National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

child abuse trauma prevention, intervention & recovery

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

March, 2017 - Week 1
MJ Goyings
Many thanks to our very own "MJ" Goyings, a resident of Ohio, for her daily research that provides us with the news related material that appears on the LACP & NAASCA web sites.


Help child sex assault victims

by Susan H. Oliva

Honor your children by being proactive and protective against sexual abuse. Listen and talk to your children about their interactions with teachers, coaches, and physicians.

“60 Minutes” recently interviewed three former United States gymnasts who openly discussed their allegations of sexual abuse against former USA Gymnastics doctor Lawrence Nassar.

Jeanette Antolin said she was victimized by Dr. Nassar many times between 1995 and 2000. When she realized she was being sexually assaulted she stated, “It was a light bulb going off (in her head), it just ruined me.”

This is a feeling shared by many sexual assault survivors.

Sexual assault of children can begin when they are very young, and being so young and innocent they may not fully comprehend they are being victimized.

As parents, you recognize children will need medical care such as physicals, immunizations and treatment when they are ill. To be both medically proactive and protective, ask to be present during your child's examination, and ask your doctor for more information.

Do not be afraid to ask many, many, questions regarding medical treatment for your child.

Medical professionals have always been concerned about sexual assault survivors. This is why the medical community created the sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) position.

SANEs are licensed professionals with specialized training provide care for anyone victimized by rape or sexual assault.

A SANE is a registered nurse who has received specialized training to provide expert assessment of victims of sexual assault to include documentation of injuries, and collection as well as preservation of forensic evidence. SANEs are also trained to provide emotional support to the victim and family.

In El Paso County, we currently have numerous trained SANE professionals available to provide sexual assault examinations seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Sexual assault nurse examiners are an important asset to our community. A sexually abused child needs a medical professional to assess their injuries and provide assurance that their body is normal.

It is important that SANEs screen for pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infections and be available to correct any myths that a child sexual assault victim may have regarding their health and their bodies.

Medical professionals and therapeutic professionals are an essential component in helping a sexual assault survivor to heal.

Dr. Nassar is currently being held without bond for possessing child pornography and numerous allegations of sexual assault. It seems he preyed on children who believed they were receiving medical treatment and therapy for their injuries.

I hope parents do not use Dr. Nassar (a horrible example) as a reason to fear medical professionals or not seek medical treatment. Children will always benefit from check-ups, immunizations, and pediatric care, and child rape victims will always benefit from a sexual assault medical evaluation.

If you know a child who is being victimized, you must report the abuse at (800) 252-5400 or call 911.

Whether you are an adult who survived child sexual abuse or know a child who has been victimized, it is never too late to receive healing from counseling services.

The Advocacy Center for the Children of El Paso assisted over 800 victimized children, plus their non-offending family members, in El Paso County last year.

For child abuse resources or to help local children victimized by severe physical or sexual, abuse visit

Susan H. Oliva is executive director of the Advocacy Center for the Children of El Paso.



Educate kids, ask questions to prevent sexual abuse

by Tashmica Torok

I wish that I could tell you that there was a single answer to preventing child sexual abuse. I would love to be able to offer our community a foolproof plan, a silver bullet to end the epidemic levels of child abuse that happens in our world.

Unfortunately, I can't.

We all wake up in a world where people like Larry Nassar exist. Where doctors can perpetrate on children, teens and young adults seeking relief from injuries caused while trying to be their best athletic selves. They can lay their bodies on an exam table looking for healing and be given the exact opposite – injury. Knowing what we now know, what can we do to prevent something like this from happening again? What can we do to heal?

If you were victimized by Larry Nassar, you deserve to be believed and held in community. You did nothing wrong. You did the best you could with what you knew at the time. You will never be at fault or to blame for what your perpetrator did to you. I hope that you are being supported by a strong network of family and friends. I hope you are also connected with a good therapist who can help guide you through the difficulties that lie ahead. As you seek justice, you are worthy of support.

If you are a caretaker of children and you are rightfully concerned that this could happen to them, be encouraged. There are a few things that you can do to help empower yourself and your family. Teach your children about their body. Teach them to say penis and vagina. Give them the vocabulary they need to tell you when someone has touched them in a way that is inappropriate.

Be your child's advocate. If there is an environment where an adult has power and unquestioned access to children, this is a warning sign. In a medical environment, you have the right to have every procedure explained to you in detail. At no time should a sensitive examination be performed by a doctor without yourself or medical personnel in the room. Whether it is a church, school, gym or sports program, you have the right to ask and be informed about what policies are in place to protect your child. If there is no policy, you have the right to demand one.

It is never your child's responsibility to protect themselves.

You can provide a safe space for your child to tell you if someone is harming them sexually or otherwise. Never threaten violence against a perpetrator. Your threats could scare your child into silence because they fear for your safety or incarceration. Children don't often want to be the cause of harm to others. And since 90% of survivors know and trust their attackers, they may also want to protect their perpetrators. Focus on your love for them and your intention to always keep them safe. Teach them to trust their intuition and to tell you when they are uncomfortable around someone.

Always, always believe children and teens when they tell you that they are being abused. Always investigate. Always prevent them from coming into contact with those that have violated them. Children and teens do not lie about being sexually abused. It is our job to honor their bravery in coming forward by believing them and offering them healing resources.

As a member of this community, you can provide safe space to survivors by offering to listen, believe and support those impacted by Nassar's actions and their families. You can help guide them towards resources that might help them cope. We are lucky to live in a community with many resources for survivors of sexual trauma.

The Firecracker Foundation provides free, high-quality mental health therapy, caretaker support groups, trauma-sensitive yoga and crisis intervention to youth impacted by sexual violence and their families in the tri-county area. In the future, we will be offering prevention trainings. If you are interested in attending, feel free to call 517-242-5467 or email to receive more information.

When provided with the resources and tools they need, children can heal and move into a healthy future after experiencing sexual abuse. As a community, let's care for those impacted and work to create a safer environment for all children and teens in our care.

Tashmica Torok is the executive director of The Firecracker Foundation which provides child survivors of sexual trauma, and their families, with healing services.



MSU makes medical policy changes related to Nassar allegations

bu Matt Mencarini

EAST LANSING - The same day Larry Nassar was arraigned on 22 sexual assault charges related to his role as a doctor, Michigan State University adopted new policies directly related to his alleged criminal conduct.

The policies relate to written informed consent for intervaginal procedures and setting standards for MSU doctors volunteering their professional services outside the university. They were approved Feb. 23 by the MSU HealthTeam board and had been in the works since November, as part of a review related to Nassar's time at the university. The new policies will take effect April 15.

University spokesman Jason Cody said the policies are newly approved for the entire university HealthTeam, but that some parts of the polices had previously been in place in some clinics. He declined to provide specifics.

The new policy implementation contrasts with MSU's actions in 2014, when a woman who had recently graduated from the university told the MSU officials that Nassar sexually assaulted her during a medical appointment. In conducting its Title IX review, the university used four medical experts with close ties to Nassar and the university, and he was cleared of any policy violation. Additionally, prosecutors declined to bring criminal charges after reviewing police reports. Both reviews suggested Nassar's actions might have been legitimate medical procedures.

After the investigation ended, Nassar and William Stampel, dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, reached an agreement on new protocols Nassar was to required abide by. That agreement, however, didn't include a followup mechanism to ensure Nassar was compliant.

And he wasn't, the university said it discovered in September when it fired him. The discovery came during the university's questioning of Nassar after a report by the Indianapolis Star detailed the sexual assault claims against Nassar by two women who Nassar treated for USA Gymnastics.

Nassar, 53, of Holt, faces 28 criminal charges in state and federal court. Police have said more than 80 women or girls have come forward since September with sexual assault allegations against the former university doctor. Many say they were assaulted decades ago or during medical appointments.

Nassar's most recent sexual assault charges relate to conduct during medical appointments. Both Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and attorneys representing the 50 women or girls suing MSU and Nassar say the doctor sexually assaulted the women or girls under the guise of a medical treatment. That treatment, according to court documents, included digital vaginal and anal penetration.

The lawsuits against MSU, Nassar or USA Gymnastics say Nassar sexually assaulted women and girls and the organizations didn't do enough to protect them.

Nassar's final contract with MSU, signed in February 2016, called for 70% of his time being allocated to outreach/public service, 20% to teaching and 10% to research in addition to his clinical duties. During Nassar's time at MSU, he worked with gymnasts through USA Gymnastics and Twistars gymnastics club in Dimondale and with Holt School District athletes.

Cody said those activities were part of Nassar's outreach/public service responsibilities and similar actives for other doctors would now be covered under the new university policy.

The wave of sexual assault complaints against Nassar prompted MSU to open several investigations related to Nassar. Among them is a policy and protocol review within the university's HealthTeam.

By Nov. 14, the review started to make policy recommendations relating to the need for chaperones in treatment rooms and documentation of consent for "non-surgical invasive procedures," according to university documents.

One of the new polices addresses informed consent during "sensitive examinations, treatments, or procedures," which the policy says includes pelvic floor procedures and vaginal or rectal exams.

The 2014 sexual assault accusation that prompted university Title IX complaint and a criminal investigation didn't include digital vaginal or anal penetration, which 22 criminal charges and more than 50 allegations in lawsuits do. The 2014 allegations related to a pelvic floor procedure that included a massage in the vaginal area, according to university documents.

The policy adopted last week spells out the process required before pelvic floor procedures or procedures with vaginal or anal penetration can be performed. It requires that gloves be worn by the doctor, that the patient receive a "clear explanation" of the procedure and give informed consent.

It also requires that the patient be presented with "reasonable alternatives" and verbally acknowledge that they understand the procedures and consent to it. When it comes to procedures that include digital vaginal or anal penetration, such as the ones Nassar performed, the university wants an additional step.

"Written informed consent through the Informed Consent form is required for any intra-vaginal or intra-rectal treatments," according to the policy.

A separate policy will require doctors to get university approval before they can volunteer their professional services outside the university. The policy will require that the "volunteer activity must not contain an unacceptable level of risk to the volunteer, MSU HealthTeam, University, or public from a reputational, safety or financial standpoint."

The policy's purpose is to ensure the university is aware of and approves volunteer medical activity by HealthTeam members, "thereby ensuring malpractice insurance coverage" for the doctor or medical professional.

More than half of the 22 sexual assault charges Nassar was arraigned on last week directly related to his role as an MSU doctor. The others relate to his work at Twistars gymnastics club in Dimondale.

Cody, the university spokesman, declined to comment on whether MSU had communication with USA Gymnastics regarding Nassar's performance or role with the organization.

However, the policy approved last week says any volunteer arrangement must be re-evaluated every two years, and the medical professional's "supervisor must obtain and document periodic feedback, at least annually, from the outside organization about the performance of volunteer activities."

The policy also states that: "Malpractrice coverage will not extend to (medical) providers who are acting outside the scope of their duties as a volunteer or who violate Michigan State University or MSU HealthTeam policies in the course of volunteering. This includes but is not limited to activities that are unethical or illegal."

Nassar left USA Gymnastics in fall 2015 with little notice. Cody said USA Gymnastics didn't give the university formal notice of that fact, but that Nassar might have told some university colleagues.

The new policies are the only ones adopted so far as a result of the HealthTeam review, Cody said. He added that the "crux of the review is now complete," but that more will be looked at if relevant information arises in the other university investigations related to Nassar.

Cody said the university soon will begin a review of athletic department and how medical services and treatments are administered to student-athletes. Cody said that, similar to the HealthTeam review, the university will hire outside experts to assist.

The university hired Dr. Dean Sienko as a consultant for the HealthTeam review. The university agreed to paid him $4,000 plus "reasonable business expenses," according to university documents. Sienko currently works at The Carter Center in Georgia, the non-profit organization founded by former President Jimmy Carter.

Sienko, who retired as a major general after a 33-year career with the U.S. Army, previously worked at MSU as associate dean for prevention and public health at the university's College of Human Medicine. While at MSU he also served as acting director of the university's Institute for Health Policy and senior adviser to the provost.

A message was left seeking comment from Sienko.

MSU is conducting the criminal investigations and internal investigations related to Nassar. In all, there are four ongoing investigations, including Title IX investigations, but the university has not specifically reached out to current or former MSU students who might have been Nassar's patients.

Cate Hannum, a former MSU rower, is among those patients. She wrote an email to university President Lou Anna Simon and other university officials in February and said it was "outrageous" that the university allowed Nassar to treat patients for so long.

Hannum said she wasn't sexually assaulted by Nassar but that it's clear to her now that his treatments "walked a very fine line" between what was and was not medically appropriate.

"Equally outrageous is the way the University has handled this situation in the wake of these allegations," Hannum wrote. "I can't understand how little it seems the University has done to connect with Dr. Nassar's former patients now that these allegations are public."




As Nassar news continues, keep asking questions

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette called Dr. Larry Nassar 'a monster' this week when announcing 22 new counts of sexual assault against the former MSU physician.

The allegations against Nassar continue to mount; Schuette said there most certainly will be more charges.

It's hard to keep track of the developing story – each development another gut punch to our collective psyche. How does this happen in our community? How did so many miss the signs?

The fallout from these cases will run far deeper than a single physician.

What did Michigan State University know and when?

What did USA Gymnastics know and when?

What did Twistars – a local gymnastics training facility – know and when?

The answers to these questions are important. Accountability extends beyond the criminal charges against Nassar.

All of these entities have been accused in civil lawsuits of knowing about some concerns about Nassar and failing to protect girls and young women under his care. Are they partly to blame? Systemic failures are harder to address than the prosecution of a single individual.

This community cannot allow itself to fall victim to Nassar fatigue. The near-daily news about additional victims coming forward can be numbing – especially when the stories sound strikingly familiar.

We cannot lose sight that every story stands alone – 80-plus individual girls or young women forever affected by their personal horror experiences; 80-plus families grappling with how to best support their daughters and sisters. While the majority of victims' names have not been disclosed publicly, these women are not anonymous.

As the Attorney General's Office builds its criminal case against Nassar, the community should be turning its focus toward preventing another Nassar-type nightmare.

What kind of premium does society put on athletic success that young girls would stay silent about treatments that made them feel uncomfortable?

Is enough being done to educate young people, athletes, parents, coaches and trainers about appropriate treatments and the need for consent?

Are there appropriate avenues for victims to raise concerns about people in authority without fear of retribution?

The State Journal will continue to ask questions about the Nassar investigation and its widespread effects.

You should, too.

But don't stop with the entities named in various Nassar-related lawsuits. Ask questions about the clubs and organizations in which you, your children and grandchildren participate.

And keep asking until you're satisfied with the answers.



After son's suicide, Ponca Hills parents turn tragedy into charity

by Michael Kelly

The pickup trucks pulled up to the Child Saving Institute in Omaha with an unusual donation: 1,141 teddy bears.

But the Jan. 3 delivery was more than a sweet, cuddly gift for kids served by the organization. It was also Hal and Deb Hodges' tribute to their son, Will, who would have turned 23 that day. Will had suffered from depression and, four months earlier, died by suicide.

When grieving friends and relatives asked what they could do, Deb suggested they donate teddy bears — which could then comfort children, some of whom may be suffering from abuse.

As a 9-year-old, Will himself was the victim of a sexual assault, his parents say, and he also witnessed an assault on his sister, Julia, then 5.

His depression and eventual suicide, the Hodges family says, resulted from that early horror.

Both children received counseling. But Will always felt guilty, the family says, for not protecting his little sister, even though the abuser was 13 and much bigger.

“Will hid a lot of his emotions or bottled them up,” said Julia Hodges, a college freshman who agreed to speak about the childhood assault for this article. “Numerous times he would cry and tell me how sorry he was that he let this happen, that he should have stopped it and that he didn't deserve to live.”

She told him repeatedly it wasn't his fault.

For a long time, she said, he was “absolutely the best big brother.” She called him “Willie,” and he called her “Munchkin.”

He was a good student at Fort Calhoun High School, and as a junior he qualified for the state wrestling meet. He worked as a cook at the Surfside Club, which serves up fish and chicken along the Missouri River.

As a young adult he had become an apprentice plumber for a local company. He attended emergency medical technician classes at Creighton University, passing his national-registry EMT exam on the first try.

Like his father, grandfather and others in his family, Will was a Ponca Hills volunteer firefighter. The fire station is the center of life and the site of community activities in the hilly unincorporated community of about 1,000, less than 15 minutes north of downtown Omaha.

In spite of Will's outward signs of stability, his last few years were difficult. He was drinking more and had talked about suicide.

Whether or not there were other reasons, his parents and his sister are adamant that it all relates to what happened when he was 9.

Said Julia: “I think it had everything to do with that.”

For 13½ years, two families have been affected by what occurred on Aug. 9, 2003.

Friends had offered to watch Will and Julia overnight at the friends' home. That night, the couple's son sexually assaulted 5-year-old Julia in a bedroom.

Deb Hodges found out about it three days later from Julia, who said the boy had hurt her. After the Hodges family reported the matter to a physician and authorities were notified, the young teen's parents took him in for questioning by Douglas County Deputy Sheriff Brenda Wheeler.

He admitted to the sexual penetration of the girl. When Wheeler asked whether he had sexually abused anyone else, he said yes: Will, earlier that summer.

Will had denied that, so the deputy separately asked him again if the 13-year-old had abused him. Will became so distraught, she recalled in a recent interview, that he could barely speak.

But when she repeated what the older boy had described to her — oral sex — Will wept and said yes, it had happened.

The older boy's case was adjudicated in Douglas County Juvenile Court, where he formally admitted to sexually assaulting Julia. (Will's reticence and emotions led prosecutors to limit the assault case to the sister, with Will listed in court records as a witness.)

On March 18, 2004, Judge Douglas Johnson ordered a sex-offender evaluation of the boy, by then 14.

The judge made note in his written order of the boy's “use of fear and manipulation of the very young victims” and ordered that he have no contact with Julia and Will, or with any children younger than 10 unless with adult supervision.

The judge ordered the boy to remain under probation and to take part in individual and family therapy.

On March 22, 2006, the judge ordered that the jurisdiction of the court was terminated.

Local criminal records show he has had no other arrests on sex-related offenses.

The Hodges family, especially after Will's death, is still hurting.

Hal repairs cars for a living. Deb is a registered nurse, but works full time as a paraprofessional at Ponca Hills Elementary School.

They recall the joy of young Will playing in the creek behind the cedar-sided house that Hal built. The boy collected toads, salamanders and frogs, had a pet turtle and loved the outdoors.

After the assaults, the couple made sure the children received counseling. Early therapist evaluations, copies of which the family provided to The World-Herald, note that Will “is very upset that he did not protect his sister from the assault.”

A therapist wrote of Will, who was entering fourth grade: “At this time, patient is having some difficulty understanding that he was not in control of the situation and that it was not his fault.”

The daughter's early treatment included drawing a picture of her abuser and throwing wet, wadded-up paper towels at it.

The son reacted at times with anger, his parents said, ripping his clothes and tying them in knots.

Other times, he seemed to do better. In confirmation class, the Rev. James Rasmussen recalled, Will was likable and fun-loving, with a generous spirit. He was serious about learning about God and the Bible.

In recent years, Will received counseling off and on. Starting with his senior year in high school, he began angrily ripping his clothes again.

Julia said she still is affected by what happened, and has occasional nightmares, flashbacks and panic attacks. She has a therapy dog in her dorm room.

But through counseling, she said, she has learned: “This is something we can conquer. We are survivors.”

Will, she said, never got to that point. And in the two years before his death, he got worse, especially after drinking. He seemed to be pushing his family away.

Clare Duda, in his 25th year as an elected Douglas County Board member, said residents of the rural, rolling Ponca Hills long have supported one another in times of need.

“There's a real sense of neighborliness and community out here,” said Duda, a third-generation landowner with a 900-acre farm. “A lot of the families go back to homesteaders.”

The Hodges family, too, has long-term ties, dating at least to the 1920s, when Hal's grandfather owned a dairy farm.

Duda's son, James, grew up with Will Hodges, though they drifted apart during high school. On Sept. 12, James Duda, in the Army in Louisiana, urgently contacted his father — something was wrong with Will.

Friends had seen an ominous Facebook post. Will wrote that he was the black sheep of his family and that “I never wanted to be born.”

He designated who should receive his dog and coin collection, and implied what was soon to happen.

“No one could of stopped it, it was inevitable,” he wrote. “I'm sorry to those I love.”

He made no specific reference to the assaults he and his sister endured at 9 and 5 — only that he was sorry for the pain he was now inflicting.

Deb Hodges got a call at home. She ran down the blacktop lane and across Ponca Road to the rental home where Will was living.

She found her son's body next to his rifle.

Joel Sacks, chief of the Ponca Hills Volunteer Fire Department and a 42-year veteran, was among those who responded. He had known Will since he was born.

“I knew he had been fighting a few demons,” the chief said, “but I didn't know to what extent.”

Though Will “worked hard and partied hard” in recent times, Sacks said, he was a well-liked and promising young firefighter who had earned his EMT rating and was learning to start IVs.

Will's body was transported, and the chief saw the Ponca volunteers “standing around with blank stares.” He said he realized then that, for the time being, his department was in effect out of service.

The nearby Irvington and Fort Calhoun departments agreed to cover any Ponca Hills emergencies until after the funeral.

Three days after Will's death, the truck bay at the fire station was cleared out for the service. People filled all 300 chairs, and more than 100 others overflowed outside.

Ponca volunteer firefighters stood at attention in their dress uniforms.

Various members of the Hodges family have served in the Fire Department since it was founded 52 years ago. The death was a loss to the family of volunteers too.

In his sermon, Pastor Rasmussen addressed Will's internal fight, using his high school sport as an analogy.

“Wrestling is a difficult sport,” the pastor said, “especially when you face an opponent that is relentless and strong.”

Will, he said, had wrestled with difficult problems off the mat, including chronic depression. He had a loving family who got him counseling, Rasmussen said, but Will ultimately lost his battle.

Duda, a former Ponca volunteer fire chief, called the service “one of the most difficult things emotionally that I've run across in a long time.”

That included the traditional “last call” for a deceased firefighter.

“Ponca Hills Firefighter and EMT Will Hodges has answered his last alarm,” a dispatcher intoned. “Rest in peace. We'll take it from here.”

On Feb. 25, the department posthumously named Will its rookie of the year. And the honor was permanently renamed the Will Hodges Rookie of the Year Award.

When the teddy bear campaign began in the fall, a large inflatable bear was set up in front of Hal and Deb Hodges' home.

Stuffed bears kept coming, far more than the family expected — 100, 200, 500 and then more than double that — from friends, relatives and even strangers in other states. The couple decided to deliver them to the Child Saving Institute on Will's birthday.

“The number of teddy bears was beyond belief,” said Peg Harriott, the institute's president and CEO. “We had never received such a large gift like that.”

The Child Saving Institute, 125 years old in Omaha, provides a haven and healing for thousands of young victims of family crisis, neglect and abuse. CSI's mission is “responding to the cry of a child.”

Deb picked the institute for the donation because she learned it counseled victims of childhood sexual assault.

The Hodges children had received counseling elsewhere, and Hal and Deb say that for whatever reasons, Julia benefited better from counseling than Will did. The couple want to make others aware of what they see as a gender difference in the way some girls and boys recover from sexual abuse.

Lisa Blunt, a child and family therapist by profession and now CSI's chief operating officer, says the couple have a point.

Speaking in broad generalities, the therapist said, “Girls are able to express their feelings and grieve differently than boys do. When girls experience a tragedy like this, they can be sad and angry and upset, and people accept that sadness from girls.”

Society conditions boys, she said, not to show emotion.

Gene Klein, executive director of Project Harmony in Omaha, founded in 1996 to support victims of child abuse, agreed that educating people about how boys can react differently is important.

Regrettably, he said, some people don't think sexual abuse happens with boys, though new statistics indicate it happens to about 10 percent in each gender.

“We think boys can fight it off,” Klein said. “There's a stigma that boys can protect themselves — they can fight or hit or run.”

In general, he said, the more educated and informed parents are about abuse, the more likely they are to help prevent it. Parents, he said, need to talk about sexuality with their children long before they reach age 13 to 15.

There is good news. The National Children's Alliance said in January that because of more awareness and better treatment, child sexual abuse is declining.

“Since the 1990s,” the alliance says, “we have seen almost a 50 percent decline in the occurrence of child sexual abuse as reported by numerous sources.”

Brenda Wheeler, who retired last year as deputy sheriff after a career that included 14 years investigating child sexual assaults, said children's reactions to sexual abuse often depend on their personalities.

“Every child and every person is different,” she said. “All of these cases are horrible, and anytime anyone touches a child inappropriately, it's a disturbing thing.”

What was unusual about the Hodges case and the assault of Julia, Wheeler said, was that “Will was in the room and saw it happen.”

The deputy's job ends with the prosecution. But Wheeler said she heard from the mother for a while after that and knew the family was reeling. After having no contact for years, Wheeler said, she was shocked and saddened to learn recently of Will's suicide.

The then-young offender, it turns out, apparently was victimized himself. Wheeler said that in her 2003 interview with him, he told her he had been abused by a baby sitter who touched his genitals. But the ex-deputy said most child victims don't become offenders.

The children's alliance agrees, saying that 20 to 25 percent of cases handled by children's advocacy centers around the country involve former child victims under 18 who then abused another child.

As for teens who offend, the alliance says research has shown that with treatment, only 3 percent repeat their offenses.

The mother of the long-ago abuser said her son made a “serious mistake when he was young” and deeply regrets it.

The World-Herald isn't naming him because of his age at the time. His mother, who agreed to speak, said he completed RSafe — a child sex abuse therapy program of Lutheran Family Services — and hasn't had a recurrence.

She said she wasn't aware until later that her son himself had been sexually abused.

He's a good citizen, trying to get on with his life, she said, adding that what happened “has followed him around. ... He's a good kid — a good man now.”

She and her husband, the mother said, lost all the mutual friends they had shared with the other family.

As part of her son's treatment, she said, he wrote two letters of apology. She showed electronic copies of the 2005 letters, in which he wrote that what happened was his fault, not Will's or Julia's.

What happened next is unresolved.

The offender's mother said she had heard from her son's counselor that Hal and Deb refused to look at the letters.

Deb said the letters were never offered. She wishes her family had received them, but says they never were offered. “I really do think that would have helped.”

The two families once were close, but a deep rift remains. They never speak.

Hal and Deb Hodges said they hope some good can come from speaking publicly.

They also hope that people realize suicide is the result of an illness: depression.

“People who are happy,” Deb said, “don't take their lives.”

Blunt, the CSI executive and therapist, said it's clear from the family's actions that Hal and Deb felt a need to do some good after experiencing so much sadness.

“That family has so much pain,” Blunt said, “and yet they are giving to others and thinking how to make the situation better for others. That's pretty powerful.”

Also powerful are the words of Julia Hodges, 19, who said she would like someday to gain closure by asking her abuser how he could have done such a thing. She wants to see for herself whether he is remorseful and has changed.

That, she said, wouldn't make everything OK. Will is gone. But people can change, she said, and she can only hope that's the case.

“Will can't forgive him,” Julia said, “but I could forgive him.”


North Carolina

Human trafficking event spotlights growing problem for North Carolina

by Tammy Grubb

CHAPEL HILL -- Human trafficking for sex and labor is a real, growing problem that many North Carolinians don't realize could be happening in their communities, local experts said this week.

“It's a public safety issue, for sure, but it's also a public health issue and human rights issue,” said Libby Coles, executive director of the Durham-based group Justice Matters, which helps trafficking survivors and others navigate legal issues.

A human trafficking exhibit and free program begins at 6 p.m. Monday, March 6 at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Chapel Hill.

North Carolina is well-situated for trafficking crimes, because of its convenient interstate highways, ports and connections to larger cities, such as Atlanta and New York, experts say. Gangs feed the problem, as does a high demand for cheap farm labor, and a large, transient military presence, which attracts adult businesses that can be a front for sex trafficking.

Coles predicted the number of arrests and survivors will continue to climb. Anti-trafficking groups are pushing for greater public awareness and a state mandate that businesses and other places display hotline posters, she said.

The UNC initiative Project NO REST – North Carolina Organizing and Responding to the Exploitation and Sexual Trafficking of Children – also secured a two-year, $4.9 million grant last month from the N.C. Governor's Crime Commission to expand its public outreach.

While 20 million to 40 million people may be trafficked worldwide, it's hard to gauge exact numbers, experts say. Survivors can be citizens, legal or illegal immigrants, male or female, youths or adults, and from all socioeconomic conditions.

However, they often share vulnerabilities that give traffickers an advantage. They may be young, homeless, sexually abused, or involved with the social services, foster care or juvenile justice systems. They may not believe they are victims, especially if trafficked by family or a close friend.

Immigrants may be recruited legally using work and student visas but exploited once they arrive, Coles noted.

“Domestically trafficked people are not kidnapped and taken to another city and chained in the basement and trafficked,” said Abbi Tenaglia, founder of Transforming Hope Ministries.

“They are lured in via a family member, a family friend, someone they met online, someone they met at school, the mall, and they believe this person loves them and wants to protect them, and they believe that they have to support the family in some way, so they work.”

President Donald Trump, who met with anti-trafficking groups Feb. 23 at the White House, has said he will use the “full force and weight” of the federal Justice Department and Homeland Security to fight an “epidemic” of human trafficking.

While Chapel Hill and Orange County officials haven't had any official cases, Orange County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Jamison Sykes noted the office has investigated a few tips.


Alamance and Durham counties have had multiple cases, however, prompting a group to ask Durham leaders in 2015 for a county task force on child sex trafficking. Durham and Orange counties are covered by the Rapid Response Team of the Triangle, led by Project FIGHT – Freeing Individuals Gripped by Human Trafficking – which brings together various agencies to provide clients with basic needs, jobs, education, housing and other resources.

The Salvation Army of Wake County started Project FIGHT in 2011 to help survivors of human trafficking. The group reports responding to over 140 cases of human trafficking statewide since its inception, expanding to offices in Charlotte, New Bern, Asheville and Greenville in 2016.

In Alamance County, sex trafficking cases inspired citizens to form the Alamance for Freedom coalition in 2013.

A 2015 Alamance County case that snared a former UNC and Chapel Hill police officer was resolved last month in federal court. John Moore, 60, is serving 13 to 20 years in prison for having sex with a 15-year-old girl, whom he met through an online ad. Moore denied knowing the girl was a minor.

The two men who trafficked the girl also have been charged. One is now serving a 10-year federal sentence; the other was arrested Jan. 12 in Greensboro.

Tenaglia, with Transforming Hope, noted social media's growing role in trafficking young victims. Her group works with the N.C. Department of Justice, law enforcement and local schools to teach students how to be good digital citizens.

Teaching “stranger danger” won't always protect them, because sexual abuse usually involves somebody they know, Tenaglia said. She advised instead talking at an early age about social media and internet safety.

“Social media is a big issue in that kids just put stuff out there, because their focus is ‘I want more followers, I want more likes',” she said. “It makes it very easy for predators to gain more information about them and use it against them.”

More Information

“Human Trafficking: It's Real & It's Here” – a free exhibit and program – starts at 6 p.m. Monday, March 6 at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, 940 Carmichael Drive in Chapel Hill. Register at

Other resources:

Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline: 1-888-373-7888

Polaris National Human Trafficking Hotline: 888-704-5290

Project No Rest:

North Carolina Coalition Against Human Trafficking:



Funding available for local child abuse prevention programming

by The Times Leader

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Organizations in Eastern Ohio that have the ability to provide youth mentoring services can apply for grant funding from the Eastern Ohio Regional Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Council through the Ohio Children's Trust Fund, which is the state's sole public funding source dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect.

The Trust Fund supports prevention programs that recognize and build on existing strengths within families and communities to effectively intervene long before child abuse or neglect occurs. It works with eight regional prevention councils to serve all Ohio communities. Ohio University's Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs is the coordinator for the Eastern Ohio Regional Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Council.

To be considered for a grant, applicants must provide youth mentoring services in one or more of the following counties: Belmont, Carroll, Coshocton, Guernsey, Harrison, Jefferson, Monroe, Muskingum, Noble and Tuscarawas. Preference will be given to organizations with innovative and well-developed projects.

Applications are available at

/Funding–Opportunities.stm#Eastern or from preventioncoordinator Completed applications must be emailed to preventioncoor by 5 p.m. March 27.



State behind in checking child abuse clearances

by Rick Lee

A new Pennsylvania Auditor General's report says the commonwealth and its counties are not up to date in monitoring child abuse background checks of people who work in or closely with child welfare agencies.

That revelation came at the end of an audit that found the York County Office of Children, Youth and Families owes the state almost $600,000 from overbilling and unallowed costs.

The report, released on Thursday by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, stated that failure to monitor compliance with the Child Protective Services Law, especially concerning contracted in-home service providers, potentially left Pennsylvania children at "great risk."

County spokesman Mark Walters said the county "consistently makes sure that employees are compliant with the child protective services law."

In a news release posted on Thursday, DePasquale said, "My report brings to light a potential hole in our safety net for children.

"I will work with (the Department of Human Services) to determine the best way to resolve this issue — through regulation or legislation — to ensure that no children are put at risk from the system that is supposed to help them.”

The audit determined that the state's county Children, Youth and Families agencies incorrectly assumed that in-home service providers -- organizations that contract to offer a range of mental health, drug abuse, family preservation and other counseling services -- were licensed by the Department of Human Services.

DePasquale said, that as a result, no one was monitoring CYF employees and volunteers or contracted service providers for child abuse clearances.

Terry Clark, executive director of the York County child welfare agency, could not be reached for comment.

Walters said the county will pay the state $578,400 it owes by deducting from future funds that the state provides to the county as a financial incentive to use county-based programs for children.

He explained that approximately $440,000 of the money owed is directly related to retiree benefits, which are not reimbursable.

And, he further stated that nearly $65,000 should have been billed to the Department of Education. He said the county has corrected that matter and is expecting reimbursement from the department, which will directly offset the amount owed to the state.



Wa. measure would help sex trafficking victims clear convictions

by The Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Jessica Wolfe was forced into sex trafficking shortly after her 19th birthday. Years later, after running away from her pimp, she continues to struggle to find housing and a job after background checks find her prostitution convictions.

A measure passed last week in the Washington state Senate could make it easier for victims of trafficking to vacate prostitution convictions regardless if other offenses exist on their criminal record.

For Wolfe, the bill offers her hope that she can clear her convictions so she can apply to colleges and get a job as a gynecologist or an ultrasound technician.

“Once that's gone, there's nothing that can hold me back from doing anything that I want to do,” said Wolfe, 26. “I want to have a career.”

Under existing state law, victims cannot expunge prostitution convictions if other crimes exist on their criminal record.

Valiant Richey, a King County senior deputy prosecuting attorney, says he can't think of one person who has been able to vacate his or her prostitution convictions because most victims are forced to commit other crimes while under the control of a trafficker.

“We want people to succeed under this, but it's not possible There's nobody who qualifies,” he said.

Richey noted a policy shift within the justice system from focusing on sex workers to johns. It reduced the number of prostitution charges to about a fifth of what they were several years ago in King County, he said.

Over the same period, the number of people caught patronizing a prostitute nearly doubled.

“They could be forced into it by a family member, friend or a complete stranger,” Richey said. “It's hard to say how many people arrested for prostitution are trafficked because typically they're too scared to admit to it.”

Wolfe said she'd had at least 10 different pimps, all of whom would take her belongings and threaten to kill her or her family if she ever tried to escape or go to the police.

King County Sheriff's Deputy Andy Conner, founder of the Genesis Project, a drop-in center for trafficked women, said he first met Wolfe while she was working one night on the “SeaTac strip” along Highway 99 in 2010, when his project was merely an idea.

“I wish there was something I could've done for her that night, but all I could do was listen to her story and come up with solutions,” Conner said. “These girls aren't out there doing it because they want to.”

Wolfe walked through the Genesis Project doors shortly after it opened in 2011. There, she was given a place to sleep, a meal, clothing and other necessities.

She was flown to California shortly afterward to receive counseling and treatment but later went back to prostituting because she said she couldn't make enough money to live on her own.

“I was trying so hard with no results, so I went back to doing it,” she said.

Some oppose the legislation, which moves to a public hearing in the House on Thursday, because they fear people might continue to work in prostitution after vacating their crimes.

Republican Rep. Brad Klippert of Kennewick, who also serves as a sheriff's deputy for Benton County, said there should be more places where victims can go to make themselves safe and escape the people who are trapping them. But he fears this measure might allow some to abuse the system.

“I want them to be able to get out of it and stay out of it, but this bill says, ‘Even if you get out of being trafficked, you can continue in prostitution,'” Klippert said. “When you stop committing crimes, we can talk about vacating a previous crime.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 27 other states have similar laws to expunge, vacate or seal criminal records related to being trafficked.

“If we're about making sure that people are not continuously harmed, this legislation is critical to that conversation,” said Democratic Sen. Rebecca Saldana, sponsor of the Senate bill.

Wolfe has stayed out of prostitution for the past two years.

She lives with a close friend and is fighting for custody of her two children. She recently earned a GED diploma and got her driver's license.

Wolfe said she wanted to share her story to help others understand the importance of passing this legislation.

“I just want to be successful,” Wolfe said. “I don't ever want to feel like I can't do something by myself.”


Vice cop talks facts, myths of sex trafficking in America, and how we can fight it

by Carly Hoilman

Actor Ashton Kutcher delivered a moving speech before Congress last month on the global problem of human trafficking. Kutcher called on America's leaders to come together and address the “bipartisan issue” that is, at least for now, universally recognized as a gross injustice.

But what does the average American know about human trafficking? Where is it happening, and who is it affecting? It's one thing to agree that there is a problem, but how do we even begin to solve an issue that we don't understand?

Corporal Jon Doherty investigates sex trafficking cases for the Gwinnett County police's vice unit. He recently spoke with Conservative Review about his efforts to combat sex trafficking in Georgia, and how it's shaped his views on how communities and individuals can address this epidemic.

Doherty explained that technology has transformed “the game” of sex trafficking in America. Thanks to social media and websites like Craigslist and Backpage , perpetrators have been able to expand their operations to prey on women and seek clients across the country.

“[Predators] can look at girls' Facebook pages,” Doherty told CR. “They can see what type of bait they need to give these certain girls. They can read the things they post, and know what's going on maybe in the girl's life or in her mind, or what she's thinking about.”

Modern “pimps” aren't walking around with top hats and canes, either, he warned of the stereotypical image. In many cases, they're average-looking men (and sometimes women), some as young as college age. They lure and manipulate victims by feigning interest in a romantic relationship, or pretending to have connections in the modeling or acting industry.

And it's not just the predators who have evolved. Doherty explained that the “type” of women targeted for trafficking today varies dramatically from decades past. There are “the girls you would expect it to happen to” — victims of abuse or poverty, with little or no support system. But in his experience, Cpl. Doherty has found that women from well-to-do families and privileged backgrounds can be just as vulnerable. Trafficking is prevalent in places like Atlanta because the excitement of big-city life is an easy sell for most victims, he said.

“These guys do their homework,” Doherty said. “They know their targets; they know what they're looking for: the girl with the low self-esteem, the girl who's got some kind of family issue going on. There's so many things out there nowadays that it can happen to anybody.”

“We've recovered girls before that are police detectives' — long-time police detectives' — daughters that have come in from other areas,” he told CR. “It can happen to anybody.”

Doherty and his team view their work as a rescue operation — freeing victims from the abuse and deception of their captors. He remembers the victims he's saved — as well as those he couldn't. He recalled the case of a young woman named Crystal, who he and his partner arrested and successfully rescued. Years after they brought Crystal into custody, the two ran into her at a restaurant.

“My partner said, ‘You know who that is?' He said, ‘That's Crystal over there.' I said, ‘Gosh, she doesn't look the same […] She looks a lot different.' When our food came, we were sitting there — she was the hostess. She came over to me, and she said, ‘Do you remember me?' I said, ‘Of course I remember you,' and I called her by her name. Tears just started running down her face.”

Many individuals forced into the sex industry become addicted to drugs, and therefore grow dependent on pimps, for both work and their next fix. The biggest challenge officers face is convincing these individuals to part with their abusers, Doherty said:

We explain to them that there's no future in this. The things we can guarantee if you continue in this lifestyle are horrible things. There's no retirement, and there's no health insurance. There's guaranteed beatings, rapes, robberies, just a bad life. But the hardest thing we have to compete with, other than the drugs, is the connections, sometimes of just love, and the pimp telling them, "I love you. We're a team. It's you and I against the world." It's that. They're almost brainwashed. That's one of the hardest things to break, right there.

Doherty explained that often the only way to pry these individuals away from the deceptive vortex of prostitution — the lure of money, the promise of emotional fulfilment, and a sense of belonging — is to detain them. Only then can Doherty and his team offer resources to help get the victims back on their feet.

Doherty stressed that the effort to fight trafficking in America requires that law enforcement, advocacy groups, political leaders, and families work together to address the problem holistically.

“I know that one of the big, hot issues is, ‘Why do we arrest these girls? Why do we go after the victims?'” he said, addressing a very common attack on law enforcement. “A lot of times, we just go after them because that's the only time we can get them, and we can separate them from the lifestyle. We can separate them from the pimp.”

Every year, Doherty and his team from the Gwinnett County force attend anti-sex trafficking conferences, where they're often greeted with opposition from advocacy groups.

“When we go to these conferences, it's almost like the police feel like ... I mean … they hate us,” he said. “They do not like us. They'll say, ‘Are you still locking up the victims?'”

According to Doherty, these advocates are simply unaware of how “the game” works: “They think these girls, if you just sat down and talked to them, that you're going to talk them out of that life.”

“Something needs to be done with the courts and with law enforcement and with the advocate groups,” Doherty continued. “If we don't get a hook in these girls — even if we just get them into probation or get them into drug treatment, or get them into something — we'll never get them out of it.”

Doherty stressed that the effort to fight trafficking in America requires that law enforcement, advocacy groups, political leaders, and families work together to address the problem holistically.

“It's a social issue where the community and the law enforcement have to come together and work for the better of reforming this person, and turning their life around,” he said, adding, “I don't think we'll every stop it [completely].”

Cpl. Doherty said that, like drugs, the demand for prostitution and the greed of sex traffickers will always be around. But the more the issue is discussed and understood, the better the chances are of reducing the threat.

Further, he believes “there needs to be a platform for educating young girls on the dangers of social media, besides the guy who wants to send you creepy pictures or ask you for creepy pictures.”

“They need to be educated in what's out there, these are sharks in the water, and what these guys that are out there, and the lifestyle they can get dragged into. Before they even get a chance to look up, they find themselves in the middle of it.”

As Cpl. Jon Doherty said, we will never completely eradicate human trafficking — or any form of evil, for that matter. But by drawing attention to the breadth and depth of the problem, and by being aware of the modern threats facing young women especially (and their most effective solutions), lives can be saved.



$2.3 million sought at Legislature for young sex trafficking victims

Bill would continue to add services, including outreach workers, shelter beds.

by Kelly Smith

A bill seeking $2.3 million in funding would be the final piece of a $13.3 million statewide plan to help sex trafficking victims in Minnesota.

Since the Safe Harbor law was passed in 2011, ensuring that sexually exploited youths are viewed as survivors rather than criminals, advocates have returned to the State Capitol four times for funding.

The final $2.3 million would go toward increasing the number of shelter beds, resources and youth outreach workers to help sex trafficking victims across the state.

With the Super Bowl coming to Minnesota next year, metro prosecutors and police anticipate that hundreds of women and girls will be sold on the sex market in 2018. Experts told legislators Tuesday that they hope the big event can help increase awareness of sex trafficking.

“These programs literally help save young people's lives,” said Beth Holger-Ambrose, executive director of the Link, which provides housing and services to sexually exploited youths. “We're still turning away a lot of youth.”

After an emotional committee hearing Tuesday, the bill was referred for possible inclusion in an omnibus health and human services bill toward the end of the session.

Another bill seeks to develop a separate plan for adult victims of sex trafficking, since Safe Harbor is limited to decriminalizing only victims who are under 18 years old.

“The question will be: If Minnesota can build a better system for adult sex trafficking victims, what will it be?” said Jeff Bauer of the Family Partnership, which supports trafficked victims. “There are just more and more victims identified around the state.”

Funding and resources for sex trafficking victims have increased since Safe Harbor was passed.

The number of shelter beds has risen from two to more than 40, and there are now more than 2,000 officers trained in identifying victims when once there were none, Bauer said.

A growing number of suburbs, such as Eden Prairie, are developing proactive trafficking programs to help victims and crack down on pimps and johns.

“This problem is everywhere ... anywhere where there's a water tower,” Rep. Bob Loonan, R-Shakopee, said at the hearing. “It's in the little towns just as much as it's in the big towns.”

Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall, who testified in support of the legislation, added there also needs to be a focus on demand and that sex buyers usually are white, middle-class employed men who are married with children.

“Sex sells ... and people buy it,” she told legislators. “It's unlike anything I've ever seen.”

Bauer agreed that Minnesota has come a long way but still can improve the system and begin shifting resources to prevention efforts after focusing until now on interventions.

“There's more kids than we ever thought,” he said. “We really see sex trafficking and sex exploitation as a public health epidemic.”



Forty Percent of Homeless Kentuckiana Youth Report Being Sex-Trafficked

by Lisa Autry

A study released this week by the University of Louisville finds that 40 percent of homeless youth in Louisville and southern Indiana have been victims of sex trafficking.

Researchers studied homeless youth, ages 12 to 25, for a two-week period last October to understand the scope of sex trafficking in the Kentuckiana region. Respondents said they were victimized mostly in exchange for money or lodging.

Professor Jennifer Middleton teaches social work at U-of-L and helped oversee the research. She told WKU Public Radio that the number of sex trafficking victims was higher than expected.

"As far as the number of homeless youth being sex-trafficked in our community, I think this is a call to action to us in our communities to enhance education, awareness building, and training that we're doing on human trafficking."

Youth who reported being sex-trafficked were more likely to be drug-addicted, diagnosed with mental health issues, and participate in self-harming, including suicide attempts.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear says the study confirms a trend that investigators in his Cyber Crimes Unit are seeing-the use of technology in abuse.

Smartphones are a common denominator in a majority of sex-trafficking cases., Facebook, and Snapchat are most commonly used to recruit victims and sell them to buyers.



Teenage sex trafficking victims can still be charged with prostitution in Ohio

by Megan Hickey

CLEVELAND -- Human trafficking victims and their advocates are pushing to modernize Ohio's prostitution laws, which allow prosecutors to charge 16 and 17-year-olds with prostitution and solicitation.

Federal law automatically views minors who engage in commercial sex acts as victims, but the Ohio Revised Code only automatically exempts a person “less than sixteen years of age.”

Maureen Guirguis, Co-Director Human Trafficking Law Project at Case Western Reserve Law School, often represents teenage clients in this situation. She and other advocates believe protections should be extended to all minors involved in sex trafficking.

“We have to have protections for children,” Guirguis said. “So why do we have all of these laws and all of these protections and then we're saying we can charge them and treat them like criminals?”

It's a reality that former sex trafficking victim Barbara Freeman knows too well.

Freeman was homeless at 16 and soon found herself under the control of a pimp.

“I just felt like I was trapped and that became a way of life for me,” Freeman said.

A scared teenager, she said she wanted to find help but feared the legal consequences.

“I didn't want to go to jail but if I had asked for help I felt like that's what would have happened,” she explained.

Freeman joined Guirguis and the Human Trafficking Law Project for a law symposium Friday at Case Western Reserve University Law School to discuss ways to modernize Ohio's law and help young victims who are now in the same spot.

Last month, Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) announced plans to introduce legislation to modernize Ohio's laws to treat all survivors of human trafficking under the age of 18 as victims – not criminals.


New York State

N.Y. pol wants to force Senate Judiciary Committee vote for passage of Child Victims Act


ALBANY — The state Senate Democratic sponsor of a bill to make it easier for child sex abuse victims to seek justice as adults is seeking to force a committee vote on the bill.

Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) Wednesday filed a motion for consideration, a procedural move that would force the Senate Judiciary Committee to allow an up or down vote on the legislation.

Under Senate rules, members can file three such requests a year. A committee then has up to 45 days to act on the bill.

“This would be the first vote in a committee for the Child Victims Act in the state Senate,” Hoylman said. “At least give it a hearing. It would at least allow survivors the chance to know where the members of the Judiciary Committee stand on this important bill.”

But just because the motion is filed doesn't mean the committee will take up the legislation. In the past, the Senate GOP has found ways around the rule, including transferring the bill to another committee.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman John Bonacic (R-Orange County) wouldn't commit to brining the Child Victims Act up for a vote.

“We'll have to take a look at it (at) the appropriate time, but right now, now we're consumed with reviewing and negotiating the budget (that is due at the end of the month),” he said.

Hoylman filed the request the same day that sex abuse advocates returned to the state Capitol to lobby on behalf of the legislation.

With the GOP controlling the committee and the full chamber, it's unlikely Hoylman's bill stands a chance of passing.

The legislation would eliminate the time limit that an abuse victim can bring a case against his or her attacker. Under current law, a person has until their 23rd birthday.

It would also provide a one-year window to revive old cases, and treat public and private institutions the same. Currently, someone abused at a school or other public institution must file a notice of intent to sue within 90 days of the incident.



Irish Authorities Say Remains Of Children Found At Former Home For Unwed Mothers

by Rebecca Hersher

Authorities in Ireland say they have excavated the human remains of an undisclosed number of young children from the site of a former home for unmarried mothers.

The home, located in the town of Tuam, was operated by the Bon Secours nuns beginning in the 1920s and was home to women and babies until the 1960s. For years, some in the region had suspected there was a mass grave on the site.

On Friday, the Irish minister for children and youth affairs, Katherine Zappone, announced in a statement that the official commission investigating the Tuam site "revealed that human remains are visible in a series of chambers that may have formed part of sewage treatment works for the Home."

The statement continued:

"It is not certain whether the chambers ever functioned for sewage purposes, but the Commission believes that there are a significant number of children's remains there. The Commission recovered some juvenile remains for detailed forensic analysis. From this analysis, it has determined that the remains are between 35 fetal weeks and 2 to 3 years of age. From carbon dating it has correlated the age of these samples with the time period during which the home was in operation — between 1925 and 1961.

"This news is very disturbing and will touch everyone's heart. There were, of course, strong suspicions about burials of this kind in Tuam for some time. ... The information I have received confirms these suspicions and, importantly, they trace the remains specifically to the period of the Home's operation, rather than to earlier times in our history such as during the Famine."

Allegations that bodies of dead children might have been interred in a septic tank on the home's property surfaced in the media in 2014, when a report in The Irish Mail on Sunday said that based on local records, a mass grave might hold the remains of nearly 800 children over more than three decades.

A number of news organizations repeated some of the claims put forth in the Mail story, but it later became clear that no actual remains had yet been found.

NPR subsequently clarified its own reports. The Associated Press issued a correction to its story that questioned details such as the number of children who died, how they died and where they might have been buried — describing the story as "a study in how exaggeration can multiply in the news media, embellishing occurrences that should have been gripping enough on their own."

Nonetheless, there were still questions about what had happened to children who died at the Tuam home for mothers and children. Irish authorities launched an investigation in 2015, which resulted in the report released Friday.

Zappone said the county council for the region was securing the site for now and had not yet decided how to handle the human remains.

As we previously reported, the Tuam site "was surrounded by an 8-foot wall, concealing these living conditions from the outside world."

Statement by Dr Katherine Zappone TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs

Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes

Excavations at Tuam, Co. Galway

Friday 3rd March, 2017

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes has informed me of an important development in relation to excavations it carried out in Tuam Co. Galway.

As we know, mother and baby homes came to public attention in the summer of 2014 following a series of disturbing reports of high mortality rates and claims of possible burials of children on the grounds of the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam Co. Galway. The then Government decided to have these matters investigated and a statutory Commission of Investigation was established in February 2015.

Since that date, the Commission has been examining a wide range of concerns related to the institutional care of unmarried mothers and their babies during the period 1922 to 1998. The Commission is examining 14 Mother and Baby Homes and 4 County Homes. It will in time provide a full account of what happened to vulnerable women and children in these institutions; how they came to be there; and the pathways they took as they left.

An early focus of the Commission's work was to examine the Tuam site to address questions about the alleged interment of human remains. As part of this process, the Commission conducted a series of surveys and test excavations, commencing last October and concluding recently. I visited the site myself and met former residents and relatives shortly before these works commenced.

As announced on the Commission's website today, it has confirmed the presence of human remains on the site of the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co. Galway. The Home was run by the Bon Secours Sisters from 1925-1961 in what was previously a workhouse dating back to famine times. In the 1970's the former home was demolished to make way for a local authority housing estate. A small memorial garden is maintained by local residents and there is also a children's playground on the site.

The Commission's excavations have revealed that human remains are visible in a series of chambers that may have formed part of sewage treatment works for the Home. It is not certain whether the chambers ever functioned for sewage purposes, but the Commission believes that there are a significant number of children's remains there. The Commission recovered some juvenile remains for detailed forensic analysis. From this analysis, it has determined that the remains are between 35 foetal weeks and 2 to 3 years of age. From carbon dating it has correlated the age of these samples with the time period during which the home was in operation – between 1925 and 1961.

This news is very disturbing and will touch everyone's heart. There were, of course, strong suspicions about burials of this kind in Tuam for some time, and it was one of the reasons for setting up the Commission of Investigation in the first place. The information I have received confirms these suspicions and, importantly, they trace the remains specifically to the period of the Home's operation, rather than to earlier times in our history such as during the Famine.

In the first instance, I believe that today is about acknowledging what has occurred. Our first concern must be to respect the dignity and the memory of the children who lived their short lives in this Home.

But the Government is very mindful too about the questions that people will have, and what should happen next.

Before I say more about this, I want to thank the Commission for its important work on this matter. This is very much an interim stage in its deliberations. The Commission was anxious to bring this to our attention now. It will continue its work in relation to its overall terms of reference, including the wider practices and procedures that were applied to burials and other matters relating to deaths that occurred in these homes.

The Commission has already notified the local coroner in north Galway of its findings, and Galway County Council is aware of the matter also. We have now put in place a series of actions to ensure that we have an appropriate and respectful response to the discovery.

Firstly, having been notified by the Commission of its discoveries, the Coroner for North Galway will consider what steps may be necessary and appropriate in accordance with his statutory functions, on the basis of the information now made available. He is of course independent in the discharge of these functions. It is open to the coroner to call on the support of the Gardaí and any other authorities as he may deem necessary.

Secondly, Galway County Council and the Commission of Investigation will engage in relation to the next steps on the site, now that the Commission's excavations have been concluded. Importantly, the site has been made secure pending any further decision.

Thirdly, and critically, Galway County Council will engage with local residents and other interested parties on what should happen next in relation to the remains. There are a number of possible options, such as re-interring the remains elsewhere, or making a decision to leave them undisturbed. I am acutely conscious of the sensitivities that will arise in this regard, and I realise that there may be sincerely held but differing views on what is the best way forward.

The Government is very anxious to ensure that all decisions are taken in an appropriate, respectful manner that honours the dignity of these children. The question of an appropriate form of memorial or memorial rite will perhaps also arise in this context.

No doubt there will be many questions asked in the coming days and weeks about this shocking discovery. Some of these can be answered now, but no doubt many more will not, at least for now. There will be an information line in operation from today to answer queries from members of the public, and to direct their queries to the appropriate agencies. We also have arrangements in place for people who have been affected by these issues, through the HSE Information Line.

While the Commission has concluded its work in relation to the excavations at Tuam, it has not yet reached any formal conclusions about the site, such as whether the burial arrangements were in line with the laws or practices of that time – which would of course be very different today. The Commission will continue its wider work on such matters as post mortem practices and procedures, reporting and burial arrangements for residents of Mother and Baby Homes.

I think it may take some time to make final decisions about these matters, but a key concern is that we have an appropriate consultation process that gives everyone affected an opportunity to give their views. I very much hope that it will be possible to arrive at a consensus, so that we can move forward on an agreed path together.

My Department held a meeting of all the key Departments and agencies yesterday, including the Departments of the Taoiseach; Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government; Justice and Equality; Health; and the Attorney General's Office; as well as Galway County Council and An Garda Síochána.

We will continue to work together to ensure that we have a sensitive and respectful response to this reminder of our country's lack of compassion for the young girls, women and children who were in these homes.


Jane Fonda reveals rape and child abuse

by the BBC

Oscar-winning actress Jane Fonda has revealed she is a rape survivor and suffered sexual abuse as a child.

In an interview with fellow Oscar winner Brie Larson for The Edit, the 79-year-old also said she had once lost a job because she refused her boss's sexual advances.

The star added she thought being a young actress now was "terrifying" because of female sexualisation.

"You have to get naked so much. There is even more emphasis on how you look."

Fonda said she "felt diminished" growing up because the men in her life were "victims of a [patriarchal] belief system".

She also said she had been "brought up with the disease to please".

'We were violated'

"To show you the extent to which a patriarchy takes a toll on females - I've been raped, I've been sexually abused as a child and I've been fired because I wouldn't sleep with my boss and I always thought it was my fault; that I didn't do or say the right thing.

"I know young girls who've been raped and didn't even know it was rape. They think, 'It must have been because I said no the wrong way'.

"One of the great things the women's movement has done is to make us realise that [rape and abuse is] not our fault. We were violated and it's not right."

Fonda has been a long-time activist and advocate for women's rights and supporter of the Rape Foundation and Rape Treatment Centre in Los Angeles.

She revealed at a benefit in 2014 that her mother, Frances Ford Seymour, was sexually abused as a child aged eight. She eventually took her own life at 42, when Fonda was 12.

Speaking to mark International Women's Day, the Grace and Frankie star said she was happy actresses were now fighting to close the gender pay gap in the entertainment industry, as it wasn't considered an issue 40 years ago.

"I never thought about it - I'm talking about at the height of my career in the '70s and '80s - I never got paid a huge amount of money. I never thought I was worth it," she said.

"For me, it was just the way things were. Guys earned more. I am so glad people are feeling righteous anger about it now."

The daughter of Oscar winner Henry Fonda, Jane has been Oscar-nominated seven times. She won the Academy Award for best actress twice - in 1971 for crime thriller Klute and in 1979 for war romance Coming Home.

She is also known for starring in cult film Barbarella, female centred-comedy 9 to 5 and On Golden Pond, in which she starred opposite her father.


'It's a community's responsibility:' CAPS seminar talks signs of child abuse and neglect

by Danielle Kennedy

Elkhart, IN — Officials say a "community effort" is necessary to prevent child abuse in our area.

Child and Parent Services in Elkhart held a seminar Friday to teach people about the signs of abuse or neglect and how to report it.

WSBT 22's report comes after a week of taking a closer look at documents obtained regarding a mother charged with killing her children.

We told you that dozens of reports were filed to Indiana Department of Child Services accusing Amber Pasztor of neglect and abuse.

The information comes from more than 1,000 pages of records filed with the court.

"It can happen anywhere and everywhere"

Officials say people should report anything that might seem suspicious.

"It's not just one persons responsibility or one agency's responsibility," said Julie Reed with the Child and Family Advocacy Center. "It's an entire community's responsibility."

Reed says child abuse and neglect is a topic many are scared to discuss.

"I think there's this misconception that it doesn't happen in our community, it doesn't happen in my neighborhood, it doesn't happen in my church, but it happens everywhere," Reed said.

Reed works with about 650 children a year at the Child and Family Advocacy Center in Elkhart.

That's just one of eight programs CAPS offers.

"It shows me how resilient kids can be," Reed said. "How they can go through terrible, terrible things and still act normal."

According to CAPS, data shows that children who have been victimized once are at a greater risk of experiencing other types of victimization.

"It can happen anywhere and everywhere," Reed said. "Just because a child isn't exhibiting the obvious red flags or they don't have the obvious red bruises, that doesn't mean something isn't going on of concern."

Sabrina Lindsley sees it too.

She's an investigator at the LaGrange County Prosecutors Office and says there's still a lot more she can learn.

"Sometimes it's hard to tell," Lindsley said. "A lot of times when you walk in, everything looks good. There's times when we don't know the first time we get called out or the second time you get called out, it's kind of like putting a puzzle together. I'm kind of hoping this helps us look for more signs."

Knowing the signs

Officials say there are several types of abuse, including neglect, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse.

Information provided by CAPS shows there are several indicators of neglect, including abandonment, lack of shelter, nutritional deficiencies, lack of supervision, poor attendance in school, poor hyhygiene and developmental delays.

Children could also appear to be extremely fearful or anxious or could lack positive coping strategies if they are suffering from emotional abuse.

Indicators of physical abuse include unexplained injuries, aggression, delinquency and fear of the child fears parents or adults.

Breaking the stigma

Reed says many believe that reporting an incident automatically means the child will be taken away from their caregiver.

"That's not the case," Reed said. "Part of what we do in our training is to try and teach them what happens when a report is made, what to expect and how to make that report."

Indiana law mandates that all citizens report if they have reason to believe that is being abused or neglected.

"Not enough people know that it's their responsibility," Reed said. "It's not just professionals' responsibility to look out for kids in our community. It's everyone's responsibility."

If you suspect child abuse or neglect, you can call the DCS child abuse and neglect hotline at 800-800-5556 or your local police department.


New York

Reported child abuse increasing in Oswego County

by Jamie Aranoff

In 2016, more than 3,200 child abuse cases were reported to the state from Oswego County, an increase in recent years, according to the Oswego County Department of Social Services.

Christine Patrick, the director of services at the Oswego County Department of Social Services, has seen many of these cases related to poverty and a myriad of other issues.

“Poverty has a lot to do with some of our cases,” Patrick said.

She also stated that lack of education, inadequate living conditions and a lack of money were all factors aiding to child neglect.

“I think there's a really big correlation between poverty and child abuse,” Patrick said. “People have a hard time meeting their own needs, and subsequently have a hard time meeting their children's needs. They turn to other things, such as self-medicating, which in turn leads to drug use.”

A study conducted by the International Journal on Child Abuse and Neglect found that child abuse and neglect increased during the recession.

In addition, Patrick said that as family sizes increase, often times the distribution of families and children not living together increase. The number of cases increases as a result of these factors.

In 2015, the National Children's Alliance published that an estimated 1,670 children die from abuse annually. There are 700,000 abused children yearly in the United States.

Many organizations in the Oswego area are working to combat this by teaming up to raise awareness and funding.

The brothers of the Oswego State chapter Delta Kappa Kappa and the Oswego State men's ice hockey team are working together as part of an organization known as For The Kids. Together, they work locally to donate to the Oswego Child Advocacy Center.

Over the four years the organization has been running, the two groups have raised over $30,000.

After realizing the situation in Oswego, the two groups knew they had to start something with the school, and are continuing to do so today, said Shawn Hulshof of the men's hockey team.

To help parents get back on track to help their children, the Department of Social Services offer at-home counseling. The department works and holds contracts with outside agencies that directly go into the homes where care is needed.

“We contract with various service providers in the community to provide counseling, drug treatment, parent education and individual counseling,” Patrick said.

Treatment and counseling services, such as the ones offered, allow for parents to properly and appropriately care for their children, Patrick said.

For families needing service, there is no charge. The money comes as a reimbursement from the state, as well as from the county through taxes on citizens.

For those interested in helping abused and neglected children in the area, the Department of Social Services is looking for foster parents to act as caregivers to children when their primary guardians no longer can. The center provides training and classes for those interested and qualified.



Glastonbury daycare director sentenced to 150 days in jail for not reporting child abuse

by Katie Carolan and Laura Roberts

GLASTONBURY -- The former director of the Stork Club daycare in Glastonbury will spend the next 150 days in jail.

Meegan Beach was sentenced to four years, suspended after 150 days, after one of her employees allegedly abused children and she did nothing about it.

Beach, 40, of Hebron was charged with two counts each of failure to report child abuse and risk of injury to a minor. She cannot work in child care again and has to perform 100 hours of community service, the judge ordered in Manchester Superior Court Thursday.

Beach and her co-defendant Nicole Mayo were both arrested in March 2016.

Mayo, 22, of Wethersfield, is accused of hitting, restraining, force-feeding and roughly handling several 2-year-olds at The Stork Club daycare center on New London Turnpike over the last year.

Mayo's case is still pending. She faces three counts of risk of injury to a minor and disorderly conduct.

According to police, Beach never notified the Department of Children and Families or authorities about the ongoing abuse, which she is mandated to do by state law. Police also say that several other employees told Beach about Mayo's abusive behavior towards the kids, but that she didn't do anything about it.

Before sentencing, the judge heard from attorneys representing the young victims and one of the victims' mothers.

Wilder Zandonella, whose then two year old was allegedly force fed until he gagged and hit over the head by Mayo, told the judge her family is still affected by it a year later. Beach admitted she was aware of these allegations.

"The pain and suffering we have faced could have been avoided had she made the right decision to report the abuse that had been reported to her. She had a professional, moral and ethical responsibility to protect our child and she selfishly chose not to," said Zandonella in a prepared statement she read in court.

Her attorney Christopher Mattei said, "a deliberate choice was made to ignore child abuse."

Beach's defense attorney Richard Conti argued she should not serve jail time because she has already "paid dearly for this incident." He said she's lost income and her reputation.

Conti said, "This is so completely out of character with the way that she has conducted her life. It's just hard to imagine."

The judge said he's not worried Beach will re-offend. But he said she has to face consequences for what she did or in this case what she failed to do. The judge said he hopes this sentence will deter other mandatory reporters from being tempted to do the same.

Conti did not wish to comment to FOX61 about the judge's sentencing decision.

Rudy Moreno, an attorney representing another young victim, told FOX61, "We're glad she's going to serve some time and hopefully she comes out a better woman at the end of the road."


North Carolina

Hampstead community discusses sexual abuse prevention

by Hannah DelaCourt

HAMPSTEAD – Community members from Pender County came together Thursday night to discuss sexual abuse prevention and awareness following a recent human trafficking case involving a former Topsail High School coach.

On Feb. 9, Ahmad Garrison, 27, a former track and field coach at the high school was arrested and charged with one count of human trafficking of a child victim and one count of soliciting a child by computer involving a 14-year-old former student.

Jamie Getz, one of the organizers of Thursday's community meeting, said she starting planning the event soon after Garrison's arrest because emotions were still high.

“I was in the grocery store the day we found out about it, and somebody said, ‘I can't believe some of this stuff is here now,' and the word ‘now' resonated,” she said. “It didn't just get here. We just found out about it really close to home.”

Getz, a licensed professional counselor working with a child advocacy group in Onslow County, said she and her husband have worked in many child advocacy roles and hoped making parents more aware of sexual abuse would keep children in the community safer.

“Information is power, and empowered people who know the enemy are great advocates and protectors of children,” she said.

Speakers included Pender County Sheriff's Office Detective Sgt. Stephen Clinard, Julie Ozier, the supervisor of the Carousel Center, and Janice Reitzell, an NCIS special agent.

Clinard, who for the past three years has investigated sex crimes for the sheriff's office, worked on the investigation of Garrison and said it was his first case charging someone with human trafficking, but human trafficking is not new to the county.

He also said that the majority of sex crimes go unreported.

If a child does disclose an instance of abuse, he said, the best thing a person can do is listen, write down what they say, report it to law enforcement and never confront the alleged perpetrator.

Ozier, who works at the Carousel Center, a child advocacy center in Wilmington, said that one myth about child sexual abuse is that perpetrators are often strangers.

“Over three quarters of children sexually abused, are sexually abused by someone in their most inner, inner circle,” she said. “I'm talking immediate family members, close friends, people that the child and family trust.”

Both Ozier and Reitzell said the rise of the internet and social media have also posed extra challenges when it comes to child sex crimes.

Reitzell said parents should be aware of their children's online activities, parents should limit the amount of time children get on the internet and a personal phone, and they must find a balance between honoring their children's privacy and keeping children safe.


West Virginia

Bill would include unborn children in West Virginia's child abuse and neglect laws

by Rusty Marks

A Nicholas County lawmaker has introduced a bill that would include unborn children in the state's child abuse and neglect laws.

Delegate Jordan Hill, a Republican, said the bill, now pending before the House Judiciary Committee, is designed to close a legal loophole exposed in a 2016 state Supreme Court decision. In that case, the justices voted 3-2 to reverse a lower court's three- to 15-year sentence for Stephanie Louk, a mother who used methamphetamine days before she was due to deliver.

Louk's baby was delivered by emergency caesarean section June 12, 2014 after doctors determined the fetus was in acute respiratory distress. The child, named Olivia, was born alive but died days later. Doctors said the infant didn't get enough oxygen and was severely brain damaged, and life support was removed 11 days later after doctors concluded there was no hope the baby's condition would improve.

Louk was 37 weeks pregnant at the time of her drug use.

Prosecutors had argued nothing in the statute specified death-causing actions must be inflicted on a child after he or she is born. In the Louk case, they'd contended the baby was born alive "and later died outside the womb as a result of (her mother's) use of methamphetamine."

The court, however, reversed, saying, "When enacting our child neglect resulting in death statute, the Legislature did not criminalize a mother's prenatal act that results in harm to her subsequently born child."

House Bill 2710 would update the legal definition of child neglect causing death to explicitly include an unborn fetus that has reached at least 24 weeks of gestation as a potential victim.

“West Virginians have a great respect for life and expect their government to protect and provide a voice for the unborn,” Hill said in a release, adding the supreme court "identified this gap in our law and we, as a Legislature, need to act this year to fix this."

"We need to protect life, and if someone intentionally harms their own baby while it's still inside the womb, they need to be prosecuted," he added. "I hope this Legislature will act quickly to close this loophole to make sure unborn children across our state are protected.”

Co-sponsoring the bill are Delegates Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette; Nancy Reagan Foster, R-Putnam; Patrick Martin, R-Lewis; Mark Dean, R-Mingo; Marshall Wilson, R-Berkeley; Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell; Lynne Arvon, R-Raleigh; Saira Blair, R-Berkeley; and Carol Miller, R-Cabell.



Idaho school led locker room assault investigation

by Rebecca Boone

BOISE – The investigation into the sexual assault of a disabled black football player by his white teammates at a small-town Idaho high school showed that crucial evidence was collected by school employees, not law enforcement officials, and that the culture that led to the attack stretched far beyond the locker room.

John R.K. Howard and two teammates were charged with sodomizing the victim with a clothes hanger in 2015 in the locker room at the high school in the tiny farming village of Dietrich. The sexual assault charge against Howard, who was 18 at the time of the incident, was later dropped. He was sentenced last week to probation for felony injury to a child. The other two cases are sealed because they are being handled in juvenile court.

An Associated Press review of roughly 2,000 pages of documents from the Idaho Attorney General's office found that school officials did not immediately report the crime. Instead, Superintendent Ben Hardcastle gathered key evidence, including the hanger, and began interviewing the suspects and some of the 27 potential witnesses before notifying the sheriff's department.

Fellow students, neighbors and even football coaches were allowed to pressure the 17-year-old victim about his testimony, in some cases telling him that the case could bring the town to ruin and send friends to jail.

Like most of his classmates, the victim grew up in Dietrich, though he was one of just a few black children in the community. He also struggled with mental illness and a developmental disability that made it hard for him to describe timelines or immediately recognize the racial implications of the teasing he endured.

The teen ultimately had a breakdown from the stress and had to be institutionalized for a time, according to his mother.

The school locker room was ruled by a so-called “bro code” that forbid students to share what happened there with anyone outside, according to the attorney general's documents. Coaches were reluctant to be in the room when the boys were changing or showering, an absence that may have allowed the code to thrive.

Racial harassment was common, though some claimed it was unintentional: The victim was nicknamed “grape soda,” “fried chicken” and “Kool-Aid” by his teammate and coaches. The coaches later said they did not know the nicknames were based on racial stereotypes. School officials knew that a student had drawn a cartoon of the victim sitting in the back of a bus on a classroom whiteboard, and the victim later reported that Howard frequently called him a racial slur and showed him a KKK song.

Locker-room bullying escalated in the months before the attack, according to the documents. Some players showed dominance by “dry humping” teammates. Teammates occasionally tried to hit each other in the testicles. Wedgies – a prank in which the fabric of a boy's underwear is yanked up into his buttocks – were commonplace.

The coaches knew about at least some of the behavior. At least one player, Howard, had previously lost playing time as a penalty for aggressively humping other students.

Before practice on Oct. 22, 2015, one player gave the victim a wedgie that ripped the waistband of his underwear and exposed his buttocks. Then a teammate shoved him into a bathroom and humped him so hard that students outside heard banging.

After practice, things escalated. Witnesses gave conflicting statements, but the documents suggest one suspect asked the victim for a hug and then held the victim while another shoved a coat hanger between the boy's buttocks. A third player, Howard, kicked the hanger at least once and possibly as many as three times, according to witness reports.

After the victim screamed in pain, a teammate pulled the hanger out and flung it aside before a coach walked into the room. The coach did not ask the victim why his underwear was ripped or what happened, the documents said.

The assault went unreported until the next day, when the victim's brother told their mother about it. She immediately contacted the superintendent before taking her son to a hospital for an exam.

Hardcastle began interviewing team members and, based on their statements, took two coat hangers from the locker room.

Then, deciding that the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office would be too busy because a deputy had recently died and believing that the boy's mother would report the incident, Hardcastle opted to wait. He reported the allegations to police the following Monday, four days after the assault, in a phone message.

Idaho law requires school officials to report suspected crimes against children, including abuse, within 24 hours.

Almost a week after the assault, the sheriff's office notified the school that a criminal investigation was underway. The same day, the county prosecutor asked Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to take over the case, noting the many personal relationships between the school and law enforcement in the small community.

Wasden agreed. A week later, he sent an investigator to collect interview records, surveillance videos, the hangers and other evidence from the school. That was on Nov. 10, 2015, nearly three weeks after the assault.

The investigator Wasden assigned to the case, Tony Pittz, noted that state officials had to write a warrant and get a judge to sign it before they could collect student records, the hangers and other evidence from the school, a process that took several days.

Many people pressured the victim not to talk about the assault. Fellow students told him the town “would be destroyed” and they would “lose their farms” if a lawsuit filed by the victim's family went forward, according to the documents.

Information about those interactions was forwarded to the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office so they could look into possible witness intimidation, Pittz said.

Even the football coaches attempted to manipulate the victim, according to the documents, approaching him with teammates when his parents were not present and recording the conversation.

On the recordings, the coaches urged the victim to “tell the truth,” and his teammates told him how much he was loved. At one point, the victim acknowledged that he was not absolutely sure which way he was facing when the assault occurred, a statement later used to suggest he lied under oath.

The boy's doctors were worried that being forced to testify could affect his mental health. The prosecutor said that concern in part prompted him to offer a plea deal to Howard. In exchange for his guilty plea to a different felony, prosecutors dropped the sex-crime charge.

The family's lawsuit alleges that school officials knew about the racial harassment and bullying but failed to take action. The complaint is pending.

The family's attorney, Keith Roark, told the judge in Howard's criminal case that the family was outraged by the plea deal.

The outcome of the case has drawn criticism from across the country from people who think the judge went too easy on Howard, perhaps because he was white and the victim was black.

The judge insisted neither sex nor race was behind the crime and that out-of-towners did not understand the case, referring to news reports.

“People from the East Coast have no idea what this case is about,” Judge Randy Stoker said. But “I'm not going to impose a sentence that is not supported by the law.”


United Kingdom

Child abuse victim talks about ordeal

by Farnhan Herald

A victim of childhood sexual abuse, from Hindhead, has launched a website to help fellow victims, after the man who abused him was jailed for four years on January 23.

Tim Verity – not his real name – is now 32, but it took many years for him and his sister, who was abused by the same man, to come to terms with what had happened to them. They informed the police three years ago.

Their abuser, Neil Day, was a relative, who used his position of trust to carry out his secret sexual assaults on visits to the family home in the 1990s when Tim was a young schoolboy – pictured above right.

Day, of Park Lane, Ropley, in Hampshire, was found guilty of six counts of gross indecency with a child and one count of indecent assault during a trial at Guildford Crown Court, in November.

On January 23, Day was sentenced to four years in prison and placed on the sexual offenders register for life.

“Shortly before my 16th birthday, I came to the crashing realisation I had been sexually abused during my childhood,” Tim said. “I'm not exactly sure when it started, but I know that by the age of seven or eight an adult male relative had groomed me.

“He used sugar mice, made by his mother, to entice me to perform sexual acts and to keep quiet about the assaults he would carry out during time spent playing in his bedroom. The effect of this revelation was to fracture my fragile developing mind and trap me in a cycle of destructive behaviour that would continue to haunt me for years to come.

“I spent over half of my lifetime picking the shards of psychic debris from my wounded self. For 15 years I lived as a prisoner to thoughts and feelings I couldn't control.

“It took the birth of my nephew, and the realisation that by staying silent I could be putting other children risk, to summon up the courage to come forward.

“Early in the summer of 2014 I was interviewed by police, who launched an investigation into the historic abuse I suffered at the start of the 1990s.

“I launched the site in mid-January, at around the time of the sentencing, but I've been active on Twitter since the verdict in November.

“The response so far has been overwhelming, with survivors getting in contact to share their stories, offer support and with kind words to say about my decision to come forward.

“I've already had a number of meetings with survivor led organisations and individuals working to offer support to people who have experienced abuse and I'm hoping to build on this momentum in the coming months.

“I launched this site as a way of connecting with fellow survivors, to offer support and to ensure that our voices are heard.

“Through my experiences I hope to add to the growing debate on the subject, as well as to engage with and advocate for other people affected by childhood sexual abuse.”

For more information about Tim's project go to or follow @TimVerity on Twitter.



Understanding the signs and symptoms of child abuse

by Makenzie O'Keefe

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. -- While a Grand Junction man faces 43 counts of felony sex crime charges against children, many in the community are wondering what they can do to prevent things like this from happening.

Child advocates say there are many different signs and symptoms of child abuse, that people should be aware of.

“"It's critical that people gets involved, pay attention, and report abuse,” Janet Rowland said, with the Court Appointed Special Advocates organization.

CASA helps to give child abuse victims a voice in the courtroom.

Depending on the type of abuse or who the perpetrator is, there are symptoms and signs that something just isn't right. Neglect, is a primary type of child abuse.

“Neglect is going to be things like they don't have warm clothes on in the winter, or they don't have shoes,” Rowland said.

Research shows around 90 percent of child abuse victims, know their abuser. While there may be no physical signs of sexual abuse, there are emotional changes you can pick up on.

“You may see a child shy away from an individual, perhaps that's the person abusing them, or maybe they're just uncomfortable around men in general,” Rowland said. “Those are some of the signs to look for."

If a child is abused by a stranger, experts say it's less about symptoms, but instead talking to your kids about abuse.

“It's more about letting your child know in advance the important thing is about not talking to strangers and that a lot of the time it's the nice looking ones that can hurt you,” Rowland said.

Advocates say noticing abuse early on, can change a victim's path. Rowland tells us that over 80 percent of people in our prisons have a history of child neglect or abuse.

"The majority of kids, who are abused don't go to prison,” she explained. “But the majority of people in prison were abused.”

Advocates ask that if you see or feel something, say something.

“If we could intervene sooner or if we could stop the abuse when they are 2 or 3 instead of when they are 8, 10 or 14, I think we would have much better outcomes for those children,” Rowland said.

If you suspect any type of child abuse, you are asked to call the Mesa County Child Prevention Hotline at 970-242-1211.


Child Abuse Can Increase Risk of Adolescent Misbehavior

by Rick Nauert PhD

Researchers have discovered that an important learning process is impaired in adolescents who were abused as children. Experts believe this impairment contributes to misbehavior patterns later in life.

The theory holds that associative learning, or the process by which an individual subconsciously links experiences and stimuli together, partially explains how people generally react to various real-world situations.

In the new study, University of Pittsburgh Assistant Professor Jamie L. Hanson, detailed the connection between impaired associative learning capacities and instances of early childhood abuse.

“We primarily found that a poorer sense of associative learning negatively influences a child's behavior patterns during complex and fast-changing situations.”

Having this knowledge is important for child psychologists, social workers, public policy officials, and other professionals who are actively working to develop interventions,” said Hanson.

“We have long known that there is a link between behavioral issues in adolescents and various forms of early life adversities. Yet, the connection isn't always clear or straightforward. This study provides further insight into one of the many factors of how this complicated relationship comes to exist.”

The study appears in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry .

To uncover the relationships between early childhood adversity and later behavior, researchers asked 81 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 to play computer games where the child had to figure out which set of visual cues were associated with a reward.

Forty-one participants had endured physical abuse at a young age, while the remaining 40 served as a comparison group. The most important aspect of the test, said Hanson, was that the cues were probabilistic, meaning children did not always receive positive feedback.

“The participants who had been exposed to early childhood abuse were less able than their peers to correctly learn which stimuli were likely to result in reward, even after repeated feedback,” said Hanson.

“In life we are often given mixed or little to no feedback from our significant others, bosses, parents, and other important people in our lives. We have to be able to figure out what might be the best thing to do next.”

Hanson and his colleagues also observed that mistreated children were generally less adept at differentiating which behaviors would lead to the best results for them personally when interacting with others.

Additionally, abused children displayed more pessimism about the likelihood of positive outcomes compared to the group who hadn't been abused. Taken as a whole, these findings clarify the relationship between physical abuse and the aggressive and disruptive behaviors that often plague abused children well into the later stages of childhood.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany, also contributed to the study.



Montana Lawmakers Advance Bill Targeting Child Abuse And Neglect

by Nate Hegyi

The Montana House endorsed a bill Monday that would require the state health department to work with other organizations to develop a plan to prevent child abuse and neglect.

Democratic Representative Kimberly Dudik is the sponsor of House Bill 517.

"Many of us have heard of the staggering statistics of child abuse in our state and the increase in our court system and the impact of our families from this," says Dudik.

The bill calls for a comprehensive plan that would discuss the degree to which child abuse and neglect is occurring, the effects of the abuse, risk factors and prevention efforts that reduce the potential for abuse. It also requires the department work with other state, local and tribal agencies to do so.

Republican Representative Nancy Ballance supported the bill but said the department should already have a strategic plan in place.

"This is their job," says Ballance. "This is their job every single day, and if they don't have a strategic plan now, it is not the legislature's responsibility to bring them a request for a strategic plan."

Representative Dudik said the department does have plans, but they aren't comprehensive. Her bill requires one more vote in the House in order to advance to the Senate.



Child Abuse, and How You Should React

by Alyssa Andrews

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - A majority of the child abuse cases in Indiana occur close to home. In 2015, Vigo County had the third highest child abuse ration in the state.

There's something you can learn to help.

Child abuse isn't always easy to catch, but according to Emily Perry, a child forensic interviewer, the number one prevention mechanism is minimizing one-on-one contact.

Professionals from across the Wabash Valley who work with children every day attended a youth worker cafe Monday hosted by the Indiana Youth Institute to increase awareness on child abuse and neglect.

Perry presented at this cafe to teach adults how to act responsibly if a child tells them about abuse they may be experiencing.

"During that conversation, it's important to be more of a listener, not a question asker," says Perry. "Be careful not to influence that child's statement, or experience of abuse."

Your reaction is also important.

"Just gathering basic information from that kid. Not reacting in a tearful, or sad, or dramatic-type way, so that child can really just share the information," says Perry.

Perry says to report immediately to law enforcement, so appropriate intervention can take place.
The next step is to make a report to the child abuse hotline.
That number is 1-800-800-55-56.

"In Indiana, everybody is a mandatory reporter of child abuse and neglect--even if it's just a suspicion. All adults need to speak up any time they have a concern about a child, because those children cannot protect themselves," says Perry.


United Kingdom

Issue of children who sexually abuse other children is not something that can be ignored

by Simon Hackett

A recent string of high profile cases involving “celebrity perpetrators” along with a series of ongoing inquires into historical child abuse in the UK has brought sexual abuse into the public consciousness in an unprecedented way.

Similar inquiries are also underway internationally – notably the ongoing Australian Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, which has spent the last four years hearing testimony from thousands of Australian survivors.

It is arguable that the media attention given to these high profile cases has increased the number of people coming forward to disclose their experiences of abuse. But while this is obviously a good thing, the way these cases are often portrayed and covered, tends to reinforce unhelpful stereotypes.

This includes the idea that all abuse is carried out by adult paedophiles preying on vulnerable children. And as a consequence, means that the issue of child sexual abuse committed by other children is significantly downplayed.

Juvenile abusers

Official figures indicate that between a fifth and a third of all cases of child sexual abuse in the UK involve “perpertrators” under the age of 18 – but the figures could in fact be much higher.

In a random UK general population survey of more than 6,000 people, a staggering two-thirds of the sexual abuse reported by respondents in their childhoods, had been committed by other children.

Even when reports of child and adolescent perpetrated child sexual abuse gains media attention, it is often portrayed in a way that presents the children as mini versions of adult sex offenders, or “paedophiles in waiting”.

The reality of course is somewhat different – with many high profile studies suggesting that most children and young people who commit sexual offences in their adolescence do not then carry on sexually offending in adulthood.

Protection vs criminalisation

For many of these child perpetrators, their own histories of abuse play a role in their offending behaviours. This is often part and parcel of an enmeshed experience of trauma, neglect and pain – which has also been shown in our research.

We conducted the largest UK study of young people who had sexually abused other children. Of the 700 children we spoke to, we found that 50% of young abusers had themselves been victims of sexual abuse. Our research also showed that 50% had experienced physical abuse or domestic violence in their lives.

Seen through this lens, we need to respond to these cases carefully. Yes, we need to protect victims and stop these children from abusing, but our interventions shouldn't stop there.

We need services that can offer expert help to children and their families to prevent further victimisation and help them lead offence-free lives in the long-term.

Such services are sadly lacking at the moment, but the recently launched NSPCC operational framework should help agencies to get their acts together as this framework provides a structure for local safeguarding children boards to help them implement their policies and practice responses.

Realities of abuse

We also need to have better awareness of the realities of child sexual abuse – along with the issue of children and young people who harm others sexually. Because a lack of public knowledge around this promotes a distorted and stereotypical view of child sexual abuse. This can often lead to the overplay of some risks – such as “stranger danger” – while underplaying others.

Failing to understand the specific needs of children and young people who present with harmful sexual behaviours also means that they are more likely to receive inappropriate criminal justice responses that are designed with adults in mind.

This can include being placed on the sex offender register or, in the US, “community notification schemes”. These publish details of young people and adult sex offenders, including their addresses, offence details and photographs online.

Such measures, being inherently adult focused, at best fail to provide a balanced response to the issue of harmful sexual behaviour. And at worst, they may cause irreparable developmental damage to children who fundamentally need our help.


5 Ways You Can Teach Your Preschooler About Consent

by Alana Romain

There's a seemingly endless amount of things we need to prep our kids for before sending them out into the world (or at least off to school) for the first time. And the truth is, teaching them how to wipe their own butts, pick up after themselves, and be kind to others is just the beginning.

There are other not-so-obvious skills that you won't find on the back of any school checklist — and some of them might just be the most important. Case in point: Teaching our kids about body safety, consent, and boundaries, as well as what to do if someone doesn't respect them.

I know what you're probably thinking: Just the idea of bringing up that topic to a preschooler is pretty terrifying. Believe me, I get it. It's uncharted territory, and forces us to face the very difficult reality that things like childhood sexual abuse exists. We don't want to say the wrong thing and scare them, by making them think that the world around them is not a safe place. But the reality is, as much as we might think that harm could never come to our children, the statistics paint a very different story.

According to The Advocacy Center, an estimated 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. In fact, the vast majority of reported sexual assaults in this country (approximately 70 percent) involve children who are 17 and younger. Child sexual abuse advocate, founder, and CEO of Lauren's Kids, Lauren Book, shares the good news that when children are taught about boundaries and are empowered about their own bodies, they are less likely to be victimized. In fact, Book tells Babble that, “95 percent of sexual abuse is actually preventable with education and awareness.” (Whoa.)

So, what can parents do specifically to help keep their kids safe? It all comes down to having open, honest conversations about consent and safety in everyday situations. And, yes, this includes with people their children already know and trust. The State of California's Department of Justice reports that more than 90 percent of sexual abuse is committed by someone familiar to the child, and abusers are often the people we'd least expect. Book, for one, was a victim of sexual abuse for six years at the hands of her female, live-in nanny. It might not be easy to have these conversations, but the following five steps can help ensure that you're teaching your preschooler what they need to know to keep them safe.

1. Teach them proper names for their private parts.

Talking about private parts with children can feel super uncomfortable, which is why many parents resort to using cutesy names — or avoiding the discussion all together. However, Book says that teaching children the proper names for their private parts is imperative, not only because children who know the proper names of their body parts will be better able to disclose abuse, but also because not talking about it teaches them private parts are taboo or shameful.

“When you taught your baby all of their body parts, you pointed to your eyes and said ‘eyes' or ‘ears' or ‘nose' or ‘chin.' But we usually don't give them names for their private parts,” Book tells Babble . “So inherently, they think ‘something must not be right about these parts that I know that I have, but I'm not supposed to talk about it.'”

Book says all children need to know not only what their private parts are, and what they are called, but that they are off-limits. They need to understand that nobody should be looking at them or touching them, unless they're hurt or need help. If somebody does, they need to immediately tell mom or dad (or another trusted adult) about it.

One other important detail that parents overlook about the “private parts” talk? Mouths should also be considered a private part.

“Parents should tell their kids that nobody should be putting anything into their mouths, except for the dentist,” Book says. “And who is with you when you're at the dentist? Mommy or Daddy, [so it's OK].”

2. Help them identify “safe” vs. “unsafe” touches.

Many parents avoid discussing sexual abuse with their kids because they think it'll scare them. But the best bet, according to Book, is to encourage children to make the distinction between “safe” and “unsafe” touches — particularly because “unsafe” touches don't always feel “bad” or “wrong,” particularly in the early stages of abuse when predators are still grooming their victims.

“Parents can talk to children about safe vs. unsafe, and identify ‘what is a safe touch?' Maybe for one child it's braiding her hair, while for another, it's getting his back scratched,” Book tells Babble . “Those are safe touches that make you feel loved, happy, excited. And then you can talk about unsafe feelings, [asking] ‘how does that make you feel? What's an example of an unsafe touch to you?'”

This doesn't have to be a formal conversation. Having some nice cuddle time with your little one? That could be a good time to point out how happy and safe it feels. Did your child throw a tantrum and try to hit or bite you (or maybe another child tried to hit or bite them)? That could be a good time to explain how that felt unsafe and hurtful.

3. Encourage them to speak up and ask for help.

Recognizing the difference between safe and unsafe touches is the first step, but what they should do if someone touches them in an unsafe way? According to Book, children should be encouraged to use their loud “I Mean Business” voices and say, “Stop, that's not safe!” And then, your child should absolutely tell you what happened.

“It's about teaching children that there are limits,” Book tells Babble . “If something happens that makes you feel uncomfortable, I want you to come tell me.”

4. Let them know that they don't have to keep secrets that make them uncomfortable.

For a lot of parents, teaching children to be respectful and to avoid things like “tattle-telling” is high on the list of things we want our kids to learn. But Jayneen Sanders, sexual abuse advocate and author of a number of books like, Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept and My Body! What I Say Goes!, notes that we should also make sure children know that there are certain times when they should absolutely tattle.

“Secrets are the currency predators deal in,” Sanders tells Babble . “If a child has been educated to tell secrets that make them feel bad or uncomfortable to an adult they trust, then the [abuse can't continue.] By educating children to tell, we empower them.”

Abusers specifically look for children who they know will keep the truth of what is happening under wraps. Sanders explains:

“Abusers often test a child's ability to keep a secret on a number of occasions before sexual abuse begins, perhaps by saying, ‘Here is a special lolly for you but don't tell your parents I gave it to you. It can be our little secret.' If the child keeps that secret, than the abuser is off to a good start.”

That doesn't mean of course, that parents should never expect their kids to keep certain details to themselves. While Sanders recommends that parents enforce a “no secrets” policy in the home, she says that “happy surprises” (like what they're giving their friend as a birthday gift, let's say) are totally fine.

“Children need to know they don't always have to do what adults or older teenagers say,” Sanders tells Babble. “If the secret being feels wrong, then it is wrong — and there are no exceptions.”

5. Let them know that you will always believe them.

As parents, we'd all like to think that our children believe they can tell us anything. But how often do we make sure that assumption is correct? Ensuring that children feel comfortable having open communication with their parents — and that they can say anything without having their fears or concerns downplayed or ignored — is perhaps the most important thing parents can do to keep their children safe.

“What parents need to understand is they should never let their fear of sexual abuse put their kids at risk,” Sanders tells Babble . “It can happen, and it does. But so many survivors have said to me, ‘If only I'd known it was wrong from the first inappropriate touch,' or, ‘If only someone had believed me, it could have been so different.'”

The thought that awful things could happen to our children is probably the most difficult part of parenting. And honestly, sometimes it's hard to know whether we are doing the “right” things to keep our children safe. But when it comes to body safety and abuse-prevention, there are many things that can help mitigate the risk that all children face. And it's never too early, or too late, to start doing them.



Montgomery authorities see significant increase in child abuse, neglect cases

by Jennifer Horton

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -- Investigators continue to work on a severe child neglect case, where three children were reportedly living in deplorable conditions with feces and urine on the floor.

Child advocacy workers say they are seeing a spike in child neglect cases, something this region hadn't reported until 2016. They are using this case to ask everyone to be more aware of their surroundings, especially children in their neighborhood.

“This issue crosses all socio-economic lines,” Child Protect Executive Director Jannah Bailey explained. “If you know kids live in a house, and you normally saw them playing outside on a Saturday and then you don't see them anymore, that may be something you need to check on.”

The neglect cases are all the same, the victims weren't enrolled in school, drugs, predominately meth, is in the home, they are living in extreme filth and the majority need immediate medical attention.

“Even in the worst situations, this is the norm for these children, this is all they have known,” Bailey explained. “That's what we tell kids, ‘you aren't
in trouble', but our job is to make sure kids are safe, to make sure they have a safe place to live where an adult isn't hurting them, where they are fed, clothed and educated.”

Bailey stresses any concern of child abuse or neglect is not too small to report to DHR. Mandatory reporting laws allow anyone to make an anonymous report to their county DHR.

“The number of times I have made reports myself, I have never been asked to come to court, I have never been subpoenaed,” Bailey stated. “We always have to err on the side of the child.”

Child Protect has seen an increase in cases across the board. Last week, they conducted 24 forensic interviews in four days.

“It was just unbelievable,” Bailey admitted. “One of the things we are doing to address that, as of tomorrow, March 1, we are opening satellite offices in Elmore and Autauga counties and putting staff there to alleviate the increase we are seeing in Montgomery.”

No word if child abuse is on the increase or more reports are being filed.

Here is a list of county DHR offices where anonymous reports of child abuse and neglect can be filed.



AG's child abuse investigation continues, one year after scathing report on Altoona-Johnstown Diocese

by Dave Sutor

For decades, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown allegedly perpetrated a coverup to protect priests accused of sexually assaulting children.

Accusations against a few reported abusers, including Rev. Francis Luddy and Msgr. Francis McCaa, became publicly known during those years. But, for the most part, they were treated as isolated incidents by the community, instead of indications of a systemic problem.

That changed one year ago – on March 1, 2016 – when the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General released a grand jury report, accusing the diocese of sheltering at least 50 priests and other religious leaders, allegedly under the direct supervision of former Bishops Joseph Adamec and James Hogan.

The 147-page document provided information about “secret archives” kept by the diocese, a payout chart for different types of abuse, testimony from at least four priests who admitted to inappropriately touching children, and detailed biographies of the accused.

Tony DeGol, the diocese's secretary for communications, called the report “heartbreaking for all Catholics” and “especially painful for the survivors of sexual abuse and their loved ones.”

Even though the report has been released, the investigation is still considered to be ongoing.

“Through our grand jury report issued one year ago, we shined a light on clergy members' sexual abuse of children,” said Joe Grace, communications director for new Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “The Office of Attorney General will do everything in its power to uncover and prosecute these crimes to the fullest extent of the law.”

'Present' and 'future'

The diocese, in response to the report, held prayer services for victims and released a list of priests who had credible allegations of child sexual abuse made against them.

“Over the past year, Bishop Bartchak has devoted much of his time to collaborating with a diverse group of stakeholders to develop a new comprehensive approach that will help to make the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown a leader in the field of youth protection,” DeGol said. “We will be announcing the product of these efforts in the near future.

"We cannot change the past, but we have certainly learned from it. In that spirit, Bishop Bartchak is focused on the present and the future. He remains committed to the safety and protection of all children and youth in the Diocese, and he pledges continued support to those who have been harmed.”

But George Foster, who was personally called a “hero” by former Attorney General Kathleen Kane for collecting information about pedophile priests for years, does not think the diocese has done enough to address the issue.

“No, my personal observation is, I don't see anything that has substantially changed in the way the diocese monitors itself that makes me think they're not going to repeat some of the mistakes from the past,” said Foster, who is working on a book about abuse in the diocese.

Foster said Bartchak “didn't respond to this as a shepherd” but rather “responded to this as an attorney.”

'Old guard is still up'

Releasing the report brought national and international attention to the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Guardian and other well-known news outlets covered the story.

Child abuse advocacy groups, including Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and Road to Recovery, have supported alleged victims.

“People are accepting that this happened here, and it's not good,” Judy Jones, SNAP's Midwest associate director, said. “They're upset with the bishop, and the bishops before.”

SNAP recently set up a local chapter.

The organization has also frequently commented on local message boards and held events in order to draw attention to the allegations. The group plans to hold a press conference on Wednesday, beginning at 11 a.m. near the diocese's headquarters, to mark the one-year anniversary of the report's release.

“The truth needs to be coming out even if it's ugly,” Jones said.

Mitchell Garabedian, a Massachusetts attorney, has been an outspoken critic of the diocese over the past few years when he has represented dozens of victims.

“The report has raised awareness so adults realize they have to protect children who are in the presence of clergy,” said Garabedian, who achieved national prominence when he helped expose a coverup of child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and was portrayed in the film "Spotlight."

“I don't believe the report has changed the attitude of the Catholic Church inside of Pennsylvania or outside of Pennsylvania," Garabedian said. "The old guard is still up. The attitude of protecting priests at all costs still exists. Children are still at risk.”

Brother Baker case

In 2014, Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan was investigating allegations against Brother Stephen Baker, who is believed to have abused upward of 100 children when he served at what was then called Bishop McCort High School from 1992 into 2001.

She soon realized the case stretched beyond her jurisdiction into other parts of the diocese. Callihan believed the county lacked the manpower and money to conduct the necessary investigation. Plus, a conflict of interest existed because an individual who reported his alleged abuse to the diocese and Johnstown Police Department previously worked for the district attorney's office.

So Callihan referred the case to Kane, whose investigation into Baker quickly expanded to include the entire diocese.

A separate grand jury report on Baker was released later in March 2016. It included indictments against Revs. Giles A. Schinelli, Robert J. D'Aversa and Anthony M. Criscitelli on charges of endangering the welfare of children and conspiracy.

The three defendants – in their roles as ministers provincial of the Third Order Regular, Province of the Immaculate Conception – are accused of giving Baker assignments that provided him access to children.

Oral arguments in their cases are scheduled to begin on April 27 in the Blair County Courthouse.

The attorney general's office has established a tip line for victims to call: 888-538-8541. Hundreds of calls have been received.

Diocese officials have encouraged victims or their loved ones to call the number.

“As always, we urge anyone with any information concerning the sexual abuse of minors to report it to authorities immediately,” DeGol said.



Parental education programs seek to prevent child abuse

by Caroline Rourke

SPOKANE, Wash. - 28-year-old Joshua Mobley is accused of killing a 10-month-old child who was in his care, and many community members now wonder what could have been done to prevent it.

There are a number of places, such as the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, that provide services for parents in a moment of crisis.

There are also places like Partners with Families and Children, that work proactively and reactively to combat abuse.

“We are a children's advocacy center-- we provide child forensic interviews and medical exams for children where maltreatment is suspected,” said PWFC developmental director Linda Safford.

From supporting children through difficult court testimonies, to helping with substance abuse problems..
PWFC is an agency that attempts to attack the child abuse problem at its roots.

“Often times in their need and their urgency to get care for their children that's where these situations occur,” Safford said.

But, those roots run deep.

“We know from our partners at the [Spokane Regional] Health District that in 2015 there were 5,431 documented cases of child abuse or maltreatment in Spokane County.

Additional SRHD data also states that, in the past decade, over 50,000 cases of child abuse have been documented in our county, a number Safford describes as “staggering.”

PWFC treats around 1,000 families a year, and additional clients in it's substance abuse and mental health programs. Safford said many of the people they work with are single parents.

Spokane offers a number of resources, but many are focused on mothers.

At PWFC, anyone seeking to learn more about childcare – mothers, fathers, or even caregivers/babysitters-- has options.

“PWFC fills the gap, fills component around parent education and parent support and specifically around fathers,” said PWFC Mental Health and Clinical Director Christie Pelz.

The “Engaging Fatherhood” program is one of several that aims to minimize the stigma surrounding seeking help-through empathy.

“When you can sit in a room with other dads and other men in a parenting role, all of the sudden 'it's not just me feeling like I'm at my wit's end'- it gives you a little bit of hope that 'I can make it through next time,'” said Pelz

It works. Parents in the program check in each week, and take pre and post program surveys that point to improvements.

“We see decreases in harsh punishment, and decreases in unrealistic expectations that they may have,” Pelz said.

Because caring for a child is not always easy- but abuse is not the answer.

“It's tough being a parent.. and it's wonderful to have that opportunity to normalize the frustration,” Pelz said.

PWFC takes referrals from agencies, but is open to anyone. For more information about the programs they offer, visit their website.

In a crisis moment, parents can call the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery for help. Their phone number is (509) 5 35-3155 and more information is available on their website.



House, Senate child abuse bills both address statute of limitations, differ on retroactivity

by Dave Sutor

Two separate bills to extend the statutes of limitation for victims of child sexual abuse have been introduced into the Pennsylvania General Assembly this year.

Both would eliminate all age limits for criminal actions and civil lawsuits against alleged abusers going forward.

However, there is a major difference.

A House of Representatives bill – introduced by state Rep. Mark Rozzi, a Democrat from Berks County, and supported by state Rep. Frank Burns from East Taylor Township – includes a two-year window in which past victims could file civil complaints against their alleged abusers. The Senate version does not contain any such retroactivity.

That point of contention led to the issue going unresolved last year when similar bills were debated after the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General issued a report – released one year ago on March 1, 2016 – that accused the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown of covering up child sexual abuse.

“My reason for retroactivity is all victims deserve justice in this commonwealth,” Rozzi, an alleged victim of child sexual abuse, said.

Retroactivity is opposed by President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, a Republican from the 25th District who put forth the Senate bill, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, and the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania. Scarnati's office did not respond to a request for an interview.

Sam Marshall, president and CEO of the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania, said the Senate version provides “very strong protection against child abuse” for “today's children and children going forward.”

Opponents of retroactivity believe it would violate the Pennsylvania Constitution's remedies clause that states “all courts shall be open; and every man for an injury done him in his lands, goods, person or reputation shall have remedy by due course of law, and right and justice administered without sale, denial or delay.”

The two-year window will “not pass muster under the Pennsylvania Constitution,” according to Marshall.

Rozzi and his supporters, including Shaun Dougherty, a Westmont resident who came forward with his allegations of abuse after the grand jury report was released, disagree.

“Retroactivity needs to go up and be voted on,” Dougherty said. “And, if it is deemed to be unconstitutional, which I don't believe it will, but if it is deemed to be unconstitutional, I, as a victim, need to hear that from a judge, from an elected judge in Pennsylvania.”

Rozzi's bill includes a severable provision that states if any part of the legislation is held invalid by the courts that it shall not affect other parts of the statute. He has challenged the president pro tempore to let the court system decide the constitutionality.

“If Scarnati thinks it's unconstitutional then what's he so afraid of?” Rozzi asked.

Under Pennsylvania's current civil statute of limitation, victims who were under the age of 18 when the abuse occurred can file civil claims until age 30. Criminal charges can be brought until age 50 by alleged victims born after Aug. 27, 2002.

Those statutes prevented any new charges or claims being brought against the living priests accused of committing child sexual abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown grand jury report. At the time of its release, the attorney general's office called for eliminating the statutes.



Bristol, Va. records significant increase in child abuse cases

by Olivia Bailey

BRISTOL, Va. - In about three months, Bristol, Virginia authorities tell us they have already worked more than 20 child abuse cases in the city. Investigators say it is a problem they have seen increasing over the past several years.

Detectives are constantly focusing on building their next case, but this year many of those new cases deal with child abuse.

"The cases come in, and regardless of just about every case we're working on, these go to the front of the line," Sgt. Steve Crawford said.

In 2015 to 2016, the number of child abuse cases rose 28 percent. Crawford said that is a significant increase, but an even more jaw-dropping number is the increase they have seen this year. In the first two months of 2017 compared to that same timeline in 2016, it was a 70 percent increase in cases.

Crawford said, "That is neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse."

News 5 also reached out to the Bristol Department of Social Services to see if the criminal caseload translates to the number of cases they are working. They told us they have also seen an increase, removing 18 children from homes in just three months.

Director of Bristol, Virginia Social Services Kathy Johnson said, "So many times, we go into a home regardless of what the complaint is when you start peeling off those layers, you find different issues, but I think overwhelmingly the drug abuse is prevalent here."

While the goal of Social Services is to keep families together, they tell us situations involving substance abuse are considered a serious or severe case. The department is mandated to respond to those cases within 24 hours.

"It creates an urgent situation because the parents or caretakers are incapacitated by the drugs, so the child's needs aren't being met," Child Protective Services Supervisor Jeff Justice said.

The department currently has 226 open cases under investigation or going through a family assessment. They tell us such a high number can stretch resources thin for those providing assistance in the community. However, the biggest concern of all is helping those children through the traumatic situations.

Crawford told us they believe part of the reason for the increase in cases is due to help from members of the community reporting suspected abuse. He encourages anyone to contact their local authorities if you suspect child abuse. A hotline you can call is 1-800-552-7096.


New Mexico

Baby Brianna child abuse expansion bill dies in House committee

by Madeline Schmitt

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) A bill to expand the state's child abuse statute, known as “Baby Brianna's law,” died in a House of Representatives committee Monday. The sponsor of the bill says she's disappointed and not happy.

The bill, House Bill 45, was sponsored by Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque. The bill expanded the penalty for people who abuse a child over 12 years of age, resulting in the death of that child.

Right now, only those people convicted of abusing a child to death under 12-years old are sentenced to life in prison. If the child is over 12, the maximum time served is only 18 years.

Rep. Maestas Barnes thinks that when Baby Brianna's Law was enacted, it was unfair to separate these as two crimes. That's why she sponsored HB45, which would give those who kill a child by way of child abuse life in prison, no matter the child's age.

Her bill, however, died in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee Monday and Rep. Maestas Barnes is not happy about it. This came after the bill passed two other House committees.

KRQE News 13 spoke to Rep. Antonio Maestas, D-Albuquerque, who voted “no” to the bill in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.

“We don't look at policy in appropriations, we ask ourselves one simple question: Do we have the money? And this year, the answer's no,” Rep. Maestas said.

Rep. Maestas said it would cost too much money to keep people in prison longer and to hold the trials for these people. He pointed to the state's Fiscal Year 18 budget crisis, which is still unresolved.

Rep. Maestas Barnes says the money argument is just a smoke screen for what is really a party-line vote.

“The extra time that an individual's going to serve under the new law wouldn't go into effect, wouldn't affect the budget for 18 years after the conviction,” she said.

Rep. Maestas Barnes says the message the Democratic representatives who voted “no” to her bill are giving, is that New Mexico's children are not valued equally.

This same bill was introduced in the 2016 Special Session with Rep. Maestas Barnes as a co-sponsor.

During that session, Rep. Antonio Maestas voted “no” to the bill in the House Judiciary Committee. The bill still made it to the House floor, however, for a vote. There, Rep. Maestas voted “yes” to the same bill.

The bill ultimately died on the Senate side, however.

Here's a list of the lawmakers, listed with their party and county, who voted “no” to Rep. Maestas Barnes' HB45 in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee on Monday:

•  Patricia Lundstrom (D-McKinley)

•  George Dodge (D-Guadalupe)

•  Harry Garcia (D-Cibola)

•  Antonio “Moe” Maestas (D-Bernalillo)

•  Nick Salazar (D-Rio Arriba)

•  Tomas Salazar (D-San Miguel)

•  Christine Trujillo (D-Bernalillo)

•  Rodolpho “Rudy” Martinez (D-Grant)

•  Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson (D-Bernalillo)

Rep. Candie Sweetser, D-Luna, walked out of the hearing before the bill was voted on and therefore was not present.



We need to speak out against child abuse

by Addadga Cruickshank

Child abuse is the physical, sexual, emotional mistreatment or neglect of a child. Child abuse can occur in a child's home or in the organisations, schools or communities the child interacts. There are four major categories of child abuse: neglect, psychological/emotional abuse, and child sexual abuse.

Child abuse is occurring in Jamaica right under the noses of the relevant authorities, yet nothing of any substance is being done to prevent these acts. Almost everywhere you go in and around the streets of Jamaica one will see these acts being played out. Women can be seen begging on the streets with a child in tow, or even having the kids walking around selling bag juice and other stuff.

Young teenage girls are being abused sexually on a daily basis by some of those who are employed in the public transport sector. The main perpetrators are the route taxi drivers and minibus crews. Apart from being sexually abused, their lives are also put at risk when they are crammed into these taxis and buses for maximum gain.

The very powerful song Concrete Angel is sung by Martina McBride and is a very touching one indeed. The main theme of the song is child abuse. The song tells a story about a little girl (named Angela Carter in the music video) who's trying to deal with abuse from her alcoholic mother. Some people, including the girl's teacher, seem to notice signs of abuse, but just try to ignore it. Ultimately, the little girl is killed when her mother beats her to death in a drunken rage.

Situations like this happen regularly and will continue to occur if the relevant authorities keep sitting around waiting for someone to lodge a report. Teachers, in particular, need to be more aware and sensitive to any unusual cuts and bruises that children go to school with. Any sign of physical abuse should be reported immediately to the police or the Child Development Agency.

The police should start cracking down on paedophiles who go around parading as legitimate providers of public transportation. Family members and neighbours should begin to report suspicious activities to the authorities, where children are concerned. Most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims; they are relatives of the child, most often brothers, fathers, mothers, uncles or cousins. There are other acquaintances such as friends of the family, babysitters, or neighbours. Strangers are often not the offenders in most child sexual abuse cases.

Child abuse is a complex phenomenon with multiple causes, and understanding the causes of abuse is crucial to addressing the problem. We owe our children an obligation, whether they are ours or not. Until children are fit to function as self-supporting and informed adults, we have an obligation not to take advantage of their defencelessness so as to inflict damage, or to demand their submission to acts that are not in their best interests.



A Pediatrician Just Laid Out How to Protect Your Child From Sexual Abuse—And She's Begging You to Listen

This pediatrician just laid out when, where, and by whom our kids are most likely to suffer sexual abuse, and gave us all the tools to prevent it.

by Jenny Rapson

Recently, a good friend of mine shared a Facebook post by one of her friends, who happens to be a pediatrician. The post was on something that should be of interest to ALL parents: child sexual abuse; specifically, when it happens, where it happens, and WHO victimizes our kids and how to talk to your kids about it and PREVENT it.

I was immediately moved by the excellence of this information and asked if I could re-publish it here. The author, Dr. Tobi Adeyeye Amosun, replied: PLEASE republish this. Her invaluable post is below, and I urge you moms and dads: take it to heart. Follow the good doctor's advice and talk with your kids, too.


Without going into graphic details, I probably get about 1-2 kids a month in my office who have been sexually abused or molested. I will address each of the things that I mentioned above in light of the most common scenarios I've seen.

1. The location of an incident [of sexual abuse] is likely to be at a place where you are familiar.

Places where I've heard of this happening: known family members and friends are far and away the most common. Perpetrators ages ranging from young teens to adults. It is almost always a male cousin, known neighbor, friend's older brother/cousin, babysitter, father/stepfather, uncle or mom's boyfriend. Occasionally it is a female, but that's rare unless she is grooming the kids to have access to someone else. Church youth group is the number two location, usually because there is less supervision. School, camp and sports are the other locations, but less likely unless there are kids allowed to be alone with teachers and coaches. Ask the schools and coaches and churches what their safety plans are to protect kids. It's never perfect, but I feel at least they know there are aware parents and it helps keep everyone accountable.

2. Slumber parties: I wanted to address this separately because of it being a sensitive subject.

My daughter is allowed to go to a select few friends' homes (like five families) for sleepovers. Never parents that I don't know extremely well, which means she doesn't get to sleep over at school friends' homes. Never large groups of kids, where one kid being separated might not be noticed. That said, I can't tell you how many times patients tell me the first time they were touched inappropriately or the first time they saw pornography was during a sleepover. I only get one chance to raise my kids and I'd rather be a mean parent who is no fun than have the other possibility.

3. Please use appropriate anatomical terms for body parts.

Eyes are eyes, knees are knees and penises are penises (proceed with the pearl clutching). Don't use cutesy names or vague names like booty or wee wee or cookie or treasure. It confuses the matter in case something needs to be reported. It also destigmatizes those body parts.

4. “Safe touch” vs. “bad touch”: make sure kids know which is which.

Safe touches I usually teach are the ones that are in areas not covered by your bathing suit, like shoulders, head and feet. Safe touches are also those that make you feel calm and safe, like a hug from your mom. Bad touches are those in the areas that are covered up by underwear. They are also the ones that make you feel nervous, scared or worried. If a bigger person is touching you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, that is a bad touch. Always tell your parents or other adult about bad touches. And let kids know there should never be secrets between kids and adults and that they will NEVER get in trouble for telling someone.

5. “Stranger danger” is a fallacy.

The vast majority of the time someone who molests a child is known to the family. Beware of so-called “grooming behaviors”. This is usually from an adult male (or female) who ingratiates themselves to the child and family to lower their defenses. Usually they will try to establish a trusting relationship with the family and seek opportunities to be alone with kids. They do this so that any accusations from the child will seem made up. This has happened in almost every situation I have seen.

6. Be aware of what kids are looking at on smartphones and tablets.

Especially from their friends whose parents may not monitor things so closely. I usually tell parents at every preteen and above well check that as long as they are paying for the phone and the kid is under 18, it is their responsibility to monitor their child's activities in social media, texting, etc. There are so many really clever ways for kids to hide their activity online and parents are almost always behind the 8 ball on this.

7. Most importantly, trust your gut.

If someone seems a little off or a little too nice to your kids, trust yourself and keep your kids out of any situations where they would be alone with that person. We have all been in situations where you just want to be polite, even when someone is giving you the heebie jeebies. There is a great book called “The Gift of Fear” that talks about people forgetting to trust their intuition in potentially dangerous situations and why there are times when you need to listen to that spirit of discernment.

I don't lock my kids up and throw away the key, as much as I would love to protect them forever. But these are hopefully some practical tips as a mom and pediatrician to make your kids feel safe and to highlight some potentially dangerous situations. By the way, we start this conversation around 3 or 4 years old in our house.



South Dakota

Existing Protections Fall Short for Mandated Child Abuse Reporters

by Franne Sippel

In 2001, graduate assistant Mike McQueary followed Penn State protocol when, after witnessing retired football coach Jerry Sandusky molesting a boy in a locker room shower, he told Coach Joe Paterno and two other superiors what he saw. As a mandated reporter, McQueary was required by law to report suspected child abuse.

After the story came to light in 2011, McQueary – then assistant football coach – faced brutal retaliation: defamation by Penn State, suspension from his coaching duties, and his contract was not renewed. He told The Inquirer that “his ties to the case have cost him his livelihood, marriage, and career.”

McQueary was awarded millions in a lawsuit against Penn State and an additional $5 million in a whistle-blower suit. His experience is not an isolated event, and the vast majority of mandatory reporters are not made financially whole for the experience. A few examples of bad outcomes for people who performed their legal mandate to report child abuse:

•  Psychologist Jim Singer lost his license to practice.

•  Psychologist Mike Gillum received death threats and lost his job.

•  Carolyn Huff, a licensed nurse psychotherapist has been fighting her Board of Nursing for almost five years for due process.

•  Psychologist Michael Tilus was issued a letter of reprimand, transferred, and his scheduled promotion was rescinded until the New York Times covered his story.

Despite current laws meant to protect mandatory reporters of child abuse, the above is just a small sample of documented cases of retaliation where immunity protections were insufficient.

Recent court cases where mandated reporters have been retaliated against have resulted in two amicus briefs, demonstrating the unity of professional organizations in supporting mandatory reporters.

Schott V. Wenk

The court concluded that a Columbus, Ohio, school administrator, a mandatory reporter who suspected and reported sexual child abuse by the child's father, could be held liable and not protected under the immunity law. The student's parents, who alleged the administrator was retaliating against them due to a dispute over their daughter's Individual Education Plan, sued the administrator. The court ruled that a person who is the subject of a mandatory report (in this case, the father), may bring a legal proceeding against the reporter, alleging retaliation.

Jones v. Wang

G.J., an infant, sustained skull and rib fractures while in his parents' care (the Joneses). The story his mother gave was medically inconsistent with his injuries. Radiologists suspected child abuse, which was consistent with medical literature. Consequently, Dr. Claudia Wang, medical director of UCLA Suspected Child Abuse and Negligence Team, reasonably suspected child abuse at the hands of his parents and believed he would be in further danger if released from the hospital. Dr. Wang reported the suspected abuse and asked a social worker to place a hold on the infant.

The baby was hospitalized for two days for further evaluation and safety. (Dr. Wang recommended hospitalization and his mother agreed, though the majority found a factual dispute about whether the mother's consent was voluntary.) During the infant's stay, the infant had a sitter in his room, wore a tracking bracelet, and could be with his parents. Based upon the child spending two days in the hospital, the parents sued Dr. Wang claiming their child was unreasonably seized. The district court denied Dr. Wang's motion for summary judgment and a divided panel affirmed.

Dr. Wang's recommendation coincided with best practices (which requires hospitalization if necessary to protect an injured child from abuse) and with medical ethics (which only permits patient discharge into a safe environment), but on appeal, the majority found it was a clearly established violation of the law and denied immunity to Dr. Wang. Amici argued that many doctors refuse to consult or report on child abuse cases due to fear of getting sued by parents and urged a strengthening of immunity protections.

Recognizing the loopholes in reporting immunity, the Secretary of Health and Human Services made recommendations to Congress for strengthening immunity in child maltreatment cases.

Retaliation against mandated reporters takes many forms: defamation, harassment, job loss and loss of parental custody, just to name a few. And it happens for various reasons, including the prevention of lawsuits against government agencies, to protect the image and brand of an institution or person, and because federal oversight of immunity protections is nonexistent.

The results of such retaliation may be devastating. Consider the impact of many mandatory reporters reading about what happened to McQueary. The outcome may be a decrease in child abuse reporting for fear of retaliation, leading to further abuse and deaths.

Since the Penn State scandal, several states have passed laws aimed at punishing mandated reporters who fail to report child abuse, as well as laws that widen the universe of people who are deemed mandated reporters. But few, if any, legislators are pursuing changes to enforce protections for mandatory reporters who report child abuse.

Consequently, since no entity in any state investigates instances of retaliation, mandatory reporters are forced to defend themselves and their reputations, often at a huge personal, financial, and emotional expense. Other than hiring a lawyer, there is nowhere for the mandatory reporter to report retaliation or access guidance, support, or resources.

In 1974, the federal government passed the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, or CAPTA, which provided minimum national standards states must meet to qualify for federal funding. To motivate mandatory reporters to report abuse, CAPTA requires all states to have “provisions for immunity from prosecution under State and local laws and regulations for individuals making good faith reports.” All states have granted criminal and civil immunity to mandatory reporters acting in good faith.

However, federal oversight of CAPTA is grossly insufficient. Neither the individual states nor the federal government ensure that immunity laws are followed. This leaves mandatory reporters who are retaliated against with the devastating realization that the laws meant to protect them are meaningless.

Solving this problem means first, we, as a society, have to acknowledge that we have one. Though the media has covered individual cases of retaliation, no one has investigated the issue and connected the dots. No mandatory reporter should have to go through what Mike McQueary experienced for simply adhering to his legal mandate to report child abuse.

Mandatory reporters are the voice for abused and neglected children. Let us do everything we can to allow their voices to be heard.

Franne Sippel, EdD is a licensed psychologist in private practice. She has worked in the field of mental health since 1989. Much of her experience has been working with sexually abused children and adolescents.



Just What We Need in Child Welfare: Less Accountability!

by Richard Wexler

Pity the poor, oppressed “mandated reporter” of child abuse.

Sure, they already have protections from lawsuits that are so strong that they have to not only violate the law but have good reason to know they're doing it, or be acting maliciously, before a jury can even consider what they've done to an innocent family.

But, says Franne Sippel, that's not enough! How does she know? Because out of the millions of times mandated reporters have filed reports – or in some cases, even seized children on their own authority – she's found a handful in which the reporter was sued or faced some kind of retaliation.

Since the entire structure of American child welfare is built on a foundation of horror stories, it's no surprise that they constitute Sippel's entire “evidence base.” But even some of the horror stories don't hold up to scrutiny. She cites five instances of alleged retaliation against a mandated reporter, but provides supporting evidence for only one of them.

Then she cites two court cases. But she links only to items that support her position – not the actual court decisions. The decisions tell a different story.

What the Courts Said

In one case, Sippel writes that “G.J., an infant, sustained skull and rib fractures while in his parents' care. The story his mother gave was medically inconsistent with his injuries. Radiologists suspected child abuse, which was consistent with medical literature.”

But according to the actual decision, the parents made a strong case that there was overwhelming evidence abuse did not cause the child's injuries, and that the doctor they sued allegedly used deception and coercion to hold the child in the hospital needlessly. Ultimately the child was separated from his family for months before a court ruled that, in fact, there had been no abuse.

The court did not say the doctor did all these things, ruling only that there was enough evidence to allow a jury to decide. But Sippel thinks even that is too much of a burden for a mandated reporter to bear.

Sippel also doesn't link to the actual decision in the second case she cites. That decision paints a picture of a school administrator allegedly waging a vendetta against a parent fighting with the school over a child's special education plan. The court found that “… the facts taken in the light most favorable to [the accused] suggest that she embellished or entirely fabricated [some] allegations, including those that most clearly suggested sexual abuse.”

Again, the court did not say the administrator is guilty – only that the alleged conduct is not protected by immunity, so the parents have a right to let a jury decide if it took place.

And, of course, the horror stories go both ways. Consider these cases of mandated reporters abusing authority. And this one. And this one. And this one. And this story noting how even landlords are getting into the act, using false child abuse reports to retaliate against tenants.

What HHS Said

Sippel's claim that “The Secretary of Health and Human Services made recommendations to Congress for strengthening immunity in child maltreatment cases” is also misleading.

The tone of the HHS report certainly is sympathetic to mandated reporters; as one would expect, since the authors consulted only mandated reporters. What would a report that questioned only the falsely accused and the lawyers who represent them have found?

But the report makes no actual recommendations of its own. Rather, it passes on recommendations from mandated reporters. Surprise! They want even less accountability.

Indeed, the extremism of some seeking to avoid accountability knows no bounds. This can be seen in the notorious “right-to-lie” case, in which child welfare caseworkers claimed they were not constitutionally prohibited from outright lying to the court to get a child taken from her mother.

In what The Chronicle aptly characterizes as an “epic dis” of this argument, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals points out that California passed a law specifically stating that immunity does not apply to child welfare workers who, acting with malice, commit perjury and fabricate evidence.

That seems pretty basic. But, the decision notes, the association of county welfare directors and the National Association of Social Workers, among others, actually opposed the law!

And finally, if you're going to argue that even minimal accountability for mandated reporters might discourage them from reporting, “leading to more abuse and deaths,” you probably should not choose a case from Pennsylvania as your example, as Sippel does.

In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, reports alleging child abuse have skyrocketed, deluging the state hotline and county child welfare agencies. And of course, in parts of the state, foster care has skyrocketed as well.

All of which makes it less likely workers will have time to find children in real danger – leading to more abuse and deaths.





Mandated Reporters: Protection Does Not Weaken Accountability

by Nancy Guardia

Dear Chronicle of Social Change,

Dr. Franne Sippel and I are licensed professionals who have dedicated our careers to serving vulnerable children and their families. In the course of our work on the front lines, we have observed gaps in protection from liability for mandatory reporters.

Dr. Sippel addressed this lack of immunity in her recent opinion piece in The Chronicle of Social Change, Existing Protections Fall Short for Mandated Child Abuse Reporters.” Richard Wexler, a journalist who claims to be an expert in child welfare policy, countered with a blog post entitled “Just What We Need in Child Welfare: Less Accountability!

But Mr. Wexler, misses the point. Dr. Sippel is not calling for “minimal accountability”; she is advocating for enforced and expanded protections for those already serving as child abuse reporters.

Sixty percent of all reports of abuse or neglect are made by a child's teacher, therapist, doctor or another child care provider. These are the trusted adults in a child's life. If they are silenced, who will be that child's voice? It is unreasonable to conclude that people with advanced education, training, credentials and extensive experience, would compromise their ethical judgment in favor of “less accountability.”

Rather, they do not want to be sued for doing what the law requires – taking reasonable steps to prevent harm to a child.

In his blog post, Mr. Wexler makes a number of inaccurate statements about mandatory reporting:

Wexler: “They (child abuse reporters) already have protections from lawsuits that are so strong that they not only have to violate the law but have good reason to know they're doing it, or be acting maliciously before a jury can even consider what they have done to an innocent family.”

Fact: No government entity prevents an alleged child abuser from suing a mandated reporter in civil court. All an adult needs is a lawyer willing to take the case.

A Health and Human Services report from 2013 included results from a survey of 544 medical professionals about their experience “cooperating or assisting with the filing of a mandatory report or providing consultation services to health care providers, investigators, child welfare agencies or law enforcement … and any resulting litigation.” Most respondents had at least 20 years of experience, with many over 30 years.

More than one in 10 of these medical professionals had been sued in federal or state courts for alleged malpractice, or for alleged civil rights violations.

Wexler: “Out of the millions of times mandated reporters have filed reports – or in some cases, even seized children on their own authority – she's [Dr. Sippel] found a handful in which the reporter was sued or faced come kind of retaliation.”

Fact: Again, the HHS report's's study found that 11 percent of doctors who worked on cases of child abuse or neglect were subsequently sued by the alleged abusers. Obviously, this is more than a “handful,” and indicates a nationwide problem.

In addition, the report did not include a statistical analysis of non-medical professionals. The report did cite a number of court cases in which educators, social workers, and psychologists also experienced legal retribution for doing child protection work.

Wexler: “The report passes on recommendations from mandated reporters … Surprise! They want even less accountability … the extremism of some seeking to avoid accountability knows no bounds.”

Fact: Here is what the report says on the matter:

“Since the first state laws enacted in the 1960s related to mandated reporting of suspected child abuse or neglect, a fundamental provision of the laws was granting immunity for those reporting in good faith, even if their suspicions were incorrect. From the onset, the medical profession feared being a target for potential lawsuits, concerned about retaliation by parents who were the subject of child abuse and neglect reports … (our) review of all state immunity laws disclosed that states have universally extended civil immunity to all good faith reporters.”

But, as Dr. Sippel notes, these laws offer little real protection to community professionals:

•  Great variation exists among current state laws. There are no uniform standards for who is considered a mandated reporter, and how, when, and to whom a report must be made.

•  Immunity laws for good faith child abuse reporting are ineffective because there is no government enforcement. No state provides a complaint process for investigating instances of retaliation against mandatory reporters.

•  Advocates for child abuse prevention do not want abuse reporting laws strengthened “to avoid accountability” – just the opposite. We want government enforcement of legal protections for mandatory reporting, so suspected abuse can be investigated, and perpetrators can be held responsible.

Wexler begins his blog with sarcasm: “Pity the poor oppressed mandated reporter.”

Wexler directs the one-man organization, The National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, and he claims to be an advocate for children. Yet, Mr. Wexler's degree is in journalism, and he does not have advanced education, training, or actual work experience in the child welfare field.

In serious discussion about which policies best keep children safe, we must consider factual information rather than opinions based on personal beliefs. Mr. Wexler's mockery of professionals who work with child abuse victims is unfair and does not deserve consideration in a public forum.

Nancy Guardia, MSW, LCSW practiced as a clinical social worker in Massachusetts for over twenty years, providing psychotherapy to individuals and families. She has expertise treating trauma survivors and working with men convicted of domestic violence. She is currently a licensed social worker in New York state and advocates for a national law on child protection.



What is grooming? How to spot a paedophile before it's too late

by Timna Jacks

It can start with making a child in their care feel "privileged". Then might come the purchase of a toy.

What may seem like an innocent gesture may be the beginning of a plot to prepare a child for sex, according to the child abuse royal commission.

But how do you know? Schools, youth groups, and other organisations caring for children are being asked to be alert to grooming, but how can they step in before it's too late?

The question is even more pertinent in Victoria, with new laws making grooming a criminal offence and the Victorian Government releasing new guidelines teaching children to watch out for grooming.

A paper released by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Tuesday has tried to define it.

But the document includes a key caveat: despite emerging research into the issue, grooming remains "difficult to identify and define".

What is grooming?

The commission defines grooming as: "The use of a variety of manipulative and controlling techniques with a vulnerable subject ... in order to establish trust or normalise sexually harmful behaviour."

Grooming can happen in a range of settings – schools, churches or the homes of family friends.

Vulnerable children are often targeted, but adults can also be groomed by perpetrators trying to access a child's life.

Grooming can appear non-sexual and it can occur while the perpetrator is engaging in an "otherwise normal relationship with a child" at the same time.

A "key difficulty" in identifying grooming, the commission states, is that the process is incremental and it consists of "many discrete acts", which, on their own, may not be criminal or abusive.

The grooming behaviour does not have to be sexual in nature. And the abuse, or the assault, does not have to have taken place.

The act can be distinguished only by the perpetrator's motivation to prepare a child for sex.

How do you recognise a person's 'motivation'?

You watch out for warning signs.

A potential paedophile might start by making the child feel "special" or "privileged".

This can involve targeting children using games or toys, so if an adult takes an interest in playing with toys in a manner that appears to "exceed his or her caregiving role", alarm bells should be ringing.

Other warning signs include an adult explicitly asking a child to keep a relationship secret.

Testing personal boundaries such as encouraging inappropriate physical contact, is another indicator.

Often, grooming follows three stages: gaining access to the victim, initiating and maintaining abuse, and then concealing the abuse.

The incremental acts of grooming usually increase in intensity.

When the grooming is most overt, a perpetrator would be exposing a child to alcohol, drugs or pornography.

However, in some cases, the commission states grooming is "only discernible after the abuse has been identified … because the perpetrator's intent or motivation is not immediately visible."

How do perpetrators operate?

Perpetrators are diverse in their motivations and behaviours, but can broadly fit into three types of people who groom. However, it is possible that they may shift from one type to another over time.

•  Predatory perpetrators are more likely to have a diagnosis of paedophilia so, the commission says, they are "persistently and exclusively sexually attracted to children." They manipulate environments to abuse children, perpetrate the abuse over time and in multiple settings. They are more likely to be give children special treatment, including gifts and enticements. After they are caught, these perpetrators may claim that the child initiated contact with them made up false stories.

•  Opportunistic perpetrators engage in criminal behaviour outside of abusing children and are less likely to by fixated on sexually abusing children. They do not prefer children to adults, but use children for their own sexual interests. "If grooming does occur, it is likely to be prompted by the vulnerability of a child, lack of supervision," the commission finds.

•  Situational perpetrators do not have a preference for children, but may abuse a child due to a sense of inadequacy, poor coping skills, or the absence of an adult relationship. They are generally law-abiding. "A perpetrator may see a child's playfulness, openness, timidness, physicality, nakedness or delinquency as a prompt or opportunity to abuse"

How is grooming overlooked?

Grooming can be overlooked if the perpetrator is popular.

Confirmation bias means that colleagues may ignore warning signs if a perpetrator has made a positive impression.

This is a deliberate effort on the part of the perpetrator.

"By building an initially trusting relationship with colleagues, the perpetrator was able to behave in a way that appeared outwardly appropriate," the commission finds.

Perpetrators can also groom institutions. They pursue professions that enable them to target and sexually abuse children.

These perpetrators manipulate systems to gain a position of trust, which positions them as an "insider".

It is easier for perpetrators to do this when the environment is secretive or closed, or if allegations of abuse are discouraged due to the risk of criticism of management or the institution's reputation.

The commission finds that an organisation's culture can stamp out grooming by introducing robust supervision policies, screening techniques and an accessible avenue for people to report breaches.

Blue Knot Helpline ------------------------ 1300 657 380
Care Leavers Australia Network ------- 1800 008 774
Survivors & Mates Support Network -- 1800 472 676



Libya exposed as an epicentre for migrant child abuse

by Paul Adams

The United Nations has warned that large numbers of children are still risking their lives to make the dangerous journey from Libya to Italy.

Unicef says almost 26,000 children - most of them unaccompanied - crossed the Mediterranean last year.

In its new report, Unicef says many children suffer from violence and sexual abuse at the hands of smugglers and traffickers.

But they rarely report their abuse, for fear of arrest and deportation.

The agency also says there is a lack of food, water and medical care in Libya's detention centres.

The plight of children, many of them unaccompanied by parents, has become a tragically familiar part of the wider story of mass migration over the past two years.

But while much has been said about the extreme dangers faced at sea, the privations experienced on land, especially in Libya, are less familiar.

Unicef's latest report, A Deadly Journey for Children, documents - in sometimes horrific detail - stories of slavery, violence and sexual abuse experienced by huge numbers of vulnerable children making their perilous way to Italy.

"What really shocked Unicef staff and me... is what happens to them [children] on this route," says Justin Forsyth, the organisation's deputy executive director. "Many of these children have been brutalised, raped, killed on this route."

Girls such as nine-year-old Kamis, who set off with her mother from their home in Nigeria. After a desert crossing in which a man died, followed by a dramatic rescue at sea, they found themselves held at a detention centre in the Libyan town of Sabratha.

"They used to beat us every day," Kamis told the researchers. "There was no water there either. That place was very sad. There's nothing there."

Much of the violence is gratuitous, and much of it is sexual.

"Nearly half the women and children interviewed had experienced sexual abuse during migration," the report says. "Often multiple times and in multiple locations."

Borders, it seems, are particularly dangerous.

"Sexual violence was widespread and systemic at crossings and checkpoints," says the report.

Many of the assailants are in uniform. This is said to be just one reason why those who suffer abuse are reluctant to report their experiences.

And Libya, as the funnel through which so many journeys pass, has earned itself a shocking reputation as the epicentre of abuse.

"Approximately one third [of those interviewed] indicated they had been abused in Libya," the report says. "A large majority of these children did not answer when asked who had abused them."

So commonplace are stories of rape and sexual enslavement that some women embarking on the journey take precautions, such as getting contraceptive injections and carrying emergency protection with them.

The report maps 34 known detention centres in Libya, three of them deep in the country's desert interior.

Most are run by the government's Department for Combating Illegal Migration. But Unicef says that armed groups also hold migrants in an unknown number of unofficial camps.

"The detention centres run by militias, we're much more worried about," says Mr Forsyth. "That's where a lot of abuse is happening and we have very, very limited access."

In 2016, more than 180,000 migrants crossed from Libya to Italy. According to the UN, almost 26,000 of these were children, most of them unaccompanied. The number of unaccompanied children appears to be soaring.

"It's a combination of factors," says Mr Forsyth. "The situation in places like Eritrea and northern Nigeria is very bad. Also in the Gambia recently."

'I wanted to cross the sea'

Politics aside, poverty and the promise of a better life remain key drivers.

"I wanted to cross the sea," 14-year-old Issaa told researchers. "Look for work, work hard to earn a bit of money to help my five brothers at home."

But two and a half years after leaving home in Niger, Issaa was found living alone in a Libyan detention centre.

"My father collected money for my journey, he wished me luck and then let me go."

The migrants are, of course, heavily dependent on smugglers to get them through the desert and across the sea.

A recent case when dozens bodies were found washed up on the shore near the western city Zawiya shows that this remains extremely hazardous.

But smuggling is all-too often associated with human trafficking. Victims accept migration packages from criminal gangs, only to find themselves forced into prostitution to repay their debts.

"Libya is a major transit hub for women being trafficked to Europe for sex," the report says.

Libya's continuing political turmoil makes it extraordinarily difficult to tackle a phenomenon, which the report says has spiralled out of control.

But Unicef is urging Libya, its neighbours and regional organisations to do more to protect children.

A regional initiative, it says, would include improved birth registration, the prevention of trafficking, safe and legal pathways for children fleeing armed conflict and, where appropriate, family reunification.

"Whether they're migrants or refugees, let's treat them like children," says Mr Forsyth. "It's a reflection of our humanity, our values, how we respond to this crisis."



House supports bill calling for child abuse prevention plan

by The Associated Press

HELENA — The Montana House has endorsed a bill that would require the state health department to work with other organizations to develop a plan to prevent child abuse and neglect in the face of an increase in the number of abuse cases and the number of children in foster care.

The House supported the bill 71-28 Monday after discussion over whether the agency should already have such a plan and whether lawmakers needed to direct the agency to do its job. House Bill 517 still faces a third-reading vote.

Rep. Kim Dudik, D-Missoula, said her bill would require the department to work with state department heads, the Montana Children's Trust Fund board, the state advisory council for Child and Family Services, former members of the Protect Montana Kids Commission and representatives of tribal communities along with other state and local agencies that work to reduce or prevent child abuse.

The Protect Montana Kids Commission, appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock, studied the Division of Child and Family Services between December 2015 and May 2016 and made numerous recommendations to the Department of Public Health and Human Services to improve the division's work.

Dudik's bill calls for a comprehensive plan that would discuss the degree to which child abuse and neglect is occurring, the effects of the abuse, the risk factors that lead to child abuse and neglect and factors and prevention efforts that reduce the potential for abuse. The report would have to recommend prevention strategies and set out measurable goals to reduce abuse and neglect.

Between 2010 and 2016, the number of child abuse cases more than doubled to 2,433 and the number of kids in foster care is at record levels, Dudik said. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of children in foster care because of parental meth use increased from 230 to 1,050 while another 250 children were in care because of parental prescription drug abuse.

Rep. Nancy Ballance, R-Hamilton, said it's the agency's job to have a child abuse prevention plan, but she still supported the bill.

Rep. Marilyn Ryan, D-Missoula, said the agency's caseload changed rapidly.

"I don't know that anybody knew how to respond to the kind of meth issue that we've seen in the last two years," Ryan said. "This needs to be done."

The bill would require the department to forward its plan to two legislative committees by Aug. 15, 2018, giving lawmakers time to review it and recommend changes before the 2019 session.


United Kingdom

Police chief calls for paedophiles who view child abuse images to be spared prosecution as officers 'can't cope' with volume of reports

by Patrick Sawer

A leading police officer has said that paedophiles who view indecent images should not be charged and taken to court unless they pose a physical threat to children.

Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for child protection, said low level offenders should simply be placed on the sex offenders register and given counselling and rehabilitation instead.

He said that would free the police to deal with the core of dangerous paedophiles who are seeking out and exploiting children in order to rape and carry out “the most awful sexual abuse” against them.

Mr Bailey said he acknowledged that many people would be “nervous” about his proposals.

But he said it was time to look at alternatives to prosecution because reports of sexual abuse have reached "saturation point".

He said that although police were arresting over 400 men every month for viewing indecent images of children this was just “the tip of the iceberg” and that a new approach was needed.

“We're able to asses whether a paedophile viewing indecent images of children is posing a threat of contact abuse and in circumstances where that individual does not pose a threat of contact abuse they should still be arrested, but we can then look at different disposal orders than going through the formal criminal justice system,” said Mr Bailey.

“They will still become a registered sex offender and that means that they're still being managed. But that gives us the capacity to deal with the scale and the volume of referrals that we're consistently getting.”

The number of child abuse reports has mushroomed by 80 per cent in the past three years, with police receiving an average of 112 complaints a day.

There are more than 70,000 complaints into child abuse a year and police forces are also preparing an estimated 40,000 reports of abuse from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, which began hearing evidence on Monday.

Mr Bailey said: “We're struggling to maintain the capacity and ability to deal with the increasing numbers that are coming through. We just can't cope with it.”

He added: “There are tens of thousands of men seeking to exploit children on line with a view to meeting them with a view to then raping them and performing the most awful sexual abuse on them. That's where we believe the focus has got to be, because they're the individuals that pose the really significant threat.”

Mr Bailey earlier told The Times: "Let's be really clear: somebody going online and using their credit card to direct the abuse of a child in the Philippines should be locked up, categorically.

"That individual who is not in contact with children and doesn't pose a threat to children and is looking at low-level images ... when you look at everything else that's going on, and the threat that's posed of contact abuse to children, we have to look at doing something different with those individuals.”

But welfare groups have voiced their fears that Mr Bailey's proposals will be interpreted as a liberalisation and watering down of child protection laws.

The NSPCC said: "It is clear from these staggering levels of recorded child sex offences that police have a huge number of cases to investigate, often with limited resources.

"Prison sentences serve a vital purpose in reflecting the severity of the crime, protecting the public, acting as a deterrent, and helping a victim see their offender deservedly brought to justice.

"But we cannot arrest our way out of the situation – if we are to stem this tide and protect more children we must make prevention and rehabilitation a priority.

"With the right support we can prevent offenders from abusing and help those who do harm children change their behaviour."



Franklin County: Child abuse in spotlight

by Ann Bryant

FARMINGTON — New programming for families is available to address Franklin County's high rate of child abuse.

Members of the advisory panel, Friends Reducing Abuse & Neglect of Kids Living in our Neighborhoods, gathered Monday morning to hear updates on ways the Franklin County Children's Task Force and partners are providing families with support and resources to strengthen relationships.

About 600 students from across Franklin County are involved in a school-based program that teaches healthy relationships, said Stacie Bourassa, community coordinator for the Task Force. Sexual Assault Prevention and Rape Services and Safe Voices work with the Task Force to offer instruction.

About 100 educators and staff in schools, including those in Eustis, Jay, Rangeley and Phillips, are also being trained on how to report and respond to child abuse, she said. Regional School Unit 9 is not yet involved, she said.

Based on responses from a local fifth grade, the Healthy Relationship program has brought change, she said. Students have learned about body language and setting boundaries.

Other highlights discussed Monday were:

* The Kids of FRANKLIN after-school and summer program is serving 169 students at Mallett School in Farmington and Academy Hill School in Wilton, said Renee Whitley, executive director of the Task Force. The program provides help with schoolwork, exercise and enrichment opportunities and is funded by a 21st Century grant received last May. The program is held in partnership with RSU 9.

* Parents Cafe is being formed to provide social connections and support for local parents, said Doug Saunders, education coordinator at the Task Force. Topics that matter to parents will be discussed over dinner with on-site child care provided, he said. The first cafe is planned for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 15, at Academy Hill School and another at 5:30 p.m. March 22 at W.G. Mallett School.

* A three-day program on resilience, designed for professionals who work with children or caregivers, is planned for June 26-28 at the University of Maine at Farmington. Amy Morin, psychotherapist and author of "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," will be the guest speaker. People can call 778-6960 or email for more information or to register.

The Franklin County Children's Task Force, Advocates for Children in Lewiston and the Children's Center in Somerset County were tasked in 2015 with formulating a plan to establish and coordinate services to reduce child abuse.

The three counties, Franklin, Androscoggin and Somerset, were selected as demonstration sites for the three-year project by a partnership between the Maine Department of Human Services and the Maine Children's Trust.

Each county selected an advisory panel composed of a group of community partners who meet periodically to discuss the issue.



Project Harmony addresses the increasing rates of child sexual abuse reports

by Cheril Lee

The National Children's Advocacy Center recently released a position paper about the declining rates of child sexual abuse throughout the country.

In Omaha though, Project Harmony, an organization that exists to reach and support children, is seeing an increase in the number of kids they're serving.

Gene Klein, Executive Director for Project Harmony, says the data 20 years ago showed 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys would be sexually abused before the age of 18.

Those numbers have changed and today's data indicates 1 in 10 girls and 1 in 10 boys would be sexually abused before turning 18.

Klein calls that a positive step and explains the reason the numbers are on the rise in metro Omaha is because more kids are reporting the abuse.

"We are not seeing (out in the community) more child sexual abuse. We think the reporting is much stronger than it was a decade or two ago. And that families are reporting it earlier in the process or that schools are reporting it earlier in the process once they identify a potential victim. And so we are able to get to those kids and families much sooner than we did 10-15 years ago.”

Klein says 20 years ago they saw maybe 300-400 kids a year and today it's closer to 2500. He says the majority of those children are disclosing some form of sexual abuse.

Project Harmony works to provide a child friendly environment in which specially-trained professionals work together to assess, investigate and resolve child abuse cases.

For more information, the website is



My Turn: Support children now, see difference later

by Dr. Pat Bruno

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” — Frederick Douglass

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study conducted by the Kaiser Permanente Group poses the question of whether and how adverse childhood experiences affect adult health decades later. The ACE Study is the largest of its kind. The researchers felt that traumatic life experiences during childhood and adolescence were far more common than generally recognized. Further, these traumatic experiences were interrelated and were associated decades later with physical and mental health problems. Ultimately the researchers came to recognize that the earliest years of infancy and childhood are not lost but, like a child's footprints in wet cement, are often life-long.

Eight categories of adverse experiences were initially studied. The selected adverse childhood experiences were defined as: emotional, physical or sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect; growing up in a household where someone was an alcoholic or a drug user, mentally ill or suicidal; where the mother was treated violently, and/or where a household member had been imprisoned during the patient's childhood. These experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor quality of life in the United States. The Kaiser Health Plan enrolled more than 17,000 middle-class Americans in the ACE Study. The participants were 80 percent white, 10 percent black and 10 percent Asian. Almost half of the subjects were men and half were women. Each participant was assigned one point for each category of adverse experience occurring before age 18. The percentage of members with each ACE Score was: 0 points (36 percent); 1 point (26 percent); 2 points (16 percent; 3 points (9.5 percent); 4 points or more (12.5 percent). Fifty percent had one or more ACEs. One out of 14 had 4 or more ACEs.

The researchers found startling information in that child abuse in a very middle-class population is remarkably common, largely unrecognized, and 50 years later will be impacting the person's physical and behavioral health. Not only were adverse events common (only a third of members had none) but as the ACE Score increased, the negative effects were cumulative. Compared to persons with an ACE Score of “0” those with a score of “4” or more were: twice as likely to smoke cigarettes; 12 times more likely to have attempted suicide; 7 times more likely to experience alcoholism; 10 times more likely to have injected street drugs (an ACE score of 6 or more raised that risk to 4,600 percent compared to an ACE Score of “0”); 260 percent more likely to have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease; 250 percent higher risk for contracting a sexually transmitted disease; 240 percent more likely to contract hepatitis; 460 percent more likely to be suffering from depression and a 1220 percent increase in attempted suicides. An ACE score of 6 or more shortened life expectancy by 20 years.

The implications for prevention of adverse childhood experiences are obvious. Be a nurturing parent because children need to know that they are special, loved and capable of following their dreams. Be helpful to a friend, neighbor or relative because parenting is not easy. Be helpful to yourself by taking some time outs when life is overwhelming and out of control. Be involved in your community to develop services to meet the needs of children and families. Be an advocate for school programs that teach children, parents and teachers prevention strategies to keep children safe. Be supportive of programs that invest in the early physical and mental nurturing of children such as Head Start, WIC, SNAP, CHIP, ACA and pre-K for Pa. Be a monitor of your child's television and video viewing because watching violent films and TV programs can harm young children (average 18 year old child will have already seen 15000 murders and 240,000 violent acts on TV). Be a volunteer at local child abuse prevention programs. Be willing to report suspected abuse or neglect.

Raising happy, healthy children is good for everyone — for parents, for neighborhoods, for communities — support them now and you will see a difference later. Prevention is possible.

Pat Bruno, M.D., of Selinsgrove, specializes in recognition of child abuse.


United Kingdom

Do not jail all paedophiles, says police chief

from the BBC

Paedophiles who view indecent images but go no further should not be jailed but rehabilitated, a leading child protection police officer has said.

Police forces "cannot cope" with the "huge" rise in reports, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, of the National Police Chiefs' Council, told the BBC.

Figures show the number of child abuse reports is up by 80% in three years.

The Home Office said "viewing child abuse images is a terrible crime and should be treated as such".

Chief Constable Bailey, the head of Operation Hydrant, which is investigating multiple allegations of historic sexual abuse across the UK, said he knew his view would cause nervousness and draw headlines.

But he said the numbers of reports of abuse were at "huge proportions" - an NSPCC study in late 2016 used figures which suggested the number of individuals looking at such images could exceed half a million.

'Contact cases' focus

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme about 400 people were arrested by police in conjunction with the National Crime Agency every month, for looking at indecent images.

"There are undoubtedly tens of thousands of men that are seeking to exploit children online with a view to meeting them, with a view to then raping them and performing the most awful sexual abuse upon them," he said.

"That's where I believe our focus has got to be. They are the individuals that pose the really significant threat."

Offenders who viewed online child abuse images should be placed on the sex offenders register, cautioned and managed in the community undergoing rehabilitation, he said.

Referrals to rehabilitation "increasingly are effective", he said.

He added: "Every time an image is viewed, the victim is being victimised again and there is nothing as abhorrent. But we have to be able to manage the totality."

Not using the court system would "speed things up", he said.

'Tough law enforcement'

A Home Office spokesperson said the government had committed £20m to the National Crime Agency for specialist teams to tackle online child sexual exploitation.

"Alongside ensuring we have a tough law enforcement response to bring offenders to justice, we are also committed to preventing offending in the first place," they added.

Chief Constable Bailey's comments came as the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England and Wales (IICSA) began its full public hearings on Monday.

The wide-reaching inquiry will look at child abuse claims against local authorities, religious organisations, the armed forces and public and private institutions - as well as people in the public eye.

It began with an examination of allegations made by children in care who were sent abroad.


Have you been affected by abuse?

  • NSPCC specialises in child protection
  • National Association for People Abused in Childhood offers support, advice and guidance to adult survivors of any form of childhood abuse
  • Survivor Scotland offers help to improve the lives of survivors of childhood abuse in Scotland
  • Childline is a private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of 19
  • The Children's Society works to support vulnerable children in England and Wales
  • Stop It Now! supports adults worried about child abuse, including survivors, professionals, those with a concern about their own thoughts or behaviour towards children and friends and relatives of people arrested for sexual offending
  • The Child Migrants Trust attempts to reunite children sent abroad with their families


Dept of Justice


Orange County Man Sentenced to 190 Years in Federal Prison for Traveling to Philippines to Molest Young Girls and Filming the Abuse

SANTA ANA, California – A onetime school teacher who traveled to the Philippines to engage in sex with two girls and produced videos of the abuse was ordered today to serve 190 years in federal prison.

Robert Ruben Ornelas, 66, of Santa Ana, who has a long history of abusing children, received the 2,280-month sentence from United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney.

During today's hearing, Judge Carney said Ornelas molested children in a “cruel manner” and the defendant demonstrated a complete disregard for his victims' humanity.

Ornelas was found guilty in November by a federal jury of seven counts – two counts of engaging in sexual conduct in a foreign place, three counts of producing child pornography, and two counts of possessing child pornography.

The evidence presented during a six-day trial showed that Ornelas traveled to the Philippines on multiple occasions. He was convicted in relation to three specific trips – in 2006, 2008 and 2012 – where he sexually assaulted two girls who were as young as approximately eight. During all three trips, Ornelas took videos of the molestation and brought the images with him when he returned the U.S.

The two victims travelled to the United States to testify during the trial about the sexual assaults, and made statements at today's hearing. One of the victims said: “Why did I meet this person? He destroyed my dreams.”

“Today's sentence ensures life imprisonment for this predator whose history of abusing minors began a half-century ago,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “For seven years, this defendant repeatedly travelled to the Philippines, where he paid family members for sexual access to little girls who were living in poverty. The defendant claimed to be an attorney and promised to help the victims by funding their educations, but he brought trauma and anguish to their lives for which no amount of money could compensate.”

The investigation into Ornelas began in 2013 when federal authorities received a tip that he possessed a large quantity of child pornography. During the execution of a search warrant, investigators found images, videos and information on Ornelas' computer and digital media.

In sentencing papers filed with the court, prosecutors pointed out that Ornelas' history of sexually abusing minors extended back to the 1960s.

The federal charges are the product of an investigation by the Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force, which includes special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Newport Beach Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

“This sentence should serve as a powerful deterrent to child predators who mistakenly believe the internet and a plane ticket will enable them to indulge their perverse desires with impunity,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles. “HSI will continue to work closely with its law enforcement partners here in the U.S. and around the world to hold these dangerous sexual predators accountable for their actions. There can be no place for the abuse of foreign children by our citizens.”

“Defendant Ornelas took advantage of impoverished children in a foreign country, away from the scrutiny of the United States, where his past involved abusing children,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. “His young victims demonstrated tremendous bravery by traveling to a foreign country to testify about the crimes perpetrated against them, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for assisting the government in putting Ornelas away for the rest of his life.”

This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Sandy N. Leal and Anne C. Gannon of the Santa Ana Branch Office.

FROM:  Thom Mrozek, Spokesperson/Public Affairs Officer
United States Attorney's Office, Central District of California (Los Angeles)



Sexual assault survivor works to aid future victims

by Danielle Gehr

A sexual assault survivor hopes to give future victims the resources that would have aided her by working with Iowa legislators to pass a bill .

Elizabeth Huebsch, a therapist from West Des Moines, wanted to file a civil protective order against the man who abused her when he wouldn't leave her alone.

The order was unobtainable because, in the state of Iowa, there must be an arrest of the defendant for sexual abuse before one can file the no-contact order.

The fact that she wasn't in a relationship with the abuser also barred her from filing a civil protective order.

The restrictions were meant to keep people from filing the orders without grounds. In Huebsch's situation, this kept her from feeling safe.

"Rape is considered like, I think of a man with a mask [hiding] down an alley," Huebsch said. "A lot of the time people know the perpetrator."

For Huebsch, the perpetrator was someone she knew and trusted.

The identity of the man who abused her cannot be disclosed because Huebsch fears that he would come back with a lawsuit. She received a cease-and-desist order from the assaulter warning her not to speak out about the abuse.

Huebsch was going through a rough period in her life when she met the man who assaulted her. He led a spiritually-based support group that she started attending.

The man eventually used the spiritual language to shield himself from any blame, Huebsch said. He would defend his behavior, saying, “Why are you in such denial? Why can't you see that I'm just an innocent child of God?”

Huebsch found that all of the issues in her life were fixed after going to the group regularly. She attributed this to him at the time.

The man is significantly older than Huebsch and is married and regularly works with kids. Huebsch said these facts made her feel safe around him.

The rest of her relationship with him involved verbal and sexual abuse. She said he started out by putting her on a pedestal before tearing her down and exploiting her insecurities.

She didn't recognize it as abuse until others pointed her out. She began to educate herself on sexual abuse.

Huebsch said she would read books, and the man who assaulted her would fit the descriptions of abusers and manipulators.

After receiving the cease-and-desist order, she decided to speak with authorities but felt that the detective didn't believe her from the start.

She said the detective asked victim-blaming questions such as why did she allow this to happen and why didn't she stop it sooner.

“By then, I'm so checked out that I'm so traumatized by that experience that I don't think I'll ever even file a police report,” Huebsch said.

The detective did not want to see the emails and text messages that Huebsch has saved as proof.

At first, after the police spoke with the man, he started to leave her alone. Once he realized that she wasn't going to press charges, he started to show up again.

They'd be at an event, and despite there being empty seats at numerous different tables, he would sit next to her. She said his reasoning was that he wanted to talk with the other people at the table.

“Basically, he's that calm, collected person that is just like, ‘Oh, I didn't know that she was upset with me,'” Huebsch said. “I had asked him to leave me alone multiple times, and one time he shows up to my work and puts a card in my mailbox.”

Another time, he was outside of her door, which caused her to start screaming. She said he responded jokingly, “What? Did you think I was Casper the Ghost?”

Huebsch initially didn't disclose his identity to her friends. When she felt like her life was at risk, she would leave a note at her house using a code name, saying that if she disappeared, he was to blame.

Once she revealed who the offender was, her friends and colleagues who also were acquainted with him suddenly withdrew their support.

Many suggested that she sit down with the abuser and a third party to talk it through. She explained to them that it triggered her to see him, which was put down with "those are just your thoughts."

Others didn't understand why she needed to label the abuser. She said it is important to use specific terms.

“You have to call it for what it is,” Huebsch said. “I mean, I didn't have the language to explain or describe what was going on. I just felt like I was going crazy at the time.”

She eventually met with three legislators who she said had a clear understanding of dealing with sexual assault cases and were very supportive.

One of the legislators working on the bill is Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines.

"While civil protective orders do not guarantee a person's safety, victims of sexual assault should have access to protective orders," Petersen said.

She explained that the bill could help victims who are co-workers of the perpetrator or victims who do not want to file a lawsuit but want the protection.

Huebsch also has been working with an Iowa civil rights attorney, Roxanne Conlin. Though she is not taking her case to court, Conlin has offered her expertise from dealing with sexual assault cases through out her career.

"Predators can be your neighbor, your pastor, your doctor or a stranger. The one thing they have in common is their narcissistic personality and failure to have empathy for their victims. In fact, it is not unusual for the predator to paint himself as the victim," said Conlin.

Colin believes that Huebsch would have benefitted from a civil protective order. She said that despite the system improving over time, there is still a lot of misunderstanding and prejudice towards victims.

She also explained why many victims don't take their cases to criminal court.

"It is just too frightening," Conlin said. "The victim is only a witness and the prosecutor is in charge."

Rosenne Bakari, the executive director of Talking Trees Inc., an organization that supports adult survivors of sexual abuse, also offered input on Huebsch's case. She was one of the first professionals that Huebsch came in contact with when speaking out about the assault.

"A protective order would have made [Huebsch] feel believed and supported by the legal system, as well as made her feel safe," Bakari said. "If there was a protective order, she would have not had to beg for support that was never granted in her environment."

Subcommittee meetings on the bill will take place Monday for the Senate and Tuesday for the House of Representatives. The meetings will determine whether the bill moves forward.


United Kingdom

IICSA child sex abuse inquiry public hearings under way

by The BBC

Former child migrants are to give "very emotional accounts" about the physical and sexual abuse they faced, the first public hearing in the independent inquiry into historical child abuse in England and Wales has been told.

Thousands of British children were sent to Australia and other parts of the British Empire up to 1974.

Inquiry counsel Henrietta Hill QC, said thousands faced "decades of pain".

A lawyer speaking on behalf of the UK government expressed "deep regret".

Ms Hill said claims of "systematic sexual abuse" in institutions and work environments would be heard.

The children, she said, were sent without consent of parents, wrongly told they were orphans, and denied basic details about their family backgrounds during their future lives.

The first phase of the inquiry is looking at the way organisations have protected children outside the UK.

Thousands of children from poor families and the care system were sent to parts of the British Empire, including also New Zealand, Canada and what was Southern Rhodesia.

Between 7,000 and 10,000 were moved to Australia after World War Two. They were recruited by religious institutions from both the Anglican and Catholic churches, or well-meaning charities, including Barnardo's and the Fairbridge Society, with the aim of giving them a better life.

Many, however, went on to suffer physical and sexual abuse in homes and so-called farm schools run by religious orders and charities.

'Shameful period'

Allegations children were picked by paedophiles to travel abroad and claims of a cover-up are expected to be made.

Aswini Weereratne QC, representing the Child Migrants Trust (CMT) support organisation, said this "long overdue inquiry" would hear of a "crushing catalogue of sexual abuse, deprivation, violence and abuse".

She said the UK government "does not seek to defend" what she described as a "shameful period in the UK's recent history".

Ms Weereratne said the inquiry will hear from 22 former child migrants - their average age was nine when deported and one was aged only three or four years old.

The abuse that some of the children sent abroad were said to have suffered included "torture, rape and slavery", Ms Weereratne said.

Opening the inquiry, chairwoman Prof Alexis Jay said the task of the panel is to examine the extent to which public and private institutions have failed to protect children from sexual abuse in the past.

Speaking on behalf of former child migrant Oliver Cosgrove, who was sent to Australia in 1941, Imran Khan said: "(It was) a scheme to populate the empire with good, white British stock and which led to the physical, emotional and sexual abuse of countless children, many thousands of miles away from their families.

He added: "The fact that the witness statements are so similar in the accounts they give of abuse can mean only one thing: This was a systematic and institutional problem."

'Name the villains'

One of those giving evidence is David Hill who aged 12, was sent overseas with his two brothers to the Fairbridge Farm School in Western Australia.

Speaking at the hearing, he said: "We'll never be able to undo the great wrong that was done to these children. But what is important to the survivors of sexual abuse is where this inquiry is satisfied with the evidence - name the villains.

"Many of them are beyond the grave and therefore beyond the law but it would bring a great deal of the comfort to the people who as children were victims of these children if they were named and shamed."

In 2009, the Australian government apologised for the cruelty shown to the child migrants. Britain also made an apology in 2010. The apology contained no specific mention of sexual abuse.

For the government, Samantha Leek QC said: "Child migration is wrong. It should not have been sanctioned or facilitated...

"The lifelong consequences for those involved are a matter of deep and sincere regret."

A £6m family restoration fund was set up to allow the migrants to travel to the UK and ministers are now considering extending it.

The independent inquiry was set up after the death of DJ Jimmy Savile in 2011 when hundreds of people came forward to say he had abused them as children.

The hearings are taking place at the International Dispute Resolution Centre in central London, with the first phase concerning Australia expected to last 10 days.



Mother of murdered twin infants shines light on domestic violence, child abuse

by Carrie Larsen

Nearly a decade after the murder of her five-week-old twin children, Baraboo resident Susan Bird is ready to share her story with the world.

"I've written a book to get some really important messages out to people. The first, of course, is to shine a light on domestic violence and child abuse," Bird said.

She says she's all too familiar with both after being in an abusive relationship with David Yates for four years.

"My two youngest children, Tyler and Savannah, were murdered by their father (Yates) in 2008," Bird said.

Yates was found guilty of the double murder in 2010 and received two life sentences without the possibility for parole.

"To know that he would be held accountable for what he did to our children gave me some peace," Bird said.

Bird says finding peace with herself, though, took some time.

"Forgiving myself was incredibly difficult," she said.

She saw the warning signs, but never believed her infants were in danger.

"I thought it was just me that was the target. I never expected it would be them," Bird said.

She says Yates was very active with her older sons, who are now 13 and 15.

After the tragedy, Bird made it her mission to raise awareness against any form of abuse. She regularly speaks to groups who ask her to share her difficult experience. Now, she's ready to reach a wider audience. She recently finished a book, eight years in the making, which shines a light on her experiences and gives advice to those who may be facing a similar situation.

"That's the only way what happened to Tyler and Savannah is going to be worth living through, is if it can change somebody else's life for the better," Bird said.

She's still looking for a publisher and doesn't yet have a title, but hopes it will be for sale soon.

Until then, she has her service dog, Tippy, her two sons and a strong faith in God to be at peace and find forgiveness.

"Regardless of what situation has gotten your heart broken, or found you in the depths of despair, life is still beautiful. It may not be beautiful today, but it will be tomorrow if you stick around to see it," Bird said.



Lily Pad Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Center hosting child abuse symposium

Fifth annual child abuse symposium set for April 13 at Albany State University West Campus

by Jennifer Parks

ALBANY — An annual child abuse symposium taking place at Albany State University West Campus in April is aiming to continue the mission of raising awareness of abuse and ensure cases can be easily prosecuted.

The fifth annual symposium, coordinated by the Lily Pad Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Center, is taking place in Room C-266 at the ASU campus located at 2400 Gillionville Road from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on April 13.

Several presentations are expected to take place, including:

— Dougherty Chief Assistant District Attorney April Wynne, who will be discussing protocol and law changes related to child abuse;

— Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Bryan Smith, on sexual assault investigation and how to relate forensic interviews to a crime scene;

— Georgia Center for Child Advocacy Forensic Director Mary Beth Nelson, on commercial sexual exploitation of children;

— Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Child Abuse Forensic Expert Dr. Stephen Messner, who will be going over the difference between child abuse and corporal punishment;

— Lily Pad Executive Director Mary Martinez, on victimology.

“The overall goal is to bring awareness to the community and educate those working in the field of law enforcement, DFCS (Department of Family and Childrens Services), victim advocacy and prosecution,” Martinez said. “(It helps learn) how to use best practices in using resources to investigate cases of sexual and physical abuse.”

Martinez said the event is catered to Southwest Georgia, and that it is encouraging it has been well embraced.

“It is important these cases are investigated and prosecuted to the best of our abilities,” she said.

The free training is being provided by the Lily Pad and Omega Xi Theta Criminal Justice Club. There will be seven hours of Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) credit awarded for Georgia POST certified law enforcement officers, as well as six continuing education hours offered through the National Association of Social Workers, Martinez said.

Among those encouraged to attend are law enforcement officers, child advocates, probation and parole officers, juvenile justice officials, DFCS, forensic interviewers, court appointed special advocates, teachers, guidance counselors, school administrators, youth group leaders, health care professionals, counselors and therapists.

A copy of the registration form is available at The form can be returned to Brittany Dees at or via fax at (229) 435-0756.

Those seeking more information can contact the Lily Pad at (229) 435-0074.


New Mexico

Voluntary home visits help combat child abuse

by Colton Shone

We've reported on way too many child abuse cases in our state. But there is a program that's geared at keeping child abuse from happening in the first place with voluntary at-home visits.

According to a new report by the non-profit organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, nearly 7,600 children in our state experience abuse or neglect. The group says those children are twice as likely to become involved in crime later in life.

"The more we do to help young families and young mothers we end up with better children who are in better health, both mentally and psychologically," said APD Chief Gorden Eden.

That's why Chief Eden, Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace and the 13th Judicial District Attorney Lemuel Martinez came together to tout the voluntary home visit program, "New Mexico Parents as Teachers." Home visitors will guide parents or soon-to-be parents on ways to care for their child when it comes to sleep, nutrition, and effective discipline.

"71% of the families in ‘Parents as Teachers' have two to four high-needs characteristics, and most are living in poverty," said Parent Education Coordinator Emily Aragon.

The report says there are only 4,555 slots available for the 87,627 children who would qualify for at-home visitation. That means only 5% of children have access.

More support for these programs is growing in our state.

"Back in fiscal year 2012, the funding for home visiting was $2.3 million and this current fiscal year the funding is $17.5 million," said Joshua Spaulding with the Fight Crime organization.

He says more investment in these child development programs is crucial for our kids. In the latest Kids Count report, New Mexico ranks 49th in the country for child well-being.



Project Harmony addresses the increasing rates of child sexual abuse

by Cheril Lee

The National Children's Advocacy Center recently released a position paper about the declining rates of child sexual abuse throughout the country.

In Omaha though, Project Harmony, an organization that exists to reach and support children, is seeing an increase in the number of kids they're serving.

Gene Klein, Executive Director for Project Harmony, says the data 20 years ago showed 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys would be sexually abused before the age of 18.

Those numbers have changed and today's data indicates 1 in 10 girls and 1 in 10 boys would be sexually abused before turning 18.

Klein calls that a positive step and explains the reason the numbers are on the rise in metro Omaha is because more kids are reporting the abuse.

"We are not seeing (out in the community) more child sexual abuse. We think the reporting is much stronger than it was a decade or two ago. And that families are reporting it earlier in the process or that schools are reporting it earlier in the process once they identify a potential victim. And so we are able to get to those kids and families much sooner than we did 10-15 years ago.”

Klein says 20 years ago they saw maybe 300-400 kids a year and today it's closer to 2500. He says the majority of those children are disclosing some form of sexual abuse.

Project Harmony works to provide a child friendly environment in which specially-trained professionals work together to assess, investigate and resolve child abuse cases.

For more information, the website is .



Teachers the subject of more than 500 abuse allegations

Nearly 1,700 child-protection concerns raised since 2010, mainly regarding primary schools

by Carl O-Brien

Teachers and principals have been the subject of more than 500 allegations of abuse in recent years, according to internal figures.

Most of these concerns were reported to the Department of Education by other school staff or parents. The majority relate to primary schools.

All child-abuse allegations are passed on to Tusla (the Child and Family Agency) or the Garda under official procedures.

Almost 1,700 child-protection concerns have been reported to the department by its staff since it began compiling figures towards the end of 2010.

A breakdown of figures shows teachers and principals are most likely to have been the subject of concerns (31 per cent), followed by parents or childminders (26 per cent) and students (24 per cent). Historic or retrospective allegations – typically made by adults who say they were abused during childhood – account for 22 per cent.

Most of the allegations were first reported to psychologists employed by the National Education and Psychological Service, or to the department's child protection unit.

Garda vetting

Concerns reported by telephone have been recorded under different abuse or neglect categories in recent years. They show that sexual abuse was the most common concern reported (45 per cent), followed by physical abuse (24 per cent) and emotional abuse (21 per cent). Neglect concerns (10 per cent) accounted for the remainder of allegations.

Official figures do not show how many of these cases of alleged abuse were ultimately confirmed by Tusla.

These figures come as more than 32,000 teachers who qualified a decade or more ago face child-protection vetting checks by the Garda.

Until recently, only new teachers and those moving schools needed Garda clearance, which is administered by the Teaching Council.

However, new legislation will provide a legal basis for the retrospective vetting of all registered teachers. This means that thousands of teachers hired before 2006 – when vetting became mandatory for new applicants – face Garda checks for child-protection reasons. Those affected are typically permanent teachers who have been in the same school for the past decade or more.

Teachers and principals have been the subject of more than 500 allegations of abuse in recent years, according to internal figures.

Most of these concerns were reported to the Department of Education by other school staff or parents. The majority relate to primary schools.

All child-abuse allegations are passed on to Tusla (the Child and Family Agency) or the Garda under official procedures.

Almost 1,700 child-protection concerns have been reported to the department by its staff since it began compiling figures towards the end of 2010.

A breakdown of figures shows teachers and principals are most likely to have been the subject of concerns (31 per cent), followed by parents or childminders (26 per cent) and students (24 per cent). Historic or retrospective allegations – typically made by adults who say they were abused during childhood – account for 22 per cent.

Most of the allegations were first reported to psychologists employed by the National Education and Psychological Service, or to the department's child protection unit.

Garda vetting

Concerns reported by telephone have been recorded under different abuse or neglect categories in recent years. They show that sexual abuse was the most common concern reported (45 per cent), followed by physical abuse (24 per cent) and emotional abuse (21 per cent). Neglect concerns (10 per cent) accounted for the remainder of allegations.

Official figures do not show how many of these cases of alleged abuse were ultimately confirmed by Tusla.

These figures come as more than 32,000 teachers who qualified a decade or more ago face child-protection vetting checks by the Garda.

Until recently, only new teachers and those moving schools needed Garda clearance, which is administered by the Teaching Council.

However, new legislation will provide a legal basis for the retrospective vetting of all registered teachers. This means that thousands of teachers hired before 2006 – when vetting became mandatory for new applicants – face Garda checks for child-protection reasons. Those affected are typically permanent teachers who have been in the same school for the past decade or more.


The council, the regulatory body for the profession, says vetting will take place on a phased basis this year. Teachers who have not been vetted will have received a letter from the council or will do so in the coming months.

A breakdown of child-protection concerns reported to the department shows that some callers did not invoke child-protection procedures when they contacted the department, either because they did not wish to or did not indicate a desire to do so.

In these cases the department seeks the advice of Tusla on whether a child-protection investigation is warranted.

Since August 2011, some 275 cases have been sent to Tusla for advice. However, 79 of these were awaiting a reply. Of the remainder of cases, almost one in five were deemed to warrant an investigation.

A spokesman for Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the details of any concerns are immediately passed on to the relevant investigatory authorities.

He did not comment on the cases awaiting a reply, except to confirm that it has sought the agency's advice on a regular basis relating to individual cases over recent years.



Teen dating violence escalates around nation

by Patricia Ross

LISBON — February is national Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention month. Did you know that dating violence is a teen issue? Every year, 1.5 million high school students across the US experience some form of dating violence from a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Women between the ages of 16 and 24 are at greatest risk of becoming dating abuse victims. Violent behaviors within a dating relationship are occurring at earlier and earlier ages as teens start dating at younger ages — 25 percent of 8th and 9th graders say they have been victims of dating violence. That amounts to one in four!

Dating violence doesn't have to be physical to emotionally damage a victim. Almost half of teen dating violence occurs on school grounds. Imagine a young couple in the hall between classes. They've been dating for a few months, and the girl no longer wears makeup. He doesn't want her attracting the attention of other guys. Her phone buzzes and he grabs it out of her hand and reads the message. He monitors all of her communication. One of her friends wants to do something after school. He tells her she can't go out with her friends because she is with him now. She is beginning to feel smothered. Things start small and then escalate into more and more emotional abuse and even physical violence.

The victim may not recognize that there is a problem. Sometimes it takes an outside party like a friend or family member to point out that this is not a healthy relationship. It's often common for victims of abuse to turn to their abusers for comfort even if they have broken off the relationship. By teaching teens what a healthy relationship looks like, we can give them the tools to recognize the warning signs and to seek help if necessary.

The National Crime Prevention Council provides 10 tips for parents to help their teenage children.

1. Learn to recognize the signs of teen dating violence.

2. Talk to your teen before they become involved in a relationship. If it appears your teen is already in a dangerous relationship, assure them you are there to help and express they are not to blame for his or her partner's behavior.

3. Listen when your teen talks about an uncomfortable situation and assure him or her that you will do everything you can to help them get out of it.

4. Let your child know that domestic violence tends to get worse and rarely goes away on its own.

5. Make resources available that will help teens build emotional strength and self-esteem.

6. Children who believe in their own worth are better able to choose good partners.

7. Be realistic when talking to your teen. Teenagers often have a false picture of romantic relationships. Explain that control and abuse are not love.

8. Talk to your teen about the way he or she should treat and respect others.

9. Be open to all of the questions your child asks. Don't criticize, judge, or jump to conclusions when they ask about relationships.

10. Try not to criticize or “put down” the abusive partner when talking to your teen. Maintaining a neutral position may help your teen open up about his or her situation.

Just Say YES (Youth Equipped to Succeed), is dedicated to empowering students, parents, and educators. Its mission is to help youth say “yes” to their dreams and “no” to destructive choices, including teen dating violence.

Project Aware Ohio has developed an information brief entitled: Teen Dating Violence: What Schools, Parents, and Youth Need to Know. This can be accessed on the Project Aware website:

The Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN), believes that ending violence against women and children requires connection with organizations and individuals to create a clear vision and collective voice for social and systemic change. ODVN's purpose is to support and strengthen Ohio's response to domestic violence through training, public awareness and technical assistance and to promote social change through the implementation of public policy.

The organizations referred to in this article are excellent sources of information about domestic violence, and all have Facebook pages. Teens should be made aware of these resources.

For information about helping youth to develop assets, reduce risks, and make healthy choices, please like the Columbiana County MHRS Board's Facebook Page and visit the Board's website at