nightclubs and music venues, where he specializes in performing the songs of his hero, Leonard Cohen. His manner of speaking can seem unfocused, but he chalks that up to his struggle with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
What sets Danielle Fortin and Jerry Golland apart is a bizarre chapter in their lives: they were both members of the Children of God, one of the world's most notorious religious cults.
The disturbing history of the Children of God is well documented in news reports, books and documentaries. At its height, the movement had tens of thousands of members, including such famous names as River and Joaquin Phoenix, Rose McGowan and Jeremy Spencer.
The group was founded in 1968 in California during a time of hippies and sexual liberation.
Female members of the COG were expected to lure in men by having sex with them. Children were sexualised and sometimes sexually abused at an early age. Thousands of members worked like slaves raising money to support the shadowy sex-driven lifestyle of the group's leader, David Berg.
After more than 25 years of keeping the story to themselves, Golland and Fortin agreed to reveal their experiences.
Lured into the cult
Fortin's first exposure to the Children of God came in the mid 1970s. She was hooked on heroin, unhappy with her life and looking for meaning. She recounts going to Spain on impulse during a drug-fuelled binge.
"And there was some people singing on the street, three or four guys singing, 'You got to be a baby to go to heaven.' And at that time my state of mind was, 'Wow! Can I be a baby and go to heaven?' And they told me yes — if I receive Jesus into my heart."
Golland's contact with the cult came in 1971 in London, England.
An abusive, psychologically-troubled friend had taken all his money and most of his possessions, including his passport. He was sitting by himself in a park when he heard music and saw a yellow double-decker bus with "Children of God" written in psychedelic letters on the side.
'They scraped me off the street'
"I was so ingrained not to be religious, I had always mocked it all my life. And then 40 or 50 people, I heard this music coming from the park, and standing all around me [were people] saying, 'Hey, come with us, come on our bus, you can come home with us.'"
He says in different times he would have run like hell, but he was at the end of his rope.
"Nothing attracted me to them," Golland said. "They scraped me off the street."
He would spend the next 20 years as a member of the cult, always on the lookout for vulnerable people — people just like himself — to recruit.
"We'd learn to spot, you know ... those eyes, that person, there is a vulnerable person. We called them sheep. He's a real sheep as opposed to someone who was more antagonistic — he was a wolf."
Danielle Fortin's initial impression of the group was positive. She felt she was "doing something right" for a change.
As Fortin would soon discover, the Children of God was also a top-down, rigid organization that exploited members, especially women and children.
Almost all the young women in the cult were ordered to "flirty-fish." That meant having sex every day, often with new and different men.
"You have to totally submit yourself to your leader, to the person in charge. No matter what they ask you, you have to obey ... and being single, you were asked to go out flirty-fishing. That means going into a bar or restaurant or hotel and meeting some people to ask for the mercy of Jesus in their heart in exchange for a donation."
Fortin often got into trouble with the group's leaders because she was choosy. She didn't want to have sex with every guy who wanted her.
David Berg, the cult leader, also promoted concepts he called "one wife" and "sharing." Even married female members were expected to sleep with other men in the group.
Because of the cult's Christian fundamentalist underpinnings, members were forbidden from using any form of contraception. Not surprisingly, there were plenty of children born out of the Children of God.
Both of the former members say they were able to protect their own kids from sexual abuse but couldn't always keep them safe from physical abuse.
Fortin remembers one of her boys, who was just 11 years old, being punished for being rebellious. For three months he was confined to a house full of adults, forced to eat by himself and forbidden from speaking.
"It was hard for me because I was sitting at the table and he was at another table and he was crying, 'Mommy, mommy.' And I could not do anything because I was too afraid of being kicked out."
She also recalls the same son, as an infant, being spanked until he was "all bruised and black."
?Golland, who has five children, says physical punishment of kids was all too common.
"We're talking four, five, six, seven years old, kids, black and blue, beaten, spare the rod, spoil the child. Berg himself always said he found a coat hanger [useful for beating kids] ... Criminal."
Pamphlets used to solicit donations
The main task of the cult members was to solicit donations by distributing pamphlets that espoused the gospel of Berg, also known as Moses David.
Berg also penned "Mo Letters," explicit instructional pamphlets for members. Titles included "Adventures of a Flirty-Fish" and "Lashes of Love."
Golland says members who were good at raising money and distributing the pamphlets were called Shiners. Those with poor sales were called Shamers. If you missed your quota you could not come home for dinner, he said.
Golland's sales performance was bad enough that he was even prevented from attending his own wedding ceremony.
Leaving the cult
Fortin travelled the world with the Children of God and its affiliated groups, including stops in India, Fiji and the Philippines.
By 1992 she was flogging videos and audio cassette tapes of Children of God musical acts to store owners in Puerto Rico. One of her sons needed heart surgery, an operation that required travelling back home to Canada.
She remained with the Children of God in Montreal, and eventually moved to Aylmer, Que., and then Ottawa, where she continued to contribute a tithe of 10 per cent of her income to the group before gradually breaking away.
She recalls receiving a visit at her home in Ottawa from a Children of God "brother" who scolded her for having so much food in her cupboard.
She argued she needed it to feed her children and couldn't spare any for the group.
"It took me quite a while to realize I was brainwashed and that I was not doing the right thing. Took me a few years of reading about people in cults and people who are abused."
Fortin stays in contact with three other former Children of God members, one in Montreal and two in the Ottawa area. She calls the group her "network," and considers their meetings and conversations a form of therapy.
The final straw for Golland came when one of his sons, just 12 at the time, was forced to sing in the rain until midnight in order to raise money. The adult member supervising the boy stayed warm and dry in a nearby car.
Life after Children of God
Golland returned to Ottawa in the early 1990s and managed to get work, first with Algonquin College and then with the Ottawa Catholic School Board as an English language teacher.
He feels fortunate he was able to not only survive the Children of God, but also retire on a modest pension. Other members, he says, were not so lucky.
"[There were] a lot of suicides of former members, adults and teenagers. Drug addiction. Prison. A lot of people could not adjust."
The Children of God still exists today under a different name, but it doesn't have the same reach, influence or notoriety. Berg reportedly called a halt to flirty-fishing because of the emergence of the AIDS epidemic.
Golland is in the process of writing an e-book about his journey with the Children of God, called Only One Man.
He warns that what happened to him and Fortin could easily happen to others.
"There are still lonely, alienated people ... the sheep, kids. There are still a lot of them out there."
Helping doctors prevent and detect child abuse
Grant from Otto Bremer Trust to improve hospitals' detection and prevention of child abuse is billed as one of nation's largest to address the public health problem.
by Jeremy Olson
The Masonic Children's Hospital in Minneapolis has received a $2.5 million grant to detect and prevent child abuse, with a new program to address the difficulties that doctors and nurses often face in differentiating accidental injuries from parental abuse.
The grant from the St. Paul-based Otto Bremer Trust was announced Monday to support the abuse detection and prevention training for staff at the hospital, medical residents, and other hospitals. It will also launch a new “No Hit Zone” policy at Masonic Children's that prohibits any type of physical discipline from taking place at the hospital.
The Masonic Children's Hospital in Minneapolis has received a $2.5 million grant to detect and prevent child abuse, with a new program to address the difficulties that doctors and nurses often face in differentiating accidental injuries from parental abuse.
The grant from the St. Paul-based Otto Bremer Trust was announced Monday to support the abuse detection and prevention training for staff at the hospital, medical residents, and other hospitals. It will also launch a new “No Hit Zone” policy at Masonic Children's that prohibits any type of physical discipline from taking place at the hospital.
“Child maltreatment is a critical issue in pediatric medicine, one we don't talk about enough,” said Dr. Joseph Neglia, physician-in-chief of the Masonic hospital.
Medical professionals are legally mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect and submit almost one in 10 of all abuse allegations to state child welfare systems, according to federal Child Maltreatment reports. But few in Minnesota have specialized training to identify which types of bruises or injuries they see in their patients are likely to have resulted from abuse.
The funding will support a fellowship to train new pediatricians in child abuse detection and response. It will also support training of existing doctors statewide, as well as teleconferencing that rural hospitals can use to seek advice and opinions from abuse experts at Masonic Children's, the pediatric hospital at the University of Minnesota. The hospital also will be able to employ an additional child abuse pediatrician.
Studies have found patterns of child injuries that predict abuse. While it isn't surprising to see bruises on active and accident-prone preschoolers, any bruises on infants are suspicious, said Dr. Nancy Harper, medical director for the Otto Bremer Trust for Safe & Healthy Children Center at the hospital.
“No bruise in an infant is considered normal to me,” she said.
Bruising to the ears, neck, hands, chest, buttocks and right arm are predictive of child abuse. The right arm is a tell, Harper explained, because most people are righthanded, and abusers would likely grab children's right arms to hold them and then hit them.
Hospitals and clinics themselves can be stressful places, where parents might act out physically against children who misbehave during long waits for care or because they are nervous about shots or their doctor visits.
The Bremer funding will support No Hit Zone signs in the hospital as well as “distraction packets” that can be given to parents to preoccupy kids who are acting out.
At an initial training session on the new policy Monday morning, hospital social worker Rebecca Foell said all hospital workers have a responsibility to intervene if they see parents at risk for harming their children.
“Recognize those signs and intervene at that point,” she said. “You don't need to wait for something bad to happen.”