National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

child abuse trauma prevention, intervention & recovery

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Every day we bring you news articles, opinion pieces, crime stories and official information from government web sites. These are highlights, and constitute the tip of the iceberg .. a small percentage of the daily information available to those who are interested in the issues of child abuse, trauma and recovery. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" and every voice makes a big difference.
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Recent News - News from other times

February, 2017 - Week 2
MJ Goyings
Many thanks to our very own "MJ" Goyings, a resident of Ohio, for her daily research that provides us with the news related material that appears on the LACP & NAASCA web sites.

United Kingdom

What to do if you think your child has been sexually abused

by Georgia Diebelius

If you think your child may have been a victim of sexual abuse, it can be really hard to address.

Many parents and guardians will be left wondering how to approach the conversation, or even if they should at all.

But by not speaking about it, both sufferers and their loved ones can be affected – whether that be mentally, physically or emotionally.

Fortunately, there are a lot of people out there with expertise on how to address a child that you fear may be a victim.

To mark Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness week, we spoke to two different child abuse charities on what loved ones should do if they fear their child is a victim.

Should I ask them?

A lot of parents would find it difficult to speak to their children about sex abuse.

It's a matter of how you should ask them, where, when… and even if.

For parents who don't want to directly ask their child, they can contact a professional for help.

And children can also call Childline on 0800 1111.

Lisa Thornhill, a senior practitioner at the Lucy Faithful child protection charity told ‘Sometimes one of the most worrying parts about deciding whether to ask a child, is fearing you know who the abuser may be.

‘If you do decide to ask your child, it is so important not to put words into their mouth.

‘You need to make time to sit and talk, maybe think of an activity like a game or go on a walk to make sure the conversation isn't central focus.

‘Sometimes children find it hard to talk to parents – so suggest trusted adults such as teacher or another family member that they could speak to if they need to.'

Mike Canning, a helpline manager for NSPCC, told ‘We would suggest parents approach sensitively and at the right time.

‘Make sure you have the time to talk to the child, not just five or 10 minutes.

‘Give reassurance that you're there to listen. If a child backs off that's fine, just raise the question little and often.

‘Say things along the lines of: “Is everything OK? We trust you, you can tell us. We will support you.”

‘If they back away, you can do it again a few weeks or days later.'

How should I approach it?

Talk PANTS, Mike Canning said.

PANTS is a technique created by the NSPCC which teaches children important messages, like their body belongs to them and they should tell an adult if they're upset or worried.

Each letter stands for a different message that children should be taught.

P A N T S :

P is ‘Privates are Private'

A is ‘Always remember your body belongs to you'

N is ‘No means No'

T is ‘Talk about secrets that upset you'

S is ‘Speak up, someone can help'

There is even a quiz created by NSPCC that tests children on how well they know the acronym.

Mr Canning said: ‘Talking to children about child abuse is probably the last thing any parent wants to do.

‘The PANTS method helps approach sensitively.

‘The best way to arm a child in relation to abuse is to make them aware of the dangers at a very early age.'

Ms Thornhill added: ‘Often parents would have a strong reaction to the revelation and become distressed themselves.

‘You need to be calm and reassure the child they are doing the right thing by talking.

‘Children can often have mixed feelings towards an abuser.

‘Sometimes they will be worried that a parent will get angry, so it is so important that your reaction is calm.

‘One thing that stops children telling is that they are groomed not to – they are told that no one really cares about them.

‘You need to sit down and show them that people do care, and people are there if they need them.'

What counts as sexual abuse?

A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities.

This doesn't have to be physical contact – it can happen online.

Sometimes the child won't understand that what's happening to them is abuse, sometimes they won't report it because they don't realise.

Ms Thornhill said: ‘Children must know that it is against the law to be touched by adult.

‘Children need to know touching is sexual abuse too – even if they're forced to touch someone. That is abuse.'

According to the NSPCC, sexual abuse is sexual touching of any part of the body whether the child's wearing clothes or not.

It is also ‘rape or penetration by putting an object or body part inside a child's mouth, vagina or anus' and ‘forcing or encouraging a child to take part in sexual activity'.

Making a child take their clothes off, touch someone else's genitals or masturbate is also abuse.

See the full list, here.

They've told me, now what?

Reassure them, they've opened up to you.

It's also extremely important not to consult with the person who has been accused, Ms Thornhill said.

She said: ‘It is so important not to consult with the person who has been accused. By doing so you're giving them a chance to come up with a story.

‘You don't need loads of details, it's important that the child doesn't have to keep reliving the incident so the less times they retell it the better.

‘Then, get in touch with the police or children's services as soon as possible.'

Mr Canning said: ‘Once a child discloses the abuse the parents naturally want to know more.

‘They want to ask how serious it was but they are not trained to do so. It's important that it is reported straight away.

‘You can call the police, or likewise Childline.

‘The difference between us and children's services is it's what we are here for, we have time.

‘If parent breaks down because the realisation hits them, we have time.

‘We can even call the police and report the incident on their behalf it they don't want to.'

What will happen to my child now?

This depends massively on the nature of the assault.

It's also dependent on the age of the victim, and their level of understanding.

Mr Canning said: ‘Police will make the decision as to whether the child is able to give evidence, and whether the case is serious enough.

‘If child has to give evidence they have to go through it all again in court. So it's important parents ask as few questions as possible.'

Ms Thornhill added: ‘This really depends on the nature of the allegation – sometimes the child will be examined by a doctor.'

We need to talk about what happened

Speak to Childline.

Trained professionals are there, not just for children but to support adults who are worried about a child.

They also give advice for parents and carers and offer consultations with professionals who come into contact with abused children or children at risk of abuse.'

Where can you seek help?

you are a survivor of sexual abuse or sexual violence, here is where you can seek help or support:

•  Your doctor

•  Childline – 0800 1111

•  Rape Crisis UK – 0808 802 9999

•  The Survivors Trust – 0808 801 0818

•  Survivors UK (for male survivors of rape) – 02035983898

•  National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247

•  A hospital accident and emergency (A&E) department

•  A genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexual health clinic

•  A contraceptive clinic

•  A young people's service

•  The police, or dial 101

•  In an emergency, dial 999


United Kingdom

EMDR: treatment for physical and emotional trauma

by TraceyR

Geoff Britton is an experienced counsellor who offers this specialist therapy which is effective in relieving and removing the damaging long term impact of trauma, be this due to past physical, emotional or developmental experiences.

EMDR is a powerful treatment, recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as an effective treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), so it is commonly used to treat the psychological difficulties experienced by military and other emergency services personnel, as well as survivors of catastrophic and potentially life threatening events that any of us might experience.

EMDR is a proven method by which eye movements or other means are used to replicate the way the brain processes and makes sense of experiences, while we are asleep.

By way of simple explanation the brain may have inappropriately stored traumatic experiences within its emotional rather than its logical processing capabilities, so the sufferer continually relives past events as if they were happening now.

Geoff often illustrates this point by asking clients how many red cars they have noticed while driving to see him; no-one is ever able to give an answer but they would certainly remember if they'd had to make an emergency stop, had a child run out in front of their car.

The point illustrated is that the brain takes time to make sense of threatening situations and, for some, the sense of threat gets stuck and might never subside.

While individuals may become traumatised by a single catastrophic event, beyond the mind's ability to cope with and process it, emotions that arise from lesser recognised traumatic or upsetting experiences can become similarly locked in the brain and lead to significant emotional and psychological difficulties, undermining one's quality of life.

Such experiences might include events such as chronic childhood or adult emotional or physical abuse, where this often leads to low self-esteem and lack of confidence, both being life-inhibiting conditions.

Indeed, it is often the case that any chronic, unhelpful or inappropriate experiences we have as impressionable youngsters can negatively influence how we see and interpret our adult world.

EMDR has the capacity to address such issues, including addictive conditions that are often rooted in negative early life experiences.

Geoff is an experienced counsellor and Registered Accredited Member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) with 10 years post-qualification experience of working in private practice and the NHS.

For an informal discussion about how he may be able to help you, contact Geoff via email at or by phone on 07738 851068.



Preschool owner pleads guilty to failing to report allegation of child abuse

by Beth Hundsdorfer

A former board member of Madison County's Child Advocacy Center and private preschool owner has pleaded guilty to failing to report an allegation of child abuse at the preschool.

Barbara A. Burrows, the owner of the Goddard School in Edwardsville, was sentenced to one year of court supervision, fined $222 and must provide training to Goddard School employees about reporting suspected abuse to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, according to Tayleur Blaylock, spokeswoman for the Madison County State's Attorney's Office.

Burrows could not immediately be reached for comment.

“This was a rare case. Failure to report suspected child abuse is not something that we charge very often,” Blaylock said.

Burrows, 55, of St. Louis, was charged on Nov. 17. The child abuse was alleged to have happened in July 2015. The child involved in the allegation attended the school, Blaylock said.

Prosecutors also agreed not to file additional charges against Burrows as part of the plea deal.

The Edwardsville Police Department and Illinois Department of Children and Family Services conducted an investigation into the allegations. No charges were issued in the abuse case.

DCFS did conduct an investigation, said DCFS spokeswoman Veronica Resa. She also confirmed that Goddard School of Edwardsville was still operating.

Burrows was named to the Child Advocacy Center's board in 2013. The Child Advocacy Center provides services to abused children. She no longer serves on the board, according to Blaylock.



Report: Hartford Public Schools failed to respond to child abuse and neglect complaints

by Bobby Martinez

HARTFORD -- A state report released Friday revealed that Hartford Public Schools have failed to respond to child abuse and neglect allegations for several years.

On February 10, Sarah Eagan, State Child's Advocate, released a report after a nine-month review of the policy, procedures and practices of the Hartford Public Schools district following the case of a Hartford School official, Eduardo Genao, 57, of Hamden. Genao has pleaded not guilty for allegedly sending explicit text messages to a 13-year-old girl.

Eagan says the report was conducted at the request of Hartford's Mayor, Luke Bronin, after public complaints were reported regarding possible knowledge of a prior concern about an employed director of the Hartford Public Schools having inappropriate contact with a child. In addition, Eagan says Bronin asked for an in-depth review when reporting suspected abuse or neglect, as well as its policies and practices regarding compliance with federal Title IX obligations.

“This report reveals a decade-long failure to protect children in our schools, and the Board of Education and District leaders must take immediate, aggressive steps to fix it,” said Bronin. “This is about kids' safety and well-being, and I'm outraged at the level of dysfunction and lack of accountability that has apparently existed for many years. I'm grateful to the Child Advocate for agreeing to conduct this review, and I've made clear to District leaders that this needs to be priority number one.”

Eagan said the report, which consisted of welfare records and interviews with people aware of the district practices, found that Hartford Public Schools failed to do the following:

•  Regularly review and update its mandated reporting policy as legally required.

•  Training of mandated reporters was inadequate.

•  Mandated reporters sometimes failed to make reports concerning suspicion that school employees have neglected or abused a child.

•  DCF did not have a system in place to efficiently document, track and address either the failure to make mandated reports or delays in mandated reporting.

•  School employees who engaged in misconduct were not effectively held accountable.

•  There exists a special vulnerability for children with disabilities to possible abuse or neglect.

Acting Superintendent, Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, said she wants to work hand-in-hand with the Board of Education and administration to make sure this system is fixed as soon as possible.

“Today we are announcing a series of steps we will begin taking immediately to correct the problems the Child Advocate uncovered in her review as well as a comprehensive draft action plan for the Board's review and adoption," Dr. Torres-Rodriguez said.

Dr. Torres-Rodriguez thanked the Office of the Child Advocate for providing them the next steps that aim to not only better the system, but also protect the children. You can find those recommendations here.

“I want every relative of every schoolchild in Hartford to know that I will not rest until this system is fixed,” said Dr. Torres-Rodriguez.

"The vast majority of teachers and administrators and everybody in the Hartford Public school system has the well being of kids at their heart," says Mayor Bronin. "But it's important that we put policies in place and also a clear expectation anytime there is any suspicion whatsoever that a child especially a vulnerable child, a special needs child may be facing mistreatment or neglect in any way that that is reported immediately.”



Addressing Utah's child sex abuse problem

by Bree Burkitt

Utah consistently reports abnormally high rates of child sex abuse, but officials say that might not necessarily be a bad thing.

Counties throughout the state, including Iron County are consistently reporting an increase in the amount of sex offenses against children.

In 2016, the Iron County Children's Justice Center reported 159 incidents – a 48 incident increase from 2015. For a county of 46,500 residents, that's 3.4 incidents per 1,000 residents.

In contrast, Washington County, whose population size is nearly triple that of Iron County's at 147,800, reported 249 offenses in 2016 and 275 in 2015 – 1.9 and 1.7 per 1,000 residents, respectively.

Iron County even outranks statewide numbers. According to the Utah Department of Child and Family Services, 2,023 substantiated incidents were verified during the 2015 Fiscal Year. A slight decrease to 1,909 was reported in FY 2016. With a population topping 2.9 million, that's an estimated .7 offenses for every 1,000 residents in 2015 followed by .66 per 1,000 residents in 2016.

Based on the amount of incidents reported in 2015 and 2016, Iron County saw nearly five times the amount of sex offenses against children per capita when compared to the statewide average.

Utah regularly ranks in the top 10 states with the highest rates of sexual abuse of children. Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicated Utah reported the eighth highest amount of offenses in 2015. Texas topped the list with 5,720 incidents, while Ohio came in second 4,683 incidents.

While the numbers are startling, Sarah Houser, program administrator for Child Protective Services, said the high rates may actually indicate that Utah is tougher on sex crimes.

“It's not that we have the most horrible people here who sexually abuse children,” House said. “It actually mostly has to do with how it is defined in Utah.”

Houser explained the criminal statue concerning sex abuse does not place any limits or restrictions based on the age of the perpetrator. The law would still apply regardless of it was a 7-year-old or a 45-year-old man accused of inappropriately touching a child. DCFS is legally required to open a case in both situations.

In other states, DCFS will not investigate any alleged sexual abuse committed by individuals under the age of 17. In Utah, approximately 35 percent of offenses were committed by minors between the ages of 10-17 in 2015, according to DCFS data.

“This is a thing that is unique to Utah,” Houser said. “Our numbers a higher because we treat those numbers differently than most other states.”

The increase in incidents may also be an indicator that progress is actually being made in combating the high rate of sex crimes in both Iron County and Utah statewide, according to Iron County Children's Justice Center Director Stephanie Furnival.

Furnival noted their overall case load has increased significantly over the last few years. That doesn't necessarily mean there are more offenses though, just that more offenses are being addressed by the center.

There are currently 22 Children's Justice Centers throughout the state. Nevada, which has roughly the same population as Utah, only has two facilities.

“The fact that Utah has 22 and Nevada has two shows the difference of why Utah has the highest reported numbers – it's because it is actually being addressed,” Furnival said. “Utah really leads in regards to their response to child abuse in the entire nation.”

Furnival has focused heavily on increasing the amount of community awareness. With each community event or training, Furnival said parents are becoming more willing to reach out if they believe their child has been sexually abused because they are more familiar with the CJC and the resources they offer.

Washington County Children's Justice Center Director Shelly Teeples noticed a similar trend.

“As I look at the increase in numbers, I have to feel like a part of that is because of awareness,” she said,

Utah is one of two states that provide guaranteed state funding to cover the operational costs of the CJC. Approximately $2 million is allocated annually and then administered through contracts between the state and the counties. The state also provides additional funding to support enhanced services and trainings.

The Iron County CJC receives supplementary funds as they are one of the nine centers statewide that have a medical exam room on-site. Previously, victims would have to be referred to an off-site physician for any medical exams to determine whether they had been sexually abused. Oftentimes, many families were frustrated that they had to go through an additional step or experienced discomfort doing so, Furnival said.

“It was really awkward for people to have to say they are there because their child was sexually abused,” she said. “This makes it much more comfortable for both the families and the victim. Because their children have already been here, it's more comfortable for them.”

Since the addition of the on-site medical facilities in 2015, Furnival said she's seen the amount of medical exams increase from less than 10 to more than 80.

The 22 Children Justice Centers throughout the state work with local law enforcement, CPS and local partnering agencies, such as Canyon Creek Women's Crisis Center and the Iron County School District, to ensure each case is handled properly and efficiently. All of the necessary information is gathered during the victim's interview at the center. This way, the victim does not have to be interviewed multiple times by each involved agency and eliminates the likelihood of having to testify in court before their alleged attacker.

This collaboration has helped make the investigation and subsequent prosecution more effective, Houser said.

“It's not only for the benefit of that child, but the whole community to get sexual predators off the street,” she said. “Over time, we'll likely see fewer victims, which is ideal.”

Throughout his law enforcement career, Cedar City Police Sgt. Jerry Womack has noticed a positive change in the way both adult and juvenile sexual abuse cases are handled. Previously, Southern Utah University students would come into the police station after a sexual assault and acknowledge that they knew nothing could be done because it was one word against another, Womack recounted.

Now, law enforcement has more training and local resources available to help them effectively investigate in these cases. While not every allegation of sex abuse leads to an arrest, Womack said at least now they are properly equipped to handle these issues.

“It was a group effort,” Womack said. “The whole criminal justice community could see that we were not adequately serving this population of victims . . . Now we're talking about these cases and trying to constantly figure out what we can do better and where we can improve.”

That doesn't mean their work is done yet, though. Both Furnival and Womack acknowledged they're both constantly participating in trainings, implementing new programs, and working on community outreach in an attempt to decrease the amount of incidents of child sex abuse that aren't being reported.

“We know it's just the tip of the iceberg,” Womack said. “We're all trying to do our best to combat it.”


New Mexico

Combating child sex abuse begins at home

by Lena Aburdene Durhally

One of my clients came into my office one day for a last-minute appointment and he sounded anxious. I had been working with him as his psychotherapist for several months, and we had just started to delve into some deeper issues as our therapeutic bond became stronger. It was in that session, for the first time in his life, at age 29, that he told me about multiple acts of sexual abuse that he endured when he was 4 years old, by someone he knew very well.

Therapists come to care about their clients, and the thought of him experiencing that, and keeping it silent for so long, upset me. This story particularly struck me because my son had just turned 4. The day before my client disclosed this abuse, I had been sitting outside at my son's school with some of the other parents, watching the kids play with a joyful, carefree innocence. As my client told me his story, it was all too easy to picture exactly where he was when this happened to him.

He was not the first client to disclose past sexual abuse for the first time. Adult women have confided in me about sexual abuse and rape in high school and college, and I've had clients who are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by childhood sexual abuse. Although accurate child-abuse statistics are somewhat elusive because so much is not reported, RAINN, an anti-sexual violence organization, has said that 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under 18 will be the victim of sexual abuse by an adult. This is a topic that needs to be addressed and discussed with children in a frank and open way.

Here are suggestions from experts on how parents can talk to their children about sexual abuse and their bodies.

• Start talking to them about their bodies early. “At the youngest ages (even changing diapers) we can teach children the correct names of their body parts and model respect for their bodily autonomy and boundaries,” says Laura Reagan, a licensed clinical social worker in Maryland. “It's important to give children the message that their bodies are normal and answer children's questions about their bodily functions and sex, without shaming them for being curious. Do not force children to give hugs or kisses or sit on anyone's lap. Teach them that they are the only ones who are allowed to touch their sexual body parts, except when a doctor or caregiver needs to examine those body parts for a specific reason related to health or hygiene.”

Experts emphasize that these conversations are ongoing and evolving and should never stop.

Dalal Musa, a social worker at the Center for Post-Traumatic and Dissociative Disorders Program at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington, adds that parents should avoid spanking their children. “The use of corporal punishment profoundly undermines children's sense of dignity, safety, and privacy — this practice is completely contrary to teaching children to respect their own and other's bodies and self-esteem,” Musa says.

• Start talking about the basics of sexual reproduction when children are around 5 years old. Musa says that around 4 or 5, children become curious about where babies come from, and you can talk about sex in an accurate and simple way without having to get too detailed.

• Do not shame children about masturbation, their bodies or sex. “Teach them that touching their own bodies is something that we do only in private, not in public,” Reagan says. “Avoid sending the message that sex is something shameful or bad, but explain that sex is something adults do to express love. Be clear that adults do not have sexual interactions with children, and that if any adult ever touches a child's sexual body parts the parent needs to know.”

• Model an environment of calmness, openness and safety to ask questions. “Throughout childhood and teen years, parents modeling calm, support and openness, rather than confrontational questioning, encourages children and teens to feel safe to raise topics for discussion over time,” Musa says. Tell your children that they can come to you about anything and you won't get angry with them. You can help your child stay open and process things as they come up by using good listening skills, such as repeating what your child tells you back to them, trying to empathize with their perspective and helping them problem-solve when issues come up. Continuing to do this will help your children feel safe coming to you when they encounter any issues or problems.

• Protect children from pornography. “Although this seems obvious in the age of extremely easy digital access, the exposure to pornography — much of it highly explicit, violent and degrading — is occurring earlier and earlier; estimates now are that boys ages 8 to 11 have seen such material online,” Musa says. “While we cannot stop older children from being exposed outside of the home, we can ask parents of their friends about parameters around this, and model transparency, in acknowledging that this is rampant and let kids know they can talk about feelings about these pressures.”

“What's worse is that more and more often, younger teens — especially young girls — are sharing explicit “selfies” with their boyfriends,” says Stacie Rumenap, president of Stop Child Predators, a nonprofit group that combats the sexual exploitation of children nationwide. “In extreme cases, these same teens are being arrested for possession and distribution of child pornography. It's important to warn teens against sending raunchy photos as jokes or as love notes. Too often when a relationship disintegrates, those pictures can be sent maliciously elsewhere. Kids' lives are being ruined as a result.”

• When it comes to prevention, it's a matter of trust. All the experts I spoke with emphasized that it is important for a parent to listen to their gut and to only leave their child with people they trust. Children who have been sexually abused are most often abused by someone they know, and on multiple occasions. That's why, Musa says, “it is important for children to have supervision and information to lessen their vulnerability.”

Joanne Comstock, a specialist in working with trauma victims, says parents need to “make sure that the child is in situations where caregivers were properly vetted with background checks. If it's a church situation, I would be sure that there's a safe child policy.” Comstock also says to be vigilant when a child begins to show signs of being withdrawn.

“A child I worked with was in fourth grade and would not make friends with other children, even after other children made significant overtures. This closing down is an example of a typical behavior,” she says. “Sometimes an abuser will make threats if a child tells the truth and they can be afraid. This type of threat might be harming the child or people they love. It should be addressed directly by asking the child if this has happened. If a child is very young, play therapy can be helpful.”

Rumenap adds, “Really listen to your child and trust he or she is telling the truth. Too often parents think their child couldn't possibly be abused, especially by someone they know. If your child comes forward, make sure they know for certain that you're on their side and assure them you'll get them help and bring their perpetrator to justice.”

Melissa Kilbride, a licensed clinical social worker, says, “I try to remind parents that their children will learn about their bodies, about sex and about tricky people, and it is up to parents to decide who they want them to learn it from. If parents choose not to introduce these concepts directly, it sends a message that it's not safe for the child to come to them with concerns.”


North Carolina

Sex traffickers troll area for the vulnerable

by Jon Hawley

MOYOCK — Sex traffickers operate in northeastern North Carolina, but that's not something many people want to admit or think about.

And that's a great favor to those traffickers, Tina Pennington explained in Moyock on Saturday.

Pennington is president of The Beloved Haven, a faith-based nonprofit dedicated to helping people escape and recover from sex trafficking. Community awareness is a key part of that, Pennington explained. The group is hosting a seminar on how to spot trafficking on Monday. It starts at 9 a.m. at the Currituck County Sheriff's Department office in Maple.

Speaking to a small group of women at the Riversedge meeting room, Pennington explained traffickers typically start by looking for the young and emotionally vulnerable. Social media is a powerful tool for them, she said, where they can scour Facebook and other sites looking for teens easily “groomed” into slavery. Such teens often, but not always, come from abusive households, she said. Gradually, they work to woo, isolate and control their victims, she said, adding one girl she knew was forced into sex trafficking without her loving father knowing until after the fact.

While drugs often help traffickers control victims, Pennington described psychological control as their most powerful tool. Fear, dependency, shame and even resignation keep victims from seeking help, she explained.

“They believe it's a normal way of life,” she said. “Some of these girls have been trafficked since the time they were 5 years old.” She also noted the first girl that contacted her seeking help had been trafficked by her uncle since she was 3.

Pennington said The Beloved Haven has to build long-term relationships with trafficking victims to get them to seek help. They deny and rationalize their circumstances, she said, and then it takes courage to leave. Even when they do, she added, recovery can be a lifelong process.

Pennington also reiterated trafficking is a global problem the region isn't exempt from. Traffickers have been caught on the Outer Banks and in Virginia Beach, she said.

Pennington urged people to learn the signs of trafficking and look out for them. If someone seems to be in a suspicious or abusive relationship, let law enforcement know, she said, noting that domestic violence can make kids vulnerable to future exploitation and abuse.

She also said health departments and social services workers can play a vital role in finding and helping trafficking victims. Most traffickers send their victims in for services, she said, and there will be signs, including being anxious and “very guarded” with their words.

To that point, one woman in the audience recalled her time working in social services in Camden, and said the office encountered a girl clearly being trafficked by her mother, though she wouldn't admit it. It took years, but she finally got away from her mom, got her GED and got married, she said.

“Most of the time it doesn't happen like that,” she also said.

In addition to providing transitional services and community education, Pennington said The Beloved Haven hopes to one day open its own safe house where victims can begin their long road to recovery. Such safe houses are costly to open and maintain, but they are also needed and rare throughout the United States. She noted that the nonprofit Restore One, in Greenville, was able to open its “Anchor House” for male trafficking victims thanks to a large, anonymous donation.

Pennington said the group is working to raise $500,000 towards the home. To date they've only raised about $12,000. She said the nonprofit is a recognized 501(c)3, making donations to it tax-exempt. Donors can also request their donation be reserved specifically for the safe house, she added.

For more information on-line, go to or the group's Facebook page.


522 'johns' and 'pimps' arrested in Super Bowl sex trafficking sting

by William Steakin

During Super Bowl weekend 522 would-be sex buyers or sex traffickers were arrested across the United States.

The arrests follow a massive sting operation involving 23 law enforcement agencies in 14 states taking part in the National Johns Suppression Initiative. The program started three weeks ago and culminated on Super Bowl Sunday.

"Sex trafficking continues to destroy countless lives, and this broad national movement should send a strong message to prospective johns that their 'hobby' is much more than a 'victimless' crime," said Illinois Sheriff Thomas J. Dart in a press release.

"It's particularly meaningful that this sting culminated on the day of the Super Bowl, which unfortunately has emerged as a prominent haven for sex trafficking."

Police also rescued 73 adult human trafficking victims and 3 juvenile vitcims.

In Houston, where the Super Bowl LI was hosted this year, 183 "johns," or potential buyers, and 9 sex traffickers were arrested. Two firefighters, a retired police officer, and a Houston city employee were among those taken into custody.

One man who was arrested had his 4-year-old child with him while he tried to purchase sex.

"I'm exceedingly proud to lead the nation in targeting sex buyers and traffickers during this annual initiative," Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said during a press conference.

"Houston was home to Super Bowl LI. As we welcomed the world to our city, we made it clear that there is no place for victimization and sexual exploitation."

Estimates suggest there are more than 20 million human trafficking victims worldwide.



How Strong Family Ties Play a Role in Sex Trafficking

by Valentina Pancieri

Discussions about human trafficking between Africa and Europe are frequently blurred by generalisations about villainous traffickers and their naïve young victims who have been misled into prostitution. But the world of sex trafficking is far more complex.

For example, several studies have shown that Nigerian sex trafficking rings are dominated by women, known as madams, and use of black magic rituals, known as juju, to keep their victims captivated. But little or no work has been done on other important dynamics. Two in particular are important.

The first is the active role that extended families play in helping women secure work in Europe. The second is the fact that women themselves are nowadays increasingly aware of the work that awaits them, even though they cannot imagine how brutal and miserable it actually is.

The lack of research has resulted in an incomplete understanding of the much more complex reality of the circumstances under which victims fall into the hands of traffickers. This has also compromised the effectiveness of prevention and rehabilitation projects in Nigeria, which seldom take into account the involvement of family members.

As part of my doctoral research I recently conducted interviews in rural communities outside Benin City, the capital of Edo State in southern Nigeria. Recruitment of women for work in Europe is rife in the area.

Many of the young women I interviewed knew that prostitution lay behind vague offers for work as hairdressers, cashiers or domestic workers in Europe. Nevertheless, out of desperation, some are prepared to take up the offers driven by the need to provide a better life for their families.

In rural Nigeria, widespread emigration aspirations are often fuelled by the high levels of joblessness, corruption, poor infrastructure and family struggles to make ends meet.

My interviews with communities members and NGO representatives indicate that many young Nigerians see the opportunity of finding work abroad as their best, if not their only, means to a better future for themselves and their families. The dire economic situations which their families face, combined with a sense of obligation, is an important factor in the decision making process. Added to this complexity is the fact that extended family members often act as the link between human trafficking syndicates and their victims.

The Nigeria/Europe nexus

Nigerian sex traffickers have developed a highly organised and wide web of criminal contacts throughout Europe. Over the years this has grown as they have found new ways of overcoming logistical and law enforcement obstacles.

Italy serves as the primary gateway for Nigerian migrants entering Europe. In 2016, almost 38,000 landed on Italian shores. Just under 10,000 were women.

This number represents the largest jump in the yearly total of Nigerian women arriving in Italy in the last 10 years. In August 2016 the International Organization for Migration reported that 80% of the Nigerian women who arrive in Italy would ultimately be trafficked for sex.

The role of the family

There is high awareness of sex trafficking in Nigeria thanks to the work of international organisations, local NGOs and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons.

But women continue to leave in large numbers to seek a brighter future in Europe. This is exacerbated by pressures put on them by their own families.

Family pressure is often the deciding factor in their leaving home. The struggle to make ends meet often leads families to view sending young women off to Europe as an investment, leading to future income for the household. Thus family members are involved in the recruiting phase of trafficking.

Women migrants - unlike their male counterparts - don't have to finance their own trips to Europe. They are sponsored by their future "employers" and once in Europe are forced to work until they repay the debt incurred for passage. This can take years as the inflated sums can amount to as much as €60,000. This indebtedness also means that women are less likely to report their situation to the police.

Extended family members often mislead women into believing that their migration process will be different as their contact in Italy is a trusted one.

Unlike the Western "extended family", Nigerian families are tightly knit through ancestral ties. This makes the closeness of the biological connection irrelevant in determining the importance of the relationship. This creates a very profound sense of moral and financial obligation among family members, a factor which has great importance in the dynamics of sex trafficking.

In Nigerian families, for instance, the wealthier family members are both expected and feel obligated to provide financially for those who struggle. Nigerian "madams" use this to their advantage. For example they allow women to keep a small sum of money to send back home occasionally.

These remittances become a double-edged sword. They provide a financial incentive to the family in Nigeria to do whatever they can to discourage the women from escaping.

As long as the woman keeps sending money home, neither the community nor the family is likely to question the source of her income. Being unable to find success abroad and to live up to her financial responsibility to her family would be perceived as a failure and the source of significant shame and dishonour on a personal, family and community level.

Fighting sex traffickers

Several major international police operations and intelligence gathering projects funded by the EU and various EU member states are in place to fight Nigerian transnational sex trafficking.

But the increasing number of Nigerian women arriving in Europe suggests that their success is limited. The Nigerian criminal groups have proved to be very adaptable and to be able to quickly reconstitute themselves when put under legal pressure.

Law enforcement operations should be combined with prevention and rehabilitation strategies for a more effective and holistic approach to address the Nigerian sex trafficking problem.

In Nigeria, projects to reintegrate the women back into their societies are often focused mainly on the re-empowerment of victims through either work training or access to micro credit grants for business start-ups. Too often little or no attention is given to the reintegration of the women in their families.

It's undeniable that families play an important role in the sustainability of external sex trafficking. But the power of strong family ties could also be a great asset in preventing the women from joining the sex trade in the first place. Family based interventions and family counselling could play a pivotal role in the success of reintegration strategies for the victims as has been the case in addressing other issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, bullying and gambling.



Sex trafficked teens saved by Special Ops

by Kimberly Hunt

(Full report in video on site)

Sex trafficking is thriving in the U.S., and in San Diego County, the statistics are staggering.

The Department of Justice estimates about 5,700 local teenagers are trapped in sex trafficking every year -- 80 percent of them are Americans.

10News anchor Kimberly Hunt went out with a team of former Navy SEALs, police officers and British special forces as they tracked down the missing teenagers and called in law enforcement to make the bust and free the victim.

The Saved In America team has helped rescue 26 teenagers in 26 months.



Police And Nonprofit Team Up To End Sex Trafficking


(Video on site)

LOS ANGELES ( Most people think child sex trafficking only happens overseas.

But here in Los Angeles, some kids are held captive and forced to sell sex on the streets. The average age is 16, and some are as young as 10.

CBS2's Pat Harvey went for a ride with a member of the LAPD's vice unit that goes undercover to help get kids off the streets.

In the past, juveniles walking the streets as sex workers may have been arrested for prostitution, but that's no longer the case.

In a new approach, Harvey finds out what happens when police and crisis advocates work together to rescue L.A.'s youth. Once police have the kids in custody, they get help from the nonprofit group Saving Innocence.

“This is all about rescuing some minors that have been essentially abducted.” LAPD Capt. Al Pasos said.

Investigators are focused on kids who are under the control of pimps. Many are coerced into sex work and forbidden to leave, threatened and subdued by violence.

During the ride-along, LAPD Sgt. Scott Carter was looking for kids working the streets.

“How old are you?” he asked one woman.

That woman said she was 29 and was arrested for prostitution. Anyone under the age of 18 will not be arrested.

“This happened so quick; we hadn't been in the car 15 minutes,” Harvey said.

A new law on the books in California no longer allows children to be prosecuted for prostitution. Instead, police detain them and call a hotline that alerts the rest of the task force.

For seven years, Saving Innocence has helped hundreds of young victims of human sex trafficking in Los Angeles and Orange County.

“We respond within 90 minutes of that call, 24 hours a day seven days a week to provide crisis intervention,” Kim Biddle, Founder & CEO, said. “When the kids come off the street with law enforcement, they have a much-needed soft landing.”

The nonprofit works with county agencies and provides the girls with immediate emotional support. Then Saving Innocence guides them to housing, therapy and education.

“When a child comes out of this it's like they're coming out of a cult meets a domestic violence situation meets torture,” Biddle said.

This month alone, the southeast vice unit detained 13 juveniles involved in sex trafficking. In 2016, they took 63 juveniles off the street.

On this night, police see two women walking along Figueroa Avenue, and one looks young.

“How old are you? What tattoo do you have?” Carter asks.

Sex traffickers often mark women and girls with tattoos.

Jessica, a former sex worker, knows this because she has a tattoo given to her by a former trafficker when she was 17.

“Basically, this is a brand to show that I belong to somebody,” she said. “We're just something to be sold; we're a product.”

Jessica was kidnapped and spent years trying to get out of what she calls “the life.” She says kids don't just decide one day to have this life.

“It's not just like I'm living this life and everything is great, and I think one day I'm going to go sleep with strangers, be raped on a regular basis, have money thrown at me and then I have to give to an abuser that claims to love me, ” Jessica said.

Back on Figueroa, police are attempting to the flip the script back in favor of the kids.

“This one, I definitely think's a juvey, ” Carter said.

Advocates and police admit that not all girls stick around for the help.

But those who do have a story to tell.

“To overcome emotional, mental and physical bondage says a lot,” Jessica said.

Jessica eventually said no to the life and yes to help. Now she's a mom and a survivor advocate. A mural depicting the sex-trafficking industry in downtown Los Angeles lets the world know she's a survivor.

“I love myself; I really love myself,” Jessica said. ”I feel like my place on this Earth is to help other people like me.”

Advocates eventually take a backpack to those kids. It's designed to comfort them with a stuffed animal, a soft blanket, comfortable clothes and even a toothbrush. It's the ice breaker to a long process of recovery.

Back on the street, the LAPD vice unit is only halfway through their night.



'Modern Day Slavery': Human Traffickers Haunt Cities with At-Risk Children

In Philadelphia, traffickers "sell love" to local youths looking for an escape

by Alexandra Villarreal

In Philadelphia's darkest corners, traffickers are exploiting vulnerable kids for profit.

“Human trafficking is modern day slavery,” said John Ducoff, executive director of Covenant House Pennsylvania, a youth homeless shelter that cares for about 50 survivors of sex trafficking each year. “Criminals will always find new ways to commit old crimes.”

It's nearly impossible to pinpoint how many children in Philadelphia wind up victims of sex trafficking because there is no reliable data. In addition to those who stay at Covenant House, the shelter's staff says they've met far more victims during street outreach.

“You want to believe it happens somewhere else, it's somebody else's kid,” said Hugh Organ, the shelter's assistant executive director and chairman of the Philadelphia Anti-Trafficking Coalition. “It's a third world country problem; it doesn't happen here. But it happens here every day, and that's the scary part and the sad part that people don't want to take a look at.”

Ducoff appears in a new documentary, "I Am Jane Doe," which takes a closer look at sex trafficking. Narrated by actress Jessica Chastain, the film -- which premieres today -- follows mothers who have waged court battles against, an online classified ads site, over their daughters' sexual exploitation.

“We know Jane Does, and we know young girls who have had these experiences,” Ducoff said.

Sex trafficking affects all parts of the country, and the figures on hidden populations could be staggering because abuse often goes unreported, experts said. In Texas alone, 79,000 children could be victims of sexual exploitation, according to a recent University of Texas study.

"It's difficult to pin down the numbers," said Melissa Torres, a research associate who co-authored the paper. "The same study should be done in other places, (because) you can't solve a problem without having measured it."

In Philadelphia, the city's proximity to highways and a major airport make it an attractive hub for traffickers. Survivors often tell Organ that they were trafficked along the I-95 corridor, from New York to Florida. Traffickers set up temporary bases at extended stay and micro-hotels near the airport, according to Christian Zajac, assistant special agent in charge at the FBI's Philadelphia Division.

“You can jump on and off a plane, and the hotel's right there,” Organ said. “The amount of trafficking that goes on at those hotels by the airport is unbelievable.”

Child sex trafficking is such a problem in Philadelphia that the FBI added a second task force to handle its local caseload.

“We were getting pummeled with child sex trafficking tips that were coming in,” Zajac said.

In 2016, the FBI's Philadelphia and Harrisburg field offices rescued 31 minors who had been trafficked, up from 26 in 2015 and 23 in 2014.

Last week, four men were arrested on minor sex trafficking charges, and during a nationwide FBI sting in October 2016, 22 more around the Philadelphia area were taken into custody over a three-day period.

But, Zajac said, “We're not going to arrest our way out of this."

Survivors need access to housing, schooling and vocational training, and trafficking-related therapy during their early recovery, experts said. But Philadelphia's service providers are struggling to meet the demand, according to Family Court Judge Lori Dumas, whose Working to Restore Adolescents' Power (WRAP) Court connects trafficking survivors to resources in the area.

“We don't get a good grade on the report card for that,” Dumas said. “There are more services that need to be developed and made available to these young people. We don't have enough.”

How It Happens

Kathleen M. Brown, who runs a rehabilitation program, Breaking the Cycle, recalled a trafficking survivor who at 14 was abducted, chained in a basement, and gang-raped for days. Her traffickers told her it was a privilege when she was finally allowed upstairs alongside others who were being forced to sell themselves.

But Brown, who is also an associate professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania, said most youth sex trafficking is much subtler, and there's a formula through which traffickers find their victims.

Whether from Philadelphia or surrounding rural areas, many trafficked youths leave a hostile living environment. The young people are not involved in extracurricular activities because their parents won't invest the time, Brown said. They usually aren't doing well in school, often because family tensions make it hard to apply themselves.

“There [can be] a sexual component to whatever horrible thing is going on at home, so that by the time they leave their homes, they've already learned that their bodies do not belong to them,” Brown said. “This is something you give to other people, it's not theirs. They're a little bit surprised that anyone would want it.”

Runaways, particularly those who leave repeatedly or who have been on their own for a month or more, are susceptible to becoming trafficking victims.

“If you don't have a place to stay, you gotta do what you gotta do,” Organ said. “There's a term called survival sex -- sleeping with someone for a place to stay for the night. That's a common thing that's done.”

Traffickers identify targets at malls, online or through personal connections. They “sell love,” offering children who are looking for a way to escape their homes an alternative, Organ said.

“It's the promise of a better life,” he continued. “It's the promise of a job. It's the promise of a place to stay. And by the time the kids realize what it really is, it's too late. They're caught up. Now, they have pictures of these kids. Now, they have threats. They know where the kid lives.”

Once victims are introduced to trafficking, they're taught how to behave, how to dress, and how to make themselves look older, usually by another woman. They're shown how to slip a condom on with their mouths and how to perform oral sex as a substitute for vaginal penetration.

As a means of control, many traffickers pretend to be their victims' boyfriends.

“It becomes the first person to tell this girl that he loves her, that she's beautiful,” Organ said.

Especially among minors, relationships with traffickers often become violent, and victims are sometimes physically branded. One man in Philadelphia tattoos all of his girls with his name in an attempt to mark them as his, Organ said.

“They're dehumanizing these individuals and making them property,” he said. “And it really gets scary. We just talked to a kid the other day. We were trying to get her to come into the shelter, and she said, ‘I can't now, because I belong to this guy for the next 48 hours.'"

Some warning signs to spot victims: Minors who are traveling between states or have multiple hotel card keys in their wallets.

While some victims still walk the streets, most are being sold online. Many were listed on before the company shuttered its adult services section in January. The classified ads service, which had faced lawsuits over an alleged connection to child sex trafficking cases, was held in contempt by the U.S. Senate for not providing information about plans to fight trafficking on its pages.

“The internet is the new street corner,” Organ said. “You can order up a kid no matter where you are.”

According to Ducoff, traffickers are still selling their victims on Backpage, now in the dating section instead of under adult services.

Liz McDougall, general counsel for, said the site shut down its adult sections under "pressure and coercion" from the government. She believes that was a mistake because with ads spilling across categories and sites, it's harder for law enforcement to track sex trafficking.

"Just as we predicted, shutting down our adult section didn't make this content go away,” McDougall said.

Even if Backpage were taken down completely, trafficking wouldn't disappear, Ducoff said.

“Human trafficking is much more than just one website," he continued. "It's a massive industry, and it's about aggressively attacking every link in the chain.”

Demand for minors is high. Children are popular among men who are afraid of contracting sexually transmitted infections and who assume that kids are less likely to be diseased, according to a Congressional Research Service report released in January 2015. Researchers recommended that Congress make the legal punishment for men who target minors more severe.

In Philadelphia, experts said that child sex trafficking victims range in age from about 12 to 17. Most are inching toward adulthood, but the preteens boast the highest price tag.

“If they're able to recruit someone who's 12, or 13, or 14, those are very, very valuable,” Brown said.

Once minors are indoctrinated into trafficking culture, it's hard for them to get out, even after intervention, and many later return because they can't imagine other possibilities. They know how to sell themselves, but they don't have basic skills like managing money, cooking or shopping.

“We don't say saved, we say recovered,” Zajac said.

Addiction and Trafficking

Maria Guerrieri's daughter, Lisa, was 21 when she disappeared. She came from an upper middle class family in Bucks County free of physical abuse, according to her mother. After high school, Lisa and her then-boyfriend started dabbling with heroin. She thought she could control her use, but a year later, it spiraled out of control.

One January day, Lisa left home to stay in a hotel with a friend who was also addicted. They met a man, Enoch Smith, who offered them drugs for sex. Guerrieri said she searched everywhere for her daughter, but they were only reunited after Lisa was arrested for drug possession.

Smith was sentenced to 40 to 80 years by the state, and is concurrently serving a 30-year federal prison sentence for trafficking children and distributing child pornography.

After relapsing several times, Lisa has gotten sober and works as an advocate for recovery.

Lisa's background was not typical for a trafficking victim, activists said, but her drug use was. Sometimes victims have experimented recreationally with drugs; other times, they're already addicted when they meet their trafficker. Often, they turn to substance abuse while being trafficked to numb themselves to the sex and violence.

“Internally, they know that this is not normal behavior,” Dumas said. “Even if they cannot articulate that, their brain is telling them that.”

The addiction becomes a shackle in itself. By the time trafficked youths become reliant on drugs, there's no need for coercion by their traffickers.

“I haven't met anybody that didn't somehow have a connection with drugs,” Brown said.

Kathleen Coll, a nun at Old St. Joseph's Church of Philadelphia and executive director at Dawn's Place, a haven for trafficking survivors, said that she does not accept women younger than 20 to the program.

“The 18-year-olds who come are many times not ready to give up the life they have because they are addicted, in a way, to that life,” she said.

Almost all of the women at her shelter are drug- or alcohol-addicted, and they sometimes willingly return to prostitution so they can afford drugs. They see their trafficker as a dealer, Coll said.

She remembered how one young woman tried to explain why she couldn't overcome her addiction.

“She said, ‘You don't realize, I have a monster inside me that must be fed,'” Coll recalled. “So she went back to her pimp."

‘These Are Not Criminals, They Are Victims'

Two years ago, state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, a Republican who represents portions of Montgomery and Bucks counties, introduced legislation to protect trafficking victims under the age of 18 from criminalization. Instead of arrest and incarceration, they would be offered rehabilitation resources, including long-term housing, access to education and trauma therapy. Safe harbor laws have already been passed in 34 states to protect minors who are victims of trafficking.

“It's not a voluntary activity,” Greenleaf said. “These are children. They can't even vote, but they can be a criminal.”

His bill would have routed victims of child sex trafficking through the city's Department of Human Services rather than the criminal justice system, but it faltered over cost concerns.

Greenleaf plans to reintroduce the bill this year.

Despite the lack of safe harbor legislation, Philadelphia's police and FBI officers no longer arrest minors accused of prostitution.

“These girls are victims," Zajac said. "When you're under 18, there is no such thing as consent.

“Philadelphia police used to be of that mindset where even though they're 15, 16, 17 years old, it's prostitution and they're arrested. That has changed.”

What's next?

Though instances of sex trafficking continue to rise, Organ has seen improvements in how local officials are handling them. The training for law enforcement has gotten better, legislation has been introduced, and organizations around the city are providing some resources for survivors.

“A few years back, [faced with] a human trafficking victim, I would have nobody to call,” Organ said.

Child sex trafficking harbors unique psychological and logistical obstacles, and they're hard to overcome. At Breaking the Cycle, Brown has a concrete definition of a success story: “There's not a guy you're dependent on, and you have a job that will take care of you. You have your children back.”

The probability of her “success” for survivors in recovery? She's pegged it at one in 10.

Dumas' approach at the WRAP Court is more incremental, focusing on the day-to-day. The lives of the young people will be touched by trauma forever, but “it's getting them to the point where they're able to lead normal lives despite the trauma,” she said.

“Every little step in the right direction toward normalcy or toward survivorship,” she continued, “that's success.”



Md. House panel eyes penalties for not reporting child abuse

by Tamela Baker

ANNAPOLIS — Sometimes trying to solve a problem can have unintended consequences.

And those potential consequences had the House Judiciary Committee grappling for answers Thursday, as members debated a bill from Del. Brett Wilson, R-Washington, that would make knowing of child abuse and not reporting it a criminal misdemeanor.

Wilson's bill would punish anyone who willfully fails to report child abuse with up to a year of imprisonment and/or a $1,000 fine.

Although Maryland law requires a number of professionals to report child abuse, including teachers, police officers, health care practitioners and others, Wilson's bill goes further. It would make anyone who knows about abuse but doesn't report it liable.

The bill addresses intentional acts, said Steven Kroll, the executive director of the Maryland State's Attorneys' Association who testified in favor of the bill.

Even so, committee members worried about who could get caught up in the law if the bill were passed.

"If I'm not aware it's abuse, or I don't know who to call, is that a crime?" asked committee Vice Chairwoman Kathleen Dumais, D-Montgomery.

"Child abuse (legally) requires a physical injury," said Anne Arundel County Assistant State's Attorney William Katcef, who also testified for the measure. "This deals with those instances of suspected abuse or neglect — willfully failing to report brings the sanctions."

Wilson told the committee that the abuse case at Penn State University had inspired former Washington County lawmaker Christopher B. Shank to file legislation that tightened reporting requirements in civil law, but that there were no criminal sanctions when abuse is not reported.

"I had an awful case where it was discovered federal officials had been contacted by the mother," said Wilson, who is a county prosecutor.

The mother recanted her allegations of sexual abuse against the father, but the federal caseworker never notified the Washington County Department of Social Services office, so an investigation could be conducted.

"I got the case when the father tried to sell photos five years later," Wilson said, noting that he discovered the abuse had continued through those years.

"Who do you go after in that case," Dumais asked. "The feds? The caseworker who didn't report?"

"I would have gladly charged that person," Wilson replied.

But determining what is and isn't abuse could be tricky, committee members contended.

For example, would it include corporal punishment? And would anyone who didn't report it be guilty of a misdemeanor?

"Corporal punishment is legal in Maryland, but it is subjective," Wilson said. "Every court could find it a different way. But if you see something that is clearly not parental in nature, there would be no guesswork."

Kroll said that the bill could be revised, but "we're trying to deal with a continuous course of conduct," pointing out that it was meant to deal with the most egregious cases.


New York

Goodell, Young weigh in on child abuse bills

by Katrina Fuller

Two bills regarding protections from child abuse have passed the New York State Senate and are currently being reviewed by a State Assembly committee.

Bill s137, sponsored by state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, also known as Kayleigh Mae's Law, would require hair follicle testing of an infant or toddler under the age of 3 who is in the vicinity of a parent or guardian who is arrested on a drug charge. The bill is named after Kayleigh Mae, a 13-month-old child in Washington County who passed away in 2015 after being given heroin and cocaine for 10 months after her birth.

Testing the hair follicles of young children would allow child protective investigations to determine if illegal drug exposure is a risk to the child's health.

Another bill, s3146, sponsored by State Sen. Martin J. Golden, R-Brooklyn, would establish a statewide standard of no more than 15 cases per month per full-time child protective caseworker.

State Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, said Kayleigh's Law is important to protect the children in her district.

“The drug epidemic is decimating our community, and its victims span all ages. The Senate passed Kayleigh Mae's law, which I supported, in the wake of a tragic case in Washington County where an infant died after being given heroin and cocaine for 10 months after birth,” Young said. “It is heartbreaking that such a bill is even needed, but we must to be proactive in protecting those who cannot speak for themselves. Locally, in Western New York, we have seen a startling rise in the number of newborns born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), which indicates the exposure to opioids and narcotics. Today, the birthrate for babies born with a drug-related diagnosis is more than twice the statewide average.

“To address this disturbing trend, I have sponsored legislation that would require facilities to screen newborns for NAS through a toxicological screening. Each of these steps ensures that every newborn is given the best chance to have a better quality of life.”

State Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, said both bills have been introduced in the Assembly and are currently under review by the children and families committee. The idea of Kayleigh Mae's Law is to help those who are unable to speak up for themselves about situations they might be in, he said.

“The child under the age of three is not in a good position to speak for themselves,” Goodell said. “Everyone hopes the instances of our young children being given (drugs) is very low, but you don't know that without doing the testing.”

He said he believes Child Protective Services should have the authority to seek a drug test when the child is in danger. If the parents of the child are arrested, it is likely CPS or social services will get involved in the situation.

“In those situations, I believe CPS should be involved from the beginning because we know the children are at risk,” Goodell said.

The bill regarding the workload of social workers is a different matter, he said. While it is a good idea to have adequate staffing for social work cases, Goodell said this bill does not provide funding for what it attempts to do. Rather, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the counties. Instead of a state mandate on social workers' case loads, Goodell said he believes there should be some flexibility involved.

The counties should be able to have an increased amount of staffing for serious cases, but should not be required to have as much staffing for cases that might not be as serious, he said.

“The staffing should be very flexible and should stay within the control of the county government,” Goodell said.

However, he said he supports the intent of the bill, which is to have adequate social work staffing.



Governor's Sex Trafficking Bill Would Help Child Victims

A bill before the Maryland General Assembly expands definition of sex abuse to allow for prosecution of people other than family members.

by Elizabeth Janney

ANNAPOLIS, MD — A bill proposed by the governor would change Maryland's sexual abuse law to allow law enforcement to more effectively prosecute suspected sex traffickers of children, regardless of whether the trafficker is a relative of the victim.

Hogan's Protecting Victims of Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 would change Maryland's definition of sexual abuse to allow for police to open investigations into allegations of sexual trafficking of children even if the suspect is not related to the victim by family or through the household. The bill has bipartisan support.

“It ensures minor victims of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation in Maryland are treated as victims of child sexual abuse,” Amelia Rubenstein, with the Child Sex Trafficking Victims Initiative, said in written testimony.

Current Maryland law states that for a local department of social services to investigate allegations of sexual trafficking, there has to be evidence that the perpetrator is a member of the victim's family or in charge of the victim's care.

Under current law, doctors, teachers and some others must report suspected sex trafficking of a child. But law enforcement investigators must verify a familial or caregiver relationship between the victim and the suspect in order to pursue criminal charges.

The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard arguments on the bill on Thursday. Committee Chair Sen. Robert Zirkin started the hearing by thanking the committee for staying late the night before. He said he wanted to show thanks to the committee because of a walk-out of Republican senators during the Senate session Thursday morning.

The bill is also part of recommendations from the Maryland Safe Harbor Workgroup, which was created to investigate legal protections for minor victims of human trafficking and to report their recommendations to the governor and General Assembly.

In the workgroup's December 2016 report, it recommended that Maryland expand the definition of sexual abuse to include victims of sex trafficking regardless of the identity of the trafficker.

Charles County Director of Social Services Therese Wolf said that this bill would expand her department's ability to protect victims of sex trafficking.

Adam Rosenberg with the Baltimore Child Abuse Center said that children who are suspected of being victims of trafficking would be given help and support rather than be treated as criminals for participating in commercial sex.

“We are federally mandated to do this,” said Rebecca Jones Gaston, executive director of the Social Services Administration in the Maryland Department of Human Resources. “We run the risk of losing federal funding.”

The federal Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 requires that states receiving federal funds under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act have to take steps to address sex trafficking.

If the bill is passed, it has to take effect by May 27 so that the state of Maryland is in compliance with the federal law. The state risks losing about $450,000 annually if it does not comply with the federal requirements, according to a state document.

That funding is sent to local Maryland departments of social services to use for prevention of sex trafficking and child abuse, Jones Gaston said.

“Cases of sex trafficking vary widely in terms of the relationship dynamics between trafficker and victim, methods used to recruit victims, where the exploitation took place and for how long,” Rubenstein said.

Hogan's bill is part of his Justice for Victims Initiative, which includes other bills that would allow a defendant's prior history of sexual abuse to be admitted into court and would make drunken driving a felony offense after three or more prior convictions.

“Making Maryland safer begins with making sure that we have a criminal justice system that holds offenders accountable for their actions and the harm they cause, while also supporting victims and the community in the process of healing,” Hogan said in a press release.



Investigation Finds Systemic Failures In Hartford Schools' Response To Abuse, Neglect Allegations

by Vanessa de la Torre

An investigation from the state child advocate has revealed pervasive, systemic failures in the way Hartford public schools respond to allegations of suspected child abuse or neglect — in some cases, allowing educators repeatedly accused of misconduct to remain on the job for months, or even years, as students were "likely traumatized."

Friday's report from Child Advocate Sarah Eagan includes a sampling of potential civil rights violations, culled from confidential child-welfare investigations at city schools, that point to institutional neglect and confusion in the school district over how to handle potential abusers in their midst.

For years, the review has found, Hartford has failed to follow federal, state and its own protocols for reporting potential abuse and harassment — laws and guidelines that are in place to ensure student safety. That breakdown has led to situations where, even when school staffers witness a colleague's troubling behavior and have reasonable cause to suspect abuse, it's not a sure thing it will be reported to the state Department of Children and Families, as required by state law.

Mayor Luke Bronin and former Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez requested the child advocate's review last April in response to the controversy surrounding ex-administrator Eduardo "Eddie" Genao. The former executive director of compliance, Genao was arrested in April and charged with felony risk of injury or impairing the morals of a child after police said he sent sexual text messages to a 13-year-old girl.

Genao pleaded not guilty to the charge and he is next scheduled to appear in court Feb. 27. The mother of the 13-year-old girl is suing the school system, top officials and Genao over the alleged negligence.

Among the troubling cases cited in the report is a 2014 DCF investigation of a city teacher who allegedly called her 12- and 13-year-old students "thugs" and said they were "worthless," and at one point threatened that her husband would come to school and shoot them with his handgun. A coworker had concerns that the teacher was being verbally abusive toward her students since fall 2013, according to the report, but the school didn't report it to DCF until the spring. The accused teacher later resigned.

City school leaders have accepted the child advocate's findings and describe the 76-page report as a wake-up call that demands introspection and sweeping changes in culture, from central office down to the schools, on reporting suspected abuse or neglect. They planned a press conference for 1 p.m. Friday at Hartford city hall.

In a draft action plan shared with The Courant, Acting Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez describes the report as "gravely concerning and a call to action" to everyone in the city who works with students.

"These failings anger and disappoint me, and I am committed to correcting these failings promptly," Torres-Rodriguez said. The plan will be presented to Hartford's board of education this month for approval and will include retaining outside experts to help the district overhaul its reporting systems.



Report: Real progress at Arizona's Department of Child Safety, but 'a long way to go'

by Bob Ortega

Arizona's DCS has made "significant progress" in key areas that include providing help to families and children sooner and more effectively, cutting its backlog of open cases by more than two-thirds, reducing workers' still-heavy caseloads, and improving hiring and turnover rates.

Arizona's Department of Child Safety still “has a long way to go,” but it is making significant progress in key areas, according to an independent review conducted for the state's auditor general.

Those areas include providing help to families and children sooner and more effectively, cutting its backlog of open cases by more than two-thirds, reducing workers' still-heavy caseloads, and improving hiring and turnover rates, among others, according to the review by the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago.

Arizona lawmakers demanded independent reports in the 2014 legislation that created the Department of Child Safety out of the ashes of the troubled Child Protective Services division of the Department of Economic Security. CPS had all but collapsed under the pressure of severe budget cuts, combined with soaring reports of child abuse and neglect in the years after the 2008 recession.

While its successor, DCS, has received significantly better funding, it also inherited a slew of problems that left Arizona among the states likeliest to take away children, among the slowest to provide the kind of help families often need to be reunified, and among the slowest to find children who can't be reunified other permanent homes.

The latest Chapin Hall report, meant to measure DCS's progress in tackling its many problems, follows up recommendations the center made in 2015. The report cites remarkably little data to support its findings. But among other conclusions, it said that DCS:

•  Improved its child-abuse hotline, reducing wait times. The report didn't give figures, but DCS Director Greg McKay has said that average wait times, once more than 11 minutes, have fallen to under 30 seconds.

•  Reduced its backlog of open and inactive cases by more than two-thirds, with open cases dropping from more than 33,000 in April 2015 to 10,536 last November. According to DCS, that number has continued to decline since then.

•  Sped up how soon a court hearing is held after a child is taken away. The report didn't document the improvement in wait times.

•  Improved how case workers assess the safety of children and whether or not they should be taken away. That includes better training case workers to understand the difference between a “present” danger that requires the child to be removed immediately and an “impending” risk, which may not require immediate removal. The training is helping DCS staff make more consistent decisions, the report said.

•  Improved services to help families either get children back sooner or not have them taken away in the first place.

Notably, the report found DCS increased by 12 to 15 percent the cases in which it provided parents with in-home services, “to cater more to families who come to the Department's attention but whose needs are not severe enough to warrant a removal.”

It noted that one intervention program, Building Resilient Families, had served more than 1,600 families, implicitly reducing cases in which children were taken into foster care. DCS is seeking to expand such programs.


DCS also is working to reduce the sometimes months-long wait time for in-home services, which the report noted, without elaboration, as “too long.” The agency is expanding various intervention services in Maricopa, Pima, Yuma, Mohave and Yavapai counties, and trying more often to place children with relatives rather than in contract group homes.

Chapin Hall also lauded DCS's “Fast Pass” program, launched in November, that helps families get urgent child-care referrals outside of normal business hours.

DCS has improved background reference checks for new employees, speeding their hire, and has reduced turnover, moving closer to its goal of losing only one in four workers a year by the end of this fiscal year, June 30. Two years ago, turnover approached one in three workers a year.

The report said that although some employees can reach salary caps more quickly than before, “the removal of retention bonuses has in fact reduced the incentive for experienced employees to stay.”

That, combined with the fact that supervisors can't earn overtime pay, poses a challenge. DCS Director Greg McKay has said that DCS often loses employees to other branches of state government where they can do less stressful work, often for higher pay.

The Chapin Hall report said caseloads are still too high, “leading to staff feeling overburdened,” with an average of 43 children per child safety specialist in Maricopa County, versus DCS's goal of 25 children per specialist for ongoing cases.

The national standard is 20. The high caseloads can lead to rushed decisions, it noted.

As The Republic has reported, DCS, in cooperation with the Morrison Institute and Arizona State University's Center for Child Wellbeing, is working to better define the roughly 80 percent of cases that are currently described as “neglect.” Gathering better data, in an easier-to-analyze form, on what types of neglect are most common will help DCS better target prevention programs, the report said.

“The department is making progress toward more accurate assessments of actual needs of children and families, which leads to ... improve[d] outcomes for children and families,” Chapin Hall concluded.

'It Shouldn't Hurt to Be a Child'

Since 1999, the Child Abuse Prevention License Plate program has generated almost $9 million through sales of the "It Shouldn't Hurt to be a Child" specialty license plate. The money has been distributed to hundreds of Arizona agencies that offer child abuse prevention programs. The license plate was initially created as a partnership between The Arizona Republic, the Governor's Office for Youth, Faith & Families and other local funding partners.

How does it work? When you pay $25 for the license plate, $17 goes to a fund for the non-profit agencies.

Read more about the program here or to order your specialty plate, go to:


United Kingdom

Male and female child sex abuse victims talk about how it affected their relationships

by Tanveer Mann

If you're a victim of sexual abuse, a common reaction is to deny it ever happened.

Admitting it to yourself is hard let alone having the courage to tell somebody else.

But by not speaking about it, it can have drastic effects on your mental health so it is always advisable to seek support from someone you trust.

Fortunately, there is a lot of help and support available for victims of sexual abuse, such as Victim Support, The Survivors Trust or Survivors UK as well as the Rape Crisis national helpline.

To mark Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness week, we spoke to two extremely brave victims of child sex abuse who reveal just how much the abuse affected them.

Amy, 23 - was sexually abused by her step-father as a child up until the age of 15 years old.

Her first vivid memory of being abused was when she was 11 years old.

She told ‘One morning I was doing my usual routine, which was to get up, say goodbye to my mum as she headed off to work then have a shower.

‘As I was getting changed my step-father walked in and started sexually abusing me by playing with my chest and genitals area, he then penetrated me.

‘It felt like something was wrong but he told me and assured me it was completely natural.'

Despite knowing her step-father for seven years previously, the abuse continued, becoming more and more regular and more violent.

She said: ‘He would abuse me every weekend when I went to visit him and my mum after school on a Friday until Sunday. And every school holiday including the 6 weeks summer holidays.'

This would often involve him walking into her room and touching her without her consent.

‘He made me stand up, bent me over and rubbed his genitals on me until he penetrated. He also got me to rub his genitals to help him penetrate me as it wasn't easy for him to do so.

‘I was told by my step father that this was natural to do as a teenager, but he said I wasn't to tell anyone.'

But throughout it all, she didn't seek help from anyone out of fear of what her step-father would do.

‘He made me stand up, bent me over and rubbed his genitals on me until he penetrated.

‘I remember on a couple occasions I said no to him and he hated it when I did. I told him when I was 13 that I would tell my mum or someone and he got very angry and he scared me.

‘He told me to keep it hidden and said that if I told anyone he would tell them that I was lying. He did that so that I'd never tell anyone.'

It was only when Amy turned 15 did she get the courage to finally speak out and tell someone about the abuse.

She told us: ‘At the age of 15 I finally decided I was going to tell someone. I visited a very close friend and told her what had been happening. She told me I needed to tell the police, so together we made the call.'

Eventually, Amy approached Victim's Support and decided to take him to court where he was convicted.

Amy explained: ‘The experience of taking my step-father to court wasn't easy at all. It was terrifying but with the help and support from my police officer, witness support officer at the court and my Victim Support case worker they helped me prepare for court.

‘They showed me around the court and told me who would be there and where they would be standing. I did find court scary, hard and emotional but I knew I was doing the right thing to make sure he got punished for what he did and to prevent him doing it to others.'

After the court case was over, Amy finally felt able to get some closure about what happened to her.

‘It will always remain in my mind what he did to me, but I haven't let it ruin my life. I feel a lot safer now that he has been convicted and that I have prevented it from happening to others.'

Yet she still suffered significant effects from the abuse and said it was hard getting close to the opposite sex.

She said: ‘After the abuse, I felt like I couldn't trust any boy and wouldn't let anyone get close to me. I felt like I wouldn't ever have a boyfriend and it took me 10 years to trust men again.

‘I eventually got a boyfriend after seeking help from the charity Victim Support and my college counsellor to talk about what happened and how I could not let what my stepfather did to me ruin my life.'

‘But it has definitely made me very wary around boys. The abuse has changed the person I am today. I used to be someone who was confident and near enough did what any normal teenage girl would do, but I now feel limited and have very low self confidence.

*Victim's name has been changed to protect her identity.

Brian, 30 - was sexually abused by his Cub and Scout masters between the age of 4 and 15 years old.

The abuse by his Cub master, Richard Gilbert, took place between 4 and 11 and by his Scout master. Edward O'Donoghue, from 13 to 15 years old.

Gilbert was never convicted of abusing Brian as he committed suicide before Brian could disclose his abuse to the police.

O'Donoghue, who was also a paediatric counsellor at Great Ormond Street Hospital, was the first person Brian trusted to share his story.

But O'Donoghue abused his position of trust and started molesting Brian.

Fortunately, he was convicted after pleading guilty to four specimen counts of indecent assault and was sentenced to two years in jail in March 2007. He was also placed on the sex offender's register for 10 years and was banned from working with children for life.

Here's Brian's story in his own words

The abuse began after Richard struck up a friendship with my mum and dad. He started coming round to the house often and would take my mum out dancing.

As far as my brother and I could remember, Richard was always there – he never had any children or wasn't with any women or men during the time I knew him.

He would stay at ours and that's where the abuse would take place. My first recollection was when he came up to my bedroom and slid his hands underneath the sheets.

It would happen regularly. He'd pretend he was ‘going upstairs to tuck Brian into bed' when really other things were happening.

If I was in the shower, he would stand outside, look through the keyhole and masturbate or if we were in my bedroom, he would masturbate in front of me. I was five years old when this first happened.

When I turned nine, I started pleading for him to stop abusing me because I knew it wasn't right.

I started pleading for him to stop abusing me because I knew it wasn't right.

I worked out quite quickly that it was wrong. But it was weird because he would buy me presents, so I was sort of groomed into thinking he was a nice person.

He just kept saying to me ‘it's our secret'.

I became very angry as I grew up, especially with my parents because I wanted to quit Cubs, which I was in from eight to 11 years old, but my mum would always make me go and help out thee.

I wanted to give up but I felt like it was my responsibility to keep on doing what he wanted me to do. I was petrified that if I ever spoke about, it would tear my family apart.

On some levels, I think I knew my parents knew what was happening but they didn't want to acknowledge it.

Then the abuse randomly stopped when I was 11. I don't know why because he continued to come to my house.

By this point I had joined Scouts and became friends with my Scout master Edward O'Donoghue.

I confided in him because I really thought he had my best interests at heart. He was the first I told about Richard.

But then the abuse started again. Edward plied me with alcohol and would then masturbate in front of me and perform oral sex on me.

He would me take me on weekends away under the pretence of looking for camp sites for the Scouts and he would then touch me in the tent.

The abuse only stopped when I moved away.

Eventually i mustered up the courage to tell my parents and got Edward arrested. To this day, I still think my mum knew about it.

But it felt good to be finally free. I had carried all this crap with me for a long time,so the moment I could share it, it was like verbal diarrhoea. I felt like no one owned me anymore.

After I told my parents, I didn't realise how much the abuse had actually affected me.

Kissing was destroyed for me for a very long time because every time I would do it, it reminded me of Richard sticking his tongue down my throat.

I spiralled out of control, became reliant on alcohol and was really possessive and controlling towards girlfriends.

The strangest thing was though, out of all the abuse it was the intimacy of kissing that was the most painful part. Kissing was destroyed for me for a very long time because every time I would do it, it reminded me of Richard sticking his tongue down my throat.

I also felt incredibly guilty for walking around with this secret for so long. Because if I had told someone about Richard earlier, it may have stopped other children being abused by him.

It is really important to tell someone otherwise if you keep it inside, it will eat at you like cancer affecting your body.

Following Edward's conviction, I received £80,000 in compensation from The Scouts Association, which gave me the chance to start my life again but the scars will always remain.

I'm still in therapy which has helped but I don't think I'll ever be able to stop it.

*Victim's name has been changed to protect his identity.

Where you can seek help

If you are a survivor of sexual abuse or sexual violence, here is where you can seek help or support:

•  Your doctor

•  Rape Crisis UK – 0808 802 9999

•  The Survivors Trust – 0808 801 0818

•  Survivors UK (for male survivors of rape) – 02035983898

•  National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247

•  A hospital accident and emergency (A&E) department

•  A genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexual health clinic

•  A contraceptive clinic

•  A young people's service

•  The police, or dial 101

•  In an emergency, dial 999

The Statistics

•  Three quarters of people who approach Rape Crisis for help were assaulted over 12 months earlier and 42% were adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

•  Around 58,000 individuals receive an ongoing Rape Crisis service, an increase of 16% since 2014-15.

•  95% of all service users were female

•  The largest group that contact Rape Crisis Centres continues to be those who prefer to self-refer (44%)

•  Where age is known, 1,700 were aged 15 or under, an increase of 13% on last year; those aged under 25 represented 33% of service users, an increase of 8%

•  Where ethnicity is known, 27% of Rape Crisis services users were Black or Minority Ethnic, an increase from 23% in 2014-15
23% of all service users identified as Disabled.

Seeking help

Lucy Hastings, director at independent charity Victim Support, told

‘Making the brave decision to speak out about sexual abuse and violence shows tremendous courage, and can encourage others to come forward and seek help too. We know from supporting victims of sexual abuse and violence that this harrowing crime can have a long-lasting impact on people's lives. It's crucial that victims are aware of the support available to them.

‘Victim Support is an independent charity. We can offer free and confidential practical help and emotional support to anyone affected by crime, no matter how long ago it took place or if it's been reported. You can call our support line on 08 08 16 89 111 or visit to find out how we can help.'

‘An NSPCC spokesperson said: ‘Child sexual abuse is a deeply traumatic experience that if untreated can lead to serious mental health problems, robbing victims of their childhood and having long-lasting effects into adulthood. Our programme Letting the Future In is designed to help victims express feelings that they can't put into words through messy play, writing, storytelling and art.

‘We also work to try and prevent sexual abuse with our Speak Out Stay Safe programme, where a team of volunteers visit schools to teach children about abuse; how to recognise the signs, how to protect themselves and where to get help, including our Childline service.'


New York

Child abuse and neglect cases, homeless shelter population on rise in NYC, Mayor de Blasio reports

by Greg B. Smith

It was a tough summer and fall for Mayor de Blasio's struggle to combat child abuse and reduce homelessness, new statistics show.

The number of abuse and neglect cases handled by the Administration for Children's Services rose, as did the average caseload for those investigating abuse.

ACS caseworkers handled an average of 9.8 cases from July through October of 2016, up from 8.5 cases during the same period in 2015.

During the respective time periods, the number of abuse and neglect investigations rose 2.5%, from 15,778 to 16,179.

These unnerving statistics emerged in the mayor's preliminary management report, a document City Hall posted this week but did not announce.

The report measured performance from July through October, and compared it to the same period in 2015. Those months included the tragic case of 6-year-old Zymere Perkins, whose death exposed serious flaws in ACS's performance.

ACS spokeswoman Aja Worthy-Davis said caseloads increased because of an uptick in abuse calls generated by high-profile cases such as Perkins'. The city hired 600 additional caseworkers last year, she said, noting they are finishing training and beginning to pick up cases.

The report also detailed more bad news regarding another of the mayor's headaches: the rising tide of homeless.

The average number of homeless individuals staying in shelters each day rose between 8% and 12% in all categories over the same time period from 2015 to last year.

Since de Blasio arrived at City Hall, the total shelter population has jumped from 53,000 to 60,000.

This has made it harder for the Department of Homeless Services to place families in shelters near their children's schools.

The good news was that more families were able to leave the shelter system. With an amped-up rental-assistance program, the number of families able to leave city shelters and get into permanent housing rose by 8%.

As for another of the mayor's signature campaigns, the Vision Zero effort to reduce traffic deaths, the numbers trended unfavorably during the respective July-to-October periods.

Traffic deaths involving bicyclists and pedestrians jumped 33%, though traffic fatalities involving motorists and passengers stayed flat.



Child-abuse survivors advocate for bill to encourage awareness education in schools

by Jayme Fraser

HELENA — Child survivors of sexual abuse and their parents urged legislators to support a bill that would encourage schools to provide sexual abuse awareness education in elementary schools.

House Bill 298 would require the Office of Public Instruction, in coordination with the Department of Public Health and Human Services as well as experts on childhood trauma, to develop sample policies, education plans and related materials that school districts could use to teach kids about “safe touch” and let them know it is safe to tell teachers or other staff about abuse. The program also would include training for school employees about the signs of sexual abuse and about what their responsibilities are as mandatory reporters under state law.

The bill has been called “Tara's Law,” recognizing a Hamilton abuse survivor who has rallied support for the proposal. It has been known as Erin's Law or Jenna's Law in at least 26 other states where similar legislation passed.

Kirsten Schmitt of Emma's House in Hamilton said it is common for children not to be sure who to talk to about their abuse or even how to speak about it. As a result, she pointed to national studies that show 1-in-10 victims never talk about their experience and only 30 percent of cases are ultimately reported.

“When children are not educated about keeping their own bodies safe, they have no means to communicate what happened to them,” she said. “We teach them about fire safety, active shooter safety, drug safety, but we don't talk about personal boundaries.”

Schmitt said the handful of Children's Advocacy Centers in Montana interviewed 704 children about reported abuse in the first half of 2016, 40 percent of whom were boys. She noted that 98 percent of them knew their offender, who was a member of their family about half the time. More than 1,200 kids were served in 2015 and 865 in 2014.

Among the survivors to testify was a Helena sixth-grader.

“I was secretly abused by my father,” she said, reading from handwritten notes on ruled paper. “It would've been nice to know I could've talked to my really good teacher about what was going on at home…Kids would be less scared to tell the truth if they know they'd be heard.”

Her mother said the program's emphasis on training for teachers and administrators is just as important, not only to better identify potential victims sooner but to make sure they are not unintentionally triggering memories of the trauma. She described an incident in which one of her daughter's teachers, in a humorous attempt to punish kids for not cleaning desks, “told her to get on her knees" and then bow. She said he became upset when she refused.

Other children described being bullied by their peers when details of their abuse became public. They said they ultimately had to move to another town because school administrators told their parents they had no authority to address the situation or talk to kids about sexual abuse.


Model-Turned-Activist Nikki Dubose Is Speaking Out Against Ineffective Sexual Abuse Laws In New York

"I want to get them changed and I will fight until the death to get them changed."

by Isaac Saul

Nikki Dubose says she won't give up on her fight make kids safer.

The 31-year-old model-turned-activist has already made a name for herself by speaking up about sexual assault. Now, though, she's taking the platform she's built and using it to try and change laws to protect children from sexual violence.

Her first stop? New York, where she's hoping to help push through The Omnibus Child Victims Act.

"In New York, they have the worst laws in the entire nation as far as protecting children from sexual abuse," DuBose told A Plus. "There is only a five-year window after you're 18 years old that someone can report what has happened to them."

The Child Victims Act would eliminate New York's current statute of limitations for child sexual abuse in criminal and civil court, which currently require that you report what happened to you within five years of turning 18. If someone is abused at an public institution like a school in New York, their window is even shorter, as they are required to file a notice of intent to sue within 90 days of the incident.

Versions of the bill also propose a "lookback" period, giving people a one-year window after the bill passes to revive old cases.

"When a child is traumatized, they don't remember," DuBose said. "The average reported time it takes a child to come forward is 21 years. In my case, it took me 19 years. So children are helpless, they are powerless, they don't have voices the same way adults have voices."

While this is the eleventh year a version of the bill has been proposed, DuBose and her team of supporters — including the Stop Abuse Campaign, the Fighting for the Children political action committee, State Senator Brad Hoylman and assembly member Linda Rosenthal — are optimistic because they've got the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Opposition to the bill has come from insurance companies, the Catholic Church, Jewish and religious organizations, and some schools. New York's Catholic Conference, which is led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, argues that opening a one-year lookback window could "bankrupt" the church with lawsuits, and they have spent more than $2 million lobbying against the bill, according to the New York Daily News.

If the bill were to pass, it'd have a massive affect on the children of New York. Some New York-based organizations estimate 43,000 New York children will be sexually abused in 2017 alone.

"That's a crisis, it's sad, it's horrendous," DuBose said. "I can tell you from my own personal experience, what happens to you when you are sexually abused is that it transfers into every area of your life: emotionally, mentally, financially, obviously physically… it inhibits from you from having a normal, healthy life."

DuBose stressed that the bill wouldn't just help the kids of today and tomorrow, but it'd set more New York children up for success down the road. Sexual abuse survivors are more prone to drug use, criminal behavior and financial trouble. Giving people a way to seek justice for the crimes against them could be a major step in helping survivors put their life back together after trauma.

"It's common sense, and sometimes in the legislature it seems that the most common sense bills are the ones that don't get passed," DuBose said. "It takes fighting tooth and nail to get them passed, so I want to get them changed and I will fight until the death to get them changed."



County eclipses former child neglect high

by James Sprague

Child neglect within Fayette County is a prevailing issue, and if 2016 numbers alone tell the story, it's an issue which is becoming worse.

After previously setting a record-high in 2015 for its number of child neglect cases, Fayette County eclipsed that high in 2016 and set a new high, according to year-end figures released in January by the Indiana Department of Child Services.

Fayette County finished 2016 with a total of 160 cases of substantiated child neglect in 2016, nine cases higher than the county's previous high of 151 cases, which came in 2015.

For the month of December, the county had 10 substantiated cases of child neglect, the third-highest figure – behind Henry and Wayne counties – for the month in the six-county DCS Region 12.

Child neglect, as defined by the state of Indiana, is when a “child's physical or mental condition is seriously impaired or seriously endangered as a result of the parent, guardian, or custodian being unable, refusing, or neglecting to supply the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, or supervision.”

As stated previously by Beth A. Butsch, former judge of the Fayette Superior Court, last year at a swearing-in ceremony for new Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers, the county's child neglect situation has been due to its ongoing drug abuse situation – and after an inspiring start to 2016, in which the county saw single-digit cases in both January and February, that situation only became worse as the year went on.

The county also had one substantiated case of child sexual abuse for December 2016, bringing the county's overall total in that category for the entire year to eight such cases.

Overall, the state of Indiana had 227 substantiated cases of child sexual abuse in December 2016 – up from 191 in November 2016 – along with 165 substantiated cases of child physical abuse, up slightly from November's 148 cases, and 2,165 substantiated cases of child neglect, also up from November's 2,031 such cases.

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call Indiana's Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-800-5556. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You can report abuse and neglect anonymously.

Substantiated child neglect cases, area counties, Dec. 2016

Wayne County: 17:

Henry County: 15

Fayette County: 10

Rush County: 8

Union County: 8

Franklin County: 3



Idaho judge says rape is 'a direct consequence of the social media system'

After issuing an unusual probation sentence for a man who raped a 14-year-old girl, Judge Randy J Stoker delivered a sermon on modern-day morality

by Maria L La Ganga

An Idaho judge who said a man who raped a 14-year-old girl could be released on probation if he agreed not to have sex outside of wedlock also linked the case to a breakdown of morality in the social media age, adding: “If I had my way, I would eliminate the internet.”

The unusual requirement that a convict remain celibate as a condition of probation received widespread attention this week, after segments of Judge Randy J Stoker's ruling were made public.

“I will tell you, sir, that if you are ever placed on probation to this court, a condition of that probation will be you will not have sexual relations with anyone other than who you are married to, if you're married, period,” the Twin Falls district judge said.

However, additional details of the judge's ruling, contained in a transcript of the hearing obtained by the Guardian, reveal how Stoker delivered what amounts to a sermon on modern-day morality in which he connected the 14-year-old victim's rape to “the social media system”.

The extra-marital celibacy requirement is highly unusual but has some statutory basis in conservative Idaho, where premarital sex is still, technically, a crime, although the statute banning “fornication” is rarely if ever enforced.

Twin Falls prosecuting attorney Grant P Loebs said the sex offender's compliance with the no-sex rule would be tested via polygraph. “The probation officer whose job it is to make sure you're not a threat to the community will ask you ... have you been doing this or this or this?” he said. “That's the way those conditions are checked. Not by spying on someone.”

Stoker said in court that he could have sentenced Cody D Herrera to life in prison for raping the 14-year-old girl in 2015. Instead, he sent the 20-year-old to a treatment program run by the Idaho prison system. If Herrera completes the program within a year, he will be placed on probation.

But if he violates the conditions of his probation, Stoker said, he will be sentenced to as much as 15 years in prison.

In handing down his striking judgement last month, Stoker imposed the additional condition of celibacy outside of marriage, and also railed against what he suggested was today's hook-up culture. He questioned Herrera's level of remorse and noted the young man's proclivities – a taste for pornography, an astounding number of partners, and fantasies of sex with a 13-year-old girl.

Modern-day technology, he added, was at fault.

“I have seen dozens, if not hundreds of sex cases since I've been on this bench,” the jurist said. “Our society has come to a point of, I don't even know how to explain it, you know? I am 66 years of age. When I was 19 years of age, the sexual proclivities of young people wasn't anything, anything like I see today.

“I think it is a direct consequence of the social media system that we have in this country,” Stoker continued. “I can't tell you how many times I have seen these cases, ‘How did this happen?' ‘Well, I met somebody on social media'.”

Stoker conceded that Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and other sites might not be the direct cause of all the sexual assault cases he has presided over in the deeply conservative Gem State. But he said “the vast majority” of such cases originate online.

“I can't change that,” he said. “If I had my way, I would eliminate the internet, and we'd all have better lives. But I can't do that either. It also says something about, I guess, the level of morality in this country. I can't change morality. People are going to do what they're going to do.”

According to court documents, Herrera and the victim met in 2014. He was 17 at the time. The girl told him she was 16. They hung out with friends, went to the mall, and communicated via Facebook. But when her mother found out about the relationship, she tried to put a stop to it.

The mother called Herrera and Herrera's mother. She explained that her child was only 14, too young to have a boyfriend. But Herrera and the girl continued their online relationship.

On 2 March, 2015, Herrera snuck into the girl's bedroom, ostensibly to watch a movie with her. He began to fondle the girl. She asked him to stop. He then raped her without wearing a condom.

Not long after, according to the affidavit of Twin Falls police Detective Benjamin Mittelstadt, Herrera heard a rumor that the girl was pregnant. He called her mother to find out, in a conversation that was later downloaded from the woman's phone.

“During this conversation Mr Herrera admitted to knowing that [the girl] was underage,” Mittelstadt said, “and stated he did not want to be stuck behind bars being raped and stabbed for what had happened.”

The girl's mother told Stoker in the Twin Falls courtroom that her family fell prey to a manipulative “predator”. Herrera did not just rape her daughter, the woman said, but he also harassed and threatened the young girl and her friends and relatives.

“It was his intent from the beginning to take what he wanted from my 14-year-old child – her virginity – and he stayed around until he got it from her,” she told Stoker. “Cody will never understand what he has done to our family. Cody robbed her of her innocence. He destroyed the child left in her. This can never be returned.”

Dan Brown, Herrera's defense attorney, told Stoker that his client “comes before this court young and somewhat naive in many respects.” His fondness for pornography might be “unsavory”, Brown said, but “it certainly hasn't hurt anyone.”

Herrera pleaded guilty to one felony count of rape. By his own admission, the judge said, Herrera had “34 sexual encounters with separate individuals” while still in his teens and his attitude was, “well, I'm going to use young children for sexual gratification”.

“I have never, never seen that level of sexual activity between a 19-year-old, in this court system, and I've been doing this for 15, 16 years,” Stoker said. “My view of life is that what you do in the past is a good indication of what you're going to do in the future.”



Finding a middle ground, sexual education in public schools

by Alison Boysen

Trigger warning: This content uses language that may trigger sexual assault survivors.

Sexual assault is a complex and horrible issue. It is personal, it is heartbreaking and it is different in every case. But if we ever want to put an end to sexual assault, we have to stop letting its complexity get in our way.

“I am there with you” is the story of an Iowa State Daily reporter's experience in dealing with her assault. Every sexual assault survivor will have varying experiences coping with their situation and the decisions they make in whether to report or seek help, all of which are valid. “I am there with you” is the story of one individual's experience, but we hope it will raise awareness about an issue that affects this entire community.

This is the first story in a semester-long series where the Daily will publish a multitude of stories related to sexual assault, including discussions about various resources survivors can obtain if they are comfortable doing so.

— Emily Barske, editor in chief

'Having the talk' is an age-old euphemism for learning about sexual health typically from their parents or teachers.

Despite the occasional awkwardness, some educators such as Amy Popilion, senior lecturer in human development and family studies, believes that there should be lots of talks, not just 'a talk' in isolation.

Sexual education has a history of being very controversial, a fight between comprehensive sex education (CSE) and sexual risk avoidance (SRA)-based education.

Today, this battle ensues, the question being which one is more beneficial to teach teens about sex and how to be safe while participating in sexual encounters.

Planned Parenthood is an organization that teaches a comprehensive curriculum to schools, colleges and adults. Ascend is an organization that promotes abstinence as a way to stay sexually healthy.

“Our education is comprehensive, age appropriate, medically accurate, so depending on what the request is, we spend a lot of time talking to the teachers … to get an idea of what students are wanting to learn,” said Beth Mensing, comprehensive sexual health educator at Planned Parenthood.

Iowa's standards for sexual education are not specific on how these topics should be taught.

According to Iowa's educational standards, “[…] age-appropriate and research-based human growth and development; substance abuse and nonuse; emotional and social health; health resources; and prevention and control of disease, including age-appropriate and research-based information regarding sexually transmitted diseases, including HPV and the availability of a vaccine to prevent HPV and acquired immune deficiency syndrome.”

In fact, these standards do not include anything about sexual violence.

“There's not a one curriculum that everyone is supposed to use," Mensing said. "There are minimum guidelines under human growth and development. They're very minimal, they're very vague."

The National Sexuality Education Standards are guidelines that cover the minimum, not everything that should be taught but what they believe are essential to teach children.

The standards are driven by a comprehensive-based curriculum that would be inclusive to all sexualities, based on proven evidence, and promote positivity in learning about one's body.

Main differences between comprehensive and abstinence-based education

Comprehensive education “help[s] teens make responsible decisions to keep them safe and healthy,” according to Sexuality Information and Education for the United States. This curriculum teaches about all sexualities and different types of sex, and uses inclusive language.

Special Review Assessment, also known as SRA education, focuses on decreasing sexual activity or delaying it in teens, even those who have began having sex. SRA also touches on the topic of dating violence and other violences that can be committed against a teen. SRA's goals are the same for homosexual and heterosexual teens.

Ways to improve sex education

Mensing believes sexual education can be approved upon in schools.

“I think there should be something available every year, K-12, that's addressing healthy relationships, consent, decision-making, how their bodies work,” she said.

As an important part of their childrens' lives, parents also become teachers and role models. Parents who are able to have these conversations with their children are enabling their child to talk to a trusted adult, not a stranger.

“I've found that parents can sometimes be the pushback, because they feel really uncomfortable with talking about it and they will deny their students permission to be in the class […] or express discontent after the class has happened,” Mensing said.

One reason why parents do not have these conversations with their children is because they feel uneasy with the topic, or not confident in giving the right information. Some parents even prevent students from receiving sexual educations from schools if they do not agree with what is being taught.

Having support from parents is an important aspect when teaching youth, and there are even programs that train parents to be able to educate their children. Putting all the responsibility on sexual health educators can be destructive if a school only provides one lesson on sexual health. Parents can find resources on the internet, in a library, schools or other places.

“I did a parenting fair once, and so I created a list of books for different age groups and topics,” Elizabeth Wolfe, Planned Parenthood educator, said.

Educators of comprehensive curriculum believe that there are many ways to help the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community. By using inclusive language, recognizing their different struggles, overcoming stereotypes and gearing resources toward men and women — opposed to usually women — they hope that more people of this community will come forward with their assaults and report them.

Eyes Open Iowa is a sexual education source that is available on the internet for free that anybody can use — parents, teachers and more. This is a resource for schools that may not have outside resources come in and teach their students about sexual health.

Sexual assault education

Teaching about sexual assault is also an important part to discuss when going over sexual education. Some survivors may not know that they have been assaulted if they don't know the many different ways a person can be assaulted.

“I've definitely seen… where people don't realize what happened to them with assault," Wolfe said. "I think when you can start talking about that at a younger age, then as you get older, you get a better idea. Young people get so many mixed messages from movies and TV and everything what makes a healthy relationship."

Popillion believes there are dangers to not informing students on all aspects of sexual education. She also believes students should be able to understand pleasure and satisfaction, and should have good communication with a partner to be informed.

“It's embedded in history how we talk about sexuality," Popillion said. "We use a lot of euphemisms like ‘having the talk.' You should be having lots of talks."

Helping to educate about the reality of sexual assaults, building empathy and being mindful are all things that can bring down the stigma that hovers over sexual assault and its survivors.

Educators of sexual health and relationships can help begin the discussion of how to deal with sexual assault. By teaching students what sexual assault really is, there is a possibility that it could prevent assaults.

“To be able to discern my job is to educate a wide diversity of perspectives,” Popillion said.


South Carolina

Combating drug-facilitated rape in Charleston

Beyond the Blackout

by Dustin Waters

It was an ordinary Wednesday night until it wasn't for Claudia Davis. The 25-year-old was tending bar downtown. Everything seemed fine, but as midnight approached, it became clear that Davis wasn't quite herself. She'd had a couple of shots, nothing that should have left her unable to stand or even recall her own name. Now she's left with a hole in her memory from that night and the knowledge that she was drugged against her will.

"I was functioning for a while and then I just shut down," says Davis, who was able to make it home safe that evening thanks to her coworkers and boyfriend.

Needing to be carried into her home, Davis was violently ill the following morning. She was able to piece together what had happened from what others told her, but it would be two more days before Davis no longer felt disoriented. She ultimately found answers at an urgent care facility on James Island.

"When I told the doctor everything, they said I definitely wasn't just drunk," she says. "They told me I was the fifth girl just that week to come into that location who had been drugged while downtown."

Hoping that maybe she could stop anyone else from experiencing what she had gone through, Davis wrote about what had happened on Facebook. To her surprise, she was met with a slew of responses from others in the area who said they had also been drugged in the past. Now she recommends that anyone who suspects that they've been drugged against their will to seek medical attention as soon as possible — even if only to secure some small peace of mind.

"I had no idea it was such an issue until I said something about it. Then all these people started commenting that it had happened to them. Not all of them were recent, but a few of them were. Questioning whether you've been drugged or not, it's very scary because you think 'Was I just somehow that drunk or was someone actually trying to attack me?'" says Davis. "Honestly, it's such a different feeling than being hungover or drunk. A lot of girls or really anybody is always afraid to come forward when they think they've been roofied because they think someone is just going to say, 'Oh, you were just super drunk.' I've had several people say to me, 'Are you sure you weren't just drunk?' I know my body well enough and I know myself well enough."

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to make it through such an experience without falling prey to sexual assault. According to Janie Lauve, executive director of People Against Rape, there were more than 300 known cases of sexual assault in the tricounty area in 2016. Of those, 74 were reported to be drug-related — most involving alcohol. But while most people associate sexual assault with Rohypnol, a brand name for flunitrazepam commonly referred to as "roofies," or GHB, these drugs are not commonly linked to actual attacks.

Over recent years, SLED records show more than 2,000 reported cases of rape throughout the state annually. Of the 744 known cases of sexual assault that took place in South Carolina in 2014 involving substance abuse, 53 were linked to Rohypnol, according to Lauve. Instead, those who commit sexual assault are more likely to use drugs that are more easily accessible, like Xanax, Clonopin, and Ambien. Still, the drug most commonly used is alcohol. Whether criminals are found to ply their victims with drinks or target individuals who are already in a vulnerable state, it's important for anyone who feels they've been sexually assaulted to know that they are not to blame.

"The problem with drug-facilitated rape is that victims become very self-blaming. They think 'I shouldn't have been drinking.' It also becomes very victim-blaming. They are very hesitant about speaking out or coming forward about it because they're not very sure what happened. They're scared no one will believe them. They're scared everyone will blame them," says Lauve, whose organization assists victims of sexual assault. "It's very difficult for them to come forward. In our work, we really try to make people know that we believe you. It's not your fault. No matter how much you were drinking, that doesn't give someone the right to rape you."

As director of MUSC's Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program, Kathy Gill-Hopple and her staff regularly work with victims of sexual assault seeking medical attention, but their duties go beyond simple evaluations. Each member of Gill-Hopple's team is specially trained to collect evidence, conduct interviews with victims, and carry out any tests that may be necessary to ensure the well-being of patients.

Gill-Hopple says the program takes a "victim-centered" approach that allows the person seeking care to decide how they would like to carry out an examination. The program also maintains a "trauma-informed perspective," meaning that past traumatic events can often affect how a patient processes what has happened to them.

"Many people have experienced adverse events in their life — as a child, as an adult. That alters the way that they may process another difficult event. We have to realize that when a person experiences a blackout or they think that they may have been sexually assaulted, there is a whole cascade of things that happen in the body that none of us control," says Gill-Hopple. "The neurochemical releases that happen in the brain affect the way a person reacts, what they can remember, what they are feeling, and how that history of an assault may come out. What that means is that we are aware that the history of an assault doesn't necessarily come A through Z in a nice, orderly fashion."

Survivors of sexual assault who seek help at MUSC are paired with advocates from People Against Rape, who offer emotional support, as well as assist them with navigating the legal process associated with the crime. In addition to providing this one-on-one care, the group is also preparing to launch a major outreach initiative for local restaurants and bars, providing employees at these establishments with training to help them identify when someone may be in danger of being victimized. Meanwhile, Gill-Hopple and the nurses in the SANE program will continue caring for those who have experienced a sexual assault and working to dispel many of the myths associated with rape.

"Many members of the community think that rape doesn't happen all that often and it only occurs when somebody jumps out of the bushes at you and takes you by surprise. That is certainly not the case. That is by far the smallest number of patients we see," says Gill-Hopple. "It's much more common for a person to be sexually assaulted by someone that he or she knows, has some sort of acquaintance with, and feels comfortable around. That's part of what makes this whole issue of drug-facilitated or alcohol-facilitated sexual assault an important issue. Because drugs and alcohol take away those natural inhibitions that we all have ... When those normal feelings are blunted with drugs and alcohol, a person becomes much more vulnerable, and there are people who prey on others by setting them up to be in that kind of a situation."


8 Ways You Can Stop Child Abuse Today!

by Dr John DeGarmo

This post is hosted on the Huffington Post's Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and post freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

What are you doing to stop child abuse against children?

An epidemic is sweeping an ugly tide across the United States; domestic violence and child abuse against our children.

Howl large is the problem? Studies show that up to five million children in the United States experience and/or witness domestic violence each year. Whether it's watching an act of physical or sexual abuse, listening to threats or sounds of violence, or viewing the evidence of such abuse in a victim in the signs of bleeding, bruises, torn clothing, or broken items, the effects are damaging to a child, in a variety of ways. Children in our nation are suffering from an epidemic of child abuse from those who proclaim to love them the most. Indeed, witnessing domestic abuse can also be traumatic for a child.

You may say it doesn't happen where you live. You may believe that you do not know of any children who are victims of this type of violence and abuse. Make no mistake, domestic violence against children is happening all around you. Children in the very city you live in are victims of this horrific crime. Furthermore, the abusers and perpetrators may be your colleagues at work, members of your church, your neighbors, and even those who come to your annual family reunion. Children around you are falling victim to domestic violence and abuse. It is up to you to help bring an end to it. Here are 8 ways we can all help to stop domestic violence against children.

1. Recognize the Signs

The first step in helping to prevent domestic violence is to recognize the signs. To be sure, it may be difficult to recognize when a child is being abused, as the signs are not always visible to the eye. Indeed, domestic violence is not always physical. Other forms of domestic abuse include verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and economic abuse. Along with this, it is likely that the children suffering will not speak up on their behalf, as so many children suffer in silence.

2. Provide Resources

Whether it is providing support classes for parents, teaching them child care and parenting strategies, or helping with economic support and stability during times of difficulty, struggling parents and families need help and support. Violence against children can be reduced when parents and families are equipped with strategies, support, and skills when caring for children.

3. Support Children

Often times, children are great imitators. They frequently model what they learn and experience from the adults in their lives. Time and time again, a child's greatest role model is often the parent. For those children who have watched a parent inflict violence and abuse upon another, these children are more apt to repeat this later on in their adult life with their spouses or partners. Drugs and alcohol abuse later in their lives is also likely path. In order to break this future cycle of abuse, we need to offer therapy, counseling, support, and services to these children.

4. Raise Awareness

Knowledge is power, and awareness brings advocacy. Educate those around you about the realities of domestic abuse and violence. Whether it is where you work, where you exercise, where you practice your faith, or where your own circle of friends and family are, inform and educate them about this issue. When those around you become aware of the realities of domestic violence among children, they become advocates, as well.

What are you doing to stop child abuse against children?

An epidemic is sweeping an ugly tide across the United States; domestic violence and child abuse against our children.

Howl large is the problem? Studies show that up to five million children in the United States experience and/or witness domestic violence each year. Whether it's watching an act of physical or sexual abuse, listening to threats or sounds of violence, or viewing the evidence of such abuse in a victim in the signs of bleeding, bruises, torn clothing, or broken items, the effects are damaging to a child, in a variety of ways. Children in our nation are suffering from an epidemic of child abuse from those who proclaim to love them the most. Indeed, witnessing domestic abuse can also be traumatic for a child.

You may say it doesn't happen where you live. You may believe that you do not know of any children who are victims of this type of violence and abuse. Make no mistake, domestic violence against children is happening all around you. Children in the very city you live in are victims of this horrific crime. Furthermore, the abusers and perpetrators may be your colleagues at work, members of your church, your neighbors, and even those who come to your annual family reunion. Children around you are falling victim to domestic violence and abuse. It is up to you to help bring an end to it. Here are 8 ways we can all help to stop domestic violence against children.

1. Recognize the Signs

The first step in helping to prevent domestic violence is to recognize the signs. To be sure, it may be difficult to recognize when a child is being abused, as the signs are not always visible to the eye. Indeed, domestic violence is not always physical. Other forms of domestic abuse include verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and economic abuse. Along with this, it is likely that the children suffering will not speak up on their behalf, as so many children suffer in silence.

2. Provide Resources

Whether it is providing support classes for parents, teaching them child care and parenting strategies, or helping with economic support and stability during times of difficulty, struggling parents and families need help and support. Violence against children can be reduced when parents and families are equipped with strategies, support, and skills when caring for children.

3. Support Children

Often times, children are great imitators. They frequently model what they learn and experience from the adults in their lives. Time and time again, a child's greatest role model is often the parent. For those children who have watched a parent inflict violence and abuse upon another, these children are more apt to repeat this later on in their adult life with their spouses or partners. Drugs and alcohol abuse later in their lives is also likely path. In order to break this future cycle of abuse, we need to offer therapy, counseling, support, and services to these children.

4. Raise Awareness

Knowledge is power, and awareness brings advocacy. Educate those around you about the realities of domestic abuse and violence. Whether it is where you work, where you exercise, where you practice your faith, or where your own circle of friends and family are, inform and educate them about this issue. When those around you become aware of the realities of domestic violence among children, they become advocates, as well.

5. Organize your Community

Faith based organizations, civic groups, schools, community leaders, and local and state legislatures can all come together to both fight child abuse. Contact these organizations and individuals and organize meetings with them, as well as with your local law enforcement. Create a child abuse prevention team in your area, and in your city.

6. Be an Advocate

Perhaps the biggest impact one can make in preventing child abuse and domestic violence is to become an advocate of change. By contacting lawmakers, politicians, and publicity agents through means of emails, letters, phone calls, and other means of communication, one can bring attention to the needs of these children who are various forms of abuse. Along with this, these advocates of change can also post information in editorial letters, websites, public forums, and so forth. By lobbying for change, new laws can be introduced, and information can be brought forward to the general public.

7. Document

If you suspect child abuse or domestic violence is happening to a child you know, document what you see. Time, date, location, and information is important, if you should have to file a report of some kind. Documentation should be done in a factual and non biased fashion, and not in an emotional manner. Just the facts, so to speak. Your documentation can go a long way in helping to protect a child.

8. Report

If you know of an incident of child abuse or domestic violence, it needs to be reported, and it needs to be reported by you now. Not tomorrow; not next week. If a child is in danger, he needs to be rescued from it today. Call the police, call local law enforcement, call 911, or call The National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Do not try to intervene or become involved in the situation, as it could lead to additional danger.

Dr. John DeGarmo is a leading expert in parenting and foster care. Dr. John has been a foster parent for 14 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 50 children come through their home. He is a consultant to legal firms and foster care agencies, as well as a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system. He is the author of several foster care books, including The Foster Parenting Manual, and writes for several publications.

He can be contacted at
drjohndegarmo@gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at The Foster Care Institute.



Advocates urge Texas to prevent child abuse by expanding ‘home visitor' programs

by Robert T. Garrett

AUSTIN — Texas needs to ramp up spending on proven child-abuse prevention programs, child advocates and several lawmakers said Tuesday.

Sending "home visitors" such as nurses, teachers and social workers to work with disadvantaged pregnant women and high-risk young families can avert huge state costs, several speakers said at a "Home Visiting and Child Protection Day" rally at the Capitol.

The programs improve future graduation rates and avoid social ills such as incarceration, they said.

But the state is spending only about $70 million, including federal funds, on Home Visiting and Nurse-Family Partnership programs in the current two-year cycle, said Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio.

"That's only a 2 percent investment," he said, referring to the Department of Family and Preventive Services' overall budget of $3.2 billion. "It's time that prevention takes a front seat in child protection."

Madeline McClure of Dallas, founder and chief executive of TexProtects, the Texas Association for the Protection of Children, has protested how the initial budgets under consideration in the House and Senate treat the home visitor programs.

The documents, starting points framed by Republican leaders, appear to almost eliminate state funding and rely almost entirely on federal money, she has said.

"We need to ask for $35 million more" in general-purpose state revenue, she told an audience that included scores of foster care providers and other advocates.

"We can't just look at CPS and work in a tunnel vision [primarily on] the workforce turnover or just the foster care system," McClure said. "Our focus has got to be on scaling up evidence-based programs that we know work."

For years, McClure has clamored for the department to cull its minuscule spending on prevention and intervention programs. Texas has to target limited dollars on programs that do more than just provide after-school recreation, she has said.

Rep. Cindy Burkett, a Sunnyvale Republican who is one of the House's leading child-welfare policy writers, has filed a wide-ranging bill on child-abuse death investigations, CPS workers' caseloads and the foster care bed shortage.

She said at the rally that "probably the most important" provision in her measure is one that asks the department and the Higher Education Coordinating Board to conduct research on prevention programs whose effectiveness hasn't been evaluated.

Burkett's bill also would require home visits to be part of CPS's existing family preservation and reunification programs. It would create a prevention advisory board at the department that would promote "expansion of evidence-based and promising practice programs."

Burkett is part of a bipartisan, 12-member House work group on CPS existing family preservation and reunification programs. It would create a prevention advisory board at the department that would promote "expansion of evidence-based and promising practice programs."

Burkett is part of a bipartisan, 12-member House work group on CPS that has been huddling for several months. This session, its members are expected to propose as many as two dozen separate measures on child welfare.



Citizens reporting more cases of child abuse and neglect

by The Littleton Independent

Staff report

The number of calls from community members to the Colorado Child Abuse & Neglect hotline grew last year by 24 percent over 2015, an increase that hotline officials say reflects a growing understanding that everyone has a role in protecting children.

Although calls overall remained about the same, the number of calls received from family, friends and neighbors, as opposed to mandatory reporters, accounted for 40 percent of all calls. The rest came from mandatory reporters, who are professionals such as educators who are required by Colorado law to report suspected child abuse and neglect.

“The growth in the number of calls from non-mandatory reporters … reflects a welcomed shift in the public's perception of our shared responsibility to help protect kids,” said Robert Werthwein, director of the Office of Children, Youth and Families for Colorado Department of Human Services. “We are pleased to see that our communities are increasingly aware that we all play a role in preventing child abuse and neglect.”

A balanced ratio of calls between the public and mandatory reporters was one of the department's goals for the hotline when it launched in January 2015.

People also can report concerns of child sex trafficking to the hotline this year.

House Bill 16-1224 expanded Colorado's statutory definition of child abuse or neglect to include any case in which a child is subjected to human trafficking for sexual servitude. Victims will now have better access to services for treatment and recovery, and law enforcement will have greater latitude in responding to reports of child abuse or neglect within a family or involving third parties and as part of a criminal investigation.

Breakdown of calls by county in 2016

Adams County

Adams County received 14,754 calls from concerned citizens, down from 18,182 calls in 2015. Mandatory reporters made up 74 percent of all calls. The 24 percent from non-mandatory reporters was down from 29 percent in 2015. Eighty-one percent were child welfare-related calls; 19 percent were non-child welfare-related calls.

Arapahoe County

Arapahoe County received 24,241 calls from concerned citizens, up slightly from 23,097 calls in 2015. Mandatory reporters made up 62 percent of all calls. The 35 percent from non-mandatory reporters rose from 20 percent in 2015. Sixty-eight percent were child welfare-related calls; 32 percent were non-child welfare-related calls.

Denver County

Denver County received 22,259 calls from concerned citizens, down slightly from 23,830 calls in 2015. Mandatory reporters made up 56 percent of all calls. The 40 percent from non-mandatory reporters grew from 17 percent in 2015. Sixty-nine percent were child welfare-related calls; 31 percent were non-child welfare-related calls.

Douglas County

Douglas County received 5,911 calls from concerned citizens, down slightly from 6,753 calls in 2015. Mandatory reporters made up 55 percent of all calls. The 37 percent from non-mandatory reporters rose by 25 percent in 2015. Sixty-six percent were child welfare-related calls; 34 percent were non-child welfare-related.

Jefferson County

Jefferson County received 19,863 calls from concerned citizens, down from 22,546 calls in 2015. Mandatory reporters made up 58 percent of all calls. The 37 percent from non-mandatory reporters grew from 16 percent in 2015. Sixty-eight percent were child welfare-related calls; 32 percent were non-child welfare-related calls.

How to report

The Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline - 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437) —serves Colorado's 64 counties and two tribal nations. The hotline operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.,242474


Hackers take down dark web host linked with child abuse images

by John E Dunn

Someone using the Anonymous tag has torn a gaping hole in a major Tor dark web host accused of being a home for thousands of child abuse websites.

At the weekend, visitors to websites hosted by the Freedom Hosting II service were reportedly greeted by a blunt defacement: “Hello, Freedom Hosting II, you have been hacked. We are disappointed,” it began before getting to the point: “We have a zero tolerance policy to child pornography – but what we found while searching through your server is more than 50% child porn…”

The attackers claimed to have compromised 75GB of data from 10,613 sites that were being hosted by Freedom Hosting II, plus a further 2.2GB MySQL database of user data. They initially asked for a token 0.1 Bitcoins ($105) in ransom, before leaking the data anyway, complete with a 21-point explanation of how they executed the attack

Within hours, researchers were trying to work out whether any of the data revealed the identities of site owners or users.

According to tweeted comments by Troy Hunt of Have I Been Pwned?, the cache contained 381,000 email addresses, many apparently genuine. Some 21% were already in the site's pwned database, which means they were leaked in previous breaches: “Law enforcement will absolutely have this data, it's *very* public. It also obviously has many real email addresses in it.”

As for the content of the sites, researcher Chris Monteiro summarises it as lots of child abuse in English and Russian, plus fraud sites, “fetish sites which might not even be illegal” and some botnets. Monteiro provides instructions on the resources you'll need if you want to examine the data yourself, but please remember: this data might contain images of child sex abuse. Leave the examination of that data to law enforcement.

How important is Freedom Hosting II? Last October, researcher Sarah Jamie Lewis used OnionScan (a tool used to probe the dark web's structure) to estimate that the service was being used by between 15% and 20% of dark web sites routed through Tor.

Even so, takedowns of this size are not unprecedented. In 2013, the alleged operator of the site's forerunner, Freedom Hosting I, was arrested in Ireland after a major FBI operation that included hacking its servers to plant malware designed to unmask users' PCs.

That incarnation was believed to account for a great deal of the child abuse images hosted on the dark web and yet new services quickly sprang up to fill the gap. Depressingly, the same will probably happen now that its successor has disappeared.

The latest compromise at least reminds the world that the dark web is not a supernatural zone beyond mortal ken. It remains an incredibly small place by internet standards and the services that run there – both unpleasant and well-intentioned – can be put at risk by the lack of diversity of hosting options on the dark web. Increasingly, when that happens, police, intelligence services and Internet vigilantes are quickly on hand to pour through the walls.



Abuse victims' souls 'murdered': expert

The pastoral care of child sex abuse victims is a massive hole in the Catholic Church's approach, a royal commission has heard.

by the AAP

The Catholic Church does not understand the "murdered souls" and profound spiritual damage done to children sexually abused by priests and religious, a US priest and expert says.

Dominican priest Dr Thomas Doyle, who has worked with thousands of abuse survivors, says the pastoral care of victims is a massive hole in the church's approach.

Dr Doyle says because of the church's teachings on human sexuality, many clerics and church leaders are unable to comprehend the damage that child sexual abuse or the rape of an adult does to an individual.

"They don't comprehend what has happened to those victims," Dr Doyle told the child abuse royal commission on Tuesday.

"That's never going to go away.

"That's soul murder and sometimes those murdered souls stay dead."

Dr Doyle said his three decades working with survivors has revealed the profound spiritual damage done to victims from devout Catholic families.

"One of the massive holes in the Roman Catholic Church's approach to this issue still today is a failure to completely comprehend the depth of the spiritual damage that is done to the victims, to their families, especially their parents, their friends and to the community itself," he said.

"I've never seen anything coming out of the Holy See dealing with the spiritual damage.

"All I've seen is 'get them to go back to church', which is nuts, that's crazy."

The church has to take care of the victims, said Dr Doyle, who was sacked from his position in the Vatican embassy in Washington in 1986 after he "stood up to the system".

"The issue today for the church is the pastoral care and the support and the love of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who they have violated spiritually and physically over the years," he said.

"It's not enough to say give them money to go to psychologists."



Lawmakers to weigh revamp of sex education, abuse prevention

by Michelle L. Price

SALT LAKE CITY -- After a four-hour hearing in a packed committee room Monday evening, Utah lawmakers voted down bills about sex abuse prevention education and sex education.

Sexual abuse survivors, parents, teachers, doctors and dozens of others members of the public packed into the hearing room at the state Capitol to speak to both bills, with a number of commenters speaking in favor of one and opposed to another.

One proposal before the House education committee would parents to enroll their children in a more comprehensive sex education than Utah's current abstinence-based instruction, which is an opt-in program.

That bill, from Democratic Rep. Brian King of Salt Lake City, would have allowed parents to sign their kids up for more detailed information about contraception, including emergency contraception, sexual consent, and how drugs and alcohol can impair decisions making, among other areas.

King said parents could also get the information if they wanted to teach it themselves, but this offered them an option if they didn't have time, were too embarrassed or didn't know how to approach it.

"A lot of parents aren't going to do it, for one reason or another," King said.

Current Utah law requires teachers to focus on abstinence, but districts are allowed to offer instruction about contraception and preventing STDs. Four school districts — Canyons, Jordan, Nebo and Provo — are abstinence only, while all others are abstinence-based. All sex education programs first require a parent to consent for their child to receive the instruction.

King said the changes were needed to help combat rising sexually transmitted disease rates, sex abuse and misinformation about consent and curiosity among young people who may turn to pornography or other places to find information.

During two hours of testimony, the Utah Medical Association spoke in favor of his bill, as did several doctors, sexual abuse survivors, parents and students said the instruction was needed. Opponents said they worried the education would teach children to have sex and that it was acceptable to have multiple sexual partners, among other concerns.

Lawmakers on the committee voted 2-12 against the bill, with the only two Democrats on the panel voting in support. Several Republican legislators said they weren't ready for such a change but may be in the future.

The same panel also opted not to advance a Republican bill that would have changed public schools' sex abuse prevention education so that parents would have to give permission before their child gets the training. The program was just adopted as part of curriculum this school year, but parents can pull their kids out if they don't want them to participate.

Backers said the proposal, from Republican Rep. Keven Stratton of Orem, would have let parents be more involved in that instruction.

Legislators said they worried that changing it so a parent would have to take action in order for a child to learn about inappropriate adult behavior or potential abuse might not help children who are sexually abused by a parent and don't recognize that the behavior is wrong or know how to get help.

Stratton suggested those students might be able to talk about it with other children, saying that "at some point that child is most likely going to divulge and discuss the problem with their peers," adding, "You're creating an educated support group for those that are at risk.

Several lawmakers of both parties said they worried the change would leave no safety net for those children, and the committee decided not take any action on the bill.



Australians urged to stand up to Vatican as US priest slams church's response to abuse

by AAP

Australian Catholics should stand up to Rome over its response to child sexual abuse and demand a fair go for victims, a royal commission has heard.

A psychiatrist who worked for the St John of God Brothers before leaving over concerns about systemic abuse and corruption, delivered a scathing assessment of the church's response to child sex offences during evidence on Tuesday.

Michelle Mulvihill told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse priests were currently almost "unsackable" and that all pastoral care workers should be registered.

"It's time for us, as Australians, to stand up to Rome and say 'We are not little Rome, we are not little Italy'," Dr Mulvihill said in Sydney.

"We are Australians and in Australia we believe in a fair go."

Data released by the commission on Monday revealed 40 per cent of St John of God Brothers from 1950 to 2010 were accused pedophiles.

The data also revealed 4444 people made complaints to Australian Catholic authorities between 1980 and February 2015.

American Dominican priest Father Thomas Doyle, who was sacked from his Vatican embassy role after showing an interest in sexual abuse cases in the 1980s, said he still remembers the "empty" face of the first victim he met.

He said Church leaders misunderstood human sexuality and had not historically realised an abuse victim's life would never be the same again.

"That's soul murder. Sometimes those murdered souls stay dead," Dr Doyle said.

The author of a graphic 1985 report about alleged abuse, which was read by Pope John Paul II, was applauded on Tuesday when giving evidence in Sydney.

Dr Doyle was scathing of the church's responses to abuse, saying a culture of clericalism which viewed male Church leaders as "sacred", was a "virus" that had infected the establishment.

Church leaders misunderstood human sexuality and had not historically realised a victim's life would never be the same again, he said.

Royal commission data released on Monday revealed 4444 alleged child sex victims had made complaints to 93 Australian Catholic authorities between 1980 and 2015.

Dr Doyle, who consulted for victims on the Pope Francis-established Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said a lack of pastoral care for victims was one of the "biggest holes" in the response.

He said one woman on the commission thought her job was to make the Vatican "look good" and didn't speak to some victims.

"There's something wrong with that picture," he said.

"The primary importance, the primary concern, has to be the victims of sexual abuse or any other kind of abuse that happens at the hands of clergy."

Professor Francis Moloney from the Catholic Theological College said the "death-dealing wheel" of the Catholic Church was slowly turning but seminary teachings had gone backwards in the direction of tradition.

Australian Catholic University Professor Neil Ormerod said people who were working on human sexuality and "getting people to develop as mature adult Christians" were replaced at a Sydney college around the time George Pell became Archbishop in 2001.

Dr Moloney said the old tradition remained "well and truly in force".

"So much so that that the newly ordained priests will now wear little hats on their heads and long lace vestments and say their first mass in Latin," he said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten pledged to offer survivors redress during a short truce in parliament on Tuesday.

"This is not just a history lesson. This is not just a sad tale from times past," Mr Turnbull told MPs.

"This is a reminder to all of us today, in every part of the nation to protect the vulnerable in our care, the children in our care in whatever context."

Abuse victim's souls 'murdered': expert

Dr Doyle says the pastoral care of victims is a massive hole in the church's approach.

Dr Doyle says because of the church's teachings on human sexuality, many clerics and church leaders are unable to comprehend the damage that child sexual abuse or the rape of an adult does to an individual.

"They don't comprehend what has happened to those victims," Dr Doyle told the child abuse royal commission on Tuesday.

"That's never going to go away.

"That's soul murder and sometimes those murdered souls stay dead."

Dr Doyle said his three decades working with survivors has revealed the profound spiritual damage done to victims from devout Catholic families.

"One of the massive holes in the Roman Catholic Church's approach to this issue still today is a failure to completely comprehend the depth of the spiritual damage that is done to the victims, to their families, especially their parents, their friends and to the community itself," he said.

"I've never seen anything coming out of the Holy See dealing with the spiritual damage.

"All I've seen is 'get them to go back to church', which is nuts, that's crazy."

The church has to take care of the victims, said Dr Doyle, who was sacked from his position in the Vatican embassy in Washington in 1986 after he "stood up to the system".

"The issue today for the church is the pastoral care and the support and the love of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who they have violated spiritually and physically over the years," he said.

"It's not enough to say give them money to go to psychologists."

The hearing continues.


What's behind the three-year rise in federal child abuse numbers?

by Lois M. Collins

Neglect tops the list of abuses that children endure, according to a new report that finds cases of abuse and neglect edged up for the third consecutive year during 2015.

The Child Maltreatment 2015 report by the Administration on Children, Youth and Families noted 683,000 victims of child maltreatment or 9.2 victims per 1,000 children. The slight increase from 2014's 9.1 victims per 1,000 is concerning, experts said, because not all maltreatment is reported and in some cases abuse or neglect exists but there's not enough evidence to substantiate it, leading to the suspicion that the count is actually undercounted

"I think the findings of abuse reports and substantiations here say essentially a child abuse investigator went out and said something's going on here; we need to take a closer look," said Daniel Heimpel, executive director of the nonprofit Fostering Media Connections, which produces three publications for foster and adoptive parents. He also teaches at the University of Southern California School of Social Work.

"The number of kids in foster care also has gone up over this period of time," he said. "Abuse rates have gone up, reports of abuse have gone up and the number of kids entering the system has gone up after a huge decline for many years."

Child Trends senior child welfare research scientist Sharon Vandivere warns people to pay attention to what's harming children but not to take the numbers and small differences too literally because maltreatment must first be reported and then substantiated in order to be counted.

She also noted that while child maltreatment seems to be flat or rising nationally, some states are succeeding in reducing it.

Neither she nor Heimpel was involved in the government report.

As the nation grapples with rising number of adults addicted to opioids, experts are beginning to explore connections to increases in child abuse and neglect. Others point to financial woes that rode into family life during the recession as being related to the rising rates of maltreatment of children.

Report highlights

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act is used to guide national policy reporting of instances of abuse. It calls out both the things that caregivers and parents do and the things they fail to do that harms kids.

When counting and reporting abuse, most states divide maltreatment into neglect, physical abuse, psychological abuse and sexual abuse. Some children endure a combination. The new report is based on voluntary reporting from the all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, often referred to as the 52 states.

Among the findings:

• The report estimates 1,670 child deaths in 2015 related to maltreatment. Actual reporting from 49 states documented 1,585 child deaths. The estimate was calculated based on the population in both reporting and non-reporting states; the death is assigned to the year the maltreatment was confirmed, which is not always the year the child died.

• Infants were three times more likely to die from abuse or neglect than a year-old child.

• Fifty-five percent of child victims who die from abuse or neglect are boys.

• At least one parent was involved in 77 percent of the deaths, and alcohol, drug abuse or domestic violence were often factors. Women were more likely than men to be perpetrators, 54 percent vs. 45 percent. In the other cases, gender wasn't known.

• Three-fifths of maltreatment reports to child welfare systems came from professionals, including teachers, lawyers, social workers and police officers.

• Demographically, the biggest category of victims were white at 43.2 percent, compared to Hispanic at 23.6 percent and African-American at 21.4 percent.

The real harm

Neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment and the damage it does is often underestimated compared to forms of abuse, according to Vandivere. "There's some evidence neglect can be more harmful, particularly for younger children, infants and toddlers, as their brains are developing. It can really interfere with the attachment cycle and create long-term learning and emotional problems," she said. "It's potentially a serious problem, along with forms of abuse."

She noted that children who don't hear a lot of language and are not spoken to or interacted with — among the hallmarks of neglect — may suffer permanent deficits in brain development.

Some impacts of child maltreatment may not be seen until children hit adolescence, which has ramifications for families who adopt children who cannot be safely returned to their family of origin.

"Little is known about how children are faring after an adoption is finalized," she said. "There'a bit of research showing it's not so much the age a child is adopted — some think older kids are more challenging — but the problem may appear only when the child hits adolescence. So I worry about little guys who experience severe neglect and are adopted, with things going well until the child hits adolescence and then it gets harder to address."

Opioids and other theories

Some experts, including federal officials, have suggested that a national opioid addiction crisis may be fueling the increase in child abuse and neglect. It makes sense that parents who are addicted might neglect their children, said Vandivere, but she noted it's not a complete explanation.

"If you look at the states with opioid deaths, some of them did show increases (in child maltreatment), like New Mexico and Kentucky and Oklahoma. But other states that had relatively high opioid rates didn't, so that doesn't fully explain what's going on, either. It is something to be aware of in the child maltreatment arena. I can't imagine that it doesn't have impact."

It's hard to quantify causes of child maltreatment or even numbers for a variety of reasons, she said, citing research in 2013 that found reports of child maltreatment seemed to drop in some areas that were hard hit by recessions, but that abuse-related Google searches increased.

The researcher, Harvard economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, worried that though the number of substantiated cases of abuse seemed to be declining, it could simply reflect inadequately funded programs to investigate and address abuse and neglect. If there are fewer social workers and investigators, there could be fewer proven cases, without a decline in actual maltreatment, Vandivere said.

Heimpel believes the rising number might indicate a philosophical pendulum swing between child protection and family preservation. Public policy swings between aggressive child protection policing and softer interventions to keep families together.

That the report has captured the more aggressive approach is "historically at least plausible," said Heimpel, who said the report suggests we either decide it documents an acceptable number of mistreated children — "which I don't think people are going to accept" — or take what has been learned about root causes of abuse and try to provide interventions.

"How do we put the kind of voluntary services around the folks that are in the most compromised situations and most likely to abuse their kids? How can we focus those services on people and make that the focal point of how we allocate a broad array of services — not just child welfare services, but welfare, public health, nurse home visitors, all those things?"

He said child maltreatment could serve as the "orienting principle" of how services that benefit kids are allocated. But he expressed skepticism of policy that waits for abuse to trigger services, especially since a great deal is known about preventing child abuse and neglect.



Groups aim to raise awareness about child abuse

by Rhea Herald News

On March 31 at 3:30 p.m. youth from the Relative Caregiver Program will be partnering with Prevent Child Abuse to plant a “Pinwheels for Prevention” garden at the Rhea County Courthouse.

“This year the Relative Caregiver Program will be partnering with Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee to promote National Child Abuse Prevention Month to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families,” said Theresa G. Jorgensen, Family Advocate at the Relative Caregiver Program in Dayton.

During the month of April, communities are encouraged to promote prevention across the country.

In 2008, Prevent Child Abuse America introduced the pinwheel as the new national symbol for child abuse prevention through Pinwheels for Prevention.

“What their research showed is that people respond to the pinwheel,” Jorgensen said. “By its very nature, the pinwheel connotes whimsy and childlike notions. In essence, it has come to serve as the physical embodiment, or reminder, of the great childhoods we want for all children.”

Throughout April, the Relative Caregiver Program plans to celebrate the lives they touch and those who have touched theirs by honoring them with a pinwheel — the national symbol for the great childhoods all children deserve because our children are our future.

A “Pinwheels for Prevention” garden will be planted at the Rhea County Courthouse in late March with the help of Relative Caregiver Program Caregivers, youth and children to support healthy development of children in the community.



Proposed bill would make family child abuse a felony

Proposed bill would make some family crimes felonies

by Jenna Carpenter

HONOLULU — Kauai representatives have introduced a bill that seeks a stricter sentence for people found guilty of family abuse of keiki.

House Bill 476, which was introduced by Representatives Jimmy Tokioka, Dee Morikawa and Nadine Nakamura, proposes making family abuse on a child younger than 14 a felony.

Specifically, the bill would make the offense a class C felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

“It clarifies that it is also a felony and not a misdemeanor to abuse a minor,” said Morikawa, (D-Niihau, Koloa and Waimea). “This legislation will not affect parental discipline defense in Hawaii which allows parents to reasonably impose physical discipline on their children.”

The bill also seeks the same punishment for someone who engages in physical abuse in front of a child younger than 14.

“The reason for introducing this bill was to help the prosecutor's office do their job — to put people who harm family members, especially in their formative years, away,” said Tokioka (D-Wailua, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Koloa, Omao).

One of the reasons why Justin Kollar, prosecuting attorney for the County of Kauai, submitted the bill to the state Legislature was to protect families who are victims of family abuse.

“It would simply give us another tool in our toolbox to protect abused children and help break the cycle of family violence on Kauai,” Kollar said. “We thank Reps. Tokioka, Morikawa, Nakamura and Nishimoto for introducing this bill.”

The bill was introduced to the House of Representatives on Jan. 20. It was passed at first reading three days later and was referred to the the judiciary committee.

“It was important for us to get this bill moved along and have it pass,” Tokioka said.

Moving forward, Morikawa hopes the state Legislature will work closely with Kollar to tighten the laws regarding abuse on minors.

“We can close the gaps and clarify laws better,” she said.

Currently, family abuse on a child is misdemeanor charge, which is punishable by up to one year in jail.

“Abusers don't learn to abuse overnight and don't unlearn overnight; the longer period of court supervision mandated by a felony conviction would help ensure that families are protected,” Kollar said.

While instances of family abuse on a child is low on the Garden Isle, cases involving children are taken seriously, Kollar said.

“Fortunately the number tends to be on the lower side, but when children are concerned, even one abuse case is too many,” he said.

HB 476, which was also introduced by Representative Scott Nishimoto (D-Kapahulu, McCully, Moiliili), is expected to be discussed today during the judiciary committee meeting.

The Senate is expected to discuss the bill in March. The House of Representatives and Senate will meet in April to discuss the bill together.



Details of Abuse, Written on Plywood, Lead to Pennsylvania Man's Arrest

by Mitch Smith

What became an expansive investigation into decades of child rape began last year when a man moving into a Pennsylvania mobile home found lurid descriptions of sexual abuse scrawled on a piece of forgotten plywood.

The authorities in Bucks County said on Monday that investigators tied the plywood to a handyman who had helped renovate the home, and later discovered evidence suggesting many more young victims stretching back about 40 years. The handyman, William C. Thomas, 58, was charged with 13 counts of various sex crimes; prosecutors said more counts were possible.

“We are merely scratching the surface of those conquests today,” the district attorney, Matthew D. Weintraub, said at a news conference. “To be blunt about it, this is a real-life boogeyman. This is your parents' worst nightmare.”

Mr. Thomas repeatedly used his job as a handyman at mobile home parks to meet children as young as 2, prosecutors said. He would abuse the children and seize trophies such as photos and underwear that he would display in his own mobile home.

“The human race hasn't come up with words to describe what we saw in that trailer,” said Lt. Henry Ward of the Falls Township police, which investigated and seized hundreds of photos. “It was horrific.”

The charging documents revealed that the authorities in Bucks County, north of Philadelphia, had received scattered reports over the years of sexual misconduct involving Mr. Thomas, a longtime resident of the area. But the documents make no mention of any past charges resulting from the complaints, and Mr. Thomas is not listed in the Pennsylvania sex offender registry.

According to the charging documents, officers investigated in 2000 after Mr. Thomas was accused of soliciting sex with a 9-year-old girl. In 2009, a man told the authorities that Mr. Thomas had abused him decades earlier when they were both children, but he did not pursue charges. And in 2010, a man who moved into Mr. Thomas's old house told the police he had found a homemade child sex doll and graphic accounts of child sexual abuse written on drywall.

Jennifer Schorn, the deputy district attorney handling the case, declined to comment on the earlier investigations and on whether warning signs might have been missed. She credited Falls Township investigators for finding enough evidence to secure the search warrant that led to charges.

On the plywood that prompted the latest investigation, the police said Mr. Thomas bragged in detail about abusing two girls, one about 2 years old, another about 6 years old, who lived in the mobile home park. When the police revisited the scene of the 2010 report, they found detailed writings about sexual abuse on the walls of a shed.

“This man was a trophy collector and creator of monumental proportion,” Mr. Weintraub said. “He was a historian. He historically recorded all of his conquests.”

David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, said it was not uncommon for abusers to keep detailed records of their crimes.

Professor Finkelhor said that as awareness of child sexual abuse has grown, cases like this one, where decades of crimes are suspected, have become less common. The three previous reports about Mr. Thomas should have raised red flags with investigators, he said.

The arrest of Mr. Thomas is the second high-profile sexual abuse case to emerge in Bucks County, population 627,000, in recent weeks. Last month, five people were accused of sexually abusing a teenage boy who the authorities said was forced to dress up in a tiger costume at “furry” parties and then molested over the course of several years.

In Mr. Thomas's case, prosecutors said they hoped the publicity surrounding his arrest would prompt any additional victims to come forward.

“We fear there are more out there,” Ms. Schorn said.

Child abusers, she added, “perfect the art of manipulating, grooming, threatening and turning these children's lives so upside down that oftentimes they don't get reported.”



‘Tambourine Army' Gathers Recruits as Jamaicans' Anger Over Child Sexual Abuse Grows

by Global Voices

It all started in late 2016, when a 64-year-old pastor at the Nazareth Moravian Church in Jamaica was arrested after allegedly being found in a car sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl. Since then, many more cases have come to light, usually perpetrated by men in positions of power. The situation has prompted a greater focus on the problem of child sexual abuse — a long-standing but hidden epidemic in Jamaican society that is often kept secret.

As a result, a new activist “army” has formed, with a strong mission. The Tambourine Army's Facebook page defines the group as “a radical movement that was formed organically out of an urgent recognition to advocate differently for the rights of women and girls”.

Headed by the founder of WE-Change, the women's affiliate of LGBT rights group J-FLAG, the name derives from a January 9 incident during a protest by survivors of sexual abuse at the Nazareth Moravian Church. The WE-Change founder became angry and hit the leader of the Moravian Church in Jamaica, Dr. Paul Gardner, on the head with a tambourine, alleging that he had abused her partner as a child. Dr. Gardner and his Vice President Jermaine Gibson resigned soon afterwards and have since also been charged with the sexual abuse of minors, leaving the Moravian Church in disarray.

On her personal Facebook page, the “captain” of the Tambourine Army, Stella Gibson, wrote poignantly about one of her group's key concerns:

When a little girl tells you that a man has touched her inappropriately, or that he molested her…When a woman tells you that a man raped her, or that he sexually harassed her…Why do we first question the veracity of that experience that may have taken much bravery and vulnerability and nakedness for the little girl or the woman to share? Why do we then consider how damaging this must be to the man's character?

When a little boy tells you that a man has touched him inappropriately, or that he molested him or that he raped him…What makes us first believe the boy, become enraged and begin to do everything in our power to get justice for that little boy?

Why can't we first believe our girls and our women too, and do everything in our power to get justice for them? Why?

Why don't we at all times, in all circumstances shame the perpetrator and provide healing, care and support for survivors – all survivors?

What is it about a man's reputation that becomes so critical when he is accused of perpetrating sexual violence against women and girls that we wilfully and sometimes blindly disregard the very humanity of our women and girls?

What kind of society have we have created for ourselves?

Where is the protection of the value and dignity of our women and girls?

I want a different kind of Jamaica for women and girls. And I hope the #TambourineArmy will create that different Jamaica that is needed.

To that end, the #TambourineArmy has put out a call for volunteers as part of its aim to build “one of the largest coalitions of organisations and individuals in Jamaica working to remove the scourge of sexual abuse, rape and all other forms of sexual violence against our children and our women.”

The Army is gaining support, with 80-plus Jamaicans signing up. Human rights lawyer and Chevening Scholar Tenesha Myrie-Condell shared:

Have to take a moment to recognize and celebrate the amazing and far- reaching activism of WE-Change and especially Stella Gibson. On bringing different stakeholders together, working on and highlighting issues concerned with sexual violence WE-Change is bringing what I will call a new wave of activism to Jamaica! It is honest and nonpolite. Absolutely love it!!

One of the Army's tactics has been the #SayTheirNames hashtag, through which women are being encouraged to come forward with their stories of sexual abuse by naming the perpetrators. However, not all Jamaicans have endorsed this radical method, questioning the legal and ethical implications of the campaign. While blogger and academic Annie Paul supported the concept in her newspaper column, she also referred to a television current affairs show in which host Simon Crosskill expressed his reservations:

‘You can't allow women to name whoever they feel like,' he kept protesting, although none of us was suggesting anything remotely like that. No one had said the names of anyone we ‘felt' like including should be listed. What we had said was that a victim of rape or sexual abuse MUST, and has the right to, call the name of the aggressor in question. Asking victims to name the perpetrators who have harmed them is surely a very basic and fundamental rule to live by.

But my friend, the TV host, wouldn't countenance the thought of naming and shaming at all, and he wasn't alone in this. Other prominent journalists have expressed the same opinion. The perpetrator should be reported to the police and have his day in court, they insist. The judiciary must be the ultimate arbiter of guilt, and only then should names be revealed. This despite the fact that the subject had come up in the context of a dysfunctional justice system that more often than not fails to find the accused guilty, particularly when the perpetrator is a man of influence and standing.

On the march

The Army is not just about keyboard activism. Despite the expected challenges, it is already on the march. On February 6, there was a “wear black” campaign as a sign of protest. The group is also planning a Survivor Empowerment March on March 11, in solidarity with the #LifeinLeggings movement. At the march, the group will also present its action plan for change, through partnership with survivors, non-governmental organizations, the media, and the general public.

When it comes to helping survivors, work has already started — the Tambourine Army hosts Healing Circles for survivors. Much of the rehabilitation and support sessions happen by the beach, which the group believes has the power to soothe and restore. Just as importantly, the Army has been mobilizing individuals, groups and organizations to lobby the government to make much needed changes to The Sexual Offences Act which is currently under review, urging Jamaicans to submit recommendations, questions and concerns to the relevant Parliamentary Committee by February 28.

Other organizations are also getting involved. Eve for Life Jamaica, which works with young mothers who are survivors of sexual abuse and spearheaded the #nuhguhdeh campaign aimed at protecting children from predatory older men, came up with an additional hashtag: #16protectionnotpermission, referring to the age of consent.

Building on the momentum, The 51% Coalition — Women in Partnership for Development and Empowerment — has organized a “Meeting of the Minds” on February 7, at which they hope to discuss the many perspectives on violence against women and girls.

Meanwhile, Reverend Clarke, the first Moravian pastor to be charged, appeared in court last week. He was greeted by a number of female supporters who berated the media covering the case. His victim and another sibling (from an impoverished family of ten) are now in state care. Sadly, stories of violence against women by current or former partners continue to appear in the news, as they did last year.

The problem of the sexual abuse of Jamaican girls is an oft-repeated story that is as much about social justice, deep rural poverty, and the plight of vulnerable children as it is about the perpetrators, who are often respected members of the community. Whether the Tambourine Army ultimately wins the battle for radical steps to change hearts and minds — and the status quo — remains to be seen.



Child abuse: 7% of Australian Catholic priests alleged to be involved

by The BBC

An inquiry examining institutional sex abuse in Australia has heard 7% of the nation's Catholic priests allegedly abused children between 1950 and 2010.

In one religious order, over 40% of church figures were accused of abuse.

Over 4,440 people claim to have been victims between 1980 and 2015, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse was told.

The commission, Australia's highest form of inquiry, is also investigating abuse at non-religious organisations.

It has previously heard harrowing testimony from scores of people who suffered abuse at the hands of clergy.

One victim said he was sexually abused by his Catholic Christian Brother teacher in his classroom, with other students ordered to look away.

In another case, the inquiry heard allegations that a priest threatened a girl with a knife and made children kneel between his legs.

'Children punished'

The full scale of the problem emerged on Monday, when the commission released the statistics it has gathered.

Gail Furness, the lead lawyer assisting the commission in Sydney, said more than 1,000 Catholic institutions across Australia were identified in claims of sexual abuse, with a total of 1,880 alleged perpetrators between 1980 and 2015.

The average age of the victims was 10.5 for girls and 11.5 for boys. On average, it took 33 years for each instance of abuse to be reported.

The victims' stories were "depressingly similar", Ms Furness said.

"Children were ignored or worse, punished. Allegations were not investigated. Priests and religious [figures] were moved. The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew nothing of their past."

Anthony and Chrissie Foster, the parents of two girls who were abused by their parish priest, said the Catholic Church had shown "no mercy, no remorse. Nothing."

"For so long this has been the way they acted to hide perpetrators, to move them on, with no regard for children whatsoever, that other children have become victims, and suffered this terrible fate," they told ABC news.

'Shocking, tragic, indefensible'

The royal commission also detailed the number of abuse claims against 10 religious orders, with data showing that four orders had allegations of abuse against more than 20% of their members.

The royal commission, set up in 2013, is investigating allegations of sexual and physical abuse across dozens of institutions in Australia, including schools, sports clubs and religious organisations.

Ms Furness said on Monday that 60% of all survivors of abuse were from faith-based organisations. Of those, nearly two-thirds concerned the Catholic Church.

Francis Sullivan, chief executive of the Truth Justice and Healing Council, which is co-ordinating the Catholic Church's response to the inquiry, said the data reflected "a massive failure'' by the church to protect children.

"These numbers are shocking, they are tragic and they are indefensible," a tearful Mr Sullivan told the commission. "As Catholics, we hang our heads in shame."

The Vatican has watched the proceedings closely. Cardinal George Pell, who was Australia's most senior Catholic before becoming Pope Francis' top financial adviser, has testified at previous hearings about how church authorities responded to allegations of child sex abuse during his time in Australia.

Several senior Australian Catholics will be testifying over the next few weeks. The commission's final report is due by the end of this year.



Child sexual abuse is rampant, and it's crucial to understand why some kids are more vulnerable

Disability, caste, class, gender are all important factors that make children more vulnerable to child sexual abuse

by Geetika Mantri

Sexual abuse is traumatising for anyone who goes through it, but for a child, the scars can run much deeper as they are inflicted at a younger age, in the formative years. And although every victim of child sexual abuse (CSA) needs attention and care, it's important to remember that some of them are more vulnerable than others.

Take for instance a child who is a CSA victim, and also comes from a home where domestic violence occurs. Flavia Agnes, founder of Majlis, a Mumbai-based women's rights organisation, says that in many cases, victimising the child is used as a method of coercing the woman even further.

“Unless domestic violence is taken seriously, CSA cannot be addressed,” Flavia argues.

Flavia was speaking at the National Consultation on the POCSO Act, a conference organized at NLS, Bengaluru on Saturday. She also pointed out that while the number of cases reported under Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act has increased since the law came into effect in 2012, the conviction rate remains abysmally low.

One reason, she argued, is that the mothers, who may help the child file a complaint, later turn hostile when they see that the breadwinner of the family is going to be affected.

The panel discussion on ‘Intersectionality and Vulnerability to CSA' revealed other intersectionalities of caste and class, socio-economic conditions, physical and/or mental disability which make some CSA victims more vulnerable.

What also puts children at a higher risk is the misuse of technology, and the lack of proper mechanisms to control traveling child sex offenders.

Vulnerability to exploitation

Dhananjay Tingal, executive director of Bachpan Bachao Aandolan, a child rights NGO, pointed out how children who are sexually abused are also vulnerable to exploitation. A case in point is Operation Smile, which rescued hundreds of missing children in 2014. Dhananjay said that it is not just enough to find these children, but to also ascertain if they were sexually abused, exploited, or both.

In 2013, Bachpann Bachao Aandolan had filed a petition at the Supreme Court about the issue of missing children. In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court mandated that the cases of missing children should be compulsorily registered with the assumption that the child was a victim of kidnapping or trafficking.

The ruling bench had also remarked that the involvement of an organised gang trafficking children or pushing them into child labour should be investigated.

Children with disability

Children who are mentally or physically disabled, or both, are at even more risk of being abused, as well as exploited, Dhananjay said. Not only are these children easier prey for perpetrators, but it is also difficult for them to communicate the abuse, he told TNM.

He recommended that the state should institute specialists and interpreters who can help communicate with these children and do the required handholding.

“Caregivers should also observe discrepancies in behavior. Even a child with special needs has a certain behavior pattern and when he/she begins deviating from that, it's a warning sign that they should be looked out for,” Dhananjay explains.

But what about the cases where custodians and caregivers themselves are the abusers? In those cases, Dhananjay recommends that in state homes at least, a third party should conduct routine checks to ensure that the children are not at risk. However, he admits that it's easier said than done.

Incest and CSA

According to NCRB data for 2015, in 94.8% cases of rape registered under POCSO, the perpetrator was known to the victim. Even so, cases where people related to the children are involved, a completely different kind of handholding and support is required, said Audrey D'Mello, Programme Director at Majlis.

Emphasizing that we need to look at rape from the perpetrator's point of view rather than the victim's, Audrey said: “How the victimisation happens depends on the relationship the accused has with the victim.”

Her statement implies that the victimisation of a child who has been raped by his/her own father for instance, is different from a victim who has been violated by a stranger.

“Here, the victim needs a support system that's almost like another guardian, an alternate family,” she argues.

Travelling sex offenders

Emidio Pinho, an advocate and director of Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN), Goa, an NGO, highlighted the problem of travelling child sex offenders (TCSO). TCSOs have a long history in India owing to the lack of legislation regulating foreign nationals convicted of CSA cases from entering the country.

Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi had recently written to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj asking her to amend visa rules to make declaration of CSA offences and criminal record compulsory as well.

Speaking about the need for greater coordination between organisations and stakeholders involved in upholding child rights, Emidio said: "Presently all stakeholders (police, doctors, public prosecutors and NGOs) are working in isolation. Every child who come in contact with criminal justice system should not be isolated and she/he should be accompanied at all stages."

Technology and CSA

The way sexual violence is committed and presented has changed drastically with the advent and penetration of technology, VIdya Reddy, founder of Tulir, told TNM. Tulir is a Chennai-based NGO fighting against CSA.

One thing technology has done, she points out, is increase the network of offenders simply because it is easier to access and exchange child sexual abuse material (CSAM) online, Vidya highlighted. With increasing access and affordability of production, it has become easier to create CSAM too, she adds.

Secondly, it is almost impossible to limit children's access to what they see on the internet. “But where we have failed is to give young people the understanding and wherewithal to navigate their way through this information. They are the only ones in control of their lives,” Vidya said.

“Take the example of pornography. It's a part of the personal safety health education module in the UK - so the children don't grow up with some very distorted ideas, believing them to be a reflection of reality!” she argued.

Media's role in covering CSA

Gita Aravamudan, journalist and writer, said that while the media has played an important role in highlighting CSA as a rampant problem, it must also exercise caution.

One problem she pointed out, especially with broadcast media, was one voice becoming louder than the other. Another issue is shielding the child from the media glare, especially when it comes to television.

“The media hype around a CSA case may traumatise the child and can also be misused by someone close to the child. For instance, a person who wants to be in the limelight, while speaking to the media, may end up giving out details of the child's school or residence,” she said.

Caste and vulnerability

While the panel discussed various intersectionalities in CSA, VS Elizabeth, a professor at NLS and a member of Centre for Child and the Law, remarked that issues of caste and marginalized communities had not been touched upon in detail. She was also the moderator for the session.

What was also missing from the discussion was the discussion about children who belong to gender or sexual minorities, like transgender or intersex children, and their vulnerability to CSA.

When TNM pointed it out to Elizabeth, she said that this was a wider problem where we tend to focus on victims from more privileged backgrounds. These particular intersectionalities should also have been acknowledged, if not discussed in detail.



How parents can talk to children about sexual assaults

by Alysa Burgio

EAST LANSING, Mich. – When it comes to sexual assault, it doesn't hurt to start educating your kids at an early age.

According to Child Psychologist John Braccio, all it takes is knowing the difference between “good” and “bad” touching.

“I think even at 2 you can start…if you're giving the child a bath you can indicate what are private parts, identify the parts of the body, make sure they know what there are, that they can state what they are and indicate that the private parts are private and they're special and they're not for other people to touch,” said Braccio.

Braccio says sexual abuse happens more often than not.

“We're looking at 1 in 4 for girls and 1 in 6 for boys before they're 18,” Braccio stated.

The numbers can be startling and that's why Braccio says getting boys and girls educated on the issue, should start at a young age and continue through their teenage years.

He also says it's crucial for parents to create an open relationship with their children to provide a “safe space.”

“It's really critical that parents really educate their children,” Braccio added.

Braccio says it's all about keeping open communication and being aware.

“You don't want to turn it into the point where they're terrified or afraid of parts of their body but that they're aware that they are special and only for them or in the case of a parent, the caretaker who's looking after the parent,” said Braccio.

He says it all comes down to “good parenting” and regardless of a child's age, it's never too early to teach your kids the difference between right and wrong when it comes to sexual abuse.

“If you're a good parent, you certainly can tell if something is ary with your child so this needs to be part of the normal ongoing education,” Braccio added.

Braccio also says if your child has experienced any kind of sexual assault, contact the police, child protective services, a family doctor or a counselor immediately.


How to help your children when their other parent is a narcissist

by Sharie Stines, Psy.D

It is so sad to watch your children being emotionally manipulated by their narcissistic parent. It is a complicated situation and difficult to know how to respond. How can you help your children when they are being co-raised by you and this type of parent? Here are some suggestions on how to navigate this difficult situation:

•  Honesty – Give your children the gift of honesty. Talk frankly with your children about the reality of their lives, respectfully and matter-of-factly. Do not play the game of “let's pretend everything's normal.” Do not contribute to your children's sense of cognitive dissonance by acting as if the “emperor has no clothes.”

•  Education – Teach your children about manipulation and emotional abuse. Try to keep it as age appropriate as possible. This can be tricky, but you know your kids, what can they handle understanding? Keep it simple and keep it real. Teach them how to not get sucked in to the drama.

•  Role Modeling – Be a good role model. Show your children how to stay out of the narcissist's web of destruction by maintaining your own composure and sanity. Exhibit self-compassion and empathy. Show them how to “observe, don't absorb” when in the presence of the narcissist. Demonstrate confidence and strength.

•  Managing Anger – Since your children already have one angry parent – even if he or she is covertly angry, make sure you don't carry grudges, express your own anger appropriately, and keep short accounts. Learn how to take deep breaths and walk away when you feel triggered to express your anger in a damaging way. You can learn to have self-control with your own anger.

•  Reflection – Let your children know, “I see you.” Reflect back to your children truth about their feelings. Let them know you really see their pain and their struggles. Look your children in the eyes and be with them. Connect and attune with their hearts.

•  Grieve with – It is heartbreaking to realize that you have a parent who only sees you as an object and who can never truly be with or see you for the valuable and precious human being you are. As the other parent, who knows only too well what this feels like, you can offer a place of comfort for your children.

•  Validation – When people spend any length of time with a narcissist, their reality, their feelings, and their intuition is constantly invalidated. Let your children know that what they feel and experience is really happening.

•  Safety – Your children need at least one safe parent, after all they go through emotionally having a narcissistic parent, the gas-lighting, emotional abuse, double standards, invalidation, etc., they need a parent who can offer solace, warmth, stability, and flexibility.

•  How to Love – Since narcissists do not know how to either give or receive love, they teach their children that love is a commodity, based on performance, and must be earned. Narcissists view others as objects or resources, rather than as having intrinsic value based on the interpersonal relationship. They do not know how to care about others or offer any type of compassion that is not self-serving. As the non-narcissistic parent, you must teach your children what love is.

•  Self Care – Take care of yourself by relaxing, reading, maintaining close friendships, enjoying life, forgiving others and finding humor. Build your life around healthy activities and communities.

At the risk of sounding alarmist, I must warn that narcissistic parents are damaging to children. It is advised that time spent with any narcissist be limited because it engenders confusion, dissociation, brain-washing, desensitization to abuse, emotional dysregulation, and destruction to one's sense of reality. It also contaminates a child's developing inner working model for how relationships operate. Take any steps you can to minimize the damage caused to your children by an emotionally injurious parent.


West Virginia

Former students sue over alleged abuse at WV boarding school

by Kate White

A lawsuit against a Harrison County boarding school, forced to close about three years ago, alleges a “culture of silence and secrecy” at the school led to widespread abuse.

Two former students of the Miracle Meadows School in Salem filed the lawsuit late last month in Kanawha County Circuit Court. The former students, who are identified only by their initials, L.B. and T.B., claim they still suffer because of the alleged abuse — and always will.

Miracle Meadows had its state-recognized education status revoked in August 2014, and the Department of Health and Human Resources removed the school's 19 students.

The former students claim they were subjected to neglect and extreme physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

Between 2009 and 2014, the school was named in more than a dozen complaints involving abuse and mistreatment of students, the Associated Press previously reported.

Susan Gayle Clark, the former director of Miracle Meadows, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, was sentenced in April to spend six months in jail and five years on probation after pleading guilty to child neglect creating a substantial risk of injury.

Clark isn't allowed to leave the state during the five years of probation, something the Harrison County prosecutor argued was important to keep her from opening a similar school in another state, according to The Exponent Telegram.

The students allege staff at the school used handcuffs and isolation rooms and covered up sexual assaults.

“Numerous children at Miracle Meadows would be ‘quarantined' — where children would be locked inside a 10x4 room alone for extended periods of time with nothing more than a bucket to urinate and defecate in,” the complaint states.

L.B. was allegedly quarantined at one time for more than a month.

“Children were handcuffed and duct taped while in quarantine. T.B. was handcuffed to a bed for two days with no clothes on,” the complaint states. “L.B. was once handcuffed to a younger child who defecated himself.”

Miracle Meadows was described as a Christian boarding school for boys and girls between ages 6 and 17.

“Specifically, MMS enrolled boys and girls experiencing defiance, dishonesty, school failure, trouble with the law, spiritual disinterest, poor social skills, adoption issues and other behavior harmful to them and to others,” the school's website stated, according to the lawsuit.

The website,, now states only, “Because of all that's happened the board has decided to dissolve the corporation and close the website.”

The complaint alleges the students experienced similar abuse at a Tennessee school, which they attended before being transferred in 2012 and 2013 to Miracle Meadows.

The Advent Home Learning Center in Calhoun, Tennessee, like Miracle Meadows, was affiliated with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which the lawsuit is also against.

The former students are represented by Charleston lawyer Guy R. Bucci and Brian Kent, of Pennsylvania.

While at both schools, the lawsuits claim the two former students and other children were sexually assaulted and abused by staff and students.

School officials knew of the abuse and “did absolutely nothing to prevent said abuse or neglect nor report it pursuant to their obligations to do so,” the complaint states.

Last year a lawsuit with similar allegations of abuse was filed against a shuttered Kanawha County Christian boys boarding school.

A juvenile and his guardian filed a lawsuit claiming students who attended the Blue Creek Academy, which was near Clendenin, were subjected to child abuse and educational neglect. The lawsuit also named Bible Baptist, a Belva church sponsoring the school and its former directors.

The state DHHR removed the school's students, and the school was shut down in 2014.



Almost 4500 alleged abuse in Catholic institutions over 35 years, royal commission told

by Rachel Browne

The extent of alleged paedophilia in Catholic institutions has been laid bare for the first time with a royal commission hearing that almost 4500 people have made claims of child sexual abuse over the past 35 years.

Data gathered by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse show certain Catholic orders had a high proportion of alleged abusers, including the Christian Brothers, the Marist Brothers and St John of God.

Francis Sullivan, chief executive of the Catholic Church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council, which assisted the royal commission's analysis of alleged abuse, became emotional as he addressed the packed public hearing before Justice Peter McClellan?.

"These numbers are shocking," he said. "They are tragic and they are indefensible. Each entry in this data ... represents a child who suffered at the hands of someone who should have cared for and protected them."

The commission heard between 1980 and 2015, 4444 people alleged they were abused as children in more than 1000 Catholic institutions however the true number of victims may never be known as many do not come forward.

"This data . . . can only be interpreted for what it is: a massive failure on the part the Catholic Church in Australia to protect children from abusers and predators, a misguided determination by leaders at the time to put the interests of the Church ahead of the most vulnerable and, a corruption of the Gospel the Church seeks to profess," Mr Sullivan said. "As Catholics we hang our heads in shame."

The average age of female victims at the time of the alleged abuse was 10, while the average age for alleged male victims was 11, the commission heard. The data showed it took an average of 33 years for victims to come forward.

Counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness SC said 1880 alleged perpetrators were identified in claims of child sexual abuse. Of the 1880, 32 per cent were religious brothers, 30 per cent were priests, 29 per cent were lay people and 5 per cent were sisters.

The research examined 75 Catholic authorities over a 60-year period between 1950 and 2010, determining that, overall, 7 per cent of priests were alleged perpetrators.

Of religious orders with only religious brother members, the highest proportion of alleged perpetrators were members of St John of God (40.4 per cent), the Christian Brothers (22 per cent), the Salesians of Don Bosco (21.9 per cent), Marist Brothers (20.4 per cent) and the De La Salle Brothers (13.4 per cent).

The dioceses of Lismore, Wollongong, Port Pirie, Sandhurst and Sale had the highest proportion of allegations of abuse.

The royal commission will spend the next three weeks examining allegations of child sexual abuse within Catholic institutions at a public inquiry to hear from more than 70 witnesses, including five archbishops.

Over the past four years, the commission's private sessions have taken testimony from more than 2400 people who were allegedly abused in Catholic institutions.

Fifteen public hearings have been conducted into Catholic authorities since the commission started in 2013, with evidence from more than 260 witnesses including Australia's most senior Catholic figure, Cardinal George Pell.

Ms Furness described the testimony of survivors as "harrowing".

"The accounts were depressingly familiar," she said. "Children were ignored or worse, punished. Allegations were not investigated. Priests ... were moved. The parishes and communities to which they moved knew nothing of their past. Documents were not kept or they were destroyed. Secrecy prevailed as did cover-ups.

"Many children suffered and continue as adults to suffer from their experiences in some Catholic institutions."

The royal commission has made 309 referrals to police around Australia involving alleged child abuse in Catholic institutions, with 27 prosecutions resulting.

Dr Michael Whelan, a Marist priest and director of the Aquinas Academy, told the hearing verbal apologies for past abuse were meaningless without action.

"The most powerful apology we can make is to change," he said.

The hearing continues.

Blue Knot Helpline on 1300 657 380

Survivors & Mates Support Network 1800 472 676



How to spot, stop a toxic parent

by Deborah Grey

Parenting is difficult. There is no school that prepares or trains you for it, and while there is a lot of advice available from well-meaning family and friends, there is also a tonne of judgment coming your way if your parenting style is non-traditional. But that is no reason to turn into a toxic parent. A toxic parent is one who mentally, physically and/or sexually abuses their child, believing that the parent owns the child and the child owes them everything.

Abuse can be both verbal and non-verbal. According to Smita Sahay, Founder and CEO, Accio Health, “Toxic parents use tactics like intimidation, emotional blackmail, shaming, bullying and ridicule to manipulate the child into bending to their will.” Deepak Kashyap, a psychologist with expertise in the field of parent-child relationships says that parental abuse is normalised in our culture. “We don't raise our children to be independent. We don't even want them to think independently,” he says. Children grow up facing intense psychological abuse disguised as ‘tough love' because this is how parents retain control over them. Kashyap elaborates, “The deification of parents in our culture and their image as self-sacrificing God-like creatures, makes it difficult for children to stand up to them without feeling guilty.”

Add to that how our movies depict parents. There is Chaudhary Baldev Singh from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge who didn't care about Simran's consent before fixing her marriage or her protests later on. Ditto Kishorilal from Pardes who only relented after Ganga showed him evidence of sexual abuse by her fiance'. Another example is that Ashok Nanda from Student of the Year who keeps bullying, shaming and ridiculing his son and even hopes he loses the race. Kashyap says the latest example of the toxic dad in Indian cinema is Mahavir Singh from Dangal, a man who pushed his daughters to make his own dreams come true with little concern for their own dreams or even their consent. In fact, the daughters are made to feel grateful that at least their father did not marry them off. “Dangal legitimises toxic parenting. It appears to pander to our consequentialist morality and says everything is okay as long as the ends justify the means,” says Kashyap. “In the end, Geeta is more interested in hearing her father say shabbash than winning the medal, perhaps because wrestling was never their dream anyway,” says Kashyap.

Very often the child is either too young or innocent to see these signs and therefore unable to seek help. So how can a teenager spot toxic behaviour in their parents? First, one has to realise that this is not a free pass at blaming one's parents. A lot of thought and patient observation is required in order to determine if the parent is actually abusive or just strict. A toxic parent often encourages their child to lie in order to cover their own transgressions like an addiction or affair. A toxic parent constantly takes pot-shots at their child's appearance and personality. Good parents also ensure that if they have disagreements the children never find out about it. But a toxic parent always complains to their children about the other parent and plays the hapless victim or martyr. A toxic parent often uses threats or emotional blackmail to get their child to do their bidding. The more obvious signs are rampant verbal, physical or sexual abuse. “Even locking the child in a dark room, or depriving them of food, water or bathroom facilities are signs of abusive parenting,” says Sahay.

But just identifying such behaviour isn't enough. Given how children are economically dependent on their parents, it is difficult for a child to approach a therapist on their own. Often other trusted adults like the child's teacher or neighbour might choose to stay out of a ‘family matter'. In such cases, the child should approach the school counsellor for help. Says Sahay, “Often toxic parents are themselves survivors of toxic parenting and are just caught in a cycle of abuse. This is why family therapy is required instead of just therapy for the child.” Schools should also make the child helpline number available to all students, and teachers should be alert to behavioural changes. After all, we owe it to our children to leave them a world better than the one we inherited.



Broken hearts and bruises: How to spot the signs of teen dating violence

by Deanna Fry

Valentine's Day is a week away and some of us are thinking of sweet hearts, flowers, candy and love. February is also teen dating violence awareness month. Sadly, at least one in ten Indiana teens are experiencing broken hearts and bruises in violent relationships. Parents need to know how to support healthy teen dating relationships and the warning signs of abuse.

•  One in three adolescents is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.

•  One in 10 high school students has been hit, slapped or physically hurt in a dating relationship.

•  In Indiana, 1 in 6 girls and 1 in 10 boys was sexually assaulted by the age of 18 (not all of these assaults are in dating relationships).

•  Violent dating behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18.

•  Nearly half of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors.

Parents need to know that only 1/3 of teens in a violent relationship ever told anyone about the abuse. Although 82% of parents feel confident that they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating abuse, nearly 60% of parents could not identify all the signs of abuse.

Intimate Partner Violence includes “physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercive tactics) by a current or former partner.

Teen dating violence is associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety, suicidal ideation, engagement in delinquency and antisocial behavior, poor academic performance, and abusing alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.

•  Being physically or sexually abused makes teen girls six times more likely to become pregnant and twice as likely to get a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

•  Half of youth who have been victims of dating violence and rape will attempt suicide.

•  Nearly one in five Indiana high school teens have planned their suicide and 10% have attempted suicide. (Indiana Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015)

Teen Dating can be positive and important for adolescents' growth and development.

•  Learning communication skills, establishing boundaries, building trust and respect and sharing positive healthy experiences enables teens to prepare for healthy adult intimate relationships. All teens who date will disagree with their partner at times and will likely break up as part of the learning and growing process. Navigating conflict in a responsible, respectful manner is important to experience and learn during the teen years. However, there is a difference between normal relationship strife and dating abuse. Teen dating is an important rite of passage for American youth. Parents can provide valuable guidance and support to their teen on healthy dating relationships.

Research has identified six protective factors that reduce the risk of teens engaging in unhealthy relationships . Teens are at less risk for unhealthy relationships if they have high empathy, higher grade-point-averages, higher verbal IQs, attachment to their schools, positive maternal relationships and an understanding that committing dating violence is wrong . Promoting healthy teen dating behaviors through programs that build conflict resolution skills, foster intimacy, teach prosocial behaviors, teach self-control, and build confidence and empathy is very effective. Social Health Association of Indiana provides these types of educational programs for youth on how to have healthy peer and teen dating relationships.

Warning Signs of Abusive Teens. Is your teen an abuser? If your teen exemplifies these behaviors, they may be abusive to others. If so, seek professional mental health treatment for your teen to ensure the violence ends and does not continue through adulthood. Do not wish the problem away. Work with your teen to get the help needed, immediately.

•  Checking partner's cell phones or email without permission

•  Constantly putting their partner down

•  Extreme jealousy or insecurity towards their partner

•  Explosive temper or mood swings

•  Isolating a partner from family or friends

•  Making false accusations about partner

•  Physically hurting a partner in any way

•  Possessiveness and constant tracking of partner's activity

•  Telling partner what to do and controlling decisions

•  Embarrassing partner in front of others or in social media

•  Pressuring or forcing partner to have sex.

Characteristics of Healthy Dating Relationships

Healthy =

• Mutual respect

• Trust

• Honesty

• Compromise

• Individuality

• Good communication

• Anger control

• Fighting fair

• Problem solving

• Understanding

• Self-confidence

• Being a role model

Unhealthy =

• Control

• Hostility

• Dishonesty

• Disrespect

• Dependence

• Intimidation

• Possessiveness

• Verbal abuse

• Extreme jealousy or insecurity

• Physical violence

• Sexual violence

It is best to start talking about healthy relationships before your child starts dating. Start conversations about what to look for in a partner. For example, you ask your child:

•  How do you want to be treated? How do you want to feel about yourself when you are with that person?

Parents should encourage healthy, happy and safe teen dating relationships while also teaching awareness about dating violence and other relationship issues like consent, breaking up, and personal values.

Resources for Parents & Teens :

Love Is Respect provides teens and parents access to help, advice and information on how to promote healthy teen dating relationships and prevent or stop teen dating violence: There is a texting line, chat feature, and 24-hour phone hotline for any relationship related questions. Text loveis to 22522; call 866-331-9474; or go to You can even take a quiz to assess relationships at

STARS for Children of Marion County, Teen Dating Violence Awareness Symposium free for any parents and teens will be on Saturday, February 18 th 11 am – 3 pm (location: Child Care Answers, 1776 N. Meridian St., Indpls. 46202). Lunch is provided. RSVP by clicking here:

Parent resources are available on the website: or by calling 317-667-0340


From the Department of Homeland Security

National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month Concludes, but the Fight Continues

By Presidential Proclamation, January recognized National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, rallying the public to raise awareness about and end this heinous crime. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), alongside many other federal agencies, organizations, and individuals across the country worked to increase awareness throughout January.

The DHS Blue Campaign, the unified voice for DHS efforts to combat human trafficking, organized and participated in several signature Washington D.C. area-events, released new resources on our website, and launched social media initiatives to foster conversation about how we can end human trafficking in our communities.

•  Blue Campaign launched the new “Second Look” PSA which will run on TV and radio stations through 2017 and in Amtrak stations across the country.

•  Blue Campaign and the D.C. Mayor's Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants' combating human trafficking event took place on January 11, Human Trafficking Awareness Day. The event included a panel discussion with federal and local law enforcement officials, victim services organizations, and a human trafficking survivor, all of which shared successes and challenges in combating human trafficking in Washington, D.C.

•  National Wear Blue Day , also held on January 11, encouraged people nationwide to post a photo of themselves, friends, family, and colleagues wearing blue clothing on social media using the hashtag #WearBlueDay to raise awareness of human trafficking. The Wear Blue Day social media campaign brought tangible visibility to this issue, created conversation nationwide, and directed participants to the Blue Campaign. The hashtag reached more than 4 million people on Twitter alone!

•  Blue Campaign and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce human trafficking meeting on January 18 brought together private sector organizations working to end human trafficking in their respective industries. UPS, Wal-mart, and Uber were some of the businesses to speak on the panel alongside former DHS Acting Deputy Secretary, Russell C. Deyo, who shared remarks about Blue Campaign's support of industry efforts to combat human trafficking. The Blue Campaign was also proud to announce its formal partnerships with UPS and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

•  Blue Campaign launched a Thunderclap initiative to expand the reach of human trafficking awareness on social media. On January 25 at 3:00 PM, the message “This Human Trafficking Awareness Month I joined the DHS #BlueCampaign to #endtrafficking. Join in the fight.” was posted to 220 registered social media accounts and reached more than 855,000 people.

Together, this January, we helped raise public consciousness of human trafficking across the country. While National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month may be over, we know the importance of continuing this work year-round.

For more information about the Blue Campaign and how you can get involved, visit:


Lawsuit: ‘Spotlight' Heroes Made Money Off Priests' Victims

A group called SNAP helped expose sexual abuse in the Catholic Church—but now a former employee is claiming they got kickbacks by referring victims to lawyers.

by Brandy Zadrozny

For over 20 years, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has operated with a mission to expose clergy sexual abuse and its coverup —work that was highlighted by last year's Oscar-award winning film Spotlight. But a new lawsuit alleges that the St. Louis-based charity actually exploits abuse survivors in a kickback scheme involving attorneys who file lawsuits against the Catholic Church.

In the lawsuit against SNAP, a former employee named Gretchen Rachel Hammond charges she was wrongfully fired as SNAP's development director in 2013 after she confronted SNAP president Barbara Blaine with evidence the group had been “routinely accepting financial kickbacks from attorneys in the form of donations.”

Blaine, executive director David Clohessy, and outreach director Barbara Dorris are all named in the suit. Clohessy resigned a week after the lawsuit was filed, but has denied his departure has anything to do with the allegations. On Saturday Blaine announced she, too, was leaving her position with SNAP after 29 years. Like Clohessy, Blaine stressed that the timing was only coincidental, and explained in a statement to supporters that her decision to leave was a result of the organization “moving from a founder led organization to one that is board led.”

“Please know that the recent lawsuit filed against SNAP, as the others in the past which have no merit, had absolutely no bearing on my leaving,” Blaine wrote.

According to that lawsuit, in exchange for the alleged kickbacks—which contributed up to 80 percent of SNAP's entire contributions in a given year, Hammond claims—when survivors reached out for help, Clohessy and Blaine would send them to specific attorneys. When the cases would settle, as they often did, both the attorneys and SNAP would share in “direct payments from survivors settlements,” according to the complaint.

SNAP has flatly denied the allegations. There is no "kickback scheme,” Blaine told The Daily Beast.

In an email soliciting funds to fight the lawsuit in court, Barbara Dorris, SNAP's outreach director and a co-defendant in the case, wrote, “These allegations are NOT true. We have never and will never do that. We accept donations from cops, attorneys, our members, church employees and church members. We are a not for profit. Like all nonprofit organizations, we must raise funds to survive.”

In the last five reported years, SNAP has brought in roughly $5 million in total revenue, according to the organization's tax returns. Hammond's attorney told The Daily Beast the payments to SNAP came from around 30 attorneys in at least five different states.

In 2007, Hammond claims one California attorney donated $100,000 to SNAP. The group brought in $437,407 in total revenue that year.

In 2008, the complaint goes on to allege, when the non-profit raised $753,596 in total, one Minnesota attorney donated over $415,000. The same attorney donated another $275,000 in 2011.

The Catholic Church meanwhile has paid out $3 billion to survivors over the last decade in the form of settlements, therapy and attorneys fees, according to an annual report from The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Attorneys' fees constituted one-fifth of this year's church payments.

During her tenure, Hammond claims, money poured in from these attorneys without rhyme or reason. Since Blaine allegedly warned her not to speak of them, Hammond said she kept a list of the the secret contributors with the code name, “Rose's list,” the details from which make up most of the current lawsuit. In November 2012, Hammond claims she finally confronted Blaine after being mistakenly Cc'd on an email in which SNAP's former national director David Clohessy referred a survivor to an attorney, then allegedly asked the attorney when SNAP could expect a donation.

While it is unethical for a lawyer to pay a fee or give something of value in exchange or as a reward for a referral for legal services, it is neither illegal nor unethical for an attorney to make a donations to a non-profit, and it's not yet clear in this case which occurred, legal experts told The Daily Beast.

If a court finds that the lawyers did violate the ethics rule, the attorney in question could face sanctions from his state's high court, said Jim Grogan, deputy administrator and chief counsel of the Illinois Supreme Court's Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission. “Anywhere from a reprimand all the way to disbarment and anything in between,” said Grogan, who could not speak on this specific case.

Beyond the allegations of financial impropriety, Hammond's complaint alleges that for all their talk of support and counseling, in her two years in senior management, she never saw any instance of the victim support or advocacy work SNAP prided itself on. She claims when she asked for details about SNAP's work in these areas, she was denied access to a single support group or group therapy session. “It was almost like they didn't do that side of it. It was like they were making it up as they went along,” Hammond said in an interview. In a statement provided to The Daily Beast, SNAP denied ever claiming to be a counseling organization and defended their support groups. “We are a volunteer-based, peer support network of survivors who help each other in support group meetings, over the phone, through the internet, in person, and through public events,” it read. SNAP acknowledged barring Hammond from the groups, but said it was done to protect the privacy rights of victims.

When she wasn't allowed to participate in an organization-wide audit, Hammond's says she started to worry. She says the concern grew when she saw more money allegedly being spent on luxury trips for SNAP executives than outreach or counseling. Blaine strenuously denied the existence of such trips in an email to The Daily Beast.

But in this way, the lawsuit's biggest threat to SNAP could be the tarnishing of its good name.

SNAP has been working to expose clergy sexual abuse since the early 90s and struggled for years to garner support—financial and philosophical—according to interviews with former leader David Clohessy. But a 2001 Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation changed all that. After Globe reporters uncovered a vast sexual abuse scandal and coverup in Boston area Catholic churches, SNAP phones began ringing off the hook, according to a piece in The Morning Call.

Then 2015's Oscar-winning film, Spotlight, dramatized the investigation, including characters from SNAP. Speaking to a reporter about the evolution in 2016, Clohessy quoted Gandhi: “First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win," he said.

But with Hammond's lawsuit, the fight may be renewed.

For years, Catholic publications and bloggers have blasted SNAP as publicity-obsessed fanatics, driven by a grudge against the Catholic church. This opposition has pointed to Hammond's case as proof of that conclusion.

One long-time critic named Dave Pierre, who writes at The Media Report, said the lawsuit “confirms what many of us have known all along: SNAP is not an organization designed to help victims of clergy sex abuse but a gang hell bent on shaking down the Catholic Church through a seedy web of lawyer kickback schemes, lawsuits, and bigotry.”

For SNAP's local leaders, the allegations have been heartbreaking.

“We know there are people who don't want us to exist. I'm not sure why,” said Melanie Sekoda, 63, who leads two support groups in California where she meets with a handful regulars once a month.

“It's never been any secret that some of the attorneys make donations to SNAP,” she said, but in her experience, most of the SNAP survivors never file lawsuits against their abuser because of the statute of limitations has run out.

“I think in some ways the attorneys support SNAP because we help the people that they can't help.”

Sekoda noted that she and most of the people at SNAP were unpaid volunteers, and would speak out if there was something amiss. “It's just not how I've seen SNAP work,” she said.

Becky Ianni, another unpaid volunteer who leads two survivors' groups in Virginia, said without SNAP, victims like herself would be again be disbelieved, guilted, and ultimately on their own.

Ianni received a settlement from the Catholic church after her abuser committed suicide in 1992. The lawyer who negotiated the payment was not referred by SNAP, Ianni said.

“I do it because someone saved my life,” Ianni said. “We don't want another abused child to suffer in silence and get to get to be 40 or 50 years old … We want to let people know they're not alone.”



Iowa sex abusers escape mandatory prison time: ‘How is this possible?'

by Jason Clayworth

A youth minister in Council Bluffs engaged in sexual contact with boys because he said it would help rid them of gay thoughts.

A middle school teacher in Underwood rubbed himself against a 15-year-old girl while pinning her against a classroom map.

And a counselor had sex with a teenager while both were at a residential foster care facility in Clarinda.

Under Iowa law, as mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse, all three should have gone to prison. But none of them did, a Des Moines Register investigation reveals.

All told, the Register found that, since 2007, 17 Iowans working in professions that required them to report suspected child abuse were themselves convicted of sex crimes against children that should have sent them to prison instead received suspended prison sentences or had their conviction removed from their record in violation of state law.

In one case, the court record has been sealed from public view. That case involved former Carlisle High School band teacher Alex Dyer, who was convicted in September 2011 of sexual exploitation by a school employee in a case involving a 17-year-old student.

Dyer remains on Iowa's Sex Offender Registry, but the public no longer can view the court records associated with the conviction following his five years of probation. That's because he was given a deferred judgment, which the law also prohibits for mandatory reporters convicted of a child sex crime.

"How is this possible? What worse crime can you commit than to rob a child of their development and their innocence?" asked Patricia McKnight, an Illinois resident who advocates in the Midwest on behalf of abuse survivors. "We're telling abusers: ‘You can sexually abuse kids, and you might not even have to go to jail.'"

A recurring problem

Last year, the Register first reported on seven of the 17 cases involving educators convicted of sex crimes, part of a five-year review that ended in 2016.

The Register's latest investigation examined more than 7,800 defendants charged with sex crimes since 2007, finding 75 who were specifically identified as counselors, therapists or school employees.

The examination found 10 additional defendants who were convicted of sex crimes with juveniles but received suspended sentences or deferred judgments, even though that's prohibited by Iowa law.

The law, passed in 1997, applies to anyone who is a mandatory reporter of child abuse — such as a teacher, social worker or psychologist — and who is convicted of any of 139 sex crimes listed as part of Chapter 709 of Iowa law.

Some of the judges and prosecutors involved in the initial seven cases identified by the Register said they weren't aware of the law, citing a complex matrix of sentencing guidelines that can be easily misinterpreted.

As a result, State Court Administrator David Boyd last year alerted county attorneys and chief judges in all eight Iowa judicial districts about the sentencing errors and reminded them of the law's requirements.

In addition, the prosecuting attorneys training coordinator, a division of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller's office, held an online training session for county attorneys to review the law.

Too late to fix

In most of the cases identified by the Register, prosecutors aren't seeking resentencing. They say it's too late.

Most of the sentences have been "discharged," meaning the defendants have already completed their probation or other penalties.

One exception: Floyd County Attorney Rachel Ginbey has called for a judicial review in the sentencing of Benjamin Thompson, one of the cases the Register identified last year. Thompson was convicted in 2016 of a sex crime against a 15-year-old girl who was not his student or from the district he taught.

A judge is reviewing whether the suspended prison sentence Thompson received is illegal, which includes determining whether the victim must be directly supervised by the perpetrator for the mandatory prison law to apply.

One reason prosecutors aren't pursuing resentencing in some cases is the argument that a defendant's status as a mandatory reporter must be part of the facts alleged and proven — or admitted — before conviction.

Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber's office sought prison time in three of the cases the Register cited as probable sentencing violations, including the case of youth minister Brent Girouex.

Wilber, who wasn't involved in prosecuting the cases, reviewed them at the Register's request. He said prosecutors weren't aware of the law at the time and that the defendant's role as a possible mandatory reporter should have been raised in the trial information prior to conviction and sentencing in those cases.

Since their status as a mandatory reporter wasn't raised or proven during the prosecution of the cases and their sentences have been discharged, it is not possible to now seek prison time, he said.

'I think it's tragic'

Five years ago, Girouex avoided a 17-year prison sentence — despite pleading guilty to having sex with teenage boys while he was a Council Bluffs youth minister.

Families of the victims, a parishioner and Girouex's wife all argued that he deserved prison time for what he described to authorities as helping boys — including one as young as 14 — overcome homosexual thoughts through prayer and sexual contact.

Dan McGinn, assistant Pottawattamie County attorney, warned that a sentence without prison time would deter victims of other sexual crimes from coming forward.

"We got a guy who used his position as an elder in this church," McGinn, who is now a private practice attorney, warned in 2012 before Girouex's sentencing. "He was trying to say all the right things so he'd get probation."

Instead, Girouex was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to enroll in the sex offender registry for the rest of his life.

Public response to District Court Judge's Greg Steensland's decision to suspend prison for Girouex was critical.

The no-prison ruling remained in place, for several reasons.

County prosecutors in 2012 were not aware of the 1997 law that might have prevented Girouex from receiving a suspended sentence, Wilber said.

Wilber noted that the judge also wasn't told during the trial that Girouex was a mandatory reporter.

Even if those facts had been presented, Wilber said it's uncertain if it would have resulted in prison. Girouex was not a licensed counselor or an official member of the clergy of his church, raising questions about whether a perpetrator must directly supervise his victims for the law requiring prison to apply.

"Nevertheless, his status as a mandatory reporter should have been raised," Wilber said.

Giriouex did not return phone calls.

Emily Baker, the wife of one of Girouex's victims, said the case should be a stark lesson to make sure similar sentencing mistakes aren't made.

"I think it's tragic," Baker said. "Who is going to come forward in future abuse cases when they look around and see what happened?"

'Yeah, I'm frustrated'

Wilber said he talked with officials from the Iowa Attorney General's Office as well as his county's chief judge and district court administrator about the need for additional training on the sentencing issue after receiving questions about the cases from the Register.

The information has left at least one lawmaker — Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton — to question whether the law should be repealed. Wolfe, a criminal defense attorney, is concerned prosecutors who now know prison can't be avoided, will agree to plea deals that would see defendants charged withlesser crimes.

Lesser crimes, she noted, that would keep defendants off the state's sex offender registry altogether.

Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he is considering whether to call for hearings on the matter.

Meanwhile, Rep. Chip Baltimore, R-Boone and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, voiced his exasperation, questioning what more lawmakers can do to hold child professionals in Iowa to higher standards of accountability.

"We're the ones who have to run for re-election and address constituents who are victimized by people who should be in prison," Baltimore said. "So, yeah, I'm frustrated. I'm frustrated we continue to have branches of government that ignore what we do and just do their own thing."

A federal fix?

Multiple county attorneys told the Register that they hadn't intentionally overlooked the law forbidding suspended prison or deferred judgments for mandatory reporters of child abuse.

Sometimes the sheer complexity and number of laws that are scattered in multiple sections of Iowa or federal code make it easy to miss something, they said.

Buena Vista County Attorney Dave Patton said that happened in a case involving former Sioux Central High School teacher Steven Lindseth, who avoided prison after being convicted in 2012 of sex abuse against a teenage student.

"I'd been practicing as an assistant since 1995, and yet I missed that one," Patton said. "The judges rely on us to catch those. Sometimes they remind us, and other times we remind them. This is one of the circumstances when none of the people in the courtroom knew it."

Wayne Ford, the former Iowa representative who spearheaded the efforts behind the 1997 law, said he believes the issue reflects a national crisis.

"I see these sexual exploitation cases pop up, and nobody is doing time. I believe we're just beginning to open a can of worms similar to that of the Catholic church," Ford said, referring to the sex abuse scandal that erupted in the early 2000s when it was disclosed that the church had moved priests suspected of abuse from parish to parish.

"The question is, when are we going to get serious about sexual exploitation and trafficking of our children?" he asked.

Some child advocates favor incorporating child abuse regulation into federal law. They say that would standardize sentencing nationally and make it less likely that cases like those in Iowa are overlooked.

McKnight, an advocate for abuse survivors and founder of Butterfly Dreams Abuse Recovery, noted that in some states, such as Illinois, statutes of limitations prohibit prosecutors from pursuing sex abuse convictions in older cases.

California resident Bill Murray, founder of the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse, said child abuse and mandated reporter rules are inconsistent across the nation. Iowa's sentencing snafu is more evidence of the need for federal reform, he said.

Murray contends pedophiles not only groom victims but also groom the system by adopting likable personalities and taking steps such as becoming a community volunteer. That, in turn, can influence local prosecutions.

"I know it's an ugly issue and people want to run away from it, but it's something we must talk about," Murray said.

Iowa law

The law prohibits anyone who is a mandatory reporter of child abuse — such as a teacher, social worker or psychologist — from being given a suspended sentence or deferred judgment that would allow them to avoid prison or have their criminal conviction sealed after completing probation.

The law as it applies to mandatory reporters was purposely written broadly and applies to any case where the victim is a juvenile and the perpetrator is a mandatory reporter convicted of sex crimes listed as part of Chapter 709 of Iowa law.

A defendant's "mandated reporter" status must be part of the facts alleged and proven — or admitted by the defendant — before conviction.

Some of the Chapter 709 counts are specific, such as "sexual exploitation by a school employee," which is generally considered adequate to enforce the law that prohibits them from suspended sentences, said Scott Brown, an assistant Iowa Attorney General.

But in the more general counts, such as "indecent contact with a child" — unless a prosecutor specifically alleges the defendant is a mandated reporter — the enhanced sentence can generally not apply.

A questionable case

The Register's investigation found an additional case that has additionally raised questions about how Iowa's sex crimes laws are being applied.

Erick Deleon was convicted in 2015 of sexual exploitation by a school employee. Woodbury County prosecutors said he was a volunteer at a student jobs training program at North High and an assistant coach at West High schools in Sioux City when he admitted to having sex and sending sexually-related texts to a 16-year student in 2014 whom he previously had instructed as part of his volunteer work.

Deleon's five-year prison sentenced was suspended and he was ordered to serve three years of probation by Iowa District Court Judge Duane Hoffmeyer.

Iowa District Court Judge Steven Andreasen ruled before the conviction that Iowa's mandatory prison provision could not apply to Deleon because a separate law says a coach of a child 12 or older is a permissive — and not a mandatory — reporter of suspected child abuse.

Andreasen acknowledged the facts surrounding Deleon's case were "problematic" and that the coach's work was similar to a teacher or a licensed school employee (both of whom are mandatory reporters) because Deleon also counseled students, provided classroom instruction and oversaw summer activities with children through his work with the student training program.

But Andreasen ultimately decided a "stricter" interpretation of the law was appropriate and ruled Deleon was eligible for a suspended prison sentence.

Former State Rep. Wayne Ford, D-Des Moines and the legislator who pushed the law requiring prison for mandatory reporters who commit sex crimes against children, told the Register the case exemplifies how loopholes have eroded the intent of the law.

“If I were to do this again, I'd make sure we wrote the law to say if you represent a school in any way, you fall under this law,” Ford said. “There shouldn't be loopholes. Period.”

About this report

In this investigation, the Register obtained records of 7,829 people charged with 14,852 counts of Chapter 709 sex crimes since Jan. 1, 2007. The paper narrowed its review to 75 people — those convicted of Chapter 709 crimes that specifically identified them as counselors, therapists or school employees.

The Register could not determine how many of the remaining 7,754 people arrested on Chapter 709 sex abuse counts may have been mandatory reporters because that information is often absent from the court record.

Of the 75 cases reviewed, the paper identified 17 in which victims were under the age of 18 and the sentences involved suspended sentences or deferred judgments.



Connecticut had 201 referrals for sex trafficking of minors in 2016, amid a ‘lucrative market'

by Anna Bisaro

NEW BRITAIN >> Every night as her mother painted on her makeup, Theresa Leonard held onto the promise that when she was done working, she would get to go to Chuck E. Cheese.

In her office at Coram Deo in New Britain, a Christian recovery center for women who have suffered from addiction and abuse, Leonard described how for two years she slept on hotel and motel room floors or in closets after a night of being groped and forced to have sex with strange men — sometimes being sold for as little as a $10 bag of crack. She was 10 and living as a nomad with her mother and her mother's boyfriend, traveling from town to town along the Connecticut shoreline. She never got to go to Chuck E. Cheese, she said.

“When the police started driving around, we would move to another hotel,” said Leonard, who is now in her 40s. “Some of it is so dark, it's too awful to believe.”

This criminal abuse of children remains a problem in the state to this day, and data show it may be on the rise. Last year, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families received the highest number of referrals of potential victims of domestic minor sex trafficking since the agency started documenting the number of referrals in 2008, according to Tammy Sneed, who directs the Human Anti-trafficking Response Team at DCF.

There were 201 unique referrals of potential victims of domestic minor sex trafficking in the state in 2016, Sneed said: 183 girls, 17 boys and one minor who identified as transgender.

A victim of domestic minor sex trafficking doesn't have to come from another country, or even another state, according to Sneed. A victim of domestic minor sex trafficking can be the girl or boy next door, whose body was sold for sex in exchange for something of value, such as money, food, clothes, drugs or simply a place to sleep.

On the national stage, numbers of reported sex-trafficking cases continue to climb as well. The number of referrals made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline increased by 35 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to the Polaris Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to combatting human trafficking. The Polaris Project reported that more than 7,000 calls were made to the hotline to report human trafficking nationwide in 2016 and 73 percent of those were reported to be potential sex-trafficking cases.

But, for a crime that mostly takes place under the radar, advocates say, statistics do not tell the whole story.

“The data do not represent the full scope of human trafficking — a lack of awareness of the crime or of these hotlines in certain geographic regions, by particular racial or ethnic groups, and by labor trafficking survivors can lead to significant underreporting,” a 2016 report from Polaris states.

While some of the increase in referrals can be attributed to an increased awareness about sex trafficking, Sneed said, domestic minor sex trafficking is also one of the fastest growing and most lucrative crimes in the world.

And for women such as Leonard, who grew up knowing “the highest bidder gets me,” the realities of domestic minor sex trafficking are all too real, she said.

Leonard's past of being exploited continues to haunt her and has determined the course of much of her adult life so far, she said. The idea of her self-worth being decided by the men who paid to have sex with her was a mind set she could not shake as a young adult, she said, and sex work became the only way she knew how to survive.

Sneed said that, tragically, many victims of domestic minor sex trafficking return to the life as adults — it's the only way they feel they know how to make money. Sadly, Sneed said, this leads to more victim blaming by people unaware and unfamiliar with the trauma of being trafficked and its potential long-term effects on survivors.

“Prostitution was surviving and it was never my choice,” Leonard said. “I was tired, and I was broken and I was alone. Every friend that I had, there was a price.”

Not just a number

Despite popular belief that victims of sex trafficking are the young women and men who have been failed by “the system,” Sneed said less than half of the referrals made in 2016 of potential cases of domestic minor sex trafficking involved minors in the child welfare system. Some of the referrals in 2016, which are classified by the department as high-risk cases unless they are later confirmed by law enforcement as trafficking cases, involve victims from two-parent households who are straight-A students, Sneed said.

“We've seen a very broad spectrum in terms of victims,” she said. “No young person is immune.”

Traffickers will prey on a victim's vulnerabilities and can do so more readily on social media now, she added.

“(Victims) are groomed on the internet,” Sneed said. “That person on the other end knows exactly what to say.”

Leonard said she knows that most victims today are recruited by a pimp and not a family member, as she was, but she said she still suffered the same brainwashing and psychological abuse she knows other victims go through with their pimps, who have tricked them into believing that things will get better as long as you do a good job. And even though her promised trips to Chuck E. Cheese never came, and her mother surrendered custody of her, Leonard said she still fought to try to stay with her in the end.

“I lied for my mother ... It's amazing that I was defending my mom,” she said. “There's no understanding of being trained.”

Many cases remain unreported Sneed said because often times youth do not even realize that they are victims, and feel bonded to their trafficker. A referral received by the DCF for potential minor sex trafficking cannot be confirmed unless the victim confirms that they were trafficked or law enforcement does. But, all referrals remained classify as high risk cases, she said, and survivors are provided ongoing support to help them from returning to the life.

An ongoing battle for justice

“Criminals have realized that this is a lucrative market,” said David Palmbach, who works for the Center for Digital Investigations for the Glastonbury Police Department.”You can keep reusing the girl and making money off of the girl.”

Palmbach estimates there were 600,000 advertisements for sex posted online in 2016 in Connecticut, a number that is twice the amount he found in 2015, based on information he gathered from public websites and social media platforms.

While some of that increased has to do with people's ability to repost ads multiple times daily on a variety of sites and online platforms, Palmbach said it's also due to a growth in the industry and a surge in the crime, especially as ads move online and make it easier for traffickers to reach more customers.

In response to the surge, state advocacy groups and legislators have started to tackle this issue and new legislation has been proposed in the latest General Assembly session that would make purchasing sex from a minor a Class C felony. In addition, legislation passed last year has created a system of mandatory training for hotel and motel employees and requires they maintain records of patrons for at least six months to aid law enforcement investigating potential cases of sex trafficking. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced a public-private partnership in January that would help provide training for hotel and motel staffs so they may better be able to recognize signs of sex trafficking and now how to report suspected cases.

“We wouldn't have sex trafficking if there wasn't a demand,” said Jillian Gilchrest, a senior policy analyst, for the state's Trafficking in Person's Council, run by state Commission on Women, Children and Seniors, a group that announced an “End Demand” campaign earlier this year targeted at those who purchase sex.

“It's really a prevention strategy,” Gilchrest said of the campaign that seeks to spread awareness and to encourage lawmakers to pass laws that will make punishments for “johns” harsher, especially if they purchase sex from a minor. “When you don't have a risk for buying, you're going to buy,” she said.

At the federal level, the U.S. attorney's office, in conjunction with several federal agencies, state police, and 16 local police departments has made efforts to reduce trafficking through the Human Trafficking Task Force created in November 2015. Since the task force was created, federal charges have been brought against three alleged traffickers and four individuals are also facing state-level charges, though Connecticut U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly said that three of the state-level cases will likely become federal because multiple victims were involved.

Last year, federal judges in Connecticut sentenced two convicted sex traffickers to 10 years in prison each for their roles in sex trafficking minors.

“We have no plans to disband it,” Daly said of the task force, adding that she had no reason to believe the current presidential administration would have any reason to want to do so. “Everybody involved all views this as a despicable crime.”

Sneed said that while she applauds all of the measures that have been taken to combat sex trafficking, the state has a long way to go in protecting potential victims from ever entering into the life and rescuing those that are already there, especially as the number of referrals climb. The next goal of DCF and partner organization Love146 , a nonprofit in New Haven that fights trafficking globally, is to make presentations in schools around the state to educate students, their parents, and teachers about sex trafficking and how to recognize the signs, as well as discuss healthy relationships and internet safety.

Every school in the state has been contacted by DCF, Sneed said, offering this presentation free of charge. A vast majority of schools have declined the offer, she said.

Road to healing

As Leonard continues to struggle with her own survival and healing, she has found ways to assist others who have suffered the same plight, including providing testimony at churches about her experiences for The Underground Connecticut, a Christian ministry she helped found, which is dedicated to preventing sex trafficking in Connecticut.

For her day job, Leonard works as a case manager for Coram Deo, a recovery center operating two recovery living centers for women who have suffered from abuse, addiction, or sexual exploitation. Jody Davis, executive director of Coram Deo, describes Leonard as one of the strongest women she has ever met.

“It's been really neat to be a part of her story,” Davis said. “She's an amazing woman.”

Leonard herself was a resident at Coram Deo more than once, as she struggled with drug relapses after leaving prison in her 30s. It was during two bouts of incarceration that Leonard became a Christian, first experienced sobriety, and the first time she laid down to bed at night on a mattress that had sheets, she said.

“If I didn't begin to heal, I would always go back to drugs,” Leonard said, as she explained that drugs were a way to cope with the shame she felt from sex work. “Sadly, it's a lifetime of healing.”

Leonard is now married to Marc Rozyn, a man she described in a recent talk for The Underground Connecticut at Promise Land Church in West Haven as a “loving and respectful husband” who has given her a relationship of love and respect she has never experienced before.

“I (now) live in a house in the sticks with my amazing husband, our two dogs and our scruffy cat,” she said to close her presentation at Promise Land. “It's the family I always wanted, our own little Brady Bunch.”

Leonard said many of the women she works with at Coram Deo were once sexually exploited and she is walking with them on their journey to recovery.

“They don't know they were sex-trafficked,” Leonard said. “I want them to know that they can take care of themselves and they don't have to go back to the pimp.”



For Solebury abuse survivors, grand jury report offered chance to be heard

by Justine McDaniel

Carole Trickett wanted to break the code of silence.

That's why the 79-year-old traveled from Maine to Pennsylvania almost three years ago to tell a Bucks County grand jury about sexual abuse she experienced decades earlier at Solebury School.

Trickett recounted how her language teacher there drew her into a sexual relationship when she was a teen in the 1950s. She became one of at least six Solebury students allegedly preyed upon by adults at the prestigious boarding school -- and whose accounts helped form the grand jury report released Wednesday that chronicled years of ignored or unreported abuse.

Nearly all of the allegations were too old to be prosecuted or litigated, though one accuser promises a lawsuit and could still press for criminal charges. For others, the grand jury investigation gave them a chance, finally, to be heard -- and expose a culture they believe affected other students as well.

“I know I will never overcome this, I really do,” Trickett told the Inquirer on Friday. “I hate knowing that -- but we need to at least have the door open” so other victims can speak out.

Three of the six victims spoke late last week to the Inquirer directly or through representatives. Each said they hoped doing so would encourage others to come forward and, perhaps, prevent future abuse.

“One thing she hopes is that this never happens to anybody again,” said Jordan Merson, the lawyer for the youngest victim, a 2005 graduate who told the grand jury that her gym teacher started a sexual relationship with her at Solebury. “Getting the word out about this, maybe it'll save somebody else from a similar fate.”

The case rocked a small private-school community while adding to a growing list of such scandals across the state -- and it came as the state Senate last week passed a bill that seeks to give future child sex-abuse victims more time to bring criminal or civil charges against their assailants.

The grand jury's report blamed neglectful school administrators at a private school with an informal culture and hazy boundaries that allowed teachers to have relationships and sexual contact with students. It recommended the school implement 18 measures to prevent sex abuse.

Located in New Hope, Solebury School today has 220 students, 79 of whom live on campus. Day students pay $35,000 annually; boarders pay $52,000 -- plus fees for other programs. Its “progressive” approach has traditionally meant students call teachers by their first names. Many teachers also live on campus.

One former student, Peter Robbins, drove from Albany, N.Y., to testify in 2014. Robbins described to the grand jury being anally raped after blacking out in the presence of a male teacher and another adult while a senior in 1968. A teacher and the headmaster knew about the violent attack but did nothing, he said.

Robbins ultimately became an elementary-school teacher and earned a Ph.D. in psychology, but was in therapy for many years as an adult, his husband, Richard Klaus, told the Inquirer.

“We want justice, plain and simple. The laws do not protect the innocent. The laws protect the guilty criminals,” Klaus said, citing the statute of limitations that prevents people from suing offenders at any time.

The couple hope the grand jury report will encourage other victims to come forward. They viewed Robbins' testimony as a way to “stand up” for those without a voice, Klaus said.

“We cannot hide in the shadows anymore,” he said. “It's just wrong.”

The report names teachers and administrators, many still living, as people who could have been charged in various eras with sexual assault or failure to report abuse. Most interviewed denied wrongdoing or invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

On Wednesday, headmaster Tom Wilschutz said school officials would ensure that they “have the most comprehensive policies, procedures, and training to protect the students who are in our care.”

The 2005 graduate, who wanted to protect her identity, plans to file a civil suit against Solebury School next week, her lawyer said. He called Wilschutz's statement “a sham” and said he believed the school has not accepted responsibility for the crimes.

The woman, now 27, is the only victim cited by investigators whose accusation falls within the criminal statute of limitations. The grand jury report incorrectly said she did not want to bring charges, Merson said. He told the Inquirer on Friday that she is close to making a decision about whether to pursue the case criminally.

That, too, was present in the woman's mind when she decided to testify, he said. “She carries a burden for all the victims of abuse at Solebury,” he said. “The mantle has really been passed to [her] ... to hold this school accountable and responsible for what's gone on for the past 50 years, and that is not lost on her.”

One Solebury School teacher has been prosecuted for a sexual relationship with a student: David Chadwick, sentenced to prison in 1996 for abusing a female student, who did not testify before the grand jury. Chadwick also settled a civil lawsuit with the girl's family for about $700,000.

But almost two decades passed before the scope of the past abuse -- or the pattern of indifference by administrators -- became public. Trickett was a driving force in making that happen.

She had been attempting to meet with school officials about her abuse since the 1990s, she said. In 2014, she shared her story again, this time with Wilschutz.

After they spoke, Wilschutz sent an open letter to the campus community acknowledging past abuse by adults at Solebury School, and the school reported abuse to authorities. That year, the grand jury investigation began.

Trickett will celebrate her 80th birthday in March. She had a career as a social worker and raised four daughters. She wishes her husband, who died in 2015, were alive to see the report. She hopes the public pays attention to it.

“The end result is that I want the school to be held responsible for the entirety of its history,” Trickett said. “It's got to be more prominent, because Solebury will just continue to, in a sense ... keep it quiet.”




A Virginia school board's unconscionable stance on child abuse

by Michele Booyh Cole

Michele Booth Cole is executive director of Safe Shores – The DC Children's Advocacy Center, a nonprofit that serves child victims of abuse, and was a member of the Prince George's County Public Schools Student Safety Task Force.

Just when you think the dystopic world of child abuse cannot get any more outrageous, the news of the Russell County (Va.) School Board's response to child sexual abuse proves you wrong. A janitor at Lebanon Elementary School pleaded guilty to 150 counts of aggravated sexual battery, carnal knowledge and sodomy in connection with the abuse of four boys, two of whom were students at the elementary school. Yet, the school board denies responsibility.

This preposterous and reckless response by an institution entrusted with the education and care of children sends a frightening message to students and families as well as an open invitation to child predators. Predators look for opportunities to knit themselves into the fabric of communities where children abound. The school district seems to be flashing a neon “Welcome” sign to those who would harm kids.

For the Russell County School Board to disavow its central role in protecting children is just flat-out wrong, legally and morally. Schools by the very virtue of their mission should be among the safest spaces for children in our society. Indeed, schools and educators have a duty of care to act with a reasonable degree of watchfulness, attention, caution and prudence whenever students are in their charge. How could a reasonable person, who is responsible for other people's children more than seven hours a day, five days a week, not take basic steps to make the environment safer? Fundamental protection of students means conducting effective background checks and ensuring all faculty and staff are provided with instruction in recognizing, responding to and preventing child sexual abuse. Further, this duty of care requires adults who suspect that a child is being harmed to report their suspicions to law enforcement or child protective services.

Children deserve to be safe in schools. They must actually be and feel safe to learn. Schools have a mission-based moral and legal obligation to ensure safe environments by preventing and reporting child abuse.

Research on adverse childhood experiences tells us that child abuse can inflict lifelong damage on victims if the adults and systems that are supposed to come to children's aid don't step in or, worse, intentionally choose not to know. Both faculty and leadership at Lebanon Elementary spotted plenty of signs that the janitor was abusing at least one boy — from catching the janitor and the boy hidden in a dark room, to seeing the janitor give the boy money, to knowing the boy moved into the janitor's home, to learning of an official child abuse complaint against the janitor. Any one of these events would be a red flag to any responsible adult who has had basic training in preventing child abuse and/or who simply has any concern about their students' well-being.

The Lebanon case underscores the imperative for schools and all places that serve children to have and enforce effective child abuse prevention policies, which include a code of conduct for interpersonal interactions and training for all personnel on how to recognize signs of abuse, how to report abuse and how to prevent abuse from occurring in the first place.

One in 10 children in the United States will be sexually abused by his or her 18th birthday. The only reason this shocking statistic persists is because too many adults are shirking their duty. We can stop the victimization of children. It starts with accepting our responsibility to create, nurture and monitor safer environments for all children.

We can only hope that the court requires the Russell County School Board to rise to its duty. Whatever the outcome, the importance of this case can't be overstated because we've hit rock bottom when any school not only turns a blind eye to child abuse but also willfully denies its responsibility to protect students from the crime. Every adult should be outraged by the school board's unprincipled stance and the potential for a dangerous legal precedent that would further endanger children. Either we take action or admit that children aren't really as important as many claim.



Lawmakers plan to rewrite child abuse reporting law following the Ooltewah High School rape case

by Kendi A. Rainwater

Hamilton County lawmakers are rewriting Tennessee's child abuse reporting laws to clarify and strengthen the language in response to the 2015 Ooltewah High School rape case.

In December, Criminal Court Judge Don Poole dismissed charges of failure to report child sexual abuse lodged against Ooltewah head basketball coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery. Poole said that despite a moral obligation to report abuse, his interpretation of the statute imposes a legal obligation to report only for children aged 13 to 17 and when the crimes are committed by household members.

Since the charges involved the victim's teammates, Poole said, Montgomery was not legally obliged to report the abuse.

The muddiness of the statute prompted state Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and state Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, to work on draft legislation requiring adults to report all child abuse cases, and clarifying where and how abuse should be reported.

Gardenhire and Carter have met with judges, attorneys, the state attorney general's office and people in the juvenile justice system, among others.

"The consensus of everybody is the statute needs to be totally rewritten, not just tweaked," Gardenhire said.

Carter said three attorneys, two judges and the district attorney could not agree on what the law required in the Ooltewah case.

"When all of them can't agree what a statute means, then it's faulty," said Carter, an attorney and former General Sessions judge in Hamilton County courts. "This is one of the most complicated statutes I've ever read."

Gardenhire plans to introduce a caption bill on the statute before Thursday's legislative filing deadline, and he and Carter expect to submit the final bill later this year.

The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth's 2016 Second Look Report calls the lack of consequences for failing to report child abuse a statewide issue and recommends more training for professionals, service providers and the community on mandatory child abuse reporting.

The pool-cue rape of an Ooltewah High School freshman occurred at the hands of his older basketball teammates during a team trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn., to compete in a tournament. Montgomery found the 15-year-old bleeding in a basement bedroom but did not alert authorities, according to court testimony.

When he took the boy to a hospital, medical staff reported the assault, according to the Gatlinburg Police Department. The boy required emergency surgery to repair his bladder and colon.

Three former Ooltewah High School players, juveniles at the time of the crime, were convicted in connection with the rape.

District Attorney Neal Pinkston charged Montgomery, along with volunteer assistant basketball coach Karl Williams and former Athletic Director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley, with failure to report child sexual abuse last February. At a preliminary hearing the next month, Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw transferred the cases to Hamilton County Criminal Court.

At the time, Philyaw decried the complexities and ambiguity of the statute and advised lawmakers to revise the law.

Charges against Williams were dropped in May. Two weeks before that, Nayadley accepted pretrial diversion, meaning the case would not go to a grand jury and the charges would be erased after he completed 10 hours of community service and attended a course on reporting abuse.

Philyaw said Friday that Tennessee's two statutes dealing with reporting child abuse and child sexual abuse are inconsistent in requirements and remedies. He hopes the new law will fix those problems.

As the law is being rewritten, Philyaw said he wants professionals involved with children's safety across the state to be involved in the conversation.

"The bottom line is, reporting child abuse is imperative to keeping children safe, and [the law] needs to be clear and it needs to be simple," Philyaw said. "We don't just need a quick fix."



Catholic use of confession to be scrutinised by child abuse royal commission

Church argues obligations to report child sexual abuse should not extend to divulging information given in confessional

by The Australian Associated Press

Whether what is heard in the confessional box should continue to stay there will be considered by the child sexual abuse royal commission as it again turns its focus to widespread offending in the Catholic Church in Australia this week.

The former Victorian priest Paul David Ryan, jailed in 2006 for 18 months for indecently assaulting one victim, revealed during a 2015 private hearing that he confessed his sexual activity with adolescent boys to his confessor on multiple occasions.

Asked if that was the way he reconciled his actions with God, he said: “Yes. Well I thought I was. I know that was very seriously flawed.”

Over the next few weeks the royal commission will look at issues such as the sacrament of confession, celibacy, how priests and religious are selected, trained and supervised, and the church's structure and governance as it examines why child abuse was so prominent in Catholic institutions.

The body co-ordinating the church's response to the commission argues obligations to report child sexual abuse should not extend to divulging information in the confessional.

The Truth Justice and Healing Council chief executive, Francis Sullivan, believed there was no public evidence before the commission of someone actually confessing a crime of child sexual abuse under the seal of confession.

Alerted to Ryan's testimony, Sullivan described it as an absolute abuse of the sacrament.

“If he's saying he's using the confessional as a way of alleviating his guilt so he can keep on abusing people, that's an absolute corruption of the use of the confessional and it's not what it's about,” he said. “As a Catholic that's repulses me.”

The commission has also heard the Melbourne pedophile Father Victor Gabriel Rubeo used a confessional situation to “take out” his confessor, who had been alerted by one of the priest's victims.

“I gave absolution and, as he walked out the door, he laughed at me,” former priest Philip O'Donnell told a 2015 hearing. “In other words, he made sure that I couldn't speak to anyone. I felt totally entrapped by that situation.”

Sullivan says it is up to the royal commission if it recommends changing privilege laws.

“If they do that and if governments change the law then priests like everybody else will need to either abide by the law and, if they don't abide by the law, they take the consequences.”

A spokesman for the victims' advocacy group Broken Rites, Dr Wayne Chamley, says answering why the abuse occurred is complex.

“It's certainly not just celibacy,” he said. “I think what they'll get into is this whole process of religious formation where essentially people were depersonalised, so they no longer were capable of empathy.”

The royal commission has received information about more than 4000 institutions but Sullivan has acknowledged the Catholic church is the single largest institutional setting in which children have been abused.

“It's terribly important in these three weeks that that phenomenon of the abuse of power, people abusing their positions of power and privilege, is explored,” he said.

In the lead-up to the final Catholic hearing, Perth archbishop Timothy Costelloe again apologised for the church's failures and the pain it caused so many.

“The prevalence of sexual abuse of children and young people in so many institutional settings in Australia, including the churches, indicates that there is a sickness at the heart of our nation which simply must be addressed,” Costelloe said.

Sullivan said the church in Australia would take very seriously any recommendations or findings from the royal commission, although there may be issues that could only be dealt with by the Vatican.

“If the royal commission is talking about changes in the Catholic church that only can occur in Rome, then Rome needs to deal with that,” he said. “The Australian church will deal with what the Australian church can deal with. It's as practical as that.”

Sullivan said the church had already made many changes, including putting in place an independent body to ensure Catholic entities adhered to new national standards to protect children.



North Township Trustee Mrvan launches campaign to combat child sexual abuse

by Steve Garrison

MUNSTER — North Township Trustee Frank J. Mrvan launched a campaign last week to address child sexual abuse in Northwest Indiana.

Mrvan said the No More Secrets campaign is intended to increase awareness about the issue and promote legislation to combat it.

He hopes to create a hotline, in partnership with other organizations, to report child sexual abuse and a support group for abuse survivors.

“One act causes an enormous wave of family destruction and, more than likely, emotional and physical abuse going forward into the future that tears at the fabric of society,” Mrvan said. “If we are going to boast about bringing in new businesses and improving quality of life, this is one topic that needs to be discussed.”

Education is 'best weapon'

Partners in the No More Secrets campaign include Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, Geminus Corp., WJOB, the Regional Mental Health Center, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Indiana, the Lake County Prosecutor's Office and The Times Media Co.

Mrvan said he was inspired to create the campaign after he read a September 2015 editorial in The Times of Northwest Indiana.

The editorial focused on a report by the Global Health Communication Center at Indiana University, which found Indiana had the second-highest rate of forced sexual intercourse among high school females in the nation.

The report indicated a number of factors contributed to the state's inability to effectively address child sexual abuse, including a lack of education for students and teachers, and spotty reporting of relevant data by state and local agencies.

Sandy Runkle, director of programs for Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, said approximately 1 in 10 children in the United States experience physical sexual abuse, a crime that is often underreported due to the coercion, secrecy and shame that is inflicted on the child by the abuser.

Mrvan, U.S. District Attorney David Capp and a mental health advocate will tour high schools March 13-17 in North Township to educate students about sexual abuse and how to report incidents, among other issues. A sexual abuse survivor also will speak at the schools about her experience.

On March 18, a symposium will take place at Purdue University Northwest's Hammond campus.

Erin Merryn, a child sexual abuse survivor, will discuss her campaign to promote Erin's Law, legislation that mandates sexual abuse prevention curriculum in schools. The symposium also will feature two workshops on child sexual abuse and human trafficking.

Legislation clears committee

The campaign promotes Senate Bill 355, which would implement a version of Erin's Law in Indiana.

The law would require the Indiana Department of Education to make available by July 1, 2018, educational materials to assist schools in implementing child abuse and sexual abuse education programs in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Schools would be required to provide such instruction by Oct. 1, 2018, as well as train certain employees and volunteers how to respond and report incidents of child abuse and child sexual abuse.

Current law requires the Department of Education to make child abuse and sexual abuse information available to schools for programs in second through fifth grade, but implementing such curriculum is not required.

The bill is co-authored by Mrvan's father, state Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond.

Both men testified Thursday in favor of the bill at a hearing of the state Senate Family and Children Services Committee.

The younger Mrvan told the senators he visited high schools in the five municipalities that compose North Township and only one school — Highland High — had implemented curriculum to prevent child sexual abuse. Other school officials were excited about such a program being implemented, he said.

The issue is personal for Mrvan and his father.

“I had a sister-in-law that was abused, and turned to opiates for relief,” Frank J. Mrvan said. “And she is no longer with us.”

The committee voted unanimously to approve the bill, which will now be sent to the full Senate for a first reading.

“I'm excited about the unanimous vote,” the trustee said. “It's the first step. Education is the best weapon against a skilled predator.”

Two part-time trustee employees, Mayra Rodriguez-Alvarez and Isha Haley, assisted Mrvan in creating the campaign.

Haley shared with senators at Thursday's hearing her experience as a survivor of sexual abuse.

She said in an interview that Frank J. Mrvan's decision to promote this issue spoke to his character.

“This is not about politics,” Haley said. “This is about people, and people are hurting.”

Any child sexual abuse survivor who would like to share their story can contact Rodriguez-Alvarez at 219-932-2530, ext. 338.


United Kingdom

Paedo found with TWO MILLION child abuse videos walks FREE after judge forced to hand lenient sentence

Judge David Ticehurst freed monster Edward Brooks' who was hoarding vile videos of children on his computer

by Scarlet Howes

A judge slammed sentencing guidelines which he said left him no alternative but to free a paedophile found with over two MILLION child abuse videos.

Sickened police found Edward Brooks' vile hoard hidden on computers and hard drives in a cavity wall.

Prosecutor Nikki Coombe said it was so big officers were been unable to categorise them all.

The videos - downloaded over a ten-year period - mainly featured girls aged between 12 and 14, Taunton Crown Court heard on Tuesday.

Brooks, 50, was arrested and bailed by police after they discovered the stash last February.

But shortly afterwards he logged back on and downloaded a further 2,231 sexual photos and videos of girls aged between eight and 16.

When interviewed by police, the child abuse "addict", of Minehead, Somerset, admitted two charges of possessing indecent images of children.

He did not see the child victims in the films as being 'people' or 'human', according to a probation service report.

Judge David Ticehurt said he wanted to jail Brooks and put him on a rehabilitation programme after release - but implied that he couldn't do both.

Due to national guidelines the judge could impose a two-year jail term but Brooks would only serve six months.

It is understood that he wouldn't be there long enough to complete treatment.

Sentencing him, Judge Ticehurt said: "It's people like you that lead to young girls like your daughter being abused.

"These are real children, with real feelings and real emotions and now, no doubt, with real psychological trauma that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

"Trauma that people like you are responsible for.

"Your offending is compounded by the fact that after you were arrested; you continued to view these images."

Of the two-year jail term he could impose, the judge added: "I wish I could make it longer.

"The fact is you'd serve only half of that sentence, less the time you've already served and the credit for your guilty plea.

"You'd spend a few months behind bars and come out and offend again, no doubt. That is not in the public interest. What I want to do is stop you."

The judge imposed a two-year custodial sentence suspended for two years and ordered him to take part in the Thames Valley Sex Offender Programme.

Brooks must also undertake a 25 day rehabilitation requirement and be the subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

Defending, Catherine Flint said her client had been "honest and frank" with the police and probation service and described him as "an addict".

She said: "He accepts that he needs help. He wants help so he can - in his own words - sort his head out."

"The only thing keeping him going is his daughter. He wants to see her grow up."

The Ministry of Justice said Sexual Offending Treatment Programmes are available in both custody and the community.

But they refused to clarify whether an offender could be enrolled on a rehabilitation programme after serving a short custodial sentence.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "Sentencing in individual cases is a matter for independent judges, who make their decisions on the facts of the case they are hearing."

The NSPCC said: "From the volume and severity of the images found in his possession, it's clear that Brooks' depravity knows no bounds.

"The sexual harm prevention order imposed in this case must be policed effectively to aid his rehabilitation and to prevent any further repeats of his offending.

"More needs to be done to tackle the vile trade in indecent images of children and to cut this material off at the source."

This comes a week after the Government said it is receptive to change in the law which would make sex and relationship education (SRE) a statutory requirement.



CHILD ABUSE HOTLINE: Nonmandatory calls double in 2016

by Zach Hillstrom

Recent figures from the Colorado Department of Human Services indicate that the number of Pueblo citizens who reported cases of child abuse or neglect without legal obligation to do so more than doubled in the past year.

The numbers come from the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline, a statewide toll-free service that began in January 2015 as a way for Coloradans to report concerns for children who might be victims of neglect or abuse.

“Essentially we wanted to make sure there was a hotline that was designed to provide one easy-to-remember phone number to report childhood abuse and neglect in Colorado. Essentially we want the number, 1-844-CO4-KIDS, to serve as a direct route to Colorado's 64 counties and two tribal nations. That was the goal,” said Luis Guzman, deputy director of the CDHS' Office of Children, Youth and Families.

Types of maltreatment reported to the hotline range from physical abuse and neglect to medical neglect, sexual abuse and psychological or emotional abuse. In addition, the passing of Colorado House Bill 16-1224 — which expanded the definition of “child abuse or neglect” to include any case in which a child is subjected to human trafficking for involuntary servitude or human trafficking for sexual servitude — resulted in the hotline serving as an outlet to report child sex trafficking, as well.

Callers who contact the hotline to voice concerns are divided into two categories: mandatory and nonmandatory reporters.

Mandatory reporters are typically health, public, education or law enforcement officials who are required by law to report potential cases of child abuse or neglect to be investigated by CDHS. Nonmandatory reporters, however, consist of ordinary citizens with reasonable concerns for the welfare a child.

While figures indicate that the overall number of calls in Pueblo County from 2015-16 slightly decreased — 7,348 calls made in 2016 compared to 7,392 in 2015 — the percentage of calls made by nonmandatory reporters jumped from just 26 percent of the total volume in 2015 to 52 percent in 2016.

Mandatory reporters from Pueblo County made up 38 percent of all calls to the hotline system last year, while unknown/anonymous callers accounted for the final 10 percent of all calls.

“Essentially what that tells us is that the growth in the number of calls from nonmandatory reporters reflects a very welcome shift in the public perception of our shared responsibility to protect kids,” Guzman said.

“Childhood abuse and neglect is a reality in Colorado — as it is in all states in the union — and we need help from the community. We need help from family, friends, neighbors, schools and community members to help us identify where there's a potential case of childhood abuse and neglect. We can't help these children unless we get a referral,” he said.

When a concern is reported to the hotline, the phone call is recorded and logged before being routed back to the individual county where the report was placed, to be evaluated by that county's Department of Social Services.

The report is then screened by DSS officials to gather additional information and assess the validity of the claim before being passed on to department supervisors to determine the severity of the threat to the child, as well as to evaluate the department's response.

“Those calls come in and when they talk to a reporter, they go through a series of questions for advanced screening so that decisions can be made about what we need to do,” said Tim Hart, director of Pueblo County's DSS.

Hart said that a team at the department develops a plan to address the concern, gauging how quickly the department needs to respond in order to ensure the safety of the child in question, as well as whether or not to partner with law enforcement to resolve the issue.

“I can tell you that the majority of the children we serve are helped inside their home without the necessity of the children being removed from their home. So I think that's an indicator that instead of turning immediately to legal intervention, that these are cases where we want to help the families within their homes and improve the situation,” Guzman said.

Since the program began in 2015, Hart said that Social Service departments have seen a significant increase in referrals across the state, as well as within Pueblo County.

With more and more of the total number of referrals coming from nonmandatory reporters, instances of child abuse and neglect may be addressed quicker and more thoroughly than ever before.

“Most of the time, the mandatory reporters aren't the first ones who see the injuries — they're secondary. There's neighbors, family members and others who see them injured or know about the maltreatment before the mandatory reporters do,” Hart said.

“When there's immediate danger, the faster and more accurate the information is the better the decision can be made. In my opinion it's really (nonmandatory reporters) that are the folks who protect kids. That's the first line of defense.”

To report potential cases of child abuse or neglect, call 844-CO4-KIDS (844-264-5437)



Mother sentenced in severe child abuse case

by Brad Bowman

Given her low IQ, a woman who pleaded guilty to severe child abuse perhaps should “never have had children in the first place,” Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate said during her sentencing Friday.

Until the matter is sorted out in family court, Wingate told Kimberly Powell, 26, of Frankfort, that she will not have contact with her three children, who endured the worst living conditions that social workers and Franklin County sheriff's deputies said they have witnessed during their careers.

A doctor alerted the Department of Community Based Services in July after one of Kimberly and Andrew Powell's children came in for immunizations and had dirt falling off of her and had indications of developmental problems.

All children were removed from the home when social workers and deputies found them malnourished and locked in a room of a bug-infested trailer with blacked-out windows. Upon examination, all children were deemed developmentally delayed as a result of malnourishment.

One child's teeth were black and crumbling, and despite being 4, she had only recently learned to walk. One 6-year-old child taken from the home weighed just 35 pounds.

In December, Powell pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree criminal abuse, a Class D felony.

During her sentencing, Powell provided proof to the court that she had attended parenting classes at the Sunshine Center.

“She suffers from intellectual disabilities,” said defense attorney Nathan Goodrich. “Her IQ range is in the low to mid-60s, and she is working on filing for disability to help her get back on her feet.”

The average adult IQ is 85 to 115.

Powell would like to be reunited with her children, Goodrich said, but “she realizes she isn't going to get a lot of community support at this point.”

Wingate said he would leave that up to family court. According to a pre-sentencing interview, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Zach Becker said there was evidence of an underlying substance abuse problem as Powell admitted to recreationally using alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and Lortab daily since she was 14, but she “denies any addiction issues.”

Wingate sentenced Powell to a probated five-year sentence on all three counts with the condition she has no contact with her children pending family court's ruling. The judge said she received probation only because it was her first felony charge.

“Also, the fact that your IQ is in the 60s range, there's a big question of (whether) you should have had children in the first place, I guess. I don't know,” Wingate said. “You are to complete your parenting classes … Whether or not you are reunited with your children is up to family court and Department of Community Based Services. This was a very serious case, and again, I leave up to family court as to whether to terminate your parental rights.”

Becker said Powell also indicated in her pre-sentencing interview that she was the victim of physical and psychological abuse by the children's father.

Wingate agreed she would have no contact with Andrew Powell. He will be sentenced next month.