Sharp rise in children committing sex crimes in Kimberley
by Erin Parke
Police in Western Australia's north are concerned about an increase in children committing sexual assaults, a trend child advocates say is being seen nationally.
In the 12 months leading up to August 2016, police investigated 18 children for sexual assault, a sharp rise from the same period in 2014, when just three were investigated.
Senior East Kimberley police detective Tania MacKenzie told the ABC she was shocked by the number of reports she was receiving in relation to children molesting other young people, and even forcing themselves on adult women.
"The amount of juveniles that are now starting to get involved in that sexualised behaviour is concerning," she said.
"We had a period last year when we were investigating more than a dozen allegations made against kids from as young as nine, up to age 17.
"A lot of the time for ... sexual penetrations without consent, there have been times which are opportunistic.
"The other thing we've found is the same opportunistic behaviour, where a group of young boys are together and they've seen a girl walking past that they want to steal something off, but you end up with groping behaviour and inappropriate touching."
Many of the cases are still before the Children's Court, and only limited details can be reported to protect the identities of both the alleged offenders and victims.
But the ABC can reveal cases recently investigated include:
An 11-year-old girl who fell pregnant after having sex with two teenagers, who have both been charged with sexual penetration of a child under 13. The girl is now aged 12, and is raising the baby with the support of family. A paternity test has been done to establish which of the 14 year olds is the father.
A 13-year-old boy arrested for indecently assaulting a 26-year-old woman in her home, then later raping a 34-year-old woman in the front yard of a property in Broome.
A 11-year-old boy accused of sneaking up on a school-teacher in a carpark and groping her. Within months he was then arrested for indecently assaulting women in two separate incidents at train stations in Perth.
Detective Sergeant MacKenzie said it was a disturbing trend.
"That sort of behaviour has a huge impact on the victim, and I don't want to see an escalation in it," she said.
Sexual abuse by children on rise in Australia
Karen Flanagan, a child protection advocate with Save the Children, has been studying sexual abuse amongst children for more than three decades, and said it is thought problematic behaviour is increasing in Australia.
"There's evidence that there's been a decrease in northern America and the United Kingdom, for example, in their statistics, but it seems in Australia it seems the figures are growing," Ms Flanagan said.
"We're seeing kids engaging in this behaviour that don't come from violent homes or don't come from violence communities, so it's important we try to prevent this."
A report commissioned by the Australian Crime Commission in 2010 highlighted the tensions that lie within how children who commit indecent assaults or rapes are treated — are they themselves victims or offenders?
"Children and young people with sexualised behaviours are very often children who have experienced harm of some kind, and who then go on to cause harm themselves," reporter author Wendy O'Brien wrote.
Online pornography 'increases offending'
Ms Flanagan said while there were established links between family and community violence, sexual abuse, and socio-economic and children committing abuse, there was a new and disturbing trend emerging.
"There are clear links where children who engage in sexually abusive behaviour have grown up in communities, or families and homes where there is a lot of violence, or has included their own trauma which includes sexual abuse, as well as socio-economic challenges," she says.
"Worrying though, a new and emerging trend is the exposure to pornography online, and children and young people, particularly those who live in rural and isolated place, who maybe don't have other forms of stimulation, will engage in viewing pornography which is well beyond their mental capacity to understand."
Ms Flanagan said this trend was behind an increase in offending from children who would not normally have abused other children.
Children can only be prosecuted for sexual offences if aged ten years or over. If convicted, they are usually sent to juvenile detention.
Social workers in the Kimberley who spoke to the ABC on the condition of anonymity said their main concern was that boys convicted of sexual assaults were returning to their community without any ongoing treatment or support to address the psychological issues associated with their offending.
"Putting a young person in a facility without treatment and intervention is just a recipe for disaster," Ms Flanagan said.
"They need to be given access to treatment programs because it's been proven that young people can and will change their behaviour.
"But that's the big problem, they're not very available.
"So every state and territory has something, but it varies dramatically."
In a written statement, the WA Department of Corrective Services said tailored treatment programs are in place for children in custody.
However, it confirmed its psychologists responsible for counselling young people post-release are all based in Perth, meaning they'd be required to travel 2,000 kilometres north to have an appointment with convicted child sex offenders in the Kimberley.
Commentary: NFL executive: Men must lead to end domestic violence
by Troy Vincent, NFL Executive Vice President
As young boys in Trenton, New Jersey, my brother and I grew up behind the closed doors of a home often engulfed with the haunting cries and unspeakable images that predictably come with horrific acts of domestic violence.
Huddling together, we would squeeze our eyes shut, muffle our sobs and, without a sound, wordlessly agree that during those frequent occurrences of violence, our best survival plan was to blanket our pain and fear with silence.
We dared not to breathe, lest we further provoke the man who was hitting our mother. Instead, we silently and fervently willed the violence to stop. It did not.
Like so many children who are victims, witnesses or survivors of domestic violence, my brother and I regularly endured such inescapable and sickening violence in silence. Who would hear us anyway? Who would help our mother; who would help us? And most of all, who in the world possesses such all-encompassing power that they can, once and for all, make such harmful violence stop?
As an adult, the answer to that question is clear to me. We all have the power to help eradicate domestic violence. Instead of turning away, we must step forward. Instead of silence, we must speak up. For those who think their inaudible cries are not heard, let us be the ones who hear them. Let us be their voice.
Some have wrongly claimed that domestic violence is a “woman's issue.” But the facts are more than sobering: Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women — more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. Ten million children witness some form of domestic violence every year; every day more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends; men are twice as likely to abuse their wives if they witnessed domestic violence as children.
It largely has been the voices of women speaking up for their sisters who face domestic or relationship violence. Women have been burdened with the responsibility to educate the rest of us, not only about the physical injury but also the devastation to a woman or child's spirit and soul.
In the decades I've served as an advocate to end domestic violence, one truth is abundantly clear to me: Domestic violence is predominantly a man's issue. As a man, husband and father, part of my mission in life is to break the silence. It is men who must not only hear but heed our call to action to end domestic violence.
Men have the power to say no to domestic violence. As men, we must speak up and say domestic violence will not happen in my home, in my neighborhood, on my campus, on my team, in my workplace or in my circle of family and friends.
As men, we cannot be silent; we must not be bystanders to this behavior. Individually and collectively men have tremendous influence over other men, especially young men. We must use our power and our platforms to bring hope to those who want to believe that a new life, a better life, awaits them.
Violence against women and children is a choice. Choices have consequences.
The choice to harm a woman or child has lifetime implications both physically and psychologically. I'm lending my voice and my platform to challenge all men to take a stand and demand that none of us allow violence against women and children to occur in our presence.
It is an honor to speak Monday at the 17th annual Mending Broken Hearts with Hope luncheon to benefit the Shelter for Abused Women & Children in Collier County.
I am in awe of the work that is being done by the shelter and am humbled to be a part of their mission.
Child abuse, neglect cases on the rise in Indiana
Social media, technology often to blame
by Kara Kenney
INDIANAPOLIS -- Following a week involving numerous people arrested in different cases throughout Central Indiana for child pornography, molestation, and exploitation, Call 6 Investigates found new numbers showing a disturbing trend.
Child abuse and neglect reports are on the rise, records show.
CHINS (Child in Need of Services) cases, which often involve cases of child abuse and neglect, were up statewide in January 2017, compared to January 2016.
In January 2017, the Department of Child Services saw 23,120 cases statewide, a 15% increase from January 2016 in which the state had 20,144 CHINS cases.
Marion County also saw an increase from 4,529 CHINS cases in January 2016 to 5,050 CHINS cases in January 2017.
A recent report also found DCS is finding more adults responsible for abusing and neglecting Hoosier children.
Tracy McDaniel, the founder of Restored, a group that helps victims of sexual exploitation, said child exploitation is on the rise, and people are reporting it more as well.
“I think we're identifying it a lot better,” said McDaniel.
McDaniel said thanks to a new law, victims of human trafficking are automatically considered a CHINS case.
McDaniel said a huge reason for the increase in child exploitation is because of easily accessible technology and social media.
“Kids that I'm working with are being groomed off of Facebook and Instagram messenger, and they have multiple accounts that their parents don't know about,” said McDaniel. “Anyone can be exploited, and anyone can be trafficked. Your child can be in their bedroom, and they're doing homework, and someone is messaging them.”
McDaniel said a lot of children might not realize who they're really talking to.
“Let's say ‘Holly' sends a message, but ‘Holly' is really a 40-year-old man trying to prey on your child,” said McDaniel.
McDaniel said young girls with low self-esteem are especially vulnerable.
“A lot of times they think their body is their worth,” said McDaniel. “These perpetrators are great kid psychologists, and they're telling them exactly what they want to hear to meet them.”
Prevent Child Abuse Indiana Programs Director Sandy Runkle said while children may be targeted by strangers, it's typically someone the family knows.
“They may be trying to form a relationship with an adult member of the family so they can have access to the children, and there's a lot of that going on,” said Runkle. “You do have situations where the perpetrator says ‘hey,
I'm 30 years old.' Some children can be easily manipulated.”
Runkle said the silver lining is that people are speaking up more and more about suspected child abuse and neglect.
“I think people are reporting more because there's more education, more awareness,” said Runkle.
Runkle said authorities should call child pornography “sexual abuse images.”
“We prefer the term sexual abuse images because that's what's really happening and that's what is being depicted,” said Runkle.
TIPS FOR PARENTS:
Start talking to your children early about their bodies
Call your child's body parts by the proper names
Get to know your child's friends and their parents
Set rules and boundaries regarding devices and social media
Regularly check your child's devices and social media accounts
Encourage your children NOT to give out personal information or to wear personally identifiable clothing (such as name of school) in social media posts
To report child abuse or neglect, call the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-800-5556
Teachers who avoid touching children are guilty of child abuse, experts claim
Child psychologists say physical contact with pupils is “absolutely essential” for brain development
by Rachael Pells
Teachers who avoid physical contact with children in the classroom are guilty of child abuse, experts have claimed.
Members of the British Psychological Society (BPS) said teachers who do not touch children when they are happy, upset or worried could in fact cause harm and hinder pupils' development.
“What's missing is a recognition of how important touch is,” child psychologist Sean Cameron told TES , “And that withholding touch is, in itself, a form of psychological abuse.”
Psychologists from the society have called on schools to change their attitudes towards physical contact with students, explaining to parents that touch is not only necessary, but an integral part of the teacher-pupil relationship.
Professor Francis McGlone, head of affective neuroscience at Liverpool John Moores University, said that physical contact with students is “absolutely essential” for children's brain development.
Speaking at a British Psychological Society conference on touch in schools and children's services he said denying physical contact was akin to “denying a child oxygen.”
“I get very exercised about the demonisation of touch,” he said. “It's cruel, in my mind. It's another form of abuse.
“The scientific evidence is incontrovertible. I'm not just talking psycho nonsense; I'm talking about proper, evidenced neuroscience.”
While physical contact between teachers and students is not illegal, the Government advises schools to have a “no touch” policy.
Department for Education guidance states that while it is often necessary or desirable for a teacher to touch a child, for instance when dealing with accidents or teaching musical instruments, physical contact can easily be deemed inappropriate and unprofessional.
At the BPS conference last week, former Prime Minister David Cameron said, in his experience, many headteachers viewed touching a child as an unjustifiable risk.
He said: “By discouraging touch, you're depriving a young person of a very humane reaction. But you're also setting up a situation where a young person can use this as a tool to put down or control a teacher. It's a double whammy, really.”
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers teaching union, said her union acknowledged that a humane relationship with pupils involved occasional physical contact. But she added that she would always advise teachers to be cautious.
“Don't put yourself in a dangerous position,” she said. “Don't put yourself in a situation where a child can accuse you of inappropriate contact.
“Of course, children must be protected. But teachers also have a right not to have their career ruined by false accusations.”
Oklahoma teacher, principal accused of failing to report child abuse
by Lorne Fultonberg
PERRY, Okla. - A fifth grade math teacher and an elementary school principal are facing criminal charges after failing to report accusations of sexual abuse against their students.
Kenda Lyn Miller, 51, and Jeffrey Sullins, 51, each face misdemeanor counts after turning themselves in Thursday.
Police arrested 85-year-old teaching assistant Arnold Cowen last month on accusations he inappropriately touched at least seven girls.
Now, the assistant chief tells NewsChannel 4 at least 20 children may have been victims, likely over the course of several years.
At least 10 students may have been victimized in 2017, according to court documents, when Perry Upper Elementary School Principal Miller dismissed past allegations and failed to notify police or the victim's parents.
"If we'd have got that call, the very first complaint, we wouldn't be sitting here talking to you today," said Assistant Police Chief Forrest Smith. "It's very troubling."
Students as young as 10 complained Cowen fondled them and touched their breasts, according to arrest affidavits, sometimes during "lengthy hugs and inappropriate touches."
According to court documents, Miller fielded multiple complaints from students but told them they had to be accidental.
"Principal Kenda Miller tells her that it's possible, that Cowen has long arms and, when he reaches around to hug her, his long arms touch her boobs," one student told police, according to the affidavit. "Principal Kenda Miller tells her to refrain from hugging Cowen and to only ‘fist bump' him."
As a result, students told police they were afraid to tell their parents about the interactions and often would cry in the bathroom.
During interviews with other teachers, police were told "Cowen was definitely the victim of false accusations and he was a model instructor and of great help to the school.”
The principal "believed these reports to be false, since she knew Cowen to be of great moral character and was a very 'nice guy,'" the affidavit said.
Police said, when Sullins was told of inappropriate touching, he told the student she was "making stuff up," at one point taking her into the hallway and calling her a liar, documents show.
“[The student] was escorted to the office to see Principal Kenda Miller, but since she was not available, [the student] was sent back to class, where she continued to work with Cowen," according to the affidavit. "Sullins did allude to the fact that a majority of the teachers were aware of the incident/accusations.”
Both posted $500 bond and were released.
Miller appeared in court Thursday morning but did not say anything.
She refused to answer questions after the hearing.
Her attorney told NewsChannel 4 she will answer all questions in court.
The district attorney's office lobbied to increase Miller's bond to $10,000, but a judge denied it.
The Perry Police Department said the investigation is ongoing.
"I personally feel that, as we continue this investigation, slowly, we will have more victims start to appear," Smith said.
He expects other teachers may be implicated and charged for failing to report abuse.
The Perry School District released this statement later Thursday:
"The Perry School District tries to do its best to provide an environment which is conducive to learning, is safe, and which protects our students. Because of this, the District is saddened by the charges filed against the Upper Elementary Principal and a teacher. The District has not seen a copy of the charges, so it cannot comment on the specific charges and allegations contained therein. As stated before, the District has cooperated, and will continue to cooperate, with the Perry Police Department and the District Attorney's Office in their investigation and criminal prosecutions related to these incidents. The District also publicly released information about various services which are available for any staff or students who need additional help. If anyone would like this information who did not receive it, they may contact the High School Counselor. As stated before, the District has also been reviewing this situation to ascertain everything that happened and if any changes need to be made in the policies, procedures and practices of the District. As the facts of this matter are uncovered by the investigation by the Perry Police Department, the criminal prosecutions by the District Attorney's Office, and the District's review of this situation, any additional actions which need to be taken to address this matter will be implemented by the District. The District strives to do what is in the best interest of our students and whatever we can to provide an environment which is conducive to learning, which is safe, and which protects our students. Because of the ongoing investigation and prosecutions, the District will not comment further at this time, but may comment in the future as new facts are discovered or it is determined to take additional actions."
Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister issued the following statement:
“This situation in Perry is a stark reminder to anyone who works in our schools that it is unconscionable to say nothing or look the other way when there is an allegation of an adult victimizing a child.“
“If you suspect any type of inappropriate behavior between adults and students, you absolutely have a legal and moral obligation to report it to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. It is not your responsibility to determine the validity of a claim, regardless of where it originates. Swift and proper reporting of suspected inappropriate behavior is vital.“
“Parents surrender their children to our schools with the presumption they will be safe from harm. I am heartbroken for the students and families in Perry whose trust in their local school has been shaken.“
Las Vegas sex trafficking industry full of underage girls living in fear
Of 190 identified sex-trafficking victims in 2014, Arizona State University researchers found two-thirds were under 18 years old
by Ken Ritter
LAS VEGAS — A yearlong academic study of sex trafficking in Las Vegas is providing a glimpse into a shadowy world beneath the neon glow where underage girls, threatened by pimps, solicit for business in casinos, on streets and online.
Of 190 identified sex-trafficking victims in 2014, Arizona State University researchers found two-thirds were under 18 years old, one in five was brought to Las Vegas from somewhere else and more than half were never reported as missing.
A victim advocate in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Elynne Greene, said many of the victims are products of the foster care system.
The study, made public this week, says that in 159 cases that Las Vegas police identified as sex trafficking, nearly three in four were never prosecuted.
That's because victims often fear their pimps and refuse to cooperate with police and prosecutors.
Sex-trafficking victims get specialized care at Mercy clinic; doctors watch for telltale signs
by Sammy Caiola
Family physician Ronald Chambers has spent hours searching the website Backpage to see if he might recognize former patients among the dozens of girls posing and smiling in sex ads. He wonders if their layers of makeup hide bruises or if he might have missed the telltale signs of sex trafficking in patients at his south Sacramento clinic.
Chambers, like a growing number of health care providers across the country, has waded into the disturbing world of human trafficking to learn how to better recognize and treat its victims. Although the illicit trade has become a media buzzword in recent years and a cause célèbre for public health campaigns, medical professionals have, until recently, remained largely in the dark about their role in helping fight the crime.
“We just don't look for it,” Chambers said. “We're some of the few people in society who actually see these victims while they're being trafficked. We're just now recognizing them – and that's a huge piece of the puzzle.”
Trafficking refers to the use of force, fraud or coercion to engage victims in sex or labor services against their will, and often involves transporting them across state or international borders. More than 100,000 minors are trafficked at any given time in the United States, according to FBI data. California law enforcement agencies arrested more than 1,200 children on prostitution charges between 2010 and 2014.
While much of the trade takes place on illicit websites and in out-of-the-way hotels, experts estimate that more than 30 percent of trafficked youths see a medical professional at some point while they're being exploited.
They show up in clinics, offices and emergency rooms, sometimes accompanied by a pimp posing as a family member. Some might have unwanted pregnancies or physical injuries such as broken bones and gashes. They may avoid eye contact and dodge questions about where they've been in recent days. Without training, a doctor might unknowingly send them back to their exploiters instead of connecting them to the medical and therapeutic care many will need after years of trauma, Chambers said.
“It's easy to get flabbergasted when a patient doesn't know their medical history, or won't tell you what happened because they're afraid of the consequences,” said Dr. Sarah Chaffin, a resident working with Chambers at the Mercy Family Health Center. “It's this terrible pass-on-both-sides situation where you show up hoping to get a solution and both parties end up frustrated and confused.”
Part of the answer, experts say, is to build a workforce of health professionals trained to recognize trafficking victims so that they can guide them to safety, often with assistance from law enforcement and aid groups. Physicians throughout California are working to better identify victims, while also developing targeted therapies for the psychological scars that victims carry with them years after they leave the situation.
“Ideally, it standardizes some practices and it's not reliant on a great nurse or a great doctor or a great social worker,” said Kate Walker Brown, director of the National Center for Youth Law, an Oakland nonprofit group. “Everybody in medical settings has the ability to identify and help these kids, so we're not letting them fall through the cracks.”
Know the signs
Dr. Kimberly Chang, director of Asian Health Services in Oakland, said she started researching sex-trafficking after noticing patterns in young female patients, often runaways, who showed up at her practice. Chang helped write identification protocols for the California Department of Health and Human Services and the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children.
A history of sexually transmitted infections or multiple abortions could be a warning sign that a patient is a victim, as could substance addiction. Someone who gives information that appears to be recited, has tattoos of gang insignia, wears expensive clothing or carries hotel room keys also could need special attention, according to the guidelines.
“Trafficking isn't a medical diagnosis,” Chang said. “It's not a separate entity or a separate box. It's interrelated with child abuse, sexual partner violence, exploitation. It's about knowing what the definitions are, observing how your patients may be, asking questions in a trauma-informed way, and knowing how to respond.”
Josie Feemster, a Carmichael resident who says she was sold for sex in several states between the ages of 18 and 25, said she was wary of getting treatment at clinics and hospitals while she was being exploited by her pimps. A jagged line on her right cheek, which she covers with makeup, is what's left of a gaping bite mark from one of her traffickers, she said. The wound bled and swelled at the time but she never got it looked at, afraid the doctors would judge her or that her pimp would find out and hurt her or her family, she said.
Still, she said she managed to visit a Planned Parenthood clinic every month to get herself checked for sexually transmitted diseases. Feemster now works as an advocate for the Sacramento nonprofit WEAVE, running group sessions for sex-trafficking victims.
“I remember feeling like, ‘I wish I could say something,' ” Feemster said. “But the fear of ‘What if she doesn't believe me? What if she thinks I want to do what I'm doing?' And the judgment. It's your own guilt and shame. I didn't want them to look at me like I'm this bad person or this dirty person.”
The Mercy clinic where Chambers works aims to provide a haven for exploited women. Its walls are painted an unassuming beige, and earthy, tranquil artwork hangs on the walls. The clinic has seen about 60 women who identified themselves as current or former sex-trafficking victims since it began getting the word out about its services last summer, Chambers said.
Trafficking victims always get an appointment at Mercy within 24 hours and never sit long in the waiting room, where they might become anxious around other patients, Chambers said. The patients can make their appointments through a special hotline with a receptionist who is trained not to pry or condescend. Everyone from nurses to lab technicians are trained in what they call “trauma-informed care.”
Community Against Sexual Harm, in Oak Park, is one of a handful of local nonprofit groups that have been referring patients to Chambers in recent months.
Until six months ago, director Terri Galvan might struggle to find a clinic or hospital that would take the girls, who typically are uninsured. That meant the agency, which provides housing and employment assistance to victims of sex trafficking, often would wait days for an appointment, Galvan said.
“The girls in the life were being told there's no help, and for a long time that was the truth,” Galvan said. “The medical piece was the missing link.”
A safe space
At Mercy, appointments can last up to two hours – longer than a typical visit – because it can take physicians that long to break the ice with patients. Patients can receive counseling, reproductive health care, lab work and other services including pediatric care if they have children, which Chambers said can reduce the anxiety of having to visit multiple locations.
Dignity Health shoulders the cost of the treatment through its community benefit program. The staff training and protocols are part of a $1 million systemwide initiative to combat human trafficking, launched in 2014.
“The first initial visits, it's just about building trust, and letting them know that I'm not afraid of what they've been through,” Chaffin said. “It's stuff that, as hard as it is to hear, I try to keep a flat face and move on from there. If I make too much of a commotion about it, it's probably a more emotional burden than they can handle at that point.”
Once a relationship is established with a patient, physicians can lay out available medical services and community resources. If the victim is a minor and still being exploited, staff members are required to report the situation to the authorities. An adult patient, however, may choose to return to their trafficker, a decision that can be especially hard for doctors to accept, Chambers said.
“Part of victim-centered care is allowing that choice,” Chambers said. “If they know this is a safe place, they might come back tomorrow or next year and be ready for that intervention, but they might not be ready for it now.”
Feemster said she thought often about leaving her pimp, but each time he would convince her that no one else wanted her and that she wouldn't make it on her own. She served jail time after being convicted of attempting to traffick a minor under age 16 – an activity she says she also was forced into by her pimp.
“People think that people are really being chained to a room or chained to a bed, when it has nothing to do with that,” she said. “They're mental chains, because exploiters get into your mind and your heart and take advantage of your vulnerabilities.”
Those experiences, repeated for months or years, alter the brain's reaction to stimuli, said Yvette MacDonald, a social worker at the West Coast Children's Clinic in Oakland, which runs a mental health program for trafficked youths. Victims might seem depressed and withdrawn, and then suddenly yell and thrash at a painful memory.
“It's adaptive,” MacDonald said. “A lot of times when you're in a dangerous situation, there's a fight or flight response. When the girls get triggered, they may not know what's triggering them, but they want to fight or get out.”
Feemster, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after she left her situation eight years ago, said she still gets flashbacks when someone unexpectedly touches her or when she passes by Bay Area hotels where she remembers being trafficked.
Seeing a therapist and visiting the Mercy center has helped her find ways to control those reactions, she said.
“It really can be like someone is stepping on you, or sitting on you, and you can't breathe,” Feemster said. “This journey, this healing journey, is a lifelong one.”
When it comes to helping sex-trafficking victims, success is elusive
How do you help sex trafficking victims like Sarah who've learned that the way to survive is to flee?
by Morgan Smith, Neena Satija and Edgar Walters
AUSTIN — It's close to midnight, more than five hours since police officers came through the door of Sarah's motel room. She is just starting to pick french fries out of a fast food bag that has sat untouched in front of her.
"We want you to feel safe," a female police officer is telling her. "That's why Detective Watts came and found you the first time, and that's why he came right back in and got you the second time."
Sarah nods. She's small, even in her puffy winter jacket with the fur-lined hood. Her hair is tied in a top-knot; tracks of smudged mascara darken her eyes.
She's there because she exchanged text messages with an undercover police officer earlier that afternoon. He asked the price for "full service." She responded like she was supposed to: $120 for oral and vaginal sex. Then she gave him the number of a room at a Motel 6 on Interstate 35.
It was January 2014. This was the second time in 30 days Austin police had retrieved the 16-year-old from a roadside motel.
The month before, officers found Sarah when she was staying at the Super 8 across the highway. A housekeeper called 911 after finding bloody towels in the bathroom. Police discovered her with a 35-year-old man named Chris.
Sarah said the towels were bloody because she sometimes cut herself when she was upset. When police asked her whether Chris was forcing her to prostitute, she said no. Without evidence to arrest him, he went free. Sarah, a troubled kid who'd been in and out of police custody, went back to juvenile detention for breaking probation.
It was during her short stay there that she finally opened up about Chris.
An Austin police detective named Trent Watts began visiting her. He brought her favorite snack: hot fries and Gatorade.
Sarah told him she'd been staying in motels with Chris for weeks, mostly in Austin but also in Dallas and San Antonio. To make money for Chris, she had sex with men who responded to ads he posted online — five to 10 times a day.
By the time kids like Sarah get picked up by police, they've already endured a lot.
They've most likely suffered repeated physical and sexual abuse, both in their homes and on the streets. They're often deeply bonded to their pimps and so entrenched in their lifestyle that they believe they've chosen it. Anger and mistrust — the very qualities that helped them survive such dangerous conditions — have put them at odds with the caseworkers and care providers who tried to help.
Then they're thrown into juvenile lockups that either don't recognize their trauma or don't have the resources to treat it.
Most of their stories don't end well. But for a brief moment, Sarah's looked promising: The system worked like it was supposed to.
Austin police officers had enough training to recognize her as a potential victim and to alert their department's specialized trafficking team. A probation officer knew to call them when Sarah went missing again. In part because of the skilled detectives working the case, Chris pleaded guilty, so Sarah never had to go through the ordeal of testifying against him in court.
She also had access to the only specialized treatment center Texas offers child sex-trafficking victims: Freedom Place, a rare facility that has raised enough private dollars to care for up to 20 of the state's estimated 80,000 child sex-trafficking victims at any given time.
Watts, a veteran police detective who started his career two decades ago investigating child abuse cases, allowed himself a rare moment of optimism.
"Maybe she'll be the one who gets to go in a different direction," he said, "who has enough of a platform, enough of a support, enough anchors to where she won't need to go back to the only thing that she knows."
In the police interview room after the undercover sting, Sarah nervously swivels her chair. She slowly begins to volunteer information about what has happened since she left juvenile detention.
She moved back into her mother's Austin home. Within days, Chris reconnected with her through a friend. He wanted to meet up at a nearby motel. At first she said no. Then he grew threatening, texting her the address of her mother's home and a picture of her little sister and brothers lifted from her Facebook page.
"He wants me, fine. He wants to hurt my family, nuh-uh," Sarah says, shaking her head. "I mean, I know what to expect from him. They don't know what to expect from him."
More details come pouring out.
There was the time Chris learned Sarah had made a plan to escape, so he stripped her naked and took away her clothes. The time she woke up disoriented after a client drugged her — and Chris told her to shake it off and take a shower. The time she didn't want to have sex with Chris and he raped her, saying he shouldn't have to ask.
Sarah eventually says she's willing to take a sexual assault exam to help collect evidence against him.
As the interview winds down, the detective makes an effort at small talk. Does Sarah like Jay Z? No. Kanye? No. Beyonce? Sometimes. But not the song "Drunk in Love."
Finally, Sarah ventures a question of her own.
Will she have to go back to juvenile detention? Even if she does, the detective says, at least she'll be safe.
Sarah begins to cry, using a brown paper towel to wipe her eyes.
People who care for sex-trafficking victims have a common refrain: It's not if they'll run away, but when.
"They've been brainwashed. They have to be un-brainwashed," said Angela Goodwin, the director of investigations for the Department of Family and Protective Services, the state's child welfare agency. "They run and they run and they run. Sometimes the most you can hope for is, the times in between runs, they'll be shorter."
A crucial element of what clinicians refer to as "trauma-informed care" is helping victims build healthy, trusting relationships — ones that allow them to battle the deep shame and helplessness that trigger the impulse to flee.
"They come across as a bad street kid because that's what they've had to do to survive," said Chuck Paul, a former Texas child welfare investigator who is raising money to build a new shelter for trafficking victims in San Antonio. "These kids are like, 'Everybody I've ever trusted in my life has always written me off. How are you any different?'"
Trafficking victims have learned to operate in constant survival mode, which throws the decision-making part of their brains into chaos. Confronted with the challenge of processing what's happened to them, that mindset can be volatile. Every aspect of their treatment requires a carefully considered approach.
"You are disrupting their continuity and their connection," said Angela Ellis, a Harris County juvenile judge who leads a specialty court for trafficking victims. "Maybe you and I can look at it and say, ‘That's a really unhealthy connection to have.' But it's what they have, it's what they know, and you are in some ways disrespecting their entire life and what they believe are their choices and their experiences."
Pimps enforce rules through punishment and reward. So Shandra Carter, Freedom Place's executive director, said she doesn't use that tactic when rehabilitating victims. If a girl starts acting up or pushing boundaries, everyone at Freedom Place — from counselors to cooks to maintenance workers — is trained to be a calming presence, not to shout or lecture.
Carter gauges progress based on attainable goals, like whether the girl is getting out of bed on time, or if she's screaming and cursing when she's upset instead of punching a wall or harming herself.
"That's progress for this kid," Carter said. "In the hierarchy of what this kid brought with her, this is amazing, say what you want to say."
This type of care, though, is enormously costly.
The state only pays Freedom Place $260 a day to house and treat a kid, but the actual cost is $317. Without its expenses fully covered, the facility can only afford to fill 20 of its 38 beds at a time. Girls typically stay from nine to 12 months.
"We're losing money," said Scott Lundy, president and CEO of Arrow Child and Family Ministries, the foster care provider that operates Freedom Place. "If we expand, then all I'm doing is I'm inviting more losses and I'm putting other programs at risk."
When Freedom Place opened in 2012, it accepted girls in emergency situations. But now, officials there have decided to only take victims who agree ahead of time to stay in the program long-term — a point in the healing process that can take weeks or months to reach.
Even so, four of the 52 girls Freedom Place served last year ran away, according to Carter's records.
“I don't lock them in, I don't electrify the fence,” Carter said. “I work really hard to create an environment that feels safe enough that they will stay. That is grueling work.”
After her second run-in with Austin police, Sarah heads back to juvenile detention. A few weeks later, she has landed at Freedom Place.
At the former summer camp, on 110 acres in a confidential location outside of Houston, girls have single bedrooms or a double they share with a roommate. They go to an in-house school. There are horses and dogs, a lake surrounded by tall pine trees.
The facility is designed to keep girls secure — both from their attempts to run away and from the pimps who may be trying to find them. A 10-foot-tall fence surrounds the property. Before they go to bed at night, they take off their shoes and place them in bins outside their rooms. Staff monitor who goes in and out of the campus 24 hours a day.
There, Sarah is surrounded by other girls who identify with her experiences. Though she tells her mother she misses her friends and family in Austin, in phone calls and letters she seems happier than she's been in years.
But then Sarah tries to run, her mother says. She breaks the rules by asking her friends to come pick her up, giving them the address of what's supposed to be a confidential location. Between six and nine months after she arrives, her mother says, Sarah is forced to leave because she has become a safety risk to the other girls.
With Freedom Place off the table, there's nowhere for Sarah to go but back to juvenile detention, where she remains until her 18th birthday.
Sarah is now 19. Since she left juvenile detention, she has been arrested once for prostitution in Harris County, a charge that was later dismissed. The Texas Tribune's attempts to reach her have been unsuccessful, but her mother says they keep in touch. Sarah's living in Houston with a boyfriend, she says, and trying to start a modeling career.
Watts, meanwhile, has begun joking with his partner about buying an island in the Pacific where all the girls can go until they heal. He has yet to find his success story.
For Watts and the dozens of other police officers, prosecutors and caseworkers the Tribune interviewed for this series, cases like Sarah's are the rule, not the exception. Reminding themselves that the recovery process operates on its own timeline, they've learned to redefine success for kids like Sarah in different, more qualitative ways.
Did she come visit a caseworker between arrests? Did she call a familiar detective when she needed help in the hospital? Has she stopped cutting herself as much? Did she get that job at the convenience store?
"We have to remember they are recovering on their time, not ours," said Kirsta Melton, who heads the sex-trafficking unit in the Texas attorney general's office. "I think when people want a super-happy ending — like a movie ending — our lives don't have that ending, right? Why would we expect theirs to?"
About this story:
Sarah is a pseudonym, because The Texas Tribune generally does not publish the names of victims of sexual abuse or sex trafficking. The details in her story come from interviews with her mother, police detectives and a social worker familiar with her case, as well as extensive criminal files.
Sex traffickers now using social media to target victims
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Posting, liking, commenting and sharing social media posts has become part of daily life for many people, but those posts can turn into targets for sex traffickers.
“It takes 24 hours to traffic a kid from the time they meet them online. 24 hours,” Cathie Bledsoe, the Indiana State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Youth Educator said.
Social media is designed to connect people, but it also makes it easier for predators to connect with their next victim.
“Social media has opened up access,” an undercover agent at the Fort Wayne FBI office, said. ” Before, you had to go sit in front of a school or other places where kids play to find kids who might be susceptible. Now you just hop online.”
Many cases of sex trafficking start on the Internet and seem harmless at first.
“People want to hear that they're handsome or special or smart. They'll tell you that,” the FBI agent said. “If you put on there everything your parents don't understand, how easy is it for me to pop up online and say it doesn't have to be like that. You'll get your hair done. You'll get your nails done. You'll eat three times a day. I'll give you a warm place to stay, nice hotels.”
It's called grooming. Traffickers will monitor posts, pick their target and prey on their weaknesses.
“Traffickers look for naïve children and kids who are needy. If they're talking about their sad mood or they're depression, that's a kid I can recruit. I can find a way into their life. I can make them feel better. Oh, you want to be a model? I can help you be a model,” Bledsoe said.
The person on the other side of the screen could also ask for nude pictures from their victim, promising they'll keep them private. But then sexting can quickly turn into sextortion, which is basically cyber blackmail, threatening to share the provocative pictures unless the trafficker gets what they want.
“It starts as sextortion and nude images and what people will do to keep their school from finding out that there are all these nude images. It's so easy to reach out to someone's entire family base and make a fake page with the same profile picture,” the FBI agent said.
Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are pretty well-known. But Bledsoe said many times predators will meet a victim on one of those sites and then convince them to chat on lesser-known sites, like Kik or Yik Yak or ChatRoulette.
“Every day there are new apps, new ways predators can get to our children,” Bledsoe said.
“Stop worrying about making your kids mad at you. But, if you're that parent, ask leading questions. Say, ‘Hey, I heard about Kik. Can you show me what Kik is about?' Start asking them to teach you,” Bledsoe said.
“Don't be a helicopter parent and try to boss them around with this stuff. Just say, ‘Look. We're in this together.' The generation gap's got to close and let's make this thing work together so we can have a safe community,” Clinton Faupel, the executive director and co-founder of RemedyLIVE, said.
“Don't just say sex trafficking is bad and let's talk about it and that's the topic of the day,” Corbin Landrum, a senior at Huntington North High School, said. “Make it as comfortable as possible. The more casual and comfortable you can make it is the way to go.”
Landrum was part of a class project on human trafficking and helped make a video depicting how quickly someone can get trapped in the sex trade.
Landrum wants more teens to think through their social media posts.
“If I post this is that going to attract something I don't want? If I post this, is it going to attract something I do want?” Landrum said.
The hope is if teens and parents are both more aware of the potential dangers behind social media, fewer kids will fall victim to predators' practices.
“A lot of times people are coerced into it and don't know until they're in it,” he said. “[The traffickers] say, ‘Oh, I'm your best friend. Boyfriend. Girlfriend.' You think you love him and he asks for a favor and you think you don't have a choice. But, that's not true. If you're not comfortable with something, tell them.”
Children and youth are not for sex
by Ashley Judd
I know first-hand that there is no such thing as sexual consent between an adult and a minor. I was raped twice (that I remember) at age 14. Yet I thought at the time that the circumstances in which I found myself — sexually exploited routinely for two months — were great. I wanted to go to Tokyo to model and thought I was big enough to go alone.
A pantheon of adults played a role in making a 14-year-old girl vulnerable to and available for exploitation.
The modeling agency recruiter and booker who dealt with commercial clients and assigned my jobs. The product advertisers who used my childhood to sell crap to adult men. The bars that gave us kids paper money to “spend” at their establishments so that adult men would come sit around and lecherously watch us. The visa departments of two sovereign nations that provided legal documents to an unescorted minor who did not speak Japanese and who knew no one in Japan, ultimately becoming the delivery system for a summer of commercial sexual exploitation. And lastly, of course, my beloved parents who, to their eternal regret, allowed this disaster to my bodily integrity, sexual dignity, mental and emotional health come to pass.
Somehow, I didn't end up in the court system. If I had, it would have been me who went to jail — not the American man who assaulted me, the French man who raped me, the British man who groomed and molested me, the Japanese men who paid to manipulate me and my body for commercial retail profit. Do you see the trend here? It is male demand for a female child.
You may wonder why I tell my story so easily and fluidly now. I have healed, thanks be to God — the result of a lot of hard work on my part and other brave survivor leaders showing me how.
I am writing this from India, where I am attending the Second World Congress Against Sexual Exploitation of Girls and Women. It's a convening of survivor leaders and allies from some of the most marginalized communities in the world: indigenous women from Canada, youth from the Nut and Dalit castes here in India, women raised by a parent with an untreated mental illness or in poverty. Here, survivors come to listen to other survivors and use our power and our voices to end sexual exploitation and abuse.
Modern slavery exists in the United States in many forms. Polaris Project, for which I am ambassador, has identified 25 forms of slavery and trafficking in the U.S., ranging from illicit massage parlor businesses to traveling sales crews, which typically exploit youth. Polaris estimates that “the total number of victims nationally reaches into the hundreds of thousands.” In 2016, the organization handled 8,042 cases of human trafficking. A staggering 2,042 survivors reached out to Polaris' national hotline — a 24% increase from the previous year.
A particular emphasis of my activism that I share with Rights4Girls is to correct a deeply misguided and — let's face it — convenient lie that adults tell themselves: that there is such a thing as a child or youth prostitute. Let's get a few things straight:
One: Children and adolescents are not for sex.
Two: There is no such thing as consensual sex with a child or an adolescent. Choosing to interpret what a child or adolescent says or does as an affirmation for any sexual activity is sexual predation justified by an adult.
Three: Paying to rape, or paying to have any sexual activities with a child or minor, does not commercial sex make.
Human beings are not for sale — at any age, for any purposes, under any circumstances, by anyone. It matters not if the seller is their own parents or other relative, a stranger, a profiteer, or any other person or authority. There is no combination of factors — no circumstances, time, age, background of distress or privilege, race, ethnicity, gender identity or any other characteristic — that makes it okay to use a child or adolescent for sex.
We have normalized the proliferation of pornography in the form of advertisements, clothing and activities that exploit children's natural freedom with their bodies for consumer gain.
And yet our penal system far more often criminalizes victims than perpetrators. Each year, more than 1,000 American children are arrested for prostitution. Many are victims of child sexual abuse and violence. Often they come from foster care or group homes, making them ideal targets for traffickers. A majority are African-American girls.
On the flip side, everyone can do their part to help victims of child sex trafficking. First, identify the social vulnerabilities suffered by most kids who get trafficked by visiting the Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons and reading about Adverse Childhood Experiences. Second, visit polarisproject.org to learn about slavery here in the U.S. and the hotline for calling in a tip or getting help for yourself. Third, visit Demand Abolition, because using kids for sex only happens when people demand it.
For the perpetrators of child abuse, we have an opportunity to help them stop child sexual consumption, with evidence-based interventions. Do you have a hunch you might be struggling with a sexual addiction? Roughly 3% to 6% of the U.S. population does. For college youth, that number quadruples. Some experts suspect sexual compulsion is the number one addiction in our country. There are numerous resources available. Reach out for help by finding a therapist or a 12-step recovery program and attend an anonymous meeting near you.
Survivor accounts of the experience of sexual violence should shape interventions, laws, exit strategies and health and human services programs. Let's continue to listen to survivors and use our power and our voices to end sexual exploitation and abuse. Listening is sacred activism.
Dennis-Yarmouth students tackle critical TASK
by Conor Powers-Smith
Among the most destructive facets of sexual abuse are the fear and shame it can instills in its victims, reactions that can make seeking help seem impossible. Children suffering at the hands of adults often try to hide their trauma, and are all too successful.
"There's a big bias around it, that people who go through this speak up immediately, and if you you're a happy person you're not going through it," said Ryleigh Vaughan, a sophomore at D-Y High and a member of the school's new Teen TASK Force. "But at Children's Cove they teach us that it's deeper than that."
Taking A Stand for Kids (TASK), which partners Vaughan and 12 other D-Y sophomores with the Barnstable nonprofit that offers counseling and other resources to survivors of child sexual abuse, is a pilot program aimed at breaking through that bias, and the many other fears and misconceptions that keep victims from coming forward and seeking help. The effort is two-pronged, with TASK Force members working to develop a social media awareness campaign, while also being available for fellow students who may be unwilling to tell an adult about abuse they've suffered.
"They've been trying to find a way to get the message out with social media, so they brought in people who use social media every day," Vaughan explained. Children's Cove already runs radio ads and maintains a presence on Facebook and other online outlets, but those are not places where kids, including those in need of help, are likely to be reached.
"Adults all do Facebook, but kids do Snapchat and things," said fellow TASK Force member Avery Nardone. "This way not just the parents will know about it, kids will know about it too."
The volunteers divided into three groups, each of which is working on a campaign aimed specifically at teens and younger kids. "We have to make a campaign, and they're going to execute our campaigns and see which one works best," said Mackenzie Caron. The campaigns will launch in April, timed to coincide with Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
"With older kids there's a lot of victim blaming," said Caron. "A lot of what we're doing is telling them they didn't do anything wrong, so they need to come forward, so there's more awareness."
"Littler kids don't even know there's something wrong; that's another issue," Nardone added.
TASK Force members have received a crash course in the psychological issues surrounding the reporting of sexual abuse, thanks to weekly meetings with Children's Cove staff. "They teach us things and educate us on everything that goes on, and then we work on things to spread the word," said Francesca Barbi.
"We talk a lot about how it's an uncomfortable subject for parents to talk about with their kids, but kids need to be aware of it," said Olivia Sullivan.
Derrick Montique was especially struck by a stark representation of the sheer number of victims, an area of the Children's Cove building where survivors have put their painted handprints on the wall. "One of the biggest impact I'm seeing is the handprints going down the wall, how many people have been there," he said. Even that display includes less than half the total number of victims Children's Cove has helped over the years, itself a small fraction of all victims, since the majority don't report their abuse.
"We have to find things that will be more personal to them," said Adriana Cericola of the group's effort to encourage kids to come forward. With the rapid pace of technological and social progress, the generation gap is as wide as it has ever been, making it all the more vital that messages aimed at kids be tailored for them by others in their age group.
"Our norms have changed so drastically," said Kaylee Romious. "For example, the way women are supposed to be treated, that's different than it was." The same consideration may provide hope that the stigma still sometimes attached to victims of sexual abuse will evaporate with relative quickness.
If kids can be convinced to come forward, the staff at Children's Cove is ready to help, and extremely skilled at what it does, TASK Force members agree. "They're some of the nicest people I've ever talked to," said Jack Tierney.
"It feels like a community in a way," Caron said.
"One of the Cove's main goals is that everyone who comes in should leave in a better place mentally," said Nardone.
Motivations vary for sacrificing hours of their free time, from the general to the specific. "When you're given an opportunity like this, you've got to take it," Vaughan said.
"My friend went through it," Caron said. "We talked about a lot of what happened to him, and then I got chosen for this, and he was like, 'You have to do this for me.'"
Dale Fornoff, Guidance and Counseling Department chair, is not surprised so many of the students her staff hand picked for the program responded enthusiastically. "It was not a one-page, fill-in-your-name application, there were several essay questions, so these kids take it very seriously," she said. "We've got great kids here at D-Y. I could fill another room with the same kind of kids."
The program had its beginnings last year, not long after counselors from D-Y visited Children's Cove in an effort to educate themselves on the same issues TASK Force members are now contending with. "Our school counseling department had gone over to tour the facility," Fornoff said, adding that a similar trip is planned for the near future to the Duffy Health Center, which provides many services to the Cape's homeless population. "We try to get out as a department and try to get a feel for different services on the Cape."
"We like working with other agencies, they have skills and expertise we don't," said Principal Ken Jenks. "It's one more service in our school for students."
The Teen TASK Force is a prime example of mutually beneficial partnerships between the school and local organizations, Jenks added. "It's a great opportunity for our students, it's a great resource for our students," he said. "Peer-to-peer connections are critical."
The program was aimed at sophomores in hopes that it will continue, with the founding members staying at D-Y for the next few years, encouraging and educating the next group of volunteers. That choice dovetailed with the D-Y philosophy as well, Fornoff said. "We really believe in starting our leaders at a young age."
Fornoff and Jenks are anxious to see what the kids come up with, and to help promote the campaign however possible. "When they come forth with the final product, we'll regroup with the Cove," Fornoff said. "We'll collaborate in any way we feel is appropriate and can be done at the high school."
Investigation finds child welfare system errors in child abuse deaths
by Paul Van Osdol
The number of children who are dying after they are abused is on the rise.
Action News Investigates has found multiple cases in which authorities said children's lives could have been spared if someone in the child welfare system had been paying closer attention.
Caylee Burkholder was just 20 months old when police said her father, Domer, punched her in the stomach. She was dead a day later.
Just two weeks earlier, records show that Fayette County Children and Youth Services got a complaint about Caylee's parents, who had three other children.
The complaint came from Caylee's uncle, Robert Burkholder.
“They were on drugs real bad and with the children, I didn't want the children around that,” Burkholder said.
The death review report said Fayette County assigned a 24-hour response time to the complaint, indicating a severe concern.
Caseworkers never found the Burkholder family until the day Caylee died. But they tried to look for them only three times over a 16-day period.
That is "insufficient" according to the state Human Services Department. It said Fayette County violated state regulations on response times.
Reporter Paul Van Osdol asked Fayette CYS administrator Gina D'Auria if Caylee would still be alive if the caseworker had found the family sooner.
Action News Investigates went to the head of Fayette County CYS.
“I can't answer that,” she said. “If the caseworker had gone out and found a problem, if the family had been open, perhaps, but I really couldn't say for sure.”
Caylee's uncle said no one from CYS ever called him to find out where her family was staying. If they had he said he could have told them they were living in their car in a driveway less than a mile from his home.
Had CYS done that, Robert Burkholder said, “I don't believe Caylee would have died.”
D'Auria said she does not know why the agency failed to contact Burkholder.
Action News Investigates asked state Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas about the slow response time in the Burkholder case.
“Failure to meet those time frames is a sign that there's something wrong with the agency. And what that usually means is there aren't enough caseworkers to meet the caseload they have,” Dallas said.
“I think we did have some trouble,” D'Auria said. “With the turnover and the lack of caseworker staff, with the amount of calls that we have, we had a big issue.”
At that time in late 2013, 40 percent of Fayette CYS case workers had 6 months or less experience.
Each worker was handling about 30 cases.
Two workers have been added since then, but the overall caseload has soared by 48 percent.
Records show that Fayette CYS missed other warning signs in the Burkholder case.
Six months before Caylee died, CYS got a complaint that her brother was on the roof of their house trying to grab a power line, and that the parents were hitting the children and the home had no running water.
D'Auria said that would “absolutely” be an indication of imminent danger. But she said there was confusion between the two caseworkers involved, so the case was marked as unfounded.
“(That) should not have happened,” D'Auria said.
Domer Burkholder pleaded guilty to homicide and got up to 40 years in prison. Jessica Burkholder, Caylee's mother, pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child and was sentenced to jail time. But Robert Burkholder said CYS is also to blame.
“Somebody died because of this, because of the negligence. Somebody needs to be held responsible. The Children and Youth Services that I contacted, they should be held responsible,” he said.
Action News Investigates found other child death cases where the county child welfare agency came under criticism.
In Beaver County, where 2-year-old Brooklyn and 3-year-old Ryeley Beatty were crushed by a dresser that fell on top of them. Police said their father was in the house but did not respond for at least 10 minutes. Police also said the house was in deplorable condition.
“Children should not be left behind, and that's what happened in this case,” said then-District Attorney Anthony Berosh.
The death review found that Beaver County CYS inspected the Beatty home two years earlier and recommended that the mother and father attend parenting classes.
But the county closed its case without following up to see if the parents actually went to classes.
The state Human Services Department found that better monitoring by the county "could have prevented the poor safety decisions by the parents" and the girls' deaths "could possibly have been prevented."
The director of Beaver CYS did not respond to multiple calls from Action News Investigates.
Parents David and Jennifer Beatty pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of children and were sentenced to probation.
In North Braddock, 3-year-old twins Dy'Heir and Ky'Heir Arthur were killed in this fire that they caused when their mother left the house. Police said Dalawna Berran-Lett had been gone nearly an hour looking for drugs. She later pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment and got a prison sentence.
The death review found that Allegheny County Children and Youth Families had an eight-year history with the family but "little progress was made."
At the time of the children's deaths, the family was supposed to be getting services from the county but "no services were being rendered." That was a violation of state rules.
Marc Cherna is director of the county Human Services Department, which oversees CYF. Van Osdol asked him what lessons were learned following the deaths of the Arthur twins.
“One of the lessons was a screening tool would be very helpful. And the other lesson is you must go back and look at the history,” he said.
As a result of that case, Cherna said the county gave caseworkers a tool to more easily see the full history of troubled families.
Preventing more children from dying is the main reason for death reviews. But records show that the number of abuse-related deaths in Pennsylvania is growing, and more than half of all those deaths are children whose families were in the child welfare system.
Dr. Rachel Berger, head of the child advocacy center at Children's Hospital, said more needs to be done.
“There are children we know now, that are known to child protective services, that are going to die. And the question is, should we be doing more for those children?” she said.
Basic policies can help prevent child abuse in church
by Michael J. Brooks
Unfortunately we can't stop all child abuse in the world but we must try to prevent it in our churches,” said John Murphy, agent for GuideStone Financial Resources, the retirement and insurance agency for Southern Baptists.
Murphy was one of several presenters at the Considerations for a Safe Children's Ministry conference at North Shelby Baptist Church, Birmingham, on Feb. 4. The event was sponsored by Shelby Baptist Association, the Shelby County Sheriff's Department and the Shelby County Law Enforcement Chaplains Association.
Erin Woods, children's minister for the Church of the Highlands' Chapel at Grants Mill, Birmingham, used the acronym BANNN to explain the basic policies and procedures for her church.
The “B” stands for bathroom.
“We don't want any preschooler to be in the bathroom with a single adult,” she said. “If the child needs help, another adult should be at the door as an observer and helper if needed. This prevents any misunderstanding when a child needs assistance.”
The “A” stands for appropriate affections. Woods cautioned that though children need a lot of affection, child-care workers in the church must be judicious.
“The predator gains trust from the children often with hugging and stroking,” she said. “Our workers use ‘high fives,' fist bumps and side hugs but no snuggling or cuddling or lap-sitting. Of course the church has always had members with genuine and good hearts who've done these things, but we've established a policy for everyone in order to prevent anyone from taking advantage of our boys and girls.”
The first “N” is for name tag. The Grants Mill church has devised a name tag system that is computer-generated so every child has an affixable tag with name, allergies and a number and letter code that is given to the parent or grandparent who brings them. In this way the church prevents unauthorized people from picking up children after activities.
“We also fill out accident reports if there's a bumped head or a scratch and have the parent sign it,” she explained.
The second “N” is “no pictures.”
“We have church photographers take pictures occasionally for promotional purposes but we always get a release form from parents,” Woods said.
“Other than this workers are not to take any pictures of the children. We believe it's inappropriate to post photos of someone else's kids on social media. And we tell our workers to put their phones on the shelf when they're teaching. We only have an hour and a half to pour as much of God into these young lives as we can and we don't need to waste it using our phones for pictures or texting.”
The final “N” stands for “never alone.”
“At Highlands we follow the two-adult rule and we don't count teens under 16 as adults,” Woods said. “A 16-year-old can volunteer as an adult. We still ask another adult to step in and help when preschoolers go to the bathroom and need help. Older children usually don't need bathroom help but we have a monitor who lets the children go to the appropriate restroom one at a time.”
Deputy Heather Parramore, investigator for the Shelby County Sheriff's Department, said predators often use social media to find lonely children and try to build a relationship.
“They pick kids with problems and try to make them feel better,” she said. “They can be 1,000 miles away but they try to build a friendship, asking the children to send inappropriate pictures of themselves.
“Sometimes the predator is local and can even be a person known to the child and the family,” she noted. “The predator may give gifts to open the door to relationship, and then threaten, blackmail or bribe the child not to reveal any secrets.”
Parramore said parents must monitor computer use and never let children use the computer behind locked doors.
“Trust your instincts,” she said. “Stop contact with someone you suspect. Encourage your child to talk to you about the relationship and don't hesitate to contact law enforcement.”
Murphy cited statistics supporting the fact that most predators are not caught quickly.
“Most abusers have molested scores of children before they're stopped and this happens because of our reluctance to report,” he said.
“Most predators have no visual profile; they have a behavioral profile. They try to isolate children and build trust. That's why we must be wise in assigning workers in our churches.”
Murphy said Brotherhood Mutual, the insurance agency for GuideStone, is handling some 300 sexual abuse claims every year.
He said screening all staff and volunteer workers is a must and the screening should be repeated every two or three years.
“Ninety-five percent of all predators have never been backgrounded,” he said. “This can be our first line of defense in the church, along with the six-month rule. No workers should be assigned before having been members for at least six months.”
Murphy said the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions will sponsor a statewide training for children's volunteers Sept. 19 at Canaan Baptist Church, Bessemer. Presenters will include workers from MinistrySafe of Fort Worth, Texas.
For more information, visit ministrysafe.com. To contact Murphy, email email@example.com.
Danish man charged with ordering rape of 346 children in ‘historic' livestream sex abuse case
A 70-year-old Danish man has been charged with ordering numerous child rape and sex abuse livestreams from third-world countries, where each assault usually cost the predator no more than $40.
The man, who allegedly ordered sex abuse of children, predominantly Filipino, over the internet and had them streamed to his computer, was charged on Wednesday with 346 counts of participating in sexual assaults or rapes of minors
He was arrested in Copenhagen's suburb of Brondby last February, and it took the prosecutors, in cooperation with cyber police, a whole year to collect and process all the evidence and to finally charge the suspect in this “historic scale case.”
“As far as I know we've never had a case in the whole world in which one person is charged with so many assaults,” Flemming Kaerside of the Danish National Police's Cyber Crime Center said, according to The Local.
The indictment is reportedly a massive 119-page document, depicting quite disturbing details of the alleged acts of sexual abuse.
The suspect allegedly paid quite a modest sums to adults – usually not more than 280 kroner (approx. $40) – to have children sexually abused. Some instances involved parents molesting their own children, while in other cases minors were forced to perform sexual acts on each other.
In one case, a four-year-old girl was violated by her mother on demand of the alleged predator, while in another, a three year-old-girl was forced to perform oral sex on a five-year-old girl.
The hearings will begin on 28th February in Glostrup court and a ruling on this appalling case is expected in June.
It's not the first time that pedophiles in Denmark have been caught not only ‘collecting' child pornography, but actually ‘ordering' it online. The main target for such predators are children from poor countries. It is, however, quite hard to provide evidence for such activities if perpetrators do not store recordings of sickening livestreams on their computers. In March 2015, ten people were arrested during investigation of a similar case, but nine of them were released almost immediately due to lack of evidence.
One of the trials, where a child abuse livestream connoisseur was actually convicted occurred in North Jutland in 2014. A man was sentenced to three-and-a-half years for ordering a number of rapes and assaults on Filipino children. The pedophile paid adults a sum between 20 and $40 to commit and livestream the crime.
CASA seeks advocates for abused, neglected children
by The News-Messenger
FREMONT - Court Appointed Special Advocates of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties (CASA) is looking for citizens to advocate for abused, neglected and dependent children.
The next training class for CASA volunteers will March 21 and applications are now being accepted. The classes will be held at the Tiffin office of CASA of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties at 21 Court St., Tiffin.
To become a CASA volunteer, an application must be completed, as well as a background check and 30 hours of training. After the Juvenile Court Judge swears them in as a CASA/Guardian ad Litem, the court appointed volunteer begins to gather information about the allegations of a child abuse or neglect case. Staff or an experienced volunteer supervises all new volunteers. Unbiased information is reported to the court so that an informed decision can be made.
Abused and neglected children need individuals with a winning smile, steadfast observation, common sense and a credible voice. Child abuse is an ongoing problem in our communities and good dedicated citizens of the community are needed to help these children.
To request an application or to inquire about this volunteer opportunity call CASA of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties in Tiffin 419-448-1442, Fremont 419-355-1442, Upper Sandusky 419-209-1442.
Dept of Justice
Riverside County Man Arrested on Federal Charges of
Advertising, Distributing and Possessing Child Pornography
RIVERSIDE, California – Federal authorities this morning arrested a Perris man who was indicted last week by a grand jury on child pornography offenses stemming from a large collection of illicit images found on his home computer and evidence that he was engaged in online trading of child pornography with others, including an undercover law enforcement officer.
Jerry Glen Moran Jr., 63, was taken into custody without incident by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. Moran is expected to be arraigned this afternoon in United States District Court.
A federal grand jury on February 8th named Moran in a four-count indictment that charges the defendant with one count of advertising child pornography, two counts of distributing child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography.
During the investigation, authorities recovered tens of thousands of images and videos on Moran’s home computer and in emails that he had sent and received. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reviewed many of the computer files and identified thousands of them as being known images and videos of child pornography.
The investigation into Moran began after he was found to be a user of a foreign photo-sharing website identified by law enforcement as a platform used by child pornographers to meet and trade child pornography.
“The online child pornography market presents an ongoing threat to children who are abused to produce material,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “A child is victimized every time an image is generated and every time it is distributed. This defendant’s conduct is more serious because he advertised his collection to others.”
“Every time a sexually explicit image of a child is downloaded and viewed, that victim is violated yet again,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “It is our duty as law enforcement officers, to protect those who cannot protect themselves. HSI will continue to pursue child predators and make them accountable for their unconscionable actions.”
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The charge of advertising child pornography carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum penalty of 30 years. The charge of distributing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years. The charge of possession of child pornography carries a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison.
This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Teresa K.B. Beecham of the Riverside Branch Office.
FROM: Tracy Webb, Director of External Affairs
United States Attorney’s Office, Central District of California (Los Angeles)
Bill that would extend statute of limitations for child sex-abuse survivors passes committee
by Randy Krehbiel
OKLAHOMA CITY — Child sex-abuse victims could have more than 40 years to report the crime under legislation approved Wednesday by an Oklahoma House of Representatives committee.
House Bill 1468, by Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa, would eliminate the current 12-year statute of limitations and allow charges to be filed against an alleged perpetrator until the victim reaches his or her 45th birthday.
“By passing this law, you will be helping not only those who have been abused in the past but children who are being abused right now,” said Ginger Lewis, a Tulsa advocate for child-abuse victims and a survivor herself.
Lewis and a second child-abuse victim, Loretta Lofton of Stilwell, told the Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee that the two of them were adults before they could tell anyone what had happened to them as children.
“The extra time is needed because of the unique trauma suffered,” Lewis said. “Imagine a person you love murdering your soul.”
Lofton said her father began molesting her when she was 7 and continued for eight years.
“I naively believed when I moved away at 18 I'd be able to put it behind me,” Lofton said. “That didn't happen.”
Lofton said that when she finally did speak out as an adult, her father told her that “I couldn't do anything” to him because of the statute of limitations.
Lewis and Bush said the age 45 cut-off is a compromise between current law and removing the statute of limitations altogether.
“We tried to make a modest increase from 12 to 18 years (last year), and it failed,” Lewis said. “The best research is that if a victim is to ever disclose, they will disclose before age 45.”
A measure similar to HB 1468 passed the House without dissent last year but died in the Senate because of concern that it could be used to bring false charges.
Lewis and Bush said their legislation includes severe penalties for such claims.
• HB 1709, by Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, became the first measure to fail on the House floor this session.
By a 48-49 vote, members rejected Ritze's proposal to bar health insurers from requiring network doctors to obtain admitting privileges at specific hospitals. Ritze said the bill would increase patient access and save doctors the trouble and expense of getting hospital privileges they didn't need.
The bill is opposed by hospitals and insurers, and Democrats delighted in badgering Ritze over what they said was the sort of government meddling in the health-care industry he and other Republicans often accused them of.
• A “constitutional carry” gun bill produced some lively discussion in the Public Safety Committee, with Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, declaring, “I have a hard time seeing Jesus saying, “Yep, carry a gun.”
Virgin was responding to Rep. Jeff Coody, R-Grandfield, whose HB 2323 would allow most people to carry loaded handguns in their vehicles without a permit.
Virgin had been questioning Coody about law enforcement officials' attitude toward his bill when he said, “The desires of the law enforcement community should never trump a constitutional right. This is a constitutional right.”
A few minutes later, Coody referred to the “God-given, constitutional right” to carry firearms.
This led to a brief exchange about biblical instruction on firearms and culminated in Virgin's exasperated remark.
Her colleagues laughed heartily, but Virgin objected, saying it was “not funny.” She went on to say that the more guns “in society,” the more likely they are to fall into the hands of “bad people” and the more likely they are to be used against women.
Coody said “people with no regard for the law are always going to find a firearm. And there is always going to be domestic violence. This bill just allows law-abiding citizens who desire to protect themselves (to) defend themselves in worst-case situation.”
• Three bills that author Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said are intended to ease ballot access for minor party and grassroots candidates were approved by the committee on elections. In general, the bills lower current candidate petition signature requirements and filing fees.
Treating child criminals as victims only
by ANDY CALDWELL
Human trafficking historically referred to people forced into slavery by way of force, fraud, or coercion who are used for manual labor, illegal acts such as mules for drug runners, and for purposes of sexual exploitation. The term is now routinely applied to underage prostitutes regardless of the circumstances. The rationale is that no underage child can consent to voluntary sex; ergo, any child who does so is a victim, not a criminal.
Accordingly, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law SB 1322, which decriminalized child prostitution. Law enforcement personnel can no longer cite or arrest minors for soliciting or engaging in prostitution or loitering with the intent to do so. The most that can happen is a reference to Social Services if the minor is in an unsafe situation.
The bill's author, Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) took umbrage when a fellow legislator, Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), characterized the bill as legalizing childhood prostitution. She believes there is a difference between legalizing and decriminalizing commercial sex involving a minor. I agree with Assemblyman Allen that Sen. Mitchell is making a distinction without a difference.
Since the 1960s sexual revolution, to the chagrin of parents, progressives in our society have been giving a wink and a nod to young people, indicating that absolutely nothing is going to be done to any minor who consents to sexual intercourse unless the partner is an adult or they do it for money. Nevertheless, we are to believe that all the efforts we countenance, including in our schools, instructing children how to have safe sex, is being conducted in order to discourage illegal behavior?
It is ludicrous, in this day and age of the crass over-sexualization of our young people, that the establishment would attempt to hold the moral high ground on this subject. They have done everything in their power to actively promote and condone sexual activity, including shielding minors who get sexually transmitted diseases or become pregnant, from parental notification.
Now, the john and any pimp involved in a commercial sexual enterprise involving a minor will still be held accountable by the law, but the minor will naively be considered only a victim, even though most minors know darn well what they are doing and why they are doing it. With no threat of punishment hanging over their head, I seriously doubt decriminalizing the behavior is going to accomplish anything meaningful, except as an inducement to become involved in the trade. The pimp and the john will be able to say that they are taking all the risk, while the minor gets the reward.
There are a host of criminal acts committed by minors—up to and including murder—that could be explained away by the fact that the perpetrator was abused and/or neglected by someone. Santa Maria just witnessed a 16-year-old mother who murdered her newborn. The girl was sentenced to a group home. The impetus of the sentence had to do with the fact that the young mother was herself a previous victim of abuse! The judge in the case felt she didn't belong in juvenile prison with hardcore criminals lest something worse happen to her or become of her.
Funny, isn't it, that I never once read any of the details as to who the father of the baby was? Was he a minor or an adult? Was he held accountable for having sex with a minor? Because the teenage mother was a victim of child abuse, does that mean she will never be held accountable for having murdered her baby?
In any case, I believe we should leave it to the courts to determine whether the minor, or any adult for that matter, was a victim of human trafficking, rather than allowing the legislature to give all minors a free pass. On the other hand, people, regardless of their age, who knowingly and freely commit crimes, should not be coddled as if they bear no responsibility for their actions and choices in life.
There is one notable irony involving human trafficking in California and that involves girls who are smuggled across our border by the Mexican drug cartels, raped along the way, and sold into the sex trade. To the detriment of the trafficked victims, our useless and clueless state government is doing everything in their power to obfuscate Trump's efforts to secure the border and deport felonious aliens, including presumably cartel rapists and pimps!
Andy Caldwell is the executive director of COLAB and the host of The Andy Caldwell Show, on weekdays from 3 to 5 p.m. on AM1440.
NY foster parent accused of sex abuse could have been stopped years earlier, report says
by CBS News
HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. -- A foster parent accused of sexually abusing boys in his care could have been stopped years earlier if not for “abysmal” communication among the child-welfare agencies involved, according to a special grand jury report obtained by The Associated Press.
In the 83-page report, the Suffolk County Supreme Court jury outlined a remarkable series of failures that allowed Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu to take in more than 100 children over 20 years, despite being the subject of 18 separate child-abuse investigations.
Rules intended to protect the reputations of falsely accused foster parents were partly to blame, the report said. Substandard abuse investigations were another issue. But the biggest problem, the report said, was the simple failure of the four governmental and one nonprofit child-welfare agencies to share information.
One agency, the Suffolk County Department of Social Services, became so concerned with the number of suspected abuse reports against Gonzales-Mugaburu in 2002 that it asked a contractor to stop placing children with him.
Yet, the agency did not document the reasoning behind that decision or communicate it to anyone in writing, including other agencies that were also sending children to the home, the grand jury report said. It identifies Gonzales-Mugaburu only by the letter “A,” but its description of the allegations against him are identical to facts that have been made public in his criminal proceeding.
“The foster care system in the state of New York is a bureaucratic nightmare,” said Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, who empaneled the grand jury. “There has to be some corrections that are made, especially with respect to how these agencies interact with each other.”
The report recommended a number of reforms. Among them: The state should get rid of the statute of limitations for prosecuting child sex abuse, create a central registry of foster homes and widen access to reports of abuse, even if they have been determined to be unfounded.
The break that led to Gonzales-Mugaburu's arrest came early last year after detectives say two brothers came forward with credible stories of abuse. Others credible accusers followed.
Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, now faces trial next month on charges he sexually abused eight children as young as 8 years old inside his home in Ridge, on eastern Long Island. Prosecutors said statute of limitations laws precluded them from bringing even more charges.
Gonzales-Mugaburu has pleaded not guilty. His attorney says he denies ever abusing children and contends the accusers are lying.
Prosecutors say Gonzales-Mugaburu earned more than $1.5 million in tax-free income caring for foster children between 1996 and his arrest in January 2016. All of them were boys, including many deemed to require special treatment because of emotional or physical challenges.
New York's clearinghouse for suspected child abuse complaints received 18 reports regarding Gonzales-Mugaburu as far back as 1998, each of which was investigated by Suffolk County child welfare officials.
Some were for less serious issues, including failing to fill a child's eyeglasses prescription. There was also at least one allegation of sexual abuse. One complaint, involving a child with bruises, went as far as a formal hearing before officials decided the allegations were false.
All the complaints were ultimately deemed by investigators to be unfounded.
Still, in 2001 or 2002, Suffolk County's Department of Social Services “verbally requested” that SCO Family of Services, one of the state's largest foster home providers, stop placing children with Gonzales-Mugaburu, according to the grand jury report. But that request was apparently never communicated in writing and no one could explain how the notification occurred.
“One witness, in fact, testified that this notification could have potentially have been made in passing during a conversation in a hallway,” the report said.
“For some reason, and with tragic results,” the grand jury wrote, the decision was never communicated to other agencies, including New York City's massive child welfare agency, the Administration for Children's Services, which continued to place dozens of children with Gonzales-Mugaburu.
The grand jury specifically criticized an arrangement under which the New York City agency ceded responsibility for overseeing case management to SCO Family of Services because of a special state waiver.
“There was virtually no contact by ACS with these children or the foster parent,” Spota said. “They basically delegated every single responsibility they had to these nonprofit agencies and said to them, ‘They're yours. Goodbye.' And that is so wrong.”
SCO Family of Services said it never uncovered evidence of sexual abuse or improper sexual behavior in the home. But the organization's chief strategy officer, Rose Anello, said last summer there were other issues, “and in retrospect and knowing what we know now, a decision to close the home should have been made at that time.”
SCO said it has worked with the state, ACS and Suffolk County “to diligently address each and every concern about the quality of care provided in this home.” Spokeswoman Leslie Johnson's statement added the agency has “undertaken a rigorous corrective action plan to ensure complete transparency and significantly strengthen our foster care program. We are hopeful the findings included in this report will advance meaningful and systemic foster care reform in New York.”
ACS and Suffolk County child welfare department representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Audio recording sheds new light on Leiliana Wright child abuse case
by Lori Brown
TARRANT COUNTY - Next month will mark one year since four-year-old Leiliana Wright was brutally beaten to death in Grand Prairie.
Leiliana was one of dozens of children who died in Texas in 2016 as a result of abuse or neglect, despite being on Child Protective Services' radar.
The child's mother and her mother's boyfriend are accused by police of beating and torturing the little girl at their home in March 2016. According to police, Jeri Quezada and Charles Phifer were both high on heroin and beat Leiliana because she drank her little brother's juice.
After her death, a citizen who is not connected to the case sent FOX 4 an audio recording of a Tarrant County associate judge speaking about legal proceedings that came before the child's death.
The recording reveals how even when CPS is involved in a case, a family court judge may not find out about it.
To understand the context of the secret recording, one must go back to 2014, more than year before Leiliana's death.
Leiliana's paternal grandmother, Alisa Clakley, filed a petition in court for custody and raised serious concerns about her granddaughter's safety. The custody case was filed in Tarrant County and a hearing was set to go before Associate Judge Diane Haddock in December 2015.
However, both parties ended up agreeing to a settlement outside of the courtroom and the case never went to a hearing.
Clakley told FOX 4, she agreed to give the mother custody of Leiliana at the advice of her attorney, because she did not understand the court system and was afraid to lose visitation rights.
In Clakley's sworn statements filed to the court before the scheduled hearing that never happened, Clakley raised concerns about Leiliana's safety and alleged that the mother was using drugs.
But after listening to the audio recording of the judge (made after Leiliana's death) and investigating the Texas family court system, FOX 4 has learned that Judge Haddock was never required to read the information Clakley filed.
The citizen who made the recording and provided it to FOX 4 asked not to be identified, because she has a family member who also has a case before Judge Haddock.
“They had an opportunity, in my opinion, to protect Leiliana and prevent this,” the caller told FOX 4.
It all started when the citizen saw a news story in April 2016 about Leiliana's case. She called the judge's office to voice her concerns and left a message.
The caller was surprised to get a call back from the judge herself. The caller recorded the conversation without the judge's knowledge, which is legal in Texas.
FOX 4 verified the authenticity of the recording by sending it to Judge Haddock herself, who did not dispute that it was her voice in the recording. Judge Haddock and Judge William Harris, who appointed Haddock, both declined to interview for this story, citing an ongoing investigation by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct sparked by the recording itself.
“Terrible tragedy. I've been on the bench 17 years. Hard to talk about this case,” Judge Haddock is heard saying in the recording. “I still lose my breath about it, and cry my eyes out.”
The recording is roughly 30 minutes long. The judge goes on to reveal conflicting information about the case.
“When [the grandmother] filed, she attached an affidavit, but there was no evidence in the affidavit,” the judge said. “Now, since we have done the research we've done, and CPS did their research, there was never even a CPS report prior to January 2016.”
“What about in the affidavit? There are indications that CPS was involved with the mother,” the caller asked.
“It wasn't true. It wasn't true,” said Judge Haddock.
But the caller was right.
According to a state report obtained by FOX 4, CPS opened investigations involving Leiliana and her mother in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
But, Judge Haddock did not know of about the first CPS case at the time of the scheduled hearing in 2014, because there were no supporting documents included with Clakley's affidavit.
The judge is also recorded discussing the mother's alleged drug use around her children.
“According to the affidavit, [Leiliana's little half-brother] is born with marijuana. No evidence of that. There is no evidence of that,” Judge Haddock said.
Again, the grandmother's allegations of the mother's drug use were not supported by official documents filed to the court. But, FOX 4 was able to confirm what she had alleged in her affidavit.
In October 2014, two months before the scheduled hearing, CPS had already received a report that Leiliana's little half borther was born with drugs in his system.
During that CPS investigation, the children's mother tested positive on a drug test.
Despite all of this evidence existing, Clakley's attorney did not file any supporting documents with the court to back up his client's sworn statement.
The caller shared the recording with Alisa Clakley, Leiliana's grandmother. After hearing the judge speak about her family's case to a third-party and give misinformation, Clakley filed a complaint against Judge Haddock with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Family law attorney Laci Bowman is not connected to the case. FOX 4 reached out to her to find out what other things could have helped the grandmother's case.
Bowman explained how custody cases work in general.
“If there are things like an arrest report, CPS report, you can subpoena a CPS worker to bring the file,” Bowman said. “You can subpoena the documents from the police department. All of those things are tools the client has to get all of the evidence before the judge."
Despite Alisa Clakley's affidavit raising her concerns, her attorney advised her to come to an agreement outside of Haddock's courtroom.
“He said, ‘Alisa, if you go into her courtroom - those were his exact words - you are going to lose everything,'" Clakley said. “These attorneys were afraid, if you will, to go into her courtroom."
Both parties agreed to give Leiliana's mother custody and guarantee the Clakley's visitation rights.
As a result, Judge Haddock never heard the case, but signed off on the agreement.
Clakley's attorney, Gregory Housewirth, declined to talk to FOX 4 about why he advised Clakley not to go before Judge Haddock.
Clakley also filed a complaint with the State Bar of Texas against Housewirth. She believe is there had been a hearing in the case, Leiliana would be alive today.
The State Bar of Texas determined Clakley's attorney did not violate any rules handling her case.
In April 2016, a month after Leiliana's death, Judge William Harris, who appointed Judge Haddock spoke to FOX 4 about the case.
"It certainly appears that there should have been a hearing in this case,” Judge Harris said. “It certainly appears the court should have been given evidence about the mother and her circumstances and I think it was tragic the court was never allowed to hear that evidence."
Clakley said she feels the system failed Leiliana.
She hopes changes are made in the judicial system to require family court judges to read affidavits like the one she filed before signing off on an agreement. She believes that way, the next time there are red flags about a child's safety, a judge can question them before it's too late.
Phifer and Quezada are both charged with felony injury to a child. Their trials are slated to begin in Dallas County in April.
FOX 4 receives dozens of calls and e-mails every month from parents and family members who are concerned that the court system is not keeping their children safe.
After interviewing family law attorney Lacy Bowman for this story, FOX 4 has learned some things people can do to make sure their concerns are being heard by the court.
First of all, often, it can be frustrating for a parent, grandparent or relative when CPS will not release a child's case file to them.
But, according to Bowman, a CPS case file can become public through a court hearing. An attorney can subpoena the CPS case worker and ask them to bring the case file.
However, there does have to be a hearing to get that file entered into evidence. For example, in Clakley's case, a CPS case worker did show up for the hearing, but since the case was settled outside the courtroom, the case worker's testimony and evidence was never heard by the judge.
Ashton Kutcher's emotional speech on fighting child abuse is so important
by Nicole Morley
(Video on site)
Ashton Kutcher has given an emotional speech, imploring US officials to do more to end child sexual abuse.
The actor and tech investor, a father-of-two, was visibly tearful as he discussed progress in combating modern slavery in a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington DC.
Kutcher, 39, co-founded the organisation Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, which builds computer software to fight human trafficking.
Kutcher – who has two children, one aged two and one aged three months, with actress Mila Kunis – said: ‘I've been on FBI raids where I've seen things that no person should ever see.
‘I've seen video content of a child that's the same age as mine being raped by an American man that was a sex tourist in Cambodia.
‘And this child was so conditioned by her environment that she thought she was engaging in play.'
Kutcher revealed that his team received a call from the Department of Homeland Security, a plea for help to find a seven-year-old girl after footage of her being sexually abused was ‘spread around the dark web'.
‘She'd been abused for three years and they'd watched her for three years and they could not find the perpetrator. Asking us for help,' he said.
‘We were the last line of defence. An actor and his foundation were the potential last line of defence.
‘That's my day job and I'm sticking to it.'
Kutcher's comments to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee follows huge criticism of classified advertising websites such as Backpage.com, which carry ads that offer children for commercial sex.
‘Technology can be used to enable slavery, but it can also be used to disable slavery,' said Kutcher.
Kutcher's company Thorn is a tech non-profit that has produced web-based tools to help police officers identify and locate victims of trafficking.
The ‘Spotlight' tool, which Kutcher said has helped identify 6,000 victims in six months, was created after a 2012 sex trafficking survey found that 63 percent of underage victims reported being bought or sold online.
Kutcher said becoming a parent had propelled his crusade against trafficking.
‘The right to pursue happiness for so many is stripped away, it's raped, it's abused, it's taken by force, fraud or coercion – it is sold for the momentary happiness of another.'
Each year, up to 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked for commercial sex in the US, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Most sex trafficking victims are advertised or sold online, according to a Senate subcommittee report that was released last month.
Backpage.com was hit last week with the latest in a string of lawsuits that accuse the company of promoting sex trafficking by running and rewriting ads that offer children to be bought and hired for sex.
More than 20 million people are thought to be trapped in some sort of modern slavery across the world today, according to End Slavery Now.
Over 4.5 million are estimated to be victims of sex trafficking.
Help find 2 wanted for child abuse in NC
McDowell Co. deputies are asking for your help in find a man and woman wanted for felony child abuse.
They have been added to the Burke County Sheriff's Office Most Wanted List.
Callie Ruth Sloan, 32, of Brentwood Rd. in Morganton
Jamie Lee Gray, 30, of Hill Creek Drive in Marion
Gray is also wanted on felony charges including drugs and possession of stolen goods, according to investigators.
They say an infant was taken to Catawba Valley Medical Center in June 2016.
The baby had a traumatic brain injury and burns to the feet that seemed consistent with cigarette burns.
The couple is possibly driving a red Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck with N.C. tag DEH-3005 or a Ford Expedition with N.C. tag DLV-8923.
Anyone with information as to their whereabouts is asked to contact the Burke Sheriff's Office at 438-5500 or firstname.lastname@example.org, the McDowell County Sheriff's Office at 652-2235 or the McDowell County 911 center at 652-4000.
Anonymous tips can be made to Morganton-Burke Crime Stoppers by calling 437-3333 or to McDowell County Crimestoppers by calling 65-CRIME (652-7463).
You can also text your tips to McDowell County Crimestoppers. Text MCDOWELLTIPS and your information to 274637 (CRIMES). You could receive a cash reward.
Senate Bill introduced that would double child abuse penalties
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A bill introduced in the West Virginia Senate would double penalties for child abuse and neglect.
Senate Bill 288 was introduced was Senate President Mitch Carmichael on Tuesday. The bill is being referred to as Emmaleigh's Law.
If passed the bill would amend the code of West Virginia by adding a new section to the law, naming the law and doubling the penalties for various child abuse offenses.
Emmaleigh Barringer, a 10-month-old baby, died October 5, 2016 from a skull fracture. Jackson County deputies say Emmaleigh was found on Meadowlark Lane in Ripley back in October.
Her mother told deputies that she found the baby naked in the basement of the apartment.
Deputies charged Benjamin Taylor, 32, with first degree sexual assault. The charges were later upgraded to murder, sexual assault and child abuse. Taylor is awaiting trial in South Central Regional Jail.
Senate Bill 288 would amend the penalties for a person convicted of death of a child by a parent, guardian or custodian from the current 10-40 years up to 20-80 years.
It would also increase the penalty of child abuse resulting in injury from 1-5 years to 2-10 years. Fines would also be doubled.
The bill was introduced to the senate on Tuesday and then referred to the Judiciary Committee.
Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for updates.
Australian Catholic Church paid $213 million to child sexual abuse victims
The country's Catholic Church has paid more than quarter of a billion Australian dollars to child sexual abuse victims. An inquiry concluded that, while thousands of claims were made, many victims had not come forward.
by Deutsche Welle
An average of 91,000 dollars each was paid to thousands of victims who came forward with claims to the church, an inquiry was told on Thursday.
Prosecuting barrister Gail Furness said Australia's Catholic Church had paid out 276 million Australian dollars ($213 million, 200 million euros) between 1980 and 2015.
Earlier this month, Australia was shocked by revelation that 4,445 people had made claims of child sexual abuse to the church over the 35-year-period. Of those 3,066 received payments for redress, with hundreds of claims still ongoing.
However, Furness said, the extent of the abuse was likely to go much further than that recorded in church data.
"The total number of incidences of child sexual abuse in the Catholic church institutions in Australia is likely to be greater than the claims made," Furness said.
"The Royal Commission's experience is that many survivors face barriers which deter them from reporting abuse to authorities and to the institution in which the abuse occurred."
Almost half of the complaints were made about abuse within schools, while about a third related to childrens' homes. The Christian Brothers, which operated residential facilities, made the highest number of payments.
The inquiry, which began in 2013, is investigating child sexual abuse in religious, government and sporting organizations, among others. The current set of hearings is focused on the Catholic Church, with the data referring to all complaints made against it.
Victim support groups on Thursday said the wide difference in compensation amounts by more than 1,000 Catholic institutions meant abuse compensation should be managed by the government.
"It's a picture of great unfairness and inequity between survivors across Australia, depending on where they placed their claim," said Helen Last, Chief Executive Officer of the In Good Faith Foundation, which represents some 460 abuse victims.
Australia's most senior Catholic cleric Cardinal George Pell said last year that the church had made "enormous mistakes" and "catastrophic" choices by refusing to believe abused children.
Nearly 400 Child Sexual Abuse Forensic Exams Supported by Child Victims' Trust Fund in 2016
by Kentucky News Service
FRANKFORT – Attorney General Andy Beshear Tuesday announced that the Child Victims' Trust Fund helped pay for nearly 400 child sexual abuse forensic exams in 2016.
Beshear said in a news release that he is encouraging Kentuckians to support the Fund through private donations, proceeds from the purchase of “I Care About Kids” license plates or donations made through the state income tax refund check-off program.
“One of the core missions of my office is to prevent and prosecute child abuse,” Beshear said. “We can only hope to end child abuse through the collaborative efforts of advocacy groups, government agencies, community leaders and by engaging families and Kentucky's business community. The prevention activities and child advocacy programs supported by the Fund are critical ?????????to make children safer and to openly discuss abuse and the ways in which we can prevent it. And we must continue to impress upon everyone that it is their legal and moral duty to report abuse.”
Beshear created an Office of Child Abuse and Exploitation Prevention when he entered office in 2016.
The Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Board, which is administered by the Office of the Attorney General, is responsible for allocating funding from the Child Victims' Trust Fund. It is statutorily created under Kentucky law as a 170(c)(1) nonprofit organization.
Last year, the Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Board approved $160,000 in statewide grants aimed at teaching parents how to discuss child sexual abuse with children and how to keep children safe on the Internet. The Fund helped support 394 children's medical exams in 2016.
The fund also helped support Beshear's 2016 partnership to provide the most comprehensive statewide child abuse prevention training ever offered, training over a thousand law enforcement officers, county prosecutors, parents and child advocates on how to recognize the signs of sexual predators and intervene to protect a child.
To support victims of child sexual abuse, Kentuckians may visit their county clerk's office and request an “I Care About Kids” license plate or check the box on their tax returns to designate a portion to the CVTF.
First Sandusky and now his son accused of sexual abuse: Coincidence?
by Tom Avril
Jeffrey Sandusky was accused this week of trying to lure two teenage girls into performing sexual acts. His father is former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, now in prison for child sexual abuse.
It's impossible to say, particularly since we don't know all that went on in the family.
Jeffrey Sandusky, 41, has not made any allegation that his father abused him. But such allegations have been made by another son, Matt.
If Jeffrey were simply aware of any abuse committed by his father, whether against his brother or anyone else, that in itself would constitute abuse, said Steven Berkowitz, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania.
Boys who are sexually abused are roughly 20 percent more likely to grow up and commit sexual abuse themselves, he said.
But that is 20 percent of a fairly small number. The overwhelming majority of abuse victims do not become perpetrators, said Berkowitz, an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine.
Exact numbers are hard to come by, in part because some perpetrators of child sexual abuse are never caught. But if, say, 2 out of 100 adults overall commit sexual abuse against a child, that means that among adults who were victimized as children, the number who grow up to commit abuse themselves would be 2.4 out of 100.
Here's what Jeffrey Sandusky had to say about his father in a 2015 interview with bleacherreport.com:
"Dad himself says he had boundary issues, meaning that he'd put a hand around your shoulder, he'd have his hand on my leg," he says. "Can that be taken the wrong way? Yes, and I get it. But he was not doing it to be a creeper, a perv. No, he was doing it to say I care about you."
Both he and his brother were adopted.
Jeffrey Sandusky was jailed Monday in lieu of $200,000 bail, after a short hearing in Bellefonte, Pa., in Centre County. Charges included statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, and corruption of minors. His attorney, Lance Marshall, declined to comment Wednesday.
Why would a victim of abuse be more likely to commit a similar act? The abuse may be accompanied by other factors, such as a chaotic living environment or other sources of stress, so it can be hard to tease out exactly what leads a victim to become a perpetrator, said Penn's Berkowitz.
One possibility: a victim of abuse may have less impulse control as a result, he said.
Statistics also reveal that the overwhelming majority of perpetrators are familiar faces. Roughly 60 percent of perpetrators are known to the victim but not family members, while 30 percent are related to the victim, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Just 10 percent are strangers to the child. Many abusers are never reported.
What can parents do?
Parents can be on the lookout for warning signs, Berkowitz said.
A person bent on sexually abusing a child often tries to ingratiate himself with the family of the intended victim, the psychiatrist said.
"Often they have reached out to the family to be helpful or supportive in some way, shape, or form," Berkowitz said. "And while that seems on the surface quite good, you have to wonder, when they're paying special attention to your child, if there's not an ulterior motive."
If, for example, a child is invited to go on a trip with a teacher or coach, a parent can ask questions. Will other adults or chaperones be present? Is the school officially involved?
Another red flag: abrupt changes in behavior could signal that a child has been abused, among other possibilities.
"Irritability, withdrawal, new onset of drug or alcohol abuse, that kind of thing," Berkowitz said.
Yes, those behaviors are present in lots of teenagers. But if they arise suddenly, a parent should be especially wary, the Penn psychiatrist said.
‘One Billion Rising' and teen dating violence
by Malinda Williams
The organizers of the annual worldwide “One Billion Rising” event are calling on all women, men and children to harness their power and imagination in rising for justice Feb. 14.
People will gather at Kit Carson Park at 3:30 p.m. and march to Taos Plaza at 4 p.m., where an inspiring dance will be held. Be prepared to feel energized. The event is free and open to everyone. For more information, visit CAV's Facebook page or call (575) 758-8082.
February marks the national “Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.” Each year, more than one in 10 teens who have been on a date were physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend. Teens who experience dating violence are at increased risk of substance abuse, depression, poor academic performance and future victimization. Dating violence should not happen at all.
There are things we can do as parents, family members, friends, mentors and caring community members to prevent teen dating violence and abuse. The first thing to be aware of is what it is.
Teen dating violence is using physical abuse (hitting, slapping, biting, strangling), sexual assault (unwanted touching or kissing, forced sexual acts) and psychological or emotional abuse (stalking, threats, name-calling, spreading rumors, isolating, intimidating) in a dating relationship in efforts to control the dating partner. The abuse can be by a current or former dating partner and be in person or through texting, Snapchat or other social media.
Both teen boys and girls use physical and emotional violence in dating relationships. However, girls are more likely to be sexually assaulted, suffer serious physical injuries and be physically afraid of their dating partner. Girls in abusive relationships often are afraid to require their partner use a condom and have a higher risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases than girls in healthy, respectful relationships.
Because many teens do not tell friends or family about dating violence out of fear or shame, one of the most important things you can do is keep open lines of communication with your children. Some teens think abusive behavior is normal or even flattering. Young women may find their boyfriend's constant texts and demands for immediate response as signs of love and devotion. Some things we can do to eliminate teen dating violence include:
• Be a role model. Healthy relationships are built on respect, trust and equality. Treat your children and others with respect and kindness.
• Talk to your children about healthy relationships before they start dating. The website loveisrespect.org has great resources for adults and teens about healthy relationships and how to start that conversation. Teach teens that healthy partners are not resentful of their partner's other interests, friends or accomplishments; they know both people need time alone or to be with friends and family.
• Know the warning signs of unhealthy relationships and teach young teens to let you know if any of these are happening: constant monitoring, explosive temper, jealousy, possessiveness and pressure to send explicit photos.
• Watch for signs a teen may be a victim of an abusive relationship: changes in behavior; falling grades; avoiding friends, family and usual activities; making excuses for their partner's behavior; and unexplained injuries.
• Watch for signs a teen may be abusive: violent temper, putting down their date, acting extremely jealous, preventing their partner from hanging out with friends and family or frequently checking up to demand information about where their partner is and with whom.
Williams is the executive director of Community Against Violence (CAV), which offers free, confidential support and assistance for adult and child survivors of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence and stalking; community and school violence prevention programs; re-education BIP groups for domestic violence offenders; shelter; transitional housing; and community thrift store. To talk with someone or get information on services available, call CAV's 24-hour hotline at (575) 758-9888 or go to taoscav.org.
Sexual abuse survivor Russel Dawson to bring support group for male victims moMENtum to North Devon
by Lauren Harris
A support group founded by a sexual abuse survivor is joining forces with a successful counselling service to bring care and help to North Devon victims.
Russel Dawson now lives in Braunton but co-founded moMENtum, a peer support group for non-offending adult male survivors of child sexual abuse, when he was based in Exeter.
The 48-year-old was a victim of recently-released North Devon paedophile policeman Danny Bryant, and said working with the group for the past five years had helped him when he was struggling with life and with mental health problems.
Russel said: "There is help out there, it's difficult to access sometimes, especially for male survivors. Finding the safe way of getting that help is important. If something bad happens when they first disclose what has happened they are likely to just shut down again and not get help.
"There are regional and national organisations designed to help people who have been sexually abused in childhood so it's worth doing a bit of research and contact someone who can do the appropriate work, rather than someone who might say the wrong thing. It can be difficult for other people to deal with.
"All you need is someone who is prepared to listen, and won't minimise it or say 'don't worry, it happened ages ago'. Someone who understands the effect it is still having now.
"If you get the right help, it is definitely worthwhile. I was struggling with life and with mental health problems. I have been fortunate to have got the help I have had and if you can get help it is definitely worth working on but it is not a walk in the park."
The groups at moMENtum gather together with shared experiences and meet as equals. The service is self-funded and helps talk through feelings of shame, anxiety, depression and a variety of mental health problems which stem from abuse, including eating disorders, alcohol and drug addiction.
Russel said being in a room with people who have all had to carry shame for decades without telling people and hearing them say the same things others have thought for so long is really powerful.
He said: "When you realise you're not the only one, it really resonates that you are going through the exact same things, the aftermath. People who have been abused shouldn't be ashamed, the shame should belong to the abuser.
"These mental difficulties are perfectly normal human reaction to abnormal circumstances. Anyone who had been through extreme circumstances would respond in the same way to such extreme pressure.
"We know how important it is to get help, I was fortunate to get help, and you can get it in a variety of ways. It is life-changing to get the right sort of help."
Russel is keen that moMENtum could link to female survivors and Karen Black's North Devon counselling service Survivors Alliance North Devon CIC (SAND).
Karen, herself a survivor of sexual abuse who waived her automatic right to anonymity, set up the counselling company in August 2016, and has already had 13 referrals, averaging out at two per month.
Karen said: "I worked with Russel and he was really my inspiration, he gave me the little push I needed to go ahead to start this up. He and his wife are both wonderful people and have helped me so much, including doing a massive amount of networking."
2017 has seen Karen receive weekly enquiries from community centres, GP surgeries, colleagues, local police and self-referrals for her services, seeing the project outgrow the free space time that Slee Blackwell Solicitors in Barnstaple had offered.
Though the team are fundraising, Karen would be grateful to any group or individual who would consider committing to a monthly payment of perhaps £10 or £20 to help the project go forward.
Anyone looking to join a moMENtum group in North Devon or donate to SAND can call Karen on 07763 617 693.
If you need support now, these numbers may be of help:
The Samaritans (24 hours) 08457 90 90 90
National Association of People Abused in Childhood 10am to 9pm Monday to Thursday; 10am to 6pm Friday: 0808 801 0331
Rape and Sexual Abuse Helpline: Monday to Sunday 7pm to 10pm 08088 000 188
Survivors UK www.survivorsuk.org Monday and Tuesday 6pm to 9pm; Wednesday 12pm to 2:30pm and 6pm to 9pm; Thursday 12pm to 2:30pm
DevonAlliance working with Childhood Sexual Abuse Website: https://dawcsa.wordpress.com Email: email@example.com FB: https://www.facebook.com/DAWCSA/
For Minors Sexually Abused by Teachers, “The Wounds Are to the Core”
by Steve Jansen
Rachel was a 15-year-old track star in a California high school when she says her coach first professed his love for her. “He said that if it was a different time and era, it would be ok,” she says.
Rachel (not her real name; she wished to remain anonymous due to her work career) remembers spending “unhealthy” amounts of time with the coach, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the school week. They had sex after practice in a shed behind the track field and on road trips to out-of-town meets. Other times, Rachel says the coach paid her to clean his parents' house so that they could sneak off and have sex there, too.
“I had no perspective of what sex and a relationship was. I was learning these things from him,” Rachel tells the Current in a phone interview. “Is this love? A relationship? I didn't know. I didn't know I was being manipulated and used for his sexual gratification.”
When Rachel went away for college and came back home for a visit, it started to hit her: this isn't right. She told her mom, who told a school counselor, who told the police, who recorded an incriminating phone call between Rachel and the coach, explains Rachel.
"They didn't want me to put me on the [witness] stand. They said it would hurt me more so he plea bargained to a lesser crime that wasn't a sex offense,” says Rachel, who adds that the man wasn't required to register as a sex offender.
Despite the nightmare, Rachel considers herself one of the lucky ones. “I'm still able to function and be productive,” she says.
Others aren't, according to Terri Miller, president of the Nevada-based Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct and Exploitation (S.E.S.A.M.E.).
Educators who sexually abuse minors “are changing a life irrevocably forever,” says Miller. “Something that many of the survivors and parents that have contacted our organization have all admitted that they have either attempted suicide or we're hearing from parents that their child did commit suicide over this issue.”
Often lost in the numbers – the Texas Education Agency opened a record-high 222 investigations into improper teacher-student relationships in fiscal year 2016 – is the emotional destruction caused by adult-aged educators and coaches.
The road ahead is likely going to be brutal for Jane Doe, who attended San Antonio Memorial High School. From around August 2012 to approximately the beginning of 2014, Memorial High chemistry teacher Marcus Revilla and Edgewood Independent School District police officer Manuel Hernandez sexual assaulted Jane Doe (obviously not her real name), according to a federal-court filing. In or around December 2013 or January 2014, Jane Doe became pregnant with Revilla's child.
However, the issues didn't come to light until April 2014 when the San Antonio Police Department, which had recovered Revilla's car that he reported as stolen, found Jane Doe's school identification and school-issued tablet in his car, states court documents.
“The harm is done to the core of the child and the family. The child has been seduced and lured in by these predators. Often times, they believe they're in love and it causes a terrible rift between families when the parents discover what has gone on,” says Miller. “The parents cooperate with law enforcement's investigation while the child is in turmoil over trying to protect the perpetrator who they think they love and they battle against the family.”
“It's very common for me to hear from parents… that their child has a restraining order against them from contacting them. It's a terrible wedge that's shoved between the victim and their family and friends,” says Miller. “Part of how the perpetrator maintains control is to isolate them and make them believe that they're the only person in the world who cares about them and is looking after their best interest. All the while, they have devious ideas.”
It's not impossible for a Texas teacher who has been accused of sexual wrongdoings with a student to procure another teaching job in Texas. According to an Austin-American Statesman investigation, it happens more often than you might think — between 2010 and 2016, at least six teachers found educator jobs in other school districts despite sexual-abuse allegations.
Senate Bill 7 and House Bill 218, which is currently under consideration in the current session of the Texas Legislature, would require additional teacher training in regards to appropriate boundaries with students. The legislation would also criminalize the failure of school administrators and counselors to report suspected teacher misconduct, a spectacle that happens in school districts all over the country, says Miller.
In Rachel's case, she says that depositions collected by her lawyer revealed that the coach had sexual relations with three other underage students prior to Rachel.
“They were reported to the school and they didn't do anything. It was a good ol' boy network," says Rachel. “I went through all of the pain and confession. I wish they would've investigated more.” Rachel says the man continues to coach in California.
Until SAPD recovered Revilla's stolen vehicle and found Jane Doe's ID and tablet in the car, not a single teacher or administrator at Memorial High and Edgewood ISD, according to court documents, reported Revilla's conduct to law enforcement, TEA or Texas Department of Child Protection Services, which is in violation of CPS statutes.
Upon information and belief, Principal of Memorial High School, Michael Rodriguez (“Principal Rodriguez”) was notified in writing by a Memorial High School teacher that he/she witnessed Defendant Revilla and minor Plaintiff alone together on a “date” outside school grounds. No action was taken by Principle [sic] Rodriguez or any school official to investigate or report the allegation as required under state law.
In or around April 2014, then Principal Rodriguez summoned minor Plaintiff to his office to discuss Revilla's conduct. During that meeting, Principal Rodriguez stated to minor Plaintiff that he had been aware of the rumors regarding Revilla's sexual assault, and/or sexual abuse, and/or groping, and/or touching, and/or sodomy, and/or oral sex, and/or sexual intercourse, and/or sexual molestation, and/or pornographic photographing and/or recording of sex acts of or upon Minor Plaintiff since the beginning of the school year, but that he had chosen to ignore them up to that point in time.
Upon information and belief, the ex-fiancé of Defendant Revilla notified Principal Rodriguez through electronic mail that Defendant Revilla was acting inappropriately and having sexual relations with minor Plaintiff and suggested an investigation or reprimand for his unprofessional actions.
Upon information and belief, Revilla's conduct was never reported to law enforcement authorities by any Edgewood employee or official.
Court documents state that after SAPD found Revilla's stolen vehicle, Rodriguez told Edgewood ISD superintendent Jose Cervantes about Revilla's conduct. That information was disseminated to Edgewood's board of trustees.
After media reports exposed the arrests of Revilla and Hernandez, Rodriguez, Cervantes and all seven members of the Edgewood board resigned.
Prosecutors Cracking Down On Those Who Permit Child Abuse
by Lori Fullbright
TULSA, Oklahoma -- There's a new trend when it comes to prosecuting child abuse cases.
We have long seen charges filed against the abuser but, now we're seeing more charges filed against mothers and even grandparents for permitting the abuse.
Because children are totally helpless and dependent on the adults around them, the law says any adult who should've known the child was at risk or should've done something to protect the child can be held almost as responsible as the person who actually did the abusing.
Police say some mothers choose men over their kids because they love their man more or need his financial support or they're afraid of him.
"Whatever the reason is, if there's a choice to be made, the choice has to be in favor of the child, it just has to be," said Sarah McAmis, Tulsa County Child Abuse Prosecutor.
McAmis's team specializes in child abuse cases and they're seeing more cases involving drugs.
"I understand drugs are a problem, I understand drugs are an addiction but there are choices to be made and your child has to come before anything else, before any addiction, before any other choice you make," McAmis said.
She has some advice for mothers: get to know a man well before you bring him around your children. If he's been violent with you or others, know he could be violent toward your kids. Trust your gut if your kid has an injury and the explanation doesn't make sense and get your child medical attention immediately, rather than worrying that you or the man could get into trouble.
"Some of these cases are so obvious and could have been prevented so easily if the adults would've just made reasonable choices," McAmis said.
It's not only mothers getting charged but grandparents too. The punishment for permitting child abuse is up to life in prison.
Experts' opinions on what causes child abuse varies
ERIE, Pa. -- In light of the arrest of Jeffrey Sandusky, we set out to determine what causes someone to commit an act of abuse and we found out that experts have very different opinions.
One side said it is a learned behavior while another says that it is a mental illness
Pennsylvania State Police arrested Jeffrey Sandusky, an adopted son of the former Penn State football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, and charged him with sexually assaulting a child.
Jerry Sandusky was convicted of sexual abuse of a child in 2012.
The Crime Victim Center says that sexual abuse is not a learned behavior and that is a mental illness. Also saying that it is rare for sexual abuse to cycle through a family.
"I don't really think that it is learned,” Paul Lukach said. “I think, unfortunately, people have a mental health proclivity issue to wanting to harm children in some way or find some bizarre gratification from that. I don't think it comes from victimization and studies will show you that is not the case.”
On the other hand, SafeNet says that is a behavior that is learned and if not properly treated can create an endless abuse cycle.
"It is a learned behavior if they see someone doing it they grow up seeing that they are much more likely to end up doing that," Robyn Young said.
Also mentioning that someone who sexually abuses is not always mentally ill.
We have seen research that backs both arguments so we don't have a clear answer.
Also, the Crime Victim Center will have Jerry Sandusky's adopted son, Matthew, who was also a victim of sexual abuse, at the Blasco Library on Feb. 27 to talk about his experience.
Del. Wilson seeks to allow more child-abuse testimony
by Tamela Baker
ANNAPOLIS — Del. Brett Wilson told House Judiciary Committee members Tuesday about a child sexual abuse case he prosecuted against a repeat offender.
When the young victim took the stand — while being stared down by the man he said had hurt him — he "went mute," said Wilson, R-Washington.
"The only way I could get testimony was by diagram," a diagram showing body parts the child circled in response to his questions, he said.
There was someone who could have explained, but she was prohibited from testifying. That was the child's grandmother — the first person he had told about the abuse, Wilson said.
"It was difficult to tell this grandmother … that she could not testify to what her grandchild told her," he said.
Under current law, professionals involved in investigations of child abuse can testify in court about children's statements to them. But family members or family friends can't.
Wilson has filed legislation based on a Texas standard that would allow those statements to be admitted as evidence in abuse cases.
"That moment of first disclosure is important because it shows the emotion — it's so powerful for the child to go ahead and start the process of healing," he said, noting that it also is the most honest moment for the child.
Children would still have to take the stand, Wilson said.
But Del. Curt Anderson, D-Baltimore City, asked why it would be necessary to admit those statements in court.
"There's already a lot of testimony (that's) admissible," he said, asking why statements children make to investigators aren't enough.
"The point of disclosure is usually this black hole that a jury has to question," Wilson said. "Why were social services involved in the first place? We're leaving the jury with a gap. It's a part of the story that is blocked from the jury or the finder of facts here."
Oklahoma House Bill Would Make Children's Statements of Neglect Admissible in Court
by Matt Trotter
Statements about neglect by children younger than 13 could be admissible in court under an Oklahoma House bill.
Right now, state law only allows such evidence in cases of physical or sexual abuse. Edmond Republican Kevin Calvey said expanding the law to include neglect, which is not defined in the bill, is going too far.
"The potential for abuse of taking kids out of the home on this is so great, and it's been such a problem in U.S. history, that we have a federal law, the Indian Child Welfare Act, because so many Indian kids were yanked out of their homes under statutes just like this one," Calvey said.
Calvey was the lone vote in a judiciary committee hearing against the bill, which was requested by a district attorneys' association.
"We're just saying that anybody who they think — because they don't go to school or maybe they don't want to vaccinate their kids — that that's going to be considered child neglect, and not only are they going to charge somebody with that, but they're going to be able to get hearsay testimony from a kid who's young enough to still believe in Santa Claus?" Calvey said.
Tulsa Republican Carol Bush said there's good reason to expand the law to cover cases of neglect.
"The case that was brought before me included a 3-year-old child who could not actually verbalize what was happening, and the 10-year-old sibling could," Bush said.
The bill, which also covers statements made by mentally disabled persons, passed the committee 8–1 and heads to the full House.
Judge Orders Mom Not to Get Pregnant Again After She Loses Fourth Child Due to Neglect
by Inside Edition
A western New York judge has ordered a mother not to get pregnant again until she is able to “get her life together” and become a responsible caretaker for her children, issuing the controversial decision after a fourth child was taken from the woman because of neglect.
The woman, referred to in court documents as Brandy F., is a sex worker and drug addict who allegedly admitted to ingesting crack cocaine, methadone and alcohol while pregnant, Monroe County Family Court Judge Patricia Gallaher wrote in the December 27 decision.
The infant was removed from her custody after he was born in June 2016 prematurely and immediately showing signs of drug withdrawal.
He was the woman's fourth child and her third to be born addicted to drugs, court documents said.
Her first child, born in 2007, has lived with his maternal grandmother after it was discovered he was “not protected from access to hypothermic needle."
“Over and over this court has had to order children removed from the mother only to see her show up in court in a few months obviously pregnant, often by another man while the [five] Department caseworkers and the court are still working to help that very mother get her already born child or children returned,” Gallaher wrote.
In her ruling, Gallaher wrote that her goal was to allow Brandy to stabilize her life so she could one day have custody of her children.
Brandy's sons and daughter “would most probably rejoice in having [a] mother who was clean, sober and competent, and hopefully even would love them as a mother should love her children,” Gallaher wrote.
The judge, who retired in December, noted the responsibility to get Brandy back on track not only falls on the shoulders of the mother-of-four, who did not appear in court, but also on caseworkers to offer family planning and contraception, as the law allows.
Caseworkers cannot require a client to utilize family planning or contraception.
”[E]very woman has a constitutional right to choose to have an abortion, but it is a tragic choice — one this court seeks to avoid having even be considered,” Gallaher wrote. “The best way to do this is obviously to avoid new pregnancies in neglect cases where the woman cannot take care of the children she already has, let alone a new one, and usually cannot even take care of herself.”
The decision has left some in legal circles divided, with some questioning it and others saying it reflects the troubling realities those in family court see every day.
“... The court is not ordering somebody to get an abortion, to go against their religion, to go against privacy and not have sex,” retired Judge Marilyn O'Connor told the Democrat & Chronicle.
O'Connor issued a similar ruling in 2004 — at which time Gallaher worked as a clerk in her office — but it was overturned.
"I understand why the judge may have had good intentions here," KaeLyn Rich, director of the Genesee Valley chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, told the Chronicle . "When it comes to interpreting here, we don't want to set a precedent that the court has the authority to tell a woman not to get pregnant or a man not to procreate."
Ron Lugbill, Brandy's attorney, told WHEC that they plan to appeal the decision.
Gallaher acknowledged in her order that it would be difficult to enforce should Brandy violate it, noting that while jail could be a response, it was “not the intent of this decision.”
But she also noted the best interests of children are of utmost concern in family court.
“A child's right to his or her own parent surely is greater than a parent's right to have more children without even the ability to raise them, be a daily presence or support, or contribute positively to their welfare,” she wrote.
“Parent's rights to their children are constitutional protected because families are worthy of fundamental constitutional protection. However, nowhere has this court found a case where a constitutional right to procreate was protected, when there was no reasonable possibility of that parent and child becoming a family.
"Could there be a constitutional protected right to abandon your baby — or is it a crime? The answer appears obvious to this court. Abandoning your child is endangering the welfare of a child and it is a crime, not a constitutional right."
Dept of Justice
Enrique Marquez Jr. Agrees to Plead Guilty to Plotting Violent Attacks and Buying Firearms for Shooter in San Bernardino Terrorist Attack
RIVERSIDE, California – Enrique Marquez Jr. – a longtime friend of Syed Rizwan Farook, the male shooter in the San Bernardino terrorist attack – has agreed to plead guilty to conspiring with Farook in 2011 and 2012 to provide material support to terrorists.
Marquez, 25, of Riverside, entered into a plea agreement that was filed today in United States District Court. The defendant is scheduled to enter his guilty pleas Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m. before United States District Judge Jesus Bernal.
In the plea agreement, Marquez agreed to plead guilty to providing material support and resources to terrorists, including weapons, explosives and personnel. Marquez admitted in the plea agreement that he conspired with Farook in 2011 and 2012 to attack Riverside City College (RCC) and commuter traffic on the 91 Freeway.
Marquez also agreed to plead guilty to making false statements in connection with the acquisition of a firearm for being the “straw buyer” of two assault rifles that were used in the shooting rampage at the San Bernardino Inland Regional Center (IRC) on December 2, 2015.
“This defendant collaborated with and purchased weapons for a man who carried out the devastating December 2, 2015 terrorist attack that took the lives of 14 innocent people, wounded nearly two dozen, and impacted our entire nation,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “While his earlier plans to attack a school and a freeway were not executed, the planning clearly laid the foundation for the 2015 attack on the Inland Regional Center. When this defendant pleads guilty, all four individuals charged, including three of the shooters’ family members, will be convicted. Everyone in the U.S. Attorney’s Office – and everyone across the Department of Justice and the broader law enforcement community – brought their expertise, dedication, and tireless effort to bear on this investigation. We are, and will continue to be, deeply committed to pursuing the prosecution of everyone who was even remotely related to the San Bernardino attack. As these criminal cases begin to resolve, we hope that the victims of the attack and the community of San Bernardino are comforted in some small way by the knowledge that the Department of Justice and the law enforcement community stands with them in this investigation, resolute and committed to justice.”
“With this plea, Enrique Marquez Jr. will be held accountable for his role in plotting terrorist attacks on American soil with Sayed Rizwan Farook in 2011 and 2012, attacks which were, fortunately, not carried out,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord. “Marquez also admitted to making a false statement as part of his straw purchases of weapons for Farook – weapons that were eventually used to carry out the deadly terrorist attack in San Bernardino. Holding those who threaten our national security and public safety accountable will always be the highest priority of the National Security Division and I want to thank all of the agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for this result.”
Marquez was arrested about two weeks after the attack at the IRC, which was perpetrated by Farook, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, who were killed in a shootout with law enforcement hours after the attack.
The investigation into the deadly shooting quickly uncovered evidence that, in 2011 and 2012, Marquez purchased two rifles that Farook and Malik later used in the attack that killed 14 people and wounded 22 others at the IRC. A law enforcement officer was wounded during the shootout that afternoon.
According to the plea agreement, Farook paid Marquez for the rifles. Marquez also discussed with Farook the use of radio-controlled improvised explosive devices (IEDs) during the planned attacks on the RCC and State Route 91. Marquez purchased Christmas tree lightbulbs and a container of smokeless powder for use in manufacturing IEDs.
“Defendant Marquez purchased two of the weapons used in the San Bernardino terror attack to murder 14 innocent people and seriously injure 22 others – a horrific act which led to great suffering and a lifetime of pain for the survivors and for the loved ones of those murdered,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. “Defendant Marquez provided these weapons to his associate, Syed Rizwan Farook, with whom he conspired to plot chilling terror attacks. I’m gratified that this guilty plea will spare the victims and the San Bernardino community from having to relive the gruesome details of the attack during what would likely be a lengthy trial.”
Once he pleads guilty, Marquez will face a statutory maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison.
Marquez, who did not personally participate in the attack on the IRC, has remained in custody since he was ordered detained at his initial court appearance in this case on December 17, 2015.
The plea agreement filed today is the result of an investigation by several members of the Inland Empire Joint Terrorism Task Force, including agents and detectives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the San Bernardino Police Department; the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department; the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office; the Chino Police Department; the Redlands Police Department; the Ontario Police Department; the Corona Police Department; and the Riverside Police Department.
“Straw purchasers are criminals who are the beginning of the chain of violence in our country,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Eric D. Harden. “It is purchases like Marquez’s that led to the terror on that tragic day in San Bernardino. The crime goes beyond making a false statement on a government form. It puts guns in the hands of criminals who will victimize the community. In this case, the straw purchase is as reprehensible as the attack.
“This guilty plea will bring much needed closure to a case that devastated those victims and families associated with the senseless attack on December 2, 2015, an attack that also deeply impacted our community,” said San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan. “This case a perfect example of local and federal authorities working together with a common purpose for the sake of the victims.”
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon stated: “December 2nd will forever haunt the memories of the victims’ families and the survivors who have lived through the tragedy. I pray today's guilty plea brings all of us a bit of justice.”
Also as a result of the investigation into the IRC attack, three people have pleaded guilty to being part of a sham marriage scheme in which a Russian woman “married” Marquez to obtain immigration benefits.
Syed Raheel Farook, the brother of IRC attacker Syed Rizwan Farook; Tatiana Farook, who is Syed Raheel Farook’s wife; and Mariya Chernykh, who is Tatiana Farook’s sister, pleaded guilty earlier this year to immigration fraud charges and admitted being part of conspiracy in which Chernykh paid Marquez to enter into a bogus marriage.
The case against Marquez and the immigration fraud case are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jay H. Robinson, Melanie Sartoris and Deirdre Z. Eliot of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section. Trial Attorney C. Alexandria Bogle of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section provided substantial assistance.
FROM: Thom Mrozek, Spokesperson/Public Affairs Officer
United States Attorney’s Office, Central District of California (Los Angeles)
Child sex abuse victim writes book to survivors
Travis Miller sentenced to 7 years in prison
by Brent Weisberg and KOIN 6 News staff
(The letter can be read on the site)
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – “It is OK.”
In a 3-page, unfinished book, a young boy writes about being sexually abused. His powerful message is for other children survivors.
He encourages other boys and girls to tell an adult about what happened to them.
“Don't be scared,” the boy writes. “The sooner you tell, the sooner the better you will feel.”
“It took me about two months,” the boy wrote about coming forward to his family.
The boy addresses the fear children and even adults may have about reporting sexual abuse.
“Why would I lie about being sexually abused,” the boy writes.
In his own case, the boy faced people, even within his family, who didn't believe him.
He calls his abuser a “sick minded creep.”
In Chapter 2 of the book, the boy encourages survivors to trust doctors, police and the criminal justice system.
“The police might talk to you about what happened. You need to be honest and tell them everything you know.”
Travis Miller sexually assaulted, raped and threatened the boy over 3 days on the Burns Paiute Reservation in summer 2015. The boy and Miller are not related but are known to each other.
He was sentenced to 7 years in federal prison on Monday. The United States Attorney's Office had been seeking an 8-year prison sentence, the defense sought 6.5 years.
The boy attended Monday's hearing but did not address the court. He was surrounded by family members. His mother wrapped her arm around the boy as his grandmother read his statement.
“Travis,” she said. “You took advantage of me and my body.”
The letter was filled with raw anger.
“I have so much hate for you,” the boy's grandma said. “I wish the judge would sentence you to life in prison because that's what you deserve.”
The boy's statement ended “burn in hell, Travis.”
Miller befriended the boy while Miller spent three weeks visiting the boy's father, according to court records. During the first two weeks of that visit, Miller let the boy, who was 10, play video games in Miller's tent and wrestled with him. Miller gave the boy alcohol and marijuana at times during his stay, prosecutors allege.
Investigators learned that the wrestling turned both sexual and threatening.
“At one point while the two were wrestling, [the victim] felt alarmed when Miller positioned his body behind [the victim's] buttocks and began rubbing his genitalia against [the victim's] clothed buttocks,” according to court documents.
Prosecutors allege Miller used his cellphone to show the boy pornographic images, and that while inside the tent, he sexually abused the boy.
“Defendant Miller threatened to hurt [the victim's] parents if [he] said anything to anyone about the sex abuse,” court documents state.
When the boy returned to his mother's home, he was described as being anxious, irritable, and mistrustful. In the days that followed, he had a difficult time sleeping and suffered from nightmares, according to the United States Attorney's Office.
Eventually, the boy's family learned about the allegations made against Miller. Police in Washington launched an investigation and the FBI was eventually brought in because the crimes occurred on the Burns Paiute Reservation. The FBI obtained a search warrant and on one of Miller's two phones found a photograph of the boy sleeping in early July 2015.
Miller was indicted by a federal grand jury on Dec. 15, 2015. He was accused of aggravated sexual abuse and aggravated sexual contact with a minor.
Miller pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual contact with a minor on March 14, 2016.
According to court records, Miller has adult convictions for theft, furnishing alcohol to minors, DUII and providing false information to police.
Because the victim in this case was under the age of 12 at the time of the abuse, Miller will be designated as a lifetime sex offender.
Miller's criminal defense attorney pointed out that Miller was sexually abused himself and never sought treatment. For his part, Miller apologized to the boy and his family for the pain and suffering he caused.
District Judge Ann Aiken pointed out that Miller came from a good family, but was abused as a child for a lengthy period of time. Miller never received any counseling and she described him as a “textbook case” of defendants who suffer as children and offend when adults.
The FBI special agent assigned to investigate the case sat across from the boy and his family in court on Monday.
In Depth: Breaking the silence
(Video on site)
Too often we report stories about adults sexually abusing children. While most of these cases involve girls who are abused, boys are not immune. It's estimated one in six men will be abused before their 18th birthday and that figure is thought to be low because societal pressures make it more difficult for men than women to disclose the abuse.
Experts in the prevention field say it's important for men to talk about the abuse to help stop it. That's what our colleague, NewsChannel 13 Meteorologist Jason Gough is doing.
"I want to let everybody know that this is not your fault. This has to come out. If you tell one person or if you broadcast it," explained Jason.
You know him as an accomplished meteorologist on NewsChannel 13. However, when he was 8 years old, his aunt, now deceased, began abusing him.
"Predators have a finely tuned radar for vulnerable kids," noted Mike Lew, a psychotherapist and author.
In Jason's case, his parents' marriage was fraying and the abuser lavished attention on him.
As experts like Lew explain, Jason was targeted and groomed for the sexual abuse.
"I didn't remember it the next day and this went on for a couple of years," recalled Jason.
The ability to push the abuse to the deepest corners of his mind is both common and protective.
Lew explains society pressures boys and men not to share emotions that may brand them as weak, so they're less likely than female victims to disclose the abuse.
"It's not unusual for men to disclose, if they disclose at all, to wait until they're in their 40s, 50s or later," pointed out Lew.
However, abused boys pay a price for their silence or when signs of their distress are missed.
"[I] Pulled out all of my eyelashes," remembered Jason.
"Self destructive behaviors are often a hallmark," explained Chrys Ballerano with the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
She says signs a child maybe abused include acting out, bed wetting, inappropriate knowledge about sexuality. They may turn to substance abuse, become depressed, excessively angry.
"After that, my temper was horrible," admitted Jason.
However, none of the adults in his life recognized his turmoil.
He eventually channeled his fury and shame into running on his school team and it worked for a while.
Lew explains a major life change often shakes loose the painful memories. For Jason, that happened 12 years ago. He was preparing to return to Albany, his hometown, from Texas where he had been living with his wife, Jennifer.
"Jennifer said I turned like an ashen color and started to rock. She didn't know what to do and I just kind of blanked out and then it was just like I came out of it and I said, ‘Oh, I was abused when I was a kid. I know who did it.' I mean it was just like that," recalled Jason.
Shortly after that epiphany, Jennifer was diagnosed with breast cancer and her care became Jason's focus. She recovered, but Jason's confrontation with his past was stalled by seven years.
Emotions and recollections would spill over, blindsiding him with such intensity he became severely depressed.
"There were times when I was considering some pretty hideous things," he admitted. When NewsChannel 13's Benita Zahn asked, "Suicidal?" Jason replied, "Mm-hmm," and nodded his head.
His family rallied around him, encouraging him to get help. He had already shared details of the sexual abuse with them. Fortunately, they believed him and didn't pass judgement. Those are all critical components to recovery say the experts, who add peer support is another integral part of healing.
"To know that they're not the only one. Because abuse happens in isolation," explained Lew.
In that isolation, shame, the stigma of being targeted and guilt for not resisting their abuser festers. With others, they learn the true nature of the abuse.
"It's about power, it's about control," noted Ballerano.
Sadly, after an abused male child discloses, they're often stigmatized by the falsehood they're more likely to abuse others. Research shows that's not true.
"This robs the kids, this robs the society of a lot of potentially great dads," noted Lew.
"I did not want to hug my nieces or nephews and have anybody in my family wonder why," admitted Jason.
Therapy has helped Jason get beyond that. While he and Jen are close, their marriage didn't survive his journey. Not uncommon, studies show for these adult survivors.
"People get to a point where they can make life decisions that aren't based on having been abused," noted Lew.
"Take all of the details and everything and it's part of it, but it's not part of you and that's what's taken me a long time to figure out," admitted Jason.
Jason knew he had to speak out after watching an interview with Actor Tyler Perry, who shared his story of abuse. It helped Jason to heal and now he hopes his story will help others.
Sandusky's son awaits hearing on child sex abuse allegations
by Mark Scoloforo and MaryClaire Dale
Jerry Sandusky's adult son is in a Pennsylvania jail, awaiting a hearing next week on charges he pressured one teenage girl to send him naked photos and asked her teen sister to give him oral sex.
Jeffrey Sandusky, 41, faces 14 counts, including solicitation of statutory sexual assault and solicitation of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. His lawyer isn't commenting on the allegations.
A child abuse expert says the allegations raise the possibility that he may not have been raised in a healthy sexual environment, whether or not he was himself victimized.
University of Pennsylvania professor Richard Gelles said adult men who seek sexual contact with adolescent girls are seeking power over them and can't have a mature relationship with another adult.
"The sexual development in that household must depart significantly from normal. Mom is denying (her husband's serial abuse) or didn't know. Jerry was accused of having some sexual contact with one of his adopted children. It's hard to imagine that this young man (Jeffrey) is going to develop normally," said Gelles, chair of child welfare and family violence at Penn's School of Social Policy and Practice.
Jeffrey Sandusky is one of six people adopted by Jerry Sandusky. He's been a stalwart supporter of his father, regularly attending his court proceedings alongside his mother, Dottie Sandusky, who also has consistently supported her husband and fought to clear his name.
Jeffrey Sandusky has not made any public allegations of abuse by Jerry Sandusky, but one of his siblings, Matt Sandusky, alleged at the time of their adoptive father's 2012 criminal trial that he had been abused by him. Matt Sandusky was not called as a witness, and Jerry Sandusky has never been charged with those allegations.
Abbie Newman, chief executive of the Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center of Montgomery County, a private agency that helps coordinate child abuse investigations, said it's not unusual for patterns of abusive behavior to exist among different generations of the same family.
"We certainly see cases at Mission Kids of allegations of intergenerational child abuse," she said.
Sandusky also was charged with six counts of unlawful contact with a minor and two counts each of solicitation to photograph or depict sexual acts, sexual abuse of children and corruption of minors.
Sandusky knew the girls through their mother.
A state trooper said in the arrest affidavit that on Nov. 21, the alleged victims' father turned over to investigators text messages from Sandusky in which he asked one of the girls for nude photographs.
The affidavit said Sandusky told the teen in texts in March that "it's not weird because he studied medicine" and instructed her "to not show these texts to anyone."
The girl's mother told investigators that when she confronted Sandusky, he told her "he knows it was wrong and inappropriate," police said.
The girl told police the texts made her uncomfortable and that "he kept pressuring me and asked me multiple times not to show the texts to anyone," police said.
Gelles gave the teen accuser credit for reporting the alleged contact.
"This girl was mature beyond her years, and smart beyond her years, and certainly not vulnerable to the kind of grooming that predators tend to use," he said.
Prosecutors allege Jeffrey Sandusky sought oral sex from a second girl in 2013. She was 15 years old at the time.
That teen told investigators that Jeffrey Sandusky told her in March: "I can't even say anything except I'm sorry."
Jerry Sandusky is serving a lengthy prison sentence for sexual abuse of 10 boys, maintains he was wrongly convicted and is appealing.
The state Corrections Department said that because of the charges, Jeffrey Sandusky was suspended without pay Monday from employment as a corrections officer at Rockview State Prison, near State College. He was hired in August 2015.
Tulsa police: Around one quarter of local child abuse cases are 'difficult to prove'
by Sara Whaley
Tulsa police say it might be difficult to solve a number of the city's recent child abuse cases.
Detectives say over the weekend, an eight-month old baby showed up to hospital with broken bones and bruises.
Even though doctors know for a fact that child abuse is to blame, detectives tell FOX23 that it will be difficult to prove.
They say the baby was in the care of too many different people during the time they have determined that the abuse happened.
Detectives say this isn't the only case for them that proves difficult to solve.
The city of Tulsa had about 500 reported cases of child abuse within the last year, and detectives say about 25% of those fall in this “difficult to prove” category.
Police say most of the time the children that are abused are either unable or too scared to tell police what happened. On top of that there are rarely witnesses to these types of things and if there are they are usually involved in the abuse.
Detectives say it's frustrating when they come to a dead end because they say that their job is to get justice for these children.
They say in situations where arrests can't be made, police have to rely on DHS to do something to make sure that the victims and other children in a volatile home are safe.
Police say in the most recent case that DHS has removed all children from the home while the investigation is ongoing.
Local lawmakers introduce bill for child sexual abuse task force
by Katie Fairbanks
Sen. John Grabinger, D-Jamestown, and Rep. Bernie Satrom, R-Jamestown, are sponsoring a bill that would create a task force on preventing sexual abuse of children and reporting recommendations for legislation.
Senate Bill 2342 was introduced by Grabinger and had a hearing in the Human Services Committee on Jan. 30. No vote or other action has been taken since.
The task force would gather information concerning child sexual abuse throughout the state, receive testimony and reports from individuals, state and local agencies and organizations, and create goals for state policy that would prevent child sexual abuse during the 2017-2018 interim period. The task force would submit a final report with recommendations to the governor and legislative management, which is a group of legislators who determine interim studies and committee memberships.
Satrom said the idea for the bill came from the Rev. Shawn Bowman, senior pastor at Victory Lutheran Church in Jamestown, who called Satrom after seeing a news show about child abuse and said something should be done.
Satrom said he did some research and found that children are prepared for earthquakes, tornadoes, fires, "stranger danger" and other scenarios, but not taught in school how to protect themselves from sexual abuse.
Approximately 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before age 18, according to the National Sex Offender Public Registry website.
According to data from the North Dakota Department of Human Services, there were 1,760 children confirmed who were abused or neglected by the state's child welfare system in 2015, and 66 of those were victims of sexual abuse.
This does not include data from tribal child welfare systems or the law enforcement system. The data includes cases that involve a person responsible for a child's welfare, including parents, family members, members of the child's household, teachers, guardians or care provider in a school or child care setting. Other cases are referred to law enforcement and are not in the department's system.
Marlys Baker, the administrator of child protection services for the Department of Human Services, said in an email that coordinating efforts and resources are important to prevent child sexual abuse.
"The Department of Human Services has worked with many partners across systems and professional disciplines since 1986 to strengthen prevention efforts and the systems that respond to child sexual abuse, and will continue to do so," Baker said.
Child sexual abuse is something the state should have a discussion about and create solutions to curb the problem, and that's what the task force is designed to do, Grabinger said. Unfortunately, the task force probably wouldn't be able to get rid of the problem entirely, but would help curb it, he said.
The task force would consist of four members of the state Legislature, four members of the public appointed by Senate and House leaders, the director of the Department of Human Services or a designee, the superintendent of public instruction or a designee, a law enforcement representative as well as representatives of related agencies and organizations.
Grabinger said the bill may be amended to change the requirements of the people who would make up the task force. There wasn't any opposition to the bill, just the one change, and he is expecting the committee to vote soon, he said
"The real hope is to come up with suggestions and solutions to a serious problem," Grabinger said.
The task force will assess the problem and make recommendations about age-appropriate curriculum to be used, Satrom said. He hopes something can be implemented for public and private schools and be a resource for parents.
"I hope we can pattern something that'll work and make a difference in people's futures," Satrom said.
The bill lists recommendations the task force may make, including proposals for methods to foster cooperation among state agencies and between local and state governments in adopting and implementing a policy addressing sexual abuse of children.
The policy may include curriculum for students, training for school personnel, educational information for parents and guardians along with assistance, referral or resource information, counseling and resources for students affected by sexual abuse, and emotional and educational support for a child of abuse to continue to be successful in school.
The fiscal note attached to the bill states the task force has no fiscal impact.
Satrom said he is very excited about the task force. Several states have something similar in place, he said.
According to the 2015 report, "State and Federal Legislative Efforts to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse" by Prevent Child Abuse America, 30 states have state child sexual abuse prevention laws, some passed but not yet implemented.
"I'm excited about the possibilities," Satrom said. "It has the potential of positively impacting lives."
If you suspect a child is abused or neglected, call your county social services office. County information is available at www.nd.gov/dhs/locations/countysocialserv/. If a child is in immediate danger, individuals should contact law enforcement.
Impressing the Wrong People
by Sarah Burleton
I'm fed up with Facebook.
Absolutely fed up with seeing the same, filtered, pouty-lipped selfies popping up on my timeline day in and day out. Fed up with taking my children to golf practice or swimming lessons and observing parents with their noses down, scrolling through their Facebook feed and missing their child growing up right in front of their eyes. Fed up with pulling up next to a mother at a red light and witnessing her puckering her lips up and fluffing her hair with her phone in her face while her children are screaming in the back seat.
The opinions of others and how many “likes” someone can get on a Facebook photo seems to be more important to some people than their own children. It makes me wonder why people need the affirmation of so many others to believe that they are good parents, good looking, or successful. Does getting 50 or 100 likes on a Facebook selfie make them feel better about themselves for a little while? What happens when they post their next selfie or picture and only a couple of people like it? Does it ruin their day and destroy their self-worth?
Just yesterday I was standing in line at the grocery store, waiting for a sweet, elderly lady to count out her exact change when I heard a child saying, “Mommy” over and over; her voice getting louder each time she repeated it. I couldn't help but turn around to see what the problem was; and unfortunately, I wasn't surprised at all by what I saw.
What I saw was a little girl, pulling on her mother's arm, pleading with her to pay attention to her. And all the while, the mother was completely oblivious to her daughter; her face was buried in her phone and she was laughing out loud as she scrolled down her screen.
Her little girl's voice finally broke the trance she was in and she put her phone down from her face. I glanced at the screen and shook my head; of course it was on a Facebook timeline. The mother looked down at her daughter and asked her, “What the hell is wrong with you?” her voice dripping with annoyance.
Her daughter had been pleading for her mother's attention because she had to go to the bathroom and was wiggling and holding herself to avoid soiling her pants. And what did Mom do? Mom groaned, grabbed the little girl's hand, left her cart and drug her to the bathroom. But she didn't forget to put her phone back in her face and get back to her Facebook timeline as she led her daughter to the restroom.
Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram – all ways to make people more “social”, but all ways that end up isolating REAL people in our lives. I'm sure it feels good to take a good picture of yourself and have people like it and rave about it on social media; it makes you feel beautiful or handsome. I'm sure it feels good to boast about a friend's list that has thousands of people; it makes you feel popular and wanted. And when there is drama in your life; I'm sure it feels good to rant about it to all of these thousands of “friends” in order to get support and reassurance; it makes you feel justified or loved.
But while you are focused on what all of your “friends” are saying on an app; you are missing out on what is going on right in front of you. You are missing out on real life and ignoring the here and now. What is that little girl who had to go the bathroom think about the relationship she has with her Mom? For that moment, that little girl was told in no uncertain terms that Facebook and her Mom's phone were more important than she was. An app was more important than she was.
No amount of likes or comments will ever be as important as your children and your family. Your children and your family see you at your best and at your worst; without filters and pouted out lips. They see you for the awesome person you are, flaws and all, and they love you for it. Your loved ones are who you need to impress; those are the people who are going to lift you up and make you feel beautiful. They don't need to like photos to show you they care; they show it every time they look at you and tell you they love you.
Oklahoma led US in child abuse, neglect by foster parents
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A federal report shows Oklahoma had more children abused or neglected by foster parents in 2015 than any state in the nation.
The report released in January by the Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows 150 cases of child abuse or neglect by Oklahoma foster parents during the year.
Oklahoma Department of Human Services spokeswoman Sheree Powell told The Oklahoman that the number is too high and efforts are being made to bring it down.
DHS child welfare director Jami Ledoux said the statistics are more than a year old because of the time needed to gather and verify data. Ledoux said unverified data from two subsequent reporting periods show a reduction in the rate of children being maltreated while in state care.
Divorced parents who pit children against former partners 'guilty of abuse'
by Lexi Finnigan
Divorced parents who "brainwash" their children against ex-partners are guilty of “abuse”, the head of the agency that looks after youngsters' interests in family courts has said.
Anthony Douglas, chief executive of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), warned against the danger of "parental alienation".
He said the deliberate manipulation of a child by one parent against the other has become so common in family breakdowns that it should be dealt with like any other form of neglect or child abuse.
According to Cafcass, parental alienation is responsible for around 80 per cent of the most difficult cases that come before the family courts.
Alienation can include a parent constantly badmouthing or belittling the other adult, limiting contact between the child and the targeted parent, forbidding discussion about them, creating the impression the parent does not love the child and forcing the child to reject the parent.
“It's undoubtedly a form of neglect or child abuse in terms of the impact it can have," said Mr Douglas. “I think the way you treat your children after a relationship has broken up is just as powerful a public health issue as smoking or drinking.”
One mother, who wants to remain unnamed, described how she was cut off from her son two years ago by her ex-husband.
She said her former partner made “false and fabricated allegations” against her in order to gain custody and “manipulate my son so deeply that he now has no memory of his loving childhood with me”.
Now her contact with the 14-year-old is limited to Skype conversations and visits once a month.
“If I had been sent to prison I would have been able to see my son more than I do now,” she said. “My son is brainwashed - he is emotionally dependent on his father and behaves as if he were in a cult. My son has no idea what is going on, only that he feels angry at me.
“The more parents who stand up to this and say it is unacceptable the better. Emotional abuse is just as horrible and controlling as physical abuse. It's unacceptable and things need to change in the way it is dealt with.”
In some countries, governments have put in place legislation to prevent such behaviour. In Italy parents can be fined, whereas in Mexico, guilty adults can be given a 15-year jail term.
And in America “parenting coordinators” are ordered and supervised by the courts to help restore relationships between parents and children identified as “alienated”.
Mr Douglas said: “There isn't a specific criminal law that outlaws parental alienation in the UK. But we do have family law and through assessments and enforcement proceedings, we do have the ability to send parents to prison or give them community sentences.
"But this is hardly ever the case because ultimately the punishment on the parent will rebound on the child.”
However, judges in the UK are starting to recognise parental alienation, which is leading to some children being removed from the offending parent.
“But this is fraught with difficulty,” said Mr Douglas. “It's a rocky road and a difficult process.”
Joanna Abrahams, head of family law at Setfords Solicitors, is one of the country's few specialists in parental alienation.
She said: “The amount of enquiries we are getting about this type of behaviour is growing all the time. At the moment we get about three calls a day about this - and that's a lot.
“It's always been there but people are now beginning to understand more about it and how harmful it can be. You can run into the tens of thousands on cases like these.
“The frustration when you can't see your child takes over people's entire lives. Some kind of legislation needs to be put in place but what that is I can't say.
“Each case is of course very different and it's not always that someone is doing this on purpose. It might be subconscious behaviour.”
Ms Abrahams is looking to draw up a team of experts to see if a committee could be formulated to tackle parental alienation.
“It's in the embryonic stages at the moment but it would include myself, Cafcass social workers and mental health workers - a cross-range of experts with the hope of developing something.
“I think we need to all work together to have a more joined-up approach to this behaviour which can be so damaging.”
Program helps parents talk to children about sexual abuse
by Nuriyyeh Brett
The Western Slope Center for Children, a child advocacy organization, has been working to teach parents how to talk to their children about sexual abuse.
The center started a program called Stewards of Children, which can help parents leasrn the signs of secual abuse, try to prevent it and teach them how to react when sexual abuse happens.
"Stewards of Children is an evidence-informed, proactive approach to child sexual abuse prevention," Jody Brandon, developmetal/outreach coordinator at the center, said. "It is a two-hour training program featuring a combination of survivor stories, expert advice and practical guidance."
The Center began the program in January 2014 and has been held once a month since its inception.
"We believe that learning the facts about child secual abuse, talking about it, and getting involved helps preven it," Brandon said.
The Stewards of Children training began back in 2013 in Charleston, S.C. The information used in the program is updated on a regular basis to make sure people are getting the most current learning experience.
"As long as child sexual abuse exists in our community, the center will continue to offer prevention and awareness programs," Brandon said.
As well as running the training, people from the center also go into the Grand Junction community to do free trainings that people can schedule to take at their convenience. The class sizes vary, ranging from two to 40.
The community has also assisted the program. Establishments like No Coast, a sushi restaurant, host a benefit night where a percentage of the proceeds go towards supporting the center. Other organizations, such as the Horizon Sunrise Rotary Club, helped the center with new items they may need with the latest being a new laptop.
The Western Slop Center for Children is located at 259 Brand Ave., and their phone number is 970-245-3788.
SARA reaches 42nd year of sexual assault prevention
Organization serves roughly 1,100 students each year
by Kathleen Smith
The Sexual Assault Resource Agency has been working in Charlottesville for over 40 years to provide support to victims of sexual assault and eliminate sexual violence altogether.
The agency works with about 550 local residents and about 1,100 students each year through victim support services and community outreach programs.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network — the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization — sexual violence on college campuses is more prevalent than other crimes. The RAINN website states that 18 to 24 year old females have a higher risk of becoming victims of sexual violence, and that 11.2 percent of all undergraduate and graduate students “experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.”
The mission of SARA is to “eliminate sexual violence and its impact by providing education, advocacy and support to women, men and children.” The organization is accredited through the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance and offers free support services to victims of sexual violence.
SARA Executive Director Becky Weybright said in an email to the organization uses strategies such as prevention education, support services, community outreach and advocacy to combat sexual assault.
“We provide a 24-hour hotline, 24-hour availability for hospital accompaniment at the emergency department, advocacy, support and education for survivors, primary prevention education in area schools, outreach to the community and training to allied professionals,” Weybright said.
Weybright said the 24-hour crisis hotline is available to anyone who has questions or concerns relating to sexual violence.
“The hotline may be someone's first reach out to us as they seek more information about our services,” Weybright said. “It may be from a survivor who is looking for coping skills after an assault. It may be from someone who is seeking legal information or other advocacy.”
SARA also offers trauma-informed therapy, legal system advocacy, a therapeutic horse and farm camp for girls and sponsors several prevention programs in schools.
Weybright said SARA began as a grassroots effort in 1974 after people became concerned about sexual assault in the community. The agency was later incorporated as a non-profit in 1979.
“Our initial services started with responding to survivor needs,” Weybright said. “As the agency has grown, we have added outreach activities, advocacy services, therapy and primary prevention education.”
Local residents can aid in the effort to eliminate sexual violence by talking about the issue and making it a priority, Weybright said.
“We should promote social norms that protect against violence,” Weybright said. “We should talk about consent and teach healthy dating. We should intervene if we see inappropriate behavior. We should all learn ways to support survivors.”
SARA Lead Prevention Educator Laurie Seaman said in an email statement the organization needs everyone to play a role to help prevent sexual assault in the Charlottesville community.
“Only about seven percent of our community are committing these crimes,” Seaman said. “That means the rest of us are a huge majority. If we all took small actions in our daily lives to show that we will not accept acts of violence in our spheres of influence, we could see the numbers of sexual assaults drop.”
Seaman also noted the community's power to create healthy norms.
“I believe the solution to sexual assault, child sexual abuse, sex trafficking and all related abuses lies in the community's power to create healthy norms,” Seaman said. “To choose to take care of each other instead of turning a blind eye.”
'Sexual assault, violence, rape far too common' at France's Dunkirk refugee camp – report
Children and women are assaulted and raped by traffickers inside a refugee camp in northern France, where unaccompanied individuals are viewed as easy prey, according to volunteers, medics, refugees, and officials interviewed by the Observer.
“Sexual assault, violence and rape are all far too common, ” one volunteer told the Observer, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Minors are assaulted and women are raped and forced to pay for smuggling with their bodies,” she said.
“Although the showers are meant to be locked at night, particularly dangerous individuals in the camp have keys and are able to take the women to the showers in the night to force themselves on them. This has happened to women I know very well,” added the volunteer who has worked at the camp since last year.
She said that adult nappies are one of the most in-demand items distributed to women at the Dunkirk Camp, which is home to about 2,000 refugees, of whom an estimated 100 are unaccompanied minors.
“Women are too scared to go to the toilets in the night. None of the locks in the women's toilets in the camp work,” she said.
Minors have also been attacked, the volunteer said.
“A 12-year-old girl was groomed in the camp by a man well over twice her age. When she no longer wanted to speak with him because his behavior towards her had become so obscene, he threatened her. A 13-year-old boy ended up returning to his home country having been raped in the camp.”
According to another testimony, which was provided by an ex-NGO worker who spent three and a half years volunteering at Dunkirk, men targeted women and children because they were the most vulnerable.
“You see women in a male environment with men that are disconnected from reality, so there are serious incidents such as rape. Women, children, young teens, male and female.”
The worker said children were referred to as “little steaks,” appetizing and unable to protect themselves against traffickers, dozens of whom live at the site.
The sexual assault of a young child at the camp left her mother so shocked that she was rendered mute.
“We have also seen in the past a woman holding a seven or eight-year-old girl by her arm next to GSF [Gynaecology Sans Frontières charity which has a unit on site] and apparently, this child had been raped just before, and the woman was afraid to report it to police. She was there, standing silent refusing to report it,” one worker's testimony said.
The risk of violence at the camp has been described as so high that many reported seeing guns and knives being carried openly, the Observer reports.
One woman traveling by herself said unaccompanied individuals are soft targets.
“All men see that I'm alone, and it's the same for the children. Men see me and they want to rape me,” she said.
Traffickers force women and children to have sex in return for blankets, food, or the offer of passage to the UK, according to various accounts from volunteers, medics, refugees, and officials.
Bindmans law firm, prominent defenders of civil liberties and human rights, will initiate legal proceedings against the Home Office, which is accused of unfairly choosing to settle only minors from the Calais camp that closed in October, while ignoring the child refugees in Dunkirk, the Observer reports.
Failure of the authorities to properly police the site has allowed the smugglers to take control, the Dunkirk Legal Support Team says.
“We have done all that we can to draw the plight of the Dunkirk children to the attention of the UK government and implored them to act to honor the pledges made,” Georgia Feilding of the Dunkirk Legal Support Team told the Observer.
“We now have no other choice but to turn to the high court to challenge their failure to protect these most vulnerable of children and provide them with a safe route and sanctuary in the UK,” she said.
On Wednesday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced the decision to end the Dubs Amendment, which was designed to let unaccompanied refugee children in to the UK. The scheme was “a magnet for people traffickers, ” Rudd said on Thursday.
The law, which was the brainchild of Lord Dubs, who is a former refugee himself, was aimed at helping some of the estimated 90,000 unaccompanied migrant children across Europe, but only 350 were actually brought to Britain under the scheme.
Responding to the decision to kill the program, Lord Dubs, who was six years old when he fled Prague after Nazis took Czechoslovakia in 1939, said “ Britain has a proud history of welcoming refugees. At a time when Donald Trump is banning refugees from America, it would be shameful if the UK followed suit by closing down this route to sanctuary for unaccompanied children just months after it was opened.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury also said he was “ saddened and shocked” by the demise of the Dubs Amendment.
A petition signed by 50,000 people urging Theresa May to continue taking in lone child refugees was handed to the PM on Saturday.