National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Every day we bring you news articles, opinion pieces, crime stories and official information from government web sites. These are highlights, and constitute the tip of the iceberg .. a small percentage of the daily information available to those who are interested in the issues of child abuse, trauma and recovery. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" and every voice makes a big difference.
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Recent News - News from other times

September, 2016 - Week 3
MJ Goyings
Many thanks to our very own "MJ" Goyings, a resident of Ohio, for her daily research that provides us with the news related material that appears on the LACP & NAASCA web sites.



Child abuse survivor: ‘You're not alone'

by Maranda Faris

“You are not alone.”

The message is written on a jar filled with buttons, on a shelf in a playroom filled with stuffed animals and video games.

The jar is filled with hundreds of buttons of different shapes, colors and sizes. Each one was placed in the jar by a child visiting the Carl Perkins Child Advocacy Center on Lexington Avenue, after recounting stories of physical or sexual abuse.

“We let them pick their own button,” therapist Tabitha Moore said. “They come in here and there are no other kids, and they think they're alone.”

But when kids — who later come to see Moore in therapy sessions — see the piles of colorful buttons, they know they aren't recovering alone, she said.

Moore said that, while children who have experienced physical abuse do come through the Child Advocacy Center, she works more with children who have been sexually abused.

Sherry Cole, Madison County director of the Exchange Club-Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse, said the center helped more than 10,000 children last year who were recovering from abuse.

Close to home

In 2013, an estimated 1,500 children in the United States died from abuse and neglect, while one in 10 children will be sexually abused, according to the Tennessee Child Advocacy Center.

Most abuse — at least 90 percent — is committed by someone the victim knows, Cole said.

A Humboldt woman said she remembers the feelings she had at 3 years old, and again at 11, when she was molested by a relative and, later, a family friend.

The woman, whom The Jackson Sun isn't naming because of the nature of the abuse, lived close to her first abuser, she said. He was married into her family, and repeatedly molested her until her family moved when she was about 11, she said.

“At that time I was so young that I didn't know what he was doing. I thought he was checking my underpants because I may have been wet,” she said. “It started at a very young age, and as I got older it continued and I didn't really realize at the time what was going on, but I knew he shouldn't have been doing it. It went on for years.”

When her family moved away, the abuse stopped, only to begin again with the son of a family friend who had moved in with her. She remembers the abuse, which continued for three years, and that she couldn't tell her mother.

“At the time, even at the age of 14, I really didn't know that I was being molested. I did know that it shouldn't be happening,” she said. “I couldn't tell my mother because I was afraid that she would blame me. By the time I did tell her I was married and had two children.”

The women received therapy through the Child Advocacy Center and later served there as a volunteer years after her abuse.

Her story isn't abnormal to the women at the Child Advocacy Center, or the abuse advocates who work with sexual and physical child abuse survivors. Years later, and with her 60th birthday in a few months, she tells other victims what she didn't know 56 years ago.

“You're not alone,” she said.

Broken trust

Advocates and investigators see both physical and sexual abuse, but sexual abuse is one of the most common reports with children.

Statistics show that one in 10 children are sexually abused before they turn 18, according to the Tennessee Child Advocacy Center. The average age of sexual abuse survivors is 9 years old.

Madison County Sheriff's Office Investigator Lesley Daniel said better education and more awareness of the problem has led to more victims reporting their abuse.

“Now the parents are making their kids more aware of things like this happening,” she said. “They're being made more aware of that's not right and that's not supposed to be going on.”

Moore works in therapy sessions with children from ages 5 through 18, as well as parents in support groups.

“Everybody thinks, ‘This won't be my family,'” Moore said. “These people are people that the family has trusted. They may be family or a longtime friend. They could be an older sibling. Sex abuse doesn't choose which family it touches.”

Moore said that both parents and children blame themselves for the abuse — something she helps them to work through in therapy.

“When they come to me, sometimes they don't realize that what happened was not OK. That's kind of a common thread, that they're scared to keep talking about it,” she said. “Some of it is, ‘Some of this is my fault because I trusted this person, too, and I love this person.'”

Moore said the children's fear and blame is often similar to what their parents feel when they meet and talk throughout the abuse investigations.

“It's the first time they usually get to break down,” she said. “They usually trust the person who has done this. It's usually someone they know. There's a lot of guilt from the parents thinking, ‘I should've known.'”

Moore said one method of prevention is a “safety plan” — talking with children and identifying people they can go to in the event of abuse.


“Make your kids knowledgeable about these things because they're real and it goes on every single day,” Daniel said. “Sometimes it's the people you would least expect to do it.”

Daniel and Moore said parents need to continue talking to their kids about abuse and keep a line of communication open with their children. Cole, the Carl Perkins Center director, hopes that working with schools and churches can provide added safety for kids in the community.

The Child Advocacy Center hosts two-hour training sessions for church groups, parents and schools to identify signs of abuse and who adults should report them to. Cole said the educational programs still have barriers to work around in certain places, where the need for training isn't recognized.

“People don't realize the need, the importance, really the criticalness (of education) and that's one barrier,” Cole said. “Another is that it's difficult to tackle, so people shy away from it.”

Cole said state laws require that teachers and staff members at schools learn about child abuse, and students are taught prevention at age-appropriate levels. The Child Advocacy Center hosted training for several school systems in West Tennessee, training teachers and staff.

Cole said the center has not worked with the Jackson-Madison County School System on training, but the center has done training with schools in surrounding counties.

Jackson-Madison County Schools officials said they receive training through the Department of Children's Services.

For the Humboldt woman who was once abused, education is a vital to prevent a continuing cycle of abuse. She said the Child Advocacy Center saved her and her relationship with her kids and her son later worked with the center as a volunteer.

“You can get help. Don't be afraid. Don't be ashamed,” she said. “The more we speak out, the more powerful it'll be ... Talk about it, report it.”

To report child abuse

•Department of Children's Services hotline: 877-237-0034

•Jackson Police Department: (731) 425-8400

•Madison County Sheriff's Office: (731) 423-6000

•Exchange Club-Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse: Crisis counseling is available to any individual or family in West Tennessee by calling the toll-free, 24-hour crisis hotline at 1-800-273-4747. Other contacts for Madison County offices: Lexington Avenue, (731) 422-6464; Airways Boulevard, (731) 424-7900; Cheyenne Drive, (731) 668-4000, or visit

Warning signs

Signs of sexual abuse:

•Changes in behavior or school performance

•Refusing to participate in activities they enjoy


•Bed wetting

•Change in appetite

•Unusual sexual knowledge or behavior

Signs of physical abuse or neglect:

•Unexplained injuries

•Fading bruises or other marks

•Abuses animals or pets

•Frightened of parents or other adults

•Frequently absent from school

•Begs/steals food or money



Child abuse calls get answered, but questions persist

by John Finnerty

HARRISBURG – If you've been paying attention long enough, you might recall that after the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal, the state's child abuse hotline was overwhelmed by calls.

It was so overwhelmed that many calls never got to an operator.

Advocates and state officials blamed the problem on a combination things – greater public awareness and laws that broadened the state's definition of abuse to require more people to report suspected cases.

Calls to the state's child abuse hotline, as a result, neared 200,000 a year. At the worst of things, 4 in 10 calls never made it to an operator because callers waited on hold so long they gave up.

Today, those problems have largely been eliminated, Department of Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas said Thursday.

The department added staff, improved training and got better equipment, he said. Now, about 1 in 50 callers gives up without getting to the hotline operator.

Angela Liddle, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, said Human Services officials took “a proactive, systematic and sustained approach” to fixing the hotline's woes.

“We are particularly pleased to note that now fewer than 2 percent of calls to ChildLine are abandoned or deflected,” she said.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, who shed light on the hotline's problems in a critical performance review, cheered its progress.

“I sounded the alarm in May because even one unanswered phone call means there could be a child in a life-threatening situation who needs help,” he said. “I am pleased to hear that DHS took our interim report recommendations seriously and implemented changes that could help save children's lives.”

Changes to the law that took effect in 2015 came after the Legislature spent years grappling with how to improve the state's record on recognizing and responding to abuse.

The result was not only more calls to the hotline but an increase in the number of cases of documented abuse.

Muddying the water, though, the rate at which investigators have substantiated suspected abuse has dipped.

In 2011, abuse was found in 1 of 7 reported cases. Last year the rate dropped to 1 in 10.

Last year the state received more than 36,000 tips of suspected child abuse that investigators couldn't substantiate.

The stories behind those numbers are still unknown, said Cathleen Palm, director of the Center for Children's Justice.

How many of those 9 in 10 calls led to intervention by social workers to help families, even if abuse wasn't documented?

How many involved cases where people reported things that were not abuse?

How many times was abuse not documented because overworked investigators haven't been able to keep up with a flood of calls?

People are now getting to the hotline operator. “That, on the surface, is a good thing,” Palm said.


South Carolina

Record number of child abuse referrals at Spartanburg Children's Advocacy Center

by Nickelle Smith

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – If walls could talk, the ones at the Children's Advocacy Center could tell stories of kids devastated by abuse.

“Having a little girl ask, am I still a virgin? Is anybody going to want to marry me after what's happened?”

Executive Director Suzy Cole said in 2015, they saw a record number of child abuse referrals and are on track for another record this year.

“We want them to learn that what happens to them happens to lots of kids. They're going to be okay, they're not damaged. This wasn't their fault.”

“What we think it means is we're doing a better job in this community of reporting abuse to authorities.”

She says a study revealed thousands of South Carolina professionals felt they did not get adequate training in the past.

“Our law enforcement folks are better trained on what to look for child abuse. Also, our teachers are better trained than they've ever been before.”

She also says the passing of Erin's Law is bringing the lesson of sex abuse into the classroom.

“It's a law that requires child sexual abuse prevention education in our schools, so all kids K through 12 will have an age appropriate lesson about touching,” she said. “I spoke to one child in the lobby one morning. She said well we heard at school about a little girl who told about some touching that was happening to her and it made things better for her so I thought I would tell.”

She says more referrals mean more opportunities to start helping these kids piece their lives together through therapy.

“A lot of times you can see the hope that is come through in those drawings from being in a dark place to much brighter, more hopeful place.”

The Children's Advocacy Center serves Spartanburg, Cherokee, and Union counties.



New Child Sex-Abuse Law May Leave Parents Afraid to Even Change a Baby's Diaper in Arizona

by Virginia Kruta

Most Americans can agree that having laws against child sex abuse is generally a good thing. But just as there can be too much of any good thing, some laws - no matter how well-intentioned - can go a few steps too far.

For example, a law that was recently passed in the state of Arizona...

As reported at Slate:

"The Arizona Supreme Court issued a stunning and horrifying decision on Tuesday, interpreting a state law to criminalize any contact between an adult and a child's genitals."

At first glance, it might appear to be one of those "good laws." After all, no adult should have contact with a child's genitals, right? But Slate's Mark Joseph Stern points out one glaring problem:

"According to the court, the law's sweep encompasses wholly innocent conduct, such as changing a diaper or bathing a baby. As the stinging dissent notes, 'parents and other caregivers' in the state are now considered to be 'child molesters or sex abusers under Arizona law.'

Those convicted under the statute may be imprisoned for five years."

Many other states have similar laws, but those laws stipulate that the intent of the contact must be sexual in nature. The Arizona law has no such stipulation - the state's Supreme Court claimed that defendants could assert "lack of sexual motivation" at trial."

And while some may be content to "trust the prosecutors" to refrain from bringing charges against parents who are simply engaged in normal parenting activities, a number of parents voiced concern. Independent Journal Review spoke to a few who weren't so trusting:

Shannon noted that the law would put the risk of prosecution on daycares as well:

"I operated a home daycare for a while and had to change diapers and pottytrain as part of my job. If I didn't, kids would have serious diaper rash, and possibly infection.

So essentially, with this law I'd either be guilty of possible sexual misconduct or gross negligence, either of which would be treated as child abuse.

I strongly believe children should be protected, but why are we not seeing stronger penalties for existing laws rather than new laws that would penalize responsible people who are just doing what is necessary when caring for infants and toddlers?"

Stevie raised another good question - what about doctors?

"This is insane. Not only is it outrageous when it comes to normal parenting responsibilities for everyone with babies and toddlers, but what about parents of kids with medical issues?

My seven-year-old can't administer her own suppositories or enemas. Am I guilty of a crime for giving her medicine prescribed by a doctor?

And what about doctors? How does this law change exam and treatment protocols? Are doctors exempt from this ridiculous state interference in normal childcare? Or will they, like Arizona parents, now be banned from meeting the basic needs of kids who cannot yet meet them on their own?

What's the alternative? How are diapers changed and baths given? How do babies get clothes on? These people have forgotten how to think. It's pathetic."

And Tia showed just how ridiculous the law could be in its application:

"Sooo kids go into foster care while their parents try to prove they were just innocently changing a diaper and the foster parents get fired for changing a diaper and the child is moved to another home that won't work out because they will have to change a diaper.

It never ends. I can not wrap my head around the stupidity of this law. If they keep it this way, Arizona will empty out quick."

Two justices dissented, writing:

"No one thinks that the legislature really intended to criminalize every knowing or intentional act of touching a child in the prohibited areas.

Reading the statutes as doing so creates a constitutional vagueness problem, as it would mean both that people do not have fair notice of what is actually prohibited."

The Constitution, as part of the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment, does not allow for the passage of laws that will be defined later - people must be aware what the law prohibits so that they can be held accountable when they choose to break it.

Stern also notes that such a change completely reverses roles inside the courtroom, forcing the defendant to prove his innocence rather than the state to prove guilt, and effectively erasing the "innocent until proven guilty" principle upon which the American justice system was built.



Diocese of Pittsburgh subpoenaed by state grand jury investigating possible sexual abuse

by Madasyn Czebiniak

The state Attorney General's Office has subpoenaed the Diocese of Pittsburgh for records dating to 1947 to be used in a grand jury investigation into possible child sexual abuse, and the diocese is cooperating with the investigation, Bishop David Zubik announced Friday.

“In the ongoing need to protect children from abuse, I welcome the opportunity to work closely with the state Attorney General's Office,” Zubik said.

The bishop said that Deputy Attorney General Daniel Dye requested the records and wrote in his cover letter, “our efforts do not have to be adversarial. ... Our work to protect children and seek the truth should be a joint endeavor.”

The bishop stated, “I could not agree more. We are absolutely committed to protecting children from abuse.”

The Attorney General's Office did not respond to request for comment Friday.

In the wake of a hard-hitting grand jury report in March about abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, state investigators began conducting inquiries into other Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania, then-Solicitor General Bruce Castor said in May.

Dye was in charge of conducting the inquiries, he said.

The grand jury report said nearly 50 priests molested hundreds of children over several decades in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

The report also mentioned the former Rev. Joseph Maurizio, 71, of Somerset County is serving a 16-year prison term on federal charges of traveling to Honduras on mission trips to abuse boys. He was also convicted of possessing child pornography and international money laundering.

Zubik said he was not surprised by the subpoena, which the diocese received Sept. 1 and requested all reports of alleged child sexual abuse, credible or not, within the Pittsburgh Diocese. The Diocese encompasses Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Greene, Lawrence and Washington counties.

The bishop said the diocese is working to compile the records requested, and was in the process of reviewing files, which it does regularly, when it was subpoenaed.

“The earliest file that I recall recording goes back to 1963,” Zubik said of alleged sexual abuse reported to the diocese.

Zubik said he did not know the motivation behind the subpoena other than to “try to get to the bottom of what happens with child sexual abuse,” but said instances such as the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State and other public institutions that have been in the spotlight relative to sexual assault allegations may have been a factor.

“When you take a look at this, I see a positive sign in this that it's my hope that it's the first step that the government's going to take to be able to examine all institutions over what their policies are and if they have incidences of sexual abuse of minors within their institutions as well, too,” he said.

The diocese will turn the requested files over to the Attorney General's Office through its attorneys. Diocese attorneys have been in contact with the Attorney General's Office to make sure the office knew that the diocese received the subpoena and is complying with it. Diocese attorneys are keeping the Attorney General's Office informed of the diocese's progress on the files and establishing how the office wants the files turned over.

“I ask your prayers for all victim-survivors and their families,” Zubik said. “May God guide everyone in efforts to provide comfort and healing to victim-survivors of abuse. May God enlighten everyone engaged in this legal process.”

The state Attorney General's Office has subpoenaed the Diocese of Pittsburgh for records dating to 1947 to be used in a grand jury investigation into possible child sexual abuse, and the diocese is cooperating with the investigation, Bishop David Zubik announced Friday.

“In the ongoing need to protect children from abuse, I welcome the opportunity to work closely with the state Attorney General's Office,” Zubik said.

The bishop said that Deputy Attorney General Daniel Dye requested the records and wrote in his cover letter, “our efforts do not have to be adversarial. ... Our work to protect children and seek the truth should be a joint endeavor.”

The bishop stated, “I could not agree more. We are absolutely committed to protecting children from abuse.”

The Attorney General's Office did not respond to request for comment Friday.

In the wake of a hard-hitting grand jury report in March about abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, state investigators began conducting inquiries into other Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania, then-Solicitor General Bruce Castor said in May.

Dye was in charge of conducting the inquiries, he said.

The grand jury report said nearly 50 priests molested hundreds of children over several decades in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

The report also mentioned the former Rev. Joseph Maurizio, 71, of Somerset County is serving a 16-year prison term on federal charges of traveling to Honduras on mission trips to abuse boys. He was also convicted of possessing child pornography and international money laundering.

Zubik said he was not surprised by the subpoena, which the diocese received Sept. 1 and requested all reports of alleged child sexual abuse, credible or not, within the Pittsburgh Diocese. The Diocese encompasses Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Greene, Lawrence and Washington counties.

The bishop said the diocese is working to compile the records requested, and was in the process of reviewing files, which it does regularly, when it was subpoenaed.

“The earliest file that I recall recording goes back to 1963,” Zubik said of alleged sexual abuse reported to the diocese.

Zubik said he did not know the motivation behind the subpoena other than to “try to get to the bottom of what happens with child sexual abuse,” but said instances such as the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State and other public institutions that have been in the spotlight relative to sexual assault allegations may have been a factor.

“When you take a look at this, I see a positive sign in this that it's my hope that it's the first step that the government's going to take to be able to examine all institutions over what their policies are and if they have incidences of sexual abuse of minors within their institutions as well, too,” he said.

The diocese will turn the requested files over to the Attorney General's Office through its attorneys. Diocese attorneys have been in contact with the Attorney General's Office to make sure the office knew that the diocese received the subpoena and is complying with it. Diocese attorneys are keeping the Attorney General's Office informed of the diocese's progress on the files and establishing how the office wants the files turned over.

“I ask your prayers for all victim-survivors and their families,” Zubik said. “May God guide everyone in efforts to provide comfort and healing to victim-survivors of abuse. May God enlighten everyone engaged in this legal process.”

The state Attorney General's Office has subpoenaed the Diocese of Pittsburgh for records dating to 1947 to be used in a grand jury investigation into possible child sexual abuse, and the diocese is cooperating with the investigation, Bishop David Zubik announced Friday.

“In the ongoing need to protect children from abuse, I welcome the opportunity to work closely with the state Attorney General's Office,” Zubik said.

The bishop said that Deputy Attorney General Daniel Dye requested the records and wrote in his cover letter, “our efforts do not have to be adversarial. ... Our work to protect children and seek the truth should be a joint endeavor.”

The bishop stated, “I could not agree more. We are absolutely committed to protecting children from abuse.”

The Attorney General's Office did not respond to request for comment Friday.

In the wake of a hard-hitting grand jury report in March about abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, state investigators began conducting inquiries into other Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania, then-Solicitor General Bruce Castor said in May.

Dye was in charge of conducting the inquiries, he said.

The grand jury report said nearly 50 priests molested hundreds of children over several decades in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

The report also mentioned the former Rev. Joseph Maurizio, 71, of Somerset County is serving a 16-year prison term on federal charges of traveling to Honduras on mission trips to abuse boys. He was also convicted of possessing child pornography and international money laundering.

Zubik said he was not surprised by the subpoena, which the diocese received Sept. 1 and requested all reports of alleged child sexual abuse, credible or not, within the Pittsburgh Diocese. The Diocese encompasses Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Greene, Lawrence and Washington counties.

The bishop said the diocese is working to compile the records requested, and was in the process of reviewing files, which it does regularly, when it was subpoenaed.

“The earliest file that I recall recording goes back to 1963,” Zubik said of alleged sexual abuse reported to the diocese.

Zubik said he did not know the motivation behind the subpoena other than to “try to get to the bottom of what happens with child sexual abuse,” but said instances such as the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State and other public institutions that have been in the spotlight relative to sexual assault allegations may have been a factor.

“When you take a look at this, I see a positive sign in this that it's my hope that it's the first step that the government's going to take to be able to examine all institutions over what their policies are and if they have incidences of sexual abuse of minors within their institutions as well, too,” he said.

The diocese will turn the requested files over to the Attorney General's Office through its attorneys. Diocese attorneys have been in contact with the Attorney General's Office to make sure the office knew that the diocese received the subpoena and is complying with it. Diocese attorneys are keeping the Attorney General's Office informed of the diocese's progress on the files and establishing how the office wants the files turned over.

“I ask your prayers for all victim-survivors and their families,” Zubik said. “May God guide everyone in efforts to provide comfort and healing to victim-survivors of abuse. May God enlighten everyone engaged in this legal process.”



After Sexual Abuse of 1-Year-Old, No Jail Time in Sentence for Teenager

by Daniel Victor

An Iowa teenager who was accused of sexually assaulting a 1-year-old girl while the act was recorded will not serve further jail time after he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of engaging in a lascivious act with a child.

A judge this week gave the teenager, Kraigen Grooms, 19, a 10-year suspended sentence and five years of supervised release, according to KTVO, a local television station. He must also register as a sex offender.

He was released after 2 years and four months in jail when he pleaded guilty in July.

Some public reaction to the sentencing this week centered on whether the sentence was strong enough. A man whose Facebook page about missing children and fugitives helped investigators identify the defendant was particularly disappointed.

“He needs to be locked up and have some intensive sex offender treatment,” Tim Caya, who runs the Locate the Missing page, said in an interview.

There was a similar reaction in local media. “Why is it a first time drug offense is more likely to get you a prison sentence than child molestation?” an Ottumwa Radio commenter asked.

Responding to the criticism, Gary Oldenburger, the county attorney for Wapello County, defended the sentence in a statement dated Thursday, presenting Mr. Grooms as the unwitting lackey of child pornographers who tricked him into the assault, as they had done to hundreds of other children.

By pretending to be a girl his age, then 16, the two men, one in New Orleans and one in Ireland, persuaded the teenager to perform sex acts he wouldn't otherwise have done, Mr. Oldenburger said.

Mr. Grooms did not know he was being recorded, the prosecutor said in the statement.

He added that the child was uninjured, no pain was inflicted, and the child was too young to be aware of what was happening. Though the crime was no “less horrible because the child was too young to understand,” the lack of injury is an important factor in sentencing, he said.

“While it is easy for the outside observer to advocate a hard-line stance that every sexual offense against a minor should result in a long prison sentence,” he wrote, “anyone who actually deals with these situations knows that each case is unique and every case must be handled on its own merits.”

The case began in March 2014, when investigators at the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement sought help from the public in identifying someone they believed had engaged in unspecified sexual conduct with the girl, who was between 12 and 18 months old. The encounter had been recorded on video.

Mr. Caya, who lives in Brookings, S.D., created a flier and the post was shared thousands of times, and commenters zeroed in on Mr. Grooms as a suspect. Mr. Caya and other commenters called the police, and Mr. Grooms was arrested the following day.

Mr. Grooms, who was tried as an adult, was initially charged with second-degree sexual abuse, according to The Ottumwa Post. That charge carried a punishment of up to 25 years in prison.

Mr. Oldenburger said the case likely would have been dismissed had it gone to trial. The parents of the victim did not want Mr. Grooms to serve significant jail time and were more focused on him receiving treatment, he said.

The prosecutor also said that important witnesses were unwilling to testify, so the video might not have been admissible as evidence, making a trial more difficult.

He said a long sentence likely would have been overturned on appeal, with a quick parole. The 860 days he had already spent in jail would have counted toward his time served.

Mr. Oldenburger said psychologists did not believe Mr. Grooms was a high-risk candidate for committing more offenses.

“If Grooms was sent to prison for a long period of time rather than being sentenced to probation, he more than likely would be a greater risk to the community after his release than he will be after serving the sentence he received,” he said.

It was not immediately clear whether the men in New Orleans and Ireland have been arrested.



Child abuse hotline nets thousands of Larimer reports

by Jason Pohl

Nearly two years since it launched, a Colorado child abuse hotline has fielded thousands of reports from Larimer County, state records show.

The Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline System went live Jan. 1, 2015, and was promoted in a statewide campaign intended to spur conversation and encourage reporting of suspected child abuse. Since then, operators have fielded 344,000 calls, including nearly 16,000 from Larimer County, according to data compiled this week by the Colorado Department of Human Services.

Those calls resulted in about 156,000 reports of child abuse or neglect across Colorado, more than 11,000 of which originated in Larimer County. Investigators have checked on the well-being of 85,380 youth across the state, including 4,042 locally, as a result of calls to the hotline.

Of those, nearly 20,000 youth were alleged to have experienced child abuse or neglect — 567 in Larimer County, data show.

The hotline has added "accountability and quality assurance capabilities" to those who field reports of child abuse, wrote Robert Werthwein, director of the CDHS Office of Children, Youth and Families, in a statement to the Coloradoan. Call volume, wait times and transfers were previously difficult to track and break out at the county level, and a maze of reporting resources potentially reduced the chances someone would call.

"Everyone in the community plays a role in preventing child abuse and neglect," Werthwein wrote. "... The hotline was designed to provide one easy-to-remember phone number for individuals to use statewide to report suspected child abuse and neglect. The hope was — and is — that people will pick up the phone and call if they have any concerns whatsoever.”

The majority of child abuse reports and referrals have come from mandatory reporters, data show. About 25 percent of reports came from the public, a statistic program administrators hope to increase as public awareness of the hotline grows.

There are four common types of maltreatment folded into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's parameters for child abuse, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect.

Across the U.S. in 2014 there were 702,000 victims of child abuse and neglect reported to child protective services. About 1,580 children died from abuse or neglect that same year, federal data show.

Research shows about 80 percent of perpetrators tend to be parents, 6 percent are relatives and 4 percent are unmarried partners. The rest run the gamut from clergy to coaches, according to the CDC.

Report abuse

To make a report or for additional information about the Colorado program, visit or call 844-CO-4-KIDS. Larimer County's Department of Human Services also has a local hotline available at 970-498-6990.



Rape in the house of God

by the Nation Online

Often, they scream, cry and fight to free themselves from what they consider an absurdity from their religious leaders; at other times, they just lay at the receiving end, believing somehow that what they're being put through may just be right. After all, these are men of God; they know it all and can do no wrong. Medinat Kanabe and Dorcas Egede appraise the rising cases of sexual abuse and rape being perpetrated by pastors and Muslim clerics against young people in the society.

Although they teach the ‘proper' human conduct and respect for God, and enjoy societal respect for their ‘piety;' clergymen, whether of the Muslim faith or Christian – by the actions of a few – are increasingly casting doubts in the mind of their followers and diminishing their value in society.

A recent report emanating from the Lagos State government revealed that over 700 rape, sexual abuse, assault and defilement cases are pending across courts in Lagos State. Of this figure, 80 per cent were abused in their infant stage. The report also revealed that the majority of these cases were perpetrated by people in trust positions, with families and religious leaders occupying polar positions.

With cases and news assaulting the public sensibility almost on a daily basis, from newspaper headlines in recent times, this might not be an outlandish claim. Lagos Police PRO, Ms Dolapo Badmos may have put it succinctly, when she said, “The concern the command is having at the moment is of people, who claim to be religious leaders. They hide under the fact that they are religious leaders to perpetrate domestic violence in the state.”

To underline its concern, the Lagos State Government, led by no other person than the number one citizen of the state, Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode, recently led an ‘All Male Walk' campaign to sensitise the public on the need to tackle the unwholesome trend in the society.

But why religious leaders? Are the cases really on the increase?

Reported cases involving pastors

One example is of 31-year-old pastor Olabode Sunday, who allegedly raped a job seeker on a church altar during vigil, only to tell her that by the act, her prayers had been answered by God.

The incident which happened in Ilorin, Kwara State, shocked residents of Tanke area, where the church is located. The victim, Funke (other names withheld), 25, who had just concluded her National youth's service went to the pastor for prayers to pave the way for her to get a job, but midway into the vigil, the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) pastor allegedly forced himself on the hapless girl and raped her.

Sunday, who was remorseful afterwards, blamed the devil for his action. His outraged church members said the incident was unfortunate, saying by choosing the altar of all places to perpetrate his satanic act, he had dented the image of the church.

In Edo State, another pastor, of the Pentecostal sect, allegedly raped a 12-year-old choir member of his church at Afuda-Uromi, Esan North East Local Government Area.

The little girl (name withheld) had gone to church for choir rehearsals, but while awaiting other choir members, the pastor, who is also founder of the church, called her into his office and carried her on his laps. Thereafter, she said, he began to suck her breast and dip his finger into her private part before raping her. The incident caused her to bleed from her private part, as a result of injuries sustained. But when accosted, the pastor told her father that he was only carrying out deliverance on the victim.

In Ibadan, Pastor Isaiah Ojo, founder Dayspring Family Chapel, Egbeda area, Ibadan, allegedly took a seven-year-old daughter of his friend and fellow pastor, Bidemi (not real name), laid her on the church altar, and proceeded to have carnal knowledge of her.

According to the report published by a national newspaper (not The Nation), the incident took place on Monday, May 9, 2016, but the little girl bled for almost a week, as she was said to still be bleeding by the 13th day of that month.

In a bizarre attempt to defend himself, the pastor said “On Monday May 9, I was in my church premises when she came with her brother. The girl went to lie on the rug on the altar and told her brother that her private part was itching, asking him to come and lay on her. They used to play on the rug before then.

“I went near them to ask what was wrong with her. I had to use my hand to help her scratch her private part. After that, the girl said: “Daddy Dayspring, come and lay on me also. When I moved nearer, I could not do anything with her; I did not insert my penis in her vagina.

“What happened next was that I brought my penis out but I could not penetrate her because her vagina was tight. My intention was to touch her, not to damage her. When I saw that her vagina was very tight, I withdrew my penis and left. There was no blood at that time. I don't know how blood came out of her.”

In Akwa Ibom State, a 60-year-old pastor, who doubled as a traditional healer, Udo Job was arrested for raping a 14-year-old daughter of one of his patients.

The girl had gone to visit her sick father in Job's care, when he lured her into his inner chamber and forcibly defiled her, after sending her mother to the market.

In Awka, Anambra State, yet another pastor, of a Pentecostal church, Jesus Miracle Ministries, is on the run after he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old boy, allegedly.

According to a source, the pastor, who is said to be gay, was told by a native doctor that he would be cured of his homosexuality, if he slept with a male teen.

Narrating his ordeal, the victim (Abuchi) said the incident took place after a vigil service. The boy who hails from Ebonyi State said, “The pastor approached me after the vigil and asked me to stay back. I told the pastor that I wanted to go home since the church activities had ended but he said I must wait till dawn.

“When I insisted, he rubbed a substance on my eyes which made me sleep. When I woke up, I noticed that my trousers were torn, and my anus was damp. I began to cry, as I was feeling pains in my anus. The pastor said I should stop crying, that he would give me money. I rejected the money offer and went home and told my people what happened,” he said.

In Anambra State, another pastor was nabbed for raping a 13-year-old girl during the church's night vigil.

The pastor, with a new generation Pentecostal church, was identified as Nzube Ohuama. The young victim had gone with her parents to the church for the monthly vigil, when the pastor lured her into a private room attached to the church and raped her.

It was also reported that Ohuama had earlier prophesied to the girl's parents three days before the incident that she was being tormented by an evil spirit, hence the need for a special deliverance prayer.

Muslim Clerics not left out

40-year-old Islamic cleric, Abdullah Omobolaji reportedly took advantage of a teenager, Idowu (not real name), having sex with her several times between November 2014 and March 2015, when the act was discovered by the girl's mother.

The cleric, who has since been arrested, was said to have raped her in his consultation house on Bakare Lane, Agege.

According to a newspaper report, the cleric lived in Abule Egba, but had a room apartment on Bakare Lane, where he received clients for spiritual help.

Report said that Omobolaji also beat the girl's mother up, when she confronted him.

Speaking of her ordeal to the Punch, the victim said she could not muster the courage to tell anyone about her experience because Alfa had threatened that she would die if she did.

According to the victim, “It started in November, 2014 when Alfa Abdullahi called me and said I should always come to meet him if I needed anything, since my dad was dead and my mum was unable to cater for all my needs.

“Later, he told me that he had seen a vision, adding that a man had placed an evil mark on me. He asked me to rinse my hand with cold water, which he put on fire. When the water finally boiled and I brought it down, I saw two cowries and a ring in the water. Alfa said that was what the man put inside my body and he (Alfa) was the only man that could remove the evil mark from me. He said he must sleep with me three times; and that was how he slept with me.

“He said I must never tell anyone what happened between us, and that if I did, I would die like my father did a few years back.”

Idowu said a few days afterwards, the suspect called her and asked her to buy an egg. He was alleged to have instructed the victim to rub her body with the egg.

“Then he said I should break it. I found seven needles in the egg. Alfa then said he would have to sleep with me seven times. I pleaded with him not to since he only recently slept with me three times, but he insisted,” she added.

The teenage girl told newsmen that the Islamic cleric after sleeping with her seven more times, continued to pressure her for more sex.

However, a relative of the suspect, who did not reveal his name, said there was no truth in the allegation, adding that Alfa and the victim were dating.

In Ogun State, a 24-year-old Dubai returnee was rescued from the custody of an Islamic cleric five months after he allegedly abducted her from the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.

The suspect, Olalekan Anifowoshe, aka Alfa, was said to have kept the victim, Simbiat (not real name), in his rented apartment in the Atan-Ota area of Ogun State and allegedly had repeated sex with her during the period.

The suspect, who is said to be married with three children, resided in Surulere but kept Simbiat in Atan.

The woman was said to have consulted him in 2013 for help over a spiritual attack before travelling to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. She explained that after receiving a call from Alfa on January 11, 2016, instructing her to come back to Nigeria, she lost her senses and returned to the country immediately.

Simbiat told journalists that Alfa had slept with her for at least 10 times, adding that anytime she demanded to see her parents, he would beat her up and boast that she had reached her “final destination.”

Explaining how she met ‘Alfa,' She said, “Sometime in 2013, I had a dream that a man made love to me. A friend introduced me to him and he gave me a piece of white cloth with Arabic inscriptions to cover my body whenever I wanted to sleep, which I used. Some months later, I travelled to Dubai.

“On January 11, he called me on the telephone to come home. It was like a spell. I packed my things and arrived in Lagos the following day without telling my parents. He picked me at the airport and took me to his apartment in the Aboru. After some time, he relocated me to Atan-Ota, where he was eventually arrested. He beat me anyhow and slept with me.”

The suspect allegedly owned up to the allegations in his statement to the police, promising to refund the money. He said “It is true I cast a spell on her to come back to Nigeria. She was living with me and I slept with her occasionally….”

Another case involving an Islamic cleric is that of a 42-year-old man, Wasiu Lawal, who raped a 38-year-old woman on the pretext of helping her spiritually.

The accused, who claimed to be a pastor, native doctor and a Muslim cleric (alfa), forcefully had sexual intercourse with the woman under the guise of “praying” for her.

On her part, the woman said she did not know how she ended up sleeping in the man's house till the next day. She said the next day, she narrated the story to her husband, who reported the matter at Ikorodu police station, which led to Lawal's arrest.

It was discovered that the accused used one room for pastoral work, the second room to consult as an herbalist and the third one for Islamic consultations.

Human Rights Activists speak

Reacting to the trend, Itoro Eze-Anaba, founder, Mirabel Sexual Assault and Referral Centre, in a chat with The Nation, said “I think pastors, imams and all those religious persons are also part of the society, and they wield certain level of influence on these worshippers, so they tend to exploit them.”

She noted that this exploitation is further fuelled by the peculiarity of our society, “where we are taught not to challenge authority. For instance, a clergy man tells you that God has ordained his sperm to make you pregnant, and you believe it? It's crazy!”

Eze-Anaba said “rape is rape, whether it is perpetrated by a gang of robbers, an older sibling, uncle, neighbour, street urchin, imam or pastor. Someone once shared with me how she was raped by a bishop. She did not even know how to go about the matter. How was she to say that this ‘respected man of God' raped her?”

Eze-Anaba said it is difficult for rape victims of spiritual leaders to report their violations, adding that the reason is not far-fetched. “She might even get victimised just for talking about it. Like I said, these are also a reflection of what goes on in the larger society. It is easier not to believe such stories, and much easier to keep quiet and not talk about it, especially when an adult is involved. But if it's a child, there's this outrage, and everybody is horrified.”

Asked if the centre has handled any such case in recent times, Eze-Anaba's response was an emphatic “Yes.”

She continued, “We have had such cases where the choirmasters, pastors, those people in charge of the church building, like the Catholic Church, abused female members of the church. Actually, in a recent incident, it was the Catholic Church that took the step to report. We have a lot of them that are being abused.”

But are the cases really of manipulations or consensus? Eze-Anaba said: “They know what they are doing. A rapist grooms his victims and knows the best time to carry out his evil deed. That's why 90 percent of survivors know their rapists. They make the plan over time and look for the opportunity to do it. Rape doesn't just happen overnight.”

Speaking on the increased cases of rape in the media in recent times, she said it is now more in the news because more victims are now coming forward and reporters are doing their job. “For us, we'd rather say there is an increase in reporting rape cases. And then there's also more awareness and more people are beginning to speak up. People are beginning to have confidence in the system, and are therefore talking more about it.”

On how the tide can be stemmed, the rights activist said, “Rape flourishes in silence. A rapist would often threaten his victims. For instance, he can tell a child, ‘If you say anything to anybody, your mother or father will die.' The child then keeps quiet because she's afraid for her parents. But the minute that child speaks up, the abuse ends. So, we need to break the silence, we need to begin to talk about it, we need to shout at the top of our voices. If you shout, the rapist runs. You see, a rapist will go after a child that is quiet, vulnerable. He will hardly go after a child that talks because he is afraid she will tell it to the whole world. But he's comfortable going after the one that is quiet, the bookworm, the nice girl, the one that is withdrawn and keeps to herself; the one that just does what she's asked to do by an adult without asking questions. That kind of child is easily silenced.”

Apart from breaking the silence, Eze-Anaba said “Parents need to teach their children, both boys and girls, about sexuality, sexual abuse and rape. They need to teach the girl child to know that there are people out there that can bring harm to them, including their brother or his friends. They also need to teach their male children to respect women, that they are human beings with rights, and this, beginning with his sister.

The Mirabel Foundation works with the police in ensuring the prosecution of perpetrators; but Eze-Anaba laments the slow prosecution process. “Prosecution is slow actually because it takes some time for the police to complete their investigation, before sending it to the EPP for advice. The people will now respond, it will now go to court. But by and large, we also have clients whose cases have been successfully heard within six months.

Speaking on the huge following of these pastors even after they have been convicted of sexual offences, the Mirabel founder said, “If a pastor that's supposed to teach you about God now turns to a rapist, I don't need to teach you what to do. It's obvious that that man is a criminal, and I see no reason why you should listen to a criminal. If you know your pastor is raping members of the church, and you don't report the matter to the appropriate authorities, then you become an accomplice to the man. A lot of worshippers are in denial. They are ready to defend their clergy men to the last. They accuse the rape victims of being the ones who manipulated or seduced those so called men of God.”

Bose Ironsi of Women Rights and Health Project (WRAHP) on her part, believes that clergymen who take advantage of their followers, lack spirituality. She said if they are truly spiritual, they would not be involved in such crimes. She also believes that people place too much trust in fellow men.

“In a sane world, we should trust our clergy men, but unfortunately happenings around us are dictating otherwise. People should not trust easily especially when it comes to issues of that nature. But it's becoming so disheartening. If a mother can be raped, what happens to innocent children?”

Speaking with so much disgust in her voice and expression, Ironsi said, “Unfortunately, we have so many people who wear the garb of religion, look pious on the outside, but are all rotten within.”

To the parents, Ironsi said, “We need to raise our children to understand some of these things that are happening. Some mothers still feel very shy to discuss these things with their children, both male and female. Many parents know how to tell the girls not to have sex and get pregnant, but find it very difficult to tell the boy not to have sex or get the girls pregnant. And there's something about a girl being a virgin, but the boy can be wayward.”

Ironsi strongly believes that adults who sexually assault young people or even female adults do so because of what she termed, power control. “It's also about power control. It is the desire to control people. It's just like you see a policeman with a gun. He has power and wants to intimidate you. So also is this pastor or religious person, who has been given that power to preside over a particular number of people, so he wants to influence them. These are the issues.”

Ironsi has a word for mothers; “I think mothers should be vigilant. Some of us are weak because of certain circumstances we find ourselves. Some of us are even coming from abuse, we were raped by our cousins, brothers, and so sometimes when some things are happening you just discover that you cannot really deal with it. But thank God people are now coming out to speak up. Pastors will tell you they will pray for you so that you can have a child. How can you pray for me? Is it by having sex with me?”

Asked how clergymen who have not had their hands soiled can help the society, Ironsi said, “I think first of all, let the congregation be alert to what these bad clergy men are involved in; and let them not cover them up. Again, let those who are still responsible among them speak up against what the act. They shouldn't keep quiet. They shouldn't say because he's an imam or a pastor, then they won't speak against their fellow clergymen. That's stupidity because it will rub off on all of them. Look at it, they're talking about corruption now, and what they say is that Nigerians are corrupt. But is it every Nigerian that is corrupt? Is it not rubbing on every one?

Should there be stiffer punishment? Ironsi sounded a little sceptical at first, but then said unequivocally that such ‘holy' perpetrators of rape should be made to face the music. “People are doing all sorts in the name of God because they know that Nigerians are religious people. But when such cases are reported, the law should be allowed to take its course, no matter the calibre of the person involved, be he a pastor or an imam. If they are guilty, let them face the law.”

Asked if the recent increase in sexual assaults on minors may not be a result of mental inbalance in the perpetrators, Ironsi responded rather irritated: “There's no mental illness anything. Let anybody not try to hide under the cover of mental illness. It is not even the devil, because he's sitting down quietly somewhere and they go and invite him. Like I told you earlier, it's a show of power. They play on the vulnerability of these children because they know the children can't resist them. If those children could resist them, then they won't try it. You will discover that sometimes when they want to rape a child who can resist them, they are often more than one.”

Ironsi finished off with a pointed message: “People should speak out against all that is wrong.”


New Mexico

Shifting child abuse focus from prosecution to prevention

by Joline Gutierrez Krueger

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — We met on a day when hearts were heavy and minds were spinning over the latest horrible case of child abuse in the community.

Which is to say that in New Mexico that could be any day.

Gathered in a room in the South Valley were the men and women on the front lines of child welfare who navigate daily what has become a broken, ineffective and dangerous system that does not always ensure the safety and well-being of our children.

Once again, that system had failed a child, and she was dead. As usual, there had already been much hand-wringing and calling for change. Increase child abuse penalties, some cried. Bring back the death penalty, others demanded.

But those ideas focused on what to do after the damage was done, far too late and, likely, far less effective in preventing future child abuse cases.

“If we're really going to take child abuse seriously, we need to look at the evolution of how it got to this point,” said Bill Wagner, executive director of Centro Sávila, a grass-roots behavioral health clinic in the South Valley. “Our system is so focused on downstream solutions rather that an upstream model that focuses on what happens beforehand, early on. We need to catch things early on, to promote a culture of health, to look at causes rather than condemnation.”

Prevention instead of prosecution, in other words.

Wagner, who is also a clinical social worker, had called together the group, saying it was important to share their collective voice so that it did not get drowned out by political theater. Among those in attendance were Dr. Andrew Hsi, medical director of the University of New Mexico's FOCUS early intervention program; Susannah Burke, executive director of Peanut Butter and Jelly Family Services; Mariana Padilla, district director for U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and former foster mom and teacher; and an attorney who represents clients involved in the foster care system.

Representatives from the state Children, Youth and Families Department had also been invited but were no-shows, Wagner said.

For nearly three hours, we talked about the troubling conditions children in New Mexico endure. Early on, they said, children in New Mexico often experience high rates of trauma and victimization brought on by emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect, physical neglect, parental divorce and separation, poverty, family violence, household substance abuse and household member incarceration.

“Every indicator of child well-being has New Mexico at or near the bottom,” Padilla said.

If left to fester untreated, they said, any one of those issues could lead to serious health issues, criminal activity, substance abuse, mental illness and a repetition of the cycle of trauma to the next generation.

“Too many of these children are carrying their trauma forward in ways that are completely inappropriate,” Hsi said. “We need to be supporting these families long before they reach crisis.”

The group advocates for identifying the needs parents and children have right from the first well-child checks, at early childhood programs, in schools – even in waiting rooms at county jails. PBJ's Burke said her agency staffs a room at the Metropolitan Detention Center where children awaiting a visit with an incarcerated parent can play and the non-incarcerated parent can be offered support and a list of resources.

“Many parents have not been raised in an environment where their own emotional needs are met,” Burke said. “We're finding over and over that some of these parents welcome non-judgmental support for issues like housing, food, domestic violence, addiction, mental illness, pre-K, prenatal care.”

The group acknowledges that, while early intervention programs and outreach efforts are already at work in New Mexico, they fail to reach every vulnerable child and family because of a lack of consistency in training and screening and collaboration among the various state agencies.

“There's no uniformity,” the lawyer said. “It seems to depend on which social worker or police officer you get. And the agencies just don't work together well.”

Waiting for the situation to get bad enough for CYFD intervention, they said, is far too late. And, they said, CYFD is focused on services needed to reunify a family, if appropriate, not how to prevent a family from falling apart in the first place.

“If we're depending on CYFD, we're way downstream,” Wagner said. “It's like a fireman putting out fires but not preventing them.”

Perhaps the biggest obstacle is a lack of funding and, thus, lack of services. Agencies have shut down, social workers are in short supply and child therapists and psychiatrists have left for other states where salaries and Medicaid reimbursements are higher.

“People in the field say we can't screen for what families need because there are no services,” Burke said.

It will take leadership, the group acknowledges, to make the funding shift to prevention rather than punishment. But we've heard this before.

Several of those who attended this week's meeting have been involved in a number of child abuse task forces and have consistently spoken out about what needs to be improved within the system to protect children and heal families. So far, however, it appears that not enough has been implemented among their recommendations.

“We have evidence of what works, models we can pull from,” Wagner said. “We're just not doing it.”

It's good to keep sharing that collective voice, to keep listening. I am certainly willing to keep the dialogue going.

But it's time to start doing more than talking. Our children's lives depend upon it.



Couple Investigated in 3 States Facing Neglect Case in Texas

by Betsy Blaney

Neighbors said filthy children regularly climbed into trash bins and scavenged for food behind the West Texas house where 11 children lived with their parents. Other residents heard screaming at night — one described "shrieks of terror" — that were quickly followed by loud music to cover the sounds.

"It never stopped whenever they were living there," neighbor Paige Figge told a judge last week, after the children were taken into state custody.

The testimony came during a court hearing for William and Claire Rembis, who have faced child welfare investigations in at least three states since 2001. The couple is now accused of neglect in Lubbock, where one investigator suggested the family may be moving to avoid such investigations, which are difficult to track across states.

The couple denies the allegations, saying they move for jobs and that Texas officials are targeting them because they choose to homeschool their family, oppose vaccinations and simply have so many children.

"They don't eat out of the trash," 36-year-old Claire Rembis told The Associated Press outside the courtroom in Lubbock. Her 48-year-old husband called the allegations "ridiculous."

The couple hasn't been criminally charged, but they face a host of problems in Texas: Their children, who range in age from 16 months to 17 years old, were taken into state custody in late August, after child welfare workers discovered 10 of them had been taken to Colorado amid the Lubbock investigation. The family was evicted from their rental home on Tuesday, and the parents' custody hearing continues next week.

Two of the children also were briefly removed from the family's home in Plano, about 300 miles east, in 2013, and all were removed in a separate case there last year. In Michigan, child welfare officials received five complaints between 2007 and 2012, including one about unsupervised children eating out of garbage cans. In New Jersey, the couple was investigated after their oldest son, who was about 2 at the time, was found wandering alone in 2001, according testimony in the Lubbock case.

No national database exists to track such cases across states. The Rembises disclosed their past addresses to Texas officials, but if families don't divulge that information, case workers have to find it, said Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokesman Paul Zimmerman. Even then, a lot of digging must be done.

"It's easier to track a stolen car," said child welfare consultant Timothy Turner, who has worked for state welfare agencies in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

"It's very tedious and piecemeal," Turner said, noting it can take a long time, letters and phone calls to find cases in another state. "And by the time that all occurs, a lot of times they disappear."

State agencies often can't release details in such cases, especially if no action was taken. In New Jersey, where most family court records are confidential, state law bars the Department of Children and Families from even confirming whether the agency was involved with the Rembis family, spokesman Ernest Landante said. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Bob Wheaton said records in such cases are also closed in Michigan.

Those cases were briefly cited during last week's custody hearing, where child welfare investigator Kristin Stecklein said some of the children didn't have beds when she visited the home earlier this year, including a 5-year-old girl who another child told her slept in a box in a closet. The couple homeschooled their children, but Stecklein said she didn't "see any signs" of school material — a point William Rembis disputed on Friday.

Texas Tech University students who lived next door to the family testified that children were in the alley scavenging in trash bins six days a week. One student, Madison Burnham, said she saw a child eating food from a box she'd recently thrown out.

"I don't think children should be allowed to do that," Burnham told the judge.

Other neighbors testified that after screaming began inside the house, loud heavy-metal music was played to cover the sounds.

Claire Rembis denied the noise allegation. She also said her children wear hand-me-down clothing and doesn't mind them going barefoot.

"It's just being natural," she said. "To us, it's just normal."

Stecklein said the family's home had a "strong foul odor" and not enough food to feed 11 children and two adults when she visited. William Rembis also disputed that allegation in testimony, noting his family received about $1,100 a month in food stamps

"We've never had a problem with having enough food," he told the judge. "My kids are well fed."

Rembis said he wanted to move to Colorado for "better jobs" after losing two jobs since April in Lubbock. Lubbock County Child Protective Services attorney Kacee Harvey suggested another motivation, telling the judge that moving "is a pattern with this family." The judge upheld an objection from William Rembis' attorney about keeping testimony focused on the Lubbock case.

Rembis said he simply wants to get his children back, and "we'll go to whatever lengths are necessary."


Obama AWOL on child porn, sex trafficking, bestiality

Only 1 presidential candidate commits to ending sexploitation of women, youth

by Greg Corombos

A leading advocate for protecting children from obscene Internet content says President Obama has been absent in the fight, and she is now urging Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to play a leading role in the fight against child exploitation, child pornography and other obscene material.

Donna Rice Hughes is president and CEO of Enough Is Enough, a nonpartisan organization committed to “making the Internet safer for women and children.” The group has sent letters to both Trump and Clinton, asking them to be aggressive in enforcing existing laws against obscenity, exploitation and trafficking.

Rice Hughes says the commitment is needed because there has been no leadership on this issue for the past eight years.

“The issue, by and large, has been bipartisan in Congress, but I would say we've seen more aggressiveness by the Departments of Justice under (George W.) Bush as opposed to Clinton. And Obama, I don't know what he's doing,” said Rice Hughes.

She says Obama's record on this issue is appalling, far worse than simply not making it a priority.

“In fact they had a few obscenity prosecutors in DOJ. They only had three in the entire department, when you've got a multi-billion dollar industry. They told me when (Obama) came in, they were told not to prosecute obscenity anymore,” said Rice Hughes.

That's why Enough Is Enough is demanding promises from Trump and Clinton to be out front in protecting kids from online predators and obscenity.

“What we're asking the candidates to do is to agree, before they're elected, to enforce all the laws on the books that are in place currently designed to prevent the sexual exploitation of children online. Those laws are, specifically, the federal obscenity laws, the child pornography laws, the sexual predation laws and the sex trafficking laws,” said Rice Hughes.

In addition, the group is demanding the next president nominate an attorney general who will make this issue a priority and aggressively prosecute those committing crimes against children online.

The pledge also asks the candidates to consider creating a special presidential commission to help tackle the problem. It also wants more resources devoted to hunting down these criminals.

“Law enforcement simply doesn't have the resources and the tools to really get on top of that. The bad guys are many, many steps in front of law enforcement. And like I said with respect to obscenity laws, they haven't even been touched by the Obama administration,”said Rice Hughes.

The pledges went out earlier this year. Rice Hughes says the GOP nominee responded right away.

“Donald Trump's campaign sent back the signed pledge immediately,” she said.

Rice Hughes says the Clinton campaign has voiced strong support for the pledge but did not sign it.

“We did receive a note back from Hillary Clinton's campaign manager that they had a policy against signing pledges but that she supported the pledge,” said Rice Hughes.

She said the campaign director later called her to say Clinton really wanted to sign the pledge but had already rejected many other groups because of their policy.

Rice Hughes says parents are overwhelmed by the flood of horrific images that are just a click away for their kids, noting alarming statistics such as a 774 percent rise in the amount of child pornography online between 2005-2011. Searches for teen sex tripled from 2005-2013. The data show 83 percent of boys and 57 percent of girls have seen group sex online.

Thirty-two percent of boys and 18 percent of girls have even viewed scenes of bestiality.

She says strong evidence exists that hardcore pornography is a major reason for the rise in juvenile sex offenders, why children as young as five years old are acting in increasingly sexualized ways. And she points out that the demand for more graphic like group sex and bestiality content leads to increased trafficking of women and girls to perform in the films.

Rice Hughes stresses the effort to crack down on obscenity is not in conflict with the First Amendment.

“People need to realize that just because this content it out there doesn't mean that it's protected under the First Amendment. It is not. It is there because it hasn't been enforced. Those laws against it have not been enforced,” she said.

“This is about the children but let's recognize that this is about much more. This is about the public health and safety of our children, our women and even our men,” said Rice Hughes.



Boston police want to send prostitution customers to 'John school'

Cops getting tough on sex-for-sale clients

by Dan Atkinson

The city is stepping up efforts to shame prostitution customers — including the prospect of sending them off to "john school” to teach about the horror of
human trafficking.

It's all part of a police initiative to reduce the online sex trade in the city by 20 percent over the next year.

“(The johns) are fueling a violent, violent industry where young people get harmed, and many never come back from that,” said Lt. Donna Gavin, head of the police department's Human Trafficking Unit. “It's not OK to come into our community, exploit our young people and then go home in the suburbs where you think no one's ever going to know.”

Police are set to receive a $30,000 grant from Demand Abolition, a Cambridge-based advocacy group, to bring city and state officials together with victims' rights groups and other local organizations to go over new strategies to fight sex trafficking, Gavin said. The effort is part of the ongoing CEASE initiative.

Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney
Daniel F. Conley's Office, said the state's Human Trafficking Task Force and the DA have pushed for a “john school” — a required class for men charged with solicitation where they interact with victims of sex trafficking — as a way to make men aware of the criminal world they are supporting.

“If a first-time drunk driving offender can have an education program, I see no reason why we can't set that up for solicitation as well,” Wark said.

Gavin said that program was one her group would push for, adding: “I definitely think that's something we're looking to do.”

She said the groups will still focus on providing resources to victims of the sex trade and go after pimps and traffickers, but they also want to target the buyers. She said people soliciting sex want to believe they're engaging in a “victimless crime,” and refuse to think of the exploitation.

“They don't think and don't want to think this could be an underaged girl, doing it out of desperation, who doesn't have a family to go back to,” Gavin said. “They may want to believe it's a victimless crime, but when we confront them, they are ashamed.”

In the past, BPD has published names and photos of men arrested for solicitation and sent letters to people whose cars were seen idling in areas known for sex trafficking, Gavin said.

Suffolk University Professor Emeritus Kate Nace Day, who has made documentaries about sex trafficking, said shaming can be a powerful force to thwart demand.

“Many men do it because they can do it and the price is not very high,” Day said. “This is putting a price on it, a social, moral, personal price on it.”

Advocacy group plots plan to thwart solicitation

JOHN SCHOOL: A program where people charged with solicitation attend classes about sex trafficking, potentially meeting victims of the trade.

GOING PUBLIC: Publicizing names and photos of johns arrested.

DEAR JOHN LETTERS: Letters sent from a police department to the owner of a car seen loitering in areas known for sex trafficking, saying the car has been observed there.



Fla. child sex sting nets 22 suspects, including Methodist pastor who volunteered in schools

by Peter Holley

The men come from any number of backgrounds and range from young to old.

In the end, Pensacola police said, they were united by a common goal: having sex with minors.

During a five-day stretch that ended Sunday, all 22 of the men — including a pastor from a Florida church — were dragged down by “Operation Undertow,” an Internet sting in which undercover agents lured suspected child predators via computer to an undisclosed Florida location, police said.

The men were snagged after they responded to ads for sex with teenage males and females created by agents on “various websites,” police said. Once the men initiated conversations with investigators, police said, warrants were issued for their arrest.

When the suspects showed up at the designated location, they were taken into custody and charged with traveling to meet after using a computer to lure a child.

Police called the effort “the largest multi-jurisdictional Internet sting” since the department arrested 25 men during a one-week-long sting in 2011.

“It is through the collaborating, partnering and building relationships that we protect our children and make the Internet a safer place,” Pensacola Police Chief David Alexander III said in a statement. “This effort of arresting and prosecuting these individuals helps to stop future abuse. This was five days of hard work for our officers, dispatchers, support personnel and personnel from other agencies, in addition to the planning of this operation.”

The men who showed up at the home brought with them drugs, sex toys and plans for illegal activity, police said. Four of the men arrested traveled from nearby Alabama, police said. The youngest suspect is 18 and the oldest — Alfred Foster of Mobile, Ala. — is 71.

Police said Calvin James Pearson, 31, and David Oloms, 24, both of Pensacola, arrived together to have sex with a 14-year-old girl, according to NBC affiliate WXIA.

When investigators searched Oloms's vehicle, they found “a luggage bag full of various sex equipment, bondage and sadomasochistic equipment,” the station reported, citing arrest records.

Police said Bradly Davis Jones, 46, showed up at the residence with methamphetamine and a glass smoking pipe, WXIA reported.

“I'm the only one who could potentially do anything illegal, but I'm not ashamed of anything I do, and I'm willing to suffer any consequences I deserve,” he wrote to undercover investigators while he arranged his visit.

His alleged intention: To have sex with a 14-year-old girl.

Also arrested was David Donald Hoppenjan, 52, who has served as senior pastor at the First United Methodist Church of Pace, just outside Pensacola, since last year.

Police said Hoppenjan traveled to two locations in an effort to have sex with a 14-year-old boy.

Hoppenjan spent nine years as executive pastor at Shalimar United Methodist Church in Florida, according to He also served as the youth pastor at Wetumpka First United Methodist Church in Alabama, reported.

The pastor's biography has been scrubbed from the church's website, but screen shots of his profile reveal that Hoppenjan has five children, grew up in Wisconsin and has a degree in agriculture education with an emphasis on business.

“As a second-career pastor, I received my call to ministry in my mid-30s,” he said in his church bio. “At that time, we moved from Wetumpka, Ala., to Wilmore, Ky., where I graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary in May 2006. I have served as executive pastor at Shalimar UMC since January of 2006.

“Recently, I returned from Panajachel, Guatemala, where I worked with the ministry of Porch de'Salomon. … This trip reinforced my heart for missions and outreach and my desire to support the work of missions from outside our back door to all around the world. While in Shalimar, I was involved in YMCA, Covenant Hospice, Children in Crisis, Habitat for Humanity, as well as local schools as a parent, a volunteer and a church member helping out in any way possible.”

The Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church confirmed that Hoppenjan no longer works at First United Methodist Church.

“As a church, we take any allegation of clergy misconduct very seriously,” the Alabama-West Florida Conference said in a written statement. “The United Methodist Church requires clergy to live by the highest ethical and moral standards. Conduct that violates these standards is a very serious matter and is not tolerated.”

“The safety of all children in our communities is a priority,” the statement added. “This is a painful and difficult situation for members of the congregation that (Hoppenjan) served and we will keep all of those affected in our prayers.”

Authorities said the Pensacola sting involved four sheriff's offices, six police departments and multiple state and federal agencies — a collaborative effort that Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward said “demonstrates the cooperative spirit needed to keep our children safe.

“As a father, I am at ease knowing our law enforcement personnel are successful in dealing with this issue.”

In announcing the results of the sting, the Pensacola Police Department said on Facebook: “This post will not be entertaining. It will not be funny, humorous, or elicit a slight chuckle. This post will not be the one you read to your spouse on the couch tonight. This post will concern you, trouble you, and make you ask, ‘What is wrong with this world?'”

The department added: “These people are out there. You need to watch your kids. Monitor their online behavior. You need to snoop. Be the Parent.”

In May, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said 32 men and women were arrested in an undercover operation — among them, two church pastors who responded to online ads for what they thought were for girls under the age of 18.

A similar series of stings in Florida's Polk County — where undercover detectives lure suspected child predators to an undisclosed location using fictitious online ads — has become well-known for netting suspects who work at Disney World, Sea World and other theme parks.

“You would think that these child predators would learn the risk they are taking, but they don't,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told The Washington Post earlier this year, after announcing the results of another undercover operation. “They're so fixated on these children, they simply throw caution to the wind, and then we go round up another group of them. They can't resist taking the chance, and I can't resist arresting these freaks.”

Sting operations have migrated from chat rooms to apps and social media, places where young people socialize and predators can establish contact, Judd said. What they're looking for, the Florida sheriff said, is vulnerability.

“They used to have to hang out in parks and coach Little League or teach Sunday school in the past,” Judd said in April. “Now they can download an app and look for kids that are in need of attention — boys and girls. When a 60-year-old man wants to have sex with a 10-year-old child, those are the most dangerous of the dangerous.”

Judd recounted how a undercover officer — posing as a 14-year-old girl on spring break — posted a photo of a beach chair on a beach and said she had “nothing to do.” Within minutes, Judd said, eight different “freaks” had posted photos of their “body parts” on the app.

With dozens of men being arrested during each operation, and officials in other jurisdictions seeing similar results, an obvious question arises: Do the undercover investigations deter would-be predators?

Judd said the answer is yes. He said his operations are netting fewer predators now than they did five years ago. Back then, he estimated, authorities would arrest “40 or 50? suspected predators during a week-long investigation. His April sting netted 18, including a football coach from a Christian academy.

“There's just not that many people relative to the general population that are that disturbed and deviant,” he said. “I believe there is a bottom to this barrel. Having said that, they are so focused on finding children.”


New York

A student's chilling photos put sexual assault in focus

by Lindsey Bever

(Photographs on site)

After Brock Turner was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman outside a Stanford University fraternity house — and after he was given a six-month jail sentence widely seen as too lenient, then released after serving just half of it — a student at Ithaca College unleashed her frustrations through a series of visceral photographs meant to expose the horrors surrounding sexual assault.

The project by Yana Mazurkevich depicts sexual-assault dramatizations:

A woman pinned down on a bathroom counter.

Another shoved against a brick wall.

A man about to be victimized in a locker room.

“This is not a comfortable topic,” Mazurkevich said.

The 20-year-old Ithaca junior said her recent “in your face” photo set, as she describes it, is intended to bookend one she released over the summer on the topic of victim-blaming. The new set, titled “It Happens,” focuses on diversity — race, gender and sexual orientation — to show that sexual assault can happen with anyone, to anyone, at any time, Mazurkevich said.

“Sexual assault is not something that just happens to women,” she said.

The images show young adult models — both men and women — acting in dramatized situations meant to illustrate moments leading up to sexual assaults.

In each photo, the victim is looking into the camera, communicating an unspoken “cry for help,” said Mazurkevich, who is a cinema and photography major.

The faces of their attackers are never seen.

Mazurkevich said on Facebook that the new photos were published partly in response to Turner's recent release from a California jail.

The photos, she said, are intended to act as a public service announcement that “aims to continue the conversation on sexual assault, as well as to raise a huge finger to Turner and his 3-month jail time.”

Mazurkevich's first photo series was released in June by Current Solutions, an organization that encourages sexual-assault victims to share their stories of survival to help others.

Those images showed women holding up signs “representing victim-blaming statements like those made by Brock Turner and his father in court,” according to the organization:

“I should have expected this to happen.”

“My skirt was too short.”

“I shouldn't have been walking alone.”

“I was being too friendly.”

“I should know how to protect myself.”

Current Solutions also published Mazurkevich's second series, with anonymous stories from survivors.

[The powerful message Lena Dunham dedicated to the Stanford sexual assault survivor]

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States have reported being raped at some point during their lives; about 1 in 20 men and women reported other forms of sexual violence.

Campus sexual assault was already the subject of a contentious national conversation. But the Turner case triggered widespread outrage, particularly after his victim, known only as “Emily Doe,” wrote a 12-page impact statement calling his sentence “a soft time-out.”

“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today,” she wrote, adding: “The damage is done, no one can undo it. And now we both have a choice. We can let this destroy us, I can remain angry and hurt and you can be in denial, or we can face it head on. I accept the pain, you accept the punishment, and we move on.”

The outrage swelled further with the news that Turner was set to be released three months early for good behavior.

The prosecutor had pushed for a six-year prison term, but Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced him to six months in county jail as well as probation and ordered him to register as a sex offender — a decision that led to calls for the judge to vacate the bench.

Persky has recused himself from hearing criminal cases and requested to be moved to another court, though there are still calls for his removal.

Mazurkevich, from Washington, D.C., moved with her family from Belarus to the United States when she was a child. During her freshman year in college, Mazurkevich was victimized in her dorm room at Ithaca in New York, she said.

“After the experience, I felt gross and disgusting,” Mazurkevich said in an phone interview, adding, “I took it all out on the series.”

Mazurkevich said the final picture from the recent batch was intended to show Turner “the biggest middle finger I could give him.”

That photo shows a female model with her clothes partially torn away, lying facedown behind a dumpster — much like Turner's victim was apparently found, intoxicated and unconscious behind a trash bin.

Mazurkevich said the image was also meant to spark a broader conversation about sexual assault. “It's been in the shadows, and people weren't really talking about it until now,” she said, crediting the Turner case for bringing the issue to the forefront — to the point that Vice President Biden wrote a letter to Turner's victim.

Since the photos went public, Mazurkevich said she has been hearing from sexual-assault survivors who are telling her their stories.

There have also been discussions about displaying the photos in galleries, she said. And schools have contacted her about using the images.

Still, Mazurkevich said, she has been subject to backlash from critics, some saying her photos look more like pornography than art.

“Those are the people who are close-minded and ignorant on the topic,” she said. “It makes sense because it's an uncomfortable topic to talk about, but in doing that, you're opening your eyes and critically thinking about it.”

The purpose of her project, she said, is to pull people into the scene — to make them feel like actual bystanders to the crimes, to force them to realize that the situations are real and wrong.

“I wanted to show it in a very raw and explosive way,” she said. “I really wanted to depict it as though you were taking a still image of an actual sexual assault.”


United Kingdom

New course in Bradford offering help to adult survivors of child abuse

by Emma Clayton

THE effects of child abuse can have a significant, long-lasting impact on adult life.

Many adult survivors struggle to cope with various aspects of life including issues such as low self-esteem, anger, guilt and self-blame.

National charity NAPAC (National Association for People Abused in Childhood) is setting up a support group for adult survivors of child abuse in Bradford, chosen as one of six locations around the UK. The 12-week group, for up to 12 people, is funded by the Home Office, to offer peer support groups and specialist training for professionals who work with survivors.

"Many adult survivors of child abuse find it hard to cope with life or struggle with relationships. NAPAC's support groups give survivors the opportunity to meet others who have experienced abuse in childhood and share their experiences and feelings. Our approach to trauma recovery is based on the latest research," said NAPAC chief executive Gabrielle Shaw.

The groups are aimed at offering support to adult survivors of any type of child abuse, including physical, emotional, sexual abuse or neglect.

Sibylle von Ulmenstein, NAPAC's Training and Survivor Support Facilitator, said the support offered combines education about childhood abuse and its impacts into adulthood with healthy coping mechanisms. "Our Bradford support group will be led by two experienced facilitators and will run for 12 weekly sessions. At least half each session will be about education - about how behaviours now are linked to what happened to people in childhood," she says. "It's a grieving process for many survivors, and it can trigger memories and emotions. They have experienced a complete loss of trust and feel such emotions as shame, grief, guilt and anger. One of the reasons why it can take years to seek help with surviving abuse is that people grow up thinking it's a 'normal' part of life because it was part of their childhood.

"The impact of all abuse is similar - whether it's neglect, physical, emotional or sexual."

Survivors often have problems with their own relationships, with intimacy, trust and repeated patterns of behaviour. "There is no blame; we help people recognise behaviour patterns and things like unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drugs, alcohol and food, and how they can be changed to healthy ones," says Sibylle.

Peer support is a fundamental part of the group; with members sharing experiences and the impact they have had. "Peer support is vital - it is a much slower process on a one-to-one basis," said Sibylle. "Members from previous groups have stayed in contact, either on social media or by meeting up regularly. We plant the seeds with this 12-week course then people continue to support and benefit from each other. Facilitators also offer continued support.

"We have seen so clearly that it's incredibly helpful for people to have this kind of support, and not to have to battle through the NHS . It's not a one-bullet solution to recovery, but it's a launch pad."

Facilitators work in twos in the groups.They are trained around the latest research into child abuse. Some facilitators are survivors who have been through their own recovery.

Potential participants are assessed in an informal interview to determine if a support group is best for their recovery.

"Not everyone is ready for group work, we look at what will work best for them," says Sibylle. "It's very much about people making their own choices too."

The charity has built up support groups and now it has Home Office funding it is trying to cover as many areas of the country as possible. Bradford has been identified as an area with a diverse population that can also cover other cities like Leeds. One of the facilitators for the Bradford group is from the district.

"This funding is an incredible opportunity for us to to carry out this service," says Sibylle. "We would like the 12-week courses to be ongoing, covering as many areas as we can."

* For more information about the National Association for People Abused in Childhood or the 12-week support group programme go to or email and include a phone number.

* NAPAC also runs a free support line for adult survivors of child abuse. The number is 0808 801 0331, free from UK landlines or mobiles. 10am-9pm Monday to Thursday and 10am-6pm Friday.



Officials: Significant Improvements' To Child Abuse Hotline Response

by Tony Romeo

HARRISBURG (CBS) — The state Department of Human Resources says it has made ‘significant' strides toward resolving problems with Pennsylvania's child abuse hotline… problems that were highlighted by the auditor general in May.

The auditor general said in early 2015, when the Department of Human Services was overwhelmed by new laws enacted after the Jerry Sandusky scandal, 43-percent of calls to the statewide child abuse call center were abandoned or deflected. When the audit was released in May, Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas said that number had been reduced to 12-percent. Now he says it is down to just 2-percent…

“There are a couple of times in the last week or so that it reached zero-percent,” he says. “But you're always going to have a few folks who hang up… maybe they don't want to wait more than 20 seconds or so. But getting it down to 2-percent is something we think is manageable and a good customer service level.”

Dallas also says processing of background check clearances for people who work with children is down from 26 days to less than two days.



Lawmakers Push for More Oversight in Child Abuse Cases

by Drew Petrimoulx

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- During a Thursday morning hearing lawmakers peppered DHS and State Police child abuse investigators with questions and were repeatedly shot down.

"I do don't feel conformable acknowledging anything related to this email," said DCFS Director Mischa Martin in response to questions about a specific case.

Leading the charge was State Sen. Alan Clark, R-Hot Springs, co-chair of the performance review committee. He's been critical of the state's handling of child abuse and custody cases.

"I get calls all the time, and there's a lot of mad people out there," said Loraine Brady, who started an organization dedicated to people being treated unfairly in child custody cases. "They get stonewalled, or they get brushed off. "It's like the kids are falling through the cracks of the legal system."

In response to complaints like those Clark wants to give lawmakers access to individual case details so they can ask "tough questions" about decisions.

But DHS points out that may violate federal law. During Clark's questioning of officials, lawyers repeatedly warned him he was close to committing a misdemeanor crime.

"I scored many touchdowns running down the sideline," Clark said when asked about the warnings. "The sideline is still inbound unless you step on that white line."

Other lawmakers were critical of Clark's effort, accusing him of badgering DHS and state police officials.

But Brady and other grandparents who feel wronged by the system side with Clark.

"I think they need to see more of what's going on," Brady said. "If [state officials are] not hiding anything then they should be able to investigate it."



Internal documents reveal Kansas City police detectives failed to investigate child abuse, sex cases

by Ariel Rothfield

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - For over a year, one Kansas City father said he sat in the dark. Each day he waited for Kansas City Police detectives to give him a call.

“To never get an answer, to never get a phone call back, to never get a missed message or anything and after six months of not hearing anything we just assumed… nothing,” he told 41 Action News.

41 Action News is not identifying him because his daughter is a victim.

When she was 3-years-old she was reportedly raped by a man who give her Chlamydia.

She first told her father, who brought her to a hospital and then to police in St. Louis and Kansas City.

The Kansas City Police Department's Crimes Against Children Unit took the case.

“I had no idea it wasn't being investigated,” he said. “It should have been an open and shut case. It should have been very clear.”

His daughter's case was not the only one being ignored.

Internal memos within the police department show detectives failed to properly investigate cases of rape, sexual assault and abuse of children.

"In most of the cases reviewed by the SA group, child victims of rape, sodomy, molestation, abuse and neglect were not receiving proper or any service from the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department,” according to one memo obtained by 41 Action News.

In January, 41 Action News first learned most members of the Crimes Against Children unit had been suspended with pay.

At the time, Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte said he was concerned these cases “may not have been handled in the most effective manner possible.”

One week later, the detectives and sergeants returned to work and were reassigned.

Other detectives were brought in on special assignment and, according to a statement sent to 41 Action News, a selection process took place to permanently place new detectives in the unit.

Forte declined to speak with 41 Action News. Instead, he read a statement which read in part:

"In response to the recent news stories about the KCPD's Crimes Against Children's Unit, our focus at the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office will remain on protecting children and prosecuting those who have preyed on them. Our goal today is to protect the cases currently pending against the accused abusers of children. Investigations may be flawed or less than perfect, but that does not mean the defendant is not guilty of the crimes they've been accused of doing. We will do everything possible to bring justice for the victim."

Failure to investigate these cases in a timely manner not only affected victims but also those trying to help, said Dr. Jim Anderst.

Anderst is the division chief of the abuse and neglect division at Children's Mercy Hospital.

On average, each year, his unit sees 15,000 children— most from Jackson County.

“In the past five, six years we have only rarely testified in Jackson County,” he said. “So from a population basis that didn't make any sense to us. Somewhere in the process there's an issue getting people prosecuted and I don't think it was the prosecutor's office.”

41 Action News reached out to Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker for this story. Her office sent a statement instead:

"In response to the recent news stories about the KCPD's Crimes Against Children's Unit, our focus at the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office will remain on protecting children and prosecuting those who have preyed on them. Our goal today is to protect the cases currently pending against the accused abusers of children. Investigations may be flawed or less than perfect, but that does not mean the defendant is not guilty of the crimes they've been accused of doing. We will do everything possible to bring justice for the victim."

It's been three years since that Kansas City girl reported her rape to police. Her father tells 41 Action News the family is now getting justice for her. The man accused of raping her is now in jail.

“I'm pissed and angry about the whole situation but I feel for my daughter because I couldn't imagine what it's going to be like dealing with that. She's an amazing little girl,” he said.

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #99 released the following statement:

"As police officers there is a no greater responsibility than protecting the most vulnerable victims in our community. In January, several members of the Crimes Against Children Unit were suspended as an internal investigation was launched to investigate concerns over how cases were being handled. Those officers returned to work a few days later and were reassigned to other duties. The investigation is still ongoing and the officers involved are entitled to due process. Until we know what the findings of the investigation are, we are not able to speak in detail about the internal investigation.

We are looking forward to the conclusion of what we believe is a complete and thorough investigation. At that time it is imperative to address what if any issues and concerns were uncovered by this investigation. Public trust and transparency is important to us. Children who suffer abuse or neglect need to feel comfortable that they can report the crimes against them to police and their cases will be handled rigorously and swiftly."



Record number of child abuse cases reported in Japan in 1st half of 2016

by Japan Today

TOKYO — The number of child abuse cases Japanese police reported to child consultation centers between January and June rose to a record 24,511, with psychological abuse covering nearly 70% of the cases, police data showed Thursday.

The abuse of minors aged below 18 was up 42.3% from the same period last year, exceeding 20,000 for the first time since half-yearly comparable data became available in 2011, according to the National Police Agency.

The number of psychological abuse cases was 16,669, up 5,565, from a year earlier. Of those, 11,627 were cases of children witnessing domestic violence, up 4,354.

Police opened criminal investigations into 512 cases of child abuse during the six months, up 136.

Of the 512 cases, 415 were cases of physical abuse, including 26 cases of murder or attempted murder. The 512 cases also included 70 cases of sexual abuse, 16 cases of psychological abuse and 11 cases where minors were deprived of basic care such as feeding, clean clothes or education.

To better deal with child abuse, the national police in April notified police forces across Japan to share information on suspected abuse cases with municipalities and consultation centers.

The Diet revised the child abuse prevention law in May, allowing welfare authority to raid homes after obtaining court warrants if they suspected child abuse taking place.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry created a three-digit hotline in July last year—it was previously a 10-digit number—to make it easier for cases to be reported.



Annual Conference Being Held To Address Child Sexual Abuse


St. Charles, MO (KTRS) -- Child welfare advocates are gathering in St. Charles this week for the 12th annual Midwest Justice For Children Conference.

The three-day event is a joint effort between the Child Center in Wentzville and the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. The conference, which is being held at the St. Charles Convention Center, offers an opportunity for local professionals to learn how to better serve victims of child sexual abuse.

Amy Robins, a supervisor of forensic services at the Child Center in Wentzville, says she believes progress has been made in dealing with child sexual abuse, but more needs to be done.

“I still think that it's a huge stigma today or taboo topic to talk about child sexual abuse, but we know in order to end it, we have to start talking about it.” adds Robins.

St. Charles Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar says in most abuse cases, the victim does know their abuser, such as a family member or friend.

Around 300 child sex abuse cases have been prosecuted in St. Charles County in the last five years.

The benefit of using of therapy dogs is among the topics being discussed. Robins brought her chocolate lab named Reka to the conference to share how she has brought comfort to children during forensic interviews.

“She will look up at them when they are in the middle of disclosure and lick a tear from their face and just be that support for them that they ultimately need that any human can't provide.” said Robins.

The conference will wrap up on Friday.

More information about child sexual abuse is available online at



Olympic gold medalist fights sexual abuse with Boston fundraiser

by Kristin Toussaint

Kayla Harrison made history at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics when she defended her 2012 title and became the first American in history to win two gold medals in judo.

With that accomplishment, Harrison became a hero not only to aspiring athletes but to sexual abuse survivors everywhere.

Harrison first spoke out about her experience with abuse in a 2011 USA Today story published before her London Olympics win that earned her the title of America's first-ever judo gold medalist.

She was sexually abused from the age of 13 to 15 while training under judo coach Daniel Doyle, who is currently serving a 10-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2007 to one count of "engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place," according to USA Today.

Now, Harrison is focusing on fighting child sexual abuse through the Fearless Foundation, which she created to "shine a light on the darkness that is child sexual abuse and to enrich the lives of survivors through education and sport."

On Wednesday, Harrison hosted a fundraiser at Central Wharf Co. in Boston, where she met with fans to take pictures and sign autographs.

The Fearless Foundation is currently developing an educational tool "to help survivors understand that they are not alone and to empower them with the strength to come forward and seek the help that is available," Harrison said on her site.

After Doyle was sentenced, Harrison moved from Ohio to Massachusetts (she currently resides in Danvers) to train with former Olympian Jimmy Pedro. Pedro has coached her to two gold medals, and he and his father became a "surrogate family" to Harrison, she has said.

"There is a lot of stuff going on, and it's just in its infancy," Harrison told ABC about her foundation. "Being a two-time Olympic champion is an amazing thing, but the Fearless Foundation isn't about me; it's about helping people who need help. And essentially being to someone else what the Pedros were to me. They saved my life and changed my life."


What Is Gaslighting? Children May Experience It More Than We Know

by Crystal Lewis

When children face emotional abuse or neglect, it can have lifelong consequences, including higher rates of anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression. Children are more vulnerable than adults are to types of emotional abuse, including gaslighting. But what is gaslighting? Children may experience it more than we know, because statistics about emotional abuse are hard to determine. One study shows that more than 12 percent of kids face emotional abuse or neglect.

Gaslighting refers to manipulating someone so effectively that the person comes to doubt his or her sanity or view of reality. The term gaslighting comes from the 1944 movie Gaslight starring Ingrid Bergman, when a criminal husband attempts to drive his wife crazy by dimming the gas-powered lights in their home. When his wife points out that the lights are dim, he denies that the light has changed, and the film shows how scary it is to not be able to trust your own sense of reality.

Gaslighting children is often easier than in adult relationships because children are so dependent on their parents, who control the world around the child and how they interpret the world around them; Often, the power dynamics between parents and children are extremely uneven.

The child is told that if she plays quietly and lets Mommy work, Mommy will take her out for ice cream. She spends the afternoon playing and then asks her mother when they're going for ice cream. The response: “I never promised you ice cream.” When the daughter protests, the mother simply says, “Stop making things up. No one likes a liar.”

When a child receives messages from family that are contradictory and can't make sense of something, it's natural for them to start believing there is something wrong with them.

Jonice Webb, author of the book Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect, identifies four types of child gaslighting.

•  The Double-Bind Parent: This type of parent goes back and forth unpredictably between being affectionate towards their child and coldly rejecting him or her.

•  The Unpredictable, Contradictory Parent: Here, a parent might react to the same situation in an extremely different way at different times or on different days, based on factors that are not visible to the child.

•  The Appearance-Conscious Family: Here, the child has a "family which appears perfect from the outside," but is actually dysfunctional. Parents don't allow mistakes, pain, or natural human shortcomings from the family members.

•  The Emotionally Neglectful Family: In this family, the child may be well fed and clothed, but his or her emotional needs are ignored. No one notices what the child is feeling. The family does not speak about their emotions, and children are often told not to cry or to “Suck it up.”

On the parenting website "Grounded Parents," Steph Montgomery makes the case that parents can gaslight their children without meaning to inflict abuse:

How would you feel if the most important person in your life told you that you couldn't feel sad when your car broke down or you lost your job? Or if you were told you couldn't express frustration at being forced to wait in line at the DMV for eight hours or to eat your most hated food? Or that a thing that causes you real anxiety or fear is not a big deal? How would you feel if you were punished for not reacting the way that person wanted you to react? We constantly tell our kids that big disappointments, big changes, and big challenges are no big deal...I don't think this is okay. In fact, I am going to call it a form of gaslighting.

Montgomery adds that although it is important for parents to teach their children how to calm down, parents need to make sure they don't "subconsciously teach our kids that it is wrong to feel any emotion other than happy and calm."

Montgomery adds that although it is important for parents to teach their children how to calm down, parents need to make sure they don't "subconsciously teach our kids that it is wrong to feel any emotion other than happy and calm."

For people who have experienced gaslighting as a child, it is important for them to know that their experiences and feelings are valid. And for parents, remember that even on days you are knee-deep in frustration by your child's tantrum, their emotions are part of what makes them them , and should never be invalidated.



Grandparents brought to tears as new laws passed to help ‘most vulnerable'

by Starts at 60

It's been a five-year fight, but Queensland grandparents John and Sue Sandeman came away victorious on September 14.

The grandparents had been fighting to change Queensland's mandatory reporting laws for childcare workers to report suspected child sexual and physical abuse cases after their grandson Mason Parker died in 2011.

Weeping openly as the bill passed through State Parliament, the Sandemans told the ABC that while Mason's Law won't change what has happened to their grandson they hope it will save another child's life.

Sixteen-month-old Mason Parker was murdered by his mother's then partner, who is serving a life sentence in jail.

Days before his death, childcare workers noticed bruising on the toddlers body but had not reported it to authorities.

‘Mandatory reporting' refers to the legislative requirement imposed on selected classes of people to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect to government authorities. However, while each state and territory has enacted mandatory reporting laws of some description they are not the same across all jurisdictions.

The main differences concern who has to report, and the types of abuse and neglect that have to be reported, as well as the ‘state of mind' that activates a reporting duty (e.g. a suspicion, concern or belief on reasonable grounds).

The Australian Institute of Family Studies has a publication on the mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect that outlines that while some jurisdictions it is mandatory to report suspicions of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and neglect, in other jurisdictions — such as Victoria and the ACT — it is only mandatory to report some types of abuse, such as physical or sexual abuse.

Tasmania's Child Care Act 2001 specifically outlines the responsibility of principals and teachers in any educational institution, including kindergartens, persons who provide child care or a child care service for fee or reward and persons managing a child care service licence to report any belief or suspicion on reasonable grounds of physical, sexual, emotional/psychological abuses, neglect and exposure to family violence.

Until Mason's Law had been passed in Queensland, Tasmania's laws were the most thorough in Australia on this issue.

“Our grandson had to die for us to be here doing what we're doing, so life was sacrificed for this legislation to basically be put into place,” Sue Sandeman told the ABC.



1973 killings of 2 California girls won't lead to executions

by Don Thompson

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Two men charged with murder in the 1973 shotgun slayings of two young girls can't face the death penalty because it wasn't an option when the girls were sexually assaulted and killed, a California prosecutor said.

William Lloyd Harbour and Larry Don Patterson have been charged with six counts each stemming from the killings of 12-year-old Valerie Janice Lane and 13-year-old Doris Karen Derryberry, the Yuba County, California district attorney said.

The two men are 65-year-old cousins who both lived near the victims in Olivehurst, California, when they were killed nearly 43 years ago.

Harbour pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in California on Wednesday, said Deputy District Attorney John Vacek. Patterson was ordered held without bond in Oklahoma.

Patterson said he intends to waive extradition back to California to face charges in the deaths. The girls' mothers first reported them missing as runaways on Nov. 12, 1973, after they failed to return home overnight from a shopping trip to a mall in nearby Linda.

The Yuba County Sheriff's Department was notified a few hours later that their bodies had been found along a dirt road in a wooded area near Marysville, north of Sacramento, where they had been shot at close range.

The case went cold decades ago, Yuba County authorities said, until a state forensics lab matched DNA from the two suspects to semen found on Derryberry.

"It's just like it reopened — it's like it just happened again. And it's really, really hard," Margrette Hasting, the mother of Valerie Janice Lane, said after the arraignment.

The six charges — three for each of the victims — include one count each of premeditated murder, one count of murder committed during a rape or attempted rape, and one count of murder committed while molesting a child.

But the defendants won't face the possibility of execution if convicted, District Attorney Patrick McGrath told The Associated Press.

The case must be tried under the law as it existed in California in 1973, he said in an email: "During that time, the death penalty was not available in California, so the death penalty is not under consideration."

The most the men could face is a life sentence, and the law then provided that they could be considered for parole after serving seven years, McGrath said. The death penalty wasn't reinstated in California until 1977.

Vacek said the girls' families had little reaction when they were told Tuesday that the death penalty wasn't an option. "I think they were just kind of overwhelmed with the information they were being provided, so that was just a piece of it," he said.

Harbour was set for his next court appearance on Oct. 19, when Vacek said prosecutors hope to have both men back in Yuba County. Public Defender Brian Davis was appointed Wednesday to represent Harbour and declined comment.

Investigators in the 1970s carefully noted each of the more than 60 people they interviewed, Vacek said, and the suspects' names never came up.

They later considered Patterson after he was charged in 1976 with raping two women in nearby Chico, Vacek said, but found no link to the killing of the two girls until the DNA match decades later.

Detectives at the time "had done pretty much a bang-up job in doing a thorough investigation," Vacek said. "To not have run across these guys is a little surprising, I guess ... We're reasonably confident there was nothing to connect them to the crimes at the time."



New SVSU reporting of abuse policy draft presented

Policy draft would require all staff to report issues

by Derek Carson

BENNINGTON The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union's policy committee met for the first time this school year and continued to try to iron out edits to the sexual abuse reporting policy.

The policy in question, #5005 "Reporting of Child and Vulnerable Adult Abuse, Sexual Abuse, and Sexual Violence," is a drafted update to the previous policy, which had not been updated since 2001. The policy was previously titled "Child Abuse and Neglect." The draft was written by committee members Bruce Lee-Clark, representing the Career Development Center, and Holly Bahan, representing Shaftsbury. The discussion appeared down on the agenda for Monday's meeting, but after community members and board members brought issue with that fact, it was raised to the top.

"The policy that has currently been passed by all the boards is not adequate to meet the statutory requirements," said Lee-Clark, "and the problem comes in a couple of ways. The legislature changed the legislation in the last couple of years. They made it more clear because schools had been having difficulty complying. There had been chain of command issues."

The new policy, if adopted, would read, "Any employee or district contracted personnel who regularly is employed or paid by the District to provide student services for five or more hours per week during the school year ("School Employee") AND who has reasonable cause to believe that a child's physical or mental health or welfare has been or is being harmed or abused or that the child is threatened with harm, or that the child is a victim of neglect or a victim of child sexual abuse or sexual violence, is required to report or cause a report to be made within 24 hours to the Commissioner of The Department For Children And Families ("DCF") or his/her designee. If a report involves the acts or omissions of DCF, then such a report shall be directed to the Secretary of the Agency of Human Services. Ultimately, the School Employee is responsible to ensure that the report is made to DCF within 24 hours even when the school employee has informed a building administrator or any other person in the school. A School Employee may not refuse to make a report required by this section on the grounds that making the report would violate a privilege or disclose a confidential communication."

Citizens called for change to the policy after an incident in Shaftsbury earlier this year, when Principal Jeff Johnson was told of an alleged incident in which a volunteer inappropriately touched a student. Johnson, after investigating, did not report the incident. Superintendent Jim Culkeen said during a meeting that he felt policy had been followed, but that he understood where others could disagree.

Lee-Clark said the new policy makes it clear that no one at the school should be performing an investigation, and that it is not the principal's sole responsibility to contact DCF when abuse is suspected. The policy also lays out provisions for how all school district employees shall be educated about proper reporting practices annually. The previous policy also did not touch upon reporting abuse of vulnerable adults.

"I have a tendency to believe that we, as education professionals, or as professionals in general, tend to think we're really good at doing all that investigative stuff," said Lee-Clark, "this at least tries to tell us, 'No, do not do investigations.'" He said the DCF prefers that calls be made based on any suspicion, and that they will do an investigation and determine whether or not the suspicion is warranted. "If I have any beliefs," he said, "I make a report and let DCF handle that issue."

Once a policy draft comes out of committee, it must be warned and approved by all seven boards of the SVSU. This process generally takes several months.

"All staff are required to report these issues, no matter where they see them, no matter who they are," said Lee-Clark, "because we are mandated reporters."


New York

Fall conference will focus on sex trafficking, crimes against children with disabilities

by Niagara Frontier Publications

Nationally recognized experts on crime against children with disabilities and youth sex trafficking will headline a Nov. 3 conference at the Niagara Falls Conference and Event Center.

"Safe at Home: Seeking Solutions for Adult and Child Victims of Family Violence" will be the 19 th annual "Safe at Home" conference to be held in Niagara. It is co-sponsored by the Niagara County Family Violence Intervention Project, the Niagara County Department of Mental Health, the Niagara County Department of Social Services and Catholic Charities of Buffalo Inc., Niagara Services.

This year's keynote speaker will be Scott J. Modell, Ph.D., deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Children's Services and former deputy commissioner of the state's Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. A former professor at California State University in Sacramento, he is a previous director of its Autism Center for Excellence.

"Children and adults with disabilities face a much higher risk of violence than those without disabilities," said conference organizer Ann Marie Tucker, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center of Niagara at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. "Dr. Modell is an international expert on crimes against persons with disabilities and will be a tremendous resource for the child welfare professionals, law enforcement authorities, victim advocates, educators and other service providers who attend our conference."

Attendees also will hear from featured speaker Tina Frundt, founder and executive director of Courtney's House in Washington, D.C. By providing direct services to domestic sex trafficked youths from 11 to 21 years of age, Courtney's House and Frundt have helped more than 650 survivors get out of trafficking situations.

A nationally renowned spokesperson on the issue of domestic sex trafficking and a survivor of commercial sexual exploitation, Frundt also trains law enforcement and other nonprofit groups to rescue and provide resources to victims, and has been featured on numerous television shows including the OWN Network's "Our America with Lisa Ling" and the "CNN Freedom Project." She has testified before Congress about the need for greater protection and services for trafficked persons and recently was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.

Conference workshops will help participants address the growing problem of substance abuse as it relates to family violence, as well the relationship between adolescent maltreatment and delinquency.

For more information or to register, visit or call 716-285-0045.



State Changes Approach to Prevent Child Abuse


WESLACO – Texas has a new game plan for preventing child abuse statewide. They're shifting their focus from an investigation-based approach to a public health approach.

The state is using data from Child Protective Services to pinpoint which neighborhoods, in which cities and counties, where child abuse is mostly likely to occur and focus prevention resources on at-risk populations.

A Rio Grande Valley woman who lost two grandchildren to abuse is glad to see the change.

Exactly one year ago, Esperanza Zapata spoke to CHANNEL 5 NEWS about the occurrences. She vented her frustrations with CPS to us.

One of her grandchildren drowned in a bathtub and seven months later his half-brother was found dead.

“I think CPS did nothing,” Zapata stated. “They should have done something when the first tragedy happened, but they did nothing.”

The fatality report for the second child revealed CPS was called to investigate the mother five times over three years. Zapata said CPS should've done more.

“There are lots of children who need that CPS workers check the people that take care of them. They only go and get a superficial look. It's like you, you came here and see this area, but you have no idea what is going on in the other rooms. Sometimes they do go into all the rooms, but more often than not, they will not do that on follow-up visits,” she said.

The state is now going beyond investigation. They want to tackle abuse before it happens. They're using data on child deaths, and other abuse cases, to pinpoint at-risk families.

Easterseals is taking part in the new endeavor in Hidalgo County.

“We want to go in the home with the family. Work in their structure in their home to make it make sense,” Executive Director of Easterseals, Patty Rosenlund, said.

It's a program called Healthy Outcomes Through Prevention and Early Support or HOPES.

“It's supporting them to be better parents. And a lot of families we serve have many, many risk factors or complications or stressors in their life that make it a little bit hard to be a good parent,” Rosenlund said.

Some of the risk factors include having multiple children under the age of five, single-parent families, teen parents and low-income families.

The program focuses on families who want their children to do well in school.

Other state programs will focus on families who are already in the CPS system. Zapata said it's those families she worries about.

“There are a lot of neglected and abused children here in the Valley. I understand that parents have to work, but you can do both things, especially here in the United States… You can work and take care of your children,” she said.

The state vowed to be open about the new plan's results. They want to make tragedies, like Zapata's, less common.

The new state plan has programs that are geared toward families who have been investigated by CPS but whose allegations were low priority or unsubstantiated. There are also new programs that target at-risk teens and just the general public.

Last year, there were 3,779 victims of child abuse in the Rio Grande Valley, that's down slightly from 2014.

Anyone who suspects a child is being abused or neglected can report it at 1-800-252-5400 or

If someone is struggling with the duties of parenting, the state setup a website with advice, tips and connections to services that can help at

Download: Five-Year Strategic Plan



App Helps Identify Signs of Child Abuse

by Lindsay Clein

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- These days, there's an app for just about anything-- and a new one launched by a Kansas City doctor aims to help identify signs of child abuse.

A Springfield day-care worker was arrested this week-- accused of injuring two children.

In one case, the mother couldn't tell what was wrong with her child-- who had a softball-sized lump on his head.

An app called "Child Protector" could help out in situations like that.

The app can be downloaded on smartphones and it gives parents, investigators and all childcare workers the information they need to know regarding children's injuries.

All the information can be found quickly, right at your fingertips.

According to the Missouri Department of Social Services, the child abuse and neglect hotline received 121,842 reports in 2015. Of those reports, 68,623 were classified as investigations or assessments and were completed by The Children's Division.

"So many times, we hear from people who say they don't want to make a hotline call or don't want to raise a red flag because they're concerned they aren't reading the signs right," said CASA for Children Executive Director Beth Atchison.

That's where this app, launched by doctors in Kansas City and Texas, will help.

"I really think it's a great tool that will be able to help people in all different types of professions," Atchison said.

The app, mostly geared toward investigators, walks users through several steps to determine if a child's injuries are concerning.

"This app is helpful because at the very beginning-- it asks, "are you a non-medical professional?" So, for most of us, the answer is "yes" and it walks you through."

"What we realize is, a lot of these folks have no training or understanding of medical forensics of how children get injured," said Dr. Jim Anderst, who works in Child Abuse Pediatrics. He's one of the doctors who launched the app.

The app serves as an on-demand library of sorts, providing information to help users figure out what a child's injury is and how the injury may have happened.

"And it can walk you through the steps to let you know if you need to be concerned," Atchison said.

Once the information is entered, the app provides feedback and guidance from both medical and investigative perspectives on what to do next.

"Then, when you get to the end, it tells you if you need to be concerned," said Atchison. "And what you need to do and the next steps you need to take."

"So we can get the right children in the right place," said Dr. Anderst. "And when justice needs to be served, it can be served."

The app also includes videos showing how injuries can happen.

The app is free and right now has about 5,000 to 6,000 downloads nationwide. It's also available for use in Europe, Australia and Asia.

In Missouri, there have been 700 to 800 downloads.

Another local program, "Missouri Childcare-Aware," works to help parents find out information about childcare providers. That is also free.


The Real Impact of Child Abuse on Life Span

A past history of abuse and trauma can have a significant impact on a person's well-being and longevity.

by Pam Peeke, M.D.

As part of a routine checkup, health providers keep track of factors that can profoundly influence a person's longevity and quality of life, from monitoring cholesterol and blood glucose levels to inquiring about diet and physical activity. In light of this information, we offer clinical advice based on the latest science, and many patients do quite well.

However, most practitioners fail to ask one pivotal question that could make an extraordinary difference in the health and survival of our patients, including how long patients live. That question: “As a child or adolescent, did you ever experience abuse of any kind, including emotional, verbal, physical or sexual trauma?”

A patient's past history of abuse and the associated trauma are infrequently discussed in a medical setting. This is partly because many health providers are not well trained in inquiring about and discussing this with patients, and often providers aren't aware of the significance of abuse and trauma in regards to a patient's overall health and well-being. Patients, too, may not be fully aware of how a history of abuse negatively alters their mental and physical health, and how important it is to seek therapy to recover from the trauma.

But new science is prompting doctors and other health professionals to take note of the impact of child abuse on long-term health and survival. In one recent, revealing study, scientists evaluated national survey data to determine the mortality rate of 6,300 people over the course of 20 years. The group was mostly white, roughly split between men and women, and had completed a questionnaire detailing any history of child abuse. At the end of the study, the average age of survivors was 47 years. The researchers controlled for other mitigating factors that could impact their findings, including socioeconomic status or mental health disorders.

The study's findings were striking, particularly for women. Female subjects who reported having experienced physical abuse were 58 percent more likely to die from all causes during the study period. Women who were emotionally abused were 22 percent more likely to die during the observed 20 years. Men who had a history of child abuse did not experience any impact on overall mortality rates.

So women who experience child abuse are much more likely to become sick and die earlier compared to men who've had a similar experience or women who'd never been abused. This is a study looking strictly at death rates. Now, let's examine how abuse can affect quality, not just quantity, of life for men and women.

A child subjected to ongoing abuse desperately seeks comfort from the pain. Food is the most common and accessible form of reward to neutralize the angst. But using food to self-soothe can lead to overeating, bingeing and weight gain well into adulthood, with its subsequent and serious medical consequences. Harvard researchers examined the relationship between child abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and addictive eating, which is defined as the overconsumption of processed food products and is associated with a loss of control as well as shame, blame and guilt. Studying more than 40,000 women from the Nurses' Health Study, an ongoing health assessment study, the team led by women's health expert Susan Mason (who is now on faculty at the University of Minnesota) found that a history of severe physical or sexual abuse was associated with an astonishing 90 percent increase in addictive eating behavior as a self-soothing coping mechanism. In a related study, Mason found women who exhibited the most PTSD symptoms, and for whom trauma (including parental divorce and bullying) or abuse began at an earlier age, were twice as likely to struggle with addictive eating. In this study, the type of trauma or abuse didn't matter.

In a previous groundbreaking study supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers investigated the prevalence of child abuse in 17,000 Kaiser Permanente health plan members. Led by Dr. Vincent Felliti, an expert in childhood trauma and abuse who founded the department of preventive medicine for Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, researchers reported that they found “a strong graded relationship between the breadth of exposure to abuse or household dysfunction during childhood and multiple risk factors for several of the leading causes of death in adults.” The research team created the Adverse Childhood Experience, or ACE, questionnaire, which is one of the most valuable evaluation tools used by clinicians and investigators today. ACE questions relate to an individual's first 18 years of life, and document the presence of any form of abuse and neglect; domestic violence; family member substance abuse, criminal history and mental illness; and parental relationship challenges, including separation and divorce.

Researchers found over two-thirds of study participants reported at least one instance of neglect or abuse or another adverse childhood experience and more than 1 in 5 reported three or more ACEs. As the number of ACEs increased, so did the risk for a wide spectrum of grave mental and physical medical conditions. These included alcoholism, smoking and drug abuse; depression; heart disease; obesity; poor work performance and academic achievement; sexual promiscuity; domestic partner violence; and suicide attempts. The CDC estimates the lifetime economic costs associated with child abuse to be $124 billion, a figure derived from productivity losses as well as health care, special education, child welfare and criminal justice costs. As for the impact of adverse childhood experiences on life span, men and women with six or more ACEs died 20 years earlier on average than those with no ACEs. In essence, child abuse takes an astounding toll on society's financial resources, and in the end, on the quality and length of an abuse victim's life.

So, going forward, it's time for all health care providers to document and address any history of childhood abuse and trauma. A referral to a trauma-based therapist for treatment can be lifesaving. Scholars like Christine Courtois, author of the seminal text on the subject, “Complex Trauma,” are training a new generation of trauma therapists to provide individual and family treatment to help victims recover. In addition, foundations like Childhelp now exist to provide individuals and families with guidance and services.

It's time to ask the question – and save a life.



Man on parole for child abuse kills infant after growing ‘frustrated,' officials say

by Kristine Guerra

When Juan Canales-Hernandez was arrested last week after police say he swung a chair at an infant and killed her, it wasn't the first time the 24-year-old was accused of harming a child.

Canales-Hernandez, of Fort Collins, Colo., was on parole for a child abuse conviction when he was left to care for his girlfriend's daughter, 11-month-old RaeLynn Martinez, the Coloradoan reported.

According to an arrest affidavit, Canales-Hernandez told detectives that he became “frustrated” with RaeLynn, so he hit her with a chair. RaeLynn died Friday, two days after she was taken to the hospital.

Canales-Hernandez was charged with first-degree murder on Tuesday, nearly three years after he was accused of beating a previous girlfriend's son, according to court records.

In the 2013 case, the boy was found with more than 100 bruises and several bite marks on his body, according to an affidavit. His liver was bruised and his pancreas was torn in half. Canales-Hernandez told detectives at the time that he and the boy were wrestling and rough-playing, and that he didn't hurt him intentionally.

The boy survived. Canales-Hernandez, who is not related to the victims in either case, pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury.

He was sentenced to four years in prison, the Coloradoan reported and was later placed on parole.

Explanations varied about how RaeLynn was injured.

After police responded to a call of an injured child on Sept. 7, Alexia Coria, the girl's mother, told investigators that she was in the bathroom when RaeLynn fell while trying to climb up her high chair, according to the affidavit. The child was bleeding from the mouth and became “dangly” as her arms hung at her sides, Coria told detectives on Sept. 7.

Canales-Hernandez told police that he was in another apartment two doors down when Coria called and texted him, telling him that RaeLynn was hurt, the affidavit said.

Coria said she spent about 30 to 45 minutes trying to keep RaeLynn awake by placing her in water, according to the affidavit. When the child's condition didn't improve, Coria and Canales-Hernandez took her to the hospital.

RaeLynn went into cardiac arrest and had a severe brain injury that was not consistent with Coria's explanation to police, the affidavit said.

The child died two days later.

On Sept. 8, the day after RaeLynn was injured, detectives were given a different explanation.

Coria said she was out picking up her other child from school when she got a call from Canales-Hernandez, telling her that something happened to RaeLynn, the affidavit said.

Canales-Hernandez confessed that he was left alone with RaeLynn while Coria was out. He told police he was playing with the child by tossing her in the air when she fell and hit her head, the affidavit said.

RaeLynn started crying, Canales-Hernandez told detectives, so he tried to feed her and then placed her on a high chair.

The child was not seated properly, and Canales-Hernandez said he became “frustrated,” according to the affidavit. He picked up a chair and swung it at RaeLynn, knocking the child off her high chair.

While talking to detectives, Canales-Hernandez said he knew he made a “mistake,” according to the affidavit. He also admitted that he asked his girlfriend to tell police that RaeLynn accidentally fell off her chair because he didn't want to go back to prison.

In addition to the murder charge, Canales-Hernandez is facing charges including child abuse resulting in death, a second-degree felony, and attempt to influence a public servant, a fourth-degree felony.

According to the Coloradoan, investigators are still determining whether Coria will face charges.

The mother of three defended herself during a candlelight vigil Sunday, saying she hadn't been told the “real truth.”

“I love each and every one of you for coming out here and showing me that you guys love me and my babies,” Coria said, according to the Coloradoan.

In 2012, state and local child protective services nationwide received about 3.4 million reports of children being abused or neglected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A majority of them, 78 percent, were victims of neglect, while 18 percent suffered physical abuse.

About 80 percent of perpetrators were parents, according to the CDC, while 6 percent were relatives other than parents. Four percent of perpetrators were the parents' unmarried partners.

Two GoFundMe accounts have been set up to cover hospital, funeral and other expenses. One of the accounts was created on behalf of RaeLynn's father, Isaac Martinez. The other one was created for Coria. About $4,500 has been raised.

According to the GoFundMe page created for Martinez, he will use the funds to help pay for legal fees to ensure he gets custody of his two other children with Coria. RaeLynn is the youngest of their three children.

A spokeswoman for the Larimer County District Attorney's Office said the agency could not comment because of the ongoing investigation.

Canales-Hernandez, who is being held without bail in the Larimer County Jail, is scheduled to appear in court Friday, online jail records show.



Child abuse hotline sees increase in calls

by Marine Glisovic

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — Around 16,500 calls came in to the state's child abuse hotline from April through June and out of those, around 8,100 were investigated.

During a legislative committee meeting on Wednesday, stakeholders gathered to discuss the issues of child abuse in Arkansas.

Commander Ron Stayton, State Police's Crimes Against Children Division, tells KATV this year, during that 3-month period, the hotline fielded around 1,000 more calls versus last year.

"We have a problem in this state, and that we're doing all we can to help these children, I'm also hoping that some of these numbers also indicate, we need help,” said Stayton.

What alarmed some lawmakers during the meeting, the amount of cases that do not result in a prosecution.

"These are victims that are 3 and 4 year olds and it's really not fair to put a whole entire case or to find a case on the shoulders of a 4-year-old...they're victims without a voice,” said Senator Missy Irvin, (R) District 18.

"We investigate criminal maltreatment cases and there are two level of evidence that must be met. in a maltreatment case, we have to meet a preponderance of the evidence to find true in a child maltreatment case, where as in a criminal case prosecutors are looking for evidence beyond a reasonable doubt,” added Stayton.

While both state police and the Arkansas Division of Youth and Family Services investigate child maltreatment, both handle different aspects of the case.

“Our decision is based on the safety of the child, what happens on the criminal side is completely outside of our decision making,” said Mischa Martin, DCFS Director. “We're in there very quickly assessing the safety, determining, does the child need to be removed."

Earlier this year, state police inquired about hiring more investigators for the Crimes Against Children Division. Spokesperson Bill Sadler released this statement to KATV on Wednesday:

While the Arkansas State Police acknowledges we do not have sufficient investigators assigned Crimes Against Children Division, we are confident that Governor Hutchinson and the Arkansas General Assembly will address our needs during the January 2017 legislative session.

More important, however, is we don't want any misunderstanding that calls are not being investigated and children left at risk. Using the resources we have today, the hotline calls are being answered and investigators are being assigned in a timely manner consistent with Arkansas laws and Arkansas State Police policy as well as policies of the Arkansas Department of Human Services.


New Mexico

Victoria Martens case highlights child abuse, drug problem in New Mexico

by Samantha Lewis

According to Albuquerque police, drugs are front and center in the unthinkable murder of 10-year-old Victoria Martens.

Investigators say she was given meth and then raped by her mother's boyfriend and the boyfriend's female cousin.

The little girl was later found dismembered and burned, which happened while the mother watched, police said.

Today, new evidence has come to light.

According to a search warrant, Victoria's mother Michelle Martens told police she would meet men online and at work and invited them over to have sex with her daughter.

Right now investigators are tracking Michelle's phone records to see who she was in contact with before Victoria's death.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, several electronic items have been seized to see if any attacks on Victoria were recorded.

There's also new information that a neighbor saw one of the suspects carrying Victoria's body down the stairs hours before she was found dead.

However, that neighbor did not call police.

Donna Richmond is the executive director for La Pinon, she says drugs and alcohol bring out the worst in people and are the cause of some of these tragedies.

"If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected to please reach out and call and let the professionals step in, let them determine what's going on and provide the help that will be needed before it is too late," Richmond said.

Richmond also says people not speaking up is a huge problem across the State.

"Child abuse happens in New Mexico every day and we need to report it and we need to take responsibility as citizens of New Mexico," Richmond said.

Police have said they could not determine whether suspects were high on drugs during the rape and killing.

Victoria's mother is charged with kidnapping, child abuse resulting in death, tampering with evidence, conspiracy, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Two other suspects are also facing the same counts, plus charges of criminal sexual penetration of a minor.



Dallas seminary becomes 1st in U.S. to make course on child sex abuse a must for would-be clergy

by Caleb Downs

For years, Kimberlee Norris and Gregory Love wouldn't let their daughter go to church camps.

The Fort Worth couple, both lawyers, have spent more than 20 years litigating child sexual assault cases and know what can happen to kids on trips like that.

"It did change my willingness to trust, frankly, places where my child spent time," said Norris, 53.

Hoping to give other parents the peace of mind they never had, Love and Norris recently entered into a groundbreaking partnership with Dallas Theological Seminary. Beginning this semester, all ministerial students have a new graduation requirement: They must take a one-hour course called Ministry Safe.

It's the first seminary in the U.S. to require students to take such training before graduation.

Developed by Love and Norris, the Ministry Safe program teaches church officials how to spot potential predators and prevent the organizational breakdowns that can lead to child abuse.

“If we wanted to spend all of our career looking over somebody's crisis, evaluating which people to hold responsible and then suing them, we certainly can,” said Love, 51. “We just desired for our legacy to use our work, background, education and experience to stand side by side with organizations that are trying to serve children.”

Next semester, Dallas Theological Seminary will introduce a class on the subject that students can take as an elective.

Mark Yarbrough, vice president for academic affairs and academic deans at the school, said Love and Norris gave a guest lecture at the school last year about their field of expertise. He said their lecture made him realize the information they were communicating was critical.

“I can remember sitting there listening to his very informative presentation and thinking about my hometown church that I'm a part of,” Yarbrough said. “I thought, ‘We're not as prepared as we should be.'

“We sent our entire team through the Ministry Safe program.”

Ministry Safe covers several aspects of child sexual abuse — misconceptions about child predators, the “grooming” process, how to respond to allegations — over the course of several videos that take about an hour to watch. At the end of the course, trainees take a 25-question quiz. If they pass, they receive a certificate.

“This is not exhaustive, and there is more work that needs to be done by all of us as a culture,” Yarbrough said. “But this is a way we can help students become informed so that when they are leaders, they are better equipped on how to help establish appropriate parameters in working with children.”

Courtney Trippe, a junior from Georgia studying cross-cultural ministry at the Dallas seminary, was one of the first students to take the course. She also helped put together the class on child abuse prevention that will be introduced next semester.

Trippe said the program was helpful in dispelling some of the common mischaracterizations of child predators. They're not men in trench coats offering kids candy, Trippe said. They're smart and manipulative and often have a close connection to their victims. Seventy-five percent of child abuse victims are abused by people they know well, according to the National Institute of Justice.

Trippe, who volunteers as a soccer coach for refugee children from places like Burma and Nepal, said Ministry Safe also helped her understand her role as a gatekeeper for vulnerable children.

"In the volunteer industry ... you're just excited to have people willing to help,” Trippe said. "But we have to make sure we have the right people.”

Love, Norris and Yarbrough are all involved in local churches. They're also parents — and practice what they preach, so to speak.

All acknowledge that a one-hour training session isn't the solution to the issue of child sexual abuse in churches. But they said it's an important first step — a step they hope has a positive impact on children across the country.

“That's why this is important,” Yarbrough said. “We're talking about children. We're talking about the future of our society.”



Child abuse royal commission: Children lived in fear of yoga ashram leader

by Nicole Chettle

When allegations of child abuse emerged at Australia's oldest yoga ashram, the main concern from its spiritual headquarters in India was protecting its reputation, a royal commission has found.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has examined the handling of complaints made against the former spiritual leader of the Satyananda Yoga Ashram, at Mangrove Mountain on the New South Wales Central Coast, Swami Akhandananda Saraswati, and his former partner Shishy.

The allegations were made over a period of 40 years and related to sexual abuse that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s.

During public hearings in October 2014, six survivors each called for a $1 million compensation payment.

They gave graphic accounts of abuse at the ashram, which housed between 12 and 22 children at any time, aged between four and 18.

The commissioner's report was critical of the ashram's management.

"During the public hearing, the Mangrove ashram invited requests for compensation from some, but not all, of the survivors of child sexual abuse ... This apparent distinction between survivors remained unexplained at the close of the public hearing," the report said.

"We consider that the Mangrove ashram ... in direct contrast with the sentiments expressed in the ashram's apology ... adopted an approach that was at times insensitive, defensive and legalistic."

Children developed 'cult-like' dependence

The report found children were routinely separated from their families and developed a "cult-like dependence" on Shishy, "who clearly played a significant role in their lives in the absence of their parents".

During the hearing, Shishy said "blind devotion" to the guru was "heavily encouraged, and this involved being obedient without question".

The report said: "Mangrove ashram ultimately culminated in a complete and unquestioning trust by both adults and children alike in the erratic and irrational actions ... of Akhandananda as the guru."

The royal commission heard some victims were threatened with murder if they reported the abuse, and that Shishy witnessed Akhandananda raping two girls.

The commissioners Justice Jennifer Coate and Professor Helen Milroy accepted Shishy was herself in a violent relationship with Akhandananda, "and this came to include sexual violence".

Violence created a culture of fear

"It is clear that the culture of violence and humiliation that Akhandananda fostered at the Mangrove ashram gave the children who lived there a fear of reprimand that prevented them from disclosing their sexual abuse," the report said.

"The fact that Akhandananda's violent discipline of adults and children alike was not challenged by any other adult in the ashram who gave evidence only served to fortify the children's fear of reprimand.

"We heard evidence of threats of significant harm, including death ... We heard evidence of grown men being beaten with a stick in front of adult onlookers.

"We are satisfied that the physical abuse that the children experienced or witnessed contributed to a culture of fear of Akhandananda that prevented children from disclosing their sexual abuse."

Global headquarters feared for its reputation

The Bihar School of Yoga, which is the global headquarters of the late Swami Satyananda Saraswati's teachings, provided a statement to the commission in 2014 and said it "did not know the appalling extent of the abuse nor how widespread it was".

The royal commission was also shown an email from the organisation to the ashram that expressed outrage at the current leader being linked to the investigation of "20 year old sex scandals" that would "tarnish his reputation".

"After a lifetime in support of Australia, Swami Niranjan and Bihar School of Yoga, in disgust, withdraw their association and support completely," it read.

The commissioners said: "When those responsible for management of the Bihar School of Yoga first heard about the royal commission's investigation of the sexual abuse of children by Akhandananda, their primary concern was to minimise the risk of damaging the reputation of Satyananda yoga."

The ashram is now called Mangrove Yoga, having previously traded as the Satyananda Yoga Academy.

The commission said the case study would help identify the potential problems with power imbalances involving a charismatic leader at an isolated institution; the isolation of children from their parents and the community, and meeting the needs of survivors of child sexual abuse.



‘I'm not angry' says woman in case, ‘It makes me sad'

by Michael Rellahan

WEST CHESTER >> In the late winter of 2015, Courtney Wilkinson sat in a conference room in the Chester County District Attorney's Office trying to impress upon those who were involved with the prosecution of her father on charges of sexual abuse her vehement opposition to their decision to drop the case.

She spoke, she said in a recent interview with the Daily Local News, not of a loss of courtroom victory but of one of justice.

“I expected, probably, a not guilty verdict,” she said. “But justice for me wasn't in a guilty or not guilty verdict. That does not mean (the abuse) didn't happen. The justice here is that I would get to sit in front of (her father) and tell him everything he did to me, and he gets to hear other people corroborate my story. I get to stick up for myself, finally.”

The others in the room included First Assistant Michael Noone, who supervises the DA's offices' trial attorneys; Assistant District Attorney Emily Provencher, the prosecutor assigned to the DA's Child Abuse Unit handling the case; her trial partner, Assistant District Attorney Chad Maloney; state police Trooper Brittany Brenner, the lead investigator in the case who had brought charges against Wilkinson's father four years earlier; Chester County Detective Christine Beiler, who had interviewed Wilkinson in preparation for the trial some weeks earlier; and an advocate from the Chester County Crime Victims' Center that Wilkinson had been working with for years.

Provencher and Maloney had surprised Wilkinson a few days before by telling her that the long-delayed trial against her father, Theodore John Wilkinson Jr., would likely be dropped because of “holes” in her case they did not feel could be surmounted.

The meeting did not go especially well, she said.

“They basically called me in to tell me they weren't taking it, (that they were) not going forward with this case,” she recalled. “I lost it. I said, ‘I don't know how you expect me to be OK after this. I literally just cried. There was nothing left of me at this point. Where do you expect me to go from here? How am I supposed to justify these past 4 1/2 years. What am I supposed to do?

“I literally was asking for advice,” she continued. “In trying to explain things, Emily and Chad and Mike Noone all said, ‘You know, this is really better for you, because you would have gotten slaughtered on the stand.' I cut (them) off, and I said, ‘Don't even say this is better for me. I am telling you emotionally, what I need is to testify. I don't care if I get slaughtered on the stand. I can handle myself. I want my day in court.'”

There was no suggestion that day, or before or since, that those involved did not believe that the abuse — multiple instances over more than a decade of the 24-year-old Wilkinson's life, occurring so often that she said it became normal, like brushing your teeth — occurred, she said. Yet the order to dismiss all charges — rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault, sexual assault, and incest — against Theodore Wilkinson was presented to Common Pleas Judge Ann Marie Wheatcraft on Dec. 18, 2015. She signed it.

Case dismissed

Prosecutors across America at times have to make the decision, sometimes unpleasant, to drop a case, asking a judge to sign a nolle prosse — or more formally, “nolle prosequi” — order. They do so for a variety of reasons. The defendant, for example, may have died before coming to trial. The prosecution might be transferred to another venue, such as federal court, making the local case moot. A key witness or witnesses might have disappeared, leaving the trial attorney without evidence to present.

Or the evidence itself may become problematic. The alleged victim may recant their statement. He or she might begin offering conflicting stories: the crime occurred in the daytime, not at night, say. There was a gun used, where before there had been none. Or, in more modern cases, DNA evidence might be at odds with a victim's claims. (Years ago in the county, a cigarette butt found at the scene of an armed robbery was found to not have the defendant's signature DNA, despite claims by the victim that he had tossed it during the crime.)

None of those obstacles were present in Wilkinson's case. As she pointed out, the evidence against her father remained largely the same from the time she testified at a preliminary hearing in June 2012, and she was committed to testifying.

Over three days this week, the Daily Local News has examined what happened to Wilkinson and the case against her father, a 59-year-old home remodeling contractor from East Brandywine; how the decision to nolle prosse the case was explained to her; what she believes it says about the criminal justice system; and how others associated with the case reacted to the decision to drop the charges.

The Daily Local News has reported on Wilkinson's case previously, but has never used her name or that of her father because of its policy to not identify the victims of sexual offenses. Wilkinson, however, has granted permission to use her name in these stories after reaching out to tell her version of events.

Theodore Wilkinson has consistently maintained his innocence of all of the charges, and because of the DA's nolle prosse in December 2015, he is a free man with no convictions on his record. His attorney issued a statement on his behalf supporting the prosecution's decision to discontinue the case. “The only good thing I can say here is that the system worked,” said attorney Robert J. Donatoni of West Chester.

In a statement to the Daily Local News issued by the DA's Office last week, the prosecution says it spoke to Donatoni about issues with the case he asked it to consider before the decision to nolle prosse the case was made.

“Those issues included, among other things, the delays in reporting, the ‘recovered memory' aspect of (Wilkinson's reporting), the lack of corroboration, inconsistencies in statements, the admissibility of the mental health records of (Wilkinson), and specific diary entries of (Wilkinson).

“The culmination is all these issues led to a recommendation that the case be dismissed,” the statement reads.

As Wilkinson tells it, she can recall only three “holes” that the prosecutors cited as the reason they did not want to pursue the case.

“One hole that they found was in a statement from my boyfriend,” who told police that Wilkinson had told him about her father's actions when she was in high school. “He was going to testify and be a witness, (but) Emily thought that was a weakness,” Wilkinson said. “He knew that I had been sexually abused, but he did not remember as vividly the day I told him, or specific acts about what kind of sexual abuse.

“He knew about it. Beth was like, ‘That's gold,'” Wilkinson said, referring to Elizabeth B. Pitts, the deputy district attorney who had first been assigned to the case. “(But) Emily was like, ‘He didn't provide any specifics.'”

Then there was an issue with counseling records from a therapist she saw while she was a teenager. “The counselor I was seeing in high school didn't have the box for sexual abuse checked,” Wilkinson said. “That was hurtful. But the counselor wrote things like, ‘The purpose of this was to talk about boundaries with dad. Create safety plan at dad's, look for alternative living arrangements.'”

“And so that was not helpful,” she acknowledged. “But (her college counselor, to whom she said she reported the abuse) does have the boxes checked off for sexual abuse.”

The problematic facet of the case that Wilkinson said prosecutors focused most highly on were journal entries that she wrote after her father had been arrested. “I had a lot of conflicting thoughts and I journaled about them,” she said in the interview. “That was my outlet.

“I journaled many times about, ‘Yes this happened, no this didn't happen.' But then there are (entries where she seems to reject her own memories of abuse). “This didn't happen,” she said she wrote. “I can just forget about it. I can't hurt my dad. I'm not doing this.”

But she said that later entries would reject those denials. “It would be followed by an entry that said, ‘Courtney stop doing this to yourself. You are clearly just not wanting to accept your life.' It was more appealing for me to spend the rest of my life in a (psychiatric) ward not believing what I knew happened than hurting my dad.”

Those entries, she said the prosecutors told her, would be used by Donatoni, the defense attorney, to tear into her credibility as a witness. But Wilkinson asserted that those entries were nothing new to the case, and had been recognized by both Pitts and former Assistant District Attorney Priya DeSouza, the second member of the Child Abuse Unit to handle her case, as issues to be dealt with before the jury, not reasons for dismissal.

“It is a horribly worded journal entry of mine, but I was not doing very well (when she wrote it). And it's basically questioning my own credibility in this journal. I was denying it to myself. (But those contradictions) were going to be addressed at the trial,” she said. “From the beginning they had my journal entries. And some of the journal entries from high school (were) where I state plain as day that I was sexually abused. I used the words.”

The credibility of a complaining witness in a child abuse case is of supreme importance for a number of reasons, not last of which is that testimony about the abuse, if believed, is the only evidence a prosecutor needs to present to a jury to ask for a guilty verdict in a child abuse case.

So states Viktoria Kristiansson, an attorney adviser with Aequitas, a resource organization for prosecutors, specializing in cases involving violence against women and headquartered in Washington, D.C. The former Philadelphia assistant district attorney, who prosecuted child sexual abuse cases, spoke with the Daily Local News on the condition that she not be quoted addressing any case specifically, including Wilkinson's.

“The goal, the responsibility of a prosecutor is to secure justice,” Kristiansson said. “That is a huge responsibility, because the prosecutor's responsible for the whole case. They are the most important person in the case.

“Sexual assault cases focus on issues different than other types of cases, like drugs or theft. In those cases, there is the goal of keeping some of those individual (defendants) out of the criminal justice system, with alternatives to prison or special courts. In sexual assault cases, prosecutors are faced with almost the opposite issue. They consider more cases for disposition,” she explained.

“From a prosecutors standpoint these kinds of cases are challenging on their face,” she continued, speaking about child sexual abuse prosecutions. There often is little or no corroboration by other witnesses, no DNA to bolster the claims, or a time lag between an alleged incident and a police report.

“It is a difficult road for survivors,” Kristiansson said. “A delayed disclosure, for example, is something we see many, many times. Children feel helpless, and they accommodate to survive. It is also not unusual for us not see the child recant. Informing about the abuse is not always in the best interest of the child. But there are tools available so these cases can be prosecuted.”

She specially referred to the standard jury instruction in Pennsylvania that “the testimony of the victim, if believed, is enough evidence otherwise to convict.”

Section 4.13B of the state's instructions for jurors (read by a judge during his or her legal charge) in a sexual assault trial reads, “The testimony of (the victim) standing alone, if believed by you, is sufficient proof upon which to find the defendant guilty in this case. The testimony is the victim in a case such as this needs not be supported by other evidence to sustain a conviction.”

In addition, Section 3106 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code states that “The testimony of a victim need not be corroborated in prosecutions” of sexual offenses. Special cases should be given “in view of the emotional involvement of the witness and the difficulty of determining the truth with respect to alleged activities carried out in private.”

Said Kristiansson, in child abuse cases, “we would explain to the jury why this was enough evidence. What the victim told you, under oath, is true. You saw the emotion. You heard the details. We know, as human beings, when someone is being honest with us.”

And that, says Pitts and Joseph W. Carroll III, the former county district attorney who represented Wilkinson's interests in the case, is what makes the decision to nolle prosse the case difficult to understand. (DeSouza, now an assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia, declined to comment, as did Brenner, now a state police investigator in Harrisburg.)

Asked whether she believed that Wilkinson was telling the truth, Pitts said she did.

“I could not come up with a reason why she should be fabricating this, unless it happened,” Pitts, now a public safety administrator at Swarthmore College, said in an interview. “There were holes. But a judge found there was probable cause and we went forward. Were they problems? Yes. Was this dispositive of her credibility? No.

“This is an example of a tough case with a sympathetic victim, who is also willing to go forward no matter what the verdict would be,” Pitts said. “It was a hard case, and I know it was a hard case. But for a victim of child abuse I would say, “(That's) is not your problem, it is my problem to figure out how to deal with it.

“I was very disappointed,” she said of the DA's decision. “I felt very badly for Courtney, not getting the day in court that she asked for.”

Carroll said that in reviewing the case, it seemed clear to him that Wilkinson had no reason to lie about what she said had happened to her. “Everything made sense to me. I came away feeling that she was telling the truth. Everyone said they believed her.”

He said he had no inkling that a nolle prosse was being considered.

“I frankly thought it was a mistake,” Carroll, now in private practice, said in an interview. “I am certain that if Beth Pitts or Priya (DeSouza) or I were still in the office that this case was going to trial. Why not go forward? She wants to proceed. Courtney had been waiting for four years. She knew there was no guarantee that there would be a guilty verdict. She's been one week away (from trial) before.”

Was he disappointed in the decision? “Yes,” he said. “Extremely so.”

Donatoni, for his part, said that although he played no formal role in the nolle prosse decision, he did interact with the prosecution about his belief that the case was “problematic.”

“This case exemplifies the proper exercise of prosecutorial discretion,” he said in a statement. “This is especially true knowing someday that you may be called out on your action to dismiss charges but because of ethical prohibitions, you are unable to discuss the reasons behind your decision.”

The last time Wilkinson was in the DA's Office was a meeting with Noone in February, after she wrote to District Attorney Tom Hogan complaining about her treatment. But Noone was uncompromising, saying that her father should not have been arrested.

“To me, the only thing that changed was the district attorney,” she said. “To feel like I have some sort of justice was contingent on the luck of who got my case. He wrapped it all in a very nice little bow by saying, Beth Pitts and Priya (DeSouza), they both didn't do their jobs. And if they had, it would never have gone to court in the first place. And Emily did do her job. Emily did her job so well that she brought forth the information about this journal to them and that was it. This new person to our office did her job better.”

Noone said Wilkinson had mischaracterized his statement about the previous prosecutors.

“What I said is that Emily and Chad did their job by thoroughly reviewing all aspects of his case in preparation for trial,” he said. “I had not spoken with the former prosecutors about their involvement in the case so I could not address that with her.

“I told (Wilkinson) that it is not whether I do or do not believe her,” he added. “The key issue, as it is in all cases, was what we could prove at trial, and this case could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The DA's statement about Wilkinson's case stressed that prosecutors at times make decisions that leave the parties involved unhappy and frustrated. “However, prosecutors must make informed and intelligent decisions both about when to proceed with cases and when cases should not go forward. Pursing justice is not an easy job, but the Chester County District Attorney's Office is dedicated to doing the right thing for the right reason in every case.”

For now, Wilkinson said she hopes for closure in her experience with the criminal justice system, but also to have an impact on the way child sexual abuse is presented.

“I don't feel like I was protected,” she said. “I don't feel like justice was served for me. Not in the form of a guilty verdict. I wasn't really expecting that. But by not (going to trial), they're not defending our county, either. He's out in the world,” she said, referring to her father.

Wilkinson said that she hopes someday to speak to children about her experiences and warn them of the consequences of keeping silent.

“I think that it is still something no one talks about, sexual abuse in general, incest especially,” she said. There is a whole stigma about it, that I think is victim blaming. Even the fact that in all cases written in the newspaper you say, ‘alleged victim.' I think there should be a better term than that because alleged means ‘doubt it.'

“At some point in my life I want to be able to go into schools and talk about specifically the symptoms of sexual abuse,” she said. I displayed the classic symptoms. Never went to school, I was suicidal at a super young age. Even in kindergarten the teacher found me shaking in class.

“I was very involved with my community, I was very involved in my church. I know a lot of people saw me struggling and knew there were family issues but not one adult reported it. I don't feel like people want to ask the hard questions,” she said,

“When they explain sexual abuse to children they need to say (more),” she noted. “If someone asked me when I was 13 if I was sexually abused, straight to my face, I would have said no — even at 16. But if they had described what constitutes sexual abuse, like, are you sleeping in your parent's bed past this age, (or) how long are the kisses you have with your parents? If they were more specific, then I think I could have avoided a lot of years of abuse.”

The decision to nolle prosse the case means that her father cannot be prosecuted for her allegations unless some new evidence arises. He remains free, and with no criminal conviction.

“I'm not angry,” Wilkinson said. “It makes me sad. It makes me sad for other people who have been sexually abused by someone in their lives.”


South Carolina

Children's Trust training aims to help prevent child abuse

by The Daily Progress

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The top group that works to prevent child abuse in South Carolina is doing some important training this week to help keep kids safe.

Starting Wednesday, Children's Trust of South Carolina is putting on a Home Visiting Summit. The two-day gathering at the Columbia Marriott is for home-visiting professionals including childcare workers and program managers.

Organizers say home visiting pairs volunteer families with specialists who provide services throughout a child's first five years to improve health, development and early learning.

Children's Trust of South Carolina focuses on the prevention of child abuse, neglect and injury and advocates for the overall well-being of children. Its programs include educating first-time mothers on child safety, professional development for childcare workers and advocacy for policies that positively impact the state's children.



Texas takes new approach to prevent child abuse

by Kristian Hernandez

Child abuse costs the state of Texas more than $400 billion each year in foster care, health care, unemployment, and incarceration, but a new five-year plan aims to reduce child abuse using a public health approach.

The Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) released its first-ever strategic plan on child abuse prevention and early intervention Monday aimed at protecting children by first identifying neighborhoods, cities, and counties where it is more likely to occur and identifying the most vulnerable children, according to a news release.

Developed by DFPS's Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI), the new program includes home visits, and the expansion of counseling, educational and intervention services, including Services to At-Risk-Youth and the Community Youth Development.

Last year, DFPS confirmed 66,572 cases of child abuse and neglect statewide, which prompted legislators to pass Senate Bill 206, requiring DFPS to develop a comprehensive strategic plan to address the problem no later than Sept. 1, and adopt subsequent plans every five years.

PEI must also issue annual updates outlining progress toward goals, effectiveness of programs and changes in strategies, according to the first report. The public health approach aims to integrate other agencies and create partnerships with cities, counties, nonprofits, schools, businesses, churches and philanthropies to prevent child abuse before it happens, according to Sasha Rasco, PEI associate commissioner.

“One lesson we have learned in Texas and across the country is that prevention and early intervention work must address a broad spectrum of unfortunate realities that includes devastating neglect, abuse and the too frequent tragedy of child fatalities,” wrote Rasco in a letter included in the report.

While the number of child maltreatment fatalities has declined since an all-time high of 280 in fiscal year 2009, 171 children died from maltreatment in fiscal year 2015.

The annual Texas Kids Count survey highlights many of the risk factors for child maltreatment as well as some measures of child well-being. According to the latest report, 25 percent of children in Texas live in poverty and more than 27 percent live in a household considered food insecure.

DFPS also partnered with scholars and economists to help them make decisions based on research that indicate a positive financial return from the established plan, the report states.

The Perryman Group, a Waco-based economic and financial analysis firm, looked at increased expenses related to health care, education, social services and crime, as well as lost productivity and earnings. The total estimated lifetime impact associated with child maltreatment was $454 billion in Texas in 2014, the report states.

Research compiled by the Child and Family Research Partnership at the University of Texas at Austin, the short- and long-term benefits of home visiting programs largely outweigh the overall costs incurred from implementation. The RAND Corporation found that high-fidelity home visiting programs for at-risk families have a return on investment of $1.26 to $5.70 for every tax dollar spent, depending on the population served.

To read the full report, visit


Michael Jackson ran the ‘most sophisticated child sexual abuse' operation in history: suit

by Nancy Dillon and Stephen Rex Brown

Michael Jackson operated the most sophisticated child sex abuse operation "the world has known," an alleged victim of the King of Pop claims in new documents.

The shocking claims are included in an amended complaint filed by Wade Robson, a choreographer who was taken under Jackson's wing as a child.

In the new filings, Robson, 33, alleges that Jackson and his inner circle sought out children in systematic fashion through two companies, MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures. The companies — ostensibly dedicated to creating and disseminating Jackson's entertainment — served "dual purposes," Robson's lawyer told the Daily News.

"MJJ Productions operated the most sophisticated child sexual abuse procurement and facilitation operation the world has known," Robson's lawyer Vince Finaldi said Monday.

"Although MJJ Productions on its face was a multimedia company dedicated to creating and distributing Michael Jackson's music and entertainment, it actually served a dual purpose, and that was locating, producing and enabling his sexual abuse of kids," he said.

"This wasn't just on his own. This was through his company, through (assistant) Norma (Staikos) primarily," he said. "She would call parents and say, 'Hey he wants to meet you, come down to the ranch.'"

Finaldi said the company would set up the limo, have someone drive the family to the ranch, sometimes pay for plane tickets, put them up in lodging, pay for food and have staff members give gifts.

"Make no mistake, Neverland Ranch was nothing but a well-orchestrated trap," Finaldi told The News. "It was custom-built to attract kids so he could groom them and decide which to sexually abuse."

Robson's amended complaint, obtained by The News, adds new negligence claims to his suit against the two companies.

He claims he was brought into Jackson's orbit when he was only 5 years old, after winning a dance competition in Australia organized by MJJ Ventures.

Two years later, Staikos contacted the family about meeting with The Gloved One and staying at Neverland Ranch during a trip to Los Angeles, according to papers.

Staikos served as Jacko's "madam" or "procurer," the filing states.

During that visit, Jackson allegedly sexually abused Robson. The abuse continued for eight years until Robson hit puberty and Jackson lost interest, according to the new complaint.

Robson, who went on to work as a choreographer for the likes of Britney Spears and 'NSync, denied he was sexually abused during the pop icon's 2005 molestation trial in Santa Barbara County.

But he subsequently recanted, saying he'd realized Jackson abused him following years of therapy. In 2013 Robson's claims against Jackson's estate were thrown out after a judge ruled he'd waited too long to sue. He is now pursuing separate charges against Jackson's companies.

A lawyer for MJJ Productions declined to comment when reached by The News on Tuesday.


Sexual Abuse Charges Put Shadow on U.S. Gymnastics Federation

by Juliet Macur

Considering how many medals U.S.A. Gymnastics brought home from the Rio Games — an amazing 12, including Simone Biles's three individual golds and the women's team gold — the federation's post-Olympics glow should be brighter than ever.

A 36-city tour starring Biles and other standouts is starting Thursday in Spokane, Wash. A rush of money is pouring into the sport. After every Summer Games, gyms typically see a bump in enrollment because kids, including my 4-year-old, watched the Olympics and want to do what their new heroes do.

It's usually a happy time. But this year is anything but usual: Reports of sexual abuse in the sport, published before and since the Games, are reminders that gymnastics is not solid gold.

The first report, published in August by The Indianapolis Star, revealed that U.S.A. Gymnastics had kept files of complaints involving more than 50 coaches suspected of abusing athletes, yet in many cases failed to alert law enforcement of possible wrongdoing.

A second report by The Star, published Monday, said two women claimed that Larry Nassar, a longtime team doctor for U.S.A. Gymnastics, sexually abused them. One of the women filed a police complaint against Nassar, who, through his lawyer, denied any wrongdoing. The other woman, a medalist on the 2000 Olympic team, filed a civil lawsuit against Nassar that included U.S.A. Gymnastics as a defendant.

The lawsuit claimed that the federation, which oversees the sport in the United States and sets rules and policies for athletes and coaches, buried complaints about Nassar and failed to adequately supervise him. In the court filing, the Olympian said she was 12 or 13 when Nassar began molesting her and that he did so, fondling and groping her, until she was 18.

This battery of accusations against U.S.A. Gymnastics has turned a post-Olympic glow into something more of a haze. The federation has so much to address and to clarify, but in the short term that is not happening: U.S.A. Gymnastics officials did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for an interview regarding the federation's sexual abuse prevention policies and what, if anything, it plans to do to improve them. Instead, they released a lawyerly statement restating their commitment to the policies they have in place, and a pledge to continue their effort to review them.

Gymnastics, like many sports, has its dark corners and shadows, places where devious coaches can lurk and children can pay the price. So whatever U.S.A. Gymnastics does to keep its athletes safe — educating parents, setting policies to screen coaches, compiling public lists of coaches who are barred because of findings of sexual abuse — it will never be enough.

Within U.S.A. Gymnastics' giant pool of 3,000 member gyms there will always be a chance for aberrant behavior, just as in society. And the sad fact is there will always be victims who are too scared or embarrassed to come forward.

But when abuse accusations come at such a fast pace, the federation should at least stand up to say something to the girls and boys who participate in the sport, and the parents of those children. Tell them that U.S.A. Gymnastics is watching over them and doing everything it can to make things better. Tell them that the federation cares about its members.

Yes, there are lawsuits to deal with now, and words must be chosen carefully. But there is a time and a place to be a vocal leader on this scary yet important topic. It might not fit in with the sport's post-Olympics marketing push, but for U.S.A. Gymnastics, that time is now. It's crucial that parents and athletes are aware of the sport's problems, so they can protect themselves.

Some gym owners aren't waiting for guidance or inspiration to do the right thing. They already consider it their responsibility to protect the kids who walk through their front doors.

Mihai Brestyan, coach of the three-time Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman, runs Brestyan's American Gymnastics Club in Burlington, Mass. A veteran of 40 years in coaching, he acknowledged that U.S.A. Gymnastics can do only so much to police — and prevent — sexual abuse.

“Whatever the U.S.A. Gymnastics policies are — they have courses and lots of information — they can't protect everyone, because some gym owners don't respect the rules,” Brestyan said. “U.S.A. Gymnastics can't check everyone. It's just not possible.”

Brestyan, who owns a gym with his wife, Silvia, forbids anyone but athletes — even parents — from entering his gym's locker rooms. No coach is allowed to be alone with an athlete at any time.

There are 14 coaches at Brestyan's gym, including three men, and Brestyan says he is vigilant about looking for signs of inappropriate contact between coaches and athletes. Maybe a coach is hugging an athlete too much. Or adjusting her leotard. Or making unnecessary hands-on corrections.

Still, he said, “There are some sick people who are hiding the bad things they do very well.”

Like Marvin Sharp, U.S.A. Gymnastics' 2010 coach of the year. Sharp, an elite coach who owned an Indianapolis gym only 15 miles from the headquarters of U.S.A. Gymnastics, was arrested last year on charges of child molestation and child pornography.

U.S.A. Gymnastics has been said to have had a file on Sharp, receiving a detailed accusation against him in 2011, but it did not report him to the police until four years later. The official case against Sharp began with complaints that he was taking inappropriate photos of children in the studio in his gym. A few months later, he killed himself in his jail cell.

Sharp was stopped, far too late, but what about the next coach? Alerting U.S.A. Gymnastics has not always guaranteed action: A file tucked away in the federation's offices won't do much to stop a predator. How can a federation conduct a proper investigation anyway, when its main goal is to run and promote its sport — not to point out its flaws?

For Brestyan, there is a better step, a simpler step, at the first sign of trouble.

“Go first to the police station,” he said. “Go directly to the child abuse department, to the police there and say: ‘Look, this is what happened. What should I do?'”


Supreme Court refuses to block Backpage subpoenas in sex trafficking investigation

by Jackie Wattles

The Supreme Court declined Tuesday to block subpoenas issued to by a Senate committee that is investigating its alleged role in facilitating child sex trafficking.

The Center for Missing and Exploited Children has identified Backpage as a primary online marketplace for child sex trafficking ads on the internet.

The website was subpoenaed nearly a year ago by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. When the subpoena -- which was issued in October 2015 -- went unanswered, the Senate took a rare move and held Backpage in contempt of Congress, which hadn't been done since 1995.

But Backpage and its CEO, Carl Ferrer, have refused to comply with the subpoena, arguing that the First Amendment protects the company from complying with the Senate's demands.

But on Tuesday, the nation's highest court denied Backstage's request to block the subpoena. Justice Samuel Alito recused himself.

Backpage declined to comment on the court's action.

Lawyers for Ferrer had argued in court papers, "This case highlights a disturbing -- and growing -- trend of government actors issuing blunderbuss demands for documents to online publishers of content created by third parties (such as classified ads) in a manner that chills First Amendment rights."

Stephen Vladeck a CNN contributor and law professor at the University of Texas called the case "an absolute quagmire in First Amendment doctrine."

"The whole fight is about whether and to what extent the First Amendment protects online publishers of third-party content (like Backpage)," Vladeck said.

Backpage functions much like Craigslist, but it's been known to be more permissive for adult content.

It was the target of CNN investigations in 2011 and 2012. Numerous lawmakers and regulators have been after the company in recent years, attempting to shut down the site's adult content section where much of the suspected child sex trafficking activity occurs.

American Express (AXP), Mastercard (MA) and Visa (V) stopped allowing cardholders to make payments on the site in 2015.

Mastercard and Visa acted after an Illinois sheriff estimated Backpage was making about $100 million per year from adult advertising, and he lobbied the credit card companies to take action.

Senators Rob Portman and Claire McCaskill are heading up the Senate investigation. The lawmakers have called Backpage "the most important player" in the commercial sex advertising market.

Backpage claims to combat human trafficking, saying that it screens posts for illegal activities. But a subcommittee investigation says Backpage actually aids sex traffickers by helping to shield them from detection.

For instance, the Senate investigators found Backpage screens posts before they appear online, and the site removes key words from ads that could tip off law enforcement officials to illegal activity.



Combating human trafficking

by Sergio Carmona

South Florida organizations joined forces in their efforts to combat and spread awareness of the ongoing problem of human trafficking at Temple Israel of Greater Miami.

Hadassah Greater Miami and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine - Department of Public Health Sciences both hosted this recent human trafficking panel in partnership with the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, Women's International Zionist Organization (WIZO) and National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) Kendall Section.

Guest speakers at this event were Katherine Fernandez Rundle, State Attorney for Miami-Dade County; Melissa Schwartz, a survivor of human trafficking who lives in Miami; Nancy Ratzan, chair of Stop Sex Trafficking Miami which raises awareness about the sale of children for sex; Julie Cummings, founder and chair of the Lovelight Foundation, a multi-generational foundation that promotes social change; and Victor Williams, a special agent at U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Panel discussion included presenter José Szapocznik, Ph.D., professor & chair emeritus of UM Miller School of Medicine.

Schwartz provided an emotional testimony on her harrowing experience of more than a decade as a sex slave. Sold as a sex slave when she was 16, Schwartz saw "no hope," "no future" as she saw girls tortured around her constantly during her slavery. She told the audience that it's imperative that the community gets involved in this movement to end human trafficking, which she said has become pretty big in recent years, around the same time she was rescued.

Schwartz said it took her about a year and a half after her rescue to get mentally stable to live on her own. With a lot of help from different organizations, she was able to get the spiritual healing and therapy that she needed to help her make it in the world.

"It's important for these girls to know that there is hope and that there are people out there willing to help them and that do care," Schwartz remarked regarding hope for victims to thunderous applause.

During her remarks, Fernandez Rundle, who praised the local community for their efforts in working together to raise awareness, spoke about a new program her office initiated called Project Phoenix – which provides safety and recovery for human trafficking victims – that opened at Camillus House in Miami. She also mentioned the need to focus on the next steps for these victims beyond this shelter such as transitional housing, ways to rebuild their lives, recapture their education and get a job.

"These girls would really love to go to work," she remarked. "We've been working with Job Corps, Goodwill Industries and others to see how we can do that [help victims get jobs]."

Fernandez Rundle said that 75 percent of human trafficking victims are female and 25 are are male.

Ratzan said that human trafficking survivors' voices are so critical.

"Now there are more and more survivors who come out and educate us and there are some great books and some great movies," Ratzan said.

A book that Ratzan mentioned that educates people on this issue was "Walking Prey: How America's Youth Are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery." She also mentioned information online, such as the websites and as well as the national human trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

Representatives from the event's organizations spoke about this collaboration.

Linda Goldstein, president of Hadassah Greater Miami, said: "It's so important for the word to be spread about the issues and problems of human trafficking as this is one of our advocacy efforts, both in a national and local platform, and we invite people to join us but please call our office for more information so we can include you in joining our advocacy efforts."

Carol Brick-Turin, director of the JCRC of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, said: "It's encouraging to see the kind of collaboration between both Jewish and non-Jewish organizations that we're seeing this morning to amplify our efforts in increasing awareness and action."

The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office had pamphlets at the event urging people if they suspect someone being trafficked or for more information to call their hotline at 305-350-5567. Hadassah Greater Miami office number is 305-576-4447.



It's one thing for a sex trafficking victim to escape. It's another to heal.

by Danielle McLean

At age 14, Sara ran away from home in western Maine, and a madame in Lewiston sold her for sex to countless men. After she escaped “the Life,” drug-addicted boyfriends beat her, and people she grew to trust traded her to other men for drugs. She had to exchange sex for food and shelter, lost a son to the state, spent time in and out of jail, and was held captive in hotels, she said.

Now at 25, Sara is starting to have hope. She's learning to build trust and healthy relationships. She recently got a job as a sales associate, and she aims to become a certified nursing assistant. She's finishing her high school education, trying to stay sober and learning how to care for a young daughter. The BDN is not releasing Sara's last name or other identifying information to protect her safety.

Sara is at Hope Rising, a home that provides 24-7 care to sex trafficking victims free of charge at an undisclosed location in Penobscot County. The long-term program is the first of its kind in Maine, according to its director, and provides victims access to nurses, social workers, counseling, addiction treatment, career advice and a number of other services intended to help them move past deeply rooted traumas and reach for a future of their choosing.

“It's a place where I know I can be safe. I don't need to pretend to be tough, I don't need to pretend that I'm OK. I can cry, and that's OK,” Sara said. “I'm very grateful for this place because they took me in with nothing.”

Federal and local law enforcement officials, health care workers, prosecutors and advocates for trafficking victims all agree: Long-term programs like Hope Rising, or comprehensive outpatient care, can be key to a victim's recovery.

An all-encompassing program like Hope Rising, or case management services such as those offered by the nonprofit Preble Street in Portland, help trafficking victims build a life for themselves. But nationwide, such facilities and services are few and far between. They can be expensive — especially residential services — and there's little state, federal or even private funding available to pay for them.

The resources don't come close to serving the number of sex trafficking victims throughout Maine, nevermind the country.

There are an estimated 200 to 300 cases of sex trafficking in Maine per year — out of 14,500 to 17,500 people being trafficked throughout the country, according to a Maine human trafficking needs assessment conducted by South Portland-based Hornby Zeller Associates.

Hope Rising, which opened last year, has five beds. In 2015 and 2016, it brought 12 women through its program. It's one of just a few long-term residential programs the BDN has identified in New England.

Perhaps the greatest thing Hope Rising has given Sara is a sense of peace.

“I don't feel like I have to give them anything. I don't feel like I owe them anything like that,” she said. “I don't have to give them my body, my mind. It feels nice to be at a place where I'm supported, I'm loved and I'm safe — because I haven't had that in a long time.”

‘Vital' long-term programs

The sun sets on the Portland skyline on Aug. 31, 2016. Since starting in mid-2014, the Preble Street Anti-Trafficking Coalition has helped 111 sex and labor trafficking victims in Cumberland and York County. (Troy R. Bennett | BDN)

More of these “vital” long-term programs are needed nationwide, and they deserve the support of the government, according to Dave Rogers, the former agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's human trafficking program in the bureau's Civil Rights Unit.

Due to Hope Rising's efforts, five women at a time are receiving help. But programs like it are expensive and difficult to start and sustain, he said. Hope Rising, for instance, currently has enough funding from grants, and private and in-kind donations, to stay in operation until next summer.

“It would be great if legislation would actually help these long-term providers. That's a huge need,” said Rogers, who now serves as the U.S. program director for the global anti-human trafficking organization Hope for Justice. “Five beds were five more than there were before, but what happens if there were 500 victims?”

The only trafficking victim support program in Maine that receives federal funding is the Preble Street Anti-Trafficking Coalition, a network of southern Maine service providers that connects victims to counseling, addiction treatment, shelter and long-term support, and fulfills other basic needs. Since starting in mid-2014, the program has helped 111 sex and labor trafficking victims between the ages 14 to 58 in Cumberland and York County, said Daniella Cameron, who manages the coalition.

One of those victims was Sara, whom Preble Street referred to Hope Rising.

“We don't have enough programs like Hope Rising that address all the various needs of trafficking survivors,” Cameron said. “Five beds is definitely limited.”

The Preble Street Anti-Trafficking Coalition started after receiving a $400,000 Department of Justice grant in 2013; they recently received a second $250,000 DOJ grant last year. There are eight other anti-trafficking coalitions in other parts of the state that help victims but have far less money. Meanwhile, even with the federal grants, Preble Street is stretched for funding and significantly understaffed, Cameron said.

The availability of services such as Hope Rising could aid prosecutors in putting pimps and predators behind bars, said Assistant Attorney General Meg Elam who previously prosecuted sex trafficking cases at the Cumberland County district attorney's office.

That's because victims need to be stable, sober and functional throughout a trial to be reliable witnesses, she said. If victims have a place to live and services to help them get on their feet, they can be served a subpoena to appear in court, and they're more likely to show up to trial dates or meetings with a detective, instead of finding drugs or being sick. Their testimony is also more likely to be considered reliable.

But getting off drugs, finding housing and moving on with their lives is not easy for most victims, and requires a great deal of long-term help.

“Trauma treatment is really important because you are being raped day after day after day. Imagine that trauma,” Elam said. “Until we help victims become healthy, functional people, they can't assist us prosecute the people who exploited them.”

With victims receiving the services they need from a place like Hope Rising, law enforcement can focus on building cases against traffickers instead of worrying about whether victims who will be key to the prosecution's case are going to fall back into a trafficking ring, said Bangor Police Sgt. David Bushey.

“It's nice to know we can focus on prosecuting the criminals, and the victims can be in good hands and taken care of,” said Bushey, who's part of a Homeland Security Investigations-led Maine human trafficking task force. “Long-term care is the best way to make sure that somebody is not revictimized.”

Funding long-term victim care

A recent art auction in Bangor raised money for Hope Rising, a residential treatment program in Penobscot County for survivors of human trafficking. (Danielle McLean | BDN)

The concept behind Hope Rising dates back to the late 1800s when a group of nuns in Quebec called the Good Shepherd Sisters helped trafficked women imprisoned for sex work. The Good Shepherd Sisters created the organization Saint Andre Home in Biddeford in 1940 to house unwed mothers and offer adoption services.

Over the next 70 years, Saint Andre Home opened three other group homes around the state. But the group homes closed in 2013 after losing about $2 million annually following state cuts for Private Non-Medical Institutions, according to Saint Andre Home Executive Director Reid Scher.

Saint Andre Home has since turned its attention elsewhere, including to Hope Rising.

A nun from Good Shepherd Sisters introduced the idea of Hope Rising to Saint Andre Home officials after learning about Maine's problems with sex trafficking, bringing the organization's work back to the original mission of the sisters in the 1800s, Hope Rising's director, Carey Nason, said.

Saint Andre Home was able to launch Hope Rising a year ago after receiving a grant worth $400,000 from the Next Generation Foundation of Maine, Scher said.

In addition to serving a total of 12 survivors at the home, Hope Rising has helped more than 70 additional trafficking victims throughout the state over the past year, providing them with essentials like food and clothes, and connecting them to housing. Hope Rising has partnerships with Penobscot Community Health Care and St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor that allow its residents access to free medical care.

But Hope Rising's future depends on its ability to assemble a patchwork of different funding streams into a sustainable operating budget.

In addition to the $400,000 in seed money, Hope Rising raised $410,000 over the past three years through private donations, small grants and fundraising events such as art shows and concerts. Hope Rising needs to raise another $400,000 in order to stay open for another year past next June, Scher said.

Saint Andre officials are hoping a year's worth of data showing positive outcomes for Hope Rising's residents will qualify the group home for additional grants, including a $600,000 Specialized Services for Victims of Human Trafficking grant available through the Department of Justice.

Saint Andre Home has had discussions with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services about providing future funding for Hope Rising. For now the department has been providing Hope Rising residents with short-term housing subsidies through the state's Bridging Rental Assistance Program.

Need elsewhere

Jeanne Allert founded a religious-based nonprofit The Samaritan Women in Maryland, which has helped 53 women through its two-year residential program since 2011. (Courtesy of The Samaritan Women)

Like Hope Rising, other residential programs for sex trafficking victims across the U.S. are also learning and adjusting their programs as they go — and facing a shortage of funding.

Hope Rising officials plan to share the results of their failures and successes with others. “We have an opportunity to see what works in theory and what works in practice,” Nason said.

In Maryland, a religious-based nonprofit The Samaritan Women has helped 53 women through its two-year residential program since 2011, founder Jeanne Allert said. It shares a similar mission to Hope Rising but requires survivors to stay longer. Also like Hope Rising, it relies entirely on private donations and grants, and receives no money from the state or federal government.

The group doesn't yet have standard measures of success — such as whether survivors keep jobs or enroll in school — but are working to create them. It's also trying to create a network of long-term provider programs across the East Coast. Doing so would allow victims to heal outside of environments in which they were abused.

The Samaritan Women recently surveyed 15 agencies that provide long-term care to victims in 11 different states throughout the country. Most of the facilities she surveyed had four to eight beds, costing $3,861 per month to care for each adult client, Allert said. The two agencies for minors that she surveyed receive state funding, but the remaining 13 facilities, for adults, receive neither state nor federal funding.

Last year, the Department of Justice released $14.7 million in funds for organizations that support victims — part of a $44 million anti-trafficking grant, according to a DOJ press release. The money went to dozens of organizations, including at least four offering adult residential services.

There are few pools of available private funds, Allert said, describing how she knows of only two major foundations that have made sex trafficking a key part of their funding agenda. However, with clever grant writing, organizations can sometimes tap into sexual assault and domestic violence-focused funds, she said.

Each victim has a different story and different needs, said John Cotton Richmond, founding director of the Human Trafficking Institute and a former federal prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice's Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.

“Not everybody wants to be in a shelter,” he said. Rather, there needs to be a diversity of programs and services tailored for individual victims.

Long-term health

When victims enter Hope Rising, the program tries to address their most basic needs first: clothing, nutrition, physical and mental health. Sometimes victims need an official ID or to re-apply for Social Security cards, said Leah Maxwell, a social worker at Hope Rising. Other times they work on addressing internal needs, such as how to make choices for themselves, she said.

Then they try to address long-term needs, working with victims to envision their future and a plan to get there, Nason said. Sometimes that means continuing their education, finding volunteer opportunities or reconnecting with family members.

“We really want people when they are finished with our program to have the skills that they need, so they are ready for whatever that next step is,” Nason said. “So they can live a life that is independent, however they would like that to look.”

Without the long-term and ongoing support, victims often self-destruct, Allert said.

“This is a long process. Anyone who is telling you that someone is better after three months or six months has not done the work,” she said.

Sara came to Hope Rising from jail. A case worker at Cumberland County jail heard Sara's story and referred her to Preble Street in Portland, which then referred her to Hope Rising. It was a way to reduce her jail sentence — she sold marijuana to minors and later violated her conditions of release — and to change her life.

When she started the program, she said she didn't trust others and didn't trust herself. Now she is gardening, writing poetry, supporting other victims and learning algebra.

Victims at Hope Rising need to make a six-month commitment but are allowed to stay up to two years, Nason said. Even after residents leave, the program continues to support them. Sara hopes to graduate from Hope Rising in November but will continue receiving support from the program's counselors afterward.

Sara still has nightmares about running from boyfriends who used to beat her and about performing sex acts on men for drugs, but they are becoming more manageable. She ran away from Hope Rising for three hours a couple months ago. A friend wanted her to perform sex acts on men, so they could hitch a ride to Augusta. She didn't. Instead she called Nason, in tears.

“When I left I realized I didn't want that life any more,” Sara said. “I don't want to be like this anymore.”

Visit Hope Rising's website to learn more about the program. Check out the 2016 Music Heals Concert for Hope, a Sept. 24 fundraiser in Westbrook for Hope Rising and Boston-based Amirah, featuring performances from country stars Steve Azar and Deana Carter.

If you or someone you know might be a victim of sex trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. To reach a sexual assault advocate, call the Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Line at 800-871-7741, TTY 888-458-5599. This free and confidential 24-hour service is accessible from anywhere in Maine.



Toddler suffocated under bean bag chair as day-care employee sat on it reading to other children, police say

by Ben Guarino

On Saturday, what would have been Leonardo Sanchez's second birthday, his family will not have the party they had planned.

Instead, they will hold a funeral.

In a tragedy that unfolded in a matter of minutes at a day-care center in West Jordan, a suburb to the southwest of Salt Lake City, Danielle Sanchez lost her son.

“He was a cute bundle of joy,” Sanchez said to Salt Lake City's Fox 13. “He brought a lot of love.”

Sanchez left Leonardo at West Jordan Child Center on Sept. 8. It would mark the last moment she saw her son alive. Around noon, the toddler was playing with other children at the center — not unusual for a boy who, according to his mother, was always the life of the party.

He crept beneath a bean bag chair at the day-care center to hide, according to West Jordan police who later reviewed security camera footage from that day. An employee of the center, seemingly unaware of Leonardo's whereabouts, then sat on top of the chair.

Why the employee did not notice Leonardo, or the child's apparent absence from the room, is unclear.

“I'm just confused,” Sanchez said to NBC affiliate KSL. “I'm so confused on how you don't know where my kid is. How do you not feel him? How do you not hear him scream?”

She said that police told her that, for several minutes, the employee sat on the chair and read to other children. Sgt. Joe Monson, with the West Jordan police, called the incident a tragic accident. Police say Leonardo was under the chair for up to 15 minutes before the day-care center noticed he was missing. He suffocated beneath the chair and was discovered unconscious.

Responders attempted to resuscitate the toddler at the day care, the Saint Louis Tribune reported. He was pronounced dead at Salt Lake City's Primary Children's Hospital later that night.

On Friday, Dan Sanchez, the boy's father, told KUTV that the day-care needed to change its practices and be held accountable.

“We regret deeply the tragic death of a young toddler at our day care facility. No words adequately describe the depth of the sorrow we feel. And, of course, we do not pretend to understand how devastating this is for the family,” West Jordan Child Center said in a statement Friday through its attorney Barry Johnson.

As Johnson told KSL: “We know the family well, we grieve with them, and we pray that God will provide them the comfort and peace they inevitably will need.”

The day-care center had two violations in the previous five years, according to a spokesman for the Utah Department of Health's child-care licensing program; in one instance, children were left unsupervised. The department is investigating the circumstances of Leonardo's death.

As of Friday, no charges had been filed against the unnamed employee. West Jordan officials were unable to respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post early Tuesday.


How Jokes About Bill Cosby Are Hurting Survivors

by Noor Al-Sibai

With the current maelstrom of publicity and scandal surrounding the accusations leveled against Bill Cosby, it's easy to forget that a few years ago, he was considered a beloved TV father. All of that changed in late 2014, when a video of comedian Hannibal Buress doing a bit about the rape allegations against Cosby went viral. Now that Cosby is a fairly universally-reviled symbol of rape culture at its finest — in spite of the former Cosby Show star denying the charges that are set to go to trial in 2017 — it's appalling to find that people still don't understand why reducing Bill Cosby to a punchline hurts survivors of sexual assault, rape and abuse.

I was sexually abused as a child, and have experienced sexual assault to varying degrees as an adult. Whenever I hear jokes about Cosby, I literally feel the dread bubbling up in my stomach and, sometimes, get a gross taste in my throat, akin to that of swallowing a pill without water. I don't cry, I don't leave the room but I do feel the exact same sense of paralysis and stifled fear that comes with every rape joke I've ever heard.

Somehow, some people still don't understand that joking about Cosby — whether it's about how he supposedly "got away with it" for so many years, or worse, how he languished under his friendly paternal persona while allegedly raping so many women — is the same thing as joking about rape itself. Somehow, people don't realize that when they make those jokes, they are very likely making them in the presence of a survivor of rape, assault, or abuse.

There's a bizarre thing that happens in supposedly-progressive circles where highbrow discussions of current events, like how Cosby's trial date has been set, are undertaken in a tone of detached irony. These conversations often aren't center around the subject in question (like Cosby, or Woody Allen), but rather on the "stupidity" of the public who "allowed" them to get away with their alleged misdeeds. We (the passive members of these discussions) are given a number of reasons why it's "funny" that events played out the way they did, and are expected to feel the same sense of ironic, albeit morbid, humor as the speaker.

Often, we're treated to endless talk of the racism or sexism implied by the unfolding of these scandals. Often, the actual matter of the rapes in question is brushed aside.

I'm sick of having to talk about Bill Cosby, whether it's having to defend myself against would-be humorists who think it's "funny" that it's "just now being talked about," or having to defend his alleged victims from being blamed for their own rapes. There's so much to examine in this case (like the implicit racism in the ways we discuss and vilify Cosby), but as a survivor, I'm sick of having to be on the defensive.

When we allow public scandals as serious as the accusations against Cosby to become lightened by humor, we allow them to "get away with it," little by little. I'm of many minds about whether there are subjects that can't be joked about, but I firmly stand by the notion that there are acceptable ways to use humor to highlight societal ills like rape (and racism, and other forms of bigotry), and that the majority of those who attempt to joke about them get it wildly wrong.

It's not the place of people who haven't been raped or assaulted, or those who don't feel at risk of them every time they walk alone at night or go to a bar, to speak of rape in any way but with the utmost seriousness and sensitivity. Until someone who tells jokes about the current Cosby scandal treats me or other survivors with that sensitivity, I will continue to feel my stomach drop every time I hear someone laugh when mentioning his name.



DFPS unveils new strategic plan to reduce cases of child abuse

by Zack Hedrick

SAN ANTONIO -- The state announced their goal to dentify abused children sooner and get them the help they need faster.

Experts are hoping to achieve that goal by focusing on prevention and intervention.

The latest numbers from the Department of Family and Protective Services show there were 171 child fatalities in 2015 where abuse or neglect was confirmed.

That number is up from 151 in 2014.

"Even one case is too many," said Dr. James Lukefahr, medical director of the Center for Miracles.

Dr. Lukefahr is no stranger to cases of child abuse.

“Each one continues to be a tragedy," said Lukefahr.

He's one of roughly 200 pediatricians in the country that specializes in treating child abuse.

"We unfortunately have seen a number of really serious cases recently some of which have involved child deaths due to abuse or neglect," said Lukefahr.

To try and reduce those cases, a new plan released by the state of Texas considers child abuse and neglect as a community problem only a community can prevent.

“I think it's a great step in the right direction," said Lukefahr.

The plan focuses on prevention and early intervention.

Directors with the Department of Family and Protective Services says the five-year effort will provide resources for other problems like substance abuse, alcoholism and poverty -- which can be factors that lead to abuse and neglect.

“CPS will be able to offer services to families to try and help them do better as far as meeting their children's needs and hopefully staying out of the legal system," said Lukefahr.

Under the plan, services will also be made available to pre-teens and teenagers who have been victims of the abuse.

But doctors say the children who are at the greatest risk are five years of age or younger.

"We really do have to focus our preventative efforts on the smaller children if we're going to save lives,” said Lukefahr.

Here's a link to the plan.

For more information about child abuse, prevention and the Center for Miracles click here

A few programs for prevention and early intervention are already under way.

• Services to At-Risk Youth (STAR) provides family crisis intervention counseling, short-term emergency respite care, and counseling.

• Community Youth Development (CYD) is built to prevent juvenile delinquency and includes mentoring, youth employment programs, and recreational activities.

• Statewide Youth Services Network (SYSN) provides community and juvenile delinquency prevention programs.

• Texas Families Together and Safe (TFTS) is designed to alleviate stress and promote parental skills that give families a better chance to become self-sufficient and successfully nurture their children.

• Community Based Family Services (CBFS) serves families who have been investigated by CPS but whose allegations are low priority or unsubstantiated.

• Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support (HOPES) provides parent education, home-visiting, and other support services for families with children five and younger who may be at risk for abuse and neglect.



Training Course Looks To Root Out Child Abuse By Learning From Offenders

by Josh James

A five-week training program targeting child sexual abuse is taking place in Lexington.

Cory Jewell Jensen with the Oregon-based Center for Behavioral Intervention is the woman heading up the Kentucky training sessions, which aim not only to equip parents and professionals to better detect child sexual abuse but also to bring participants up to speed on techniques that have fallen out of favor.

"We have learned an awful lot in the last 20 years about how we need to change the prevention models from the early ones that involved 'good touch, bad touch,' which turned out to be horrible prevention programs," she reports.

Those previous models put too much of the onus on children to report, she says, and that's a problem when data show only 5-13 percent of kids volunteering information about potential abuse.

To help audiences stay on guard day-to-day while navigating the evolving world of online threats, Jensen's presentations go straight to the source – revealing what she's learned in conversations with sexual predators behind bars.

"It's a training that's not for the faint of heart," Attorney General Andy Beshear cautions. "You hear from people who have committed horrendous crimes, but what we can learn from them can help us prevent the next child from being exploited."

Beshear's office has awarded over $160,000 to Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky and four other statewide programs with similar missions this year. The hope is that they will help Kentucky keep pace with other states where Jensen says child abusers are being reported and prosecuted at higher rates.

"[Kentucky] is below the national average and we think part of that is that Kentuckians haven't been really trained to report," she notes. "A third of people who know children are being abused don't report and part of the reason is that they're afraid they might be wrong or they're going to inadvertently get someone who's innocent in trouble."


United Kingdom

The scale of historical sexual abuse in the UK is a catastrophe. We need catharsis

by Beatrix Campbell

Lowell Goddard has told us what we know – that sexual crimes against children are too big, too tolerated and altogether too much. Goddard, the New Zealand judge who resigned from the inquiry into historical child abuse last month, said in a memo to MPs that there was “an inherent problem in the sheer scale and size of the inquiry”.

It was set up in 2014 after a tsunami of scandal: the deaths of prolific but protected abusers, BBC DJ Jimmy Savile and Liberal politician Cyril Smith, and longstanding suspicions about other Westminster politicians. Speculation about organised networks of men sexually exploiting children amplified the clamour to do something. The inquiry announced 13 initial investigations. Goddard is the third chair to step down, after the previous two appointees resigned. Her memo, drawing attention to the unmanageable scale of the problem, has encouraged cynicism and scepticism, but scale should be no deterrent. Nor should the shame that suffocates survivors of sexual assault.

Victims and survivors don't expect and don't get justice. The great American specialist in crimes of sexual domination, Judith Lewis Herman, warns that the perpetrator's goal is to maintain domination by terrorising and shaming. It is this “dishonouring” of victims, she argues, that makes sexual abuse “so impervious to the formal remedies of the law”.

What Goddard and her inquiry have not been able to do, we as a society haven't been able to do either: sexual crimes against children are ubiquitous and abusers act with virtual impunity.

Sexual abuse of children is one of the great issues of our time. For decades it loitered on the doorsteps of institutions, with nowhere to go. Theresa May's efforts as home secretary to launch the inquiry in 2014 revealed a rush to judgment and a faith that the great and the good – our own or somebody else's – could get hold of this and control it.

They can't. Unlike the Iraq war inquiry, or the Hillsborough inquiry, this is not about one time and place, but about everywhere: all bodies with any responsibility for children – from police to schools, churches, the justice system, the NHS, private schools and public charities – are implicated. Some have been named. I'm currently updating my book Unofficial Secrets, on the Cleveland child abuse crisis 30 years ago. It was a controversy about medical evidence of abuse and how to respond to it.

An inquiry chaired by Elizabeth Butler-Sloss – the same judge appointed in 2014 to lead the new inquiry, before she resigned under pressure over family links – was the defining moment in our era of child-abuse politics: it was a model of not-knowing, of not answering the questions on everyone's lips. Although the Cleveland inquiry did not doubt the medical signs that were suggestive of sexual abuse, its report neither asked nor answered the question: were the children abused? And it thus created the context in which thousands of childhoods would be ruined. The government squandered a generation of professionals. And it denied justice – or if not justice, at least honour – to the survivors.

There are millions of us – survivors and professionals and their advocates – waiting, waiting, waiting for recognition and respect and the opportunity to participate in a cultural revolution. Goddard has suggested there should be a complete review of the inquiry she has quit, “with a view to remodelling it and recalibrating its emphasis more towards current events and thus focusing major attention on the present and future protection of children”. But to abandon the excavation of the past because it is too big and too hard – as Goddard seems to suggest – is to demand that we commit collective amnesia. It would mean “giving up on a better past” – in Herman's phrase – for the millions who will suffer in the future.

The inquiry needs to be brave, to innovate. South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission could be a useful model. It had a target, the old apartheid state, and a mission: to name the guilty men and validate their victims and cement a new consensus. Yet that commission was set up by a post-apartheid government, whereas we are not a post-sexual abuse society. And that commission's brief – to address individual victims of violence and perpetrators – did not extend to the millions subjected to “social suffering” caused by apartheid.

The child abuse inquiry's brief is not just to consider abuse in institutional contexts, but the experiences of anyone “failed by an institution”. Nevertheless, a historical inquiry into institutions ignores the place where most sexual abuse takes place – the family. The Office of the Children's Commissioner (OCC) in England calculates that 1.3 million children will experience serious sexual abuse in their families by the time they reach 18. In the past year the OCC has reportedly lost half its staff. That's how committed the government is to abused children.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary expresses its worries, in report after report, that despite law reform and greater awareness raised by successive scandals, the police response to sexual crime is so routinely poor that it risks failing another generation of children.

We need this inquiry to be brave. When it reviews itself, as it will, it must insist on what it needs – more specialist and trained staff and more support for those staff, who may be shocked by their discoveries. It needs huge outreach – who in Gateshead, or Godalming knows that this might be a forum for them? And it needs serious investigative powers and resources.

Why not envisage an inquiry that prefigures permanent vigilance, that morphs into an inspectorate that reports regularly, is respected by those who need it and feared by its enemies; whose brief is to support collective self-discovery so that we are not doomed to be who we were.

We need this inquiry to do something unprecedented: to help transform a catastrophe into a catharsis.


New Jersey

Prevention of child sexual assault

NEWTON — Teens and adults are invited to learn about the prevention of child sexual assault at free training sessions on Wednesday, Sept. 14, from 10 a.m. to noon. or from 6 to 8 p.m. The workshops will be offered by the Enough Abuse Campaign, a cooperative effort of Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, Project Self-Sufficiency, and the Sussex Warren Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse. The community-wide education initiative aims to mobilize adults and communities to prevent child sexual assault by increasing awareness of safe practices for potential victims. Educators are particularly interested in training middle and high school youth, their parents, teachers, administrators, coaches and other youth-serving professionals on how to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse. Project Self-Sufficiency is located at 127 Mill St.,l in Newton. Participation is free and open to anyone interested in stemming the tide of child sexual assault, but advance registration is required.

To register, or to find out more about the Enough Abuse campaign, call Project Self-Sufficiency, 973-940-3500 or 844-807-3500.



Caseworkers sued in death of GJ toddler

County workers share blame, girl's grandfather says in filing

by Erin McIntyre

The estate of a child who was beaten to death two years ago has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against four employees of the Mesa County Department of Human Services, alleging they turned a blind eye to obvious signs of abuse, which resulted in the child's death.

Joyce Anderson, Jacque Berry, Joni Bedell and Crystal Stewart are named in the federal civil suit, which was filed by the paternal grandfather of Angel Place. The baby died in September 2014 when she was 11 months old after Department of Human Services child-protection workers removed her from her parents' home, placed her with a foster family, and then removed her from the foster family and placed her with her aunt and uncle.

Nine weeks after she was placed with her aunt and uncle, Angel died as a result of blunt-force injuries to the head, the Mesa County coroner found.

Her aunt, Sydney White, was sentenced last November to 30 years in prison for killing Angel.

In the complaint, attorneys Keith Killian and Joe Azbell wrote that Department of Human Services workers were negligent and didn't properly vet the home of White and her husband, Randy Bond, and ignored signs that the baby would likely be harmed. They also said the baby should not have been placed in a home with two young children and with White, who was 19 years old at the time, which was against policy.

Anderson was the placement resource manager and conducted the assessment of the kinship home where Angel was placed and died, and Bedell was her supervisor and signed off on the assessment. Stewart was the primary case manager who handled the majority of Angel's case and Berry was the senior case manager who removed Angel from her parents' home. The reason given for taking Angel from her parents, Ted and Tierra Place, was that they admitted to smoking marijuana around her and had domestic violence issues.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit is Shane Place, Angel's grandfather, who applied to be the personal representative of her estate on Sept. 9, the same day the lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court. Shane Place is the father of Ted Place, Angel's biological father.

Most of the complaint centers on the argument that the Department of Human Services should have recognized red flags when it assessed the kinship home where Angel was placed.

“Anderson's interviews and investigation of White should have alerted Anderson and other employees at the Department of Human Services that White was not suitable to be a foster parent to Angel and that by placing Angel in White's house Angel was in an obvious and substantial risk of serious and immediate physical and psychological harm,” the lawsuit alleges.

Department of Human Services officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.

“Our sympathies go out to this family and all families who have lost a child due to abuse and neglect. We take all incidents of child abuse and neglect very seriously. Due to pending litigation we are unable to provide any specific response in regards to your inquiry on Angel Place,” Executive Director Tracey Garchar wrote in a statement to The Daily Sentinel.

Documents from the Department of Human Services indicate White had an unstable childhood and a history of physical and emotional abuse, and that White admitted to caseworkers that she needed therapy to help her avoid her mother's parenting mistakes. The lawsuit also alleges White had several well-known risk factors for shaken-baby syndrome and child abuse, including her young age, low level of education, unstable family history (including her mother's mental illness), family stress and having two children in the home ages 2 and 6 months.

The lawsuit also alleges Department of Human Services workers failed to recognize that Angel wasn't thriving in the kinship home, and notes that the baby was doing well in the foster home which intended to adopt her before the department decided to remove her and place her with kin. The complaint notes that Misty Blackwell, Angel's foster mother, made reports to Human Services workers that she was concerned that the baby wasn't being taken care of during visits to White and Bond's home, and that Human Services ignored those reports.

“Ignoring Blackwell's claims of abuse and neglect, Stewart, Berry, Anderson, and Bedell continued to push for Bond and White to become Angel's foster parents,” the lawsuit said. “Defendants deprived her of her substantive due process rights and created the circumstances that allowed White to violently abuse and kill her.”

The complaint requests a jury trial and compensation, including damages for Angel's death.



Volunteers wanted for the TCOE C.A.N. program

by Danielle A. Martin

The Tulare County office of Education Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Program is looking for volunteers to help reduce the incident of neglect, as well as physical, emotional and sexual abuse in children.

If interested you must be comfortable in a classroom setting, committed to child safety and available a few hours each month during the school year.

As a volunteer, you, along with the project coordinator, will make presentations to first through fifth grade classes. The presentation message is that children in a dangerous situation should say “NO!,” then get away and tell someone they trust.

For more information contact Linda Cemo or Nan Arnold at 559-651-0130 for an application and an interview. Applications will be accepted through Sept. 23, for this semester.




Lifting of statute of limitations on child sex abuse welcome

We commend the members of the Guam Legislature for the unanimous passage of Bill 326 and we urge Gov. Calvo to sign it into law. Once enacted, the bill will eliminate the statute of limitations for civil cases involving child sex abuse. Child molestation is a particularly abhorrent crime with traumatic, long-term emotional effects. Children are often not able to understand what happened to them or why it happened, and are unable to report the attack.

In addition to the harm caused by the physical attack itself, the attacker is often someone known and trusted by the victim which makes the abuse even more traumatic and difficult to report.

The bill appears to have been prompted by recent accusations of sexual abuse leveled against Archbishop Anthony Apuron and other clergy. The accusations involve acts that are alleged to have occurred as long ago as 40 years, and so are well outside the current statute of limitations. Apuron has not been convicted of any crime, but the multiple accusations are of reprehensible acts and the victims should be able to make their accusations in a court of law. Similarly, the accused should have the opportunity to face and respond to those accusing him.

In addition to being grossly immoral, child sex abuse is a grave violation of the law. That the accused are members of the clergy should not be relevant to the legal process. Sex abuse is an offense against the community, and justice should be in the purview of the same legal system that has jurisdiction over any criminal activity in the community.

The sexual abuse of children by clergy seemingly throughout the Church has been one of the great scandals of the Catholic Church. The revelations of not only the abuse itself, but of the cover-ups and facilitation by those in the upper levels of church hierarchy have been shocking and disgraceful. The abuse came to light and was addressed only after it was prosecuted by secular authorities. As an institution, the Church has been shamefully slow to address the abuse and take steps to stamp it out.

Child sexual abuse certainly occurs outside of the Church – in families, schools, neighborhoods and other places where children are present and vulnerable. The provisions of the bill – the extension of the time limit for bringing court action against perpetrators of abuse – are appropriate for these cases.

The Guam Legislature has an obligation to do what it can to ensure that children in Guam are protected from sexual predators. The passage of Bill 326 and the ability to bring civil action against those who have stolen the innocence of and otherwise victimized children so grievously is a welcome step in that direction.


New York

Long Island Abuse Case Reveals Risks of Out-of-State Foster Care

by Nikita Stewart and Joseph Goldstein

The website features photographs and short biographies of children, some with special needs. Choices can be narrowed by gender, age, race and ethnicity.

The State of Washington turns to sites, like the Washington Adoption Resource Exchange, to help find adoptive parents for children. The state's goal is to keep the children near family and familiar surroundings, but if officials cannot find a suitable match, they consider homes out of state — even across the country in New York.

That is how Washington first found Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, who lives in Ridge, N.Y., on Long Island. He reached out after seeing children online in 2009.

Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu eventually took in three boys from Washington, two of whom he adopted. They were among more than 100 children he cared for over some 20 years, a vast majority of whom came from New York City.

But Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu, a foster parent trusted by so many social workers, is now in jail awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing five of his adopted sons and endangering the welfare of two foster children.

Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu's arrest prompted questions about why it took so long for the alleged abuse to be revealed. But it also drew attention to the practice of sending foster children far from the communities they knew — in this case, nearly 3,000 miles — to find a home.

Some states use such long-distance placement because their own systems are struggling to find a place for children with special needs. Advocates say such long-distance arrangements can be positive because they can help children find homes more quickly. But effective oversight of even local foster care providers has proved a difficult mandate for many child welfare agencies nationwide; distance adds another obstacle.

Records obtained by The New York Times show that social workers in Washington were confused about the status of a 2014 investigation into abuse in Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu's home across the country. At that time, they continued to actively guide Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu in his efforts to adopt a third boy because they did not know details of the investigation.

“#1 Do you know anything about the investigation,” Amy Herring, a social worker in Washington, wrote in an email to Erin Coyle, who at the time was a director at SCO Family of Services, a nonprofit foster care agency in New York that monitored Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu on behalf of Washington. “#2 Do you know when the adoption paperwork may be done by?”

Ms. Coyle “is no longer employed by the agency,” SCO said. Ms. Coyle did not respond to requests for comment through messages left by phone and sent via Facebook.

For his part, Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu, who was licensed to run a therapeutic home for special needs children, continued to be paid. From September 2010 through January 2016, when he was arrested, he received nearly $145,000 from Washington for caring for children placed with him, in addition to money he received from New York City for caring for local foster children.

Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. His lawyer, Donald Mates Jr., said the allegations were false.

The first mention of Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu's name in Washington State's records was in late 2009, and was positive. He was interested in adopting a boy listed on an adoption website.

Lori Whittaker, a social worker, wrote in a case file in December 2009 that the staff thought he would be a “good placement.” Also, Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu had told them that none of the child's special needs “scare me.”

(The children's names, as well as confidential information, were redacted from files given to The Times.)

Soon after, on Feb. 3, 2010, another social worker, Veronica L. Mo, wrote something similar and said he had also asked about another child. Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu traveled to Washington to meet one of the boys, according to the records. He soon took another child.

Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu was a one-man operation used by several different agencies that considered his home a safe haven for boys who were developmentally or physically disabled, or had severe behavioral problems.

That dependency proved blinding for those agencies, law enforcement officials have said.

Mr. Mates said nothing was overlooked; his client is innocent. Over the past 20 years, Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu had been the subject of 30 to 40 complaints about abuse or other mistreatment of children, and the police or social services had investigated them all, Mr. Mates said. “Each and every time that an investigation was done, no charges were brought,” he said.

And records suggested that the authorities at Washington's child welfare agency were more directly involved in monitoring Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu than New York City's child welfare agency. Although New York's agency sent more than 90 boys to him, it had outsourced oversight of Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu to the nonprofit SCO Family of Services.

Through the years, there were several different agencies involved, like the boys' schools, hospitals where they went for care, and a residential treatment center called Little Flower in Suffolk County.

A developmentally disabled boy from Washington whom Gonzales-Mugaburu adopted left his direct supervision to live at Little Flower. There, in 2014, he told a psychotherapist about horrific abuses inside Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu's home on a quiet cul-de-sac. The therapist, Amy D'Antonio, alerted the authorities about the allegations, prompting an investigation by Suffolk County Child Protective Services.

Ms. D'Antonio had helped the young man, who was 18 years old at the time, reconnect with his biological family in Washington. She said Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu objected, once approaching her in the parking lot of the treatment center and telling her that the teenager did not have the mental capacity to make such a decision.

Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu told her the boy was a “compulsive and pathological liar,” said Ms. D'Antonio, who in March sued Little Flower, her former employer, saying the agency should have acted more quickly to prevent further abuse of children in his care. Little Flower has disputed the claims in her lawsuit and says it “fully supported” her efforts to contact the authorities.

Yet, while that investigation was underway, social workers in Washington were trying to place a third child with Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu.

At the same time, Washington officials began to question why the state was paying Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu for a child who was no longer in his direct care. Questioned, Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu became indignant, according to entries that social workers placed in his case file. He told Ms. Herring he resented being treated “like a crook and it hurts him.”

“He reported that it also angers him deeply. They make him feel ‘dirty and undervalued,'” the entries read.

Washington later found that Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu had, in fact, been overpaid. But Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu continued to complain. On January 12 this year, Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu told Ms. Herring, of SCO, that he felt “once again insulted” over the disputed payments, according to records.

But two days later, Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu shifted the conversation.

He told Ms. Herring that he was under investigation. “He reported that two ‘troubled boys' are causing problems for him, and he wanted to make sure that the SW was aware of what is going on,” she wrote, using shorthand for social worker.

At that point, one young man after another, including the 18-year-old adopted son from Washington, were coming forward with allegations of abuse.

Two boys, 11 and 13, told the authorities about sexual misconduct in the home. Unlike boys in the past, their allegations were believed, mostly because the boys did not have severe disabilities or emotional problems, said Detective Lt. Robert Donohue, commander of Suffolk County's special victims unit.

Much of the blame for the failure to alert other agencies has been placed on SCO Family of Services in New York, which coordinated the placement of boys in Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu home, with most coming from Long Island and the surrounding area. It has acknowledged that it could have taken more aggressive action after previous complaints.

“Internal and external reviews have concluded that SCO had no knowledge of sexual abuse or misconduct in this home,” the agency said. “Our review of this former foster parent, however, suggests that there were other issues with the home, and in retrospect and knowing what we know now, a decision to close the home should have been made earlier.”

It was child welfare officials in Washington who were most dependent on getting straight answers and accurate updates from SCO about conditions at Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu's home and the status of investigations. Norah West, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, said, “We rely on information from the agency that is contracted to ensure the well-being of the child in that receiving state.”

The mother of the 18-year-old boy, who The Times is not naming to protect her son's identity, grew up in the foster care system herself. She said she had struggled with mental illness and substance abuse, and could not believe her son had suffered in a system that she thought would help him.

“I can't believe they put him with someone like that,” she said. “Look what I did to my son.”