Body Of Missing 5-Year-Old Found
by Nina Moini
WATKINS, Minn. (WCCO) – An Amber Alert for a 5-year-old Watkins girl has turned into a homicide investigation.
The Meeker County sheriff says investigators found Alayna Ertl's body in Cass County several hours after she was abducted from her home in Watkins overnight.
From where she went missing to where she was found is a 150 mile drive.
Officers say 26-year-old Zach Anderson of Coon Rapids took the girl from the home where he was staying as a guest of her parents. Anderson is in custody, accused of her murder.
“This is not a stranger-type situation,” said Meeker County Sheriff Brian Cruze.
Anderson had spent the night at Ertl's home before.
“The suspect is a coworker, family friend of the child's father,” Cruze said.
Cruze first got the call the child was missing around 10 a.m.
“All morning we've been following up leads and this has been a very fluid investigation and it continues to be so,” said Cruze.
Multiple law enforcement agencies from across the state and the public got to work immediately, keeping an eye out for the man and child. It was those tips from everyday people Cruze says eventually revealed the unimaginable.
“The body of Alayna Ertl has been located. The suspect is in custody and our vehicle has been recovered as well,” Cruze said.
With that, a Watkins neighborhood began another devastating chapter of grief, rallying around the Ertl family as investigators work to uncover what led up to the 5-year-old's death.
“We have no known predatory sexual offender information on him or anything like that,” Cruze said. “We have no known motive. We are at a loss as to why this happened at this time.”
A search of online court records shows that Anderson's only run-ins with law enforcement have been over relatively minor traffic violations.
Although Anderson is in custody, investigators still have a lot of questions about how this happened. Thy are asking anyone who may have seen Anderson or the child on Saturday to call Meeker County Dispatch at 320-693-5400.
Elizabeth Smart says porn 'made my living hell worse' and led abductor to rape her more in new anti-porn video
by Laura Bult
The man who kidnapped Elizabeth Smart when she was a teen frequently looked at “hardcore pornography” that drove him to repeatedly rape the captive girl, she said in a new video.
Smart, 28, spoke in detail for the first time about the role of pornography in her nine-month captivity in a video produced by Fight the New Drug, an anti-porn advocacy group.
“Pornography made my living hell worse,” she said. "It just led to him raping me more, more than he already did — which was a lot."
Smart describes how her convicted abductor, Brian David Mitchell, would look at porn and show the graphic images to the then-teenage girl before abusing her.
"He would just sit and look at it and stare at it, and he would just talk about these women, and then when he was done, he would turn and look at me, and he would be like, 'Now we're going to do this,'" Smart said.
Mitchell kidnapped Smart in 2002 from her bedroom in Salt Lake City when she was 14 years old, and chained her to a crude campsite in the mountains a few miles from her family's home.
Mitchell, whom Smart refers to as her “captor” without naming him in the video, repeatedly sexually assaulted the girl. Her family's frantic quest to find her captured the country's attention — up until she was found on a Sandy, Utah street in 2003.
Smart, a devout Mormon, is now an advocate for child safety as the director of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, and has taken a stance against pornography.
Smart goes so far as to suggest that porn drove Mitchell to steal and violate her. “Looking at pornography wasn't enough for him ... He just always wanted more.”
“It led him to finally going out and kidnapping me,” she says. “I witnessed first-hand how damaging it is.”
ETX schools attend mandatory child abuse training as they head into school year
by Thomas Hoce
Diboll, Tx- With kids heading back to school next week, East Texas school employees are going through mandatory state law child sexual assault and abuse training sessions with the East Texas Alliance for Children.
All teachers, faculty and paraprofessionals are required by state law to be trained in recognition, reporting and prevention of child abuse.
According to Harold's House one in ten children are sexually assaulted every year and of those children 90 % of them know their sexual assaulter which is why it's so important for parents and children to know how to spot the signs and how to properly report it.
The faculty and paraprofessionals went through a very detailed information session this week, where they learned how to spot signs of child sexual abuse, how to talk to them about it and how to ultimately keep them safe.
Harold's House community education director Ashley Cook said it's vital for instructors to know this information.
“This curriculum called stewards of children, all of the CAC's in Texas are approved by the Texas education agency to be able to train the educators.” Cook said.
A video is also shown that introduces people who have gone through similar situations in order to help them better understand what these victims are going through.
“We hear stories from adult survivors we hear stories from teachers and coaches and pastors. You know what they went through and also how people responded to it to help keep children safer and primarily we want to prevent it from ever happening.” Cook said.
Some signs to look out for with child abuse are unexplained injuries, changes in behavior, fear of others and changes in their eating and sleeping habits.
With approximately 2000 students in Diboll alone it's necessary for all district employees to be prepared to handle this type of situation.
Diboll district social worker Kathy Pavlic said that the faculty and staff have taken a lot away from the training.
“We have to be able to make this information known so that we're looking at the safety of our young children.” Pavlic said.
There's also a Steward's of Children five step protection plan to help provide child safety.
Learn the facts, reduce the opportunity for incidents, have open communication, know the signs and react responsibly.
If child abuse is suspected you are encouraged to call the child abuse hotline at 1-(800)-252-5400
Experts Condemn Judge Behind Utterly Fkd Comments On Sexual Abuse Case
Well, this was probably to be expected.
In the aftermath of problematic at best, horrifically victim-blaming at worst comments from Judge Christopher Ryan in regards to the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl, experts have thoroughly condemned his baffling take on the issue.
ICYMI, Judge Ryan yesterday released 32-year-old man Franco Abad on a two-year good behaviour bond for the sexual assault, which was committed after police had informed the Melbourne man his victim was legitimately underage.
The details of the case are almost unreal: Abad was a security guard at Melbourne's Children's Court (!!!) when he started a "relationship" with girl, who first told him she was 17.
The fact the victim initially portrayed herself as over the age of consent seemed to have more impact on Judge Ryan's sentencing than Abad's obvious dereliction of duty and his conscious decision to have sex with her (read: abuse her) once he knew she was underage.
At the pre-sentence hearing, Judge Ryan said "he [then] goes to bed and is joined by a young woman... he's not made of steel," before typifying the victim as some kind of quasi-manipulative and "worldly" seductress who was "older than her years."
That almost sympathetic language, combined with the apparent slap-on-the-wrist punishment, has quite rightly drawn the ire of advocates for sexual assault survivors.
Speaking to The Age, Dr Cathy Kezelman of the Blue Knot Foundation said "with respect, it would appear the judge's comments are ill-informed and perpetuate very dangerous myths which the royal commission [into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse] and others... are working very hard to shift."
She also said Judge Ryan's ruling demonstrates "there is still a lack of information with people in a position of power to make decisions about culpability, sentencing and perpetrators," alluding to the deadset fact the actual bloody adult in the situation was the one ultimately responsible.
Carolyn Worth of Centres Against Sexual Assault corroborated that viewpoint, saying Judge Ryan's statements "suggest she's an equal party in this and I think that's not quite accurate.
If he's 30 and she's 14 and already subject to court proceedings, she's clearly vulnerable.
She may as well be sexualised and vulnerable but it doesn't make her any less vulnerable."
In his own column for The Age, lawyer Duncan Fine also responded to the case. His take is no less scathing, as he writes "Judge Ryan's idea that a 14-year-old girl can be a temptress seems at best disingenuous and at worst designed to absolve an adult man of guilt...
True men of steel protect children... What predators don't deserve is judges making excuses for their crimes."
TBH, the whole thing still beggars belief, but the widespread remonstration of Judge Ryan's comments is proof not everyone will make such glaring allowances to sexual abusers.
Organization raises child abuse awareness
Prevent Child Abuse Vermont carries on work of slain social worker
by Bethany Sharpton
MONTPELIER, Vt. —Vermonters walked and ran in memory of Lara Sobel, a social worker shot and killed last year while leaving her office.
The organization, Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, is supporting her work by helping families. Sen. Patrick Leahy spoke at the event and Sen. Bernie Sanders sent a letter that was read to those in attendance.
Prevent Child Abuse works to end the cycle of abuse, empower children and trains people who work with them as well.
Prevent Child Abuse Vermont is the Vermont Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America and the National Circle of Parents. The mission of PCAVT is to promote and support healthy relationships within families, schools and communities to eliminate child abuse.
The organizations goals are to end the generational cycle of abuse, train all who interact with children in proven methods to prevent child abuse and neglect, and empower children to be heard.
PCAVT has been serving children and families at significant risk of child abuse and neglect for 40 years by creating, adopting and carrying out statewide, innovative and proven effective prevention programs.
In 2015, PCAVT served over 18,000 children, teens and parents, caregivers and educators through direct service and training. PCAVT's programs are unique in that they are strength-based and teach adults about how to nurture healthy development in children, and emphasize adult responsibility for keeping children safe.
Medical experts play key role in child abuse cases
by John Nickerson
STAMFORD — There's an old case that sticks out in Sgt. Joseph Kennedy 's mind.
He was called to Stamford Hospital to question the parents of a baby boy with broken bones. The boy had previously been hospitalized with fractures, and when the child's mother had again offered no explanation for his injuries, police and the state Department of Children and Families were called to investigate.
“The history of visits to the hospital raised a red flag,” Kennedy said.
Weeks of information gathering led to solving a mystery that was medical rather than criminal: The baby had osteogenesis imperfecta — a rare, but treatable, genetic defect that prevented his bones from strengthening.
It's not a conclusion that Kennedy — who as supervisor of the Stamford Police Department 's youth bureau for the last decade has examined hundreds of child-abuse cases — came to on his own.
Investigations into suspected abuse, and in the worst case, killing, of children in Connecticut, where there have been 118 infant deaths over the last five years, rely heavily on assistance from specialized groups of pediatricians and other child experts.
As the lead investigator into the death last month of 2-month-old Bella Redondo, which was caused by a head trauma, Kennedy consulted with a unit of doctors and pathologists at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital called the Detection, Assessment, Referral and Treatment (DART) team. They helped him understand how the baby girl's injuries occurred, allowing him to gather enough evidence to obtain an arrest warrant for Nydia Carrillo-Maldonado , the Stamford daycare provider who was charged with manslaughter in the baby's July 12 death.
The arrest affidavit for Carrillo-Maldonado will be unsealed Tuesday and shed light on some of the conclusions police reached in singling out the East Side resident, who, through her lawyer, maintained her innocence after she was charged Aug. 8.
Stamford State's Attorney Richard Colangelo, who has successfully prosecuted more than a dozen head trauma cases, said medical testimony is “imperative” to explain a child or infant's injuries.
“Child-abuse pediatricians are able to look at the symptoms and injuries and ... help guide us to determine whether the injuries were inflicted or accidental,” Colangelo said. “The [medical] literature tells us the type of injuries you are finding don't happen from a two-foot or five-foot fall. Kids fall all the time and you don‘t find them suffering from brain hemorrhages, skull fractures or broken bones.”
Faith Vos Winkel, Connecticut's assistant child advocate, said it's hard to underestimate the fragility of children under 12 months.
“Unlike any other age group, infants by far have the greatest risk of dying from injuries that were either intentional or unintentional,” said Vos Winkel, who convenes the state's Child Fatality Review Panel and is her office's principal investigator on any in-depth child fatality investigation. “No other one year of life through age 17, do you have what you have with infants.”
As part of a report she is preparing, Vos Winkel examined the 367 deaths of children age 17 and under that occurred in the state between 2011 and 2015 and determined that 118 — nearly a third — were babies of one year or less. Still, there are few infant homicides in Connecticut: two in 2015 and three the year before, she said.
With DART team doctors — and in the northern part of the state, the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) team at the Connecticut Children 's Medical Center in Hartford — child advocates and police can “peel back the onion to see if this injury happened the way the parent or other care giver described,” Vos Winkel said.
In the baby Redondo case in Stamford, police obtained the DART team's analysis of whatever injuries are being questioned and used their conclusions in their reports and arrest affidavits.
Kennedy said if the DART team has been called by DCF to consult on a case, police officers may slow down their investigation in deference to their medical colleagues.
“We like the specialization of the DART team's experience. We use them like crazy,” Kennedy said.
But the team's conclusions may not only help convict people of child abuse, they can also exonerate them, he said.
“We get a lot of cases explained to us by the DART team as simply an accident,” Kennedy said.
Dr. Phillip Brewer, who was the emergency department director at Yale- New Haven Hospital until 2007, said clues about injuries sustained prior to those that prompt a criminal investigation are routinely uncovered by DART team members, who will also research whether a child's growth is normal for his or her age — the absence of which may show a pattern of abuse.
Brewer, who is now medical director for student health at Quinnipiac University and has served as an expert witness in more than 30 court cases, said the autopsy would have determined whether the injuries sustained by Bella Redondo included bleeding and swelling of the brain.
A key piece in the Stamford investigation was the approximate time frame the child was injured, police said. However, Brewer cautioned the evidence may not always accurately indicate when the injuries occurred.
“The forensics isn't nearly as well defined as one would like it to be and some would like you to believe,” Brewer said. “To say a bruise is one hour or five hours old has to be taken with a grain of salt.”
Borderland community addresses child abuse
by Melissa Armas
EL PASO, TX (KTSM) -- Dozens of community members and advocates showed up on Saturday to learn more about how to prevent child abuse in Borderland communities.
Organizers say that there are a lot of misconceptions that come with the issue of child abuse. Saturday's conference served as a moment to educate people on those misconceptions and what the community can do to protect children.
The conference was hosted by UMC El Paso Children's Hospital. Organizers say that family violence is prevalent in communities all across the united states. They say it hits all cultures and all economic backgrounds. According to event organizers, 20 percent of all households experience some sort of violence. they say many children still don't report it.
Guest Speaker Victor Rivas Rivers who is a survivor and advocate for family violence he says that non-relatives such as teachers, coaches and schools play a big role in reporting child abuse.
"There are a lot of people in this country that it doesn't exist in there home so they see it as someone else's problem and the reality is that someone else's problem is going to end up on your school campus," says Rivas Rivers.
Catherine Jovas is a social worker who sees cases of child abuse reported daily. She says we need to change the stigma attached with the issue. "That this is a women's issue and we need to fear men, i think we need to get away from that mentality, and i think we need to have men join the fight against this," she says.
According to statistics, 1-in-3 girls will be sexually abused at one point during their lives. Organizers say the important thing is to educate and empower children and families to speak up.
For more information on resources available, you can visit:
NH Supreme Court says child abuse suit against DCYF can be filed openly
by SHAWNE K. WICKHAM
CONCORD — The state Supreme Court has ruled that a civil lawsuit pending against the state's child protection agency, in a case involving child sexual abuse and pornography, does not have to be filed confidentially.
Rus Rilee, a Bedford attorney representing the adoptive parents who are planning the lawsuit against the Division for Children, Youth & Families, called Friday's ruling “a big win.”
“Our goal in this entire appeal was to be able to publicly hold the system accountable, and to effectuate change,” Rilee said. “And we feel we definitely achieved that goal here."
The court had to balance the public's right to access governmental records and proceedings with a state law that protects the confidentiality of child abuse and neglect proceedings.
In its unanimous opinion, the high court reversed part of a ruling by the Superior Court that any proceedings in such a lawsuit should be filed under seal, calling that “unconstitutional prior restraint.”
But the justices reaffirmed another part of the lower court's ruling, protecting confidential records in the child abuse case. In any lawsuit that is filed, “any portions of the pleadings therein that derive from court records of the abuse and neglect case must be submitted under seal,” they wrote.
Attorneys from the state Attorney General's Office, representing DCYF, and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) argued that the state's child protection statutes require that any such lawsuit should be filed under seal to protect the privacy of the children involved.
Daniel Deane, who represented CASA in the Supreme Court case, said Friday's order is a “partial win” for CASA “in that it confirms our understanding that New Hampshire law protects the identity and privacy of children involved in abuse and neglect cases.”
The family may file a lawsuit publicly, Deane said in an email, “but they remain obligated to maintain the confidentiality of information obtained from the abuse and neglect court records.”
The case before the court involved a child abuse and neglect investigation that the state began in 2012.
DCYF had removed two young children from their home and placed them in the custody of their grandmother. But according to court documents, their parents sexually abused the children during an unsupervised visit.
The court later terminated the biological parents' rights and the children were adopted by their grandmother and her husband, according to court documents.
Both of the parents pleaded guilty in 2014 to two counts each of aggravated felonious sexual assault and manufacturing child sex-abuse images; both were sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, according to published reports.
Rilee said he is now drafting a lawsuit on behalf of the children's grandmother, now their adoptive mother. In addition to DCYF, he said it will also name CASA and Easter Seals New Hampshire, which he said was supervising the children's visitation at the time of the abuse.
Deane said CASA's mission is to advocate in New Hampshire's courts for abused and neglected children; the organization takes seriously its obligation under state law to protect their identities and privacy, he said.
“Throughout this case, CASA has sought the guidance of the courts on how best to fulfill its mission while respecting the privacy of the children involved,” Deane said in the email. “With this ruling, the Supreme Court has given us that guidance and we respect its decision.”
Rilee said he doesn't need to rely on confidential records to file his lawsuit. “It's going to be based on public information, and that will give everyone everything they need to know about this case,” he said.
Rilee said what happened to the children was “horrible.”
“The abuse in this case is indescribable. It will be detailed, in some respect, in our complaint, but it really doesn't do justice to what these poor little girls were subjected to, and what they're going to have to deal with for the rest of their lives.”
A spokesperson for the state Department of Health and Human Services, which includes DCYF, said in a statement Friday, “The Department and the Attorney General's office are reviewing today's decision and will determine the implications of the decision as part of the review.”
Easter Seals could not be reached for comment.
NZ sets example in dealing with online child abuse
by Radio NZ
Interpol has praised New Zealand for the way it is tackling online child exploitation.
In a letter to the Department of Internal Affairs, the international crime-fighting organisation said New Zealand was an example to the rest of the world in the way it dealt with online child exploitation and sex abuse.
It said some of the biggest cases it had solved this year began with information shared by New Zealand Police, Customs and the Department of Internal Affairs.
Customs Minister Nicky Wagner said in the past year Customs had prosecuted six people caught travelling with objectionable material or sharing it through the internet.
"We've had some really successful outcomes, we're really working hard to protect children to identify victims, and really to fight online sexual abuse of children, it's something that our group feels really passionate about."
She said Interpol's praise reflected the hard work being put in and the level of co-operation involved.
Child sexual abuse cases have increased by 36%
by A Reporter
ISLAMABAD: During the first six months of 2016, 2,127 incidents of child sexual abuse were reported from across the country, according to data collected from newspapers by the non-governmental organisation Sahil.
According to a report released on Friday, such incidents have increased by 36pc from the same time last year, when 1,565 cases of child sex abuse were reported.
Sahil Programme Officer Media Mumtaz Gohar told Dawn that 86 newspapers from three categories – national, regional and local – and in three languages – English, Urdu and Sindhi – were monitored in order to collect data on violence against children.
“According to the data collected, most of the cases were reported from Punjab, followed by Sindh. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan remained third and fourth on the list,” he said.
He said that this could also be because many cases were not reported from KP and Balochistan, either because of the tribal system or because journalists in these provinces were reluctant to report on such incidents due to security concerns.
Mr Gohar added that the actual number of child sexual abuse is estimated to be double that reported in the media, as a large number of people do not want them reported.
According to the report, more boys than girls in the age groups 0-5 years and 11-15 years were sexually abused between January and June this year, compared to the same time last year.
However, more girls were abused than boys in the 16-18 year age group, and in 38pc of the cases reported in newspapers the victims' ages were not mentioned.
Compared to this time last year, cases of gang rape have increased by 71pc, attempted rape by 61pc, ‘sodomy' by 46pc and rape by 20pc. During the first six months of this year, 97 cases of child marriages have been reported when there were 34 such cases between January and June 2015. Of the cases reported, 946 assault cases were committed by acquaintances and 413 by strangers.
The location of the abuse was not mentioned in 1,079 cases while 318 cases happened at the victim's home, 276 at an acquaintances' home, 164 in the fields, 115 in the street, 38 in wooded areas, 30 in havelis, 22 in seminaries, 18 in shops, 16 in schools and 51 in other places including workplaces, marriage halls, hotels and shrines.
The report says that in the first six months of this year, 1,584 cases were registered with the police, and the status of 450 was not mentioned in the newspapers. The police refused to register cases in 82 incidents. Most of the cases were reported from the rural areas, with just 20pc cases being reported in urban parts of the country.
Operation Summer Rescue yields 286 arrests and 10 rescues
Los Angeles: Human trafficking continues to plague our society and victimize our youth. The Los Angeles Police Department remains vigilant and dedicated to fighting this crime. The Detective Support and Vice Division, Human Trafficking Unit (HTU), has coordinated efforts with multiple entities and continues its efforts with its most recent "Operation Summer Rescue."
In partnership with the department's Internet Crimes Against Children and geographic vice units, the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, Federal Bureau of Investigation Innocence Lost Task Force, Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office and Los Angeles County Probation Department coordinated an operation that focused on the rescue and recovery of commercially sexually exploited children. The three night operation took place throughout the City and County of Los Angeles beginning August 10, 2016, and concluded in the early morning hours of August 13, 2016.
As a result of the large number of resources working during the operational period, the efforts yielded 286 arrests, 153 for prostitution and 133 for various offenses. Most notable were the 8 minors and 2 adults rescued who were being trafficked for the purposes of commercial sex acts. The recovered minors were placed in protective custody and have received assistance from the Department of Children and Family Services. Non-governmental agencies, such as Saving Innocence and the Dream Center, were also on-hand to provide resources to victims.
Operation Summer Rescue was extremely successful due to the cooperation and efforts of all of our partners. The significant number of arrests sends a clear message to the community that Human Trafficking is not tolerated.
Anyone with information on this crime or any other crimes related to Human Trafficking, Pimping, and Pandering are asked to contact the Los Angeles Police Department, Human Trafficking Unit at (800) 655-4095. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters "LAPD." Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on "webtips" and follow the prompts.
California Assembly votes to remove time limits on rape cases in wake of Cosby accusations
by Sophia Bollag, Los Angeles Times
The California Assembly on Thursday passed a bill to end the time limit for prosecuting rape and other felony sex crimes, paving the way for the legislation to reach the governor before the session ends.
The Assembly approved the bill 70-0. SB 813 now goes to the state Senate, which passed an earlier version of the legislation 33-0 in June.
If the governor signs the bill, crimes including rape and continuous sexual child abuse would no longer have a statute of limitations and could be prosecuted at any time.
"There are some crimes that are so heinous that there should never be a statute of limitations,” Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) said.
Under existing law, such crimes generally must be prosecuted within 10 years unless DNA evidence emerges later. Sex crimes against minors generally must be prosecuted before the victim’s 40th birthday.
Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-Carson) called the bill "long overdue” and one that would “ensure that criminals be placed in jail."
State Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) introduced the bill in the wake of news that dozens of women have alleged comedian Bill Cosby raped them. Many of their cases cannot be prosecuted because the statutes of limitations have expired.
Cosby has said his relationships with his accusers were consensual.
For months, powerful interest groups battled behind the scenes at the state Capitol over a plan to require new disclosure over the price of prescription drugs. But the bill was officially killed this week, the victim of amendments crafted in private that weakened its efforts at transparency.
On this week's California Politics Podcast, we discuss the collapse of talks over drug price transparency and how it might impact a Nov. 8 ballot measure on the same topic.
We also take a close look at the latest negotiations on a new climate change law and some of the clashes it's sparked between Democrats.
And in our final segment, the latest statewide voter registration data suggests continuing troubles for California's Republican Party.
A casino operator has hired former Rep. Gary Condit's firm to lobby the state Legislature at a time when the legislative panel overseeing gambling issues is chaired by Condit’s son-in-law.
Condit is a founder of BBC Public Affairs, which was hired Aug. 2 by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in Temecula to lobby in Sacramento on “utility/energy” issues. The hire came just before Condit's son-in-law, Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced), proposed changes to his bill legalizing Internet poker in California in a way that specifically addressed concerns by Pechanga.
A Pechanga spokesman said there is no relationship between the hiring of BBC and the tribe’s efforts to get Gray to change his bill.
On July 29, Pechanga announced the formation of the first tribally owned and operated wholesale electric utility located in the state of California.
BBC is “monitoring utilities issues for us and have nothing to do with I-poker,” said Jacob Mejia, a representative of Pechanga.
“This is the first we have heard of this,” said Trent Hager, Gray’s chief-of-staff.
Condit’s daughter, Cadee, is married to Gray. Condit lost a reelection bid to Congress in 2002 after the scandal over the disappearance and killing of federal intern Chandra Levy.
Condit and other BBC officials did not return calls for comment.
Kathay Feng, executive director of the watchdog group California Common Cause, suggested it's an optics problem.
“It still leaves the question, the public perception about whether a bill has been influenced by considerations other than just public policy,” Feng said.
Assemblyman Roger Hernández's campaign to take fellow Democrat Grace Napolitano's U.S. House seat was quickly marred by accusations of domestic violence.
Baldwin Park City Councilwoman Susan Rubio gave graphic testimony detailing abuse she said she suffered at his hands over the course of their three-year marriage. Her comments, as well as past accusations of domestic violence, were used against him in mailers from Napolitano's campaign.
A political mailer attacking state Assemblyman Roger Hernández was paid for by Rep. Grace Napolitano's campaign.
When June primary polls closed, Hernández sat in third place in the race behind Napolitano and first-time Republican candidate Gordon Fisher.
But, on the same day a judge granted Rubio's the request for a domestic violence restraining order, the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder released its final count of votes showing that Hernández had moved into second place by a margin of just 792 votes over Fisher.
Despite a swift political backlash after the restraining order was issued, including the loss of several endorsements as well as all of his committee assignments in the Assembly, Hernández was ostensibly still in the race until Friday when the West Covina Democrat indicated he would stop his campaign altogether.
Over the last several weeks while the assemblyman was on medical leave, his campaign remained quiet on social media. Laura Herrera, who managed his campaign during the primary, told The Times last week that she was not running his general election campaign and has not been in contact with Hernández.
Fundraising efforts crashed after the primary as well, according to the latest disclosures filed with Federal Election Commission.
Hernández reported raising just $8,849 between May 19 and June 30 and having $60,668 left in the bank for the general election. Napolitano raised just shy of $100,000 in that same period and had nearly $250,000 in cash on hand.
Hernández’s campaign headquarters on Rowland Street in Covina has been leased to new tenants, according to real estate agent Michael Wong, who represents the property.
The campaign also was a financial burden for Hernández personally: He lent himself $80,000.
Hernández launched his campaign last December at a park in West Covina with local union supporters and family by his side. He made jabs at Napolitano for not living in the 32nd Congressional District and sought to cast himself as a young "activist" lawmaker.
Napolitano suffered a stroke in February but vowed to keep campaigning for a 10th term.
Though Hernández cannot seek reelection to the Assembly because of term limits, he has an existing account to raise money for a potential run for the California's 22nd Senate District in 2018.
Hernández's office said "he is keeping it as an option."
The seat is currently held by state Sen. Ed Hernandez, who cannot seek reelection in 2018 because of term limits and is running for the Lt. Governorship that year.
Under fire over domestic violence allegations and questions about taking a medical leave of absence from the Legislature, Assemblyman Roger Hernández (D-West Covina) indicated Friday that he was no longer actively campaigning for a U.S. House seat against Democratic Rep. Grace Napolitano.
"Because of the damage, I don't have the fight in me to continue forward in a congressional run," Hernández told reporters after returning to work Friday in Sacramento following more than two weeks on leave.
The assemblyman, who was stripped of his committee assignments after a judge issued a domestic violence restraining order against him, said he has been suffering from blood pressure issues but is back for the rest of the session. He went on medical leave on Aug. 1, providing a physician’s note that did not explain any conditions, and continued to take his pay.
He compared his ex-wife, Baldwin Park City Councilwoman Susan Rubio, to "Tonya Harding," and said her accusations that he beat her during their marriage have been like "a baseball bat to my knees."
Hernández said he has been in his district, either at home or at his doctor's office, during his leave. Asked by reporters if he had been in a rehabilitation program, he said no and added that any rumors of a drug problem were being spread by "haters."
"I've made a big mistake," Hernández told reporters, saying he should have been more open about his situation with the public.
"I've been going through a traumatic experience in my life. ... I wasn't healthy. My health was not at par to be at work," Hernández said.
John Casey, communications director for Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount), said Hernández had previously submitted a new medical note extending his leave.
Friday was the last day to amend legislation for this year and Hernández has several bills pending a final vote.
The current legislative session ends Aug. 31 and term limits mean Hernández is not returning next year.
Rendon removed Hernández from his post as chairman of the Committee on Labor and Employment in July after a judge ordered the assemblyman to keep away from Rubio for three years.
California's motorcyclists could soon have clear rules on lane splitting after the state on Friday became the first in the nation to formally legalize the practice.
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation by Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) that defines the practice and authorizes the California Highway Patrol to establish rules for motorcyclists on how to do it safely.
Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), a retired state highway patrol sergeant who co-wrote the bill, called the new law a "groundbreaking step."
"This is a huge win for roadway safety,” Lackey said in a statement. "We are now giving riders and motorists clear guidance on when it is safe."
Lane splitting, in which a motorcyclist passes other vehicles by riding between them along the lane line, has long been a controversial issue.
Technically, it has not been legal or illegal, falling in a gray area where it was treated as acceptable by law enforcement agencies. But when the CHP published guidelines on the practice in 2015, a citizen complained that the agency should not be allowed to create public policy. In came AB 51.
Quirk's original bill proposed that lane splitting could occur legally only when a motorcycle was moving no more than 15 mph faster than the traffic around it, and it prohibited the practice at speeds above 50 mph.
Several motorcyclists' groups objected to that, saying the limit was too low. Other groups and individuals, who believe that lane splitting is dangerous regardless of speed, objected to the proposal entirely.
The revised bill, which sailed through the legislative process, provides a basic definition of "lane splitting" and leaves the rest to the CHP. Quirk has said it has many benefits, including reducing traffic congestion and promoting safety.
"I am thrilled to see that California is once again at the forefront of common-sense road safety legislation,” Quirk said. "Signing of this bill will bring legitimacy to this practice and help to keep our roads safer and our drivers – both motorcyclists and motorists – better educated.”
The father of Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for breaking federal campaign finance law, but will likely serve closer to 10 months behind bars.
Babulal Bera, 83, was sentenced in federal court in Sacramento on Thursday. A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney's office said that a defendant must serve at least 85% of the sentence.
"Currently, there are no further negotiations on housing," spokesman Kevin Liao said Thursday.
Rendon's comments, which were first reported by the Sacramento Bee, likely provide the death knell to the governor's effort to tackle the state's spiraling housing costs by making it easier to build. Brown's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Negotiations over the plan had made little progress since June when Brown agreed to spend $400 million on low-income housing subsidies should the Legislature agree to pass a version of his housing plan.
Brown's proposal had faced strenuous opposition from influential labor and environmental groups, which had wanted higher wages for construction workers and were upset that the plan allowed projects to bypass some review under the state's main environmental law governing development. A coalition of 60 labor, environmental and community advocacy groups walked away from negotiations over the plan last week.
When that happened, the Brown administration said it still held out hope for a deal. But in a further sign that the plan wasn't moving, low-income housing advocates sent a letter to the governor and legislative leaders Wednesday asking them to spend the $400 million in subsides without the streamlining plan passing.
"Please do not penalize our state’s most vulnerable residents for the failure to reach agreement on the streamlining proposal," the letter reads.
The Brown administration has given no sign it was willing to spend the money without the housing affordability legislation passing. Last month, a Brown deputy warned that there might be little appetite for future housing subsidies or regulatory relief if lawmakers didn't act this year.
Other housing measures, including Brown-endorsed bills to make it easier to add small additional units in backyards and a $3 billion low-income housing bond remain alive in the Legislature.
5:30 p.m. This post has been updated to list other housing measures still pending this year after Rendon's staff expressed concern that their comments could be interpreted as implying that negotiations had ceased on all housing bills.
SB 1322, authored by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), would make the crimes of solicitation and loitering with intent to commit prostitution misdemeanors inapplicable to children younger than 18. It also would allow law enforcement to take sexually exploited children into temporary custody if leaving them unattended would pose an immediate threat to their health or safety.
The measure passed Thursday with a 42-29 vote. It was one of two bills heard Thursday seeking to decriminalize prostitution.
SB 1129, authored by Bill Monning (D-Carmel), would repeal mandatory minimum sentences for specified prostitution offenses. It moved out of Assembly with a 42-26 vote and is also headed back to the Senate for a final vote.
Legislation to curb human trafficking has been a prominent issue at the state Capitol this session, as prosecutors and advocates in recent years have pushed the issue to the political forefront. Most of the proposals have focused on the trade of forced sex and reflect a cultural shift in the approach to prostitution that aims to divert victims forced into the industry away from the criminal justice system.
Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014 signed legislation placing sex trafficking victims without legal guardians under the authority of the dependency system, which centers on caring for abused and neglected children.
SB 1322 drew the support of a large coalition of advocates who said the bill was a step further in that direction, taking young victims entirely out of the juvenile justice system. But law enforcement officials oppose the move, saying the state's child welfare system is woefully low on resources.
On the Assembly floor, lawmakers agreed the legislation was well-intentioned and promoted the idea that “there is no such thing as a child prostitute," as children cannot legally consent to sex.
But while supporters of the bill argued that it would provide a better way to connect young victims with social services, opponents countered that it would prevent law enforcement from helping vulnerable children who often don’t see themselves as victims, run away from unsecured shelters and remain tied to their traffickers through complicated psychological and emotional bonds.
“Right now the best way to get these young women help, the best way to rescue them from this lifestyle is by keeping law enforcement involved through the ability to arrest,” Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) said. “Maybe in a few years from now, when we are doing better job at both the state and local level, we will better equipped and ready for this bill because services to young women will be readily available. But we are not there yet.”
Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley), who co-authored the bill, said the Legislature had put $20 million in this year’s budget to address the issue. Forty of 58 counties, he said, had already applied for funding to develop social services, shelters and other programs.
“All we are doing in perpetuating current law is saying, ‘You are not the victim, you are the criminal,’” he said. “Let’s say collectively there is no such thing as a child prostitute because there is no such thing as a child prostitute.”
Other lawmakers agreed.
"This is not the end of it," Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) said. "This is the beginning of us thinking differently about the problem."
Sen. Barbara Boxer on Thursday visited the Salton Sea and tried to put pressure on state and federal agencies to use more of their resources on saving it.
"This is a crisis waiting to happen, and it is the time for firm leadership by every single stakeholder," she told reporters after touring a restoration project at Red Hill Marina, according to a transcript.
The Salton Sea was created in 1905 when the Colorado River broke through a silt-laden canal and poured into a basin near Brawley known as the Salton Sink. It grew into a 360-square-mile lake straddling Riverside and Imperial counties, but it has been shrinking, causing record-high salinity levels and animal die-offs.
Boxer's visit came a week after The Times reported on complaints from local officials that the state is years behind on efforts to protect wildlife and mitigate pesticide-laced dust that blows up from the drying basin.
Boxer praised recent state and federal moves to put more money into the project, but said it isn't enough.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a state budget in June that included $80.5 million for Salton Sea restoration. The funding came from a $7.5-billion water bond passed two years ago by California voters.
And earlier this year, the Obama administration announced an additional $3 million in funding for Salton Sea restoration.
But Boxer criticized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for not funding a restoration program that she created in 2007 even though President Obama put money for it into last year's budget.
Boxer has said resolving Salton Sea's funding issues is one of her priorities before she leaves office in January.
Students: BYU Honor Code leaves LGBT victims of sexual assault vulnerable and alone
by Erin Alberty, The Salt Lake Tribune
Andy wanted a blessing.
He had awoken in a haze after a suicide attempt with painkillers and began to panic. He didn't want to die. But he didn't know if he could live. Andy's first, secret boyfriend had raped him and dumped him, he said. Simultaneously traumatized by and lonesome for the one person who accepted him as a gay man, Andy floundered for months in shame and dread until he finally turned to the bishop of his Mormon student congregation at Brigham Young University.
He expected some reproof for acting on his "same-gender attraction," as LDS leaders have termed being gay. But Andy also hoped for some comfort and counsel.
Instead, he said, his bishop offered an ultimatum: Andy could turn himself in to BYU's Honor Code Office to be disciplined by the school, or the bishop himself would report Andy for the violation of "homosexual behavior."
While multiple current and former students have told The Salt Lake Tribune that rape victims at BYU may be investigated for potential discipline, a half-dozen LGBT students described unique challenges they faced when they were assaulted while attending the flagship school of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
BYU's Honor Code forbids homosexual behavior, which the school defines as "not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings." Holding hands and kissing, while allowed between men and women, are widely understood to be subject to discipline; BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said the language of the Honor Code "speaks for itself and relies on students to use good judgment."
But advocates for LGBT students say coming out brings such scrutiny that even people who have no intention of dating tend to seek support in secret, often online.
That has created an underground social scene in which predators can take advantage of silent and largely inexperienced victims, according to several LGBT students who have told The Tribune they were raped while enrolled at BYU. LGBT students who are assaulted by a member of the opposite sex say they fear their orientation remains a liability should they try to report the crime.
These student accounts come as BYU faces new scrutiny on two fronts: Federal officials this month added BYU to a list of more than 200 schools under investigation nationwide for how they respond to student reports of sexual assault. Meanwhile, more than 20 LGBT advocacy groups have asked leaders of the Big 12 athletic conference to eliminate BYU from consideration for membership, alleging the school "actively and openly discriminates against its LGBT students and staff."
An advisory council created by BYU in May is studying the school's handling of sexual-assault reports.
"Both the church and BYU care deeply about the safety and well-being of these young people," LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a written statement. "There's absolutely no excuse for anyone who would prey upon a student in this way, and sexual predators are neither enabled nor excused by the policies [described]."
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students say confidential support can be hard to come by in the aftermath of an assault. There is no official school group or office for LGBT resources; the student-led support group, Understanding Same Gender Attraction, is not sanctioned by the school and is not allowed to reserve meeting space on campus, Carri Jenkins confirmed.
Although she said the school's counseling center offers services to LGBT students and Hawkins directed students to LDS Family Services counselors or bishops, some students said the risks of disclosure are too high.
"You can't talk to anybody about it," said J.P., a former student who recounted being raped in 2011. "I felt hand-tied. I wasn't able to seek help from anybody. As a gay person [at BYU], that wasn't even an option, because the moment you tell the situation you're in, you're busted. There's no protection."
The Tribune typically does not publish the names of victims in sex crimes; the sources in this story agreed to be identified by their initials or first names.
'What happened was going to cost me'
Andy was a 17-year-old BYU freshman when he got involved in a relationship that he describes as coercive. It also was unlawful under Utah law, based on his age: The man, whom Andy met online, was 25.
They had met a few times in winter 2012, and while the physical relationship was moving faster than Andy wanted, he said he wasn't sure what to do about it. Then, in the basement of his boyfriend's South Jordan home, Andy discovered the extent of the man's disregard for boundaries.
"I can remember being on his bed with my clothes off," Andy said. "I can remember not necessarily screaming, but forcefully saying to stop. But he wouldn't."
Andy said he did not realize that he had been raped, believing at the time that "guys don't get raped."
He said had come out to his parents, who told him they would not tolerate homosexuality in the family.
"I felt trapped," Andy said. "I felt like the only way I could continue living was to stay with [the rapist] because he was the only one who was supportive."
After they broke up, Andy said, he saw only terrible options: He could suppress his sexuality and be condemned to loneliness and deception — or he could be gay and suffer rape and abuse.
A third option — not to live — rose to the top of his list.
After Andy awoke from his suicide attempt, he checked himself into a hospital for a brief stay. Over the summer, he grew more depressed, Andy said, until a friend suggested he seek help from their student ward bishop, "to get counsel, get advice, get a blessing."
When the bishop instead ordered him to "repent" to the Honor Code Office, Andy said, his depression gave way to panic. "It was real that what had happened was going to cost me my education and my job," Andy said.
The Honor Code investigator, or counselor, asked extensive questions, Andy said. "He wanted to know exactly what kind of sex had occurred, the dates of when it had occurred, where it had occurred. ... He was taking notes furiously as I was telling my story."
BYU initially said it could not locate records of a case like Andy's. After The Tribune confirmed it had obtained disciplinary records and provided more details, Carri Jenkins said she could not provide more information without a written release from the student. If a similar report was made by a minor student today, she said, the case would be referred to police and the Title IX office, which investigates sex crimes, and any Honor Code investigation would be suspended.
Although Andy cannot remember whether he described the physical coercion, he said did talk about the age difference and provided dates that showed he was a minor at the time of the assault. Andy said the counselor didn't refer him to police, but he did thank Andy for reporting to the Honor Code Office.
A month later, the counselor called Andy back to the office.
"The first time he had been compassionate, and that whole facade was completely gone," Andy said. "Now it was him looking at me like the bastard at the family reunion."
Andy was put on "withheld suspension," he said. He could attend classes, but he couldn't participate in activities and lost his campus job and his housing. He received a folder of religious writings about the dangers of homosexuality and met weekly with the Honor Code counselor.
Andy said he immersed himself in his repentance.
"I got really into it, and really into church, and was convinced I was going to cure myself of my gayness — which seemed to be what the Honor Code Office wanted me to do, based on the readings they were giving me," Andy recalled. "... I wanted it to go away forever, especially after trying [a relationship] once and seeing where it got me."
The LDS Church has stated on its website mormonsandgays.org that "individuals do not choose to have [same-sex] attractions." The site states: "The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is."
Andy's standing at BYU was restored after a semester — his suspension shortened from a year — and he found new peace when he served a Mormon mission. He was too busy to think about sex, and the rigorous schedule prevented much contact with other gay men.
"I felt like I had a testimony, like God had finally forgiven me for being gay, for allowing the assault to happen," Andy recalled. "I thought, 'I'll be able to marry a woman and be a member of the church.'"
When he moved back to Utah, he got a job and began dating a woman. "I felt awesome," Andy recalled. "I finally found someone. Everything was going to be OK."
But he said his girlfriend led him to the one price he could not pay: her happiness.
"I realized I didn't have a connection with her in the way that I should have a connection with her," Andy said. "I haven't dated a girl since."
Andy said he hopes to "grin and bear it" long enough to finish his degree at BYU.
'I was really scared of him'
Many LGBT students at BYU find that trying to date in secret means giving up protections that heterosexual singles take for granted, said Addison Jenkins, president of Understanding Same Gender Attraction.
Students make online connections with a higher degree of anonymity so the people behind the profiles don't risk exposure, he said. Longing for connection but facing the risk of expulsion, they meet dates in person, possibly without exchanging even basic personal details, such as ages and last names. With students encouraged to help enforce the Honor Code, LGBT students may not be able to tell friends or roommates where they're going or who they'll be with, he said.
Predators know all of this, Addison Jenkins said.
"It's easy to think, 'Oh, there aren't monsters out there, lurking, waiting to attack gay students,' because that seems so malicious and so predatory," he said. "But I think experience shows that, for sure, gay students at BYU are at a lot of risk."
Former BYU student A.D. doesn't know the last name of the older man who he said slipped a drug into his orange juice during a date in December.
He doesn't know where the man is now — "He said he was from out of state," A.D. recalled — and he can't remember the address of the home he crawled away from the following morning.
A.D. said he felt uncomfortable almost as soon as he stepped into the Lehi house where the man had directed him.
When the man thrust a cup in front of him, "I said, 'I don't drink alcohol.' 'Oh, it's not alcohol.' He's coming up with answers to my objections," A.D. said.
He said he sank into a fog of what he now suspects was a date-rape drug. The man grew angry when A.D. became nauseated, and then "would flip back really quickly, tell me I was beautiful and try to kiss me," A.D. said. The man had assured A.D. there was no pressure to have sex; a few hours later, when A.D. no longer could move his limbs, the man was groping him.
A.D. said he awoke the next morning unable to walk. He said he sent his GPS coordinates to his friend's phone and crawled into a window well outside the man's house while he waited to be picked up.
After the attack, A.D. said, every option looked humiliating. Disclosing the crime would mean inviting blame and scrutiny for being gay. Suffering alone felt like conceding that he deserved it.
"I felt really hopeless, really depressed. My first instinct was, 'Well, I could overdose and not have to suffer the indignity of having to put my life back together.'"
Within weeks, A.D. broke down and told a trusted teacher about the assault. She was required to report to the school's Title IX office, which, A.D. was told, would collaborate with the Honor Code Office.
After one meeting with a Title IX investigator, A.D. dropped out of BYU.
"I know that [the investigation] is open," A.D. said. "To go back to BYU, I might have to finish talking about it. ... I'd also have to talk to the Honor Code Office, and I wasn't going to survive that."
Addison Jenkins said he has heard similar accounts from LGBT students who turned to the internet for friendship and support as they struggled with their sexuality.
"They just wanted someone to talk to," he said, "and they end up at this person's house or this person's car, and they get taken advantage of."
'Who I was was going to make my story suspect'
Aubree, a current BYU student, said she also feared an Honor Code investigation into her 2012 sexual assault by a man, worried that Honor Code enforcers would view it in a suspicious light because she is bisexual.
Aubree said she had confided in her visiting teachers — companions assigned to check on the spiritual and physical welfare of women within Mormon congregations — that she was attracted to women.
"I'm crying and begging them not to tell anybody. The next thing I know, they've told the bishop, who told his counselors, and they told their people, and everybody knows," Aubree said. "Having been outed at 19 years old, I went from being the person who never kissed anyone, never wore a tank top, never had a Coke, to being called into the bishop's office and being compared to a drug addict, a kleptomaniac and a person with anger issues."
The LDS Church's official position, Hawkins said, is "that it is not attraction or sexual preference, but behavior, that is morally destructive. This same principle applies to anyone — gay, straight, bisexual or otherwise."
Aubree said that, in practice, gay and straight attractions are not treated the same at BYU. On the day she was attacked, her roommates decided they were going to have "an anti-homosexuality scripture study night, where they basically went through the Bible and pulled up any anti-gay sentence they could find."
Aubree said she went outside, waiting for the Bible study to end. A man she knew from her ward, or congregation, found her in tears.
"I told him why I was upset ... and that I had just come out as bisexual," Aubree said. "He was the first person I'd ever talked to who didn't care. He didn't tell me I was sinful. He didn't ask me when I was going to get that fixed. ... So when he said, 'Hey, do you want to come to my place instead of going home?' I agreed."
The man invited her to watch a movie in his bedroom, which is forbidden under the Honor Code.
"That made me a little uncomfortable, but I didn't see anywhere else that a TV was, and I was like, 'It's fine, we're just going to watch a movie.'"
As soon as they sat down, Aubree said, the man started kissing her. When she told him to stop, he initially was apologetic. But she said he kept making advances. He pushed her on the bed, grabbing her and molesting her as she repeatedly told him no, she said.
"At one point, he said, 'What, you don't like this? Wow, I guess you really must be gay then,'" Aubree said. "And then he kept going. It was almost this idea ... that I was somehow defective. It didn't matter whether or not I was consenting."
Aubree eventually stopped fighting because "he kept getting more and more frustrated and more and more rough," she said. "I decided the best thing would be to let him do whatever he was going to do. Hopefully, he would take me home and I could just forget about it."
Aubree said she confided in two people about the assault; both dismissed it as typical male behavior. Meanwhile, she said, she didn't think she could report to police or the school because any investigator would soon discover she was bisexual — and then she would have a hard time convincing them the sexual contact was not consensual.
"There's a stereotype that bisexual people just want sex with everyone," Aubree said. "... My concern was that who I was was going to make my story suspect."
'I want to be free'
Instead of reporting, Aubree said, she struggled alone.
"I had a really hard time focusing on anything because I would be in the library doing my homework, and all of a sudden I would smell him," she said. "I kept having to look around and make sure he wasn't right behind me. I couldn't sleep for a long time because every time I lay down to sleep at night, I could feel him on top of me."
She said she felt shame, fearing she was "not pure anymore." More than a year later, when she began having fantasies of killing herself, Aubree said a doctor first used the word "assault" to describe what happened to her.
"Part of me thinks if I'd said it differently, people would have believed it actually happened," Aubree said. "I [wasn't] using the word 'rape.' I think it would be a lot more helpful if people had the vocabulary to say, 'OK, I was sexually assaulted.'"
Aubree remains a BYU student. She said she hopes the school will offer Honor Code amnesty for sexual-assault victims — the demand made by more than 100,000 people who signed an online petition this spring.
For A.D., leaving BYU led him to support systems he said he couldn't have imagined in Provo. He transferred to a new school and got a job at an LGBT-friendly employer in Salt Lake City. When he told his co-workers he was gay, "a group of like 30 people were clapping for me, and happy for me, which obviously made me cry."
A.D. said he eventually opened up to his new boss about his assault and found validation; she also had been sexually assaulted.
Andy, also still attending BYU, said networking with other student rape victims was a turning point in his recovery. He joined a support group and has tried to become more involved in rape awareness on campus and among gay victims. He said he can see in their eyes a familiar fear — that "you're baggage that no one is ever going to want" — but he believes that is not the end of the story.
"I want to be happy," Andy said. "To be in power. To be free."
Release of Barrow paedophile 'in public interest'
by North-West Evening Mail
A TWISTED sex offender who abused a young boy almost three decades ago has been freed from jail on appeal.
John Scott Dalton, 43, subjected the youngster to a series of attacks in Barrow, but claimed he did what he did because he was "just curious".
The offences did not come to light until many years later when the now-adult victim told police.
Dalton admitted two indecent assaults and indecency with a child at Preston Crown Court in January.
He also pleaded guilty to four counts of possessing prohibited images of children and was jailed for 16 months.
But on Tuesday (17), after an appeal by his lawyers, three of the country's top judges ordered his release.
Mr Justice Sweeney told the Court of Appeal it was in the best interests of the public if Dalton was given a community order. It would allow him to seek specialist help to address his perverted behaviour, said the judge.
The London court heard Dalton's abuse of the boy had taken place over several weeks. He had performed sex acts on the youngster and caused him to do the same, telling the boy it was a "normal thing to do".
The crimes were not reported until 2014, when Dalton was arrested. Police seized a computer and memory sticks from his home and found digitally-generated images of children being abused.
Dalton's lawyers argued that he should never have been sent to prison and that a probation officer was right in recommending a community order.
He could be supervised and receive expert help to prevent future offences, with the risk of being sent to prison if he put a foot wrong, the court was told.
Giving judgment, Mr Justice Sweeney ordered that Dalton, of Ifor Street, Mountain Ash, south Wales, is to be released into the community.
He said: "We quash the sentence of imprisonment and substitute a three-year community order.
"It will have requirements that he complete the community sex offending group work programme and a supervision requirement for three years."
Turkish justice ministry to impose harsher penalties for child abuse
by The Daily Sabah
The government said that it has been working to impose harsher penalties on sex offenders rather than decreasing the punishment for those crimes. The issue has come under the spotlight since Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström said that "Turkey should cancel the decision that allows kids under 15 years of age to have sexual intercourse," adding that "Children should be protected more against violence and sexual intercourse, not less." Pointing out that the cancellation of the first two sentences of the first clause of Article 103 of the Turkish Penal Code as well as the second clause of the same article has not yet been officiated, authorities said that the decision granted by the Constitutional Court will come into force no earlier than Dec. 11 this year, adding that there are no loopholes in Article 103 and that the existing punishment for child abuse cases is still in effect.
The decision to cancel the aforementioned clauses of Article 103 includes plans to rearrange the cancelled portions within an exposure draft being prepared by the ministry. The latest information received indicates that the government is planning to increase penalties for offenders who engage in underage sexual intercourse rather than decreasing them.
The upcoming changes began on the instructions of Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, who notes that sentencing for offenders in sexual abuse cases involving children younger than the age of 12 will be no less than 10 years while offenders in molestation cases will be sentenced to no less than five years.
The exposure draft prepared by the Justice Ministry will protect the provision that "Any person who sexually abuses a child will be sentenced anywhere from eight to 15 years, while that sentence decreases to three-to-eight years in cases of molestation," which is included in Article 103. It has also been revealed that a provision states that a penalty of imprisonment will be given for no less than 16 years with no chance for appeal in cases of child molestation involving the penetration of an organ with an object. The new arrangement aims to give a penalty no less than 18 years if the victim is younger than 12, increasing the time of the penalty for crimes against younger children."
Sandusky son: Reporting child sex abuse should be mandatory
by REGINA GARCIA CANO
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — One of the adopted sons of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky told a group of educators, health care professionals, law enforcement officials and others gathered Thursday in Sioux Falls that more people should be required by law to report to authorities suspected cases of child sexual abuse.
The remarks from Matthew Sandusky came during an annual conference that explores issues of justice, well-being and safety in South Dakota. The focus of this year's conference is child sexual abuse.
Sandusky started a foundation in 2014 to raise awareness about child sexual abuse in local communities after disclosing that his adopted father subjected him to a range of sexual abuse.
"A child's protection should not rely on a person's job or place of employment. For me, every single person, every single person, should be a mandated reporter," Sandusky said. "If you see something happening to a child, if you think you know something happening to a child, then you have to report it."
In South Dakota, physicians, mental health professionals, teachers and law enforcement officials are among those who are mandated by law to report to authorities instances where they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been abused or neglected.
South Dakota U.S. Attorney Randolph Seiler said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in four girls and one in six boys in the U.S. are abused before they reach the age of 18. Seiler said statistics show that 4,000 children are being sexually abused in the state every year.
"If you woke up tomorrow and the headline was that 4,000 children in South Dakota were infected with some kind of contagious disease, the entire state would be up in arms, and that's how many children are being sexually abused," Seiler told The Associated Press during the conference sponsored by his office, Avera Health and Children's Home Society. "We have to address this."
Seiler added that Matthew Sandusky's case shows that whether in "Pennsylvania with a very famous father" or in small town South Dakota, predators use the same approach "to groom individuals and then proceed with sexually abusing them."
Jerry Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of sexually abusing 10 boys and is serving a 30- to 60-year prison term. The former coach, who has filed an appeal, has not been charged with abusing Matthew Sandusky.
On Thursday, Matthew Sandusky told the audience that he decided to speak up about his own abuse after he sat through courtroom testimony by a young man during his adoptive father's trial.
"I've been called a liar. I've been called every name in the book. ... I've faced it all," he said. "I hope to empower other survivors to understand that the best message you can get is that it doesn't matter, what other people think does not matter. The most important thing you can do is speak your truth."
Matthew Sandusky is among those who have shared $60 million in civil settlements by Penn State.
Schraufnagel: Parents' petition seeks resignations
by Peter D. Kraner
The petition demands six points from the school district, including recognizing that the children are "not, in fact, responsible for their own abuse.”
An online petition started by parents in the Chappaqua Central School District in the wake of the Christopher Schraufnagel sex abuse case at Horace Greeley High School demands that officials “acknowledge that this abuse occurred" and force the resignation of those who failed to act when allegations first surfaced.
The petition on change.org had been signed by 156 people on Thursday afternoon and will be delivered to Chappaqua Superintendent Lyn McKay.
The six-point petition takes issue with the district's response to abuse claims and to civil lawsuits filed by parents of five students in the case, lawsuits that allege drug use and sexual contact with the speech and drama teacher who was in the district for 12 years before resigning in September 2015 amid a swirl of accusations and a police investigation.
Earlier this month, Schraufnagel admitted in New Castle Town Court that he had sexual contact with minors. The admission was part of a plea deal worked out with Westchester County prosecutors, a deal that has yet to be approved by Town Justice Douglas Kraus. Schraufnagel is due in court Nov. 10.
Cortney Miller, a Chappaqua resident and clinical social worker who worked on child-sexual-abuse investigations in South Carolina, posted the petition, which demands that the district “acknowledge that these events did take place, that the children were victims of an adult sexual predator, and that these children are not, in fact, responsible for their own abuse.”
Miller, who said she has been meeting for about a year with parents whose children were directly affected by Schraufnagel, said the district has yet to own up to what happened at Greeley, even after Schraufnagel's admission in open court.
“These kids' disclosures are very similar,” Miller said. “This happened. We need to say to the community, ‘This happened.' Call it what it is. Take the boogeyman out of it. This is child sexual abuse. For me, as a trauma therapist, there is no way to move forward without acknowledgement.”
McKay, the superintendent, was asked to comment on the petition.
Hours later, the district issued a statement on her behalf that read, in part: “We understand and share parents' concerns about the impact Mr. Schraufnagel's actions have had on our school community. Nothing is more important to this district than the health and well-being of our students.”
Miller said the district is missing an opportunity to lead.
“There have been other school districts that have responded in a different way," she said. "Chappaqua could be a leader in this field, saying ‘Look, we had this absolutely horrific thing happen here, but here's what we're going to do to make it better and make our children safe.' Instead, they've had this bunker mentality where it's just duck and cover.”
The petition also demands the district “disclose what and if any specific policy changes have been made to ensure the safety of future students.”
McKay's statement read: “We review all of our staff policies and procedures around harassment, bullying, reporting of abuse, discrimination prevention and intervention annually. We have expanded our training of teachers, administrators, custodial and clerical staff on the reporting of abuse in a domestic and educational setting.”
Miller said she doesn't think the board members and administration are bad people.
“I think they're good people who have made horrible decisions in this case, horrible, horrible decisions. Coming out and saying that teenagers are reckless and careless and responsible for their own abuse is an abomination. I've dealt with a lot of these cases. I'm kind of unshockable, but I've never heard anyone coming out swinging like that. I've always heard, ‘I can't comment.'”
Signers of the petition also want those district personnel who failed to act on earlier allegations to be held responsible, calling for “the resignation of any and all school personnel who were involved in any preliminary internal investigations of Mr. Schraufnagel that did not result in any further corrective action.”
Greeley missed red flags, Miller said, including Schraufnagel's DUI charge on the night of a Greeley show, which should have triggered an internal investigation.
"As a clinician, did they drop the ball? I'm gonna say yes because there were red flags. A teacher who gets a DUI — that's a red flag. You've got to be able to take a look and see if whatever's driving his substance abuse is affecting his teaching. We never saw any report of an investigation. People need to know the investigation is being done with competency."
The petitioners also seek policy changes, demanding a system that includes “an independent investigatory body that is charged with handling all allegations of abuse or neglect that occur within the confines of CCSD and/or are perpetrated by any staff or administrator at CCSD.”
The petition also seeks counseling for any students, past or present, directly or indirectly affected by Schraufnagel's actions.
"The clinical part of me says that even kids who were not directly sexually abused were impacted by this man: the grooming process, the secret games that he played, the emotional abuse," Miller said.
"All of this affects children's development at a prime time, when personality develops, when your sense of right and wrong is still developing. When you have a person in position of leadership abusing that trust, then you're starting to set kids up to have skewed world views."
Miller said the district owes it to those affected students to get them help.
"We pay very high taxes here," she said. "We just passed a $42 million bond for turf fields. I don't understand why we can't pay for the appropriate type of therapy for these kids, which is trauma-informed."
Finally, the petition demands the district put an education program in place to identify behaviors that put students at risk, including: “ongoing education, staff development training, and potentially a community education component that is developed in conjunction with one of the many leading child abuse prevention agencies throughout the nation.”
In her statement, McKay said: "In the past year we have made available to students clinical staff and guidance counselors who are specifically trained to deal with questions and concerns that students may have from this event. We hosted nationally-recognized expert Dr. Liane Nelson, Director of the Treatment Center for Trauma and Abuse, Westchester Jewish Community Services, to answer questions for parents last year and we have several more sessions planned for the coming weeks."
Students return to classes on Sept. 6.
California Assembly votes to remove time limits on rape cases in wake of Cosby accusations
by Sophia Bollag
The California Assembly on Thursday passed a bill to end the time limit for prosecuting rape and other felony sex crimes, paving the way for the legislation to reach the governor before the session ends.
The Assembly approved the bill 70-0. SB 813 now goes to the state Senate, which passed an earlier version of the legislation 33-0 in June.
If the governor signs the bill, crimes including rape and continuous sexual child abuse would no longer have a statute of limitations and could be prosecuted at any time.
"There are some crimes that are so heinous that there should never be a statute of limitations,” Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) said.
Under existing law, such crimes generally must be prosecuted within 10 years unless DNA evidence emerges later. Sex crimes against minors generally must be prosecuted before the victim's 40th birthday.
Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-Carson) called the bill "long overdue” and one that would “ensure that criminals be placed in jail."
State Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) introduced the bill in the wake of news that dozens of women have alleged comedian Bill Cosby raped them. Many of their cases cannot be prosecuted because the statutes of limitations have expired.
Cosby has said his relationships with his accusers were consensual.
I royally screwed up parenting because I was abused as a kid
by Hazel M. Berry
I survived child abuse only to end up struggling as a mom
I'd like to believe that I have been a good mom to my kids. Like any parent will tell you, raising children is not easy. However, when you're an adult survivor of child abuse, there's an added layer of difficulty to being the kind of parent you know your kids need versus the kind that was modeled to you.
I worked really hard to leave the trauma of abuse behind me, but undoubtedly, my parenting ability (and therefore my kids) suffered from my lack of a healthy adult role model. The following seven areas are where, no matter how hard I tried, I managed to bring my fucked-up past into my children's present. I've also shared what I've learned over the past 18 years — through loads of therapy and parenting classes — to help me stop the cycle of dysfunction for good.
When you're raised by parents who don't understand boundaries, it's easy to misunderstand what's age-appropriate and healthy for your own children. Looking back, I realize that my sons learned about adult subjects like sex, drugs and death far too early because I couldn't effectively gauge their mental readiness.
What I've learned is that children aren't prepared to know everything an adult does and that oversharing can really harm them since they don't have the maturity and wisdom to help them process the information.
2. Emotional honesty
Like many victims of child abuse, emotional vulnerability is difficult to navigate. In my house, crying or expressing anger was not tolerated and could lead to further abuse, both verbal and physical. This translated into my struggling to be emotionally honest as an adult with my children. As a parent, I failed to set an example of someone dealing with pain or anger in healthy, productive ways for many years, which undoubtedly taught them the same dysfunctional behavior.
What I've learned is that kids need to see how healthy adults deal with real-life emotions so they can feel safe doing the same. Kids ultimately repeat what they see, and if adults lash out, kids will too.
I learned as a child that trusting others would always lead to disappointment, and that belief stayed with me long into adulthood. It made me assume my children were lying when they weren't, it made me distrust my husband for no reason, and sadly, I often failed to trust myself. As a parent, I taught my sons that I had no faith in them, which was damaging to our relationship as well as to their self-esteem and took years to repair.
What I've learned is that kids need to feel trusted in order to develop their own sense of honesty. If they feel their parents expect them to lie, they will.
There were no “natural consequences” for me as a child. If I did something my parents didn't like, I was hit, screamed at, made fun of, grounded or even ignored for long periods of time. When I became a parent, I knew I didn't want to hurt my children, but learning appropriate discipline styles didn't come naturally. I struggled to maintain my composure when my children misbehaved and to use each experience as an opportunity for my children to learn.
What I've learned is that discipline is really about teaching our children why they should behave differently. It's also important that children feel safe at home, and punishment that is abusive ultimately violates their sense of security, meaning they're likely to take fewer risks and to be less honest about their mistakes.
Researchers have correlated child abuse with health problems later in life, and my experience is no different. I was diagnosed years ago with PTSD, long before military veterans made the disorder a household name. Along with symptoms of PTSD, I have issues sleeping since I am hyperalert and never fully in REM sleep. I also struggle with chronic headaches, reproductive illnesses, pain and fatigue, all which are shown to be common ailments of adult survivors of child abuse. This has led to my having more downtime than a healthy parent has, and that has taken away from time I should have spent with my children.
What I've learned is that I have to take time to nurture and care for myself in order to be present and available in my children's lives. Having an active, healthy parent is vital to a child's sense of togetherness and family.
As a child, punishments were often violent, followed by solitary confinement to my room for weeks. I learned to feel the safest when I was alone in my room, and that became a coping mechanism for me as an adult. Whenever life got too hard or too stressful, I would retreat to my bed and stay there, avoiding my responsibilities and life. My kids often missed out on having a mom who could weather the hard days and be a source of support.
What I've learned is that things that feel comforting aren't always the best for us. I didn't know that I had anxiety for a long time, and by learning to deal with my anxiety in ways that didn't involve cutting out the rest of the world, I was able to change how my children saw me. Now they know that it's OK to feel overwhelmed and that there are better ways (like walking, talking, listening to music, etc.) to get through those moments.
When your parents point out your flaws, you believe them. For as long as I can remember, I've hated my body and felt insecure about my personality because I was told constantly that I was ugly, fat, stupid and difficult to deal with. Those words transformed me. I avoided friendships, outings and events so that I wouldn't have to deal with others judging me, but in the end, I robbed my children of experiences in the world that are fun and healthy.
What I've learned is that negative self-talk can be reprogrammed, and it is possible to feel confident if we truly want it. Confidence is such a powerful model for our children. The world is already hard — we don't have to teach them to be hard on themselves as well.
Child sexual assault convict gets nearly 700 years in prison
by The Associated Press
MIDLAND, Texas (AP) — A jury that convicted a Texas man of repeatedly sexually assaulting a child has decided he should serve nearly 700 years in prison.
Jurors on Thursday gave Kelley Alexander Lewis 99 years in prison for each of seven counts of sexual assault of a child.
Prosecutors say the attacks on a family member under the age of 14 took place over a nearly four-month period in 2014.
The range of punishment on each count was five to 99 years in prison. Midland County prosecutors say jurors decided Lewis, of Midland, deserved the maximum punishment, totaling 693 years.
They also fined him $10,000 for each count.
Dept of Justice
Bay Area Woman Arrested on Federal Stalking and Computer Hacking Charges Stemming from Harassment of Kris Jenner and Associates
LOS ANGELES – A Northern California nurse’s assistant was arrested this morning on federal cyberstalking and hacking charges related to harassment and threats targeting television personality Kristen Jenner, members of her family and two assistants.
Christina Elizabeth Bankston, 36, of Newark, California, was arrested at her residence Thursday morning by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Bankston was arrested pursuant to a 15-count indictment that was returned by a federal grand jury on July 26 and unsealed today. Bankston is scheduled to make her first appearance Friday morning in United States District Court in Oakland.
“This defendant is charged with stalking her victims over six months,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “The defendant’s criminal conduct included hacking personal accounts, impersonating her victims, extortion, and ‘swatting.’ This case illustrates that stalking is a very serious criminal offense. Such conduct can put lives in danger, cause considerable stress and anxiety to victims, and consume considerable law enforcement resources to respond to the false emergency calls. We take seriously the defendant's reckless and outrageous electronic intrusion into the private lives of the victims, and will prosecute such conduct to the fullest extent of the law.”
Most of the stalking and hacking was conducted anonymously while Bankston was in Northern California and consisted of her sending large numbers of text messages and e-mails, as well as making harassing phone calls, according to the indictment. Bankston allegedly used a variety of electronic means that caused or were intended to cause substantial emotional distress to the victims and their families.
“The defendant in this case went to great lengths to stalk and even impersonate her victims to concoct disturbing scenarios that could have put lives in danger,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The violations alleged are egregious and the criminal charges should serve as a warning to anyone contemplating similar behavior targeting victims, whether they are celebrities or not.”
According to the indictment, among other things, Bankston:
· made multiple phone calls in which she impersonated Kristen Jenner, some of which involved false claims that Kristen Jenner had cancer and needed help, and one in which Bankston falsely told law enforcement that a family member was attempting to commit suicide at Kristen Jenner's residence;
· sent numerous electronic messages to Kristen Jenner, in which Bankston claimed to be tracking Kristen Jenner and to have put tracking devices on Kristen Jenner’s vehicle, with some messages specifically referencing that Bankston was stalking Kristen Jenner and her family;
· sent harassing and threatening text messages to Caitlyn Jenner;
· gained unauthorized access to Kristen Jenner’s iCloud account, which allowed Bankston to impersonate Kristen Jenner in text messages to Caitlyn Jenner and one of Kristen Jenner’s children, some of which Bankston later threatened to release publically;
· hacked into the email account of another member of the Jenner family;
· made Internet postings that published telephone numbers for Kristen Jenner, two family members and a friend;
· gained unauthorized access to Kristen Jenner’s Instagram account and publicly posted comments under Kristen Jenner's name and likeness that include disparaging comments about a member of Jenner’s family; and
· falsely told law enforcement that someone was going to Kristen Jenner's residence to commit a massacre.
Bankston specifically is charged with six counts of stalking, one count for each victim discussed in the indictment – Kristen Jenner, Caitlyn Jenner, two of Kristen Jenner assistants and two unnamed Jenner family members. The indictment further charges four counts of computer hacking, one count of extortion by threat targeting one of Kristen Jenner’s assistants, and four counts of aggravated identity theft related to the computer hacking offenses.
FROM: Thom Mrozek - Spokesman/Public Affairs Officer
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
Each of the cyberstalking and computer hacking offenses carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence.
This case is being investigated by the FBI.
United States Attorney’s Office
Central District of California (Los Angeles)
Ex-Jerry Sandusky lawyer who stole from clients sentenced to prison
by The Associated Press
CARLISLE, Pa. -- An attorney who represented former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky at his child sex abuse trial has been sentenced to 5 to 18 years in prison for stealing about $767,000 from clients.
Karl Rominger told a Cumberland County judge he was "ashamed" at Wednesday's sentencing. Rominger pleaded guilty in May to theft by deception and misappropriation of funds. Prosecutors say he spent the money on casino gambling and other interests.
The 43-year-old pleaded guilty last month to federal charges that he tried to evade income taxes from 2006 to 2010. He's awaiting sentencing in that case.
Rominger has surrendered his law license and been disbarred.
Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of sexually abusing 10 boys, but he's appealing. He is serving a 30- to 60-year prison term.
4-year-old Arkansas girl found abused told police her name was 'idiot'
by Fox News
A 4-year-old Arkansas girl who was taken into protective custody after being zip-tied to her bed as punishment by her mother and her mother's boyfriend thought her name was “idiot,” police said.
Jennifer Diane Denen, 30 and Clarence Eugene Reed, 47, were arrested last Friday on suspicion of domestic battery, permitting the abuse of a minor and endangering the welfare of a minor.
Hot Springs police officers responded to Cooper-Anthony Mercy Child Advocacy Center after human services workers and center employees examined the girl and determined she had been abused, according to an arrest report.
The Sentinel-Record reported that the child had deep purple bruising on her bottom, lower back and legs along with a black eye, swollen right cheek, a bruise on her forehead, healing scars across her back and dried up blood in the corner of her mouth.
There were also marks on her wrists that indicated she had been restrained somehow. The girl also looked malnourished, according to the paper.
When authorities asked the girl her name, she responded, “idiot,” according to the police report. Police questioned a juvenile at the girl's home and the person told police that she was commonly referred to as “idiot.”
Hot Springs police spokesman Cpl. Kirk Zaner told The Washington Post that there were a total of six children who lived at the house. Another 11-month-old was also with protective services and four other siblings were with their biological father.
Denen and Reed were both at the hospital when police arrived and were taken to the station for questioning. Denen told police that she saw Reed strike the child with a plastic baseball bat and another juvenile told authorities that both Denen and Reed had zip-tied the girl to a chair.
Denen admitted that she failed to seek immediate care for the child and that Reed referred to the girl as “idiot,” according to The Sentinel-Record.
Reed told police that he did refer to the child as “idiot,” but insisted it was only a joke.
The paper reported that the pair were being held on $500,000 bond and are set to appear in Garland County District Court on Aug. 23.
Study links self-reported childhood abuse to death in women years later
A study of a large number of middle-aged adults suggests self-reported childhood abuse by women was associated with an increased long-term risk of death, according to an article published online by JAMA Psychiatry.
Childhood abuse has been linked a variety of adult psychiatric problems but its association with later-life risk of death as an adult has been less understood.
Edith Chen, Ph.D., of Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., and coauthors examined reports of physical and emotional abuse in childhood with all-cause mortality rates in adulthood in a national sample of 6,285 adults, who were nearly all white and were an average age of about 47.
Participants had completed questionnaires in 1995 and 1996 and follow-up mortality data was tracked over 20 years. There were 1,091 confirmed deaths -- 17.4 percent -- in the study group through October 2015.
The study found no association for men between self-reported childhood abuse and long-term risk of all-cause mortality.
The results were different for women. Women who self-reported experiencing severe physical abuse, moderate physical abuse or emotional abuse from a parent were at increased risk of death during the 20-year follow-up. And, mitigating factors such as childhood socioeconomic status, adult depression or personality traits did not explain the association between childhood abuse and greater risk of death in women, according to the study.
Authors attempt to explain the association suggesting abuse can heighten vulnerability to psychiatric conditions; children who experience abuse may develop negative health behaviors (such as drug use) to cope with stress; obesity and its consequences could be one pathway between childhood abuse and death; and childhood adversities may affect how biological systems operate throughout life.
The study acknowledges it is unclear why women appear to more vulnerable to the effects of abuse than men.
Study limitations including self-reported childhood abuse, which means other explanations may be possible and that the reports may not accurately represent what happened in participants' childhoods.
"These findings suggest that women who report child abuse continue to be vulnerable to premature mortality and perhaps should receive greater attention in interventions aimed at promoting health," the study concludes.
Editorial: Child Maltreatments as a Root Cause of Mortality Disparities
"Child maltreatment is a debilitating problem and a global public health issue. ... In this issue of JAMA Psychiatry , Chen et al extend current knowledge and add a novel end-of-life view, suggesting that childhood maltreatment is associated with all-cause mortality in women, indicating a grim end to lifelong sequelae. ... The Chen et al article underscores the fact that we need to generate new knowledge that will fill critical gaps in what is known about mechanisms involved in deleterious outcomes for children who have been abused. ... The Chen et al article is an impressive step in calling for policy makers and society at large to adopt an obligation to eradicate these life-long inequities for survivors of maltreatment," write Idan Shalev, Ph.D., of Pennsylvania State University, University Park, and coauthors in a related editorial.
The inquiry into historic child sexual abuse allegations has become a national farce
For victims, the government's failure to investigate can't help but seem like some deranged repetition.
by Will Self
A French friend, in town for a couple of days recently, was suitably and stereotypically bemused by our latest bad news about terrible crimes: Justice Lowell Goddard's resignation as the head of the inquiry into historic child abuse was closely preceded by new results from the Crime Survey for England and Wales, according to which 11 per cent of the women questioned, and 3 per cent of the men, said they had been sexually assaulted during childhood.
“What is it with you British!” he exclaimed. “Of course we have such scandals in France, but they're largely confined to the Catholic Church.” Then he predictably went on about “the English vice”, and how the old British establishment is comprised of upper- and upper-middle-class men riven by sexual frustration because of their single-sex boarding-school educations. Under such circumstances was it any wonder they all ended up becoming paedophiles?
I bristled at this bowdlerisation; yet when I came to consider the matter, it did seem as if some explanation was in order. I concede I haven't researched the matter exhaustively, but I am unaware of any other country in which a statistically significant sample implies that 7 per cent of the adult population are survivors of serious abuse.
The Panglossian view would be that, as British society has liberalised, becoming more open and therapeutically aware, so victims of historic abuse have felt able to come forward; concurrently, the police have become better trained in such matters, and more committed to seeking justice.
But unfortunately we have no evidence whatsoever that we are living in the best of all possible worlds – on the contrary, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that this is a pretty scuzzy world. After all, what could be more morally dubious than announcing a great clearing of the Augean stables and then proceeding to dump a whole load more ordure on the heads of those who have already suffered?
The idea that a Kiwi lawyer can swan over here and pick up rather more than £300,000 for rather less than a year of futile “inquiries” is infuriating even if you have no personal stake. At least the criticism Lowell Goddard was facing related to personal rather than institutional peccancy: those that preceded her – Elizabeth Butler-Sloss and Fiona Woolf – were compelled to go because they were personifications of the very knotted establishment they sought to unpick. Their first investigation needed to be into themselves.
Which leads us back to the high prevalence of child abuse in Britain. I was a child in the 1970s, and have, in recent years, watched as the sunny uplands of my recall are darkened by successive revelations of widespread, institutionally engrafted child abuse. If I want to infuriate my own children, I have only to summon up this redundant cliché about the recent past: “It was an innocent era.”
But I do still think the Seventies were innocent in this sense: the seismic waves were rippling out from the sexy Sixties, but people were completely naive when it came to both the politics and the morals of greater promiscuity. Second-wave feminism had hardly any traction on sexual discourse, and liberals and socialists alike made a specious equivalence between free collective love and free collective bargaining.
We were young idealists in a culture that dinned this into us: more sex = good sex. No wonder we were easy pickings for the Saviles and the Smiths. Though not as easy as the boys and girls who were in care, at boarding schools, or otherwise at the mercy of the men in authority, and the women who were complicit in their crimes.
The picture that emerges from the survivors' evidence is of an organisational culture, in businesses, the BBC, local government and even hospitals, typified by a sort of surly yet fawning subservience. The famous disc jockey is visiting; give him a key and the run of the place. The local MP wants to come by late at night to talk to some of the boys; fine, let's leave him to his own devices. It wasn't necessary for anyone to turn a blind eye, because the corridors in these establishments were so labyrinthine that no one could see clearly for more than a few feet: minding-your-own-business was the shibboleth sealing everyone's lips.
In a way, the pattern of institutional child abuse, with powerful individuals who bestrode the national stage being allowed unrestricted underage footsie at a local level, seems like a bizarre analogue of Britain's equally labyrinthine local government finances. Ever unwilling to cede its tax-raising powers, Westminster retains a whip hand over councils, such that even the lowliest lobby fodder becomes a veritable nabob once he's dealing with the little people, whether they be metaphorically or literally little.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has tried to steamroller its way into public acceptance by its appellation alone; but its capacity to interrogate Westminster meaningfully remains utterly unproven. For victims, this can't help but seem like some deranged repetition: the first time they were sexually abused it was a local tragedy; since then, they've been abused again and again, and now it's a national farce.
I wish I could have consoled my friend by complimenting him on his native system of devolved tax-raising powers, but in point of fact system in France is just as Byzantine and centralised as our own; which is why, I suspect, there are a good many fonctionnaires out there still minding the business of powerful French paedophiles.
In a post-Brexit world, one in which we are supposedly committed to mending the fabric of our civil society, it seems to me the Prime Minister's priority must be to make the inquiry she herself announced in 2014 truly fit for purpose – and if that entails some siphoning off of power from the centre, so much the better.
School Program Loses $6.3 Million Federal Grant For Alleged Child Abuse
by Steve Birr
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) pulled a $6.3 million federal grant from a Maryland county's Head Start program Wednesday after allegations of child abuse and neglect went uncorrected.
Federal officials terminated the grant for the Prince George's County Head Start program after the program failed to urgently reform various “deficiencies.” HHS alleges teachers, “ humiliated children in the classroom, used corporal punishment as a method of discipline and left a child unattended.” This included an incident where a teacher forced a 3-year-old boy who wet himself during naptime to clean up the urine while the teacher filmed him and texted the child's mother a photo with the caption, “LOL, he worked that mop tho,” reports WJLA.
The teacher left the 3-year-old in his dirty cloths while he cleaned, and even gave him a “behavior notice.” The mother reported the incident to family services.
“Serious reports were made regarding individuals – both working for the Head Start program and regularly volunteering for the larger school District – taking inappropriate pictures of children,” the report said of an incident from February. “A review of photographs and texts messages found pictures of children taken by staff members were used to humiliate and emotionally abuse children in the Head Start program.”
Child abuse education effort begins 14th year
by The Sydney Daily News
CINCINNATI — As Catholic school students resume classes, the Partnering to Protect Children child abuse and peer abuse prevention is set to begin its 13th year of operation in Archdiocese of Cincinnati schools.
Since 2003, a total of 64,269 students, 920 parents and 862 school staff members at our schools have taken part in the school-based program conducted by the Council on Child Abuse under contract from the Archdiocese.
The Council developed the program to help educators, parents and children in grades K-12 define and identify child abuse, peer abuse/bullying and other inappropriate behaviors, and teach strategies to address these problems in schools.
First, Council staff members make presentations to school personnel and parents prior to the presentations to children. Then trained professionals use DVDs, interactive discussions, small group activities, role-playing and follow-up handouts with the children. After classroom presentations, children have an opportunity to speak individually with Council staff to ask questions or share concerns. Children's disclosures requiring adult intervention are forwarded to the appropriate personnel or authorities for intervention and follow-up support.
At the Archdiocesan schools involved in the program since 2003, the Council reports that there have been:
• 2,850 children identified as needing intervention of some sort;
• 1,795 disclosures of current, previous or possible bullying;
• 561 disclosures of family or other concerns; including witnessing domestic violence and animal abuse
• 107 disclosures of current, previous or possible sexual abuse;
• 92 reports to Children's Services;
• 136 disclosures of current, previous or possible physical abuse.
“Prevention education for adults and children have proven effective in the identification, intervention and prevention of child abuse and peer abuse,” said Eve Pearl, executive director of the Council on Child Abuse of Southern Ohio. “Research has shown that these prevention programs help create safer schools where children don't fear teasing, bullying or violence, and can be more receptive to learning.”
Before the creation of Partnering to Protect Children as an Archdiocese-coordinated and funded program, the Council on Child Abuse had supplied programs to 90 Archdiocesan schools on an individual basis from 1990 to 2002. Those efforts reached almost 26,000 students, almost 800 parents and 350 staff members.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati is the 38th largest Catholic diocese in the country, with almost 500,000 Catholics, and has the sixth largest network of Catholic schools in terms of enrollment. The 19-county territory includes 211 parishes and 111 Catholic primary and secondary schools.
Child abuse survivors recount trauma
by Abhay Singh
Vikas (name changed) was sexually abused as a child. He remained silent about it for 30 years but he has now decided to confront the skeletons in his closet and speak out about his ordeal.
"I had gone for an eye check up to a doctor who had been referred to me by my father's friends. While supposedly checking my eyes the doctor started touching and playing with my private parts. I tried to remove his hand, but he resumed with the touching and it continued when I visited the doctor again," said Vikas.
The incident happened to him when he was 16. Now he is 45, married with two children.
"I didn't tell anyone about the incident be it my parents, friends or anyone in the eye clinic. What has disturbed me about the incident is that I started thinking of myself as a weak person. I felt that if I told people about the incident, they would think I am weak," said Vikas.
After nearly 18 years of marriage, Vikas finally told his wife about it and then opened up to his friends.
"After sharing my story I learnt that these incidents happen regularly. In a biological perspective, our brain stops working and it's impossible to react," said Vikas.
There are many such stories where people do not speak about sexual abuse because of social stigma. Aarti (name changed) had hopes of earning a lot of money when she moved to Sonipat when she just 15.
"I was working as a domestic help in Sonipat area I was not allowed to contact my family and I was also beaten up," said the girl.
In 2011 a man proposed to her twice but she refused. "One day when I came to my employers house from the market, that person came and closed the door. He sexually assaulted me and this happened again in 2013,"said the girl.
She did not tell anyone and even contemplated suicide. Her employers too were unaware of the incident. "Boys are never blamed for their mistakes. It's the girls who are blamed for sexual abuse they face," said the girl.
Anjali (name changed) was sexually abused by a bus conductor and her cousin. Anjali was nine when she realised that she did not like the hugging and kissing or the conductor's way of coming close.
"I was in 2nd class so you understand the situation of a child when he or she cannot understand immediately," said the girl, adding that she spent six months like that.
One day the girl told her sister about the incident who told her that she will talk to the conductor. "I said no, don't talk to him, he will threaten me," said the girl.
Finally she complained after which the girl's best friend came to her and told her off for accusing the conductor. When the girl turned 16 she faced fresh harassment from her cousin when she was sleeping in her house.
"I could not even tell my mother about it," said the girl who is now married and leading a happy life. In all these cases the survivors have said children should be taught how to react and not ignore sexual abuse. RS Chaurasia, chairperson of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, said child sexual abuse is like clipping the flight of childhood.
India has one of the strongest laws against sexual abuse of children in the form of The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012. But unfortunately, POCSO had only 1% conviction, 4% acquittal and 95% pendency rate in 2014.
Human-trafficking sweep leads to 153 prostitution-related arrests and rescue of 10 sex-trafficking victims
by Erica Evans
A multi-agency crackdown on human trafficking in Los Angeles led to 153 prostitution-related arrests and the rescue of 10 victims forced into the sex trade, police said Wednesday.
Operation Summer Rescue, which began Aug. 10 and ended Saturday, focused on the rescue and recovery of children who were being sexually exploited throughout Los Angeles County.
“Human trafficking continues to plague our society and victimize our youth,” the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement.
Eight of the sex-trafficking victims were minors between the ages of 15 and 17, and two were adults, police said. Nine were female and one was male.
The recovered youth were placed in protective custody and are receiving assistance from the Department of Children and Family Services as well as outreach groups such as Saving Innocence and the Dream Center.
Los Angeles Police Officer Tim Stack, who helped coordinate the operation, said children who get involved in prostitution usually come from unstable homes where they've experience sexual abuse or family violence.
“The people trafficking these young girls are master manipulators, looking specifically for girls in need of a father figure or a provider,” Stack said. “They make them believe they will lead a glamorous lifestyle and make a lot of money, but that's nowhere near the truth.”
During the operation, vice squads worked undercover, Stack said. Some simply walked around and surveyed areas where suspicious activity was occurring, while others acted as customers.
In addition to the 153 prostitution-related arrests, 133 arrests were made for various other offenses as police came into contact with criminal activity, authorities said.
“We were able to get all the vice units to focus their attention every night for three days in a row, which is how we were able to get such high numbers,” Stack said. “We want to show that human trafficking is not tolerated.”
The operation was led by LAPD's Detective Support and Vice Division and Human Trafficking Unit, in partnership with the department's Internet Crimes Against Children and Geographic Vice units, the L.A. Regional Human Trafficking Task Force and the FBI's Innocence Lost program. The L.A. County district attorney's office and Probation Department also contributed.
Stack said the department conducts sweeps a few times each year, but still, human trafficking is a pervasive problem.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center lists California as the state with the highest number of reported sex-trafficking victims, with 682 cases reported this year. Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego were listed in 2009 as three of the FBI's top 13 child sex-trafficking areas in the nation.
“So much of it happens out here, we could do the operation five or six more times and we would still have a lot of trafficking going on,” Stack said. “But I would say any of those rescues makes these operations very well worth it.”
Local police train to fight human trafficking
NEWPORT NEWS, Va (WAVY) — Virginia's Attorney General and Homeland Security wrapped up a two-day human tracking awareness event in Hampton Roads Wednesday.
The training was designed to help citizens spot victims of trafficking.
“I know that there is hope, I honestly do,” said human trafficking victim Tanya Street.
In a dark room at the Norfolk Police 3rd Precinct, the focus was on a crime that lurks in the shadows. Human trafficking is everywhere and Hampton Roads is no different.
“Because of sea ports and airports, because of the number of interstates we have in Virginia and our central location along the mid-Atlantic coast it happening here,” added Attorney General Mark Herring.
Herring has teamed up with Homeland Security's Blue Campaign to combat the problem. He says the majority of cases involved young women being sold for sex.
“When you talk with a victim of human trafficking, you get a real sense of the harm that can occur to somebody that has been forced against there will,” Herring said. “They are robbed of their dignity.”
Victims like Street, who says she got caught up in it because of a former boyfriend.
“What happened to me was horrific,” Street said.
But Street has turned something terrible into positive. She's one of many who are now teaching the community how to spot potential victims.
“They need to know the signs what to look for and most importantly, they need to know what to do so an event like today brings partners together,” Street said.
Law enforcement says people should look for women with bruises or who seem disoriented. There are times the woman won't know where she is. Another sign is when women will constantly defer to someone else.
Investigators say if the community can spot the signs, it will help them make arrests.
“We need everybody that can become aware that we can educate and get more information to be on the lookout for human trafficking,” said Michael Lamonea with Homeland Security Investigations.
Herring says through June 30 of this year, Virginia has had the 12lth most call to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline. This year, the hotline has received 339 calls referencing 73 cases. The majority deal with sex trafficking.
Herring says the training started in Hampton Roads, but the plan is to branch to the rest of the state.
“We really want to get the word out of the shadows and into the spotlight,” Herring added.
'No One Intervened': A Sex Trafficking Survivor Says U.S. Must Do Better For Its Children
by Kate Price
I was sexually abused and trafficked by an immediate family member from infancy until early adolescence. My abuse and exploitation supported his drug addiction. He used a CB radio to advertise me to truckers traveling along the interstate near our house. Extended family, friends and teachers suspected something was wrong, but no one intervened. Instead, most wrote me off. “ That's just what those people do to one another.” We were white trash; I was disposable.
Even though I had straight A's and graduated in the top 10 percent of my high school class, I felt worthless. In my community, I was seen as someone who would never amount to anything. But my mother had higher hopes for me. She knew my academic aspirations where my way out. She had wanted to go to college, but her violent father had convinced her that she could learn as much at the textile factory where she worked as she could in college. Even though she was trapped and could not protect me from my exploiter, she helped me survive by allowing me to have my nose in a book as often as I could and by supporting my dream of becoming a scholar.
Extended family, friends and teachers suspected something was wrong, but no one intervened.
When I was 10, I visited a friend whose mother was a professor at the local college. Their house was filled with books, and the radio was tuned to NPR. In that moment, I knew I wanted my life to look like theirs. My family was ensnared in generational cycles of violence, drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, poverty and shame. That one visit gave me a vision of what I knew my life could look like beyond those cycles, and I held on to that inspiration for dear life as I fought my way out. Six months before I graduated from a college far from my hometown, my mother died. Heartbroken but resolute, I moved to Boston to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming an academic.
I am now pursuing my Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where I am researching how organizational and legislative discrimination toward commercial sexual exploitation of children, or CSEC, can re-traumatize child sex victims and survivors instead of providing necessary services and protection. For instance, 40 states, including Massachusetts, retain the right to arrest a child (anyone under the age of 18) for prostitution, often citing the need to detain “non-compliant” youth or insisting that jail is the only way to keep victims safe from traffickers and buyers.
This approach degrades and harms trafficked children in three ways. First, arresting children for CSEC implies that they are complicit in their exploitation, not victims of a violent crime. Second, labeling sexually exploited children as "non-compliant" ignores the likelihood they have severe post-traumatic stress disorder, which can manifest as victims appearing “uncooperative” under extreme duress. Third, police who aim to “protect” victims of commercial sexual exploitation by locking them up ignore the long-term implications of having a criminal record, such as impeding future employment or educational opportunities. Instead of detention, more resources such as safe housing and funding for support programs are needed so that jail is not seen as the only option for "protecting" victims.
We must also address child sexual abuse and poverty -- two primary CSEC risk factors -- if we truly want to prevent their harm. The United States is ranked first among economically advanced countries for children dying from abuse or neglect and second for children living in poverty. In addition, we are the only United Nations member state that has not ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international children's human rights treaty. Yet, we imagine ourselves as a country dedicated to the health and well-being of our nation's children.
...we are the only United Nations member state that has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Decades have passed since I left my hometown, but I would still be seen as less than were I to return. I choose to shake off their prejudice. I have grown stronger as my advocacy has become more public. I recently appeared on BBC World Service to raise awareness about the scourge of child sex trafficking. My research recently changed child sex trafficking legislation in Florida to ensure that its victims will not be involuntarily detained without receiving protective services that extricate them from their abusers.
My mother dreamed that good things can happen to anybody, even people who have been violated. She didn't live long enough to see that good things have happened for me. I am happy and proud to honor her memory, however, by standing up for children who, through no fault of their own, are victimized as I was. My hope is that our nation will do better for our most vulnerable children, too.
Editor's note : Kate Price has a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for her Ph.D. studies.
George Pell: police consider whether to charge cardinal over child abuse claims
Victoria police will not confirm whether detectives intend to interview Pell in Rome over historical child sex abuse allegations, which he has denied
by Melissa Davey
Victoria police are considering whether to charge Australia's most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, with historical child sexual abuse offences.
Last month the chief commissioner of Victoria police, Graham Ashton, confirmed allegations against Pell had been referred to the Office of Public Prosecutions for a recommendation as to whether police should drop the investigation, investigate further or lay charges.
In a statement issued on Wednesday the Victoria police media office confirmed it had received the office's recommendation but would not confirm what had been recommended or whether detectives would be sent to Rome to interview Pell, who is the Vatican's chief financial advisor.
“We have received advice and will now take the time to consider it,” the statement said. “As with any investigation, it remains a decision for Victoria police as to whether charges will be laid.”
Police have been investigating allegations that Pell exposed himself to three young boys at Torquay life saving club in Victoria in the summer of 1986 or 87.
Another two allegations involve two former St Alipius students, who allege Pell repeatedly touched their genitals while swimming with them at the Eureka pool in Ballarat in 1978-79. At the time, Pell was episcopal vicar for education in the Ballarat diocese.
Pell has vehemently denied the allegations against him, describing them as “nothing more than a scandalous smear campaign”. He accused police of leaking to the media, and called for a Victorian government inquiry into the alleged leaks.
“If there was any credibility in any of these claims, they would have been pursued by the royal commission by now,” a statement released by Pell's office last month in response to the allegations said.
“The cardinal does not wish to cause any distress to any victim of abuse. However, claims that he has sexually abused anyone, in any place, at any time in his life are totally untrue and completely wrong.”
Pell gave evidence for a second time to Australia's royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in March. He appeared via videolink from Rome, after his doctors determined that he was too unwell to fly to Australia to give evidence in Ballarat in person.
The deafening silence of child abuse
Child abuse is largely preventable. But the burden of prevention has rested for too long on our children's tiny shoulders.
by Neha Hiranandani
Stories of abuse are strange. Sometimes they are blazing headlines — '18 month old raped in Kolkata', ‘Teenagers rape toddler in Delhi — but mostly, they silently wrap up inside themselves. This is the story of some of those untold stories, the ones that were desperately locked away in the dusty attics of childhood, untouched and uncleaned.
I recently mentioned that I was writing about child sexual abuse to a well-to-do mother of two boys. “But that stuff doesn't impact my boys, right?” she asked hopefully. Well, before you think that gender, education or income provides insurance against child abuse, consider these facts: one out of every two children in India is sexually abused, most never report it, 52% of the cases are boys. These are staggering statistics, and essentially mean that if any one of us thinks that there has been no child abuse in our family – we are probably wrong.
In an overwhelming majority of cases, the abuser (almost always male) is part of the household. These are uncles, the cook who has been around since before the kids were born, older cousins, tuition teachers and even the family priests. ‘Stranger danger' is one thing but how do we tell our children to watch out for faces who are part of the house?
I went to meet Radhika in Mumbai. She works for a MNC and recently moved from Bangalore. “I just couldn't be in the same city as him anymore” she said. Starting when she was eleven, her mother's brother seduced her. He showed her pornographic videos for weeks while gently reassuring her that what they were doing was totally normal. “At first, he didn't touch my private parts. He kept showing me videos of other children doing intimate things with adults. I remember he stroked my head, and told me that this is how kids show love to big people,” she says dryly. After weeks of graphic pornography, her uncle started to masturbate in front of her. “He did that for many days before having sex with me. And after he did, he soothed me, again gently stroking my head. He told me that this was our special love. I'll never forget him stroking me, kissing me, his special baby.”
Psychologists call this kind of seduction ‘grooming' where an abuser identifies the victim and then spends weeks, maybe months preparing the child and the family for abuse. As the abuser wins the child's trust, he often starts with permissible touching (like stroking the head) and then slowly sexualizes the relationship. The abuser uses threats (‘I'll kill your dog if you tell anyone', ‘your mother will stop loving you') as well as bribes. By grooming children, abusers not only gain the child's trust but also decrease the chance of the child disclosing the abuse and increase the chance of repeated access. Radhika says “minutes after having sex with me, my uncle would have tea with my mother” and so, disclosing his abuse seemed like a “confusing betrayal”.
While I was in school in Delhi, our Mathematics tutor endeared himself to us, a group of 15-year-old girls. Far from the usual disinterested tuition teachers, he drove with us to school on exam days and was ready with hugs or help depending on our marks. He bought us treats and knew all our schoolgirl secrets. We were usually in a group (this made our parents much more relaxed about the time he spent with us) and he effortlessly groomed us all. And then despite the herd, he singled out his victims. He began to call my friend for classes alone. While in the group, he asked her to sit separately in the bedroom while the rest of us sat on the dining table. Soon he made his move writing her sexual letters that detailed all that he would soon “teach her”.
I'll never forget the first time that I saw those letters – how could the handwriting of our Maths worksheets be formed into these strange words? His advances became more insistent, and her grades started dropping. To her parents, this only signaled one thing: she needed more Maths tuitions. The onslaught continued for two years before she could tell her parents the truth.
Till this day, I'm grateful that she told her parents. Most kids never do. Explaining why children hold on to this deafening silence, Dr. Bhagat, a Senior Psychiatrist at Apollo Hospital, says, “A person who is abused does not have many forums to discuss it. One cannot start discussing abuse experiences when there is no discourse about other things in the family.” He's right. Generations of Indian children have watched their parents remain silent on sexual issues, sweeping anything uncomfortable under the rug and looking away. We learn this silence which is further complicated by a tradition that demands that every child must respect and obey all elders. And so children obey and remain silent, no matter what the elders do.
Gaurav has buried his story in silence for two decades. We connected through a mutual friend in Mumbai and spoke on the phone. He started talking about how it all started, on his tenth birthday, “All the cousins had come over and we were playing hide and seek. Hiding in the corner of the backdoor stairs, my oldest cousin told me that he did something special with all ‘big boys' and that he was going to show me since I was a ‘big boy' now.” Gaurav remembers the pain of what followed with his underwear forced down around his knees. “My cousin kept saying ‘look, you're liking it' because my organ grew big. I was confused for a long time – was it my fault?” This guilt and self-blame is a common thread across many survivors. Dr. Bhagat says “Some misinterpret their somatic experience of anxiety as sexual arousal. Many will blame themselves. But the reality, in fact, is that the survivor is repetitively saying ‘no' [to abuse] in many ways.”
I remained quiet on the phone with for a long time after he narrates his story. I don't have the words to fill the silence. And then he says “my cousin always had keys in his pocket that would clink when he mounted me. Till today, I panic when I hear the sound of keys.”
Veena Hari of Arpan, a Mumbai-based NGO confirms that sexual abuse is particularly complicated for boys saying that “boys find it more difficult to report abuse. Because of our patriarchal mindset, most people believe that these things cannot happen to boys. But many incidents occur including inappropriate touching, bullying and same sex exploration.” I cringe thinking back to scandals of priests molesting thousands of boys in the Catholic Church. But why go so far as the Vatican – local priests have so much in common with them. A survivor of child abuse describes how her trusted family priest molested her while pretending to ‘cleanse' her of black magic. She was at her grandmother's house with her family in the next room.
The good news is that child abuse is largely preventable. But the burden of prevention has rested for too long on our children's tiny shoulders. We have to take charge of prevention by talking about sexual abuse to our children early and often. Pedophiles have themselves said that they would find it much harder to abuse children who were aware of abuse. Talking to children about body parts and inappropriate touching is an important first step that needs to be refreshed every few months. We also need to break our cultural taboo on sex and talk about it appropriately but openly with our children. And while we teach our children to respect their elders, lets also teach them to scream loudly if their elders do something hurtful. And yes, its okay for boys to cry and scream too.
But despite our best efforts, not all children will be protected and not all children will scream loudly. In fact, many survivors say that they quietly “froze” during the abuse. ‘Freeze' is one of the brain's survival modes along with ‘fight' and ‘flight'. In this mode, many body systems shut down including the hippocampus, the part of the brain that stores memories. As a result, many children don't recall the whole incident but instead remember disjointed details such as the smell of cigarette smoke in the room or the painting on the opposite wall. Or like Gaurav, the clinking of keys.
And so, we can't afford to ignore any statement – no matter how disjointed – from our children. Because when children tell us their story, often vague and fragmented, it is their truth. Very few reported incidents are false and so, every odd statement made by a child deserves to be investigated by a parent. But while we investigate the problem, we have to reassure our children. A parent's support is the single best predictor of a child's recovery, and our first words of reassurance – without fear, sadness or anger – will set the tone for recovery.
Luckily, we now have a strong law in place – the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act – which passed in 2012. But many police and medical personnel still need to be sensitized on it. Authorities often tell parents not to report abuse but even one child's silence is massively dangerous because on average a single molester will abuse 48 more victims. Despite this risk, police and doctors make statements like “the child's hymen is torn. Don't report it. No one will marry her.” The subtext of these statements is that quintessential Indian fear – log kya kahenge?
What will people say? Its time to rewrite this phrase. One out every two Indian children being sexually abused is unacceptable. We need a safer India. Ab log ye hi kahenge.
CAR to Keep Up Pressure on France Over Child Sexual Abuse Claims
The Central African Republic (CAR) will not back down on its attempts to hold French troops accountable for alleged child abuse during the country's years of civil war, the African nation's president told Sputnik in an interview.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — A UN report leaked in April 2015 and witness evidence that emerged more recently implicate French troops and some UN peacekeeping forces in sexual violence against children in camps for the internally displaced. France opened a judicial inquiry into the allegations in May 2015 but there has been little progress to date.
"France must see to it that justice is done. We want victims' rights to be observed and we have spoken about it with France so that they see a fair judgment delivered. We are watching this case," President Faustin Archange Touadera said.
President Touadera has met twice with his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, in the past few months. Hollande paid a surprise visit to the country in May 2016 to discuss the French military presence there. He vowed that any French troops found guilty of abusing children in CAR would be punished.
"We and the victims believe it has been taking a long time but we hope for closure and sanctions. The people expect this outcome, especially those who were hurt," the Republic's leader stressed.
France sent more than a thousand troops to its former colony in 2013 in a bid to quell an uprising by Muslim rebels who seized CAR's capital. The operation, named Sangaris, was backed by the UN, which sent in a peacekeeping force the following year.
How Community Networks Stem Childhood Traumas
by David Bornstein
Liberals and conservatives often disagree about the causes of poverty and other social ills. Broadly speaking, liberals point the finger at structural factors and advocate for policy changes, while conservatives look to individuals and families and favor behavior changes. Clearly, both points of view have validity. But what's often overlooked is what lies between these two poles — communities and neighborhoods — and the value of focusing on this middle zone.
Last week, I reported on the work of the Family Policy Council, an initiative established in Washington State in the 1990s to stem a rise in youth violence. Policy makers recognized connections between youth violence and several issues: child abuse, domestic violence, placement of children outside their family homes, dropping out of high school, teen pregnancy, youth substance abuse and youth suicide. They gave the council a modest budget and a statewide mandate, so the organization focused on helping counties across the state establish their own community networks to advance integrated solutions.
The council operated for close to two decades before its budget was cut in 2012, but the work it catalyzed continues to ripple out across the state (and is being carried forward through a new public-private initiative). Last week, researchers released the results of a three-year study examining five community networks in Washington. What they found was striking: Some communities had successfully reduced the “long-term social, emotional and physical problems related to abuse, neglect and other adverse childhood experiences.”
“These are very hard issues to solve, and some of these efforts have been successful with pretty slim resources, just a hundred thousand dollars or a few hundred thousand dollars,” said Natalya Verbitsky-Savitz, the principal investigator on the study. The reason for the outsize impact, relative to resources, was the way networks leveraged resources by engaging partners within the community, she said.
The study found improved graduation rates in Walla Walla, reductions in prenatal smoking and alcohol use by mothers, and fewer infants born at low or very low birth weights in Skagit, and reduced alcohol use among teenagers in Okanogan, Verbitsky-Savitz said. What's more, the communities had built up their own capacity to create productive partnerships and coalitions, establish shared goals, and use evidence-based approaches to make progress — although all of them needed help to learn how to make good use of data, mobilize residents and sustain themselves.
The notion that a modest investment in a “community network” can chip away at entrenched social ills seems hard to believe. But the main lesson of the Family Policy Council is that when local citizens acquire the capacity to work together in smarter ways, communities change. “We have to expand leadership to include the people who are most affected by problems,” said Laura Porter, who directed the council from 1998 to 2013. “Not just advice, but real leadership. People will step into that space, and what happens is you get this expansion of resources.”
In Wahkiakum County, in the southwestern corner of Washington State, for example, the community network decided to focus on youth drinking and driving after the tragic death of a child. Residents came together, decided they would no longer tolerate the behavior and developed a strategy with the police. The rate dropped. Then they focused on reducing violence between intimate partners and built a shelter for victims. “You literally had to walk through the police station to get to the shelter,” recalled Porter. It was a way of making clear “that they were going to protect women,” she added.
In Whatcom County, just south of the Canadian border, residents banded together and connected with child service agencies to make sure that when children were removed from their parents' care, a foster home was available in the same neighborhood; this allowed the youngsters to remain close to family, friends and siblings, something vitally important for their well-being.
In Adams County, a rural area in eastern Washington with a high rate of youth violence, Barbara Anderson, the director of the community network, galvanized the community to take action. “I started seeing improvements in their youth violence rates,” Porter recalled, “so I went out there and shadowed Barbara for two days to see what she was doing.”
Anderson took her along to an onion packing plant, where she talked with workers on the production line. Porter remembers how Anderson interacted with workers. For example: “‘Don't you have a third grader? I'm really worried about violence and how we can keep our kids safe. What can we do?'”
Later, they traveled around the county, and Anderson asked people like bank tellers, waitresses and cooks what should be done to stop the violence, Porter said. “She categorized all the ideas. Then she went online and looked for programs and started writing grants. When she got them, she would go back to the onion plant: ‘Mary, we got the money for the Boys and Girls Club, this was your idea, so now you have to help.' And that's how they brought in all these programs for youth and the leadership expanded.' ”
Anderson is now retired. When I shared Porter's recollections with her, she commented: “It's all true, but it sounds so much more glamorous than it was. It really was just part of a community effort. We had a great team of people who didn't like the high rates of juvenile violence, delinquency and recidivism, and we wanted something done about it.”
Everywhere she looked, Porter saw that people at the county or neighborhood level had the capacity to lead changes. But what increased everyone's power was the data and understanding that were emerging about the underlying causes of the social problems they were confronting.
In the late 1990s, two researchers, Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda, sought to examine the effects of trauma among the young, or so-called adverse childhood experiences. In what is now known widely as the ACE Study, they surveyed 17,000 mostly white, middle-class residents of San Diego who were enrolled in Kaiser Permanente, an H.M.O., inquiring about 10 categories of adversity, including physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect. They asked participants if they had witnessed violence against their mother, or if a parent had been an alcoholic, or had a mental illness or been incarcerated, then assigned each an “ ACE score” of zero to 10.
What they found was alarming. Compared with people with ACE scores of zero (about a third of study participants), people with ACE scores of four or above (about an eighth of the total) had substantially higher risks of failing in school, abusing alcohol or drugs, having sex as a teenager, becoming depressed, committing suicide, and developing a chronic illness.
In subsequent years, researchers have looked into the neurobiological mechanisms of how so-called toxic stress — excessive or prolonged childhood stress that goes unbuffered by supportive adults — can cause children's emotional systems to become overwhelmed and dysregulated. The effect is that children become susceptible to having their “fight, flight or freeze” responses triggered. This makes it difficult for them to learn in school or preschool or to form friendships, and leads them to act out or withdraw in ways that can harm themselves or others, including their own children or grandchildren.
In the United States, nearly one quarter of all adults have three or more of these ACEs. But social supports can buffer their effects. The Family Policy Council made it a priority to disseminate the ACE research to its network of community networks. One person reached was Teri Barila, a former fisheries biologist who was coordinator of the Walla Walla County Community Network, and who attended a presentation by Robert Anda in 2007.
Barila had been bringing residents and leaders together across Walla Walla county for years. In some of the harder hit areas, such as the neighborhood known as Edith & Carrie, next to a state penitentiary, she had walked house to house, knocking on doors. “How might we be able to help connect the neighborhood better?” she would ask, and “What changes would you like to see?” Like the residents of the Highlands, in Cowlitz County, whom I reported on last week, the first thing people asked for was better lighting.
“Starting where they were, we built trust and relationships,” said Barila. In 1998, she organized a Children's Forum, now a biennial event, to examine the community's priorities. That led to the establishment of a youth community center, which was soon drawing up to 200 young people a night, and a mentoring organization, the Friends of Children of Walla Walla. The community network tapped leadership from local residents, who built playgrounds and revamped parks.
Learning about the ACE study was an awakening, Barila said. It gave her fresh insight into many youth problems, from drop outs to drug use to violence. One of the central teachings from the research is that negative behaviors are directly related to the accumulation of trauma in childhood. “We have to learn,” she said, “to shift the question from ‘What's wrong with this kid?' to ‘What can I do to understand what's triggering him?,' Or: ‘What's triggering me, so I can remain calm and consistent and reliable?' ”
In 2008, Barila invited Robert Anda to present his research to the community; then she continued to bring together leaders to discuss its implications. After state funding for the community networks was cut in 2012, Barila established a new organization, the Children's Resilience Initiative , and has since led more than 1,000 presentations about the effects of adversity and what works to build resilience, connecting with people working across many sectors. “They've brought awareness about ACEs into law enforcement, state prisons, state housing, parent advocates, health, education, and are now ramping it up to say let's set goals to get all the organizations in our community to become trauma informed,” said Jane Stevens, editor of an excellent news site that covers this issue, AcesTooHigh. (For a detailed account of the changes in Walla Walla, see Stevens's report here.)
Today, virtually everyone involved in social services in the county is schooled in the research on adversity, and 40 percent of residents are aware of the key concepts. The challenge is embedding the knowledge in public systems that have long focused on punishment as a deterrent for misbehavior. One leading model is Lincoln High School, an alternative school for youths with behavioral challenges. In the year after Lincoln shifted to a fully trauma-informed approach in 2010, its suspension rate dropped by 85 percent. From 2009 to 2014, the graduation rate increased from 44 to 78 percent. (The story of the school's transformation is recounted in the moving documentary “Paper Tigers,” directed by James Redford.)
“Every day, we read about violence, suicide and overdoses in the news,” says Porter. “We now know that these things are largely driven by ACEs. We're the first generation that actually has the knowledge to drive these rates down. And the most powerful leverage point is helping parents learn how their experiences have shaped them — and that they are normal. Just recasting that story is powerful. Parents with high ACE scores have the most power to lower it for the next generation. When I talk to parents about this, they get teary-eyed.”
Penn State to get first reform audit since Sandusky child sex abuse scandal
by Debra Erdley
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale wants to know how far Penn State University has come in implementing reforms recommended in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal five years ago.
The university pledged sweeping reforms after Sandusky, a retired defensive coordinator for the football team, was arrested in 2011 and convicted of molesting 10 boys in and around university facilities in State College.
DePasquale said investigators from his office will put Penn State to the test in the first performance audit of the sprawling state flagship university.
The audit, which will look at the period beginning Jan. 1, 2013, will be limited to questions of governance and operational changes recommended in the wake of Sandusky's November 2011 arrest and its implementation of policies to prevent sexual physical and emotional abuse.
Auditors also will attempt to get a handle on the university's efforts to cut costs and put a rein on tuition increases.
While the latter subject has little to do with Penn State's efforts to improve transparency and create a safe environment, DePasquale said it is of critical interest to Pennsylvanians.
After a yearlong freeze, Penn State last month increased tuition by 2.29 percent, bringing base undergraduate tuition to $16,951 a year. Penn State and Pitt, which set base undergraduate tuition for the coming year at $17,688, are often cited as the most expensive public universities in the nation.
University officials cite limited state support among the drivers of those figures, but DePasquale wants to see specifics.
“The cost of higher education is going through the roof, and pretty soon, middle-class families are not going to be able to go there,” DePasquale said. “We're going to go through things with a fine-tooth comb and see if we can recommend any changes.”
Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said the school welcomes DePasquale's audit.
“We understand this is a routine audit that some other Pennsylvania higher education institutions have undergone in recent years. We welcome the opportunity to share with the auditor general our many reforms and actions to help ensure the safety of our community, as well as our efforts to keep a Penn State education accessible,” she said.
Among the policies his auditors intend to review are those recommended in a special 2012 report by Jack Wagner, his predecessor. Wagner had called for increased transparency in the operation of Penn State's board of trustees and a reduction in the size of the board. Penn State subsequently increased the size of the board from 30 to 36 voting members.
DePasquale would not put a deadline on the completion of the audit but said university officials have pledged their cooperation.
Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano, a sometimes outspoken critic of Penn State policies who was elected as an alumni trustee in 2012, was on hand for DePasquale's announcement. He said he welcomes the audit and commended DePasquale.
Number of Arkansas children in foster care near crisis point
by Stacey Spivey
On Thursday 3,055 children in Arkansas are in foster care, but there are only around 1,500 foster homes. According to a recent quarterly report, the number of foster children only continues to grow.
"In Arkansas, foster care has almost reached a crisis point," Brandy Hinkle, Department of Human Services Deputy Chief of Communications, said.
It's a crisis that continues to escalate and change the lives of thousands of children. There are more children entering foster care than leaving the system and Hinkle said they need more to step up and become foster parents.
"There is no perfect foster home like there is no perfect foster kid," Hinkle said.
According to DHS, foster parents will not have to worry about essentials like food and clothing, but rather being there for emotional support. DHS gives foster parents enough money to cover the child's immediate needs.
"We just need folks that are willing and able to love children and help care for them and help through what is probably a pretty traumatic time," Hinkle said.
The top reasons for foster care replacement in Arkansas are substance abuse and neglect. Parent incarceration, physical abuse and inadequate housing also are reasons DHS removes children from homes.
In the recent report, the majority of foster children in Arkansas are 2 to 5 years old and the majority are white.
"Our ultimate goal is to unify families and so we want to give parent an opportunity to fix whatever is wrong at their home," Hinkle said.
The number of those foster children adopted has steadily stayed the same throughout recent quarters, just under 200 children.
If you're interested in becoming a foster parent or helping in the foster care system sign up by clicking this link.
St. Paul's School contests continued anonymity of sexual assault victim in federal civil suit
by Alyssa Dandrea
St. Paul's School is arguing that a teenage sexual assault victim's identity be made public if a civil lawsuit against the Concord prep school reaches trial in federal court.
Victims rights advocates and attorneys who have represented families of sexual assault victims in other cases said Tuesday they're dismayed by the school's request. If granted, they say, it could affect other victims' willingness to come forward.
The latest defense motion landed just days after St. Paul's said it could not have prevented the sexual assault of the 15-year-old former student by Owen Labrie.
St. Paul's has recommended certain limitations on the family's anonymity, while at the same time stating it understands the girl has an interest in protecting her identity. St. Paul's says its right to a fair trial could be compromised if it can't identify the girl in its pretrial investigation. It further calls for a gag order against the family and its attorney.
“Plaintiffs, through their counsel, have planned and pursued a national and local media campaign against the school while seeking a court order to shield them from any effects of the media coverage they are fostering,” the school says. “These conflicting actions cannot fairly be reconciled.”
The girl's parents filed the civil lawsuit against St. Paul's in U.S. District Court in Concord in June under the names John and Jane Doe. The girl is identified in court records as J.D., and the family has asked the court for permission to remain anonymous.
The lawsuit comes in the wake of the 2014 sexual assault of the girl by Labrie. The former student's parents maintain she was the victim of a tradition known as the “senior salute,” in which upperclassmen solicit intimate encounters from younger schoolmates.
A jury convicted Labrie, now 20, of statutory rape, endangering the welfare of a child and using a computer to lure the girl into their encounter. He has since appealed the convictions and separately petitioned for a new trial, claiming ineffective counsel.
Labrie is out of jail pending appeal, but was recently incarcerated for two months after a judge found he repeatedly violated the curfew included in his bail conditions. He was released from custody in May.
Shortly after his release, the victim's family filed the civil lawsuit, in which they accuse St. Paul's of negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and infliction of emotional distress, among other things. The family says damages exceed $75,000.
The school has denied any liability, saying only the girl and Labrie know what happened. However, the two have provided conflicting accounts of that night; Labrie said the sexual encounter was consensual, while the girl said she was raped.
In the majority of federal court cases, plaintiffs file with their real names. Courts will allow anonymity in rare circumstances, and victims rights advocates say the case against St. Paul fits perfectly into that category.
The girl is a minor and a sexual assault victim, who wants justice but not at the risk of public humiliation or physical harm, said Colby Bruno, senior legal counsel at the Boston-based Victim Rights Law Center.
“Someone as young as she is shouldn't have to choose between getting justice and publishing her name,” Bruno said. “Not only can she not undo the assault that happened to her, but by publishing her name, she can't put the cat back into the bag. In the days of internet searches, there is the concern that this will follow her for the rest of her life.”
Bruno said schools have a responsibility to keep students safe. They can't tell victims of sexual assault to come forward and not promise them anonymity, she said.
“This is a loud and clear message for schools that you either want to cure the culture or you don't,” she said.
If the girl's identity were to be made public, the implications would be far-reaching and deter other victims from coming forward, said Lyn Schollett, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. She said the school already knows the girl's identity, and keeping it from the public doesn't compromise the fairness of future court proceedings.
Attorney Rus Rilee, who has represented families in high-profile child abuse and sexual assault cases in New Hampshire, said St. Paul's attempt to strike the girl's anonymity at trial is not uncommon.
“The typical defense strategy in these types of high-profile, complex cases, especially when the facts and the laws are not on the defense's side, are either to attack the lawyers or the victims and here they've done both,” he said.
In a statement emailed Monday to alumni, President of St. Paul's Board of Trustees Archibald Cox Jr. tried to clarify the school's position.
“We did not oppose the family's use of pseudonyms, and certainly did not request that the young woman's name be made public,” Cox wrote.
A pretrial conference is scheduled for Sept. 21 in U.S. District Court in Concord.
Portland diocese settles sex abuse suit
by Danielle Waugh
PORTLAND, Maine (NECN/Danielle Waugh) — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has settled a lawsuit for $1.2 million with six men who claimed church leaders concealed sex abuse allegations against a former priest.
The suit alleges the diocese knew as early as 1956 that Father James Vallely was sexually abusing children in the church, and did nothing to stop it.
“We have another instance of a diocese hiding the truth for the sake of its appearance and monetary concerns,” said Mitchell Garabedian, the attorney representing the six victims.
Vallely was a priest in Bangor, Portland, South Berwick and Machias. The abuse is alleged to have happened in the 1950s and 1970s.
One of the plaintiffs, Lawrence Gray, of Scarborough, said Vallely started molesting him when he was eight years old and an altar boy at St. Dominic's Parish in Portland. Gray said he did not feel like he could tell anyone about the abuse, which continued until he was 13 years old.
“Nobody knew about the dark side that was going on underneath,” said Gray.
But his lawyer said people in the church did know about the abuse.
“The diocese kept it a secret,” said Garabedian. He said his proof is in a letter between church officials obtained in discovery, which references a report of Vallely's abuse to the Bishop. Garabedian believes the people and places referenced in the letter prove that conversation happened in 1956.
The church had previously stated it learned of Vallely's alleged abuse in the 1970s.
“There is no excuse for this immorality,” said Garabedian.
The letter also states that after allegations were made against Vallely, he was transferred to a different parish.
While the statute of limitations for the six victims has passed, Garabedian was able to build a case for “fraudulent concealment,” and reach a settlement with the church.
“Bit by bit, I have reclaimed my life, and taken my life back,” said Gray.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Portland Diocese said:
The Diocese of Portland has settled six claims alleging abuse by Fr. James Vallely in the 1950s and the 1970s. Fr. Vallely died in 1997. The diocese hopes that this settlement brings a measure of peace to the people involved. The diocese respects the privacy and confidentiality of the victims/survivors involved in cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics. We maintain that privacy and confidentiality even if an individual or their legal representation chooses to discuss their situation publicly. As always, Bishop Deeley encourages anyone who may have information about any case of sexual abuse of a minor by a church representative to contact civil authorities as well as Michael Magalski, Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility for the Diocese of Portland, at (207) 321-7836 or at email@example.com.
Stress relief: Joch ready to help child abuse victims
by Paul Swiech
BLOOMINGTON — The newest resource to comfort stressed child abuse victims in McLean County has dark, soulful eyes, a soft coat and a patient disposition.
Joch (pronounced "Jock"), a 2-year-old Labrador retriever, was introduced Monday as the first support dog in McLean County for child victims of sexual or serious physical abuse, human trafficking or witnesses to major crimes.
"If it can help to ease any of the stress that the children are experiencing, that's the main benefit," said McLean County State's Attorney Jason Chambers.
"Joch has the ability to help a lot of kids during a stressful time for them," added Judy Brucker, executive director of the McLean County Children's Advocacy Center (CAC) and Court Appointment Special Advocate (CASA) program.
Joch was introduced to the media at the CAC by his daytime handler — Stephanie Jewett, a CAC child family advocate — and nighttime handler, Jacob Harlow, an assistant state's attorney who handles child-exploitation cases.
Joch is the first CAC support dog in Central and southern Illinois, Brucker said. Lake and Will counties in northern Illinois also have support dogs.
Research has proven that just petting a dog can reduce stress and the heart rate of some people, so some CACs nationwide are adding support dogs, Harlow said.
The center investigates allegations of abuse against children. In a multi-disciplinary approach, children are interviewed in a friendly environment that focuses on reducing trauma. When a case moves through the judicial process, therapists provide counseling to victims.
Joch is meeting with children before and after their interviews. Joch demonstrated how, on command, he can place his head or his head and front paws onto a child's lap and how he can retrieve fallen stuffed animals.
Eventually, Joch may join children during their interviews and during their testimony in court, Jewett and Harlow said. In court, Joch may sit at the child's feet in the witness box to comfort the child without distracting jurors, Harlow said.
Jewett and Harlow spent two weeks getting trained on how to handle Joch at Support Dogs Inc. in St. Louis.
The Children Protection Network — which is supported by donations — spent $11,000 for the training and initial expenses and has committed to $1,500 a year for food and other bills, said network board president Terry Lindberg.
Dr. Kimberly Burks of Highland Pet Hospital and Wellness Center is providing complimentary veterinary care.
Children's Advocacy Center served 356 children in McLean, Livingston and DeWitt counties last year, with 276 from McLean County, Brucker said.
Already, three children have been comforted by Joch, said Jewett, who anticipates that most of the children served by the center will want to see Joch.
"When kids come here, they have been humiliated," Harlow said. "Anything we can do to relieve the stress is good for the kids."
2nd child taken from mother accused of abuse, claims genetic disorder
by Wendy Saltzman
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A second Berks County boy has been pulled from his mother's care, as she stands accused of child abuse.
Action News reported on Jessica Battiato two months ago when her first child was found to have 20 fractures across his body. She says the injuries were caused by a rare genetic disorder.
We've now learned Jessica gave birth to her second son Julius on April 27th. It was a pregnancy she kept hidden from Action News, from her family, and from local authorities.
Children and Youth Services quickly swept in to remove that child, again amid more allegations of abuse.
"I was just hiding it because I didn't want them to take him away," Battiato told Action News.
Jessica admits she gave birth to Julius in secret.
When we first met her this summer, the first-time mother was fighting to regain custody of 1-year-old Caesar, who was taken away after authorities discovered the child suffered from nearly two dozen fractures across his body.
"I want this all to end and I want him to be home, and I want him to be happy," she told us at the time.
Jessica and her doctor told Action News Caesar's injuries were caused by a rare genetic disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and a lack of Vitamin D, a combination that may cause fragile bones and mimic child abuse.
What she didn't tell us was she was pregnant again.
"I'm not legally obligated to tell someone I'm pregnant. I was scared. I think anybody would be," Battiato said.
Jessica says that fear prompted her to give birth in Lancaster County, out of the watchful eye of the Berks County authorities.
"I didn't want that moment where I had my child and for them to be pulled and ripped out of my arms at the hospital because that is what they do," Battiato said.
But when Julius was 7 weeks old, after Jessica applied for state aid, she tells Action News her secret was exposed. Children and Family Services stepped in and took Julius.
"I just want them to know that it is going to be proven that it is something medical," Battiato said.
Hospital records show Julius also has a fracture on his right tibia.
The diagnosis, again, was child abuse.
Now Jessica is facing our camera's a second time.
"Why would I risk that, to put myself in jail? If you are being accused of abuse of one child to another, why would I want to risk that spotlight?" Battiato said.
Jessica had her newborn evaluated by Dr. Michael Holick at Boston University, a specialist who diagnosed both her and her first child with EDS and Vitamin D insufficiency.
"It is with a very high degree of medical certainty that Julius has this underlying genetic disorder that both mom and brother have," Holick said.
Dr. Holick tells Action News that combination, and not child abuse, could explain the bone injuries to both children.
"I wouldn't hesitate to have the children returned to the parents," Holick said.
When we reached out to the Berks County CYS, they would not comment, saying, "The law prohibits Berks County Children and Youth from confirming or denying any involvement with this family."
"They can continue to fight, but we are going to continue to fight also. We are not giving up," Battiato said.
Berks County CYS has also now requested that Jessica release her complete medical records and undergo a full body scan, in an attempt to either prove or discredit her medical claims.
But Dr. Holick says that scan likely won't show anything, because, he says, there may not be any remnants of fractures Jessica suffered as a child.
Child abuse claims: Rival bills in Queensland Parliament to remove child abuse claim time limit
by Sharnie Kim
Child protection advocacy group Bravehearts is backing a private member's bill in Queensland Parliament to remove time limits for lodging damages claims for child sexual abuse.
Two competing bills aimed at improving victims' access to justice will be introduced into the State Parliament today — one by the State Government and the other by independent MP Rob Pyne.
Under Queensland law, a child who has been sexually abused has three years from when they turn 18 to bring a civil action to court.
Both bills remove the time limit for bringing claims.
However it is expected the State Government's bill will only help victims of abuse in institutions such as schools, while Mr Pyne's bill will go further, removing the three-year limit for survivors of abuse outside of institutions, such as those abused by family members.
Mr Pyne's bill also extends to serious physical abuse and neglect.
Bravehearts executive director Hetty Johnston said while both bills were steps in the right direction, Mr Pyne's was stronger.
"It shouldn't be a matter of politics anyway — this is really about the human rights of people who've been victims of crime as children and their access to justice," she said.
"And of course Mr Pyne's bill far better reflects the aspirations and fairness to survivors than does the Government's."
The private member's bill would allow victims who had already been compensated seek further damages, but only where time limits had contributed to an unjust outcome.
Earlier this month, the State Government pledged to release a discussion paper on broader reforms to help victims of abuse, in addition to its bill.
Time limits a 'horrendous problem' for victims
Ms Johnston said it was important survivors be allowed to make further damages claims where they had been inadequately compensated.
"Those people were pretty much forced and coerced into making agreements, settling for some piddly amount of money and signing a confidentiality agreement," she said.
"This was never about fairness and justice and what was right for the victim.
"It was always historically about paying anything to keep the thing out of the press and it's really unjust to create two classes of people who've been harmed."
Ms Johnston said time limits for bringing litigation had been a "horrendous problem" for victims.
"They have problems with their education, potentially problems getting employment, mental health issues," she said.
"It's only fair that those people are paid compensation for what in fact is their lives — their potential has been stolen from them by somebody."
One victim, who did not wish to be named, said he would also advocate for Mr Pyne's bill, despite being one of the potential beneficiaries of the Government's bill.
The man, now 54, was abused when he was 13 years old at a school camp, but wanted time limits removed for all victims, regardless of whether they were abused at an institution or not.
"I think it reeks of inequality as far as child abuse is concerned," he said.
"It's just inequitable the way in which one person can get a remedy and then another person gets another remedy which is far superior."
The Opposition said it was likely to support the Queensland Government's reforms over Mr Pyne's, saying moves to provide justice to abuse victims had to be "real and deliverable".
Waiting on hold for an hour to report child abuse: NSW inquiry
by James Robertson
People trying to report suspected child abuse to the state government are facing delays of up to an hour on the phone and an unknown proportion are hanging up before speaking to a caseworker, a parliamentary inquiry into child protection has been told.
Maria LeBreton, the director of the Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service, told a NSW parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday that she had received reports of lengthy waits while trying to lodge reports with the state government's child protection helpline.
"Delays of between half-an-hour to an hour … [it] seems quite routine for members to report that," she said.
The NSW Department of Family and Community Services child abuse hotline is dealing with an increasing number of reports of children at significant risk of harm, the inquiry was told.
Ms LeBreton's reports were corroborated by another redacted submission to the inquiry from a FaCS staff member, who said wait times to the helpline were not disclosed, nor were the number of callers who hung up after excessive waits.
"For some people it is an enormous challenge to report information relating to risk of harm to children," the submission reads. "This is especially true if these children and young people are family members."
Ms LeBreton said reports of children at risk of harm in some parts of Sydney were being investigated by caseworkers but not in others due to varying levels of pressure on local community services.
"[A child in] Mount Druitt may not be assessed at high enough risk to be allocated a caseworker … but … their case may be closed due to competing priorities," she said. "If the family were to move to [Sydney's] northern beaches, they may be considerably more likely to be allocated a … case worker."
Fairfax Media has previously revealed that logging a report with the government about a child being at risk provides little guarantee of a follow-up visit from a child protection worker.
Recent department data shows 75,394 children were reported to be at risk of serious harm but only 21,547 received a face-to-face check.
About 60 staff members dedicated to assessing children at risk of harm were shed from the department in the most recent state budget.
But the department touted an increase to its funding of more than $20 million this year and nearly $1.1 billion spending on children in out-of-home care.
A spokesman for the department said its helpline had received about 120,000 calls in the past year. About half of the reports made to the department did not meet the threshold for "significant harm".
It said the average call wait was less than 12 minutes and mandatory reporters such as teachers, police and health workers were increasingly using an online reporting system.
"Average call waiting times are constantly monitored by child protection helpline management to ensure that peak call times are staffed appropriately," the spokesman said.
Opposition spokeswoman on Family and Community Services Tania Mihailuk said: "There are now 22,000 children in out-of-home care, and the Baird government's relentless cuts to child protection are potentially placing them at further risk of harm."
The NSW Legislative Council inquiry will hold further public hearings in September.
Turkey Protests to Austria, Sweden Over 'Child Sex' Claims
by Suzan Fraser
Turkey has summoned officials from Austria and Sweden to protest against news reports and Twitter comments in the two countries relating to a Turkish Constitutional Court ruling on child abuse.
Turkey protested to Austria over a news ticker at Vienna's airport that claimed Turkey allows sex with children under age 15. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also accused his Swedish counterpart of spreading "lies" after she called on Ankara to protect children's rights through her Twitter account.
Cavusoglu said the reports that appeared in Austria and Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom's tweet were a reflection of the "racism, anti-Islamic and anti-Turkish (trend) in Europe."
Turkey's Constitutional Court last month scrapped an article in the penal code that defined all sexual acts against children as abuse, triggering concern among children's rights advocates that the move will lead to an increase in child sexual abuse cases.
The court justices voted 7-6 to uphold a local court which argued that all cases should be reviewed individually and that someone who abuses a 4-year-old should not receive the same punishment as someone who has consensual sex with a 15-year-old. The previous law remains in force for six months, giving Parliament time to enact a new law, while children's rights advocates will seek to have the judgment reversed at the European Court of Human Rights.
Wallstrom tweeted on Sunday: "Turkish decision to allow sex with children under 15 must be reversed. Children need more protection, not less, against violence, sex abuse."
A Foreign Ministry official said the Austrian charge d'affaires was called to the ministry on Saturday for an official complaint about the "distorted" headline which appeared on a screen at the airport the same day. The Swedish charge d'affaires was summoned on Monday over the minister's tweet, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules. Cavusoglu said he would hold a telephone conversation with Wallstrom later on Monday to complain about the "slander and lie."
A ministry statement said Turkey was "attached to its international obligations" regarding children's rights and was "conscious of its responsibilities." Cavusoglu said the Justice Ministry was working on new legislation that would address the issue of proportionality and insisted there was no legal void that would allow child abuse.
A senior official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said anyone abusing a child "right now" will receive between eight and 15 years in prison. A new law would "make sure that children of all ages will continue to be protected against sexual predators."
The ministry official said the report was removed from the screen at the Vienna airport following the Turkish ambassador's intervention.
Turkey also demanded the removal of another news ticker at the same airport a few weeks ago that said visiting Turkey would amount to supporting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the ministry said.
Ties between Turkey and Austria have been tense for several weeks, with a top Austrian official saying Turkey was heading toward a dictatorship and other leaders calling for an end to Turkey's European Union membership talks. Turkey, in turn, has described Austria as the "capital of radical racism."
European nations have voiced concern over Turkey's massive crackdown on alleged supporters of a religious movement led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara claims orchestrated last month's violent coup attempt that killed at least 270 people. Turkey has accused European allies of not providing the elected government sufficient support in the face of the attempted coup or its bid to move against the coup plotters.
Sexual Abuse Survivor Took Justice Into His Own Hands With A Hammer
by Rebecca Jane Stokess
Are his actions justifiable?
Online registries for sex offenders are a contentious issue.
On one hand, these registries are an invaluable resource, helping the system keep track of individuals who may be repeat sex offenders. On the other hand, having their personal information publicly displayed can put people at terrible risk.
There are different kinds of sex offenders, too. While most of the names on sex offender registries very much deserve to be there, not all cases are as simple as we wish they would be. For instance, there are many "Romeo and Juliet" cases of young men (and sometimes women!) arrested at 18 or 19 for having sex with their 17-year-old partner.
The way our registry system works, there is no difference in how two so very different offenders would be treated
Jason Vukovich of Anchorage, Alaska is being accused of using the public sex offenders registry to select three victims for vicious battery and robbery.
Vukovich, or as he's being called in the press, The Alaskan Avenger, identified three targets from the registry and is accused of breaking into their homes and beating their heads in with a hammer.
You know what may be worse than being killed by a hammer? Surviving a hammer attack with all skull fracture, like Wesley Demarest did. All three victims survived.
Demarest says that as he was being attacked, Vukovich said to him "‘I'm an avenging angel, I'm going to mete out justice for the people you hurt."
Vukovich was arrested the same night he attacked Demarest, and police found on him a notebook containing the names and addresses of his victims.
It's not surprising to learn that Vukovich himself is a survivor of child sexual abuse at the hands of his father, who was convicted for these crimes in 1989.
It's important to note that the vast majority of survivors of child sexual abuse will never grow up to harm anyone or commit sexual abuse themselves.
But in this case, it's clear that Vukovich probably did not receive the support and psychological attention he needed as a survivor. This isn't exactly shocking, considering the lack of resources offered to male survivors of sexual abuse. Luckily, that is changing.
I think we can all identify with Vukovich's desire to serve justice to people who sexually abuse kids, but obviously we know that beating strangers' heads in with a hammer is not the best solution.
It's just so frustrating that there isn't an easy solution to treating and reforming sexual offenders. Some are classified as pedophiles, and psychiatrists say that pedophilia itself is incurable, but a person can learn not to act on their desires. That's not exactly reassuring.
Vukovich's father should never have abused his son. That part is clear. The system succeeded in that Vukovich's abuser was incarcerated. But the system also failed in helping Vukovich lead a healthy, happy life.
As for his victims, it's tempting to shrug off their assaults. They got what they deserved, some might say. But that's not the way a civilized society thinks. These are offenders who have served their time. Vukovich's idea of "justice" is, in affect, no better than the treatment he received at the hands of someone who was supposed to protect him. On top of all of that, Vukovich is a man who was once a child victim, who deserved a better life than one focused on vengence that would likely land him in prison.
Ultimately, America loves a vigilante. We're the birthplace of Superman and Batman, heroes lurking in the night righting wrongs in the name of justice. But the truth is very often so much more complex than the pages of an artfully drawn comic book.
What we do know for sure, however, is that in a system where survivors of sexual abuse are not supported and given the help the need and deserve, no one comes out looking like a hero.
Editor's note: If you are a survivor of sexual abuse or violence, hope and healing are possible.
Please visit MaleSurvivor.org, 1in6.org, or RAINN for more information and support.
South African jailed for 10 years for newborn kidnapping
by Christopher Torchia
JOHANNESBURG - A South African woman who kidnapped a newborn nearly two decades ago from a hospital and raised the girl as her own was sentenced Monday to 10 years in jail.
Judge John Hlophe in Cape Town announced the sentence, South African media reported.
Zephany Nurse was reunited last year with her biological parents, Morne and Celeste Nurse, after the couple's second daughter befriended a girl at school who looked remarkably like her. A police investigation and DNA tests showed that the two girls were sisters and that the new friend was the Nurse's missing child.
Zephany Nurse's biological parents were in court for the sentencing Monday, but their daughter was not. Judge Hlophe said the crimes that the kidnapper committed were serious, but that he had taken into account her previously clean record and other mitigating circumstances in deciding the sentence, according to News24, a South African news outlet.
Publicly, the girl is known by the name given to her by her biological parents and used in the media in the years since her disappearance. After she was found, the girl chose to continue using the name given to her by the kidnapper. To protect her privacy, a judge ordered that her adopted name and the name of her kidnapper not be used by the media.
State prosecutors said the kidnapper snatched a three-day-old baby from her sleeping mother's hospital bedside in Cape Town in April 1997. The prosecution also said the woman defrauded authorities when she registered the child as her own daughter in 2003 under a false birthdate.
Houston woman charged with capital murder after her two kids' bodies found under neighbor's house
by Travis M. Andrews
With short pigtails and a wide smile, 5-year-old Kahana Thomas was reportedly a happy child. She loved dressing up and dancing.
Her 7-year-old brother Orayln Thomas was a bit more reserved. He went by “Ray Ray” and preferred video games to spectacle.
Even so, the two performed at a talent show on Friday at the Nenes Kiddie Kollege daycare center in Houston, where they lived.
“They had a great time Friday,” Sophia Faultry, the daycare's director, told WFAA.
The two were likely comfortable on stage at the daycare, where they went every day.
“They're with us on a daily basis,” Faultry told the station. “We pick them up in the mornings, and we drop them off in the evening.”
She remembers sending the young siblings on their way after the show.
“We told the bus driver, ‘We'll see you Monday,'” she said.
But she wouldn't.
On Sunday, the two young children's dead bodies were discovered in the crawlspace underneath the house next door to where they lived.
The same day, their 30-year-old mother Sheborah Thomas was arrested and charged with capital murder for allegedly drowning both children in a bathtub on Friday — some hours after the talent show — before hiding their corpses under the house.
Houston police spokesperson Kese Smith told the Associated Press that it appears Thomas first attempted to bury the two bodies but eventually placed them under the house when that was too difficult.
Thomas was charged after an unnamed acquaintance driving toward the intersection of Rosalie and Tierwester found her throwing mounds of trash into a nearby field. When he asked her what she was doing, she said she needed to move from her house immediately. She asked him to help her pack, to which he agreed.
She also allegedly told him that she had killed her children.
He thought it was a twisted joke, a bit of dark humor.
“She was so matter of fact about it he didn't think she was serious. He thought she was joking,” Smith told the Associated Press. “He continued to help her pack.”
It dawned on the man that Thomas might be telling the truth after he asked about her children again, only to receive the same answer. He convinced her to get in his car, then immediately drove her to a police station.
As of early Monday morning, there wasn't a clear motive for the killing. Thomas does not have a known history of mental illness. She does have a minor criminal history but police couldn't offer more details, ABC 13 reported.
Tejal Patel, a Houston spokesperson for Child Protective Services, said that representatives from her office had visited the family in the past, but she couldn't offer further details as to the nature of the visit.
“Obviously we want to know how this happened, why this happened,” Patel told the Houston Chronicle. “We just feel horrible. This is just a tragic case.”
The news shocked many who knew Thomas.
“She made sure she kept the kids clean,” Thomas's neighbor Shirley Baines told WFAA. “She takes care of them. She goes to the store … to me she was like, a real nice person. They are good kids. They don't play with nobody. I mean, why would someone do their kids like that? I mean why? They are innocent!”
Other neighbors agreed.
“I never would have thought she would do that. She didn't seem like the type. She was always with a smile and friendly,” Dee Davis told the Houston Chronicle. “How in the hell can she do something like this? You bring life into the world; it's not up to you to take it out. I can't get over this.”
Geovanna Brewer, another neighbor, remembered the kids as joyful.
“I remember when they first moved in — the kids were happy and everything,” Brewer told the newspaper. “It's like a shocker to me.”
Still, none of the neighbors knew her well. She'd only moved into the house three months prior, her landlord George Shoupe told the Houston Chronicle .
Perhaps most shocked was Kita Thomas-Smith, the children's aunt who broke down crying in an emotional interview with WFAA .
“Why would she do this? Why would anybody do this to their kids?” Thomas-Smith said between sobs.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up by Thomas-Smith to pay for the funeral services. As of early Monday morning, it had raised $390 of its $10,000 goal.
Thomas also has a 12-year-old son, but he was staying with his father and is safe, according to ABC 13 .
As of early Monday morning, it is unclear if Thomas has a lawyer or whether she has yet to enter a plea. She is expected in court Monday, ABC 13 reported.
What makes mothers kill their own children?
by Fredrick Kunkle
(Article from September 2014)
Soon after Catherine Hoggle disappeared with her two young children, law enforcement officials feared the worst — that the severely mentally ill young woman might harm the children and herself.
More than a week after an intense search, and with no sign of 2-year-old Jacob or 3-year-old Sarah, investigators announced that they had begun preparing a homicide case against the Montgomery County woman, believing she may have committed one of the rarest and most repugnant of crimes.
And yet it's the third time in a matter of weeks in the Washington region that a mother has been suspected of harming her offspring.
The act of killing one's child is unthinkable for any parent, but owing to long-standing cultural, emotional and biological factors, a mother who kills her offspring has the power to inspire special shock and revulsion.
“Momma is the loving person, the giving person, the sacrifice person — for them to do something like that is like denying God or something,” said Bobby Hicks, former Union County deputy sheriff who was the first to interview Susan V. Smith, a South Carolina woman who killed her two children in 1994 by letting her car roll into a lake with the toddlers inside. “How could a mother do that to her children?”
Such a mother is seen as someone who is not only guilty of a crime but has violated a law of nature and rebelled against instinct.
But the motives behind maternal filicide, as it is known, are much more complex, even counterintuitive — and troubling, even for those professionals who have devoted their careers to trying to understand them.
“It's just such a delicate subject,” said Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, an emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of California at Davis who has conducted pioneering research on the evolutionary, psychological and historical factors in infanticide.
The work of Hrdy [pronounced HURDY] has created controversy by demonstrating that under certain circumstances, infanticide could serve as an evolutionary adaptation, not necessarily a pathology, in the human struggle for existence.
In an interview and in her book “Mother Nature,” Hrdy said that infanticide is extraordinarily rare among primates, whose offspring are among nature's most costly to raise because of their long path to maturity. It is more common among other mammals, such as lions, that cull their litters.
But nature, over eons, has instilled hard calculations in primates and humans, too: A mother faced with inadequate resources to ensure survival of herself, the child or other offspring might feel compelled to abandon or kill it.
Hrdy's work also suggests, paradoxically, that those pressures may be greatest in patriarchal cultures where a woman's role as mother is idealized and she is under intense pressure to give birth to children and nurture them with self-denying devotion.
“[I]n societies where women have a lot of social support and also have access to birth control and education about birth control and the freedom to use it — in those societies, rates of child abandonment and infanticide are going to be very low,” Hrdy said in an interview. “It is in the societies where you don't have those choices where the rate goes up.”
Phillip J. Resnick, a professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University's Medical School who is considered to be an expert in the study of filicide, distinguishes between neonaticide, a term he coined to describe the killing of an infant by its parents within the first 24 hours of birth; infanticide, which involves a parent's killing of a child less than 1 year old; and filicide, which is the killing of a child up to 18 years old by a parent, stepparent or guardian.
Resnick also categorized five basic motives. There is “altruistic filicide,” when a mother kills in the belief she is saving her child from a fate worse than death; “acutely psychotic filicide,” in which a mother obeys voices or hallucinations commanding her to do so; “fatal maltreatment filicide,” in which a child dies from abuse or neglect; and “unwanted child filicide,” in which a mother rids herself of a child perceived as a hindrance. The rarest motive involves a mother seeking revenge against her spouse — like Medea, a figure in Greek myth who killed her children to avenge herself against their father after he had abandoned her for another woman.
“In reality there are both rational and irrational reasons,” Resnick said in an interview.
A statistical analysis by Brown University researchers of more than 15,000 homicide arrests over 32 years found that about 500 parental filicides occur annually, or about 2.5 percent of homicide arrests.
Just this month, Prince George's County authorities charged Sonya Spoon, 24, with killing her two toddlers — Ayden Spoon, 1, and Kayla Thompson, 3 — in their Cheverly home on Sept. 7. On Sept. 16, District police filed murder charges against Frances Lyles, 25, in the fatal beating of her son, Xavier, 3, in June. Earlier this year, Montgomery County police brought murder charges against a Germantown woman who allegedly killed her two toddlers because she believed they were possessed by demonic spirits. None of the defendants has entered a formal plea, online court records show.
Filicide goes back to the earliest days of human existence, its enduring grip on the psyche still preserved in myths and fairy tales. Even in the Bible, the stories of two key figures — Isaac and Jesus — evoke themes of sacrificial filicide.
In practice, the most common reasons for infanticide include disability, illegitimacy, lack of resources and cultural preferences for males. When twins were born among the Inuit, for example, the indigenous Arctic people sent one off on an ice floe because providing for two was too daunting, Resnik said. Hrdy cites a letter from a Roman soldier to his pregnant wife in the first century BCE with some blunt instructions: “If it is a boy keep it, if a girl discard it.”
By the 16th century, some European countries enacted laws making filicide a capital offense. But in 1922, Britain reduced penalties for maternal filicide, based on the presumption that a woman who killed her child must be imbalanced from the effects of giving birth — a stance that caused feminists to criticize lawmakers for treating childbirth as a pathology and assuming women were less able to govern their behavior than men.
“On the one hand, the mother is a nurturer and a protector, and if they violate that role the public feels they deserve the harshest punishment,” Resnick said. “And yet on the other hand, mothers unconditionally love their children, and there must be something very wrong, and so they deserve leniency.”
The British law reflected the sense that mothers who kill their children must be in the grip of a force strong enough to overpower the deep psychological, biological and cultural traits that normally bind them to their children, beginning in pregnancy. When a woman breastfeeds, her body undergoes changes that deepen the attachment further. Stress-related chemicals subside, and her body releases oxytocin, a potent hormone that promotes emotional bonding. The chemical reaction is so powerful that women who nurse their newborns are less likely to harm them in those first few days when infanticide risk is at its height.
To prevent maternal filicide, Resnick urged psychiatrists to be alert to the potential in mothers suffering from mental illness. Mothers who appear to be in the throes of severe depression, substance abuse or personality disorders should be queried about their child-rearing practices and parenting problems. Mothers who voice suicidal thoughts should be identified early, and perhaps asked about the fate of their children if the mother were to die. Resnick also urged a lower threshold for psychiatric hospitalization.
“Psychotic mothers who fear that their children may suffer a fate worse than death due to persecutory delusions should either be hospitalized or separated from their children,” Resnick wrote, in a paper he co-authored for the World Psychiatric Association's journal.
Society's profound ambivalence toward maternal filicide often plays out in high-profile cases, such as those of Susan Smith and Andrea Yates, a Texas woman who drowned all five of her children.
Smith initially told investigators that she had been carjacked by a black gunman who drove off with her two sons — Michael, 3, and Alexander, 14 months. Hicks, the former sheriff's deputy, said he believed her story until the moment she confessed nine days later.
“You have to understand: This is a small town. In small towns, you know everybody,” said Hicks, who lived less than a mile from Smith and attended church with her. “And you don't hear of mothers hurting their children.”
Prosecutors sought to impose the death sentence. But the jury that found Smith guilty elected to spare her life. She is still in prison for the October 1994 murders.
Andrea and Rusty Yates were a deeply religious couple whose lives revolved around raising and home-schooling their large family in a Houston suburb.
But Andrea Yates also had been treated for severe postpartum depression after the birth of her fourth child and again after her last.
On a Wednesday morning in June 2001, she filled the bathtub and drowned each child one by one. She called her husband, a computer specialist at NASA's headquarters, and told him to come home. She called police.
Debra M. Osterman, a psychiatrist with the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County, Tex., said she diagnosed Yates with psychotic major depression that had so darkened her mind that she believed that killing her children, though against the law, could save their souls.
“She just had absolutely no idea that what she'd done was wrong. She said, ‘Maybe I could have just killed Mary, and that would have satisfied, that would have saved them all,'?” Osterman recalled. “It was weeks later before I felt like I was seeing any life behind her eyes.”
Yates pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Jurors found her guilty but spared her a death sentence. Her conviction was later overturned, and a second jury found her not guilty by reason of insanity. She has been in a psychiatric hospital since 2006.
Osterman said Yates has made progress since the trial, though like many other mothers who have killed their children she will always struggle under enormous guilt.
“She really believes she will be reunited with her children but only if she lives out her life and doesn't commit suicide,” Osterman said.
The larger lesson, if any, is that medical officials should have acted on warning signs earlier and intervened more dramatically, Osterman said. Less than 48 hours before the killings, a mental health worker failed to heed Rusty Yates's pleas that his wife should be hospitalized, Osterman said. Efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.
“I think people really project a lot of archetypal things onto these cases,” Osterman said. “I think this is all very distressing to us because we all feel vulnerable as children. The danger is really right there in the house.”
‘If adults are scared, how might children living with domestic abuse feel?'
With Ofsted planning joint area inspections on domestic abuse, here are some factors which social workers should consider when working on these complex cases.
by Gordon Carson
Analysis of serious case reviews suggests that practitioners do not always assess and follow through on all identified risks of domestic abuse. With Ofsted's next ‘deep dive' joint area inspections focusing on children living with domestic abuse, here are some factors which social workers should consider when working on these complex cases.
Multi-agency domestic abuse procedures can assume that protecting the adult victim will protect the child from harm – this is not necessarily the case. The philosophy that the best protection for the child is the protection of the mother also stops us from thinking about the mother as a possible abuser.
Be careful not to focus solely on individual incidents of domestic abuse, rather than the history and the other issues and context.
Are you or have you been intimidated by violent partners, and would you push to meet with them? If we as adults are scared, we need to think about how a child living in that situation might feel.
Plan direct work with the child to make of sense of their lived experiences. The work needs to be thorough – lip service or surface questioning can make the risk greater for the child because it can give professionals false reassurance that the assessment has been done and the risk is low.
The fact that someone is a victim can cloud professional judgment. Guard against over-identifying and losing your professional distance from victims, which can impact on your ability to prioritise the children.
Do you use ‘easier' labels like emotional harm and avoid confronting parents with the likelihood of physical abuse or sexual harm?
Be careful not to be led by other agencies' handling of domestic abuse incidents and child protections referrals. Also, do not make assumptions about other agencies' knowledge and processes. This applies to all professionals but we need to be particularly mindful of the ‘imagined omnipotence' of children's services by other agencies if a family is known to us, that we are already aware of all issues.
Referrals from multiple agencies about the same thing might be about the same incident but they might not. If assumptions are made and allegations not checked out, the escalation of abuse can be missed.
Child abuse increases strain facilities, CAN staff
by Ralph Schaefer
The rising number of child abuse cases in Tulsa County is straining Child Abuse Network staff and facilities designed to help victims.
In 2013, Department of Human Services statistics showed that one child in 17 would be involved in an abuse or neglect investigation. A year later, that number increased to one child in 14. The 2015 numbers DHS numbers still are being compiled.
Last year, an average of 50 kids per week — a total of 2,516 for the for the 12-month period — came through the CAN doors, taxing the center's physical capacity. The center was designed in 1992 to see and treat about 40 children per week.
These numbers are confirmed cases requiring treatment, said Rose Turner, Child Abuse Network's managing director. Not every report results in a confirmed incident, although each gets investigated. Confirmations occur when law enforcement or DHS get involved and Child Abuse Network Services are required.
Children accepted by CAN receive a forensic interview, medical examination and mental health consultation to protect families. In 2015 there were 1,831 forensic interviews for the year, 738 medical evaluations, 353 mental health services, and 788 case review and case management cases for children.
Children up to age 3 don't receive the forensic examinations, Turner said. Counselors meet with the family and the children receive the medical exam to determine continuing services. When they leave the healing continues and comes full circle so hopefully they won't have to deal with issues again.
Abuse reports are increasing and come from every Tulsa zip code.
The factors contributing to the rise in child abuse cases vary. Some are economic stressors that families experience. Mental illness and the inability to access treatment, as well as alcohol and substance abuse problems can contribute. Some parents get so engrossed with technology, including video games, that they ignore their children.
People are alarmed by these incidents, said Brandi Moore, CAN communications director. They want to be armed with the skills and tools to deal with the situations and know when to make a report.
Child specialists are available to communicate with children and conversations are difficult.
Young children can say who and what happened but not give detailed descriptions within time frames, Turner said. Older children are able to describe details about physical and sexual abuse incidents unless the mind blocks them out because it was so terrible.
Child specialists are trained to get around some of these barriers, but it doesn't work for some children because the incidents have been so traumatic.
Children are then referred to counseling so there is a safe environment where they can process those feelings, Turner said. Studies have shown that if they do not receive the counseling services, they exhibit more high-risk behaviors as adults.
They also can have health issues because they have not dealt with the trauma, whether it is from natural disasters like a tornado or fire, or child abuse and neglect.
Victims often tell stories about abusive situations in a matter-of-fact way. They live in fear because they aren't sure what will get them in trouble.
Children sometimes want to protect their parents because they are supposed to love and keep them safe, she said. People teach their kids about “stranger danger,” but about 95 percent of children are sexually abused by someone they know, love and care for.
“I have interviewed kids who suffered sexual abuse for years by a parent, most commonly the daughter by the father,” Turner said.
These young women come in and tell their stories in a matter-of-fact manner because the abuse has gone on for so long that it is part of their life. They aren't hysterical or crying. And often the protective mechanism has kicked in for that parent. The perpetrator says they are sorry, but it doesn't stop.
Turner said she remains visibly calm during these interviews, but inside she is screaming, “We need to take care of you, put you on the path of healing. You shouldn't have to endure that!”
Every individual heals differently. Some victims claim they have dealt with the trauma, but they haven't dealt with everything, or peeled back all the layers.
The trauma changes the way they interact with people with everyday relationships, friendships and romantic relationships, she said. Eventually they must return to counseling to complete the healing process.
Children are resilient, Turner said, including some who have entered master's degree programs focused on social work.
These are the kids who came through the center.
There is a growing awareness about child abuse, and everyone in the community believes children deserve a safe and supportive home environment, Turner said.
“Maybe that's my Pollyanna thinking because I believe people want to keep children safe,” she said.
Child abuse royal commission investigating immigration department
by Paul Farrell
The royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse is continuing its investigation of Australia's immigration department over allegations of child sexual abuse in detention centres and has left open the possibility of holding public hearings.
In a brief public statement after the Guardian's publication of the Nauru files, the commission took the unusual step of clarifying the scope of its current investigation. The cache of leaked reports sets out the assaults, sexual abuse, self-harm attempts, child abuse and living conditions endured by asylum seekers and has sparked calls for a Senate inquiry into the reports and Australia's response.
A spokeswoman for the royal commission said: “The royal commission does not ordinarily comment upon operational matters. However, because of the level of public discussion in relation to immigration detention centres, the commission indicates the following: The royal commission has an ongoing investigation in relation to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection's response to allegations of child sexual abuse in detention centres. Whether or not a public hearing is warranted has not been determined.”
The statement appears to directly contradict the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, who last year said reports that the commission was investigating the department were “rubbish”.
The publication of the Nauru files has put significant pressure on the royal commission. A number of leading human rights legal organisations released advice previously presented to the commission that argued it had the power to examine allegations of abuse of asylum seeker and refugee children on Nauru. The commission had previously pointed to its own advice that suggested it did not have the scope within its current terms of reference to investigate offshore detention centres.
After the revelations it remains unclear whether the commission will seek to expand the scope of the inquiry to include Nauru or whether it will hold public hearings relating to onshore detention.
The spokeswoman for the commission said: “The royal commission is conscious that a child protection panel was established by the secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in May 2015. The panel's terms of reference indicate that ‘a final report will be provided to the secretary by mid-2016 covering both better practice and a comprehensive sample of reviews'.
“The royal commission anticipates that the report will deal with the department's response to, among other matters, allegations of child abuse in detention centres. The royal commission will have regard to that report in the course of its investigation into immigration detention issues.”
The immigration department has not released the report and it is unclear whether the panel's findings have been presented to its secretary, Michael Pezzullo.
The commission has also been pressed for a response on whether it will examine offshore detention. The spokeswoman declined to comment on whether it would begin an investigation into Nauru.