Fight over child abuse bill turns rancorous
by Simon Rosenbluth
Child abuse victims and their advocates are going on the offensive after the Legislature failed yet again to pass the Child Victims Act (S.7296/A.9877) a bill that would make it easier for child abuse victims to seek justice.
Specifically, the omnibus bill would eliminate the criminal and civil statutes of limitations for future victims of child sexual abuse and create a one-year window for previous victims of childhood sexual abuse to file civil legal claims against their attackers and culpable institutions such as schools and churches.
An outspoken advocate for the bill, Melanie Blow, highlighted the importance of eliminating the statute of limitations for victims saying, “It takes an average of 21 years for a victim to come forth,” explaining that, by the time a victim has the courage to take legal action, it is often too late.
“This whole place is dysfunctional. Alcohol on Sundays is more important than helping child abuse victims. It's unbelievable those priorities are more important than protecting kids and providing hope to people who have been through hell.”
— Abuse victim Gary Greenberg
She and other members of the Stop Abuse Campaign met on Thursday June 23 outside the Governor's Office in the Capitol to present a petition with more than 27,650 signatures backing the bill.
The Child Victims Act is the “most important bill to protect children from sexual abuse,” said Blow, the chief operations officer of the Stop Abuse Campaign, an organization that tries to reduce adverse childhood experiences through public policy. “We need to take predators off the streets.”
The failure by the Legislature to pass the bill led the group to criticize lawmakers' priorities. The advocates condemned the fact that, while the Child Victims Act bill dies in committee, a bill that would allow restaurants to sell alcohol before noon on Sundays was made an end-of-session priority.
“This whole place is dysfunctional,” said Gary Greenberg, an abuse victim who was in Albany Thursday to help deliver the petitions to the Governor's Office. “Alcohol on Sundays is more important than helping child abuse victims. It's unbelievable those priorities are more important than protecting kids and providing hope to people who have been through hell.”
Under current law in New York state, survivors of child sexual abuse have until their 23rd birthday to bring criminal charges against their abusers for most felony sexual abuse crimes. They have the same amount of time to bring a civil lawsuit against their abuser.
According to the U.S Department of Justice, approximately 1.8 million adolescents in the U.S. have been the victims of sexual assault. An estimated 90 percent of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child, and about one-third of attackers are family members.
As a result, disclosure of sexual abuse is often delayed, usually until adulthood, say the bill sponsors, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey and Sen. Brad Hoylman. Children often avoid telling anyone because they are afraid of a negative reaction or of further abuse or harm at the hands of their abuser.
“While we talk now a child is being abused in New York,” said Greenberg.
This bill would eliminate the statutes of limitation for prosecuting child sexual abuse crimes and filing civil lawsuits for damages against individuals, public institutions and private institutions related to child sexual abuse. This act also creates a one-year revival period for previously time-barred civil actions against attackers and institutions where they worked, such as a church or school.
“The failure to pass this reform ensures child molesters and rapists are still protected from the consequences of their crime, that they are free to abuse thousands of more children,” said Andrew Willis, CEO of the Stop Abuse Campaign, who notes that abuse victims are more likely to become alcohol or drug dependent as a result of their experiences.
The bill was introduced in both houses in April. Assemblywoman Markey fought for the right to screen the film Spotlight in the Empire State Plaza this session during a two-day event organized to raise support for the Child Victims Act. The film depicts the true story of how The Boston Globe uncovered a scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese.
The Daily News reported in May that the New York State Catholic Conference spent more than $2 million to lobby lawmakers on issues associated with “statute of limitations” and “timelines for commencing certain civil actions related to sex offenses,” among other policy issues.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, posted a memo on the group's website on June 20 celebrating the bill's failure this session.
“The bill was sold as justice for the victims of sexual abuse, when, in fact, it was a sham: the proposed legislation that failed to make it to the floor of the New York State legislature … was a vindictive bill pushed by lawyers and activists out to rape the Catholic Church,” Donohue said in his statement.
Donohue, who is calling for Assemblywoman Markey's resignation, notes that his group convinced Hoylman to amend the bill to include the phrase “public institutions” in the bill language in addition to “private institutions,” so that public schools would not be exempt from potential lawsuits.
For their part, the victims and their advocates say they intend to hold lawmakers accountable.
“The omnibus Child Victims Act may pass next year, in part because survivors will hold legislators accountable between now and the start of next session,” Willis said. “Because one child is too many, and our legislators should know that.”
Unfortunately for survivors of child sexual abuse, New York State does not currently provide much opportunity for legal recourse. According to constitutional scholar and Cardozo Law School Professor Marci Hamilton, New York is one of the worst states in the nation for child sexual abuse statutes of limitation, along with Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Michigan.
Mom of dying son calls for harsher child abuse charges
by Stacy Jacobson
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — A Charleston mom is trying to stay strong while her baby Ledgend fights for his life.
Courtney Washington says baby Ledgend was born healthy; a picture of perfection until one day she got the call no parent ever wants.
"'Ledgend's not breathing. I'm at the hospital. You need to come quick,'" she recalled her child's father saying to her.
Damonte Seabrook told police he accidentally dropped the baby.
But she said doctors called it physical abuse.
"They told us to make funeral arrangements. He was severely beaten. Then told me he shook him so hard he left his fingerprints in his shoulder and legs. He cracked his skull and put him in a running shower,"
Damonte Seabrook has been in jail since then, charged with abuse to inflict bodily injury on a child.
Meanwhile, at Washington's apartment, baby Ledgend requires around-the-clock care.
"This is basically all day: keeping him calm. Trying to keep the secretions as low as possible. But it's hard," she said.
Nearly two years after the incident, Ledgend Seabrook is struggling to stay alive.
'He can't swallow. We have to suction his mouth. Every two minutes we have to make sure he doesn't aspirate. It's all-around Ledgend care," she said.
Washington has an at-home nurse there every day and a hospice nurse comes twice a week. Her baby boy is dying.
"His lungs, they're really failing him because of the situation," she said.
In front of the camera, she breaks down. But she says she will stay strong and fight for his legacy.
She wants child abusers to face attempted murder charges in situations like this.
"I don't want him to die but if he does die [Damonte Seabrook] is going to get attempted murder or murder. But if he doesn't [die], he's not. That's not a good feeling. I need all the support I can in trying to make a 'Ledgend's law' for child abusers to get attempted murder," she said.
North Charleston Police say Damonte Seabrook was charged according to state law, specifically section 16-3-95.
Solicitor Scarlett Wilson says there is no statute of limitations for cases like this, leaving open the option of charging him with a harsher crime.
Washington said authorities told her Damonte Seabrook's charge would advance to murder if her son dies.
South Carolina's child abuse statute carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. Attempted murder carries a maximum sentence of 30 years.
On ending the child sexual abuse . . .
by Rennette Dimmott
Last Sunday, June 19, we celebrated Father's Day by acknowledging the role of the father in the lives of their children. Many families around the world spent the day reminiscing over the good times they cherish and love. Some took fathers for breakfast, lunch and dinner, while some spent quiet moments reflecting on past times.
I congratulate all fathers for their positive and continued involvement in the lives of their children. To a greater extent, I expressed deep admiration for the ones, who are committed, loving, dependable, understanding and who spend valuable time with their children.
While fathers were being celebrated last Sunday, it was also the International Day For The Elimination Of Sexual Violence Against Children.
Child sexual abuse is a form of sexual violence against a child, and it is considered “the best kept secret” all over the world. Over the years, children in Barbados have been the victims of this scourge and, for several reasons,
it continues to be a major problem in our society.
There are still too many cases of child sexual abuse in Barbados; and, in my assessment, the child is the victim who suffers major psychological drawbacks from this dreaded behaviour.
Some fathers and stepfathers see children as their possessions and therefore strongly believe they have the right to have sexual intercourse with them or perform other deviant acts of sexual aggression. The reality of examining this from all perspectives is that the children, who have been the victims of this scourge, will become adults in the future.
We will expect these children to be well-adjusted individuals and to function effectively in our society. How can these individuals function effectively and efficiently in our society, if we expose them to inappropriate sexual behaviours at the early stage of their development and mistreat them in every manner?
We must also remember that this behaviour can be copied from the abuser and, hence, transferred from one generation to the other.
The traumatic events of this experience can permanently destroy children. Many of them feel betrayed, stigmatized, helpless, hopeless and will suffer low self-esteem and low self-worth. As a result, it can also have a direct impact on how they view the world and on how they should behave in society.
There is also an increase in sexual abuse among boys in Barbados. The research out there suggests that boys who have been sexually abused tend to get involved in deviant and criminal behaviour.
We have been experiencing an upsurge in violent behaviour, and the authorities cannot seem to make the connection between children who have been abused and the ugly ramifications of this behaviour. Child sexual abuse is a precursor to criminal behaviour. In Barbados, we continue to educate our society and raise awareness about this growing problem. I think that we need to do much more in the criminal justice system domain in order to help these children. When children are discovered as victims, we should always try to counsel them so that they can strive and develop psychologically, physically and socially.
In concluding, I am making some proposals that will assist in the delivery of justice.
Firstly, I propose that we register sex offenders, so that parents can create a safe, cohesive and harmonious environment for their children.
Secondly, we also need to encourage parents, friends, acquaintances, and family members to report this wrongdoing expeditiously, irrespective of the position that the perpetrator holds in our society.
Thirdly, we need to listen to children and be willing to spend enough time with them to create effective communication. This will encourage them to report any kind of sexual abuse, when an adult engages them in inappropriate behaviour.
To achieve this objective, we must build confidence in children and continuously support them in all the positive endeavours they aspire to be part of.
Fourthly, it is imperative that the legislators rewrite the Laws Of Barbados to reflect that the state would have a greater responsibility towards children, by making them wards of the state when they become victims of child sexual abuse. In this way, an assault on a child becomes an assault on the state.
By facilitating this process, parents will not be allowed to discontinue cases of child sexual abuse in exchange for money, or other material possession.
Fifthly, we need to have longer sentences and rehabilitative interventions for perpetrators to keep them away from children. This is necessary because these individuals are very difficult to reform.
Rennette Dimmott is a forensic psychologist, behavioural specialist and published author.
Pa. Senate committee has chance to help sexual abuse victims
by Kristen Pfautz Woolley
I am not Catholic.
I am a survivor of child sexual abuse. From the ages of 10-12, I was repeatedly violated by a man my parents trusted. My abuse only ended when my abuser became engaged to be married. I remember feeling relief that my nightmare was over. I didn't understand at age 12 that it was not over, nor would it ever be over.
At the age of 17, I ran into him at a local town carnival. He was pushing his newborn daughter in a stroller. He creepily proceeded to tell me how much he enjoyed changing her diapers because he found it fascinating to look at her anatomy.
I summoned the courage to report my abuse at the age of 25. I learned I had waited too long. I lost my criminal rights at age 14 and my civil rights at age 18 because of Pennsylvania's statutes of limitations at that time. To my horror, I also learned that he now had more daughters and was employed as a school janitor.
Legally I knew I couldn't just accuse him without the very real threat of a slander or defamation lawsuit. I needed incontrovertible proof.
I hired a private investigation firm, contacted my abuser and arranged to meet him. He didn't know we were surrounded by private detectives, who clearly heard him confess that he had molested me and then apologize for what he had done to me as a 10-year-old girl.
Legally, every attorney I spoke with told me I had him dead to rights but couldn't do anything about it because the statute of limitations had expired. Despite this, I had to do something to stop him.
With proof in hand, I spoke with my abuser's wife and watched her dry-heave in disgust by her own husband's confession in the private detective's reports. I made her promise she would obtain help for her children. She never called. Nine months later, my rapist's wife posted a photo of herself on Facebook renewing her wedding vows with a self-confessed child molester.
All I ever wanted to do was get him off the street. I cannot because of our laws. This man is still out there because of institutions like the Catholic Church, which fights to stop legislative statute-of-limitations reform because it would be held financially accountable for the abuse its clergy committed and the church tried to hide.
I am not Catholic.
I joined advocates for reform throughout Pennsylvania. I learned the fight to expose more child molesters by opening up a two-year retroactive civil window in the statute of limitations has been an ongoing effort for years, blocked without so much as a committee hearing, mostly because of strong Catholic Church opposition.
It took growing public pressure from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown grand jury report in March to finally get House Bill 1947 through the House in April. It would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations and increase the civil limit from age 30 to 50, retroactively, but without the two-year window. Still, it's a big step forward.
We sit today with HB 1947's fate in the hands of Senate Judiciary Committee members, fewer than half of whom chose to attend the entire hearing last week on the constitutionality of the retroactive provision. If that portion is stricken from the bill, another 20 years of child rapists will be protected from exposure.
The Catholic Church continues its lobbying against extending the civil statute of limitations, seeking to prevent me and potentially thousands of other victims, Catholics and non-Catholics, from protecting innocent children from abuse.
I now wait to see if the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate will pass HB 1947 in its entirety or will choose to protect predators by gutting or rejecting it, blaming a constitutional question that clearly should be decided by the state Supreme Court. I wait to see if I can stop my abuser within the next decade.
I wait to see if I can protect his great-grandchildren.
I am not Catholic.
Kristen Pfautz Woolley is founder and clinical director of Turning Point Women's Counseling and Advocacy Center in York.
Louisiana mom lauded as model parent after arrest for whipping trouble-making kids: ‘I never could imagine trying to be a good mother would end me up in jail'
by Meg Wagner
A Louisiana mom who was tossed in jail for whipping her misbehaving kids is now being hailed a model parent dedicated to teaching her children right from wrong.
Louisiana's attorney general and its state treasurer have condemned the arrest of 30-year-old Schaquana Spears — who was charged with child cruelty Monday after she beat three of her kids with an electrical cord because they broke into a neighbor's home — and praised her for her tough parenting tactics.
Since the arrest, Spears has maintained she was just trying to teach her kids a lesson.
"I never could imagine trying to be a good mother would end me up in jail with a criminal record, like I'm a predator out to hurt my kids," she told WBRZ-TV , a Baton Rouge television station. "I didn't want them to commit another crime."
Louisiana State Treasurer John Kennedy defended the single mom of six in a Wednesday letter to the state's Department of Children and Family Services criticizing the arrest.
“In biblical times, sparing the rod led to a spoiled child,” he wrote. "In modern times, sparing the rod leads to an imprisoned child."
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry echoed that sentiment in a Friday statement supporting Spears and her parenting tactics.
“To be a peaceful and moral society, it is imperative our children learn right from wrong,” Landry said. “I am grateful for my loving mother who did not spare the rod to teach this valuable lesson.”
Spears' arrest touched off a heated conversation about parenting and corporal punishment. The mom said she whipped three of her kids after a neighbor caught them stealing things from a home in Baton Rouge neighborhood.
“She thanked me for calling her and letting her know what was going on, and she told me she would take care of it,” said neighbor Alisa Nicholson, who told Spears about the break-in.
Spears made the trouble-making trio — boys ages 13, 12 and 10 — return the items they stole from Nicholson. Then, she punished them by beating them with a RCA electrical cord, she told police.
Police charged the mom with child cruelty after detectives found deep cuts and bruises on her kids' bodies. Lacerations on the 13-year-old's arms had bled, an East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office report said.
But Spears said the beating was a way to teach her boys right from wrong, not an act of abuse.
"I live for my kids," she said.
Spears was released from jail Tuesday after Winter Applewhite, the owner of a bail bond company, heard the mom's story and used neatly $1,000 of her own cash to free her.
“I think she was an awesome mom,” Applewhite said. “I think what she did what was right. Had it been my boys, I would have whipped them as well and whipped them again when I got out.”
But while Spears is free, the charges are still pending — and her children have been removed from her custody in the interim. In an emotional interview with local news, Spears repeated her love for her children and pleaded to have them returned to her care. Had she not disciplined her kids to their juvenile crime, she feared they might get into bigger trouble as they grew up.
“In this day and age, I see so many babies getting killed, and I refuse to look at my babies in a coffin,” she said while sobbing.
She added: “Maybe I shouldn't have did nothing. I still would have been wrong. I would have been unfit. Then they would have been saying you should have disciplined them. I did it and now look at what happened. The system is messed up.”
Officials are reviewing the charges against Spears.
All I want is an apology: Dad demands to know if police stole his dead son's identity
by Janet Boyle
A DAD demanding to know if police stole his dead son's identity has branded the practice “macabre” and “appalling”.
Gordon Peter is campaigning to find out if the identity of his son Benjamin was stolen by an undercover police officer.
The tot died in 1979, at just seven days old.
Former children's rights worker Gordon, from Bishopton, Renfrewshire, has taken his fight to a major public inquiry in London.
He wants to know if Benjamin was one of at least 42 babies whose identities were used by the Metropolitan Police to provide plausible back-up stories for its undercover Special Demonstration Squad officers.
The top-secret team infiltrated political groups using the stolen identities of dead children to work undercover.
Officers browsed cemeteries for the details of children who, had they lived, would have been their age. Their names were then used as the basis for what they called their “legend” story.
Gordon, one of a handful of parents fighting for answers, said: “I just want the truth.
“Like most parents I am appalled to think that the police would find this perfectly acceptable and that no one would be hurt or devastated by the theft of the identity of a lost child who was dear to them.
“My son Benjamin suffered a traumatic birth and fought for seven days to survive.
“It appals me that the police have abused children in this way and I have a right to know if my son was one of them. It was macabre behaviour by the police.
“Benjamin survived for seven days before dying.
“The injuries of his birth were too serious to overcome.”
Gordon, who has since split from Benjamin's mum, remembers the day he was born like it was yesterday.
The 71-year-old, who was working in London at the time, had just returned from a family holiday to Scotland when his wife was rushed to hospital.
“Benjamin suffered serious complications when the placenta separated from the womb.
“He struggled to survive this and lived for only seven days.
“We had been looking forward to his birth and all the joy that brings.
“However, it was very distressing to watch our baby boy die within a week of being born.
“The pain of losing a child is with you for ever. You have to learn live with it.”
Gordon believes the traumatic bereavement contributed to the breakdown of his marriage to Judith.
Benjamin was buried in Hoop Lane cemetery, north London, his resting place marked by a stone that would have given all the details needed to steal his identity.
Gordon first feared Benjamin's identity might have been stolen when details of the practice emerged in 2013.
He said: “I read that other babies and children from nearby cemeteries had their identities stolen and discovered police trawled the area picking out the deceased children.
“When I asked the police whether Benjamin's was used, they refused to confirm or deny it.
“This made me very suspicious. Surely if they had not, then it would be easier to say so? I met a woman who had been duped by an undercover police officer and then I realised the true extent of the abhorrent police operation.”
The inquiry has already heard how the identity of at least one other child was stolen from a cemetery near Benjamin's.
The mum of the child concerned has received an apology from the police.
That's all Gordon really wants, too – the truth. And an apology.
“If I discover that Benjamin was used like this I will have to accept it,” he told The Sunday Post.
“But at least I will know the truth. Not knowing is painful and distressing to me and the other parents seeking answers.
“If my son's identity was used by the police I believe a proper apology must be issued.
“I know the other families want and deserve this, too.”
The police force at the centre of scandal is refusing to reveal the names of the babies whose identities were stolen.
Top brass have argued they have a duty of care to protect their officers and fear for their safety if details are revealed.
But Gordon feels very strongly about fighting for the truth for himself and the other aggrieved parents.
He added: “It is completely wrong and an abuse of power.
“Losing a child is one of the most painful experiences a parent can have.
“The police maintain they should have restrictions on naming and give primacy to protection of their officers who could be at risk.
“However, they gave no evidence of what risk that would be.”
One of the parents told the inquiry on Wednesday she had been left “quite sick” by the uncertainty over whether police had used the identity of her son who died at the age of just 15 months.
Another parent, whose son died at two days old, said she had suffered “profound emotional turmoil and anger”.
Gordon devoted his working life to children's rights across the world.
He said: “I have spent many years professionally aiding governments in various countries implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and to help them to develop fair and just policies and practices of family support.
“I find it disturbing to say the least that the police decided, for its own reasons, that dead children had no rights.
“The bereaved families' living memories, and indeed any risk to them in the future from the actions of an officer with an assumed identity of the child, should not be abused in this way.”
Police can't say how many identities were stolen
POLICE admitted undercover officers routinely stole the identities of dead children to infiltrate political groups.
The admission was made to MPs by Chief Constable Mick Creedon, who is leading an investigation into a 40-year undercover operation to spy on political activists.
Mr Creedon also admitted that police have yet to inform any parents of children whose identities were stolen in a practice which MPs have criticised as “gruesome” and “heartless”.
Mr Creedon told MPs the technique was “common practice” within a clandestine unit, the Special Demonstration Squad.
However, he declined to specify how many identities were stolen by the Metropolitan police unit, which operated between 1968 and 2008, saying he could not answer the question “with any degree of certainty”.
More than 80 undercover officers are believed to have trawled through birth and death records from all over the country in their attempts to find suitable candidates.
The technique was dubbed “the jackal run” after it was depicted in Frederick Forysth's novel The Day Of The Jackal.
The spies then developed aliases based on the children's identities and were issued with documents such as passports, driving licences and national insurance numbers to make the personas more credible.
After assuming the identities of the dead children, they spent up to 10 years infiltrating activist groups.
Police had previously admitted the technique was also used by a second undercover squad, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, which began operating in 1999.
As a result of the disclosures, the Met Police called in Mr Creedon, Derbyshire's chief constable, to take over an internal inquiry into the SDS which has been examining a series of allegations since October 2011.
Inquiry's priority is to discover the truth
DISTRAUGHT parents hope the truth will be uncovered by the an inquiry headed by Sir Christopher Pitchford.
In his opening remarks to the inquiry last July, Sir Christopher said: “The inquiry's priority is to discover the truth.”
In 2013, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, gave a general apology for the “shock and offence the use of this tactic has caused”.
The inquiry was set up by Home Secretary Theresa May to examine the police techniques and other alleged wrongdoings.
Peter Francis, a former undercover officer, stole the identity of a four-year-old dead boy. He infiltrated anti-racist groups for four years in the 1990s.
Another officer, whose fake persona was Pete Black, previously revealed how he felt he was “stomping on the grave” of the four-year-old whose identity he used.
“A part of me was thinking about how I would feel if someone was taking the names and details of my dead son for something like this,” the officer – who infiltrated anti-racist organisations – said.
Black said he always felt guilty when celebrating the dead child's birthday. He was particularly aware that, somewhere, the parents of the boy would be “thinking about their son and missing him”.
To ensure he was 100% convincing when recalling details from his “upbringing”, Black even visited the child's home town to familiarise himself with the surroundings.
“It's those little details that really matter – the weird smell coming out of the drain that's been broken for years, the location of the corner Post Office, the number of the bus you get,” he said.
Teaching kids about sex — and respectful sexual behavior
by Paula Willey
The trial of Brock Turner, the Stanford student convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, and the subsequent furor over his six-month sentence, ignited new discussions about sexual violence and what we can do to prevent it. Because his victim is far from alone: One in five girls can expect to fall prey to sexual violence at some point in their lives. This number is even higher for gay men and women, transgender people and people with disabilities.
Perhaps most disturbingly, studies have found that children can experience dating violence and sexual harassment as young as sixth grade.
Experts on the subject and abundant research agree that education is the best preventive measure, and the earlier that children learn about respect and consent, the more likely they are to act according to those precepts. A recent study commissioned by the White House found that of 140 sexual-abuse prevention programs, only two or three could be termed effective — and these were multiweek programs attended by middle-school students.
Sex education varies from school system to school system, and often from school to school. Schools may be comfortable teaching the facts about reproduction and puberty, but often face criticism for teaching about consent, healthy dating behavior and birth control.
In the absence of standardized sex ed curricula, it falls to parents to provide accurate information about responsible sexual behavior. Even kids who have access to good sex ed programs are only receptive to information that they are ready for, or may come home with more questions.
In any case, in this as in other areas, it's better to overexplain than to keep silent: We take a big risk whenever we assume that our kids have learned things by observation. If by age 13, a child has not yet discovered where to look for a new roll of toilet paper or how mashed potatoes get that way, it's unrealistic and unfair to expect them to have absorbed accurate information about what constitutes consent.
At the library, we often help parents who are dreading these discussions. So here are some tips and resources to get yourself up to speed and to make it easier to have essential conversations with your children and teens about sex and responsibility.
Be ready: Chances are, the world has become a more open and tolerant place since you sat through health class in seventh grade. And we're busy people — we often react to controversial topics without taking the time to figure out why we feel the way we do. "For Goodness Sex" by sex educator Al Vernacchio gives parents thoughtful exercises for examining their own values in order to determine what messages we want to communicate to our children.
Start young: Teaching very young children the correct names for their body parts and functions gives them a vocabulary for asking questions without frustration and establishes a comfort level early on. This is also the time to start emphasizing respect for their own bodies and those of others.
Two books that take nothing for granted are "What Makes a Baby?" and "Sex Is a Funny Word" by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth. These super-inclusive books acknowledge that some readers won't be comfortable thinking about topics like intercourse, sex and gender, while others are very curious. Kids and parents learn to speak up for themselves about being touched and to be respectful of others.
Brush up on your facts: Talking about puberty and sex is difficult enough — don't rely on what you remember from that long-ago health class. Books by Robie H. Harris, especially "It's So Amazing" and "It's Perfectly Normal," are accurate and up to date, warm and friendly. Illustrations by Michael Emberley depict loving families of diverse gender, race, age, body type and ability.
Stay positive: It's OK to admit your own discomfort, but it's important not to use negative words when describing anatomy, urges, or acts — private parts are private, but they are not dirty. Kids who are not ashamed of their bodies or their feelings are more likely to stand up for their own physical and emotional rights — and more likely to defend others who are being harassed or threatened.
Longtime sex educator and author Lynda Madaras provides accurate, nonjudgmental information in her many books. "On Your Mark, Get Set, Grow" takes a cheerful tone while covering the basics of development, sexuality and romance. The "What's Happening to My Body?" book for boys emphasizes personal agency in its discussions of orientation and sexual feelings.
Lots of important things happen "Below Your Belt" (Missy Lavender and Jeni Donatelli). This book is notable for covering not only the reproductive system, but also digestion and the pelvic muscles. Chirpy, informal language and loopy illustrations deflect some of the embarrassment of talking about, for example, the anus.
You don't have to do it face to face: Sitting down for "the talk" is not the only way. Many parents find themselves talking about the touchiest subjects in the car. There are fewer distractions and you don't have to look at each other. Use behavior you see in movies and on TV to discuss respect and consent. Or take the true coward's way out, and just drop some of the books recommended in this article in their bedroom.
Don't stop: You've weathered her first period, you've had a serious conversation about his hygiene, you've made sure they have access to birth control. Are you done? No. Kids 14 and up face choices and challenges that can affect their future well-being. Look for books and resources that make no assumptions about orientation or gender while consistently reiterating safety and respect. Humor also helps.
They'll find the answers to almost any question in "Doing It Right: Making Smart, Safe, and Satisfying Choices About Sex" by Bronwen Pardes. YouTube junkies should look for "The Midwest Teen Sex Show," which proves that you can be responsible and rude at the same time. The creator of that series, Nikol Hasler, is the author of "Sex: An Uncensored Introduction." Lastly, there's Juicebox, a Q&A app available for iPhone that lets teenagers anonymously post questions to a team of qualified sex educators.
And kids — and adults — moved by rape cases in the news should read "Exit, Pursued by a Bear" by E. K. Johnston. This novel follows teenage Hermione, who wakes up in the hospital after having been drugged and raped. Her friends, family, and the professionals involved with her case rally to her defense, assist with her recovery, and help her discover the identity of her attacker. The humor and love in this novel are an effective antidote to feelings of helplessness that crimes like these can generate.
Paula Willey is a librarian at the Parkville branch of the Baltimore County Public Library. She writes about children's and teen literature for various national publications and online at unadulterated.us. She can be reached at email@example.com.
How to get away with family violence
by Diana McGuinness
A guide for the domestic violator
Want a long uninterrupted career abusing someone you love? You're in the right place!
Domestic violence is a popular pastime in this country. Indeed, New Zealand regularly rates among the most violent places in the OECD for families.
This is good news, if you're considering a stint of spousal abuse, rape of a relative or child molestation. You are among tens of thousands of like-minded individuals. It's estimated one in three New Zealand women have been the victim of violence. You could say they are used to it.
There's a convenient culture of secrecy about it too. It's considered by many to be private, a family affair — best not interfere.
This “group silence” is a godsend and can be further exploited by choosing a victim who is particularly vulnerable.
Many find this easiest with children. After all, if a child grows up with regular abuse, they experience it as normal. They may even continue it with their own relationships and children. Happily, your actions can ripple through future generations — a legacy, if you will.
The importance of psychological and emotional abuse cannot be overstated. Generating fear, dependence and control over one's victims are skills that a successful abuser needs to be proficient at. Regularly demean them. Cut off their support systems. Take charge of their money. Humiliate them and hammer home the idea it's their fault. Threatening to kill them or their children is particularly effective at ensuring compliance.
Even if your victim does tell someone, there's a decent chance they won't be believed. In fact, they are often blamed for it. Surely, the thinking goes, they must have done something to trigger you. Indeed, why didn't they just leave the relationship? Why did they take so long to report the abuse?
Any heat on them is heat off you, so you can be grateful for the Kiwi culture of victim-blaming and shaming.
One trick is not to leave marks. Most women live in abject terror of being raped or assaulted, and they often either freeze out of sheer shock, or try not to anger you further in case you're going to murder them. Handily, this can be used against them. If there's no evidence of physical struggle, well, if this “abuse” happened at all, surely it can't have been that bad.
You don't need to worry too much that your abuse will draw attention to you from the police either — that hardly ever happens. Police estimate they see less than a fifth of violence within homes (and only 10 percent of sexual violence). Trifling. It's very much a low-risk venture.
Even if you are arrested, many are let off. You probably won't even have to go to court. Cases don't go forward for all sorts of reasons. The charges get dropped or the evidence isn't enough — after all, how do victims prove it? It's your word against theirs, and theirs is bound to be a pretty shaky one, if you've done your job of destroying their confidence properly. Plus, with rape, it's easy enough to argue that they consented.
Frequently, the victim is unwilling to take it to court. This is where the adversarial court system really works to your advantage. Victims often find the court experience re-traumatises them. They have to tell a roomful of people — loved ones, the morbidly curious, the media, plus you and your supporters — in great detail, probably the most degrading experiences of their life.
The very trauma you put them through has made your victim less likely to come forward and prosecute you for it. One of life's little ironies.
Moreover, your lawyer gets to annihilate their character through cross examination — heck, it's almost like a bonus round.
No, the majority of violent incidents don't get anywhere near this stage. They say out of 100 sexual violence acts committed, 10 might be reported to the police, three will go to court, and just one will see a conviction. The system really does seem to be on your side.
But let's say on the off-chance you do get found guilty. It might only be a few months or years in prison — if you go at all — and then you can go back to torturing people again.
There's a three strikes sentencing law for violent crime where you can be detained indefinitely, but so far that's only ever happened to one person in the whole country. After all, that's three times a victim has to speak out, be believed, and get police involved; three times the police need to find enough evidence to make a case and convince the victim to go to court; and three times to defy the odds and get a guilty verdict.
Once is unlikely enough — three times indicates a spectacularly unlucky stretch.
All in all, this country has an excellent record of people getting away with repeated abuse for years, whole lifetimes in fact. There's no reason to think it can't be you.
New Zealand isn't No.1 in family violence statistics for nothing.
You can help stop human trafficking with the TraffickCam app
by Haje Jan Kamps
In a world where the phrase “oh god, not another app” often springs to mind, along with “Yeah, yeah, I'm sure you want to make a world a better place” TraffickCam is a blast of icy-fresh air.
TraffickCam is an app developed by the Exchange Initiative, an organization fighting back against sex trafficking.
The goal of the new app is to build a national database of photos of the insides of hotel rooms to help law enforcement match images posted by sex traffickers to locations, in an effort to map out the routes and methods used by traffickers. The app will also be useful to help locate victims — and the people who put them in their predicament.
Available for both iOS and Android , the app is unlikely to win any design awards, but that isn't the point; the app makers are solving a tremendous problem and any tools available to help resolve some of this will be welcomed with open arms by the organizations fighting the good fight.
Picking a fight with sex trafficking
Sex trafficking is a form of modern day slavery that forces children and adults to engage in sexual acts, for money, against their will. Which is bad enough in itself, but UNICEF points out that the problem is much bigger than you might think; at least 300,000 American children, and more than 1.2m children worldwide are trafficked each years. And when we say children, that's where the horror deepens: most victims are recruited between the ages 12-14.
The app, then, is a crowd-sourced data gathering tool which can be used to match known locations to photos confiscated from or shared by the perpetrators. Features such as patterns in the carpeting, furniture, room accessories and window views can be analyzed, and according to the app's creators, testing shows that the app is 85 percent accurate in identifying the correct hotel in the top 20 matches.
145,000 hotel rooms so far
“Law enforcement is always looking for new and innovative ways to recover victims, locate suspects and investigate criminal activity,” said Sergeant Adam Kavanagh, St. Louis County Police Department and Supervisor of the St. Louis County Multi-Jurisdictional Human Trafficking Task Force.
Today, the organization's database contains 1.5 million photos from more than 145,000 hotels in every major metropolitan area of the U.S., a combination of photos taken by early users of the TraffickCam smartphone app and from publicly available sources of hotel room images.
You can help
Personally, I think this is a great opportunity for the travel industry and the accompanying startup ecosystem to work together to help. Room 77, for example, are building a huge VR library of hotel room images, and companies like Travelocity, Hotel Tonight, Foursquare and Tripadvisor could easily leverage their app install base to encourage its customers to take photos of rooms as they check in. Come on, guys, let's put that big data treasure trove to good use.
The idea for the app came up when the organization found an image of a motel room, knew what city it was taken in, but had no way of knowing which motel the photo was taken in.
“We connected the vice squad with our associates in that city, but it took three days to find the girl,” said Molly Hackett at the Exchange Initiative. “That seemed way too long, given today's technology.”
So, if you do a lot of traveling, install the app and. You can help make the world a better place, one potential crime scene at the time.
3,000 Minnesota cops trained to fight sex trafficking
by Tory Cooney
Over the past two and a half year, the Ramsey County Attorney's Office has trained more than 3,000 law enforcement and community advocates across Minnesota in processing sex trafficking cases and helping victims.
The training events and conferences were held in more than 22 cities and funded by a $700,000 appropriation made by the Legislature in 2013.
“These officers right now, they are really excited and jazzed up about doing john stings and doing everything they can to ensure that they have the right mindset in dealing with people and children that are being sexually exploited,” said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi at a press conference Thursday, prior to the penultimate training session.
The nature of the training sessions depended on the specific needs of the people attending. They ranged from general awareness and victim identification for front-line officers, to sophisticated seminars on electronic evidence for investigators. Training videos are also available to both the public and law enforcement online, Choi said.
In addition to the statewide training, the RCAO was also commissioned to develop a guide that will help law enforcement, state agencies and community partners establish procedures to follow when they encounter a potential victim of sex trafficking.
Those protocols are being developed, Choi said.
“This is about wrapping services around victims of human trafficking,” said St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell. “The more systems we have in place to support those who are being prostituted and human trafficked the more effective we'll be in combating this crime.”
Ramsey County adopted a more victim-centered approach in 2011, when it shifted its focus from the prosecution of prostitutes and trafficked people to the prosecution of traffickers.
Around the same time, it also began using felony child solicitation law against buyers, a strategy seen in the underage sex stings conducted by Operation Guardian Angel and other law enforcement groups, Choi said.
Charges and convictions in sex trafficking related cases have increased statewide since then, he said.
But more is needed to prevent trafficking before it begins. Community members and individuals have a role to play as well and need to begin actively discussing how boys are raised to view women, he said.
“We cannot arrest and prosecute our way out of this problem,” Choi said. “We also have to think about how we change our culture … Our work will never be done.”
Texas man tries in vain to save infant left in hot car by placing her in refrigerator
by Travis M. Andrews
When Michael Thedford arrived at the day care Tuesday morning to drop off his three children, he found that the youngest, his 6-month old daughter, was a little ill and running a fever. So he dropped off the 5-year-old and the 3-year-old and headed back home in his van with the infant, Fern.
When he reached his house in Melissa, Tex., though, he decided he needed a nap. In his haste to get inside, he forgot Fern in the van while he slept for about four hours, according to the arrest warrant obtained by WFAA.
The temperature in Melissa soared to 95 degrees that day.
At 1 p.m., Michael woke up and realized his daughter was in the car. Panicking, he ran to the front yard, according to the warrant. When he reached the van and flung open the door, he found his daughter “stiff” as a board and “hot as a brick.”
She was unresponsive as he carried her little body into the house.
Apparently in an attempt to cool her down, Michael then did the unthinkable: He placed his daughter in the refrigerator, among the Thedfords' groceries, and left her there for “an undetermined length of time,” authorities said.
After a while, he pulled her body from the fridge and attempted to perform CPR. Only then did he call his wife and the authorities, both of whom rushed to the house.
According to a neighbor, the couple hugged and cried together.
Fern was dead. Michael has since been charged with manslaughter.
The firefighters and paramedics left quickly after they arrived, but the detectives remained behind. They pointed cameras at Michael and asked him to reenact what had happened.
“They used a Mickey Mouse type of doll for him to show what happened,” Fabiola Contreras, the Thedfords' neighbor, told KDFW. “And now that I think about it, they also were measuring from the van to the door.”
The Thedfords had always seemed like a loving family, the neighbor said. Michael worked as a substitute teacher, and his wife was a well-known local veterinarian. In fact, Contreras had witnessed the family laughing and joking around just a few days prior.
“It's kind of shocking how this happened because on Sunday we saw family members and them having a good time for Father's Day,” Contreras said.
Bill Hemby, the assistant superintendent of Celina High School, where Michael taught introductory physics and chemistry last year, said Michael deeply loved his children.
“Michael is rocket-science smart,” Hemby told WFAA. “He did a great job for us while he was here. We all had an understanding of how much he loved his children. We're all in mourning, just like he is.”
Michael's father, Stan Thedford, had a similar reaction, telling WFAA that his son was a doting and loving father.
But as countless similar tragedies have demonstrated, loving your kids and being well-educated affords no protection from such tragic events, which are all too common.
“Every year at this time it happens to people from all walks of life,” Stan said. “It's something we should all be more aware of.”
He's right. As of June 9, at least 11 children had died in 2016 after being left in hot cars, CNN reported. That's triple the number of deaths recorded in 2015. Since 1990, about 700 children have perished this way in the United States, according to the nonprofit safety group Kids and Cars.
The temperature in a car can rise rapidly, and children left inside — even for just a half hour, even on a relatively cool spring or summer day — are almost immediately in danger.
Christopher Haines, director of pediatric emergency medicine at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, told WebMD that most parents don't understand how quickly an innocuous errand can turn deadly.
“On a day that is just 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature [inside a car] can increase by 30 to 40 degrees in an hour, and 70 percent of this increase occurs the first 30 minutes,” Haines said.
In addition, a child's body heats up three to five times faster than an adult's, according to the Seattle Children's Hospital.
It should be noted that if this does happen, a refrigerator is not the proper way to cool a child down. If you accidentally leave a child in a hot car, call the authorities immediately. Death can come quickly from heat stroke. While waiting for the proper authorities, cover the baby with cool damp clothes and get the child into the shade, according to advice from the Women's and Children's Health Network.
As for how to remember one's children, Safe Kids Worldwide chief executive Kate Carr said it's best to leave a physical reminder of the child in the back seat.
“A car can heat up about 19 degrees in as little as 10 minutes, and we've seen heat stroke deaths recorded when the temperature is in the 60s,” Carr told CNN. “Put something in the back seat where a child seat is always located that you're going to need at your final destination, something you know you're going to look for, like your cellphone, your purse, a briefcase.”
Added Carr, “This, in fact, can happen to anyone, and we've seen it happen to anyone.”
Michael Thedford was booked in the Collin County Jail, and posted a $20,000 bond late Tuesday. Booking records list no attorney for Thedford, the Associated Press reported Wednesday morning. It was also unclear as of Wednesday morning whether Thedford had entered a plea, according to ABC News.
David Schwimmer claims child abuse problem in the UK is hugely underestimated
?The ?Friends actor speaks from the heart on Good Morning Britain.
by Naomi Gordon
David Schwimmer believes that the problem of child sex abuse is severely underestimated in the UK.
The Friends star is supporting the NSPCC in setting up US-style refuges for sexually abused children to give victims access to all the services they need in one place.
"I have several friends, both men and women, who are victims of child sexual abuse," Schwimmer said on Good Morning Britain today. "As a father of a 5-year-old daughter, the entire subject matter is more emotional and more meaningful to me."
One in 20 children are thought to be victims of sexual abuse in the UK, but the actor thinks that figure is inaccurate.
"In the States, figures are very different and are closer to the truth," he continued. "One in four girls, and one in six boys."
On the Child Advocacy centres to be launched with the NSPCC's annual How Safe conference in the capital, he explained: "The child only has to be interviewed once and tell his or her own story once, instead of being shuffled between various institutions."
In 2010, Schwimmer directed the move Trust, which centred on the harrowing subject of a teenage girl who becomes a victim of sexual abuse after being groomed by an adult male on the internet.
He's also the Director of The Rape Foundation Board in the US, which runs Stuart House in California, serving the needs of sexually abused children and their families.
'Keep your mouth shut': U.S. school union covers up child abuse
by Kenya Sinclair
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Project Veritas has released three undercover union videos, each depicting teacher union officials verbally explaining how they can work around child abuse cases.
The first video featured Yonkers union officials explaining how to cover up child abuse and excessive absences. The second focused on a New Jersey middle school health teacher who offered the undercover reporter, James O'Keefe, cocaine and said he wouldn't report drug abusing teachers.
In the third video, O'Keefe, spoke to three union officials individually and posed as the friend of a teacher who hit a student in the classroom.
He spoke to United Federation of Teachers (UFT) representative Robert Levine and clearly stated: "He hit a kid and nobody was around. It was just him and the kid in the classroom and he's worried that if anybody finds out he'll lose his job."
Levine responded: "Well, if they never come forward then he doesn't have anything to worry about."
Kerry Broderick, the White Plains Teacher Association President responded to the same situation with: "If it's been over a month and there's been no conversation with the building level principal then I would let it go."
Shockingly, Eliu Lara, UFT Bronx High School District Representative, simply stated, "Don't worry about it, don't worry about it."
Each representative supported the teacher and Levine even claimed a teacher with tenure would keep his or her job - even if it was documented that they hit a student.
In fact, Levine said a teacher who hit a student "wouldn't get in trouble from me. I won't report that to anybody outside. I do just the opposite. I'm here to protect teachers."
The other union officials admitted they exist to protect teachers over students, regardless of abuse.
Broderick callously stated: "I'll tell you right now, if it's any of the principals that I can think of I would strongly suggest she just keep her mouth shut, learn her lesson and never do anything like that again."
Lara was of the same mind, stating: "So leave it at that and pray that maybe he'll never come forward... If the kid says something, whatever. Just keep it secret, I don't know."
Project Verisas President, James O'Keefe, explained: "We understand that it is the job of union officials to protect their members. But, we have to ask, why are we more concerned about the well-being of teachers over the well-being of our children?
"This series will continue to expose more corruption and abuse within teachers unions across the country, and you will continue to hear stories that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up."
‘Mandatory reporting' of suspected child abuse is a mad, bad idea
Get ready for a flood of ill-founded allegations that will cause havoc at protection agencies
by Josie Appleton
It's easy to forget that laws are supposed to do something useful. Legislation is increasingly press-release law, which makes everyone feel good but causes havoc when applied to the real world.
Take the mad, bad idea about to go out for consultation: ‘mandatory reporting' will make it a crime for child and health professionals to fail to report signs of child abuse to the local authority. This would allow David Cameron to be seen to make a stand against child abuse, and which politician doesn't want that? But what a mess it will make.
Failure to report signs of abuse could be punishable by up to five years in prison. This raises the possibility that someone could be criminalised for their failure to report ‘abuse' that was not in fact abuse. One proposal inserted the proviso that a person failing to report abuse should not get a heavier sentence than the one due to an actual abuser. This raises the prospect that they could receive the same sentence, which is clearly absurd.
Mandatory reporting in countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia has resulted in thousands of ill-founded or-unverifiable reports that overwhelm child protection institutions. In 2010, those in the US received 3.3 million reports of possible child abuse, while in New South Wales, Australia, 10 per cent of all children had been referred by age five. A Queensland inquiry complained of an ‘unsustainable increase in reports', the vast majority unsubstantiated: in 2011-12 only 4,359 of 114,503 were substantiated on investigation, and fewer than a quarter of these met the notification threshold (‘reasonable suspicion of child in need of protection').
The danger, of course, is that real child abuse gets lost among all the dross reports of kids who fell off the climbing frame or fell out with their friends. Another cost is the harm done to families and-professionals by thousands of unfounded accusations. An accusation of child abuse is not a ‘better safe than sorry' measure. It's a serious matter, and ill-founded reporting does untold damage to families and communities, not to mention reputations and livelihoods.
The irony is that the government knows all this. Mandatory reporting has been pushed for several years from the Labour benches after lobbying from Mandate Now (a co-alition of-abuse-victim charities). Ministers have repeatedly blocked the idea. Michael Gove rejected it when he was education secretary and Home Secretary Theresa May was unenthusiastic, telling the Commons in 2014 that mandatory reporting could ‘diminish the ability to deal with the serious reports and to actually protect children'. Yet backbench Tories now support the measure, and the Prime Minister seems keen. ‘It may well be time to take that step forward,' he says.
Behind the mandatory reporting campaign lies a myth: that Britain is suffering an epidemic of hidden abuse; that behind every closed door of an apparently happy home or apparently caring institution are dark truths waiting to be unveiled. The tens of thousands of reports that would come rolling in would only confirm campaigners' views: ‘Yes, of course, all this hidden abuse is coming to light!'
More reports equal more awareness of the sordid underside of private life, which preoccupies the imaginations of politicians and campaigners, and makes them talk in strange metaphors. ‘You cannot fail to turn over a stone because you are afraid of the slime that you might find underneath,' is how the Lib Dem peer Baroness Walmsley put it.
Times have changed. The tight, closed institutions that carried out the abuse-cover-ups of the past just don't exist any more. If anything, the opposite is the case:-institutions now have weak internal cultures and loyalties. Professionals are minding their own briefs and watching their backs.
In the Rochdale child-sex scandal, this self-guarding professional culture proved calamitous for child welfare. Social workers didn't fail the 1,200 children raped or assaulted because they were protecting each other or an institutional code. It's more likely that they were protecting their own backs, fearful that submitting reports about the Asian community might lead to accusations of racism. They were driven not by their professional judgments but by a fear of what a third party might think, so they acted irresponsibly.
Mandatory reporting breeds more-irresponsibility. The US Institute of Medicine found that professionals spend more time training on how to protect themselves from lawsuits for failure to report than on how to detect, protect and treat children at risk.
If it happens here it will make a few-headlines, but it's the last thing that our child protection services, and our vulnerable-children, need.
Josie Appleton is director of the Manifesto Club, which campaigns against the overregulation of daily life.
CAS study reveals stark racial disparities for blacks, aboriginals
Aboriginal kids 168 per cent more likely than whites to be taken from homes and placed into care.
by Sandro Contenta, Laurie Monsebraaten and Jim Rankin
New research that for the first time calculates disparity in Ontario's child protection system has found that aboriginal and black kids are far more likely to be investigated and taken into care than white children.
The figures are especially stunning for aboriginal children. They are 130 per cent more likely to be investigated as possible victims of child abuse or neglect than white children, and 15 per cent more likely to have maltreatment confirmed.
Aboriginal children are also 168 per cent more likely to be taken from their homes and placed into care.
The huge disparity is “symptomatic of the system that's failing our kids,” says Steven Vanloffeld, executive director of the Association of Native Child and Family Service Agencies of Ontario.
The study also found that black children are 40 per cent more likely to be investigated for abuse or neglect than white children, and 18 per cent more likely to have maltreatment confirmed. But the likelihood of going into care is lower. Black children are 13 per cent more likely to be taken from their homes and placed with foster parents or in group homes.
Margaret Parsons, executive director of the African Canadian Legal Clinic, blames the disparity on the “harsher lens” children's aid societies use when investigating black families.
“What they might not consider abuse or neglect within a white or non-African Canadian family, they will consider abuse or neglect in one of our families,” she says. “This is not a matter of erring on the side of caution. We feel it is punitive.”
The provincial government, which regulates the child protection system, must make the development of an African Canadian child welfare strategy a priority, she adds.
The estimates were extracted from the government-funded Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect, compiled in 2013. A team of researchers, led by University of Toronto Prof. Barbara Fallon, examined a representative sample of 4,961 child protection investigations conducted by 17 children's aid societies. The cases involved children up to age 14.
Of the dozen specific ethnic and racial categories examined, only black and aboriginal children were taken into care at rates higher than white kids.
The study was presented to more than 70 senior children's aid society officials at a June 7 meeting in Toronto.
The disparity study calculated the relative likelihood of certain groups being involved with the child protection system. It differs from the study on disproportionate representation revealed by an ongoing Star investigation, which found that on a September day in 2013, 42 per cent of kids in the care of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto had at least one parent who is black. Only 8 per cent of the city's under-18 population is black.
The disparity results coincide with mounting outrage about the disproportionate number of aboriginal and black children in care. Parents and leaders in these communities have for years blamed discrimination and a lack of services for struggling families.
Kenn Richard, executive director of Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, says more than 90 per cent of the families his agency works with are poor. Children are placed at risk as families struggle with a lack food, clothing and affordable housing, and often with addictions and mental health problems, Richard adds.
“The disconnect between child welfare and the broad issues of poverty and marginalization is remarkable,” Richard says in an interview. “It's part of a pattern where the state intervenes on behaviour associated with poverty but never gets to the poverty itself.”
“I am sorry child welfare does not speak out on these issues,” Richard adds, referring to Ontario's 47 children's aid societies. “I think we have a moral responsibility to say, ‘Hey, wait a minute. All these kids are poor!'”
Societies have so far shied away from demanding dramatic political solutions and a radical reform of child welfare, he says.
“The questions are too bold and too threatening,” Richard says. “So let's pick on the single mother who doesn't have milk in her fridge but is smoking. So we say, ‘You're smoking but you don't have milk so you're maltreating your children.'”
Aboriginal families — First Nations, Inuit and Métis — also struggle with a history of trauma and forced assimilation. The Ontario government has so far set up nine aboriginal children's aid societies. But those in northern Ontario have few services, forcing many First Nations children to be placed with foster parents or group homes far from their communities.
Vanloffeld, whose association represents 10 aboriginal family service agencies, wants universities to form social workers sensitive to the history of aboriginal people by incorporating it in their curriculums.
He also calls for a “multi-service model” of child welfare.“Not just, ‘We're here to take your kids.' It's, ‘How can we help and work with you while ensuring the safety of the kid?'” Vanloffeld says.
Ontario's children's aid societies are privately run but funded by the province, receiving $1.5 billion in 2015.
On average, 15,625 Ontario children were in foster or group-home care in 2014-15. The latest figures indicate that only 2 per cent of children are removed from their home due to sexual abuse and 13 per cent for physical abuse. The rest are removed because of neglect, emotional maltreatment and exposure to violence between their parents or caregivers.
Judge orders changes to fix 'broken' foster care system
by Ashlei King
SAN ANTONIO - A federal judge is taking action to fix what many call a "broken" foster care system. The judge is requiring three more investigators to look into The Department of Family and Protective Services. She has also doubled the amount of hours the team is expected to spend coming up with their recommendations, from about 1,000 hours to 2,000 hours.
Child Advocates San Antonio CEO Rick Cooke called the judge's decision to beef up the investigation into the foster care system, a step in the right direction.
"Hopefully it'll have a greater impact on the result. The work can get done more quickly, more person hours spent doing it," Cooke said. "They [foster children] have to leave the foster care system better off than when they came into it and that's not happening."
Cooke said there are five thousand children in the custody of The Department of Family and Protective Services in Bexar County. CASA works with about 38 percent of the county's foster children. He said once the team of nine investigators make their recommendations, he hopes law makers will step up to the plate and take action.
Sen. Carlos Uresti said he inteds to do just that.
"For too long, we've been kicking the can down the road, so to speak," Uresti said.
The senator said he has heard a lot of negative real-life stories from young adults after they aged out of the foster care system.
"I've heard a number of stories and I have visited many places years ago where kids were being abandoned," Sen. Uresti said.
The investigators must present recommendations on how to fix the foster care system by September.
"I'm glad that something is happening finally to take care of these kids," Sen. Uresti said.
The Attorney General's Office is litigating this case. The office released the following statement:
"The foster care system is one of the most important functions of the State. We have a solemn responsibility to care for children removed from their homes due to severe neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, or sexual abuse. That's why we strongly support the state-led reform efforts already underway. But when unelected federal judges improperly assume control of state institutions, Texas officials cannot make the policy choices that they have been entrusted to makeand Texas voters lose their right to shape the debate and participate in the process. The judge in this case acted outside of her legal authority and we are asking the Fifth Circuit to correct that error."
Bucks case shows value of child-abuse reports
by Debra Schilling Wolfe
Thanks to a concerned neighbor, 12 children are a little bit safer. When something did not look quite right, a woman in Bucks County said something.
Her action triggered a response that resulted in the arrest of three adults, including the biological parents who "gifted" their then-14-year-old daughter to a man who subsequently impregnated her not once but twice. The now-18-year-old girl, her babies fathered by this man who considered her his "wife," and an additional nine girls suspected to be her younger siblings have ended their captivity and can begin the long process of healing.
We can credit this result, in large part, to the vast reforms that resulted from the Jerry Sandusky case, which not only improved reporting and investigation of child abuse but brought child maltreatment to the forefront. Anyone with a television, internet connection, or newspaper in hand became aware that child abuse can and should be reported and that there is a system that is charged with protecting children from maltreatment. It was a veritable public-awareness campaign.
New laws were passed in the commonwealth that refined the definition of child abuse, broadened who is mandated by law to report, required training in the recognition and reporting of child maltreatment by licensed professionals across Pennsylvania, and closed existing cracks in the system.
As a result, the child-welfare system has been flooded with increased reports of suspected abuse as professionals have increased their awareness and reporting. Many child-welfare agencies have struggled to respond to all the new cases, which have strained their staff and financial resources.
Pennsylvania did resist the temptation to mandate that all adults in the state report suspected abuse, instead focusing efforts on educating professionals and healing an already broken system. Research tells us that reports by professionals are found to be accurate at more than double the rate of those by the general public.
Due to the new laws, a workforce of individuals such as dentists, pharmacists, and even massage therapists has joined physicians, psychologists, nurses, and the like as society's watchful eyes on the well-being of children. But anyone who is not required to do so by law can also report suspected child abuse, as the concerned neighbor in Bucks County did. Her actions should inspire us all.
Remarkably, the United States is one of only a handful of nations that mandate the reporting of child abuse. Is it because child abuse is unique to our culture? Or is it something else? That "something else" may be a very sad statement on our society.
Under serious consideration during the wave of recent reforms in child-abuse reporting was a proposal that would have required average citizens to report suspected child abuse or face being charged with a crime. Some legislators wanted to charge non-reporters with a felony, believing that would serve as an impetus for citizens to report suspected child abuse that they would otherwise ignore.
Do we really need to mandate caring and compassion? If we suspect a child is being harmed, it should be a moral imperative to act on his or her behalf. Too often after a tragedy, we hear that neighbors or other adults "knew" that a child was being maltreated and that "someone" should have done something. We are the "someones." It is the responsibility of all of us to watch out for and protect society's most vulnerable. It is better that many people call to report than that no one do so.
Our child-welfare and law enforcement systems can only help if someone calls. But we also need to understand that the Constitution protects the rights of individuals and that officials cannot investigate allegations that don't rise to the legal definition of harm. As frustrating as that might be, those who have concerns about the welfare of children should makes those calls and be persistent. Offer as much information as you have. What might seem insignificant can actually make a difference.
It is not the burden of the caller to determine if the situation rises to the level of child abuse. Just make the call. One woman in Bucks County is glad she did. And so are 12 girls who are now out of harm's way.
In Pennsylvania, call ChildLine 24/7 to report suspected child abuse: 1-800-932-0313. More information can be found on the state-maintained website keepkidssafe.pa.gov.
Debra Schilling Wolfe is executive director of the Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice, and Research at the University of Pennsylvania. Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hall County Health Department recognized for efforts to prevent child sexual abuse
by The Gainesville Times
The Hall County Health Department has achieved “Partner in Prevention,” a nationally-recognized public standard to end child sexual abuse.
The designation was awarded for Hall County Health Department's commitment to protecting children by training more than 90 percent of its staff and volunteers on how to prevent, recognize the signs of and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
“Partner in Prevention” was created as a national standard to help parents and caregivers recognize organizations who take child sexual abuse prevention seriously by implementing policy and training staff. The training and designation award is provided by Charleston, S.C.-based Darkness to Light, known as D2L. D2L has championed the movement to end child sexual abuse since its founding in 2000 and now has education programs in 49 states and 15 foreign countries.
D2L's training curriculum points out that child sexual abuse is pervasive in a society where it is repressed and not discussed. Thousands of organizations across the U.S. and Canada are now seeking out a dialogue for prevention.
To learn more about child sexual abuse prevention training or to enroll your organization in D2L's “Partner in Prevention” program, visit www.d2l.org or contact D2L Program Coordinator Erika Rowell at 842-965-5444.
It's Time the U.S. Military Step Up the Fight Against Child Sexual Abuse in Afghanistan
by Joseph Williams
It's pure evil.
Young boys dress up like women and are forced to dance for older men. The boys are then auctioned off as sex slaves to the highest bidder – forced to endure years of rape, sexual abuse, and slavery at the hands of their masters. And now, the latest reports reveal that the Taliban are using these child sex slaves to mount insider attacks against Afghan police officers.
Yahoo! News has more of the disturbing details:
The Taliban are using child sex slaves to mount crippling insider attacks on police in southern Afghanistan, exploiting the pervasive practice of "bacha bazi" -- paedophilic boy play -- to infiltrate security ranks, multiple officials and survivors of such assaults told AFP. …
The Taliban over nearly two years have used them to mount a wave of Trojan Horse attacks -- at least six between January and April alone -- that have killed hundreds of policemen, according to security and judicial officials in the province.
"The Taliban are sending boys -- beautiful boys, handsome boys -- to penetrate checkpoints and kill, drug and poison policemen," said Ghulam Sakhi Rogh Lewanai, who was Uruzgan's police chief until he was removed in a security reshuffle in April amid worsening violence.
"They have figured out the biggest weakness of police forces -- bacha bazi," he told AFP.
The assaults, signifying abuse of children by both parties in the conflict, have left authorities rattled, with one senior provincial official who echoed Rogh Lewanai's view saying "it's easier tackling suicide bombers than bacha attackers".
For too long, the U.S. Military has looked the other way as hundreds of young boys are sexually enslaved and tortured. That's why we submitted legal documents to the U.N. months ago.
As we previously reported,
The statement, which was filed with the U.N. Human Rights Council, urges the United Nations to “take action and condemn policies that ignore the plight of the abused boys of Afghanistan and prohibit intervention.”
Specifically, our legal filing condemns all non-intervention policies, which have allowed bacha bazi to go unchecked for so long. In the name of cultural tolerance and military strategy, the international community has ignored the blatant sexual abuse and human trafficking surrounding bacha bazi , because the main perpetrators are potential allies in the War on Terror. Yet such action not only flies in the face of international human rights norms, but it is also counterproductive.
In our statement to the U.N. we discuss the consequences of ignoring bacha bazi:
“ Bacha bazi has political and international ramifications because of who participates in the practice. The Pashtun warlords, who are the main opponents of the Taliban in Afghanistan, are the primary perpetrators of this atrocity. This makes the general population more likely to sympathize with the Taliban, because the Taliban is less likely to take their teenage boys and abuse them sexually. Because the
Such non-intervention policies, which are intended to respect the cultural practices of the Afghani people and foster good will, however, merely alienate the Afghani people who see the International Community providing support and protection to the men who are abusing Afghani children.”
We went on to testify before the U.N. Human Rights Council weeks later.
Now, Rep. Duncan Hunter – who we worked with to get Sergeant First Class Charles Martland exonerated when he was threatened with expulsion for saving a young Afghan boy from sexual abuse – has written a letter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter demanding the U.S. Military act without delay to stop this abuse and protect young children.
The letter details the case of SFC Martland and urges Secretary Carter to act quickly:
While I recognize that separate reviews into this matter are ongoing, I remain concerned with new reports that the Taliban is increasing its use of these children to access security positions and mount insider attacks against Afghan military and police forces. This also poses a direct threat to U.S. service personnel. …
According to reports, the Taliban is now regularly turning to child sex slaves to initiate insider attacks against Afghan forces. In fact, one report cites at least six attacks between January and April that killed “hundreds” of Afghans. This is concerning given our interests in Afghanistan, but it also requires serious attention due to the presence of U.S. forces and their ongoing mission to train, assist and advise the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
Not accounting for any recommendations that might come from ongoing reviews, it is my belief that we can begin taking immediate steps to stop child rape from occurring in the presence of U.S. forces and reduce any risk of coinciding insider attacks. This includes imposing a zero-tolerance policy and ensuring service personnel are not discouraged from reporting cases…
We MUST begin taking immediate steps to stop child rape from occurring in the presence of U.S. forces. It is a moral imperative. And with these latest reports, it's directly tied to the security of our troops.
This is why we are working diligently on Capitol Hill to ensure the U.S. government is doing all it can to empower our troops to stop this evil.
Take action with us to stop this horrifically evil practice and sign our petition (below and at) BeHeardProject.com.
Protect Afghani Kids from Sexual Torture
Read the full text of the petition
Online Pedophiles Use The Internet To Sexually Abuse Children As Young As One
by Samantha Finch
Children as young as one are vulnerable to sexual abuse from online pedophiles. New figures found that more than 3,000 sex crimes have been carried out against children in a year.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, or NSPCC, said police in England and Wales recorded a total of 3,186 sex crimes against youngsters. Majority of the victims were 13 years old, but 272 were under 10 and the youngest target was one-year-old, Daily Mail reported.
The numbers released by NSPCC mean that eight sex crimes are being committed by online pedophiles each day. These sexual predators use sophisticated methods on the internet by grooming victims "before abusing them offline, or live-streaming the abuse," the news outlet further reported.
Peter Wanless, NSPCC's chief executive officer, said online pedophiles pose as children to blackmail the youngsters into meeting them or performing provocative and sexual acts on webcams. With the internet's worldwide reach, online pedophiles can target hundreds of unsuspecting children at a time.
Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England, said NCPCC's figures "may be just the tip of the iceberg" given that youngsters seldom open up if they are being abused, the news outlet noted. This is because they are afraid of the consequences or because they cannot explain and comprehend their experiences yet.
The internet has become a staple in the lives of children, but their parents and guardians should be responsible for teaching its consequences. Youngsters shouldn't be hesitant when it comes to reporting suspicious behaviors of the people they interact with virtually. Offline or online abuses both have damaging effects to a child if recovery therapy wasn't done.
According to Wanless, the NSPCC is hoping that the recent records of online sex abuses will push police to toughen up their resources and training. He also urged the government to ensure that mental health care will be given to children who suffered abuses.
Online sexual predators also practice online sextortion, or online sexploitation, to blackmail children and teenagers into sending explicit photos and videos. The victims are being forced by sexual predators into sending explicit or nude photos and videos, which were then used to blackmail the victims into sending more inappropriate content.
That kind of intimidation can last for weeks, months and even years, cyber security expert Fred Lane said, ABC News reported. Lynne Owens, the head of Britain's National Crime Agency, said online pedophilia and online sexual abuse has become so huge that internet users could simply be tasked to attend counseling if they are found guilty of looking at low-level child abuse photographs and videos, according to The Australian.
Paedo Proof? Never-Before-Seen Cop Reports Expose Michael Jackson's Sick Secrets
Documents reveal star 'as a manipulative, drug-and-sex-crazed predator.'
by Radar Online
(Video on site)
Michael Jackson hid a sinister house of horrors inside his infamous Neverland Ranch, stockpiling images of pornography, animal torture, S&M and gore in a bid to seduce innocent young boys.
Nearly seven years after the King of Pop's death, RadarOnline.com has obtained never-before-seen reports from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department that show the true depths of his depravity.
Authorities wrote the bombshell reports after dozens of sheriff's deputies, armed with search warrants, raided Jackson's secluded Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, Calif., in November 2003.
The search was conducted as part of the continuing child sex abuse investigation against the Gloved One and turned up everything from Jackson's twisted porn collection — which included filthy photos and videos of men, women, boys and girls in perverted positions — to drugs to treat sex addiction, with multiple prescriptions written by a variety of physicians for people close to the star.
One private investigator with direct knowledge of the raids said: “The detectives' report cites Michael even used sexy photos of his own nephews, who were in the band 3T, in their underwear to excite young boys.”
The cops also searched a rented storage space after Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Detective Craig Bonner requested a warrant.
The warrant request for Shurgard Storage said investigators learned about the locker from witnesses who told them materials were moved into it after the investigation was launched.
Among materials seized, according to a report, were “notes, diaries, documents, photographs, audiotapes and videotapes,” along with more than 80 video recordings and computer hard drives.
“The documents collected by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department paint a dark and frightening picture of Jackson,” an investigator in the case told Radar.
“The documents exposed Jackson as a manipulative, drug-and-sex-crazed predator who used blood, gore, sexually explicit images of animal sacrifice and perverse adult sex acts to bend children to his will,” said the source.
“He also had disgusting and downright shocking images of child torture, adult and child nudity, female bondage and sadomasochism.”
In their report, authorities described photos of children bleeding, in pain and tormented.
“There is one particularly sick photo of a child holding what appears to be a dead goose bludgeoned to death!” said an insider familiar with the report.
“In a book Jackson called Room to Play, there is a deeply disturbing photo of a [murdered child beauty queen] JonBenet Ramsey look-alike with a noose around her neck,” revealed the insider. “There were also photos and videos featuring sadomasochistic sex, bondage, transsexuals — ‘chicks with d–ks.'”
Porn magazines and videos with titles like “Hustler's Barely Legal” and “Naughty Neighbors” were found in Jackson's nightstand and bathroom, said the insider.
The source added: “Michael Jackson had truly perverse sexual appetites, and the twisted photos tell a sadistic side of him that nobody really knew.”
At the time, then District Attorney Tom Sneddon and his team wrote in their charges against Jackson: “The materials described … are relevant to the issues of the defendant's intent and his method of ‘grooming' young boys to satisfy his lewd desires.”
Former Santa Barbara Senior Assistant District Attorney Ron Zonen, who helped prosecute Michael, told Radar: “A lot of this stuff was used to desensitize the children, and Michael admitted taking one child after another into bed with him for long periods of time.
“We identified five different boys, who all made allegations of sexual abuse,” continued Zonen. “There's not much question in my mind that Michael was guilty of child molestation.”
In 2003, the “Thriller” star was charged with seven felony counts of child molestation and two felony counts of providing an intoxicant to a minor under the age of 14 in order to seduce him.
Jackson was charged after a young boy, Gavin Arvizo, came forward.
The superstar faced up to 20 years in prison. Despite the mountain of evidence, a jury acquitted Michael of all charges in June 2005.
Before his death, the “Billie Jean” singer paid out nearly $200 million in hush money to as many as 20 sexual assault victims, lawyers said.
Since he died at age 50 on June 25, 2009, Jackson's estate has raked in over $2 billion — and the sick material uncovered in his house of horrors could come back to haunt his heirs if other sexual assault victims come forward.
Former ADF recruits tell royal commission of sexual abuse, intimidation at WA naval base
by Thomas Oriti
The child abuse royal commission has heard disturbing evidence that junior defence recruits were molested for years as part of cruel "initiation" rituals.
During the first day of a public hearing into the Australian Defence Force, survivors have given evidence that they were warned not to report the abuse.
Abuse at the ADF training facilities was systemic and spanned decades, the commission heard.
The latest royal commission case study is focusing on HMAS Leeuwin from 1960 to 1980, the Army Apprentice School Balcombe in the period 1970 to 1980 and ADF Cadets since 2000.
A witness known as CJA, a survivor of child sexual abuse, was the first to give evidence at the inquiry, but did so through his solicitor.
The hearing was told he was subjected to vicious assaults by other recruits at HMAS Leeuwin in Western Australia in 1967, but was warned by the navy chaplain not to "rat" on the perpetrators.
He said he escaped from the base, and was punished again when he was returned.
"At night I was physically and sexually abused multiple times by the navy police," he said through his solicitor.
"The sexual abuse consisted of oral sex, masturbation and buggery.
CJA said a former naval recruit told of how he was threatened by another officer if he revealed he had been raped and repeatedly sexually abused.
The inquiry also heard he was threatened about divulging the abuse when giving evidence at a Sydney inquiry in 1971.
"The shore patrolmen said to me words to the effect: 'If you say anything about what happened at Leeuwin, other than it being just boys being boys, you're going to pay a very dear price'," CJA said.
"'We know where you are now and we have people at the top in all services'."
Former sailor Glen Greaves told the inquiry a senior officer accused him of whinging and told him to "harden up" when he tried to report the attacks.
"They dragged me to the urinal and removed toilet paper from my mouth. They said 'lick the urinal or we'll smash your head into it'," Mr Greaves said.
"I was terrified, I licked the urinal. They then threw me back onto the bathroom floor.
Another former recruit, Graeme Frazer, started at HMAS Leeuwin at the age of 16 and said his dignity was stripped by senior recruits who called him "fairy".
"They stripped me, felt me down and then applied boot polish with a hard bristle brush, it was extremely painful," he said.
"I made my first complaint and after I was made to run the gauntlet and left unconscious."
Outside the royal commission, Mr Frazer said it was "a symbolic day that marks the end of 49 years of torment".
"Today will be tough, but I hope that I and other people like me will be free to make a new start and move forward into a new life."
Abuse within ADF described as 'widespread'
Of the 111 people to come forward to the royal commission, 50 were about child sexual abuse at HMAS Leeuwin or the Balcombe Army Apprentice School in Victoria.
Twenty-six were about child sexual abuse within the ADF Cadets.
The royal commission had also been contacted by more than 30 people about allegations of child sexual abuse that occurred at other ADF establishments within each service, including at HMAS Cerberus, the Australian Defence Force Academy, Puckapunyal army base and the Royal Australian Air Force base in Wagga Wagga.
The hearing was told of how children were often abused as part of initiation practices, or what counsel assisting Angus Stewart described as ritualised practices of bastardisation designed to "break in" a new recruit.
Mr Stewart delivered his opening address and explained why the hearing would focus on the two ADF sites, saying in part that the decision was made because of the number of people who had come forward.
"The similar nature and extent of abuse reported to have occurred at the Leeuwin and Balcombe over a similar period of time, despite those establishments being in different services and opposite sides of the country," he said.
Current ADF cadet program under scrutiny
The royal commission will not be focused entirely on historical allegations of abuse.
It also plans to investigate the current ADF cadet program, which has more than 25,000 active ADF cadet members in 544 cadet units across Australia, and has played a significant role in encouraging children to pursue a career in the force.
The royal commission requested the ADF to provide records of all incidents of abuse in the cadet program from January 2001.
The defence had recorded a total of 154 allegations since that period; 51 of those involved an adult instructor and the remaining cases involved sexual abuse perpetrated by other cadets.
Mr Stewart told the hearing that some cadets identified the alleged perpetrators as ADF members, saying intimate relationships between adult instructors and cadets have continued to occur.
The defence has been working on a central policy document called the Youth Policy Manual, intended to be a single reference point for youth defence engagement.
NSW government does not add up child abuse reports
by Patrick Begley
The NSW government does not know how many reports of sexual abuse against children in state care it receives.
It decided that compiling totals of alleged abuse incidents was not a "reasonable" use of resources.
Government lawyers rejected a formal request for the numbers under freedom of information laws as NSW prepares for an Upper House inquiry into child protection services.
"It is not possible to auto-extract the information," a Department of Family and Community Services spokesman said.
Jacqui Reed, chief executive of the Create Foundation that represents children in care, called the lack of transparency "absolutely outrageous".
"They should have this information at their fingertips," Ms Reed said. "The data is very important to us. It's a way to keep governments accountable."
The department assumes the legal responsibilities of a parent for nearly 6000 children.
The Labor opposition had formally asked: "How many reports of sexual or physical abuse against children currently in the care of the Department of Family and Community Services has the Department received in the year 2014/15?"
It asked the same question about non-government care providers, which look after about 7500 children.
The legal unit of FACS rejected the requests, citing "certain limitations" of the department's IT systems.
In response to questions from Fairfax Media, a department spokesman then said: "While we do capture [the information requested], our ability to represent it over a year is limited."
The spokesman also said the department could not "readily determine" if an alleged abuse incident took place while the child was in state care or before. It is running a trial that would fix this for new reports of children found at risk of significant or actual harm.
"How can the government determine where resources are most needed if accurate statistics about abuse aren't readily available?" opposition community services spokeswoman Tania Mihailuk said.
"The minister must intervene and make this information available immediately. What has he got to hide?"
A spokeswoman for Community Services Minister Brad Hazzard said the department made its own decisions on information requests but was improving data collection.
The NSW Ombudsman, which tracks allegations against out-of-home carers, recorded 609 last year, of which 23 per cent were verified.
But the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse last year exposed deficiencies in record keeping by state governments.
Children are responsible for roughly half the sexual abuse of children, experts estimate, but these cases are not recorded by the NSW Ombudsman unless the victim has a disability or staff are said to have neglected their responsibilities.
The last national survey of child abuse reports, by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2014, found more than half the reports were not investigated.
Ms Reed, of the Create Foundation, said the NSW government often took months to supply "the most basic information" about child welfare.
"When we do get it, it's often inaccurate," she said.
The Upper House inquiry into child protection services will examine "the capacity and effectiveness of systems, procedures and practices to notify, investigate and assess reports of children and young people at risk of harm."
Labor has said it would appeal the department's decision not to provide the totals.
Iowa begins new program to help abuse victims
by Tim Rohwer
Iowa has joined a growing number of states to be help individuals “become survivors” after being victims of domestic or sexual assault or stalking, said Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.
During a Monday visit to Council Bluffs, Pate discussed a new program called, Safe at Home, that provides these victims with a substitute address for more protection against their abusers or stalkers.
For example, Safe at Home will assign the program participant a substitute address that can be used with any city, county or state government office, as well as with private organizations that require a mailing address. The participant's physical address will not appear in public records. First-class, legal and certified mail, as well as packages of prescriptions, will be forwarded to the participant's confidential address.
“There is a barrier, a safety net,” Pate said.
Participants can also register to vote and not be listed on the public voter registration list.
“One of the most public things we do is voting,” Pate said.
Participants will vote by absentee balloting, he said, and ballot requests will be handled by Safe at Home personnel and the Iowa Secretary of State's Office.
What's more, Safe at Home partners with state and local agencies that deal with helping abuse victims, Pate said.
“It's a team effort,” he said.
Any adult victim or survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking or stalking; any family member living in the same home with the victim, any minor child or children, or an incapacitated person who is in fear for his or her safety can apply to this program. They must be Iowa residents and eligible victims and survivors must have taken some action with law enforcement against their offenders, such as filing a complaint, seeking a protective order or cooperating with a police report.
This program was approved by the Iowa Legislature last year and officially began this past January 1. Iowa is now the 37th state with such a program, Pate said.
Local law enforcement praised this program.
“This is a wonderful resource,” said Council Bluffs Police Chief Tim Carmody.
Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber mentioned that more than three million people become victims of stalkers nationwide each year.
“In 90 percent of those cases, there is a history of a prior relationship and stalkers don't like to let go of that relationship,” Wilber said. “This program is another tool in our tool box.”
For more information or how to apply to become a participant, visit SafeAtHome.Iowa.gov or call the Iowa Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 770-1650 or the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault at (800) 284-7821.
Psychiatric help for families prevents continuing child abuse, neglect
Kids whose families received psychiatric support have better-than-expected outcomes
by Jim Dryden
A program aimed at helping abused and neglected children and their families is improving outcomes for kids and providing children with stable home environments as their cases move through the courts.
The five-year-old program is for children and families whose cases ended up in St. Louis County Family Court. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that kids whose families received psychiatric help and educational support during the years since the program began have better-than-expected outcomes compared with kids who faced comparable levels of risk and whose cases went through the court system before the program was launched.
The findings are published in the June issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry.
“Abuse and neglect are linked to some of the worst outcomes in life,” said Washington University child psychiatrist John N. Constantino , MD, who authored the publication and oversees the program. “But if the abuse is halted and addressed after a first incident, the children, on average, aren't at significantly greater risk than anyone else for poor outcomes later in life. We began this program to help kids who are in protective custody as a result of abuse to ensure they aren't abused again and to improve the odds that their families will stay on a safe and healthy path.”
One in eight children in the United States will be a victim of abuse or neglect, increasing the risk for psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, suicide, becoming an abusive adult and a host of other negative outcomes, especially if there are multiple incidents of reported maltreatment.
To help prevent further episodes of childhood abuse and neglect, Constantino and his colleagues in the Division of Child Psychiatry — Neha Navasaria, and Mini Tandon, DO — have been working with St. Louis County Family Court since 2011 to provide two-generation psychiatric care and parenting education to families involved in maltreatment cases. The team found that children who participated in the project are at lower risk of future abuse and neglect and that they make greater progress emotionally and developmentally than expected, and more progress than children who were involved in the court system before the project was initiated.
“Through this collaboration, we have been able to provide educational and psychiatric services that would not have been available to the families otherwise,” said Constantino, the Blanche F. Ittelson Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics. “And those services have had a profound impact.”
The program, called the SYNCHRONY Project (Strengthening Young Children by Optimizing Family Support in Infancy), is based on a similar program created several years ago by a child psychiatry group at Tulane University, and is funded by the St. Louis County Children's Service Fund, a sales-tax fund.
The Washington University psychiatrists followed 119 children from 106 families. The kids' ages ranged from only a few months to 5 years. All had been placed in protective custody due to substantiated cases of abuse or neglect.
If the court determined there were unmet mental health needs the system couldn't address, or if it recognized the need for parent training and education, such cases were referred to Constantino's team.
The project addresses the unmet mental health needs of both generations of a young family, by assessing not only the children, but their parents, as well as the relationship between children and parents. The goal is to implement an approach to intervention that fully encompasses all of the components that can contribute to child abuse and neglect. In more traditional models of care, these different aspects of intervention tend to be fragmented and rarely available as a comprehensive package for struggling families.
Examples of referrals include a case involving a 3-year-old girl who witnessed her father in a protracted episode of rage. After the girl was removed from her home, clinicians identified and successfully treated a psychiatric condition that had affected father for years but had never been addressed, and the family later was reunited.
In another case, the team provided family therapy to a couple whose 2-year-old girl had been sent to live with an aunt due to problems related to severely dysfunctional communication between members of the household. That family later was reunited as well.
Another case involved a 5-year-old boy with anxiety that was precipitated by psychiatric symptoms a parent was experiencing but concealing. Constantino's team worked toward ensuring the child's safety, clarifying the magnitude of the parent's symptoms and creating an opportunity for intervention for the parent, who never had received treatment.
Using standard assessments of psychiatric health and emotional development, the research team found that children in the program experienced significant improvements in the months after referral. The children experienced steady improvement in behavior and adaptive functioning from the time they were enrolled in the project, sometimes months or even years after having been placed in protective custody by the courts.
“These types of gains are one of the most important markers of well-being,” said Constantino, who also directs the William Greenleaf Eliot Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. “The program is identifying unmet needs and allowing kids to get to a better place, either by virtue of improved functioning of their birth parents, careful decision-making about when a home environment is safe, or more appropriate therapeutic or environmental interventions for the children to help them achieve higher levels of behavior and functioning.”
Taliban exploiting child abuse by Afghan forces to launch attacks
by Carlo Munoz
The Taliban are reportedly exploiting the pervasive culture of sexual child abuse by senior and mid-level Afghan military and police commanders to launch deadly insider attacks against local forces and their U.S. and NATO advisers, says one senior defense lawmaker.
In a letter sent to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Monday, Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, cited recent reports that local Taliban commanders were sending young children into Afghan military outposts, under the guise of being child sex slaves, to carry out these attacks.
One report, according to Mr. Hunter, claims six attacks against Afghan security forces carried out by these child soldiers during a four-month period beginning in January ended with hundreds of local troops injured and killed.
“This is concerning, given our interests in Afghanistan, but it also requires serious attention due to the presence of U.S. forces and their ongoing mission” to train and advise Afghan military and police forces, Mr. Hunter wrote.
The Pentagon needed to begin taking “immediate steps to stop child rape from occurring in the presence of U.S. forces and reduce any risk of coinciding insider attacks,” he wrote.
These steps would include a “zero tolerance” policy for sexual child abuse by Afghan security forces personnel, as well as “ensuring [U.S.] service personnel
are not discouraged from reporting cases [of abuse] … or even intervening, if necessary,” Mr. Hunter added.
Defense Department's Inspector General is currently conducting an inquiry into a September 2011 incident where Army Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland was dishonorably discharged after physically confronting an Afghan police chief on their base accused of molesting a 12-year-old boy.
Sgt. Martland and his team leader, Capt. Daniel Quinn confronted the police chief after the boy's mother reportedly told the Americans about the molestation.
Capt. Quinn opted to retire rather than to be discharged over the incident. Army officials alleged both soldiers “demonstrated poor judgment, resulting in a physical altercation with a corrupt ALP member,” according to a performance review of Sgt. Martland's time in Afghanistan. “Judgment and situational awareness was lacking during an isolated instance,” it added.
The Army reversed its decision to discharge Sgt. Martland in April, claiming Army Board for Corrections of Military Records “modified” the poor performance evaluation on which he was to have been kicked out.
Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse: the UK debate, the Australian experience, and a different perspective from Germany
by Farrer & Co LLP
Australia, Germany, United Kingdom June 20 2016
Recent cases of child abuse in the UK, for example the murder of Peter Connolly (known as “Baby P”), have shocked a public slowly waking up to the appalling nature and extent of such crimes. Much of the reaction in the media has centred on the missed opportunities to identify abuse and prevent its escalation. Pressure is building on education, health, and social care professionals to make sure they do not fail to identify children at risk.
However there are concerns that this pressure is generating a ‘climate of fear' among professionals. This concern has been fuelled further by a recent suggestion by David Cameron that social workers could find themselves facing jail for failing to act on evidence of child sexual abuse. The result has been an explosion in the number of children's cases reported to social services in the UK over fears of abuse or neglect. An investigation by the University of Central Lancashire has found that over 150,000 children born in the year 2009-10 had been referred to local authority child protection teams in the first five years of their lives, or one in five of the age group.
On one level, this increase in reporting is a positive sign. Too often, institutions have been prone to ‘gaze aversion', the tendency to avoid uncomfortable phenomena and look the other way. Worse, some bodies have in the past seemingly acted to ‘cover up' cases of child abuse, whether out of collegiate loyalty, suspicion of social services, or a desire to protect an institution's reputation. Such negligence, whether wilful or not, contravenes current professional and statutory guidance on safeguarding, as laid out in documents such as Keeping Children Safe in Education and Working Together to Protect Children.
An increase in local authority referrals appears to suggest that organisations with a duty of care towards children have woken up to the fact that, whatever the circumstances, the safety and welfare of the child should take priority over all other considerations. The vigilance of professionals and the public, and their willingness to come forward with concerns of abuse, is a key step on the path to eradicating child abuse in the UK.
However, the major increase in referrals is not unambiguously positive. It is exacerbating pressure on local authority children's services teams already suffering from budget cuts and a recruitment crisis: 17% of social service jobs are currently unfilled, up 27% from 2014. Moreover, a majority of referrals ultimately lead to nothing beyond a preliminary investigation, meaning that social workers are spending more and more valuable time investigating concerns which prove to be unsubstantiated – not in itself time wasted, but inevitably eating into their resource.
Against this backdrop of an escalation in child abuse referrals to local authority children's services, debate is growing in the UK over whether such reporting should be made mandatory for all professionals working in institutions with a duty of care towards children. Proposals for mandatory reporting were part of Keir Starmer MP's Victims of Crime Bill, prompted by "historic examples of institutions choosing not to report". Campaigners for mandatory reporting argue that only such legal clarity can deliver the necessary cultural change within organisations; to rely on professional bodies is "complacent and risible", says one. The NSPCC recognises the need for legislation and regulation to reinforce a strong safeguarding culture, which itself is the best form of protection for children at risk. The charity advocates a balance between building in good practice and punishing bad practice; both are important in creating such a culture.
Opponents to mandatory reporting point out that there is little international evidence to suggest that it improves child protection. On the other hand, they argue, mandatory reporting can reduce the cooperation of families, and further drive abuse into the shadows as some victims choose not to tell of their abuse for fear of sparking an investigation. Furthermore, making reporting mandatory risks further straining children's services departments whose resources are already stretched to breaking point. Even as things stand now, children's services are struggling to cope with the volume of referrals. In some cases, this has resulted in high-priority children not receiving the necessary protection, because workers are spending more time processing and investigating referrals than ensuring safeguarding measures. The recent death of Liam Fee, a toddler killed by his mother and her girlfriend, took place despite referrals having been made to the local authority. In 2008, Khyra Ishaq starved to death aged seven despite warnings to Birmingham city council that she was at risk. Furthermore, too much emphasis on reporting could risk a 'Pontius Pilate' effect among education and healthcare professionals, who might feel that, by reporting their concerns, they have passed the buck to 'experts', and no longer need to pay as much attention to the child concerned.
The evidence from countries which have introduced mandatory reporting laws is inconclusive, but suggests that mandatory reporting is certainly no 'silver bullet'. Cultural change is difficult to measure and assess, so the positive impact of mandatory reporting will always be, to some extent, a matter of opinion. Weaknesses in the system are easier to point out, as the Australian experience suggests. In 1992-93, prior to the introduction of mandatory reporting laws in 1993, social services in Victoria investigated 92% of notifications received; this fell to 40% by 1999-2000. Moreover, overwhelmed social services can spend too much time investigating concerns which prove unsubstantiated, rather than safeguarding children in serious need. In New South Wales, where mandatory reporting laws are in force, 10% of all children had been referred by the age of five… but 79% of those reports were unsubstantiated (data from 1999-2000). A very similar picture could be drawn for Queensland. In Western Australia, which by contrast has no mandatory reporting laws, only 56% of notifications were unsubstantiated.
Research from the USA has shown that mandatory reporting has resulted in a dramatic decline of offenders' revelations of CSA. With the loss of confidentiality and the certainty of a report being made to the police and social services, offenders no longer confide in their health and social care professionals. Indeed, these professionals have become seen as prosecutors, not therapeutic supporters. The consequence of this change has been argued to drive abuse further underground, as offenders and potential offenders cannot seek assistance without risking prosecution. The approach in Germany is very different, and sheds some light on alternatives to mandatory reporting.
“Do you like children in ways you shouldn't?” That is the slogan of a German Youtube advert which shows a man watching a young boy and his mother on a busy train, before visibly realising that something within himself is not right. The video is one of several in a media campaign run by ‘Kein Taeter werden' ('Don't Offend'), a prevention network which works to prevent child sex abuse in Germany. The network offers free treatment to adults who have sexual desires towards children through a two-year programme, which draws on psychotherapeutic, sexological and medical approaches. It aims to help people with paedophilia and hebephilia develop the skills necessary to control their sexual impulses, and thus to prevent direct sexual assault or indirect sexual abuse such as the consumption or production of child pornography. ‘Don't Offend' began in 2005 in Berlin as the ‘Dunkelfeld Project' (Project Dark Field) of Charité Hospital's Institute for Sexual Medicine, and has grown to cover ten major German cities. 6,412 people had anonymously contacted the prevention network for help by March 2016. The Dunkelfeld Project was discussed in a previous CPU briefing by Professor Andy Phippen, on the importance of a public discussion about the accessibility of indecent images of children online, which is available here .
‘Don't Offend' is starting to shift the debate on this most controversial of topics. Its key message is that paedophiles and hebephiles are not innately guilty because of their sexual desires, but that they are responsible for their sexual behaviour - and that help is available to prevent them committing abuse. It rests on a fundamental distinction being drawn between sexual desires towards children, and child sexual abuse. This distinction also lies at the heart of research conducted in the UK by Dr Sarah Goode, at the University of Winchester. Dr Goode suggests that paedophilia is badly understood: is it a sexual orientation? A medical diagnosis or a psychiatric condition? Perhaps a paraphilia (a disorder of sexual function) or a fetish? But whatever its precise classification, Dr Goode insists that paedophilia is in a separate conceptual category to child sexual abuse. Crucially, she argues, not all paedophiles are child abusers, and not all child abusers are paedophiles. Despite this, however, the distinction is one that the media and general public rarely consider.
The Dunkelfeld Project and Don't Offend's prevention network rest on the fact that Germany has no mandatory reporting law. Indeed, the network's medical professionals and counsellors have a legal duty of confidentiality. This applies even if patients admit to having committed CSA or to watching child pornography. “According to the German legal code, therapists are forbidden from revealing anything that happens in the context of treatment,” said Laura Kuhle, a clinical psychologist and one of Dunkelfeld's therapists, in an interview with The Guardian in 2015. “If people mention anything in therapy that could make them criminally culpable, they are protected. In other countries, that's not the case.”
The German approach is thus radically different from that in countries with mandatory referral laws. The UK seems to be heading towards stricter reporting regulation, although the Starmer bill will now not come before parliament until next session, and most likely after a broad consultation on the issue of mandatory reporting. Ultimately, both approaches (mandatory reporting and confidentiality for self-confessed paedophiles) share the same aim: to prevent CSA taking place. As things stand, it is difficult to assess which is more effective. We would have thought that rather than rushing through legislation, which can often have unintended consequences, the issue of mandatory reporting is one which could and should be entrusted to the Goddard Inquiry to make recommendations on, once it has heard and considered relevant expert evidence from jurisdictions with different approaches.
With Sex Crimes Against Children On The Rise, Why Parents Must Take Action NOW
by Lakshmi Pramod
A relationship between a mother and child takes deep root right from the point of conception. As time passes, the bond gets stronger and infinite trust defines their relation. However, no matter how close they are, at times, a child hesitates to discuss everything with parents. A highly sensitive and common issue all parents face today is molestation or sexual harassment of their children. Very often the mother is blamed for not ‘sensing' it earlier or not educating her child the right way as expected. The horrendous question that comes to the fore is “What exactly is the right way to educate your child?” or “When do you start educating your child on such sensitive topics?”
Surprisingly in the case of the capital New Delhi, it seems that 97% of rapes are committed in homes and we expect women and children to feel safe at home. “Child sexual abuse is the deliberate exposure of a minor child to sexual activity that the child cannot comprehend or consent to. This means a child is forced or talked into sex or sexual activities by another person.” Fondling of a child's private parts or exposing the private parts of a child to others are all different forms of child sexual abuse.
What makes it worse is the increase in brutality involved. In 2013, there was a story of a horrific incident involving two drunk men who watched porn and then lured a 5-year-old girl playing in her neighbourhood to a room in the building where she stayed and repeatedly raped her. A detailed examination revealed glass pieces in her vaginal orifice. What could have led to such dreadful actions? The culprits said it was an attempt to stem the profuse bleeding. Incidents of the male child being sodomised are also on the rise. News of teenagers being drugged or raped in public transport or left to die on railway tracks after such heinous acts is quite common today. Waves of anger and hurt arose with ‘Nirbhaya' but have we achieved anything favourable with regard to female safety?
Earlier, parents only had to guard their children against rape. Today with technology and the internet holding sway over our lives, child pornography is another evil that has reared its head in our midst. Another common problem that people avoid discussing or is considered taboo is incest. Incest is the crime of having sexual intercourse with a parent, child, sibling, or grandchild.
In 2013, completed trials on child sexual abuse stood at a pitiful 15% of the reported cases. The situation appears worse when one realises the conviction rate for child rape and sexual assault stands at a dismal 31.5%. More than 85% of such cases are still pending in courts with no deadlines for conviction. Eight cases of sex crimes against children are reported every day on an average in the capital. The number of convictions out of such a high number is 166 that is a meagre 2.4% of the total registered cases. Besides, in 389 cases the accused was acquitted. Knowing all this the victim's family decides to either withdraw the case or brood in silence as if the physical humiliation isn't enough.
What do these alarming figures signify? For a layman, it means a child abuser is lurking around every corner. How would you know letting your daughter free to pursue her innocent games of childhood will not have fatal repercussions? Does it mean the modern mother has not taught her child about the harsh realities of child abuse early enough, what with three-year-olds or even kindergarten kids being molested, raped or brutally killed in schools or their own locality by neighbours and relatives?
A recent online article in The Huffington Post caught my attention which mentioned that an eight-year-old girl in Delhi pretended to be dead to avoid being brutally killed by her rapist. He kept pinching her to check if she had died and on finding her unresponsive he fled the scene. She managed to reach home but had been injured and raped when she was playing outside her house. Many such incidents, various stories which would definitely arouse sympathy, are frequently reported.
Honestly, signing online petitions, holding candle marches and holding talk shows might spread the news, enrage the public but seem not to be solving the issue at all. Celebrities like Kalki Koechlin have admitted to being sexually abused as children. Actor Rahul Bose, present in that conference, responded saying that child sexual abuse is a mammoth issue but talking about it is considered taboo. The subject doesn't find a lot of space in cinematic portrayal too except for some isolated efforts like documentary filmmaker Sanjay Kumar Singh's ‘Chuppi Todo – Break the Silence' or filmmaker Onir's ‘Abhimanyu' .
Maybe, being a bit more alert, telling a kid the moment he or she begins to understand the difference between a ‘good' or ‘bad' touch would help. It is easier said than done but I feel if computers and dance can be included in the curriculum in grade three, why not such educational subjects too? Firstly, parents need to understand that their child needs to communicate freely with them. No matter how busy their modern lifestyle is, no matter how burdensome the household chores are, give your child the time to speak out his or her mind.
Don't take any mention of incidents of touching or feeling lightly, no matter who the child is talking about. Trust your child first because he or she trusts you to take care of them. Monitor the daycare or school your child attends closely and be attentive to the teacher who mentions any change in the mood or behavior of your usually cheerful and bubbly child. Teach your child never to accept the overtures of perverts known or unknown to them. The child may not be able to react then and there, but he or she must find a sympathetic ear in his or her parents when he or she gets home.
Do not blame the child's habits or clothes if you feel helpless to react properly. Never let your child feel they are imagining things or ask them to ignore something which they may not be comfortable with. Very often ignoring the obvious today does irreparable damage tomorrow. These are some tiny steps one could take to ensure that their child is both free and safe.
Sex trafficking moves to social media to find victims and perpetrators, Connecticut authorities say
by Anna Bisaro
NEW HAVEN - The picture displayed a young woman sprawled on a hospital bed. She was covered in $100 bills.
Posted on Instagram in October 2012, the photo helped seal the case against a New York man now serving a 17½ year sentence in federal prison for sex trafficking minors in Milford. Law enforcement blew up the image, zeroed in on the serial numbers on the cash, and were able to match the numbers to bills found on Edward Thomas, 41, also known as “Fire,” when he was arrested.
“It was a really incredible investigative success,” said Deirdre Daly, U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut.
Daly said social media posts, private messages, and text messages were a large portion of the evidence presented at Thomas's trial. Thomas was found guilty in Jan. 2015.
“As with many crimes, the internet has made sex trafficking easier to commit and easier to investigate,” Daly said.
From recruiting and grooming sex workers to finding customers, the internet is being used in every stage of the sex trafficking game, Daly said, and Thomas's case is not unique in that regard.
From backpage.com to Facebook to Kik, Wendy Bowersox, a special agent for the FBI, said the internet and social media have changed the way sex traffickers and customers of sex workers operate. Bowersox has been with the bureau in New Haven for almost six years working on sex trafficking investigations and for the last year and a half has worked exclusively on crimes that impact children.
Bowersox said from the recruitment side, social media applications are used to recruit young girls into sex work. Traffickers patrol these sites and wait for youth to post messages that indicate a vulnerability - typically a post that indicates the youth is sad, needs help, or is angry with their parents.
On the demand side, the internet has made finding sex workers more convenient for ‘Johns,' Bowersox said. Rather than patrolling the streets, ‘Johns' can invite sex workers directly to their hotel rooms.
In the recent prosecution of Wellington Brown, who pleaded guilty to sex trafficking minors in Connecticut in March 2015, the website backpage.com was reportedly used to advertise sex with victims. The government presented “59 relevant backpage posts” as evidence of Brown's work in advertising minor victims, according to a sentencing memorandum filed to the court. Brown was sentenced to 10½ years in prison in February.
In addition, in Brown's case, the government had iPhone records that showed photos taken of victims and then texted to customers.
“You can't understate the extent to which the internet has changed the crime,” said Erin Williamson, survivor care program manager at Love146, a New Haven-based nonprofit dedicated to eradicating sex trafficking at home and abroad. “The internet facilitates access to victims and is being used to facilitate the sale of sex.”
Williamson said that 15 years ago, there was more talk among advocates against human trafficking about face-to-face interactions and how minors should protect themselves from strangers in parks, malls, or other public spaces.. But, the crime is shifting fast to the internet.
Almost nine years before Wellington was sentenced, a federal case was brought against Dennis Paris, the lead defendant in a sex trafficking scheme conducted in Hartford in 2006. The government provided a photocopied page of “The Backroom” in the Hartford Advocate as evidence against Paris, according to court documents. He was convicted of three counts of sex trafficking of children, conspiracy to defraud the U.S., and two counts of racketeering in June 2007. Paris is serving a 30 year sentence for the crimes.
Tim Palmbach, a forensic science professor at the University of New Haven, researches ways in which forensic science can be used to fight human trafficking. He said he has found that the internet has made it easier for traffickers to hide minor victims and reach a wider audience of customers.
Even in countries where prostitution is legal, such as Costa Rica, Palmbach said he has seen a dramatic shift in how sex work is conducted in recent visits to some hotspots for the activity. He said brothels that used to be full to capacity, now appear almost empty as most arrangements between sex workers and ‘johns' are now done online.
Here in the U.S., the internet and social media have completely changed the crime, Palmbach said, and traffickers and sex workers potentially reach more customers. While there are still instances of sex workers standing on street corners in the middle of the night, more often arrangements are made online where people may feel they are less likely to get caught by police.
But, internet advertising sites and smartphones are not just used to find customers, Williamson said, and can be used to prey on minor victims, especially as so many teens have regular access to the internet.
Because Williamson facilitates the survivor care program for Love146, part of her job includes meeting with victims of sex trafficking, and she said they often talk about internet safety.
“It's rare that I have a youth tell me that they have less than 3,000 (Facebook) friends,” Williamson said.
The more friends or followers you have, the likely you are to reach the magic number of 100 likes for every post. That also means that youth may not have the best vetting process for determining who is safe to accept as friend.
“Kids think they can tell a fake profile,” she said. “People who want to hurt kids are going to initially appear like good people.”
What's stopping a predator from using photos of a niece or nephew to create a fake profile and try to connect with all of the kids at a local school, she said. And, since teenagers tend to post about everything going on in their lives, Williamson said, the predator just has to wait for the inevitable post from a youth asking for prayers, help, or support because they are having a bad day. Then, it's time for the predator to reach out, become a confidant and begin the grooming process.
In the case against Thomas, prosecutors presented text message conversations at trial between Thomas and one of the victims he later convinced to leave Oregon for New York to engage in sex work in Milford. In one text conversation from Sept. 2012, Thomas probed the victim to find out why she was upset, calling her “sexy” and said she should not let her problems drive her crazy.
Facebook messages between Thomas and victims showed him asking when the victim would be coming to New York to be his “bottom” - a term that refers to a pimp's right hand woman that helps recruit and retain other victims in the scheme.
Prosecutors also presented evidence of Facebook messages between Thomas and one of his victims, where he appeared to be begging her to come back because he loved her.
“ITS BEEN A LONG TIME THAT I HAD SOMEONE WHO I FELT LIKE I WAS TRULY IN LOVE WITH AND THAT FELT GOOD!! SO SOME LOVE IS BETTER THEN NO LOVE AT ALL!!!!!” a message dated to November 2013 said, all in capital letters.
Daly said the government has seen many cases where social media applications or texting will be used to intimidate victims into coming back to a life or sex work once they've escaped or to convince them not to testify at trial.
Bowersox said at the FBI it is important for agents to stay on top of trends in social media and be aware of changes in the technology. But, as noted with other cases, the FBI can subpaena records for analysis.
Having access to these records “does certainly make things easier,” in investigations, Bowersox said. “But, it also makes it harder because these applications are changing constantly,” she said.
Some application companies also preserve records for a set period of time, so Bowersox said the FBI may not always be able to have access to the records they need depending on how long previously posts had been made or messages had been sent.
She added that she would encourage youth to be wary of what they post on social media and watch out for what their friends are doing online as well. Teens shouldn't post information about there they live and should be careful about expressing any type of vulnerability online, she said.
Love146 has an internet safety guide that encourages teenagers and their parents to know the privacy settings and be aware of the safety of applications such as Instagram, Yik Yak, Vine, Kik, Omegle, and Down. Predators know about these applications, and are using them to connect with possible victims, Williamson said.
While she understands that the internet is part of teenage socialization, there also needs to be an understanding among parents that “there is no platform that can't be used for trafficking,” Williamson said.
In addition to privacy settings, parents should be aware that many applications, such as Yik Yak and Kik, use GPS. According to the online guide from Love146, “Kik buddy” is now synonymous with “sext buddy” in many cases and no parental controls can be set on the application. Omegle allows users to video chat with strangers, which can expose youth to sexual content, even if that was not what they were searching for, the guide suggests.
Further, the new threat in these social media applications or internet sites is the promise of end to end encryption, Williamson said, which means investigators cannot have access to messaging data as nothing is saved.
“I appreciate the (privacy) debate and I think we need to have the debate,” Williamson said. “What I don't hear happening in that debate is talking about what is the implication for crime and victims.”
Can public shaming end sex trafficking?
by Katherine Lymn
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel has a message for men who buy sex.
"This is a shameful, dirty secret that they hope to keep," he said, "… resulting in children that are being subjected to sex trafficking, adults being trapped in slavery.
"That's not a secret we intend to let them keep."
Schimel has been researching ways other communities hold the buyers of sex, also known as "johns," publicly accountable.
So-called "john-shaming" isn't a new concept. Cities have shamed for years, but to varying results. With the internet, it's a little easier now to put names and faces out there, like Dayton, Ohio's lists of names, or Minneapolis' mugshots. Communities are making already public records a little easier to find, and shifting the focus from the women to the men they say create the demand.
Those fighting commercial sex and advocating for women and girls hurt by it, who often are trafficked by pimps, say to truly go after the crime is to end that demand. But that's where opinions differ. There are several tactics, from increasing criminal penalties, to educating offenders with a day-long "john school," to "reverse stings," which target men who respond to decoy ads on sites like Backpage.
The demand is there — when Appleton police post a local ad for a sting against men looking to buy sex, 35 to 50 different men call within four or five hours, Lt. Jeff Miller said.
So Schimel has his eyes on shaming. He said he has considered ways of releasing identities through billboards, the news media or postcards sent to offenders' homes. It's one example of the changing tide of focusing on the men in the fight against prostitution. The attorney general is open to both looking at state law regarding penalties for prostitution and talking with community law enforcement leaders about how they can put the shaming model in place on a local level, said Johnny Koremenosa, a spokesman for the attorney general.
Miller, meanwhile, said it was too early in the process to comment on the Appleton Police Department's stance on john-shaming.
In an interview, Schimel cited a Chicago group that surveyed more than 100 men who paid for sex.
"The largest single consensus among them was that the biggest deterrent would be having their name and/or photograph somehow exposed publicly, to their families or to members of the public, exposing what they're doing," Schimel said.
Not so fast, said Caroline Lasecki, chairwoman of Outagamie County's task force fighting child sex trafficking. She said her views on publicly identifying johns changed after she sat in on multiple stings and saw how frequently the purchasers of commercial sex ended up being men with wives and children.
"That's what made me have a change in heart — thinking of how this would publicly humiliate their spouses or their children," said Lasecki, who's also executive director of the Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Appleton. "If we think bullying in schools is an issue now, I can't even imagine how this would escalate (that)."
Lasecki said she believes more in disclosing identities by directly mailing notice of prostitution-related activity to a man's home, so a spouse can know what her husband is doing, and protect herself and her kids from his behavior and potential health risks. The man is found out, but on a smaller scale.
Schimel has that in mind, too, he said.
"We do want to be sensitive to avoiding really adverse consequences for their child, family members, and for that matter their innocent spouses," he said. "This will embarrass other people, too. This isn't something that we approach like a bull in a china shop and create other innocent victims."
The Dayton, Ohio, police department website publishes the names of men convicted of buying sex.
"It seems to have a better effect on the men seeking the services," said Lt. James Mullins, who oversees the Dayton department's narcotics division, including street crimes. "Because most of these men that come here are married ... and really don't want that information to be known."
Mullins said his department has posted the names for at least five years.
"Most communities that have done this keep doing it," said Michael Shively, a researcher whose National Institute of Justice-funded site, Demand Forum, tracks different ways of curbing prostitution.
Shively said of about 850 cities he knows of that do some form of public disclosure, most do it by releasing names in newspapers or online. A smaller fraction of cities, 150 or less, do flashier campaigns to shame the men, he said.
"They're really meant to bring public scrutiny to bear and let the guys know they will not just pay a fine and slink away," he said.
In 2011, Fresno, California announced with "Operation Reveal" that it would post the pictures and names of people arrested for prostitution online for 15 days.
Shively said police he interviewed for his research see a pattern among men when they are caught.
"When you ask them about what happens when you arrest these guys, they will all tell you that the very first thing that the guys say (is), 'How can I make this go away, I'll pay any amount, I'll go to jail, I'll pay anything, I can't let my wife find out, I can't let my boss find out, I can't let my kids find out.'"
Lasecki said the issue calls for other changes at the legislative level, such as increased jail time for second-time offenders. The Wisconsin Crime Victims Council and statewide anti-trafficking task force are looking into increased penalties as well, Schimel said.
Schimel doesn't have much faith in municipal courts that only charge fines to men caught soliciting prostitution.
"They're already willing to pay for sex," he said, "so we've just increased the cost."
Why abuse victims wait until their twilight years to come forward
by Polly Dunbar
For more than 60 years, Sylvia Woosley kept a terrible secret. When she finally spoke publicly last week about the sexual abuse she suffered from the age of 10 at the hands of the late Sir Clement Freud, her words hinted at the corrosive guilt and shame she had carried with her all that time: “I want to die clean.”
Now in her late seventies, Sylvia decided to break her silence in an ITV Exposure programme, aired last Wednesday. She watched it at the home of David Henshaw, its executive producer. “Afterwards, I asked her how she felt, and she said, ‘I just feel very happy',” he says. “She looked 10 years younger. She was very eloquent, talking about how it was the child in her who wanted to be heard and believed, and when that finally happened, she felt a huge sense of relief and peace.”
Many watching may have wondered, why now? But strikingly sad as Sylvia's story is, it is not uncommon for abuse victims appear to wait until their twilight years to reveal their experiences - the thought of taking their suffering to their grave finally outweighing the pain incumbent in unburdening themselves.
“We get calls from people as old as 90, some of whom have never told anybody about what they went through as children – not even their closest family members,” says Pete Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC). “The average time for a victim to speak out is 22 years after the last incidence of abuse, but it can be much, much longer.
“Towards the end of people's lives, they often reflect back and feel a need to address unresolved issues. Victims can realise what happened to them was an absolute disaster which clouded everything in their lives.”
Child sexual abuse most commonly happens in the home, perpetrated by a family member or close friend, which makes it particularly difficult for victims to speak out.
“At the time that it's happening, victims feel total confusion if their abuser is someone close to them, someone who has made them feel loved,” says Pete, who suffered sexual abuse by a family member during his own childhood. “They worry they won't be believed if they tell someone, but they often also feel a sense of awe about their abuser, and an attachment to them, which makes them want to protect that person.”
In the programme, Sylvia admitted to feeling liberated to come forward by Freud's death in 2009, because her revelations could no longer destroy his relationships or career.
Pete says: “Victims have been groomed to be under the power and control of their abuser, and that feeling can extend long into adulthood. It's similar to Stockholm Syndrome – even an elderly person can still feel an emotional attachment to someone who abused them, because that person fooled them into believing they really cared for them. It can stop them from coming forward for decades.”
Although speaking out is always an exceptionally difficult process, it is even more problematic for those abused as long ago as Sylvia, in an era when sex was rarely discussed, and children were taught to be deferential to adults no matter the situation.
“At that time, young people didn't have the language to describe what had happened, and Sylvia and Joanne [a second victim of Freud] were accused of telling lies by their mothers, or of misinterpreting an unfortunate sexual experience,” says David.
For those who grew up in the 1940s and 50s, when discussing emotional matters was discouraged, attempting to forget their experiences and maintain a façade of normality may have seemed the safest option - yet caused untold collateral damage, including depression, alcohol or drug dependency, low self-esteem and an inability to form secure relationships.
“You try to get on with life, but there's always a cloud hanging over you, and then something happens to trigger it all coming back,” says Pete. “That's often when people come forward.”
Sylvia's case only came to light when a manuscript of the memoir she had begun writing 12 years ago was passed to David, via a friend of a friend. “When I read it, it felt very truthful,” he says. “She came to see me and by the end of our time together, I felt she was almost certainly telling the truth, and that we should try to corroborate her story.
“It was very damaging for her to carry it around for so long. It's impacted her ability to form relationships and her confidence. Making the film was depressing, and what I've taken away from it is the sense of how selfishly sex offenders ruin people's lives for a moment of pleasure.”
As the seismic impact of the Jimmy Savile scandal showed, films like this can, however, encourage hundreds of other victims to come forward.
Jon Brown, Head of Child Protection at the NSPCC, says many adults – including elderly people – called the charity's helpline in the wake of the revelations about his systematic abuse of children over the course of decades. “Many were victims who were relieved to hear child sexual abuse being talked about openly in the media,” he says. “There's been a sense of there being strength in numbers, of ‘It wasn't just me', of it being time to take that weight off their shoulders. It's been cathartic for many people.”
David agrees. “I don't think ITV or the BBC quite anticipated the social earthquake which would happen when they initially uncovered the scandal,” he says.
He expects more victims of Freud to emerge in the coming weeks and months. “More are already coming forward, and I've seen a lot of discussion on social media which suggests there will be others,” he says. “If it helps others to feel they'll be believed, that's a good thing.”
Although victims often feel a sense of relief when they finally share their secret, speaking out can still have devastating consequences – particularly if they wait until close to the end of their life to do so.
“The impact of a revelation that a someone has been sexually abused is like a nuclear explosion going off in a family,” says Pete. “If the abuser is a family member, how do you process that? It can lead you to question everything in your life: whether you could have prevented it, whether it happened to others, whether you really knew that person.
“Everyone in the family sees themselves as being contaminated by the knowledge. In cases where someone waits until old age to talk about their abuse, it's often because they didn't want to cause this sort of trauma – so they suffer in silence until other family members die, or they feel they no longer have anything to lose.”
And after the initial unburdening, victims can find themselves reliving the trauma of the past.
“Finally talking about what they went through decades ago can catapult them emotionally back to that time,” says Jon. “They need professional help to make sense of their experiences, and there isn't a lot of therapeutic support out there for adult victims of child abuse.”
After the ITV programme aired, NAPAC received a call from a woman for whom Sylvia's experience was a wake-up call. “She said she had seen Sylvia talking about keeping her secret for all those years, and how much she'd suffered as a result, and it had made her realise that if she didn't talk about her own experience now, one day she'd be in her late seventies and have suffered just as much,” says Pete.
“Speaking about it earlier might have made the burden easier to bear for Sylvia. But she's shown that it's never too late.”
*NAPAC's website can be found at napac.org.uk and the helpline number is 08088 010331
Sexual violence on campus a small part of a much bigger problem
by Daphne Bramham
Sexual violence on college and university campuses has lately been getting so much political media attention both here and in the United States that it's easy to assume female students are at greater risk than other young women.
Even before Simon Fraser University publicly acknowledged last week that three female students had reported to police in the last six months that they had been sexually assaulted by the same male student, B.C. had joined a growing number of provinces considering legislation that requires all post-secondary schools to have sexual misconduct policies.
But the perception of campuses being more dangerous for young women than anywhere else is simply not true, says Sara-Jane Finlay, associate vice-president, of equity and inclusion at University of B.C.
(Finlay is the main author of the draft sexual assault policy, which was approved last week by the university's board of governors. Before it's passed, the policy will be circulated and debated on campus.)
This is not to make light of the concerns or even that data suggesting that as many as one in five women will have some sort of unwanted sexual contact during their time on campus.
But the fact is that post-secondary students are slightly less likely to be raped, groped, assaulted or harassed than other women aged 18 to 24.
For young women, who aren't privileged enough or don't choose to attend post-secondary schools, studies suggest one in four will experience unwanted sexual contact.
For aboriginal women, the rate of sexual assault over their lifetime is three times that of other Canadian women, according to Statistics Canada police-reported data. That translates into 115 sexual assaults per 1,000 aboriginal women and girls compared with 35 per 1,000 for non-Aboriginals.
Canada is now also a society where women and girls are now more likely than men and boys to be victims of violent crime. It's largely because sexual assault is “the lone crime measured where there was no decline,” according to the statistics agency.
Yet even those numbers likely under-represent what's really happening. As Statistics Canada acknowledged, most women and girls never go to police. It cited academic research that suggests 88 per cent of survivors never go to police.
If all of that isn't enough to make you despair and be terrified for yourself, your wife, daughter or female friends, consider the findings of the McCreary Centre Society.
One in 10 girls said they had been sexually abused when the centre surveyed 30,000 B.C. children in grades 7 to 12.
In addition to those who said they had been sexually abused, seven per cent said that they had non-consensual sex with another youth and a further two per cent said that they been forced to have sex with an adult.
Boys also reported sexual abuse, but at levels of half or less than the girls.
After the B.C. government's bill requiring post-secondary schools to have guidelines and policies for dealing with sexual misconduct passed second reading in the legislature, Premier Christy Clark related her own experience as a 13-year-old when she barely escaped being sexually assaulted by a stranger.
When debate began on a private member's bill that was the genesis of the government's legislation, NDP MLA Kathy Corrigan spoke in support of it and tearfully recalled how, as a UBC student, she had been threatened at a beach by a half-naked man, who was masturbating.
Andrew Weaver, the Green Party MLA who proposed the original bill, said at the time that he was responding to what he has seen as a professor at the University of Victoria.
But earlier this month, Weaver also told the Burnaby Now that he'd also had a frightening experience as a child. A male babysitter took him for a walk in the woods and exposed himself. To emphasize that Weaver — who was only five or six at the time — should never tell anyone, the babysitter pulled out a knife and stabbed it into a tree stump. Weaver said he'd never told the story before.
Sexual violence on campus has sparked all of this. It's got people talking about it and what steps can be taken to finally address it there.
But the data, the politicians' stories revealed for the first time, personal experiences and those of friends and family underscore the pervasiveness of the problem.
Having made a start on one small part of the problem, the logical next steps are to begin addressing the much broader societal issues that make other young women and children so vulnerable to sexual violence.
Child abuse survivors PAC targets N.Y. state senator's seat in next election
by Kenneth Lovett
ALBANY - A political action committee created by an upstate investor and child sex abuse survivor has its first target - state Sen. Kemp Hannon.
Gary Greenberg said his Fighting for Children PAC is endorsing Democrat Ryan Cronin's challenge to Hannon (R-Nassau County).
Greenberg said he chose to target Hannon first for his stated opposition to a bill to make it easier for child sex abuse victims to seek justice.
"It's black and white; if you're not going to support the bill, then you're for the predators," Greenberg said.
The PAC will donate a maximum $11,000 to Cronin's campaign, recruit volunteers to help him, and organize protests in the district against Hannon's opposition to the Child Victims Act.
Greenberg said he's going to be spending $100,000 of his own money and also raising funds for the PAC to use to target multiple state senators who have opposed the Child Victims Act.
In a statement to the News, Cronin, a lawyer and new father, vowed to make the Child Victims Act the first bill he sponsors and fights to pass if elected. He called it "reprehensible" that Hannon has opposed the legislation.
"The victims of such horrific crimes deserve the chance to seek justice," Cronin said.
Hannon, who was first elected to the Senate in 1989, told the News in April he opposes eliminating the statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases and a one-year window to revive old cases contained in a bill pushed by Sen. Brad Hoylman.
He suggested the state should address getting counseling and other services to those who were abused.
Asked Friday about being the Greenberg PAC's first target, he said, "I have a campaign every two years. People are free to do what the law allows."
He argued he's not in a position in the Senate to move the bill and said he would be "sympathetic" to the legislation if it came to the floor for a vote.
"I'm not opposed to addressing the problem and getting relief for people," he said.
But Greenberg argues that Hannon has done nothing in the past decade to push any type of legislation to address the issue.
"He's been there so long and he's had so many opportunities to do something and he hasn't done it."
Despite a renewed push by advocates and a Daily News campaign, the Legislature finished its 2016 legislative session last week without enacting a new law to address child sex abuse victims.
The battle for control of the state Senate promises to be heated this fall.
The Democrats currently have a majority, but do not control the chamber thanks to six breakaway Dems.
One, Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), sits with the Republican conference.
Five others are part of an Independent Democratic Conference that since its formation in 2011 has aligned with the Republicans.
What Is a “Trauma-Informed” Juvenile Justice System? A TARGETed Approach
by Dr. Julian Ford
Adolescence is a time of great opportunity, but also turmoil. As many as two-thirds of all teens face the additional challenge of coping with traumatic events such as life-threatening accidents, injuries, illness, disaster, or violence or sexual or emotional abuse and exploitation. That figure rises to closer to 100 percent for those who live in families or communities in which violence, poverty, neglect, racism or discrimination based on gender, gender identity or disability are prevalent.
Not surprisingly, 90-plus percent of youths involved in juvenile justice have experienced at least one (and typically several) of these traumatic stressors, and as many as 25 to 33 percent of these youth (compared to 5 percent in community samples) have developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Youth in the juvenile justice system often have been exposed not only to multiple types of interpersonal victimization — polyvictimization — but also to other childhood adversities (such as separation from or impaired relationships with biological parents and family). In total, this more than doubles the number of traumatized youth in juvenile justice programs (i.e., 67 to 75 percent) who need effective services in order to recover from not only PTSD but also for a wide range of related emotional, developmental, academic and behavioral problems (such as substance use, attention deficit, oppositional-defiant, affective, anxiety, dissociative, sexual, sleep and eating disorders, suicidality self-harm and exploitation [e.g., sexual trafficking]).
These stark facts have led to a national (and international) call to action in the past decade for juvenile justice systems to become “trauma-informed.” The 2012 report of the U.S. Attorney General's Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence identified nine practical steps based on the experience of experts in law enforcement, the judiciary, juvenile justice services, child protective services, racial and ethnic disparities, and traumatic stress. This was done under the leadership of Robert Listenbee, the administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention:
Make trauma-informed screening, assessment and care the standard in juvenile justice services.
Abandon juvenile justice correctional practices that traumatize children and further reduce their opportunities to become productive members of society.
Provide juvenile justice services appropriate to children's ethnocultural background that are based on an assessment of each violence-exposed child's individual needs.
Provide care and services to address the special circumstances and needs of girls.
Provide care and services to address the special circumstances and needs of LGBTQ (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transsexual/questioning) youth.
Develop and implement policies in every school system across the country that aim to keep children in school rather than relying on policies that lead to suspension and expulsion and ultimately drive children into the juvenile justice system.
Guarantee that all violence-exposed children accused of a crime have legal representation.
Help, do not punish, child victims of sex trafficking.
Whenever possible, prosecute young offenders in the juvenile justice system instead of transferring their cases to adult courts.
The first recommendation speaks to the goal of not letting traumatized youth fall between cracks, instead identifying them and then providing them with services that actually help them to recover from chronic post-traumatic stress problems. Rather than treating traumatized youth as either irredeemably antisocial (and therefore warranting more restrictive sentences and confinement) or mentally deformed (and thus requiring psychiatric behavior management-oriented treatment), a less stigmatizing and potentially more effective approach is to provide evidence-based treatment or services designed to help them to overcome traumatic stress reactions.
That is the goal of TARGET (Trauma Affect Regulation: Guide for Education and Therapy), a multisession gender-specific ethnoculturally adapted intervention for traumatized youth (and adults) that can be done as a one-to-one, group, family or milieu therapy, and/or as a training on emotion regulation skills for juvenile justice staff to use on a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week basis in community or congregate justice programs.
TARGET begins with psychoeducation that explains PTSD as a survival adaptation by the brain's stress response system that makes sense but becomes a problem when the brain's amygdala (the “alarm”) becomes stuck in survival mode and hijacks the hippocampus (the “memory filing center”) and the prefrontal cortex (“thinking center”) and body.
Overcoming traumatic stress reactions therefore means learning how to reset the brain's alarm so that it provides helpful alerts but isn't stuck in survival mode. TARGET then teaches a seven-step sequence of emotion and behavioral self-regulation skills that accomplish the goal of resetting the alarm, summarized by an acronym, FREEDOM.
Two skills, Focusing and Recognizing triggers, enable the youth (or adult) to activate the brain's thinking and filing centers in order to think before reacting. The next four skills differentiate Emotions, Evaluative cognitions, Deliberate goals and Options for action, based on whether they are simply alarm messages or a team effort of the thinking, filing and alarm centers. A final skill, Making a contribution, helps youths (and adults) recognize that being able to handle stress reactions in a self-regulated manner makes them more effective in achieving their personal goals.
By providing practical knowledge that is interesting and useful for adolescents (and for adult staff, administrators, advocates and family members) TARGET provides a basis for truly collaborative and trauma-informed juvenile justice supervisory, rehabilitative and therapeutic services. With TARGET, everyone teams up to take on the challenge of thinking clearly and making choices that reflect their goals and values rather than impulsive or expedient reactions to stress.
This is a crucial paradigm shift that honors both youth's and adult/system's perspectives while calling upon all participants to take responsibility for mindfully handling stress reactions. In so doing, it enables the adults to demonstrate good faith by walking the walk (i.e., managing their own stress reactions just as they want the youths to manage theirs) without stigmatizing anyone (youth or adults) for having expectable (albeit not always adaptive) stress reactions.
TARGET is not a panacea, nor a replacement for other empirically supported approaches to traumatic stress treatment (and cognitive and behavioral rehabilitation) for traumatized youth in the juvenile justice system. It is an evidence-based clinical therapy and also a template for making traumatic stress understandable, transparent and manageable for youth and adults. As such it fosters communication and collaboration among law enforcement officers, program staff and administrators, treatment providers and the youth and family.
TARGET's goal is to enable youth and adults to recognize and responsibly handle stress reactions that may be due to trauma (for youths, and for adults who have trauma histories of their own) or to the expectable challenges of working in correctional/justice programs with youth who are dysregulated and in some cases capable of posing a threat to the adults' safety. This is the core goal of trauma-informed systems/services, to enable everyone — traumatized youth, their families, adults responsible for public safety and entire communities — to become safer and more effective.
The second recommendation speaks to the credo for all healing professions and services, “first do no harm.” It, and the more specific recommendations that follow, are a call to stop or radically limit correctional practices that further traumatize youth, such as physical restraints, isolation and shackling.
Even when done in a manner that protects the youth's physical safety, these practices can activate post-traumatic survival fears and reactions that are psychologically harmful to the youth. They may also actually compromise the safety of law enforcement and juvenile program staff when the youth's survival reactions include fighting back against perceived victimizers. They also undermine the rehabilitative mission (pages 31-49) that has been at the core of Juvenile Courts since their origins more than a century ago.
However, balancing the goal of protecting youth and enhancing their productive participation in society with the other core juvenile justice goal of maintaining public safety and order is exceptionally difficult with youth who tend to be alienated, distrustful and prone to act either impulsively or strategically without due regard for the law and the values underlying the social contract (such as justice, fairness, respect for individual differences), as well as their own or others' safety.
Further complicating the picture, these youths often are reacting to current challenges based on alarm reactions and survival tactics learned from coping with traumatic violence or victimization in their own lives, and historically, as a result of their race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, and problems with learning and discipline in school and family.
Therefore, it is essential that trauma-informed reforms go beyond simply acknowledging that many justice-involved youth have been traumatized, and provide practical skills that adults and youths together can use to prevent further traumatization of youths and of the adults who work with or supervise them, as is done by the TARGET program.
Within the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, I am privileged to direct the Center for Trauma Recovery and Juvenile Justice, which has partnered with several national organizations to champion the cause of trauma-informed reforms in juvenile justice. These organizations include the Center for Children's Law and Poverty, the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators, Equal Justice Initiative, Futures without Violence, the Juvenile Law Center, the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice, the National Center for Youth Law, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the National Juvenile Defender Center and the National Juvenile Justice Prosecution Center.
Our ongoing partnerships have resulted in several resources for those who seek to achieve trauma-informed juvenile justice systems, including the Essential Elements of a Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice System, fact sheets on evidence-based practices and tools for identifying and treating traumatized youth, including girls and youth and families of ethnoracial minority backgrounds in the juvenile justice system, and webinars describing practical goals and guidelines.
Julian Ford is a clinical psychologist, professor of psychiatry and law at the University of Connecticut, director of the Center for Trauma Recovery and Juvenile Justice in the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and co-founder and co-owner of Advanced Trauma Solutions, Inc., the sole licensed distributor of the TARGET intervention by the copyright holder, the University of Connecticut. He has been working for more than a decade with juvenile courts, diversion, probation, detention, and secure facilities to empower staff and administrators, and to assist youth and families with trauma-informed approaches to adjudication and services.
Change state's 'physical injury' definition to better protect abused children
It's difficult to look at the photos of 1-year-old Jacob Marbury's bruised face and not feel bewildered by the Washington County district attorney's initial reluctance to charge the suspected abuser.
But as The Oregonian/OregonLive's Emily Smith and Aimee Green have reported, prosecutors have shied away from pursuing several possible abuse cases involving young children in recent years. Why? Because bruises – even one showing a handprint as in Jacob's case – don't necessarily amount to "physical injury" in the eyes of the courts. To qualify, injuries must either cause impairment of physical condition or amount to "substantial pain," a threshold that can be difficult to prove when the victim is too young or too intimidated to speak up.
Consider that in one case, a trial judge found that bruises covering the buttocks of a 16-month old were insufficient by themselves to show the baby suffered substantial pain. In another case, the Oregon Court of Appeals concluded in a 2014 decision that pulling out clumps of a woman's hair also failed to meet the standard for "physical injury." (The woman was a reluctant witness against the defendant, her husband). Is it any wonder that prosecutors are scratching their heads over what it takes to be considered injured?
This might seem like an easy fix for the Legislature. And Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, has tried twice before to move a bill that would broaden the physical injury definition to match the one used in animal-abuse statutes. Those laws consider "physical trauma" – bruises, punctures, burns and other wounds – in addition to impairment of physical condition and substantial pain as evidence of "physical injury."
Unfortunately, both times, the bill failed to progress. She is now teaming with Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, for a third try, aiming to pass it first in the House.
It's past time to get something done that helps move the definition of "physical injury" into the realm of common sense while addressing the valid concerns raised by defense attorneys. Simply put, criminal behavior should face criminal prosecution, Olson said.
In addition, the state seems to have competing strategies when it comes to acting on child abuse, said Kevin Barton, a senior deputy district attorney for Washington County who leads the office's child-abuse prosecution unit. On one hand, there are groundbreaking statutes like "Karly's Law," which requires a coordinated response by medical, law enforcement and social-services workers whenever they come across suspicious injuries to children. The law , which passed in 2007, was named for Karly Sheehan, a 3-year-old Corvallis girl who was killed by her mother's boyfriend, despite two previous reports of possible abuse.
On the other hand, prosecutors are hamstrung from taking action because those vulnerable kids can't provide the testimony that verifies that extensive bruising amounts to substantial pain, he said. While the overall number of cases that don't proceed may be small, each one is significant, he said.
"I truly believe changing this law will prevent more significant injuries to kids," Barton said in an email, "and might even save a life."
Certainly, lawmakers should walk a fine line here. For one thing, a bruise is often just a bruise. No one wants to see contusions sustained during everyday play get magnified into something criminal either by overzealous advocates or embittered parents locked in custody battles. Another concern: The state does allow spanking and physical discipline. So even bruises resulting from a parent aren't necessarily illegal. And finally, there are few areas in the law that become so immediately emotional for the public as the prospect of child abuse. It's important not to let the state shortcut its way to a conviction by relieving it of its responsibility to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
But some of these cases aren't even getting into the courthouse door because the victims are, in effect, too vulnerable. Their inability to speak up for themselves about the extent of their injuries shouldn't be the reason that their abusers escape accountability.
Will the third time be the charm for this effort? Olson is hopeful, but he needs the input of defense attorneys and others to craft that workable solution. "For this to get across the home plate," he said, "we need to have everybody's help."
They think they've got away: How to catch a historical sex offender
by Alex Smith
Sex offenders think they'll get away with it. And often they do. Sometimes it can take years to bring them to justice, while others escape retribution altogether. So how do you go about making sure perpetrators of horrendous crimes committed in the distant past are caught and convicted?
As the years pass, abusers increasingly have the upper hand. Undetected, they can build up seemingly respectable lives. Even if convicted, elderly prisoners spend less time in jail simply because they don't have as long to live.
They also have the advantage of the vagaries of memory. Victims may have blocked out the abuse they suffered. Evidence - often one person's word against another's - can be hazy and conflicting, easy to cast doubt upon.
The people speaking out were in many cases children at the time of their suffering - and children can readily be portrayed by defence barristers as suggestible and easily confused.
The accused has no criminal record and appears to be a clean-living and valued member of society. Doubt sneaks in. And in a court of law, once doubt sneaks in, the prosecution's case can founder. The verdict? Not guilty.
So exactly what is the process of tackling these inbuilt disadvantages an accuser faces?
Obviously, the first step of the process is the occurrence of abuse. Widespread at some care homes, schools, and youth detention centres, it often went unchecked until the victims could leave, the home was closed or the abuser moved on. In the past, vulnerable children were more likely to be seen as trouble-makers and less likely to be believed.
Even when concerns were raised, they were often dismissed. For example, at St Gilbert's - an approved boys' home for "young delinquents" in Worcestershire - pupils were beaten and raped by a religious order of Christian Brothers - despite the authorities knowing about one teacher having sex offence convictions, parents complaining and pupils telling the police.
An official investigation only opened in 2014. Most of the brothers are dead. They got away with it.
There are a number of ongoing investigations and inquiries - criminal and otherwise - into historical abuse allegations at institutions across the UK.
A guide to the key inquiries and their scope
If anything good could possibly come of Jimmy Savile's decades-long reign of abuse, it could be what has been dubbed "the Savile effect". In the wake of the scandal the number of historical sex offences recorded by police rose by 9%.
The National Association of People Abused in Childhood said victims now felt more confident about speaking out.
The actress Samantha Morton, who spent most of her childhood in foster homes or residential care in Nottingham, is one of many people who have come forward later in life with allegations of abuse during childhood.
"Nottingham in the 80s was rife with that [abuse from people in social services]," the Bafta and Golden Globe-winning actress said in 2014.
While the local force has said it has no record of the 39-year-old's complaint, two ongoing, separate operations by Nottinghamshire Police have provided an insight into the intricate nature of a historical sex abuse investigation.
Abuse at a number of former care homes, schools and a youth detention centre in Nottinghamshire between the 1940s and the 1990s is being investigated under Operations Daybreak and Xeres, which resulted in Andris Logins and Ivor Bethell being given significant jail terms.
To help explain how an investigation into men like Logins and Bethell reaches a conclusion, Nottinghamshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have guided the BBC through the process, from the moment an allegation of historical sexual abuse is made - to the emotional aftermath of a conviction.
Supt Helen Chamberlain, from Nottinghamshire Police, says offences that happened a long time ago are especially difficult to deal with.
"If somebody were to complain they've been sexually assaulted in the street or abused in the home, what we have is very quick evidence from an alleged victim, forensic evidence which we can call on, and evidence from an offender if we catch them at the same time," she said.
"We've got scenes we can examine, CCTV, mobile phone and tablet data...but if somebody says they were sexually abused 40 years ago, you've got none of that available.
"You start going through files of schools, local authorities, some of which will have gone through the natural destruction process.
"It is not to say we don't believe the victims, but it is about trying to get sufficient evidence to corroborate their account."
The 'belief factor'
According to one former Nottinghamshire Police officer, Jonathan Nicholas - who worked at the force for 30 years - belief was a "major factor" in alleged sex offences that previously attracted little or no formal action.
"There are several reasons: idle cops, untrained cops, the sheer cost and targets pressure. These are all in the mix at differing levels and in different cases," Mr Nicholas says.
"The cynical attitude of untrained and unsympathetic cops in the first instance which caused the victims not to be believed was a major factor."
While it is accepted societal attitudes have changed, giving more victims the confidence to come forward, there is a viewpoint that "the scales of justice" remain heavily balanced in favour of the perpetrator.
Jon Brown, head of development and impact at the NSPCC, said: "Cases like Savile have prompted victims to now come forward, but their recollections can be hazy, conflicting, sometimes sketchy, and combined with the lack of evidence, the perpetrator often will maintain their innocence on the basis of that.
"In criminal law, a case needs to be found beyond reasonable doubt. That makes it incredibly difficult to secure a conviction for historical sex abuse offences.
"It would be right to say the scales of justice are weighed pretty heavily in favour of the perpetrator - and the police and the perpetrators recognise that."
Building a case
So how do detectives and prosecutors build a case?
Janine Smith, chief crown prosecutor for the CPS in the East Midlands, said: "If you've got other victims, and if these victims are not necessarily known to each other or not had any sort of relationship with each other, that goes to show the credibility.
"Are all these people making up the same thing that happened to them by the same individual in similar circumstances?"
CPS East Midlands is part of a national pilot that sees a CPS lawyer based in a local police station to offer advice and guidance in the early, pre-charge stages of an investigation.
That means, according to Supt Chamberlain, it is now "rare" that officers spend time building a case against a historical sex offender, only for it to be dropped by the CPS.
Strength in numbers, in terms of victims, can also be achieved through media communications made by the police, the NSPCC's Mr Brown said.
"Lawyers will object to it, saying it's a fishing expedition, but if it recognises abuse is rarely perpetrated against one victim, how difficult it can be for victims to come forward and the like, then sometimes it can be very important for these communications to be made by the police," he said.
The judicial process in the UK is adversarial. Lawyers for each party argue it out, each trying to convince the jury. Aspersions are cast, doubts sown, characters ripped to pieces.
Mrs Smith said that while lawyers tend not to use the courtroom as a stage, there can be an element of bravado as both the prosecution and defence counsel strive to present a clear, engaging case to the jury.
"It's something that can be used to great effect, once you're satisfied that the case passes the code test," she said. "There's a lot of thought that can go into cases about presentational issues.
"We have to present it in a way that the jury understand and their attention is captured, and the defence will do exactly the same.
"It's not doing anything underhand and it's what we would expect from prosecuting counsel."
Behind the pomp and ceremony, there are witnesses and victims, many of whom may be strangers to a courtroom and terrified of giving evidence, in part due to the prospect of being grilled by a seasoned advocate.
One victim went to the police more than two decades ago, but no charges were brought due to a lack of evidence.
Before her abuser Roger Caffrey was eventually jailed for 17 years for her rape, among other offences against other victims, she told Nottingham Crown Court: "I took this to the police 22 years ago and I thought justice would be done. It was one word against another."
Caffrey, a teacher, began touching another victim over and under her clothing in his classroom store cupboard or while she read aloud in class.
She later told the BBC: "He was a teacher, he was in a position of authority," the victim said. "Physically, he was a big, imposing character. He had big hands, I was just a little child. The police came to me. My name had been given as a possible victim or witness.
"I was relieved more than anything. I thought it was about time the truth came out - he'd got away with it for too long."
Supt Chamberlain said Nottinghamshire Police has just finished some training with the CPS around credibility, meaning the credibility of events - rather than the credibility of the alleged victim - is questioned in court.
"What you don't see in court are rape victims, for example, being asked what they were wearing or what they were doing on their own," she said. "What we're trying to do is make the evidence more 'victim-centric' and give more focus to the victim.
"For example, the defence, prosecution and the CPS will sit down and decide what questions will be asked during cross-examination."
Figures obtained by the BBC revealed Operation Daybreak has now received 391 separate allegations, while another 223 complaints have been made to Operation Xeres.
Nottinghamshire Police said 236 people have been named as perpetrators across the two inquiries - although 24 of those alleged abusers died before they could be investigated.
Despite reports of sex offences continuing to rise, Supt Chamberlain said some victims may never feel confident enough to come forward.
"It's not stopped increasing so it's hard to say when the tap's going to turn off because I don't think it will," she said.
"It's very sad to know there are people out there who have suffered abuse in the past and haven't come forward.
"It's unfortunate, but the criminal justice process has improved tremendously to give people the chance to tell their account, be supported and get the case to court."
In the words of one of Caffrey's victims: "I wasn't even particularly bothered that he would get a huge, long sentence. I just wanted somebody to say, 'you're guilty, you did this' and that we were believed.
"I didn't feel sorry for him at all but a bit sad. That's his life and that's the sort of person he chose to be. A good teacher is someone you remember for the rest of your life and he could have been that teacher, but he wasn't, he was the worst kind of teacher.
"That's his legacy now… and now he's going to end his days in shame."