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Recent News - News from other times

October, 2016 - Week 1
MJ Goyings
Many thanks to our very own "MJ" Goyings, a resident of Ohio, for her daily research that provides us with the news related material that appears on the LACP & NAASCA web sites.



Amber Alert issued for FL girl who was possibly abducted


POLK COUNTY, FL (WFTS/CNN) - Four-year-old Rebecca Lewis was last seen by her older sister as she slept in her family's around 9 a.m. Saturday. When Rebecca wasn't in her bed just before 10 a.m. Saturday, the family panicked and started searching the neighborhood. But after an hour with no sight of her, the family called 911.

Rebecca's grandmother, Oma Mae Lewis, gave an emotional plea for the girl's return.

“If there's anyone out there, anywhere, that can help us bring Becky back home, please bring her home to us,” Lewis said.

“We responded, and we've been out here ever since,” said Scott Wilder of the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies have been combing every inch of the Lazy Dazy RV and Mobile Home Park in Lakeland, off US 98, where the family lives.

They've questioned every neighbor, searched homes and checked in with local registered sex offenders.

“She's a beautiful little blonde-headed baby that just loves anybody and anything,” Lewis said of her granddaughter. “Unfortunately, she does not meet a stranger, and that's probably the worst thing that can happen right now.”

Investigators say a former family friend, whose legal name is West Wild Hogs - formerly Matt Pybus - showed up at Lewis's house Friday night out of the blue.

Hogs hadn't been seen by Lewis or any of the family, for over two years.

Neighbors at the trailer park spotted him driving a silver Nissan Versa that deputies say his mother reported stolen.

They now worry that he could have driven off with Rebecca to his home state of Alabama.

“We don't know if he has intentional harm planned for this little girl, but he didn't have permission to pick her up,” Wilder said. “He doesn't have permission to keep her.”

The girl's family is begging for Hogs or anyone who has seen Rebecca to come forward.

If you're out there, and you are with Becky, please just call me,” Lewis said. “Tell me where to come get her. Just bring my baby back home to us.”




Here's what PennLive's editorial missed in the Statute of Limitations debate

by Cathleen Palm

The Center for Children's Justice had a mixed reaction to PennLive's Oct. 3 editorial.

PennLive's editorial successfully called upon Pennsylvania lawmakers to end the injustice caused by statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse.

The statute of limitation laws in Pennsylvania have always miscalculated the complex dynamics of childhood sexual abuse.

While there is no time limit on the wounds from such an assault on the child's body and soul and research underscores that it can take decades for the child victim to come forward.

State law imposes arbitrary deadlines that cut off a victim's access to justice.

These statutes of limitation have expired too quickly and have let perpetrators off-the-hook never facing the victim, a judge or jury in a civil or criminal courtroom.

Your editorial argued that the state Senate has refused to address this injustice experienced by adults previously sexually abused as children.

State senators voted for a bill that does not restart the civil clock permitting adult survivors of past childhood abuse access to a – once denied – civil courtroom.

Refusing to support a retroactive statute of limitations provision reflects the imbalance of power between powerful lobbyists in Harrisburg and the individual sexually assaulted as a child.

Still your editorial ignored that the Senate advanced some positive steps for current and future victims of childhood sexual abuse.

For instance, the Senate voted to provide child victims (of today and in the future) with an unlimited period of time to file a civil claim against the person(s) who sexually assaulted the child, the person(s) who conspired with the abuser, or the person(s) who had actual knowledge of the abuse and did not tell the police or child welfare officials.

Your editorial asked, at some point, 'who has the most to lose'?

Our organization believes there are two answers and both are tough realities to confront.

First, the adult survivor already denied justice in a criminal court room further loses without a retroactive civil provision.

Second, and so routinely overlooked by the media and policy makers, is the child being sexually assaulted today.

Under existing statutes of limitation in Pennsylvania, the child being sexually assaulted today is guaranteed to face similar injustices already inflicted on adult survivors of past childhood sexual abuse.

Between 2007 and 2015 (basically the time period since the last SOL reform in PA) more than 14,000 children have been victims of rape, a third of these victims were under the age of thirteen.

Today each of these child victims faces a ticking judicial clock – on the civil and criminal side.

More than 30 states have eliminated, in whole or part, the criminal statute of limitations related to childhood sexual abuse crimes.

Still in 2016, victims of childhood sexual abuse in Pennsylvania still face the likelihood that someday when they are ready to pursue justice they will hear law enforcement official say 'I am so sorry you are too late, the criminal SOL expired.'

Huge majorities in the Pennsylvania General Assembly voted (going forward) to treat childhood sexual abuse like murder refusing to put an end date on when criminal charges against the perpetrator can be filed.

Big majorities also voted to extend (going forward) the civil SOL for childhood sexual abuse until the child victim turns 50 years of age. These same lawmakers also voted against continuing to give government institutions a pass when it comes to accountability for the sexual abuse of children.

PennLive should have used its editorial to challenge leaders of the PA House and PA Senate along with Governor Tom Wolf to meaningfully engage each other toward identifying what is possible on civil and criminal SOL reform in the few remaining legislative session days.

If securing a retroactive civil provision is not achievable before November 30 th that will be an intolerable injustice worthy of urgent attention in 2017.

Such an injustice inflicted on adult survivors of past childhood sexual abuse must not, however, be justification for sacrificing overdue and enhanced justice for the child that will be sexually assaulted today or in the years ahead.

Cathleen Palm is the founder of The Center for Children's Justice. She writes from Bernville, Pa.



Survivors speak out about 'hidden' child sexual abuse in ethnic minority communities

by Judith Duffy

CHILD sexual abuse within ethnic minority communities in Scotland is a ‘hidden' problem with major gaps in services to help survivors, research has found.

A new documentary is being screened this month which will highlight how cultural barriers such as the fear of bringing ‘shame' on families make it difficult for victims to seek help.

Researchers from Edinburgh University say there is little knowledge of how widespread the problem is in ethnic communities. They also highlighted gaps in specialist services to help survivors.

The documentary ‘Hidden in Silence' has been produced by Dr Javita Narang, a researcher at Edinburgh University's clinical psychology school and Nauman Qureshi, director of Dawn films.

Survivors of child sexual abuse from Scottish ethnic minorities were interviewed for the documentary, which follows the story of two women who speak about their experiences.

Narang said there was a number of social and cultural values which stop people from ethnic minorities talking about sexual abuse.

She said: “The barriers are related to family honour, shame, stigma, marriageability of girls and not breaking up the family or ruining the family status quo.

“The barriers are very strong, which makes it all the more difficult for people from ethnic minorities to talk about it - although it is of course difficult for anyone.”

Narang said there were also very few counselling services in Scotland for helping victims of sexual abuse who were from ethnic minorities.

But she said improving services was not necessarily just about recruiting more counsellors from these communities.

“Some people do want to go to counsellors from their own communities because that takes away the need for having an interpreter if they don't speak English very well...But there are some others who said in terms of anonymity, they prefer to go to someone else who is not from their community.

“You need more ethnic minority counsellors, but also more mainstream counsellors who are culturally informed as well. That choice needs to be provided to survivors.”

The documentary will be screened in Edinburgh University's Teviot hall on October 17 and at Glasgow's Royal Conservatoire on October 21, followed by a discussion panel with survivors and experts.

Narang said the findings on how to tackle the issue would be fed to the Scottish Parliament's cross-party group on adult survivors of sexual abuse.

One of the survivors featured in the documentary, a Pakistani woman in her 40s who wants to remain anonymous, told the Sunday Herald how she was sexually abused by a 17-year-old relative when she was just five years old.

She said: “It was my uncle who was living in a house with the extended family - we shared a bedroom and he took advantage of the situation.

“I can't remember telling my parents at the time, but apparently I told my mum he was doing this to me and it wasn't a one-off.

“But my mum was made out to be a liar and the family just brushed it under the carpet and said she was just trying to break up the family.”

When she had her first child at the age of 25, she decided to tell her mum about the abuse – but was shocked to learn she already knew.

“I am trying to move on from it,” she said. “There is a sense of betrayal. But even to this day (in the community), it is more about protecting the person who has done it, and the person who is the victim is made out to be the liar and made to feel dirty. That is still happening.”

The survivor said she has only recently been able to speak about her experience after receiving help from the Moira Anderson Foundation, which helps victims of sexual abuse, but as yet has not felt able to take her case to the police.

A spokesman for Roshni, a charity which works to raise awareness of child abuse within ethnic minority communities and supported the making of the documentary, said: “It is important that individuals and organisations working with and within minority ethnic communities are aware of the additional barriers children and young people may face that can prevent them reporting abuse.”



Manitoba service dog comforts child victims in court

by Brittany Greenslade

WINNIPEG — She's the newest employee in the Manitoba Justice department and deals with some of the most sensitive cases.

However, it's not who you may expect.

Milan, a three-year-old Labrador retriever, is a highly trained service dog who is used to help comfort crime victims. She works mostly with young children who have been through horrific incidents.

Bott has been working in the child victim unit of the Manitoba Justice Department for 13 years.

“We get involved with children and their families after charges have been laid,” Bott said. “Predominantly sexual abuse victims, sexually exploited youth, vulnerable adults and adult survivors of abuse who may have to come to court to testify about what has happened to them.”

Milan has been in Winnipeg since July and so far has met with nearly 50 victims.

Bott was emotional while speaking about the immediate impact Milan has on child victims. She recalled a recent meeting with a six-year-old victim. The little girl was shy and very reluctant to talk about the abuse she had endured. Milan put her head in the child's lap and she opened up to lawyers.

Milan was raised by the Pacific Assistance Dog Society (PADS) in Burnaby, B.C. At eight weeks of age she began working with a dog trainer, learning basic obedience and how to behave in a variety of community and social settings. At 16 months of age, she returned to the PADS facility for 14 months of advanced skills training.

On Sept. 26, Bott and Milan made history when the trauma dog sat next to a victim inside the law courts for the first time in this province.

Milan joins the ranks of 18 victim-support dogs across the country. Eleven of which have been trained and placed by PADS, including the first one in the country.

Canada's very first victim services dog is a yellow Labrador retriever named Caber. Caber joined the Delta Police Victim Services team in British Columbia, in July 2010 as part of the for the K9 Trauma Project.

However, the first pup in Canada to sit next to a victim was a service dog in Calgary in 2014. Hawk supported a victim in Calgary in December 2014, and another dog was permitted in an Edmonton courtroom in March.

In 2015, Caber made the leap to the courtroom and helped a 10-year-old girl endure the pain of testifying about an alleged sexual assault, and in doing so has become the first canine to assist a child during a trial in British Columbia.

Victim-support dogs can now be found in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.




How to help youths in violent homes

by Jennifer Vaida

Domestic violence is one of the most pervasive and dangerous public health threats facing our nation today.

Annually, more than 10 million individuals are abused at the hands of an intimate partner.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reports 236,329 victims in Tennessee between 2012-2014 — and these are just the reported cases. This translates into nearly 15 million children in the United States being exposed to violence in the home each year.

There is more awareness about the impact of early exposure to domestic violence on children than ever before, and this is real progress. A mere 20 years ago, domestic violence wasn't something that was discussed as openly as it is now.

Domestic violence is recognized as an "adverse childhood experience." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends strengthening services for survivors of domestic violence as a key strategy to preventing and mitigating adverse childhood experiences, because we know that the best way to help a child is to help the non-offending parent.

In the numerous training classes on the impact of domestic violence on developing children that I conduct around the state of Tennessee, one question arises frequently: How do I help a child I know is being exposed to domestic violence in the home?

This is a complicated issue because often there isn't enough evidence to prove the child is at risk for direct harm, and the presence of domestic violence in the home isn't a reason in and of itself to open a child abuse investigation.

Though there isn't an easy answer to this question, there are some very specific things you can do to help a child who may be living in a home where violence is present.

The most important thing is to support the non-offending parent. Though it may be hard for someone who has never experienced domestic violence to understand, a victim knows his or her situation best, and may choose to remain in the home because it is the safest choice at the time. By not being the target of blame, the non-offending parent can feel more supported to care for the child.

If you are able to connect with children who are living in a home where domestic violence is present, talking with them about violence is the best way to help.

Allowing children to express themselves freely, telling them it's OK to feel the way they do and validating them will help them feel that someone is listening, that someone cares, and most importantly, will keep them from thinking that the violence is normal.

Most individuals who witness domestic violence early in life do not grow up to become abusers. Statistics show, however, that domestic violence is cyclical, and that children who are exposed to it are more likely to become perpetrators or victims themselves later in life.

Early intervention is critical, and the support and love of a stable, nurturing adult the child trusts can have a tremendously positive impact on children exposed to violence.

And remember that help is available in your community. The Tennessee Statewide Domestic Violence Helpline, 1-800-356-6767, can connect you with resources in your area.

Jennifer Vaida is director of programs for Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee and director of the Tennessee Statewide Domestic Violence Helpline.



Abilene ranks highest in child abuse/neglect rate

by Brooke Crum

A 5-year-old boy brought to the Abilene/Taylor County Child Advocacy Center said he was angry at the police.

Angry at the police for taking away his parents.

When asked why the police did that, the boy responded that the police found ice — methamphetamine — in his home.

The forensic interviewer asked the boy where they found the ice.

In his sock drawer, he said.

It's a case Taylor County Judge Downing Bolls cannot forget.

As a board member of the Child Advocacy Center, where children who are victims of crime are interviewed, Bolls hears the occasional Child Protective Services case, but this one made him wonder: "How does a 5-year-old child in this community know about ice?"

How could a parent produce drugs and leave them in a child's drawer?

"There's things that make you go 'I wish I didn't know that,'" Bolls said.

But there are many more cases like that 5-year-old boy's in Taylor County and the surrounding Big Country.

In this area, there have been "too many cries," Police Chief Stan Standridge said.

For the past five years the Abilene region has reported the highest rate of child abuse and neglect in Texas, doubling the state average most of those years.

Officials who respond to allegations of child abuse and neglect in Taylor County — one of 30 counties in the region — say the rate is a result of a high degree of people reporting possible abuse and close collaboration among agencies and community partners.

But the numbers are still stark in comparison.

In fiscal year 2015, the Abilene-Wichita Falls region had 21 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect per 1,000 children, according to the most recent Department of Family and Protective Services statistics. That amounts to 2,763 confirmed victims.

The next-highest rate came from the Tyler region, which had 14.7 confirmed cases per 1,000 children, nearly 50 percent lower than Abilene's rate.

The state average rate for 2015 was 9.1 confirmed cases per 1,000 children. That means 66,721 children were confirmed victims of abuse or neglect across Texas.

An expert on child abuse said the high rate could be caused by a number of factors — ranging from a statistical anomaly to heightened public awareness of the issue, from a heavier-handed approach to child abuse in the area to just more abuse.

Others claim the rate is a direct effect of the immense use of methamphetamine and other drugs among adults.

In all likelihood, there is no one reason or solution.

Small population distorts rate

The Department of Family and Protective Services, the state agency tasked with protecting the health and safety of children and adults, divides the state into 11 geographic regions. Child Protective Services is one of five programs under the DFPS umbrella.

The headquarters of Region 2 is in Abilene, with the region extending north to Wichita County, south to Brown County, west to Scurry County and east to Eastland County. It has the smallest child population, through age 17, of all 11 regions — 131,651 in 2015.

The most populous region is Region 3, which includes Dallas-Fort Worth, with a child population of almost 2 million. Its 2015 rate of child abuse and neglect was 9.4 cases per 1,000 children, or 18,571 confirmed victims.

The only years in the past eight that Region 2 has not had the highest rate were 2009 and 2010, according to DFPS statistics. The region surpassed the other 10 regions in the state from 2007 to 2009 and again from 2011 to 2015.

From 2007 to 2015, the Abilene region had the highest reporting rate of any of the regions, according to DFPS statistics, even if it did not have the highest rate of child abuse and neglect. The reporting rate represents the number of claims made that have not yet been investigated.

Chris Greeley, chief of Public Health Pediatrics at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston and pediatrics professor at Baylor College of Medicine, said there could be various reasons for Region 2's high rate.

Because of its small child population, any increase in the number of child abuse or neglect cases in Region 2 would result in a bigger climb in the rate than in Region 3, for example, because it is about 10 times the size of Region 2, Greeley said.

"Any changes are much more apparent statistically," said Greeley, who holds a master's degree in clinical research. "Part of it looks really disproportionate because the denominator is so small compared to all the other regions."

The region next closest in size to Abilene's is Region 9, whose headquarters is in Midland. Region 9 includes 30 counties with a child population of 159,694 in 2015, yet its rate of child abuse and neglect for that year did not come close to Region 2's — 11.2 confirmed cases per 1,000 children. That is 1,789 children, almost 1,000 fewer victims than in the Abilene-Wichita Falls region.

Awareness leads to more reporting

Another potential reason for Region 2 having the highest rate of child abuse in the state is that people in the area are more attuned to the issue and report it more often, Greeley said.

"They may just be more aware," he said. "So they tend to call it in more often, rightly or wrongly, whether it's real or not."

Greeley called this a "surveillance bias." The "immediate response" to a public awareness campaign on recognizing child abuse and neglect would cause an increase in reporting the issue, he said.

"Much like when you're trying to buy a new car, you then see it everywhere on the street, and that's just a reality," he said. "Maybe we're just seeing it more often. Bias doesn't mean there's something wrong. It's just a systematic skewing."

Another consideration is that regions with large cities tend to have lower reporting rates, while regions that are more rural typically have higher reporting rates, said Sherrel Mathews, former Region 2 director for CPS.

"In the smaller areas, you have the opportunity to have better relationships with the partners in the community, and I think people are just more aware and see things and report," said Mathews, who oversaw the region for 3½ years. "When you get to the Abilene region and our alleged rate being almost twice the state rate and our confirmed rate being more than twice the state rate, that I truly attribute to our working relationships in these communities."

The alleged rate is the reporting rate, or the reports of potential abuse and neglect made to the statewide intake hotline. The alleged rate represents claims that have not been substantiated.

"It's easier in Houston or Dallas for a family to get lost," Mathews said.

Before Mathews became regional director, a high profile case, the 2012 death of 22-month-old Tamryn Klapheke, brought a lot of attention to Child Protective Services. It prompted changes to the way local entities work together to address child abuse and neglect, she said. Three local CPS supervisors were fired in the aftermath of the case, and two of the three were indicted on charges of tampering with evidence.

"From that point, that began a real big emphasis for us on really building those partnerships even stronger than they had been in the past," Mathews said. "When you have those kind of strong working relationships with law enforcement, the school, your domestic violence community — the professional partners out there — you're going to get more reports. But I also think it's the common citizen in these communities, too, that is more aware."

Police Chief Standridge agreed. He said he does not believe the region has more child abuse than any other, just more reporting.

"All law enforcement in the southern part of this region has direct access to CPS supervisors via cellphones," Standridge said. "This may not be the case all across the state, but Abilene has worked diligently in recent years to cement strong relationships between the agencies."

Law enforcement informs Child Protective Services when children are present during domestic violence investigations or in vehicles in which adult drivers are arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated or drug possession, he said. Two CPS investigators work out of the police department to streamline the investigative process.

"Proactive notifications drive numbers up, but all of Region 2 law enforcement will tell you that our children deserve such protections," Standridge said. "Collaboration is a must, and it is done well in Abilene. When a child makes an outcry, investigators from the police department, CPS and (the Child Advocacy Center) will stand shoulder to shoulder and investigate the circumstances."

Sgt. Craig Griffis, criminal investigations supervisor for the Taylor County Sheriff's Office, echoed Standridge, saying the stakeholders in this region work well together because they communicate often. Two CPS caseworkers are assigned to the sheriff's office, and they conduct investigations alongside law enforcement.

The death of Tamryn Klapheke, which Griffis called an "eye-opening experience," forced CPS workers and law enforcement to build better relationships, he said, adding that the relationship between the two entities has never been better.

He recalled a meeting in late July when the new Department of Family and Protective Services commissioner, Henry "Hank" Whitman, visited the Child Advocacy Center to speak with the staff and area law enforcement officers. Griffis said the commissioner applauded how well law enforcement cooperates with CPS and said that should be the standard across the state.

Whitman thanked the representatives at the meeting for their "cooperative working relationship with CPS" and their "obvious commitment to child safety," said Patrick Crimmins, DFPS state spokesman, in an email.

"He's had nothing but good things to say about the local commitment to child protection," he said.

Regional approach raises reporting

Judge Paul Rotenberry of the 326th District Court has seen an increase in child abuse cases.

He has experienced such a surge that other courts are "catching the overflow," he said. Weekly, other judges must stand in for him because his docket is so full.

As the family court judge, Rotenberry handles Child Protective Services cases, including those in which the agency believes a child should be removed from the home. Emergency removals, which is when CPS investigators determine a child's environment is dire enough that there is not enough time to get a court order for removal, must be heard within 14 days of removal.

"The circumstances are so bad that they've got to make an immediate removal," Rotenberry said.

Since he took the bench Jan. 1, 2015, the number of emergency removals, which usually involve multiple children, have more than doubled.

Emergency removals in Taylor County:

2013 — 103

2014 — 112

2015 — 230

January-September 2016 — 191

Bolls, the county judge, said the problem is significant enough in Taylor County that the Commissioners Court plans to petition the Legislature to place a court here dedicated solely to CPS cases.

At a request by the district attorney's office, the Commissioners Court last year added another prosecutor position to help handle the CPS caseload. Now there are three assistant district attorneys in Taylor County who prosecute CPS cases.

Rachal Blake is one of those prosecutors. She has been with the district attorney's office since 2014.

"It probably took me five months to get caught up to the pace I'm at today because it was so backlogged," Blake said. "I was working late every night, coming in on weekends, and it was still super backed up."

She said the third position was "desperately needed" due to the exponential increase in CPS cases, most of which are related to methamphetamine abuse. There are so many cases, Blake said, they "crowd out the docket" in the 326th District Court. And that's not the sole purpose of that court. It's for all family law matters, including divorces, adoptions and custody matters.

"The big increase that I saw came around February of last year," Blake said. "It was always busy, but we didn't have the docket problem that we have now. A whole court set aside just for CPS could be very beneficial to the county."

The rise in CPS cases could be a result of more abuse and neglect, or it could reflect the region's approach to child maltreatment, said Greeley, who serves as co-chairman of the Texas Pediatrics Society committee on child abuse and neglect. He also is incoming president for the Helfer Society, the international society for physicians practicing in the field of child abuse and neglect.

"These are human beings from CPS workers to judges who don't have truly objective scales, and they have to decide yes or no," Greeley said. "There could be regional differences in saying yes versus saying no."

For instance, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was accused of child abuse in 2014 after disciplining his 4-year-old son with a switch at his home in Spring. He agreed to a plea bargain that reduced his felony child abuse charges to a single charge of reckless assault, a misdemeanor, The New York Times reported.

Greeley said the incident occurred in an area of the state where the idea of whipping a child with a switch would be considered child abuse. In other parts of the state, that would have been "well-accepted parenting" that did not raise any red flags.

"That's just an example of how regions handle the very same thing differently," he said. "Neither is right. Neither is wrong. They're just different."

Meth use 'explodes'

Rotenberry said 2016 is set to surpass the previous year's number of emergency removals. He credits the increase to more CPS investigators in the area and "the absolute explosion of methamphetamine."

"My guess is that 90 percent of cases filed involve meth, and probably 80 percent of those have children testing positive for meth," he said. "If meth's involved and the parents are taking care of the kids while they're high, we're going to remove those kids. And if the children are testing positive for meth, that's a no-brainer."

Rotenberry said he initially worried that the rise in removals was a result of the change in judges. He said he eventually dismissed that concern after seeing child after child test positive for meth.

"You could have any judge sitting here," he said. "There's basically no discretion."

Angela Derrick, a former CPS supervisor who worked for the agency for seven years, said the biggest issue right now with children entering foster care is substance abuse. Derrick currently is the director of social services at Christian Homes & Family Services, an adoption and child-placement agency in Abilene.

"We had a foster parent who was interviewed a few weeks ago who said eight of their nine placements were drug-exposed children," she said. "That seems to be a very common theme among CPS cases and the number of children who are in foster care right now."

The drug most parents are using is methamphetamine, Derrick said. When children are exposed to that, health, behavioral and educational issues can arise, especially if the children are exposed while the mother is pregnant.

Both Rotenberry and Derrick attributed the accessibility of methamphetamine to the high number of children being removed from their homes by CPS in Taylor County. Derrick said the fact that Interstate 20 runs through town makes Abilene a big, red bull's-eye for drug traffickers.

Plus, Rotenberry said, it's so easy to find how to make meth and so cheap that it seems impossible to rein in its hold on users.

"When everyone can be a chef, how do you stop the cooking?" he said.

The judge said some cases involve heroin, but overwhelmingly the problem is meth. Most cases entail parents who cannot take care of their children because they are high on meth, and there is no food in the refrigerator or pantry. The children are not getting to school. They do not have what they need, and they are left home alone.

Because of how meth affects the brain, rehabilitation is extremely difficult, Rotenberry said. Some users lose all ability to be rehabbed, he said.

"We know what it does with adults. But what about these kids? What type of future do they have and what type of future does that mean for society?" he said. "These are the things that keep me up at night. How can we take care of the children that are here through no fault of their own? They're not choosing to use meth."

Most cases involve neglect

CPS breaks down child abuse and neglect by 10 categories: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, abandonment, medical neglect, physical neglect, neglectful supervision, refusal of parental responsibility, sex trafficking and labor trafficking.

The most common form of child mistreatment — both nationwide and statewide — is neglectful supervision, Greeley said. It comprises between 75 and 80 percent of all cases.

"This isn't controversial, but people can debate it," Greeley said. "There are a lot of families that struggle. They struggle because of poverty or violence or circumstances that are beyond their control, and the question is at what point in time is that considered neglect? What point in time is that considered people just having a difficult life?"

Greeley, who is board-certified in both general and child abuse pediatrics, said many families struggle, and that is not something that should be reported to CPS. Examples of neglect that should be reported include parents who leave their children at home to go out partying or parents who fail to supervise their children, who then end up wandering into traffic or away from home.

"There's often judgment calls in neglect, which I think is where the challenge comes in," he said. "What's reasonable and what's not in places are often different."

Mathews said cases involving neglectful supervision can be accompanied by other types of abuse.

"That's the category that substance abuse-related cases fit into," she said. "A huge, huge percentage — the majority — of those neglectful supervision cases involve substance abuse."

The region's — particularly Taylor County's — "aggressive approach to substance abuse" continues to drive up the number of cases, Mathews said. That also is the most prevalent reason for having children removed from their homes, she said.

In those cases, Mathews said, the caseworker must determine whether the children are safe by evaluating the effect of the parents' substance abuse on the child. Typically, CPS will remove young children from homes in which parents are abusing drugs because those "little bitty" children are completely dependent on their parents for their care and supervision, she said.

"With meth, most of the cases that we see there is severe enough meth use that a short-term work with the families doesn't seem to be enough," Mathews said. "Those are the ones we do have to then petition the court for temporary custody of the children and place them either in foster care or with relatives."

Although neglectful supervision constituted almost 81 percent of child abuse cases across the Abilene region in 2015, other types of abuse still occur.

About 17 percent of cases that year fell under the physical abuse category, while nearly 8 percent involved sexual abuse, according to Department of Family and Protective Services data.

Sgt. Mike Moschetto, supervisor of the Abilene Police Department's Special Victims Unit, said those are the cases his unit investigates alongside CPS, although he sometimes sees matters that do not rise to the criminal level.

"Any criminal investigations, it's always physical and sexual abuse," he said. "I would say sexual abuse outweighs physical abuse in this county."

A lot of physical abuse can be ruled out as discipline, Moschetto said, unless it is "extreme discipline."

The majority of child abuse is committed by "family members or adults who have access to them, which could be boyfriends or girlfriends of the parents," he said. "It's never 'stranger danger.'"

'It's a community issue'

If it were up to Chief Standridge, more than just one month a year — April — would be dedicated to child abuse awareness.

"Child abuse knows no social demographic. It occurs in families of all races and all economic backgrounds," he said. "Offenders are known to their victims because the abuse occurs in our homes. We must now acknowledge that no family is immune from child abuse, and we must advocate awareness every month."

County Judge Bolls said parents need to be educated early on and referred to programs that can help them before abuse or neglect occurs. Early intervention is key to stemming the flow of child abuse, but it's not always easy to identify the parents who need help. Some don't want it.

"I don't know what the answer is, but I know what it's not, and that's not to do anything," Bolls said.

Derrick, the former CPS supervisor, said open communication and collaboration among community partners spur awareness of child abuse and neglect. In the Big Country, an effort is made to treat child abuse as a community problem, she said.

"Child abuse is a problem for our community," she said. "It affects our kids in the education system. It affects our kids in the juvenile justice systems. It's a community issue, not just a family issue."

Like the adage says: It takes a village.



Stewards of Children work to prevent child abuse

by Audrey J Kirby

MUNCIE, Ind. — As Ann Cunningham spoke at Huffer Memorial Children's Center Tuesday evening, her audience members shook their heads in disapproval.

She was running training for Stewards of Children, a child abuse prevention program that uses real-life testimonies and statistics to address what it calls “the most prevalent health problem children face.” Nearly one in 10 children will experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday, according to its website.

Those statistics caused many of the program's participants to display their disapproval.

Twenty-two Huffer teachers and one community member were able to participate in the training for free, thanks to a grant Delaware County Prevent Child Abuse provided to Muncie and Delaware County BY5 Early Childhood Initiative. The training involved two 35-minute videos, teaching viewers the statistics about child sexual abuse and how to prevent it from happening. Those who completed the training earned certification.

Cunningham, an authorized Stewards of Children facilitator, said much of the problem today is that people just don't want to talk about the issue.

“The only way you're going to make a difference is to end that taboo because there's a lot that can be done,” she said.

Cunningham discussed the program with Sue Ann Nuñez, associate director at Huffer, while both of them were leaving church. Nuñez said her teachers had "used the same DVD for years" for their annual training, so this was an opportunity to change their approach with a new program.

"We have to do some sort of child abuse training for our licensing every year," Nuñez said. "I thought (Stewards of Children) would include some new insights for our teachers."

Nuñez said she made it mandatory for her 22 teachers to be present at the training. She said she recently added multiple staff members, so the program's interactive approach with the testimonies helped make the information more tangible.

After the program they gathered for discussion.

"I think it was a great resource," Nuñez said.

Even if the topic caused her audience members to shake their heads, Cunningham hopes the controversial conversation continues because she said she thinks it's important. She would like to see presentations held at schools and organizations across the community.

Contact reporter Audrey Kirby at 765-213-5816 and follow on Twitter @ajanekirby.

How to get involved:

Visit for more information on the organization, how to find an authorized facilitator in the area or how to become one.



Woman Accused Of Child Abuse Now Fears For Her Life, Lawyer Tells Judge

by Josh Kovner

The Groton woman charged with abusing and neglecting a 13-month-old boy placed in her care by the state appeared briefly in court Thursday morning, and her lawyer said she fears for her life.

Crystal Magee's face was tear-streaked and she stood next to her court-appointed lawyer, Linda Sullivan.

Sullivan objected to the presence of a news camera in the courtroom. She told Superior Court Judge Hillary B. Strackbein that Magee feared for life but declined to elaborate in a conversation after the hearing.

The case has drawn widespread attention because the child, identified by the Department of Children and Families as Dallas C., was severely malnourished and had broken bones and burn marks after spending five months with Magee and her husband in Groton last year, from June through November. A case review by the state child advocate's office, released Tuesday, found "staggering failures and omission" on DCF's part. Magee is a relative of Dallas's natural mother.

Magee, 32, was charged in February by Groton police with risk of injury to a minor and intentional cruelty to a child, both felonies. She remains free on $100,000 bail.

Sullivan told the judge that she is waiting for the prosecution to turn over evidence, and that she would have experts review the case. She said she just received a copy of the child advocate's report Thursday morning and needs to read it. The case was continued to Nov. 29.

Sullivan declined to discuss the case after the hearing.

A DCF social worker visited the boy identified as Dallas C. at least five times over 102 days between late July and late October 2015 but managed never to see Dallas awake, never roused him, and never assessed what others who had contact with the family were calling the child's rapidly deteriorating health, according to the advocate's report released Tuesday.

At one point, the social worker reported that he was "able to confirm that [the child] was indeed breathing," according to state Child Advocate Sarah Eagan's report.

At another juncture, a supervisor appeared dismissive when told that Magee had called the police to ask if she could get in trouble if Dallas was crying non-stop for days on end.

"I'm being lazy," the DCF supervisor said in an email, explaining why she wasn't looking up Dallas' file.

The boy's "near-death from starvation and abuse — a stunning event in a state-monitored placement for a child — could occur only as a result of the utter collapse of all safeguards," Eagan reported.

She said that the boy's state-paid lawyer also failed to advocate for him, and that DCF never shared any of the concerns about the placement with the juvenile court, essentially keeping the judge in the dark about the case after the initial hearing awarding DCF temporary custody.

In internal emails obtained by Eagan, DCF employees openly disagreed on the appropriateness of putting the boy with Magee and her severely ill husband, and fretted, before and after the boy was rescued from the Magee household, about how the mistakes in this case reflect on the placement of children.



OC woman accused of sexually abusing kids, forcing one to sexually abuse another

by Eileen Frere

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- An Orange County woman faces charges of sexually abusing children, and prosecutors claim she also forced a child to sexually abuse another.

Brandi Valadez sat in jail Friday afternoon. She's charged with abusing two children, prosecutors claiming she forced a 9-year-old boy to perform sex acts on a 6-year-old girl. They said she threatened them physically if they did not perform the acts.

"John Doe 2 was threatened. He does describe that Ms. Valadez threatened to put him into a bathtub that had hot water," prosecutor Whitney Bokosky said.

Prosecutors also said the 40-year-old was aware that another boy, who was 12 years old at the time, was sexually assaulting the little girl, but did nothing to stop it.

"I'm going to try to get her held responsible for basically her lack of action and also the fact that she continued to allow access to Jane Doe by this other person," Bokosky said.

Valadez is also accused of molesting the 6-year-old girl. Authorities said the abuse took place in motels in Orange, Anaheim and Costa Mesa over several months during the summer of 2014.

Police arrested Valadez after an investigation that began when the girl and the 9-year-old boy told a family member. Prosecutors said Valadez was in a position of trust, but police did not reveal details of the woman's relationship to the children in order to protect their identities.

If convicted, Valadez could face up to 60 years to life in prison.

She's being held on $1 million bail and has not entered a plea. She is expected to be in court sometime in November.


Elite gymnasts, Olympians demand USA Gymnastics make sexual assault claims priority

by Marisa Kwiatkowski

A coalition of former elite gymnasts — including two Olympians — is demanding USA Gymnastics take stronger, proactive steps to protect young athletes from sexual abuse.

The nine women spoke out after an IndyStar investigation revealed top officials at USA Gymnastics failed to report many allegations of sex abuse to police. The investigation also prompted 28 women to come forward with sexual abuse allegations against longtime team doctor Larry Nassar.

“The continued exposure and continued claims just further demonstrate that USA Gymnastics has not made it a priority and is not taking it seriously and is unresponsive,” former National Team member Jessica Armstrong said. “And that's really, really disappointing.”

It's not the first time that Armstrong and other elite gymnasts have called for change.

Four years ago, Armstrong and New York-based attorney Jenny Spiegel, also a former gymnast, developed a detailed proposal to strengthen the national governing body's bylaws and policies and close loopholes they believe enabled sexual predators to remain involved with the sport.

The decision to analyze USA Gymnastics' bylaws was driven by Armstrong, who was sexually abused by a gymnastics coach. She said she became concerned when she learned her former coach still was working with children.

Among Armstrong and Spiegel's recommendations:

•  Clubs be required rather than encouraged to adopt policies and procedures designed to prevent sexual misconduct and agree to be subject to USA Gymnastics jurisdiction.

•  Establish an abuse reporting hotline so parents and athletes can discuss concerns and make anonymous complaints.

•  Extend the jurisdiction of USA Gymnastics to include all personnel, including volunteers, at member gyms.

With the proposals in hand, the pair enlisted 19 former elite gymnasts to endorse the plan, including three-time Olympian Dominique Dawes, who earned gold and bronze medals. Kathy Johnson Clarke and Tracee Talavera, who were Olympians in 1980 and 1984, and former National Champions Jen Sey and Sabrina Mar also signed on to the proposal.

Also endorsing the plan was Cathy Rigby, whose performances in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics are widely credited with sparking America's love affair with women's gymnastics — a relationship that catapulted USA Gymnastics into a big-time brand that brings in tens of millions of dollars in dues and sponsorship fees.

Not far enough

Armstrong said they sent the gymnasts' proposal to USA Gymnastics in 2012.

Spiegel called the organization's headquarters in Indianapolis to ask where she could send the recommendations. USA Gymnastics told her to send the information to former Olympian John Roethlisberger, then-president of its Athletes' Council. One of the council's responsibilities is to bring athlete concerns to the organization's leadership.

On May 29, 2012, Spiegel emailed Roethlisberger the recommendations, the list of gymnasts who endorsed the proposal and a letter urging action. IndyStar obtained copies of the email and attachments. Spiegel followed up with a phone call but never received a response.

Roethlisberger told IndyStar he could not recall receiving the recommendations, nor could he find any record of them in his emails. If he had, Roethlisberger said, he would have forwarded them to someone at USA Gymnastics.

In a statement to IndyStar, USA Gymnastics said it has no record of receiving the proposal but is “continually reviewing, evaluating and updating its policies and procedures in this important area.” The Indianapolis-based organization said it has independently addressed several of the points mentioned in the documentation forwarded by IndyStar.

Armstrong said she and Spiegel stopped pursuing the proposal in 2012 because they felt they'd hit a dead end. She said there is more momentum now, and even more reason for USA Gymnastics to make changes.

“While they may have implemented some of the proposals, they did not go far enough to adequately close loopholes — as evidenced by the ongoing claims of abuse that are still surfacing,” Armstrong said.

In the four years since the gymnasts sent their proposal to USA Gymnastics, at least 11 member coaches have been arrested on charges relating to sexual misconduct with children. The organization also has been hit with two lawsuits alleging officials failed to take adequate steps to protect young gymnasts from sexual abuse. And USA Gymnastics officials confirmed the FBI is investigating Nassar.

The criminal investigations and the lawsuits show how sexual abuse cuts across all levels of the sport — from Olympians to recreational gymnasts at local clubs across the U.S.

Yet USA Gymnastics seems to be more interested in avoidance than in pursuing avenues that would make athletes safer, said Sey, a former National Champion who endorsed the proposed fixes.

“I saw the ways in which the gyms and coaches were put before the athletes, and information, allegations, suspicions and even direct reports were swept under the rug to protect a powerful coach or a prominent gym,” she said.

‘Tired of beating my head against the wall'

Former Olympian Talavera, who coached gymnastics for 18 years after competing as an athlete, said she has seen lives ruined by abuse.

She told IndyStar that the majority of people involved in gymnastics are good and, overall, it's a safe sport. But, Talavera added, the small percentage of bad people are a problem that can't be ignored.

“Knowing that this all has been going on and nothing has happened definitely made me endorse the whole proposal,” she said.

Johnson Clarke, another former Olympian who endorsed the 2012 recommendations, has been advocating for change for years. She served as an Olympic spokeswoman for Childhelp's Blow the Whistle on Child Abuse campaign and has urged Congress to eliminate the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse in all 50 states and make it mandatory for everyone to report suspected abuse.

At a minimum, Johnson Clarke said, every state should require sports governing bodies and coaches, gym owners and other gym staff to report any and all complaints of sexual abuse of a minor.

She told IndyStar that she speaks out because she loves gymnastics and wants athletes to be safe. It's a mission she also promotes on social media.

“I am tired of beating my head against the wall while screaming to the ends of the Earth, but I will keep pushing until change is made!” Johnson Clarke wrote on Facebook.

She shared her frustration after IndyStar's investigation revealed USA Gymnastics officials often dismissed as “hearsay” abuse reports that did not come directly from the victim or the victim's parent or guardian. In sworn testimony, USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny also said the organization must move carefully on complaints because a coach is as much a member as an athlete.

“You cannot hear these ‘stories,' even if it is second or third hand, and just sit on it out of fear of damaging the reputation of a coach or gym in the event they are falsely accused,” Johnson Clarke said on Facebook. “Err on the side of the child! Report! Investigate! Prosecute! If the accused has been falsely maligned it is far easier to ‘fix' that than a broken child!”

Johnson Clarke said people should report to police first, but many individuals confronted with child sexual abuse are caught off guard and aren't prepared for how and to whom to report. Johnson Clarke said she believes people in the gymnastics community thought they were doing the right thing by reaching out to USA Gymnastics for expert guidance, especially if what they were reporting was secondhand information, rumors or a concern.

Johnson Clarke said she is grateful to USA Gymnastics for the opportunities and support it provided during her career. She said she wants to work with the organization — not against it — to make the sport safe for everyone.

“EVERYONE in our sport agrees that it takes a village, and we are all a part of this village,” Johnson Clarke wrote on Facebook.

“With the USAG the proverbial head of the village, we will simply keep pointing the finger and trying to place blame in the ‘right' place. To what end? Instead we must hold the organization that benefits greatly when our athletes succeed, both monetarily and in reputation, but must also must be held accountable when they fail or fall short of what they can and should do to protect the kids that enter our gyms. Otherwise, we ALL fail.”



Teacher pushed out of Head Start kept in school system for months

by Donna St. George

A Head Start teacher who forced a 3-year-old to mop up his own urine and sent a mocking photo of the episode to the child's mother was allowed to stay in a local teaching job for months after she was removed from the federal program.

School officials in Prince George's County said the teacher, whom they did not publicly identify, was moved to Robert R. Gray Elementary School in February and recommended for termination Sept. 1, after federal findings about staff misconduct in the Head Start program surfaced publicly.

But as Prince George's continues to look at what went wrong in its program for disadvantaged preschoolers — prompting a federal decision to revoke the school system's $6.4 million Head Start grant — some point to the teacher's case as an example of the county's slowness to act regarding alleged misconduct, which community members had criticized long before the Head Start scandal came to light.

“It is downright shameful that we had an employee that the federal government concluded engaged in child abuse, and they were transferred to another school, and they just sat in front of students, and they were not held accountable,” said school board member Edward Burroughs III.

Prince George's school officials did not defend the decision to retain the teacher but said local Child Protective Services officials did not return a finding against her. “In hindsight, she should have been immediately recommended for termination,” school officials said in response to questions from The Washington Post.

The details come as state officials prepare to evaluate the program and as Prince George's school officials say more than 250 employees are on paid administrative leave amid allegations related to inappropriate conduct, abuse or neglect.

Monique Davis, deputy superintendent of schools, said that reporting of potential misconduct has surged as the school system steps up efforts to train employees about recognizing and reporting abuse and neglect. Those efforts began last year, following the arrest of a school volunteer who allegedly directed children to perform sex acts and recorded them on video.

“There's more awareness from our entire staff of 20,000 individuals about what their obligations are,” she said.

In neighboring Montgomery County, fewer than 10 people are on paid leave for allegations related to child abuse and neglect, school officials said.

Prince George's schools chief executive Kevin Maxwell has cited the spike in reporting of inappropriate conduct as a sign of progress.

“This increase in reporting, in the long-term of our organization, is exactly what's going to change that culture,” Maxwell said at a recent meeting with county council members, noting it is important that people understand “it's not acceptable to conduct yourselves in this way, and it's not acceptable to not report it when you know something.”

The controversy about Head Start, which led to disciplinary action against six employees, was followed by another allegation of misconduct involving a bus aide, Michael Paul Patopie, 38, who was accused of abusing young children with special needs. According to charging documents, the allegations date to November 2015, but one mother says her family was not notified until June.

“Nobody cared about my child,” said the mother of a 5-year-old who police describe as a victim in the case. “I want to know what they were thinking and why they protected this man instead of my child.”

The mother said her son was a quiet, easygoing child and is now tormented by nightmares and so anxious about the ride to school that family members must escort him both ways. The mother said it breaks her heart when the boy struggles with painful thoughts and asks to be hugged or held. “Several times, he's told me he's sad about the monster on the bus,” she said.

The school system, she said, has not called her to express concern or ask after her son, nor has anyone apologized.

When the case came to light in September, Maxwell said he had learned of the allegations in August and placed a bus aide and supervisor on leave. “I can't act on things I don't know. I can't know everything instantaneously,” he said then at a news conference. Later, when charges were filed, Maxwell said he was “horrified by the nature of these crimes, sickened and angry that this individual may have preyed upon our students.”

Some community members say district efforts have fallen short.

“The people at the top are taking no responsibility and are refusing to be accountable for what they did or didn't do,” said David L. Cahn, vice president of the Prince George's County Civic Federation. “The only change they are making is more aggressively punishing people. What they need to do is say, ‘We messed up. We did not put it on the front burner.'”

And while some parents said they are pleased the school system is increasing its safety measures, they also worry that the number of teachers and staff on leave is so large that it could affect the quality of education in county schools.

At the district's Robert Goddard Montessori School, Jennifer Kaleba, a mother of two, said her older child's teacher was on administrative leave in the spring, and her younger child's teacher is on leave this school year. Four of Goddard's teachers and one aide are out on leave related to allegations of abuse or neglect, school officials said.

“My hope is that safety and the effort it takes to keep kids safe does not mean education founders in the background,” she said. “We want our children to be safe, and we want our children to be educated.”

But Shirley Kirkland worries about how well employees are being trained. Many staff and educators are nervous about being falsely accused, said the president of the ACE-AFSCME Local 2250, representing almost 6,000 district support staff. “The way the culture and the climate is now, it's like a state of paranoia,” she said.

Kirkland said employees are afraid to break up fights or accept a hug from a child, fearing that they could be placed on leave.

The Head Start case comes after the arrest of Deonte Carraway, the school volunteer who allegedly created child pornography at a Glenarden elementary school and other sites. Maxwell created a task force that recommended changes to policies and safeguards as a result.

Federal findings for the Head Start program recounted how the mother of the 3-year-old who wet his pants tried to report the incident to school officials and finally called the federal agency directly.

“For weeks, nobody would help,” the mother said in an interview. “I called every number I could call.”

In findings, federal officials described the teacher's behavior as humiliating to the child and a form of emotional abuse.

Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families, which funds Head Start, said that his agency made it clear to Prince George's that federal funding could not go toward paying teachers allegedly involved in child mistreatment incidents.



Mother of slain Connecticut teen starts foundation

The Maren Sanchez Home Foundation aims to raise awareness, beginning in elementary school, about psychological and emotional control and manipulation.

by Pam Mcloughlin

MILFORD, Conn. — Days after her daughter was stabbed to death on prom day in a high school stairwell by a male student, a bereft Donna Cimarelli lay in the bed unable to sleep, when she heard her daughter say, “Mommy, rest because what we're going to do is really big.”

Cimarelli didn't know at that point how she could even live without her only child, Maren Sanchez, let alone do “something big.”

Maren was Cimarelli's greatest joy and “reason” in life – for everything she did, from earning a living at her massage therapy business, to providing a stable home and opportunities for Maren, killed April 25, 2014, at Jonathan Law High School.

But Maren held true to her word and now that “something big” has arrived.

Cimarelli, buoyed by the daughter who she said still always walks with her, recently announced the launch of the Maren Sanchez Home Foundation, a program to raise awareness beginning in elementary school about psychological and emotional control and manipulation with the hope that Maren's tragic story can save lives.

She calls it the “Maren Sanchez Home Foundation,” partly because Maren sang the song “Home” at a high school talent show and won first place. The song was brought to the world by 11th season American Idol winner Phillip Phillips.

And also because home means, security, nourishment, safety, Cimarelli said.

“We want everyone to have those feelings of security,” Cimarelli said. “There were many warning signs (in Maren's case) you don't take seriously – why would you? They're teenagers.”

Cimarelli said her daughter might be alive today had she known what to look for as Maren was pursued by her eventual killer.

Maren was the kind of girl, her mom said, who embraced everyone – gay, straight, black, white, typical, atypical. She was friends with the boy who would take her life, but he was “obsessed” with Maren, as Cimarelli would learn after that awful day when he reportedly killed her on prom day because she declined to be his date.

“If this could happen to someone like Maren who was confident, it could happen to anyone,” she said.

Maren was a free spirit who cut her own hair, threw together her own creative outfits, performed at every opportunity, volunteered at food banks, was part of the pulse at Jonathan Law High School and packed a lot of living into her short life.

“She made such an impact on so many lives. Maren accomplished a lot while she was here,” Cimarelli said.

They were friends, but Plaskon, also a junior, wanted more.

She heard after Maren's death that she had become so uncomfortable with Plaskon that Maren once hid behind a board in a classroom, telling a fellow student, “Shhhh. I just don't want to see him,” when they asked why she was hiding.

Cimarelli herself said she witnessed her daughter's angst at home involving Plaskon, asking Maren more than once upon returning home from work, “What's wrong?”

He had been threatening through text messages to kill himself, she said. On another occasion, Maren had been worried because he was outside in freezing weather without a coat on and complained he didn't have a ride home.


Many of Plaskon's actions, Cimarelli would later learn, were warning signs that are typically red flags of control and manipulation that can lead to violence.

“I wish I had asked more questions,” Cimarelli said. “You could actually save somebody's life.”

They did come to report Plaskon's behaviors to a guidance counselor five months before she was killed, but a lawsuit filed by Cimarelli's attorney against the Board of Education and the city, alleges school officials failed to follow proper procedures that would have afforded Maren more protections. Neither the board nor the city have commented on the claim because of the pending litigation. The lawsuit also names Plaskon's parents as defendants, claiming they didn't get proper treatment for their son, whose lawyer, Edward Gavin, has said he was in a state of psychosis during the attack. Gavin has said the allegation that the Plaskons had anything to do with Maren's death is “unfounded.”

The Maren Sanchez Home Foundation was unveiled by Cimarelli at the University of New Haven, where she was accompanied by Wendy Gibbons, vice chairwoman of the foundation and another foundation board member, and Cimarelli's lifelong friend, Ony Sierra, a UNH police officer.

The foundation's aim is to give exposure and education to girls to recognize the warning signs of emotional and psychological manipulation and even training to physically defend themselves.

“We want to protect and help young people – raise awareness,” Gibbons said, noting part of the mission is to educate parents on how to have a conversation with children about manipulation and control.

“We don't teach them in our schools and we don't teach it at home.”

Gibbons said she has witnessed social manipulation in her daughter's life as young as 4 years old.


Although Cimarelli puts no limits on the where the foundation will go – the hope is it will become an international force – they're starting with baby steps and right now calling upon sororities and other groups to become involved in fundraising and awareness. They are also looking for major sponsors.

Part of the mission is education in schools – the hope is to begin at the elementary level and up through college age.

Cimarelli has begun to author a series of books with a character modeled after Maren, who will be accompanied by a baby fox to represent Maren's instincts. She said the children's books are intended to teach young girls “hard lessons in soft ways.”

Also as part of the foundation's programs, physical self -defense will be taught by Mixed Martial Arts Champion Nick Newell at his Fighting Arts Academy and that will begin soon when a two-day course is offered for free to four Jonathan Law High School students chosen by Cimarelli.

Sierra, who teaches self-defense at the university, said the focus is on escaping an attacker and students are taught that nothing is guaranteed.

Sierra visited the school stairwell where Maren was killed and said it is doubtful she could have escaped if she had those skills, because she was pinned by Plaskon and a knife.

Sanchez was killed at Jonathan Law High School in the early morning hours just before school started on April 25, 2014. It was the day of the junior prom and it was reported she had turned down Plaskon's invitation to the prom. Plaskon, now 19, is serving up to 25 years in prison as part of a deal in which he pled “no contest” to the murder charge. Plaskon could be eligible for release after serving 60 percent of his sentence, which means he could be free in 13 years. State law mandates the judge and prosecutor consider the age of the youth at sentencing. Plaskon was 16 when Sanchez was killed. Sanchez's parents have complained the sentence was too lenient.


Cimarelli's foundation launch in the Bucknall Theater at UNH, attended by hundreds, began with a home film of Maren, at age 7, on a school stage singing the Louis Armstrong hit “It's a Wonderful World.”

The lyrics flow naturally and soulfully from a young Maren – her wide smile and missing teeth seemingly belying the maturity of the message that would come to define her life.

“The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people going by. I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do? They're really saying I love you.”

Next, the screen shows Maren as a teen playing the guitar and singing, “Home.”

Sierra opened the presentation and referring to Maren, said: “She was a special young woman no longer with us, but she continues to influence our lives.”

Cimarelli didn't watch the film that night because it might have made her cry, she said, but she put out a strong call to action and took the stage for a conversation with a UNH professor whose specialty is unwanted pursuit and stalking.

“The blows that came to Maren on that dreadful morning were meant to silence her and to stop her loving heart from beating, to steal her voice and her infectious joy for life.” Cimarelli said. “But I am here to tell you that that was not accomplished.”

She told them that through the foundation, Maren's voice “will be louder than it ever has been before and her heart will beat stronger than ever to help change the lives of young girls who are being psychologically , mentally and physically manipulated all over the world through my foundation.”

Cimarelli then challenged everyone in the audience to get involved, help a friend, be aware of your surroundings and peoples actions, and “to jump on board with the mission of the Maren Sanchez Home Foundation”

“I'd never change who Maren was for a million years. She was so accepting. She didn't like to hurt people's feelings,” she said. “I think you can never be nice enough to someone when they need a friend.”

But she said girls need to balance love with boundaries and assertiveness.

Sierra said that generally, a lot of red flag behaviors involving manipulation and control go unreported.



Professionals weigh in on reporting to Child Protective Services

by Timothy Chipp

Susie Striegler had a very busy month of August, and that is definitely not a good thing.

As the sexual assault nurse examiner coordinator at Hendrick Medical Center, she steers an emotional ship through the waters of some of the most disturbing cases of child abuse. It's her job and that of other Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) at Hendrick to consult with potential victims to determine the validity of any claims.

With adolescents especially, that's usually a difficult venture, at least in terms of physical evidence, she said.

"It's usually between 10 months and three years before they report," Striegler said. "That's usually the time it takes for them to report, if they report at all. And if they do, it sometimes means it could be happening to someone else they know, too. Usually, it's them seeing it happen to a brother, their mother or someone else. It takes them over the edge and they'll say something to try to stop it."

Volume — a total of 73 childhood examinations performed between January and August 2016, according to Hendrick Medical Center — isn't the only disturbing part, she said. There's also a timing mechanism to this. Striegler said in previous years, August has been a slow month because of who makes the majority of reports to Child Protective Services and law enforcement.

It's teachers, school counselors and other education-related individuals who make those reports, she said, and they really pick up once school goes into session in September and October.

Striegler said the nature of her job shapes how she looks at a calendar.

"I always hated long breaks," she said. "Because those watchful eyes are not on the kids. Our numbers definitely go up (in the fall) because those new teachers become very familiar with their students."


For teachers to be the No. 1 reporters of child abuse and neglect — not just of a sexual nature — they must first be trained. Both Abilene and Wylie ISDs provide training and refreshers each summer to new and returning educators dealing with the signs.

Wylie ISD Superintendent Joey Light said the abuse reporting training is one of four required trainings each educator must complete before school.

It is all part of Texas Family Law, which requires any professional, including teachers, to report within 48 hours any suspicions of abuse or neglect. Chapter 261, section 101 says: "If a professional has cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected or may be abused or neglected, or that a child is a victim of an offense … the professional shall make a report not later than the 48th hour after the hour the professional first suspects that the child has been or may be abused or neglected or is a victim of an offense."

If this segment of law seems familiar, it is the statute former Abilene ISD Superintendent Heath Burns, in August 2015, pleaded guilty to violating after a pair of teacher-student sex scandals between December 2014 and January 2015. Two other administrators at the time were investigated, with one cleared and the other entered into a pretrial supervision program.

For its part, Abilene ISD said it ensures every teacher is informed of this law and it's drilled into their heads before the school year begins. District spokesman Phil Ashby said there's also a video shown during summer training stressing this and other actions that are required.

Other district leaders continue to stress reporting immediately.

"Accurate and adequate reporting of potential child abuse is of paramount importance in Abilene ISD," Superintendent David Young said in an email. "Unfortunately, recent history in our community includes a couple of instances where individual employees failed to follow appropriate guidelines and practices related to the reporting of potential child abuse. These events, while tragic, spurred a rededication in the district's collective efforts to constantly educate staff and students regarding best practice related to the reporting of potential child abuse. Such efforts include the continual monitoring, evaluation, and adjustment, if necessary, of our professional practice to protect the students and staff of Abilene ISD."

Karen Clemmer is a special education counselor at Abilene ISD. Her job is to work, districtwide, with students who need special attention or face special circumstances, either through developmental or physical limitations.

In her line of work, she said she has made reports to Child Protective Services, which is done anonymously through either a special website,, or by calling a hotline at 800-252-5400.

She said those reports, though, are simply alerts. The teachers and counselors aren't expected to do any investigative work getting to the bottom of any situation they encounter. They simply listen to the student and make their reports.

It's up to CPS and law enforcement what happens next, she said.

"We can't just assume anything," she said. "Things sometimes happen. You have to be aware of the kids and notice if anything is out of the ordinary. But we don't do any of the digging. If the student makes an outcry to us, we need to report it."


A team of seven SANE nurses, with two more in training, is an abnormally high number for a city the size of Abilene, Striegler said. They hold jobs in other fields, too, and serve in child and adult abuse cases only when called upon. Striegler herself is a nurse in the women and children's department of Hendrick full-time.

In fiscal year 2015, according to data released by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Taylor County had a confirmed 76 cases of sexual abuse of children. While it amounts to just 8.3 percent of all confirmed cases of abuse and neglect in the county that year, according to the data, Striegler knows that figure is definitely high.

Going beyond just Taylor County — and beyond sexual abuse — the neglect and abuse issues of Abilene have begun to trickle into the national spotlight. Striegler said she went to a conference in Florida and heard all about "the small town in Texas" that's got really high numbers. She said it's time that stops.

"We cannot raise enough awareness," she said. "We need to blow this out of the water. I want commercials, billboards, I want it in churches. I want the silence broken in Abilene. I don't want it to be the topic at child abuse conferences. I'm never going to be satisfied with that."

There's also the matter of people in the area surrounding Abilene, she said. They're falling through the cracks, either because they can't be reached quickly enough or there's not enough resources to make sure they know they can report or how.

Those people need someone there for them, too, she said. They matter just as much as the woman in Abilene or Dallas or Houston.

"Abilene's a great town," Striegler said. "But what about those who live in areas with such a small pool (of resources) to draw from? We're losing them in the neighboring communities. And just because they happen to be in small towns doesn't mean their safety is any less significant."


Dr. Brad Barham, a pediatrician at Hendrick Medical Center, knows the rules. He's allowed to keep his reporting private, telling no one about the call he made or the online form he completed telling CPS about a potential situation.

Like teachers and counselors in schools, doctors like Barham are required to report under the same Texas Family Code statute. He makes a lot of reports.

And he lets the families know, he said.

"I'm not required to tell, but I will," Barham said. "I let the family know what I am doing and why. And just because I'm making a report, it doesn't mean it's abuse."

What happens when he's telling them depends on the family and the situation they're in, he said. Sometimes, it's not abuse or neglect but rather a lack of resources or education.

A family may be diluting formula for a baby's bottle simply because they can't afford enough for an entire week's feeding. Sometimes, bruising may occur in situations where the parents aren't even aware, like at day care.

But then there's the times when families get defensive, he said. Those get a little more suspicious, he said, but that's for the investigators to figure out. He's in the business of helping children, he said.

"My job isn't to make families happy," he said. "I'm doing what I'm doing to advocate for children. If there's anything suspicious, I need to do what I can to advocate for the child. Talking to the families may reveal some real needs that can be addressed."

A major red flag, Barham said, is when there's bruising on the ears. He said he also checks in children's mouths. The point is to narrow down the cause. The most frequent reason for bruising, in a physical abuse-like situation, is actually development. Is a child learning to walk and falling over? They're going to just naturally be bruised, he said.

Some of the signs they see are inconsistent with development.

"Sometimes there's a reason, if the story makes sense," Barham said. We sometimes see a major trauma and story is that the child fell. But the bruising and the story are inconsistent. One warning sign is if the child got a serious injury but the family didn't come in for 24 or 48 hours. Another thing we're trained to watch for is if a child has been abused, they'll come in and pass the blame. 'My brother did this,' or something like that.

"Anything is possible, but at the same time it's very unlikely a sibling will inflict some major trauma."



Cracking down on online sex-trafficking

Lawyer: CEO will fight charges

by Juan A. Lozano

HOUSTON — Handcuffed and dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, the chief executive of an internet site authorities accuse of being "a hub for the illegal sex trade" waived extradition to California on Friday, and his attorney vowed to fight the "trumped up" sex trafficking and money laundering charges he faces. CEO Carl Ferrer was arrested Thursday and his Dallas headquarters was raided after officials in California accused him of felony pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping. Under California law, felony pimping is defined as making money off prostitutes or soliciting customers for prostitution. Texas' attorney general's office added money-laundering to the list of alleged crimes.

Ferrer, 55, was arrested after arriving in Houston on a flight from Amsterdam. is a Dutch-owned limited liability corporation. Ferrer was expected to be flown to California later Friday.

Ferrer, wearing glasses, said little during his brief court hearing, acknowledging he was waiving extradition.

"Mr. Ferrer looks forward to vigorously fighting these charges that we believe are trumped up," Ferrer's attorney, Philip Hilder, said after Friday's extradition hearing. Hilder declined to comment on further questions related to the charges.

Authorities also issued arrest warrants for Backpage's controlling shareholders: Michael Lacey, 68, and James Larkin, 67. They were not yet in custody as of Friday, said Kristin Ford, spokeswoman for the California attorney general.

Lacey and Larkin are former owners of the Village Voice and the Phoenix New Times. It wasn't clear whether they had attorneys who could comment. An attorney who previously represented the two men, Michael Manning, said he was not representing them in this case.

Cindy McCain, the wife of Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain and who has been leading efforts for several years to fight human trafficking, called Ferrer's arrest a "huge game-changer" in the efforts to crack down on the trafficking of young girls and boys for sex.

Texas state agents raided Backpage's Dallas offices following allegations that adult and child sex-trafficking victims were forced into prostitution through escort ads posted on the site. advertises a wide range of services, but California officials said the site collects fees from users who use coded language and nearly nude photos to offer sex for money. A California court affidavit says Ferrer expanded 's share of online sex marketing by creating affiliated sites including and with related content.

The ad portal received more than 90 percent of its revenue from the adult escort ad portion of its classified advertising business, according to a search warrant affidavit filed by the Texas attorney general's office. In California, that amounted to about $50 million between January 2013 and May 2015, or between $1.5 million and $2.5 million a month, it said.

Ferrer was told directly by law enforcement officials about prostitution on the site "and is regularly copied on the hundreds of law enforcement subpoenas and requests that receives each year related to prostitution and sex trafficking of both adults and minors on the website," according to the affidavit.

The California complaint alleges that rather than merely being a conduit for the ads, Ferrer "developed and oversaw a process to screen escort ads on" By charging for the ads, the state charges that he and his co-defendants violated the state's law against pimping, defined as making money off prostitutes or soliciting customers for prostitution.

California authorities said the state's three-year investigation found many of the ads involve victims of sex trafficking including children under the age of 18.

One of the advertisers, identified only as 15-year-old "E.S.," ''was forced into prostitution at the age of 13 by her pimp," according to an affidavit filed with the complaint. She used other online advertising services until they were shut down, the court filing says, when she turned to

The criminal charges, like a lawsuit pending in Washington state, skirt free-speech and federal internet immunity protections by alleging that Backpage profited by directly participating in sex trafficking, including of minors.

In a statement Friday, Liz McDougall, general counsel, called the raid and Ferrer's arrest "an election-year stunt, not a good-faith action by law enforcement."

She said prostitution ads violate's policies against illegal content, that the company blocked the posting of ads using terms that violated those policies and removed ads when contacted by law enforcement

"The actions of the California and Texas Attorneys General are flatly illegal. They ignore the holdings of numerous federal courts that the First Amendment protects the ads on," McDougall said. She also contended that they also violate the U.S. Communications Decency Act "pre-empting state actions such as this one and immunizing web hosts of third-party created content."

However, the criminal complaint and affidavit, like the Washington lawsuit filed on behalf of three underage girls, contend that Backstage actively coached advertisers in how to write advertisements in ways that would stay within legal limits while still encouraging commercial sex.

Backpage has argued that it merely publishes advertisements that are created and provided by others, but the Washington Supreme Court ruled last year that the company didn't just host the ads, but helped develop the content.

The girls' civil attorney, Erik Bauer, said at the time that the three were in the seventh and ninth grades when adult professional sex traffickers sold them as prostitutes on Backpage.

Ford, the spokeswoman for the California attorney general, declined comment on the company's statement. A message to a spokeswoman for the Texas attorney general drew no response.

California officials said their investigation was prompted in part by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which reported 2,900 instances to California authorities since 2012 when suspected child sex trafficking occurred using

The charges against Ferrer could bring him nearly 22 years in prison. Larkin and Lacey face a maximum of six years.

A U.S. Senate subcommittee that has investigated the company estimated its annual revenue at more than $150 million.



Amendment 2: Help for sex trafficking victims has broad political support

by Carolyn Crist

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story uses pseudonyms for victims of sex trafficking.

Bailey Johnson was sold into sex trafficking as a prostitute in eight states before she found help in Georgia.

At age 17, she was rescued by a police officer who noticed signs of sexual exploitation during a routine traffic stop. She was directed by a juvenile court to enroll in a sex trafficking recovery program to help the emotional, physical, mental and social trauma she experienced.

It was the first recovery program for her, and she planned to run away from it as soon as possible. She had been in too many situations in her life in which she was controlled by other people.

“But something was different” about this environment, she recalls, and it turned her life around. She entered the program with a ninth-grade education level and completed her diploma within a year.

It's known as Wellspring Living, a residential program in Atlanta that helps teenage girls who were trafficked into the sex trade as minors in the United States. The program offers therapy, education and life skill classes that focus on holistic change for girls to help them set personal goals and define a healthy future.

“The staff really believed in my potential,” she says. “They worked with me on my education and helped me to learn things I thought I could never learn.”

As a Wellspring Living resident, Johnson not only earned her high school diploma, but now plans to enroll in college. She wants to study counseling and build a career around helping girls who have been involved in sex trafficking as she was.

“I never imagined that I would live past the age of 18, much less finish high school,” she says. “I'm now excited about running toward opportunities instead of running away.”

Programs such as those offered at Wellspring Living have appeared in the last decade to help sex trafficking victims in the state, but advocates say many are underfunded or offer only a handful of slots when many more people would like to participate.

That could change in Georgia based on a measure on the ballot in November.

Voters will be asked to approve a proposed constitutional amendment that would fund the newly created Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund. It would be funded through taxes on adult entertainment businesses and new fines imposed on people involved in prostitution, trafficking and exploitation of children.

The funds would pay for rehabilitative and social services at Georgia programs that help victims of sexual exploitation.

“Right now the only funding available from the state is for shelter, not restorative services such as therapy, education or life skills,” says Mary Frances Bowley, Wellspring's executive director. Wellspring, founded in 2001, funds 15 girls at $250,000 per year.

“The reality is that there are so many girls in need,” she says. “It has been great to build this program, but we need sustainability and a way to provide support beyond what we have now.”

What the amendment would do

As a prominent city in the Southeast and a center of international transportation, Atlanta is a hub for trafficking in the United States. Between 2003 and 2007, Atlanta had one of the largest sex trade operations, according to a 2014 study by the Urban Institute, which estimated up to $290 million for 2007 alone.

If approved by voters, Amendment 2 will implement Senate Resolution 7, which allows the Georgia Legislature to levy new penalties on sex criminals and put them toward the new fund. The amendment would alter part of the state's constitution that explains how the General Assembly handles appropriations and taxes.

“We've been working on this issue since 2008, and this fund would culminate all of the work we've done so far on sex trafficking in general and child sex trafficking in particular,” says State Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), who sponsored Resolution 7.

“There is money in the budget for child victim services, but this will establish a fund in perpetuity that can't be taken away by future legislators,” she says.

The initial legislation started with Senate Bill 8, also known as Rachel's Law, which was introduced in the Legislature in December 2014 and signed into law in May 2015. Before passage, the bill faced some opposition in the legislature.

The opponents, mostly libertarian-leaning Republicans, objected to charging law-abiding strip clubs, the Macon Telegraph reported. They asked why strip clubs should be targeted and not other venues that sex traffickers might use: massage parlors, truck stops, hotels and, most especially, websites.

“I think it's appropriate that the adult entertainment industry will contribute to the remedy of the problem by funding therapeutic services,” Unterman tells Georgia Health News. “We didn't think about our children being trafficked 10 years ago, and imagine what this can do for children 10 years from now.”

Ultimately, the bill passed and created the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund but needed a constitutional amendment to create the funding mechanism.

The fund would draw $1 million to $2 million annually from sex crime penalties in Georgia, Unterman estimates, from new $2,500 fines for those convicted of human trafficking crimes and new $5,000 annual fees (or 1 percent of annual revenue, whichever is greater) on strip clubs and adult businesses. State senators and representatives such as Rep. Andy Welch (R-McDonough) and Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta) have donated from their campaigns this year to promote advertising and branding in support of Amendment 2.

Among the four proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot, including state intervention in failing public schools and revenue generated from fireworks sales, Amendment 2 seems to have bipartisan support among politicians. It also has drawn support from the United Way of Greater Atlanta, the Junior League of Atlanta, the International Human Trafficking Institute and the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians.

“The bipartisan support has been remarkable because that's hard to get,” Unterman said. “People have jumped at the chance to support this during a presidential campaign that's so polarized.”

Future focus on the issue

In recent years, the conversation about sex trafficking — particularly commercial sex exploitation of minors — has grown in the state. The Governor's Office for Children and Families in 2009 and the Governor's Commission on Domestic Violence in 2010 began investigating the problem to create potential solutions outside of state agencies such as the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice and the Division of Family and Children Services, where child prostitution had previously been handled.

“When we began delving into research in 2008, we didn't find many formal studies, but we found from talking to people that it was really becoming a problem,” says Heather Stockdale, executive director of Georgia Cares, the statewide nonprofit created to use public-private partnerships to help victims of child sex trafficking and exploitation.

Stockdale says she expected that Georgia Cares would serve 10 victims during its first year of operation, but instead, 100 children were referred from homeless shelters and doctors around the state.

“We realized it was bigger than we thought and (we) needed to look at a longer-term solution,” she says. “Amendment 2 is a natural next step in getting the public engaged and putting money into that commitment in a way that doesn't burden taxpayers.”

Last year, Georgia Cares served 469 minors and expects to see more than 500 this year. Currently, the residential program offers 31 beds across the state. Additional funding could sponsor new living facilities in Georgia.

“We have more victims in metro Atlanta and more services, but what about the kids in other parts of the state?” Stockdale says. “Those in Savannah, Coffee County and Bulloch County should have the same access to the same quality of help.”

In addition to residential programs, new funding could sponsor independent living services for women over age 18 who were trafficked as minors.

Like Johnson, Sarah Anderson was introduced to Wellspring Living's programs and didn't think at first that she would like it or that she would stay. Eventually, however, she found resources that helped.

“I felt lost, broken, hopeless and didn't think I could make it,” she says. “I had no sense of who I was or how I could go on.”

At age 19, Anderson joined the Empowered Living Academy, a Wellspring Living and YMCA-sponsored program for women over age 18 who have experienced sexual exploitation. Held at three Atlanta YMCA campuses, the program focuses on high school diploma completion, personal development, life skills and career readiness. Sarah feels that she now can say “no” to pressures in life and express her feelings in a nonviolent way.

“I now have a sense of who I am,” she said. “I feel like there is hope. I have a voice, and I matter.”


US Dept of Justice - California


Riverside County Man Indicted on Federal Charges of Producing Child Pornography by Filming Sexual Molestation of Young Boy

RIVERSIDE, California – A federal grand jury has indicted a San Jacinto man on charges of producing child pornography for allegedly making videos while he sexually molested a 5-year-old boy.

Steve Alonso Marquez, 31, of San Jacinto, was named in a four-count indictment returned by the grand jury Wednesday. The indictment alleges two counts of producing child pornography videos that were distributed to other people.

In addition to the production of child pornography, Marquez is charged with possessing child pornography at his residence and using the Internet in an attempt to have illegal sexual conduct with a young girl.

Marquez was arrested in the Southern District of California on August 12 after he arrived at a hotel in Fallbrook, allegedly for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with the girl. Marquez was subsequently indicted by a federal grand jury in San Diego, where he is currently being held without bond.

The child pornography charges contained in this week's indictment stem from a search warrant executed at Marquez's residence on August 23. At that time, FBI agents recovered digital devices that contained the alleged child pornography, which included videos Marquez is charged with making while molesting a young boy at a location investigators believe is in Hemet.

“This defendant is charged with filming and sharing heinous acts against a child,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This type of behavior has unimaginable impacts on young victims, and the distribution of images documenting child abuse only seeks to inspire additional abuse of children. This criminal behavior cannot be tolerated and will be subject to the most aggressive prosecution available.”

“The disturbing allegations against Mr. Marquez remind us of the predatory threat targeting the most vulnerable members of our society and the need to remain vigilant,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office.  “The federal government takes the production of child pornography very seriously. In addition to the horrific abuse suffered by the minor victim, the further distribution of images leads to the continued suffering of that victim and supplies the global demand for such images.” 

The indictment charges Marquez with two counts of production of child pornography, possession of child pornography, and attempted enticement of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity. Each count of producing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum penalty of 30 years. The charge of possessing child pornography carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison because the images allegedly depict children under the age of 12. The charge of attempted enticement of a minor carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum possible penalty of life without parole. Therefore, if he is convicted of all four counts in the indictment, Marquez would face a sentence of at least 40 years in federal prison and could be sentence to as much as life in federal prison.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.

The case against Marquez is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Teresa K.B. Beecham.

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



Disabled child in coma after being set on fire, one arrest made

by Sharon Ko

KERRVILLE -- A disabled child's parents say that their son was intentionally set on fire. Now, one child is in custody facing serious charges.

The open field near Wallace Street in Kerrville is where Tanya Casper says that her nephew was lured, where one boy doused him with gasoline and another set him on fire.

The 10-year-old named Kayden is still in a medically induced coma as of Wednesday night.

“He wore a hearing aid, talked with a lisp… I mean, he was challenged from the get-go.” She said. “And for him to face this new challenge, it's going to be overwhelming.

The family is calling for the arrest of the boys who, they say, planned the attack.

“The kids are letting everyone know this was planned,” she noted.

According to the Kerrville Fire Marshall's Office, one child was taken into custody and charged with first-degree arson. Fire Chief Dannie Smith did not want to comment on the intent or exactly who was involved.

“I can't confirm or deny any details of the investigation at this point because I don't have all the facts presented to me yet,” Chief Smith said.

Still, the family calls Kayden the victim and want to see justice prevail.

The Fire Marshal's Office said more details will be released on Thursday during a press conference.

Kayden's family has created two fundraiser pages to help with medical costs: and



How do other states handle statutes of limitations in sex-abuse cases?

by Kathleen E. Carey

As the rigorous debate continues in Pennsylvania surrounding the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse, other states across the country have likewise attempted to tackle the issue.

And while the outcomes have varied, some see similarities to events here.

In Pennsylvania, legislators have been mulling House Bill 1947, a measure extending or eliminating the criminal and civil statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse. It passed overwhelmingly in the House in April. The state Senate amended it, sending it back to the House for consideration. The Senate removed the provision that would allow adult survivors who are not yet 50 years old to pursue legal recourse against their abusers in decades-old cases.

Changing the statute of limitations is vigorously opposed by the Catholic Church, with Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput contending it would have a disastrous fiscal toll on the archdiocese.

In New Jersey, state Sen. Joe Vitale, D-19, of Woodbridge, has worked on behalf of victim justice whether through the elimination of the charitable immunity status or currently through his efforts to expand the civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse survivors through their 50s.

At a rally at the state capitol in Trenton for statute of limitation reform, Vitale said in New Jersey most of the resistance against the legislation has been from the Catholic Conference, with some other religious organizations voicing concerns as well.

“They say going forward, we know that we have to do a better job of protecting children,” he said. “They have these false arguments that these settlements would bankrupt the church or they would be unable to do their charity work and none of that is true.

“If they were a religious institution – or a public institution, if they were a part of the abuse, then they should be held accountable, period,” Vitale said.

During a recent walk from Pennsylvania to Trenton in support of statute of limitation expansion in these cases, Bob Hoatson, co-founder and president of Road to Recovery, talked about the issue.

“If one of these three went in favor of us,” he said of Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, “we think the whole country would go.”

Hoatson then zeroed in on the fight in New Jersey.

“The problem with the law in New Jersey is we won't hear about the people who were abused in ‘96 and 2000 and 2002 ‘til 30 years from now when they're able to deal with it and they come forward,” he said. “If there's no statute for murder of the body, why is there statute for murder of the soul? Murder is murder so get rid of it.”

Mitchell Garabedian, whose work with abuse survivors was highlighted in the Academy Award-winning film “Spotlight,” said Massachusetts changed its civil provisions just last year to allow victims to file suit against an individual or institution until they are 53 years old, or seven years from when they make the connection between the harm and the conduct.

“Unfortunately, it has left many victims who did not fit in the statute without a remedy,” he said. “It has helped many other victims. It's a bittersweet amendment.”

He said it took five years to pass, in part, in his opinion, because of those opposing it, especially the Catholic Church.

“Victims need to be validated,” Garabedian said. “The way for many to be validated is for victims to gain access to the courts for justice.”

He pointed to murder cases, where no statutes exist. “Due process works fine,” he said.

The attorney posed a question: “If institutions have nothing to hide, why are they opposing the statute of limitations to be extended?”

In Pennsylvania, Amy Hill, director of communications for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, said measures to allow past victims the opportunity for civil litigation would be cost prohibitive.

“Catholic parishioners today cannot afford the kind of massive financial settlements that would be demanded by plaintiffs' attorneys should a retroactive measure be opened,” she said. “That is who will be punished; and that is why the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is advocating for fair reform.”

She pointed to Delaware as an example where two schools, one in an inner-city neighborhood, closed following the passage of similar legislation there. In addition cuts were also made in that diocese in its Catholic Charities and cemeteries, and 10 percent of diocesan employees were laid off.

She said whatever the outcome of HB1947, the church would continue to provide for childhood sexual abuse victims, such as the more than $18 million spent in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for training all adults who work with children, educating children in recognizing and reporting inappropriate behavior and supporting victims by paying for therapy, medications, travel and child care issues related to that care and more.

“No matter the final resolution with the legislation, the Catholic Church will keep its sincere commitment to the emotional and spiritual well-being of individuals who have been impacted by the crime of childhood sexual abuse, no matter how long ago the crime was committed,” Hill said.

The costs of these cases vary greatly.

At the New Jersey rally, victim Annette Nestler showed a release from four years ago, which she chose not to sign, in which she was offered $20,000.

“This, this is a joke,” she said. “And this is a standard amount – $20,000. And, I have a lifetime, a lifetime of damages.”

In Delaware, the numbers were different.

Tom Neuberger, whose firm has represented abuse victims for years, said his cases during the window that was established after the law was changed in 2007 netted $110 million, or about $750,000 per survivor.

Neuberger represented victim John Vai in Delaware, where the Diocese of Wilmington filed for bankruptcy. The attorney said the assets of the diocese were determined to be $1.7 billion and at the end of the proceedings, the amount they owed was $110 million.

“That's less than 2 percent of their assets,” he said, adding that the Diocese of Wilmington is about a third to a fifth the size of Philadelphia's.

Each year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has an audit of American dioceses related to this issue called the Annual Report on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

In the 2015 version, it stated that $87 million had been distributed for childhood sexual abuse settlements; $8.7 million had been allocated for therapy for victims; $11 million was directed for support for offenders; $30 million went to attorneys' fees and $3.8 million was absorbed in other costs.

The number of settlements was unclear.

During her testimony in June at a state Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, University of Pennsylvania constitutional law expert Marci A. Hamilton looked at California's experience.

There, she said, with an overall population of 35 million, 1,150 lawsuits were filed when a civil window opened and five of those were determined to have false claims. She added that the case also disclosed 300 predators, formerly unknown, and that church officials said about half of them were dead.

Some, such as Neuberger and former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham, say the Catholic Church has a pattern when faced with potential legislation of this type.

“For every year that they delay the enactment of legislation that would allow victims an opportunity to go to court, so many victims die off,” Neuberger said. “The tactic is delay, delay, delay.”

Then, he said he could predict what would occur if the retroactivity portion of HB1947 passed.

“They will pull the trigger and change the playing field for the fight for justice and access to their assets,” Neuberger said. “They will pull the bankruptcy trigger a year into it in Pennsylvania. It's part of their strategy.”

Neuberger said the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is no exception.

“Chaput, he's using the whole nationwide playbook to preserve the church's assets and keep the dirty laundry from coming out,” the attorney said. “By portraying themselves as the victims, (they think) that somehow people will forget the horrors that the survivors have experienced.”

Before being assigned to Philadelphia, Chaput was involved in opposing a similar effort in Colorado to expand the statute of limitations.

Abraham was responsible for empaneling a 2005 grand jury looking into allegations of childhood sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. That panel, along with another in 2011, found more than 60 priests in the diocese with evidence of abusing dozens of victims, including many with ties to Delaware County.

“The Catholic Church is going to protect their priests,” Abraham said. “They care about their institution. They care about the corporation. They don't care about people. It's the same M-O.

“Their approach is totally predictable,” she said.

In the summer, the former prosecutor said, “It is a disgrace that the church at this late date is still covering up sexual abuse which has now gone exposed.”

Ken Gavin, director of communications for the archdiocese, said the church did not oppose elements of HB1947 related to the lifting of the criminal statute of limitations for sexual abuse of minors.

He said church officials said they urge anyone who has been abused to come forward and report that to law enforcement.

“Justice,” he said, “comes from the justice system, but it does not necessarily lead to healing.”

Gavin added, “Archbishop Chaput has a longstanding commitment to victims of clergy sexual abuse and assisting them on their path to healing. He has met with several victims personally over the years as archbishop of Denver and as archbishop of Philadelphia. That is something he will continue to do.

“The substantial proof of his commitment and that of the church to promoting true healing for survivors and preventing abuse in the first place can be seen in the financial resources that had been committed to those endeavors,” Gavin said.

He said the archdiocese has spent more than $13 million since 2002 to provide victim assistance to individuals and families, from counseling with a therapist of the individual's choice, medications related to mental health treatment, psychiatric services, travel and childcare related to therapy sessions and vocational assistance.

“The Victim Assistance Program offered by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is administered by professionals whose purpose is to provide support for adult survivors, child victims and their family members who have been affected by sexual abuse,” he said. “The focus is on healing through outpatient counseling.”

Gavin said the archdiocese does not mandate the types of services a person receives, but follows the guidelines set forth by the survivor's counselor and that services are provided without conducting investigative pre-screenings.

“Assistance is provided for survivors and their families no matter when the abuse occurred and the archdiocese doesn't put a limitation on how long the assistance will be offered,” he said. “Efforts on the part of the archdiocese to assist survivors far exceed what is being done by any other private or public institution.”

When asked if there was a unified strategy in the American church's response to statute of limitations, Judy Keane, director of public affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, offered the annual report and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

A June letter from National Review Board Chairman Francesco C. Cesareo speaks of the church's work with the issue.

“The bishops need to be acknowledged for keeping the protection of children and young people in the forefront of their leadership by continually enhancing their efforts to comply with the charter,” he wrote. “There also continues to be a strong commitment to the victims of sexual abuse on the part of the bishops as they offer outreach and foster reconciliation with the survivors.”

He wrote that the bishops remained diligent in removing clergy from ministry whenever a credible allegation has been brought forward.

In the report evaluating 190 dioceses in the United States, 26 allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy were reported in the year. Of those, seven were substantiated.

Some say church officials don't want the cases to go to court for fear of information being unearthed.

John Salveson of the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse said the Catholic Church spent $2 million to block efforts to have the legislation passed to avoid going to court.

Hill, of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, did not respond when asked how much has been spent on the effort.

Boston victim Phil Saviano said the discovery portion of the trial process is important.

“Statute of limitations reform is a pathway to justice for victims,” he said. “It's also a way to keep children safe because … pedophiles have a very, very long career, so to speak. Someone who molested a child in his 20s is very likely still interested in targeting children in his 60s and 70s.”

He told about his own trial.

“I learned the way to get access at the records, and therefore the truth, was to file a civil suit,” Saviano said. “As I went through discovery, I learned that over the course of (my perpetrator's) career, there were seven bishops in three states that knew he was a child molester … If it was not for my ability to file that civil suit, all this information would not have been exposed.”

The Rev. James Connell, a Roman Catholic priest and canon lawyer in Wisconsin, said Pope John Paul II changed the statute of limitations, allowing for each case — no matter the age — to be determined on an individual basis.

“That's part of the problem with the bishops,” he said. “They just do not want total openness and transparency.”

He said the church has its own legal system, called canon law, with structures similar to a district attorney's office. Allegations of merit are required to be sent to the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith in Rome to determine outcome.

“We have no way to review if the cases that should be sent to Rome are actually sent to Rome,” he said. “By church law, they are required to send those. If they are violating the laws, the bishops can be punished.”

The priest added disclosure would help build trust.

“The Catholic bishops over the years have given the appearance to keep the lid on as long as they can,” Connell said. “Common sense simply says tell the truth, get it out in the open.”

In the meantime, victim advocates continue their work.

“Most of the resistance comes from the institutions and whether it's the churches or the Boy Scouts or some other organizations, who believe that this will … put them out of business, that this will cause them to become bankrupt, that they'll no longer be able to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and give shelter to the homeless,” Vitale said. “None of that is true.

“What is true,” he continued, “is that victims of child sex abuse who are now adults deserve justice and deserve their day in court and deserve to hold their abusers accountable, whether those abusers are individuals or the institution that was culpable in the abuse and allowed it to happen. They saw it happening and they did nothing. They saw it happening and they moved those abusers to another place where they continued to abuse.”

He saw allowing for civil litigation in these cases would have a deterrent effect.

“By giving adults who were abused as children justice, you're giving justice to young people and really forces those institutions to pay attention to the children that are under their care,” he said.

In front of the New Jersey capitol, the senator explained the moment as he saw it.

“Child abuse may never stop,” he said. “It may have been happening since the beginning of time but we have an obligation to make sure that children are protected as much as possible. This is one of the most important moral pieces of legislation that I've ever been involved in because it goes to the heart of what it means to be a human being.”



Surviving child abuse in Northumberland County

October is child abuse prevention month

by Todd McEwen

NORTHUMBERLAND — Some of Laurie Hoover's most vivid memories are the ones she's worked hardest to forget since childhood.

She remembers the bruises, black eyes and busted lips.

She remembers being called “ugly” or told she “looked like a boy,” and that she “would never amount to anything.”

She remembers the smell of the man who sexually assaulted her when she was seven.

“I could smell sweat, cigarettes and whiskey,” she recalled to Northumberland News. “I grew to expect the abuse.

“Many times, I wouldn't even cry.”

She escaped her low-income housing unit in Kingston three days after graduating high school and never looked back; escaping her demons, however, wasn't as easy.

“My recovery is ongoing,” she said.

As a result of her childhood, trauma lingered and seeped into her adult life, leading to alcohol abuse, an anxiety disorder, severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Her abuse was her best-kept secret for years, until she penned a self-published novel detailing her journey from victim to survivor. Through her writing, Hoover said her healing was accelerated.

“I sought counselling after my marriage failed as I had enormous difficulty relating to men,” she said. “I also saw a psychiatrist. None of it helped much at all until I wrote my story.”

That's why it's so important for recovery to start at a young age, says Karyn Kennedy, president and CEO of Boost Child Youth and Advocacy Centre in Toronto. However, she knows it can be a difficult task for children to break their silence about unspeakable acts, especially if the abuse is coming from someone they know or trust.

According to Boost, more than 90 per cent of abused children know their abusers, and never tell. The centre has conducted 780 child abuse investigations since opening in 1981.

“For a young child to disclose abuse, it's courageous,” Kennedy said. “It's a big deal for a child to forward and tell somebody.”

Kennedy, also the chairwoman of Green Wood Coalition in Port Hope, has seen firsthand how childhood trauma can translate into homelessness, addiction and an inability to form healthy relationships as survivors' daily lives become a daily struggle.

“For kids without treatment, (everyday) is like walking through a mine field,” she said.

Kennedy recalls counselling a woman who was abused by a man who wore plaid shirts. When the woman saw a patterned shirt in public, it would trigger her PTSD.

“If you're not able to make sense of those reactions, and you don't know why it's happening, you begin to think you're crazy,” Kennedy said.

That's when a lot of survivors who don't seek treatment or know how to handle their situation develop an addiction, she said.

“We see a lot of it with adolescent girls who cut themselves or take overdoses, and are doing what they do without understanding the underlying trauma.”

Ideally, families need to encourage and support one another to seek help and treatment, she said.

“It's often the whole family that needs that whole support.”

With most children likely to stay silent, Kennedy says it's the parents', guardians', teachers' and other adults' responsibility to pay attention and recognize hints or signs of abuse.

“When kids disclose, they give a little bit of information, and see what your reaction is,” she said.

For example, if a child were to say ‘I don't like when grandpa tickles me or makes me kiss him', and the parents were to disregard it, the child could assume it's wrong to talk about it and may never mention it again, she said.

If the relationship between parent and child is strong enough to disclose enough information to pursue criminal charges, services like Boost are available to assist children and families through the difficult and often gut-wrenching court process.

“The process can take a few years,” Kennedy said, and requires the survivor to re-tell their version of events time and time again.

Every child is going to recover and respond to the legal process differently, depending on the relationship with the offender, the support of the family, and the severity and length of the abuse.

“All of those things make a difference,” Kennedy said.

From children's perspective, they just want the abuse to stop, she said. Children don't understand the legal process or the ramifications of the charges.

“They don't realize their world is about to go crazy,” Kennedy said, adding some children are moved to foster care and taken from their home.

“They just want the abuse to end ... it's just layer after layer of trauma,”

Kennedy recalled working with two teenage girls who were abused by their father. They informed their mother, who fortunately believed and supported them.

“Those kids have a better likelihood of recovering from that,” Kennedy said.

In recent years, the use of trained, docile, therapy dogs has increased in courtrooms and legal proceedings to assist children in recounting horrific events in a court room, police station or social agency.

“Therapy dogs give children something to focus on that's not a person,” Kennedy said. “Just being able to pet a dog can calm them down, it decreases their heart rate and lessens stress.”

Kennedy said Boost has applied to use therapy dogs in court rooms in western Ontario and hopes to see it a reality by spring.

In Hoover's case, she never pursued criminal charges. Instead, she's began work on a second novel detailing her recovery. Since starting, she's developed a friendship with novelist Cea Sunrise Person who wrote the bestseller ‘North of Normal'.

“Her experience is very much like my own, and she has been an amazing inspiration to me,” she said. “We both believe that sharing these stories of resilience creates much needed hope, especially for survivors; a way to create human connections and inspire empathy in others.”

For services in Northumberland County, agencies such as Highland Shores Children's Aid (1-800-267-0570), Cornerstone Family Violence Prevention Centre (1-800-263-3757) and Green Wood Coalition (905-885-8700) offer assistance for families and survivors. Local police agencies, including Cobourg Police Service (905-372-2243), Port Hope Police Service (905-885-8123) and Northumberland OPP (905-372-5421), are also ready to take your call.


Here are some of the most common signs of abuse, according to Highland Shores Children's Aid.


• Pale, unkempt, frequent absences from school, dressed inappropriately for weather, forgets lunch, poor hygiene, unattended medical needs (ie. needs glasses, dental work)

Physical Abuse

• Cannot recall how injuries occurred, wary of adults, flinches unexpectedly, vacant stare, seeks affection, extremely compliant or eager to please, injuries inconsistent with explanation

Emotional Abuse

• Depression, withdrawn or aggressive, too well mannered or clean, extreme attention seeking, bed wetting that is non-medical, frequent headaches or nausea

Sexual Abuse

• Age-inappropriate play of sexual nature with self or others, sexual drawings, unusual sexual knowledge, itching of genital area, torn underwear or seductive behaviour


"The System Abuses Us by Locking Us Up Forever": Aging Survivors Behind Bars

by Victoria Law

On October 6, 2016, 15-year-old Bresha Meadows will appear in an Ohio family court for the death of her abusive father. Meadows had spent a lifetime watching her father hit, kick, shove and control her mother. If her mother tried to leave, her father often threatened that he would kill her and their three children.

Meadows had run away twice; each time, police returned her to her parents. On July 28, 2016, using the gun her father often used to threaten his family, the 14-year-old shot him as he slept. She was arrested and is now facing charges of aggravated murder. She spent her 15th birthday in detention. That may not be her only birthday behind bars: The Trumbull County prosecutor has not yet said whether he will charge her in juvenile court or attempt to move her case to adult criminal court. If she is tried and convicted in adult court, she faces life in prison.

Bresha Meadows is only 15 years old. Her family and supporters around the country are fervently hoping that charges against her will be dropped, allowing her to rejoin her family rather than spend the rest of her life in prison. But what about the countless domestic violence survivors sentenced to lengthy (or life) sentences? What happens as they age behind bars?

Continued Denial of Parole for Domestic Violence Survivors

Another domestic violence survivor who goes by the name "Sissy" spent 11 years in a relationship with a man who shoved her, hit her, chased her, cut her with a knife and even pulled a gun on her. Despite the cycle of violence and apologies, she was still shocked the night he jumped across the coffee table, wrapped his hands around her neck and began to choke her. When he let go, she grabbed his gun and ran out of their apartment. He chased her down the building corridor.

"I was not trying to shoot him," Sissy, who asked that only her nickname be used to protect the privacy of both families, explained in a letter from prison, "but the gun just started going off and wouldn't stop. It was like fireworks." Panicking, she dropped the gun and ran. "I never knew that he was in the range of the gunfire. It's like I never saw him, I never knew he got hit. As far as I knew, he was still after me." She turned herself in and, because of the numerous police reports documenting her partner's abuse, was initially told that nothing would happen. Several days later, however, she was arrested and eventually sentenced to 50 years in an Alabama prison. That was in 2002; Sissy was 48 years old.

In 2014, Sissy turned 60. Instead of planning a birthday celebration with loved ones, she spent the months leading to her birthday fighting for false teeth. The 62-year-old can finally chew food, but encountered another setback -- the parole board denied her application.

Sissy is one of approximately 368,000 prisoners over the age of 50, which is considered elderly, given that people in prison age more rapidly than their counterparts in the free world. Between 1995 and 2010, imprisoned people over age 55 quadrupled as those sentenced to lengthy sentences began to gray. By 2030, one-third of the prison population will be considered elderly.

Sissy is also one of 34,000 women currently in state prisons for violent crimes. Of those, more than 10,000 women have been convicted of murder. As Sissy's story demonstrates, some are survivors of domestic violence whose actions were desperate attempts to defend themselves or their children. But the exact numbers remain unknown; no government agency tracks the number of abuse survivors behind bars. For those imprisoned for acting in self-defense, their chances of parole are frequently hampered by the fact that their convictions are for violent crimes, which parole boards often hold against them.

Sixty-nine-year-old Karen knows this all too well. In 1983, she was sentenced to 25 years to life for the death of her ex-husband. "He broke my nose, broke my jaw, burned me with cigarettes, kicked me down a flight of stairs while I was pregnant with my son, threatened to kidnap the baby," she wrote in a letter from a New York State prison. After they split, she said he broke into her house and attacked her on several occasions. When Karen reported his abuse to the police, she said that they refused to arrest him "because they said it was his word against mine."

Karen noticed that her two-year-old son came back with marks on his face and bruises on his arms. He soon began acting strangely and described sexual abuse to a family court psychologist. But, she was told, "in order to prove any sort of abuse against a child as young as him, there must be independent corroboration." Karen remembers being shocked. "Of course, anyone who was planning to do things like that to a two-year-old wouldn't gather witnesses first, so there would be no independent corroboration in this case."

This is where Karen's case gets stickier than most survivors' stories. Karen talked to an acquaintance who had his own custody troubles and was angry that Karen's ex was able to have visits where he could abuse his child. "I told him that if something happened to him, all my problems would be solved," Karen remembered. "This began the premeditation of the crime."

The plan was for Karen's friend to ask her ex to help him with some heavy items. The two would drive off and "he would take care of the details." But the plan went awry and, instead, her friend killed her ex in her basement.

Thirty-three years into her 25-to-life sentence, she has been denied parole five times, each time because of the "nature of her crime." In 2011, New York State passed a law requiring the parole board to consider not just the nature of the crime, but also factors like participating in rehabilitative programs, release plans and the risk of recidivism.

For Karen, this means that the parole board should consider her participation in various anti-abuse programs, including organizing the first hearing about domestic violence within a prison in 1985, in which 12 women spoke about the role of abuse in their incarceration. After the hearing, Karen spoke with the commissioner of the Department of Corrections. "I told him that he could give us a budget line for a domestic violence program in the facility because we needed to reach out to help others who didn't speak that day but were in the same situation." The commissioner agreed and the Bedford Hills Family Violence Program was created and funded. Karen became the program's clerk, facilitated groups in English and Spanish, and did one-on-one counseling.

Nonetheless, Karen was denied parole in 2011, 2013 and 2015 because of the nature of her crime. Her former sister-in-law has opposed her parole, claiming that Karen killed her ex for an insurance settlement. Karen has denied this, noting that, as part of their divorce settlement, she relinquished all claims to his money.

In response to her past three denials, Karen filed an Article 78, or a request for a judge to review the denial. Her 2011 and 2013 requests were denied. This time, she has assistance from Morningside Heights Legal Services, the law school clinic for Columbia University. She also has evidence of the abuse she sustained, including letters from former neighbors attesting to seeing her black eyes and witnessing her ex knock their two-year-old son down the stairs, as well as her divorce agreement foregoing all claims to her ex-husband's money. "I do have hopes that I will prevail this time," she wrote.

As she waits for a decision, her health continues to deteriorate. Karen has developed gallstones, the onset of deafness and progressive osteoarthritis. She has had a lump removed from her breast, as also her gallbladder; she's had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and has had a knee replaced. In June, she contracted shingles, which resulted in lesions on her cornea. "I still experience double vision from time to time," she wrote, adding that she also has postherpetic neuralgia. "I have to take medication to prevent searing nerve pain that is so bad it blinds me and takes my breath away."

Parole Reform and the Possibility of a Domestic Violence Act

In Alabama, the parole board, which considers nearly 210 cases each week, is not required to give a reason for denying parole. This means that Sissy does not know what she can do to improve her chances. Nor can she ask -- the parole board makes its decisions based on a case file; the person whose fate they decide does not attend the hearing.

But a 2015 law has given her more hope. Confronted with extreme prison overcrowding, Alabama passed the law to decrease the numbers of people in prison. Part of the law expands parole -- which dropped from 42 percent in 2009 to 30 percent in 2013 -- creating a set of guidelines, including considering the risk of recidivism, and it requires the board to give reasons for denial. This means that, even if Sissy is denied again, she will at least know the reason why and have the opportunity to address the board's concerns. Though Robert Longshore of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles predicted that increasing the numbers paroled will be "years, years" away, Sissy says that she's already seeing effects. "There are so many women making parole," she wrote in September. "Some with sentences more or lengthier than mine.... The long-timers are leaving, their [sic] getting out of here."

In New York State, advocates, including formerly incarcerated women, are pushing for the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act. If passed, the Act would allow judges to take abuse into consideration when sentencing survivors who are convicted of acts that are directly related to abuse. This means that the Act extends not only to acts of self-defense, but also acts in which survivors were coerced by their abusers (such as participating in a robbery). If abuse is a significant contributing factor, explained Gail T. Smith of the Women in Prison Project of the Correctional Association of New York, the judge can decide on a shorter sentence than what's recommended by the sentencing guidelines or avoid prison altogether by sending the survivor to an alternative-to-incarceration program. To qualify, the abuse must have been happening at the time the offense has been committed. In other words, a history of childhood abuse does not make an adult eligible.

The Act also allows currently incarcerated survivors to apply for resentencing if they have been sentenced to more than eight years. It does not require resentencing, Smith clarified, but it does allow the judge the discretion to consider the role of abuse and to decide whether the sentence, in light of the abuse, was unduly harsh. If the judge decides yes, then he or she has the ability to resentence the survivor.

Would the Act improve Karen's chances of going home? Smith emphasized that the Act allows judges to decide on a case-by-case basis, but does not require resentencing. "It would be in the judge's discretion, after evaluating all factors, to decide whether to resentence her," she stated.

In May, 2016, shortly before the legislative session ended, the Act passed the state assembly. It will be reintroduced in January 2017 under a new bill number. If passed, approximately 360 people (185 women and 175 men) currently incarcerated could be eligible for resentencing. Smith estimates that, in the future, approximately 480 survivors (365 women and 115 men) could be potentially eligible for lower sentences or alternatives-to-incarceration each year. But she stresses, "It is important to remember that not all of these individuals will be eligible, and that we expect that many more women than men to be eligible given that women are disproportionately affected by domestic violence."

Sissy, now 62, is still hoping for justice -- and freedom. "We have been already abused and, when we finally get the courage to fight back and something unintentional happens, then the system abuses us by locking us up forever."



New Partnership For Child Abuse Protection

by Zach Hagenbucher

WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) -- As part of Domestic Abuse Awareness Month, The Women's Community and the Marathon County Department of Social Services have signed a new Memo of Understanding that will coordinate the efforts of the two groups around child protection.

The Women's Community has kept to a confidentiality agreement with parents in the past who reveal that their child has been abused by another parent, but this new agreement means that they will do their best now to convince the parent to take their case to Social Services for help.

Jane Graham Jennings, Executive Director of the Women's Community, said, "This seems like it should be really simple, just make people safe. But, there's well-intentioned laws that can cause some difficulties and barriers. We all said, 'we want be able to move beyond that, how do we do that to keep our families safe?'"

Graham Jennings also said that the goal is for their advocates to become the faces of child protection and break down any fears of working with Social Services.

Vicki Tylka, Director of Social Services, says that the agreement includes frequent communication between the two staffs so that the county can send cases to the Women's Community advocates for guidance.

Tylka said, "Emotions are usually high when families are working with both of our agencies, but our staff can help interpret our roles and what supports that they're getting."

The Women's Community will now be sending cases to Social Services, but only when there is a danger of child abuse and if the parent refuses to take their case to authorities themselves. The agreement has been signed for one year.




Needed legislation gives child sexual abuse victims more time to sue

by The Inquirer Daily News

The Pennsylvania Senate can redeem itself by supporting a bill it earlier gutted that would expand both the criminal and civil statutes of limitation on child sex abuse. The legislation would allow pedophilia victims who were assaulted years ago to sue institutions that protected their abusers for decades.

The House is expected to pass its original bill and send it to the Senate before it recesses for the November election. This time, the Senate must stand up to the type of vigorous opposition it received earlier from the insurance industry, Archbishop Charles Chaput, and other leading Catholics.

Sexual assault offenders shouldn't get to avoid punishment. Neither should the church or any other institution be exempt if, by its actions or inaction, it played a role in protecting a criminal. In a report earlier this year, a state grand jury said the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown had covered up an "epidemic" of child abuse. That should never happen again.

Opponents argue that in allowing victims to retroactively file suit for crimes that occurred years earlier, the bill would violate the state constitution's Remedies Clause, which protects the rights of defendants. But while interim Attorney General Bruce L. Castor Jr. agreed with that opinion, current Attorney General Bruce Beemer has said he does not.

Chaput said he is also concerned about the "financial burden" and "heavy penalties" that the church may face as a result of the legislation. But the church's potential financial losses can't compare with the mental duress that abuse victims have endured since childhood.

The grand jury that investigated the Altoona-Johnston allegations reported that abuse by priests was so rampant that the archdiocese affixed dollar amounts for each traumatizing act, ranging from $10,000 for fondling above clothing to $175,000 for sodomy.

Release of the Altoona-Johnston report in March prompted the Attorney General's Office to open a hotline for abuse allegations, which has received calls from throughout Pennsylvania. The state has subsequently expanded its investigation to other dioceses and is asking for records spanning 70 years.

Whoever is elected attorney general in November should not let this investigation die. It's good to know that both major-party candidates for the job - Republican John Rafferty and Democrat Josh Shapiro, both of Montgomery County - support extending the civil statute of limitations.

In concluding an investigation in 2005, Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham suggested that institutions harboring pedophiles should pay a price. She was right. The Senate should protect children by expediting passage of an improved version of the statutes-of-limitation bill and sending a clear message that institutions should stop trying to protect their financial interests by keeping sexual abuse cases hidden.



FBI seeks tips in child sexual abuse case

by Myles Snyder

(Picture on site)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The FBI is asking for the public's help to find a man who may have information about a child sexual assault.

Investigators on Wednesday released photographs and a poster of the man known only as John Doe 37. They said he was with a child in videos obtained by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in June 2014.

Authorities believe the videos were produced in April 2012. They said audio from the animated film “The Land Before Time” can be heard in the background.

Anyone with information may submit a tip online at or call the FBI's toll-free tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).



B.A.C.A. has the back of abused kids

Bikers Against Child Abuse reps met with county Sexual Assault Response Team for presentation, training

by Amy H. Peterson

Hobo, Pitbull and Flower stood in the basement of the Emmet County Law Center Monday presenting their way of empowering children to not be afraid of the world they live in.

The bikers who protect abused children presented to the Emmet County Sexual Assault Response Team (S.A.R.T.) team before their regular staffing of cases.

Using code names to preserve their anonymity, Hobo made it clear confidentiality is very important to Bikers Against Child Abuse. "We don't talk about our kids," Hobo said.

Keepers of the Children

Calling themselves "Keepers of the Children," members of B.A.C.A. answer the call for help from a parent or primary caregiver of a child who has experienced abuse.

At the initial visit, the whole chapter rides to the child, park their motorcycles, and introduce themselves. With a short ceremony, the child is "adopted" into the B.A.C.A. family.

The members of B.A.C.A., following the lead of the organization's board and the two members assigned as the child's primary contacts, stand ready to support the child for as long as the child needs them.

"We have members who were once B.A.C.A. kids," Hobo said.

The children who become "family" to the members of B.A.C.A. have already experienced horrific acts, which have resulted in charges and a court case.

The members of B.A.C.A. empower children by surrounding them with love, presence and strength.

"We have one mission," organization President Hobo said. "We stand ready to lend support to our wounded friends by involving them with an established united organization."

Empowering children after abuse

B.A.C.A., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, says further in its mission statement, "We desire to send a clear message to all who are involved with the abused child that this child is part of our organization, and that we are prepared to lend our physical and emotional support to them by affiliation, and our physical presence. We stand ready to shield these children from further abuse."

Hobo, Flower and Pitbull have joined the biker members of Iowa Chapter #5 to attend court and parole hearings in which the children are called to testify against the person who abused them. The organization raises funds for therapy, and for the child's unique needs that will help them be empowered.

"We serve as an obstacle blocking further harm to the child," Hobo said.

B.A.C.A. was founded by a man who goes by Chief, a licensed social worker and play therapist who saw children make incremental progress in therapy as they recovered from physical, sexual, emotional abuse or from being put into child pornography.

"Then their perpetrator would have access to the child, through a phone call or coming to the home, and the therapy would be undone," Chief said.

Frustrated, Chief talked to some of his biker friends about ways to stand with and empower children who have been abused.

When empowered, the child "can tell the truth about what happened to them. The average pedophile molests over 400 children in a lifetime," before they are kept locked up or pass away, Hobo said.

Standing against abuse: the statistics

B.A.C.A. cites the National Center for Victims of Crime statistic, which states one in three girls, and one in five boys has been sexually assaulted, most commonly between the ages of 7 and 13.

A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults, and can become suicidal, also according to the National Center for Victims of Crime.

Being part of B.A.C.A.

Hobo said new members are welcome. "They need to be committed, passionate, and crazy about kids," Hobo said.

Members must have no record of crime against a child nor of domestic abuse. "New people ride with us and hang out with us [at meetings the third Sunday of each month at Spirit Life Fellowship Church in Spirit Lake] for about a year. We send in their fingerprints and background, which unfortunately takes three to four months," Hobo said.

A year after the clean background check comes back, a full member can interact with children or become the child's "primary," ideally a male-female team of non-relatives from the group who stays in contact with the child after the initial visit, including home and school visits, accessing the group's therapy fund for the child's empowerment needs, and making sure the child has a crowd of friends at any court dates.

The difference

B.A.C.A has documented changes in the behaviors of the children they support.

Improved self confidence;

diminished regressive behavior;

Increased feeling of safety;

reduced feeling of guilt;

decreaesd negative behaviors.

B.A.C.A.'s informational materials state they have observed that wounded children having the benefit of a B.A.C.A. presence in their lives are far more likely to disclose their abuse.

B.A.C.A. has, in the past, provided a perimeter around the dwelling of an abused child if the child or home is threatened by the abuser.

"We will put out the call to all our members to get to where we are as soon as possible, and if we run out of people, we call Des Moines or Sioux Falls [B.A.C.A. chapters] to back us up. We'd do the same for them," Hobo said.

About the B.A.C.A. seal:

Red represents the "blood shed by wounded children"

White represents the "innocence of the children"

Black represents the "dark times the child goes through"

The fist represents "our commitment to stop child abuse"

The skull and crossbones is the symbol to the "death to child abuse"

The chains represent "our united organization"

How to get help or help out

Primary caregivers of a child in need, as well as potential donors or members can contact the local B.A.C.A. chapter at 712-299-2525, the helpline at 507-564-2131, and


New Jersey

Legislators highlight domestic violence awareness month

by Community Bulletin

WEST DEPTFORD — Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli, and Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro are highlighting October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month and encouraging residents to learn more about domestic violence prevention and the services offered by the State of New Jersey.

Domestic violence is defined as violent or aggressive behavior meant to establish control and fear in another individual. These behaviors include physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, threats, intimidation, economic control, child abuse and/or neglect.

"Nearly one-in-4 women and one-in-seven men are a victim of domestic violence," said Senate President Sweeney. "Domestic Violence Awareness Month provides an opportunity to educate the community on an issue that affects so many individuals."

An increase in awareness for domestic violence in recent years has led to a growing number of resources to provide advocacy, counseling, and support to victims of domestic violence. The New Jersey Division on Women offers numerous programs and services to assist victims and provide information to the community.

"The Division on Women and the Office of Domestic Violence Services offer a variety of resources for victims of domestic violence," said Deputy Speaker Burzichelli. "There are programs in all 21 counties that offer services including a 24-hour hotline, counseling, legal advocacy, and community education."

"The New Jersey State Domestic Violence Hotline is a confidential, 24-hour service that provides crisis intervention, information, and referral services to domestic violence victims," added Assemblyman Taliaferro.

In addition, the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence (NJCEDV) works with state agencies to advocate and assist survivors of domestic violence. The NJCEDV offers 30 domestic violence programs statewide to individuals from all backgrounds and communities. These programs provide residential services, crisis services, individual counseling, outreach, advocacy, and legal advocacy services.

The New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline can be accessed toll-free at 1-800-572-SAFE (7233). For more information on the Domestic Violence Services offered by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families' Division on Women, visit


New York

Mayor Says Blame Lies With Him After Death of 6-Year-Old Boy in Harlem

by Courtney Gross

The mayor and his child welfare commissioner held a lengthy press conference Wednesday, taking questions about the death of a little boy in Harlem last month and promising to reform the Administration for Children's Services yet again. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

Mayor Bill de Blasio had an emotional response Wednesday when discussing the death of a 6-year-old boy.

"I am profoundly angry that we lost this young man," de Blasio said.

Nine days ago, Zymere Perkins was allegedly beaten by his mother's boyfriend, his body covered in bruises delivered by a broomstick.

Both his mother and her boyfriend have been arrested on charges of child endangerment.

But Zymere was a familiar face to the city's child welfare agency. He was the subject of five cases of reported child abuse.

"I want to express my sorrow that this happened. I want to be very clear the buck stops here," de Blasio said. "Everything we do, I take responsibility for."

Sorrow, yes, but the administration would not disclose the details of those cases during a more than hour-long press conference on Wednesday focusing on Zymere's death and reforming the agency known as the Administration for Children's Services. They cited confidentiality and a criminal investigation.

"Very fair tick-tock questions that we cannot answer," de Blasio said.

NY1 has learned at least one of the cases of abuse was reported to the city's child welfare agency by the city's Department of Homeless Services. Zymere and his mother lived at a city homeless shelter for about 18 months. A child abuse report came to the attention of homeless services workers, who reported it to the Adminstration for Children's Services. From there, we don't know what happened to the claim.

The Department of Homeless Services could not answer any of our questions either, citing confidentiality.

We do know five child welfare workers have been put on desk duty. The city is promising more training for case workers and better coordination between case workers, the NYPD and the Department of Education.

That's unlikely to end the criticism of the city's child welfare commissioner.

"I am poring over every detail of this case," said Gladys Carrión, commissioner of the Administration for Children's Services.

For now, the mayor is resolutely sticking by her side.

"I am going to depend on her to implement these additional reforms and continue to improve this agency," de Blasio said.



Outrage as principal forces boy to tour school naked as punishment

by Sino Majangaza

A 10-year-old child is traumatised after the principal at his Dimbaza school in the Eastern Cape allegedly forced him to walk around the building naked as punishment.

“I was stripped naked and forced to walk from one classroom to another.

“I was crying. I felt embarrassed and hid my private parts with my hands,” said the Masikhanyise Primary School pupil.

The boy, from Pirie location, was speaking to the Dispatch this week about the incident, which took place at his school last month.

Acting on the instructions of their school principal, a group of Grade 7 boys had grabbed the defenceless boy, stripped him naked and forced him to do a door-to-door parade at his school, starting from Grade R to Grade 7.

The 30-minute ordeal happened a day after he allegedly dangled a fellow pupil over a bridge.

For this alleged transgression he was punished and humiliated.

“I was in class when I was told that the principal wanted to see me. She asked if the accusations were true. I told her we were just playing and I did not even lift her, I just pushed her a little. She said I was not telling the truth and she called older boys to strip me naked,” he said.

The boy said as he was hiding his private parts with his hands, the school principal ordered other pupils to stop him from doing so.

“I then started crying. They dragged me … I was humiliated,” he said.

Children's rights organisations have strongly condemned the principal's actions.

Khula Community Development Project director Petros Majola said what the school principal had done was “unacceptable” and violated the rights of the pupil.

“The principal dragged the dignity of that child through the mud.

“This boy's rights were violated by the same person who is supposed to respect and protect them. That is emotional abuse and it will haunt that boy for the rest of his life,” he said.

Majola said they had written to the department of education demanding an explanation.

Sinethemba Ndleleni of Equal Education said there were other channels that should have been followed to deal with whatever the boy did, instead of humiliating him.

“His rights were violated and we strongly speak against it,” he said.

The Human Rights Commission is also investigating the case.

Provincial manager Abongile Sipondo confirmed that they received and registered the complaint of the matter.

“We take these allegations seriously, and we are in the process of investigating the matter,” he said.

The community of Pirie, where the incident happened, has labelled the act as “pure witchcraft”.

A Pirie resident said she was shocked when her seven-year-old grandchild told her that she saw a naked person at her school.

“Upon further investigation I learnt that what she was saying was true. I have never heard such evil in my life,” said the woman, who did not want to reveal her name for fear her grandchild might be victimised.

Another community member said: “There is no delete button here. The trauma caused to that child will remain with him forever.”

A Grade 1 pupil told the Dispatch that the boy was crying when he arrived in their classroom. “Our teacher told him to go away, to get dressed, he just cried,” she said.

The boy did not go to school for two days and on the third day, the principal asked the boy's grandmother to persuade him to come back.

“I want harsh action taken against the principal. My child was abused and humiliated. He will be traumatised for the rest of his life,” the mother of the child said.

She said no matter what the child did, he did not deserve to be treated like that. “The very same person who is supposed to protect our children is the one to abuse them,” she said.

Captain Siphokazi Mawisa said a case was opened at Dimbaza police station but it was transferred to King William's Town for the family violence, child protection and sexual offences unit to investigate.

“This office cannot divulge more on this case as it is sensitive and involves a minor, but investigation is continuing. As soon the investigation is complete it will be taken to court for a decision,” she said.

Provincial education spokesman Malibongwe Mtima said upon hearing about the matter they dispatched an official to counsel the victim and other pupils. He said the matter was under investigation and they were still waiting for the report.

“At the moment we cannot comment further until we have received the report,” he said.



Portland FBI looking for dangerous sex trafficking suspects

by KWG

(Pictures on site)

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The FBI is asking for help finding two men suspected of taking a child from Portland to Seattle for sex trafficking purposes.

Both men should be considered armed and dangerous.

A federal grand jury indicted 33-year-old Aaron M. Barnes and 28-year-old Kamau Curnal on charges of sex trafficking and transporting a minor for prostitution.

"Although the charges stem from alleged criminal activity in Oregon, the men are both believed to have extensive ties to Seattle and may be living in that area," said Beth Anne Steele of the FBI Portland Division.

Barnes, also known as "Sleep," is described as 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds. He has tattoos on his neck, back, chest, left arm, right arm, and right wrist. One of the arm tattoos reads "sleepless."

Curnal is described as 5-foot-11, 185 pounds.

"Do not attempt to contact either directly," Steele said. "If in the immediate vicinity, call 911."

Anyone with general information or tips about the suspects is asked to call the FBI. In Portland, the number is 503-224-4181. In Seattle, the number is 206-262-0460.

Pimps are smooth talkers, and FBI agents say have a knack for hanging out at malls and parks, pinpointing girls who have family and confidence problems.

"Everyone is a little vulnerable to kindness and charm and being told they're pretty and worthwhile and they have value and they can make money," said Supervisor Special Agent Denise B., who is in charge of the case.

She says often, a girl's crush on the man turns into reliance, and then eventually prostitution.

The FBI says Portland strip clubs have become a breeding ground for pimps to find more girls.

"If you're unsure maybe doing a prostitution date, dancing seems like you're hands off," the special agent said. "They're removed from the customer, you're not necessarily interacting with customers, it kind of breaks down barriers. We know that, and so do traffickers. That's one place they'll try and engage the person they're trying to prostitute."

Portland to Seattle is a huge circuit for pimps to take their victims for a few days to make money.

"An individual is with someone under one pretense, and gets taken out of town to an area they don't know like from Portland to Seattle. But for someone without any resources who's never been out of Portland, that's a significant change of environment. You take away their cellphone or access to online media and they're isolated, and when they're there, whoever brought them there is their only lifeline," the special agent said.

Other popular destinations are Arizona, Las Vegas, Anchorage, Alaska and Hawaii. The FBI says they are places where nightlife is either bustling, or there's none of it, and customers are eager to pay for sex.

"These girls are treated like products and so they need to move to a new area to keep that product fresh, and a new customer base really," she said.

If you suspect a young person might be involved with people like this, there are resources that can help. The Sexual Assault Resource Center in Portland and Lifeworks are recommended by the FBI.


West Virginia

Man charged with sexual assault of 9-month-old child

by The Associated Press

RIPLEY, W.Va. (AP) – Jackson County authorities are investigating the alleged sexual assault of a 9-month-old infant.

Media outlets report 32-year-old Benjamin Taylor was arrested Monday and charged with first-degree sexual assault.

Jackson County Sheriff Tony Boggs says the victim is a 9-month-old baby girl. Taylor is the boyfriend of the victim's mother, but is not the child's father.

The child has been hospitalized in critical condition.

According to a criminal complaint, the child was found to have extensive bleeding and a body temperature of 90 degrees. The complaint says the infant sustained injuries indicating a violent sexual assault, as well as shaking or striking of the face.

Taylor told deputies he took the baby to the basement while he did laundry. He said he “blacked out” and didn't know how the baby's injuries occurred.

It's unclear if Taylor has an attorney.


West Virginia

UPDATE: Suspect Charged in Sexual Assault and Death of 9-Month-Old Girl by Tristate Update

The family confirms with 13 News that the infant was taken off of life support and has passed away. According to Jackson County Sheriff's Office Benjamin Taylor will be charged with murder.

Family members of the 9-month-old baby that passed away after being sexually assaulted released this statement to 13 News.

"At this time, we regret to say that the injuries sustained from the attack on our child, Emmaleigh Elizabeth Barringer, have resulted in her death. First, we would like to thank the Jackson County police for their thorough investigation.  We believe that it points directly to Benjamin Taylor as the person responsible for this heinous act. Second, we want to thank the hospital and staff at CAMC for their efforts in attempting to save and sustain the life of our child. Finally, we would like to assure anyone with any doubt that this crime against an innocent child was solely perpetrated by a monster who had disguised himself as a caring and supporting friend. Emmaleigh's mother and surviving siblings were victims in this and are guilty only of placing trust in the hands of a "wolf in sheep's clothing".

We have set up a GoFundMe account for donations from the public to help the victims recover from this tragedy and aid in the funeral and burial costs that will be incurred."

The family plans to hold funeral services for Emmaleigh in Maryland sometime next week.



(multiple photos on site)

Heartbreaking photos show what it's like living in a walled city of a brothel

Producer Kenneth Dickerman. Photos By Sandra Hoyn, Washington Post

Bangladesh is one of the few Muslim countries in the world where prostitution is legal. The Kandapara brothel in the district of Tangail is the oldest and second-largest in the country — it has existed for some 200 years. It was demolished in 2014, but has been established again with the help of local NGOs. Many of the women were born there, grew up there and didn't know where else to go when it disappeared.

Supporters of the brothel believe that sex work is also work — and that these women don't want to do something else. The women themselves demonstrated for their rights as workers, and so at the end of 2014, the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association convinced the High Court that the eviction of the sex workers was an illegal act. The sex workers quickly returned to their homes.

Today, the area's “brothel district” is surrounded by a wall. In the narrow streets, there are food stalls, tea shops and street vendors. The brothel is a place with its own rules and hierarchies of power which are completely different from mainstream society. For example, inside the brothels, the women are weak but also powerful. The most vulnerable stage is when a young sex worker enters the brothel — she is called a bonded girl. Bonded girls are usually 12 to 14 years old.

These girls come from poor families and are often victims of trafficking. They have no freedom or rights. They belong to a madam, have debts and are not allowed to go outside or keep their money. When they have paid all their debts, which takes somewhere between one to five years, they become independent sex workers. Then, they can refuse customers and keep their own money. From the moment that a woman has paid her debts, she is free to leave the brothel. But these women are socially stigmatized outside their “homes” and thus often choose to stay and continue supporting their families with their earnings.



Sex abuse survivor: HB 1947 would give me justice

by Kathleen E. Carey

For almost 40 years, Debbie Williamson Warren has lived with the nightmare of being sexually abused by her science teacher, and the only way she feels she can protect others is through the provisions that proposed legislation in Pennsylvania – House Bill 1947 – may provide.

The Florida resident and her family moved to the Olney section of Philadelphia when she entered fifth grade.

“I was 9 years old,” the now 47-year-old said. “My family had just moved from Danville, Va. My dad took the position as a principal at Cedar Grove Christian Academy” in northeast Philadelphia.

Childhood sexual abuse is a pervasive societal problem that gained much exposure after the Archdiocese of Boston came under scrutiny in 2002 for widespread abuse and concealment. In the Philadelphia region, two grand jury reports in 2005 and 2011 outlined abuse and cover-ups in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Since then, various legislative appeals have attempted to address the issue.

One of them — House Bill 1947 — would extend or eliminate criminal and civil statute of limitations for cases involving childhood sexual abuse. The initial House version included an amendment that would allow adult survivors age 50 and younger to pursue civil justice. That was stripped from the Senate version due to concerns regarding constitutionality. The bill now rests with the House for reconsideration and some, including state Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-126, of Berks County had said he is debating whether to reinsert that provision.

Warren said there was a science teacher at the school at that time who became a good friend of her family and who rented a house her family owned.

“They trusted him,” Warren said. “He was a science teacher, he was a Christian. They would drop me off when they went shopping, when they'd go out. He began to groom me.”

That escalated into physicality.

“He would wrestle with me and tickle me,” Warren said. “That began with him touching me.”

Then, the incidents of touching increased.

“The balcony of the church, he would touch me,” Warren said. “In the science lab, he would touch me. In the classroom, he would touch me, in his home. Several times, it was hands down my pants, fingers …”

Warren recalled staying at his house in his daughter's room overnight as her parents trusted him and they had gone out of town.

“Eventually, I woke up with him on top of me and he was raping me” as his daughter lay next to her, Warren said.

She said he tried to keep her quiet for two years.

“(He) threatened me not to say anything,” she said, adding that he told her, “My parents would lose their ministry at the church.”

“He guilted me (saying) he would go to jail and I didn't want him to go to jail,” Warren added.

She recalled him putting his hand down her shirt while going sledding during big snowfalls.

She said he'd place a blanket over her while she and his children watched TV in the basement and he would put his hands down her pants.

Warren said she was trapped.

“I would try to get away but he was stronger than me,” she said.

The abuse impacted other areas of her life.

“I was sick to my stomach all the time as a child,” Warren said, adding that she almost failed sixth grade. “Every time the phone would ring, I would be really nervous.”

When she was 11 years old, she told her parents and her dad told the school board and religious officials associated with the school.

Warren said she was pulled out of class to speak to the pastor, an assistant pastor and a guidance counselor by herself.

She said they told her “he admitted it and he was sorry. He promised to not have any more contact with me. They let him finish out the year.”

She said she was told to keep quiet.

“(They said) for me to not tell anybody or talk about it at all,” she said.

Warren said they told her parents, “You don't want to put her up on the witness stand. Don't call the police that would make the school look bad. You need to forgive. That's the Christian thing to do. He promised he wouldn't do that anymore.”

She said her family lived in the neighborhood another three years before moving to North Carolina.

“I literally put this behind me, I didn't know how to handle it,” Warren said.

In her mid-30s, she said she started to have a challenging time.

“I was having nightmares, I was losing sleep, I was depressed,” she said. “I went through a lot of depression.”

She would have difficulties with certain smells and certain places she would go.

She spoke to someone in her church who advised her to go to the police, where she learned the statute of limitations in these instances had expired.

Her pastor suggested she write a letter and send it to her abuser. So she did.

“I got a letter six days later in his handwriting,” Warren said.

In the four-page missive from a decade ago, the former teacher said he was unable to ask her forgiveness because he was denied contact to her.

“I regret deeply all the pain I have caused (your parents), but chiefly the turmoil it has caused you and your husband all … these years,” he wrote. “You need ‘justice' much more than I need ‘mercy.' What recompense can I give?”

Outlining an abusive childhood including his own sexual abuse and suicidal thoughts, he admitted his acts.

“The only plea I have is ‘guilty,'” he wrote. “The only Advocate I have is Jesus Christ the Righteous One who paid for my ‘depravity' with His blood … I know I cannot be trusted around ‘little girls.' I know that I am a pedophile and have been one since about 10 years old … you were not the first nor the last.”

He ended his letter, “I do not look forward to the jud(g)ment seat of Christ.”

Warren said her pedophile had been accused at least two other times with 9- and 10-year-old girls. She said he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in 1995 as a victim's parent didn't want their child on the witness stand.

“He just lucked out every time,” Warren said.

She wrote to her former school because she understood her perpetrator was permitted to return, where she said he was assisting in youth programs and in overnight camps.

“This is my situation, this is my story and I want closure, I want closure,” she said. “They never answered me back. They got an attorney. I wanted to meet with them without attorneys … They refused to do that.”

She said she spoke to the pastor who approached the school board and deacons to express his concern.

“They expressed no sorrow for how they handled everything,” she said, adding that she was only notified by legal counsel after she appeared in a documentary. “They refused to meet with me. They refused to acknowledge that they did anything wrong with the way they handled all of this.”

Her disclosure, she said, caused a split in the church that oversaw the academy.

Jeff Howard is principal of the 350-student Cedar Grove school that teaches pre-K through eighth grade. Working his way up from a maintenance position to a teacher, he became school principal five years ago.

He said several things occurred when they received Warren's letter.

“We heard that, it was like, ‘Wow!'” Howard said. “It's hard to believe that something like that happens. We really had no reason to doubt it.”

The principal said school officials said her abuser could no longer be on campus.

They then held a town hall meeting in which 250 people attended to let them know this happened.

“This was something we obviously were just as surprised as they were,” Howard explained. “We take the safety of our students, past ones, present ones and future ones, we take that very, very seriously.”

In the meantime, he said they began to evaluate what safeguards were in place and what needed to be established.

“It kind of raised awareness,” Howard said. “This is not good. We need to make sure that we're doing the right thing going forward.”

Now, teachers are subject to FBI fingerprinting and security background clearances.

Teachers were trained, and take annual refresher classes, to identify signs of child sex abuse and how to respond to that. Students, Howard explained, are taught at their level how to recognize inappropriate behavior and what to do in those situations.

Howard said school officials tried to reach out to Warren and had a lawyer, who is an alum who sits on their board, contact her after they received a second letter from her.

“It was a legal type letter,” Howard said, adding that it was threatening the possibility of legal action.

He said the lawyer also spoke to the perpetrator.

“When this took place,” Howard said of the initial abuse, “there were people involved with it including her father that decided not to take action on it, at least not legal action.”

He said the teacher was removed.

“The record of the school, he was dismissed,” Howard said. “It wasn't an instantaneous dismissal. Today, would that be an instantaneous dismissal? Oh yeah … That was unfortunate. Today, our action would be report it immediately.”

Howard said they think about Warren.

“We really feel for Debbie, we really do, we want to do the right thing,” he said. “I feel very sad that this took place to her.”

He said in his 27-year career there was no incident like this. “This was a real shocker,” he said.

“I'm sure it has to be difficult for her,” Howard said. “We pray for her often. We pray for her often. We really love her. We want what's best for her and for our school. With the new laws that are going into effect soon, I pray for our school a lot.”

Warren said she feels HB 1947 is her only course of action left.

“That's actually my last and only hope right now,” she said. “There's nothing I can do about it because of the statute of limitations. He's out there still. He's free to molest and touch any girls he wants.”

Warren said if this bill passes, she is considering legal action.

“We live in America,” she said. “We don't live in North Korea. They would shoot you in the back of the head. We use money. They go to jail or we take their money.”

She said she wants to get this man on a list to protect other children from him and she is unable to pursue criminal charges because those statute of limitations have passed.

“The only thing I have is this bill,” she said. “I know that my goal is to prevent this from ever happening again … My only recourse is to take legal action against the pedophile as well as the leaders who hid and covered up his actions and continued to allow a known pedophile to be around the very children they should be protecting.”

Warren said she regrets not pursuing this earlier as an adult.

“I wasn't ready to face it all again,” she said. “It was hard enough to come forward with all of this heavy stuff at 11 years old. It's embarrassing to talk about someone sexually abusing you. This has affected every area of my life. I have fear, I have anxiety, I have depression. My self-image is horrible. I carry guilt that I couldn't stop him but I was just a little girl … a little girl who barely even had the words to use to explain what had happened to me.”

The married mother of four and breast cancer survivor said she believes God allows bad things to make us stronger people and she wants to use that to help others.

She said religious institutions of any denomination should lead this effort.

“They should be the first to apologize and make things right,” Warren said. “They should be the first to do the right thing and uncover the darkness … Those of us who were abused in the ‘70s and ‘80s and ‘90s are hurting. We need closure. We need the Church to begin the process of making this right.

“I am trying to do whatever I can do to get the bill passed,” Warren said. “God kept me alive from cancer for a reason and I'm thinking this is one of the reasons. I don't ever want to see any more kids go through this.”



There are too many abusers like Dennis Hastert, victim tells Senate panel

by Christy Gutowski

For nearly 40 years, as his former high school wrestling coach rose to great political heights, Scott Cross tried to bury the abuse he survived as a teenage boy by a man he trusted and admired.

On Tuesday, speaking before an Illinois Senate criminal law panel in Chicago, Cross went from a victim to an advocate in urging legislation that gets rid of the deadlines for prosecuting more than two dozen felony crimes involving sexual offenses against children.

He joined Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in supporting the proposal, which was sparked by the federal prosecution of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

In the Hastert case, prosecutors cited the expired statute of limitations as the reason they prosecuted him on banking law violation charges rather than for inappropriately touching several underage boys, including Cross, decades ago when Hastert was a teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School.

Hastert is serving a 15-month federal prison sentence in Rochester, Minn., on charges related to the way he structured bank withdrawals to pay off another victim, known as Individual A, who demanded $3.5 million from his former coach in exchange for his silence.

Cross, 54, a successful Wheaton businessman, came forward after the federal indictment was announced after several months of internal strife as he struggled with feelings of anger, guilt and shame.

The Senate hearing marked the first time he's spoken publicly about the case since delivering an emotional victim-impact statement in April at Hastert's sentencing hearing.

"It should offend everyone's faith in the judicial system that Illinois' laws today would still allow child molesters to avoid prosecution for heinous acts of sexual abuse, because a survivor didn't come forward in time," Cross testified Tuesday. "Sadly my story is not unique, because there are too many abusers like Dennis Hastert in the world. There are other survivors from every corner of this state who, like me, carried a tremendous burden, suffered under tremendous guilt, and felt powerless because we didn't come forward quick enough.

"And, as a result, were silenced by Illinois' legal system."

The five-member Senate panel did not act Tuesday on the proposal to eliminate the statute of limitations on several felony sex crimes against children. The measure, if approved, would not be applied retroactively.

Madigan said more than 10,000 minors sought services for sexual abuse in fiscal year 2015 at child advocacy centers across Illinois. The abuser most times is a trusted adult.

Similar bills have been proposed unsuccessfully in the past in Illinois. Groups such as the Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers oppose the legislation. Critics argue it places an unfair burden on those accused of such crimes who are forced to defend themselves against often decades-old allegations.

Attorney Steve Baker, of the Cook County public defender's office, urged the Senate panel to find middle ground.

Under current law, even the most egregious sexual offenses against children must be reported and prosecuted within 20 years of the victim turning 18 years old.

Illinois has expanded the statute of limitations for certain sex crimes committed on or after Jan. 1, 2014, when corroborating physical evidence exists or a mandated reporter knew and failed to act.

As a middle ground, short of eliminating the statute of limitations, Baker suggested lawmakers first consider extending it in cases where the accused has a record of committing similar crimes or when more than one alleged victim has stepped forward with a similar complaint.

"Every time you give law enforcement and prosecutors more tools — more leverage — to make (charging) decisions, there is potential for abuse," Baker said.

But Madigan said the Illinois legislation mirrors a national trend, largely due to other high-profile prosecutions, including those involving comedian Bill Cosby and that of a Stanford University student sentenced to six months in prison for a rape case.

The state of California most recently abolished the statute of limitations for rape and child molestation. Some 35 other states and the federal government have removed criminal statutes of limitation for some or all child sex offenses, Madigan said.

"We must ensure that survivors know that they will be taken seriously and justice will be pursued," she said.

Illinois has no statute of limitation for certain serious crimes, including murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, arson, forgery, treason and the production of child pornography.

Before speaking out publicly, Cross privately over several months told the Tribune he was victimized in the fall of 1979 when he was wrestling team captain.

Because of his uncertainty about coming forward at the time, given its possible implications on his family and work in the financial services community, Cross had asked the Tribune to keep his identity confidential until he spoke out publicly. The Tribune honored his wishes.

He is a younger brother of ex-Hastert political ally Tom Cross , who is the former longtime Illinois House GOP leader. Tom Cross also attended the hearing.

Hastert, 74, is expected to be paroled next August.



Child Abuse Cases on the Rise in the Rio Grande Valley


WESLACO - More children are becoming victims of child abuse every year in the Rio Grande Valley.

More than 3,700 cases were reported in the Valley in 2015.

Child Protective Services Program Director Angel De La Garza Jr. said not all abuse results in bruises or broken bones. He said there are other signs that arise.

“Some children may, you may actually see the actual outbursts. They're the ones that tend to get the attention. They're acting up and they're not doing their work,” he said.

De La Garza said some of those signs go unnoticed.

“Other kids can put on a brave face, but inside they're still dealing with all the trauma. And they just don't know how to express it,” he said.

De La Garza said some children never get the chance to tell someone what's going on behind closed doors.

Every day four children die from the hands of their abuser. Many of these children don't even know they need help and abuse becomes the norm.

“The way that they are being disciplined or the way they are being treated by family is OK. And so as they grow up, they may think that it's an OK way to treat their children,” said the program director.

De La Garza said this only perpetuates the unhealthy and potentially deadly lifestyle into the next generation. He said reporting abuse can help break the cycle in that child's life.

“It's the responsibility of our community to- if they ever suspect abuse and neglect- to be able to make that report,” he said.

De La Garza said not all reported cases result in the child being removed from their home.

“We try to make sure that the children can be safe with a parent or a caregiver or relative. Somebody that we can try and do that will be the least intrusive,” he said. “The further we go into removing, maybe terminating the parental rights or even adopting, they all have trauma that can be added to the child.”

Every 11 seconds a child becomes a victim of abuse or neglect in the U.S.

Anyone that suspects or know of abuse in a child's life can call 800-252-5499 to report it. Callers will remain anonymous.



Texas CPS workers miss key deadline in 14,000 child abuse cases

by Andrea Ball

Despite efforts to overhaul Child Protective Services through new leadership and increased scrutiny, state investigators are still failing to quickly check on potentially abused and neglected children.

In mid-September, more than 14,000 kids across the state — one-third of those with open CPS cases — had not been seen by child abuse investigators between 24 and 72 hours after a report of abuse, the state-mandated timeframe in which caseworkers must see children. Of those, nearly 2,000 were considered urgent cases, meaning the kids could have been in immediate danger.

In Travis County, 42 percent of about 2,900 children had not been seen by the deadline.

“We have to do a better job of seeing children more quickly,” said Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for the Department of Family and Protective Services, which oversees Child Protective Services. “It is unacceptable for these children to remain unseen.”

The numbers offer a snapshot into one of the biggest problems facing CPS: quickly investigating child abuse allegations and removing kids from danger before they are hurt. A 2015 investigation by the American-Statesman — Missed Signs, Fatal Consequences — found that early nearly half of the 779 children who died were already on CPS's radar. Of those 380 fatalities, 144 families — more than a quarter — had been the subject of a CPS investigation at least 3 times.

The agency is still facing monumental challenges on all fronts. Child abuse deaths are up. Caseworker turnover is high. Tenured workers are fleeing the agency, salaries are low and a shortage of foster homes has forced CPS to house children in offices and hotels. Meanwhile, a federal judge ordered the state to overhaul its foster care system, saying it puts children in danger and violates their civil rights.

Earlier this year, Gov. Greg Abbott — who has said fixing CPS is among his top priorities — tapped new leadership to tackle the agency's predicament. Hank Whitman, a former Texas Ranger, was named commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services. A new leader was appointed to run CPS. The state fired four out of its 10 regional directors in charge of CPS operations across the state and a fifth director retired.

“Protecting Texas' children is a top priority for Governor Abbott and he has made it clear that the status quo is unacceptable and that additional measures must be taken to reduce and eliminate child abuse, neglect and death,” said Abbott spokesman John Wittman.

Despite the increased attention to the problem, the percentage of children not seen on time statewide hasn't improved — and locally, it got worse. In March, 32 percent of Travis County children hadn't been seen on time. Now it's 42 percent percent.

It's unclear why the numbers have risen as of late, but investigators have long struggled to meet those deadlines, in large part because of turnover. In fiscal year 2016, 33 percent of child abuse investigators quit, leaving those left behind to pick up abandoned cases. Investigators can juggle as many as 50 or 60 cases at one time, making it difficult to visit children in a timely manner.

The abuse allegations — which can come from relatives, teachers, neighbors or others — are made through a state hotline and vary in severity. Some reports involve children seen with bruises or marks that raise suspicions of abuse. Others might allege that a child is being left alone too long.

Because the seriousness of the allegations vary, CPS divides its initial response into two primary categories: Priority 1 cases, when a child's immediate safety is at risk, must be initiated within 24 hours; Priority 2 cases, which are considered less urgent, must be initiated within three days.

But just because kids can't be found doesn't mean investigators haven't looked for them.

“Many families are not home, or have moved, or do not want to be found,” Crimmins said.

CPS under scrutiny

Skipping home visits or failing to do them in a timely manner has been a persistent problem for CPS officials in Texas, and lapses have led to firings and criticism in several high-profile child deaths. Three CPS workers were fired after the 2014 death of 2-year-old Colton Turner in Austin, when state officials found they did not properly investigate allegations the boy had been abused, and did not visit him as scheduled. Similar lapses occurred in the beating death of 4-year-old Leiliana Wright of Grand Prairie earlier this year, leading to the firings of two CPS workers.



Child on child abuse. A Scotch victim speaks out

by Henrietta Cook

The country boy from central Victoria didn't understand the rules of Scotch College when he was sent to board at the exclusive Melbourne private school back in the 1980s.

When Thomas Page's clothes went missing after a shower, he thought his classmates were playing another cruel joke.

The then 16-year-old expected to be mocked as he retreated to his dorm, wet and naked.

But instead, two students ran up behind him and grabbed his wrist, while another two clutched his ankles and lifted him waist high.

A fifth boy then raped him.

"I stopped struggling. I stopped thinking. I think I even stopped breathing," he said.

When Thomas worked up the courage to report the abuse to his school, he was shut down.

In a meeting with the former school house master and two Scotch lawyers, Thomas said he wanted the five alleged perpetrators to be expelled. They should be jailed, he said.

"They told me 'Scotch boys don't go to jail'. They did everything to silence me and make it go away."

Thomas is now speaking out in the hope it prevents other children from being hurt.

"Silence is the perpetrator's greatest weapon," the 46-year-old technology analyst said.

"I want to overcome silence."

While the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has shone a spotlight on adult perpetrators, it has not yet focused on child-on-child abuse.

As schools continue to grapple with this issue and demand for specialist services skyrockets, the Royal Commission is now considering holding a public hearing into sexual abuse among children.

Fairfax Media revealed last year that police are called to Victorian schools three times a week to investigate sex offences that are often perpetrated by children. In May, a seven-year-old student allegedly dragged female students into a toilet at a Melbourne school and sexually assaulted them, angering parents who said they were kept in the dark about the disturbing behaviour.

Thomas left Scotch College months after the assault, returned to his hometown and enrolled at the local high school. But it all became too much and he dropped out before finishing year 12.

He stopped talking to people, could not sleep properly and recoiled when anyone showed affection towards him.

Maintaining a relationship has been impossible, and in 2004 he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. He made a statement to police that year, but claims it was never investigated properly.

He said a detective insisted on interviewing him in his apartment foyer, with strangers walking past and someone sitting on a couch within earshot.

In 2006, he reached a settlement with the school.

While Scotch has publicly reached out to victims who were abused in its care, it is difficult for Thomas to trust his old school.

Principal Tom Batty said the school community was "appalled" by the treatment of some former students.

"It is not possible to imagine the suffering victims have been through in the years since they were abused, in some cases by fellow students," he said.

Mr Batty said he had met with old boys who had been abused and apologised on behalf of the college. He said the college's psychologist had also offered support to victims.

"We have tried to deal with all abuse claims with sensitivity, and have carefully and deliberately put in place a process that ensures we act in the interests of those who have suffered abuse," he said.

A police spokeswoman said the incident was investigated in 2004 but then closed pending further information. It was re-investigated last year, with the initial investigation reviewed, but closed again pending further information.

Deakin University criminologist Dr Wendy O'Brien said there was a lack of useful data on sexual abusive behaviour among children. This means it is impossible to know how prevalent it is.

"There is a reluctance to acknowledge that this is occurring, no one really wants to take responsibility," she said.

"It is easier to deny that it is happening and that is where children are being failed."

Department of Health and Human Services figures show that 1372 children in Victoria accessed the Sexually Abusive Behaviour Treatment Services program last year, up from 1160 cases the previous years.

"These programs seek to address problem sexual behaviour or sexually abusive behaviour, and help families and carers to understand and support the child or young person to change their behaviour," a spokesman said.

Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive Joe Tucci has witnessed a huge increase in demand for his program, which helps children in Melbourne's east with problem sexual behaviour.

When it was launched 15 years ago, just 10 children were referred to the program every year. Now it helps up to 180 children a year.

"We have also seen an increase in the severity of the behaviour," Mr Tucci said.

Victorian sexual assault crisis line: 1800 806 292

National child abuse helpline Child Wise: 1800 991 099

National sexual assault helpline 1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732


Schools use corporal punishment more on children who are black or have disabilities

by The University of Texas Auston

In parts of the 19 states where the practice is still legal, corporal punishment in schools is used as much as 50 percent more frequently on children who are African American or who have disabilities, a new analysis of 160,000 cases during 2013-2014 has found. Corporal punishment—typically striking a child with a wooden paddle—continues to be a widespread practice in disciplining children from pre-K through high school, according to a new study by Elizabeth Gershoff of The University of Texas at Austin and Sarah Font of Penn State University. The paper is published this week as a Social Policy Report by the Society for Research in Child Development.

"Some Americans may think corporal punishment is as obsolete as the one-room schoolhouse," says Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences. "Yet public school personnel in 19 states—and private school personnel in 48 states—can legally hit children in the name of discipline."

The new report analyzes data gathered by the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education from all 36,942 public schools in the 19 states where school corporal punishment is legal. The study assessed which school districts are using corporal punishment, and which children are punished using corporal punishment within these public schools.

The study found that there are widespread disparities in the administration of corporal punishment by race, gender and disability status. For example:

•  In Alabama and Mississippi, African American children are at least 51 percent more likely to be corporally punished than white children in over half of school districts.

•  In eight states, boys are five times as likely to receive corporal punishment as girls are in at least 20 percent of school districts.

•  Children with disabilities are more than 50 percent more likely to be corporally punished than their nondisabled peers in many southeastern states. Disability status is defined as students who qualified as having a disability (physical, cognitive, or emotional) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

"We documented that African American children, children with disabilities and boys are much more likely to be corporally punished," says Gershoff. "These disparities violate several federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination and suggest hidden biases may factor into which children get paddled at school."

The Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that school corporal punishment was constitutional. At that time, only a few states had banned corporal punishment in public schools. Today, 31 states ban it from public schools. Corporal punishment is used to discipline schoolchildren for behaviors ranging from serious incidents such as setting off fireworks in school to minor misbehaviors such as using cellphones and not completing homework.

The authors report that juvenile crime has not increased in states that have removed corporal punishment from schools. This suggests that it is possible to find appropriate ways to discipline children in schools that do not cause physical or emotional harm and, at the same time, do not result in an increase in crime.

The authors note that whereas hitting an animal to the point of injury is a felony in most U.S. states, hitting a child to the point of injury as punishment in a public school is exempt from child maltreatment laws in some states where corporal punishment in schools is legal. In such cases, a behavior that would be considered abuse when inflicted by a parent on a child cannot be prosecuted if inflicted by a school employee. The Society for Adolescent Medicine estimated that in 2003, when more than 270,000 children were corporally punished in schools, 10,000-20,000 children had to seek medical attention as a result of corporal punishment in public schools. This included treatment for bruises, hematomas, broken bones and nerve and muscle damage.

"Dozens of research studies have confirmed that corporal punishment does not promote better behavior in children," says Gershoff. "A recent international study found that children subjected to school corporal punishment had lower gains in academic achievement over time."


New Mexico

Amy Heil Discusses Child Forensic Interviews At NMSU

by Samantha Sonner

According to the Dona Ana County District Attorney's Office, they interview hundreds of children a year who may be a victim of a crime using child forensic interviewers. Samantha Sonner spoke with Amy Heil, a forensic interviewer for Phoenix Children's Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, and this year's NMSU's College of Education Distinguished Alumna.

Amy Heil, says as a child forensic interviewer she is a small part of a much larger system.

“We conduct interviews with children,” Heil said. “For law enforcement, when the children have possibly been victims to a crime or witness to a crime. So, we are neutral factfinders who are basically trying to look for the elements of the crime for the detectives to use in their investigation.”

Heil says the job can be difficult.

“The challenges are more just as a human being,” Heil said. “And that empathy, and pain that you feel for them. Because, yes, they have gone through something horrific, and traumatic, and been victimized in a way no child should ever have to go through. So, being able to put that emotional piece aside, and just focus on giving that child the opportunity to tell what happened to them in a comfortable, safe, environment. And giving them that voice to be able to say is somebody did something that they were'nt supposed to do with them.”

Heil says it's important to let the children lead the interview.

“We conduct all of our interviews in a child friendly environment,” Heil said. “ We try to make it as comfortable as possible so they really don't realize that they are talking to somebody to do with a criminal investigation. You know I try to minimize my role and allow the child to be the authority and the expert.”

Heil also trains first responders and child welfare officers, who may be the first to interact with the child.

“Not only to maybe how to identify if things are going on,” Heil said. “But then how to respond appropriately as well. Then one of the other duties that I have in my job is to be an expert witness in criminal trials. So, I go in and educate the jury on characteristics to do with child sexual abuse, what we see, what the research states and is supported through my own practice in the field.”

Heil says the job is difficult, but it can also be rewarding.

“I would not do this if I didn't have a passion for it,” Heil said. “But at the same time you have to maintain a very appropriate boundary as well, and just know your role. I'm just a tiny little part in a big giant system, and so I'm happy that I have that opportunity to help the kids that I get to help.”



Errors in child abuse clearances mask 28 people's abuse, neglect history

by Jan Murphy

Twenty-eight people who work or volunteer with children were erroneously provided child abuse clearances from the state Department of Human Services stating that they had no record of child abuse or neglect when they actually did.

The department first learned about this situation about a week ago when one of those 28 people notified the department that their clearance report was incorrect.

"In the course of reviewing that person's call, we uncovered the error," Dallas said in a Tuesday evening phone interview. "We had to do a little investigating, a little research into what exactly caused it some data analysis" before making a public announcement about it.

A state law requiring background checks for individuals who work with children went into effect Dec. 31, 2014 as part of a broader effort to strengthen Pennsylvania's child protection laws in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The efforts to implement this law have been riddled with problems ranging from unanticipated loopholes and confusion to a large number of clearance requests overloading ChildLine, the office that processes them, that was initially understaffed to handle them.

Individuals who have direct supervision of minors whether in an employment or volunteer capacity must obtain child abuse clearances from the Department of Human Services as well as a state police criminal history check. In addition, some also may be required to have an FBI criminal history check.

None of the 28 individuals who received the erroneous clearances had judicial findings of abuse or neglect within the last five years that would have barred them by a state law from being permitted to work with the children, Dallas said.

State law gives employers and volunteer organizations the option of deciding whether to hire or allow to volunteer anyone with an older history of a found case of child abuse or neglect.

"We've gone through all the records we think were affected by this," Dallas said. "Thankfully, it was only 28 out of the 2.5 million [clearances done over the last two years], something like one-one thousandth of a percent. We have no evidence whatsoever that there were anything more than those 28 right now."

Dallas said eight of the erroneous clearances were a result of an issue with its information technology system, which the department has worked with its vendor to correct, while the other 20 involved employee error in processing the reviews.

Cathleen Palm, founder of The Center for Children's Justice, said while it is reported to be only a small number of erroneous reports and the 28 individuals' histories didn't bar them from working with children, it does serve as a reminder that the state-mandated background checks are only one piece of information that should be considered in who employers and volunteer organizations allow to be around children.

"Let's not delude ourselves that a background check is going to tell us enough about what we need to know about the people taking care of our kids," she said. "There is no substitute for doing a much more thorough screening and knowing the person you might hire."

But about this incident in particular, Palm does wonder how long it might have taken before the department discovered the problem had that person not stepped forward to say their information was inaccurate. She does take some comfort, though, in the steps the department is taking to try to prevent the errors from recurring.

Those steps include deducting $100,000 from the information technology vendors' future which reflects the cost of fixing that glitch; working with the employees that made the errors and offering them increased training; and hiring a third-party vendor to review the department's process and issue a report that will be made public.

Palm called the hiring of a vendor to do an independent check and balance on the system a key step and critical to maintaining public confidence in the clearance reports the department issues.

"Hopefully, this doesn't conjure up a sense of no confidence or concern," Palm said. "So far, we've had a number of bumps in the road that potentially have undercut people's confidence in the system overall. This is one more blip."

Dallas said the department did about a week's worth of deep data analysis after the error was first pointed out. As a result, he said, "I don't think there's any need for folks beyond those 28 individuals to be too worried about this."

He added: "What I would say to folks right now is if we don't contact you, I think you don't have to do anything."

However, he said if employers suspect or desire an employee or volunteer to undergo another clearance check in light of the discovery of the 28 erroneous reports, they can always get one. Volunteers can obtain clearances for free while the child abuse history checks for employees cost $8 each.

But again, he said, "I don't think folks need to do that right now."



The Battle for HB1947: Wounds of sexual abuse run deep, psychologist says

by Kathleen E. Carey

Many psychologists contend there are long-term impacts of childhood sexual abuse. Some individuals are able to overcome them. Some do not.

Dr. Richard B. Gartner is a New York psychotherapist and psychoanalyst who specializes in treating men who are childhood sexual abuse survivors. He is the author of several books, including “Beyond Betrayal: Taking Charge of Your Life After Boyhood Sexual Abuse.”

He has testified in New York and in New Jersey about the need to change the statutes of limitations in sex abuse cases. He's written about the prolonged effects the crime has on men, although he explained the variety of outcomes is as wide as the number of individuals impacted.

Childhood sexual abuse is a worldwide problem that garnered much focus here in the United States in 2002 when the Archdiocese of Boston faced national exposure for the abuse and concealment there. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia came under scrutiny as the result of two grand jury reports, one in 2005 and another in 2011, that linked more than 60 priests with abusing dozens of minors over decades. Since then, legislative efforts have emerged to deal with the crisis.

Lawmakers in Harrisburg are currently debating HB1947, which could extend the statute of limitations for victims to sue their assailants and eliminates the statute of limitations for criminal charges. Whether those changes should be retroactive, or just apply to new cases, is a key element in the debate.

Gartner said the impact of sexual abuse is profound on its victims.

“I think the most important thing to remember is the real trauma of sexual abuse is the betrayal,” Gartner said. “It's easy to think about the violence, the physical pain, the premature and terrible way of introducing sexuality into a child's life. Often, the abuse is done by someone the child knows. The child is betrayed by someone he has trusted implicitly.”

That betrayal can lead to relationship challenges later in life.

Since the adult trusted their abuser as a child “that often results in him or her distrusting relationships in the future, especially with authorities and with loved ones,” Gartner said.

He explained that difficulties with intimate partners can arise.

“They always see sexual situations as a power situation rather than a partnership,” Gartner said.

Masculine socialization and its myths – such as men are not victims – can prohibit the revelation of abuse until well into the adult years, the psychologist explained.

“To acknowledge victimization is to say, ‘I'm not really a man,'” Gartner said as a way of explaining what is often the perception.

He said male victims will justify the abuse to themselves with such explanations as, “I was the one who changed; or, it didn't bother me; or, I'm just moving on; or, Nothing happened.”

The psychologist said the victim's logic may seem unreasonable to an outsider.

“How he was 6 at the time but he should have stopped it, he was the seducer,” Gartner said.

Yet, internally, these reasonings maintain a characteristic that these men think is integral to their identity.

Complete amnesia, he has found, is relatively rare, although he said many men need to reframe from what actually occurred to them.

“If I was in charge of something,” he said they tell themselves, “it wasn't abuse and it wasn't traumatic and sexually, I'm in charge.”

He said one out of six men report having had unwanted direct sexual contact by the time they are 16 years old. That increases to one in four men if non-contact behavior such as someone exposing him or herself is included.

Gartner said men can put their emotions into a frozen state or rely on addictions to cope.

When faced with their abuse, victims are conflicted about sexuality.

“(Victims are) familiar with the idea that boys don't want to reveal themselves as victims,” Gartner said. “(Abusers will) say, ‘You're gay if you say anything.'”

Complicating the matter is that straight men wonder why they were chosen as victims and gay men can be rushed into that identification or decide that the abuse is what caused it, resulting in difficulties in developing positive self-identification.

“Abusers,” he added, “do often know the laws.”

Due to the myth that those abused as boys will inevitably grow up to abuse, many who have no thought of becoming a sexual predator worry they will, Gartner explained.

More than 80 percent of sexually abused boys never become adult perpetrators, although 80 percent of perpetrators were abused as children, he said.

Gartner provided a list of some common symptoms in adults sexually abused as children such as guilt, anxiety, depression, interpersonal isolation, shame, low self-esteem, self-destructive behavior, post-traumatic stress reactions, poor body imagery, sleep disturbance, nightmares, eating disorders, relational and or dysfunction and addictions like alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling and sexual obsession.

Trust issues are multiplied if the victim reports the abuse and that is dismissed.

“It compounds it terribly,” Gartner said. “The faith and trust of this person is further damaged.”

In addition, he said women can be predators, too, although they are often given lighter sentences based on attractiveness.

He said a 1990s evaluation of a non-clinical group estimated that 61 percent of those abused were victims of men, 29 percent by women and 11 percent by both.

A large societal perception, Gartner said, is if a boy is abused by an adult woman he is lucky.

Yet, the child is confounded, left asking himself, “Why am I so anxious about this?”

One treatment he has found to be particularly effective for sexually abused men is male-only support groups.

“They still believe that they were the only one this happened to,” Gartner said. “(Then,) they see other men functioning in life and dealing with this. It's validating.”

When asked if survivors can heal, the psychologist unequivocally answered, “Yes.”

However, he explained that different people have different definitions of healing and individuals have varying methods of doing so.

“Some,” he said, “wind up in prison and have a whole different journey…”

However, Gartner added, “Certainly in my practice, I've known many men with time who've really gotten strengthened by taking a look at how they handled what they had handled.”

And, as a group, they may have more compassion.

“Research shows that men who have been abused are more empathic than ones who are not,” Gartner said.


West Virginia

CAC sees an increase in child victims

by The Intermountain

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Child Advocacy Network (WVCAN) recently released its State Aggregate Data for the 2016 fiscal year. The data in the report reflects service from West Virginia's 20 Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs) who provided official service to 37 of 55 counties in the state and courtesy services to other counties.

This past fiscal year CACs served 3,518 children — a nearly 50 percent increase in the last five years.

Locally, the Randolph Tucker CAC saw 152 of children, which is 65 percent higher than last year.

One of every 100 children in WVCAN's service area were seen by a child advocacy center last year. Sixty-four percent of the children served by Randolph Tucker CAC were under the age of 13, and 29 percent of children are reported or suspected to have a disability.

Most of children served by Randolph Tucker CAC were there because of allegations of sexual abuse — 48 percent. Thirty-one percent of alleged offenders were the child's parent and only 2 percent of the alleged offenders were an unknown stranger of the child. There were 29 cases with charges filed, and 12 individuals convicted for crimes against children. Sixteen more individuals have been indicted. Caregivers were surveyed after receiving services and 98 percent agreed: “If I knew anyone else who was dealing with a situation like the one my family faced, I would tell that person about the center.”

It is the Randolph Tucker CAC mission to work with community partners in order to support healing and justice for children and families who have been victimized. The teams in Randolph and Tucker counties are doing just this for our children.

The full statewide report includes data on victim demographics, alleged offender demographics, reported versus disclosed abuse breakdown, services performed, criminal justice response and CAC income budget breakdown. The full statewide data report can be found at

The Randolph-Tucker Children's Advocacy Center plays a critical, front-line role in responding to child victimization by coordinating a collaborative approach to the investigation of sexual and other forms of abuse, neglect, and violence, while ensuring that children and their families receive immediate, effective support. RTCAC also provides community outreach and prevention education to adults and children in our service area.


Sri Lanka

Struggle without voice

by Lionel Wijesiri

Our children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. It's a widespread war against our children that we have the power to stop, and understanding the issue is the first step. Just how bad is the issue of child abuse in the Sri Lanka?

According to the Sri Lanka's National Child Protection Authority (NCPA), it has received 10,732 complaints on different forms of child abuse during the year 2015. Of the complaints reported in 2015, the highest number was related to cruelty to children.

Social analysts believe this is the tip of the iceberg. We do not know exactly how many children in Sri Lanka are victims of child abuse. Child abuse is usually hidden from view and children may be too young, too scared or too ashamed to tell anyone about what is happening to them. One analyst estimated that for every child identified as needing protection, another 8 are suffering abuse without support.

Everyone will agree they would speak up if they thought a child was being sexually used or physically abused. And yet, the sad truth is hundreds of children face unwanted or abusive experiences every day. Many of the victims believe that there are people who are knowledgeable about their plight, but do little or nothing to protect them. Some victims tell adults what's going on, seeking protection and help, only to be met with disbelief, denial, blame, or even punishment. How can that be?

Adults' silence

Adults know they should report abuse and neglect but fail to do so for several reasons. The most frequent reason for not reporting is lack of knowledge (whether about abuse or the lack of familiarity with reporting methods). Other reasons for adults not reporting abuse include:

(1) Adults are shocked and frightened by what they have seen or what they have heard.

(2) Most adults have received little or no training about the symptoms of abused children. They are uncomfortable making such a serious accusation without more background in the field of child abuse and neglect.

(3) Adults may be reluctant to go through “bureaucratic red tape,” or they may feel it will do nothing to help the family.

(4) Self-doubt comes in many forms and from many sources, and it's a major stumbling block for people who want to do what's right when they suspect or know a child is being sexually exploited or abused.

(5) There is also the feeling “It's not my child so it's none of my business, I shouldn't interfere in their lives.”

(6) Many people are kept from speaking up by reasonable fear of violent retaliation against themselves. Violators could be highly positioned politicians, gang members, or even corrupt police officers.

(7) Accusing someone within a family circle, religious or community group often leads to the accuser being rejected by family or group members who cannot bring themselves to believe the accusation. The risk of rejection maybe considered as far more dangerous than the risks of remaining silent.

(8) If the person to be accused has high status and recognition or wields power or authority in the society, it may not just be fear getting in the way, but also deeply ingrained values and beliefs about obeying authority figures. For example, a school teacher or priest.

(9) If the person under suspicion has protected or stood by the accuser in previous difficult situations, a genuine fear of being “disloyal” may be particularly challenging. For example, a social worker.

(10) The guilt or shame that you've seen but tolerated inappropriate or harmful behaviour in the past without reporting tends to make it much harder to confront such behaviour in the present.

(11) Fear of ruining a friendship or other relationship, and of possibly hurting a person's reputation, often outweigh the intention to act.

(12) Belief that someone else will report.

(13) Fear that reporting will make the situation worse for the child.

Although all of these feelings are understandable, they focus on something other than the protection of a child in danger. The consequences of NOT reporting could be a detriment to the child's safety. In some situations, it can be life threatening. When we report, child welfare professional will assess the situation and determine the most appropriate a response. It is not our responsibility to investigate but it is our responsibility to be involved and contact appropriate services when you have a heightened concern.

Children's silence

Although open channels are available to complain, it is said that only 1 in 10 child ever report abuse. For physical abuse, the signs are usually more evident whether a bruise, mark or broken bone. For children who are emotionally, sexually abused or neglected, there are usually no signs or symptoms. Children do not report abuse for several reasons:

(1) Children are usually abused by those who are stronger and more powerful, so reporting can be terrifying.

(2) They are usually abused by those in position of authority. Children want to believe that adults have their best interest at heart.

(3) Children fear they will suffer negative consequences such as being blamed for “seducing” or being accused of lying.

(4) Abusive adults may threaten the child that if they divulge the “secret”, their loved one will be harmed or themselves.

National tragedy

Child abuse is a national tragedy, changing the lives of many children every day and affecting thousands of children and families every year. Prevention efforts build on family strengths. Through prevention activities such as parent education, home visitation, and parent support groups, families can find the support they need to stay together and care for their children in their homes and communities. Prevention efforts help parents develop their parenting skills, understand the benefits of nonviolent discipline techniques, and understand and meet their child's emotional, physical, and developmental needs.

Speak up

As citizens, we all have a role to play in building strong communities in which families and children are valued and supported. It is in these kinds of communities that children are safest from abuse and neglect. We can volunteer for programs and projects offered by many organisations who would be delighted to have extra help for their prevention efforts.

We should never think, “It's not our business.” Every child is our business if it involves child sex, abuse and neglect.

If we suspect abuse, reporting it can protect the child and get help for the family. In some countries, there are mandatory reporters (groups of people who are required to report suspicions of child abuse or neglect). We do not have such a scheme here. However, any concerned person can and should report suspected child abuse.

You may opt to make your report anonymously, but your report may be considered more credible and can be more helpful if you give your name. Remember - your suspicion of child abuse or neglect is enough to make a report. You are not required to provide proof.

Don't close your eyes and ears to child abuse. Just because you're not required by law to report does not mean that you're not morally and ethically bound to do something to save a child.



After Hastert, Illinois Pushes for Change to Child Abuse Law

by The Associated Press

The attorney general for Illinois is calling on state lawmakers to pass legislation removing statutes of limitations for child sex abuse crimes in response to the case against former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office says state lawmakers have four similar proposals pending on the matter. The soonest any one could be taken up is next month during lawmakers' brief fall session.

Madigan will speak about the proposals Tuesday, along with Scott Cross, who says Hastert abused him when Cross was a high school wrestler.

Hastert was charged with violating banking laws while trying to silence one of his victims but the statute of limitations prevented prosecutors from charging him with sex abuse.

About 30 states have no statues of limitations on child sex abuse cases.



Districts train teachers to lookout for child abuse signs

by Hannah Vogel

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- Child abuse and neglect is an issue that officials said hits us locally.

But experts said everyone in the community can help by recognizing potential signs and reporting them.

According to the latest statistics in 2014, 7,000 children in our state were victims of abuse.

Every year, teachers are required to review school policies about child abuse.

"Teachers are there on the front lines and they're the best ones to see. They see them every day to see if there are some signs of child abuse," said Bronson Brown, an attorney for the Kennewick School District.

If they see something they must say something because it's the law.

"The employees are mandatory reporters. If they observe child abuse or are suspicious that there has been child abuse, they're supposed to report that within 48 hours. It's supposed to be reported either to child protective services and or the Kennewick police department," added Brown.

They're also trained by professionals to notice signs.

"Whether it be the physical signs- types of bruising, burns, lacerations or looking for sexual abuse- also if children are being neglected where they don't have proper clothing or doesn't look like they're being fed- those types of things," said Brown.

We as a community can be on the lookout for other signs.

“A change in behavior: whether it's someone who's more outgoing and is sullen and quiet, maybe grades that are slipping, a child who might not want to go to a certain person anymore, a child who may become angrier or may have tempers things they didn't use to have," said JoDee Garretson of the Support Advocacy Resource Center.

It takes time and willingness to listen and notice.

"It's really very critical that we're all paying attention to kids and that we're all willing to speak up if we have a concern because often times kids can't speak up for themselves," said Garretson.

Experts say speaking up in this case could save a child's life.

The resource center said their door is always open to talk.

To report behavior though, call police or child protective services.

"Teachers are there on the front lines and they're the best ones to see. They see them every day to see if there are some signs of child abuse," said Bronson Brown, an attorney for the Kennewick School District.

If they see something they must say something because it's the law.

"The employees are mandatory reporters. If they observe child abuse or are suspicious that there has been child abuse, they're supposed to report that within 48 hours. It's supposed to be reported either to child protective services and or the Kennewick police department," added Brown.

They're also trained by professionals to notice signs.

"Whether it be the physical signs- types of bruising, burns, lacerations or looking for sexual abuse- also if children are being neglected where they don't have proper clothing or doesn't look like they're being fed- those types of things," said Brown.

We as a community can be on the lookout for other signs.

“A change in behavior: whether it's someone who's more outgoing and is sullen and quiet, maybe grades that are slipping, a child who might not want to go to a certain person anymore, a child who may become angrier or may have tempers things they didn't use to have," said JoDee Garretson of the Support Advocacy Resource Center.

It takes time and willingness to listen and notice.

"It's really very critical that we're all paying attention to kids and that we're all willing to speak up if we have a concern because often times kids can't speak up for themselves," said Garretson.

Experts say speaking up in this case could save a child's life.

The resource center said their door is always open to talk.

To report behavior though, call police or child protective services.

"Teachers are there on the front lines and they're the best ones to see. They see them every day to see if there are some signs of child abuse," said Bronson Brown, an attorney for the Kennewick School District.

If they see something they must say something because it's the law.

"The employees are mandatory reporters. If they observe child abuse or are suspicious that there has been child abuse, they're supposed to report that within 48 hours. It's supposed to be reported either to child protective services and or the Kennewick police department," added Brown.

They're also trained by professionals to notice signs.

"Whether it be the physical signs- types of bruising, burns, lacerations or looking for sexual abuse- also if children are being neglected where they don't have proper clothing or doesn't look like they're being fed- those types of things," said Brown.

We as a community can be on the lookout for other signs.

“A change in behavior: whether it's someone who's more outgoing and is sullen and quiet, maybe grades that are slipping, a child who might not want to go to a certain person anymore, a child who may become angrier or may have tempers things they didn't use to have," said JoDee Garretson of the Support Advocacy Resource Center.

It takes time and willingness to listen and notice.

"It's really very critical that we're all paying attention to kids and that we're all willing to speak up if we have a concern because often times kids can't speak up for themselves," said Garretson.

Experts say speaking up in this case could save a child's life.

The resource center said their door is always open to talk.

To report behavior though, call police or child protective services.




Victims of child sexual abuse waiting for justice, too

The scene on the Capitol steps last week was heart-warming, even though at its core it was a protest. The star was Libre, the horribly abused the Boston terrier puppy whose recovery is nothing short of miraculous.

With Libre their call to action, hundreds of people demanded tougher legal penalties for those convicted of abusing animals. As state Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Franklin, noted, Pennsylvania is one of only three remaining states without a felony cruelty statute.

"Libre's Law," introduced by Alloway as Senate Bill 1372, would increase some penalties for animal abuse and add a third-degree felony category for offenders who intentionally cause death or serious physical injury to an animal.

Libre, now 4 months old, was found hours from death on July 4 (hence his name, which means "liberty" or "freedom") and Alloway's bill looks to be on the fast track to passage. Identifying opposition has been next to impossible – who is against punishing people who hurt puppies?

But that's why we can't help but compare the outcry in Libre's case to the stalled legislation that would give the victims of child abuse a better chance of confronting their abusers and winning some measure of redress in the civil court system.

House Bill 1947, to eliminate or extend statutes of limitation in criminal and civil cases involving child sexual abuse. sailed through the house in April by a vote of 180-15. That bill would have:

•  Eliminated the criminal statute of limitations on most child sex crimes.

•  Allowed an individual to file a civil action against institutions and organizations based on child sexual abuse until the age of 50, rather than the current 30.

•  Eliminated time limits on when victims can file a civil action against certain individual defendants, including the perpetrator; any individual who conspired with the perpetrator of child sexual abuse; and any individual who knew of child sexual abuse but failed to report the abuse to law enforcement or a child protective services agency.

•  Eliminated the criminal statute of limitations for a conspiracy or solicitation that facilitates the offenses.

•  Lowered the standard for actions against governmental defendants from "gross negligence" to "negligence."

When the bill got to the Senate, it passed 49-0, but i t differed from the House version on a critical point: An amendment introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, axed the extended legal remedies for victims who were sexually abused as children and whose legal recourse to sue had expired. That recourse — in the wake of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese grand jury report released in March — had been the driving force behind efforts to reform the state's child sex crime laws.

So a bill that was expected to arrive swiftly on Gov. Wolf's desk and just as swiftly be signed into law is now languishing.

Who can be against punishing the people who hurt children? Consider who has the most to lose.

In hearings on the legislation, testimony was slanted toward the opponents, who talked about questions of constitutionality, not remedies. And the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has been working strenuously against any bill that would increase the church's likelihood of paying out more for its culpability in enabling ongoing abuse of children by priests.

Cruelty toward the helpless in any form should never be tolerated in a civilized society, and we're certainly not asking legislators to choose between tougher animal cruelty laws and justice for the victims of child sexual abuse.

We want both. But we'd also like to see more lawmakers tackle the tough issues head on rather than going for the easy win. Abused children — and the suffering adults they often become — deserve at least as much attention as an abused puppy, if not more.


from ICE

Southeast Texas 'babysitter' sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for producing child pornography

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Southeast Texas woman, who was supposed to care for a young child but instead recorded her sexual assault, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for producing child pornography.

This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. This sentence resulted from an investigation by the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, Aransas Pass (Texas) Police Department, and the Corpus Christi Police Department's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Rosa Linda Ganceres, 54, of Mathis, Texas, was sentenced to the maximum term of 360 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos. She was also sentenced to serve 10 years of supervised release, and must register as a sex offender. The court took into consideration a letter read in court by the mother of the victim, in which she described the impact the sexual abuse has had on the child. In handing down the sentence, Judge Ramos stated “The facts of this case are horrendous. What you did to those children is unimaginable.”

Ganceres pleaded guilty to the criminal charges June 8. At the time of her plea, the court heard that Ganceres and her boyfriend and registered sex offender – Daniel Benson Billman, 43, of Aransas Pass – placed an ad on craigslist offering babysitting services. The victim's mother answered the ad and Ganceres was supposed to care for the child. Instead, Billman sexually assaulted the 2-year-old girl while Ganceres recorded the assault.

In August 2015, authorities executed a search warrant at Billman's residence and seized a cellphone. Forensic examination led to the discovery of a video of the child involved in sexually explicit conduct that Ganceres recorded.

Billman has also pleaded guilty to his crimes. In March 2016, Senior U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack sentenced him to 50 years in federal prison.

Ganceres will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Hugo Martinez, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.

This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 14,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2015, nearly 2,400 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 victims identified or rescued.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.



Church, state clash over sex abuse

by Katherine E. Carey

Childhood sexual abuse is devastating. Its long-term effects impact many facets of society.

It's an issue that is complex and disconcerting. Many from our homes, schools, churches, law enforcement agencies and governmental institutions grapple to contain and maybe, someday, eradicate it.

The sexual abuse of minors is a worldwide epidemic that captured much attention here in the United States 14 years ago with the abuse and concealment found in the Archdiocese of Boston. Here, more than 60 priests under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia were identified in 2005 and 2011 grand jury reports to have abused dozens of children. Various legislative efforts have been made to address this legacy.

In an Archdiocese of Philadelphia training film shown to create safe environments for children, Dr. David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, explained that between 5 and 10 percent of adult men and 20 percent of women say they were molested as children.

At question is what should be done with the perpetrators — and in some cases, the institutions that enabled them.

For years the Pennsylvania General Assembly has grappled with legislation to address the criminal and civil penalties associated with the offense. Most recently, this year, a bill known as HB 1947 emerged.

The version that passed in the House of Representatives in April by a vote of 180-15 eliminates the statute of limitations for criminal charges and extends the deadline for a victim to file a civil lawsuit against their alleged abuser. Currently, a victim has 12 years after they reach age 18 to bring a civil action, or until they reach age 30. House Bill 1947 adds 32 years to that window, extending the window to age 50.

State Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-126, of Berks County, included a provision in the initial bill that would allow childhood sexual abuse survivors who are adults now the chance to file civil suits against the individuals who harmed them and, in cases where applicable, the institutions that aided them. That provision was included in the version passed overwhelmingly by the House in April. It was not included in the Senate version in the summer.

In early June, a letter from Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput opposing the legislation was distributed or made available at 219 parishes. It described the bill as “destructive legislation being advanced as a good solution” that is a “clear attack on the church, her parishes and her people.”

The letter claimed private institutions would be treated differently than public ones in the original version of the bill as “gross negligence” is more difficult to prove than “negligence” alone.

Questions were posed into the long-term financial viability of parishes in the event of the legislation's passage.

Church officials said information regarding the archdiocese's efforts on prevention and responding to victims' needs were also handed out at that time.

The campaign became personal for certain lawmakers who supported the bill — like state Rep. Nick Miccarelli, R-162, of Ridley Park, who was named in his church bulletin, and state Rep. Jamie Santora, R-163, of Upper Darby, who said intimidation tactics had been used by church management.

The bill then went before the state Senate Judiciary Committee, where much of the testimony surrounded issues of its constitutionality. Advocates said that was an issue for the courts to decide while contending it was constitutional.

Much of the testimony surrounding whether or not the legislation would pass constitutional muster revolved around a 1908 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision, Lewis v. Pennsylvania Railroad Co., which involved a train conductor who died on the job. His widow sued the company and as that was pending, the General Assembly repealed a law barring such suits.

At the June hearing, then-state Solicitor General Bruce Castor said the state Supreme Court concluded that “retroactive legislation that reduces a defendant's defenses or exemptions from demands cannot be applied where the defense has vested.”

Concerns also rose for defendants who were deceased or who were unable to defend themselves due to incapacitation.

Victim advocates said childhood sexual abuse is on par with crimes like murder, that carry no statute of limitations because the victims are impacted for the duration of their lives.

Some legislators and advocates questioned the impartiality of the hearings. The head of the committee, state Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf, R-12, of Willow Grove, recused himself after it was learned his law firm, Elliott Greenleaf, fought a similar law in Delaware and represented the Norbertine Fathers, who founded Archmere Academy, in the case of a student who alleged almost three years of abuse. Greenleaf said he had no direct involvement in that effort.

In addition, Castor's testimony drew scrutiny. As Montgomery County's district attorney in 2005, Castor entered into a non-prosecution pact regarding sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby.

Eventually, House Bill 1947 was amended, moved out of committee and the Senate approved the amended version by a vote of 49-0 - without the Rozzi retroactive amendment. Because the Senate's version is different than the House's, it was referred back to the House, where members will consider approving this rendition. Rozzi is considering reinserting that amendment into the legislation.

The issue of sexual abuse of children has drawn wider attention in recent years.

Four years ago, former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison after being convicted of assaulting dozens of at-risk and underprivileged boys over a 15-year period. A separate investigative report found that university officials had concealed facts to keep the information from being made public.

In March, a Pennsylvania grand jury determined hundreds of students in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown had been sexually abused by at least 50 priests dating back 40 years. That grand jury recommended that the state Legislature enact a window for victims who are now adults to seek restitution.

Last month, it was revealed that the Pennsylvania Attorney General's grand jury investigation had been expanded to cover the dioceses of Erie, Greensburg, Pittsburgh, Scranton and Allentown, as well as Altoona-Johnstown.

Jeff Johnson, spokesman for the state Attorney General's office, urged any victim in the state to call their hotline at 888-538-8541.

As the fall session of the General Assembly has commenced, HB 1947 has been returned to the House for final approval. What the amended version includes is unclear as GOP Senate officials and Democratic representatives have varying perspectives on what is included in the most recent version.

Jennifer Kocher, press secretary of the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Caucus, said it includes a lot of benefits for victims.

“This bill eliminates the criminal statute of limitations for conspiracy or solicitation or any of those kinds of things that facilitate those types of things,” she said.

In the future, she said, it allows a civil suit to be filed against individuals who abused a child or a private or public institution involved in conspiring with the attackers to facilitate the abuse and did not report it to law enforcement.

In addition, she said it lowers the standard of proof against governmental organizations in the suits to negligence, as opposed to gross negligence.

“There were a lot of positive changes being lost in the discussion,” Kocher said.

But the changes are not retroactive. They would apply only to cases brought after the bill becomes law.

She said the provision removed from the bill was the part that would have allowed victims and survivors who are not yet 50 years old to sue those who wronged them. The bill, she said, will go forward, meaning it helps victims decades from now.

For example, if a person is 45 years old and they were abused when they were a child, this version of the law would not allow them to sue. However, if the legislation is approved, future victims will have decades to pursue a case.

“We had constitutional concerns,” Kocher said. “We wanted the good portions of the bill that are getting lost and we wanted them to become law quickly. We didn't want to lose the good portions of the bill to be tied up in a court battle.”

She said the bill now returns to the House, where lawmakers have until the end of the year to consider it. When this session ends, all bills expire and must be reintroduced next year to be considered.

“This bill, this law promises to be a good and effective permanent law of the state,” Kocher said. “It will provide important tools for future prosecutors and victims. We continue to encourage its passage because of the good that it does for victims. (Legislators) need to decide if the good that this bill does is enough for them now. Do you take one step or do you get zero?”

Rozzi questions that logic.

“What they expanded on does nothing for the next 30 years,” he said. “We're still having lawyers look at it because they're not sure if institutions are covered up to 50 right now. The way I looked at it originally the only thing they expanded was the expansion on individually. Why not expand it for the individual and the institution?”

Rozzi, a childhood sexual abuse survivor who has advocated for victims' rights, said he felt compelled to enter public service because of these issues.

“The reason I am doing this work is because people like them are afraid to do their job,” he said.

Rozzi was 13 years old when he was abused by a priest in 1984. He learned later that more than 40 boys from his parochial school had been abused by one particular priest.

If Rozzi's proposal becomes law, he said he's not certain he would sue. But if he did, he would give away any settlement money.

“If I did, I would give every single penny of that blood money to a children's organization where it would benefit the children of the commonwealth,” Rozzi said. “I would not take one penny.”

He charged that outside influences are having an impact on the legislative process.

“When you look at the preamble that they put in there, it definitely, to me, it had the influence of the church and the insurance federation all over it,” Rozzi said. “How can they say it's not seemed to be influenced by them?”

In the summer, he stood in front of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia and accused state Sen. Joe Scarnati, R-25, of Jefferson County, of blocking the measure.

“One of the main problems is Sen. Scarnati, the insidious relationship that he has with Long and Nyquist, who is the lobbyist for the Catholic Conference,” Rozzi said. “There is a tight relationship there. He didn't listen to his constituents. He didn't listen to the victims of abuse. He listened to the lobbyists.”

Harrisburg-based Long, Nyquist & Associates is a lobbying firm. Among its clients is the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. Several of its staff, including Michael S. Long, Todd Nyquist and Tim Nyquist worked for Scarnati. Megan Crompton, the firm's vice president, government relations, is wife of Drew Cromtpon, Scarnati's chief of staff and chief counsel.

Scarnati's office referred comment to Kocher.

“We're of the firm belief that this is not a Catholic or a non-Catholic issue, that this is a survivors' issue,” Kocher said. “Any ties or perceived ties, this is much larger and (about) the good that this bill does. This bill is about survivors and the good that this does to help them.”

Victim advocates from various backgrounds questioned why the legislation faced such resistance.

Pennsylvania's own Commonwealth Victim Advocate, Jennifer Storm, called the parameters “ridiculously arbitrary statute of limitations.”

She said she received calls every day where she must tell victims there's nothing she can do for them because of these limitations.

“I am begging and imploring the Senate to pass this legislation properly — the way that it was first drafted — to do the right thing,” she said. “It's time to do the right thing in Pennsylvania.”

Outside of the basilica in the summer, Sister Maureen Paul Turlish of Catholic Whistleblowers expressed a similar sentiment.

“It is outrageous that the Roman Catholic Church of Pennsylvania is opposing legislative reform in HB 1947,” she said. “Child abuse is an epidemic in this country and it's an epidemic in Pennsylvania. It is outrageous that they are not supporting this bill and, in fact, by not supporting this bill, they are supporting sexual predators.”

Officials at the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference disagree, emphasizing that their initiative is to address the harm, pain and anger caused by childhood sexual abuse.

“The church has repeatedly acknowledged abuse that happened and its role in the ongoing suffering experienced by survivors and their loved ones,” Amy Hill, director of communications for the conference, said. “While recognizing and respecting that every individual must take his or her own personal journey to heal, the church is committed to offering assistance.”

She said it is a matter of finances, and parishioners cannot afford the amounts that these settlements would require.

However, she said the victim assistance, be it in the form of therapy, medication, child and travel support and other means, will remain.

“We will provide continuous resources for survivors and their families so they can have access to counseling, addiction treatment, medications and other necessary support services,” Hill said.

John Delaney, a victim of one of the priests whose case was detailed in the 2005 Philadelphia grand jury report, said legislative remedies need to be made to help victims of today.

“Where's the justice for victims?” he asked. “They say one thing and do another … I'm tired of it. I'm tired of what I have to go through as a victim. All they seem to care about is the money. HB 1947 should be passed to protect past, present and future victims in Pennsylvania instead of making Pennsylvania a safe haven for pedophiles.”

State Sen. John Eichelberger, R-30, of Blair County, serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee and his district falls within the confines of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

He said the Legislature was not acting on behalf of the Catholic Church, that it was an issue of constitutionality.

“Substitute the word ‘unconstitutional' with the word ‘illegal,'” he said. “It's the same thing … I can't do something wrong to make (Rozzi) feel better going forward.”

Eichelberger said lawmakers are doing what they can.

“We're all in agreement that this is an unbelievable tragedy for these people,” he said. “We're legislators, we're tasked with something. All that we can do is the best we can to help these victims.”



Love doesn't bruise

by Y. Arroyo

The Non-traditional Students Club will host two events to spread awareness about domestic violence next week with support from the empowerment center.

A T-shirt Design Project will take place 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Oct. 10 and 11 at the center. Participants will paint the shirts to honor survivors of violence and abuse.

The Clothesline Project Walk will begin at noon Oct. 12 at the center, and participants will march to the mall carrying the T-shirts on a clothesline. The clothesline will be hung at the stairs inside Loftin Student Center.

This college has hosted both events for seven years.

“This walk will help spread awareness because more people will hear about this issue and they'll begin to ask questions about it,” said empowerment center adviser Maria Jimenez.

Each T-shirt color represents a certain type of abuse. White represents women who died because of violence; red, pink and orange are for survivors of rape and sexual assault; blue and green T-shirts represent survivors of incest and sexual abuse; purple or lavender represents women attacked because of their sexual orientation; and black is for women attacked for political reasons.

The Clothesline Project is a way for women to express their emotions, but also to help as a tool for healing, Jimenez said.

Jimenez got the idea to start the project as a way to educate people about abuse. She learned that the national Clothesline Project is a way women can express their emotions.

About 25 people participated in the march last year.

The National Clothesline Project started in the 1990s when more research was done on domestic violence and how to address those issues.

The name originated with women who would talk about their troubles with neighbors as they hung laundry on clotheslines. Many of the women of that time didn't speak out about their private lives, so they would talk to their neighbor about the things that they normally kept quiet.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men in the United States have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner, and 75 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds in Texas have either experienced dating violence or know another young person who has.

Domestic violence is often overlooked, though experts do not know why, said student intern Judith Christy Williamson.

Abuse isn't only physical; it can also be sexual, verbal, psychological and financial, Jimenez said.

It can seem subtle at first, but then abuse can escalate.

“It might start off almost as sarcasm,” Williamson said. “It can perpetuate then grow into more passive aggressive. It can become something very overt, and it can happen before relationships really start. It can occur years down the road in the timeframe of a relationship.”

A victim's age plays a big role because authorities might become involved if one of the individuals is a child, an elderly adult or a disabled person.

Emotional abuse is just as serious as physical abuse, Jimenez said.

“Yes, and it comes with psychological abuse,” she said. “If you get degraded verbally, it's going to affect you emotionally. Words can be very harsh. They can really hurt you or scar you.”

There is no justification for a partner's abusive actions.

“I truly believe that if you had something happen and you come home and you want to hurt someone in front of you verbally or physically, you need to understand your feelings and back off,” Jimenez said.

If domestic violence is not dealt with effectively, it will continue to cycle through generations.

“If you're in an environment where you have children and you're being abused, it starts with you and then it rolls down to a child,” she said. “That child will grow up seeing these things and will think this type of behavior is normal.”



Child Sexual Abuse: Things you must tell your kids

by Kalpana Sharma

We send our kids out into the world without equipping them with skills that can protect them from sexual abuse. The horrifying child sexual abuse statistics tell us that as high as 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. On top of that, 85 per cent know their perpetrator.

Author Jayneen Sanders specializes in writing empowering books for children in the topic areas of Body Safety: ‘Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept', ‘My Body! What I Say Goes!', consent: ‘No Means No!' and gender equality and respectful relationships: ‘No Difference Between Us' and ‘Pearl Fairweather, Pirate Captain'. An active advocate for Body Safety Education, she shares, “When my children reached school age, I asked their primary school to implement Body Safety Education (sexual abuse prevention education) and my request was ignored. People were very uncomfortable with the conversation. I decided right then to use my skills as a writer to author a book to help parents discuss this important topic with children in an age-appropriate way.”

Prevention education is simple but once a child is being sexually abused, it becomes very complex, damaging and life-changing. Here is an excerpt from our chat:

What is the right way to educate growing kids about good and bad touch?

I believe we can start to educate children from a very young age. I have five children's books now covering the topics of body safety, body autonomy and gender equality. Children are visual learners so children's picture books are ideal in relaying important messages to children. In saying that, we also need to educate parents and teachers in Body Safety. After all they are responsible for the safety of our children. They need to educate themselves in grooming techniques, signs a child is being sexually abused and importantly to believe a child if they do disclose. We know in 98 per cent of cases where children reported sexual abuse, their statements were found to be true (NSW Child Protection Council, cited in Dympna House, 1998). An adult's reaction to a child's disclosure is crucial to their ongoing recovery. To this aim, I have written a book; for adults entitled ‘Body safety Education: a parents' guide to protecting kids from sexual abuse.'

What are the key body safety points?

As soon as your child begins to talk and is aware of their body parts, begin to name them correctly, e.g. toes, nose, eyes, etc. Children should also know the correct names for their genitals from a young age. Try not to use ‘pet names'. This way, if a child is touched inappropriately, they can clearly state to you or a trusted adult where they have been touched.

Teach your child that their penis, vagina, bottom, breasts and nipples are called their ‘private parts' and that these are their body parts that go under their swimsuit. Note: a child's mouth is also known as a ‘private zone'.

Teach your child that no-one has the right to touch or ask to see their private parts, and if someone does, they must tell you or a trusted adult straightaway. Reinforce that they must keep on telling until they are believed. (Statistics tell us that a child will need to tell three people before they are believed.) As your child becomes older (3+) help them to identify five trusted adults they could tell. These people are part of their ‘safety network'. Have your child point to each digit on their hand and say the names of the people on their 'safety network'.

Teach your child that if some-one (i.e. the perpetrator) asks them to touch their own private parts, shows their private parts to the child or shows them images of private parts that this is wrong also, and that they must tell a trusted adult straightaway. Reinforce that they must keep on telling until they are believed.

At the same time as you are discussing inappropriate touch, talk about feelings. Discuss what it feels like to be happy, sad, angry, excited, etc. Encourage your child in daily activities to talk about their feelings, e.g. ‘I felt really sad when … pushed me over.' This way your child will be more able to verbalize how they are feeling if someone does touch them inappropriately.

Talk with your child about feeling ‘safe' and ‘unsafe'. Discuss times when your child might feel ‘unsafe', e.g. being pushed down a steep slide; or ‘safe', e.g. snuggled up on the couch reading a book with you. Children need to understand the different emotions that come with feeling ‘safe' and ‘unsafe'. For example, when feeling ‘safe', they may feel happy and have a warm feeling inside; when feeling ‘unsafe' they may feel scared and have a sick feeling in their tummy.

Discuss with your child their ‘Early Warning Signs' when feeling unsafe, i.e. heart racing, feeling sick in the tummy, sweaty palms, feeling like crying. Let them come up with some ideas of their own. Tell your child that they must tell you if any of their ‘early warning signs' happen in any situation. Reinforce that you will always believe them and that they can tell you anything.

As your child grows, try as much as possible to discourage the keeping of secrets. Talk about happy surprises such as not telling Granny about her surprise birthday party and ‘bad' secrets such as someone touching your private parts. Reinforce that surprise are happy and will always be told. Make sure your child knows that if someone does ask them to keep an inappropriate secret that they must tell you or someone in their ‘safety network' straightaway.

Discuss with your child when it is appropriate for someone to touch their private parts, e.g. a doctor when they are sick (but making sure they know a person on their Safety Network in the room). Discuss with your child that if someone does touch their private parts (without you there) that they have the right to say: ‘No!' or ‘Stop!' and outstretch their arm and hand. Children (from a very young age) need to know their body is their body and no-one has the right to touch it inappropriately.

Ensure you child knows their body is their body and they are the boss of it. Reinforce the idea that everyone has an invisible body bubble around us (personal space) and that they do not have to hug or kiss someone if they don't want to. They can choose to give that person a high five or shake their hand instead.

What can parents do to ensure kids openly discuss about these things?

From a very early age talk to your kids about everything. Ensure nothing is off the table. In this age of technology, your kids will see many things that will be worrying to them; it is inevitable. What you can do is make sure your kids feel comfortable to come to you about anything that is worrying them or if they have seen images or heard conversations that disturb them. Be that safe adult they can come to. Be that person they can trust and will always believe them. Childhood is no longer as simple as it once was. We need resilient and empowered kids, and we need to provide our children with the skills to navigate this ever-changing and challenging world.

A child is scarred for life after being abused at a tender age. What are the troubling signs to watch out for?

It is important to know that one or more of these indicators does not mean your child is being sexually abused, but if they do show some of these indicators, then there is good reason to investigate further.

General Signs of Sexual Abuse (0 to 12 years): overly interested in theirs or other's genitals, continually wants to touch private parts of other children, Instigating and/or forcing ‘sex play' with another child (often younger, more than 3 years difference in age), sex play that is not appropriate i.e. oral genital contact between a 7 year old and a 4 year old (note: with the increase in pornography viewing on the internet by young children, sex play is becoming more worrisome among similar-aged children), sex play with another child happening more than three times, despite careful monitoring and discussion about inappropriateness, persistent masturbation that does not cease when told to stop, seductive/advanced sexual behavior, sexualized play with dolls or toys, sexualized play involving forced penetration of objects vaginally or anally.

Other signs are chronic peeping, exposing and obscenities, touching or rubbing against the genitals of adults or children that they do not know, persistent use of ‘dirty' words, describing sexual acts and sexualized behavior beyond their years, drawings and/or games that involve inappropriate sexual activities, strong body odor, sores around the mouth, bruising or bleeding in the genital area; bruising to breasts, buttocks, lower abdomen or thighs, withdrawn and anxious behavior (irritable, clingy, listless), secretive or say they have a ‘special' secret that can't tell (this may be to gauge your reaction), child or child's friend telling you about interference directly or indirectly, going to bed fully clothed, increase in nightmares and sleep disturbances, regressive behavior, e.g. a return to bed-wetting or soiling, sudden changes in behavior, e.g. from a happy child to an angry and/or defiant child, appetite changes (sudden and significant), unexplained accumulation of money and gifts, not wanting to go to a certain person's place or to an activity, indirectly dropping hints about the abuse (again, to gauge your reaction).

In older children (adolescents): self-destructive behavior such as drug dependency, suicide attempts, self-mutilation, eating disorders, adolescent pregnancy, persistent running away from home and/or refusal to attend school, withdrawn, angry, saying that their body is dirty, ruin, damaged, pornography interest; verbally sexually aggressive obscenities.

What's the most disturbing part about sexual abuse in kids?

Secrets are the currency sexual predators deal in. If a child has been educated to tell an adult they trust secrets that make them feel bad or uncomfortable, and that trigger their Early Warning Signs, then they are less likely to be targeted. I would encourage parents and teachers to be loud and proud that they teach the children in their care Body Safety. If a predator knows a child is educated in Body Safety, they are certainly far less likely to target that particular child. Predators don't want us to educate children so that is why we must do the complete opposite! Let's shine a light on this topic so predators have no more shadows to hide in!

These days we encourage parents with a policy of 'no secrets' only 'happy surprises' as surprises will be told. They are different to secrets because they are fun and they will always be told. But in all practicality, it is hard for the word ‘secrets' to go out of our vocab. It is used unwittingly everywhere. So if a child is educated that there are no secrets but if someone does tell you to keep a secret that bring on those Early Warning Signs than secrets like those MUST be told. Even though the adult or older teenager tells you not to.



California Today: A Shift in the Child Sex Trafficking Trade

by Mike McPhate

Good morning.

Welcome to California Today.

Is there such a thing as a child prostitute?

Campaigners have for years tried to erase the phrase from the law, arguing that if a juvenile cannot legally consent to sex with an adult, neither can she willingly sell her body.

She is a victim of rape, they say, not a prostitute.

Last week, the movement won perhaps its biggest victory as Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that bans law enforcement from arresting minors involved in the sex trade, except when their safety may be at risk.

Instead, they will be treated as victims, and directed toward social services.

“This is a really big deal,” said Kim Biddle, the executive director of Saving Innocence, a group that counsels sexually exploited youth.

The governor also signed a law that allows adult victims to have charges against them dropped if they can show they were coerced into selling sex.

Together, the measures represent a shift in prosecutions away from children and young women and toward the pimps and criminal enterprises running the industry.

Fifteen other states have passed similar laws that shield sexually exploited boys and girls from being charged with prostitution, according to Rights4Girls, a human rights organization that has fought for the changes.

The police and outreach groups say sex trafficking in California has grown rapidly in recent years — concentrated mostly in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco — as websites like Backpage and Craigslist have made transactions simpler than ever.

Detective Lina Teague, a coordinator of the Los Angeles Police Department's Human Trafficking Unit, said that many people, falsely, tend to view the sale of sex as a voluntary exchange.

“But the reality of street prostitution today is that minors and young women are being sexually exploited out of some type of duress, fear or some type of coercion,” she said.

Ms. Biddle, of Saving Innocence, cited a case in North Hollywood that involved a girl, 13, who was caught with a 47-year-old man. She was handcuffed and charged with prostitution; he got a citation, Ms. Biddle said.

“Now, we're able to view these children correctly under the law,” she added, “as victims.”



Students learn the dangers of human trafficking

by Hannah Funk

AUSTIN, Minn. -- Human trafficking is a concern throughout the United States, whether it's sex trafficking or forced labor. Students in the Austin School District are learning that anyone is a target.

According to, between 14,000 and 17,000 people are trafficked each year in the U.S.

“Minnesota is the leader in the nation for trying to address sex trafficking and sexual exploitation,” said Laura Sutherland, Safe Harbor in Southeast Minnesota.

Sutherland is educating these students about human trafficking through a medium they understand, social media.

She is stressing that although the internet can be a great thing it's also very dangerous and students should avoid interacting with strangers on Facebook, Instagram and other accounts.

“It can be twisted and turned by people who want to exploit our kids,” said Sutherland. “That's why we want kids to know how adults are doing that because when students are using social media, they might not realize those people don't have good intentions.”

Following the presentation the school is conducting a survey.

“They could mark down if they wanted to visit further with a councilor about a concern they have for either themselves or a friend,” said Sheri Willrodt, Director of Special Services for Austin High School. “We did get some hits on those surveys so our councilors are following up.”

It's a way for students to feel comfortable talking about the issue because according to Sutherland, children are being taken and sold against their will right in our area.

“If these are situations where they can step in and really help out and change the path for some of our students, then that's what we want to do.”

With the last two weeks, Sutherland presented to all of the students in from 7 th grade to 12th grade in the district.


NAASCA NOTE: Althought we've never heard of this 'fetish' before we certainly do understand the issue of cruelty to animals, as many of our members are animal lovers and activists, too. But once again the person involved was sentenced to more time for this crime than many others get for the crimes of child abuse.

From the FBI

Animal Cruelty

Houston “Crush” Cases Were First Under Federal Statute

The sentencing last month of a Houston man for creating and distributing videos depicting the torture and killing of small animals brings to a close the first successful prosecutions under a 2010 federal statute specifically tailored to prohibit so-called “crush” videos.

Brent Justice, 55, was sentenced on August 18 in Houston to nearly five years in prison for making videos that featured a woman mutilating and killing puppies, chickens, and kittens between February 2010 and August 2012. The woman in the videos, Ashley Nicole Richards, 25, originally from Waco but residing in Houston, was also convicted.

The case against co-defendants Justice and Richards highlighted a little-known federal statute— The Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010 —that criminalizes the creation, sale, and marketing of videos depicting cruelty to animals to satisfy a fetish. The law's enactment followed a Supreme Court ruling in 2010 that struck down a 1999 animal cruelty law that was determined to be too broad and a violation of free speech rights.

Richards pleaded guilty last September to four counts of creating crush videos and one count of distribution, making her conviction the first under the 2010 statute. In the videos, which were distributed online, Richards is scantily clad and wearing a Mardi Gras-type mask while making sexual comments to the camera. Crush videos are part of a fetish subculture, with videos circulating online, often under the guise of ritual sacrifices.

Justice was found guilty in state court last February and sentenced to 50 years in prison. He was found convicted in May on the federal charges and subsequently sentenced to 57 months in prison.

The case was originally investigated by the Houston Police Department, where Officer Suzanne Hollifield followed a tip from the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.

“I knew what crush videos were, I had been trained to recognize them, but I never expected to see something like that in my career,” said Hollifield, a 22-year police veteran who served on her department's animal cruelty squad. She quickly identified Richards and Justice in the videos, charging the pair under state animal cruelty laws. The hardest part of the case, she recalled, was reviewing—repeatedly—the horrific videos in order to identify Justice as the camera operator shooting and assisting Richards.

Hollifield, who years earlier worked with the FBI on a cyber crimes task force, sent the digital evidence to the FBI's Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory (RCFL) in Houston. Federal prosecutors determined the case met the threshold for the 2010 animal crush statute. And the FBI began following the videos' digital breadcrumbs, investigating the scope of the business venture, which had Internet-based customers across the U.S. and as far away as Pakistan and Italy.

“They were corresponding with people around the world and selling these videos,” said Special Agent David Ko, who was on the Houston FBI's violent crime squad at the time. “They would ask Richards to put on certain clothing and perform certain acts and send her money. And then she would buy a certain animal and torture and kill it.”

Evidence presented in court included e-mail correspondence with customers containing links to download the video files and thanking them for wiring money transactions. One e-mail dated August 10, 2012 also included a link to a sample video of a dog being slaughtered.

“It is very cruel video with lots of action and sexy scenes you will like,” the e-mail stated. “Let me know if you like it and what you can afford.”

Richards was sentenced on state charges in 2014 to 10 years in prison. As part of her plea to the federal charges last year, she agreed to testify against Brent Justice.

Prosecutors showed that Justice handled the business side of the video venture, advertising and promoting the underground business, while Richards served as his performer. During his trial, one of the crush videos was played in open court.

“It's extremely violent. It's tough to watch,” said Ko, who reviewed more than 16 hours of video to prepare for the original grand jury indictments in 2012. “It's gratifying to know they're arrested, behind bars, and not doing these types of crimes anymore.”

“I am very satisfied with the results,” said Hollifield. “It was so horrific. We were determined from the outset to make this case.”



Princess Madeleine of Sweden: Why I'm Campaigning to End Child Sex Abuse

by Princess Madeleine

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 60,000 children were sexually abused in the United States in 2014. Globally, 18% of women and 8% of men report being victims of childhood sexual abuse. Despite these astronomical numbers, child sexual abuse is rarely discussed and solutions do not adequately address the public health crisis affecting such a large number of children.

We know that children who are sexually abused are at a greater risk for later mental health and anxiety syndromes, including depression and suicidal thoughts. The societal and economic consequences of not addressing the problem, or investing in prevention of, sexual abuse of children are grave. In 1999, my mother decided to use her voice to speak about children's rights and founded the World Childhood Foundation, which has since funded more than 1,000 projects in 20 countries. I have always admired my mother's courage and aim to continue her work in combatting child sexual abuse. Now as a mother of two, I am even more determined to help create a world free from sexual abuse for all children in our lifetime.

But it is not our children's obligation to keep themselves safe. We, as adults, have an obligation to ensure that our children are surrounded by child protectors.

Child sexual abuse thrives in silence. The first step in combatting sexual abuse is removing the stigma from discussing the abuse, which requires learning the facts, talking about it with our children and investing in prevention.

Learn the facts . We live in a digital world and it is crucial that technology is integrated in our fight. The new mobile app “Stewards of Children Prevention Toolkit” provides tools and educational resources for adults to prevent, recognize and respond to child sexual abuse.

Talk about it. Create a safe environment to talk to your child about sexual abuse, including body safety, anatomical language and personal boundaries.

Recognize the signs. The most common signs of sexual abuse are emotional and behavioral changes, such as “too perfect” behavior, withdrawal, fear, depression, unexplained anger and rebellion. Indirect physical signs can include anxiety, chronic stomach pain and headaches.

React responsibly. If a child shares that they have been abused, stay calm, praise the child's courage and listen.

As a new school year begins, let us commit together to keep our #EyesWideOpen and ensure that we keep the children in our lives safe from all forms of violence.

Her Royal Highness Princess Madeleine of Sweden works with the World Childhood Foundation and is the creator of the #EyesWideOpen initiative, to mobilize people to take action against childhood sexual assault.