Wildwood school hosts Child Abuse Prevention workshop
by Christopher South
WILDWOOD – Parents at the Glenwood Avenue School learned abut the myths and realities of child abuse at a Jan. 12 parent involvement meeting.
Pam Celenza, a coordinator with the NJ Child Abuse Prevention Program, sponsored by the NJ Department of Children and Families, introduced the program to parents, telling them the NJCAP slogan is, “Helping Children to be Safe, Strong, and Free.”
Celenza said NJCAP, through the International Center for Assault Prevention, is working in 13 states and 13 countries. The Atlantic/Cape May Counties CAP Project is hosted by AlantiCare Behavioral Health.
Celenza said NJCAP is trying to reach students, teachers, and parents, to educate them on child abuse prevention. Celenza said the program is presented to pre-K and kindergarten students. The workshop is given over three days, 45 minutes per day, for the younger students, and the kindergarten program is over two days.
With the aid of Spanish language translator Maria Conti, Celenza told parents the program began over 30 years ago, when a student was sexually assaulted on the way to school. Parents in the victim's school wanted to develop a program to educate students on assault prevention.
“They wanted to look at the myths and realities of an assault on a woman as compared to a child,” Celenza said.
One of those myths, Celenza said, was that children were in danger mostly from strangers who preyed on children they didn't know.
“Typically we educate children they can be harmed by strangers, whereas 85 to 90 percent of the time it is someone they know,” Celenza said.
Celenza said NJCAP identifies four common types of child abuse. One is neglect, which is simply not providing enough of the necessities – food, clothing, and shelter. She said there is a difference between poverty and neglect, which she said was purposely withholding basic necessities from children.
She said the next is emotional abuse, which is done with words, including withholding praise and attention. Physical abuse means injuring or harming the child. Celenza said some parents use corporal punishment, but evaluators look at the frequency and severity of the physical punishment.
“Adults have the right to discipline, but they can do it by withholding privileges rather than being physical,” she said.
Celenza told parents there are different types of sexual assault. Rape, she said, is defined as penetration. Incest involves someone living in the home, and can be an adult, an adolescent, or even a child assaulting another child. She said the assault can be by someone of the opposite or same gender.
Other forms of sexual assault include exhibitionism, which is someone showing their naked body without the victim's permission, or voyeurism, which is looking at the naked body of the victim for sexual gratification.
Celenza said it is a sexual assault to take pornographic pictures of a child or force a child to view pornography. Sexual assault also includes sexual exploitation, which involves selling the use of the child's body.
Celenza said there are generally two means of addressing sexual assault and child abuse: prosecution and education. Prosecution, she said, does not stop the attack, and there is a low conviction rate.
“In New Jersey we have Megan's Law, which requires sexual offenders to register, but that won't tell us where the unregistered offenders are,” Celenza said.
Celenza said sometimes the offender is not registered because the victim child has not told his or her story.
“Because 85 to 90 prevent of the time they are harmed by someone they know, it keeps them from telling anyone,” she said.
Celenza said the child will worry about what will happen to the offender, who is someone the child loves, and who they don't want to see get in trouble. She said the child is often convinced no one will believe them if they tell.
Celenza said teaching children to say “No” is one of the best ways to prevent child abuse.
“Studies have shown that if a child had said no, the offender would have moved on to another victim,” she said.
She said the NJCAP program aims at giving children the skills and strategies they need to prevent an assault, because prosecution is not a prevention tool. In addition, teaching a child to simply avoid behaviors or visiting a location may not help. If the child breaks a rule, and is assaulted, the child will feel it is their fault.
“How do we reduce their vulnerability to being victimized?” Celenza said.
In the NJCAP workshops, Celenza said, they teach children to be self assertive, they teach about peer support, and about telling a trusted adult.
“First, we want to empower children to say ‘no' or ‘stop,'” she said.
She said while children must listen to adults, there are times when a child's right to say no exceeds adult authority, such as when someone wants them to view pornography or watch an R-rated movie. She said children should be encouraged to ask ‘Why?' and adults should be prepared to give an appropriate response – not simply, “Because I said so.”
She said children need to have a trusted adult outside the home, which might be a teacher. However, if there is someone the child trusts, it might be difficult for them to express what happened. In these cases, the child will normally demonstrate through his or her behavior that something is wrong. She said if a child starts sucking their thumb or wetting the bed, when they did not do this before, it could be a sign of a problem. A child becoming overly affectionate could be a sign of a learned behavior. Celenza said if parents notice new behaviors they should ask the child about it and see if their story fits.
“There can be emotional or physical indicators…ask the who, what, where, when and how,” Celenza said.
According to Celenza, children will lie to get out of trouble, but they cannot lie about something they have no knowledge of or experience with. She said if a child talks about someone touching them inappropriately, it must be something the child experienced. She said parents should calmly question the child about the incident because it's not easy for the child to talk about.
At the same time, she said, don't project or make assumptions about what the child is saying.
“If the child says they don't like how their grandmother touches them, ask how she touches them. They might say, ‘She rubs my head and squeezes my cheeks,'” Celenza said.
Celenza said it is important to teach children the appropriate anatomical terms. She said there was a case of a girl telling a teacher someone was touching her “pocketbook.” The teacher told her not to bring it to school. Later, when the school psychologist asked the girl where her pocketbook was, the girl indicated her vagina.
“A lot of time prosecuting these cases is not successful because the child does not know the language,” Celenza said.
Celenza said anyone suspecting child abuse should call 1-877-NJABUSE.
Stopping child abuse before it starts
Alarmingly, Tarrant County had the most reported child abuse cases in the state in 2014.
The Department of Family and Protective Services confirmed more than 6,000 cases of child abuse or neglect, a significant jump from 2013's 5,689 reported cases.
In 2015, there were 6,213 cases here — the second-highest in the state.
The number keeps growing, and with an overwhelmed Child Protective Services agency and booming population, trying to reduce the number of child abuse victims is a challenge.
But what if you could stop it before it even starts?
A well-known movie and comic book event played around with the fantastical notion of predicting crime before it happens.
Now a few researchers have come very close to figuring that out for child abuse and neglect.
Cook Children's Center for Prevention of Child Maltreatment in Fort Worth and TCU's Department of Criminal Justice teamed up to use risk terrain modeling to more accurately pinpoint areas of likely child abuse or maltreatment.
Differing from traditional “hot spot” maps, risk terrain modeling takes into account the leading factors for child abuse and the significance of those factors.
The study lists poverty, domestic violence, aggravated assaults, runaways, murders and drug crimes as the six most significant risk factors, but it also focuses on how those factors relate to one another.
Researchers used risk terrain modeling to find areas of future cases of child abuse in Fort Worth and published their results in the December 2016 issue of Child Abuse & Neglect: The International Journal .
The researchers used 2013's data to see how accurately it could be used to predict 2014's confirmed cases in Fort Worth.
It correctly predicted 98 percent of the cases. It can even narrow the location down to a city block.
“This new approach has the potential to aid practitioners in finding the most vulnerable children before they are harmed and it enables intervention programs to concentrate and allocate limited resources in the most effective ways,” the report says.
Having this information can help organizations focus their efforts on areas that need awareness and prevention programs the most.
Stamford child abuse center changes name
by John Nickerson
STAMFORD — Almost 90 area children received special counseling services for victims of abuse last year, according to the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut.
The center's Sexual Abuse Response Team, which reviews child abuse allegations, served 87 children from Stamford, Greenwich and Darien who experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect.
The team changed its name this year to reflect its broader reach for young victims: the Child Advocacy Center.
“We felt that changing the name was necessary so the community understood that our services are available to victims of sexual abuse, serious physical abuse and neglect and witnesses to violence and sex trafficking,” said Setta Mushegian, the Child Guidance Center's director of victim services.
Of the 87 kids helped by the group last year, all but six were victims of sexual abuse. In addition, 10 children reported physical abuse, seven were referred to the program because of neglect and five for another type of neglect not listed. Mushegian said some of the children experience sexual abuse more than onece or are victims of more than one type of abuse.
The name change follows a national trend to rebrand about 700 similar teams across the country, Mushegian said.
“This is a service that we offer in concert with other agencies and other disciplines and it is really a great example of how different agencies can come together on behalf of kids that have been severely abused., said Eliot Brenner, executive director of the Child Guidance Center.
The team, which has been accredited since 2004, includes representatives from the local police departments, the Stamford State's Attorney's Office, state Department of Children and Families and the Child Guidance Center. The group meets every two weeks to review the cases.
The Guidance Center, which was founded in 1954, is referred by schools, courts, human service agencies such as DCF, physicians and psychologists.
As with the Child Advocacy Center, the Children's Guidance Center leads three other inter-agency teams that combine public and private agencies to offer services to children who have serious emotional illnesses, and those living with families with complex service needs.
Another part of the Child Advocacy Center, called the Multidisciplinary Team, is the investigative arm of the operation.
Comprised of police officers, DCF employees, victim advocates, a licensed clinical social worker and Mushegian, the team seeks to uncover what happened to them.
The social worker will conduct interviews with the children while the other participants watch on closed-circuit television, Mushegian said.
Mushegian said these interviews are conducted this way to minimize the strain on the children.
“It is an effort to only interview these kids one time in order to reduce trauma and give all the information they need to,” Mushegian said.
Sin, sex and the Church
by Ian Boyne
The problem of child sexual abuse is an endemic in Jamaica. And it has been for a long time. It is just that we are more sensitive about, and morally outraged by, this issue than previous generations.
It was a couple of years ago that it dawned on me forcefully that a very large percentage of our women were sexually molested as children. As I began to make enquiries, almost every woman I spoke to had some story about some sexually inappropriate action by an adult when she was a child. I began to make enquiries about some supposedly decent persons whom I knew as a child, and I realised that people could tell me stories about these seemingly straight-laced, holy churchmen.
One of them had come to me saying how he had been framed for molesting a little girl he was helping and he needed me to put him on to one of my big-name lawyer friends to get him off. I did. It was after he won the case that I discovered what that wretch had been up to for many years while carrying out his gospel grinding. My anger was indescribable.
My daughter, who is senior attorney with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, has prosecuted many carnal abuse and incest cases in several parishes across Jamaica. And she reports that there is a very high tolerance level for this perversion and criminality. Jurors are more eager to blame the "bad pickney dem", the "force-ripe gyal dem" who "a push it up pon the decent man them" and a "rub butter a puss mouth". These perverts can easily get character witnesses from upstanding members of their community or church.
Child sexual abuse is a culturally ingrained problem in Jamaica. But I suggest that religion complicates and facilitates it. Religion is complicit with the culture. I tell you why. Church members' natural, reflexive instinct is to protect "God's church". This is not man business you dealing with, they will tell you. In their reasoning, if the Church should lose credibility, the very mission of God could be affected. Eternal consequences are at stake. You secular people need to understand this reasoning.
Church people will say, in weighing the options, that if some souls could be lost through disappointment and disillusionment with the Church because a scandal is revealed to the police, those souls will burn in hell forever or will lose paradise. Christians feel it is better to protect the name of the Church for it has a larger mission of saving souls.
If you start reporting these things or sacking loose-pants pastors, people will lose confidence in the Church and anarchy will descend on Jamaica as people will "just bruk out". Keep the good name of the church. "Love covers a multitude of sins," as the Bible itself says, so let's just forgive the brother and move on. All have sinned and come short. Also, in the Jamaican competitive church environment, where sheep-stealing is a big phenomenon and church-hopping a favourite pastime of Christians, you have to hold down your scandals, for you might lose members to your competitor congregation down the road or in the community.
Why wash your dirty linen in public when the other church is sweeping its dirt under a bulky carpet? So religion is problematic. Child sexual abuse is not peculiar to the Church, and sexual abuse takes place in schools, state care institutions, sporting groups, etc. But there is something about the religious mentality that can foster a permissive environment for child sexual abuse. George Davis wrote a very moving column last Tuesday in The Gleaner, 'Forget the wolves, flee the shepherds', where he tells of his own knowledge of a playboy revival preacher impregnating a 13-year-old. The mother knew, but, "amazingly, the mother remained a key part of his congregation, reasoning that she had no right to hold a grudge when God had already forgiven the pastor". The theology of grace as practised by many churches is very accommodating of sin.
It is so sad but an undeniable fact that for most of the evils in the world, it is secular society that raises consciousness about them, not religious people or their institutions. There are many ethical principles in the Bible, but the Church as an institution has often lagged behind society in decrying the evils around them and in explicating biblical ethics. Whether you take slavery, sexism, racism, classism, or most other evils, it is usually after secular people have campaigned about these things that the Church catches up and then quotes scripture to say we knew this all along and you should be so happy we have a Christian heritage. So why didn't these things become abhorrent before worldly people devoid of the Holy Spirit started to struggle against them? Quite curious.
It is a fact that people in churches know of child sexual abuse and incest and do not report it to the police just to protect the good name of the church and 'the Lord's work'. The State, by pressing its authority and criminalising the withholding of information on child sexual abuse, is in this case an instrument of God. Paedophiles must find no cover in the Church. They must be locked away. We Christians can always visit them and show compassion to them in prison, where they belong. But they must feel the full brunt of the law. It is a shame that the State should take more interest in protecting children's rights than the Church.
Religion is problematic and can be harmful to children's best interests. Take the case of our sister nation Trinidad. A shocking piece of news revealed this month was that over the past 20 years, the twin-island republic had 3,478 cases of child marriages. Because of religion, in this case Muslim and Hindu religious traditions which allow child brides, that was facilitated. Now a new bill has been piloted to raise the age of marriage to 18 years as recommended by the United Nations. This bill is seeking to amend Muslim and Hindu laws. Trinidad's attorney general produced marriage certificates showing that girls as young as 11 and 12 were married to men up to 56. Because of 'religious rights'.
Trinidad and Tobago is only one of eight countries in the world where someone can be married as young as 12. And all those societies are religious. That's not coincidental. Religion has been problematic. The Muslims and the Hindus in Trinidad have been pushing back against this new bill, which would jail men for up to seven years for marrying a girl under 18. One Muslim opposition senator is protesting: "The Holy Koran informs us about it. Make the trials of the orphans easy until they reach the age of marriage. The age of marriage is defined in Islamic religion as the age when puberty starts." And according to this Muslim senator, "No change has been made to the Holy Koran since Prophet Muhammad came to this earth." These religious men insist on having their little girls to have sex with.
Religion is problematic, but not necessarily a problem. There are people with agendas who are salivating over the church sex scandals because this is a convenient tool to push those agendas. Gay people are delighted at this, for they can now say, "Leave us consenting adults alone. Keep your unholy noses out of our bedrooms and go chase down your own paedophiles and whoring pastors." Commentators who lack sophistication in theological analysis will ridicule the Church over this crisis and broad-brush every pastor and every church.
I believe that there are many godly pastors all over this country. Many honourable men serving their vocations without exploiting children and vulnerable females. But these allegations of sexual misconduct serve as a wake-up call for Christians to pay more attention to their behaviour. Christians must know that they are being watched and judged by 'worldlians'. Get used to it! You are the salt of the world, the light of the world, according to Jesus. You ought not to manifest the same darkness you are supposed to be exposing.
The media, the State, and civil society must keep up the pressure on the Church. That could well be the grounds for revival.
United Arab Emirates
How children can be better protected throughout the GCC
by Fadi Adra and Valerie Jambart
With the passage of a major child protection law in the UAE in 2016 and with other steps being taken by Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, a crucial area of social policy in the GCC is receiving the attention it deserves. Progress will be even faster, however, if the region's governments put in place a systematic approach to the prevention, detection and management of child abuse within a comprehensive national framework.
Child maltreatment is a global problem. A quarter of all adults say they were physically abused as children, according to the World Health Organisation, with one in five adult women reporting having been sexually abused as children along with one in 13 men. While nobody knows for sure how much child abuse there is in GCC countries, there is no reason to believe that the incidence is any lower than in other parts of the world. The damage done over the long-term can be devastating.
Governments need to create legislative and policy frameworks that are comprehensive. Within these frameworks, governments need procedures for reporting and intervention in seven categories.
First, governments need a clear definition of the roles of different parties. At the country level, the ministry of social services generally states the national policy with the education ministry responsible for child protection policies in the education sector. Closer to the children who need protection are schools, the police and social and health service providers. Typically, schools bear responsibility for detecting and reporting cases of child maltreatment, and social, health and police agencies handle investigations and interventions.
Schools are particularly important as that is where GCC children spend most of their time – six hours a day on average for elementary and middle-school students and eight hours on average for high-school students. That makes the school the best place to spot signs of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect – the main types of maltreatment involving those under 18 years of age.
Second, governments must develop unified standards to define and identify child maltreatment and these standards must be familiar to all those dealing with children. There are indicators of physical or emotional abuse. For instance, bruises or a child's inconsistent explanation of maltreatment.
Third, laws should make reporting of suspected abuse mandatory and safe. Teachers, school medical personnel and school social workers should be obliged to report suspected abuse – as should ancillary staff including administrators, bus drivers and janitors. However, they must not fear retribution (including the possibility of job loss in situations where the suspected abuse is happening at school and the reporter's supervisor may be involved). These mandated reporters must acknowledge in writing that they understand their legal obligations and they should be trained accordingly.
Fourth, this sensitive issue requires confidential record-keeping. The identity of the victim, of the person doing the reporting, and of the suspected perpetrator should never be known to anyone other than investigators and enforcement officials, including the police.
Fifth, the possibility that abuse might happen makes it necessary that there be a safe process for recruiting school staff. This means that careful background checks must be performed on all job candidates, with particularly close looks at anyone with a criminal record or anyone who has interactions with children that may raise concerns. The school's human resources staff is responsible for identifying high-risk candidates and for continuing to improve screening and evaluation methods.
Sixth, it is important to incorporate child protection in the school curriculum. Making children part of their own defence system is not a new idea – parents have long cautioned their children about interactions with strangers – but applying the concept in a school setting will require dedicated resources. School-run workshops, role-playing sessions and interactive videos can all help children understand how to recognise maltreatment and where they can turn if they encounter it.
Seventh, schools must designate a child protection liaison officer. This is often the school's principal, but could also be another senior staff member or a trained professional social worker. The CPLO should be the first person to hear about a suspicion of abuse, and is responsible for bringing in the appropriate authorities to investigate. Also, if anything changes in the school's policies or in the country's legislation, it falls to the CPLO to stay abreast of those developments and help implement them.
Preventing child maltreatment is a policy imperative. There is clear evidence that abused children grow up with self-esteem issues that can prevent them from holding jobs or from leading fully productive lives in other ways. However, there is a simpler argument in favour of child protection, which is that preventing a child from suffering and from unhappiness is a moral imperative for all of us.
Author: Abuse of disabled children often part of complex cycle
by Edith Brady-Lunny
NORMAL — The assault of a disabled man by four people broadcast live on Facebook earlier this month was met with predictable anger and repulsion by viewers, but the story behind the beating has yet to be fully explored, says Illinois State University professor Paula Crowley, author of a recent book on prevention of abuse of disabled children.
"We have to think more deeply about what's going on here. You wonder what's the bigger story," said Crowley, author of "Preventing Abuse and Neglect in the Lives of Children with Disabilities."
What is known is that disabled children are abused three to four times more frequently than their non-disabled peers, said Crowley.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 518,278 children were abused or neglected in 2013. Illinois reported 29,719 abuse cases, with 2,172 involving children with a disability.
In the Chicago case, the 18-year-old victim was a classmate of one the attackers who took him to a location where three others joined in an hours-long assault that was shared on Facebook. Police think the man was targeted because of his mental disabilities, schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder. The backgrounds of the assailants could shed light on what other factors may have been involved, said Crowley.
Crowley, whose work at ISU involves training students who plan to become special education teachers, said society's lack of understanding of mental health conditions is a contributing factor to the stigma that sometimes leads to violence against disabled children.
"We've accepted physical disabilities more readily than emotional and psychological conditions," she said.
For many people, the brain is viewed differently — independent and mysterious — and set apart from other parts of the body. The assumption that a broken limb or a chronic health condition like diabetes requires ongoing care does not apply equally to mental health conditions, said Crowley.
According to McLean County Public Defender Carla Barnes, the cycle of abuse often is part of a multi-generational pattern that plays out in the criminal justice system on a daily basis.
The details of what helped lead a defendant to commit a crime are offered, not as an excuse but as an explanation during the sentencing phase where a judge can consider a person's background in deciding the appropriate punishment.
"Many of our clients who victimize grew up in an environment where physical abuse was a part of their everyday life. They have no other choice but to live in it — it's in their home and right outside their door. The abusive atmosphere becomes normal," said Barnes.
Barnes said services can help victims alter their path. "If these behaviors are never brought to light, addressed and treated, the outcome for some is to perpetuate the violent behavior," she said.
An adult who intervenes to stop abuse against a child may spare not only the child, but future victims as well, said Crowley.
"Traumatic experiences in childhood matter. Men and woman who have childhood histories of abuse and neglect are at particular risk for psychiatric diagnoses in adulthood," Crowley writes in her examination of those who are at risk to become perpetrators.
With tight budgets and limited staff at agencies that monitor child abuse and neglect, there is a risk that efforts to prevent such tragedies will be reduced or ignored, said Crowley.
"You have to look at every player in the system and work to set up a community to prevent and intervene in the abuse of children," she said.
Cambria County Child Advocacy Center celebrates year of growth, 'development'
by Jocelyn Brumbaugh
If Diana Grosik could describe her first year at the helm of Cambria County's own child advocacy center in a few words, they would be “rapid growth” and “development.”
“We opened our doors, and it was like flood gates,” Grosik said.
Since its launch in October 2015, the center has handled 160 referrals of child abuse cases. About 90 percent of those involved child sexual abuse.
“And we know we haven't seen them all,” said Grosik, who was hired as the CAC's first director during the summer.
The center was formed through collaboration of local law enforcement, the Cambria County District Attorney's office, Cambria County Children and Youth Services and Victim Services Inc. Its mission is to reduce the number of times child abuse victims are interviewed by representatives of those agencies when a crime is alleged.
“It's vital,” said Mike Oliver, executive director of Victim Services.
“When a child is interviewed over and over and over again, their story changes – they're kids.”
The inconsistencies in their stories were previously used by defense attorneys to argue for their clients' innocence.
But the child advocacy center allows all agencies tied to the case – prosecutors, detectives, CYS caseworkers and police – to watch from another room as a qualified forensic interviewer takes a child through his or her story.
“I really don't know how we did without (the center), to be honest with you,” Oliver said.
The center is located in donated space at Pediatric Care Services on Eisenhower Boulevard in Richland Township. That location means Cambria Child Advocacy Center provides an opportunity for physical medical examinations in addition to the interviews, Grosik said.
These exams are important so children can be assured their bodies are healthy, and helps them begin the emotional healing process following abuse, she added.
For children who hadn't received routine check-ups, the physical exam can also identify other medical conditions or concerns and provide family with referrals for specialists, if needed.
“It's a huge piece that really fell into place and has been working really well,” Grosik said.
Grant funding is a key piece to the operations of the Cambria center, with money in 2016 helping the center hire additional staff, obtain equipment and make office renovations.
The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency awarded the center $49,766 from its Endowment Act in October for training and certification of 12 local mental health specialists in trauma, with the focus on cognitive behavior therapy.
Two grants worth $100,000 from the same source in December allowed for the hiring of a part-time office manager to help streamline operations and the purchase of medical equipment that can take photographic documentation of victims' medical exams.
Those grants also supported renovations – to create four separate offices and a larger waiting room to accommodate victims' families and additional staff.
Another Endowment Act grant will cover the expenses of a victim advocate who works for Victim Services, but will primarily serve as a point of contact for cases passing through the child advocacy center.
Endowment Act funds are distributed as part of the $48 million in fines enforced on Penn State following the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.
In October, the center brought on forensic interviewer Megan Briggs through a federal grant from the Department of Justice Victim of Crimes Act, Grosik said.
The center has also received support through a block grant from Cambria County Human Services and the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.
Grosik said she's received nothing but positive feedback about the center's mission during its first year.
“We've really been able to pull everything together,” she said.
In June, the Cambria CAC began taking referrals for cases out of Bedford County and has handled 20 to date.
The relationship has been positive for Bedford County officials who previously commuted to the Children's Resource Center in Harrisburg for the same types of services.
Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins said his office no longer has to send one of two other prosecutors to the forensic interviews held in Harrisburg. Bedford County police and CYS officials also found it hard to find the staff and time to attend those sessions.
“There was a real disconnect because of distance,” he said.
The process has helped to accomplish successful prosecution of cases and also weed out false reports, Higgins said.
Higgins said the one-on-one interviews have helped police and investigators focus on a common occurrence – heated custody battles where one parent coaches a child to make accusations against the other.
The truth is more likely to come out during an interview in which the child feels comfortable, Higgins said.
Sending Bedford County child abuse victims to be interviewed in Cambria County has allowed all parties to be more involved and stay true to the objective: creating less victimization of the children, he said.
“These kids have been through enough,” Higgins said. “This has been a win-win for both counties, as far as I'm concerned.”
Cambria County prosecutors were also responsible for traveling to and from child advocacy centers in Allegheny, Centre and Indiana counties prior to the establishment of a local center.
Beth Bolton Penna, assistant district attorney who typically handles all Cambria County cases involving child victims, said the center provides resources for victims beyond the legal process.
“There's so much more follow-up care,” she said. “Everybody is invested in it.”
Those resources are vital even in cases where there's not enough evidence to proceed to trial, or when evidence does exist but the child hasn't disclosed the details of the alleged abuse, Bolton Penna added.
The child advocacy center and its working relationship with other agencies helps victims and their families become familiar with the process when that child is ready to talk about what's happened to them, she said.
Each forensic interview performed at the Cambria CAC is recorded. Caseworkers, prosecutors and police then have access to copies for their review as the case proceeds.
“Sometimes that's all you have,” said Higgins.
If the victim is unable to take the stand in the event of trial, the video can be shown to a jury, but it becomes tough because defense attorneys have the right to cross-examine each witness.
The main objective of the recording is to supplement the child's interview, prevent him or her from repeating the circumstances of the abuse and provide consistency in the case, law enforcement officials said.
Bolton Penna said the recordings of the forensic interviews, which are available for review by defense attorneys, have improved the likelihood for plea agreements, preventing a child from taking the stand.
The system in place following the forensic interview also aims to strengthen children in cases where they will have to testify in court in the presence of their abusers, Bolton Penna said.
That system includes victim advocates who follow the case to fruition.
“They've got the same familiar faces with them along the way,” she said.
Matt Sandusky to speak
As the child advocacy center continues to grow, Grosik has plans to continue raising awareness and involving the community in child abuse prevention efforts.
She's hoping to organize free training for parents and adults this spring about the dangers involved when children use technology and/or social media.
The center will also participate, for the first time as a nonprofit organization, in the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community in May. All donations collected will go directly to the services provided by the center, Grosik said.
A full slate of community events is also in the works for April, which is National Child Abuse Awareness Month.
As part of those activities, a “Stand Up Against Child Abuse” dinner is planned for April 20 at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, featuring keynote speaker Matthew Sandusky.
Matt Sandusky suffered abuse at the hands of his adopted father, the former Penn State assistant football coach convicted in 2012 on 45 counts of child sexual abuse.
Matt Sandusky now has a foundation to support anti-abuse initiatives such as child advocacy centers.
After hearing him speak at a conference recently, Grosik said Matt Sandusky's story is a tragic but important one.
“Every single word that he spoke stuck with me,” she said, “one of the things being: Had there been a child advocacy center, he wouldn't have had to endure the abuse for as long as he had.”
Investigations into Kansas child deaths are shrouded in secrecy
by Laura Bauer
COFFEYVILLE, Kan. -- Sometimes Larry Crosetto puts on old home movies or thumbs through family photos to go back in time.
He sees granddaughter Brooklyn — Brook — sitting with her mama, playing in the bathtub or pushing her new toy vacuum. Before long, the lingering emotional pain creeps in, and Crosetto sees something else: a child lost to a Kansas child welfare system that he views as broken and with no accountability.
“I sat there the other day and thought, ‘Is this just going to die?' ” said Crosetto, who after Brook's death spoke out against the system that he says failed to protect her. “Does no one care about these children?”
Brook was not quite 2 in early 2008 when she was beaten and shaken to death by her father's meth-addicted girlfriend. In the weeks before his granddaughter was killed, Crosetto met with a state social worker about bruises on his granddaughter. Others had reported concerns about marks on her older brother. The worker, Crosetto said, told him that investigating abuse was the Police Department's job, not hers.
Since the toddler's death nine years ago, dozens more Kansas children have died of abuse and neglect, and others have been seriously injured. Like Brook, many were already known to social workers.
Yet, in most cases, the public still doesn't know what — if anything — the Kansas Department for Children and Families did or could have done to protect the children, or whether the department took any steps after a tragedy to improve the system.
The Kansas Legislature in 2004 passed a disclosure law meant to provide transparency after a child's death or serious injury. But a Kansas City Star investigation has found that the law is largely ineffective, allowing the department to operate in a cloud of secrecy.
Since last January, The Star has made numerous requests for documents to see how officials with the department, commonly known as DCF, were complying with the law. First, the newspaper asked for copies of all media requests for records and DCF's responses since the legislation went into effect in 2004.
Six months later, the department provided copies of 15 requests that pertained to the death or serious injury of Kansas children.
Of those requests, covering 10 cases, the department released information about DCF involvement in only one instance, and those details appeared to put the agency in a good light regarding that child's case.
In several cases, judges kept information sealed at the request of prosecutors, police departments and even parents suspected of abusing their children.
“The law is there to protect children,” said Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat and attorney who has worked in family court. “But the current DCF administration is using it as a shield right now to prevent people from investigating or shining the light on what's going on there.”
That means the public doesn't know how the department responded to hotline calls or whether they were fully investigated.
Were there warning signs before a young Johnson County boy ended up in his mother's attic, dehydrated, malnourished and close to death? What about the south-central Kansas boy whose mom bludgeoned him with a rock and then stabbed him several times as he slept? Or Adrian Jones, the Kansas City, Kan., boy who authorities say lived through chronic abuse before he starved to death in his home in 2015?
According to media reports and family members, all three of those children were known to the child welfare system before their torturous abuse.
“There has to be accountability of the agency that we have designed to protect our children,” said Jan Sheldon, a professor at the University of Kansas in the Department of Applied Behavioral Science and the School of Law. “If we don't speak for the children who can't speak for themselves, who will speak for them?”
When the public doesn't have scrutiny of what the child welfare agency is doing, Sheldon said, it's difficult to identify problems such as a shortage of social workers or inadequate state funding.
The agency has been under fire since an audit last year concluded that it failed to ensure the safety of kids in state foster care.
Over the past year, DCF officials refused requests for an interview with The Star — either in person or over the phone — instead insisting that questions be emailed, which the newspaper did. On Thursday, a reporter went to the agency's Topeka office and was granted a brief interview.
“We are constantly thinking about how can we improve protocols and policies,” Phyllis Gilmore, head of the Department for Children and Families, told The Star. “We're constantly striving to make sure children in Kansas are safe.”
Department spokeswoman Theresa Freed added that Kansas “has one of the safest child welfare systems in the country.”
Before the Thursday conversation, Freed had said by email that the department takes each death and critical injury seriously and completes an investigation to identify anything that may have gone wrong.
Information often should not be provided to the public until after a criminal case related to a child's death or serious injury is completed, Freed wrote.
“Under our laws, the alleged perpetrator or perpetrators, as the case may be, are presumed innocent until proven guilty,” she wrote. “The premature release of the information to the public could interfere with the State's prosecution of the crime or perpetrators' defense.”
Advocates counter that releasing details about the agency's involvement with a family and abused child should not hurt a prosecutor's case. It doesn't in other states, they say. Plus, it can take years for a criminal case to run its course and, in that time, failings in the system can go undetected, posing a risk for other children.
Questions about the system's performance make it even more vital, legislators and advocates say, that the public knows what workers did or didn't do in Kansas' most severe abuse cases. Like that of Adrian.
Prosecutors say the chronically abused 7-year-old boy starved to death in his family's rented home in Kansas City, Kan. Some of his remains were found in a barn. Authorities said his father and stepmother fed his body to pigs.
The boy's maternal grandmother, Judy Conway, said she's aware that hotline calls were made, but she doesn't know if they were investigated.
“They need to be transparent,” Conway said of DCF. “It should be full disclosure and nothing held back. The state of Kansas failed Adrian. ... We need to know why all these children had to go through this.”
In Brook's case, the Crosettos filed a federal lawsuit to get more information about the agency's investigation into their granddaughter's death and to hold the caseworker responsible. That suit was later dismissed, but the grandparents continue to fight for accountability of a system they say robbed them of watching their granddaughter grow up.
“I think DCF has an obligation to the public to let it be known if they are doing their best to protect children,” Crosetto said. “The public also has the right to know when DCF did not do their best to protect a child. ... If the law says they have to release those records, how can they not?”
‘We had to water it down'
Child welfare systems are meant to be private to protect intimate information about a child and his or her siblings — details such as their medical history and the sometimes-toxic environments they live in.
But when tragedies occur, reviewing what workers and the system did can be vital to making improvements and creating best practices. That's why more than 30 states have adopted laws allowing some disclosure after a child dies or is seriously injured.
“The federal government has determined that the good that can be gained from disclosing information about child abuse or neglect deaths or near deaths will exceed any potential harm or embarrassment that some individuals might experience as a result,” according to “State Secrecy and Child Deaths in the U.S.,” a report by the San Diego-based Children's Advocacy Institute.
On paper, Kansas appears to be a model for that type of transparency. Better than many other states, including Missouri.
The Kansas law says that information shall become public record after a child's death or near death. Some states simply say information may become public. In Missouri, the release of information after a death or serious injury is up to the director of the Missouri Department of Social Services, based upon a review of the potential hardship to siblings.
Lawmakers in Kansas pushed for the legislation after the 2002 death of Brian Edgar, a 9-year-old whose adoptive parents wrapped him in duct tape from his ankles to the top of his head. He suffocated in their Overland Park home.
The goal was to allow for full disclosure after a death or serious injury, said former Republican Sen. David Adkins, who sponsored the legislation. But child welfare officials pushed back, he said, and compromises had to be made.
In the end, the law included a provision that says any “affected individual” should be notified when a request for records is received. Within seven days, those individuals can ask the court to keep the records sealed. A judge then rules on the motion.
Among the affected individuals? Prosecutors, law enforcement officers and the DCF secretary all can ask the court to keep records closed, as can the parent who allegedly abused or neglected the child or knew what was going on.
“My intention was no exemption,” said Adkins, now in Kentucky, where he is CEO and executive director of the Council of State Governments. “That if something tragic happens to one of our most vulnerable citizens, you have to embrace that tragedy as a teachable moment — find out what happened and why. But we did what we had to do to get the law passed. We had to water it down.”
In the words of Ward, that provision now “usurps the law.”
Adkins admits that the compromises have made the law “feel a little hollow.”
“It's a paper tiger — it's probably not worth the ink on the page,” he said. “That's disappointing. I would like to think that out of the death of a small innocent life, we could create an improved system.”
Ward said he thinks the law should be revisited and a new one crafted.
“It clearly has too many loopholes,” he said. “We should make a clear statement that when a child is killed or dies under suspicious circumstances while in state custody or while there's been significant (DCF) involvement, that information should be released. Period.
“We need a new law that makes sure we get that information.”
The key, experts say, is for people to realize the goal of releasing the information isn't a “gotcha” to place blame. The purpose of the law is to shine light on the system.
“It's not that the processes don't exist to get this information,” said Max Kautsch, a Lawrence lawyer who works with the Kansas Press Association. “It's that they're unclear, and the knee-jerk reaction by the system appears to be in favor of nondisclosure. ... They are making it as difficult as possible.”
‘We can't learn...'
In Kansas, openness hasn't always been an easy sell. Privacy appears as much a part of the state's fabric as wheat fields and sunflowers.
“Midwest people, we are just different,” said Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican who worked with Adkins to pass the disclosure law in 2004. “Not that we want to be secret, but private. You don't want to air your dirty laundry out there if it's going to hurt others. You just handle your business.
“But that doesn't mean that wrongdoing should be held private. Especially when the government is involved.”
When a child dies or is seriously injured, privacy must be secondary to identifying what went wrong, advocates and legislators say.
“We as a community, a county, a state, we can't learn about how to improve a situation unless we learn what the reality of a situation is,” said Sen. Molly Baumgardner, a Louisburg Republican. “The law is written such that information is supposed to be released and the spirit of the law is so we can have those safeguards to double check, ‘Is this an isolated, terrible thing that has happened that can be prevented?' ”
Although the law in Missouri doesn't require disclosure, information is regularly released. The Missouri Department of Social Services drew fire four years ago when it initially declined to release information after a 10-year-old Kansas City girl weighing just 32 pounds was rescued from a closet. Because the agency typically released information, many questioned why the agency had appeared to change its policy.
Ten months after the girl known as LP was rescued, the Missouri agency released information on her case to The Star. And since then, disclosure in cases has been routine.
At the start of this year, the Missouri agency had received requests for information in 74 individual cases since February 2009.
The department approved release of information in 69 cases.
In Kansas, according to documents provided to the newspaper last year, DCF released information only in the case of Jayla Haag, a toddler from El Dorado who was beaten to death in 2012. She had severe head injuries, a fractured jaw and multiple bruises in different stages of healing. Several of her teeth had been forcibly removed, and she tested positive for methamphetamine.
A Wichita Eagle reporter submitted a request for information under the Kansas Open Records Act two years later, in April 2014.
In Jayla's case, the state didn't notify any “affected individual” and within days of the request provided a timeline of events to the Eagle detailing the agency's involvement. Included in that timeline was a notation that in October 2011, DCF filed an affidavit with the Butler County district attorney's office asking that Jayla be removed from her home.
Two months later, the agency received notice that the prosecutor's office didn't think there was sufficient evidence to remove Jayla, according to the information DCF provided to the Eagle. Jayla died in March 2012.
When asked why DCF provided information in Jayla's case and not others, the agency spokeswoman pointed to the wording of the Eagle reporter's request.
“He asked for information and not records,” Freed said. That distinction, she said, meant the agency had discretion to release facts.
Yet The Star asked for information as well as records in the case of Adrian Jones, the Kansas City, Kan., boy: “Please include information about any hotline calls and all documents where Adrian is involved.”
DCF responded that “affected individuals” had to be notified. Six days later, the agency told The Star that someone had filed a motion objecting to any release, so “we are unable at this time to fill your request.”
Also, Freed said, in Jayla's case, the mother had already been prosecuted, pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
“The release of information did not appear as though it would impact any future legal proceedings,” Freed wrote.
At that time, however, the mother's boyfriend was still under investigation, a fact that had been publicized then. Several months later, the boyfriend was charged with murder and eventually pleaded no contest to aggravated battery, involuntary manslaughter and child abuse.
Freed did not address the fact that the DCF's release of information occurred before the boyfriend had been prosecuted.
‘An amazing young man'
The news of Adrian's death in the fall of 2015 shocked Kansas City and the country.
Father accused of feeding 7-year-old son to pigs
Kansas City, Kan., police officers had gone to the home of Michael and Heather Jones on an armed disturbance call the day before Thanksgiving in 2015. Authorities soon learned that Adrian — one of seven children who had been living in the home — had been missing for an extended time. Investigators searched the property on Thanksgiving Day and found remains in a barn.
In early December, The Star requested records and information from DCF. Had the child welfare agency been in contact with the family? Were there hotline calls? Had DCF been alerted to the abuse Adrian endured?
Prosecutors have said the family had a history with child welfare agencies in Kansas and other states.
After the newspaper and at least five other media outlets asked for information and records about Adrian, prosecutors and the Police Department were notified because their roles make them “affected individuals.” Within the seven days specified by the law, they asked a judge to keep his DCF records sealed. The judge agreed.
In Missouri, the director of the Department of Social Services agreed to release information from his state, but a call to Wyandotte County changed his mind.
“Per a request to delay release of the record from the Wyandotte County, Kansas, District Attorney's office, we will wait to provide the record to you,” Sarah G. Madden, special counsel for the Missouri agency, wrote to The Star in late December 2015.
Adrian's stepmother, Heather Jones, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced in November to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years
Several weeks before her sentencing, the prosecutor said releasing information about DCF's involvement could jeopardize the criminal case.
“Our case isn't just about homicide, it's about chronic child abuse,” said former Chief Deputy District Attorney Sheryl Lidtke, who is no longer with the prosecutor's office. “Our office has taken the position we want these records confidential at least until we pick the jury” for Adrian's father.
Michael Jones' trial is set for April.
Lidtke said she also understands why the public should know what steps the child welfare system took to protect a child.
“If the system did something or didn't do something, that needs to be known, too,” Lidtke said. “For me, that's a matter of timing. You just need to wait.”
Adkins, who sponsored the disclosure law, said he disagrees with prosecutors who say releasing information would jeopardize the criminal case. And, he said, it's crucial that factors contributing to agency failures be identified in a timely manner.
“If a little boy had been on a plane that crashed, we would know what happened,” Adkins said. “It's a shame he had to be eaten by pigs and not have a thorough inquest into what happened, subject to public scrutiny. At the very least, that's what we owe that innocent little boy.”
Judy Conway often thinks of her grandson — who “had two big ol' dimples” — and replays in her mind the times she spent with him.
“He was just an amazing young man,” Conway said. “When he'd see me, he'd say, ‘There's my nana.' ”
She wonders why the child welfare system couldn't have helped him.
“I just feel that from everything I've heard, and the calls that were made and interviews of the kids, how could they not have seen something?” Conway asked. “I'm not a caseworker, I don't work for DCF, but I would notice things. How many other people saw things?”
‘They need to be accountable'
In the living room of Mary and Larry Crosetto's home, a photo of Brook sits next to pictures of her older brother and a cousin she never had the chance to meet.
Brook's absence leaves a hole. The Crosettos are bringing up her brother, who is a teenager.
“I think of how he doesn't have a playmate, a sister who he thoroughly loved,” Larry Crosetto said. “He loved being a big brother.”
The couple think back to when they lost Brook, just a few months after they lost their daughter, Angela. Just 24, Angela died of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. Brook and her brother eventually went to live with their father, who was estranged from Angela.
Before long, the Crosettos — who often watched the children on weekends — started noticing bruises on Brook. Her brother showed up at school with a slap mark across the face, prompting the school to notify the child welfare office.
The Crosettos photographed Brook's bruises and took her to the doctor on Christmas Eve 2007 to be checked out. The doctor called police and sent a letter to the child welfare agency.
“I expected them (agency workers) to take her out of that situation and either let us have her, have the two children, or have them somewhere safe,” Mary Crosetto said. “But nothing was ever done. They never investigated, as far as I could tell.”
Larry Crosetto said he offered to give the caseworker a disk with all his photos, and she told him to give it to police. The officer who saw Brook at the hospital sent his report to the child welfare agency and assumed it would further investigate and handle the matter, a court document shows.
An investigation by the Kansas attorney general's office later determined the social worker had ill will toward the Crosettos — dating back to their 1982 adoption of an infant — and didn't act on their concerns. During that adoption, the Crosettos have said, they reported the social worker for not doing her job, and a judge rebuked her.
The Crosettos' lawsuit against the social worker was dismissed when a judge ruled that the worker was entitled to “qualified immunity.” There was no evidence, U.S. District Judge Monti L. Belot wrote in his September 2013 decision, to show that the worker's refusal to act increased the danger to the toddler.
If the Crosettos hadn't sued, or if someone hadn't filed a complaint with the attorney general's office, the couple don't think they would have received any information from the child welfare agency.
“They need to be accountable, and government officials need to be transparent with the reason of public safety,” Crosetto said.
Each time he hears on the news, or reads in a paper, that another child has died from abuse or neglect, he feels sick. And then he wonders.
“Is it another case of Brook, or did they actually do something to try to prevent this?” he said. “We don't know what they are doing.”
Sex abuse hurts kids in many ways
by Judge John J. Romero Jr
Juvenile and family court judges are uniquely situated to enhance the multi-disciplinary efforts of courts to understand and respond to domestic child sex trafficking.
We know that trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, and we also know that a high percentage of runaway children will be recruited by exploiters within a few days of leaving their home.
Nearly 40 percent of runaway or homeless youth are LGBTQ or gender non-conforming youth, placing them at increased risk for exploitation.
Judges who work with families and children, like myself, are mindful that in 2015, there were more than 4 million reports through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's CyberTipline of suspected child sexual exploitation, including child sex trafficking. Many of these children are “system-involved,” meaning that they were active within the delinquency or foster-care system.
Gender sensitivity is a term of art in survivor recovery. It is also a critical part of treatment for survivors, particularly when a child may have suffered trauma due to their gender or sexual orientation.
This can include a child being forced out of the home because they were gender non-conforming, being sexually assaulted or bullied because of their gender expression, or being denied proper services due to their sexual orientation.
In addition, stigma and culture may inhibit seeking help for trafficking victims.
Although the overwhelming majority of identified domestic child sex trafficking victims are female, boys are sometimes perceived as willing participants or exploiters. Consequently, the scope of male sexual exploitation and victimization may be underreported.
For both boys and girls, the trafficking of young victims often takes place during foundational stages of psychosocial development. This can lead to a great amount of confusion, frustration and anger during late adolescence and early adulthood, when healthy social development plays a prominent influence in education, friendship, job seeking and growing independence.
Judicial leadership is necessary in creating an awareness of complex trauma as well.
As Heather Clawson, a trafficking researcher, wrote in her report on recovery for survivors of trafficking, “Trauma exposure occurs along a continuum of complexity, from the less complex single, adult-onset incident (e.g., a car accident) … to the repeated and intrusive trauma frequently of an interpersonal nature, often involving a significant amount of stigma or shame.”
Complex trauma, recovery and gender sensitivity all go hand-in-hand when courts address child sex trafficking survivors.
Judges are central in developing the individualized responses that acknowledge the resilience of survivors and focus on healing, recovery and restoration, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender identity.
Judges also need to develop their skills to understand the important role that gender sensitivity plays in crafting an effective response at the case and system level.
For more information on gender sensitivity and judicial response to domestic child sex trafficking, visit Rights4Girls.org or the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges at www.ncjfcj.org.
Judge John J. Romero Jr. is a judge of the 2nd Judicial District Court (Bernalillo County). He is presiding judge of the Children's Court Division. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the judge individually and not those of the court.
Abuse The Boy, Destroy The Man: Saying "I Love You" With A Purse Strap
by Daniel Slack
It is an interesting thing, child abuse. People seem to be able to see it when other people do it, but refuse the fact that they, themselves, are perpetuating this vicious plague that still tortures the world's children and haunts the survivors.
Abusers seem to be able to justify it morally, religiously, and socially. When asked about it, abusers will use excuses like “I am doing it for his good,” or “someone should teach him a lesson." When asked if this is based upon their beliefs, they will spout some false understanding of scripture such as “spare the rod and spoil the child” or, even worse, “All of my sins are covered in Christ's blood.”
This is the response I received today, as I confronted a woman who was “spanking” her child across the way from the library. She had made the boy pull his pants down, to expose his underwear, and she was whipping the boy with her purse strap.
As I approached this situation, I found there were four or five other adults that had walked past this, and not said a thing. I could hear the clap of the strap as it hit his skin. I could hear the wails of this little lad, and it filled my heart with sorrow. What came into view was a 3 or 4-year-old boy who apparently spilled his hot chocolate over the front of his pants and underwear.
His mother had this boy, standing near naked and cold, with red welt marks on his thighs. I was sure his underwear did little to shield his bottom from the strikes. I had counted the sound of five strikes before I could interrupt this horrific event.
When this parent and child came into view, I spoke up. Her response was what gripped my heart:
“Oh, you're one of those. You not from around here, and you should mind your own business. What I do to my stepchild is not your concern. Go back to where you come from.”
With those words, she dressed her “stepson” and scurried off, probably to continue the abuse. Unfortunately, I had broken my cellphone and could not call the police, or even take a picture, so something could be done.
Under my breath, I cursed the men and women that walked by this display. I cursed them for not having the compassion, for not having the inspiration, for not having the courage to speak up for this poor child.
I returned to my car, put the key in the ignition, and proceeded to cry. Tears welled up, and out of my mind's image of that little boy came a flood of memories from my own experience. The shame of “spankings” and “shouting” that was instilled in me with every “correction” my parents made in public. Phrases that my stepfather and mother used echoed through my mind:
“You have monkey ears and monkey lips, you're nothing but a monkey.”
“Get back in the bath tub and scrub yourself clean. Oh, that's right, it won't come off.”
“You aren't nothing but your mother's mistake.”
I did not realize it at the time, but I had been triggered. After careful thought, I remembered that my mother and stepfather had done very similar abuse to me. Not only was I openly spanked by my parents, but they traumatized my social development by publicly humiliating me.
I find it sad that people actively “teach” that punishment and humiliation equal love. Parents who grew up with being physically abused, sometimes without realizing it, use the same excuses as their abusers. Parents tell themselves the need for “corporal punishment and humiliation” is for the good for the child. Sometimes, these same parents lie to themselves claiming that they have done an exhaustive search and the best solution is violence.
To the despair of their children, parents start by falling into the trap that violence causes, regardless if you are black or white, rich or poor, or even female of male. This trap has caused the destruction of families and the toppling of world leaders. This trap has been the source of many a morality tale and fable: “Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely”.
The greatest evidence of this occurs in the school system. Let us look at a child who may have behavioral problems. Maybe he has not learned the social skills to fit into class. Maybe he has not learned how to appropriately deal with his emotions. Maybe he just lacks common sense. Regardless of the reason, he is placed in detention, due to a situation that may or may not be totally his fault.
He sits in detention, maybe the teacher talks about the specifics of what happened and how to deal with it more appropriately. He pays the appropriate penance that the teacher feels is necessary. Satisfying the requirement of the class, of the educational facility, and of the school system.
This same boy goes home, only to find that he receives consequences, such as a spanking or grounding, for something he had already suffered the penalty for. Some of the excuses that many parents use for this is to reinforce the lesson he is taught in school, or to show that the parents agree with the teacher, or to ensure that the same never happens again. What is worse is that, quite often, the punishments are worse at home than they are in school.
The reality is that many parents have secretly learned to enjoy abusing their children. In their heart of hearts, there is not sadness, disappointment, or shame at the act. Many parents feel they have to reinforce their authority on their children. Others want to assert their disciplinarian provisions in their own homes to prove “ownership” of the child. Even worse, some parents have lost their ability to empathize with their children and enjoy oppressing their offspring, sometimes even laughing at the reaction of their children to the “belt.”
Imagine, instead of a child, this happens to an adult friend of yours. This person has a bad day at work, and ends up with some sort of penalty. Regardless if it is a written warning, a suspension from work, or even being permanently let go, this person goes home, to find that their spouse is home, waiting with pepper spray, a stun gun, or just their fists. This unfortunate person suffers punishment at home for the occurrence that happened at work.
What kind of advice would you give this person? Would tell them to stay silent, things will get better or would you be horrified at the abuse they had suffered? How would you react if instead of a friend, it was yourself?
Few adults, if any, would tolerate the berating, the anguish, the anxiety, caused by such a relationship. Many would exclaim that they are adults and do not deserve this kind of treatment, but if you are a child, often such words would increase amount and length of this abuse.
Children may be your offspring, but when did they lose the right to be loved, honored, and nurtured in the same way that we adults expect from the other relationships we have around us?
If you are the woman that I witnessed, I am not writing this as some misguided act of judgment and criticism. I am hoping that any abusers would start being empathetic to those around them, and realize the natural order of the universe includes natural consequences, but not as a means of punishment.
Your punishment is not a natural consequence, it is not a means of providing discipline to teach them a different way, it is a dark personal need to assert your authority and the ownership of your children.
Maybe it is time to think of children more like people you love, and not objects you own.
Child Abuse Protocol Committee updated
The Child Abuse Protocol Committee members updated their conflict resolution policy at the Board of Education offices in Hiram last week.
In 2003 Paulding County Juvenile Court Judge Sandra Miller was designated to serve as interim chairperson to develop a protocol committee. The committee's sole purpose was to develop a written Child Abuse protocol that would reflect by all disciplines, such as law enforcement, courts, schools, mental and physical health practitioners, social service agencies and all others that work to protect and care for children and families. The committee would work to address the rights and needs of the community, any alleged maltreator, and the alleged child victim.
The committee's protocol has been revisited several times over the years in accordance with annual statutory mandates and in August of 2015 another revision was enacted to bring the Paulding Child Abuse Protocol in line with the statewide model. The committee elected co- chairs Nina Lauter, coordinator for Paulding Family Connection and Gail Williams, social worker for Paulding School District to oversee the revision.
Present last week along with Judge Miller and co-chairs Nina Lauter and Gail Williams were James Provost, PC Department Family and Children Services, Donna Robbins, Highland Rivers CSB, Gail Garland, Northwest Georgia Child Advocacy Center, Lindsey Eberhart, coroner, Cliff Cole, PC Board of Education, Donna Stanford, PC Health Department, Melodie Smith, Community Advocate-Paulding CASA, Mark Haney, Medical Provider.
Snoozing at Teachers Who Abuse Children
by L.Brent Bozell III and Tim Graham
On Jan. 13, a judge in Houston, Texas, sentenced Alexandria Vera to 10 years in prison. Her crime? The 25-year-old teacher at Stovall Middle School struck up a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old student — having sex almost every day, she said, for nine months — but with the parents' approval. She could be eligible for parole in five years.
Prosecutors alleged Vera groomed the child and his family, moving the teen and his father into her home and pretending she was dating the father. She also bought groceries for the boy's family and paid the phone bills. She even became pregnant by the boy. When child-protection workers closed in, she got an abortion. Unsurprisingly, the boy is now in foster care.
One would assume this story of a sexual predator would be plastered all over the national news. Isn't this the kind of crusading story full of human interest and melodrama? Apparently not. ABC, CBS, and NBC couldn't be bothered. Fox had a segment on "The Kelly File" when it broke open last year. CNN's Headline News shows — Drew Pinsky's last year, and Ashleigh Banfield's last week — gave it a single spin.
One could guess that reverse sexism plays a role: An adult woman abusing a boy seems more acceptable than a grown man molesting a young girl. One could also guess that adding an abortion to the sinister plot made it less interesting to liberal journalists.
These are the same networks that will not stop covering and lecturing about the child sexual abuse — real and alleged and untrue — by Catholic priests, even after the church created new systems to vet not only priests but also even church volunteers who deal with children in parish life.
How about newspapers? The New York Times never loses interest in advocating against the Catholic Church on this issue. But on Alexandria Vera in Houston? Nothing. The Washington Psot , whose editor Marty Baron was painted as a crusading captain of the church-busting team at the Boston Globe in the Oscar-winning movie "Spotlight"? It never made the actual paper but drew two blog posts over the last six months that barely surpassed 1,000 words between them.
Many people might see this story and recall the case of Mary Kay Letourneau, a 34-year-old teacher who sexually abused an infatuated 12-year-old boy named Vili Fualaau, which became a big tabloid story in 1997.
But ultimately, how bothered are some in the liberal community? It's easy to forget that abuse ended up being rewarded. In 2005, after getting out of jail, Letourneau agreed to marry the boy, now an adult. Hollywood then allowed them to cash in.
Paramount — the producers of "Entertainment Tonight" and "The Insider" — announced they had obtained the rights to wallow in the pedophile wedding of the century. What did Paramount do? The two shows spent days panting after the "lucky couple." Inside the rehearsal dinner. Inside the wedding. Inside the reception. Paramount interviewers even asked Letourneau for relationship advice!
Their rivals at "Access Hollywood" played the moralist. Co-host Billy Bush insisted Paramount paid big money for the privilege, "close to $1 million — a figure they deny," Bush said. "Go to prison; get on TV; get rich," he lamented.
The disease spread to network TV. In a piece for ABC's "Good Morning America," "Entertainment Tonight" reporter Jann Carl hyped the wedding as "the icing on the cake of a notorious soap opera that still sparks admiration and outrage around the world." Hold on. Just who "admires" the rape of a 12-year-old boy?
Child sexual abuse in secular schools doesn't seem to inspire liberal journalists, which underlines that on this absorbing subject, as on many others, what's "news" depends on perspective, and in the American media, it is both liberal and libertine.
I Think Mom Has a Mental Disorder
by Sarah Burleton
I have spent years of my life trying to figure out why I was destined to live the childhood I did, why my mother relished beating me up mentally and physically, and who in the world made the woman I called “Mom” snap to the point that she could such horrible things to me and still be able to sleep soundly at night. I've written six bestselling books about my childhood, I blog weekly about who I blame for my abusive childhood, and I battle the demons left over from my childhood on a daily basis.
But even though I put so much work into trying to figure my childhood out, I still didn't have any answers as to why Mom abused me the way that she did. I couldn't explain why she enjoyed not only hurting me, but everyone around her. I had no idea why she enjoyed shoplifting so much. I didn't understand how she could have so many boyfriends while she was married. And I could never understand why Mom never hugged me, kissed me, or told me that she loved me.
I let Mom back into my life right after my first son was born. I hadn't laid eyes on her in over ten years, not since the night I hit her back for the first time in my life and moved out of my abusive home forever. I had accomplished quite a bit in my life since I moved out of my house; I graduated high school, I graduated college with top honors, I got married and became a homeowner. I was doing everything in my life that she said I could never do, becoming a somebody when she was positive I would turn out to be a nobody, and living the life that she swore I would never have.
I had so many reasons to try and let Mom back into my life. I wanted to let Mom to see what a success I had become. I wanted to show her how strong I had become even though she had tried so hard to knock me down and defeat me all of my childhood. I wanted to show her that I was a mother now and that I would never hurt my child the way that she hurt me. And believe it or not, I truly wanted to try to put the past behind me and see if there was any chance of Mom and I having an adult relationship.
But most of all, I wanted answers.
It didn't take me long after letting Mom back into my life to realize I was never going to get the answers from her that I was looking for and that something was very, very off with my mother.
It was so different “meeting” Mom again as an adult. When I was a child, Mom was huge and scary to me; she was an enormous green-eyed monster who controlled every single aspect of my life through fear and intimidation. But as an adult, Mom was just a small, meek woman who I towered over and whose arm I would break in a second if she tried to lay a hand on me. Her eyes were the same; still piercing green, still filled with judgement and hatred, and her voice made me cringe and took me back to a time in my life that I would rather forget.
But I wasn't a child anymore, she wasn't a big scary monster who could hurt me anymore, and I had promised myself that I would give Mom a chance as an adult. So I did what any normal adult does when they want to get to know someone; you sit down and have a conversation with them. And it was during those conversations it hit me that something was very wrong inside of Mom's head.
If I had to describe what it was like talking to Mom as an adult; the closest thing I could equate it to is that it was as if I was having a conversation with a nine year old that had a very active imagination. You know how nine and ten year old kids are; they are pretty selfish, everything is about them, they love to be the center of attention and talk about themselves, and sometimes you are positive that they are stretching the truth to make their stories more exciting.
But I wasn't talking to a nine or ten year old. I was talking to a fifty-five year old woman.
A fifty-five year old woman whose grand stories she told made absolutely no sense whatsoever. Timelines never matched, facts never added up, somehow in every single situation she emerged as the hero or savior, and you know that feeling you get in your stomach when you just know someone is lying? I had that feeling every single time I spoke to her.
She told me “stories” about my childhood; one of my favorites was the one she spoke of rather gleefully, recounting the time I went to church with her when I was 4 years old, pulled a red Sharpie out of my pocket and drew the picture of the devil all over the back of the church pew.
Stories like that; stories that I knew weren't true, but she had made real in some fantasy world in her mind. And all of her stories were like that; they just didn't make sense and you knew in your gut that she was lying. I ventured into the topic of my childhood with her just once, and as far as she was concerned; my childhood and my sister's childhood was all lollipops and rainbows.
I could see it in her eyes; she didn't live in the same world as everyone else around her did. Mom lived in a fantasy world in her head and I think that she truly believed the absurd things that came out of her mouth. I began to remember the stories she told me when I was a child; she had slept with rock stars and country stars, she was an alternate on the Olympic team for horseback riding, and her godfather was a famous boxer. It hit me that Mom had lived in a fantasy world her entire life.
So what does Mom have? What would a therapist diagnose my mother with? Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Schizoid Personality Disorder? I don't know. Mom would have to be forced by a court order to attend a therapy session as she believes psychiatrists and therapists were the devil.
And does knowing that Mom is highly likely to have a mental disorder help me at all? Not really, but it does make some of my childhood make sense. It helps bring order to some of the chaos in my head when I'm struggling to find answers. But it doesn't help me forgive her for what she did to me as a child and it doesn't make me feel sorry for her now.
I just hope that someday she gets the help that she needs. That's the nicest thing I can do for her is just hope.
The fight against sex trafficking is bigger than Backpage
by Andrea Powell
Andrea Powell is founder & executive director of FAIR Girls, a D.C. based organization providing safe housing and emergency and long- term services to survivors of human trafficking. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.
(CNN)On January 9, after an investigation lasting over 21 months, a Senate subcommittee published a scathing report, finding that classified ads website Backpage.com knowingly facilitated online child sex trafficking on the "adult" section of its website.
According to the report, Backpage did so by, among other things, filtering the text of advertisements to screen out words like "rape," "schoolgirl" and "lolita" before posting them, to conceal the intent of the ads. Backpage also did not remove these advertisements or report them to law enforcement.
These findings are no surprise to FAIR Girls, where approximately 90% of the young women and girls we serve -- some as young as 14 -- were sold by their traffickers on Backpage.
It also is consistent with first-hand accounts. For example, the mother of a 14-year-old girl sold on Backpage reported to the Senate subcommittee that her daughter had been trafficked through the website, and that even after she was recovered, ads containing explicit photographs of the girl were still being shown on the website.
She said she requested numerous times that the ads be taken down, and although Backpage eventually removed the photos, it did not do so immediately.
Following up on its findings, on January 10, the Senate subcommittee was scheduled to question the company's CEO, owners, general counsel, and COO. Backpage executives refused to testify. The day before that hearing, the website closed its "adult" section in the United States.
Backpage said in a statement that "new government tactics, including pressuring credit card companies to cease doing business with Backpage, have left the company with no other choice but to remove the content in the United States."
Although this development is a clear milestone in combating sex trafficking in the United States, to consider it a complete or definitive victory would be short-sighted.
First, within hours of the closure of the "adult" section, sex advertisements began to appear on a different section of Backpage.
Second, it would be naive to think that other sites will not fill any void left by it.
Third, it is clear that the online marketplace can aid law enforcement, meaning that to shut it down completely would have drawbacks.
While Backpage has reported some potential victims to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and law enforcement, its screening practices assisted advertisers, including pimps, but not law enforcement.
In a letter submitted to the Senate subcommittee, Backpage described human trafficking as "abhorrent," and claimed to have spent "thousands of hours and millions of dollars" bringing traffickers to justice.
However, online classified ads businesses could institute age and identify verification, proactively remove and report flagged sex ads to law enforcement, and adopt a consistent, nationwide child sex trafficking victim identification and reporting mechanism.
These steps could prevent sex trafficking without interfering with consensual sex workers' safety or harming internet freedom.
At the heart of this Backpage fight, as well as almost all fights on behalf of human trafficking victims, is recognizing that these survivors need and deserve holistic justice.
After the Senate hearing, the owners and senior management of Backpage walked out of the room free to return to their lives, business as usual, while the victims of sex trafficking must carry the vestiges of their abuse and trafficking with them always.
Their justice is denied when their traffickers and those accused of facilitating their exploitation, like Backpage, go largely unpunished.
There is no nationwide standard for post-recovery treatment, and many of these minors and young women struggle to put their lives back together after being arrested for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers.
Among other things, an arrest record can prevent these girls from finding housing or jobs, meaning they are unable to move on. These victims have survived the most unimaginable trauma, it is time we work to give them the peace and justice they deserve.
For this reason, FAIR Girls supports legislation like the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act (S. 3441 and H.R. 6292), which will provide post-conviction relief from criminal charges stemming from offenses committed as a direct result of being a victim of human trafficking, and will aid victims in shedding the vestiges of their trafficking and rebuilding their lives.
Shutting down the adult section of Backpage and holding its executives accountable won't end all sex trafficking.
However, perhaps future websites will heed the lessons of Backpage and actually help sex trafficking victims rather than profit off of them.
And hopefully we will provide the support that those victims need, even after their traffickers are held responsible.
AJC Watchdog: Atlanta sex-trafficking tour reveals ‘the hell of it'
by Chris Joyner
The red-and-white charter bus slowed to a crawl, pausing by a shadowy parking lot wedged between a budget motel and several down-market strip clubs a block off Fulton Industrial Boulevard.
The tour guide, former exotic dancer Kasey McClure, directed riders' attention to several parked tractor trailers. McClure, founder of 4Sarah, a non-profit that does outreach in the world of adult entertainment, pointed to some shadowy figures.
This is where it happens, she said.
Cell phone cameras flashed through the darkened windows and a cluster of rough-looking men and a couple of women loitering around the trucks suddenly had somewhere else to go.
This is the “Unholy Tour,” a semi-annual bus tour of metro Atlanta's sex trade organized by Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols to raise awareness of the city's unfortunate reputation as a hub for sex trafficking, particularly of minors. Echols began the tours three years ago and has done seven so far in Atlanta and Savannah, each featuring stops aimed at exposing the scope of the problem and what can be done to fix it.
It's a passion project for Echols, who is elected statewide to regulate utility companies.
“I think all elected officials in this state should be concerned about something that is a blight on our state where kids are being sold and their lives are being ruined,” he said.
Echols personally invited me on the tour after reading my investigative story on allegations of sexual abuse by former dancers at The Cheetah, a midtown strip club. Through their attorneys, The Cheetah denies the claims.
Echols is among those who see strong connections between Atlanta's reputation as a strip club mecca and its designation as a top city for sex trafficking.
Georgia voters appear to make the same conclusion. In November, 83 percent of voters agreed to a constitutional amendment requiring strip clubs and other adult businesses to contribute $5,000 annually to a fund for exploited children.
Echols' tour began downtown, cruising the bus stations that organizers say are commonly used to bring minors in and out of the city for illicit reasons. From there the tour went west to Fulton Industrial, then north to strip clubs in Sandy Springs recently raided by police there.
The final leg took the group to Midtown and past some of the city's notorious adult establishments that advocates said entrap young women and men in lifestyles that lead, for some, to sex work.
Laura Lederer, an expert in the global scope of sex trafficking, described the underground economy as a “modern form of slavery.”
“Survivors know the hell of it,” she said.
Myth buster: johns come from northern arc
The night ride showed a gritty, often perverse side of the city. But much of Atlanta's notorious trade in sex slavery is happening online where the pimps have laptops and the girls (or boys) aren't on some street corner.
More troubling: The trade isn't supported by foreign businessmen flying in through Hartsfield-Jackson. That's the “myth” of Atlanta's sex trade, said Whitney Bexley, program manager for Street Grace, a Norcross-based non-profit that has been trying to get a handle of the “demand” side of the sex trafficking equation.
“What we all thought was going on when it was happening in our area is that it's got to be the airport,” she said. “Surely it's not our men, right? It's men who are flying in, doing their business and flying back out.”
Bexley said that is happening, but out-of-state “buyers” only make up about 9 percent of the city's sex trade. The rest of it is domestic and Bexley knows their ZIP codes.
Bexley said 65 percent of the buyers come from outside the Perimeter.
“And the largest percentage of the demand — 42 percent of the demand — is coming from north of the Perimeter specifically,” she said.
Men in the northern arc between I-75 and I-85 are fueling a large part of Atlanta's demand for illicit sex with minors, she said. And the demand is insatiable.
A 2009 survey estimated 12,400 men in Georgia pay for sex with an adolescent girl each month . The study estimated that adolescent girls caught up in the sex trade were exploited on average three times a day.
The authors of that study, Atlanta consulting company the Schapiro Group, have come under fire from statisticians and others for their methodology, with critics calling the study little more than advocacy in the guise of science.
Some of the harshest criticism came from The Village Voice, which called the study “dense gibberish posing as statistical analysis.” At the time Village Voice Media owned Backpage.com, a classified listing service that has been at the center of the sex trafficking controversy.
Bexley admits the Shapiro study's numbers are disputed, but she said her non-profit's initial work on locating the demand for child sex in Atlanta track the earlier study's findings.
That the purveyors of sex with children are mostly local makes some common sense as well. An Urban Institute study from 2014 found Atlanta's sex trade generated nearly $300 million annually. It's unlikely anything other than a fraction of that trade could be coming from out-of-towners.
‘Every girl fell for my poison'
Where data — or the closest semblance of it — failed, emotion stepped in.
Jessica Neely, a preacher's kid who ended up in the porn industry and as a trafficker of girls, gave her dramatic testimony as the bus bounced from the 404 area code to the 770 and back again.
“Every girl fell for my poison,” Neely said, describing how she would recruit for her escort service by looking for girls with eating disorders or crushing debt. “I went after everything broken.”
The bus was packed with police from around the metro area, representatives of non-profits seeking to help, and even some judges looking to educate themselves on the back story to the damaged souls in their courtrooms.
The tour is not part of Echols' official duties, and the costs are financed by donations rather than tax money. Toward the end of the nearly three-hour tour, Echols admitted he is disappointed that he is not seeing much progress.
“I'm discouraged that we are not making a dent in this, that we cannot keep up with the perpetrators,” he said. “The GBI needs more resources. We need our local FBI office dedicating more time to this. But budgets are constraining and they are doing the best they can with what they have.”
Yet he wants to expand the idea, taking it to other states and to Washington, D.C. More people need to be engaged and informed, he said.
“It's important for us to continue to do these (tours) to help people get further and further involved, so they can make a bigger impact,” he said.
‘Too little, too late'
Most students don't learn about sexual assault until college. By then, it's too late.
by Kate Irby
When Brock Turner became a Stanford student in 2014, he was required to take an online course about the dangers of alcohol and “the importance of establishing affirmative consent before sex.” His first week on campus the message was reinforced again and again in a speech from the provost, in a video featuring student-athletes, in a theatrical performance and in a panel discussion offered as part of new-student orientation.
Four months later, he went to a fraternity party, got drunk, took a woman behind a dumpster, and was later convicted of sexually assaulting her while she was unconscious. He was sentenced to three months in prison for what his father called “20 minutes of action.”
As the woman he assaulted made clear in a statement – viewed by more than 2.5 million people within a day of its publication – Stanford's efforts to educate students about sexual violence were lost on Turner. His case painfully proves a point educators and activists have been making with increasing urgency: Teaching teenagers about sexual assault in college is “too little too late.”
Turner's hometown schools hope to change that, as do educators in Sacramento, California and Fairfax, Virginia, where they are teaching consent and healthy sexual behavior to younger students – with very little information about what will work.
Growing up ‘under the Dome'
Turner grew up in Oakwood, Ohio, an idyllic small town where the crime rate is low, and a small public safety force serves as police, firefighters and paramedics.
Large trees hang protectively over the roads in front of homes with well-manicured lawns, tidy front porches, and banners showing pride for the Oakwood High School athletes, choir and band members who live inside. Teenagers hang out at a Starbucks on Far Hills Avenue, the main road through Oakwood that separates the East and West side, or, “the rich and the very rich,” as nearby resident Rachel Galen put it.
People refer to Oakwood as living “under the Dome.”
“It's kind of the Beverly Hills of Dayton,” said Aaron Farrier, who has lived in neighboring Kettering for seven years. “You can actually see the border between Oakwood and Kettering, because Oakwood really pays attention to aesthetics, like in the winter all the snow will be shoveled off the sidewalks. It's pristine. It's like a Norman Rockwell painting.”
The Turners lived in Oakwood so they could send their children to the top-rated schools there – a fairly frequent theme of parents in Oakwood – but put up a “for sale” sign in their yard just days after Brock graduated, according to Theresa Gasper, who went to high school with Brock Turner's mother Carleen, and says the two have remained friends over the years. The Turners now live in Bellbrook, about 10 miles away.
We don't know what Brock Turner was taught about sexual violence before the early morning hours of Jan. 18, 2015. He and his family did not respond to a request for comment.
But learning about sexual consent in college orientation is “too little, too late,” said Nicole Cushman, executive director of Answer, a national organization that provides guidance on sexuality education. “Their attitudes about relationships and communication have already begun to gel by 18,” said Cushman, who noted that many parents neglect to talk to their children about the uncomfortable topic.
“An unfortunate trend we see with this is if parents do talk to their children about it, they're more likely to talk to their daughters than their sons, and it reinforces the gender double standard,” Cushman said.
What Oakwood teaches about sexual assault
There is no federal requirement that schools teach about sexual violence. Mandates on sexual consent education vary widely state by state and even district by district.
The state of Ohio adopted “Tina's Law” in late 2009, just before Brock Turner entered high school there. The law – named for an 18-year-old girl who was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend – requires all public schools to teach students between grades seven and 12 about “harassment, intimidation, or bullying” and “violence within a dating relationship.” The law does not specifically mention teachings on sexual assault and consent, but Oakwood City School District officials say they incorporate those subjects into their curriculum.
Dr. Kimbe Lange, the director of curriculum for the Oakwood City School District, said high school students typically spend three weeks on Tina's Law during health class, which is required for one semester. Most students take the class in ninth grade; every parent has the option of opting their children out of the course, but Lange said parents rarely do. Officials did not say whether Brock Turner was opted out.
Though Lange said sexual assault and consent were covered during those three weeks, she was unable to specify how much time was spent talking about those particular topics or what, exactly, students were taught. Tina's Law requires school officials to provide instruction materials to parents who request them, but when McClatchy requested them, Traci Hale, communications director for the district, said officials “don't keep lesson plans on file.”
School officials emphasized that they taught more than just sexual assault education, and they felt their repeated teachings about respect, bullying and drugs and alcohol in earlier grades would add to students' understanding about sexual assault.
“We start talking about how to say no, however, when they're in kindergarten. And consent is part of that. So when we talk specifically about consent, that's happening all the time, how to make good choices and protect yourself, and where to go for help,” said Lange. “So all of those things are happening every year. And it's not just one lesson, one day. It's woven throughout everything that they do. We want them to be respectful, mature adults.”
Cushman said there's a danger in teaching young women too much about how to say “no” and teaching young men too little about how to listen for “yes.”
“It's a common problem in schools to not teach about understanding consent. And one potential outcome of that, if we're sticking to the common genders, is women could internalize this need to keep themselves from being assaulted or raped, so they may not feel they can report it if it happens because it's their fault,” Cushman said.
“And men who commit sexual assault may feel they aren't responsible for it, because the woman didn't stop them. It's doing everyone a disservice. And those are just the extreme examples, but this can also impact children's future happiness in relationships based on respect and communication.”
Additionally, Cushman said that while it seemed Oakwood's education standards did a great job at reinforcing lessons about being respectful and having tools to resist peer pressure, sexual assault specifically should be brought up before high school.
“You can't assume that kids know how to apply those skills to sexual situations,” Cushman said. “Children are concrete thinkers and their brains haven't yet developed the kind of abstract thinking needed to do that. It needs to be made explicit.”
Specific lessons about sexual consent are also necessary because studies have shown interpretations of sexual consent vary widely. For example, 60 percent of men say they get consent through a woman's body language, while only 10 percent of women say they give consent through body language, according to a study by researchers at the University of Arkansas. Half of women said they give consent through verbal cues, while only 9 percent of men said they attained consent the same way.
Noah Thompson, a senior at Oakwood high, said he couldn't remember most specific lessons but did recall talks about people not being able to consent while intoxicated.
“I'm glad they introduced the topic to us, but I don't like that they never went back to it,” Thompson said.
Tessa Shade, a 19-year-old recent Oakwood graduate who goes to the University of Dayton, said the school did talk about the “yes means yes” definition of consent, and she felt the lesson was thorough. Shade said that after she graduates she wants to come back to Oakwood to be a teacher.
“I think they covered everything we need to talk about, what to do, how it happens, the statistics, how to prevent it and what to do if it happens,” Shade said. “They said things like, staying in groups, they talk about how it happens more during drinking and when alcohol is involved.”
In Brock Turner's statement to the probation officer before his sentencing for sexually assaulting the 23-year-old woman known only as Emily Doe, he seemed to blame alcohol for his behavior.
“If I really wanted to get to know her, I should have asked for her number, rather than asking her to go back to my room. Being drunk I just couldn't make the best decisions and neither could she,” Turner said, according to court documents. “I stupidly thought it was okay for me to do what everyone around [me] was doing, which was drinking. I was wrong.”
Doe addressed those words specifically in her statement during his sentencing hearing.
“Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away,” she said. “That's the difference.”
“Sipping fireball is not your crime,” she continued. “Peeling off and discarding my underwear like a candy wrapper to insert your finger into my body, is where you went wrong.”
When Turner was awaiting sentencing, five Oakwood teachers and school employees wrote character references for him. They mention his great swimming skills and good grades, and one talks about Turner's “famous” guacamole recipe. None mention the sexual assault or empathy for the victim.
Oakwood schools superintendent Dr. Kyle Ramey said this is the year the health standards are due for an audit, which involves bringing in experts to comment on the education standards and suggest improvements, which may then be added to the educational standards. Ramey said teachings about sexual assault have been part of audit review discussions, but it's unknown at this time if any changes will be made.
Oakwood officials did not respond to a question about whether the Turner case would be used as part of their curriculum in the future.
Experts on sexual violence education say Oakwood's approach is typical of how schools address sexual assault – and that's the problem.
How other schools approach sexual assault education
Education organizations like Answer and Advocates for Youth helped develop the National Sexuality Education Standards, which were published in 2012. The document details a core curriculum for students from K-12, including how and when to address sexual violence in the classroom in an age-appropriate manner, with an emphasis on how to respect others woven throughout each lesson.
The first time students should be exposed to some sort of education about unwanted touching is by the end of the second grade, according to the standards. Those lessons are aimed at preventing young children from being victims of child sexual abuse, and studies have shown those teachings make children more likely to disclose abuse when it occurs. Convicted child sex offenders have told researchers that it's easier to take advantage of children who have inadequate information about their bodies.
By the end of eighth grade, students should be able to understand the benefits of delaying intercourse, communicate effectively about their personal boundaries, know how to show respect for others' boundaries, and describe the impact of power differentials in relationships, such as gender roles.
By the end of 12th grade, students should be able to analyze influences that impact people's decisions regarding sexual activity, examine laws related to minors and their ability to consent to sex, apply a decision making model to various sexual health decisions, demonstrate ways to show respect for the personal boundaries of others, practice refusal and negotiation skills to help them avoid unwanted sexual activity, describe and explain consent and list characteristics of healthy and unhealthy sexual and romantic relationships.
Jen Stamper, a mother who lives near Oakwood in Kettering, said she doesn't know if she would want her children to be taught about sexual assault as soon as middle school. She has two daughters, ages 15 and 4, and a 6-year-old son.
“I would want them (the school) to ask me first,” Stamper said. “I would want to specifically know what kind of things they would be saying about it.”
Parental concerns are one of the main barriers, said Ebony Tucker, an advocacy director at the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.
“I think there's a lot of concern over how parents are going to feel about what children are exposed to at a young age,” Tucker said. “Rape crisis centers have done really well at providing sexual assault education, but they have a hard time even getting into school systems sometimes, and that's mainly because if they're coming, the school has to tell parents that someone from a rape crisis center is coming, and there's a freak out.”
In Fairfax County, Virginia, the school district decided to try to tackle sexual assault teachings in its own way, absent any state laws or mandates.
Last year, they introduced lessons specific to sexual assault in 10th grade and continue them in 11th and 12th grades.
“A lot of information out there is given to students at the college level, but the CDC says a lot of victimization happens at the high school level,” said Liz Payne, K-12 Coordinator for Health, Family Life and Physical Education at Fairfax County Public Schools.
About 46 percent of girls between seventh and 12th grade reported unwelcome sexual jokes, comments or gestures, and 13 percent reported being touched in an unwelcome sexual way, according to a 2011 study by the American Association of University Women. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that about one in five female high school students experience either physical or sexual abuse from a dating partner.
In 10th grade, students are asked to define what sexual assault, rape and sexual consent mean to them. The teacher then specifically defines consent, according to the lesson plan, as someone clearly agreeing or saying yes to sexual activity.
Students are provided definitions of sexual assault and rape as well, including specific types of rape such as acquaintance/date rape, statutory rape and trusted adult rape. They also learn the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships, the signs of human trafficking, other forms of dating violence and abuse and where to go for help.
In 11th grade, teachers further define sexual assault and consent to students, including a full explanation of coercion and how it cannot be part of consent. It once again calls on students to not blame the victim, regardless of what they are doing or wearing at the time. They also use a video to detail how survivors might feel after an assault and what people can do as bystanders, with the lesson including the specific example of the two bikers who tackled Brock Turner during his sexual assault of Emily Doe.
In 12th grade, students learn about sexual assault from a legal perspective. Consent and sexual assault are defined again, and the teacher cites statistics on how rape and sexual assault cases are highly underreported to law enforcement.
But even Fairfax doesn't teach about sexual assault prior to high school, though Cushman said that's important for schools to do.
In 2015, California became one of the first states to mandate that public schools teach students in grades seven through 12 about sexual assault and consent. The Sacramento City Unified School District, which has 46,000 students and 75 K-12 schools, is currently working on implementation of that law.
Aaron Pecho, science coordinator of the district, said they plan to train teachers in April and start teaching the lesson plans to students in certain schools later in the spring. Officials plan to teach it district-wide starting next academic year.
Those sexuality education lesson plans are not officially approved yet, Pecho said, but the plan is to teach them for two weeks each in the seventh and 10th grades. And the lessons are based on the National Sexuality Education Standards developed by Advocates for Youth and Answer.
In seventh grade, students watch a video called, “RAPE: Get the Facts,” which tells students that rape is a “men's issue,” and men need to play a role in combating it. Teachers then lead a discussion about how prevalent sexual abuse and assault is in the U.S., even at young ages, that the perpetrator is usually someone known by the victim and that it can happen to people of any gender, race, ethnicity or background. The lesson plan defines consent as “yes means yes,” and says pressure and coercion cannot be used to obtain true consent.
In high school, teachers will redefine sexual abuse to students, saying it includes rape, forcing another person to do anything sexual that they don't want to do, making another person watch porn, sharing sexual photos of another person without their consent and refusing to practice safer sex. Students repeat lessons about sexual harassment and consent.
Pecho added that throughout students' time in grades K-12, schools also give repeated lessons on empathy, good decision-making and relationships, among other topics. Those existed before the California law and are also emphasized in the National Sexuality Education Standards.
District officials have not heard from parents yet as they're still focusing on implementation and input from school leaders, Pecho said, but he hasn't heard of other school districts in California getting backlash.
Though Pecho said district officials believe these lessons on sexual violence are important, he doesn't think the school district would have taken the step to add them to the curriculum without state action.
“Without that state mandate, it would've been hard for us to make sure it was adequately taught in classrooms. Just because, historically, teachers haven't taught sexual violence or around the issues of sexual violence,” Pecho said. “With that lack of capacity, secondary school being what it is, in that you have nine months to teach a year-long life science or biology curriculum.”
“We know now that we can't wait on this, we have to actually address it in our classrooms,” Pecho continued. “The state requires it.”
‘Am I shirking my responsibilities as a parent?'
Carleen Turner's friend Theresa Gasper said she was never taught about sexual assault when she was young, though she did experience plenty of harassment in her life. She said guidance, and knowing who could she turn to for help, would have been helpful.
“I sure wasn't getting it from my family, or my teachers, or any trusted advisors along the way,” Gasper said.
Brian Duckro, Gasper's 32-year-old son who grew up near Oakwood and now lives in Houston, Texas, said he doesn't remember anyone teaching him about sexual assault either. The first time he remembers hearing anything about sexual violence was when his peers in college told him to beware of people putting roofies, the date rape drug, in his drinks. He recalls hearing the “no means no,” definition of consent at some point in his life, which is actually the definition most experts try to dissuade people from using because it doesn't cover instances when the victim is silent or unconscious.
“I've learned more about it in the past five to 10 years, because date rape has become a kind of PSA (public service announcement) statement out there on commercials and everything else,” Duckro said. “I was naive growing up, coming from a stricter household, and then going to college and living in the dorms. Roofies and stuff like that was learned through the passing of conversation.”
Gasper admits she doesn't remember talking to her children about the issue much, besides telling her daughter how to protect herself and telling her son to treat women with respect.
“I go back and forth between what is the obligation of the family and what's the obligation of the extended circle, whether that's a school, or a church or the community,” Gasper said.
Carleen and Dan Turner, Brock's parents, did not mention talking to their son about sexual assault in their character letters to Judge Aaron Persky. They both mention how motivated he was both academically and athletically, and begged Persky to only sentence Turner to probation without jail time for his crime.
“That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life,” Dan Turner wrote.
Dan Turner does mention other areas of education.
“Brock can do so many positive things as a contributor to society and is totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity,” he wrote. “By having people like Brock educate others on college campuses is how society can begin to break the cycle of binge drinking and its unfortunate results.”
Oakwood engineering teacher Tony Rainsberger said in emails obtained by the Dayton Daily News that he wished the school had talked to students more about sexual violence.
“I personally wish we had more conversations about this with our older students (seniors) before they went off to college. I hope it would empower young women and help young men understand the idea of freely given consent,” Rainsberger wrote to another teacher. “In hindsight I really wish we would have had this conversation with Brock Turner.”
It is unclear what will change in the Oakwood curriculum. Meanwhile, in Fairfax County, officials recommend teachers have high school seniors read Emily Doe's statement about Turner's assault in full. Teachers then ask students if and how the statement changed their perceptions about sexual assault and survivors.
“It needs to be covered, it needs to be discussed,” Gasper said.
“I remember all of the things we tell daughters: Don't take a drink from someone you don't know, don't walk by yourself, always have friends with you and on and on. And we tell boys: Wear a condom, and that's pretty much it."
Meeting set for establishment of child abuse prevention council
by January Rutherford
A new council is forming to help prevent child abuse and neglect in Jackson County.
In 2015, the Department of Child Services investigated 211 local cases of child abuse and neglect, according to statistics collected by the Indiana Youth Institute.
Those cases ranged from 171 reports of parents and caregivers not meeting a child's basic needs to 12 involving physical abuse and 28 cases of sexual abuse.
The overall numbers represent a decrease of 64 cases from 2014, but they are only the cases reported to DCS and substantiated. Jackson County is ranked 44th of 92 counties for child abuse.
The existing Court Appointed Special Advocate program in Jackson County currently is serving 122 children in the court system, with 92 on a waiting list to be appointed an advocate when one is available. Advocates speak on behalf of children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.
In response to the statistics, Child Care Network is starting Caring 4 Kids Jackson County, a charter council of Prevent Child Abuse Indiana.
Kate Garrity, executive director of Child Care Network, said there is a need to do more to protect children in the area by stopping abuse before it happens and to educate the community.
“The purpose of the group is to raise awareness of child abuse and what prevention measures can be taken,” she said.
An organizational meeting will be at 10 a.m. Friday in the third-floor conference room at the Community Agency Building, 113 N. Chestnut St., Seymour.
Garrity is serving as co-chair of the council along with Charlotte Moss, Turning Point Domestic Violence Services community services director for Jackson County.
Anyone interested in preventing child abuse and protecting children can join the council.
School teachers forced to become child abuse watchdogs amid soaring report rates
by Elissa Doherty and Monique Hore
SCHOOL teachers are increasingly becoming child protection watchdogs with soaring numbers of abuse reports being made to authorities.
New figures reveal 5244 reports made by school staff were investigated by authorities in 2015-16, up from 4599 the previous year.
The data, due to be released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in the coming months, underlines the rising responsibilities of teachers.
Principals say an increased focus on domestic violence, and the inquiry into institutional child sex abuse could be driving the higher number of reports. Victorian Principals Association president Anne-Maree Kliman called for the reporting process to be streamlined, with some teachers stuck on the phone to authorities for up to an hour and other reports not immediately followed up.
“The time delay is a bother and I wonder how many calls got missed because of that,” Ms Kliman said.
“Sometimes we also get push-back from the (Health and Human Services) department asking what we think they should be doing.
“It's not our job to be making those decisions.”
A Respectful Relationships program, aimed at tackling domestic violence, will be rolled out in schools this year.
It will include showing younger students pictures of both boys and girls doing the dishes and kicking the footy in an attempt to smash gender stereotypes, “gender literacy” and warnings about pornography for older students.
Judy Crowe, from the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, said decades of training teachers had created a culture of reporting abuse.
“Reporting abuse is so important that it transcends concern about teachers being expected to do things that put extra work on them,” she said. “Government schools have a reasonably good record in this arena.”
The Australian Education Union's Victorian president, Meredith Peace, said schools needed long-term state and federal funding to help the “most vulnerable” students.
The State Government last year spent $51 million on about 640 student support staff, including half who were psychologists and one in five who were social workers.
An Education Department spokesman said new standards ensured schools were “well prepared to protect children from abuse and neglect”.
U.K. Man Who Came to U.S. to Have Sex with Boys Sentenced to 13 Years in Federal Prison for Transporting Child Pornography
LOS ANGELES – A British man who traveled to the Coachella Valley to have sex with pre-teen boys and later pleaded guilty to transportation of child pornography was sentenced today to 13 years in federal prison.
Paul Charles Wilkins, 70, of Littleport in East Cambridgeshire, England, a dual United States-United Kingdom citizen, was sentenced this morning by United States District Judge Dolly M. Gee.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Gee ordered Wilkins to pay a $25,000 criminal fine and a $5,000 special assessment under the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. Following the completion of his prison term, Wilkins be on supervised release for the rest of his life.
Wilkins pleaded guilty in September to one count of transportation of child pornography. When he pleaded guilty, Wilkins admitted that he traveled to the United States from the United Kingdom in January 2016 for the purpose of having sex with two brothers who were 10 and 12 at the time. When that plan fell apart, Wilkins made arrangements with an undercover law enforcement officer to have sex with a 9-year-old boy in exchange for $250 at an apartment he had rented. Additionally, Wilkins admitted he possessed child pornography on his computer and brought child pornography from the United Kingdom into the United States, including graphic sexual images of boys between the ages of 5 and 8.
“This defendant persistently engaged in the sexual exploitation of children,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “He was the administrator of an online group used by men to discuss their sexual interest in children, he traveled to the United States to have sex with two young boys, and he made arrangements with undercover agents to have sex with another young boy. Today's sentence ensures that children will be protected from his abhorrent conduct for many years.”
The investigation into Wilkins was conducted by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
“Given his age, this prison term virtually assures the defendant will not be a sexual threat to young people again,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “This sentenced should also serve as a sobering reminder to pedophiles who wrongly believe they can outrun the law and indulge their perverse desires by buying an airline ticket and boarding a plane. HSI will continue to work closely with its law enforcement partners in the U.S. and around the world to hold these dangerous sexual predators accountable for their actions.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christina T. Shay of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.
FROM: Thom Mrozek, Spokesperson/Public Affairs Officer
United States Attorney's Office, Central District of California (Los Angeles)
Organization saw fewer cases of child abuse in 2016, others saw increased reports
MESA COUNTY, Colo. -- Data shows child abuse is on the decline in Mesa County for some organizations, while others continue to see abuse rise.
The Western Slope Center for Children saw a 8% decrease in child abuse cases in 2016, compared to 2015. While there is no specific reason for the decline, they say the beginning of the year proved to see fewer cases than usual.
“On average we usually see at least 30 or more children a month,” explained Melissa Lytle with the Western Slope Center for Children. "I think reports were still being made. I still think the right kiddos were coming to our center."
In 2016, the center provided services for 391 kids.
"Child abuse is here and we need to have a collaborative community response to it,” Lytle said.
Of those nearly 400 children, roughly 80 percent of them were a victim of sexual assault. However, the centers data show in 2016, there were more types of abuse reported than in years past.
“We did have a couple human trafficking cases,” Lytle said. “And we saw unfortunately, some witnesses to some homicides that occurred last year.”
The Western Slope Center for Children says they did however see an increase in the number of sexual assault exams. Between both children and adults, 95 exams were given in 2016. That compares to 71 exams in 2015.
While The Western Slope Center for Children saw a decrease in child abuse cases, CASA reported an increase. CASA provides a voice for abused and neglected children in the courtroom.
“We are seeing younger kids and a lot more severe abuse that has been happening than in year's past,” explained Janet Rowland with CASA. “It's very severe. The injuries are worse. "
CASA provided their services for 275 kids in 2016.
Child advocates encourage community members to understand the signs of abuse. If a child begins to behave differently than he or she normally does, that may be a warning sign.
Reporting child abuse can make the difference for a young life, according to child advocates.
"Sometimes people are apprehensive to call the hotline in fear that it is not abuse or they aren't seeing the whole story,” Rowland said. “But that's not for them to decide. It's up to law enforcement and the Department of Human Services."
DHS in Mesa County says in the last few months of 2016, the say a slight decrease in both child abuse cases and sexual assault cases.
Still, they urge the public to call authorities if any type[e of abuse is suspected.
“We rely on the eyes and ears of our community to report child abuse and neglect to us, anytime that they suspect it,” explained Kari Daggett, the Director of Child Welfare at DHS.
The local hotline can be reached at 970-242-1211. Daggett says callers do remain completely anonymous, and any reports will be investigated
CASA is hosting a ‘Fostering Hope' event for the community on Thursday January 19th at 5:30pm. It will take place at the Grand Junction City Hall auditorium. It is a partnership event with multiple organizations to showcase a variety of ways community members can help kids who have been abused.
To reserve a spot or get more information about the event, visit www.FosteringHope.info.
Gov Talks Child Abuse And Education
by Narusa DeMarco
Gov. Susana Martinez delivered this year's State of the State address on Tuesday, which also marked the start of the legislative session.
A big budgetary shortfall has demanded nothing but belt-tightening in recent years, but Gov. Martinez said the state managed to increase funding for child protective services. Still, she drew on the names of kids killed through abuse in New Mexico and called for stiffer criminal penalties.
"If you kill a child, a law enforcement officer or a corrections officer, you deserve the death penalty," she said to much applause. "If you intentionally abuse a child and that child dies, regardless of that child's age, you should never get out of prison. "
The governor lauded advancements in public education in New Mexico after what she called bold reform and said funding cuts should not affect the classroom. Her budget proposal would dip into public school districts' reserves and teachers' take-home pay. She also suggested denying or revoking driver's licenses to teens who regularly ditch school.
Toy drive brings in carloads for child-abuse victims
by Koby Levin
After an “overwhelming” response from social media-users near and far, Brandy Corum has begun giving out carloads of toys to local agencies that work with children. Corum organized the toy drive to commemorate the deaths of her children a year ago.
On Tuesday, Corum, of Carl Junction, delivered a pile of gifts to the Children's Center in Joplin. The books and toys will be given to children who come through the center, as Corum's children did in 2014. It provides a kid-friendly environment for investigations of child abuse and neglect.
“This is a challenging day for kids,” said Vickie Dudley, director of the center, and toys can provide a bright spot. “For many of them, it's the only time they get something new.”
Corum's children, Wesley and Timber Kernel, 9 and 7 years old, were shot to death by their father on Jan.15, 2015. Tony Kernel then turned the gun on himself.
Hoping to make something positive of an unfathomable loss, Corum asked people who attended her children's funeral to bring a toy or a book. The donations were brought to the Children's Center and the Children's Haven.
Corum made the same request for the first anniversary of Wesley and Timber's passing, adding the Jasper County Sheriff's Office to the list of recipients.
Stuffed animals, clothes and toys began to pile up on donation tables after Corum put out a Facebook post on Dec. 19 announcing the drive, but it wasn't until the third week that momentum started to build.
By Jan. 15, the anniversary of her children's death, three carloads of toys had piled up on donation tables in Webb City and Carthage.
“I want them to be remembered for who they were, not what happened to them,” she said on Tuesday. “I want them to be remembered as Wesley and Timber. (Books and stuffed animals) are the stuff that they liked.”
Thanks to the long reach of social media, a few donations came from well outside the Joplin area. One came from St. Louis. Another came from a Facebook friend of Corum's in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, someone she had never met. It was a handmade teddy bear, and it came with special instructions: keep this one for yourself.
With this year's strong response, Corum hopes her toy drive will become an annual event.
“I'm extremely shocked with the amount donated by the community,” she said. “We got a lot of stuff. It humbles me that the community is so caring.”
In addition to the Children's Center, the remaining donations went to Children's Haven, a temporary children's shelter, and the Jasper County Sheriff's Office, whose deputies give out stuffed animals to children affected by crimes.
Child abuse laid bare by AMA NSW and Children's Hospital Westmead's Stop The Clock campaign
by Kate Aubusson
In a room on the second floor of the Children's Hospital Westmead is a team of specialised staff weighed down by a collective consciousness, burdened by countless horrific cases of child abuse.
The hospital's child protection unit has treated infants just days old, toddlers, school children and adolescents for brutal physical injuries, sexual abuse and neglect inflicted by adults who should have protected and nurtured them.
They have seen broken bones, bruises, burns, cuts, serious head injuries, abdominal and spinal injuries, babies shaken so hard their brain detaches from their skull, and the devastating effects of prolonged sexual violence.
"We see children, babies who come in in a state of starvation because they haven't received the food that they need to survive," senior social worker Calli Goninan said.
"We see children with chronic illnesses who have not been given the medicine they need. We have children living in terror every day, living in homes where there is domestic violence. We have children living with long-term shame and guilt because they have been [sexually] abused."
The abuse can go on for years.
"In fact, it goes on so long the child doesn't remember a time before the abuse," she said. "They can't recall a time when they felt safe and they can't remember a time when they have learnt an adult is trustworthy.
"Yet we expect these children to talk about what's happened to them."
It makes for uncomfortable conversation. But these doctors, social workers and therapists are speaking out for one reason: they need us to speak up.
The Child Protection Unit and the Australian Medical Association NSW on Wednesday launched the Stop The Clock campaign, to equip healthcare professionals and the public with the resources needed to rescue children from abuse.
Every 15 minutes a child is abused in Australia, national data shows.
There were more than 42,400 substantiated cases of child abuse in Australia in 2014-2015, according to s tate and territory child protection and support services.
The number of child abuse cases has risen by 35 per cent since 2010-2011.
The campaign's website is not just a mine of information for doctors and the community, offering instruction on how to report abuse, and videos of the child protection unit staff sharing their experiences.
It also attempts to speak directly to children who may be victims of abuse, telling them: "It's not your fault, even if you're told it is … This is not a secret you should keep."
"It is so hard for kids to speak up but some do, and it takes incredible bravery to do so," Ms Goninan said. "As adults we need to listen, we need to believe [them]."
Paediatric neurosurgeon and former AMA president Brian Owler was prepared to treat children with tumour and trauma, but never expected he would have tiny victims of abuse in his surgical suite, such as babies with subdural haematomas after being violently shaken.
"It doesn't take much shaking of a baby to tear those little fragile veins that run between the brain and skull," said Professor Owler, the driving force behind the Stop The Clock
"Sometimes this is really just the tip of the iceberg," he said of the shaken babies who also presented with hemorrhages and multiple fractures that were at different stages of healing, the hallmark of repeated abuse.
"Meanwhile that little brain shrinks. That brain literally melts away, and with it melts away the potential and future aspirations of that child."
The child protection unit's consultant paediatrician Grace Wong rarely sees physical abuse in isolation. It's often accompanied by sexual and emotional abuse or neglect.
"In many cases the abuse is occurring in an environment where there is already a pattern of entrenched violence within the family and in the home.
"Parents and carers with limited support and struggling to manage a whole host of their own difficulties are particularly vulnerable," Dr Wong said.
NSW Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Pru Goward said the campaign was a call to action.
"We have all seen it. We have all sensed it. We need to be empowered to act on it," Ms Goward said. "The lives of our most vulnerable children may depend on what we do."
The connections between child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, and mental illness in adulthood was "frighteningly strong", Ms Goward said.
"They are tragically part of intergenerational abuse and neglect.
"I have met countless, countless women who are drug addicts or alcoholics who have their own children in child protection, [and] had a history of child sexual abuse.
"Parental substance misuse, domestic and family violence and parental [mental health] problems are so often not only common drivers of abuse but the key to repetition of that cycle," she said.
This was a clock that absolutely needed to be stopped, she said.
Safety within our churches
Local group, police teach situational awareness
by Melanie Ruberti
LaGRANGE – The issue of child sexual abuse still remains a taboo topic of conversation in many churches around the nation – and in Georgia.
Sadly, the abuse is the number one reason congregations ended up in court between 2010 – 2014, according to Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services.
But the organization hopes to change that statistic and start conversations about sexual abuse in churches around Troup County.
Twin Cedars held a Church Safety Summit for members of the faith community and local law enforcement agencies on Tuesday at the Coleman Center off Lincoln Street. The group trained participants to recognize the signs a child may have been abused and how to prevent an incident from happening within their church.
“We hope these churches that are here today will take this information and talk to their congregation members about it,” explained Kim Adams, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center of Troup County. “We hope they'll use the information to change or shape new policies regarding children within their church.”
The training is from a program called Stewards of Children, also once known as “Darkness to Light.”
Thousands of people in Troup County have taken the class, including all employees within the Troup County School System and members of the Troup County Sheriff's Office, said Adams. But some of the hardest places to recruit into the Stewards of Children training is area churches, she added.
“Many churches still don't talk about it (child sexual abuse),” Adams stated.
Rosemont Baptist Church decided to address the issue of child sexual abuse with their staff and members following an incident within their congregation.
“We had an incident where a staff member was picking up children and bringing them to church in his van. A child that rode in the van told a teacher the driver inappropriately touched her,” explained Philip McClung, children's pastor at Rosemont Baptist Church. “We (church) already had a lot of policies in place, but we knew we needed listen more and become more educated in the lives of our children.”
More than 70 staff and congregation members of Rosemont Baptist Church completed the Darkness to Light class and became mandated reporters for victims of child sexual abuse.
“At one point I was nervous of the information and details being talked about during training,” McClung admitted. “But the same people I worried would be offended by it, were the same ones who thanked me for giving them a ‘wake-up call' and showing them the need to keep our children safe.”
Opening up the discussion about child sexual abuse within the Rosemont congregation was one of the best decisions the church made, McClung added.
“People now understand the policies we have in place, such as always having two teachers inside a classroom with children,” he explained. “We don't live in the same world that we used to. We need to be prepared for things that come up in conversation and be able to respond to them.”
Twin Cedars stated another growing trend in places of worship is church security.
During an afternoon session, LaGrange Police Senior Patrol Officer Jim Davidson taught the group about protecting themselves from active shooters.
“These types of incidents are happening all over the world on a weekly basis,” he said. “The shooters are using firearms, vehicles, explosives and more.”
This type of training is a class Davidson teaches often to the community called Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events, or CRASE.
“I think you'll see a lot of churches start using security teams,” Davidson said. “Churches need to have these types of conversations … and learn how to respond to an active threat.”
Anyone interested in participating in the LaGrange Police Department CRASE class can contact headquarters at 706-883-2603 or email SPO Jim Davidson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any church or organization interested in the Stewards of Children training can contact Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services at 706-298-0050.
New Hampshire sexual assault evidence bill meets strong opposition
by Akyssa Dandrea
No one witnessed the repeated sexual abuse of Angie Semertgakis at the hands of her stepfather, beginning when she was just 9 years old.
Semertgakis, now in her 30s, testified Tuesday before the House Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety that she lived in “hate, fear, and shame,” and for years was afraid to tell her story. The abuse took place when no one was home and under the darkness of night, she told lawmakers in her plea for them to shoot down a bill that would require more proof in certain sexual assault cases.
When prosecutors filed the sexual assault case against Semertgakis' abuser decades ago, he had no criminal record. If the case had gone to trial, jurors would have decided the man's fate based on the girl's testimony alone. In the end, he took a plea deal.
Existing law in New Hampshire does not require corroboration of a sexual assault. A bill introduced by a Wolfeboro Republican is proposing to change that by requiring corroboration in cases where the defendant has no prior convictions. The bill, however, leaves the definition of corroboration open-ended.
Semertgakis and many other opponents called the bill “dangerous” for New Hampshire.
“This bill is an abolishment to the empowerment of a child who finally breaks free from their offender and finds their voice and courage to talk about their abuse,” she said.
New Hampshire is one of 36 states that does not require corroboration, according to Roger Canaff, a legal expert on the investigation and prosecution of child abuse and sexual assault cases. Canaff, who has practiced law in New York and Virginia, said in a phone interview Tuesday that 13 states require corroboration in limited circumstances, such as if there are questions about a victim's mental competency.
“What New Hampshire is considering, requiring corroboration in all cases where the defendant has not been convicted previously, goes far beyond the requirements of any state I can think of,” Canaff said. “Requiring corroboration where there is no challenge to the witness seems to me to be an onerous step, and one that will prevent many victims from seeking justice within the criminal courts.”
HB 106 was introduced by Rep. William Marsh and co-sponsored by Rep. Jess Edwards, an Auburn Republican, both of whom testified in support of its passage Tuesday. Mary Heath, a Manchester Democrat, initially co-sponsored the bill as well, but recently withdrew her support, saying on deeper review, she recognized the “far-reaching consequences” of it.
“As a lifelong educator, I have spent my whole career trying to protect and educate children; this bill does not do that,” Heath wrote in a statement to the committee.
Several law enforcement officials and area prosecutors spoke in opposition to the bill Tuesday, saying it would protect sexual predators and cause more children harm as more cases go unprosecuted. Conversely, proponents of the bill said an amendment to the law would prevent wrongful convictions.
Many of the bill's supporters cited the recent case of Foad Afshar, a Concord psychologist sentenced to three to six years in prison for molesting a young patient. Afshar has maintained his innocence and is appealing his conviction.
Marsh, a retired ophthalmologist, said that if it's true someone who did nothing wrong was sentenced to prison, then it is the duty of the legislature to take a closer look at existing laws and fix what's broken. A “simple statement” should not be enough to send someone to prison, and better protections need to be in place for doctors, teachers and others who work with children, he said.
“If the person charged is innocent, they will have little ability to defend themselves, as the only testimony is that of a young child who may not be able to provide a reliable story,” Marsh said.
Rep. Edwards said in a written statement to the committee that although the bill does not identify types of corroborating evidence, “one can imagine text messages, physical examination results, the testimony of the accused and many other telltale facts as potentially being available for a jury to consider.”
The committee posed a limited number of questions to those testifying Tuesday. However, one question from Rep. Frank Sapareto, vice-chairman of the committee, resurfaced time and time again. He asked law enforcement officials about the percentage of sexual assault cases that aren't corroborated. Investigators said they typically uncover some kind of supporting evidence, but they couldn't give further specificity.
During Tuesday's hearing, Deputy Rockingham County Attorney Patricia LaFrance was one of several opponents of the bill to cite the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment. She argued that HB 106 is in violation of that amendment, as it would hold sexual assault victims to a different standard than victims of other crimes. The clause reads that no state can “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Semertgakis said she fears to think about the outcome of her case had HB 106 been law when she came forward with her story of abuse. Prosecutors may have never filed charges against her stepfather, citing a lack of physical evidence to support her testimony.
She said she hopes that, moving forward, new laws won't silence survivors of sexual abuse, but rather empower them to tell their stories and seek justice.
Semertgakis asked House committee members: “Are you expecting a little child who is being molested to get out of bed and go to the police station and say, ‘Excuse me, can you scrub my body for evidence?' ... Or the woman walking home from work who was raped by the man who took all precautions to not leave his DNA and not have a witness. ... What should she do?”
Indian Ministry to Crack Down on Online Child Abuse
by Guiding Tech
The Ministry of Women and Child Development is setting up a National Alliance to counter the evil of online child abuse and exploitation by engaging the citizenry, NGOs as well as law enforcement to ensure that the legal framework to work against this growing menace is effectively placed.
In a day-long consultation in New Delhi on Monday, with Ministries of Home Affairs, Health and Family welfare, Electronics and Information Technology, Department of School Education and Literacy, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and several civil society organisations, the Women and Child Development ministry discussed the legal framework, policies, national strategies concerning child protection and child rights.
The consultation sought to come out with measures to enlighten people about the danger of child abuse, set up a platform for NGOs and government organisations to share information regarding child abuse.
“Online child abuse and exploitation amplify existing forms of offline bullying, stalking and harassment. It also facilitates the sexual exploitation of children through the production and dissemination of child sexual abuse materials and by facilitating the sexual exploitation and trafficking of children. Online abuse knows no national boundaries,” the Ministry stated.
In addition to the aforementioned objectives, the consultation also sought to bring out a common definition of child pornography and bring amendments to the Information Technology Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act.
Other Objectives of the National Alliance
Children's exposure to abuse tends to take a toll on their long-term physical as well as psychological well-being and the Ministry pointed out that with the advent of digital tech, the issue of child abuse has risen.
“Child sexual abuse is a multi-layered problem which negatively impacts children's safety, health and well being,” the Ministry added.
The Ministry of Women and Children noticed the limited awareness of online Child exploitation among parents, children, teacher as well as other organisations and put forward this objective to inform and educate the concerned parties.
To set up a multi-member secretariat based in the Ministry with an online portal which also has a hotline for reporting.
Set up a forum for advocacy of child rights and policy based on research and studies.
Document success stories and best practices in terms of prevention of online abuse and exploitation of children, and showcase them.
Child abuse and exploitation is a prevalent evil of our society and the government taking steps to counter the growing menace, especially aided by the digital worlds where things can be shared at an alarming pace, is a welcome move but it remains to be seen how well they are able to implement the same.
Michigan center offers sexual assault defense class for younger girls
by Danielle Woodward
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Self-defense classes for women are not uncommon, but a youth center in a large city in northern Michigan is looking out for a younger audience.
Diane Walton, the director of The Rock Youth Center in Traverse City, was inspired by a successful turnout for a free sexual assault self-defense seminar for high school and college age women to morph its concepts into a workshop for younger ears.
Nearly one in five women experience sexual assault or rape in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' found this number to be the same in children, with one in every five girls are victims of child sexual abuse.
The Rock will offer a free "Sexual Assault Defense and Avoidance" training seminar for girls in seventh through 10th grade on Jan. 21. Its lineup is modeled loosely around the original seminar with adjustments to some of the mature content.
"The language of this workshop will be softer somewhat," Walton said. "We want to gently ease them into it. I wouldn't say we have to scare the kids or anything like that."
That mainly applies to the first portion of the six-hour workshop, where instructor Colby Taylor will talk about how to avoid sexual assault by recognizing unsafe people and situations. The original workshop focused on college scenarios involving alcohol or date rape, but Taylor insists much of those tips can be applied generally.
"Some of these situations are going to be a little different for younger girls because they're not going to frat parties in college," he said. "It's still along the line of understanding safe situations and not allowing somebody to get isolated — whether it's at a football game, a party or a school function."
The younger audience will be a change for Denise Schmuckal, Grand Traverse County crime victim rights coordinator, who speaks to the girls at the end of the workshop about the legal rights of sexual assault victims. Schmuckal typically talks at the seminars about reporting cases of date rape or criminal sexual conduct, but felt the material may be too sensitive for the younger girls.
"I think 13 is a little too young to go into that," she said. "This one is going to be a bit trickier for me, because usually my classes are for high school and college."
Schmuckal will instead focus on how to spot and report an older person taking advantage of someone younger or child abuse that may be happening at home. She ends each workshop with a stack of business cards and an open invitation to call her any time.
"They would often call me after and open up to ask if something was a problem," she said. "It's important to talk about it with younger girls so they know there are people out there that can help you."
The National Institute of Justice reports an estimated 85 to 90 percent of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows. Taylor addresses that by talking to the girls about how to identify "who really is a good guy and who's not" and encouraging them to see value in themselves and not in attention drawn from others.
"Part of that is helping them learn that real love is not the attention that you get if you're dressing provocatively," Taylor said.
The controversial advice crosses a thin line between safety precautions and victim blaming for some. Constance Daab, director of advocacy at the Grand Traverse Women's Resource Center, recommends wording it with caution.
"It doesn't matter how you dress," Daab said. "Let them know that they can be safe and pay attention to their instincts, but an assailant is an assailant, and they're always responsible for their own actions."
Taylor said workshop leaders make a point to emphasize throughout the seminar that sexual assault is never the victim's fault.
"We're pretty much advocating the entire time that it is never okay and never something that they invited," he said. "We're simply trying to help them understand that certain situations put them more at risk."
The girls spend the rest of the workshop learning how to fight with self-defense techniques to escape a choke hold, head lock, body lock and bear hug, Taylor said. The moves come from Krav Maga, a self-defense system originally developed for Israel Defense Forces and translates to "contact-combat" in Hebrew.
"We try to keep things very simple and highlight the techniques that are most likely to be needed," he said.
Why Do We Criminalize Young Victims of Sex Trafficking?
by Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco
On January 31, 2013, 17-year-old Aarica S. was arrested in Los Angeles and charged with prostitution after she agreed to have unprotected sex with an undercover police officer in exchange for $60.
During Aarica's court proceedings, her attorney argued the charges should be dismissed on the grounds that she was a victim of human trafficking.
In support of her claim, Aarica described a harrowing life story. Her father raped her when she was only three years old. At the age of 14, a friend introduced her to a pimp, who trafficked her into the commercial sex trade. After the pimp and his uncle raped her, she ran away and aborted the child that she was impregnated with.
When she was 16, another pimp recruited her. Although he gave her food and shelter, the pimp would physically abuse her if she didn't make enough money for him. She was indoctrinated to believe that she was the “property” of the pimp.
By the time of her arrest, Aarica had been trafficked by approximately 10 different pimps, running away each time the abuse became too much to bear.
At trial, Aarica testified that she didn't have a pimp controlling her when she was arrested. After being trafficked on and off for over three years, she had been free for three months, living with her grandmother. And because she admitted on cross-examination that she didn't have anyone directly exploiting her at the time of her arrest, the court treated Aarica as a delinquent, not as a victim.
Despite the fact that the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act (CASE Act) states that “because minors are legally incapable of consenting to sexual activity, these minors are victims of human trafficking whether or not force is used,” prosecutors working under then-Attorney General Kamala Harris, who presents herself as a paragon of anti-trafficking reform, pursued a criminal conviction against this teenage girl.
Her conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal, which ruled that evidence supported the juvenile court's determination that the minor was not a victim of human trafficking.
Criminalizing juvenile victims of commercial sexual exploitation has been denounced by federal and state legislation across the United States; yet it still happens more than we would expect.
According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, there were approximately 700 juveniles arrested for prostitution and commercialized vice in 2014 – the last year for which data is available.
To correct this type of erroneous criminalization of human trafficking victims, an increasing number of states are passing “vacatur “ statutes. These laws provide post-conviction relief for survivors of human trafficking by completely erasing criminal convictions related to their victimization.
Given the high risk of re-victimization and a return to the commercial sex industry among survivors of sexual trauma, it is recommended that these statutes not require survivors to prove they have left the sex industry.
In a further step to proactively prevent the erroneous criminalization of sex trafficked youth, California recently passed S.B. 1322, which went into effect on January 1, 2017. The legislation renders inapplicable to a child under the age of 18 provisions that make it a crime to solicit or engage in any act of prostitution, as well as to loiter in any public place with the intent to commit prostitution. The minor can still be taken into temporary custody for his or her protection.
Critics claim that this law “legalizes” child prostitution and puts juveniles at greater risk of commercial sexual exploitation. Proponents contend that the law simply decriminalizes the minor, while continuing to enforce stiff penalties against anyone who sexually exploits or attempts to solicit sexual services from a child.
Regardless, both sides agree that “there is no such thing as child prostitution.”
However, the reality is that commercial sexually exploited children around the country are being criminalized, even under the authority of extremely outspoken anti-trafficking advocates, like Kamala Harris.
Sex traffickers coerce children who are living on the margins of society into being exploited in the commercial sex industry. According to Carlos Curtis, who is currently serving life in prison for sex trafficking a 12-year-old girl from New York to Washington, D.C., “Just like some children use and deal drugs. It's a part of life.”
In an interview with me, Curtis continued:
“Let's say a young girl is 16 or 17 and she has no family, money, or food. So the young lady has to fend for herself. She is already sexually active, roaming the streets surviving. She does so with no guidance. Without proper guidance, one will be reckless. But, remember, she is a survivor. Willing to do whatever it takes to survive.”
Whether or not they appear to be consenting, children should never be criminalized for involvement in the commercial sex industry.
The fact that anti-trafficking advocates, like Kamala Harris, turn a blind eye to this fact demonstrates a critical gap between anti-trafficking law and practice.
We need to discontinue the business-as-usual practice of touting hollow victories for public accolade and move toward more evidence-based anti-trafficking policy that facilitates the protection of survivors, prosecution of offenders, and prevention of new victimizations.
Thousands Pay For Child Prostitutes In CT Every Year But Nobody Has Been Charged Since 2013
by Davis Dunavin
State officials say about 2,000 people pay for child prostitutes in Connecticut every year, but no one in the state has been charged with soliciting child prostitutes under a felony-level law that took effect in 2013.
It sounds shocking the first time you hear it, says Jillian Gilchrest, who leads the Connecticut Trafficking in Persons Council.
“We are arresting some men who buy adult prostitutes. We aren't arresting men who buy children.”
Gilchrest says Connecticut has made a lot of headway in the past few years.
“But if those who are buying are allowed to continue buying, we're just gonna keep spinning our wheels. We need to go after those who are creating the demand for sex trafficking.”
Most of the human trafficking in Connecticut is done online, on classified ad sites or social media platforms. Gilchrest says that makes it harder for police to find people who pay for child prostitutes.
“We know that the majority of the sex trafficking happening with youth in particular, it's taking place online and then being arranged, meet ups in hotels. We need to be able to give police the tools to do those types of investigations.”
Connecticut State Police Sergeant Richard Alexandra says, to be clear, people who pay for child prostitutes are getting arrested. But until last year, police had their hands tied because they had to show people had done it at least twice.
“Those two occurrences would unfortunately force law enforcement to stand by and wait for a second occurrence to take place before we could enforce human trafficking laws.”
Last year state lawmakers strengthened the 2013 law by requiring hotels to keep records of their guests and train their employees to recognize the signs of child prostitution. It also requires only one incident for police to make an arrest. Alexandra's glad the state got rid of the two-occurrence rule.
“Now that that's no longer a requirement of the law, we can act immediately as soon as these violations are brought to our attention.”
Alexandra says until recently, police would often charge people who paid for child prostitutes with something else, like sexual assault, or enticing a minor. There were about 350 of those charges in 2015.
Erin Williamson, with the victims' advocacy group Love 146, says across the country, it's the prostitutes who usually get arrested because it's easier to recognize them. That makes it hard to address the real source of the problem.
“Prostitution only exists because there are people that want to purchase sex, so instead of us looking at the girl or the young boy, let's turn around and look at who's purchasing. We'll see it. We just have to turn around.”
She hopes we'll start to see some arrests in Connecticut because of the new tools that have been provided to police and hotel owners. If not, the council would like to the legislature come up with even tougher human trafficking laws this year.
Online sex trafficking flourishing
by Mary Sanchez
Headlines blared when the global classified ad giant Backpage.com shut down its adult section last week. The move was a desperate attempt to head off a scathing U.S. Senate subcommittee report linking Backpage to the selling of under-age girls for sex.
For years Backpage had hosted ads that often used coded language and salacious photos offering sex for sale, often with young girls. When challenged, the company's owners routinely hid behind constitutional protections of the free press.
However, after a two-year cat-and-mouse game, the gig was up, and Backpage's owners scrambled for a different constitutional protection — against self-incrimination. When called before a Senate subcommittee, they refused to answer questions about how their company automatically scrubbed words like “Lolita,” “teen,” “rape,” “innocent,” “little girl” and “Amber alert” from ads before allowing them to post.
It was a cowardly silence, but one to be expected from people who can no longer dodge accusations that they profited from the sexual exploitation of children.
There was panic in other quarters as well. Teenagers and women who use Backpage to solicit tricks were frantic. If they couldn't post themselves as available, they wouldn't be able to satisfy the cash demands of their pimps. And pimps are violent, known to beat, burn, brand and rape women as punishment.
In Kansas City, Kris Wade's phone blew up. She is executive director of Justice Project KC, a group dedicated to helping victims of sex trafficking. She serves multiple task forces and is linked to the Justice Department. The youngest victim that she's aided was a 9-year-old girl, but she estimates that 11 is the average age of those she sees trafficked. These girls grow into sexually exploited women.
“A lot of them don't know what day it is,” Wade said of “the girls.” And last week, all they knew was that they couldn't post on Backpage.
The girls do not make a habit of following the news, Wade said, not unless one of them goes missing or winds up dead. So the play-by-play between Backpage and Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Rob Portman of Ohio escaped their notice.
But Wade followed it. She applauded the relentless pursuit by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, its use of subpoena powers and the courts, and its diligence in analyzing more than a million pages of documents to reach the conclusions of the report.
Wade is also realistic. “Backpage is only the tip of the iceberg. Even if it is put entirely out of operation, there are so many sites that will pick up their business,” she said.
And you can bet the scramble is on. Prostitution is a fiercely competitive business. The rules are simple. The younger the merchandise, the higher the profits they can draw — but not for themselves. The money goes to the pimps.
A cautionary note: Wade hates the term sex worker. It implies legitimacy. “This is exploitation,” she said. “And for a lot of people it's torture.”
Enslavement is her preferred term. According to Wade, people need to disabuse themselves of the notion that prostitution is a voluntary choice. People prostitute when they don't think they have other options. They often do it after being tricked, forced or compromised into selling themselves sexually. Renegades — women or young girls who try to operate solo — don't last long.
Pimps troll Backpage and similar sites, too, Wade said. They're on the lookout for newbies, anyone who might cut into their business. Then they go get them. The approach might be slow: The woman is contacted and taken on a few dates, which might entail buying them clothes, drugs or a new hairstyle. Then they are told that it's payback time. Don't like it? That's when the abuse starts.
Nothing will ever change unless the demand is decreased. More people — primarily male johns — need to understand their role. They are buying exploited humans.
That is why Wade calls for tougher penalties, fines and mandatory attendance at educational sessions for tricks, to make them understand the consequences of their solicitation. She also wants others who are knowingly complicit, such as bribed taxi drivers and concierges, to feel the pressure as well.
But the fact of the matter is that the internet is a wide-open venue for sex trafficking. There are myriad ways it can aid people seeking to make a profit from sexually exploiting others, especially children.
It will take equally efficient and disciplined pushback by Congress, police, the courts and advocates to meet the challenge.
Bowling Green vigil offers personal details of child sex trafficking
by Deborah Highland
When Vicki Patterson's mother wanted money to have her hair done, she sold her daughter for sex to the highest bidder and allowed the men who paid to take photographs of the acts.
From the time she was 3 years old until just before she turned 7, Patterson was her family's “dirty secret” sold over and over at a Cumberland River resort in Tennessee in the 1950s. Now at 63 years old and with both of her parents long since dead, Patterson lives in Bowling Green and speaks out against human trafficking.
Patterson was one of three human trafficking survivors who spoke in front of Bowling Green City Hall on Wednesday night during a vigil held by the local group Phoenix Rising to honor the survivors and to remember those who lost their lives to human trafficking.
Azurdee Garland, executive director of Phoenix Rising, an organization formed to combat human trafficking, got involved with the issue 10 years ago after meeting children who had been trafficked. She founded Phoenix Rising, and the organization is working toward raising money for an eight-bed home in Bowing Green for girls who are recovering from trafficking.
“Our whole goal is to educate the community, help survivors and then the third component is giving juveniles a home,” she said. “It will be a place where they can receive education, extensive counseling, and they can be taught life skills and vocational skills so they realize that they matter to somebody, that they can do something with their lives, that they don't have to be a victim and there are ways they can survive in a community without being involved in risky behavior.”
Garland began the vigil with a candle lighting with the 40 attendees, read a proclamation from both the city and county recognizing Wednesday as Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Bowling Green and Warren County and invited any survivors to speak.
Patterson walked up, candle in hand, and said she was trafficked for child pornography and is “so grateful” an organization exists to help victims of modern-day slave trading.
For years she lost large parts of her childhood memories and battled a variety of mental illnesses. She knew she had been sexually victimized as a girl by both of her parents and by strangers but didn't recall many details until undergoing extensive therapy. Her mother denied the abuse up until two weeks before she took her own life.
“I was always the dirty secret in the family,” she said.
The last time Patterson can recall being sold for sex, her mother wanted $25 to get her hair done. Patterson hadn't yet turned 7.
“This has been a lifelong process. It caused a lot of problems in relationships. It caused problems in raising my children,” she said. “I developed mental illness from the trauma.”
After gaining mental stability, Patterson joined Phoenix Rising to help other survivors.
“I want to be able to go out and make a difference for these kids because I know the hurt and the pain that these kids and these adults are going through,” she said.
Another survivor, Michaela Floyd of Nashville, was an adult in her 30s when she answered what she thought was a talent agency advertisement.
“I was trafficked by a mafia-run prostitution ring in 11 states and 26 cities in a three-month period,” Floyd said.
She met someone in New Orleans who offered to help her out of her situation only to find herself at the hands of yet another trafficker. That man allowed her to leave for a couple of days four years ago and a friend convinced her to run. She took off, changed her name and now works in office administration.
Floyd met Garland online and later in person at a Phoenix Rising conference last year.
“I think survivor voices and survivor leadership in the movement (to end trafficking) are important,” Floyd said.
Salvation Army works to bring trafficking issues to light
by Aly Rinehart
SAFE-T program serves as a bridge between victims and social services, says specialist
Sometimes, even pervasive issues can be overlooked when a ‘That sort of thing doesn't happen here' mentality dominates society.
Such is the case with human trafficking incidents, and the Salvation Army's SAFE-T program is working to bring this issue to light and put a stop to it.
SAFE-T (Salvation Army's Fight to End Human Trafficking program) was formed with the help of a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to the Salvation Army and the Nebraska Attorney General's office. These funds are used to develop and support human trafficking task forces across the state of Nebraska, including the hiring of specialists who ensure the availability of services in all 93 counties. One such specialist, LeeAnn Nielsen, finds her office located in North Platte. Nielsen serves 34 counties in western Nebraska.
But people may wonder how necessary such a program is in this area.
“You'd be surprised how often these cases are seen in Nebraska,” Nielsen said. Yes, she agreed, bigger cities such as Lincoln and Omaha see higher numbers of incidents, but “if there are buyers, the traffickers will take their victims anywhere — even way out here.”
SAFE-T serves as a bridge between victims and various social services, Nielsen said in an email. The program helps each person with issues such as food, housing, therapy and medical or legal assistance. Besides working closely with law enforcement and the Department for Health and Human Services, SAFE-T specialists have a solid network to rely upon in North Platte, including the Bridge of Hope Child Advocacy Center and the Rape/Domestic Abuse Program.
While SAFE-T also assist victims and survivors of labor trafficking — the recruitment and transportation of a person into involuntary servitude, debt bondage or even slavery — its focus is on sex trafficking. This includes women, men and children of all walks of life who are exploited for sexual acts.
One of the efforts SAFE-T is involved with is monitoring venues where traffickers can best advertise their sales. Recently, Creighton University and the University of Dayton in Ohio conducted research projects on Backpage.com and the role this website's adult entertainment advertisements play in human trafficking across the nation. SAFE-T had been monitoring Backpage as well — until Tuesday, when the site's adult ad section was abruptly shut down after a report by the U.S. Senate. According to an article from the Washington Post, the report alleged Backpage concealed criminal activity by removing words from ads that would have exposed child sex trafficking and prostitution.
As it turns out, Backpage has faced criticism and pressure from Congress and other authorities for several years, because the website allegedly allowed human traffickers to advertise under the guise of “escort services.” In response, Backpage has labeled the pages of this section “censored” and made the ads inaccessible, citing “unconstitutional government censorship.”
While Nielsen says the Salvation Army is glad to see these ads closed, it was also a way to help victims. Because listings included locations and other identifying information, SAFE-T has lost a resource in the bargain.
On a local level, SAFE-T is planning an event in conjunction with January's being National Human Trafficking Month. On Jan. 24, SAFE-T invites community members to participate in the Red Sand Project. Created by New York-based artist and activist Molly Gochman, the Red Sand Project is artwork that requires people to get involved. By spreading red sand in the cracks of sidewalks, the project calls attention to human trafficking and how close to home it really can be.
The event creates a visual, Nielsen said, that reminds everyone how millions of trafficked individuals can fall through the cracks.
“Every day, we walk on the sidewalk and don't really pay attention to the cracks,” she said, “The victims of human trafficking can be the same — in reality they are right in front of us but kind of invisible to us.”
The Red Sand Project raises awareness that human trafficking exists across the state, even in smaller communities like North Platte. It also reminds participants that even small acts can add up to make a big difference.
Because SAFE-T has not made itself widely known to the North Platte community yet, Nielsen described this event as a perfect time “to let people know we're here and what we do.”
Prosecutors overwhelmed by child abuse reports
by Christian M. Wade
BOSTON — Prosecutors are fielding a substantial rise in child abuse and neglect cases, but say a lack of money is hindering their work.
There were 10,917 reports of child abuse or neglect in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2016, an increase of more than 18 percent from the prior year, according to the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association.
In a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker, the district attorneys say stepped-up reporting requirements are driving the increase, and they ask for more money because they “do not have case coordinators and administrative staff to handle the influx of cases reported.”
A lack of manpower and resources affects their “ability to perform their core investigative and prosecution functions — and which in turn seriously impedes the progress of these time-sensitive cases,” Jennifer Franco, the association's counsel, wrote in the letter to Baker.
Fifty-nine percent of child abuse and neglect prosecutions last fiscal year resulted in a guilty plea, guilty verdict, admission to sufficient facts or pretrial probation agreement.
Prosecutors say the reasons more cases don't go forward are complicated. Some cases involve families that refuse to cooperate, a lack of evidence of jurisdiction, an expired statute of limitations or an unknown offender.
Many cases were referred to the district attorneys by the state Department of Children and Families. Others came from police, schools, victims and their families, according to the association.
Changes in state law aimed at preventing human trafficking, which went into effect last March, require prosecutors to investigate any allegations of child sexual exploitation. Prosecutors say that has driven up their caseloads.
Local cases up 20%
Carrie Kimball-Monahan, a spokeswoman for Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, said the office received 1,618 reports of child abuse in fiscal 2016, a 20 percent increase from the previous year.
“That's 300 more cases, with no increase in funding or staff,” she said.
Investigations are time-consuming and costly, she said, and even if they can't be prosecuted, the DA's office is required to provide housing, counseling and other services to the children.
“These cases aren't just paperwork; there's a lot of work involved,” she said.
Baker spokesman Billy Pitman points out that the administration increased funding for the district attorneys by 5 percent, or about $6 million, in the current budget.
Rocked by scandals involving the Department of Children and Families' handling of abuse cases, the administration also increased funding for that agency by nearly $50 million.
“The administration is committed to working with our district attorneys and local law enforcement to ensure the safety of the commonwealth's most vulnerable,” Pitman said.
Baker is expected to release a preliminary version of his next budget later this month.
Jetta Bernier, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children, or MassKids, said the fact that district attorneys are choosing not to prosecute abuse cases — whether because of a lack of resources or the complicated nature of the allegations — is troubling.
“This leaves a lot of families in limbo and children at risk,” she said. “It's a huge problem.”
The public is playing a greater role in flagging suspected abuse, she said, which could be another reason for the growing number of allegations.
“There's a lot more awareness of about child sexual abuse than there has ever been,” she said.
Bernier said the state needs to focus on prevention of abuse in addition to prosecuting offenders.
“Everybody is focusing on what we do after the fact,” she said. “Unless we have programs that focus on preventing child sexual abuse, we're never going to get ahead of the curve on this problem.”
Lovely filing bill
Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, said she is planning to file a bill to improve prevention efforts by including youth coaches, animal control officers and others who have contact with children among those individuals required to report suspected abuse.
Currently police, doctors, teachers, social workers and other professionals are required to report suspected abuse. Those who fail to do so can be fined up to $1,000.
Lovely said an estimated 90 percent of child sexual abuse goes unreported.
“We don't want to deter people from wanting to coach sports or getting involved,” she said. “We just want people, if they see something that doesn't seem right, to say something.”
She expects increased reporting requirements will generate more allegations, and she agrees that district attorneys will need more money to follow up.
“We need to give them the resources they need to investigate every claim,” she said. “We're talking about children's lives.”
2 years later, Penn State's $12 million child maltreatment investment is growing
by Lori Falce
Penn State wants to focus on fixing child abuse.
On Jan. 16, 2015, the consent decree that established the NCAA's punishment of the university in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal crumbled with the settlement of state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman's lawsuit against the college sports oversight organization.
The 112 stripped Nittany Lion football wins were restored. The restriction on postseason play had been lifted in September 2014 and the handcuffed athletic scholarships were already set to be lifted for the 2015 season.
Just one significant issue remained: the $60 million fine at the heart of the lawsuit. Corman wanted it to benefit Pennsylvanian victims of assault while the NCAA didn't want that restriction. With the settlement, that money was the only thing still on the table, and both sides could claim a victory.
Corman wanted that money to go to help Keystone State victims, and $48 million would go to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to do just that.
“PCCD has and will continue to ensure that victims of child sexual abuse are getting the services they need,” said then-PCCD chairman, now state Attorney General-elect Josh Shapiro in December as he announced more than $1.7 million in funding from the endowment created by that money. The grants went to 36 state groups, including 21 child advocacy centers that work with young victims.
The other $12 million stayed at Penn State, but with a mission “to create an endowment that will be a long-term investment in expanding our research, education and public service programs to help eradicate child sexual abuse,” according to the university's press release.
That is happening by putting the money into a new web of interconnectivity between different colleges with a related emphasis on helping kids. Penn State formed the Network for Child Protection and Well-Being after the Sandusky scandal broke, committing in 2013 to hiring a dozen new faculty.
“As a university, we determined early on to make a positive difference by using our resources of teaching, research and service to raise awareness around childhood maltreatment,” said Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers.
One of those positive differences recently made was renaming the group to redefine the focus: the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network.
“The work of the network and the idea behind the initial investment was to make a positive change in the lives of all of those vulnerable kids. and Penn State is now definitely and unarguably part of the solution, “ said director Jennie Noll, a professor of Human Development and Family Studies.
Nine of the 12 positions have been filled, including faculty in five colleges: health and human development, education, nursing, liberal arts and medicine.
“All of these are now looking at solving the complex problems of child maltreatment through all these lenses,” Noll said.
The next step is looking at spreading the education. Penn State now offers a minor in child maltreatment and advocacy studies.
“This is a unique education opportunity at the undergraduate level to educate and inspire the next generation of those who will devote their careers to researching, advocating for and treating those who have been abused,” Noll said.
There is also the annual conference, a book series and awareness events. Several faculty have secured grants from the National Institutes for Health and the U.S. Department of Justice, stretching the funding even further.
“In the past five years, Penn State has ... invested in the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network, and we will continue to do so. We have elevated the conversation and action both within Pennsylvania and nationally on the serious need for attention on this issue,” Powers said.
That's something Noll credits to both the settlement funds and the university's first steps.
“The investment in the cluster hire and the resources that have come back through the Jake Corman legislation have allowed the infrastructure to flourish beyond the initial investments,” she said. “The endowment now coming back allows us to have the pilot funding, the education focus, a sustainability that would not have been possible without the initial investment.”
The network, she said, is growing to help kids and families in more and more ways. This year's conference will focus on trauma and post-traumatic stress impact on well-being, partnering with the university's Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness. The network is also working with the state Department of Human Services.
“It's about the science, about how science can change lives. Not about changing the way people think about the university. It's about how science can leverage change,” Noll said.
Police forces need to better understand why perpetrators sexually abuse children
by The Conversation
The recent revelations about disgraced professional football coach Barry Bennell, who has now been charged with eight new offences, show how adults with a perceived level of power and influence can exploit their position to sexually abuse and silence children. Child sexual abuse is an appalling crime that destroys the lives of everyone involved. It is a crime that has its origins in the thought processes of the perpetrators, and understanding this is the key to understanding and preventing child sexual abuse.
In March 2015, the government declared child sexual abuse a national threat and unveiled a series of new measures to combat the risk it poses to the well-being of children and society in general. The same year, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was set up to investigate negligent and incompetent practice within public bodies. But at the start of 2017 the early optimism surrounding the inquiry has gone: it is on its fourth chair and mired in controversy having lost the support of many of the victims' groups it originally expected to work with.
In 2014, in response to a significant rise in the number of cases being reported, the police established Operation Hydrant. This was not to investigate specific crimes but to collate and advise investigations nationally. Fast forward nearly two years and the rapid rise in the number of investigations is in danger of overwhelming even the best prepared force. Meanwhile, the police service throughout the country has been heavily criticised for its handling of “non-recent” and new investigations.
Investigations of variable quality
Following stringent budget cuts all forces are short of money and experienced staff. To cope with the rise in child sexual abuse investigations, they have adopted a strategy of simply moving officers from other policing duties. Unfortunately, this approach doesn't work with child sexual abuse cases. Most reported cases tend to involve victims that know and are acquainted with their abusers. This relationship means that they often don't see themselves as victims of abuse, which has an impact upon how they present to and interaction with the police.
Perpetrators of child sexual abuse often exploit this relationship and manipulate their victims to prevent arrest and frustrate any investigation. This complexity requires the investigative skills and knowledge of specialist and experienced staff and currently there is not enough to deal with the demand.
To compound this, several forces have begun to move away from having specialists towards more generalist roles that can deal with a wider range of crime. This allows forces to do more with less staff and ultimately save money. Yet child sexual abuse remains largely misunderstood by non-specialist staff and by senior figures in the police. This impacts upon the police's ability to investigate allegations and design effective preventative measures.
Inside the mind of the perpetrator
Many of the accepted theories regarding the behaviour of child sexual abusers have been known for well over two decades, yet they are rarely used in the training of frontline child protection professionals and so aren't embedded in their practice.
A common myth, for example, is that the behaviour of child sexual perpetrators is solely motivated by their need for sexual gratification. In fact, there is a substantial body of work that points to perpetrators having multifaceted motivations. It is not just about a need for sex and they are often seeking to fulfil other intrinsic needs such as a need for autonomy, power and control.
Perpetrators develop unique psychological vulnerabilities from the significant events that occur during their lives, which shape them as human beings albeit deeply flawed ones. These vulnerabilities allow the development of a unique view of children and the world and can often explain key aspects of the offending behaviour. For example, the content and context of sexual activity early in childhood can lead some perpetrators to constantly strive to recreate these events in later life.
These events can also lead to the development of deviant sexual thoughts about children which perpetrators combine with masturbation. When this behaviour is constantly repeated, it strengthens the bond between their thoughts and the pleasure experienced during orgasm. So the behaviour becomes ingrained and this conditioning process is how the perpetrators maintain their deviant arousal.
Once a person has conditioned themselves in this way over a period of time they can suffer from extreme anxiety, even though they may never actually commit an offence in law. To cope they try to make it right in their own mind by distorting their thinking. If they then go on to abuse, they may tell themselves that if a child does not disclose the abuse this is because the child secretly enjoyed the experience. This is how perpetrators make things right in their own mind and this allows them to continue in the same vein.
Keeping children safe
We must balance our need to attribute blame to the institutions we see as having failed to protect children in the past with a greater understanding of the perpetrators themselves. Such understanding can help dispel myths, challenge accepted thinking and influence future child protection policy.
The result of using such evidence in the practice of policing will protect more children. Improving our understanding of why perpetrators abuse children offers us a window into the mind of the perpetrator. It's time to open that window wide and invite anyone that has the best interest of children at heart to look in.