Girl, 15, sent to prison for luring robbery victims with Internet sex ad
by John Agaron
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A 15-year-old girl and mother of two toddlers was sentenced to prison for helping to rob prospective johns who responded to an Internet sex ad.
Latesha Clay was sentenced Monday, Jan. 11, to nine years in prison for robbing two men who responded to an ad on Backpage.com. The ad offered sex with a teen.
The victims were robbed after they showed up at a room at Motel 6, 4855 28th St. SE.
Clay wept during the hearing, with family behind her filling many seats in the gallery.
Also charged are Trayvin Donnell Lewis, 18, and Monee Duepre Atkinson, 17.
Police say Clay met the men at the door, and invited them inside after taking their payment. Lewis then threatened them with what turned out to be an Airsoft pistol with the orange tip removed. Police say the older defendants forced one of the victims to drive to an automated-teller machine and withdraw $300.
A victim called police, who found the suspects, $650 and the Airsoft gun in the hotel room.
Defense attorney Louise Johnson said her client, who has two children, ages 1 and 2, grew up with a "lack of a moral compass" but is "not a lost cause."
She said her client's father has 32 children and told the teen she would be "selling herself" after her prison sentence ends.
Clay's mother and grandmother wrote the judge, seeking leniency.
Johnson said of her client: "She's wholeheartedly sorry."
Kent County Circuit Judge George "Jay" Quist sentenced Clay at the low end of sentencing guidelines but said she deserved a significant prison sentence because of the seriousness of the crime, with a gun pointed at the head or neck of one of the men.
Clay pleaded guilty to two counts of armed robbery and two counts of unlawful imprisonment.
The No Such Thing Campaign
The McCain Institute and the Human Rights Project for Girls (Rights4Girls), with support from Google, have joined forces to launch the No Such Thing campaign with one mission: To make clear that there is no such thing as a child prostitute. There are only victims and survivors of child rape.
While media outlets have reported on this phenomenon, some describe victims of sex trafficking as “child prostitutes.” According to research by the Human Rights Project for Girls and The Raben Group, during the past five years, there have been more than 5,000 instances of the phrase “child prostitute,” “child prostitution,” “underage prostitution” or other variations on the phrase used in media outlets.
There is a very real way in which the term “child prostitute” diminishes the violence, harm, trauma and coercion that a trafficked child is subject to. The term child prostitute is therefore a misnomer, failing to capture the legal and moral context of what these children endure on a daily basis. Most of these underage children are forced to sell themselves to many different men every night. The traffickers exert full control over the children through both manipulation and coercion. These children have no choice or agency here.
Most of these children are not of the legal age to consent to sex. In situations where children are 16 or older, federal law clearly states that any individual under the age of 18 who is induced to perform a commercial sex act in exchange for anything of value is by definition a victim of sex trafficking, not a prostitute.
The danger of referring to these youth as “prostitutes” or “child prostitutes” is that the term leaves open the idea that consent was involved, or that it is somehow different from other forms of rape or sexual abuse of minors, when in reality that is not the case.
The No Such Thing Campaign will ask leading media outlets, such as the Associated Press, The New York Times and USA Today to stop using the term child prostitute to convey the condition of children being bought and sold for sex.
It is important to note that while the campaign focuses on national media outlets, and uses social media to bring attention to the issue, the overall aim of the campaign is not circumscribed only to the media circles. This is also a campaign to reshape the larger public narrative on child trafficking. In the same way that the domestic violence movement renamed hitting a woman as abuse, and not a personal quarrel, our campaign will name trafficking of children as a form of child rape and abuse. It will reframe paid sex with a minor as an unequivocal act of child rape.
To learn more about the No Such Thing campaign, click here.
Top adviser to Richard Nixon admitted that ‘War on Drugs’ was policy tool to go after anti-war protesters and ‘black people’
by ADAM EDELMAN, New York Daily News
The “War on Drugs” was actually a political tool to crush leftist protesters and black people, a former Nixon White House adviser admitted in a decades-old interview published Tuesday.
John Ehrlichman, who served as President Richard Nixon’s domestic policy chief, laid bare the sinister use of his boss’ controversial policy in a 1994 interview with journalist Dan Baum that the writer revisited in a new article for Harper’s magazine.
“You want to know what this was really all about,” Ehrlichman, who died in 1999, said in the interview after Baum asked him about Nixon’s harsh anti-drug policies.
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying,” Ehrlichman continued.
“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Ehrlichman served 18 months in prison after being convicted of conspiracy and perjury for his role in the Watergate scandal that toppled his boss.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said Ehrlichman’s comments proved what black people had believed for decades.
“This is a frightening confirmation of what many of us have been saying for years. That this was a real attempt by government to demonize and criminalize a race of people,” Sharpton told the Daily News. “And when we would raise the questions over that targeting, we were accused of all kind of things, from harboring criminality to being un-American and trying to politicize a legitimate concern.”
In 1971, Nixon labeled drug abuse “Public Enemy No. 1” and signed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, putting into place several new laws that cracked down on drug users. He also created the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Baum said Tuesday he excluded the jaw-dropping quotes because they “didn’t fit.”
“There are no authorial interviews in (‘Smoke and Mirrors’) at all; it’s written to put the reader in the room as events transpire,” Baum told The Huffington Post via email. “Therefore, the quote didn’t fit. It did change all the reporting I did for the book, though, and changed the way I worked thereafter.”
The shocking interview with Ehrlichman later surfaced in a 2012 compendium of “wild, poignant, life-changing stories” from various writers titled “The Moment,” but the quotes received little media attention.
Many politicos have surmised that Ehrlichman, who would die five years later, made the stark revelations because he was angry Nixon never pardoned him of his Watergate-related offenses.
Sharpton said the damage done by the war on drugs’ cruel policies doomed generations of black people.
“Think of all the lives and families that were ruined and absolutely devastated only because they were caught in a racial net from the highest end reaches of government.”
Less Than 72 Hours Left to Respond the FDA
by Jane Allies
We have just a few days left to respond to the FDA dockets and sign the MindFreedom petiton. Click on the link below to get the latest update on the our efforts and read Lauren’s experpertly crafted letter to the FDA ombudsman.
State Police and Kalamazoo Public Safety execute sex offender sweep
by John McNeill
KALAMAZOO (WKZO) -- If you saw more State Police than usual in Kalamazoo this week, you were not alone.
The Troopers were helping Kalamazoo Public Safety do a sweep of local sex offenders to make sure they are complying with reporting provisions.
There are 275 registered sex offenders in the city of Kalamazoo and each was checked to make sure they had reported their proper addresses and other information to local police.
38-warrants were issued for violations, 18 were arrested, 3 are still being sought and 8 others have open investigations.
Violations can result in up to 2 to 4 years in prison, depending on the offense.
Troopers from the Sex Offender Enforcement Unit and from area Posts and U.S. Marshals joined with KDPS officers to do the sweep.
Penn State to hold Sexual Violence Awareness Week events
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and Penn State is kicking it off with a week of events centered around educating the community on the issue and the resources available to address it.
"Sexual violence is a very real issue many Penn Staters and people across the country face whether they are a victim of sexual violence or know someone who has been impacted," said Jennifer Pencek, programming coordinator with the Center for Women Students.
Starting Monday, March 28, there will be a variety of events, from “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” to a fashion show, and more programs are planned for the rest of April.
This year will be Stand For State's first to participate in Sexual Violence Awareness Week, bringing its signature bystander intervention workshop to the schedule of events. Through trainings giving people skills to diffuse or interfere safely in potentially risky or uncomfortable situations, Stand for State aims to prevent sexual misconduct in everyday situations.
The events are sponsored by the University Park Undergraduate Association, the Center for Women Students, and Palmer Museum of Art.
-- Walk A Mile In Her Shoes is the first event, and will take place in front of the HUB-Robeson Center at noon on March 28. This event, which takes the old saying “You can't understand someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes” very literally, is a national event that raises awareness about the causes, effects and remediation to men's sexualized violence against women. It is hosted by the Penn State Men Against Violence and sponsored by the International Men's March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault and Gender Violence. Donations from this event benefit the Centre County Women's Resource Center.
-- Eve Ensler, the Tony Award-winning playwright, performer and activist known for writing “The Vagina Monologues,” is speaking at 6:30 p.m. on March 28 in Alumni Hall in the HUB-Robeson Center. She has created global activism movements V-Day and One Billion Rising.
-- The Palmer Museum of Art is showcasing works created by subjects of trauma in the Vulnerable Art and Trauma Survivorship event. Starting at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 29, Penn State feminist art education researcher Hyunji Kwon will be presenting on trauma and suffering through the artworks created by subjects of trauma and artists working on trauma. The exhibit includes paintings of former Japanese comfort women and works from feminist artists Judy Chicago and Donald Woodman's At Home Project with students at Western Kentucky University depicting domestic and sexual violence at home.
-- The film “Tough Guise 2” will be screened at 8 p.m. on March 29 in Freeman Auditorium in the HUB-Robeson Center. Discussing the social construct of masculinity and societal conditioning to “act like men,” the film looks at how the concept of masculinity contributes to violence in our culture.
-- Stand for State will be presenting a Bystander Intervention workshop from 2:30 to 4 p.m. on March 30 in Room 233 in the HUB-Robeson Center. Workshop participants will learn the three Ds of bystander intervention: direct, distract and delegate.
-- Sisters on the Runway will host its second annual fashion show at 6:30 p.m. on March 30 in Heritage Hall in the HUB-Robeson Center. The nonprofit group is dedicated to preventing domestic and sexual violence and will be raising funds for the Centre County Women's Resource Center through the fashion show, performances by Penn State a capella groups, dance groups, a raffle and food.
-- The documentary “Pursuit of Truth” will be screened on March 31 at 7 p.m. in Waring Commons. Following adult survivors of child sexual abuse on their search for justice, the documentary features a variety of survivors and experts discussing the long legal process for victims to have justice. After the screening, there will be a discussion hosted by the film's directors.
-- Finishing the week will be a gala benefiting the Centre County Women's Resource Center. The gala will split Hintz Alumni Center in half, featuring guest speakers and food on one side and a walk through a survivor's experience with sexual assault on the other side. For gala tickets and details, contact Jennifer Pencek at email@example.com.
Man to be sentenced on 3rd child abuse case
by Becky Metrick
CHAMBERSBURG - A Chambersburg man recently convicted by a Franklin County jury in his third child abuse case is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday.
Christopher Lynn Grooms, 40, was found guilty of misdemeanor child endangerment and simple assault, and one summary citation of harassment, for an Oct. 10, 2014 incident where court documents show he threw a 12-year-old boy to the ground.
The incident occurred in two phases, first with the boy being pushed onto a couch during an argument, then later Grooms finding the boy outside and throwing him onto the concrete, according to court documents.
The boy suffered shoulder pain and red marks were seen by police on on his back and right shoulder area. He also had a headache after the incident, he said.
At the time, police wrote in court documents that Grooms admitted to losing his temper with the boy.
Grooms' prior convictions date back to 1998, with his most recent charge being a domestic violence related conviction in 2009.
In 2005, Grooms received his second child abuse conviction, and a report was filed from Franklin County Children and Youth Services to act as an advocate for the children involved.
On Aug. 16, 2006, Grooms was sentenced to less than a year in jail and was prohibited from having any contact with the victim in the case or any unrelated minor children.
After violating his parole in that sentence in 2009, Grooms was ordered to return to jail, to enter a domestic violence treatment program and was once again prohibited from being around any minor children.
There was a note on the order that should there be proof of a request from the victim that the no contact order be lifted, the request would be granted.
However, documents show Grooms violated his parole once again in 2011 and was ordered to complete nine months in a state prison facility, according to court documents.
Grooms' prohibition of having contact with minor children was still in place at the time.
The most recent conviction does not involve the same people involved in Grooms' first set of domestic violence and child abuse cases.
Grooms is expected to be sentenced at 9 a.m. by Franklin County Judge Angela Krom.
CALM's ‘I Will Not Be Silent' Campaign to Advocate for Child Abuse Prevention
by Jennifer Zacharias
Devastating local headlines over the past several months throughout Santa Barbara County have been tragic reminders that abuse and violence continue to impact children and families of Central Coast communities.
This April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation) invites the public to join their 5th Annual I Will Not Be Silent campaign, a community-wide effort to raise a collective voice against child abuse.
CALM will host several events that are open to the public and invites all members of the community to attend these events and join the effort to build a community of responsibility.
CALM encourages the community to pledge support to their I Will Not Be Silent campaign, created in honor of all survivors and victims of child abuse, and a way to engage the entire community to not be silent in the wake of abuse, but to advocate for those that cannot.
Click here to take the pledge and add your name to the I Will Not Be Silent campaign.
“CALM would like to remind the community that we are an important resource,” said Alana Walczak, CEO of CALM. “There are children in our community who still need our help to heal from their traumatic pasts, and there are parents in our community who still need our support when they feel overwhelmed. CALM will not be silent until every innocent baby, scared child, troubled teen, fearful parent and family in need has a place to turn to for help.”
Unfortunately, child abuse occurs every day, in many forms, including violence, sexual, neglect, and it continues to go unreported. CALM will continue to fight against child abuse for as long as it takes.
CALM invites the public to engage in its efforts and participate in any of the events held throughout April to learn more about the vital prevention work they're doing throughout Santa Barbara County.
Santa Maria Open House & Ribbon Cutting, March 29
In an effort to accommodate their critical expanding work in North Santa Barbara County, CALM has moved to a new, larger office to accommodate their expanding team of child abuse prevention experts in Santa Maria.
CALM will kick-off Child Abuse Prevention Month and officially commemorate their new Santa Maria office with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house Tuesday, March 29, from 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.
There will be a short program at noon with a proclamation presented by Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino immediately followed by the official ribbon cutting.
The community is invited to stop by the office to meet CALM staff, tour the therapy rooms and learn more about CALM's programs and services in the Santa Maria area.
To RSVP for the Santa Maria open house, please contact Sandra Fuhring at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 805.614.9160.
Santa Barbara Open House, April 13
Board Members and staff will lead tours through CALM's offices and therapy rooms, where CALM therapists spend time helping children and families recover from child abuse.
Guests are welcome to stay after for complimentary sips and bites to be served in the beautiful courtyard adjacent to the CALM offices.
To RSVP for the Santa Barbara open house, contact Nicole Ballas at email@example.com or 805.965.2376.
Ladies Get Loud for CALM in Santa Maria, April 28
On Thursday, April 28, CALM will host its third annual Ladies Get Loud event, a fundraiser cocktail party at the Santa Maria Country Club, from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
At this special ladies' night out, the women will be waited on hand-and-foot by “celebrity waiters,” local notable gentlemen that will serve food and drinks throughout the evening.
Tickets for the Ladies Get Loud event are $45 each, and sponsorships are available. Click here ?or call 805.614.9160 for tickets.
'It's not supposed to be this way': Why it's getting more difficult for foster families
by Garrett Therolf
Foster care asks caregivers to perform an almost impossible task: Love the child as your own, but relinquish the youth without delay or protest when social workers say the time has come.
The anguish sometimes associated with such removals came into sharp focus last week when social workers removed a 6-year-old Santa Clarita girl who is part Choctaw, from her longtime foster parents.
Across the nation, newspapers and television broadcasts displayed images of her distressed caregivers saying goodbye on the family's driveway as they were surrounded by hundreds of supporters who protested the government's decision to place the girl with relatives.
The case traveled an unusual path through Los Angeles County's child welfare system, making comparisons to other cases difficult. But the long delays and deep emotion expressed at the final removal carried an unsettling familiarity to a growing number of caregivers and children in the system.
"My heart sank when I heard about it. I know what that feels like," said Ian Lewis, 45, who had to say goodbye this year to a baby he had nursed from the brink of death following child abuse injuries.
The baby was the fourth foster child to be removed from the Miracle Mile home Lewis shares with his wife, a pediatric nurse, and their biological daughter after, he said, social workers led him to believe that each would remain with the family permanently, partly because the children's time with the family had been so long.
Some caregivers avoid the heartbreak by never bonding in the first place. For those who do, relinquishing custody is becoming harder as average stays in foster homes grow longer due to crushing court delays and the often belated discovery that family members exist to take the child in.
Despite landmark state and federal laws intended to reduce the time in temporary foster homes, Los Angeles County foster youth are remaining in limbo with impermanent caregivers for an increasing share of their fleeting childhood, and the social bonds with their foster parents naturally deepen as the years drag on, lawyers, social workers and others who work in the child welfare system say.
Children who entered Los Angles County's foster system in 2007 had a median stay of 13 months in foster care, according to county information collected by UC Berkeley. Those who entered in 2012 — the most recent group studied — had a median stay of 16 months. A quarter of the youth who entered foster care in 2012 spent 29 months or more in foster care.
A portion of the increase results from the law that went into effect in 2012 to extend foster care to age 21, but across all categories, Los Angeles County foster youth spend significantly more time in foster care than the state average.
n an attempt to shorten the time children spend in limbo, Congress approved the Adoption and Safe Families Act, and in 1997 President Clinton signed it into law. It places strict limits on the time given to parents to prove their competence. The goal was to more quickly reunify families or more swiftly find children new permanent homes with extended relatives or adoptive families.
The law shortened the time for hearings meant to decide on a permanent home from 18 to 12 months after a child's removal from their parents, but lawyers say court delays in Los Angeles County regularly extend past that deadline.
The Times filed a public records request to determine how often Los Angeles County courts miss statutory deadlines in child welfare cases, but the presiding judge of Los Angeles County juvenile court, Michael Levanas, declined to provide the information, saying the release would improperly interfere in his personnel decisions and the assignment of judges.
He did not deny, however, that a backlog exists.
"The number of new petitions [to remove children from their parents] filed in dependency court have risen almost 25% from 21,557 in 2010 to 26,457 in 2014 while funding to the court has been drastically cut," Levanas said. "Cases and the law have become far more complex in the last 10 years."
Marcia Robinson Lowry, a veteran litigator who has filed class action lawsuits aimed at reforming foster care systems around the country, and who leads a nonprofit law firm called A Better Childhood, said the pressures faced by child welfare officials are no excuse for the delays experienced by children and families.
"L.A. County has big problems in its foster care system and a real lack of accountability," she said. "There is no question that there has not been a great deal of attentiveness to the consequences for children, and I think it's a violation of the law and constitutional principles."
Citing the adage "justice delayed is justice denied," Leslie Starr Heimov, who leads the court-appointed law firm for foster youth in Los Angeles County, said delays hurt everyone involved — that it wasn't just the Santa Clarita child and foster parents who suffered as the custody battle dragged on for nearly five years.
"Nobody saw it because there weren't television cameras, but it was even more painful for the family that was waiting," Heimov said.
Much of the heartbreak could have been avoided, Heimov said, if members of the girl's Utah family had been identified by social workers as possible permanent caregivers immediately after the girl was removed from her father in early 2011.
"We don't do a very good job identifying family at the front end," she said. "Instead, we start looking for family when it is already too late."
Los Angeles County relies on about 80 retired social workers to perform family searches for the county's 16,000 foster youth, and the work is tedious and time consuming because the legal system gives preference to anyone who is related to the child through blood, marriage or affinity – including close family friends and neighbors.
In the case of the Santa Clarita girl, the eventual Utah caregivers emerged around the time the girl went to live with foster parents Rusty and Summer Page in December 2011, according to court documents.
The uncle of one of the Utah caregivers is the stepgrandfather of the girl and had not been identified by Los Angeles County social workers as a potential permanent placement for her, court records said.
In 2012, the girl's father, who has an extensive criminal background, discontinued his efforts to regain custody of the girl, and social workers then initiated work to transfer the girl to the Utah family, court records show.
From there, the case took an uncommon course because the girl's father is an enrolled member of the Choctaw tribe and the 6-year-old is 1/64th Choctaw. This qualified her case for supervision by the tribe's child welfare unit, which identified the Utah family as its preferred placement for the girl, partly because a sibling also lives in the home and another sibling lives down the street.
The girl's paternal family, according to a Native American news organization's article based on interviews with relatives, had relocated to Los Angeles after the Indian Relocation Act of 1956 in which Indian families were encouraged to integrate in mainstream culture. After the migration, Los Angeles gained the second-largest urban Indian population in the United States after New York City.
To fight the girl's transfer to her family in Utah, the Pages enlisted the help of Washington, D.C.-based attorney Lori Alvino McGill, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In her legal practice, Alvino McGill has targeted the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act, and, in 2013, she helped win a Supreme Court decision in the "Baby Veronica" case limiting the reach of the act.
Meanwhile, the Santa Clarita girl remained with the Pages as appeals dragged on and as the California appeals court identified mistakes by the lower courts.
Philip Browning, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, said he agreed with Heimov that the heartache for everyone could have been avoided if his department had the resources to search for family from the onset.
"We need to have more staff or a better way to find potential family caregivers from the very start," Browning said
Deborah Dentler, the attorney for Lewis, the foster parent who has had four children reunited with family after he and his wife had formed bonds, said children's fragile emotional connections will continue to be collateral damage until the family-finding unit is improved.
"The routine time that my phone rings with some desperate foster parent is many months into the placement when they felt like no relative is going to show up now because they were trained in foster parent classes that family members would be found early," she said.
By the time the fourth child was removed from Lewis unexpectedly, the family had started to believe the pain they felt was simply part of the process, Dentler said.
"It took me to explain to them that this is outrageous," Dentler said. "It's not supposed to be this way."
Expert in child development to speak at college
by J.L. Sousa
Dr. Bonny Forrest, an expert in child development, will give a presentation, “What Are Our Kids Worth?”on April 6 at Napa Valley College's Performing Arts Center.
Presented by the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Napa County, the “conversation” with the community will begin with a wine reception at 5 p.m., followed by a forum from 6 to 7. The event is free.
A frequent guest on CNN, NBC and FOX networks, Dr. Forrest has been an advocate for children for more than 20 years. An attorney and child psychologist, she says countering childhood adversity – in the form of violence at home, hunger or mental health issues – pays dividends for the greater community and improves kids' lives.
She has been a researcher and clinician in academic and medical settings such as the Yale Child Study Center, has directed clinics serving low-income populations, and has conducted a private practice focusing on the assessment of cognitive and other developmental issues in children. She leads Project SKIP: Screening Kids for Intervention and Prevention, for social-emotional, cognitive and developmental issues.
She will address the critical issue of adverse childhood experiences and their long-term impact on brain development, and mental and physical health issues. She will also address the benefits of educating parents about typical child development and age-appropriate behaviors with the goal of decreasing the risk of childhood abuse and neglect.
The event is open to the public, but guests are being asked to RSVP at drbonnyforrestnapa.eventbrite.com
When adults use meth, kids caught in middle
by Glenn Augustine
“We're number 1!” Words typically associated with a victory celebration carry a more dubious distinction in Indiana.
According to the Kids Count in Indiana Data Book, in 2014 Indiana logged the highest number of methamphetamine incidents in the nation. That means police found an active meth lab or dumpsite or seized equipment or ingredients used to make meth. Caught in the middle are more than 350 children who were removed from their homes because of these conditions. In Muncie recently, a 16-year-old girl reportedly suffered third degree burns from a meth mishap in her home.
“Quite often, we're uprooting those young people with just the clothes on their back because when we find meth labs, we find the associated toxic environment that goes with the making of meth,” said Sgt. Tony Slocum of the Indiana State Police.
A recent survey found 13.4 percent of Hoosier children have lived with someone who had a drug or alcohol problem, worse than the national rate of 10.7 percent. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a parent with a substance use disorder is three times more likely to physically or sexually abuse their child.
That reality has been playing out across Indiana's cities, suburbs and rural towns. Department of Child Services (DCS) spokesman James Wide says there's been a “70 percent increase in the number of our cases that have drug involvement.”
For example, in rural Scott County, police, public health officials and community and faith leaders have battled a highly publicized prescription drug and heroin abuse problem. The Kids Count Data Book shows that from 2011 to 2014, Scott County's child abuse and neglect rate doubled, the number of confirmed child neglect cases rose 116 percent, and child physical abuse cases increased 142 percent.
Michelle Korty of Prevent Child Abuse Scott County says “90-95 percent or higher” of abuse and neglect cases in Scott County are tied to drugs.
Korty says some parents are spending so much time and energy chasing their next high that “very little of their time, energy, and resources is left to focus on providing the safe, nurturing environment and for meeting the basic needs of their children.”
Not only are child welfare workers seeing more cases in the short term, but the children in these cases also may suffer long-term issues.
“Children really need parents that are physically and emotionally engaged with them,” said John Wernert, a licensed psychiatrist and secretary of Indiana's Family and Social Services Administration. “What really happens is this level of emotional detachment from the parents leads to a lot of downstream problems, behaviorally and psychiatrically, for these children.”
The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress reports children who are exposed to parents who abuse drugs can suffer long-term physical and psychological damage. These children often blame themselves for their parents' problems. They feel rejection and resentment when left alone for long periods of time, and they are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and struggle to form adult relationships.
“We have got to change the conversation,” said Republican State Senator Jim Merritt of Indianapolis, who has introduced four bills in this year's legislative session related to the enforcement of drug laws and treatment for drug addiction. “We've always thought of it as a character issue. I always say drug addiction is a disease not a character flaw.”
Wernert agrees and says the state is doing more to help addicts manage their disease.
“We understand these are chronically relapsing diseases and it may take someone 8, 10, 12 times to go through detoxification before they actually make a commitment to sobriety and staying clean,” Wernert said.
In the meantime, some of Indiana's children will continue to suffer. State law says that all Hoosiers are mandatory reporters—meaning if you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you are required to file a report. You can do so by calling the state's toll-free child abuse hotline number, 1-800-800-5556.
Taking that step may be one way to ensure that the health, safety, and future of some of our state's most vulnerable children will become priority number one.
Glenn Augustine is the Interim CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed at @augustine_glenn.
Native American girls fall through the cracks
by Teresa Wiltz
They're poor, more likely to be sexually abused, end up in foster care, drop out of school, become homeless. They're often the prey of traffickers.
American Indian and Native Alaskan girls are a small fraction of the population, but they are over-represented in the juvenile justice system, whether they are living on or off the reservation.
Native American girls have the highest rates of incarceration of any ethnic group. They are nearly five times more likely than white girls to be confined to a juvenile detention facility, according to the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
There are programs on tribal lands that work with Native girls who have been caught up in the system, using federal funds. But American Indian girls often find themselves without state or local social service programs tailored to their cultural backgrounds and experiences, which are distinct from other girls living in or on the edge of poverty.
“As Indian people, our greatest hope is our children. And our kids are really at risk,” said Carla Fredericks, director of the American Indian Law Clinic at the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder. “The only way we can help these girls is if we do it cooperatively, with the states, federal government and within our own communities.”
A rare example of that kind of collaboration is the Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center in Minneapolis. In Minnesota, American Indian girls have 18 times the incarceration rates of white girls. They are often disconnected from family who themselves may be battling addiction and mental health problems. Native girls who are extremely poor and lack stable housing often get involved with gangs and drug and sex trafficking, said Patina Park, the center's executive director.
The center's programming seeks to combat those trends using a combination of state, federal and private funds to create culturally specific programs, including case management, support groups, housing and mental health services for American Indian women and girls and their families. The center also has youth-specific programming for girls ages 11 to 21, many of whom have been sexually assaulted, involved in sex trafficking or are at high risk.
The idea is to keep girls in school, off drugs and alcohol and focused on a future with a career, rather than turning to crime to make ends meet. The program, which is run with the help of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, provides Native girls who've been cut off from their cultural heritage with a sense of community and purpose, Park said. Less than a quarter of American Indians live on tribal lands.
Since 1977, the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society on the Rosebud Reservation has been working with American Indian women and girls to address issues of sexual assault and domestic violence. Many Native juvenile girls are also victims of sexual abuse and family violence. But there are no such programs at the state and local level. Targeted programming coupled with more federal and state funding could make a huge difference in other cities and states with significant American Indian populations, Park said. “You could really change the disparity within the Native community fairly quickly and dramatically.”
Few Programs for Girls
Juvenile justice advocates who work with delinquent girls say they face challenges that boys don't, and there aren't enough programs that meet their needs. For example, girls are more than four times as likely as boys to have been physically or sexually abused, according to the National Women's Law Center.
Delinquent girls are more likely than other girls to end up in the adult criminal justice system and are more likely to be dependent on social safety nets, according to Nona Jones of the PACE Center for Girls in Florida. They also are more likely to have children who end up in child protective services and the juvenile justice system. Girls who spend time in juvenile detention facilities are nearly five times more likely to diebefore age 29.
American Indian girls who collide with the juvenile justice system are particularly vulnerable, say legal advocates such as Terri Yellowhammer, an attorney with the Indian Child Welfare Law Center in Minneapolis who represents Native youth. Native girls are 40 percent more likely than white girls to be referred to a juvenile court for delinquency; 50 percent more likely to be detained; and 20 percent more likely to be adjudicated, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice. They are also more likely to face harsher sentences for the same offenses, said Joshua Rovner of The Sentencing Project.
American Indian girls in Wyoming have the highest rates of commitment to juvenile facilities (1,302 per 100,000), followed by Iowa (860), South Dakota (656), Oregon (568) and North Dakota (535).
In general, juvenile offender boys greatly outnumber girls, and that is true for Nativeboys, as well. But the disparities between American Indian boys and white boys aren't quite as great.
Many Native girls are geographically segregated and isolated, particularly if they're living in urban areas away from their communities, advocates say. They're more likely than white girls to be arrested for crimes that are only crimes because they are underage, so-called status offenses, such as drinking alcohol or running away from home. They're also more likely to be arrested for family disputes, Yellowhammer said.
And once they are arrested, they get tangled in a web of state, local and tribal jurisdictions, said Erik Stegman, executive director of the Native American Youth Center at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. Law enforcement in Indian Country is uneven and exceedingly complicated, which hurts Native girls who run into trouble, he said.
According to the Tribal Court Clearinghouse, a database project of the Tribal Law and Policy Institute, tribal communities don't have adequate funding to train law enforcement personnel and fund social service programs to combat juvenile delinquency.
Another complicating factor: Some tribes prosecute crimes and others do not, depending on tribal resources and capacity. As a result, Native girls often are prosecuted in the federal system, which doesn't have a juvenile division. And if girls are arrested in the state system, the state usually doesn't have to notify their tribes.
“We don't have a system that's nuanced enough to fit Native girls,” Yellowhammer said.
Stegman of the Native American Youth Center agreed: “When a young girl is traumatized, what she needs is a variety of interventions at the community level. Unfortunately, children end up bearing the brunt of a very haphazard criminal justice system.”
A Legacy of Trauma
American Indians today face a legacy of inherited trauma, legal experts say. Beginning in the second half of the 19th century, Indian children were shipped off toboarding schools far from their tribal communities and culture, in accordance with federal assimilation policies. Families were fractured.
The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 sought to right that situation, making it a priority to find homes for displaced American Indian children within their own tribe. In theory, the law is supposed to provide rights for families and tribes. But in practice, the law creates an extra layer of bureaucracy; with no one agency taking ownership of a child's case, leaving children to languish in the system, said Sue Mangold, executive director of the Juvenile Law Center.
Children that grew up without parents become parents who don't know how to raise children, juvenile advocates say.
In 2013, the American Indian and Alaska Native population was 5.2 million, about 2 percent of the U.S. population. The median age was 31, compared to 38 in the general population. And 29 percent of American Indians-Alaska Natives were poor, a higher rate than any other ethnic group.
American Indians ages 16 to 24 have the highest dropout rates in the country, more than twice the national rate, 15 to 7 percent. One in five Native girls become mothers before age 20.
American Indian women have the highest rates of rape in the country, more than twice that of other ethnic groups. The vast majority of the perpetrators are non-Indian men, according to Amnesty International.
All these factors create a climate where juvenile delinquency can flourish, child advocates say.
Violent crime rates among Native Americans are twice that of the country as a whole, and tribal communities experience high rates of domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, alcohol addiction and gang involvement, according to the Tribal Court Clearinghouse. Native children are over- represented in child protective services. And while the violent juvenile crime rate for U.S. teens has declined, it has increased for teens in tribal communities, according to the Clearinghouse.
A 2013 report by the Indian Law and Order Commission found that American Indian children suffer post-traumatic stress disorder at the same rates of veterans returning from combat duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“It's like these kids are living in a war zone,” said Sarah Deer, co-director of the Indian Law Program at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, and a 2014 winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, also known as a genius grant.
Working with Native girls who've ended up in the juvenile justice system in Minnesota has its challenges. Particularly girls who were lured into prostitution and peddling drugs by older men whom they believe to be their boyfriends and with whom they have developed intense, unhealthy emotional connections. Breaking those bonds is difficult, Park said.
Poverty shapes their lives in ways that makes it hard for them to see a way out, she said. To make ends meet, they often rely on “working long weekends,” heading out to the oil fields along the North Dakota border, “man camps” where men have cash and an appetite for paid sex. It's tough trying to break them out of the cycle. “Sex is a tool for surviving,” she said.
But at the Indian Women's Resource Center, they try. Young girls receive mental health services and education counseling. And elder women teach them about their cultural roots, learning about Indian medicine, ceremony, praying the traditional way and honoring their ancestors.
As Park sees it, these girls connect with the “blood memory” of their ancient heritage and heal from their past traumas.
“It gives them hope,” Park said. “It helps them see they can be more than their parents, who are struggling with drug addiction and homelessness. It's hard to see yourself as more when you don't see that around you.”
Missoula Police Department hosts regional training on sex-trafficking investigations
by DILLON KATO
“When people think of modern-day slaves, they think of things that happen in other countries,” Detective Guy Baker said. “This is a crime that's occurring more than people think, and it's happening right here.”
On Thursday, the Missoula Police Department and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Montana completed a two-day training conference focusing on investigating and prosecuting sex-trafficking crimes.
Baker, of the Missoula Police Department, was one of the instructors for the conference, which brought together more than 200 law enforcement officers and prosecutors from across the state, as well as from Idaho, Utah and Washington.
“They are being taught indicators, an overview of human trafficking, contact with victims and working undercover,” Baker said.
In addition to his role with the police department, Baker also is a task force officer with the FBI's Montana Regional Violent Crime Task Force. In the past year, Baker said he worked on about half a dozen sex-trafficking cases with the task force, most in Missoula.
Most human trafficking that happens in the state and surrounding area is focused along interstate highways, Baker said, with Interstate 90 and Interstate 15 being hotbeds in the area.
“They will be coming from Washington, passing through the state and stopping in Missoula, Butte, Bozeman and Billings and on to the Bakken,” he said.
In his role as a task force officer, Baker regularly travels around Montana working with other law enforcement agencies. In January, he visited Native American reservations along the Hi-Line, providing the same type of training as at this week's conference at the University of Montana.
“It gives them a foundation to be able to go back to their communities and combat the problem,” Baker said.
Most victims of sex trafficking in the United States are citizens, Baker said. One particularly susceptible group is the roughly 100,000 runaways in the U.S. every year.
“Once they get out, they realize they can't provide their food, shelter and security, and that leaves them vulnerable to coercion and manipulation,” he said.
Once a victim is involved in an illicit industry, Baker said they often develop an attachment to their trafficker called “trauma bonding.”
“When people say, ‘Why don't they just call 911?' they don't understand fully. It's the same reason why domestic abuse victims stay in relationships,” he said.
Victims of sex trafficking also are groomed not to trust law enforcement and told that if something happens their trafficker, nobody else will look after them.
In addition to teaching officers to better recognize warning signs and other indicators, Baker said agencies also take proactive measures as well.
Showing one of about a dozen websites commonly used by sex traffickers on his phone, Baker said law enforcement monitors posts on them, specifically looking for potentially underage victims of sex trafficking.
“They will be advertising for something like time and massages, but 90 percent of it is prostitution,” he said.
Faith community steps up to fight child sex trafficking
by LINDSAY LIEPMAN
The fight against sex trafficking in Austin gets huge support. A record-setting number of Central Texans came together to observe Good Friday during this Easter Weekend at the Frank Erwin Center. Money raised will help rescue children in Austin from sex trafficking.
"I think this is so cool for every kind of believer of every age, color, socioeconomic group to come together and be thankful," said Robin Purcell of Leander.
In a crowd of 14,000 people, someone may be impacted by sex trafficking.
"It's a huge problem here," said Purcell.
That's why the faith community is standing up.
"I want people to get passionate about this fight because there is nothing more evil than our children being caught up in sex slavery," said Kevin Malone, former GM of the LA Dodgers and Executive Director of Protect the P.A.T.H.
300 Austin-area churches packed the seats at the Frank Erwin Center and watched a video and heard speakers who fight against human trafficking everyday.
"A lot of times we'll see the same victim on more than one case. And it means the same vulnerabilities still exist in their lives," said Sgt. Bob Miljenovich of the Austin Police Department's Human Trafficking & Vice Unit.
An offering is expected to raise up to $70,000 for anti-trafficking organizations including The Refuge. A planned facility in Bastrop County that will house girls who were victims of sex trafficking.
"This will allow us to open up probably this year in December which is our goal," said Brooke Crowder of The Refuge.
The victims will receive tailored therapy and treatment. Austin Police hope it will help shut down the cycle of sex trafficking.
"Battling human traffic is not a hopeless endeavor. It's not this overwhelming problem that we can never have an impact on. That as a community...we can have a solid impact on it," said Miljenovich.
Advocates push sex trafficking bill, some sex workers oppose
by Cathy Bussewitz
HONOLULU (AP) — Jeanne Kapela says her cousin was 14 years old when she ran away from an abusive home and ended up forced into sex work in Waikiki. Kapela, who holds the title Miss Hawaii 2015, spoke at the Legislature in support of a bill to ban sex trafficking on Tuesday.
“Two years ago I sat in my kitchen and watched my cousin cry and cry and cry as she told me her story about the four years she spent as a child sex slave on the streets of Waikiki, after running away from home because her stepfather was sexually abusing her,” Kapela told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I will never forget the day she told me her story. I will never forget the fear or shame in her eyes.”
Hawaii is the only state in the nation without a law that specifically bans sex trafficking. Human trafficking is banned, but currently, people who are paid for sex work can be prosecuted under the law, regardless of how they got into the sex trade.
The bill would classify sex trafficking as a violent crime and make it a class A felony. In the most recent version of the bill, a person commits sex trafficking if they promote or profit from sex work performed by anyone under 18 years old. Compelling a person into sex work by force, threat, fraud or intimidation also would be considered sex trafficking under the bill.
Doug Upp, who told lawmakers that he's an occasional sex worker, testified against the bill, saying there should be a greater distinction between sex workers who engage in sex acts for money willingly and those forced into the trade.
“I'm treated well and have gotten to travel,” Upp said. “Sex work suits me. I had one client who flew me to Europe at least three summers in a row to stay in luxury hotels.”
But advocates told stories about victims whose fates were far worse, and they said banning sex trafficking in Hawaii is long overdue.
Kathryn Xian, executive director for the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, said she's currently working with five victims of sex trafficking who are under 17 years old.
Kris Coffield, executive director of Imua Alliance, described working with a 17-year-old victim who had been kept on a leash and fed dog food by a pimp.
“The problem of sex trafficking in Hawaii in 2016 looks the same as it did in 2015,” Coffield said.
The Senate Committee on Judiciary delayed making a decision on the bill until March 30.
Body of missing Indiana toddler found, suspect arrested
by Fox News
Indiana State Police said late Thursday that investigators had found the body of a missing 1-year-old girl and a suspect was in custody in her death.
Spokesman Curt Durnil said a body matching the description of Shaylyn Ammerman was found near the White River outside Gosport. The child's mother, Jessica Stewart, confirmed to Fox59 that the body was that of her daughter.
An autopsy was scheduled for Friday.
The girl was reported missing Wednesday morning. Shaylyn's father and grandmother, Justin Ammerman and Tamera Morgan, were the last people known to have seen the child around midnight Tuesday. She'd been staying at the father's home about 50 miles southwest of Indianapolis under a joint custody arrangement with the girl's mother.
"I put her to bed around 10:00 or 10:30 and I checked on her at midnight before I went to bed," Morgan said. "She was laying in her bed sound asleep and then we went to bed and we woke up and she was gone."
Kyle Parker, 22, was taken into custody in connection with the case. The Indianapolis Star reported that he faced preliminary charges of obstruction of justice, unlawful disposal of a dead body, and failure to report a dead body.
Justin Ammerman said he was "just shocked that somebody would do this to me," and believes someone took his daughter from her crib in the middle of the night.
"Somebody's got a big grudge over us," he said.
Shaylyn's disappearance prompted a search involving more than 100 people, including including a search-and-rescue team, FBI agents, Indiana Department of Natural Resources staff and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
New Film About Sex Trafficking Celebrates the Resilience of Children
Filmmakers hope “Sold,” based on the bestselling young adult novel, will inspire empathy and action among young viewers.
by Jasleena Grewal
A few years ago, two young girls were on a bus to Kathmandu, having heard about a job there. They heard a story on the radio about a young girl named Lakshmi who'd been lured from Nepal to India thinking she'd get a job, only to be trafficked into a brothel called the Happiness House.
Lakshmi was not a real girl, but a character from a novel called Sold, which was being read on the radio as part of a trafficking prevention program by the Didi project, a nonprofit dedicated to providing educational opportunities for women and children in Nepal.
Lakshmi's story had an impact: The girls on the bus recognized they were in the same situation.
“Because they heard the story on the radio, they realized they were being trafficked,” said Jane Charles, co-founder of the nonprofit Stolen Youth, which raises funds to support the rescue and recovery of sexually exploited youth. “They had the bus driver stop and got off and went home.”
Charles is the producer of the film, Sold, being released in the United States on April 1, based on the young adult novel by Patricia McCormick. The film follows the story of Lakshmi, a 13-year-old Nepali girl who is lured from her rural village by a woman who says she has a job for the girl in Kolkata. The woman turns out to be a pimp.
Throughout Lakshmi's journey, adults promise she'll be able to send money back to her family and provide them with the tin roof she dreams of. Instead, she's beaten until her feet bleed. She eats and sleeps on a concrete floor. And the audience witnesses her first pimp-facilitated rape up close.
Despite constant abuse, Lakshmi is a relatable teenager with complex emotions. She is naive enough to fall in love with a cunning customer, but clever enough to hide her earnings inside a secret pocket in her blanket. She is angry about the bullying from other girls in the brothel, but she also forms friendships with them. In Lakshmi's experience, human resiliency rides alongside betrayal, trickery, and violence. And while the story is heart-wrenching, it shows the power of young people to stand up for themselves.
“Heroes lift us up. They give us courage. They nourish us as humans,” said Sold's director, Oscar-winner Jeffrey Brown. “For me, this is definitely a film about human trafficking. But it's also a film about transcending your fear and not being a prisoner to your fear.”
When McCormick wrote the novel on which the film is based, she chose to write for young adults because she believes kids care about understanding what is happening to their peers, like Lakshmi, around the world.
“They have a reputation for being self-centered, which I really disagree with,” she said, citing young people's “enormous” capacity for empathy and activism. McCormick said young readers have tremendous discernment and don't want to be protected from life's realities. “I think you gain power over the sadness of a story like this by being able to do something about it,” says McCormick.
When the young actress Niyar Saika first read Sold, she had never heard of human trafficking. Saika, who plays Lakshmi in the movie, came across the book before she had even thought about auditioning for the movie. “I didn't even know a thing like [sex trafficking] existed,” she said. “And believe me, it scared me so much. It was horrifying.”
Saika, now 16, comes from an area of rural India where many girls her age become targets of traffickers. She describes her role as “the most difficult thing I've ever done.” Our conversation, over e-mail, is peppered with words like, “difficult,” “confusing,” and “horrifying.”
“I had never been drawn into a book the way Sold drew me in,” she said. Especially hard was doing justice to Lakshmi's experiences. “There were scenes when they pretended to slap me or beat my feet in the film and I didn't know how to cry out in that agony and pain,” she said. Some nights, after especially grueling shoots, she'd come back to her hotel room and take a two-hour bath to soak the experience away. “I couldn't even believe that girls were being used to this extent,” she said.
The International Labor Organization estimates that, worldwide, of the approximately 21 million people trafficked into forced labor—including sexual labor, which accounts for more than 20 percent of cases—more than a quarter of the victims are children.
By and large, trafficked youth face coercion and abuse similar to what Lakshmi experiences. Natural disasters, like the earthquake in Nepal that killed more than 8,000 people in 2015 and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, leave young people more vulnerable than ever. Child Reach International, one of the film's partner organizations, estimates that 20,000 children are trafficked out of Nepal each year—often to India. The organization is also rebuilding schools in Nepal after the earthquake, which destroyed more than 5,000 schools.
Ruchira Gupta is the founder of Apne Aap, an Indian organization dedicated to ending sex trafficking through legal support, prosecution of traffickers, rights-based education, and vocational training.
Gupta has been working with trafficking survivors in Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, and the state of Bihar for 15 years. Gupta said that, unlike with Lakshmi, who (spoiler alert) runs away from the brothel with the help of an American posing as a customer (David Arquette), most outreach is done by Indian social workers.
“I have American celebrities on my board, like Gloria Steinem and Ashley Judd,” says Gupta, “but the people who go into the brothels here and rescue the girls are Indian.” When Apne Aap helps remove girls like Lakshmi from exploitation, they often must escort them through neighborhoods surveilled by organized crime.
Saika hopes Lakshmi's story will also make an impact among students in countries like the United States, where the film is being adapted for schools.
“It definitely changed the way I see the world,” she said. “The fact that she never broke down, and struggled all the time, inspired me a lot.”
Charles said that, in addition to developing a short version of the film for school-age audiences, the filmmakers and partner organizations are developing curricula that encourage students to speak out against sexual exploitation. They are modeling this work on a curriculum developed by the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), which is designed to educate young men about the potential harm of prostitution and enlist them as allies in opposing violence against women and girls. The program has reached more than 2,300 students since the curriculum launched in 2010.
The subject matter is undoubtedly difficult—Saika herself initially did not want to take on the “scary and difficult” role, she says. Eventually, though, she decided to take it on as a “challenge, and do it for all the girls who go through this.”
“Any kind of difficult experience we have can either shut you down or it can open you up and make you stronger and make you more empathetic and more compassionate,” Brown, the director, said. “[It can make you] more committed to love, which lifts us all up and connects us. that's at the core of the film.”
Sold opens in theaters nationwide April 1.
GJPD sees rise in child sex crime, child abuse
by Carly Moore
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. -- An annual crime report released by the Grand Junction Police Department shows a 45-percent increase in child abuse and child sexual assault cases.
"That's the big question, that's the question we all want to answer is what is driving these increases in child abuse? Not just the number of incidents but the severity of those incidents and even the fatalities. We are really trying to grapple with that and what's causing this we need to stop it," said CASA Executive Director, Janet Rowland.
There are resources available for anyone with concerns of child abuse.
"I think the biggest thing that community can do, is report abuse. Report, report, report. Some people are afraid DHS won't do anything, report anyway. Some people are afraid that maybe they don't understand the situation and abuse isn't really happening, report it anyway," Rowland said.
Reporting can also mean preventing future e abuse. The Colorado Department of Human Services has started a state-wide campaign to fight child abuse and neglect.
Potter County at high risk for child abuse, neglect
by Aaron Davis
In 2014, 33 Texas counties were identified as at high risk for child abuse or neglect, and Potter County ranked as the worst.
On Thursday, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services representatives met at the Amarillo National Bank building, talking with community leaders, service providers and others interested in the well being of children to help develop a five-year plan to reduce child abuse locally and across the state.
In Potter County, 125 children were removed from their homes in 2015, according to the department, which ranks counties based on factors of family violence, poverty, teen pregnancy, substance abuse and child abuse fatalities.
Among 35,308 children in Potter County in 2015, 2,407 children were alleged to be victims in 1,376 completed Child Protective Services abuse or neglect cases.
Of those, 647 children were confirmed to have been abused or neglected.
In 2013, similar abuse statistics in Potter County prompted funding and support from the department's Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support, or HOPES, program, which funds organizations that provide child abuse prevention services for familes with children from infants to 5 years old.
Since then, the number of alleged victims has risen from 2,360 in 2013, despite a reduction of 300 in the total child population.
However, the program has proved successful for families who received HOPES funding, said Sasha Rasco, the department's assistant commissioner of the Prevention and Early Intervention division.
“We can measure whether they stay out of the Child Protective Services system and also measure the protective factors in the family, like how they care for their children and how attached they are,” she said.
One question raised at Thursday's meeting was how best state and local agencies could invest their resources. Rasco said bringing about cultural change is key in addressing child care.
“We have developed an enormous culture of care and will never have enough money at the state (level), but we can change the culture that parents do need help getting started,” Rasco said. “There is a lot of support that is needed, and if we could change that culture, that it's worth it to figure out how to discipline kids appropriately, then it becomes self-rewarding to learn.”
Breakout: Potter County rankings (see original article for stats)
Risk of family violence
Risk of substance abuse
Ranked risk of teen pregnancy
Risk of child abuse fatality across past five years
Risk of child poverty
Average risk ranking
Final ranking of prevention need within 33 high-risk counties
Source: Department of Family and Protective Services
Child Advocacy Center sets child abuse prevention training
by The Buffalo News
NIAGARA FALLS – A training program in preventing and recognizing child abuse is being offered across Niagara County in April by the Child Advocacy Center of Niagara.
The program, called Stewards of Children, is free and is being offered from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 2 to 4:30 p.m. in the Lockport Public Library, 23 East Ave.; from 2:30 to 5 and 5:30 to 8 p.m. April 12 in the Niagara Falls Public Library, 1425 Main St.; and from 2:30 to 5 and 5:30 to 8 p.m. April 20 in the DeGraff Community Room, 139 Division St., North Tonawanda.
The training will be led by Jacqueline Pritchard, education and outreach coordinator of the Child Advocacy Center of Niagara, a service of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, with the support of the Niagara Area Foundation.
Sessions are open to anyone interested in protecting children from sexual abuse and may be of particular interest to youth serving organizations, parents, educators, childcare providers and faith centers.
Advance registration is required, either through the Classes & Events page at nfmmc.org, or by calling the Child Advocacy Center of Niagara at 285-0045.
Child abuse cases record high in Japan
According to figures provided by the Japanese police, 37,020 minors aged under 18 were sent to child welfare while 905 children fell victims of child pornography
Child abuse cases and child porn victims reached record high figures in 2015 in Japan, according to figures provided by the Japanese police.
Japan Today and Japan Times reported that according to the figures, provided by the National Police Agency, in 2015, 37,020 minors aged under 18 were sent to child welfare while 905 children fell victims of child pornography.
Compared with 2014, there was a huge increase at reported child pornography cases. Police registered 746 more cases in 2015 compared with the previous year. Over child abuse, there was a 28 percent increase at the reported cases compared with 2014.
According to the National Police Agency, most of the child pornography victims were girls, with about 40 percent having been tricked or forced into photographing themselves naked. Moreover, the majority of the victims were either junior high school or high school students, but the youngest victim was an 8-month-old boy who was photographed by a male babysitter.
According to Japan Times, a police official said that the increases are due to “heightened awareness about child abuse,” and as a result more Japanese citizens go to the police to report suspected child abuse cases.
In 2013, the US Department of State's human-rights report reported that Japan is known as an “international hub for the production and trafficking of child pornography.” Due to the internal and external criticism over its loose regulations on the fight against child pornography and children abuse, Japan began punishing the production of child pornography through the use of spy cameras in July 2014 and the possession of child pornography for the purpose of satisfying sexual curiosity in July 2015.
Turkish gov't, opposition join forces for probing child abuse
by The Daily Sabah
As a heated debate started in Turkey over a more effective approach to child abuse after the arrest of a teacher accused of sexually abusing 45 boys in central Anatolia, the ruling party and three opposition parties agreed to launch a probe into abuse cases.
After a brief delay on technicalities, representatives of the parties at the parliament agreed to launch a parliamentary inquiry into cases.
Deputies from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), together with deputies from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) signed a declaration for a joint motion on the case. Naci Bostani, acting chairman for the ruling AK Partym said they would start deliberations on the foundation of an inquiry committee.
AK Party Group Deputy Chairman Bülent Turan spearheaded the motion together with several other deputies, which said that the child abuse problem was "an issue whose solution cannot be delayed or neglected in any way, and that children should be protected beyond any political or ideological debate." They said in the motion that the lack of a total solution to prevent maltreatment of children, despite reforms and improvements, worried them.
The motion called for a probe to the effects of efforts to prevent child abuse, and to investigate any case of child abuse, as well as working on additional measures on the issue and developing new solutions to the problem.The motion referred to legal amendments to improve children's rights, and noted that Turkey was party to multiple international conventions for the protection of children, and had pursued an integrated policy on the issue since 2011. "Despite all measures, it is worrying that maltreatment of children was not prevented entirely. Maltreatment of children in any way - be it sexual abuse or a simple case of negligence - is a problem, and child abuse is a problem on a global scale," the motion said, noting that it was duty of the state and families to help children live healthy and safe lives.
The move comes after revelation that M.B., a teacher in the central Turkish province of Karaman, was arrested for 45 male students at schools he worked at. M.B. faces multiple life se n tences for abuses which allegedly took place over the past two years.
The string of abuses were fodder for a defamation campaign against Muslims in the country because M.B. volunteered briefly for a prominent nongovernmental organization, known for offering scholarships and classes in Islamic theology, as well as accommodation for students for more than three decades. Both the foundation and the government which champions Islamic values were subject to a campaign laced with Islamophobia on social media. Ensar Foundation has pledged to take legal action against the suspect and bashed the defamation campaign.
Ensar Foundation has denied any link with the teacher besides his brief stint as volunteer in 2013, one year before the first instance of sexual abuse by M.B. took place according to prosecutors. The foundation's officials also said they would be actively involved in the lawsuit against the suspect and would "appeal for the heaviest sentence for the perpetrator if found guilty."
Child sexual abuse : Stopping the silence
Mother of abused sons feels led to help others deal with child sexual abuse
by Stephen Lee
A Gettysburg mother of sex abuse survivors is working to help other parents deal with such horror and to try to keep other children from being sexually abused.
Mary Beth Holzwarth has linked up with local, statewide and national groups and worked with the two-year effort to get “Jolene's Law,” to provide South Dakota with research and ideas on how to address it.
It happened to her two sons more than six years ago but in its residual effects even on her, Holzwarth illustrates one of the myriad ways such crimes affect so many people, as well as the child victims.
“I stay home on my birthday,” she said with a wry grin this week at the Capital Journal. “It was our anniversary, in fact, yesterday and we didn't go out,” she said of her marriage to Cody, a rancher.
“We don't do date nights much anymore. I can't stand to leave my kids alone.”
It was on her birthday in 2009 when she and her husband of about a year, left her sons, who were 5 and 8, with Cody's sister and brother-in-law while they went out for dinner.
Two days later, her younger son told her that his uncle, Justin Bridgins, had touched his genitals.
Holzwarth says she knew little about child sexual abuse and never dreamed it would happen in the small town among family.
But, with police officers in her family in Detroit and her own interest in law enforcement, Holzwarth knew this one things: call the cops.
Instead of disbelieving or diminishing her son's story, or trying to ignore behavior within an extended family to protect feelings, Holzwarth called the local police officer, knowing that was the way to go.
She did not call her sister-in-law first, which might often be a typical response.
As the case progressed, she and Cody learned that her older son also had been sexually abused by Bridgins, who admitted to most of the allegations and in a plea deal, was sentenced to two 10 years terms in prison to be served consecutively.
“He will be eligible for parole when my oldest turns 18,” Holzwarth said.
Since 2009, she and Cody have had two sons and the four boys now are ages 15, 11, 5 and 1.
She said Cody has been “amazing,” supporting her and the boys even as the crime created a split of sorts in his own family and with his own sister.
Bridgins' wife remains married to him and has moved to Sioux Falls.
“She didn't think we handled it the right way,” Holzwarth says. “So there's some tension.”
The fact that Bridgins admitted his guilt – except for some key details about raping one of her sons – made the already horrible situation easier in that her sons didn't have to testify in court.
Three other boys also came forward with accounts of Bridgin abusing them.
The whole experience could have devastated her and her family but Holzwarth is intent on helping others deal with child sexual abuse which is far more common that many think, she said.
One out of every four females and one out of every six males report being sexually abused, she said, citing figures used widely among experts.
That makes Holzwarth want to speak out, online and in person, she told the Capital Journal this week in an interview.
“I couldn't believe how many parents started contacting me,” she said as her sons' case made the news six years ago.
Holzwarth said she's become “best friends,” with Hollie Strand, an experienced forensic interviewer of children who have been sexually abused and who just took a job with the Pennington County Sheriff's Department in Rapid City as a forensic examiner of electronic child porn crimes.
The conventional wisdom among experts on child abuse now has turned away from the “stranger danger” motto, Strand said. Because strangers rarely are the problem.
“I have interviewed over 1,200 children who were sexually abused and I talked to only seven kids who were touched by strangers,” Strand told the Capital Journal this week. “Most of the time it was some family member or someone known to the family, close to the family.”
When family is involved, it's often complicated as the abused and parents worry about blowing apart a family by reporting the abuse, Strand said.
Which makes Holzwarth's first move, to call police, all the more remarkable, Strand said. It's the way to go, for the best outcome for the children involved, even though it might lead to hurt feelings or worse across an extended family and community, she said.
“That's one of the things Mary Beth is bringing to the table,” Strand said. “I don't think there is enough conversation about what the family members actually go through, and a tendency to think in a case of child sexual abuse . . we think of the victim who that happened to and that it's over when the abuse is stopped. But we forget it has a real ripple effect for the parents and all the siblings and affects everyone.”
“Mary Beth has really given a voice to parents who say ‘I was in the system with my kid and I didn't know how to go about things. She has given a voice to the kids and to the mothers.”
One of the big needs in a state with few people and resources, when child sexual abuse happens, trained counselors trained in dealing with people in trauma, Strand said.
So in Holzwarth's case, “they tell Mary Beth ‘You need a ‘trauma-informed counselor' and she ends up driving to Rapid City. In some cases, there are some amazing therapists and trauma-informed counselors, but then there is a waiting list.”
While her younger son is outgoing and , her older one is quiet and not one to talk much.
He felt some guilt because he figured his younger brother also was abused by his uncle but didn't know what to do about it, Holzwarth said.
“I knew he was getting better when he really got into playing his saxophone,” she said.
Both boys, in fact, are musical and play saxophone in school and in church.
Looking back, Holzwarth said if she had been more alert, she would have noticed music as a sign of her younger son's abuse. It was only two days between the abuse and the son telling his parents.
But something had been missing in those two days, she says now.
“He was always singing, making up terrible (as in cute) praise songs, and praying, all the time. As I look back, he stopped doing that those two days.”
That is one of the lessons she's learned that she wants to share with other parents of child abuse survivors: “Give them every chance to express themselves in as many ways as possible,” she said.. “Whether it's writing, or drawing or sports or music.”
She grew up playing violin from a young age and her family sometimes sings or plays instruments as a group at church.
“When I saw my older son begin to enjoy playing his saxophone again about a year ago, I knew he was getting better,” she said.
Her second son “had a lot of anger,” over the abuse, and was acting out some of it.
“I made a box and held it under the faucet and told him the water is what comes into our lives,” she said, showing him how the paper box would slowly be destroyed if it was overwhelmed by the water.
Her son caught on quickly: “He said, ‘Oh, so it's like if I put on a heavy backpack on and swung it around and I have to let go of that?' ” she said.
So she has tried to show her sons that they can survive, even triumph, over the abuse, despite its deep effects.
“You can do good things and good things can come from it,” she tells them.
One big lesson she has emphasized to them: “What you feel does not dictate what is going on.”
Her boys have been helped by others and now find it helps to help others themselves, she said.
“They realized they can help other survivors and that is really healing for them.”
Just talking is a big thing. So one of the new possibilities is a card game for families, designed for different ages of children, to help parents address the dicey issues so hard to talk about with children..
“Like, what if you're at a party and someone brings you a drink? What do you do?” she said.
“It's a less scary way” to talk about how to deal with problems and situations, Holzwarth said.
The community of Gettysburg has been wonderful in helping her family deal with the crime and in addressing the issues, she said.
“At my first event where I spoke, 75 people showed up, to the American Legion,” she said. “I have had so many adults come to me and say ‘This happened to me and thank you for doing something.' ”
She and her family attend Grace Bible Church in Gettysburg and her Christian faith has supported her, as has the church.
One part of the grace she's seen amidst all the bad “is we have been able to help so many people.”
“My sons have written letters,” to their abuser, she said. “But they haven't sent them.”
“Their faith has been a tremendous testimony of how they have recovered.”
Holzwarth recently started a blog, Endeavor52.blogspot.com aimed at helping other families avoid child sexual abuse and deal with it if it happens.
She took the number 52 from the Bible: the number of days it took the prophet Nehemiah and his crew, after prayer, to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem.
Holzwarth feels God is leading her to take down walls of silence about sexual abuse of children and erect protections for them.
Her 52 days of prayer?
“It worked,” she said. She's seen her sons recovering. “I just hope to move forward.”
“I have forgiven him,” she says of Bridgins. “I have had to forgive him all over again, too.”
One lesson she want to stress to others: such crimes do happen, even here in small town South Dakota.
Holzwarth was invited recently by a woman to give a presentation on child sexual abuse at a 4-H club in a small town not far from Gettysburg. The woman said she had some leaders in the club, however, who thought it was not necessary, “because we don't have that in Faulkton,” said Holzwarth, raising her eyebrows.
We need to do more to stop child sexual abuse
One of the darkest chapters in recent Hughes County history ended earlier this week, when Christopher Jansen received a 40-year federal sentence for making child pornography with boys he had raped.
It's been about a year and a half since Jansen was arrested and the horrific details of his crime were made public. It's a story that no one wants to tell. We tried to avoid some of the grimmer details of what happened to the boys who were abused and we did our best to protect their identities.
That family has been ripped apart by a ghastly act committed by a ghastly person The fact that he likely will be spending the rest of his life in prison is a welcome one.
This story, however, is far from one of a kind.
In fact it may be more common than most of us think. Every year at least 4,000 children are sexually abused in South Dakota, according to the final report from the Jolene's Law task force which met over the course of last year to study the issue of child sexual abuse. That number is considered extremely conservative because it includes data from only one Native American tribe and child sexual abuse is among the most underreported crimes in world.
The fact that child sexual abuse is underreported makes understanding the true scope of the problem extremely difficult. Jansen, for example, probably wouldn't have been discovered if not for a federal investigation into child pornography websites. He allegedly threatened his victims to keep them from reporting the abuse.
Jansen also spent years wheedling his way into a relationship with his victims' family. He was a county prosecutor while he was abusing those victims and was considered a close family friend who was allowed to spend the night at their home. This too is a common theme in child sexual abuse cases and contributes to underreporting.
The biggest factor in the underreporting of child sexual abuse is our society's collective unwillingness to acknowledge the fact that it does happen. It can happen anywhere to anyone's kids. Every county in South Dakota has reported child sexual abuse cases.
Jansen's victims lived in a small town in eastern Hughes County. Today we wrote about Mary Beth Holzwarth. In 2009 two of her sons were abused by their uncle in their hometown of Gettysburg.
As a newspaper, it is our job to tell stories. We try our best to do just that even when the subject matter is painful beyond words. We don't do this because we feel there is profit in reporting someone else's suffering. We do this because we can't let these stories fade into the background. We can't let our readers ignore the plain fact that a child was brutally attacked in their own backyard. And we hope that when confronted with that fact readers are inspired to confront the problem.
We hope also that other victims of similar crimes discover that they are not alone.
As a society we have a long way to go when it comes to openly talking about child sexual abuse. We have a hard enough time talking to our kids about sex in general let alone sexual abuse. It's an embarrassing and uncomfortable and unsettling and immensely important conversation to have.
We also need to encourage people who have been abused to come forward and tell their stories. That is the only way to reduce the stigma associated with sexual abuse victims.
Child sexual abuse – Speak up and be heard
by Fatima Asad
Many are aware of child sexual abuse, but seldom has any victim openly spoken about it and seldom has anyone provided a safe environment to do so!
The Last Word hosted an open mic event on Child Sexual Abuse where everyone was free to come up and share their experiences and views on the topic. It was part of a two-session event. The first session that was held in January was more of an informational event titled “Myth and Misconception about Child Sexual Abuse”.
Both the event and the discussion were facilitated by psychotherapist and psychologist Ayesha Iftikhar.
“We feel there is a great need for people to engage openly and personally with this taboo issue,” Ayesha said while talking to Pakistan Today. “As far as I know this is possibly the first event that has been specifically about adults sharing their experience(s) of the abuse that they suffered as children, openly in a safe environment,” she said.
During the session, several victims of the abuse shared their stories; spoke how it affected their entire life, personality and how the memories kept haunting them.
One of them also recited a poem that summarised “how children fall victim to the abuse when everyone stays silent and the life goes on”.
The session came upon the conclusion that child sexual abuse was prevalent everywhere, especially in places like schools and madrassas, where students are blackmailed by teachers and if they refuse to give in their grades are affected or they are treated badly.
Some pointed out that the abuse was also prevalent in the corporate sector where employees were offered higher salaries and promotions in return by their offender-bosses or else they ended up losing their jobs.
Through the discussion, parents were advised not to trust anyone with their children, even if it was a close relative or a sibling. They were also advised to keep a close check on tutors and asked not to leave their children alone or seat them for tuition in an open space where parents can keep an eye on them. Moreover, it was also said that children should be told not to hide anything from their parents.
Although those who wished to speak at the session had been asked to RSVP before the event, but at the end many people who hadn't registered were also willing to speak up, as many of them shared incidents of abuse that happened to someone that they knew of.
“In order to get over it we need to get rid of this rape culture. We should also not tolerate rape jokes. Because this is how it starts,” said one of the attendees.
“I am surprised to see so many people coming up and openly talking about the issue. If Pakistan has come to this level, I am sure we are going in the right direction,” said another attendee at the end of the discussion.
Sexual abuse is generally thought to be gender specific: women or girls being sexually harassed by men. But, the surprising part about the talk was that there were a lot of men who shared their experience of being abused as a child. Some even had to face it as adults.
“Even within men abuse is quiet prevalent,” said Ayesha.
“A lot of international studies tell us that women are more victimised than men. But there are a lot of men victims too. The thing is that it is far more a taboo for men perhaps to report it because the stigma that boys get of an abuse is different,” added Ayesha, who teaches and practices therapy works and primarily deals with adults.
“While dealing with adults I have seen that a long-term impact of abuse that they have suffered as children is very significant, far-reaching and it has so many implications for their relationships,” she said.
“So you know when we say that the experience happened in the childhood and then they got over it, what happens is that they may not be living the experience as adults but they will have depression, dysfunctional relationships, a poor sense of self and low self-esteem and there will be abusing substances and when we trace it back, a lot of it does come from the abuse that they had suffered,” added Ayesha.
The motivation to conduct the event, Ayesha said, was inspired by her husband and people she was close to who had shared their experience with her. “And primarily the biggest motivation was that she wanted to break the stigma of shame and self-blame attached to those that have experienced such an abuse.”
“When we hide things, we hide things because we are ashamed of them. But abuse shouldn't be one of them because it should be absolutely very clear in our minds that it is never the victim's or the child's fault, whether the child is older or younger, whether he had or did not have awareness. This is something I really wanted to clarify. I have seen a bit of victim-blaming even with the kids. If the child was a bit older or we expect that kid slightly over or could have done something, then victim blaming starts happening there too. That was the most troubling thing for me,” said Ayesha.
Being aware of the fact that after one shares one's story the wound is touched again, Ayesha Iftikhar will also be facilitating a free weekly support/process group as a follow-up sessions for those who feel the need.
“It may be the first time for many people that they completely or openly acknowledged what happened to them. I am very sensitive of the fact that it could cause them to get disturbed, leave them unsettled,” Ayesha said.
The group will provide a safe and supportive environment in which members can grow out of the trauma.
“We want to offer space. It shouldn't be that they just share it and afterwards they are left hanging with no support. It is to help them look at their experience, look at how other people are also experiencing it, help them not feel alone and fully recognise the impact it had on their lives.”
Seattle Archdiocese Will Pay $9.1M To 8 Women Who Alleged Former Priest Michael Cody Sexually Abused Them
by VISHAKHA SONAWANE
The Seattle Archdiocese will pay $9.1 million to eight women who said they were sexually abused by a former priest as children, according to reports Wednesday. Michael Cody, who died last year, allegedly abused them between 1968 and 1974 at churches in Whatcom and Skagit counties.
Archbishop J. Peter Sartain issued a statement saying he regretted Cody's actions.
“Our first priority is the protection of children and healing for past victims,” Sartain said in the statement, according to the Associated Press (AP). “It is my firm commitment to build on the good efforts of the past and continue to take steps that will truly help victims of clergy sexual abuse to heal. This $9 million settlement demonstrates our ongoing commitment to acknowledge and address the devastating impact of clergy sexual abuse, and to encourage victims to come forward.”
Cody was named in at least one other lawsuit. Last May, the archdiocese agreed to pay $1.2 million to a woman from Skagit County's Sedro-Woolley city. She had alleged that Cody molested her in late 1960s and early 1970s. According to the evidence showed during a trial, in 1962 the Seattle archbishop had received a letter from a psychiatrist diagnosing Cody as a pedophile who had sexually abused young girls, the AP reported. Cody was then reportedly transferred from King County to Skagit County.
“The evidence regarding Father Cody is overwhelming, and I don't think the archdiocese wants more bad publicity," Michael T. Pfau, a Seattle attorney for the women, reportedly said after the settlement. “The direct involvement of former Archbishop Thomas Connelly in placing this pedophile in parishes with full knowledge of his danger to children is truly disturbing.”
The archdiocese reportedly states that Cody served as a priest in “a number of parishes in Western Washington.”
Cody had petitioned to relieve himself from priesthood in 1989 and the Catholic Church officially granted his request in 2005.
In January, the archdiocese published a list of 77 clergy members, including Cody, who lived or worked in Western Washington and were known or believed to have sexually molested children.
Child abuse royal commission: Survivor calls for national program to educate parents
by Nicole Chettle
Sascha Chandler was assaulted in the 1990s by Andrew McIntosh, who threatened to kill him and his family if he revealed the abuse.
"There were a number of firearms at the house and I was sure that he would carry out the threat," Mr Chandler told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
"I was petrified."
McIntosh was later convicted after two trials involving four victims and sentenced to 32 years' jail with a non-parole period of 20 years.
The experience left Mr Chandler with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a determination to improve the criminal justice system for other survivors.
He spoke to the ABC's Australian Story in 2011 and used excerpts from that program when he attended training sessions to educate New South Wales detectives who investigate historic child sexual abuse.
Mr Chandler said he was trying to promote awareness of the issues victims faced so police could get more thorough statements — and boost the prospects of conviction — while dealing with deeply traumatised people.
Mr Chandler said he was distraught after reporting the abuse he suffered in 2006.
"I walked out of the police station and over the railway crossing and contemplated throwing myself into the path of a train," he said.
"I thought to myself, 'I've just done the hardest thing I ever have done, and that was the response?'
"This short discussion and rapidly constructed statement was well below what I had expected and left me feeling as though the police didn't care and that nothing more would eventuate."
Mr Chandler told the inquiry that "typically survivors have had a very significant loss of control experience in their life".
"Upon making that statement, you're actually lighting a fuse that a survivor is very scared to light ... effectively you're handing the matter over to police and you're putting your trust in the system," he said.
"The anxiety around that is extraordinary."
Survivor helps others come forward and face court
Mr Chandler said that since the Australian Story broadcast in 2011, he had been contacted to help up to 200 survivors of child abuse - including people referred to him by police.
Some victims want to know how long the court process will take - and whether they could be prosecuted if they are not believed and the offender is not charged or convicted.
"Other queries include whether they will have to see the perpetrator," Mr Chandler said.
"And specifically from men, 'will people think that I am gay?'. These people appear to want somebody to talk to who has been the victim of abuse and who has been through the process themselves."
Mr Chandler regularly speaks at a course run by NSW Police in Sydney and Goulburn called the Investigation and Management of Adult Sexual Assault.
He said he is asked to meet with survivors in the presence of a detective to discuss his experience, how he prepared himself to give evidence in court, as well as the anxiety of giving evidence.
Mr Chandler also discussed how he dealt with the media and how it felt once the perpetrator was convicted.
He told the Sydney hearing parents also asked what they should be looking out for - and "the right amount of concern" they should have when an adult expresses an interest in their child.
"I'm also asked how to protect children online from perpetrators," he said.
"My recommendation would be to consider an assessment of existing parent education materials and tools relating to grooming and online predation, with a view to rolling out a comprehensive government-endorsed national adult education and awareness package."
The two-week hearing into how the criminal justice system deals with cases involving children who were abused in an institutional context was due to finish on Friday.
Voice Up, break silence of abuse
by The Coffs Coast Advocate
HELPING and offering support for survivors of child abuse makes Chris Marks this week's Coffs Coast Advocate community champion.
What do you do?
I AM a voluntary member of VoiceUp Australia, based in Coffs Harbour.
The project was my idea in 2013 when I became concerned about the impact of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Assault on lots of people who are now adults surviving the impact of their own abuse, not only within institutions but within immediate families, extended families, neighbourhoods and communities.
I am an adult surviving the impact of extensive abuse in my childhood and I wanted a safe place to be able to share my story, alongside others and to develop skills to voice up, speak out and break the silence.
We now have 150 people on our mailing list - we have regular monthly support meetings - we also hold public meetings to educate ourselves and the community about issues arising from childhood neglect and abuse and its impact on our society. We also organise training for survivors and agencies working with adults surviving child abuse.
What's your favourite part about your job at Voice Up?
Working with other people who are surviving impact of child abuse. We have organised the Royal Commission to come to Coffs Harbour twice as well as hold private sessions here. We held meetings in Child Protection Week to help people understand how notifying about abuse is responded to by police, health department, Family and Community Services. We have spoken at National Mental Health Conference as consumers.
Our work is unfunded and voluntary, Coffs Harbour Neighbourhood Centre through the Coordinator Gai Newman supports our activities and you can ring them to find out more on 6648 3694.
How to you hope Voice Up will grow in the coming years?
I hope there will be many VoiceUp groups all around Australia dedicated to resourcing, educating, empowering, advocating and representing adult survivors of child abuse.
Our job is to break the silence, heal the shame, shift the blame from us to our perpetrators and communities that silence the abused and protect abusers. We want harsher penalties for perpetrators, safer more informed families, communities and organisations committed to protecting the children of the past, the present and the future.
Pennsylvania law grows stricter about reporting child abuse
by The Reading Eagle
When a bus driver for the Oley Valley School District allegedly sexually abused two girls, Pennsylvania law was not as strict about mandatory reporting of child abuse as it is today.
Arthur Fick, 79, of the first block of Gauby Road, Alsace Township, is accused of inappropriately touching two girls in separate cases in 2001 and 2008, Berks County investigators said Wednesday.
Parents of both girls reported the incidents to school officials at the times they allegedly occurred, and Fick was terminated by his employer, Quigley Bus Co., in 2008, authorities said. However, law enforcement officials said they did not learn of the allegations until one of the girls, now 16, came forward in December.
Changes to Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services Law took effect in 2014. Those in professional or supervisory roles involving children are now required to personally make a verbal or online report to ChildLine at 800-932-0313 and to follow up with a written report, which can be submitted electronically, within 48 hours.
The law also significantly expanded who is considered a "mandated reporter" to include medical and social service workers, clergy, school employees and anyone, including a volunteer, who accepts responsibility for a child as an integral part of a regularly scheduled program.
Unlike the previous law, it is not sufficient to simply report child abuse to a supervisor. As a result of the changes, sex abuse allegations, many for long-ago offenses, continue to pour in.
Berks County commissioners last year approved District Attorney John T. Adams' request to create two new detective positions in the child abuse unit.
AG talks on ‘worst form of child abuse'
by LANA BELLAMY
ASHLAND Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear said there is “no such thing as a child prostitute,” and victims of sex trafficking can be found in every community in the commonwealth.
“It's everywhere,” he said during a sit-down interview at The Daily Independent on Wednesday. “It's in every city, it's in every town, it's in every rural area and it's a serious issue we have to address.”
Beshear explained victims of sex trafficking are most often young girls in their early teenage years.
“It's the worst form of child abuse,” he said, adding sex trafficking is a “huge” problem in Kentucky.
“Most of the time when people don't realize that, it's because they don't realize what human trafficking is. There's no such thing as a child prostitute in Kentucky — that's human trafficking,” Beshear said.
He then gave examples of families selling their children's bodies and though the number of reported instances of sex trafficking goes up by 50 percent each year, Beshear said much ground is still left uncovered.
“The most disturbing statistic is that only 10 percent of reports lead to a criminal investigation each year,” Beshear said.
When asked why so many stones are left unturned, he said, “There are not enough boots on the ground.”
Though most victims of sex trafficking tend to be sold out by family members, Beshear said monitoring a child's activities and interactions with strangers outside the home and online is key to protecting them from unknown predators.
He recommended parents study parental control options for all electronic devices with Internet capabilities and watch which applications children download and use regularly. Sometimes, even games that appear innocent serve as gateways for predators to contact children.
“The same ‘don't talk to strangers' rules should apply to online, too,” Beshear said.
Beshear came by the newspaper and Ashland's child advocacy center Hope's Place shortly after hosting a training session at Morehead State University.
Hope's Place, a nonprofit center focused on advocating for sexually abused and neglected children in Kentucky and Ohio, handled 355 cases last year in conjunction with local law enforcement.
“And those are just the ones who showed up,” Beshear pointed out when Executive Director Lisa Phelps brought up the statistic, adding he believed the number of victims in the community was much greater.
So far this year, Hope's Place has handled 94 cases of child sexual abuse.
The training in?Morehead featured Cory Jewell Jensen M.S, from Oregon. Jensen is the co-director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention, and shared advice on how to protect children from molester selection and seduction, mostly based off personal information she gathered from sex offenders.
The training will be available in all 15 area development districts in coordination with the 15 child advocacy centers and is open to prosecutors, law enforcement, child and victim advocates, religious affiliates, medical personnel, educators and others in similar positions.
The session at MSU was the second in a series of statewide training on child sexual abuse. The program was launched last month in collaboration with Kentucky first lady Glenna Bevin.
“For years, we taught the least powerful people — the children — about prevention of child abuse. We need to make sure we get the adults that are actually in the position to protect the children involved and active,” Beshear said.
Pee Dee Coalition addresses Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention
by Nicole Boone
FLORENCE, SC – Held annually in April, Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month is the nationally designated month to acknowledge the importance of communities working together to prevent sexual assault, child abuse and neglect. Throughout the Pee Dee this is the daily, year-round work of Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault.
Pee Dee Coalition is a non-profit, volunteer driven; United Way supported organization that operates on the premise that reducing all forms of interpersonal violence is the business of everyone who values the basic human desire to be free from physical threat and harm. Our vision is that these efforts throughout the Pee Dee region will make all our communities safer and more compassionate.
For April 2016 Pee Dee Coalition is highlighting the largely ignored issues of sexual assault of men and sexual abuse of boys. Frequently issues of rape and child sexual abuse are viewed solely from the perspective of female victims. Researchers have found that 1 in 6 men have experienced unwanted or abusive sexual experiences before age 18. And this is probably a low estimate, since it doesn't include non-contact experiences, which can also have lasting negative effects.
What the best research tells us:
A 2005 study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, on San Diego Kaiser Permanente HMO members, reported that 16% of males were sexually abused by the age of 18.
A 2003 national study of U.S. adults reported that 14.2% of men were sexually abused before the age of 18.
A 1998 study reviewing research on male childhood sexual abuse concluded that the problem is “common, under-reported, under-recognized, and under-treated.”
A 1996 study of male university students in the Boston area reported that 18% of men were sexually abused before the age of 16.
A 1990 national study of U.S. adults reported that 16% of men were sexually abused before the age of 18.
Pee Dee Coalition, a member organization of the United Way, participates with a variety of partners throughout the region in events developed especially for Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month. A calendar of activities is included with this packet.
For more information contact Pee Dee Coalition at 843-669-4694.
Girls as young as 10 tortured for developing breasts - and it's happening here
by EMILY HALL and ISABELLA CORDUA
The practice is common in parts of Africa and an MP has warned the barbaric ritual aimed at preventing teenage pregnancy is becoming increasingly widespread here
In Cameroon, there is a tradition of ironing girls' breasts during pubertyIn Cameroon, there is a tradition of ironing girls' breasts during puberty
A brutal cultural practice that sees mothers batter their own daughters' breasts to stop them developing is taking place in Britain, campaigners say.
The barbaric ritual of “breast-ironing” is commonplace in parts of Africa, but those at the frontline of child protection say it is also happening in African communities in the UK.
It involves pounding the breasts as soon as they begin to develop with objects that have been heated over hot coals. Some women use rocks, others hammers and spatulas.
The idea is that by removing their breast tissue, youngsters will be less sexually attractive and less likely to become pregnant at a young age, preventing them bringing shame on their families.
Sadly it is mostly carried out by the girls' own mothers, who believe it is in their best interests.
MP Jake Berry was so shocked when he discovered the practice that he tabled a parliamentary debate on it, which took place earlier this week.
He told the Commons: “The words ‘culture', ‘tradition' or ‘religion' might come up when trying to explain this absurdly harmful practice, but as in the case of FGM , these words are only thinly veiled excuses for a ritualised form of child abuse.”
His research has shown that 15 per cent of UK police forces have never even heard of the procedure while four in 10 wanted more advice on how to tackle it.
Mr Berry said he wanted breast ironing to become a criminal offence in its own right.
No-one yet knows how widespread it is because no official figures are kept and many victims keep completely silent.
He said: “This hidden abuse is happening here in Britain and we have to seek out the abusers and push for prosecution.
"The Government needs to work across departments and with GPs and hospitals, including extending mandatory reporting, to shine a light on it.
“Not one person has ever been convicted of this crime in the UK. The lack of prosecutions partly stem from a fear by the victim of reporting a family member.”
Margaret Nyuydzewira, founder of the CAME Women and Girls Development Organisation, a UK charity campaigning on behalf of victims, told The New Day that schools, the police and social services needed to help bring perpetrators before the courts.
She said: “Yes, it is happening in the UK. We have not done any studies to discover the prevalence at the moment, but we know it is happening through members of our community.
“The idea is that mothers are worried their children are developing at a faster rate."
“It is brutal. There is a lot of trauma. Mothers are doing it with good intentions, to protect their daughters from sexual harassment, but it does not fit with British values.
“Women need to understand that what they are doing is harmful to their children and it may have a long-term impact.
“I cannot walk alone. We need the government's support. We need to spread the word and talk to others.”
Cameroonian Marie Laure Jatsa, who has researched her country's tradition for more than a decade, has interviewed 6,000 women to understand the phenomenon.
She said: “Some parents believe that Europe should not get involved in their tradition. It's ridiculous they live here and still have those barbaric customs.
“What's incredible is that it is a woman doing it to another woman. Mothers truly believe that this is going to help their daughters to avoid an early pregnancy.”
Breast ironing fact file: Barbaric, widespread and secret
Breast ironing is practised throughout Cameroon and has also been reported across West and Central Africa, in Benin, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea-Conakry, Kenya, Togo and Zimbabwe. In South Africa, a similar practice is known as “breast sweeping”.
There are thought to be around four million victims in Cameroon, with four in 10 schoolgirls affected.
It is estimated thousands of girls in African communities in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Luton, Nottingham, Leicester, Sheffield and Leeds may be exposed to the ritual, which usually happens in the family home.
There have been two arrests in London and Birmingham, but no one has yet been charged.
Cameroonian doctor Flavien Ndonko said: “Breast ironing is both physically and psychologically damaging. It can cause infections and abscesses and has been linked to breast cancer, problems with breastfeeding, and severe depression.”
The UN estimates that 58 per cent of perpetrators are the victim's mother.
Victim's story: 'I was unable to feed my baby'
Cathy AbahFouda is a survivor of breast ironing and now works for RENATA, an NGO which campaigns against the practice.
She said: “I started growing breasts when I was 10.
"My mother explained to my sister that I was growing breasts too early and that I would attract boys.”
Cathy underwent breast ironing a first time, but a year later her breasts grew again and she was so ashamed she began to carry out the procedure on herself.
“Breast ironing, however, did not prevent me from getting pregnant at the age of 16 and leaving school.”
Her breasts were so damaged she needed surgery and was unable to breastfeed her baby.
Groups plan to fight child sexual abuse in Fargo-Moorhead area
by Kevin Wallevand
Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - In the coming months, you will see a tidal wave of planning and training, as some of our community's high profile leaders, take on one of the darkest secrets here in our region.
The sexual abuse of children.
Dakota Medical Foundation is helping fund a pioneering, long term effort to prevent the abuse.
Millions of dollars are committed, and in doing so, by not only talking the talk, but insisting on change here in the valley.
One of the local statistics should and will disturb you.
From playgrounds to private homes here in Fargo-Moorhead, the unsettling numbers are hitting sexual abuse experts head on.
"Since January first we have seen 102 children with allegations of child sex abuse," said Anna Frissell, Red River Children's Advocacy Center. "January 1st of this year. And I think that is the tip of the iceberg."
And so that is why Red River Children's Advocacy is helping lead a community wide effort involving, police, school superintendents, county human services, physicians and more.
"We have a serious problem that we have not addressed," said Pat Traynor, Dakota Medical Foundation. "And we will create the greatest plan ever to help end child sexual abuse."
Nationally known experts will shepherd this local effort, and will take the region by storm.
"This is the beginning, the start of a long term movement to end this in our community. It should be taboo and unacceptable," said Frissell.
The plan, get all parties to the table. From police officers to churches, social workers, to hospitals. In the end, a movement in Cass and Clay counties that will tackle a public health concern.
"This is pioneering, where we have not solved this across the country, our goal is to have Fargo and Moorhead, cass and clay county as the epicenter on how to end child sexual abuse," said Traynor.
It is a well-planned out, financed attack. Building this movement that will train, bring awareness, and prevent what has become a statistic and problem, no state and community can live with.
And a nation-wide campaign called "Enough Abuse" reports 90% of all sexual abuse is never reported.
Supporters push for bill to prevent child sexual abuse and assault in schools
by Alessia Grunberger
Advocates and victims convened in Annapolis on Wednesday to testify before the Senate education committee on a measure to raise awareness about sexual assault and abuse in schools.
Sponsored by Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery, HB 72 would require the State Board of Education and private schools who benefit from the state's Nonpublic Schools Textbook and Technology Grants program to establish and enforce an age-appropriate program that would educate students about preventing sexual abuse and assault.
Bill supporters urged that teachers should begin instruction on the topics as early as kindergarten or first grade, and the program's content could be tailored based on age.
“In order to prevent child sexual abuse, one of the most effective things we can do is to make sure that every child receives the message that if they are being inappropriately touched by an adult they need to report it to another responsible adult,” Luedtke said. “We've seen case after case after case where if a child had such training, it may have prevented serial abuse from occurring to them and to other children who were abused by the same abuser.”
Supporters, including Baltimore Child Abuse Center and Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, believe this bill is essential to preventing and ending these abusive vicious cycles.
Opposition to curriculum meddling
While there were no opponents that testified at the committee hearing, opponents, including several state lawmakers — all Republican — voted against the bill in the House of Delegates.
The bill passed the House of Delegates 133-6. The six Republican who were opposed were: Deborah Rey, St. Mary's; Mark Fisher, Calvert; William Wivell, Washington; Robin Grammer Jr., Baltimore; Neil Parrott,-Washington; and Del. Glen Glass, Harford.
Of the delegates that MarylandReporter.com reached out to, only Rey responded.
She said it is not the job of the General Assembly to decide what a private school's curriculum should be.
“It is forcing (nonpublic schools) to create a program, and if the nonpublic school wants to create the program, that's fine,” Rey said. “I just don't think the state should be using this textbook and technology program to force the nonpublic schools to create a program that they may or may not want to create.”
“It is not usually the practice of the General Assembly to dictate curriculum and that has been one of the arguments against the bill, but we wrote the bill in a very specific way it tracks with other types of curriculum the General Assembly has passed previously,” Luedtke said. “The one exception we tend to make to that rule is when it comes to health and safety.”
This bill passed in the House last legislative session, but it died in the Senate committee which heard the bill again Wednesday.
Ohio Ruling Expected on Capping Awards for Juvenile Sexual Abuse Victims
by Mary Kuhlman
COLUMBUS, Ohio – An Ohio Supreme Court decision is expected soon that could impact the amount of financial compensation child sexual abuse victims can receive.
Jessica Simpkins was raped at the age of 15 by her church pastor – a man hired by Grace Brethren Church in Sunbury despite the knowledge that he had previously sexually abused two girls.
In a civil suit, a jury awarded Simpkins $3.5 million for pain and suffering, but the amount was reduced to $250,000 due to a state law that caps damages.
She says she's being re-victimized and took the case to the Ohio Supreme Court.
"I just feel like they're protecting the church,” she states. “When they had the accusations made against him previous, if they wouldn't have let him start this church, it would never have happened. "
Simpkins' attorney argues the law is unconstitutional as applied to juvenile sexual abuse victims, as they can suffer more emotional damages than physical or economic harm.
But attorneys for the church maintain large awards on non-economic injuries are subjective and difficult to quantify.
Arguments were heard in December and a decision is expected any day now.
Sexual assault victims often face a long, hard road of recovery, and Simpkins says she can't get over the horror of her attack.
"There's like two to three times a week it's like a whole tape of the day will just replay in my head and it's like I have to freeze for a while because I can't do anything, I can't stop it,” she relates. “I know I need counseling, but I know I'm not ready to talk about it. I have a big problem with trusting people and I have an alcohol problem."
Some supporters contend caps benefit the state's economy by creating a fairer and more predictable civil justice system.
But Simpkins' attorney, John Fitch, says it's bad public policy that shields those who engage in the sexual abuse of children.
"The law actually protects those who are responsible for the rape of the child, be it the rapist on in this case, an employer who does nothing in the face of accusations of sexually predatory conduct,” he states. “That's just outrageous and it's immoral."
Want to cut crime? Support new mothers and fathers, and get children ready to learn
by Troy Morton and Mark Hathaway
While arresting people who have committed crimes will always be a part of our jobs in law enforcement, we know that long-term public safety also depends on putting more young people on track for lives free of the criminal justice system. That's why we both support high-quality early childhood care and education programs that give children a foundation for success in school and beyond.
Some of these programs start before the child is even born. For example, a program known as voluntary home visiting sends trained professionals into homes of young mothers to help them understand the developmental needs of their infants and young children. These mentors teach young parents effective parenting skills, coach parents through stressful parenting situations, and teach parents to build a culture of health for themselves and their children.
These two-generation programs have had positive immediate results for children in Maine. Data show that children in Maine Families, the state's home visiting network, are more likely to see a doctor regularly and have a safe home environment than children statewide.
We also know, and research has shown, that when families have high-quality home visits, child abuse and neglect can be reduced by 50 percent, and that creates additional future taxpayers' savings.
While most victimized children never become violent criminals, research shows that abused children are 29 percent more likely to become violent criminals as adults, and would have otherwise avoided such crimes if not for the abuse and neglect they endured as children.
These serious criminals could spend their adult lives in and out of the correctional system. The daily cost to our taxpayers to house an inmate in a county jail averages $125 per day, which is $46,000 annually per individual. Maine Families costs an average of $2,600 a year for each family served.
The cost comparison is stark — $2,600 annually per family in prevention versus $46,000 annually in future corrections costs.
There are also a number of programs, including Early Head Start, Head Start and the state's public preschool program, that lay the solid foundations for our young children's critical cognitive, social and emotional skills they need for all later learning and to enable more children to start school ready to learn. When these programs are of high quality — including a developmentally appropriate focus on pre-reading and pre-math skills — children who participate can benefit for years. For example, children who receive high-quality early childhood education programs are more likely to graduate from high school, more likely to be employed as adults and less likely to be involved in crime.
This link between education and crime is something that we've known for years. If you walk into any state jail or talk to someone who has been arrested, you'll usually hear about behavioral problems and academic struggles from their earliest years. Research often supports this point.
One study of the high-quality Perry Preschool program found that children who did not participate in the program were five times more likely to be chronic lawbreakers by age 27. Another long-term study of the high-quality Chicago Child-Parent Centers found child that children left out of the program were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18 and 24 percent more likely to have been incarcerated as young adults.
The good news is that Maine has made these early education programs a priority in recent years. In fact, Maine preschools are now required to meet all 10 benchmarks for quality spelled out by the National Institute for Early Education Research, and Maine Families home visiting programs are continuing to get support after Congress renewed a federal law that provides funding for these services.
But even with this progress, more can be done to ensure all our children who could benefit from these programs are able to receive them. We should also continue to improve the quality of our programs.
Some taxpayers may worry that doing this would be costly. But research shows that on average, society gains almost $30,000 per child served in early education programs, based on savings that include those from the criminal justice system.
It is clear from the research and our experience that high-quality early education can save taxpayers money and prevent crime. For these two reasons alone, we must continue to improve and expand these programs across the state so that we can continue to reap these benefits for many years to come.
Troy Morton is the sheriff of Penobscot County. Mark Hathaway is the chief of police in Bangor.
Girl, 12, arrested after pinching boy's butt at Longwood school
Student faces misdemeanor battery charges
LONGWOOD, Fla. - A 12-year-old was arrested and facing misdemeanor battery charges after pinching a boy's butt in school.
The incident was reported at Milwee Middle School on Ronald Reagan Boulevard in Longwood two weeks ago in between classes.
Breana Evans, 12, told News 6 pinching someone's butt and laughing at their reaction is a game that a lot of people play at the school and that she thought it was a joke.
"I regret it because I didn't know it would lead to this," Evans told News 6. "I feel like it's just stupid just a stupid charge that shouldn't have to happen."
According to the report, after the initial incident, the boy told the school resource deputy he didn't want to press charges and Evans was suspended. Evans said she didn't know the boy
But last week, the boy's mother got involved, calling deputies and saying that she wanted to prosecute Evans for battery.
"Lord lord lordy what has this world come to -- kids can't even be a kid and that's basically what it is -- she's 12 years old she was acting like a 12 year old child," said Evans' father, Ray.
Ray Evans said he thinks it's an overreaction from the mother of the boy who wanted to press charges.
"I'm sorry my kid touched your kid but I'm sorry -- because you need some help I think, too overprotective -- let your kid be your kid he might get some friends and that's all i have to say," Ray Evans said.
News 6 contacted the boy's mother, but has not heard back.
Evans was booked into juvenile detention. The Seminole County state attorney told News 6 if Breana Evans completes the diversion program and does the community service, the classes and passes all the drug tests, the charge will be dismissed and her record would be clean
Recovering from the trauma of incest
by Caroline C. Ravello
The whole idea of placing incest in the realm of this dialogue on mental illness is because research clearly points to its high prevalence rate and the devastation it leaves in its tailwind. I thought to get us at least thinking/rethinking, and maybe talking, but I've had mixed reactions.
I met an upstanding couple in Port-of-Spain last weekend and had an encouraging conversation with the wife. She offered commendations and an expression which went like this: “I read your columns on incest. Keep up the good work. I guess it has to be said and I am glad you chose to say it. Someone should.”
And I'm smilingly thinking, “I wish it wasn't me,” while thanking her for the support. As I conclude the issues of incest for now, I wish to do so with the understanding that while all the issues of criminality and violations are necessary to the discourse, it's the healing of the broken lives that I find most important.
Every individual is unique and in that uniqueness is an array of responses to the trauma of incest. Among those responses is recovery. And I say that not to give false hope to those who may have long-term struggles or to those who may be irreparably affected, but because I know people who are considered recovered.
I have one friend who has had psychotherapy and who leads a “normal” life, and another with whom I have an even closer relationship who had both psychotherapy and a faith-based intervention and who now shares a “forgiven” relationship with the relative who fathered her child when she was a mere child.
For some survivors, the struggle may be more challenging and may constitute “depression, low self-esteem, self-blame, dissatisfaction with life, anxiety, dissociation, difficulties in relationships, a tendency to be either domineering or submissive, an inability to trust oneself and others, problems defining healthy sexuality, self-destructive behaviours including suicidal ideation, difficulty dealing with anger, stress-related illnesses, addictions, eating disorders, and acting out sexually.
Beyond the anger, depression and other traumas, for survivors who pursue healing, quite often it begins with the overwhelming pain and confusion where the “the perils of silence” collide with the risk of speaking out, says www.womansweb.ca.
The following are excerpts from the advice given to survivors of incest on the Website Woman's Web.
• Clarity of feelings and emotions
For adult survivors of child sexual abuse, a key component to healing is to express and share their feelings. This can be achieved by survivors learning to acknowledge and identify a wide variety of feelings and emotions, as well as finding ways to release them without hurting themselves or others. A good support team is recommended.
This phase involves positive changes in survivors' attitudes and feelings, where they develop a new sense of trust in others but, most importantly, start to trust themselves. It includes learning from the past, examining the present, and planning for the future. Many survivors have suggested that this stage represents a transition from merely existing to actively living.
• Moving on
This stage includes a shift in focus from the negative experiences of the past to positive plans for the future. Painful feelings and emotions do not dominate memories from the past. Positive coping skills… assist survivors in moving on with their lives. Several coping skills that can help survivors to move on include learning to love and accept themselves, recognising and celebrating personal growth, creating a healthy support team, grieving current losses as they occur, learning to deal with stress effectively, and recognising when it's time to let go of painful feelings connected to the past.
Finally, it's important to understand that children and adolescents who are victims of incest and who may or may not have had interventions may begin to participate in self-destructive behaviours.
Some of these are “cutting themselves; running away from home; hostile or aggressive behaviours; promiscuity; sexual play with themselves, dolls, animals or other children; copying adult sexual behaviour; displaying sexual knowledge beyond what is normal for their age; urinary infections; unexplained pain, swelling, bleeding or irritation of the mouth, genital or anal area, and suicide attempts” (www.heartandsoultherapy).
“Abuse memories can show up in dreams, meditative states, nightmares, and daydreams, and can be reflected in phobias, fears, repulsions, compulsions, panic attacks, sexually compulsive behaviours, and aberrant sexual practices,” among other issues.
Uppermost in my mind is that incest survivors must get the help to understand and accept that the abuse is not their fault. It did not happen because of something you did. Incest is abuse of power where an adult charged with protecting a child, violates the child/trust. It is the adult who is at fault—culpable, criminal.
Plan announced to address Franklin County child abuse and neglect
by Ann Bryant
FARMINGTON — After months of seeking input on the root causes and risk factors associated with Franklin County's high rate of child abuse, a plan based on education and support is ready to launch April 1.
Members of the advisory panel, Friends Reducing Abuse & Neglect of Kids Living in our Neighborhoods, or FRANKLIN, gathered Tuesday morning to hear an update on the work and plan.
The most-identified risk factors — reaped from interviews, focus groups, surveys and an advisory panel — are mental health challenges and substance use problems, said Renee Whitley, executive director of the Franklin County Children's Task Force.
Two priority goals are reducing neglect among children ages birth to 3 years old and reducing maltreatment of all types among children ages 5 to 14 in Franklin County, she said.
Some identified root causes of these issues include:
• lack of parenting skills;
• lack of knowledge about child development skills;
• not having enough resilience;
• lack of coping skills; and
• lack of social connections and support.
A lack of support sometimes stems from pride or a fear of the stigma attached to reaching out, she said.
The nearly 20-page plan includes five objectives spelling out strategies to combat these lacks through educational and support-focused opportunities and events.
The Task Force staff will need to work collectively with other organizations to provide help, said Stacie Bourassa, community educator at FCCTF.
The advisory panel of community partners met last June and learned that Franklin, Androscoggin and Somerset counties have the highest rates of child abuse in the state, according to data from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
DHHS partnered with the Maine Children's Trust to create a three-year project to establish and coordinate services to reduce child abuse.
The goal is to reduce the number of children under state care by 500 over three years. Maine child abuse rates are high and many children fall into state care, Whitley previously said. About 2,500 children are now in state custody.
The three counties were chosen as demonstration sites and were tasked with formulating a plan. Advocates for Children in Lewiston and the Children's Center in Somerset County have conducted their research and developed a plan, Bourassa said.
Each county found some root causes in common and developed similar objectives, she said. More counties will be drawn in and will have these models to use as guidelines.
Nearly 1,000 child abuse cases reported in Cullman County
by Tiffeny Owens
With nearly a thousand local cases of abuse reported in 2015, the Cullman County Commission proclaimed April as Child Abuse and Neglect Awareness Month.
Cullman Caring for Kids Director Javon Daniel delivered the startling statistic that 980 cases of child abuse and neglect were reported in Cullman County last year during the commission's meeting Tuesday. In 2014, there was more than 800 cases of abuse and neglect reported in the county, and across Alabama, 13 children died as a result of abuse or neglect, he said.
“We have a problem, and the only ones who can solve it is us,” Daniel said. “The only way to solve it is to know more about it. If you see something, say something. If you see a child that is afraid to be with their parents, there's a reason. If you see a child that's afraid to go to school because they've got bruises all over look them, there's a reason. Look for the reason.”
Every April, Cullman Caring for Kids hands out blue ribbons and hosts events to raise community awareness about child abuse, including the Safe Kids Expo which will be Saturday, April 16 at Sportsman Lake Park.
To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call 1-800-4-A-CHILD or Cullman Caring for Kids at 256-739-1111.
In a separate matter, the county proclaimed Saturday, April 2, Colors of Cancer Day with the Cullman County Bosom Buddies Foundation. The non-profit will host an event which includes a 5K race, parade, drum line competition, balloon release and Cindy the Pink Firetruck at the Cullman County Fairgrounds.
Bosom Buddies helps local cancer patients with expenses and other needs. Mary Dyer, past president and founder of the non-profit group, thanked the commission for its support.
“This foundation is my heart,” Dyer said. “We saw a need to help the people of Cullman County who are struggling when they're in treatment because they can't pay their light bill, their rent or house payment. We don't want to anyone have to go through treatment and not have hot water when they get home to take a bath.”
Commissioner Garry Marchman, who has battled lymphoma this past year, personally thanked the organization for helping patients struggling to make ends meet while undergoing treatment.
In other business, the Cullman County Commission:
* Approved minutes from March 8 meeting, appropriations, expenditures, payroll, requisitions and all journal entries to be posted.
* Authorized Chairman Kenneth Walker to sign closing documents for refinancing 2010 water warrants, totaling $6.6 million.
* Authorized Walker to sign software agreement with Nitorco, Inc. for Revenue Department, replacing the software from 1996.
* Approved paying Alabama Electrical Contractors $5,909 to replace of 5-ton air conditioning unit at the Cullman County Public Office Building.
* Authorized $24,682.16 payment to Association of County Commissions of Alabama for workers' compensation.
* Appointed John Tucker County Safety Coordinator and Delitha Marchman Assistant Safety Coordinator with state-issued badges.
* Approved Festhalle Market Committee's $3,000 request for seasonal operation for the 2016 market season.
* Declared surplus 2005 Chevrolet 1500 4X4 from the Water Department to be transferred to Smith Lake Park.
* Approved proposed plat for Stillhouse Point Subdivision on County Road 71. The roads associated with the development will not be accepted by the county for maintenance in the future, said County Engineer John Lang.
* Awarded bid for beverage services for county parks to Pepsi which will provide drink for three years with $42,000 in in-kind services included in the contract.
* Awarded $20,000 bid for 20-minute fireworks display at Smith Lake Park to Pyro Shows of Alabama. The annual fireworks show will be Saturday, July 2.
* Rejected bids for used railroad cars.
The Cullman County Commission will hold a work session 8:30 a.m. Thursday, April 14, followed by its meeting at 10 a.m.
Telemedicine Takes the Lead in Child Abuse Detection
by Eric Wicklund
Health systems, social workers and advocacy groups are using connected care platforms to collaborate, giving front-line clinicians expert help in diagnosing children's cases.
Healthcare providers are turning to telemedicine to tackle one of their most difficult tasks: identifying a victim of child abuse or neglect.
Many of these cases show up in hospital ERs, doctor's offices or clinics where doctors and nurses are ill-equipped to make the proper diagnosis. But with a connected data management solution, providers can share images and other tests and communicate with trained specialists, ensuring the right diagnosis is made.
“We've saved lives, and we've saved families,” says Dr. Lori D. Frasier, division chief of child abuse pediatrics at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital, who uses the ProNet TeleCAM platform developed by XIFIN to consult with clinicians across the country.
“This platform) has allowed us to bridge the gap between rural providers and national experts in the field by ensuring quality care for all children impacted by abuse,” added Kori Stephens, MPH, project director for the Midwest Regional Children's Advocacy Center at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, in a recent press release. “Many of our providers rely heavily on this system, and have expressed gratitude for the honest and important feedback they've received to improve their practice. Having an easy, secure, on-line platform makes this best practice much more accessible to those who would otherwise be at a loss.”
There are roughly 800 children's advocacy centers across the country, supported by grants from the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and overseen by the National Children's Alliance. The centers connect and collaborate with a wide range of agencies, including law enforcement, mental health, victim advocates, child protective services and healthcare providers.
“It is very gratifying to work with these leading children's hospitals to provide collaborative, care management solutions focused on improving the diagnosis and treatment of abused and neglected pediatric patients,” said Patricia Goede, PhD, vice president of clinical informatics at XIFIN, in a recent release. “By connecting disparate providers across disciplines and geographic areas with both text-based and visual diagnostic content, we can vastly improve quality, time to diagnosis and outcomes for abused children.”
“There aren't a lot of (clinicians) out there who can provide that expertise,” says Frasier, who served that role in Utah before moving to Pennsylvania more than two years ago, and noted that advocacy centers require an expert opinion before they'll take any action. “You need someone who know what to look for.”
While identifying cases of child abuse and neglect is critical, Frasier says the telemedicine platform is also vital in preventing mistaken diagnoses – a bruise that really is just a bruise, or maybe a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
“The value is in the accuracy of the diagnosis,” she says. “Over-interpreting something can be a huge cost to children and families.”
Another health system using the ProNet TeleCAM platform, Intermountain Healthcare's Center for Safe and Health Families in Salt Lake City, has reported a 28 percent reduction in time to diagnosis and more than 50 percent improvement in efficiency among nurses and nurse practitioners.
Frasier, whose department recently received a grant to expand the platform to other healthcare sites in the state, says it's an invaluable tool for any hospital, clinic, doctor's office, school nurse, retail clinic and other location where doctors and nurses treat children. It might also be incorporated into mobile devices for field workers, she said.
“This saves children and families,” she emphasized.
Man cleared of child abuse because he was asleep when he made girl touch him
by Richard Hartley-Parkinson
A man has been cleared of child abuse after a court heard he was asleep when he made a girl touch his genitals.
He was charged with forcing the eight-year-old girl to perform a sex act on him.
But the court in Stockholm, Sweden, found that it could not be proved that he was awake when the alleged incident occurred.
She was sharing the bed with the man – her mother's boyfriend – and her mother at the time, according to Dagens Furidik.
The girl told the court that she remembered seeing the whites of his eyes when he took her hand and put it on his crotch.
After pulling back, she said that he took her hand for a second time and again made her touch his genitals.
It was accepted that the girl had told the truth, but prosecutors were unable to prove for sure that he was awake at the time.
Prosecutors said: ‘He took her hand and put it around his penis.
A prosecutor said: ‘He held her wrist and pulled her hand up and down. She pretended to sleep. She turned away.
‘He grabbed her hand again and continued in the same way. This may have repeated once more.'
A judge wrote: ‘There is no reason to believe that the plaintiff knowingly made false statements about this. It is not possible to rule out that she may have been mistaken.
‘It is also impossible to ignore the fact that [he], although his eyes were open, may have been sleeping when he committed the act.'
Parents of child who died in Uniontown taken into police custody
23-month-old girl died last month at Uniontown Hospital
by Ashlie Hardway
UNIONTOWN, Pa. — The parents of a 23-month-old girl who died at Uniontown Hospital in February are charged with her death.
Andrea Dusha, 26, and Michael Wright Jr., 32, are facing charges that include criminal homicide in Lydia Wright's death.
Police were called to Uniontown Hospital Feb. 24 after the child's death. The toddler weighed only 10 pounds, less than half the recommended weight for a child her age.
Sources told Pittsburgh's Action News 4 that there were no obvious signs of trauma, but she was severely dehydrated.
It's also believed that the girl was left in a car seat for hours at a time in the weeks leading up to her death.
Investigators said the girl was drinking a mixture of water, Pedialyte and Gatorade when her eyes rolled back in her head. Dusha said she took Lydia to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Two of the girl's siblings were taken into the custody of Fayette County Children and Youth Services after her death.
Police said the home was in deplorable conditions, with toys, feces, bottles full of urine and garbage everywhere. Police said there was also a hypodermic needle in the home.
Investigators said there was no running water or sewage in the home, and that the toilet was full of feces. Police said a garbage bag on the bathroom floor was filled with used tampons, as well as open bottles of medicine and pills. Police said a high chair full of feces was in the bathtub.
"I lost my daughter, I'm grieving," Michael Wright Jr. said to Pittsburgh's Action News 4 Reporter Ashlie Hardway the day after Lydia Wright's death.
When Hardway asked Michael Wright Jr. if his daughter was dehydrated and if the conditions were deplorable inside his home, he acted surprised. "For one, we've been in contact with people so the information you're getting is wrong," he said.
Despite his claim that the house was fine, police filed an affidavit of probable cause detailing the conditions of the home and the neglect of Lydia Wright.
Dusha and Michael Wright Jr. were taken to the Fayette County Jail without the option to post bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 29.
Charity leader warns rising figures still only ‘scratching the surface' of child abuse
by Stefan Morkis
Police Scotland is facing a rising tide of sex crimes against children but a leading Dundee charity said stark new figures may only “scratch the surface”.
Figures released through freedom of information legislation show dramatic rises in the number of offences against girls and boys over the past four years.
While the exposure of serial criminals like Jimmy Savile has led to more people coming forward to report historical crimes, Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal, Police Scotland's lead for public protection, said the force is also facing “new threats” to children.
She said: “Keeping children safe is our priority and we are committed to working with partners nationally, locally and with support services to primarily prevent children being abused and neglected; to improve child protection services and to ensure appropriate support is available.
“We are seeing increased reporting of sexual offences. Alongside the ongoing efforts to tackle abuse, new threats are emerging which require different responses; threats like child sexual exploitation and online child sexual abuse.
“We are also seeing an increasing number of reports of non-recent sexual offences.
“We are aware that many children, for a whole host of reasons, may not initially disclose they have been abused and the true extent of child sexual abuse taking place in Scotland now is unknown.
“Since the formation of Police Scotland there has been an unprecedented focus on tackling online child sexual abuse and we continue to be proactive in our approach.
“Tackling sexual crime and the sexual abuse of children is a priority for Police Scotland, as is identifying perpetrators and bringing them to justice.
“We will do everything in our power to prevent these activities and, with our partners, protect children.”
The figures show the number of rapes of girls aged from 13 to 15 rose from 127 in 2010-11 to 185 in 2014-15.
The number of reported sexual assaults of girls of the same age rose from 181 to 321.
There has also been a huge rise in the number of reported crimes of taking, distributing or possessing indecent photographs of children.
In 2010-11 there were 376 offences, but this rose to 606 in 2014-15.
Laurie Matthew of Dundee charity 18 and Under said the true extent of child sex abuse may be even higher.
She said: “Even with these higher figures it really is scratching the surface.
“While some adult survivors may become strong enough or confident enough to go forward about their abuse, few children and young people who are abused go forward and report it.
“Child protection is failing young people who are currently being abused.
“If you look at research figures about the prevalence of sexual abuse, you will find that it is roughly one in four girls and one in six boys who are sexually abused before age 18.
“The incidence figures – the number of cases that come to light of young people being sexually abused – is nowhere near these figures.”
Ms Matthew added: “I find it interesting that children, young people and families are afraid to go near child protection services for help.
“A great deal more needs to be done. For a start, using an evidence-based abuse prevention programme such as the Violence Is Preventable Programme which has research-based proven value, in all nurseries, primaries and secondary schools would be a good start, as would providing more confidential services for young people.”
Ms Matthew said high-profile cases such as Jimmy Savile's may now be encouraging more people to come forward and giving them confidence that their complaints will be taken seriously.
Who is protected by the Royal Commission's private hearings? The case of Wolston Park Hospital survivors
by Adele Chynoweth
Does the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse ensure that all those who want to be heard publicly are provided the chance? Royal Commissions are usually public investigations. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse strays from the legal norm, instead, comprising private sessions as well as a selection of public case studies. Does this new approach fulfill a democratic and transparent investigation of institutionalised child sexual abuse?
The Terms of Reference of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse were established, and six Commissioners were appointed, by the Governor-General of Australia in January 2013. Also in that year, the Commonwealth Royal Commissions Act 1902 was amended in order to allow for private hearings at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse so that survivors of abuse may, without taking an oath, disclose their experiences. The Commissioners, in addition to these private sessions, also select matters for public case studies.
Participation in the Royal Commission's private sessions is voluntary. These private hearings aim to provide protection to those who are traumatised and/or have special support needs. It is an offence, under the amended Royal Commissions Act 1902, to disclose information obtained at a private session, except when such information is used by the Commission to perform its duties or where the information is de-identified for use in a Commission report. The public element of the Commission is confined to a series of particular case studies.
Protective silence around private hearings has the potential to shelter victims. Some victims might not want to give public evidence and that right should not prevail over any perceived public interest to share the information.The Commissioners understand that privacy may assist the provision of a comfortable and safe place for survivors to speak, including children and young people, as well as those do not wish to be identified publicly. There is plenty of positive feedback from survivors, who have testified in private, about the professional and sensitive handling of their testimony by the Commissioners.
However, we would be wrong to assume that all survivors want to speak privately. One group of women survivors has lobbied, without success for their experiences to be heard as a public case study by the Commission. These survivors were former child inmates of an adult psychiatric facility run by the Queensland State Government. From the 1960s through to the 1980s, children were incarcerated in Wolston Park Hospital in Wacol, Queensland. This medical response to 'juvenile delinquents', in the absence of diagnoses of mental illness, was included in the report of the Queensland Committee on Youth Problems (1959), chaired by the-then Queensland Police Minister Alexander Dewar. Most of the children affected by this policy had endured poverty and had been sent to children's institutions prior to being transferred to Wolston Park. In addition to an associated absence of formal education and a nurturing social environment, former child inmates of Wolston Park recall being forced to take anti-psychotic medication, including Paraldehyde, Haloperidoland Mellaril. These survivors note that the administration of such drugs was not for therapeutic, but for custodial purposes. Such chemical straightjacketing facilitated their rape by male warders.
In 1997, some of these survivors sought legal support and one test case was put forward in the Supreme Court of Brisbane against the State of Queensland. In its defence, the State successfully pleaded that the action was barred by the Limitations of Action Act 1974. This Act states that legal actions for personal injury must be commenced within three years from the date of the injury. Victims of child sexual abuse are usually incapable of initiating civil action within this time frame. In 1998, former child inmates of Wolston Park Hospital were again denied a public hearing at the Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions which excluded the abuse of children in adult psychiatrist facilities from its terms of reference. The Queensland Government did, however, make a formal apology in 2010 to former children under state care who were placed in adult mental hospitals.
In 2014, these women, as part of their plea for a public hearing, attended a private meeting with a community engagement officer from the Royal Commission in the hope of being granted a public legal hearing. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse, as laid out in the Royal Commissions Act 1902, has the power to call witnesses and authorise the application of search warrants. It can request documents and archival files. It could table medical research of long-term side effects for survivors, and any possible inter-generational outcomes for their children, of being force-fed anti-psychotic drugs. It could allow such evidence to be heard publicly, so that the media can report, health workers can hear, so that police ministers can learn from past policies and that voters can be informed.
Silence may protect, but as cultural anthropologist, Maria-Luisa Achino-Loeb reminds us, silence also informs human perceptions and identities. Silence selects and categorises. Silence informs our discussions, media reports, literary representation, our justice system and in turn, a nation's shared public history. Silence may lead us to inaccurately conclude that what is unspoken does not exist.
The silences that surround the private hearings of the Royal Commission and its associated public case-studies may lead us to assume, for example, that 30 percent of cases of institutionalised child sexual abuse is perpetrated by the Catholic Church and that 40 per cent occurs within independent schools. The silences that linger in the background while the spotlight ignites the public case studies may result in the Queensland Government escaping public criticism. The Royal Commission's private hearings mean that we may not be aware that the Queensland Government locked up children in adult psychiatric facilities, then, and has not amended the Queensland Limitations of Action Act 1974, now. Last year, the Victorian Government scrapped the time limit for civil action by survivors of child sexual abuse. The New South Wales Government is now following suit. Not so, Queensland.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse has enabled crucial private sessions in which participants can safely disclose their experiences. The case studies have enabled public hearings but the criteria for selection of subject matter are not clear. A nation has aimed collective vitriol at Cardinal Pell because the workings of the Catholic Church have been made public by the Royal Commission. We do not, similarly, urge the Queensland Government to give evidence about its former brutal policies. We do not make this insistence because the Royal Commission has kept this matter private. Only time will tell if former inmates of Wolston Park Hospital will be afforded a public voice by the Royal Commission, subsequent justice and an acknowledged place within our nation's narrative.
VIEW FROM AWAY: Preventing child abuse
For two years, a federal commission has been studying the deaths of children from abuse or neglect. Traveling the country, talking to child welfare leaders and reading daily headlines about young lives lost, the commission came to a sobering realization: We accept these fatalities as inevitable. In a powerful report, the commission challenges that mind-set and urges a new goal — zero fatalities — and a new, proactive, public-health approach to prevent these deaths.
The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, established by the White House and Congress as the result of bipartisan legislation in 2012,last week released its conclusions calling for fundamental changes in child protection. Instead of a single government agency that waits until a child is severely injured before intervening, “Within Our Reach” calls for collaboration among agencies and professions that come into contact with children and data-driven decisions that take into account the social and economic conditions that put children at risk.
Previous efforts by the federal government to tackle the issue have not succeeded, and unfortunately the commission found few examples of evidence-based solutions. One notable exception is the home-based Nurse-Family Partnership. The commission held up that program as a model and additionally identified a number of findings that should help those charged with child protection to devise new strategies focused on prevention. A number of children die without coming to the attention of child protective services, the commission found, but having been seen by other professionals. That highlights the importance of coordination and the sharing of real-time information, which today is often blocked by legal and bureaucratic barriers.
We hope this thoughtful report is taken to heart by national, state and local policymakers. Some recommendations — like the need for states to review how they deal with reports of abuse and neglect for children under 3, those most at risk for fatality — can be immediately implemented. Others — such as how to direct funds from existing entitlement programs to those with real promise of being effective — will require more study and deliberation.
One thing, though, is clear. Continuing the present course will result in more of what the commission called “unfinished lives.” Consider that during each of the two years the commission met, heard testimony and deliberated, an estimated 3,000 children — “eight children a day, every day” — died from abuse or neglect. That's something that should be unacceptable.
Legislation speeds access to child abuse records
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation intended to give authorities faster access to child abuse records when the child is missing and authorities believe a parent, guardian or sibling may be involved.
Sponsors say police, in order to act quickly, may need prompt access to social services records from the statewide register of child abuse and maltreatment.
While existing law provides access to those records when children are missing, lawmakers say some districts interpret it differently, which can cause delays.
The amendment also repeals the option for Office of Children and Family Services review of a local district decision not to provide records.
Gov. Mike Pence signs measure creating child abuse registry into law
The measure was motivated by the 2014 death of Kirk Coleman of New Paris, allegedly at the hands of his babysitter
by Tim Vandenack
INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Mike Pence Monday signed “Kirk's Law,” a measure creating a statewide child abuse registry into law.
The law calls on the Indiana Division of State Court Administration to create a public online registry of those convicted of child abuse and related crimes. The measure was spurred by the death of Kirk Coleman, a New Paris boy allegedly killed at the hands of his babysitter, Jackie Rolston, who faces a charge of felony battery on a child resulting in death in the 2014 incident.
Rolston had pleaded guilty in 2006 in another child neglect case, but Kirk's family learned of that incident only after the boy's death, prompting them to push for creation of the registry. They hope it creates a means for parents to check on the background of caretakers and babysitters before letting them actually take charge of their children.
Angie Garza, Kirk's grandmother, also said the measure serves as a means to honor her grandson. She pushed hard for the measure, enlisting the support of Sen. Carlin Yoder, a Middlebury Republican, who authored the bill. In the end, it wasn't even close — the bill generated unanimous support in the Indiana House and Senate leading up to Pence's action Monday signing the measure into law.
Ahead of Monday's action, Yoder said he didn't know of any other law like it in the country, though there's been talk of such legislation, and that he's been approached by representatives from other states interested in the measure.
Kirk's Law calls for creation of the registry by July 1, 2017. Those convicted of certain felony neglect charges, sex offenses and battery charges involving kids, whether in Indiana or elsewhere, would be placed on the registry.
‘Hands Down Child Abuse': Police Investigate Disturbing Facebook Photo of ‘For Sale' Duct-Taped Toddlers
by Jon Street
Police in Tennessee are investigating a disturbing photo posted to a local news outlet's Facebook page showing two toddlers with their hands and mouths duct-taped.
The Memphis Police Department is working to identify Jaton Justsilly Jaibabi, the Facebook user who reportedly posted the photo. That user's profile, however, has since been deleted.
The caption above the photo read, “Kids for sale 45% because they bad,” according to WHBQ-TV.
“It's child abuse, hands down child abuse,” Dreyia Johnson said when she saw the photo.
“That's tragic. I mean, who does that. I mean those are two innocent babies,” Johnson added.
The Memphis Police Department and the Tennessee Department of Children's Services are investigating the incident, but no charges have been filed yet.
“We have leads onto the location of the children and the person responsible,” MPD spokesman Wilton Cleveland told WHBQ. “Of course, our biggest concern is the children, and what kind of affects this could have on those children.”
Radio host hopes to change statute of limitation laws regarding sexual abuse
by Larry Flowers
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – A radio host and homeless advocate in Murfreesboro just recently filed a police report regarding alleged sexual child abuse that occurred decades ago when he was a young child.
Since so much time has passed, his alleged accuser will not face any charges.
However, there's a bill that is making its way through the state legislature that would give underage victims more time to report allegations.
WGNS radio host Scott Walker often has to read the news about child sex crimes.
“Many times I do report that,” Walker told News 2. “The good thing about that is there's closure for many of the victims in those cases because someone has been arrested, somebody has been convicted in a lot of the cases.”
But for years, Walker said he's been hiding a big secret of his own involving sexual abuse.
“Back when I was 11, 12, and even 13, I was sexually abused by a man living in our neighborhood,” Walker recalled.
It's our policy at News 2 not to identify sexual assault victims, but Walker wanted to share his story.
Walker recently filed a report with Murfreesboro police and was interviewed by sex crimes Detective Tommy Roberts, who has since located the man who allegedly abused him as a child.
“During that interrogation, that lasted for roughly two hours, the man surprisingly opened up to Detective Roberts and did admit to what took place,” Walker said.
According to the report, Roberts wrote, “The suspect would have been between the ages of 17 to 20. I interviewed [the suspect] on 2-17-2016. Based on all the evidence obtained I believe that [suspect] did indeed molest the [victim].”
“I discussed the case with the District Attorney's Office and it appears that the statute of limitations prevents me from charging [the suspect],” Roberts wrote.
Now, through the lens of his camera, Walker captures the heartache of the homeless community, but said he turned to the bottle to cope with pain he went through.
“I started drinking at about 13 years of age and continued to do so up to age 36,” Walker, who is now 40, said.
Walker said he is now sober.
“Finally overcoming that with the help of Branches Recovery Center and also Cumberland Heights and going through their programs,” Walker said.
The statute of limitations, for child abuse victims, has gotten the attention of state lawmakers.
“Somebody, like this individual you're talking about, could be the poster child for this bill and be able to go out and say look folks you do it, I couldn't, but you could,” Senate Bill 1841 sponsor Senator Todd Gardenhire said.
The bill would in essence extend the statute of limitation for child rape victims from four years to 15 years after they turn 18, to bring forth the claims and file charges.
The bill was amended from 25 years.
“A lot of times when that happens to a child, and that's what they are when the rape happened, they are emotionally distraught and not able to make a discussion for themselves on how to report it or identity or describe what happened because they are emotionally torn up,” Gardenhire said.
Walker said that's not long enough.
“Maybe set an age on it to where if you're the victim of a child rape 13 or under when it occurred, the statute of limitation is indefinitely, kind of similar to murder case because the lasting impact is indefinitely on the victim,” Walker said.
Walker knows the law wouldn't help him, but will help others.
“There are so many people out there, who have been through similar things, and they are still slowing either recovering from it or falling deeper into a hole because of it,” Walker said. “The devastation that sexual abuse can cause when someone is a child last throughout their life.”
Senate Bill 1841 passed Monday afternoon on the Senate floor anonymously 32-0.
House Bill 2120, sponsored by Representative Gerald McCormick, will be taken up in the Finance, Ways and Means Sub-committee on Wednesday.
Child advocates learn how to talk to victims
Adult actors play interview subjects
by Tracy Neal
BENTONVILLE -- She wore a green shirt and black tights. Pink angel wings sat on her back while a tiara snuggled in her hair.
The faux 5-year-old sat and waited until an adult approached her. She asked why he wanted to speak with her, then she followed him into an interview room.
The encounter was the first stage in an exercise where professionals involved in child-abuse investigations had to interview adults portraying children and suspected victims. The training occurred last week in the Melba Shewmaker Southern Region National Child Protection Training Center at Northwest Arkansas Community College.
The "child" actually was Jordan Anglin, 28. Anglin wore the angel wings and tiara to stay in character. She also sounded like a small child.
"Without the actors, we couldn't have the training," said Rita Farrell, director of education at the center. "The actors really make the difference."
Anglin has been an actor in training sessions for the past four years. She and the other adult actors help train professionals who work with and aid children in child-abuse investigations.
"Our kids need a voice, and someone that they can especially trust," Anglin said.
Matt Scott, 34, played the character of a 6-year-boy who was a victim of child abuse. Scott has acted in training exercises for five years. The interviews could be useful evidence in court and could help validate a child's claims, he said.
The trained actors allow students to test their interviewing skills, Farrell said.
Jack Hailey, a detective with the Paragould Police Department, got his chance Friday morning. He had to interview an actor portraying 7-year-old Susan, who held a stuffed animal close to her.
Hailey introduced himself to the adult actor who was portraying the little girl.
"My job is to listen to you," Hailey told her.
Hailey described the training as demanding but also called it an "educational experience."
"I've watched a lot of interviews, but I now have a better understanding of why the interviewer asked certain questions," he said.
The training would be helpful for anyone involved in child-abuse investigations, he said.
The interviewing exercise was part of a weeklong course called Child First that included interview training for the 41 students, Farrell said.
The students are police officers, Arkansas Department of Human Services workers, medical and mental health professionals, prosecutors and others who work with child advocacy centers and the Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children unit. Farrell said the 41 students came from 11 counties across the state.
The center trained 5,864 students last year, Farrell said. Dozens of different students will be trained at another program at the center in a few weeks.
The Arkansas Commission on Child Abuse, Rape and Domestic Violence pays for the participants to attend the 40-hour course, Farrell said.
Paul Carter, a detective with the Benton County sheriff's office, acted as an interviewer Thursday.
"I saw the other side of it," Carter said. "I saw it from the eyes of a child, and now I better understand why sometimes they are not willing to say anything about the abuse."
Carter said the acting was difficult, and he was uncomfortable with the interview. His team critiqued his work, pointing out good and bad things that happened during the interview.
The training, especially the interviewing, allows students to make mistakes in a mock setting instead of a real-life situation, Farrell said.
"It just provides hands-on experience for what they will be facing," Farrell said.
Nearly 700 sex offenders reportedly removed from UK register in four years
Freedom of information request shows half of those who appealed against being on register for life were successful, says BBC
by The Press Association
Nearly 700 sex offenders in the UK, including 157 child abusers, have been taken off the register in the past four years, the BBC has reported.
The criminals, who had convictions including the rape of boys and girls, incest and taking child abuse photos, were told they no longer had to register with the police, it was reported.
A freedom of information request showed more than half of applications for removal from the register made since 2012 were successful, the BBC said. They included 170 rapists – 27 of whom raped people aged under 16 – and three people who committed incest with children under 13.
It comes after a ruling by the supreme court in 2010 allowed sex offenders to appeal against being held on the register for life.
Of the 1,289 requests received for people to be removed from the register, 679 were approved, the BBC said of its FoI request, to which 40 UK police forces responded.
Ninety per cent of requests made to North Wales police were approved, but Dyfed-Powys police did not approve any requests, the broadcaster said. Other forces that approved more than half of requests include Wiltshire, Northumbria, and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Home Office guidance states that there is no automatic right to be removed from the register, advising that police must instead consider a number of factors, which can include representations from victims, and be satisfied the offender no longer poses a risk or a sufficient risk to society.
The legislation is aimed to allow forces to “focus their resources on the rigorous and effective management of those offenders who continue to pose such a risk”, the guidance states.
Victims and survivors are “extremely concerned” about offenders being removed from the register, said Peter Saunders – who founded the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac). He said the majority of people he had spoken to on the subject would call for a change in the law, arguing that adults who have abused children would always pose a risk.
He said: “Where somebody has become an adult offender, and has committed these kind of vile and serious crimes against children, then our view is that there isn't really a case for removing them from a register even though the law says that that can happen.
“So it's an area where we would say ‘let's look at the law again' because children only get one chance at childhood and if that is utterly devastated by being abused or violated in some way then their life is potentially going to be challenging to say the least, so people who commit those kinds of crimes should know that the consequences for them will be a lifetime of being monitored.”
He added: “The victims and survivors are extremely concerned about this (legislation), not just because it is their potential offenders that are being released or are being de-registered, it's about the danger they still consider that they pose to children now.
“I think most survivors would wholeheartedly support a change in any legislation that enables abusers a free rein.”
Mass. child abuse deaths drop
by Jenifer McKim
The number of children who died from abuse and neglect in Massachusetts fell sharply in 2014, according to a newly released count that defied state predictions and raised questions about whether the drop reflected improved vigilance or just good luck.
The Department of Children and Families said the number of deaths from maltreatment fell from 39 in 2013 to 22 in 2014. The agency has not yet compiled child abuse deaths for 2015.
Not all the news is good: The 2014 dead included 10 children who had been under state watch at some point before their deaths, suggesting that social workers continue to miss warning signs. In one case, a 12-year-old Leominster boy killed himself in a troubled home where social workers or police had found a chained refrigerator and indications the boy had been beaten.
The decreased death toll came at a time when the agency was under intense scrutiny following several high-profile deaths of children under their supervision, including a Fitchburg boy whose body was found beside a highway in early 2014.
In response, the Legislature boosted DCF's budget and social workers started removing more children from homes considered unsafe. They had also placed fewer children in a “lower-risk” category of monitoring that some social workers have said failed to protect children.
The lower 2014 death toll counters state officials' predictions. Last year, they had estimated that 2014 numbers would remain elevated, due in part to the region's opioid epidemic.
State officials said they are grateful that fewer children died in 2014 but claimed little credit, saying numbers can vary from year to year. In September, Governor Charlie Baker promised an overhaul of the state's child welfare system, including better investigations of maltreatment allegations and improved oversight of social workers.
“We recognize that there are deep-rooted systemic problems that are being addressed in the ongoing agency reform,” said Andrea Grossman, a DCF spokeswoman.
A child welfare expert said the fatality numbers are too small to draw conclusions from the change over a single year.
“I would suggest to you that it is fortunate, random chance,'' said Richard Wexler, executive director of the nonprofit, Virginia-based National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.
In September, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that 110 children died of abuse and neglect between 2009 and 2013, about a third of whom had been monitored by DCF. The center obtained the data through public records requests, arguing that federal law requires disclosure of child abuse deaths.
The 2014 data reveal new stories of missed opportunities: Nearly half the children who died that year had been in contact with state social workers at some point in their short, troubled lives.
DCF attributed the death of the Leominster boy, middle school student Isaiah Climons, to neglect, saying parents did not take “adequate steps” to address their child's “mental health needs.'' His mother and stepfather could not be reached. Ellen Sweeney, an attorney for Isaiah's mother, declined to comment.
But some family members and child-welfare activists are now asking why DCF and school officials did not take stronger action to help the boy, whose family was receiving social services at the time of his death.
Before he took his own life, Isaiah made it clear to some that he was contemplating suicide — posting a message on social media observed by school officials and talking to his extended family about his intentions.
“I don't understand why this kid wasn't pulled out of the house,'' said Jetta Bernier, executive director of the Boston-based nonprofit Massachusetts Citizens for Children, or MassKids. “There were so many red flags.”
Jasmin Sepulveda, Isaiah's older cousin, said social workers who visited the house should have spent more time listening to his concerns. She said he had marks on his wrist and she knew he was cutting himself, a sign that he was calling for help.
“Why did they leave him there?” she asked.
DCF would not comment about Isaiah beyond the summary it provided.
Two other children on the 2014 fatality list, including a Yarmouth toddler, had been placed in the recently eliminated lower-risk track, which put more emphasis on helping families stay together than on child safety. In November, Baker announced that the state would eliminate the dual system, months after the New England Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that 10 children who had been placed on this risk track were found to have died of abuse and neglect.
Lucas Braman of Yarmouth had come under state supervision because of concerns about his mother's drug use during pregnancy, according to DCF records. He was later turned over to relatives for care and died in February 2014 after being found unresponsive in his crib, wearing a hockey helmet and covered by heavy blankets, DCF said.
The state medical examiner ruled that the cause of the boy's death “could not be determined” and the case is still under investigation, according to Tara L. Miltimore, assistant district attorney at the Cape & Islands district attorney's office.
Sheryl Erb, one of Lucas's caretakers, declined to comment for this story.
The state also listed 12 children in 2014 who died of maltreatment and didn't appear to have any significant history with the state. They included 8-year-old David Martinez, a home-schooled child from Lowell whose death was “related to malnutrition and lack of medical care,” according to DCF.
David's parents could not be reached for comment. A criminal investigation into his death is ongoing, according to the Middlesex district attorney's office.
It is possible that DCF investigated abuse and neglect complaints involving some of the 12 children and chose not to intervene. But DCF has declined to release data on allegations they received and dismissed, saying that information is confidential.
Michael Petit, a commissioner with the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, said state officials should be transparent about their handling of complaints, including cases in which children die after social workers declined to intervene.
“The whole veil of secrecy should be lifted except in the most unusual circumstances,'' Petit said.
Still, other observers say changes in the way Massachusetts social workers do their jobs may have reduced the death toll.
The number of children pulled from their homes rose to 6,587 in the year ended Sept. 30, 2014, up more than 20 percent from the previous 12 months, according to DCF. Peter MacKinnon, a DCF workers' union president, said it was possible that more children have been taken out of bad situations.
MacKinnon, who heads Local 529 of the Service Employees International Union, said that the drop in deaths is heartening, but he now worries that too many children are being removed from families that may be safe.
Push to improve laws on child abuse reporting in New York private, religious schools
by Ben Chapman
Advocates are pushing for new legislation in Albany that aims to improve the reporting of child abuse in New York State's private and religious schools.
New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children director Mary Pulido is urging state lawmakers to amend an existing law that requires public schools to report abuses by school workers to police so that the law would apply to private and religious schools as well.
Pulido, who also serves as president of the New York Chapter of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, sent a letter on behalf of both organizations to 40 state lawmakers on Friday urging them to tackle the issue.
"Students in private school are just as vulnerable as their public school counterparts," the letter reads. "It seems inconceivable that these schools remain free to handle abuse allegations in any manner they choose."
Lawmakers who received the letter include influential state Sen. Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) a longtime advocate for educational issues in Albany. A Klein spokeswoman said Klein is reviewing the proposal.
Nearly 500,000 kids attend private k-12 schools in New York State, according to the online Private School Review.
Pulido's push for better reporting comes after a spate of high-profile sex abuse allegations in private schools including Horace Mann School in the Bronx, which settled a case with an anonymous plaintiff in April 2015.
Nearly three dozen former Horace Mann students have claimed abuse by teachers and administrators at the school. A Horace Mann spokesperson did not return calls for comment on the proposed legislation.
Peter Brooks, a spokesman for the Horace Mann Action Coalition, an alumni group formed to support abuse survivors, said he supports any legislation to improve reporting of child abuse.
"There is no question that reporting to the authorities is the number one change that should happen," Brooks said. "Any legal changes that would reinforce the obligation to report abuse would be an improvement."
Livingston County child abuse spikes 73%
by Abby Welsh
Child poverty and abuse rates continue to climb, wreaking havoc in Livingston County.
According to the 2016 Kids Count in Michigan report released today, the number of child abuse and neglect victims in Livingston County soared 65 percent from 226 in 2006 to 374 in 2014. The number of children living in poverty in the county jumped 35 percent from 2,532 in 2006 to 3,423 in 2014.
“I think the main concern here is: What is going on in Livingston County that makes this negative trend continue to increase?” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Michigan League for Public Policy Kids Count project director. “In order for Livingston County to truly improve, these are areas of focus.”
The Kids Count report is a broad national effort to measure the well-being of children at the state and local levels by analyzing 16 key indicators across economic security, health and safety, family and community, and education. This year's annual report shows Livingston County indicators are moving in the wrong direction.
Overall, Livingston County is ranked first for child well-being in the state for the second year in a row, but "they are still nowhere they should be,” Guevara Warren said.
Between 2006 and 2014, there was a “150 percent increase of the rate” of Livingston County children living in a foster home or a relative's home, according to the report.
Child poverty also went up in 80 of 83 Michigan counties since 2006.
While the county's child poverty rate is still the best in Michigan at 8.1 percent, it is still a 42 percent rate increase from nine years ago, according to the report.
“Livingston has a pretty low poverty rate, and neglect has a lot to do with poverty … so it's a little surprising,” Guevara Warren said. “It makes me wonder what is going on there.”
Bobette Schrandt, CEO and president of LACASA, stressed that socio-economic status plays no part in child abuse and neglect cases. LACASA is the county's domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse prevention agency.
“Of course when someone lives in poverty, it's an added stress that can contribute to child abuse and neglect. But it still happens at all economic status levels,” Schrandt said. “You might see more neglect rather than abuse for children in a higher socio-economic status, but it's still there.”
Cause for rise uncertain
The rate of child abuse and neglect also rose 29 percent statewide, with a rate of 15 kids per 1,000 in 2014. Livingston County had a rate of child abuse and neglect of roughly nine kids per 1,000, according to the report.
Schrandt said that LACASA easily doubles in child abuse and neglect cases each year.
However, it's hard for her to determine why.
“It goes back to the ‘Which was first, the chicken or the egg' question,” Schrandt said. “We have really done a great job at educating and informing the community about our programs and services, so we don't know if the number of cases have risen because more are happening or if they are just becoming aware of our services and now reporting them.”
LACASA conducted 174 forensic child interviews in 2012, 213 in 2013, 148 in 2014 and around 214 in 2015.
“We started around 140 and then 170 and now up to the 200s,” Schrandt said, noting sometimes they have up to three child cases a day. “It's a consistent, substantial amount.”
What LACASA saw in 2015
• 249 children received clinical services.
• 76 adults and children received in-home services due to an abuse case.
• 17 children received trauma assessments.
• 63 kids were removed from homes due to abuse or neglect.
“When I first started here, we had around 2,000 people (each year) stay in our shelter at night; now we have up to 5,000,” Schrandt said. “I hope in the next 10 years we see a more consistent number across the board. ... It's sad.”
Regardless of the reason, Schrandt is happy people are coming forward instead of hiding in the dark.
Home life impacts class life
The report also indicates that education and teen birth rates were the only positive improvements Livingston County has seen since 2013.
However, even though Livingston County saw a slight increase in the education category doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement.
“What goes on at home plays a big part on what goes on in the classroom, so we need to see improvement across the board,” Guevara Warren said. “It's not just education.”
Livingston County was ranked seventh statewide for having the most 3- and 4-year-olds in preschool, and it ranked fifth statewide for students not graduating on time.
Because last year was the first year for students to take the new Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (MSTEP), Guevara Warren said there isn't any data to compare yet.
However, Livingston County ranked seventh for third-grade English language arts scores on the MSTEP, ranked ninth for the eighth-grade math MSTEP scores and ranked 15th for the 11th-grade English language arts MSTEP scores.
“Just keep in mind that there is still a chunk of students who weren't proficient on this test,” Guevara Warren said. “But overall, Livingston County is slightly improving, and it's important to show people what is going on in order for change to occur."
New law aims at child abuse prevention
by Kelly Sullivan
For the next year, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District along with the state's 53 other public school districts will work on implementing stricter curricula aimed at preventing their students from experiencing dating violence and abuse, sexual or otherwise.
The task force formed to develop model curricula for the Safe Children's Act will provide recommendations by June 30 for a bill, made up of the Erin's and Bree's laws, which passed in 2015 and will go into effect June 30, 2017, exactly one year later.
“Our hope is that the task force will work with districts to develop low-impact, high-gains programs that allow districts to provide meaningful educational opportunities for students,” said John Pothast, director of secondary education for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
Alaska has among the highest rates of child abuse and neglect per capita in the U.S., according to the Alaska Children's Trust, one of the collaborating organizations that pushed for the original legislation. Abuse and trauma impairs physical, social and intellectual development, and increases the risk of lower academic performance, according to the trust.
Abuse and trauma also increase the risk of chronic disease, disabilities and premature death in adults, and costs the federal government as much as $80 billion annually in dealing with short and long term impacts, according to the trust.
According to the bill, employees and students in the kindergarten through 12th grades must receive training on sexual abuse prevention and employees and students in grades 7th through 12th must receive dating violence and abuse prevention training.
All information must be deemed age appropriate, and children may be excused through written request by a parent.
“The state has yet to decide what programs will be required and, or offered as choices to fulfill the requirements of this act,” Pothast said.
The Alaska Youth Risk Behavior Survey completed and released annually by Alaska's Department of Health and Social Services presents information from high school students statewide. In 2015, 7.5 percent of all students reported having forced sexual intercourse, while 9.5 percent reported experiencing physical dating violence and 10.1 percent reported experiencing sexual dating violence.
Education Specialist Patricia Owen with the Department of Education & Early Development said the legislation passed last year offers the chance “for all of us to work together to keep our children safe and end the high rates of abuse and violence in Alaska.”
The school district does not formally track how many of its students have experienced sexual or physical abuse or dating violence, Pothast said.
However, the school district is already addressing some points stipulated in the Act, including portions of the health curriculum, the Fourth-R materials, and counseling work through the Project AWARE, Advancing Wellness and Resilience Education, Substance abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant, he said.
“The Fourth-R Healthy Relationships program is an evidence-based program supported in Alaska by a number of agencies including EED, the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, the Division of Public Health and the Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault,” Owen said.
Many school districts are already providing programs, but perhaps not to all the newly required grade levels, Owen said. School districts may use different programs based on what the task force recommends, or need to add more to reach all students, she said.
“School districts will have the year between the recommendations and implementation,” Owen said. “It's up to individual school districts to implement the curriculum of their choice.”
Being a rape survivor and being a good parent aren't mutually exclusive
by Maureen Shaw
As a survivor of sexual assault and a mother to two young children, the prolonged effects of my rape touch every single aspect of my life–including the way I approach parenting. I know I'm not alone.
The statistical probability that you know a woman who has been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted is quite high: Nearly one in five American women, out of roughly 163 million, report experiencing rape at some point in their lives. Now consider how many mothers you know: As of 2015, the US government counted 43.5 million mamas. Then do some rudimentary math. The potential overlap between rape victims and moms is impossible to miss.
Indeed, research published in the 2005 edition of VISTAS: Compelling perspectives on counseling indicates that the long-term emotional consequences of sexual abuse are intergenerational. That means it's not just the victim (mom) who is affected by assault, but her children as well. The aftermath of sexual trauma can affect the mother-child relationship in a variety of ways.
Not surprisingly, the first potential effect is emotional. According to Dr. Lisa Litt, a psychologist who specializes in trauma, having a history of sexual victimization may very well impact a mother's ability to regulate her emotions in tense situations.
“The ability to tolerate feeling overwhelmed and distressed, which is so common when parenting, is sometimes compromised,” Litt tells Quartz. “Sexual abuse can derail normal behavioral and physiological processes for managing stress … [and] can make it difficult to respond calmly when a child is also dysregulated.”
Personally, I don't know a mother who hasn't lost her cool on occasion while dealing with a screaming child mid-tantrum. But this typical one-off response is not what Litt is referring to. A mother who has been affected by trauma may be more prone to responses that contribute to ongoing patterns of dysregulation, or impairments in the regulation of the psychological process.
“A parent may not know what to do to calm a baby or a child, and this can impact developing relationships and attachments,” Litt says.
“Some mothers may withdraw emotionally from a crying baby or a child having a normal tantrum, behavior that makes it hard for the child to effectively learn to modulate her own emotions.”
In other words, the emotional trauma wrought by sexual violence has a domino effect. It doesn't just stop at the victim. It can affect the development of her children's coping mechanisms and interpersonal relationships as well.
Fortunately, I don't feel as though my past experiences have influenced my children. At least, not in a negative way. If anything, I feel that my personal history has made me a more protective mother, almost to a fault. (Seriously, I put the “mother” in “smother”).
According to Litt, my response isn't atypical, either. “Another struggle reported by women who have been sexually victimized is how to manage their own drive to protect/overprotect their children,” she says. “It can be very hard for a woman to separate out her own terrible experience from her fears for her child's safety. Some mothers err on the side of trying to overprotect their children.”
I am certainly cognizant of my overprotectiveness. Heaven forbid I become a “helicopter parent.” The last thing I want is to interfere in my kids' ability to form healthy relationships as they mature. I want them to have the freedom to grow and enjoy life without shouldering the burden of my past assault. So I make a concerted effort to channel my protective zeal in an empowering way by teaching age-appropriate consent.
For example, my husband and I do not force our preschool-aged daughter to hug or kiss relatives or friends, regardless of potentially hurt feelings. Instead we offer alternatives to close physical contact, such as high-fives or thumbs-up, to express affection. And we make damn sure she knows that nobody should ever touch her inappropriately, or even benignly, without her permission.
This is a two-way street. As vital as it is for our children to know that they shouldn't be touched without consent, they also need to understand and respect others' physical boundaries. We talk about this regularly with our daughter and plan to do the same with our infant son as he grows up. We firmly believe that the earlier we help our children establish a strong sense of bodily autonomy, the better.
Of course, my experience is but one example out of millions. No single assault is the same, and as such, impacts on parenting differ. According to Claudia Giolitti, a psychotherapist who specializes in treating female survivors of sexual trauma, there are numerous factors that influence the way survivors approach parenting. These include whether the mother has experienced multiple types of trauma (such as physical abuse or neglect), the extent of the abuse (an isolated incident or repeat occurrences), family history of mental health issues, and availability of support services.
“Trauma, in general, fractures our ego. Depending on the factors mentioned above, it could be a little crack or a complete fracture,” Giolitti tells Quartz. “The bigger the fracture, the harder it is to connect with others' emotions and needs, and the harder it is to regulate our own effect later on.”
But survivors can still leverage their experiences to build positive, healthy relationships with their children. According to both Giolitti and Litt, the first step is being aware of the trauma.
“The more awareness that a mother has about her own emotional experience, the greater the opportunities she has to make good choices as a parent,” Litt says. “Recognizing if and when she is struggling, for example, and engaging in self-care or reaching out for help or support, is so valuable to being a good parent.”
Surviving sexual assault is not easy, and neither is parenting. But the trauma of abuse doesn't have to rob you of the joy of raising children. I'm living proof of that. If you are a parent with a history of sexual victimization, heed the advice of professionals: Be aware, seek help. Being a survivor and being a good parent aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, by educating the next generation, we can work to ensure that our children will grow up in a safer, more empowered society–one that refuses to allow sexual trauma to flourish.
North East child grooming cases more than double in just two years
by Dan O'Donoghue
Child grooming offences in the North East have more than doubled in the last two years.
Figures released by Northumbria Police have revealed that there were 34 cases of sexual grooming in the first six months of 2015-16.
That compares with 33 in the whole of 2014-15, 10 in the whole of 2013-14, and just nine in the whole of 2012-13.
Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse or exploitation.
Nationally, there were 498 recorded cases of grooming in the first six months of 2015-16, which covers the period from April to September last year- that is more than the 459 cases in the whole of 2013-14.
The stark rise comes in the wake of a number of high-profile cases which have pushed grooming up the political agenda.
Northumbria Police chiefs have said that the rise in grooming crimes is due victims feeling more confident to come forward.
Detective Chief Superintendent Tim Walker, head of crime at Northumbria Police, said: “We take any allegation of child abuse - including child grooming - very seriously and work closely with partners to help tackle these issues and raise awareness of the issue.
“These figures show that more people now have the confidence to report these types of crime to us, which is encouraging. We are aware that sexual offences against young people have been under reported to the police and these latest figures show that this is now changing and we view this as a positive step.”
Northumbria Police have said that a dedicated team of specialist officers deal with all allegations of child abuse to ensure they are investigated “thoroughly and fully”.
Supt Walker added: “Protecting vulnerable people and putting victims first are priorities for the force and we do a lot of prevention work in schools and communities to help people of all ages to help understand what abuse is and how to recognise the signs of it.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird said that protecting vulnerable members of the community was a priority.
She said: “These victims have shown incredible bravery in coming forward, and it's clear from the growth in numbers that more and more are finding the confidence to do so. We want to make all victims aware that help is here - we will listen and give the support needed.
She added: “I will ensure Northumbria Police continue to do all they can to tackle this issue head on, working hard to raise awareness and educate people about spotting the warning signs so we can seek justice for victims and put offenders before the courts.”