Huffington Post, Los Angeles
Protest to be Held at Whole Foods 365 Launch in LA Amidst Co-CEO Mackey's Ties with Pedophile
by Nikki DuBose
I am a survivor of child abuse. Starting at age four, I was repeatedly beaten and called names that no child or adult should ever be called. Then from eight through thirteen years of age, the abuse escalated to sexual victimization by a close male figure and my mother, who suffered from mental health issues. At nineteen and through my early twenties, I was re-victimized as an amateur model and again as a professional model. Now at thirty-one, I have been in strong recovery for a few years, am an author (my memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light hits stores Summer 2016), speaker and mental health advocate. I understand the long-lasting effects of abuse and how it can trigger other serious mental health conditions, yet I am also a believer that full recovery is possible. On the other side of the coin, I grasp the concept that hurting people hurt people and that forgiveness is a powerful force in this world - for ourselves and others.
But when I read an article in the New York Times about John Mackey, the co-CEO of Whole Foods, and his relationship with Marc Gafni, an admitted child-sexual-abuser-turned-spiritual-leader, I couldn't turn a blind eye and continue to shop at my once-favorite store. I'll admit it, I used to love Whole Foods, and most people do. It carries an enormous variety of overly priced organic foods that are appealing to the senses; basically it's like the Saks Fifth Avenue of grocery stores. However, I refuse to support any company that openly backs a pedophile and doesn't use their platform to take a stand against something as important as child sexual abuse - an issue that affects more than 42,000,000 Americans.
So on May 25th I will be at the Whole Foods 365 launch in Los Angeles to protest co-CEO John Mackey's link to Marc Gafni; if you live in NYC, there is a planned coordinated protest underway. Mackey's ignorance as a leader to publicly evade the issues at hand enables the perpetrator, allows the stigma to continue, and brings up another question: what percentage of child sexual abuse survivors shop at Whole Foods? Bill Murray, founder and CEO of NAASCA, the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse, believes that the government-reported 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys who are sexually victimized before they turn eighteen equates to roughly 20 to 25 percent of adults who will shop at the newly launched Whole Foods 365. “365 is comparable to Trader Joes, so (Whole Foods) is most likely banking on the fact that the prices will appeal to the classes represented by child sexual abuse survivors,” Murray says. However, statistically victims of child sexual abuse have a harder time in life holding down jobs, are more likely to run away from home, attempt suicide, develop fatal eating disorders, get involved in the sex industry, work as dancers, or act in pornographic films.
Matthew Sandusky, CEO and Executive Director of Peaceful Hearts Foundation, agrees about John Mackey's lack of proper handling, “(Mackey) and the Whole Foods Market Board of Directors have an opportunity to reach millions with an important message. Instead of maintaining the societal norm of silence around these issues, I would like to see them take a stand against child sexual abuse publicly...getting the message across that we can no longer remain silent.”
It's no secret that survivors live in silence, and society has a responsibility to help end that. When Nancy Levine, a teenage sexual abuse survivor, survivors' advocate and activist, tried to contact a slew of journalists about the protest, she was repeatedly turned down. “I...consistently heard, ‘Yes, but Gafni was never charged with a crime.' The two largest PR publishers refused to publish a press release...for much the same reason. The statutes of limitations surrounding sexual abuse create cascading obstacles to exposing predatory behavior.”
Regardless of whether or not Gafni was ever charged with a crime, or in spite of the statutes of limitations, we are obligated as a society to support victims of child sexual abuse and give them a voice. If you were violated, wouldn't you want someone to help you, in any capacity? Now imagine you were a child and assaulted - it would change your life, maybe even save it, if people within the community stood up and gave you back the voice that was stolen from you.
Perhaps the biggest personal kicker about this whole ordeal goes back to a statement that Marc Gafni made concerning one of the most publicized cases about a girl he repeatedly sexually abused starting in 1980 when she was only thirteen years old, claiming that they were in love. “She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her.” His statement triggers memories of how the perpetrators of my past used and abused my body and then dismissed the situation. There were always excuses, and I felt as though I couldn't use my voice. For the victims of child abuse there is nothing to be left with but pain and silence. And the perpetrators get the justice? I don't think so.
“The whole thing smells. This is rotten. (Mackey) is oddly claiming to be ‘silent' about his relationship with Marc Gafni, an admitted child sex abuser, yet continues to openly celebrate their close connection through multiple links and references on the official Whole Foods web site and its Blog. This is tantamount to institutional enabling,” Murray said. “(Mackey) and the Whole Foods Board of Directors have a fiduciary responsibility to the stock holders, to disavow any and all links and tacit support to an admitted child sexual abuser. As a community we need to bring light into the shadows of the often taboo issues of child sexual abuse ... to stop the silence and change the culture.”
Police investigating website with illicit photos of Duxbury High School students
by Rebecca Everett
DUXBURY — Police here said that they shut down a dropbox webpage after realizing that it contained images of local high school girls "in varying stages of undress."
Duxbury police said in a statement that Duxbury High School staff notified them Wednesday of the website's existence and that some of the females pictured were students at the school.
Since then, police worked with the owner of the website to shut down the page. Police said Thursday that they and school officials have been notifying the parents of involved students.
"There are some young people here who are very embarrassed and very upset. They are victims," Police Chief Matthew Clancy said in a statement. "They made a mistake and someone took advantage of that."
He said police are investigating to determine who created and contributed to the site.
He or she could be looking at a decade-long prison sentence.
That's because even if the images originated as "sexts" and were shared willingly with a teenage boyfriend or girlfriend, they are still considered child pornography if the subject is under 18. That means that even before they made it on the website, the images were technically illegally shared if they were texted or emailed.
A conviction on a charge of distributing child pornography in Massachusetts carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of 20 years.
Clancy said police will gladly visit the town's school to help educate students about the risks of taking and sharing photographs like the ones that ended up on the website.
"Unfortunately we are learning that many communities have been dealing with this very issue," Clancy said.
Because so-called sexting between teens is common, many states have passed laws to make sharing naked photos between minors a less serious crime than distributing child pornography.
TribLive reported last month that at least 20 states have passed sexting laws with lesser penalties. Eleven of those states have made it a misdemeanor and some require accused teens to take courses on the dangers of social media to avoid a criminal charge.
Teen bride Elissa Wall was forced by cult leader Warren Jeffs to marry her cousin. Now she has won $3.7 million
by Mathew Murphy
A FORMER child bride has settled part of a multi-million dollar lawsuit she levelled against polygamist leader Warren Jeffs and his Fundamentalist LDS Church in the US.
Elissa Wall reached a $3.7 million settlement with the United Effort Plan Trust, which controls homes and property in the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. The settlement is significantly less than the $US40 million that court filings said she had sought.
She was forced to marry her 19-year-old cousin when she was just 14 years old in 2001. She left the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and divorced her husband, Allen Steed as the pair had no children together.
“Ms. Wall brought his case to hold responsible those in power who used their position to perpetrate abuse. She has experienced first-hand how the UEP Trust was used by Warren Jeffs to hurt families like hers and others. Ms. Wall has been willing to stand up, be brave, and fight for change within the FLDS communities,” her lawyer, Alan Mortensen, said in a statement to FOX.
The new governing board of the trust said in a statement they appreciated that she spoke out publicly against Jeffs. Her testimony helped convict him of being an accomplice to her rape in 2007.
The settlement, which must still be approved by a judge, came after a March decision by the Utah Supreme Court that cleared the way for Wall to sue over the 2001 marriage.
Under the agreement, Ms Wall will get $1.5 million in cash over the next 18 months, said property trust lawyer Jeffrey Shields.
She will also receive a house in Hilldale, Utah, and a 40-acre piece of property just over the border in Colorado City, Arizona, with a total value of $1.25 million.
“She's done enough for this community, I think she's entitled to a residence,” Mr Shields said.
The trust holds nearly all the land, homes and businesses in the home base of the FLDS along the Utah-Arizona border.
Estimated to be worth about $110 million, it was built to fulfil a belief in holding property communally.
10 Myths About Rape Perpetuate ‘Rape Culture'
by Kyle Taylor and Rachel Beatrice
“Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women's bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women's rights and safety.”
– Marshall University Women's Center
To many people, especially men, the term “rape culture” may seem like hyperbole. But anti-rape activists say it's an apt description of the everyday reality faced by women and some men.
Women's rights activists say rape is prevalent because society condones sexual violence against women. They maintain that rape culture is perpetuated by myths about rape.
Fatima Smith, assistant director of Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence, Stalking and Advocacy Services at the Wellness Resource Center at Virginia Commonwealth University, says it's important to challenge problematic thinking and commentary about rape.
“Not confronting individuals who laugh at rape jokes, or not correcting people that say seemingly harmless statements like ‘that chair is so gay,' are things that contribute to the problem of rape culture,” Smith said.
“When we don't interrupt the group thought that it's OK to let people get away with joking about the serious reality of sexual assault, rape culture continues. The ongoing acceptance of this group mentality builds the foundation of a culture of violence.”
To raise awareness of the reality of rape and rape culture, here are 10 of the most common myths about sexual assaults.
Myth 1: Rape survivors are “asking for it” with suggestive clothing or word choice.
Fact: No one asks to be raped. Rape is a violent crime, and no woman's behavior or dress gives a man the right to rape her. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network states that it's the perpetrator who selects the victim; the victim's behavior and clothing choices do not mean that they are consenting to sexual activity.
Myth 2: A person cannot sexually assault their partner or spouse.
Fact: Nearly one in 10 women has been raped by an intimate partner in her lifetime, according to the 2011 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Myth 3: Sexual assaults most often occur in public or outdoors by a stranger.
Fact: The study “Female Victims of Sexual Violence, 1994-2010,” done by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, found that 55 percent of rape or sexual assault victimizations occur at or near the victim's home, and 12 percent occur at or near the home of a friend, relative or acquaintance.
According to research by the organization Rape Crisis, “only around 10% of rapes are committed by ‘strangers' and around 90% of rapes are committed by known men, and often by someone who the survivor has previously trusted or even loved.”
“One of the largest misconception about sexual assault is that the rapist is a stranger that jumps out of an alley,” said Liz Canfield, a rape survivor and assistant professor in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.
During a recent discussion on sexual assault awareness at VCU, panelists noted that a large majority of rape survivors know the perpetrator and that this contributes to survivors not wanting to press charges.
Myth 4: Rape does not happen that often.
Fact: The National Crime Victimization Survey (2009-2013), conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, found that an average of more than 293,000 people age 12 or older are raped or sexually assaulted each year. This means a sexual assault occurs every 107 seconds in the United States.
Myth 5:If two people have had sex with each other before, it's always OK to have sex again.
Fact: If a person is in a relationship with someone or has had sex with them before, they still can be sexually assaulted or raped by that person. Consent must be given and received every time two people engage in sexual contact.
On its website, the VCU Wellness Center notes that “consent on a prior occasion does not constitute consent on a subsequent occasion and the existence of a prior or current relationship does not, in itself, constitute consent.”
Myth 6: It's only rape if someone is physically forced into sex and has the injuries to show for it.
Fact: Sometimes people who are raped sustain internal and/or external injuries and sometimes they don't. According to Rape Crisis, “rapists will sometimes use weapons or threats of violence to prevent a physical struggle or sometimes they will take advantage of someone who isn't able to consent, because they are drunk or asleep for example. Many people who are sexually attacked are unable to move or speak from fear and shock. Just because someone doesn't have visible injuries doesn't mean they weren't raped.”
Myth 7: People often lie about being raped because they regret having sex with someone or out of spite or for attention.
Fact: Disproportionate media focus on false rape allegations perpetuates the public perception that lying about sexual violence is common when in fact the opposite is true. Rape Crisis found in its studies that “false allegations of rape are very rare. The vast majority of survivors choose not to report to the police. One significant reason for this is the fear of not being believed.
Myth 8: A healthy person can resist being raped or sexually assaulted.
Fact: According to the CDC, one of every six adult women has been a victim of rape, and about 92,700 men are raped in the U.S. each year. Healthy and strong people are raped every day. Rape victims include lawyers, doctors, military personnel, students – anyone and everyone could be vulnerable to rape or sexual assault.
Myth 9: Men are not victims of sexual violence.
Fact: According to the research by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1.5 percent of all men have been raped, and 47 percent of bisexual men have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact in their lifetime.
Molested by his uncle at age 11, a sexual assault survivor who wishes to remain anonymous said he never told anyone because he didn't think anyone would believe him, especially because his uncle “was a strong member of the church.” Not even the victim's mother knows the story.
“I think it's a little messed up that everybody thinks that it's only women being raped – especially with all the reports of priests molesting little boys. But a lot of unreported stories come from little boys who get molested by family members – but no one wants to put their family member out there.”
A related myth is that men who are raped by another man are gay or weak. This misconception keep many male rape survivors from getting the physical and emotional support they need after a sexual assault.
“It's harder for men to admit they have been molested or raped or sodomized or anything like that because it makes a man feel less powerful,” said the Charlottesville man who had been abused by his uncle. “They may think that [others may think], ‘Oh, he must be gay now because he was raped as a little boy.' It's definitely tough – it is not easy.”
Myth 10: There is nothing we can do to prevent sexual violence.
Fact: According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, “there are many ways you can help prevent sexual violence including intervening as a bystander to protect someone who may be at risk.” RAINN is the nation's largest organization helping prevent sexual assault.
Legislature OKs bill cutting child abuse hotline reports
by The Associated Press
The Arizona Legislature has sent Gov. Doug Ducey a bill expected to cut the number of child abuse hotline calls that require full investigations to focus child safety workers on cases that actually involve abuse and neglect.
Republican Rep. Kate Brophy McGee says her proposal will cull out calls that are impossible to investigate and clog the overburdened system. Opponents say not investigating hotline calls is what led to the overhaul of the state child welfare office just two years ago.
The Senate passed House Bill 2522 on a 28-0 vote early Saturday. That followed a 50-5 House vote.
Child Abuse Survivor Calls For Inquiry Into Police Handling Of His Dolphin Square Allegations
by Patrick Strudwick
The independent police complaints watchdog is facing calls to investigate how two forces handled the case of a sexual abuse survivor who reported that he was raped as a child in Dolphin Square, the apartment block at the centre of the Westminster paedophile scandal.
In a case that raises fresh questions about the former Metropolitan police inquiries into historical abuse, the survivor, David, has spoken out for the first time about his 30-year search for answers after being abused as child by a well-connected Lincolnshire landowner who, he told police, took him to Dolphin Square at least 10 times in the early 1980s.
In March the Met's Operation Midland, which was set up to investigate historical claims, was shut down. But in an attempt to highlight the alleged mishandling of his case by detectives from both the Met and Lincolnshire forces, David has decided to waive his right to anonymity and allow his real first name and photograph to be published alongside his account.
David, now 49, told BuzzFeed News how he was groomed in Lincolnshire in 1982 when he was 15 by Gordon Dawson, who took him to dinners in London with Dawson's friends. Among them, David was told, were MPs, businessmen, senior military officers, and members of the General Synod. After these dinners, David said, he would be raped in a Dolphin Square apartment by Dawson and other men.
He reported his experiences in Dolphin Square to Lincolnshire Police in 2007, seven years before the location became infamously linked to the more extreme stories of abuse and murder. He repeated his allegations to officers from Operation Fairbank – the Met's overarching inquiry into historical abuse by public figures – in 2015.
Last November, Justice Goddard, chair of the ongoing independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, announced that allegations involving abuse in Westminster would form part of the inquiry. Also last year, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) watchdog announced 29 investigations into allegations of cover-ups by Metropolitan police officers in cases involving sexual abuse.
David's evidence, given over two days of interviews and supported by a series of legal documents, exposes the difficulties still faced by some survivors of sexual abuse to ensure the police investigate – even amid a national furore over such crimes.
A six-month investigation by BuzzFeed News into the allegations found that:
• Despite the seriousness of the allegations, a surviving friend of Gordon Dawson's who was present at the dinners and – it is alleged – also used the same apartment in which David was raped has never been interviewed by Met detectives.
• In March 2015, just three months after appealing to the public for information about abuse at Dolphin Square, the Met told David the luxury apartment block was “not being investigated”.
• In an email to David, a senior Metropolitan police officer from Operation Fairbank, Detective Sergeant James Townly, claimed “it is not feasible” for the police to identify every link between paedophiles, and suggested police were unwilling to investigate suspects not already known to them.
• Dawson had been warned by a Lincolnshire police officer in December 2006 that he was about to be arrested over a series of earlier abuse complaints – a move a top criminal lawyer said was “unusual” as it risked allowing the suspect to destroy evidence.
• Two months later, when David reported the abuse to police, the same officer warned Dawson that he was to be rearrested. Dawson killed himself within 90 minutes of the phone call.
“The police are not doing their job,” David told BuzzFeed News as he called for the IPCC to investigate his case and confirmed he would be making a formal complaint to the watchdog.
“If we could just get the truth, answers to the questions we have, to find out what really happened – why did the investigation stop so quickly? Why were things done in such a strange way?” he said.
“I wish they treated this case with the seriousness it deserves instead of treating it like somebody had stolen a bike. Reopening the case would be the only way.”
He was backed by Keith Best, chief executive of the abuse victims' group Survivors UK, who said there were “grave errors” in the investigation by Lincolnshire police and subsequent interventions from Scotland Yard that “demand a new inquiry by the IPCC”.
Best said: “There must be grave suspicion of a failure by the police to investigate fully and act appropriately in this case of undoubted, verified abuse. This follows the courage of the victim to come forward to expose what went on, as well as painstaking research by BuzzFeed.”
He added: “The current unsatisfactory situation not only leaves considerable suspicion but also a massive discouragement to others to come forward in similar cases.”
Nigel Richardson, a leading criminal lawyer and expert on investigating sexual offences, said he was perplexed by the Met's failure to investigate all potential leads, such as interviewing the close friend of Dawson. “It seems to me it's part of their duty to carry out an investigation into those, at least to rule them out,” he said.
Richardson also described the warnings to Dawson by the Lincolnshire officer as “odd”, “irregular”, and “unusual” for an “allegation of this seriousness”, as they could prevent the police from seizing crucial evidence and left the complainant without protection from any potential action by the accused.
Dolphin Square has been at the centre of the Westminster paedophile scandal since 2014, when two individuals claimed that the apartment block, which was once home to over 100 MPs, had been the venue for the abuse and even murder of children by VIPs during the 1970s and 1980s.
But David's evidence shows police received complaints about child abuse in Dolphin Square in 2007, seven years before they issued their appeal to the public for information.
After Dawson's apparent suicide, the IPCC refused to examine the case, sending it back to Lincolnshire police to review. BuzzFeed News has learned that the internal report into the conduct of officers in the original investigation has been destroyed.
In recent months, the tone of the coverage of historical abuse allegations has changed, with serious doubts raised over the claims involving Dolphin Square, and with the police unable to substantiate the chief claims surrounding it – allegations made by a man known as “Nick”.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, a Met spokesperson said: “Whilst we do not discuss identities, we can confirm that experienced officers working to Detective Sergeant Townly in SOECA [the Met's Sexual Offences, Exploitation & Child Abuse division] did review the material in this case, including speaking with relevant people. This work was subsequently reviewed by DS Townly. In the absence of new lines of enquiry, substantive allegations made, or further new witnesses the matter remains closed.”
The spokesperson said the Met strongly denied any suggestion that it did not sufficiently investigate allegations against individuals who were not high-profile, and said the force would “investigate without fear or favour allegations reported to police”.
The IPCC said it had received a referral in 2007 from Lincolnshire “regarding a death following police contact”.
Its statement continued: “From the information provided as part of that referral there did not appear to be any evident misconduct matters, and no complaint was made. Therefore a local investigation was determined as the appropriate course of action.
“We requested at the time that if any potential misconduct matters came to light as part of the local investigation, those matters should be re-referred to us for a re-determination. We received no further referral from Lincolnshire Police, nor was a complaint made to us regarding these matters.
“The sexual abuse allegations and details of that investigation were not referred to us. As we do not have this information we are unable to comment further on those matters.”
BuzzFeed News sent a detailed list of allegations and questions to Lincolnshire police regarding their investigation. Eleven days after the deadline for a response, they replied: “We will not be responding to your queries.”
Front Porch helps communities halt child abuse
by Jim T. Ryan
Would you recognize the signs of child abuse and act to prevent it in your community?
While many people might answer yes and certainly would want to help children, the reality is the signs aren't always obvious. Often people are unsure of how to help, said Beth Bitler, program director for the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance.
"We're helping people learn how to respond when they're concerned about a child," Bitler said.
The alliance, based in Harrisburg, brought its community program, The Front Porch Project, to the Perry County Literacy Council in Newport on April 22. The two-hour seminar focused on situational awareness of potential abuse, as well as positive action to intervene to protect children.
Since the alliance started the program in 2011, it has trained more than 1,500 people to recognize signs of abuse and use positive intervention strategies. The alliance also offers training for professionals that are mandated to report child abuse.
"Once they're aware and have skills, they're much more often willing to step in," Bitler said.
That's difficult for people, even those who have child protection training, she said. You might be in a grocery store and see a child you think needs help, but many people don't act because they're unsure, she said.
Asked about their reasons for not reporting suspected abuse, 44 percent of people say it's because they didn't have all the facts; 40 percent said their action might make it worse; 37 percent said their suspicions might be wrong, according to statistics from the alliance.
Front Porch classes are usually are two- to three-hour sessions, but programs can be tailored for various community groups, Bitler said.
The session in Newport began with the roughly 20 participants talking about what growing up was like for them as well as what it's like today, the perception of dangers and whether they feel connected to their community.
A goal is to help people look at the protection of children as a community responsibility, not just that of one family, Bitler said.
Sessions also include discussion of situations and how people might react to protect a child.
"I saw this as a great training opportunity," said Kathleen Bentley of the Literacy Council.
Four of her staff and two volunteers attended the morning and afternoon sessions. The other participants mostly came from organizations that work with families and children in Perry and Cumberland counties.
"It would be helpful to market this to local church groups because not everyone in the community is aware," said Megan Johnston, a social worker from Carlisle who attended the class.
Greater awareness in communities will help ordinary people to prevent or stop child abuse before it's too late, she said.
Child abuse happens in every community, Bitler said, but too often people think it's somewhere else.
Individuals and groups wanting more information on The Front Porch Project can call Beth Bitler at 800-448-4906 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many lessons to prevent child abuse
by Chris Lolley
As executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Florida, I've been honored to attend Child Abuse Prevention Month observances throughout the state over the past month. In reflection, I'd like to share some prevention and early intervention lessons I've learned while visiting Florida's communities during our 2016 Pinwheels for Prevention campaign.
* Lesson One: Prevention of child abuse is a local issue. For years now, we've recognized the importance of community ownership in keeping children safe and healthy. However, when we “drill down” to the next level, we cannot deny that the most critical prevention work happens in neighborhoods and homes. Abuela, as she asked me to call her, described her struggles in convincing young parents in her neighborhood to reject previously held beliefs about raising children and get them to reach out for help when needed. Abuela suggested many parents fall into the generational trap of teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, harsh discipline strategies and criminal behavior. Abuela is just one of thousands of concerned Floridians sharing her time and wisdom to help families succeed. Thank you, Abuela.
* Lesson Two: People need help when they need help. Jon (not his real name), a single father of three, approached me at a community event to tell me that he should have been a “statistic.” Jon went on to tell me about some of the terrible choices he made early in his life. Drugs, guns and money were the things he desired most and the combination of those eventually landed him in prison. When he got out, his children were in foster care. He immediately began the work necessary to regain custody and succeeded only a few weeks earlier. Jon confided in me that he and his boys could use any kind of assistance available and said the main thing they needed was a place to live. Due to the outpouring of engaged community partners at this event, Jon was able to get help on the spot. To see him and his three boys laughing and smiling the rest of the day was worth every minute invested by everyone present. Finding help when one is ready to receive help is critical to success.
* Lesson Three: Healthy kids achieve more. We know from decades of research that children who have healthy, safe and nurturing experiences in their early years, free from abuse and neglect, perform better in school, require fewer community resources and avoid perpetuating negative behaviors. Children who have healthy childhoods are more likely to go to college, get jobs and generally achieve more in life.
Prevention saves lives, strengthens families and saves taxpayer money. Thankfully we can all do something to prevent child abuse and neglect. To learn more, visit www.ounce.org
Chris Lolley is executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Florida, a program of the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida.
$12,500 reward offered for safe return of 9-year-old; surveillance video released
(Pictures and surveillance video on site)
NASHVILLE, TN -- A $12,500 reward is being offered for the safe return of a missing 9-year-old girl.
Thursday, TBI issued an Amber Alert for 9-year-old Carlie Trent. She is 4'8'' and about 75 pounds. She has long blond hair and blue eyes. She is from East Tennessee.
TBI said Friday they were searching for Carlie rural and isolated areas in middle and eastern Tennessee.
Investigators said her uncle, Gary Simpson, took her out of school under false pretenses Wednesday. TBI said Carlie lived with Simpson until he recently lost custodial rights to Carlie's biological father.
The U.S. Marshal's Service is offering a $2,500 reward for information loading to the 9-year-old and the capture of Gary Simpson.
Carlie's pediatrician had told TBI he is offering $10,000 for the save recovery of the child.
Simpson is 57 years old. He stands 5'10'' and weighs 157 pounds. He is balding with brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen driving a white 2002 Dodge conversion van with Tennessee tag number 173GPS.
TBI said they are still in the preliminary stages of the investigation, but they believe Simpson may have taken Carlie to a rural or isolated area. They believe that because they have not received many tips, which is unusual after issuing an Amber Alert. They also believe Simpson might have taken Carlie to a rural area because he purchased camping gear at Walmart shortly after taking her from school.
TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said Simpson does not have a criminal record, and he is not aware of Simpson having purchased a weapon.
"We're still in the preliminary stages of trying to understand his motives," DeVine said. "The longer this goes on, the more concerned we become."
Claim: Joe Paterno was told of Sandusky abuse as early as 1976
by Sarah Jorgensen and Madison Park
Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno knew that his assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was sexually abusing a child as early as 1976, according to a claim by an insurance company.
This date is 18 years before what had been thought as the earliest known incident of abuse by Sandusky. The allegation was revealed in a single line of a court document filed Wednesday.
Sandusky was found guilty in 2012 of sexually abusing 10 boys during the 1990s and 2000s. He used a charity he founded and access to the college football team to entice and abuse kids. Sandusky is serving a prison sentence between 30 to 60 years.
Paterno's family issued a statement Thursday saying the late coach's "reputation has once again been smeared with an unsubstantiated, forty-year-old allegation."
"Over the past four and a half years, numerous allegations that were taken as fact when they were initially communicated have been proven false. It is in this context that the latest claim should be viewed," the family said.
"The reckless, all-out rush to accept accusations as legitimate without a full fair review of the facts cannot be allowed to happen again."
The allegation that Paterno and assistant football coaches were aware that Sandusky was molesting children back in the 1970s and throughout the 1980s surfaced in a lawsuit brought by Penn State University against its former insurer, the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association.
The lawsuit, filed in 2013, seeks to determine whether Penn State or its insurance policy is liable for paying victims who were abused by Sandusky. At least 30 men were involved in a civil settlement with Penn State, and the number of victims could be even higher.
"PMA claims ... in 1976, a child allegedly reported to PSU's Head Football Coach Joseph Paterno, that he (the child) was sexually molested by Sandusky," the document reads.
The insurance company also alleged that Sandusky sexually abused children in the 1980s, according to the court filing.
• In 1987, a Penn State assistant coach "is alleged to have witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and a child at a PSU facility."
• In 1988, another Penn State assistant coach "reportedly witnessed sexual contact between Sandusky and a child."
• In 1988 again, "a child's report of his molestation by Sandusky was allegedly referred to PSU's Athletic Director."
"There is no evidence that reports of these incidents ever went further up the chain of command at PSU," Judge Gary Glazer wrote in the court filing.
It's unclear what evidence the insurance company had in making these claims. A number of depositions from the victims included as evidence in the case's docket are sealed. The footnotes in the judge's filing cite these depositions as evidence for the abuse allegations.
Before these revelations, the earliest known incidents involving Sandusky dated to 1994. Sandusky abused children whom he met through a charity he founded called the Second Mile.
Paterno enjoyed a reputation as the most successful coach in major college football before the Sandusky scandal.
Paterno died in 2012 at age 80 under a cloud of suspicion that he, along with Penn State officials, failed to act after learning of Sandusky's misconduct.
Months after his death, a 900-pound bronze statue of a beaming Paterno was taken down outside the Penn State football stadium.
Paterno's family has vehemently defended his legacy and denies that he played any role in a cover-up, even though an independent investigation funded by Penn State found he had knowledge of allegations against Sandusky as early as 1998.
The Paternos' attorney, Wick Sollers, told The Patriot-News: "An allegation now about an alleged event 40 years ago, as represented by a single line in a court document regarding an insurance issue, with no corroborating evidence, does not change the facts. Joe Paterno did not, at any time, cover up conduct by Jerry Sandusky."
Jerry Sandusky gets appeal hearing on child sexual abuse conviction
by The Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A Pennsylvania judge on Thursday gave Jerry Sandusky a hearing later this month to prove his claims that prosecutors lied, withheld evidence and leaked secret grand jury information to find additional victims.
Judge John Cleland said the May 20 hearing would ''provide the defense with an opportunity to prove'' claims as it seeks to have charges dismissed against the former Penn State assistant football coach or a new trial.
The judge also let Sandusky's lawyers make a written filing about whether the grand jury that investigated Sandusky five years ago lacked jurisdiction.
A major subject of the hearing later this month will be a statement in the closing argument by prosecutor Joe McGettigan that referred to ''others unknown to us, to others presently known to God but not to us.''
Cleland said Sandusky could try to prove that McGettigan was referring to the young man known at trial as Victim 2. That victim, who was not named and did not testify, was the topic of testimony by another former Penn State assistant, Mike McQueary, who said he saw Sandusky attacking Victim 2 in a team shower.
The judge said Sandusky could try to show that McGettigan's reference to ''unknown'' victims was a lie; the defense can try to show the reference was to Victim 2, whom the prosecution knew and who was the same young man who has since settled a civil lawsuit with Penn State. The defense also alleges Sandusky's lawyer during the trial, Joe Amendola, knew McGettigan was ''lying.''
Messages seeking comment were not returned by McGettigan, Sandusky's current lawyer, Al Lindsay, and a spokesman for the attorney general's office.
Cleland's order also said Lindsay can explore whether state prosecutors and Barry Feudale, the judge who oversaw the grand jury, withheld material that could have helped exonerate Sandusky or been useful to him at trial.
The ruling comes just three days after a hearing before Cleland that focused on Sandusky's desire to call witnesses.
The 72-year-old Sandusky has already lost direct appeals to the state's Supreme and Superior courts and is now pursuing claims under the Post-Conviction Relief Act. The law addresses newly discovered evidence, constitutional violations and ineffective lawyering.
Sandusky is serving 30 to 60 years in state prison on a 45-count child sexual abuse conviction.
Operation Bobbi Bear Tackles Child Sexual Abuse in South Africa
by Rahim Kanani
“The rate of sexual abuse of children is shockingly high around the world and with this campaign we hope to sound the alarm, not only bringing attention to the problem, but to the amazing work of Operation Bobbi Bear,” explained Peter Twyman, CEO of Keep a Child Alive. In an interview, we discussed the Dare to Bear campaign and child sexual abuse in South Africa, the battle against HIV/AIDS on the continent, their new specialty clinic for youth opening soon in Kenya, and how best to join the fight.
Peter Twyman has been an activist and leader in the HIV/AIDS field, both in the U.S. and internationally, for over 20 years and joined Keep a Child Alive as CEO in 2012. He believes strongly that health care is a human right and in the power of communities to end the AIDS epidemic.
How did the Dare to Bear campaign come about?
"Dare to Bear" is a campaign to support the incredible work of Keep a Child Alive's local partner Operation Bobbi Bear near Durban, South Africa. Bobbi Bear courageously addresses an issue that too often remains in the shadows—child sexual abuse. Started by a phenomenal woman named Jackie Branfield, who has spent her life as an HIV/AIDS and child welfare advocate, Bobbi Bear literally saves children who are in abusive situations. Partnering with the local police, they take kids out of danger, provide post-rape care, including drugs to reduce the risk of HIV transmission, and then start the long road to recovery.
They use a teddy bear as a counseling tool to help children tell the story of their abuse. Each child is given a marker and band-aids, and supported to show on the bear, where and how they were abused. It's heart wrenching, but it is a critical step not only for the child to heal, but also for the process of prosecuting the perpetrators.
What is the situation like on the ground?
The rate of sexual abuse of children is shockingly high around the world and with this campaign we hope to sound the alarm, not only bringing attention to the problem, but to the amazing work of Operation Bobbi Bear. Bobbi Bear works in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, which has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world, so on top of the tragedy of a child being raped, there's a good chance that they will be exposed to HIV. In 2015, Operation Bobbi Bear touched the lives of over 20,000 children in the greater Durban area, and with the funds raised through this campaign we hope to dramatically increase that number.
What else is on the horizon this year for Keep a Child Alive?
We are ramping up our efforts to get more children and youth living with HIV into care and on treatment across all our programs. For example, later this year, we will open a model specialty clinic for youth living with HIV in Mombasa, Kenya. While we've made tremendous progress, AIDS is not over. 70% of children living with HIV are not getting the life-saving treatment they need—mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa—and AIDS is the number one killer of adolescents in Africa.
Our annual fundraising gala, the Back Ball, will take place on October 19th at the Manhattan Center/Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. It's always an amazing event hosted by our co-founder Alicia Keys, and one that is filled with inspiring stories showcasing the impact of our work, and a one of a kind concert experience with Alicia and other musical guests. Stay tuned for announcements about guest artists!
How can citizens and activists alike get involved?
The Dare to Bear campaign runs through May 15th and in addition to raising awareness, we are aiming to raise at least $100,000. 100% of donations received as part of this campaign will go directly to Operation Bobbi Bear in South Africa.
Beyond Dare to Bear, we are always looking for new supporters to join our mission. We have an amazing community of people who do fundraising campaigns on our behalf by donating their birthday or wedding, or running the marathon. Alicia was part of our NYC Marathon team last year! We also have a great team of people joining our AIDS Walk NY team this year and would love more people to join. Finally, people can follow us on social media and sign up for our emails to stay connected and get updates from the field.
Keep a Child Alive provides support to community-based programs in Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and India that work tirelessly to provide loving services for children and families living with and affected by HIV and AIDS. In addition to financial support, KCA works hand-in-hand with their local partners to ensure that they have the tools they need to implement impactful and innovative programs. They are currently serving over 70,000 people.
Guest Editorial: Wake-up call on sexual abuse of children
by Debra Todd
As a justice on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, I can state with certainty that no cases have affected me more than those involving the sexual abuse of children. Throughout my 16 years on the appellate bench, I have been astounded by the sheer number of these cases that come before our courts. These are, indeed, the most appalling of crimes, perpetrated upon the most innocent and vulnerable members of our society.
As a judge and as a mother, I am issuing a wake-up call to mothers.
For most of us, the thought of an adult sexually abusing a child is inconceivable. And yet, we judges see cases in our courtrooms that are too horrific to discuss in polite conversation. Regrettably, these stories repeat themselves day after day in our communities. Each year, thousands of Pennsylvania children are victims of sexual abuse. Statistics show that 67 percent of victims are under 18; one-third are under 12; and one in seven cases involves children under 6.
The impact on a child of sexual abuse is profound and long-lasting. And it is often made worse by the conspiracy of silence among adults who look the other way or refuse to believe or protect the child.
Sadly, most instances of child sexual abuse — 88 percent — never come to our attention. Victims may exhibit no physical signs of harm. Fear, secrecy and intense feelings of shame may prevent children, as well as adults aware of the abuse, from seeking help. Furthermore, assaults often go undetected because most occur in the privacy of the home and in the absence of witnesses.
Nearly all offenders — 96 percent — are male, regardless of whether the crime is committed against a girl or a boy. I have observed that a significant percentage of child sexual assault cases involves abuse by the mother's boyfriend, the child's stepfather or even the child's father. This is why my wake-up call is directed to mothers.
Statistics support my observation, revealing that parents and other caretakers commit 26 percent of the sexual assaults on children, and in cases involving children under 7, almost half of the offenders are family members. Sadly, the predator is most often a person the child knows intimately and depends on for love and protection.
For older children, the abuser is predominantly an acquaintance, such as a neighbor or a coach, a parent or stepparent or another relative. Contrary to the perception of many, strangers are the least likely to sexually abuse a child.
Most adults, men and women, who are parenting and nurturing our community's children, are good people and loving caretakers, but some of our children are in jeopardy. Mothers may be too trusting and unaware of the dangers of exposing their children to predatory adults.
These perpetrators may appear to be upstanding members of the community. They may be charming and appear to be genuinely interested in children. Sexual assaults often occur when mothers are at work or asleep and children are left alone with — and at the mercy of — their abuser.
Tragically, sexual abuse can continue for months and even years before it is discovered because children are afraid to speak up. Moreover, sex offenders who victimize children are more than twice as likely to have multiple victims as those who target adults.
In Pennsylvania we strive to protect our children, and we prosecute and punish those who harm them. Our legislature has enacted laws mandating reporting and imposing harsher penalties for sexual crimes against children, and it is incumbent upon the courts to issue sentences that reflect the seriousness of these offenses.
However, the harm to a child cannot be undone, no matter what punishment we impose on the perpetrator. That is why my focus is always on prevention. We must bring this topic out of the shadows, and make certain it stays in the forefront of our public consciousness, however uncomfortable it may be to discuss. Only then can we make progress in protecting our children from the nightmare of sexual abuse.
So, as we anticipate Mother's Day, I urge all mothers to be vigilant in protecting our community's children. Never leave your child in the care of someone whom you do not know well and trust completely. Make sure your children know they can come to you and that you will always keep them safe. Teach them that they have the right to say “no” to physical contact with others. And, if you suspect any child has been abused, please call the police or call ChildLine 1-800-932-0313 (You may remain anonymous).
Sensational cases of child abductions reported by the national media justifiably result in public outrage. Where, however, is the public outrage for the thousands of children abused each year in their own homes? Where are their advocates?
These children too need a voice in the criminal justice system and a place in our public consciousness. Our community's children deserve to feel safe and secure. They deserve the carefree days of youth. Those of us whose voices can be heard must be vigilant in protecting these children — the most vulnerable among us. Our children are entitled to nothing less.
Debra Todd is a justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Prior to her election to the that court in 2007, she served as a judge of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
Erin's Law introduced in New Jersey
by Christine Coppa
From the time my son Jack was around 3, I began having the private parts talk with him.
He knows the parts covered by his underwear and bathing suit aren't for anyone to touch or see — and he knows who safe people are if he ever needs help with something.
These days he's almost 9 and I don't really tag along to play dates anymore, but every time I drop him off, I tell him, if you have to use the bathroom, lock the door and have privacy. No one is allowed in the bathroom with you — not even your friend. He doesn't sleep out ever.
He's grown into quite the little man and doesn't want me near the bathroom when he showers or gets dressed — and I respect that. I'm glad he gets body boundaries and safety — and I'll be pounding it into his head as long as I can.
Bad things happen to children all the time. Unthinkable acts. Nightmares. Innocence lost. Child molestation is an epidemic that needs to end now. Every other headline horrifies the public with another predator taking not just advantage of a child — but everything from a child.
While these inhumane animals may live among us, there is one sexual abuse survivor who has made it her mission to empower children about these evil, sick people and teach them about body safety. Her name is Erin Merryn and she is the founder of Erin's Law.
Erin Merryn from Elgin, Illinois, was just weeks shy of her seventh birthday when she was raped by an adult neighbor.
“It was so brutal I thought I was dying,” Merryn, Glamour magazine's 2012 Woman of the Year, recalled in an interview with the Asbury Park Press. “I remember being so utterly confused.”
The abuse continued until she was almost 9. The man had threatened Merryn that he'd hurt her more if she told anyone.
“No one would believe me,” she recalls this man telling her.
Merryn says her abuse ended when the family moved to a new neighborhood, Schaumburg, Illinois —but she took her secret with her. “Little did I know by moving I was getting that much closer to my next abuser.
“From the age of 11 to 13, I was repeatedly sexually abused at the hands of a family member, an older cousin,” she said. “I found myself locked in bedrooms, basements, bathrooms, a car, garage and repeatedly assaulted by my cousin.”
The cousin used the same tactic as her first abuser — telling her no one would believe her and there was no proof.
“So I stayed silent. The only message I got as a child came from my abusers and that was to stay silent or else,” she said. “I went to bed night after night crying into my pillow having nightmares, and keeping my secrets locked away in my childhood diary.”
Merryn found her voice at 13 when her younger sister said the words she'll never forget: “Brian's gross!”
It turned out cousin Brian was abusing Merryn's little sister, too. Merryn now had a duty as a big sister to protect her younger sibling.
“My parents believed me and my cousin Brian confessed to the police,” she said. “He was given probation and counseling.”
Merryn eventually forgave her cousin.
“Forgiveness is what set me free,” she said. “Choosing to forgive has led me to live for today.”
Erin's Law in N.J.
So far 27 states have passed Erin's Law since 2010. Maryland is the latest state, joining the crusade last month.
Now, thanks to state Sen. Anthony R. Bucco, children of the Garden State may soon benefit from Merryn's harrowing experience, knowledge and hope.
“I wish I could say that Erin's story is uncommon, but that is far from the truth – it's happening right here in our own backyard,” Bucco said.
“More than 90 percent of children who are sexually abused know their attacker,” Bucco said with conviction. “We simply cannot stand by and allow these innocent kids to feel ashamed and live in fear at the hands of their abuser. Ensuring all New Jersey kids have access to age-appropriate sexual abuse prevention education will end the cycle of abuse before it begins. I will fight alongside Erin and the advocates right here in our community until the day that this lifesaving legislation finally becomes law.”
Bucco's bill requires all school districts to incorporate age-appropriate sexual abuse awareness and prevention education in grades preschool through 12 as part of Core Curriculum Content Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education. Bucco introduced Erin's Law (S-2145) on May 2.
Under Erin's Law, the New Jersey Commissioner of Education must provide school districts with age-appropriate sample learning activities and resources designed to implement this requirement. The instruction will be provided by a school nurse who has completed professional development sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention.
Bucco's legislation has received support from prominent victims' rights advocates and support organizations, including Morris County advocate Richard Pompelio; and Patrice Lenowitz, founder and executive director of The Nurtured Parent Support Group for Survivors of Domestic Abuse, a Bergen County organization serving survivors and protective parents across the state.
How to explain Erin's Law to your kids
“I tell parents the best way to talk to kids about this is through the “swimsuit lesson,” Merryn said. “The areas covered by your swimsuit are not for anyone to be touching, unless mommy and daddy are helping you with a bath. If someone ever does touch you in those areas, you tell immediately.”
Merryn suggests the books “The Swimsuit Lesson” and “The Right Touch.”
“I also give lots of insight and resources to parents in my third book “An Unimaginable Act” on warning sings to look for like bed wetting, wearing extra layers of clothes, avoiding a certain person, not wanting to be around them when they had no problem before, academic changes in school, depression, withdrawal, nightmares, aggression; acting out sexually,” she said.
Merryn (whose other books are “Stolen Innocence” and “Living for Today”), the mother of a toddler girl, says this is a conversation parents must have every year and often.
“I also encourage parents to have a code word with their kids,” she said. “If they feel they are in danger or in an uncomfortable situation, they can call home and use the code word, something as simple as, ‘I forgot my math homework at school.' ”
What not to teach kids
“Do not use the phrases ‘good touch' and ‘bad touch,' says Merryn. “Use safe and unsafe touch.
“A safe touch could be a high five or hug — and an unsafe touch is someone touching you in the areas covered by your swimsuit, or your private parts,” Merryn said. “I also tell parents don't give children's private parts pet names. Call it what it is: penis and vagina.”
According to the Office of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's website, the only time that Megan's Law information will be released to parents or families of students is if the school receives a Tier III high risk notice concerning an offender living within a 1,000-foot radius of their location. The school, community organization, day care center, etc. will then mail or hand the parents or responsible adult family member the Megan's Law information. At no time should the school provide the information directly to the student (unless the student is over 18). The parents can then share the information that the schools provided with anyone else in their household.
Erin's Law school program
According to Merryn, every school gets the option to pick a Erin's Law program, and have an outside agency teach. But many schools, she said, are using faculty social workers and psychologists because research shows it's better taught by in-house staff then outside agencies.
“Erin's Law encourages research based curriculum,” Merryn said. “Almost all states that have passed it are using the program, while some states are deciding how their schools will implement It into the curriculum.”
Be proactive and protective
Visit sheriffalerts.com to find out if there are sex offenders in your area. Merryn cautions that you can never just go by how many registered sex offenders are in your area. There are thousands of accused sex offenders every year who are found not guilty living in our communities.
Look out for motels that might house sex offenders.
Motel management is NOT obligated to tell guests sex offenders are next door. So be careful sending little Tommy for ice at the machine down the hall and inform teens who often book motels after prom.
“The fact that a motel is not telling families that sex offenders are living there should be a crime,” Merryn said. “My question to hotel or motel management would be, Why not tell? Are you afraid you will lose business? Putting the lives of children in danger and possibly taking their innocence is worth it? Every parent should do their homework before they send their kids anywhere. These monsters are living in all of our backyards.”
As for Merryn, today she's married, the mother of an almost 2 year old, and expecting her second child in eight weeks.
Can doctor accused of not reporting suspected child abuse be sued?
by Kristine Guerra
Under state law, a person who fails to report suspected child abuse can be charged with a crime, a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. But can that person also be sued for it?
A Shelbyville doctor accused of not reporting suspected abuse of a child, who was later found dead, argues that, based on legal precedent in Indiana, he is immune to a civil lawsuit. A Marion County judge must soon decide whether that is the case.
During a hearing Thursday in Marion Superior Court, Dr. Chris Loman's attorney cited another child-death case in which the Indiana Court of Appeals dismissed a medical malpractice lawsuit filed by the child's mother against a physician who, like Loman, was accused of failing to report and diagnose suspected child abuse. That suit was dismissed because Indiana law does not give a private party the right to sue for failure to report child abuse.
Jerraco Noel sued Loman and a few other defendants in March 2013, a little more than a year after his 1-year-old son, Jayden Noel, was beaten to death by the boy's mother's then-boyfriend. Ryan Worline is now serving a 55-year prison sentence for Jayden's murder.
Noel's attorney, Michael Woody, argued that Loman, who examined Jayden at Major Hospital in Shelbyville six months before his death, saw signs of abuse but failed to report his concerns to the Indiana Department of Child Services or to police, as required by law. Loman also should have warned Chelsea Taylor, Jayden's mother, who was present when the doctor examined the boy, that he did not believe the injuries were accidental, Woody said during the hourlong hearing.
Taylor and her mother took Jayden to Major Hospital in July 2011. The boy had bruises on the right side of his face and a cut on his upper lip. According to the hospital's report, a toy had been accidentally dropped on the boy's head. Loman was "somewhat concerned" about the level of bruising, but he "(does) not feel at this time a state of abuse exists," the report states.
The following month, after the child's father filed a complaint with DCS, Worline told a case worker that he had accidentally dropped a toy on the child's head, according to a report. DCS cleared Worline and Taylor of abuse allegations.
Had Loman not misdiagnosed the abuse, the boy's mother would have had the opportunity to protect her son from Worline, Woody said, and Jayden's death would have been prevented.
In an affidavit, Taylor said that if Loman had told her that her son's July 2011 injuries likely were caused by abuse, she would not have left Jayden alone with Worline.
Woody also argued that the state's malpractice laws do not provide civil immunity for physicians who fail to report suspected child abuse.
"Awarding civil immunity to doctors who commit malpractice by failing to report an infant's abusive head trauma is contrary to public policy," Woody argued in court records.
But Richard Moore, Loman's attorney, said there's no link between the child's murder and the doctor's actions when he examined Jayden.
Jayden was killed on Jan. 17, 2012, when he was left in Worline's care while his mother was at work. Neighbors heard repetitive thumping noises coming from the couple's apartment in Indianapolis, according to court records. Taylor got home from work around 10 p.m., checked on Jayden, who was sleeping in his bedroom, and slept on the sofa.
Taylor woke up the next morning and moved to the bedroom without checking on Jayden, court records state. She found her son unresponsive around noon. A medical examination later revealed that the boy had a fractured skull and likely died around midnight.
A jury convicted Worline of murder in fall 2013. Taylor also was convicted of neglect of a dependent resulting in death. A judge later sentenced her to four years in prison and six years of home detention, followed by probation. But in March 2015, the appeals court threw out Taylor's conviction after finding that prosecutors failed to present enough evidence that she knew of her child's injuries and did not immediately seek medical help.
Loman did not face criminal charges for failing to report suspected child abuse.
DCS and Major Hospital also are defendants in the lawsuit.
Marion Superior Court Judge Timothy Oakes will issue a ruling at a later date.
How children overcome the trauma of abuse, neglect
After two child abuse cases in one week, KSAT looks at effects of abuse
by Courtney Friedman
SAN ANTONIO - Two horrific child abuse cases in one week, are making an impact on the San Antonio community. Children were found tied up in a backyard in one case, and a baby died after allegedly being abused, in another case.
This has raised questions of what happens to children in those situations and how they can ever get over that level of neglect.
"For our staff the first task is to recognize that these children are in distress. So we have to make them feel safe and comfortable immediately," said Children's Shelter Chief Clinical Officer Diana Ochoa-Johnson.
Ochoa-Johnson said once children are removed from their homes, the healing process begins.
Kids removed from homes typically stay at the Children's Shelter for 30 days but they can stay up to 90 days, until they're placed back with their family, with another relative, or with a foster family.
"By the time a child gets hurt so severely that they need to be removed, it's probably been ongoing," Ochoa-Johnson said.
Research shows ongoing trauma can affect children's brain development.
"They're in fight or flight mode because of the trauma. They're focused on survival and so it makes it difficult for them to utilize that part of the brain that helps us listen, communicate, make sense of the world, and build relationships," she explained. %INLINE%
That's why intervention and counseling is crucial.
"If they become adults without ever having dealt with their trauma, we're going to see higher rates of substance abuse, higher rates of depression, anxiety," she said.
Also, there's a higher probability these victims will eventually continue the cycle of abuse. Ochoa-Johnson said one-third of abused children become abusive parents, so it's important to intervene early.
"One of the things that stuck out for me in one of these incidents is that a neighbor heard a child in distress and called the authorities. That's the right thing to do," she said.
Making that call could save a child's life.
"If you see something, do something about it. Even if you're not sure. If you have that gut feeling, call law enforcement."
With counseling and attention, children once caught in violence can begin to heal.
Organizations cautious in improper contact between children and adults
by Elizabeth Pearl
A slew of recent incidents and a growing awareness of the harms of child sexual abuse has local organizations and officials reminding themselves of policies, and constantly watching for inappropriate contact between adults and children.
In recent months, staff members at schools in Zionsville, Indianapolis and Fortville have been accused of sexual misconduct with students, and several arrests — most notably that of former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle — have been made in Boone County on charges of child pornography and child molestation.
In Boone County, the number of substantiated sexual abuse cases has stayed relatively the same over the last few years. In 2014, there were 24 substantiated cases, compared to 19 the year before, according to data from the Indiana Youth Institute. The number of reported cases, however, has increased. In 2010 there were 57 overall reports of child sexual abuse. In 2014, there were 138.
While the data do not show the reasons behind the increased number of reported cases, the institute believe that increased media coverage and public awareness have made people more likely to notice and report abuse.
“I think it's getting more coverage and being reported more,” said Tami Silverman, Indiana Youth Institute CEO. “The definition of child sexual abuse is gaining more widespread understanding. It feels like there's a story every other day, but we don't want folks to feel like there's an epidemic. People are just becoming more aware.”
The Indiana Youth Institute works with organizations to implement policies not just on how to report abuse, but how to ensure that both children and employees are safe from compromising situations, Silverman said. These organizations include not only schools, but churches and other facilities where adults and children consistently interact, Silverman said.
At Freedom Church in Lebanon, volunteers and employees have to go through criminal history checks, as well as training and orientation sessions before they are allowed to work with children.
“We try to be very aware and selective with anyone with influence over the youth,” said Amber Rust, executive assistant at the church.
No adult is allowed to be alone in a room with a child or enter a bathroom with any children, Rust said. Each time the youth group breaks off into private rooms they must have two unrelated adults present, Rust said. It helps that the church is built with an open concept, so that most of the time everyone is within view of each other, she said.
These kinds of policies are important because they keep the children safe, but also the adults who work with them, Silverman said.
“Our first priority is to protect the kids, the second is to negate parent angst, and the third is to protect those youth workers. It isn't fair to all those folks who are doing a great job. That's why we have systems in place where we can stop anything from happening.”
Local school districts also have specific policies in place to do exactly that, both inside the school building and outside. An issue that many school administrators face now is whether or not to allow social media and cellular communication between students and teachers, and how to make sure that that communication remains appropriate.
“The gray area is in the area of technology,” said Lebanon Community School Corp. Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor. “Most teacher-student interaction occurs during the school day or in extracurriculars. It's very structured and well-defined. With social media now… there are no verbal cues. When we text or talk on Facebook, there's no context to filter the intent of the communication. So if anything falls in the gray area, it can be considered either inappropriate or appropriate.”
The school encourages teachers, if they plan to text with students, to include the parent in the text conversation. They also discourage teachers from allowing students to see their personal Facebook page, in case of inappropriate or personal content, Taylor said. Inside the school building, teachers are not allowed to give students rides home and should be cautious and conscientious when meeting privately with students, he said.
At the Western Boone Community School Corp., the policies for student-teacher interaction are laid out in the teacher and school board handbooks. Teachers are not to give personal gifts to students, go to a student's home when they know the parents are not home, give students rides in personal vehicles, discuss personal topics or allow certain students to misbehave in ways not allowed to others.
Just as important as laying out communication policies to teachers is informing them on how to report suspicion or evidence of abuse to the proper authorities, Silverman said. People tend to hold back their suspicions, fearing that they'll be wrong. But where sexual abuse is considered, immediate reporting, especially in a school environment, is a legal obligation.
“The bottom line is just report it,” Silverman said. “If it doesn't go anywhere, it doesn't. That is something that requires an immediate response. Everyone should be clear on that.”
At Lebanon schools, teachers are reminded at the beginning and throughout the school year of their obligation to report suspicion of abuse, Taylor said. In light of cases in Indianapolis and Fortville, where administrators failed to immediately report suspicion to law enforcement, Taylor said that Lebanon schools recently went over the policies with administrators.
“If we encounter any suspicion, our position is we aren't there to investigate, we're there to notify,” Taylor said. “In this day and age, the response has to be immediate notification. If the accusation is unfounded, we can always follow with an apology. We don't have the luxury to say ‘I'm going to check this out and make sure it's not a rumor.'”
Taylor said that he expects administrators to notify law enforcement or child services before they even tell him, he said.
Western Boone will also refresh staff on its policies at an upcoming teacher meeting, said Superintendent Dr. Judi Hendrix. The policy for reporting states that staff members with “reason to believe that a child is a victim of child abuse or neglect shall make an immediate oral report to the school building principal.” The principal must then immediately report the information to law enforcement or child services.
In a recent school newsletter, Taylor also outlined for parents the importance of establishing rules for their kids when they go online, and being aware of what they do online and on their phones.
“That's a tough one sometimes, because we don't want to encroach on their privacy,” he said. “But it's the responsibility of every adult to ensure that their child is not making poor choices. It's the responsibility of parents and guardians to manage and check children's social media.”
Silverman warned all youth workers and parents to be on the lookout with every child, because abuse is not something that happens to one type of kid and not another.
“This can affect everyone,” she said. “There's no place it doesn't happen.”
Demand for child abuse help rises
by Kat Russell
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 1,923 children in the United States are abused or neglected daily, resulting in at least four child deaths each day.
In Kentucky, Child Protective Services fielded more than 54,100 reports of child abuse or neglect in 2015. Of those, 15,100 reports involving 26,952 children were found substantiated.
Locally, Child Watch Counseling and Advocacy Center, a nonprofit organization, works closely with children and non-offending caregivers to treat and prevent child maltreatment.
On average, the center sees about 425 clients each year, said Executive Director Lee Emmons. Of those, about 200 are children who have survived abuse or neglect, and the demand for services is steadily increasing.
"We have a huge demand," she said. "In one day, just a couple weeks ago, we got calls for eight new clients needing services and we already had a waiting list."
In just three months, between October and December of 2015, Emmons said the center treated 212 children.
Of those, 118 were victims of physical abuse or neglect, 47 were survivors of sexual abuse, 26 were victims of domestic or family violence, 15 were subjected to emotional or mental abuse and six were survivors of domestic violence homicides.
"One of those (homicide) cases involved siblings who were present when their mom's boyfriend murdered their grandfather," Emmons said. "Another case involves a child who was abused to the point where the child died, traumatizing the child's siblings."
Emmons said Child Watch focuses on three primary areas: treatment, court advocacy and education/prevention.
"We have three primary programs," she said. "One being mental health counseling for child victims of abuse or neglect. Clients come from as many as 12 counties for that service."
The second program, Emmons said, is the Court Appointed Special Advocate program - or CASA - which is exclusive to McCracken County.
"We recruit, train and supervise volunteer advocates who look out for the best interest of children whose cases are in court due to abuse or neglect," she said. "That advocate provides an independent, objective view about what is in the child's best interest and presents that to the court."
The third program deals with education and prevention. Emmons said each year, the center sends an education advocate and volunteers to as many as 20 elementary schools in 10 counties to talk to students about abuse and prevention.
These programs include talks on body boundaries and safety, Internet and texting safety, telling an adult when abuse is present and speaking up when abuse is suspected.
The center provides similar information to adult caregivers, Emmons said.
"Child protection, child safety, abuse prevention cannot be left only to children," she said. "It is ultimately the responsibility of adults to protect children. But it is also very important to empower children with information so they can contribute to self-protection. It's essential for children to have the information, but it needs to be one piece of the prevention effort."
The most prevalent form of abuse is neglect, Emmons said. Physical abuse is the second most common type of abuse, she said, followed by sexual abuse and then emotional or psychological abuse.
Much like domestic violence, Emmons said child abuse is usually shrouded in secrecy and often goes unreported, which allows the abuse to continue. The key to breaking that cycle, she said, is speaking up, creating awareness, and educating the community on what signs to look for and how to prevent abuse.
"Nobody likes to talk about child abuse," she said. "Nobody likes to think about child abuse. It's horrifying, it's sad, it's traumatic, and yet talking about it - bringing awareness to the fact that it exists right here in Paducah and every community around us - is the only way to have a positive effect on it. Abuse can only continue to happen if it is kept secret."
The most obvious sign of abuse Emmons said is typically unexplained injuries or marks. But there are less obvious signs, too. A child could be scared to be alone with a certain person, there could be a change in the child's behavior or the child could show signs of illness, anxiety, depression or withdrawal.
In cases where a child might exhibit one or some of those signs, Emmons encourages the observer to talk to the child "on the child's level" and ask gentle questions to see if anything is wrong.
"Child abuse is one of the, if not the most, egregious acts that is totally preventable, but it really does take the whole community," Emmons said. "We say thing like the children are our future or our most important resources, but out allocation of public and local funding does not back that up. We have to ensure that financial resources, and human and community resources, are available to continuously address child abuse prevention and treatment."
Schools destroyed child abuse reports, lawsuit claims
by Brett Kelman
A 13-year-old boy who was molested by a Palm Springs Unified special education aide has filed a lawsuit accusing the school district of “turning a blind eye” to the sexual abuse, then destroying evidence in an effort to cover up the fact that at least some of the abuse occurred on school property.
The lawsuit claims that the school district ignored reports of abuse and misconduct implicating John David Yoder, the aide who was later convicted of child molestation. The district later destroyed child abuse reports about Yoder in an effort to “avoid scandal,” the lawsuit states, ultimately making it harder for police to investigate Yoder.
The lawsuit does not explain how the boy's attorneys can back up the allegation that the school district received or destroyed reports about Yoder. Greg Owen, lead attorney for the boy, declined to be interviewed.
The suit also targets Desert Hot Springs, claiming the city did nothing to prevent predators from targeting children at city-run skate parks. Yoder and other members of a child porn ring preyed upon the unsupervised children at these parks by pretending to be from a modeling agency.
Yoder, 43, was removed from the school district last January after he was arrested in what law enforcement called one of the worst child exploitation cases in Southern California in recent years. Yoder was convicted of 10 felony counts, including child molestation, human trafficking and criminal conspiracy in February, and is now facing more than 20 years in prison.
Desert Hot Springs City Attorney Steve Quintanilla dismissed the allegations as meritless. Palm Springs Unified forwarded interview requests to their attorney, who did not respond to messages left on his phone.
Prosecutors argued at trial that Yoder, who was a foster parent and adoptive father, used the kids in his care to recruit new victims into a child pornography ring, which preyed upon neighborhood boys in Desert Hot Springs.
Yoder also repeatedly molested a special needs child who lived with him. That boy, whose name is not public because he is a victim of a sex crime, is the plaintiff in the lawsuit that was filed Monday in Riverside County Superior Court.
The lawsuit claims that Palm Springs Unified received reports of sexual abuse or misconduct that “involved or implicated Yoder.” These reports were either received before Yoder was employed by the district or pertained to misconduct from before he was hired, according to the language of the lawsuit, which is not clear. Either way, Yoder was kept in a classroom with children despite the reports.
The suit also says district destroyed “school reports” and Suspected Child Abuse Reporting System reports about Yoder.
“Such actions were motivated by a desire to protect the reputation of (the school district) and to protect the monetary support of PSUSD, while fostering an environment where such abuse could continue to occur,” the lawsuit states.
The allegations in this lawsuit are similar to the findings of a 2015 Desert Sun investigation that revealed how Child Protective Services (CPS) had overlooked signs of abuse in Yoder's home. More than a month before the child porn ring was discovered, CPS received a tip that Yoder was molesting the same child who is now suing Palm Springs Unified. In the resulting investigation, social workers searched Yoder's computer, finding pictures of children — who were not Yoder's children — posing in their underwear. Despite the photos, the investigators closed the case as "inconclusive" and left the boys in Yoder's home. If the investigators had acted differently, the boys may have been rescued six weeks earlier.
The boy behind the lawsuit first met Yoder in 2013 while attending school at the Center of Learning and Development, a Palm Springs Unified campus for special needs children in Desert Hot Springs. Yoder, who worked at the center as a classroom aide, quickly took an “unusual interest” in the boy, but the school district did not intervene, the lawsuit claims.
Eventually, the boy's mother raised concerns that Yoder was spending large amounts of time alone with her son at the center. The school district reprimanded Yoder for spending “too much time” with the boy, the suit states, but Yoder was still allowed to have “direct and unfettered contact” with the child.
It was during this alone time, under the district's watch at the center, when Yoder began molesting the boy, the lawsuit claims. The on-campus abuse began in January 2013 and continued until July 2013, when the center closed, and both Yoder and the boy were transferred to a different school.
This lawsuit is the first time that it has been alleged that Yoder's molestation occurred on school district property while he was working with students. The school district has said previously that all of Yoder's crimes happened off-campus, and that he was never left alone with students. At trial, prosecutors focused on what happened at Yoder's home, often behind a locked bedroom door, not in the classroom.
The other known members of Yoder's porn ring are Erick Monsivais and Noland Harper, who have confessed to their crimes and facing decades in prison. The suspected ringleader, William Clyde Thompson, is denying the allegations in local and federal court.
The porn ring approached most of its victims at one of two Desert Hot Springs skate parks – Frank Hodge Skate Park or Guy J. Tedesco Park.
The lawsuit claims that Desert Hot Springs officials should have known that these parks were “likely to attract” child predators, and therefore had a duty to protect the children that gathered there. The suit also alleges that at least some of Yoder's abuse occurred at each park.
Quintanilla, the Desert Hot Springs attorneys, said the allegations against the city were meritless because the city “does not keep tabs” on everyone who uses the park facilities. Even if it did, Yoder would not have raised alarms because he was not a registered sex offender at the time.
“It was a tragedy that this pedophile was out in the community without anyone's knowledge other than his helpless victims,” Quintanilla said. “As such, it is a long stretch to assume that the city had knowledge that there was a specific pedophile out there stalking innocent children in or around public property such as the skate park.”
“Suing the taxpayers is certainly not the answer to this tragic situation particularly when the City did not know and could not know the subject individual was a danger to the community.”
DCS improving on backlogged child abuse cases
by Melissa Blasius
Child welfare workers are trying to turn things around after their agency just hit a major milestone by reducing their backlog of cases to under the 10,000 mark. That's a 40 percent reduction since February of 2015, when the Department of Child Safety had 16,200 backlogged cases.
The backlogged cases are those of alleged child abuse or neglect, opened by DCS, which have gone more than two months without any review or action.
As those results are released this week, ABC15 is getting a rare inside look at how to fix our child welfare system.
“We understand the scrutiny,” assistant program manager Kelly Jaress said. “We welcome it. We are always looking for ways to do things in a better way to work smarter not harder.”
DCS invited our cameras into its Tempe office this week to see a twist on a work party. Managers stocked up on free pizza, cookies and gift baskets to encourage the whole staff to stay late.
The goal of the party was to close 50 backlogged cases. Case managers spent the evening reviewing police reports, school assessments and court records. They finished paperwork and met with their managers for a final review.
DCS officials said being able to clear their plates by closing cases allows then to be ready for the constant influx of new families needing intervention.
“We want to spend our time with the families, with the kids,” Jaress said. “We want to help them. When we leave, we want them to be in a better position than when we came involved.”
Officials seek to expand mandatory reporter list, training to curb child abuse
by Katie Lannan
BOSTON — With an eye toward protecting children from abuse, officials at two separate Statehouse events Wednesday pitched updates to the state's mandated reporter system — a new training program for reporters and a legislative proposal that would add more personnel to their ranks.
State law charges an array of people whose jobs may put them in contact with children with reporting suspected cases of abuse or neglect to the Department of Children and Families. The list of mandated reporters includes doctors, dentists, nurses and certain other health care professionals; public and private school teachers, counselors and administrators; early education staff; social workers; clergy members; firefighters and police officers.
Foxborough officials, looking to prevent abuse cases like one that shocked their community, joined Rep. Jay Barrows at a hearing to make their case to add public employees, volunteers and all school employees to the list.
Later in the day, Attorney General Maura Healey and Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan announced a new online program intended to educate mandated reporters in recognizing signs of abuse, neglect and exploitation.
"The public may not appreciate the scope of who really is a mandated reporter in this state ... whether we're talking about teachers or substitutes or coaches even, it's an ever-evolving rotation of persons who are really charged with the most serious of responsibilities," Healey said. "Today is about giving those entrusted with serious responsibility the tools that they need to do what they need to do."
Open to mandated reporters statewide and to the general public, the free online program is available in 22 languages and accessible on phones, tablets and computers, Ryan said. The training includes "pop quiz questions," case studies and information on DCF policies.
"If you are an 11-7 nurse working at a hospital far out in the reaches of the commonwealth, you can go online at 12:30 in the morning when you have a break and take this training, so that is an important step forward," Ryan said.
During her announcement, Ryan encouraged people already trained as mandated reporters to try the new program and challenge themselves to see what they know.
In Foxborough, a local committee spent three years examining reporting requirements and developing new policies for the town after allegations surfaced in 2012 that a teacher who also served as a scout leader and coach had sexually abused dozens of boys in the 1960s and 1970s.
"We have learned in Foxborough, the hard way, that ignorance is not bliss," Rev. Bill Dudley told the Legislature's Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities.
Dudley and others from Foxborough urged lawmakers to support a home rule petition (H 4912), based on the local group's recommendations, that would designate as mandated reporters all public and private school employees in the town, paid workers and volunteers at all Foxborough child care facilities, municipal employees and "all volunteers who regularly work with children in Foxborough-based teams and organizations."
Selectman Jim DeVellis said the town is seeking to "broaden and strengthen" the existing mandated reporter network because people there "want to train everybody" to report suspected abuse.
Barrows, a Mansfield Republican, and Sen. James Timilty, a Walpole Democrat, sponsored the Foxborough bill. Barrows also filed a bill (H 4247) taking the proposed changes to the state level, which would make mandated reporters out of all state employees, employees at Massachusetts schools and child care centers, and volunteers who work with kids.
"If I'm a private citizen and I'm not a youth coach and I'm not this and I'm not that and I see something going on, don't I have a societal obligation to say, that's not right?" Barrows told the News Service. "When you put it in that context, it probably should be all of us, but you can't legislate everything, so this is just an attempt to kind of poke away at it."
Sex abuse victims, lawmakers push for right to sue molesters
New Yorkers who were molested as children joined lawmakers and advocates in a two-day rally for lifting the state's statute of limitations on suing abusers, saying the law closing the window at age 23 guarantees many more young victims.
Their effort has faced years of opposition from the Catholic Church and other institutions.
Lawmakers said prospects are improving with a recent change in legislative leadership in Albany. They also cited Massachusetts' passage two years ago of a similar measure and the recent Academy Award-winning film "Spotlight" about priests sexually abusing boys in Boston.
The film was being shown Wednesday near the Capitol.
"I think we have some movement on the bill," Assemblywoman Margaret Markey said Wednesday. The Queens Democrat has repeatedly introduced legislation that hasn't advanced, but which currently has 61 co-sponsors in the 150-seat Assembly.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, has said the bill will be discussed in the majority Democratic Conference this year, a spokesman said Wednesday. The legislative session ends in June.
A dozen victims who spoke at an earlier forum recounted sex abuse by youth coaches, Catholic and Jewish clergy and older family members. Most said it took years into adulthood to even begin to process what happened and that the scars are lasting.
While the lawsuits claim emotional, physical and psychological harm, the more critical point is to publicly identify serial predators and to stop them from hurting more children, several victims said.
"Children have a right to be protected," said Kathryn Robb, a legislative advocate of Massachusetts Citizens for Children. The 2014 law enacted there expanded the window for civil suits against individual abusers for victims from age 21 to 53. However, it doesn't similarly allow victims over 21 to retroactively sue their abusers' supervisors or institutions that employed them, something done to overcome Catholic bishops' opposition.
Markey's legislation would end New York's statute of limitations for bringing civil lawsuits against sex predators of victims under 18. It would also establish a one-year lookback where cases could be brought for abuse years ago.
Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, has introduced a companion bill that would also allow such suits against public institutions, including schools and state and local governments, addressing one of the arguments by private institutions that they were unfairly singled out.
A spokesman for the Senate's majority Republicans said Wednesday they're reviewing the bill.
The New York State Catholic Conference said it supports increasing the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse, both criminally and civilly, going forward, but opposes legislation that would reopen claims from decades ago, spokesman Dennis Poust said.
Both Markey and Hoylman declined Wednesday to back off on enabling lawsuits against institutions. Their cover-ups enabled the abuse and protected predators, Markey said.
Females are the most frequent victims, though gay, lesbian and disabled children are also frequently targeted, said Marci Hamilton, a legal scholar and author. She tracks the issue in 50 states on a website called sol-reform.com. About one-third of cases involve abuse by older minors, and 37 states have no statute of limitations on criminal prosecutions for child sex abuse, she said.
Her research shows New York's law among the most restrictive, while several states - California, Delaware, Minnesota, Hawaii, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Georgia - have enacted various laws in the past 15 years to expand time frames for victim lawsuits.
Clearfield man charged with 1,215 counts of child sex abuse reaches plea agreement
by Jeff Corcino
Franklin W. Wilson, 42, of Clearfield/Lawrence Township, who was charged with 1,215 counts of child abuse for sexually abusing six girls — starting in 2001 and lasting until 2015 — reached a plea agreement with the commonwealth on Tuesday.
The details of the plea are not available, but he was ordered to undergo a pre-sentence investigation and undergo a Megan's Law evaluation to determine if he is a sexually violent predator.
Five victims testified in open court during Wilson's preliminary hearing last September, stating they had been sexually abused by Wilson.
The victims gave graphic and emotional testimony about how Wilson raped and molested them, oftentimes over a period of years.
Victim No. 1 stated that Wilson molested her for 10 years starting when she was 6 years old and the abuse became more violent as she became older. She said the occurrences grew to be almost daily, and Wilson threatened to kill her family if she told anyone about the abuse.
The other four victims were friends of victim No. 1, and they testified that when they were young, Wilson raped or molested them when they visited victim No. 1 at her home.
The sixth victim did not testify in open court due to her age. District Judge Richard Ireland cleared the courtroom when she testified.
Wilson was arrested after victim No. 6 reported that Wilson had sexually abused her in December of 2014 when she was 10.
While investigating the abuse of victim No. 6, the Lawrence Township Police Department interviewed the other five victims and discovered that they too had been abused by Wilson.
Wilson was scheduled to go on trial on May 16 in front of Judge Paul Cherry.
Wilson had been charged with 1,215 counts of child-related sex abuse.
Strength and survival: State and local agencies reach out to help victims move forward with their lives
by CHRIS MCGUINNESS
Last year Santa Maria had one of the highest homicide rates in its history. In its wake family, friends, and loved ones were left to pick up the pieces. Often, there are unplanned burial expenses, unpaid bills, relocation, and needed services to help them with emotional and mental health.
In the case of sex crimes, assault, and child abuse, it's the victims themselves who neeed those services.
The trauma of those crimes is hard for a victim to move past.
In November 2015, a young woman sitting on the stand in SLO County Superior Court speaks so softy she can barely be heard.
She casts her eyes down at the carpeted floor of the courtroom and tells a room full of strangers about the four days she spent as a teenage sex slave, being coerced into having sex with a man named Richard Scott Brooks.
“I think from the beginning, he told me that I was basically his property,” she says.
The jury and members of the media watch as she talks about how Brooks had sex with her while she was unconscious and later arranged for her to have sex with another man, Oscar Higueros Jr., for money. Later, she will have to watch as prosecutors show her and the jury large, sexually explicit photos of her found in Brook's possession.
She shares all this knowing that she will have to go through it again after Brooks' trial, when she will be called to testify against Higueros.
The woman, referred to only as Jane Doe, is one of the many victims who pass through SLO County's justice system. The process can be harrowing and terrifying. Even when justice is served (both Brooks and Higueros were found guilty), those victims must continue to live their lives—to piece themselves back together and plow forward with life.
In that case, the SLO County District Attorney's Office Victim and Witness Assistance Center stepped in. Crewed by a tireless group of dedicated staff members, the department's mission is to guide victims through the court process and connect them with vital services to help them move on.
“We are there to support them,” Diana McPartlan, SLO County's victims and witness assistance director, told the Sun.
The center serves victims and families impacted by crimes including assault, robbery, domestic violence, rape, child abuse, and even homicide. Last year alone, McPartlan's department worked with more than 6,400 victims.
Local victim advocates assist them in obtaining a number of services, which are paid or reimbursed through a special fund from the California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP). The program allows victims to file claims for those critical services, including money for medical and dental expenses for injured victims, compensation for lost wages, therapy and mental health counseling, relocation expenses, and even funeral and burial expenses for victims of homicide and manslaughter.
“No one plans to be a crime victim,” said Julie Nauman, executive officer for the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board. “Often, they don't have any resources to cover the cost of what has happened to them.”
The state's program, established in 1965, is funded by restitution fines, penalties, and assessments levied against individuals convicted of crimes and traffic offenses in California, as well as some federal funding.
Naumann said that the number of applications they received from Santa Barbara County has been pretty stable, meaning no real increase or decreases. However, 2015 did see a small spike in applications for services related to homide, because they do pay for homicide burial. But numbers for medical assistance decreased 2015 over 2014, which Naumann attributes likely to the Affordable Care Act and people getting their medical needs that way.
In all, the department received 831 applications for assistance and approved 95 percent of them. Of those 388—or 44 percent—were for services for victims of assault, and 199—or 23 percent—were for child abuse. Another 84—or 10 percent- were for homicide and 71 applications—or 8 percent—were for sexual assault.
In the same year, CalVCP processed 362 applications for victim compensation from SLO County. About 93 percent of those applications were approved, according to data provided by the department. Of those applications 176, or 49 percent, of them were services for victims of assault. Another 19 percent were for services and compensation related to child abuse.
Many of those seeking compensation in SLO County became victims at the hands of other family members. McPartlan said many people the county assists in getting services through CalVCP and elsewhere are the victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.
“There are over 800 domestic violence cases and 150 sexual assault cases sent to the [SLO County] District Attorney each year,” McPartlan said. “That's not including kids.”
Whatever kind of crime they experienced, many of those victims seek to heal themselves both physically and mentally from the trauma they endured. McPartlan said the most common services people seek compensation for are medical and counseling assistance.
According to the CalVCP data obtained by the Sun, more than $103,000 of the $463,002 in total victim compensation claims paid out in SLO County covered medical expenses. The state also paid out more than $194,000—a little more than 42 percent—for mental health services to SLO County crime victims in 2015.
In Santa Barbara County, a total of $664,671 was paid out in 2015, with $345,077 going to mental health services. That number is approximately 52 percent of the victim compensation paid that year.
That's followed by $119,132, or 18 percent, for medical services.
“One of the No. 1 services is mental health counseling,” McPhartlan said.
Coping with trauma
The fact that therapy and counseling top the list for crime victims' services isn't a surprise to Matthew Chirman. Chirman is a licensed therapist with Tidelands Counseling in SLO, and works with individuals recovering from domestic violence, child abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other trauma.
Chirman said that the trauma of a crime can affect nearly every interaction a victim has with the world around them.
“I think the most devastating impact it has is that it changes the way people see the world,” he said. “A lot of us go along feeling like the world is a pretty safe place, but a violent crime can really shatter that perception of the world.”
The negative impact of violent crime can be even more difficult in cases of domestic abuse and sexual assault, where the perpetrator is often someone the victim knows, such as a spouse, friend, or family member.
“That makes the dynamic much more complicated. Trust becomes the big issue,” Chirman said. “It is someone that you love and hopefully trust, and when that trust has been violated, it makes relationships and moving forward extremely difficult.”
Whether it occurs at the hands of someone familiar or a stranger, Chirman said that many survivors of violent crime also deal with feelings of guilt, wrestling with thoughts that they might somehow be to blame for what happened to them. Talk to Chirman about the issue, and one word that comes up over and over again is “trust.”
“They need to learn to trust again,” Chirman said. “And it's a slow process.”
It's that trust that civil servants like McPartlan and Nauman hope to restore in victims by connecting them to important services like those Chirman offers.
While there's no arguing that there's a need to provide crime victims with access to therapy, medical care, and other services, the number applying for help under the CalVCP program in Santa Barbara County was decreasing prior to 2013.
According to data obtained by the Sun, applications topped out in the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Although there were fewer applications filed during the 2008-2009 fiscal year, more compensation was doled out. CalVCP statistics show $1.42 million in compensation was paid out in 2009-2010, but for the 942 applications filed in 2008-2009, $1.44 million in compensation was awarded.
In the 2012-2013 fiscal year, victims in Santa Barbara County filed 770 applications and more than $900,000 was paid out. For the 2014 calendar year, 897 applications were filed, but only $649,000 was paid out. In 2015, 831 applications were filed and only $664,000 was paid out.
Ultimately, the decision to approve a victim's compensation claim is made by the state. McPartlan said she's seen the amount of money the state program pays out in claims fluctuate over the years.
“I think [the state] got really strict on what they were approving,” she said. “They were kind of on a rollercoaster.”
However, Naumann said changes in legislation could increase the number of applications approved and of the amount of money paid out for services.
Nauman added that CalVCP was committing to raising awareness about the program and the services available to victims, encouraging them to be aware of their rights and to reach out for the help they need.
“We do a lot of outreach,” Nauman said. “We want applications to come in.”
Looking to the future
That outreach is becoming more important than ever, especially when it comes to getting the word out to populations that are underserved. According to Nauman, those groups are usually people in the community who either don't know about the program or don't want to access services. People with disabilities, non-English speaers, the elderly, and Native American and triabal peoples often fall into this category, as do non-English speakers and the homeless.
The program must also serve the needs of victims of emerging and new crimes, such as human trafficking and online stalking and harassment.
“We try to be responsive to the way society develops, and how those changes can result in victimization,” Nauman said.
With the state's victim compensation program more than 50 years old, the need to keep pace with new developments, changes, and the needs of victims is ever-present. One way it hopes to keep pace with the changing times is through recently passed and proposed legislation meant to update services, make access for victims easier, and to keep up with the rising cost of the services they need.
In October of 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1140 into law. The bill improves access to several benefits, including increasing the limit on victim relocation benefits from $2,000 to $4,500 and raising the total award limit from $63,00 to $70,000. The bill also allows for victims to be reimbursed for lost wages when they have to attend medical, mental health, and other appointments.
The bill also modernized the program to stay abreast of growing crime trends, allowing for compensation for an emotional injury incurred by victims of child pornography and for the crime of “cyber exploitation.”
Even with the bill freshly signed into law, there's already another proposed bill aiming to further retool victim compensation in California.
Introduced by Rep. Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), AB 2160 aims to remove barriers to compensation for some victims. That includes providing reimbursement for victims' transportation and child-care costs, among other changes to CalVCP.
“AB 2160 helps California meet the needs of crime victims and their advocates,” Bonta said in a written statement issued shortly after the bill's introduction. “From the woman who stays with her abusive spouse because she can't afford to leave, to the single father who is missing work to care for a child who witnessed gun violence.”
Bonta's bill was introduced in February of this year and is still working its way through the state's legislative process.
A local impact
As officials and employees like Nauman work to raise awareness and administer the state's compensation program to victims, and legislators like Bonta try to keep the program relevant, funded, and effective through the machinations of California's legislative process, the ultimate hope is that their efforts will yield a direct impact for victims.
Naumann called Santa Barbara and SLO County's District Attorney's Office and victim's rights advocate workers “real champions” of victims rights.
Their work is critical for survivors like the young woman victimized by Richard Scott Brooks and Oscar Higueros Jr.
Services are confidential, but at a recent SLO County Board of Supervisors meeting, another woman made it clear just how important those services are to victims and their families.
She is the mother of a young daughter who was one of three minors sexually assaulted by a family member. She wiped tears from her eyes as she appeared before supervisors on April 4 and described the impact that the crime and subsequent criminal justice process, which took nearly two years, had on herself and her young daughter. She called it “devastating and scary.”
What got them through, she said, was the center's staff members, who were with them for every step of that process.
“They quickly became a safe place we could rely on, especially when we felt alone and defeated,” she said. “Without this program, we would have certainly succumbed to the legal process. Our family could not have gone through the process without them fighting for us.”
Later at the meeting, McPartlan spoke, and asked her staff to stand up so the board and others could recognize them for their work with the county's crime victims. There were only a few of them in attendance to do so.
“A lot of our staff are in court,” she explained, sounding not at all apologetic.
Nine additional former Eagleton School staffers facing assault charges
by Derek Gentile
GREAT BARRINGTON — Nine more employees at the former Eagleton School have been charged in connection with the alleged abuse and injury to former students of the facility.
Eight were arraigned in Southern Berkshire District Court on Monday. A warrant is out for the arrest of a ninth who did not show up.
This brings to 16 the number of Eagleton employees who have been charged in the case. The residential school for boys with special needs was closed last month following a state-led multi-agency investigation.
Its 42 students have been relocated to other facilities or schools.
A police raid on Jan. 30 triggered the investigation, which, according to state officials, revealed a schoolwide pattern of abuse, reportedly over the course of several years.
The investigation, according to police, remains ongoing.
Four of the defendants charged Monday are from Berkshire County. They are Eric D. Williams, 34, Derek L. Saunders, 42, and Alexis Lopez, 23, all of Pittsfield; and Martin G. Schmidt, Jr., 46, of Lenox.
Williams faces one count of assault and battery and assault and battery on a disabled person. Saunders faces the same charges plus assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Schmidt is charged with three counts each of assault and battery and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Lopez faces six counts each of assault and battery and assault and battery on a disabled person, as well as one count of assault and battery with intent to inflict injury.
Also arraigned were Michael Bell, 44, of Watervliet, N.Y., who was charged with one count each of assault and battery; Justin Senecal, 26, of Palmer, one count each of assault and battery on a disabled person; assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and assault and battery with intent to cause injury.
Darien C. Sinclair, 24, of Albany, N.Y., was charged with three counts each of assault and battery and assault and battery on a disabled person and Christopher O. Welch, 24, of also of Watervliet was charged with one count each of assault and battery and assault and battery on a disabled person.
Isaac H. Harris-El, 41, of Watervliet, was also summonsed but did not appear in court.
He faces the most charges: six counts each of assault and battery and assault and battery on disabled person and one count each of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, attempting to intimidate a victim or witness and assault and battery with intent to cause injury.
All eight defendants pleaded not guilty and were all released on their own recognizance.
Judge Paul Vrabel scheduled a pre-trial conference in the case for June 9.
Daily News' front page story inspires Queens mom to fight for justice for victims of child abuse
by MICHAEL O'KEEFFE, LARRY MCSHANE
Queens mom Ana Wagner saw the Daily News front page urging New York politicians to hold child predators accountable — and took off for Albany.
“The whole day just changed,” said Wagner, 35, who brought a roomful of abuse survivors and Child Victims Act advocates to tears Tuesday afternoon with her tale of a predatory adult from her past.
Wagner made the trip north because she knew the people at the round table on child sexual abuse would believe her long-suppressed story.
And Wagner, assaulted by a friend of her father at age 9, made a point about the importance of changing the state's statute of limitations when it comes to child molesters.
“At 26, I finally got the courage to make a report,” she said. “But the police told me it was too late. (The report) is just sitting there, collecting dust.”
Her surprise appearance and moving recollection highlighted the first day of a two-day lobbying effort aimed at persuading state legislators to pass the bill first introduced in 2006. It has never passed.
Under current state law, victims have until their 23rd birthday to file a civil suit or bring criminal charges against their attackers.
Wagner told abuse survivor Ronald Savage — whose teary face appeared on Tuesday's front page — that he inspired her impromptu road trip.
“I appreciate you coming here to support me,” replied Savage, 50, before sharing a hug with her. “This is a fight for all victims of sexual abuse.”
Savage told The News he was abused by hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa. He was one of a growing number of abuse victims who shared their stories with The News.
Fellow survivor Kathryn Robb, abused as a kid on Long Island, moved to Massachusetts and helped reform that state's handling of such cases.
Victims there can file criminal charges there for up to 27 years after their 16th birthday — two decades longer than in New York.
“New York is living in the Dark Ages,” Robb, 56, said. “I want to ask the leaders, ‘Where are you?' ... Every time we close the courthouse doors to victims, we allow abusers to abuse again and again.”
Marci Hamilton, a University of Pennsylvania law professor and victim advocate, said New York ranks among the worst three states in the nation when it comes to this issue.
Wagner was headed to a Long Island gym Tuesday but instead dropped off her three kids with her mom and made the three-hour journey once she saw The News.
She stressed that changing the law to allow civil and criminal charges against accused molesters without a cutoff date had nothing to do with collecting a cash settlement.
“Who cares about money?” she asked. “You want to blacklist them, so people know to keep their kids away.”
Wagner told the crowd in the state Legislative Office Building about how the older man molested her inside her dad's print shop, groping her and forcing her to touch him.
As is typical of adult predators, he swore Wagner to secrecy — in her case, making her promise on a Bible not to tell her parents. He continued to touch her inappropriately over the years.
The victims weren't alone in making the trip to the state capital in support of the bill. Jewish and black religious leaders joined the lobbying effort.
“It is time for the religious leaders ... to stop playing games and get onboard with the Child Victims Act,” said longtime bill advocate Mark Meyer Appel.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said the legislators needed to listen to the people targeted by the sexual perverts as kids.
“I thank the survivors for taking on the taboo that you are not supposed to talk about childhood sexual abuse,” said the Manhattan Democrat.
“Martin Luther King said justice delayed is justice denied,” he added. “The truth is justice is being denied to hundreds and hundreds of sex abuse survivors in New York State.”
On Wednesday morning, members of the Catholic Coalition of Conscience will hold a half-hour “walking vigil” outside the entrance to the state Capitol in support of the legislation.
“We ask our legislators, ‘Which side are you on: Children or predators?'" the group said in a statement. “It's time for a vote.”
Continue to break the silence of assault, abuse
by BB Beltran and Katie Gatlin
Another April has gone by — another Child Abuse Prevention Month, and another Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We can be sure that next April we will be marking those observances again, because no one will be able to claim that all child abuse has been prevented, or that awareness of sexual assault is as full as it could possibly be. In 11 months, we'll be back.
Why do those of us who work on these issues take the time to get proclamations signed and promote awareness? One reason is that these issues can become lost in the multitude of other important things we face each day. We focus on these issues to remind us of their significance.
One in three adult Lane County residents has experienced child abuse or neglect, according to the University of Oregon Center for the Prevention of Abuse and Neglect. One in four women, and 1 in 12 men, has experienced a sexual assault.
Lane County, like everywhere else, is composed of people who struggle across a lifetime with the effects of being harmed, most often by someone they knew and very often by someone they loved.
You are most likely working with, friends of, and/or related to someone who has experienced child abuse or sexual assault.
So we talk about these things every April. We call this “breaking the silence.”
But the silence shouldn't be broken just once a year. Talk to your parents, your children, your siblings, your friends this month and next. Tell about your experience, if you are able, as a survivor — and always listen with compassion at any time of year when someone tells you about what they have experienced at the hands of another.
In addition, if you have harmed someone by neglect, abuse or assault, take responsibility and make amends. Don't wait for next April, do it now. There are people working hard in our community to provide resources to help you with this.
The time is always right to allow yourself to reflect on your own experiences and how they have shaped or continue to shape your life.
An unprecedented effort occurred last month in organizing for Child Abuse Prevention Month activities. More than 18 groups and organizations came together from across Lane County to promote awareness, break the silence and provide opportunities for people to get involved.
People may have seen blue pinwheels across Lane County, or read the many billboards, posters, newspaper articles and opinion pieces. They may have seen activities posted on Facebook, or taken part in Blue Friday or Blue Sunday events. Hopefully, many went to the GetInvolvedLaneCounty.org website and took advantage of the toolkits that provide information and identify local agencies offering volunteer opportunities so they know how to get involved.
In addition to the many activities related to Child Abuse Prevention Month, there are also activities specific to raising awareness of adult and adolescent sexual assault.
One example was the annual Take Back the Night march, rally and speak-out, which draws attention to the issue of sexual violence and creates community by reducing isolation and shame often experienced by survivors. This event creates a safe, supportive space where survivors are able to speak their truth and break the silence.
Given what we know about the healing process and high rates of sexual assault, it's imperative to believe survivors, listen to them, hold space for them, and provide non-judgmental support.
These activities remind us that to a listener, it may be tempting to imagine what you would do in any given situation — but you never actually know until it happens to you. In this spirit, we are reminded that survivors do whatever they can to live through their experience and deserve unwavering support.
But now April is over. Another Child Abuse Prevention Month and another Sexual Assault Awareness Month are behind us — and also before us. Recognizing that there's never a time to stop working to prevent child abuse or raise awareness of sexual assault, we leave you with these thoughts:
Some of your neighbors and friends work year-round to support children, youth and adults who are harmed by child abuse, neglect and sexual assault.
Work done by volunteers, staff members, organizations and groups to support survivors and to prevent child abuse and sexual assault makes a significant difference in the lives of survivors and in the life of the community.
We can all make an impact in our own way. Tell your story, take responsibility, join an effort, get involved — not just in April, but today and tomorrow.
BB Beltran (email@example.com) is executive director of Sexual Assault Support Services. Katie Gatlin (KatieG@casa-lane.org) is director of development and communications for Court Appointed Special Advocates of Lane County.
Hastert case shows flaws in understanding
by Neil Jaffee
Last week, Dennis Hastert, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for illegally structuring cash withdrawals to avoid federal bank reporting laws. As part of his plea bargain, the government also dismissed charges that Hastert lied to agents investigating his suspicious banking practices. Sounds pretty mundane, just another victimless crime — a banking violation prosecuted in federal court. But that's the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
The case against Hastert actually involves much darker and destructive illegal conduct. It turns out that the cash withdrawals were being used by Hastert as hush money, to cover up that he had years ago sexually assaulted a minor, now grown and identified in court papers only as Individual A. When first confronted by investigators, Hastert lied by claiming that he was being extorted by a former student who had made up a molestation claim. Imagine the perversity of that lie: attempting to turn a child sex abuse victim into an extorter, a criminal. As a result, the FBI placed Hastert's victim under investigation. Given the truth that finally came out, one must question the prosecutors' judgment in agreeing to dismiss the charges relating to such an egregious fabrication.
Once the FBI investigated Hastert's story, they concluded that Individual A was telling the truth in reporting that Hastert had sexually abused him. As part of the plea agreement, Hastert admitted to having paid $1.7 million to Individual A for his silence. Investigators also found other men who had been sexually assaulted as boys by Hastert when he was a high school wrestling coach — a total of five known victims in all. Prior to sentencing, Hastert never admitted to abusing any of the boys, merely apologizing in a statement for undefined past "transgressions." Even at his sentencing hearing, Hastert apologized for "mistreating" the boys.
It has been reported in the media that more than 40 letters in support of Hastert were submitted to the sentencing judge. Hastert's supporters included a number of former elected representatives, as well as other national, state and local government officials. Incredulously, some of the letters described Hastert as an inspirational leader, principled and trustworthy. Perhaps most ironic was the assertion by former congressman Tom DeLay that Hastert "does not deserve what he is going through."
While likely well-intentioned, these pleas for leniency for Hastert demonstrate an utter lack of knowledge of the characteristics of a pedophile and the damage such a monster causes to his victims. Unfortunately, such ignorance is pervasive in our justice system's handling of child sex abuse cases. Child predators are the antithesis of one who is principled or trustworthy. They typically use their positions of authority to sexually prey upon children after grooming their victims to trust and respect them. Hastert is simply another Jerry Sandusky, right down to the ploy of wrestling with his victims as part of the grooming process. Like Sandusky, Hastert deserved no leniency.
Studies have shown that child sex abuse survivors are one and a half times more likely to experience serious health problems. Psychological issues for survivors often include anxiety, poor self-esteem, dysfunctional relationships, eating disorders and PTSD. Higher rates of depression and suicide attempts are reported. Childhood trauma resulting from sexual abuse also predisposes the victim to autoimmune diseases later in life. To correct DeLay's grossly inappropriate comment, it is Hastert's victims, rather than their perpetrator, who did not "deserve" to be sexually assaulted or to have to "go through" the long-term effects of having been abused by Hastert.
In the past few years, cases involving child sex abuse have become part of our public consciousness. In many of these cases, the perpetrators are supposedly normal, respectable people in the community — religious leaders, teachers, coaches, mentors. It is time we, as a society, recognize these predators for what they are — dangerous offenders who prey upon children for their own sexual gratification. Nothing more, nothing less. And so, when pedophiles are finally held accountable under the law, there should be no confusion. It is the victims, rather than their abusers, who deserve justice and to whom we must show mercy.
Neil Jaffee is legal counsel to the Vertigo Charitable Foundation and co-producer of "Pursuit of Truth: Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Seeking Justice." His email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Impact of trauma long-lasting for all
by Trri L. Hansen
In 2012, a McPherson County family found their lives turned upside down when a 5-month-old infant had to be life-flighted to Wichita. He was unconscious and at one point not breathing. It was determined that the child's trauma was the result of being shaken.
The child's father, Christopher Shafer, is currently charged with aggravated battery–intentionally causing great bodily harm or in the alternative, aggravated battery–recklessly causing great bodily harm, as well as abuse of a child. The case is now being handled by the state of Kansas.
A family member was willing to talk about the situation, but due to the current legal state of the case, asked to remain nameless.
“We wanted this case to be passed to the state a long time ago and we are incredibly happy that it has,” the family member said.
Witnesses state that Shafer shook his infant son, resulting in the child's hospitalization, though he has not been found guilty of the charges.
When he was sent to Wichita as a baby, he had so much pressure in his brain that two holes had to be drilled into his skull to relieve the pressure. He eventually regained consciousness, but he had such severe retinal hemorrhaging that specialist believed he might never see again.
“That scared me,” the family member stated. “It was devastating.”
Now he is like any other 4-year-old boy. He loves the outdoors, playing with his family and friends and snuggling with his labrador retriever. He's a little picky about his food and tends to soak up and repeat everything he hears. His sight returned, though he still has to wear a patch over one eye several times throughout the day in an effort to strengthen the other one. While mostly recovered from his ordeal, it has taken time, and he will be effected by this for the rest of his life. One way he will be impacted: He will likely never play any type of contact sports.
The child was not the only one impacted by the ordeal. That day altered the lives of all his family members.
“It impacted nearly every aspect of our lives,” the family member said. “Our lives totally function around him.”
The impact of child abuse stretches further than the child who was abused, and the implications are short- and long-term.
“The effects on loved ones will vary depending on whether they accept or believe the child's account of what happened or not and whether a family member is the perpetrator,” said Marlene R. Ewert, a therapist at Your Journey Counseling Services in Newton. “The investigative and legal processes that immediately follow a report of abuse can be very difficult for family members.”
Ewert is one of therapists recommended by Heart to Heart Child Advocacy Center. Heart to Heart is an organization that works with area agencies within the child abuse response system. Established in 2000, center advocates assist victims and their families through the investigation, judicial and healing processes. Center advocates recommend Ewert because she is certified in trauma therapy.
“The family may not be told what is happening or even what the reported abuse is. There is a sense of being excluded from the process. There is often a long period of waiting while the investigation happens which can create tension within the family,” Ewert explained. “If the child is removed from the home, there is an additional layer of experiences that the family goes through.”
In the boy's case, he was removed from his home for a time while the investigation was underway. Investigators eventually determined that the child's mother was not at fault, and she now has 100 percent custody of him, though that too was a struggle.
“It was very stressful,” the family member said. “It has taken years to get to this point.”
The repercussions of child abuse can haunt a victim for years, if not forever.
“When I'd give talks on child abuse, I'd meet with a whole bunch of people of all different ages. I'd say towards the end, ‘chances are someone out here in this audience was molested as a child,'” said Harvey County Sheriff and co-founder of Heart to Heart, T. Walton. “At the end of those talks, I'd have women even 70 and 80 years old crying because it had happened to them when they were children and nothing was done about it. I stopped saying that in my speeches because of the raw hurt these women experienced when I did.”
According to Ewert, research into Adverse Childhood Experiences shows that child abuse can result in multiple and varied medical/mental health issues that can be life-long.
“A high ACE score is correlated to alcohol use and smoking, and exponentially related to IV drug use. Other issues that were found related to a high ACE score were obesity (both childhood and adult), depression, suicide attempt, and chronic major stress,” Ewert said. “A high ACE is linked with the likelihood of the 10 most common causes of death in the US.”
Studies have shown that traumatized children who haven't received appropriate trauma treatment are likely to perform poorly in school. They are likely hypervigilant, anxious, depressed, and/or numb. Unfortunately, this can lead to misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment for the child.
“Loved ones of abused children often experience difficulty in knowing how to help the child,” Ewert said. “They may feel frustration that the child hasn't ‘gotten over it.' They may not understand the impact abuse has on a child and minimize the long term impact — at times decreasing the support and safety the child receives.”
Luckily, organizations like Heart to Heart exist to help children and families. All the different entities involved, such as the Department for Children and Families, county attorneys, school officials, social workers and law enforcement, are able to work together to ensure the process is completed in a timely manner with as little retraumatization as possible. The ability to share information also allows therapists the ability to provide the best treatment possible, which is gravely important to the future.
“Abuse victims who do not become survivors as a result of appropriate trauma treatment create many challenges for society,” Ewert said. “It is hard to be a functional member of society when you are struggling with mental illness or substance abuse, or when you have multiple medical diagnoses. In addition, all of those things become a financial drain on society and medical/mental health resources. Victims of abuse who receive appropriate trauma treatment and move from victim to survivor are much less likely to become perpetrators.”
Shafer's hearing is scheduled for July 8. He has been out on bond since the original charges were filed. His son hasn't yet been told what happened to him, but someday he will. He continues to grow surrounded by the love of his family.
“He is extremely fortunate,” the family member said. “This was an outcome that no one expected.”
It is important to get victims and families of child abuse help as soon as possible. To report an instance of child abuse, please contact the Kansas Protection Report Center at 1-800-922-5330.
To contact Heart to Heart Child Advocacy Center call 620-245-0048 or 316-804-4603 .
“Its a horrible crime,” Walton said. “I've worked just about every crime you can think of. To me, these are the worst because the impact lasts so long.”
Firing of highly regarded Valley Medical Center doctors stuns child abuse advocates
by Eric Kurhi
SAN JOSE -- The firing of two prominent Santa Clara County pediatricians for allegedly failing to report glaring signs of abuse on a toddler -- which may have spared the 2-year-old boy a horrific death had it come to light -- has shocked child advocates who held the pair in high regard.
Dr. John Stirling was first suspended and then terminated on April 22 from his position as head of Valley Medical Center's Center for Child Protection, along with abuse specialist Dr. Melissa Egge. Multiple sources said they were dismissed because they did not report possible child abuse as required by law when the boy was at the hospital six months before his January death with two suspicious arm fractures. His mother's boyfriend, Manuel Anthony Lopez, 22, is suspected of raping, beating and suffocating the boy in January and faces a possible death penalty trial.
Many child advocates were stunned at the revelations. Stirling was a well-known speaker at child abuse symposiums who has written guest commentary for this newspaper about foster care issues; Egge was a popular pediatrician who has testified as an expert witness in court cases.
"They were the most caring, concerned professionals, dedicating their lives to children who have suffered trauma," said Penny Blake, a former county prosecutor who now serves on the Child Abuse Council. "And both very competent doctors. We worked with them, we respected them -- we're blown away."
Karen Scussel, executive director of Child Advocates of Silicon Valley, said Stirling has been a "great partner and resource."
"He's been very generous with his time," she said. "He's come in and talked about trauma and its effects on kids and how they react to it."
Charles Wilson, director of the renowned Chadwick Center for Children and Families in San Diego -- which is considered a top state authority on mandated reporting -- also knows both pediatricians. He echoed the sentiments of others who said they found it hard to fathom a reason why the doctors would fail to report the case to Child Protective Services.
While Wilson said "medicine is not an absolute science and people make miscalculations across the spectrum," he called the firings an "unusual action." He said punitive measures, including a very rare criminal prosecution, are generally seen in cases outside the medical community -- situations in which, for example, the head of a school doesn't want to smear a faculty member or a church leader fears its reputation may be tarnished by allegations of molestation by a member of the clergy.
But sources close to the case said it wasn't a wobbler, something that could be dismissed as accidental. Despite the mother's claims that the boy had fallen down, doctors at O'Connor Hospital marked on the boy's chart that he had "nonaccidental trauma" when they transferred him to VMC, sources said, in part because the hospital has expertise in child abuse cases.
State law requires that those in certain professions including medical workers be "mandated reporters" -- held to be responsible for alerting authorities to possible cases of child abuse. As part of training, VMC physicians are given a presentation that outlines such duties, which stresses that any worker with "reasonable suspicion" of abuse must immediately call CPS or police, and submit a written report within 36 hours. That "reasonable suspicion" doesn't require proof or medical symptoms, and workers face misdemeanor charges for failure to report.
"Unless you are certain that someone else has made the report, make the report yourself," reads the presentation, in bold and underlined text.
"Let's say there are three of us," said Blake of the Child Abuse Council. "Unless each one of us knows for sure another one of us has reported it, each one of us has to report it."
She said that's true for "everyone along the line," going back to the boy's intake at O'Connor.
Stirling and Egge have not returned calls seeking comment. Valley Medical Center released a statement Tuesday that said they "have taken this situation very seriously and remain committed to upholding a high level of care and safety for our patients. We cannot comment further due to privacy and other reasons."
O'Conner officials issued a statement Tuesday that said the "tragic story came to our attention in recent days."
"We are taking immediate action to look into the matter to understand what occurred at O'Connor Hospital," said Verity Health System spokeswoman Jane Brust. "Patient safety and compliance are our highest priorities, and we will take all actions necessary to ensure the safety of the patients we serve."
Wilson said hospitals sometimes have a system in which rank-and-file staff may defer a decision on whether to contact authorities to a delegate up the chain of command who handles such matters.
"There are reasons to have people with expertise making the call," he said. "That doesn't mean that expertise is infallible, and it's possible for someone to not make the right call."
Report: ACS Conducts Lax Investigations Into Child Abuse And Neglect
by EMMA WHITFORD
The City Administration for Children's Services (ACS) has consistently failed to investigate and report allegations of child abuse, hold its contracted foster care providers to a high standard of care, and maintain accurate records, according to a Department of Investigation report [PDF] released Tuesday.
Investigators said the administration's lax management has prompted many children to suffer repeat abuse at the hands of their guardians—according to DOI, about 16% of children whom ACS identified as abuse victims during the investigation period were victimized again within the same year. ACS also consistently flouts the law by failing to terminate parental rights for children who have been in foster care for 17 out of 22 months—a necessary first step in the adoption process. Over the last three years 3,711 children, or 82% of all cases, have remained in ACS custody past the legally mandated threshold.
There are approximately 10,000 children currently in foster care in NYC, according to the DOI. The average foster care stay is 3.2 years, compared to 1.7 years nationwide.
In an apparently blatant conflict of interest, ACS has also assigned abuse and neglect investigations to caseworkers already working with the families in question, essentially calling on caseworkers to investigate themselves.
"ACS is the first line of defense for the defenseless," said DOI Commissioner Mark Peters in a statement. "On several occasions ACS and its provider agencies failed to take necessary steps to protect children and at times may actually have put them in harm's way."
In one case highlighted in the report, a preschool-age child ("Alex") was beaten to death by her mother, a woman with documented anger management and drug abuse issues. The mother was on ACS's radar for 12 years before the murder, and regained custody of her children multiple times following ACS intervention.
Conducted over the course of 18 months, the report is based on DOI's review of available ACS documents, as well as interviews with caseworkers on three tragic cases from 2014 (victims are referred to with pseudonyms). Morgan, another preschool-age child, died under "suspicious" circumstances while in the care of her mother—a woman ACS had investigated for parental neglect 11 times in a 12 year period. The report faults ACS for failing to acknowledge chronic neglect in the household, despite the agency's own findings that the children seldom attended school and lived in a garbage-strewn apartment with exposed electrical wiring.
In another case, a child told his classmates that his parents were starving him and hitting him. The school notified ACS, which allegedly waited two months to interview the child's classmates, even as the abuses escalated. A caseworker also incorrectly recorded his weight, which would have indicated malnourishment if properly documented.
Today's report follows an April DOI report on alleged mismanagement within ACS, which focused on Close To Home, a city program that places juvenile offenders in city-contracted residences near their families. The earlier investigation documented inadequate security measures at the facilities, and focused on contract agency Boys Town New York. Three teenage boys escaped from a Boys Town-operated facility in Brooklyn last June, and later raped and robbed a woman in Chinatown. DOI made five arrests in conjunction with that report, and ACS and Boys Town terminated their contract with that facility.
In response to DOI's findings, ACS has agreed to discipline six out of seven employees identified in the report. DOI also recommended that ACS mandate suspension or additional supervision for employees who are under disciplinary review.
Legal Aid Society attorney Tamara Steckler, who runs the organization's juvenile rights practice and represents children in the foster care system, said on Tuesday that ACS should not be uniformly criticized for a backlog of cases involving children legally bound to their parents.
"Data... can skew the picture," she said. "New York State provides a lot of due process for children and parents. Every parent and child gets a lawyer. Sometimes when you provide that due process, things slow down."
Steckler, who has represented foster children for over a decade in NYC, added that within the last year ACS has made a concerted effort to discuss reform efforts with Legal Aid, as well as the Bronx Defenders, Lawyers for Children, and academics including Chris Gottlieb of NYU. "We're actually sitting around a table with ACS to discuss what reforms are necessary," she added.
A spokesperson for ACS said on Tuesday that the agency has recently appointed an internal monitor, and hired 700 new staff members, reducing case loads to 10-12 per worker. The "No Time To Wait" program, instated in 2014, is intended to speed up placement for long-time foster cases. The City promised additional ACS funding in February, after a two-year-old girl on ACS's radar died in a Brooklyn apartment fire.
"Since these tragedies [highlighted in today's report] occurred in early 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio has invested over $100 million to strengthen the child welfare system," said a spokesperson for ACS in a statement Tuesday. "This massive investment has increased access to preventive services, reduced caseloads to historic lows, and launched a new professional development institute for case workers."
Staggering number of Texas children in imminent danger neglected by CPS, investigation shows
by ROBERT T. GARRETT and J. DAVID McSWANE
AUSTIN — Tens of thousands of infants and children believed to be in imminent danger of abuse or neglect, even death, are not being seen promptly by state child abuse investigators — and thousands of them haven't been checked on at all.
Over the last two months, on any given day, more than 3,400 children who were on the radar of Child Protective Services hadn't been seen once by a caseworker, according to state data of face-to-face interactions analyzed by The Dallas Morning News.
Across Texas, on an average day, nearly 700 unseen children are classified as extreme cases — “Priority 1” in the agency's terms — in which they face an immediate safety threat or are at “risk of abuse or neglect that could result in death or serious harm.” For instance, an infant might be neglected by a drug-addled parent or a child is living with a relative suspected of sexual abuse.
It's a sign of the depth of the havoc in the state's child welfare system, where extreme workloads, rapid employee turnover, inept leaders and low pay have left investigators and caseworkers unable to simply check in on thousands of the most vulnerable Texans. State leaders, aware for about two months of the alarming data, have promised to overhaul the system but offered few details of how they would do so.
On March 3, the worst day in recent months, 5,917 children statewide classified as needing immediate contact hadn't been seen within 24 or 72 hours, the mandatory deadlines for Priority 1 and 2 cases, respectively.
Last week in Dallas County, child abuse investigators still hadn't laid eyes on 588 of those children, or about 10 percent of abuse calls.
But the most staggering numbers come from Harris County, where about 1,300 children who are supposed have already had a face-to-face contact with a caseworker haven't been seen. The unvisited children account for about 22 percent of all cases referred to that office in March and April, The News' analysis found.
That figure spiked to 44 percent on March 3, when more 2,591 unseen children were tallied.
On average, 13 percent of Harris County's Priority 1 children — about 250 of the worst cases — aren't being seen.
The reasons for Harris County's substantial backlog are unclear. But records indicate that this week, 1,335 — or 30 percent — of CPS investigations there have been open for more than 60 days. Such cases are considered “delinquent” — and worrisome, because there often has been minimal to no contact with the family and conditions can worsen. Last fall, Dallas County investigators also had 30 percent of their cases delinquent. Then the bottom fell out and by February, 40 percent in Dallas County were unresolved after 60 days.
Child welfare experts say there's no substitute for a prompt visit by a state worker — to make sure children named in maltreatment allegations are safe.
A state social services spokesman called CPS' performance on first visits “inexcusable and unacceptable.”
Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered a shake-up of top management at CPS and its parent agency, the Department of Family and Protective Services. He also has spoken of a lofty goal, to end all child-abuse deaths.
Many child-welfare experts, though, have said the quality of Texas' initial investigations won't improve until it lowers caseloads, does a better job of holding on to caseworkers and improves leadership offered by their front-line supervisors and midlevel bosses.
Credible cases but unchecked
The News obtained CPS' data through the state's open records law and found significant problems statewide.
Nearly 10 percent of all credible Texas child abuse calls aren't being responded to in a timely way — either within one day or three days, depending on the level of concern for a child.
Even when CPS workers do manage to see children face to face, between 25 percent and 35 percent of those kids aren't seen on time, the data show.
The metrics are real-time snapshots of possibly at-risk kids — whom the state is aware of but hasn't checked on.
Officials at the Health and Human Services Commission, which oversees all social services programs, apparently were unaware of the problem until late February. At that time, they began to share the timely-visit numbers weekly with Abbott's office.
The Republican governor has promised changes in the wake of several high-profile child deaths, including that of 4-year-old Leiliana Wright, a Grand Prairie girl who was beaten to death in March after CPS workers failed multiple times to protect her.
Abbott spokesman John Wittman declined to provide specifics on Abbott's plans for fixing the problem of slow responses by caseworkers.
“I'd just want to reiterate what the governor has stated several times, that the situation at CPS is unacceptable, and he is committed to overhauling the agency – starting with the new leadership team he announced a couple of weeks ago,” Wittman said in an email.
Last month, Abbott's social services czar, Chris Traylor, appointed former Texas Ranger Hank Whitman to lead the protective services department. Traylor also named Kristene Blackstone to run CPS as an assistant commissioner at the department.
Both started Monday.
Patrick Crimmins, the family and protective services spokesman, also didn't provide specifics for how faster contacts will be made. Crimmins, though, said each of the state's various regions has a plan “tailored for their particular issues.”
“Job one for us is keeping children safe, and we have to see them face to face to do that,” he said.
The federal government has warned Texas for more than a decade that it isn't meeting standards for timely child visits in abuse investigations. But the latest reports on face-to-face contact with children alarmed Abbott aides and Traylor when they learned of them in late February.
The data provide a fresh glimpse of just how deeply buried CPS workers are and raise concerns that yet more children could die or continue to be abused while state leaders grapple with what to do.
From September through February, Dallas County CPS investigators quit their jobs at a rate of 57 percent a year. The crisis forced the state to bring scores of workers from other parts of Texas to temporarily work Dallas cases. Several of the area's overworked investigators complained in interviews of lousy supervisors and regional administrators.
Meanwhile, a federal judge has ordered the state to overhaul its foster care system, and more foster children are sleeping in CPS offices while the agency tries to find them homes.
At a Senate hearing last month, Democratic Sen. Carlos Uresti of San Antonio called for a major pay raise and better working conditions for CPS workers. Meanwhile, Abbott and the agencies under his command, while expressing outrage, have been silent on whether pumping more money into child welfare will be part of the solution.
A spokesman with the Health and Human Services Commission called the situation “inexcusable and unacceptable” and indicated the commission might take a more active role in child protection.
“The entire HHS system is committed to supporting those DFPS employees who tirelessly sacrifice to provide support for families in crisis,” spokesman Bryan Black said. “We will relentlessly pursue every avenue to defend the most vulnerable in our society and provide a better tomorrow for victims of abuse and neglect.”
If the state's own metrics are any indication, that better tomorrow won't be any time soon.
When Leiliana was killed, CPS officials knew the Dallas office was in trouble. For the past two years, the agency has run predictive analytics that find “hot spots” where kids are at greater risk due to factors such as caseworker turnover, lack of experienced supervisors and the number of cases that have been unresolved for more than 45 days.
Counties are assigned a color. Green is good, yellow indicates moderate risk, orange is high risk and red is the highest concern.
Last fall, as Dallas County CPS investigators began quitting in record numbers, the county went from yellow to orange, agency spreadsheets show. The state sent in eight “master investigators” and three savvy supervisors to help.
But conditions didn't stabilize, and by January, Dallas went red. It stayed red in February and March, despite a move to import 65 investigators from other regions.
Months ago, as CPS quietly gathered increasingly foreboding metrics and talked in far-flung office buildings with Abbott's staff, an overworked caseworker named Claudell Banks was supposed to check on Leiliana.
He didn't, records show. After 72 hours, Leiliana became one more number in the not seen column, where she stayed for more than a month. When a child abuse investigator did finally check on her, 36 days later, he noted her black eye, but left her in the care of her mother, Jeri Quezada, who had a history of drug abuse and previous run-ins with CPS.
Records show that later, a nurse at a Dallas child abuse clinic called Banks, who was juggling 70 cases and had been reprimanded for his growing backlog of families whom he hadn't visited.
Banks didn't respond, records indicate. He has declined repeated requests to discuss the case and, according to CPS, has since been dismissed from the job.
Leiliana went home with her mother, unseen by CPS. She would remain unseen until the early morning of March 13, when paramedics found her dead in the bathroom of the home of Charles Phifer, her mother's boyfriend.
Quezada told police that her daughter had that night been subjected to a series of abuses by Phifer: tied up by her wrists, choked, thrown in a closet, force-fed until she vomited, her head slammed into a wall so hard it left an indention in the drywall.
Leiliana, despite clear signs of abuse, was classified as a Priority 2.
The day after Quezada and Phifer were charged in her death, CPS ran a report showing the number of past-due Dallas County cases where a child hadn't yet been seen: 365.
‘Ticking time bombs'
Amber Davila knows firsthand the daily pressures and seemingly minute decisions that stack up and could cascade into such a fatal mistake. She was Banks' supervisor, and while documents show she raised concerns about his performance, Davila was fired after Leiliana's case made headlines. Banks was fired from the agency March 23.
When The News told her the data shows thousands of the most at-risk kids aren't being seen, she said, “Wow.”
“It's very concerning,” Davila said. “But there's also a lot to it.”
Davila said she noticed caseworkers under her purview were stacking up delinquent Priority 2 cases, where they hadn't gone to see a kid in person within the 72-hour window. Part of the reason, she said, was that they were inundated with Priority 1 cases, which require caseworkers to visit within 24 hours.
The result: Priority 2 cases languish as caseworkers play whack-a-mole with the higher risk cases, which are flooding in too fast to keep up with.
“There's not enough time in the day and not enough caseworkers to manage all these kids,” Davila said. “We're just getting too many cases per caseworker, and we're drowning. We need more funding for workers.”
Davila said she can't speak specifically about Leiliana's case because the agency is investigating her death. But with so many delinquent cases, Davila said she fears the worst isn't over.
“All these cases that we get, they're ticking time bombs,” she said. “Any one of these cases could be another Leiliana Wright.”
Altoona-Johnstown diocese posts names of clerics accused of child sexual abuse (with list)
by Dave Sutor
The names of 27 priests and one deacon, who had credible allegations of child sexual abuse made against them, were posted at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona–Johnstown's website on Tuesday.
It also includes the status of every individual.
Bishop Mark Bartchak pledged to compile the list immediately after the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General issued a grand jury report in March, accusing the diocese of carrying out a decades-long coverup to shield predatory clerics.
“This list fulfills a promise that Bishop Bartchak made in response to the grand jury report,” wrote Tony DeGol, the diocese's secretary for communications, in an email.
“It is just one of many steps we are taking to address the painful issues facing our diocese. As we continue our investigation into various matters, we are being assisted by trained former federal law enforcement officers, a director of child abuse investigations and review from another diocese, and a retired judge in the circuit court system of another state.
“Additionally, the bishop has been in contact with statewide leaders regarding programs and services available to assist survivors of sexual abuse.”
None of the priests listed is currently serving in public ministry.
Deacon Thomas Lemmon was included in the diocesan group, but not on the attorney general's list, which only included priests.
There were eight priests on the attorney general's list – Rev. Peter Bodenschatz, Msgr. Harold J. Burkhardt, Rev. Leonard Inman, Msgr. Thomas Mabon, Rev. Regis Myers, Rev. John Palko, Rev. Gerard Ream and Rev. Benedict Wolfe – who were not included on the diocese's list.
“This is a working document, and we will add to it,” DeGol said.
“The attorney general's office still has our priest personnel files, so we are unable to refer to them for information. For that reason, it has taken longer than we expected to publish the list. We posted the names and statuses that we were able to confirm, and as we confirm more information, we will update the list.”
Both the diocese and attorney general's office are encouraging anyone with information about possible child sexual abuse within the diocese to call 1-888-538-8541. More than 300 calls have been made so far, with most coming in the days immediately after the report was released.
“Many of the calls have been from victims who had yet to speak with our investigators,” said Jeffrey Johnson, assistant press secretary in the attorney general's office.
“We feel strongly that these new reports further prove the grand jury's findings. We will carefully examine each new report as we decide upon the appropriate course of action.”
Advocacy Groups to Protest Whole Foods 365 Opening in LA
by PR Urgent
LOS ANGELES, CA -- National advocacy organizations for education and prevention of childhood sexual abuse are leading a protest at the inaugural opening of Whole Foods 365 store, May 25 in Los Angeles.
The protest is in response to Whole Foods co-founder and co-CEO John Mackey's link to spiritual teacher and former rabbi Marc Gafni, as reported by The New York Times in December. Planning is underway for a coordinated protest at a Whole Foods store in New York City.
SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests), NAASCA (National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse), and Peaceful Hearts Foundation (founded by Matthew Sandusky) are backing the protest.
On December 25, 2015, The New York Times reported Mackey's affiliation with Gafni: "He [Gafni] added, 'She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her.'" And, "A co-founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey, a proponent of conscious capitalism, calls Mr. Gafni 'a bold visionary.' He is a chairman of the executive board of Mr. Gafni's center, and he hosts board meetings at his Texas ranch."
More than 100 rabbis authored a petition demanding that Whole Foods sever ties with Gafni, citing the former rabbi's "many, repeated and serious allegations, both public and private." Rabbi David Ingber, lead author of the petition, said planning is underway for a coordinated protest at Whole Foods' Upper West Side location in New York City.
Mackey's public statement, posted on his Whole Foods blog, says his affiliation with Gafni is "strictly a personal relationship." His post includes a link to Gafni's website and their seven-part video dialogue.
According to an April 6 story in The Forward: "A spokesman for Gafni said that Mackey had also left the board, 'as all previous board chair members do.' He added that, "There was no break between Mackey and Gafni."
A spokesperson for Whole Foods emailed: "John no longer serves on Mr. Gafni's board and has no connection to the Center for Integral Wisdom. That being said, there's nothing else to say on this matter." But leaders of advocacy organizations have voiced stern disagreement with Whole Foods' statement, "there's nothing else to say."
David Clohessy, Executive Director of SNAP, from the organization's press release (the group gained prominence on Oscar® night when actor Mark Ruffalo, director Tom McCarthy and and screenwriter Josh Singer of the Spotlight movie joined a SNAP protest against sexual abuse in the Catholic church):
"We hope it's true that CEO Mackey is distancing himself from Gafni. If so, however, we disagree with the public relations staffer who claims 'there's nothing else to say on this matter.' If you've hurt people, distancing yourself from a wrongdoer isn't enough. You have a moral duty to do more. We hope to see tangible helpful action by Mackey very soon to lessen the harm he has caused by his irresponsible affiliation with and support for an admitted sex offender."
Bill Murray, Founder and CEO of NAASCA:
As a community, we need to bring light into the shadows of the oft taboo issues of child sexual abuse -- to stop the silence and change the culture. On the other hand, John Mackey and the Whole Foods Market Board of Directors have an opportunity here to impress the masses they'd like to reach with the Whole Foods 365 launch. Instead of stepping out of this discussion they should publicly step up to the plate by taking a responsible corporate stand against child sexual abuse as soon as possible."
Matthew Sandusky, Founder and Executive Director, Peaceful Hearts Foundation:
"Whole Foods' public statement, 'there's nothing else to say on this matter' could not be more incorrect. For far too long we have allowed child sex abuse to remain in the shadows of silence. John Mackey and the Whole Foods Market Board of Directors have an opportunity to reach millions with an important message. Instead of maintaining the societal norm of silence around these issues, I would like to see them take a stand against child sexual abuse publicly -- take a leadership role in getting the message across that we can no longer remain silent."
SNAP, NAASCA, and Peaceful Hearts Foundation are independent 501(c)(3) organizations.
Montclair entrepreneur works to spotlight childhood domestic violence
by Bob Cannon
A few weeks ago, Brian Martin of Montclair was addressing a particularly tough room - at Lebanon Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in Lebanon, Ohio.
He might have been rejected or threatened by those hardened men. Instead, by the end of his presentation, he saw their heads bowed, heard some of their voices crack, and saw some in tears.
That's because Martin had been talking about their childhoods, most of which had been traumatized by domestic violence. Martin was there at the request of the prison, because he runs an international organization called Childhood Domestic Violence, a cause that is close to his heart.
"I grew up in one of these homes where there was domestic violence between my mother and her boyfriend," Martin explained. "I remember how difficult it was to deal with that, and I wanted to try to help kids who were still dealing with it today."
Martin, who has a long career in marketing, first addressed the issue of domestic violence about 15 years ago, which he said had middling results.
"I started a nonprofit that would kind of model Make A Wish," he said, "We would raise money and we'd take the kids away on a weekend trip somewhere like Disney World."
It was on one Disney excursion that he had a revelation. "It's the end of the big day," he recalled, "with all these kids, and fireworks are going off. Then Tinker Bell comes over the castle, and the song goes 'When you wish upon a star.' I happened to be next to this one kid, and I said, 'Did you make a wish?' And he said, 'I wish when we got back that he wouldn't hurt her anymore.' What I realized at that moment was that there was no impact that I was really having."
CHANGE OF PLAN
At that point Martin disbanded the company, and in 2007 started Childhood Domestic Violence Association, or CDV. The group concentrates on finding, identifying and helping to treat adults who had witnessed - though had not necessarily been subjected to - violence in their childhood home. He discovered that it was one area of domestic violence that had no name.
"There was a ton of research, 10 to 15 years of research with the same researchers in the field. So I started studying it, and I got them all together in New York. We brainstormed, and we came up with what's needed, what are some products that are needed, and we laid out that whole thing."
Through their website, cdv.org, Childhood Domestic Violence offers the Change a Life program, which is run in partnership with the University of Minnesota, a leading domestic violence research center in the world. Change of Life is intended as a scalable program to help those who have experienced childhood domestic violence.
In addition, the site contains a link to order Martin's book, "Invincible," which details the group's research, tells others' tales of survival and provides steps that survivors can take to understand the impact of what they experienced, and unlearn the negative beliefs and lies with which CDV victims have grown up. There are also links to documentaries, related services and support groups.
SECRETS AND LIES
"I asked [the researchers] this fateful question, which was 'What do the kids believe about themselves?'" Martin said. "They said, 'All these kids typically feel it was their fault. They should have done something to stop it.' How can you live in a home where the woman who gave birth to you and who you love most in life, you let her get hurt night after night, and you did nothing to stop it?
"So they feel tremendous guilt and shame. They feel very resentful toward everybody and everything, because they believe they're all alone because no one talks about this. Other adversities like physical child abuse, sexual child abuse, emotional abuse all have about 95 percent awareness," Martin said. "This issue has less than 10 percent. And part of the reason it has so little awareness is because it gets confused with some of the other ones."
According to Martin, the problem is one of epidemic proportions. "There is no nonprofit that we've found that specifically focuses on this area," he said, "and we're talking about a billion people - 275 million kids, 725 million adults. Which means we need to make sure all the tools [on the website] work. The consequences of our getting it wrong are pretty severe."
Spreading the word
People are slowly getting the message. Martin likened the growing awareness of CDV to a similar field of research in the past. "Back in the day, lung cancer was a big problem, and they were trying to curb it. So they started looking at what was most likely to cause lung cancer back in the '20s, '30s or '40s, and they found a correlation between smoking and lung cancer.
"Here, the best predictor of whether you'll be in a domestically violent relationship is whether or not you grew up living in one.
"So after many years, we're finally starting to get calls from leading domestic violence organizations in the country that say, 'We need to be able to talk to the adults who were those kids.' That was never a market that they focused on."
"It is about children," Martin acknowledged, "but it's more about childhood. The majority of the kids are being raised by adults who were those kids."
As a result, he said, an unbroken cycle is put into motion in these homes. "If the home is not predictable, safe or secure, it changes the wiring of the brain pretty dramatically. And when you look at where on the spectrum people can fall, they can be violent, end up in prison, or they could end up addicted. So I'm trying to reach out and connect to addiction facilities as much as I am to prisons.
"One of the commonalities is that if you grow up in one of these homes, you are 75 percent more likely to be violent physically," Martin said. "They either die because of that violence, and if they're not dead, where are they? A lot of them are in prison, and you find that 90 percent of prisoners grew up in these homes."
PRISONS REAL AND IMAGINED
Which is how Martin found himself facing that roomful of inmates in Ohio. "The prison visit came up because I received a letter from a man who was convicted of second-degree murder, and he's doing 18 years to life," he explained. "He found my book and the information somehow. He sent a very thoughtful note that said 'I grew up in one of these homes. I didn't realize that I experienced this. I've since begun studying it, and I connect my behaviors now to what I learned in that home. I do not excuse what I did, and I'm going to pay the price for that here. But while I'm in here, I can at least seek to unlearn what I've learned, and I can help other prisoners do the same.'
"Then we got another outreach from the Ohio Prison Board to come and speak to them as to the work that we're doing. And that's how I ended up in that maximum security prison.
"One of the men asked, 'Aren't we adults now? Shouldn't we just be fine?' I said, 'Yeah, but if the brain's job is to find evidence of what it believes to be true, and your base of truths are all bad things, it actually gets worse the older you get. Unless someone steps in.'
"And our organization could be the one who steps in."
Los Angeles Trying New Tactics to Help Children, Many in Foster Care, Who Are Sexually Trafficked
by Kristy Plaza and Alana Victor
LOS ANGELES — Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew grew up in the foster care system in Los Angeles, where she lived in 14 different group homes, most of which featured various levels of abuse. Her experience showed her how children, in a system built to protect them, often face life-endangering risks that often go unnoticed by the public.
Pettigrew and others have seen how cases of abuse in the foster care system can drive the children out of their group or foster homes in search of someone who can fill the painful void left in their lives by the lack of family, or any other kind of caring adult.
“At the age of 10, I met a man that said he was going to love me, care for me, everything that I wanted someone to do, because I had no one,” Pettigrew said. But “love” and “care” turned out to have harrowing strings attached. “From the age of 10 to 17, I was employed here in California, from San Diego all the way up to Washington.”
By “employed,” Pettigrew means she was sexually abused for money as a victim of child sex trafficking.
“I cannot remember my 10th through 13th birthdays,” she said. “My 14th birthday I was in Las Vegas. My 15th birthday I was in San Diego. My 16th I was on a break home, coming back from Washington. And my 17th I was in juvenile hall.”
Pettigrew's recruitment out of a group home was not unique.
“Seventy percent of the kids involved [in sex trafficking] we find locally are from foster care,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell. “They are kids who didn't have much of a chance from an early age and now are revictimized by pimps.”
The California Child Welfare Council has similar numbers for the state, reporting that 50 to 80 percent of Commercially Sexually Exploited Children — or CSEC — have had child welfare involvement.
Charity Chandler-Cole, who is now on the board of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, said she became aware of the issue of sex trafficking while living in her group home as a teenager. She watched as other children in the home would be released by staff to their pimp at night and let back into the group home hours later for a small fee. Other forms of prostitution, such as girls being used in pornographic videos, also took place, she said. All too soon, Chandler-Cole was introduced to those pimps and propositioned. She became a victim of sex trafficking.
“During my stay there, I was exploited in such a manner by the very people that were supposed to protect me,” she said. “I had no one to run to. I had nowhere to go because the system was the one violating me and so many others.”
Each year in the United States, more than 1,000 children are arrested as “child prostitutes,” even though they are not legally old enough to consent to sex. African-American children make up 59 percent of all prostitution-related arrests under the age of 18.
Los Angeles County is considered both a major hub and a transit route for sex-trafficked youth.
With all this in mind, last year the LA County Sheriff's Department, the LA County Board of Supervisors and LA County Probation, plus the U.S. Justice Department and others launched a series of new strategies to address the disturbing problem of LA's sex-trafficked children.
So what progress has been made?
The nature of the crime
According to McDonnell, sex-trafficking minors is a very profitable business. If a pimp has five girls operating every day, the sheriff said, he can make $600,000 to $800,000 per year.
“You sell dope once and it's gone. You can sell a person over and over again,” McDonnell said, his expression grim.
Girls are forced into horrific conditions and experiences so they can make the quota their pimps require for the day.
Prior to his election as Los Angeles County sheriff in 2014, McDonnell served as the second in command at the LA Police Department, and then the chief of the Long Beach (California) Police Department. During his time as chief in Long Beach, in particular, McDonnell saw that pimps were typically local gang members, 18 to 28 years old.
Unlike drug sales, this high-profit margin work is relatively low risk because of the internet, cellphones and the network of people involved, according to McDonnell.
Child sex trafficking isn't an easy crime to spot, so many people still believe this is an international problem, he said. But “we found that the more we looked the more we found, very sadly.”
Sex trafficking has to occur somewhere, and often, McDonnell said, that “somewhere” is right next door, just out of sight, on the side of the road in an RV, in a motel room, hotel room or a vacant house.
Changing language to change minds
One of the problems with previous law enforcement strategies, said McDonnell and others, was the fact that victims of trafficking were those most likely to be arrested, not the traffickers or the customers who make the crime of trafficking children for sex profitable.
To help combat the revictimizing of trafficked children, the No Such Thing as a Child Prostitute campaign was introduced by the Rights4Girls organization. The mission is to stop labeling the victims of child sex trafficking as prostitutes; they are survivors of child rape.
McDonnell and the LA County Board of Supervisors quickly embraced the strategy. Supervisor Sheila Kuehl explained at the launch of the No Such Thing campaign on Oct. 21 last year that, until very recently, she was told that arrest and incarceration were the only effective means of stabilizing commercially sexually exploited children.
“Fortunately, it's not those experts we are listening to anymore,” Kuehl said. “Now we're listening to the real experts, the people who have created the movement, the children themselves who have spoken and said, ‘No, it is not what we need to be locked behind bars, to be protected from exploiters and predators. That is not what we need for protection.'”
Through the insight the survivors provided, the existing approach was reformed to become victim- or child-centered.
Typically, when CSEC victims were caught in the past, they were arrested and treated as criminals because California does not have safe harbor laws, legislation that clearly states how sexually exploited children should be treated as victims, not prostitutes. This was an approach that victim advocates have opposed.
Michelle Guymon, who is in charge of providing health and mentoring services for child sex-trafficking victims as director of placement administration services for Los Angeles County Probation, said the absence of such laws can be seen in a different light with a shift in protocol.
“I think what happens when you don't have safe harbor is that people are motivated and passionate about doing the work and you can still make things happen,” Guymon said.
Legislation is not a magical solution, she explained. In fact, some of the states with safe harbor laws continue to arrest children for prostitution.
“I'm in meetings all the time with people from some of those states that have safe harbor. They still detain kids, and they've learned other ways around it,” Guymon said. “What came with safe harbor is no money for resources so they're kind of stuck and are seeing some unintended consequences by not having programs set up.”
According to Guymon, Los Angeles has started rolling out programs so that when California does pass safe harbor legislation, the funding is secured and builds on what has already been started.
The three-prong solution
Last September, the LA Sheriff's Department was able to take a big step forward with its strategy to combat the sex trafficking of children when it received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to fund the establishment of a multiagency Los Angeles Human Trafficking Task Force. The task force, a partnership of multiple federal, state and county agencies as well as community-based organizations, is designed to target the CSEC problem by using a three-pronged approach that is also victim-centered.
The first of the three prongs involves going after the pimps and traffickers, using appropriate laws to identify, arrest and prosecute them.
With the second prong, the LASD and the task force aims to go after the demand side, “the johns,” the classic term used for buyers. McDonnell explained that, rather than citing the johns with prostitution charges for a small fine, as was the norm, the task force aims to indict them on charges of child molestation, statutory rape or conspiracy to commit either.
“So by doing that and publicizing what we are doing, we hope to create a disincentive so that people don't engage in this behavior,” McDonnell said. “And we knock down the demand side so that there isn't the tremendous profit that was fueling this all along.”
With the third prong, the task force identifies the victims, not as suspects, but as kids in need of rescue from their forced prostitution.
This third prong is being newly defined through the use of the Law Enforcement First Responder Protocol for Commercially Sexually Exploited Children, a system designed to identify victims of sexual exploitation at the first point of contact. Then law enforcement works collaboratively with county agencies and community-based organizations to avoid arresting the victim and to provide him or her with the services and resources they need to escape exploitation.
The new law enforcement protocol first began to be used on Aug. 15, 2014, by the Long Beach Police Department and the Compton Sheriff's Station.
One year before the rollout, there were 94 arrests in Long Beach and Compton, according to Guymon. Since use of the protocol began, only two arrests for child prostitution have been made in this region.
The new alternatives to arrest have allowed for the proper treatment of these victims.
“[With the new approach] law enforcement has more options and avenues for responding so they aren't stuck with what to do,” Guymon said. “All the knowledge and training, all the things we've done coming together has us doing things differently.”
Because of the regional success, she said, the LA County Board of Supervisors has decided to take the plan countywide.
“This task force is an opportunity to change the terrain and create a national model in how children should never be criminalized for being subject to repeated commercial rape,” said Malika Saada Saar, executive director of the Human Rights Project for Girls. “But naming it, responding to it, as a form of child rape, is absolutely needed.”
Responders provide victims with counseling and wraparound services to get them out of the life. However, some victims were arrested for this type of crime before this program began. For them, there is still hope in the form of a unique court system.
The Star Court
The Los Angeles County Juvenile STAR Court (Succeeding Through Achievement and Resilience) is a partnership between the Los Angeles County Juvenile Court and the LA County Probation Department. It developed due to the increase in prostitution cases being filed in the delinquency courts, while some carried over to the child dependency courts too.
Under the program, minors arrested for involvement in prostitution are considered CSEC cases. This means, that even within the context of the legal process, they are viewed as victims, not criminals. The court aims to facilitate rehabilitation services for kids involved with CSEC so they are not retraumatized by court proceedings and incarceration.
STAR Court is in session once per week. It sees young women and young men who have been charged with prostitution or who have revealed involvement in prostitution after being arrested on other charges. These youths can volunteer to participate in the STAR court program during their probation so they can have access to rehabilitative and intervention services.
The court provides enhanced services and supervision for CSEC victims through a multidisciplinary team that includes the young person's lawyer, the assistant district attorney, the assigned probation officer and advocates from community-based organizations that focus on sex-trafficked youth.
Though the original grant for this program ended in December 2014, the LA County Board of Supervisors voted in April 2015 to allocate county dollars to continue to fund the court.
“This is very noteworthy and something they need to be doing, so they found a way to make it work,” Guymon said. “It wasn't one of those situations where the grant is over and they quit doing that program, but rather this is something that we continue to be very involved in.”
Nearly 80 percent of the girls involved with the STAR court had prior contact with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, many with experiences like that of Pettigrew and Chandler-Cole. Programs like the STAR Court provide children with the support they often lacked in their homes, and again in the foster care system, according to Guymon.
“Something we see with those children in the foster care system, and coming out of it, is that they don't have those positive support systems in their life,” Guymon said. “Once they have access to something like this, I think that makes a big difference.”
In her experience with STAR Court and probation, Guymon has seen kids form strong relationships, something they often never had before.
As a consequence, she said, the youngsters she has worked with over the years often look to her for support and continue to text her from time to time, asking for advice, or even a ride.
“I think what is really good for those youth or young adults is that they know there's someone to reach out to,” Guymon said.
With these types of support systems, survivors like Pettigrew are eventually able to use their experiences to help other victims and also to teach the community about this troubling issue.
Pettigrew contacts survivors to begin to form the connections that will provide the support they need to begin to recover, the way crucial people reached out to her. She says sex-trafficking victims need to learn how to communicate and connect to get on the road to recovery.
“[For me] it started with one person saying ‘Hey, I care about you enough to actually answer the phone when you call,'” she said. “It is my honor to be able to take my experience and make something out of it.”
Educating the public
Another essential element of addressing the child sex-trafficking crisis, according to Sheriff McDonnell, is the task of informing the public.
“My goal, and a big part of this, is an education campaign,” McDonnell said. “To be able to educate the public as to what they could be looking for.” If properly informed, community members can be assets for law enforcement.
“We can really get the community engaged to be helpful to us,” McDonnell said. “It will save us a tremendous amount of time, surveillance, investigation, if the people and community can call us, say, ‘Hey, I've got a concern about this motel or whatever,' because it focuses our resources that are very precious as it is, and it gives us an opportunity to intercede long before we might [otherwise] be able to.”
He explained that too often, people don't make the call that could save a child's life.
“We hear people say, ‘I knew something was going on but … I didn't want to bother you,'” McDonnell said. “The message is, ‘You're not bothering us, we want to hear from you and we want to be able to go out and look into these types of things, and we want to be able to have a good outcome.'”
According to the sheriff, education on sexually trafficked children also calls for a significant shift in perception.
McDonnell and community advocacy groups say there needs to be a societywide understanding that this is happening, not only on American soil, but in our neighborhoods.
“When we think about the issue of trafficking, we think about other countries. We think about children who are brought into this country as foreign nationals and bought and sold. And all of that is true … but in many if not most of our cities, those who are being bought and sold are our children, who are bought and sold for sex,” Saada Saar said.
McDonnell echoed this sentiment: “We have young people brought up in the United States of America, where traditionally we have not seen these problems, and certainly not to the degree to which we are seeing them today.”
Advocates like Pettigrew and community organizations focused on helping stop CSEC are calling for a shift in cultural opinion, starting with changing how society labels these children.
“It's about breaking the lens, the misconception in society, and in the community. We have to stand up against these terms, against these labels,” Pettigrew said.
Maheen Kaleem, from the organization Human Rights For Girls, explains why there is reluctance to view young survivors of CSEC as victims of violence: “Before we talk about institutional barriers, the biggest issue is culture and attitude. We have to shift our attitude so that we can see these girls as victims and survivors as opposed to criminals because those attitude impact how we treat them.”
LA County has launched multiple public awareness campaigns and trained thousands of county employees to identify the warning signs. But the work has only just begun, according to Kaleem, McDonnell, Guymon and others.
“ur goal is to provide help and resources to those that are out there being victimized,” McDonnell said. “Truly, it will be a work in progress. But the tone is set, [and the] message is very clear.”
Eileen Decker, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, says a lot has been accomplished in the months since the task force launched last September.
“First, we have a group of organizations — the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the LAPD, the FBI, Homeland Security, the U.S. Attorney's office, the DA's office — who each individually have cared about this issue,” she said. “Now they're working together, and that's formidable.”
In addition, she said, “we've been able to do a lot of training since we received the funding. And that's really important, so law enforcement are more equipped to understand what's going on. That way it's not, ‘Oh, there's a young girl on that street corner.' It's about, ‘There's a minor on a street corner who needs help,' and there's somebody behind that minor orchestrating what's going on.' These are children. The change in all these agencies to a victim-centered approach is critically important.”
But there's much, much more still to be done, Decker said.
“More than anything,” she said, “we've got to protect these kids better at an earlier stage, whether it's doing better [in] the juvenile justice system or in the foster care system. We have to have a better way of identifying the problem when it's starting. And we have a long way to go, frankly. We need someone who's going to say, ‘Not this kid.' That's a fundamental problem in that many of these young kids are in detention or in the foster care system through circumstances they didn't create. And so there's no one saying ‘Not this kid. I'm going to protect this kid at all costs.'
“And that's not acceptable,” Decker said. “They're our kids. Every one of them.”
Viewpoint: Let's prevent child abuse year-round
by Ken Cotter
Reflecting upon National Prevent Child Abuse Awareness Month in April, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank those who work every day to protect our kids and to remind our entire community to remain vigilant throughout the year because you too can prevent child abuse. Child abuse affects children across all ages, socioeconomic groups and races. Its effect lasts long after the abuse is stopped. April has been a time to remember those children affected by abuse, and to make strides in our community toward recognizing and preventing future abuse. Let's work on child abuse prevention all year long.
We have many agencies in St. Joseph County that are dedicated to the protection and service of children who have been abused, neglected or exploited. In law enforcement, we have dedicated detectives (assigned from the police departments of Mishawaka, South Bend and St. Joseph County), prosecutors, victim advocates and support staff all working together under the umbrella of the Special Victims Unit. SVU takes a multidisciplinary approach to investigate and prosecute abuse and neglect, emphasizing the well-being of the child throughout this difficult process. I am proud to work with such dedicated individuals while they investigate and prosecute these very heart-wrenching and sensitive cases.
Representatives from the Department of Child Services, the CASIE Center, Adult Protective Services, and the Family Justice Center of St. Joseph County are also co-located with the SVU, under one roof. The CASIE Center is a nationally accredited child advocacy center, where highly trained child forensic interviewers conduct the difficult interviews of child victims and child witnesses. The FJC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which provides protective order assistance, counseling, referral services, and low-income legal assistance to survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault and their families. We in the prosecutor's office work closely with investigators from DCS, in order to not only ensure that the offenders are prosecuted, but that the victims are also helped.
Other community resources which also assist in emphasizing the well-being of children include: Prevent Child Abuse of St. Joseph County, the Youth Service Bureau, Stop Child Abuse and Neglect, the YWCA, Court Appointed Special Advocates, the Center for Positive Change, and our community mental health treatment provider, Oaklawn.
These entities and individuals are dedicated to helping abused children in our community. If you have concerns that a child is being abused or neglected, please call any of these entities, or the confidential Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-800-5556. As a community, please remember the impact of child abuse on our most vulnerable citizens, our children. Please help prevent child abuse.
Ken Cotter is St. Joseph County prosecutor.
NJ lawmakers push for $10 million to combat child abuse
by Michael Symons
A group of state senators want New Jersey to spend $10 million to expand a network of child advocacy centers that protect against child abuse and limit the damage when it occurs.
There are currently 11 child advocacy centers in nine counties. Their backers say they are an effective way to improve both prosecutions and recovery though a collaborative and child-focused approach to responding to reports of abuse.
Forensic interviews are videotaped, conducted in a setting that makes the child more comfortable, providing courtroom-worthy evidence that shows a judge and jury the victims as they appeared at the time of the abuse, not years later when they've grown older.
The information can lead investigators to learn about other victims, or at least help begin connecting children with mental-health services that can lead to recovery, rather than self-destructive behavior.
“It is our moral and social responsibility to collectively protect children from abuse. When we fail, we must commit to help these children heal and lead productive lives,” said Nydia Monagas, the chapter coordinator of the New Jersey Children's Alliance.
In 2014, fewer than 2,600 of the nearly 12,000 victims of child abuse were seen in a child advocacy center, Monagas said.
“How we work together — how the prosecutor's office and how child protective services work — says everything about the future of the child,” said Assistant Prosecutor John Esmerado, who used to work at the Union County Child Advocacy Center. “The sooner we can introduce a child into mental health services more quickly, we can prevent suicidal ideation and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics.
The idea was pioneered by Wynona's House, which was founded 15 years ago in Newark. Senate President Stephen Sweeney became a believer after visiting the facility after Gov. Chris Christie removed three-fourths of its state funding from the 2012 state budget in a battle with Democratic lawmakers.
“It's about children. It really is about the child. It's about protecting the child and letting the child get justice and restore themselves to as normal a life as possible,” Sweeney said.
“It needs to be in 21 counties,” Sweeney said. “It opened my eyes when I saw it, and as someone who understood county government and counties real well, I couldn't believe that something like that didn't exist where I live because we care just as much about our children that are abused.”
Wynona's House founder Nancy Erika Smith said she established the facility, which is named for the late Sen. Wynona Lipman, after the experience of her daughter, then in fifth grade, dealing with authorities after she was abused by a substitute teacher.
“I saw first-hand what happens when police officers interview and re-interview a 10-year-old girl. It's traumatic. It makes the abuse worse,” Smith said.
“At Wynona's House, we have a child-focused approach to what happened,” Smith said. “It's not a prosecutor-focused, it's not a social worker-focused, it's a child-centered focus on how not to re-traumatize children who've already been traumatized.”
The bill was advanced Monday by the Senate health committee. It heads next to the Senate budget committee because it includes $10 million for grants to get centers started, accredited and improved, plus $180,000 to $385,000 a year for additional state workers to manage and support the program.
“When you look at adults who are survivors of abuse and rape, their lives have been destroyed. They rarely if ever recover completely,” said state Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, who chairs the health panel. “The toll it's taken on them on a personal level – professionally, personally, their families. And the increased rate of incarceration, drug abuse, whether it is alcohol or drugs, employment issues, mental health issues, other behavioral issues, are part of their life.”
“What has to happen when they're still children and they still suffer this awful abuse, is to be able to be treated and seen and embraced by organizations like Wynona's House,” Vitale said. “And if we can duplicate, replicate that process throughout the state, we will literally have saved thousands of children from a really uncertain and awful future.”
Last December, the Senate health committee voted in favor of the proposal, but it was late in the session and the bill expired.
Wyatt's Law: Mother continues fight for Michigan child abuse registry
by CASSY ARSENAULT
LANSING, Mich. -- A Michigan mother is on a mission to start a child abuse registry after her son was severely beaten, and for the rest of the now 3-year-old's life he will have to work to overcome his brain injury.
Erica Hammel says Wyatt's Law would be a critical tool as cases of abuse and neglect in Michigan continue to climb. She was devastated when her then 18-month-old son became a victim of abuse at the hands of his father's girlfriend, Rachel Edwards. She said she tried everything to keep Wyatt safe, but it wasn't enough.
Hammel said at one point her life was everything she had imagined. She got married to who she thought was the love of her life, and they had a baby.
"I always wanted to be a mother from a young age," said Hammel.
In February 2013 her perfect family life came to a halt. Wyatt's father stopped coming home. He was having an affair with Edwards. He eventually left Hammel for Edwards a few months later.
Hammel says she was always suspicious of Edwards, but when she searched the internet and court records she found nothing. She later learned that Edwards had been convicted of third-degree child abuse twice prior to the incident with Wyatt. Both times, she received only probation.
"If I had just had this one piece of information I truly believe this would have never happened to Wyatt," Hammel said.
Wyatt was left blind in both eyes and couldn't walk, talk or eat after the abuse. He has had four brain surgeries and two eye surgeries.
"The prosecutor told me that when Wyatt's case came in and came to their office, it came in as a homicide because they didn't think he was going to make it," Hammel said.
Now, Erica and Wyatt spend a lot of their time in appointments for physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy.
Edwards is behind bars for hurting Wyatt, but Hammel says she is up for parole in a year. Hammel said this is the exact reason Wyatt's Law is so necessary.
"Child abuse laws are lenient. Abusers are not getting enough prison time, they are not getting tough enough sentences, and that's a huge issue across the board. And because these people are spending a lot of time in prison, or aren't getting prison time at all, this is exactly why we need Wyatt's law," said Hammel.
Wyatt's Law has been sitting in committee with state lawmakers for roughly six months. Hammel says it's a simple law that allows the state to publish a list of convicted child abusers.
She believes a public registry of convicted child abusers could have prevented her son from being severely brain injured. If a person was convicted of third of fourth degree child abuse they would be on the registry for five years, and for first or second degree they would stay on it for 10 years. However, unlike the sex offender registry there is an opportunity for people to get off of it.
"You give birth to this perfect innocent, beautiful baby boy who is completely healthy, and somebody takes that away from them," she said.
The bill has recently been moved from the Judiciary committee to the Families, Children, and Seniors committee. The head of that committee is Tom Hooker. Hammel and child abuse victims and their parents are urging you to contact Representative Hooker to get this law passed through.
"A mother's instinct is a very powerful thing. I just think that Wyatt's Law is another way to back up the motherly instinct," said Hammel.
You can also sign an online petition in support of the law on change.org its page in support of the legislation.
If you suspect the neglect or abuse of a child or adult, call 855-444-3911 toll-free at any time. 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
Experts say residency restrictions do not promote public safety
by Shelby Lindrud
WILLMAR — For the past few months the city of Willmar has considered enacting an ordinance that would restrict where Level 3 sex offenders and those offenders who committed a sex crime against a minor could live within the city.
While the stated intent of the ordinance is to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens, there are some who believe the exact opposite could happen if such an ordinance is in place.
“It doesn't make anyone safer, it just complicates the issue,” Pastor Michael Laidlaw said. Laidlaw is the founder and CEO of Overcomers International Fellowship, a ministry group which provides board, lodging and transitional housing for single men in need. The organization is licensed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
Laidlaw's group has three homes in Willmar, two on Trott Avenue and a third on 10th Street Southwest. Laidlaw said in the 10 years that Overcomers International Fellowship has operated in Willmar, they've housed a Level 3 offender twice and currently none of the Willmar houses has a Level 3 in residence. The longest a Level 3 offender has lived at a Willmar Overcomers International home is five months and he was able to get the help he needed and find a job, Laidlaw said.
“They want to go on with their life,” Laidlaw said.
Eric Janus, a law professor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, has studied sex offender laws extensively and has found experts to be pretty unanimous regarding residency restrictions.
“There is uniform condemnation of these laws from law enforcement, people who have studied them,” Janus said.
In 2007 the Minnesota Department of Corrections published a report studying residential restrictions and whether they have any effect on if a sexual offender reoffends. The Department of Corrections studied 224 recidivists released between 1990 and 2002 and who were reincarcerated for a sex crime involving a minor prior to 2006. Of those 224, 16 committed a sexual offense against a minor and none of those cases happened near a school, park or other restricted areas. Out of the total 224, only 79 of the offenders initiated direct contact with the person that would become the victim. The remaining 145 cases happened after the offender was introduced to the person by someone else.
“Where a person lives doesn't indicate where they might reoffend,” Willmar Police Chief Jim Felt said.
The Department of Corrections agrees with that assessment.
“While well-intended, residency restrictions do not promote public safety. There is no evidence that geographic proximity is a predictor of sexual re-offense,” said Department of Corrections Director of Communications and Media Relations Sarah Latuseck.
Residence restrictions can make it harder for released offenders to be successful.
“It impends the reintegration of sex offenders into the community. It removes the opportunities of support that are the antidote to recidivism,” Janus said.
Restrictions also do not make it easy on law enforcement to do their jobs.
“Residency restrictions impede supervising agents' ability to provide effective supervision and law enforcement's ability to effectively track offenders,” Latuseck said.
Felt said that while the ordinance would not prevent law enforcement from doing its duty, it wouldn't make it any easier either, especially regarding the prohibition of letting offenders live together or near each other.
“For us it probably makes it more difficult,” Felt said.
Prohibiting offenders from living near each other really concerns Laidlaw.
“That is really ridiculous,” Laidlaw said.
Having these individuals spread out across a town makes it even harder for organizations who provide treatment and services to do so. In addition, offenders living together in homes such as Laidlaw's houses are all in recovery mode, wanting to move on with their lives. They won't want a fellow resident to put theirs or anyone else's success at risk.
“They're all probably in treatment. They're going to hold each other accountable,” Laidlaw said.
Laidlaw knows it is people's fears that are moving these ordinances forward across the state. They are concerned about their children's safety.
“It is a legitimate concern, but it is a legitimate concern whoever your neighbors are,” Laidlaw said.
“It is definitely an area of concern for some residents,” Felt said.
Parents need to know where their children are, who they are meeting with and what they are seeing on the internet, regardless of who might live next door, Laidlaw said. Residency restrictions won't stop bad things from happening.
“Offenders who prey on children are willing to travel, will cross any boundary,” Laidlaw said.
Sexual assault 'Call to Action' in Asheville
by Karen Chavez
Who would rape a child with autism? Or sexually assault an elderly nursing home resident with Alzheimer's?
The idea is unfathomable, much like the idea of a priest sexually assaulting children, until the ugly truth was exposed. And unfortunately, the unthinkable – sexual assault of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, such as autism, ADD and dementia – is not only very real, it is at pandemic levels.
So says Shirley Paceley, a national expert on the topic. She said people with disabilities experience sexual abuse two to four times more often than people without disabilities. She said some studies indicate people with disabilities have more perpetrators and their abuse lasts longer than people without disabilities who experience sexual abuse.
That sobering statistic has led local groups, including Our Voice and Mountain Child Advocacy Center, to bring Paceley to Asheville for a day-long event, “Call to Action: Bringing Awareness to Sexual Abuse Prevention in the Lives of Individuals with Disabilities” on Tuesday at UNC Asheville.
“Many people with disabilities who do report abuse are often not believed. We can't imagine someone sexually assaulting someone with a disability,” said Paceley, director of Blue Tower Training in Decatur, Illinois. “And the offender likes it that way. We can come together in partnership and make a huge impact on this problem. That is why we are having ‘A Call to Action.'”
The event is open to anyone who works with the IDD population, including medical personnel, law enforcement, caregivers, teachers and prosecutors, who can learn how to work with victims with disabilities so that the offenders who target people with disabilities can have justice, Paceley said.
“It's been a problem for a really, really long time, because these people were isolated, not in the mainstream, and not a lot of people paid attention to them.”
Paceley said sexual assault among the most vulnerable in group homes and nursing homes is a problem in Asheville, and across the country.
“There are a lot of parallels in the risk factors between people in nursing homes vs. younger people with long-term disabilities who live in institutional settings. Typically there's a power differential between people who live in a nursing home or group home, and the people who work there. Who decides when you go to bed, when you go to the bathroom, when you eat?”
The serious problem was highlighted recently when a certified nurse assistant, Louis Gomez, was arrested in March for raping a female resident at the Brian Center for Health and Rehabilitation Waynesville.
The victim told her daughter, who called the police. Since then, several more victims have come forward with allegations against Gomez.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the Waynesville Police Department are conducting an investigation.
New sexual assault reporting laws
A relatively new law in North Carolina is aimed at requiring that everyone be more vigilant of abuse among those with disabilities.
Known as “Burt's Law,” Senate Bill 445 was passed by the General Assembly in May 2015 and went into effect Dec. 1.
Burt's Law imposes additional penalties on staff and volunteers of nursing homes and facilities that care for individuals with mental illness or other disabilities.
The N.C. Protection of the Abused, Neglected or Exploited Disabled Adult Act of 1975 had already required anyone having reason to believe that a disabled person is in need of protective service to report it to the director of the Social Work Services. (In Buncombe County the phone number is 828-250-5800).
Burt's Law takes that a step further in creating penalties for those who do not report abuse. The new law now requires any staff or volunteer who witnesses any instances of abuse, whether intentional or accidental, to the police and the district attorney's office within 24 hours of witnessing abusive acts. Failing to report abuse in this time period results in a misdemeanor charge.
The law is named for Burt Powell, who was the victim of sexual abuse at a nursing home in Conover, by the nursing home manager, who threatened the jobs of staff if they informed Powell's family of the abuse. The new law is meant to encourage staff and volunteers to come forward and report abuse immediately. No employee making a report may be threatened or harassed by any other employee or volunteer on account of the report.
Another law, Sec. 1150B of the Social Security Act, also required employees of long-term care facilities to report abuse resulting in serious bodily injury within two hours to law enforcement, and if there is no serious bodily injury, they are required to report the abuse within 24 hours. There are penalties for not reporting.
Asheville elder care attorney Nicki Applefield said Burt's Law and 1150B are meant to force people to speak up, and do away with the fear of retaliation.
They are a step in the right direction for prevention of abuse, Paceley said.
“In general, people with disabilities have more risk factors. For example, some are not able to tell, to resist or to escape,” Paceley said.
“More importantly, people with disabilities are often trained to be compliant and lack critical information about their rights, abuse, bullying, reporting, etc. They often have less power because we tend to focus on their labels and not on their abilities, so it is easier for an offender to target someone and get away with it. When there is a lack of awareness about this pandemic, people don't put practices in place for prevention and intervention. Offender accountability is sorely lacking.”
Experts in the field stress that when anyone witnesses or has a suspicion of sexual assault, they have free reign to call the police – 911– as soon as possible. They do not need to go through the residential institution's hierarchy.
Zac Tompkins, outreach counselor with Our Voice, Asheville's rape crisis and counseling center, said only 30 percent of elder sexual abuse victims report to the police.
“Four out of five are abused by their caregiver. It is unique to the elder population and people with developmental disabilities,” said Tompkins, who works with underserved populations, including the African-American and LGBT communities, homeless, seniors and faith-based communities.
“It could be a familial caregiver, an in-home aide or an employee in a facility. The myth with sexual assaults is that it's the stranger in an alley. In reality, it's family, friends, and intimate partners who are much more often to be found to be the perpetrators.”
Tompkins said at Our Voice, staff focus on giving survivors options, but not directing them one way or another.
“Our work is all about empowerment. They've been through this experience that is not what they asked for. We go over their options. We have a court advocate on staff who works with the Asheville Police Department, the Sheriff's Department and the district attorney's office.”
What to look for in a long-term care facility
Applefield, the elder care attorney, said the best way to protect a loved one from being harmed is doing your homework before choosing a nursing home of long-term care facility.
She recommends seeking out an Aging Life Care Coach, formerly known as geriatric care managers. These are part of a professional organization that serve as a surrogate advocate for an elder and can help with selecting appropriate level of housing or residential options, home care services, medical management and keeping family members and professionals informed of the client's needs. There is a fee for the service.
She said Life Care Coaches are especially helpful for adult children who live in a different town or state than their family members in a nursing home.
The Land of Sky Regional Council also has an ombudsman program that works with elders to also help them evaluate a facility.
Julia Gibson, an ombudsman in Buncombe County, said a directory of long-term care facilities can be found at www.landofsky.org ,
“First figure out what you need, whether it's an adult care home or nursing home. Buncombe County has 20 nursing homes and 86 adult care homes,” she said. “A couple of facilities, called continuing care retirement facilities, such as Deerfield and Givens Estate move people in as independent living and then move along the continuum.”
Nursing homes have a five star system, listed online where the public can find out what deficiencies the state has found and what they're doing, Gibson said.
“But we tell people not to put all their faith in that rating,” Gibson said. “It's a bit flawed – it's just a picture of a point in time. It could catch something not the norm for a facility, and it doesn't necessarily take into account outliers.”
At the same time, a five-star rated facility might have incidents of abuse or deficiencies in care that were not caught on the day of an inspection.
“Once you narrow down the facility, go look at them,” Gibson said. “Go at unscheduled times, on the weekends when there might be less staffing, see what it smells like, are people happy and well-groomed, how are staff interacting with the residents?”
Stacey Wood, spokeswoman for Buncombe County Health & Human Services, said it's OK to “be nosy,” before and after a loved one is in a nursing home.
“Make visits at mealtimes, bedtimes, ask to see how medications are dispensed, look at their policy and procedures manual,” Wood said. “Take notice of the general appearance of the facility and the residents. Stay a while and observe how the staff interact with the residents. Talk directly to the staff about their job satisfaction. Look to see if they are actually doing the activities on the activity calendar.”
This monitoring should continue often after a loved one is in a long-term care facility, she said.
In addition, there are many things the community can do to prevent sexual assault of people with disabilities, Paceley said. Special education classes can include students with disabilities in education about bullying, abuse, speaking up, healthy relationships and healthy sexuality.
Victim services can make sure they are accessible to people with disabilities and do outreach with this community. Adult services can focus on equalizing power with the people they serve by engaging people with disabilities in policy and practices - in hiring and training staff.
Paceley said the day after the Call to Action, she will meet with stakeholders to form an action plan
“As a community we're hoping to expand our capacity to allow individuals to disclose abuse. We hope to have a strategic plan for better education, involvement with key stakeholders, schools, child advocates, Our Voice, and others to better provide services to people with disabilities,” said Katey May, former intern at Our Voice, who now works with Innovative Approaches, a part of the N.C. Division of Public Health Children and Youth Branch.
“We thought this call to action would be a good way to start.”
Signs that a loved one with intellectual or developmental disabilities is being sexually abused:
Physical signs, such as sudden difficulty walking or standing.
Bruising around thighs or genital area.
Behavior changes such as heightened anxiety.
Panic attacks, extreme irritability, pulling away, not wanting to do anything.
If it is a caregiver who is the abuser, you will see changes in their dynamic. The victim will become fearful and argumentative with their caregiver.
If you go
“Call to Action: Bringing Awareness to Sexual Abuse Prevention in the Lives of Individuals with Disabilities,” is 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, May 3, at the UNC Asheville Mountain View Room, 227 Campus Drive, Asheville.
The event is free. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. For more information, email project coordinator Katie May at email@example.com.
To register online, visit http://tinyurl.com/hxjrx6o
Resources for help with sexual assault:
Our Voice sexual assault 24-hour crisis line: 828-255-7576.
Buncombe County Adult Protective Services: make a referral or report 24 hours a day at 828-250-5800.
For complaints of abuse in nursing homes, call Health and Human Services complaint intake unit at 800-6244-3004.
To report any criminal incident, including sexual assault, whether in a school, a group home or nursing home, call 911.
To review long-term care facilities and nursing homes, call the N.C. Division of Health Services Regulation at 919-855-3750, https://www2.ncdhhs.gov/dhsr .
Meet the woman teaching medical students about family violence
by Kathy Evans
Doctors see it all but they need specialised training in medical school to identify where family violence – directed at adults, children and elders – is occurring. A former GP now leads a ground-breaking program at Monash University.
When GP Jan Coles first encountered a patient she calls Meg, she felt helpless. As the woman sat and sobbed with her eight-week-old baby placed incongruously in the corner of the room, all Coles could do was listen sympathetically and wish she could do more.
Meg had been sexually abused as a child by her step-father. Her newborn was a boy. When he smiled up at her, he reminded her of her perpetrator.
She wanted to know whether all survivors of sexual assault felt this way; Coles didn't know. So she sat with Meg for over an hour, while the queue in the waiting room grew longer and the day lengthened.
A psychiatrist she rang for advice couldn't help much either, other than offer a set of questions she could ask to make sure the mother was safe to go home.
Coles saw Meg regularly over the next six weeks. She consulted the medical literature to research what was considered a normal experience for mothers who have survived sexual abuse, but couldn't find any information.
"I had no idea how childhood sexual abuse could affect women when they were adults. I'd had a grand total of one hour's training in family violence as a student doctor and that was mostly around child abuse."
It was a watershed moment for Coles. Faced with such a dearth, she decided to return to Monash University to create the knowledge that was missing. A Masters in Women's Health was followed by a PhD which specifically looked at the impact of childhood abuse on early mothering.
"I looked at how mothers negotiated things like breast-feeding and bathing a baby – simple things that we as professionals take for granted that women just know – and how they they managed them when their bodies were not respected as children and they were forced to do things they didn't want to do."
Coles eventually moved out of clinical practice and dedicated her career to research combined with teaching medical students at Monash where she is now Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences.
In 2003, she landed the hot potato of all course subjects; family violence. "No one wants to teach it," she says with a rueful smile. "A lot of students think it's a social problem; it's not medical so why should we bother? And then there is often hostility from young men who feel blamed."
Doctors, she points out, love answers. They want to be able to treat things with a pill. The complex, messy components of human behaviour with its incongruities and no clear-cut answers can often leave doctors rolling their eyes and patients feeling ashamed.
Traditionally, the teaching of family violence amounts to under three hours in medical schools across Australia. The World Health recommendation is six hours for students and at least the same after they graduate but in Australia nothing much has changed since Coles, a mother of three adult children, began her medical training.
"How can you expect doctors to manage with such little experience?" Medical students in rural locations fared worst with often large gaps in their knowledge created if a teacher left, as there was often no one to replace them.
One day, whilst chatting to staff about this very problem, Coles had a light-bulb moment. What if there was an online education tool for intimate partner violence that all primary health care workers – paramedics, physios, occupational therapists and nurses – could access anywhere, at their leisure?
Thus was the start of the PACTS project – a Primary care program Advancing Competency to Support family violence survivors – which took a further five years to gestate. The online open access teaching and learning program is a package of six modules, slides and videos that looks at all the ugly contours of family violence, including those that are little understood.
As well as the stark clarity of facts and figures, the program offers a different slant on troublesome patient behaviours that doctors may encounter in daily practice but have never learned to properly interpret; the difficult patient who continually misses appointments and the heart-sink one with the constant, unexplained headache that could be concealing a darker truth.
Through a series of videos, Coles and her team draw student health practitioners' attention not only to the classical cases of intimate partner violence, and their indicators, but also to lesser understood areas such as financial abuse of the elderly.
The take-home message is that the scourge of family violence is not a burden that doctors should manage alone. "Our conviction is that a team response works best, rather than a GP going off on a white horse to go it alone," says Coles. "It's just not possible given the time constraints on doctors, which are huge. You have to hand on the responsibility whilst keeping the patient safe."
The program also identifies particularly vulnerable groups such as women with disabilities and indigenous groups, and times of high risk such as during disaster and floods. Coles was delighted when last year the project won both the Dean and Vice-Chancellor's Award and this year it has been nominated for a national teaching award.
Now the Bayside-based academic is hoping to build on the work to reach an even wider audience – dentists, in particular, are often at the coal-face of treating affected women with damaged jaws and teeth, and hairdressers can find themselves being a confidante for the vulnerable.
Still, there is no quick fix, Coles acknowledges. "For real and sustained change there has to be a long-term approach. You can't throw a couple of million here or there and expect things to be better." She is calling for the Australian Medical Council to come on board and increase the teaching hours in medical schools.
And what of Meg? The last time Coles saw her was shortly before she left clinical practice. Meg's son was 12 years old and he and his mum were about to go on a family holiday around Australia. "Her relationship with that boy wasn't much different from that of any other mother and son," says Coles.
"Seeing that, and knowing how hard she had struggled to get over the things that had happened to her was fantastic. It was one of those moments when you think how lucky you are to be a GP."
New Mexico launching new anti-child abuse campaign, website
by Russell Contreras
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The state agency tasked with protecting New Mexico children is launching a new campaign aimed at getting more parents involved in fighting child abuse.
Children, Youth and Families Department Secretary Monique Jacobson says the “Pull Together” campaign beginning Monday will help parents and change the way state officials address child wellbeing.
The statewide campaign features slick commercials starring Albuquerque-born UFC fighter Carlos Condit and images of children around New Mexico.
Jacobson told The Associated Press the campaign isn't about rebranding her once-troubled agency but is about engaging parents and “creating a movement” to transform the way residents sees child abuse.
The plan includes a new pulltogether.org website that will allow parents to chat with each other and make reporting child abuse easier.
Jacobson helped launched the New Mexico True campaign as tourism secretary.
Pope condemns child abuse, urges peace in Syria
by Ines San Martin
ROME— Pope Francis on Sunday condemned every form of child abuse, calling it a “tragedy” that can't be tolerated, and also asked all the parties involved in the Syrian conflict to respect the cease fire.
“[Abuse of minors] is a tragedy,” Francis said as he led the thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square for the weekly Regina Coeli prayer.
“We mustn't tolerate abuse against children,” the pope said. “We must defend them, and we must punish the abusers severely.”
The pontiff was speaking off-the-cuff after thanking the Italian Association Meter for the work they do in the fight against pedophilia. The institution was founded in 1989 by Father Fortunato Di Noto in the northern region of Sicilia, and has since then fought child abuse and also on-line child pornography.
Through the three years of his pontificate Francis has had an uneven record on sex abuse, with many survivor associations decrying that he often says the right things, but that little has changed on issues such as accountability.
For instance, during his visit to the United States last September, Pope Francis met with a group of child sexual abuse survivors in Philadelphia. After that encounter, he had a meeting with bishops from around the world who were attending the World Meeting of Families.
“I'm overwhelmed by the shame that people who were in charge of caring for those young ones raped them and caused them great damages,” he told them.
On that occasion, he vowed that crimes against minors will not be hidden: “I promise that all those responsible will be held accountable.”
At the recommendation of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he instituted, last June he created a Vatican tribunal to judge bishops who covered up for pedophile priests.
Yet because of unresolved legal and administrative questions, and resistance both inside and outside of the Holy See, the body has had difficulties getting off the ground.
On Syria, Francis said he “receives with deep sorrow the tragic news” coming from the country, with violence intensifying in recent days.
The government of Bashar al-Assad and the rebel forces had reached a ceasefire, backed both by the United States and Russia. However, according to a civil defense organization in opposition-controlled Syria known as White Helmets, in the last eight days the government launched over 260 airstrikes, 110 artillery strikes and 18 missiles.
On Thursday, bombs hit a hospital in Aleppo run by Doctors Without Borders, killing more than 50 people, including three children and the city's only remaining pediatrician.
“The sky is falling in Aleppo,” said Muskilda Zancada, MSF head of mission in Syria. “The city, consistently at the front lines of this brutal war, is now in danger of coming under a full offensive.”
“Attacks on hospitals and medical staff are a devastating indicator of the brutal ways in which civilians are targeted in the war in Syria,” Zancada said.
All sides have accused each other of truce violations.
According to the British-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, 250 have been killed since April 22, 40 of whom were children.
Francis said he felt sorrow over the “spiral of violence that continues to aggravate the already desperate humanitarian situation of the country, particularly the city of Aleppo.”
“I urge all parties of the conflict to respect the cease fire and to strengthen the ongoing dialogue, the only path to peace,” he said.
Child abuse prevention is critical
by The York Dispatch
Each year in Pennsylvania, the equivalent of a grade school classroom of children die of child abuse – in 2014, 30 children died at the hands of adults.
It's a difficult subject to discuss but we are talking about it more today than ever. That's due in part to very public cases such as those involving former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted of serial child molestation in 2012, and the Catholic Church, which has systematically protected abusive priests for decades.
Please let that sink in for a moment. It's a staggering number and one that needs our attention. Providing a safety net for children must become the social, moral and political imperative of each and every one of us.
It's also hard to know what to do to help. Many people prefer not to get involved, but often small contributions can have direct and lasting effects.
That's why we're fortunate resources such as The Lehman Center and Family Support Alliance exist here in Pennsylvania.
The Lehman Center in York provides a 24-hour crisis nursery for children from newborn to 6-years-old, among other vital support services. It is a part of the Children's Aid Alliance of the Southern Pennsylvania District Church of the Brethren. Find it online at: www.Cassd.org
The Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance offers training and support to help communities and families understand the origins of child abuse — and attempt to recognize the causes, such as addiction, mental illness, and lack of parenting education and coping skills.
Whatever the cause, it is up to all of us to advocate for children, who are often among our most vulnerable citizens. We can do that by educating ourselves on the systemic shortcomings that cause children to fall through the cracks — be it because of lack of resources or lack of oversight.
We can also lend a hand by learning how to identify warning signs of child abuse and by committing to saying something if we see something.
According to the Family Support Alliance, these are some of the startling statewide child abuse statistics:
Physical injuries accounted for 26 percent of the total number of injuries and ranged from bruises, cuts, and abrasions to broken bones, skull fractures and scaldings.
The majority of injuries, 64 percent, were sexual in nature, ranging from sexual assault to rape and incest.
Parents — or adults in a parental relationship with the child — accounted for 61 percent of those perpetuating child abuse in Pennsylvania. Eleven percent had been named in previous substantiated child abuse reports.
Sixty-five percent of the substantiated victims were girls. Thirty-three percent were boys.
Seventy-nine percent of sexual abuse reports, the most prevalent type of abuse, involved girls. This has been a consistent trend in Pennsylvania.
The number of reported cases of child abuse and neglect is increasing. About 10 of every 1,000 Pennsylvania children were reported as victims of suspected abuse in 2014, while about one of every 1,000 Pennsylvania children was substantiated as a victim of abuse.
According to the Family Support Alliance, that means 29,273 cases of suspected child and student abuse were reported in Pennsylvania in 2014, an increase of 2,329 reports since 2013. Of these, 3,340 cases, or 11 percent, were substantiated. Sexual abuse was involved in 53 percent of the substantiated cases.
These are staggering statistics that require swift response from legislators, health and welfare professionals and the rest of us — neighbors and friends who can keep a watchful eye out for abuse.
There's a plethora of training and support information on the Family Support website, www.fa-fsa.org. This information can help us all be more informed and more involved.
We urge you to log on and do some research. Of particular import is the training for mandated reporters, those professionals such as teachers who spend a significant amount of time with children and are required by law to report suspected child abuse.
We can all help protect and support children — and stressed parents — in ways great and small, by being a supportive neighbor or a vigilant advocate and by availing ourselves of organizations such as the Family Support Alliance and its abundance of information and support services.
Those who are informed and trained are more likely to feel confident reporting child abuse.
It's not easy to talk and learn about, which makes child abuse that much more difficult to combat.
But losing the equivalent of a classroom full of children each year is something we cannot — and must not — abide.