Memphis mother accused of fatally stabbing 4 children
by Ralph Ellis
Sheriff's deputies found a grisly and heartbreaking scene when they answered a 911 call at a Memphis apartment complex, authorities said Saturday.
Four children, ages 4 years to 6 months, had been stabbed to death, Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham said.
The children's mother, Shaynthia Gardner, 29, was arrested at the scene and is accused of killing her children, Oldham said. Investigators are trying to determine a motive..
"One of the most difficult questions in any investigation always is, why did it occur?" Oldham said, according to CNN affiliate WMC.
A fifth child, a 7-year-old boy, escaped the mayhem, Oldham said.
"He is safe and in a place of protection until next of kin can be notified," he said.
The father of the four slain children was questioned, though he was not at home when the killings happened, authorities said, according to CNN affiliate WMC. The surviving boy has a different father, Oldham said.
The killings happened Friday afternoon at the Greens at Irene apartments in southeast Shelby County. The victims were a boy, 4, and three girls, ages 3, 2 and 6 months.
Gardner was charged with four counts of first-degree murder in perpetration of a felony aggravated child neglect, four counts of first-degree murder in perpetration of a felony aggravated child abuse, four counts of aggravated child neglect or endangerment and four counts of aggravated child abuse. Other charges may be filed, Oldham said.
Oldham said the sheriff's department is reeling from the killings. One of the department employees is an aunt to the slain children.
"It is certainly something that has impacted us as an organization and a family," he said.
Neighbors of the family said they are shocked and perplexed.
"I can't imagine what those babies do to make you do that," Trisha Johnson told WMC. "If you're having trouble, go and say you're having trouble. Everybody gets stressed out. Kids are home from school, you don't know what to do with them, you have no money to do with them, but you don't take their lives."
No charges for North Carolina mom in 9-month-old son's hot vehicle death
by The Associated Press
CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. – A prosecutor says he won't charge a mother with the death of her 9-month-old son in a hot car because it was a perfect storm of change of routine, sleep deprivation and forgetfulness.
Jefferson Wilkins' body was found in his car seat in his mother's SUV after she went to his Wilmington daycare on May 25 and she was stunned to find out he wasn't there.
The StarNews reports New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David said Nancy Byrd-Wilkins will not be charged, adding "accidents do happen and they break our hearts."
David says the mother took her son for a doctor's regular checkup but apparently forgot to drop the boy off at daycare and went to work, leaving him in the car for nearly eight hours.
A CROSS TO BEAR: Abuse victim seeks reconciliation with church
by JEFFREY JACKSON
OWATONNA — Despite all that has happened, Gerald Lynch still wears a cross around his neck.
“I still believe in Jesus,” said the 64-year-old Owatonnan.
And Lynch still considers himself a practicing Catholic, though he admits that it's not always easy to go to Mass, to be around priests or even to face Sunday mornings. Those things — “triggers,” he calls them — bring back memories he'd rather not face.
“I want to be involved. I want to go to Mass on Sunday,” he said. “But there are circumstances within myself that make it difficult.”
“I feel dirty,” he added
Now, if there is anything Lynch is seeking in life, for himself and others like him, it's reconciliation — reconciliation with the Catholic church, with the priest who sexually abused him as a young man, and, yes, with God.
But Lynch realizes that the healing process for a person like himself who was abused by a priest can be a long journey: In his case, a journey of more than 40 years. And for Lynch, that journey began by admitting what happened to him.
“The first thing I wanted to do was to deny it,” Lynch said. “But what you bury alive, stays alive.”
Now, Lynch is on a mission to help others like himself to try to find that reconciliation.
“People can harm you in the church, but that doesn't mean that God is bad,” he said. “God didn't cause this to happen.”
A very Catholic life
Jerry Lynch grew up on a farm outside of Bancroft, Iowa, during the 1950s and 60s — a town that he remembers as a Catholic community, a very Catholic community. There was a convent with 16 Franciscan sisters living there, a rectory with three priests, a Catholic grade school and high school, and, of course, a beautiful church.
Not bad for a community whose population was hovering just over the 1,000 mark, he said.
“Being Catholic was our whole being, our culture as well as our religion,” Lynch said. “Everything revolved around the church, other than a couple of bars.”
And his own life, as well as that of his large extended family — four sisters, a brother and 96 first cousins, a very Catholic family — revolved around the church. And that wasn't always easy.
When Lynch was a freshman in high school, his father, then just 42, had a heart attack that nearly killed him. And young Gerald, the oldest boy of the family, had to take on many of the duties around the farm while still going to school, something he would continue throughout his high school career.
Still, he found time pray at daily Mass and was honored as the “outstanding Mass server of the year” for his work during his senior year.
So it probably came as no surprise to those who knew him that when it came time for him to further his education beyond high school, he entered the seminary at Loras College, a Catholic school in Dubuque, Iowa, with the intent of entering the priesthood.
“Their whole personhood centers around the Catholic faith,” he said of his reason for wanting to become a priest.
It wasn't an easy road to travel.
First, there were the times — a time of upheaval, as Lynch describes it, with the Vietnam War still raging and the protests that accompanied it. Even in the church, in the aftermath of the Vatican II Ecumenical Council, there were a lot of changes to which he and other Catholics were having to adjust.
Then there were his own personal limitations — limitations to which he readily admits.
“I was not the best student,” he said with a smile. “Learning was hard, and I was never a very good reader.”
And even with the move to the vernacular in the Mass, he still had to learn Latin.
“That was a killer,” he said.
So he dropped out, though he didn't give up his faith or his active involvement in the church. If anything, his involvement increased as he moved to Minneapolis and joined Servants of the Light, a Catholic charismatic organization that was growing by leaps and bounds during the 1970s.
It was there that he met Father Bill Farrell, a Dominican priest who was one of the leaders of the community. It was Farrell, Lynch said, who abused him as a young man.
“Father Bill stalked me,” Lynch said. “He had me over to the rectory, checking me out. Only in reflection do I realize what happened.”
It is in his poetry, penned some 40 years after the abuse occurred, that Lynch's feelings — the guilt, the shame, the anger, lots of anger — come pouring out, sometimes raw, sometimes detached.
Sometimes the titles of the poems —“Voices,” “Daybreak,” “The Quilt” — are vague enough, obscure enough, to hide the deep emotion within. With other poems — “Victim, Survivor, Thriver” or “A Sexual Survivor's Prayer” — there is little doubt from the titles what the poems are about.
Then there's “The Betrayal,” a poem whose very title suggest what Lynch felt — what Lynch still feels — about what happened to him, a title that equates the actions of the church he loves with those of Judas.
Then comes the first stanza, a stanza that would become like a choral refrain throughout a poem wracked with anger and pain.
One word, one touch
changed my life.
Where is the outrage?
He started writing poetry two to three years ago after he had attended a family reunion in Iowa with all those cousins, a reunion he attended with his daughter, born blind. Because she couldn't see them, they couldn't — or wouldn't — see her. They talked around her and about her, but not to her. Lynch felt something very close to his own experience as a sexual survivor. The result was his first poem, “Am I a Statue?”
Since then, he has written many more poems that he has self-published. And when you see him, he often has a copy in his hand or at least nearby. He has taken them with him to conferences, most recently last weekend to a national conference in Chicago of SNAP — Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
“Most people have difficulty stepping into the shoes of someone else,” he said. Especially, he added, stepping into the shoes of someone sexually abused.
That, he said, is where he hopes his poems can help.
“I'm trying to educate people about the devastation of sexual abuse by priests,” he said.
And in poem “The Betrayal,” that devastation, at least for Lynch, is quite clear. Another stanza:
Young, naïve, vulnerable;
Prey for insatiable sexual appetite.
One word, one touch
changed my life.
Where is the outrage?
The outline of Father William Patrick Farrell's life is very brief: Born and reared in Rochester, N.Y. Entered the novitiate in Winona, Minn., in 1958. Ordained to the priesthood as a Dominican in 1965. He taught high school in Chicago and Dallas before moving to Edina, Minn., in 1971 to serve as associate pastor of Our Lady of Grace parish. It was during that time that he became involved with the Catholic charismatic movement in the Twin Cities. In 1973, he went to Louisiana as chaplain at Southeastern Louisiana University.
But his health wasn't good, mainly due to complications related to his diabetes. He was going blind. Still he kept active in ministry until he died on Ash Wednesday 1989.
But according to Jerry Lynch, there is much more to Father Farrell's story. As Lynch recalls it, the other leaders of Servants of the Light, the Catholic charismatic movement in the Twin Cities, got wind of Father Farrell's sexual proclivities and went to his Dominican superiors, the provincial in Chicago, asking that he be removed.
“In those days, that's what the church was doing — move him to another place,” Lynch said. “So they moved him to Louisiana, to a different province.”
It was in that move, Lynch said, that the abuse happened.
By that time, Lynch, then 21, had moved to the Twin Cities and was very much involved with the Catholic charismatic movement there. And he was asked, along with another young man, to help Father Farrell make the move to Louisiana.
“They didn't tell me he was gay,” Lynch said.
During the trip down, they twice stopped for the night. Both nights, Lynch shared a room — separate beds — with Farrell while the other young man had a room of his own. Both nights, Lynch said, he was awakened by the priest.
“He woke me up naked in the middle of the night wanting sexual favors,” Lynch said. “I was tired, groggy, upset and confused. I didn't know what to say, no clue.”
Compared to other people's experiences of sexual abuse by priests, Lynch counts his experience as tame. He wasn't abused as a child. And, in fact, he says he rejected Farrell's propositions of him. He even jokingly calls his experience “Priest Abuse Lite.”
Yet to him, 40-plus years later, the experience is still devastating, to use Lynch's description.
“He was my confessor. He knew my vulnerability,” Lynch said. “I was 21, asking questions, ‘Do I date? Do I marry?' I was a young man trying to find out who the hell I was. I shared that in confessions, and he knew my weaknesses. I was devastated at 21 — a vulnerable adult.”
His age at the time of the incident does raise the eyebrows of some, coupled with the fact that, thus far, he has not found another victim of Father Farrell, though he's certain they are out there.
“I'm trying to track people down,” he said.
It isn't easy.
The Bishop Accountability website — a website that tracks and documents abuse claims in the Catholic church — has no record of claims against Father William Patrick Farrell. And the provincial office of the Dominicans in Chicago has thus far not been able to locate any claims against the priest, though Bill Skowronski, director of communications and marketing for the province, said Thursday that they have not yet gone through all of the files.
Likewise, neither the SNAP chapter in Minnesota nor the chapter in Louisiana had Father Farrell on its list.
“This is not to say that he was never involved in abuse either here or in Louisiana,” said Frank Meuers, director of SNAP for southern Minnesota, “but as far as we know that abuse was never reported or a record made of it that has been made public.”
In fact, it doesn't surprise Meuers at all that Father Farrell's name has not come up, particularly if he preyed only on adult males.
“There is often more stigma attached to the adult cases [of clergy sex abuse],” Meuers said. “The victim beats himself up. ‘I should've known better. I should've walked away.' The denial and guilt is smothering.”
And because of that guilt, the victim will often blame himself over and over, Meuers added, to the point that the abuse goes unreported.
Liturgy of reconciliation
It was at a conference in Cambridge, Minn., in late April that Jerry Lynch first met Bishop Donald Kettler of the St. Cloud Diocese — a conference at which Bishop Kettler was speaking on the subject “Moving Forward.”
Joe Towalski, the director of the office of communications for the diocese, explained in an email what the bishop meant by “moving forward.”
“‘Moving forward' does not mean ignoring people who have been hurt or forgetting about survivors,” Towalski wrote. “It means working together to bring about healing, reconciliation and justice in whatever ways are appropriate and possible.”
It was at that point that Lynch came in.
Lynch was attending the conference not as a speaker, but as an audience member who made his voice heard.
“Bishop Kettler does recall the event and meeting Mr. Lynch,” Towalski said. “He was impressed by Mr. Lynch's desire to help other people and move forward on the path to healing.”
The bishop wasn't alone.
Jode Freyholtz-London — the founder and director of Wellness in the Woods, the mental health organization that hosted the “Learning through Sharing: Moving Beyond Trauma” conference — understands both Lynch's guilt, depression and anger associated with the abuse and his desire to find some reconciliation. She's seen it before.
“I work with a lot of people who have trauma like Jerry,” she said. “For many of them, it's not about blaming but about healing and bringing people back together again.”
And she sees that in Lynch's efforts.
“He's like a lot of abuse victims who are not trying to wipe out the church, but are wanting to be a part of the faith community,” she said. “I support people like Jerry who are coming forth to heal.”
Not everyone sees it her way.
Meuers said most of the abuse survivors he comes into contact with through SNAP Minnesota are Catholics — or rather, former Catholics — who have disavowed any relationship with the church.
“They don't feel any great affiliation,” he said.
What they feel instead, he said, is bitterness and anger. And any attempt to forge any reconciliation under the auspices of the church, such as through a liturgy, would be, in Meuers' words, “self-destructive.”
“No one would come,” he said.
But Lynch is not deterred. He still wants to see some sort of reconciliation between the victims of clergy sexual abuse and the church, perhaps in the way of a liturgy or Mass of reconciliation. It is a subject he broached with Bishop Kettler at the Cambridge conference.
Towalski said that the bishop is open to such an event, though what that liturgy might look like and when and where it could be held still need to be determined.
Lynch already has some ideas, having sketched out his own plan for a Mass of reconciliation, one that he hopes will be celebrated in the cathedral. The first paragraph of his plan contains this rubric: “The intent is to have this healing Mass celebrated in each parish of the diocese. It is very important to begin this process slowly, deliberately and grace-filled.”
And the bishop?
“Bishop Kettler believes victims/survivors should have a role in crafting a reconciliation liturgy. He is examining material he received from Mr. Lynch and others for such a liturgy,” said Towalski. “The bishop said such a liturgy would include taking responsibility and apologizing on behalf of the church for the abuse that has happened, and promising to continue ongoing efforts to prevent abuse and maintain safe communities for everyone.”
As for Lynch, there is one other thing he would like.
“I want to meet with the archbishop for a half hour and share my story,” he said. “I want to let him cry with me, if he is so compelled. Then I want to make my confession.”
And what does he feel he has to confess?
“My lack of faith,” he said.
One word, one touch
changed my life.
Where is the outrage?
Heads in the sand,
Butts in the air!
One word, one touch
changed my life.
Where is the outrage?
Do they understand the abuse, the betrayal?
Are they in denial?
Are they able to feel my enormous pain?
One word, one touch
changed my life.
Where is the outrage?
Young, naïve, vulnerable;
Prey for insatiable sexual appetite.
One word, one touch
changed my life.
Where is the outrage?
Mental duress overwhelms.
One word, one touch
changed my life.
Where is the outrage?
I must go on.
I must speak my truth.
Will anyone listen?
One word, one touch
changed my life.
Where is the outrage?
Dirty, smelly garbage!
A wasted life!
Is that what I am worth?
One word, one touch
changed my life.
Where is the outrage?
How do I live?
How do I go on?
Will I ever raise my head again?
One word, one touch
changed my life.
Where is the outrage?
The keepers of God's grace go merrily on!
Nothing to stop them!
Accountability, where is it?
One word, one touch
changed my life.
Where is the outrage?
Now is the time of silence!
Time to sweep us under the rug!
It's over, get a life!!!
One word, one touch
changed my life.
Where is the outrage?
— Gerald Francis Lynch,
From “Voices: A Poetic Journey”
Operation Sabaton: Sex abuse victim tells other survivors to find courage to speak
by Annabel Bagdi
THE VICTIM who suffered at the hands of a trio of paedophiles has urged other survivors of abuse to be courageous and speak out to bring perpetrators to justice.
Rapists Assad Hussain and brothers Anjum and Akhtar Dogar were brought to justice at Oxford Crown Court for carrying out harrowing abuse against their victim over eight years.
In a statement released today, the woman, now in her 30s, revealed it was "challenging" and "painful" for her to relive the years of suffering.
But she said she now felt "relieved" after finding the strength to speak out as the men who abused her were jailed for a total of 32 years.
She said: "It was easier to make myself heard than it was to hold it all inside. This process has in a way been therapeutic for me, as I now feel stronger and I am no longer consumed by my past.
"I would urge any person who is struggling or feeling trapped by any form of abuse to come forward, there are many agencies out there that will be able to help you move and put the suffering behind you.
"I am hoping that with some therapy I will be able to continue rebuilding myself and will in time regain family relationships that were broken due to my past.
"I am growing in confidence each day that passes. My future now holds hope, which is something that I was unable to see before speaking out about my past.
"In coming forward I have regained control of my life. Due to this I have no regrets."
During the trial, jurors heard how the "happy bubbly" girl became "frightened" after the men began sexually exploiting her as a teenager.
She bravely took the stand to relive her years of abuse, telling the court she led a "chaotic" life and was often "inebriated" when the men abused her in East Oxford and Blackbird Leys.
Oxford Crown Court was told the girl, who met the men aged 15 in a park in Manzil Way, off Cowley Road, would perform sex acts on the men in exchange for alcohol and drugs.
During cross-examination, she courageously defied defence barristers who claimed she was lying about the grooming and branded her evidence as "fabricated".
Sitting behind screens, the girl told the court she had not wanted to support legal proceedings but later found the courage to share her ordeal in court because it was the “right” thing to do.
She said: "This is what's right - it's not what I want. I am no longer a child, I am grown up, an adult, and I would not have come and done this [give evidence] if I wasn't telling the truth."
The girl told jurors she was left feeling "embarrassed" after being abused by the men and admitted she had tried to "block out" the trauma from her memory.
She said she felt "ashamed" that she had a "crush" on Assad Hussain, adding: "When I was younger I thought I was a friend to Assad. I don't see it like that now, I know he didn't see it like that.
"I felt I was not able to fight this man off. He had a position of power over me mentally. He was a man, he was surrounded by his friends and I was a young girl who wasn't."
A school friend also told the court the girl "loved living life" before the gang "scared" her.
The witness said the pair became "like sisters" and spent a lot of time at her flat in Thomas Mews, Rectory Road, where the men would often gather when she was an adult.
Jurors also heard how the girl's son had been taken into care, with her friend telling the court that the baby was neglected because the men were always in her house.
Officials: Child abuse is preventable
by Andrew Carter
MARION - Child abuse is preventable.
That's the message that Marion County Children Services officials want community residents to understand and help to accomplish.
"What we're trying to do, as a leader in the community in the protection of children, is to provide parents in the community with a call to action," Executive Director Jacqueline Ringer said. "Truly, it takes a community to protect children. We need parents doing what they need to do to make sure they have support surrounding them, because parenting is hard. We need the community to also remember parenting is hard and to reach your arms around those that might be struggling. It's everyone's responsibility."
Ringer and Community Education Coordinator Erin Turner said the need for a "call to action" became even more urgent in the wake of the death of 6-month-old Aaden Mannering. The boy died June 19 at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus following a June 17 incident which led to the arrest of his mother, Tequila Mannering. She is awaiting trial in Marion County Common Pleas Court on charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter and endangering children.
Sheriff Tim Bailey said investigators believe that Mannering shook her child and then struck him. However, when Mannering called 911 dispatchers on June 17, she said she was feeding the infant when he started choking and then stopped breathing.
Regardless of the true cause of the boy's death, Ringer said the entire community needs to address child abuse, neglect, emotional maltreatment and other issues related to child safety.
"I always tell my husband that we're one traumatic situation away from being in need," Ringer said. "I need parents and I need this community to understand that child abuse is preventable. We can talk all day about the sad stories and the tragedies are there, but we need to take responsibility and come together and take action. If it means saving a child, that's everything to me."
According to the Marion County Children Services annual report for 2015, the agency served 1,939 local children last year. That equates to 1 out of every 7 children who live in the county. Staff members performed 863 assessments of safety broken down into the following categories: neglect, 464; physical abuse, 213; sexual abuse, 149; emotional maltreatment, 23; and dependency/family in need, 14.
Turner called parenting "the hardest job you'll ever do without a manual," noting that there is a need for people to reach out to each other to prevent feelings of isolation, especially for younger parents.
"Just a phone call to a new mother, to say, 'Hey, how are you doing? Everything going okay? If you need me, call me,'" Turner said. "Little things like that will help."
As part of its Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month initiative each April, the Ohio Children's Trust Fund promotes "Pause for a Child," which encourages local residents throughout the state to "take an active role in making their community a safe place for families and children." Ringer shared basic tips that parents and caregivers can use to help them in times of crisis.
"We just need to remember to, one, pause for a child; two, reach out when we're in need, and also reach out to those who may be in need," Ringer said. "And then, lastly, but not least, would be to report your concerns."
Ringer and Turner encouraged parents or caregivers who feel overwhelmed to reach out to children services for assistance or information. According to its website, the agency has brochures, pamphlets and videos available that address a wide range of family-related issues.
Turner said Marion County Children Services is offering two sessions of Child Abuse and Neglect Identification and Reporting Training later this year.
"It's very in depth," Turner said. "What we talk about is very sad and it's very real. Our agency is very solution-focused. We want to make sure that whatever we do, whether it's intake or a case plan or the training, is helping to solve the problem."
The first class is scheduled for Aug. 25. The second session is set for Oct. 15. Classes will be held at the children services offices located at 1680 Marion-Waldo Road. For information or to register, contact Turner at 740-386-0428 or email her at email@example.com.
Information about child abuse prevention is available on the Marion County Children Services website at www.marionkids.com , as well as the Ohio Children's Trust Fund website at jfs.ohio.gov/OCTF. Call Children Services at 740-389-2317.
As SC child abuse, neglect increases, officials wonder why
by Tim Smith
COLUMBIA — Six-month-old Mason had a big smile that showed in his photo.
But in July 2015, his parents took the Laurens County boy to a hospital with severe head injuries. He was placed on life support but died the next day.
Authorities said his father had admitted to abusing the infant and he was charged with homicide by child abuse. The mother was charged with unlawful neglect of a child. The father eventually plead guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison, court records show. The mother pled guilty and was sentenced to 30 days time served.
Mason's death was among the more horrific examples of a pervasive problem in South Carolina that appeared to spike dramatically in 2015.
Despite millions more dollars being spent in recent years on the state's child welfare agency and the hiring of hundreds of workers to combat child abuse and neglect, records reviewed by The Greenville News show complaints and investigations of abuse and neglect have been on a steady march upward.
According to the state Department of Social Services, the number of complaints of child abuse and neglect received by the agency went from 27,370 in 2012 to 30,950 in 2014 and 40,463 in 2015.
The number of investigations in child abuse and neglect, meanwhile, jumped from 13,218 in 2012 to 16,501 in 2014 and 23,347 last year.
During the past fiscal year, more investigations of physical abuse, 371, and sexual abuse, 47, were founded in Greenville County than any other county of the state, according to DSS. Greenville County was second only to Charleston last year in the number of founded cases of neglect. More complaints of abuse and neglect originated in Greenville County, 3,751, than any other county in the state.
“We have a serious problem,” said state Sen. Katrina Shealy, a Lexington Republican who sits on a Senate committee with oversight of DSS.
The oversight panel has spent the past three years delving into the issue of child abuse and neglect and how the agency has handled such complaints. In a series of sometimes dramatic public hearings, senators heard testimony of children who were abused and died, of overworked caseworkers and severe staff turnover rates. A scathing report by the Legislative Audit Council in October 2014 found that thousands of the state's children were victims of abuse or neglect and some even died after DSS chose to refer their cases to community prevention programs instead of investigating them.
Since then, a new director of the agency has been at work making changes, the system for receiving child abuse and neglect allegations has been centralized in some parts of the state to include a toll-free number, and hundreds of caseworkers have been hired in an effort to reduce caseloads to a new standard.
DSS Director Susan Alford told senators last year that the spike then in investigations was largely the result of the partial installment of the new reporting system, called intake hubs, a regional system for receiving calls and reports of abuse and neglect. She told The News much the same in a statement issued Friday:
“From our review of the data, what we know is that implementation of intake hubs is producing what we want—an increase in calls received, and an increase in our screening of reports of abuse and neglect," she said. "We don't want to miss a report. What we have to be careful of is maintaining our staffing levels to support that increase—we need to assure we have adequate numbers of highly trained intake workers, to do timely and effective screening of incoming calls, and we need to retain enough caseworkers to manage increased caseloads. "
But what is causing the underlying problem of abuse and neglect?
DSS data offers some clues as to the exact nature of the problem. The biggest single type of investigation is neglect and risk of neglect, followed by physical abuse and risk of physical abuse, according to the data. Other types include sexual abuse, educational neglect, medical neglect and abandonment.
Among the reasons for children entering foster care last year, according to the agency, neglect was by far the most common, followed by physical abuse. Other major reasons included sexual abuse, family instability, and parental drug abuse. Greenville County foster care cases in which neglect was a reason ranked third in the state, behind those in Spartanburg and Richland counties.
Sue Williams, executive director of the Children's Trust of South Carolina, an organization which focuses on child abuse and neglect prevention, said it is possible that with the new DSS reporting system that more cases are being found than ever before.
“Maybe it's closer to the real number, which is a good thing that we are finding these kids and their families,” she said. “But then how do we get it where we're not always reacting? How do we help a community help a family and support them with what they need so it doesn't escalate to a report and a child that has been traumatized?”
Across the nation, she said, the levels of abuse in states are consistent. But in South Carolina, there have been dips and spikes, most recently spikes.
“I think the primary question is, if this is the true rate of abuse and neglect, what are the ways we can decrease these rates because we prevented them from happening, not just because we are missing them?” Williams asked.
A myriad of factors can contribute to abuse and neglect in South Carolina, experts say, not the least of which is poverty.
“We have a lot of people who are under-employed, who are struggling to make ends meet,” Williams said. “Tensions are high and they are trying to meet basic needs for their family. Neglect accounts for way more kids coming into the system and a lot of that can be related to the effects of poverty.”
According to the latest Kids Count profile for South Carolina, a look at some of the factors most affecting children, 27 percent of children in the state were in poverty in 2014, up from 22 percent in 2008. A third of children in the state have parents who lack secure employment. Only four other states have a higher percentage of children in poverty.
“This is a fundamental question: Are we saying these parents are maltreating their kids because they are poor?” Williams asked. “Sometimes you go and there's holes in the floor because there's no money to fix them.”
Research, she said, has shown that abuse covers all demographics. But there are factors which can help protect children.
Those include concrete support, such as food, clothing and shelter. “If you don't have the basic needs met, then you're always living in a sort of tension about how to pay the next bill, when the next meal is going to happen,” she said. “Kids go home Friday and they don't eat until Monday.”
Other factors, she said, include social connections, support for families so they know they are not alone; knowledge of child development by parents; and parental resilience, being able to pick yourself up after a setback or problem.
“Each one of those has to be in place,” she said. “What that tells us is, if we're having a spike, maybe those things in the community aren't there.”
Laura Hudson, a longtime victims' advocate who also serves on the state's child fatality review committee, said she is at a loss to explain why abuse or neglect remains so pervasive.
About 600-800 children in the state, 17 and under, die each year from all causes, she said. Of that number, about 160-200 deaths are referred to the State Law Enforcement Division for an additional look because the deaths are violent, suspicious or from an undetermined cause, she said.
DSS annually reports the number of children who die in abuse or neglect situations it has investigated. That number was 14 in 2012, 24 in 2013, and 22 in 2014, according to the agency, which is still reviewing data for 2015.
Hudson said she is pleased there is more reporting to DSS of child abuse and neglect cases.
“I can't answer why we have so many cases,” she said.
She said there has been an increase in the number of child deaths reported to SLED and the number of deaths in which DSS was involved in some way with the family.
She said economics and the lack of a “traditional home with two loving parents” could be factors.
In South Carolina, 43 percent of children in 2014 lived in single-parent families, the third-highest percentage in the nation, according to this year's Kids Count report.
Shealy thinks both poverty and a lack of education play a role in abuse and neglect cases.
“But when you look at where some of the deaths are happening, those aren't necessarily poverty areas,” she said. “Lexington County has an issue. We're not a poverty area of this state. Aiken County has a problem. Spartanburg. Those are three areas that I am concerned about right now.”
She said in other areas, she is concerned incidents are not properly reported. She said she also is convinced some of the abuse is generational.
DSS officials believe the increase reports will eventually level out, much as they have in some other states that introduced the centralized reporting system. But they also expect more increases as they expand the new system to the entire state, which is one reason they asked for more workers in the current budget.
Williams said her organization is focused on ways to reduce the problem.
It helps fund prevention programs throughout the state, including those aimed at strengthening families and providing home visitation to new families.
Children's Trust also has been analyzing data from a survey of adults in the state on adverse childhood experiences. National research has found such traumatic experiences can increase the adult risk of substance use and abuse, depression, unintended pregnancies, obesity, heart disease and missed work days. For children, recurrent experience of or exposure to ACEs can also significantly impact the brain development, according to Children's Trust.
They also offer an indicator of abuse in the population.
According to the weighted survey, 15 percent of adults reported being victims of household physical abuse as a child, 13 percent reported being victims of some type of sexual abuse and 30 percent reported emotional abuse, defined as receiving an insult, put down or being cursed by a parent or adult in the home. According to the survey, 29 percent reported household substance abuse and 20 percent reported domestic violence.
Nationally, a higher percentage of adults reported instances of physical abuse but far lower percentages of emotional abuse, said Melissa Strompolis, director of research for Children's Trust.
She said the data is valuable for preventing abuse and neglect because many of the issues are related.
“We know there's likely to be other issues, such as substance abuse or mental illness or domestic violence or incarceration,” she said. “So for us we really wanted to take an approach in which we can prevent child abuse and neglect but we can also find a way to bring in our other partners so we can collectively increase child and family well-being.”
Children's Trust plans a summit later this year on the data to help communities develop their own plans of action to reduce adverse childhood experiences in their communities.
There have been some bright spots, officials say, in the battle against abuse and neglect.
The overall Kids Count ranking for South Carolina this year moved to its highest mark yet, 41st, with improvements especially in health, including a lower rate of child deaths. DSS has reported a number of improvements, including lower caseloads, reduced turnover and more caseworkers.
Williams said progress in the state is slow and will take a long time.
Sen. Tom Young, an Aiken Republican and chairman of the DSS oversight committee, said he believes the primary issue behind abuse and neglect is generational poverty.
“The states that annually rank high in that report from Kids Count are states that have an educated work force, more students graduating from high school on time and higher paying jobs than South Carolina,” he said. “Many problems we face in the state in this area are the result of generational poverty. The big picture is that improving the overall educational attainment of our state's citizens is critical to address issues related to abuse and neglect but also other problems that stem from generational poverty in South Carolina.”
Former assistant state attorney: Elderly, child abuse cases were being ignored
State attorney said office was 'on top' of cases
by Jim Piggott
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Before resigning, a former assistant state attorney said he and another employee informed his supervisors that elderly and child abuse cases were being ignored.
Doug Dorsey told News4Jax that he resigned from his 16-year career as a prosecutor on May 9 because he was being pressured by staff to campaign for his boss State Attorney Angela Corey's re-election.
The state attorney's office denied the accusation.
But when Dorsey spoke with News4Jax Thursday, he also referenced a number of cases of elderly abuse that he says were being ignored.
"This is a battle with the situation of elderly abuse and child abuse cases and the mismanagement of those cases were my primary concern. And it wasn't just my concern," Dorsey said.
Dorsey said he and the other employee first told his supervisor when a victims' advocate, who works for the state attorney's office, found the files that appeared to be ignored or forgotten.
"She had a found a bunch of cases that go back to 2012 and they involve the elderly abuse victims, and they were just siting in a box. And she was pretty devastated about it," Dorsey said.
Dorsey said a number of emails inquiring about those cases were sent to supervisors.
"Reports blew my mind. There were some unbelievable allegations in the reports. And I wondered how this could've been going on since 2013, 2014. I just want to make sure someone was looking into the stuff," Dorsey said.
News4Jax has made a public records request for those files to see exactly what cases are involved and the status of those investigations. News4Jax also contacted the Department of Children and Families and Adult Protection Services to see if those agencies were aware of the status of the cases.
Corey spoke with News4Jax about those files and notifications. She said the minute she learned about them, she held meetings to get on top of it.
"I don't know specifically what Mr. Dorsey was referring to. I did not have a conversation with him. I brought in everybody I knew that had a concern about it and they told me they were basically notifications. And I believe our staff were satisfied that we were on top of the ones to which he was referring and we were better able to stay on top of things that come in the future," Corey said.
Dorsey said when he was trying to follow up and meet with executive staff about the situation several months ago, he was threatened with his job.
"Instead, we got stonewalled. It blew my mind and (I) got called into a meeting, where I was told if I push this issue any further, if she pushes the issue any further, it's going to bring me down. And then I was told they we're going to circle the wagons if necessary. Those were their words," Dorsey said. "And I walked back, I left that meeting and said, 'Do you really think you're going to threaten me? There's no way.'"
News4Jax has not yet received the requested files. Corey said they are making changes in the way the notifications are handled and it will all be electronic and other meetings are set for the future.
Thursday, Patricia Dodson, managing director at the state attorney's office, said Dorsey's work performance was being investigated. She said he would miss work and court dates.
Dorsey denies those charges.
Sioux City Diocese asks for information on children victimized by deceased priest
by Ian Richardson
SIOUX CITY | After more than 55 years, a new sexual abuse allegation is casting a shadow on the career of a now-deceased priest who served in the Sioux City Diocese during the 1960s.
The Rev. Peter Murphy, who served at eight parishes throughout Northwestern Iowa in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, has been accused of raping and sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy while he was a temporary assistant at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Sioux City in 1960.
In early June, the diocese published an article in the Catholic Globe newspaper explaining it had received information that Murphy had committed sexually abusive acts against a minor that year.
The article requested anyone with information of sexual abuse against minors by Murphy contact the diocese or the Mercy Child Advocacy Center. Notices have also been distributed to the parishes where Murphy worked.
"By putting that into the Catholic Globe about Father Peter Murphy and in parish bulletins where he served, we are searching for information if there are other potential abuse victims out there," said Sioux City Diocese spokeswoman Kristie Arlt.
Arlt said anyone who has allegations of a current or past abuse will be connected with professional help. She said the diocese has a partnership with the Mercy Child Advocacy Center in Sioux City, a comprehensive program that serves victims of child abuse.
"Our goal is to be transparent and to help any victims that might come forward," Arlt said.
According to the Globe article, Murphy was ordained in 1955. Along with Blessed Sacrament Parish, Murphy served at St. Mary Church in Danbury, Iowa; Assumption Parish in Emmetsburg, Iowa; Sacred Heart Parish in Fort Dodge, Iowa; St. Michael Parish in Whittemore, Iowa; St. Joseph Parish in Bode, Iowa; St. Rose of Lima Parish in Denison, Iowa; and Sacred Heart Parish in Spencer, Iowa.
Arlt said Murphy moved around frequently and served in Sioux City for a brief time due to a chronic illness. He died in 1980.
Tim Lennon, who grew up in Sioux City and now lives in San Francisco, came forward publicly earlier this year about his abuse. Lennon, now 69, said he was violently raped and sexually abused by Murphy while Lennon served as an altar boy at Blessed Sacrament at age 12. He said memories of his abuse did not surface until the 1990s, and memories of his rape did not return until 2010.
"When I was 12, I basically froze," he said. "It took me 50-some years to challenge and fight back."
Lennon said he first wrote to the diocese in 1996 and received what he described as a "dismissive" reply informing him that Murphy was dead. He again contacted the chancellor in 2010, but he said he did not have the emotional strength to confront the church until 2016, when he arranged a personal meeting with Bishop R. Walter Nickless.
Lennon said earlier this year, he put notices in the papers in Fort Dodge and two smaller towns in the areas Murphy had served, asking for information about Murphy around 1959. He said he received six responses, four of which detailed activity that was abusive or sexual in nature.
Lennon said he now knows Murphy abused other children prior to coming to Sioux City. He alleges that it was discovery of abuse, not chronic illness, that caused Murphy to leave Sioux City.
So far, Arlt said, Lennon's is the only allegation against Murphy the diocese has received.
Sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests has been a worldwide issue that the church, including the Diocese of Sioux City, has taken steps toward correcting and preventing in recent years.
In 2004, the Sioux City Diocese stated it had received 33 allegations of sexual abuse of a minor against 10 priests over the past 53 years. None of those priests, the diocese said, were in public ministry, and six had died. At the time, the priests represented 1.8 percent of the 545 priests and deacons who had served in the diocese.
According to diocese data, between 2002 and 2010, the year the last lawsuit was filed, the diocese has reached settlements with 46 people who said they had been sexually abused, most of whom did not file suit. Of those settlements, 32 were against a single priest.
In all, settlements have resulted in $4.1 million of payouts, which were funded either by the diocese, its insurance company or the priest who committed the abuse.
Arlt said the diocese has also reimbursed or paid therapy costs in many of the cases.
“I've worked with Bishop Nickless for nine years, and he is extremely compassionate to these victims,” she said. “It is priority No. 1 to keep these people safe and help these victims that have been victimized in years past.”
Arlt said the diocese has for the past few years considered making a list of the known abusers' names public in the future, something 30 of the dioceses in the United States have done to date. She could not confirm how many names would be on that list if it were released.
Lennon said this is something he would like to see done, especially so parishioners know whether any of the living priests have re-entered the public ministry.
"What I would like to know is, are they still living, or are they still in ministry?” he said.
Arlt said the Catholic Church and the Sioux City Diocese have taken conscious steps toward preventing future child abuse, as well. In response to the Charter for the Protection of Children as adopted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas in June 2002, the diocese instituted VIRTUS, a nationally recognized program designed to create a safe environment for all children.
The diocese's program enforces a strict code of conduct for all clergy, parish and school employees and volunteers to adhere to, comprehensive background checks, and an education program to teach how to recognize and report sexual abuse and abusers.
Lennon, who now works with the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said he hopes his story will lead to a continued increase of transparency and reporting within the Catholic church and with local authorities. He also hopes it will strengthen other victims to know they are not alone.
"There's a lot of people who think they're alone who think they're the only ones, that it's too bleak and it will never get better," he said.
Last month, after Lennon started sharing his story publicly, he said others also began sharing their stories in response.
“I've been contacted by six to eight people,” he said. "People are telling stories, some from Blessed Sacrament, some from Sioux City, so doing the news is important in helping survivors."
Catholic parishes where the Rev. Peter Murphy served
St. Mary Church, Danbury
Assumption Parish, Emmetsburg
Sacred Heart Parish, Fort Dodge
St. Michael Parish, Whittemore
Blessed Sacrament Parish, Sioux City
St. Joseph Parish, Bode
St. Rose of Lima Parish, Denison
Sacred Heart Parish, Spencer
Who to contact
If you have information concerning any sexual misconduct against minors by the Rev. Peter Murphy, call Mercy Child Advocacy Center at 866-435-4397, or the diocese at 712-279-5610.
If you would like to contact Tim Lennon with the Survivor Network of those Accused by Priests, email tlennon@SNAPnetwork.org, or call 415-312-5820.
4 Lies Your Unloving Mother Told You (and You Probably Believed)
by Peg Streep
I've written about verbal abuse and how culturally we tend to downplay the impact of hurtful words mothers (and fathers) utter before but I think it's worth revisiting from a different perspective, concerned less with the words themselves but the conclusions drawn from statements mothers make. Because mothers get a pass in our culture unless they physically damage their children, unloving mothers aren't held accountable for their words as long as the kids are fed, clothed, and have a roof over their heads. But even an orphanage provides those services, doesn't it?
What about the lessons the unloving mother teaches about the world and how it works? I would ask you to consider how it took multiple teen suicides for the culture to pay attention to bullying, rather than see it as a childhood rite of passage which was unpleasant but “normal.” The mythologies which surround motherhood—that mothering is instinctual, that all mothers love, that maternal love is always unconditional—effectively prevent us from having a real discussion about how many children actually don't have their emotional needs met during childhood and are wounded in the process. We don't begin to address the emotional damage inflicted by words which disparage or humiliate a child and make her feel inadequate, unlovable and unworthy—even though science knows that words wound as surely and perhaps even more lastingly than physical blows. Verbal aggression literally changes the structure of the developing brain.
Parents rule the small world in which a daughter goes from infancy to childhood; its parameters are dictated by the parents who decide whom the child will come into contact with and how far away from the four walls she'll go and when. Not only is the daughter hardwired to need and rely on her mother's love, guidance and support but she will internalize the lessons learned at home as “truths” about how relationships work in the larger world.
I've come up with a list of these so-called “truths”—some of which I actually remember from my own childhood—and the harm they cause to the daughter's psyche.
1. Love is earned.
The daughters of unloving mothers describe the strategies they used to somehow wrest love from their mothers—bringing home good grades, doing extra chores and helping out, being careful not to displease them in any way—only to fall short. They drew the only conclusion they could about what love is and how you get it: That it's earned through some magic formula that lies beyond their reach, never given freely, and that they are somehow deficient, not worthy enough to warrant that love. Only children feel this way but so do daughters who grow up with siblings who somehow are worthy of the mother's attention. These daughters often grow up to be adults distrustful of those who seem to able to love without condition; while the love proffered should fill them with joy, it fills them with anxiety instead, as they wait for the other shoe to drop
2. There are bad children (and you're one of them).
All children make mistakes—possessions get lost and broken, rules disobeyed, things go wrong—but the unloving mother attributes mistakes to her child's essential character, not her behavior. A vase is broken not because the outside was wet and it slipped through the daughter's fingers but because she's stupid, careless, or sloppy. Her new red sweater disappears from her locker and it's proof positive that she's worthless, ungrateful, and undeserving of every nice thing she owns. Every mishap is personalized and understood as a function of the daughter's worthlessness. These words are internalized and become a part of the daughter's self-critical voice, the unconscious chorus that tells her that she's less than and undeserving of happiness.
3. Children should be seen, not heard.
This slap-down not only articulates the mother's power but conveys the message that a daughter's very thoughts and feelings aren't worth listening to. This type of dismissal—sometimes articulated as “I don't care what you think” or “What you're feeling is wrong”—cuts to the quick because it makes the daughter mistrust herself and her understanding of experience. Many daughters—and I count myself as having been one of them—know that something's not right and they worry that they're crazy or what they're hearing and thinking isn't somehow real. This kind of inner conflict—the very opposite of the validation a loving mother bestows upon her child—is highly destructive and because it gets internalized and becomes an unconscious default way of thinking about yourself, very hard to unlearn.
4.Big girls don't cry.
Shaming is the nastiest weapon in the unloving mother's armory and, alas, many chose to use it often and freely. Humiliating a child in this particular way—making her ashamed of her feelings and vulnerability—is a specific kind of abuse and a daughter may, in response, begin to cut herself off from her emotions so as to assure herself that she's indeed not just a big girl but a good one. Daughters who suffered from disordered eating or other self-destructive patterns such as cutting often report having had to drive their feelings “underground” in childhood to escape the mockery and humiliation by mothers and siblings alike.
The idea that some mothers might be tyrants runs counter to every myth we hold dear about motherhood and maternal love but that doesn't mean it isn't true.
Male Gilroy teacher accused of acting as female porn star online
by Jenna Lyons
A 25-year-old Gilroy High School teacher who posed as a teenage girl online to receive lewd images and videos from male students faces at least 20 charges in the case, prosecutors said.
Starting in June 2014 and lasting 18 months, at least nine teenage boys in Santa Clara County thought they were getting into an online relationship with a teenage girl named Rae Pelletier, police said.
The victims later found out they were exchanging lewd images and videos with Douglas Anton Le, a chemistry teacher who used the avatar of a porn star to lure the boys on the Facebook messenger app, prosecutors said.
Le was charged Monday with possession of matter depicting a minor engaging or simulating sexual conduct and annoying or molesting a child, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.
Le was also charged with nine counts of sending harmful matter to a minor and nine counts of communicating with a minor with the intent to commit the crime.
The communication lasted from June 2014 through at least January 2016, officials said. Using the pictures of an adult pornography star as his avatar, he misled students as he traded texts and explicit photographs and videos.
The students believed they were “involved in an online relationship with a female persona,” said Officer Albert Morales, a San Jose police spokesman.
Victims included students at Gilroy High School, where he taught chemistry, and several other Santa Clara County high schools, police said.
“This is a deeply-troubling example of why young people should be extremely wary of strangers that they decide to communicate with online,'' Deputy District Attorney Jaron Shipp said in a statement. “Not everybody has bad intentions. Some absolutely do.”
Facebook alerted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in April 2016 that “Rae Pelletier” may be having inappropriate communication with minors, officials said. An investigation opened that led to the execution of a search warrant at Le's home, where authorities seized several computers, hard drives, and other media.
A task force within the San Jose Police Department arrested Le at Gilroy High School on April 26, Morales said. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against Le and the Gilroy Unified School District since his arrest.
One suit, filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court, was on behalf of a victim who was 15-years old when the communication started. It alleges Le would give F's to students he also targeted online, then allow them to attend an after school “tutoring” session to boost their grades.
At the session, he would “verbally and sexually harass, intimidate and abuse the targeted students,” the suit states.
The suit also claims the high school and the school district had suspected the abuse and harassment before his arrest but did nothing to monitor him or further investigate.
Gilroy Unified School District did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Human trafficking can happen to any child
by David Feil
Former Winnipeg MP Joy Smith was met with a strong showing Sunday evening as about 100 people came to Rockpointe Church to hear what she had to say about human trafficking and its connection to large entertainment events, a subject that she championed throughout her career in parliament.
“My heart breaks over what is happening in this country, I could not believe how these young girls, and some boys, were bought and sold like cattle,” said Smith, who has worked with human trafficking survivors for 17 years following her work to get mandatory minimums for traffickers of minors under 18 added to the Criminal Code in 200. It was a process that she found frustrating at the time but, looking back, reflective of the public's awareness of the issue.
When she first tried to get a motion to study the problem in 2006, Smith was commonly told there was little interest in parliament to deal with human trafficking since it was not something that existed in a country like Canada, despite the fact that she had met and worked with women and girls who had been trafficked.
From her conversations, Smith found that many people drew a false equivalence between prostitution and human trafficking, believing that anyone in the sex trade did so by choice once they reached adulthood. This misconception was quickly rectified once Smith was able to get a committee together and started to bring in women who spoke about their experiences, eliciting tears from all the MPs who heard the stories of abuse, manipulation and enslavement the women experienced not in south-east Asia or eastern Europe but right here in Canada.
“Human trafficking happens in every community, you just don't see it,” said Smith.
She said 93 per cent of human trafficking victims in Canada are Canadian, with the average age of entry into prostitution being 12 years old. In the Calgary area, Smith knows of three underage girls, the youngest being 13, who were recently removed from their pimps with two going to schools in the area and one whose parents still do not know their daughter had been forced into the sex trade.
It is not limited to girls from broken homes or low incomes being targeted either, though they are prime targets, as one of Smith's fellow MPs had reached out to her asking how they could help their daughter out of the situation she had been forced into.
It can also happen right under a discerning parent's nose. There was one situation where a number of white, upper middle class girls had been targeted by three young men at a community centre who got involved in the sports and invited the girls to parties where they would get the girls unknowingly addicted to drugs then threaten to tell the her friends, family and school if they did not do as they were told.
As a result, many girls are pimped out following school or when parents think they are at a friend's place or participating in an extracurricular activity. The girls feel like they have no option but to do what they are told to the point where they eventually become distanced from their family.
Their moment and diet is even restricted by their pimp. This was highlighted by Smith when she relayed the story of a 14 year-old girl who had been locked in a hotel room for four months, able to look outside at happy families going to McDonald's while she waited for the next man needing servicing to arrive, unable to set foot outside her room in all that time.
This is also indicative of how the sex trade has evolved in recent years as the public was under the impression that prostitution was down because there are fewer street walkers, but it has mostly moved on to social media and allowed pimps to advertise the children and women they have enslaved without showing them in public, confining them to hotel rooms and apartments away from the public eye.
“This can happen to anyone It can be a straight A student or the nurse taking your blood or your daughter,” said a human trafficking survivor who spoke to those who came to learn more about human trafficking. “They make you feel special and important, distance you from your family and use you until you can't.”
The most common means of grooming an unsuspecting girl into prostitution is a charming man that wines and dines a girl until he can use her love or reliance on him to pay for sudden bills or repay him for what she thought were gifts. The speaker's own situation, though, was different. She was drawn to Alberta because of how much everyone was making with the economic boom. After responding to an ad saying she could make thousands a week, things gradually went from glamourous to questionable to terrifying as the women who acted like a mother to her gradually started using that relationship to her advantage.
“She knew the vulnerable position I was in,” the speaker said, remembering how they would have expensive dinners, go shopping and do drugs before eventually being given to men looking for young girls. Even though she was 19, the speaker had a young look about her that enabled to pass off as 18 and led to her being kept very busy entertaining men, many of whom would tell her it was OK if she was really 16 rather than 18.
Eventually she was moved to Vancouver for better opportunities and she ended up working in massage parlors, as an escort and in adult film, a move she had thought would be her way out of the sex trade. However, work started to dry up and the woman she thought was a friend told her they would be going to Calgary for the Stampede because the working girls needed help to deal with the influx of people looking for a good time.
“I remember hundreds of men gawking and asking how much,” she said.
She said they had been placed in a dirty apartment that they were locked in by two men and she had her ID taken from her before being made to street walk around the Stampede grounds. “I was so ashamed and terrified and I was with a friend who was acting like it was all OK.”
Fortunately she remembered the number of a friend in Calgary who was able to make a false booking that got her away from her groomers and out of the sex trade.
“It makes me sick every year when Stampede comes around,” she said, noting that she got off very easy compared to the hundreds of thousands of girls, boys and women who are coerced, abused and broken to service the perverse pleasures of men and women looking for a good time.
“It's time we talked about [human trafficking] because education is our strongest weapon. It takes a nation to stop this horrendous crime,” said Smith, noting that girls can be bought for $280,000 from a groomer to be forced into a criminal industry that makes $150 billion a year globally from ensnaring people who are naive and easily threatened.
For Smith, the first step has been to create tougher laws around human trafficking in Canada but today she runs the Joy Smith Foundation to work with major entertainment events, whether it be sports or music, in order to create awareness, outreach and meetings aimed at eliminating the sex trade from major events like the Grey Cup, NHL playoffs and any other happening that draws huge crowds.
“It happens because men and women are away from home and they want a good time,” said Smith. “We have to say this is not what we stand for in Canada.”
Those who would like to take part in local initiatives as they are organized can sign up for notifications at: www.joysmithfoundation.com
Pa. Senate approves controversial change in child-abuse law
by Maria Panaritis and Angela Couloumbis
HARRISBURG — In a victory for the Catholic Church, the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed a bill today that bars child sex abuse victims from suing their attackers and private institutions for incidents dating back to the 1970s.
In a 49-0 vote, the Republican-led chamber approved a change to the current statute of limitations so that future criminal cases may be brought at any time. But it blocks the filing of civil lawsuits for people abused as children decades ago — a controversial provision that had been approved by the House.
The Senate bill maintained House language permitting victims up to age 50 to bring civil actions against attackers and institutions — up from age 30, as allowed by current law. An amendment backed by Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati and approved two days ago, however, stripped House language that would have made that change retroactive.
Opponents of the measure had said it would harm the Catholic Church by exposing it to liability for actions taken by bishops or priests decades ago, potentially forcing costly payouts that would harm parishes and dioceses.
Advocates had sought the change as a way of delivering justice to victims, many of whom had been unable to either prosecute or sue years ago under what were, at the time, far more restrictive state laws on the statute of limitations for child sex abuse.
Overhauling PA's child sex crimes law: A rundown of what the law does and doesn't do
by Ivy DeJesus
The prosecution of child sex crimes would change dramatically under a bill poised to go to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk.
The Senate on Thursday voted 49-0 to approve a bill that amends the statute of limitations — the time limits that govern when victims of sex abuse can bring legal action against perpetrators.
Pennsylvania joined the ranks of more than three dozen states that have overhauled child sex crime laws in wake of child sex abuse scandals, but House Bill 1947 leaves a gaping void for victims.
House Bill 1947 — which passed the House in April by a vote of 180-15 — amends Title 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) to eliminate or extend statutes of limitation in criminal and civil cases involving child sexual abuse.
Here is a rundown of what the bill would and would not do:
The bill eliminates the criminal statute of limitations on most child sex crimes.
The bill would allow an individual to file a civil action against institutions and organizations based on child sexual abuse until that individual reaches the age of 50. (Currently it cuts off at 30).
The bill eliminates time limits on when victims can file a civil action against certain individual defendants. Those individual defendants include: the perpetrator; any individual who conspired with the perpetrator of child sexual abuse; any individual who knew of child sexual abuse but failed to report the abuse to law enforcement or a child protective services agency.
The bill eliminates the criminal statute of limitations for a conspiracy or solicitation that facilitates the offenses.
The bill lowers the standard for actions against governmental defendants from "gross negligence" to "negligence.'
The bill does not revive time-barred civil actions.
The bill was returned on Thursday to the House for a concurrence vote. If it receives that approval and is signed into law by the governor, it would take effect 60 days after ratification.
Severe child abuse investigations in Berkeley County continue to increase
Safe Haven Child Advocacy Center served nearly 200 new children in 2015
by Nick Munson
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Child abuse continues to be a growing problem in the four-state area – and in Berkeley County, the numbers keep going up.
There were 99 severe child abuse investigations in Berkeley County in 2011 – last year, there were 138. Between 2014 and 2015, they jumped by 27 percent.
But advocates at the Safe Haven Center in Martinsburg said it doesn't have to be that way.
“Child abuse is completely preventable,” said Amber Gomes, coordinator at the Safe Haven Child Advocacy Center.
She said in most situations, a caregiver with a watchful eye is enough to prevent these cases from happening in the first place. When it isn't enough, the children can come to the Child Advocacy Center – where the goal is to have a child-friendly atmosphere, which feels less like an interrogation.
In the past year, nearly 200 new children walked into the Safe Haven Center to speak with trained forensic interviewers. 68 percent of them disclosed that they were abused, and of that number, 89 of them reported that they were sexually abused.
Sgt. Will Garrett with West Virginia State Police has had his share of high-profile sexual abuse cases recently – two of which involve a Jefferson High School teacher (Joel Ziler) and a county commissioner (Eric Bell).
“When you have people in a position of trust, such as a teacher or a doctor, the lack of any kind of personal boundaries tends to be a big factor in what happens,” Garrett said.
Another factor is the internet and social media, which can make possible victims more vulnerable.
“Be involved in your kids' lives, and know what's going on,” Garrett added, “especially when it comes to the internet exploitation.”
“It can be really hard to hear and see repeated accounts of child abuse day after day. But the really wonderful part is that children are so resilient,” Gomes said. So on top of seeing them go through these really traumatic situations, we also have the unique opportunity to see them bounce back and recover – which is very, very special.”
Former students share harrowing stories of life inside Alabama's worst religious private school
by Anna Claire Vollers
Lucas Greenfield was prepared to scale the razor-wire topped fence surrounding Restoration Youth Academy if it meant his freedom.
While an instructor was busy, Greenfield seized his chance. He was nearly out the door when another student ratted him out.
His punishment for the attempted escape was "isolation," an empty 8x8 room lit by a lone bulb that burned overhead day and night.
He was clad only in his underwear. That was the rule. Instructors let him out, briefly, twice a day to use the bathroom. Sometimes he got to take a shower. Mostly he just sat or slept.
Greenfield, then 14, spent two months in isolation.
"When you're inside a tiny room where all you can see is four walls," he said, "you start – I won't say hallucinating, but you start going crazy."
His thoughts ran in dark circles: "What's the best way to kill myself? Is there any way out of this? This is ridiculous. I hope I die."
Restoration Youth Academy was a Christian bootcamp-style residential school for troubled youth, squatting in one of the grittiest neighborhoods in Prichard, the worn-down working-class city on Mobile's north side. Owner and Pastor John David Young and instructor William Knott tightly controlled how the "cadets" – boys and girls ages 10-17 – ate, slept, learned and exercised.
Despite multiple investigations by the Mobile County district attorney's office and the Alabama Department of Human Resources, and despite complaints of abuse from some students – vehemently denied by Knott and Young – it took officials five years to close down the school.
"This kind of program should not be allowed to exist," said Greenfield, who finally made it out when police showed up in 2015. "All because you put a cross on top of a building and call it a Christian program, we're supposed to overlook all that happens in those places?"
Young shuttered the Prichard school in 2012, after being ordered to pay $27,000 in back rent to the city.
Within weeks he reopened in Mobile, renaming the school Saving Youth Foundation and Solid Rock Ministries.
Police raided that school in March 2015, and the Alabama Department of Human Resources removed 36 children following allegations of child abuse and deplorable living conditions.
Five months later, Knott and Young, along with school counselor Aleshia Moffett, were arrested on multiple counts of aggravated child abuse. They'll be tried together beginning Oct. 17, 2016.
Keith Blackwood, Mobile County assistant district attorney, declined to speak in detail about the case, other than to explain that arrests came after police conducted "an extensive investigation" into abuse allegations. Young's defense attorney, Marcus Foxx, declined to comment. Attorneys for Knott and Moffett did not return calls or emails from AL.com.
The case has become a glaring example of how it's possible to exploit the loophole in Alabama law that allows church schools to operate without regulation or oversight. As the trial looms, several former students of Restoration Youth Academy and Saving Youth Foundation have given AL.com extensive accounts of abuse they say was rampant.
"I just wanted one person to understand what happened to me," said Angelina Randazzo, who spent 18 months at the school in Prichard. "But there was no hope and nobody listened, nobody listened."
One of the first people who did listen was Capt. Charles Kennedy, an officer with the Prichard police department, now retired. His initial encounter with the Restoration Youth Academy was in October 2011, when a parent called police, concerned her son was being mistreated at the school. She asked if an officer would do a check to see that he was safe.
Her son, despite appearing terrified, told Kennedy a nearly unbelievable story of beatings, verbal bullying and being exercised to the point of exhaustion. The boy's mother came to get him.
After that, Kennedy began visiting the compound whenever he could, talking to the kids there and chatting with the instructors. The kids – when instructors weren't around – told him similar stories of physical and mental abuse.
On one visit, he was in Knott's office and saw, on a video monitor, a naked boy crouched in one of the isolation rooms. Knott and Young assured Kennedy that he was only in isolation for a couple of days, to correct his behavior.
"I said, 'Can he get some clothes?'" Kennedy said. "The next day I went back because I was concerned about him." The boy was still in the room. Someone had given him underwear.
Knott and Young said the boy had threatened to commit suicide and had mental problems. Kennedy said he told them they needed to contact the Mobile County Mental Health department and the boy's parents.
"I went back the next day and he's still in there," said Kennedy.
The boy's name was Richard Austin Schuler. He was 14. He'd been sent to the school by his father and grandmother after his mother died, according to his other grandmother, Frances Henderson.
When Kennedy asked to speak with him, Schuler said he hadn't been allowed to attend his mother's funeral and the staff had made fun of him.
Kennedy and Henderson both said Schuler told them about one of the instructors handing him an automatic pistol and suggesting that he kill himself.
Schuler is 19 now and lives with Henderson and her husband. He has trouble controlling his anger and will disappear for days at a time, she said. He never finished school and does not have a job. Henderson said he rarely speaks to her.
"Austin will never be the same," said Henderson. "They took his life away from him. I think now he just tries to forget what happened."
The church school loophole
An investigation of Restoration Youth Academy in 2012 by the Mobile Press-Register found that multiple school employees had criminal records . Prior to joining the academy in Prichard, Knott was a drill instructor at a similar troubled-teen boot camp in Lucedale, Mississippi, that was plagued with lawsuits and allegations of abuse and torture. It was eventually closed.
Restoration Youth Academy and Saving Youth Foundation were affiliated with churches pastored by Young. As church schools, they were exempt from state regulation or oversight. The state kept no records on them. State law didn't require they file any registration papers to show that they existed.
Alabama law (Code of Alabama 16-1-11.1) says state regulation of any religiously affiliated school would be an unconstitutional burden on religious activities and directly violate the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment. State law also says the state has no compelling interest to burden nonpublic schools with licensing or regulation.
While Alabama does have a few basic reporting requirements for private schools, it exempts those that are church schools in every instance. Teachers do not have to undergo background checks and schools do not have to be inspected. While many church-affiliated schools do choose to pursue licensing or accreditation by outside agencies, it's not a mandate in Alabama.
Now retired from a 44-year career as a police officer, he has made it his mission to prevent schools like Restoration Youth Academy from operating with no oversight. The 72-year-old spends his time gathering data and contacting state and federal lawmakers, advocacy groups, law enforcement and anyone else he thinks could help change state law.
"This is not a church versus state issue," he said. "The state has the right to tell these people that they can't hurt kids. They're causing these children lifelong damage and we allow it."
He said, "If I get these children declared as domestic animals, I could get them protection I can't get them as human beings," said Kennedy.
'Pray nobody got killed'
All of the students interviewed told of boxing matches at the school. Knott or one of the other drill instructors would frequently force two cadets to box each other, sometimes in the middle of the night.
Students said the fights were often mismatched by design, pitting a small boy against a much larger boy. Neither had the option to refuse.
"They'd have the bigger kid beat the [expletive] out of the other kid," said Greenfield, the boy who spent two months in isolation. "They'd make us form a big circle. You can't get out and you can't get back in.
"They would always have somebody, normally me, pray before we'd have the boxing match. Will (Knott) told me to pray nobody got killed. I was like, really? You're the one making them fight.
"So I would never say 'die' in the prayer; I'd pray nobody gets severely bashed up."
Physical abuse from Knott, Young, Moffett and other instructors was common at the schools, according to Greenfield and others.
"Basically everything revolved around a beating," said Angelina Randazzo, who was sent to the Prichard school when she was 14. "They made people kneel on rocks to cut up their knees. Made people be out in the sun all day, out in the mud, didn't give anybody water. I've gotten shoes thrown at me, hit in the face, thrown at a wall."
Greenfield bears scars on the backs of his ankles he said are from being forced to wear shackles.
"They would handcuff and shackle us, kids who were at risk of running away or harming another person, and make us wear it all day," he said. "They handcuffed this one kid to his bed."
Destani Pakrovsky remembered the shackles, too. She was sent to the academy when she was 13.
"There was a 10-year-old girl, she'd have to wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning and get (physical therapy) three or four hours before school. They made her wear shackles the entire time she was there," said Pakrovsky, now 19. "They'd give her the top bunk and yell and laugh at her if she wasn't getting in it fast enough. She was overweight and they'd make fun of her for it. It was really hard to watch."
Turning a blind eye
In the absence of concrete evidence of abuse at the schools, investigators were left with the students' word against the instructors'. The students were "troubled teens" and many had strained relationships with their parents or guardians. Students interviewed by AL.com said if they tried to tell anyone about mistreatment at the school, the instructors would call them liars.
In 2012 Knott told the Press-Register that complaints of abuse were inevitable when dealing with troubled youth: "They are going to say anything they can to get away from here."
"It's crazy that all the cops are hearing basically the same story from all these kids and these people got away with it because they used the troubled teen excuse," said Randazzo. "No one was successful in trying to get justice ... They just said 'they're troubled teens, trying to manipulate.'"
Many students were from out of state. The students who spoke with AL.com said their parents and guardians found the schools through online searches.
"These people recruit children from out of state," said Kennedy. The motivation, he said, is to keep parents in the dark and out of easy reach. A parent who suspected abuse by instructors would have to be willing to make trips to Alabama to try to find out the truth and to pursue any criminal complaint or civil claim. For all practical purposes, said Kennedy, "Their chance of being prosecuted is zero."
Once Kennedy began visiting the compound and collecting statements from students alleging abuse, he contacted various agencies about the alleged abuse. According to Kennedy, the Prichard police, the district attorney's office and the Department of Human Resources all investigated the academy when it was in Prichard, but concluded there was no evidence of abuse or neglect. In 2012, Knott showed the Press-Register two letters from DHR that indicated the school had been investigated and cleared.
"All of these responsible people should have stepped forward to say 'What is happening here?' And they did nothing," he said. "They knew the evil going on out there and yet they turned a blind eye."
Pakrovsky recalled a time when a local TV news crew came to do a story on the school. "An hour before they came, Will (Knott)had us practice the whole routine like we were really disciplined," she said. The routine involved standing and moving about in perfect lines.
During the holidays, when some students' parents would visit, "(School leaders) would completely change the way everything worked," she said. "Down to the tiniest detail they would change everything. And we had a little bit of freedom so it looked like we were having the greatest time."
Mental and emotional abuse
According to Restoration Youth Academy's website, each child received "weekly counseling with a licensed certified counselor on a regular basis." The Press-Register's 2012 investigation found that the school's counselor, Aleshia Moffett, was not on record at any of the four Alabama agencies that license counselors of at-risk youth, nor did she have credentials from the National Board for Certified Counselors.
"She used everything you told her in confidence to embarrass you," said Randazzo, who said she had to meet with Moffett regularly. "She made me stand up in front of everybody and made them scream at me, call me a slut.
"She had other staff members call me names and basically treat me like [expletive] thinking it would teach me a lesson.
"Not only did they try to embarrass and hurt these kids with their own insecurities," said Randazzo, "but they made sure everybody laughed and threw stuff at them. If you cried, it was over. You were going to get beat up and thrown in the (isolation) room."
Pakrovsky, meanwhile, said the restrooms had no toilet paper, which meant students had to ask instructors for it. She remembered one 10-year-old boy who started to smell bad and the instructors made fun of him. He smelled, she said, because he wasn't cleaning himself after using the toilet. He was too scared to ask for the toilet paper.
Pakrovsky said she avoided most of the physical abuse at the school by always doing what she was told. But the mental and emotional abuse was impossible to escape, she said.
"I lost my personality. At one point I just stopped talking unless it was absolutely necessary," she said. "It was like the last few months I was there, I was just a blank person. I didn't have anything going through my mind. It was like a survival thing."
She remembers the instructors playing mind games with the students, ordering them to do something and later asking them why it hadn't been done.
"A lot of it was emotional abuse," she said. "They would make us question whether we were sane or not."
The educational component of Restoration Youth Academy and Saving Youth Foundation involved the students sitting at desks and filling out workbooks from the ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) curriculum, a self-instructional Bible-based program.
"No teacher taught you a lesson," said Randazzo. "You had to teach yourself."
There was one facilitator, who Randazzo and Pakrovsky remember as being kind, who was responsible for helping all of the students in every grade level.
Pakrovsky said she once told her mother over the phone that she didn't think she was learning anything at the school. Moffett grabbed the phone from her, she said, told her mother she was lying and then told Pakrovsky what to say to her instead.
Because neither Restoration Youth Academy nor Saving Youth Foundation were accredited, they could not issue diplomas that would be recognized by any of the state's two- or four-year colleges. Students transferring into public K-12 schools would have to rely on the discretion of school officials for grade placement because the boot camp's unaccredited ACE credits would not transfer.
After Greenfield left the academy, he was sent to live in Florida. Based on his age, he should have been in 10 th grade but his Florida school placed him in seventh grade based on his educational ability.
Randazzo spent 18 months at the academy before running away when she was 16. When she and another girl saw a staff member occupied with another student, they ran out the door and climbed over the fence.
They spent four or five days on the streets in Prichard.
She was eventually picked up by the police and returned to her parents' home, where her relationship with them deteriorated further. She used drugs heavily, including heroin, and drug addiction led her into prostitution.
"I wanted to take my own life," she said. "This place left such an emotional scar on me to the point I wanted to take my own soul because this place took my soul."
She was diagnosed with depression and PTSD, and spent time in and out of rehab centers until she was 18. Now 19, has been clean and sober for a while and is working to put her life back together, she said.
Greenfield, now 17, has found a support system in another state after spending the majority of his teen years in religious boot camps and foster programs in Alabama and Florida. He's finishing school now and has post-graduation plans.
Pakrovsky, now 19 and a college student, hopes to get the chance to give her testimony at the October trial of Knott, Young and Moffett.
"It really bothers me that I didn't stand up for myself while I was there," said Pakrovsky, "and this is my last chance to do it."
Randazzo hopes sharing her experience could make a difference for someone else.
"A lot of us, we still feel like we're in a mental jail from there. We can't escape it, we haven't healed from it. A lot of us got arrested, put in rehab, were out on the streets because nobody wanted us anymore and everybody thought we were crazy. A lot of us didn't make it to freedom."
Child Abuse or Witnessing Parental Violence Tied to Later Substance Abuse
by Traci Pedersen
Children who are the victims of sexual and/or physical abuse or who witness chronic parental violence are far more at risk of becoming substance abusers as adults, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Toronto.
“We found that both direct (physical and sexual abuse) and indirect (witnessing parental domestic violence) forms of childhood victimization are associated with substance abuse,” said lead author, Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair at the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and Institute for Life Course & Aging.
The findings show that one in five drug-dependent adults and one in six alcohol-dependent adults experienced childhood sexual abuse, compared to one in 19 in the general Canadian population. One in seven adults with drug or alcohol dependence had been exposed to chronic parental domestic violence, compared to one in 25 in the general population.
According to the study, parental violence was considered “chronic” if it occurred 11 or more times before the child turned 16.
“We were surprised that chronic parental domestic violence exposure remained significantly associated with both drug and alcohol dependence, even when we adjusted for childhood maltreatment, depression and most of the known risk factors for substance dependency,” said Fuller-Thomson.
“In fact, the odds of alcohol dependency among those who witnessed their parents' chronic domestic violence were about 50 percent higher than those without that exposure, and these odds were similar in magnitude to that of childhood sexual abuse.”
More research is needed to understand the pathways through which witnessing chronic parental violence and childhood maltreatment may increase the prevalence of drug and alcohol dependence across the life course.
Fuller-Thomson suggests that “the chronic chaotic and violent home environment may have predisposed individuals to turn to alcohol or drugs as a way of coping.”
For the study, researchers analyzed data from a representative sample of 21,544 adult Canadians drawn from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health components. At some point in their lifetime, 628 of these respondents had been dependent upon drugs and 849 had been dependent upon alcohol.
“Our findings underline the importance of preventing childhood abuse and domestic violence. In addition, social workers and other health professionals must continue to support survivors of these childhood adversities across the lifespan, with particular attention to substance abuse and dependence issues, added co-author Jessica Roane.
Other significant predictors of both alcohol and drug dependence include lower levels of education, poverty, being male, being single as opposed to married, and a history of depression and/or anxiety disorders.
The findings are published online in the journal Substance Use and Misuse .
Mass. Gen. Hospital takes global lead with Human Trafficking Initiative
by Mary McCleary
Although often under-reported, human trafficking is a serious public health problem. Nearly 21 million people worldwide are victims of forced labor and sexual exploitation. In the U.S., the problem persists under the guise of labor trafficking, domestic servitude, and sex slavery. Survivors of other forms of human trafficking, such as child soldiering and organ trafficking, also come to the U.S. as either immigrants or asylum seekers. To address the growing phenomenon, the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) founded the Human Trafficking Initiative in 2008. It also launched the MGH Freedom Clinic, a ground-breaking program that provides comprehensive treatment for traumatized victims and survivors.
Dr. Wendy Macias-Konstantopoulos teaches emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School, and was instrumental in founding the MGH Human Trafficking Initiative. The program is housed in the MGH Emergency Department's Division of Global Health & Human Rights. The ever-busy physician wears several hats as Director of the MGH Human Trafficking Initiative, as well as Chief Medical and Executive Director of the MGH Freedom Clinic, its cornerstone program.
Although born in the U.S., Macias-Konstantopoulos spent many years of her youth living abroad. During her travels, she witnessed widespread exploitation and disparity among the populations of developing nations. Moved by the experience, she resolved to promote social justice and help the less fortunate.
Macias-Konstantopoulos decided to pursue emergency medicine because of its proximity to real-world situations while treating diverse cross-sections of society. “In the emergency room, you see a Fortune 500 CEO in one room, and two doors down, you see a homeless person struggling with addiction,” she said. “We treat all patients, irrespective of their backgrounds.”
During her residency training, Macias-Konstantopoulos also pursued studies in humanitarian crises, and was able to work in Indonesia at a hospital clinic for human trafficking survivors. The medical clinic also functioned as a safe house for those who had nowhere else to go. The hospital and safe house were closely affiliated so affected people could receive medical help. The experience demonstrated how important medical attention is for victims, since their health is seriously neglected while they are being exploited. As a result, Macias-Konstantopoulos decided to make caring for vulnerable, underserved populations a central focus of her medical practice.
“Clearly, similar types of abuse were occurring here in the United States, but we just didn't know what to call it,” she explained. “We used to call a sex-trafficked adolescent a ‘teenage prostitute', but now we understand and recognize that there is always an adult behind the scenes manipulating the child. It is not the child who wakes up one day and suddenly decides to engage in that line of work.”
Macias-Konstantopoulos noted that although Massachusetts was one of the last states to enact human trafficking legislation, its careful approach had the benefit of observing what worked in other states. Consequently, legislators passed comprehensive laws that recognize that youths are trafficking victims, and hence should not be put in jail.
With her background and experience, Macias-Konstantopoulos was well positioned to help launch the Human Trafficking Initiative at Mass General Hospital. The project was designed with four specialized approaches to address and combat human trafficking. The first is to conduct local, national and global research. The second is the education and training of health care professionals. The third is to promote policy advocacy, and the fourth is to provide clinical care at the MGH Freedom Clinic.
The clinic provides free care for victims and survivors of any form of human trafficking, including labor, sex and organ trafficking, from the greater Boston area and beyond. The services are comprehensive for all patients aged 13 years and older. The clinic's concierge-like program offers free treatment for acute and chronic illnesses, injuries, annual physical exams, vaccinations, testing and treatment of infectious diseases, mental health services, and case management. It also refers patients to sub-specialists whenever necessary, including substance use treatment.
Macias-Konstantopoulos noted that prior to coming to the Freedom Clinic for their treatment, trafficking survivors received their care in parcels, based on episodic illness or injury. “We offer them holistic, comprehensive, and trauma-informed care. All our providers are dually-trained in internal medicine and pediatrics,” she elaborated. “We treat the physical health, mental health, and psycho-social needs of victims in parallel. Instead of short 15 minute appointments with their primary care doctors who barely know their names, we give them a full hour with their doctor. We are a mission-driven clinic and operate outside the traditional business model of care.”
The Freedom Clinic team consists of Macias-Konstantopoulos, four pediatricians who are the primary care doctors, a nurse practitioner, two psychologists, one psychiatrist, an access nurse, and a licensed social worker who specializes in complex trauma therapies. Additionally, the Mass General Hospital patient financial service program assists Freedom Clinic patients to obtain insurance for times when they need care outside the clinic. Often, victims have no idea how to navigate the health care system, since they have been overwhelmed by living their trauma or facing the long-term effects of their exploitation.
“The health care system has a crucial role to play in helping human trafficking victims,” Macias-Konstantopoulos observed. She added that health care providers are in a unique position to recognize exploitation, and that the Freedom Clinic is an important resource for the community. They receive patient referrals from law enforcement, judicial courts, homeless shelters, domestic violence organizations, social service organizations, and even other health care providers from various area hospitals. Since their services are completely free of charge, the Freedom Clinic relies on grants and philanthropic donations to meet their patients' needs. Macias-Konstantopoulos hopes that more people will learn about their mission, and be inspired to contribute their time, expertise, or money to help trafficking victims recover so they may engage safely and positively in society.
To donate to the Freedom Clinic, please contact: https://giving.massgeneral.org/donate/freedom-clinic/
If you would like more information about the Mass General Freedom Clinic or are interested in referring a client or patient to the clinic, please contact:
Leslie Carabello, Access Nurse/ Care Coordinator at MGH Freedom Clinic
Program aimed to create better dads, end cycle of child abuse
by Phil Anaya
Bexar County continues to struggle with child abuses cases. This week a man admitted to Bexar County sheriff's deputies that he threw his 2-month-old against a crib, causing head trauma.
Trying to end the cycle of child abuse starts with education, and a local shelter thinks it might have part of the solution.
The Children's Shelter has a 15-week program called “Compadre y Compadre.” It's for men looking to become better dads. About 80-85 percent are court-mandated to enroll in the program. Others join on their own.
On Tuesday night, a new class of dads proudly graduated.
They're dads or male caregivers of all ages and different backgrounds, and each one has a different story.
“I endangered my two children in the car, intoxicated. I almost killed them and myself,” said one dad before receiving his certification of completion.
The graduation is the end result of spending two hours per week together for 15 weeks. They learn three core values: empathy, nurturing, and understanding.
“As time went on, I understood there's certain things that I didn't know that I know now through this program,” said another father that graduated Tuesday.
“I had a child protective service case on me. It was something that stemmed from a little bit of a domestic violence dispute between me and my baby's mom,” Justin Crane said.
Currently, Crane is the proud father of a 1-year-old, but before that, he said he served time in jail and has struggled to make ends meet. Because of everything he's been through, on Tuesday night, he was overcome with emotion.
“I was just happy I had support for once in my life, because I've gone through a lot of adversity,” Crane said. “This course has made a huge impact in my life and in my decision making. And now that I know I can make a better difference in my son's life, I'm a lot more happy.”
The director of the Compadre y Compadre program believes that the course could make a dent in the battle against family violence and child abuse since it's all preventative. However, more people need to volunteer for the program, which is free and open to any dad, or male caregiver.
Click here to visit the official Compadre y Compadre website.
A place ‘to get ahead' of child abuse
by Stephanie Labaff
For 30 years CASTLE's Executive Director Theresa Garbarino May has been on a mission to create happy families.
She found the first hints of that calling while she was attending college in New York. She was barely 18-years-old, herself, when she began working with minors in medium- and high-security prisons. Some of them had committed murder and many would be there for life.
This made an enormous impact on May, and she couldn't help but wonder what had brought these young people to this place in their life.
"You know something tragic happened to them," she says. "The more I worked with them, the more inclined I was to want to do something different."
The seed had been planted. May earned her bachelor's degree in social work and criminal justice.
Then after visiting her father in Florida, she decided to leave behind the dreary, cold days of the North and embrace the Florida sunshine.
While going through the arduous job testing process that was required by the State of Florida, May began working for New Horizons.
"I ran their therapeutic foster care program, working with emotionally traumatized children and I thought, 'I need to get ahead of this and find a place where I feel like I'm making a difference for these poor kids,'" she recalls.
With each iteration of her work with children, she kept coming to that same conclusion.
It all finally clicked into place with a big question from a little girl.
May was walking the 7-year-old foster child through the courthouse to a hearing that would sever her biological mother's and father's parental rights.
That's when the girl asked her, "Didn't you teach my foster parents how to be parents? Then why can't you show my mom, too?"
So when someone from CASTLE asked May to join their team, it seemed she had finally found what she had been searching for: a place to "get ahead" of the problem.
"I was told the Center was for the prevention of child abuse. We were going to teach good parenting and keep those children from having to be removed from their home environment. That was very intriguing to me at that point in my life," she said.
"I was 25 years old, had graduated from graduate school with a master's in administration and nonprofits, and felt like I could take on the world."
May was still single and had all the time in the world to work with a growing organization that had only four employees, back then: the director, two parent educators and a secretary.
"There was so much potential here for the organization that it was exciting to me. I was able to start working with families, ahead of the point in time where the children had been removed," said May.
"I found myself wanting to rescue all these children and take them home with me. That's not a reality. The next best thing was to teach parents how to protect their children."
For the past 30 years, May has traveled from Vero Beach to Okeechobee and everywhere in between to reach clients. CASTLE serves Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin and Okeechobee counties. Some clients lived in rural areas and she had to drive a long way to find them.
"I realized many of our families had multiple problems or issues they needed to overcome before they could even dream of talking about parenting: transportation, livable wages, health care, feeding and clothing their children, and so much more."
Since that time, CASTLE has nurtured relationships with other programs to help fill the needs of their clients so they can more effectively address the root causes of abuse and neglect.
May has spent more than half her life working for CASTLE. The organization now has almost 50 employees working from five offices in the four-county area. They've helped more than 65,000 families on the Treasure Coast.
Along the way, May helped to develop and hone programs that have become national models: Positive Parenting and Safe Families. Both were started in Fort Pierce.
Looking back over the years and remembering all the children she's helped, May says, "To this day, it still gives me a chill when I see the kids I've worked with as adults with their own families."
May's devotion to those children has been unwavering throughout the challenges faced in the nonprofit world.
"I have been involved with CASTLE for twenty years," said CASTLE Foundation board member Michael Dillman. "Having served on a number of nonprofit boards during that time, I have seen a great deal of ups and downs created by economic conditions, funding changes, etc.
"Many of these changes are beyond the control of any organization. Theresa always kept the board and the staff moving forward, during both good times and bad. In my opinion, CASTLE would not be where it is today without Theresa."
May says there is a simple — but powerful — formula behind these successes.
"You can solve just about any problem 99 percent of the time with positive communication skills. That's the motto here at CASTLE. Communicate — and be thankful for everything you have in life."
To learn more about, visit CastleTC.org.
Panel OKs wider age limit in child abuse suits
by Marc Levy
HARRISBURG - Legislation in Pennsylvania to give victims of child sexual abuse more time to sue took another step forward in the Senate on Tuesday, although not without debate over whether people who have lost the legal ability to sue should get it back.
As a result, the Senate Judiciary Committee's vote narrowed portions of a bill that passed the House overwhelmingly in April, but broadened the proposal in other parts.
It comes amid scandals involving the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania and a renewed push in Pennsylvania and other states to relax laws that prevent some child sexual abuse victims from suing for damages.
The committee's half-hour hearing was dominated by debate over a House provision opposed by the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania, which represents for-profit insurers, and the Senate committee ultimately removed it. That provision would have given victims the ability to sue, even if they are now older than the current legal age limit of 30.
Proponents of removing the provision say it would violate longtime Pennsylvania constitutional case law. The state attorney general's office concurred, siding earlier this month with four out of six law professors who said in testimony released by the committee that the provision would go against longstanding case law.
Other senators argued that this precise situation has not been tested in the state's courts.
"The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has never addressed the constitutionality of revival of a child sex abuse statute of limitations and all the individuals arguing against this provision during the testimony conceded this very point," said Sen. Larry Farnese,
D-Philadelphia. "The case law is very far from clear on how this issue would be resolved by the Supreme Court."
However, senators went further than the House bill by removing any age limit at all for a victim to sue a perpetrator, a co-conspirator or someone who failed to report the abuse to authorities. The House bill had raised that age limit to 50, up from 30.
Other provisions would eliminate the statute of limitations in future criminal cases for a list of more severe crimes that involve child victims. That provision is not retroactive. Meanwhile, it would raise the age limit of a victim suing an organization from 30 to 50, and prevent organizations from claiming immunity from lawsuits when they have acted with negligence.
Senate committee OKs expanded statutes of limitation in child sex abuse cases
by CARLEY MOSSBROOK
Rep. Mark Rozzi stormed out of the committee room Tuesday after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to strip a retroactivity provision he had advocated from a bill to extend the statute of limitations for lawsuits in child sex abuse cases.
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, introduced an amendment that removed the Rozzi's provision, which would have allowed victims older than 30 for whom the statute of limitations has expired until age 50 to file lawsuits. The provision was part of a bill approved by the House and pushed by Rozzi, who says he was raped by a priest as a teenager.
Scarnati's amendment passed 9-4, with those in the majority questioning the constitutionality of allowing a victim of sexual abuse to file a civil case after the statute of limitations expired.
“Sen. Scarnati was definitely the hitman for the Catholic Church that stepped in to remove the retroactive piece of legislation that was most important for victims,” said Rozzi, D-Berks County. “He has stood up to protect pedophiles and the institutions that protect them.”
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania, which represents for-profit insurers, had opposed the retroactivity provision, which the Senate committee ultimately removed.
Drew Crompton, general counsel for Scarnati, said, “Rep. Rozzi's inflamed and degrading rhetoric doesn't change what the (Pennsylvania) Constitution says. Sen. Scarnati's amendment going forward actually strengthens the bill for victims of sexual abuse compared to the House version. Rep. Rozzi either does not know this or refuses to acknowledge this fact.”
As is, the bill would remove the criminal statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases moving forward and give victims until they are 50 to file civil suits against institutions found negligent.
It would remove the statute of limitations on civil suits against individuals who committed the sexual abuse. It would remove the statute of limitations against those who conspire with the perpetrator to facilitate the abuse and those who know about the perpetrator's abuse but fail to report it to law enforcement.
The bill will move on to the Senate floor.
Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery County, said the committee has an “independent obligation” to decide on the bill's constitutionality.
Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery County, voted against Scarnati's amendment and said the question of constitutionality is best left for the high court.
“I can't think of a better case of first impression to go before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to make a determination of the remedies clause of retroactivity for this kind of behavior,” Rafferty said. “I think the time has come.”
Rafferty, vice chair of the committee, replaced Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery County, as chair for committee action on the bill. Greenleaf recused himself to eliminate any perception of a conflict of interest.
Greenleaf's law firm, Elliot Greenleaf, previously represented a monastic order in a civil suit and is currently representing a witness in a child sexual abuse case. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is paying legal fees to Greenleaf's firm.
After gutting the retroactive provision, the committee passed the remainder of the bill unanimously.
Abuse for Sale: The Forgotten Girls of India
The trafficking of young women is on the rise in India, but poor documentation, corruption and discrimination mean the crime is largely ignored.
by Pamposh Raina
The fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman on a moving bus in New Delhi in 2012 shook India's collective conscience . The incident sparked a public debate about sexual violence and highlighted the need to improve the safety of women in the country. But as Indians took to the streets to call for better protections for women, there was one group of abuse victims that was all but ignored: the countless young women who are trafficked for sexual exploitation.
The latest data from India's National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show that a total of 5,466 cases of human trafficking were reported under various sections of Indian law in 2014. The majority of victims were girls under the age of 18, and a small percentage were men. But the actual numbers are estimated to be much higher. The documentation of human trafficking in India is so inadequate, it is almost impossible to know the full extent of the crime, say experts.
“There is not a single set of data to rely upon,” says Bharti Ali, co-director of the HAQ Centre for Child Rights, a Delhi-based NGO. The data from the NCRB – which is aggregated by the government based on information available in police records – is sparse, while statistics released by the government under the Right to Information Act give a different set of numbers on human trafficking, she says.
The numbers may be hard to pin down, but according to a 2013 anti-human trafficking report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation has been on the rise in India. And what is clear, says Ali, is that adolescents are highly vulnerable to trafficking.
Part of the problem is that these young people are hardly ever officially recognized as having been trafficked. Teenaged girls from economically weak and marginalized communities in rural India are often trafficked by people known to their families. Middlemen and even women sometimes convince parents to send their daughters to a city on the promise of better economic prospects, but soon after the girls leave their villages, they lose contact with their families.
The states of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Odisha have consistently been among the “high source areas” for purposes of trafficking to red-light areas across India, according to the U.N. report. And the data on missing girls in these states “continue to be very high,” the report says.
In certain parts of India, trading females for sex remains as a vestige of the ancient feudal culture. Men in these communities – which were labeled “criminal tribes” by the former British rulers of India – mostly don't work, while women are forced into prostitution. “In some parts of Rajasthan [state], it is difficult to find girls between the ages of 15 and 25. They are sent off to dance bars in Mumbai or Dubai,” says Tinku Khanna, director of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, a charitable trust working with women affected by sex trafficking and prostitution.
When the police are approached to file a missing person's report, in most cases, the information is entered in a “missing person's diary,” according to the U.N. report. The cases are never registered as trafficking cases and sit as perpetually pending on the missing persons list.
Though human trafficking has been an offense for decades in India, it was only in 2013, after an amendment to the country's criminal law, that an all-encompassing definition of trafficking was added to the books. Various stages involved in the process of trafficking, including the transporting and harboring of a victim, are now illegal, with the jail sentence ranging from a minimum seven years to life.
And a draft bill recently introduced by the government proposes to plug some of the existing holes in the legal system, including changing the provision that allows police to arrest both the trafficker and the victim. India has sufficient anti-trafficking laws in place – they just aren't being implemented, says Mumbai-based women's rights lawyer Anubha Rastogi.
The alleged nexus between the traffickers and corrupt police officers, administrators and politicians is another huge impediment to documenting human trafficking as well as punishing the guilty.
And traffickers know how to work the system, says Rastogi. They prep their victims on what to say if they get caught, threatening the girls with dire consequences if they tell the truth. When a young girl is rescued from a brothel, she can claim that she is a consenting adult. In the absence of any evidence suggesting otherwise, the presiding magistrate may be convinced and the girl could be let off with a fine of 500 rupees ($7.40) or sent to jail for up to six months for soliciting.
To tackle human trafficking, authorities and communities also need to address the social and psychological impact on women who are no longer considered profitable, experts say. There is a huge demand in the trade for younger girls. On turning 30, women are often literally thrown out into the street, says Khanna of Apne Aap Women Worldwide. Some of them get so desperate for money that they start working with their traffickers to lure other women into the business.
Addiction to alcohol or drugs is very common among these women, and many suffer from HIV, tuberculosis and malnutrition. “Many of them just die on the sidewalk,” says Khanna.
She advocates for a strong rescue and rehabilitation policy for trafficked victims. The existing support programs run by the government in partnership with NGOs, she says, do not look into counseling women who suffer from addiction and trauma, or help women sustain themselves.
Advocacy groups are concerned about the rescue shelters where many of these women end up, saying not enough money is being directed toward their upkeep. The groups also complain that there have been cuts in funding for welfare programs aimed at women and children.
Lalitha Kumaramangalam, chairperson of the National Commission for Women, an autonomous federal body, dismisses the claim that money has been snipped away from welfare programs.
She agrees with criticisms of the conditions of shelter homes. But, she says, the federal government cannot address the problem alone. While it can give money to the states, each state government has to independently prioritize how it wants to deal with the issue of human trafficking.
“There is also a need for the civil society to step in,” Kumaramangalam says. “The sheer burden of the population makes it difficult for the government to do everything by itself.”
An important step, she says, is that Indians need to start thinking of the women involved as victims who need to be protected, not shamed and discriminated against.
Aliquippa substitute teacher, board director charged with failing to report child abuse
by Katherine Schaeffer
ALIQUIPPA -- Beaver County law enforcement filed a criminal complaint against an Aliquippa School District substitute teacher and a city school board director Monday for violating Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law's mandated child abuse reporting requirements.
Aliquippa police and the county District Attorney's Detective Bureau have charged substitute teacher Ahna Tania Anderson and school board member Aileen Gilbert with failing to report suspected child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.
Aliquippa Elementary Vice Principal Dennis Drevna notified police April 27 after finding out that two children had shown Anderson a video the previous day of a classmate performing a sex act on an older student, according to the criminal complaint.
Anderson was substituting at the elementary school April 26 when two female students approached her with a cell phone video showing a 12-year-old girl performing oral sex on a 14-year-old male student, according to the complaint. The two girls told Aliquippa police they informed Anderson of the girl's name and that she was in their grade at the school.
The complaint states that Anderson sought out the girl later that day for a meeting with herself and Gilbert, who was attending an assembly at the elementary. The girl told police that Anderson asked her to show Gilbert the video, because Gilbert was working on a program to address “that kind of behavior by students,” according to the complaint.
The video's content constitutes a first-degree child abuse felony, and state Child Protective Services Law requires school employees and individuals who play a key role in regularly scheduled school programs to report suspected child abuse immediately.
Neither adult had reported the suspected child abuse when the criminal complaint was filed June 27.
District Attorney David Lozier said both women were given the opportunity to turn themselves in Monday morning. According to online court records, Gilbert turned herself in Monday afternoon and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing July 5. Online court records indicate Anderson had not turned herself in as of 5 p.m. Monday.
Gilbert "denies any criminal wrongdoing and is looking forward to court," attorney Steven Valsamidis said.
Lozier said police are not yet sure why Anderson and Gilbert did not report the incident.
In 2014, Pennsylvania enacted a slate of comprehensive revisions to its Child Protective Services Law, which expanded the protections available to children and broadened the responsibilities of those who are legally obligated to report possible child abuse, Beaver County Women's Center Executive Director Darlene Thomas said. Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's 2012 child sexual abuse conviction served as a major impetus for reform, Thomas said.
Mandated reporters now must immediately call a statewide toll-free hotline, ChildLine, if they have any reason to suspect abuse. They aren't required to investigate the incident or even know the potential abuser's name to make the report. All they need to know is the child's name and have cause to believe abuse may be occurring.
The state has required school employees and independent contractors to receive mandated reporting training since 2012.
“The primary focus of course, is to keep children safe,” Thomas said. “It's also to prevent what's considered a bystander effect -- that people would know about abuse and do nothing to intervene.”
Aliquippa Superintendent Peter Carbone did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Parents beware: Smacking your kid, today, is child abuse
Old school discipline using belts, paddles, ‘tree switches,' considered child abuse, today; will result in removal of children from the home
by Jarrette Fellows
LOS ANGELES — A recent video involving a tearful Baton Rouge, La. mother of six who was arrested and had her children taken from her because she disciplined them for breaking into a neighbor's home and stealing items, has gone viral sparking a national outcry on the misapplication of child abuse.
The woman, a single parent who worked as a chef near her residence, left work to investigate, arriving at home to catch three of her sons, all between the ages of 10 and13, taking stolen items into the home.
Schaquana Spears, 30, said she disciplined the boys by whipping them with an electrical cord, which in light of child abuse laws in 2016, landed Spears in trouble. East Baton Rouge sheriff's detectives investigating the theft and break-in, discovered bruises and cuts on the boys after Spears admitted she disciplined them. That's when they arrested Spears, charging her with child cruelty.
The case is currently being reviewed by the Baton Rouge sheriff's office and the Department of Child and Family Services, who now have custody of Spears' children.
Spears is questioning whether she should have done something differently.
“Maybe I should have [done] nothing,” she said. “I still would have been wrong. I would have been unfit. Then they would have been saying [I] should have disciplined them. I did it and now look at what happened. The system is messed up.”
District Attorney Hillar Moore, who plans to review the family's background before pressing charges, said, “Based on what I see, the question is, whether or not what was inflicted on these kids is unjustifiable pain or suffering.”
Spears, like many parents of an older generation, may not be aware of new laws in 2016 on what is acceptable and unacceptable involving the discipline of children.
California Child Abuse Reporting Law
Under California law, child abuse is a crime. And while most parents might be able to delineate between burning a child with a cigarette butt and whipping them with a belt, they may be wholly ignorant of what constitutes abuse under today's laws
State law broadly defines abuse as repeated mistreatment or neglect of a child by parent(s) or other guardian resulting in injury or harm.
The California Child Abuse Reporting Law, along with other state laws, provides the legal basis for action to protect children and allow intervention by public agencies if a child is maltreated.
Difference between discipline and abuse
Under the California Child Abuse Reporting Law, discipline is designed to help children control and change their behavior. Its purpose is to encourage moral, physical and intellectual development and a sense of responsibility in children. Abuse is characterized by its orientation toward satisfying needs or expressing the negative feelings of parents or other caregivers.
While it may result in positively changing the child's behavior, according to the CCA Reporting Law, often the improvement is temporary and followed by a later acting out of the hatred, revenge and hostility they have learned from their parents. To avoid further abuse, children may lie, run away or exhibit other forms of avoiding responsibility.
Abuse tends to damage the self-esteem of both parents and the children. Safe, effective discipline is a correction given in love. In evaluating methods of guiding their children's behavior, parents or guardians need to ask themselves:
What is considered child abuse?
Abuse may take the form of physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual under current law.
Physical constitutes shaking, beating, burning, injury by other than accidental means, willful cruelty or unjustifiable punishment, and failure to provide necessities of life (adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care).
Verbal abuse constitutes excessive yelling, belittling, or teasing.
Emotional abuse constitutes a failure to provide warmth, attention, supervision, or normal living experiences.
Sexual abuse constitutes incest, rape, and other sexual activity or exploited sexually. Any kind of contact with a child could be considered a sexual act. It will depend on the intent of the person making the contact. The victim knows or can “feel” the difference between hugging and fondling, tender or passionate kissing.
Good touching, bad touching, and secret touching are three examples that help clarify what is or is not against the law. Any kind of secret touching is against the law.
Good touching is when a child does something he or she is supposed to, like helping grandma, and grandpa gives a kiss on the cheek or a big hug to the child (under 18).
Bad touching is when a child and his brother or sister get into a fight and the child gets hit resulting in a bruise or black eye.
Secret touching is when anyone (man, boy, woman, or girl) wants to touch a child and want the child to touch them anywhere that does not seem right to the child or that would be covered with the child's underclothes or swimming suit.
Anyone who reports known or suspected child abuse is protected by law from civil or criminal liability unless it can be proven that the report was false and that the person who made the report knew it was false. Any person, except a mandated reporter who reports child abuse may remain anonymous. Mandated reporters are required to give their names. However, it is helpful to give your name and telephone number to the worker taking the report in the event he or she needs to obtain more information later.
All children have the right to grow up in a safe environment. Child abuse, in all its forms, has a more lasting and negative effect on children, families and the whole community than most people realize. At its worst, its destructive impact haunts its victim throughout life and prevents the child from becoming a productive adult. Frequently, parents who were mistreated as children will mistreat their own children.
The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect reports that more than 2,000 children die each year due to abuse or neglect. Reporting child abuse is a first step in stopping this devastating cycle. People who hurt children usually need help to change their behavior. Many, perhaps most, only get that help after someone else calls attention to the fact that they need it by reporting their abuse of a child.
Hard proof is not needed to make a report. However, reports must be in good faith. Use common sense. A report of child abuse is serious and may have a lifelong impact on the child and his or her family. Never make a false or malicious report.
If you have any doubts about whether to report a particular situation, simply call the DCFS Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-5404000) and discuss the situation.
Head Of Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese Apologizes For Sexual Abuse Scandals
by Hannah Copeland
About 100 priests and 200 parishioners filed into the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City, Missouri, Sunday afternoon in search of closure and the chance to publicly grieve. The priests draped purple sashes over their white robes to symbolize the theme of the service: lament.
"The church has been deeply wounded by the sins of her members. And those wounds have been most deeply experienced by the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. In some ways, every member of the church has been affected," said the Bishop of the Kansas City-Saint Joseph Diocese, James V. Johnston.
Johnston apologized on behalf of the entire Kansas City-Saint Joseph Diocese for the pain sexual abuse by priests and other leaders of the church has caused. In the past year, nine healing services have been held at diocese parishes that were most affected by sexual abuse scandals under the tenure of former Bishop Robert Finn, who resigned last year. Finn is only U.S. bishop to be criminally convicted for failing to report suspected abuse.
Following hymns calling for guidance and mercy, Johnston laid prostrate in front of a stone altar and listened to the accounts of survivors of sexual abuse. The church kept the identities of the survivors private.
"The pain was so intense. I did not want to live," said one woman. A man read, "You took away my innocence and left me broken within."
Father Ken Riley replied uniquely to each survivor's statement with messages like, "Jesus said let the children come to me. I beg your forgiveness."
Johnston said he wants "to see a diocese that acknowledges its wounds and the wounded."
Forming a remembrance committee, declaring April 26 an Annual Diocesan Day of Prayer for the protection of children, and extra training for counseling victims were among his plans to heal his shaken parishioners.
Lifting of child sex abuse statutes of limitations urged
by Louella Losinio
Alleged sex abuse victims of Archbishop Anthony Apuron and their supporters urged the passage of the Bill 326-33, authored by Sen. Frank Blas Jr. that would amend the law relative to the statute of limitations in cases involving child sex abuse, during a public hearing yesterday, June 27 at the Guam Legislature.
The bill strikes out a two-year statute of limitation for civil claims. “Child sexual abuse victims often need many years to overcome the pain of their abuse, and time for them to speak out about the abuse that they have suffered. Sadly, many victims of child sexual abuse are unable to proceed with civil claims against the perpetrator because those claims have been barred by the statutes of limitations,” Blas said.
Walter Denton, one of Apuron's alleged victims, said the measure would give victims of sexual abuse within and outside the Roman Catholic Church the opportunity to be silent no more. “Now it gives them recourse to be heard,” he said.
“As it stands, the current law protects the predator from his past crimes. Once the statute of limitations kick in, it protects them from being sued and prosecuted,” he said, imploring the legislature to act on the measure immediately. “So that people like Apuron and any other person or institution who has aided him or covered up for him will be held accountable, eliminate any time limitations on the right to sue or prosecute no matter how long ago.”
“Please give us Agat boys a chance to achieve some measure of justice and closure in our lives,” Denton said.
Roland Sondia, another alleged victim from Agat, also testified in favor of the measure. “I thought I was the only one,” Sondia said. “I kept this dark secret with me for 39 years."
Sondia said, “We need to abolish the statutes of limitations, so potential perpetrators would know that no amount of time would prevent the victim from coming forward to sue and for the government to prosecute.”
He said he is hopeful that that with the passage of the bill, “other victims would come forward so they could begin the long road toward healing and recovery.”
Doris Concepcion, said her son, Joseph A. Quinata, disclosed to her that he had been abused, shortly before his death in 2005. She said if the bill becomes law, she wants to take Apuron to court so that the truth can come out.
Sharleen Santos-Bamba, read the testimony of her uncle, Roy Quintanilla, another alleged victim of Apuron. “No one, especially a child should ever have to go through being sexually abused or be afraid to come forward and to tell someone for fear that no one will believe them,” Quintanilla's statement read.
Joseph Santos, who launched the “Silent No More” petition drive, urged the senators to push the measure through. “You are either against child sexual abuse or for it. If you vote for the bill, we know where you stand, if you abstain we know where you stand. And the governor should sign it as fast as he can,” he said.
Santos quoted rape statistics from Healing Hearts Crisis Center which he said showed more than 100 cases of rape per year during the past three years. He said the data showed that the majority of rapes involved victims who were minors and girls. “Those are just the reported rapes, there are so many more that are out there,” he said.
“This bill is more than just about one person. It is about our community,” Santos said.
Tourism's dark side: Child sexual abuse in Turkey
by The Hurriyet Daily News
International Children's Care (ICC) has conducted a research report with the contribution of local and international NGOs, like Hacettepe University, ECPAT International and ECPAT Netherlands, on the sexual exploitation of children in the tourism and travel sector in Turkey.
I had the occasion to read the report, which was covered piecemeal by the press. The research reveals that children are being sexually abused in Turkey's tourism and travel sector. It also reveals that Turkish citizens also commit these acts while traveling abroad.
The involvement of Turks going to Eastern Europe in incidents of child sexual abuse is on the rise.
For instance, those going from Turkey to Moldova sexually abuse children in apartments that are rented specially for weekend getaways.
Individual or group sex tours by Turkish citizens are on the rise in Ukraine. When it comes to child sexual abuse, Turks make up the biggest foreign group in this country.
Turks are the organizers of sex tours that include women and children in Belarus, while they are the customers of sex services provided by youngsters in north Russia.
It is known that recently these types of tours were diverting to Cambodia and Uganda. In 2012 a Turkish tourist was detained in Africa for using 50 girls from Uganda for sex purposes.
This man was in front of the court in 2009 in Kenya accused of sexually abusing a 15 years old girl.
The interviews included in the research reveal important information about children who are victims of sexual abuse in the tourism and travel sector:
- Girls usually escape from their homes during the summer and go to holiday resorts. They become victim of sexual abuse. In Istanbul girls from low income families are persuaded one way or another to be employed in massage salons to be later sent to houses for prostitution.
- Antalya tops the list. Many people from around Antalya come to the city for child sex tourism. Most of the victims are girls. Their ages vary from 15-17 but there are also younger ones too.
- There are Arabs that are involved in group sex with children.
- In the summer there are regions where foreign girls are made to wear adult outfits and asked to put make up on to make them look older. Refugee children or girls coming from the east of the country are victims of sexual abuse in all seasons.
- Foreign girls are tricked via social media sites and brought to holiday centers like Antalya, Izmir, Kusadasi and Pamukkale. You can come across girls between the ages of 15-18 from Slovenia, Serbia, Slovakia, Russia and Finland.
- There are agencies that are organizing tours for foreign girls. They are employed in the massage salons of hotels. The price in Antalya is around 400 Turkish Liras. There are some children who earn 9,000 liras a month. Yet sometimes their money is seized and they are forced to work without payment.
Adults Who Were Bullied as Children Can Suffer From Debilitating Symptoms Similar to PTSD
The negative symptoms of Adult Post-Bullying Syndrome can mimic those of PTSD or the effects seen from child abuse.
by Ellen Walser deLara
The following is an excerpt from the new book Bullying Scars by Ellen deLara (Oxford University Press, 2016):
In interviewing the people in my research study, I began to notice something unusual. While many of the participants spoke of the bullying episodes they experienced as traumatic and described the impact they felt at the time and what they are left with now in terms of traumatic memories, no one explicitly said they felt like they had PTSD. However, collectively, they listed many symptoms that did fit the PTSD diagnosis. Still others clearly experience what I call adult post-bullying syndrome, or APBS. I have named it this to distinguish it from PTSD.
While APBS can share some symptoms with PTSD, there are distinct differences. One is that there can be both negative and positive aspects to APBS, whereas there are no positive aspects in the research literature associated with PTSD. The negative symptoms of APBS can mimic those of PTSD or the effects seen from child abuse. These effects, similar for child abuse, APBS, and PTSD, and lasting into adulthood, can include shame, anxiety, and relational difficulties. Further, negative cognitions about the self often occur after a trauma. This trauma-related thinking is often inaccurate and serves to support and maintain PTSD. The changes in emotional reactions that characterize PTSD can lead to unexpected and often unpredictable outbursts of anger and aggression. Something can happen to which the person with PTSD just reacts. There does not appear to be an intermediary step of thinking. There is the event, then the reaction. This is a critical difference between PTSD and APBS, where adults do not tend to show this kind of event/reaction immediacy but rather seem more inclined to take no action and instead ruminate on past and present events.
While there are negative aspects of adult post-bullying syndrome, there are some unexpected positives that seem to accompany it also. In interviewing people who appear to experience APBS, I noticed that they have a tendency to exhibit some, if not all, of the following issues:
Self-Esteem Issues and Shame
“I have low self-esteem, a poor self-image, and virtually no confidence in myself.”
“Unfortunately, I took right to heart, literally, the hurtful things that were said to me. Now that I am grown up I try to see things differently, but in my core I still believe they are true.”
Self-doubt and harsh self-judgment are byproducts of childhood bullying. They leave an indelible mark on self-esteem for those who suffer with APBS. Children take to heart relentless torment through name calling and castigation of their character and looks. Years later, as adults, people can still easily recall what they were bullied about: their weight, their height, their clothes, having acne, the people to whom they were attracted. People with APBS typically report having low self-esteem. They feel a sense of shame connected to the core of their being. People who feel a great deal of shame or who are shame-based can manifest this in arrogant behavior. This can be seen in vacillations in thinking between: “I'm a loser” and “I'm better than all of you.”
Problems Trusting Others
“I find it hard to trust other men at work.”
“My worry that people are judging me is constant.”
Problems trusting others can take a generalized state form (as in “I don't trust anybody”) or can be very specific to certain groups. People suffering with APBS tend not to trust others. They are particularly cautious in intimate relationships such as friendship and marriage, always expecting that they will be betrayed. Further, they do not trust people who look, act, or even dress like those who bullied them. This lack of trust is problematic for establishing relationships in the first place and for managing them.
Problems in Relationships
“You begin to think you don't deserve anything. You don't deserve a good relationship.”
“At the first sign someone is not nice, I distance myself.”
The problem of mistrusting others significantly impairs a person's ability to connect with other people and then to stay connected. People who trust easily establish relationships readily and maintain them. They do not have attachment problems. Children who have been bullied and then end up with adult post-bullying syndrome often appear to either run from relationships or manage to get into abusive ones. After all, they have learned as children that their peers or siblings will treat them badly. For the most part, they never learned how to stop bullying as children. Consequently, they do not know how to and often do not even want to extricate themselves from physically or emotionally abusive relationships as adults. This is all they know. At the other end of the continuum are adults so scarred from their bullying experiences that they are willing to end even their marriages based on what, to others, might seem reparable. But to some adults suffering with APBS any hint of disrespect or bullying is intolerable.
“My strategy in relationships is to be a people-pleaser.”
A majority of those with adult post-bullying syndrome declared that they were “people-pleasers.” Never feeling quite good about themselves, never being good enough, based on the maltreatment they endured through bullying, they have determined that pleasing others is their best defense. It makes a kind of emotional sense. Having experienced numerous forms of bullying from verbal to emotional to sexual to physical, becoming someone that no one could object to seems like a good strategy. However, in the process authenticity of self can be lost. This is a high price to pay.
Food and Other Substance Misuse
“I drink a lot and I have used drugs to help me with the anxiety I feel about the bullying in my past.”
Numerous studies detail an association between bullying as victim, bully, or bully/victim and substance use in childhood. In my study, some adult participants reported using alcohol, other drugs, and food management to quell the feelings of anxiety or depression they experience related to bullying episodes from their childhood. Other research substantiates these findings. At this point, research on the consequences to adult mental health demonstrates long-term correlations between childhood bullying and outcomes such as anxiety, substance abuse, depression, and adult conduct disorders. One inquiry investigated bullying during 5th grade and its relationship to later heavy drinking and marijuana use. The sample was from the Raising Healthy Children project and included over 900 children. The study determined that “childhood bullying was significantly associated with violence, heavy drinking, and marijuana use” in adulthood even after controlling for other risk factors.
Emotional Problems and the Development of Psychiatric Disorders
“I am a cold person because of it (bullying).”
“It has virtually destroyed my spirit.”
“I have panic attacks and an anxiety disorder because of bullying.”
Research indicates there is a greatly elevated risk of developing adult psychiatric disorders for those who were involved in bullying as children. A Finnish study examined the impact of bullying and victimization on boys over a 15-year period into young adulthood. The long-term results found that those who were classified as frequent bullies when they were 8 years old had developed a personality disorder. Those who were frequent victims had an anxiety disorder, and those who were considered bully/victims were more aggressive than any other group. In my study, Chris explained that she experienced bullying and harassment throughout her school days. It affected her overall physical and mental well-being. She said, “Bullying had an extreme impact on my psychological health, anxiety, and the obsessive compulsive disorder I had. Bullying exacerbated it all. I developed depression; people thought I might be bi-polar. I developed an eating disorder as an adult. I was bullied for being overweight. Then I developed bulimia. Now I have panic attacks. But even with this, I see that I am a survivor; I see positive things in my life as a result.” The impact on Chris is severe as a result of being bullied as a child. While she does not meet the criteria for PTSD, she might be a candidate for adult post-bullying syndrome.
Feelings of Anger, Rage, and Revenge
“When I was bullied, I held back my aggression and turned it in on myself.”
Children who are bullied and sexually harassed often feel shame that can lead to anger and rage. Those feelings often do not dissipate. Those with adult post-bullying syndrome can experience feelings of anger and rage when they ruminate on past bullying. Feelings of rage can also occur when similar situations present themselves. One adult said he “can't stand to be around anyone who looks like a frat boy.” Another is triggered by athletes because of the bullying he endured at their hands. Often adults with APBS check out their school time bullies on Facebook but not out of friendship or mere curiosity, rather with thoughts toward revenge. They are hoping to find that their tormentors are doing poorly and thus feel that the bullies got what they deserved. The person with APBS feels vindicated when this is the case. Of course some adults have been able to move past what occurred to them and have even befriended former bullies online.
“I've tried starving myself so I would never be bullied again.”
There is considerable research on the issue of weight bias, bullying, and the immediate impacts on children's well-being. Adults with APBS continue to have body image issues carried over from their days of being bullied as children. Bullied, sexually harassed, and “teased” about how they were built or how they looked, these adults are left with lasting impressions. They conclude something was and still is wrong with them to have received this kind of treatment. People who have been bullied still do not consider themselves to be acceptable. People who have been bullied based on being overweight seem to be particularly subject to a lifetime of concern about body image. One woman in my study said rationally she knew that she was thin enough now as a 5'10” 125-pound adult, but could not feel adequate or comfortable with herself because she feared a new friend or friends might begin to exclude her based on her looks.
Positive or Unexpected Aspects
“I feel proud of having overcome being bullied.”
“Being bullied for me was a positive thing because I learned how to cope with criticism and to stay humble. I see that I need that, it's useful, in all kinds of relationships: with friends, at work, or with my partner.”
There are positive aspects, or unexpected outcomes, seen in adult post-bullying syndrome. Numerous people reported finding inner strength they believe they would not have discovered otherwise. They figured out how to take control of their own lives so that they were no longer helpless. They noted that they had developed empathy for the vulnerable where they thought they might not have. Importantly, most were committed to doing something important with their lives. Sometimes this was to prove their bullies were wrong about them. But whatever the reason, it was a crucial outcome for many of the participants with APBS. There are copious examples of people enduring the negative aspects of APBS and using the positive aspects to better their lives. It was very interesting to find this positive feature along with the negative aspects of APBS.
Trucker saves victim of torture at a PILOT station after recognizing the signs of sex trafficking
by Leslie Salzillo
On January 16, 2016, a trucker noticed something odd and disturbing while at a PILOT truck stop outside of Richmond, Virginia.
Kevin Kimmel said he:
"Saw what looked like a young girl looking out the window, the black drapes didn't make it look like a families' RV, you know," Kimmel told CBS affiliate WTVR. "I saw a guy come up and knock on the door then go inside the Pilot-then quickly came back and knocked again, all of the sudden the thing was rocking and rolling."
Kimmel called the police, but what he didn't know was the young girl was not only a victim of sex trade, she was also a victim of torture. A n Iowa couple, Aldair Hodza, 36, and Laura Sorensen, 31, have been charged with human trafficking. The victim was found starved, disheveled and had evidence of extreme physical abuse, sexual abuse — and torture.
The details of the young victim's torture are inhumane and Kimmel most likely saved this victim's life. Here is a YouTube video from CBS WTVR News reporting more about the story.
(Trigger Warning -- Video on site)
Kimmel, who is a father and grandfather, says he was not aware of the torture details until later and at the time, thought of his daughter and granddaughter. There is an organization called Truckers Against Trafficking that trains truck drivers to recognize signs that might help save other lives. You can visit their site HERE.
Victims of human sex trafficking are often right in front of us at truck stops, massage parlors, hotels, salons … they are held captive through coercion, force and threats. There are an estimated 20.9 million victims of human slavery, with 1.5 million in North America. Sex-trafficking is often the most common and most lucrative crime. An estimated $150 billion is made by human traffickers, just under the number one crime of drug trafficking.
TED talk speaker Tony Talbott makes an incredibly disturbing summation about sex trafficking:
"It's all about the money. Human trafficking is insanely profitable. If you really think about it; Y ou can sell a kilo of Heroin once; You can sell a 13-year-old girl 20 times a night, 365 days a year.”
In order to attenuate human trafficking, we need national discourse. Share stories like this and others on your personal social networks Much can be prevented through awareness. There are telltale signs all around us.
For additional information, visit The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), online which operates 24 hours, 7 days a week. You can also call call 1-888-373-788 or text BeFree (233733). If you suspect any kind of human trafficking, you can submit a tip to DHS or visit: ICE.gov.
Silent Struggles: Decades later, sexual-assault victims tell their stories, pursue justice
by Mike Urban
Editor's note: This story contains explicit content.
The harrowing stories are each unique. They're set in different neighborhoods. They revolve around different characters. They outline different circumstances.
But a common thread binds them together.
Each begins with a child whose youth and innocence, they say, was ripped away by a man they trusted above all others and who wielded incredible power over their lives. And each ends with an adult, who decades later, is still grappling with the pain.
As Pennsylvania and neighboring states consider whether to partially reopen a window for people sexually abused as children to seek legal justice, more abuse survivors are stepping out of the shadows to tell their stories.
They seek to remind politicians that the wounds and scars left by abuse are very much part of the present.
The proposal is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which supporters expect to remove part of the plan allowing some victims to sue for abuse that happened in the past.
Many survivors said they were encouraged to come forward by renewed national focus on child sexual abuse.
"Spotlight," Hollywood's account of the 2002 Boston Globe investigation that first revealed systematic cover-ups of abuse by Catholic Church leaders, took top honors at the Academy Awards in February.
Days later, a Pennsylvania grand jury issued a report detailing decades of abuse - and an effort to conceal it - in the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese.
Church leaders remain among the most vocal opponents of the proposed overhaul of child sexual abuse law and have lobbied hard against it. They point to the reforms they put in place in the wake of cover-up scandals and say allowing now-expired lawsuits to move forward would punish today's Catholics for wrongdoings of the past.
Abuse survivors and their advocates say organizations that shielded pedophiles and failed to protect children - whether in the past or present - should not be given a free pass. And they argue the legal reforms are needed to better protect children in the future.
The three men profiled here are among the many alleged victims still waiting for justice but whose stories are mentioned in grand jury reports, court documents and lawsuits that were filed but blocked from advancing because the window for justice had closed.
Like many in their shoes, they haven't had the chance to see their alleged abusers convicted of a crime as the narrow window for criminal charges - as well as the window for lawsuits - had long closed by the time they were able to come forward.
They are just a small few of those with ties to the Berks and Tri-County areas. They are among the slim percentage of victims who have come forward, according to child trauma researchers.
The lives of so many others, researchers say, have been claimed by suicide, overdoses and other diseases and conditions brought on by a life of pain.
Silent Struggles: Craig Gribbin
As state lawmakers debate a plan to make it easier for victims of childhood sexual abuse to seek justice, abuse survivors are coming forward to tell their stories.
After years of suffering in silence, Craig Gribbin mustered the courage to ask for an apology.
It was early 2002. He was about 50 and finally ready to take the last step in confronting the sexual abuse he said he suffered as a teen at the hands of a priest and teacher at Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia.
Through years of self-reflection, Gribbin had started to come to peace with what happened to him. He'd become a born-again Christian, was ordained as a nondenominational minister and began helping couples through marriage counseling.
By ministering to others, he began the painful process of confronting the demons in his own past. And by the late 1990s, Gribbin knew he had a final step to take before putting his abuse behind him: Confronting the people on whose watch it happened.
“I needed to get satisfaction somehow,” said Gribbin, 63, of Lancaster County. “Even if it was just some half-assed apology.”
So he got in touch with Monsignor William Lynn and other leaders in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, telling them about his alleged abuse at the hands of Father John P. Schmeer and identifying other boys he suspected Schmeer also abused.
Gribbin said he'd hoped for an acknowledgement of his abuse, help paying for years of therapy and psychiatric treatment, and an investigation into Schmeer.
What he got instead — according to a 2005 report by a Philadelphia grand jury — was denial and a probe by the archdiocese into his own finances and court records from his divorces. The response opened old wounds. And, Gribbin was not going to take it sitting down.
“We're forgiving people,” Gribbin said. “If you'd just come forward, if you'd just told the truth, by now, this would all be forgotten and forgiven.”
He publicly outed Schmeer in a lawsuit, drawing the rebuke of parishioners in Schmeer's Bucks County parish. But Schmeer's support began to wane as more alleged victims came forward.
Eventually, church leaders forced Schmeer to retire to “a supervised life of prayer and penance” or be defrocked, according to the grand jury report.
Schmeer, now 80, has not been charged with a crime because the two-year window Gribbin would have had to press criminal charges expired long before Schmeer was publicly exposed. But the archdiocese website lists Schmeer among the clergy who have been removed from ministry “due to credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.”
Repeated attempts over two weeks to reach Schmeer at Villa Saint Joseph, a Delaware County retirement home for priests, were unsuccessful.
When a reporter called the center and asked to speak with Schmeer, staff members at the facility took messages and indicated they would relay them to him. A reporter visited the center Tuesday, asked to speak with Schmeer and left his business card when staff said they could not connect him with Schmeer.
Schmeer also turned down an opportunity to answer the grand jury's questions.
Gribbin told his story to the grand jury.
Gribbin confirmed he is the boy described in the grand jury report, and the Reading Eagle also confirmed that through other sources.
The panel's report detailed his abuse and church leaders' response, shedding public attention on cover-ups of abuse in the archdiocese.
“I really believe that's how God wanted these people to be exposed,” Gribbin said. “He wanted me to be a spokesman in a little way.”
Counselor to predator
Gribbin was a freshman in 1967 when he began counseling sessions with Schmeer, then his science teacher and guidance counselor.
Priests had a larger-than-life persona, Gribbin said, and to be hand-picked by one for special attention was an honor. His mother was ecstatic, he said. With his father out of the picture, she saw Schmeer as a male role model for him.
It was during the first counseling session that Schmeer first asked Gribbin about masturbation, according to the grand jury report. During the second session, the report said, Schmeer began to touch Gribbin sexually.
That continued for several months.
“He had plenty of reasons why I needed to be with him privately,” Gribbin said.
The abuse in counseling sessions ended after a particularly violent assault in the swimming pool at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Montgomery County, the grand jury report said. According to the report, Schmeer grabbed Gribbin from behind in the pool — leading the boy to think the priest was about to drown him — and then sexually assaulted him.
But the report said Schmeer would still take Gribbin to houses in the Philadelphia suburbs and New Jersey and on one occasion tried to facilitate a sexual encounter between the boy and a 17-year-old girl. Sometimes, another priest, Ernest Durante, was present and, in some cases, watching, according to the grand jury report.
At school, other students knew about the abuse and tormented Gribbin. He gained a reputation as “Father Schmeer's boy.”
He said he'd tried to end the counseling sessions, but his mother, thinking he made up the story to get out of counseling, forced him to continue. Finally, Gribbin convinced his mother to transfer him to public school.
Kenneth A. Gavin, archdiocese spokesman, said he couldn't comment on specific victims' cases.
But he said, the archdiocese's response to reports of abuse has changed dramatically since the 1990s. Now, he said, law enforcement is immediately notified and outreach to victims and the investigation of the allegations are handled separately and by former law enforcement professionals, not clergy.
For years, Gribbin continued to hide what happened as he sorted through feelings of guilt.
“The biggest issue that you have to come to terms with is: Why did you come back for more?” Gribbin said. “That's the hardest thing to come to terms with. And it causes a lot of people not to come forward.”
Durante, who left the priesthood in the 1980s and lives in Florida, declined to comment when reached by phone June 7.
In 2007 media reports, he denied witnessing any abuse. It was unclear if Durante was invited to address the grand jury.
Lynn was convicted in 2012 of putting a known child molester in contact with children. He remains in prison as his case goes through an appeals process during which his conviction was overturned, reinstated and overturned again. The state Supreme Court has been asked to consider the case.
Though the abuse eventually became part of Gribbin's past, the scars remain. Gribbin said his pain has continued for years.
“It's always there,” he said. “It's simmering, always out there. Always. It's something you know you had to deal with and you have to get to it at some point.”
He didn't come forward, terrified, ashamed and worried about the stigma it would bring. He spent years in therapy and was hospitalized and treated for anxiety. He contemplated suicide. But he was stopped by his faith and concern for his children.
“I guess I thought that they needed me, and needed me to be around,” he said.
Over the years, he said he started healing through his faith and self-reflection. When, after earlier marriages didn't work out, he met his current wife, she helped give him the strength to confront the abuse head on. They celebrated their 20th anniversary this year.
When he decided to take his story to the archdiocese, he didn't know that it would ultimately be part of a grand jury investigation and lead to more victims coming forward. And while he didn't expect the church to admit to the abuse, he didn't expect the lengths the archdiocese would go through to deny it.
He said the church's investigators tried to pressure him into remaining quiet and make him feel guilty about opening up the church to any harm.
“They really count on you being a basket case and being a little unstable,” he said.
According to the grand jury report, church leaders deemed Gribbin's allegations “not credible” after Schmeer himself denied the abuse. Church files uncovered by the Philadelphia investigators show leaders investigated Gribbin while failing to look into other allegations of abuse against Schmeer.
While Schmeer's parishioners attacked Gribbin for accusing him in a lawsuit, archdiocese managers remained silent even though they knew other boys had come forward, the report said.
In 2004, church officials ultimately deemed the allegations credible and removed Schmeer from ministry.
Priests in program
Today, Schmeer remains in the prayer and penance program, according to the archdiocese website.
According to a fact sheet provided by the archdiocese, the program “provides pastoral care, social services and monitoring” for priests “credibly accused” of sexually abusing children. The sheet says the alternative is priests being defrocked and removed from the church's control.
Participants can't represent themselves as priests and must submit a weekly schedule of where they plan to be, according to the fact sheet. That's verified, according to the sheet, by random checks and swipe-card and video systems that show when residents come and go.
The program is paid for by the archdiocese. The fact sheet says the 16 participants are housed on the property of Villa Saint Joseph, many of them in the facility itself.
The website for Heritage of Faith-Vision of Hope, the archdiocese's major fundraising campaign, lists among its priorities raising $3 million to upgrade and overhaul the facility.
Gribbin said he was able to negotiate for the archdiocese to pay for some of his treatment expenses. But, he said, that only covered about $90,000 of a tab of more than $400,000. And he said he's still waiting on an acknowledgement of what happened to him.
His lawsuit can't move forward because his two-year time limit to bring a civil case expired long before he filed the suit.
And even if a proposal to extend the limits is enacted, his case would still be too old. Gribbin would need legislation that gives all expired cases a limited period to move forward.
But most of all, Gribbin said, he wants people to understand what abuse survivors go through and the lengths some institutions will go to cover it up. As he sees it, it all comes down to words.
As he sees it, to describe what happened to him as molestation, is an understatement. People, he said, have become desensitized to that word.
“I was tortured,” he said.
And as people start thinking about abuse in those terms, Gribbin said, they'll begin to understand it in a different light.
He said: “It's going to turn a light bulb on that hasn't been turned on.”
Grand Jury report: John Schmeer
Silent Struggles: Thomas Humma
The day is seared into Thomas Humma's memory.
It was the moment, he said, that he finally broke free of the priest who snaked into a central role in his life only to sexually molest him.
Though Humma hasn't told his story publicly until now, parts of it have been recounted in media reports, at press conferences, even during state legislative sessions.
His story is intertwined with that of his childhood friend Mark Rozzi, who's since become a state lawmaker representing part of Berks County and an advocate for abuse victims.
Their alleged abuser, Edward R. Graff, died in 2002 while awaiting trial in Texas on charges he abused a 15-year-old boy there.
Humma, who grew up in Reading and now lives on the West Coast, figures Graff pushed his luck the day he took both boys together into the rectory at Holy Guardian Angels in Muhlenberg Township. At the time, Humma was 12, and Rozzi was 13.
To Humma, Graff's transition from surrogate uncle to sexual predator had been seamless and subtle. It wasn't until that day that he was suddenly hit with the reality of what was happening.
He remembers lying naked and half-drunk on Graff's bed with pornography playing on the television as Rozzi darted out of the shower, picked up his clothes and motioned that it was time to leave.
“I'm in the room and Rozzi comes running,” Humma said. “And I saw pure fear in his eyes. And a switch went on.”
Humma said he would later learn Graff had raped Rozzi in the shower, the act that pushed the abuse over the edge and cost Graff both boys' trust. But then in the room, Humma saw Rozzi, the alpha male in his group of friends, broken and frightened like a little boy.
“He didn't say anything to me,” Humma said. “He just looked at me. It was the scariest thing that I have ever dealt with.”
Rozzi confirmed the events of that day.
The boys made a pact never to speak about what had happened. The secret drove a wedge between them, Humma said, and the once-close friends became distant acquaintances.
It wasn't until both were in their late 30s and ready to talk about their abuse that they began to repair their friendship.
Humma promised his parents when he eventually told them about the abuse that he wouldn't go public with his story until after his grandmother's death. She was a devout Catholic and he said he has no doubt the heartbreak would have killed her.
Humma was a seventh-grader at Holy Guardian Angels school when Graff arrived at the school and parish.
Graff would pay Humma and other boys to rake leaves and do other chores around the campus. Graff and Humma would talk about football and horses. Soon, Graff was a regular guest at Humma's family cookouts. The family trusted him.
“He was a master, there was no doubt,” Humma said. “He was a master manipulator.”
It wasn't long, Humma said, before he and Graff were taking trips together.
They would go to Penn National Race Course near Harrisburg where Graff would bet on the horses and give Humma money to do the same. Graff gave Humma a snap-brim newsboy cap to wear, saying it made the boy look older. Humma said the sight of such a cap still triggers painful flashbacks. So does the smell of cigar smoke, which permeated Graff's car and rectory.
Humma said Graff started to sneak him into the rectory, telling him that he wasn't supposed to be there and it must be kept secret. They would drink wine and talk about sports. Humma said he was honored and flattered that Graff treated him like an adult. He felt special.
The transition happened slowly.
First, he said, Graff would show him pornography and talk with him about sex, telling him he needed a teacher. That led to Graff masturbating him while touching himself, he said. That continued for six months.
Humma said he was uncomfortable but didn't know how to respond. He said Graff would ply him with alcohol during the visits and he'd been taught to trust priests. When he questioned Graff, he said Graff responded that he was acting as “an instrument of God.”
“The mental gymnastics that he was forcing us to go through when we were 12 or 13, it's hard to describe,” Humma said. “It was almost like psychological warfare.”
Humma said he was finally free of Graff's abuse after running out of the rectory with Rozzi. But it wasn't the last he saw of the priest. He said Graff approached him days later and threatened to destroy his family if he ever spoke of what happened.
For the next few years, he said, Graff would periodically show up uninvited and unannounced while Humma was home with his parents. Humma suspects that was to gauge his parents' reaction and verify they didn't know about the abuse.
Facing his abuse
Now 44, Humma figures he's built himself back up 80 percent of the way. But the abuse is still something he deals with on a daily basis.
He's spent years in therapy and tried all sorts of medication, each with its own litany of unpleasant side effects. He's remained a bachelor and moved often, reluctant to get too attached to people and places. His personal relationships have been strained.
“I let people close,” he said, “but not super close.”
For years, Humma said, he kept his abuse a secret. He was worried what people would think about him and about Graff's threat.
He didn't even tell his parents until he was in his mid-20s. For them too, he said, the feelings of betrayal have been a strain.
He was in his late 20s when he finally began to face his abuse and seek help. He was living in Michigan then and was sitting in Sunday Mass when it all hit him. He began feeling sick and walked out of the church. He hasn't been back to Mass since.
At that time, Humma said, he felt broken. He had been self-medicating with excessive drinking. He couldn't sleep. He suffered from chronic stomach problems.
So he began counseling. And he got sober.
That was shortly before the Boston Globe's 2002 investigation into the Boston Archdiocese cast a national spotlight on sexual abuse by priests and its concealment by church officials. Humma followed the coverage of other victims' stories.
“You get vindicated through the media breaking stories about that parish in this city,” he said. “But you're still by yourself because you can't talk about it. You're not alone, but you're on an island.”
That same year, Graff was arrested in Texas and charged with molesting a boy there. Texas authorities said at the time that there were reports of at least 15 other victims of Graff in Texas and 12 in Pennsylvania. “They could have just put Graff out to pasture,” Humma said of church leaders. “But they didn't.”
Humma contacted an attorney representing the Texas boy's family in a lawsuit against the Allentown Diocese, to which Graff was still connected after his move to Texas. Humma agreed to go on the record and send a signed statement detailing his alleged abuse.
In 2003, the diocese announced a $275,000 settlement with a Graff victim, who was later confirmed as the boy from Texas.
Pushing for justice
Since taking office, Rozzi, a Muhlenberg Township Democrat, has spearheaded the push to give child sex abuse victims more time to confront their abusers and organizations that shield them in court.
The bill he's championed would end time limits for criminal charges. It would also extend the deadline for victims to file lawsuits and allow all victims up to age 50 to file lawsuits, even if their earlier deadlines have passed.
As the state House prepared to vote on the bill earlier this year, Allentown Bishop John O. Barres penned a letter to church faithful, opposing the plan and detailing the diocese's response to abuse.
“We have responded to the survivors and their families who have come forward with compassion and support to help them heal,” Barres wrote. “No matter who in the church committed the crime against them, or when the crime occurred, we make counseling and medical treatment available.”
Humma said he shook his head with disbelief as he read the letter. The diocese would have known about his allegations of abuse as early as 2003 because of the statement he gave. But he said church officials didn't reach out to him until 2010.
At the time, he and Rozzi had been hounding state lawmakers and asking them to overhaul the time limits for abuse victims. It was two years before Rozzi would run for state representative. But Rozzi had spoken to the Reading Eagle on May 7, 2010 about his abuse.
The diocese's victim assistance coordinator emailed Humma on May 12, 2010, to offer her contact information. That came in response to an email Humma had sent to state lawmakers referencing the Eagle column about Rozzi and saying he was also abused by Graff.
Humma was contacted again five months later by a man who identified himself as a private investigator hired by the diocese. His letter, which was sent to Humma's parents' address, referenced Humma's 2003 statement.
Diocese spokesman Matt Kerr confirmed that in 2003 the diocese received Humma's statement from its insurance company, among other documents related to the Texas settlement. But he said the diocese didn't have Humma's contact information until 2010, when it obtained his email and reached out to him.
He said the diocese's response to abuse has evolved and services are offered to assist victims no matter when the abuse occurred.
Humma said the diocese could have easily obtained his contact information.
Humma enlisted the help of an attorney but never sued the diocese because the short window he had to file a lawsuit had passed. He's hoping Rozzi's reform effort is successful so his case can move forward.
It's not about money itself, he said. It's about the church's acknowledgement of what happened to him and the pain he suffered as a result.
“The only thing that is tangible — because they're never going to admit guilt — the only tangible thing you can hold is money,” Humma said. “The only thing they're going to do is cut a check. But it's a tangible thing that attaches to presumed guilt.”
As more stories of abuse come to light, Humma said, he's hoping there will be a tipping point in efforts to hold accountable those who are responsible.
“There's too much of this going on,” he said. “They can't continue to paper over this thing without consequences.”
Silent Struggles: Mark Berkery
When Mark Berkery was a boy, he was raped by a family friend, and afterward his parents knew he'd need good counseling to heal.
So they introduced him to the man they trusted most to help, the Rev. Stanley Gana, a priest at Ascension of Our Lord Church in Kensington.
The Berkerys were Catholic and lived in that north Philadelphia neighborhood, and Gana convinced them he could help the boy more than a private counselor.
Gana's archdiocese bio included “youth counseling” among his talents and interests.
“He was very persuasive,” said Berkery, now 53, of Pottstown.
The first counseling session was in 1977, when Berkery was 14. When it wrapped up, Gana forced a hug on him, even though he knew it would make the boy uncomfortable, Berkery said.
“You have to realize that not everybody wants to abuse you or have sex with you,” Berkery recalled Gana telling him.
More counseling meant more hugs, which progressed to kisses on the cheek, then to kisses on the mouth, Berkery said.
And over time, Gana began touching Berkery's genitals, then masturbating him, then committing oral and anal sodomy on him,
said Berkery, whose account is backed up in a 2005 Philadelphia grand jury report on abuse in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
“He knew what he was doing,” Berkery said of the way Gana groomed him as a victim. “It was very slow, very measured and very insidious.”
The abuse lasted for more than four years, and over that time Gana raped Berkery hundreds of times, according to Berkery and the grand jury report.
“Gana also sexually abused countless boys in a succession of parishes,” the grand jury report said.
Gana, now 73, was never charged because by the time the grand jury report was released, the two- or five-year windows his victims had to bring criminal charges (depending on when they were abused) had long expired. Church officials, however, have publicly called abuse allegations against Gana credible.
A Reading Eagle reporter placed a phone call to a number connected with the Orlando, Fla., address that public records list for Gana. A man answered the phone. He asked who was calling when asked by the reporter if he was Gana. When the reporter identified himself, the man quickly hung up.
Further calls to the same number made over two weeks were not answered. Messages were left indicating a reporter was seeking Gana's comments about accusations that he molested a child. Those messages were not returned. Last week, the number had been disconnected.
The grand jury report states the archdiocese had been hearing allegations about Gana's sexual misconduct since the early 1970s. Berkery is appalled that the archdiocese allowed Gana continued access to boys years after being told of his abuse.
“If the diocese had done its job correctly, I'd have never been abused,” he said. “All they've done is hide behind secret settlements and nondisclosure agreements, and all that's done is perpetuated the problem.”
The grand jury report detailed Gana's actions this way:
“He sexually abused countless boys in a succession of Philadelphia Archdiocese parishes. He was known to kiss, fondle, anally sodomize, and impose oral sex on his victims. He took advantage of altar boys, their trusting families, and vulnerable teenagers with emotional problems. He brought groups of adolescent male parishioners on overnights and would rotate them through his bed. He collected nude pornographic photos of his victims. He molested boys on a farm, in vacation houses, in the church rectory. Some minors he abused for years.”
When Gana took Berkery on trips he often took other boys as well and abused them, too, the grand jury report said.
“Gana would have them take turns coming into his bed,” the report said, and Gana sometimes sexually assaulted Berkery and another boy at the same time.
“He abused me at least once a week for those four years, and usually more than once a week,” Berkery said.
Those assaults occurred most often in the Ascension of God rectory where Gana lived, Berkery said.
When they were alone in church, Gana fondled him almost constantly, Berkery said.
“One year I missed the Christmas Mass, so he brought me into a sacristy for a private Mass,” Berkery said. “He locked the door and raped me.”
The first year that Gana was counseling Berkery, he had the boy's family spend the summer on the more than 100-acre property he owned in Friendsville, Susquehanna County, Berkery said.
There Gana raped him out of view of his parents, Berkery said. He also brought him back the next three summers without Berkery's family to assault him again and again, Berkery said.
Gana also abused Berkery on trips to Disney World, Niagara Falls, Notre Dame University and the Jersey Shore, turning what should have been special memories for an inner city kid into a nightmare that still haunts him, Berkery said.
Gana was good at isolating Berkery to make him easier to prey on, telling him that he should be seen but not heard, and that he wasn't allowed to speak with anyone about their time together, Berkery said.
Gana even turned the boy against his own family, while also giving Berkery's parents money when they needed it for things like groceries to keep them on his side, Berkery said.
“He was not only working me, he was working them,” Berkery said.
Emotional, mental toll
Berkery separated from Gana when he went to college, but his problems didn't go away.
“I didn't have the same college experience as other people,” he said. “I was suicidal.”
Berkery went to the student health center on campus, which was the first place he ever talked about the abuse he'd suffered.
After college, Berkery struggled with substance abuse.
When he got sober in 1995, he called the archdiocese to report Gana's abuse.
The diocese arranged for him to meet Monsignor William Lynn, who at the time was often the first one alleged abuse victims within the diocese talked to. Lynn was convicted in 2012 of putting a known child molester, the Rev. Edward J. Avery, in contact with children; Avery was convicted and remains jailed on child abuse charges. Lynn remains in prison while his case is on appeal.
After Berkery entered the room, he said these were the first words he heard from Lynn: “We don't make financial settlements.”
Berkery has since learned that wasn't true. But more disturbing to him was that he'd never asked for money, yet that was still the church's focus.
“What I wanted was to make sure he (Gana) didn't have access to any more kids,” Berkery said.
Gana was ultimately defrocked in 2006 “as a result of credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor,” according to a listing of the status of accused priests on the archdiocese's website.
The grand jury in 2005 used Gana's case to illustrate church leaders' response to abuse. According to the report, Lynn justified not removing Gana after learning he had abused children by saying that Gana was “not a pure pedophile” because he also had sex with adult women, abused alcohol and stole money from the church.
According to the grand jury report, Gana was moved to a lower-profile role in 1997 but continued to serve as a priest until 2002, when he was removed from his assignment during national attention on abuse by Boston priests.
Berkery told Lynn that he knew there were many other victims of Gana, but Lynn told him that he shouldn't try to find other victims or speak to those alleging abuse, Berkery said.
The diocese referred Berkery to a nun for counseling, but that therapy was mostly her telling him any sexual contact he had with Gana was his fault because he let it happen, Berkery said.
Berkery said child abuse victims already live with enough guilt and shame, but to have a nun make him feel even worse about what happened was unconscionable.
Kenneth A. Gavin, archdiocese spokesman, said he couldn't comment on specific victims' cases.
But he said, the archdiocese's response to reports of abuse has changed dramatically since the 1990s. Now, he said, law enforcement is immediately notified and outreach to victims and the investigation of the allegations are handled separately and by former law enforcement professionals, not clergy.
Berkery has been identified in other news accounts as the boy described in the grand jury report. He also testified about his alleged abuse by Gana during Lynn's trial. And he has been involved in activism for abuse victims at the state Capitol.
"I can't trust people"
Berkery remained a devout Catholic and continued to attend Masses. But more than once while standing in the back of the church, he heard older women gossiping about boys victimized by priests, not knowing he was one of them.
“They'd say we were lying, and we just wanted the money, that we encouraged it (the abuse) and that we were the ones who molested the priests,” he said.
But what Berkery said ultimately crushed his Catholicism and his faith in God was a meeting with Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, whom until that moment Berkery had believed would help him get justice.
The grand jury report says Bevilacqua refused to grant Berkery's request for a meeting in 1995. But Berkery said he eventually met with the cardinal years later.
“But basically he just told me to shut up,” Berkery said. “That was it for me.”
The grand jury, citing the archdiocese's own files, said Bevilacqua knew about sexual abuse of children by archdiocean priests and was engaged in efforts to conceal it. The 2011 grand jury that recommended charges against Lynn said it did not recommend charging Bevilacqua only because there wasn't enough evidence directly linking him to the two specific cases that led to charges against Lynn.
Bevilacqua died in 2012.
Several times a day Berkery still thinks of his abuse, the pain rushing back, along with the feeling of being helpless.
“I'm 53 and I'm still figuring it out, still dealing with the effects of that abuse,” he said.
Berkery can't work now, relying on disability payments he receives for post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder, he said.
He rarely leaves the house other than to pick up groceries or for the therapy appointments he attends four times a week, he said.
“I can't be around people,” he said. “I can't trust people.”
He supports the bill that would extend time limits for fellow abuse victims to bring criminal charges or file lawsuits. But he wishes a proposal to revive already-expired lawsuits went further.
“It eliminates people who are over 50 and were victimized,” he said. “I want those people to have their day in court and their justice, too.
“I've been seeking justice for more than 20 years, but I'm always getting cut off by some ambiguous (age) number. First the age was raised to 30, and now they're trying for 50, but each time I'm just outside of it.”
Doesn't want money
Berkery said he still has no interest in money from the church, but very much wants Gana to receive his just punishment in a courtroom.
“Society says that's where these things should be settled (nowadays),” he said. “I've been seeking true justice for years, but I've come up against roadblock after roadblock after roadblock.”
Berkery not only received no monetary compensation from the church, but no direct apology or admission of guilt, he said.
The archdiocese pays for his counseling, sending the payments directly to his therapist, and for his medication. He used to receive letters from the archdiocese telling him they were paying his counseling bills out of “charitable” or “compassionate” concern, but the letters now just indicate his bills are being paid.
Gavin said the archdiocese, as its support services for victims evolved, stopped using the language about charitable concern in correspondence to victims.
Berkery said the letters don't acknowledge the impact of the abuse.
“They don't mention it's because they ruined my life,” he said.
Stanley Gana grand jury report: (goes with Mark Berkery segment)
Grand Jury report: Stanley Gana
Resources for victims
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape operates a toll-free hotline to connect victims of sexual violence with local help and services for victims. That number is 888-772-7227 and is available at all times.
Information is also available on the coalition's website, pcar.org.
The state attorney general's office also has a hotline for victims of the recently exposed abuse cover-up scandal in the Altoona-Johnstown area: 888-538-8541.
And the office's Child Predator Unit can be reached at 800-385-1044.
Abuse survivor advocates push for national redress scheme in lead-up to election day
by Emily Bourke
Advocates for survivors of child sexual abuse are ramping up their campaign for a national redress scheme ahead of this weekend's federal election.
The establishment of a national redress scheme was a key recommendation handed down by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The Commission stated that a national redress scheme could help compensate 60,000 child abuse victims.
But one of the peak organisations representing abuse victims has said only the Greens and Labor parties have put forward any funding commitments for such a scheme.
The Coalition has said it supports a national, consistent approach as recommended by the Royal Commission, but has not yet made any formal funding commitment.
Leonie Sheedy from advocacy group CLAN told PM "they have a national consistent approach, which means that they said they would get all the states and territories together for a talk fest, to sing kumbaya."
"Since then, they announced that in January three states have pulled out: Tasmania, Western Australia, and South Australia.
"So there is no national consistent approach, we actually call it the 'national inconsistent approach.'"
Labor has said that, if elected, it will establish a National Redress Agency in the first half of 2017.
The Greens have also announced a plan which they say is fully costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office.
Ms Sheedy is frustrated the Coalition has not yet taken action.
"The Greens have committed over $200 million to a child abuse redress scheme, the Labor Party has committed $33 million to a redress plan," she said.
"The Catholic Church has $1 billion to contribute to that national redress scheme; however, there is no agency to accept that contribution."
A spokesperson for the Federal Attorney-General said the Coalition was committed to establishing a national framework of consistent principles underpinning redress schemes run by states and territories.
And last month the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet established a Taskforce on Redress.
"Malcolm, you're failing us now': Sheedy
Ms Sheedy said survivors were especially disappointed, and even felt betrayed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, as he himself is patron of CLAN.
"He apologised to us on the 16th November, 2009," she said.
"He said the words, 'the churches, the charities, and the Government failed you'. Well now, Malcolm, you're failing us now.
"We put our trust in you and you have abandoned us and you've ignored us.
"People, really, they had a sense of hope when he became the Prime Minister, but they certainly do not have that now. They are gutted."
In what are now the final days of the election campaign, Ms Sheedy said her organisation would be out in force in marginal seats.
But Blue Knot Foundation (formerly known as ASCA) director and president, Dr Cathy Kezelman, said her organisation would prefer this was not a political issue.
"Because, really, this is an issue that affects all Australians, and it needs to have cross-party support," Ms Kezelman said.
"We have been in conversations with all of the parties, and are aware that there has been a taskforce formed within the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and we know that they are reconsidering things.
"We're hopeful that once they've looked at all the facts, that they will make the right decision and come out in support of the single, national redress scheme."
Ms Kezelman said it was a concern that the Coalition had not put any funding commitments forward in the lead-up to the federal election.
"Obviously it's a concern that this hasn't been fully costed, however, our discussions are ongoing ... we are very hopeful that when they have considered things fully, that there will be a full commitment," she said.
"When you're looking at just the pure economics, the cost of not providing the right support to survivors is significant and we did an economic report last year, which showed the cost of not providing the right support for adult survivors of childhood trauma is $9.1 billion per annum.
"So, if we're looking purely economically, this is an economic issue as well."
Welcome to the Child Abuse Capital of Maryland
Welcome, readers, to the Child Abuse Capital of Maryland.
Move over, hard crabs and Smith Island cakes. The Lower Shore's new logo can be a photograph of a crying 4-year-old with a black eye and cigarette burns on her back.
We have world-class seafood, nationally recognized beaches, excellent golf courses and pastoral vistas. And more broken, battered, beaten children than anywhere in the Old Line State.
Those are uncomfortable sentences to read, designed to be over-the-top and get your attention. This is an issue that needs your attention.
Somerset, Worcester and Wicomico counties have the three highest rates of child abuse in Maryland. It is a revolting, remarkable distinction — just about the worst notoriety a community could possibly have.
An investigative report printed in The Daily Times last week showed Somerset County led the state in child abuse rates in 2014, with a rate of 30.5 among 1,000 in children's population.
The rate in Worcester County was 29 out of 1,000 children. In Wicomico, it is 13.4 of 1,000.
The state average is 9.9; the national average is 8.5.
READ THE REPORT: Lower Shore counties lead Maryland in child abuse
With a nod toward the upcoming Summer Olympics, our Lower Shore counties would win gold, silver and bronze medals for the physical and emotional abuse of young people, if such a macabre ceremony ever were held.
Of course, we have our share of children who, mercifully, are not victims of abuse. We have our share of great parents, families and guardians.
But one of the issues of child abuse is that it is a crime of secrecy, and the issue of child abuse needs attention, solutions and education — from everyone.
There are obvious questions:
How did this happen?
Are our communities and families really this callous and uncaring?
What happens when children are subjected to this much emotional and physical abuse?
What does this say about life and society on the Lower Shore?
And most importantly, what can be done to help these children, these families and this preventable epidemic?
Here's what we know:
As reported by the child sex abuse advocacy and prevention program Darkness to Light, between 30 and 40 percent of child victims were abused by family members. In total, 90 percent of victims were abused by someone they know, usually someone they trust.
According to a study by the U.S. Department of Health, an estimated 9.2 percent of all children are victims of sexual abuse.
Substance abuse, a growing concern as heroin and opiate abuse continues to rise across the state, contributes to and exacerbates the problem.
What is helping:
Fortunately, there are Lower Shore organizations that are taking the lead on helping with this problem.
The Life Crisis Center, a nonprofit that serves the Lower Shore, works in collaboration with child advocacy centers in each of the three counties.
Child advocacy centers have brought a new era of prosecution for child sexual abusers. The former stream of interviews and police station visits by victims have been replaced by single, all-encompassing treatment centers that offer a simple process for victims.
What to look for:
Victims of physical abuse might have unexplained bruises, pattern marks such as from a belt or they may attempt to hide injuries.
Victims of neglect would have inadequate supervision, untreated illnesses or a lack of food or shelter.
Victims of sexual abuse may be withdrawn, have unexplained changes in behavior or be socially isolated, among other warning signs.
Victims of emotional abuse may exhibit Victims of emotional abuse may exhibit a decline in cognitive abilities, be detached from caregivers or be excessively withdrawn.
What should you do?
Reporting child abuse is everyone's responsibility. Here's who to call:
»In Somerset County, call 410-677-4200. After hours, call 410-651-0707.
»In Wicomico County, call 410-713-3900 (option 1). After hours, call 410-548-4890.
»In Worcester County, call 410-677-6800 or 410-641-0097. After hours, call 410-632-1111.