National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

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Recent News - News from other times

August, 2016 - Week 2
MJ Goyings
Many thanks to our very own "MJ" Goyings, a resident of Ohio, for her daily research that provides us with the news related material that appears on the LACP & NAASCA web sites.


From the Department of Homeland Security

Human Trafficking and the Hospitality Industry

Today, the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Blue Campaign is releasing a new resource to help those who work in the hospitality industry to combat human trafficking.

The Blue Campaign Hospitality Toolkit offers tips and resources that inform and educate hospitality employees about incidents of human trafficking they may observe in the course of their daily duties.

The toolkit includes the following information:

•  An explanation of the different types of human trafficking: sex trafficking, forced labor, and domestic servitude

•  An overview of human trafficking in the hospitality industry

•  Human trafficking indicators that different types of hotel and motel employees (housekeeping, concierge, bellman, security, and food and beverage staff) would be in a position to recognize

•  Information on what to do if you suspect human trafficking.

No one combats human trafficking alone, and so the Blue Campaign works to create tools and resources that empower individuals, families, organizations, businesses, and others to fight human trafficking in their own communities. The Blue Campaign Hospitality Toolkit is the first of several sector-specific toolkits that DHS plans to release this year, in order to help raise public consciousness of human trafficking across the country.



Hungry Ohio boy tried to sell teddy bear for food, police say; parents charged with child endangerment

by Tobias Salinger

A 7-year-old Ohio boy who hadn't eaten anything for days was trying to sell his teddy bear to get money for food, police said.

Franklin police officer Steve Dunham told WLWT-TV on Thursday he found the boy in front of a CVS store last Sunday afternoon.

The hungry child's parents, Tammy and Michael Bethel, face child endangering charges after investigators said they found four older boys at the family home living among garbage, cat urine and cockroaches.

Tammy Bethel has since written on the Facebook page of the Franklin Police Department that she denies the allegations. Yet Dunham said the sight of the boy peddling a teddy bear upset him so much he took him to a Subway to get something to eat right away.

“It broke my heart. He told me that he was trying to sell his stuffed animal to get money for food because he hadn't eaten in several days,” Dunham told WLWT.

The caring cop and the boy “said a little prayer and ate dinner together,” he added.

Two other officers went to the Bethels' home after Dunham took the boy to the police station in the small town roughly 15 miles outside Dayton, Franklin police told the Journal-News of Butler and Warren counties.

The officers found liquor bottles, garbage and cat urine in the squalor of the Main St. house, according to a police report obtained by the newspaper.

Investigators believe the house showed a “a substantial risk of health and safety by neglecting the cleanliness in the residence, having a large amount of bugs and spoiled food throughout the residence, not having properly prepared and packaged food for the minor children to eat, and allowing a 7-year-old child to wander from the residence without their permission or knowledge, in an attempt to locate food.”

Child welfare officials removed all five children from their parents' care and placed them with other relatives. A judge ordered the Bethels not to have any contact with the children, according to the newspaper.

Both Tammy and Michael Bethel face five counts of child endangerment charges ahead of a court appearance next month.They pleaded not guilty.

Tammy Bethel went on the Franklin police Facebook page Friday to say that her house is normally clean and the CVS where police found her son is very close to her home. She said the house was dirty after her kids had friends over in recent days.

“The cop just popped up on the wrong day I hadn't had a chance to clean the mess that all them kids had made and yes I was arguing with my kids to help clean the mess up,” Bethel wrote. “BTW my kids didn't even eat the food that the cops brought them because they had just ate.”

Other users jeered her and her husband in response. One of them politely asked her to “please stop” posting on the page.

“You're trying to defend the indefensible,” the user wrote. “Just pick yourself up, own it, and be a better parent. Nobody hates you. But you need to do better.”

The police department said a local church, St Vincent De Paul of 115 S. Main St., is accepting donations of money to help the children involved in the case. Franklin Police Chief Russell Whitman praised the officers who had investigated Sunday in an interview with WLWT.

“Hopefully, these officers' actions changed these kids' lives and maybe changed the lives of the parents, to become better parents,” Whitman said.


United Kingdom

What are the long term consequences for survivors of child abuse?

by Michael Alexander

It was the day that the headmaster and a teacher of a former Fife school for troubled boys were finally convicted of physical and sexual abuse against six pupils more than 30 years ago.

John Farrell, 73, and Paul Kelly, 64, were sentenced to five and 10 years respectively for assaulting vulnerable pupils at St Ninian's in Falkland, Fife, which was run by the worldwide Congregation of Christian Brothers.

The pair abused the boys – many who already had a chaotic upbringing and whom they should have been protecting – to satisfy their depraved needs.

On Friday August 12 at the High Court in Glasgow, judge Lord Matthews said they had committed a “gross abuse of trust”.

But away from the headlines, what are the long term consequences for victims, and how extensive has institutional abuse been?

With seemingly no end of historic abuse cases hitting the headlines across Britain, it's unlikely to be the last we hear of St Ninian's.

A series of hearings run by the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry are due to start in November. The inquiry, set up in October last year, will look into the abuse of children in care across Scotland. The Inquiry will report to Scottish Government Ministers within four years with recommendations for the future to improve the law, policies and practices in Scotland.


According to Victim Support Scotland – an independent charity whose trained staff and volunteers specifically help victims of crime – the impact of child abuse on many adult survivors can be hugely traumatic and devastating.

A spokesperson told The Courier: “Whilst individual coping mechanisms can vary, the long term effects of abuse for many victims can involve physical, behavioural, social and psychological issues.

“For some these can be debilitating and can lead to depression, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts or self-harm. For others their coping mechanism may be to rely on drugs and drink. Many may well also have to cope with the pain of injuries or live with the physical effects of scarring.”

One man who knows only too well the long term consequences of abuse is Dave Sharp, 57 – a former St Ninian's resident from 1970 to 1976, now living in England – who has been fighting for justice for nearly 20 years.

He didn't give testimony in court because the man who raped him at Falkland, Father Gerry Ryan, is dead.

Last September he was awarded a pay out from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority for the crimes committed against him.

But whilst he is delighted with the sentencing, he still wants to hear a “meaningful apology” from the Catholic Church and the Christian Brothers and is organising a national campaign to try and achieve this.

He said dozens, if not hundreds of men in Scotland have had their lives “shattered” by such abuse.

Concrete slabs

He told The Courier: “For victims of historic abuse like this, we live with concrete slabs in our hearts. It weighs down every part of our lives. The Christian Brotherhood and Catholic Church know this and only they can take the slab out.”

Dave, who claims he was trafficked to Ireland and drugged then raped by multiple men whilst in the care of the Christian Brothers, says that recent media covered “does not begin to tell of the horrors” that went on in St Ninian's and other institutions in the late 1960's and early 1970's.

He says that even to this day, he hasn't come to terms with the bullying by gangs or the sexual and mental abuse he says he suffered at the hands of at least one priest.

“It is very difficult to talk about the flashbacks that continue throughout the life of victims and throughout my life I have been very badly affected by the events of my childhood,” he said.

“One of the most difficult things to talk about for victims is the affect that the actual grooming has on their life and the guilt and the shame of actually at some stage enjoying what was happening because these people are so good at convincing you that what you are doing is right and proper.”

Dave, who blames the anger he carried around his whole life for a 20-year drug addiction and at least two spells in prison, said that only by becoming a Christian has he managed to “forgive” his abusers.


But he added: “I know that my life has been affected by the horrible things that went on in that place as well as a sickening run of bad luck in my life.

I have to say that my memories are very much distorted and just like most victims of child abuse I have actually questioned if these things really did happen.

“I think I can safely say that my saving grace is the fact that I became a Christian and through the power of God found the strength to forgive the people that done the terrible things to me. But the fight goes on. The Catholic Church tells us they send their love. But I feel victims have been abandoned and we need the public to realise that. “

Another man still traumatised by his experiences at St Ninian's is Edinburgh-born grandfather Jon Swanson, 64, now of Livingston.

He resided at the school from 1964 to 1966 – long before the allegations associated with this particular court case – but recalls the regime as “brutal” even then.

Separated from his brother, he was sent there having been shifted around various residential homes from birth, and then later being badly beaten at home by his father.

“Falkland was brutal – the beatings, the abuse – just everything,” he told The Courier.

“I got the belt there quite a lot, for anything – the slightest little thing like talking. But we were young boys. We wanted a bit of a carry on.”

Jon, who recently gave evidence to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, said some of the Christian Brothers would come into the dormitories at night and check for “bed wetters”.

“I was a prolific bed wetter,” recalled Jon, who has been interviewed by police but has not yet had his case taken to court.

“They used to come in and feel under the sheets. There was no need for the Brothers to put their hands where they did. They were feeling inside. That was abuse as far as I was concerned. I didn't respond to them. I just froze with fear.”

Aged 14, Jon was moved into a working men's hostel in Edinburgh. But with no support and a feeling that the hostel was inappropriate for a 14 year old, he “went homeless” on the streets of Edinburgh.

He stole from shops to survive and was caught several times. With no fixed abode, no friends, and running the gauntlet of life on the streets, he was sent to Polmont borstal aged 16 and drifted in and out of prison thereafter.

“I was anti-social, anti-authority and trusted nobody,”he added.


But as he got older he became determined to turn his life around and during one shoplifting spree, he met the woman to whom he has now been married for 40 years.

“I met my Mrs whilst stealing from a shop in Edinburgh, “he revealed. “She knew I was thieving but she never bothered. We got speaking. She's my rock now. We've been through a lot together. But I still suffer by what happened – and so do my family.”

Jon, now a father of three and grandfather, is pleased that there have been convictions linked to Falkland. Having blocked out the memories over the years, he is pleased to have been able to get his experiences “off my chest”. He has also had many meetings with other survivors.

But he reckons the Falkland convictions are just the “tip of the iceberg” and he has yet been able to find closure.

“The place was full of it,” he said. “I would hate to think the others have got away with it. We've had to suffer all our lives. It's not been easy. It's been a struggle.

“The whole system was wrong and I want answers. They took 14 years away I don't get back. But it's been my whole life. People say to me ‘why do you never smile'? I say ‘I can't help it'.”

Today, the former St Ninian's School building is occupied by the completely unrelated and award winning Falkland House School. For visitors walking past the splendid mansion set amid the stunning landscape of Falkland Estate, at the foot of the East Lomond, it's difficult to comprehend what went on there all those years ago.

Most Falkland residents are shocked that the Christian Brothers regime was responsible for such heinous and depraved acts. Yet according to one businessman who asked not to be identified, some in the community remain “in denial” about what happened.


“Some older people tell me there were rumours as far back as 1960 about what was going on at the school, but nobody ever did anything about it because the Brotherhood were seen as ‘untouchable' in those days,” he said.

Falkland Fife councillor David MacDiarmid has lived in the village for 25 years.

He revealed that one of his first cases when he became a councillor in 2007 involved a former pupil from St Ninian's who claimed he had been gang-raped by two pupils in woods surrounding the school decades earlier.

He agreed to meet the former pupil at Fife House in Glenrothes.

“He then poured his heart out to me,” recalled the councillor, “telling me things I didn't want to know."

“Effectively he had been gang raped by two pupils in the woods surrounding the school."

“He named both the pupils, one whose whereabouts was unknown and the other I believe was living in Dundee."

“He travelled from the Glasgow area by bus to tell me this story, and despite his obvious grief had been in mainstream schooling and was doing well.”


Councillor MacDiarmid was in contact with him a few times after that trying to set up a meeting with the police.

He was then advised by a fellow councillor to drop the case and leave it to the police.

“To be honest I was totally out of my depth,” he recalled. “As time goes on and more and more cases are exposed, I often think of him and wished that I had ignored the advice given to me.”

The councillor said if he had been asked for a comment about St Ninian's 25 years ago, it would be of “utter disbelief”.

“Unfortunately over the last 10 years or so,” he added, “we have been bombarded with historical abuse cases, not only involving the many priests that have been found and charged, but cases involving other people that were trusted mostly by the public, namely television and radio “personalities”.

“Have we not become a wee bit sanitised by it all now, to the extent that almost nothing shocks us anymore?”


Why fearless gold medalist Kayla Harrison is done with judo

by Jim Caple

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Kayla Harrison's mother, Jeannie Yazell, stood outside the judo arena early Thursday evening, beaming with pride and joy after watching her daughter earn a second Olympic gold medal in the sport. Yazell also wore a T-shirt bearing Harrison's image and the word "FEARLESS" in capital letters.

Being fearless is an important thing for Harrison, not just on the mat but everywhere. Especially after all she has been through.

"Our family is extremely competitive, even playing a game of Uno," Yazell said. "She is extremely competitive. Her fearlessness comes from every adversity that she has been through -- and she has been through so much adversity that no one can break her. These girls are tough, but there wasn't anything that could break her mentally coming into these Games."

Or during the Games, either.

Harrison won her second gold medal Thursday, beating France's Audrey Tcheumeo in the 78-kilogram division final. Harrison cried four years ago in London after becoming the first American -- female or male -- to win Olympic gold in judo, but she was all smiles this time.

"The first time I won gold I cried because I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe I was Olympic champion, the first ever for the United States," she said. "And this time around I was a woman on a mission. I wanted to retain my title. I knew it was going to be a long hard road, and I am happy. There will be no sad tears from me for a long, long time."

Harrison has had many times to cry in her life. Not only did her father die a few years ago, but she was sexually abused by her judo coach for several years from at least age 12 (the coach was sentenced to 10 years in prison). Because of that abuse, Yazell said, Harrison was moved from the family home in Ohio to Massachusetts to help her get away from that horror.

Once there, she began working with two highly respected coaches, Jim Pedro and his son Jimmy, who is a two-time Olympic bronze medalist in judo. They helped make her the champion she is today.

"She's a young lady that has overcome such adversity in her life that no judo match can compare to what she's been through," Jimmy Pedro said. "As an athlete, she always gives 100 percent and does everything that's expected of her. She listens, she adapts, she can follow a game plan. She never skips a workout. She is as dedicated as they come, and she is as tough as any athlete I've ever been with."

With two gold medals, Harrison says she will retire from competition -- "What else is there for me to do in judo?" -- and try to grow the sport. More importantly, she also will focus more on helping sexually abused children and adults to cope with the trauma. After the London Olympics, she started the Fearless Foundation for that purpose.

"I set up the foundation to try and help survivors of sexual abuse through education, through sports," she said. "There is a lot of stuff going on, and it's just in its infancy. Being a two-time Olympic champion is an amazing thing, but the Fearless Foundation isn't about me; it's about helping people who need help. And essentially being to someone else what the Pedros were to me. They saved my life and changed my life."

They also taught her to not be afraid, despite all she had experienced.

"When I talk to them, they tell me, 'Kayla Harrison, be fearless. Unleash, and you will be Olympic champion,'" she said. "And I want young boys and young girls to feel fearless and to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and there is a shining gold medal.

"Maybe even two."



Foster families needed as reports of child abuse increases

by Jackalyn Kovac

(WEAR) — With the number of reported child abuse cases doubling in the last year, local agencies are looking for places to put children while they get help.

From Escambia County to Walton County, emergency foster families are in demand.

They take kids for just a couple days, while the agency handles the case and works to get them with a family member. But as the work load increases, more families are needed to ensure a child's safety.

Keith Ann Campbell, executive director of Santa Rosa Kids House explains that case workers can't work overtime because the funding is just not there.

"They're having double the case load, and they're not allowed to work overtime, and they're having to rush their cases through," Campbell said. "Big decisions really are still made by a lot of people, and it's not just one person saying 'Hey, you know what, I think it's best if they leave -- or stay.'"

Campbell added they strive to get the child back with their family.

"The [Department of Children and Families] is doing a really good job of putting safety plans in place right now, so even though they are very over worked, they're very well trained, and i think they're doing a good job with it," Campbell said.

Before a child can go back home, they usually stay with a foster family.

"We're always looking for more foster families, especially emergency foster families, and those are the ones that will take them for a day or two, until we can get more care," Campbell said.

Tara Spencer and her husband have been foster parents for the last four years. They've opened their home to seven children and adopted three.

"Initially we became foster parents because we couldn't have children of our own, so we waited to adopt out of the foster care system," Spencer said.

She explains fostering can take an emotional toll.

"So you go in, not knowing what's going to happen, so I tell [people] don't have expectations of anything other than making sure the child gets what's best for him or her," Spencer added.

Spencer knows the heartbreak, but understands it's not about her. She believes she's fortunate to have her three young children and encourages anyone thinking about fostering to take the steps to get certified.

"Being a foster parent was the best decision my husband and I could have made," Spencer said. "As foster parents you need to go into this not thinking you're so wonderfully, you're bringing something to the table but knowing these children come into your life and they bring so much joy."

For more information on how to become a foster parent, contact Families First Network at (850) 453-7777 in Escambia & Santa Rosa Counties or (850) 833-3898 in Walton and Okaloosa Counties.




Be vigilant against child sex abuse

by Linda E. Johnson

Two independent newspapers, The Indianapolis Star and USA Today, have published a major investigation regarding the failure of USA Gymnastics to report the suspicion of child sexual abuse by many different coaches over many years. Their failure to follow the law and report any suspicion of child abuse by coaches has resulted in the abuse of some victims over many years as well as girls who otherwise would not have been victimized at all.

This very same pattern occurred with Penn State and all-too-many Catholic dioceses, and with leaders from other communities of faith across our nation. What happened with the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State in 2011 dated back decades as well. Each institution was more interested in protecting its own reputation than reporting horrific crimes happening in clear view on their watch. And as the Indianapolis Star reports, USA Gymnastics had developed policies that made reporting of these crimes more difficult and allowed their leadership to largely ignore them when they came in. How many times does this have to happen before we take stronger action? What needs to happen to stop it now?

First, facts about child sexual abuse confirm that sexual predators will often seek employment in a position that gives them access to children and youth. Second, the vast majority of adults working in these institutions are wonderful and dedicated individuals who choose to give back to their communities, sacrificing higher paying jobs because of their commitment to helping children learn, grow and prepare for successful adulthood. Third, nearly all of these stories, both about Penn State and now at USA Gymnastics, focus on the failure to report child abuse.

Reporting is critical. and Vermont requires all those who work and care for children to report the suspicion of child abuse or neglect to the Vermont Department for Children and Families. Their central intake number is 1-800-649-5285. Anyone can make a report and may choose to report anonymously.

However, little attention is being given in these media reports toward preventing these cases before they occur. Studies show that once a child has suffered abuse, his or her life is changed forever. Although many victims remain strong and resilient, research shows that victims are more likely to suffer a long list of poor health and development outcomes, including alcohol and drug use, criminal activity, mental health problems, chronic health issues, marital problems, physical health problems and even early mortality. Child maltreatment is clearly a root cause of a large swath of health and social problems affecting millions of Americans, costing us billions of dollars in lost humanity and productivity along the way.

Child sexual abuse is preventable. It can be stopped before a child is victimized. What can work? As one example, youth-serving organizations can develop stronger policies that prohibit specific “boundary-violating behaviors” that are part of the grooming process used by predators to identify a vulnerable child. This could include providing special gifts or rides to a child, inviting them to be alone with the adult (outside of the program), developing relationships via social media, or any touching that goes beyond acceptable guidelines for that program. If youth organizations implement these policies with all staff, it sends a powerful signal to anyone with other intentions that this organization is wise to steps that predators use, and violations will quickly be reported along the way. It empowers other staff to come forward and let their leadership know, at an earlier point in time, if a fellow staff person is exhibiting creepy or unacceptable behavior that could be a problem. The organization can take action sooner to counsel their staff about what behavior is acceptable and let them know that any future problems could lead to a loss of employment. It may encourage those with problems to get professional help.

Prevent Child Abuse Vermont works with schools and child care providers to train adults in how they can protect children from child sexual abuse. We work with teachers and administrators to strengthen children's social and emotional knowledge and behavior to reduce the likelihood that they will be victimized or victimize others. If your school, child care center, organization or club would like more information or training about preventing child sexual abuse, please call us at 1-800-CHILDREN or 802-229-5724, or go online to

Together, we can lift the veil of secrecy and silence that allows child sexual abuse to occur.

Linda E Johnson is the executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.



Seminary addresses child abuse issue

by Bill Bumpas

One of the world's leading seminaries training evangelical Christian leaders will be requiring all students pursuing ministry degrees to receive sexual abuse awareness training, and it is believed to be the first time a seminary is making this kind of training a requirement.

Beginning this fall, ministry students at Dallas Theological Seminary will be required to receive an entry-level certification in the training offered by MinistrySafe.

Dr. Mark Yarbrough, Dallas Theological Seminary's vice president for Academic Affairs and academic dean, says in today's world this training is a must for people who will be serving in ministry.

"It is unfortunate that we are living in some pretty dark days and certainly the statistics prove that out," he admits. "And some tragedies have happened in some very good, strong churches and ministries and organizations."

Yarbrough tells OneNewsNow that students going into ministry need to know the importance of establishing safeguards against the sexual abuse of children.

"We wanted to make sure that our students at Dallas Seminary, for those in our ministry-related programs, have an understanding of what is happening and how to better equip not just themselves but the ministries they will serve in in order to better protect our children," he says.

In addition, DTS and MinistrySafe will offer an in-depth course for credit, likely beginning with next year's spring semester. It will provide more than 40 hours of content, including preventative protocols for ministry settings. Both courses will be available to DTS students online.


New York

Open Letter Urges New York Times to Help Reverse ‘Culture of Silence' on Child Sexual Abuse

by Emma Niles

Author and activist Nancy Levine on Thursday published an open letter on Medium directed at Liz Spayd, The New York Times' public editor. Levine asked the Times to provide better coverage of child sexual abuse.

Levine also asked for transparency about a potential conflict of interest she believes is limiting the publication's coverage of the proposed Child Victims Act, a piece of New York state legislation that would eliminate the statute of limitations for prosecuting cases of abuse against underage children. So far, 38 survivors of abuse and advocates fighting against the problem have signed Levine's letter.

“As advocates working to raise awareness of issues surrounding child sexual abuse, we would like to ask The Times to elevate its editorial sensitivity to covering related news,” Levine writes. “Can we, the community of survivors of child sexual abuse and advocates, count on The Times to elevate its editorial sensitivity to covering news that affects us?”

In the letter, Levine also refers to “an appearance of a conflict of interest” in “The Times' absence of recent coverage of the Child Victims Act of New York.” In a separate piece, also published on Medium, Levine outlines the potential conflict and shares her correspondence with Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet.

Levine writes that John Mackey, a co-founder of Whole Foods, expressed support for Marc Gafni, who was revealed in a December 2015 article published by the Times to have sexually abused a child. “As it happens,” Levine writes, “the wife of The New York Times Publisher and Chairman Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., Gabrielle Greene Sulzberger sits on the Whole Foods Market Board of Directors.” Levine continues:

Presumably there is no causal relationship between The Times' absence of reporting on the Child Victims Act and the Sulzbergers' financial interests in Whole Foods Market. But to quell any concern about a conflict of interest ... wouldn't The Times want to pay close attention to reporting on the bill?

The Times also has not followed up on its December story about Mackey's association with Gafni. The newspaper did not report news of coordinated protests at Whole Foods stores in New York City and at the company's widely heralded [launching of the first so-called 365 store] in Los Angeles in May.

Levine notes that other major publications, such as The Washington Post, covered the story of the protests.

Levine seems disheartened about her communications with Baquet, noting that he replied to her initial query about the Times' transparency by writing that “[o]nly someone quite paranoid would see such a connection.”

According to the New York Daily News, various versions of the Child Victims Act “would either extend the time that child sex abuse victims can bring legal cases, or eliminate the time limit for doing so.” As to the status of the legislation, the Daily News notes that Republicans in the state Senate blocked a vote from happening before the 2016 legislative session ended in June.

Levine writes: “I am asking Mr. Baquet and The Times to help expedite a shift?—changing the culture of silence that allows child sexual abuse to proliferate, and prevents long-festering wounds from healing. ... In the midst of our boiling-over outrage about sexual violence, might The Times make a real difference to survivors and victims of child sexual abuse who are in serious need of a powerful ally?”


Open Letter Urges New York Times to Help Reverse ‘Culture of Silence' on Child Sexual Abuse

by Emma Niles

Author and activist Nancy Levine on Thursday published an open letter on Medium directed at Liz Spayd, The New York Times' public editor. Levine asked the Times to provide better coverage of child sexual abuse.

Levine also asked for transparency about a potential conflict of interest she believes is limiting the publication's coverage of the proposed Child Victims Act, a piece of New York state legislation that would eliminate the statute of limitations for prosecuting cases of abuse against underage children. So far, 38 survivors of abuse and advocates fighting against the problem have signed Levine's letter.

“As advocates working to raise awareness of issues surrounding child sexual abuse, we would like to ask The Times to elevate its editorial sensitivity to covering related news,” Levine writes. “Can we, the community of survivors of child sexual abuse and advocates, count on The Times to elevate its editorial sensitivity to covering news that affects us?”

In the letter, Levine also refers to “an appearance of a conflict of interest” in “The Times' absence of recent coverage of the Child Victims Act of New York.” In a separate piece, also published on Medium, Levine outlines the potential conflict and shares her correspondence with Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet.

Levine writes that John Mackey, a co-founder of Whole Foods, expressed support for Marc Gafni, who was revealed in a December 2015 article published by the Times to have sexually abused a child. “As it happens,” Levine writes, “the wife of The New York Times Publisher and Chairman Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., Gabrielle Greene Sulzberger sits on the Whole Foods Market Board of Directors.” Levine continues:

Presumably there is no causal relationship between The Times' absence of reporting on the Child Victims Act and the Sulzbergers' financial interests in Whole Foods Market. But to quell any concern about a conflict of interest ... wouldn't The Times want to pay close attention to reporting on the bill?

The Times also has not followed up on its December story about Mackey's association with Gafni. The newspaper did not report news of coordinated protests at Whole Foods stores in New York City and at the company's widely heralded [launching of the first so-called 365 store] in Los Angeles in May.

Levine notes that other major publications, such as The Washington Post, covered the story of the protests.

Levine seems disheartened about her communications with Baquet, noting that he replied to her initial query about the Times' transparency by writing that “[o]nly someone quite paranoid would see such a connection.”

According to the New York Daily News, various versions of the Child Victims Act “would either extend the time that child sex abuse victims can bring legal cases, or eliminate the time limit for doing so.” As to the status of the legislation, the Daily News notes that Republicans in the state Senate blocked a vote from happening before the 2016 legislative session ended in June.

Levine writes: “I am asking Mr. Baquet and The Times to help expedite a shift?—changing the culture of silence that allows child sexual abuse to proliferate, and prevents long-festering wounds from healing. ... In the midst of our boiling-over outrage about sexual violence, might The Times make a real difference to survivors and victims of child sexual abuse who are in serious need of a powerful ally?”


Open Letter Urges New York Times to Help Reverse ‘Culture of Silence' on Child Sexual Abuse

by Emma Niles

Author and activist Nancy Levine on Thursday published an open letter on Medium directed at Liz Spayd, The New York Times' public editor. Levine asked the Times to provide better coverage of child sexual abuse.

Levine also asked for transparency about a potential conflict of interest she believes is limiting the publication's coverage of the proposed Child Victims Act, a piece of New York state legislation that would eliminate the statute of limitations for prosecuting cases of abuse against underage children. So far, 38 survivors of abuse and advocates fighting against the problem have signed Levine's letter.

“As advocates working to raise awareness of issues surrounding child sexual abuse, we would like to ask The Times to elevate its editorial sensitivity to covering related news,” Levine writes. “Can we, the community of survivors of child sexual abuse and advocates, count on The Times to elevate its editorial sensitivity to covering news that affects us?”

In the letter, Levine also refers to “an appearance of a conflict of interest” in “The Times' absence of recent coverage of the Child Victims Act of New York.” In a separate piece, also published on Medium, Levine outlines the potential conflict and shares her correspondence with Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet.

Levine writes that John Mackey, a co-founder of Whole Foods, expressed support for Marc Gafni, who was revealed in a December 2015 article published by the Times to have sexually abused a child. “As it happens,” Levine writes, “the wife of The New York Times Publisher and Chairman Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., Gabrielle Greene Sulzberger sits on the Whole Foods Market Board of Directors.” Levine continues:

Presumably there is no causal relationship between The Times' absence of reporting on the Child Victims Act and the Sulzbergers' financial interests in Whole Foods Market. But to quell any concern about a conflict of interest ... wouldn't The Times want to pay close attention to reporting on the bill?

The Times also has not followed up on its December story about Mackey's association with Gafni. The newspaper did not report news of coordinated protests at Whole Foods stores in New York City and at the company's widely heralded [launching of the first so-called 365 store] in Los Angeles in May.

Levine notes that other major publications, such as The Washington Post, covered the story of the protests.

Levine seems disheartened about her communications with Baquet, noting that he replied to her initial query about the Times' transparency by writing that “[o]nly someone quite paranoid would see such a connection.”

According to the New York Daily News, various versions of the Child Victims Act “would either extend the time that child sex abuse victims can bring legal cases, or eliminate the time limit for doing so.” As to the status of the legislation, the Daily News notes that Republicans in the state Senate blocked a vote from happening before the 2016 legislative session ended in June.

Levine writes: “I am asking Mr. Baquet and The Times to help expedite a shift?—changing the culture of silence that allows child sexual abuse to proliferate, and prevents long-festering wounds from healing. ... In the midst of our boiling-over outrage about sexual violence, might The Times make a real difference to survivors and victims of child sexual abuse who are in serious need of a powerful ally?”



6-year-old kills infant sister; reality star mother arrested

Kathleen Marie Steele faces aggravated manslaughter charge


PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. - A 13-day-old baby girl is dead after Pinellas County deputies say she was pummeled by her 6-year-old brother.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says the children's mother, Kathleen Marie Steele, 62, of North Redington Beach, was arrested on charges of aggravated manslaughter and neglect in the infant's death.

Investigators say Steele left the baby, also named Kathleen, in a vehicle with her two siblings while she went into a cellphone repair store on Monday. While she was inside the store, the infant started crying and her 6-year-old brother snapped, said deputies.

The boy picked up the baby and dropped her on the floor of the vehicle, then "slammed" her around the vehicle, officials say.

Gualtieri says the baby's skull was cracked and she probably died in the vehicle.

Steele left the children in the vehicle by themselves for more than a half hour, he says. After leaving the store, Steele drove to Enterprise Rent-A-Car and spent another half hour there before returning home, the sheriff says.

According to deputies, the boy admitted to what happened and told his mother about the baby's condition, but she ran another errand before returning home. Deputies say Steele then called a neighbor, who is a nurse, but the neighbor realized the infant was dead and called 911. The child was taken to St. Petersburg General Hospital, where she was officially declared dead.

In 2010, Steele appeared in a reality show "55 and Pregnant." The financial advisor and her husband had been awaiting their first son. Since then, Steele's husband died of cancer in September 2011. The sheriff said she then became pregnant with her husband's frozen sperm and had another son, who is now 3 years old, and gave birth to baby Kathleen the end of July.

Neighbors say the 6-year-old brother apparently didn't like the idea of a new baby. An accidental fire was started in their home days before her arrival.

Steele was also under investigation by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Child Protection Investigation Division at the time. At just 3 days old, the baby fell from her car carrier down the stairs of a Treasure Island hotel. Despite a brain bleed, investigators ruled it an accident.

Days later, the sheriff says a complaint to the DCF hotline about the mother's inadequate supervision couldn't be proven. Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll says his department had no prior involvement with the family.

The school district says the first grader will not be returning to Lakewood Elementary. There will be counselors for staff and students on Friday. Pinellas County Schools says it will continue to work with the Sheriff's Office and Child Protective Services as they establish the best plan moving forward for the child.

The boys are now separated and in DCF foster care.


Jehovah's Witnesses under pressure over handling of sexual abuse claims

Organisation faces fight to prevent Charity Commission examining its records of abuse claims after supreme court rejects its attempt to block inquiry

by Alice Ross

The Jehovah's Witnesses organisation is under increasing pressure to address its handling of sexual abuse allegations as it faces legal setbacks, bills of over £1m and a fight to prevent the Charity Commission examining its records of abuse claims.

Last month a judge upheld a ruling against the UK's leading Jehovah's Witnesses charity, the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Britain (WTBTS), that the Jehovah's Witnesses had failed to protect a woman, known in proceedings as A, from sexual abuse starting when she was four years old.

Now the supreme court has rejected a highly unusual attempt by the WTBTS to block a Charity Commission inquiry into how the Jehovah's Witnesses charity handles allegations of abuse.

The extent of the charity's challenges and the length of time they have gone on for are unprecedented in recent times, a spokesman for the Charity Commission said.

In A's case the high court awarded damages and the WTBTS have been left facing legal fees totalling about £1m after attempting to appeal against the judgement three times.

The decision in A's case sets a precedent that could expose the organisation to further claims. It continues to fight Charity Commission orders to provide documents on sexual abuse allegations, as well as other aspects of the inquiry, in lower courts.

Fay Maxted, chief executive of the Survivors Trust, a national sexual assault charity, said: “These are cases where someone has been sexually violated and had their whole trust in the safety of their religious community blown away.

“It's deeply disappointing that a faith-based organisation appears to be so determined to try and avoid answering questions about its own behaviour …

“This is something the Catholics and Church of England have also had to deal with – these big institutions will fight and fight every step of the way.”

The ways in which large institutions – from the BBC to the Church of England – respond to allegations of sexual abuse has been under intense scrutiny in recent years. But the governmental investigation into the issue, the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA), was thrown into turmoil following the unexpected resignation of its chair, Lowell Goddard, last week. The home secretary on Thursday appointed Prof Alexis Jay as the new chair.

The Guardian understands that some survivors of sexual abuse by members of the Jehovah's Witnesses are considering making submissions to the inquiry's truth project, a strand gathering survivors' testimony.

A, the woman at the centre of the civil case, was abused by a senior member of her congregation for five years from the age of four. It emerged during court proceedings that he had confessed to a different attack and was removed from a senior role, but had “repented” and was allowed to continue within the congregation.

The police were not told and her mother said in court that she had no recollection of being warned about him.

A said her mother told leading members, known as “elders”, about the abuse when she was about 14. Her attacker had been released from jail for other sex attacks and was asking to return to the congregation, she said.

“All the while I had it hanging over my head that if I wanted to raise any allegations … I would be forced into a judicial committee, I would have to confront him face to face,” she told the Guardian.

Although the church can “disfellowship” – expel – people for minor offences, A says her abuser was allowed to remain. “Had they discovered he was playing the lottery, he would have been disfellowshipped without question, but he admitted to them he had abused children, and he still wasn't disfellowshipped,” A said.

She finally reported the abuse to the police after the elders did nothing. “I came to the view that I would either try and kill myself again, run away or just go to the police.”

He died before the police could question him about the allegation.

The judge ruled the congregation was “either not warned at all or not adequately warned” about the risk posed by A's abuser.

A spokesman for the Jehovah's Witnesses said: “Anyone who commits the sin of child abuse faces expulsion from the congregation … Any suggestion that Jehovah's Witnesses cover up child abuse is absolutely false.”

He added: “Congregation elders do not discourage [reports to the authorities] or shield abusers from the authorities or from the consequences of their actions.”

Another woman, Jane*, who is also suing the organisation after she was raped by a member as an adult in 1990, said she was urged to face her rapist at a private hearing known as a judicial committee. It left her “completely traumatised” and led to the breakup of her marriage, she said.

Her attacker was eventually jailed in 2014, and she decided to sue after watching elders on the witness stand. “I thought, nobody's taken responsibility for this. You could have held up your hands and said, ‘I'm sorry, we were in the wrong',” Jane said.

The Charity Commission launched statutory inquiries into Jehovah's Witnesses charities in May 2014. This was shortly after claims emerged that elders in the Manchester New Moston congregation held a meeting at which three adult survivors of child sex abuse were brought face to face with their abuser, shortly after his release from prison for their abuse.

A spokesman for the Jehovah's Witnesses said: “We are in no position to, and neither would we wish to, force any victim of abuse to confront their attacker.”

The commission, which has the power to investigate how charity trustees handle safeguarding, launched separate inquiries into the Manchester New Moston congregation and the WTBTS, which oversees the nation's 1,500 congregations and is believed to play a significant role in handling allegations of abuse.

The Jehovah's Witnesses challenged both inquiries in the courts, arguing that they would breach the trustees' human right to religious freedom. They also challenged orders to produce documents on how they had handled allegations of sexual abuse in recent years.

Chris Willis Pickup, head of litigation at the Charity Commission, said: “Following two years of legal proceedings in five different courts and tribunals, the supreme court has finally brought Watch Tower's challenge to our inquiry decision to an end.”

The commission had received only “limited information” from the Jehovah's Witnesses, he said. The Charity Commission is encouraging anyone with similar complaints to come forward.

While a small number of charities launch legal appeals against the commission's decisions, the extent of the Jehovah's Witnesses' challenges and the length of time they have gone on for are unprecedented in recent times, a spokesman for the Charity Commission confirmed.

A's solicitor, Thomas Beale, said: “Sadly, given our experience of the Jehovah's Witnesses' approach to litigation in cases involving survivors of child abuse, it comes as no surprise that WTBTS has at every stage relentlessly challenged the legal basis and scope of the Charity Commission's inquiry.

“In our case … they adopted similar tactics, dragging our client through years of painful and distressing litigation … We have always maintained that this is a time for apologies, not appeals.”

The Jehovah's Witnesses said in a statement: “Jehovah's Witnesses abhor child abuse, a crime that sadly occurs in all sectors of society … We are committed to doing all we can to prevent child abuse and to provide spiritual comfort to any who have suffered from this terrible sin and crime.

“We also see a need to protect the confidentiality of those who seek spiritual comfort. Nevertheless, we shall diligently abide by court judgments.”

•  Name has been changed at the individual's request


First, save the children

Punitive laws intended to protect children from sexual assault too often make them less safe

by The Economist

THE sexual abuse of children wrecks lives. Survivors can suffer severe harm to their mental and physical health. That is one reason why no crime provokes greater revulsion. Another is that a shamed society has only recently begun to acknowledge how common abuse really is. And yet, precisely because abuse has been covered up for so long, no crime is more widely misunderstood. The result is that the need to punish abusers is sometimes being pursued at the expense of prevention. That means children are not being protected as they should be.

The duty of care

Typical of the confusion about child-abuse is that those who commit it are widely thought all to be paedophiles—that is, adults whose main sexual attraction is to pre-pubescent children. In fact paedophiles are a minority (see article). Some abusers' victims are sexually mature, though below the age of consent. Others abuse because younger children are defenceless or because of a sense of entitlement or social inadequacy. Such distinctions matter, because spotting and stopping crimes means knowing who commits them, and why.

For instance, understanding the behaviour of true paedophiles is essential, because they include some of the most serious and prolific offenders. Evidence suggests that paedophilia is usually a fixed sexual orientation. Hence the threat of prison and social rejection, although they make everyone else feel better, are only part of the way to deter offenders. Children would be better protected if paedophiles could also use counselling and supervision to learn to control themselves; some paedophiles can be helped by drugs that dampen sexual desire. But the fear of vilification means that hardly any seek help voluntarily—and without it they are more likely to offend.

As awareness of child-abuse has grown, the punishment of past crimes has sometimes taken precedence over the prevention of future ones. Many countries have set up public inquiries. But the understandable desire to end cover-ups has favoured the idea that a bigger inquiry signals a more sincere attempt to get at the truth and learn lessons. Britain's, which last week lost its third head since it was set up in 2014, receives 100 new allegations weekly but has yet to hear any evidence. Survivors—and those at risk of abuse—would be better served by investigations that are smaller, faster and more focused.

Many places have toughened sentencing and parole conditions. In many American states convicted child-molesters' names are put on a public register for life, and their addresses, workplaces and licence-plate numbers published online. Leave aside whether anyone should be beyond redemption: isolation and joblessness make reoffending more likely. Sex-offender registers also foster a false sense of security, because they include only those few whose crimes have been detected.

Tough but flawed laws were inspired by rare, horrific child-abductions—rather than the abuse that commonly takes place within families. Similarly, the spread of new mandatory-reporting laws was inspired by child-abuse within institutions, such as the Catholic church, schools and care homes, and Britain's publicly funded broadcaster, the BBC. Already in force in America, Australia and Canada, and being considered in Britain, mandatory reporting criminalises anyone who fails to report suspicions of child-abuse to the police. At first sight this seems a useful weapon against cover-ups, but it is flawed, too.

Broad mandatory reporting can deter children from talking to a trusted adult, such as a teacher, because they know that their words will be passed to the police and they may be taken from their families. If long-past cases are included, adults who were abused as children will not be able to seek counselling without triggering a criminal investigation they may not want. They may choose instead to keep their suffering to themselves. Such laws can also overwhelm police and social services who could otherwise focus on the children most at risk. In just one year the Australian state of Queensland received reports relating to 7% of all children. Only a tiny share had substance.

Legislation can cut abuse, but it needs to be narrower. In the cover-ups, many who suspected abuse kept silent for fear of harming their institutions or themselves. New laws should focus on wrongdoing in such bodies, requiring people within them to report reasonable suspicions about a colleague; these should be coupled with protection for whistle-blowers.

More needs to be understood about the abuse of children and how to stop it. Governments should sponsor research. And when they draft laws they should remember that what matters most is protecting children.


United Kingdom

Schoolgirl 'abused by 137 paedophiles over two years – but only THREE are jailed'

The men would travel from across the country to abuse Paula, often using city centre hotels or houses where she was allegedly tasered by one of the paedophiles

by Jeanette Oldham

A brave schoolgirl sex abuse victim has told how she was abused by 137 paedophiles over two years - but only three were ever jailed.

Paula Smith (not her real name) says she was raped at the age of 13 after being abducted from near her school and taken to a house.

Days later she was groomed by another predator via Facebook. Over two years he repeatedly abused the schoolgirl and also pimped her out to other child molesters linked to a swingers website - where her profile had been posted online without her knowledge.

They would travel from across the country to abuse Paula, often using city centre hotels or houses where she was allegedly tasered by one sadistic monster, the Birmingham Mail reports.

But Paula claims social services, her school, and police failed to swiftly act to end her nightmare ordeal, despite obvious signs of child sexual exploitation (CSE).

When her suspicious mum eventually called in police, she courageously provided names, addresses and even car registrations of those who had abused her.

Yet only three were ever brought to justice.

Schoolteacher William Hanna, 66, his girlfriend Dianne Whitehouse, 61, and Ian McGlasson, 50, were sentenced to a total of 19 years. Two other suspects committed suicide after being arrested.

Now the young mum-of-two has gone public about her nightmare ordeal to shine a light on CSE to help other young potential victims.

She also wants to know why police seemingly called a halt to their investigation after three convictions, despite her providing them with so much evidence.

Paula, now aged 22, said: “I gave police the names of 137 men, many of their car registrations, I even knew where some of them worked.

“But the police told my mum that what had happened to me was so big and complex that they would only focus on the main ones.”

Paula Smith - not her real name - had a troubled upbringing and suffered from low self-esteem as she reached her teens. At that time she lived with her elderly gran, only occasionally visiting her mother.

In November 2008 she says she was targeted by pensioner Nigel Greaves who pulled up in his car as she was walking to school.

Paula said: “He called me by name, said where I lived and then asked me to get into his car.

“I assumed Nan had arranged for him to come and pick me up.

“He drove me towards Nan's house but then headed to his instead. I asked him why and he said he needed to pick something up and asked me to go inside.

“Once inside, he dragged me upstairs.”

Paula says she was repeatedly raped before later being dropped off by Greaves in Birmingham city centre.

Battered and dazed, she went to the Children's Hospital, where she had been under the care of a psychiatrist. She recalled: “The psychiatrist called the police, my Nan and I had a medical and swabs were taken.

“But I was too scared to tell them who had attacked me as he knew my address and had threatened to do to my little sister what he had done to me.”

Traumatised Paula returned home.

Days later she was targeted on Facebook by paedophile Ian McGlasson after hinting at the trauma she had been through online.

It is unclear if he knew Greaves, but he swiftly moved into grooming mode, pretending to be a caring child counsellor.

Paula said: “He messaged me over Facebook and then on the phone. He said he was a counsellor who could help me.

“I eventually agreed to meet him for a coffee at a hotel in Birmingham. He said we could not go to his office as he had taken on this case himself.”

Paula met McGlasson in the hotel lobby, still in her school uniform, then he took her to the room.

She said: “We sat and talked for an hour and I became upset. He then sat next to me and began touching my leg. He then covered my mouth with his hand and pushed me down and raped me.

“Afterwards he said he was really sorry, he said he just wanted me to feel loved.”

Terrified and confused, Paula returned home but did not report the attack to police - and McGlasson continued the grooming on Facebook.

She said: “He kept contacting me, saying he was sorry and genuinely wanted to help me. Because I was so depressed and vulnerable, I believed him.”

McGlasson later offered Paula a ‘weekend therapy session' at his home in Stratford-upon-Avon, paying for her train fare from Birmingham.

When she arrived at the property, the sickening abuse began again.

“He gave me alcohol, and put something in my drink to make me fall asleep,” she recalled.

“When I woke up at one point, I was gagged and tied to the bed and he was having sex with me. He was also filming it all.

“The following morning, I woke up and it was as if nothing had happened. He even cooked breakfast.”

The cycle of abuse continued for some 21 months, with McGlasson also buying her presents including jewellery.

It was during this awful period that Paula met William Hanna and Dianne Whitehouse as McGlasson forced her to meet other paedophiles. The couple violently abused her and then began pimping her out themselves by posting her faked profile on a swingers' website.

The site did not know she was underage and later co-operated with police with the subsequent investigation.

Paula said: “Ian had suggested I see other people and I was too scared to say no.

“He would say,'my friend wants to meet you. The more you struggle the more you will get hurt.'”

Paula says over the 21 months she was abused by more than 137 paedophiles.

“They were from Scotland, Ireland, Devon, London, Oxford, everywhere. They were all ages, including a 19-year-old Birmingham university student,” she said.

“I mostly met then in hotels, but the ones from Birmingham I would meet at their houses. They were all members of the same website.”

Hanna and Whitehouse violently abused Paula, as well as pimping her out to others.

She said: “They were violent, forceful and threatening.

“Yet at the same time Ian began saying how he loved me, he was making out like I was his girlfriend and I guess I fell for it.”

A court later heard how Hanna and Whitehouse abused Paula over six months, even broadcasting some attacks live on the internet for other paedophiles to watch.

They also sold her for sex to other men whose depravity and violence knew no bounds.

Paula said: “I was strangled, had a knife held to my throat, had multiple men rape me. I was belted by various people. One man even tasered me.”

She claims that man was Andrew Bicknell, from Birmingham, who allegedly abused her for many months, including an attack involving up to eight other men at his home.

Yet Paula says no teacher at the school raised the alarm despite tell-tale signs of CSE, including bruising and falling attendance.

Paula said: “I blamed bullying at school for the bruises and the school never picked up on anything. My attendance from 2008 to mid 2010 went down to 12 per cent but the school said nothing. There were no letters to my family.”

Her ordeal came to an end when McGlasson made a fatal mistake by messaging Paula's mum over Facebook when he could not get in touch with the schoolgirl.

The suspicious parent called in police and arrests soon followed, including McGlasson and Hanna and Whitehouse.

Bicknell was also arrested on suspicion of rape, money laundering, possession of an offensive weapon and cannabis cultivation. While on bail he was later found dead in his car in Harborne with girlfriend, Sze-Man Wong.

Nigel Greaves took his own life after also being quizzed by police about allegedly abusing Paula.

The three arrested paedophiles appeared before Birmingham Crown Court in June 2013.

Hanna, from Acocks Green, was convicted of three counts of penetrative sexual activity with a child and of causing/inciting involvement in pornography. He was jailed for seven years.

Whitehouse, from Cannock, was found guilty of two counts of penetrative sexual activity with a child and causing/inciting involvement in pornography. She was sentenced to six years.

McGlasson, from Stratford-upon-Avon, pleaded guilty to six counts of penetrative sexual activity with a child and two counts of meeting a child following sexual grooming.

He also admitted taking indecent photographs of a child and possessing indecent photographs of a child.

He was jailed for six years.

The three monsters were also all ordered to sign the Sex Offenders' Register for life.

Yet Paula says she has still not received justice because of the many abusers still out there.

She said: “I told police everything, but only about 12 people were arrested and only three were ever charged. Police did not tell me why, but they told my mum they wanted to concentrate on the main offenders.”

Yet brave Paula has shown remarkable resilience and bravery, rebuilding a young life so shattered by betrayal and abuse.

She is now the proud mum of two young children and is helping other victims of CSE and abuse, having recently arranged a talk for fellow survivors.

She said: “When Ian was arrested I had an idea I still loved him. But I was still brainwashed. Since then I've done lots to understand child abuse, domestic abuse and recovery.

“I got all the help I need, now I want to help others.

“Everything is looking up.”

West Midlands Police said a total of 15 suspects were arrested.

Chief Superintendent Claire Bell, Head of the force's Public Protection Unit, said, “where there is sufficient evidence to take action we will make arrests and bring offenders to justice.”

She added: “During the course of this thorough three-year investigation a total of 15 arrests were made where the evidence supported police action. Working closely with the Crown Prosecution Service we were satisfied that all appropriate action against the known suspects was taken.

“If new evidence has now come to light then we will of course investigate this further and encourage the victim to come forward and speak to us in confidence.

“As a force we continue to invest a significant amount of resources into training specialist officers in investigating and tackling CSE. As a result of this we are now seeing more people come forward and any allegations will be taken seriously.”

In terms of Adult Friend Finder, a spokesman for West Midlands Police said: “AFF were contacted and removed her profile as soon as they were informed she was a child. They also assisted further with evidence for the successful criminal prosecution.”

Dudley Council is the local authority for Leasowes School. Councillor Ian Cooper, cabinet member for children's services, said: “As the regional lead in raising awareness of child sexual exploitation we take these issues extremely seriously.

“We now work closely with schools to ensure key staff are trained to spot the signs of this crime, which targets the most vulnerable children and young people in society.

“As a responsible authority we are unable to discuss personal information about current or former school pupils in public.”

No-one from the swingers website was available for comment.


New Zealand

Kiwi expat calling for Royal Commission inquiry into child sex abuse

by Samantha Gee

Grant West knows first hand the destruction that results from being a victim of sexual abuse.

The New Zealand born man is travelling through the country to gather signatures for a petition, calling for a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child abuse.

He grew up in Wellington, was sexually abused by a family member and spent time in and out of institutions, mental homes and then prison.

West set up on Trafalgar St, Nelson on Thursday and Friday, talking to passers by about his life while gathering support and signatures.

He said that survivors of abuse were the ones who could create change.

Royal Commissions are established under the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1908, and are able to inquire into any matter of major public importance of concern to the Government.

West was one of many who campaigned to get a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in Australia. It was launched in 2013 to investigate how institutions like schools, churches, sports clubs and government organisations have responded to allegations of child sexual abuse.

He has returned to New Zealand because he wants to see changes to the system in his home country.

"We are asking for all institutions who care for children to have mandatory reporting of sexual abuse cases," he said. "This is about changing the way we deal with children."

West started gathering signatures last week in Dunedin. He now has over 900 and is aiming to get at least 60,000.

He said the ultimate goal was to create an "all round support" system.

"We are asking for more social workers in school and to educate children at a young age about their bodies, about who can touch them and what is appropriate and what is not," he said.

It was important that support extended out into the community.

"It is not just the child that gets abused it is the parents that have to deal with it and it is the fallout from the community."

West now lives on a farm in Ballarat, near Melbourne with his wife where he works as a swimming coach.

He is dedicated to achieving change within the system so that others don't have to go through what he did.

As an adult, he had made several suicide attempts and still has weekly sessions with a counsellor.

"It's a daily struggle," he said. "It is a journey where you have to learn to deal with your future and your past and combine them together."

Sexual abuse victims and survivors were encouraged to join West on September 15 at 1.15pm outside Parliament when the petition would be presented. People are asked to bring a colourful ribbon with them to tie to the fence in support of sexual abuse victims.



Preventing child sexual abuse requires advocacy, action

by Katherine Snyder

A recent report from the Indianapolis Star, which appeared in its sister publications like The Tennessean, has revealed multiple occasions in which allegations of child sexual abuse were repeatedly mishandled by executives and officials at USA Gymnastics. In many of the cases that the Star investigated, complaints of sexual abuse went unreported to authorities until years later.

Responsibilities to report vary by state. But if we want to do the best for our children, we need to accept that we all have a responsibility to the children in our community and a duty to do what we can to keep children safe and happy.

Institutions like the Catholic Church or the football program at Penn State have shown what can happen when this responsibility is not prioritized. Fortunately, there is still time to do the right thing for the next generation of young women and men who dream of the Olympics.

Preventing child sexual abuse is a complex task. A simple step to help prevent this kind of abuse in the future is to immediately forward any and all allegations to the authorities for investigation. This protects both children and institutions while allowing those trained to investigate crimes to do their jobs.

But we can't expect anyone to do this alone. All of us have a role to play in the healthy development of children, and that includes the prevention of sexual abuse. We all can be partners in prevention, and we encourage everyone to:

•  Spend time talking to your child whenever they spend alone time with an older teen or an adult. It's important that your child never be convinced to keep a secret from you.

•  Learn more about the child sexual abuse prevention plans and policies in place at the institutions you and your children frequent, such as schools, churches or athletic teams. If no policies are in place, encourage those in charge to develop them, and contact your local Prevent Child Abuse America chapter for assistance.

•  Find out more about child sexual abuse prevention programs in your community, such as the Stewards of Children. The two-hour training offered by PCAT and many child advocacy centers across the state teaches adults how to prevent abuse, the signs of abuse and how to react responsibly when they suspect it.

•  Learn how you can be an active participant in prevention, and volunteer for organizations who provide this innovative prevention work.

But the most important thing you can do is to be a voice for the prevention of child sexual abuse. You can make a difference by holding organizations and institutions accountable, being a vocal advocate for victims and survivors, and encouraging dialogues about abuse prevention in your community.

All children deserve a great childhood because children are our future. Our children today will be the next generation of American leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs tomorrow. Let's come together, unite around the idea of preventing child sexual abuse, and encourage all institutions to ensure they have the proper policies in place to do the best for the children they serve.

Katherine Snyder is the chief operating officer of Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee.


Most states allow religious exemptions from child abuse and neglect laws

by Aleksandra Sandstrom

All states prosecute parents whose children come to severe harm through neglect. But in 34 states (as well as the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico), there are exemptions in the civil child abuse statutes when medical treatment for a child conflicts with the religious beliefs of parents, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Additionally, some states have religious exemptions to criminal child abuse and neglect statutes, including at least six that have exemptions to manslaughter laws.

These exemptions recently drew renewed attention in Idaho when, in May, a state task force released a report stating that five children there had died unnecessarily in 2013 because their parents, for religious reasons, had refused medical treatment for them. The report has prompted some of Idaho's legislators to begin pushing for a repeal of state laws that protected the parents of these children from civil and criminal liability when they refuse to seek medical treatment for religious reasons.

Such legal exemptions in Idaho and other states mean that if a parent withholds medical treatments for an ailing child and instead opts for spiritual treatment through prayer, the child will not to be considered “neglected” under the law, even if he or she dies. These exemptions are meant to accommodate the teachings of some religious groups, such as Christian Scientists and the Idaho-based Followers of Christ. Some of these groups urge and, in the case of Followers of Christ, sometimes mandate the use of faith-based healing practices in lieu of medical science.

In most cases, adults are free to make their own decisions as to how or even if they want to treat an illness. But when the patient is a minor and still legally under the care of parents or guardians, the issue can quickly become fraught with competing claims, from child welfare and medical necessity to parental rights and religious liberty.

Currently, 19 states and territories have no religious exemptions to civil child abuse and neglect statutes. Tennessee recently became the 19th state when it removed its religious exemption after a girl, whose mother opted for spiritual treatment through prayer, died of cancer.

Nevada and American Samoa have exemptions that do not specifically mention religion, but could apply to religion. For instance, American Samoa's statute says, “those investigating child abuse must take into account accepted child-rearing practices of the culture in which the child participates.”

The exemptions came into being as a result of federal requirements that no longer exist; they grew out of the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) , which was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1974. While that statute did not mention religious exemptions specifically, the requirements issued by what was then the Department of Health, Education and Welfare for states to receive federal funding specified that a religious exemption must be added to the state's child protection laws. In 1983, this requirement was removed. A religious exemption was added to the text of the law in 1996 but that, too, was removed in 2003. The most recent reauthorization does not include a religious exemption.

In many states religious exemptions are not absolute. Sixteen states and territories that have such exemptions mention that if treatment is given through spiritual means alone it must be in accordance with the practices of a “recognized” religious denomination. (These include Pennsylvania, which specifies that the parent's beliefs must be consistent with a “bona fide religion.”) Three additional states – Arizona, Connecticut and Washington – have exemptions that specify that children receiving Christian Science treatment from an accredited Christian Science practitioner are not considered neglected.

In addition, 17 of the states and territories that have exemptions specify in their statutes that, in some cases, a court can order treatment for children, regardless of the parent's religious wishes. Colorado's law states: “The religious rights of the parent shall not limit the access of a child to medical care in a life-threatening situation.” Florida, similarly, states: “This exception does not preclude a court from ordering medical services or other treatment to be provided when the health of the child so requires.”


Department of Justice


South Bay Man Pleads Guilty to Obscenity Charge for Sending Photo in Response to Ad to Have Sex with 13-Year-Old Girl

LOS ANGELES – A San Pedro man who responded to an Internet advertisement to have sex with a young girl and sent a photograph of his genitals has pleaded guilty to a federal obscenity charge.

Joshua Paul Crouch, 28, pleaded guilty yesterday to attempted transfer of obscene material to a minor.

As a result of the guilty plea before United States District Judge John F. Walter, Crouch faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on October 24.

According to court documents, special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and other law enforcement agencies, posted an advertisement for commercial sex acts on Crouch responded to the ad on March 30 and agreed to pay $60 to receive oral sex from what he thought was a 13-year-old girl, but who in fact was an undercover law enforcement officer.

During the text conversation with the undercover agent and another “girl” that Crouch thought was 15, he sent a photograph of his genitals to the older “girl” to entice the younger “girl” to engage in prohibited sexual conduct, according to the plea agreement filed in this case.

Crouch followed the directions provided by the undercover agent and was arrested when he arrived at hotel room in San Pedro to have oral sex with the 13-year-old girl in exchange for $60.

“Men who solicit sex from minors are an integral part of the underground sex trade that victimizes young people,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This undercover investigation and federal prosecution demonstrates that we are focusing on identifying customers and commercial sex traffickers who prey upon women and children.”

“As this case makes clear, sexual predators who believe they can stalk minors online anonymously and with impunity are very much mistaken,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI in Los Angeles. “The coercion of minors into prostitution is unconscionable under any circumstances and HSI is using every tool and resource at its disposal to hold the perpetrators in these cases accountable for their crimes.”

As a result of his conviction in this case, Crouch will be required to register as a sex offender.

This case was investigated by HSI’s Human Trafficking Group, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, and the U.S. Department of State.

FROM: Thom Mrozek, Spokesman/Public Affairs Officer
United States Attorney’s Office
Central District of California (Los Angeles)


Department of Justice


Georgia Man Sentenced to over 7 Years in Federal Prison for Sex Trafficking in Case involving Girl Forced to Work as Prostitute

LOS ANGELES – A man who trafficked a 17-year-old girl from Nevada to Southern California and forced her to work as a prostitute has been sentenced to 87 months in federal prison.

Kenyati Jakeen Rahh-Potts, 27, of Hahira, Georgia, was sentenced on Monday by United States District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald.

Rahh-Potts pleaded guilty in February 2015 to one count of sex trafficking.

A second defendant in the case – Tabitha Samaria Walls, 24, of Elk Grove, California – was sentenced last year to 27 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to engage in sex trafficking.

According to court documents, Rahh-Potts and Walls trafficked the victim from Las Vegas to California and forced her to engage in acts of prostitution in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Pomona and Ontario over an 11-day period in 2013. Rahh-Potts and Walls, who were living in Apple Valley when they were arrested in August 2013, created online advertisements on to prostitute the victim and then took all of the money that the child earned through the acts of prostitution. 

“No child should be subject to this type of abuse,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “These defendants showed no concern for the humanity of this young person, whose body was sold via online ads strictly for their own profit.”

“The defendants in this case stole their victim's youthful innocence, as well as the money they forced her to make,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. “The FBI is committed to ending the victimization caused by those who callously advertise and sell minors as sex slaves.”

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which receive substantial assistance from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tritia L. Yuen.

FROM: Thom Mrozek, Spokesman/Public Affairs Officer
United States Attorney’s Office
Central District of California (Los Angeles)



Advocates seek help for sex trafficking victims

by Christian M. Wade

BOSTON — Prostitution, drug abuse and other charges could be erased from the records of sex trafficking victims in a move that advocates say will help young women who've been enslaved to reclaim their lives.

Expunging criminal records would allow sex trafficking victims access to resources - such as job training and certain addiction treatment programs - not open to people with a criminal past.

“These are people who have been subjected to human trafficking, physical harm and exploitation, so it makes perfect sense to allow them to try to expunge their records and give the court all the facts,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, a primary sponsor of a bill recently approved by the state Senate.

The measure, which requires approval by the House of Representatives and Gov. Charlie Baker, also extends the statute of limitations for filing civil lawsuits against sex traffickers to 10 years.

“You have people who have been victimized and are trying to get their lives together and need more time to bring a civil case,” said Tarr.

Supporters of the legislation include the New England Trafficking Aftercare Coalition, whose members include safe houses and victim advocacy groups.

The Massachusetts Coalition to End Human Trafficking — a Boston-based alliance of nonprofit leaders, community activists and faith groups - backs the bill, as well.

Stephanie Clark, executive director of Amirah Inc., a North Shore safe house for sex trafficking survivors, said many who seek refuge come out of the criminal justice system with substance abuse problems and mental health issues.

“They're dealing with addiction recovery issues, emotional trauma and host of other issues,” said Clark, who works with several young women at an undisclosed location.

Clark said there is a lack of funding and services for the victims, despite attention given the issue by state and federal officials.

“We get an average of three phone calls a week from providers seeking beds for young women who've ended up in emergency rooms or prison, or who've been picked up by law enforcement,” she said.

Overall, the number of victims rescued from brothels in New England has tripled in the past few years - to 183 women and girls last year, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The government describes sex trafficking as a “modern-day form of slavery.”

More than 1,300 instances of human trafficking have been reported in Massachusetts since 2007, mostly involving adult women, according to the nonprofit National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

The International Labor Organization estimates there are more than 20 million human trafficking victims worldwide.

Clark said while much attention is focused on foreign sex-trafficking rings, the women she sees are typically native New Englanders.

State officials have also stepped up efforts to arrest and prosecute individuals responsible for sex trafficking.

In April, Lt. Gov. Karen Polito announced a new state police unit that will investigate human trafficking involving children under 18. The four-person team also supports local police in smaller investigations.

Attorney General Maura Healey's office has stepped up efforts against the sex trade. In April, the office announced the indictments of several people tied to what prosecutors said were human trafficking rings operating throughout the state, including the North Shore.

Healey's office said young women in the sex trafficking rings were forced to perform sexual acts and were never compensated.

Lawmakers are debating several other bills to strengthen laws against human trafficking.

One calls for the licensing and regulation of “body work therapy” shops that law enforcement officials say are often a front for prostitution rings.

Such businesses proliferate under a legal loophole. The proposed bill would allow unannounced inspections, prohibit sexual activity and provocative advertising, and require therapists to be certified and “properly clothed.”

“I honestly didn't know how prevalent this is in our communities and how many minors were being trafficked until this came up for debate,” said Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, who supports tougher laws to protect victims. “It's like an invisible part of our society.

“These are vulnerable young women who fall into these situations and often can't find a way out,” she said.

The state has also implemented a new law, signed by former Gov. Deval Patrick in 2014, that treats child victims of sex trafficking as child abuse victims, which keeps prostitution charges from being filed against them.

Until recently, organizers of human-trafficking rings hid behind the fact that their young charges weren't considered as victims by the state, said Daniel Bennett, secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, at a briefing.

“We were treating them as part of the overall problem,” he said.



Gov. Markell signs child sexual abuse legislation

by James Morrison

Gov. Jack Markell signed a bill into law Wednesday designed to educate children, parents and teachers about sexual abuse.

The new law requires the state to develop curriculum for all of Delaware's public schools to educate school employees, parents and child in pre-K through grade 6 about personal body safety and child sexual abuse.

Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Delaware Karen Derasmo said the law will give kids the education to know if they've been sexually abused, and the language to talk it.

“It will also give parents and teachers the words and the ability that they need to recognize when abuse is occurring and what to do when they need to deal with that in an appropriate way,” she said.

It's named Erin's Law, after Erin Merryn, a victim of child sexual abuse who is working to pass this type of legislation in all 50 states.

There are three million children in the United States who have survived sexual abuse.

“That's like 46 football stadiums of children who have been sexually abused," according to representative Valerie Longhurst, who sponsored Delaware's version of Erin's Law. "Unless we bring it to the forefront and we say that we need to do more education, we need to talk about it. But some people don't want to talk about it and the only way that you make that change is by talking about it.”

Bill sponsor Senator Margaret Rose Henry said the new law will empower children to go to an adult if they suspect child sexual abuse has occurred.

"It will make sure school districts are doing what they're supposed to do so that a child who presents himself or herself can get the help that they need,” Henry said.

The new law requires schools to notify parents when their child is taking this curriculum. It applies to all public schools, including charter schools.

Delaware is the 28th state to implement Erin's Law.


I was raped by my gymnastics coach; 'We were trained to say nothing bothered us'

by espnW

The following was told to espnW by a former gymnast whose coach was found guilty of rape of a child and indecent assault and battery on a person over 14. She felt compelled to share her ordeal after recent reports that USA Gymnastics has repeatedly failed to report abuse cases in the hopes that her story, when added to the voices of other young women, can help to enact change.

To prevent retaliation or harassment, we are not identifying her or the coach involved.

It had been three years since we started having sex when the man who would later be convicted of raping me took me to an abortion clinic. He had scheduled the appointment for after my 18th birthday so that I wouldn't need a parent to sign their permission for the procedure.

We went to a clinic that was an hour from where he lived and he dropped me off at the corner because he didn't want to be seen. I went in by myself, and I sat there in this room full of scared young women, all of whom had someone to support them except for me.

I was taken into the back room. I remember lying down on the table and then waking up on the table. But I was in a total daze. They wheeled me out into the waiting room and I said, "I'm ready to go." And when they asked whether someone was there to pick me up, I said, "I'm sure he's waiting outside."

And there he was, waiting in his car. He took me to a restaurant, and I ate two bites of food, then ran to the restroom and vomited violently. We went back to his house and he had to go coach gymnastics, so he left me there. And I remember thinking, "What the f---? Why am I doing this? Why isn't somebody taking care of me right now?"

I had my follow-up appointment scheduled for a week later, and during recovery you're not supposed to have sex. But the night before I was supposed to go, he forced me to have sex with him because he "just couldn't wait that long."

I thought, "What am I doing with this guy?" This wasn't a real relationship.

You'd think that any interactions with a child predator would be scary, but my first moments with that coach didn't scare me one bit. I was a gymnast, and he came up from Connecticut for a meet with our gym in Massachusetts, and then all of the gymnasts and coaches went to an amusement park together.

I was 13 years old, and I remember thinking he was very handsome and exuberant and had this larger-than-life personality. He was 33, and everybody wanted to be around him. He was one of those people who made you think, "I would like him to notice me."

On that first day, we were all standing in line for a roller coaster, singing the Billy Joel song "Captain Jack." He came up to us, a bunch of 13-year-olds, and was like, "You know what that song is about, right?" And we said, "It's about a captain! Captain Jack?" And he said, "No, that song is about masturbation."

And I don't know if I'd even heard someone say that word out loud before -- and obviously never a gymnastics coach. Looking back, it was this icebreaker. He threw this word out there, and all of a sudden we went from being coaches and athletes to having an adult conversation. And every teenager wants that, right?

At the end of the day he gave me a jacket from his gym, and I was the only person he gave one to, so I thought, "This is somebody who is so interesting and everyone wants to be around him, and yet he's paying attention to me."

I can trace everything back to that day. I wasn't the best gymnast in the gym, so his attention was a way for me to stand out. This amazing coach has noticed me. From that day onward, I was excited to see him, and we'd see each other fairly often at gymnastics meets and at a summer camp.

For two or three weeks in July, he and two other coaches would run a gymnastics camp. It was usually held on a college campus, and we'd train during the day, stay in dorm rooms at night and do some normal summer camp things when we weren't in the gym, such as campfires and talent shows.

But it was far from a wholesome camp experience, at least for me. Once you became a junior counselor around age 14, you were a part of the staff, and although you still trained during the day, you were allowed to hang out with the coaches at night, drinking and playing games that included things like strip poker and group showers. And that sexual environment often carried over to the daytime workouts.

Once, I finished a tumbling pass at camp and was walking past the coach when he turned to another coach and said, in front of me, "It's taking all of my willpower not to go after that one." I was 14 years old, walking past him in a leotard.

It didn't matter to me that this older coach shouldn't be making those comments. From my perspective, it was just nice to be noticed. This gymnastics camp was billed by our coaches as something special -- you're part of it, and it's a family. Whatever happens here stays here. And if people didn't subscribe to this and stopped coming to the camp, they would be shunned. God, you didn't want to be outside the circle.

As gymnasts, we were conditioned to show how tough we could be, how little emotion we could show. We were trained to say that nothing bothered us and not show any sign of fear or pain.

It all clouded my ability to see that what was happening with this coach was wrong.

The first time he kissed me was in a moving truck. I was 14. He was driving. It was at the end of camp, and we were bringing mats back to one of the gyms. I remember he asked me to come sit on his lap -- while the truck was speeding down the highway. My heart was racing, knowing that something was going to happen. I was completely inexperienced with boys at that point, and then all of a sudden my coach was French-kissing me.

Not long after, we were alone, and he had me put my hand down his pants and touch his penis. I knew this was not normal, and afterward I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't talk to anybody the next day. Now when I look back, I can see clearly that it was a violation -- that I had trusted this person, and he went way too far. At the time, I thought I was ready for something like this. But when this very adult thing happened, I wasn't ready at all.

We talked later about it on the phone, and he said, "Maybe you can't handle this. Maybe you aren't as mature as I thought you were." He was challenging me. I was supposed to rise to it, not shy away from it. So I said, "No, no, I can handle this. I do want to be with you." And I actually thought we were in a consensual relationship.

He would say, "You can't tell anyone. I could go to jail. What we have is special; no one will understand." That never triggered in my mind that something was wrong. I wanted to think that we did have something special, and I never told anyone.

He continued to pursue me. We had intercourse when I was 15. It wasn't pleasant -- it was painful. But I remember walking away and feeling proud of myself, like I got through it. It was like in gymnastics, when you do that move that you're so scared to do.

The thing I was most scared of was getting caught, because I thought I was going to get in trouble. I thought I was the one doing something wrong.

The turning point for me wasn't that abortion at age 18. It was about two years after that, when I was hanging out with a couple of the gymnasts he coached, and I heard about a woman he was dating. I thought that he was cheating on me, so I went back to his house, where I'd been staying, and started searching for evidence.

I found a letter one of his former athletes wrote to him, talking about how he manipulated her into having sex with him when she was 15. She said she remembered the first time he entered her and how she cried, and how he would bribe her with gifts and money not to tell anyone, that she would sneak out of her house to meet with him.

I didn't understand. It felt like I was reading about myself. I started to realize that I wasn't special -- he had done the same thing in the past. He was a predator. I couldn't believe there was another "me" out there.

I confronted him about it, but he somehow twisted it around so that I was in the wrong for snooping in his house. He raged at me, and I was scared of his anger. I came away feeling guilty -- that I had done something wrong. And I wanted to believe that I was wrong about what I'd found. So I didn't walk away, but I was very suspicious from that point forward, and finding that letter was the best thing that could have happened to me. It shifted my path forever.

A few months later, he called me and told me that three women -- in addition to the woman who had written that letter -- had accused him of sexual abuse and that there would be an article coming out in the newspaper. He said he felt horrible that he'd ruined so many people's lives. It was the one moment when he displayed any sense of wrongdoing. Later, he would fight tooth and nail against the allegations. He said the girls were all older than 16, the age of consent, and that yes, he had relationships with them, but considered it dating because he'd been only 25 at the time.

I often wonder why I stuck by him as I watched the investigation go on. But I never felt a draw to stand beside these other women. There was a part of me that still wanted to hang on to this idea that his relationship with me was different.

The accusations from those four women didn't lead to any criminal charges because they couldn't prove the girls had been under 16. But he was banned from USA Gymnastics in 1998. He could no longer be a member. He made a big deal out of it at the time, but I remember thinking that it didn't seem to have any impact on his life. Maybe parents didn't fully understand what had happened because he tried to garner a lot of sympathy, claiming it was all untrue and unfair. Only a few parents took their gymnasts out of his gym, and he competed with his team under different organizations instead of USA Gymnastics. He still was a director at the camp, and it seemed as if other coaches stood by him.

When I look back at this, it makes me feel very frustrated by USA Gymnastics. I often think that I could have been saved if its policies were different. It all comes from the leadership down, and unless the leadership stands up and says, "We are not going to tolerate this," nothing will change*. It needs to say, "Anyone who crosses a toe over the line we're drawing here is going to be out. You will be banned. We'll talk to our sister organizations, and you won't be able to find a loophole and have access to kids. You can't run a gymnastics camp."

I moved across the country shortly after he was banned to pursue a graduate degree and because I knew I needed to get away from him.

After moving, I was talking to a fellow grad student who asked, "So what was your longest relationship?" I told him seven years, and he couldn't believe it. I told him it started when I was 14, and it was with someone 20 years older than me. It was the first time I'd said any of this out loud.

And this guy just looked at me and says, "You know that's illegal, right?" I felt like I had broken through into another universe, where there were clear lines and boundaries. I didn't have any of that in gymnastics. And I thought, "Holy s---, what happened to me was wrong."

I didn't want to bring him down, though. I just didn't want to be a part of it anymore. So I tried to reclaim my life far away from New England. But my part in it wasn't over.

A close friend was training to be a therapist, and one day, in 2006, she talked to her own therapist about the way our gymnastics coaches had treated us. She also told her what had happened to me. And her therapist said, "Thank you for sharing that with me. I'm required by law to report this." It was just like that.

The therapist told my friend that we could report it ourselves if we wanted to, or she would do it. I felt like my entire perspective shifted again. Even though I knew that it had been illegal, I still thought of the relationship as mostly consensual. I'd never thought that what happened to me was a crime that needed to be reported right away, and for the first time I realized this could be happening to other girls, right then. I knew I had to report it.

The process of going to trial would deter anybody from reporting sexual abuse. The district attorney warned me that it would feel like I was the one on trial. I didn't know what that meant when he said it, but I lived it. Everything that you do is under scrutiny. Your character is questioned. People blog about you and call you a liar and say this is unrequited love or you're just doing this to get attention.

Throughout the three weeks of trial in 2010, the defense attorney would say things like, "Are you sure you didn't lie in your journal?" Or, "Weren't you a very mature 14-year-old?" It was degrading and infuriating, and then we finally got to the end, and the prosecution team told me I needed to be prepared that the jury might come back with a not-guilty verdict.

My heart was pounding when they read the verdicts, and I just froze when they said guilty on every count: rape of a child (three counts) and indecent assault and battery on a person over 14 (two counts). In the elevator as I left the courthouse, I collapsed and cried hysterically. I am so grateful for that jury.

During the trial, many people had come forward with stories of abuse from the same man. I met the woman who had sent the letter that I had found in his house -- the letter that had changed my life. I remember this amazing sense of community, that all of these women whom I'd never met before could tell the same story about their childhood as I could. There was so much positive energy in such a negative situation. We had been an army of women, and the pain we'd suffered as kids was validated by that verdict.

I've had people tell me how strong I was to go to court and take this guy down. I know it's meant as a compliment, and I try to hold on to that. But if I could go back and have none of this happen to me, I would do that in a second.

When I look back on my childhood, I wonder who I would be without this experience. I still have nightmares that coaches are coming after me, looking for revenge. I'm scared of when he gets out of jail. It's something that will always be with me, and I know I can never get those years of my life back.

Some of the best people in my life have constantly reminded me that we are not our experiences -- that, as the quote says, we can take the lesson but leave the situation. And I do take this: We brought a group of women together who were so scared and alone, ashamed and hurt, and we created a community of survivors. And we made sure that this man could never hurt another girl.

* In a statement to espnW, USA Gymnastics said it received a complaint about the coach in 1997 from adults who had previously been athletes in USAG. The organization hired a retired FBI agent, who investigated the complaint and spoke with local authorities. The investigation resulted in the termination of the coach's professional membership, public notice of that termination and a lifetime ban on his participation in sanctioned competitions and other events. None of the existing USAG staff was with the organization at the time the original complaint was filed.

"It is heartbreaking and unacceptable for a young person to have the intolerable burden that results from being a victim of sexual misconduct," USAG chief executive officer Steve Penny said in the statement. "We share the outrage that sexual assault victims and their families feel. This is why USA Gymnastics has implemented SafeSport training and created educational materials that encourage members to contact law enforcement first when reporting incidents of abuse."



Letter to the Editor

Failures to Report Child Abuse Continue

Dear Editor,

Two independent newspapers, The Indianapolis Star and USA Today, have published a major investigation related to USA Gymnastics regarding the failure of USA Gymnastics to report the suspicion of child sexual abuse by many different coaches over many years. Their failure to follow the law and report any suspicion of child abuse by coaches has resulted in the abuse of some victims over many years as well as girls who otherwise would not have been victimized at all. This very same pattern occurred with Penn State, and all too many Catholic dioceses and with leaders from other communities of faith across our nation. What happened with the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State in 2011 dated back decades as well. Each institution was more interested in protecting their own reputation than reporting horrific crimes happening in clear view on their watch. And as the Indianapolis Star reports, USA Gymnastics had developed policies that made reporting of these crimes more difficult and allowed their leadership to largely ignore them when they came in.How many times does this have to happen before we take stronger action? What needs to happen to stop it now?

First, facts about child sexual abuse confirm that sexual predators will often seek employment in a position that gives them access to children and youth. Second, the vast majority of adults working in these institutions are wonderful and dedicated individuals who choose to give back to their communities, sacrificing higher paying jobs because of their commitment to helping children learn, grow and prepare for successful adulthood. Third, nearly all of these stories, both about Penn State and now at USA Gymnastics, focus on the failure to report child abuse. Reporting is critical and Vermont requires all those who work and care for children to report the suspicion of child abuse or neglect to the Vermont Department for Children and Families. Their central intake number is: 1-800-649-5285. Anyone can make a report and may choose to report anonymously.

However, little attention is being given in these media reports to preventing these cases before they occur. Studies show that once a child has suffered abuse, their life is changed forever. Although many victims remain strong and resilient, research shows that victims are more likely to suffer a long list of poor health and development outcomes, including alcohol and drug use, criminal involvement, mental health problems, chronic health issues, marital problems, physical health problems and even early morbidity, etc. Child maltreatment is clearly a root cause of a large swath of health and social problems affecting millions of Americans, costing us billions of dollars in lost humanity and productivity along the way. Child sexual abuse is preventable. It can be stopped, before a child is victimized. What can work?

As one example, youth-serving organizations can develop stronger policies that prohibit specific “boundary-violating behaviors” that are part of the grooming process used by predators to identify a vulnerable child. This could include providing special gifts or rides to a child, inviting them to be alone with the adult (outside of the program), developing relationships via social media, or any touching that goes beyond acceptable guidelines for that program. If youth-organizations implement these policies with all staff, it sends a powerful signal to anyone with other intentions that this organization is wise to steps that predators use, and violations will quickly be reported along the way. It empowers other staff to come forward and let their leadership know, at an earlier point in time, if a fellow staff person is exhibiting creepy or unacceptable behavior that could be a problem. The organization can take action sooner to counsel their staff about what behavior is acceptable and let them know that any future problems could lead to a loss of employment. It may encourage those with problems to get professional help.

Prevent Child Abuse Vermont works with schools, and child care providers to train adults in how they can protect children from child sexual abuse. We work with teachers and administrators to strengthen children's social and emotional knowledge and behavior to reduce the likelihood that they will be victimized or victimize others. If your school, childcare center, organization or club would like more information or training about preventing child sexual abuse, please call 1-800-CHILDREN or 802-229-5724 or go online to

Together, we can lift the veil of secrecy and silence that allows child sexual abuse to occur.Linda E. Johnson, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont



Nonprofit advocates treatment for sex abuse victims

by Tom Holm

An Idaho Falls businessman gathered city officials Wednesday to recruit them for his mission to help sexual abuse victims.

Matt Morgan, a victim of sexual abuse himself and a construction business owner, organized the meeting to spitball ideas to make treatment for sexual abuse victims more accessable. Morgan began the discussion with a video for his nonprofit organization, Building Hope Today, outlining the abuse he suffered as a child and how he wants to speak publicly to help other victims.

Authorities from the Bonneville County Sheriff's Office, probation and parole, therapeutic counselors, the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center, the Family Crisis Center of Rexburg, a representative for Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper, Women and Children's Services at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, Idaho Falls Police Department and Idaho Falls EMS, among other organizations, attended the event.

Morgan hosted the luncheon along with LaVarr McBride, an administration of justice instructor at Pennsylvania State University.

McBride became emotional following Morgan's video and said that the passion Morgan showed on the subject of advocating for sexual abuse victims inspired him.

“It's why we're here,” McBride said.

He said they had done similar discussions in Pennsylvania, Utah and Texas.

Morgan said he had shared the video and had discussions around the U.S., but bringing it to his hometown of Idaho Falls made him anxious.

“It feels more personal. I've enjoyed some business success here and some business failures. But I'm thankful you are all here,” Morgan said.

Attendees broke off into groups and discussed ways to eliminate gaps in coverage for victims.

One gap, noted by Kimber Tower of the Family Crisis Center, was the lack of education in schools and other organizations that deal with children to identify victims of sexual abuse who may not come forward about the abuse.

Tower said there is a two-hour online training, called “Stewards of Children,” available to anyone who works with children but schools have consistently ignored the idea. Tower said it has been problematic to get the word out or provide an area locally to conduct the training in person.

Many at the luncheon recognized that educating the public is the best starting point to reduce the stigma victims have concerning sexual abuse.


Holistic Approach May Aid In Dealing With Chronic Child Neglect

by Rick Nauert PhD

A new study suggests Child Protective Services (CPS) caseworkers should use a more all-encompassing approach to improve how they respond to cases of chronic neglect.

Researchers at the University at Buffalo discovered that neglect accounts for more than 70 percent of cases reported nationally to CPS.

While the typical CPS response often focuses on a single case, which might not appear to be a matter of severe harm, a review of previous reports may provide a more comprehensive assessment of the situation.

“It's difficult to incorporate past allegations of neglect when you're looking at one incident that may not rise to a level of serious concern,” said Dr. Annette Semanchin Jones, who conducted the research with Dr. Patricia Logan-Greene, also an assistant professor of social work at UB.

Their recently published study, which appears in the journal Children and Youth Services Review, suggests that a more holistic approach might improve how CPS responds to cases of chronic neglect.

“For cases of chronic neglect, if workers look over time and consider past allegations more thoroughly they could see an accumulation of harm that is very concerning,” said Semanchin Jones.

Researchers and case workers agree that the lack of a uniform definition of “neglect” is not an easy starting point.

The meaning of neglect can change depending on state standards but, generally, neglect is defined as failing to provide children with adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education and supervision based on their age and development.

Chronic neglect, which also has different definitions from state to state, is recurring cases of neglect within a family, often across multiple developmental stages for children.

Despite it prevalence, neglect is understudied and poorly understood from a research perspective. Semanchin Jones says that may be changing as there is a growing body of literature that indicates how neglect, and chronic neglect in particular, can have serious consequences on a child's emotional regulation and cognitive development.

The UB study is among the first to examine cases of chronic neglect with a focus on CPS practices.

The authors conducted a detailed case record review to examine CPS practices related to cases of chronic neglect, studying 38 families that had five or more neglect reports to CPS.

The results found that all of the families had at least four significant stressors, including extreme poverty, parental substance abuse, parental mental health issues, child behavioral problems or domestic violence.

“This is a finding in itself,” said Semanchin Jones.

“Systems need workers trained to identity these issues. Having good training in place would give workers a foundational knowledge to identify these family challenges early on in the case.”

But the researchers found that case workers sometimes missed evidence of some of these risks.

“There were questions raised about risk assessment procedures,” Semanchin Jones said. “We saw evidence that the standardized processes used for risk assessment didn't always match the case notes.”

She said better training and implementation of risk assessment protocols may be needed to ensure assessment tools are being used correctly and consistently.

“There needs to be a comprehensive assessment if there is any indication a family is experiencing chronic neglect,” said Semanchin Jones. “Case workers need the tools to look at the history of the case, not just at one incident or one child, but at the whole family.”

A comprehensive assessment can help identify a family's strengths and challenges.

“They're dealing with multiple factors. The initial assessment needs to be comprehensive so case workers can respond appropriately,” she said.

The research has lead to beneficial changes.

“Building on these findings, the jurisdiction that was the focus of the study has already made some adjustments to better respond to the needs of these families, including specialized CPS teams with additional training on these issues relate,” Logan-Greene said.



"We're being proactive in the prevention of child abuse," -- Sex Crime Fines Go Towards Child Abuse Prevention


GRAYSON CO., OK -- Several local child abuse prevention programs are about to get some financial help, thanks to some of the area's worst offenders.

"It's a great way for the county commissioner's court to give back to the community, and to help eradicate a horrible crime," Grayson County Judge Bill Majers says.

A crime no punishment could ever resolve; child sex crimes are too common in the state of Texas.

The Children's Advocacy Center of Texas says 185 children will be victims of this abuse this year alone.

But there could be a light at the end of the tunnel, because those offenders will have no choice but to pay back a small amount of the damage they have done.

"It's all about preventing child sexual abuse so it is a very straight forward use of the funds, the funds will be put in the hands of those organizations which have programs to prevent this thing," Majers says.

Back in 2012 the Texas legislature created a $100 penalty for anyone who was convicted of a child sex crime.

And after more than 4 years of collecting the fines, Grayson County is ready to hand over $7,000.

"We're being proactive in the prevention of child abuse," Majers says.

Grayson County Judge Bill Majers says the money will be split up between 3 non-profit organizations, totaling $2,300 for each.

The groups included are the Children's Advocacy Center, the Child and Family Guidance Center, and CASA.

"We survive off the people and generosity of the community, and grants and things like that so anything we can do, anything we can get, is basically how we survive," CASA Executive Director Shane Hill says.

The non profits involved say they are not sure what they plan on doing with their share of the money, but they know it will help a lot of children and their families.


United Kingdom

Former Catholic priest admits 27 charges of historic child abuse

by Mark Woods

A former Catholic priest has pleaded guilty to 27 charges of sexual assault against children.

Philip Temple, 66, committed the offences during the 1970s in London while he was working in south London care homes and a church in north London.

He admitted seven of the offences at Woolwich Crown Court yesterday and had previously admitted 20 similar charges.

He adso admitted perjury, having lied on oath in the 1990s when he was acquitted of abuse charges after an allegation made by a teenage boy.

Temple was suspended from his role as a social worker in children's homes in 1977 and left the profession. He became a monk at a monastery in Cockfosters and abused two altar boys there. He was ordained a priest in 1987.

After being acquitted in the trial during which he perjured himself he is believed to have served in France and Italy. He was arrested in 2015 and admitted the historical abuse.

A spokesperson for the Catholic Church in England and Wales told the BBC that the Church was limited in the measures it could take because Temple was answerable to the head of his order in Italy and was not under its direct jurisdiction.

Raymond Stephenson, a member of the Shirley Oaks Survivors' Association, formed by victims at one of the Lambeth Council care homes where he worked, said: "If Temple had been caught at Shirley Oaks he would not have been able to abuse anyone else."



Fee in sexual assault cases to help prevent child abuse

by Jerrie Whiteley

Three organizations that help abused children in Grayson County will soon find themselves with a little extra money to spend. Grayson County Commissioners on Tuesday voted to split $6,900 three ways among area agencies that offer programs aimed at preventing child abuse.

The three agencies that will receive money include Court Appointed Special Advocates of Grayson County, the Child and Family Guidance Center of Texoma and the Grayson County Children's Advocacy Center. The money comes from a $100 fee those convicted of sexual assault have to pay as part of their court costs and fees.

“It is like Christmas in August,” Shane Hill, executive director at CASA of Grayson County, said.

Hill said he had no idea the money even existed so it was a very pleasant surprise. He said his agency will most likely use the money for recruiting more volunteers to help work with the children who are served by CASA. Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children provides a caring adult to help walk with children through the court system and speak for their best interest.

Britney Martin, executive director at the Grayson County Children's Advocacy Center said they weren't expecting the money either.

“We're so excited and very grateful to hear the news of this unexpected contribution,” said. She added that the,”gift will help us continue to provide critical services, including forensic interviews and specialized therapy, to abused children in Grayson county.”

County Auditor Richey Rivers said it took several years for the fund to reach that amount of money and asked commissioners whether they wanted to wait for it to reach that level or near again before doing anything with the money. County Judge Bill Magers indicated that would be a good idea.



Before child vanished — maybe forever — DCF made fateful decision

by Carol Marbin Miller and David Ovalle

When Angela Dufrene and her twin brother were born on April 25, 2014, their mother's troubled history was no secret to the state.

Marjorie Dufrene was under the supervision of Florida's child welfare agency following a child-abuse arrest and six separate investigations, including an episode in which she “accidentally” hit one child in the face with a belt with such force that he required eye eye surgery.

While Dufrene's two oldest children remained under the state's protection, she became pregnant again — with twins.

Despite her history, child welfare administrators decided to leave the twins in their mother's care with no protective oversight, even as the agency received additional complaints about possible abuse of their older siblings.

Now, Angela has vanished altogether — and is feared dead.

As Miami homicide detectives search for the missing child, or her remains, just-released Department of Children & Families records renew troubling questions about the agency's oversight of at-risk children. The records are heavily redacted and incomplete, but show child protection workers and lawyers deliberately chose not to monitor the twins' safety .

It was not until last month that a DCF investigator, probing the family's 11th child-abuse hotline report, involving an unidentified child, discovered that Angela's mother could account for only four of her five children. At first, Dufrene claimed the baby was with her birth father, something investigators quickly determined was a lie.

And then came a shocking disclosure:

“The mother admitted to murdering child Angela in November of 2015,” a report said. She would also state in open court that the youngster was “no longer with us.” The report added that “Angela would not stop crying.”

Both DCF and the Miami Police Department are investigating what became of Angela, a cherubic baby whose life, if it is over, left virtually no record. Police had to search several days before finding a single photo of the child. An age-progressed image of the girl shows a dark-eyed youngster with pig tails.

Despite the word “murder” appearing in DCF reports, law-enforcement sources say that Dufrene actually gave various versions of the baby's death, including one that the child suffered a fatal fall after which the mom discarded her body in a North Miami-Dade dumpster, sources said.

Last month, when authorities discovered Angela was missing, DCF removed her twin brother from Dufrene. Her three older children remain in Broward County with their father. Dufrene has not been charged with a crime.

In the days after DCF discovered Angela was missing, a DCF spokeswoman, Jessica Sims, told the Herald “DCF has no prior reports to the hotline regarding the child” — other than the tip that resulted in the discovery of her disappearance.

But heavily redacted documents provided to the Herald under the state's public records law show that Angela was known to child protection caseworkers and lawyers in Broward County, who had overseen the welfare of her older siblings.

In an interview with the Herald late Monday, DCF Secretary Mike Carroll declined to discuss Angela's case in detail, saying state law prohibits such disclosures until the child is formally presumed to be deceased. “Based on some comments the mom made in open court, we have grave concerns about this child. I hope what she said is not true.”

He acknowledged, however, that child protection administrators who met in April 2014 erred by failing to add Angela, her twin, and one other sibling to the ongoing court case in which Marjorie Dufrene's two oldest children were under state supervision. Present at the meeting were employees of ChildNet, the Broward County foster care agency; the Broward Sheriff's Office, which conducts abuse probes; and the Florida attorney general's office, which provides legal representation in child welfare court in Broward.

“If the older children were not safe, how in the world can a newborn be safe?” Carroll said. “It defies logic.”

When lawyers and caseworkers decline to add newborns such as Angela to ongoing child protection court cases, Carroll said, “the chances of that child becoming invisible in the future increase exponentially.”

Carroll said he's asked his staff to look into whether the agency needs to change state law, or just revise rules and policy, to mandate that infants born into families already under state supervision be added to such court cases as a matter of course. “We have to close that loop,” Carroll said.

On Monday, the Herald petitioned the child welfare judge who is overseeing Marjorie Dufrene's family, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman, to order DCF to release all records in its custody pertaining to the agency's prior involvement with Angela and her siblings. The petition said Floridians have an interest in understanding “how these tragedies occur and learning about possible performance shortcomings by the department, the courts or others.”

Carroll said the agency would not object to the records' release.

Twice — in April 2014 and June 2015, after complaints involving the older siblings — DCF had opportunities to ensure Angela and her twin brother were safe. Both times, records show, they failed to take any action. And investigators had a previous chance to discover she was missing a month earlier when yet another report was received by the hotline, alleging the sexual abuse of a sibling. Typically, investigators are expected to observe all children in a family if one of them is alleged to have been mistreated.

Marjorie Dufrene's two oldest children — now 11 and 5 — had been the subject of at least three reports of physical child abuse in 2011 and 2012 when the Broward Sheriff's Office sheltered them for a while from their parents.

The children's removal appears to correspond with Marjorie Dufrene's December 2012 arrest by the Fort Lauderdale Police Department on charges of battery on a child. A police report said one of Dufrene's children complained she had “hit [him] on the head, causing a cut and a bruise. Marjorie has had previous [abuse] reports filed against her, and is not allowed to physically discipline her children."

The child “confirmed under oath that his mother struck him, causing the injuries to his head. [A] medical exam showed positive indications of abuse,” the report added.

Documents provided to the Herald are so heavily censored that it is nearly impossible to determine what happened next.

What is known: On April 4, 2014, 11 days before Angela and her brother were born, BSO, the state Attorney General's Office and ChildNet held a meeting to decide whether to take any action to protect the twins after they were born. Blacked-out notes on a timeline show that “no legal action was requested” at the staffing, and it appears none was taken.

At least five times in the coming months, a Broward County judge held hearings to ensure that Dufrene's older children remained safe and well-cared for. While timelines provided to the Herald are not explicit about what occurred during those hearings, typically, a caseworker will describe what she or he observed during monthly home visits. No such observations ever were made of the twins, however, as they never were added to the court case.

On Dec. 7, 2015 The child “confirmed under oath that his mother struck him, causing the injuries to his head. [A] medical exam showed positive indications of abuse,” the report added.

On Dec. 7, 2015 — a month after Marjorie Dufrene now says her baby died — the Broward court case was terminated.

DCF received at least five subsequent reports of abuse or neglect — including allegations of domestic violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse and “threatened harm” — before July 20, when the hotline received an anonymous tip that some of Dufrene's children were not being properly supervised, and were being exposed to “environmental hazards.”

Last month, a DCF assistant secretary, Vicki Abrams, asked a Broward administrator to tell her how two babies could escape agency oversight when their older — and thus less vulnerable — siblings were being observed by a caseworker who regularly reported back to a judge. “Call me when you get info on why twins not added,” Abrams wrote on July 21.

“We have seen one of the children, and Mother confessed to murdering the other child,” Abrams wrote.

Angela is not the first child to vanish after child protection workers had become involved. In a case that shocked South Florida and the nation, 4-year-old Rilya Wilson disappeared around December 2000 after DCF placed her in the home of a family friend, Geralyn Graham. A caseworker reported making numerous visits to Graham's home — visits that never took place — until April 2002, when another worker, seeking to put Rilya up for adoption, discovered the girl was gone.

During a 2012 trial, Graham's companion described the abuses to which Rilya had been subjected. She told jurors that Graham would bind the child's hands to a bed railing with plastic “flex cuffs.” She said Graham borrowed a dog cage to confine Rilya.

A jailhouse informant testified that Graham was convicted of aggravated child abuse and kidnapping, and was sentenced to 55 years imprisonment.

The remains of Rilya, who would be 19 today, have never been found.




Charging Child Sex-Trafficking Victims With Prostitution Is the Only Way to Save Them, Say California Prosecutors

Without the threat of jail time, victims won't have incentive to testify, prosecutors complain.

by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

Under California law, anyone under age 18 who is engaged in prostitution is considered a sex-trafficking victim, regardless of whether any force or coercion is involved. Yet teens in the sex trade can also be charged under state law with committing prostitution. California legislators are trying to change this, with a bill that would prohibit the prosecution of minors for prostitution charges. But the measure has run into opposition from law enforcement officials, who say that arresting victims is integral to saving them.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1322, passed the state Senate in June and could come up for a vote in the Assembly this week, according to the San Francisco Chronicle . But it "faces a tougher vote in the more moderate Assembly," warns the Chronicle , "where some Democrats have aligned with law enforcement groups."

This includes the California District Attorneys Association, which says that without the threat of criminal sanctions, victims won't have enough incentive to testify against people the state would like to lock-up as pimps.

If prosecutors can't make a case against someone without throwing their alleged victims in jail, that sounds to me like it's prosecutors problem. But apparently California prosecutors think vulnerable teenagers should bear the brunt of their inadequacy.

Sean Hoffman, director of legislation for the district attorneys association, told the Chronicle : "If they can't keep a victim in a facility"—i.e., jail—"long enough for a provider to reach that child with services, then we undermine the efforts of a number of great community-based organizations that are having tremendous success in servicing victims of human trafficking."

Again, it doesn't really sound like these "great community-based organizations" are actually "having tremendous success" helping trafficking victims if the only way people use their services is when forced by the state, but I guess we all define success differently. If all you care about is filing bodies into your program whether they want or need help or not, then getting police to force scared teens your way is a fine recruitment tack, I guess.



CAASA tackles human trafficking issue

by Mick Polich

Human trafficking is a big city problem, or a problem for towns nearer to an interstate, like I -35, or I-80.....human trafficking isn't an issue in Northwest Iowa, let alone Storm Lake.

Wrong, wrong, and so wrong -- human trafficking rears its ugly head here in the City Beautiful, you just don't see it.

Human trafficking involves slavery, prostitution, extortion, and exploitation of mostly minors, and adults. The reasons and scenarios are many for trafficking -- focusing on immigrants, mostly teens, who escape to the United States for many reasons such as poverty, a violent home life, suppression of free will from local governments, or just to run away from home. Refuge is offered from 'friends', or supposedly trusted individuals, who in return work out a 'deal' for refugees -- a roof over their head, a job, food, bills paid, clothing, almost any needs met, in exchange for sexual favors, and/or the promise to ' keep secret ' immigrant status. Girls are sometimes forced into marriage, giving away their childhoods and futures in most cases. Domestic violence and sexual assaults are also threads in human trafficking, as cases of spousal violence are up. Slavery hasn't disappeared, it's just been hiding in plain sight.

"Human trafficking is here in Storm Lake, and northwest Iowa -- we cover many cases a week," says Joanne Alvorez, a bilingual sexual abuse victims advocate for Centers Against Abuse And Sexual Assault, or CAASA, at their offices here in Storm Lake. "Locally, trafficking just looks different -- it's pretty hidden, and it's based on sex trafficking, and farm/field labor. Usually, it's a form of identity theft -- papers are alerted so individuals can work unnoticed,"says Joanne, a Storm Lake High graduate who has seen this type of abuse growing up. In the work form, both permanent and temporary, trafficking happens through housekeeping, or domestic servitude, mostly in hotels or houses. This type is the most easily disguised, and has been going on for many years. Of course, if illegal immigrant status is uncovered, the individual can be deported, and sent back to the former life they fled from in the first place. It's a 'Catch 22' in any case.

CAASA advocates, unfortunately, see a lot of female clients, around the ages of 13 or 14, come under their wing for help. "We have seen, for instance, under aged Central American girls, brought up to northwest Iowa, that end up getting raped, sexually assaulted, or forced into prostitution," says Alvorez. This ends up to be quite a few, as CAASA covers 19 counties in NW Iowa, and Alvorez has nine of those counties to work in."We cover up to Estherville, over to Sac or Rockwell City, down to Carroll, and over to Woodbury County," says Alvorez. But human trafficking has no color or gender lines. " It could happen to anyone, anywhere," says Alvorez.

Cases at CAASA are usually supported internally by a networking group comprised of advocates, case workers, and other personnel. This type of multi-tiered support is not uncommon, a team approach is making sure the client has a web of help, so to speak, to deal with their case. "We brief each other on cases, so we can get support not only for the client, but for ourselves also," says Alvorez. Abuse is abuse, and in many cases, long hidden incidents, such as sexual or physical abuse from the past, play into future problems in mental, sexual, and physical health for individuals. Gone are the days when such cases of abuse were swept under the table, buried in memory, or accepted as part of 'growing up', and not dealt with. And anyone who has experienced human trafficking on a personal level such seek help before things mushroom out of hand, according to Alvorez.

"If you see any form of abuse, or human trafficking, you need to get as much information as possible before you get other parties involved," says Alvorez, "Even before you call, say, the police, you need to make sure what you're seeing is accurate, because it could get dangerous for parties involved." Such information would be accurate descriptions and information on suspected names, locations, vehicles, or scenarios, as you would give to the police. Awareness to your surroundings is also key in pointing out possible human rights abuse cases. We often think it can't happen here -- human trafficking - but it does, daily, and almost covertly. Knowledge and awareness are keys in helping the right authorities out in such cases, and getting over old, outdated, and dangerous biases involving relationships of different sexual orientation, what is and isn't slavery, and domestic incarceration should be the norm. If you know someone, or yourself, involved in a possible trafficking, or abuse situation, you can call the local CAASA Hope line at 1-877-362-4612.



Portman's efforts to combat human trafficking advance with court decision

by Ripon Advance News Service

A federal court order on Friday requiring to comply with a congressional subpoena seeking documents advanced U.S. Sen. Rob Portman's (R-OH) efforts to combat human trafficking.

Portman, the chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), the ranking member of the committee, have led a bipartisan investigation of human trafficking on the internet since April 2015.

The senators subpoenaed Backpage, a market leader in commercial sex advertising that has allegedly been linked to hundreds of cases of sex trafficking, for documents, filing a contempt action when the website refused to comply.

A district court judge granted the contempt action on Friday and ordered Backpage to turn over the documents within 10 days.

“(Friday's) ruling is a victory for the thousands of innocent victims of sex trafficking across the United States,” Portman said. “This is the first time in more than 20 years that the Senate has had to enforce a subpoena in court, but we are pleased that the court has vindicated the Senate's constitutional right to gather information to help us fight the scourge of online human trafficking. We are committed to continuing our bipartisan investigation into this matter, and look forward to reviewing the subpoenaed documents that Backpage has thus far withheld from Congress.”

In her decision, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer said that Backpage's refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena was “untenable and without legal support” and ordered the release of the documents.

“(On Friday), the court agreed with our argument that Backpage must comply with a lawful subpoena that carries with it the unanimous support of the full U.S. Senate,” McCaskill, a former sex crimes prosecutor, said. “This is a critical, historic next step in our continuing effort to get to the bottom of Backpage's business practices and policies for preventing the despicable crime of sex trafficking of children on the internet.”



Balancing science with justice for violent teens

by Anita Wadhawani

As research emerges about the impact of trauma on a child's developing brain, state leaders are grappling with the thorny problem of how to balance science with justice when dealing with violent and criminal teens.

The development issues are commonly referred to as “adverse childhood experiences” – and they impact just about every public entity that encounters children – from public schools to the Department of Children's Services to hospitals and the criminal justice system. Lawmakers this year agreed to invest $1.4 million to tackle the matter, with an open invitation to nonprofits and others to come forward with their own ideas on how to address the consequences of trauma.

Advocates for children caught up in the justice system, including juvenile judges, attorneys and child-welfare advocates, hope the state will go even further – but face an uphill challenge in advocating for the least sympathetic of the state's children: those who have committed heinous and violent crimes.

There are 183 people serving life sentences in Tennessee prisons for crimes committed while they were teens. A life sentence in Tennessee carries an automatic 51 years before any possibility of parole.

Another 13 individuals are serving life with no possibility of parole – some as young as 14 at the time of their crimes.

All of the individuals who began – and will likely end – their adult lives behind bars left behind victims, grieving survivors or both.

Emerging science in the past two decades shows that children's brains aren't fully developed until they are in their mid-20s.

Add childhood trauma – experiences such as abuse, neglect, exposure to domestic violence, addiction, divorce and poverty, incarcerated parents and homelessness – and an adolescent brain can be both underdeveloped and impaired in vital functions such as impulse and emotional control and decision-making. But the science also shows that, with support, even a traumatized and troubled teen can develop into a mature and responsible adult. Support can be as simple as having one caring, stable relationship in a young person's life.

Memphis Juvenile Judge Dan H. Michael thinks that the criminal justice system should follow the lead of brain science. If individuals don't have a fully functional adult brain until they are 25, then when they commit crimes they should stay in the juvenile justice system, not the adult criminal justice system, he said.

“We need to craft criminal justice system based on science, not on our guts,” he said. Michael said that between 60-70 percent of children in his courtroom have experienced trauma.

“If I have a child who is 16 or 17 who shot somebody, he or she would get 15-to-20 years in the adult system,” Michael said. “If I keep him in the juvenile system and provide rehabilitation, I can only hold him until he was 19 and he might not have turned around by then. But if I can keep them until he was 25 and get him a GED and services and teach skills, that could make all the difference.”

Michael's proposal to expand the authority of the state's juvenile justice system was shelved by the legislature this year, but it gained the attention of lawmakers like Sen. Mark Norris, a Collierville Republican. Norris has established a commission to study the issue.

Juvenile judges across Tennessee have also been less inclined to transfer juveniles from the juvenile system to adult criminal court. In 2014, juvenile judges in Tennessee transferred 160 juveniles to adult courts to stand trial. In 2000, they transferred 303.

A separate effort by lawmakers and advocates prompted by the story of Cyntoia Brown, a woman sentenced to life in prison at age 16 for the murder of a 43-year-old Nashville real estate agent, have also stalled.

Brown's former attorney, Kathy Sinback, who is now the administrator of Davidson County Juvenile Court, helped lead an effort similar to what has taken place in 24 other states since 2014: to require an automatic review of life sentences imposed on teens after they have served a certain number of years. In Tennessee, a review occurs only after 51 years, something Sinback calls a “virtual life sentence.”

But the effort to reduce the review from 51 years to 15 or 20 failed.

Meanwhile, advocates hope a larger focus on adverse childhood experiences that has gained the backing of state leaders including Gov. Bill Haslam and his wife, Crissy, will gain steam to address juveniles accused of serious crimes.

“Building Strong Brains: Tennessee ACEs Initiative” launched by the Memphis-based ACE Awareness Foundation has brought together all major state agencies that deal with children to meet weekly to figure out needed policy changes. The initiative is focused not just on juvenile justice but broadly to address how all state agencies can intervene before or after a child experiences trauma to reduce its impact on both the child – and the community at large.

A request for proposals to address trauma in children has received more than 60 submissions, according to ACE Awareness Foundation CEO Chris Peck.

Brown's attorneys, meanwhile, have taken the unusual step to appeal her life sentence in federal court, in part citing her early childhood traumas and exposure to alcohol in utero as factors that should have been considered in sentencing her for a crime she committed when she was 16.

Jeff Burks, a former Davidson County District Attorney who prosecuted Brown in 2006 who now works in Florida, cautioned that sympathy for individuals like Brown should not obscure the brutal nature of their crimes.

“She wasn't just somebody who make one mistake. She was a very dangerous person. The choices she made were hers. She's pretty and smart and articulate so people have decided to take up her cause. Let's not forget her crime.”

But Burks said he deferred to the residents of Tennessee to decide what to do with her punishment.

“That's a very tough question – what should be done with people like her,” Burks said. “I think a conviction for first-degree and felony murder were justified. What the law should be – should it be different for someone who is 16 when they commit a crime – I defer to the people of Tennessee.”

This is part two of an occasional series. "Sentencing Children" is a collaboration between The Tennessean, Daniel H. Birman Productions and "Independent Lens," a PBS series presented by ITVS. To view the full-length documentary film, "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story," go to .



Special grand jury to investigate handling of Rockbridge child abuse cases

by Christopher Billias

LEXINGTON — A special grand jury will investigate a local social services department and whether its failure to respond to reports of child abuse harmed the children it was supposed to protect.

Rockbridge County Commonwealth's Attorney Christopher Billias said Monday that he had decided to impanel the special grand jury.

“It's a search for the truth,” he said of the rarely used process that will examine the workings of the Rockbridge Area Department of Social Services.

“This is probably the best tool we have to get to the bottom of it, because we don't know how far it goes.”

Last month, Billias said he was troubled by an internal social services review that found the Rockbridge area office failed to properly investigate some reports of child abuse and neglect.

A former supervisor shredded reports that should have been investigated by the department's Child Protective Services unit and was responsible for “extremely low morale” in a department that serves Rockbridge County and the cities of Lexington and Buena Vista, the report found.

The 38-page report cited one case in which the department failed to offer services to an infant identified as “high risk” in an unfit home. The 3-month-old girl died in April after she stopped breathing and was rushed to a hospital.

Authorities also have complained that social services was slow to respond to complaints about conditions in a home where four children, ages 3 to 15, were later sexually abused by a Rockbridge County brother and sister.

“These are the people who really need the system's help,” Billias said of those who seek assistance from the department of social services. “And we want to make sure they are being served properly.”

Billias said he hopes the special grand jury will begin its work in September. The process of hearing testimony is expected to take several months. After that, the panel will issue a report that prosecutors will use to determine whether or not to seek charges.

Typically in Virginia, grand juries in state circuit courts meet on a regular basis and return indictments en masse after hearing a brief summary of each case from a law enforcement officer or other key prosecution witness. The use of a special grand jury is akin to a federal process in which the panel takes on more investigative power, often focusing on a single case.

Special grand juries in state court have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents. Anyone called before the panel could face a contempt charge for refusing to testify, or a perjury charge for lying under oath.

The panels can also hear testimony from expert witnesses, which in the Rockbridge case could be helpful in defining the duties of a social services department — and deciding whether shirking those duties amounts to criminal conduct, Billias said.

Billias said the last time he could recall a special grand jury being used in the Lexington area was in the 1980s, when the county prosecutor was suspected of sexual misconduct.

Meanwhile, social services workers continue to search for possible cases of child abuse or neglect that were ignored in Rockbridge County.

A team of five employees with expertise in Child Protective Services work was assigned to comb through records in the Lexington office, according to Susan Reese, head of the agency's Piedmont Regional Office, which first uncovered the problems in May.

The team's efforts were assisted by the previous actions of employees — apparently suspicious that the former supervisor was shredding documents — who kept copies of the reports that were made to the agency by citizens, law enforcement agencies, school officials and others.

A total of 180 cases were examined. Investigators first checked to see if the reports had been entered in a central computer system as required. If not, each case was reviewed anew.

For those cases that had been logged into the system, the team of investigators checked the outcome to see if they were handled appropriately. If not, each of those cases was re-examined.

Of the 180 cases, 51 were pulled for further investigation, Reese said. In some of the other cases, the team found that repeated complaints to social services had eventually spurred the agency into action.

Other dropped cases involved families who later moved out of their area. In those cases, social services departments where the complainants now live were contacted so they could follow up on any concerns that might still exist.

Statewide, about half of the reports to Child Protective Services units were accepted for further review in the 2014-15 fiscal year, according to data compiled by the Virginia Department of Social Services.

Some of the “accepted” cases are handled with a family assessment, which aims to improve conditions in a home where there is no immediate danger to a child. A formal investigation is required for the more serious cases, which involve allegations of actual harm to children.

In Rockbridge County, just four cases — or 1.85 percent of the total — were found worthy of a formal investigation during the fiscal year. That was the lowest rate of any social services department in Western Virginia.

And those numbers do not take into account the reports that were shredded or not entered into the computer system.

The full scope of the problem was revealed only because some employees saved copies of reports and later shared them with investigators.

“If copies hadn't been kept, there was no way we would have known these reports ever came into the agency,” Reese wrote in an email.

“Obviously, the employees could tell something was wrong — I wish they would have come forward sooner.”



'Angels' help victims of child abuse cope with trauma

by Sue Straughn

"We take a small terra cotta pot and we paint the likenesses of super heroes on them. So we have Iron Man. We have Spider-Man. We have Captain America and we have Batman and then we add a plant to that."

Those are the beginning steps of Chain Reaction's Get Grounded Project. These simple potted plants will carry messages to the Gulf Coast Kid's House and the children who are victims of abuse.

Megan Chapman with Gulf Coast Kid's House said, "We house all of the different professionals who are involved in the treatment and prosecution of child abuse cases in Escambia County."

And make sure that we minimize the trauma to those child victims throughout the process.

Jacob Pettijohn, Chain Reaction President said, "I can't even begin to comprehend what these children have gone through. And these little pots that they give; they know that someone spent the time to write these letters and draw little super heroes on the pots."

Through their project the teens have learned a lot about child abuse, troubling things, harsh realities. It has made their efforts that much more important and the words of encouragement they share in their letters to the children that much more meaningful.

Megan Chapman with Gulf Coast Kid's House said, "We see child sexual abuse, we see medical neglect and we also see the most egregious physical abuse; so, that's head trauma, life threatening injuries, as well.

Emily Johnson, Chain Reaction Volunteer said, "We talk about something that keeps us strong like a friend, certain friend we have. And just, like, personal stories that we think that they might be able to use.

Markus-Daniel Jones who Coordinated the "Get Grounded" Project said, "I like to go bike riding. I like to go running or sometimes I read or I come volunteer here at Chain Reaction. And those are the things that fill me up; make me feel better. And they can find things to make them feel better as well."

Something so small with the potential for a great impact. The teens will tell you, it's not the time that they put into this that matters, but the heart.

"Making sure that they don't feel alone in this whole process. A lot of these children's don't have great role models in their lives and these individuals can now be role models for these kids," Chapman said.

"I want to give them inspiration and hope. That's what I want them to go away with. I want them to feel better at the end of the day," Jones said.

"Just a little something," Johnson said.

Angels In Our Midst is brought to you by the Studer Family Children's Hospital at Sacred Heart.


New Jersey

How this NJ agency helps child abuse victims get back to school

by Patrick Lavery

As the only one-stop destination for families of juvenile victims of physical or sexual abuse, Newark-based Wynona's House is centering end-of-summer efforts on sending kids back to classes with the supplies — and frame of mind — they need to succeed.

“They know when they're here, they're safe,” said Carol Berger, Wynona's House chief program officer. “They're with other families that have come through the system, and through our center.”

The organization, officially known as the Senator Wynona Lipman Child Advocacy Center, in honor of the late New Jersey state legislator, brings together Essex County prosecutors, child welfare agents, and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital all in one place to assist in investigations of child abuse and neglect.

At the heart of the group's mission is to promote hope, healing, and justice for victims. By combining these sundry components in one location, Wynona's House reduces the number of times a child has to tell and relive his or her story of abuse, cutting down on the trauma and stigma of the experience.

To further help the kids it serves, Wynona's House is sponsoring a back-to-school barbecue on Aug. 20 for families connected with the center. The event, which is closed to the public, will not only provide free food but also age-appropriate backpacks, filled with the proper school supplies for each individual child, and educational games and activities.

“Many families that we've identified may have some tough times getting their children ready for the return of school, and getting prepared,” said Dominic Prophete, Wynona's House chief executive officer.

There are academic and emotional reasons as well.

“Children who experience trauma are not as likely to do as well in school, so what we try to do is level the playing field,” Berger said.

Wynona's House, operating now more than 15 years, is always looking for ways to help with possible housing, clothing, and preparations for kids to do well in school. The organization is often in need of supplies like canned food and toiletries. To find out how you can help, call 973-753-1165 or 973-753-1110, or visit



License plates being pre-sold to raise awareness of child abuse

by Dorothea Wingo

Kentucky Court Appointed Special Advocates is pre-selling license plates to raise awareness of child abuse in Kentucky and to help educate the community about CASA's mission.

A CASA volunteer is a court-appointed, supervised advocate who serves as a voice for abused or neglected children in the family court system.

In Kentucky, 24,000 children were involved in abuse and neglect cases in 2015, but only 2,896 children were aided by a CASA volunteer.

Currently, Kentucky has 812 CASA volunteers. Each volunteer typically carries one to two cases at a time. More volunteers would result in more children being given a voice in the court system.

To ensure production of the Kentucky CASA license plate, 900 license plates must be pre-sold for $25 each. To order, go to or contact Melynda Jamison at 859-246-4313 or To learn more about CASA, go to


Unholy Secrets: The Legal Loophole That Allows Clergy To Hide Child Sexual Abuse

by Jack Jenkins

It was 2008, and Rebecca Mayeux was living a nightmare.

Just 14 years old at the time, she was being sexually harassed and abused by a member of her church, 64-year-old George Charlet Jr. According to Mayeux*, Charlet bombarded her with emails “laced with seductive nuances” over the course of a summer, slowly escalating his inappropriate advances before ultimately kissing and fondling her.

As if the abuse wasn't enough, Mayeux had to sit in the same pews as Charlet every Sunday at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, a tiny country parish about 35 miles north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Shaken and afraid, Mayeux, like so many children who endure sexual abuse, felt too ashamed to tell her parents about her ordeal, fearing they would judge her.

Instead, she fled to the person she thought she could trust the most: Father Jeff Bayhi, her parish priest.

Mayeux says she visited Bayhi on three occasions to reveal intimate details about her abuse, always meeting under the context of Catholic confession. She says she told him about her unsettling experience, which included an avalanche of suggestive emails, “obsessive” phone calls, and Charlet saying he “wanted to make love to her” before inappropriately touching her.

But rather than help Mayeux, her lawyers say the priest told her simply to move past the abuse, suggesting she “sweep it under the floor and get rid of it” because “too many people would be hurt” if she brought it out into the open. He reportedly took few if any steps to stop the mistreatment, and the crimes she claimed went unreported.

Mayeux's alleged abuser died one year later, but the emotional scars remained. After she finally informed her parents about her ordeal, the family immediately filed a lawsuit in 2009 that implicated Bayhi and the Diocese of Baton Rouge. They charged that Bayhi was negligent in allowing the alleged abuse to continue and that the diocese had failed to inform him that clergy are listed as “mandated reporters” in the state of Louisiana, that is, people in leadership positions who are legally required to report knowledge of child abuse to authorities.

But the diocese, which declined to comment for this story, did not accept blame or even move to condemn Bayhi's behavior; rather, they rushed to his defense. They pointed to an obscure exemption in Louisiana law: According to the state Children's Code, clergy do not have to disclose information about child abuse if it is revealed during church-sanctioned “confidential communication”, in other words, confession. They argued that not only was the priest exempted from reporting the abuse, but also that he could not be forced to testify about what he heard during confession, as it would broach the Catholic belief in the “seal of confession” and violate his religious liberty. In fact, he could not even confirm that a confession happened, as doing so would also violate the seal.

Moreover, they contended that Mayeux should also not be allowed to testify about the cloistered conversations, as Bayhi, bound by his priestly vow to never reveal what is discussed in confession, would be unable to testify in his own defense. To do so, they said, would mean his automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church.

Mayeux's lawyers insisted they were not trying to force Bayhi into the witness stand, but maintained that the priest was required to report and that Mayeux should be allowed to testify. The ensuing legal battle has lasted years, with attorneys vigorously debating the limits of confession carve-outs, that is, legal protections for religious conversations in the case of child abuse. The case effectively pits religious liberty advocates against supporters of mandated reporting laws, or rules designed to assist abuse victims by upping the chance their ordeals, which are often never reported, will be conveyed to authorities.

The dispute is equal parts legal and theological, and has major implications for the more than 30 states with similar “religious liberty” laws exempting clergy from mandatory reporting during confession. At a time when star-studded films such as Doubt and Spotlight keep the Catholic child sex abuse scandal in focus, many in Louisiana and elsewhere are beginning to raise questions about the ethics of such exemptions, with some asking out loud why confession carve-outs for child abuse exist in the first place, and if they should be changed.

The uneven history of ‘clergy-penitent privilege' Mayeux's case resurrects an old debate over a little-known, but heavily protected, legal concept known as “clergy-penitent privilege.” Similar to confidentiality guaranteed to clients of doctors and lawyers, the privilege allows certain conversations between a clergy member and a parishioner to remain private, meaning a faith leader cannot be forced to reveal the information in court. Thus, Bayhi's attorneys posited that any law forcing Bayhi or other priests to reveal things said in confession, even if it includes child abuse,“gravely violates” the principle of religious freedom, specifically Louisiana's understanding of clergy-penitent privilege.

They certainly have precedent on their side. In the United States, clergy-penitent privilege, sometimes called “priest or pastor-penitent privilege,” dates back as far as 1813, when the Court of General Sessions of the City of New York refused to force a priest to testify. Its importance has even been championed by the nation's highest court, with former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger declaring in 1980 that certain clerical conversations are off limits.

“The priest-penitent privilege recognizes the human need to disclose to a spiritual counselor, in total and absolute confidence, what are believed to be flawed acts or thoughts and to receive priestly consolation and guidance in return,” Burger wrote.

Indeed, shields for clergy-penitent conversations are typically more “absolute” and robust than those for other professions. Whereas doctors, lawyers, and therapists in many states are compelled to inform authorities about serious crimes they hear about in their work, religious professionals are often not held legally accountable for similar things told to them during pastoral conversations.

The concept began to impact child abuse as early as 1990, when California passed a law that named clergy as mandated reporters for child sexual abuse but also included an exception for information learned during a “penitential communication,” or conversations in which a religious leader “has a duty to keep those communications secret.”

Although trailblazing at the time, California was eventually joined by several other states after the Boston Globe's “Spotlight” team published their Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into Catholic Church abuse scandal in 2001. Horrifying details of predator priests and complicit bishops shattered trust in men who wore the collar, and Massachusetts lawmakers scrambled to pass legislation that could quell public outrage and prevent any future abuse of children by priests.

By early 2002, they had found a possible solution: crafting their own version of California's law naming clergy as mandated reporters. But the bipartisan effort suddenly stalled when it became clear that lawmakers had differing opinions on the exemption for confession. Some state house members and senators supported it, some wanted it to be less broad, and others wanted it cut entirely.

“Clergy, like social workers and teachers and doctors, if they see abuse anytime, anywhere, it ought to be disclosed,” then-state senator Cheryl A. Jacques said at the time.

Some faith leaders also spoke out against the bill, essentially predicting the kind of hellish experience Mayeux describes in her lawsuit. In a letter sent to the state's House of Representatives in January 2002, Nancy S. Taylor, president of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, urged legislators to vote against it.

“While upholding confidentiality as a general principle, it should not be used to protect criminals, or criminal behavior, at the expense of innocent victims,” she wrote, according to the New York Times.

But other, more influential clergy from the Massachusetts Council of Churches and elsewhere ultimately convinced lawmakers that a law without exemptions for religious conversations would result in lawsuits from faith groups. The carve-out was defended as necessary to maintain religious freedom, and the governor eventually signed the bill into law later that year, with the exemption intact.

Dozens of other states soon followed suit, passing laws listing faith leaders as mandated reporters while also providing various permutations of California's confession carve-out. As of 2015, at least 31 states, including Louisiana, now name clergy as mandated reporters but include an exemption for information learned during certain religious conversations. Several other states have laws that are less clear on the subject, and only six states (and Guam) require clergy to report child abuse without exception.

Ironically, these exemptions appear tone deaf to a crucial detail of the “Spotlight” article that triggered their creation: Many of the abuses doled out by priests in Massachusetts happened during confession.

Mitchell Garabedian, a legendary child abuse lawyer who played a key role in helping the Boston Globe's “Spotlight” team unearth the horrifying scope of the Catholic abuse scandal coverup, knows this all too well. Garabedian told ThinkProgress he has defended clients who were abused during confession “on multiple occasions.” Victims were almost always told to keep their ordeal to themselves, and in one case, a child was forced to perform oral sex on a priest while the cleric heard the confession of another parishioner.

“The crimes are endless,” Garabedian said.

When asked about Mayeux's case, where the abuser wasn't a priest, but was allegedly protected by a priest who refused to violate the seal of confession, Garabedian was unequivocal: The child's safety should come first.

“When children are at risk of being abused in any instance, confessional should not be used as a shield to protect the abuser,” he said. “The safety of children should take priority.”

‘Religious liberty' vs. anti-abuse advocates Despite early warning signs, confession carve-outs have gone largely unchallenged since the early 2000s. But the dramatic nature of Mayeux's case exposed potential flaws, and jump-started a conversation about pastor-penitent privilege in instances of of child abuse. For their part, the Church rehashed much of the same rhetoric used during other political disputes over same-sex marriage, tweaking parts of it for a modern context. The diocese even cited the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, a Louisiana law passed in 2010 that many saw as an early attempt to push back against the coming legalization of same-sex marriage.

“The diocese argued that this statute requiring Father Bayhi to be a mandatory reporter infringes on his free exercise of religion,” Brian Abels, Mayeux's lawyer, said.

But child rights advocates say mandatory reporting laws are needed to protect children, and that community leaders, especially clergy, should take their responsibility seriously. Cathy Townsend, the National Strategy Manager for Darkness to Light, the largest anti-child abuse advocacy organization in the country, told ThinkProgress the efficacy of mandatory reporting laws is still a matter of dispute, but insisted their existence is rooted in a painful truth: Only 33 percent of child abuse victims report their abuse in a timely fashion, with an additional 33 percent waiting years to disclose. Many never disclose at all, and those who do often only tell childhood peers who are rarely equipped to offer much-needed assistance.

“Reporting abuse is very traumatizing for many children, particularly when it's not handled well,” she said. “It just compounds the problem.”

If true, Mayeux's story is a textbook example of how failure to report can not only traumatize victims, but also cause more harm.

“After the first time she went to confession, there were more instances of abuse after that,” Abels said. “One of the worst instances of the abuse happened after she went to confession.”

Mayeux's case even has some Catholics calling for an end to confession carve-outs. In 2014, Julie Love Taylor, a Catholic lawyer who grew up in Baton Rouge, published a lengthy blog post for the Louisiana Law Review blasting the clergy exemption in Mayeux's case and suggesting an amendment to the Louisiana constitution. She argued any residual impact of the change on Catholic confession “is merely an incidental effect of the law.”

She repeated her position earlier this year in an interview with ThinkProgress.

“When you have a child who has been abused, they feel a lot of shame,” Taylor said. “It takes great courage to tell anybody what's going on. I understand it's within the Catholic confessional, but when a child comes forward with that sort thing, you can't just ignore it. You have a moral compulsion to take some kind of action.”

“I completely understand the other side, this is not an easy issue,” she added, noting that two of her uncles are priests. “It certainly would create problems within the Catholic Church. But I also think that the protection of children who are being abused, the worst thing you can imagine, needs to take priority over that.”

This same argument, that protections for religion should have limitations, at least in cases of sexual abuse enacted against minors, was also voiced by Mayeux's lawyers.

“We understand [religious freedom] is a constitutionally protected right, but all of our rights give way in certain circumstances, there is always a limitation, especially regarding child sexual abuse,” Abels said.

A (false) theology of secrecy? Mayeux's case has been waged in the courts, but it has also sparked a debate among Catholic theologians. Bayhi's lawyers hold, for instance, that he cannot testify even if Mayeux does, because doing so would violate the seal of confession and leave him automatically excommunicated. After all, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says the seal “admits of no exceptions.”

Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and former editor-in-chief of the Catholic magazine America, explained to ThinkProgress the Catholic dedication to confession by recounting a story of a clergyman forcibly apprehended by the mafia. Even as his captors held him at gunpoint, the priest reportedly refused to reveal information he learned during confession, choosing Godly duties over his own life.

“If a priest broke the seal of confession, he would not be allowed to act as a priest,” Reese said. “He would be charged with a canonical crime. It's the greatest ecclesiastical crime he could commit.”

Bayhi echoed this sentiment while being questioned by one of his attorneys. When asked whether he would ever violate the seal of confession, he seemed shocked, arguing that confession is only valuable if parishioners believe it to be completely secret.

“Knowingly? Absolutely not,” Bayhi said. “If that's not sacred, no one would ever trust us.”

But Reese and other canon law experts say the problem isn't so cut and dry. Reese penned an extensively researched article for the National Catholic Reporter in February 2015 arguing that “the weight of theological and canonical opinion supports the right of penitents to allow their confessor to reveal what they told him in confession.”

In a separate interview with ThinkProgress, Reese explained that while the issue of whether a priest can be released from the seal of confession is “a disputed question,” most canonists believe clergy should be free to testify if the penitent wants to publicly discuss the content of a confession.

“The majority of canonists appeared to side with the idea that confession is to protect the penitent,” he said. “Therefore, if the penitent says the priest can reveal what he heard in confession, then he can.”

The debate makes it difficult to discern whether the Diocese of Baton Rouge is alone in its belief that a priest cannot be released from confession, or if the lawsuit is the new norm for American Catholicism (the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did not return ThinkProgress' requests for comment). But as Reese pointed out in his article, even if a priest is allowed to testify, problems remain: the ironclad silence of confession, where bishops and other superiors aren't allowed to know what transpired in a priest's confession booth, makes the practice extremely difficult to police.

“Here again the church faces an impossible dilemma: How can it supervise the work of confessors without knowing what is said in confession?” Reese wrote.

The closed-lipped nature of confession also allows it to be used as a manipulative tool. David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said laws protecting information gathered in confession can be used by abusers to silence other well-meaning clergy members.

“We've heard rumors over the years,” Clohessy said. “Say ‘Father A' molests kids, but fears that ‘Father B' has suspicions. Father A then asks Father B to hear his confession, so that Father B is constrained and unable to say anything to anybody.”

Not just a Catholic problem The 2001 “Spotlight” report drew national attention to child abuse enacted by priests, but the issue is hardly unique to Catholic clergy. Advocates report that instances like the Mayeux case, where a parishioner, not the priest, is the perpetrator, are common. In addition, abuse levels may even be higher among Protestant Christians.

“Some preliminary studies have indicated that more children are sexually abused within Protestant faith communities than Catholic faith communities,” said Basyle Tchividjian, a Liberty University Law School professor and founder of Protestant-focused anti-child abuse organization Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE).

Unsurprisingly, Protestants and other faith groups are also impacted by confession carve-outs, although usually in different, but no less problematic, ways than Catholics. Many state laws have been written to protect private conversations with a wide range of religious professionals, for instance, and many explicitly name Protestant pastors. But some states do not appear to protect Protestant faith traditions that lack an “official” doctrine resembling Catholic confession, and others are simply too vague to draw conclusions either way.

“It's not just Louisiana that is having a problem,” Townsend said. “Other states also aren't quite sure how to handle it either. A lot of the legislation is just not particularly well-written.”

Tchividjian explained this minefield of unclear laws is further complicated by widespread ignorance among clergy regarding mandatory reporting laws, leading to instances where pastors fail to report because they believe, falsely, that they aren't required or even allowed to.

“I do think there are a lot of situations where offenders could be identified and stopped, and they haven't, because too many pastors are under the mistaken belief that clergy privilege prevents them from reporting the offense to the police,” Tchividjian said. “I've talked to pastors who were told about abuse by a victim [or perpetrator] and they felt like, ‘Well that confession is privileged so I can't report it.' Which is crazy. Such a misunderstanding of the law can contribute to the revictimization of vulnerable children.”

Tchividjian also said abusers can often manipulate this legal confusion to their advantage, transforming churches and and other faith communities into a “very safe place for offenders.”

“All they have to do is communicate to the pastor, and the pastor believes that his or her hands are tied,” he said.

The tragic results of this precedent were on full display recently at the evangelical Christian Covenant Life Church (CLC), Protestant megachurch outside Washington, D.C. CLC made headlines in 2014 after a 55-year-old church member named Nathaniel Morales was sentenced to 40 years in prison for repeatedly sexually assaulting young boys in the congregation. Although Morales' victims took solace in the ruling, the trial also uncovered a startling fact: In an exchange with a courtroom lawyer, CLC pastor Grant Layman appeared to admit that he was aware of the abuse, but failed to report it.

Attorney: As a pastor, when you become aware of sexual child abuse, did you have a responsibility to report that to the police department? That's a yes or no.

Layman: I believe so.

Attorney: And you didn't do it.

Layman: No, sir.

The information seemed to aid a class-action lawsuit filed by several parishioners against seven CLC pastors, accusing them of covering up Morales' crimes. But the possible admission of guilt likely wouldn't matter: Although the suit was eventually dismissed on other technicalities, it was also filed in Maryland, where state law includes a confession carve-out for child abuse that extends to Protestant pastors like Layman.

Unanswered questions in Baton Rouge Eight years after her alleged abuse, Mayeux's case remains entangled in the Louisiana court system. Lawyers are hopeful they can bring it to trial by 2017, but judges continue to debate the legality and scope of the state's confession carve-out, bouncing the case between different rungs of the state and federal legal system (the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case in January 2015).

The case also suffered a major setback in February. Just one week after the film Spotlight won the Academy Award for Best Picture, the 19th Judicial District Court declared unconstitutional the provision requiring clergy to report child abuse claims heard during confessional.

Frustrated but not defeated, Abels was quick to note that they won a small victory in late July, when a Court of Appeal panel court dismissed the diocese's argument that Mayeux should not be allowed to testify. He also says they may also appeal the February ruling, possibly by charging that this kind of clergy-penitent privilege violates the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution by unfairly benefitting a specific religious group, or religion in general.

In the meantime, child abuse experts such as Tchividjian remain outraged that these kinds of cases exist in the first place. GRACE and other groups strive to train and educate clergy about mandatory reporting laws, but say the real question should be moral, not legal: Even with the confession carve-out in place, Tchividjian said, a pastor's faith should compel them to choose the safety of a child over the possibility of losing their own job.

“It may be that the confession cannot be introduced at trial, but that's not [a pastor's] concern, because their concern should be the protection of a vulnerable child,” he said. “Even if the case ends up getting dismissed because that confession is deemed inadmissible, your actions of reporting the confession may have very well saved the life of a little one.”

Reese argued similarly that if Bayhi really did, in fact, ignore Mayeux's pleas, then it's not just confession carve-outs but priestly duty, and Christian obligation, that is in question.

“If the story is true, then the priest clearly failed in his duties,” he said. “The priest should have encouraged the child to talk to their parents, or talk to the priest outside of confession, or somebody who is required to report this.”

Back in Louisiana, however, Bayhi and the diocese appear to be more focused on defending religious liberty than clarifying spiritual duty. As Bayhi left the courthouse after the judge reaffirmed his exemption from mandatory reporting laws in February, he celebrated his win in front of reporters, declaring the decision a victory for all people of faith.

“We're just always happy when the court upholds religious liberties,” he said.



Program Uses Empathy to Combat Teen Sex Trafficking

by Susan Valot

It didn't take Long Beach high school student Vanessa Hernandez long to realize that girls in her own school could be victims of sex trafficking.

Hernandez recently took part in a daylong program in Southern California by iEmpathize, a nonprofit that's teaching kids how to care and to speak up when they see any signs of someone being exploited. Hernandez was one of about 100 high school-age kids who packed a large room at a college campus one recent Saturday.

“I didn't know these things happen daily. I thought it was just like in movies and stuff,” Hernandez said during a break about midway through the program.

With the anonymity of the internet, sex trafficking has become a lucrative business for gang members in California and other parts of the nation.

Nearly 3,000 human trafficking cases have been reported in California to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center in the past three years. Most involve prostitution. And those figures may be low because the girls are scared to speak out.

Oree Freeman was one of those girls, which is why she came to the iEmpathize program in Long Beach to speak to the teenagers. Freeman came from a dysfunctional family in Orange County. She didn't feel heard. She didn't feel like she fit in. She was bullied for how she looked. So she started to search.

“And I was just looking for love in all the wrong places,” Freeman said. “And so here comes this guy and pretty much tells me, tells me he's going to give me a better life. And that's not what happens.”

Freeman found a man who seemed to be a father figure, who bought her things, who said he loved her. It turned out that guy was a “Romeo” pimp. He and another pimp used manipulation and violence to sell Freeman for sex in Southern California, including right across from Disneyland. Freeman was 11 years old.

Her personal hell lasted until she was 15 and met social worker Jim Carson, who works for the Orangewood Foundation, a nonprofit that helps older Orange County foster kids. Carson has worked with sex-trafficked girls for 25 years. He sees the same thing over and over.

“There is that night where he turns you out and that's when the beatings start. They literally will gang-rape you, they'll film you, they'll humiliate you, they'll beat you, they'll threaten you. And you're 14, 15, 16, 17, even 18, 19, 20,” Carson said. “And they own you. They literally own you.”

Carson helped Freeman get away from her pimps and became her mentor and the positive father figure she sought. Carson said human trafficking is the fastest-growing crime in the U.S., with an estimated three-quarters of victims coming from right here at home, not imported from outside the country. He said there are trafficking circuits nationwide.

“In the West, it starts from like Washington through Seattle, definitely through Alameda County, all over Oakland, and down through Bakersfield and in there, and then it comes through the Valley, L.A. and down to San Diego, out to Riverside and out to Vegas and through Texas,” Carson said, pointing out that pimps are often able to move their victims from city to city to avoid being caught and prosecuted.

Carson said a girl like Freeman could bring a pimp a quarter of a million dollars a year, tax-free. He said gangs are turning to selling kids instead of drugs.

“Your product is reusable. Oree is reusable. I don't need to buy some meth, process it, sell it, buy some meth, process it, sell it. Eighteen different ways I can get busted there,” Carson said. “Oree, I just use her and use her and use her, and I have the internet and I'm removed from everything.”

Carson said part of the problem is people either don't notice or don't say anything, leaving girls trapped in what he calls “the life.” Freeman's pimp branded her when she was 12, tattooing his name in dark letters on her neck.

“Nobody said a thing to a 12-year-old, and she's out there 6 in the morning turning tricks, and there's 100 people walking by her, giving her dirty looks,” Carson says.

That's where iEmpathize comes in. Many sex trafficking victims come from schools, but other kids — like student Vanessa Hernandez — don't know what's going on or what to do.

Musician-turned-social activist Brad Riley founded iEmpathize in 2009. The program began in Denver and has expanded to Los Angeles and other parts of the country. Recently, the San Bernardino Unified School District brought the program to its classrooms.

“Think about why crimes happen. If you were going through a hard time,” Riley said. “If no one helps you or notices you, then you never get help. If you're in a situation where you can't help yourself, you need someone to notice that.”

For the iEmpathize “Empower Youth” program, that means helping kids understand what it's like to be in a victim's shoes.

The program's Guido Hajenius hands out index cards to the group and asks them to write down four of the most valuable things in their lives. It could be their family or even their dog. One by one, Hajenius tells them to cross off items from their list.

“But let's say something else happens to you and you are forced to remove even the last item on your list. Go ahead and cross that out,” Hajenius tells the group.

You can almost hear the room deflate. You're a teen. And you have nothing left.

This is what happens to victims of human trafficking, Hajenius said. The kids learn to respond, such as calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline if they see something. And they have a Q-and-A session with survivor Oree Freeman, who talks candidly with them about what it was like for her to get sucked into “the life,” a life she struggled to escape.

Freeman, who is now an advocate for sex trafficking victims, drives home the importance of speaking out, whether you are the one struggling or you are the one who sees something going on with a classmate.

“It's not that easy to talk to somebody,” the 21-year-old tells the kids. “But if you can start now, I can't tell you how amazing of a person or young woman or young man that you will be.”

Adam Anderson, of the Long Beach Human Trafficking Task Force, helped organize the iEmpathize event. He said it's important to focus on kids, even though it's a difficult topic to talk about.

“They're the ones getting propositioned online and after school and all these things,” Anderson said. “They're a huge, missing part of the solution.”

The iEmpathize program opened student Vanessa Hernandez' eyes. She said she spent time during the session thinking about whether there were any kids at her school that could be going through this.

“I think it changed my perspective on things, like, people that are going through this because I would think, like, oh it's them, like, they're doing this, but now I know that it's not them,” Hernandez said. “They can't control it. So maybe I can help them.”

If you see or suspect human trafficking, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888. The hotline is open 24 hours a day and routes tips to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.


New York

NYS Child Abuse Hotline to be placed where kids can clearly see it

by Ali Stewart

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – New York is requiring that each public and charter school post the phone number for the state's child-abuse hotline in a prominent location where students can see it.

The law, recently signed by Governor Cuomo, directs the State Education Commissioner to issue related regulations.

Legislative sponsors say one in four girls and one in six boys nationwide are molested, mainly at home, and the notices offer a simple and effective way to let victims report abuse.

The Office of Children and Family Services says the hotline receives calls of alleged abuse or maltreatment around the clock every day.



Jay Weatherill uses same words a decade apart as he pledges action on child abuse

by Nigel Hunt

SOUTH Australians could easily be forgiven for thinking Monday was Groundhog Day.

A forlorn, sullen looking Premier Jay Weatherill stood before a packed press conference and apologised unreservedly for his government's total, abject failure in protecting children in its care.

Unveiling a $200 million injection into the child protection system, he promised his government could, and would do better in future.

It would heed the recommendations of Royal Commissioner Margaret Nyland and implement the dozens of changes she has put forward to fix a child protection system in “disarray.''

“What we have, for the first time I believe, is a comprehensive and intelligent solution to this problem,'' Mr Weatherill told journalists on Monday.

While that sounds terrific, it also sounds way too familiar. That's because we heard virtually the same spiel a decade ago in a column then Families and Communities Minister Weatherill wrote for The Advertiser.

In the June 2004 column he spoke of the increase in abuse reports over the previous decade and how the system “struggled to cope''. He unveiled a raft of new measures to improve it.

“Despite the best efforts of individual, dedicated and hardworking staff, our key agency responsible for child protection is in need of refocusing and rebuilding,'' he wrote.

“There is now a need for a fundamental culture change and a new sense of direction.''

The column followed the allocation of an extra $148 million for rebuilding child protection services in the wake of Robyn Layton QC's landmark Child Protection Review. Yesterday, now Premier Weatherill allocated another $200 million over four years for the same purpose.

It is abundantly clear that the past decade has been one of wasted opportunities. The fact the system is in a worse state today as identified by Commissioner Nyland, even with that $148 million injection, is an indictment.

The government has dismally failed in one of its most basic, fundamental duties — to protect the most vulnerable.

While this is now clear, it must be noted the workload of Families SA has increased dramatically. Over the past decade the number of children in state care has more than doubled to around 3300 from “just'' 1200 when Premier Weatherill was Families and Communities Minister. And alarmingly, one in four children are now the subject of some sort of notification.

And Premier Weatherill obviously thought his merger of Families SA and the Education Department would prove beneficial. While done with the best of intentions, he has finally conceded it has not worked and is taking the axe to it — but only after prompting by Commissioner Nyland.

Perhaps one of the most significant of Commissioner Nyland's stipulations is that the government regularly report on its progress in implementing her recommendations.

Unlike many of the Layton recommendations, such as the much-delayed appointment of a Children's Commissioner, a central data system and using experienced operators on the Care Abuse Report Line, the government would be foolhardy to put any of Commissioner Nyland's aside.

It is a shame that it took the discovery of vile acts committed by one Families SA carer to prompt such a wideranging analysis of the entire child protection system. Why weren't many of the failings now identified picked up by those running the organisation years ago and funds provided then to try and fix them?

There is also one more salient question South Australian's should be pondering in the wake of the Nyland report.

And that is, just where would SA's child protection system be in another 10 years if Shannon McCoole did not exist?

Jay Weatherill's statement in 2004

IT is a sad fact that reports of suspected child abuse and neglect have escalated dramatically over the past decade and our services and programs designed to help those affected, have struggled to cope.

Our first duty, above all others, is to act quickly when there are threats to the safety of children. We shall continue to rigorously investigate abuse and maltreatment and to pursue the perpetrators of crimes against children and young people. They will be subjected to the judgment of our courts.

In all of this, we have not forgotten the adult survivors of child abuse, especially those who have suffered through the inadequacies of state care. A new suite of case management services will be delivered by an independent non-government agency Relationships Australia and will be up and running in early July.

Despite the best efforts of individual, dedicated and hardworking staff, our key agency responsible for child protection is in need of refocusing and rebuilding. There is now a need for a fundamental culture change and a new sense of direction.

We must be much more diligent in the care we provide to our children under the guardianship of the Minister, do more to support parents, foster carers and other caregivers and be more outwardly ­focused in building and maintaining our partnerships with other sectors and other levels of government. From tomor­row, July 1, the agency responsible for the care of our children will become part of a new Department of Families and Communities which will also take in housing, disability and ageing.

This will help to provide a clear focus for our child protection reform agenda.

To guide the work of the new department, we have developed Keeping Them Safe, a bold new direction for child protection policy.

It is imperative we do our best by our children and Keeping Them Safe is an in­vitation to all who share this conviction to join us in this task. Parents, families, communities and governments all have an obligation to help children flourish. Keeping them safe from harm, in a way that is sustained and assures their well being, is the responsibility of us all.

The need for change is ­indisputable. The system we have has, in some areas, fallen out of step. It does not always align well with current thinking on the most effective responses to protect children at risk of harm. Early intervention, a focus on the early years, approaches that consider the child and the family and co-ordinated action across government agencies are critical for success.

We speak the words but don't always act according to these ideals. We want to make sure this practical and proven wisdom is consistently applied and becomes a coherent strategy that drives our reform program.

Sharing information more efficiently, maintaining quality systems and enhancing the competence of our workers who operate in a complex and demanding environment, are all reforms aimed at tackling systemic issues that are barriers to progress.

We know through the landmark Review of Child Protection by Robyn Layton, QC, that our child protection system has been allowed to run down over the past decade. Her comprehensive review has provided us with a guide to rebuilding child protection in SA.

Already, we have committed $58.6 million over four years for child protection services, a further 73 workers into Family and Youth Services, $148.1 million towards the rebuilding of our child protection system in the May State Budget and we have just begun hiring 186 new child protection workers.

We will continue to build on our response to the Layton ­Report in the light of the impact of our early reforms.



Preventing sexual crime in honour of Manuela Riedo

What happened to Manuela Riedo touched everybody in Galway because it was such a horrific event

by Michelle McDonagh

When the news of their 17-year-old daughter's death was broken to Arlette and Hans-Pieter Riedo on October 9th, 2007, it was every parent's worst nightmare brought into their lives. Their only child, Manuela, who was away from home for the first time on her own, had been raped and murdered only three days after arriving in Galway city to learn English.

What keeps the Riedos going nearly nine years after the loss of their “angel” is the impact that the foundation set up in her memory is having in raising awareness of and preventing sexual crime in Ireland.

The work of the Manuela Riedo Foundation, explains founder and volunteer Shane Lennon, ensures that the young Swiss woman is remembered not only for that terrible night in October 2007, but also for proactive and vital work in the prevention of sexual crime in Ireland.

This work includes funding counselling at Galway Rape Crisis Centre to reduce the waiting list; funding a specialised training programme for voluntary counsellors at Mayo Rape Crisis Centre; providing funding to the North East Rape Crisis Helpline, and funding a Child at Risk in Ireland (Cari) support worker to accompany every child aged 14 and under while attending the Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault Treatment Service in Galway and the adult Satu at the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin.

Comfort and solace

Through the foundation, the people of Galway and Ireland

have been able to pay their respects to the Riedo family, and express their sorrow at the loss of Manuela, which the coroner at her inquest described as “one of the worst tragedies to ever happen in Galway”.

In turn, Arlette and Hans-Pieter take comfort and solace from their annual trips to the city that they have taken to their heart, and the work being done in their daughter's memory.

The small charity is run from Shane Lennon's home in Galway city. It is 100 per cent voluntary and Lennon is keen to stress that 100 per cent of the money raised goes directly to the work of the charity, there is nobody on a salary and its audited accounts are on the Companies Registration Office website available for all to read.

“What happened to Manuela touched everybody in Galway because it was so horrific,” he says.

“I remember hearing on the radio while I was driving that a body had been found, but I never for a second thought it would have the impact on my life and so many other lives that it did. I was really struck by her father's victim impact statement.

“He spoke of how he would never lead his daughter as a bride to the altar, and his wife would never knit baby clothes for a grandchild, and they wouldn't have anybody to look after them when they were old.”

Coming up to the second anniversary of Manuela's death, Lennon made contact with the Riedos to explain that he was interested in organising an event to mark the occasion, with all proceeds raised going to the foundation that they had set up themselves in Switzerland.

Not only did the Riedos agree to the event going ahead, they said they would like to attend. There were 1,200 people at that first concert in the Salthill Hotel where all of the artists played free and €54,000 was raised.

“At the end of the night, some of the artists went over to say hello to the Riedos. When people leaving saw what was going on, they turned around and, one by one, almost 1,200 people shook hands with the Riedos. It was like Galway and Ireland finally got a chance to pay their respects to the family,” says Lennon.

One day shortly after the event, Lennon was walking with his dog wondering whether they had helped the Riedos or had just reopened old wounds.

“I was doing a lot of soul searching that day on the Prom when a woman approached me and told me that seeing the Riedos so forgiving and so full of strength and dignity on the night of the concert had inspired her. She had been raped and never dealt with it, but after meeting the Riedos in Galway, she decided that if they could deal with what they had to deal with, she could too.

“She said she had been dead inside for years, but was now starting to get her life back on track because of Manuela. I have never met that woman since, but she made me see that the foundation could be more powerful than we could ever have imagined.”

The Manuela Riedo Foundation Ireland (MRFI) has raised just under €250,000 since 2009, funding vital services run by established charities and professional agencies in Ireland who provide practical and therapeutic support for victims of rape, sexual violence and their families. They are also involved in education, awareness and prevention of sexual assault and rape.

Counselling services

With rape crisis services being cut around the country, Lennon explains that the MRFI is funding counselling services and training in various areas of the country in an effort to reduce waiting lists.

“There are about 20 people on the long-term waiting list for counselling at Galway Rape Crisis Centre. These are people who have been assessed, and it has been established that they need long-term counselling, but they are told there is a six-month waiting list. That's where we lose a lot of people, where the doubts kick in, they start blaming themselves . . . sometimes people turn to self-harm, substance abuse and, sadly, suicide,” he says.

The foundation aims to build a nationwide, evidence-based education programme targeting 15-16-year-old transition year students in the area of sexual violence prevention.

Lennon believes the initiative has the potential to be a powerful prevention tool to reduce sexual violence by empowering young participants with the necessary skills, knowledge and behaviours.

Once the pilot project has been completed and assessed, Lennon says they will look at whether they should be targeting students at an even younger age.

“If we can change thinking and behaviour, this might have an impact on reducing the number of serious assaults and rapes we are dealing with. Our judicial system completely fails victims and survivors of sexual crime.

“Until we can get the message out that it is never okay to rape no matter what somebody is wearing or how much they had to drink, sexual violence will keep happening.”

In June of this year, Lennon and four other members of the foundation team travelled to Manuela's home in Bern for the first time. Lennon was brought to see Manuela's room which remains like a shrine to the teenager. He also went to her grave overlooking a lake in the verdant Swiss countryside, which he describes as “the most beautiful, peaceful resting place I have ever seen”.

“When we were leaving Fribourg at the end of our trip to get the train to the airport, the Riedos insisted on bringing us to the train station. As Arlette was giving me one of her huge hugs, she told me ‘This is where we said goodbye to Manuela for the last time and this is our first time back here since, we did not have the strength before.' It was so emotional.”

The Riedos, who are patrons of MRFI, return to Galway every year, paying for their own flights, and they donate money they have to the charity.

All major decisions are run by them before being made, and they have told Lennon that knowing what is happening in Ireland in their daughter's memory is what keeps them going.

Traumatic experiences

Since he started working in this area, Lennon has been contacted by many people who have shared their traumatic experiences with him, many of which have left him shaken

and unable to sleep at night, he says.

“I know immediately when I meet a victim; you can see the years and years of torment and pain in their eyes. Many have turned to substance abuse or self-harm.

“In many cases, they have been abused by a family member or somebody close to them, so they are full of mistrust. They are often ostracised by family members as it is easier to support the perpetrator than to believe they are capable of this act.

“I often talk to people who were raped 10 or more years ago and it is festering away inside them. The impact it has on their lives and their family's lives is horrific.

“When you meet a ‘survivor', you can see they have come out the other side. So many people do not make this jump [to ‘survivor', in his words] which is why we are funding projects all over the country.”

For more information on the Manuela Riedo Foundation Ireland, visit or email


United Kingdom


If child abuse were a disease, we'd see urgent action. Our culture must change

by Sue Berelowitz

The resignation of Lowell Goddard as chair of the official inquiry into historical child sex abuse is an opportunity for us to now focus on the really critical issue. For the inquiry to be credible the whole purpose must be to learn the lessons from past institutional failures so that children now and in the future are effectively protected.

The inquiry I chaired into child sexual exploitation in gangs and groups found extensive evidence of professionals and institutions refusing to see the signs and hear the voices of abused children. This was institutional denial by those whose job is to protect children from rape and sexual violation.

There is a dangerous belief that the sexual abuse of children is a “historical” phenomenon, that it's about a few rotten apples in high places or recognised positions of power. Let's look at the reality. The new crime survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) tells us that 11% of all females and 3% of all males aged 16-59 have disclosed that they were sexually abused as children.

This translates into at least 600,000 girls in England today who are, have been or will be victims of sexual abuse by the time they are 18. The figure for boys would be at least 150,000. These figures are profoundly shocking and yet I am not in the least surprised by them for they fit the known evidence, including that most people were abused by someone known to them such as a friend, acquaintance or family member.

David Finkelhor, probably the world's most eminent researcher on child sexual abuse, has gathered evidence in the US that as many as one in four females is a victim of child sexual abuse. If true for the UK, this would equate to 3 million of the 12 million children in England.

Frankly, whichever figure we go with, if this was a communicable disease such as measles or rubella, mass inoculations and huge public health campaigns would be the order of the day. But it's not – it's the rape and violation of children, so silence and turning away, wholly or partially, are the responses.

Understanding and addressing denial at the institutional, social and political levels is what the inquiry should be focusing on. It should identify the systemic issues that contribute to and perpetuate a climate and culture in which hundreds of thousands of children can be and are raped and violated.

The inquiry presents an important opportunity to counteract the shame and stigma of sexual abuse – two key factors that contribute so powerfully to the silencing of victims. It should do this by holding public sessions in which the inquiry, on behalf of the nation, bears witness to the suffering endured by those who were victims.

The focus of these sessions should be the institutional failures to protect rather than the naming and shaming of alleged perpetrators, and they should serve the dual purpose of public acknowledgement of terrible wrong done and lessons to be learned. Holding the sessions in public would give a powerful message that being a victim is not shameful or stigmatising and would help to give today's victims the strength to speak out.

Two years into the inquiry, children continue to be abandoned to their fate and their abusers by persistent and continuing institutional failures, although the police must be given credit for now treating this crime with the seriousness it deserves. Compare the figures for the ONS with the numbers of victims of sexual abuse identified by local authorities. At any one time approximately 48,000 children in England have a child protection plan on the grounds of one of the four categories of physical, emotional, sexual abuse or neglect. Of these children approximately 5% have a plan on the grounds of sexual abuse.

This amounts to fewer than 2,500 children across the whole of England. I recently told a local authority what the likely real scale of sexual use is in their area as opposed to the minuscule numbers identified, using best case scenario prevalence data. They were horrified and said they could not begin to face up to the reality as they lacked the resources and skills to do so.

Turning away is not the answer. Placing the burden of disclosure on the victims is not the answer. This is the time to boldly face the reality of sexual abuse, to develop a national strategy to change culture and practice in our institutions, our mores, our way of life, so that we honour our obligations to children to keep them safe and free from harm. Children cannot wait five or 10 years for this inquiry to conclude. A new chair gives us the opportunity to get this right. The lessons from the inquiry need to be shared urgently and applied now.


Hong Kong

Spike in child abuse cases in Hong Kong coincides with exam time, research shows

Spotlight on stay-at-home parents who lack a support network as paediatricians link school exam time with an increase in child abuse incidents in Hong Kong

by Alan Yu

The strain Hong Kong's high-pressure education system places on families has been highlighted by new research showing a spike in child abuse cases coinciding with the school exam season.

Patrick Ip Pak-keung, a paediatrician at Queen Mary Hospital, says the researchers have identified a decade-long uptick in hospital visits resulting from child abuse around the time children are sitting for exams. In the cases examined, doctors have found reports of bruises on hands, feet and places that are hard to injure, such as the inner thighs and stomach. More serious cases involve children with damaged joints or bone fractures.

“Paediatricians in various hospitals in Hong Kong have [long] suspected that there's a seasonal pattern to these cases of children coming to the hospital … but this was just something we observed,” Ip says. “[Paediatricians and social workers at the Social Welfare Department] all have the impression that child abuse is getting worse in Hong Kong, and suspect it's related to the education system or the unnecessary stress parents have to face from schools.”

Ip, a clinical associate professor in the University of Hong Kong's department of paediatrics and adolescent medicine, investigated the line of enquiry with peers at HKU, Chinese University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine. Their results, published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood in July, show the number of child abuse cases leading to hospital visits stood at 73.4 per 100,000 children in 2001, and the figure had more than doubled by 2010.

For children aged six to 18, non-sexual abuse cases peaked consistently in May and October, coinciding with the two school exam periods, and dipped in July and August. Adding more weight to their findings, no seasonal pattern of abuse was found among kindergarten children, who do not take exams.

“This isn't tracked by the education community, and no one had suspected that the education system in Hong Kong might have something to do with child abuse,” Ip says.

The researchers are confident of their findings, Ip says. Their data was mined from the Hospital Authority paediatrics database. All files were submitted by doctors who had classified cases as child abuse after consulting nurses, social workers, teachers and, in some cases, parents.

Asked to comment on the research, an Education Bureau spokesman said in an emailed response: “There is no conclusive evidence to support this speculation. After all, there are many factors [including those beyond the school system] behind the seasonal pattern of child maltreatment hospitalisation.”

A 2015 survey by HKU indicated that reported cases of child abuse are the tip of the iceberg, and for every case that comes to light, as many as 100 others go unreported.

Hong Kong's education system, with its exam culture and focus on grades, is placing undue pressure on families – children and their parents – and the society at large, Ip says.

“Parents always say their child's health comes first, but we see many cases where parents make their children go to school when they're ill, because they're afraid they won't be able to catch up after missing a day or two.” As for parents, he says, it's common for them to lose sleep during exam season because they worry their children will not get good grades.

Jessica Ho Oi-chiu, director of Against Child Abuse, says the group receives an increasing number of calls to its hotline from parents and children during exam season.

Eva Poon Wai-yee, a volunteer for the group and a mother in her 30s, says her daughter started primary school a year ago, and both become distressed when her daughter has to take an exam.

“We can revise everything, but she'll have forgotten it all the next day because of stress,” Poon says. “I can get angry because I spend a lot of time going through the material with her. She'll get ill for about a week after exams.”

Gloria Tam Sze-hang, another volunteer in her 30s, has a son in Primary Five and says she's experienced the rush of blood to the head parents can get around exam time. Tam was disappointed the first time her son brought home his results. “I got really angry and threw all the papers on the floor, [shouting] ‘How could you? I helped you go over everything! How could you get this word wrong?'”

Tam stormed off to her room, she recalls, slammed the door and came out only after calming down, afraid she might strike her son. She now realises grades are not the only thing that matter in school; it's more important to simply encourage children to do their best.

It's difficult to talk to other parents who are sad or angry about their children's exam results, she says.

“You have to talk to them like you're defusing a bomb … try to figure out what the issue is.”

Chan Kit-man, a mother of two, says even her children's teachers feel compelled to remind parents that grades are not the be all and end all.

“They tell us that an exam is a mechanistic exercise: if you want them to score higher grades you can give them more exercises, but it doesn't really show whether or not they've understood the material,” Chan says.

The volunteers unanimously stress that it's important to have other parents to talk to, even if it's just to let off steam and learn how others deal with the pressures.

That's one aim of an Against Child Abuse home visit programme, where volunteer parents visit new mothers to chat and trade tips. Polytechnic University researchers studied the programme and concluded, in a 2005 article, that it helped reduce feelings of distress and loneliness in new mothers, and the potential for child abuse.

Joseph Wong, a registered social worker and service manager at Against Child Abuse in Tuen Mun, says the biggest concern is stay-at-home parents who lack a support network. He says he has seen cases where parents discipline children by “not letting them eat, throwing them out of the house, stripping them naked [and] force-feeding them chilli paste”.

Sylvia Kwok Lai Yuk-ching, convenor of the Positive Education Laboratory and associate professor of applied social sciences at the City University, acknowledges that life in Hong Kong is generally competitive and the problem of child abuse does not solely revolve around pressures from the education system.

“Even if we didn't have exams, parents would still pressure their children with something else,” Kwok says. “This will happen as long as parents have this mindset of winning on the starting line and having children who are better than everyone else's. I think this is unavoidable.”

Kwok says her research on child abuse in Hong Kong shows it can also be triggered by a history of child abuse in the family, impulsiveness or ignorance on the part of parents.

She recalls a case she encountered working for the Catholic charity Caritas. The elderly husband would slap his daughter whenever he got angry, while his younger wife had been totally unprepared for motherhood. After counselling with a social worker, the father stopped beating his daughter. He admitted he “didn't know how to parent” and “was just doing what people in previous generations did”.

Kwok now holds seminars and training sessions for parents and teachers to teach them how to think positively and handle their emotions. One goal is to get parents to see their children “as individuals and not tools or something they can control and manipulate”.

She sometimes gets parents to beat a chair with a cane, to see for themselves the scratches and lesions they could cause when they become enraged.

Priscilla Lui Tsang Sun-kai, a former social worker and now vice-chairperson of the Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights, says the government has tried to encourage parents and schools to look beyond test grades.

“Exams may not be a bad thing, but the way they are approaching them is suffocating children and suffocating parents,” Lui says.

In October 2015, the Education Bureau issued a circular to schools encouraging them to find better ways of assessing student performance, the spokesman noted in the email. It called on schools not to be overreliant on tests and drilling.

Lui says the government should outlaw corporal punishment at home, as it did in schools in 1991.

A mother herself, she acknowledges it can be hard for parents to see the error of their ways when it concerns something as personal as disciplining their children.

“That makes government policy, legislation, education and services more important, because you are fighting against a very strong tide of cultural practices, traditional beliefs, and so on,” she says. Right now, she adds, in Hong Kong “children… have no voice”.