National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

child abuse trauma prevention, intervention & recovery


NAASCA Weekly Highlights

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

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

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

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


Stanford rape case: Inside the court documents

by Ray Sanchez

A California judge's decision to give former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner a six-month jail sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman has caused a national uproar.

Now, court documents obtained by CNN shed new light on the disturbing assault and Turner's apparent history of alcohol abuse and sexually aggressive behavior.

Here are key points from presentencing documents that give insight into a case that grabbed national attention:

The assault

Just after 1 a.m. on January 18, 2015, law enforcement officers responded to a report of an unconscious female in a field near the Kappa Alpha fraternity house, according to a sentencing memo.

They found the victim on the ground, in a fetal position, behind a garbage dumpster. She was breathing but unresponsive. Her dress was pulled up to her waist. Her underwear was on the ground; her hair disheveled and covered with pine needles.

About 25 yards away, two men, passers-by, had pinned down and restrained a young man who was later identified as Turner.

"We found him on top of the girl!" one of the men said. Turner smelled of alcohol as he was handcuffed.

One of the men later told authorities that Turner had been on top of the motionless woman.

"Hey, she's f------ unconscious!" one of the men yelled. Turner managed to get away briefly but the man tripped and later tackled him. Turner was held down until deputies arrived.

After the assault, detectives saw a text message on Turner's cell phone referring to breasts, according to the sentencing memo. The message said, "WHOS T-- IS THAT". It was sent in the early morning hours the day of the assault. Before that text, a photo was sent to a group via a third party app called GroupMe.

Prosecutors included a screen grab of the exchange in the sentencing memo.

Investigators obtained a search warrant for Turner's phone but were unable to retrieve the alleged photo because GroupMe "images are not stored on the phone and can be deleted by a third member in the group," the document said.

A witness told investigators that the day of the assault "he saw a female subject lying on the ground behind the dumpster... He also noticed a male subject standing over her with a cell phone. He was holding the cell phone. The cell phone had a bright light pointed in the direction of the female, using either a flashlight app in his phone or its built-in flash."

According to the probation document, Turner told deputies that he walked away from the frat house with the victim and they kissed.

They ended up on the ground, where he removed the victim's underwear and digitally penetrated her for about five minutes, Turner told deputies. "He denied taking his pants off and said his penis was never exposed."

Victim was completely unresponsive

When law enforcement arrived, one of the deputies, in a loud voice, asked the victim several times, "Can you hear me?"

There was no response. Paramedics tried a "shake and shout" technique and applied a physical pain stimulant. Still no response. She vomited once but didn't regain consciousness.

In an ambulance later, a deputy tried to wake her repeatedly, without success. There was still no response after an EMT stuck an IV needle in the young woman's arm.

The victim finally regained consciousness about 4:15 a.m. at a hospital. Later that morning, doctors said her blood alcohol concentration was 0.12% -- and estimated her intoxication level at the time of the assault to be 0.22%.

Aggressive sexual behavior

The sentencing memo said that the victim's sister was "caught completely off guard" when Turner tried to kiss her the night of the assault. She alerted a friend after Turner grabbed her waist and later picked him out of a lineup as the "aggressive" man at the party.

After being twice rejected by her sister, Turner went after the victim when she was "alone and inebriated."

Turner took the victim to a dimly lit, isolated area and sexually assaulted her behind a dumpster.

"This behavior is not typical assaultive behavior that you find on campus, but it is more akin to a predator who is searching for prey," the prosecutor wrote.

Another woman told investigators that Turner was "grabby" and "touchy," putting his hands on her waist, stomach and upper thighs when she danced with him at a fraternity party about a week before the sexual assault. The woman told police Turner made her uncomfortable.

Prosecutor: Turner lied about his past

In the sentencing memo, the state said Turner lied to the probation department about his use of drugs. He implied that his first time drinking was at a swim team party at Stanford.

"Coming from a small town in Ohio, I had never really experienced celebrating or partying that involved alcohol," Turner told a probation officer, adding that he was an "inexperienced drinker and party goer."

But the evidence on Turner's cell phone showed he was a drinker who partied regularly since high school, including the use of marijuana and other drugs.

"He was not truthful with the probation department or this Court about his experience with drinking and partying, much like he was not truthful about taking advantage of (redacted) ... much like he was not truthful with the aftermath of being caught by Good Samaritans."

Turner's prior alcohol possession and fake ID arrest

In mid-November 2014, Turner and a group of men were seen by a deputy walking on campus and drinking beer.

When the deputy approached the men, they ran away, according to the sentencing memo.

"Stop, police!" the deputy yelled several times. The men kept running. Another deputy cut off the men and ordered them on the ground.

Turner later admitted that he tried to hide the beer because he was under 21. Turner had a fake driver's license in his possession.

After Turner's arrest in connection with the 2015 sexual assault, investigators found evidence of "excessive drinking and using drugs" on his cell phone: A photo of him smoking from a pipe; a close-up shot of a bong; and a video of Turner taking a "bong hit" and sipping a bottle of liquor.

In addition, text messages indicated Turner used drugs while in high school and at Stanford, including references to acid as well as a a highly concentrated and potent form of marijuana.



Profile of a child molester: ‘It can be anybody'

by The Marietts Daily Journal

Cobb County has found itself in an upsetting media spotlight given back-to-back cases of child molestation involving prominent community leaders.

Just as attention was beginning to wane over former Kennesaw mayor and Councilman Leonard Church, who was given an 18-year prison sentence in December after pleading guilty to child molestation, former Cobb Republican Party Chairman Joe Dendy was arrested last month on similar charges.

Both cases caused public shock given Church and Dendy were respected leaders in the community and the last people, many thought, who would be arrested on such awful charges. But as prosecutor Chuck Boring, who runs the Special Victims Unit in the Cobb District Attorney's Office, said, a child molester is usually not the bogeyman of imagination who snatches children from bus stops.

“The reality is the person that earns the trust to molest a child isn't the ‘Chester the Molester' guy who you see on the street and say, ‘Oh, that's a child molester!' It can be anybody,” Boring said.

Here are some unsettling statistics from Boring:

Ninety percent of victims know their abuser and the younger the child, the more likely the abuser is a family member;

Girls are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse. One in seven girls under the age of 18 will be a victim of child sexual abuse compared to about one in 25 boys;

Only 38 percent of child victims of sexual abuse disclose the abuse.

The reason the majority of offenders are family members or people the child knows — such as coaches, pastors or teachers — is that they have more access to the child and thus the ability to earn their trust. Offenders tend to be master manipulators who are able to find the child who is the easiest target — a child with low self-esteem, a speech impediment or who may be isolated, for example.

The teenage victim, meantime, may have an alcohol or drug addiction.

“Offenders are oftentimes looking for the easiest target and the target who A) other people won't believe, or B) the child who won't report it,” Boring said.

“Grooming” is the term for how an offender earns the child's trust and makes them feel special. For example, a predator may touch five different children on the knee to see which of them doesn't complain. And the one who doesn't complain is the one who is targeted.

A man who accused Dendy of molesting him back in the late 1950s testified he didn't come forward sooner because he was ashamed. Another alleged Dendy threatened to kill family members if the boy ever disclosed what happened.

Dendy, it bears mentioning, has not been convicted and his case is in the early stages of the judicial process, yet the examples in his case illustrate the wider phenomenon that shame and threats are reasons many victims never come forward.

There is also the adult/child dynamic at work, where the child has been brought up to do as they're told. Depending on how young the child is when the molestation begins, the child may not know there is anything wrong with what is happening to them.

And there is the factor of the abuser being a family member who 99 percent of the time lavishes the child with praise and gifts, but 1 percent of the time molests them, making it difficult for a young child to rationalize what is happening.

Every time there is a jury selection in a child abuse case, Boring asks potential jurors if they or someone they know have been a victim of child abuse. Several times jurors have disclosed they, their wife or their husband were molested and never reported it to police.

The first line of defense for parents, Boring advises, is having a relationship with their children that allows for open communication. Parents must keep track of what their children are doing and that includes what they see on the internet and who they communicate with on social media. There are plenty of apps to help parents accomplish this. But the internet has made it easier for predators to communicate with children.

Some may argue that a child has a right to their own privacy, and to this we say horse feathers. A parent's role is not to be their child's buddy, but to protect them.

If the child is receiving calls or texts at unusual hours of the day or night, or hides their phone or closes their laptop when a parent suddenly enters the room, take this to be a warning sign, Boring advises.

If a child becomes withdrawn, uses language inappropriate for their age, abuses drugs or alcohol or engages in self-harm, this doesn't necessarily mean it's a case of child molestation, but it's certainly a signal to start asking questions.

Another signal that should raise suspicions is when an adult gives gifts to a particular child to the exclusion of others, or crosses boundaries such as bringing the child home at unusual hours of the night.

It is horrible there are predators in our community looking to prey on children. But following Boring's advice will go a long way toward protecting the most vulnerable and precious among us.



New approach to human trafficking a 'sea change' in Nebraska

by The Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Law enforcement and social service agencies are preparing a major push to clamp down on human trafficking in Nebraska, but advocates say the state should do more for survivors who are likely to require housing, specialized counseling and medical care.

The new approach championed by Attorney General Doug Peterson focuses on helping survivors, stopping traffickers and shrinking the market by going after customers instead of victims who are coerced into working as prostitutes. A state task force is developing a plan, and Peterson is considering legislation next year to increase criminal penalties for traffickers.

Advocates are starting with a focus on sex trafficking, where victims — usually women and children — are forced into prostitution. They eventually plan to expand their efforts into labor trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery in which people are made to work through violence, threats or debt bondage.

"It's really important that we get out and start prosecuting these guys and getting services to the young ladies" who are sexually trafficked, Peterson said. "We have to let this industry know that to operate in Nebraska, you're going to place yourself at great risk."

Yet Peterson and other advocates acknowledge major changes will take time, largely because Nebraska has a shortage of services that are tailored to sex trafficking victims.

The Women's Fund of Omaha conducted a survey last year that found 84 percent of "service providers," including nonprofits and state agencies, did not believe they were adequately meeting the needs of people who have been trafficked.

Survivors often need an array of services including housing, education and life skills training and "peer mentoring" from others who have similar experiences, said Meghan Malik, the group's trafficking response coordinator.

Many have criminal records because they were forced to participate in illegal activity, making it harder for them to find a job. Without a support system, Malik said, many will return to prostitution because it's a way to make money.

"It's the life they know, and they have to put a roof over their heads and feed their children," Malik said. "It's really on us as a community and service providers to ensure we're providing a comprehensive array of services. We're making progress, but we still have a long way to go."

Stephen Patrick O'Meara, the human trafficking coordinator for the Nebraska attorney general's office, said the state is working to improves services for survivors.

Survivors frequently suffer from mental health and substance abuse problems, as well as developmental disabilities that impair their judgment. Many experience posttraumatic stress disorder, have no place safe to go, and may believe their pimp is caring for them. Some foreign trafficking victims speak no English.

O'Meara said authorities will pursue serious charges against traffickers to prevent them from creating new victims, but they also must help victims avoid falling into the same pattern. He said they're also working to dispel the notion that trafficking isn't a state problem.

"I'm beginning to see a significant shift in awareness," said O'Meara, a former federal prosecutor who has worked on human trafficking issues since 2007. "But we're not there yet. There are still a lot of people out there who don't believe or don't want to believe that something like this could happen in a good place like Nebraska."

The human trafficking task force is building a statewide network of law enforcement, prosecutors, social service agencies, doctors and nurses, and industries that are more likely to encounter prostitutes, such as motels and trucking.

The task force now has caseworkers in Omaha, Grand Island and North Platte who are training others to recognize signs of human trafficking, said Alicia Webber, program manager for the Salvation Army's anti-human trafficking initiative. The initiative began in October in partnership with the Nebraska attorney general's office.

Nebraska has seen a handful of high-profile human trafficking cases, but tracking specific numbers has proven difficult because many are prosecuted as prostitution or child sexual assault cases, which carry harsher penalties. O'Meara said a recent study found more than 1,850 people in Nebraska who were likely engaging in prostitution between November and May, and he suspects many were sex trafficking victims.

In 2014, Adrien Jamaal Cole of Omaha was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for sex trafficking in Nebraska and Iowa. In 2010, authorities disrupted a three-year prostitution ring in Omaha and Council Bluffs that preyed on women and teenage girls.

The Nebraska task force's work includes a heavy focus on training. Instead of immediately arresting women who are caught in prostitution stings, law enforcement officers are being taught to look for signs that they are trafficking victims. Minors are automatically treated as trafficking victims.

"The picture has completely changed," Peterson said. "A 16-year-old girl typically doesn't get into prostitution by herself. Someone is most likely profiting significantly off of her."

Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln is working with the attorney general's office on legislation to increase criminal penalties for human traffickers and customers. This year, the Legislature approved a bill she introduced providing legal immunity to adult sex trafficking victims who are caught working as prostitutes. Nebraska already grants immunity to juvenile victims.

Pansing Brooks said most prostitutes have been trafficking victims at some point, and the state is only now starting to treat them differently.

"It's a huge sea change," she said.



Lawmakers debate child abuse disclosure

by Laurel Rosenhall

How much should the public be told about severe cases of child abuse?

For two years, that exact question has prompted sometimes sharp debate involving California lawmakers and the administration of Gov. Jerry Brown. Legislators recently rejected a Brown-backed proposal to limit public access to reports on abuse so extreme that children nearly die.

The schism reflects a fight between advocates for children and foster youths, on the one hand, and, on the other, the government agencies and workers tasked with protecting those children from harm.

At stake is about $5 million in federal funds – and the outcome of a debate pitting privacy arguments against revelations of what social workers knew about a family situation before it grew almost deadly. State law already requires the release of original caseworker reports when children die from abuse or neglect, sometimes exposing serious lapses in the government's care of vulnerable kids.

“We spend a lot of time talking about the value of transparency in government, and I think that applies to this scenario, too,” state Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, said of cases deemed “near fatalities.”

“If shedding light on a particular practice, a particular worker, can create … a different internal procedure that can have a positive outcome for the next child, that should be our collective goal.”

Mitchell chairs the Senate committee that turned down a proposal from Brown's Department of Social Services to require summaries of social worker reports – not the reports themselves – to be disclosed in near-fatal child abuse cases.

Over the last eight years, 855 children in California were abused so severely that their cases qualified as near fatalities, according to the Department of Social Services. The term is used when abuse victims end up in serious or critical condition. During the same period, 980 California children died from abuse.

In a high-profile Los Angeles case, documents released after 8-year-old Gabriel Martinez died in 2013 with a cracked skull and broken ribs showed that local officials left him with his mother despite having investigated her for abuse six times. Records also showed an unresolved allegation of abuse that social workers failed to investigate in the time required by law.

By contrast, state law is silent on the release of information when children barely survive abuse.

“We were proposing to create a process that would require disclosures,” said Michael Weston, a deputy director in the state Department of Social Services. “There are currently no laws that require reporting.”

Last year, the department pitched a similar plan to the Legislature, but lawmakers did not accept it.

This year, officials came back, arguing that California is at risk of losing nearly $5 million in federal funding if it does not pass a law defining what information must be made public in near-fatal abuse cases. Disclosing a summary of findings would protect the privacy of a child recovering from abuse and adults or siblings in the home who were not responsible for it, state officials said, while meeting federal reporting requirements.

Their plan had support from the Service Employees International Union, which represents social workers, and the County Welfare Directors Association, which represents local agencies that oversee child protective services.

“We appreciate the Administration's thoughtful balancing of the public's right to know certain relevant information about these types of incidents with the need to protect privacy for the affected children who are still alive and trying to recover from serious injuries and trauma,” the groups wrote in a joint letter of support for the bill.

But Ed Howard, a lobbyist for the Children's Advocacy Institute, protested that the administration's approach “elevated the needs of government over the needs of kids.”

Foster youth groups objected, too, arguing that original documents are more informative, and releasing them after near-fatalities would force counties to improve in how they look out for kids.

Children's advocates and newspaper publishers lobbied for a bill that would require disclosure of reports on near-fatalities the same way it's done when youngsters die.

The administration's latest proposal surfaced last month as part of Brown's revised state budget blueprint – a common way of passing laws that may be only tangentially related to the budget and avoids the lengthier vetting that regular bills receive.

That, too, raised objections in some quarters.

“They simply thrust it on everyone with this gun-to-the-head approach and attempted to get it jammed into the budget that way,” said Jim Ewert, lobbyist for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, which promotes open government and access to public records.


North Carolina

It takes a whole community to prevent child abuse

by Sharon Hirsch

When we hear stories about our children being violated by someone trusted in their lives — a teacher, coach, pastor or family member — we are horrified and angry. We've been reminded of this by the news of a pre-trial hearing in Durham where a teacher at Jordan High School was charged with sexual abuse. When cases like this make the news, it reminds us that often in these situations, people likely knew something was wrong but did not act out of fear or lack of knowledge. This is why the line in the Academy Award-winning movie, “Spotlight,” resonates with us at Prevent Child Abuse NC: “It takes a village to abuse a child.”

Our reactions cannot stop with horror and anger. We all have a role to play whether we are parents, teachers, pastors or coaches. We can prevent child sexual abuse when we shine a light on protective factors and stay involved in our community and work together to make sure our schools, faith communities and neighborhoods are safe, nurturing environments for children of all ages.

Preventing child sexual abuse is not the responsibility of children; it's the responsibility of the adults who live in the neighborhoods and communities where our children live. Sexual abuse is one of the most traumatic Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and has been identified by the Centers for Disease Control as a significant public health issue. In addition to the immediate physical harm, victims suffer toxic stress that results in multiple long-term negative physical and mental health problems that affect us all.

Child sexual abuse is preventable. There are ways school leaders, PTAs, coaches, faith leaders and communities, and parents can prevent abuse from ever occurring. When we speak up and expose these situations, we transform the lives of children, the adults they will become, and the schools, faith communities and neighborhoods they call home.

The first step is to know what abuse is, how to recognize it when it is occurring and how to respond appropriately. You can take a free course on “Recognizing and Responding to Child Maltreatment” at designed for professionals and volunteers working with children and families and any N.C. citizen concerned with child well-being. Prevent Child Abuse NC recommends that all schools require their entire staff to take this course.

Schools, churches, athletic groups and child-serving organizations should have policies in place that ensure children are never left alone with an adult or adults. What happened at Jordan High School should be a call to action for everyone to evaluate their policies. If policies don't exist, create one that puts the protection of children as the highest priority.

Here are some easy places to start:

•  Screen babysitters and caregivers and make sure your child-care provider has done a complete background check on all of its employees. Check references with other families and ask your children how the experience with the caregiver was, and carefully listen to responses.

•  Monitor internet and social media use. This is a critical tool for preventing abuse. Keep your computer in a common area of your home and supervise your child's internet use. Know who his or her online “friends” are and establish family internet safety rules.

•  If you suspect child sexual abuse, report it to the police.

The future success of North Carolina depends on the healthy development and growth of all of our children. Prevent Child Abuse NC is committed to providing communities across our state with the knowledge, skills and supports they need to prevent abuse from ever occurring by fostering safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments. Getting involved when you suspect a child is being maltreated is essential to make that possible. Together, we can prevent abuse from ever happening.

The writer is president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina.



Advocates working to recognize and prevent child abuse

by Jennifer Edwards

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Nearly one million children in the United States are abused, or neglected, each year.

Child advocacy groups say it is an extremely serious issue that can be fatal if not reported.

"The key is, these children need help and we all need to do what we can to get them the help that they need," said Jo Davis, Clinical Counselor and Case Manager with the Children's Hospital Intervention and Prevention Services Center.

If worried about a child's wellbeing, Davis said it is important to pay attention to a child's physical appearance and listen closely to what they say.

"Sometimes its injuries, its repeated, when the stories don't add up in a child, when you see an injury, when you see someone in the community who appears to be mistreating a child because we really need to, as a community, be advocates for our children and really look out for them," Davis said.

Davis said any, and all concerns, should be voiced. It is better to report something small, than not at all.

"If you have a concern that a child has been abused then that person definitely needs to contact DHR and review with them what the concern is. You could always contact your local law enforcement and tell them what's going on and they can be assist to you if there is a child who is in need of services," she said.

If the thought of reporting someone makes you uncomfortable, there are other options.

"Contact DHR and report them, you know, concerns can be reported anonymously, if you're worried about using your name," Davis said.

It is important to remember, speaking up could save a child's life.

There are several child abuse prevention services in West and Central Alabama.

Children's Hospital Intervention and Prevention Services Center 205-638-2751.

Jefferson County Prescott House 205-930-3622

Child Abuse Prevention Services 205-758-1159


West Virginia

Rapes, Daily Beatings, and No Escape: Christian School Was Hell For These Boys

Blue Creek Academy was an abusive hell on earth, former students say—and the principal who ran it is now heading up a new Bible school in another state.

by Brandy Zadrozny

Jacob* dressed himself in a camouflage jacket and a matching beanie on the summer morning he ran away into the West Virginia hills. At 14 years old, he was one of the youngest, smallest, and longest-attending students at Blue Creek Academy, a religious reform school for boys from which he was desperate to escape.

Blue Creek Academy was made up of an old schoolhouse and several cabins situated on a remote campground in central West Virginia. A mission of the nearby Independent Fundamental Baptist church, pastor James Waldeck advertised Blue Creek as an “alternative to today's degenerate, secular culture and education methods,” and took in boys who had been in trouble at home—both locally and from as far away as Texas—to be reformed. Its principal, 35-year-old JR Thompson, had reopened the church's campgrounds in 2010, renamed it Blue Creek Academy, and marketed the boarding school, which he ran with his wife, Hannah, as a godly answer for “at-risk” teens with emotional and behavioral disabilities and Christian parents with $1,000 a month to spend on their salvation.

“We can't wait to watch God move as he helps us snatch troubled souls out of Satan's hand,” Thompson wrote on the school's now-defunct website.

What the boys found when they got to Blue Creek Academy was something else entirely—an all-too-common story for victims of Lester Roloff-inspired homes, which thrive as part of the unregulated religious teen reform industry.

Along with a strict Bible-based curriculum, boys at Blue Creek Academy were allegedly subject to isolation, physical beatings and mistreatment, and at least two students reported sexual abuse by another student, according to court documents from a pending civil case brought against the school by one boy's guardian; complaints and reports from West Virginia's Department of Health and Human Resources obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by The Daily Beast; and interviews—with a lawyer representing three Blue Creek Academy students, three other former students, one parent, and the Kanawha County Sheriff's Office.

Once at Blue Creek, the boys were cut off completely from the outside world, former students and their representatives claim. Bunkered in dilapidated quarters that were infested with rats and mice, the boys weren't permitted to speak in public unless it was to sing hymns for local churches and the elderly. They weren't taken to the doctor, and their calls home were monitored to intercept any unhappy tidings. When the boys weren't going to church, doing manual labor, or memorizing Bible verses, they were in a kind of school—seated in desks facing the wall, completing Bible-based academic workbooks for hours.

Staff at Blue Creek Academy educated children using the Accelerated Christian Education (A.C.E.) curriculum, from a homeschooling supply company whose workbooks promote the Bible as a literal history book and stress Creationism as science. (At one time the company even used the Loch Ness Monster to “disprove” Darwin's theory of evolution.) Following A.C.E. guidelines, desks faced the wall, and were usually surrounded by dividers to block out any distractions.

“They basically handed you a book and said, ‘Learn,'” one former student, who asked not to be named, told The Daily Beast.

In lieu of teachers, ACE only requires “facilitators” to check students work and record grades, but even that was neglected at Blue Creek, according to several students who told The Daily Beast their time at Thompson's school had to be made up once they returned to public school because none of their work “counted.”

Even the director's adopted son, 19-year-old Justin Thompson, who lived at Blue Creek starting in 2010, told The Daily Beast over Facebook chat, “I passed high school but [JR Thompson] never kept a lot on record, so I have no proof.”

But the educational neglect was nothing compared to the punishments given by Thompson, former students allege.

Boys who acted out, or refused to obey, might have their heads shaved like Jacob. Attempts to run away were allegedly penalized with food: an all-bean or asparagus diet or being made to chug water then denied use of the bathroom. They were all allegedly beaten—with bare hands, paddles, and boards. Jacob—whose new guardian is now suing Thompson and Waldeck for the maltreatment the boy allegedly endured there— said he was thrown into a wall when he wouldn't confess to breaking a bench.

“Mr. Thompson was very aggressive when it came to paddlings,” said one former student, reached through Facebook, who says he was sent to Blue Creek Academy for drinking and smoking pot. The boy, who asked not to be named because of his remaining ties to Blue Creek staff, said that he was hit nearly every day with Thompson's bare hands or a two-inch thick wood plank with holes they called “The Hillbilly Hot Seat” for lying, or cursing, even singing a secular song in the shower.

“It was hell,” he said. “They forced unwanted religion on us, made us do labor that we hated, and made us run up and down the driveway. They used a board to hit us if we didn't do what we were asked,” he said.

At least two of the boys there were the victims of sexual abuse. As detailed on an intake form from the division of Child Protective Services, obtained by a FOIA request from The Daily Beast, a 17-year-old boy—who was sent to Blue Creek from another teen reform school in Wisconsin where he had been originally placed and subsequently booted for molesting boys—was sexually abusing two of the younger students in 2012. Thompson—whom two former Blue Creek families fault with failing to supervise a known abuser—did report the older boy to police. When questioned, the older boy admitted to Thompson and police that he had raped one boy and molested another; he was arrested and sent to a juvenile detention center, where he was charged with four counts of 3rd degree sexual assault and three counts of 1st degree sexual abuse.

A separate allegation of sexual assault by a different boy at Blue Creek Academy is still currently under investigation, according to Sgt. Brian Humphreys, the public information officer for the Kanawha Sheriff's Office.

Blue Creek administrators had their own personal history with CPS: one had been investigated for the alleged sexual abuse of his biological children, while another had been reported for unspecified allegations against his adopted son. Both investigations were closed as “incomplete.”

On the intake form, the CPS investigator noted there was not enough supervision at the school and took issue with the policy of corporal punishment, but neither concern was enough to remove the children. Besides, where would they go? “The parents of all the boys do not seem interested in coming to get any of them,” the worker wrote.

But Jacob wanted out. So he waited until the morning of June, 10, 2014 when Thompson would be off campus. As the other boys gathered for prayers and school, Jacob went back to his cabin, telling them he had forgotten to brush his teeth. Then he made a run for it.

When the staff at BCA realized Jacob had run, they called Thompson back to look for him. After hours of fruitless searching, Thompson called local law enforcement, who helped him search the surrounding woods—but Jacob was gone.

The next evening, a man found Jacob begging for change at a neighboring county supermarket 10 miles from Blue Creek and called Clay County Child Protective Services. Jacob smelled foul and the soles of his shoes had been worn bare from running. He was hungry, dirty, and scared, according to the CPS intake form.

Jacob begged the sheriff not to send him back.

Kanawha County Child Protective Services went out to investigate Jacob's abuse allegations and interview the boys at Blue Creek. When they got past Thompson, who initially refused to let them in the door, they found seven boys who all disclosed allegations of abuse and neglect by Thompson. The caseworker wrote that, in her interviews, the children told her Thompson had left marks from beatings and his poor supervision allowed for the molestation of several children; guns, drugs, and alcohol were also being brought on campgrounds. The official finding was maltreatment.

“There was a lack of oversight,” said Troy Giatras, the attorney litigating a case for Jacob's guardian against Thompson, Waldeck, and Blue Creek Academy. “The corporal punishment, the manual labor, the isolation, and the allegations of abuse that were never investigated? Other kids have reached out to us, so I know this isn't an isolated incident.”

“You have a place that is operating without a good charter and not well supervised by the Department of Health and Human Resources, and parents with troubled kids who are expecting a religious school to help.”

No one from Blue Creek chose to comment for this story. Calls to Wadeck and Bible Baptist Church, and calls and emails sent to JR Thompson, his wife Hannah, and two other couples who worked at the camp during the time of alleged abuse were also not returned. In answers to a number of pending lawsuits, however, including one on behalf of Jacob, Waldeck and Thompson deny all charges of neglect or mistreatment of the boys at Blue Creek Academy.

After her interviews, with the help of the Kanawha County Sheriff, the Child Protective Services caseworker brought the kids to a pizza parlor while they organized a return to their homes.

While the children could be removed—because Blue Creek was unlicensed as a residential home—the Department of Children and Families had no power to shut the boarding school down. Like thousands of other religious private schools around the country—many of which become havens for abuse—Blue Creek Academy operated unlicensed, unregulated, and wholly unmonitored by the state. The only avenue for closure rested with the Board of Education, an entity that until then, had also had minimal interaction with the school.

As in many other states, religious private schools in West Virginia aren't held to the same standards as their nonreligious counterparts. Though the ways in which they are exempt varies from state to state, for many schools that operate with a religious mission—80 percent of private schools nationwide—accreditation or licensing, the hiring of certified teachers or the approval of curriculum, or even simply notifying the state as to its existence is completely voluntary.

“It's a little scary when you think about it,” Betty Jordan, executive assistant to West Virginia's Education Superintendent told The Daily Beast, explaining Blue Creek's “Exemption K status,” a category that simply requires any religious school to send a letter to the state of its intent to operate and file annual test scores.

“There is very very limited oversight. Actually there is no oversight. So basically if I wanted to tomorrow, I could write a letter to the state saying I want to open a school and I could open a school.”

There are 130 such schools in West Virginia. Jordan said the exemptions are “hardly ever” revoked.

State superintendent Michael Martirano did initiate Blue Creek's closure, by revoking Blue Creek's exemption status shortly after the children were removed. And in his September 2014 revocation letter, Martirano ostensibly put an end to any ideas of Blue Creek reopening. He wrote: “Due to the egregious nature of the non-compliance, children's health, safety and welfare, any future attempts by the school to seek reinstatement of the exemption status will be denied by this office.”

Notably, the superintendent had shuttered another school 75 miles south of Blue Creek Academy the month before, after 26 years of operation. Martirano forced Miracle Meadows, a Seventh Day Adventist boarding school for “at risk” boys and girls from 6 to 17 years old, to close after a DHHR investigation found that school officials had failed to report an instance of sexual abuse of one student by another and that a school janitor had restrained students in handcuffs until their wrists bled and choked others who misbehaved.

The Department of Health and Human Resources had received 13 formal complaints about the school since 2009, four of which alleged sexual misconduct, according to an Associated Press report on records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Miracle Meadows' former director Susan Gayle Clark, 69, pled guilty this year to three misdemeanors counts of child neglect creating a substantial risk of injury, failure to report by a mandated reporter, and obstructing a law enforcement officer. She was sentenced to six months and 30 days in prison.

Abuse at religious schools like Blue Creek Academy and Miracle Meadows is underreported and frighteningly prevalent, according to Marci Hamilton, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University and author of God vs the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty.

“These small institutions can be very dangerous to kids because they are isolated and fly under the radar,” Hamilton told The Daily Beast. Because some fundamentalist parents agree with physical abuse as discipline and sexual abuse is often dealt with internally or covered up, Hamilton said, it can be “easy for these groups to get away with it for quite a while, while endangering a series of children.”

“This is a common problem, which calls for a National Commission on child sex abuse and for states to work more cooperatively on tracking entities that permit and foment child sex abuse and neglect.”

Indeed, a lack of cooperation by states is the very thing that allows abusive Christian teen reform homes closed by authorities in one state to be reopened in another, sometimes using the same name, and frequently run by the same operators.

After Olin King pled “no contest” to charges in South Carolina stemming from the isolation, imprisonment, and beatings of children in his care at The New Bethany Baptist School for Boys in 1984, he packed up and moved, opening the aptly-named Second Chance Ranch in Danbury, North Carolina. A state bill that would have licensed such boarding schools proposed in response to New Bethany's closing was protested by local pastors who called it an “intrusion into freedom of the church's rights.” Today South Carolina is one of the states that exempts religious schools from licensing rules that govern other residential youth homes.

In 2009, a Lester Roloff disciple, Pastor Jack Patterson, was forced to close his tough-love boarding school, Reclamation Ranch in Alabama, after allegations of torture and a police raid that turned up guns and shackles. As part of a plea deal, Patterson traded in a felony aggravated child abuse for a verbal harassment misdemeanor and a $500 fine. Though he did close Reclamation Ranch, Patterson opened a home for adult men in its place, maintained his school for girls nearby, and told a Mother Jones reporter in 2011, he planned to open more homes in Ohio, Florida, and Michigan.

In 2012, Alexandra Zayas, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her reporting on religious boarding schools in the state, wrote that Florida preacher Clayton "Buddy" Maynard was housing five children when, just two years earlier his isolated Heritage Boys Academy had been closed after a state investigation found that boys had been abused there, including one boy who was whipped 1,330 times. “None of the state agencies that oversee such facilities were aware the church was caring for children,” Zayas wrote.

And Florida pastor Russ Cookston's Lighthouse ministries school was closed in 2013 after being plagued with allegations of physical and sexual abuse and solitary confinement. According to his Facebook and LinkedIn pages, though, one month after he closed up his shop in the small town of Jay, he was working as an associate pastor at a Master's Ranch, a home for troubled boys in Missouri, a state with notoriously lax child welfare laws.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Master's Ranch administrator David Bosley confirmed Cookston's position as a senior staff member, praising him as “almost too gentle for this job,” “extremely kind,” and “extremely patient.”

“I do know when you get in this business—and I've been working with kids for almost 30 years—that you will always be accused of abuse by someone,” Bosley said. “I firmly believe every student should be heard and every allegation thoroughly investigated for the safety of all kids, but you're always going to have one or two disgruntled kids or parents who are trying to find a way out of the program or who just hate you for trying to help him.”

The Government Accountability Office found thousands of allegations of abuse at teen reform homes and camps from 1990 to 2007, some of which involved the death of a young person. The 2007 report was unable to provide a specific number however, as “it could not locate a single Web site, federal agency, or other entity that collects comprehensive nationwide data.” In fact, the only tracking of these types of homes and the abuse that often occurs in them, comes from bloggers and advocacy groups.

Angela Smith, 42, runs HEAL, one of the most prominent organizations working to expose and ultimately close abusive youth facilities. Blue Creek Academy is one of some 500 past and present residential programs in the U.S. that currently make up HEAL's watch-list of fraudulent and abusive programs in the U.S.

“Abuse is rampant because many of these facilities operate with little or no oversight and accountability,” Smith said. Even in the states with licensing boards like Montana and Utah, she said, ”the people who own and operate these youth programs are the ones doing the oversight.”

“The fox is watching the hen-house so to speak.”

Nobody seems to be watching JR Thompson.

By the time the Department of Education mailed the revocation letter to Blue Creek Academy, principal Thompson had moved to Montana, to a three-bedroom single family house on 11 acres in De Borgia, a six-mile-wide town near the Idaho border that, as of the last census count, was home to 78 people. Within a year, and with the blessing of his “sending church” in West Virginia, Thompson had registered his new home as Canaan's Land Baptist Church with the Secretary of State. By August 2015, the Canaan's Land Boy's Ranch, a non-public secondary school, was registered as a business.

“Even though our name is Canaan's Land Boys Ranch, we are not currently in a ranch setting,” Thompson says in a video advertisement for the $900-a-month boarding school running out of his new home. “We do plan to expand and move to a location where we will be able to acquire animals for the boys to work with.”

There is space for eight children, according the Canaan's Land Boys Ranch website, and so far, two boys, ages 14 and 15, currently live, go to church with, and are educated by the Thompsons. The minors both appear in promotional videos for Canaan's Land Boys Ranch, where they decry their past lives of “doing the wrong things,” and being disrespectful to their parents. They're wearing bowties in Facebook photos as they sing hymns with the Thompsons for a church audience.

The existence of Thompson's new endeavor came as a surprise to Montana school officials.

“This is the first I've heard anything about Canaan's Land Boys Ranch,” said Mineral County Superintendent of Schools Mary Yarnall, who explained Thompson has yet to fill out the minimal paperwork the state requires from the operator of a boarding school.

“I will try figure out an address and send him a packet. If he doesn't acknowledge that, I can send the sheriff to at least make him sign, but in Montana there isn't a whole lot of consequence for not registering.”

Montana's negligible yet unenforceable education requirements for religious private schools no doubt appeal to Thompson, who according to his pseudonymous activism on social media, seems particularly keen on separating himself and his boys' home from any more government meddling.

Thompson blogs under the the alias Nehemiah Flynt, “a Christian author determined to expose the evils of Child Protective Services,” according to his Facebook page, which he made private following a request for comment for this story. In a YouTube video reading from his book, “Legal Discrimination,” Thompson—speaking as Flynt, with his face blurred, but with his characteristic southern drawl intact—does speak to the controversy at Blue Creek saying, “Flynt took charge of a successful Christian-based facility for at-risk youths. He soon, learned, however, that the government of the United States is so narrow-minded that they would stop at nothing to close any facility operating under moral or religious principles differing from their own devilish agendas. ”

“One allegation from a non-credible source changed everything," he says in the video.

Now, attorney Troy Giatras says he's representing at least three former students and their parents, who are hoping someone at Thompson's former boarding school will have to answer for what went on there.

Since being reunited with her son after the raid at Blue Creek, one of Giatras' clients, Carolyn*, 32, from Evansville, Indiana, has written and called every local, state, and federal law enforcement office and lawmaker that she knows, looking for someone who will hold the operators of Blue Creek Academy accountable for the abuse she says her son withstood there for 17 months, and to make sure it doesn't happen to other children.

“They dodged my calls,” she said. “They told me that me and my son should be lucky, that I got him back and they don't have time to do anything else, that their work is for active cases.”

As for her son's well-being, she said, “It's a process. The damage is overwhelming. He's been in counseling ever since he left.”

Meanwhile, Thompson is being careful with his new school. The website for Canaan's Land Boys Ranch used to have his and his wife's names on it, but they've since been scrubbed clean and a warning for prospective parents has been added: “Our Ranch Isn't For Everyone!” it says, along with the caveat that boys with a history of “sexual acting out (molestations, rapes, etc)” and “students who come from families who would not be supportive of the day to day operations of Canaan's Land Boys Ranch” will not be admitted.

*Names of children and parents have been omitted or changed to protect child victims of sexual abuse.



How child trauma can haunt us as adults

by Daniel P. Finney

Yolanda Harden grew up a ward of the state in Lawton, Okla. Chaos marked her childhood, the details of which she chooses to keep private, even at age 34.

She drank alcohol and smoked marijuana before she was a teenager. She got pregnant when she was 14 and had a son at 15.

For most of her life, Yolanda, who now lives in Rockford, Ia., felt like a clenched fist gripped her heart, she told me in a recent telephone conversation. She believed the root of her struggles was that she was simply “broken.”

About a year ago, someone told Yolanda about ACEs, an acronym for adverse childhood experiences. ACEs describe various forms of child abuse, trauma and household dysfunction.

Exposure to adverse childhood experiences has lifelong consequences for children, according to research that dates back to the early 1990s. The more trauma children endure, the deeper set potentially harmful thinking and behavioral patterns become.

Adults who endured four or more adverse childhood experiences are six times as likely to struggle with depression and other mood disorders, compared with those with no adverse childhood experiences, according to a report by ACEs 360 Iowa, part of the nonprofit Prevent Child Abuse Iowa.

Some 56 percent of Iowa adults have experienced at least one among eight types of child abuse and household dysfunction, according to the report that looked at data from 2012 through 2014. The humanitarian group gave me a preview of the report last week. The full report will be made public in July.

More than 14 percent of Iowa adults have experienced four or more adverse childhood experiences, which include physical, sexual and emotional abuse and family issues such as substance abuse in the home, a family member with mental illness, domestic violence, separation or divorce and other trauma.

The corrosive reach of adverse childhood experiences affects physical health. Adults who lived through four or more adverse childhood experiences also are more likely to have cancer, diabetes, lung ailments, arthritis, strokes and a host of other health ailments.

Despite the research being more than a quarter-century old, Yolanda had never heard of the science. When a therapist finally explained it to her, she exhaled.

“It was like, ‘Oh, of course,'” she said. “It all makes sense now.”

More than that, Yolanda started to look at the struggles in her life from a different perspective. Many of the critical mistakes she made in her life weren't because she was a bad person.

They were rooted in disrupted neurodevelopment that affected her social, emotional and cognitive behaviors.

“It wasn't all my fault,” Yolanda said. “There was an actual scientific explanation for why I did what I did.”

Take note: Yolanda is not making excuses for any of her actions, past or present. She owns her choices. Rather, the adverse childhood experiences research helps her understand the reason for her behaviors.

And now that she understands those reasons, Yolanda can work on creating new behavior patterns that are healthier for her and those around her.

The part of Yolanda's story that echoes deepest with me is learning about adverse childhood experiences for the first time, as I did last year when looking closer at the root causes for my struggle with mood disorders, spendthrift behavior and morbid obesity.

Like Yolanda, I've been in and out of therapy for years discussing childhood experiences, and no one mentioned the research, including the work on the topic at Iowa State University. Both of us wonder why it took so long for this information to reach us.

That's a problem ACEs 360 Iowa aims to address, said Sarah Welch, communications director for Prevent Child Abuse Iowa.

“It's a story that's hard to tell, because there is this preconception that people should just 'pull themselves up by their bootstraps,'" she said. "But the research overwhelmingly shows that the experiences we have in the first five years of life play a significant role in our adult thought processes."

This, of course, does not mean that children who suffer adverse childhood experiences are doomed to a life of troubles. The biggest single factor is the people in their lives who inspire resilience.

Yolanda didn't recognize the help at the time, but looking back at her childhood she can see the “little nudges that helped me head in the right direction.”

She remembers a fifth-grade teacher who tested her for talented and gifted, despite her poor grades and seeming disinterest in school.

“It was the first time someone treated me as if I was smart and had something to offer,” Yolanda said.

In seventh grade, another teacher encouraged her to keep her thoughts in a journal and pushed her to excel in creative writing.

The social worker who handled her case stuck with her until she aged out of the system at 18. Yolanda sometimes clashed with him, but years later she connected with him on Facebook to thank him for the faith he showed in her.

“I didn't realize how important he was to me,” Yolanda said.

There was no magic Hollywood epiphany for Yolanda. Instead, a series of kindnesses large and small helped her recognize her own dignity, gradually change her behaviors and raise her child to avoid as many adverse experiences as possible. Her resiliency built up over time, and eventually life improved.

Yolanda married a military serviceman. Her son is studying culinary arts in college.

She began her working life in banking. Recently, she finished her bachelor's degree and took a job with Families Making Connections, an AmeriCorps group in north Iowa that helps children with experiences similar to hers.

Is everything perfect? Of course not.

“I still have bad days," Yolanda said. "I still struggle with my moods. But I understand the reason for it, and I work on ways to change the patterns.”

ACEs 360 Iowa is working to both prevent adverse childhood experiences and spread the word about helping the general public understand them, engage their empathy and try to be the kind of person who inspires resiliency.

“With so many people in Iowa having these experiences, there is a very good chance even people with no ACEs in their past know someone who have struggled with them,” said Suzanne Mineck, president of Mid-Iowa Health Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes health in vulnerable communities. “Once you know about ACEs, it forces you to turn down the judgment dial a little bit.”



Catholic church pushes back, singling out legislators who voted for abuse bill

by Maria Panaritis

HARRISBURG — One lawmaker called it “electioneering.” Another grew emotional as she recounted being snubbed by a priest. A third penned a Facebook screed that became the buzz of the House of Representatives.

Legislators expressed outrage this week after they said they had been named by priests at Mass and in church bulletins or in some other way rebuked by the Catholic Church for supporting a bill that would let child sex-abuse victims sue individuals and private institutions decades after the abuse occurred.

Rep. Nick Miccarelli, a devout Catholic from Delaware County, said he was stunned on Sunday to see his name printed alongside what he called “lies,” and “distortions” in the weekly bulletin at his Eddystone parish. By his count, at least a dozen other House members reported having been singled out by the church or its advocates in recent days.

“A lot of the members would tell you responses have been nothing short of threats to claims of betraying their faith,” Mr. Miccarelli, a Republican first elected in 2008, said the day after his Facebook post about the campaign quickly made the rounds in Harrisburg.

Several of the legislators, each of whom faces re-election this fall, said they were targeted for retribution as Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput leads a push to stop the bill from becoming law.

The measure would give victims until age 50 — instead of 30, as the current law allows — to sue their abusers or the institutions that employed or supervised them. It won near unanimity in the House this spring, but faces an uncertain fate in the Senate.

The church, among the biggest opponents, has warned that the bill's retroactivity could lead to a wave of lawsuits and unfairly cripple parishes and schools that deserve no blame for sexual attacks that happened decades ago.

Ken Gavin, a spokesman for Archbishop Chaput, confirmed that archdiocesan pastors this weekend in “many instances” shared with worshipers how certain lawmakers had voted on the bill.

“The bill is public and the voting records are public,” Mr. Gavin said in an email Wednesday. “There's nothing wrong with sharing that information. Obviously, parishioners are very concerned about this legislation. For those constituents to contact elected officials to voice such concern is a very normal thing.”

The push from the pews was not new or unexpected from Archbishop Chaput. He used the same approach as bishop of Denver to help defeat a similar bill a decade ago. Other dioceses subsequently replicated the approach when statute of limitations reform took hold in their state capitals.

But some on the receiving end said they believed the effort went beyond simply educating the congregation.

The House bill passed overwhelmingly — all but 15 of 195 members voted in favor of it.

Still, Rep. James R. Santora, another Delaware County Republican, said even stalwart church supporters like him were finding themselves under attack and unhappy about it.

“I believe everyone that voted for the bill is being targeted,” he said, including himself in that list but declining to say how he had been targeted.

To Mr. Santora, the naming of lawmakers inside churches and in parish bulletins smacked of “electioneering.” He questioned the propriety of the church telling worshipers, as he saw it, that they were not worthy of votes come November.

It also bothered Mr. Santora that, to the church, it made no difference that he had helped secure millions of public dollars to help the archdiocese finance the visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia. Or that his late mother worked for the archdiocese. Or that his children attend Catholic school.

“We're constantly advocating for the church,” Mr. Santora said in an interview, “and now we're the enemy.”

At Mass last Saturday and Sunday at St. Dorothy's in Drexel Hill, the pastor did not name Mr. Santora, he said, but did read a letter from Archbishop Chaput urging parishioners to contact the Senate Judiciary Committee.

After that, calls and emails began flowing in, including from a major church donor who asked Mr. Santora to explain why he had supported the bill.

Mr. Santora said he did so because as a Catholic he felt it was the moral thing to do.

“I had a choice,” he said. “Do I choose victims, or do I choose the rapists or the abusers? I chose the victims.”

In an interview Tuesday, Rep. Martina White of Northeast Philadelphia was visibly moved as she described hearing a few days ago she would be no longer welcome at some constituent events in her district. She said a priest told her aide the reason was Ms. White's support in April of House Bill 1947.

“When you think of the Catholic Church, you think of acceptance and forgiveness and a community that's available to you,” said Ms. White, a first-term Republican who belongs to St. Christopher's in Philadelphia's Somerton neighborhood and attended 12 years of Catholic school.

“Being dis-invited,” she said, choking back tears, “you feel cut off.”

A letter on the issue distributed to St. Christopher's parishioners last weekend didn't identify Ms. White, she said, but it did name Sen. John Sabatina, a Democrat from Northeast Philadelphia. (He did not respond to request for comment.)

Another legislator said to have been shaken after hearing his parish priest call him out by name at Mass was Rep. Thomas Murt of Montgomery County, according to Mr. Miccarelli, who said he discussed it with Mr. Murt. A Republican and Iraq war vet, Mr. Murt did not respond to a request seeking an interview.

In recent letters distributed to worshipers and through Catholic schools, Archbishop Chaput and others have expressed many of the same concerns that, when brought to the table in Colorado, helped defeat a change to the civil statute of limitations there.

They say the bill is unconstitutional because it allows retroactive filing of civil claims; is selective because the retroactivity does not apply uniformly to public schools and state institutions; and could bankrupt schools and parishes by allowing a flood of lawsuits for clergy abuse.

Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik said he is not opposed to the intent of the pending legislation, which is the healing of survivors, but disagrees with the language of the bill.

His said the bill would only open up the statute of limitations for victims of abuse that occurred at a private institution, like the Catholic Church, but not at a governmental institution, like a public school.

“The bill purports to offer support to survivors, but how can it if it excludes public institutions from the same exposure to damage claims that private institutions will face if the bill passes? There needs to be an equal playing field.”

Bishop Zubik said he is working closely with Bishop Edward Malesic of the Diocese of Greensburg to inform parishioners about the House bill.

Spokespersons for both the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and the Diocese of Erie say they will be informing Catholics in their dioceses about the issues surrounding the proposed legislation, but will not be referring to the individual voting records of state House members.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, has taken no position on the bill, committing only to hold a hearing Monday on its constitutionality.

According to sources on Friday, Solicitor General Bruce L. Castor Jr. is expected to testify at the committee hearing that the measure is unconstitutional, giving lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee more justification to amend the bill or reject it outright.

After enduring what he called “bully tactics,” Mr. Miccarelli went on Facebook Monday night and excoriated his church, St. Rose of Lima, for singling him out in what he said was an inaccurate summary of the bill. That passage in the church bulletin read:

State Rep. Miccarelli voted in favor of House Bill 1947 which states that private institutions can be sued as far as 40 years ago for millions of dollars, while public institutions may not be sued for any crimes committed in the past.

Supporters point out that the bill would not prevent people from suing public institutions for child sexual abuse on the grounds of gross negligence.

On Tuesday, Mr. Miccarelli distributed copies of the church bulletin page to members on the House floor and began to hear stories of similar campaigns. Demand was so strong for the copies, he said, he had to make more.

Despite the pressure, he, like other legislators, said he would not change his stance on the bill.

Said Mr. Miccarelli: “I would much rather be chastised from the altar, than to be damned for not allowing justice to be done.”


How to help sex-assault victims heal

by Bonnie J. Toomey

I was asked the other day how I would feel if my teenager were sexually assaulted. The truth is that it's hard to answer the question because, thankfully, I've never had to live through that kind of nightmare. But let's say, for the sake of argument, that one of my children had been sexually assaulted. And let's say that it happened to my 17-year-old daughter. And let's also say that the offender was a trusted boyfriend close to her age. How would I feel then? What would I do?

I can only imagine the whirlwind of shock, sadness and anger, and I might even place blame on myself for not protecting my daughter. I might have feelings of hopelessness and despair for my child and my family. I might rattle my brain to desperately search for clues as to what could have prevented the crime from happening in the first place. In denial, I might try to rewrite history. I might abandon all hope and fall into a heap of grief and lock myself in my room, or I might inanely busy myself to the point that there would be no time to feel that kind of agony, a pain, as a parent, that I could only try to perceive as something horrific and scarring. I might question my child. How did she get herself into that situation? What was she wearing? How was she acting? I might want to fix things immediately by taking matters into my own hands. I might blame her. I might blame my spouse. I might blame the system.

I might have a million more questions as to why and how such a thing could have occurred at all. The truth is, though I might want to do and say all of those things I just mentioned, I would also be making a serious mistake.

According to The National Traumatic Stress Network, the following is what we as parents can do if our child comes to us and says she has been sexually assaulted or raped.

We should tell her we love her. We should believe her. We should not question her about the details. We should let her decide if she wants to be seen medically, so that nurses and doctors can tend to her medical needs and collect any physical evidence. During the traumatic experience of reporting we should remind her again that we love her and that we are there for her. She might tell us that the assault was her fault. We should make it very clear to her that the assault was not her fault. It's important to remember that the violent act of rape or sexual assault is not a sexual act at all, but a misuse of power and control over another person.

We should also remember that gently listening without judgment shows the strongest support. If she wants to talk about it, we should attend, but we should not push her to share anything that she does not feel comfortable sharing. We should not become focused on the details of the offense that will nip at the edges of our heart. It is more productive to focus on being supportive and getting help. We should gently reassure her that we love her. We should support her through the process of seeking both legal counsel and emotional counseling. We should make sure she is physically OK. Again, we should embrace and hold her and tell her that we love her. Victims often experience extreme bouts of self-doubt. When something as devastating as sexual assault or rape happens, we should be patient with our own emotions and make room for the healing process to begin for our child who has been wounded, as well as the entire family, who are also suffering deeply. In a real way, we are all victims when someone in our community is sexually assaulted. We should expect healing to take time. We should expect scars. We should be patient. Again we should support her and tell her that she did nothing wrong. We should tell her that her dress or being in a certain place at a certain time never gives another person the right to use sex as a forceful threat of oppression and power.

We should, as parents and community members, remind ourselves that perpetrators often know their victims. We should honor a victim's privacy. We should be calm and strong for the victim. Though we might be angry with the person who violated our child's rights, we should not jeopardize our daughter's safety by taking retaliatory action against her offender. She needs us to be there for her, she needs safe haven.

How might I feel if one of my children was sexually assaulted? Devastated. It's a heartbreaking question that I would not wish on any parent, yet sadly, many mothers and fathers in our communities are dealing with the unthinkable burden of having to process such a question at this very moment. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security estimates underreporting with findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey that 54 percent of female sexual assault victims were under 18 at the time of the assault, and 71 percent of male rape victims were raped before age 18. Because of underreporting very few offenders serve any jail time for their crime, and further, victims are afraid they will be revictimized and blamed.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network ( writes:

"One in 10 high school girls - and one in 20 high school boys - reported being forced into sex. One in three teens is a victim of sexual or other abuse by a dating partner each year. Almost 20 percent of college women reported experiencing sexual assault on campus. Talking about these topics can be hard, but the more open and honest you are with your teen, the more likely it will be that he or she will turn to you with questions and concerns. In fact, 9 out of 10 teens said it would be easier to delay sexual activity if they were able to have 'more open, honest conversations' with their parents about sexual issues."

The good news is that healing can happen, and victims can begin to put the pieces of their lives back together when they know they will not be abandoned. Survivor, Barbara Weiner tells her heartbreaking and hopeful story on The Moth, you can hear it here:

She asks, "Why do I have to keep telling this story?' She's told by her therapist, who promises not to abandon her, "That's how we heal."

If your teen has been sexually assaulted it's important to get help immediately and begin focusing on healing through support. One way to do that is to resist the common misconceptions that drive false narratives that victims of rape and sexual assault are in some way to blame. After a rape, or a sexual assault, it is important to let victims know they are safe, loved, believed and they are not at fault. Let's stamp out harmful stereotypes and stigmas that can cause so many victims, more than half of them children, to endure their feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety and self-doubt for a crime committed against them! Education abolishes ignorance. Help your child to get medical help and psychological and emotional counseling right away if your child has come to you for support. Victims can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). Support heals.

Bonnie J. Toomey teaches at Plymouth State University, writes about families in the 21st century. You can follow Parent Forward on Twitter at Learn more at or visit



Appellate court upholds Jared Fogle's almost 16-year sentence for child pornography

by Ivana Hrynkiw

A federal appeals court today upheld the over 15-year prison sentence handed down to Jared Fogle, the former Subway spokesperson, USA Today reported.

Fogle was sentenced last year by U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt to 15 years and eight months in federal prison. He was convicted of travelling to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor and distribution and receipt of child pornography.

Appellate court judges said that they would not reduce Fogle's sentence because of, "ample evidence that Fogle repeatedly sought out and traveled to have sex with minors," the newspaper reported.

The former spokesperson's attorney said last month that his client was punished too harshly and that "fantasizing about a crime is not a crime," USA Today said.

A judge called that argument "unpersuasive." Court documents detailing the charges against the 38-year-old father said that Fogle paid for sex at a New York City hotel with two girls under age 18, including one who was 16 at the time.

His crimes include viewing videos and images that Russell Taylor, head of Fogle's charity foundation, took of underage girls while they were bathing and changing clothes. He agreed to pay a total of $1.4 million to his 14 victims last November, meaning that they received $100,000 each.

Fogle's attorneys said at last year's sentencing that he "is profoundly sorry for what he has done." They also said that the weight-loss star suffers from "hypersexuality and alcohol abuse/dependence."



State of neglect: breaking the silence

by Ammara Gul Mustafa

Why does the State not take it upon itself to pursue cases of sexual assault? Does the fault lie in the judicial system or is it a deeper malaise?

A child is full of curiosity, wonder and excitement when he or she opens their eyes into this new and alien world. A child who learns to walk by holding their parents' hands and then later takes their first steps towards formal learning in educational institutions is but a vulnerable being who is dependent upon external factors. These numerous factors shape a child into becoming a fully nourished, mentally and emotionally healthy, and stable individual.

However, at times certain catastrophic incidents occur in an infant's, or in a young child's life that prevents them from flourishing into an emotionally healthy and stable individual. One such incident is an evil that has been prevalent in our society since decades, but doors and windows have been shut down upon this matter, letting it remain a dirty, hidden secret forever. People have been afraid to voice, pen, and even debate the issue of child molestation in Pakistan that has been secretly occurring behind the forbidden fabric (no go area) of our society.

The reasons for sweeping this social dilemma under the rug in Pakistan are numerous. For one, people of certain religious backgrounds, a large majority of our masses, are offended by anything that has the slightest mention of “sexuality” or crimes related to sex. Similarly, even rape is considered as a crime, which should not be spoken of. Instead, innocent victims of this crime have to endure shame and embarrassment. They are even victimised by the police, since our law enforcement departments are neglectful in proper accountability of the perpetrators as a result of which the victims suffer harassment.

I had the opportunity of interviewing many people from different social classes who have confided in me about their tragic experiences. The evil of child molestation is a disease, which is not limited to the lower rural or uneducated classes. Many incidents have taken place amongst educated, upper-middle class segments of our society.

I set out to interview some of the survivors of this heinous crime, who have struggled through life, and here is what they had to say on this matter. The names of these individuals have been changed and shall remain anonymous for their privacy. They deserve an award for being brave enough to tell of the emotional and mental traumas that they endured and sustained, and which eventually followed them into their adult life. This hijacked their innocence and mental consistency of living a normal life, and many of the victims even underwent psychological treatment for erasing its deadly after affects.

Miss A, is a 25 years old resident of model town (a posh area of Lahore) and at present she is studying MBA in a reputed institution. Her story is as follows:

“I was 7 years old when an uncle (from my mother's side)—my real blood uncle—molested me. One day when my mother was out of town and I was alone with him, he asked me to sit on his lap and he began to touch me in places, which he shouldn't have, telling me he would give me candy if I play this ‘game' with him. The incident carried on till I was 10 and I never told anyone because I was afraid my mother wouldn't believe me.”

She further added, “I was so young and naive to have even known that he shouldn't have touched me in such places. Later when I grew up, I realised how sick it all made me feel. I still have nightmares related to the incident.”

Another victim is Master B, who was a pupil at a local Madrassa, aged 13 years. He told me,

“My mother had enrolled me in a Madrassa near our home for the memorisation of the Holy Qur'an. My tutor was considered a highly knowledgeable scholar of Islam and was quite reputed in the area. People respected him but they didn't know his true face, which was far from ugly. He would tie me up in a separate room on the back of madrassa class rooms and strip my clothes off and molest me, telling me that I was a naughty boy who did not learn my lessons, so hence, he was punishing me. I told my mother but she did not believe me and said that I was making lame excuses because I did not wish to study. After months of being a silenced prisoner and bearing abusive torment by him, I ran away to another city. I do not wish to go back to my mother either or anywhere close to that city where that monster dwells.”

Usually, judging from the real life interviews I have collected, the perpetrators are either close family members or have close links with the families of the victims. They happen to be well aware of the environment of the child's house, thus, cleverly choosing their victims and silencing them forever.
Sadly, the victims go through many ordeals, unable to function as healthy adults. Sarah is 25 years old, and she tells of being molested at the age of 9 by none other than her own blood. It was her grandfather who mercilessly stripped her of her childhood innocence. “I trusted him”, she said, “he was after all my grandfather. He used to tell me stories every night until one day he started touching my private parts and told me not to tell mommy”.

I asked Sarah why she didn't tell her mother. She replied, “I was afraid. I didn't know anything at that time and I thought my mother would scold me instead and not believe a word I said.”

Hardly, any of these child abuse survivors grow up without having to deal with any unresolved trauma issues. The mental-emotional dilemma in most cases follows and haunts them into adult life. Amir, Amina, amongst others, have been seeing psychologists since many years to remove the deep rooted scars upon their minds that were inflicted by child abuse.

Many of them are dealing with severe trust issues, unable to trust strangers and even themselves. Excessive indulgence in drugs and depression is also common amongst the victims. The outcome is always bad.

Sarah says, “Whenever I see an old man with a beard who slightly resembles my grandfather, the entire episode begins to repeat in my mind and I become frightened of strangers who have a beard. It's anxiety that I'm dealing with. Somehow, I get apprehensive whenever I see someone who resembles him; it's a phobia I have developed as a result of my childhood incident”.

The psychological trauma sometimes comes to haunt them in higher magnitude later in life. A huge responsibility now lies on the shoulders of parents to form a relationship with their child in which the child is never afraid to confide anything of this sort. Teachers and schools must also play a part in developing awareness in young kids about “unwelcoming, physical touch” whether it is of a stranger or a family member. Kids should be taught that any touch to the body is not allowed. Children should be able to confide in their caregivers without any hesitancy or fear at all. This society currently lacks and must pay attention in grooming this awareness in children and their parents.

We need to open our eyes now instead of sweeping the dirt under the rug. A number of unknown cases of child abuse occur every year in Pakistan, many of which are officially unreported, so no one can tell the actual figures in digits and numbers, but according to a rough estimate it is around 28,000 assaults on a yearly basis.

The majority of them occur within our school systems and families, however, they go unreported. Whereas, in reality many of the perpetrators are sinners, they go unpunished. This dire issue shall go unnoticed until these molesters have no fear of any consequences of their heinous acts. The responsibility now lies upon parents, teachers and social workers to enlighten kids upon this matter and make them aware of “unwelcoming physical touch” either by a stranger or a family member.

Sadly, in comparison to other welfare states, we reside in a land that is corrupt and our judicial system is flawed due to which criminals do not receive any penalty and remain free in society. A few days ago, I was having a conversation with a lawyer of High Court who had a false sense of pride in our judicial system and stated that “our country has the best judiciary in the world and our judges are better than the rest”. I was shocked at his ignorant stance. I, being a lawyer myself, do not have false pride in our judicial system. It is corrupt, flawed and one of the slowest departments in delivering justice. The justice system has hardly been fair to those who suffered injustice. This is just one example of the utterly false sense of pride of people wearing ‘black coats' have of their profession. My rebuttal to them is that they go and check where our judicial system is ranked on the Transparency International Index. That might lift the veil of arrogance and misconceptions they presently hold.

There are not enough social workers, and social activists who can go out and combat this issue or try to amend this biased judicial system. Those who try to voice their opinions and bring change are silenced.

A molester might presently be looming right around our neighbourhood, schools or within the safe boundaries of our homes, jeopardising the future and well being of our kids. How much longer will silence be fabricated to disillusion us from this harsh reality? It's time for a wakeup call. It's time we freed ourselves from the false notion that we live in an Islamic state where everything takes place within the specified teachings of Qur'an and Sunnah. It's time we realised that within this so called Islamic state many un-Islamic crimes are happening and dirty secrets are being kept hidden under the false pretext of Islam. It's time to break the silence for the sake our children.

Ammara Gul Mustafa is a lawyer, social activist, and an aspiring writer



Male victims of sexual violence: war's silent sufferers

by Allan Ngari

Sexual violence is a tactic of war, used to humiliate, dominate and instil fear. It is also increasingly being used as a tactic of terrorism. While the focus has largely been on women and girls as victims of sexual violence, boys and men are equally at risk.

As Zainab Hawa Bangura, the United Nations Secretary-General's special representative on sexual violence in conflict, pointed out: ‘The crippling repercussions of rape in war are devastating for women, but our sons and brothers who are victims also suffer in silence.' What distinguishes crimes of sexual violence from other types of crime committed in conflict is the additional burden of stigma, shame and guilt.

No form of violation is more personal; and victims are often internally conflicted as to what exactly happened to them. This is likely one of the reasons that propels warring parties to use this tactic. Victims are silenced by the fear of social ignominy, and risk being ostracised from their communities should they report that they were sexually violated.

Sexual violence against men and boys takes on a range of heinous acts, including anal and oral rape, genital torture, castration and coercion to rape others. Many of these acts are seen as emasculating, and while many male victims are willing to give accounts of what they witnessed, they are less likely to express what they themselves had experienced in conflict.

This problem is compounded by destructive cultural stereotypes where men are viewed as sexually dominant and women as submissive. Male victims who've been subjected to any form of penetration therefore risk being labelled as ‘less manly' – or in some contexts – as homosexual.

Homosexuality is criminalised in 33 African states, which means that fear of prosecution further discourages men from reporting such crimes. Underreporting makes it difficult to develop strategies to combat these types of crime. Two main factors are to blame.

First, as mentioned above, is the limited or total lack of willingness by the victim to report the crime. According to a 2014 report, one in three adult male refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who live in western Uganda are victims of sexual violence. Most of these men were not willing to disclose this, but it has led to devastating health consequences and destructive social behaviour. Victims are likely to develop an aversion to healthy sexual relations with their spouses, and this causes tension in the familial context. This phenomenon occurs in conflict zones across the African continent and globally.

The second main factor for underreporting is an inability among those who work with victims to identify male victims of sexual violence. This includes parties such as investigators in the criminal justice system and aid workers, who often lack the training to deal specifically with this issue. In reports of commissions of inquiry and investigative bodies alluding to the sexual violence against men, testimonies of survivors are, for example, often recorded as acts of torture, but not explicitly as instances of sexual violence against men.

Underreporting is therefore a significant obstacle to effective intervention, and severely limits our understanding of the issue. These crimes further give rise to complex related problems that need serious attention.

For example, as a direct result of sexual trauma, some male victims end up becoming perpetrators of sexual violence against other boys and men. Furthermore, little is known about how best to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate former combatants into society. This includes child soldiers who have been victims of sexual violence.

There is a dearth of research on conflict-related sexual violence against boys as a particularly vulnerable group. Conducting such research may be fraught with ethical and methodological challenges, but reporting these crimes is an essential starting point to build up an evidence base of how many of these crimes are happening, to whom and in which contexts.

Despite the challenges around expressing and hearing the testimony of boys and men who have been victims of conflict-related sexual violence, it is important to encourage reporting – especially in areas like refugee camps. This would promote the development and implementation of mechanisms to address the many effects of sexual violence; including psycho-social and medical support. It would also allow victims to gain access to justice and place the shame of the crime where it belongs: with the perpetrator.

Significantly, adequate reporting can provide the necessary evidence for a shift in policy and legislative frameworks, which largely fail to protect men who experience this form of abuse. The criminal codes of some African states allow male victims to seek redress under charges of sexual assault or indecent assault; but not under a charge of rape. This is simply because the criminal codes fail to defi­ne rape in gender-neutral terms.

Under these laws, the punishment for an offender in cases where the victim is a man or boy is less severe than cases with female victims. This problem is magnified by the lack of national legislation to address mass sexual violations occurring in times of conflict or violence. Conflict-related sexual violence clearly affects both women and men, and states should caution against gender-binary approaches when developing mechanisms to address sexual violence. This is a discriminatory practice, which further violates the rights of victims to equal treatment.   

It is not all doom and gloom; there have been advances in the understanding of conflict-related sexual violence in Africa. These have led to investigations and prosecutions at international tribunals and courts – notably the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Recently, the Extraordinary African Chambers in the courts of Senegal found the former president of Chad Hissène Habré of, among other things, rape.

Many of these interventions have focused on sexual violence against women and children in conflict, but important precedents and foundations have been laid for addressing male sexual victimisation.

A few examples include recognition by the international community that boys and men are victims of conflict-related sexual violence. Another example is the ICTR's best practice manual for the prosecution of sexual violence in post-conflict regions. Also encouraging is the gender-neutral definition of rape in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; and the implementation of these provisions in national laws, such as the South African Criminal Law Amendment Act 32 of 2007.

Another noteworthy advance is the recognition of sexual violence as constituent acts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ICTR's judgment in the Akayesu case also affirmed that in the prosecution of rape, emphasis is shifting away from victims having to prove an absence of consent towards, instead, having to show the presence of coercion.

More needs to be done to address male sexual victimisation. By tackling all forms of sexual violence – regardless of the gender of the victim – the fight against sexual and gender based violence as a whole is advanced.


New York


Back victims of child sex abuse

by The Island Now

It is hard to believe that in 2016 New York State law still prohibits victims of child sex abuse from bringing criminal charges or civil claims against abusers after their 23 birthday.

The trauma of a child sexually abused by an adult, usually one in a position of authority, can last for decades and coming forward to seek justice is often a gut-wrenching decision. To then deny the victims — children assaulted by adults — the chance for justice is unimaginably cruel.

North Shore residents were recently reminded of this when the Catholic order that runs Chaminade High School suspended its former president from serving as a priest after finding allegations that he sexually abused a former student “were credible.”

The current Chaminade president, Brother Thomas Cleary, said the prestigious Mineola parochial school did not learn about the alleged abuse in 2011 until February 2015.

The good news is that the state Assembly is working on legislation to eliminate or significantly extend New York's statute of limitations for child abuse cases.

Gov. Cuomo has said he would like to see a bill passed by the end of the legislative session that eliminates the statute of limitations pertaining to criminal cases and extends it for civil cases. He said he is also open to a one-year window to revive old cases.

The bad news is that legislative session ends June 16, agreement among the Democratic-controlled Assembly is not a sure thing and Senate Republicans, who are led by the Long Island delegation, have opposed eliminating the statue of limitations. They have argued that it could spur a spate of frivolous and difficult-to-prove lawsuits.

This is nonsense.

California saw about five false claims out of 850 against the Catholic Church — about 2 percent.

Are the legislators really going to protect hundreds of sexual predators, preying on children, because one or two people might be falsely accused?
False reporting happens in every category of crime. Why single out sexual assaults against children?

What next, decriminalize rape and murder because of fear of false claims?

Sadly, the Catholic Church has led the opposition to eliminating the statute of limitations for criminal cases, extending it for civil cases and permitting a one-year window to revive old cases.

The Catholic Conference spent more than $2.1 million on lobbying from 2007 through the end of 2015, hiring some of the top lobbying firms in Albany, according to a report in the Daily News. And that, the News reported, does not include the conference's own internal lobbying team.

The Catholic Church, which has already paid out more than $2 billion to abuse survivors and their families in the United States, has been joined by some Orthodox Jewish groups and other private groups in opposition to a proposal to eliminate the time limit that prohibits adults who were victimized as children from bringing civil cases after their 23rd birthday.

It is hard to believe religious groups — especially the Catholic Church, with its history of abuse by priests — would lead a campaign against legislation that would help give justice to victims of horrendous crimes.

We hope the prospect of additional payments to victims and bad publicity is not a reason in their opposition. But if not that, what?

Pope Francis announced last week that bishops who fail to report cases of sex abuse of children and vulnerable adults could be removed from office.

The move was a step in the right direction for a church that has been criticized for not holding bishops accountable for failing to act in cases of clerical sex abuse.

We hope the religious groups and legislators in New York opposing the proposed legislation take the pope's lead and begin thinking more about the victims of sexual assault than their abusers.



Bikers work to end Child Abuse in Maine

by Beth McEvoy

Every year millions of children are abused in the United States. Many don't know where to turn when the abuse happens but in Maine, help may now be just a motorcycle ride away.

Bikers are known for their tough leather exterior, skull and cross bones logos and loud, often fast two wheels. Biker Bubba meets all these clichés but why he rides and what his skull and cross bones mean is anything but typical.

Bubba is the president of the Maine temp chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse, known as BACA. The skull and cross bones he proudly wears represent the organization's fight to end to child abuse in Maine.

BACA is an international non-profit organization working to end child abuse one case at a time. It may seem like an unlikely pairing, children and bikers, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

Bubba, along with his wife Coco, who use their road names to protect their identities, began the rigorous training needed to open a Maine chapter of BACA two years ago.

Bubba, says BACA gets referrals of child abuse cases from law enforcement, social workers and community members. After their board reviews the case, they decide if they can help the children, who range in ages up to 18 years-old. Bubba says the abuse they suffer can be anything from sexual, physical or emotional abuse.

Once BACA takes on a child, they become a member of the family. The bikers refer to all the children as “heroes.” Each hero gets to choose a road name that BACA members will call them. Coco says allowing children to choose their own name empowers that child.

The biker group, currently made up of 12 members, then make the hero into an official member. They ride together to the child's house, line the bikes outside, engines revving, and let the hero come meet them and their bikes.

They present the child with a vest, similar to the one they wear. It has the kid's new road name, a BACA patch and another patch that reads, “I will not live in fear”. Bubba says one of the many things they learn in their extensive training is to let the child initiate interactions.

“We let them come to us,” he says.

BACA helps to empower the child by letting them call the shots in the relationship with the bikers. The BACA bikers also present a teddy bear to the child.

“We load the teddy bear up with hugs and then give it to our hero. Later if those hugs run out, that hero can call us and we will all come back and load it up with hugs again,” says Bubba.

Two bikers are assigned to each individual case. After the child has been brought into, received their vest and teddy bear, the bikers assigned to the child act as big brothers or sisters. The child can call any time of day, if they feel frightened, if they feel sad or simply if they want to chat. Coco says the older kids love to text. She says the bikers spend time with the kids, taking them to get a bite to eat or just talk. With the younger heroes, it's all about playing. Bubba says he has jumped rope with kids, has had glitter all over his burly face and has even been the guest of some tea parties.

Bubba says in most child abuse cases, if a child does not testify, their abuser can often walk. BACA is a non-violent organization… but that doesn't mean they aren't still intimidating. The Maine chapter has gone to court with the victimized children. Bubba says in one case, the bikers served as a wall so the child could not see their abuser. He says a child can call anytime and BACA will come stand watch at their home if they feel unsafe.

Bubba is very clear that BACA members are not therapists. They do however, undergo 12 months of training to learn how to create secure relationships with their heroes.  He says it can be very emotional to know what the child has endured. “But when you are with the hero you have to be strong, you can let the emotions out later,” he says.

Bubba admits before BACA he was not very emotional. “Now I'm a big teddy bear.”

BACA has helped children across the state and they want to do more. They are working to get their chapter officially certified, which they anticipate will happen within the next few months.

“Abuse does not go away. It's always going to be in the back of their head what happened to them as a child. It's going to come back and when it does where do they go? What helped them as a child? Hopefully that was Bikers Against Child Abuse and if it was they can call upon them and they'll show up again,” says Bubba.

No matter how old a hero is they can always call their BACA big brother or sister. Bubba and Coco say once a hero is “patched” into the group, they are family for life.

If you know any child you think could benefit from BACA's services or if  you wish to learn more or donate to this volunteer organization learn more here.


Washington D.C.

Indiana AG touts a debunked and rejected ‘fact' on sex trafficking

by Glenn Kessler

13 is the average age kids are first used in the sex trade.” — billboard in Indiana, near the Indianapolis 500 Speedway

Regular readers know that last year the The Fact Checker exposed a series of false statistics associated with sex trafficking of children. All too often, we found, politicians and organizations credulously accepted flimsy or poorly researched statistics because they were so horrified by the crime. But as we have often noted, advocates only harm their cause when they tout statistics that are so easily disproved.

Our fact checks led many politicians and organizations to be more careful in their use of statistics concerning sex trafficking, but problems continue to surface. Case in point: a billboard campaign launched by Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, tied to the recent Indy 500 motor car race (h/t Elizabeth Nolan Brown of Reason magazine). One of the billboards offered a statistic we had thoroughly debunked last year — that 13 is the average age for children to get involved in the sex trade. The false fact, which was included in a news release by the AG, was quickly recycled through the local media.

If you think about this stat for just half a minute, it makes little sense. After all, if it is the “average,” then for all those who entered trafficking at age 16 or 17, there have to be nearly equivalent numbers who entered at age 9 or 10. But no one seriously believes that. Time for a refresher course!

The Facts

A power point presentation on the AG's website indicates that the source of this statistic is the same rotten fruit that Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) had relied on when we last looked at it — an opinion article posted on the FBI's website, written by Baltimore prosecutors, that mentioned the claim that the average age was 13. That article in turn cited as a source a 2001 report written by Richard J. Estes and Neil Weiner of the University of Pennsylvania.

But we had confirmed previously this was not an FBI or Justice Department figure. In fact, it is astonishing that the FBI has not pulled this article off the Web, since it continues to suggest this false claim is accepted by the FBI.

Meanwhile, the 2001 report is the source of many bad sex-trafficking statistics, including the false claim that more than 300,000 children were “at risk for commercial sexual exploitation.”

The data in the report, which was not peer-reviewed, is almost two decades old. The primary author no longer supports it, saying it is outdated. “The world of the 1990s … was quite a different one from that in which we live today,” Estes told The Fact Checker in 2015.

In any case, there is just a brief mention of the “average age” in the 260-page report, and the number was derived from only 107 interviews with girls, found either in the street or in the care of human-services agencies. So it's pretty slim research for such a widely cited statistic.

Moreover, by their nature, surveys of sex workers are mainly anecdotal and only provide a snapshot of a particular situation in time. So it's a mistake to generalize so broadly from any such survey.

If anything, there is some indication that the “13” number may best refer to the average age of a street sex worker's first sexual encounter. This was reflected in a 1982 survey of 200 current and former juvenile and adult street sex workers in the San Francisco area in which the average age of first intercourse was 13.5 years, as well as in other surveys. But entry in the sex trade is more likely to be between 15 and 16 years old.

A 2008 study of 329 sexually exploited youths in New York City for the National Institute for Justice, by researchers at John Jay College, found that the average age of entry into the sex trade was 15.15 years for females and 15.28 years for males. But the researchers warned that the data is fuzzy because there is no way to check the veracity of the accounts offered by the youth. Interestingly, 90 percent of those interviewed reported not having a pimp.

(Klobuchar, to her credit, said she would stop using the statistic.)

After The Fact Checker debunked the “average age” statistic, one of the most influential anti-trafficking organizations, the Polaris Project, looked in the issue and confirmed our findings. “This stat is not actually supported by any data,” Polaris declared in early 2016. “We've looked at both our internal data and external data sources, such as open source research and media, and we don't believe that 12-14 is an accurate average age of entry into prostitution.”

This was an important development, yet it somehow escaped the notice of Indiana officials.

“We originally created those billboards last year using the best information we had at the time,” said Molly Gillaspie, a spokeswoman for the attorney general. The previous campaign was associated with the Final Four basketball championship held in Indianapolis, and they reran the same campaign for the Indy 500. “Thanks for bringing this to our attention.”

As we have explained before, the notion that sex trafficking increases around major sporting events is a fallacy not supported by data.

The Pinocchio Test

There is little excuse for the Indiana attorney general to adorn a billboard with such a false statistic after a leading anti-trafficking organization said it was bunk. The AG's office needs to scrub its website of any references to this claim and also explain to the Indiana media that it had spread false information.



Stanford sex assault case gives parents a teachable moment

by The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Gena O'Brien was catching up on headlines this week when she stumbled across a young woman's account of her life since she was sexually assaulted at Stanford University — a statement to the former student-athlete who molested her behind a dumpster 16 months ago.

O'Brien has two sons, ages 10 and 14. The older boy is a competitive swimmer, like 20-year-old Brock Turner was at Stanford before his arrest. In the raw words of an assault survivor, O'Brien recognized a teachable moment. She read portions of the woman's statement out loud to her 9th grader while he was getting ready for school and made him promise to read all 12 pages when he was done studying for finals.

"There are so many golden truths in there, stark truths," said O'Brien, a hairdresser who lives with her family in Berkeley, California. "It's about victimizing somebody and somebody's feelings of being a victim of something. And I want my boys to have empathy."

With the six-month jail sentence Turner received last week generating widespread publicity, some parents are using the case to talk with their own children about sexual misconduct, binge drinking, personal responsibility and boundaries. It's an opportunity that even comes with primary sources — the victim's statement, the plea for leniency Turner's father wrote to the sentencing judge — that are helping to fuel discussions about rape with young people who are old enough.

"Let's not kid ourselves about this. One of the reasons we are resonating with this so much is two people caught the person, it's not a 'She said, he said.' Two white men caught him," Rosalind Wiseman, the author of a book about modern boy culture called "Masterminds & Wingmen," said. "The other reason is (the victim) did an amazing job of articulating her experience."

Wiseman, a parent educator and bullying expert with two sons ages 13 and 15, said she wants her children to read the assault survivor's statement. But she also plans to engage them in a conservation about how social privilege played out in the case, how women who report rapes are often discounted, how boys and men also experience sexual violence and how difficult it can be to do the right thing, like the two Stanford graduate students who stopped Turner and held him until police arrived.

"It does them no good to talk in sound bites to our children about these kinds of issues," she said. "We have to be able to tell them they will be in situations that are really uncomfortable or messy, and it's possible people we love might do things we are not proud of. And we have to use the opportunity to ask, 'What do you think is the most important take-away from this for how you conduct yourself?"

As the father of three sons ages 9 to 13, Jeffrey Shinbrot, an attorney in Los Angeles, found in the harrowing details of Turner's behavior a way of illustrating a point he'd been trying to hammer home for a while: namely, that some of hip-hop lyrics his boys mindlessly sang normalized misogynistic behavior he considered neither normal nor cool.

"I said, 'Look you guys, this is how serious the things you are repeating in music are. I really wanted them to understand the seriousness of those types of acts and the seriousness of the acts the lyrics are describing," Shinbrot said. "Did it sink in? Who knows."

Margaret Silverman of Orinda, California has an 18-year-old son heading off to college in the fall. She remembers speaking with him when he was a high school freshman about communicating well with his future sexual partners, about respecting that both he and the girls he was interested in had the right to say no.

While touring the university where her son will be in September, the two of them heard about a campus fraternity that had been suspended after police broke up a party and found a woman passed out on a couch. Silverman told him she hoped he would be the one to notice, to pay attention rather than ignore, if he found himself in a situation like that, a message she plans to deliver again.

"I'll be reminding him, 'If you see a buddy of yours acting out, I would hope you would have the sensibility to say, Hey dude, leave her alone, let's get out of here.'"



Actor named in federal indictment alleging receipt and possession of child pornography on his computer and flash drive

LOS ANGELES – Actor Mark Wayne Salling, best known for his role as Noah Puckerman on the television show “Glee,” was charged Friday in a federal indictment with receiving and possessing child pornography on his laptop computer and a flash memory drive.

Salling, 33, of Shadow Hills, was named in a two-count indictment returned Friday afternoon by a federal grand jury. The charges are the result of a probe by the Los Angeles Police Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) as part of the Internet Child Exploitation Investigations Group, a multi-agency task force that combats all forms of child exploitation. The Beverly Hills Police Department also provided substantial assistance with the case.

“Those who download and possess child pornography create a market that causes more children to be harmed,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Young victims are harmed every time an image is generated, every time it is distributed, and every time it is viewed.”

The indictment specifically alleges that Salling used the Internet to receive a still image and a video depicting child pornography on Dec. 26, 2015. The images depict young girls. The second count in the indictment charges Salling with possessing two videos depicting child pornography on Dec. 29, 2015. The videos also depict young girls.

“The traditional stereotype about the kinds of people who commit child sexual exploitation crimes simply doesn't dovetail with reality. As our investigators can attest, the defendants in child pornography cases come in all ages and from all walks of life,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge of HSI Los Angeles. “While people are often surprised when high-profile individuals come under scrutiny in such investigations, we hope cases like this will raise awareness about law enforcement's vigilance to combat the online sexual exploitation of children and hold those involved, regardless of their position, accountable for their actions.”

The laptop, a hard drive, and a USB flash drive seized from Salling's residence at the end of 2015 contained thousands of images and videos depicting child pornography, according to investigators, who are continuing to review the material. Salling was initially arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department and HSI on state charges, and released on bond. Once investigators realized the scope of the collection of child pornography, the matter was referred to federal authorities for further action, which resulted in Friday's indictment.

“It doesn't matter who you are or what you do, if you hurt a child you will be held accountable,” said Lt. Andrea Grossman, Commander of the LAPD Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. “These images are more than photographs, they are child abuse.”

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

Through his attorney, Salling has agreed to surrender to federal authorities June 3, when he is expected to be arraigned on the charges in the indictment.

The charge of receiving child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years. The charge of possessing child pornography also carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.



Alleged perpetrators were associated with host families

by Brady McCombs

SALT LAKE CITY – A fourth Navajo is suing the Mormon church, alleging religious leaders didn't do enough to protect him from sexual abuse he endured by his foster father in a now-defunct church program that placed thousands of American Indian children with Mormon families.

The man says in a complaint filed this week in Navajo Nation court that he reported the abuse that occurred in the late 1970s in northern Utah to workers in the Mormon program, but he was told to remain at the home.

The man, who is identified as L.K. in the lawsuit, said he felt relief to discover that he wasn't alone when he read an article in March about two Navajo siblings who filed the first lawsuit making similar allegations. He has

spent most his adult life trying to avoid facing the abuse, struggling with feelings of inferiority, he said after a news conference held by his attorney and sexual abuse prevention advocates.

"It's horrible. You relive it. You see the person who did this. You see their silhouette," he said about abuse that occurred when he was a seventh-grader. "It broke me. When a Native American is broken, he has to fix himself."

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they were sexually abused.

Attorney Craig Vernon said the foster father who allegedly abused the man has died. Vernon, who is also representing another woman who has sued, hinted that more lawsuits could be coming. He declined to say how many, but he said other possible victims have come forward. He and attorney Billy Keeler are in talks with those people to determine if they want to file lawsuits.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn't commenting on the specifics of the lawsuit. But church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement that the religion doesn't tolerate any kind of abuse and works to prevent it. He noted that none of the alleged perpetrators are church leaders, but people associated with host families.

Hawkins said that the alleged abuse of the four victims occurred in the 1970s before the religion created a proactive program to identify, address and report abuse. "As awareness of the scourge of child abuse has grown in society, the church has been at the forefront of efforts to combat it," Hawkins said.

Thousands of American Indian children participated in the church program from the late 1940s until it declined in the 1990s and ended around 2000, he said. The church didn't give an official reason for closing the voluntary program, Hawkins said. The program's closure may have been linked to better educational opportunities for American Indians and increased sensitivity to native cultures, Hawkins said.

Children participated in the Indian Placement Program at a time when the church believed that it had a duty to restore the heritage of American Indians who were referred to as Lamanites, or the wicked of two civilizations that emerged when God guided families to the Americas, Mormon scholars say.

Vernon said he's seeking monetary compensation for his two clients and for the Mormon church to change its policies to ensure members and leaders always report suspected abuse to authorities. He also wants a formal apology from the religion to Navajos for the program.

David Clohessy, executive director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the program might have been well-intentioned, but he called it a "pedophile's dream" and said he expects more victims to emerge. He cautioned that perpetrators could still be alive and in positions to be molesting children.

"Church officials often try to make all this about the past. But those of us who are survivors believe it's about the present and the future," Clohessy said. "We're talking a very real threat to the safety and well-being of boys and girls today."


San Juan

Island sexual assault crimes on the rise, but why?

by Cali Bagby

An influx of sexual assault crimes involving minors in San Juan County has islanders wondering what is happening to their communities.

"It's messed up in a million different ways," said San Juan Sheriff Ron Krebs about these crimes against children.

Cases in the last six months involved the conviction of a man who pointed a gun at a 15-year-old girl who said she was refusing his advances, the arrest of a man with a warrant for rape of a child and the impending trial of a teacher who was allegedly involved with a student. In 2016 alone, a man was convicted of molesting his children on and off the island and another man was charged with sexually abusing a 20-month-old child. There is more information about these cases at the end of this story. The violent and sexual nature of these crimes has citizens in the community asking if their idyllic island community is becoming more violent or are victims feeling safer to speak up?

"Is this an epidemic or are people just now reporting it more?" asked Krebs."That is the question, and I don't have the answer."

He can say that after serving for 10 years as a deputy, and now nearly two years as sheriff, the increased level of sex crimes reported to his office in the last 12 months is a new trend. As a deputy, he recalled hearing about one or two cases of sexual abuse a year. There have been at least 30 cases of sexual offenses reported to the sheriff's office in the past two years. Due to their systems' organization he wasn't able to provide more data before press time.


According to data from the National Association of Realtors, which collects statistics for relocation purposes, on average San Juan County has 2 percent fewer rapes reported than Washington state, and is 93 percent below the nation's average. However, Washington state has 37 percent more rapes reported than the national average and jumped 21 percent in reported rapes from 1,797 in 2013 to 2,171 in 2014.

According to research from David Finkelhor and Lisa Jones there has been a decline in cases of sexual abuse nationally. The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System showed a 62 percent decline in rates of sexual abuse starting in 1992 and continuing through 2010. The study used not only the FBI, child advocacy groups and universities, but also victim self report surveys, stating: "It is always possible that agency data could show declines because victimizations were not being reported." Victim self reporting statistics showed similar numbers of a decline of 69 percent in the annual rate of sexual assaults against teens from 1993 through 2008. There is no self reporting information on victims under 12.

The Justice Department showed an average of 68 percent of assaults from 2008 to 2012 were not reported to police and only 32 cases out of 100 were reported to the police.

Although there is little data released yet on the subject from 2015 to 2016, the FBI's Crime in the United States report for American cities showed the estimated number of violent crimes decreased by 0.2 percent in 2014 and 4.4 percent in 2013 when compared with 2012 data. Yet nationwide, rape incidents increased by 2.5 percent from 195,804 in 2013 to 200,686 in 2014.

Local crime

Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services for the San Juan Islands Director Kim Bryan has also seen a trend of increased sexual assault in the islands. Although she has no hard data to support if the uptick is due to more violence or more reporting, she said the increase could be because people, especially kids, feel more comfortable reporting.

"We've really worked on giving more of a voice to children, helping them to feel safe in telling someone," said Bryan. "For so many years children were told to never say no to adults, and that is changing."

DVSAS has worked with local schools to ensure that students know they can tell an advocate or another safe adult about abuse. Bryan said bystanders are also more empowered to report crimes they suspect are happening to children. Groups like the Stand Up Men whose campaign slogan is "Speaking Up to Break the Silence Surrounding Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault" urge people to take an active stance.

"We will send a message that the hate and cruelty of the few do not speak for our islands," organizers wrote in a press release.

Last year DVSAS and The Stand Up Men reached out and asked for 100 men to donate $100 to honor a woman in their lives. This year they are asking for a 1,000 men to join by visiting

Krebs, who has joined the Stand Up Men, said that since he took on the role of sheriff he has put an emphasis on training officers on domestic violence and sexual assault issues. The sheriff admits that as a deputy that he had his own issues with victim sensitivity by not understanding the bigger dynamic of psychological and financial reasons of why women stay with abusers. Krebs is now actively involved with campaigns like the Stand Up Men, which puts the emphasis on positive male images instead of focusing on the victim's decisions.

"The new training going into law enforcement here might make people feel more comfortable reporting," speculated Krebs on the recent crime on the islands. As far as date rape, Krebs speculates that it happens more often than is reported. The sheriff's department and DVSAS work closely together to ensure officers have the training to deal with victims, but Bryan makes it clear that DVSAS has confidential services.

"A lot of the time sexual assault survivors don't want to report," she said. "We help them through the healing process."

One common thread between recent cases is clear: all the abused children knew their attacker.

Bryan worked as a pediatric nurse for 16 years and was the director of a domestic violence shelter in Spokane, Wash., for 10 years. Since coming to the islands in 2012 the major difference Bryan has seen in this community versus Spokane is that stranger danger does not occur in San Juan County. Every child assault case that has come across her desk had an offender who was known to the victim. Krebs also knows this trend from years on the force.

"We have to educate people to be aware of signs of danger for their children. Our job is to protect our kids," he said. "Your job as a parent is to protect your child."

While an island can be an ideal place to raise a child, according to Bryan, a small tight-knit community that wants to keep its secrets can foster criminal activity.

"The culture of not wanting to air our dirty laundry in public and keeping that to ourselves can create the perfect environment for a child molester," said Bryan. "There is not a lot of danger for the perpetrator."

Some of those crimes on the islands have a ripple affect that lasts for hundreds of years.

Bryan works with many survivors who grew up here. One island survivor – along with her siblings and cousins - was molested by her grandfather. She told DVSAS that her grandson, who had been abused by other family members, was molesting a child. He is now a registered offender.

"Why did someone not stop the cycle 40 years ago?" said Bryan.

Though there is more education for survivors of assault and less victim-blaming, Bryan has seen a disturbing number of people concerned about protecting offenders convicted of assault. According to Bryan, community members have voiced concerned about how the stigma of the offense will ruin the perpetrator's life. Bryan's response is: "He made the choice, what are you doing to her [the victim's] life? We've got to keep the conversation going. That conversation is why I think we are seeing more reporting."

Statistics from local organizations about sexual assault on the islands could not be collected prior to this article going to press. Watch for more information in next week's paper.

Recent crimes

• In September of 2015, 40-year-old Lopez Island man was convicted of attempted assault in the second degree with a deadly weapon after meeting a 15-year-girl in January 2013 on an Orcas cabin, which ended, according to court documents, in him pointing a gun at her after she allegedly refused his advances.

• In October of 2015 Orcas High School science teacher Dr. Gerald Grellet-Tinner, 59, was charged with two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor, which is a felony. His trial is slated for June 13.

• In January of 2016, a 22-year-old man, wanted in Thurston County for first degree rape of a child, was arrested on San Juan Island for a series of burglaries.

• In February of 2016, a 45-year-old man on San Juan Island pleaded guilty to one count of child molestation in the first degree. According to court documents, two of his daughters alleged that he forced sexual acts against them. He was sentenced to 68 months to life. In a separate case, two of his step-daughters in Anacortes were interviewed by an advocacy center and one disclosed sexual abuse.

• A 33-year-old Friday Harbor man was charged on March 29 with multiple counts of first-degree and second-degree possession of child pornography and one count of attempted voyeurism, all occurring in his previous home in Cle Elum.

• On May, a 25-year-old a man was charged with two counts of rape of a child in the first degree, and one count of assault of a child in the second degree.



Pennsylvania's child abuse reporting law draws fire for perceived vagueness

by Chuck Biedka and tom Yerace

The Pennsylvania law requiring school employees, doctors, coaches and others to report suspected child abuse is vague and confusing, legal experts say.

Despite the law being in effect for more than a year, questions remain about when such abuse reports must be filed.

“This has not gotten any solid definition from the courts or Legislature,” said attorney Bruce Antkowiak, a professor at St. Vincent College near Latrobe. “There is a lot of confusion. Unless you can prove willfulness, it's very difficult to maintain a criminal prosecution.”

The ambiguity in the law is an issue in the Leechburg Area School District, where four employees are being investigated for failing to contact authorities this year when allegations of abuse arose. It's also an issue in the Plum School District, where an Allegheny County grand jury criticized the law after investigating teacher-student sex abuse.

Under the law, a “mandatory reporter” who sees or hears of something suspicious has a legal obligation to contact ChildLine, the state's child abuse hotline. But it's not that simple, said Antkowiak.

For example, he said, the law doesn't clearly state what constitutes “reasonable cause to suspect abuse.”

Allegations about the Leechburg school employees, including the district's principal and vice principal, arose after borough police began investigating a long-term substitute teacher for alleged inappropriate contact with several elementary school girls.

In the Plum case, the grand jury urged the Legislature to “reconsider the language” about reasonable cause in the 18-month-old law.

“At least provide clear guidance to mandatory reporters” about the “actual meaning” of the wording, the grand jury said, “especially where such language could cause confusion and potentially impede ... reporting possible child abuse.”

A spokesman for state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Jefferson Hills, said there could be legislation forthcoming to address the criticism in the grand jury report.

“If the law isn't clear, then we need to improve it to make sure child abuse is reported,” spokesman Aaron Bonnaure said. “This is a very important issue.”

Kate Eckhart, a staff member for state Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph B. Scarnati II, confirmed that the Legislature is reviewing the reasonable cause to report standard.

Matter of interpretation

How to interpret the law's reasonable cause standard “can complicate matters,” said Sean McCormack, Dauphin County's chief deputy district attorney and a member of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Medical/Legal Advisory Board on Child Abuse. But he believes the law is fine as written.

Daniel J. Dye, a deputy state attorney general and director of the child abuse advisory board, said he understands why the grand jury issued its recommendations — but the law is clear.

“The reason that reporting is so important is that many of these children may be enduring horrendous abuse by someone they trust or someone close to them,” he said. “Unless this abuse is reported, they continue in the vortex of abuse.”

Dr. Richard Scanlon, a Lewistown dentist, was a member of the advisory board from 1989 until his retirement this month.

He said the law is clear but problems occur because of how people interpret it.

“We don't want you to be the expert, but when you see certain tell-tale signs ... we want you to report it,” Scanlon said. “There's a lot of people who don't want to be judgmental about what is going on.

“What constitutes ‘suspected child abuse' is difficult to grasp for people who do not have proper training,” he said. “You have to always err on the side of protecting the child.”

A stand-alone law

The law allows for the prosecution of mandatory reporters who know or are told about child abuse and fail to report it — even if no charges are filed against the suspected abuser. The charge can be a felony if the abuse is egregious or a misdemeanor for lesser cases.

“Failure to report is an entirely separate crime,” Dye said.

“It's just like if you go to testify at a trial and commit perjury in that trial,” Scanlon said. “If the accused is not convicted, you can still be charged with perjury.”

Dye said a school district investigating abuse instead of notifying law enforcement is “kind of baffling to me.” If school officials follow the law, there is no legal exposure, he said.

The delay in reporting the alleged Leechburg Area incidents is troubling, Scanlon said.

According to a police affidavit, the first report of improper conduct was made in February. Other reports were made through mid-May, which is when a teacher called ChildLine. During that time, the affidavit said, students told teachers and the principals about the alleged behavior, and one teacher emailed Principal Matthew Kruluts about it.

The ChildLine report wasn't made until May 12 and the teacher in question remained in the classroom until May 16, according to the affidavit.

Scanlon said a three-month delay “would be pretty bad” and could compel law enforcement officials to set an example regarding the law.

“It seems to me that this is almost like a textbook-like case of what a principal shouldn't do,” Scanlon said.


New York

Sex abuse survivors and Catholic Church agree that N.Y. Assembly's proposal to reform child-rape law stinks

by Kenneth Lovett, Michael O'Keeffe and Stephen Rex Brown

The state Assembly may have inadvertently done the unthinkable — getting sexual abuse survivors and the Catholic Church to agree.

Advocates for reform and the church said Wednesday they opposed a bill to reform New York's statute of limitations on claims of child sexual abuse — but for different reasons.

Advocates don't believe the bill gives victims enough time to bring lawsuits.

“To me it's just garbage,” said Gary Greenberg, an upstate investor who says he was sexually abused in 1966. “It's not what we want. I think if that's what they want to pass, don't waste our time. We'll just come back next year.”

The church, meanwhile, objects to a provision that would create a six-month window for victims who are time-barred under current law from reviving old cases, said Dennis Poust, spokesman for the state Catholic Conference.

The church has argued that doing so could bring a slew of decades-old cases that could bankrupt the church.

“We continue to stress that this window ignores the principle of justice that statutes of limitations are based on. Memories fade, evidence is lost, witnesses die,” Poust said.

The opposition from both camps emerged after the bill was introduced in the Assembly late Tuesday.

The bill starts the five-year window for criminal charges of sexual abuse at age 23, up from 18. Civil claims of child sexual abuse would need to be brought by the victim's 28th birthday, up from 23.

The bill would also treat public and private institutions the same by doing away with a requirement that someone victimized at a public institution, like a school, file a notice of intent to sue within 90 days of the incident.

“The bill is a strong step forward and allows victims of sexual abuse to get justice,” Assembly Democratic spokesman Michael Whyland said.

But advocates of reform interviewed by the Daily News said the legislation was only a slight improvement from the status quo.

“It is almost a joke, a joke at our expense,” said Chaim Levin, a sexual abuse survivor.

Levin later sounded more optimistic, hoping that last-minute negotiations would produce a more favorable bill.

Gov. Cuomo declined comment on the measure.

Senate GOP Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk) said there are aspects of the bill the Senate could be open to, but signaled the six-month window to revive old cases is a sticking point.

“With regard to the look back, that is clearly a challenge,” Flanagan said.

The city and state teachers unions, as well as the New York State Association of Counties, said they did not oppose the bill, though it could expose them to new lawsuits.

With just a week remaining in the legislative session, the fight is far from over — for both sides.



Sentence In Stanford Sexual Assault Case Sparks Outrage

by Richard Gonzales

The father of Brock Turner, who was convicted last week of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman at Stanford University, reportedly says his son is being punished for "20 minutes of action."

But others, including the Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen, say Turner, who was a top swimmer at Stanford, got off easy when he was sentenced to six months in county jail and three years' probation. Turner was convicted in March on three felony counts. Prosecutors had sought a sentence of six years in prison.

The case has sparked a campaign for the recall of Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky.

At the sentencing, Persky said he considered Turner's lack of criminal history in determining what critics say is a lenient sentence. "A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others," said the judge.

"We need judges who understand violence against women. Judge Persky does not. He should be replaced. Hopefully a qualified woman will replace him," said Stanford Law Professor Michele Dauber in an email to NPR.

Over the weekend, Dauber was responsible for tweeting portions of the probation pre-sentence report containing a statement attributed to Brock's father, Dan Turner, who pleaded for leniency, saying the verdict had "broken and shattered" his son.

"That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life. The fact that he now has to register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life forever alters where he can live, visit, work, and how he will be able to interact with people and organizations."

Last week, Brock Turner's victim read a 12-page, single-spaced statement in court directed at her assailant.

"I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect. ... My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today."

In her statement, the victim, whose name has not been made public by NPR and other news organizations, anticipated that Turner would receive a light sentence because he was a star athlete at a prestigious university.

"If I had been sexually assaulted by an un-athletic guy from a community college, what would his sentence be? If a first time offender from an underprivileged background was accused of three felonies and displayed no accountability for his actions other than drinking, what would his sentence be?"

In his own statement issued after the sentencing, District Attorney Rosen said:

"The punishment does not fit the crime. The predatory offender has failed to take responsibility, failed to show remorse and failed to tell the truth."

But in a statement released Monday, Rosen distanced himself from the calls for a recall of Judge Persky:

"While I strongly disagree with the sentence that Judge Persky issued in the Brock Turner case I do not believe he should be removed from his judgeship."

By Monday evening, more than 100,000 people had signed a petition demanding Judge Persky's recall.


All Points Callout: We Need to Build a Culture of Consent

by Sevonna M. Brown

While advocating for schoolgirls to lower their hemlines, singer-songwriter Erykah Badu set off the Twitterverse recently when she tweeted, “I am aware that we live in a sex-driven society. It is everyone's, male and female's, responsibility to protect young ladies.” She then went on to say, “But do I think it is unnatural for a heterosexual male 2b attracted to a young woman in a revealing skirt? No. I think it is his nature.”

Badu's phrasing indicates we live in a “sex-driven society” but fails to note we are raising children in a pervasive rape culture.

Embracing the notion of a consent-based discussion would relieve us of the victim-blaming and slut-shaming that arises out of the oppressive talk about “appropriate” and “presentable” dress for young women and girls.

Consider this: Being respectable didn't exempt Anita Hill from being abused.

Sexual violence is not just an issue of men preying on girls. The public outrage around Badu's tweets lacks nuance on multiple fronts as it does elsewhere in the public conversation. Sexual violence stems from a desensitized rape culture, misplaced blame, patriarchal gender norms, undiagnosed power dynamics and lack of education around consent.

Moreover, it is unreasonable to blame a child for being assaulted when children cannot legally give consent for anything from a routine dental cleaning to sexual activity with another child or adult. We know the United States has a serious issue hypersexualizing young women. Children are left powerless in the face of sexual abuse, and reckless commentary about what a child is wearing can be fatal.

Considerable Confusion

Our society is experiencing considerable confusion over whether yes means yes; or a short dress is an invitation or simply a fashion statement. A Planned Parenthood survey last year made that clear and underscores the need to create a culture of consent.

The national sampling survey of 2012 adults shows:

-48 percent of women strongly disagree with the notion that women wearing revealing clothes at a party are “asking for trouble,” compared with 35 percent of men who say so.

-27 percent of women agree consent should be given at each step of a sexual encounter, while 19 percent of men agree.

-75 percent of women say one-time sex doesn't mean consent for future encounters; 64 percent of men say so.

If only we held college campuses, family members, church clergy, college presidents and school superintendents to the standard to which we hold celebrities such as Badu when it comes to rape culture and predatory behaviors of men against girls. If we did, we might actually affect a paradigm shift that prioritizes a culture of consent over one that criminalizes how a woman dresses or manages the impact of the male gaze.

We cannot talk about how long a student's skirt should be or how much a female co-ed should drink, for example, before addressing the subtext that underwrites what is really at stake: rape, sexual violence and child sexual abuse. Campuses here and around the globe are working to determine whose responsibility it is to take up some issues.

In fact, it is the responsibility of everyone to learn, practice and teach consent.

This discussion is long overdue because head-scratching cases of sexual violence in high schools continue to emerge. Groups like Safe BAE work to educate high school students around rape culture and sexual harassment, but many of them are not culturally specific programs, which can decrease their impact.

Steps to Take

Still, there are steps we can take to fully spread the ethos of consent among children and adults: We should educate our athletic teams about the culture of consent, continue to engage anti-rape awareness on college campuses and in sex education early on and shift the discourse from victim to perpetrator in our high schools.

Teen Vogue's Not Your Fault campaign, launched in April, is working to raise awareness about consent campaigns across the country, as colleges and universities continue to grapple with the issue of sexual assault.

And certainly TeenVoices at Women's eNews has been highlighting the problem, with stories of sex harassment going unpunished in high school and middle school, faculty being clueless about sex-harassment rules and teens, both male and female, being interested in self-defense classes.

At Kansas State University, after a group of fraternity members were excused from rape allegations, two students started pushing back against the policies that refused to protect them. Then there's the Mattress Girl saga of 2015 highlighting the issue as protest and performance art.

On the culturally specific front: Ahmad Greene issued a call to action to black men in reaction to the trial of former Oklahoma cop Daniel Holtzclaw, convicted in 2015 of assaulting black women he thought too poor and compromised to ever speak up.

And a recent article called “Black Boys Need Two Talks” reveals how sitting black boys down to discuss consent is just as necessary as talking to them about safely interacting with police. The Planned Parenthood findings back this up, highlighting how parents speak to their daughters much differently from the way they do with their sons regarding sex and consent. Also, the Black Women's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a public platform for survivors to end sexual violence in New York City, held a “barbershop talk” this year to discuss how black men can promote a culture of consent.

Abandon Old Tropes

While rape and sexual assault are universal issues, we know the experience of black women and girls with sexual violence is emblematic of a greater need for American society to abandon, once and for all, moldy old tropes about females and sexual attention. Sixty percent of black girls have experienced sexual abuse before age 18, according to a Black Women's Blueprint study.

Among students of all races, of 74 percent who dated in the year before being surveyed, 10.3 percent had been hit, slammed or injured with an object or weapon on purpose by the person they dated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System found. Such violence was more likely to be perpetrated upon girls (13 percent), including white girls (12.9 percent), black girls (12.3 percent) and Hispanic girls (13.6 percent).

Rape culture and sexual violence in high school and college also leaves us hanging onto gender binaries that diminish the experiences of trans and gender-nonconforming youth. They present another set of experiences that uniform, boy-girl, anti-sexual violence protocols do not address. In fact, we all need to practice consent, not just male-identifying individuals. Politics of dress, sex education curricula, as well as power and oppression frameworks are counterproductive without considerable material on consent practices. Not one of them is isolated nor should be discussed in silos.

As the Planned Parenthood survey shows, there's strong support for teaching the ins and outs of consent at the middle and high school levels: 75 percent surveyed said consent should be taught in middle school, and 88 percent said consent and sexual assault issues should be taught in high school.

Knowing the facts, we cannot fail women and girls by opting out of cautioning them about the risks of exercising their agency and bodily autonomy. Knowing the stories, we are doing them more harm by causing them to believe they are at fault.


New York

N.Y. pol says Brooklyn bishop tried to bribe her to drop child-abuse reform; diocese calls her allegation ‘patently false'

by Kenneth Lovett, Michael O'Keeffe and Stephen Rex Brown

The head of the Catholic Church in Brooklyn offered a $5,000 bribe to an Albany politician in exchange for dropping her support for the reform of a state law preventing victims of child sexual abuse from seeking justice, the pol claimed Monday.

Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, who has for a decade advocated for an overhaul of the state's statute of limitations on claims of child sexual abuse, said she turned down the unholy hush money from Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio in 2007.

“I'm not a billionaire, but I don't need $5,000 to buy me off,” Markey told the Daily News.

The offer came across as a payoff, not a campaign donation, she added.

The Brooklyn Diocese called the allegation “patently false.”

“The bishop did not, would not and has never attempted to bribe an elected official or anyone else,” said Carolyn Erstad, a diocese spokeswoman. “This is a very serious allegation against a clergyman with an impeccable reputation. It is beyond comprehension that an elected official would not report an alleged crime of this kind to the proper authorities. She did not report it. It is not true. And it would be irresponsible for your paper to print it.”

Markey (D-Queens) said DiMarzio, who as head of the Brooklyn Diocese presides over 1.5 million Catholics, invited her into his chancery at the now-shuttered Bishop Ford High School on Prospect Park West in early 2007.

A nun was present when he offered the money, she recalled.

Markey's spokesman Michael Armstrong said that DiMarzio suggested to Markey that the money would go toward therapy for one of her family members who had been sexually abused as a child.

After declining the offer, DiMarzio targeted her with robocalls as she ran for reelection against Republican challenger Anthony Nunziato in 2008, saying she did not have Catholic values, Markey said.

“I do have Catholic values — but my Catholic values don't include raping children,” said Markey, who easily won reelection.

Instead of going silent, she wrote in the Daily News that year about her crusade, which now appears closer to success than ever.

“Lengthening or even eliminating statutes of limitation is a costless way for the states to do right by victims,” Markey wrote in April 2010.

Current state law prevents victims from suing their abuser after the victim's 23rd birthday.

Markey says she saw no use in reporting the $5,000 offer to authorities at the time.

“Who could I report it to? He said, I said,” she explained Monday.

She first spoke publicly about the offer Sunday — but without naming DiMarzio — after crossing the Brooklyn Bridge with 250 people supporting reform of the statute of limitations.

Markey said she decided to go public, saying she was overcome with emotion after crossing the bridge with the supporters.

“I'd call that shut up money,” advocate and abuse survivor Kathryn Robb said. “He tried to pay her to shut up, right? That speaks for itself.”

Even if authorities were to investigate Markey's allegations, the statute of limitations on bribery charges would likely be a factor.

State bribery charges must be brought within three years of the alleged crime; federal charges must be brought within five years.

The offer isn't the first time DiMarzio allegedly played hardball with politicians over Markey's bill, which would make it easier for victims to sue and also grant a one-year window for those whose statute of limitations had expired to bring a civil lawsuit.

In 2008, DiMarzio reportedly threatened lawmakers who supported Markey's Child Victims Act, telling them he would close parishes in their districts — and say they were to blame.

The diocese denied that threat was ever made.

The state's Catholic Conference spent $2.1 million between 2007 and 2015 lobbying against efforts to reform the law, as well as other measures. Others, like yeshivas and private schools, have also opposed Markey's bill.

The church supports other bills that would extend the statute of limitations, but that does not include the one-year lookback, Erstad said.

Meanwhile, Albany politicians continued negotiating over a vote on reform of the statute with just six days left in the legislative session, which is scheduled to end next week.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) said there were “productive” discussions taking place among leaders of the Senate and Assembly and Gov. Cuomo about reforming the statute of limitations.


New Hampshire

Gov. Maggie Hassan signs bills meant to curb child abuse, neglect

by Allie Morris

As the state child protective services agency faces continued scrutiny over the death of two toddlers, Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan signed three bills into law Monday meant to help curb child abuse and neglect.

“Our children are our future,” Hassan said at a bill signing in the State House. “Anytime we miss an opportunity to save a child's life, it's a tragedy.”

The legislation is the product of the Commission to Review Child Abuse Fatalities, which formed after the death of 3-year-old Brielle Gage, whose mother was later charged with her murder. The state Division for Children, Youth and Families had been involved with the Nashua family, spurring calls for agency reform.

The legislation Hassan signed allows the division to more easily and quickly remove a child from a dangerous home. It also gives law enforcement greater access to DCYF records and extends the time frame for a court hearing, from 24 to 48 hours, after the state takes a child into protective custody.

Hassan called for an outside review of DCYF in the wake of 21-month-old Sadence Willott's death last September. Sadence's mother was charged with murder. DCYF had been involved with that family as well.

Results of the outside review – based on 100 random cases – are expected to come out late this year. Critics have raised concern that the audit won't include a full review of the cases of Sadence and Brielle. Hassan's office has said that's not possible while the criminal cases are ongoing.

The commission – composed of lawmakers, state officials and advocates – will continue meeting this year and next. The group intends to re-file one proposal that was defeated this year, a bill that would have required DCYF keep reports of abuse and neglect on file for longer periods of time.

While commission Chairman David Boutin, a Republican state senator, is not running for re-election, he said the hard work will continue.

“We have one goal in mind,” said Boutin, of Hooksett. “It's to do everything we can do . . . that will protect our young and most vulnerable.”


New York

New York statute of limitations on child abuse KOs federal lawsuits against Elmo puppeteer

by Dareh Gregorian

The repercussions of New York's restrictive statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases can be felt in federal court as well.

The time constraints — it bars child sex abuse victims from filing criminal charges or civil claims after their 23rd birthday — led to the dismissal of high-profile federal lawsuits against Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash in 2014.

“They were dismissed on a technicality. It had nothing to do with the merits of the case,” the lawyer for Clash's alleged victims, Jeff Herman, told the Daily News.

Clash, 56, was slapped with four suits in 2012 by men who claimed he'd preyed on them when they were minors. One said he'd met the man who made Elmo famous when he was 16 at a networking event for models and actors.

Another said Clash picked him up after they spoke on a gay chat line.

“Each of these victims alleges that Kevin Clash was a father figure who groomed them with attention before engaging them in sexual contact,” Herman said at the time.

All the alleged encounters happened in the mid-2000s, and the men didn't come forward with their claims until 2012.

The first accuser, Sheldon Stephens, briefly recanted his accusations after Clash reportedly paid him $125,000 to do so.

Stephens later filed suit against Clash in federal court in Pennsylvania, a state with less restrictive time restrictions. The Keystone State's laws let child sex abuse victims file suit against predators until the time they turn 30.

Stephens had argued Pennsylvania law should apply in his case because he first met Clash there, but Judge Christopher Conner found New York law should apply, because that's where Stephens was allegedly abused.

In the New York cases, Herman had argued the clock didn't start running on his client's injuries until 2012, because that's when they realized the emotional toll Clash's actions had on them.

Judge John Koeltl disagreed, and found they were injured when the abuse happened — and the statute of limitations had run out.

Herman said having their cases tossed without getting their day in court made his clients feel "as if they were victimized all over again."

"It's so difficult for victims to come forward in the first place, and then get to get knocked back down again on technicality is very tough," Herman said.

The lawyer spoke out in favor of a bill pending in Albany that's being sponsored by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Queens) that would eliminate the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases.

"If it's passed, then these people can have their day in court," he said, adding he has "dozens" of other cases he hasn't been able to bring because their claims are considered too old.

"Right now, New York is pretty much a shutdown state in terms of victims being able to seek justice," he said, taking special aim at religious institutions that have been lobbying to block the legislation.

"It's an upside down world where the Catholic church is protecting predators, not kids. The lobbying going on is very disappointing, to say the least," Herman said.

"No one can logically say why this is a bad idea," but for the time being, "it's not about the merits of the case — it's a manmade legal deadline. It's very frustrating, but it can be fixed, and should be fixed, immediately."



Safe from harm: Tackling online child sexual abuse in the Philippines

by Andy Brown

MANILA, Philippines, 3 June 2016 – One evening in 2014, Philippines police raided an ordinary looking home in the slums of Manila. It was just before midnight, and darkness permeated the surrounding narrow alleys as the officers entered with a search warrant. Inside the small single room house, they found an unusual amount of computer equipment: laptops, webcams and a Wi-Fi router.

They also found a group of four girls and boys aged between 7 and 10 preparing for a ‘show'. The children were about to undress and perform sex acts on each other, following instructions from a paedophile connected from overseas via webcam.

Live-stream child sexual abuse, also known as webcam sex tourism, was organized by an ‘operator' living in the house, who was also the mother of one of the children. It was an ongoing, illegal business. Foreign perpetrators would send her money by international wire transfer, and she would pay children 150 pesos (US$3).

The other three children were also living with the operator while their mother worked outside Manila. They called her ‘Auntie' although she was not a blood relative. One of these children, 7-year-old Danilo*, told his father about the abuse, and he called the police.

During the raid, the police seized the laptops as evidence and arrested the operator. The children were rescued by a social worker and brought to the Child Protection Unit at Philippine General Hospital in Manila. Here, they were examined by a paediatrician, Dr. Merle Tan. The centre had been recently renovated and provided a bright and cheerful environment for children, with a well-equipped playroom and therapy rooms.

One of the children was 9-year-old Jennifer*, daughter of the operator. At first she denied anything had happened in order to protect her mother, who had told her what to say if the police came. But over the course of several therapy sessions, she slowly opened up to Dr. Tan and other staff at the centre.

“I never knew it was wrong, what my mother asked me to do,” Jennifer told Dr. Tan. “I just thought we were having a show.”

Fuelled by poverty

Poverty is a key driving factor behind the international trade in live-stream child sexual abuse. Around one in three people in Manila live in slums, where makeshift houses made of wood, metal sheets and cardboard are often piled three or four storeys high alongside rivers and rubbish dumps. Many parents living here are unemployed or have unstable work, such as casual manual labour. Children play in the streets, and alcohol and drug abuse are rife. These areas are prime targets for criminal activity.

In the Manila slum where Jennifer and Danilo lived, it was an open secret that live-stream sexual abuse was happening. “The operator ran an open house, with ‘shows' every other night,” Dr. Tan recalls. “If children in the slum were hungry, they knew they could come for food and shelter, plus 150 pesos for taking part in the ‘show'.”

Shockingly, some parents even brought their own children to the house. “People tell themselves it's not abuse, because the perpetrator isn't touching the children,” Dr. Tan says. “But the children are still being abused, and this harms their mental and physical development. As they grow up, they may have problems forming relationships, and can get further drawn into sex work, or even become abusers themselves.”

The Philippines has become the global epicentre of the live-stream sexual abuse trade. In some parts of the country, such as Mactan Island in Cebu, there are ‘hotspots' where both webcam pornography involving adults and live-stream child sexual abuse are widespread in a village or local community. These areas have been the focus of arrests and interventions.

UNICEF Philippines is conducting research on the issue, funding training for police and NGOs, helping to establish a national helpline, and advocating for stronger national policies.

“This has been going on a few years now, but we're seeing more and more cases,” says Sarah Norton-Staal, Chief of Child Protection at UNICEF Philippines. “Increased Internet access and cheaper devices have brought poor communities online. The standard of English is very high and child sex offenders have been visiting since the 1970s. There's a large Filipino diaspora that regularly sends money home from abroad. And there's a culture of silence and deference to elders, which keeps abuse hidden. All of this contributes to creating an easy environment for criminals.”

In 2009, following advocacy by UNICEF and others, child sexual abuse materials were made illegal in the Philippines for the first time. But more needs to be done. “The legal age of sexual consent in the Philippines is still just 12 years old,” says Ms. Norton-Staal. “This makes it harder to convict people for child sexual abuse. We want to see this raised to at least 16 years, along with greater resources for finding and convicting offenders.”

Holistic response

At the Philippines Department of Justice, Assistant Secretary Monica Pagunsan says the government is taking a comprehensive approach to the issue. “The Philippines is said to be the top source of ‘child pornography' globally,” she says. “The passage of an Anti-Child Pornography Law and creation of the Office of Cybercrime gave impetus to the campaign against online child sexual abuse. We have extradition treaties with at least 13 countries and work closely with Interpol.”

However, despite these efforts, conviction rates remain low. Ms. Pagunsan highlights the need for greater cooperation with the private sector. “The government cannot do this alone,” she says. “We need help from the private sector, especially the telecom companies and Internet service providers. We're concerned about the length of time it takes to remove content, identify victims and perpetrators, and preserve evidence.”

“At the moment, we need to go get a court order before the companies will cooperate with an investigation,” she continues. “By that point, the abuser has often disappeared.”

At the Philippines National Police headquarters, Colonel Ivy Castillo heads up the new cybercrime unit, which includes live-stream child sexual abuse. It's a small unit in a tiny cabin on the sprawling campus. Ivy reports that the number of cases are rising, from 57 in 2013 to 89 in 2014 and 167 in 2015. However, so far there have been only seven convictions, all of them under child trafficking legislation.

“Most of our leads come from our overseas police counterparts,” Col. Castillo says. “They find images from the Philippines on suspects' computers, and ask us to trace them. Or they take over a perpetrator's Facebook account and use it to contact the operators.” However, the unit gets very few local leads. “Filipinos are reluctant to report abuse or file complaints,” she continues. “Some people don't know that it's wrong, or are unaware of the penalties.”

To tackle this issue, the unit conducts awareness-raising activities in schools and communities, especially in ‘hotspot' areas where abuse is rife. UNICEF is funding training for police officers on how to identify and deal with cybercrime. But, so far, the criminals remain a step ahead.

For people working on the frontline of live-stream child sexual abuse, like Dr. Tan at the Child Protection Unit, it can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle. “It can be really depressing but I have to stay strong,” Dr. Tan says. “I try to put all of the sad thoughts out of my mind. I don't want these stories to affect me. I have to stay strong and positive in order to help our children.”

*Names have been changed to protect the victims' identities.



Training adults to spot and help prevent child sexual abuse

by April Thompson

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- It happens more often than you think.

"Nationally, 1 in 10 children are estimated to be sexually abused by age 18," said Virginia Stallworth, Executive Director of the Memphis Child Advocacy Center.

The effects can last a lifetime.

Amerah Bridges is 78, but still vividly remembers being sexually abused by her mother's boyfriend starting when she was just 11.

"I had to protect myself by putting chairs under my door knob of my bedroom to keep him from coming in if I was asleep," she said.

Those who knew turned their heads.

"It was a hard time because my mother knew about it and she did nothing. She believed the perpetrator," said Bridges.

Now what was done in darkness is coming to light.

There is a push to get people to speak up about the crimes victimizing children.

Shelby County employees are the latest group of adults being trained to pick up on signs of child sexual abuse.

The Memphis Child Advocacy Center is taking the 'Stewards of Children' training all over Shelby County trying to reach 35,000 adults by 2019, teaching them 5 steps.

1. Learn the facts

2. Minimize the opportunity for sexual abuse

"Eighty-percent of child sexual abuse happens in 1 adult-1 child scenarios. So if we can eliminate or at least reduce 1-on-1 scenarios, make them observable or interruptible, we have automatically increased safety," said Stallworth.

3. Talk about it - tell kids about boundaries.

4. Learn the signs - notice when kids are clingy or acting out.

5. Be responsible - report the abuse.

"If you choose not to make that report, you can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, serve a minimum of 11 months, 29 days and fined $2,500," said one of the trainers at the 'Stewards of Children' session.

As a dental hygienist in schools, Ann Morris has seen signs in children.

This training opened her eyes further.

"If people are more aware of what the signs and symptoms of abuse are, they can get on top of it, help the child and stop the behavior," said Morris.

It's hoped what's learned here will spread and more children will be protected.

"A lot of the times the offenders are protected because you don't talk about that. Don't talk about what's going on in the house," said Pam Lindsey, who also went through the training. "The point is to report. Get the ball rolling. Let the people who have expertise in how to do this, handle these situations so they can get the children the help they need."

Bridges now shares her own story to help others and she hopes more adults will open their eyes.

"These things are happening in our community folks, wake up," she said. "We need to get the training to be able to recognize it. "

The Memphis Child Advocacy Center is willing to take the training to any group.

It also offers sessions at its office on Poplar Avenue.

For more information, call 901-888-4363.


United Kingdom

Rotherham child sexual abuse: few victims identified

National Crime Agency says scale and complexity of investigation means it is pursuing more than 10,000 lines of inquiry

by Lisa O'Carroll

Only 82 of 1,400 potential victims of child sexual abuse have been identified in Rotherham, by the National Crime Agency.

The NCA said it recognised it was “only a small percentage (5%) of the overall potential number of victims and survivors” but said the scale and complexity of the investigation meant it was pursuing more than 10,000 lines of inquiry.

The agency was brought in following the explosive 2014 Jay Report that identified large-scale abuse in the South Yorkshire town and a failure by police and the local council. to investigate complaints made by victims.

The NCA has so far identified 29 “designated suspects” and hundreds more “potential suspects”.

This means there are six more people on the police radar since February, when a grooming gang of three brothers, their uncle and two women were found guilty of 55 serious offences against teenage girls in Rotherham, some of which lay undetected for almost 20 years.

Operation Stovewood is the largest child sex exploitation investigation in the country and one lawyer working with victims said he understood why it was taking so long.

“It is slow progress, but there are doing a really thorough job. I think it will be five years before they get to a point where they have persuaded as many victims to come forward as willing to,” said David Greenwood.

He said the police were reviewing all the documentation and investigating the status of potential victims before approaching them. “They want to see where a girl is in her life, whether she is safe, whether she's in the right place in life to go forward with evidence. The background checks are really thorough,” he said.

The NCA said one victim they had interviewed had provided information about nine further victims, 17 witnesses and 40 potential suspects. “This demonstrates the scale and complexity of sexual abuse under investigation,” it said in a statement.

It said victim interviews can take weeks or months to arrange and the review of in excess of 120,000 historic documents over 16 years in relation to child sexual exploitation had never been done before.


New York

Advocates for kids march across Brooklyn Bridge in support of Child Victims Act

by Michael O'Keeffe and Stephen Rex Brown

More than 200 advocates for reform of the state's statute of limitations on claims of child sexual abuse marched across the Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday, proudly proclaiming they were part of a new civil rights movement defending children.

The rain let up as the diverse group of marchers — including Matt Sandusky, stepson of notorious Penn State pervert Jerry Sandusky, and Phil Saviano, who was portrayed in the movie “Spotlight” — departed from Cadman Plaza in downtown Brooklyn.

“It is time to lift the shades, open the window and let justice and the protection of children shine through,” said Kathryn Robb, an abuse survivor and advocate.

Participants came from as far away as Ohio and Florida. Others hailed from Pennsylvania and New Jersey — where advocates are waging similar fights to reform those states' statutes of limitations on child sex abuse claims.

In New York, a victim must bring criminal or civil charges prior to his or her 23rd birthday.

“We need to send a message. We need statute of limitations reform round the country. It is so important for people to understand who the law is protecting — the lobbyists and the church and not the children,” said Annette Nestler of Cape May County, N.J., who wore a broken screen window around her neck — a symbol of opening the window of opportunity for justice.

Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Queens), chief sponsor in the Assembly of the Child Victims Act, told advocates she decided to fight for reform because of a family member who was a victim of sexual abuse as a child.

“I truly believe I am doing the work of the Lord,” said Markey, who has been a Eucharistic minister and lector at her parish in Queens.

She first proposed legislation to reform the statute of limitations a decade ago. Her efforts have at times met with harsh resistance.


New York

Catholics urge church to support New York legislation that allows child abuse victims to seek justice as adults

by Edgar Sandoval, Megan Cerullo and Stephen Rex Brown

The Catholic Church's powerbrokers should listen to their better angels!

That was the message from city parishioners in favor of changing a law that prevents many victims of child sex abuse from seeking justice. Current state law prohibits the victims from bringing criminal charges or civil claims against abusers after the victim's 23rd birthday.

“It should definitely be extended. It's a terrible thing, and I know people who have had encounters and I feel very sorry for them. I don't think that's what our religion should be,” said Annette Gould, who attends Masses at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Araceli Colato, who had just attended the Sunday service at the storied house of worship, agreed.

“It's never too late for justice. People deserve a say, even if years have passed. I understand why the church wants to keep the law as is, but it's not fair,” Colato, 27, said. “In most cases, victims become adults. But they can't do anything about it.”

The comments from churchgoers came with only five days left on the legislative calendar in Albany.

The church opposes reform of the law, arguing that any new legislation should ensure the same rules apply to both private and public institutions in abuse cases.

“This really is an issue of justice. They should do something for the victims, and there is a lack of transparency in how the church is handling this,” said John Murphy, who attends lunchtime Mass daily at St. Patrick's.

Advocates for reform are pressing for a lookback provision that would give victims the opportunity to revive cases previously barred by the statute of limitations. Such a window raises the financial stakes for the Catholic Church, which has already paid out more than $2 billion to abuse survivors and their families in the United States.

But concerns over the almighty dollar shouldn't prevent the church from doing what's right, said Robyn Ventura, who attends the Church of St. Saviour in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

“It's kind of like a mercy plea” from the church, Ventura said, explaining its opposition to reform.

“The only reason is . . . money.”

The state Catholic Conference, headed by Timothy Cardinal Dolan, has spent $2.1 million between 2007 and 2015 lobbying against the decade-old reform effort, as well as other measures.




Cheap attempt at child abuse reform

We don't fault Pennsylvania lawmakers for acting swiftly to reform state child abuse laws in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

This wasn't a knee-jerk reaction, as legislatures are sometimes wont to offer after a high-profile, horrific story grabs the public's attention.

In fact, attempts were made to revamp state child welfare laws before the Sandusky case made headlines in 2011. The resulting public outrage simply shined a spotlight on the problem, prompting the creation of the Task Force on Child Protection, a panel of experts whose recommendations finally led to the reform.

The 23 new laws didn't even take effect fully until 2015.

It was the first major update to Pennsylvania's child abuse laws in two decades, bringing them in line with laws in most other states.

In short, the legislation expanded the definition of mandatory reporters, streamlined the reporting process, increased penalties for mandatory reporters who fail to do so and provided protections from employment discrimination for filing a report in good faith.

The reforms were needed and, it appears, long overdue.

No, we fault our lawmakers for trying to do this important reform on the cheap.

How anyone could think such a significant upgrade — designed to increase the number of suspected child abuse cases — wouldn't require a significant increase in funding is beyond us.

A key part of the reform package was the bill expanding mandatory reporting of suspected abuse. Yet lawmakers were told by the Appropriation Committees in both chambers that there shouldn't be any additional cost related to increased calls to the state's child abuse hotline.

Fiscal notes, which lay out the projected costs of implementing legislation, said there should be no "increase in ChildLine calls that can't be absorbed within current funding."

Not surprisingly, that wasn't the case.

Calls to the state's child abuse hotline increased 14 percent last year, yet 22 percent of all calls went unanswered and numerous others weren't monitored by a supervisor or didn't generate reports.

That's according to a report released last month by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, who said lawmakers' failure to boost funding when they expanded child abuse laws represents “a disturbing failure” that's putting lives at risk.

The state Department of Human Services, which runs ChildLine, is requesting more state money, as is the York County Office of Children, Youth and Families, which saw an 86 percent increase in referrals last year.

The county office is operating under its third provisional license. Child welfare offices in Philadelphia, Dauphin and Luzerne counties also are operating under provisional licenses.

DePasquale called the optimistic fiscal notes “a joke,” adding, “How anyone could think there is no fiscal impact is beyond belief.”

We agree. Lawmakers should have known better.

And if they weren't sure what to expect with new laws, as some told The York Dispatch for its special report published last week, they should have planned for the worst and hoped for the best.

Not the other way around.

Not when a child's life could be at stake.

We hope the Legislature acts quickly fix this alarming problem.


West Virginia

Investigators: Couple may have tried to sell infant for drug money

by Christopher Buchanan

A West Virginia couple has been arrested for allegedly attempting to sell their baby. And now investigators tell NBC affiliate WSAZ that it may have been fueled by a need to purchase drugs.

"Law enforcement officers frequently deal with some pretty strange situations," Sheriff Steve Kessler said in a written statement. "A situation like this is really out of the ordinary though."

The Fayette County Sheriff's Office in West Virginia said they were initially called to a residence regarding a sick infant. But when they arrived they found that the people that called the incident in weren't the child's parents.

After an extended investigation, they learned that the mother, 25-year-old Ashley Nichole Harmon, and her "fiancé," 20-year-old Jonathan Isaac Lucas Flint had allegedly attempted to sell the child for between $500 and $1,000 at the home where the child was found.

When the residents wouldn't buy, investigators believe the couple abandoned the child.

Now, not only do investigators believe drugs could be the motivating factor for the attempt to sell the infant, but now, WSAZ reports that the child may have been suffering drug withdrawal symptoms when they arrived.

The woman who reported the incident and watched over the child said she was told by an EMS worker when they arrived that this could be the case.

The mother also left two children under the age of 3 at home during this trip.

Warrants were secured for the couple for felony offenses including selling or attempting to sell a child and gross child neglect creating a risk of bodily injury or death to a child.

They were arrested on Friday and are being held on $100,000 bond each.

"It is a sad commentary on the society in which we live that we actually have to codify laws prohibiting the sale or attempted sale of innocent young children," prosecuting attorney Larry Harrah said. "My office has been working closely with the sheriff's office and child protective seservices since we learned of the complaint."

Harrah said his office intends to "vigorously pursue the criminal charges filed" in connection with the crime.



When Pastors Become Predators

Sting nabs youth ministers involved in sex trafficking

by Deirdre Reilly

The Bible clearly exhorts faith leaders, in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” Sadly, this passage has been trampled on by sexual predators, who see churches not as holy spaces but as hunting grounds.

In Knoxville, Tennessee, a four-day sting operation by state and local law enforcement netted two ministers involved in soliciting underage girls for sex. Jason Evan Kennedy, 46, was the head of the Children's Baptist Church of Knoxville, whose membership numbers 4,000. He answered an ad that offered sex with an underage girl, according to a recent Tennessee Bureau of Investigation news conference.

After arriving at a motel, this married father of three children was heard to “state that he wanted to have sex with both the underage juvenile and the other female in the room,” as reported by the Knoxville News Sentinel. He removed his pants and was promptly taken into custody by police, charged with felony human trafficking and patronizing prostitution.

Another predator, Zubin Percy Parakh, 32, creative pastor of the Lifehouse Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was also charged with felony trafficking in the sting.

What draws dangerous sexual predators to the most spiritual of places? Opportunity paired with a calculating, evil intent — a dangerous and devilish setup as old as the Bible itself.

“It's the peril of any institution,” Jane Fredricksen, executive director of the FaithTrust Institute, told LifeZette. FaithTrust Institute, in Seattle, Washington, is a multi-faith training and education organization working to end sexual and domestic violence.

"There is an institutional response to protect that institution, but the reality is that transparency is the key, as well as establishing policies and procedures — then following them when it's painful," she said. "The reality of a faith community is that they wrestle with holding perpetrators accountable and keeping victims safe. When both victim and perpetrator are in that faith community, there's a duality of, 'How do we do both?'"

How in the world does the sexual abuse of a child happen in places of worship, sometimes seemingly right in front of a loving family's eyes?

"Victim-survivors and families are often lured into a false sense of security by someone who is very effective at grooming the potential victim and the community, and tearing down any barriers to the success of their mission," Pat Neal, director of Virtus Programs and Services, said.

Virtus is a program created by the National Catholic Risk Retention Group that combats sexual abuse of children in the church, and is currently in use in over 80 dioceses in the United States.

"Their grooming process can be lengthy and calculated," said Neal. "It involves gaining the trust of both the child and the parents or other adults in the community with the purpose of overcoming any concerns that others might have for the adult taking actions that are prohibited by a policy or code of conduct — if a policy and code of conduct even exist at the location."

Distressingly, a simple internet search produces story after story of abuse by clergy. This April in Aurora, Illinois, the pastor of Kingdom Church, who once termed his church "the place of strong families," according to, was accused of sexually abusing a child in the church. In the last year, in the continuing wake of the clergy abuse scandals that rocked the faithful, the Catholic Church has spent over $49 million on child-protection programs in the U.S., according to CatholicCulture.Org.

Abuse of children may be present in any organized or unorganized group — both a church class or a pickup basketball game are potential minefields for manipulative predators. A faith community has a special challenge with accusations of abuse: It's the very nature of faith itself.

"We're taught to forgive. That's part of our Judeo-Christian values," said Fredricksen. "What does accountability look like within that construct? Add to those values the protection of the institution, both financially and in terms of the institution's reputation. That's what [the movie] 'Spotlight' so ably portrayed. And it's not unique to Catholic churches."

Parents and other caregivers need to take specific steps to judge whether a church group or activity is safe for children.

"A major safety indicator is the amount of effort and follow-through exhibited by a location, highlighted by a culture that puts the safety of children above any other priority," said Neal. "One way to know this is to take a look at the policies and practices of that organization — as in, are there sufficient and acceptable screening and monitoring practices in place, and are they followed? For example, caring adults should ask what the policies and procedures are for ensuring a safe environment and notice whether the policies are followed without fail."

All Protestant churches and the Catholic Church now have practices around risk reduction and safe sanctuaries, noted Fredricksen. Security and pension boards offer training to support parishes; their motivation may be financial in some cases, but ultimately it does protect children.

"The big question is, do they put those policies and procedures in place, and do they act on them when something happens?" said Fredricksen.

Neal offered practical suggestions. "Parents should 'drop' in on children's activities to check in and see what is happening," she said. "Schools and organizations should have policies that allow parents access, while still maintaining safety through following protocols — and if these policies are unjust or lacking, address them at the administrative level."

In protecting God's children, adults need to look hard at worship activities.

"It's hard to believe that a faith community will wrestle with doing the right thing, but they do," said Fredricksen. "It's hard to believe — just like it's hard to believe when a member of a school, a college, or a football team perpetrates sexual abuse. The special challenge with faith organizations is that they're collegial, and they seek to love unconditionally as their faith system prescribes. This adds up to taking too long to say, 'I don't trust that behavior.'"


United Kingdom

Would mandatory reporting help stop child abuse?

The proposal to introduce mandatory reporting in the victims of crime bill has divided opinion – an objective discussion is needed

by Louise Tickle

When a child dies or is catastrophically harmed because of abuse, there is often a knee-jerk political response. Perhaps the most chilling example for social workers was David Cameron's announcement last year that they could find themselves jailed for five years for failing to act on evidence of child sexual abuse.

This raises concerns that professionals mandated to report reasonably-held suspicions of child abuse could be criminalised for failing to prevent it.

Despite this, proposals for mandatory reporting are included in the victims of crime bill designed by Keir Starmer MP, former director of public prosecutions. The measure was prompted, Starmer says, because “there [have been] too many historic examples of institutions choosing not to report when they have balanced that duty against other interests, such as their reputation.”

Now out of time for this session of parliament, Starmer must decide whether to reintroduce his bill next time or butcher it and create amendments to other legislation. Whichever option he chooses, campaigners for mandatory reporting are unimpressed at what they say is a lack of scope and detail in the proposed law.

At a time when the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has just launched its initial investigations, they are also angry that a promised government consultation on mandatory reporting has failed to materialise, despite a mooted start date of last December.

On this, at least, campaigners are at one with the British Association of Social Workers. President Ruth Allen is keen for consultation to begin, and urges the government to consult widely. “Social workers working directly with children and families have many clear and evidence-informed ideas about what would improve the protection of children that do not require the risk of criminalising practitioners.”

But at campaigning organisation Mandate Now, abuse survivor Tom Perry believes that putting a statutory duty on those responsible for children outside the home is the only effective way to change a culture of non-reporting that has seen professionals reluctant to “tell tales” of colleagues or end up stigmatised as whistleblowers.

Such failures, he says, can be observed in cases such as that of teacher Jeremy Forrest who abducted a student to France despite considerable disquiet about his behaviour among fellow teachers, the non-reporting to the local authority of concerns about the now convicted paedophile Nigel Leat, and the abuse of girls by other pupils at Stanbridge Earls boarding school. In such situations, says Perry, the proposals in the victims of crime bill will make barely a scrap of difference to protecting children from harm.

“Why are so few categories of people mandated to report – and nobody from the medical profession at all, when we know where [Jimmy] Savile preyed on vulnerable children?”, he asks with evident frustration. “Why are so few settings included, so that children in nurseries, youth offenders institutions, church activities and leisure clubs miss out on this protection? And why only a requirement to report sexual abuse, not physical abuse and neglect?

“It's disappointing, because in its present form, it's simply not going to deliver the major culture change that's needed.”

Starmer says he envisaged the measures in his bill as a starting point, but emphasises that the decision not to mandate all professionals was made in an attempt to prevent police being inundated with reports, something he claims has happened in other jurisdictions where mandatory reporting operates.

But there is evidence from Australia to show that while reporting levels do spike immediately following the introduction of such a law, the increase is never sustained – and may even fall to levels below those previously experienced.

Meanwhile, the success rate in proving abuse allegations has often risen. Australia's states' and territories' varying mandatory reporting protocols have been subjected to longitudinal study over a 10-year period by Prof Ben Mathews, co-director of the children's health programme at Queensland University of Technology. Data from Western Australia show that due to improved reporting after the introduction of the law, the number of cases of substantiated sexual abuse doubled.

Mathews believes that a statutory, sanctionable duty to report suspected abuse changes the dynamic within institutions that may make people reluctant to come forward.

“The laws overcome gaze aversion, which is the tendency for people to avoid uncomfortable phenomena and turn the other way,” he says. “They … set a social norm about what must be done instead of ignoring the child's situation.

“Together with good education about child sexual abuse and the reporting duty, the laws increase professionals' awareness of just how serious sexual abuse is, and its nature, frequency and indicators. The laws say what professionals must do. The education [that goes with it] explains why.”

Importantly, he says, the laws in Australia also give anonymity and legal immunity to anyone who reports – important if people are afraid of repercussions. “The fear of whistleblowing is a non-issue here. The best evidence indicates [these laws] are probably the best public policy innovation we have to help identify cases of child sexual abuse.”

However, Allen holds that there is little international evidence mandatory reporting has the desired impact of increasing protection of children.

“There is evidence it can indeed drive abuse further underground and reduce cooperation of families with child protection services,” she says. Allen believes effective professional standards, regulation and capability processes “should be sufficient to drive good practice and uphold public confidence.”

Perry disagrees: “Relying on professional bodies to hold people to account, given the evidence of widespread, serially ignored and wilfully overlooked abuse over decades, is complacent and risible.”

Australia has reflected on the efficacy of its mandatory reporting over the years, with five government inquiries in four different states since 2003. Each time, explains Mathews, the recommendation has been that the law be retained.

“The only key change has been, in some states, to supplement mandatory reporting of severe child abuse and neglect with differential reporting for less serious cases – where you report significant cases to child protection and less significant cases to welfare agencies,” he says.

However, he also notes: “Queensland recently did make a change to remove mandatory reporting for neglect and psychological abuse – even for severe and life-threatening cases – which to many was a very bad move.”

The Home Office could not say when the promised public consultation on mandatory reporting would be launched. When it is, will both sides of the argument be able to come to any greater understanding of their respective fears and examine the evidence objectively?


United Kingdom

Britain's worst paedophile Richard Huckle blames sex abuse of hundreds of children on victims' culture in sick letter

by Henry Vaughan

The Old Bailey heard the 30-year-old forced some children to pose with sick slogans advertising his vile sex abuse images

Britain's worst paedophile who abused up to 200 Malaysian children has blamed his horrific attacks on the culture in which the victims lived in a vile letter read out in court.

Warped Richard Huckle, 30, said sex crimes were “endemic” and “no one cared” in Kuala Lumpur, where he posed as a devout Christian English teacher to groom boys and girls as young as six months.

But he said he had "no regrets" about living in Malaysia as it improved his "confidence and charisma" and blamed "external factors" for his nine-year campaign against the community in Malaysia.

The former grammar schoolboy, from Ashford, in Kent, hit out at the "poor attitude to child welfare" and "the pathetic, perverted lust of those who lured me onto the dark net".

Huckle made the comments in a letter to his solicitors which his barrister Philip Sapsford QC said showed his remorse.

He insisted “no one cared” about his victims who were “badly treated” in a society where sexual abuse became endemic.

The Old Bailey heard Huckle had little sexual experience with adults because he “lacked confidence with women”.

His barrister told the court he and his junior James Mason had never seen an admission of guilt on that scale in their combined 89 years experience.

It took more than an hour for the charges to be put to Huckle at an earlier hearing, in what is believed to be the worst case of its kind.

“What is significant in our instructions is Mr Huckle repeatedly said few people cared for these child victims,” Mr Sapsford said.

“His instructions were, he didn't want to do anything that would lead to any long-term damage physically but accepts and believes he certainly lost touch with reality and just how serious his behaviour was.

“He thought this was overlooked or ignored in Malaysia.”

Huckle forced some victims to pose with sick slogans advertising his foul images which he sold for Bitcoins on the TLZ website on the dark web - the encrypted version of the internet.

He first went to south-east Asia as a teenager where he felt he “belonged” for the first time, said his barrister.

Huckle began attacking children when he was on a gap year, aged just 19, in a campaign that spanned nine years, from March 2006 until he was finally arrested in December 2014.

He now faces up to 22 life sentences at the Old Bailey after admitting to an unprecedented 71 charges, including rape, sexual assault, and sexual activity with a child.

In his letter, Huckle added: "In no way do I want to be treated as a martyr for child sex tourism."

Mr Sapsford said Huckle only realised the extent of his offending when he was arrested.

Huckle “attributed his offending to others on the internet and the characteristics of the culture of the victims”, when interviewed by a doctor who studied his warped mind.

“His instructions are, at all times, these children were very badly treated in the society in which they lives and sexual abuse became endemic,” added Mr Sapsford.

Huckle targeted an impoverished Christian community in Malaysia where he posed as a student, photographer, English teacher and philanthropist to groom his victims.

He took pictures and videos of himself raping and abusing young girls and boys and even a baby wearing a nappy.

Huckle bragged of the attacks in online blogs and penned a 60-page perverts' handbook titled 'Pedophiles & Poverty: Child Lover Guide'.

As part of an international network, Huckle awarded himself 'PedoPoints' for carrying out the attacks and used a paedophile crowdfunding website, called PedoFunding, to finance the abuse.

He began the nine-year campaign in 2006 and it is believed he assaulted up to 200 children before his arrest in December 2014 when he was caught with more than 20,000 indecent images.

The charges relate to the horrific sexual abuse of 23 girls and boys aged between six months and 12 years. Some 22 of the victims are from Malaysia while one is Cambodian.

But prosecutor Brian O'Neill said Huckle's own twisted ledger contained reference to a possible 191 victims.

Huckle, formerly of Ashford, Kent, pleaded guilty to 31 counts of sexual assault of a child under the age of 13; 12 counts taking indecent photos of children; six counts of assault by penetration; thirteen counts of rape of a child under 13; three counts of causing a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity; three counts of causing a child under 13 to engage in penetrative sexual activity; arranging or facilitating the commission of child sex offences by writing a child sex abuse manual; making 20,253 indecent images; and advertising child pornography.

He will be sentenced on Monday.