How Billings can prevent child abuse
Last week, the Yellowstone County attorney's office filed the 454th case of the year to protect local kids who had been abused or neglected in their own homes. That's as many abuse and neglect cases as in all 12 months of 2015.
Statewide, 3,369 children are in the foster care system because of such abuse or neglect, according to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.
As those numbers have grown in the past few years, local and state leaders, judges, social workers and other citizens have reached out to help these kids heal and stay safe.
How much better it would be to prevent the hurt from happening in the first place. With complaints of child abuse rising, Montana must do better on prevention.
That is the purpose of the Family Tree Center, a private, nonprofit organization at 2529 Fifth Ave. S. Family Tree Center is best known for Festival of Trees, its major annual fundraiser, which will be held Thursday through Saturday at the MetraPark Expo Center. In this happy season, it is sobering to consider the work Family Tree does all year long.
Sponsored by Billings Breakfast, Downtown and Heights Exchange Clubs, Family Tree is nationally accredited as an Exchange Club child abuse prevention center. It primarily serves families with children from birth through age 12.
Services are available to anyone in the community who needs them, and are provided at no charge. Help can start as early as when newborns go home from the hospital. A mentoring aide will make home visits on request and assist new parents with information and child care tips.
Family Tree executive director Stacy Dreessen's dream is to have home visits available to all new parents in Billings. That dream is moving closer to reality through the Best Beginnings coalition led by United Way of Yellowstone County.
Family Tree services include parenting classes and respite child care during weekdays so parents can go to appointments while the kids are safely supervised. With the addition this year of a second child care room, this service has a capacity of 20 children.
Also new this year is Voices of Incarceration, an eight-week program for parents leaving prison. The "voices" include presentations by children whose parents were incarcerated, and adults who cared for children of inmates. The program is designed to help parents re-enter the community, rebuild relationships and plan for reunification with children. They also receive home visits from a trained parent aide.
Family Tree has a full-time program at Montana Women's Prison that includes seven classes for moms. Family Tree staff members supervise visits between inmates and their children in a family room that includes a kitchen, living room and outdoor play area. The Montana Department of Corrections contracts for the in-prison services. Family Tree also provides counseling for pregnant inmates, accompanies them to the hospital for the birth and provides post-natal mentoring.
The services of Family Tree have been proven effective at reducing the risk of child harm. Parents who received home newborn visits were less likely to abuse the child. Parents who have access to respite care are less likely to lose control when they are with the kids.
Family Tree offers free workshops to classes and community groups on important topics such as childhood trauma and preventing sexual abuse of children.
"Prevention costs $1 for every $10 spent on intervention after abuse,” Dreessen said. “Prevention saves money and human costs."
"Our limitation on serving more children is getting the money for more staffing," she said.
That brings us back to this week's Festival of Trees. With 30 beautiful, imaginatively decorated Christmas trees, children's activities, music and a craft show, you can have fun while doing a lot of good.
Sir Edward Heath accuser is a 'satanic sex fantasist': Police warned by OWN expert that ritual abuse claims are false - including how the former PM 'went to candlelit forest for paedophile parties'
by Martin Beckford
A leading expert called in by police to assess lurid claims of child abuse against Sir Edward Heath dismissed them as fantasy in an official report, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Criminologist Dr Rachel Hoskins urged detectives not to be taken in by the wild allegations against the late former Prime Minister and demanded MPs be alerted to her damning findings. But Wiltshire Police are still pressing ahead with the investigation that has lasted more than a year, cost taxpayers £700,000, and tarnished Heath's reputation a decade after he died.
We can also reveal today that:
One of Heath's accusers – a woman – has made astonishing claims that he was linked to a network of paedophiles who held satanic orgies and stabbed children in churches;
One of the witnesses involved in the case is the man known as Nick, whose tales of a murderous VIP paedophile ring in Westminster were initially believed by Scotland Yard – but have now been demolished in an official review that accused police of making grave mistakes;
There are historic links between Nick and the woman who has accused Heath;
Expert Dr Hoskins told police that the claims are likely to be based on false memories unearthed in therapy and likened to now-discredited claims of satanic abuse that made headlines in the 1980s.
Last night Dr Hoskins said: ‘The Heath inquiry rests, like the Westminster VIP inquiry, on over-active imagination.'
Wiltshire Police insisted evidence examined by Dr Hoskins was just a small part of their inquiry, known as Operation Conifer, but she says it is a central plank of the investigation.
Heath is one of many public figures whose reputation has been tarnished by historical sex abuse allegations made against them after they died.
A staggering 3,057 alleged abusers, including 98 politicians, have been reported to a national unit known as Operation Hydrant – including 360 dead people – but some of the most high-profile and historic claims have proved baseless.
The case against Heath began in August 2015 when, in an extraordinary move, police made a statement outside his former home in Salisbury, appealing for victims to come forward. One of the witnesses in the case is the man known as Nick, who told the Metropolitan Police he had been repeatedly abused by an Establishment ring that also murdered children in front of him.
Scotland Yard spent £2.5 million on Operation Midland, tarnishing the reputations of war hero Lord Bramall, former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, and ex-Tory MP Harvey Proctor. But they were forced to apologise to the innocent men and their families earlier this month after a devastating review by former judge Sir Richard Henriques found Midland had been riddled with mistakes and taken in by Nick's false allegations.
In September, Wiltshire Police asked world-renowned ritual crime expert Dr Hoskins – who had helped identify a sacrifice victim whose torso had been found in the Thames – to assess the accounts in the Heath case, including those of Nick and three women.
Nick had given some evidence regarding Heath's yacht, claimed he had seen him in Dolphin Square – the Westminster apartment complex popular with politicians – and that the former Prime Minister had saved him from being castrated by Mr Proctor. Wiltshire Police have not re-interviewed Nick about his claims, which Mr Proctor described as ‘so far-fetched as to be unbelievable', not least because he and Heath ‘despised' each other.
Dr Hoskins was also given the records of police interviews with three women who have claimed their parents were members of the occult, and who this year said Heath was friends with them and present when they were abused.
One of the women told police this year she could picture Heath with his top off and laughing as she was abused, and another time Heath himself attacked her. On another occasion she said Heath was present in a candlelit forest where symbols had been drawn on the floor ahead of sex abuse. A third woman told police that Heath was there when she was abused.
After reviewing the evidence, Dr Hoskins told Wiltshire Police in a 150-page report that there were numerous problems with it. She pointed out there were no records of missing or murdered children that matched the accounts, and it was implausible that cultists would bring children along to witness their killings.
She said that although the witnesses had made lurid claims, which crossed the boundary into fantasy, they lacked detail and there was no corroborating evidence – just memories.
Yet weeks after receiving the report, detectives are continuing with Operation Conifer.
Last night Wiltshire Police said: ‘This investigation is complex and multi-stranded. There are a number of allegations with a significant number of individuals who have disclosed allegations of abuse. In addition to this there are a number of investigations that have fallen out of the main investigation that we are pursuing.
‘When we receive an allegation we are duty-bound to investigate and we go impartially where the evidence takes us.'
Two people have been arrested during Operation Conifer but police have refused to give any details. They remain on bail.
Last night Heath's godson Lincoln Seligman said: ‘The police have been working on Conifer for over a year but they have shown no signs of any progress. My firm belief is they have found nothing discreditable about Edward Heath, and I am convinced there is nothing.'
She had nipped into Tidworth Post Office for just a second. ‘He'll be safe in his pushchair,' she thought. ‘After all, it's a hot day and it would be a shame to wake him.' But the boy's mother hadn't counted on the satanists watching them.
As soon as her back was turned, a small girl slid out from the bushes, released the pushchair brake and began wheeling the boy away. The ten-year-old hoped that today her father would like the offering she had found.
He was a hard man to please. Often she had to perform for him. Things which hurt. Perhaps today's ‘gift' would spare her the pain.
She wheeled the pushchair through the churchyard gate and on to the east porch where her father's arm shot out and dragged the toddler inside the village church.
Today the girl is an adult who cannot be named, but we will call her Lucy X. She next remembers the naked boy splayed on the church altar and her father sexually abusing him. The boy's legs are kicking while her father tightens the ligature around his neck. Squeezing the life from his body.
A sacrificial offering to Satan. On the altar of Tidworth village church in Wiltshire.
It is an incredible story, preposterous even. Yet today this fantastical account of satanic ritual abuse is being taken seriously – by police. So seriously, in fact, it forms a crucial part of a witness statement for one of the most highly publicised sexual abuse inquiries in the country.
The statement is made by one of the chief accusers of the late Edward Heath, a distinguished former Prime Minister believed by some to have been intimately involved with ritual satanic abuse.
Since September, I have been analysing this and other witness statements submitted to Operation Conifer, which is investigating such claims. I have also been examining the even more prominent investigation, known as Operation Midland into a Westminster paedophile sex ring.
As a result of this work I know that the lurid account of child sacrifice above is by no means the only outrageous claim of satanic ritual abuse to be levelled against prominent people. Worse, I have established that the allegations against at least some of the people caught up in Operations Conifer and Midland are based on no more that two uncorroborated witnesses, whose claims of satanic abuse were made under the influence of controversial psychotherapists specialising in ‘recovered memories'.
At least one of these witnesses was under the influence of hypnosis. I am profoundly disturbed. In 15 years of working as an independent police expert, I have never seen anything like it.
‘This is why today I am taking the personal risk of disclosing my findings to the public.
Police fears about a paedophile ring involving Ted Heath were first put to me in September. I was genuinely surprised when officers from Operation Conifer, run by the Wiltshire force, got in touch and asked me to examine their evidence.
Although I often work with the police as an expert – I am registered with the National Crime Agency – my specialist subject is religious ritual. You might know of my work identifying Adam, the African boy whose torso was found in the river Thames in 2001.
There we had hard evidence. Here I was to work on the basis of stories like the one at Tidworth – claims that ritual killings had taken place in southern England.
My remit, I learned, was also to cover Operation Midland, an investigation which rested on a sole and now discredited witness called ‘Nick' against figures such as Leon Brittan, Lord Bramall, Harvey Proctor, Greville Janner and Heath.
‘The evidence overlaps,' I was reliably informed. Nick had named some of those accused in the Wiltshire-based Conifer inquiry, and the woman behind the Heath accusations (and her associates) had named some of Nick's Westminster VIPs.
A few days later, a detective staggered to my doorstep with large bundles. My remit was to analyse all the evidence. Then the officer pushed across a piece of paper for me to sign – a confidentiality clause, seeking to gag me from ever speaking about the cases.
I raised an eyebrow. Had not the police invited media helicopters to hover over Cliff Richard's house? Had not Operation Conifer's senior investigating officer, Detective Superintendent Sean Memory, stood outside Heath's former home in Salisbury, launching the inquiry to the world's media?
My analysis took two months and led to a 40,000-word report, but I soon had profound anxieties.
For I could see from the statements in front of me that key among those accusing Heath and others was the woman we are calling Lucy X, the woman who had made the incredible claims of satanic abuse described above; a woman whose evidence had been discounted as nonsense when she first presented it to the police in 1989, but had now re-emerged to damage the lives of the living and besmirch the reputations of the dead.
Before 1980, no one had heard of satanic ritual abuse. The term didn't exist. That was the year the book Michelle Remembers hit the bookstands. The co-authors were a Canadian psychotherapist from Alberta, Lawrence Pazder and his client Michelle Smith, whose real name was Michelle Proby. The book followed 600 hours of tape-recorded psychotherapy, most of it conducted under hypnosis. Michelle alleged that, behind the suburban facade of North America, there was a satanic ritual abuse network of blood, gore and ritual sacrifice. The book flew off the shelves.
A media frenzy followed and the public lapped it up. Michelle appeared on chat shows, including Oprah Winfrey in May 1989 under the banner ‘Satanic Worship!'
Entirely innocent teachers, carers and professionals were arrested without any evidence except sole-source stories that no one seemed to question.
A special investigation in 1990 by this newspaper tore into Michelle Remembers. Mail on Sunday journalists travelled to Canada to expose the authors and their claims.
But by then it was too late. The satanic ritual abuse scare was in full swing. Arrests followed in Britain and on one sorry night on February 27, 1991, nine sleeping children on Orkney were dragged from their beds and removed from their distraught parents.
The fact that Michelle Remembers was completely bogus was lost in the satanic stampede. Until now.
In 1988, right at the height of this satanic scare, another woman went to see her Canadian psychotherapist, a woman who practised in Pazder's home town in Alberta, Canada. They went to the same university. And most important of all, she learned the technique of recovering memories through hypnosis from her mentor, Pazder.
I have established the identity of this psychotherapist, who we will call Fiona. That day in 1988 in Alberta, Fiona put her patient under hypnosis and the patient began to ‘remember' her childhood.
She wasn't to know it at the time, but she was to start the Heath sex abuse inquiry. The client's name was Lucy X. Much has been made recently of the failings over Operation Midland and the role of Nick.
The police have now been forced to admit they were wrong to trust his evidence, let alone publicly laud him as ‘credible'. Until today, however, the story of how Nick and Lucy X produced their evidence in the first place has remained hidden.
For Nick, too, I can reveal, has been helped to ‘remember' – by separate psychotherapists using similar techniques.
I have seen in the personal notes written by both Lucy X and Nick how time and again they say their psychotherapists enabled them to recall their past.
I believe that without their psychotherapists there would have been no evidence.
The stories that Lucy X began ‘remembering' took her back to her childhood in Britain and in Africa. At first the detail in her diaries is scant. But Lucy's descriptions grow ever more detailed under hypnosis: satanic ritual abuse in empty houses, in churches and on Salisbury Plain.
Eventually she ‘remembered' that members of the paedophile ring had gorged themselves on blood and body parts. They maimed and murdered children in orgiastic sacrifices at the stake or on altars.
Lucy soon spoke with three other women she knew well. They met and swapped fantastical tales.
Earlier this year they would ‘remember' that Heath was a prime mover in a network of sadistic paedophile abusers.
He had apparently taken part in rituals surrounded by candles on the forest floor.
But this was not a case built around four separate witnesses. It all went back to one patient under the hypnotic influence of a Canadian psychotherapist.
Back in 1989, when Lucy X first presented her memory of the Tidworth sacrifice to the police, they refused to go further with the inquiry. They decided that the stories stretched the imagination beyond credibility.
And there things might have remained, were it not for Jimmy Savile. In 2012, victims of Savile came forward with strong, corroborated evidence against him and a widespread panic set in.
Soon an anonymous blog from an alleged victim was spotted by investigative organisation Exaro. It also caught the attention of Labour MPs Tom Watson and Simon Danczuk. They met the alleged victim, who later became known as Nick, and on October 24, 2012, Watson rose in the House of Commons to make his now infamous allegation of a historic VIP paedophile ring.
Stung by criticism of their handling over Savile, police interviewed Nick and the result was Operation Midland. A new inquiry, Operation Conifer, was started with 21 officers assigned.
To date, the two inquiries have together cost the British taxpayer in excess of £2 million.
So what are the actual connections between Nick and Lucy X? Certainly there are geographical coincidences. Lucy X's father is said to have worked alongside Nick's dad in the same community, although it is not known if Nick and Lucy X have ever met. There appear to be links, too, in the way their evidence was produced.
Like Lucy X, Nick also told tales of ritual abuse. His early stories related to the same location where Lucy X's family lived, before moving on to describe a VIP paedophile ring based out of Dolphin Square, London.
Nick recounted stories of ritual murder, including one involving Harvey Proctor. And he, too, named Heath.
Helping Nick to ‘remember' this abuse were two key people. One was his psychotherapist, who took the trouble to accompany Nick to a scene of his apparent abuse.
Like Lucy X, Nick was encouraged to keep personal notes to help him remember. The other was a journalist from Exaro, who first produced the VIP names, including
Heath, after talking to Nick and showing him photographs. Police then interviewed Nick, leading to Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald announcing on the steps of Scotland Yard that his evidence was ‘credible and true'. It's a pity he didn't call me first.
A fortnight ago I submitted my report to officers on Operation Conifer.
I had shown for the first time the connection between the case and the Canadian therapists who were behind Michelle Remembers.
I showed how Lucy X and Nick appeared to have cross-contaminated their stories and demonstrated that the evidence was incoherent.
Sean Memory wrote back: ‘The report contains comment upon the credibility of the accounts provided by ‘Nick' and Lucy X… While comment upon their credibility is well-structured, rationalised and evidence-based, its presence within the report causes me some concern.' For the first time as an independent expert witness, police appeared to be suggesting I resubmit my evidence.
After I declined to do so, police last week did formally accept the report.
However, I have little confidence that they will pass my work to other people who badly need to know – the Home Affairs Select Committee, for example. I have no faith that they will pass my findings to the accused unless they are legally forced to do so.
I clearly hadn't told police what they wanted to hear.
I have exposed a catalogue of fabrication at the heart of two major inquiries. Worse still, Operation Conifer ploughs ahead. People remain accused of things that simply never happened.
Wiltshire Police insist that not all their evidence is based on claims of ritual abuse. We will see. But those cases that are based on this pernicious fallacy must be closed immediately.
Did it really take an expert on rituals to tell them that the likelihood of a child being ritually sacrificed in broad daylight in Wiltshire was worthy of closer scrutiny?
In the process of these historic VIP child abuse inquiries, police have not only ruined the lives of many innocent people, including Ted Heath's family, they have set back the cause of genuine child abuse victims, of whom there are all too many.
It is a disgrace.
'These are girls from our own back yards,' FBI says disbelief enables sex trafficking
by Jeremy Harris
Young girls are bought and sold as sexual merchandise every day in Utah.
Most people don't think it's something that would happen in their communities, but it does, according to the FBI field office in Salt Lake City.
An FBI agent who spoke with 2News agreed to share details of the sex-trafficking unit's work in Utah on the condition of anonymity.
"These cases aren't rare, we're seeing more and more of them within Utah," the agent said. “The problem is in Utah, people don't want to think it's happening, or don't think this is going on in their own states and it is."
Despite the agency's 24 sex-trafficking of juvenile arrests in the last five years, the agent says sex traffickers still come to Utah because they think they can operate without much suspicion from the people here.
"A lot of pimps, from intelligence that we gather choose to come to Salt Lake City because they think it's a sleepy town, they think that people don't think it's happening here, that they won't get caught."
The victims come from a broad range of socioeconomic backgrounds and the FBI emphasizes that juveniles can be exploited into sex trafficking from any community in the state. Many victims, though, are lured from broken homes by a sex trafficker promising a better life.
“No girl chooses to wake up one day and choose to be involved in sex trafficking or prostitution, they're something that's occurred in a girl's life that has made her get into [sex trafficking],” the agent said. “These girls see it as a way out from either their living conditions or their family situation or they have nowhere else to go, so it's better than the situation that they're in.”
The agent says the FBI has worked cases of pimps luring girls in parks or near schools, but more and more they are finding the pimps are contacting victims online.
“They stroll through social media looking for these girls, a girl that looks attractive or looks pretty that they think they can make money off of. They are recruiting her and brain washing her,” the agent said.
Once a pimp has lured the child into their network, he or she can live a hellish routine of daily abuse that often includes being drugged, and providing sexual services multiple times, the agent said.
“The girl is under the complete control of the pimp, she depends on the pimp for food, for money, for shelter, for everything,” the agent said.
Some girls remain under the pimp's control for years.
“Not until sometimes they are beat bad enough, or they realize they are being taken advantage or it goes on long enough, or they've been arrested enough they want out,” the agent said.
The FBI closely monitors a website that they say is used almost exclusively to advertise prostitutes. Backpage.com, has been called “the world's top online brothel'. In Utah, the site fills with ads on a daily basis of girls advertising themselves for sex. Many of the girls advertising on the website are posting several times per day to get their search results towards the top as they compete with other prostitutes for Johns, the agent said.
California authorities arrested the CEO of Backpage.com Carl Ferrer in October, saying he forced adult and child sex trafficking victims into prostitution through escort ads on the website.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement to CBS News that the website generates millions of dollars from the illegal sex trade.
“Raking in millions of dollars from the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable victims is outrageous, despicable and illegal,” Harris said. “Backpage and its executives purposefully and unlawfully designed Backpage to be the world's top online brothel.”
An arrest warrant for Ferrer alleged internal business records from Backpage.com show that 99 percent of its revenue was generated by the adult services section between Jan 2013 and March 2015.
As Ferrer's case is adjudicated, the website remains in operation, and Utah authorities continue to monitor the ads on the site.
The FBI agent insists the best way to stop sex trafficking in Utah is to educate and protect kids. Much of that responsibility falls on parents, the agent says. That includes monitoring social media accounts and text messages. Often times, predators will create false social media accounts and add children they find nearby. The agent says parents need to teach their kids to not accept friend request or followers that the child does not know in person.
But often times, the victim's parents are not involved in the child's life or are distant, and that can create vulnerability.
There are several resources to prevent and report suspected sex trafficking:
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888
FBI Salt Lake City Office: 801-579-1400
England and the UK
Football sex abuse claims: NSPCC received more than 50 calls
sent to us along with the follow-up article (below) by NAASCA volunteer Carolin O'Hara. She notes, "Our news this week is dominated by footballers who were abused as kids. Here is an article on the BBC web pages today. The NSPCC have opened a dedicated hotline for players who were abused as kids."
A hotline, set up after four ex-footballers spoke out about being sexually abused by coaches as children, has received more than 50 calls within its first two hours, the NSPCC says.
It said callers raised concerns about children now and in the past and it expected "many more" to come forward.
The hotline was set up after David White, Andy Woodward, Steve Walters and Paul Stewart all spoke out about abuse.
The Football Association is meeting Woodward to discuss the allegations.
Sports Minister Tracey Crouch said the former players had shown "incredible bravery" to speak about the abuse.
Shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan has warned the scandal could "seriously damage the reputation of football" in the UK.
The hotline - which is supported by the FA - will be available 24 hours a day on 0800 023 2642.
It was set up after the four former players all waived their right to anonymity to speak publicly about abuse they suffered when they were children.
Ex-Crewe player Woodward, 43, initially went public last week about his abuse by former Crewe coach and youth football scout Barry Bennell, who was later convicted for sex offences against children.
Cheshire Police said 11 people had since come forward, including fellow ex-Crewe player Walters, 44, who says he was also a victim of Bennell.
The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) said it expects that number to rise.
Former Manchester City and England player White, 49, also says Bennell - who was jailed for nine years in 1998 - abused him between 1979 and 1980 while he was playing for Whitehill FC junior team in Manchester.
Stewart, 52, a former England international who started his career at Blackpool and also played for Manchester City and Liverpool, told the Mirror an unnamed coach abused him daily for four years up to the age of 15.
NSPCC chief Peter Wanless said there must be "no hiding place" for abuse, adding: "There may be many others who suffered through such horrors as young players but have never come forward.
"As this week's revelations have been laid bare, people must be able to speak out and get the help they need, and we know that can often be more difficult for men and boys," he added.
"We welcome the FA's commitment to helping those in the game get the help and support they need."
The children's charity said boys are more than five times less likely to speak up about sexual abuse than girls.
The FA's head of equality and safeguarding, Sue Ravenlaw, said the "courage and dignity" shown by the footballers who have spoken out was "immense".
Dr Allin-Khan said she welcomed the FA's involvement but wants the governing body to do more.
She said a criminal record check on coaches was "not enough", adding: "The FA need to look immediately at what action can be taken to ensure our children are being coached and supervised only by those who have their best interests at heart."
"Parents will no doubt be worried about these claims, it has the potential to seriously damage the reputation of football in our country."
England and the UK
Football sex abuse claims: Police widen their inquiries
Four police forces say they are now investigating allegations of historical child sex abuse within football.
Hampshire Police said it was looking into claims of "non-recent child abuse within the football community".
Cheshire Police says allegations have been made against more than one person while the Northumbria and Metropolitan forces have also opened investigations.
It comes as four ex-footballers spoke out about being abused as children by ex-Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell.
Andy Woodward, who was the first to go public last week, wept as Steve Walters, Chris Unsworth and Jason Dunford spoke about their abuse by Bennell in an emotional interview on the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme.
Bennell, 62, has served three jail sentences for child sex offences.
A dedicated NSPCC hotline - 0800 023 2642 - was set up after the abuse claims came to light and has received more than 100 calls.
Cheshire Police said it had received a "growing number of disclosures" which included referrals from the children's charity, and allegations have been made "against more than one individual".
The Premier League said it was concerned by the allegations and urged those with information to come forward.
MP Damian Collins, the chairman of the culture, media and sport committee, told the BBC he wants to hear from the Football Association.
He said: "The FA need to look back to see were mistakes made in the past. Were clues overlooked? Was not enough done to investigate a problem that they may have been perceived?"
Mr Unsworth and Mr Dunford waived their anonymity to speak out for the first time on Friday.
Mr Unsworth, 44, said he "thought he had to come forward... and help everybody", after his girlfriend showed him an interview on the Victoria Derbyshire programme with ex-Crewe player Mr Woodward, 43.
He had been a youth player at Manchester City with Bennell before moving to Crewe with him when he was about 12 in the mid-1980s.
Mr Unsworth said he had stayed at Bennell's house several times and the coach sometimes had two or three boys in the bed at once, where he would abuse them.
"We never spoke to each other about it," Mr Unsworth said. "I was raped between 50 and 100 times."
Mr Dunford said he had been staying at a Butlins holiday camp after winning a football competition, when Bennell attempted to touch him in bed.
He later moved to different boys' football teams and said at one point another coach also attempted to abuse him.
Mr Dunford has now given a report to the police.
Neither player turned professional, in part because they felt Bennell drove them away from the game.
Bennell, who also worked as a youth football scout, was jailed in 1998 for nine years and also served a four-year sentence in the United States.
In 2015, he was given a two-year term for sexually abusing a boy at a training camp in Macclesfield, but is now out of prison.
Cheshire Police said 11 people had come forward since Mr Woodward spoke out, including fellow ex-Crewe player Steve Walters, 44, who said he had been abused by Bennell, when he was 13 or 14, during a trip to Anglesey.
He told Victoria Derbyshire: "I want justice now. The whole of football just needs ripping apart and this can never, ever happen to any young footballer again."
In other developments:
- Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, which represents players, said the PFA and the FA had been aware of rumours of abuse but there had been "no cover-up"
- Karen Bradley, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, said she had spoken to the FA and PFA to offer government support and ensure they were working with police and other agencies
- The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse said it was monitoring the allegations and its "terms of reference are broad enough to include failures by sports clubs"
- PFA Scotland's chief executive Fraser Wishart said it would be "naive to think" the allegations were unique to one part of the UK and urged players of all levels to report any claims of abuse
In 2001, the FA put in place new rules to protect children, requiring adult and junior teams at all levels to have a trained safeguarding or welfare officer.
Some critics say the regulations rely too much on children being able to report abuse.
The Victoria Derbyshire programme is broadcast on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.
Safeguarding event to be held at South Walks House in Dorchester
by Rachel Stretton
WOULD you recognise someone who is trying to groom your child?
A safeguarding event is being held in Dorchester tomorrow to help raise awareness of the issue among parents and guardians, volunteers, safeguarding professionals and everyone who works with or has access to children and young people.
And a Dorset mum who was abused herself as a child, and whose children also suffered abuse, has spoken out on the importance of raising awareness of the issue.
The event at South Walks House aims to help people recognise the signs of grooming, and to let people know how and where to access information and support.
It is so popular that there are no places left – but organisers hope to run a similar event next year.
Marilyn Hawes, founder of child protection charity Enough Abuse, will be the headline speaker at the event. She set up her charity in 2003 after her three sons were sexually groomed and assaulted.
A Dorset mum contacted the Echo to speak out about the importance of the event.
She said: “I'm a survivor and I did not spot the signs when it was happening to my own children. Groomers are clever, manipulative people. The event is about raising awareness, telling people groomers do exist, they need help and often have issues themselves, but it is so important to know the signs.”
The mother added that she and her husband had struggled to come to terms with what had happened to their daughters, but now feels strong enough to speak out to help others.
“The abuse when I was a child is something that will stay with me all my life. It is something that will stay with my children their whole life. But they are survivors. Every day we feel we are not coping, we remember our children's bravery in speaking out.”
“All we can do now is try and work towards a world where another child does not have to go through this.”
Marilyn said: “We all know a child being abused, an adult who has been and we all know someone doing it.
“The crime is endemic across society at every level. Ignoring the reality simply plays into the hands of the abusers.”
The event is organised by the South Western Dorset Domestic Violence and Abuse Forum and is called Crossing the Line. It is sponsored and supported by West Dorset District Council, Dorchester Town Council and the Dorset Domestic Abuse Welfare Committee.
Organiser Molly Rennie said: “Our thanks to Marilyn for returning. People were so impressed with the speech she gave last year and went away with a really powerful message that they were able to share with colleagues.
“Thanks also to our sponsors and supporters - it's because of them that we are able to offer this.”
Inspector finds London police failing on child abuse cases
by The Associated Press
LONDON – An inspector's report has found that London's Metropolitan Police are putting children at risk because of poor handling of child sex abuse cases.
The Inspector of Constabulary report issued Friday finds police to have mishandled roughly three-quarters of the 374 cases it reviewed.
Chief inspector Matt Parr said the inspectors found "serious errors of judgment, inconsistency, unacceptable delays and a lack of leadership which meant that children are not being protected properly."
He said in many cases victims of sexual abuse were not protected, evidence was misplaced and offenders left in a position to pose an ongoing risk to children.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the report "deeply troubling."
An earlier report had found many errors in the police department's handling of a pedophile ring.
Child abuse victims call for public hearing to drive inquiry forward
Survivors want chair Alexis Jay to address criticisms to ‘lance the boil' of dissatisfaction
by Sandra Laville
Representatives of more than 200 victims of child abuse are calling for an urgent public hearing with the chair of the national inquiry into institutional abuse to “lance the boil” of dissatisfaction and drive the investigation forward.
Survivors who were abused in a Home Office-run school, an approved school and a Catholic seminary, as well as other institutions, said a full hearing was required where Prof Alexis Jay could properly address criticisms.
“We are not happy, we are not satisfied and we want to say so publicly,” they said, in a letter sent to Jay on Friday by their lawyer David Enright.
The victims make up nearly a quarter of the core survivor groups represented at the inquiry. They include individuals who were abused at the Home Office-run Forde Park school in Newton Abbot, Devon, Stanhope Castle approved school in County Durham and at the Mirfield seminary in Yorkshire between the late 1950s and early 1980s as well as survivors from the group Survivors of Organised and Institutional Abuse.
The victims said they wanted to support Jay and the inquiry in public in order for it to get on with what Theresa May as home secretary said was a “once in a generation opportunity” to expose the wrongs of the past. But their support was not unconditional and they wanted public reassurance and their concerns to be aired.
“We want to give you the chance to show us that you understand why we are unhappy and to demonstrate to us that you have a clear road map and are determined to get to the destination of uncovering the truth,” they said.
“We ask you to urgently schedule a hearing at which all of us can attempt to lance the boil of dissatisfaction and thereafter to recommit ourselves to the shared goals of truth, recovery and future child protection.”
The victims heavily criticised the inquiry for failing in what they say should have been a core purpose of putting survivors at its heart – and said that in the past months, as the inquiry reeled from one crisis to the next, they had been sidelined.
“Neither survivors nor their lawyers are being kept up to date as to any progress or about the possible future shape of the inquiry,” they wrote. “For many of us, this repeats the way that the police and the civil and criminal justice systems treated us after being abused. For many of us, the ongoing problems with the inquiry bring back the memories of the way we were abused and the way that we were treated after reporting that abuse … We are being left in the dark about what is happening and what will happen in the future.”
The letter said there had been no progress since the inquiry was set up two years ago. The victims told Jay that they would not accept modification or reduction of the inquiry's remit in her soon-to-be published review without being consulted.
“What we require is a firm and clear statement from you and the inquiry setting out what has gone wrong and laying down a clear path for the future progress of this inquiry,” they wrote.
The victims said that as the inquiry had suffered the loss of lawyers, and chairs, they were all in place waiting to take part. “Let us be clear, the members of our groups, and those who look to our groups to represent their experiences, are ready and willing to participate. Our lawyers have not resigned despite working without funding for up to a year. Our groups are not falling apart at the seams, despite the heavy stresses that this inquiry has placed upon our members.”
On Thursday, the home affairs select committee criticised the way the inquiry had handled allegations of sexual assault on its own premises, saying the response was “wholly inadequate”. Jay issued a statement apologising to victims for causing them “any unnecessary anxiety”.
She said she would appoint an external lawyer to review how the allegations of sexual assault in the inquiry's London premises were handled. Jay also promised to be more transparent, saying the panel would soon be releasing testimonials from victims who had shared their experiences via the Truth Project.
UK football child abuse: Wayne Rooney offers support
by James Masters
LONDON (CNN) -- Wayne Rooney has become the first star player to urge victims of past child abuse in the world of football not to suffer in silence.
The England captain spoke out after a hotline was set up for people who were sexually abused while playing soccer in Britain as children.
It received more than 50 calls in its first few hours Thursday, according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).
"It's awful that some of my colleagues have suffered this way whilst playing the sport that I and they love," said Rooney, an ambassador for the NSPCC.
The hotline was launched with the support of England's Football Association (FA), after former English footballers Andy Woodward, Steve Walters and Paul Stewart spoke to British media about being sexually abused as children. Another player, David White, has also come forward.
"Andy has been really brave to come forward and I would encourage anyone who has or is suffering from abuse to call the NSPCC's new football helpline."
"It's important that people know that it's okay to speak out, there is help available and that they don't need to suffer in silence," he added.
Cheshire Police, in northern England, said Friday they had received a "growing number of disclosures" relating to "non-recent child sexual abuse linked to football."
"These have included allegations made against more than one individual," police said in a statement.
On Friday, two more players -- Chris Unsworth and Jason Dunford -- both spoke publicly for the first time about being abused by former Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell.
In a separate development, police in Hampshire, southern England, also confirmed they are investigating "allegations of non-recent child abuse within the football community."
In another investigation, Northumbria police confirmed to CNN that the department had "received a report in relation to an allegation of historic sexual offenses in Newcastle."
A statement added: "We are working closely with, and supporting, the victim and inquiries are ongoing."
Coach jailed for abuse
Former Sheffield United player Woodward was the first to tell his story publicly, explaining how he was abused by Bennell while playing for Crewe Alexandra football club, in northern England in the 1980s and 1990s.
Bennell was jailed in 1998 for nine years after admitting to sexually abusing children, including Woodward.
He has been jailed three times for child abuse -- including once in America where he was reportedly described by Florida police as having "almost an insatiable appetite" for young boys.
He was sent to prison most recently in 2015 for two years for a past sexual offense against a 12-year-old boy.
Former England and Manchester City player White and ex-Crewe player Walters have also revealed they were among Bennell's victims, though it is unclear whether Bennell was convicted of abusing them.
Stewart, who played for Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, said another coach had repeatedly sexually assaulted him and threatened to kill his family if he spoke out.
Woodward's and Walters' Twitter accounts have been flooded with support in recent days. "This momentum WILL save people," Woodward wrote. Walters said he was "totally taken back" by the support he had received since opening up about the abuse he suffered.
More come forward
On Friday, more victims came forward to tell their own stories of torment.
Chris Unsworth, now 44, was a youth team player at Manchester City before moving to Crewe with Bennell.
He told the BBC that he had stayed at Bennell's house on a number of occasions where the coach would have two or three boys in the bed at once while abusing them.
"We never spoke to each other about it," Unsworth, who said he was nine when the abuse started, told the BBC. "I was raped between 50 and 100 times."
"I didn't know what was going on to be fair -- I knew what I wanted to get, and I thought this is what I had to go through. I knew it was wrong but I just went with it," he said.
Manchester City said it had opened an investigation amid allegations that Bennell had an association with the club in the 1980s.
Jason Dunford has also spoken out, alleging that Bennell attempted to touch him while he was in bed at a holiday camp.
"I told him to get off me," he told the BBC. "After that, Bennell began to torment me -- dropping me from the team, telling me I would play, but on the Sunday dropping me again."
Neither Unsworth nor Dunford went on to play professionally, citing the abuse they suffered as one of the main reasons.
Meanwhile, English Football Association chairman Greg Clarke says he has written to 30,000 football clubs to help raise awareness on the subject and says his organization will do everything in its power to support any criminal investigation.
Clarke met with Woodward at Wembley on Thursday to discuss the situation and what can be done about it.
According to the FA, 55,000 criminal records checks are carried out across the game each season, to screen out anyone who seeks to work in football who may pose a risk of harm.
Clarke said 8,500 people have been checked and trained as designated safeguarding officers in the professional game and grassroots football.
The FA says 35,000 coaches and referees attend The FA's safeguarding children awareness course each season.
'Safe haven' needed
In a statement appealing for others affected by child abuse in the sport to come forward, the NSPCC said boys were less likely to speak up about sexual abuse.
"Football locker rooms and clubs are traditionally very masculine and male environments. This means it can be difficult for players to talk about issues such as sexuality or abuse.
"But it's crucial they speak out. Along with the FA, we're urging players and others involved in football, from those just starting out to Premier League, to [use] our helpline," the charity said.
Detective Inspector Sarah Hall of Cheshire Police's public protection unit told the Press Association Wednesday that "we have now been made aware of a number of people who have come forward wishing to speak to the police" with similar claims.
She said no arrests had been made so far.
Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, said it was a "timely warning for everybody in football about our duty of care to these youngsters" and that he wanted the union to be a "safe haven," the Press Association reported.
Scary Heroes fight child abuse
by Terri Russell
RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -- There is a special group of people dedicated to protecting children from further abuse, be it physical, mental or emotional. Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) is not a new organization. But it is to our community. The group formed approximately 3 years ago. Its common bond: motorcycles, family, and preventing abused children from ever being abused again, at any cost. Some call them “Scary Heroes.”
The rumble of motorcycles.
For some this is a sound to beware, to take seriously, and the riders are not alone.
It is all those things, and for children who are part of the BACA family, it is something more, the sound of security.
“They think there is something cool about motorcycles and bikers and they are not afraid of us,” says Rev, a BACA member.
Bikers Against Child Abuse has an open meeting once a month in the Truckee Meadows. The meeting lasts for about an hour, followed by a closed meeting of cleared members. They talk about the group and the challenges to their members as part of that group... but never forget their mission statement.
"We desire to send a clear message to all involved with the abused child that this child is part of our organization. And that we are prepared to lend out physical and emotional support to them by affiliation and by our physical presence. If circumstances arise and we are the only obstacle preventing a child from further abuse, we stand ready to be that obstacle," says Rev, who reads to us from that mission statement. He adds, “If you can do that you can be one of us.”
Locally more than 40 people are members of BACA. But earning the cuts and patches requires a great commitment. A federal background check, and a year's worth of classes--42 to be exact. But those are just the technical requirements.
There is a commitment by BACA to provide physical and emotional support to a child under their watch at any time.
"By showing up, by being there when they need us. They call us and we will be there any way we can, whenever they are afraid," says Sox, another BACA member.
Children become part of the BACA family after abuse is reported to authorities. The group gets calls through their hotline and determines if their members can be of help.
“I am looking to see if the child is afraid,” says Miss G, who is a member and screens calls that come into the BACA hot line number.
“If we can change that scenario in the child to not be afraid in the midst of the darkest period in their life, it will change that trajectory of their life. That's amazing to see. It literally changes the course of their life,” Rev tell us with commitment in his voice.
That fear comes from the abuser, and the potential of the abuser returning.
BACA primaries, those assigned to the child, or children, use themselves as a physical barrier. But they are also a support system whose sole focus is on the child himself.
Visits can include trips to a place like “Jump and Shout” in west Reno.
How the child gets here can be just as fun as the venue.
“Let us ride their motorcycles which is really fun, to place like this it's really run. I feel really safe with them. They are really cool people, help us whenever they can, scared, whenever we feel like something is going to happen, and it is really bad, Skull Rider tells us. He chose his name the first day BACA members showed up to this house more than a year ago.
Primaries only know the children come from an abusive environment.
They do not know the specifics.
“We don't need to know their story. All we know they are in fear and they need us,” says Problem Child, who has served as a primary.
But they may be exposed to such information, when it is time for the child to go to court. BACA members are allowed in the courtroom only as a support system to the child should he or she decide to testify in court or not.
For many members this is the toughest part of their mission.
“You don't want to hear anybody go through what these kids go through, but you sit here and you damn well suck that s*** up because these kids are brave enough to get up there on that stand and relive everything they went through,” says Miss G.
The children understand they will be members of BACA for the rest of their lives.
Primaries will look for signs to slowly pull away.
“When they aren't afraid anymore, that's when I'm the most proud-- to let go. It is difficult. We try not to get too attached because we are with them a short period of time. But we are all humans and we do get attached,” says Sox.
But the day will and does come.
“I know that child is not going to be ruined by this dark for their life like some of us were,” says Rev.
The statement says it all—why these men and women become BACA members and from where their fierce commitment originates. That commitment is not lost on those who BACA serves.
“Even when we are older they will still be there for us. It's very nice, like if we don't feel protected in the future they will help protect us still,” says Phantom as he goes and plays with his brother Skull Rider.
Both seem to have not care in the world, and play like kids do. And for BACA, that's the point.
Panel: Cocaine, Heroin, or Opioids in a Home Could Trigger Child Abuse Investigations
by Joyce Russell
A workgroup studying how to protect drug-endangered children is considering changes in state law to address caregivers involved with illegal and legal drugs.
The current law was designed to protect kids in homes where methamphetamines were being used, sold, or manufactured.
Under a proposed bill, a wider variety of controlled substances could lead to a child abuse assessment.
Janee Harvey with the DHS Child Welfare Bureau says currently cocaine, heroin, or opioids are treated differently from meth.
“What we've seen over the past two years is families where cocaine, heroin, and opioids and methamphetamines are alleged, those caregivers tend to be involved with the Department of Human Services repetitively,” Harvey said.
The proposed change comes from members of the Iowa Drug Endangered Children Workgroup. The group is made up state officials, law enforcement, child welfare advocates, and legislators.
Under the proposed change, the DHS would spend more time evaluating the families.
“We want to have the opportunity to do the necessary safety and risk assessments for the children and get the parents the treatment they need so they can be the best parents that they can,” Harvey said.
Under a proposed bill a child abuse investigation would be warranted even if the drug activity occurs when the child is not at home.
A similar bill failed to pass last year.
Bystander Intervention Urged After Campus Sex Cases
by Crime and Justice News
Bystander intervention –interrupting a situation that appears unsafe –can happen on the street, at a party, in a bar. It may prevent a sexual assault or stop someone from making crude remarks about women, perpetuating a rape culture.
Bystander intervention is the talk of the University of Wisconsin Madison campus after a sexual assault arrest that has more students, especially men, realizing they no longer can stand by in situations that raise red flags, even if they don't know those involved, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
A growing movement on campuses, bystander intervention encourages students to “own” a critical role in preventing sexual assault.
The suspended student at the center of the sexual assault case that drew national attention, Alec Cook, was familiar to many students from parties and classes. He's accused of sexually assaulting five female students. Cook been warned by police to stop making women feel uncomfortable at a campus library, behavior several students have said they noticed and wrote off as “creepy” but harmless.
Cook is jailed on $200,000 bail. His attorneys say his actions were consensual sexual encounters. Marc Lovicott, spokesman for the university police department., said the case “shook up a lot of people on campus.” He adds, “Everyone was aware sexual assault is an issue. But when you've got an individual you see in class and you can put a face to someone in the headlines, it puts things in perspective that this really is happening and really is an issue.”
Celebrating 20 years of assisting violent crime victims
by Lex Talamp
The Caddo Parish District Attorneys office celebrated its second decade of providing services to victims of violent crimes this year.
The end of October marked the 20th anniversary of the office's Victims Assistance Program, which offers services to those in the community who have been victims of serious sexual assault, domestic violence or other violent crimes.
When victims arrive, through referrals by law enforcement or word or mouth, staff members assess threats to victims' safety and also help victims gather information needed to prosecute cases. Staff help prepare victims to testify in court and also will accompany victims to court hearings and help guide victims through the criminal justice process.
Leone Fitzgerald has served as a victims service coordinator for more than seven years at the office. Fitzgerald has firsthand knowledge of the types of emotions and hardships experienced by those who come to the office's program. Her mother died after being hit by a drunk driver when she was a sophomore in high school.
“At that time, there was no Victims Assistance Program. We had to fight for every scrap of information,” she said.
The most important benefits of the office's program are to provide readily-accessible information to families and individuals who have been victimized and to empower them to participate in proceedings, Fitzgerald said.
“So many people are intimidated by the system. If you've never been involved with the criminal justice system, it can be very confusing,” she said. "There have been a lot of changes this year."
In the past year alone, Caddo Parish District Attorney Judge James Stewart said he has doubled the victim assistance personnel, extended services to victims of juvenile crimes and created a new Special Victims Unit to deal directly with domestic abuse and sexual assault victims.
“I am well aware of our continued and growing need to provide services and support to the children and families who are victims of the most serious domestic violence crimes and sexual assaults in our community,” Stewart said in an emailed statement.
The new Special Victims and Domestic Violence units serve the needs of victims of “adults and juvenile victims of the most serious sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking crimes” in Caddo parish, said Penya Moses-Field, Assistant District Attorney and Special Units Victim Chief.
In October, the units hired a new investigator and a victims assistance coordinator to enhance the office's response time in assessing the needs of victims.
“The Special Victims unit will benefit the community through the aggressive prosecution of offenders while simultaneously coordinating victim services with community partners,” Moses-Field said.
Several community organizations— including Project Celebration, the Northwest Family Justice Center, and the Gingerbread House— partner with the district attorney's office to provide services for victims of violent crimes.
Fitzgerald said the office also will start a victims assistance program at juvenile court that will fill “a big gap” in juvenile services. She's also particularly proud that Caddo Parish participates in the Louisianfa Notification System, in which individuals can receive alerts when offenders are released from jail or prison.
Both adult and youth victims come to the victims assistance program through referrals from law enforcement or assistant district attorneys, or hear about the program through word of mouth, Fitzgerald said.
“We've been around so long now, law enforcement and detectives are very good at letting people know about us,” Fitzgerald said.
Stewart said he remains committed to enhancing services for victims of violent crimes in the community.
“My administration will continue to coordinate efforts with law enforcement and community support groups in order to carry out our constitutional and spiritual charge to seek justice for the most vulnerable members of our society,” he said.
(318) 226-6871 District Attorney's Office, Child Support Division
(318) 681-0870 Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office, Crime Victims Reparations
(318) 226-5015 Project Celebration, Family Violence and Sexual Assault Center
(888) 342-6110 LA Dept. of Public Safety, Crime Victims Services Bureau
1 (866) 528-6748 Louisiana Automated Victim Notification System
Teacher beaten after she calls child abuse hotline
NEW YORK (AP) -- A teacher says in a lawsuit against New York City that she was beaten by a parent after she made a report to a confidential child abuse registry.
According to the New York Post, Jennifer Golian says she was attacked several months after she reported suspected child neglect in June 2015.
The parent denies the allegations but pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in exchange for probation. An order of protection bars her from contacting the teacher.
The teacher says she's changed schools but is still afraid.
The New York City Law Department says protecting the identity of mandated reporters ``is crucial.'' The department says it's investigating.
Turkey Withdraws Bill That Eased Penalties On Child Sexual Abuse
by Merrit Kennedy
Turkey has tabled a controversial measure by the ruling party that would have allowed some sexual abusers of children to escape prison time if they married their victims. The bill was sharply criticized by opposition parties and human rights groups.
"The government was already on the defensive after demonstrations erupted to oppose the legal change," as NPR's Peter Kenyon tells our Newscast unit from Istanbul. "Critics said it amounted to a pardon for abusers, and more pain for their victims."
U.N. agencies including UNICEF spoke out against the bill, saying "it would create a perception of impunity in favour of perpetrators of such child rights violations" and "would increase the risk for further victimization of the child if she marries the perpetrator of the sexual abuse."
The government had argued that the bill was designed to "exonerate men imprisoned for marrying an underage girl apparently with her or her family's consent," as the BBC reports. It would have been applicable to cases dating from 2005 to Nov. 16 and when there was no physical force involved, according to The Associated Press.
The measure was set for a parliamentary vote today. Peter explains what happened:
"The ruling party declared that the bill would be revised and re-debated. But the opposition refused to cooperate on the re-write, suggesting that the ruling party should fix its own mess. Turkey's prime minister then announced the bill would be withdrawn and consultations with NGOs and academics would take place on how to re-write it."
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag then told parliamentarians that the matter was "closed," according to the state-run Anadolu Agency. "If the political parties achieve a broad consensus about this issue in the future, then it can come to our agenda again, but the issue is now closed," he said.
Underage marriage is a major issue in Turkey. "The legal age for marriage in Turkey is 17 but ... a judge can — in extraordinary circumstances — allow a 16-year-old to marry," according to Anadolu. But the practice remains widespread: Some 438,000 underage girls have gotten married there in the last 10 years, according to the BBC.
Protesters rallied outside the parliament building on Tuesday, as the AP reports. "I am embarrassed that this issue is even being discussed," demonstrator Perihan Koksal told the wire service. "A child can't be a woman, can't be a mother."
Limitation period extended for child sexual abuse claims
by Barry Nilsson
Following on from recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (the Royal Commission), the Queensland Parliament recently passed amendments to the Limitation of Actions Act 1974 (the Act) extinguishing the limitation period for child sexual abuse claims, extending the recommendations of the Royal Commission on this issue.
The limitation period for personal injuries sustained by a minor is 3 years after the date of majority (i.e. age 21 years). After that, the cause of action is statute barred. The amendments originally outlined in the first draft of the bill contemplated extinguishing the limitation period in circumstances involving child sexual abuse occurring in the “institutional context”. This was defined broadly to include a range of circumstances where an entity (whether existing or no longer existing) provided activities, facilities or services of any kind, or gave a person the opportunity to have contact with a child.
However, the final bill extended the changes further, inserting a new section 11A into the Act that extinguishes the limitation period retrospectively for all child sexual abuse claims, regardless of the context in which the abuse occurs. The explanatory notes to the bill state that:
“…the trauma of abuse perpetrated within the family is of equal magnitude to that perpetrated in an institutional context… the rights of access to justice should be equally shared between victims of non-institutional and institutional abuse.”
As such, child sexual abuse occurring in the non-institutional context, such as in the home or family context, is also picked up by the amendments.
Furthermore, ancillary provisions are included that give the court powers to set aside previous settlements (or judgments, where they pertained to statute-barred matters) in relation to child sexual abuse claims, on the grounds that it is just and reasonable to do so. The court may then adjudicate on a previously settled claim, albeit taking into consideration any amounts already paid under the earlier settlement.
Parties involved in such matters will need to give consideration to the potential impacts of these retrospective changes, most notably, the potential for previous settlement agreements to be set aside, removing any certainty associated with those earlier agreements. This may have wider-reaching impacts within the insurance industry, potentially re-opening claims that had previously been settled or resolved over an indefinite period of time.
To view all formatting for this article (eg, tables, footnotes), please access the original here.
Cop: 91% of child sexual predators know their victims
by Ida Lim
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 23 — Almost all those who had sexually abused children knew their victims, a senior police officer said today.
DSP Tan Gee Soon, the head of the federal police's Sexual Investigation Unit (D11), said statistics over the past 10 years have remained consistent and showed that 91 per cent of child sexual predators are not strangers.
“It is always said, beware of strangers. Actually all these predators are people surrounding them, like family and friends and all kinds of people that you know.
“Always when a child tells the father or mother that they have been sexually abused for a long time by certain people, our community is always in denial. ‘How can it be? He is a good teacher, a good ustaz, he is a good friend',” she said at a seminar on prevention of sexual crimes.
According to data shown by Tan, those who sexually abuse children could include family friends, neighbours, teachers, police or military personnel, religious leaders and security guards.
Police statistics between 2013 and 2016 showed a high proportion of child sexual abuse cases under the categories of rape, outraging of modesty and sodomy that involved perpetrators known to the victims.
For cases of incest involving child victims, Tan showed statistics based on 10 years, highlighting that the percentage of cases involving biological fathers and stepfathers as perpetrators was similarly high at 23.9 per cent and 23 per cent respectively.
Tan's data showed incest cases as also involving those such as uncles (18.7 per cent), brothers (12.5 per cent), cousins (7.2 per cent), brothers-in-law (5.3 per cent), stepbrothers (four per cent), grandfathers (1.6 per cent), and step-grandfathers (one per cent).
For child sexual abuse cases, the victims may delay reporting on the perpetrators for years due to various reasons such as a “deep sense of shame”, self-blaming and protecting those that they know.
“If in the family, they want to protect somebody, maybe if the father is the breadwinner, so they have to protect in order for the mother to not be sad and for the father is not imprisoned although he is the one who sexually abused them,” she said.
Besides delays in the lodging of reports by victims, other challenges faced during investigation of child sexual abuses included criminal proceedings that dragged on too long, with victims suppressing their painful memories or withdrawing their cases under pressure from their family, Tan said.
Some victims may be too young to provide answers in court, while there may be difficulties tracing witnesses or obtaining conclusive medical evidence, she said.
In statistics presented by Tan, the total number of child sexual abuse cases involving victims below the age of 18 for the first seven months this year is 1,413, while the total from 2013 until July 2016 is 10,575.
For the January to July 2016 period, 879 of the child sexual abuse cases involved rape, 117 involved incest, 361 and 56 was on outraging of modesty and sodomy respectively.
For the 2013 to July 2016 period, 6,200 of child sexual abuse cases were rape cases, while 834 incest cases, 2,893 and 648 cases involved outraging of modesty and sodomy respectively.
Tan was one of the four speakers at the third series of the Prevention of Sexual Crimes Seminar organised by the police together with the Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation.
According to the police, over 500 attended the seminar today, including police officers, prison officers, teachers and non-governmental organisations that work with children.
How Doctors Are Using Data To Predict Child Abuse
by Samantha Guzman
(Audio on site)
Doctors at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth are experimenting with data technology that could help predict neighborhoods where kids are most likely to be abused.
On Think, guest host Lauren Silverman talked about the forecasting software with Dr. Dyann Daley, a pediatric anesthesiologist at Cook Children's and head of the Center for Prevention of Child Maltreatment. She was also joined by clinical psychologist David Sanders, who chaired the Presidential Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.
Dyann Daley on:
… how the predictive technology works:
“A lot of predictive analytics that you hear about in the news will look at things like person characteristics or profiling or that sort of thing. Risk terrain modeling looks at the environment. What we have done with risk terrain modeling is we look to see what's surrounding children that are maltreated. What sort of buildings, businesses? What types of crimes? How can we take the risk factors that we know about from the CDC and from the adverse childhood experience study and other work, and look at them geographically on a map so that we can see where the risk is higher.”
… risk factors that can lead to child maltreatment:
“What we found was that if you have in a football field-sized area poverty, domestic violence, aggravated assault, presence of a runaway and murder that the children that live inside of that same football field-sized area are about 150 times more likely to experience maltreatment.”
… the accuracy of risk terrain modeling:
“In our newer models, which are more precise, we found that we can predict where more than 80 percent of child maltreatment cases will occur in the future in an area of about 20 percent the size of the city of Fort Worth. We've also created a model for Austin, where we were able to identify where more than 50 percent of child maltreatment cases would occur in less than 7 percent of the city's area.”
David Sanders on:
… why this technology is important:
“Most states and most systems wait until children have been abused or neglected to intervene. The resources to actually prevent abuse or neglect to make sure that children aren't harmed in the first place aren't available in general. What Dr. Daley's study does is give a sense of where in a community do resources need to be deployed in order to make sure that children aren't abused or neglected in the first place. I was surprise at the accuracy of it, but the importance of it can't be overstated.”
Government floats new child abuse reporting policy
by Charles Duncan
Government is working on a draft policy for reporting child abuse, required as part of the 2012 Children Law.
Minister for Community Affairs Osbourne Bodden and his staff presented the draft to representatives from 11 sports clubs this month to get feedback and make sure they know they will have to identify child protection officers in each sports club and screen staff who interact with children.
The draft policy has not been released publicly, but parts of the policy were in a presentation to the sports clubs.
Felicia Robinson, director of the Department of Children and Family Services, said in an interview Monday that momentum was building “in understanding that caring for children is a responsibility that we all share.
After the Children Law came into effect, which in part requires reporting of suspected child abuse, reported incidents of abuse jumped from 36 in 2012 to more than 125 two years later, according to the presentation by the department.
The data covers physical, sexual and emotional abuse, incest and defilement.
Cases of reported neglect increased from 11 in 2012 to 60 in 2014. Ms. Robinson said the spike coincided with the passage of the Children Law that mandated reporting of suspected physical or sexual abuse of children. But, she said, the numbers of reported incidents are likely much lower than the actual number of child abuse incidents.
“This is why education is so important,” Ms. Robinson said. In the presentation to the sports clubs, she stated, “An opportunity for abuse and reporting abuse presents wherever adults supervise children.”
A ministry press release states that the consultation process, according to assistant chief officer for the ministry Joel Francis, “would allow for questions and clarification, before a final version of the policy was put to Cabinet for ratification.”
The statement notes, “Once the policy is finalised, the clubs are to be given three months to implement its provisions.”
The presentation lays out the steps sports clubs and other organizations will have to take under the new policy proposal. Each club will have to appoint a child protection reporting officer and train officials on how to identify and report suspected abuse. Under the Children Law, staff are already legally required to report suspected abuse.
The law ensures protection of the identity of anyone who reports suspected child abuse.
The policy also requires “oversight through criminal background checks, screenings and application of due diligence in hiring practices and recruitment of volunteers and coaches,” according to the presentation.
In Ms. Robinson's notes in the PowerPoint presentation, she explains, “The issue is difficult because many child abusers have no record because an incident was never reported, charges never filed, and there may be other situations where there have been plea bargains or the party has been convicted on a lesser charge.”
Homosexuality Link to Child Sex Abuse Confirmed — Gender Nonconformity
by Carla Clark, PhD
Can sexual abuse make you gay? The short answer according to new research is, no. Child sexual abuse is not a common cause of being gay. But, new research says that the opposite is true. There is something common in the childhood of homosexual men that makes them a target for pedophilia and sexual abuse — gender non-conformity.
Many homophobic religious institutions make unfounded claims about same-sex sexual child abuse causing homosexuality, like those coming from the pro-heterosexual, anti-gay activist group, Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment (HOME):
Under the lens of science these claims are considered ridiculous and laughable at best, often followed by outrageous and scientifically unfounded claims that being gay is the cause of pedophilia.
Nonetheless, non-heterosexuals with a history of same-sex sexual abuse as a child often ask if this made them desire the same-sex as an adult. Similarly, gay men and women who were sexually abused by the opposite sex as a child, ask if this caused a sexual fear and revulsion towards the opposite sex that ‘made' them gay.
Whether the pedophile or child molester was gay or straight, gay victims tend to ask the same question at some point, “Did sexual abuse make me gay?”
Research indicates that this isn't true of straight people abused as children, they are less likely to question if being abused made them straight. Thus it is often argued that it is the culturally ingrained negative views of gay people, particularly of gay men, or simply belonging to a minority group, that the question is even asked in the first place.
Even so, it is still a common view that sexual abuse can ‘turn' a child gay despite no convincing or reliable evidence that premature sexual activity or child sexual abuse grossly changes sexual orientation.
The main withstanding argument in support of this view is that child sexual abuse is more common in the gay community than the straight community. In fact, meta-analysis indicates that sexual minority school children were on average almost 4 times more likely to experience sexual abuse than heterosexual children.
The latest research stands against this argument, providing the most convincing causal evidence yet that it is a common aspect of many gay men's childhoods that is linked with higher rates of sexual abuse in boys who later identify as gay in adulthood — not sexual abuse ‘making' a child gay.
Published in Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment the new research suggests that a child's gender nonconformity, which is more common for non-heterosexuals, that may make them more desirable targets for pedophiles and child abusers.
To clarify, gender nonconformity you may also know as gender bending. Gender nonconformity is when people identify with or behave like what is culturally considered typical for the opposite sex, going against the gender grain if you will. For example, boys that like to play dress-up, or girls that prefer rough play.
In the study, 1753 participants filled out an online survey that regarding their sexual orientation, history of child abuse, and the degree of gender nonconformity they recall from childhood, including the activities and kinds of play and types of clothes they liked.
Although other research has suggested a link between gender nonconforming and sexual abuse in children, whether nonconforming caused abuse, or abuse caused nonconforming had not previously been assessed this directly. By using a special type of analysis called instrumental variable analysis, the new study was able to estimate causal relationships. It is therefore study able to more confidently address the complex question “Can sexual abuse make you gay?”
In line with other research, gay participants (being male or female homo and bisexuals) in the new study had greater odds (~45% greater) of being sexually abused in childhood than heterosexual participants.
They also found that heterosexual and non-heterosexual men who are more gender nonconforming (i.e. ‘feminine') in childhood had higher chances of abuse than sexual orientation matched boys who are more gender conforming (i.e. ‘masculine'). In other words being gay or not had nothing to do with it. It was whether boys behaved like stereotypical boys or not that was key.
However, gender non-conforming girls were not at higher risk of sexual abuse than conforming girls in the present study. It is research supported factoid that gender nonconformity in girls, like being a ‘tomboy', is generally more socially accepted, approved of and tolerated in Western cultures than gender nonconforming in boys, who are often considered as mama's boys, sissies or brats.
The authors suggest that gender nonconforming boys are less generally approved of partly due to cultural femi-negativity. Cultural femi-negativity being where femininity is particularly devalued when it does not adhere to gender norms. The idea that abusers target children with feminine qualities as to make for more compliant and less socially valued abuse targets fits well with the study and the body of research as a whole considering more girls are targets of pedophilia and child molestation than boys, and that more gender non-conforming feminine boys are targeted more than masculine conforming ones, whether they are gay or not.
This also makes sense when considering research suggesting that most abusive pedophiles are generally aroused by youth, and that the child's sex, at the core of their desires, is pretty immaterial. Whether they abuse mainly boys or girls, it's about a child being a child, ease of access to that child and avoiding getting caught through ease of controlling the child.
Whereas adult child molesters, who can be a pedophiles (i.e. someone specifically attracted to children) but are not necessarily pedophiles, get a sexual kick out of domination, power and control, marking those with more feminine qualities as being easier and less risky targets.
Importantly, the research suggests that it is having feminine personality traits and behaviors more common to gay boys, i.e. gender nonconforming, that leads to such high rates of child abuse cases in gay men. There is no credible research as of yet that indicates that it is common that child sexual abuse is a cause of being gay.
It seems that there is something, or somethings, about gender-non-conforming in boys that puts them at an increased risk of sexual abuse. If research now focuses on exploring further what those somethings are we can better protect children from the traumas of sexual abuse.
Recovery Is Possible
Dr Cathy Kezelman AM is the president of Blue Knot Foundation, the leading national organisation supporting the estimated five million Australian adults who are survivors of childhood trauma. She is this week's Changemaker.
by Wendy Williams
As many as one in four Australian adults have experienced childhood abuse.
Blue Knot Foundation, formerly known as ASCA – Adults Surviving Child Abuse – has become a voice for adult survivors and their needs providing specialist phone counselling, support, education, resources, training and supervision to help them recover.
Kezelman, who is herself a survivor, has been a lifelong advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.
She worked in medical practice for 20 years, mostly as a GP and has held leadership roles in ASCA / Blue Knot Foundation for 12 years, including two terms as chair, before being appointed president in 2012.
Under her stewardship Blue Knot Foundation has grown from a peer-support organisation to a leading national organisation combining a prominent consumer voice with that of researchers, academics and clinicians advocating for socio-political change and informed responsiveness to complex trauma.
Kezelman also published a memoir chronicling her journey of recovery from child sexual abuse – Innocence Revisited: A Tale in Parts.
In this week's Changemaker, Kezelman talks about the path to recovery, the importance of Blue Knot Day as a major event on the calendar for raising awareness of the impact that childhood abuse has, and how her life is not just about surviving.
You worked in medical practice for 20 years, mostly as a GP, what encouraged you to move into the not-for-profit sector?
It was a personal experience. So I started dealing with my own childhood abuse experiences and so that took me out of the medical profession. It wasn't really a conscious decision, I was quite unwell and had to seek support for my own recovery. And in that process I found this organisation, at that time it was called ASCA and originally I came here really for my own support.
You are a survivor of childhood trauma, how does the lived experience influence your ability to help others recover?
Certainly what it has done for me is give me a passion to help others in that I felt privileged that I could afford good support and I know a lot of other people can't. I do believe it gives you an insight into how challenging the process of recovery can be but also a sense of optimism that recovery can happen.
Obviously, everyone's experience is individual and I certainly can't speak for anyone else but I do think that having a lived experience can certainly be a benefit around all sorts of issues. And I suppose also what was interesting for me was I was a medico, but what I found was that my medical degree didn't prepare me at all for anything that's happened to me. It gave me no additional insight and I also found that a lot of my medical colleagues really also had very little insight into what it means to have been abused as a child and what it can take to actually reclaim your health.
What kind of impact does childhood trauma have on adults?
When children are abused or traumatised it obviously happens during a time when the brain is growing and developing and it is often perpetrated by the very people who are meant to look after a child. It often goes on for a long time. It is often repeated. And often the child doesn't have anyone to go to to make sense of it. So obviously that can have potentially profound effects on the way the brain develops, on the way pathways are laid down, and it really can affect the very development of your sense of self, your self-esteem, your ability to relate to yourself, your ability to relate to others and to the world.
It can also affect your physical health, your mental health and often the ways people cope can become risk factors for health issues later in life for example smoking or alcohol or eating to excess. So we need to understand the ways survivors do cope and acknowledge that they have survived and there is an inherent strength in that, and stop judging the way people have survived and work with them to identify their strengths to build on them to find constructive ways of proceeding through life.
What is the importance of events such as Blue Knot Day in raising awareness?
I think our view would be that every day should be Blue Knot Day, because we know that one in four adults have experienced some form of childhood trauma and that's an incredible number of people. So we will all know someone, even if they haven't told us.
But a day like Blue Knot Day is setting aside a day that is specifically for adult survivors. And we're trying to raise awareness of childhood trauma more broadly, so beyond abuse. People often think of sexual abuse alone and obviously there are many other ways people can be abused or experience neglect, grow up with domestic violence and so forth. So it is about really getting the message out that this is both very common, and that there is a lot of shame that people carry when they are abused in childhood and when society treats people who seek to disclose and are looking for help with stigma and taboo, that really reinforces the silence and secrecy which perpetuates childhood traumas. So it is really about trying to break down the barriers and say this is common, this can cause major damage, but yet it is a human right for everyone to have firstly a safe childhood but if they don't, for them to be able to get pathways so that they can find a life that is constructive and connected and participating.
What can we do as a society to break down the taboo surrounding the issue?
We have seen with the current Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse that people are telling their stories and we're seeing much, much more reporting around different forms of abuse. We're seeing a lot of discussion and support around domestic violence so I think you know as a society we are starting to talk about issues that previously we didn't speak about. We have certainly seen with mental health for example, that people now get up more and more and say “I have really experienced depression”, there is still a lot of stigma and shame but it has shifted and that is what we need to see around this issue as well.
Because often people who have experienced such forms of trauma, also have a mental illness or also struggle with their mental health. They may be homeless, they may not be able to hold down a job, and these are all challenges that often are judged by society. But we need to understand that these impacts are not about anyone's personal weakness. This is about a normal response to something very abnormal that has happened to a child which should never happen.
This year the Blue Knot Foundation turned 21, how has the organisation evolved over that time?
The organisation started like a lot of organisations, as a peer-support organisation. It was developed by a number of survivors who couldn't find anywhere to go for help and you know it started from a purely volunteer base in country New South Wales and it has now grown into a national organisation that combines very strong survivor input but with input also from academics and clinicians and professionals and people who work on a daily basis with survivors. So we've developed a lot of credibility.
At the end of 2012 we produced a set of guidelines, which were a global first, around how to respond to this sort of trauma and they've now had more than 12,500 downloads and they really have been the grounding for a very extensive education and training program that we now deliver round the country, with between 20 and 40 days of training a month, and that's to workers and health professionals and legal professionals.
We also obviously provide direct support to survivors and their loved ones. We've got a helpline manned by trauma therapists which takes over 5,000 calls per annum, but sadly also can't take more than that number of calls, which we don't have the resources to respond to.
We also run workshops for survivors which help them understand just how abuse and trauma may have affected them and help to normalise their responses and their struggles so they can understand and also the people who support them can understand why they may not be able to hold down a job, why they may not have finished their education, why they may struggle daily to get out of bed.
What are the organisation's current priorities?
We've been working very closely with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse so we continue to support their work and to advocate really for implementation of a national redress scheme. The federal government has just… announced that they will have a scheme for people who were sexually abused in Commonwealth Government institutions. We are obviously wanting to see all the states and territories and institutions opt into that scheme.
But beyond that, because our organisation represents the needs of adult survivors, not just of child sexual abuse but all forms of abuse and neglect and, you know, people who have grown up with a parent with their own trauma, as a result of a mental illness or a substance abuse, all of these people need support. So we're continually advocating, further to the redress scheme, which has now announced a provision for 10 years of counselling and psychological care for survivors, that all survivors should have access to the right sort of care at the right time when they need it. Because recovery is so possible we want to remain, well we are, the thought, policy and practice leader in this area but just continue to disseminate that message and be a conduit for people to call our helpline, we'd obviously love to extend the hours on that helpline and further resource that, and the provision of the right sort of trauma-informed services to survivors, so we'd like to provide that and facilitate it.
How do you keep motivated?
I won't lie, it has its moments. Like with any NGO it is challenging work, not just for me but for anyone involved in this. There is an infinite need. And you know we released a very important economic paper last year that shows, highly conservatively, that the annual cost of not responding to adults who have experienced or dealt with trauma is $9.1 billion per annum. So we know this is important work and I suppose what keeps us going here is the benefit we see.
You know the people who call our helpline and then send an email saying “this is the first time in my life I've been understood”, “an hour on the phone and it's changed my life”, people who attend the workshop and say “I thought I was the only one but here I was in a room with others, I'm not an alien”. So it's those sorts of very human but everyday responses that we hear about our work and about our training, about the helpline, about our survivors workshop that means that we are doing really important work and we know the importance of having a specialist service doing this because, without being critical of any other services, we know that many people have been re-traumatised in services that don't have the right understanding around this sort of trauma and that's why it is so critical that when a survivor picks up the phone or goes to a workshop or seeks help, that the person that's on the receiving end of their approach understands how their life experience may have affected them, how hard it may be for them to reach out and can actually help them to feel safe and supported while trying to find out how best to help them. So that's the critical aspect of what we do.
How do you spend your free time?
I've got a big family, so I've got four children, four adult children, I have two grandchildren, I have a lovely circle of friends, so I enjoy them as much as I can and obviously they are a priority for me. I love to go out and walk and I feel the sun. I do love to read when I get the time and I read voraciously when I'm on holidays. I love to go to the theatre. Obviously I love to eat out. So it is a full and rich life.
It is a constant juggling act but it is very fulfilled and I suppose that is the message. I am a survivor but my life is not just about surviving, it is definitely full, it is rich and that is really my vision for others.
Kyrgyzstan Ups Fight Against Child Marriage
Government Should Do More to Address ‘Bride Kidnapping,' Domestic Violence
by Hillary Margolis
“[E]veryone knows mullahs marry [people] at an early age,” the head of a community elders court told me when I was in southern Kyrgyzstan researching domestic violence in 2014. Although child and forced marriage are illegal in Kyrgyzstan, an estimated 12 percent of girls marry before age 18. One percent are married before age 15. These girls are typically wed in religious ceremonies and their marriages remain unregistered.
On Friday, Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambayev took an important step in the fight against child marriage by signing a new law introducing criminal sanctions, including imprisonment, for people who conduct or facilitate religious marriages of children under 18.
This is a crucial step, but one that addresses only one aspect of the problem. Abduction for forced marriage – so-called “bride kidnapping” – is an ongoing problem in Kyrgyzstan, putting both girls and adult women at risk. Lax enforcement of laws prohibiting child and forced marriages, combined with attitudes and social norms that perpetuate practices harmful to women and girls, have allowed these marriages to continue. Agencies estimate that close to 12,000 women and girls are abducted for marriage annually. Several of the domestic violence survivors I interviewed in Kyrgyzstan were already adults when they experienced “bride kidnapping.”
These marriages often leave women and girls isolated and vulnerable to domestic violence, while also preventing them from seeking help. When she was kidnapped for marriage at age 19, Bermet said she was literally taken “kicking and screaming” and forced into a marriage that was never registered. Once married, her husband beat her until her face was bruised. When she began to heal, he would tell her, “Your bruises are almost gone. It's time to beat you again.” Her in-laws watched over her constantly, even accompanying her to the toilet, so she couldn't tell anyone – including her own family.
Under national law, women in unregistered marriages are not entitled to marital property or other rights afforded a registered spouse, like alimony and child support, making it all the more difficult to escape abusive relationships.
Kyrgyzstan's government can show it is serious about tackling forced and child marriage by enforcing both the new law and previously-existing laws prohibiting these marriages. It should also work to ensure state registration of all marriages.
Proposed amendments to the domestic violence law are also due to advance in parliament in the coming months. Government officials should make sure the changes help protect domestic violence survivors by supporting essential services, like shelters, that allow women to escape abuse. Without such measures, women like Bermet will continue to fall through the cracks.
Family Support Services has 40 years of aiding community
“Thankful for the service. I've been here only three weeks, as a last option because nothing else helped. No family, homeless, complete isolation and feelings of hopelessness. I've already gained optimism and hope. Now setting boundaries with my abuser and still continuing a long road of self-esteem healing. But now I am optimistic and starting to feel alive again. Many thanks!” -- Domestic Violence Program participant.
Putnam County Family Support Services has more than 40 years of history leading the community in responding to victims of domestic violence and families at risk of child abuse, working to break the cycle of abuse via prevention, intervention and community education.
Its model is grounded in self-determination, and operates with a strength-based and empowerment philosophy while incorporating best practices and evidenced-based strategies. As best practices have emerged in the field, Family Support Services has moved toward a model of a trauma informed-comprehensive approach, providing leadership to create responsive systems, offering an array of services and programs, while addressing the need for primary prevention with youth and the community at large. The agency is dedicated to healthy relationships and provides a continuum of services for persons of all ages who have been victims of, or are at risk of being victims of, domestic violence, child abuse or other family or relationship violence. It is the only organization in Putnam County devoted solely to the issue of domestic violence and the prevention of child abuse. The agency provides direct service to more than 1,000 unduplicated Putnam County men, women, youth and families annually.
Family Support Services holistically addresses the needs of some our most vulnerable Putnam County residents by providing voluntary, support services to at –risk families and their children and those inflicted by domestic violence or sexual assault. We are dedicated to improving the quality of life for all people that we come in contact with through various methods of help and community education. Families served by the organization are often faced with challenges that impair their ability to have healthy family functioning. These challenges/problems include: poverty, isolation, lack of education and support, history of trauma, lack of transportation, history of abuse or neglect or domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health issues, under employed, lack of parenting skills and financial resources as well as limited life skills which prohibit achievement of healthy outcomes. Our all-inclusive approach provides families with the resources and skills needed to alleviate some of these barriers resulting in positive outcomes for themselves and/or their families and children.
Putnam County Family Support Services sponsors and facilitates four primary programs within the agency which include: The Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Prevention Program, the Healthy Families Program, Tot's Time and Primary Prevention Programming. Each of the programs are in place to offer ongoing support, education, guidance, and intervention to prevent the occurrence of family and community violence.
Putnam County Family Support Services' Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Program reaches out to men, women and children who have been victims of family violence. The program is designed to offer victims support, education, and advocacy to help enable them to move beyond abuse. Program participants develop with the assistance of their advocate a needs assessment and individualized goals that guide the delivery of the service.
The program offers crisis intervention, case management, individual peer counseling and education sessions, court advocacy, transportation to essential resources and safe shelter, safety planning, protective order assistance, and linkage to community resources. Program advocates interface with law enforcement and judicial officials during the initial crisis and as needed during case management services. Our men and women's support groups offer domestic violence/sexual assault education to victims providing them an opportunity to share their feelings, fears, and experiences with other survivors who are going through the same physical and emotional trauma. In conjunction with the women's support group, a children's group is offered. The groups focus on self-esteem, conflict resolution, healthy relationships, safety planning, life skills and social skills. The program provides community education presentations and workshops for professionals and community members as well as provides training opportunities for law enforcement, judicial officials and professionals within the community. The program provides crisis intervention and case management services to an average of 500 primary victims of violence yearly.
The Healthy Families Program is an assessment service and intensive home visitation program. The program utilizes an assessment tool to determine a family's risk factors and stressors. Families are then linked with necessary resources to meet their parenting and family needs. Eligible families are offered the preventative home visitation program, which focuses on parent-child interaction, bonding and healthy outcomes for children. The initial needs assessment and the families individualized family support plan guides the delivery of service. Families are visited on a weekly basis and as risk factors diminish and goals are achieved the number of visits required each month diminish over the three-year eligibility period. Families are linked to local community resources, assisted in meeting their daily needs, provided with life skills education, parenting information, child development materials, crisis intervention, transportation and parenting groups.
Clientele of the program are also offered an opportunity to participate in the Bound by a Book Program and Family Ties Storeroom, which are both “earn while you learn”/incentive programs. The program provides community education presentations and workshops for interested community members and professionals. The program completes approximately 40 assessments and serves an average of 55 families monthly in home visitation.
The Tot's Time Program is a free childcare service for parents of children six and under and is offered one morning per week. Children participating in Tot's Time are provided opportunities to interact with other children and adult mentors. Tot's Time activities include free play, craft, snack and story time. Families utilizing Tot's Time are provided with parenting educational materials and community referrals. The service is provided to approximately 35 children yearly.
The Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault prevention program, with the assistance of community stakeholders, completed a Dating/Sexual Violence Needs Assessment in December 2015. The Needs Assessment included key informant interviews, community forums, and surveys of youth and school faculty/administration. The Needs Assessment and stakeholder input has assisted the program in developing a Primary Prevention Plan for Putnam County. The overall goal of the Primary Prevention Plan is to increase emotional health and connectedness in order to prevent violence. The CDC has identified connectedness as a protective factor against the perpetration of violence, including child maltreatment, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and youth violence.
The Primary Prevention Plan is currently being implemented county-wide and consists of four parts:
-- 1. PCFSS will provide Safe Dates, Coaching Boys Into Men, and Bystander Intervention trainings at the high schools. These activities will increase individual knowledge about dating violence, sexual violence, youth violence, and bullying. They will also build skills so that students can prevent and respond to these types of violence.
-- 2. PCFSS will use the 40 Developmental Assets approach within the community, with high school faculty, staff, and administrators to promote positive youth development.
-- 3. PCFSS will form a countywide youth council to increase youth leadership and engagement in the community.
-- 4. PCFSS will form a countywide coalition to prevent violence in children, youth and families. Youth programming impacts approximately 450 students with a minimum of eight hours of evidence based programming that targets social norms and attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors regarding dating and sexual violence.
Family Support Services is grateful to the Putnam County community and the United Way of Putnam County for its support of the mission and programs. For more information about services, how you can help or volunteer opportunities, call 653-4820.
Housing plans for women fleeing sex trafficking go before planning board Monday
by Jeff Gill
A Gainesville ministry's heavily opposed plans to build a campus housing women involved in sex trafficking goes before the Hall County Planning Commission Monday evening.
Straight Street Revolution Ministries is hoping to build the campus on 50 acres off Weaver Road, a hilly area off Poplar Springs Road in southeast Hall County.
The nonprofit organization is looking to eventually build 17 houses for the women, as well as an administrative building, barn, chapel, activity field, garden and meadow, according to the Hall County staff report.
The initial phase calls for one home that would house four people and one caretaker, the report says. Also, services that would be offered at the site include counseling, education programs and life skills training.
The ministry's proposal also calls for a gated entrance and that no visitors will be allowed on site.
The residents would be women over 18 who are referred to Straight Street through a partner organization.
“The ministry and its partners are working to reduce human trafficking by providing services to victims,” the report says.
Straight Street's plans have met fierce opposition from neighbors, who met with ministry officials last week, peppering them with comments and questions.
Opponents have said they worry such a development would raise safety concerns and lower property values.
Several residents said they applauded the group's work but they simply don't believe such a development belongs in a residential neighborhood.
One of the chief worries has been that sex traffickers might try to hunt down women at the complex.
Jennifer Robson of Straight Street said women are easily replaced in the industry, so it's unlikely they would be pursued.
“It only takes one incident,” said Weaver Road resident Donna Clendenning, one of the most vocal opponents, at the community meeting.
The county planning staff is recommending approval of the proposal, with conditions, including that vegetation be installed between the campus and neighboring residential properties.
The planning board's recommendation will be forwarded to the Hall County Board of Commissioners for a Dec. 8 public hearing and final action.
Frederick County Council forms task force on sex trafficking
by Evan Koslof
FREDERICK COUNTY, MD (WUSA9) - Annie Jones, from the Frederick County Commission on Women, said that sex trafficking is one of the most under-reported crimes, but that doesn't mean it's not happening.
"It happens in the rural parts of the county," she said. "It can happen in the city. It happens everywhere."
In order to deal with this growing problem, Jones said that the county council took action earlier this month, creating a task force. The goals of that task force would be to both identify victims, and to establish a protocol for aiding future victims.
"This isn't happening at 10:00a.m.," she said. "Where they can call and get all the services. They need to have someone that they can call at 2:00a.m. to provide the intense services that are required for victims."
The task force is meant to complement the police work already being done in the county. It was introduced by Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater, and approved at a meeting earlier this month. The task force is expected to start meeting in the new year.
Jones said that this will help victims from all socio-economic backgrounds.
"It's not just a headline," she said. "These are real people's lives that are completely up-ended. And as a community, we need to come together to support them."
Texas teacher who had sex almost daily with 13-year-old student could face decades in prison
by Kristine Guerra and Katie Mettler
A Texas middle school teacher who was impregnated by a 13-year-old student could face up to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child.
Alexandria Vera, who was arrested in June, told police that she fell in love with one of her students after the two began a relationship through Instagram messages. The 24-year-old former eighth-grade English teacher at Stovall Middle School in Houston also said that the boy's family was supportive of the affair.
Vera, who pleaded guilty on Wednesday, was initially charged with continuous sexual assault of a child, which carries a maximum punishment of life in prison. By pleading guilty to a lesser charge, her sentence was capped at 30 years, according to the Houston Chronicle.
She also is eligible for deferred adjudication, in which case she will be placed on probation and will have no felony on her record if she successfully completes the terms, the Houston Chronicle reported.
“We're very much hoping for deferred adjudication,” Vera's attorney, Ricardo Rodriguez, said, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Vera told police that she met the boy during summer school in 2015. She said she initially resisted the boy's advances until sometime last fall, when she agreed to hang out with her student.
Prosecutors say Vera and the teen had sex almost every day for nine months. She told investigators that they love each other, according to court documents. During the relationship, Vera told her neighbors that the boy was her brother, according to KHOU, a CBS affiliate.
The boy's parents had known of the relationship since October of last year, and they accepted it, Vera told police.
A police investigation began earlier this year after the school principal received a tip about Vera. She told police that she had gotten pregnant and had an abortion after Child Protective Services questioned her about the relationship in February, according to KTRK-TV, an ABC affiliate.
Vera has been free on a $100,000 bail and has been wearing a GPS ankle monitor. She's scheduled for a sentencing hearing in January.
The now-14-year-old boy, who also admitted to the sexual relationship, is in foster care and will remain there at least until August, according to KHOU. The boy's mother also was investigated by Child Protective Services, according to media reports.