Sex offenses need not go unpunished
by Theresa E. Wetzsteon
“There's nothing anyone can do now.” “It's too late.” “No one will believe me.” “It's my word against his.”
Sexual assault remains the most underreported crime. As a prosecutor of sexual assault cases for the last 14 years, I have observed that in the vast majority of these cases, there is a delay in reporting the assault.
Sexual assault offenders are motivated by their desire to exercise power and control over their victims. The offender often gains control through intimidation and manipulation. The mental trauma to the victim remains long after the physical act is over. This often results in the victim's silence.
The Wisconsin Legislature has recognized the trauma experienced by victims of sexual assault and has extended the time limit for prosecution. In 1989, the Legislature began extending the time period to report sexual assaults. Currently, the law permits the prosecution of sexual assault of a child under age 13 years old at any point during the lifetime of a victim for offenses occurring after July 1, 1989. This extension of time for prosecution allowed the Marathon County District Attorney's Office to recently prosecute and convict an offender for a sexual assault of an 8-year-old child that began in 1990 and was first reported to law enforcement in 2014.
In addition to child sexual assaults, the Legislature has recently extended the time limit for prosecution of sexual intercourse with an adult without his or her consent to 10 years after the assault was committed. These and other extensions of time for the prosecution of sexual assault crimes send a clear message to victims that the criminal justice system will hear their voices and hold the offenders accountable even years after the assaults.
One of the most rewarding aspects of prosecuting crimes of sexual assault is witnessing victims become empowered survivors. In a recent case, a young woman came forward after decades of silence. After she reported, she became aware that she was not alone and that others she loved had suffered abuse by this offender. Through her disclosure, she found support and could provide support for others, and she regained some of the control over her life that the perpetrator had taken long ago.
I witnessed as she found the courage to face her assailant in court. As we awaited the jury's verdict in the case, it was apparent that she was no longer a victim, but a survivor. Regardless of the jury's verdict, she had already won. For years, she thought that she was protecting those she loved by sparing them from the heartache of the assault, but it was only by breaking her silence that she could truly protect those she loved.
Viewpoint: We can't ignore child abuse and neglect
by Kristin Valentino
No one likes to talk about or think about child abuse and neglect. Child maltreatment is an uncomfortable topic, but one that we cannot ignore. If we do not change our approach to preventing child abuse and neglect, somewhere between 1,500 and 3,000 children in the United States will die from child abuse and neglect in 2016.
In Indiana, the problem is no less concerning. Indiana ranks in the top 10 nationally for the most victims of child abuse and neglect per 1,000 children. Indiana has the third highest rate of child maltreatment for children younger than 1.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities just released its executive report with sobering statistics:
• An estimated four to eight children a day, every day, die from abuse and neglect.
• Children who die from abuse and neglect are overwhelmingly young; approximately one-half are less than a year old, and 75 percent are younger than 3 years old.
• A call to a child protection hotline is the best predictor of a child's potential risk of injury death before age 5.
• Many young infants die from abuse or neglect without ever having been reported to Child Protective Services. If CPS doesn't know about them, caseworkers cannot protect them. Many of these children were known to other systems (e.g. health care) and community members who had knowledge that there were potential safety issues in the home.
Our current approach to child abuse and neglect is to wait until a child is severely injured before intervening with vital supports. Our system also relies, almost exclusively, on one agency — CPS (or here in Indiana, the Department of Child Services) — to intervene with families who face multiple complex challenges. The executive report (available here: https://eliminatechildabusefatalities.sites.usa.gov/) points to several places where we can improve efforts to prevent child maltreatment. In short, we must be more proactive.
To me, the most striking findings from the commission's report were that a call to a child protection hotline was the single best predictor of a child's potential risk of death, and that in most fatalities, there were individuals who knew about potential safety issues but failed to call CPS to make a report.
Under Indiana law, we are all mandated reporters. This means that any one of us who has a reason to suspect a child is a victim of abuse or neglect has the duty to make a report.
As a professor who specializes in child abuse and neglect, people ask me regularly about whether or not they should make a report to DCS. In most cases, the response is yes. If you suspect that child abuse or neglect has occurred, make a report. Call the hotline at 1-800-800-5556 — they will answer 24 hours a day, every day. There is no risk to you, and you could be saving a child's life. You don't need to be sure if abuse or neglect actually occurred; DCS will make that determination. You can remain anonymous, so no one has to know you made the call. Remember, DCS cannot intervene to protect children if we do not make reports. If you are worried about a family in crisis, but do not think that child abuse or neglect has occurred, another way to prevent child abuse and neglect is to connect that family with supports. Links to several available services, many of which are free, such as SCAN and Healthy Families, can be found on the Prevent Child Abuse St. Joseph County website (www.pcasjc.org).
It is the responsibility of Prevent Child Abuse St. Joseph County to educate, promote, support and inform members of our community about the prevention of child abuse and affirm the value of our most vulnerable, our youth. For more information about Prevent Child Abuse St. Joseph County, please visit www.pcasjc.org.
Kristin Valentino is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame. She is a board member of Prevent Child Abuse St. Joseph County.
Turkish teacher at Muslim charity given 508-year sentence for child abuse
by Reuters Staff
A Turkish teacher accused of sexually abusing children in guest houses run by Islamic foundations was handed a 508-year jail sentence in a case that has stirred recrimination between a government with roots in political Islam and its opponents.
A brief brawl erupted between protesters and security forces outside the courthouse after the ruling. Riot police created a human shield for the convict, who rejected all charges, as he was escorted to a bus to take him to jail.
The teacher, identified in the Turkish media as a 54-year-old male, received the sentence on Wednesday for abusing 10 children in homes allegedly run by the Ensar and KAIMDER charitable foundations in the conservative southern city of Karaman in 2012-15.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, head of the ruling AK Party, had vowed that anyone responsible for abuse would be held to account. But he has also said the allegations are being used for political gain and to tarnish the Islamic foundations, which both deny responsibility.
The main secularist opposition and rights groups have criticised the AK Party, founded by President Tayyip Erdogan, for seeking to defend the foundations, accusing them of running illegal guesthouses for minors, which Ensar and KAIMDER deny.
They have also criticised the trial of a single suspect, arguing the foundations themselves should be held to account.
“Justice has been served if we are talking about this one individual,” Sera Kadigil, one of dozens of lawyers who were present to monitor the hearing, told CNN Turk television.
“But the path for investigation of Ensar and KAIMDER is open,” she said.
Turkey's opposition is suspicious of what it regards as the AKP's Islamist ideals and fears such foundations are protected by the government and are building a growing influence over the country's education system.
In a statement on its website, Ensar's chairman Cenk Dilberoglu said the suspect served as a voluntary teacher at its foundation for 5 months and that the institution had nothing to do with the alleged abuse and was being deliberately tarnished.
KAIMDER said in a statement on its website that it was the target of a smear campaign.
Family Minister Sema Ramazanoglu drew opposition criticism and a furious response on social media last month when she said the alleged abuse was a lone case and was being used as “an excuse to tarnish an institution”.
The leader of the main secularist CHP opposition, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, last week accused Ramazanoglu and the AKP of seeking to defend the foundations instead of the children.
“I am addressing pious and sincere Muslim citizens: How many times does it have to take place to annoy your conscience?” he said in a speech to parliament.
T&T authority says more than 900 children sexually abused during 9-month period
by The Carib News
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The Children's Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (CATT) says more than 900 children have been sexually abused during a nine month period.
In its “Statistical Report on Sexual Abuse against Children in Trinidad and Tobago,” the CATT said that for the period May 18, 2015 to February this year, 4,158 children in need of care, protection and rehabilitation were brought to the attention of the authority.
“Of this, approximately 915 cases or one in five reports was categorised as sexual abuse,” the CATT said, adding the majority of sexual abuse cases brought to its attention involved female children (86.8 per cent), while 13.2 per cent of sexual abuse cases involved male children.
“While children of all age groups were victims of sexual abuse, the majority of children involved in sexual abuse cases reported to the Authority were between the ages of 10 and 15 years old, with 23.9 per cent of these children belonging to the 10-13 age group and 28.9 per cent to the 14-15 age group.”
The CATT said that 18 per cent of all children involved in sexual abuse cases were between the ages of 16 to 17 years old.
The CATT said that while girls are predominately reported as the victims of sexual abuse, during the Authority's first nine months of operations there were 148 cases of boys who were sexually abused in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Alarmingly, the highest percentage of cases of sexual abuse against boys reported to the Authority involved boys between the ages of 4 and 6 years old (26.4 per cent). Of all reports of sexual abuse against boys, 22.3 per cent involved boys between the ages of 10 and 13 years old, while 17.6 per cent involved boys between the ages of 7 and 9 years old.
“While 15.5 per cent of these cases involved boys between the ages of 14 and 15 years, 10.1 per cent of all sexual abuse cases against boys involved toddlers (boys 3 years old and younger),” the CATT added.
The Authority also noted that during the nine month period, 2.8 per cent of all reported cases of sexual abuse against children occurred in Tobago.
“Cases of sexual abuse against children were the second highest category of care and protection reported in Tobago during the Authority's first nine months of operations. Of all reported cases of children in need of care and protection originating from Tobago, 23.8 per cent were cases of sexual abuse against children.
Overall, the CATT said that there were 195 cases of children committing sexual offences against other children -child on child abuse – during the nine month period.
“The majority of the clients in these cases were females (72.8 per cent) while more than one quarter of the clients (27.2 per cent) of these specific cases were males,” it added.
Priest convicted of sex crime finds home in Oklahoma parish
by LORNE FULTONBERG
LAWTON, Okla. -- A priest who pleaded guilty to sexual battery charges in San Diego is the newest chaplain at a Catholic church in Lawton.
Fr. Jose Alexis Davila joined Blessed Sacrament in Lawton in December, despite a criminal misdemeanor for inappropriately touching a 19-year-old woman in 2011. The church introduced him to the congregation, but never mentioned his criminal past -- or even his last job, writing only that "he has pastoral experience in the United States."
"We're very alarmed by this," said David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "This is precisely the pattern that's been in the Catholic Church for decades and it's amazingly irresponsible."
Following Davila's conviction in 2012, San Diego news outlets reported he was quietly reinstated and deemed "fit to minister." A judge sentenced him to three years probation and 150 hours of community service. He worked briefly at another parish before leaving the area.
He arrived in Oklahoma last year, and was officially assigned to three additional congregations in Elgin, Apache and Sterling.
For Clohessy, who has followed the case since it began, the new position is a disappointment.
"Yes he deserves a second chance but not in a position of trust and responsibility and authority and respect like a priest," he told NewsChannel 4. "And certainly not with no warnings to families around him. If a clergyman or woman abuses his authority and takes sexual advantage of a teenager we really think it should be exactly what the bishops promised it would be and that's 'one strike and you're out.'"
Parishioners told NewsChannel 4 they had no idea about Davila's past, though some very strongly supported him, even accusing the victims of fabricating stories.
Fr. Michael Chapman said his congregation was not informed, though some found out on their own. He said the congregation will be informed this weekend.
"You don't condemn a person for a maybe one-time offense," said Chapman, adding he believes Davila when he tells him the contact was inadvertent. "We don't have a congregation of saints, we have a congregation of sinners, including the lead sinner who is the priest."
Chapman says he believes Davila pleaded guilty to minimize embarrassment to himself and the church.
The leader of the Oklahoma City archdiocese stood by his decision to employ Davila.
Archbishop Paul Coakley released the following statement to NewsChannel 4:
“It is important that we operate in an open environment where people in our parishes and institutions feel safe and welcome to practice their faith. While Father Davila's actions with an adult parishioner five years ago occurred in the presence of others at his office in California, he understands that those actions were perceived as inappropriate. He accepted the consequences of his lapse in judgment.
Without excusing or justifying his behavior, I think he can now safely and appropriately return to ministry. Some actions such as the sexual abuse of a child are so grievous that the perpetrator must be permanently removed from ministry. This was not one of those actions.
Before allowing him to serve in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, my staff conducted a full investigation, including a criminal background check, probationary period and lengthy interviews with leaders from dioceses in which Father Davila has served. Father Davila has been open and forthcoming about his experience. He is committed to the strict code of ethical conduct expected in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, and he understands – as do all of our priests, staff, teachers, employees and volunteers – that they are required to follow the policies and procedures in place to create a safe environment – no exceptions.”
But some members of the congregation are considering switching parishes after the news.
"I have niece and nephews and I wouldn't feel comfortable with this person working with any children," said Janet Bullard. "It's hurtful this kind of stuff. It puts a stain on the church. Most of these people are good decent people and these scandals really hurt a lot of people and really ran a lot of people out of the church."
Praeclarus Press Announcement
New Book by Dr. Stefanie Stolinsky, Healing from Childhood Abuse, in Honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month
Psychotherapist, Dr. Stefanie Stolinsky, offers people who have experienced child abuse specific ideas on how they can survive--and even thrive, in Healing from Childhood Abuse, published by Praeclarus Press. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.
In honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month, Praeclarus Press announces a new short volume for adults who have experienced childhood abuse. According to author Dr. Stefanie Stolinsky, childhood physical, sexual or emotional abuse can cause long-term harm, often lasting well into adulthood. The mental health effects of childhood abuse include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and anxiety. Abuse survivors are also at higher risk for physical health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. These effects do not simply “go away” as children mature.
The good news is that adults can heal from trauma and abuse experienced during childhood. Dr. Stolinsky's book, Healing from Childhood Abuse, is a self-help book published by Praeclarus Press, which identifies the many ways that childhood abuse can affect abuse survivors, and offers specific guidance on how to heal. She noticed that when her clients had difficulties feeling and releasing emotions, such as sadness, weakness, or fear, they often relied on alcohol or drugs to help them cry in a scene or “feel”; playing “at it” or faking it rather than really feeling it. They were often afraid that releasing true emotions because they believed that they would be dangerous. They held back or experienced stage fright. They felt embarrassed, fearful of revealing themselves, and shame. By identifying dysfunctional patterns that they may have developed during childhood, they can began the process of overcoming their pasts and healing from the legacy of their childhoods.
Stefanie Stolinsky, Ph.D. is a clinical and forensic psychologist who has a private practice in Beverly Hills, California. She began her career at UCLA, where she did original research on adult women sexually, physically and emotionally abused as children. She is a noted speaker and has held training seminars on Overcoming the Aftereffects of Child Abuse. She lives with her husband, David, a retired physician, in Los Angeles.
Praeclarus Press is a small press specializing in women's health. It is owned by health psychologist Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC, FAPA, and is based in Amarillo, Texas. Praeclarus Press features books, webinars, and other materials on all aspects of women's health. Our goal is to produce materials that change people's lives.
Mom pushes for state child-abuse registry named for son
by Kristen Jordan
For the rest of his life, Wyatt Rewoldt will carry the scars of trauma inflicted upon him two and a half years ago by his father's girlfriend.
His mother, Erica Hammel, is grateful he's alive. She wasn't sure she'd get to see her son laugh, walk or babble again after the horrible November day in 2013 that left Wyatt on the edge of death.
He was so severely shaken by his father's girlfriend, Rachel Ann Edwards, that he was unconscious and unresponsive when an ambulance sped the boy to Children's Hospital of Michigan. Wyatt was in a medically-induced coma and on life support as doctors treated him for a massive brain hemorrhage, a fractured skull, bilateral retinal hemorrhaging, and broken ribs.
“He's my miracle boy,” said Hammel, who lives in St. Clair Shores. “The prosecutor told me his case came in as a homicide at first because they didn't think he was going to make it.
“They were able to determine that it was caused by shaken-baby syndrome.”
It wasn't until after Wyatt was abused that Hammel learned he wasn't Edwards' first victim.
Edwards had been convicted twice on child-abuse charges in the years before she shook Wyatt. Edwards spanked the son of another boyfriend hard enough to leave marks, which led to a third-degree felony child-abuse conviction in 2011. She later drugged the same boy, and was convicted of fourth-degree child abuse, a misdemeanor, in 2013. In both cases, she was sentenced to probation in district court.
Because there is no simple method for the public to check court records in child-abuse cases, or a way to find them online if the person didn't serve time in prison, Hammel couldn't know the danger Edwards posed to her son.
Now, Hammel is on a mission to ensure that no child suffers abuse because his parents don't know about an abuser's violent past. She's pushing for Wyatt's Law, a package of three bills in the state House of Representatives that would create a searchable online child-abuse registry in Michigan so anyone who has been convicted of hurting a child would be visible. It would be the nation's first such registry.
"As soon as my mind cleared, and I knew that Wyatt was going to survive, that's immediately what I thought about. How is it that there is a registry for pedophiles, but you can physically abuse a child and you can hide behind your crime?" Hammel said. "Had something like Wyatt's Law been in place back then, I am sure I would have been able to prevent this from happening to him because I would have been able to go to the judge and say, 'This woman has these crimes. I don't want her around my son.' "
Derek Miller, who was the Macomb County prosecutor in Edwards' 2013 conviction and now is the Macomb County treasurer, said with her past convictions, Edwards never should have been able to lay her hands on Wyatt.
"What you see a lot is just repetitive behavior with people in situations of abuse," Miller said. "There really is no avenue for parents who want to take precautionary steps to ensure their child's safety. Here was somebody in this particular case who had committed child abuse twice — one with actual physical abuse and the other where she had given the child potentially deadly prescription medication. She had no remorse. She fell through the cracks of the sentencing guidelines. The judge sentenced her to probation a second time. Then, she found a new boyfriend with another child."
Miller introduced Wyatt's Law in October, while he was still serving in the state House of Representatives. The registry would be run by the Michigan State Police, accessible to the public, and searchable by name, address, date of birth, job or school. It would include a picture and a summary of the convictions.
Anyone convicted of misdemeanor child abuse would be on the registry for five years. Anyone with a felony conviction would be registered for 10 years. Those who are convicted must register, keep their information updated and pay a $50 annual registration fee or face a four-year felony, he said.
"Because the software with the State Police already exists, we anticipate it will not be an overly burdensome cost on the state. When it comes to public safety, you have to weigh cost vs. benefit of possibly saving a child's life," Miller said. "We talk about how children in Flint will have to live with the repercussions of having lead in their systems for the rest of their lives. But what about children who have to live with physical trauma the rest of their lives? How will that impact them in a detrimental way moving forward for the rest of their lives? In my mind, the benefit of saving a child's life far outweighs the cost of a registry to the state, especially when the accused is going to bear most of the cost of registering."
Given that there are so many nontraditional families these days, and lots of parents are in the dating pool, many children spend time with and meet girlfriends and boyfriends of parents. It's hard to know who might have been abusive in the past, as Edwards was.
Child abuse cases in Michigan are at a 25-year high. A Free Press analysis of child-abuse statistics reported earlier this month that 34,777 children were abused or neglected in the state in the 12 months following October 2014. In that year, 15.6 out of every 1,000 Michigan children was abused or neglected, the highest rate since 1990.
"Breakups happen," Hammel said. "I feel like we have a right to know if somebody has been convicted of a crime that involves children. We have a registry for sexual abuse; why don't we have it for physical abuse?"
The registry could provide peace of mind not only to parents who are dating, but also to anyone who is searching for a babysitter, whose kids want to have a sleepover at a friend's house or a play date with a new pal.
In Wyatt's case, his parents were divorced and had shared custody. The day Wyatt was abused, his dad had left him in the care of his girlfriend, Edwards, while he was at work.
Though Hammel tried to do a background check on Edwards when she learned that Wyatt would be spending time with her, she couldn't find any reference to Edwards' past convictions.
“It struck me that something wasn't right" about her, said Hammel, 27. “I searched her on the Internet. I searched her on OTIS, which is that Offender Tracking Information System. I checked her on the sex-offender registry, and I found nothing. So I'm sitting before a referee in custody court, and I said, 'These are just my instincts about his girlfriend.' ... And the referee basically laughed in my face. He said, 'Do you know how many times I hear this?' We got joint custody. ... At that point, I just left it in his dad's hands that he was going to protect Wyatt."
That trust was soon shattered.
In February 2015, Edwards pleaded no contest to second-degree child abuse in Macomb County Circuit Court. She was sentenced to 33 months to 10 years in prison in Wyatt's case.
"I truly, in my heart of hearts, feel that she would do it again," Hammel said. "She'll be up for parole in March. It scares me to death that she could get out. Her sentence was 33 months to 10 years. It's not enough. I hope and pray that when I go before the parole board, I can convince them not to release her.
"The laws don't work on our children's side. These people get out and they roam the streets again. Statistics show that people who abuse children go on to abuse again. If we can't keep these people locked behind bars, then the public needs to know about them so we can protect our children."
Hammel said she's heard from some critics of the sex-offender registry who say it penalizes people for minor crimes, that people who've served their time and have been rehabilitated are forever tormented by being on a public registry.
But that's where Wyatt's Law would be different. It only would list people who've been convicted in court on a child-abuse charge. And people wouldn't be listed forever. The time on the registry is limited to five or 10 years, depending on the severity of the crime.
"We have to stop protecting those who abuse children and have a no-excuse and no-tolerance policy," Hammel said. "If someone is truly rehabilitated from their crimes and they keep a straight-and-narrow path, they can get off this registry.
"The only people who are going to be on there are people who have hurt children and have been convicted in a court of law. You don't want to be on this list? Don't hurt a child. Simple as that."
Now 3½ years old, Wyatt has had four brain surgeries and two eye surgeries. He is permanently blind in one eye. He has difficulty eating solid food. He can say only a few individual words.
He spends several hours every weekday in a special education classroom and undergoes speech, physical and occupational therapy.
"The communication is the hardest thing," Hammel said. "Sometimes he'll be so bothered by something, and I'm trying so hard to figure out what it is.
“My heart breaks because I know he's frustrated because he can't tell me what he's feeling. … Sometimes he grabs his head, and we don't know if it's headaches.
"My son was 1 when this happened. He was defenseless. He couldn't fight back. ... We fight so hard in this country for civil rights and gay rights, which I think is wonderful. But what about the rights of children? Why aren't we fighting for them? ... They are the most innocent and vulnerable members of society. They should be the No. 1 priority."
How to be heard
Erica Hammel was in Lansing last week, talking to lawmakers and trying to get traction for Wyatt's Law. The bundle of legislation — House Bills 4973, 4974 and 4975 — still awaits a hearing in the House Judiciary Comittee. It has no companion bill in the Senate. Without a swell of support, it might die before it gets serious consideration.
If you support Wyatt's Law, call your lawmakers in the state Legislature and tell them what you think. You also can write to or call the chairman of the state House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township, and tell him that you support Wyatt's Law. Call Rep. Kesto at 517-373-1799 or send an e-mail to KlintKesto@house.mi.gov
You can also sign an online petition in support of the law on its Change.org page in support of the legislation. To do so, go to http://chn.ge/1U6YpWx.
How to get help
If you suspect the neglect or abuse of a child or adult, call 855-444-3911 toll-free at any time of the day or night. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services offers a list of common signs to watch for that could indicate abuse online here: http://1.usa.gov/23KOs7d.
Child abuse expert has seen the worst of people, but her optimism endures
by Marnie Eisenstad
Syracuse, N.Y. -- There was a toddler with swollen thumbs who kept coming in to the pediatric clinic where Dr. Ann Botash was working.
She and the other doctors wondered if he had a joint problem or an immune disease that could be causing his painful puffy thumbs and vomiting.
Then the child returned to Upstate University Hospital in a coma.
It turned out his mother's boyfriend had been hanging the boy by his thumbs. Then the man used the child as a punching bag, which was causing the vomiting. The doctors discovered the abuse only because the boyfriend confessed, Botash said.
Now, nearly 30 years later, Botash would immediately consider abuse if she saw a child with unexplained, swollen thumbs. And so would the students she has trained. The thumb injuries, like many other seemingly strange, inexplicable child injuries, would be considered signs of possible child abuse today.
Botash, 57, became a medical child abuse expert before the specialty existed. Now, there are more doctors who do what she does, but the numbers are still small: there are 20 doctors certified in New York, and about 350 across the country.
When she was 28, Botash chose a career that offered the possibility to save children from great peril. But it was also a role that showed her the worst of what humanity has to offer. Botash became an expert in ferreting out child abuse and in testifying against child abusers, many of whom had molested children too young to talk.
For all she has seen, Botash is not bitter or cynical. She speaks plainly and is ever-smiling, like the mom every kid wants. There is none of that "I'm a doctor" conceit. She wears flats; she walks and talks fast. She is somehow self-propelled through what would make others weary.
Over the decades, Botash has examined and treated thousands of children with unimaginable physical injuries and unfathomable emotional trauma. Some were beaten, many were sexually abused. She is the director of Upstate's Child Abuse Referral and Evaluation program, a professor of pediatrics there, and the medical director of the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center. Botash has served as president of the Ray Helfer Society, a national organization for doctors who specialize in treating child abuse.
At the same time, she raised her own children: twins who are now adults. Botash performed the seemingly acrobatic feat of keeping work and home separate. Rationally, she knew her children bore no greater risk of child abuse than anyone else's.
But sometimes, the work of her day let the flawed logic of parenthood creep in: "The worst thing was seeing kids that had something happen at the babysitter. That was the worst. I'd be going home early that day. Just to pick them up," Botash recalled. "Somehow, everybody survived it."
Girl Who Wanted A Horse
When Botash was in high school in Poughkeepsie, she wanted her own horse more than anything. She didn't come from a family that could really afford a horse. She was solidly middle class: her dad worked at IBM as an engineer and her mother was a secretary. But her dad made her an offer: Get straight 99s, and I'll get you a horse.
He never expected her to hit those marks. But Botash really wanted that horse. And she got it. He was a wild horse named Brother Love. Botash has a scar on her forehead from a gash she got after Brother bucked her off.
It was the grades she needed to get the horse that got her into Vassar College, where she majored in biology. Botash had planned to be a veterinarian, but vet school was harder to get into than medical school, and more expensive. So she chose medical school and went to SUNY Upstate Medical University because it was the most affordable of all the schools that accepted her.
There, before school even started, she met Robert Botash. They were with a group of other med school students who were looking for a Catholic church in their new hometown. They ended up at the wrong church, but Botash, then Ann Sutera, found the right guy. She and Robert Botash would rarely be apart after that day. They graduated from medical school in 1985 and were married shortly after.
He became a radiologist and she a pediatrician. After the two graduated, Botash became the chief resident in pediatrics at Upstate. That's when she started getting the calls from her friends, who were residents that she oversaw. They'd see children with injuries they couldn't figure out.
The call she remembers was a little girl who had funny marks on her ankles. Botash thought it looked like the girl's ankles had been tied to something. The mother said it was a rash from new socks, Botash recalled. She went to find a social worker and the head of dermatology to take another look.
When she came back, the room was empty. She looked out the window and saw the mother running across the street with the child. Botash had asked too many questions.
"I raised her antenna that I was going to call the police," Botash said. The police met her at her home, where they found that the mother had been tying the girl to a stake, like a dog.
In that case, the family received some much-needed parenting help.
After that temporary position overseeing residents ended, Botash was offered a faculty job at Upstate that allowed her to be a major part of the Child Abuse Referral and Education clinic while also practicing pediatrics. She ended up spending much of the first year of that job on bed rest while she was pregnant with twins.
She worked with Nancy Mitchell, a nurse practitioner who is still on staff at the center, which is now housed at McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center.
In an era before texting and cellphone pictures, Mitchell would see the kids and call Botash, who would then draw herself a picture while lying in her bed. "I'd say, 'That seems normal, or we should see that kid again,'" Botash said. The two learned as they went. "This was so new. There was no one to advocate for these kids."
Botash became the person other doctors called when they needed help with abuse cases all across the state. She was also the one who was called to testify about evidence of abuse. Being on the witness stand is not something medical training prepares you for, she said. She remembers being called to testify in Cooperstown.
The case, she recalled, was clear-cut shaken baby.
But the defense attorney had two boxes of medical-journal articles that he planned to quiz her on. "And then he pulled out a plastic brain," Botash said. "It was like preparing for grand rounds. You had to have all this at your fingertips."
Botash has testified in scores of trials over the years, including the murder trial of Marie Manos, who was accused of sexually abusing and killing her 2-year-old niece, Grace, in Dryden. Botash examined the child after she had died.
And then there was the Raymond Younis trial, where prosecutors asked Botash to view videotapes of boys being sexually abused so she could estimate the ages of the victims.
Somehow, seeing the videos of the abuse was even worse than examining abused children. The horrific images were burned into her memory. "I wish I hadn't done it," she said.
Dr. Thomas Welch, head of pediatrics at Upstate and medical director of the Golisano Children's Hospital at Upstate, said that for every horrific child abuse case that makes the news, there are 10 more that haven't. And Botash has likely been involved in all of those cases, he said.
"She's undertaken a huge role in New York state," Welch said. Her work and reputation is known throughout the country, he said. "If you mention her name to anybody in the U.S. who deals with child abuse, they'll be familiar with her."
Dread Leads To A New Path
Over the years, the call for Botash's expertise became too much for one person to handle, especially one person who struggles to say no. About five years ago, Botash found herself feeling something she hadn't felt in more than two decades of seeing the worst of the worst: When her pager went off because someone needed her, she felt a pang of dread.
Around the same time, she examined a 2-year-old who had been raped. "It was just visibly the worst injury. Just to see it. I had nightmares," she said.
She'd seen terrible things before — thousands of terrible things. For years, her temperament, which seems super-human, has helped her manage the terrible things she sees. Botash thinks the best of people, always. And she pities the abusers when others would be filled with anger. She also took up writing as a hobby and an outlet. But her glass-half-full outlook started to flag.
After 25 years, Botash felt a need to step back. She had been seeing patients in other counties and testifying at dozens of trials a year. At the same time, she was teaching at Upstate and had a private pediatric practice.
"I'm OK now," Botash remembers thinking at the time. "But if I keep going like this, I'm going to be a miserable wretch, and bitter, when I'm done."
Welch, also a pediatrician, said he was surprised Botash had been able to do so much for so long without burning out.
Then a new door opened: The director of the pediatric clerkship at Upstate quit. The medical school had just been put on probation and was under intense scrutiny. Botash took the job. It's 50 percent of her work now. She oversees medical students doing their rotation in pediatrics. Child abuse prevention and detection is part of what she teaches them, in a different way than it might be if someone else was in her spot.
She sees this as part of her opportunity to better the odds for the kids who are being abused.
And as she stepped back from clinical work and testifying in court, the network of advocates she had been building for years was able to step in. Botash had helped create CHAMP, a statewide organization that trains doctors and helps support them when dealing with child-abuse cases.
And she trained Dr. Alicia Pekarsky, who has taken over some of Botash's clinical role.
Pekarsky said Botash is an innovator who is constantly looking at the big picture of child abuse prevention, trying to figure out where to improve it and how.
"The system that addresses child abuse and neglect is extremely overburdened," Pekarsky said.
Botash hopes that as she trains more doctors to handle abuse and continues community education, the burden will be spread out more evenly.
Botash's husband, Robert, retired a year ago from his work as a radiologist. But he's not holding his breath that she'll join him any time soon. She still has work to do.
"She's very self-motivated, very driven," Robert Botash said. "She hasn't achieved everything she wants yet."
Victim Says Justice Comes In Many Forms
by Jill Helton, Tribune-Georgian
The speaker who represented victims at the victims' memorial ceremony at the Camden County Courthouse on Friday is still waiting for his day in court.
Justin Conway of Woodbine was invited to speak at the annual event hosted by the Camden County District Attorney's Office to honor local crime victims, particularly those who lost their lives at the hands of another. The audience of about 40 included victims and their family members, victims' advocates, court workers, law enforcement officers and elected officials. All three local mayors and a county representative presented proclamations recognizing it as National Victims' Rights Awareness Week.
“For a long time, I looked for that justice and I looked for those rights at the bottom of a bottle, in deep dark holes of depression. I looked to law enforcement. I looked to my attorneys,” said Conway to the crowd assembled in the courthouse atrium. “And the reality is that justice and those rights came to me from my higher power and myself, and my willingness to do the next right thing.”
For Conway and six other adult men, getting their day in court meant filing a civil lawsuit against their alleged abuser. According to the complaint filed in Camden County Superior Court, the victims claim they suffered repeated sexual abuse at the hands of their karate instructor Craig Peeples, who owns and operates Pak's Karate in Kingsland. Peeples has repeatedly denied accusations that he harmed students and has filed a countersuit for defamation of character.
During the ceremony, Conway talked about how he and other victims in his case lost their jobs, their marriages and themselves after stepping forward to tell the truth and yet for a long time, the court system offered them no avenues for seeking justice.
After law enforcement investigated the case in 2014, district attorney Jackie Johnson wrote in a letter that there was enough evidence to present the case to a grand jury. However, Johnson explained in the letter that she was barred from doing so because of the state's statute of limitations on sex crimes.
“Because it had been too long, I would never face my perpetrator in court,” Conway said. “I refused to take that as an answer … because without access to a court of law, it's just somebody saying something about somebody else.”
So Conway enlisted the help of his state legislator, Jason Spencer, and they fought in Atlanta for the right of victims to be heard by a judge and jury. The Hidden Predator Act was signed into law last year.
Although they were victorious in improving victims' access to the court system, Conway said he is still fighting to get justice in his own case, which has not yet gone to trial.
“I've got some community support now. I even won an award presented by CNN and a foundation out of Atlanta for the work that we had done to pass the Hidden Predator Act,” he said to the crowd at the ceremony. “And yet, sitting at a stoplight in Camden County, I had to look eye to eye with the man who murdered my childhood.”
Conway said he also would continue to fight for the survivors of child sex crimes and offer them support. Conway said people often ask him why he doesn't just “get over” what happened to him and move on.
“My answer is I have moved on. I've moved on to protecting other children. I have moved on to shedding the shame that I felt for so long. ... And that, to me, is justice,” he said. Conway said victims inspire other victims by simply picking up the pieces and doing the “next right thing.”
Also addressing the crowd were Johnson, victims' advocate Sandee Ortega, assistant district attorney Katie Groper, St. Marys Mayor John Morrissey, Kingsland Mayor Kenneth Smith, Woodbine Mayor Steve Parrott, mental health provider Dale Blanton.
Chief magistrate judge Jennifer Lewis read the names of all of the Camden County victims who had died over the years. Court workers passed out flowers to the family members who attended the ceremony.
“It's a really emotional time for us because … we form lifelong bonds with people who have been brought into the criminal justice system and our lives through horrible events,” Johnson said. “Coming back every year and seeing all of you all is humbling to us and reminds us of why we are here and why we do the work that we do.”
An Insecure Mess…
by Sarah Burleton
Insecurity. It's a wretched feeling that pops up at the most unexpected times, and has the ability to crush someone's self-esteem in a matter of seconds. For some, seeing a person who they think is more attractive than them raises those feelings of doubt and insecurity. For others it can be a job interview or school presentation that makes them look in the mirror and see defeat rather than success. For people like me, well we are insecure about everything and everyone, and I can tell you that it is an absolute nightmare to live that way day after day. Until a few years ago, I truly believed that I would live that way for the rest of my life.
It's a nightmare to wake up, look in the mirror every single day and see a failure staring back at you. It's absolute hell to walk down the street and believe that every single person is better and more attractive than you are, or walk into work every day believing that you aren't good enough to do your job. Compliments from others are shunned and not believable to you, and your self-esteem is at rock bottom 90% of the day. Of course, there are a few moments here and there that you feel really good about yourself, but those precious moments are few and far between.
You see, in my case, I grew up with an abusive mother whose sole purpose in my life was dragging me down and making me feel like dirt. Nothing I did was ever good enough for her and it was absolutely impossible for me to make her happy. While the verbal abuse and the physical abuse did wreak havoc on my self-esteem and create insecurity issues; what made me more insecure than anything was her competitiveness with me.
When I say Mom was competitive with me, I don't mean that she had to be the first one in the car or we ran races in the park on Sundays. Mom was competitive with me in all aspects of our life. According to her, she was prettier than me, smarter than me, and skinnier and sexier than me. I would never amount to the caliber of woman that she was, and I was going to end up with someone as ugly and as dumb as I was.
Once I started to become older, fill out, and begin my journey into young adulthood, Mom's competitiveness grew worse. If my hair began to grow longer than hers, she'd shear it down to my skull. If someone gave me a compliment in public, Mom would quickly shoot them down and declare that I wouldn't have anything without her. If boys showed any interest in me, Mom would quickly turn on the charm and flirt incessantly with them; bragging to me after they had left that the boy wanted her more than me.
And if Mom thought that I was feeling good about myself at all and ignoring her attempts to get under my skin, she'd be quick to compare me to my peers.
“You aren't going to win that track meet today. You are too fat this year to even finish.”
“Why even go to school when you know you are going to fail? Justin's mother must be so proud of her. She's a straight-A student and I'm stuck with the failure.”
“You'll never be pretty enough to be a cheerleader. I mean, are you serious right now?”
I could go on and on.
When you live that way, day after day for years, it tends to have an effect on you and you truly believe that everyone is better than you and that you are a failure. Even after I escaped my abusive household and began my own life, the insecurities in my head stayed with me for most of my young adult life. Not a day passed that I didn't look at myself in the mirror with disgust, think that everyone around me was better looking and smarter than me, and I couldn't walk down the street with my head held up to save my life. It was as if I was ashamed to be seen because I believed that everyone saw me the same way my mother did.
It took me many years and many achievements before I could even begin to shed the insecurities that weighed me down and kept me from smiling at myself in the mirror. I had to graduate from college Magna Cum Laude to realize that I wasn't an academic failure as my mother claimed.
Getting signed to a little modeling agency for a year helped me realize that I wasn't as ugly as my mother claimed. And making The New York Times bestsellers list made me realize that I am capable of anything and no one, not even Mom, can stop me. I had to work hard to overcome the insecurities Mom planted in my head for so many years – and I'm still a work in progress.
I think a little insecurity here and there is healthy and expected of everyone, but insecurity such as mine will eat you alive. If you are like me, walking around with your head held down, thinking of yourself as a failure, try to sit down and think about all you have accomplished in life. Think of all that you have been through and all that you have overcome to make it to where you are today. You are stronger than you think, you have survived more than most, and your future is bright. Hold your head high and be proud to be you.
Sex inquiry to meet for further talks
by Melissa Cunningham
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will hold a directions hearing next week to make further orders regarding the response of Catholic Church clergy to complaints of child sexual abuse in Ballarat.
The hearing to be held in Sydney on Wednesday and comes after former Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns died at the age of 85 earlier this month following a long battle with colon cancer.
Bishop Mulkearns headed the Ballarat diocese between 1971 and 1997, when Catholic clergy, including teachers, abused hundreds of children.
Many clergy sex abuse survivors believe he could have stopped much of the horrific abuse that occurred in the region. He was bishop of the Ballarat diocese for almost 30 years.
The inquiry has previously heard the bishop moved priests, including notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale around the diocese despite being told they had abused children, and also destroyed documents in Ridsdale's file.
The inquiry announced on Friday no participants of the commission raised any submissions in relation to his part-heard evidence which will now be taken into account by the commission as it stands.
The commission also dealt with issues relating to the evidence of former priest and physiologist Dan Torpy.
Mr Torpy had a private hearing with the commission earlier in the year and was also scheduled to give evidence in person in February but he was excused due to medical reasons.
The inquiry said he continued to be ill and the commission has ordered counsel for one of the survivors ask any questions he has of Mr Torpy in writing and the questions be responded to by April 29.
The main issues surrounding Mr Torpy stem from a private hearing to the commission in which he spoke about a conversation he had with another priest in Rome in 1981 dealing with Ridsdale and why he was asked to leave the Parish of Edenhope.
The commission also lifted a suppression order in relation to the remarks made by a Victorian court when sentencing a former abuse victim of a Christian Brother.
The inquiry said it was satisfied that the redactions made to the document sufficiently protected the identity of the victim and others.
The commission has also set a time table for submissions relating to the Ballarat case study which will see Counsel Assisting the Commission Gail Furness providing her submission by June 10 and representatives of other parties providing submissions in reply by July 15.
Last week, the commission held a round-table hearing in Sydney on sex offender treatment programs and failures to report child sex abuse in Australia.
The hearing also discussed criminal justice issues relating to reporting child sexual abuse - including blind reporting, where the alleged victim's name is not given to police.
There was also discussion about adult sex offender treatment programs in Australia and overseas, as well as their effectiveness and how they could be improved to protect children into the future.
Maine Families program reduces child abuse and neglect
Enrolled families showed marked improvement, which will save untold future suffering.
by Robert Gregoire and Charles Solton
As Maine turns the page toward spring and begins to enjoy all that the new season brings in our beautiful state, we would like to remind everyone that April is also “Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month,” a time nationally designated to highlight the dangers facing vulnerable children and the ever-pressing need to protect our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.
Here in Maine, law enforcement, state government and the private sector join together to heighten public understanding of this epidemic and double down on prevention efforts.
According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, last year there were 3,250 children in Maine who were substantiated or indicated victims of child abuse and neglect.
That's an alarming statistic, yet many of us close to this field also know that thousands of other incidents of maltreatment go unreported and undocumented each year.
Every incident involved some form of physical and emotional injury to a child. Some of these injuries, such as head trauma caused by shaking a baby, can cripple a child for life and lead to tremendous health care costs. In a few of the most severe cases, a child dies.
Child endangerment doesn't just affect the children who are abused or neglected. It can create a vicious cycle that breeds future violence. Research shows that abused and neglected children are 29 percent more likely to become violent criminals as juveniles or adults and would have otherwise avoided such crimes if not for the abuse and neglect they endured as children. Year after year, abuse and neglect contributes to crime in Maine and adds to future budget woes for our judicial and corrections systems. Those costs are in addition to the human toll taken on victims and their families.
Although most victimized children will not grow into violent criminals, they are more likely to have major hurdles in their lives. As adults, they also are more likely to be unemployed, have marital problems and attempt suicide.
Fortunately, abuse and neglect can be prevented by voluntary home visiting with young, inexperienced parents, who are trying to cope with the stress and doubt and lack of sleep, all of which can impair judgment. Trained professionals help young parents understand their children's emotional and physical needs, make their homes safer and deal positively with the stressful situations that arise.
These professional also serve as a resource to connect young parents to others in our communities, like pediatricians or early education programs, and who can help them and their young children.
These two-generation programs have had positive, immediate results for children in Maine. In 2015, the Maine Families Home Visiting Program worked with more than 2,500 families, helping parents reduce preventive illness and injuries to nearly 2,800 Maine children. Last year, Maine Families served 160 families involved in Child Protective Services at enrollment. Among families who had been involved with Child Protective Services at the time of enrollment, 94 percent had no further substantiated allegations for child abuse or neglect during their participation with Maine Families.
In addition, 90 percent of the program's expectant mothers received adequate prenatal care, and 92 percent of the children had up-to-date immunizations, compared to 84 percent of all children statewide. Almost all of the children, 99.3 percent, had a primary care provider, and 96 percent had health insurance. The program also reduced babies' exposure to secondhand smoke and improved home safety.
Voluntary home-visiting programs also can be an extraordinarily wise investment. Programs have help greatly reduce abuse and neglect, lower health care costs, reduce the need for costly remedial education for children, and make families more self-sufficient. Randomized trials also found that Early Head Start programs with a strong home visiting component improved the education and training of mothers and increased their earnings by $300 per month.
Maine Families improves the lives of our youngest and most at-risk citizens and helps support their parents to become better parents.
We encourage our elected leaders in Augusta and Washington to continue their support of voluntary home visiting programs for the sake of Maine families and kids and the health of our communities not only during the month of April, but always.
Robert Gregoire is chief of the Augusta Police Department. Attorney Charles Soltan is chairman of Maine Children's Trust.
New bookmobile to help child abuse victims 'be a kid' again
by JUSTIN DENNIS
JEFFERSON — About 250 pinwheels now line the grounds of the old county courthouse along West Jefferson Street, a "small" representation of the about 2,500 reports of child abuse the Ashtabula County Children Services Board received last year.
The threat of rain didn't keep any community members away from the Thursday Pinwheels for Prevention event, said Tania Burnett, the board's executive director. Nor did any of the about 400 books essentially donated Thursday to area children get wet, thanks to a new bookmobile that will now be stationed in the courthouse's Victim of Crime office.
Doug and Chris Chadwick, Madison natives who now run the California nonprofit The Literacy Club, unveiled the cabinet-sized bookmobile — which is part of the "Little Free Library" cause that's been spreading since 2009 — alongside members of Bikers Against Child Abuse, an abuse victims advocacy group that stands alongside kids testifying in the courtroom, or gives emotional support.
The all-black painted bookmobile bears the BACA logo, with a chopper on top. It will give kids who have to come through the victim services office something to do while they're there, and something to take home. The Literacy Club put about $4,000 worth of new and gently used books in the cart, for kids, teens or adults, said Doug Chadwick.
There are now about 40,000 other "Little Free" libraries around the country, including eight in Northeast Ohio that the Chadwick family has built, in Cleveland, Geauga and now, Jefferson. Most are in police stations or other social services agencies — places where children often have to relive their abuse to authorities.
Doug Chadwick said they offer something abuse victims desperately want — an escape.
"A book doesn't care about your socioeconomic status — if you're big, tall, fat, ugly, it doesn't matter — the words on the page are the same for everybody," he said. "Some of the BACA people were tearing up (during the dedication) because of what this means to the community. The kids need something like this — they go to that advocacy center and there's nothing to do. They can pick up a book."
BACA spokesperson "Sniper" — the names of BACA members are withheld, as the group is active in legal and criminal proceedings — said Thursday children in abusive situations have adult issues thrust upon them, issues that follow them home.
"Books are a great way to escape, to let yourself 'be a kid' again," Burnett said. "Their hope is every kid can leave there with a book they enjoy reading and will help them get away from it all."
The Little Free Library concept is "take a book, leave a book," Doug Chadwick said, but there's no harm in taking a few more — The Literacy Club buys them by the pallet — because it's part of the club's greater goal.
"We are seeding the neighborhoods with books," he said.
Passaic County prosecutor hosts community meeting on child abuse, domestic violence
by Minjae Park
PATERSON — Pursuing domestic violence or child abuse cases is made harder by a persistent stigma that silences victims and empowers abusers, Passaic County prosecutors said at a Wednesday forum aimed at bringing out into the open often-hushed discussions.
“Many of the things that we're talking about are things that are not talked about,” Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes said before an audience of about 70 people, pointing to the shame and stigma surrounding domestic violence and sexual abuse, especially incest. The silence strengthens abusers, she said, “because they know it's a secret crime.”
The discussion on Wednesday night at Passaic County Community College featured prosecutor's office staff who handle different aspects of domestic violence and child-abuse cases – from the forensic nurse and victims' witness unit to the prosecutors who take the cases to court — and the director of the New Jersey Victims of Crime Compensation Office, which pays victims for expenses associated with their crime.
In addition to describing what they do, they presented some of the services available to victims.
In the audience were members of victims' service agencies such as Passaic County Women's Center, Hispanic Multipurpose Center, Jewish Family Service and WAFA House.
Gina Pfund, a Passaic County chief assistant prosecutor, who heads the domestic violence unit, said domestic violence is underreported because victims sometimes think it's their fault. By the time abuse is reported it has usually happened many times before, she said. Victims are not only women; 15 percent are men, she said.
Members of the audience were asked to write their questions, which were read by prosecutor's office staff sitting in the audience. One asked if a victim is also arrested if she causes injury to the abuser while defending herself. Pfund said police on site, after examining evidence and interviewing the parties separately, judge who is the victim and are not supposed to arrest him or her.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Freid, whose special victims unit handles cases of physical and sexual abuse of children, said many situations involve neglect: failure to provide basic needs such as food, shelter or medical care. Children, like victims of domestic violence, often keep the abuse secret, he said.
Under state law, anyone who has reasonable cause — proof isn't required — to believe a child has been abused must report it to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
Freid also discussed the process for young victims as they are interviewed and appear in court as witnesses. On a projector, he showed photos of the Passaic County Child Advocacy Center, located in Totowa: a room set up like a living room to put the children at ease, with sofas, TV, coloring books and toys; and an interview room with dolls to help children describe the abuse scenario. He said child witnesses are prepared to appear in court by being taken to the courtroom beforehand to become familiar with the setting.
Joan Nixon, the victim-witness unit coordinator at the prosecutor's office, said her unit tries to guide people through the process in hopes of mitigating the burdens and traumas. She provides information, including about the limitations of the system and unfamiliar court terminology, and refers victims to other agencies.
One agency that helps victims with the financial toll of a crime is the New Jersey Victims of Crime Compensation Office, based in Newark, which distributed $9.6 million to victims of crime in fiscal year 2015, according to its website.
“I say we are the money people,” said Marsetta Lee, the director.
The payments include medical, dental and economic support; support for loss of earnings; relocation for domestic violence or stalking victims; crime scene cleanups; replacing beds or sofas where a sexual assault took place and counseling.
In fiscal year 2015 in Passaic County, 152 claims were filed and $663,000 was paid out, Lee said.
She urged the audience to invite her office to their houses of worship, women's groups and other organizations for a detailed presentation on how it helps victims.
Child sex abuse images increasingly being found and removed
Nearly 70,000 pictures and videos showing child sex abuse have been removed from the internet in the past year, the UK charity leading the efforts to combat the abuse has said.
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) was given more powers in 2014 to actively search for such images and take action.
The content it found included images and videos of 1,788 victims who were assessed as being aged two or under.
Just 0.2% of child sexual abuse imagery is hosted in the UK, the charity said.
Reporting on its work in 2015, the IWF said:
68,092 reports were identified as containing illegal child sexual abuse
69% of victims were assessed as aged 10 or younger
34% of images were category A - which involves the rape or sexual torture of children
IWF chief executive Susie Hargreaves said: "Last year our analysts broke all records for assessing reports. By being allowed to actively search for these hideous images of children, we've seen a dramatic increase in the sheer number of illegal images and videos that we've been able to remove from the internet.
"But despite our success, this isn't the time to stand still. What we never forget is that behind these headlines and every single image we remove from the internet there is a real child being abused."
In 2014, Prime Minister David Cameron granted the IWF powers to actively search for images of child sexual abuse rather than just rely on reports from members of the public.
The charity plans to expand its team of 12 analysts to 17 and offer its image list, identified by unique "hash" codes, to the wider internet industry so internet service providers and other content companies can take down duplicate images.
It is also planning to challenge online companies that are not members of the IWF to take action.
Current members include Google, Facebook, Amazon, the BBC, BT, Sky and TalkTalk.
"There is simply no excuse. Not being part of this battle to eliminate online child sexual abuse imagery, is not an option," said Ms Hargreaves.
Preventing child abuse
by Tom Westfall
I first noticed the young woman because she seemed exhausted and ready to lose her patience. I was dining out and at an adjacent table she sat there wrestling with her 3 or 4-year-old child. It was obvious that the child was testing the limits of his mother's endurance. He was up and down and up and down, complaining that he was hungry, squirming around and paying little heed to his mother's directives. I gave her a sympathetic look as if to say, "We've all been there."
I'm not sure what transpired next, but suddenly I saw this young mom grab her son by the collar and begin hauling him outside. "You've had it," she said, and even though the little boy resisted, he was no match for his mother's strength and she pulled him towards the door and out into the early evening.
Without really thinking I got up and followed them out. She had ducked behind the corner of the building and as I went around it, there she was in mid-swing, just ready to unload her anger on her child. She stopped mid-strike as I walked around the corner; lost in her embarrassment. I said, "Sometimes they drive us crazy, don't they? I sure understand your frustration. Is there anything I can do to help?"
Tears welled up in her eyes. She let go of her son, put her head in her hands and began sobbing. I sat down beside her and put my hand on her shoulder and reassured her that it was going to be okay. Her son, noting his mother's distress, leaned in and hugged her and said, "I love you Mommy."
As she calmed herself she told me that she'd had a terrible week and nothing had gone right. Her son's provocative behavior at the diner was the final straw and she said, "I don't know what came over me, but I just wanted him to stop."
We sat together for a few more minutes and I tried to lighten the mood with some anecdotes about my children when they were little. She wiped her eyes, collected her son and headed back into the restaurant. Just as she reached the door, she turned to me and said, "Thanks for understanding."
As I've noted in several previous columns this month, in my nearly forty years of working with families, I've never encountered a parent that didn't want to be the very best parent she or he could be.
The problem is that for some parents, their good intentions are compromised by many competing agendas — work, lack of finances, lack of sleep, social isolation, addictions, their own upbringing... the list goes on and on. A parent without adequate child care has a terrible decision to make about where his or her children will go when the parent has to earn a living. A parent living in social isolation may become overwhelmed without help from others who can support his or her efforts. A parent working two jobs to make ends meet may be so exhausted by the completion of their work day that they have precious little remaining to give to their children.
There are two major ways that each of us can help prevent child abuse. First, each of us can commit to never lashing out in anger at a child. Every time we interact with our children we are helping define their view of the world. Is that world kind and loving? Can a person make mistakes without someone overreacting? Is there unconditional positive regard, or is "love" based mostly upon the child's ability to capture the parent's "approval"?
Secondly, we can work to promote community strengths and activities that positively impact children and families. People who want to take the positive direction of strengthening community supports for children and families might want to consider one or more of the following:
• Read to children at local schools;
• Be a friend to a young parent;
• Volunteer to be a youth mentor;
• Coach a youth sports team;
• Volunteer as a Scout or 4-H leader;
• Share your love of music or art with a child;
• Offer to babysit the kids next door so mom/dad can have an evening out;
• Bake your neighbor's children some cookies;
• Lead a youth group at church;
• Become foster parents.
These are but a few examples of ways that each member of the community can become involved. Child abuse is a community problem. Agency interventions will never be sufficient to eradicate child abuse. An engaged "community" is the solution. Caring individuals are the solution. Stronger, healthier families are the key to preventing child abuse.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month but as we live into May, there's work to do and lives to impact. Want to play a role in strengthening the fabric of our community? It's just a choice away.
Tom Westfall teaches parenting classes at Family Resource Center.
BYU students investigated for breaking conduct code after reporting rape
by The Associated Press
PROVO, Utah – Madeline MacDonald says she was an 18-year-old freshman at Brigham Young University when she was sexually assaulted by a man she met on an online dating site.
She reported the crime to the school's Title IX office. That same day, she says, BYU's honor code office received a copy of the report, triggering an investigation into whether MacDonald had violated the Mormon school's strict code of behavior, which bans premarital sex and drinking, among other things.
Now MacDonald is among many students and others, including a Utah prosecutor, who are questioning BYU's practice of investigating accusers, saying it could discourage women from reporting sexual violence and hinder criminal cases.
Some have started an online petition drive calling on the university to give victims immunity from honor code violations committed in the lead-up to a sexual assault.
This week, BYU announced that in light of such concerns, the school will re-evaluate the practice and consider changes.
"I hope we have a system that people feel they can trust, particularly again the victims of sexual assault," BYU President Kevin Worthen said in a video released Wednesday. "And that we have one that creates an environment in which we minimize the number of sexual assaults on campus."
BYU would not say how many students who complained of sexual violence have been investigated by the honor code office or whether any of them have been punished.
In MacDonald's case, she said BYU eventually called to tell her she hadn't violated the code. But she said she was made to feel guilty by the university.
"For those two weeks, I wasn't sure if they were going to decide to kick me out or what they were going to do," she said. Two years later, no arrest has have been made in the assault case.
All BYU students must agree to abide by the honor code. Created by students in 1949, it prohibits such things as "sexual misconduct," ''obscene or indecent conduct or expressions" and "involvement with pornographic, erotic, indecent or offensive material." Violators can be expelled or otherwise punished.
Mary Koss, a public health professor at the University of Arizona who is an expert on sexual assault, questioned whether BYU is fulfilling its legal duty under federal Title IX to support victims of sexual violence.
"The students agreed to be governed by that honor code when they came there," she said. "But they cannot put things in their contract to students that are in violation of federal guidelines on civil rights."
Alana Kindness, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, warned: "The impact of that practice is that students at BYU who are sexually assaulted will not report that assault."
U.S. Education Department spokeswoman Dorie Nolt would not comment directly on BYU. But she said in an email that "schools should consider whether their disciplinary policies have a chilling effect on victims' or other students' reporting of sexual violence offenses."
Some U.S. colleges with codes of conduct have an immunity clause under which they investigate and punish only the perpetrator of the more severe offense.
On Wednesday, dozens of BYU students, alumni and others gathered at the campus entrance to present petition signatures to BYU's president. Many wore teal bands on their arms and mouths to signify sexual assault awareness and held signs that read "BYU: Protect victims, don't shame them."
"There is no honor in this archaic code," said protester Brooke Swallow-Fenton, who added that investigations of accusers have been going on for years at BYU.
The petition drive was started last week by Madi Barney, a 20-year-old BYU student who says that she, too, was sexually assaulted and now faces an honor code investigation.
Barney said that she was raped in her apartment last September by a man she met at a gym. A suspect was arrested and is awaiting trial. Barney said she has been informed by the university that until the honor code investigation has been completed, she cannot sign up for any more classes after this semester.
She has filed a Title IX sex-discrimination complaint against BYU with the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights.
The university would not comment on the case, citing federal privacy law. The Associated Press doesn't normally identify possible victims of sex crimes, but Barney said she wants her name to be used so she can help change the policy.
Craig Johnson, the Utah County prosecutor assigned to the case, said the criminal investigation is being hindered by BYU's insistence on determining if Barney broke school rules. He said his focus has been pulled away from the case because of worries Barney will move home to California and refuse to take part in hearings and interviews.
"How excited is she really going to be to come back to Utah where she was raped and her school kicked her out?" Johnson said.
However, Johnson's bosses in the Utah County Attorney's Office said in a statement that BYU has not harmed the case.
Sexual assault response team in place
by Svjetlana Mlinarevic
A sexual assault team has been created in Grande Prairie with the intent of giving survivors a more co-ordinated response from responders, agencies, and the courts.
The Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) was launched Monday and encompasses 11 agencies within the city including the RCMP, PACE, Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, the Crown prosecutors office, and victim services.
"There were already a number of services in Grande Prairie that were providing a variety of supports to victims of sexual assault, the goal of this project was to co-ordinate those services so that we would have consistency in the community so that no matter which door a victim of sexual assault entered, they could expect the same range and quality of services," said Barbara Hagen, collaborative community response co-ordinator with Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS) which spearheaded the initiative.
According to the AASAS, 84% of reported sexual assault cases involve an offender who is known by the victim: An intimate partner, an acquaintance, co-worker, friend, or relative.
More than half of all sexual assaults take place in the victim's own home, or within 1.6 kilometres of it. Another 20% of sexual assaults happen in the home of a friend, neighbour or relative.
When it comes to children, the most extensive study of child sexual abuse in Canada found that 53% of women and 31% of men encountered some form of sexual abuse as children.
To date, there are eight SARTs in the province: Grande Prairie, Edmonton, Red Deer, Calgary, Lethbridge, Fort McMurray, Medicine Hat, Lloydminster, and Rocky Mountain House which will launch its team next week.
The teams are funded by the Status of Women Canada and the Government of Alberta.
While in some jurisdictions the police are part of SART wherein there is a designated officer who only handles sexual assaults, the Grande Prairie RCMP detachment is different in the sense that it doesn't have a designated sexual assault section.
"When we have sexual assaults we have a general investigation section, but the amount of officers that we have, we just can't dedicate a 24-hour sexual response team (SART). If someone has been sexually assaulted, we certainly bring them in and have interviews, but it may not be the same dedicated person all the time," said Insp. Donnan McKenna.
Child victims of sexual assault and abuse are interviewed once for all partners by RCMP community policing officers at the Caribou Centre.
Grande Prairie chief Crown prosecutor Steven Hinkley said the program will help victims in all stages of the justice system.
"It's actually more to help the victims than it is to help me in the sense that there is a team approach to someone who is entering the system and so that's to help them in the entry phase, the exit phase, the post-trial phase, and to hopefully insure that while they are going through the evidence collection and trial stages that it's done in the most efficient, helpful, and manner that will assist both the victim and any potential prosecution," he said.
In a 2013 library of parliament article that drew upon the 2009 Statistics Canada's General Social Survey on victimization, which stated that despite legislative changes and efforts to better support victims, conviction rates remain lower for sexual assault than for all but one of the other violent crimes tracked in Statistics Canada's Adult Criminal Court Statistics for 2010-2011.
In 2013/2014, there were 3,002 cases of sexual assault brought before the courts in Canada while other sexual offences accounted for 3,462 cases. Both totalled a median length of 626 case days from first appearance to final decision.
Violent Parents - Calling for the End to Child Contact at Any Cost
by Jess Phillips
There are few things that fill me with dread more than the idea of my children being scared. I do all I can to protect them from fear, just like most mums and dads all across the world.
Imagine you are five years old. Through the crack in your bedroom door you watch your mother begging your dad to stop while he kicks her again. You rush back to your bed and wait for it to stop. Eventually the house is quiet until tomorrow.
This is the reality for too many children in the UK. For most mums I have met who have escaped domestic violence it was their children's fear that gave them the courage to escape. Most women living in refuge have given up their homes, their jobs, their security, their finances, their extended families and their hometowns to keep their children from another night of fear.
A child should always be put first. A child should never be used as a weapon.
Today the APPG for Domestic Violence releases our report on Domestic Abuse, Child Contact and the Family Courts. The family courts have long been an institution shrouded in secrecy. Scrutiny of them has always been difficult. I am not the first to raise this concern in the Commons and I am afraid I won't be the last.
The APPG heard evidence from a number of victims who reported how the family courts had taken them back to a place of terror. Families who had escaped and should have been able to begin to build a safer, less scary life were once again faced the person they were fleeing. We heard cases where fathers who were convicted of violent crimes against the family were able to use the family courts to start a whole new era of coercion and control. These are not extreme examples, when I worked in refuge I heard this time and time again. Even when the children were terrified and didn't want to ever see their violent parent again, fathers were able to keep power and contact with mothers through the courts.
The evidence presented to the APPG showed many women representing themselves in the family courts. Recent cuts to the funding for legal aid have seen a growing number of people acting as litigants in person, in other words without a lawyer in court. This is not unique to cases of domestic violence, however 80% of all family court cases in 2013/14 had at least one party without legal representation. The devastating side effect of this in cases of domestic violence is that a perpetrator can cross examine their victim. The Women's Aid 2015 survey of survivors of domestic abuse found that 25% of women had been directly question in court by their perpetrator. At present our justice system allows a father who might have beaten, belittled, raped and controlled a mother to question her in court. Again I ask you the reader to imagine for a second how you might feel faced with someone who had raped you, strangled you or attempted to kill you. I know how I would feel - terrified.
Over the years successive governments have made changes to how vulnerable people give evidence in our criminal courts. We have seen special measures put in place so victims and perpetrators are not put in the same waiting rooms. We have seen adult and child victims of sexual and physical violence able to give evidence behind screens or via video. Each and every one of these advances should make us proud of our civilised justice system. And so the alternative is true in our family courts. Every victim questioned or even approached in court by their violent aggressor brings shame on our justice system; makes us look backward and unjust. Every woman forced to answer to a man who has humiliated her, belittled her and dehumanised her puts a dent in so called justice. I think for most people hearing this for the first time will think it more in line with practice of backward countries whose poor record of human rights we would scoff at. Yet this scenario will be taking place today in every family court across the UK.
Far from the popular idea that women poison their children against their violent fathers, all my experience shows how women minimise their abuse, hide it from their children, do all they can to protect them and give them some faith in where they came from. There is a common view that while people recognise how awful domestic violence is, people still think a violent perpetrator can be a good dad. I have heard people say time and time again, "He never beat the kids, he wasn't a bad dad." I disagree. I think a parent who terrifies their child, forces their family in to chaos, perpetrates violent and criminal acts of physical, psychological and sexual abuse to any one in a family should have no rights as a parent. We must stop the misconception that men have no rights in the family courts, it is plain wrong and I would hope anyone who thinks it will read our report today and see how badly women who have been abused are being treated.
The report presents us with an opportunity to advance our justice system and remove some of the barbaric practices of the UK Justice system. Victims of domestic violence deserve courts that will treat them with care and dignity at present they have neither.
UK internet charity finds fourfold increase in child abuse imagery
LONDON (Reuters) - The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), an online child sex abuse charity, said on Thursday that the number of reports of images and videos containing child abuse had increased by 417 percent over the last two years.
In its annual report, the IWF said 68,092 reports had been positively identified as containing illegal child sexual abuse imagery and taken down.
That represented a 118 percent increase over the previous year, it said.
Prime Minister David Cameron gave his approval for the IWF to start proactively searching for online child sexual abuse imagery in April 2014.
From that time, IWF analysts could themselves search for child abuse imagery rather than just acting upon reports they received, prompting a dramatic increase in the number of images identified.
"By being allowed to actively search for these hideous images of children, we've seen a dramatic increase in the sheer number of illegal images and videos that we've been able to remove from the internet," IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves said in a statement.
Of the images discovered in 2015, 69 percent were of children aged 10 or under and 34 per cent were Category A which involves the rape or sexual torture of children, the IWF said.
Hargreaves said the IWF planned to increase the number of its analysts to 17 from 12.
The NSPCC children's charity called the IWF's removal of such images a significant achievement.
"Each of these images is a crime scene and behind each crime scene a victim; it is horrifying that so much of the imagery features the rape or torture of very young children, the worst category possible,” it said in a statement.
The IWF said Britain currently hosts 0.2 percent of the world's known child abuse imagery, a marked decline from 20 years ago when the figure was 18 percent.
Narrating Medicine: The Long Lasting Impact Of Child Abuse
by Joan M. Cook
One day when we were in first grade and sitting on a rickety wooden bench under a large oak tree in her backyard, my best friend's mother called her to come inside.
A few minutes later, I heard wailing like an animal being gutted. Squinting my eyes and looking perplexed, I turned to my friend's younger sister who was sitting beside me. She whispered, “She's just getting beat.” Beat? What's that, I wondered. She explained. Depending on the severity of their perceived wrongdoings, they were administered one of three levels of physical punishment: a stick, a belt or a big slab of wood. Their parents had moved from Ireland to our small suburb in New Jersey.
The Catholic schools the parents had attended as children in Ireland were very strict and the nuns reportedly beat them until their knuckles bled. Here, as parents in New Jersey, they told their daughters to strip naked and mercilessly receive corporal punishment. (I learned this from her sister, and over the years, from my friend.)
This was not a onetime event. These were repeated, deliberate acts.
The occurrences did not seem to have predictable patterns, so my friend, I'll call her Heather, couldn't prepare herself for them. And the negative psychological effects for her were deep. Over time, Heather became highly anxious, constantly got in trouble at school, and started a pattern of severe substance misuse that led to even further problems, particularly violations at the hands of men and boys.
Sadly the intentional violence Heather experienced as a child and throughout her adolescence is not an anomaly. Physical abuse is in fact the second most common form of child maltreatment, impacting more than 15 percent of all children living in the U.S. per year.
This despite 40 years of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, the first federal child protection legislation to assist in prevention, identification and treatment of child abuse and neglect. This despite another April being another National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
As a trauma psychologist on faculty at Yale, I'm very familiar with the research on and treatment of child abuse. These kinds of repetitive interpersonal damages place a child at greater risk for not only a host of mental health disorders — depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance misuse — but also for further abuse in adulthood. Often referred to as re-victimization, this means that people who have already been hurt can get hurt again and again.
There are several hypotheses on why re-victimization happens. Children come to view themselves as “damaged goods” who don't deserve or shouldn't expect better. Abused children aren't able to recognize safe from unsafe people, and if they do, they don't have the internal or external resources to protect themselves from danger.
In a recently published study, a team of researchers from the University of Washington found that substance misuse, particularly blackout drinking, predicted incapacitated sexual re-victimization.
And that is exactly what happened to Heather.
The phone calls would always come. “Pick me up,” she'd say, and out I would hobble from bed on weekend mornings during high school and go to a local motel to get my best friend. Hi-Ho, Red Roof Inn, Howard Johnson's — the string of cheap motels lined Highway 1 in Central Jersey.
Heather would party all night, binge drinking alcohol and doing any drug she could get her hands on. Her drug of choice was “boat,” a mixture of pot, embalming fluid and animal tranquilizer. But the relief from the child abuse she was suffering at home was only temporary. The hole within her could not be repaired in this way, though I didn't tell her that at the time because I didn't know either. At the time I thought I was being a good friend. Pick her up, take her home, never give a word of advice or caution — just consistency, concern and love.
Heather's binge drinking and drugging often resulted in blackouts. Attempting to anesthetize herself, she would not remember large stretches of time and would be unaware of her surroundings. During one of these blackouts she was allegedly raped by a group of boys who went to a local public high school. From that point until well into her 40s, her drinking and self-loathing got worse.
The pain reverberated throughout her life. She had difficulties finding and sustaining relationships with men and friendships with women. She never graduated college, married or had children. Although an incredibly smart, kind, quick witted individual, she didn't get a chance to reach her fullest potential. She was unable to let her light shine. Instead, she struggled with the demons of repeated multiple assaults on her soul. She spent many years in psychotherapy trying to rebuild her self-esteem and decrease her depressed mood. And for at least 20 years she has moved in and out of AA.
But the optimal point of intervention for Heather and the thousands of adults who live with the consequences of severe and prolonged childhood abuse and subsequent re-victimization would have been years before. Even though early intervention is what would have been most effective for my friend, it's never too late to seek help and heal from trauma.
It is clear to me, and I hope to you, that we need not just national awareness this April, and every month; we need personal awareness.
Joan M. Cook Ph.D. is an associate professor in the Yale School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, an Op-Ed Public Voices Fellow and president of the American Psychological Association's Division of Trauma Psychology.
Mishawaka expands school staff allowed to report child abuse
Social workers, nurses, counselors added
by Kim Kilbride
MISHAWAKA — One hundred and eight times last year, Mishawaka's school principals called the Indiana Department of Child Services to report that they suspected a student to be suffering from neglect or abuse.
Counselors at School City of Mishawaka's middle school, however, raised concerns that their students might be better served if the counselors, along with school social workers and registered nurses — staff the kids might feel more comfortable talking to — were allowed to make the phone calls, as well.
Administrators have responded by changing their guidelines, naming all the three groups to join building principals as “designated reporters” to DCS. A counselor, social worker or nurse who notifies DCS of all of the details about a child's case, then will give the building principal a heads-up that a report has been made.
Mike Pettibone, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, told the school board about the change last week.
Principals, he said Tuesday, initially were deemed designated reporters to ensure that they weren't surprised by a DCS caseworker's visit to the school to investigate.
Indiana law says anyone who thinks a child has been abused or neglected has the duty to report it. And individuals in certain professions, including those who work at schools, are legally obligated via their professions to do so.
Because of that, Pettibone said, teachers can also make those calls. “There's not a penalty to that,” he said. And though they wouldn't be required to notify the building principal of the report, “it's a nice guideline,” to operate with, he said.
Regardless of who does the reporting, Pettibone told the school board, the rule “is to never investigate and always to report and to report immediately” in the case of suspected abuse or neglect.
In South Bend and Penn-Harris-Madison schools, administrative guidelines also point to school principals as designated DCS reporters.
Sue Coney, a spokeswoman with South Bend, said administrative guidelines are regularly reviewed and changed as called for.
State Lawmakers Demand Answers for Child Abuse Deaths in Texas
by Caroline Connolly
Amidst mounting criticism for child deaths in the state, the head of Family and Protective Services in Texas took hours of questioning from a State Senate committee, Wednesday.
Commissioner John Specia Jr. went before the Health and Human Services committee to discuss what needs to be done to better serve families and improve Child Protective Services (CPS).
“Frustrated workers leave,” said Specia. “If you can't go home and sleep at night because you're worried about people on your case load, then you find something else to do.”
According to Specia, CPS has struggled to attract and retain case workers who are willing to take on high workloads while making low salaries. In Texas, a case worker earns approximately $32,000, while a case investigator makes $36,000.
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“My job is hard,” Specia told lawmakers. “It's not anywhere close to as hard as any worker out there doing investigations in child abuse.”
Due to the turnover, many employees are juggling more cases than is typically recommended.
CPS recently came under intense scrutiny following the death Leiliana Wright, 4, from Grand Prairie. Wright died in March from blunt force trauma at the hands of her mother and a boyfriend, according to police.
An internal review prompted a special investigator with the agency to resign, while two other employees were fired. According to The Dallas Morning News, one of the case workers on Wright's case was dealing with approximately 70 cases when he was assigned to Wright.
"I have to admit I'm stunned that we don't know how long it takes to handle an 'average case,'" said Sen. Van Taylor, R-District 8.
Specia explained they are studying the issue at the agency. He believes the recommended case load would likely range between 12-16 cases per person.
“You have funding for new cases workers. It's just that you cannot recruit them and maintain them,” said committee chairman, Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-District 5.
Over the last two legislative sessions, Specia agreed that the lawmakers had allocated significantly more funding for the agency. However, the financial support does not diminish the number of cases agency workers are being required to maintain. Specia argued that is leading to turnover rates, which are as high as 54 percent in North Texas.
“In some ways, the demands of the workers keep growing,” Specia said, “But the number of workers don't. We fail them when their case loads are too high, and we don't give them the resources to do their job.”
Training a CPS case worker costs the state approximately $54,000. Given how many end up leaving the agency, Sen. Carlos Uresti suggested they consider raising the salary to entice workers to stay.
“It's millions of dollars we're spending every year to train these caseworkers. Even if we lower that turnover rate by 5 percent, 7 percent, we will save money,” said Uresti. “And more importantly, we will save kids' lives.”
Specia will be retiring from his position May 1. Lawmakers thanked him for his service to children in the state, a cause Specia said he will continue even after his departure.
The commissioner is one of five people overseeing and working for the agency who have announced plans to retire or resign in recent weeks.
L.A. County child abuse case vexes San Bernardino County child custody cases
by Joe Nelson
Potentially hundreds of child custody cases in San Bernardino County's High Desert region may be jeopardized after a court mediator in Victorville was charged with falsifying records in a child abuse case in Los Angeles County, attorneys said Wednesday.
Some attorneys representing clients in family law cases in which mediator Kevin Bom made child custody recommendations say they have already received notification from family court services to refer the cases back for re-evaluation.
“I've been practicing law here for 32 years, and something like this has never happened. We were all shocked and surprised,” said Sherry Thompson, a Victorville attorney who said she received a written notice from family court services last week regarding one of her cases in which Bom made a custody recommendation.
On April 7, Los Angeles County prosecutors charged Bom, 36, of Phelan, and three other current and former Los Angeles County social workers with child abuse and falsifying records in connection with more than 60 complaints of child abuse involving 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, who died on May 24, 2013. The boy suffered a fractured skull, had BB-gun pellets shot into his groin and lung, was burned with cigarettes, and had two teeth knocked out, court records show.
Bom and the other three defendants are accused of continually failing to remove Fernandez from his abusive environment, despite the dozens of complaints they received and evidence of abuse.
Gabriel's mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, have each been charged with capital murder with a special allegation of torture. They have pleaded not guilty and face the death penalty if convicted.
Facing termination, Bom resigned from his supervisor job in L.A. County in September 2013, L.A. County spokesman David Sommers said.
In late 2013, Bom applied, and was hired, in his current position in San Bernardino County. Court spokesman Dennis Smith would not say if a proper background check was done or if Bom informed San Bernardino Superior Court officials of the investigation into his and his former colleagues' alleged actions in Los Angeles County, which triggered the criminal charges filed April 7.
Smith did say Tuesday that the court took immediate action upon being notified of Bom's criminal charges and was conducting an administrative investigation concerning his employment.
Victorville attorney Jimmy Mettias said he has 16 family law cases he will likely have to send back for possible re-evaluation in the wake of the Bom case. He said there is one case in particular that concerns him most.
“In this particular case he (Bom) ignored and dismissed very serious concerns of a mother regarding allegations of abuse, issues that we thought were clear,” Mettias said. “It is those things that I think every attorney who's had recommendations from (Bom) has a concern.”
Bom did not return telephone calls to his home Wednesday seeking comment.
Robert A. Adelman, a Woodland Hills attorney specializing in family law cases in Los Angeles and Ventura counties for 41 years, said San Bernardino County is what is referred to as a “recommending county,” meaning that child custody recommendations by mediators are given much more weight by judges and are often approved.
“It will certainly, at a minimum, give the parties who lost their custody cases very strong ammunition to reopen those cases,” Adelman said, referring to Bom's custody recommendations in San Bernardino County. “It certainly creates an inference as to whether this man's opinions and abilities should be trusted.”
Mettias said there are roughly two dozen attorneys in the High Desert specializing in family law.
“I would imagine every family law attorney who's practiced up here in the last two and a half years has had a custody recommendation made by (Bom) at some point,” Mettias said.
Victorville attorney Sharon Brunner said she has about 175 family law cases, either active or closed, she is now sifting through to try and determine on which cases Bom made custody recommendations.
Like other attorneys in the same boat, Brunner said she has to contact all the clients she has represented or is currently representing, inform them of the Bom situation, and ask if they want their cases re-evaluated.
Victorville attorney Russell J. Kiner said he too is now going through all his files to see which family law cases Bom made custody recommendations.
“It's throwing a monkey wrench into the works,” Kiner said. “There's been an allegation made that my clients need to know about. I'm very upset that this wasn't disclosed to the attorneys when (Bom) was charged,” Kiner said Wednesday.
Because Bom has not been convicted of the crimes for which he stands accused, judges will be forced to walk a fine line in determining whether any of Bom's San Bernardino County child custody cases should be re-evaluated, Kiner said.
“Those judges have to work within the constitutional rights Mr. Bom has,” said Kiner. “And the Constitution guarantees Mr. Bom is innocent until proven guilty.”
All the attorneys interviewed posed the same question: How was Bom able to slip through the cracks of the system and be hired in San Bernardino County after being accused of such egregious misconduct in Los Angeles County?
“I was quite frankly shocked to see that San Bernardino County would have hired somebody terminated for what I presume was negligence,” Thompson said. “You would think that for that position, they would investigate the people to some extent.”
Active prefrontal brain function appears to protect against PTSD after child abuse
by Robin Reese
Increased activation of the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that regulates complex cognitive, emotional and behavioral functioning, appears to protect against post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in individuals who suffered abuse as a child, says a recent study by Emory researchers.
The results of the study appear in the journal Depression and Anxiety, and were first published online Apr. 8, 2016.
Child abuse is a primary risk factor for PTSD and other psychiatric and medical issues. The study team, lead by Jennifer Stevens, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow in psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine, wanted to investigate why some adults who suffered child abuse do not develop PTSD.
By looking at the effects of such abuse on the brain, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers determined that resilient individuals who were abused as a child and yet did not experience PTSD as an adult had more prefrontal activation than those with PTSD. This points to a potentially helpful or health-promoting pattern of brain function. It's unclear whether this is due to genetic or environmental factors, however it raises the possibility that early interventions may be able to strengthen the brain and make a person less likely to develop depression or PTSD.
"What we found is that if your brain inhibitory areas function well, despite having been subjected to child abuse, you may be more resilient as an individual," says Tanja Jovanovic, PhD, study co-author and assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine. "It's as though you have this protective factor in your brain."
The study included 90 individuals, all female, who reported traumatic childhood experiences. Thirty-seven participants had PTSD and 53 individuals experienced similar levels of trauma but did not develop PTSD.
The study authors say more research is needed in order to determine the basis of why activity in this region of the brain promotes resilience to PTSD.
California child abuse cases drop 25% in in last decade
PALO ALTO, California — Substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in California dropped by 25 percent between 2004-2014, according to the most recent data available on Kidsdata.org. Good news just in time for Child Abuse Prevention Month,
More than 80 percent of counties saw a decline in their rates of substantiated child abuse cases during this time period. Merced, Lake, Santa Cruz and Colusa counties all saw the steepest declines. During the entire 10-year period, higher rates were concentrated in the state's northern counties.
Twenty-three per 1,000 children in both the African American and American Indian communities experienced substantiated cases of abuse in 2014, the highest by far among ethnic groups. Rates for those two groups were also the highest in 2004.
Children ages 0-5 make up nearly half of all substantiated abuse cases, but only one-third of the state's child population. In addition, children with special needs and those in the foster care system are also at higher risk of abuse.
Children who are abused or neglected are more likely to experience cognitive, emotional and behavioral problems, as well as disruptions in brain and physical development, which increase the risk for health problems in adulthood. Children who are abused or neglected also are more likely to repeat the cycle of violence by entering into violent relationships as teens and adults or by abusing their own children.
Beyond the impact on individuals, child abuse has a significant impact on society; the total lifetime economic cost due to new child maltreatment cases in a single year is estimated at $124 billion in the U.S.
While California has made major strides in these areas in recent years, continued efforts are needed to ensure the safety of all children.
According to experts, programs that can help address child abuse/neglect include: continuing to ensure that effective prevention services are in place including risk assessment and home-visiting services for families with children at risk of abuse; supporting policies that help reduce family stress, promote stable environments for children and ensure that affordable child care is available; and providing an accessible system of mental health services for parents and children.
Ending Child Sexual Abuse in India Means Changing Mindsets
by M-R Abraham
Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
In his decades as an activist against child labour, Ashoka Fellow Kailash Satyarthi noticed that the boys and girls rescued from mines, factories and small workshops have recently started speaking out about a previously hidden aspect of their mistreatment: child sexual abuse.
“They consider it as part of their life,” Satyarthi said. “But after a little effort they come out and they themselves realize they have gone through such a hideous crime.”
The experience of these children and what seems to be an epidemic of this abuse in India compelled Satyarthi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, to found “Full Stop,” a campaign to raise awareness and educate about child sexual abuse. As part of his mission, Satyarthi urged religious leaders in India – many of whom have millions of followers -- to address the issue.
“I've been calling upon them to please announce in their congregation or on their television channel,” Satyarthi explained. “I asked them to say that whosoever does child sexual abuse should not be considered a part of that faith. Boycott it. Outcast it. ‘He's not a Hindu, He's not a Muslim, He's not a Christian.' The faith leaders should speak out. It will create an impact.”
But Satyarthi said he has not seen any concrete results so far.
“They don't have the courage to speak out,” he said. “But what is the purpose of religion? You are a faith leader and have such a big following, but you cannot protect our children.”
They are not the only ones to leave children unprotected.
The statistics are startling. With one-fifth of the world's children, India holds the dubious distinction of the largest number of child sexual abuse cases globally. More than half – 52.3 percent -- of Indian children have been sexually abused, according to the 2007 “Study on Child Abuse” by the government's Ministry of Women and Child Development. (Sexual abuse is a problem that affects children worldwide. According to one study, one out of five girls and one in ten boys are victims.)
Satyarthi and other Ashoka Fellows whose work impacts children say key factors in Indian society explain why child sexual abuse is such an entrenched problem in the country. And will continue to be without systemic changes in attitudes and mindsets.
Social Taboo and Silence
It's not only faith leaders who do not want to address child sexual abuse. There is a general aversion within Indian society.
“In our country, sex and sexuality is such a bad word,” said Rita Panicker Pinto who founded Butterflies, an organisation which works with vulnerable and marginalized children.
This has a direct effect on children in India. Parents won't discuss sex with them. And Pinto said teachers are often so embarrassed by the subject they talk about it theoretically or as a physiology lesson.
The taboo also makes it that much harder for victims of sexual abuse to report it.
“How do you expect children or even older survivors to talk about anything sexual to their family members? Especially something which has so much shame associated with it,” said Anuja Gupta. She is the founder of RAHI (Recovery and Healing from Incest), a centre for adult women survivors of incest and child sexual abuse. RAHI was founded 20 years ago and was the first Indian organisation to address the subject.
With victims unable to speak out, the consequences can be grave. The abuse may continue. The victim is unable to get help. And the abuser – “who are just people like you and me” according to Gupta – is able to hide his or her crime.
“Silence is the friend of the abuser,” said Gupta. “Sexual abuse includes silence and secrecy and shame.”
Family Above the Individual
In the overwhelming majority of cases, the perpetrator of child sexual abuse is known -- a relative, neighbour, teacher, etc. Most children, according to studies, do not report their abuse, finding it difficult to raise their voices against someone “trusted.” Family is often structured so that children's voices are discounted or ignored.
“Parents don't find time to respect a child's voice,” said Satyarthi. “It begins with mutual respect and mutual sharing, but it does not happen. It's kind of a monologue. It's the parents who think they know everything.”
Even a child who would attempt to speak out about abuse may come up against a formidable force.
“There is a kind of sanctity that the family has in Indian society,” explained Gupta. “Where nothing in the family can be discussed or be considered wrong. It's the concept of family as being above the rights of individuals, especially the rights of women and children. And you can't really touch it. It's really difficult to work against that.”
Gupta added that the concept of respecting your elders is especially debilitating. If children are taught not to talk back and become fearful of elders, they are powerless against abusers. In addition, adults may not respond if a respected person is accused or suspected of abuse.
“Sometimes we are so protective of that so-called family reputation and social norms and respect,” said Satyarthi. “So we cover up many of those evils.”
Patriarchy and Status of Women and Children
The horrific “Nirbhaya” gang rape in 2012 drew worldwide attention and brought a greater focus on violence against women and children in India.
In its aftermath, Panicker Pinto's organisation Butterflies gathered a group of adolescent girls and boys to talk about the issue. The resulting discussion laid bare a fundamental problem in Indian society.
Panicker Pinto recalled: “The girls said, ‘What do our brothers witness in our homes every day? They witness our fathers brutalizing our mothers and us. It's verbal abuse, physical abuse. They witness this right from infancy. Then they grow up to think it's fine to use verbal abuse, sexual abuse, and physical abuse against women.'”
In this patriarchal structure, women and children are rendered powerless.
“If you're looking at changing anything to prevent child sexual abuse, you really need to question patriarchy as a system,” said Gupta. “You need to look at changing mindsets. It has to start with how do you treat women and how do you treat children in the family. And how do you bring them up? That needs to change.”
Awareness and Education
In 2012, India enacted The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. According to the law, it provides protection from sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography while “safeguarding the interests of the child at every stage of the judicial process …”
The law also makes it mandatory to report alleged child sexual abuse. But its implementation may be less effective because of a lack of awareness.
“Most people have no idea how to react to (a report of sexual abuse),” said Satyarthi. “Most people are not aware of the various laws in relation to child sexual abuse. Even police authorities are not aware of the nitty gritty of the system.”
Beyond the legal aspects of the abuse, its effects on the person are little understood, according to Gupta.
“People don't have a clue,” she said. “It's taken 20 years for people to say child sexual abuse is happening. But the fact that the consequences could be so devastating and continue throughout a lifetime is not very well understood.”
She continued: “Child sexual abuse has devastating consequences. It has a cost on your physical, emotional, mental, sexual and reproductive health, even as an adult. The kind of impact, and the severity of impact, is not really understood.”
Raising awareness and educating the public continues to be a key part of these Ashoka Fellows' work. Satyarthi's Full Stop not only provides support to victims and their families but provides information to medical personnel, teachers, social workers and the police. Gupta's RAHI Foundation has programs such as ASAP (Adolescents for Sexual Abuse Prevention), an effort in schools involving students, teachers, counsellors and parents. Panicker Pinto's Butterflies reaches out daily to thousands of street and working children who are particularly vulnerable to abuse.
But it will take some time for their work to be fully effective, at least according to Gupta.
“My own sense is that for children to start talking, it's going to take another 20 years of work,” she said. “You have to create situations where children are able to talk. That depends on adults. So the question really should be why adults don't listen. What happens when children disclose? Nobody is going to believe them and they're going to be blamed.”
Gupta continued: “The focus needs to be on how do you help adults acknowledge the issue of child sexual abuse, the extent to which it is happening, and educate, sensitize and train them to address this issue.”
Breaking cycle of abuse is center's mission
by Kathleen M. Murphy
I grew up in the dark chaos created by two raging alcoholic parents. They abused each other and they abused me, verbally and physically. After years of serious neglect, I became a teenage runaway and did not return home until I was 22. By then my father had left and my mother had drunk herself to death.
It was an era where you kept family matters private. Outwardly, we looked like a nice, normal family. I later found out that other family members, aunts, uncles and grandparents, knew what was happening but they didn't know what to do.
I was lucky. I had several teachers and friends who helped me. With their support, I graduated high school with honors, and went on to go to college and graduate school. Against the odds, I broke the cycle of abuse.
Today, breaking that cycle is the mission of the Center for Prevention of Child Abuse.
The CPCA provides services to anyone who needs them. We are the home of the Child Advocacy Center (CAC), where children are brought when there are suspected cases of child sex abuse or severe cases of physical abuse. CAC has specially trained Child Protection Services workers and law enforcement who know how to work with potentially abused kids. They are provided with advocates from Family Services and there is a fully equipped and staffed medical exam room to provide exams to ensure that they are healthy.
The CPCA also provides personal safety lessons throughout Dutchess and Ulster counties' schools. Kids are given the tools and skills to recognize child physical and sexual abuse, and they are taught what to do if something does happen to them. When I was their age, I was taught what to do in the event of a tornado, but no one knew what to do if they were being beaten and neglected.
The CPCA takes preventative measures with parents as well, teaching parenting classes for teens, parents with special needs, and the general population. Child abuse is cyclical, passed from generation to generation. My parents learned their abusive habits from theirs. We provide a resource to parents to help them understand there is a better way.
Together we can end child abuse. Learn about the warning signs of all forms of child abuse. The CPCA website has a lot of information: www.thecpca.com . Most importantly, talk to your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews about child abuse. There are age appropriate ways to do this. Please let the children in your life know that it is OK to tell a trusted adult if something has happened to them. Educate yourselves about the dangers of social media and children. If you need assistance, that is what the CPCA is here for. Finally, adults, please get comfortable with talking about this issue. If we as adults can't talk about it, how can we expect our children to?
I'm often asked, “How can you do that job, how can you handle the subject matter?”
Well now you know. Our goal at the CPCA is to make sure no child ever has to go through what I did. I tell my story for those who still suffer in silence — the victims, the survivors and the abusers themselves — so they know it is possible to be happy.
There is help for everyone. I know it is not easy, but I promise that it can get better. Give us a call at 845-454-0595. You can call the police at 911 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger. You can also call the New York state hotline at 1-800-342-3720.
Kathleen M. Murphy is the executive director of the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse.
Child Abuse Prevention Month events
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse is encouraging the public to wear a blue ribbon to recognize the need to raise awareness about child abuse. The CPCA is hosting the following events to help raise awareness in the community:
•10 a.m. to 9 p.m., May 7: Free Comic Book Day benefiting the CPCA, Dragons Den, Poughkeepsie Plaza, Route 9
•May 12: Annual Gala and Silent Auction, Villa Borghese, Wappingers Falls; email Vbell@thecpca.com for sponsorships or tickets For more information about these events and to learn more about the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse, visit www.thecpca.com; call 845-454-0595; find it on Facebook
Love and Other Drugs
by Samina Raza
So many of us who have been traumatized as children, who were unloved or not loved enough, who were rejected, abandoned, abused, develop addictions later on in life. The trauma that we suffered in our childhood leads to pain, anxiety, emptiness, depression, self hate, and on and on and on. All these feelings are extremely unpleasant and painful to feel, therefore we try to get away from them by using something or someone to mask the pain. This can lead to addictive behavior. Addiction is not only to substances like alcohol, or drugs, you can also be addicted to a person. In the case of alcohol, although a depressant, it increases dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, and one of our feel good chemicals. So initially, alcohol makes us feel good, due to the increase in dopamine. However, its depressant effect takes over soon after, and also one needs to drink more and more to get the mood enhancing effect, all of this can lead to alcohol addiction or alcoholism. Same with drugs, they can alleviate anxiety, make us feel good temporarily, but again, it may take higher doses to achieve the same effects and that can lead to addiction. And people can have the same effect on us, this is known as “love addiction,” one can be addicted to a lover or friend, as this also produces feel good chemicals in our brain.
Love addiction is extremely destructive. You are dependent on a whole other human being for your happiness! Really?! I know, I get it, I've been there. The feelings swirling inside of you from your childhood trauma are so painful and heartbreaking, that you, without even knowing it, put the responsibility of your happiness on to someone else's unsuspecting shoulders!
This is because you do not know how to soothe yourself, so when you are thinking of your “love” interest, you're not thinking painful thoughts, or you think this person you're addicted to will do it. And believe me this has nothing to do with love, and everything to do with addiction. You think you can't live without this person, you get a high when you see this person, it's all about you. True love is selfless and you care about the person you love more than yourself, ok if not more than, at least as much as... Addiction is different, it's a fix, it's something you crave, it's a very self involved thing. With addiction, most people are trying to reduce their own suffering, unfortunately, they are using self destructive behaviors to accomplish their goal of no suffering. The goal is positive, the methods... perhaps not so much...
It's because you don't know how to tamp down your fight or flight from going from 0 to 500 in 5 seconds, you think the presence of the person you're addicted to will do this.
It's because no one taught you to love yourself, to value yourself, to forgive yourself, you think the poor person you are addicted to will do it.
Your boundaries were continuously violated, you never learned what a boundary was, so you want to be totally enmeshed with this unfortunate person you are addicted to, and whose boundaries you don't know how to respect.
The above three are skills that people who grow up in loving, nurturing, normal homes learn when they are young children.
We people, who grew up in abusive, abandoning homes, do not learn these skills when we are children.
Well it's never too late to learn. Never too late to reparent yourself, or work with your inner child. Meditation can be used to calm your flight or flight response. There are apps for your cell phones such as Headspace (https://www.headspace.com/) that will help you learn meditation. This can take as little as 10 minutes! There are resources that will help you heal from love addiction, here's a link to a book that helped me a lot: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004HW88LU/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?ie=UTF8&btkr=1
And one last thing, this is very important, we adult survivors of child abuse and abandonment sometimes get so involved in our feelings and feel so sorry for our own selves that we don't even realize that we are trespassing on other people's rights. We do it unknowingly, however, we do do it. Let me give you an example, the person we're addicted to, known as “poor person” from hereon in, is busy, hasn't answered our texts in a few days. Our abandonment issues are extensively triggered by this because we think this poor person has now abandoned us. So we bombard them with every manner of contact we have for them, Facebook messenger, Snapchat, texting, emailing, Whatsapp, and many others in this age of technology, all begging, apologizing, and generally making as big a pest of ourselves as possible. We have no boundaries, we think this is ok. Well it's not ok. This poor person should not have to put up with this level of, frankly, harassment. If this poor person is our friend, they did not sign on to deal with this. The bottom line is: You and I are responsible for our issues and for healing from them! Some friends will hold our hand and walk with us, and some won't. But, no one has to. It is wholly our own responsibility to get help, to realize what our issues are and to heal from them. And once the healing has taken place, at least to some degree, we can be friends with anyone, yet be dependent on no one. We've won the war of independence, congratulations! This is not to be harsh, but to help us realize what we're doing is not in anyone's best interests, including our own. It's a difficult lesson to learn, but once we learn it, and we (and I am definitely included here) can live our lives without being dependent on anyone else to make us happy, once we own our own lives and become responsible for ourselves, then really and truly, we've healed and we have arrived!
Walker signs child abuse, trafficking bills
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker has signed six bills designed to curtail child abuse and sex trafficking in Wisconsin.
The bills require the state to develop a procedure for investigating abuse of a disabled child; create the crime of repeated physical abuse of a child; and expand the definition of child sex trafficking to include transporting a child for commercial sex.
The remaining measures require the state, county social services and child welfare agencies to report a missing child to police within eight hours; transfer $1 million from drug enforcement and the state's crime labs to combat Internet crimes against children; and make parents who photograph nude children for sexual arousal guilty of a felony.
Walker signed the bills Tuesday at various stops at law enforcement facilities around the state.
Data Shows Increase of Child Abuse in RGV
WESLACO — Data from the Department of Family and Protective Services shows an increase of child abuse in the Rio Grande Valley.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS found an increase in investigation, fatalities and confirmed child victims.
The signs of child abuse can't always be noticed in photographs. Amanda Banda said she was sexually abused as a child. She still remembers the abuse after 29 years.
"It was very difficult for me to form any type of relationship with a male, because I felt they wanted me just to be near me, to touch me or abuse me,” she said.
Banda said the abuse changed her. Now, she's an advocate for others.
“I do know there's a lot of advocates out there, but I know there could be more funds raised and more people who are willing to speak up for others,” she said.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS looked into the numbers from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services data book. Those numbers show an increase in investigations, fatalities and confirmed cases in Hidalgo and Cameron counties from 2014 to 2015.
We reached out to Department of Family and Protective Services spokesperson John Lennan about the increases in those numbers. He said it's up to the public to keep the department informed.
"If we don't know, we haven't received a report,” he said. “If someone from the public hasn't told us that there's a family that's experiencing some degree of crisis, we would not be able to go out and assist the family until we know about that family.”
Lennan said if the department knows about an overload increase of cases, they will move employees around to different counties.
"If we receive extra cases in Hidalgo County, we would be able to shift workers from Cameron County to assist,” he said. “If we needed to, we can bring in more workers from other areas of the state to assist."
Amanda Banda said she will continue to move forward for her own family.
“I think the biggest thing is for people to remember that there's hope, and there can be healing just by sharing your story,” she said.
According to the Department of Family and Protective Services, there were more than 3,000 confirmed child abuse victims in 2015 in the entire Rio Grande Valley.
There are several signs of child abuse to look out for:
nervous around adults
not sleeping well
People who suspect a child is in danger should call the department's child abuse hotline at 1-800-252-5400.
The very real and present danger of child abuse
by Herb Scribner
English comedian Stephen Fry's recent comments about how child abuse victims should handle their grief didn't go over too well with child abuse survivors.
Back on April 4, Fry said in an interview that child abuse victims need to “grow up,” saying that they are often too sensitive about pieces of media that may possibly trigger memories about their abuse, according to The Guardian.
“They're terrible things and they have to be thought about, clearly, but if you say you can't watch this play, you can't watch Titus Andronicus, or you can't read it in a Shakespeare class, or you can't read Macbeth because it's got children being killed in it, it might trigger something when you were young that upset you once, because uncle touched you in a nasty place, well, I'm sorry,” he said in the interview. “It's a great shame and we're all very sorry that your uncle touched you in that nasty place — you get some of my sympathy — but your self-pity gets none of my sympathy because self-pity is the ugliest emotion in humanity.”
Fry apologized for these comments Thursday morning, saying in a statement released on the website Mind that he didn't mean to make those crimes seem lesser than they are.
“It seems I must have utterly failed to get across what I was actually trying to say and instead offended and upset people who didn't deserve to be offended or upset,” he said, according to The Guardian.
But his comments didn't sit well with child abuse victim Tracey Merrett, who was sexually abused as a child by her stepdad. She wrote an open letter to Mirror Online denouncing Fry's comments.
“I felt angry that you would say such heartless, glib things so publicly — tarring us all with one big ‘abuse' brush,” she wrote. “If you don't have sympathy or compassion for people who have lived through the traumas of child sex abuse that is very sad.”
Merrett, who is 40, said she's only recently come to terms with her abuse.
"It was only when all my unresolved experiences came out in a nervous breakdown two decades on that I realized it was OK to feel bad for the young me — for the child hiding under the covers at night," she wrote.
Merrett's struggle isn't uncommon, since child abuse isn't an easy thing to overcome. In fact, research shows it can affect children's lives all the way into adulthood, requiring them to make an extra effort to heal and grieve from their painful wounds.
According to the American Humane Association, about 3.3 million cases of child abuse, neglect or maltreatment were received by social services and child protection services groups in 2005. That means that about 12 in every 1,000 children younger than 18 were victims. It was both an issue for boys and girls, as 47.3 percent of child victims were male and 50.7 percent were female, the AHA reported. Those 3 years old and younger had the highest rate of maltreatment, with a rate of 16.5 for every 1,000 births, according the AHA.
These children suffer from various types of abuse. Of the cases reported in 2005, 62.8 percent were of neglect, while 16.6 percent and 9.3 percent were of physical and sexual abuse, respectively. Emotional and psychological abuse affected 7.1 percent of reported cases, where as medical neglect affected 2 percent, according to AHA.
Sometimes this can even lead to death. In 2005, about 1,460 children died because of abuse, with about three-fourths of those children being younger than 3 years old, according to AHA.
Child maltreatment can happen for a variety of reasons, but substance abuse is the most common. Parents who have substance abuse disorders are 2.7 times more likely to report abusive behavior and 4.2 times more likely to report neglectful behavior towards their children, the AHA explained.
Child abuse can have a long lasting effect even into adulthood, according to the Blue Knot Foundation, a resource guide for those recovering from childhood traumas. Survivors often suffer from failed relationships, financial setbacks and an unstable lifestyle that makes it hard for them to settle down and live a normal life, Blue Knot explained.
And it's not just abused children who suffer. As Deseret News National's Lois Collins reported earlier this month, children who witness domestic violence but aren't abused will suffer from the violence's after effects.
Betsy Groves, the founder of the Child Witness to Violence Project at the Boston Medical Center, told Deseret News National that children who see domestic violence can be as traumatized as those who actually are abused.
Handling the grief of child abuse later in life can be a struggle, and not something that can be brushed away as Fry initially suggested in his interview.
Child abuse victims often feel grief because they feel they have lost their innocence, according to the Help for Adult Victims of Child Abuse (HAVOCA) organization.
“In the case of victims of child abuse you have probably lost your innocence, your childhood, the ability to trust, etc,” according to HAVOCA “Everyone grieves in their own way but they all tend to follow a pattern. This pattern is known as the five stages of grief.”
These five stages are outlined in this graphic, created by HAVOCA.
To handle the grief, HAVOCA suggests child abuse victims keep a journal with their thoughts and feelings about their abuse to help them see where their troubles lie. The organization also recommends talking to a therapist or loved one about the issue, since it will make it easier to come to terms with the abuse.
According to The Advocacy Center, a resource for domestic violence and abuse victims, the healing process can be a long one. Survivors often struggle to heal until they admit they need to change the way they live their lives. Sometimes this requires them to believe that their abuse was real, and remember aspects of it that they might have buried in the recesses of their mind.
It may also require victims to come to terms with their childhood self so that they can confront all their pain.
“The healing process can be a long one, but there will come a point where the survivor feels like their life is more balanced and that they are no longer in constant crisis,” according to The Advocacy Center. “It is important for survivors to remember that there is no finish line to healing, they will have some good days and some hard days but the hard days will come less and less."
No winners among child abuse victims
by Sue A. Fugate
The thought of child sexual abuse, past or present, stirs fear and anger. The recent grand jury report about crimes that date back as far as the 1950s in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown is the latest revelation.
I won't pretend to know the pain a survivor of abuse experiences or the helplessness their families feel, but as a mother of two, I do empathize with their suffering and support their need for healing.
In the name of healing, some legislators have proposed to change Pennsylvania law and, in effect, open a window that would waive the civil statute of limitations for some — but not all — abuse survivors. To that, I respond as an attorney. I can't ignore the law, nor should any elected official pledged to serving the public good.
Unless we face some uncomfortable truths, the Legislature will end up creating two classes of child victims in the name of emotional expedience. It will financially penalize innocent families — members of churches and parish communities — who had nothing to do with past evil actions by a criminal few.
The issue at hand is sovereign immunity, which allows for public institutions to be treated far more leniently than private ones. Sovereign immunity is meant to protect taxpayer dollars. But applied to the proposed legislation addressing the statute of limitations, it means that survivors of abuse in public schools and other public institutions will be treated as somehow less violated than in private ones.
That group of survivors is substantial, but currently ignored. The abuse they suffered is no less appalling than that perpetrated by private school teachers, clergy, or camp counselors.
The hard reality is that children are sexually abused far more than anyone cares to admit. If we're going to address this issue, we need to look at the facts — and they're deeply upsetting. It has been reported that one in four girls and one in six boys will be subject to unwanted sexual advances in the United States by the time they are 18. These children can be found everywhere and abused anywhere — in their homes, their schools and their communities.
Most institutions have recognized this and created comprehensive policies and procedures to educate and train employees and volunteers to recognize and report abuse. My children attended both public and Catholic schools over the years. It was in the Catholic schools, not the public, that I had to submit to clearances and background checks before volunteering at school activities or attending class field trips. Before the Pennsylvania Legislature passed new mandatory reporter laws in 2014, I was already considered a mandated reporter by the Church.
These policies and others have significantly helped decrease the incidents of abuse occurring in the church. In the U.S. in 2014 there were six substantiated claims of clergy abuse of current minors. Six is certainly too many, but compare that number to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education whose own report notes that 168 public school educators were disciplined for sexual relations, assault or consensual sex with a minor in just the years between 2008 and 2015. And yet, some lobbyists and lawmakers think it's perfectly acceptable to leave these abuse survivors out of their equation.
Supporters who want to give our public schools sovereign immunity's generous protections argue that without it, schools will be bled of precious resources. But that rationale falls cynically short in terms of the inequity it creates between the survivors of abuse in private institutions and the survivors of abuse in public ones. It's morally outrageous to say one abuse is “worth more” — or in the case of public institutions, is less grievous — than another.
Lawmakers clearly know that no one entity or organization is solely responsible for abuse, and their own public institutions are among the serious offenders.
Without including a waiver of sovereign immunity for public institutions, legislators who support statute of limitations legislation will be picking winners and losers among child abuse survivors. This is hypocrisy. Children who were abused in public schools should be treated with the same scrupulous attention to justice, and the same means to seek recompense, as children who were abused in private ones. Any other path is unjust.
Sue A. Fugate is an attorney residing in Yardley. She has a BA from the University of Pittsburgh and a JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Official: Child sexual abuse cases rising in Washington Co.
by Mike Lewis
Against the backdrop of several recent deadly child-abuse cases in the Tri-State area, social workers, school counselors, mental-health therapists and others gathered Tuesday in Hagerstown for the 28th annual Child Welfare Workshop.
The day began with Washington County commissioners Terry L. Baker and John F. Barr presenting a proclamation in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month to Michael Piercy, director of the Washington County Department of Social Services.
The workshop at Hager Hall included an opening general session followed by nine classes that addressed topics such as "The Neurological Impact of Trauma on the Developing Brain," "Children and Adolescents of Substance Abusing Parents" and "Using Play Therapy Techniques to Reach Kids."
Piercy said this year's workshop aimed to build a "trauma-informed workforce" among those who help youngsters.
Many children are growing up in "very invalidating and really horrible environments," he said.
In some cases, problem behaviors are the effects of trauma people previously experienced. Those behaviors might be the only methods that people have to cope with that trauma, Piercy said.
"Understanding and Providing Trauma-Informed Care" was the subject of the opening address, delivered by Joan B. Gillece of the federal Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration.
Experiencing trauma at any stage of life can have lasting effects. That trauma can result from abuse or violence, a loss, such as the death of a loved one, or chronic stressors, such as poverty or racism, Gillece said.
She cited one study that posed 10 questions about traumatic experiences that people might have had before age 18. A boy with six or more of those experiences had a 4,600 percent greater likelihood of later becoming an intravenous-drug user than a boy who had none, the study found.
The workshop was sponsored and organized by several area agencies that work with children.
In an interview, Piercy pointed to what he called a "disturbing trend" in Washington County.
"We're seeing, overall, a decline in child neglect, but one troubling trend that we are seeing in today's society is an increase in child sex abuse," he said.
In fiscal 2015, Piercy said his department tracked 186 cases of child sex abuse, up from 170 in 2014 and 164 in 2013.
"So there's definitely a disturbing trend upward with child sex abuse," he said. "And I think that can be related to the amount of sexual media that we see that children are getting involved with now."
Social media also play a role, whether it's youths sending each other sexually explicit texts, or sexual predators luring children through Facebook, Snapchat or other services, he said.
"So, unfortunately, this media, this wonderful technology for communication, has also been a boon for those who seek to harm our children," Piercy said. "So parents have to be very wary about the technology their children have access to."
You can prevent sexual abuse
by The Journal Review
One in ten children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
According to data compiled by the Indiana Youth Institute in the 2016 Kids Count data book, the Department of Child Services investigated more than 18,000 cases of child sexual abuse in Indiana in 2014. About 3,000 of those cases were substantiated. In fact, there were more substantiated cases of child sexual abuse than physical abuse.
Child sexual abuse can be difficult to stop, especially if children aren't able to speak up.
The Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) and its community partners are hosting a free seminar on Tuesday to teach caring adults how to stop child sexual abuse from happening.
Jennifer Bushore-Barry with Heartford House will go through Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children (D2L) training program. D2L focuses on training and equipping adults with the tools and information they need to protect children from sexual abuse. Bushore-Barry will discuss the five key steps in that process: learning the facts, minimizing opportunity, talking about the problem, recognizing the signs and reacting responsibly. Darkness to Light estimates that for every one adult who is trained, 10 children are protected.
Youth Worker Cafés are designed to bring together local youth workers to build relationships and inspire collaborations that will benefit children. As part of IYI's Youth Worker Café program, the seminar and continental breakfast are free, but reservations are required.
The event is from 9:30 a.m. to noon in the Donnelley Room of the Crawfordsville District Public Library, 205 S. Washington St. Space is limited, so reservations are required.
Attendees must reserve a spot for the seminar and breakfast by going to www.iyi.org/ywc. Contact IYI Statewide Outreach Manager Debbie Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org if the link does not work.
This café is made possible through the collaborative efforts of the Children's Bureau, Inc., Department of Child Services, Montgomery County Youth Service Bureau, Community Foundation of Montgomery County, the Montgomery County Child Abuse Prevention Council and IYI.
Mt. Juliet child abuse survivor use scars to help others
by Andy Humbles
Burn marks and scars remain on Keith Edmonds' face from being held to an electric heater as a 14-month-old in a horrific case of child abuse.
Edmonds, 38, nearly died, but life would require dealing with a youth filled with surgeries and being bullied and called names such as Freddy Krueger and Scarface, pain that he eventually numbed as an adult through alcohol.
Today, Edmonds of Mt. Juliet is sober and able to wear his wounds as a way to help victims of child abuse and neglect, ditching his career in sales to start The Keith Edmonds Foundation, which became licensed this month as a nonprofit.
"Being able to be a child abuse survivor and wear the scars of my monster has enabled me to share my story with other child abuse victims,” he said. “It really resonates with the person I'm talking to, whether it's a child abuse victim or community member who has an open heart.”
One of the first endeavors for Edmonds' foundation was to engage 30 local businesses and organizations as partners in child abuse awareness videos for each day of April, which is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month.
Already, Edmonds has more than 100 videos with different partners that he shares on social media platforms and can be linked to from the foundation's website. Videos include Mike Fisher, Carter Hutton and Colin Wilson of the Nashville Predators and a number of businesses throughout Wilson County.
“When you meet Keith you see he has been scarred, it's very evident,” said Gary Whitaker, executive vice president at Wilson Bank & Trust, a video partner. “It just makes you mad. And the thing I know is Keith is not the only one this has ever happened to. That scar is external. It's visual. But once you get to know Keith, the internal scars have healed.”
Edmonds' abuser was his mother's boyfriend at the time in Flint, Mich. The abuse occurred because Edmonds wouldn't stop crying, he said. The abuser was sentenced to 10 years in prison, according to Edmonds, who has never met the man, though he knows whom it is.
The surgeries included multiple skin grafts, enlarging his nostrils and sewing an ear back on.
The Central Michigan University graduate describes his adult life as a functioning alcoholic, able to work but drinking heavily until his 35th birthday.
“I had a conversation with God who I didn't know was there,” said Edmonds, who still attends Celebrate Recovery meetings. “I never had community when I was a child. I know if I had somebody I could trust, I would have been a better person for it.”
In 2014 Edmonds released a book, "About a Baby," and has been in demand as a speaker to groups throughout the country.
Edmonds is equipped with an array of child abuse statistics about how it's reported every 10 seconds and how two of every three people in substance abuse recovery programs were subjected to abuse as a child.
“In many ways, Keith has changed my life and the way I view things,” said Cathey Sweeney, director of Wilson County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), a nonprofit that advocates for neglected or abused children in the court system.
“He has overcome obstacles that would be hard to even fathom. We both have a common goal.”
Edmonds hopes to kick-start his foundation by taking youth impacted by child abuse on outings, such as to a Predators game. Next year, Edmonds hopes to hold day camps called Camp Confidence for child abuse and neglect victims, and eventually expand those into a series of week-long camps, he said.
His overall objective is to increase awareness about child abuse by engaging the community and leaders in campaigns such as the current video series about a subject Edmonds believes is often pushed under the rug.
“Child abuse victims, survivors need attention brought to them now rather than later when it's too late,” said Carmelita Stafford, part owner of Sister's WhimZy in Mt. Juliet and one of many local businesses that have shot a video with Edmonds.
“If he can help even one child out there, I'm going to stand behind him and help him also.”
For information on Edmonds' foundation, visit: www.keithedmondsfoundation.org
After Rape Is Live-Streamed On Twitter's Periscope, Company Stays Silent
by Aarti Shahani
An 18-year-old woman in Ohio is being charged with kidnapping, rape, sexual battery and a variant of distributing child pornography.
What led to this extraordinary list of alleged crimes? Live-streaming the rape of her 17-year-old friend.
Prosecutors say Marina Lonina broadcast the rape on the Twitter-owned app Periscope. Lonina claims through her lawyer that she live-streamed the rape because she was trying to get the rapist to stop.
But Franklin County, Ohio, prosecutor Ron O'Brien offered a different version.
"She told police she continued to live-stream it because she got caught up in the likes that were showing up on her screen," he said.
"And she didn't call 911," he continued. "She giggled throughout."
O'Brien identified 29-year-old Raymond Boyd Gates as the alleged rapist and said all three appeared to be "under the influence. And at least the victim was highly intoxicated."
"You can hear the victim screaming, 'Stop,' 'Don't,' 'Please,' crying," he said.
Many of us have had the experience of fixating on our smartphone, waiting for reactions to things we share, hooked on every little notification. But here, that disconnect between what was allegedly happening in the room and what Lonina was paying attention to appears to be extreme.
Live video is the new selfie: Twitter's Periscope, Facebook Live and smaller platforms like YouNow and Veetle are all the rage.
Veetle chief technology officer Ethan Wang says the problems are predictable. He recalls an incident back in 2008 when a teenager live-streamed his own suicide. None of today's companies is investing in public safety, Wang said.
"People are more interested in making the platform more open, more available and closer to real time," he said. "And the trade-off here is you get undesirable things happening."
With still photos, there's technology — automated algorithms — that can help flag nudity or beheadings. Live video is different.
Algorithms can't sift through moving images the same way. They can't, for example, tell whether someone is waving a handgun or a smartphone. And no computer program can predict what live humans will do next.
Few Details On Countermeasures
Wang said you could in theory introduce a transmission delay of a few seconds — as some TV and radio stations do. But he says no Internet company would do that voluntarily.
"When you're streaming live video, there's this interactive component," he said. "If you put a 30-second delay in front of that, it makes it impossible for people to interact with the streamer."
Twitter declined to provide NPR with any details on how it enforces its policy against explicit content on Periscope. Facebook said it formed a team to review videos that users have flagged as inappropriate. But the team can't respond in real time, and the company declined to share details on how many employees work for the team or how many complaints they process.
Public debate on child abuse and the law
Sex offender treatment programs and failure to report child sex abuse will be topics at a series of public roundtables being held by a royal commission in Sydney.
The first of the three sessions being held at the child abuse royal commission's hearing rooms on Wednesday will discuss criminal justice issues relating to reporting child sexual abuse - including blind reporting, where the alleged victim's name is not given to police.
The second roundtable on Thursday will discuss adult sex offender treatment programs in Australia and overseas, as well as their effectiveness.
And on Friday a third roundtable will look at complaints and oversight mechanisms used by Directors of Public Prosecutions, including whether there should be avenues for victims to seek reviews of decisions not to prosecute and whether there should be external oversight of DPPs.
The public roundtables follow March's public hearing into criminal justice issues, where it was revealed that abuse survivors are often short-changed by a system which cannot effectively handle complaints of historical sex abuse because of rigid rules of evidence.
The conviction rate for child sex abuse is significantly lower than that for other criminal offences, the March hearing was told.
Wednesday's roundtable is expected to hear from police, public prosecutors and advocacy groups such as Bravehearts and ASCA, which represents adults surviving sex abuse.
Royal Commission CEO Philip Reed has said the consultation through the public roundtables will help inform the commission's criminal justice policy work by inviting comment and discussion from a range of participants - including police, public prosecutors, criminal justice policy officials, academic and practitioner experts and others.
The first roundtable starts at 10am on Level 17, Governor Macquarie Tower, 1 Farrer Place, Sydney.
Human trafficking survivor brings message to SL
by DANA LARSEN
Bukola Love Oriola was appointed by President Barack Obama to the United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking last December. Now the Minnesota woman, a victim of human trafficking herself, is trying to recruit college students and communities to serve on the front lines of the prevention effort.
Bukola spoke at Buena Vista University Wednesday night, to a crowd of about 100 students, faculty and community members.
"In 2016, we are still talking about slavery. It's just in another form," the Nigeria native said.
Her voice, with its lilting African tones, would grow soft when she related her own ordeal, and rise powerfully when challenging society to help those still in danger.
After escaping her own two-year nightmare, she dedicated her life to helping others, speaking out, producing two television shows on the subject, and penning the book Imprisoned: The Travails of a Trafficked Victim.
Bukola is not the typical victim of trafficking, but, "it can happen to anyone," she says.
Well educated and fluent in English, she worked as an education reporter and editor for the Nigerian newspaper NewAge, coming to the U.S. for the first time in 2005 to cover the United Nations General Assembly 60th anniversary on a two-month visa.
During the trip she would meet her husband for the first time. She had been married in a traditional arranged marriage ceremony in Nigeria some time before, through the man she betrothed to was not present. The man met her in New York, and persuaded her to stay.
She became a victim of domestic violence, and her husband ensured she would have no interpersonal relationships with anyone other than himself. He hid the documents proving her identity and immigration status. She was confined to the house, forced to work up to 14 hours a day braiding hair, while the husband took all of her earnings. Often, she said, she did not get out of the house for weeks at a time, and could only peek longingly out of a window.
In the Nigerian culture, a woman is not permitted to leave or divorce her husband. She and her family would be shamed.
The husband abused her physically, emotionally, psychologically and verbally while keeping her in the home. He allowed her no coat, no winter clothes that she could use to leave. "To me it wasn't a house, but a prison," she said. "The man that was supposed to be my protector was my slavemaster."
He would find reasons to punish her, which included taking away her privilege to leave the house to attend church. If she was ever allowed to go to the store, it would be minutes before it closed, so she would not have an opportunity to talk with anyone.
She say she would have died, except for a public health nurse who recognized the signs of trafficking, and urged her to seek shelter for herself and her child from a domestic and sexual violence program in her area. She obtained a U-visa, which protects undocumented victims of domestic abuse and other crimes, and eventually became a permanent resident of the United States.
Gaining her freedom, the started a non-profit organization known as the Enitan Story to advocate for victims and empower survivors of human trafficking, as well as forming her own company.
As she began speaking, she found other victims beginning to approach her for help. "I didn't want anyone else going through what I did, or any child going through what my child had."
When the White House called her to offer an appointment to the new advisory committee, she told the crowd, she thought it was a scam. They had to convince her they were really calling for the president.
Human trafficking is a $50 billion industry, and people of any age and ethnicity are targeted, both male and female. There are an estimated 12 million victims globally.
Trafficking can take the form of forced sex, begging, or being abused as labor in manufacturing, hotels, restaurants, agriculture and other fields.
Often victims do not speak English well. Their tormentors may confiscate their identification papers and visa paperwork. Sometimes parents traffic their own children, and sometimes an adult child will traffic his or her parents.
Even with her presidential appointment, she finds change to be frustratingly slow. "I found out that a 'year' to the government isn't 12 months, it's more like three years."
One misconception to dispel is that human trafficking means the same thing as human smuggling. To be trafficking, a person used force, fraud or coercion to obtain labor or sex acts from a person who does not perform those acts willingly. Any prostitute being pimped is a trafficking victim, as is anyone who works and has someone else take all their pay. Human smuggling, however, is a person making profit by transporting someone across a state of national border illegally.
She told the students to look for the signs - people who do not seem to be able to move freely without permission, who fear communication, who may have no ID. Police who find themselves arresting the same young woman multiple times should suspect trafficking, she said.
"Victims will not speak with words. They will speak with their eyes, and their bodies. Pay attention... Trust your instinct."
One trick that traffickers often use is enticing a person to come into the U.S. on a student visa, then not allowing them to attend school or college, so that they will lose their legal student status. Now illegal aliens, they are forced to depend on their abuser.
Others come legally on migrant worker visas, then have the trafficker confiscate their documents and force them to work with little or no pay, afraid to contact authorities. In numerous cases, female victims are forced to be domestic help, while also being required to have sex with the homeowner's associates.
In some bizarre cases, she said, women trafficking victims are required to pump mother's milk, which is then sold on sites like eBay.
Being deported, in many countries, would bring shame on an entire family. One case she has worked with involved a husband, wife and two children all forced into slave labor.
Sometimes a trafficker will arrange for someone to come into the country for a fee, and when they arrive, will insist that they owe more that still must be paid off - through sleeping with men for money, or working in a sweatshop with their check turned over to the trafficker.
Often, the victim's culture does not permit reporting of their abuse, or approaching police. Sometimes, the trafficker forces them to subdue by threatening harm to their parents or siblings in this country or another.
Movies dramatize kidnapping as trafficking, but that is only one way it can happen, Bukola told the crowd.
"We buy human beings as if they are fish in a market or beef in the grocery store," she said.
One national program alone took in 146 calls from Iowa in 2015, so far resulting in 36 documented trafficking cases. Of these, 26 involved sex trafficking, three labor trafficking, and three both. In three cases, victims were forced to work in hotels, three in strip clubs, ten in brothels. Six of the Iowa victims were children. Eight were foreign nationals, eight U.S. citizens, and the others in various stages of documentation.
One woman living now in Chicago was locked up for nine years after being smuggled into Texas, forced to work nonstop and constantly raped by her "boss."
Those who are willing to help must be prepared to do it confidentially. Most victims are not willing to share their story. "Victims don't trust anyone, they don't even trust themselves," Bukola said.
She has seen cases where the elderly, even the physically disabled, are victimized by traffickers. "They don't care who they use," she says.
In one case, an orphanage was found to be a cover for child trafficking.
Economic hardship, political instability in their home countries, and natural disasters are all situations that traffickers target, knowing they may make potential victims more vulnerable. Those who are arriving in the county as refugees are often victimized, as traffickers know they can't return to their homelands.
Many victims do not report their abuse out of fear of the stigma that is attached, especially if they have been forced into the sex trade.
One form of trafficking that has not been addressed in the U.S. at all is that of trafficking body parts and organs. Some victims of the sex trade or forced labor, when they become unable to turn a profit for the trafficker, are killed and their organs harvested to sell to people in need of transplants in the western world, she said.
Tissue harvested from victims is sometimes sold to the makeup industry. "And if you buy real human hair (wigs or extensions), do you know where that hair came from?" she asked.
A rabbi was caught after profiting hugely in the underground trade of human kidneys. He would falsify papers to claim that victims in India were related to transplant patients in the U.S.
In some cases, those who steal body parts or organs from living or dead victims replace their bones with iron pipes, so family members will not suspect when they lift the coffin.
Anyone in need of help or with information on a case of trafficking may contact the National Human Trafficking Rescue Center at 1-888-373-7888.
She encouraged the BVU students to start a branch effort on their own campus to raise awareness. "The more we talk about human trafficking, the more we can prevent it," she said.
Child abuse survivor hopes to help others
17-year-old moving forward with the help of Daniel Kids
by Staci Spanos
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A hero is someone who shows great courage in the face of overwhelming odds, and that's exactly how 17-year-old Dawn could be described.
Starting at the age of 5, she was terribly abused in her own home and then thrown out only to be attacked by a vicious dog. Dawn finally got out, and thanks to proper therapy and a strong spirit, she has gone from tragedy to triumph.
"I love it here," Dawn said about her new home in Jacksonville with her foster mother Barbara Nelson.
Dawn said she feels happy and safe with Nelson, but life was never this easy or peaceful for her. She said when she was in kindergarten, her mother married her stepfather and life became unbearable.
"He did a lot of other stuff like, sexual," Dawn said.
Dawn's life consisted of constant worry. She feared that she would somehow violate the arbitrary rules her stepfather set and the punishment she would face. For example, she said he made her dress like a boy and wouldn't let her wear a scoop-neck shirt.
"My stepdad wants it all the way up here [demonstrating], that's his rule. It has to be all the way up to my neck. So, if my shirt was down here [demonstrating], I'd be like, 'Oh, I have to go change, or else I'm going to get yelled at and then I'm probably going to get beat.' So I'd be worrying about small stuff like that," Dawn said.
Another time in middle school, her stepfather found a note written by a boy who liked her.
"He asked me what it was, and I was kinda scared so I had to think of an excuse but I couldn't really. So he took a wire and hit me with it," Dawn said.
She said she faced that on a regular basis and seemed like a normal ways for her to live.
"If that is how someone is raised to believe life is, then holidays and celebrations and hugs and love and laughter are abnormal to them. And so it can be very challenging for someone to reach out because they may not know any different," said Shirley Pattan, a licensed social worker with Daniel Kids and currently Dawn's therapist.
Pattan said tragically, Dawn's experience is common. Abused children get so used to their circumstances, they think every kid must go through the same thing and perceive how they are treated as normal.
Dawn realized that what was happening to her wasn't normal after talking to a friend at school. And at the age of 15, she reached a breaking point. She said a fight that started with her mother escalated when her stepfather walked in.
"He started beating me and dragged me by my hair and locked me outside," she said.
That's when she was attacked by a dog.
“First he bit inside my mouth and knocked a tooth out. Then he had grabbed my leg, jerked and I had fell. And then after that he let go of my leg, went to this side [demonstrating] and ripped through the skin on this side," Dawn said.
She showed News4Jax the scars on her side.
"I was bleeding a lot, on my leg and on my side," she said.
She also showed the scars on her hand, where she punched the glass door to get back into the house. Dawn ended up running to a neighbor who called police.
She finally ended up in the care of Daniel Kids, Florida's oldest child-service agency. Dawn eventually moved in with her current foster mom, and Pattan, her therapist, said she has made amazing progress in two years.
"She went from knowing you can't blow up at people and punch walls and hit people. But then there was the transition period of knowing what to do with how she was feeling which is what we spent a lot of time working on," Pattan said.
Dawn entered the Daniel Kids residential treatment program where she received intensive, comprehensive counseling and psychiatric treatment from a dedicated team of professionals. She is in a place now where she wants to tell her story.
"To help people that went through the same thing, or who are going through the same thing," she said.
Daniel Kids said the following are warning signs a child may be being abused or neglected.
Unexplained injuries such as bruises or burns. (Or wearing inappropriate clothing to hide such injuries- ex: long sleeves in hot weather).
Changes in behavior. Abused children often become scared, anxious, depressed and withdrawn. Changes in sleeping or eating patterns can be red flags also.
Doing poorly in school or lack of regular attendance in school.
Remember that child neglect is really a form of child abuse. That's why it's also important to look for a lack of personal care or hygiene or even hunger.
Dawn said lack of hygiene was a definite sign with her.
"Not very good hygiene, because for me, he didn't let me take showers. Probably about once a week. And for a few years, he didn't let me brush my teeth at all," she explained.
Both Dawn and Pattan encourage children to find someone they trust to tell about the abuse. And they said that someone should be away from the home, like at school, away from the abuser.
Dawn said abused children need to keep one very important thing in mind.
"The time will end. You're not going to stay in that situation forever," she said. "If you guys believe in God, pray to God because that's how I got out."
Under Florida law, it is the duty of any person living in the state to report suspicion of child abuse.
Anyone who feels a child is in immediate danger, is asked to call 911. Anyone who suspects a child is being abused or neglected, is asked to call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE.
As for any criminal charges filed against the stepfather, Volusia County Sheriff's deputies told News4Jax they conducted an investigation against the stepfather then sent the details to the State Attorney's office, but prosecutors later decided not to pursue the case due to insufficient evidence.
Daniel Kids says if you suspect a child is being abused, you can do the following:
If you feel a child is in immediate danger – like it was in Dawn's case with dog attack – always call 911. If you suspect abuse in a student, neighbor, etc., call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873). Although you do need to provide your name to those filing the report, your name will NOT be provided or used with any of the parties involved.
You can also report online at https://reportabuse.dcf.state.fl.us (again, if it's not an immediate threat). Remember, Legislation, signed by Gov. Rick Scott, requires any individual who suspects that a child has been abused to report it. (It's actually a felony not to – and more importantly, it can save a child).
Also, keep in mind that abuse is not just physical harm; it also includes abandonment and neglect – with neglect being the most frequent form of abuse. This includes the child not having enough to eat, living without electricity, being alone for extended periods of time and more.
Daniel Kids explains how a child can get therapy through the organization:
DCF does refer children – mostly foster children struggling with emotional issues or trauma – to Daniel Kids. However, because the team in our residential care unit is experienced in dealing with emotionally troubled children who have undergone abuse or trauma, Daniel Kids also accepts kids from traditional families who may or may not have experienced trauma, but struggle with severe emotional issues.
The easiest way to see if a child can be accepted to Daniel Kids for acute treatment is by contacting Daniel Kids' admissions person, Erica Seery, at 296-1055 x 2350 and she'll guide you through the process. You can also send an email to her online by visiting danielkids.org, choosing “contact us,” and choosing the admissions email.
How Daniel Kids helps children in our community:
Established in 1884, Daniel Kids is Florida's oldest child-service agency.
It assists an average of 2,000 children and families each day through a diverse range of innovative and nationally recognized programs.
Daniel Kids offers abused and emotionally troubled children refuge and counseling, connects kids with foster and adoptive homes, helps homeless teenagers find housing and jobs and more.
It also operates Daniel Academy on its campus - a K-5 private elementary school specially designed for children with learning disabilities and/or emotional issues.
For more information, visit: DanielKids.org
Daniel Kids has a wide variety of programs, but its core programs focus on:
Residential Treatment Program:
The Daniel Kids Statewide In-Patient Psychiatric program (SIPP) provides children exhibiting the most severe symptoms of mental and emotional distress with intensive residential treatment over four- to six-month periods. Some of these kids were abused, neglected or abandoned – all are emotionally-troubled for various reasons. Each child receives comprehensive care that includes individual, group, and family counseling, as well as psychiatric treatment, from a dedicated team of professionals, consisting of a psychiatrist, licensed therapist, behaviorist, nurse, and recreation specialist. This program was created at Daniel Kids in 2000 as a pilot program and has become a statewide model of care.
The Daniel Academy is a K-5 private elementary school specially designed for children with learning disabilities and/or emotional issues. The Daniel Academy offers a safe, nurturing environment with personnel who are specially trained to understand the unique problems these children face, which range from autism to ADHD to emotional issues. Although it's a private school, costs are often supplemented by the McKay or a Personal Learning Scholarship Account (PLSA), which allow parents of students with disabilities to choose the best learning environment for their children.
(Specialized Therapeutic) Foster Care:
Many children are unable to live with their biological families or reside in traditional foster care due to severe emotional or behavioral issues often stemming from prior neglect or abuse. The Daniel Kids Specialized Therapeutic Foster Care Program provides a safe and nurturing family-centered environment for these children to work through their issues. Specially trained and licensed foster families work closely with program therapists to model, teach, and help children practice new positive social behaviors in a supportive family setting.
Adoption Services & Florida Adoption Information Center:
Daniel Kids also finds adoptive families for select specialized and traditional Foster Care children who can never return home safely. And, Daniel Kids works with the Florida Department of Children and Families to oversee the Florida Adoption Information Center — the state's single source for all information about adoption. They receive an average of 18,000 calls per year and have been helping since 1994.
The staff of Daniel's Project Prepare Program helps approximately 60 homeless youth each year by providing temporary residence in a twelve unit efficiency apartment complex called Independent Living Village on Parental Home Road or by helping them secure other low-cost housing. Once these critical needs are met, the Daniel Kids team teaches program participants enduring life skills including personal health and hygiene, how to obtain and maintain safe housing, how to comparative shop, how to make transportation arrangements, social skills, basic finance skills, banking and budgeting, job search skills, and employment stabilization.
Ways the community can help Daniel Kids serve First Coast kids in crisis:
Donate (especially unrestricted dollars so they can be used where needed most)
Sponsor a child at the Daniel Academy
Corporations can sponsor events or do fundraising drives at their businesses
Volunteer at an event or as a mentor
Consider becoming a therapeutic foster parent
Invite Daniel Kids' representatives to speak at your religious institution or business
Local law enforcement and organizations re-sign child abuse protocol
COLUMBUS, Ga. – Several local law enforcement agencies and organizations are banding together to solve the issue of child abuse and neglect. Men and women from across the Chattahoochee Valley gathered at the Columbus Government Center to re-sign protocol laying out how to deal with reported cases of child neglect in the region.
Judge Gil McBride oversees the Judicial Circuit, which consists of most of the News 3 viewing area. McBride says after an initial agreement was made three years ago, re-signing allows for more organizational efficiency needed to solve the issue of abuse across six different counties.
“In the court system, we probably handle more cases involving families, and especially children, than all of the other cases put together,” McBride said.
Court Appointed Special Advocate coordinator Rosalind Alston says on the heels of the CASA 5K run over the weekend, it's important to get the community involved in resolving child abuse.
“The community collaboration is key, from the point of initial call being made about the suspicion of child abuse all the way down to the investigation, to if the child may be placed in foster care,” Alston said.
Alston adds that even though some families may struggle financially or an individual may not feel compelled to help children, anyone can play a positive role in reporting child abuse by simply knowing what to do. At the end of the protocol re-signing, participants planted silver and blue pinwheels in the Government Center lawn to represent the 337 children reportedly neglected and abused in the state of Georgia.
State to pay $250,000 penalty to newspapers over child abuse records
by Bill Estep
The state will pay a $250,000 penalty to Kentucky's two largest newspapers to settle a lawsuit that requires public disclosure of documents about children who die or are severely injured from abuse or neglect.
The newspapers had fought the legal battle for years as they attempted to assess state efforts to protect vulnerable children.
The Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which investigates cases in which children might have died as a result of abuse or neglect, also agreed to pay attorney fees of $110,000 to the Lexington Herald-Leader and $339,000 to The (Louisville) Courier-Journal.
The $250,000 is a penalty for violating the state's open records law.
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip J. Shepherd ordered a much higher penalty, $756,000, in 2013, ruling that the cabinet had willfully refused to release documents as required by state law in response to the newspapers' requests.
The cabinet acted as if the law was “an obstacle to be circumvented rather than a law mandating compliance,” Shepherd wrote.
A panel of the state Court of Appeals upheld that ruling this year, saying public agencies must permit inspection of public records as required by the law “or risk meaningful punishment for noncompliance.”
“Rigid adherence to this stark principle is the lifeblood of a law which rightly favors disclosure, fosters transparency and secures the public trust,” Judge Irv Maze wrote in the majority opinion.
The newspapers agreed to the lower penalty amount, and the state agreed to drop its request for the state Supreme Court to review the case. Each paper will receive $125,000.
Rufus Friday, president and publisher of the Herald-Leader, said the newspaper was evaluating options for using the penalty to serve the community and promote transparency, with an emphasis on child welfare, families and social services.
The real goal of fighting for access to the records was to promote greater openness in child welfare, Friday said.
“This resolution leaves no doubt that these records related to state government's role in protecting its most vulnerable citizens are open for public scrutiny. That has been our goal from the beginning,” Friday said.
Jessica Ditto, a spokeswoman for Gov. Matt Bevin, laid blame for the settlement on the administration of former Gov. Steve Beshear.
“The court's opinion was based on the Beshear administration's lack of transparency and disregard for an open government, which led to an unfortunate million-dollar liability for the commonwealth's taxpayers,” Ditto said. “This settlement saves the taxpayers over $500,000 plus additional legal expenses.”
Under Bevin, state officials “will hold ourselves accountable and be accessible to the public, particularly regarding the most vulnerable members of society,” she said.
The opinion from the Court of Appeals will remain published, which is significant because published opinions have more weight in legal cases.
“This paves the road for more transparency with regard to child-fatality records,” Kif Skidmore, attorney for the Herald-Leader, said of the newspapers' fight.
The path to the settlement made public Monday started with a gruesome tragedy in May 2009, when Kayden Daniels, a 20-month-old Wayne County boy, died after accidentally drinking caustic drain cleaner that had been used to make methamphetamine at a trailer where his teenage parents had been staying.
The Herald-Leader asked the state for records detailing its involvement with Kayden and his mother.
However, the agency had a longstanding policy against publicly releasing files on children who died or were badly injured in such cases, and it denied the newspaper's request for documents.
That was the genesis for a court fight in which the Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal ultimately sued the cabinet for access to files on 140 children killed or badly hurt in 2009 and 2010.
Shepherd ruled that such records are subject to release under the state open records law and that the cabinet had improperly withheld records from the newspapers.
The cabinet began releasing files to the papers after that, but blocked out more information than allowed, the judge ruled.
That was one thing Shepherd pointed to as justification for a stiff penalty, but it wasn't all. He said the cabinet also proposed an emergency regulation at one point to block release of the records, tried to get the case switched to federal court, and failed to follow Shepherd's instructions when it did start releasing records.
David Thompson, president of the Kentucky Press Association, said the $250,000 penalty included in the settlement would be among the largest ever in a state open records case.
Documents the newspapers received from the cabinet about 2009 and 2010 cases showed that the agency did not conduct required internal reviews of some deaths and injuries, and that some reviews were far less detailed than others.
The goal of the reviews is to look at potential changes that could prevent other deaths or injuries.
In the wake of news reports on child deaths and the controversy over releasing records, state lawmakers approved an independent panel to review child fatalities and near-deaths stemming from abuse and neglect, and recommend changes aimed at protecting children.
Former Franklin Circuit Judge Roger Crittenden, who heads the panel, said reporting on child deaths helped stimulate the resolve to create the review panel.
“Certainly the legislature was paying attention to that,” Crittenden said.
Lawmakers gave the panel unrestricted access to cabinet records.
Reviews have found instances in which cabinet employees did a great job, and cases in which cabinet employees or others performed poorly, showing opportunities for improvement, Crittenden said.
Terry Brooks, head of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said the newspapers' fight for greater openness in cases involving child deaths had the potential to help improve child protection.
The newspapers' lawsuit was over open records, but Brooks said he saw it as advocacy for children.
“I'm happy that Kentucky kids have a really good shot at system improvement” as a result, he said.
Prep Schools Wrestle With Sex Abuse Accusations Against Teachers
by Katharine Q. Seelye
BOSTON — Phillips Exeter Academy, an elite New Hampshire boarding school whose prominent graduates include Daniel Webster and Mark Zuckerberg, disclosed last month that it had forced out a popular teacher in 2011 because of sexual misconduct in the 1970s and '80s.
The school's delayed announcement — officials said they had been protecting the victims' privacy — brought forth allegations against other employees. And on Wednesday, Exeter announced that it had fired a second teacher who had admitted to sexual encounters with a student more than two decades ago.
The revelations at Exeter are the latest to rock the insular, privileged world of American prep schools. In the past decade, sex abuse allegations have tarnished a litany of top private schools, including Horace Mann in the Bronx, Deerfield Academy in western Massachusetts and the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. Since December, more than 40 alumni of St. George's School, an elite boarding school in Rhode Island, have reported several cases of molestation and rape, mostly in the 1970s and '80s.
Sexual misconduct is, of course, not limited to select private schools. Educators say that it occurs with alarming frequency across all types of educational institutions.
But because boarding schools are usually high-profile institutions with powerful alumni, they receive intense public scrutiny when misconduct occurs on their manicured campuses. The rash of recent allegations and bad publicity has started to yield changes, some experts said, with some schools doing more now to try to prevent sexual abuse and be more receptive to students who report it.
A 2004 analysis of the scant research on sex abuse estimated that 9.6 percent of students in public schools experience some form of educator sexual misconduct, ranging from offensive comments to rape, between kindergarten and 12th grade.
There appears to be no comparable data available about boarding schools, said Peter W. Upham, executive director of the Association of Boarding Schools, who calls sexual abuse by educators “a national scourge.”
Some researchers and lawyers involved with abuse cases say that while very few teachers take sexual advantage of students, some aspects of boarding school life can be conducive to abuse.
“Boarding schools are fertile ground for predatory behavior, mostly because you're with the kids all the time,” said Eric MacLeish, a lawyer representing several alumni who say they were sexually abused at St. George's.
“It is accepted that teachers will get very, very close to students as they become mentors,” he said. “They work out together, eat together, take trips together, go to Europe together with the school choir. Many live on campus and are dorm parents.”
Hawk Cramer, 48, an elementary school principal in Seattle who said he was molested by a faculty member at St. George's when he was a student there in the early 1980s, agreed that the unfettered access to students at boarding schools can allow a pedophile to groom victims.
“You can call kids into your home, you can be alone with them, and kids think you have control over their future,” he said.
And students are loath to report the abuse, at least in real time. “Students are embarrassed and under huge pressure to perform,” Mr. Cramer said. “They don't want anyone to think they aren't measuring up or that they're a victim.”
Dr. Eli Newberger, a Boston pediatrician and specialist in child protection, said these were places “where, for the most part, children are treated extremely well, with very high expectations for career accomplishment.” As such, he said, abuse in such rarefied settings “may take decades to overcome.”
Until recently, he and others said, the schools were reluctant to acknowledge bad behavior, and victims had little confidence that their complaints would be taken seriously.
Now, with so many cases coming to light, educators and analysts said that the schools are making greater efforts both to try to prevent misconduct from occurring, and to be more transparent in their reporting when it did.
“I do think a lot of schools are grappling now in a way they haven't before with what are the best practices in terms of providing safety and enough prevention, training and education,” said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
He noted that by many measures, reports of current child sexual abuse, at least in public schools, were going down. For example, the Minnesota Student Survey, conducted every three years, said that in 2013, fewer than six percent of ninth graders reported being touched or forced to touch an adult sexually. This was a new low, down from 13 percent in 1992, the first year of the study.
As for the boarding schools, many are conducting more rigorous background checks when hiring staff and are proactively training employees to recognize grooming behaviors among adults. They are also teaching students to identify when other students seem stressed and when adults might be crossing a boundary.
A number of schools have developed anonymous tip lines and set aside confidential areas where students can air their concerns.
“Now, we have schools sending out pre-emptive letters, even without any allegations, saying, ‘If you are ever harmed or abused, we're here for you,'” Mr. Upham said.
He and others attributed the changes in part to liability concerns stemming from the explosive Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal at Penn State in 2011. Mr. Sandusky, a coach who was convicted of abusing 10 boys over 15 years, has cost the university more than $92 million in settlement costs.
More recently, the Oscar-winning movie “Spotlight,” an account of The Boston Globe's exposé of sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests and the subsequent cover-up, may be spurring a new round of reporting.
“ ‘Spotlight' has given survivors the permission to come forward now because they see people siding with them and they see institutions being held accountable,” said Robert M. Hoatson, a former Catholic priest based in Livingston, N.J., and co-founder of Road to Recovery, an organization for survivors of sexual abuse.
The Sandusky revelations appear to have been a motivating factor behind the report of sexual abuse at Exeter. According to police documents obtained by The Associated Press through a records request, an Exeter teacher cited the Sandusky case when she reported in 2011 that Rick Schubart, a popular history teacher, had been sexually involved with a student in the 1970s.
The teacher, who had also been a student at Exeter at that time, said that a classmate had told her she had had sex with Mr. Schubart, according to The A.P. The classmate confirmed to the school that she had had a relationship with Mr. Schubart during her senior year in 1977, when she was 18, but said it was consensual. Mr. Schubart was forced to resign, and the school said at the time that he left for personal reasons.
In 2015, a 1982 graduate reported that Mr. Schubart had sexually abused her when she was 17. Mr. Schubart told police it was consensual, The A.P. said, but the woman's lawyer told the school she had to have extensive therapy and was seeking financial compensation.
That second report prompted the school to strip Mr. Schubart of his emeritus status last year and bar him from campus. Mr. Schubart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On March 30, school officials disclosed the situation to students, parents and alumni, saying Mr. Schubart had been forced out after admitting to sexual misconduct.
The revelations shook the Exeter community and unleashed additional charges of sexual misconduct, which led to the firing last week of a second teacher, Steve Lewis, who admitted recently to abuse that happened decades ago, the school said. The police said this was the only report they received against a current teacher. Attempts to reach Mr. Lewis on Sunday were unsuccessful.
Still, the charges set off an anguished debate, in conversations and online, among the close-knit alumni, many of whom had admired Mr. Schubart and were trying to reconcile the revelations with their own positive experiences. A few said they knew of the relationship at the time, and were now wrestling with whether they should have reported it and whether their view that it had appeared to be consensual made any difference.
“We have entered a period of sincere reflection about our school's history and culture,” Lisa MacFarlane, Exeter's new principal, who has been on the job less than a year, and Eunice Panetta, the president of the board of trustees, wrote in a letter on Saturday to the school community.
The letter announced that Exeter had retained a law firm to investigate additional allegations and review school policies. It also said outside experts would review how Exeter had handled the Schubart matter, which occurred during the tenure of the previous principal, Tom Hassan, who stepped down last year.
Mr. Hassan, who has been censured by the Association of Boarding Schools, has apologized for what he called his “inadequate” response. He said he was trying to protect student privacy.
It remains to be seen whether the episode will affect his wife, Gov. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, a Democrat, who is challenging Senator Kelly Ayotte. Ms. Hassan, who had received campaign contributions from Mr. Schubart, was living on the Exeter campus with her husband when Mr. Schubart resigned but has said she did not know why he left.
Signing off with much hope
by Boz Tchividjian
As I get older, it seems as if I am increasingly reminded that the seasons of life are always changing. Sometimes these changes are welcomed and celebrated, while other times they are all too bittersweet. A few weeks ago, I came to the difficult realization that the season for Rhymes with Religion was coming to an end as I concentrate more on my amazing family, the expanding work of GRACE, and on my awesome law students. Thanks to so many for reading this blog and for the many kind and encouraging words sent my way during this daunting but incredible season of writing.
I was humbled, excited, and nervous when RNS approached me about writing a blog committed to spotlighting issues related to child sexual abuse within faith communities. I was also incredibly encouraged that a major news organization was wanting to invest in a blog focused upon an evil that has been kept in the dark for too long destroying countless lives. Though I never considered myself a columnist, I agreed to dive into this blog world because abused and hurting souls must know that there are those who understand them and who recognize that they have so much to teach us. My hope and prayer is that my written words have protected little ones, encouraged survivors, and changed the hearts of many Christians who will begin stepping forward to confront and end this nefarious epidemic within the Church.
As many of you know, bringing light into the darkness of child sexual abuse in the church can often be a difficult and lonely journey. On those days that I simply want to give up, I am reminded that I am not alone on this journey. I walk alongside some of the most amazing heroes on the face of the earth. Many of these heroes are survivors walking far more difficult and painful journeys that me, but who never hesitate to stop to help lift me up and inspire me to press forward to another day. They are often the truest reflections of Jesus in my life.
Recently, on one of those days when I felt I simply couldn't go on, I received a precious email from one of my readers that said,
Thank you from all of us who have languished by the road – bloody, beaten, and robbed – and watched the Levites and the Pharisees just walk on by.
Those beautiful words picked from this unsung hero me up and carried me through another day.
If you are a child who wakes up each day fearing that they will be once again abused by an adult you've been told to trust and obey, or who lives in fear each night about what will happen when the lights go off, please know that you are not alone. These same heroes want to protect you and help you bring this very real nightmare to an end. There is much hope for you.
If you are an abuse survivor who is suffering in silence and fear because you've been ignored, marginalized or even vilified by the very people you had hoped would welcome and support you, please know that you are not alone. These same heroes want to walk alongside of you, listen to you, and be your biggest advocate in helping you step out from the shadows of silence with confidence. There is much hope for you.
If you are a perpetrator who has found protection and support within a faith community, please know that the season for your cover and deceit is changing and it's not in your favor. There will never be hope for you unless and until you stop perpetrating and turn yourself into the authorities for all of your crimes.
Though the season for this column has ended, my season of protecting children and serving and empowering the abused will only end when this horror ends or when I take my final breath. I encourage each of you to continue following and supporting the work of GRACE as we labor to transform faith communities into the safest places for children and survivors and the least safe for those who abuse. We have a long journey ahead of us.
I live each day of So Longthis journey knowing that Aslan is on the move and that means nothing is safe. But rest assured, that is good news. As stated best by Mr. Beaver in C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when describing Aslan: “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course He isn't safe, but He's good. He's the King, I tell you.”
This King is the ultimate hero who gives me much hope that one day light will indeed overcome darkness and there will be no more abuse. Our children will be safe and those who have been abused will experience the unconditional love from Christians all over the world. They will experience Jesus.
Until that day, please join me on this journey as we carry out the work of our good King.
Signing off with much hope…
Deadline for sex abuse suits nears
Under the Child Victims Act, four complainants have alleged abuse by a local entrepreneur.
by Hannah Weikel and Marion Renault
A thinning window of time remains for survivors of childhood sexual abuse in Minnesota to file suit, in some cases after decades of silence.
With a May 25 deadline approaching, experts say they expect a rush of claims under the Child Victims Act, which for the last three years has lifted the statute of limitations for child sex abuse civil lawsuits.
Under the Act, nine individuals are suing the Children's Theatre Company and some of its former employees for alleged sexual assault of minors during the '60s through the '80s.
Four of those claims name Dinkytown entrepreneur Jason McLean, owner of the Loring Pasta Bar and Varsity Theater.
Other victims have accused the theater's co-founder and then- art director John Clark Donahue and late sound and lights technician Stephen Adamczak of sexual abuse.
The suits also claim personal injury charges against the company for negligence.
Last week, the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault honored state officials who helped shape the legislation that allowed the Children's Theatre Company complainants to publicly allege the sexual abuse of at least 26 minors over several decades.
Previously, child sexual abuse victims had six years after turning 18 to file a civil lawsuit. In May 2013, the Child Victims Act opened a three-year window for adults who had never filed charges during that age range.
“I was almost struck in the face [by] the existing injustice of the statute of limitations forcing young people to come forward before they had the emotional maturity to understand what happened to them,” said Secretary of State Steve Simon.
Attorney Jeff Anderson, who specializes in child sexual abuse cases, said his law office receives hundreds of calls each day. He is representing all nine complainants who have filed civil suits against the theater company or their alleged abusers.
Anderson said since 2013, survivors unable to come forward as young adults have taken legal action and drawn attention to institutions, like the Children's Theatre Company, that he said chose to protect the wrong people in past instances of abuse.
In January, University of Minnesota academic adviser Jeanette Simmonds filed suit against the company, naming Adamczak as the former employee who abused her when she was 14 years old.
“I have carried the shame for the Children's Theatre for 33 years,” she said, “And by placing the responsibility where it belonged, I didn't have to carry that anymore.”
Anderson said he expects the pool of suits will grow to 20 or more complainants before the Child Victims Act's May deadline — adding that he continues to meet with victims on a daily basis.
Prestige, belonging and abuse
Abuse at the Children's Theatre Company in the '70s and '80s ran deeper than the nine who've filed lawsuits, according to court records and complainants. Those sources claim dozens of other children fell victim to a culture that normalized casual, and sometimes sexual, relationships between adults and students.
But victim-survivors don't describe that era as being fraught with secrecy or scandal.
Instead, some former CTC students who said they felt like misfits everywhere else, found themselves immersed in a thespian world where they had the chance to learn gymnastics and pantomime and stage combat. By adolescence, many had performed on a world class stage and helped craft shows alongside seasoned professionals who treated them as equals.
But some said the elite program's model, in which adults and children worked together as colleagues, put minors at risk. Sometimes students weren't picked up from rehearsal until 1 a.m., or they were assigned to help adult actors get into costume in backstage dressing rooms.
“As a kid, you hear things, and you know things, but you're … in the light of the theater, and you have stars in your eyes,” said Todd Hildebrandt, who filed a lawsuit against Donahue in December. “If you're too close to the problem, you become blind.”
Hildebrandt said it was difficult for victims to reconcile the theater program's brilliance with cases of traumatic sexual interactions with respected adults.
“We were honored, we were special and we were envied,” said another complainant, Erin Nanasi, in a statement. “What no one ever understood was we were programmed not to think of it as abuse.”
Jeanette Simmonds — who in her lawsuit claims that sound technician and designer Adamczak abused her when she was a 10th-grade dance student — recounted that her best friend openly wanted to date the 32-year-old.
“That was just part of the norm,” Simmonds said. “That's how crazy this was. It seemed normal to me that my best friend wanted to have sex with him.”
Simmonds described the culture of mentorship and kinship as one where adults encouraged students to be expressive and push their limits artistically. However, she said, that environment also normalized criminal sexual behavior.
“There's no way staff and actors in that company at school had not heard strong rumors, overheard conversations, seen questionable physical behavior,” she said. “It was not secret.”
All but one of the civil complaints allege that during that era, the company negligently or recklessly believed their employees were fit to work with children and took responsibility for minors without ensuring their safety.
Hildebrandt said that while he was a CTC student, the company failed to put sufficient policies in place to protect its students.
“You had no mechanism to go somewhere if you had a complaint about an adult,” he said. “There was no advocate within the organization if we had a problem.”
Simmonds' early graduation was followed by silence, she said — even though in 1984 Donahue was convicted of three counts of criminal sexual conduct and Simmonds testified in Adamczak's 1985 criminal trial.
Similarly, Hildebrandt said when he dropped out of CTC's program and walked away from a network of artists with whom he had become enmeshed, no one checked in on him.
For decades, Hildebrandt said, he didn't talk about what had happened during his time there.
The adulthood health impact of childhood abuse
Later in life, as a salesman, Hildebrandt found himself feeling like he was on stage again.
He said his business suit was a costume, his pitch a script and the final sale sounded like audience applause — vestiges of his theater training from decades earlier.
“For me, it's been a real transformation. I knew what happened to me, but I didn't really see it as child abuse until I learned more about myself,” he said.
Hildebrandt said filing suit allowed him to finally confront symptoms of his childhood abuse that had plagued him into adulthood: depression, anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks and repressed memories. He said he has noticed a similar thread of health repercussions among other male survivors.
Studies show victims of childhood sexual assault tend to employ or be affected by post-traumatic stress, depression, guilt, isolation, loneliness, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. One report suggests the incidence of psychiatric disorders is about one in two for women and men who disclose a history of child sex abuse.
Hildebrandt and Simmonds said they know of other victims who committed suicide because of the toll of their abuse.
“I have had a risk factor that I was walking around with for my whole life,” Hildebrandt said.
He said he hopes his litigation will shed light not only on what happened at the theater company during his enrollment but also resulting health impacts of childhood sexual abuse.
“There is a clear link between child abuse and adverse adult health. My life is a manifestation of this link,” he said. “For me, this is what the case was all about — the lingering lifelong effects of sexual abuse — not just the abuse act itself.”
Though survivors have until May 25 to file a lawsuit under the Child Victims Act, moving forward anyone abused under the age of 18 will not face a time limit for seeking damages.
Secretary of State Steve Simon and Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said they had hoped in 2013 to altogether eliminate the statute of limitations for sex abuse cases.
But compromises needed to pass the legislation, they said, struck that language from the bill.
Criminal cases are still limited by a statute of limitations because physical evidence becomes harder to work with as time passes and can create difficulties for a prosecutor, attorney Jeff Anderson said.
Simmonds said beyond providing victims with a legal voice, the Child Victims Act has also forced the Children's Theatre Company to acknowledge its past conduct.
“They never made a statement saying, ‘We know this happened. It's horrible. We're so sorry it happened. We'll do anything to support the kids,'” she said. “It took the litigation.”
In December, after the first such lawsuits were filed, the theater released a statement of support for the victims.
“At every step, we will always remember that someone in pain, someone who was a member of our community, is at the heart of these matters,” the statement said. “This is an area where we will never say ‘enough' but will instead strive to be better today than we were yesterday and even better tomorrow.”
Anderson urged survivors to contact him as soon as possible in order to serve lawsuit papers by next month's deadline.
Even though it's been months since Simmonds filed her own suit, she said she has a long journey ahead of her.
“I am willing to go through a 10-year process of trials and appeals — whatever it would take — because there can be no more harm done to me,” she said. “It takes so much less energy to do this than to live in shame.”
Prevention of child abuse worth the investment
by Fred Baggett
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to focus on Florida's children and acknowledge our role in creating communities where children can not only thrive, but excel. When we fail to provide much-needed resources, children are at increased risk of abuse and neglect, which inhibits healthy brain development and can result in learning and behavioral problems and long-term physical and mental illness.
We must invest in programs and resources that help ensure Florida's children have the best chance for healthy development and a happy childhood. Prevention services are less costly to individuals and to society than trying to fix a child who has been traumatized. Prevention saves lives, saves money and strengthens families.
Simple, everyday actions can promote the health and well-being of every child in our community. Donating to children's causes, participating in youth-focused organizations and supporting family, friends or neighbors who are under stress all help families prosper. When we take responsibility for creating healthy environments for our children, we lay the foundation for long-term prosperity.
Programs and strategies like home visiting, parent education, support groups, mental health services, sexual abuse prevention, substance abuse treatment and expanding the availability of affordable child care all play a role in the prevention of child abuse and neglect. We each have a moral and civic obligation to ensure these programs are available to families and children who need them.
During Child Abuse Prevention Month, Prevent Child Abuse Florida, the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida and the Florida Department of Children and Families spearhead the statewide Pinwheels for Prevention campaign. More than 70,000 blue and silver pinwheels will cover lawns at businesses, schools, churches and public offices across Florida. The pinwheel is a whimsical childhood toy that reminds us of our ongoing responsibility to ensure that every child has the equal opportunity for healthy growth and development and a great childhood. The campaign focuses on community activities and public policies that prioritize healthy child development before abuse and neglect ever begin.
When you see blue and silver pinwheels spinning in our community, consider actions you can take to ensure families succeed. Support community programs, talk to your legislator or lend a hand to a family in need. You have the power to make a difference in the life of a child.
Fred Baggett is managing partner and a shareholder of Greenberg, Traurig. He is co-founder and treasurer of the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida.
Indiana man faces death penalty in child sexual abuse case
by The Associated Press
SPENCER, Ind. (AP) – A prosecutor's decision on whether to seek the death penalty against a man charged with abducting and killing a 1-year-old Indiana girl will come at a time when legal experts say fewer executions are being sought in the state with the high cost and long court appeals of such cases.
Twenty-two-year-old Kyle Parker of Spencer faces charges of murder, rape and kidnapping in the death of Shaylyn Ammerman, whose body was found following two days of intensive searching after she was reported missing from her father's home.
The allegations against Parker include several factors that qualify for the death penalty under Indiana law — including committing a murder along with child molesting, kidnapping or rape and the victim being younger than 12.
A decision on seeking the death penalty often rests on the cost and on the possibility that appeals through state and federal courts can last 15 or 20 years, said Jody Madeira, an Indiana University law professor who studies the death penalty.
“Families may want the death penalty, but then, they are tied to the crime and the defendant for a very long time,” Madeira told The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. “And some say they want him to go away forever and never hear from him again.”
Owen County Prosecutor Don VanDerMoere said after Parker's initial hearing Monday that he might take weeks considering whether to seek the death penalty or life without parole against Parker.
“At this point, we're not going to make an emotional decision,” he said.
Parker pleaded not guilty to the charges during Monday's hearing. His public defender, Jacob Fish, hasn't returned telephone messages seeking comment.
Authorities say Parker drank whiskey with the girl's uncle and then waited until the family fell asleep inside the Spencer home before abducting the toddler in the early morning hours of March 23. According to the charging documents, Parker directed police the next day to where her body was found in a remote, wooded site outside the nearby town of Gosport, about 40 miles southwest of Indianapolis.
The average number of death penalty cases filed per year in Indiana has dropped from more than 25 to fewer than two over the past decade, said Paula Sites of the Indiana Public Defender Council.
Parker's attorney will likely request a mental health evaluation, but use of an insanity defense requires doctors determining that the defendant wasn't capable of knowing that what he was doing was wrong, said Jack Crawford, an Indianapolis defense attorney and former Lake County prosecutor not involved in the case.
But a detective's probable-cause affidavit describes actions like Parker pouring bleach on the child and hiding her body.
Shaylyn's grandmother, Tamara Morgan, called the attack “total evil torture” and said she wanted the maximum punishment.
Preventing child sexual abuse
by Sue Fegelein
This topic is difficult but affects many children. Adults should learn about protecting children from sexual abuse. This overview and quotes herein are from Darkness to Light's 5 Steps to Protecting our Children. Please learn more at D2L.org. Remember, “sexually abused children who receive support and psychological help can and do heal.”
#Step 1: Learn the Facts — One in ten children will be sexually abused before age 18. Ninty percent of victims know their abuser. Sixty percent of victims are abused by someone their family knows and trusts. Abusers are often family members. Nearly 40 percent of sexually abused children are abused by older or larger children. You likely know a child who has been sexually abused, and an abuser.
#Step 2: Minimize Opportunity — Over 80 percent of sexual abuse cases occur in isolated, one-on-one situations. Eliminating such situations dramatically reduces the risk of abuse. Choose group situations. One-on-one time with trusted adults can be healthy and valuable for a child. Nurture such relationships while still protecting the child by dropping in unexpectedly, talking to the adult about specifics, ensuring things are observable by others, talking with your child afterwards and letting your child's caregivers know that you and your child are educated about sexual abuse. Monitor internet use.
#Step 3: Talk About It — Children often keep abuse a secret, and may be afraid to tell. The abuser may shame, threaten or confuse the child. Children who disclose abuse often tell a trusted adult other than a parent. Children may shut down if an adult responds negatively. Adults working with youth should be trained about sexual abuse. Have open, age-appropriate conversations with your child about bodies, sex, boundaries, and the child's right to say no. Discuss sexual abuse with adults.
Step 4: Recognize the Signs — Physical signs, although uncommon, include redness and swelling in the genital area, urinary tract infections and issues associated with anxiety like chronic stomach aches or headaches. More common emotional and behavioral signs range from acting “too perfect” to withdrawal, depression, unexplained anger and rebellion. Non-age-appropriate sexual behavior and language can be a red flag. If you find suspected physical signs of sexual abuse, D2L suggests having the child physically examined immediately by a professional who specializes in child sexual abuse.
#Step 5: React Responsibly — Very few reported incidents of child sexual abuse are false. If a child discloses abuse to you, don't overreact. Offer support. Praise the child's courage. Thank him for telling you. “Encourage the child to talk, but don't ask leading questions about details.” Seeking the help of a professional who is trained to interview children about sexual abuse could be critical to the child's healing and to any criminal prosecution. Report suspected or discovered sexual abuse to law enforcement immediately. You can then also report to 1-844-CO-4-KIDS, or the Department of Social Services at 970-824-8282 Ext. 2042. Northwest Rocky Mountain CASA now offers local trainings on child sexual abuse prevention for those who care for and work with youth.
#Sue Fegelein, J.D., is Northwest Rocky Mountain CASA's executive director. NWRM CASA provides volunteer advocates for abused and neglected children. www.rockymountaincasa.org
‘All I want is justice,' says man who was raped by a priest as teen and found purpose from his pain
by Colby Itkowitz
Mark Rozzi dropped out of college and was working at his family's window and door installation company when a tragic life event inspired him to make a drastic career change. He went into politics.
He did it for one reason: justice.
Rozzi had vowed when he was 13 to never speak of what happened to him when he was a boy. He wouldn't tell anyone that a priest at his parochial school in Berks County, Pa., had lured him with McDonald's and beer and pornography for weeks before raping him in a rectory shower. He buried his secret, but the shame and the guilt were always there, haunting his dreams and fueling his depression.
But in March 2009, when a second childhood friend who also had been a victim of the priest's abuse killed himself, Rozzi was inconsolable. He blamed himself for not telling someone. Maybe then he could have stopped it from happening to his friends and the dozens of others who later accused the Rev. Edward Graff of abusing them. He also worried that the darkness he carried inside him would one day kill him, too.
As he slowly picked himself back up from the throes of his deepest depression, he decided to end his silence. His friends' memories deserved more.
Five years later, Rozzi stood on the chamber floor of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last week, in his second term as an elected official, and made an emotional appeal to his colleagues to support a bill that would remove the statute of limitations on criminal charges in child abuse cases.
Before the April 12 vote, state Rep. Rozzi didn't prepare any remarks. So he didn't know that in that moment, with his colleagues a captive audience, he would grip the lectern and speak candidly and in detail about his own rape. That he'd feel moved to pay remembrance to his boyhood friends who'd killed themselves when the burden of their abuse was too much to bear. As he began to speak, the chamber, normally abuzz with side conversations, fell silent.
“I have struggled every day of my life. All I want is justice,” Rozzi said in his floor speech, his voice heavy but composed. “I want justice for all my friends who have been sexually abused.”
Before Rozzi decided to run for public office, he reached out to his local state representative in Berks County, Pa., and asked what the government was doing for victims. A few years earlier, a grand jury had first revealed the rampant child abuse in the Philadelphia Catholic diocese, but a bill to remove the statue of limitations on criminal charges for child abuse languished in the state capitol. Rozzi visited the then-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who told him that the bill would never pass. In the representative's office hung pictures of bishops and the pope, Rozzi said — a not-so-subtle reminder of where allegiances lay.
When he left that meeting, “I was sobbing like a little baby, my wife was trying to get a hold of me,” Rozzi said in a phone interview last week. “I knew from that moment on that I was going to find a way to get to the House of Representatives.”
Before he began his campaign in 2013, he visited his mother and for the first time told her everything. She apologized to her grown son for not protecting him. His father had died years earlier without knowing the whole truth, only that his son was tortured by something. “I believe he died of a broken heart,” Rozzi said as he wept.
Then Rozzi went public with his story, going door to door in his district with one message: “I was sexually abused, my friends are killing themselves and I'm going to the House of Representatives to change the laws.”
When Rozzi was in the eighth grade in 1984, Graff befriended him and started inviting him on trips to McDonald's and offering him rides home from school. Then, instead of taking him home he'd take him to his private room in the rectory. There, Graff gave him beers and showed him pornography under the guise of teaching him about sex. The abuse escalated gradually until the afternoon he raped Rozzi. The boy broke free and ran, gathering his scattered clothes. He hid in bushes along the way afraid Graff would come after him.
In 2002, Graff, who had been transferred to a diocese in Texas after a stint in a treatment facility for alcohol addiction, was arrested on child abuse charges. Back then, a spokesman for the Allentown, Pa., diocese, of which he was a member when he worked at Rozzi's school, said that there had been rumors of potential misconduct, but that “there was never a victim, nothing like that,” according to Dallas Morning News article. Graff died in jail.
When Rozzi started telling his story publicly, others began opening up to him about their abuse. Some said he was the first person they'd ever told. Each story was another affirmation that he was taking on the right fight.
His first few years in government were frustrating with little appetite among lawmakers to challenge the lobbyists representing Catholic organizations. In Maryland this month, a state lawmaker who had been abused by a his stepfather when he was a boy tried to change statue-of-limitation laws. His emotional appeal to his colleagues couldn't move the debate.
But in Pennsylvania last month, another grand jury investigation found the Altoona-Johnstown diocese around Pittsburgh had allegedly hid decades of sexual abuse by priests and other Catholic leaders. Suddenly there was an urgency to do something to respond.
Even Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, the man whom Rozzi met with in 2009 and said it would never pass, voted for it. He put out a powerful statement in March that “after many hours of soul searching, praying and deliberations,” he was supporting Rozzi's bill.
“I've been waiting since 2009 for the opportunity to stand in front of them,” Rozzi said in a tearful interview Thursday. The support felt like “the protection I didn't receive when I was 13,” he said. Still Rozzi couldn't bring himself to celebrate. “I wanted my friends back,” he said. “I wanted my friends around me.”
And it's far from over. His fight will now go to the state Senate, which has not yet said whether it will take up the legislation. The work has given him a mission to channel everything he held inside for so many years.
“I'd always thought the only time this would be off my mind is the day I'd take my last breath. That's when the pain would stop,” he said.
The pain is still raw, as though the abuse happened days and not decades ago. But Rozzi has a brighter outlook now.
“Its about protecting the past, present, future,” he said. “We cant make change it, but we can make it right.”