From the Department of Homeland Security
DHS, Slovak Republic Enhance Joint Efforts to Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation
WASHINGTON – On September 22, Dušana Višnovská, Director General of the Slovak Ministry of Interior, signed an agreement to provide information on the travel of convicted child sex offenders between Slovakia and the United States. Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Chief Diplomatic Officer Alan Bersin had previously signed the agreement for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The agreement between DHS and the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic establishes the parties' intention to provide each other with information on known international travel of individuals previously convicted of a sexual crime against a child. The information is to be used for the purposes of enhancing the interdiction or investigation of these convicted child sex offenders, as well as making informed decisions regarding their admittance to the respective countries.
This is the second agreement of its kind, after the signature of a similar agreement with the UK in June 2015. The agreement notes the intention of the governments to offer support and best practices to each other for the purposes of combating the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism as part of each country's efforts to protect children from sexual abuse.
The exchange of information on the international travel of convicted child sex offenders is a priority for DHS. In fiscal year 2015, DHS provided notice of travel from the United States of 2,172 convicted child sex offenders to 95 countries. This information exchange effort, managed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE's) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) as “Operation Angel Watch,” is in support of ICE's role in the criminal investigations of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents traveling to a foreign country for the purpose of engaging in unlawful sexual conduct with someone under 18 years of age, which is a serious violation of U.S. law.
In the U.S., HSI established an Angel Watch Center within the Child Exploitation Investigations Unit to conduct, manage, and coordinate national and international child sexual exploitation investigations, including sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism. In the Slovak Republic, the Ministry of Interior works with child protection partners across the country and overseas to identify the main threats to children and coordinates activity against these threats to bring offenders to account. The Ministry of Interior protects children from harm online and offline, directly through led operations and in partnership with local and international agencies.
As I See It: How childhood affects our health
by Joshua Strait
“Yeah, yeah, I've tried to quit. ... I'm a dirt bag.”
This 45-year-old had smoked for over 30 years and felt frustrated talking to me about his health. When we took time to connect, he realized cigarettes helped him manage stress and anxiety built in childhood, and he was not a “dirt bag,” but instead a survivor who sometimes struggles.
Have you ever wondered why some of us have to work harder at relationships, addiction, self-confidence, sometimes becoming poor, ill, homeless? How does it all start? As a missionary in a California inner urban area and now as a 30-year-old medical student who volunteers for the Linn County Child Abuse Network, I am beginning to understand.
From 1995 to 1997, researchers working with the Center for Disease Control ran the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study to find the relationship between childhood trauma and health risk later on. More than 17,000 adult volunteers were asked their history of childhood physical, sexual and psychological abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. Here is one of the questions asked: Did a parent or other adults in the household often, or very often, swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? Or act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
The study showed that these experiences are common. The higher an ACE score, the higher the risk of addiction, prescription medication use, social problems, chronic mental or physical illness, and premature death. ACEs are “the main determinant of the health and social well-being of the nation,” according to this study.
We can prevent and curb effects of Adverse Childhood Effects — if we keep a strong social safety net and health care system that includes everybody. We can do this and come out ahead financially.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates national costs associated with childhood trauma across the lifespan as between $124 billion to $585 billion. Applying the ACE Score as a screening tool appears to be therapeutic — a screening of 135,000 patients showed a 35 percent decline in doctor's visits the following year after simply talking about Adverse Childhood Effects.
Considering how common ACEs are and how they lead to human suffering, I am glad to learn of efforts in Corvallis to improve access to good housing, education, and medical care, all of which help counteract and heal these adverse events. Instead of turning to cigarettes or drugs, we can ensure survivors have a health care system and society overall they can approach for help.
Please do what you are able to ensure children young and old have a home where basic medical, physical and psychological needs are met. Today's medical students and tomorrow's doctors are counting on you and will be grateful for your efforts.
Here's a link that readers can use to evaluate their own ACE score and anonymously submit the information: http://goo.gl/VX83r9
We will publish the pooled anonymous data from the community and for the community.
Joshua Strait is a fourth-year medical student at the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific-Northwest in Lebanon.
Windham Task Force Focuses On Child-Abuse Awareness
by Morgan Hines
When a 3-year-old Willimantic girl died from child abuse in 2013 — just two years after the child-abuse death of another 3-year-old-girl in town — Catina Caban-Owen said she couldn't sleep.
"I was like, they are all our children," said Caban-Owen, a social worker at Windham Public Schools.
She suggested to Nusie Halpine, another social worker with the school district, that they create the Windham Task Force to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect, a volunteer group dedicated to raising awareness.
Halpine and others had noticed bruises on Athena Angeles, the girl who was killed in 2011, but Athena's mother had explained that the girl bruised easily because of a medical condition. The state Department of Children and Families was investigating, and Athena had a doctor's appointment approaching. So her brutal death, following abuse by her mother's live-in boyfriend, shocked Willimantic — particularly staff at Athena's preschool, DCF staff in Willimantic and the hospital, Halpine said. The community held a vigil.
Caban-Owen was alarmed two years later when there was not much community reaction at all when 3-year-old Nevaeh Lam died at the hands of her mother's boyfriend. She and Halpine decided it was clear something had to be done.
They and a few others organized a "community conversation," funded with a grant from the Groustein Foundation, originally given to Windham Public Schools and the Windham Regional Community Council that was redirected to the task force.
About 80 people attended the conversation, which was open to the public.
Halpine said the conversation was eye-opening and that it was good to meet with community members face to face.
"What we realized that first year is that it is not DCF's responsibility to protect children," Halpine said. "It is the whole community's responsibility. We wanted to make Windham aware that we all have to watch the children and take care of the children."
The primary purpose of the task force is to teach parents and others about the signs of child abuse and how to help.
"It is mostly community education, it's mostly what we are about," said Murphy Sewall, a task force member and vice chair of the Windham Board of Education. "To keep people's awareness and attention, that is what prevention requires."
Sewall said the idea is to continuously keep the issue in the public eye so people will notice if child abuse or neglect is occurring.
Task force members distribute educational brochures and wristbands, give speeches at community events — some of which they sponsor, and put out radio public service announcements.
"Events vary from year to year, and sometimes opportunities come up," Halpine said. "Last year we addressed churches. We had a town family event we participated in and one that the task force hosted."
Loida Reyes, director of DCF's Willimantic Office, said being involved with the task force has been beneficial and made it possible for DCF to be more of a presence in the community.
"I think it also changed DCF's response, in that we thought we could do it alone, and it forced us to work more collaboratively with the community," Reyes said. "There is power in gaining the community's trust."
The task force recently started working with high school students on prevention and has worked with college students from Eastern Connecticut State University for a while.
"Some are interns and do it through their internship, and some are students that want to get involved," Halpine said.
Michael Marshall was a social work student when he started with the task force in 2014 and now volunteers while he works toward a master's degree in social work from the University of Connecticut. He said his involvement has increased his awareness of child abuse and the risk factors that can lead to it.
Marshall said financial difficulty, child care, unemployment, food, clothing and other stressors can contribute to an environment where abuse can take place.
By learning about the signs of abuse and the impact it can have on families and the community, he said, "I am better able to serve future clients and work with them to alleviate these risk factors — thus hopefully keeping their children safe." Halpine noted that she now gets more calls than ever at the school from concerned community members.
"People are just more aware when they hear about prevention," she said.
Caban-Owen said all the members of the task force are dedicated to keep raising consciousness about child abuse and spread the message that it is preventable.
"I hope that other towns' people feel moved to create their own version of our task force," she said. The most important thing, she added, is that everyone is responsible to keep children safe.
"Parents are stressed, they make mistakes and we can be of support," Caban-Owen said. "Being silent in the face of abuse is being a co-participant in the abuse and neglect. Children are our most valuable resource."
Biker group stands guard for child abuse victims
by Patrick Johnston
For child victims of neglect or physical or sexual abuse, court can be a very daunting place to tell their recollection of what happened to them.
Children, already confused by why it happened to them, are often forced to talk with attorneys as their offender sits in the same room. Their parents are often sequestered in another room under a witness rule that prohibits them from being present for other testimony in the case.
So, a group of bikers have stepped up to be a face that child knows in the room when non-offending family members can't be.
"We go to court with those kids and stay in the courtroom with them," said J.R. "Puck" Mello, vice president of the Falls Town chapter of Guardians of the Children (GoC). "Usually ... that child has to sit in a courtroom that has not a single familiar face. We're that familiar face.
"We go in and take up those front rows, so they have someone to focus on while they tell their story instead of being intimidated by the perpetrator sitting there next to his attorney and staring them down."
While many might feel intimidated by the tough-looking group, Mello said the children see right through them.
"I'm 6-2, 250 pounds and covered head-to-toe in tattoos," he said. "My wife laughs every time, because when I walk in the children say, 'Oh! There's Puck!' The kids see through that and it's a security blanket for them. They now know they have someone that's going to back them up and they don't have to be scared."
The 501(c)(3) nonprofit started locally in September 2012 but is part of a larger organization currently in 20 states and Canada, according to its website.
From the moment the case of abuse is reported, GoC works to be a support structure and help point the family and child toward resources like Patsy's House Child Advocacy Center.
GoC sets up at various events to get their name out there and bring awareness to their cause. On Saturday, the group hosted their first event, Kruze for Kidz, at the Red River Harley Davidson.
"Because of laws and privacy acts, (Child Protective Services) can't walk up and tell the families to call us," Mello said. "...Unfortunately we don't get near the response we'd like to get. That's the legalities of things though.
"It's events like this to get us out into the public to let people know what we do. Then, next time you know somebody that has an issue, you can let them know to check us out."
When GoC is approached by a child victim, they host an "adoption" event and welcome him or her into the family. The group shows up en mass and holds a ceremony for the child, giving them a vest with their road name and a plaque, as well as a pillow case signed by all of the members.
"We also give them a stuffed teddy bear or animal at every adoption," said Cameron "Hitman" Goodwin, president of the Falls Town chapter. "Whoever is at that adoption, all the members hug that bear and fill it full of hugs.
"...If that kid ever feels that stuffed animal has run out of hugs, then they call us up and we schedule a meeting to fill it all back up with hugs to give them another security blanket to hold on to and know we're right there."
They also get assigned a member of the chapter who will serve as their liaison with the group.
"That point of contact is supposed to check with them once a week, every other week — whatever that kid needs," Mello said. "They are available 24/7 for that phone call in reverse. If that kid needs to call someone and wants to talk about something, pick up that phone and call."
For anyone who needs to get in contact with a member of the Falls Town group, they have a Guardians of the Children Falls Town public Facebook page, as well as a website (bit.ly/FallsTownGoC) with the names and email addresses of the group's board members.
A voice for child abuse victims
The news bittersweet this past week that nine victims of alleged sex abuse by former Foxboro scoutmaster William Sheehan have received a monetary settlement from the Boy Scouts of America.
It was a positive development that the Boy Scouts finally acknowledged the damage caused by Sheehan, who is alleged to have sexually abused dozens of children in Foxboro from the 1960s to the early 1980s, some of whom he also allegedly raped.
The amount of the settlement, reported to be in five figures, was small compared to the pain they suffered, and it included no formal apology from the Boy Scouts, nor did it result in the organization releasing any new information about what it might or might not have known regarding the allegations against Sheehan.
"Although each of my clients received a five-figure settlement, they feel revictimized by the settlement amount," said Mitchell Garabedian, lawyer for the victims who made a name settling clergy abuse cases against the Diocese of Boston and whose character was portrayed in the Oscar-winning film "Spotlight." "Many of my clients do not feel validated by the settlement amount."
But there was one other positive aspect to the settlement: It does not include a confidentially agreement. That means the victims are free to continue to tell their stories and educate the public about child abuse.
It was those victims - most notably the Rev. Bill Dudley, pastor of Foxboro's Union Church and chairman of the Foxboro Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Committee - who first made these allegations public in 2012.
A warrant from the Foxboro Police Department was issued for Sheehan's arrest. The warrant was never executed, however, because Sheehan, who abruptly left Foxboro for Fort Myers, Fla., in 1981, has late stage Alzheimer's disease.
Those victims have done much to expose Sheehan's actions and to bring about change in Foxboro. Although the town has declined a settlement with the victims - Sheehan was also a public school teacher and some of the abuse is alleged to have occurred at Ahern Middle School and other town property - the town has taken great steps to prevent abuse. In particular, Foxboro has established a bylaw to educate employees on how to best protect children, a bylaw that has been called a model for other communities to adopt.
Speaking out may be difficult for some victims. However, we urge those who can to continue to be a voice against child abuse, so that this never happens again.
Drugs behind spike in child abuse and neglect cases
County numbers up 340 percent since 2005
by Ken de la Bastide
ANDERSON — Drug abuse in Madison County is not only impacting the crime rate but has caused a sharp increase in the number of children being abused and neglected, members of the Madison County Council were informed.
Amanda Craycraft, director of the Madison County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program said Thursday that when she started in the office in 2005 there were 240 cases.
She said in 2014 that number climbed to 679, and it was 1,058 last year. Craycraft said as of September 1, the 2016 cases were up by 40.
There has been a 340 percent increase in the cases being handled by CASA volunteers.
“Madison County ranks fifth in the state in child abuse and neglect cases,” Craycraft said. “We're behind the bigger urban counties of Marion, Lake, Allen and Vanderburgh.
“Right now the increase is drug related,” she added. “For a long time it was meth, but now it's heroin use.”
Madison Circuit Court 4 Judge George Pancol, who oversees child-related cases of abuse and neglect, estimated 90 percent of the cases are drug-related.
Craycraft said CASA doesn't have enough volunteers to assign to each individual case.
“Last year there were 112 cases where the parental rights were violated,” she said. “Those children are placed for adoption.
“Our goal is to place every child in a safe, loving home that is permanent,” Craycraft continued. “Our hope is to work ourselves out of a job.”
During his presentation to the Madison County Council, Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said drug use is at the root of rising crime rate.
Cummings was asked by Councilman Rick Gardner, R-1st District, if drug use was the cause of the rising number of arrests and overcrowding at the jail.
He is requesting funding to hire a part-time legal secretary to assist with the processing of charging documents following arrests.
“We're arresting and charging more people in the county,” Cummings said.
Cummings said the increase is a result of uneducated and unemployed people in the county with no other way of making money other than selling drugs.
“Drugs are a huge problem,” he said, “and it adds to the crime problem. There is a lack of opportunities.”
Cummings said because of the escalating crime rate in Madison County, a lot of professionals doing business or working in the county are moving to neighboring Hamilton County.
“It starts with the schools,” he said.
Commenting on the overcrowding at the jail, a facility designed to house 207 inmates which on Tuesday was housing 253, Cummings said it started in 2014 with the state adopting a new criminal code.
He said the change required the counties to house lower-level felons and misdemeanor inmates instead of sending them to the Indiana Department of Correction.
“There used to be a failsafe through the courts,” Cummings said. “The magistrate could release people from the jail when overcrowding became a problem. The judges are no longer allowing that. They don't want felons on the streets.”
With the county council facing a tight fiscal picture for 2017, Cummings said when the new criminal code went into the effect, the state promised to provide some funding.
“That hasn't taken place,” he said. “I'm trying to get the state to pay for a deputy prosecutor in the problem solving court."
Dental Care Nightmare: Dr. Howard Schneider accused of alleged child abuse, Medicaid fraud in office
by Patrick Frye
(Video on site)
Dental care is often necessary, especially for young children. However, the way Dr. Howard Schneider allegedly used it made him the thing of nightmares. Child abuse on this level comes shy of the things you see in Stephen King's horror stories, as the writer uses children in them a lot.
Many children of low-income families in Jacksonville, Florida, experienced this horror, though it may have been passed off as children saying “the darndest things.” Dentists are often perceived as torture specialists, but this may be due to the fact that you can't talk clearly while they do their routine work, and that awful Fluoride smell and after-taste from their cleaning procedures.
Dr. Howard Schneider has been working as a dental care professional for years, catering to children of parents on Medicaid. Now over 100 families have come forward to state that the dentist has been torturing their children and performing procedures which weren't necessary, according to Yahoo News .
Bri-el Motley, who was six years old at the time, had been one such alleged victim in 2014 when her mother Brandi claims she'd seen some of Dr. Schneider's alleged handiwork. Bri-el had been taken in to have one of her baby teeth removed and the procedure had been taking hours. Suddenly, Brandi witnessed the terror of what Dr. Schneider was allegedly doing.
“She said, ‘There's been an accident.' That's when I see the blood. Blood on the floor and everything. She [Bri-el] was hyperventilating … and she was face-first on the floor.”
Brandi's daughter had told her that the dentist and his nurses were covering something up, “Mommy, they're lying to you … he was choking me while he was pulling my teeth.”
Motley had wanted to sue Dr. Schneider for his alleged child abuse as a dental care professional, but the attorney she'd called turned down the case. John Phillips had called it the “[worst] he-said-she-said you'd ever want to be part of.”
As an alternative, Brandi Motley had turned her mini-van into a rolling billboard to spread the word about Dr. Schneider and his alleged horrors. In April of 2015, she had also posted pictures of her daughter after the procedure on Facebook. The post had gone viral.
Sherraine Christopher had also witnessed Dr. Schneider's alleged misdeeds firsthand. She had taken out her cell phone and recorded what was happening as the dentist grounded down 16 teeth on her three-year-old Zion for crowns. Other dentists insisted that what Dr. Schneider was doing was actually common for children of low-income families, as they consume more sugar and usually brush less.
The flood of families coming forward to protest the dental care professional's alleged child abuse eventually caught John Phillips' attention and he took the cases. Dr. Schneider, upon realizing what was happening, closed his office, allegedly to prevent a full dental board investigation. In November of 2015, Schneider had been arrested and charged with Medicaid fraud, to which he'd pleaded not guilty.
Of the nearly $4 million Dr. Howard Schneider had collected as a dental care professional from Medicaid, his protesters are currently seeking more than $15 thousand in damages, and a jury trial. One such complaint described him as a torture practitioner.
“Dentist Schneider's deep need to inflict pain, torture, mutilate and humiliate, has driven him to create a specialized dental ‘practice', which, by its very design and structure, provided him with a constant supply of especially defenseless, indigent, children to victimize.”
USA Today reports that many of Dr. Schneider's staff have described him as the kind of man who derives sexual arousal from torturing children, and that he is mentally disturbed. The dental care professional has denied such allegations, “I'm sure in my lifetime I've done something that is off color, but it [isn't mistreating] kids.”
Child Abuse Resulting in Death Prompts a New Local Campaign
by Chelsea Helms
Representatives with How are the Children have launched the "In the Moment" campaign aimed at educating parents on the support and resources available needed when dealing with a fussy, crying child.
According to Janet Rowland the Executive Director of CASA, since 2006 there have been roughly 13 abuse related child fatalities, commonly resulting from younger caregivers who may not be prepared to parent. "Our goal is that people will see the advertisement and take a moment of their time to think, if I'm ever in that situation I don't want to end up in prison, I don't want this child to end up in the grave."
Melissa Lytle, the Executive Director of the Western Slope Center for Children said "one child being killed by abuse is too many especially when there are other options, and there are resources, and assistance for individuals that are struggling in that situation."
To find the resources and support available, parents are encouraged to visit the link below:
No bidders interested in helping to staff 24/7 child abuse hotline
by The Union Leader
CONCORD — It's official. No bidders are interested in helping to staff a 24/7 child abuse hotline the state has been trying to launch for months.
The director of the Division of Children, Youth and Families, Lorraine Bartlett, was hoping for some last-minute responses to the state's request for proposals, which had a deadline of Monday at 4 p.m., but none were forthcoming.
Bartlett appeared before the Legislative Commission on Child Abuse Fatalities on Monday to update the panel on efforts to staff the after-hours call center, and reported that no bids had been received as of Monday morning.
The commission was formed by vote of the Legislature last year after two high-profile homicides in 2014 and 2015 involving children under DCYF supervision.
Callers who try to report child abuse after 4:30 p.m. weekdays or on weekends are now told to call back during regular business hours, or to call police if it is an emergency.
“We did not have any bidders for the RFP for after-hours central intake,” said Bartlett. “The backup plan would be for me to reconvene a conversation with the director of the Office of Human Services and the commissioner to determine what our next steps will be in terms of whether we post it again or determine whether we are able to allocate any resources internally to stand up that after-hours intake.”
The additional personnel needed to man the phones into the evening and on weekends is part of a $1.8 million plan to expand coverage that involves 18 positions, including social workers and supervisors.
The original plan was to launch the expanded coverage in September.
Stop Child Sexual Abuse!!
Child sexual abuse is a highly sensitive and burning issue, all parents face today. The psychiatric disorder where an adult or adolescent is sexually attracted to a child who has not even attained puberty is known as paedophilia and such a man who has paedophilia is a paedophile. Because paedophilia is difficult to estimate as people are secretive about such desires, it is very difficult to come up with estimates of no. of paedophiles worldwide. It is the insanity and mental retardation of a person who looks at a small child with such a sinful desire.
According to a report by US government, nearly 75% of the children who have been sexually assaulted were victimised by someone whom they knew really well. In New Delhi, India, 97% of the rapes are committed in homes and eight cases of child rape are reported every day. India ranks no. 2 worldwide in child sexual abuse. More than 85% of child sexual abuse cases in Indian courts are still pending with no deadlines for conviction. All these daunting numbers mean that there is a paedophile lurking around every corner. Understanding the criticality of the situation, children are really not safe in and around their home. Parents need to educate them about the ‘good' and ‘bad' touch and give them the right atmosphere and freedom to communicate their feelings.
It's important to maintain friendly and open conversations with the children on topics like body safety, sex, boundaries, etc. so as they can express everything without being shy or scared. Awareness and Education are important for children. With younger children, it's very essential that parents keep an eye about the whereabouts of the children. Where do they play? With whom they play? Who are their friends? For a young child falling prey to paedophiles is the fault of the parents as treatment of paedophiles is difficult and knowing what's inside is more difficult. But it's the duty of the parent to give the right and safe environment to the children and thus its the responsibility of parents to protect such heinous situations. You can not UNDO what has happened but before hand, you can SAFEGUARD. So the adults who care for children can act to stop "Child Sexual Abuse".
Rampant Sexual Abuse, Lack Of Opportunities And More, Kids In Pakistan Need A Better Future Not Hatred For India
by Prem Anand Mishra
On December 16, 2014, the massacre of 132 children in Peshawar's Army Public School by Taliban terrorists shook the world to the core.
Most of the children were shot from point blank range including young Khaula Bibi (6) who had come to school for the first time. For young Khaula, tomorrow never came.
The story of Nobel Laureate for Peace, Malala Yousufzaui, does inspire many, but beyond the inspiration, her story showcases an unending holocaust in which hundred-thousands of children have lost their lives since 2001 when Pakistan as an American ally entered war against terrorism.
Since 2001, nearly 50,000 civilians, mostly children have died in various terrorist attacks in the country; and until this strife ends, thousands more will die.
It's difficult to be a child in Pakistan as he or she lives and survives against the scores of odds.
If a child manages to escape from the bullet or bomb kept at any random square or mosque, he is bound to fall prey to sexual abuse. Even if he gets lucky and gets away without getting sexually abused, he is destined to be ruined by the country's education system.
The Main Cause:
Today's Pakistan is at the crossroads of culture where the young Pakistan inspired by the progress in West is at loggerheads with its erstwhile yet quite relevant self of Islamic Pakistan.
Be it Malala or other innocent children anywhere in Pakistan, they represent a country which desperately seeks development, education, or anything children in West are enjoying.
But the Pakistan of yesteryears which believes that scientific education or anything which comes from Maghreb (West) is unholy and un-Islamic isn't going to give them an easy passage.
These so-called saviours of Islam don't want a society that doesn't fit into their world view. This is also true that education is the real enemy for the terror groups and it becomes more potent when education is attained by girls. Malala is an inspiring example.
Pakistan, a state that failed its own future generations and has became a society where hope for the children is ageing before its time.
Demons made by Pakistan itself:
The post 9/11 world order compelled Pakistan to forsake it's once upon a time protégé whom the Pakistan establishment used against India. It is a fact that Pakistan has lost almost 50,000 lives to terrorist violence and billions of dollars since 2001 but the state's owns duplicity failed their own people.
Nothing can be more tormenting for any society where children have become the main target. On the eve of Easter in Pakistan, Islamic terrorists detonated a bomb at an amusement park in Lahore that killed 70 people and injured more than 300. According to a Pakistani Taliban spokesperson, they “claim responsibility for the attack on Christians as they were celebrating Easter”.
Either Lahore blast where kids just played for the last time or a Peshawar school attack- attacking and killing the children has become a new strategy. The terror groups justify their acts by telling their master in Islamabad that Pakistan Army in order to appease US and its allies is killing their children. Therefore, for both sides, children are the soft targets.
But these groups backed by the Islamist fundamentalists of the country are making children of Pakistan their target because fighting with a well equipped army is getting tougher for the resource starved militant outfits.
The terrorists might position themselves as a revenge seeker by killing school children in Pakistan well off societies including an Army school. They call it as the state also should feel their pain.
A flawed education system:
The killing of children in recent times might arouse many sentiments all over the world, but deep within the monster lies in the shadow of how Pakistan's public education has played a horrible game with their own children though a manufactured education system where children are taught jihad.
In January this year, a sinister piece of news came from Punjab province in Pakistan where 15-year-old boy (real name not revealed) chopped off his right hand believing he had committed blasphemy. He was attending a celebration of the Prophet's birth at a mosque where local cleric hosting it called out: "Who among you is a follower of Muhammad?" Everyone raised their hands. He followed it with another question: "Who among you do not believe in the teachings of the Holy Prophet? Raise your hands!" The poor boy misheard and, inadvertently raised his hand.
Witnessed by about 100 worshippers, the cleric immediately accused him of blasphemy and the boy returned home to prove his love for the Prophet by cutting off his own hand. His entire village celebrated his act of devotion. The extreme nature of this ‘devotional' act earned him a revered figure.
Most textbooks reveal a fault line, how generations of children have been brainwashed. Though attention has always been paid at Madrassas in Pakistan for creating sectarian and binary worldview, but the significance of religious education mixed with giving rise to the narrow vision that breeds hate and irrationality.
However this horrible idea doesn't stop at Madrassas. Madrasaas are not the only institutions breeding hate, intolerance, a distorted worldview, etc.
The educational material the state curriculum and textbooks in Pakistan in the government run schools do much more than Madrassas and make a catalogue of disaster in one.
The textbooks tell lies, create hate, and incite feeling for jihad or martyrdom in the name of religion and much more.
Sex abuse and children:
Beyond the sorry stages of terror and distortion in education system, there is another side of horror: the sexual abuse.
A report by an agency named Sahil which is working for the last 20 years on child protection especially against child sexual abuse tells a wicked sense of situation.
The agency reports that in 2015 alone there were almost 4000 such cases of sexual abuse; and more than half of them fall into the category of gang rape.
This report also manifests that Pakistan is also among the rare countries where male child is a major victim. More than physical, these cases of repeated sexual abuses leave a catastrophic impact on the psychology of the children.
In August 2015, Pakistan was rocked by busting of a gang which used to abuse and film the children at gunpoint. The members of the gang used to threaten the parents of the children of releasing the videos of abuse on internet. As many as 270 children were abused by this gang.
Pakistan has been in news for being one of the major countries where child sex abuse is quite rampant.
After the scores of incidents of child sex abuse came to fore, Pakistan government came out of slumber and in March 2016, Pakistan Senate passed a bill that criminalised the sexual assault against minors, child pornography and trafficking.
Author is a research scholar at Centre for West Asian Studies in School of International Studies, JNU, New Delhi. He is a freelancer and his area of research is Islam. He is an ex-correspondent Busiuness Standard and also contributed to Unicef as a consultant in the past.
16 more women accuse former USA Gymnastics doctor of sexual abuse
by Marisa Kwiatkowski, Tim Evans and Mark Alesia
In the two weeks since IndyStar reported sexual abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics team physician Dr. Larry Nassar, 16 more women have filed criminal complaints against the doctor.
Four of the women contacted IndyStar directly, along with a fifth woman who filed a report with police in 2004. Each of them said they told police Nassar penetrated them with his finger during what were supposed to be medical treatments. Three of the five said they were underage at the time. Two said he also touched their breasts. One said Nassar was sexually aroused.
Nassar, who has not been charged with a crime, denies any wrongdoing.
In a recorded interview Sept. 12, Nassar's former attorney told IndyStar — with Nassar present — that the doctor never used a procedure involving vaginal penetration. But on Thursday, Nassar's current attorneys, Matthew Newburg and Shannon Smith, said Nassar has used a legitimate medical procedure that includes manipulation that, under Michigan law, would be considered vaginal penetration.
"Dr. Nassar is not changing his story in any way," his attorneys said in a statement. They said Nassar showed police videos that demonstrate the procedure he used. "Those videos demonstrate the exact procedures he used to treat patients and clearly show penetration according to the legal definition."
The osteopathic physician was fired from Michigan State University on Tuesday for failing to comply with "certain employment requirements," according to a university spokesman.
Nassar gained prominence through his 29-year tenure with USA Gymnastics, a position he left last September. The majority of the alleged instances of sexual abuse occurred years before USA Gymnastics said it first became aware of “athlete concerns” about Nassar and immediately took action.
The national governing body said it notified law enforcement and relieved him of his duties. Nassar's former attorney disputed that characterization, saying the doctor retired.
Police in Michigan are reviewing two earlier criminal complaints about Nassar: the one from 2004 and another from 2014. Neither the Ingham County, Mich., prosecutor nor MSU police would say how many new complaints they've received, but the university's police crime log lists 15 new allegations of criminal sexual penetration that reportedly occurred at the MSU sports medicine clinic, where Nassar worked. One of the allegations lists Nassar's home address. The police log does not mention Nassar by name.
"I'm not aware of any other allegations or investigations into medical personnel at that clinic or any other MSU clinic," other than those involving Nassar, MSU spokesman Jason Cody said.
Collectively, the women's allegations of sexual abuse span nearly two decades — from 1996 through 2014. Their ages ranged from 13 to 20 when the alleged abuse began. Some continued to see Nassar for treatment for years.
Standard of care
One legal expert who spoke to IndyStar said allegations such as those against Nassar can be extremely difficult to prove because of conflicting accounts of doctors and patients. Such cases can be stronger if they involve multiple victims, said Nicolas Terry, executive director of the William S. and Christine S. Hall Center for Law and Health at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.
Terry also said such suits often hinge on debates over what constitutes a legitimate medical procedure.
Nassar's lawyers said the doctor did not use intravaginal procedures for most athletes and patients he treated, but he did use a technique that constituted penetration under Michigan law.
The legal definition, the attorneys explained, "includes the slightest penetration between the labia of the vagina."
Dr. Mark Cantieri, president of the Indiana Osteopathic Association, said he had no knowledge of the allegations against Nassar and would not comment specifically about Nassar's case. Cantieri did, however, say there are legitimate intravaginal procedures, but they are rarely used.
When the procedures are used, he said, they should be conducted according to widely accepted standards. Among them:
What the procedure involves should be explained to the patient and, in the case of a juvenile, the parent or guardian. And prior permission should be granted.
It should be performed with another person of the same sex as the patient in the room.
Gloves should be worn, and a lubricant should be used.
The doctor should advise the patient when penetration is about to occur.
“You should have, at least, verbal permission from the patient that it's OK to proceed,” Cantieri said. “If it's a minor, they're going to have a parent in the room, and their approval.”
Cantieri said he personally would not generally use such a procedure for hip or back pain.
All of the women who spoke to IndyStar said they told police that Nassar penetrated them with his finger when they were alone with him. They said his actions went far beyond slight penetration. One woman described the movement as sexual in nature. Four of the women said Nassar did not wear gloves.
One of the women said she went to Nassar for treatment when she experienced lower back pain as a young gymnast in the late 1990s in metro Detroit.
After several treatments, Katherine, then 15, said Nassar connected her back pain to her vagina.
Katherine, whose last name IndyStar agreed to withhold, said she recently told police that Nassar repeatedly penetrated her with his fingers during seven to 10 treatments over a two-year period. Most of the time, Katherine said, she was alone with Nassar.
Another woman, a dance student who had lower back pain, said she told police that Nassar penetrated her vagina with his finger on about 30 visits over six years. She said one of those treatments was in the basement of Nassar's home.
She said she saw Nassar sexually aroused. And once, when she was 17, he discussed "fingering" his ex-girlfriend as he penetrated the dance student. She said he once reached inside her sports bra and touched her breast while working on her ribs.
'He was like this hero'
All five women interviewed by IndyStar said they wondered about the treatment they received from Nassar, but they initially deferred to his reputation and expertise in the field of sports medicine.
"He was like this hero in ... sports medicine, especially for gymnastics, because the injuries and type of stress you're putting on your body are so different than any other sport," Katherine said. "A trainer and doctor for the U.S. Olympic team accessible in Michigan; it was like, everyone thought it was amazing.”
USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny in 2014 praised Nassar as being “instrumental to the success of USA Gymnastics at many levels, both on and off the field of play.” Nassar also is president of the Gymnastics Doctor Autism Foundation, which helps gymnastics clubs establish programs for special needs children.
The dance student said Nassar told her that he was going to use an Australian technique that just two people in Michigan were certified to perform. It turned out that the technique included vaginal penetration, but the woman said she trusted him because he was an elite doctor.
“When I was 13, I didn't know what ‘fingering' was,” she said, adding, "I presumed his sexual behavior was clinical."
That woman said she didn't report it at the time but recently spoke to MSU police about Nassar. She also is a co-complainant in a Title IX case against the doctor.
She and the others contacted police after IndyStar's Sept. 12 article about sexual abuse allegations made against Nassar by two former gymnasts, one of whom is an Olympic medalist. One filed a complaint with MSU police Aug. 29. The other is suing Nassar and USA Gymnastics in California.
In separate interviews, those former gymnasts also said Nassar penetrated them with his finger and fondled their breasts during what was supposed to be treatment. They didn't report it until years later.
Marci Hamilton, founder and CEO of CHILD USA, an interdisciplinary think tank focused on issues of child abuse and neglect, said there are many reasons children don't report allegations of sexual abuse. Many don't know what sex is. Others are overwhelmed or ashamed of what happened to them.
"They don't know how to process it, and so their youthfulness gets in the way of them being able to come forward and report in the first place," Hamilton said. "And that's true, all the way from incest to the large institutional problems."
'I think I was just in shock'
One of the five women who spoke to IndyStar said she immediately reported her concerns about Nassar to police in 2004, but no charges were filed.
Then 16, the former high school athlete said she had been seeing Nassar for treatment of back pain. Her mother accompanied her on the first visit but could not attend the next one. It was during that second visit that the Seattle woman, who asked that her name be withheld, said she became uncomfortable.
She said Nassar had her strip down to minimal clothing so he could work on her back. He began massaging her back, pressing so hard that she flinched from the pain.
"Let me do something to release that pain," she said Nassar told her.
She said he went inside her underwear and put his fingers in the entrance of her vagina, then pressed his other hand on her breast. She said she was on her period and wearing a tampon at the time.
“I think I was just in shock," she recalled, "and I just froze."
Afterward, she said she went back to school and described the experience to her friends. She asked whether they thought it sounded normal. They said it didn't and encouraged her to talk to someone.
She told her mom, who took her to the police station to report those allegations. She said police sent her to the hospital to have a sexual assault kit done.
Soon after, police reached out to her parents and asked them to meet with police and Nassar. The Seattle woman said Nassar told her parents that the type of treatment he used was well-known for the release of back pain and that because she wasn't a gymnast, she may not have been as comfortable with her body.
Meridian Township police confirmed the existence of the report she filed on Nassar but have not yet released it. The woman said police told her last week that they're reviewing the investigation.
“I think that what affected me the most is that I came forward and I felt like I did everything I was supposed to do, but there was no action on it," she said. "I felt very alone in that fact because I felt like I had kind of spilled everything and there was no one there to protect me."
The depths of Britain's 'worst ever' child care crisis
by Christopher Booker
In a statement that should have made us all sit up and take note, our top family judge, Lord Justice Munby, last week warned that social workers are now taking so many children into care that our “child protection” system is facing an unprecedented crisis. Since social workers' failure to prevent the murder of “Baby P” became a major national scandal in 2008, the number of care applications has risen so fast that, by 2015, it had almost doubled, from an annual average of 6,532 to 12,781.
But this year it has rocketed up again, by a further 26 per cent, to the point where, if it continues to rise at this rate, the annual figure could within three years, according to Munby, have “climbed to 25,000”: nearly four times its pre-Baby P level. Already, despite attempts to speed up the process, the courts are becoming hopelessly overstretched, and unless something dramatic is done, the whole system could be facing complete breakdown.
Strangely, however, Munby went on to suggest that “the reasons for this are little understood”. In fact, as I have been reporting here for six years, one reason for this explosion in child-snatching is more obvious than any other; and Munby's failure to recognise it on this occasion is particularly odd, because he himself has more than hinted at it in his own trenchant judgments as president of the Family Division since 2013.
This is that, in over-reacting to the Baby P fiasco, social workers have become astonishingly trigger-happy, removing far too many children from their parents for wholly inadequate reasons. And chilling light is shed on this by two more sets of statistics. The first, published by the NSPCC, shows what has happened under the four legal justifications for removing children from their families. Between 2006 and 2015, cases where children were taken into care for “neglect” rose by 88 per cent, in line with the overall trend. Despite the supposed increase in concern over “physical abuse” post-Baby P, these cases rose by only 20 per cent. Cases involving sexual abuse of children scarcely rose at all, from 2,300 to 2,340.
But by far the largest increase, a staggering 278 per cent, has been in cases where it was alleged that parents were exposing their children to “emotional abuse”, a charge much more open to subjective interpretation than the others. And even this is misleading, because it makes no distinction between real emotional abuse, for which at least some evidence can be produced, and the much more speculative claim that children might be exposed to the mere “risk” of emotional abuse some time in the future.
Since 2009 I have followed in detail literally hundreds of cases where children have been taken into care for what appeared to be questionable reasons. And in the vast majority of them, as where a mother has her baby snatched from her arms in the delivery ward, or loses her children simply because she herself had been in care (and is therefore deemed unfit to bring up a child of her own), the only excuse given for removing a child is that it might face the “risk” of emotional abuse. No need to show that such abuse has actually taken place. Simply a social worker's opinion, far too often accepted by the courts, that this might happen in the hypothetical future.
The other set of figures, produced by a University of Central Lancashire study based on Freedom of Information requests to 114 local councils, showed that, since Baby P, there has been a huge increase in the number of cases where social workers have intervened because of “concerns” raised by teachers, health visitors, doctors or members of the public that something suspicious might be going on, even if this may be only a small bruise on an arm or a neighbour overhearing a mother and father shouting at each other. Thanks to such “referrals”, according to the study, social workers investigated no fewer than one in five of all children born in 2009/10. But again, many of the cases I have investigated over the years were set off like this, leading to tragic outcomes where social workers successfully based their case almost entirely on those initial ill-founded suspicions, without having to produce any further evidence to support them.
If Sir James Munby really wants to avert the catastrophe he warned of on Tuesday, and to restore this horrifically corrupted system to some semblance of justice, humanity and common sense – as he has shown many signs of wishing to do – he has no alternative but to identify this major cause of the problem.
The only way this immense social disaster could be halted would be to ensure that social workers and the courts return to their proper role under the law, whereby they stop tearing families apart for no good reason and concentrate just on those families where their intervention is genuinely justified.
When a bath is dangerously overflowing, the first thing one needs to do is turn off the tap.
We can shape our children's future by taking simple steps
by Dr. Marsha Raulerson
One of the most basic and foundational questions for all of us is simple: What makes us, and keeps us, truly healthy?
I have practiced pediatrics in Brewton, a small town in south Alabama, for more than 35 years. Over the years I have learned that what I do in my clinic or at the local hospital accounts for only a small percentage of my young patients' future health. I see parents - and even grandparents, whom I saw as children - who are happy, healthy and contributing to their communities. Sadly, I also see too many families who are suffering from chronic illnesses, unable to work and raising another generation of children destined for misery and even an early death.
So what is the difference? A child who is cherished, has a nurturing relationship with a caring adult, is successful in his first school experiences and has his basic needs met: That child has the best shot at becoming a healthy adult.
As leaders in Alabama, our sincere goal is for every child to have the opportunity to make good choices and to live a long, healthy and productive life. I envision two means of support to make that happen. First, we need to develop policies at the local, state and federal levels that support young children and their families. And second, but no less important, we personally need to live each day in such a way that the children and families we see are encouraged and supported by our actions and choices.
The first three years of life are the most important because of rapid brain development, as well as the development of physical and mental health. An overweight toddler will battle the complications of obesity for the rest of his life. A child who experiences such toxic stress as physical or emotional abuse, a drug-addicted or mentally ill parent, separation from a parent or witnessing abuse or a parent incarcerated will carry those scars forever. Children who experience these toxic stresses grow up to be adults more likely to suffer heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse, chronic lung disease and mental illness.
Thoughtful policies, and appropriate budgets based on those policies, can provide families with the support they need. That comes through home visitation programs, mental health services, a living wage for working parents, available healthy foods, first-rate early childcare and education and neighborhoods that are family friendly and safe. And that is just the beginning.
I ask you to consider other, more personal, possibilities. Read to a child whenever possible—carry a children's book with you! Donate your time at a church or school to work with kids. Give to a community center or other local program serving families and children. Don't miss an opportunity to say a kind word to a child in the grocery store or at the park. Hold a baby for a struggling mom in a public place. Look for needs that you can help alleviate. Support a Reach Out and Read program by reading at a pediatrician's office or helping to buy books for that program.
On Labor Day weekend, a Delta Airlines employee in the Atlanta airport helped me get to a connecting flight. In the course of our conversation, I asked her, "Do you have children?" She shared she has a 6-month-old and a 3-year-old. I asked, "Do you read to them?" She paused, then said, "No, but we watch cartoons on TV together." This is just one example of the fact that many young families don't realize that reading daily with their child fosters a lifelong love of reading as well as success in school.
And finally: please stop responding favorably to elected officials who proclaim "no new taxes" or "I will lower your taxes." Alabama has one of the lowest tax rates in the nation. And the taxes we do pay, like grocery taxes, are thoroughly regressive and penalize the poorest among us. Pay your taxes with joy with the knowledge that they are paying for our children's future.
Collin Co. program aims at fighting child abuse in churches
by Hannah Davis and WFAA, KHOU
Right now, nine churches in North Texas have completed the Partners in Protection program: A series of classes and educational opportunities put on by Children's Advocacy Center of Collin County.
Katy Seitzler helps run the program and says it's designed to detect and prevent abuse inside and outside the church.
"Religious organizations have a special opportunity to be there for young children," Seitzler said.
The program comes as many religious organizations have been in the news for abuse from clergy or staff in positions of power. Teaching Pastor Jarrett Stephens with Prestonwood Baptist church has gone through the training, like most people who work at the Plano house of worship.
"Historically, churches have been behind the eight ball on this topic and we want to change that through example," Stephens said.
Stephens knows the impact abuse can have on children. He says he was victimized by a childhood coach from the ages of eight to 12.
"If you look at the numbers you see it's an epidemic,” Stephens said. “It's happening in our own backyard.”
Whether abuse is happening in the church, at school or at home, Stephens says church staff should be trained to look for signs and know what to do if they think something is going on.
"As a church, we can't be naive," he said.
He encourages other faith communities in Collin County to participate in the Partners in Protection program. If you'd like information on how your church can join, go here.
Colorado Attorney General addresses child abuse crisis in GJ
by Carly Moore
GRAND JUNCTION (KJCT) -- Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman visited Grand Junction today to tour the Western Slope Center for Children and to discuss how to cut down on instances of child abuse, particularly sexual assaults of children.
According to reports, there have been more than 75 fatalities or ‘egregious incidents of child maltreatment' — the two most severe, legal classifications of child abuse cases so far in 2016 in Colorado.
The Western Slope Center for Children is the only facility of its kind in our area, making them a critical resource when kids in crisis have nowhere else to turn.
But it's fighting an uphill battle with increasing instances of sexual assaults on children at the same time the facility is suffering a lack of resources.
“We know that there are family issues and frustration when there is a money crunch in the family, that can affect how people treat each other, and kids kind of bear the brunt of frustration,” said Coffman.
Coffman said she wants to bring more resources to kids on this side of the Rockies.
“Whether we want to accept it or not child sexual assault is an issue nationwide, in the state of Colorado and in our community,” said Melissa Lytle, the executive director of the Western Slope Center for Children.
Coffman recognized the additional demand that has been placed on the staff at WSCC and she is optimistic additional resources can be brought to bear on the problem.
“I don't anticipate these numbers going back down, unfortunately, I think we are going to continue to see an increase or at least see stable numbers across the board,” said Lytle.
Lytle said the center is taking steps to expand the facility, staff and programs.
“This one of the key programs to serve children and families when they may be having a crisis,” said Coffman.
Lytle said the center needs to double the amount of space available and figure out how to fill the gaps in the community for victims of sexual assault, “to make sure there aren't barriers for children and families to get the healing then need.”
WSCC hopes to become a hub for training and for treatment of kids who have experienced physical and sexual abuse. Lytle said this is preferable to sending people to the Front Range.
Making a Difference: Helping victims of Child Abuse
Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) -- September is "I Stand With Kids Month," a time to focus on child abuse prevention.
Leading the call is the First Witness Child Advocacy Center in Duluth.
For the past 23 years the center has been making a difference for hundreds of children and their families during a frightening and confusing time in their lives.
"These are some of the anatomically correct dolls the kids can use to help explain to us what happened to them," said Beth Olson with First Witness Child Advocacy Center.
When a report of child sexual or physical abuse is made in Duluth, a trained advocate steps in to help families ensure the child is safe and receives the help they need.
Things were a lot different before the First Witness Child Advocacy Center opened its doors in 1993.
"They would go to the police department, they would go to social services, all these different places, and obviously that was difficult for the children and their families to do. To tell their stories over, and over again," said Olson.
Last year, 130 children only had to tell their story once at the Center.
The average age is seven.
Executive Director Beth Olson says today's team approach is child centered.
"That's friendly to the families, its safe and comfortable for them to come here and a neutral place to tell their story," said Olson.
Advocates share the information gathered with representatives of the St. Louis County Attorney's office, the Public Defender, the Police Department and therapists to decide the next course of action.
The advocate stays with the family through the process.
This training model, shared with other communities nationwide, has just been recognized with a Touchstone Award by the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation.
"To have people recognize what we are doing and the good it does for Duluth is really amazing. We feel just so honored and grateful for that," said Olson.
As part of "I stand with Kids Month", First Witness has undertaken a social media campaign on Facebook to provide prevention information and give people a platform to learn and share efforts to educate the community.
"We recognize that there's just a whole lot that happens when there is a report of abuse, and it is very confusing and difficult and stressful and it's a crisis, and so we all kinda take a piece to support the families in our various roles," said Olson.
First Witness is also known for its Safe and Strong Child Program in classrooms where children are taught about safe and unsafe touches and body safety .
Child Abuse Numbers Up in Benton County
BENTON COUNTY -- The number of reported cases of child abuse are up in Benton County, according to the Children's Advocacy Center. So far, the number of children the center has seen this year is 750. Last year, they saw 600 to 700 children.
Tibbs projects that they will see a thousand children by the end of the year.
Natalie Tibbs, CAC Executive Director, doesn't necessarily view the increased number as a bad thing. Instead, she believes they're seeing more cases because the community is doing better at recognizing and catching the abusers.
Tibbs said, "The more we get a chance to talk about it, the more we can change the culture that it's not something you can sweep under the rug, and not discuss anymore."
Violence and prevention specialist Stephanie Morris said child abuse can happen anywhere. She said, "Child abuse is like cancer. It doesn't matter what your background is. Child abuse is pervasive and it strikes in all groups. So, don't be lulled into thinking that we are an affluent community that it can't happen here, because it absolutely does happen here."
Morris said the best way to report child abuse is to call the abuse hotline. You can call the hotline at 1-800-482-5964
What to do if you suspect child abuse
by Catherine Doss
LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) - If you suspect a child is in danger, officials say you should call Child Protective Services.
Child Protective Services take reports to determine the validity of the claims before they start investigation of a family.
According to their website, if there is enough proof that something is wrong they will do a family assessment and start a report.
The office here in Lynchburg is open Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If you choose to not report in person you can reach them by phone at (434) 455-5726 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On weekends, contact the Child Protective Services Hotline of Virginia at 1 (800) 552-7096.
End statute of limitations for child sexual abuse
by Melanie Blow
Every year, New York newspapers cover child sexual abuse scandals, like the one unfolding with the Hudson Valley Council Boy Scouts. These headlines shock everyone, except subject matter and public policy experts like me. Every year, legislation to do something about the issue is introduced and often passed. And every year, more children are sexually abused.
Fixing mandated reporter laws, as state Sen. Sue Serino, R-Hyde Park, is trying to do, isn't a bad idea, but it doesn't fix the problem. Most children never disclose sexual abuse while they're still children. Sexual abuse generally leaves few physical signs and nonspecific behavioral signs, so there aren't a lot of red flags for alert mandated reporters. But the failure of anyone who hears a child disclose their sexual abuse, believes it, and does nothing is a heinous wrong. I cannot imagine what was going through the mind of anyone who believed former Dutchess County Legislator Michael Kelsey had sexually abused two boys but didn't alert the authorities. But most likely the faint threat of arrest wouldn't have stopped it.
The story of the Boy Scouts of America Hudson Valley Council is still unfolding, but since research shows offenders usually abuse child after child until they experience consequences, it is likely Michael Kelsey has other victims. The trauma these children suffer is so horrific and the manipulations of their abusers are so effective that it takes them an average of 21 years to disclose their abuse. And in New York state, survivors usually lose the right to press charges on their 23rd birthday. If a sex offender is convicted in criminal or civil court, it is a fairly simple matter to ensure that child-serving organizations, such as schools and scouts, don't put them around kids. But according to experts, 90 percent of sex offenders never see a day behind bars. The best legislative remedy to this is the Omnibus Child Victims Act, a bill that would eliminate the Statute of Limitations for child sexual abuse.
New York's Statute of Limitation bars most victims from seeking justice at age 23. This means most of the offenders get to escape consequences, stay on the street and abuse children for decades. This is not only very unfair but very dangerous, as it means very dangerous people have clean backgrounds and can legally work at schools, as foster parents, or as leaders of scout troops. It is also a significant reason why 90 percent of sex offenders never see a day behind bars.
The Omnibus Child Victims Act removes the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, and allows survivors who have already been sexually abused one year to sue their abusers. These suits produce documentation to prove abuse occurred, and this documentation can be used to register abusers, thus keeping them from teaching and scouting.
Passing this bill would seem like a no-brainer, but the Republican-controlled Senate, of which Sen. Serino is a part, kept the Omnibus Child Victims Act from coming to a vote this session. The same Republican-controlled Senate has spent 10 years trying to kill this bill's predecessor, the Child Victims Act. The bill has finally become a campaign issue, with Terry Gipson, who is running against Serino in this year's election, pledging to support it if elected to the state Senate. The only major opposition to this bill is special interests arguing “we can't afford to be held accountable for what we've done in the past”. This argument defies common sense and common decency. It makes New York a safe place for sex offenders, but a dangerous place for children. It needs to be the other way around.
Our children deserve the best of everything, including the best laws to protect them from sexual abuse.
Melanie Blow is the COO of the Stop Abuse Campaign, a nonprofit which is based in Manhattan.
Lisa Flynn reveals how she helps survivors of child sexual abuse
by Lisa Flynn
I CAME home from work today to my seven-year-old daughter who was in inquisition mode. “How was your day today mum?”
“Was work good?”
“What did you do today mum?”
I struggled to find the words for an appropriate answer.
Mummy had spent the morning in court listening to horrific details of a paedophile priest's long history of abuse during his sentencing hearing. I had spent the morning sitting alongside his victims as they eyeballed their perpetrator — a man who had terrorised their lives and thoughts for so many years. I stood with them as they openly wept, and at the same time cheered, as his long sentence was finally handed down.
I had then spent the afternoon talking with a man, the same age as my own dad, who quietly explained to me how as a 16-year-old boy in the Australian Navy he had been so happy and excited to commence his career in the Defence Force.
His father had served in WW2 and there was a long proud family tradition of service. His dreams were stopped in their tracks after his first week as a junior recruit. I listened to him describe for the very first time how terrified he was when he was set upon by a group of older recruits, held down and sodomised with the handle of a mop over and over while he cried and screamed out for his mum to come and save him.
I listened to how his life had spiralled down from there into a sea of alcohol abuse, failed relationships and a strong distrust of authority.
Unfortunately, days like today are not out of the ordinary. I work in a specialist team that is dedicated to representing survivors of abuse. I spend every day at work listening to harrowing stories of abuse that people have been subjected to, often when they were tiny vulnerable kids.
I collect evidence of horrendous accounts of how institutions failed to protect them. I spend my days helping survivors fight these same institutions who, in some cases, continue to defend, dodge and deny their duty. Even though I do this every day, the individual stories never cease to affect me.
I never cease to be bewildered by how vile and evil some people are in this world. I never cease asking myself how someone's internal makeup can be so deranged that they hurt a child when my own instinct is to protect them so fiercely.
I never cease to be absolutely gutted that another human being has had to endure so much pain in their life through no fault of their own. I never cease to be amazed and inspired by the courage that survivors of abuse show when they come forward and tell their story.
This is what keeps me doing what I do. I am honoured to stand beside these people as they tell their story. They do so often to make things better for others — so that no other child has to go through the hell that they have been through.
We have seen the power of the courage of many of these survivors in the current Royal Commission in to Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
More than five thousand survivors of child sexual abuse have contacted the Royal Commission and told the Commission what happened to them.
It is as a result of this courage that the Royal Commission has been able to do so much good already and continues to do so. Recommendations to remove the time limitations that deny many survivors of abuse the right to bring a claim have been adopted in many states and are in the process of being adopted by others. Recommendations for change are being made to ensure that we don't keep making the same mistakes over again. Changes are coming and they are good.
But it all comes at a price. It is not easy for a survivor of abuse to come forward and tell their story. It is not easy for a survivor of abuse to hear about child sexual abuse in the media, staring them in the face as they turn the TV on to get ready for work, or see newspaper headlines as they walk down the street. In fact, for many, the current Royal Commission and its spotlight on sexual abuse has been the hardest times of their lives to date.
Many of our clients have kept the memories and thoughts of the abuse suppressed for many years. To be confronted with it can, and has, caused lives to spiral out of control.
So I just want to say to these survivors — thank you. Thank you…. and please keep going. So much good is coming from you coming forward and speaking out about what happened to you. I know it is hard yet you do it anyway. Thank you.
The Royal Commission has recently announced a cut-off date for people to register for a private session with the Commission. The Royal Commission will close registrations for private sessions on September 30, 2016. It is often said that knowledge is power and I believe that the more information that is shared during the Royal Commission the more powerful the recommendation and change.
One day I will be able to tell my daughter what I did at work today. It will be a long time from now. I will tell her that I got to spend time with brave and courageous people who went through a lot of pain to protect her and all of the other kids from being hurt. Until then, I will tell her I worked with real life superheroes. It's the only way to describe these survivors.
Lisa Flynn is a Partner & Abuse Law Practice Leader with Shine Lawyers, and has acted for hundreds of survivors, including many who have appeared before the Royal Commission. She is a wife and a mum of three children: two daughters Tully and Addison, and her son Denver.
Child sexual abuse in Zim: Call for action
by Johanne Mhlanga
I have been following with keen interest on cases of child sexual abuse in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Republic Police produced statistics of child sexual abuse and the record is a cause for concern.
These cases reflect a sordid and gory picture of the state and safety of our children, particularly the girl-child. Child sexual abuse is an internationally recognised crime against humanity. It is a gross violation of the girl-child's fundamental rights.
Child sexual abuse is inimical to development and predisposes the girl-child to health complications such as HIV and Aids, fistulas etc.
The extent of the problem
According to the law enforcement authority, more than 100 girls are sexually abused every day, and this is more than any other time in the history of the country. These statistics are a tip of the iceberg.
There are other cases that are not reported due to complicity of care givers/ parents, in which caregivers prefer to have an out-of-court settlement with child sexual abusers.
It is not reflective of all the cases given the situation in the country where there are hard-to-reach areas where such cases go unreported. Take for example, Mabee, Garahwa, Chinyamukwakwa in Chipinge, Dotito and Makande in Kariba, among other such areas in the country.
What is clear is that some cases are not reported to police. Other cases are swept under the carpet by parents in order to safeguard family relations. It is a fact that some cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by relatives, known people and even parents of the victims.
As a result, there is more than what meets the eye. Against this backdrop, lies a girl-child who has to bear the brunt of suffering for the rest of her life. Sexual abuse has serious consequences and the implications are dire. From health, physical and psychological trauma to emotional and cognitive challenges. Such is the extent of child sexual abuse.
Day in, day out, newspapers carry stories of child sexual abuse cases before the courts and some that are swept under the carpet.
For example, The Mirror of August 27, 2016 carried a story titled Grade 7 pupil exposes rape ordeal through school essay. National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba was also quoted some months ago indicating that sexually abused children, whose images had gone viral on social media, were identified. This is just a sample of child sexual abuse cases.
Reflections on our society
What is of significance with most of the child sexual abuse cases is that they are committed by relatives or neighbours, who should be at the fore of safeguarding and protecting children in totality.
Sexual abuse of the girl-child is so sadistic and dehumanising. It is terror. It is a weapon to cow women into submission and to cow society into submission. But, what is important here is to reflect closely with a critical eye on our society.
There are many theories that try to explain the push factors for one to sexually abuse children, but they are never a justification for such a dehumanising act. What is very clear is that the ubuntu concept has been relegated to the dustbin in our society.
Our society is now suffering from moral decadence much to the chagrin of the girl-child. Whatever explanation to the causes of child sexual abuse, it is a stubborn reality and a fact that the pillars of social order and civilised conduct have gone to the dogs. It is difficult to comprehend and really reflect.
What is clear is that our society is now depleted of probity, ethics and principles. Our society is now morally and ethically threadbare.
Men, in particular, have lost the conscience that should be the guiding principles of conduct. The traditional code of conduct that a child belongs to the community has since been thrown into the abyss.
The underlying problem is lack of moral principles and ethically sound mindsets. This is the genesis of all evil against the girl-child. It is difficult to comprehend how a trained teacher ends up abusing a student? It is difficult to comprehend how a neighbour ends up sexually abusing another neighbour's daughter?
What has happened to the moral fibre that defines humankind? What has happened to the common law and Biblical law that you shall show steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments?
And, “You shall not covet your neighbour's house, you shall not covet your neighbour's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbour's.”
There is a clear reflection of the inadequacies of humanity today. How does one justify bedding a minor? How does one justify raping a woman? Is it a sign of patriarchal arrogance? No! Patriarchy is embedded in the need to respect humanity.
There is no substitution of love for humanity. But the question is: What has befallen our society? Where is our society going? Is this the society we want as human beings? A society where the girl-child is at the messy of vampires. A society where men choose to experiment on innocent souls. There is something wrong indeed.
What is the world coming to? The social fabric of Zimbabwe as a nation is at risk. There is a national security threat on the girl-child. It appears that Zimbabwe is in a golden age of moral disarmament. There is moral barbarism. The level of moral decadence worries all that cares.
Agenda for collective action
Child sexual abuse has far reaching health, social, economic and political implications for the girl-child and her community. It truncates a girl's childhood, creates grave physical and psychological risks, and robs her of internationally recognised human rights.
The greatest task that confronts professionals, law enforcement agents, traditional leaders and the rest of the community is to put their heads together and strategise on how the child sexual abuse scourge can be ended.
This rot requires all and sundry to work together and create a conducive environment for the girl-child. Ending child sexual abuse requires the participation of parents, the religious sector, community, traditional leaders, professionals and everyone who cares.
It calls for a multi-faceted approach focused on the girls, their families, the community and the government. The approach should be comprehensive and holistic in nature. The following are some of the measures that can be put in place to arrest social evils within our midst:
1. Putting in place deterrent measures
There are various laws in place in Zimbabwe that are meant to safeguard children. However, there are serious gaps that stifle efforts to protect the girl-child.
For example, child marriages were prohibited at law, but there is a contradiction with the age of sexual consent.
This results in paedophiles taking advantage of the girl-child. Again, there is no deterrent law for child sexual abusers or rape cases in general. For example, cattle rustling has a jail term of more than 19 years, while a rape case jail term is below 15 years.
This is an indication that there is lack of seriousness. Does it mean that an animal is a more important than a human being? The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No 19 (2013) section 81 provides clearly the rights of children.
However, there is need to realign laws that are at variance with the Constitution's provisions. What is clear here is that there is need for deterrent laws.
2. Educating parents and the girl-child on child sexual abuse
Concerted efforts and resources should be invested in educating parents, community, traditional leaders and the girl-child on sexual abuse.
Child sexual abuse issues should be mainstreamed in all interventions by the government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and churches in their projects and services. It is paramount to ensure that information on sexual abuse and its dangers is disseminated in vernacular languages in all the communities.
Traditional leaders should be empowered with knowledge on child sexual abuse so that they also play their part in the fight against the scourge.
3. Training of law enforcement agents e.g. police
Law enforcement agents should be thoroughly trained to deal with sexual abuse cases.
At times, the time taken by police to arrest a culprit leaves a lot to be desired. In some cases, police officers show lack of knowledge on what they should do once a sexual abuse case has been reported to them.
It is critical that police officers are trained on how to respond and handle cases of sexual abuse. They should be handled just like cases of armed robbery. Yes, there is the Victim Friendly Unit, whose office bearers are trained to deal specifically with children's issues, but there is a gap that exists.
More often than not, some police posts are not manned by officers from the Victim Friendly Unit. This makes it difficult for officers doing generic work to understand the gravity of the child sexual abuse cases. Child sexual abuse is a threat to national development. One girl-child sexually abused is too many!
4. Prioritising the hard-to-reach areas in raising awareness on child sexual abuse
Child sexual abuse takes place anywhere in the country. However, there is an unfortunate situation that is very clear in Zimbabwe.
More often than not, many NGOs in child protection programming are concentrated in easy-to-reach areas, leaving those children in hard-to-reach areas more vulnerable.
The situation is compounded by the fact that the government is also faced with a massive ocean of challenges, for example, lack of resources — both human and financial resources, which makes it difficult to reach to the remotest parts of the country.
It is in those areas that child sexual abuse cases are swept under the carpet. It is in those areas that child sexual abuse crimes are not reported and the girl-child suffers in silence. There is, therefore, a need to prioritise hard-to-reach areas.
For example, authorities should have deliberate policies that deploy NGOs to the most needy and remote areas rather than having them concentrated in Harare, Mutare, and other easy-to-reach areas.
It is a fact that despite concerted efforts by the Department of Social Welfare and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to fight sexual abuse of children, there are gaps in their approach.
For example, the Department of Social Welfare has very little presence in most remote areas due to resource scarcity.
As a result, there is need for deliberate policy to deploy NGOs in those areas to fight the child sexual abuse scourge.
Governor signs child sex abuse bill
by Steve Limtiaco
Gov. Eddie Calvo on Friday signed a bill that allows victims of child sexual abuse to sue their abusers as well as anyone who helped them and the institutions with which they are affiliated.
The bill, by Sen. Frank Blas Jr., D-Barrigada, was introduced after several former Agat altar boys accused Archbishop Anthony Apuron of molesting or raping them in the 1970s. It retroactively lifts the statute of limitations on civil suits, and at least one Apuron accuser has said he plans to sue.
The Archdiocese of Agana opposed the bill and encouraged Calvo to veto it, arguing lawsuits against the church could financially cripple it and impact its ability to run Catholic schools and provide services.
In a letter accompanying the new public law, 33-187, Calvo said it opens the doors of justice to those who suffered a terrible harm as children.
Calvo said the bill has several legal and technical concerns — including whether it is even possible under the constitution to retroactively lift the statute of limitations.
“Despite these questions, today I will err on the side of the aggrieved,” he stated.
Blas issued a written statement Friday afternoon.
“I want to thank the governor for his action in making this bill a public law. Since the very beginning, the focus of this legislation was always the victims. It gives them a voice and the ability to seek justice for the harm that was done,” Blas stated. “I want to thank the victims for having the courage to come forward and share their stories and the church groups that actively pushed for this measure in order to give relief to the victims of child sex abuse.”
Abuse and neglect result in too many suffering children
by Al Seymour
The statistics are so staggering on abused and neglected children suffering throughout the world today that it is almost incomprehensible. With all the scientific advances in this modern era, defenceless children are dying by the thousands each day in the shadows of gross abuse and neglect.
According to experts who make a study of the plight of children worldwide, some 40 million children below the age of 15 suffer abuse and neglect each year, and one can only imagine the effect that this will have on future generations.
This subject is painful to write about, but even worse, it seldom gets the attention it should because children have no voice of their own amid the power struggles by nations with opposing ideologies.
Recent publicity of children suffering and dying in war-torn areas is bad enough, with gruesome photographs of stunned and bleeding infants in bombed-out buildings.
While some of these terrible incidents are flashed across television screens around the world, there are countless children who die from abuse and neglect, with their short stories buried with them. The age-old cry of why continues, but world leaders seem to appear more concerned about power status rather than dealing with the abuse and neglect of children in so many countries.
A troubling aspect to this is that studies reveal that emotional abuse may be more devastating than physical abuse. When the mind of a child is shattered through various forms of abuse and neglect, that child could grow to view the world as the enemy, and than the cycle of anger and bitterness, if not addressed in time, could create challenges for any society.
Another startling factor is that although there are countless distractions that could cause derailment of a developing young mind, most of the antisocial behavioural problems can be traced back to the home.
No matter what difficulties families face under challenging economic circumstances, no child should be subjected to abuse or neglect as an excuse for trying to maintain a roof or put bread on the table. There are situations internationally where the conduct of parents who are supposed to be the protector of children behave as though they themselves need parenting.
The shocking image recently of a couple in the United States sitting in their vehicle unconscious from a drug overdose, as their child sat in the back seat stunned even hardened police officers. One police official said: “We are dealing with this type of thing almost every day.”
It is not so much what we know about abuse and neglect, it is what we don't know that could be even more shocking.
Our cultural alarm bells should be ringing off the hook when, in launching its annual “Taking Action Against Neglect” campaign, the Department for Child and Family Services noted that there has been a disturbing rise in reports of incidents in this area of community life. Some children have fallen victim to illegal drugs; in some cases, before they were born. In many large countries, doctors have had to struggle to save babies born with addictive drugs in their systems. Drinking and smoking around children have also taken a heavy toll.
An unpleasant subject, yes, but unless it is addressed in a serious manner by the entire community, there will be more victims yet to come. The crumbling of the strength of the family, which is not a good trend, must be halted if there is to be a rebuilding of badly needed values to avoid the community itself becoming a victim.
Finding a solution will be far from easy in a fast-paced society where the thrust is so focused on material and status gain by so many as the true symbol of success. Nothing wrong with success in those areas, as long as young minds are not sacrificed along the way. A hard-working parent who keeps a sharp eye on offspring developments, even if it means sacrificing financial gain at times, will be making a great contribution to any society.
Bermuda is truly a beautiful island in the Atlantic, but we would be doing a disservice to the next generation if we choose to bury our heads in the pink sand rather than face up to the problem of abuse and child neglect. Children are the most precious gifts we have for trying to build a better future because one day they, too, will be parents. When that happens, we hope they will be armed with the right values.
No stone should be left unturned in ensuring that they have those values to pass on to the future generations.
India not doing enough to protect kids from online abuse: UNICEF
by Maitri Porecha
UNICEF on Thursday released a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive report analysing the use of the Internet and mobile phones among children in India. The report has presented a scathing commentary on the lack of preparedness of Indian agencies to tackle online abuse of children. There are currently 40 lakh Internet users in India. The report estimates that 13.4 lakh Indian children use mobile phones.
Social networking site Facebook and cross-platform application WhatsApp are increasingly posing a threat to the security of children online.
A 13-year-old Indian boy was targeted by one of his classmates who used a fake identity to create a Facebook account to send out offensive messages to other children in the school. The victim did not have a Facebook account. He was hauled by his parents and teachers for misbehaviour. In another incident, a girl was forced out of a school WhatsApp group where a morphed obscene picture of her was shared.
The report states the police and judiciary in India fail to appropriately respond to complaints of online harassment of children. "Such cases are often not registered or investigated due to limited understanding of child online offences system. Also, there is inadequate forensic capacity to investigate online offences and inadequate cooperation by India for investigating international offences," the report states.
It also states that the conviction rates for child online abuse are extremely low due to poor quality of evidence and the lack of police capacities to handle cyber evidence. The report goes on to say, "Police have often not been trained to preserve e-mails as evidence in child sexual abuse case. They also often do not attach a 65-B certificate due to which the evidence cannot be admitted in court. As a result, victims of online abuse are denied justice, while perpetrators enjoy impunity."
Weighing in on the effectiveness of the judiciary, the report states, "Even as the cyber appellate tribunal, to appeal in case of online harassment cases was formed in 2006, a judge to preside and decide on the cases has not been appointed since 2011," stated the report.
Picking loopholes in Indian law, the report states that emotional harassment, cyber-bullying, sexting, social exclusion, ideological indoctrination or exposure to inappropriate content do not constitute legal offences under Indian law.
In 2015, a survey carried out by a private IT company threw up shocking results. About 43 per cent of children active on social media claimed to have witnessed cruel behaviour, while 52 per cent of children indicated that they had themselves bullied people over social media. This included being mean to other children, the bullies saying they did not like them and taking a dig at someone by calling them 'fat' or 'ugly', making fun of someone's physical appearances or tagging them in mean pictures. Such emotional harassment under cyber-bullying is not considered a 'legal' offence under Indian law, making it impossible to bring perpetrators to book.
The report recommends to make priority interventions in formulating a national framework for child online safety in India. It also recommends the review and revision of cyber laws in India pertaining to child abuse and exploitation.
Child neglect charge dismissed by magistrate in case involving alleged heroin in home
by Matt Harvey
CLARKSBURG — A felony child neglect charge has been dismissed against a man accused of possessing what police believe was fentanyl-laced heroin in a home where a 2-year-old lived.
Harrison County Assistant Defender Bryan Church successfully argued that defendant Jesse Alan Clevenger wasn't in physical possession of the child; that the boy wasn't in the care or custody of Clevenger; and that Clevenger, who isn't the child's father, wasn't in a relationship with the mother or in some other guardianship status.
An element of child neglect creating a substantial risk of injury in West Virginia is that the defendant be a parent, guardian or custodian of the child. The points that Church made went toward the Legislature's definition of parent, guardian or custodian in connection with this section of West Virginia Code.
Harrison Assistant Prosecutor Zach Houchin had asked Magistrate Keith Marple to find probable cause, which would have sent the case to circuit court.
Clevenger was residing in a known drug house for about two weeks with the child's mother, Katrina Jean Messenger, and a third defendant, Percy Edward Belser Jr., Houchin argued. Additionally, Clevenger helped bring drugs into the home, Houchin alleged.
In dismissing the charge, Marple said the state could file it again if it develops evidence that the child was at some point in Clevenger's care or custody.
In a separate hearing earlier Thursday, Marple did find probable cause for charges against Clevenger of possession with intent to deliver heroin and conspiracy to commit that crime.
And after Houchin objected, Marple rejected Church's motion to reduce the bond on the drug-related charges from $40,000, cash or surety.
Clevenger's bond effectively was cut by a third, though, with the removal of the $20,000 bail on the dismissed child neglect charge.
Houchin took testimony from a Greater Harrison Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force agent on the drug charges, and from Clarksburg Police Sgt. Don Quinn on the child neglect charge.
The drug task force agent testified that heroin was found inside the home, including under a couch in the living room, during a Sept. 15 raid of the Gould Avenue dwelling. Clevenger wasn't home at the time of the raid but said he'd been staying there about two weeks, the agent testified.
The arrangement was for Clevenger and Belser to provide 10 stamps of heroin to Messenger for each day they stayed with her, the agent testified.
Houchin, perhaps trying to make the point that the large amount of heroin in the home could have been for personal use, asked the agent if the drug can be bought in bulk, “like you'd buy toilet paper at Sam's (Club).”
The agent laughed as he answered that it was possible.
Quinn, assigned to Mountaineer Highway Interdiction Team South, testified he was the second person inside the Gould Avenue dwelling when it was raided Sept. 15 and found the child inside a bedroom at the back of the home.
The boy, clad in a T-shirt and a diaper, “immediately stuck his arms out, like for me to pick him up, so I immediately picked him up and removed him from the situation,” Quinn testified.
Belser and Messenger remain charged with possession with intent to deliver heroin, conspiracy to commit that crime and child neglect.
Prosecutor seeks stiffer penalties for OD parents
by Courtney Hessler
HUNTINGTON - Cabell County Prosecutor Sean "Corky" Hammers says he believes some of the current laws should be changed to protect children of drug-addicted parents, a concern sparked in part by a rash of traffic accidents involving drugged parents with children in the vehicles.
Hammers said he plans to push for the changing of child neglect laws for stricter punishment for addicted parents during the 2017 legislative session.
With a large number of drug-related vehicle crashes occurring on city streets recently due to drug overdoses, Hammers said current laws make it difficult to punish addicted parents with felony offenses.
There is a fine line between misdemeanor and felony child neglect. Misdemeanor neglect creates a "substantial risk of death or bodily injury," but with felonies, prosecutors have to prove a "serious" risk for conviction. Laws do not account for mental distress the children might face due to the events, he said.
"Not in the statute," he said. "That doesn't apply. Being affected mentally isn't a crime. Sure, I can prove they are affected mentally, but that's not a crime."
For example, Hammers said when a parent is found passed out behind the wheel or involved in a fender bender due to drug use, it will often just be a misdemeanor because it is difficult to prove the child suffered serious bodily injury.
Hammers said any time children are witnesses to drug use, in a vehicle or elsewhere, it should be a felony.
"We need to think about providing when such neglect is caused by abuse of controlled substances, it becomes a felony," he said.
Misdemeanor offenses often result in small fines and a short stay at Western Regional Jail.
Felony offenses not only mean more time in prisons, but also a better chance at getting addiction help.
Nonviolent felony offenders are eligible to apply for Cabell County's drug court program as alternative sentencing. The drug court program takes drug offenders and puts them through rigorous treatment instead of putting them in jail.
When children are removed from the custody of their parents, Hammers said in a previous interview, his office is mandated by state laws to give parents the chance to reunify the families. The parents will go through strenuous steps to prove they are able to take care of their children properly.
Hammers previously said parents can regain custody while a felony case is still active, but reunification can't conflict with pursuing a felony offense.
The current punishment for felony child neglect creating a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury is one to five years' imprisonment. When asked if he thought that sentence was appropriate, Hammers said it was a step-by-step process.
"I'm a prosecutor, so I'm always going to argue for stiffer penalties," he said. "We can't do an overhaul in one session."
West Virginia is not the only state lacking in stiffer punishment for adults neglecting or endangering children due to drug use.
East Liverpool police in Ohio recently posted a photo of Rhonda Pasek, 50, and her boyfriend, James Acord, 47, slumped over in the front of a vehicle from apparent drug overdoses while Pasek's grandson sat in the backseat.
According to The Associated Press, Pasek already entered a no contest plea to a child endangering charge and was sentenced to 180 days in jail. Acord received 360 days after pleading no contest to child endangering and operating a vehicle under the influence.
Any person looking for help with substance abuse and addiction can contact the state hotline 24 hours a day at 844-435-7498 or visit www.help4wv.com.
Hunting for sex-traffickers abroad — by posing as johns
by Tom Jackman
The American men walked into the darkened brothel in Bangkok and were soon offered a variety of prostitutes, young and old, male and female. “You go in and try to look like a john as much as possible,” one of the Americans said later of his undercover role. “Try to act like them, talk like them. You don't go in and order a glass of milk.”
The men moved from brothel to brothel, each “packed with foreigners,” the American said. “You're sitting next to these perverts, not only having to interact with them but become one of them. It's common to go shop around. You sit there, get a price,” he said. “It was probably the darkest underworld playground of the devil that I've ever been in.”
The American was former Washington Nationals baseball player Adam LaRoche, and he described participating in a “rescue” operation last year with The Exodus Road, one of a number of American nonprofit groups that are fighting human trafficking in a new way: by luring pimps into the open, and then working with local law enforcement to arrest the traffickers and free the victims.
Members of the groups, often former U.S. military members or law enforcement officers, pose as American tourists looking to party with groups of underage sex workers. Some groups, such as The Exodus Road and Operation Underground Railroad , invite supporters or television crews to come along to spread word about the horrors, and witness the thrilling moments when sex traffickers are handcuffed, and terrorized children are rescued.
“We believe the problem will never go away unless everybody knows about it and does something,” said Tim Ballard, a former investigator with the Department of Homeland Security who started Operation Underground Railroad, based in Anaheim, Calif.
But this high-profile approach is attracting skepticism from some respected workers who have fought human trafficking for decades by working with Third World police and prosecutors to attack the problem and rid their ranks of corruption. They question whether the American groups spend the time and effort needed to ensure that victims aren't returned to the same cycles of degrading violence. They also raise concerns about entrapment and safety for the civilians such as LaRoche who participate.
“The trouble is it's really risky to the victims,” said Anne Gallagher, founding chair of the U.N. Inter-Agency Group on Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling, and cited by the State Department as “the leading global expert on the international law on human trafficking.” She said that the civilian groups can cause problems for prosecutions, and that they often are unprepared to help victims.
“It's also misleading,” Gallagher said, “and deflects attention and resources and energy away from the hard stuff that needs to be done. .?.?. They're in and out. No way they can follow up a victim's case. No way they're evaluating the impact of what they've done.”
Gallagher and Cees de Rover, executive director of Equity International, wrote an article for the Huffington Post last year criticizing Operation Underground Railroad from “a law enforcement perspective.” The group's approach, the pair said, targets low-level recruiters and pimps but doesn't dismantle the leadership of sophisticated trafficking networks.
Gallagher said Americans entranced by the promise of quick rescues “don't want to hear the news that it's a hard slog. You've got to keep doing it for years and years.”
But groups such as Operation Underground Rescue and International Justice Mission, often mentioned as the preeminent rescue group, say that they do plan for the care of rescued victims, and that their work is having a measurable effect on human trafficking and sex tourism in countries such as Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines and Thailand. The rescue organizations are funded entirely by private donations, government and private grants and in-kind offers of goods and services, their officials said.
Holly Burkhalter, the senior adviser for justice system transformation at the International Justice Mission, based in Washington, said that her group establishes permanent staffs in the countries where they work, and that they create lasting relationships with both social service providers and law enforcement.
“We stay there for the long term,” she said. “If children coming out of a criminal sexual situation are not given care and schooling and economic aid, they will almost certainly be retrafficked. We are absolutely involved every step of the way.”
The rescue groups work closely with law enforcement in the host country to oversee their rescue missions and handle the prosecutions of the traffickers. Gallagher said that can be problematic in many countries where law enforcement is already deeply involved with the traffickers.
The most widely accepted analysis of human trafficking worldwide, by the International Labour Organization in 2012, estimated that 4.5 million people are being forced to work in the sex trade, out of 20.9 million in all manner of forced labor. The State Department's Trafficking in Persons report for 2016 said there had been nearly 19,000 prosecutions worldwide for human trafficking last year, an 88 percent increase from the previous year.
When American rescue groups offer their help, it's generally appreciated by the United States and host governments, even if it isn't always comprehensive, said Ransom J. Avilla, a Department of Homeland Security Investigations attache based in Manila. Avilla said American officials in the Philippines had worked closely with the International Justice Mission and “they do provide a full service,” working with police, prosecutors and social service agencies throughout cases that can last many years.
He said that it is possible that child victims sometimes fall through the cracks, but that, in general, “I think any group that wants to be here combating these cases is helping the country.”
Ballard, who became frustrated with his Homeland Security job when the federal government said that children from other countries couldn't be rescued, started Operation Underground Railroad in 2013. With former Navy SEALs, CIA agents and other experienced operatives, he trains foreign law enforcement agencies and then acts as one of the American lures to bring traffickers out of the shadows, as a presumed tourist in bars or on beaches. Some of the organization's exploits are featured in a recently released movie, “The Abolitionists,” documenting the preparations, the contacts and then the takedowns of sex traffickers.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes took a trip to Colombia with Operation Underground Railroad in 2014, and because he spoke Spanish played the role of the “muscle” in a group of undercover Americans claiming to want dozens of child prostitutes for a permanent sex tourism hotel. The traffickers brought more than 50 children. “It was so fulfilling,” Reyes said, “to see their faces when we liberated them. They were all singing and crying. That changed my life.”
Ballard said Operation Underground Railroad works with U.S. embassies in host countries to find reliable law enforcement, and will not enter a country until it knows the victims will have follow-up care. Jessica Mass, the director of after care for Operation Underground Railroad, said she had just returned from vetting five after-care homes in a country that her group is targeting for a raid.
“I'm talking with the directors” of after-care homes, Mass said, “seeing how the girls are doing. We look for mental health services, education and vocational training.” The organization also provides financial help, hires social workers and pays them fair wages, and buys supplies, beds and even roofing for homes that will take in underage sex workers.
“After care begins at the moment of rescue,” Burkhalter of IJM said. “The social worker goes with the police and investigators of the mission.”
Matt Parker, the founder of The Exodus Road in Colorado Springs, said that his group does try to help victims after raids, but that “we're not an after-care organization. There's many more after-care nonprofits” in the countries where they work, he said, that have more expertise.
Parker and Burkhalter noted that local governments have the first say on where and how freed victims are treated.
Parker said that Exodus Road has after-care staffs in two countries, but that their core competency is in investigating and arresting traffickers. “We've freed 736 men, women and children, and arrested 256 traffickers,” Parker said. “The most powerful thing to do to fight trafficking is to make trafficking a dangerous thing to do.”
Burkhalter seconded that. “You don't have to prosecute everybody,” she said. “Prosecute a few and it really does start to lower the prevalence.” She said that IJM began working with the Cambodian government in 2003, and that after 10 years, less than 1 percent of the victims were minors, and none were younger than 14. IJM has now disengaged from Cambodia, she said, confident that authorities there “really began to own it.”
Paul Holmes, a former Scotland Yard detective who trains police forces worldwide in human trafficking investigations, said he had “no objection to any organization entering the fray against trafficking.”
But he questioned including untrained participants, such as LaRoche and Reyes, in rescue missions.
“None of these people can be described as appropriately trained professionals,” Holmes said, “and should not be anywhere near a professionally managed undercover sting operation.” Holmes added that “concerns also arise around the risk of entrapment on the part of the undercover operatives” posing as sex tourists, and that “seeking to buy the services of child victims of sexual exploitation would likely run into serious admissibility difficulties in many countries.”
Convictions of human traffickers in other countries are hard to obtain as it is. In 2015, according to the State Department, only about one-third of the nearly 19,000 prosecutions worldwide resulted in convictions.
Ballard, who is going to stop acting as a lure himself, plans to stay in the rescue business. Burkhalter acknowledged that it does take years for the process to effect change.
“It took years to develop that core of professionalism” in Cambodian police, she said. “There were some good ones. There were some really bad apples. But they are professionally handling this issue. That's what 10 years of companionship can bring you.”
Meaningful changes, not just outrage, needed to assist Maine sex trafficking victims
Each year, hundreds of Maine residents are being forced or manipulated into having sex with strangers numerous times per day, day after day. When police, nurses, case managers and others identify them as sex trafficking victims, they often are suffering from unimaginable traumas caused by daily mental, physical and sexual abuse and sometimes possess nothing other than the clothes they are wearing.
These victims may require lots of support. They may have short-term needs of food, clothes and shelter. Their long-term needs may include drug addiction treatment, medical care, mental health counseling, job training and legal services.
But federal, state and local governments and communities as a whole are failing to properly assist the state's most vulnerable.
It's welcome news that the U.S. Department of Justice awarded the Preble Street Anti-Trafficking Coalition, a network of southern Maine service providers, $650,000 in grant funding to provide such supports to victims. So far Preble Street has helped 111 sex and labor trafficking victims in Cumberland and York counties since mid-2014.
But that coalition and the many other service providers across the state, including Hope Rising, a residential treatment program in Penobscot County, require much more funding and support to properly address the needs of Maine victims. Federal, state and municipal governments need to step up in this regard.
Yes, residents can donate to the Maine Sex Trafficking and Exploitation Network's victim support fund — and should, generously — but if lawmakers and state and local officials were truly serious about assisting sex trafficking victims, they would consider expanding a host of services and remaking larger systems to support them.
Service providers such as Preble Street have struggled to address the critical health care needs of victims, because many of them are unable to access MaineCare. By expanding Medicaid to low-income parents and adults without children, victims could gain access to such essential health services.
Lawmakers and state and local officials could also help victims by taking Maine's opioid epidemic seriously. Maine residents across the state, including many sex trafficking victims, need better access to a variety of addiction treatment options, including Suboxone and methadone paired with counseling. Instead Gov. Paul LePage has been actively trying to shut down methadone clinics, and local governments, including the Bangor City Council, have been fighting the expansion of such services in their communities.
Last, the state's hospitals and medical clinics can continue supporting and encouraging its nurses who are receiving or seeking their Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) certification. Those certified nurses are trained to identify sexual assault and sex trafficking victims, record the victim's history and collect evidence to help in the prosecution of their abusers.
There are 30 to 35 SAFE-certified nurses in the state and about 30 others are going through training, according to Michelle Markie, an emergency department nurse at St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor. This is good, but it's only a start. Sex trafficking victims often seek medical assistance for unrelated injuries, such as assault and sexually transmitted diseases. Our nurses need to be ready.
There are many people in Maine outraged by the atrocities that are happening in their own backyards. Now it is time for the entire community to step up in a meaningful way and help the people being victimized by those atrocities.
University study shows dramatic shift in public perception of sex trafficking
by Kristoffer Tigue
As part of their ongoing investigation into Minnesota's sex trafficking industry, the University of Minnesota's Urban Research and Outreach Center (UROC) will release a new study later this week that shows a dramatic shift in public opinion on the issue.
The study looked into more than 1,500 news articles published between 1995 and 2014 that used either the terms “prostitution” or “sex trafficking.” The data shows a dramatic spike in media coverage in 2013 surrounding the issue, with media outlets overwhelmingly using the term “sex trafficking” in place of “prostitution.”
Researchers say that shows an important shift in how people see the issue, from people seeing youth as perpetrators of sex crimes to victims of them. “There's a real shift in key terms in the articles from framing the issue as prostitution to framing the issue more and more as sex trafficking,” said UROC Director of Research Lauren Martin.
For researchers like Martin, knowing just where public opinion lies is important. Yet the data also go a long way in explaining the dramatic change in the way trafficking was dealt with as a policy issue by the state. “If our society views commercial sexual exploitation as a problem of young people doing bad things, then our response is going to be primarily criminal justice,” Martin said. “If we frame the issue differently where we see more systems [at fault], then we might focus on delivering more services.”
An early lack of support
Minnesota has the third highest rate of commercial child exploitation in the United States, according to Minnesota's Judicial Branch. And the FBI has named Minneapolis among the 13 cities in the country with the highest rate of child sex trafficking.
Prior to 2011, however, when Minnesota passed first passed its Safe Harbor law, which barred prosecutors from charging of minors with prostitution, many advocates said their pleas to reform the state's laws and help victims fell on deaf ears.
Beth Holger-Ambrose, the executive director for The Link, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that provides resources to homeless and sex trafficked youth, said that back the ‘90s, there were no resources going towards children being trafficked in Minnesota. In fact, most people didn't believe it was happening at all.
When authorities did find cases of trafficking, Holger-Ambrose said, the media portrayed the children as prostitutes who simply chose to sell sex. That attitude made it impossible to address the issue effectively, she said, and despite advocates' best efforts to lobby lawmakers and law enforcement to do something about it, no one seemed to listen. “If a youth came to the surface to law enforcement or child protection about being sex trafficked, that youth would be put into juvenile detention and treated as a juvenile delinquent,” Holger-Ambrose said. “There was no police officer we could call who understood that these were victims.”
An overnight success, a decade in the making
In 2010, a handful of Minnesota prosecutors who were concerned with the number of trafficking and soliciting cases reaching their desks reached out to the Women's Foundation of Minnesota. They wanted to see if there was any way they could tackle the issue together. That same year, a study by the Schapiro Group revealed that each month in Minnesota, 213 girls are sold for sex an average of five times a day via internet and other escort services.
The following year, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi was sworn into office, and he and several other county prosecutors publicly announced that Ramsey County would no longer be charging juveniles for prostitution. Around the same time, Marilyn Carlson Nelson, whose Carlson Companies owned several prominent international hotel chains like Radisson and Country Inns & Suites, announced that her hotel staff would undergo new training to help identify sex trafficking in an attempt to stop it from occurring in their establishments.
Both moves brought an unprecedented amount of attention to the issue, said Mary Beth Hanson, Vice President of External Relations for the Women's Foundation. “What they did was risky and courageous,” Hanson said.
That November, the foundation also launched their MN Girls Are Not For Sale campaign; a five-year, $5 million dollar initiative to bring attention to and bolster research and services for victims of sex trafficking across the state.
Then, in 2011, the legislature passed Minnesota's safe harbor bill, which said that prosecutors can no longer charge anyone under the age of 18 with prostitution — although that portion of the law didn't go into effect until 2014. “It's pretty amazing what we've done in just a decade,” said Sen. Sandra Pappas DFL-St. Paul and head author of Minnesota's 2011 Safe Harbor bill.
Pappas said the issue was first brought to her attention in 2006, but didn't gain significant legislative traction until 2011. Even then, it was initially met with resistance, she said, particularly from rural areas of Minnesota. But because of drummed up support from advocacy groups, faith and community leaders, and county prosecutors, she said, her bill passed. “It really took a whole village to change this attitude,” she said.
The safe harbor bill also updated the definitions for exploited youth in Minnesota's protection codes; increased penalties for those who abused or purchased commercial sex; and directed state agencies to fund new resources for victims of sex trafficking.
Minnesota's is one of at least 28 states around the country that have enacted some form of safe harbor laws, according to the most recent data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. But Minnesota is unique among those states, said Lauren Ryan, Minnesota Department of Health Safe Harbor Director. Most of the state's resources around fighting sex trafficking are going directly to the Department of Health rather than the Department of Public Safety. “There was a very intended effort to put this at public health, to get a different lens and not have it solely be a criminal justice issue or a child protection issue,” she said.
The changes are a welcome one for Holger-Ambrose, who said she's glad to finally see that more people have finally become aware of the issue and are taking it seriously. But still, she wishes it had happened earlier. “Sex trafficking and sexual exploitation have been going on for a very long time, unfortunately,” she said.
Organization Asking Truckers To Look Out For Human Trafficking
With So Many Truckers On America's Roadways, They're A Great Resource To Help Recover Victims, Says Truckers Against Trafficking Co-Founder
by Scottie Lee Meyers
Truckers Against Trafficking is opening up a new line of defense against human traffickers by mobilizing truckers, truck stop employees and the general public to help recover victims.
There are more than 3.5 million truckers on America's roads, which makes them a great resource for groups working to fight human trafficking, said Lyn Thompson, the organization's co-founder and communications specialist.
"If we could train them to understand what human trafficking is and what to do when they see it, they could play a critical role in the fight against human trafficking across this country," Thompson said.
The organization is a hallmark program in the Industry Training Program, it has trained hundreds of thousands of people in the trucking industry about the warning signs of sex trafficking and how to appropriately respond by following up with a report to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center and local law enforcement.
"What we wanted them to do is, first of all, to quit seeing young girls or young boys who were coming to their trucks or finding them at rest stops or motels or whatever, to quit seeing them as prostitutes and begin seeing them as potential victims," Thompson said.
The efforts appear to be working. Since Truckers Against Trafficking formed in 2009, the organization says it's partnered with hundreds of trucking companies and driving schools, trained more than 238,000 truckers and implemented new laws in 24 states. That's led to almost 1,500 calls to the hotline and the identification of 452 likely human-trafficking cases involving almost 1,000 victims, 270 of whom were minors.
Thompson said the human trafficking cases have been reported in all 50 states. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one in six runaways in 2014 were likely trafficking victims. There are millions of victims across the globe, many of whom are children, and it's an estimated $150 billion industry.
Milwaukee has been called a hub for human trafficking. The Guardian referred to the city as the "Harvard of pimp school." Milwaukee was tied for the third highest number of young people rescued last year by FBI raids across the United States, according to the British newspaper.
Thompson is calling on all travelers, not just truckers, to be on the lookout for traffickers moving victims across state lines by highways and the interstate. She hopes to expand the program into other transportation industries, including airlines and bus depots.
"I think the more people that are aware that this could be happening and they could be seeing it, the more opportunities there are to raising an alarm and helping someone escape or be recovered from a trafficker," Thompson said.
Advocates defend probation for Iowa teen sex offender
by Grant Rodgers
The sentencing of an Iowa man accused of sexually abusing a toddler on video ignited controversy, putting the decisions of a local prosecutor and judge under nationwide scrutiny.
But experts, including one of Iowa's most prominent advocates for sexual assault victims, say the decision to place 19-year-old Kraigen Grooms on probation instead of sending him to prison appears to have been made responsibly.
Grooms pleaded guilty in July to one count of engaging in lascivious acts with a child as part of a plea bargain with prosecutors. The Ottumwa man was 16 when he filmed himself assaulting a young relative at the behest of two child pornographers he was communicating with online, Wapello County Attorney Gary Oldenburger wrote in a detailed statement about the case.
Grooms had been tricked into believing that the pornographers were a girl his own age, Oldenburger said. He received a 10-year suspended prison sentence during a Sept. 12 hearing, with a requirement that he undergo treatment for sex offenders.
Beth Barnhill, executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said the case was "blown up" in social media reports in ways that obscured the facts. For instance, the progressive news website Raw Story ran an article on the sentencing with the headline, "Judge spares prison time for man who raped toddler."
Oldenburger has refuted that description of the crime, saying in an interview that Grooms appeared to be masturbating in the video. The toddler was not injured or put in pain, the prosecutor wrote in his statement.
“When I read through all of the information ... I certainly got a different picture than when I saw the headlines that said, 'Teenager rapes toddler,'" Barnhill said in an interview with The Des Moines Register. "I think that it was actually a very thoughtful decision."
The key things that prosecutors and judges should consider when recommending and fashioning sentences in sexual assault cases are the individual facts at hand, the age of the offender and input from the victim or the victim's family members, Barnhill said. All of those factors appear to have been taken into account before Grooms was sentenced, she said.
Oldenburger told the Register that the victim's mother works at a residential treatment center for juvenile sex offenders. The victim's family agreed that a probation sentence was appropriate, as long as Grooms was required to attend treatment.
Grooms was ordered by District Court Judge Randy DeGeest to complete a sex offender treatment program under the supervision of the Iowa Department of Corrections.
Barnhill, whose organization offers resources to survivors of sexual assault, also noted that proper treatment can help prevent juveniles from abusing again once they reach adulthood. Barnhill cited a July article from the journal Psychology, Public Policy, and Law detailing a study that found only 3 percent to 10 percent of juvenile sex offenders become recidivists.
Dr. Michael Caldwell, a University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology lecturer who authored that article, found that the recidivism rate among juvenile sex offenders has dropped by 73 percent since 1980. The exact cause of that drop is hard to pinpoint, but it appears that better treatment and interventions with offenders at earlier ages — as opposed to prison sentences — are factors, he said.
Research is clearer on one thing: Treatment for young sex offenders is more effective when it happens outside of prison, Caldwell said. "If it's at all possible to treat somebody in a community setting, that's preferred,” he said.
Caldwell's recent research was limited to sex offenders whose cases were handled in the juvenile court system. Grooms was automatically sent to adult district court because Iowa law requires teenagers older than 16 to be tried as adults in murder, manslaughter and sexual assault cases.
The chance that Grooms would abuse another child was found to be relatively low, Oldenburger wrote in his defense of the plea agreement. "Grooms was evaluated by an expert psychologist who has decades of experience in evaluating and treating sex offenders, and was not considered a high risk for committing future offenses," he wrote.
"The abuse was committed at the behest of two men who had, over a long period of time, perfected a technique for duping children into committing sexual acts that they would not have otherwise engaged in," Oldenburger wrote. "They were so skillful and so persuasive in their efforts that they successfully convinced hundreds of children to engage in sexual activity while they surreptitiously recorded it. It seems highly unlikely that Grooms would have engaged in the abuse under any other circumstances or of his own volition."
Tim Caya, the operator of a Facebook page called "Locate the Missing," is not satisfied with the prosecutor's explanations for the sentence. Caya played a role in the investigation that led to Grooms' arrest after he shared an image of the unidentified teen on his website after it was released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as part of an effort to identify him.
Caya has no background in law enforcement or psychology, but he has been quoted in national publications about his outrage over the sentence. He still believes that Grooms knew right from wrong, despite the pressure the online child pornographers might have used.
“That's just like sick," he told the Register in an interview. "Who has sex with a baby? That's got to be the worst of the worst kind of sex offender there is."
Jeree Thomas, a policy director with the Campaign for Youth Justice, said it's important to consider the full background of teenage offenders before condemning them. The group focuses its work on ending the practice of trying some juveniles in adult court.
Thomas said it's false to claim that Grooms received a lenient sentence. The judge has the option of sending him to prison if he commits another crime and he will be on the sex offender registry, which will affect his living situation and job prospects for years to come.
Grooms served 860 days in jail from the time charges were initially filed until pleading guilty in July.
“People are not thinking, 'What if this was my child?'" Thomas said.
Brad Pitt reportedly under investigation for alleged child abuse
by Fox News
Brad Pitt reportedly is under investigation by the LAPD and the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services for alleged child abuse, according to multiple media reports.
TMZ reports an investigation was launched after an anonymous caller reported an incident last Wednesday where Pitt allegedly got "physical" and "verbally abusive" with one of his children on the couple's private plane.
People reports that Jolie and their other five children were present at the time of the alleged incident.
A source told TMZ Pitt has been interviewed by authorities and is taking "the matter very seriously and says he did not commit any abuse of his children." The source added, "It's unfortunate that people involved are continuing to present him in the worst possible light."
Jolie filed for divorce from Pitt Monday, citing irreconcilable differences.
The actress is seeking physical custody of their six children, with visitation rights for Pitt.
Pitt released a statement to People magazine at the time saying, "I am very saddened by this, but what matters most now is the well-being of our kids. I kindly ask the press to give them the space they deserve during this challenging time."
An attorney for Jolie, Robert Offer, told the Associated Presss Tuesday that her decision to divorce was made "for the health of the family."
Their children are: 15-year-old Maddox, 12-year-old Pax, 11-year-old Zahara, 10-year-old Shiloh, and 8-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne.
The couple has been together for 12 years; they married in August 2014.
It was the second marriage for Pitt, 52, who previously wed actress Jennifer Aniston, and the third for Jolie Pitt, 41, who was previously married to Billy Bob Thornton and Jonny Lee Miller.
The pair infamously got together on the set of their movie "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," while Pitt was married to Aniston.
Prevention is the only solution to child abuse we can afford
by Cathy Brown
Child abuse is not a pleasant topic of conversation. For most people, the subject can bring up a mix of anger, bewilderment and hopelessness.
The current reality in Arizona can fuel these negative emotions. There are now almost 19,000 children in out-of-home care. Every month the Department of Child Safety removes around 1,000 children from home situations determined to be unsafe, and infants under one year are removed from their parents at three times the rate of all other ages of children 1-18 in Arizona
The good news is that child abuse is largely preventable, and we know what works to prevent it.
How do we reduce child abuse and neglect?
We reduce abuse and neglect through evidence-based programs that work. These programs teach parents how to effectively cope with stress, increase their social connections, offer concrete support in times of need and empower parents with parenting tools and information. With more evidence-based prevention programs, our state saves money by not having children enter the foster-care system in the first place.
A shining example of such a program is Healthy Families, an early-childhood home-visiting program in which families receive regular visits from a parent mentor who provides parenting education, refers them to community resources and connects them to other families. Healthy Families is proven to reduce child maltreatment; it increases utilization of prenatal care; it improves parent-child interactions; and it promotes children's readiness for school.
Through training, parent education and advocating for evidence-based programs like Healthy Families, Prevent Child Abuse Arizona is shifting the conversation about child maltreatment so that prevention is the priority. We know that if Arizona invests adequately in prevention, the time, energy and finances that our state is pouring into intervention will be drastically reduced.
What can you do to help?
Prevention is the only solution we can afford. There is a shift in how federal funds are spent and could make a difference. Congress needs to pass Family First Prevention Services Act (SB 3065). I urge readers to ask Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake to vote for the Family First Prevention Services Act (SB 3065). Please take a minute and write to McCain and Flake (click on this link for a customizable form letter and autofill contact info) or call them at 202-224-2235 and 202-224-4521, respectively.
L.A. Supes Want Answers on Child Abuse Risk Assessment, Fast
by Holden Slattery
In response to the death of an 11-year-old boy, the Los Angeles County Office of Child Protection will evaluate how the county's child protection system measures risk and report to the Board of Supervisors in 30 days.
During a board meeting yesterday, the five county supervisors discussed the need to evaluate how social workers in the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) assess risk and to compare the tools they use with potential alternatives.
The motion, introduced by Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Mark Ridley-Thomas, called to give the Office of Child Protection 60 days to report back, but the supervisors amended the timeline for the report to 30 days before they voted to approve the motion.
The supervisors spoke about Yonatan Aguilar, who was found dead in his Echo Park home last month, and how DCFS had conducted a handful of investigations of suspected abuse at his home. During these visits, a risk and safety assessment tool used by social workers determined that Aguilar fit into a “high risk” category for child maltreatment, but that he was not in danger of actual harm.
The tool used, called Structured Decision Making (SDM), is an assessment tool that all DCFS social workers use during investigations into child abuse and neglect. It prompts social workers to answer multiple choice questions that collectively categorize a child's risk level as high, moderate or low and gauge whether a child is in danger. Because social workers using SDM did not determine that Aguilar was in danger, the supervisors want to look at SDM's effectiveness and whether social workers would benefit from another tool, such as a predictive analytics tool wherein algorithms crunch big data to determine the likelihood that an outcome will occur.
Michael Nash, director of the county's Office of Child Protection, said he is not sure if the Aguilar case calls into question the effectiveness of SDM. However, he wants to investigate SDM and its alternatives, he said.
“I do have some questions about the tool,” Nash said. “I have questions about the strengths and weaknesses of that tool. I have questions about how we train [social workers] on that tool here in Los Angeles County.”
“SDM was utilized in this case, and there's no suggestion I've seen thus far that it was utilized incorrectly,” Nash added in a phone interview after the meeting. “There may be questions about the response to the assessment, but there's no suggestion at this point that the assessment was inaccurate.”
During the board meeting, Ridley-Thomas said that the county needs to look further into technological advancements, such as tools that use predictive analytics.
In 2013, in an effort to help investigators make better decisions, DCFS contracted with SAS, the world's largest private software firm, to test predictive analytics.
The experiment, dubbed AURA, or Approach to Understanding Risk Assessment, tracked child deaths, near fatalities and “critical incidents” in 2011 and 2012. Using a mix of data including, but not limited to, prior child abuse referrals, involvement with law enforcement, as well as mental health records and alcohol and substance abuse history, SAS statisticians created a risk score from one to 1,000, wherein high numbers demark high risk.
Ridley-Thomas said that the county has paid too little attention to the idea of using predictive analytics in child protection.
“We haven't put enough energy into it, intellectually or otherwise,” Ridley-Thomas said.
The supervisors also spoke about the need for sufficient training and the importance of a social worker's judgement in the risk assessment process.
“If the user who inputs the data isn't adequately trained, what good is the system?” asked Supervisor Hilda Solis.
Nash said he wants to reach out to a wide variety of people to discuss SDM, including county employees, academics and nonprofit leaders.
“I think it's an important issue and it's one that I've already been looking at,” Nash said. “It's just too bad that it comes within the context of a dead child.”
Note: An earlier version of this article stated that SDM did not determine Aguilar was in danger. Decisions not to take further action in the Aguilar case were based on decisions made by social workers at DCFS. It is not clear what results SDM produced regarding the boy's safety and how those results were used.
First Witness campaign targets child abuse awareness
by Kim Schneider
Police departments in northern Minnesota rely on support from community organizations to help prevent crime and keep people safe, said Proctor Police Chief Walter Wobig.
Resources, training and funding are limited, he said, but First Witness Child Advocacy Center in Duluth provides a crucial service — to police departments and the community.
"Had it not been for this organization to be available to provide training and support during these investigations, a lot of these things would be slipping through the cracks," he said.
First Witness kicked off its fourth annual "I Stand with Kids Campaign" on Tuesday morning. The campaign pushes to encourage community conversations about child abuse in a proactive way as well as raise money for First Witness programs.
Throughout September, First Witness will sell lawn-sign-sized cutout figures of two children called "Blue Kids." These signs, which can be customized with a name, photo or logo, will sell for $20 to $50. Money raised provides funding for the organization's Safe and Strong Child program, which offers child abuse prevention and education programming.
These "Blue Kids" will be on display at the organization's "I Stand with Kids" day, from 1-3 p.m. Oct. 1 at Harrison Park, 3000 W. Third St. Visit the organization's website or call (218) 727-8353 to sponsor a "Blue Kid."
Beth Olson, executive director of First Witness, said talking about child abuse can be daunting, but it is an important step in keeping children in the community safe.
"The most important thing we can do as a community is to engage in conversation about it, be talking to our kids about it, be talking together as parents about it and making sure our professionals are trained to respond in all sectors of our community," Olson said.
First Witness encourages community members to start conversations with each other and their kids this month about safe and unsafe touching, Olson said. She said First Witness provides resources to help parents and families learn how to discuss that difficult topic with their kids.
In 2015, First Witness Child Advocacy Center educated 2,500 kids in local school systems, from kindergarten through sixth grade, on the topic of child abuse.
The organization also delivered 57 presentations on child abuse education, reaching about 1,000 people in the Duluth area, according to a recent press release. When representatives from the organization are not doing community outreach, they are training local officials, counseling and providing child-appropriate forensic interviewing.
Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken said social-service referrals and reports of crimes against children are on the rise in the Duluth area.
"Somebody's got to be an advocate for those children, and it can't always be law enforcement," Tusken said. "We need to support First Witness."
St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman, a former team and board member of First Witness, said when cases of child abuse are reported, law enforcement work with First Witness staff to arrange an interview with the victim, which is conducted by law enforcement or a First Witness advocate.
Litman said the organization can only continue to work in the community if it is funded properly.
"It's been my experience in over 24 years of law enforcement that we have made great strides in preventing, stopping child abuse," Litman said. "But we still have much, much work to do."
6 Nashville nonprofits offer free training to prevent child sexual abuse
by Tracy Kornet
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -- Just as we use seat belts to protect children from injury in cars, adults can learn what it takes to protect kids from the injury of sexual abuse.
The Nashville Child Protection Coalition is a group of six nonprofits working together in Nashville to train adults to prevent, recognize and, when need be, respond to child sexual abuse from a position of knowledge and empowerment.
The coalition is inviting the public to the free, action-oriented training called Stewards of Children, a nationally distributed, evidence-informed training proven to increase adult knowledge, improve adult attitudes, and change adult behavior, so that children and teens can be protected from sexual predators.
The program leads adults through five steps that they can take as individuals to protect children: learn the facts, minimize opportunity, talk about it, recognize the signs and react responsibly.
There are two opportunities to participate in this two-hour training:
Wednesday, Sept. 28 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee, 4721 Trousdale Drive, Suite 121, Nashville, TN
Friday, Oct. 28 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Sexual Assault Center of Nashville, 101 French Landing Drive, Nashville, TN
To reserve your spot, contact Tim Tohill at 615-259-9055 or email@example.com.
When Can Child Protective Services Intervene? A Recent Incident Has Raised Questions
by Emily Lee
Pictures of a man allegedly dragging his young daughter by the hair through a Cleveland, Texas Walmart have gone viral on Facebook with over 130,000 shares, thanks to a fast-thinking fellow shopper with a camera phone. Erika Burch was shopping with her husband when he pointed out what was happening; Burch took several photos of the situation, then approached the man and demanded that he let the child's hair go. When he refused, Burch called the local police station. The police, however, were not legally able to do anything to protect the child. It turns out that Child Protective Services can not legally intervene as often as you may have thought. This recent incident has raised questions about the ethics surrounding the laws preventing child protective service agents, as well as law enforcement officers, from stepping up to stop allegedly abusive situations.
One of the most disturbing details of Burch's account of the incident is her interaction with the Cleveland, Texas police sergeant. Not only did this particular sergeant claim that the man had the right to "discipline his children," he also informed Burch that "in order for it to be abuse, there had to be bodily injury to the child." This was after Burch showed police photographic evidence of the man allegedly dragging his daughter by her hair.
According to Texas law, specifically Chapter 261 of the Family Code,
Child abuse is an act or omission that endangers or impairs a child's physical, mental or emotional health and development. Child abuse may take the form of physical or emotional injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, physical neglect, medical neglect, or inadequate supervision.
This is highly important because it highlights that abuse is not only physical. Emotional abuse, while it doesn't leave a visible mark, has tremendously damaging effects on children. The American Psychological Association reported, according to The Huffington Post , that "childhood psychological abuse has lasting, significant damage, equal to or exceeding the long-term consequences of physical abuse."
This information exposes an inherent flaw in our child protective system. While it seems that a photo of a father dragging his child by the hair in a public place should be enough proof of abuse to inspire further investigation, we know now that it's not. No physical mark was left on the child, so therefore, it can not be deemed abuse according to law enforcement and child protective services. The definition of abuse by law in Texas, though, as previously mentioned states that physical injury is not the only thing that constitutes abuse . This begs the question, then: Why can't the proper authorities intervene, even without physical indicators of mistreatment?
An 11-year-old boy found dead in a closet in his own home has also incited outrage over the lack of help he received from child protective services. According to North Hollywood Patch, Yonatan Daniel Aguilar suffered from severe malnourishment and emaciation. His mother, 39-year-old Veronica Aguilar, has been charged with alleged murder and child abuse. As if this story wasn't upsetting enough, North Hollywood Patch reported that "Yonatan's risk of abuse at home had been marked as 'high' four times from 2009 to 2012 by Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) workers." Teachers and others who were aware of Yonatan's situation reported the family to DCFS at least six times, yet somehow, this case ended with an 11-year-old's tragic death.
The lack of assistance received by Yonatan Daniel Aguilar and the Cleveland, Texas girl are not isolated incidents. A 5-year-old boy in Illinois was killed on his birthday back in September 2013 after a teacher reported his family to DCFS twice, according to The Telegraph. When the DCFS investigator found no visible injuries, the case was dropped. Even if the DCFS worker had ended up intervening, the boy and his brother would have remained in the allegedly abusive home while the investigation took place. This is reportedly typical practice for DCFS investigations, according to RawStory.
It's evident that something needs to be done to improve the resources provided to children in abusive environments. The Cleveland Police Department, after receiving "numerous calls in regards to a child having her hair pulled last night at Cleveland Walmart," thankfully announced on its Facebook page that officers would investigate this particular situation further.
Hopefully one day every child abuse claim will be thoroughly investigated so further harm and tragic deaths can be prevented.
South Carolina Mandated Reporter Law
by Deborah Ausburn
This survey discusses only the mandated reporter statute in South Carolina. If your organization is governed by a state licensing agency, such as education or child care, then that agency likely has its own set of reporting requirements. Be sure to consult those regulations if they apply to you.
This survey lists only broad categories, and is not legal advice. If you need legal advice about your specific situation, please consult an attorney licensed in your state.
WHO Must Report?
South Carolina has a specific list of professionals, including many child-care organizations. The only exceptions are privileged attorney/client and clergy/penitent communications. Also, you must report only if you learn of the abuse in your professional capacity (i.e., teachers).
Child Care Centers: Child care workers must report suspected abuse.
Camps : The statute does not include camps, but best practices are to report anything that you suspect.
Mentoring Organizations: The statute does not list mentoring organizations, but best practices are to report.
Schools: School teachers, counselors, principals and assistant principals are mandated reporters.
Church Programs: Members of clergy must report, but lay leaders are not included. Again, the best practice is to report suspected abuse. There is an exception for information covered under the clergy/penitent privilege.
WHAT Must You Report?
South Carolina professionals must report possible abuse or neglect.
Abandonment: A parent or guarding is guilty of abandonment when he or she “willfully deserts a child or willfully surrenders physical possession of a child without making adequate arrangements” for continuing care.
Abuse: The South Carolina law covers physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. The definition specifies “physical or mental injury” or actions that “present a substantial risk of physical or mental injury to the child.”
Physical Abuse: You must report actual or risk of physical injury, excluding reasonable and moderate corporal punishment. “Physical injury” includes “disfigurement or impairment of any bodily organ or function.”
Lack of Supervision: South Carolina does not have any specific rules, stating only that no one can place a child “at unreasonable risk of harm.”
Domestic Violence: There are no specific rules for this situation, so it would fall under the general prohibition against placing a child at unreasonable risk of harm.
Mental Abuse: The statute prohibits “mental injury,” and defines it as injury “evidenced by a discernible and substantial impairment of the child's ability to function” as diagnosed by a mental health or medical professional.
Sexual Abuse: The statute requires the reporting of “sexual offenses” and actions “that present a substantial risk” of sexual abuse.
Teen Sexual Activity: The age of consent in South Carolina is 16 years old, but it is not a crime for a person under 18 years old to engage in sexual activity with someone at least 14 years old. Thus, you need not report sexual activity among minors as long as both are at least age 14.
Sexual Exploitation: Professionals must report anyone who “encourages, condones, or approves” sexual exploitation of anyone under age 18. That requirement includes not only using children in prostitution or pornography, but allowing children to view pornography.
Sexting: South Carolina law includes in its list of “sexual offenses” the distribution of nude or sexual pictures to minors, as well as allowing a minor to view such material. There is an exception for parents, and for a school, museum, or other institution that is carrying out “its legitimate function.” There is no age limit, so professionals must report teens who text nude photographs of each other to their friends.
Neglect: South Carolina professionals must report failure to supply the child with food, clothing, shelter, education, appropriate supervision, or health care, if the parents “have or are offered the means to do so.”
WHEN Must You Report?
South Carolina does not have a specific time frame for reporting. Named professionals must report when they have learned information in their professional capacity that gives them reason to believe that a child's health has been or may be adversely affected by abuse or neglect.
WHERE Must You Report?
The statute requires a report to the county Department of Social Services or to law enforcement “where the child resides or may be found.” The state apparently does not have a statewide hotline. If someone other than a parent or person responsible for the child commits the abuse, you must report to local law enforcement.
WHY Must You Report?
Knowing failure to report suspected abuse is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months and up to a $500 fine.
Texas man seen in Walmart dragging daughter around by hair as punishment
by Fox News
(Pictures on site)
Authorities in Texas were investigating an incident of alleged child abuse at a Walmart Tuesday after a father was seen dragging his daughter around the store by her hair.
Cleveland police Chief Darrel Broussard told KTRK-TV they were meeting with the family featured in the viral photos.
Police are concerned at this time for the children who may be in the home with the dad who appeared to have been a little aggressive at the time," Broussard said.
Erika Burch, the person who filmed the video, confronted the family about the punishment. She received some heat on Facebook about intervening in someone else's affairs.
"People are telling me I'm wrong for stepping up for this little girl, but you can discipline a child without dragging them by the hair on their head, especially in Wal-Mart," she told KTRK-TV.
Burch added that she wanted the girl to know what “proper discipline” looked like.
Child protective services said children usually remain in their homes while abuse allegations take palce.
The FaceBook post - by Erika Burch
!!!!!!PLEASE MAKE THIS GO VIRAL!!!!!!
ME AND ROBERT ARE IN WALMART IN CLEVELAND TEXAS GETTING LUNCHABLES FOR OUR BABIES FOR SCHOOL. ROBERT SAID "DO YOU SEE WHAT THAT GUY IS DOING TO THAT LITTLE GIRL?" I TURNED AROUND TO THIS THIS POS DRAGGING THIS LITTLE GIRL BY THE HAIR OF HER HEAD!! HE HAD HER HAIR WRAPPED AROUND THE BUGGY DRAGGING HER! SHE IS BEGGING HIM TO STOP! SHE WAS SAYING "PLEASE STOP, I PROMISE I WONT DO IT AGAIN PLEASE STOP!" I TOOK MY PHONE OUT SNAPPED PICTURES AND THEN TOLD HIM TO LET THE LITTLE GIRLS HAIR GO! HE TOLD ME TO MIND MY OWN BUSINESS! I SAID NO IM NOT! RIGHT NOW THIS LITTLE GIRL IS MY BUSINESS AND YOU NEED TO LET HER HAIR GO NOW! HE SAID "I GREW UP JUST FINE!" I CALLED THE POLICE! JUST SO HAPPENED A COP WAS IN WALMART. HE CAME RUNNING AS WE ARE EXCHANGING TERRIBLE WORDS WITH THIS BASTARD! LONG STORY SHORT. THE OFFICER SAID IF IT WAS UP TO HIM THE GUY WAS GOING TO JAIL, HIS SERGEANT WAS COMING AND HE HAD TO WAIT ON HIM! WELL HIS SERGEANT TOLD HIM THAT THEY COULDNT TAKE HIM TO JAIL BECAUSE THERE WERE NO VISIBLE BRUISES NOR WAS HER HAIR MISSING!! THIS IS AFTER I SHOW HIM PICTURES OF THIS IDIOT DRAGGING THIS BABY PULLING HER HAIR!! HE SAID IN ORDER FOR IT TO BE ABBUSE THERE HAD TO BE BODILY INJURY TO THE CHILD!
PEOPLE THIS IS WHATS WRONG WITH THIS WORLD TODAY! NOBODY STANDS UP FOR ANYONE NOT EVEN CHILDREN!! NOW THIS BABY HAD TO GO HOME WITH THIS MONSTER THINKING THAT NOBODY CARED ABOUT HER AND ITS OKAY FOR THIS ANIMAL TO PULL HER BY THE HAIR OF HER HEAD!!!! IM ATTACHING PICTURES AND A CARD WITH THE CASE NUMBER! IF YOU CARE ABOUT CHILDREN AND CHILD ABBUSE STOP AND SHARE THIS AND CALL IT IN TO CPS!!!!!
THIS IS BEYOND WRONG AND SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE ABOUT IT!!!
THE SERGEANT IN CLEVELAND TX SAID " HE HAS THE RIGHT TO DISCIPLINE HIS CHILDREN!" WHAT IN THE HELL!!!! DRAGGING A LITTLE GIRL BY THE HAIR IF HER HEAD IS NOT PROPER DISCIPLINE!!
Preventing violence in Douglas County
by Dan Bain
Violence prevention in Douglas County was the topic of an interview on the KQEN Talking Health program recently.
Lisa Platt, head of the Mercy Foundation, interviewed Marion Kotowski, the community violence prevention specialist at Mercy Medical Center and Andrea Zielinski, the community outreach coordinator for the Douglas County sheriff's office, to talk about the human trafficking issue in Douglas County and about gun safety for kids, on KQEN Radio's Talking Health Program.
The following is an edited version of the interview:
Lisa: Tell us about the UP2US Now child abuse prevention coalition.
Marion: The UP2US Now Child Abuse Prevention Coalition is a community coalition made up of over 30 partners. Those include our law enforcement partners, not-for-profits, government agencies, schools, and medical professionals working together to reduce and prevent the incidence of child abuse in Douglas County.
Lisa: Tell us about the projects and what the funds go for?
Marion: We have a really wonderful community connections project for families who may need some additional services to increase some protective factors for child abuse, or even just to strengthen their families. That's called our Supporting Families Project. We have a youth media project where we work with local teens producing really wonderful PSA's on youth issues.
We work with an opiate task force. We have a human trafficking initiative where we train our law enforcement officers. We are also training UCC truck driving students, paramedic students, nursing students, and dental assistant students to recognize the signs and risk factors of human trafficking. We do so much more. We have prevention education in the elementary school, and health relations education in the middle schools and the high schools as well.
Lisa: When did the human trafficking component of UP2US Now start being a part of this program?
Marion: The human trafficking piece is really pretty new to us and it was added about a year ago, when we started to realize that we really did have trafficking issues in Douglas County. It's very well hidden but anecdotal reports from law enforcement agencies and other partnering agencies, have shown there is a need here. We do have survivors here as well as victims, and we want to be able to help them the best way we can.
We have I-5 that runs right through the middle of Douglas County, and Portland was the number five hub for trafficking, so we knew it was going through our county. We know that through some child abuse reporting, there has been trafficking locally.
Lisa: The Supporting Families Project is a consortium of agencies that came together to review what we have in common as far as a family that's in crisis. Can you tell us about that?
Marion: We found that there were a lot of different agencies that were working with the same families. Some services were getting duplicated, and some services were not being offered at all. Some families were falling through the cracks when there was so much more that could be done. All of these partners got together, and it's not just social service agencies, but financial assisting agencies and financial planning agencies, legal services. We can actually hook these families up with whichever services they need and we found this to be a need because a lot of our families don't know of the local services.
They're not sure how to reach out, they're not sure exactly what they need or how to even get it. This program really helps them connect. We'll take them by the hand and guide them through the process.
Lisa: What are some of the points of entry from where you get your information?
Marion: We have found our most successful referrals come from law enforcement. We do work with Umpqua Training and Education, with DHS, Family Development Center, Healthy Families of Douglas County, Head Start. All of those are entry points, or a family who might need some extra services, can call the Mercy Foundation directly and be hooked right into me, and I am more than happy to help.
Lisa: So what are the objectives and the goals of the coalition?
Marion: We really want to make a significant reduction in the founded incidents of child abuse, which means that there is absolutely child abuse that's found to exist in these families. We want to reduce those by another 10 percent by 2020. Right now, we are at about 176 cases of child abuse, which is significantly better that where we started. But we really focused on that because we want the children of our community to be safe, to be happy and healthy and we want families to be happy and healthy.
Lisa: Do you have a cost comparison between prevention efforts and intervention?
Marion: We do actually. Prevention services are a fraction of the cost of intervention services. Prevention services to investigate a child abuse claim, are maybe 4 percent of that particular cost. It's so much less to put prevention services in place to hook families into the services they need before any sort of abuse occurs.
Lisa: Andrea, tell me about the Eddie Eagle program.
Andrea: I go to schools and talk to kids about what to do if you see a gun. We have gone throughout Douglas County talking to kids about how they can be safe. Myself, Deputy Kennerly and Eddie go to classrooms and teach kids about the four things you need to do if you see a gun, which is stop, don't touch, leave the area, and tell an adult. I know that we served over 1,600 kids last year.
Lisa: What grades does it cover?
Andrea: We serve kindergarten through third graders and we have two different programs, so the little ones get a different program than the older kids. They all get to see a video which is something that anybody can access on You-tube. So parents can look it up online and on the sheriff's department web page.
Lisa:How do parents or teachers get in touch with you?
Andrea: Just contact me at the sheriff's office at 541-440-4486 and you can schedule a time for Eddie to come to your classroom. You can also go to the website: www.dcso.com
The Challenge of the Heroes event, where first responders wait tables at local restaurants, is set for 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday. It is an annual fundraiser to support the UP2US child abuse prevention projects in the community. All tips are donated to UP2US.
Arizona law about parents, changing diapers and child abuse causing online stir
PHOENIX — An Arizona law concerning parents, changing diapers and possible felony sexual abuse charges has created a lot of confusion online in recent days.
Several major sites, including Slate and Reason, have picked up the story. The sites claim that Arizona parents could be charged with sexual abuse or molestation of a child simply because they changed a diaper or helped a child get dressed.
And according to KTAR legal analyst Monica Lindstrom, that's true.
“This is what it comes down to: If you think of just the words, if I mean to touch my child and I touch their genitals, I'm guilty,” she said Tuesday. “There's no sexual motivation requirement, there's no sexual intent requirement.”
But Maricopa County officials said it's not that clear-cut and denied that Arizona parents are at risk of losing their kids. Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in a press release that the decision to bring charges comes down to the prosecutor, who, when using common sense, can tell the difference between abuse and parenting.
“It is incredibly insulting to believe any prosecutor reviewing a case for charging would not be able to tell the difference between an adult taking proper care of a child and the molestation of a child victim,” he said.
Montgomery said that no parent has ever been charged under the law, which dates back to at least 1988.
“It is important for our community to understand no parent has ever been charged with a crime for simply changing a diaper, bathing a child or tending to their medical needs and this decision does not change that,” he said.
But the fact that a parent could theoretically be charged is what is causing concern.
The online confusion stems from a Sept. 13 ruling, in which the Arizona Supreme Court voted 3-2 not to change the law. The two dissenting judges said they hoped to add a motivational clause to remove any ambiguity from further cases.
They also said that the law places the burden on the defendant — instead of the state — to prove his or her innocence while the threat of losing a child looms overhead.
“You might be able to prove pretty quickly that it's ridiculous and it shouldn't go forward, but in the meantime, the Department of Child Safety has already been contacted, an investigation has likely already been started and, chances are, your child has already been taken away from you,” Lindstrom said.
Lindstrom is also concerned the law could be wielded as a tool by jilted divorcees to get revenge.
“Those wheels don't turn fast once it's happened,” she said of the possible outcomes of an accusation. “Even though this is totally bogus and outlandish, the fact is that, if the accusation is made, that completely innocent parent could still have to deal with these ramifications.”
There is also the possibility of a prosecutor using the law to get a person to agree to a plea deal on unrelated charges.
“This could be used in a bad way to get people to enter into plea agreements for other completely unrelated charges and that's just sad,” Lindstrom said.
Thank a hero while preventing child abuse
by The News Review
Local heroes will volunteer as waiters Thursday and donate their tips to child abuse prevention.
The annual Challenge of the Heroes will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at restaurants around the county.
Local heroes from the National Guard, law enforcement, firefighters, EMTs and veterans will volunteer and challenge each other to earn the most tips. They'll then turn around and donate their tips to support UP2USNOW Child Abuse Prevention projects.
Participating restaurants include Alexander's Greek Cuisine, Brix and Loggers Tap House in Roseburg; Brocks BBQ in Myrtle Creek; Carlos' Restaurante in Winston; Dakota Street Pizza and Fusion in Sutherlin; The Sportsman in Riddle; and Munchies Original in Glide.
TCC hosts child-abuse prevention project on all four campuses
by Kate Mishkin
For the next few weeks, the Women's Center of Tidewater Community College is leading a conversation about child-abuse prevention on all four campuses.
Starting on Monday, Sept. 19, the Women's Center has partnered with Stop Abuse Powered by Spectrum Puppets, a Virginia Beach-based organization, to bring a marionette show and advocate training to children and young professionals interested in working in fields where they may encounter child abuse.
The marionette show is performed by Stop Abuse Powered by Spectrum Puppets, which was formed 30 years ago to “prevent child sexual abuse through education, detection and referral,” its website says.
In the show “Simon Says Just Tell,” a young girl gathers the courage to tell her mother that she's being abused by her mother's fiance. Simon, the “inner voice,” helps her make the decision to speak up for herself, said Gretchen Edwards-Bodmer, leadership development coordinator at the Women's Center.
“It doesn't use specific words, it just talks about how what he's doing to you is wrong,” Edwards-Bodmer said.
The organization, based in Virginia Beach, is run by Regina Marscheider. The performance has won an Emmy Award and led to the arrest and incarceration of 158 child molesters in Hampton Roads alone, according to the organization. It's performed throughout the country.
A representative from child protective services will be present at all presentations for children who may want to talk — a “safety net,” Edwards-Bodmer said.
“It was presented in a very palatable way for kids,” Edwards-Bodmer added.
According to Stop Abuse Powered by Spectrum Puppets, one in four girls and one in seven boys will have experienced sexual abuse by age 18. Only 10 percent of victims report the abuse, the organization says on its website.
Students hoping to pursue fields that deal with children, such as criminal justice and childhood development, are also encouraged to attend the event and work with Marscheider.
“This is an opportunity for us to give students in related fields a professional component,” Edwards-Bodmer said. It's a chance for students to learn about how to talk to children who may have been abused and identify warning signs.
“We had a couple students who were parents,” Edwards-Bodmer said. “It's not just about talking to the kids — it's also the critical piece for TCC students and having them be professionals in these fields.”
The event drew about 15 children between the ages of three and five and about 30 students at the Chesapeake campus' event.
The goal of the Women's Center, Edwards-Bodmer said, is to enable students to gain empowerment, develop healthy relationships and focus on their careers. She said this event helped hone all these skills.
The event will be at Norfolk's Student Center on the fifth floor Sept. 21, Virginia Beach's Student Center at K320 Sept. 26 and The Forum in the A-Building in Portsmouth on Oct. 3, all at 10 a.m.
21 arrested in Thurston Co. undercover child sex abuse sting
by Amy Clancy
Twenty men and one woman have been arrested as part of the Washington State Patrol's latest effort to prevent child rape.
For nearly two weeks, South Sound suspects who thought they were meeting to have sex with children were instead arrested byWSP detectives, local police officers, sheriff's deputies and agents from the FBI.
Most of those arrested have already appeared in Thurston County Superior Court and had bail set between $40,000 and $500,000 depending on their criminal backgrounds.
On Tuesday, bail for 52-year-old Kris Bennett of Puyallup was set at $1 million, citing concerns for public safety.
According to Lt Mike Eggleston, commander of the WSP's Missing and Exploited Children Task Force (MECTF), Bennett was enticed to Thurston County by the same Craigslist ad that allegedly lured at least 20-others: the promise of sex with two young girls and their 13-year old brother.
According to court documents, Bennett texted in graphic detail his plans for raping the fictional 6 and 11-year old girls; part of the reason Judge James Dixon set an exceptionally high bail. “This court has a duty to protect the citizens of this community,” Dixon said at Bennett's bail hearing.
The Craigslist Ad – made to look like it was written by a mother offering sex with her three children --- was placed by detectives with the MECTF, a multi-agency effort that has conducted five similar stings all over the state in the past year. Called Net Nanny Operations, this most recent resulted in the most arrests.
“This is the more demented of the group of people that we're looking for,” Lt. Eggleston told KIRO 7. “Their moral compass is more afoul and they have an addiction or an infliction where they want to go have sex with kids,” he said. Eggleston and Task Force members believe, if suspects like the 21 arrested are not found and detained, they will rape children, if they haven't already.
Bennett has also been charged with possession child pornography in King County. He was awaiting trial when he was arrested.
The following people were arrested:
Leslie Joe Vopat: Probable cause of commercial sexual abuse of a minor and attempted rape of a child in the second degree.
John Stephen Moore: Probable cause of commercial sexual abuse of a minor and attempted rape of a child in the second degree.
Michael Paul Haxton: Probable cause for attempted rape of a child in the first degree and attempted rape of a child in the second degree.
Steve Wayne Wolsieffer: Probable cause for attempted rape of a child in the first degree, communication with a minor for immoral purposes.
Adam Joseph Persell: Probable cause for attempted rape of a child in the first degree - 2 counts, and attempted rape of a child in the second degree.
Ezra Danilo Wright: Probable cause of attempted rape of a child in the first degree.
Arthur David Fowler: Probable cause of attempted rape of a child in the second degree.
Dale Maurice Olea: Probable cause for attempted rape of a child in the third degree.
Nathan Bill Wiggs: Probable cause for attempted rape of a child in the first degree.
Joseph Michael Schonek: Probable cause for attempted rape of a child in the first degree, attempted rape of a child in the second degree and unlawful possession of a controlled substance-methamphetamine.
Nathan Ahman Vahanian: Probable cause of attempted rape of child in the first degree-2 counts, and possession of depictions of minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
Jennifer Graen: Held on $150,000 for allegedly dealing in depictions, possession of depictions and sexual exploitation of a minor in Grays Harbor County.
Antaeus Laurent Clark: Probable cause for attempted rape of a child in the first degree, attempted rape of a child in the second degree and commercial sexual abuse of a minor.
Troy Eugene Dubes: Probable cause of attempted rape of a child in the first degree, attempted rape of a child in the second degree, and commercial sexual abuse of a minor
Bryant Earle Glant: Probable cause of attempted rape of a child in the first degree -2 counts.
Kyle Jackson: Probable cause of attempted rape of a child first degree and attempted rape of a child second degree.
Douglas D Pressley: Probable cause of attempted rape of a child in the first degree – 2 counts and attempted rape of a child in the second degree.
Daniel John Masters: Probable cause of attempted rape of a child in the first degree.
Gabriel Augusto Garcia: Probable cause of attempted rape of a child in the first degree, and attempted communication with a minor for immoral purposes.
Michael Sifre: Apprehension of soldier, Army CID
Kris K. Bennett- Arrested for attempt of rape of a child first-degree and attempt rape of a child second degree.
Stopping abuse -- State AG addresses child, sexual abuse during visit to Corbin Friday
by KELLY MCKINNEY
The duties of his office and the accomplishments he has made in his first nine months are two of the things Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear commented on at the first of two stops he made in Corbin on Friday.
Beshear, the son of former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, first addressed the Corbin Kiwanis Club, during its meeting held at David's Steakhouse in Corbin.
Beshear touched on each of the four parts of the duties of his office, which are preventing and prosecuting child abuse, protecting senior citizens, seeking justice for victims of rape and sexual assault and seeking ways to combat the area's drug epidemic.
Beshear said his mission of preventing child abuse is dear to him as a father of 7- and 6-year-olds.
Joking that he is probably the only father who actually drives a mini van, Beshear said he worries every time the van door opens and his children step out into the world.
His office this year is on its way to tripling the number of sexual predators removed from the streets versus last year, Beshear said. During his first nine months, his office has already removed 32. He added that some large operations to catch predators are underway.
“We are trying to target the worst of the worst,” he said.
He added that people that some would never suspect of child abuse are convicted of the crime; he specifically mentioned a minister from southern Indiana and a Somerset firefighter.
“You can never predict where these people will come from,” Beshear said.
Human trafficking was another area Beshear addressed, saying that it is the fastest growing enterprise in the nation. Beshear said that any instance of a juvenile being prostituted is human trafficking.
“There is no such thing in our Commonwealth as a child prostitute,” he said.
The AG's office has assisted in 28 human trafficking arrests in the last nine months, Beshear said.
Beshear spoke of one case in particular, in which a 14-year-old girl was rescued from being trafficked right before Derby.
“While she's going to be scarred for life, she'll have a shot at life,” Beshear said.
Beshear also lauded his office's new child abuse training program, which trains law enforcement, social workers, teachers and others to recognize the signs of abuse and trafficking.
“So that those people are able to actually step in and do something about it,” he said. He said the training also emphasized that adults have not only the moral but also the legal responsibility to report child abuse.
The attorney general also related steps his office is taking to help combat drugs in Kentucky, saying drugs is the biggest challenge the state is facing, particularly in terms of economic growth.
“It is our single greatest threat to economic development,” he said.
Beshear spoke of the increase in heroin use, and said heroin is coming to all areas. He said the only reason it has yet to reach some places is that it has such a high demand that it is all consumed before it's able to make its way there.
He also touched on the recent drug overdoses in which Fentanyl has been added to heroin.
“Apparently, heroin was not enough for these dealers of death,” Beshear said.
He emphasized that his office needs more funding to fight the epidemic, saying the $18 million allotted in this year's state budget doesn't suffice.
“Eighteen million isn't going to do it,” Beshear said. “We have to be willing to sacrifice for the next budget to put funds into drug recovery.”
He also spoke of how the drug Naloxone can save lives, and how the state needs it to be more available.
“That child certainly deserves another chance, no matter what chance that child is on,” he said.
The state's rape kit back logs was another topic Beshear spoke about to the Kiwanis Club. He said the state has hundreds of thousands of untested kits, but that his office was able to provide $4.5 million to the Kentucky State Police Crime Lab to get them tested.
He said those kits are not just boxes; that they represent the courage of people who were brave enough to report the assault upon them, and undergo the invasive procedures necessary to produce the kits.
He said, as those newly tested kits come back, his office is going to be zealous in prosecuting those cases.
“We are going to absolutely bulldog those cases,” Beshear said. “We are going to find serial rapists who are still on the streets.”
Protecting senior citizens was a topic Beshear addressed at his Kiwanis Club visit, and also at his second stop in Corbin, the Corbin Senior Citizens Center.
Beshear spoke of the proliferation of scams that are usually aimed more at senior citizens.
He emphasized that the scams are becoming very sophisticated, and often involve the person knowing some personal details so as to gain the victim's trust.
Scammers often use fear to carry out their objective, he said, telling victims that if they don't take action very quickly, they will be arrested.
The attorney general's office has instituted a new alert program that sends out emails or texts to those who register detailing the latest scams circulating.
Beshear said knowing about the scam could keep a person from losing money.
To sign up for the alerts, visit: ag.ky.gov/scams
Empire State News wrongly says less than 1% children sexually abused. Here's what the statistics really are
by Sydney Smith
Empire State News claimed it is false to say one in five children are sexually abused in the U.S. Instead, the site says the number is less than one percent of children who are sexually abused.
But, the original statistic — 1 in 5 — was correct by general child sexual abuse statistics, and Empire State News ‘ claim, which is not sourced to any organization or person, doesn't match with what advocacy organizations like RAINN and Darkness to Light have found.
iMediaEthics has contacted the New York state-based Empire State News to ask what its source is for the “less than one percent” claim. We have not heard back. Activist Nancy Levine reported on Medium about the Empire State News and hasn't heard back from the publication since her first Aug. 31 e-mail.
The Empire State News story by Temple Li is headlined “Boak's Rally for Omnibus Child Victims Act Valiant, but Inflated Sexual Abuse Stat all Wrong.”
Empire State News has an inactive Facebook and Twitter page. Its About page lists a dozen staff, with the publisher listed as Jimmy the Saint and two reporters having clearly fake names – King Kong and The Old Bag.
The article says:
“A media advisory from a New York state senator, Alison Boak, presents a dubious statistic: that one in five children are sexually abused. Really? According to who?
“If this is true, it means that 20% of the people walking the Earth have been sexually abused. It also, alternatively, means that approximately 20% of people alive have sexually abused a child (it's only “approximately” here, to take into account those who are repeat offenders). This stat is terrifically hard to believe.
“There are really that many ULTRA-evil people surrounding us? So, every time I am at a restaurant or sitting on a bus or walking down the street, every fifth person I encounter has committed an act of child sexual abuse? Wow – we would need to ask entire states to donate all of their land to serve as maximum security prisons if this statistic is accurate.
“The truth is this: less than one percent of children are sexually abused. That REAL statistic is still alarming.”
What do National Organizations Report?
In reality, the percent of children sexually abused is between 10 and 25%.
The U.S. Department of Justice's National Sex Offender Public Website says that, “Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 17.”
That information is also reported on the website for The National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
Darkness to Light spokesperson Karen Monahan told iMediaEthics, “We used to use one in 4 girls and one in 6 boys and that is a commonly used statistic but we now believe that to be less accurate than 1 in 10. ” Darkness to Light advocates for the end of child sexual abuse and to promote awareness about child sexual abuse.
She pointed to Darkness to Light's March study, “Estimating a Child Sexual Abuse Prevalence Rate for Practitioners: An Updated Review of Child Sexual Abuse Prevalence Studies". The study notes its statistics only concern “data on contact abuse.”
The study notes, “It is more difficult for child sexual abuse organizations to engage the public and funders when there is no reliable, consistent statistic.”
Specifically, the study breaks down the rate for peer-perpetrated and non-peer-perpetrated contact abuse for boys and girls, but suggested one simple statistic for the public of approximately one in ten children in the U.S.. The full breakdowns for contact abuse:
“The proposed prevalence rate that includes peer-perpetrated abuse is 12.5% – 15.4%*. The rate for girls is 20% -26.6%* and the rate for boys is 5.0% – 5.1%*. The proposed prevalence rate that does not include peer-perpetrated abuse is 8.1% to 8.2%*. The rate is 11.7% to 12.2%* for girls and 4.1 to 4.5* for boys. To avoid confusion, the authors suggest that the message conveyed to non-scientific funders and the public is “About one in 10 children is sexually abused by the age of 18*”
RAINN, an “anti-sexual assault organization,” pointed iMediaEthics to the statistics it lists on its website, stating that “one in 9 girls and 1 in 53 girls under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or asasult at the hands of an adult.” The source for its statistic is the 2014 paper “The Lifetime Prevalence of Child Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault Assessed in Late Adolescence.”
Child sexual abuse: are social networks to be blamed?
by Christian Berg
Social media networks have made our lives more connected than ever before.
Facebook alone has 1.4 billion active users and Twitter attracts over 236 million people who regularly create, share and comment on each other's ideas.
Yet, as filtered and finessed as our online world may seem, social media has also given way to the emergence of darker aspects of our society.
Whilst criminals are often largely seen as utilising unseen forums, dark web listings, private chat groups or peer-to-peer downloads, social media has become another tool in their arsenal.
In fact, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and numerous other social media sites are regularly used by those who create, distribute and collect child sexual abuse (CSA) images and videos.
And while most CSA content is created illegally by networks of paedophiles and abusers, lately, we are witnessing an increasing amount of images and videos being generated by children themselves.
Learning to share is a hard lesson for children, but it seems social media has accelerated that learning curve.
Openness has become the norm and privacy a concern for another time.
Every day, thousands of selfies, food snaps, and family photos are shared on Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr and other forums and websites.
However, whilst these spaces give the illusion of being your own, your plot of land in the teaming mass of the internet, once that material is released into the wild, it's not only archived by you, and the social network you share it on, it's also accessible for the rest of the world.
As a consequence, it's become much easier for predators to trick young people into sharing explicit images of themselves and falling prey to an overly sexualised culture.
Tackling the taboo
Compared to just a few years ago social networks are doing a much better job at taking down explicit photos and videos.
Facebook, for example, has revamped its community standards in its takedown policy. It now includes a separate section on “dangerous organisations” and gives more details about what types of nudity it allows to be posted.
It actively encourages its members to report posts that they believe violate its rules.
In addition, the trend of citizen police has also emerged, as members of the public actively collaborate with social networks and law enforcement to monitor and report on suspicious criminal activities and child abuse cases.
Nonetheless, the sheer volume of CSA material being circulated online means that manual monitoring is not an option.
On average over 1.8 billion photos are shared online each day. While many of these are non-pertinent to CSA investigations, law enforcers must still sift through masses of content to uncover hidden material that can help to identify a victim and their link to criminal communities.
In addition, authorities must to trawl through masses of content available on the dark net.
While the subject still very much a taboo, awareness is growing. Legislation is being implemented to protect children, and citizens the world over are being urged to take heed of to what's happening around them – in the workplace, in their online communities and in their neighbourhoods.
Conquering the root cause
With the proliferation of digital media, investigators and social networks face a huge challenge in trying to prevent illegal content from being shared on these services. As soon as one case is closed, another opens up.
More CSA cases emerge every day and each case could contain new or unidentified victims. The challenges facing investigators today is much more widespread than we have ever anticipated. Facebook alone has seen over 350 million photos being uploaded by users each day.
With millions of images and videos circulating online, manually reviewing and analysing these digital files is an almost impossible task.
However, technology can help our visual capabilities along the way, by using image hashing technology to separate pertinent (illegal) from non-pertinent material.
In fact, advanced image recognition technology has proven to be the most useful tool to aid investigators in connecting the dots between digital files and criminal actors when solving cases.
By tackling the root of the problem, the image itself, we can ensure that those responsible for creating and sharing this material are found.
More importantly by finding and assessing the material we can find and help victims of abuse.
Good relationships with parents may benefit children's health decades later
by Baylor University
Growing up in a well-off home can benefit a child's physical health even decades later -- but a lack of parent-child warmth, or the presence of abuse, may eliminate the health advantage of a privileged background, according to a Baylor University study.
"Previous research has associated high socioeconomic status with better childhood nutrition, sleep, neighborhood quality and opportunities for exercise and development of social skills. But good parent-child bonds may be necessary to enforce eating, sleep and activity routines," said researcher Matthew A. Andersson, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences.
For example, if parent-child relationships are strained or abusive, meals may be less coordinated among the family, and children may be more likely to eat sugary or high-fat foods as snacks or even in place of meals. Sleep and activity routines also may become irregular, keeping children from developing healthy lifestyles and social and emotional skills useful for successful aging, Andersson said.
On the flip side, good parent-child bonds in economically disadvantaged homes, while they promote health, do not seem to lessen the negative impact of low socioeconomic status as the children age, Andersson said. Previous research has shown parents with less education and fewer financial advantages are more apt to threaten or force obedience rather than have constructive dialogue, and that may lessen warm relationships. In addition, disease rates or inflammation among those children when they become adults have been linked strongly to abuse, mistreatment or lower levels of parental warmth.
The study on Midlife Health and Parent-Child Relationships is published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
For the study, health at midlife was defined as being free from 28 possible conditions, among them cancer, circulatory or respiratory disease, endocrine diseases, nervous system diseases, infectious and parasitic diseases, skin or digestive disease and musculoskeletal conditions.
"Much research continues to view socioeconomic status and parent-child bonds as highly related or even interchangeable. But in fact they may quite independently influence a child's well-being," Andersson said.
"The key takeaway is that without adequate parent-child relationship quality to match, socioeconomic advantage during childhood may not offer much protection at all against major chronic disease as children become adults and reach middle age."
For the study, Andersson analyzed data on disease or poor health of middle-aged adults drawn from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS). He surveyed 2,746 respondents ages 25 to 75 in 1995 about their childhood treatment by parents. He conducted surveys again about 10 years later, with 1,692 of the individuals taking part. The follow-up analysis, adjusted for personal background in 1995 and for probability of dropping out of the MIDUS study, revealed that childhood abuse continued to undermine any protection from disease linked to childhood socioeconomic advantage.
Pittsburgh, Greensburg dioceses say they will cooperate with state's sexual abuse investigation
by Mark Hofmann
Representatives for the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Greensburg and Pittsburgh said they will cooperate with the state attorney general’s office in a grand jury investigation into sex abuse allegations.
Bishop David A. Zubik of the Pittsburgh Diocese said Saturday they received a subpoena from prosecutors requesting cooperation with the grand jury investigation.
“In the ongoing need to protect children from abuse, I welcome the opportunity to work closely with the state attorney general’s office,” Zubik stated.
That diocese covers Washington, Greene, Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and Lawrence counties.
Also on Saturday, the Greensburg Diocese posted a statement on their website confirming the office has received a subpoena concerning the statewide investigation.
According to the statement, the “Diocese of Greensburg takes the protection of all children and young people seriously. Names and facts of any allegation of misconduct will continue to be reported immediately to the proper civil authorities.”
The Greensburg Diocese covers Fayette, Westmoreland, Armstrong and Indiana counties, and is headed by Bishop Edward C. Malesic.
The statement from the Greensburg Diocese continued to stress that anyone who has a criminal history of child abuse or a credible allegation of child abuse has been removed from ministry, employment or their volunteer position as part of the diocese’s longstanding policy of zero tolerance.
“Every report of suspected abuse of a child or young person — sexual, physical and emotional — made to the diocese is immediately reported to ChildLine and the appropriate district attorney,” according to the statement.
ChildLine is a 24-hour service to receive reports of suspected child abuse and can be reached at 800-932-0313.
The statement indicated officials in the Greensburg Diocese will continue to cooperate with law enforcement officials, and cannot provide any additional comment due to the nature of the investigation.
Zubik added that the cover letter to the Pittsburgh Diocese from the Deputy Attorney General Daniel Dye assured that state’s efforts do not have to be adversarial. Working to protect children and to seek the truth should be a joint endeavor, he said.
“I could not agree more,” Zubik wrote in the statement. “We are absolutely committed to protecting children from abuse.”
Zubik said the requested records have been turned over to state prosecutors.
“It is my hope that this is a first step toward the government working with all institutions to address this serious matter,” Zubik stated.
In March, the state attorney general’s office released a two-year grand jury investigation that showed hundreds of children were sexually assaulted over a period of at least 40 years, involving at least 50 priests in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
Delilah Rumburg, the CEO of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), said after the news hit about the Altoona-Johnstown area, they worked with that diocese by providing educational information on how to help the victims and the community.
“When something like that happens, we hope we can turn it around as an educational opportunity,” Rumburg said.
Rumburg said she can’t tell if there was a significant increase in hotline calls specifically concerning church sex abuse as it only makes up 5 percent of sexual abuse cases.
“We don’t want to make it about that,” Rumburg said.
Rumburg said most victims of sexual assault know their predator and that person can be a family member, a neighbor, a teacher, a friend or a coach.
“It certainly does happen, but it’s not specific to faith-based community,” Rumburg said.
No matter who the perpetrator of the abuse happens to be, Rumburg said the coalition’s mission will always be to provide services and education for prevention of sexual abuse.
“Prevention is everyone’s responsibly and everyone can create and promote safe environments,” Rumburg said, adding that communities and organizations should take the preventative step of reviewing their policies and assess the risks in their environment.
Rumburg said people should trust their instincts if they sense something is wrong and should takes steps to intervene and stop such behaviors, and people should also believe the victims and survivors whenever they come forward.
“It takes people time to feel ready to call,” Rumburg said, adding that a woman in her 70s just recently called about sexual abuse she experienced as a child.
While Rumburg said they’re constantly pushing reform when it comes to the statute of limitations for sexual assaults, she said those survivors of such assaults shouldn’t let that deter them from calling a local rape crisis center.
“It’s never too late to seek that support,” Rumburg said, adding that there is also help in the form of treatment for those who are perpetrators who can call local victim services offices for referrals. “That’s important, too.”
Rumburg provided the following contact for centers that provide services to sexual assault survivors and rape victims including men, women and children:
Community Resources (Fayette), 724-437-3737
The Blackburn Center (Westmoreland); 724-836-1122
SPHS CARE Center (Washington/Greene); 888-480-7283
Blue Knot Foundation launches photo comp
Blue Knot Foundation, formerly Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA), has announced a new photo competition as part of its upcoming national awareness day held in support of adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse, Blue Knot Day.
Free to enter and open to anyone aged 16 years and over, the Blue Knot Day 2016 photo competition is an opportunity for photographers, creatives and hobbyists to capture the essence of this year's theme, ‘Together we lead the way to survivor recovery'. Entrants are given free rein to apply their artistic interpretation with images that feature the famed blue knot.
Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, President of the Blue Knot Foundation, said, “The photo competition engages the community and creates awareness for Blue Knot Day nationally in support of the one in four adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse in Australia.”
“Blue Knot Foundation is awarding cash prizes to the winners and the competition is open to all photographers: novice, hobbyist or professional. It's a chance to highlight the importance of the issue, acknowledge survivors, recognise courage and spread the word that recovery is possible,” added Dr Kezelman.
A panel of judges appointed by Blue Knot Foundation will select up to 20 finalists to exhibit their photographs, with three winners announced at the exhibition being awarded cash prizes: First prize $1,000; Second prize $500; Third prize $250.
The theme for Blue Knot Day 2016 focuses on the community and the vital role connection plays in survivor recovery. Survivors can often feel isolated and a visually expressive event that encourages participation and brings people together, draws attention to this significant social issue.
Submissions and terms and conditions are online at www.blueknot.org.au/competition. Entries close midnight on Sunday, 9 October 2016.
To get involved in Blue Knot Day 2016, visit http://www.blueknot.org.au/BlueKnotDay.
If you need help, information, support or referral, call Blue Knot Helpline on 1300 657 380 or email firstname.lastname@example.org between 9am-5pm Monday to Sunday AEST.
Faces of Recovery: Sex abuse survivors find hope in horses
by Amy Lacey
DOSWELL, Va. (WRIC) — Marcus Harris steps into the ring with two horses, and each step they take is deliberate. Each bin and ball of the obstacle course represents wounds that sometimes decades later have only begin to heal.
“The way I grew up, no child should ever have to grow up that way,” remembers Harris. “Basically, any bad thing that could ever happen to a child, I experienced it.”
Harris is 41-years-old, a successful business owner and husband. He is also a survivor.
“My first experience with sexual molestation was 6-years-old,” he says quietly.
It lasted for years, and today Harris is in treatment for complex post-traumatic stress disorder. He started traditional counseling three years ago, but he desperately searched for a new way to get past a plateau. Hope came in the form of horses.
“You got to learn to lead your mind like you learn to lead your horse,” he says, stroking one of the horses. “They just want your compassion, they just want your love, they just want you to be there.”
Safe Harbor started offering this new equine therapy last fall when counselors realized many men in the sexual violence recovery program needed something more. The campaign 1in6.org estimates one in six adult males are survivors.
Marcus says feelings of abandonment and doubt can stick with any man who suffered abuse. Through caring for the horses, however, they can build meaningful connections.
“It can really help unhinge people that maybe are in a stuck spot in their journey, in their therapy goals,” explains Kristin Fitzgerald, an Equine Support Specialist with the program.
Adds Mary Margaret Petersen, a Safe Harbor Counselor, “Accept their story, tell their story and work forward from there.”
It is a process for most survivors, including Harris. He says recovery is not always linear. During his equine therapy sessions, he pauses at each station and contemplates whether he will move forward or needs more time.
“Today was a good day. We didn't get stuck on anything,” Harris reflects. “But every day is not that way.”
Harris knows there is no cure for his past, but he finds empowerment in the ring with the horses. Harris refuses to let his sexual abuse define him.
“This stuff is going to pop up from time to time. I just got to figure out how to deal with it,” he says. “I made the choice that it's not acceptable in my world and it never will be. Either you can let this build you, or you can let this destroy you.”
Safe Harbor is now accepting names for an upcoming equine therapy group. It is open to men ages 18 and up who have suffered from past abuse. Call (804) 249-9470 for more information.
Local neurosurgeon raising awareness about child abuse
Effects of abuse can be long-lasting
by Leslie Mouton
SAN ANTONIO - We hear the stories far too often, children injured at the hands of an abuser. And while the abuser may be brought to justice and the stories may fade away, the damage done to the child will last forever.
Dr. Kimberly Terry is a pediatric neurosurgeon at The Children's Hospital of San Antonio, and far too often the brains she operates on are damaged by child abuse.
"Our trauma team is actually thinking about doing a study because we have so much of it here, unfortunately it's really rampant here in our community." Terry said.
Every month Terry operates on three to four children with brain damage due to abuse.
Terry showed scans of a normal brain. When compared to scans of a brain damaged due to abuse, the scans had patches of dark and light grey throughout.
"The darker areas are old blood - the lighter areas are new blood. It's actually on the outside of the brain and pressing on the brain and causing pressure. We also see dark areas that are showing early signs of stroke," Terry said.
Doctors can tell the difference between an accidental injury and a case of abuse. Many times a parent or caregiver will claim a child was injured by falling out of a crib, or hitting their head during a fall. But the scans don't lie.
"The scans will show a chronic appearance of old blood that you don't see that in a trauma that just happened. They will often show repeated abuse in children." Terry said.
While she can save a life, Terry cannot reverse the damage. She wants to remind us all that a moment of anger in an adult can lead to a lifetime of struggle for the child.
"It's really sad to see a beautiful 12-month-old or 6-month-old child who is perfectly normal and is never going to see again, never going to be able to talk, never going to be able to walk," Terry said.
She hopes educating people about the devastating effects of abuse will give people pause before striking a child.
LA County Supervisors question social workers' methods after boy found dead
by Susan Abram
Two Los Angeles County supervisors want to know if social workers with the Department of Child and Family Services could have done more to save Yonatan Aguilar, the 11-year-old boy found dead in a closet in Echo Park last month.
Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Mark Ridley-Thomas plan to introduce a motion Tuesday to examine the protocol used in deciding if the boy was at risk of child abuse.
They are specifically questioning the Structured Decision Making, or SDM, tool that determines the level of risk for a child.
“Evidence suggests that there may be potential shortcomings inherent in the SDM tool, which may provide unclear guidance and the ability to override results,” the supervisors wrote in their motion.
Their questions come about a week after DCFS released a heavily redacted 109-page report, which include summaries of the visits and interviews social workers conducted with Yonatan's family, specifically his mother, Verónica Aguilar.
It was inside the home in the 2100 block of Santa Ynez Street where police found Yonatan's abused body, after receiving a tip. Police arrested his mother, and the 39-year-old was charged with one count each of murder and child abuse resulting in the boy's death. She is being held on $2 million bail.
Police said that when they found the boy, he was so emaciated he looked 5 years old, according to the report.
Social workers interviewed Aguilar six times beginning in 2002. The last time was in 2012. Of those visits, four involved Yonatan, who had behavior issues and was enrolled in special education. Aguilar has three other children.
The boy reportedly came to school dirty, observers stated.
“Child is always hungry coming from home,” according to a document in the report that outlines what an observer noted of Yonatan. “Is seen Monday to Friday at school grabbing all the food he can get. After eating in the cafeteria, child brings the rest of the food into the classroom and begins to eat.”
At another time, Yonatan came to school with a black eye.
“The reporting party asked him how he got it,” according to the document within the report. “When he was first asked he said that he fell. Later during the day, he was asked again how he got the black eye and he said that another minor hit him with a ball. He said that his mother put an ice pack on it the other day.”
After visits with Yonatan's mother, social workers determined suspicions of abuse were unsubstantiated. They wrote that Aguilar had been working with school officials to help her child with his behavioral issues and that she immediately called 911 when she found Yonatan standing in the shower under cold water, screaming. He was treated for hypothermia. But in some documents, social workers noted that he was at high risk of abuse.
On Aug. 22, police found him wrapped in a blanket, and dead in the closet. Responding officers noticed marks on the child.
“My partner unwrapped one end of the blanket, and I observed a pale-skinned child's face with a round bruise on the top left side of the head and redness to the left facial cheek,” according to the police report. Another officer noted more marks on the child's body.
The case has cast a renewed spotlight on DCSF, three years after the death of Gabriel Fernandez, an 8-year-old Palmdale boy who was beaten to death, allegedly by his mother and her then-boyfriend.
Gabriel's death in 2013 garnered national attention because of the depth of pain investigators said the boy experienced at the hands of his mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre, who are both awaiting trial. The lack of urgency by social workers to rescue Gabriel led to intense criticism of DCFS. Court records indicated there were more than 60 complaints lodged with the DCFS about Pearl Fernandez and eight separate investigations started on the family, including one underway when Gabriel died.
As a result, a blue-ribbon commission on child welfare was created and implemented reforms on how all county departments could better communicate. The county also formed an Office of Child Protection.
Last month, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted behind closed doors to approve a settlement with the child's family. The details of the settlement will not be available until it is finalized by all parties, but two county claims boards voted in June to recommend that the county pay $2.63 million. Details of the settlement are expected to be finalized in October.
In addition, criminal charges were filed in April against the two former Los Angeles County social workers and their supervisors who were in charge of Gabriel's case, alleging child abuse and falsifying records. When he died, the boy had a fractured skull, several broken ribs and burns over his body, prosecutors said.
In response to the questions raised about DCSF's work with Yonatan and his family, Phillip Browning, the department's director, said in a statement released on Aug. 29 that social workers consulted with medical doctors, a hospital social worker, a school counselor, a therapist, a coach, and teachers, “all of whom indicated that Yonatan was receiving proper care.”
“Our preliminary review of these investigations reveal that some good social work practices were utilized,” Browning said, adding that the allegations were submitted to a reporting system to ensure an investigation by law enforcement.
“Each of these investigations concluded that no crime had been committed,” Browning said.
DCFS spokesman Armond Monteil said in a statement the department welcomes the questions.
“Should the Board of Supervisors approve the motion, we welcome the opportunity to work with the Office of Child Protection and to report back as directed,” Montiel said.
Most child sex offenders were once victims themselves? Not true, experts say
by Xanthe Mallett, Senior Lecturer in Forensic Criminology, University of New England
A popular misconception is that most child sex offenders were once victims themselves. The theory is based on the erroneous assumption that they've become paedophiles – those preferentially sexually attracted to prepubescent children – because of their victimisation.
This is a tidy explanation for a minority of offenders. But for most victims of child sex abuse, this is not only untrue, it's harmful. It can increase stigma and prevent people from speaking up about their abuse. Some victims may fear they will one day become an offender, or at least develop the desire to offend.
The estimated prevalence of sexual abuse against children varies depending on the study. Prevalence estimates of abuse against males range from 1.4% to 8.0% of the population for penetrative abuse and 5.7% to 16.0% for non-penetrative abuse.
For females, prevalence rates are estimated at 4.0% to 12.0% of the population for penetrative abuse and 13.9% to 36.0% for non-penetrative abuse.
Many empirical studies have investigated a link between sexual victimisation as a child and later sex offending or other delinquent behaviours. As I wrote in my last Conversation article, some studies suggest “anywhere between 33% and 75% of child sex offenders report being sexually abused as children”.
Others debunk the theory. A 2001 study, for example, combined self-reports of childhood abuse histories with polygraph tests for child sex offenders.
Before the polygraph test, 61% of adult offenders claimed to have been sexually abused as children, compared to 30% after the polygraph. This indicates that more sex offenders claim to have been sexually abused as children than actually have a history of abuse.
A more recent study from 2016, of more than 38,000 males, found that very few who were sexually abused went on to become offenders themselves: only 4% of the sexual offenders studied had a confirmed history of child sex abuse themselves.
The researchers said the findings may provide: reassurance that sexually abusing others may be a rare outcome of sexual victimisation.
So, the answer to the question “does child sexual abuse create paedophiles” is, largely, “no”. A small percentage of victims will go on to become offenders, but the vast majority won't.
A word of caution with the data
Our current understanding of the victim-offender cycle in child sexual abuse comes from studies based on interviews with incarcerated sex offenders or those in treatment programs, or self-report measures. These are inherently unreliable methods, which fail to get to the bottom of a sex offender's victimisation history.
Another problem with these studies lies not with the offenders themselves, but with the researchers' “expectancy biases”. Those interviewing sex offenders, for instance, may ask about childhood sexual abuse and note its presumed significance to the offender's criminal history. They may end up putting more emphasis on this link than other (perhaps more causative) factors.
Third, experts estimate only one in 20 cases of child sexual abuse are ever reported. We are therefore missing huge swathes of the information.
Fourth, lost from this analysis are two core groups whose voices are essential to this dialogue if we are to ever truly understand the cycle of violence within child sexual abuse: the offenders who are never caught; and paedophiles who never offend against children. We know virtually nothing about either of these two groups.
Another group that is heavily under-researched are the victims of child sexual abuse who don't go on to offend. One study entitled I Couldn't Do It to a Kid Knowing What It Did to Me looked at 47 men who were victims of child sexual abuse. Four themes arose as to why these men would not go on to become offenders themselevs: empathy, morals, a lack of sexual desire, or a combination of the three.
Researchers recognise these limitations, but because child sexual abuse and the attraction to children are such taboo and hidden subjects, it makes it almost impossible to use more reliable methods of data collection.
Very few paedophiles, for instance, would ever admit to having sexual desires towards children, as they fear being ostracised by their community, workplaces and families, even if they have never (and would never) harm a child.
If we want to protect children from sexual abuse, we need to better understand why most victims of child sexual abuse don't offend as much as we need to understand why some do.
It is in the public interest to base treatment plans and support networks on accurate research and a full understanding of this issue; otherwise they are destined to fail.
Seminar urges strategies to fight child sex abuse
by Tony Brown
According to a 2013 study by the anti-child sexual abuse organization Darkness to Light in conjunction with the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, both based in Charleston, South Carolina, one in 10 children in the United States is sexually abused by the age of 18.
In an effort to combat the victimization of children locally, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nodaway County and SSM Health St. Francis Hospital will host Darkness to Light's “Stewards of Children” program at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, in the hospital's Franciscan Room.
The free presentation covers a five-step awareness protocol designed to help adults recognize that child sexual abuse is occurring then act to stop to it.
According to local Big Brothers Big Sisters Program Director Lynette Harbin, the training is ideal for parents, educators, volunteers, and professionals working for or with youth-related organizations.
“Adults make choices every day to protect children, from applying sunblock to making sure kids wear appropriate clothing to protect them from the cold,” Harbin said in a release. “But how can children be protected from sexual abuse?
“Many might think it can't happen to them, that child sexual abuse isn't part of their family, that it isn't in their town, or that it doesn't involve their local youth-serving organizations. That's what everyone likely thinks, until it happens.
“The reality is child sexual abuse is the most prevalent health problem children face with the most serious array of consequences.”
The Stewards of Children seminar incorporates a combination of survivor stories, insight from experts, and practical guidance. It was designed as a prevention solution intended to instruct administrators, staff, volunteers, and others in implementing effective prevention and recognition policies as well as responsible action when abuse occurs.
During the presentation, participants will learn how, when, and where child sexual abuse happens; ways to minimize opportunities for abuse; methods for communicating with children about preventing abuse or to determine if abuse has occurred; how to recognize emotional, behavioral, and physical signs that abuse may be happening; and how to act responsibly by offering support to the child and correctly reporting suspicion or discovery.
To register for the workshop, call Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nodaway County at 660-562-7981 or email email@example.com. Enrollment is limited.
Ft. Gordon official arrested following child porn investigation
by Mike Lepp
COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – A Fort Gordon Colonel is facing jail time after being accused of distributing child pornography.
Cyber Command Colonel Jonathan Hurwitz is accused of sending and receiving child pornography.
On July 18th, a member of the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce began investigating the download of a ‘file of interest’ to child pornography investigations.
The file was being downloaded via BitTorrent, a file-sharing application.
The investigator traced the file to a computer that was offering over 100 files available for download, among them photos and videos of minors approximating in ages from 9 to 15.
Law enforcement found the computer to be on a Comcast internet service belonging to Jonathan Hurwitz.
After confirming his identity, a search and seizure warrant was executed for Hurwitz’s home on September 8th.
Hurwitz cooperated with agents during the search of his home.
He admitted to downloading child pornography and specified terms he would search for. He indicated that the youngest children he would view were toddlers.
Hurwitz stated that he had never sexually abused any children.
During the interview, he made a phone call to his wife to tell her that the home was being searched because he had been downloading child pornography. He stated he was admitting to it because he had always instructed soldiers under his command to take responsibility for their actions.
Agents seized approximately 18 electronic devices from the home. Preliminary investigations revealed approximately 65 files containing child pornography on Hurwitz’s personal computer.
Group walks to urge ending limitations on child sex abuse complaints
by Greg Wright
TRENTON — State Sen. Joseph Vitale walked with a group of about 20 activists from Pennsylvania to the New Jersey's Statehouse Sunday to vocalize their opposition to the state's statute of limitations for civil actions related to sex abuse.
The group also wants New Jersey to pass a pending bill that would eliminate the time constraints for legal actions.
"We need to protect victims child sexual abuse and help them seek justice," Sen. Vitale (D-Middlesex), who is the primary sponsor of the legislation, said. "This will require changing the law and expanding the civil statute of limitations for this crime."
The rally began after the group, comprised of individuals and members of The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Road to Recovery and Male Survivor, completed a walk from Morrisville, Pa. to the Statehouse.
There, sexual assault survivors from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York spoke about their own struggles in seeking justice and returning to a life of normalcy after becoming victims.
Currently, sex abuse victims have only two years to sue after discovering the link between their abuse to other problems, such as depression, addiction or divorce.
The state's limit is 'the most strict nationwide," Vitale said. "We can expand that time, so that victims can reconcile the abuse."
Vitale and various group members say they have been working on similar legislation for years. Passing legislation on this issue has been the most difficult challenge of Vitale's 18-year tenure, he said.
Vitale says that while he'd personally like to see the statue of limitations completely removed, many of his colleagues are hesitant to pass a bill that would remove all time limits.
He says that's because of the unpredictability that could lead to for future legal matters and that removing the statute of limitations for any crime would create similar issues.
Now the bill, the way it's written, eliminates the statue. But Vitale says he's open to compromise because, after working with many victims, he believes the statute could be moved from two years to 30 years.
That would allow victims enough time and oblige most of the senators who will be voting on the legislation. He says the bill has a "realistic" chance of passing the senate.
Vitale says that most of his opposition in passing the retrospective legislation has come from the Catholic Church on the grounds that the church would go bankrupt if the retroactive law was expanded.
Fred Marigliano, 69, who was abused by a priest at 11 years old and now works with the various groups in attendance on Sunday, said he doesn't care about the politics.
"I'm sick of hearing excuses from politicians," Marigliano said.
He wants justice for the survivors.
"People don't understand — It will never leave their mind," he said. "It's burnt within their soul."
Bill S280 is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Greg Wright may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GregTheWright. Find NJ.com on Facebook.