International Men's Day: Male, The Forgotten Gender
by Harish Iyer
The nation knows that I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I have spoken about it countless times at various forums, to the extent that I am considered to be a poster boy for the cause of male child sexual abuse. I was probably the first man to come out and say that I was sexually abused as a child by a man, and the responses I got from people around me were fascinating. For starters, they did not believe that I being a male child, was abused. Just because I was male, it was not fathomable that I could be sexually abused. I realised then, I am the forgotten gender.
There are tens of thousands of children who get sexually abused in this country and the world over. A majority of them are male. They face the brunt of the stigma of the popular perception that males are the ones that abuse, while females are the ones that get abused. I speak to around 10 or more survivors every single day. Most of them are adult men, who had undergone sexual abuse in their childhood.
The Vulnerability Of Men
When I ask them if they told their parents, 50% of them told me that they did. Their parents' reactions were livid. Some reprimanded the male survivor for not fighting back, whereas some folks ignored what they heard from their son. The other 50% who did not tell their parents, did not have any belief in their folks to begin with. These are the boys who grow up to be confused men, who do not trust anyone easily. These men remind me – that male is the forgotten gender.
I am a staunch feminist. I understand the privilege I enjoy vis-à-vis women who are not allowed their voice or their choice. But sometimes these very privileges work against men themselves. They are seen as the procreator, the seed giver. So, when they decide to come out as lovers of other men, they are ostracised and sometimes beaten to death and starved. The very misogyny and patriarchy, that were supposed to favour men, gets used against them because they are suddenly perceived as being “woman like”.
There is a need to understand the vulnerability of men. Many are forced into heterosexual marriages. And we ask them- why didn't you develop a spine to stand up for yourself instead of getting married to a woman? This is not the case of a ‘men versus women' fight. But seriously, we don't ask the same question when the woman is forced to marry a man. We still live in a society where women are forced into heterosexual marriages and are seen with empathy, but when men are forced, we look at them with apathy. On behalf of all men who are forced, and are not even believed when they confess that they were forced to marry outside their sexuality, I realise that male is the forgotten gender.
What is 498A?
During my growing up years, I remember this boy in my school in his 8th grade. He had a what we call, “aunty” fixation. He loved making out with older women in their late 20s. Everyone he narrated this incident to, with immense pride – it was seen as some kind of brave act that the boy was “enjoying”. Now, when I look back and change the genders in my head… if it was a girl child who was making love to older men in their late 20s, will we look at her with fascination and pride? Or will we look at this as a case of abuse? This reminds me, that male is the forgotten gender.
And do you know about 498A? I am a staunch feminist who believes that women need to be equal to men. I have interacted with women who have acid thrown on them, women who were burnt by their in-laws… all because of dowry. That said, I am also aware of men who were falsely accused by their wives and their families of demanding dowry. Like the story of this man who blamed his in-laws and partner for the misuse of 498A.
The Victims of Patriarchy Are Men Themselves
Unfortunately though, the discussion in the domain of 498A , is drowned in the noise of wordy cyberwars and incessant trolling by feminists on one side, and mens' rights activists on the other, thus leading to the proliferation of hashtags like #FemisnistsAreUgly by Men's Rights Activists and the complete nonacceptance of the fact that women could be perpetuators too, by women's rights groups.
Throw a few difficult words in a glass jar, add a few statistical figures, shake it with anger and spill out the vitriol on social media in chaste English – that's what happens.
We often forget in this noisiness that the victims of patriarchy are men themselves. But they are the forgotten gender. And to change the narrative, we need to start seeing every case uniquely, devoid of any assumptions.
There are people fighting for men like these who are put on the weighing scale of male versus female abuse. They are reduced to a percentage.
Women are not statistics. Men are not statistics. People are not statistics. Crime is not a number. Crimes like these, are a grim reminder of the fact that we need to look at people beyond numbers, and have an un-gendered outlook at times.
We need a new temperature for sanity and that will come only with a new barometer for equality.
On International Men's Day, let's not belittle men by saying “all men are not assholes” and by following it with “there are a few good men too”… which makes violent men a norm and kind men the exception from the rule. This has got to change. This will have to change. Today, let's pledge to change the story.
Goal: Minimize trauma in child abuse investigations
by Stephanie Dickrell
SARTELL — Colorful parrots and toucans, large dragonflies and wide-eyed frogs adorn the lobby and exam rooms at the new Child Advocacy Center in Sartell.
This place immediately signals to kids that it's designed for them.
It's a far cry from the sharp corners and granite of the St. Cloud police station. It's also not a space that reflects doom and gloom, or the trauma that comes with childhood abuse and sexual assault.
In a building separate from any law enforcement office or medical offices, children can be interviewed and given support services after accusations of abuse arise. The center is new for Central Minnesota. Other areas of the state have similar programs, and there are nearly 800 in the U.S.
By design, it avoids the intimidating and busy atmosphere of a police department and affords privacy that might not happen in a busy clinic waiting room, director Katie Boecker says. Police officers lock up their guns before entering rooms with the kids.
Children don't face a panel of interviewers or have to retell their story over and over to police officers, attorneys, social workers and doctors.
They tell their story once, to one person, in a quiet, private room. Their interviewer is trained to be neutral, to allow the child to lead the interview. It's designed so as not to lead a child to a story that isn't true, and to allow the child to share the stories they're ready to tell.
From another room, relevant members of the multidisciplinary team — law enforcement officers, prosecutors, child protection workers, medical personal and advocates for the child — observe via an audiovisual system. DVD copies of the interview can be made immediately and taken with them, for purposes of reports, investigation and filing charges.
In a separate room, the child's caregiver — a non-offending parent or family member, a foster parent or a social worker — can talk to another member of the team and hear about the medical and mental health services available to the family.
Before the story is finished being told, the family can already start to heal.
Next door, a child can be get a well-child exam by a doctor trained to work with children and victims of abuse. Previously, a child might only have a medical exam for the purpose of gathering evidence and had to see a doctor in the Twin Cities. But here, all children can be examined, close to home. If needed, more sophisticated imaging and other medical services are just blocks away.
"The overall message is: It's going to be OK. Your body is OK," Boecker said.
The center is one of seven in Minnesota. They're designed with the same, child-focused, multidisciplinary model and accredited through the National Children's Alliance. The local center will apply for accreditation in March next year.
The Central Minnesota center started seeing clients in September. As of Friday, staff have handled 20 cases. So far, it's been working great.
One case dealt with an unlicensed daycare facility where a number of kids were allegedly abused, said Matt Engelking, chief of the juvenile division for the Stearns County Attorney's Office.
"In at least one of those instances, during a well-child exam, they disclosed some additional injuries which led to additional disclosures," he said. "That's the benefit of bringing these under one roof."
A key piece of the center is the forensic interview, designed to get as much relevant factual information from a child as possible. Some local law enforcement are trained in the technique.
"They come in with a very neutral approach," Boecker said. They'll start with a question like: "Do you know what brought you in here today?"
The goal is not to push an agenda, but to listen to what the child has to say and wants to say. If a child isn't ready to talk, then so be it. The interviewer doesn't go in looking to make a case. Perhaps, the incident was a misunderstanding or it was a false allegation.
"Sometimes, they'll walk out and not say anything," Boecker said.
Boecker's role is not only to manage the center but to focus on the healing of the child.
"A lot of this is just listening to them," Boecker said. Sometimes the child's primary caregiver is too traumatized to offer the support a child needs, or they're the one causing the harm. The help extends to siblings and other family members as needed, just as the harm can.
"Victims receive wraparound services from the beginning," said Dave Hartford, director of St. Cloud Hospital Behavioral Health. The idea is to intervene early, to prevent further trauma or negative impacts down the road.
Certain therapeutic approaches aim to reduce negative emotional and behavioral responses following child sexual abuse, domestic violence, traumatic loss or other traumatic events. That could include nightmares, bed-wetting, no appetite or refusal to eat, stomach aches or missing school.
The center's location happens to be near the new site of CentraCare's behavioral health department. That means Boecker can actually walk kids and caregivers over, introduce them to staff and therapists and help them set up an appointment. That takes away from the anxiety leading up to an appointment.
It reduces fear for adult and child. They already know where to go, what the office will look like, who the staff is. That makes their chances of showing up for the appointment that much greater, Boecker said.
The center makes referrals to any appropriate service in the community, including the Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center and Anna Marie's Alliance.
In the past, it may have taken several months for a child or caregiver to even get in to see a therapist.
"They don't have three months," Boecker said. "They need that immediate followup. That's the role of the advocate."
There's some education to be done for the non-offending caregivers as well.
"That parent has to know how to help that child," Boecker said.
They also know the impact isn't over when the family leaves the center. Advocates serve as a main point of contact throughout the life the case.And Boecker says some may not need any follow up.
All of this comes out of more research and understanding in the medical community on how trauma can negatively affect kids well into adulthood.
"We've known for a long time, there are literally physical manifestations of childhood trauma and the medical community really hasn't gotten a good hold on it," said Janelle Kendall, Stearns County attorney. The cases usually end up in the criminal justice and child protection systems, not necessarily in health care settings.
Trauma research includes the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, which looks at the effects of physical or sexual abuse. Kendall, members of law enforcement, public health and other county departments have been working to make the county more responsive to those needs.
"It's just kind of the 'Aha!' moment," Kendall said. "It just makes sense when you've been reading police reports your whole career."
She has witnessed victims and offenders who can't reason through things or see the options they have.
"When you look at how the human body would form if it's in fight or flight mode constantly," Kendall said, "it made a lot of sense. ... Physically, they don't have the capacity that other people may have. It's just outside their experience."
Child advocacy centers were one way to get directly at that issue of childhood trauma. There was a big hole of coverage in the middle of Minnesota, Kendall said. Child advocacy centers already operate in Fargo, Bemidji, Duluth, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester and Winona.
The group received a $130,950 grant from the Minnesota Office of Justice Programs for startup costs for the center.
Current staff includes Boecker, a nurse and a child advocate, all employed by CentraCare. They're still looking for a medical director. Two local pediatricians work part-time at the center — Dr. Geri Jacobson and Dr. David Kruse. Both specialize in pediatrics for CentraCare Health.
One of the next steps for the team is identifying ways to make the center sustainable, through grants, fundraising and other means. Eventually, Kendall sees the center needing to handle 400-500 cases a year, easily.
The center is starting work in Stearns County, but hopes to expand to surrounding agencies. Agencies that want to use the child advocacy centers must agree to bring all child abuse cases to the CAC. Referrals come from child protection and law enforcement.
Kendall said funding for the center could be something they bring to county boards, especially if the center can show concrete savings in how child protection cases flow through the system.
Insurance can be billed for some of the health services, but that covers only a small percentage of the cost for the center, Hartford said. Families are not charged to use the advocacy center services.
There's a lot of work to getting all those systems to jive together.
"The model presupposes that law enforcement and child protection will allow health care into their investigations," Kendall said. "It has been a fascinating experiencing."
Each agency has a different objective. Law enforcement wants to identify crimes and evidence. The attorney's office is looking to prosecute. Child protection wants to protect the child and prevent more abuse. Medical services are concerned for the physical well-being and mental health.
"It was extremely complicated," Hartford said. "We had to work together to create something new that was really a collaborative effort."
The center helps agencies work across county lines — a key advantage because St. Cloud is in three counties.
Multiple agencies can get information without requiring the family and child to retell traumatic experiences.
"We are collapsing time frames, coordinating the information sharing with professionals, minimizing the amount of trauma," Engelking said. "It will all occur seamlessly under one roof."
The research tells them that prosecutions should become more efficient, with improved quality of evidence. It makes it easier for a family to go through the criminal justice process, too.
"Conviction rates end up being higher because the family sticks with it," Kendall said.
Members of the team have been passing along a story about a recent visit from a little girl. After a long day of interviews and exams, the child walked out of the center with a smile on her face. She said, I love this place. When can I come back?
"She felt safe," Boecker said. "We gave her exactly what we wanted."
By the numbers
Infant to 18 years old. The ages seen at the Child Advocacy Center. Staff goes by developmental age. So a vulnerable adult with cognitive abilities of a child could be helped at the center.
312,000. The number of children served by child advocacy centers in the U.S. in 2015.
247,000. The total number of alleged offenders involved with child advocacy center cases in 2015.
More than 2,200. Number of children served by centers in Minnesota in 2015.
Nearly 1,190. The number of alleged offenders involved with child advocacy center cases in 2015.
About 1,500. The number of children who received services through a center in Minnesota in 2015. That's over two-thirds of children seen at centers.
8 percent. Portion of Minnesota's counties that are covered by a National Children's Alliance center member, or seven out of 87, in 2015.
Experts conduct training on child abuse in two-day session
by The Bradford Era
Thirty multidisciplinary investigative teams members from McKean, Elk, Cameron and Potter counties attended a two-day training session in Bradford on Thursday and Friday.
The sessions were held at the First Presbyterian Church.
The training was provided through a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) via Fox Valley Technical College Missing and Exploited Children – Training and Technical Assistance Program.
Training topics concentrated on best practices throughout investigations of child maltreatment — focusing on the safety of children and investigative process.
“We — the Children's Advocacy Center and our entire team— are fortunate to have access to such excellent training with nationally renowned experts in the field of child maltreatment,” said Mikele Bay, director of the McKean County Children's Advocacy Center. “The response from the training was overwhelmingly positive and our CAC hopes to bring more training to McKean, and our surrounding counties, in the future.
“This training exemplifies the strong collaboration of partner agencies throughout all four counties to conduct thorough child abuse investigations and focus on the needs of the victim child,” she continued. “The CAC is proud to be a small part of the larger team of professionals attending to the needs of our most vulnerable citizens.”
Julie Kenniston, MSW, L.I.S.W., and Dave Peifer, retired special agent in charge for the state Attorney General's office, conducted the training sessions.
Kenniston is an independent contractor and trainer presenting nationally and internationally on interviewing and investigation of child abuse and exploitation cases. She is the executive director of The Center for Family Solutions, Butler County's developing family justice center in Hamilton, Ohio. She specializes in the areas of forensic interviews, interdisciplinary teamwork, peer review, sexual abuse and exploitation issues, domestic violence dynamics, assessment, and planning. Kenniston is a licensed independent social worker in Ohio. As a recent board member of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children having served two terms, she remains as the co-chair of the forensic interview committee to continue the forensic interviewer mentor project. Kenniston is co-author and co-editor of the 3'd Edition of Handbook on Questioning Children: A Linguistic Perspective, originally written by Anne Graffam Walker, Ph.D., and published by the American Bar Association.
Peifer, retired from the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, was the special agent in charge of the Bureau of Special Investigations - Child Predator Unit. This unit is responsible for conducting undercover online investigations, responding to complaints regarding children sexually exploited via the Internet, conducting community education programs and monitoring of the Internet for the bartering in child pornography. Peifer has been a law enforcement officer for 35 years and was the supervisor of the Delaware County District Attorney's Criminal Investigation Child Abuse Unit & Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force for 13 years. During this time Peifer has investigated hundreds of incidents of child abuse (including child sexual abuse) and child pornography. Peifer has received over 1,200 hours of training in the field of child physical and sexual abuse as well as the use of the internet by sexual offenders to seduce, entice and gain access to children for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
Child abuse case load at CPS targeted by Austin
by Bonnie Arnold
The Texas Commissioner in charge of the Department of Family and Protective Services, Hank Whitman, has been notified by Governor Greg Abbott's office that DFPS is on notice to better protect Texas children who are in harm's way, and to reduce the statewide backlog of children whose cases haven't been investigated.
That call to action includes any possible cases in Kerr and two adjoining counties with the staff of investigators at the Kerrville office responsible.
The Kerr office is part of Region 8 of DFPS, which includes 28 counties. The regional office is in San Antonio, the largest city in the region.
Information Specialist Mary Walker said statistics about uninvestigated backlogs of cases most often apply to larger metropolitan areas than Kerrville, but the letter from the Governor's office was sent out statewide for all offices to check their staffing levels and case files.
The letter dated Oct. 12 says reports show “a backlog of children not seen within statutory guidelines remains unchanged since the spring,” and DFPS must eliminate the backlog.
It asks for action plans from regional management to address the current situation, and proactively prevent additional lapses “in required face-to-face visitations and interventions.”
It says the governor's office expects the next Texas Legislature “will make judicious budgetary decisions in the 85th Legislative session for resources in the future biennium” – in other words, almost promising more funding for more staff, but not right now.
But the letter also tells directors to immediately initiate “stop-gap measures” to eliminate the current backlog before the next legislative session begins in January.
Regional directors are supposed to form a plan to hire and train more special investigators, including new hires with law enforcement backgrounds; and to find the children the agency has so far been unable to locate.
Walker said the staff in Kerrville covers Kerr, Gillespie and Bandera counties, and CPS has a total of eight investigator positions and one special investigator assigned here. Special Investigators are former law enforcement officers with forensic backgrounds.
She said she couldn't estimate the impact on that staff of faster response times and an increased number of cases handled to reduce the backlog.
When child protective cases are investigated, each is assigned to one of two “priority groups.” “Priority I” is assigned to intake reports on children who appear to face immediate risk of abuse or neglect that could result in death or serious harm; and CPS must initiate the investigation within 24 hours of receiving the Priority I report.
“Priority II” is the ranking assigned to all other reports of abuse or neglect that contain allegations of abuse or neglect in which there does not appear to be an immediate threat of serious harm or death. CPS must start these investigations within 72 hours of getting the report.
Walker added the priority label can be changed if investigation shows the need.
Walker said there are several reasons why a child is showing on a report as not having face-to-face contact with a CPS investigator. Those include:
• Contact has not yet met the priority deadline;
• Worker is making attempts as policy requires, but “attempts” aren't noted on reports, only actual contacts;
• Family has moved and worker is trying to find new location information;
• Special investigator is assigned to some cases, attempting to locate missing families;
• Parents have refused to allow CPS to interview or see children;
• There are data entry errors affecting the listed total number of children not seen.
By Texas law, the definitions of “abuse” or “neglect” requiring CPS investigation are physical abuse; sexual abuse, emotional abuse; neglectful supervision; medical neglect; physical neglect; and refusal to assume parental responsibility.
Staff members are trained in risk assessment.
The following statistics are from the 2015 fiscal year.
Of the total Child Protective Service staff of 9,211 statewide, there were 2,133 fulltime investigators. But CPS has a turnover rate of more than 25 percent, though most stay three years or more. Entry salary was just below $33,000.
Supervisor turnover was listed as 9.5 percent and entry salary for these jobs was $42,244. CPS had a total budget that year of $1.3 million with about $550,000 spent on staff.
The CPS calls, intake or investigation workers and response time that the governor's office sent the letter about, was reported.
Kerr County staff handled 575 initial intakes, 414 assigned for investigation by seven staff members, 89 responded to within 24 hours and assigned Priority I, and 244 responded to within 72 hours and assigned Priority II.
Bandera and Gillespie counties had numbers half or less than that.
The most common person reporting child abuse or neglect leading to completed investigations was school personnel, at 20 percent. Most common characteristic of a confirmed victim was a female (51 percent) ages 1-3 years old (22 percent).
The child population in Texas that year, ages birth to 17, was 7,311,923. Kerr County had the lowest category in its region along with most of the 28 counties, 6-20,000. Bexar County had the largest number.
Completed CPS investigations that year were in the category of 0-400. Confirmed victims of child abuse/neglect in Kerr County were in the 0-200 range out of the 28 counties. As a region, there were 7,498 confirmed cases and most were in Bexar County. The state total was 66,721, most in the largest metropolitan areas.
Of the 27,895 children in DFPS “substitute care” that year, almost 11,400 were placed in foster care.
The map of children in foster care by county showed between 51 and 300 in Kerr County. Region 8 had a total of 4,658 children in foster care, and Kerr County's ranking was shared by eight other counties in the region.
And out of the total Texas child population, CPS noted 171 fatalities in 2015, 10 of them in Region 8.
Parents Take Note: Are You Already Verbally Abusing Your Child?
by Abbie Kraft
Verbal abuse can range from a taunting remark to verbally putting the child down and making them feel inferior. Passing remarks may seem harmless at times, but it can potentially have a long-term effect on the child, especially with their self-esteem.
Verbal abuse can build up not only fear but also the lack of self-confidence and other mental health risks. Verbal abuse victims would often deny being hurt, especially when the person abusing them is someone they love and trust. Children, in general, may tend to suppress their emotions where they would tend to disregard comments that are already emotionally piercing.
Verbal abuse can lead to emotional abuse, especially in children. Though some parents would take their words lightly, especially when they're upset, the child would, however, take it and absorb the remarks. Simple remarks such as negatively comments on their weight, their grades and how they look can place them at risk of going through mental health problems as they get older.
Healthy Place explained that verbal abuse can lead to indecision, lack of emotional attachment by being too sensitive or too calloused, and it may lead them into thinking that they will never be good enough. It was then added that verbal abuse in children can lead to PTSD, self-harm, and anxiety.
"Given the prevalence of childhood psychological abuse and the severity of harm to young victims, it should be at the forefront of mental health." American Psychologist Association stated.
Huffington Post then released a breakdown where it was mentioned that verbal abuse is less visible than physical abuse, but it can have a serious negative impact in the long-run. Some of the examples of verbal abuse are humiliation, neglect, denigration and unrelenting pressure. It is important for parents to be cautious, especially with words as a simple joke, can sometimes beat the child emotionally.
Helping children: Stress of poverty, violence, pain can alter brains
by Jennifer Dixon
This is one in a series of stories on efforts to improve children's lives. The Free Press spent a year talking to children across Detroit about how they live and what issues they see as most important. Safe neighborhoods, schools, job opportunities, teen pregnancy and help for young parents were among key issues raised. Based on these conversations, as well as community meetings and a poll, the Free Press looked at efforts both locally and around the country. This project was done with a $75,000 grant from the Solutions Journalism Network, a New York-based nonprofit that partners with newsrooms around the country to do projects that focus on solutions to social issues.
Researchers call it "toxic stress."
It's the response some children have to prolonged adversity — whether it's the burden of living in extreme poverty or being exposed to violence, physical or emotional abuse, or chronic neglect.
Children who experience excessive stress face immediate and lifelong problems with learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.
According to researchers:
Prolonged exposure to fear can impair early learning and affect performance in school, at work and in the community. One researcher found that children who took reading or vocabulary tests shortly after being exposed to a murder in their neighborhood performed dramatically lower — as though they'd lost several years of academic progress.
The brain's circuitry can be disrupted by chronic stress.
The long-term impact of toxic stress can include diabetes, heart disease, depression, substance abuse and a shortened life span.
Removing a child from a dangerous environment will not undo the serious consequences or reverse the impact on the brain.
Fears are not forgotten over time and must be actively unlearned.
Researchers say the findings underscore the importance of prevention and early intervention.
"Society reaps what it sows in the way it treats its children," said Dr. Martin Teicher, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a leading expert on how child abuse and neglect, specifically, can cause physical changes to the brain. "You'll have generation after generation of problems if children grow up in a situation with a lot of adversity and strife. It's really important that we nurture our children and provide a safe and supportive environment so they can really reach their potential."
Teicher, whose lab and research are based out of the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., said some regions of the brain are sensitive to maltreatment early in life, others during preteen and teenage years.
Dr. Jacek Debiec, a neuroscientist and psychiatrist at the University of Michigan, said he has treated children and teenagers who experienced childhood trauma.
"We know that long-term stress may alter the brain, even alter (it) irreversibly," said Debiec, who researches brain development in animals and the way newborns form bonds with their parents.
For example, the area of the brain called the amygdala, which is important for processing danger, “tends to be enlarged and hyperactive after an exposure to a prolonged stress,” he said. And the hippocampus, the brain structure that is important for learning and memory, shrinks when a person is subject to severe stress, "which means that the child ...may have problems with learning, with staying focused, and with many tasks that require learning and memory, including unlearning previous traumatic experiences."
The main goal of treatment is “to restore the feeling of safety,” a process that may be long and demanding because it is already complicated by the trauma-induced alterations of critical brain networks, Debiec said.
While most mental health illnesses have a strong genetic component, he said, the "social environment does matter."
Research also shows that while some experiences might be one-time events and others may persist over time, "all of them have the potential to affect how children learn, solve problems, relate to others and contribute to their community," according to a 2011 paper written by Nathan Fox, a professor at the University of Maryland who has done research on human developmental neuroscience, and Dr. Jack Shonkoff, a professor of child health and development and pediatrics at Harvard University.
According to the university's Center on the Developing Child, which Shonkoff directs, the mental and physiological effects of stress are buffered if a child grows up in an environment of supportive relationships. But if the stress response is extreme and long-lasting and buffering relationships are unavailable, a variety of biological systems may be primed for breakdown in adulthood.
David Marshall, a neuropsychologist and assistant professor in the University of Michigan's Psychiatry Department, is involved in the country's largest long-term research study of bipolar disease, one of the mental health illnesses linked to childhood trauma.
His research has found that participants who experience childhood trauma score more poorly on impulse-control tests than those who didn't suffer childhood trauma. He said that's important because impulse control impacts all kinds of decision-making: from acting out as a child to abusing alcohol or drugs as an adult.
Marshall said the findings underscore the need to teach adults and children coping strategies as early as possible, even though not everyone exposed to trauma will develop mental health issues.
Another area that researchers are delving into: how some children exposed to trauma develop resilience, or the ability to overcome serious hardship, and others do not.
According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard, the single most common factor for children who develop resilience is having at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver or another adult. Resilience can be strengthened at any age.
Understanding resilience is important, the center said, because the science can be used to improve programs and policies to help more children reach their full potential.
Living in extreme poverty can cause chronic stress because it is often accompanied by many stressful factors: violent communities, violent relationships, noise and pollution, lack of food, and chaotic environments and schedules. Whether it becomes toxic stress largely depends on the adults in the child's life and whether they have the ability to buffer the child from stress.
Toxic stress also has implications for learning, according to Patrick Sharkey, a professor of sociology at New York University who got his doctorate in sociology and social policy from Harvard.
In launching his research on children and violence, Sharkey had one specific question: Does the shock of a murder affect a child's academic achievement, attention span and impulse control?
The answer: Yes. And the impact is significant.
Sharkey began his research by reanalyzing assessments of the cognitive skills of children in Chicago gathered by other researchers, and matching those assessments to information on homicides occurring in the children's neighborhoods. The closer the homicide to the day of the assessment — and the closer to the child's home — the worse the results.
When he compared two children in the same neighborhood, the child tested within days of a homicide performed much worse on reading and vocabulary tests than a child tested before a murder.
"The closer the homicide, in time and space to the child, the bigger the impact," Sharkey said in a phone interview from Nepal, where he is on sabbatical. The impact of a murder close to the home within four days of the assessment was "enormous" — as though the child "missed two or three years of school. It may not be surprising that local violence affects children, but what was really surprising was the magnitude of the impact. It was that strong."
While his research doesn't tell anything about the permanent impact on cognitive development, he said children in the most violent neighborhoods may spend as much as one-fourth of the year functioning at a lower level at home and in school.
"If the effects of local violence compromise students' ability to learn, to maintain attention and to perform well in the classroom, the long-term consequences for children's educational trajectories may be severe," Sharkey wrote in 2012.
The less talked about abuse of children
The spike in sexual assault against children as young as five years old is sickening, but the increasing reach of the media is at least ensuring that these crimes are brought to light. There is however, another kind of abuse many children are subject to that is not sexual abuse but has profound effects in a child's physical and mental wellbeing. It is the physical and verbal abuse inflicted on children in the name of discipline in school and at home. Unfortunately, though lately the term corporal punishment is being discussed (that too after some horrific incidents were exposed in the media) and there is a law in our country against it, children continue to be physically and mentally tortured and the consequences can be disastrous.
by Sarah Anjum Bari
The NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children), UK defines child abuse as any action that causes significant harm to a child, be it physical, sexual, or emotional. These terms bring to mind cases of molestation and rape, or torture caused by outsiders. Seldom do we think of the harsh behaviour inflicted by family members and teachers, whereas these are the things children are least able to revolt against.
Our culture has a deep-rooted tradition of punishing children harshly. Older generations especially took pride in disciplining their children through caning, flogging and other forms of physical punishment that would supposedly make disciplined, obedient human beings out of errant, rebellious children. Teachers practiced similar methods of corporal punishment in classrooms, the most common of which were slapping students' palms with rulers and squeezing their fingers together with pens held between them. We have read news reports of young students in schools and madrasas being chained, hung upside down, their head shaved and their bodies bruised with repeated beatings. It is horrifying to imagine kids subjected to this kind of pain, and yet many parents overlooked or worse, encouraged schools to uphold such barbaric disciplining methods. Many still do.
A factsheet posted on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website discusses the long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect. Imagine a child that is shaken, slapped, whipped or beaten by a parent or teacher, especially at a young age. The force may impair certain parts of the child's brain from developing. Once he starts to grow up, he may fail to develop cognitive and language abilities; he may face difficulty in coping with studies, and suffer from isolation, anxiety, low self-esteem, hyper-vigilance and extremely impulsive behaviour. He may find it difficult to trust people and build lasting relationships. He may drop out of school. As parents and the society continue to expect more and more from him while he grows up, the pressure will only increase. In extreme cases, he may even develop obesity, diabetes, asthma, and lung and cardiovascular disease.
Perhaps as a result of such consequences, corporal punishment in schools was made illegal in Bangladesh in 2011 by the High Court, as a result of the litigation by the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust and Ain o Salish Kendro. But loopholes still exist.
According to Article 89 of the Penal Code 1860, “Nothing which is done in good faith for the benefit of a person under twelve years of age, or of unsound mind by or by consent, either express or implied, of the guardian or other person having lawful charge of that person, is an offence by reason of any harm which it may cause…” (http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org). The 2011 Supreme Court ruling makes this applicable only to necessary medical interventions, but it doesn't mention strict rulings against corporal punishments at home, thus giving a certain justification for violence. This, in addition to loopholes in the Penal Code, Domestic Violence Act 2010 and the repealed Children Act 2013, often serves as a defence against corporal punishment. Article 70 of the Children Act 2013 prohibits abuse, torture or negligence of any child. Breach of the law involves a fine of Tk 1 lakh or up to five years in jail for the convicted. And yet, 82.3 percent of children aged 1-14 experienced some form of violent punishment within one month of a survey conducted in 2013 by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF. Of them, 65.9 percent faced physical punishment and 74.4 percent were subject to psychological aggression. The latter figure highlights an even more understated issue.
“I had a patient whose parents and siblings used to tell her she was collected from a dustbin because she was overweight and a bit different. She is a 38-year-old woman who suffered from paranoia about her husband having an affair for a long time,” says Shilpi Rahman, a mental health counsellor currently based in Qatar. Shilpi's patient suffered from anxiety and depression for years. She wasn't in good terms with her parents because she thought they didn't love her, which translated into a negative relationship with her in-laws as well. As a result of mental abuse in her childhood, this woman believed that the world didn't want her for a large part of her adult life.
Shilpi elaborates on the various forms of psychological abuse, such as taunting, belittling and public humiliation, that leave scars on children's psyches. One of the most pressing examples, but one we seldom think of as harmful, is comparison. Parents often compare their child to others who are better at studies or sports, or are prettier, skinnier, have fairer complexions. It is even worse when the comparison is made between siblings. The child at the receiving end develops severe self-esteem issues, which is worsened by the guilt of feeling jealous of his/her own sibling. It eventually breeds resentment, creating a rift in the family that may stay back for years.
“I went through major weight gain during my teens. My mother is someone who cannot stand fat people, so she had this habit of berating my appearance,” shares a student of a private university in Dhaka. “It's come to a point where I know I'm never going to be able to see myself in a different light.”
Meanwhile, students who are insulted or mistreated by teachers develop distaste for education. Nehrin Radeyha Rafique, a student of IBA at Dhaka University, recalls the constant humiliation she faced in school. “We had teachers who used to question our upbringing and family backgrounds on many occasions, especially if we made mistakes. We tried to resist through written complaints, and even met with the class teacher. If anything, things got worse for us. We were scared and angry because a group of abusive individuals were tarnishing 12 years of our memories, that too, in the name of education and discipline,” recalls Nehrin.
These are the practices that create bullies. Children are impressionable, and they are influenced most strongly by their families and mentors. The child who is belittled for being overweight, dark in complexion or mediocre in studies or sports has an ingrained notion that anyone who doesn't possess those qualities deserves to be treated badly. She then projects those beliefs onto her peers and social circles, glorifying the traits of superiority and taking pride in intimidating others. Unable to fight back against the ill treatment subjected to her by close ones and authority figures, she is likely to channel her angst onto others who can't fight back against her. It's a vicious cycle.
In more extreme cases, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, these victims of psychological abuse may succumb to substance abuse, personality disorders, delinquency, sexual risk-taking (which increases the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases) and criminal behaviour.
When asked about why such abusive practices still exist despite the recurrent media attention, counsellor Shilpi Rahman and student Nehrin Radeyha addressed the two sides involved - that of adults and children. Nehrin mentions generation gap as one of the key issues. She says, “They fail to understand that we face issues far different from what they faced, and it's frustrating. I believe abuse comes from unrealistic expectations, among other things. Mental abuse is far more scarring than physical abuse.”
Interestingly, Shilpi addresses the same factors. “Parents don't understand the damage they have on children's lives. They think that they'll grow up and forget. They don't,” states Shilpi firmly. “Social language needs to change. We need to stop thinking of ourselves as progressive parents only so long as our children fulfil certain specific requirements. Adults need to curb their unreal expectations from children, and replace notions of failure and mistake with more positive ideas of resilience and optimism.”
These issues run far deeper and darker than we can imagine. It's all too easy to blame a child for being anxious, for being a bully, or for being a bad student; easier still to cast blame on adults for misconduct. As we try to deal with the horrors of sexual assault and murder that seem to have gripped our society more strongly of late, it is important that we stop to think of the factors that caused such tragedies. The government, media, educational institutions and most importantly families must work hand in hand to address and tackle these hidden facets of child abuse. Sir Frank Peters, a royal goodwill ambassador and a lifelong champion for eliminating corporal punishment in Bangladesh says, “I believe involving the police, criminal charges, convictions, jailing and so on, should be a last resort. The Education Department that holds the top of the pyramid position and is ultimately responsible for the behaviour of its employees ought to instigate a programme of self-regulation within each school at first before the heavy hammers are used.”
Children are not problems; they need solutions
by Rochelle Riley
Imagine growing up in a neighborhood where you don't feel safe, where you can't sleep and where you worry all the time that something might happen to you.
Imagine shootings and stabbings and robberies that aren't just on TV, but happen down your street.
Imagine overwhelming distress that keeps your brain from being able to focus on learning. No third-grade reading program such as the one the state Legislature just approved is going to break through all that without help.
This is what life is like for many children in Michigan's largest city.
At some point, when we look at what must be done to ensure that children learn, we must deal with the emotional barriers that block their success.
Those obstacles are real. And it's worse than we thought.
For the first time, a Michigan agency has been assessing children in Wayne County to measure trauma and its impact. And the news isn't good: More than 70% of children seen by Community Mental Health officials in Wayne County have experienced at least three potentially traumatic events that could change how they think and learn.
Most of those children are from Detroit, said Jim Henry, a professor of social work at Western Michigan University and director of the Children's Trauma Assessment Center, which is analyzing the assessments.
Screeners look for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or complex trauma, the condition that occurs when a child suffers multiple traumatic events, he said. The center's mission, Henry said, is to determine the impact of trauma, stress and abuse on a child's neurodevelopment and how those things affect thinking and learning.
“We know that there is chronic trauma, or complex trauma, where a child is constantly exposed to traumatic events, in their home or neighborhood, overwhelming events that create powerlessness and an ongoing sense of danger,” Henry said. “Children's brains literally are changed into a continually triggering fight, flight or freeze mode within the brain. So the stress-response system that we all have is on hyper alert.
“So kids are continually perceiving danger when danger might not be there because of their chronic exposure,” he said. “That impacts the emotional system of the brain and compromises their ability to access their thinking center of the brain. Your emotional system becomes overdeveloped because you're in constant fight, flight or freeze, and your ability to think is compromised, which is very significant in terms of your ability to learn."
So what are we going to do about it? Children are not problems to be solved; the challenges in their environment are. If we don't take it seriously, then we risk losing our next generation of leaders, taxpayers, teachers and responsible parents. But solving their circumstances requires not only innovation, but a willingness to expand our horizons to create or find solutions.
Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom believes in making things happen, as well as seeking out successful strategies away from home to try at home.
Wisdom, the former Michigan surgeon general and current senior vice president at Henry Ford Health System, traveled to England, where she studied a program that trained mail carriers to check on elderly residents on their routes. Wisdom wants Henry Ford to pilot the program in Detroit, where older residents suffer more illnesses and die younger than everywhere else in the state, according to an Area Agency on Aging report. The program calls for postal workers to ask a few health-related questions, pass along reminders of doctor's appointments and chat.
My first thought? Is there a way to translate that kind of program to one where mail carriers can check on children — something that could improve vigilance for our most vulnerable and save the declining U.S. Postal Service in the process?
If Detroit's finest health professionals look to other places to find possibilities for Detroit's challenges, why shouldn't the Free Press?
So we did, sending a team of reporters out to look at programs across America. To better examine the challenges and potential solutions, we looked at five vital areas that cause children stress: poor parenting, poor schools, excessive violence, emotional stress and a lack of opportunity (joblessness, unemployment and a need for mentoring).
In a city where children in some neighborhoods see or experience violence, stress or the effects of poor parenting every day, we must decide that we want them to have different lives.
One child's story
One would think seeing shocking statistics every year would be enough to make us do something.
But perhaps it takes more than numbers. Perhaps it takes hearing it directly from children like 10-year-old LaMia Garth. Her father, Lafayette, was murdered just after Christmas last year, right after he cashed a $5,000 lottery ticket at a neighborhood store.
"I was only 9 when it happened," the fifth-grader said in an interview monitored by her father's sister, Ette Garth, who adopted her after her mother lost custody because of drug abuse. "... That kind of hurt me that someone would want to kill someone, not thinking whose dad or uncle it was.
The event changed how she lived.
"When I'm over at my aunt's house, there's a park right across the street, and sometimes I've been told not to go over there in case something bad happens. And when my aunt goes to the store where my dad was shot and killed, I'm told not to come in, just in case.
"My dad was a very careful person, so I do believe that if they had asked for the money, I believe my dad would have given it to him. I watched him give money to strangers that he didn't even know."
Death, distress, struggle and strife are a part of daily life for many Detroit children. Some of it affects their families, like LaMia's father.
Some affects them directly.
Nearly two-thirds of fourth-graders in the Detroit public school system cannot read “James and the Giant Peach,” one of the most popular books for their age group.
More than a third live in households with one parent or unmarried parents, whose care for their children in many cases involves struggle and requires state help.
And every day, 14 children in the city are victims of crime (about 43% of them victims of either homicide, sexual assault, aggravated assault or robbery).
Garth, a 44-year-old instructional specialist, said she immediately got LaMia into counseling after adopting her. But after three sessions, the counselor said that LaMia, an intuitive, well-spoken little girl who plays soccer in a field near her house for fun and sometimes wears her shoulder-length braids in a bun, didn't need any more.
Garth said she hates that children in Detroit grow up with such violence and stress in their lives.
"It makes me very upset, very angry, that they have to live with what's going on," she said. "My 27-year-old, when she was 10, loved watching the news. But it got depressing for her. The first 20 minutes was about how many people got killed, and then they tell you the real news. Lamia doesn't watch the news. I have her read the newspaper. But the news gets you down. It's very disheartening to have to see her go through that."
Garth said, however, that she also is proactive about teaching LaMia not to be a victim.
"If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem," she said. "There's things that you do and don't every day. You don't set yourself up to get hurt. At school, if somebody is bothering you, tell somebody. She's never had a fight in her life. You disengage and learn how to talk your way out of things. You don't have to be violent."
Detroit children don't face problems with just violence; they also suffer in some cases from the stress of inattentiveness, a lack of interest in their education and poor parenting — all things that guide Garth in raising LaMia.
She and LaMia have a weekly routine: Mondays they go to a restaurant. Tuesdays, they see a movie or a play. Wednesdays, they go to the library. But Thursdays are the night that LaMia cooks. And last Thursday, LaMia was eager to get home from school.
"I'm making mushroom chicken," she said.
That kind of nurture — whether trauma is involved or not — is what all children need. But children under stress need it more. Few people know more about it than Wisdom, who created a program to make better mothers of girls too young to be effective without training.
The program, WIN Detroit, was actually a response to how quickly babies were dying in the Motor City.
“Detroit has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world,” Wisdom said. “One hundred and fifty to 200 babies each year die in the city of Detroit, infants that die in his or her first year of life.
“Our numbers, our rates, rival those in Slovenia and developing countries,” she said. “It's appallingly high.”
WIN Detroit was borne of a 2008 collaboration between four health systems — the Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Health System, St. John Providence Health System and Oakwood Healthcare System.
Calling itself the Detroit Regional Infant Mortality Reduction Task Force, the team focused on ways to address the unmet needs of young women facing maternal challenges that could be beyond their capabilities. The coalition's goal is simple: to make sure that all babies born in Detroit reach their first birthday and have better beginnings.
Henry Ford trained more than 400 health care providers “to better understand the health of minority patients” and to create programs to address their specific needs. A community health worker visits each participant and gives her information about transportation (to ensure she and the baby get care), as well as breast-feeding, mental health, health insurance enrollment and family planning.
None of the 200 babies born to mothers in the program since 2011 have died, Wisdom said. And Detroit was among 10 winners recently selected from more than 200 applicants across the country for a $10,000 award to continue the program.
To understand the program's purpose, one need but look at the life of Tiyansa Pratt. The 25-year-old single mother entered the program when she was 22, after losing her first child and before she had her son, Jayce.
Pratt said the program changed her view of herself and her life. The Detroit native lives with her dad, who worked at Chrysler, and her mother, who is a licensed practical nurse. She said the program gave her a real understanding of the responsibility involved in raising a child.
"It was really helpful for me. It was kind of like a sisterhood," she said. "The program taught you how to keep your body healthy and how to eat healthy and be healthy and think healthy. That makes a healthy environment for the baby."
Almost as important, Pratt said she doesn't plan to have any more children.
As we try to find ways to boost student achievement and improve the city schools, we also need to be sure that children are emotionally able to learn.
If we won't pay attention to the statistics or the experts or even the police reports to understand what is happening to our children, perhaps we'll remember LaMia, who is rising above.
"Society needs to work out its differences," she said. "I don't believe violence is the solution to everything."
The 10-year-old — who makes all A's and B's and was a Girl Scout, cheerleader and member of both the student council and the track team last year — said she was able to discuss her future with her father before he was killed.
"I told my dad that I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up, and he was like, 'Your granddad was a lawyer. Did anybody tell you that?' "
No one had.
But LaMia is now more determined than ever. She said she missed only a week of school after her father's death — but only a week.
"I love my dad, but I won't let that interfere with my education and what I want to do when I get older," she said. She added that even though her environment limits where she can go, "I feel safe where I live because I'm filled with Jesus, and I know whatever happens, my life will always be in His hands."
That doesn't mean that we adults responsible for all children shouldn't also do our part. Their lives - and futures - are in our hands, too.
Delaware hosts first human trafficking conference
by Zoe Read
Delaware hosted its first human trafficking conference on Thursday to educate professionals in the law enforcement, health and social work fields.
There are hundreds of women and some men in Delaware who struggle day-to-day with the hardships of the sex trade, according to advocates.
Many are trafficked and forced into what's known as “the life” as children or adults. Others got involved in prostitution to fund their drug addiction or as a way to support themselves financially.
These women, who often have traumatic histories, risk their lives every day.
While there have been some organizations and individuals dedicated to helping this population, the issue of trafficking has only recently been gaining statewide attention.
On Thursday more than 600 professionals in the medical, social work, law enforcement and judicial fields attended the state's first human trafficking conference at Dover Downs in Dover.
The conference was organized by Yolanda Schlabach, the founder of Zoë Ministries, an organization dedicated to eliminating sex trafficking in the state.
“This is an issue that has laid dormant in the public eye for many years, with a few batches of people throughout the state who have been aware of the problem. But this conference is so important because it brings not just the awareness to the professionals, but brings cross collaboration across systems with professionals,” Schlabach said.
“It's important law enforcement understands trauma informed care, it's important medical knows what the kids department is doing, it's important adult behavioral health understands what judiciary is doing. We all have to understand what's happening in our systems in order to make this work statewide.”
During the conference keynote speakers from various states discussed how they have addressed issues like child trafficking in the areas of social work and law enforcement. Local experts also educated professionals on their own experience working with trafficking survivors.
Attendants then broke out into training sessions in the areas of health, law enforcement and judiciary, child and youth services and adult behavioral health. These sessions ranged in attendance from 110 to 280 professionals, with child and youth services being the largest group.
Schlabach said her goal for the conference is for it to be a launching pad for professionals, so they can use the training and education in their own work environment, and make productive changes to address the issue of trafficking.
Kristan Hudson, a judicial case manager at Superior Court in Sussex County, said she attended the event to gain a clear understanding of what other states and agencies are doing to tackle trafficking, and learn how those strategies can be implemented in Delaware legislation. She said the event was eye-opening.
“I thought it was important to have more than a base knowledge of the types of things we're going to be encountering in court rooms, what victims could look like and also what types of services as a state are going to be provided, so we are aware and able to address those in the courtroom as well,” Hudson said.
Carl Colantuono, development director for the Salvation Army in Delaware, said he wanted to learn more about trafficking so his organization can better serve survivors.
“We know we're already serving this population, so we wanted to learn more how we could serve them better,” he said. “Salvation Army sees itself nationally as an organization that has signature programs in the anti-human trafficking field. In Delaware, our programs are baseline basic needs. We have shelter, we have food, we have counseling. We're finding out how we can better serve [the trafficking] population.”
Sierra Martinez, a social worker, said she's always been passionate about the issue of trafficking and wanted to learn more about what efforts were underway in Delaware. She said she learned how to empower her clients and to not come across as judgmental.
“I think when you're able to go to trainings like this it makes you aware of a situation you could be entering where someone is being trafficked, and by having those trainings it makes you aware of the targets that could be in place,” Martinez said.
“You could be witnessing something and based on the training you could be aware of it and change someone's life. And I think that's what's missing is awareness, and I think that's why there's so many people here today. We've never had something like this in Delaware before where we've had a human trafficking conference with speakers where it's been brought to life.”
Amy Thompson, a physician at A.I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, led a training session for health professionals on how to address patients who are trafficking victims. Her hospital has a forensic nurse examiner program, which provides services to adolescents facing sex abuse or assault. Thompson said there have been three incidents at her hospital where patients have been involved in trafficking, and staff was able to intervene to provide resources.
“I felt like I had experience taking care of adolescents who came in with that chief complaint, coming in saying, ‘I have been abused.' It was eye opening to find out the extent of the commercial sex trade affecting our patients,” she said.
“Learning how to look for the red flags, learning this is happening in your community, learning how to ask the questions and learning what to do when the kid says yes is so important and not something I ever had in any of my medical school training or post-graduate training. If you don't know how to look for it or aren't aware of it you're not going to diagnose it and start helping those patients.”
Hugh Organ, the associate executive director for Covenant House in Philadelphia, which provides services to homeless, runaway and trafficked youth, educated youth services professionals on how to best service child trafficking victims.
“There are a number of red flags, the biggest one that always stands out to me is runaways. Kids that run away more than three times or stay away from home more than 30 days of time, because what child can live on their own without the assistance of an adult for an extended period of time?” he said.
“The main thing is to ask questions. In 16 years of doing this I've never worked with anyone who came to me and said, ‘I'm a victim of human trafficking.' Most victims don't identify as victims of human trafficking, so you have to recognize what the red flags are and ask questions.”
Barb Loftus, an RN and licensed professional counselor of mental health, brought the audience to tears when she spoke about the women she worked with through SOAR, a Wilmington organization providing services to survivors of sexual trauma. She spoke of the deep depression and shame the women felt, and traumas they experienced as children or working in the life.
“My goal today was that the audience members would see the humanity of each woman who sat at my therapy table,” Loftus said. “Statistics are important to speak of the enormity of the problem. But I think the personal stories—that just let everyone know these are real people, these are people who deserve our attention, our respect.”
She also made a point in explaining that even the women in the life who aren't trafficked by another individual, are facing the same trauma and those who were and need as much attention.
Loftus taught a session for adult behavioral health professionals, explaining the challenges that come along with working with this population, and how to approach them in an effective manner.
“I think we get into a professional mode sometimes and we have to realize these are people. These are not a group of symptoms, these are not a group of bad outcomes from childhood abuses, these are human beings,” she said.
“What they needed was someone to sit at the table, and get to know them, and model things for them, and care about them, and bring cream for their coffee and not judge them, not tell them what to do. And that's true with all of us. I don't want anyone looking at me as a project or someone who needs to be fixed in any particular way.”
Schlaback said it's important for professionals to understand the need for victim-centered approaches to trafficking.
“We can sit behind our desks and decide what we think is best for these victims, but the reality is until we identify victims statewide and we hear from them, ‘What do you need?' They need housing, they need education, they need life skills and they need a safe place to say and they need non-judgmental rehab and detox,” she said.
“When we hear from the victims, ‘This is what I need to come out of the life,' we need to stop and take note and pay attention to that, because they know what they need way better than we know what they need.”
Child abuse inquiry 'to continue' despite survivors' withdrawal
Panel responds to condemnation by Shirley Oaks Survivors Association
by Sandra Laville
The troubled national inquiry into child abuse has mounted a fightback after a large survivors' group withdrew from participation, condemning it as a “stage-managed and contrived” investigation.
In a series of television interviews, senior panel member Dru Sharpling said the inquiry would continue. She apologised to hundreds of victims of child abuse in Lambeth children's homes – the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association – who announced they were pulling out of the proceedings on Friday because it was “failing publicly and tragically”.
But Sharpling insisted the investigations would go on without the group. She said: “The Lambeth investigation will continue. I am very sorry that they have decided to leave. I hope that they will come back, but we will continue to do that work. There is evidence being forwarded to us now which enables us to undertake this inquiry and I hope that, as time goes by, their confidence in the inquiry improves, as others have.”
It is understood she was referring to the documents being submitted on a weekly basis to the inquiry by Lambeth council as a result of its statutory powers to demand information. Lambeth, she said, was one of 13 investigations the inquiry was carrying out and its importance could not be elevated above any of the other institutions being examined.
Sharpling suggested the inquiry maintained the confidence of other victims. She said: “There are seven other organisations who we are working with and over 150 individual victims and survivors in relation to our ‘public hearings project',” she said. “People are also coming forward for our other project, the ‘truth project'. They are giving accounts of child sexual abuse all over the country as we speak. We've had universally good feedback from that and it is an important element of the inquiry.”
A spokesman for the prime inister, Theresa May, made clear she unreservedly backed the inquiry under its chair, Prof Alexis Jay.
“We are going to be continuing with the inquiry,” said Sharpling. “The work is so important. The more people come forward particularly to give accounts of child sexual abuse, it gives us the passion that we need to take it forward … although it has been a difficult start for this inquiry, we are determined to see it through no matter what.”
Sharpling defended Jay after Labour MP Chuka Umunna – whose constituents were abused in Lambeth children's homes – demanded that the former social worker should stand down as chair in favour of a senior judge. “In Rotherham, no organ of government, no institution, had uncovered the scale and the depravity of child sexual abuse that had occurred over many years,” Sharpling said. “One woman uncovered that abuse – and that was Alexis Jay. I think she is one of the few people who is ideally qualified for the job.”
Sharpling's public statements came after weeks in which the inquiry has been rocked by a series of departures of leading lawyers, allegations of bullying and racism by its former chair Lowell Goddard, the announcement that a public hearing into the late Greville Janner would be postponed and on Friday the departure of the Shirley Oaks survivors from the process.
Umunna, who until now has been supportive of Jay as chair, said he had lost confidence in her ability to run the investigation and she should step down in favour of a senior judge. “There has been an ongoing concern about the fact that she has come from three decades of social work,” he said. “For many of the survivors that is a problem because many of the perpetrators came from that profession. Now you can't just sweep that under the table and it's never been dealt with by the panel properly.”
Raymond Stevenson, who set up the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association, explained why they had finally decided to withdraw after twice threatening to pull out of proceedings. “Having watched the IICSA unpalatable circus stumble and lurch from crisis to crisis … it no longer matters whether we think the inquiry is just another stitch-up because it is clearly a botch job that needs a drastic overhaul if it is ever to achieve its initial objectives,” he said in a statement.
Stevenson said he was not comfortable putting his members before an inquiry which was “failing tragically, failing publicly”. He said: “The inquiry needs to sort itself out. They need to get rid of Alexis Jay, who has been parachuted in by the Home Office, and we need to get someone else.”
He also raised concerns about the presence of so many Home Office staff on the inquiry – 36 of the 183 staff are Home Office officials. He said: “For any inquiry to be truly independent and engender faith in its integrity, the Home Office either needs to come clean about its own role in covering up historical child abuse and staff the inquiry with independent employees instead of its secondees or hand over the task of overseeing the inquiry to a less tainted government department.”
Despite Sharpling's confidence that other victims supported the process, Phil Frampton, who is a core participant in the inquiry as part of the Whiteflowers group of victims, said the departure of Shirley Oaks came amid “seething discontent” among survivors over the lack of material support for them and the “contemptuous” way they were being dealt with.
He called for survivors to be fully funded to attend all meetings with their legal representatives, for guaranteed access to counselling from the first moment preliminary hearings began and a clear timetable of hearings to come.
The announcement that Shirley Oaks survivors had formally withdrawn was the latest setback for the public investigation. It is on its fourth chair since it was established in 2014 and has had at least three people resign from its legal team.
L.A. County child-abuse reports should be made public: Guest commentary
by Daniel Heimpel
Last week, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to further consolidate its child protection system by placing a little-known but critically important group of investigative attorneys under the authority of the Office of Child Protection.
This comes at a time when the county is looking for answers in the wake of a horrific child death. Some of the answers are likely to be found in a stack of hitherto confidential files that should be made public.
Back in 2008, the supervisors created the Children's Special Investigative Unit, which was staffed with attorneys who would investigate cases of severe abuse and child death. The goal was to provide the county with recommendations on averting the kinds of preventable child tragedies that make the front page.
Because the recommendations have been provided on an “attorney-client basis,” the 21 reports the unit has issued over the past eight years have been largely kept from the public.
This has to change.
Over the past three years, Los Angeles County leaders have been outspoken in their purported commitment to improve the child protection system. Most recently, in the wake of the death of 11-year-old Yonatan Aguilar, the Office of Child Protection, a outgrowth of that very reform effort, is reevaluating how it measures the risk that a child will be abused.
It is this exact question, about how to measure risk, that the investigative unit was meant to interrogate. And it is for this reason that all of its past reports and all future reports should be made public.
In 2013, the Los Angeles Times was leaked a 2012 report conducted by the Children's Special Investigative Unit. It outlined how workers had trouble assessing the risk that a child would suffer further abuse starting at the earliest stages of an investigation.
That report was a dark precursor to the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez in May of 2013. That death, like the 15 critical incidents and child deaths outlined in the CSIU report, was also marked by repeated reports to the county Department of Children and Family Services.
In August, police found Yonatan's 34-pound body wrapped in a blanket in the closet of his Echo Park home. Attention immediately fell on why the Department of Children and Family Services, which investigated Yonatan's mother four times from 2009 to 2012, had not done more to intervene.
To understand where the system did not work in Yonatan's case requires understanding how the system functions in as many cases as possible. During that time, the CSIU undoubtedly conducted a number of reports, all of which are critical to understand where the system stumbles in its response to allegations of child abuse.
The unit has two attorneys who have already been on loan to the Office of Child Protection for months. They are currently working on the aforementioned report about risk assessment that was spurred by Yonatan's death.
During Tuesday's meeting, the supervisors directed Michael Nash, the director of the Office of Child Protection, to report back in 90 days on whether or not the CSIU should be maintained in the 2017 budget.
I believe it should be maintained, but only if its findings are made public. In the one instance where one of the unit's reports got out, it became the backbone of the county's largest reform effort in a generation.
How can we keep such a potentially powerful force for protecting children behind the veil of “attorney-client” privilege?
Daniel Heimpel is founder of Fostering Media Connections, publisher of The Chronicle of Social Change and an adjunct professor at USC's Sol Price School of Public Policy.
To understand where the system did not work in Yonatan Aguilar's case requires understanding how the system functions in as many cases as possible.
Hope's Place teaches sexual abuse awareness
by Rhonda Nixon
ASHLAND Mark Cole is passionate about his work at Hope's Place Children's Advocacy Center.
Cole, the prevention educator at the center, has a background in business and marketing, not counseling or sexual abuse investigation. But after taking the free, two-hour training at Hope's Place, he wanted to give back to his community.
Now, he's the main trainer at the center and uses his education and experience to educate the public on preventing child sexual abuse.
“I am not Miss America, out to save the world, I just want to make an impact in our community and bring awareness that child sexual abuse is out there and with the right training, can be prevented,” Cole, who trained five area residents last week to recognize the signs of abuse, said. The center has trained approximately 725 in the community this year.
Sexual abuse is the most prevalent health issue facing children younger than 18. Statistically, one in 10 children will be sexually abused, compared to one in 330 children being diagnosed with cancer and one in 25 children being diagnosed with diabetes.
Statistically, more than 90 percent of child sexual abusers are known to the child; 30 percent are family and 60 percent are someone the family trusts.
Hope's Place exists to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse. The center serves a five-county area in Kentucky, including Boyd, Greenup, Elliott, Carter and Lawrence. Hope's Place actively seeks to reduce the occurrence of sexual abuse and awareness through education.
The training plan, “Darkness to Light — Stewards of Children” takes the class through five steps to protecting children: learning the facts, minimizing opportunity, talking about it, recognizing the signs and reacting responsibly.
The training teaches to not only recognize the signs of sexual abuse, which sometimes are thought to be just bad behavior, but how to better protect children in one-on-one situations with adults. As a parent, it teaches the importance of using the correct terminology for body parts so if a child is trying to tell about their abuse, other adults will know what they are referring to.
Community support is vital in helping to overcome child sexual abuse, Cole said. The training is available to anyone, including parents, teachers, clergy, coaches, foster care workers, child care workers and social workers.
For more information or to schedule a training, call Hope's Place at (606) 325-4737, visit hopesplace.org or email Cole at email@example.com.
Saudi holds conference to fight child sexual exploitation
by The Middle East Monitor
Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Nayef has called on the Saudi Arabian authorities to establish a centre for cyber safety in order to protect children at risk of sexual exploitation, Asharq Al-Awsat reported.
Speaking at a major Saudi conference for the prevention of child sexual abuse, specifically focused on internet exploitation, the Crown Prince chaired an event that concluded with over 20 draft recommendations.
The recommendations focused on raising awareness of internet safety among children and teenagers in the school curriculum. The draft recommendations also called for supporting national efforts aimed at preventing online grooming, along with increased internet surveillance.
The forum also called for the development of a national strategy to protect children online, in addition to strictly implementing national regulations and legislation suggested by international non-governmental organisations. The forum agreed that Saudi Arabia could learn from and adapt successful models from other parts of the world, and called for their adoption following modifications to fit with the Arab and Islamic customs of the oil-rich monarchy.
Conference organisers have suggested that the forum will be held on a regular basis in order to continue to review policy for the protection of children online in the kingdom.
Listed: the jobs of people who sexually abuse children
by Carl_ Eve
Shocking figures obtained by The Herald have revealed how sexual abusers of children have held jobs ranging from butchers, barbers, soldiers and drivers to chefs, farmers, fishermen, waiters and teachers.
The Freedom of Information request made to Devon and Cornwall Police also revealed how of those sexually abused during a five year period, the majority were young girls and the two key age groups targeted were six to seven-year-olds and 13 to 14-year-olds.
It has prompted a child protection charity to warn parents that potential offenders come from all walks of life and that parents and children should be encouraged to speak more about potential risks not just when they are very young, but also into their teens.
Devon and Cornwall Police responded to the request to reveal the number of sex offences committed 'against under 18s which resulted in a warning, caution or charge and the occupation of the suspect, between 2011 and 2015'.
The force noted in its findings that a person could be a victim of such offences more than once in any time period and that an offence could involve multiple victims and one offender or multiple offenders and only one victim.
In addition, the force noted how some of the charges logged between 2011 and 2015 may have been for a historical offence which occurred "many years previously".
Of the 1,125 incidents which resulted in a warning, caution or charge between 2011 and 2015, 88 involved "students", 47 were defined committed by "school pupils", 78 were "retired people" and 394 were "unemployed".
The breakdown noted how 17 were recorded as "builders", 13 as "chefs", 14 were "cleaners", 16 were "drivers" and 11 were "waiters".
Out of the 1,208 victims over the five year period, 1,057 were female and 144 were male, with seven recorded as unknown gender.
This was broken down further: in 2011, there were 253 victims of sexual offences on females aged under 18, compared to 24 males. In 2012 the figure stood at 222 females under 18 and 31 males. The 2013 figures showed 225 females and 37 males under 18 were victims of sexual offences while in 2014 the figure dipped to 189 females and 26 males, with two unknown. A further dip in 2015 saw 168 females under 18 become victims of sexual offences as opposed to 26 males.
The ages of the victims released by Devon and Cornwall Police also revealed an unexpected grouping.
For each year between 2011 and 2015, there was a rise in the number of victims aged from five to seven years old.
The figures spiked again at 13 and 14-year-olds, who – the figures suggest – are most likely to be victims.
However, when comes to who commits child sexual abuse, Devon and Cornwall Police recorded a frighteningly broad range of occupations.
The list included teachers, hairdressers, taxi drivers, sports instructors, care workers, carers, residential care assistants, postmen, police service workers, nurses, Navy personnel, Marine personnel, a lifeguard, fire service staff, shop workers, driving instructors, coach and bus drivers, farmers, electricians, disc jockeys, computer engineers, bar workers, an actor, Air Force personnel, scaffolders, tree surgeons, underwriters, window cleaners and volunteers.
A spokesman for the NSPCC in South West England said: "These figures highlight the fact that child sexual abuse is committed by men, women, teenagers and other children.
"Gender, age and profession are no barrier and offenders can come from a variety of different backgrounds.
"While there is not likely to be a link between occupation and crime in the majority of these cases, it remains worrying that a number of offenders have held positions of trust within their community.
"This highlights the importance of child safeguarding provision within any organisation that comes into contact with children and young people.
"The reasons why someone would sexually abuse a child are wide-ranging and complex – but child sexual abuse is preventable.
"By each of us playing our part we can help keep children safe from abuse.
"This means making sure all children have the knowledge and understanding they need to stay safe and adults know how to identify and support children at risk. Together we can stop sexual abuse before it happens.
"Children can report their worries at any time of day to Childline on 0800 1111, while adults can contact our Helpline on 0808 800 5000. For information about talking to your children about this difficult topic, please visit nspcc.org.uk."
Turkish ruling party sparks uproar with sexual abuse bill
by Gulsen Solaker
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's ruling AK Party came under fire from the opposition, rights groups and on social media on Friday over a proposal that critics said could allow men accused of sexually abusing girls to avoid punishment if they marry their victims.
The proposal, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, would allow sentencing in cases of sexual abuse committed "without force, threat or trick" before Nov. 16, 2016 to be indefinitely postponed if the perpetrator marries the victim.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the aim of the proposal was to remedy the situation of men who are in jail and are married to women under the age of 18 in a religious ceremony and with the consent of their family. He rejected suggestions that the plan amounted to an "amnesty for rape".
Civil marriage under the age of 18 is illegal in Turkey, but marriage between men and underage girls through religious ceremonies is not uncommon, particularly in rural parts of the Sunni Muslim nation of 78 million people.
"There are those who got married under age. They don't know the law, then they have kids, the father goes to jail and the children are alone with their mother," Yildirim told reporters after Friday prayers, saying that left families "broken".
"If there would be marriages like this from now on, they will in no way be tolerated," he said, adding an estimated 3,000 families would be affected by the proposal and that the legislation would only be applied retrospectively.
Children in their early teens are known to have been married in religious ceremonies in Turkey. Some argue that these marriages were not abusive, with the couple simply being unaware of the civil law.
Opponents of the proposal including lawmakers, dozens of rights groups, women's associations and child NGOs swiftly condemned the legislation, saying it was a normalization of underage marriage.
"Sexual abuse is a crime and there is no consent in it. This is what the AK Party fails to understand," Ozgur Ozel, a senior lawmaker with the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) told a press conference. "Seeking the consent of a child is something that universal law does not provide for."
The controversy became a top-trending topic on Twitter in Turkey, under the hashtag "rape cannot be legitimized".
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said suggestions that sex offenders could avoid punishment by marrying their victims were a deliberate distortion of the facts. He said it was the AK Party itself which had tightened laws on underage marriage since coming to power in 2002.
"Those who commit the crime of sexual abuse with force, threat, trick or any other reason that cripples the will cannot use this article," Bozdag said on Twitter.
The controversy comes as Turkey's hopes of joining the European Union are hanging by a thread. Some European leaders have called for accession talks to be frozen, citing a deterioration in freedoms in the country which they say are taking it ever further from European norms.
The proposal, part of a wider package of planned changes, was accepted in an initial vote in parliament - where the AKP has a strong majority - late on Thursday. But for it to become a law, the whole bill needs to be approved. Parliament will resume the debate on Tuesday.
Police investigate child hanging at daycare
MINNEAPOLIS - Minneapolis Police are investigating what they call the hanging of a child at a daycare on the city's near south side.
Assistant Police Chief Kris Arneson says the situation started around 9:43 a.m. when officers responded to reports that a daycare provider hanged a 16-month-old boy inside a home on the 2700 block of Humboldt Avenue South. A parent dropping off their own child at the daycare was able to rescue the toddler and take him from the home to safety.
Arneson says the little boy is at the hospital and is expected to be OK.
The female suspect then fled the daycare in a gold minivan, first striking a pedestrian near the intersection of 28th and Grand around 9:57 a.m. That man was dragged for a significant distance, suffering broken bones and abrasions. Police on the scene tell KARE 11's Adrienne Broaddus that the pedestrian is in critical condition, but that isn't officially confirmed.
Arneson says the suspect sped away from the scene, turning north onto Park Avenue where she struck a bicyclist near 28th. There is no word on that person's condition but authorities say everyone involved in the string of incidents is expected to survive.
The suspect drove north on Park Avenue, striking a number of vehicles before bailing out of the van and attempting to jump off the Park Avenue bridge. By the time police arrived, a number of citizens had tackled the suspect and were wrestling with her on the ground. Officers joined in the fray, and took her into custody.
Arneson says the daycare provider was taken to a hospital where she is under observation. Six investigators will work the case, including those from the department's crimes against children unit.
Alleged sex assault of seven-year-old girl leads to arrest of 9 people in Ontario
by The Canadian Press
HAMILTON - The alleged sexual assault of a seven-year-old girl is being called "one of the most heinous crimes" Hamilton police officers have had to deal with.
The six-month investigation left nine people in handcuffs, including the child's mother and her boyfriend, as police said they uncovered a "horrific" sexual assault where the girl was allegedly being offered up "to be sexually assaulted" in an online advertisement.
Det. Sgt. David Dunbar with the Hamilton police victims of crime branch said the investigation that began last May after the force received a tip from the Catholic Children's Aid Society in Hamilton has left many officers struggling.
"It's a very unique case because we're not used to a victimization of this nature — it's really graphic," Dunbar told The Canadian Press.
"It's one of the worst, most heinous crimes we've seen because we've got multiple offenders and one young victim."
The investigation, dubbed Project Links, started after the tip when officers interviewed the girl and she told them she was being sexually assaulted by her mother's boyfriend, he said.
Officers seized numerous electronic devices during two raids arrants that contained many "horrific, awful" images of the girl, Dunbar alleged.
"We uncovered a young female victim who was sexually assaulted by more than one person and made available to be sexually assaulted through Craigslist," Dunbar said at a news conference earlier Thursday.
Following the interview with the girl, Dunbar said a 34-year-old man, who police did not identify to protect the identity of the child, was arrested on May 3 and faces 40 charges that include sexual assault, sexual interference, making and possessing child pornography.
As part of those charges, police allege the man also sexually assaulted the seven-year-old girl's 16-year-old sister.
The girl's mother — a 39-year-old woman from Hamilton — was arrested in September and charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life to a child. She was released on a promise to appear.
The officers continued to pull the string on the case, Dunbar said, as they had to analyze the images and where they were being sent.
"To hear it is one thing, but to go through it and have to visualize and deal with images and graphic sexual violence against children is very difficult, very difficult," he said.
Dunbar said four other people were arrested, including two men from Hamilton aged 36 and 50, and two people from Waterloo, Ont. — a 38-year-old man and a 48-year-old woman.
Dunbar said investigators involved in Project Links became worried about children in other areas, so they shared information with other forces as well as U.S. Homeland Security because Craigslist is based in the United States.
That led to the arrest of three other men. In early September, Dunbar said, Niagara regional police arrested a 52-year-old St. Catharines, Ont., man on charges of making arrangements to commit sexual interference and possession of child pornography.
That force also arrested Geoffrey Burnet, 48, of Kitchener, Ont., for allegedly making and distributing child pornography. Dunbar said the Niagara force shared information about Burnet that led Hamilton detectives to review a historic sexual assault involving another girl — who is now an adult — that was unrelated to the current investigation.
Burnet was charged in late September with sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching.
Dunbar said a second adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse came forward and Burnet was charged with two counts of indecent acts.
The detective said Burnet is a former elementary school teacher in several boards in southern Ontario.
In early November, Hamilton police shared information from the expanding investigation with Chatham-Kent and Waterloo regional police forces that led to the arrest of a 35-year-old Waterloo man on charges of making and possessing child pornography.
As difficult as the case is, there is a bright spot, Dunbar said.
"The professional and personal commitment that has gone into this case in seeking out all those responsible for hurting that little girl is phenomenal," Dunbar said.
And both girls are doing well now. They're in a safe spot."
Dunbar said eight of the people charged were not named because a publication ban was ordered by the court to protect the identity of the girl "and to ensure the integrity of the ongoing investigation."
Police believe there are other alleged victims.
"We continue to follow the evidence — there is a lot more information to investigate," Dunbar said.
from the Department of Justice
Former Orange County Teacher in Sex Tourism Case Found Guilty of Traveling to Philippines to Molest Young Girls and Filming the Abuse
SANTA ANA, California – A former teacher with the Santa Ana School District who traveled to the Philippines to engage in sex with two girls and produced videos of the abuse has been convicted in federal court of seven child exploitation offenses.
Robert Ruben Ornelas, 65, of Santa Ana, a onetime school teacher and girl’s softball coach, was found guilty yesterday afternoon of seven counts – two counts of engaging in sexual conduct in a foreign place, three counts of producing child pornography, and two counts of possessing child pornography.
As a result of the guilty verdicts, Ornelas faces a statutory maximum penalty of 190 years in federal prison when he is sentenced by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney on February 27. At sentencing, Ornelas will face mandatory minimum 15-year prison terms for each of the three child pornography production charges.
The evidence presented during a six-day trial showed that Ornelas traveled to the Philippines on multiple occasions. He was convicted in relation to three specific trips – in 2006, 2008 and 2012 – where he sexually assaulted two girls who were as young as approximately 8. During all three trips, Ornelas took videos of the molestation and brought the images with him when he returned the U.S.
The two victims travelled to the United States to testify during the trial about the sexual assaults.
“Pedophiles in the U.S. will not escape prosecution by traveling to foreign lands to victimize children,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Federal law contains provisions designed to protect children, whether they live in the United States or abroad. This case serves as a lesson and warning to any other person considering trip to engage in sex with minors. American law enforcement is adept at investigating this crime and will pursue a criminal case that could lead to a very lengthy prison sentence.”
The investigation into Ornelas began in 2013 when federal authorities received a tip that he possessed a large quantity of child pornography. During the execution of a search warrant, investigators found images, videos and information on Ornelas’ computer and digital media.
The federal charges are the product of an investigation by the Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force, which includes special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Newport Beach Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
“This conviction should serve as a warning to every sexual predator who mistakenly believes they can evade justice by violating the innocence of children overseas,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge of HSI Los Angeles. “There can be no place for the abuse of foreign children by our citizens, and HSI will seek to defend the rights of those victims no matter how far they live from our shores.”
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Sandy N. Leal and Anne C. Gannon of the Santa Ana Branch Office.
FROM: Thom Mrozek, Spokesperson/Public Affairs Officer
United States Attorney’s Office, Central District of California (Los Angeles)
from the Department of Justice
SoCal Woman Who Admitted Kidnapping Her Two Children to Keep Them from Their Father Sentenced to 13 Months in Federal Prison
LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles-area woman who brought her two children to Mexico to keep them from their father was sentenced today to 13 months in prison in a federal kidnapping case.
Faye Hsin-I Ku, 42, of Lakewood, was sentenced this morning by United States District Judge John A. Kronstadt.
Ku pleaded guilty in September to two counts of international parental kidnapping.
When she pleaded guilty, Ku admitted that on August 29, 2015, she took her two children – who were 15 and 9 at the time – into Mexico through the San Ysidro Port of Entry. “At the time, Ms. Ku had the intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights” of the father, Ku admitted when she pleaded guilty.
After bringing the children to Mexico, Ku brought the children to Sinaloa. The FBI’s Legal Attaché in Mexico City pursued a series of leads to identify their location and passed information to Mexican officials, who took prompt action, assuring the safety of the children. The children were reunited with their father on February 12.
“This defendant sought to deprive her children’s father of his court-sanctioned parental rights by fleeing the United States,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “She abducted her children, abused their emotional attachment to her, brought them to a dangerous part of Mexico and had a
FBI officials in Seattle and Mexico City coordinated the deportation of Ku with Mexican authorities. On February 12, Mexican officers accompanied Ku to Los Angeles International Airport, where she was taken into federal custody.
“Bringing the children home safely was only possible due to extraordinary partnerships with law enforcement agencies across multiple states and in Mexico,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Jay S. Tabb Jr. of the FBI’s Seattle Division. “The children’s well-being was the ultimate triumph after six months of dedicated investigative work, but today’s sentencing provides additional satisfaction by reassuring communities that parental kidnapping will not be tolerated.”
Once she completes her prison sentence, Ku will be on supervised release for one year.
The investigation in this case was conducted by the FBI’s Seattle Division, which received substantial assistance from the FBI’s Legal Attaché in Mexico City, Mexico’s National Institute of Migration, the FBI’s Los Angeles Division, the Bellevue (Washington) Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.”
This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Scott Paetty of the Major Frauds Section, who coordinated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington and the King County (Washington) Prosecutor’s Office.
FROM: Thom Mrozek, Spokesperson/Public Affairs Officer
United States Attorney’s Office, Central District of California (Los Angeles)
The issue of sexual assault on campus: With no consent, know your options
by The Blue Banner
Sexual assault, a pervasive issue throughout the country, especially on college campuses, certainly occurs at UNC Asheville. The most recent report was recorded on Wednesday.
Sexual assault is an extremely serious issue, yet it is underreported, very sensitive in nature and causes discomfort to some. Therefore, debate and coverage of it lacks specifics or empathy and usually occurs without the intention of planning action. Sexual assault is grossly misunderstood as the uninvited breach of one's sense of mental and emotional sanctity, and not just as an uninvited breach of the body.
The following article is divided into subheadings in an effort to outline a variety of related points regarding the issue. One section aims to convey to those who have not experienced or heard the experience of a victim the extent of the trauma to one's emotional health and ability to function well through daily life.
Other sections seek to define the extent of resources available to victims from the school and local programs as well as reduce any ambiguity around associated terms and themes regarding sexual assault by providing official and accepted definitions of terms and explanations of circumstances.
These articles also aim to make everyone aware of the importance of defining, reporting, advocating, respecting and protecting victims. Whether a victim tells a friend, an RA, a faculty member, Title IX, Our VOICE or the police, they should know that there are resources available to them.
According to RAINN, a sexual assault support website, there are differences between sexual assault, rape and force.
The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior occurring without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include penetration of the victim's body, attempted rape, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, and fondling or unwanted sexual touching.
Rape is a form of sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape. The term rape is often used as a legal definition to specifically include sexual penetration without consent.
Force does not always refer to physical pressure. Perpetrators may use emotional coercion, psychological force, or manipulation to coerce a victim into non-consensual sex. Some perpetrators will use threats to force a victim to comply, such as threatening to hurt the victim or their family or other intimidation tactics.
According to UNCA's 2016 Security and Fire Report, in 2015, one incident of domestic violence was reported, two incidents of stalking, one report of fondling and five accounts of rape on campus, four of which occurred in residence halls.
So far in 2016, two reports of sexual assault have been reported to campus police, the latest occurring on Nov. 9. One case of rape has been reported to campus police this semester on Aug. 20.
A victim's anecdote
A student who claims they were raped off-campus by another student wanted her story told but not to be referred to by name. She said she went to a small house gathering where drinking was taking place that night. She said she had only had five beers by 10 p.m., which she said wouldn't black her out, but couldn't remember anything from 10:30 p.m. until she woke up at 8:30 a.m., in a strange bed.
“I was completely naked, covered in my own piss and I had these strange, fingerprint looking bruises on my thighs,” she said. “A few hours later I got a text asking if I was on birth control.”
She proceeded to meet with the guy, who she said is a fellow student, to gain clarity on the events of the night before.
“I remember this conversation so well. I asked him what happened and he said, ‘I can't even look you in the eye. I feel so guilty,'” she said. “I replied that given that reaction, he must know he'd done something completely wrong. So I asked him what he put in my drink. He said he wasn't going to admit to that or lie to me, but he didn't deny it.”
She said that for weeks after the incident she couldn't function normally at all. She said she didn't know who to go to or what to do, so she stayed in her room for three weeks, afraid to go outside.
“I ended up failing two classes and lost everything about myself. I just couldn't believe that someone would do that while you're unconscious,” she said. “I didn't handle it well at all. I started smoking [marijuana] a ton because anytime I felt like I was going to cry, that's how I'd combat those feelings.”
She said the hardest part of her experience was the denial she received from friends and others in her life.
“I was mostly really sad because no one believed me. That was the biggest slap in the face,” she said. “I remember telling one of my friends and his response was, ‘You probably just got really drunk and fucked some guy and now you're regretting it.' To that I replied, ‘If that were the case, why wouldn't I just admit that, how hard is that to say' and he still didn't believe me.”
The student said the harassment was not confined to one night but that she sees him on campus almost daily.
“The incident has been difficult enough. Seeing him around doesn't help,” she said.
She said that the assault was not the end of his abuse.
“He started harassing me. I would be sitting in the cafeteria and he would be way on the other side, see me and then come over and just sit at the table next to me and just stare at me,” she said. “I really think he just gets off on making me as uncomfortable as possible.”
The student said she did not press charges against her attacker due to a lack of evidence. She said that she did not go to the hospital or save her clothing after the incident.
The last thing on her mind at the time was evidence. She said she was also embarrassed and afraid.
Due to not having pressed charges after the assault, the student was unable to find official means by which to have the male student forced to keep his distance.
“The day after it happened, I didn't think to get a rape kit. That definitely wasn't the first thing on my mind. I should've immediately gone to the hospital,” she said. “The reasons I didn't were stupid. Being new to the school at the time, I didn't want everyone to hate me. But the biggest reason was that I was scared.”
The student said despite confessing her discomfort with parking in the freshman lot, down by the light at the intersection of campus drive and broadway, she was not allowed to obtain permission to park elsewhere.
“I didn't feel safe walking up from that lot. So I didn't park there and got 28 parking tickets last year,” said the student.
The student said that she was able to cope with her assault due to the support of her family, students and a faculty member who led her to Our VOICE, one of Asheville's sexual assault victim support organizations.
“When shit like this happens, you realize who actually has your back. I started hanging out with a new group, better people,” said the student. “Three weeks after it happened is when someone noticed my declining grades and absences. She asked if I wanted to come talk to her and I immediately said yes. Finally someone who reached out because it's hard to ask for help in that situation.”
She said she began to rediscover herself after months of regular counseling.
“It was like I was dead for five months and then all of a sudden I woke up and felt like a human being again. I could laugh. I started doing art again,” she said. “I will always be thankful for those who helped me.”
Months after her attack, the student said that she is optimistic.
“I've got all A's and B's now. Life goes on,” she said. “Everyone is dealt their set of cards and I'm a firm believer that you're not going to be dealt something that you can't handle.”
The student said she regrets not speaking up in an instance at which she saw the guy with another girl.
“It was stupid but I just had to get out of there, if I ever have a chance to prevent that from happening to another girl, I will.”
According to their website, the Title IX Office is responsible for educating the campus community through primary prevention and ongoing prevention programs, presentations and campaigns to keep UNCA students, staff and faculty educated, informed and safe.
Keisha Boyd , the assistant Title IX coordinator said Title IX supports students and wants them to be content with their choice in handling the situation.
“If I had to give advice, the first thing I would tell a victim is that it is not their fault,” Boyd said. “It is never their fault. Once they realize it is never their fault, we drive for support. Support is important because it allows the student to regain control over their life.”
Boyd said support can come in many different forms, Title IX just wants what is best for that student.
“Support for a student could be whatever is best for them. It could be a religious or spiritual figure, it could be parents, friends, counseling, therapeutic activities, it could be them coming into our office and wanting an investigation,” Boyd said. “Finding whatever support is best for them is the second piece of advice I would give. Third, report it. Let us know what is going on.”
There is not an actual time constraint in reporting. However, it is best for the victim to report as soon as possible.
“There is no statute of limitations, however it is easier to conduct an investigation, talk to witnesses and secure any evidence sooner rather than later,” Boyd said. “There is no limit in time, honestly.”
The Health and Counseling Center will keep the student's matter private. If a student chooses to report to Title IX, then the issue may be reported, but still kept quiet.
“If a student wants to keep their matter confidential, then Health and Counseling will not breathe a word,” Boyd said. “With us, they can choose to report an incident and not provide the perpetrator's name. If they don't want an investigation then we will keep it private. When we start this conversation then we will ask ‘What do you want to do?' and we will respect and support their decision.”
Victims of sexual assault may report somewhere outside of Title IX, such as Our VOICE, for support. According to Our VOICE, they are a nonprofit crisis intervention and prevention agency which serves victims of sexual violence, ages 13 through adult, in Buncombe County.
Our VOICE's mission is to serve all individuals in Buncombe County affected by sexual assault and abuse through counseling, advocacy and education.
“I don't think we would give advice as much as we want to give survivors as much information about their options and the resources available so that they then have all the information to make the most informed decision possible,” said Jerry Kivett , the client services coordinator at Our VOICE.
Kivett said support is what Our VOICE strives to provide to their clients.
“We try to offer support and really support whatever decision the survivor chooses to make. Whether it is filing a police report, trying to go through the criminal justice process, or not filing a police report, we really want to make the survivor feel free of judgement,” Kivett said. “We want them to know whatever their decision is, it is right for them.”
In most instances, a victim is unsure as to what route they should take. Our VOICE is designed to provide a court advocate who will support the survivor during the entire case.
“A lot of times the question a survivor will ask is, ‘If I file a police report, what will happen? What will that process look like?' So we have a court advocate who can explain that process, what all the options are and if a survivor chooses to file a police report locally in Buncombe County, then the court advocate will be present with the survivor,” Kivett said.
Kivett emphasizes the importance of a Blind Report and why a survivor may choose to fill one out instead of staying quiet or reporting to the police.
“Blind reporting is a great option for someone who does not want to file an official police report,” Kivett said. “So, on UNCA's Title IX website there is a place where you can fill out that criminal incident Blind Report. There is also a link for that on Our VOICE's website.”
“The difference between the two is that the Blind Report on UNCA's website goes through UNCA's campus police, whereas the one on our website goes through Asheville's police department,” Kivett said.
A Blind Report is an anonymous police report. By filing a Blind Report, an official investigation will not start.
“Basically, in a Blind Report you can fill out as much or as little information you'd like. You can include none of your information as the survivor, or you can include your name and contact information as well as any information about the perpetrator and the incident,” Kivett said. “I think the most clear thing I can say about a Blind Report is that it is not going to start an official investigation. That report is going to be filed and will sit in that file.”
Kivett said that once a Blind Report is filed, a detective will not be assigned the case but the case will be viewed.
“A detective is not going to be assigned the case, not going to question the perpetrator or anyone else involved,” Kivett said. “There is not going to be any police follow-up. It won't start an investigation.”
A Blind Report can become useful for other cases that are taken to court, however.
“The two main reasons a victim would want to do a Blind Report is if they are unsure if they want to file an official police report so if later, even months later, they choose to report that all that information is there,” Kivett said.
“Also, Blind Reports say the perpetrator's name, or a description of the perpetrator and what happened in the assault. Law enforcement will look at those Blind Reports and if there happens to be three or four Blind Reports with the same perpetrator information, then they can use these reports to establish a pattern of assaults.
“So if there are several Blind Reports with the same name and someone chooses to file an official police report, then they can use the Blind Reports to help support the official report,” Kivett said.
Kivett said he wants survivors to know what happened to them is not their fault and they have support.
“The message I would want any survivor of sexual assault to hear is that we are here in the community and you don't have to walk through this alone,” Kivett said. “There are supports here if you want those supports.”
“Also, I would always want a survivor to hear ‘In no way was that situation your fault.' No matter what you were wearing, if you had anything to drink, none of those things give anyone the right to violate your boundaries and your body,” Kivett said. “It is not OK and it is not your fault.”
“That is the main message I always want victims to hear. It is not your fault that someone else did this to you and we want to be here to support you now.”
A victim of sexual assault or abuse can always reach out to a SANE.
According to the International Association of Forensic Nurses, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners are registered nurses who have completed specialized education and clinical preparation in the medical forensic care of the patient who has experienced sexual assault or abuse.
“We see domestic violence patients, we do elder abuse, child abuse and all that,” said Erica Thiel , the SANE nurse who partners with Our VOICE.
Thiel, along with one or two SANE nurses, are available at Our VOICE to see patients of sexual assault.
A SANE often uses a rape kit, sometimes known as a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit. A rape kit collects evidence and information from the victim and is stored in a box.
“This is a kit. It comes with all this paperwork that has to be completed first,” Thiel said. “This paperwork stays in the kit and there is another set of papers that are filled out for us. The paperwork takes the longest.”
As Thiel went through the box she explained all the steps included in completing a rape kit.
“This brown bag is for outer clothing. One bag comes in the kit, but you can only place one item of clothing inside each bag,” Thiel said.
“This bag is specifically for underwear,” Thiel said. “This one is for oral swabs, then a vaginal swab, rectal, pubic hair combings, and this one is the one people freak out over because it is for 50 pulled pubic hairs. This bag is for 50 pulled head hairs, then a cheek swab to obtain DNA, and occasionally a blood sample.”
“Also, if there are injuries we have to take photographs and include very detailed accounts of their story,” Thiel said.
The rape kit takes anywhere from two to six hours to complete and once finished is sealed for protection.
“A lot of injuries will make the process take longer. The average time is 2 to 6 hours,” Thiel said. “Some people just have to take it slow.”
Thiel said a victim has about five days to get a rape kit completed but the need for medication can be about three days.
“A victim needs to come as quickly as possible. We have 120 hours or five days to collect but if they need antibiotics or Plan B, but now use ella instead of Plan B because of weight limit, then they need to come sooner,” Thiel said.
“We offer HIV medicine, but that has to be taken within 72 hours,” Thiel said.
Thiel said the office hours of Our VOICE are not the only times available to have a rape kit completed.
“Even if a victim wants to have a rape kit performed outside of our 8 to 5 office hours, they should still reach out,” Thiel said. “The police can get in touch with us. Just reach out. We will work around a victim's schedule. Talk to us, at least call.”
Thiel said the best thing a victim can do is reach out to Our VOICE and talk to someone. Our VOICE will never force a victim to go through any process unwillingly. They are there to support the victim.
“Contact Our VOICE and talk to them. Nothing says that when you walk in these doors you have to do everything. There are so many options,” Thiel said. “So many people think that to get medicine and to have a nurse look at you that you have to go through the entire process.”
“Sometimes, just having that person to reassure your state helps a victim tremendously,” Thiel said. “I would just love to talk to people and make them feel better about their decision.”
Cherokee Church Offers Victims Help Amid Mounting Claims Of Child Abuse
by Maria Hallas
MEMPHIS, TN -- New information in an a case of sex-abuse allegations at a local church against a man who now works for the Memphis city library. The victims say the abuse happened decades ago.
The three victims, Kenny Stubblefield, Michael Hansen, and Brooks Hansen, who came forward on camera Monday, say they've heard from eight people claiming Chris Carwile sexually assaulted them. Of those, six claim abuse while Carwile attended Cherokee Baptist Church.
"Since the story has been told on Channel 24 and on Facebook social media, things like that, we have had people reach out to us and say that, yes, they were abused by Chris Carwile after our abuse story," said Stubblefield.
Stubblefield claims eight people contacted him or brothers Michael and Brooks Hansen to claim Chris Carwile also abused them. Six of those victims say they were abused while Carwile attended Cherokee Baptist Church. The most recent allegation was in 2003. Stubblefield says none are ready to go on camera.
Jeremy Wright is the pastor at Cherokee Baptist Church. He is a beacon of hope, according to Stubblefield and the Hansen brothers.
"I think that's the greatest thing that he's done. He's recognized the seriousness of this and truly cares about people rather than just his church."
"As we found out, we just try to do everything we can to be as proactive as possible," Wright said. "Our position as a church, and other like-minded churches around us, would be a one of non defensiveness, would be one of trying to receive them, and help them and not in anyway to push them away or keep them quiet so to speak. I think that's the worst thing that can happen."
Wright became pastor at Cherokee ten years after Carwile last attended Cherokee. He points to several steps he has taken to be transparent with parishoners about Carwile and finding victims.
"We have sent word out to all of our members by email," Wright said. "The email denounces abuse, says allegations will not be kept in house but reported to the authorities, and asks possible victims to come forward and find hope and healing."
Wright says he will also spread the word at church congregation meetings and through social media. He wants to use church funds to pay for therapy for Carwile's victims.
Pastor Wright's actions appear to follow the tenor of proactive steps listed in a statement from SNAP, a well known victims rights organization: "Church officials should make pulpit announcements, use church websites, post notices in church buildings and mail congregants (current and former) begging anyone with information or suspicions to come forward, get help, safeguard kids and call law enforcement."
"Our posture is receptivity and hopefully a healing and helping and not dismissing or being defensive. We grieve with the victims and we hope that through that posture we can see others come forward."
Wright says, no victims have contacted him so far.
As noted in Monday's story, Chris Carwile is now under civil and criminal investigations. The Local I-Team is investigating how Carwile came to be a member at Cherokee and may have gained access to minors about fourteen years ago. We are also looking into other locations he frequented.
The Local I-Team would like to speak with Carwile, but he has not responded to our requests.
Preventing Child Abuse in Mesa County
by Jeff Goldblatt
MESA COUNTY, Colo. -- According to officials at Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, child abuse continues to be a growing problem in Mesa County.
The issue was addressed Tuesday night at a community forum, where more than 100 residents and professionals discussed possible ways to combat the problem.
The Executive Director of CASA says for every 1,000 children in Mesa County, 17 were abused last year.
To put that into perspective, in Pueblo, five children out of every 1,000 were abused and in Denver, seven children out of every 1,000 were abused last year.
CASA is trying to lower these numbers, with the addition of two new child abuse programs.
According to officials with the Court Appointed Special Advocates, Mesa County has the highest rate of child abuse in the entire state.
"We have twice the rate of Denver and 3 times the rate of child abuse as Pueblo," says Executive Director of CASA, Janet Rowland.
Sometimes, these cases claim the lives of children.
"In 2016 so far, there have been three child abuse fatalities," adds Rowland.
Now, officials with CASA are implementing two new programs to help put an end to child abuse.
The first of which will help train the community on how to spot child abuse in public, and help de-escalate the situation.
"Communities Now, Connecting for Kids, is a program that comes here and trains average citizens on how to intervene," sayd Rowland.
The second program is called EPIC, Executives Partnering to Invest in Children.
"Which is a program that brings the business community in to strengthen and support families that work for them," adds Rowland.
CASA will handle The Communities Now program, and will begin in January.
"We're looking at finalizing the contract with those folks at the end of this year, and by January having a kick off meeting," says Rowland.
The EPIC initiative is looking for businesses to be more involved, and Rowland says it's easy to join their cause.
"If other businesses want to get involved, they can either contact the Chamber of Commerce or Epic Directly," Rowland adds.
If you're interested in getting involved, there are a number of organizations holding meetings in the coming months.
The goal for Foster Care is to get children into 25 new homes by Christmas.
You can go to www.fostercareofmesacounty.org, to get more information.
If you want to be a Senior Partner, you can call 970-245-5555.
They have orientations every month, and up to 86 kids on the waiting list.
If you want to be a CASA volunteer, you can go to www.achildsvoice.org, with an orientation coming up on January 26th.
There's also a Fostering Hope meeting on January 19th at 5:30 pm at City Hall.
This is where you can hear about all of the agencies helping kids, and decide what's the best way to get involved.
Janet Rowland says if you need more information on how to get involved, you can contact her directly through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 970-242-4191.
Counselor Encourages Positive Parenting in Families
EDINBURG – A Rio Grande Valley counselor advised parents to learn positive parenting skills and avoid using harsh punishments on their children. This comes after staff at an Alamo Elementary school noticed severe burns on a 4-year-old's feet last week.
The toddler's legal guardians were charged with injury to a child. A 41-year-old man admitted to placing the child's feet in scalding hot water out of frustration. His wife also confessed she knew about the incident, but didn't report it to the police or take the toddler to get medical attention.
Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office said they were not the child's biological parents. They said the child is currently recovering in a San Antonio hospital.
Cases like these happen more often than we'd like to report. More than 37,000 child abuse cases were reported in the Rio Grande Valley last year.
Licensed professional counselor Roxanne Trevino explained there's a fine line between discipline and child abuse.
“They need attention. They need to be heard. They need to feel like they are valued. They need to feel like somebody is there for them,” she outlined.
Trevino said she spends her days talking to children who have been abused.
“It's never acceptable to hurt a child, to leave any kind of bruises, burn marks or scars. What's very important to think about when disciplining a child is what your intent is,” she said. “Even if your intent was not to hurt the child that severely, if you did, that is child abuse.”
Trevino said abuse can take place when a parent is trying to discipline their child. She said sometimes a parent might become upset with their child's behavior.
“A parent should usually take a timeout, and think about what they want to do next before they do any disciplining,” Trevino said. “It's very easy to lose your temper, and we might do something worse to a child and not intend to hurt them.”
The counselor said in some cases the abuse goes beyond physical. It can also include emotional, psychological trauma of the fear that goes into being hurt by your own parent.
Trevino said positive parenting should be encouraged more. She said this method reduces your chances of hurting your child.
“We need to try to talk to kids first, and we need to try to encourage positive behaviors instead of only focusing on the negative,” she said.
Trevino said children will give respect when they too feel loved and respected. She advised parents who feel they need to hit their children to get their point across should consider counseling.
More than 13,000 children in the U.S. are abused or neglected every day. Five of those children will die as a result of the abuse.
Experts said there are a number of indicators that could signal a case of child abuse.
People should take notice of a child's fear of certain places or people. They should also be aware of any unexplained injuries or changes in behavior. Suspected abuse is enough reason to make a report.
Anyone who believes a child is in immediate danger should call 911. If not, they can call the abuse and neglect hotline at 1-8000-252-5400.
Self-confessed paedophile claims he's ETHICAL for not abusing children - and wants to change society's views on his sexual desires
Todd Nickerson, 43, says he is attracted to children but does not act on it and wants to encourage other paedophiles to get support for their sexual inclinations
by Tom Midland and Anthony Bond
A self-confessed paedophile who says he does not act on his sexual desires says he wants to help other paedophiles to seek help.
Todd Nickerson, from Tennessee, United States, wants to encourage other paedophiles to get support for their sexual inclinations.
He claims paedophilia is better understood as a sexual orientation - although one he believes it is unethical to act on.
The 43-year-old- who calls himself a 'non-offending paedophile' - is now on a mission to revolutionise society's understanding of underage attraction.
He is a moderator on the online forum ‘VirPed' - short for ‘virtuous paedophiles', also sometimes called ‘ethical paedophiles' or ‘gold star paedophiles'.
The terms are used to describe those who have an attraction to prepubescent children but control their urges and refrain from watching child pornography or seeking sexual contact with minors.
The VirPed forum has a few thousand users, according to Nickerson, although not all of them are active members, and the site acts as a resource 'to help virtuous paedophiles remain law-abiding'.
Nickerson, who is one of only a handful of voluntarily ‘out' paedophiles in the US, told Barcroft TV: "I am a paedophile.
"I'm not a monster. I have the attraction but I don't act on it.
"I have never ever sexually abused a child and I never will. I do not look at child porn, I never will.
"I obey the laws, I respect the laws, I respect society's position on this. I understand it and agree with it."
Nickerson went public as a paedophile in a blog for American liberal news site Salon in September 2015, generating a huge quantity of hostile replies in online comment sections and on social media.
However, he also received a large amount of positive feedback - including messages from people who had suffered at the hands of paedophiles.
He said: “You get the people who tell you to kill yourself and say you should be castrated and all of that kind of thing.
“Publicly, there was a lot of backlash but privately it's been very different.
"I got hundreds and hundreds emails from people who were very supportive, a lot of which were from people who were survivors of abuse."
Although he is unrepentant about putting his face and name in the public domain, he does now carry a pocket knife with him for self-protection when he ventures out of the house.
Nickerson describes himself as a non-offending minor attracted person (MAP) and says paedophiles are capable of living a happy, productive, law-abiding life.
He said: “Not all paedophiles are child molesters, not all child molesters are paedophiles.
"A paedophile is strictly speaking just somebody who has sexual attraction to children - they may act on it, they may not.
“A lot of people think that if you are attracted to kids, you have some kind of unusual degree of urge to go out and attack kids and it's not like that.
"The people that struggle with it have self control issues and we just try to encourage them - sometimes we have to use tough love because one problem with paedophiles at times is that they are very good at deluding themselves."
While some researchers claim a possible neurological or genetic basis to underage attraction, the origin of paedophilia is still a hotly debated subject in the scientific community.
Nickerson claims he was the subject of a one-off incident of sexual molestation by an acquaintance of a relative as a 7-year-old child, something which he acknowledges may have been a "contributing factor” in his sexual development.
He admits that he is attracted to children as young as 3 or 4, but that his attraction peaks with children aged around 9 or 10 years old.
The freelance graphic designer, who was born with only one hand and so wears a pincer-style prosthesis called an Adept, says he first became aware of his attraction to underage children when he was 13.
He said: “I call it my 'Eureka moment', it was the moment I realised 'okay this is something, I'm interested in these younger girls'.
"I was 13, and a neighbour had come over to visit and brought his little daughter with him, she was probably 7 or 8.
"I was in the living room drawing and I just remember looking up and just being blown away by her, by how beautiful I thought she was.
"Initially I repressed the feelings, especially in my teenage years when I was a regular at church, I'd ask God to take it away and I kind of thought he had.
“But I started ageing and realised that the age of the girls I was attracted to were staying the same, that's when I realised this was going to be a problem.”
Although Nickerson is adamant he has never offended, he says he did have a moment of temptation when he was 18 while babysitting a five-year-old girl.
He said: “After that I moved out of town for a couple of months, anything that was going to present me with a temptation, I just cut it out of my life.”
He also admits that in the past he was part of an “unhealthy" paedophile forum where he claimed that children were not necessarily harmed by sexual contact with adults and that he would consider it if it were legal.
Nickerson says he now strongly rejects and regrets those views, writing in his blog: “I wanted desperately to be friends with people who shared my sexual orientation, even if they held crazy beliefs, but I could never quite reconcile with their viewpoint.”
At age 20 Nickerson tried dating a woman who was 26, but his lack of interest in adults meant the relationship quickly ran aground.
He said: “She was very petite so she was my type physically. I wasn't really attracted to adults, but I thought maybe I can make this work."
The pair dated for three weeks, but when it came time to consummate the relationship, Nickerson was unable to perform and the woman broke up with him the next day.
Nickerson added: “For all intents and purposes I am a virgin, I never had full blown sexual intercourse, it just hasn't happened.”
Realising that marriage and children were unlikely to materialise, he spiralled into a period of deep depression and social anxiety, and was plagued by suicidal thoughts on a daily basis.
But in August 2014 he discovered the website Virtuous Pedophiles after the forum's founder Ethan posted on the ‘unhealthy' forum Todd was frequenting,
And Nickerson says becoming an advocate for other ‘virtuous paedophiles' has helped turn his life around and given it meaning.
"I am part of one of the most hated groups of society, no question about it, we are the scapegoats du jour,” he added.
“If you look at history, there is always one minority that everybody kind of persecutes and I think at the moment we're it.
"I would like to see some protections for people like me, protections against being fired from their job and being protected from violence."
Nickerson says his goals are twofold - to end the demonisation of paedophiles, which he says helps drive them underground, and to encourage other offenders to seek support.
He said: "I would like people to empathise with us and understand that this is not a choice.
"We didn't choose our sexuality, we just have to deal with it and their empathy helps us and the abuse actually makes things worse for us.
"We just want to educate the public and help people understand where we are coming from and hopefully see our humanity.
“The other aim is to bring people who are struggling with this attraction to our forum that we can help them by providing us a circle of support."
And while the subject of underage attraction remains deeply taboo, Nickerson says his friends and family are proud of him for trying to help shed light on the complex issues surrounding paedophilia.
He said: "I'm a pioneer, I'm out here doing something that really needs to be done, raising awareness and letting people what people like me deal with and struggle with.
"I am neither proud nor ashamed of being a paedophile, at this point I just accept it - it's who I am.”
Maia Christopher is executive director for the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, an umbrella organisation of around 2,700 clinical practitioners and academics globally who work to establish best practice in managing and preventing sexual abuse.
She said: “If someone has sexual interest in children and they're having difficulty learning how to manage or live their lives in a way that makes it less likely for them to offend then we should absolutely be helping them.
"One of the biggest myths about people who sexually offend is that they're all the same.
"With paedophilia there's an idea that there's this overwhelming urge to offend all of the time, but like everyone else paedophiles' sex interests differ.
"Some people are not all that interested in sexual activity, some people are very interested in sexual activity, and it's the same with people who have sexual interest in children."
Christopher says that significant work is needed to encourage non-offending paedophiles to feel comfortable engaging with professional medical help or support networks.
She said: "We have certain legal barriers that can make it challenging, such as mandatory reporting laws.
“People with these sexual interests have a lot of fear that if they speak about having had sexual thoughts about children, that people will act as if they've acted on it already, or if they haven't done it already, they are about to do it at any moment.
"I don't think we should do a lot to destigmatise any kind of criminal behaviour, sexual assault is a criminal offence and should be viewed as a criminal offence.
“But how we treat non-offending people with dignity and respect and help them build a meaningful life is a different question."
And Christopher is clear that forums like Virtuous Pedophiles can play an important part in stopping people from offending.
She added: “People sexually offend for more reasons than just sex, and that includes people who offend against children - there can be emotional components and life circumstances that contribute to offending.
"It's not just about controlling the sexual interest, like everyone else it's about building a life that's meaningful and worthwhile, where you feel valued and part of a community and are able to live your life with a sense of agency.
"Building that community is really helpful in terms of building protective factors that stop people offending.”
Jenny Coleman is the director of Stop It Now!, a Massachusetts-based organisation dedicated to recognising abuse of children as a preventable public health problem.
She said: “We frequently refer adults to VirPed and while we strongly emphasise the importance of specialised professional treatment, we recognise this online community as a resource and possible support for adults committed to the safety of children."
Child deaths from suicide, maltreatment increase in Arizona
by Patty Machelor
Preventable child deaths in Arizona increased in 2015 while the overall number of children who died has decreased, with 301 of the 768 recorded deaths deemed avoidable, a new state report shows.
Suicide and deaths from child abuse and neglect increased substantially in 2015, said Dr. Mary Rimsza, chair of the Arizona Child Fatality Review Program. There were 75 maltreatment deaths in 2014 compared to 87 in 2015. About 80 percent of those deceased children were less than 5 years old.
The majority of those cases involve child neglect, Rimsza said, with adults not adequately supervising their children and leaving them susceptible to fatal accidents. Substance use by the parent or caregiver was the most common preventable factor, and was associated with 61 percent of these deaths.
“It's always hard to say why,” she said when asked about the increase. “We expect it to go up during the time of a recession, when there's more stress and less resources for families.”
Seeing the increase here indicates more services are needed for children and their parents, she said. This includes more help with child care, and mental health and substance abuse counseling for parents, she said.
The Arizona Child Fatality Review Program was created to reduce preventable child fatalities by reviewing deaths each year and promoting community-based prevention, education and changes in public policy.
The number of child deaths has increased annually from 3.7 per 100,000 children in 2009 to 5.3 per 100,00 Arizona children in 2015, state data show.
Suicides increased 24 percent last year, from 38 deaths in 2014 to 47 deaths in 2015. There's been an 81 percent increase in child suicides since 2009, Rimsza said, with factors including drug and alcohol abuse, bullying, behavioral health disorders and access to guns.
“With suicide, it's much harder for us to get a handle on the underlying causes for the increase,” she said. Access to services and prompt treatment for depression needs to improve, she said.
About 30 percent of the suicide deaths in 2015, which she said occur primarily among ages 15 to 17, were carried out with a firearm, she said. Often, children in those cases had access to their parents' guns, she said.
One of the most preventable causes of child death is suffocation, which killed 52 Arizona infants in 2015, Rimsza said. One critical way to prevent suffocation is to avoid having infants bed-share with their parents or caregivers.
“Use appropriate places for the child to sleep,” she said. Cribs should be free of extra bumpers, toys and blankets that could smother a sleeping infant.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies be placed on their backs on a firm sleep surface and that parents focus on room-sharing but not bed-sharing. Soft bedding and overheating also need to be avoided.
Of the 52 babies that died of suffocation, 36 died while sharing a bed with an adult or other children. Unsafe sleep environments overall, including putting a child on an adult bed or a couch, accounted for 74 out of 78, or 95 percent, of the sudden and unexpected infant deaths statewide in 2015.
Among the report's other key findings:
Firearm fatalities increased from 25 deaths in 2014 to 28 deaths in 2015. In 43 percent of the deaths, the firearm owner was the child's parent, and 17 of these firearm-related deaths were the result of suicide. Handguns accounted for 64 percent of the firearm-related fatalities.
Drowning deaths decreased slightly, from 31 deaths in 2014 to 30 deaths in 2015, accounting for 4 percent of all child deaths. In 50 percent of the cases, lack of supervision was the key element, with substance use a factor in 33 percent of the deaths.
Motor vehicle crashes and other transportation-related deaths decreased from 57 deaths in 2014 to 50 deaths in 2015, but still accounted for 7 percent of all child deaths in 2015. The highest number of transportation-related deaths was due to the child not being properly restrained, with additional preventable risk factors including speeding, reckless driving, driver inexperience, distracted driving and substance use.
Car seat laws and teenage driving laws have significantly decreased the number of child deaths in automobiles, Rimsza said.
“But we still have to deal with the issues of texting and unsafe driving,” she said.
Can Prosecutors Stop Child Sex Trafficking Without Breaking the Internet?
A legal campaign against an alleged online brothel could have implications that go far beyond the sex trade.
by Joshua Brustein
In 2010, the seedy business of online prostitution lost a major platform when Craigslist, the eponymous web bazaar for everything from jobs to apartments, bowed to criticism for facilitating sex trafficking and shuttered the adult categories on its site.
Government officials, including Kamala Harris, then the district attorney for San Francisco, had been pressuring the company to get rid of the sex trade ads for years. Shortly afterwards, Harris became California's attorney general. She'd spend the next six years grappling with a new adversary.
The online sex trade didn't disappear when Craigslist got out of the game; it migrated to Backpage.com, a Craigslist clone then run by a publisher of alt-weekly newspapers. Soon after Craigslist's action, a group of state attorneys general sent letters to Backpage's executives asking it to get rid of the site's ads for escorts, erotic massages, and other services often used as fronts for prostitution. They refused. In the ensuing years, the company successfully fended off multiple lawsuits and legislation trying to shut it down.
In a 2013 letter to Congress, Harris and other state AGs complained that federal law protecting websites from being held accountable for things their users posted inappropriately kept them from prosecuting Backpage for its role in the online sex trade. But their request to loosen restrictions on pursuing websites who facilitate human trafficking fell on deaf ears.
Last month, Harris took action. In cooperation with the Texas attorney general, she had the chief executive officer of Backpage, Carl Ferrer, arrested in the Houston airport and charged with pimping. Officers raided Ferrer's home and Backpage's offices in the Dallas area. Backpage's co-founders, Michael Lacey and James Larkin, also turned themselves in on criminal conspiracy charges. It looked like Harris's play at a coup de grace. The arrest took place just weeks before she was elected to the U.S. Senate on Nov. 8.
The criminal complaint against Ferrer identified nine unnamed minors who were allegedly sold for sex in California through listings on the site. “Backpage and its executives purposefully and unlawfully designed Backpage to be the world's top online brothel,” said Harris in a statement. A spokesman for her campaign directed questions to the California Department of Justice, which declined to comment.
Backpage asked a court to dismiss the case, citing the 1996 Communications Decency Act, and saying the prosecution had provided no proof that Backpage's business had been anything more than web publishing. “The only evidence presented in the papers suggest that Backpage was doing what it was supposed to be doing,” said Bob Corn-Revere, a lawyer for the company.
On Wednesday, a judge agreed that the CDA barred the charges against the site, and tentatively ruled to dismiss the case. But he said he would reconsider the ruling if the prosecution can show compelling evidence that Backpage should be seen as the creator of the advertisements, rather than simply a publisher. He said he'd issue an official decision next month.
The suit tests the limits of a law that is a vital part of the business model of many major internet companies. Section 230 of the CDA says website operators can't be held liable for content created by their users. It's credited with allowing for the rise of Facebook, Google, and the broader world of social media and online marketplaces.
The CDA has been the subject of hundreds of lawsuits, often brought by people seeking to sue websites for defamatory content from users. Tech companies get nervous at the thought that they'd stop winning these fights. In regulatory filings, EBay has mentioned unforeseen shifts in the way the law is enforced as a risk factor investors should be aware of. John Doherty, the Sacramento-based general counsel for trade group TechNet, laughs nervously when asked what weakened CDA protections could mean. “Asking Internet service providers to monitor content could change the whole game — in a bad way,” he said. “You lose all the privacy and First Amendment rights.”
Doherty praises Harris for finding novel lines of attack on other Internet-based sex crimes like revenge porn. But this latest prosecution scares him. Like many people who support the CDA, Doherty picks his words carefully when discussing Backpage, a website he clearly wishes would just go away. “I understand the intent of the prosecution,” he said. “I am concerned about the unintended consequences.” Representatives from Facebook, Amazon, and Google declined to comment. eBay didn't respond to an interview request.
Two other cases, in Massachusetts and in Washington State, allege that Backpage is a co-conspirator in an illegal prostitution business. In the Massachusetts case, the plaintiffs were held hostage by traffickers and raped as many as 12 times a day by men who responded to ads on Backpage.com, according to court documents. The company has prevailed so far, and the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to hear the case.
If none of these efforts stick, anti-trafficking groups say there's likely to be a renewed push in change the Communications Decency Act itself. It would certainly face opposition. This week the Internet Association, a trade group whose members include most of the well-known Internet companies, sent a list of its policy priorities to President-elect Donald Trump. At the top of the list was the protections offered by CDA 230.
The Internet Association declined to comment directly on the Backpage case, but David Greene, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says the controversy over the site can't be separated from the broader protections of the law. “The big picture view is that people aren't out there defending Backpage. They're out there defending the Internet as we know it,” he said. “You can't only grant immunity to people you like.”
Lawyers have an old cliché: Hard cases make bad law.
The maxim comes up often with Backpage. The company has its roots in New Times, a free weekly newspaper started in the early 1970s in the Phoenix area. The company eventually expanded to become a national chain of alt-weekly papers, and owned publications across the country. Backpage.com was New Times's answer to Craigslist, the online classified agency that emerged as a fundamental threat to the business model of print journalism in the 1990s.
In 2012, New Times spun off Backpage into its own company after pressure from investors and advertisers. Ferrer took over in 2014. As of June 2015, the company's 180 employees were mostly split between Dallas and Phoenix, and about two-thirds of them moderate ads submitted by users, according to a U.S. Senate report. Through his lawyer, Ferrer declined an interview request. The co-founders, Lacey and Larkin, issued a statement saying the case was a publicity stunt, arguing that Harris didn't have the legal authority to bring the charges.
Backpage today looks a lot like Craigslist has looked since the 1990s. Unadorned lists of text ads advertise graphing calculators, apartment shares, and vaguely worded business opportunities in all caps. Upwards of 95 percent of its revenue comes from the commercial sex industry, according to court documents. The Senate found that Backpage had revenue of $135 million in 2014, indicating a five-fold growth in its revenue from the sex trade compared with three years earlier. It pegged the company's value at about $620 million. Backpage is private, and has fought every attempt to provide more information about its operations.
To demonstrate how people actually use the site, a special agent for the California Department of Justice put up two listings last March, one purporting to be an ad for an escort, and another claiming to sell a couch. The agent said the listing for the escort prompted hundreds of inquiries. A single person called about the sofa.
The site looms large over what anti-trafficking groups say is a rapidly expanding market for child sex trafficking. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said in 2015 that there has been an increase of about 850 percent in suspected child sex trafficking because of the Internet, and that about 7 of every 10 reports it receives about child sex trafficking relates to Backpage.
The company's lawyers say it has been a constructive partner for law enforcement. Backpage also argues that shutting down its own adult classifieds section wouldn't end child exploitation.
These claims haven't convinced prosecutors or anti-trafficking groups. For years, a multi-front legal battle over Backpage has played out at a dizzying pace. Backpage has enjoyed near-complete success in using the CDA as a defense, both in getting courts to dismiss lawsuits and to strike down state laws designed to punish it.
Plaintiffs in Massachusetts and Washington have argued that Backpage shouldn't have protection under the CDA because it has designed policies specifically tailored to facilitate sex trafficking. They argue moderators change language on ads to avoid legally problematic language. When credit card companies refused to process payment for the company, it allegedly set up non-traditional payment methods to hide illegal activities. Backpage also removes location tags from photos that would help investigators find trafficking victims, according to the complaint.
In legal filings, Harris's office argues that Ferrer can't use the CDA as a defense because he set up several other websites displaying re-posted ads from Backpage.com that didn't accept user postings, effectively creating new ads on his own. It also argues that Ferrer isn't protected by the law because he had direct knowledge of the child trafficking on the site. In court filings, Backpage's lawyers ridiculed the prosecution's rationale. “The AG's argument is illogical sophistry,” they wrote.
Similar charges have fallen flat multiple times. In March, Bruce Selya, a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, practically apologized for siding with Backpage in the Massachusetts suit. The plaintiffs had made a convincing case that the site had been tailored to make trafficking easier, he said, but that didn't matter. “Congress did not sound an uncertain trumpet when it enacted the CDA, and it chose to grant broad protections to internet publishers,” he wrote. “Showing that a website operates through a meretricious business model is not enough to strip away those protections.”
At some point, Backpage's legality has to be seen as settled law, says Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University. Perpetual legal action is, basically, harassment, argues Goldman. “If the AG can drive Backpage out of business by prosecuting its key executives, 230 will have failed,” he said.
Anti-trafficking groups are laying the groundwork for a change to the CDA itself. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, came to Washington pledging to stop online trafficking. His staff has been exploring ways to address the CDA, and plans to introduce legislation at some point, according to two people familiar with the efforts who didn't want to be named because the discussions are still nascent. A spokeswoman for his office declined to comment.
As a new senator, Harris could find herself immediately pulled into the debate. Her opinions on the shortcomings of the current law are a matter of public record. At the same time, a legislative battle over the CDA would inspire attention from some of her most powerful constituents.
Technology freedom advocates who reject prosecutors's concerns out of hand are missing the point, said Samantha Vardaman, senior director of Shared Hope International, a group combatting sex trafficking. “It seems to be their view that it's all or nothing, that if they give any of their protections away it all becomes subject to retraction. That's not what we're advocating for,” she said. “We all love our internet.”
Stopping Sex Trafficking
by Sen. Dianne Feinstein
Sex trafficking is a $100 billion industry worldwide. Victims, many of whom are as young as 11-, 12- and 13-years old, face unspeakable horrors. They are abused mentally and physically, forced to take drugs, forbidden from going out in public and even denied food and water.
California is a top destination state for sex-trafficking victims and our big cities are major hubs for moving girls throughout the state and around the world. That's why combating sex-trafficking is one of my top priorities.
We've recently taken significant steps forward to combat this heinous crime at the local, state and federal levels, and it's important to take stock of the progress we've made and the work that remains.
Last year, Congress passed the Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act —a major piece of legislation that garnered unanimous support in the Senate. Working with Republican colleagues, I was able to include two important provisions to encourage the prosecution of buyers to decrease demand and stop the advertising of juvenile victims on the Internet. Addressing these two areas is key to reducing sex trafficking.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, reports of child sex trafficking have increased eight-fold in just the past five years. High demand and the proliferation of Internet advertisements are the main reasons.
With just a few clicks, buyers are anonymously connected to victims. These trafficking ads are incredibly profitable—generating millions of dollars for websites like Backpage.com and others.
The first provision I drafted with Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) would help ensure buyers are held accountable for their actions and prosecuted. It makes buyers criminally liable for purchasing sex from trafficking victims, expands reporting on trafficking prosecutions and requires training for law enforcement officials on how to target and prosecute buyers.
The second provision I put together with Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) makes it a crime for a person, including the owner of a website, to knowingly advertise a commercial sex act with a minor. Website owners would be much less likely to turn a blind eye to trafficking ads if they could be prosecuted for them.
Since the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act was signed into law, I've pushed the Justice Department to use these new legal tools and will continue to do so.
The U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles—Eileen Decker—has shown real leadership in this area, prosecuting several buyers in the past year. One buyer—a 59-year-old man—was sentenced to nearly five years in prison. He lied to federal investigators about his conduct with a 16-year-old girl he met, and later advertised, on Backpage.com.
Another area where we've seen progress is increased coordination between local, state and federal law enforcement.
Three weeks ago, there was a nationwide operation led by the FBI to arrest buyers and traffickers and rescue victims—Operation Cross Country.
That operation was very successful in the Bay Area. Nearly 40 local law enforcement organizations and victims' service providers participated. Six underage victims and three adult victims were rescued. Fourteen traffickers and 83 buyers were arrested.
Law enforcement collaboration also led to the recent arrest of Carl Ferrer, the CEO of Backpage.com, for various state felony offenses. The charges stem from Ferrer's participation in profiting off the selling of young girls for sex on Backpage. California Attorney General Kamala Harris deserves a lot of credit for bringing these charges. In addition, Mr. Ferrer obstructed a Senate investigation into his company's practices, opting to not comply with subpoena requests.
It's also encouraging that San Francisco is taking steps to increase penalties for buyers.
The San Francisco Police Department is considering changing its protocols so all buyers arrested for purchasing sex will be booked in jail, rather than given citations at the scene. Citations are unlikely to deter these individuals from purchasing sex again, perpetuating the sky-high demand for victims.
This policy change would bring San Francisco in line with Alameda County, which, under the leadership of District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, has cracked down on demand and helped survivors.
I've worked with Nancy and Catholic Charities of the East Bay to address one of the biggest gaps in helping victims get their lives back: safe and stable housing. Without a roof over their heads, victims are much more likely to return to their traffickers.
A safe house for child victims of sex trafficking, Claire's House, will open in 2017. It will have around a dozen beds—there aren't currently any beds reserved for trafficking victims in San Francisco or the East Bay.
Survivors helped design the home to ensure it meets girls' needs. They have also provided guidance on everything from program curricula to safety measures. Empowering survivors to help make progress on this issue is so important.
Lastly, more must be done for trafficking victims abroad. For example, Yazidi women in Syria and Iraq have been subjected to unspeakable sexual violence by ISIL. It has been reported that ISIL uses a variety of Internet websites and apps to advertise these women—just like traffickers in the United States. That's why I am working on legislation to ensure ISIL terrorists can't use social media platforms to sell girls for sex.
The bottom line is that thousands of young women are being sold every day for sex in the United States and around the world, and we have an obligation to end trafficking here and everywhere.
Once a ward of the state, law student named to DCFS task force
by Pete Rosenbery
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A ward of the state of Illinois from nearly birth, Victor Feraru spent most of his first 17 years between 40 foster homes, three groups homes and visits with biological family members. The situation was such that Feraru, who grew up in the Peoria area, did not expect to live beyond that.
Yet through his own strength, determination, and support of a family who adopted Feraru after he became an adult, the second-year Southern Illinois University School of Law student now has the opportunity to assist children facing similar situations across the state. Feraru was recently appointed by Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Director George Sheldon to the agency's Children's Justice Task Force. His first meeting was last week in Chicago.
“Victor's experiences with the child welfare system will be a valuable contribution to the Children's Justice Task Force.” Sheldon said. “His personal story reflects the experiences of so many youth in care and inspires us to do our jobs better every day. I look forward to working with him.”
Established in 1989, the 26-member task force is a multidisciplinary, legislatively mandated advisory group comprised of child advocates, law enforcement, medical and mental health professionals, attorneys, judges, child and parent advocates and child abuse survivors. The group, which meets four times a year around the state, makes recommendations to DCFS on policy and practices “directed at improving investigative, prosecution and judicial handling of child abuse cases in a manner that limits additional trauma to the child victim.”
Bringing his experiences to the task force as both a law student and a survivor is “very humbling,” Feraru said. He wants to offer a unique perspective and provide hope for children facing similar situations.
“Many people see it from the top down, so I'm able to give them a perspective from the bottom up,” said Feraru, who is 35. “I think people who have been in my position – the statistics bear it out -- they don't make it here (law school).
“When you survive abuse -- physical, mental and emotional -- and you come out to the other side you can offer a point of view that a person doesn't get,” he said. “Normal life's problems pale in comparison. Obviously, I will learn as I go. Primarily what I think sets me apart from a majority of what I would see on any task force is that I am a product of the system. The system didn't help me out any; it was the altruism of human beings. I believe that is why they want me on the task force and I believe that is what I offer them.”
Veronica Resa, DCFS deputy director of communications, said the agency is much different than it was in the 1980s and 1990s when Feraru was growing up. During that time, there were about 50,000 children in the system; now there are about 16,000. The agency emphasizes being proactive to get families assistance to keep them together, if possible, before children come into the system, she said.
“I think we are doing a lot better serving families and we are working on prevention as opposed to waiting until a family is in crisis,” Resa said.
At age 16, Feraru was in an adoption process when the couple, who lived in the Quad Cities area, died. He was emancipated and no longer a ward of the state a year later. Feraru would go on to earn a bachelor's degree in English writing from Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C.
A lady from High Point, N.C., and her family heard of Feraru's story during an Air America radio broadcast when he was in his early 20s. He credits their support, encouragement and love with his success. The family legally adopted Feraru, who changed his last name, when he was 28.
“I was very fortunate,” he said. “They have always been very supportive and encouraging. My life turned around then because I went from being part of the non-privileged to what some would consider very privileged.”
Feraru's essay, “Transcending Trauma,” was the college winner of The Nation magazine's 2008 Student Writing Contest. Along with writing a blog for The Huffington Post, he is working on his autobiography, “Victor's Luck.”
Feraru did not plan to return to Illinois after his foster care experiences. Though he had other choices for law school, Feraru said he was comfortable at SIU School of Law, and views his decision to attend law school in Illinois as symbolic. It was an “immediate connection to the faculty,” which he described as compassionate but which also challenges students to do their best.
“I don't think I could have had better opportunities to help the community, work in the federal judiciary, or have access to professors or access to opportunities. Everything sort of fell in place,” he said. “I feel like Illinois is part of who I am; it's part of the fabric of who I am. Midwestern values is not just hyperbole; it's a fact.”
On the task force, Feraru is representing the legislatively mandated task force position of an adult survivor of child abuse and or neglect. Belleville attorney and retired 20th Circuit Court Judge James M. Radcliffe recommended Feraru for the appointment. Members can serve up to two, four-year terms, for a total of eight years, and Radcliffe is leaving the task force after serving eight years. Feraru “has an understanding of the instability that a lot of kids experience in the system and appears to me to be a really bright guy,” said Radcliffe, who was a judge for 20 years and presided over juvenile cases in St. Clair County before retiring in 2007.
The task force has been instrumental in several improvements regarding child services in Illinois, including the implementation of statewide child advocacy centers, Radcliffe said.
Feraru was an extern this past summer for Staci M. Yandle, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Illinois in Benton. She said her general impression of Feraru is that he is very energetic and takes his responsibilities very seriously.
“Victor has had to overcome many obstacles in his life and, as a result, has developed a unique ability to persevere and an overall sense of ‘stick-to-it-ness,'” Yandle said. “Also, as a result of his own personal experiences, I believe Victor will bring a perspective and insight that, along with his other qualities, will be an asset to the task force.”
Mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect get new tool
by Elizabeth Loutfi
COLUMBIA — A Boone County pediatrician's conduct is being questioned as part of a Missouri State Highway Patrol investigation into the death of an infant last summer.
On July 6, Mary Buxton of Moniteau County discovered a bruise on her 2-month-old son's back. The child's pediatrician, Laura Weidt, advised the mother against going to the emergency room for the bruise because doing so would trigger an investigation, according to the highway patrol's probable cause statement.
But Weidt, in an interview with the Missourian and other news media, has said she wanted to "work up," or medically assess the baby, Kyler, herself because she knew his medical history and could do the same work as an emergency room. At the end of the day, nothing about Kyler's condition made her suspect he was being abused, she said.
Three weeks later, Kyler died from multiple bone fractures and internal bleeding in his head — injuries consistent with shaken baby syndrome. His father, Christopher Buxton, was arrested on a second-degree murder charge a few days later. He has been in the Moniteau County Jail ever since without bond.
Under federal law, adults who work with, or are responsible for the well-being of children under 18 are mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect. That includes pediatricians, educators, child care workers, social workers, mental health professionals and law enforcement officials. But anyone who has "reasonable cause to suspect" abuse or neglect can make a report.
Roughly 1,000 Missouri children die on average each year. Last year, 37 of those deaths resulted from abuse or neglect, according to the Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division's 2015 annual report.
"Mandatory reporting really is the chance to save a child's life," said Emily van Schenkhof, deputy director of Missouri KidsFirst, a child abuse and neglect prevention and advocacy network. She declined to comment directly on the case of Kyler Buxton.
But, she said: "There are very serious consequences for children when the general population doesn't understand their legal and ethical responsibilities to report suspicions of child abuse."
Part of Missouri KidsFirst's mission is helping adults protect children. Some mandated reporters fear wrongly accusing someone of abuse or neglect, which gives them pause or even prevents them from making a report, said Cherisse Thibaut, Missouri KidsFirst manager of prevention and community outreach. Other times, a mandated reporter simply might not feel comfortable because he or she doesn't know enough about making a report.
In response, several child protection agencies have put together a statewide standardized training course on mandatory reporting they hope will "enhance mandated reporters' awareness and understanding of reporting child abuse and neglect to improve the safety of children," Rebecca Woelfel, Department of Social Services spokeswoman, said in an email.
Children's Division was among the agencies that helped develop the training, she said.
A new training curriculum
Missouri's mandated reporter training was completed this month, Thibaut said. It took two years to develop.
This training was first suggested by Missouri's Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children in its 2012 report . The task force made recommendations to the governor, the General Assembly and the State Board of Education after holding public hearings and gathering testimony from experts on child sexual abuse.
The group that created the training spent a lot of time carefully choosing the information to include, she said. A pilot version was sent to selected participants in September so the group could get feedback.
The self-paced training is broken up into four different lessons, which users can access at any time:
Introduction and legal requirements of mandated reporters.
Indicators of child abuse and neglect.
A plan for responding to suspicion, discovery or disclosure of child abuse and neglect.
Effectively reporting child abuse and neglect.
Like the training that other states offer their mandated reporters — including New York, Illinois and Arkansas — Missouri's isn't legally required.
"It's highly recommended and I believe the most comprehensive in Missouri," Thibaut said. "Our efforts and energy are spent toward getting mandated reporters to take it, but ... every adult would benefit from this training, certainly."
The training describes warning signs and types of abuse and neglect, explores Missouri's child protection statutes and includes an example of a hotline call between a mandated reporter and a Children's Division hotline worker.
At the end of every lesson, users are asked five review questions.
Once the training was ready for the general public, the organizations involved in creating the training promoted it on their websites and sent it out to their contacts, Thibaut said.
Mandatory reporting in health care
The Missouri Board of Registration for Healing Arts has the authority to revoke a health care provider's license for failing to report. If a licensee is charged with a misdemeanor, the board can hold a hearing to decide if it wants to pursue a disciplinary action. A felony charge would result in automatic license revocation.
Students in the MU School of Medicine receive instruction on mandatory reporting during a required course called Introduction to Patient Care, which stretches over their first two years, MU Health spokeswoman Diamond Dixon said in an email.
Students who enter the child health clinical rotation in their third year receive additional training, including how to identify warning signs of physical, sexual and psychological abuse and neglect and how to report the suspected abuse or neglect.
Mandated reporting has been part of child health's curriculum since 2009, Dixon said.
Weidt is a 2005 graduate of the medical school's pediatric residency program. She said in an email that she wasn't aware of any formal training during her time in the program, and if it was mentioned, it was minimal. Most of her knowledge about mandatory reporting came from researching it herself, she added.
She was licensed by the Missouri board in 2005, the same year she started working for Tiger Pediatrics. In 2006, she was certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.
She said she has not been contacted by either board about the highway patrol's statement.
Making a report
Child abuse and neglect can be reported to the Children's Division's 24/7 hotline. In 2015, the hotline received more than 68,000 calls involving over 100,000 Missouri children. According to annual reports, mandated reporters have made between 59 and 66 percent of total hotline calls.
"When you are making a report, you are not making an accusation," Thibaut said. "You are requesting a professional service to get involved. That's what we need to think about."
In Missouri, a mandated reporter can be charged with a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine, for not reporting an incident of child abuse or neglect to Children's Division. Any subsequent offense could be a class D felony.
Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Shawn Griggs said Weidt hasn't been charged in its investigation of Kyler Buxton's death.
Children's Division responds to reports by launching an investigation or a family assessment. Investigations begin with reports of fatality, sexual abuse, serious physical abuse or neglect involving foster parents or public institutions. A family assessment may be used in reports of mild or moderate physical abuse or neglect, including medical and educational neglect.
Although not every report will result in an investigation, van Schenkof said people should always err on the side of the child. Any reason to suspect that a child is being abused or neglected should be reported.
"Kids die when people don't fulfill their obligations to report child abuse," she said.
A closer look at the death of Kyler Buxton
Two-month-old Kyler Buxton died July 30 from injuries consistent with shaken baby syndrome. Medical providers from MU Women's and Children's Hospital determined the injuries were the result of multiple instances of abuse.
The probable cause statement from the Missouri State Highway Patrol also describes text messages between the child's mother, Mary Buxton, and the child's Boone County pediatrician. On July 6, Mary Buxton texted Laura Weidt a photograph of a bruise on Kyler's back.
Highway patrol Corporal Marcus Reynolds wrote in the statement that in her reply, Weidt texted that “people lose their temper” and that “something had to have happened” to cause the child's injuries.
Weidt told the Missourian that these texts weren't sent on July 6 or about Kyler's bruise. She said those texts were sent to Mary Buxton 22 days later, after Kyler was admitted to the intensive care unit.
Reynolds also wrote in the statement that Weidt advised Mary Buxton against going to the emergency room for Kyler's bruise because doing so would trigger an investigation.
Weidt did tell the child's mother to not go to the emergency room, but she said it was because she wanted to assess Kyler herself. She examined Kyler's ribs, spine, kidneys and liver, looking for internal injuries that could be a result of physical abuse. With a radiologist in the room with her, she did an ultrasound of his stomach and up his back.
“I didn't think he was being abused, but any time you see a bruise on a baby it crosses your mind,” she said.
Other than the bruise, nothing else about Kyler's condition that day concerned her, the radiologist or Mary Buxton, who is an EMT. Together, they agreed the injury was accidental and that there was nothing suspicious to report.
"Had I known what was going to happen on the 28th, I probably would've reported," Weidt said.
The physician said it was possible the bruise was a result of something else from Kyler's medical history.
She saw the child “multiple times” within his first few weeks of life. He was colicky, had trouble gaining weight and wasn't tolerating breast milk or various formulas. She taught his mother several different positions that were supposed to be better for burping him.
Since the bruise appeared on Kyler's back, Weidt wondered if it was from being patted on the back too hard. In the highway patrol's statement, the bruise is described as “extensive.” But Weidt said the bruise was “not huge” — about an inch-and-a-half by two-and-a-half inches.
During one of his newborn screenings, Kyler also tested positive for a metabolic disorder called Pompe disease, which causes rapid muscle weakness and respiratory problems overtime.
The highway patrol's statement never mentions Pompe disease or Kyler's various health issues. In leaving these factors out, Weidt said the statement provides an inaccurate picture of Kyler and the events leading up to his death.
The highway patrol thought it was possible she didn't report when she should have, Weidt said. "Lord knows I would report if I saw something."
Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Shawn Griggs said he could not comment on the statement or the investigation, which remains open.
“We take every investigation extremely seriously, particularly ones that involve a child,” Griggs said.
False statements of probable cause are punishable by law. Weidt said she and her attorney, Richard Hicks, decided that as long as her practice doesn't suffer from the highway patrol's statement, she won't take legal action.
“It hurt my reputation, but I don't want to be the victim here,” Weidt said. “The victim is poor little Kyler.”
Victims Claim Church Covered Up Child Abuse
Victims' Rights Advocates (SNAP) Speak Out
by Maria Hallas
MEMPHIS, TN -- New information tonight on an investigation the Local I-Team broke last night. Three men claim Memphis library worker Chris Carwile sexually abused them as teens nearly 20 years ago when he was an associate youth minister at Immanuel Baptist Church in Germantown.
Victims tell Local I-Team's Maria Hallas they believe they suffered lasting spiritual and emotional damage in the way the church responded to their claims.
"The coverup of the way the leadership of our church handled our situation created long lasting pain," says Kenny Stubblefield, one of the victims.
Boz Tchividjian a former prosecutor, grandson of Reverend Billy Graham, and victims' rights advocate said the three men's feelings are not unusual.
"Of the hundreds if not thousands of sexual abuse survivors and I have met with in my lifetime many were abused in association with some type of church or faith and what they'll tell me over and over again is that yes the abuse was horrific and it will have lasting lifetime impacts but what what was as bad or often many times worse to them was the response of that church and the response of the faith community, said Tchividjian.
All three men Kenny Stubblefield, Brooks Hansen and Michael Hansen remember what happened when they told then senior pastor Scott Payne about the abuse.
Kenny Stubblefield claims Payne said "if you want to be faithful you won't say a word about this because you don't want to hurt our church you don't want to hurt Chris' life you don't want to destroy his life."
Payne denies making that statement. He says Chris Carwile was fired after the teens came forward. But Payne says he did not realize he had a legal obligation to report the sexual abuse allegations to law enforcement.
"I understood the decision was by the parents that they didn't want anything done except Chris out and away," Payne said.
Tchividjian says Payne's claim response was worse than a cop out because by asking the victims to forgive without following the law and calling law enforcement was tantamount to revictimizing the victims.
"Now these individuals have to live their lives knowing that, the very place they thought they would feel the most safe and affirming, turned their backs and because of that these individuals will never ever be able to go back to the court system and seek the justice that they are entitled to."
The men's statutes of limitations to bring claims against Carwile have expired. Local 24 has reached out to Carwile about the allegations with no response. He remains on administrative leave from the library with pay.
Tennesse Statutory Law mandates that any person with an reasonable believe that abuse may have occurred contact MPD. If you have any information about this or other stories please contact the author. email@example.com or call 901-500-0531
Unprompted by Local 24 SNAP, the well-known victims rights organization issued the following statement..
Victims urge outreach by church & library in alleged abuse case
For immediate release: Tuesday, Nov. 15
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
The Memphis Public library has suspended a former youth minister who is accused of molesting at least three kids. That's not enough.
Police reports have been filed. An alleged child molester walks free. His reported victims are suffering. And other kids are at risk. So officials at the main public library downtown and the Church at Schilling Farms in Collierville (formerly Immanuel Baptist Church) must take aggressive steps to reach out to anyone else who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes by Chris Carwile or cover ups by church officials.
Rev. Scott Payne admits he didn't call police and now asks forgiveness. But forgiveness is premature. Payne must help police, prosecutors and Carwile's victims first, by doing everything he can to help ensure that Carwile is successfully prosecuted. The same is true of current and former supervisors and colleagues of Carwile's.
Church officials should make pulpit announcements, use church websites, post notices in church buildings and mail congregants (current and former) begging anyone with information or suspicions to come forward, get help, safeguard kids and call law enforcement.
Rev. Payne's excuses for acting selfishly, recklessly and deceitfully ring hollow. And ignorance of the law is no excuse.
We hope law enforcement will investigate Rev. Payne, see if he's done this in other cases and prosecute him if possible. We hope other church figures in Memphis will publicly denounce Rev. Payne and send a clear signal to their employees and congregants that ignoring or hiding suspicions of child sex crimes is immoral and won't be tolerated.
Finally, we applaud Kenny Stubblefield, Brook Hansen and Michael Hansen who say Carwile assaulted them as boys in the 1990s. Without their courage and compassion, Carwile would still be “under the radar” with access to kids. A credibly accused sex offender has been exposed only because they found the strength to step forward and honor their civic and moral duty to protect others by reporting crimes.
No matter what library or church officials do or don't do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in Catholic churches or institutions to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world's oldest and largest support group for clergyabuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Groups partner for awareness about child abuse
by The Daily News Journal
MURFREESBORO — CASA of Rutherford County is partnering with the Child Advocacy Center to support the public awareness campaign, “19 Days of Activism for the Prevention of Abuse and Violence against Children and Youth."
Since 1997, CASA of Rutherford County has served abused and neglected Rutherford County Children to ensure that these victims will have a voice in the court process. Motto of the nonprofit is that "every child deserves to have the opportunity to thrive in the loving embrace of a forever family." Volunteers work to ensure that throughout the court process; this fundamental right of children is not forgotten.
Volunteers work to ensure safe, permanent, and loving homes for foster children in an overburdened child welfare system. CASA is central to fulfilling society's most fundamental obligation by making sure a qualified, compassionate adult will fight for and protect a child's right to be safe, to be treated with dignity and respect, and to learn and grow in the security of a loving family. With a CASA volunteer, a child is half as likely to languish in the foster care system.
To learn more about CASA or to become a volunteer, contact Kassie Davis at 615-904-6996.
For more information about the Child Advocacy Center, call 615-867-9000.
Justices weigh whether child abuse reporter can sue DCS for breach of confidentiality
by Dave Stafford
A southern Indiana church van driver who suspected children to be in need of services due to dangerous living conditions in his small community followed the law requiring him to report his suspicions. He didn't want to provide his name, but he did so after a Department of Child Services hotline worker assured him his identity would remain confidential, as the law also requires.
“He became concerned as time went on that there was drug activity, there was other criminal activity, other things like that that were putting the children in harm's way,” the man's attorney, Christopher Wyant, told the Indiana Supreme Court during oral arguments Nov. 3.
But the man's identity was disclosed to the very parties he reported, after which he was confronted by one of them, a neighbor in the town of Oolitic. Another neighbor produced a DCS report with John Doe #1's name and phone number unredacted. Doe claims since his neighbors found out he reported his suspicions, he, his wife and three children don't feel safe, his family has been harassed and threatened, and they're afraid to spend time outside their home.
“They do not have a happy, safe home like before June of 2013,” Doe claims in a brief filed with the justices, who have been asked to decide whether he has a private right of action or a common law claim of negligency against DCS for failing its duty to keep his identity confidential. The case is John Doe #1, et al. v. Indiana Department of Child Services , 49S02-1609-CT-00464.
A state attorney argued before the justices that Doe can't sue DCS. That was the conclusion of a trial court that granted the agency summary judgment, but a divided Court of Appeals reversed, ruling Doe could sue DCS, prompting the justices to grant transfer when the state appealed.
“Plaintiffs do not have a private right of action,” Deputy Attorney General Frances Barrow told justices. “I'm not saying that's fair. I'm not saying that's good.”
“So the recourse is zero? Tough luck, too bad, sorry Charlie?” Justice Geoffrey Slaughter asked.
Barrow said that's not how she'd characterize it, but the Legislature has not provided a private right of action for breaching confidentiality in the Indiana statute that requires Hoosiers report suspected child abuse.
Wyant argued that without a private cause of action to protect people whose identity is disclosed, DCS' confidentiality duty under I.C. 31-33-18-2 is hollow. “Either there's confidentiality or not,” he said, noting a private cause of action is the key to enforcing the confidentiality requirement. Otherwise, he said, it's “just a suggestion.”
In addition to Wyant's claim that his client has a private right of action for violation of the statute, he argued Doe also has a common law negligence claim under a detrimental reliance analysis. Doe relied on assurances his identity would be held in confidence, but the promise was violated. Wyant cited Koher v. Dial , 653 N.E.2d 524 (Ind. Ct. App. 1995), which held a man suffering a heart attack whose wife called 911 and relied on the promise of an ambulance had a private cause of action after the emergency service wasn't timely dispatched. He also cited the more recent case F.D., et. al v. Indiana Department of Child Services , 1 N.E.3d 131 (Ind. 2013), which found parents had a private right of action against the agency for withholding from them evidence that their child had been molested.
But Chief Justice Loretta Rush suggested that the court ruling as Wyant asked could open the state to untold liability, and Justice Mark Massa said a body of caselaw supports the theory that there is no implied private right of action against state actors.
Barrow also argued that the court's analysis should focus on who primarily benefits from the statute — children who are the victims of abuse and neglect. Rush expressed doubts about providing reporters of suspected abuse with a private right of action where the court has held that victims of child abuse have no private right of action under the reporting statute.
“If there's no private right of action for a child who's been abused and neglected, with regard to somebody failing to make a report, you understand you're asking us to give more protection to sort of the social shunning that your client has than a child has who's actually been abused,” Rush said to Wyant. “Why would we elevate the social shunning over the actual physical, sexual abuse and neglect?”
Wyant replied that the statute's overall aim is to protect children, but the confidentiality promise is different. “When we get into the confidentiality, which we're dealing with, this is a one-on-one thing. This is not a public benefit any longer, this is one person's benefit — the reporting source — and that's where the cases have shown we can infer private rights of action in that scenario: We're talking about a private benefit for a private person.”
Wyant and some justices suggested that if reporters of suspected child abuse couldn't reasonably rely on the promise of confidentiality that it could have a chilling effect on people reporting suspected abuse. Justice Steven David noted Hoosiers are required by law to report suspected child abuse and can face criminal penalties for failing to do so. One the other side, though, he said DCS has a duty to redact a reporter's name, but no apparent consequences for failing to do so.
Barrow noted that a DCS worker who intentionally discloses confidential information can face criminal charges. In this case, attorneys on both sides said there is no indication the information was intentionally released, but nevertheless, Barrow said DCS employees who release information that should have been redacted can face professional consequences up to and including termination.
But she said no special relationship existed between Doe and the DCS hotline operator who took his name that was eventually disclosed. She said that because the statute doesn't convey a private right of action, “that ends the inquiry. You don't separately consider a possible negligence claim. … There is no common law action for confidentiality.”
Rush and David challenged Barrow on this assertion, with Rush asking her for authority for such a proposition. “I'm not aware of a case that says that,” Barrow said, while urging the court to adopt the dissent from Court of Appeals Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik.
“I think Judge Vaidik's dissent articulated it very well, that the court might hold that the Legislature does not intend a private right of action, but then if a court says, well, but we find negligence under common law, then that's an end run around the legislative intent,” Barrow said. “Once a court does the analysis under private right of action and finds none, then there should be no separate inquiry under any other theory.”
Sex expert shares therapies that helped her heal from sexual abuse
by Lindsay Carlton
Sex expert Layla Martin has helped thousands of men and women across the country reclaim and revamp their sex lives. Watching her blog videos on how to explore tantric sex or master your pleasure zone, many people are surprised to learn she once struggled with sex for decades and is a survivor of sexual abuse, a traumatic event that can permanently scar individuals emotionally.
32-year old Martin was sexually abused by her father from age 3 until she was about 7 years old. She struggled with depression and broken relationships for years. To try to heal from the trauma, she used traditional and non-traditional therapies, some of which she learned about when she studied sexuality at Stanford University and in the jungles of Asia with tantric masters.
Fox News' Julie Banderas recently sat down with Martin to talk about her story and how others can help rehab their lives in the face of struggle, too.
“[Sexual abuse is] one of the secret killers inside of people, and contributes to so much depression [and] self-hatred, they have difficulty with relationships, sexuality, finances,” Martin told FoxNews.com. “It goes so much deeper than most people realize … and I don't think what we do as a society is as much as it needs to be to stop it.”
In the United States, one in two women and one in five men are sexually abused in their lifetime, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). One of the biggest challenges victims face is speaking out and telling someone about their abuse.
According to the National Sex Offender Public website, about 70 percent of sexual assault cases are not reported to authorities.
“I actually did try to tell my mother when I was young,” Martin said. “A lot of children they feel such shame and they take it on themselves, I certainly took it on as being my fault.”
When Martin reached her early 20s, she felt ready to share her story. Her journey to sexual healing started with talk therapy, but that only took her so far.
“I eventually realized that talking about it wasn't quite enough,” she said. “It was really sitting in my body, it was tension, it was pain, it was numbness. So I went to Asia to actually learn the deep healing practices of tantra, and I spent about seven years working on releasing the trauma and the pain.”
Yoni massage was one of the practices Martin learned from her tantra teachers. She describes it as therapeutic vaginal massages performed by your partner or a trained practitioner— though she cautions her clients to be careful when choosing a specialist as there are many frauds in the business.
“It's actually designed to be a healing and a release because so many women who've been abused, they never actually have a way to revisit the area and do really deep healing,” Martin said. “Yoni massage was really good for me to release the pain and tension that was inside my body.”
Tantric bioenergetic healing practice
In this practice, patients locate the trauma in their body, and use the breath to clear bad memories and fill that space with positive memories or thoughts instead, Martin said.
“[The practice] allowed me to actually feel the amount of pain that I was really in and then to be able to gently release it through sounding, through movement, so that my body felt more free of them,” Martin said.
Eye movement desensitization & reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a type of psychotherapy where patients recall a disturbing traumatic memory while a therapist moves his finger or an object in front of them and asks them to track the movements with their eyes. Gradually, the therapist asks the patient to switch his or her thoughts to pleasant ones.
“[It] has to do with the bilateral movement of the eyes. It brings the left and right brain hemispheres together into integration because what trauma does is it actually separates pieces of the brain,” Martin said. “A lot of therapies work with the person being able to revisit the trauma but from a place of integration, and that creates healing.”
Dr. Daniel Bober, a psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor at the Yale University Child Study Center, said EMDR is an Evidence Based Treatment for the treatment of trauma.
“The goal of these treatments is to reprocess the trauma by changing the physiological responses to it and manage the anxiety in a way that the memories of the trauma are not consuming the individual, so that they are able to live a happy and productive life," Bober told FoxNews.com.
Trauma releasing exercises (TRE)
This therapy entails a series of exercises that helps the body release deep muscular patterns of stress, tension and trauma. The exercises are designed to cause an intentional, self-controlled muscular tremor deep in the body. Many TRE therapists do this by physically fatiguing muscles in the body. For example, when you do a classic wall-sit where you position your back against a wall, and after sitting on an invisible chair for about five minutes, your legs begin to shake. Evoking these types of tremors is thought to restore homeostasis in the body.
“You start making yourself shake originally, and then what will happen is your body will take over, and it will complete the freezing mechanism that originally happened that locks the trauma into the body,” Martin said.
Although large studies have not proven the efficacy of TRE, Dr. Lisa Palmer, a psychotherapist in West Palm Beach, Florida, said the exercise may hold promise.
“This certainly can be helpful to a person with sexual trauma to help them further integrate the connection between body and mind that has been severed through the traumatic sexual experience,” Palmer said. “However, in my clinical opinion, the disassociation that happens as a result of sexual trauma needs deeper forms of subconscious repair to further integrate the connection between body and mind, and allow the person to retrieve the part of their soul lost through the traumatic experience."
If you or someone you know has been sexually abused, you can get help from the National Sexual Assault Hotline by calling (800) 656-HOPE.
Prince George's Co. parents get lesson in spotting child abuse
by Mike Murillo
GLENARDEN, Md. — In a Prince George's County elementary school classroom, it was the parents' turn to learn Monday night with a lesson in how to spot and report child abuse and neglect.
The special class took place at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School, where a teacher's aide was arrested and charged with sexually abusing several students in February.
“We really understood that we needed to talk with parents who were just as impacted and afraid and concerned because they just didn't know what to look for, and they didn't know what the steps were if they wanted to report it,” said Dr. Sheila Jackson, director of family and community engagement at Prince George's County Public Schools.
Jackson led the class, which is part of what is called the schools system's Family Institute. The hope for the program is that parents become aware of the signs of child abuse and look for them not only with their own children, but also their children's friends.
She said in addition to obvious physical signs of abuse like bruises, it's emotional signs like mood changes that may point to trouble in a child's life. Behavior changes around other adults, according to Jackson, and an unwillingness to go to school should also catch a parent's attention.
“We talk to parents about the importance about making sure their children understand that there should be no adult who says to you ‘this is our secret,'” said Jackson.
Parents were also offered a chance to sign up for background checks during the class so they could, in turn, volunteer at their children's schools.
“We all needed to have this information, because this stuff, as they say, is out there and until it hits home, you never know,” said attendee Sharon Devonish-Prince, who has a daughter in the first grade at the school.
Carl Johnson of Bowie, Maryland, has a son who is also in the first grade at the school. Johnson said while what happened at the school was scary, he commends the school and school system for keeping parents informed of the situation.
“Unfortunately, you can't capture every bad apple; things do happen within the world, but sometimes it's about how you react to them and what you do to put in place so that it doesn't happen again, and I think they've done a pretty good job,” Johnson said.
Parents left with information they could use if they suspect any child they encounter is being abused.
“It's not about playing police on anybody; it's about what are the steps to take to make sure the children are safe,” Jackson said.
Help curb child abuse by attending this forum
by The Daily Sentinel
Mesa County has the highest per-capita incidence of substantiated cases of child abuse in Colorado — a fact The Sentinel pointed out in its series “Failure to Protect” back in September.
The first step in solving any problem is admitting you have one. The Sentinel helped shed light on an issue, but it will take a collective response from our community to improve things.
That's why we're inviting the community to a child abuse forum tonight at the Mesa County Workforce Center, 512 29 1/2 Road. It starts at 6 p.m.
You don't need to have crossed paths with the child-welfare system to attend. This isn't for foster parents or case workers or at-risk families. It's for anyone who's interested in curbing child abuse in Mesa County.
District Attorney Dan Rubinstein, Sheriff Matt Lewis, Police Chief John Camper and Mesa County Department of Human Services Director Tracey Garchar will help establish the scope of the problem with observations about trends and potential underlying causes. Hopefully that includes a frank discussion about the uncomfortable link between poverty and child abuse.
Participants will get a quick overview of the child-protection process, including how to identify and report cases of suspected abuse, and how the courts are involved.
From there, presenters will share “ways the average citizen can get involved,” said Janet Rowland, executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates and a forum organizer.
There are numerous programs that could be established in Mesa County to tackle the problem from different angles — each in need of volunteers and supporters. One teaches people how to politely intervene when they see a parent aggressively scolding or disciplining a child in public. Another harnesses the power of the business community to advocate for children. A faith-based program recruits families to volunteer to take in kids when parents need help — so they can avoid having open child-welfare cases.
It's the discussion of these possibilities that should open eyes. There will be an opportunity for members of the public to ask questions and give some feedback, so it's participatory as well as informational.
Child abuse isn't a Department of Human Services problem. It's a problem for all of us. Investing in prevention, treatment and innovative approaches keep children safe and families together. If we're educated on this topic as a community, our efforts can help direct resources to people who need them. That's better than waiting for tragedy to strike.
We've just experienced a divisive election with a lot of speculation about how the Trump administration will impact our lives. We've made this point before, but no presidential action will have more impact than the ways we confront on our own problems as a community.
If we want to live in a community with strong and safe families, we can. But we have to do our part.
2 social workers charged with manslaughter in Detroit toddler's death
by Robert Allen
Two state social workers have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, child abuse and more in connection with the death last spring of Detroit 3-year-old Aaron Minor, the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office announced today.
Elaina L. Brown, 24, and Kelly M. Williams, 47, both of Wayne County, were "grossly negligent and reckless in performing their duties" because they didn't properly follow up after visiting the child's home and finding that there was inadequate food in the house, according to a news release from the prosecutor's office.
Detroit police officers found the boy's decomposed remains the afternoon of May 25 at an apartment on the 4400 block of Trumbull on Detroit's west side. An apartment maintenance man was drawn to the unit by a bad odor and had found the body, police previously reported.
Officers searched for the boy's mother, Deanna S. Minor, after his body was discovered and found her nearly a day later in a psychiatric ward at a local hospital. Nine days earlier, police said, the mother had been found unresponsive and lying in the grass at the complex and was hospitalized for at least two days.
Minor, 28, was charged in August with felony murder, second-degree murder, first- and second-degree child abuse, and failure to report a dead body. She was referred for a competency evaluation and is scheduled to appear Nov. 30 in 36th District Court.
Brown, a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Child Protective Services worker, on April 21 had received a referral from Deanna Minor's mental health worker and she visited the home April 21 and 22, finding there was inadequate food, according to the news release from the prosecutor. Williams is Brown's supervisor, and the two spoke on April 22, according to the news release.
It's alleged Brown never saw the mother and child again. On May 9, Brown sent a letter asking Minor to contact Child Protective Services, and she didn't, according to the news release. CPS policy and procedure require that when a family can't be located or doesn't cooperate, and there are allegations of imminent risk, the social worker must contact police for a safety check and file a petition with the juvenile court, the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor alleges that Brown and Williams failed to: provide a safety plan to protect Aaron, respond and follow through on reports of the mental health workers, ask police for a safety check, file a petition with juvenile court authorities or follow CPS policy and procedures.
Both are charged with involuntary manslaughter, punishable by up to 15 years in prison; second-degree child abuse, 10 years, and a public officer's willful neglect of duty, 5 years. The two were arraigned Monday morning, with a probable cause conference set for Nov. 21 and a preliminary examination set for Nov. 28.
"We charged this case after much thought and deliberation. We did not make this decision lightly. We must seek to hold these defendants responsible for their alleged inaction. The ultimate result in this case was the death of a child that never should have happened," Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in the news release.
Both Brown and Williams received $25,000 personal bonds with the condition that they are not to be around children in their work capacity, according to the prosecutor.
Brown's attorney Darryl Eason declined to comment, and Williams' attorney Deana Kelley didn't immediately respond to a voicemail Monday requesting comment.
School Accused of Ignoring Child Sexual Abuse
by Rose Bouboushian
CHICAGO (CN) – Two women claim in court that a Chicago-area school district turned a blind eye to a kindergarten teacher accused of fondling their genitals and forcing them to touch his.
Roberto Aguilar “would routinely notify Jane Doe 1's other teachers that Jane Doe 1 needed tutoring and/or needed to finish her work privately with him” at Woodbine Elementary School in the Chicago suburb of Cicero from 2001 to 2002, according to two lawsuits filed Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court.
Doe 1, then 5 years old, “therefore could not accompany the other students to gym, music, or art classes,” her complaint states.
But Aguilar, then reportedly 43 years old, was doing more than just tutoring the child, she claims.
“Aguilar engaged in acts of inappropriate sexual conduct and grooming with the plaintiff including, but not limited to, the following: fondled the plaintiff's genitals on numerous occasions, forced the plaintiff to fondle his genitals and forced her to perform oral sex,” the lawsuit states.
Indeed, Aguilar continued to abuse Doe 1 “through the remainder of the school year in the spring of 2002,” according to the lawsuit.
The school's principal, teachers, and other employees allegedly “knew or reasonably should have known about Aguilar's inappropriate behavior towards female students but never reported his activities to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.”
This violated the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, Doe 1 claims.
Aguilar was arrested in October 2013 “for his misconduct relating to female minor students” at Woodbine, the 28-page complaint states.
Doe 1 and another former student of Aguilar, Jane Doe 2, both now 20, (3) filed nearly identical lawsuits against the school and Cicero School District 99 in Cook County Circuit Court Wednesday.
Jane Doe 2, also now 20 years old, filed a near identical complaint against Woodbine Elementary School and Cicero School District 99.
Doe 2 claims that “during school hours, Aguilar engaged in acts of inappropriate sexual conduct and grooming with the plaintiff including, but not limited to, the following: fondled the plaintiff's genitals on numerous occasions, forced the plaintiff to fondle his genitals, and forced the plaintiff to sit upon his lap.”
Like Doe 1, Doe 2 claims Aguilar's misconduct “continued through the remainder of the school year in the spring of 2002.”
Thanks to school employees failing to report Aguilar, his “sexual misconduct with Jane Doe 2 intensified in the frequency and type of sexual grooming, exploitation, manipulation, and contact,” the lawsuit states.
Aguilar was reportedly found living in Salinas, Calif. in 2013, eight years after a 9-year-old alleged he had abused her in Cicero during the 2001-2002 school year, according to a report from My Suburban Life.
“As she got older, and understood what happened, she knew it wasn't right,” Cicero Deputy Superintendent of Investigations Jose Gonzalez reportedly said.
The 12-count complaints assert claims for negligent, willful and wanton retention and failure to supervise and report.
The unnamed plaintiffs seek economic damages and a jury trial. They are represented by Katherine Cárdenas with Lucas and Cárdenas in Chicago.
Representatives for the district and school board did not return requests for comment emailed Thursday.
Hundreds of children abused for being possessed by evil spirits but police 'failing to identify' them
Up to 400 youngsters are feared to suffer violent abuse annually because their families suspect them of witchcraft
by Margaret Davis
Hundreds of children each year are beaten, starved and reviled by their own families after being branded a witch or as possessed by evil spirits but only a fraction of the cases are identified.
Campaigners believe up to 400 youngsters suffer violent abuse annually, often after unscrupulous faith leaders accuse the child in order to charge parents for a bogus exorcism.
Figures released by the Metropolitan Police in 2015 showed there were around 60 cases of faith-based abuse in the capital, but Oladapo Awosokanre, from campaign group Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (Afruca), believes there are hundreds more across the UK each year.
He claims that police forces and social services outside London fail to identify the abuse because of inadequate resources and a lack of training.
Mr Awosokanre said: "The police are often not properly trained to record this type of abuse. There have been more training and resources committed to it in London; however outside London the police are still not able to identify properly that type of abuse.
"The figure that is bandied around is the figure from the Metropolitan Police - 60 cases in 2015. That is just the Metropolitan Police. You can only imagine if there were even half of those figures in each of the regions, and there are also cases that have been reported directly to charities like Afruca, like the NSPCC. If we collate that, we would have in excess of over 300 or 400 cases, which is a large number."
He cited a recent instance where a school contacted Afruca about a child who was being starved, claiming that police and social services had classed the case as low priority. The charity worker said this example is not unique.
A number of horrifying cases of faith-based abuse have come into the public eye in Britain, including the deaths of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie in 2000 and 15-year-old Kristy Bamu in 2010, who were both tortured and killed by members of their own families amid claims of witchcraft.
Detective Inspector Allen Davis, from Scotland Yard's Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse command, said more children will die because such beliefs are so deeply held.
He said: "Inevitably there will be further deaths of children relating to these safeguarding concerns, because these deep-rooted belief systems result in tragic incidents."
Research by BBC Radio 5 Live in October 2015 suggested that half of police forces did not routinely record such cases. It found only two forces other than the Met that had recorded instances of faith-based abuse in the previous three years - Greater Manchester and Northamptonshire, which each had one.
Afruca wants it made illegal to brand a child as being a witch or possessed by evil spirits, so that faith leaders who prey on parents face prosecution.
Project co-ordinator Mr Awosokanre said: "There is this notion that some particular children have these spirits within them that make them do evil things and bring bad luck into the family. The faith leaders have 'the powers to be able to see' and the abilities to deliver these spirits out of children - for a fee.
"They mislead the parents, and children end up being stigmatised and being branded as witches or as possessed by evil spirits. That also affects their family life, other members of the family would definitely not want to embrace such a child.
"There are a number of cases where it has led to physical abuse in order to beat the devil out or the spirit out of the child. It has also led to emotional abuse, where the child has been taunted, has been neglected."
Children who are branded as possessed can be beaten, burned, cut, strangled and starved to try to purge them of the evil force.
They can be scapegoated if bad things happen to other family members, or if they are "different" in any way - for example, having epilepsy, autism, a disability, being academically gifted or even being left-handed.
Mr Davis added: "The people doing the exorcism, self-appointed faith figures in a position of authority, they are exploiting vulnerable people, not just physically and emotionally but financially as well. People are paying quite a lot of money in order to get rid of the 'demons'. The belief is so strong and it's coming from an external source that's respected."
National Police Chiefs Council lead for child protection Chief Constable Simon Bailey said police are not always the first to be alerted to signs of abuse.
"Protecting children from all forms of cruelty and neglect is hugely important," he said. "In cases involving witchcraft, the abuse is often hidden and police forces are not always the first service to be made aware of the threat.
"It is vital that we have strong links with frontline partners in social services, education and health and that all agencies share information to safeguard children."
Nothing to see here? The abuse and neglect of children in care is a century-old story
by Katherine McFarlane
Last night's Four Corners program presented evidence of widespread abuse and neglect suffered by children in the out-of-home care system. Sadly, it was an all too familiar story. The Australian care system has been subject to criticism for over a century.
Children described bullying, harassment and sexual abuse inflicted by other children who share their homes.
Children also described adult men preying on and sexually exploiting girls in "resi" or residential, care.
There were allegations of 12-year-olds being left without adequate clothing, stable accommodation or sufficient food, abandoned by the agencies that were supposed to care for them.
Private, for-profit agencies were accused of financial mismanagement and rorting of taxpayer funds.
Some of the most horrific allegations didn't make it to air, but were reserved for the digital broadcast available online immediately after the program. This included recent revelations of an alleged rape in New South Wales by UnitingCare staffers who had been entrusted with the care of 13-year-old "Girl X", who died from a drug overdose just weeks before she was due to give evidence against her alleged attackers.
The digital broadcast also included the sexual predation by adults of children in Victorian state care, revealed in a "searing condemnation" by Victorian Children's Commissioner Bernie Geary. This is an issue that the South Australian Child Protection Systems Royal Commission has also exposed.
A familiar story
Depressingly, the Four Corners program did not reveal much that was new. My own research has identified equally devastating statistics of abuse and neglect of children in care. Almost a quarter of the children in my study had been abused while in care, in what were meant to be safe placements.
The abuse, which was confirmed by state authorities, took the form of physical beatings, violence and sexual assault. The younger the child, the more likely they were to have been hurt while in care. A third of children under 13 years of age had been abused and a quarter had attempted suicide.
Do you know more? Contact Four Corners' Linton Besser.
It would be naive to assume that the child welfare system is always benevolent and focused on providing nurture, protection and support. It cannot be guaranteed that the type of placement or the level of care provided is always based on a child's needs. But across Australia, outcomes for children in care are generally regarded as highly unsatisfactory.
The United Nations (UN) has called attention to the "widespread reports of inadequacies and abuse" in Australian care systems. The UN has complained of the inadequate screening, training, support and assessment of carers. It has also complained of the inappropriate placements of children, and the mental health issues that are "exacerbated by (or caused in) care".
Children in care have worse life outcomes than their peers. Whether we're measuring health, education, employment, stability, well-being, social inclusion, financial and emotional security or involvement in the criminal justice system, children in care perform badly, even when compared to children of roughly comparable backgrounds and problems.
A century-old problem
In the 1870s, a scathing assessment of the Australian care system by British child welfare reformers the Hill Sisters led to a royal commission into charities.
On average, there has been a major inquiry into aspects of the child welfare system every three years since then.
The abuse suffered by children in care is exposed regularly. Every time, it's met with the same excuses and promises. The children are presented as damaged, rather than the systems that are failing them. Agencies hide behind their professed best intentions and talk about "difficult" children.
Governments spruik their support for "salt of the earth carers" and the "saints" of child welfare. These governments are afraid that if they probe too deeply into the failings of the system and agencies, they will be left holding the baby. The focus shifts from the care agencies' failure to protect vulnerable children, to airing agencies' calls for additional funding and even earlier intervention.
The UK House of Commons has said that:
many of the things we wish would happen in the care system would follow naturally if the system and those who work within it were minded, and enabled, to act more like parents.
The failure of government
Government interventions to enforce this have proved spectacularly unsuccessful.
The mountain of memorandums of understanding, guidelines, compacts, heads of agreement, committees, regulations, legislation, independent inquiries and reports established over the past 20 years in New South Wales alone have failed to improve things for children in care.
Measures designed to protect children have not overcome the system's inadequacies nor even begun to address the often questionable motivation and practices of the various players in the child welfare sector.
Government failure to hold the bureaucracy and its non-government sector partners accountable for poor decisions, inadequate oversight and accountability and the inefficient use of resources that erode the effective operations of the out of home care system is an indictment on us all.
These failures have allowed the problem of abuse and neglect in care to seem insurmountable, regardless of the devastation caused to the children concerned.
There have been repeated professions of political goodwill and the commitment of countless millions of dollars across child welfare, juvenile justice, homelessness, education and health services.
Despite this, we have failed to stop kids being abused by the very people we have trusted to care for them.
That the matters reported last night on Four Corners are occurring at the very time we have a Royal Commission watching the system shows the practitioners and agencies responsible for the neglect and abuse of children in their care have little to fear.
If you or anyone you know needs help:
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
Headspace on 1800 650 890
Sex trade's victims in NEPA too often ignored or treated solely as criminals
You don't want to believe it.
Human trafficking – essentially a modern-day form of slavery that entraps women and girls for use as prostitutes – sounds so abhorrent, it couldn't possibly be happening in Pennsylvania, much less our corner of the commonwealth, could it? Regrettably, that's a naive and wrong view.
At a conference scheduled for Friday in Wilkes-Barre, organizers with the Family Service Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania intend to spur wider awareness of the pervasive problem that Pope Francis has called a crime against humanity.
Advance registration was required for the day-long conference titled “Human Trafficking: From Denial to Engagement.”
Attendees, such as teachers, school social workers, police and other first-line responders, will be urged to watch for indicators that a girl is being exploited. Among the expected presenters: a Chester County assistant district attorney whose session is called “Closed Doors & Open Spaces: Labor Trafficking in Our Midst.”
Globally, the enslavement of people for prostitution and forced labor “has reached epidemic proportions,” according to a column appearing earlier this year on pennlive.com and co-written by state Sen. Daylin Leach and two representatives of the Villanova Law Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation.
“Pennsylvania's ‘keystone' nature is uniquely attractive to traffickers, as it facilitates transportation to and from the northeastern United States,” the column stated.
Certain state lawmakers and advocates have tried for years to find ways to help victims, who sometimes get caught up in a harsh legal system that treats them only as prostitutes or illegal aliens.
A June 2012 government report titled “Human Trafficking in Pennsylvania: Policy Recommendations and Proposed Legislation” indicated some of the typical victims include “runaway teenage girls who are preyed upon by pimps.” The report also mentioned that schemes are used to entice women and girls here from other nations to work as “waitresses.” Perpetrators use threats, physical violence, drugs and other forms of manipulation to keep the victims under their control, according to the report.
Polaris, a Washington, D.C.-based group billing itself as “a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery,” provides more information about human trafficking at its internet site, polarisproject.org. Victims are encouraged to call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
The Family Service Association's staffers deserve credit for spotlighting this topic in the Wyoming Valley, where human trafficking deserves wider recognition as a scourge on society. And where a sufficient local response can be coordinated to assist victims.
How Malaysia allows child abuse to go unpunished
by A. Ananthalakshmi
Most complaints of child sexual abuse in Malaysia do not lead to successful prosecutions, largely due to weaknesses in the nation's criminal justice system, police, lawmakers and child welfare groups say.
According to classified data Malaysian police compiled and shared with Reuters, 12,987 cases of child sexual abuse were reported to police between January 2012 and July of this year. Charges were filed in 2,189 cases, resulting in just 140 convictions.
The data doesn't show how many people were involved, or what happened in the cases where there were no convictions after charges were filed. No details were disclosed in the cases where there were convictions.
Child rights advocates have long pushed the government to publicly disclose data on child sexual abuse to increase awareness so action can be taken to address what they call a growing problem.
A veil was lifted in June when a British court handed Richard Huckle 22 life sentences for abusing up to 200 babies and children, mostly in Malaysia, and sharing images of his crimes on the dark web.
The reason the Malaysian government doesn't publish child sexual abuse data is because it is protected under Malaysia's Official Secrets Act. The government provides data on child abuse only at the request of a member of parliament.
"We don't want people to misinterpret it," said Ong Chin Lan, the head of the Sexual, Women and Children Investigation Division of the Malaysian national police. The government doesn't want to unduly alarm the public about possibly high numbers of child abuse cases, she explained.
It is unclear how Malaysia's number of reported cases compares with its neighbors, some of whom are also reluctant to disclose a high incidence of child sexual abuse.
Thailand's government declined to provide data to Reuters. A senior health ministry official, who did not want to be identified, said it could "make Thailand look bad".
Cambodia, long known as a destination for traveling pedophiles, also does not disclose official data.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE WEAKNESS
Weak policing and child protection laws make it difficult to punish child abusers in Malaysia, leading to inadequate investigations and low convictions on the reported cases, according to officials and child welfare groups Reuters interviewed.
They also say a significant number of child sexual abuse cases are never reported because of taboos around child sex abuse and mistrust of authorities.
In 17 years of operation, PS the Children, Malaysia's biggest NGO dealing with child abuse, has seen zero convictions on the cases it has handled, its founder Madeleine Yong told Reuters.
"There needs to be improvement in the criminal justice system if we want to encourage more people to report, otherwise we will re-victimize the child," she said.
Ong at the sexual crimes unit said police take every case of child sexual abuse seriously and "all cases are investigated in detail".
Police blame weak laws and rules governing court evidence that give little weight to children's testimony as the reason most cases never result in charges.
Malaysia does not have a law specifically prohibiting child pornography and defines rape narrowly as penile penetration. "Grooming" - touching and befriending children as a prelude to sexual abuse - draws no legal penalties.
By contrast, Indonesia's parliament has passed legislation authorizing chemical castration, minimum sentences and even execution for convicted pedophiles. Thailand introduced stricter laws against child pornography last year.
A Child Sexual Crimes bill, expected to be introduced to parliament by the end of the year, would widen the definition of sexual crimes to include online abuse, and make such crimes easier to prosecute. It would also set up a special court to deal with child sex abuse cases more quickly.
THE DARK WEB
Foreign pedophiles could be targeting Malaysia as other countries around the region strengthen child protection laws and step up enforcement, some experts said.
Snow White Smelser, program officer at the child sex offences team in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's (UNODC) East Asia headquarters in Bangkok, said pedophiles compare notes and share information online about countries, where they can operate most freely.
Elena Martellozzo, a London-based criminologist who specializes in child sex abuse on the internet, said Huckle could have chosen Malaysia "because it was not on the radar, or perhaps it's where he found it easier to get work permits, visas and some work opportunities".
Typically, children are sexually abused by someone they know - a neighbor, a relative, a caregiver, or someone like Huckle, who according to court testimony groomed children in an impoverished ethnic Indian neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur.
But increasingly, pedophile activity is moving into the online world, police say.
Australian detectives who investigate pedophiles in the region believe Malaysia has become one of Southeast Asia's biggest centers for the transmission of child pornography on the Internet.
Team Argos, the Australian detective unit that found Huckle in the dark web in late 2014, made a startling discovery from the team's scouring of online pedophile networks: the unusual number of internet addresses in the Kuala Lumpur area transmitting child sexual abuse material from the dark web.
The dark web is a vast virtual space within the Internet, which requires special encryption tools to access.
The Brisbane, Australia-based detectives found 1,000 transmissions of child pornographic materials from the Malaysian capital over a 24-hour period last year, according to Argos data provided by the UNODC.
It was the second-largest transmission location in Southeast Asia after Bangkok's 1,800 - Bangkok's population of 8.2 million is more than four times that of Kuala Lumpur's.
The Malaysian capital is a "high concern" location for the distribution of child sexual abuse materials, said Smelser at the UNODC.
Ong at the child sex crime unit said Malaysian police can't properly monitor the encrypted pedophile networks. "We do not have expertise in handling the dark web. We get alerted from our counterparts overseas," she said.
Malappuram sees spurt in child sexual abuse cases
by Times of India
Malappuram: The increasing number of incidents of sexual crimes against children and low rate of conviction are raising serious concern over the safety of children in the district.
Data with the Childline Malappuram says that the number of child sexual abuse (CSA) cases reported in the district this year is 158.
The number of CSA cases reported in 2015 was 150.
Underlining the fact the district is far ahead in crime against children 27 CSA cases reported in October alone, which is highest number reported a month, since January 2015.
According to the data with the childline, a total ofnine cases reported during the short period of first thirteen days of this month including two cases of sexual abuse of minor girls by teachers.
Three days ago a teacher was taken into custody for sexually abusing a minor in Pookottumpadam after giving her CD of porn videos.
The incident came to light after teachers of school seized CD from the girl.
The girl who was produced before Child Welfare Committee (CWC) has been shifted to Nirbhaya shelter home in Malappuram.
Two days ago, Kalpakanhery police had registered a CSA case against a teacher who had abused a ninth standard student.
In another incident of sexual crime, a minor girl left her home at Padikkal near Chelari, after her family friend physically abused her.
The incident came to light after neighbours spotted the girl on street and it was the residents who alerted police and childline.
It is learnt that the low rate of convictions in CSA cases is one of the major reasons for the increase in number of cases in the district. The district child protection officer Sameer Machingal said that the conviction rate in CSA cases registered in the district is around 30 %.
The lack of awareness in handling CSA cases, among the police officials is allegedly causing the low conviction rate in such case.
The coordinator of Childline, Malappuram, Anwar Karakkadan said that lack of awareness among educational institution authorities and local people are also leading to the private settlement of CSA cases though the settlement of CSA cases is against law.
As per reports, cases of child marriage witnessed in the district is around 59 and 1round 129 cases of physical abuse have been reported this year till October 31.
Despite child welfare authorities including Childline and district child protection units being active in the district, child sex abuse cases are still widely reported in Malappuram.
Surviving sexual assault: Amanda's story
Every month, Project Harmony receives 8,000 calls about suspected sexual assault, and officials say the number of child on child cases is growing.
by Camila Orti
Every month, Project Harmony receives 8,000 calls about suspected sexual assault.
Officials say the number of child on child cases is growing.
29-year-old Amanda Reinert and her 4-year-old daughter Ava are very close.
These pre-school years carry something deeper for Reinert.
“I think I just have that hyper sense of awareness, I'm very aware of every situation I'm putting her in,” Amanda says.
At her daughter's age, Reinert had been sexually abused dozens of times by her grandfather.
“I didn't really know that it was wrong, it was a man who loved me, who helped take care of me, and to a 2-year-old, someone who's caring for you and that you trust won't hurt you,” she says.
Her family found out when she was six years old, after she drew a graphic picture.
“There really wasn't any support for my family, any education on how they should treat me, how they should protect me in the future,” Amanda says.
Reinert thinks that's why she suffered through another sexual abuse incident as an 11-year-old.
“It was just a lot of depression and anxiety and isolation,” said Carrie Gobel, supervisor of the RSafe program. “Research has indicated that children who are victims of sexual abuse are more likely to be sexually abused again.”
But there is help.
Inside of Project Harmony, Lutheran Family Services runs the RSafe program.
It's growing, seeing more than 150 families dealing with juvenile sexual abuse, or problematic sexual behaviors – sometimes, between children.
"If we can involve ourselves and get these behaviors stopped quickly, the success is tremendous for these kids,” says Project Harmony Executive Director Gene Klein.
RSafe provides counseling in groups, talking to kids, alongside their parents.
It's a program Reinert says she wished was available to her family years ago. She says it's important to have open, even uncomfortable conversations with your family early on, to make sure everyone is on the same page. As Mrs. Nebraska USA Universal, advocating for sex abuse awareness is her platform.
For more information: https://www.lfsneb.org/service/sexual-abuse/
Emotional damage from trauma of childhood sexual abuse can last a lifetime
by Sheryl Ubelacker
Miykhaela reaches back in her memory to the summer day when it all began. Her older brother had taken her into the bush on their northern Ontario reserve to join a few of their cousins, young teenaged boys like her sibling who had all been attending residential school together for several years.
They gang-raped her.
She was five or six years old.
As a mother years later, Miykhaela had to confront the ugly reality of familial sex abuse once again -- but this time it was her daughter, who one day confessed that her teenaged half-brother had raped her a couple of years earlier.
She was 10 or 11 years old.
Miykhaela and her daughter are just two of the faces of intergenerational sexual abuse, a dark legacy connected to almost 120 years of government-sanctioned, church-operated residential schools, where aboriginal leaders say many First Nations, Metis and Inuit children were physically and sexually molested by clergy and other staff, spawning a cycle of mimicked behaviour in generations to come.
Extensive interviews with social scientists, indigenous leaders and victims undertaken over the past few months by The Canadian Press suggest child sexual abuse is an open secret in many aboriginal communities -- and its prevalence in some is shockingly high.
"Few came out of residential schools having learned good boundaries, and good boundaries included some sense of self-determination, sovereignty over your own body," says Sylvia Maracle, executive director of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, based in Toronto.
"They didn't have any control over that, and they didn't see people around with appropriate behaviour and being respectful of them as human beings, that they were sacred. And they were abused, " says Maracle, a Mohawk from eastern Ontario's Tyendinaga First Nation.
"Children learn what they live and that was their life."
Being so young at the time, Miykhaela has little memory of the physical assault itself. "I don't remember the body ... but it probably did hurt me a lot," she says, reliving the event that occurred roughly five decades ago.
She does recall, though, how it made her feel: "I felt like I didn't matter. I was not valued. I was a thing for them to do what they wanted to."
Trauma expert Dr. Jacqui Linder says childhood sexual abuse affects multiple aspects of survivors' lives, including their sense of physical autonomy and self-worth.
"So many, many survivors talk about feeling filthy or dirty or defiled," says Linder, clinical director of Edmonton's Little Warriors program for sexually abused children, about a third of them aboriginal. "And so that dirtiness, the dirty-girl syndrome, becomes a part of their identity, which is incredibly self-destructive."
And it's not only girls. One in three of the children who come to Little Warriors' Be Brave Camp for intensive therapy to treat abuse-related post-traumatic stress disorder are boys, many of whom may feel emasculated or struggle with their gender identity.
"One of the things that people fail to understand is the magnitude of the damage that sexual violation of all kinds does, but particularly to children, mostly because children's identities are just being developed at that time," says Linder.
That damage, numerous studies have found, leads to high rates of depression, substance abuse, eating disorders and suicidal tendencies.
Miykhaela, an Anishinaabe woman who asked that her real name not be used to protect her family, knows this pattern all too well.
Haunted by images of the early incest and suffering bouts of intense anger and depression, she started down a path well-worn by countless other sexual abuse survivors: she turned to alcohol and drugs to blunt the pain of the childhood trauma, which had left her unsure of her identity, unsure of her role as a woman, unsure of her worth as a human being.
Over the years, she has done a lot of healing work, turning to centuries-old indigenous traditions such as pow-wow dancing, sweat lodges and sharing circles to strengthen her identity and give her solace. In her mid-30s, she went to university and has since worked in the social services field.
Living in Winnipeg, Miykhaela was finally able a few years ago to get sober and drug-free with the help of 12-step programs. Yet the spectre of her childhood trauma and the destructive behaviours it bred -- along with her own memories of being physically abused at her Roman Catholic residential school -- continue to sabotage her sense of well-being.
"My parents thought I would forget because I was so young, but I didn't," she says of the incest.
"It became part of my negative self-esteem and that still lives today. That negative self-esteem had me reaching out all my life to men, to alcohol, the cocaine addiction. I've quit the addictions, but now it's food.
"I'm still that little girl looking for something to make me feel better."
Still, it's not only her own experiences and struggles she laments, but also the multi-generational damage that continues to echo through her family, community and virtually the entire culture of Canada's First Peoples.
"I know every single one of my cousins have been sexually abused by somebody in their family ... I don't know one Indian residential school survivor that doesn't use something to try to feel better -- not one," she says, including her late parents, who spent years drowning their own memories in the bottle.
Relationships within families, and often with other members of close-knit and insular indigenous communities, have been "so broken," sighs Miykhaela, who is estranged from most of her brothers because the trust that's naturally inherent among siblings has been destroyed.
"Something happened to them obviously when they went to residential school. They came back angry and shamed ... and my brothers were not attached to me anymore. That is the greatest injury because it never got fixed, even today.
"And I think we're going to die that way."
Letter to the Editor
Child sexual abuse in India and chemical castration
by Baba Nyicyor
The issue of CSA is intricate and challenging to study. The culture of silence, ignorance and lack of sensitivity is the main reason behind it. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 (POCSO) is the outcome of such grim behavior. A special law for the children below 18 years of age. However our lack of knowledge, the growing complexities of life is playing a major role in increasing the vulnerability of children to various and newer forms of abuse especially, if it is sexual in nature it creates a taboo around the subject matter and very importantly, the vulnerable nature of the children makes the perpetrator strong to gain sexual gratification.
Like any crime that continues to go unchecked, the sexual abuse of children both within our homes and outside is an issue of grave concern and directly suggests the health of a society as a whole.
At least 34,651 cases of rape were reported across India last year, statistics released by the country's National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) have revealed.
The figures, released on August 2016, showed that victims ranged from female children younger than six years old to women over 60 years, with those aged between 18 and 30 reporting the largest number of rape attacks – totaling almost 17,000. Indicating the extent of exploitation involved in child labour, latest government statistics show that over 25 per cent of rapes on children last year were committed by their employers and co-workers. According to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2015, 8,800 cases of rape on children were registered across the country under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). In 2,227 cases, or 25.3 per cent, the offenders were found to be employers or co-workers.
In the case of children, the data reveals:
Neighbours were the biggest abusers in such cases in 2015 — 3,149 (35.8%).
In over 10 per cent of cases last year, children were subjected to rape by their own family members or relatives.
In 94.8 per cent of cases, children were subjected to rape by someone known to them.
14,913 cases were registered under POCSO in 2015.
It has been seen an explosive rise in cases of rape of children in the past five years, with data from the National Crime Record Bureau saying a minor is sexually abused every 30 minutes.
POCSO had failed to prevent sexual assault on minors as punishments provided therein were “nothing different than general punishment provided in Indian Penal Code”.
The PIL was triggered by the shocking incident in Bulandshahar district of Uttar Pradesh where a 28 days old girl was raped on December 6, 2015 and photographer rapes minor at wedding programm at kanpur.
Several countries have enacted tough laws to check sexual abuse of children and regularly use chemical castration – the process of using drugs to lower the libido of a person without physically removing one's sexual organs – as a mode to punish repeat offenders.
Under section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, the maximum punishment for rape is life sentence and minimum is seven years. Existing laws are not enough; India must debate and discuss castrating those who sexually abuse children so that it would act as a deterrent to others. Anticipating the protests that this would evoke, particularly on the grounds that it would be a violation of human rights, though castration might sound barbaric, “barbaric crimes should definitely attract a barbaric model of punishment.”
I firmly believed that chemical castration laws would achieve laudable purpose-punishing heinous criminal offenders in an effective and appropriate manner-this belief was not based on rational policy considerations. Instead, the laws were passed as the result of the general public becoming enthralled with the idea that modern medicine could provide a “magic cure” for sex offenders.
Chemical castration sentences are reserved for criminals who commit heinous crimes such as rape, child molestation, lewd, or lascivious acts. A method of sterilization, a means of reducing the offender's sexual libido, a punitive form of punishment, and a treatment for certain medical conditions. Therefore, it is plausible that chemical castration has the ability to satisfy all four goals of criminal punishment: retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation.
LL. M. BBAU,
Why kids should be taught about sexual abuse
by Katie Souza
Sexual abuse incidents can be seen throughout the world, haunting the past of victims and looming in the future of today's children.
Furthermore despite the United States having a strong hold on women's rights and strict laws against sexual abuse, such abuse still exists. According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, “On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States.”
Such a high number of sexual abuse victims are able to persist in today's society due to the naivety among the public of what constitutes as sexual abuse and the warning signs as well as resources to turn to. The lack of knowledge regarding sexual abuse, as a whole, is a consequence of the lack of education from a young age about body advocacy and respectful relationship conduct.
The absence of proper discussions about healthy relationships conveys the idea that it is improper to “stick one's nose” into other's relationships and, moreover, to burden others with one's fear about their own relationship.
Of course, there is no such thing as a correct relationship; however, there is a way to have a safe and respectful one.
On the other hand, media and pornography are some examples in society that display unrealistic expectations of sexual relationships. Therefore, proper education on healthy relationships and the signs of sexual abuse is mandatory in order to counter the negative ideas projected by pornography and the media.
Furthermore, the actual definition of sexual abuse is muddy. As a result, many simplify it to just rape incidents. However, what constitutes as sexual abuse is not that simple.
According to a pamphlet given to freshman entering UO in a program called “Get Explicit,” sexual assault is defined as, “…a nonconsensual act inflicted upon a person…,” the victim being someone “Who is unable to grant consent…” and is often “…compelled through unwanted: physical force, manipulation, coercion, threats, [and] intimidation.”
The definition seems pretty obvious: Assault and abuse mean unwanted violence and misuse. But many people never receive proper information about what constitutes as sexual abuse until they enter college. Therefore due to the lack of education on sexual abuse, many boys and girls have already become victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse. Thus education about sexual abuse and healthy relationships should be implemented into children's schooling starting in sixth grade, the age when interest in dating often arises.
Moreover, children should be made aware throughout their schooling what the warning signs are of possible dangerous relationships as well as what exactly sexual assault is. Sexual abuse is not only heterosexual penetration but can include all genders, races, sexual orientations and can be any kind of non-consensual sexual act. Resources should be made apparent in case the child finds themselves in a sexually abusive situation in the future.
Also, the power of language should be addressed when teaching children about sexual abuse. Language used in sexual abuse cases are often generalizing, demeaning or contain a nature of “blowing over” the situation.
A prime example that exemplifies how language can degrade the true negative effect of sexual abuse happened just this year, thanks to Donald Trump. A video surfaced in early October presenting audio in which Donald Trump speaks behind the scenes of Access Hollywood of actions that constitute as sexual assault.
Trump defends himself during the second presidential debate by claiming he did not “brag” about sexually assaulting women, and then on multiple occasions Trump refers to his comments as just casual “locker room talk.”
Unfortunately, many people overlooked our next president's comments because they were unable to identify that Trump's words were alluding to sexual assault.
Lastly in a study investigating the effect of “ Bystander Education Training ” in regards to sexual abuse on college campuses, there was a correlation of education and increase in sexual abuse reporting as well as a reduce in abuse-supporting attitudes and actions. The abstract of the study explicitly states, “These results provide initial support for the effectiveness of in-person bystander education training.”
Therefore it can be theorized that education taught from sixth grade on about sexual assault warnings, resources, language and the effects of demeaning language will lay the foundation of healthy knowledgeable relationships, eliminating the ignorance of what sexual assault is and what to do in such situations.