Unspoken abuse: Mothers who rape their sons
by Ginger Gorman
TRIGGER WARNING: This story discusses experiences of childhood sexual abuse, incest and suicide.
“I AM very sorry I brought you so much pain,” Marcus* wrote in his final letter, “Thank you for caring for me. I know I didn't deserve it.”
Marcus died by suicide two years ago and when he did, he left University of Canberra researcher Lucetta Thomas a message.
The sentence that stayed with her was this one: “The only course of action is for you to do something positive, like finish the PhD.”
To an outsider, these could be understood as simple words of encouragement. Lucetta knew their real meaning; this was an urgent final plea.
The PhD she's currently writing is about sons who were sexually abused by their biological mothers — just as Marcus had been.
Since she met him, Lucetta had witnessed Marcus struggling to come to terms with what happened to him in childhood.
“He was not only sexually abused by his mother from a very young age but when he became older and was able to physically prevent her from abusing him, she engaged another friend to be her strong arm so she could continue the acts of sexual violence against him,” Lucetta explains.
“When Marcus died, I knew I had to finish the research. I didn't want this to happen to anyone else. I wanted these men to know they aren't alone and it's not their fault. There is help out there,” she says.
It turns out Marcus is far from alone. For Lucetta's study, 94 men who had been abused by their mothers filled out online surveys. Of that number, she then interviewed 23 men at length over the phone.
“The abuse often started before the child hit puberty, when the child was still quite young, so they had really no concept of what was going on but they were still being coerced or manipulated into performing sexual acts,” she says.
While some boys were mentally coerced into “a full sexual relationship” with their mother, Lucetta explains that others were on the receiving end of “incredible violence” if they tried to resist. Mothers might also withdraw of basic human needs, such as food and shelter.
Hamish,* now in his 50s, was 12 years old the first time he recalls having sex with his mother.
“She had this big bedroom and if we were ever sick or anything like that we'd stay in her bed. One day she just initiated it, she just started touching me and it just went from there.
“She preyed on the fact I was coming into puberty and made me feel important and special,” he tells me.
From this distance Hamish now understands he was just a child when the abuse occurred; he was unable to consent to sex with an adult in a position of power.
At the time though, it was a different story: “I thought I was enjoying it and I thought I was grown up.”
Despite growing up in a wealthy suburb and going to a private school, home life was difficult. His single mother suffered frequent physical illnesses, such as pneumonia and pleurisy. In retrospect Hamish thinks his mother was also mentally unwell.
“It was a good household to be in when my mother was in a good mood and it was a horrible household to be in when she wasn't,” he says, “she would threaten to kill us and she'd lock all the windows and turn on the gas.”
“I got hurt,” Hamish continues, pointing to a decades-old scar on his the top of his head.
Especially when his mother was sick, Hamish cooked, cleaned and went to the shops to get food for the family.
“She saw me as like some sort of de facto relationship, I've got no doubt about that. She'd say: ‘You're the man of the house',” he recalls.
Meanwhile his mother warned him to stay quiet about their sexual relationship.
“People wouldn't understand, you can't ever tell anybody,” she told Hamish.
The truth is that Hamish had no one to disclose the abuse to — and even if he did, was terrified of splitting up his family.
“You're physically and mentally trapped in this relationship and you can't get out of it,” he says.
This isn't an easy interview. When I ask what went through his head during that period in his childhood, Hamish struggles to form an answer. Like so many men in his position, the distress lies not in the words but in the silence.
“[I've] spent most of my life trying to repress these thoughts and memories,” he says, “I haven't talked to anyone for 30 years about it.”
When he was just 15, Hamish's mother died. While making it clear he didn't wish for her death, Hamish is blunt: “She did me a favour … I've always felt that it enabled me, in some respects, to get on with my life.”
He worked damn hard to do just that. Hamish married in the early 90s and fathered two sons of whom he's extremely proud.
About 10 years ago a television news story prompted him to briefly mention the childhood sexual abuse to his wife. After the disclosure he promptly told her: “I never want to talk about it ever again, ever.”
Quietly reflecting on this, he says: “It's really hard to tell someone you love, ‘By the way, my mother abused me and I had sex with my mother'.”
True to his word, Hamish never did discuss it again with his wife — something he has lived to regret.
“I love my wife and for a lot of the time we had a good relationship but this thing [the abuse] came between us,” Hamish says, “it did slowly poison our relationship.”
“Our marriage was never the same after I told her about my mother … just telling her wasn't enough, we needed to get help,” he says.
Three years ago Hamish had an affair and his marriage unravelled. As a result he lost his wife and his business.
“I wish we'd got help together, you know? I might still be married now if I'd got help. But I'm not,” he says with unmistakeable grief.
Despite this, Hamish no longer feels anger when it comes to his mother.
“I feel sorry for her that she couldn't see what she was doing was wrong,” he says.
It's an incredibly confusing situation for victims, explains Lucetta, because “the boys still love their mother” and just like Hamish, “they don't want the family to break apart.”
Lucetta says men who were victims as boys are deterred from disclosing what happened due to the very real fear of not being believed or being blamed for their maternal abuse.
“Society says that males are actually instigators of any sort of sexual relationship, so the child copes with the trauma by telling himself: ‘I must have actually instigated it,'” she says.
Lucetta recruited the men for her research with relative ease. This may lead one to assume this type of abuse is common. Frustratingly though, there seems to be no reliable data on its prevalence — including the Personal Safety Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The way Lucetta sees it, the lack of data leads to both a lack of public awareness and acceptance of mother-to-son sexual abuse and a lack of “support and assistance for these male victims by health professionals.”
Ian,* 70, was also sexually abused by his mother. Unlike Hamish, it happened when he was a much younger child.
“I can remember what her vagina felt like, I can remember what her body felt like and I as a child felt all yucky about it,” he recalls.
Up until the age of eight, Ian says he slept in his mother's bed and was asked to perform sexual acts on her, such as sucking her nipples.
“I hated her because of abuse,” he says, “I had a list of people who I wanted dead and she was on that list.”
The family dynamic was complicated. Ian, his two brothers, mother and her husband — we'll call him John — lived in poverty in rural South Australia.
“I was born illegitimately,” Ian says, “and he [John] knew that because he wasn't sleeping with my mother.”
“My whole life I felt guilt and shame because I shouldn't have been in existence,” he says.
Growing up, Ian “just existed” rather than living. John kicked Ian's mother and her children out of the house several times.
“I was shunned, I wasn't wanted. I felt that even from my cousins, uncles and aunties, grandparents,” Ian says.
For Ian, the childhood abuse “manipulated my sexuality and impacted my ability to operate as a person.”
“How can you have a healthy sexual relationship? How can you become a father, husband, grandfather?” he asks.
Throughout adulthood, Ian has been plagued by feelings of isolation, guilt, low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. He's also battled a “dysfunctional sex life” and attempted suicide a number of times.
Ian describes “a paralysis” inside him and states: “I don't think I've loved anybody in my life [and] didn't know what love was.”
Although Ian is still married to his wife and has been for nearly 50 years, he confesses to having a number of extramarital affairs and visiting escorts for sex.
In a lighter moment, he jokingly refers to this as “a very good form of therapy.”
Only in the last six years — and after decades of counselling and therapy — does Ian feel he's started to recover.
“I honestly believe she [his mother] had probably been sexually abused herself,” he says, adding: “I feel pity for her.”
“I had to forgive my late mother in order to recover,” Ian explains.
In the context of Lucetta's research, Ian is unusual because he considers himself mentally healthy.
She says: “Out of all the males that I spoke to I would say only one had actually come to terms with what had happened to him.”
The sexual abuse of “these men when boys is often highly traumatic and at times extremely violent and impacted on their psychological, biosocial and physical development,” Lucetta says.
Far from healing over time, the impacts of this mother-to-son childhood sexual abuse seem to continue.
“There seemed to be a recurrence of the trauma building up over the years,” she says, “so from the late 30s onwards, it was really starting to become an issue for them.”
As adults, the majority of men in Lucetta's study felt “very trapped, very isolated, very afraid and very unsure of how to go about getting help and understanding the power dynamics that they had been subjected to.”
“One gentleman, sadly, was completely house bound. He basically just felt that it was completely impossible to trust anybody or to be out in society because he had so little self-regard,” she says.
According to Lucetta, society's beliefs about gender are effectively stopping a cohort of male victims disclosing their abuse and accessing support.
“They have experienced the same forms of trauma, the same forms of sexual abuse and emotional and psychological abuse as any victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault and they need to be taken seriously and they need to be believed.
“It is time to break the long-held view of mothers as only ever gentle and caring females, so that the sexual abuse of sons by their biological mother is acknowledged,” she says.
For Hamish's part, he urges other survivors of mother to son abuse to reach out for help.
“You can't just bottle it up and think that it will go away, because it doesn't ever go away,” he says. And he would know.
* Names and some personal details have been changed for privacy reasons.
If you're a bloke who is impacted by sexual abuse, call Mensline 24/7 on 1300 78 99 78 or visit www.mensline.org.au
You can also call Lifeline on 131114 or chat online at www.lifeline.org.au
In an emergency, call 000
For a detailed listing of support services for victims child sex abuse, see this page from The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Local child sex trafficking survivor urges the community to spot the warning signs
by Nathan O'Neal
LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) — As the popular website for classified advertisements – Backpage.com – faces accusations that it shields criminal activity including child sex trafficking, one local survivor of the forced sex trade wants the community to learn how to spot the warning signs.
Randy Carter, 46, remembers the horrifying moments when he was forced into prostitution by a family friend. He was only eight years old at the time and the abuse continued for nearly five years.
“It was four pimps that were molesting me and they were selling me off to other pimps. I never told anyone because I didn't want people making fun of me. I didn't want my family to look at me differently,” said Carter.
Human trafficking survivors like Carter worry about the adult culture fostered in Las Vegas, especially when mixed with all the online tools used to recruit children.
For example, online sites for classified ads like Backpage.com are a trove for people looking to buy sex.
“They're looking for weak-willed children,” said Carter.
Backpage pulled its adult section on the website in the United States this week amid a scathing Congressional investigation that accuses the site of facilitating child sex trafficking among other criminal activity. Company executives have denied the claim and called the pressure placed on the site a violation of its First Amendment rights.
However, Backpage is just one tool in the illegal trade used by pimps to prey on hundreds of children in Nevada each year.
Trent Stephenson who is a case manager at the rehabilitation center Solutions Recovery said drugs and alcohol are often used by traffickers as tools of manipulation.
“It gives control to those doing the sex trafficking; it also makes the victim reliant on them and others,” said Stephenson.
But how do you spot a child sex trafficking victim? Carter says you just have to look around you.
“Thirteen or 14 years old with tattoos and you can tell that they're under the influence and they stay out at all different times of the night,” said Carter.
Carter's advice to parents: “Be more active in your children's lives … pay attention to who they hang around with.”
Critics: Sex assault law changes 'dangerous'
by Shawne K. Wickham
The testimony of victims would have to be corroborated in most sexual assault cases, under a bill coming up for a hearing this week.
Proponents say the measure would better protect those falsely accused of such crimes.
But victim advocates and law enforcement officials say the bill is "dangerous" and would reverse decades of progress that New Hampshire has made on victims' rights.
Under current law (RSA 632-A:6), "the testimony of the victim shall not be required to be corroborated in prosecutions" in sexual assault cases.
House Bill 106 would change that to read: "The testimony of the victim shall be corroborated in prosecutions under this chapter only in cases where the defendant has no prior convictions under this chapter."
And that would be the vast majority of such cases, says Amanda Grady Sexton, director of public policy for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. "What this does is it sends a message that victims of sexual assault are not to be believed," she said.
Passing the bill, Grady Sexton said, would have "a chilling effect" on offenders being held accountable. And, she warned, "the savviest of all sexual predators would certainly be getting a pass."
House Bill 106 is one of two measures to change how sexual assault cases are handled in court that come before the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday. Recent cases at St. Paul's School in Concord and Phillips Exeter Academy, and a court battle over victim privacy rights in the Lizzi Marriott murder case, have brought the issue under intense public scrutiny.
Rep. William Marsh, R-Wolfeboro, says he sponsored the bill after a Bow psychologist was convicted last year of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old male patient in 2015.
Foad Afshar, 56, a father of three and a licensed psychotherapist, is serving a 3-to-6-year sentence in a Massachusetts prison. He is appealing his conviction and seeking a new trial, based in part on the discovery that two jurors disclosed during deliberations that they had been childhood victims of sexual abuse.
Colleagues and former patients have rallied to support Afshar, and the state Supreme Court has agreed to hear his case.
Marsh, a retired ophthalmologist, said Afshar is "a personal friend" of his daughter, who met him in an art class Afshar taught at New Hampshire Institute of Art.
When he looked into the case at her request, Marsh said, he was "shocked that we've actually been putting people behind bars with no other evidence than the testimony of a single person."
"Requiring corroborating evidence only for people who've never had convictions is a very small amount to move the bar, but it's enough, I think, to give people a little bit of protection," he said.
But the bill doesn't define what constitutes corroborating evidence, Grady Sexton said. Physical evidence in such cases is rare, because often there's a delay in reporting the crime, she said.
Under Marsh's bill, "In order for a sexual predator to be convicted, there would have to be an eyewitness who viewed the sexual assault," she said, adding that would be "very rare."
"The majority of the time, these are crimes that happen behind closed doors, with trusted individuals."
New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, New Hampshire Police Association and the county attorneys all oppose the bill, according to Grady Sexton.
Concord Police Det. Sgt. Sean Ford plans to testify against House Bill 106 at Tuesday's hearing. He called the measure "dangerous" and said it "would almost destroy the ability to investigate and bring these people to justice."
"The sex offenders are cheering for this one," he said.
Det. Lt. Nicole Ledoux is supervisor of the domestic violence/sexual assault and juvenile units for Manchester police department. She said sexual assault, whether against an adult or a child, is a crime "like no other."
It's very difficult for a victim to come forward, and even more difficult for them to testify about what happened in front of 12 jurors, a judge and their abuser, she said.
"And what we want to say to them is you're less believable because your perpetrator was never convicted?" she asked.
Ledoux said she believes the bill would violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. "You can't hold the victims of a sexual assault perpetrator that's never been convicted to a different standard of proof than victims of any other sexual assault," she said. "It doesn't make sense."
Ford said sexual assaults are "the most horrifying" crimes to investigate. "These are evil things that these people do," he said. "These people are predators. They're chameleon-like and they walk among us."
Both investigators said police always strive to find corroborating evidence in every case.
And Ford said the most "heart-wrenching" cases are those in which police can't make the case and bring the attacker to justice. "These things are done in places where there are no fingerprints, there's no DNA; there's no store video," he said.
Marsh said he understands his bill may make it more difficult to get a conviction in some cases. But he said, "Generally, in our judicial system, we've always tried to have a bias that we would rather see a guilty person go free than to put an innocent person in jail.".
Psychologist Michael Kandle, who has known Foad Afshar professionally for 15 years, started the website Justice for Foad. He plans to testify in favor of Marsh's bill.
Kandle said he treats victims of both childhood and adult sexual abuse and is a strong advocate for victims' rights. He's convinced of Afshar's innocence.
"Those who know him know him to be compassionate, caring, competent, ethical, devoted, and if he has any personal fault, for lack of a better word, it's that he puts the welfare of his clients ahead of his own," he said.
The New Hampshire Psychological Association opposes the bill. In a statement, the organization said it understands the desire to reduce wrongful convictions for sexual assault but does not support the proposed changes to the law.
"Sexual assault victims already face significant challenges when seeking justice, and corroborating evidence is not always available. This proposed change places a higher onus on victims and may especially disadvantage children," the NHPA said.
Requiring corroborating evidence for those without prior convictions also "provides added protection to first time offenders and could lead to unintended and very harmful consequences," the statement went on.
"The NHPA understands that wrongful convictions do sometimes occur and the harm they cause is also very real. We support individual rights to appeal such convictions and the legal right to redress in those cases. The issues embedded in this struggle for justice, both for victims and the wrongly accused, are complex and deserve more thorough consideration."
Many of Afshar's supporters are expected to attend Tuesday's hearing.
Grady Sexton also predicts opponents of the bill will pack the hearing room on Tuesday. "I think the bravery of so many of the victim survivors that have come forward has resonated, and it's really empowered a lot of other survivors in the state to speak up and speak out," she said.
The hearing on House Bill 106 starts at 10 a.m. in Room 204 of the Legislative Office Building.
One father's fight to remove his name from child abuse register
by Matthew Spina
John M. Mylett is a former Coast Guardsman and police officer with a serious manner. He's also a noncustodial father who is not to be trifled with on matters concerning his daughter's care.
Over a three-year period, he called the Child Abuse Hotline more than a dozen times to complain about the girl's mother or her home situation. He made false claims about the mom to her employer, jeopardizing her job. When the child told him over the phone she had a stomachache, he had sheriff's deputies check on her.
A custody battle was going on, and accusations were flying both ways. But with Mylett creating a steady ruckus, Erie County's department of Child Protective Services decided he had emotionally harmed his 10-year-old.
The agency placed his name on the state's Child Abuse and Maltreatment Register. It's a list of people deemed unfit for jobs caring for children, and the stigma can reverberate in many ways. For Mylett, a Family Court judge restricted his access to his child.
That's where it gets interesting. Mylett did not just roll over. He fought the system and won. Easily. Here's what his case reveals:
• Each year, CPS workers use a low standard of proof to place thousands of names on the register. But roughly half of the adults who challenge the action before an administrative law judge win, according to the State Office of Children and Family Services.
• The reversal rate, unseen in other types of legal proceedings, comes about because the judges seek a higher standard of proof than child-protective agencies may use to place a name on the register.
• Case workers sometimes play the role of psychiatrist or psychologist to assert that a child has suffered “emotional impairment” or “emotional neglect” and a specific adult is to blame. They do so even though their state manual urges them to turn to a mental health professional for proof that a child suffered emotional injury.
• Agencies in New York are to follow up on every report sent their way, leading to tens of thousands of investigations that can traumatize or annoy children when there's nothing there. Case workers have added adults to the register for calling in suspicions that didn't pan out. Not all of those callers were as prolific as Mylett.
His case came to a head in 2014, when Erie County's child-protective agency was reeling from the high-profile deaths of three boys at the hands of parents or caretakers over a two-year period. The three victims, 10 years of age or younger, had each been the subject of reports to CPS. Clearly, the CPS workers had bigger concerns.
The agency's top officials believe they did the right thing with Mylett.
"We will always do what's in the best interests of the child," said Al Dirschberger, the county Social Services commissioner.
He added: "Administrative law judges overturn cases all the time."
The case worker who in 2014 blamed Mylett for the emotional neglect of his 10-year-old had a file that included 17 complaints about the mother's care or the daughter's home situation.
Mylett called in 15 of them over 36 months.
He alleged, among other things: the girl would be left unsupervised; other adults in the home used excessive corporal punishment with their children, and he feared for his own child; the other adults lacked good judgment; their drinking endangered the youngsters.
“I'm a very protective dad, there's no doubt about it," Mylett said.
He asked sheriff's deputies to check on his daughter when she told him she had a stomachache. He told his wife's employer she had been convicted of child endangerment when she hadn't been. The woman, who did not want to comment for this article, had Mylett charged with harassment for calling and emailing her too much about their daughter.
Each report to the hotline required lengthy investigation and follow-up. There were visits to the home, and the children were pulled from class to answer questions.
None of Mylett's complaints were made up from whole cloth, and some were proved true. For example: There were times when his daughter was unsupervised because of her mother's work schedule. But each investigation found their daughter was safe, cared for and well-adjusted.
Mylett and his daughter seem to have a good relationship. There's a playful give-and-take between the two. He's satisfied with the outcome of the custody case, and he remains a significant presence in her life.
But in 2014, the Erie County case worker, Rachel Laubisch, talked with the girl about the father's reports to CPS. She learned the child wanted them to end. Within weeks, Laubisch prepared a letter telling Mylett that he had been “indicated,” meaning she found credible evidence to show he mistreated the child by calling the hotline or directly emailing CPS officials so many times.
Mylett's name would be stamped into the Child Abuse and Maltreatment Register until the girl became a woman of 28.
At first glance, this wouldn't be horrible for him. While people on the register are usually blocked from working in any setting that serves children, Mylett was 55 at the time and had no plan to begin a new career in a child-care field.
But a Family Court judge, Mylett said, ordered that his time with his daughter be supervised. He would be less likely to serve as a volunteer at his daughter's school if the school checked the register. To him, the blot on his name would devastate his wish for custody and drain his confidence as a dad.
“It cuts to the core, and shatters the foundation of a child-parent relationship,” Mylett said.
In Mylett's case, a reversal was no surprise.
The state's Child Protective Services Program Manual urges child-protective workers to turn to a psychiatric or psychological professional to determine if there has been emotional harm.
This licensed professional could then conclude — to a “reasonable medical certainty,” the manual says — whether a parent contributed to the child's impairment and bolster any action taken, such as placing the parent's name on the register.
Laubisch, according to records in the case, did none of this before blaming Mylett for the emotional neglect that his daughter supposedly suffered.
The administrative law judge presiding over Mylett's appeal, Daniel U. Scott, concluded the case worker had only consulted with a clinical adviser on staff who never met Mylett's daughter.
County CPS officials say the guidance in the state's program manual is a suggestion, not a rule, and that many similar cases survive appeals. A key state agency seems to agree. But Mylett's reversal hinged on the manual's guidance not being followed, and other factors as well.
For one, the judge questioned whether the girl had suffered at all, because her school principal described her as a pupil with normal attendance and good scores who was moving through the grades as expected, with no behavioral issues.
As for Mylett complaining too much, even CPS found his latest complaint was not frivolous, the judge indicated. The agency agreed the suggestive pictures Mylett had found on his daughter's cellphone were inappropriate for a child her age. The agency did not find the mother at fault and linked the acquisition of the photos to the family friend who gave the child the used device.
Judge Scott concluded that Child Protective Services did not prove its case by a “fair preponderance of the evidence,” which in legal shorthand means more likely than not. He ordered the child-welfare agency to reverse its findings on Mylett and seal the records.
This was a major victory for Mylett, especially when considering he had represented himself. But he wasn't done. He believes the agency intended to hurt his standing in the custody case and has spent the following months trying to prod state and federal agencies that might have some oversight role to take action. So far, he has been unsuccessful.
The ‘higher threshold'
As Al Dirschberger, the county Social Services commissioner said, “administrative law judges overturn cases all the time.”
In 2015, the year Mylett won his appeal, 5,000 people across the state challenged their addition to the Child Abuse and Maltreatment Register. About half of those people who went before a judge won, according to the Office of Children and Family Services. Erie County provided records that show it lost appeal hearings at a similar rate in 2015.
The reversal rate has been higher. Lawyers who readied a class-action lawsuit against the Office of Children and Family Services in 2004 found that more than 60 percent of the people who sought hearings in that era had their names stricken from the register.
The lawyers were suing on behalf of more than 20,000 people denied the right to clear their names. The Office of Children and Family Services had addressed a years-long backlog by shredding thousands of requests for hearings. The state settled the case by guaranteeing a hearing to anyone who had requested one in a timely manner.
Throughout the system, officials attribute the high rate of reversals to the different standards of proof that exist between the case workers who indicate adults and the administrative law judges who hear the appeals. Case workers need to find only “credible evidence” to uphold a report of abuse or neglect. This standard allows them to ignore evidence to the contrary.
The administrative law judges who hear appeals need to see a “preponderance of the evidence,” which means the allegation is more likely true than not.
This gap contributes to a sense on the part of child-protective workers that they have done nothing wrong if they “indicate” an adult but lose on appeal.
That's exactly what Amanda Darling, regional director of the state Office of Children and Family Services, told Mylett when she sent him a letter recently backing up Erie County's decision-making process, even though he had appealed his case and won.
It's “a higher threshold,” she said.
CPS stands firm
“I'm sure it can be abused,” Mylett said of the Child Abuse Hotline. “But I never did.”
Mylett's calls certainly added to the roughly 1,000 reports referred each month to Erie County's CPS. But to illustrate that he was right to be concerned about the environment in his daughter's home, he noted that an adult male living there was recently charged with driving while intoxicated — his second DWI arrest. Deputies said they found the man driving the wrong way on Route 219.
CPS officials disagree with Mylett. In an interview, Director Sharon Rochelle and Legal Affairs Director Marni Bogart said they couldn't talk abut his case specifically but could talk generally about cases that play out amid custody battles.
Said Rochelle: “If we have a child who is old enough to make the statement that they ‘can't take this anymore,' and they are feeling like they are being used in a custody battle, and it's not stopping, and the reports continuously come in, we have to take a stand on that."
She added: “There are times when we have to stand firm in our decision, because at the time it was the right thing to do.”
But what did they accomplish? asks Carolyn A. Kubitschek.
She is an attorney in New York City who helps parents squaring off against child-protection officials. She argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to rein in the agencies, and she serves as a consultant for the Family Defense Center in Chicago.
She once represented a custodial mother whose 6-year-old daughter returned from a visit to her dad's house with a healthy sexual vocabulary. The mother feared the child had been abused and called the hotline.
The child had not been abused, it turned out. She had just learned too much from a teenage girl living in the dad's home. The case workers then accused the 6-year-old's mother of harming the teenager by making a false report. They added the mother's name to the registry, Kubitschek said.
To her, case workers around the state too often come to their own conclusions about a child's emotional state when they have no such training.
Told of Mylett's case, Kubitschek suggested Erie County's CPS officials look inward.
If the CPS workers believed the daughter was being harmed because the father triggered too many investigations, they did nothing to protect the girl, Kubitschek said.
Even when “indicated," Mylett was still free to call the hotline.
Town hall meeting to explore effects of child abuse
by Amy Macavinta
A local Utah legislator and a local advocate for children impacted by abuse are hosting a town hall meeting to bring awareness to the impact domestic violence can have on brain development, health and behavior in children.
Adverse Childhood Experiences will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, at the Utah Theater. It is free to attend and is open to the public.
The ACE Town Hall will be moderated by Jason Williams from KVNU and will include a showing of the film "Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope."
"'Resilience' is a one-hour documentary that delves into the science of Adverse Childhood Experiences and the birth of a new movement to treat and prevent toxic stress," according to promotional materials.
CAPSA will have several employees in attendance, including Codie Thurgood, CAPSA's Children and Teen Therapist. Thurgood will be included on a discussion panel of local children health and human service professionals that will follow the documentary.
The event was organized by Ronni Adams of Logan, the director of the Utah Chapter for the Stop Abuse Campaign, a nationwide organization focused on preventing trauma in children.
“As a survivor of domestic violence, I saw the impact it had on my child and how many children continue to be traumatized because our family courts allow unsupervised custody and visitation to abusive partners,” Adams said. “My goal is to bring awareness to the impact of trauma on our children and work to increase protection for them.”
She has partnered with Utah Representative Ed Redd to raise awareness of the real issue of extreme trauma to children. In addition, she is working toward passage of the Safe Child Act, legislation intended to require increased training for family court professionals tasked with making decisions about the placement of children with abusive parents.
According to the Childhood Domestic Violence Association, 5 million children in the U.S. witness domestic violence each year. Children who have experienced domestic violence often are diagnostic with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the effects on their brain are similar to those experienced by combat veterans, the organization says. Additionally, children of domestic violence are three times more likely to repeat the cycle in adulthood
“Extreme trauma associated with domestic violence and sexual abuse has a significant impact on the children of our clients,” said Jill Anderson, Executive Director of CAPSA. “These children are secondary victims of the abuse, but their trauma is just as significant. This is why CAPSA has developed our children programs to help the children of our clients also rid abuse from their life today and in the future.”
CAPSA's children services include safety planning for families leaving an abusive home, play therapy, children and teen groups, life skill training, prevention education, youth council and awareness/educational events.
Anyone who feels unsafe at home or within the confines of a relationship should call CAPSA's 24-hour emergency support phone line at (435)753-2500. A person in immediate danger should call 911.
Child Sexual Abuse: In The Social Context
by Dr Shruti Kapoor and Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi
“On this fateful day, like every other day, I had entered into my grandparent's landlord's house to play. One of those men with no blood relations you had to refer to ‘uncle' because they were older and close to the family asked that I sit on his lap. My innocent five-year-old self-did, oblivious to the constant pokes in my private part alongside push and forward movement my body had been subjected to. The experience continued to haunt me as I could not understand and reconcile how my body changed, turned. Growing up, however, in the understanding of the concept of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) helped me realize what this incident.” ? Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi
CSA is a form of child abuse whereby an adult uses a child for any form of sexual relation/activity. CSA in Nigeria is one of the most silenced and under-reported forms of violence perpetrated against children. According to a research carried out by UNICEF in 2015, six out of ten children in Nigeria experience emotional, physical or sexual abuse before the age of 18. This is compounded by the inability of children to identify what crime has been committed against them. Sex education is one of the issues parents fail to discuss either due to lack of awareness on the discourse or their belief that it is alien to us. Many times, children are unable to express such abuses. Many cultures in Nigeria, for example, place hyper-emphasis on the need to respect elders, this is often pushed to the point of shunning children whenever they attempt making reports against the older ones ? a culture many abusers thrive on.
Parents, sometimes fail to teach their children proper names and functions of their sexual organs making communication of abuse from the child to the parents difficult. A child, who for example, is taught that his penis is called wee-wee could be misunderstood when trying to describe sexual assault to his parents, such will be dismissed as a called to use the toilet or potty to “wee wee”.
Unfortunately, CSA is not only a Nigerian or African issue, it is a worldwide epidemic although the context varies per country. During #Sayftychat (a weekly twitter chat conducted by Sayfty) on CSA, it was evident that this issue encompasses various elements such as touching, watching pornography with underaged children among other things. According to Jodie Ortega, one of the #Sayftychat participants, “In Philippine culture, there's the widespread habit of physical contact. No boundaries.” While in Canada, on the other hand, “there is the ? hug, high five or fist bump options.” Another also relayed how CSA by family members is a “legacy” in her family. Complaining about this always met with silence and caution on the need to accept this as “normal.”
It is important to note that CSA is not gender specific, male children are also abused. Countless boys have opened up to Sayfty on the abuse they faced from a tender age from housemaids, uncles or other relatives. Each handling the abuse differently, some have come to normalize it, others have built walls around themselves as a form of denying the occurrence of the incident.
How can CSA be curbed?
Creating awareness on CSA to bring a shift in behavior is key as many people do not have proper knowledge on what CSA entails ? comprehensive sex education is a necessity.
For instance, organizations like Stand to End Rape (STER) Initiative in Nigeria recently launched a FREE self-defense class for girls of all ages to disarm abusers from gaining access to their bodies. This is in addition to providing support services to victims of sexual violence, while also changing community perception on the discourse. In India, Sayfty is educating and empowering women and girls against violence through its self-defense workshops and online campaigns. We must also educate parents on the importance of comprehensive sexuality education for children, both male and female between ages 4 and above, which cannot be overestimated.
There is a need to change the culture of “silence” on CSA and taboo on comprehensive sexuality education. This responsibility does not only rest with parents alone; Churches, Schools and the community at large have this responsibility too. Discussing sex to raise the child's awareness about abuse as well as building their capacity to make informed choices should not be a taboo, the lack of it, should be.
Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi is the Executive Director of Stand To End Rape Initiative in Nigeria, an organization raising awareness on sexual violence and working to end this through education, support for victims of rape, and changing community perceptions towards sexual violence. She is a 2015 Vital Voices Fellow and a highly commended runner-up of the 2017 Queen's Young Leaders Awards.
Dr. Shruti Kapoor is the Founder of Sayfty, an organization that educates and empowers women and girls against all forms of violence. She is India's 50 Rising Stars and a member of the UN Women's Interagency Network For Youth and Gender Equality Working Group.
Need help? Visit RAINN's National Sexual Assault Online Hotline.
The true cost of child sexual abuse
by Nikki Dubose
After failing to change the law last year, New York State is set once again to consider doing away with the statute of limitations on prosecuting sex crimes against children — this time with Gov. Cuomo hopefully leading the reform charge against a likely intransigent state Senate.
Under current statutes, a victim must seek justice in criminal or civil court by her 23rd birthday, or she loses the opportunity to do so forever.
To understand why this is so perverse, you have to try to grasp the psychological impact that child sex abuse has on those subjected to it.
I was sexually abused at age 8 by a male figure, and then again by my mother from the ages of 9 to 13 until the police removed me from my home. There was a lot of domestic violence and physical abuse, but the sexual abuse impacted me the most. I developed eating disorders, depression, psychosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation. I dropped out of high school and failed out of college twice.
I ultimately managed to get my high school diploma and eventually succeeded at college, but not before I became addicted to drugs, alcohol and sex, and was nearly homeless in my early 20s. I had no direction and zero self-esteem.
It wasn't until after my mother died an alcoholic almost five years ago and I left my modeling career due to anorexia nervosa that therapy finally helped me to uncover the repressed memories of sexual abuse.
By this time, I had blown through hundreds of thousands of dollars due to my mental illnesses, including the loss of my house. It took everything I had to get better, and with eating disorder treatment costing anywhere from $500 a day to $30,000 a month, I had to search for alternative care.
I hope my experience sheds light on why it is cruel and unrealistic to expect people violated as boys and girls to be emotionally ready to face their abusers by the time they turn 23.
But if that doesn't persuade the state Senate, led by Sen. John Flanagan of Long Island, to join Cuomo and finally change the statute of limitations, I'd like to make an appeal on other grounds that fiscal conservatives might appreciate: the huge and largely hidden costs to society.
Child sexual trauma is immensely expensive, carrying an average lifetime fiscal impact of more than $210,000 per child, according to the most recent study published in the journal Child Abuse and Neglect.
That includes the not-insubstantial costs of dealing with learning disabilities and mental illnesses such as depression, suicide, eating disorders and more, many of which result from child sexual abuse.
Tack on other indirect costs, such as depleted jobs and the strain on public health programs, and sexual abuse costs society billions of dollars a year, much of which is shouldered by taxpayers.
I don't mean to suggest that we can put a price tag on having your soul taken away. As advocate June Busacco of Brooklyn puts it, “No amount (of money) can compare to the brutal treatment” she received as a child. But the unacceptably high price society pays can and should underline the unfathomable pain subjected upon thousands of individuals — pain that society has an obligation to face, not ignore.
I give Cuomo additional credit for pushing to open a one-year window during which those who suffered from past abuse can pursue claims, even as he works to lengthen the statute of limitations going forward.
I have heard the claims from those who say that lengthening statutes of limitations will make it too easy for innocent people to get dragged through the mud. That's just not true. The high standard of proving a case in a court of law will still apply. The only thing adjusting the statute does is give people who were victimized the opportunity to seek justice.
An old proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” That is how we must view fixing the state's statute of limitations on sexual abuse committed against children. No one, particularly New York's boys and girls, can afford to wait any longer.
Incomplete justice for abuse victims without retroactivity
The Pennsylvania Legislature is expected to again consider extending the state's statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, a proposal passed in 2016 by the House but watered down in the Senate.
A central issue is whether the lifting of the statute should be retroactive for civil cases – meaning should victims be permitted to sue for damages in cases that might be decades old.
Last year, the House approved retroactivity while the Senate pulled that stipulation from its legislation.
We urge both chambers to pass raising the statute of limitations and making the change retroactive – providing some measure of justice for sexual assault victims.
The Catholic Church and the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania oppose the measure. That's understandable, as they would risk losing millions of dollars either settling old cases or, if required by the courts, paying damages.
Victims advocates say those abused by priests and others have suffered greatly from the experience. Many struggle in their personal relations, and experience depression and substance abuse. Some turn to suicide.
Johnstown native Shaun Dougherty is a vocal proponent of lifting the statute for child sexual abuse and making the change retroactive.
Dougherty has said he was abused by a priest when he was a boy, and came forward after the state attorney general's report last March that said at least 50 clergy members across the Roman Catholic Diocese of Atloona-Johnstown had engaged in abuse over several decades, as their crimes were covered up by the church.
Dougherty said his mission is to make sure “that I have done everything that I possibly can do to prevent this from happening to another child.” He has launched a petition on the website Change.org asking people to join his stance.
He told reporter Dave Sutor in September: “What other people have to say to themselves when they look in the mirror is up to them. But I don't see how you can be Christian and think that this is OK and think that this should just be quieted and hushed again.”
The National Conference of State Legislatures notes on its website – which tracks statutes of limitations across all states – that one argument for extending the statute is “delayed discovery” of the abuse.
“Child victims frequently do not discover the relationship of their psychological injuries to the abuse until well into adulthood – usually during the course of psychological counseling or therapy. They may not even discover the fact of such abuse until they undergo such therapy,” the group says.
We have no question concerning the moral aspect of this issue. Raising the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse and making that status retroactive is the right decision on behalf of victims.
Whether the move could pass constitutional muster is another factor.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony in 2016 from individuals on both sides of this debate, with lawyers representing the victims' side arguing that retroactively lifting the statutes would not violate the Pennsylvania Constitution while attorneys representing the church and insurance industry argued the other direction.
Constitutionality of lifting the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse is a concern of the courts.
The Legislature should be focused on making the fair, appropriate and just decision for the people of Pennsylvania.
These elected officials should put the rights of individuals – victims of unspeakable acts – above the interest of lobbyists and special interests.
There should be no deadline for receiving due process for the violation of sexual abuse.
That includes financial compensation for pain and suffering.
Kamiyah Mobley reunites with biological parents after she was abducted from Florida hospital at birth 18 years ago
by Jessica Schladebeck and Rich Schapiro
A woman who was stolen at birth 18 years ago met her biological parents for the first time Saturday in an emotional reunion at a South Carolina police station.
Kamiyah Mobley, 18, spent 45 minutes with her birth parents Craig Aiken and Shanara Mobley at the Walterboro Police Department in the latest twist to a case that has stunned the nation.
“I told her I was glad to see her and that I loved her,” Aiken told reporters afterward.
“The first meeting was beautiful. It's a feeling that you can't explain.”
Kamiyah Mobley was only eight hours old when a woman posing as a nurse snatched her from a Florida hospital in July 1998.
Mobley grew up in rural South Carolina as a young girl named Alexis Manigo. She had no way of knowing that the woman who raised her was in fact a kidnapper.
But that woman, Gloria Williams, 51, was arrested Friday after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received a tip that it passed along to authorities.
Williams was charged with kidnapping and interference with custody. She could face up to life in prison if convicted.
An anguished Mobley rushed to a detention center in Walterboro to see Williams.
Separated by a mesh screen, Williams blew a kiss to the girl she raised as her own.
“I love you, Momma,” the sobbing teenager responded.
In a Saturday Facebook post, Mobley elaborated on her feelings about Williams.
“She raised me with everything I needed and most of all everything I wanted,” Mobley wrote. “My mother is no felon. The ignorant ones won't understand that.”
Neighbors were stunned by the news of Williams' arrest.
“She seemed like a normal person,” Lakeshia Jenkins said. “She went to work, came back here and went to church every Sunday.”
Williams and the girl would often come to the home of Jenkins and her husband Joseph for cookouts in the yard.
Mobley appeared to be well-cared for, according to the Jenkinses.
“She wasn't an abused child or a child who got in trouble,” Joseph Jenkins said of the young woman who lived across the street. “But she grew up with a lie for 18 years.”
In the hours after she learned of her true identity, Mobley connected with her biological family for the first time since she was stolen from Jacksonville University Medical Center.
“Nobody works (a) miracle but God. I know now he heard my prayers,” her grandmother, Velma Aiken, told the Daily News after FaceTiming with her newly found grandchild.
Aiken said she still remembers seeing Kamiyah being taken by an unknown woman wearing a nurse's uniform in the hours after she was born.
Williams had reportedly suffered a miscarriage about a week before she drove from South Carolina to the Florida hospital, where she allegedly snatched the newborn, according to Walterboro Live.
At the time, police launched a massive search for the missing baby and received thousands of tips over the years — but the infant, who later grew up to be a teenager, was never found.
A few months ago, Mobley “had an inclination” that she may have been kidnapped. A DNA analysis completed on Friday confirmed she was the missing baby.
Authorities did not reveal what led the teen to question her origins.
Robert Lowery, of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, would not say who supplied the tip that broke open the case.
It was one of an estimated 2,500 tips authorities had received over the years.
The center has tracked 308 infant abductions since 1983 by nonfamily members. Of those cases, 12 were still missing at the end of last month, officials said.
“Everyone broke down in tears” after they learned the news, Aiken said.
“She looks just like her daddy,” Aiken told The Associated Press after they were able to see each other for the first time.
“She act like she been talking to us all the time. She told us she'd be here soon to see us.”
Infant kidnapped from hospital found safe 18 years later
by Joshua Rhett Miller
A newborn kidnapped from a hospital in Florida in 1998 has been found safe in South Carolina – and the woman who posed as her mother for nearly two decades has been arrested, authorities said Friday.
Kamiyah Mobley, who was snatched from a hospital in Jacksonville on July 10, 1998, has been found safe after authorities received a series of tips through the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams told reporters during a news conference.
“For law enforcement, even when a case is deemed cold, we're always looking for new information, a tip or an advancement of technology that furthers that investigation,” Williams said. “This is what we strive for – justice for our victims no matter how long it takes. So, today I am announcing such a case.”
Williams said two tips received late last year – the latest of more than 2,500 leads in the case since 1998 – led investigators to Waltersboro, S.C., where detectives located an 18-year-old woman with the same date of birth as Mobley but a different name. Further investigation revealed that fraudulent documents were used to establish the woman's identity and a subsequent DNA test proved that she was in fact Mobley, according to Williams, who declined to disclose the identity she had assumed for 18 years.
“Please remember that this young woman was abducted as a newborn and she's going to need time and assistance to process all of this,” Williams said.
Williams declined to say whether Mobley will reunite with her family.
“She has to make that decision,” he said. “I don't know if it's going to happen or not. Imagine the gravity of the situation she's dealing with.”
The woman Mobley had been living with, Gloria Williams, 51, was arrested and charged with kidnapping and interference with custody. She will be extradited back to Jacksonville, Williams said.
“We do believe she may have had an idea she was kidnapping victim,” Williams said of Mobley.
Mobley, according to the Florida Times-Union, was kidnapped in 1998 by a woman posing as nurse who grabbed the newborn from her mother's hospital room and disappeared.
The woman had been roaming around University Medical Center – which is now UF Health Jacksonville – and spent five hours with the newborn's mother, Shanara Mobley, before claiming Kamiyah had a fever and needed medical attention.
The woman, dressed in a blue floral smock and green medical scrubs, placed the 8-pound girl in a blanket and left the room with a purse slung over her shoulder. Authorities and relatives said they thought the woman was a nurse, while nurses mistook her as a family member, the Florida Union-Times reports.
Mobley, then 26, told the newspaper on the 10th anniversary of the kidnapping that it was stressful to wake up knowing her child was “out there” somewhere and she had no way to reach her.
“The main thing that beats you up the most is … you don't know nothing,” Mobley said.
Velma Aiken, the girl's grandmother, said she remembers seeing the woman when she entered Mobley's room and was suspicious that she had a pocketbook.
Officers searched each room in the hospital and other law enforcement agencies were called to assist in the investigation, including the FBI.
Utah Valley Special Victims Unit is a voice for the voiceless
by Kelsey Robertson
A 12-year-old boy was reported Tuesday as having spent at least a year locked in a bathroom in Washington County, leaving at a weight of 30 pounds. Reports like these open the community's eyes to the larger issue of child abuse in the U.S. and how often it occurs.
A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds in the United States. Utah receives almost 60,000 reports of child abuse each year, which is enough children to fill a football stadium according to childhelp.org.
The Utah Valley Special Victims Unit Task Force, commonly known as SVU, is responsible for helpings survivors of sexual abuse to find justice.
“I was over the fugitive task force (before coming to SVU), and we just kind of went around and caught felons who had warrants out for their arrests,” SVU Sgt. Jason Randall said. “So that was fun, but this is better.”
Many people believe Utah does not carry its full weight in child abuse statistics each year because it is a more religious state said Sgt. Randall. The truth is Utah is right on par with every other state when it comes to these types of cases.
One in every four girls will have been sexually abused by the age of 18, and every day four or five children nationwide die from child neglect and abuse, according to Childhelp.
Police departments all over Utah have responded to this epidemic by creating Special Victims Units that specialize in crimes against children and sex crimes, but the Utah Valley SVU Task Force was created to cover sex crimes in all Utah counties without their own SVU.
The task force consists of five different agencies and seven full-time SVU employees. There are three full-time detectives on the task force under Randall and detectives from nearly every agency in Utah County that investigate special victims part time.
The task force also includes victim advocates, a sex offender registry coordinator, Child Protective Services, the Children's Justice Center and four county attorneys that try only special victims cases. This is a large team of people that are all kept extremely busy.
“There will never be a time when the detectives don't have a case to work,” Randall said. “Right now they are all carrying multiple cases and every day we usually get more cases coming in. They will never not have something to do.”
Most of the cases assigned to the task force come from 911 calls, according to Randall. Once a 911 call is received and a patrol officer takes the initial statement to confirm it is a sex crime, the case is then handed over to the SVU.
If the call doesn't come from a concerned relative via 911, then the tip is most likely to come from people such as priests, bishops and therapists, who are what the law calls “mandatory reporters.”
Whitney Tate is a recently retired SVU detective who now works with the Children's Justice Center. She described the process of receiving a case and what the detectives do to gain justice for the victims as two-fold. The first assignment is to interview the victim.
“If it is a child, anyone younger than the age of 18, then we try to interview them at the CJC and if it's an adult, then we interview them at our office,” Tate said. “The bottom line is they come to us and we say to them, ‘Tell us everything from the beginning to the end.'”
Then the CJC workers listen. If there are other victims, siblings or potential witnesses to the crime, they are interviewed as well. After everything is covered, the detectives will seek out the suspect for an interview.
Tate said once the interviews are done, the cases usually wrap up and are ready to present to county attorneys for prosecution within a couple of weeks.
For officers, however, it's not that easily done. One of the most important parts of the process is the victim's testimony, and it is also one of the trickiest parts to obtain according to Tate. This is where the Children's Justice Center plays an important role. It is there to create a safe, professional and loving environment so the children feel comfortable enough to tell their stories.
The Children's Justice Center records the interviews so the children only have to tell their story once and are not re-traumatized over and over again because of a lengthy trial. The center also gives the children teddy bears and follows up with families throughout the entire process.
“It is just sad that this is happening,” Tate said. “It's so tragic. That's why the CJC is here to help with that whole process and make it less scary.”
Once the victims have been interviewed and the case against the accused is made, the county attorneys take over. Working closely with the county attorneys is an integral part of the task force, according to Randall. They make sure the perpetrators take the plea deal, serve the most time for their crimes and get justice for the victims.
“We work hand in hand with them,” Randall said. “Usually, on patrol or even in warrants or fugitive apprehension, you get a case, you file a report, you send it over and that's pretty much it. But for us, we are literally in daily contact with the county attorneys.”
Randall said the conviction rate for the Special Victims Task Force is very good and the work they do is essential, but working sex crimes is in no way a glamorous job. The Special Victims Unit is the most emotionally taxing unit on the force, according to Randall.
Officers find it is a difficult adjustment and can be frustrating. Most of the work done by the task force is reactive, meaning the deed has already been done and there is no taking it back, so children have already been damaged. Tate agreed, adding that serving on the task force is one of the hardest things she has ever done.
“I will be the first one to admit that it really was (one of the hardest things I've ever done), but I just wanted to make a difference,” Tate said. “I just knew that that's where I felt I could make the most difference and so I think that's why I went there for my last four years even though it's so very hard.”
The world is changing and crime rates are rapidly rising, but the crimes dealt with by the Special Victims Unit are by far some of the most disturbing. Throughout their daily efforts and struggles, Randall said their one goal is to be the voice for those people that don't have a voice and to get justice for the victim.
How Much Does Child Abuse Cost? Study Says $400K Over a Lifetime
by Jermy Loudenback
Child maltreatment is often measured by lives forever scarred by trauma and families torn apart, but a new study estimates that each case of abuse also carries a hefty price tag.
According to researchers with the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center in collaboration and the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, each incidence of child abuse costs the public $400,533 over the course of a victim's lifetime.
For the city of San Francisco, the total cost of child maltreatment was $301.6 million, a number that factors in the 753 cases of substantiated child abuse in 2015.
In the “The Economics of Child Abuse: A Study of San Francisco,” a study released on Thursday by the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center, the economic burden of child maltreatment is examined long after the child abuse has occurred.
Researchers looked at the average costs of child maltreatment in several areas: child welfare services, health care, special education services, criminal justice and lifetime productivity.
Each child who has a substantiated case of child abuse or neglect incurs $11,035 in costs related to the utilization of services from child welfare agencies. The average cost of special education services for a child who has suffered maltreatment is $12,891.
Health care costs over a lifetime for a victim of abuse or neglect are steep. The total costs of health care over a lifetime come to $54,553, with $41,025 of the costs borne during childhood. This takes into account inpatient hospital stays, mental health services and prescription drugs in the immediate aftermath of child maltreatment. But lifelong health consequences also include chronic health issues, substance abuse and mental health issues, among others.
Because victims of child abuse are more likely to become involved with both the juvenile and adult justice systems, costs of criminal justice are significant. On average, $7,637 per victim goes toward criminal justice. Even after childhood, victims of child abuse are 28 percent more likely than other children to have an adult criminal record.
Finally, child maltreatment can dramatically reshape expectations of lifetime productivity, which includes the loss of employment opportunities and the broader economic costs to businesses in San Francisco.
The researchers also tallied the economic costs of child abuse fatalities. For every child killed as a result of child maltreatment, the total cost is $2,659,649. The number takes into account one time medical fees as well as $2,641,655 in lost potential lifetime earnings.
Though the cost of child maltreatment is steep, researchers say that the estimates are conservative; the actual number may be much higher, as much as $5.6 billion. This is because many cases of abuse are not substantiated, are under-reported or have difficult-to-quantify costs.
The study concludes with three ways child abuse can be prevented:
Adopting a public health approach toward child abuse prevention
Providing greater access to services
Promoting education, including increased awareness of protective factors
To read the full report, click here.
From a single image: vast networks of child sexual abuse uncovered around the world
by Joanna Gill
A single image can trigger a vast international investigation into child sexual abuse online.
That was what happened in 2012 when a US man sent a photo to an undercover agent in Boston, who then uploaded it to Interpol's International Child Sexual Exploitation image database (ICSE). It was picked up by an investigator in the Netherlands who identified a stuffed toy in the image as Miffy, a rabbit given to many Dutch children. This in turn led to the prosecution of Robert Mikelsons to 18 years in prison for abusing dozens of babies and toddlers, some just a few months old, and helped identify more than 100 child victims.
Local police officers in 49 countries use the database to identify and rescue children in the images. These can be from photos or videos posted online or found on laptops seized during investigations. Using image analysis technology and old-fashioned detective work, they piece together clues to identify the victims.
The type of crime requires that victims are identified before the perpetrator can be found – it is referred to as the victim-centric model. Often only the victims are shown in images of abuse, and the majority of abusers are someone known to the child, be it a family member or someone in close contact (a neighbour or childcare professional for example). This means once the child is identified, they can be located, rescued and the perpetrator prosecuted.
Most child sexual abuse takes place behind closed doors. When the act is recorded the child is re-victimised, and even further damage can be done when that material is published or traded online. Due to the global nature of the problem, fighting against it requires an international effort.
Scale of the challenge to police
INTERPOL announced on Monday it had identified 10,000 child victims of sexual abuse via the database, but added it was just the tip of the iceberg. I spoke to Mick Moran, Head of Vulnerabilities about the challenges of policing online child sexual abuse who said that the number of unidentified victims stretches into the hundreds of thousands.
Privacy issues and private companies
With the constant evolution of the internet, it allows more methods of communication than ever before, but as Moran says that ‘any new service will be exploited' by people interested in the sexual abuse of children. He called on companies to act responsibly and not hide behind privacy issues.
Some companies he said are very good at helping to battle the proliferation of child sexual abuse material or ‘child porn' found online. INTERPOL has integrated Microsoft's PhotoDNA technology into the ICSE database. The tool compiles a digital signature or ‘fingerprint' which can be matched against other images, reducing the time it takes officers to check whether a child has already been identified or is currently at risk.
Other companies are apparently lagging behind paying simple lip-service to the issue. To these companies, Moran said they must know they have a responsibility towards a child who is being abused. He said often companies will scan for spam or malware, but were reticent to run a scan for child abuse material.
In certain cases, Moran laments the ‘rush to market of new services'.
“These people will abuse your service. So what are you going to do about it? Is there any possibility we can analyse your service just before you go online to see what measures you can take, within your service, within your platform – so that they cannot abuse your system to abuse children around the world,” Moran said adding, “We're not talking about 18-year old girls in soft focus… The vast majority are pre-pubescent children, sometimes pre-speech (i.e. younger than 3 years-old).”
New technology and old ways
It has been well documented that child sex offenders from rich countries will travel to poorer countries in order to abuse children. Now new technology facilitates what police call ‘remote child sex abuse' via live streaming. In some cases, a child sex offender will pay for a child to be abused using live streaming services. The problem for policing is that the visual evidence of abuse disappears when the connection does.
One case of such abuse in the Philippines, Moran described as one of the worst he had ever seen. It involved the abuse of large number of children, extreme violence and even the death of a child.
“If you can imagine the videos, listening to them, especially the soundtracks that go with those videos. The screaming of the children…It makes this particular job very hard to do,” he explained.
But he added, it's the feeling of helplessness when you see the abuse that fuels his passion for the job.
“By working together, by working up every clue to its very end with a view to identifying these children and stopping the abuse and to making people pay for it, that's what drives us on.”
How to report child abuse
In the UK contact the NSPCC if you want to discuss your concerns and get advice.
NSPCC (for adults)
Telephone: 0808 800 5000
Find out about call charges
ChildLine (for children and young people)
Telephone: 0800 1111 (free)
Letter to the Editor
Safe Passage always available to help victims
To the Editor:
Alarmingly in the last few weeks we have seen several child sex abuse cases in DeKalb reported in the Daily Chronicle.
As a community, we are all outraged and horrified by these assaults against innocent children. While some victims and their families will find justice through the court system, there are still many victims in our community who may be too afraid or ashamed to report their abuse to the authorities.
There also may be members of our community who have experienced sexual abuse in the past who have been triggered or haunted by these recent stories of child sexual abuse.
The trauma of being abused can be devastating for both the child victims and their families, and its impact can last for a long time. It is important for those who have been abused, regardless of when it occurred or how long ago it was, to know what their options are so they can find help to heal.
Safe Passage is DeKalb County's 24-hour rape crisis center and hotline offering free, confidential counseling and advocacy services to any child, teen or adult victim of sexual abuse or assault and their loved ones, or any parent who suspects but doesn't know how to approach the subject with their child.
Safe Passage's sexual assault counselors and advocates have received advanced training and have extensive experience working with survivors of sexual assault and trauma. All of our services are client-directed and trauma-informed.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse or assault, please don't hesitate to contact the Safe Passage Rape Crisis Hotline at 815-756-5228. Operators are standing by 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
That's why we are here.
Mary Ellen Schaid
Safe Passage executive director, DeKalb
The Child Sexual-Abuse Survivor Who Fought Back
by Anne Webb
How does a twelve-year-old survive when he has been the victim of child sexual abuse and compounding abuses perpetrated by leaders of the community entrusted with his care? How does he grow up to become a Jewish community leader and one of Australia's best known advocates and crusaders against child sexual abuse in both the Jewish and wider communities, nationally and internationally? How has he healed himself and helped others firmly to propel themselves onto paths of healing?
Survivor Manny Waks describes his many achievements to date in this memoir co-authored with Michael Visontay.
Born in 1976, Waks, the second of 17 children, was raised in Melbourne's Chabad community, an ultra-Orthodox sect of Judaism that ruled his life. He lived across the road from the Yeshivah Centre, which includes the Yeshivah College. At home, discipline was harsh.
All problems, major and minor, were brought to the rabbi, who dictated solutions. Absolute obedience was demanded of both children and adults and weapons of choice in enforcing it, as evidenced by treatment later meted out to Waks and other victims of child sexual abuse and their families, were shame, ridicule, ostracism, nasty gossip and outright slander.
Life in the Chabad community, in which all obeyed the rules without question and were infantilised to the point that they were often unable to independently to weigh decisions or make moral judgments according to conscience, induced a hierarchy of powerlessness that often found expression in the abuse of what power one had. Children in such situations are most vulnerable; too often easy victims.
As a young child, Manny Waks was not conscious of the hypocrisy that existed in his Chabad community and its disempowering effects but life changed dramatically for him when at age eleven, he became a victim of child sexual abuse, an ordeal that lasted three years. The two abusers came from within the Yeshiva of the Chabad community. Like almost all children, Waks did not understand that he had been groomed, and no adult noticed.
To Waks, the sexual abuse was a “betrayal of everything I knew.” He spoke privately about the first abuse to a classmate who betrayed the confidence. Soon the abuse was being openly spoken about by students, teachers and other adults and Waks found himself being bullied and abused by other children. Adults could not have failed to be aware but offered neither support nor intervention.
When Waks became the victim of the second predator, he confided in no one, but nevertheless it soon became common knowledge in the Yeshivah and the bullying intensified. In a typical victim response he blamed himself, consciously or unconsciously. He felt shame, embarrassment and humiliation, and began to “act out”, performing badly at school and becoming disruptive. He was moved from formal education to full time religious studies but was soon ignoring many religious practices and consuming large amounts of alcohol. His “cry for help” was met with exclusion from class by teachers and physical beatings by his father. Waks states that he was not prepared to handle the sexual abuse, which misses the point that it was not his responsibility but that of those to whom his care was entrusted, to protect him from predators and, should this fail, to support him on the path of healing.
Despite their absolute authority, rabbis and leaders of the Chabad community displayed an extreme lack of understanding about the predatory nature and criminal activities of paedophiles. That ignorance was picked up by the children. Waks was informed by peers that “everyone” should have known that the second abuser was believed, rightly or wrongly, to be homosexual and therefore Waks must also be homosexual and have invited the crimes. As victim he was both blamed and punished.
It is most disturbing that such gross distortions of fact and reality, including the conflation of homosexuality and paedophilia, could be espoused by rabbis responsible for Chabad children. Also ignored was the imbalance of power between victim and perpetrator and the fact that a child cannot give consent.
At 17, educationally disadvantaged and still nursing open wounds, Waks left school and decided to make aliyah, leaving Melbourne shortly after his 18th birthday to enrol in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). After a series of adventures and misadventures, he returned home to Australia in 2000.
In 1996, while home on leave from the IDF, he spoke to Victoria Police about his sexual abuse but no action was taken. At this time Waks also told a rabbi, the Yeshivah Centre director, but four years later the abuser continued to have full access to children. He spoke again to the rabbi, who dismissed his concerns.
After arriving home, Waks married, found employment, commenced study, and eventually graduated with a degree in International Relations.
In 2011 Waks had an article published in Melbourne's The Age newspaper in which he spoke of his sexual abuse and its detrimental consequences to him and his family.
By going public about his abuse, Waks broke the rules against mesirah (informing), considered by many a crime “worse than the original offence, worse than molesting a young boy”.
In 2012 he gave evidence before the Victorian Parliamentary Committee. Following this, his extensive victim advocacy inspired him to establish Tzedek, a support and advocacy group for Jewish victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, an organisation in which he held various positions.
Waks considers that his appearance before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was both vindication and achievement for him. He was granted a public hearing and became the public face of the campaign in the Australian Jewish community, the first time it had come under such intense scrutiny and a first for Jewish communities worldwide. Jewish religious and community organisations were conspicuous by their absence.
For daring to defend publicly the rights of Jewish victims, Waks met with hostility. Meanwhile, known abusers within the community had been left in positions in which they were able to continue abusing, in marked contrast to the cold-shoulders or overt hostility and abuse often meted out to victims, and their abuse was further enabled by the silence of Yeshivah leaders.
“When I challenged the leaders – religious, secular and communal – to acknowledge the scale of the problem, address it and ensure that others didn't have to experience what I did, their response was first to ignore me, then to downplay it and then to say it was being addressed. When I demonstrated that they were wrong on all counts, they shunned me. They ostracised me and my family, casting me and my parents out of the only community and life that we had known.”
Such intolerance of dissent suggests a closed-mindedness that allows nobody to grow and flourish.
Attacks on Waks by Jewish community leadership have included discrediting of his and other victims' evidence, and choosing to ignore the substance of his campaign – to stop the abuse of children and not just to obtain a measure of justice for the victims, but to reduce the likelihood of such crimes being committed in the future and, should they occur, to mitigate their impact. This is surely the right of every child and also of any parent who entrusts children to care, guidance and education in Jewish communities from ultra-Orthodox to Liberal, not to mention the Catholic and other institutions which have so grievously failed their sexual abuse victims to date.
Unbowed, Waks continues his work, in 2016 launching Kol v'Oz, an international organisation of which he is the founding CEO. It aims to become the leading voice on child sexual abuse in the Jewish world.
This is a forthright and compelling narrative, written in a “warts-and-all” self-reflective way and with an informality of style that will readily hold the attention of readers. ‘Who gave you permission?' is particularly recommended for parents, teachers, and others entrusted with the care of children is entrusted and for all people committed to ending the societal scourge of child sexual abuse. It will also give strength and hope to victims and survivors.
Microsoft workers forced to watch child abuse sue for PTSD
Two Microsoft workers who claim they were forced to watch “horrific images” including child pornography, bestiality and murder as part of their job are suing the company.
Henry Soto and Greg Blauert, former customer service workers assigned to Microsoft's online safety program, allege they developed post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the work, Courthouse News reports.
The two men, who were responsible for deciding whether content should be removed or reported to police, claim they were never informed about the dangerous psychological impacts of the job, and were not allowed to turn down the assignment.
The pair are suing Microsoft in a Washington court for negligence, disability discrimination and violations of the Consumer Protection Act.
“Plaintiffs Henry Soto and Greg Blauert were not warned about the likely dangerous impact of reviewing the depictions nor were they warned they may become so concerned with the welfare of the children, they would not appreciate the harm the toxic images would cause them and their families,” the complaint said, according to Courthouse News.
They allege that instead of providing trained therapists for the team, Microsoft developed a “wellness program” advising employees disturbed by images to take “walks and smoking breaks” and redirect thoughts by playing video games.
Soto said he was involuntarily transferred to the newly formed safety team in 2008 and under Microsoft policy had to remain in the position for one-and-a-half years before he could request a transfer.
“The new Online Safety team had just been created and Mr Soto was one of the initial employees with the team and had limited information about the position,” the complaint said.
“He did not understand the level of activity in the following areas: assisting law enforcement efforts to break up significant crime rings, the mob, the triad, and other violent groups, reviewing photos and video requiring him to witness horrible brutality, murder, indescribable sexual assaults, videos of humans dying and, in general, videos and photographs designed to entertain the most twisted and sick minded people in the world.”
Soto said he began having nightmares and disturbing hallucinations after viewing a video of a girl being abused and killed. He was transferred to a new position in 2014, but continued to suffer from PTSD and took medical leave in 2015. Blauert began working on the team in 2011, and suffered a breakdown in 2013 and claims to suffer from “acute and debilitating PTSD”.
Microsoft said in a statement to Courthouse News: “Microsoft applies industry-leading, cutting-edge technology to help detect and classify illegal images of child abuse and exploitation that are shared by users on Microsoft services.
“Once verified by a specially trained employee, the company removes the image, reports it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and bans the users who shared the images from our services. We have put in place robust wellness programs to ensure the employees who handle this material have the resources and support they need.”
First Global Child Abuse Center Combining Research And Treatment Opens in Jerusalem
by The Yeshiva World
The first-ever global center combining research and treatment of child abuse opened this week at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem at Mount Scopus.
The Haruv Children's Campus brings together for the first time, in one location, a comprehensive array of services for abused and neglected children, including emergency treatment, therapeutic facilities and child advocacy assistance. It houses seven organizations working on all aspects of identifying, diagnosing and treating children, allowing for unprecedented levels of cooperation and coordination. It is also home to a world-class research center and training services for a wide range of professionals.
This multi-disciplinary campus provides a holistic, child-centered approach to treating, studying and addressing the global issue of child abuse and creates new opportunities for groundbreaking collaboration between institutes and organizations in Israel and around the world. Partnering with the new campus are Hebrew University and the Hadassah Medical Center, internationally renowned institutes in research and treatment, respectively.
“Child abuse and neglect occurs in all sectors of society and has a destructive impact on growth and development,” said Prof. Asher Ben-Arieh, director of the Haruv Institute. “We are striving to create the first-ever comprehensive research and treatment center for maltreated children, based on the widely-admired university hospital model. The campus will attract top researchers, professionals and students from Israel and abroad, creating opportunities to affect real change for at-risk children.”
According to the World Health Organization, every fourth child worldwide is a victim of child abuse. Within Israel, about 400,000 youth are considered at-risk for child abuse. In 2015, there were an estimated 44,000 new cases of child abuse reported, with every third Israeli child suffering some form of neglect, 11 percent involving sexual abuse and 20 percent involving children with special needs. The problem is so acute that child services workers routinely deal with unmanageable levels of caseloads.
The Mount Scopus campus was chosen for its strategic location and general accessibility. The site also offers proximity to the chareidi and Arab communities, which predominate in nearby residential areas, and the center will bring a culturally sensitive approach to its work with these populations.
Leading this innovative initiative is the Haruv Institute, with the support of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, JDC-Israel, the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs, the National Insurance Institute and the Jerusalem Municipality Welfare Services.
The Haruv Children's Campus will house several organizations devoted to dealing with child abuse, including: The Schusterman Emergency Center, The Beit Lynn Child Protection Center, The Israel National Council for the Child, The Center for Treatment of Sexually Abused Children, The Israel Medical Stimulation Center, The Municipal Child Welfare Center and The Goshen Program for Comprehensive Child Health.
The Haruv Institute is the leading authority on child abuse and neglect in Israel and a leader in the field worldwide. Its mission is to greatly reduce child abuse by creating and educating a capable and skillful community of professionals dedicated to the wellbeing of children who have suffered all types of abuse including psychological, emotional and sexual as well as neglect.
“Ever since its founding in 2007, Haruv has served as a beacon of hope and a source of strength for victims of child abuse and their families. It has been a forceful advocate for those least able to defend themselves, and it has trained thousands of professionals responsible for preventing and treating abuse and neglect,” said Lynn Schusterman, founder and co-chair of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. “The opening of the Haruv Children's Campus ushers in the next phase of this critically important mission and is a striking example of how Haruv has grown to become an international center of excellence in its field. We are proud to have partnered with others to make the new center a reality and look forward to continuing to help Haruv establish itself as the preeminent organization in the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect.”
The planning and design of the campus reflects its emphasis on addressing the needs of children and families. Throughout the campus, calming elements have been introduced, such as water, pastoral greenery and play areas created from natural materials. The interior spaces have colorful playrooms, work areas that provide privacy, and a school and kindergarten for children at the emergency center.
“The opening of the Haruv Campus for Children in Jerusalem is not just a major step in the treatment and prevention of child abuse and neglect in Israel and beyond. It champions a holistic approach ensuring critical players in this field can learn from and inform each other's success, something we understand full well from our own work in Israel,” said David Schizer, CEO of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). “We're proud of our partnership with the Haruv Institute and the Schusterman Family Foundation to once again foster innovation of new program models to support Israel's most vulnerable and of the larger effort to provide a safer and brighter future for children and families who will benefit from the one-of-a kind Haruv Campus.”
As a world champion athlete, I can give a voice to other child abuse victims
by Patrik Sjoberg
In Britain as in my native Sweden, the extent of sexual abuse in sport is only just unfolding. The silence of recent decades must not be allowed to return
Shortly after releasing my autobiography, in which I spoke about the sexual abuse I had suffered as a child from my athletics coach Viljo Nousiainen, I gave a public reading in Sweden. Afterwards I was approached by a 93-year-old man who had been in the audience, and I will never forget what he told me. “I'm going to read the book, give one to my wife and one each to my children, and then I'm going to tell them what happened to me when I was 10 years old,” he said. “You came out with this in your book. I've been ashamed all my life and was ready to take it to the grave, but now I'm going to tell my family.”
It shows there are no time limits on talking about something like this, and that's one reason why the accounts that were so bravely given by several former footballers late last year are so important in Britain. In my case, I waited 30 years to recount what had happened. Many people have been, and are, in the same situation, so it's very encouraging to see high-profile athletes come forward and give confidence to others who have suffered similar experiences.
Nousiainen stopped abusing me when I was 14, and after that I tried to forget what happened for many years. But I was an angry kid, and have been angry all my life. I had a successful career in the high jump, winning a World Championships gold and three Olympic medals, but I've done things I'm not proud of and wanted to explain why. In my case, I could at least let out my anger through sport, but I have received emails from guys who have ended up in prison – in some cases for killing someone. I'm sure that rage is the result of being abused during childhood.
Coming out with my story helped in many ways. The response to the book meant I could do a lot of charity work and use my profile in a positive way. That means a lot; now I'm able to help people as I understand those who have been in a similar position. It's helped me to feel much better than before, although I still have bad days. In the end, I'm still a victim and have to live with that. Even today I can give a public speech and the memories come flooding back – the smell and so many other details. That is common for all victims, regardless of how well they are doing in life now. Because of what Nousiainen did, if I could go back in time I would never have got involved in the high jump – despite my achievements and the fame my career gave me.
The important thing now is that the momentum continues, and that huge strides keep being made in Britain and beyond. In Sweden the subject stayed in the public consciousness after my book came out, and it is still there now. I always hoped it might help someone, but in fact thousands of people have got in touch – including others abused by Nousiainen, who we now believe may have molested as many as 200 people in the Gothenburg area. I continued doing media work, and other athletes came forward with similar stories.
You have to be strong to stay in the public eye like this, but the cause drives me. Efforts are now being made to create a new position in the Swedish government to deal with this issue in sport. The problem we have at the moment is that sports regulate themselves, and clubs are reluctant to report on such matters as it can damage their finances and reputations. That is true in many countries, including Britain, but I'm proud that a serious discussion is taking place. Without my book I think we would see the same situation as we had 10 years ago, with nobody talking about sexual abuse in sport.
In Sweden a lot of focus is put on the perpetrator, leaving the victims to sort out the problems by themselves. The sense of shame and taboo is hard to break, and there is an emphasis on forgiveness that perhaps comes from our Lutheran upbringing. But I did nothing wrong and nor did the footballers in Britain. We have to change that focus and eliminate the social barriers to coming forward, because if you do not talk about these issues then you are left to carry them with you for your whole life.
It is a problem that occurs all over the world, often involving children whose brains have not fully developed and can be more easily manipulated. Nousiainen destroyed my life, and those of many others. We cannot let something similar happen again. While I became an athlete, and people like Andy Woodward and Steve Walters made careers in football, only a small number of children who take part in sport make it to the top. I grew up with young athletes who were abused but went in a different direction in life and never had the platform to speak out. We are the voices of them all.
Let's join hands to protect our children
by Marlon Robinson and Otencia Robinson
Child abuse has been on the rise in our country and we need to rally to protect our children. We do not need to look very far to see the horrible acts that are committed against children. We hear about these acts on radio, see them on TV and social media, read about them in newspaper columns, and hear about them in our communities. We join the call to protect our children and strongly believe that children should be celebrated every day in some way.
We would like to raise awareness against child abuse as we unite in support of our children. Child abuse is a serious offence against children and the State, which may result in the death of a child or other types of trauma.
The statistics on child abuse are alarming! Here in the United States, every day an average of four children die from child abuse. Child abuse statistics show that 78.5 per cent of the victims were neglected, 17.6 per cent were physically abused, and 9.1 per cent were sexually abused (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2011). Children who experience child abuse are more likely to be arrested as juveniles, to become criminals, pregnant teens, and mostly likely to be diagnosed with at least one psychological disorder before the age of 21 (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2011).
Lisa Hanna, in 2015, said that 220 cases of child abuse were made weekly, and over 3,000 cases were in backlog. Diahann Gordon-Harrison, head of the Office of the Children's Advocate, speaking at Northern Caribbean University on November 3, 2015 reported that her organization saw an increase of 216 cases of child abuse in 2013-2014. Specifically, she stated that the cases of physical abuse increased among boys and sexual abuse increased among girls.
In helping to protect our children, we need to recognise that “Children are a gift from the Lord…” (Psalm 127:3). Even if you do not believe in sacred writings (such as the Bible ), we all can agree that children are among the most vulnerable in society. In most, if not all cases children are unable to defend themselves against the heinous acts that are perpetrated against them so they must be protected. Parents, guardians, and caregivers need to recognise that they have a sacred responsibility to protect the children that are placed in their care.
While we were growing up in Jamaica, we were often told “children must be seen but not heard”. But children have a voice and they must be seen and heard, so listen to them. Generally, children continue to be victims of sexual abuse because parents and guardians fail to listen to them or take what they say seriously. We need to take what our children say seriously because many acts of sexual abuse are carried out by family members or close friends of the family. To reduce a child's odds of abuse it is imperative that you listen to your children.
Finally, those of us who are entrusted with the care of children need to recognise that children deserve to be children; so let them play! Parents and guardians need to protect, hug, and celebrate their children. We believe that children are special and they should be cared for with love. Let's join hands to protect them.
Hotline to disclose child abuse now available 24/7
by Edmond Campbell
The hotline to make reports of incidents of child abuse will now be working 24 hours a day, eight hours more than the previous 16 hours it operated. This move by the Government comes in the wake of increased reports of child abuse.
The Office of the Children's Registry (OCR) currently operates the 1-888-PROTECT hotline from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. When reports are made to the OCR, the agency establishes a case number then refers the matter to one of several departments, including the Child Development Agency, the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), and the Children's Advocate.
Speaking yesterday at the post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, Minister of Education and Information Ruel Reid said that funding for the hotline has been increased.
In recent times, there has been intense public debate about issues of child abuse in the wake of the alleged sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl by a 64-year-old Moravian pastor, who has since been charged with having sex with a minor.
Rupert Clarke, the minister of religion who allegedly interfered with the child, has received bail.
COUNSELLING FOR CHILD
Yesterday, Reid told journalists that CISOCA had disclosed its intention to charge the alleged perpetrator with carnal abuse resulting from an alleged sexual relationship with one of the minor's sisters when she, too, was 15 years old.
The information minister said that the younger of the two sisters has been referred to the Child Development Agency's (CDA) clinical psychologist for assessment and counselling.
The other members of the family have been referred to the Children and Family Support Unit of the CDA based on reports of sexual abuse.
At the same time, the mother and two daughters have also been referred to the CDA to benefit from a parenting workshop.
Assistance is also being sought from Food For The Poor to provide proper housing for the family.
Reid urged Jamaicans and members of the community, in particular, where the minor resides, to treat the family with sensitivity.
Increased funding is also earmarked for the National Parenting Commission to carry out comprehensive work as it relates to training for parents.
Reid announced that the Government would be allocating an additional $25.8 million to finance the work of the commission for the next financial year.
The management of children's homes would also be strengthened in the new fiscal year, according to the information minister. "We are not only hearing the cries of the children and Jamaica, generally, but we are responding in a very positive and fulsome way," he added.
New hotline to report child abuse in Oman
Ministry of Social Development forms child committees in all governorates, aiming to protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse
by Fahad Al Mukrashi
An official at the Ministry of Social Development said the launch of the free hotline is a very important step, which will facilitate abuse reports.
Oman registered 299 abuse cases against children in 2016. Forty-seven per cent of the victims were female and 53 per cent were males under 18.
Twenty-four per cent involved sexual abuse, 18 per cent physical abuse and 55 per cent neglect.
Dr Yahya Al Hinai, the head of the family development at the Ministry of Social Development, said that the toll-free hotline is a leading national project to protect children in Oman.
Al Hinai added that the new hotline will support children under 18 years of age who are exposed to various types of abuse.
Oman's Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) will launch an awareness campaign about the new hotline to encourage people to report any abuse case via the hotline.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Social Development has formed child committees in all governorates, aiming to protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse.
The committees also follow up on those children who are exposed to abuses and voidance by providing the physical and social rehabilitation for them.
Football's independent review into child sexual abuse calls for information
by PA Sport
The independent review into allegations of child abuse in football has made its first call for evidence.
Set up by the Football Association and led by Clive Sheldon QC, the review has written to all football clubs in England and Wales, both amateur and professional, asking for information about allegations of child sexual abuse between 1970 and 2005.
The clubs have been given until March 15 to respond but, in the meantime, the review is also inviting any individuals with information to send it by email to email@example.com.
Sport Resolutions, the independent arbitration service for sport in the UK, is providing back-office support for Sheldon's inquiry, with further legal assistance coming from 11KBW Chambers and expert advice from child protection specialist Dr Mike Hartill.
In a statement, the independent review said all correspondence will be treated in confidence but allegations of criminal behaviour will be forwarded to Operation Hydrant, the unit coordinating police investigations into child sexual abuse across the UK.
The review also reminded anyone who experienced abuse as a young footballer that the NSPCC has a dedicated helpline that can be reached 24 hours a day at 0800 023 2642.
Cuomo stands for justice for victims of child sexual abuse
Gov. Cuomo is at long last pushing to fix indefensible state statutes of limitation that bar men and women abused as children from seeking justice after their 23rd birthday.
Thank you, governor, for hearing the cries of thousands of New Yorkers vilely taken advantage of, many of whose voices have filled the pages of the Daily News over the past year.
Those are people like Christopher Couret, 31, one of at least seven alleged victims who grew up in a Long Island foster home. And Antonio Flores, 51, who alleges abuse from the age of 10 by a Catholic priest never charged. And Kathryn Robb, 56, who alleges abuse by her brother at the age of 9.
All struggled for years with shame and guilt, only to be confronted with the fact that the legal clock to seek justice had run out.
Last year Cuomo, while expressing sympathy for victims, stopped short of getting behind a reform measure that had passed the state Assembly.
With welcome boldness, he now steps up with his own version of what's come to be known as the Child Victims Act that would eliminate the time limits for legal action against those who commit sexual offenses committed against children.
On the civil side, Cuomo would allow victims up to 50 years to file claims against abusers and institutions that enabled or covered up abuse.
Crucially, the proposal also includes a one-year “look-back” window during which victims of past crimes, currently barred from bringing claims, would be allowed to go to court.
Cuomo would ensure that public- and private-sector institutions are treated the same — by preempting local laws, such as New York City's, that give victims only 90 days after an incident is uncovered to file an intent to sue a government agency.
It's the right thing to do and the right way to do it.
Republican leader Sen. John Flanagan has until now been comfortable turning a deaf ear to victims. Here's hoping he has a harder time saying no to the governor.
The fight against child sexual abuse
by Barbara Victor, Susan Kling and Shaya Harrison
We are all familiar with high-profile incidents of child sexual abuse that have occurred in sports organizations, educational institutions and religious communities around the world. In most of the reported cases, institutions failed to act, resulting in shattered lives with devastating consequences.
Here in Montreal, social service agencies are experiencing an increase in the numbers of adult clients disclosing histories of child sexual abuse. This upsurge has resulted in the development of new community initiatives, with the resolve to do better for survivors, their families and the Montreal community as a whole.
As social service professionals, we see how the impact of child sexual abuse often continues throughout survivors' lives, affecting their relationship with their family and community. The toll of the abuse pervades every aspect of a person's life, and many continue to suffer emotionally, socially, spiritually, and economically. Survivors have higher rates for any number of the following challenges: struggles with academic achievement and work-related performance, self-destructive behaviours and various forms of addiction, questions of sexual identity, the ability to maintain healthy relationships, and suicidal thoughts.
As if this were not tragic enough, individuals who disclose the abuse (whether immediately or years later) are often victimized a second time when they are either doubted or shunned. The stigma and isolation that many endure only serve to intensify the sexual, physical and emotional pain already suffered at the hand of their abuser.
These were just some of the issues presented at a recent Ometz conference titled “Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse,” attended by more than 150 mental health professionals and social service partners in and around Montreal. Those in attendance included representatives from both public and private organizations such as Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, the Montreal police, local hospitals, Ometz and CRIPHASE — to name just a few.
Several insights were highlighted and validated at the conference. We came to realize how essential community partnerships are in order to build long-term solutions for combating child sexual abuse and working to keep our children safe. Conferences such as this one allow us to improve and strengthen relationships with our partners in youth protection, law enforcement, community resources, medical and mental health organizations, educational institutions, and religious communities.
We now know that it is essential that we provide sufficient assistance and support to individuals and families through: mentoring programs to children and adolescents at risk; access to affordable and subsidized counselling to individuals and families; and parenting groups that offer alternative parenting strategies, communication skills and peer-to-peer support.
It is important that we make available high quality and, especially, culturally relevant safety training, prevention and awareness programs to all community members including school age children and their parents, teachers and principals, staff from youth-serving organizations, and spiritual leaders.
It is imperative that we develop and implement sound policies in organizations and schools ensuring that prevention, detection and intervention are acted on in timely and ethical ways. This means implementing hiring policies that include police checks for all employees, ongoing staff training, and the identification of clear expectations of standards of ethical behaviour. It is in this way that we may offer children and their families the support and strategies they need to become resilient and strong.
This year, Ometz and its partners will work together with local organizations on addressing child sexual abuse. No community is immune to the devastating effects of this issue. Dedicating resources to all parts of the system helps ensure that we can build a sustainable solution. Our children, entrusted to us, deserve nothing less.
Barbara Victor, Susan Kling, and Chaya Harrison work at Ometz, a charitable organization that supports and strengthens individuals and families by offering a range of employment, immigration, school and social services.
Campaign aims to end children ‘suffering in silence'
by Al Vaughters
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A new campaign, launched in Buffalo, aims to give victims of child molestation a voice and report their attackers, as a coalition of families and survivors spearheads the campaign, posting signs and billboards across the city.
Parents, civic leaders, and survivors of childhood sexual abuse say they have had enough. Sparked by recent reports of children abusing other children, they are posting signs all over the city to bring this outrage out of the shadows.
The signs are showing up in storefront windows, offices, even on a billboard at Walden Ave. and Sycamore St. conveying an important message–sexual abuse is not alright.
Rev. Andre Scott, a retired Buffalo police officer and founder of Andre Scott Ministries cross, is among the civic leaders who have joined the campaign to stop the sexual exploitation of children, “I was sexually abused three times as a young boy, and I never spoke up–never said anything–until about three years ago.”
Keyon Lee is president and founder of “U Gotta Tell It”, a support group for families coping with child sex abuse, “The city of Buffalo is swarming with sex offenders and our kids are left vulnerable out here.”
Lee said child molestation is harming children and harming the community, and this effort is designed to show young victims they are not alone, “that actually cares about us. We do have safe havens, we do have somewhere we can go and not be alienated and be ourselves.”
Rev. Scott says sex abuse victims often blame themselves, and turn their rage against others, “Through the shame and fear, out of my bitterness and my anger, I have hurt people. Because the same thing that happened to me, I had the potential to do to others.”
That is why Scott believes this campaign is so important, “Many people are doing the same thing because they have nowhere to turn. They have nowhere to say anything–they can't tell nobody, they don't want to speak about it, just like I did not.”
Markell Ingram, who works at Sonny's Barber Shop on Fillmore Ave. said he has friends and family members who have been victims of sexual abuse, “To suffer in silence, it causes tremendous pain. The people that I know, it still haunts them today and they are adults, with lives of their own, with families of their own.”
Civic leaders warn, without appropriate adult and professional intervention, young victims of sexual abuse often adopt this abhorrent behavior, believing in their mind it is an acceptable fact of life, and the abused then becomes the abuser.
FBI row over Geek Squad child abuse find
by the BBC
Court documents suggest the FBI paid a Geek Squad technician who located images of child abuse on a customer's computer $500 (£412).
Companies that carry out computer repairs are legally required to report such images, but a warrant is required for actively searching for material.
Defence lawyers argue that the FBI was directing the technician to look for illegal activity.
Geek Squad's parent company, Best Buy, and the FBI have denied any wrongdoing.
Defence lawyers claim that the FBI had had eight "confidential human sources" in the Geek Squad, according to the Washington Post, which first reported the story.
The case has led online tech publication Network World - which declared the practice "unconstitutional" - to call for users to boycott Best Buy.
The case stretches back to November 2011 when an image of a young naked girl was found on the hard drive of Californian doctor, Mark Rettenmaier.
His lawyers want the case thrown out, arguing that the image was gleaned from an illegal search.
The FBI claim that a later search of Dr Rettenmaier's iPhone found 800 images of naked girls.
Defence lawyer James Riddet claimed in a court filing last month that "the FBI was dealing with a paid agent inside the Geek Squad who was used for the specific purpose of searching clients' computers for child pornography and other contraband or evidence of crimes".
He wants to examine the relationship between the FBI and the technician - Justin Meade - in court, in a hearing scheduled for August.
In a statement, Best Buy spokesman Jeff Shelman said: "Best Buy and Geek Squad have no relationship with the FBI.
"From time to time, our repair agents discover material that may be child pornography and we have a legal and moral obligation to turn that material over to law enforcement.
"We are proud of our policy and share it with our customers before we begin any repair."
He added: "Any circumstances in which an employee received payment from the FBI is the result of extremely poor individual judgment, is not something we tolerate and is certainly not a part of our normal business behaviour."
Court filings show the FBI also denies the claims.
"I never asked or ordered Mr Meade or any Best Buy employee to search for child pornography or gather information on child pornography or any other crimes on my behalf or on behalf of the FBI," Tracey Riley, the FBI agent Mr Meade contacted, wrote in a declaration.
The case began when Dr Rettenmaier took his computer to a Best Buy in November 2011 after it failed to boot up.
The hard drive was later shipped to Geek Squad's maintenance centre and in January 2012, Mr Meade contacted Ms Riley to say a technician had found something suspicious.
The Geek Squad had to use specialised tools to recover the photos because they were either damaged or had been deleted, according to court papers.
Defence lawyers argue that it is impossible to tell when the files were placed on the hard drive or who accessed them.
According to defence lawyers, an informant file they received from prosecutors suggested:
Mr Meade's relationship with the FBI had begun in 2007
He had been officially signed up as a source for investigations into images of child sex abuse in 2009
In 2010 and 2011 he had contacted the FBI more than a dozen times
They also alleged that the FBI had paid him $500 for work between October 2010 and September 2011.
If it is proved that Mr Meade was working on behalf of the FBI, the case could be thrown out, according to law experts.
"If the government wants to look at somebody's computer, they need to get a warrant," UC Irvine Law School dean Erwin Chemerinsky, told the LA Times.
London risks 'another Rotherham child sexual abuse scandal without action on missing children in Hackney'
An investigation by The Independent found more than 1,000 boys in the borough are currently missing from registered schools
by Dina Rickman
A central London council has been warned it risks "another Rotherham" sexual abuse scandal if it does not deal with the thousands of children thought to be taught at illegal schools.
Hackney Council is at the centre of a child protection scandal after an investigation by The Independent found more than 1,000 boys in the borough are currently missing from registered schools and are instead thought to be educated in illegal ultra-Orthodox Jewish yeshivas.
At a meeting of Hackney Council's Children and Young People Scrutiny Board, which is holding an inquiry into unregistered Jewish schools, Chair Councillor Christopher Kennedy said: "We worried there might be another Rotherham situation in Hackney if we didn't take action when we were told there were all these missing children on the school register."
His comments came as religious leaders told Hackney council they felt being pressured to teach a particular agenda by Ofsted. Jospeh Stauber, headteacher of the registered Talmud Torah Yetev Lev primary school for children in Hackney, warned councillors: "Don't try to tell us what to learn with the children when it's against our religion. That's why we keep on hiding."
Hackney is home to a large ultra-Orthodox Jewish Charedi community, which is regarded as insular and practices a strict 19th-century interpretation of the faith. Engagement with the secular world is for many deeply taboo and boys over the age of 13 are expected to learn the Old Testament in Yeshivas where they are taught in Yiddish rather than go to secondary schools and gain GCSEs. One former pupil at an illegal school in Hackney told The Independent they went to "extreme lengths" to stop him learning English. "Education is all about preparing people to make their own choices. The very ethos of these schools is to do the exact opposite and to isolate people from secular society," he said.
The huge risks facing children attending unregistered schools were further outlined by evidence from Rory MacCallum, Senior Professional Advisor to the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Board. Mr MacCallum said paedophiles were present in "every community" which is why teachers need to be vetted and subject to regulation, adding: "I can sit here and reel off a list of names of loads of individuals in positions of trust who have subsequently been found out as having a deviant sexual interest in children. That is worst-case scenario. That type of stuff happens everywhere."
Speaking after the committee to The Independent , Mr MacCallum denied that the Charedi community was "complacent" about child abuse but said some individuals could do more. "I'm not getting the sense that the whole community is complacent. As with every other community there will be people there who are complacent, and there will be people who aren't."
As well as sexual abuse, children in unregistered schools identified by Hackney council are at risk from physical harm, with Hackney London Fire Brigade Commander Steve Dudeney telling the committee there had been fires at five of 32 suspected illegal schools identified by the council, a figure he described as "high". Separately, the fire brigade found evidence children may be sleeping at three of the illegal schools.
But after being presented with evidence from Mr MacCallum, Rabbi Judah Baumgarten of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew congregations said safeguarding would be enacted if Jewish schools were not told to teach a particular curriculum by Ofsted. "If safeguarding was a standalone requirement I don't think we would have a problem."
He added: "Any safeguarding is as important and maybe even possibly -- I venture to say -- more important than other communities."
The Rabbi was told by Hackney Councillor Margaret Gordon: "Any organisation before the question of regulation of education comes up ought to be taking the issues of child protection seriously and ought to be happy to demonstrate that. To say 'we're not prepared to do that while it's linked to Ofsted' is disingenuous."
Child Sexual Abuse: The Well-Known yet Unknown Evil
by Sameena Mohiddin
A friend of mine inspired me to study Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). Yes, it exists in Kashmir too. What piqued my curiosity to study the phenomenon of child sexual abuse in our society was that despite its prevalence, most people did not take it seriously. So, I decided to work on CSA. However, it was difficult to work on the sexual abuse of children and finding the sample (size and scope) was a humungous task. After the initial teething problems and issues, I managed to conduct a pilot study for four months in district Srinagar. The research was revelatory: I came to know about and understand the many forms of child abuse that is prevalent in Kashmir. Before dwelling on these forms, it is important to put into perspective and define the nature of Child Sexual Abuse.
As per Ranbir Penal Code (RBC), “Child” means any person below the age of 18 years and includes any adopted, step or foster child.
Sexual abuse is an unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats or taking advantage of the victims who are not able to give consent.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder-Fourth edition (DSM-IV), Child Sexual Abuse is defined as a form of child abuse in which an adult or an older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation. Forms of child sexual abuse include asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities (regardless of the outcome), indecent exposure (of the genitals, female nipples, etc) with intent to gratify their own desire to intimidate or groom the child, physical sexual contact with a child, or using a child to produce child pornography.
My study demonstrated that perpetrators also inflict other forms of abuse on children. This includes sexual abuse perpetrated verbally which the victim might not understand. I found out perpetrators target and attack lonely children and after taking them into confidence and then abuse them while feigning to be a playmate or caregiver. If parents do not have friendly relations with their children or do not spend time with them, it encourages the perpetrators for continuation of abuse for years.
After the abuse, perpetrators usually try to blackmail the survivor through different ways to prevent disclosure and reporting of the abuse. Usually, victims do not disclose the abuse to their parents or other kith and kin because they are fearful that they might be blamed for the abuse or no action will be taken against the perpetrator. They also fear that disclosing the abuse might disturb their parents. However, if disclosed, parents for most of the time do not report it to the police or relevant authorities either because they fear that this would bring disrepute to the victim and therefore the family. Not reporting adds a layer of suffering to victims: they feel dirty, guilty, uncared for. The ancillary psychological damage is that they develop inferiority complex and low confidence and low self esteem.
According to many studies, the perpetrators are usually those whom the victims know well. This has a resonance in Kashmir. It has been found that the perpetrators could be siblings, parents (father specifically), other family members, neighbors, and any other person that the family knows very well. This group might include teachers, either religious or school teachers.
The consequences of CSA might not be visible to the victim's parents (in most cases) and other people. The magnitude and severity of the consequences is contingent on the severity of sexual abuse. The more severe and intense the abuse the more are the negative impacts and consequences. The survivors tend to be socially and emotionally imbalanced and are not able to adjust at home as well. They prefer to remain isolated, are hyper sensitive.
What is lacking in our society, regarding the prevention of CSA is the grave mistake of parents who choose to be in denial. They do not even countenance the fact that sexual abuse happens in our society as well. Moreover, many parents do not believe in talking with their children regarding sexuality.
The remedy to this problem is that parents must talk about sexual abuse and sexuality with their children – if not directly but at least indirectly. The natural curiosity of children should be attended to and answered so that they would not look out predatory people around to find answers. It may be added that CSA is not area specific only but during my research it was found that victims were also from villages and other far flung areas as well. This suggests that this insidious evil does not exist in Srinagar city only but is equally prevalent in villages.
Besides parents, schools can play a major role in creating awareness about Child Sexual Abuse among children. There are many ways that can be employed by schools that may include drama, demonstrations, and quick reaction to students noted to be disturbed should be taught the difference between good touch and the bad touch and they should be encouraged to speak about their insalubrious experiences.
In terms of family and parents, it is their duty to take action against perpetrators and not encourage them by remaining silent. Children need to be free from psychological troubles and worries. This is critical for their proper development and their intellectual and emotional wellbeing. Sexual abuse creates and leaves permanent marks on their lives. Therefore, young vulnerable children need to be protected from this insidious evil on an urgent basis. Let the phenomenon and prevalence of Child Sexual Abuse be taken seriously and let us all join hands to combat this evil now. It will be good for our whole society if steps will be taken today only instead of tomorrow else till tomorrow more children might be suffering.
Private eyes look for runaways, sex-trade victims to rescue
by Pauline Repard
It's a dark, shadowy world of young, insecure teens lured into a world of drugs, booze and feigned love, then intimidated into prostitution.
Child sex trafficking is one of the fastest-growing industries across America – by some estimates, ensnaring tens of thousands of minors each year nationally, and as many as 8,000 in the San Diego region.
With roughly 460,000 missing-children reports to the FBI, law enforcement is hard-pressed to trace every child, especially runaways where the level of danger is unclear.
That gap in resources is being filled, increasingly in recent years, by private investigators and non-profit agencies offering to find, rescue and provide social services to missing children at risk for sex trafficking or already enmeshed in it.
“Some officers simply decide it's a runaway, it's a troubled kid, and they don't pursue it as actively,” said Bill Garcia, a San Diego private investigator who has taken part in scores of searches for missing, at-risk children. “That's why parents reach out to investigators. They want action now.”
Joseph Travers, president of the 1,400-member California Association of Licensed Investigators, is one who has branched out into recovering missing girls, some of whom were duped or threatened into the commercial sex trade.
Two years ago in Oceanside, he launched Saved in America, a non-profit with ex-Navy SEALS, retired special operations agents and law officers as volunteers to track at-risk runaways.
He says they have helped recover 24 girls in as many months.
“If we can stop the girls at the runaway part, we'll put a big dent in the sex trafficking part,” Travers said. “Every sexually exploited child was first a runaway. Not every runaway becomes sexually exploited.”
Many runaway girls are unhappy at home, emotionally insecure and susceptible to the attentions of a young man who professes love but may be recruiting prostitutes. Pimps and traffickers “groom” a girl by getting her hooked on booze or drugs and giving her food and shelter, but then start demanding repayment. The girl may be bullied, beaten, even tattooed with her pimp's name, and expected to have sex with six to a dozen customers a day.
Travers said few parents can afford to hire a licensed investigator, at $900 or so a day, to go after their runaway child, especially if she does it repeatedly.
Saved in American operates on donations and does not charge for its investigative service. Travers said his crew is skilled in deep dives into Internet sex-trafficking sites and scrutinizing a girl's social media posts to come up with a pretty good idea of where to find her.
She may be trapped at a street gang member's home, set up in motel, or sent out on “the circuit” for prostitution at various cities around the country.
Saved in America operatives will travel to that location, set up a surveillance until they lay eyes on the teen, then notify local police where to find her, Travers said.
One ex-Navy Seal working with Travers got on the trail of a missing teen and found a social media photo of her with other people at a sushi bar. Within two hours, Travers said, he narrowed down the location to a particular sushi spot in San Francisco. A bartender there cooperated by sending a copy of their credit card tab, confirming the girl was there. Authorities were notified and she was reunited with family.
One of Travers' crew also helped Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies pick up two runaway girls being driven to Compton early last year after they'd spent a month on the streets.
“She was gone five weeks,” said the Newport Beach mother of one of the girls. “If we had not found her, I think things would not have gone well for her. Was she being cultivated (for prostitution)? That's possibly what was happening.”
San Diego County Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan said she understands the anguish of a parent whose child is missing.
“Sometimes in a police investigation, a third party can be beneficial,” said Stephan, a nationally recognized expert in human- trafficking cases. “I do see room for these agencies, especially for cases that aren't criminal, before law enforcement is involved – provided they do it right.”
Travers said Saved in America's volunteers are licensed investigators, but many hold other jobs. They search online sex trade sites such as Backpage.com as well as sites posting flyers on missing children, to see if there are potential local cases. Travers may then contact parents or guardians to offer his services.
Other non-profits have sprung up around the country with a similar mission to assist in the rescue of sex-trafficking victims, especially those under age 18.
Jeff Keith founded The Guardian Group in Bend, Ore., in 2010 and spent the next two years developing its operations. It also offers training sessions for first responders and the hospitality industry on how to recognize signs that someone may be held for sex or labor trafficking and what to do about it.
Keith said he got the idea for his nonprofit after getting involved in rescuing a dozen girls from a brothel in India while on a Christian mission trip.
“We had a home built for them,” Keith said. “That was 10 years ago. I couldn't get it out of my system, thinking, if it's happening overseas, it's happening here. And it is, at an alarming rate.”
Some other non-profits working to rescue sex-trade victims include The Exodus Road, founded by a missionary couple on assignment in Thailand two years ago and now based in Colorado. The group's website says with a global staff of 30, it has worked with local law agencies to gain more than 700 victim rescues.
In Indiana, Tom Lauth, founder of Lauth Investigations, said his company has worked trafficking cases since “before the word ‘trafficking' ever came around.”
Typically, he said, law enforcement turned their backs on trafficking victims they viewed simply as prostitutes.
He said many times a girl is recruited by a friend who introduces her to a trafficker or pimp.
“Police say she left on her own. Parents don't know what to do. They call police repeatedly. Then they call an investigator,” Lauth said.
Sex trafficking is defined under the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 as the “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” Force, fear or coercion is often used to gain control of the victim.
The U.S. State Department has estimated there are more than 17,000 human trafficking victims in America, mostly women and girls held in the sex trade.
The FBI rates San Diego as one of the nation's 13 largest hubs for sex trafficking, in part because of its location near the Mexican border and as a jumping-off point to high-trafficking nations in Southeast Asia.
A widely-quoted 2015 study conducted by Point Loma Nazarene University and the University of San Diego estimated there are between 3,400 and 8,000 sex-trafficking victims in the San Diego region, bringing in annual revenue estimated at $810 million. Gangs were involved in 80 percent of local sex trafficking and pimping.
Some law agencies are grateful for the extra private eyes and ears dedicated to bringing home runaways or tracing girls – and some boys -- who are enslaved into the sex trade and need help returning to a normal life.
“Kids are some of the most vulnerable members of our society,” said San Diego police Capt. Brian Ahearn, who until recently oversaw sex crimes investigations. “I could understand a family would want to use any asset they could to rescue a child. Law enforcement respects and recognizes that.”
FBI Special Agent Todd Hammond, with the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force, said every trafficking case they work is handled as a high priority. Rescued victims get referrals to social services, shelters or medical aid.
Sheriff's Lt. Christina Bavencoff, who also works with the local task force, said, “I wouldn't tell private investigators to stay away. All hands on deck.”
In October, the task force took part in nationwide sex trafficking raids, netting three victims and more than 20 pimp arrests in San Diego County.
Hammond said a frustration for investigators is that there are few shelters open to rescued minors who may try to run away again to rejoin their pimp.
The Newport Beach mother whose daughter was recovered in Compton said she hired a private investigator when she felt her local police weren't doing enough. The 16-year-old girl vanished last January after telling her brother she was going for a bike ride.
“I got frustrated with the police, how they treat runaway cases,” the mother said. “We got leads that the police were not following up.”
Her paid investigator suggested getting additional help from Travers' free Saved in America service.
They figured out the teen was with another girl with a troubled past in sex trafficking. Through social media and traced phone calls, they picked up the girls' trail in a car headed for Compton. The investigators and deputies found the car and chased down the girls and their companions.
Both girls have since been receiving rehabilitation treatment and schooling at separate, out-of-state academic facilities.
The 15-year-old's mother encouraged parents to be aware of dangers their children may face on the streets.
“For a runaway or a missing person, you need to bring as many resources as you can to it,” she said. “I was surprised that there are organizations like this. Everyone was supportive.”
Delaware council: Human sex trafficking '2nd largest' criminal enterprise
by Amy Cherry
For the entire month of January, Delaware officials will attempt to raise awareness about a little-known, but wide-spread issue of epidemic proportions happening closer to home than many would ever guess: human trafficking.
"These are children who are 'throwaways in our society,' who are runaways," said Nancy McGee, a member of the Human Trafficking Coordinating Council.
Those children are being targeted and becoming victims of human trafficking, she said
"Children who come up out of the foster care system and are not feeling connected, and therefore, are very vulnerable to being approached as somebody who can offer them a quasi-family or financial support," explained McGee.
The council calls it the "least recognized epidemic in the country."
"There's children being trafficked within their own families," said council member Yolanda Schlabach. "There are women that are in prison that have been arrested for prostitution that are actually trafficking victims."
Delaware's location along Interstate 95, which helps to fuel Wilmington's heroin epidemic, only adds to the trafficking problem.
"We know that they're here, and the I-95 corridor is a vessel that traffickers use throughout Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania--that whole Eastern Shore, the I-95 corridor Washington D.C. and Baltimore, that's often the interstate that they use to travel," she said.
"You can kind of tell which massage parlors--they maybe look like homes that maybe look a little 'sketchy' on the outside or they will advertise or Chinese or foot massage, or they're open with a red flashing neon light at 10:30 at night when everything else is closed," she said.
Tuesday, Governor Markell will declare January "Human Trafficking Awareness Month" in an effort to end the crisis, which the council claims has become the second-largest criminal enterprise in the United States.
"[It's] surpassed weapons, and part of the reason for that is because you can sell weapons one time," said McGee. "But a human body you can sell over and over and over again, until they discarded or they die--and then they're easily replaced."
West Haven group's upcoming event aims to raise awareness about sex trafficking
by Anna Bisaro
WEST HAVEN -- Sometimes, people don't know what's going on around them, until they know what to look for.
This, according to Annmarie Boulay, one of the founders of The Underground Connecticut, is why more calls and referrals have been made to crisis hotlines about potential instances of sex trafficking in the state over the last few years. The Underground Connecticut is a ministry dedicated to educating faith communities around the state about the signs of and ways of preventing sex trafficking.
“Now that we know, we see it, and we report it,” Boulay said of sex trafficking cases in the state.
There have been more reports of potential sex trafficking in Connecticut recently “not because there is more trafficking, but because of awareness,” she said.
Boulay said that while numbers have not been finalized yet, it is expected that close to 200 calls were made to report suspected domestic minor sex trafficking in 2016 to the state Department of Children and Families care line, which is up from the approximately 133 calls that were made in 2015, based on estimates The Underground has received from DCF.
The dedication to spreading awareness is just one reason the group will be hosting an event at Promise Land Church in West Haven on Saturday, . January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and the event also coincides with National Weekend of Prayer against Human Trafficking.
The event will be held with New Haven-based anti-trafficking nonprofit Love146 and features David Palmbach of the University of New Haven, Center for Forensic Investigation of Trafficking in Persons; Andrew Zsigmond of Love146, and Theresa Leonard, a co-founder of the Underground and survivor of sex trafficking, as guest speakers.
The event is intended to educate and inspire others to get involved in preventing sex trafficking and aiding survivors, Boulay said.
“The best thing for us to do is bring awareness,” Boulay said. “Once you hear a message, you can't unhear it.”
Sex trafficking is as an act in which victims engage in commercial sex acts due to the force, fraud or coercion of the trafficker. The federal offense carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison if the victim is a minor and 15 years in prison if the victim is under 14.
The U.S. attorney's office in Connecticut created a Human Trafficking Task Force in October 2015 as means to more actively target potential traffickers and aid in the rescue of victims. The office has prosecuted more than 25 federally convicted traffickers since 2006.
Targeting sex trafficking has been a mission for some members of Promise Land Church for the last year, and the awareness event is one way to continue with that ministry, said Heather Lucas, one of the founders of Project HOPE, a ministry dedicated to finding the best ways to fight sex trafficking and care for survivors in the community.
“I just think that it's not talked about enough and people don't know that it's going on around us,” Lucas said.
Lucas said the ministry, which was created at the church last year, has continued to grow and there are a large number of congregants and community members who gather to pray for an end to sex trafficking once a month. Project HOPE will also sponsor a concert with Promise Land's Spanish Ministry in August to raise funds for sex trafficking prevention efforts.
Lucas said that hosting awareness events is a way to educate youth and parents about how vulnerable teenagers can be to traffickers, especially through social media, and show people how this crime can happen in Connecticut. Members of the Project Hope ministry have been calling other churches in the area to invite them to the event, she said.
Boulay said that after short presentations about sex trafficking in the state, there will be an opportunity for attendees to hear about ways they can get involved, including mentoring, foster care, and community outreach. On a more immediate level, people can help create care packages for women who have been victimized by sex traffickers or have been raped, she said. The care kits will be distributed by the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence.
“We really want to implement these opportunities to help victims,” she said. “We want to work with anyone who wants to stand up against trafficking.”
The event is open to the public and will be held at the Promise Land Church from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Interested attendees can register by emailing TheUndergroundCT@gmail.com or by calling 860.242.8996 ext. 12. Walk-ins are also welcome. The event is free, but a donation of $10 is encouraged. All donations will go towards prevention efforts and survival care, Boulay said.
Backpage.com shuts adult services section following blistering report from a Senate panel
by Aamer Madhani
The operators of the controversial online classified site Backpage.com announced on Monday they have shuttered access to the adult section of their website within the U.S.
The move came hours after the release of a blistering report from a Senate panel charging that Backpage.com systematically edits its escort ads, filtering out words that would suggest the site was promoting the sex trafficking of children.
The report, which was released ahead of a Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing on Tuesday in which Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer and other top company officials are scheduled to testify, is the latest turn in local and federal lawmakers' effort to press the company to stop publishing certain adult services ads.
Even as Backpage shuttered its adult section, the company said it would continue to wage a legal battle to vindicate its First Amendment rights.
“The decision of Backpage.com today to remove its Adult section in the United States will no doubt be heralded as a victory by those seeking to shutter the site, but it should be understood for what it is: an accumulation of acts of government censorship using extra-legal tactics,” Backpage said in a statement.
Politicians and law enforcement officials charge that the site has provided a cloak of anonymity for pimps and unnecessary ease for their customers who use the site to arrange meetings with sex workers.
Despite the outrage, efforts to force the Texas-headquartered, Dutch-owned company to permanently shut down its adult advertising have been unsuccessful thus far.
Backpage has effectively argued in federal courts that while some users of its site may engage in criminal activity, it is just the host of content posted on the site and is immune from prosecution under the Communications Decency Act.
In October, California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced pimping charges against Ferrer and charges of conspiracy to commit pimping against shareholders Michael Lacey and James Larkin. A Sacramento County judge tossed out the charges, noting the Communications Decency Act. But Harris, who has since been elected to the Senate, refiled new charges of pimping and money laundering charges.
Larkin and Lacey, the former owners of New York's Village Voice and other publications, say they sold their interest in Backpage two years ago, contradicting the subcommittee's charge that the men continue to be company's "true beneficial owners."
"Today, the censors have prevailed. We get it," Larkin and Lacey said in a joint statement. "But the shut-down of Backpage's adult classified advertising is an assault on the First Amendment. We maintain hope for a more robust and unbowed Internet in the future."
The subcommittee said in its report, which came after panel staff reviewed hundreds of thousands of pages of internal documents Backpage was forced to hand over to the lawmakers under court order, “that Backpage's public defense is a fiction.”
“Backpage has maintained a practice of altering ads before publication by deleting words, phrases, and images indicative of criminality, including child sex trafficking,” the report concludes.
Backpage executives began using a feature called “Strip Term From Ad Filter” to help screeners automatically delete hundreds words indicative of sex trafficking — such as “lolita, teenage, amber alert, teen and school girl, according to the Senate report. By Backpage's own internal estimate, by late-2010, the company was editing 70 to 80% of ads in the adult section either manually or automatically.
The report also charges that Backpage officials know the site facilitates prostitution and child sex trafficking.
“Backpage moderators told the Subcommittee that everyone at the company knew the adult-section ads were for prostitution and that their job was to 'put…lipstick on a pig by sanitizing them,'” the subcommittee alleges in the report.
The Senate panel, which is led by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., began its investigation in April 2015.
After refusing to comply with a subpoena to turn over internal documents, the Senate voted to hold Backpage's CEO in contempt. The subcommittee secured a federal court order in August forcing Backpage to produce the documents.
"Our goal was to get to the truth — and Backpage fought us every step of the way," Portman and McCaskill said in a joint statement. "Yesterday we reported the evidence that Backpage has been far more complicit in online sex trafficking than anyone previously knew. Backpage's response wasn't to deny what we said. It was to shut down their site. That's not 'censorship'—it's validation of our findings.”
How helping child abusers can keep kids safe
Therapy and monitoring has been shown to reduce risk of reoffending by up to 70%
by Peter McGuire
Most people who sexually abuse a child will never see the inside of a Garda interviewing room, let alone a jail cell.
Only 4 per cent of allegations lead to a conviction, but some of the child sex abusers living in our families and communities have been caught and are attending therapy. What does this involve? Why would a therapist choose to work with people who have caused such harm to a child? And are we rewarding sex abusers and pushing their victims to one side?
Eileen Finnegan is clinical director of One in Four, a therapy and advocacy service for adult survivors of child sex abuse. She is also manager of Phoenix, a treatment programme for sex offenders.
“I've had to dig deep to have understanding for perpetrators,” she says. “But the Phoenix programme is about a systemic approach to preventing child sex abuse. If an offender is facing me, they have their back to children and, [if the offender has] good supervision and community support, I can see children playing free.”
Outside of the Phoenix programme, the Northside Inter-Agency Project works with teenagers who sexually abuse younger children, while a number of private psychologists offer treatments that have been proven to lower the risk of reoffending. In all cases, they are seeking to manage risk and will inform Tusla and the Garda about their clients.
Effect of porn
Offenders tend to be people who have had difficulties around puberty, sex and forming appropriate relationships. They are often marginalised, emasculated, lonely and isolated. Pornography, combined with poor sex education in schools, is a growing factor – especially where the abuser is a teenager or young man. Very few child sex abusers are paedophiles in the sense of being exclusively attracted to pre-pubescent children; most abuse for power and control.
Last month, Taoiseach Enda Kenny called for a national conversation on how pornography is affecting young people. A growing number of child sex offenders are teenage boys or young men who have been exposed to pornography but have had few, or no, relationships and little sex education. These young men have free access to pornography and may eventually find themselves looking at child sexual abuse material (many people call this “child pornography”, but therapists prefer to call it what it is).
Getting behind what has caused someone – usually a male – to offend is crucial. In at least 80 per cent of cases, the abuser knows their victim. Most often the abuser is a family member. Between a quarter and a third of abuse is carried out by a teenager against their younger sibling, cousin or neighbour.
Managing risk ideally means involving the abuser's family and getting them to monitor the abuser's behaviour. “This is a huge ask for families, especially as we are asking them to do this when a train has just crashed through their lives,” Finnegan acknowledges.
Abusers stay in therapy for a number of years. Offenders on the Phoenix programme can expect to engage in individual and group therapy for at least four or five years; young offenders on NIAP's programme will do so for at least two. Different organisations may use slightly varied approaches, but psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy generally have the best results, therapists say.
In all cases, offenders will be challenged to explore what led them to abuse in the first place. Then, they are helped to understand how much they have harmed their victim and to understand the risk factors that might cause them to reoffend.
In Ireland, the probation service runs a programme called Circles of Support and Accountability in which volunteers monitor convicted offenders in their community and report concerns to the authorities. Studies have shown it can reduce reoffending by up to 70 per cent.
“Once somebody offends, they will always have the potential to do it again,” says Finnegan. “It's not punitive, but if they want to re-engage in society, they have to accept that they will be monitored forever and that life will never be the same for them again.”
Working with victims
Survivors of child abuse have expressed understandable concern that resources may be spent on treating child sex offenders while services for victims are grossly underfunded. In the past four years, four people have taken their own lives while on One in Four's waiting list. This is a preventable tragedy which could be solved by adequate funding, the organisation says.
It shouldn't be an either/or choice: We need to support victims by making therapy more widely available at the same time as we work to prevent future victims by working with abusers and potential abusers.
Keith O'Reilly, director of St Clare's Unit which works with child victims of abuse, says that all the therapy in the world won't help a victim if a family doesn't acknowledge that the abuse has happened and take steps to keep them safe. St Clare's sees about 60 children a year, all from north Dublin city and county. Here, therapists meet the children and, in an effort to get at the truth, explain that it is okay to correct an adult's orders or version of events. The children may be interviewed on three or four occasions before a clinical judgment is formed. Therapy may follow. This will be very different for a four-year-old than for a 16-year-old.
“Children have spoken about how the relationship with the abuser led to more attention than they have ever had,” says O'Reilly. “We work this through in a therapeutic framework. They may also be worried about how their parents are coping. And where an abuser does go to prison, the child may feel responsible; we have to help them explore this feeling.”
Most cases never end up in court. Because of this, therapists are increasingly looking at restorative justice programmes, where victims can explain the impact the abuse has had on them and the abuser can accept responsibility.
RESOURCES: HELP AND SUPPORT
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article you can contact:
One in Four at oneinfour.ie
Cari (Monday-Friday, 9.30am-5.30pm) at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Samaritans on freephone: 116123 or email@example.com
HSE counselling services on 1800-235234
Rape Crisis Helpline on 1800-778888
Childline on 1800-666666
Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children on 01-6794944
For details of sexual assault treatment units, see hse.ie/satu
You can report concerns to Tusla, and learn more about how the support process works, at tusla.ie/children-first/how-do-i-report-abuse
To report online child sex abuse material, see hotline.ie
The Department of Justice's Office for Internet Safety is at internetsafety.ie
Dear doctor: A letter from a survivor of sexual trauma to all medical professionals
by Sylvia Paull
As a medical professional you have taken an oath to do no harm, but there are ways in which you can hurt your patients without even recognizing you are doing so.
What seems to you as a simple exam may cause injury to those who have been victimized by someone's touch. This is a subject that we, survivors of sexual violence, have been meaning to discuss with you for some time now, but your authority can be more intimidating than you may know. I am also unsure if you are aware just how much power you, as a physician, hold and to the extent that you affect the lives of all of your patients. Your interactions with us travel much deeper than the physical core.
The relationship between patient and doctor is also mental, built on trust, understanding, and the security of knowing that your doctor has your well-being at heart. We, as your patients, entrust in you the most intimate parts of our bodies and our lives. But this trust has to be earned, and it is much harder for us patients who have been so severely violated. The intent of this letter is not to in any way criticize your work as a physician, but to better inform you of the needs of this specific group of patients.
Survivors of sexual abuse suffer in ways that only others who have been victimized can truly relate to. Once the assault is over in the eyes of those around them, it still continues for the victims. Like many soldiers who come home from war, those who have been sexually assaulted are prone to develop PTSD. This disorder causes frequent and unpredictable flashbacks and body memories. Those of us living with PTSD have no control over its occurrence or its impact on us. Anything can trigger it: touch, an image, a word, even a smell. Flashbacks are not like basic memories; when they happen we relive the attack as vividly as if it were truly reoccurring. Everything our bodies felt, they feel again and we respond to it involuntarily. Our fight, flight, or freeze reactions are activated and we may lash out, hastily leave, or close ourselves off all together. It is both emotionally and physically disabling for us to endure.
As a doctor of physical, and not mental health, you may be wondering how this information concerns you. You play a large role in our healing as well. By being forced into sexual acts, touch has been turned into something painful and hands have become a weapon. For many of us, the feel of touch is no different than a hot iron being pressed into our skin. The notion of being touched in itself is threatening, which makes a visit to your office feel like we are intentionally harming ourselves. We are essentially throwing ourselves into the snake pit. We know that we will be re-traumatized to some extent and we come to you already anxious and afraid, but how you act toward us is the determining factor of how we will react to you. If we choose to confide in you it isn't us seeking to be coddled, but seeking your understanding and empathy. For us to allow you into our bodies you need to first be let into this tragic part of our lives. You need to understand what we went through if you are to be able to respect our boundaries and limitations.
When we walk into the examination room, our hearts start to race and breathing feels difficult. More than anything all we want to do is turn around and run. When you tell us, “Remove your clothing,” we start to shiver and we cling to the fabric, our only protection from wondering eyes and fingers. Our nakedness brings about the feelings of shame and vulnerability. Cognitively we know you are not our attacker, but when you reach to touch us your hands become theirs. You become them. We may pull away or make you stop as our personal assault begins to play out within our mind. Our brain sends signals to every nerve ending in our body, relaying that the sexual assault is happening again. Gynecological exams are especially prone to this. A speculum being inserted into the vagina when a survivor is in the throes of a PTSD episode is equivalent to the penis of her rapist penetrating her.
It is important to remember that survivors come from all races, religions, and age groups. The sad reality is that no statistic can accurately portray the number of individuals who are sexually assaulted each year . The number of reported incidents is staggering, but the number of unreported is even higher. So, no matter where or who you treat, you are likely to come into contact with a number of survivors during the course of your career.
While most of the focus when it comes to sex assault is on adult women, we mustn't forget the much younger victims of both sexes. It is estimated that, for children under eighteen, one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually assaulted or abused. For this reason I feel it is a necessity for doctors, especially pediatricians, to know the signs that a child has been or is being sexually abused. Doctors can often pick up on physical signs of abuse such as bruises and broken bones, but may miss the physical signs of sexual abuse if they are not specifically being looked for.
This makes behavioral and developmental markers invaluable. Some of these signs include appearing overly compliant or aggressive, anxiety, fear or avoidance of touch, and speech or learning disorders, just to name a few. Having the ability to pick up on the signals a child victim gives off could save their life and countless others from going through the same ordeal. It can be as simple as keeping pamphlets on hand in your office and having yourself and staff read over them periodically. If you suspect abuse, do not be afraid to ask questions or report it. Children cannot remove themselves from dangerous situations and it is the responsibility of all those who interact with a child to be that child's voice.
I can't even begin to count the number of times I personally have had my needs as both a child victim and an adult survivor neglected by a medical professional. Some actions were made out of pure cruelty, but most out of a lack of knowledge regarding what traumatic events inflict upon their victims beneath the physical wounds. To be honest with you about what has happened to us is profoundly re-traumatizing, but we take this risk and the hurt numerous times in hopes that if we explain our situations to you, that you will be patient and gentle with us.
It is a devastating blow to go through our victimization again just to be shrugged off or to have our doctors act like our disabilities are inconveniencing them. The treatment we receive from others after our sexual assaults, including our doctors, can be just as traumatizing for us as the assault itself was. The attack left us in our lowest low. Many of us have no confidence or self worth. We require the support and reassurance of others to help us overcome what has been done to us. Without someone in our corner fighting with us, it is extremely difficult, if not near impossible for us to recover.
Doctors are a necessity in the lives of everyone, but you are even more valuable to us survivors. You may be the first person we allow to touch our bodies after they have been desecrated by another's hands. It is terrifying, shameful, and a very painful experience. In those moments, some of our most vulnerable, we need your patience. We need kind and honest words in a gentle tone, and we need a slow and understanding touch that is safe for us to say no to.
You have the ability to give us power back that was taken from us and that little bit of power can make a world of difference while we tread this road. When you take the time to listen to us and learn what we need from you as our physician a mutual respect between patient and doctor grows. You taking the time to listen to us tells us that you truly care about us and the treatment that we receive from you. These simple yet meaningful acts allow us to build trust in you when trust can be difficult to manage. When we are able to build trust in you and trust in your touch, that opens the door for us to allow others in as well and it all starts with you.
Systematic child abuse claims published
by The BBC
Dozens of accounts of systematic abuse in Scottish schools, residential homes and hospitals have been published.
The allegations released by the National Confidential Forum include child sex abuse, violence and bullying.
Many of the 59 testimonies describe a "veil of secrecy" within institutions, with victims and witnesses scared to speak out.
The majority of those who described their childhood experiences are now aged in their 50s.
However, some were in care as recently as five years ago, while others were sharing experiences from 80 years ago.
The National Confidential Forum, which was set up by the Scottish government in 2014, said it has passed on 38 allegations of abuse to the police.
The forum said most of the abused children came from troubled backgrounds, with many describing being taken into care after physical and sexual abuse within their own family, often accompanied by parental alcoholism, rejection, or neglect.
Once they were in care, the victims described the "distress, fear and confusion" they felt, with many not knowing how long they would be staying in an institution, why they were there, or whether or not parents wanted to maintain contact.
While not all of the 78 people spoken to by the forum suffered abuse, several described how physical, sexual and emotional abuse happened on a regular basis.
For some, abuse was part of a regime of punishment and control that was at the core of the institution in which they lived.
The forum said it had heard about individual abusers carrying out systematic and hidden abuse, as well as accounts of whole staff teams abusing or colluding with the abuse.
One victim described the institution he was sent to as being like a "systematic torture chamber", with "systematic abuse a way of life all the time, morning and night".
Another said: "She'd fill a bath with cold water and throw you in it, with the towel wrapped around your head, which I think is called waterboarding. And then pour buckets of water over your head."
And a third recalled: "They took me into the night duty room and wanted me to do things. They gave me cigarettes to keep it quiet."
Among the allegations contained in its report were accounts of routine forms of punishment such as beating, force-feeding or withholding food or sleep - sometimes apparently being delivered for the enjoyment of the abuser.
Bedwetting was also dealt with severely, with children being forced to sit in a cold bath as punishment, beaten by staff with wet towels, having their head wrapped in a towel and held under running water, and in some cases having to parade around naked with their soiled sheets.
Sexual abuse was talked about by several people and often linked to specific members of staff within institutions.
A veil of secrecy was described in which other children were similarly victimised, witnessed or knew what was happening, but did not speak up.
The forum's report said: "We heard that sometimes the only available love and affection were for the purposes of grooming children for sexual abuse.
"In abusive institutions, people described accepting affection from an adult making them vulnerable to being sexually abused.
"Those who rejected affection for fear of the consequences described missing out on any chance of love and nurturing."
Sense of shame
It also said the child victims were often either too scared to speak out, or the abuse regime represented normality for them, with the children not knowing that adults should not be allowed to behave in abusive ways.
When children did report the abuse, they generally did not remember any action being taken - although at least one person recalled the abuser being removed.
Other responses included the abused child being punished or moved to another institution, which added to the child's self-blame and sense of shame.
Many people also said that adults' views and accounts were always believed over children's, and that this reflected a perception of children in care as "deviant".
After the children left care, generally between the age of 14 and 16, they were often completely unprepared for adult life, lacking in social skills and with nobody to turn to for help and support.
Homelessness continued to be a risk for many well into adulthood, leading to loss of precious belongings, substance misuse and unemployment.
Years of exposure to violence and hardship also increased the risk of getting involved in crime - with some people giving their testimony to the forum from prison.
The National Confidential Forum was set up to allow people who spent time in institutional care as children to come forward and share their experiences, whatever they were.
All hearings, where people tell of their experiences, are "confidential and non-judgemental and aim to contribute positively toward the health and wellbeing of those who take part".
Separately, the Scottish government has set up an independent inquiry into the abuse of children in care.
Justice Denied: Getting away with child abuse
by Marelise Van Der Merwe
Of the 2.1-million children in South Africa living with disabilities, a significant number are facing abuse. Very few of the perpetrators will be brought to book.
If the child has access to the outside world or is able to communicate confidently enough to disclose the abuse, they may get lucky. Someone may report what happened to them. But then there's that small matter of evidence and testimony. All too often, they hit a dead end. The perpetrator gets away and does it again.
The problem, says Therina Wentzel, National Director of the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in South Africa (NCPPDSA), is that much-repeated South African story: the yawning chasm between policy and implementation. The Constitution provides for the rights of children with disabilities as well as it does for able-bodied children. In practice, it's a different story. Example: the NCPPDSA is currently involved in advocating for the right to justice for a child with a speech disability who has been sexually abused. The child's case has been hamstrung largely due to their speech disability, which – legally speaking – has impaired their ability to give evidence.
It shouldn't, says Wentzel.
“The case has been blatantly ignored for years by the SAPS simply because the court is unable to understand the child's testimony,” she says. This, she explains, is a hurdle that can be overcome fairly easily using alternative and augmentative forms of communication. “In this case, with the aid of a computer programme.”
After a long fight, some red tape was cut. According to Wentzel, after intensive and extensive advocacy efforts, the alleged perpetrator was charged and the prosecution is working alongside the NCPPDSA to prepare the child for court, also with the help of a suitable professional intermediary to support the child in court with their testimony.
But many others aren't so lucky, if you can call it that. Danie Marais, programme manager for the NCCPDSA, says the courts are littered with cases such as the above, and positive outcomes are few and far between.
“This is often because the child did not testify because of the standards the court was setting, despite the fact that there are other ways he or she could testify,” says Marais. “For example, let's say it's a child with an intellectual disability and they answer on the yes or no principle, but that child cannot really comprehend yes or no because of the intellectual disability. That will immediately impact the child's evidence, but the court will accept the yes or no answers. But if they took another route, for example if the child were taken somewhere they felt comfortable and shown pictures where they could indicate, where appropriate, what happened, that could be more effective.”
Unfortunately, however, many victims don't have access to advocates who will spend months or years fighting for them to communicate their own way. Many don't get as far as having their cases reported at all.
In 2016, a survey of Orange Farm revealed that of 22 abused children, most of them knew the perpetrators. Sixteen of the children were sexually abused, two were emotionally abused, two others physically abused, one neglected, one kidnapped and one forced to marry an older man. Despite the fact that the Children's Act of 2005 requires professionals working with children to report cases of abuse, it appeared that nothing was done to assist these children. Rather, according to the survey, most of the cases were reported to police, social workers, clinics and schools but two were turned away by the SAPS and several others were not reported by the teachers.
Additionally, former SAPSAC President Retha Meintjes has pointed out that there is frequently a lack of understanding in presiding officers in how to question children who may have difficulty communicating, something which could be improved with the appropriate training.
The abuse of children with disabilities is rife not only in South Africa, but worldwide, although the scale is not fully understood because reporting is not necessarily accurate. Nonetheless, numerous studies worldwide concur: children with disabilities are at higher risk of abuse and neglect. One small survey in the US estimated the risk of abuse to be nearly double for children with disabilities. In the developing world, disability is believed to be even more poorly understood, with harsher abuse and maltreatment. According to disabilityjustice.org , people with developmental disabilities are overall at greater risk of abuse, tend to be abused more frequently; are abused for longer periods of time; are less likely to access the justice system; are more likely to be abused by a caregiver or someone they know; many are repeatedly abused by the same person, and are more likely to remain in abusive situations.
Worldwide, information is also sketchy because there is not always differentiation between able-bodied children and children with disabilities in reported cases. However, says Arc researcher and disability advocate Leigh-Ann Davis, “According to researchers, disability can act to increase vulnerability to abuse, often indirectly as a function of society's response to disability rather than the disability in itself being the cause of abuse. For example, adults may decide against making any formal reports of abuse because of the child's disability status, making the abuse of those with disabilities easier for the abuser. Parents fear if they report abuse occurring in the group home, they may be forced to take their child out of the home with few options for other safe living arrangements. Often the abusers are parents or other close caregivers who keep the abuse secret and do not report, out of fear of legal and other ramifications.”
Marais agrees. “One of the major concerns is that children with disabilities are more vulnerable because they are hidden in many communities. It is a stigma issue that we are trying to address with awareness programmes, and by empowering family members with knowledge of disability so that they are aware of where to refer the child to, so that there is less stigma.”
A further issue is that where parents or caregivers are not always present to protect the child, abuse may occur, and the child may not be able to report it to their guardian. In short, says Marais, children with disabilities are more vulnerable on three levels: they cannot always advocate for themselves, they are frequently hidden, and the justice system is often failing them.
Marais believes that many African countries are probably worse off than much of the First World in terms of disability rights, and South Africa is in dire need of implementing its mostly strong legislation (the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, for example, was signed off in November 2015, yet in practice, there are still significant violations).
Wentzel agrees. “Most basic rights that able-bodied children take for granted are being violated for children with disabilities. The right to adequate care, support and protection; the right to quality healthcare services and rehabilitation, the right to a basic education and the right to assistive devices are just some examples,” she says.
It's a harsh indictment in a country where human rights are touch-and-go for children at the best of times, and where about 80% of the population relies on an already strained healthcare system. The shortage of social workers has also been described as critical, with some social workers having caseloads of over 300. Anyone with special needs, therefore, is in particular jeopardy; the helping hands available are already strained beyond capacity.
To this end, says Marais, the NCPPDSA has been lobbying hard, and is in conversation with the Human Rights Commission “to see how we can resolve this, to turn it back to the government and say ‘this is your responsibility, you need to support your children with disabilities'”. This may be tricky, since a significant portion of the country's budget is already allocated to social services for children. The problem appears to be, rather, that its impact is limited.
In the meantime, it's a long, hard road for the country's vulnerable. SECTION27 has previously spoken of a second apartheid existing between able-bodied South Africans and those with disabilities, and turning the situation around is unlikely to happen overnight.
“There are a lot of policies in place that are really awesome, but that is no use if they cannot be implemented or if the courts do not acknowledge certain of these policies,” says Marais. “From our side, we are really driving this whole process really hard.”
16 Women to Sue USA Gymnastics Doctor, MSU Over Sexual Abuse
by Tracy Connor and Hannah Rappleye
Disgraced doctor Larry Nassar — who is already facing federal child-porn charges, a state sexual-abuse rap, and a lawsuit by an Olympic medalist — is about to be sued by 16 former patients in federal court.
Lawyers for the accusers are set to announce the new case against Nassar, who treated America's top gymnasts for years, at a press conference Tuesday in Michigan.
Although Nassar traveled widely as the team doctor for USA Gymnastics, he had a sports medicine practice at Michigan State University, which will also be named in the federal lawsuit.
The scandal broke in September, when two former patients told the Indianapolis Star they were molested by Nassar under the guise of invasive medical treatments.
Since then, up to 60 ex-patients have filed police complaints against the physician. Three of them have filed lawsuits against Nassar and USA Gymnastics or Nassar and MSU in state court in California.
In November, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who took over the investigation, filed charges against Nassar, alleging that he molested a family friend for years, starting when she was 6 years old.
Then, last month, federal prosecutors charged Nassar, 53, with possession of child pornography, and an FBI agent testified that tens of thousands of images were found on disks and drives discovered in a trash can outside his house and inside his home.
The cache included video from a GoPro that Nassar took as he was swimming in a pool; it shows him grabbing and penetrating the genitals of at least two girls, and groping and pulling down the tops of others.
"Any case involving child pornography is, of course, serious," Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Lewis said during the hearing. "But here the defendant has shown through his conduct that he's a hands-on offender. He's a hands-on offender in almost every context and position he can work himself into.
"It's conduct that's been going on for more than 15 years. And it's not just conduct that happened a while ago and he'd moved on. It's conduct that's continued to this year."
Magistrate Judge Raymond Kent ordered Nassar held without bail, not because he is a flight risk, but because he considers him a danger.
"If the testimony of Agent Charles is accurate, Dr. Nassar poses the worst kind of risk to our community: a risk to our children, Kent said. "We simply can't have somebody like him free in the community with access to children as young as six years old."
Nassar has pleaded not guilty to all charges. His attorneys have not addressed the pornography charges but have said that any "procedures" he performed on patients were medical in nature.
The lawsuits filed so far have alleged that USA Gymnastics, famed coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi and Michigan State turned a blind eye to Nassar's alleged abuse.
MSU fired Nassar this fall, saying an investigation showed he had not complied with requirements to use gloves and a chaperone during intravaginal treatments — rules that were put in place after a 2014 complaint from a patient that prosecutors declined to pursue.
The university said it could not comment on the federal lawsuit because it had not yet been filed but said in statement that school officials are "deeply disturbed" by the charges and the case is a "top priority" for MSU police.
"Our hearts go out to those directly affected," the statement said.
An internal review is still underway, and the school is examining whether changes are needed in clinic policies and operations.
"MSU at this time has found no indication of any reports against Larry Nassar alleging sexual assault being made prior to the complaint MSU investigated immediately in spring 2014," the university said.
USA Gymnastics, the governing body for the sport, said it fired Nassar in the summer of 2015 in response to unspecified athlete "concerns," and reported him to the FBI. It's unknown what action was taken at that time, but MSU has said USA Gymnastics did not report its concerns to the university.
UAE- INTERPOL: 10,000 child sexual abuse victims have been identified /nl_sub.asp"
by MENAFN - Emirates News Agency
LYON, France, 9th January, 2017 (WAM) -- Interpol's International Child Sexual Exploitation, ICSE, database has announced that ten thousand victims of child sexual abuse have been identified around the world.
Jurgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary-General, said that the rescue of victims around the world underlined the value of trans-national police cooperation via Interpol's ICSE) database.
He added, "Interpol is committed to supporting the vital work being done every day around the world by the specialist officers investigating these horrific crimes, but more can still be done. Governments, the privatesector and the public also have a role to play in protecting the most vulnerable members of our communities."
"Each and every image of child abuse is evidence of a serious crime, and it is the duty of the police to investigate," said Mick Moran, head of Interpol's Vulnerable Communities unit which includes the Crimes Against Children section running the ICSE database.
Currently 49 countries are connected to the ICSE database, which enables specialist officers to use sophisticated image and video comparison software to make connections between victims, abusers and locations.
Excused or not, CYFD says school absences could mean neglect
by Andy Lyman
The state department that has been criticized for letting child abuse cases slip through the cracks is now under fire from some Albuquerque parents and school administrators for a lack of discretion when looking into student absences.
Days before Albuquerque Public Schools teachers, students and parents were gearing up for a two-week winter vacation, one mother said she got an unexpected visit from Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) case workers.
The mother recounted her story in an email to APS board members. NM Political Report obtained the mother's email from CYFD, but the state agency redacted her name.
“I asked through the door who it was, and a woman yelled in a very loud voice, ‘WE ARE WITH THE CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT DEPARTMENT AND WE ARE INVESTIGATING YOU AND YOUR FAMILY,'” the mother wrote.
The mother hesitated to answer the door because she was home alone with her four-year-old daughter. She also wrote that one of the caseworkers threatened to yell about her case within earshot of her neighbors.
After CYFD investigators asked the mother about punishment methods for her children and household chores, the mother said caseworkers revealed the state was investigating her first grade daughter's school absences.
According to APS records, that child missed 13 days of school between August and December of 2016.
The mother said one caseworker returned and—with her out of the room—questioned all six of her children. After a series of interviews, including one over the phone with the children's father, who was at work, the caseworkers said the investigation was unsubstantiated and closed.
Now, public records show the investigation stemmed from a school counselor and a highly cautious CYFD.
A screening process
CYFD has been accused repeatedly of not doing enough to prevent New Mexico's children from abuse. In two separate occasions within the past few years, two children that CYFD caseworkers had previously visited were then involved in high-profile killings.
A lawsuit was filed on behalf of nine-year-old Omaree Varela after the boy was killed by his mother. The lawsuit alleged the state did not do enough to prevent the boy's death. The mother was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison for the killing.
More recently, reports revealed APS staff alerted CYFD to concerns about elementary school student Victoria Martens. Three people, including the girl's mother, are now facing charges related to the death and dismemberment of Martens.
CYFD spokesman Henry Varela told NM Political Report that CYFD strives to weed out cases that don't warrant an investigation but that ultimately a child's welfare comes first.
“We have to take every allegation seriously,” Varela said. “If we don't take it seriously we may be putting a child in jeopardy.”
According to emails obtained by NM Political Report, 19 cases were referred to CYFD for excessive absences by a staff member at S.Y. Jackson Elementary School in northeast Albuquerque.
Emails also show the staff member attended a CYFD training on neglect and abuse just prior to making the reports.
On Dec. 18, Executive Director for the Student Family and Community Supports Division of APS Kristine Meurer emailed CYFD Protective Services Deputy Director Annamarie Luna regarding investigations into S.Y. Jackson families.
Meurer wrote that counselors at a December CYFD training were instructed to report instances of 10 or more student absences. An S.Y. Jackson employee followed the instructions, even getting clarification from CYFD.
In emails from APS to CYFD, it was revealed that an APS employee reported 19 children for missing 10 or more days of school, adding clarification that there was no suspected abuse.
In her own email, Luna confirmed that not all of the referrals spurred an investigation.
“The calls were screened in and then assigned for investigation. Most of the cases had excused absences so there will be no follow up,” Luna wrote.
In a separate email that seemed to contradict what Luna wrote, CYFD Central Intake manager Sandra Gallegos told Varela some of the attendance reports were screened in because of a lack of information about their absences.
“Since there are no explanations provided by Source as to why the child may have been absent, these reports were screened in,” Gallegos wrote. “The [Service Definition Manual] does not differentiate between excused and unexcused.”
According to CYFD training materials, referrals are either screened in or screened out based on whether there is enough evidence to start an investigation.
Screened in cases trigger an investigation while screened out cases are closed. Both screened in and screened out referrals “are cross reported to law enforcement and other regulatory agencies, as mandated by CYFD policy.”
According to the training documents, if a report “does not meet the criteria for an investigation” the report is closed.
Varela said excessive absences, even if excused, can signal problems at home.
“Maybe you have a kid where the parent signs an excuse all the time,” Varela said.
Varela said educational neglect “is not a black and white situation” and that CYFD “errs on the side of caution when investigating excessive absences.”
He added that, “If somebody at the school thinks that educational neglect is happening they need to report it.”
According to CYFD training materials, for a situation to qualify as educational neglect an elementary school age child “must have 10 absences within a semester.”
‘That's not going to happen again on my watch'
At least one other parent from S.Y. Jackson Elementary School contacted school board members, the school's principal and the APS superintendent through email asking for an explanation.
Albuquerque family law attorney Joe Wiseman also received a home visit from CYFD regarding his seven-year-old son's absences. In an email to APS Board President David Peercy, Wiseman said he and his wife were not home when CYFD came to his house. In Wiseman's case, CYFD workers left an investigation notice at his door.
Wiseman said it was only through his son that he found out CYFD went to the school and questioned the seven-year-old.
“I work with CYFD daily in my professional life for all levels of abuse,” Wiseman wrote to Peercy. “CYFD can barely keep up with all of the physical abuse I see daily as a family law attorney, yet they are using their resources to investigate my son's absences? This is absolutely absurd.”
Wiseman said he has contacted CYFD but not received a response.
In an interview with NM Political Report , Peercy was careful not to blame CYFD. But he added that the situation was “blown out of proportion completely.”
“That's not going to happen again on my watch,” Peercy said. “Most of the time we handle that internally.”
S.Y. Jackson principal Jack Vermillion did reply to Wiseman, explaining that the school's counselor attended a training by CYFD and asked when to report student absences to the department.
“Our counselor asked [three] different times during the presentation if this was all absences or unexcused absences,” Vermillion wrote to Wiseman. “She was told that it was all absences. She had never heard of this before, but she came back and did what she was told to do.”
Parent outrage and demands for an explanation from either APS or CYFD kicked off the series of emails between Luna and Meurer that NM Political Report obtained from CYFD. On Dec. 19, Meurer further pushed the agency for an explanation, asking why CYFD would encourage APS to report excused absences and why CYFD workers purportedly disclosed to parents that the school reported the absences in question.
“If we are going to be able to ensure that school personnel are comfortable making reports of suspected child abuse/neglect; schools/individuals have to be able to feel that their identities are kept confidential,” Meurer wrote.
In the same email, Meurer stressed the importance of an explanation and apology from CYFD.
“Some parents are on the verge of obtaining legal services as they are worried their reputations and future job prospects may be in jeopardy,” Meurer wrote.
Two days later, APS got a letter from the head of CYFD.
The state responds
In a letter to APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy, CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson offered an explanation of the department's investigation standards, along with a blanket apology to the families in question.
“The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) strives to be kind, respectful and responsive in our work with our families and our community,” Jacobson wrote. “This is one of our core operating principles, and we offer our sincere apology to those families who felt that we have not or did not operate in this manner.”
Jacobson went on to write that state law requires school officials to report “when a child has 10 or more unexcused absences in a year.”
Jacobson's apology letter isn't enough for Wiseman though, who called it a “cop out.”
“To me it felt like a form letter,” Wiseman said. “I'm mostly upset it did not address why my son was interrogated without my knowledge.”
While Wiseman is not ready to let APS off the hook for not handling his son's absences internally, he said CYFD should have acted differently.
“They're wasting their resources when it could have been resolved with a two minute phone call,” Wiseman said. “Not even to me, but to the counselor.”
Sex abuse survivor: I'm taking my life back, I'm not your victim anymore
by Anna Leask
This is Galina Velas.
She was sexually abused by her stepfather, Mihail Bourduk, and she wants you to hear her story.
Bourduk, who lives in Torbay with his second wife, did things to Velas that were described as "repugnant" in court. As a result, she lost control of her life.
She battled bulimia for 15 years, the stomach acid from throwing up constantly destroying 17 of her teeth.
She lost two chances at motherhood - one to abortion, the other to adoption - because she was not living a good or a safe life and did not feel she should bring a child into the world.
She has been in an abusive relationship, worked in an adult industry, lost countless other jobs, friends and relationships and has ongoing serious health issues.
But she does not want your sympathy. She is a survivor, not a victim.
Velas has taken the brave step of waiving her right to automatic and permanent name suppression so she can share what happened to her and help others, create awareness and remove the shame and stigma around sexual abuse.
"I am not a victim, I am a survivor, a growing warrior maybe," Velas said.
"It felt like i had a heavy load of shame on my shoulders, I felt so bad about myself ... and now I realise that it's not my shame and it's not my fault.
"It's not my shame, or anyone else who has been abused ... and I want people to know that.
"People need to be brave and stand up like I did and take that control back. I want to spread the word, I want to help in any way that I can."
Bourduk was convicted of attempted sexual connection and two counts of performing an indecent act on a young person in the Auckland District Court following a jury trial.
He denied any abuse occurred, and maintains that Velas lied in court and her allegations were all fabricated.
He is serving a sentence of home detention for his offending.
Velas faced him in court at that sentencing, reading a powerful victim impact statement which she has shared with the Herald.
What Bourduk did: the facts
Velas is not dwelling on the sexual abuse she suffered, but wants people to know what she went through in a bid to create awareness and to educate the community and victims about what is going on in so many Kiwi homes.
The details of the offending are graphic and may be upsetting to some, but Velas said it was important people knew what her stepfather did so they could understand her struggle.
After a trial in the Auckland District Court Mihail Bourduk, 51, was found guilty by a jury of attempted sexual connection and two charges performing an indecent act on a young person.
Bourduk denied throughout the trial, and continues to deny, that he abused his stepdaughter.
However he was convicted on all charges and sentenced to eight months' home detention.
The 51-year-old became Galina Velas' stepfather when she was 6 years old, after being in a relationship with her mother for some time.
The family were living in St Petersburg, Russia, but when Velas was 13 they emigrated to New Zealand, arriving in Auckland in March 1995.
The family moved into a small, one-bedroom flat in Onehunga and all slept together on a mattress.
In September 1995 Velas was asleep on the mattress when Bourduk when he moved in close behind her and tried to push his penis through her legs towards her genitals.
She tried to move away but could not, and, afraid of what was going to happen, squeezed her legs together and coughed loudly enough to wake her mother.
Only when his wife stirred did Bourduk stop.
In another incident in the flat Bourduk and Velas were sitting on the couch watching television when he stretched out his legs and started pressing her genitals over her clothing with his feet.
Soon after the family moved to a house in Beach Haven and Velas had her own bedroom.
The court heard that she would often walk out of her room and see Bourduk without any pants on.
During her teenage years Velas suffered from bad skin, and Bourduk's third charge came as a result of him offering her a "solution" to her problem.
He told his stepdaughter that sperm was "very good for the skin" and when he got the opportunity, followed her into the bathroom and masturbated in front of her, into a container.
He then told Velas, about 14-years-old at the time, "to apply it to her face".
Court document reveals further abuse claims
During the trial the court heard from Velas about years of violent and sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather.
While he was only convicted on the three charges, Judge Stan Thorburn acknowledged Velas' claim that there was more abuse in her life.
Court documents provided to the Herald reveal that Velas accused Bourduk of offending dating back to when she was 5 years old, before he married her mother.
"Miss Velas wants the court to be aware the offending was not isolated, but was in fact representative of a persistent pattern of sexual grooming, physical and sexually abusive behaviour that he subjected her to for many years," a reparation report presented to Judge Thorburn said.
"Miss Velas asserted that the offending began shortly after her mother met the offender when she was about 5 years of age, escalating in frequency, severity and deviance until a friend supported her to disclose the offending when she was about 17 years of age.
"She stated that she understood the reason he was not charged with any earlier alleged offending was because it occurred outside of the New Zealand criminal justice jurisdiction.
"In terms of the offending, Miss Velas said that she anticipated that something would happen to her every day. Either the offender would commit an indecency on her or she would be threatened, induced or compelled to commit an indecency on him.
"Miss Velas said she never welcomed the offender's attention, but complied with his demands because she feared that either she, her mother and later her younger brother would be harmed if she refused.
"Miss Velas gave examples of some of the ways in which the offending impacted on her including leaving her feeling unsafe in her home, isolated her from her family, isolated from friends, poor self-esteem, self-loathing, unable to engage in education and pro-social employment, unable to develop positive and enduring relationships, substance abuse and self-harming behaviours.
"She said the offending had touched every aspect of her life, leaving her mentally, emotionally and spiritually damaged.
"As part of her current rehabilitation, Miss Velas is working to support other victims of childhood sexual abuse to identify and increase awareness of abusive behaviours and its many manifestations."
Judge Stan Thorburn sentenced Bourduk to eight months home detention and ordered him to pay Velas $10,000 reparation for his offending.
"Miss Velas is now in her 30s, so these matters go back now over a period of more than 20 years.
"The jury returned guilty verdicts that the defendant today is adamant as he was during the trial that ... these accusations and allegations are outright lies.
"I remember quite clearly his evidence when the issues were put to him, he became repetitive and simply responded 'nothing happened, it is lies'.
"He maintains that position, therefore there is no remorse for offending that has been regarded as proven and, of course, no acceptance of responsibility."
Judge Thorburn said Velas' victim impact statement was powerful and conveyed what many in her situation went through after such offending.
"Victims of offending of the nature who carry the memory of it with them through their formative years of their lives ... are often debilitated by ... a lack of dignity and erosion of self-confidence.
"They expect little of themselves because they have been treated as though they are of little value and it means that they often make poor decisions about the direction of their own life because they don't think they are worthy of pursuing anything of much worth."
Judge Thorburn said Bourduk had never been before the courts until these matters and he genuinely believed there had been no further offending with anyone else.
He said Bourduk had been an exemplary member of the community for most of his life in New Zealand.
But, he said, Bourduk had a dark, repugnant secret.
"There is a paradox here," the judge said.
"It's not unusual in the human event that people have had a phase or a stage where there has been something quite dark, but it has never been repeated and it never will be ... it is in contrast to everything that is known about a person.
"All of us have secrets. For Mr Bourduk, it seems clear that there is a dark one ... it's dark and it's terrible."
While Bourduk's offending may have never been repeated, Judge Thorburn said it was still crucial to hold him to account for his offending and the damage he had caused Velas.
"There was a grotesque breach of trust ... while in a relationship as a parent you used that relationship to control for self-gratification in a sexual way," he said.
"The victim ... being someone who was dependant and also very vulnerable.
"That is an overarching and repugnant feature in this type of offending."
Judge Thorburn said it was not appropriate to send Bourduk to prison for his crimes.
He said the community did not need protecting from Bourduk and it would be a waste of tax payer money to incarcerate him.
Instead he sentenced Bourduk to home detention and ordered him to pay the reparation.
Velas had told the court earlier that she did not want any monetary payment.
"I note that she has not asked ... and she has made it clear why, but the court is obliged to take into account the steps it can take to do as much as possible to assist the victim to a path of recovery."
Galina Velas: A message to my abuser
Velas has allowed the Herald to publish her victim impact in full. She read this in court, to Bourduk at sentencing and was commended by Judge Thorburn for her courage.
It has been almost 30 years since the day my childhood was taken away from me.
The abuse that had gone on for over 10 years has completely impacted and changed my life.
I was robbed of a chance to have a normal childhood, be a normal teenager and grow into a beautiful adulthood full of possibilities.
The abuse started by grooming, then instilling fear by brutal beatings, indecent exposures and then sexual acts that no child should ever be exposed to.
You took away all control of my body and any right to speak up and stand up for myself.
That made me hate myself in every way.
I grew up having a very low self-esteem which caused me to take extreme action to make me feel good and worthy.
I became bulimic in my early teens and for the next 15 years struggled fighting it.
This then extended to over-exercising which lead to me being unable to face public unless I punished myself by making myself sick.
Bulimia had such a strong hold over me that by my early twenties, my stomach acid destroyed 17 of my teeth, which needed to be repaired or removed.
I have had ongoing stomach issues from a very young age - I have seen dozens of doctors and had all procedures possible to find out the cause.
Recently I have discovered via a specialist that my stomach issue is very common in sexual abuse cases. My treatment will be very hard and will take many years to bring me to normality.
The final year of my school was spent at the gym or over a toilet bowl. I barely passed my exams. I tried studying at Auckland Uni, AUT and other private tertiary providers but failed each course.
I was extremely self-conscious and insecure. I felt so stupid each time I failed. I was left with a huge debt and no education to show for it. I stopped trying to study as each time I tried the failure hurt even more. I was good for nothing and felt so alone.
Holding down any jobs after I left home was near impossible and was have been fired from every work place. Because of the eating disorder and lack of self-esteem, I often would not turn up for work and struggled communicating with customers or colleagues.
Still unemployed in my early twenties, no sense of career direction, no good friends or support around me, I got into a horrible industry where the only worth was seen is my body and how it could be used by others.
I've allowed other men to use me as I felt that is all I had to offer. It what I thought love was and to get it I had to give myself, my body and my soul up.
Shortly after I got into an abusive relationship where beatings where a norm. As always, everything was my fault at all times. Like in my childhood, I would freeze every time I saw a fist about to punch me, I would let myself be pushed to the ground and kicked even when I was heavily pregnant or slammed against a wall or a door.
I've alienated myself from my family and any friends who tried making contact with me. I've missed my brother's biggest life events, like him going to intermediate school and then college, having accidents where I could not be by his side to make him feel better.
I've missed my time with my ageing grandma, spending precious time with her neither I or her or I can ever get back. Being there for my mum through ups and downs, new jobs and holidays - was not to be.
I turned to alcohol which I thought would help go through my life at home and outside of home. I no longer knew who I was and how to live.
Out of sheer fear of putting another human being through what I have gone through, I chose to have an abortion at 20 and then a few years later - an adoption. I lost two chances of being a mother and left a child with a huge hole in their heart.
The bond with this child is thin and separated by continents where seeing that child is extremely difficult- all because of the inhumane abuse you inflicted upon me, your own then-stepdaughter, a helpless lonely child who just wanted to have another chance at having a dad, a true family and to be loved.
I was and still not able to fully form meaningful friendships, and I struggled to trust any person. If another female friend was introduced, it would feel she was a threat to me. I would feel worse about myself, comparing myself and would almost always feel fatter, uglier and more stupid and definitely not worthy of love.
My current long-term relationships have suffered greatly over the past 10 years as well as all of our direct families as a result of my insecurities and fears. Developing close relationships is what I would love to do but as soon as I start feeling invested, I get scared and push people away. That part is extremely painful to me.
With the help of my partner and my psychologist, I've realised that everything is NOT my fault.
All of my symptoms stem from my abuse. For many years, my partner has been supporting me in helping start a new life.
When we met he helped me leave the soul-destroying industry and start from scratch.
I began as a waitress then receptionist and working in the office environment. Today I'm slowly beginning to feel that I am capable of having a worthy career.
For the past 10 years my partner has endured my insecurities and losing control and taking the full brunt of my anger. I feel so grateful for his support but cannot help to think what kind of life he and we would have led now if I did not stop us from all life opportunities and possibilities had it not been for the side effects cause by you.
As a result of my abuse, for many years I felt that I have failed my family, my partner and my friends. I've spent my life avoiding normal people in normal situations, I am envious of some people who have normal issues. Progressing in life was and is still difficult.
I have lost 20 years of fair chance in education and building an enjoyable career, leading a happy and fulfilling life surrounding by the love of family.
I am now in therapy on regular basis as well as couples therapy to try and help me and my family more forward and remove the trauma caused by the abuse which affects everyone around me.
For years I've lived with the abuser's scars left on my soul and body, it is a daily reminder that you got away with it for so long.
Low self-worth caused by the abuse prevented me from growing as a happy person, enjoying life and finding my true path.
But I'm a survivor and with help of a small but powerful army of people who care for me, I am starting to believe in myself and a big step towards my freedom is to make my abuser fully accountable for the years of agonising pain he has caused.
However, words can never truly express how much pain he had also caused to my family, my partner and my friends.
I hope a fair judgement will be served and I and my closest people can have another chance at a great life - I deserve it.
If you're in danger NOW:
• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay.
Where to go for help or more information:
• The Harbour, for those affected by harmful sexual behaviour
• Help Auckland 24/7 helpline 09 623 1700
• Wellington Help 24/7 crisisline 04 801 6655, push 0
• Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. www.whiteribbon.org.nz
How to hide your visit
If you are reading this information on the Herald website and you're worried that someone using the same computer will find out what you've been looking at, you can follow the steps at the link here to hide your visit. Each of the websites above also have a section that outlines this process.
The Taboo Of Child Sexual Abuse In India
by Vartika Pande
Is Child Sexual Abuse a reality in India?
It is difficult to come out as a survivor of sexual abuse in a society where blaming the victim is the norm. In this light, child sexual abuse is an issue which is usually not paid much attention to. This is evident from the fact that there was no law in India against Child Sexual Abuse until 2012 and the law in itself remains quite ineffective in addressing this sensitive issue. It is appalling to see that in a report by Ministry of Women and Child Development in India, 53% of children are victims of child sexual abuse in India. Globally speaking, India ranks second in terms of the highest rate of child sexual abuse. What is more worrying is the fact that mostly child sexual abuse is incestuous in nature which means that it is committed by a person who is a family member and has an easy access to the child.
Why is it important to “ break the silence ” around Child Sexual Abuse?
This issue gained visibility when media hype was created around it. Kalki Koechlin was one of the first celebrities to break the silence on this issue when she talked about how she was sexually abused as a child and her biggest fear was that her mother would find out about it and it will be a cause of utter embarrassment and disgrace for her. This is where the problem is. Most of us have been sexually violated as children but have always feared coming out in the open about it because we associate “embarrassment” and “humiliation” with such acts. The main task is to break away from the taboo to talk about such issues which lead to violation of basic human rights of children within the so called ‘safe' vicinity of their homes.
In India, RAHI is an organisation that is involved intensively with mental healing of the survivors of incest and child sexual abuse. It is involved at various levels that enable the survivors to have a support mechanism and also to spread awareness regarding CSA. It is a feminist group that has created a supportive environment for survivors. It goes beyond ‘breaking the silence' and has developed a powerful voice that strives to mainstream the discussion about incest and CSA in India and include it in social dialogue. Addressing the long-term impact of incest and CSA on adult women, RAHI not only forms the backbone of work on this issue in India but has also brought this issue to light and inspired other groups working in this area.
It is not only physically traumatic for a child to be abused sexually but also, mentally. All children are vulnerable to sexual abuse regardless of their age, gender, or where and whom they live with. This is because children are trusting of all adults and in our society they are less powerful, less informed and taught to obey elders.
Children try to hide their dreadful ‘secret' and suffer in silence but usually experience very strong feelings inside: fear, depression, guilt, shame, betrayal, anger, confusion, helplessness and despair. As a result of sexual abuse, children also inherently feel dirty, damaged and different. They are often unable to verbalize these feelings. This is mainly because they do not know the appropriate language to tell their close ones about it. However, it is necessary to understand that there should be mechanisms provided by the state in order for the healing of the survivor since it is something that shapes their sexuality, behaviour and emotions for life. Following are the ways in which CSA has a long lasting effect on the survivor:
Emotional reactions: The survivor could blame themselves for being abused and not being able to stop it. This often leads to anger around abuse being directed at themselves or elsewhere, rather than at the abuser. Feelings could also be numbed down. It usually shows up in anxiety and panic attacks, depression, phobias, body aches and other ailments. Severe abuse can also sometimes lead to personality disorders.
Self-perceptions: They tend to believe they are worthless, have very low self esteem and are unable to take compliments. They appear to be extremely confident on the surface but perceive themselves as not good enough. They feel the need to constantly prove themselves and all this often leads to further victimisation.
Self-harm: They tend to get into self destructive behaviours in order to cope. Some of these behaviours are over-eating, depriving themselves of food, self mutilation, suicide attempts and alcohol and drug abuse.
Powerlessness: The are usually gripped by the feeling of being powerless and not in control over their surroundings. Therefore, they use a variety of ways to be in charge. They could be super organised, hyper active and vigilant.
Physical Effects: Stomach disturbances, frequent illness, gynecological problems, aches and pain.
Sexual Effects: Abuse also leads to a disturbed sexual life for the survivor. Associating feelings of pain, shame and humiliation with sex and any kind of physical intimacy is common. It can lead to avoidance of sex as they may experience flashbacks of the abuse during sex. On the other hand, they can get into indiscriminate sexual activity and also use their bodies as a way to get power, love and attention.
Relationships: They feel threatened, so they tend to withdraw from or are uncomfortable in close relationships or become extremely dependent and clingy. It makes them vulnerable to further exploitation of themselves and their children.
If children, who are survivors of abuse, are not given the right guidance to get over that phase of their life, they may turn out to be individuals who would not be able to realize their full potential in so many ways.
My Experience of Child Sexual Abuse
I was eight years old when it all began. I belong to a traditional Indian joint family and my cousin who is not more than five years elder to me came up with this idea. I had no idea what was happening to me since I wasn't really aware of what sex was. I was not confident enough to confide in anyone, since I was afraid no one would believe me. Despite this, I tried telling my aunt (my cousin's mother) once but she immediately shunned down the issue labelling it as my “fantasy” and “imagination”. In her eyes, her son was too “innocent” to commit such an act.
The main problem is that there was such a taboo around this issue and denial in my family that I was too vulnerable to talk about it when I was a child. Even though I was very close to my mother and could trust her with this, my parents got divorced when I was six years old and I did not have her around to discuss this with her.
I would constantly feel guilty and ashamed of what was happening to me. I did not have an option but to remain silent. I shared quite a friendly relationship with my cousin. I would not say that he is an unpleasant person in general because he would take care of me otherwise and was also quite protective of me. It was because of this particular reason that I grew up in a constant emotional dilemma whether to love him or hate him and maintain my distance from him.
I asked him to stop several times but he would usually force himself on me saying that it was the last time. However, it stopped when I was twelve years of age and was sent to boarding school for my further education. There was an awkward silence between the two of us because of the relationship we shared. However, he would often visit me in school and we started afresh in terms of the bond that we had begun to develop.
Though my case is different because I was caught up in the dilemma of a love-hate relationship with my cousin, the main issue still remains (which should not have gone unaddressed) – that is, I was sexually violated by him and I couldn't do anything, absolutely anything about it.
Over a period of time, as I grew up, I realised that I was not the only one who had had such an experience. I gradually came to know of girls who had been a survivor of CSA that was incestuous in nature, committed either by brothers, uncles, cousins and even fathers in some cases. They faced the same problems like I did in speaking up and confiding in a person whom they could trust with helping them out. Sadly, none of us at that time knew how to really communicate it to our confidants. It is very important to teach children at a very young age about sexual abuse and keep the door open for them to approach their parents and confide in them.
Why does it become difficult to admit that one has been sexually violated as a child?
Despite the laws in our country, the main reason the issue of CSA goes unaddressed is because of the social taboo attached to it. In India, the law against CSA is only very recent and although it contains provisions that prevent the tormenting of children during questioning and so on, the long-term effects and issues still remain to be evaluated.
The Indian law does recognize that the victim of child sexual abuse can be a boy, but because of the toxic notions of ‘masculinity‘ prevalent in the society, it is quite difficult for them to tell their stories. Even when they manage to, most people dismiss them saying all sorts of things like, “you must have enjoyed it,” among many others.
In a television show called Satyamev Jayate, equal rights activist Harish Iyer narrated his experience of child sexual abuse and how it took him so many years to come around what was happening with him and finally put an end to it.
It is also necessary to ask whether all the heightened media and social awareness, for all its positive intentions of ‘visibilising' the issue, has really helped in curbing the occurrence of sexual abuse and challenged the gender/power differences that lead to the exploitation of children in their own homes. In spite of all the social and academic commentary, media hype on sexual abuse and some legal reforms, it is even harder to change mindsets at the ground level: it is hard work to sensitise people who interpret laws and implement them as they still struggle to get rid of their denials and think beyond more ‘traditional' notions of gender, masculinity–femininity, virtue and childhood. After all, incest and child sexual abuse like any other form of violence is supported by the inherent power discrepancies that inform our families and societies.
In India, the idea of family is a monolithic unit – large, safe, with men obeying the heterosexual norm and the notion that they are meant to defend vulnerable women and children they “own” – remains very strong. Due to this reason, one aspect of CSA that makes it particularly difficult for cases to be exposed and perpetrators subjected to legal sanction is the emotional dilemma it can generate in victims abused by close relatives.
Here are some organisations which are working against child sexual abuse and will be able to help.
RAHI Foundation, New Delhi
Jerusalem opens multidisciplinary child abuse recovery center
by Daniel K. Eisenbud
"We are striving to create the first-ever research and treatment center for maltreated kids."
The Haruv Children's Campus, an unprecedented global child abuse recovery center combining research and treatment methodologies across an array of disciplines, will officially open on Monday at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, on Mount Scopus.
Located directly across the street from the main entrance to Hadassah University Medical Center, dozens of construction workers on Sunday installed the final touches to the sprawling campus, which will include emergency treatment, therapeutic facilities and child advocacy assistance.
Prof. Asher Ben Arieh, director of the Haruv Institute, the leading authority on child abuse in Israel, said the campus houses seven organizations working jointly on all aspects of identifying, diagnosing, and treating neglected children.
“This multi-disciplinary campus provides a holistic, child-centered approach to treating, studying and addressing the global issue of child abuse, and creates new opportunities for groundbreaking collaboration between institutes and organizations in Israel, and around the world,” said Ben Arieh.
“Child abuse and neglect occurs in all sectors of society, and has a destructive impact on growth and development. We are striving to create the first-ever comprehensive research and treatment center for maltreated children, based on the widely- admired university hospital model.”
Ben Arieh continued: “The campus will attract top researchers, professionals and students from Israel and abroad, creating opportunities to affect real change for at-risk children.”
Twenty children between the ages of four and 16 will live in the center, while over 100 children will attend day clinics featuring counseling, clinical treatment and child abuse investigations.
The planning and design of the campus were carried out to reflect its emphasis on addressing the needs of children and families, said Ben Arieh.
“Throughout the campus, calming elements have been introduced, such as pools of water, pastoral greenery and play areas created from natural materials,” he said.
“The interior spaces have colorful playrooms, work areas that provide privacy and a school and kindergarten for children at the emergency center.”
According to the World Health Organization, every fourth child worldwide is a victim of child abuse. Within Israel, about 400,000 youth are considered at-risk.
In 2015, there were an estimated 44,000 new cases of child abuse reported, with every third Israeli child suffering some form of neglect. Among that population, 20% were children with special needs, and 11% suffered sexual abuse.
The problem is so acute, that Ben Arieh said child services workers routinely deal with unmanageable levels of caseloads.
He noted that the Mount Scopus campus was selected for its strategic location and general accessibility, adding that it is close to ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities, and offers a culturally sensitive approach to its work with these disparate populations.
The Haruv Institute, which spearheaded the initiative, was aided financially by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation; JDC-Israel; the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry; the National Insurance Institute; and the Jerusalem Municipality Welfare Services.
The NIS 50 million campus will house the Schusterman Emergency Center; the Beit Lynn Child Protection Center; the Israel National Council for the Child; the Center for Treatment of Sexually Abused Children; the Israel Medical Stimulation Center; the Municipal Child Welfare Center; and the Goshen Program for Comprehensive Child Health.
“Ever since its founding in 2007, Haruv has served as a beacon of hope and a source of strength for victims of child abuse and their families,” said Lynn Schusterman, founder and co-chairwoman of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.
“It has been a forceful advocate for those least able to defend themselves, and it has trained thousands of professionals responsible for preventing and treating abuse and neglect. The opening of the Haruv Children's Campus ushers in the next phase of this critically important mission, and is a striking example of how Haruv has grown to become an international center of excellence in its field.”
David Schizer, CEO of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee called the campus a “major step in the treatment and prevention of child abuse and neglect in Israel and beyond.”
“It champions a holistic approach, ensuring critical players in this field can learn from and inform each other's success, something we understand full well from our own work in Israel,” Schizer said.
“We're proud of our partnership with the Haruv Institute and the Schusterman Family Foundation to once again foster innovation of new program models to support Israel's most vulnerable community.”
Child abuse and neglect soar in US military families
by Shelley Connor
A recent investigation by the Los Angeles Times/Tribune has uncovered a significant increase in child abuse and neglect among US military families since 2003.
Using Freedom of Information Act requests, the Times gained access to reports from the Army, Navy and Air Force that reveal that, in many cases, military officials failed to act upon known or suspected cases of child abuse in military families.
The reports confirm that child fatalities in military homes jumped from 14 in 2003 to 38 in 2012; from 2012 to 2014, they remained above 30 per year until they dropped to 23 in 2015—the last year that Pentagon records are available. That same year, the Family Advocacy Program (FAP), a military program aimed at intervening in cases of domestic violence and child neglect, reported 5,378 cases of child abuse and neglect in military families.
For years, the Pentagon has maintained that child abuse is less common and less severe in military homes than it is among the civilian population. It asserts that its vigilance in weeding out drug and alcohol users screens out most abusive parents—moreover, service members, the Pentagon says, are free from the stress of unemployment faced by most civilians, which decreases the financial strain upon military families.
Most proudly, the Pentagon points to its Family Advocacy Program (FAP) and the obligation of base commanders to monitor the welfare of their troops' families and to order the FAP to intervene in cases where service members are suspected or known to have abused their family members.
Despite the Pentagon's boasts, however, the rate of child abuse and neglect in the military has risen from 4.8 incidents per 1,000 children to 7.2 within five years. This rise, demonstrated by the Pentagon's own records, has occurred even as the number of enlisted personnel has declined by 10 percent in recent years.
Moreover, FAP personnel point out that these are only the cases to which its caseworkers are alerted. The Times report quotes Rene Robichaux, who oversees the Army's clinical child abuse treatment program, who said, “We get about 25 percent of the incidents. The rest occur behind closed doors.”
The FAP was founded in the years following the Vietnam War, when there was a spike in spousal abuse cases amongst returning military personnel. Previous efforts by the military to intervene in domestic abuse cases amongst its members had been poorly funded and unenthusiastically maintained.
FAPs predecessor, the Child Advocacy Program, was established in 1976 to address mounting incidents of child abuse in military homes. In 1979, after multiple reports demonstrated that military service members were responsible for 15 percent of the nation's total spousal abuse cases, the program was expanded to include spouses and renamed the Family Advocacy Program. The program has a budget of around $2 million a year, and is brandished by the Department of Defense both as a benefit to military recruits and as a shield against the public outcry against the military's treatment of enlistees and their families.
Child abuse and neglect are known to correlate strongly with deployment. Despite this, base commanders have failed to report cases of abuse to the FAP. Child welfare advocates have pointed out that there is reluctance among commanders to address cases of abuse and neglect, because they can lead to a service member's discharge. Not only that, these reports can be seen as evidence of a commander's incompetence to monitor his or her troops.
Several recent high-profile child murder cases have also shown that FAP referrals alone are inadequate to address concerns over child maltreatment in military families.
In the case of 22-month-old Tamryn Klapheke, who died of starvation on Dyess Air Force Base, the FAP had previously intervened, along with Texas' Child Protective Services, after the infant's malnourished state was reported by doctors. Tamryn's father was serving overseas at the time. Tamryn's mother, Tiffany Klapheke, cooperated with FAP's requirements, making all of Tamryn's assigned doctors' visits and completing a parenting course.
Three months after a social worker had noted in Tamryn's file that fatality was likely if she were not fed appropriately, the family was released from the program's oversight. Autopsy reports demonstrate that Tiffany Klapheke had provided neither food nor water for Tamryn for at least four days before she died.
All branches of the military have increased staffing for the FAP in recent years. Nevertheless, the program is overwhelmed, particularly when units return from deployment. A service member might wait for three weeks or more to speak with an FAP therapist after being referred to the program. Moreover, the cases that are referred tend to be extreme, demanding immediate attention. There is an incentive for caseworkers and their managers to quickly move families through the program in order to work through the caseload.
In some cases, parents never come into contact with an FAP caseworker, even when there are multiple, well-documented reports of abuse.
Such was the case of Talia Williams, a five-year-old girl living on Wheeler Air Force Base, who died after being beaten by her father and stepmother in July of 2005. Mrs. Williams had been reported by coworkers numerous times for remarking that beating children was acceptable as long as there were no incriminating marks. Her father did not take such precautions; the staff at Talia's daycare notified military police after finding bruises on Talia's arms and back. Talia had told them that her father beat her with a paddle when he was angry.
The FAP agent assigned to Talia's case never took action; Naeem Williams was sentenced to life in prison for his daughter's murder. In 2008, Talia's mother sued the Army for negligence and wrongful death in federal court. The Justice Department attempted to block the suit, arguing that the Army was not responsible for child abuse on its bases. U.S. District Judge Alan C. Kay rejected the government's motion to dismiss. Last year, the Justice Department settled with Tarshia Williams for $2 million—the amount of the FAP's yearly budget—in the case of her daughter's death.
The United States has been at war continuously for more than 15 years. Decreases in enlistment have meant that enlistees face multiple deployments. The stress placed on these service members and their families is well-documented.
Children of service members suffer from anxiety at a higher rate than their civilian cohort. Behavioral problems, distractibility, and cognitive impairment among the children of deployed troops reveals the tremendous strain that their parents' deployments places upon their young shoulders. When their parents return, readjustment to civilian life is fraught with peril. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is prevalent among these service members; added to that is the economic uncertainty to which they return.
It is wholly unsurprising that child abuse and neglect are increasing in these families. In fact, the military's own research, conducted since the late 1970's, confirms that this is not a novel, undocumented phenomenon. The evidence accrued steadily throughout the 1980's that spousal abuse was much more prevalent in the homes of service members who had been deployed, and child abuse, it is well-known, is much more likely in families where there is spousal abuse.
The military's use of the FAP as a fig leaf to hide behind is therefore obviously disingenuous, as is the Pentagon's insistence that military families are well-cared for economically.
Many service members, lured to war by the dangling of recruitment bonuses, are now being forced by the Pentagon to repay those bonuses, despite serving multiple overseas tours and incurring significant psychological and financial strain.
The unnecessary deaths of Talia Williams and Tamryn Klapheke testify to the fact that the United States' endless wars are claiming victims on American soil; moreover, they expose the indifference of the military to the scourge of child abuse amongst its ranks, when addressing it would endanger the steady stream of soldiers to fight and die for the interests of American imperialism.
Sexual abuse of children on the rise
by Elias Hazou
Reported incidents of sexual abuse of minors are on the rise, MPs heard on Monday.
In 2015, 220 cases were filed involving abuse of children, of which 80 cases concerned sexual abuse. Similar figures were recorded in 2016.
In relation to the situation online, 18 children were asked to exchange explicit images in 2014, 20 children in 2015, and 26 children last year.
The House human rights committee was reviewing progress in the implementation of the National Strategy and Action Plan to Combat Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children and Child Pornography – the basic text policy which directs the actions and initiatives of authorities.
MPs heard that the Child Safe House – an objective set long ago by advocates – would be established and begin operating within 2017.
The safe house will be operated by the Hope for Children NGO. Premises have been allocated in Nicosia following a donation from a private association.
The Child Safe House is to accommodate all the necessary services to the child and its family, all provided by trained professionals.
The purpose and function of the Child Safe House is to hasten the procedures, shortening the period between the time of the termination of the abuse and the effective treatment of the cases.
Deputies said that the creation of the safe house, and the protection it would afford to victims, would lead to more incidents being reported than is currently the case.
Disy MP and chair of the House human rights committee Stella Kyriakidou said greater emphasis should be placed on prevention rather than on just criminal prosecution after the fact.
Prevention involves educating and raising awareness among minors and parents, she added.
Kyriakidou also appealed to parents to stop uploading pictures of their children on social media.
CASA betters future for foster children
by The New Jersey Herald
MORRISTOWN -- Each day in the United States, 1,900 children become victims of abuse, neglect, or abandonment; 450,000 children are in foster care on any given day across the country. Together, Morris and Sussex counties are home to more than 400 of these children. Children placed in foster care face a world of instability due to an overwhelmed system, consistent movement between placements and overall unpredictability, all while experiencing the ups and downs of the formative years. Though seemingly an insoluble system, each day volunteers from the community are making extraordinary efforts to act on behalf of the best interests of vulnerable children in foster care.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Morris and Sussex Counties recruits, trains, and supervises volunteers from the community to be champions for children in foster care. These volunteers dedicate themselves to become a vital voice for the child within the court system. CASA is an independent, non-profit organization whose mission is to speak up for the best interests of children who have been removed from their homes due to substantiated abuse, neglect or abandonment. These child victims have been placed by New Jersey's Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) into foster homes or residential facilities.
Studies show that children who experience abuse and neglect are more likely to suffer physically and emotionally in adulthood, evidenced by a higher likelihood of having major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other health complications than their peers. However, children with a CASA volunteer by their side are less likely to be in long-term foster care. They are less likely to re-enter the system. Children with a CASA volunteer are less likely to get lost in a consistently overwhelmed system.
For children in foster care, change truly can be the only constant. The CASA volunteer acts as a reliable, consistent adult presence in the life of the child, which can be full of otherwise unfamiliar places and faces. An appointed CASA volunteer continues advocating until the child has achieved permanency, either through reunification with the biological parent or in a new, loving, "forever" home. In 2016, 178 CASA volunteers served 365 children in care across Morris and Sussex counties, and 134 of these children achieved permanency.
CASA volunteers are prepared through orientation sessions, interviews, court observation, and a 36-hour training program. This preparation culminates in a ceremony where advocates are sworn in by a family court judge. Once assigned to a case, the CASA volunteer becomes acquainted with all parties involved in the life of the child, and collects information to make informed, fact-based recommendations to the judge. In addition, CASA volunteers work to secure community resources and services to improve the child's stability and outcomes, such as therapeutic evaluations, medical services and appropriate school enrollment and programs.
"I think volunteering opens up opportunities to engage, more meaningfully, with different parts of communities. It also facilitates the creation of more personal relationships. And these relationships, often with people we might never have met, are one of the building blocks to making a positive difference in the world," said Megan Sager, CASA volunteer.
Kim Kramer, another CASA volunteer, added, "I became a CASA to make a difference in the life of a child. What I did not understand when I signed up was the difference these children, and their adoptive/biological parents, would make on my life!"
Nobody longs for a safe and loving family more than a child in foster care. Teenagers in the system may have endured numerous unstable years, and face a multitude of crises once they age out of the system. CASA's Fostering Futures program was initiated for youth aged 14-21, and provides mentoring and coaching to prepare them for independent living.
In 2017, CASA of Morris and Sussex Counties will be celebrating its 30th anniversary year, having served more than 5,500 children.
CASA is always looking for new volunteers who wish to speak up for the best interests of foster children. A CASA volunteer is an ordinary individual who rises to the extraordinary by making a difference in the life of an abused or neglected child. Our volunteers come from all backgrounds and walks of life. To learn about becoming a CASA volunteer advocate, visit www.casamsc.org or call 973-998-7590.
In New Jersey, if you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you are legally required to report this information to the State Central Registry. This is a toll-free, 24-hour, seven-days-a-week hotline. You can make a report anonymously by calling 1-877 NJ ABUSE (1-877-652-2873). If the child is in immediate danger, call 911, as well. A concerned caller does not need proof to report an allegation of child abuse.
CASA of Morris and Sussex Counties is a member of the Sussex County Council of Service Agencies.