Child abuse in Larimer County: What you can do to help
by Sarah Jane Kyle
An 11-month-old girl fatally struck with a chair. A 7-year-old left emaciated and without proper treatment for a seizure condition. A 7-month-old boy tossed across the room when he tugged his babysitter's PlayStation cord.
The Coloradoan in recent weeks presented an investigation into child welfare in Larimer County. The children were at the heart of that series. Their stories pushed us to shine a light on the problems and help identify solutions. The resulting investigation found:
More than 21,000 misdemeanor and felony cases filed in Colorado over the past five years included some form of child abuse;
Larimer County caseworkers make less than their peers in neighboring counties, a contributing factor to higher turnover and recruitment struggles for those responsible for protecting the county's children. Nearly half of the county's 90-some child welfare caseworkers quit in 2016, a turnover rate on par with the national average but nearly four times that of Weld County caseworkers and three times the turnover rate of Boulder County caseworkers.
A 2015 shift in Colorado law has allowed incarcerated men and women to remain on parole after “technical violations," such as missed appointments or drug use, instead of going back to prison. Juan Canales-Hernandez was on parole and had violated its conditions when he allegedly killed 11-month old RaeLynn Martinez.
Our goal with this reporting was to highlight a number of recent felony child abuse cases and help prevent future crimes against children. This can seem like a daunting call to action for a single community member, but there are ways you can effect change.
"If one thing were to come from this series, my hope would be that it is that we, as a society, recognize that we may have missed the mark on our priorities," said Mary Beth Swanson, Executive Director for Voices Carry Child Advocacy Center, which serves about 300 children a year. "Flowers are nice. Art and clean sidewalks downtown are wonderful. A new stadium will do great things for our town. But what about the one, the dozen, no, the hundreds, of children, this very minute, who are hungry and afraid right here in Fort Collins?"
You can play a big part in helping stem this issue in Larimer County. Here are just a few ways:
Report suspected child abuse
You are the community's eyes and ears.
If you see a child in a life-threatening situation, call 911. If you think a child may be the victim of abuse or neglect, call the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline, 844-CO-4-KIDS or you can call the Larimer County Department of Human Services's reporting line, 970-498-6990.
Both numbers are staffed 24/7 to take reports of suspected abuse. If you call the state hotline, your concern will be routed to the appropriate county's intake specialists.
Not sure if you should call? The state hotline has some guidance, including legal definitions and possible warning signs from children and suspected abusers.
Physical abuse is any non-accidental physical harm to a child inflicted by someone responsible for them — whether that's a parent, caregiver or someone else. Spanking or paddling don't qualify unless it causes bodily injury or could be considered unreasonable.
Red flags to look for from a child include:
Unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones or black eyes
Fading bruises or other noticeable marks following a school absence
Inconsistent explanations for injuries
Appearing scared of their parents, including protesting or crying when it's time to go home
The child says they were injured by a parent or other adult caregiver
The child abuses animals or pets
Red flags to look for from a parent or caregiver include someone who:
Offers "conflicting, unconvincing or no explanations" when an injury occurs, or provides an inconsistent explanation for that injury
Describes the child in their care negatively
Uses harsh physical discipline with a child
Has a history of being abused as a child
Has a history of abusing animals or pets
The hotline's website also has definitions and warning signs for neglect, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and child sex trafficking, as well as information on institutional abuse of children (such as those residing in group homes or psychiatric care facilities). Visit www.co4kids.org if you suspect any of these forms of abuse and neglect.
When making a report of suspected abuse or neglect, give as much information as you can. The talking points used by Larimer County's referral line include not just questions about your concerns, but also about the family's living situation, home language, support available to them and any risk factors that might be adding stress.
In the fiscal year ending June 2016, the Larimer County Department of Human Services Hub received 6,850 referrals. Of those, 1,728 were assigned for a visit or assessment. Abuse or neglect was substantiated in 14.3 percent of children assessed by the county.
If you are a parent or caregiver who is feeling overwhelmed and/or is lacking support, ask for help. SummitStone Health Partners has a 24/7 mental health crisis line, 970-494-4200. Walk-in mental health and behavioral health services are available 24/7 at SummitStone's mental health crisis center, 1217 Riverside Ave., Fort Collins.
If you're struggling to find resources to help you through financial difficulties, start with United Way's 2-1-1 line. The nonprofit has a database of available community resources and can help troubleshoot a specific situation to figure out what agencies or programs might be able to help. You can access 2-1-1 by calling 2-1-1 from a landline or dialing 866-485-0211. Visit uwaylc.org/Get-Help to learn more and access an online resource database.
Become a foster parent
The goal of child protection services is to keep children in their homes, but sometimes a child has to be removed from a living situation for safety reasons. The first preference for DHS is typically to place children in kinship care with a family member. On an average day last fiscal year, nearly 68 percent of the 285 children removed from their homes were being cared for by a family member.
But that's not always an option if responsible relatives don't live close or aren't willing to take on that responsibility. An average of 54 children a day were in non-kinship foster care in Larimer County last fiscal year.
If you're interested in becoming a foster parent and caring for children who were removed from their homes, you can start by attending a Larimer County foster parent orientation. The next sessions are 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 30 and 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 20. Both sessions will be held at Timberline Church, 2908 Timberline Road. Register online at www.larimer.org/fostercare/orientation.cfm.
Contact your legislators and county commissioners
If you read the Coloradoan's investigation of child abuse cases and child welfare and believe systemic change is needed, you can contact your local state legislators. If you live in Fort Collins, contact:
Senator John Kefalas, Senate District 14: Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 970-221-1135 (home) or 303-866-4841 (office)
Representative Joann Ginal, House District 52: Email email@example.com or call 970-419-1116 (home) or 303-866-4569 (office)
Representative Jeni Arndt, House District 53: Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-866-2917 (office)
To voice concerns about the county's caseworker salaries and turnover, contact Larimer County's board of county commissioners by emailing email@example.com. Find specific contact information for your district's commissioner at larimer.org/bocc.
Join the conversation
Join the Coloradoan reporters involved in the child welfare series for a Brews and News discussion on the topic and possible solutions at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Downtown Artery, 252 Linden St. This event is free but registration is required. Reserve your spot at tickets.coloradoan.com.
Tax checkoff raises money for child abuse prevention
A checkoff box on the state income tax return form allows residents to donate $5, $10 or more to go toward preventing child abuse in Michigan through the Children's Trust Fund.
The Children's Trust Fund – a nonprofit within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services – serves as a voice for Michigan's children and families and promotes their health, safety and welfare by funding effective local programs and services that help prevent child abuse and neglect.
“The Children's Trust Fund relies on the generosity of donors to help fund important programs in local communities,” said Michael Foley, director of the Children's Trust Fund. “We hope that Michiganders who are filing their state income taxes will consider supporting efforts to protect our most valuable resources – our children.”
The Children's Trust Fund checkoff box is on the Voluntary Contribution Schedule Form 4642.
Michigan income tax return forms are available on the website for the Michigan Department of Treasury.
Find more information about the Children's Trust Fund tax campaign on its website, including a toolkit for anyone who would like to promote the checkoff.
Gardai given training in child sexual abuse victim interviews
Some child sex cases take six years to prosecute
by Jim Cusack
A new programme to train gardai in interviewing child sexual abuse victims has been introduced following repeated instances of cases taking up to six years to prosecute.
Last October it was revealed that the case of an eight-year-old girl allegedly raped by a teenage boy during a party at her home was left languishing in the Garda's system for six years before it was finally dropped.
Various failures were highlighted by a Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) investigation into the case of 'Miss A' who was attacked at her home in July 2008.
The case was initially investigated and was "almost complete" within a month but then left for six years owing to a "systems failure'" GSOC concluded. The prosecution was then dropped.
Last year's investigation followed successive reports into the reporting of child sexual abuse stemming from inquiries into clerical sexual abuse in Ferns diocese in the Southeast (2005) and from the 2009 Murphy Report into clerical abuse in the Dublin diocese. The independent Garda Inspectorate also made recommendations for better recording and investigation of child abuse cases in 2010 and 2014.
In its 2010 report, Responding to Child Sexual Abuse, the inspectorate found that untrained 'regular unit' gardai were being left in charge of investigations of rape, including the rape of children, and other serious crimes.
The inspectorate followed up this report in 2014 and again found failings in the system of child sexual abuse investigation and recording.
The subject was raised with Garda management over the past year by the new Policing Authority which said last week that it was still waiting for confirmation from the Garda as to how many 'specialist child interviewers' (SCIs) there were in the force.
A training programme was put in place, although details of how many gardai have completed the 'stage three' advanced training are unclear. The Policing Authority has asked for clarification of the numbers who have carried out the training.
Deputy Commissioner John Twomey told the authority at its public meeting on February 23 that 73 gardai were undergoing specialist training to deal with child victims. However, it was not made clear how many had actually completed the training.
In its 2010 report on Responding to Child Sexual Abuse, the Garda Inspectorate recorded that there were 84 specially trained gardai.
At its last public meeting with gardai, the Policing Authority was told that the force was recording between 17,000 and 20,000 reports of suspected child abuse each year.
One aspect of the Garda's handling of child sexual abuse cases highlighted by the inspectorate in 2010 was "disturbing evidence of poor record keeping".
It found that 42pc of the 106 cases it examined had not been recorded on the Garda's Pulse computerised information system. Some 31pc of cases were recorded under the heading 'Attention and Complaints', which is a non-crime category.
The 2010 inspectorate report stated: "Altogether, the inspectorate estimates that there was a failure to record up to 65pc of the net sample as child sexual offences."
The inspectorate recommended "that the Garda Siochana publish information for complainants on how, where and when they can make a complaint about child sexual abuse. This should reassure victims that it is right to report child sexual abuse."
The Garda finally set up an emergency call line, an 1800 number, last month.
The 'Miss A' rape case investigation by the Garda Ombudsman found that it was initially investigated properly and the suspect questioned within days.
A file was nearly completed within a month but after the garda sergeant in charge was transferred it was passed on to a juvenile liaison office where it lay unexamined for a further two years.
"Training deficiencies" and failures in internal communications were identified as among the main factors.
Former Fremont teacher accused of masturbating at child sexual abuse
by Malaika Fraley
OAKLAND — A former Fremont teacher charged with sexually abusing two elementary school boys almost two decades ago was accused of masturbating during victim testimony on Tuesday but was denied a mistrial.
Citing a law that says a defendant cannot cause a disruption and then profit from it, Judge Kevin Murphy denied a defense motion for mistrial after individually polling jurors and opining that they didn't see anything.
Frank Montenegro, a 53-year-old Hayward native, denied the accusation levied by prosecutor Amanda Chavez for the second time since his trial began last month. Montenegro was also accused of masturbating during jury selection and subsequently instructed by Murphy to keep his hands above the defense table.
Tuesday's incident occurred during cross-examination of the second alleged victim in the case, a 26-year-old man who said he was sexually abused by Montenegro in the summer of 2000 when he was 9 years old. He was also his summer school teacher at Blacow Elementary School in Fremont.
The witness was composed but constantly fidgeting with a stress ball as he described the sexual abuse that occurred when Montenegro held him back from joining the other children in recess and lunch.
The boy said the sexual abuse occurred while he was living in a group home after he had been removed by the government from his aunt and uncle's custody and his mother was struggling with drug addiction.
His testimony was similar in many ways to that by another former Blacow student last week. Both boys were largely neglected and were small for their age and very shy.
Both testified that the sexual abuse occurred in a room inside Montenegro's classroom and described the abuse starting the same way. But the victim last week testified to sexual abuse that spanned for three years after Montenegro befriended his mother and other family members and described being raped at least 20 times. The witness Tuesday described sexual abuse, which did not include sodomy, that he said occurred at least three times during the summer school session.
The witness Tuesday said he first reported the abuse a year after the fact when he had been returned to his mother. He disclosed to his mother after she questioned him about a pair of underwear she didn't recognize, underwear that had been purchased by Montenegro.
Both victims also described in similar terms of being overpowered by Montenegro, who has lost significant weight since he fled the Bay Area for Mexico in 2001 after a warrant was issued for his arrest. Witnesses have either not recognized Montenegro, or commented that he looks significantly different than he did in 2001.
One of Montenegro's brothers also testified Tuesday. He identified a condo that Montenegro allegedly used as a place to rape a boy as belonging to a female preschool teacher who was a friend of the Montenegro family.
Montenegro was captured by the FBI in L.A. in 2015 and has been held in Santa Rita Jail without bail since.
Testimony continues Wednesday.
Trauma behind child abuse
by Maliha Tirmizi
Child abuse is more than bruises and broken bones. While physical abuse is shocking due to the scars it leaves, not all child abuse is as obvious, ignoring children's' need, putting them in unsupervised dangerous situation, making the child worthless or stupid are also chid abuse. Regardless of the type of child abuse, the result is serious, emotional harm. Nowadays, child abuse is very common neglecting children's' emotions and value. Not only bad people abuses their children, many of them have been victim of that abuse themselves. It is a common thinking that only the strangers are the child abusers but the abusers can be from our family as well we cannot trust anyone.
Children need predictability, structure, clear boundaries and the knowledge that their parents are looking out for their safety. Abused child cannot predict how their parents will act. Their world is an unpredictable, freighting place with no rules. The abused children have core feeling of being ‘worthless' or ‘damaged'. They lack trust and cannot express themselves. Therefore, you should take care of your child closely and keep open conversation with the child so that they can discuss the problem they are facing, children should be given awareness of each and every thing and not to allow anyone to touch them, everyone is stranger to your child they should know the difference of a good touch and a bad touch. We should raise voice against child abuse because children are the assets of the society. Government should make institutions and policies to fight against the criminals.
Meet the grandma who lost 3 grandkids over a home that needed repairs
Grandchildren were taken to foster care after home deemed unsafe. Then friends and neighbours helped fix it up.
by Sandro Contenta
When a child protection worker walked into Marlene's home in Toronto, two things were immediately obvious: the love between Marlene and her grandchildren was profound, and her broken-down home was unsafe.
What happened next reveals gaps in Ontario's child protection system that even the powerful love of a grandmother can't bridge. Marlene's three grandchildren were taken and placed in a Mississauga foster home — at a cost to taxpayers far greater than what it cost to fix Marlene's home.
“It was devastating, because I've always been the protector and now I couldn't do anything about it,” says Marlene, 63, her eyes swelling with tears. “I walked around like a zombie thinking, ‘Oh my God, what will I do now?' ”
Marlene had been taking care of her grandchildren for a couple of months while her daughter struggled with an abusive relationship and other troubles. Children's aid societies are supposed to give priority to placing children with relatives, but the state of Marlene's home made it unsafe to do so, according to society documents seen by the Star.
She couldn't afford the repairs, so when friends and neighbours heard of her plight, they rallied and did much of the work for free.
Her boss at the pet store where she works part time gave her the $900 she had accumulated in vacation pay. Three sisters who lived on her street took turns driving her to Home Depot, paying for materials and transporting it to Marlene's home. Marlene, a proud woman, insisted on paying them back when she could.
“She's so sweet and kind,” one of the sisters told the Star. “She had a tough life but makes do. Most of the time you'll find her smiling and happy and trying to lift you up. You can't be upset when you're around her.”
Ron Bridges, a 72-year-old family friend, put in new floors, a new door frame and new front door. He fixed the plumbing and delivered drywall, which Marlene put up herself. “She did a good job,” Bridges says.
Marlene paid Bridges some money, but not much. “He was amazing,” Marlene says. “He said, ‘Just take care of those kids.'”
“I don't think the kids should have been taken away in the first place,” Bridges says. “They never did without.”
The work was finished in about two months. Exposed wires were covered with new drywall in the living room, a hole in the ceiling was patched up, broken ceramic tiles in the kitchen were removed, new floor tiles were laid in three rooms and plumbing was repaired.
Marlene got her grandchildren back a year after they were removed and, late last December, was granted full custody by the courts. She is relieved, but still shaken by an experience that doesn't add up.
The repairs cost her $3,000, a debt she is slowly trying to repay while falling further behind in her property tax payments. A contractor would have charged more, but nowhere near what it cost Ontario taxpayers to keep Marlene's three grandchildren in foster care for a year — about $50,000.
And the trauma experienced by Marlene and the kids — now aged 9, 12 and 14 — is incalculable. (Only Marlene's middle name is being used because, by law, the identity of her grandchildren must be protected.)
“If only I could have done more,” she says. “I felt like I failed. I couldn't save them. I broke down at work a few times. I can't even tell you the stress. It has affected me in so many ways.”
Why didn't the provincial government or children's aid society help with Marlene's renovations, thereby ensuring the family reunited much more quickly? For families struggling with poverty, the workings of Ontario's child protection system can seem painfully perverse.
Told of Marlene's story, Ontario's Minister of Children and Youth insisted that children like hers should be kept out of care.
“When a person goes into care because of poverty, as a society we know we can do better. It's unacceptable,” says Michael Coteau, whose ministry spends $1.5 billion a year funding Ontario's 47 privately run children's aid societies.
Last fall, Coteau introduced a $5,000 renovation allowance to upgrade the homes of indigenous families that foster indigenous children. In an interview, he did not say if the allowance would be extended to non-indigenous families like Marlene's. But he argued that province-wide programs — including free dental care for children in low-income homes, full day kindergarten and the Ontario child benefit — have helped reduce the number of children in care.
Still, the government has to figure out ways to link different programs and remove institutional silos, Coteau adds.
“It's a culture shift. It's having agencies, school boards and anyone who works for children understand that they need to go beyond their current roles. There needs to be a way for them to communicate,” he says.
“Just getting that child into a safe spot, that's not good enough,” Coteau adds, noting that proposed changes to the Child and Family Services Act will reinforce a priority of preventing children from coming into care.
Examples of government ministries working at cross purposes include the slashing of Ontario Works benefits for parents whose children are taking into care temporarily, making it harder to achieve the goal of Coteau's ministry to eventually reunite those families.
Children whose families ran out of money for housing were twice as likely to be taken from their parents and placed with foster parents or group homes, according to an analysis of Ontario children taken into care in 2013. Similar rates were found for families who ran out of money for food or for utilities.
Another study by leading child welfare researchers, published in February, found that Ontario child protection workers noted “unsafe housing conditions” in almost 4,000 cases they investigated in 2013. (On average, 15,625 Ontario children were in foster or group-home care in 2014-15.)
Wendy Miller, manager of government relations with the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies, notes that with many poverty-burdened families, child protection as generally understood — protection from physical, sexual or emotional abuse — is not an issue, she adds.
“The case you describe is a beautiful, sad example of that,” Miller says, referring to Marlene's ordeal. “I don't think those children are served by being separated from the one caregiver who had provided the stability and the love and the care that they need.”
But responsibility to fix poverty-related issues can't fall solely on children's aid societies, Miller insists. Prevention must involve co-ordinated action from multiple government ministries, she adds.
The Children's Aid Society of Toronto, which dealt with Marlene's case, does everything possible to keep families united, but does not provide money for home repairs or renovations, says Mahesh Prajapat, the society's chief operating officer.
“When you remove kids it's not single-issue-related,” he adds. “The house is unsafe, there's parenting deficiencies, there are stressors related to it — there's an entire assessment that goes into it rather than a single issue.”
What Marlene changed to get her grandchildren back was the state of her home.
Marlene doesn't dispute that her home was unsafe.
She and her sister inherited the three-storey house in the Dufferin and Bloor Sts. area when their father, a tire factory worker, died in 1986. Marlene occupies the main floor and the basement; her sister lives upstairs and receives disability payments.
Marlene has worked four nights a week at a pet store for the past 13 years, earning $12 an hour. Ontario Works also helps her get by. The sisters couldn't afford the upkeep and, over the years, the house fell into disrepair.
When the Star first met her late last summer, the sisters were $6,000 behind in property tax payments and Marlene was kicking herself for having long failed to convince her sister to sell what she calls “this big albatross around my neck.”
Marlene's ex-husband passed on handyman skills that proved helpful. In September 2014, before the grandchildren began staying with her, she embarked on a slow renovation of her home by removing the drywall in her living room. Then, the life of her daughter, her only child, spiralled into crisis and her grandchildren came to stay.
The children's aid society was already involved with Marlene's daughter, a victim of domestic violence whose children weren't attending school regularly, according to interviews with both Marlene and her daughter.
When the society realized the children were staying at Marlene's, they were taken into foster care on Jan. 28, 2015. Marlene would visit with the children on the weekends, but she didn't get them back, under a temporary care agreement, until Jan. 26, 2016. She got full custody 11 months later, but the stress remains.
“I always feel like I'm being watched,” she says. “I'm always like, ‘Oh, my God, am I doing the right thing?
“It should never have come to this.”
Judge resigns over rape trial comment: ‘Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?'
by Derek Hawkins
A Canadian federal judge who asked an alleged rape victim in court why she couldn't “just keep your knees together” resigned Thursday, after a judicial panel released a scathing report calling for him to be removed from office.
Justice Robin Camp of the Alberta Federal Court came under fire in 2014 for badgering the woman during trial about whether she could have done more to defend herself against the man she claimed had attacked her. The Canadian Judicial Council conducted a 15-month review of the exchange after receiving dozens of complaints from the public.
In its report Thursday, the council found that Camp's conduct was “manifestly and profoundly destructive of the concept of impartiality, integrity and independence.”
“Public confidence is sufficiently undermined to render the judge incapable of executing the judicial office,” the council wrote. “The judge's removal is warranted.”
Within hours, Camp, 64, said he would step down. He apologized in a statement to “everyone who was hurt” by his comments. Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould accepted his resignation, saying she was confident he had received due process, according to the BBC.
“Sexual assault and gender-based violence is in no form acceptable and we will continue to stand up for victims,” she said.
Camp presided over the sexual assault trial of Alexander Wagar, a 29-year-old Calgary man. The accuser was identified as a 19-year-old woman who said Wagar had raped her over a bathroom sink during a house party, as The Washington Post has reported.
Throughout the trial, Camp falsely referred to the woman as “the accused” and suggested she could have staved off the alleged attack.
“Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?” Camp asked at one point.
He later said that young women “want to have sex, particularly if they're drunk,” and told the accuser that “some sex and pain sometimes go together” and “that's not necessarily a bad thing.”
Camp also questioned why the woman didn't “just sink your bottom down into the basin so he couldn't penetrate you,” saying that she could have avoided the attack if she had turned her pelvis “slightly” away.
Camp acquitted Wagar in September 2014, but an appeals court overturned the ruling. In January 2017, Wagar was acquitted again in his retrial, with a new judge finding that there was reasonable doubt that he had sexually assaulted the woman.
The Canadian Judicial Council opened an investigation in November 2015, after a group of law professors filed complaints against Camp. Dozens of other complaints from members of the public, and Camp went on to recuse himself from cases involving sex crimes, as The Post's Kristine Phillips has reported .
Wagar's accuser said she felt so browbeaten by Camp that she considered suicide.
“What did he get from asking that,” she said. “He made me hate myself and he made me feel like I should have done something, like I was some kind of a slut.”
During the council's investigation, Camp said he didn't realize his comments were problematic until his verdict was appealed, according to Canadian Broadcasting Corp. He said his words came from a “deep-rooted” bias “that all women behave in the same way and should resist.”
Camp grew up in South Africa and received commerce and law degrees from the University of Stellenbosch, according to judicial records. After practicing as a barrister there, he moved his wife and three children to Calgary in 1998, focusing mostly on contract, trust and bankruptcy litigation. The council noted that he had almost no experience in Canadian criminal law.
At a hearing, Camp's daughter testified that she herself is a rape victim. She called her father's comments “disgraceful,” but said she stood by him, describing how he supported her when she told him she had been raped in her home, the CBC reported at the time.
“I have seen him advance in understanding and empathy for victims, vulnerable litigants and those who have experienced trauma,” Camp's daughter wrote.
Camp later admitted to misconduct but argued that he should be able to keep his job. His words, he told the panel in written submissions, were the product of “unconscious bias or ignorance,” not hostility toward the accuser. He said he had spent months educating himself on Canada's sexual assault laws, speaking with feminist scholars and seeking sensitivity training.
The council was unconvinced.
“He spoke in a manner that was at times condescending, humiliating and disrespectful,” the report read.
“Having regard to the totality of the Judge's conduct and all of its consequences,” the council wrote, “his apologies and efforts at remediation do not adequately repair the damage caused to public confidence.”
Fighting child abuse in Alabama
by Amber Grigley
In less than two weeks' time, ABC 33/40 News has reported on at least four child abuse cases in Alabama.
The latest arrests came Wednesday, when parents in Bessemer were charged with beating a one-month-old. The child is now in the custody of DHR.
National statistics show nearly 80 percent of abused children who die, are under the age of five. These statistics have those who work with child abuse cases really concerned.
In 2016, Shelby County had 400 cases of reported child abuse. In the first two months of 2017, already there are 200 cases. The big question: how to combat the growing problem.
Happy home, happy life! But for children that's not what they experience.
"Sometimes kids come in here and they talk right away about their experiences. Sometimes they need to come a couple of times in order to feel comfortable in a new place and a new environment," said Cindy Greer, Executive Director of Owens House.
For 20 years, Cindy Greer has been fighting for abused children in Shelby County.
"The children that we see here at this center are the most serious abuse cases,” Greer says. “Typically, child sexual abuse cases and serious physical abuse and cases that are likely to lead to criminal action."
Owens House has noticed a huge increase in child abuse cases, the number has almost doubled within six years' time.
"In 90 percent of our cases, children know their abusers and it's somebody that they trust," said Greer.
Greer said it's a lack of education across the board that often prevents early detection.
Investigator Robert Rodriguez, with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, said at this point, it's more about working as a community to build a comfortable environment for children to open up about abuse.
"We go out to the community and educate parents, educate youth leagues, school, hospitals to look for those signs," said Rodriguez.
Now, authorities are taking a forensic approach. Meaning more counseling sessions to help combat these issues of child abuse before it's too late.
“I can tell you about a lot of bad cases, but the words that I hate to hear most of all is 'I wish I had called," said Greer.
Greer said there are 33 child advocacy centers across Alabama, every county is covered by one of them.
At this point it's about being proactive rather than reactive.
Saturday, March 11, Owens House will host a 5K run for the community to come out and get more involved and learn more about child abuse prevention. The 5K starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m. at the Oak Mountain State Park.
For more information contact Owens House at (205) 669=3333
Baltimore Child Abuse Center rallies to protect Maryland's children
by WMAR Staff
People from the Baltimore Child Abuse Center were in Annapolis on Thursday to support 10 bills being introduced to protect Maryland's children.
Some of the bills proposed involve training sessions for mandated child abuse reporters and protections for child human trafficking victims. Another bill would inflict penalties to mandated reporters like school teachers or child care providers who don't report cases of child abuse of which they're aware.
"We rely on these mandated reporters to make that report of abuse," said Adam Rosenberg, a representative of the Baltimore Child Abuse Center. "Unfortunately in Maryland, we are one of two states that have no penalty for the failure to report abuse; so when a teacher, counselor or social worker knowingly learns of abuse and doesn't report it, there's no protection for that child there."
Before attending the hearing in the Maryland General Assembly, supporters went door to door in the House and Senate to talk with lawmakers about the bills.
Uniting church has faced 2,500 reports of child sexual abuse, royal commission hears
Uniting church says it now has new policies, but Jehovah's Witnesses fail to change two-witness rule or shunning in response to 1,008 allegations of abuse
by Christopher Knaus
The Uniting church has been subject to about 2,500 allegations of child sexual abuse in its 40-year history, the royal commission has heard.
The child abuse royal commission also heard that there were 1,006 alleged perpetrators of abuse within the Jehovah's Witnesses, but the congregation did not report a single one to police.
The Jehovah's Witnesses, the inquiry heard, were still refusing to change a second century biblical rule requiring two witnesses to prove wrongdoing.
The royal commission returned to its examination of the Uniting church and the Jehovah's Witnesses on Friday, seeking to understand how each had reformed its handling of child protection and abuse complaints.
Counsel assisting, Angus Stewart, SC, said the royal commission had analysed data provided by the Uniting church on 2,504 child abuse complaints since 1977.
Of those allegations, 133 related to abuse that occurred in places of worship.
The church had paid out about $17.5m to survivors, and had been the subject of 255 civil claims, Stewart said.
The royal commission is exploring how the church's complicated structure is affecting its ability to have consistent child protection measures and complaint handling mechanisms.
The Uniting church has 1,065,000 members, making it the third largest Christian denomination in Australia.
It has 40,000 employees and 30,000 volunteers, and runs 64 schools and 179 agencies providing services to children, youth, or the broader community.
It is governed by a series of non-hierarchical councils, including the assembly, known as the national council, and state and territory synods, regional presbyteries, and individual congregations.
The national assembly develops and promotes child safety policy and codes of conduct, but each of the various councils are responsible for implementing them.
The church has developed a national child safe policy framework, which is modelled on recommendations from the royal commission. That framework was approved last weekend.
The royal commission chair, Justice Peter McClellan, asked whether the church had used its considerable following to influence the federal government on implementing a national redress scheme.
The Uniting church president, Stuart McMillan, said churches had far less influence than they did in the 1950s and 60s. But McMillan said the church was helping to encourage governments to commit to the scheme.
“We're certainly doing that your honour, I have facilitated meetings of our ecumenical partners to have conversations about redress and about redress schemes,” McMillan said.
“We had a meeting with the commonwealth only in January to talk about matters that needed to be explored if they are going to go ahead with the scheme,” he said.
“There's certainly goodwill on the part of churches on this matter.”
Earlier, the royal commission heard evidence about the extent of abuse within the Jehovah's Witnesses.
It heard there were at least 1,008 survivors of alleged abuse, and 579 Jehovah's Witnesses members confessed.
About 400 alleged perpetrators were expelled from the congregation, and 230 later reinstated. The royal commission reported 514 perpetrators to police.
It also heard victims were still shunned if they left the organisation.
The Jehovah's Witnesses in Australia consider that they are prohibited by scripture from altering the application of a two-witness rule that applies in all cases of complaints of wrongdoing, the royal commission heard.
The commission found the organisation wrongly relied on that rule in the context of child sexual abuse, saying complainants were subject to ongoing traumatisation if their allegation wasn't corroborated by a confession by their abuser or a second “credible” eyewitness.
Stewart said the Jehovah's Witnesses had failed to address many of the inquiry's recommendations, including that they revise or modify the application of that rule.
He said the organisation had also failed to address the particularly devastating practice of shunning victims who disassociated from the Jehovah's Witnesses because their abuser remained in the congregation, while maintaining it was not a policy.
The commission found the Jehovah's Witnesses did not respond adequately to child sexual abuse complaints and did not adequately protect children from the risk of being abused.
But senior members of the Australian church dispute the commission's finding that the organisation has a general practice of not reporting child sexual abuse allegations to police or authorities unless required to do so by law.
“We have never had a practice of not reporting,” Jehovah's Witness Australian branch committee member Terrence O'Brien told the commission on Friday.
O'Brien said hundreds were reported, although not by the organisation because it was left to the elders handling the case or the parents.
The commission heard the Jehovah's Witnesses had referred 15 of 17 child abuse allegations to police that had arisen since the commission hearings, noting that in two cases the adult survivors did not want it reported.
Rodney Spinks, who advises church elders on how to handle child sexual abuse cases, said victims or their parents were told they had the absolute right to report abuse to authorities and that the elders would fully support them.
How police can identify, respond to victims of human trafficking
While it can be very difficult to maintain communication with a victim, do your best and always follow up when promised
by Mandy Johnson
Human trafficking is the exploitation of another by force, fraud or coercion. This prolific criminal venture has two elements: forced labor (servitude) or commercial sexual exploitation (forced prostitution or sex trafficking). As of 2015, in addition to the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, every state had instituted its own anti-human trafficking statute. Within an agency, officers, investigators and detectives are typically going to encounter sex trafficking victims – those involved in commercial sex acts which have been caused by force, fraud or coercion.
Sex trafficking victimology
Although the victimology is applicable to both labor trafficking and sex trafficking victims, sex trafficking will be the present focus. Sex trafficking is present in multiple arenas: prostitutes walking the streets, massage parlors, escort services, online dating services, dark web purchases and brothels.
Victims might not only endure physical torture but many suffer from a plethora of psychological abuse, resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, stress and anxiety. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, many victims are dealing with dreams and promises that quickly turned to traumatic situations. Victims find themselves trapped in the sex and service industry, living with inhumane treatment, physical and mental abuse and threats to themselves or their families.
Identifying sex trafficking cases, especially juvenile cases, can prove difficult but not impossible. Some victims may appear to be “free to move” or willing to work by their own volition, but in actuality, they may be operating out of force or fear (e.g., they may be “willing” to perform sex acts in an effort to protect their family, children, or themselves from threatened harm).
Some sex trafficking indicators law enforcement can look for are victims who:
Avoid eye contact
Lack identification or money
Have tattoos or branding of her “boyfriend” or “daddy” or known pimps
Have unexplained bruises, cuts or other signs of physical abuse
Are fearful of or aggressive toward law enforcement
Change stories or refuse to be honest
Due to their experience, many do not self-identify as victims. Similar to Stockholm's syndrome, many victims defend or protect their abusers or traffickers. They do this out of loyalty to or affection for their abuser, fear of law enforcement, fear of retribution, fear of retaliation or simple animosity toward law enforcement based on previous encounters.
Law enforcement response
There are three essential needs law enforcement can address: (1) sense of safety, (2) environment to safely express their emotions and (3) addressing the next steps.
1. Sense of safety
Law enforcement can create a sense of safety by establishing and building rapport, treating the individual as a victim despite their previous arrests and ensuring that they will not be required or asked (by officers, the district attorney or judge) to perform exploitive sex acts. Providing quick access to advocates, social welfare agencies, medical attention and community services can be vital in a victim's long road to recovery.
Be quick to identify barriers or areas of concern that should be dealt with: Are there language barriers that need to be addressed? Are they U.S. citizens or from another country? Do they have proper housing, clothing or personal hygiene items? Are there children involved that need to be taken care of? Resolving some of these concerns has the potential to not only create a sense of safety for the victim, but can begin the crucial healing process.
2. Ability to open up
Law enforcement officers have an opportunity to show themselves as trustworthy for a victim to open up to, express their emotions and talk about their experiences. In many situations, victims are not cooperative and do not trust law enforcement. Some do not believe that they are victims and others simply adamantly refuse to assist law enforcement because of the lies their trafficker has instilled in their belief system. Law enforcement can abate some of those situations by maintaining communication, refraining from expressing judgment or judgmental comments and keeping their word (e.g. call when they say they will).
Simple gestures can also aid in establishing a sense of safety, such as ensuring the victim retains their personal possessions, speaking to the victim with respect, looking them in the eye, or giving them some space as the victims might be initially apprehensive to law enforcement.
Many victims have very few items and they hold them in high value - do not belittle that. Getting the victim food and some rest can be so much more important than getting a statement. He or she is likely dealing with a tremendous amount of stimuli, lack of food and likely a lack of rest. Nourishing his or her body and allowing the victim to rest physically and emotionally can be a huge help to any interview or investigation.
3. Addressing next steps
Informing a victim of the next steps is important to meeting the aforementioned needs: creating a sense of safety and providing an environment where they can safely express their emotions. Victims already expect to be let down by the system and law enforcement. The best way to keep a positive image and rapport is to not make promises you cannot keep. If you say you are going to do something, but are not sure you can keep your word, caveat your statement.
While it can be very difficult to maintain communication with a victim, do your best. They often go back to the life (for a variety of reasons: fear of a trafficker's retribution, it is all they know, sense of worthlessness, see no other option, truly believe they love their abuser and trafficker, etc). In those situations, the victim may move, their number may change and their social media site may change.
Being diligent and maintaining contact with a victim can go a long way to ultimately pulling them from the life, potentially assisting in prosecuting the trafficker and moving the victim in the direction of a more positive life path.
About the Author
Mandy Johnson has been in law enforcement for over nine years as a crime and intelligence analyst. She has a Bachelor's degree in psychology and criminal justice, a Master's degree in criminal justice and a certificate in crime and intelligence analysis. She has worked at police departments, sheriff's offices, the California Department of Justice and the California State Threat Assessment Center (a federally recognized fusion center). She has also worked as a criminal justice college instructor. Her areas of expertise are prison and criminal street gangs and human trafficking.
Justin Bieber Impersonator Accused of 900 Child Sex Crimes
by NBC News
BRISBANE, Australia — Fans of Justin Bieber and their parents were warned to be vigilant on the internet after a man who allegedly posed as the pop star online was charged with more than 900 child sex offences.
Gordon Douglas Chalmers, a 42-year-old law lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology, is accused of pretending to be Bieber and soliciting explicit images from children.
Chalmers was charged in November with using Facebook and Skype to impersonate the singer, after tip-offs from U.S. and German authorities. Chalmers was charged with using a carriage service to procure and groom children for sex and to access child pornography. He was also charged with possessing child porn.
As a result of warrants issued in November to search his social media and messaging accounts and cloud servers, Chalmers was charged this week with another 931 child sex offenses dating back a decade, including rape and making child exploitation material, a police statement said.
"The fact that so many children could believe that they were communicating with this particular celebrity highlights the need for a serious rethink about the way that we as a society educate our children about online safety," Police Detective Inspector Jon Rouse said in a statement. "The breadth of offenses committed in this instance is frankly horrendous."
Bieber has more than 92 million followers on Twitter.
Police have not said how many children had become victims or revealed which countries they live in. But Rouse said the investigation showed "the global reach and skill that child sex offenders have to groom and seduce victims."
Chalmers has yet to enter pleas.
Bieber, 23, is currently touring Australia.
Sydney author of illustrated child protection book wants Bishops to use Only For Me as educational resource
by Mark Bowling
PROTECTING children from sexual predators is uppermost in the minds of every good parent and guardian.
Even with the public spotlight on child sexual abuse, and with a raft of new legal and reporting practices in place, can we be assured of our kids' safety?
It was at a dinner party three years ago, that Catholic mother-of-four Michelle Derrig heard about two incidents of local children abused by fellow students at school.
“I was horrified to hear that in both cases, the parents had been supervising their children at the time,” Ms Derrig, a member of the St John Bosco parish, Engadine, in Sydney's south, said.
“It made me realise, that no matter how diligent you are as a parent, the reality is that we need to empower our children to protect themselves.
“We need to teach them, educate them and develop the skills they need, in order to keep themselves safe.”
Ms Derrig put her thoughts into action, setting out on a two-and-a-half-year project to write a book to teach three to eight-year-olds the skills to keep themselves safe from sexual abuse.
It contains the critical information they need to know to protect themselves.
“During this time I also fell pregnant and gave birth to my fourth child, so family took first priority and I would just work on the book whenever I could,” Ms Derrig said.
Writing turned out to be a deeply spiritual experience.
“I feel that when you surrender your life to God, He will use you for his purpose, and that is very much the case with writing this book,” Ms Derrig said.
“The first draft I felt very spiritually inspired. I was praying prior to the first few words, and without even thinking about it I went from praying, and then within a few seconds picking up a pen and feeling this was something I had to get down on paper.”
During research, Ms Derrig consulted child protection experts and with Christian author and sex educator Dr Patricia Weerakoon so the book contained the best advice for dealing with sex abuse.
She talked to countless parents, including adult survivors of child abuse, and those who disclosed more stories of abuse even amongst preschool-aged children.
As she wrote, Ms Derrig road-tested each draft of the book with her own children, to make sure they could understand the complicated themes.
The book project reached new heigshts when Ms Derrig was introduced to Nicole Mackenzie, a former Disney animator, and herself a mother-of-three.
The pair met through their parish community.
The result is Only For Me – a 32-page, soft-cover rhyming book that is child-friendly and empowers kids with the knowledge that their body is private and that they have a right to protect their privacy.
“For me as a mother it was partly about preserving kids' innocence while dealing with this stuff – talking to them in words they can understand,” Ms Derrig said.
“The use of rhyme as well has really enabled that. It very gently leads them into it.
“For instance they don't need to be told what pornography is, they just need to know that it's not okay for someone to see pictures or movies showing these parts of the body.”
Ms Derrig hopes the book teaches children to trust their instincts and respect their own bodies.
“It's about disarming predators,” she said.
“If you can give children this sort of knowledge it will hopefully, at least, slow a lot of abuse down.”
To try and make the book affordable for most Australian families, Only For Me is self-published, and since its release last July, has sold about 1600 copies, with orders from every state in Australia, New Zealand, America and the United Kingdoom.
All of Ms Derrig's author royalties are donated to child protection organisations, Bravehearts and Act For Kids.
She has just received a book order from a Florida-based advocacy group for inclusion in their United States educational program.
She has also received requests for publishing in the UK, as well as several requests to create a culturally sensitive Aboriginal version as well as a sequel for children who are known victims of sexual abuse.
Ms Derrig was heartened after sending a copy of Only For Me to Pope Francis to receive a reply of thanks from one of his advisors.
With endorsements from apostolic nuncio Archbishop Adolfo Yllana and Truth, Justice and Healing Council chief executive officer Francis Sullivan, she is now appealing directly to bishops to use Only For Me as an educational resource in dioceses across Australia.
“I hold out hope that with so much talk in the Royal Commission (into child sexual abuse) they are going to put in place measures to ensure these things can never happen again,” Ms Derrig said.
“My goal is to see it in as many homes and schools as possible and dream that one day it would be given to each kindergarten child as they begin their school journey.
“I welcome support from any organisation which can see the value of empowering and educating our children in this way and which may be able to help facilitate this goal.”
Only for Me costs $11.95 plus $4 postage and is available at www.onlyforme.com.au
Children as Clickbait
The arrest of a Central Oregon man highlights the dangers of teen dating and online stranger danger
by Magdalena Bokowa
A like, a click, a few messages back and forth, and then an invitation. It can be as simple as that. The world of teenage dating has vastly changed since the days of notes left in lockers and telephone calls fielded by mom. Teenagers can tweet their every thought, share their every photo and make their locations known — all while perpetrators wait and watch.
Tumblr, a site that hosts 338 million blogs, is a creative outlet akin to a digital portfolio. It can also be used as a place to seek out "love" in the modern age.
Tumblr was the alleged recent vehicle of choice for Christopher Michael Stout, a 43-year-old Prineville resident accused of using the site to lure a 15-year-old adolescent into an online relationship. That relationship allegedly culminated into a face-to-face meeting at the Doubletree hotel in downtown Bend in late January, according to Bend Police. A few weeks later, acting off a tip, Bend Police say they arrested Stout and charged him with six criminal offenses, including sodomy and sex Abuse, encouraging child sex abuse, luring and using a child in the display of sexually explicit conduct. Stout was also charged with methamphetamine possession. Overall, 75 counts were lodged across six charges.
A Growing Problem for Local Law Enforcement
Over his 17 years as a police officer, Bend Police Lt. Jason Maniscalco says he has seen first-hand an increase in cyber-related crime, especially with child sex abuse. "It's a huge problem," says Maniscalco, a lead investigator at the department. "It has so many different facets," he says, "you have local predators luring teens in and out of the area, out-of-towners coming in and luring locals, kids sending inappropriate things to each other...there's a lot going on."
Maniscalco admits it is hard to monitor the large online traffic volumes and says "most arrests are tipped off and reported to us." The department doesn't currently have a dedicated unit to child sex abuse and cyber crime; rather, select detectives undergo training in investigating predatory sex offenders. "...we just don't have the resources or the available officers. We could have detectives, you know, go online and pose as a juvenile, and we would most likely find a sex offender quite easily, but it's the lack of resources at the moment." Maniscalco says they're working to change that, and a plan to combat not only child sex abuse but human trafficking is in the works, although he didn't comment on specifics.
"The good thing is that your digital footprint will always be there, so we can always find that evidence they thought they think they can hide," Maniscalco says.
Looking and Acting Like Everyone Else
A quick look through Stout's Facebook photos paints a picture of an outdoorsy world traveler with many friends. The United States Forest Service confirmed Stout was a National Ochoco Forest employee and public records state a Christopher M. Stout as having worked as a forestry technician in Prineville from 2004 to 2015.
Those who lure children, "look and act like everyone else," says Darkness to Light, a nonprofit that works to end child sex abuse. Statistics listed on its website, d2l.org, state that females are five times more likely to be abused than males, and that over a period of one year, one in 25 youth received an online sexual solicitation where the solicitor tried to make offline contact. Furthering that, 23 percent of 10 to 17-year-olds experience unwanted exposure to pornography, with abusers forming relationships with potential victims prior to abuse, by "Grooming," a process that draws the victim into a sexual relationship, maintaining that relationship in secrecy.
At the Muse Women's Conference held March 4 and 5 in Bend, Emily Evans, the director of the Women's Foundation of Oregon, said: "Perpetrators have sexually or domestically assaulted more than one million Oregon women and girls. That's more than half the female population." Women in Oregon experience childhood trauma at rates higher than the national average. The "Count Her In" report, compiled by Evans, states: "this trauma can lead to lifelong mental and physical health problems, lower educational attainment, increased likelihood of juvenile and adult criminal justice involvement, houselessness, and/or suicide." The report also noted that almost 50 percent of female survivors in the U.S. are raped before the age of 18.
A Crash Course in Safety
"More than ever, teenagers need a crash course in online safety and social media issues that they encounter on a daily basis," says Gabriella van Rij, an author, anti-bullying activist and public speaker. "It's a subject you should have ongoing conversations about." She notes a Pew Research Center study which found that of the teens who reported having dated, 25 percent had found their partner online. Pew established that 31 percent of teens under the age of 17 had sent a flirtatious message and that 10 percent had sent sexual photos or videos of themselves. Experts estimate that number to be quite higher. "That's a clear sign that this isn't always nice and innocent," van Rij says, "and parents need to step in to protect their teens." She disagrees with the sentiment that monitoring the apps your teen uses may be seen as intrusive." Express curiosity about the apps and let them explain to you how they work, she says. "You have a right as a parent to be on every app your son and daughter is on.... That way you can monitor what they're doing... for safety reasons."
In their online "Talking to your Kids about Digital Safety" manual, Darkness to Light warns that parents should "not underestimate the level of sophistication an abuser may undertake to message youth...pay attention to all downloaded apps and their capabilities, even ones that do not seem to be chat-related." Considering the Stout investigation, Tumblr may not be a typical social app that parents have on their radar to monitor.
If a parent finds questionable communications between an adult and a child, the manual advises remaining calm to avoid instilling shame and blame on the victim. Talk without accusation, try to get all the facts and then immediately report it to your local enforcement, no matter how seemingly trivial the solicitation or offense.
For further protection, the Darkness to Light site warns against turning on the location services feature of a child's device, noting it "allows devices to broadcast their location to the user's contacts," which an offender could use to locate the child.
"A lot of this comes down to parents having a good relationship with their teens during what are very pivotal years," van Rij says. "It's just another part of influencing and guiding them toward becoming responsible and mature adults."
Darkness to Light - http://www.d2l.org/
Women's Foundation of Oregon - Womensfoundationoforegon.org
The National Center for Victims of Crime - victimsofcrime.org
Spotting the problem: Local leaders learn how to identify human trafficking
by Gina Kinslow
CAVE CITY — Kaye Atwell was one among several government officials working in the tourist industry who turned out Wednesday for Caveland Marketing Association's lecture on human trafficking at the Cave City Convention Center.
Atwell works at the rest area off Interstate 65 for Horse Cave / Hart County Tourism. She thought she knew what human trafficking was, but not enough to identify it.
“There have been times that I've noticed something that just didn't seem quite right, but it didn't register in my mind what it could be,” she said.
After listening to Allyson Taylor, director of the Kentucky Office of Child Abuse and Exploitation Prevention, a division of the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General, speak, Atwell said she feels more comfortable about reporting suspicious activity.
Taylor explained human trafficking is when a person is subjected to forced labor or commercial sexual activity through fraud or coercion. Children, as well as adults, can be victims.
Human trafficking can occur anywhere, even in rural Kentucky.
“We have it in every single town. I hear people say all the time, 'That's really important work, but that doesn't happen in my little town,'” she said.
Taylor typically follows a comment of that type by asking if they have ever heard of someone being accused of letting people have sex with a child in exchange for drugs, money or rent reduction.
“They say, 'Oh, yeah, I've seen that,'” she said. “That is human trafficking under the law in Kentucky.”
Since 2007, there have been more than 1,400 cases of human trafficking in hotels and motels across the country reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
“Over 1,800 victims and survivors have been identified, so we know human trafficking happens in hotels,” she said.
In Kentucky, there were 169 child victims during the 2015-16 year and most of them were sex trafficking cases, according to statistics from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Of the two types of human trafficking, the one that is most visible is sex trafficking because it usually involves commercial activity like prostitution or pornography.
“Our labor trafficking includes domestic service. We have a lot of cases like this,” Taylor said.
She gave an example of a Filipino woman who worked for a central Kentucky cardiologist for more than 15 years, caring for his children. The woman slept on the floor of the nursery and was never paid for her work.
“They told her they were putting it in a fund for her but that wasn't happening. In her 60s, she literally ran because she knew she wasn't going to live any longer if she didn't get out of there,” Taylor said.
She explained a common misconception about human trafficking is that the only victims are foreign nationals.
“I always want to tell you to please don't think this is a foreign immigrant problem,” Taylor said. “Of our foreign nationals who are trafficked, most of them come here legally. That is the smallest percentage of trafficking that you will see in Kentucky.”
Other misconceptions are that the victims are chained or bound, or shuttled from one location to another, she said.
“I can have a child at my house and keep that kid there and invite people in to have sex with that child for money or other things of value and never let that child leave the house and it would be human trafficking,” Taylor said. “Don't think there has to be movement and there doesn't have to be any actual restraint.”
People have a duty under law to report activity they think may be human trafficking, she said.
“Obviously, there's not one sign of trafficking, so you are going to have a gut feeling,” Taylor said.
Typically, human trafficking victims won't have their own identification. They tend to dress inappropriately for their age and will often check into a hotel without luggage.
Human trafficking victims are also often branded with either the same tattoo, burn or carving and those usually appear on their necks, across their chests or on their wrists.
A group of girls with one adult female or a group of boys with one adult male are also signs that human trafficking may be taking place, she said.
One of the more common forms of human trafficking that occurs in western Kentucky are traveling youth sales.
“I had a call back in the summer of some kids down here from Indianapolis who said they were selling magazines or cookies or whatever usually for Youth Alive or Youth In Action. Those are the names that they use,” she said. “It is the No. 2 reported form of trafficking reported in the United States.”
Children subjected to this form of human trafficking are not allowed to eat or sleep, usually, until they meet their sales quota, she said.
In 2016, Taylor's office was part of a sting operation, along with the Louisville Metro Police, during the Derby at the Red Roof Inn off Hurstbourne Lane. An eighth-grader was rescued during that event, she said.
Nick Patel, who owns the Super 8, Days Inn and Baymont Inn in Cave City, attended Taylor's lecture.
Before she spoke, he wasn't sure he knew what human trafficking was, but afterwards he said he has a better understanding.
“I know more likely what to look for,” he said.
Glasgow Mayor Dick Doty also attended the lecture and said he, too, didn't know what human trafficking was, or that it occurs in rural Kentucky.
“It's far more prevalent than you would think,” he said. “It's something we need to be aware of and looking for and it's not just in the big cities. It's all over. It was really good information.”
Taylor's office will conduct training sessions for those working in the tourist and other industries regarding human trafficking. Her office recently received a $1.5 million federal grant to fund training outreach programs.
Her office is also in the process of making a video that can be shown to employees as part of their orientation. Taylor hopes to have the video ready for distribution by April, since it is Child Abuse Awareness Month.
She urged anyone who suspects human trafficking taking place to not approach the situation on their own, but to report the activity by calling 911 or the National Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. There is also a text line, befree, that goes to the national hotline, she said.
Anyone interested in receiving training regarding human trafficking can call Taylor's office at 502-696-5300 or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this together: Reporting process focuses on survivors comfort
by Alison Boysen
Reporting a sexual assault is not meant to be a difficult process, and Story County SART is trying to make it easier for survivors.
For survivors of sexual assault, it may be hard to tell close friends or relatives about their assault and even more difficult to tell a complete stranger.
The Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) implements techniques to make the reporting process easier to keep it victim-centered and in its control.
Both the Ames and ISU Police departments are part of SART, which has a mission to “serve sexual assault victims by coordinating an immediate, high-quality, multi-disciplinary, victim-centered response ...” This response will typically provide three groups of professionals: medical, law enforcement and advocacy.
In Ames, the SART agencies include: ISU Police, Ames Police, Mary Greeley Medical Center, ACCESS (Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support) office and Thielen Student Health Center.
Anthony Greiter, ISU police officer, is trained in how to interact with survivors of sexual assault during the reporting process.
“We're not here to judge them," Greiter said. "We may ask difficult questions, but we're here to help."
The first thing a SART professional does is offer resources to the survivor and lets them choose how to proceed. If the survivor chooses to proceed, they decide how the process will unfold. Not all cases are the same because it all depends on the victim.
The victim does not have to tell all of their story. They have the option of completing a sexual assault medical forensic exam and they can begin the steps to file charges. If they do choose to tell their story and names are mentioned, the police may automatically have to report the assault.
“If they give me names and they are affiliated with the university, either suspect or victim, I have to report that to the university,” Greiter said.
Iowa State University is required by federal guidelines to begin an investigation headed by the Office of Equal Opportunity and Title IX, which handles cases of dating violence, domestic abuse, sexual assault, stalking and more.
If a student is suspected and found guilty, they will have violated the student code of conduct and will be expelled.
If the survivor reports to an Ames police officer, the department is not required to report to the university.
The medical side of SART is the SANE, or sexual assault nurse examiner, who meets with patients who decide to go forward with the sexual assault medical forensic exam. The first order of business is always informing the patient about options.
If they proceed, the discussion turns to what processes will take place, the medications that are offered and what they will treat.
The kit includes envelopes, cotton swabs and papers that the SANE will fill out. The nurse will first administer prophylactic drugs, but the patient is not forced to take them. This is a preventive measure to ensure the patient does not contract a sexually transmitted disease.
“We get ahead of that so [the victims] don't have to be diagnosed with a transmitted sexual infection,” Shannon Knudsen, sexual assault exam coordinator, said.
More evidence that is needed, such as clothes, can be collected in paper bags. The paper bag allows the DNA to “breathe,” whereas a plastic bag will make the evidence decompose.
Another tool that is not included in the kit is the speculum, which is inserted into the vagina to analyze for injuries.
After receiving consent, the first exam by the nurse examiner is a full-body visual exam that looks for injuries such as scratch marks, bruising and anything that may contain the perpetrator's DNA. The nurse will use a certain flashlight that illuminates body fluid of any kind to collect for evidence.
“We do that exam for injuries, and then as I'm doing that exam I'm going through the kits as well and collecting those pieces of evidence,” Knudsen said.
The first swab administered is the buccal swab, which lets the lab know which DNA is the patient's and which is the perpetrator's. The buccal swab is taken from the mouth, but if there is an oral assault, an oral swab will be used and blood will be taken instead.
With the patient's consent, medical practitioners will take swabs of the body parts the perpetrator touched. If the patient wishes, only certain parts of the kit can be carried out. The whole kit is not necessary, and the processes are defined by the decisions of the patient.
“I am mandated by [the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act], so what they tell me I can't share with anybody else," Knudsen said. "If they want to pursue an investigation, then I have to have permission to talk to law enforcement."
This does not include if the victim is a child or dependent adult, or if human trafficking is suspected. In those cases, mandatory reports are issued.
If the patient feels uncomfortable, the kit can stop. According to SART, whatever the survivor is most comfortable with is priority. If the kit has been completed but the patient is not sure what steps to take next, the statutes of limitations are 10 years in Iowa. The survivor has that amount of time to come to a decision of what they want.
Sexual assault medical forensic exams are not needed in some cases. Greiter said some sexual assault cases in Story County have been won without DNA evidence of the attacker. The sexual assault medical forensic exam is always just an option, and most aspects of reporting are within the control of the survivor.
In Iowa, there are more than 4,200 untested sexual assault medical forensic exams. Officials hope to soon push for all of them to be tested in order to identify the perpetrator and ultimately charge them. Some of these tests date to the 1990s.
The effort, which is part of a nationwide initiative, is being funded by a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The initiative will also work to establish a statewide sexual assault medical forensic exam tracking system.
Couple face hundreds of sexual, child abuse charges
by Tom Smith
FLORENCE – A Florida couple who were foster parents in Florence for seven years have been charged with hundreds of counts of child abuse, sexual abuse and other charges involving children they adopted or were fostering.
Daniel W. Spurgeon, 47, and his wife, Jenise, 52, were charged Wednesday.
Florence police detective Sgt. Brad Holmes said Daniel Spurgeon is in jail in Cape Coral, Florida, where he was arrested in July 2016 on similar charges. Holmes said Jenise Spurgeon, who was also charged in Florida, was arrested Thursday in Florida on the Florence charges.
Daniel Spurgeon is charged with two counts of sexual abuse of a child under 12, 115 counts of first-degree sexual abuse, 115 counts of enticing a child for immoral purposes, 122 counts of child abuse, four counts of first-degree sodomy, four counts of sexual torture, three counts of domestic violence by strangulation/suffocation, six counts of first-degree rape, 11 counts of first-degree human trafficking, and six counts of other sexual abuse-related charges.
Jenise Spurgeon is charged with 100 counts of child abuse, 11 counts of first-degree human trafficking, 100 counts of endangering the welfare of a child, 100 counts of enticing a child for immoral purposes, and one count of domestic violence strangulation/suffocation.
Holmes said the warrants stem from an ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual abuse involving the couple.
The Florence investigation began after detectives were notified in July about an incident in Cape Coral, Florida. In a report by the Cape Coral Police Department, one of the girls told authorities there had been multiple incidents while they lived in Florence.
Florence police detective Keith Johnson said the Spuregons moved to Florence in 2008, and moved to Florida in 2015.
Reports indicate while in Florence, the couple lived with their biological children, foster children and adopted children at a residence off Old Jackson Road in the Braircliff subdivision.
Police said the investigation determined one of the girls was 11 when the abuse started in 2008.
Holmes said Florence detectives, along with officials from the Alabama Department of Human Resources, have been diligently investigating the allegations.
“Multiple interviews have been conducted, and evidence gathered in the case led to the issuance of warrants against both Daniel Spurgeon and Jenise Spurgeon,” Holmes said.
Daniel Spurgeon remains in the Lee County, Florida, jail with holds placed on him for the warrants in Alabama.
Jenise Spurgeon was arrested Wednesday at a court hearing on related charges in Florida. She remains in the Lee County jail while awaiting extradition to Lauderdale County.
Child Abuse Increase Seen In Oswego County
by Oswego County Today
OSWEGO – In 2016, more than 3,200 child abuse cases were reported to the state from Oswego County, an increase in recent years reported by the Oswego County Department of Social Services.
Lately, Christine Patrick, the director of services at the DSS, has seen many of these cases related to poverty and a myriad 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 a strong connection between child abuse and neglect which was increasing during the recession.
In addition, Patrick made a point by saying that as the as the sizes of families increase, often times the distribution of families, and children not living together under one roof increase.
Subsequently, 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 as a part of the 700,000 abused children annually 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 Delta Kappa Kappa and the Oswego State men's ice hockey team are working together as part of an organization known as FORTHEKIDS.
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 more than $30,000, which they directly donate.
After realizing how bad the situation was in Oswego, the two groups knew they had to start something with the college and are continuing to do so today, said Shawn Hulshof, of the hockey team.
To help parents get back on track to help their children, DSS offers 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 added.
For families needing service, there is no charge, as the money comes as a reimbursement from the state, as well as from the county through taxes.
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 will provide training and classes for those interested and qualified.
Bill would make juvenile correctional officers report child abuse
by Katie Scheidt
The state Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would make correctional officers in juvenile prisons mandatory reporters for child abuse and neglect.
The legislation was prompted by a lengthy investigation into allegations of systemic problems at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Schools, youth prisons for boys and girls, respectively, run by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.
Under the bill, introduced by 10 Democratic state senators, juvenile correctional officers would be responsible for directly disclosing instances of abuse to state authorities. The purpose of designating certain officials as mandatory reporters is to require them to go to the police rather than simply telling their bosses about abuse or neglect.
If the mandated reporters fail to report instances of abuse, they can face criminal penalties.
The facilities are located outside of Irma, in northern Wisconsin, and have been subject to an investigation from the state Department of Justice, which was later joined by the FBI. Claims of wide-ranging problems, including improperly trained staff, failure to document incidents of abuse or neglect and use of solitary confinement have been leveled against the prisons for years.
Despite the ongoing probes into practices at Lincoln Hills, the situation does not appear to have improved. Two federal lawsuits have been brought against the Department of Corrections, one alleging guards did not heed warning signs of an inmate who later attempted suicide, and another brought by the ACLU accusing guards of routinely pepper spraying inmates for minor rules violations.
While the need to address the problems in Wisconsin's juvenile prisons has received wide bipartisan support in both the Senate and Assembly, some legislators, such as Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, feel the recent bill does not go far enough.
“We must stop the abuse before it begins. We need to stop the over-incarceration of our juveniles, and we must stop placing our children in solitary confinement and adding trauma upon trauma,” Sen. Taylor said in a press release.
The bill is now under consideration by the Assembly, and is expected to be passed and later signed by Gov. Scott Walker.
Go Blue brings awareness to child abuse
by Kathi Nailling
The Henderson County District Attorney, along with other county officials, believe the key to putting an end to child abuse is education.
District Attorney Mark Hall and Judge Scott McKee were at the Athens Chamber of Commerce monthly lunch to launch April as Child Abuse Awareness Month.
One of the biggest educational tools used by county officials in the fight against child abuse is the annual Go Blue campaign.
McKee told members of the chamber, “In 2007, Henderson County had the highest child abuse rate per capita in the state. These numbers come out every two years. I am proud to report that every two years, we have seen that number drop each time. We are very proud of that.”
McKee said Wednesday that Henderson County is ranked 170 out of over 220 counties.
“We try to make a difference and catch this stuff early by educating the community and stamp it out before it starts,” McKee said.
The District Attorney's Office with the Henderson County Sheriff's Office, Henderson County District Clerk, and County Attorney's Office team each year to promote April as Go Blue month. Henderson County citizens are asked to wear blue every Friday during the month of April.
Fourth-grade students from across the county are asked to participate in a poster contest that will determine the design of next year's shirt. The 2017 shirt, with a theme of “Think Peace Show Love,” was designed by Mabank ISD's Moriah Miller, a fourth grader at Lakeview Elementary in Gun Barrel City.
The coloring contest was started by the Henderson County HELP Center in 2006 as an awareness program, and offered to students in Athens and LaPoynor. The contest is now offered to all schools in Henderson County.
Students from around the county who participated in the coloring contest will be invited to participate in a fun day for kids at Whatz-Up Family Fun Park in Seven Points, where kids will be educated about child abuse. The free day at Whatz-Up Family Fun Park is made possible by area sponsorships.
On Friday, April 28, everyone in the county is asked to wear blue for Go Blue Day. Teachers fifth-grade and below across the county will be given a special white T-shirts to wear on this day.
More than 1,000 T-shirts will be given to teachers at no cost, while over 3,000 will be sold to members of the community.
Henderson County District Attorney's Office Manager Deanna Browning said there are still sponsorships available.
“If any business wants to be a sponsor, and get their name on the back of the teachers' T-shirts, it's important they get with me as soon as possible,” Browning said.
Browning said there were only 30 $200 sponsorships available. Call Browning at the district attorney's office for information on having your business logo put on the Go-Blue T-shirts, at 903-675-6100.
Go-Blue T-shirts are on sale in Athens at Island Tans and Citizens National Bank. In Gun Barrel City they are at Jalopy Joe's Gourmet Popcorn on Main Street, and at the Chandler Feed and Seed Country Store.
A new organization helps children affected by child abuse in Las Cruces
by Samantha Lewis
A new organization in Las Cruces is helping to bring down the number of child abuse cases in Dona Ana County and you may have seen them riding around the city.
They call themselves The Guardians of the Children for the City of Crosses.
The guardians advocate for children who have been deemed by a judge to have been neglected or abused.
Each member of the group welcomes a child into the Guardians and works to rebuild that child's self-esteem.
Guardians raise money to host events for the kids, such as birthday parties and cookouts.
They also help with various needs like school supplies.
The nonprofit organization works with the District Attorney's Office to find children who would benefit from the Guardians.
They also work in conjunction with other organizations that advocate for abused children.
Jesse Frausto is the president but they call him “preacher,” because he preaches for a local church.
He tells KFOX14 that New Mexico has seen enough cases of child abuse and he hopes to bring down the number of children affected in our city.
"The way we love our kids is the way we want to love the other kids even though they're not flesh and blood but they're still a gift from God,” Frausto said.
Aside from fundraising and hosting events, 18 members of the Guardians are on call throughout the city to report any type of child abuse.
"If you see child abuse or suspect you see child abuse, report it. It's better to report it than let it go because if you're wrong, you're wrong, but if you're right, you're saving a child,” Patricia Chavez said.
If you'd like to help raise awareness or donate to The Guardians of the Children City of Crosses you can visit their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/goccityofcrosses/?hc_ref=SEARCH
Man gets 39 life sentences on 39 charges of child sexual abuse
by Kaleb Roedel
RENO, Nev. (News 4 & Fox 11) — A 45-year-old Reno man was sentenced to 39 life sentences after being found guilty of 39 counts of child sexual abuse, according to prosecutors.
In one of the largest child sexual abuse trials ever tried in Washoe County, Valentin Corrales was found guilty of 39 counts of lewdness with a minor under the age of 14, sexual assault of a child, and sexual assault in December 2016.
According to the Washoe County District Attorney's Office, evidence presented during the December trail and at sentencing showed sexual abuse by Corrales against four child victims over a 25-year span.
At sentencing, the Honorable Elliott Sattler imposed 39 life sentences against Corrales, ordering that they all be served consecutively. He is not eligible for parole.
District Attorney Chris Hicks praised Judge Sattler's decision.
"These severe and just sentences," Hicks said, "not only validate the victims' courage to come forward and disclose the atrocities forced upon them by this horrendous defendant but also guarantee he will be behind bars, with no hope of ever being free, for the rest of his existence.”
In late February of 2015, a 19-year-old victim reported to police that she had been a victim of sexual abuse by Corrales for the last 13 years.
An investigation followed revealing additional victims whose years of abuse went back to 1994. All victims reported the sexual abuse started when they were approximately 6 or 7 years old.
Further investigations determined that Corrales had been convicted of two counts of lewdness with a minor under the age of 14 in 1990 involving two minor victims. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
Within six months of his release from prison in 1992, Corrales managed to place himself in a relationship with a single mother, who had two young daughters. They got married and had several children. It was this relationship that spawned the instant charges involving multiple victims over many years. Throughout those years, Corrales employed threats, fear and bribery to maintain their submission and silence.
During trial, Deputy District Attorneys Nicole Hicks and Peg Samples introduced compelling testimony from the victims and witnesses, evidence of the locations where the assaults occurred, provocative photographs the defendant had taken of some of the victims, and DNA evidence connecting him and a victim to objects used during the assaults.
They also introduced testimony from his previous victims, who are now adults, which illustrated his continued motivations to sexually abuse children.
During closing arguments, DDA Nicole Hicks argued that Corrales' motivation in life was to create “unrestricted, unfettered and unlimited access to child victims."
Banish statutes of limitations on child sexual assault
by The Associated Press
CHICAGO -- Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, citing the actions of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, is pushing for the elimination of statutes of limitations on child abuse and sexual assault crimes.
Madigan on Tuesday testified before the Senate Criminal Law Committee in support of Senate Bill 189, which the committee passed and sent on to the full Senate for consideration. She said children who suffer sexual assault and abuse often spend a lifetime recovering from the violations.
Madigan said Hastert inflicted "unbelievable pain" on the youth he molested at the school where he coached wrestling before entering politics. She adds he only got a "slap on the wrist."
75-year-old is serving a 15-month sentence in federal prison for violating banking laws as he sought to silence one of his victims with hush money.
Under current Illinois law, sexual offenses against children must be reported and prosecuted within 20 years of the victim turning 18 years old.
Cops: 8 women held against their will in Georgia home valued at nearly $1M
by Steve Burns and John Spink
A man has been arrested on a human trafficking charge after police said he held eight women against their will in a nearly $1-million Sandy Springs, Georgia, home.
Just before 8 a.m. Tuesday, officers responded to a 911 call from a woman who asked for help leaving a residence in the 100 block of Strauss Lane, Sgt. Sam Worsham said Wednesday.
When they got to the 6,806-square-foot home, officers found eight women and assisted them in leaving the residence, Worsham said.
The FBI and Sandy Springs investigators arrested 33-year-old Kenndric Roberts on charges of false imprisonment and trafficking of persons for labor, Worsham said.
Roberts is in the Fulton County jail, police said. It was not immediately clear how long the women had been held in the home.
According to Fulton County property records, the $976,300 residence has five bedrooms and five-and-a-half bathrooms.
Shocking reality of child sexual abuse
by Katie Hampson
It is a disturbing fact that many women stay with a child abuser, even when children are at home.
There are also families who allow the offender back into the home after their prison sentence is served.
It can be difficult to understand why but the reality means experts must work out strategies to stop the abuse from happening again.
They must also find ways to treat those who fear they may offend. Adult survivors of child sexual abuse can give insight on the helpfulness, or not, of post-abuse contact with the offender.
The mother of a child sex abuse victim
Perth mother, Yvette Strawbridge, reflects on the tragic impact of sexual abuse on her child.
Our first child, Douglas, was born in 1969. My husband, a policeman, had been mentored as a child by a man down the road who was wonderful and who taught him everything he knew about fishing. That was such a positive experience for him, so when our next-door neighbour, who was a handyman, invited Douglas to join him we thought it was wonderful Douglas could learn things like cleaning windows and gardening. Douglas was 10 and now we understand it was all part of the grooming process because only many, many years later did we find out that man would get Douglas to swim naked in the swimming pool and he took lots and lots of photographs. For about the next seven years this man would take our son out on a boat because our son loved diving, fishing and boating. We thought Douglas was having this wonderful experience but we later discovered he was being sexually abused. Our son died one week after his 25th birthday in 1994 and the only reason we came to know Douglas had been abused was because the child sexual abuse squad came to us in September 2011 and told us.
This was 18 years after Douglas committed suicide. They said they had interviewed a man in a South Australian prison who told them his story of what had happened to him in his childhood. He was actually in prison because, sadly, he — the survivor of child sex abuse — had gone on to become an offender. While he was in prison he wrote to the the WA Police Commissioner and the policeman who took it on, who was commended in court for his diligence, noticed he had mentioned another boy in his statement of evidence — a boy called Douglas. He said Douglas, the boy who lived next door, was also abused. When the police came to our house and told us I remember thinking “This cannot be true”. This man had taught our son how to manicure lawns and mow gardens in Nedlands, Dalkeith and Cottesloe. Also, I was a nurse so I couldn't understand how, under my watch as a mother, this could have happened to him. Douglas suffered a profound emotional and psychological trauma yet he courageously tried to live a normal life with us. That man was sentenced to 10 years in prison but he was released in April last year and never verbally expressed remorse or apologised to us for what he did to Douglas. It may come as a surprise but I have supported the victim in prison in South Australia. He had actually taken himself to a psychiatric facility asking for help but didn't get it and shortly afterwards he offended. But through this man's disclosure about his own abuse and the resulting arrest by police we have learnt what happened to Douglas. The offender made threats to this man and we presume he did the same to Douglas, which is why he never said anything. We grieve the loss of Douglas and want to honour him. He must have felt so fearful and unable to tell us what happened before he took his own life.
The offender's wife
A Perth mum, who asked to remain anonymous, offers insight into why she chose to let her husband return home.
It was absolutely horrendous to see my husband arrested by police. We had brought up our children to be fabulous citizens with great morals and ethics. We had been married for so long and I just could not believe my husband — a very intelligent man, the loveliest father and the best community member — would do this. I was totally numb with shock. When I explained to our children that I needed to talk to them about something that would change their world, one thought we were going to announce a divorce and one was frightened one of us had cancer. One child's response was very black and white: ‘If you do the crime, you do the time.' My husband had been taking photographs of children in public places. He actually uploaded those photos to the web. The police came and took all of our technological devices and all he could say was “I'm sorry. I'm sorry”. He was sentenced to 13 months in prison and is now on the sex offender's register for 15 years. When I asked him why he did it, he told me he just couldn't stop and that it was an addictive mindset. I know from experiencing depression myself how the mind controls everything you do. I asked him “Why children?” and he basically said it was because they wouldn't know what he was doing whereas an adult would. I've been asked if I was going to leave him and the short answer is no. I have been married to him and I know who he is — a lovely man, a great father and a good friend — who had a horrible secret he just couldn't talk about.
He had depression and we discovered through a lot of psychological help that back in his youth he had some sort of fetish with underwear and this was triggered because he was spending hours and hours alone. He was working FIFO so I think it was also due to loneliness and boredom. Our house needed no work done to it either so he spent all his time on the computer. The media went to town on him and we had to move suburbs and get away from people who knew and there are countries we can't travel to now. Every now and again I feel angry. It is so demoralising for an educated, intelligent man to have to live like that (in prison) and he hated every minute of it but he wore it because he knew what he did was wrong and he is so glad to be out of there. At first my husband was planning to kill himself but he said if one of his kids spoke to him and didn't ostracise him because of the offence then he could survive this. My daughter called him that night to say she supported him and even though we have lost lots of friends, the family has stuck together, including in-laws. I believe children are the most precious things in our lives so we need to help these men who are psychologically unable to help themselves to get help before it gets to the stage they are incarcerated. There is nothing available for these men who get caught up in this dark web before they start acting out. While incarcerated, my husband signed up for every program he could but only the long-timers get to do the programs. Even the judge didn't talk about the psychological problem my husband had — he basically said: ‘You did this and you are going to prison'. But I'm not going to ditch him for a mental problem. Yes he hurt children but what he has put us through as a family means I know he would never ever breach that trust again, ever. There are reasons men do these things and sometimes it can't be helped and they feel like they don't have a way out and I want them to get that help. They have rehabilitation centres for drug addicts and I think it would be good for the government to have similar therapy centres for them (child sex offenders), even if they have to live there for a year or however long to get to the bottom of the offending so it doesn't happen again.
The Protective Behaviours Program — what is it?
It's an international child abuse prevention program which aims to develop personal safety skills in children, young people and adults. It helps identify unsafe situations, problem-solve them and direct people to help and support. Source: WA Child Safety Services (WACSS)
Find fact sheets and more about courses available at wachildsafetyservices.com or call 1300 310 083. Also safe4kids.com.au or 9497 7685.
State Senate panel advances reform of child-sex-abuse law
by Tom Kacich
SPRINGFIELD — Legislation that would remove the statute of limitations for felony sex crimes committed against minors, such as the recent case involving former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, sailed through an Illinois Senate Committee on Tuesday.
SB 189, sponsored by Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, was approved unanimously by the Senate Criminal Law Committee.
Among those testifying in favor of the bill were Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Scott Cross, one of Hastert's victims when the former Republican Party powerhouse was a wrestling coach at Yorkville High School in the 1970s.
Hastert was never charged with any state crimes because the statute of limitations — generally 20 years after a victim's 18th birthday — had run out. But he was convicted of violating federal banking laws for paying hush money to one of four victims who prosecutors had identified.
"When I was abused, I knew exactly what was happening. As a young man, the challenge that you deal with and the suffering, the pain and torture, I still deal with that almost 38 years later," Cross, now a banker in Wheaton, told committee members. "It's not something you talked about. You didn't do anything about it. It was an awful situation.
"I'm here today because I'm trying to move forward and have other voices move forward, that it's OK, don't keep that silence."
Cross said that he doesn't believe justice was served in the federal case against Hastert, whom he called "a monster."
"Hastert inflicted unbelievable pain on the lives of the youth he was entrusted to care for. Instead, he got a slap on the wrist," he said. "As hard as it is to continue to live through the events of the past, the laws in Illinois and across the country have to change."
He said the statute of limitations should be deleted.
"There's no good reason to provide a legal loophole to protect sexual predators from prosecution," he said. "The Illinois General Assembly should provide sexual predators no safe harbor under the law based on arbitrary deadlines established by the stroke of a pen.
"It should offend everyone's faith in the judicial system that Illinois' laws today would still allow child molesters to avoid prosecution for heinous acts of sexual abuse because survivors didn't come forward in time. It took me 36-plus years to come forward."
On average, Cross said, it takes a victim 42 years "before they're able to deal with this."
Madigan said that for most child sex abuse victims, coming to terms with the abuse "is a long difficult and painful process. Even for most adult survivors of sexual assault, coming forward to report their crime is daunting, and it often proves impossible. For children, it can be unimaginable."
The federal government and 36 states have eliminated the statute of limitations for all or some sexual offenses against children, she said.
Steve Baker of the Cook County public defender's office was the only opponent of the legislation to offer testimony. He said that prosecutors already have no statute of limitations in some sexual abuse cases.
And he warned that the time limit was useful in restricting wayward prosecutors.
"Past legislators have thought perhaps of the rare prosecutor who prosecutes not for reasons of justice but for reasons of personal aggrandizement," he said.
Child abuse, fatality review bill moves forward
by Tribune Capitol Bureau
HELENA — The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved the second reading of a bill that would have two state agencies join together to start addressing the crisis of child abuse and neglect in Montana.
House Bill 303, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Kelker, D-Billings, would establish a Child Abuse and Fatality Review Commission to take a close look at these incidents, examine data, assess the effectiveness of existing services and recommend policies and practices for the state.
Creating the 17-member Child Abuse and Neglect Review Commission was the top recommendation of the Protect Montana Kids Commission, which was appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock to review the Division of Child and Family Services as it grappled with huge caseloads, employee turnover and a record number of children in foster care.
Kelker told fellow lawmakers that her bill would be a joint project of the Department of Justice and the Department of Public Health and Human Services and combine the expertise of both agencies.
She said the cost of the commission would be covered through a federal grant.
The House voted 98-2 on the second reading in favor of the bill, with Republican Reps. Jeremy Trebas of Great Falls and Mike Hopkins of Missoula voting against it. A final House vote is expected Wednesday. If it passes, the bill will be sent to the Senate.
Rep. Kimberly Dudik, D-Missoula, also supported the bill and referenced a state report that noted 14 children died in Montana between July 1, 2015, and Nov. 8, 2016. A state panel concluded most died of abuse or neglect.
“We need to figure out why and how to stop it,” she said.
In 2015, Montanans made more than 35,000 calls to the state Child Abuse Hotline — nearly 100 a day, leading to nearly 9,000 investigations. The number of kids in foster care is now more than 3,000, more than double the number from less than a decade ago.
A similar bill was unanimously recommended by an interim committee before the 2015 Legislative session, but lawmakers failed to pass it.
On Tuesday, Rep. Bill Harris, R-Winnett, urged colleagues to support the bill.
“This is not only a good bill and a necessary bill, but it's an urgent bill,” he said. “We can't go another two years and watch this continue.”
Aurora parents charged with child abuse for identical deaths of 2 babies
by Rob Low
AURORA, Colo. -- Child abuse charges have been filed after a December FOX31 Problem Solvers investigation into the deaths of two infant brothers who died under identical circumstances two years apart.
Tierra Collins, 28, and Gregory Tyler Newton, 27, have been booked with two counts of misdemeanor child abuse.
The parents were under investigation in December for the July 2014 death of 7-month-old Azian Newton and the June death 3-month-old Nazairean Newton
Aurora police reports revealed both babies "died while sleeping in bed with the parents" and both parents "appear to be intoxicated or under the influence" at the time each baby died.
Despite obvious indications of alcohol and marijuana use, neither parent was charged after their first son died.
The Aurora Police Department gave the parents a closer look when the couple's second baby died under similar circumstances two years later.
Investigators believe both infants died from suffocation after co-sleeping with their parents in the same bed.
The autopsy report for each child listed the cause of death as undetermined, but Arapahoe County Coroner Dr. Kelly Lear-Kaul said that's because suffocation leaves no trace.
"Asphyxial deaths don`t leave any marks in most cases so there's nothing for me to see at autopsy," Lear-Kaul said. "I believe that's the most likely cause. I can't prove that."
Despite her opinion the babies likely suffocated while sleeping with their parents, Lear-Kaul felt compelled to list "undetermined" as the cause of death. As a result, prosecutors felt they couldn't charge the parents with felony child abuse resulting in death.
Collins had no comment Tuesday morning at a court hearing, but she was more forthcoming in December after she was arrested for a DUI.
"I love my kids and I was doing the best that I thought I could do for my kids. I did not do anything criminally wrong," said Collins.
Her boyfriend, Newton, had a similar reaction at the same court hearing.
"I didn't blame myself. It's an unfortunate act. You know we ... we're young, but no, I never blamed myself," said Newton.
But the arrest affidavit states Collins was warned not to co-sleep with her babies after the birth of her second son.
"Tierra disregarded the advice given to her by Nurse Julia because Tierra said she was comfortable co-sleeping with Nazairean," a detective wrote. "Tierra said she is a light sleeper, however, in Tyler's interview he said Tierra was a 'heavy sleeper.'"
If convicted, Collins and Newton could face three to 12 months in jail for each count of misdemeanor child abuse.
Ill. Attorney General Wants to Eliminate Statutes of Limitations on Child Abuse
by CBS St. Louis
CHICAGO (AP) – Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, citing the actions of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, is pushing for the elimination of statutes of limitations on child abuse and assault crimes.
Madigan on Tuesday testified before the Senate Criminal Law Committee in support of Senate Bill 189, which the committee passed and sent on to the full Senate for consideration. She said children who suffer sexual assault and abuse often spend a lifetime recovering from the violations.
Madigan said Hastert inflicted “unbelievable pain” on the youth he molested at the school where he coached wrestling before entering politics. She adds he only got a “slap on the wrist.”
The 75-year-old is serving a 15-month sentence in federal prison for violating banking laws as he sought to silence one of his victims with hush money.
Under current Illinois law, sexual offenses against children must be reported and prosecuted within 20 years of the victim turning 18 years old.
Legislators can help child abuse victims
Among the many sad lessons of recent years are the ones society has learned about sexual abuse and especially about the effects it has on children. It can take years for a young victim to come to terms with what happened, to understand that the abuser, not the victim is to blame. That realization often can take longer when the abuser is in a position of authority, someone who is likely to dispute any claims and very likely to have the resources to fight back.
In New York, one of those important resources that abusers enjoy is the law, among the most restrictive in the nation. Victims of child sexual abuse may bring either criminal charges or file a lawsuit only until they turn 23. Ohio and Pennsylvania allow victims to act until they turn 30. Massachusetts puts the age at 35.
A bill in Albany would make two changes for those victims, changes that would reduce, but not eliminate, the imbalance of power that starts with the abuse and continues in court.
First, it would recognize what we know about such cases and eliminate the statute of limitations on abuse cases going forward. While that would help future victims, it does nothing for those who were abused in the past and who now are too old to lodge complaints under state law.
To address that situation, the proposal in Albany would open a one-year window, a chance for anybody to lodge a complaint and bring a lawsuit regardless of when the abuse took place.
So far, those who oppose the change in the law have been successful. They argue that such an unlimited opportunity for victims would be what they like to call an "evidentiary nightmare," a challenge that courts would be unable to negotiate.
But any case can bring such challenges. While it is true that the longer a person waits to lodge a charge, the harder it might be to come up with witnesses and evidence, that is always the case in court. If the victim cannot find people to testify, if evidence is not available, then the courts would not be able to proceed. But those who deal with victims know that it can take decades for victims to get the courage to act and that these arbitrary limits have nothing to do with justice.
The real reason that legislators have been lobbied so heavily to keep New York law the way it is concerns not justice but money.
"The bishops feel strongly that we need to do more to protect children from abuse and give survivors of abuse more time to seek justice," a spokesman for the Catholic Conference said. "Our only objection is with that retroactive window which comes without any caps on either time or dollars. Any organization that deals with children would be looking at potential catastrophic liability when you're looking at cases from the '50s and '60s."
So that is the choice facing our legislators. Do they want to give victims a chance to make their case in court or are they more concerned about the consequences of those cases to the church bank account?
Protecting children affected by the refugee crisis from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse
New report on protecting refugee children from sexual abuse
by the Council of Europe
A new report focusing on the protection of children affected by the refugee crisis from sexual exploitation and abuse was presented today. Non-comprehensive data collection, inadequate reception conditions, problems with age verification and with identification of victims are among the key challenges identified.
While there is no aggregated data available on the total number of children affected by refugee crisis in Europe, the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC) assesses that in 2015 at least 337,000 children were registered as asylum seekers, 88,300 of which were unaccompanied. The states surveyed have much more difficulties to provide data or estimates on the number of children who did not seek asylum.
As for the number of victims of sexual abuse or exploitation, only very few (*) out of 41 countries surveyed provided figures, while others said there were either no victims or they had no data to substantiate this. Most Parties acknowledged, however, that they are aware that there are more cases of sexual abuse than official numbers. This situation can be attributed both to the lack of capacity on the part of authorities, and to the non-reporting of the violence on part of children themselves.
“Underreporting of sexual abuse and exploitation of refugee children and identification of victims is a major challenge,” said the Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland. “We realise the strain the refugee crisis has put on the member states' authorities. However, we encourage governments to work with NGOs and set up effective data collection and child-friendly counseling services which will lead to better reporting of crimes and identification of victims”, he said.
The report focuses on children under 18 years of age. According to the Council of Europe's Lanzarote Convention, in case of doubt, the victim should be considered a child and receive respective protection and assistance, pending age verification. Out of all countries surveyed, only Hungary does not follow this principle and treats such persons as adults which leaves them largely unprotected, also from sexual abuse. This is of major concern for the Lanzarote Committee that urges Hungary to take necessary legislative and other measures and ensure the application of the “benefit of doubt” principle.
The Lanzarote Committee invites the states to verify family links of the children with the adults who accompany them, or to verify who these adults are, if they are not their parents or primary care givers, in order to protect these children against possible sexual abuse or exploitation – either by these adults, or facilitated by them.
The Lanzarote Committee says all Parties should ensure that all persons, be they professionals or volunteer workers, who are in contact with refugee crisis-affected children be effectively screened, adequately trained, and should establish vetting practices in place.
The increased number of children affected by the refugee crisis also puts pressure on reception/accommodation facilities; children are often housed in sports halls, former military barracks or other temporary shelters. Insufficient lighting and the need to share sanitary and sleeping facilities with adults make children particularly exposed to sexual crimes and harassment. Besides, lengthy asylum procedures give an opportunity to offenders to target and groom children. The Lanzarote Committee invites Parties to ensure safe reception facilities and longer term placement solutions, for instance, in foster families.
Children should be provided with guardians who play a crucial role in building the necessary trust to help them overcome fear and cultural taboos, and enable disclosure of possible sexual exploitation and abuse. Telephone or online helplines should be established and therapeutic assistance provided.
Interview with Claude Janizzi (Luxembourg), Chairperson of the Lanzarote Committee
See more at http://www.coe.int/en/web/children/urgent-monitoring-round
Seperating fact from fiction in the underworld of sex trafficking
by Carolyn Clifford
DETROIT (WXYZ) - Human and sex trafficking, "our" modern day slavery, happens all over the globe. This violent underworld rakes in $150 billion annually.
That's more than Exxon Mobil, Apple and Toyota combined.
But there are plenty of misconceptions about what human and sex trafficking is really all about. So tonight we intend to clear up some of the facts from fiction.
Katie Rhoades was trapped in a sex trafficking web. She was 18, living in her car and already an active alcoholic.
Rhoades says, "I needed money, I was homeless and wasn't really sure how to move on with my life."
A friend suggested stripping to make quick money.
"I ended up getting heavier into drugs," Rhoades says. "I did it not just a couple for months, I ended up meeting a pimp and then was taken to California."
While sex trafficking stories like Katie's are real, the posts you read on the internet are not always factual.
One Facebook post out of Macomb County was about a young woman being stalked in a Meijer grocery store, with two men waiting in a nearby car ready to pounce - but it could not be verified by police.
Stories like these put the community on edge. Experts say girls are not usually being snatched from the store. So that one is false.
FBI Special Agent Michael Glennon says typically sex trafficking is more about deception, with an individual trying to become a girl's boyfriend.
Glennon says, "Most of the exploiters at that level try to get the young child to fall in love with them."
Number two on our fact from fiction list - Human trafficking is the same as sex trafficking. That goes in the fiction column.
Sixty-eight percent of victims are exploited for their labor, 22% of victims like Katie are in forced prostitution.
Rhoades says, "The average age of entry is 12 to 14-years-old, so the likely hood that someone in their 30s started before 18 is pretty high."
A lot of people believe sex trafficking victims are mainly girls in low income families in poor countries. That's fiction.
Sexual exploitation also affects young boys and those in the LGBTQ community and is most often due to financial need and drug abuse.
Special Agent Glennon says most sex trafficking victims are required to make $500.00 to $1,000.00 a day.
Once that quota is met, Special Agent Glennon says, "There's a repayment of drugs, like a heroin packet to continue to make them work."
Number four on our fact from fiction list, it's only in big cities. That's fiction.
Sister Janet Fleischhacker, a Catholic nun in Kalamazoo helps rescue sex trafficking victims.
Sister Janet says, "It's in every city. It's in our high schools. It's in our work place. It's in our hotels."
Another Myth, sex trafficking involves smuggling individuals across the border.
The Fact? Thirty five percent are trafficked close to home, not just in major cities like Detroit, but in small town hotels.
Special Agent Michael Glennon says, "It's prevalent in our suburbs."
Victims are targeted for major sporting events like the Olympics and Super Bowl. Fiction.
In reality, experts say they're forced into sex work long before the male dominated crowds show up.
Special Agent Michael Glennon says, "These pimps start reaching out to these young girls two to three years before and they are persistent."
A person trapped in sex trafficking will try to seek help in public. Fiction.
In reality there is self blame and they often consider leaving impossible.
I asked Katie what stopped her from getting out earlier. She told me it was a combination of fear and violence from her pimp.
Finally, the days of seeing a sex trafficking victim on the street corner is rare.
FBI Agent Michael Glennon says, "By and large ,their numbers are down significantly, the vast majority of exploiting occurs online, Instagram, Facebook, Backpage and Craigslist."
Katie now runs the Healing Action Network in St. Louis, where she helps rescue victims. She know she was one of the lucky ones who escaped.
Katie Rhoades says, "I can look at myself today and say I'm okay, I'm doing good."
Student tips lead to sex trafficking arrest
Shadows Hills High girls reached on Facebook
by Katie Widner
INDIO, Calif. - It all started with a presentation on human trafficking at Shadow Hills High School in Indio. It was followed by a tip from not one, but two female students who said the same woman on Facebook, identified as Marlissa Garcia, had attempted to recruit them for prostitution.
Recently-released court records showed that those actions then sparked an investigation into what eventually revealed more than 69 potential victims over the course of nearly one year. Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin is going after the perpetrator in court. The trial began earlier this week.
According to court documents, the Facebook account in question, led investigators back to an IP address on a computer located inside the home of 46-year-old Eliberto Cruz Jacobo, of Hemet. Prosecutors allege that Jacobo, under the guise of Garcia, had been attempting, and was at times successful, to connect young victims with a man he called "Robert," who was willing to pay for sexual encounters. It is insinuated on the affidavit that Jacobo and Robert are the same person.
Jacobo is now on trial in Riverside County Superior Court. He faces 62 felony counts, including human trafficking of a minor, inducing or persuading a minor to engage in a commercial sex act, statutory rape and possession of child pornography.
It is a victory that an anti-human trafficking advocate said comes far too few.
"It's hard to get them and prosecute them in the way that we need to because there's so much investigation that's involved and it's happening so often," Kristen Dolan, anti-human trafficking director of SafeHouse of the Desert told KESQ News Channel 3's and CBS Local 2's Katie Widner.
Dolan said situations, such as the one at Shadow Hills, are happening more and more often. In fact, Dolan said, the Coachella Valley organization received 100 new case referrals in 2016.
"The situation is that it is happening online and that's why a lot of people don't see it, which is why a lot of people don't think it's happening in their area," Dolan added. "It doesn't necessarily look like Vegas where you see the girls walking along a track."
Dolan recommended parents keep a close eye on all of their children's social media accounts, not just cell phone text messages.
Dept of Justice
Inland Empire Man Sentenced to 14 Years in Federal Prison for Possessing Child Pornography while on Probation in a Similar Case
LOS ANGELES – A Murietta man has been sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for possession of child pornography, an offense he committed while on probation after being convicted of similar conduct in a state case.
Anthony Michael Scotti, 21, of Murrieta, yesterday received the 168-month sentence from United States District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez.
Scotti pleaded guilty in the federal case last April, admitting he had more than 1,000 images and videos of child pornography on an iPod and that he used the KIK messaging app to distribute images of children engaged in sex acts with adults.
In the plea agreement filed in this case, Scotti also admitted that he used text messages to convince a 15-year-old girl in another state to take sexually explicit pictures and send them to him.
Scotti committed the federal offense while on probation after being convicted in Riverside Superior Court about six months earlier of distribution/exhibition of lewd material to a minor.
“In addition to his repeated criminal conduct and the online solicitation of a victim in another state, which is the offense charged in this case, this defendant admitted to engaging in other conduct involving the exploitation of children,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “We recommended this lengthy prison sentence after concluding that this defendant poses a serious danger to the safety and well-being of children.”
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which received substantial assistance from the Riverside County District Attorney's Office, Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (SAFE) Team.
“This lengthy sentence assures the defendant won't pose a threat to other youths for years to come, but the case serves as a sobering reminder to parents about the importance of monitoring their children's online activity,” said Edward Owens, deputy special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “The internet has become the preferred hunting ground for child sex predators seeking innocent young victims. For parents, keeping their children safe means keeping a close eye on their interactions online and on social media. You'd never allow your child to walk down a dark alley alone at night. Well, figuratively speaking, the internet is today's dark alley.”
This case was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Teresa K.B. Beecham.
FROM: Thom Mrozek, Spokesperson/Public Affairs Officer
United States Attorney's Office, Central District of California (Los Angeles)
Issue of children who sexually abuse other children cannot be ignored
What drives a child to commit secual abuse? And why do we continue to downplay this activity, asks Simon Hackett
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 past 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.
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 versus 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 per cent of young abusers had themselves been victims of sexual abuse. Our research also showed that 50 per cent 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 practise 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.
U.S. senators introduce bill to address sex abuse in Olympic sports
by Marisa Kwiatkowski, Mark Alesia and Tim Evans
Sixteen U.S. senators introduced legislation Monday that would make it a federal crime for Olympic national governing bodies to fail to promptly report child sexual abuse allegations to authorities.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said the bill was introduced in response to recent revelations of how national governing bodies — including USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming and USA Taekwondo — handled allegations of sexual abuse.
None of those organizations could immediately be reached Monday evening for comment.
"There should be no excuse for anyone — particularly those in positions of authority and who are entrusted with the safety and well-being of young athletes — to fail to report the sexual abuse of children and young adults," said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida. "Recent revelations about the USA Gymnastics program are deeply troubling, and it's clear we must do more to strengthen protections for young athletes, ensure victims receive justice, and hold predators accountable."
Last month, USA Gymnastics acknowledged that it delayed reporting a sex abuse allegation against longtime team physician Dr. Larry Nassar to the FBI for more than five weeks while it conducted an internal investigation. An ongoing IndyStar investigation earlier revealed instances in which the organization failed to alert authorities to allegations of sexual abuse by coaches.
The bipartisan U.S. Senate bill, titled the "Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act of 2017," is co-sponsored by Feinstein and 15 other senators, including Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, and Todd Young, R-Indiana.
If passed, it would require adults who work for a national governing body or at an organization's sanctioned event to report allegations "as soon as possible" to law enforcement or face a fine and up to three years in prison. While all 50 states already have laws that require people to report suspected child abuse, the Senate bill would specifically target the 47 national governing bodies.
The federal legislation also would require the national governing bodies to implement policies that prevent athletes from being alone with an adult who is not a parent and create mechanisms that make it easier for people to report suspected abuse and share allegations among member gyms.
In the past, some Olympic organizations have claimed their efforts to implement stronger policies were hampered by the limitations of federal law.
“This will force the U.S. Olympic Committee and their national athletic governing bodies to do something they should have been doing all along: developing and enforcing strict policies that protect athletes from sexual abuse,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida. “It's inexcusable that responsible adults looked the other way while terrible crimes were committed.”
USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said the organization welcomes all efforts to keep athletes safe.
“And while we have not had the opportunity to thoroughly review the legislation, it seems consistent with our current policies and procedures," Sandusky said. "Continued focus and collaboration from our partners in government, coupled with our years-long effort to build powerful Safe Sport policies, procedures and protections, most recently with Friday's launch of the U.S. Center for Safe Sport, will help us ensure young people have access to the incredible benefits provided by sports while participating in safe and secure environments.”
The 16 senators who introduced the bill are: Feinstein; Donnelly; Young; Rubio; Nelson; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota; Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts; Kamala Harris, D-California; Catherine Cortez-Masto, D-Nevada; Jeff Flake, R-Arizona; and Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut.
Numerous advocacy organizations — including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, National Children's Alliance, Champion Women, Child USA and the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network — are supporting the bill.
"No longer is reporting abuse in sports left solely to the states," said Marci Hamilton, CEO and academic director of Child USA. "By requiring all coaches and adults associated with a national governing body to report sexual abuse, this bill goes a long way toward changing the culture of sport."
The bill would extend the statute of limitations to allow victims of such abuse to sue up to 10 years after the alleged victim was abused or realizes what happened was abuse.
Numerous abuse survivors said they hope passage of the bill will prevent others from suffering.
"I appreciate Sen. Feinstein and her colleagues taking a horrendous tragedy and creating crucial change to protect future athletes," said Jeannette Antolin, member of the USA Gymnastics National Team and an abuse survivor. "By implementing such change, I feel like my pain can finally have a voice."
Diocese unveils plan to prevent child abuse
by Chris Miller
Johnstown, Cambria County, Pa - There has been a call for change and responsibility after a grand jury report revealed decades of child sex abuse inside the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese.
In that report, at least 50 priests and other church leaders were accused of sexually assaulting children in their parishes dating back four decades.
Monday, the U.S. District Attorney for Western Pennsylvania and the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown held a news conference to lay out new reforms within the church to better protect children.
Many victims and their supporters have criticized the diocese for what they call a lack of response. Bishop Mark Bartchak said the changes took time because he and other church leaders were committed to finding a detailed and comprehensive approach.
The reforms were detailed in what the Bishop called a "Memorandum of Understanding".
Some of the key points include:
The creation of an independent oversight board.
A new reporting protocol that requires the diocese to report allegations of child sexual abuse to law enforcement within 12 hours of hearing about the accusation.
Increased counseling and support services for victims by qualified and independent mental health professionals, that can be chosen by the victims.
Attorney Soo Song noted the new reforms laid out Monday are not court ordered or legally binding. Song said after speaking with the Bishop she felt the diocese are acting as "willing partners."
Bishop Bartchak said he will personally enforce the new policies, "By putting all this out in the public, I can't shrink from this and I don't intend to. As for the future, God helps a Bishop that comes later who tries to undo that because we need to protect children."
Song said she hopes these reforms will serve as a role model for other churches to protect children from abuse and exploitation.
Just a week ago, victims and advocates organized a small demonstration outside the headquarters of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese calling for change. They said they are tired of words and wanted to see action.
One of them was Shaun Doughtery. The Johnstown native was abused by a priest in his church. He told WTAJ News he was not impressed with the memorandum announced by the Bishop.
Doughtery feels two things are missing from the document. He said the church shouldn't be allowed to deal with any children after what has transpired.
He also wants the diocese to address what he believes is an agenda to stop to the statue of limitations from being lifted. The bill supported by Doughtery and Rep. Mark Rozzi would include a retroactive measure that would allow Doughtery and other victims to seek legal recourse against the diocese.
Attorney Song said the church is acting in good faith with these new measures.
"This agreement puts victims first, it provides for public reporting and transparency. This agreement evidences the diocese' effort under leadership of Bartchak to reform and improve its child protection protocols."
The memorandum calls for an independent oversight board for the next ten years, however, there is a clause in that document that says after June 30, 2022 the board can be terminated if two-thirds of its members find their mission is complete.
Program brings hope for child abuse and neglect prevention
by Beatriz Alvarado
Academic success and a stable home environment go hand-in-hand, said Karen Turner, associate director for early childhood education at the Education Service Center Region 2.
So when state grants became available to start a child abuse and neglect prevention program at the center, it was a no-brainer for ESC-2 to apply.
"The one thing we know about all of this (prevention) work is it all connects back to our schools and that's what our regional service center's main goal and direction is," Turner said. "To help our schools in academic performance."
Project HOPES, or Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support, is unique in that it relies on community collaboration to achieve its goal , said John Lennan, Texas Department of Family Protective Services spokesman.
"So we're going at it a very different way," Turner said. "We're using our schools as our resource for referrals. Our goal is to reach those families and help them to be more prepared to be in our academic systems."
Project HOPES started in 2014 after the 83rd Legislature approved a $19 million funding boost for at-risk prevention programs. Competitive grants became available to organizations in counties that provide a home-visiting program, community coalition, or programs that promote child welfare, early childhood education, and other family services.
ESC-2 has provided home visitation services to area families the past five years. The center began using the HOPES model last year.
With the help of area schools and Child Protective Services case workers, among others, ESC-2 connects families identified as high-risk with available services in the community, as well as with services provided by ESC-2.
This year, ESC-2 was awarded about $600,000 to run the program. In addition to home visitation, ESC-2 offers case management services through HOPES, based on the needs of families and identified risk factors.
Lennan said ESC-2 is the only Education Service Center that applied and received the state funding for the program. The service center is among 20 in the state that works with the Texas Education Agency to improve services to school districts and charter schools.
Ryan Johnson, deputy director of operational services for ESC-2, said parents should never feel like they are alone in raising their children.
“In many instances, it's not that there is a lack of support services out there, it's that these families, we often find, don't know where to go,” Johnson said. "They have these problems, but they don't know there is somebody out there that can help them. For many of our community agencies, the struggle is how to find these families. So really being an agency that's charged with working with 42 school districts, and as connected as we are to them, we saw ourselves in a position to help facilitate those connections.”
Counties' eligibility for the program was ranked based on child abuse and neglect fatalities, child poverty, substance abuse convictions and treatment facility admissions, domestic violence convictions and teen pregnancy rates. Nueces was ranked 28 out of 33 counties based on the criteria, with the 33rd county having the highest risk value, according to the state agency's website.
So far, about 76 families have received services through the HOPES program, said Ruth Castillo, early childhood specialist for ESC-2.
Facebook reports BBC investigators to police after they flag child abuse images on platform
Wow, just wow, Facebook
by Rob Thubron
Much like the internet, there is some very unpleasant content lurking on Facebook. You would imagine that the social network appreciates people reporting sexualized pictures of children, but it seems this isn't always the case. After several BBC reporters had sent some images they found on the platform to Facebook - at the site's request - the company reported them to the police.
The situation started with a BBC investigation last year into pedophiles that were using secret groups on Facebook to post and swap obscene pictures of children. It lead to one man being sent to prison for four years, and Facebook promised to improve its reporting system.
To test the site's claim, the BBC recently used the report button to flag 100 images that appeared to break Facebook's content guidelines. These included:
Pages explicitly for men with a sexual interest in children
Images of under-16s in highly sexualised poses, with obscene comments posted beside them
Groups with names such as "hot xxxx schoolgirls" containing stolen images of real children
An image that appeared to be a still from a video of child abuse, with a request below it to share "child pornography"
Despite its rules on nudity and sexual imagery, Facebook decided to remove just 18 of the 100 reported items. It claimed the other 82 “didn't breach community standards.” The reporters also found the profiles of five convicted pedophiles, who, according to the platform's rules, aren't allowed accounts.
The broadcaster asked Facebook for an interview to explain its rules. Director of policy Simon Miller agreed on the condition the BBC send examples of the material it found (but wasn't removed by the site). The reporters did as they were asked, and Facebook reported them to the UK's National Crime Agency for complying.
"We have carefully reviewed the content referred to us and have now removed all items that were illegal or against our standards," Facebook said in a statement. "This content is no longer on our platform. We take this matter extremely seriously and we continue to improve our reporting and take-down measures.”
"It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation. When the BBC sent us such images we followed our industry's standard practice and reported them to Ceop [Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre].”
Unsurprisingly, the BBC wasn't happy with Facebook's actions. "The fact that Facebook sent images that had been sent to them, that appear on their site, for their response about how Facebook deals with inappropriate images […] the fact that they sent those on to the police seemed to me to be extraordinary," said director of editorial policy, David Jordan.
And as a final slap in the face, Facebook canceled the interview.
Local pageant queen speaking out about being a child sexual assault victim
by Irene North
Tristen Wecker is a thoughtful young lady with a bright future. She's already been named Miss Old West Balloon Fest, will soon be competing in the Miss Nebraska scholarship pageant and is pursuing higher education at Black Hills State University. She is also a victim of child sexual assault.
Wecker has chosen “Speaking out against sexual assault” as her platform for Miss Nebraska to raise awareness and help eliminate the stigma and blame that continues to surround victims.
Like many victims of child sexual assault, Wecker was not ready to tackle the issue until she was older. Her hometown of Minatare is a place where everyone knows everyone else. She carried her secret with her for years, but has used the opportunity of pageantry to step into the limelight and share her story.
When she was five or six years old, something happened to Wecker. She wasn't sure what it was. By the time she was in seventh grade, it was several years since anything happened, but she found herself relating incidents of sexual assault to her pastor, who was a mandatory reporter by law.
Counseling was highly suggested and her family has supported her throughout it all. At first, Wecker was against seeking counseling because she didn't want it to come out that someone she knew abused the inherent trust she had given.
“It was the most healing part of this process,” she said.
The decision to report is not easy
After reading through every piece of paper authorities had given her and taking advice from family, Wecker decided not to report her abuse. She continues to be criticized for her decision.
Lori Rodriquez-Fletcher, licensed clinical social worker at Options in Psychology, said many victims don't speak out because they fear no one will believe them. They also worry about what will happen to their brother, sister, grandfather, etc., if they do say something.
“Sometimes, these families don't have a lot of other outside resources for help, so they will wait,” Rodriquez-Fletcher said.
Some survivors finally step forward because they are at a point in their lives where they feel safe and are away from the perpetrator, said Tabitha McCloud, client advocate/sexual assault specialist at DOVES. Someone who doesn't understand sexual assault might not understand why a victim might not report it right away.
Some need time to feel safe and strong enough to make a report, McCloud said.
After receiving counseling and moving away to college, Wecker was ready to partner with DOVES, which works with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, to speak publicly about sexual assault. With the publicity of competing for Miss Nebraska, she has seen doors open to tell her story. She is using her platform for Miss Nebraska to raise awareness not only to the stigma of talking about sexual assault but to reduce misconceptions.
"You don't look like a victim"
Even after counseling and trying to move on with their lives, victims of sexual assault often have to explain their own actions again and again. Wecker has heard every stereotype that blames the victim. The one she hears most often is that she doesn't look like a victim.
“They say, ‘You don't look like or act like a victim,'” Wecker said. “There is no quote unquote victim.”
She's heard comments that she must have wanted it and she was asking for it to happen again because she didn't report it.
“Think back to when you were 8-years old,” Wecker said. “You're not thinking about the rest of your life. You just want it to end.”
Others have said they aren't surprised she was sexually assault by criticizing her clothing.
“People say, ‘Look at how you dress,'” Wecker said. “You think how I dress at 20 affected me at 8 years old?”
One common theme is to blame the victim for not coming forward.
“I have people who said, 'It's so wrong of you let him get away with it and let him do it to other girls,'” Wecker said.
Wecker knows the guilt that comes with that statement. She has since found out she was not her attacker's only victim. She knows of one woman it happened to before her and one woman after. All three women know the consequences of their actions. But they live in a small town and fear recrimination.
“We're not ready to face that,” Wecker said. “We still haven't the courage to.”
Other survivors Wecker has spoken to have also chosen not to report their assaults. Some tell their friends. Some never say anything. And everyone's approach to speaking and reducing the stigma is different.
“Even though it happened a long time ago, they need to make sure they are safe,” Wecker said. “There is still that scariness.”
To face your perpetrator in court is a huge step, Wecker said.
Public speaking, breaking barriers
Wecker's first time publicly speaking about being sexually assaulted as a child was July 31, 2016.
“It was a really hard step to take,” Wecker said. “I thought I was ready, but I cried a little bit.”
At first, she thought people wouldn't take her seriously if she cried, but was reassured she did fine.
“I realized people hearing about it is more important than a tear or two,” Wecker said.
Wecker has also spoken to younger children, not in-depth but at their level, and with an elementary focus. She speaks in general terms about what is appropriate or if they wanted a hug. She explains sexual assault can happen in groups. Wecker's focus with older people is more about what rights they have.
“You can report it, but it doesn't have to go to court,” Wecker said.
When speaking with people, Wecker said survivors need to be aware of what their needs are and what is best for them. Families are well-meaning, but sometimes overreach.
“Everyone has their idea of what to do,” Wecker said. “It can cause a lot of chaos and accusing.”
She didn't feel she could express herself to her family.
“There was nowhere for me to vent other than therapy,” Wecker said. “In my family, you don't talk about things. You fire it out once and that's it.”
Because of her platform and public speaking, Wecker has had people come up to talk with her and tell their stories. Some have been made to feel the sexual assault was their fault. Others think the assault should not be reported. Victims have been told they are stupid or must have wanted it.
“It tears you down so much and you already feel horrible for the situation,” Wecker said. “Then on top of it, you are blamed. In a lot of families I've met, the victim gives up.”
Recovery, an ongoing process
Over the years, Wecker was conflicted, doubting herself about whether or not she should say anything or whether it would happen again.
Even today, after counseling, the events still affect her life. She still has nightmares. She is often anxious in public areas.
“When I'm walking down an aisle in a grocery store and a guy goes down the aisle with me, sometimes, I have panic attacks and feel people are following me, but they're not,” Wecker said. “My boyfriend is supportive, but I'm not sure if it will ever go away.”
Victims of sexual assault often see their life affected if they don't get help. They have difficulty in relationships or depression anxiety.
“Treatment becomes more about their feelings and working through the process to have healthy, happy lives,” Rodriquez-Fletcher said.
Wecker remembers she's doing all this for a reason. She is no longer silent. She is soft-spoken, caring and determined to educate others.
“I'm competing in Miss Nebraska,” she said, “and I am a victim of child sexual assault.”
Child-abuse victims spar with church on N.Y. bill
by David Klepper
ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York legislation to relax one of the nation's most restrictive statutes of limitations on child molestation victims continues to stall under pressure from the Roman Catholic Church and other opponents.
The bill has been debated in Albany for a decade, but victims and advocates are optimistic this year because they've gained a key supporter, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The fate of the Child Victims Act could rest with state Senate leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, who supporters say has refused to meet to discuss the bill.
"They are denying us our day in court," said Bridie Farrell, 35, a former competitive speed skater and a leading advocate for the bill.
Four years ago Farrell publicly accused a former teammate and mentor of repeatedly abusing her when he was 33 and she was 15 -- too long ago to file charges or a civil suit. "They are protecting the institutions of the abusers."
Currently, under New York law, victims of child sexual abuse have until age 23 to bring either criminal charges or file a lawsuit against their alleged abusers. It's one of the tightest statutes of limitations in the country, a distinction that advocates say puts New York in the company of states like Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and Mississippi.
Massachusetts, another heavily Catholic state, gives victims up to 35 years of age the right to sue or bring criminal charges. Ohio and Pennsylvania both give victims until age 30.
The proposal before lawmakers would eliminate the statute of limitations on abuse cases going forward and create a one-year window to allow for lawsuits no matter when the abuse occurred. Supporters say it often takes victims of child sex abuse years or even decades to report their abusers or pursue criminal or civil cases.
A similar law in California, passed in 2002, resulted in Catholic dioceses there paying $1.2 billion in legal settlements.
The Roman Catholic Church is the most vocal opponent of the New York bill, saying the one-year window for civil suits alleging abuse would financially devastate the church, already reeling from the expense of earlier legal settlements. The New York Archdiocese is seeking to mortgage land it owns near St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan to raise $100 million for settlements.
Instead, the state's Catholic Conference supports alternative legislation that would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations on child sex crimes and give victims until they are 28 to file civil suits. It would not create a window for civil molestation lawsuits now barred by the statute of limitations.
"The bishops feel strongly that we need to do more to protect children from abuse and give survivors of abuse more time to seek justice," said Dennis Poust, spokesman for the Catholic Conference. "Our only objection is with that retroactive window which comes without any caps on either time or dollars. Any organization that deals with children would be looking at potential catastrophic liability when you're looking at cases from the '50s and '60s."
Supporters, however, say many potential plaintiffs could be people in their late 20s, 30s and 40s whose abusers may still be in a position of power over minors. They say their requests for a meeting with Flanagan to discuss his concerns have been ignored.
Flanagan's spokesman, Scott Reif, said advocates have met with senior staff and other lawmakers. He said Senate Republicans continue to examine the issue.
Kathryn Robb says she was molested in a Catholic school on Long Island as a child. Now a mother of five and living in Massachusetts, Robb helped pass overhauls in that state. She returned to New York this month to work on the effort there.
She noted that lawmakers often tout their work to toughen penalties for sex offenders, and the Senate has voted to adjust the statute of limitations when it comes to exposure to environmental contaminants or Agent Orange.
"Don't victims of child sexual abuse have the same right?" she asked. "I'm willing to fight as long as it takes."
Footage reveals systemic child abuse in daycare centers
Video and audio clips show daycare workers abusing and neglecting babies, toddlers at multiple daycare centers.
by Arutz Sheva Staff
An investigation of several WIZO, Emunah, and Na'amat childcare centers has revealed systemic abuse, with footage showing caregivers hitting, cursing, and neglecting their young charges, Yediot Ahronot reported on Monday.
The abuse and negligence was discovered after parents found footage and recordings from hidden cameras and voice recording devices.
Hadas' (name has been changed) mother said the story started when she collected her 2.5-year-old daughter from the Jerusalem-area daycare which she attended. When she asked her daughter how the day went, Hadas said, 'The preschool teacher hit me' and demonstrated a stinging slap on the face.
The next morning, Hadas' mother sent her daughter to daycare with a hidden voice recorder, and listened to the recording at the end of the day.
"It sounded like a horror movie," Hadas' mother said. "The caregivers screamed at, insulted, and hit the children."
Hadas' mother is not alone. Several parents have complained the "supervised" daycare centers are not actually supervised, and no inspectors come to check them. This allows daycare workers to do whatever they want, the parents claim.
In a daycare center run by Emunah in a central Israeli city, two daycare workers can be heard arguing about a 3-year-old they once forgot at a public park.
In one daycare center in Israel's north, daycare workers were videotaped repeatedly ignoring children's requests to eat or drink. And in another Jerusalem-area daycare, one of the daycare workers can be seen losing control, screaming at the children, and hitting them.
"Some of these workers would never be allowed to work in a grocery store," Chani (name has been changed), who is a daycare worker herself, told Yediot Ahronot . "They hit the babies, scream at them, then go out to have a smoke and leave the babies unattended."
One Yediot Ahronot reporter tried to get accepted as a daycare worker, and found the daycare manager did not ask about credentials or experience.
"I need someone now, can you be here in another hour?" the manager asked.
An Emunah spokesperson said, "This is a very general statement. If it is true - and I assume it's not imaginary - we have to understand that the exception does not reflect the rule.
"The rule is that every individual problem which has been exposed and proven true has been immediately and properly dealt with. We do not compromise on these things.
"This general accusation harms thousands of preschool teachers and daycare workers who give of themselves every day and work responsibly and lovingly. This accusation also does not make sense when we remember that waiting lists for Emunah daycare centers are hundreds of children long.
"Because of our impressive accomplishments in the area of childcare, we won the Israel Prize in 2008. It is well known that Emunah daycare centers are severely understaffed, and it could be that some of our workers did not deal properly with the children. But these are isolated cases, and none of them have been reported as severe."
Na'amat said, "It's hard to address such general accusations. We will be happy to address specific difficulties. In general, Na'amat deals properly with every accusation of improper handling of children. In every case, Na'amat works quickly and efficiently to eliminate the problem.
"Every Na'amat daycare is under strict pedagogical supervision, but since this is a large system with thousands of workers, and since we are suffering from severe manpower shortages, mistakes and exceptional circumstances can happen. The system's quality is measured by how efficiently it deals with these issues."
WIZO said, "We have asked Yediot Ahronot to send us the full investigation, including recordings, documents, and all relevant information. After we receive these materials, we will learn, research, and respond appropriately."
Child sexual abuse royal commission: What's happened and when is it due to finish?
by Tom Joyner
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has come a long way since it first began hearings in April 2013.
Since then, it's made almost 2,000 referrals to authorities, held more than 6,500 private sessions, and handled almost 40,000 phone calls.
But with so much ground to cover, where is it up to now and what's left to go?
Why are we having a royal commission?
The child abuse royal commission was first announced in November 2012 by the Gillard government following calls that year for a national inquiry into how the Catholic Church handled allegations of abuse.
"The allegations that have come to light recently about child sexual abuse have been heartbreaking," Ms Gillard said at the time.
The announcement was triggered by explosive allegations on Lateline from a former priest and a senior NSW police officer that the Catholic Church was covering up claims of abuse.
It was also prompted by reports of clerical abuse in the Newcastle and Hunter Valley regions by journalist Joanne McCarthy in the Newcastle Herald.
The alleged cover-ups related to claims of abuse dating back to as early as the 1950s.
NSW Judge of Appeal Peter McClellan was chosen to head the royal commission alongside five other commissioners appointed from outside of government.
A focus of the royal commission was to hear the personal accounts of abuse victims, many of whom are now adults.
What did it set out to achieve?
The royal commission set out to examine the way institutions like schools, churches, sports clubs, police, community and government organisations have historically responded to allegations of child sexual abuse.
It's important to first of all note that although the royal commission has made thousands of referrals to authorities, it was not created to prosecute individuals.
It was instead designed to look at how entire systems have failed abuse victims from a national perspective.
It sought to look at where measures recommended by previous inquiries had worked, and see where they could be applied in different jurisdictions.
Another key aim was to make recommendations for how to better protect children in the future.
While there had previously been convictions for sex crimes within the church before the royal commission, child sexual abuse wasn't seen as a matter for the Commonwealth.
In fact two states, NSW and Victoria, were already conducting their own overlapping inquiries at the time the royal commission began.
Has the Federal Government responded yet?
Yes, most significantly in the form of a national redress scheme announced by the Federal Government in November last year for victims of institutional abuse.
The scheme was recommended by the royal commission in early 2015 and it's now up to the states and territories to opt in.
When it's launched next year, victims will be able to access up to $150,000 each, costing the Commonwealth between $570 million and $770 million over 10 years.
Who is George Pell and why does he matter?
Cardinal George Pell is the highest ranking member of the Catholic Church in Australia and is currently in charge of the annual finances of the Holy See and the Vatican in Italy.
A key figure in the royal commission, Cardinal Pell began his career as a priest in Ballarat, before becoming Archbishop of Melbourne and then a Cardinal.
Although he first agreed to cooperate with the royal commission, Cardinal Pell accused the media of waging a campaign against the church over "exaggerated" child sex abuse claims.
He failed to make a long-awaited appearance before the royal commission in late 2015, saying a heart condition prevented him from travelling to Australia.
Commissioners eventually questioned Cardinal Pell by video link at hearings held in a Rome hotel , during which time he said he had "the full backing of the Pope".
Cardinal Pell has himself been investigated by Victoria Police for allegations of child abuse from the 1970s to the 1990s, prompting Victoria Police officers to fly to Rome to interview him in October last year.
There is no suggestion Cardinal Pell is guilty of allegations of sexual abuse made against him and he has repeatedly rejected each of them.
The case is now with Victoria's Office of Public Prosecutions after police handed over a brief of evidence in February.
When is it due to finish?
The royal commission is set to deliver its final report in December this year.
Because its scope is so large and covers such a long period of time, it was granted a two-year extension and funding injection in 2014.
The head of the royal commission, Justice Peter McClellan, had previously asked for 100 more staff to handle the influx of evidence.
A similar national inquiry in Ireland took a decade to complete, handing down its final report to the Irish parliament in 2009.
Abuse panel did not interview victims, Royal Commission hears
by Rachel Browne
An independent expert panel contracted by the Federal government to examine allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation in immigration detention failed to interview any victims, a royal commission has heard.
The three member Child Protection Panel was convened in 2015 in the wake of two inquiries which raised serious allegations about abuse in detention in Australia and offshore.
Panellist Margaret Allisontold the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse none of the members had recent experience in interviewing children.
"We didn't talk to any children, except incidentally, as we walked through detention centres," said the former senior bureaucrat in Queensland's child protection department.
Ms Allison, former chief executive of the Australian Crime Commission John Lawler? and former senior Commonwealth public servant Dominic Downie were charged with analysing 214 of the "most serious" alleged incidents involving children in detention between 2008 and 2015.
Ms Allison told the commission the panel was concerned interviewing children might re-traumatise them.
"Some of those incidents would be a long time ago for children and I doubt that some of them would have recollection of things that would have happened when they were very young," she said.
"For those who did have a memory of things that might have happened to them we were concerned about adding further trauma.
"Also, given the volume of our work, it was fairly clear . . . it would need to be, by and large, a desktop review."
The panel examined alleged incidents of sexual and physical abuse, neglect and exploitation involving children. The commission heard sexual abuse was involved in about one-quarter of cases in detention centres in Australia and about one-third of cases in community detention and in the regional processing centre in Nauru however Ms Allison said the figures needed to be treated with caution.
"Probably the community detention one was the most concerning," she said.
"There were matters involving actual sexual assault, grooming and high risk of sexual assault."
Ms Allison told the commission organisations contracted by the Federal government to support asylum seekers in the community were inadequate.
"The existing service infrastructure for community detention was struggling a bit to deal with the challenges of providing services to children and families," she said.
The Child Protection Panel finished its report last May but it was not released until December 16 with immigration boss Michael Pezzullo? telling the commission that its release was delayed while a safeguarding framework was determined.
There are about 240 children in immigration detention in Australia, with the majority in community detention. On Nauru, there are 45 children in the regional processing centre and 130 living in the community on protection visas.
Mr Pezzullo told the commission ensuring the protection of children was one of his "highest priorities".
The royal commission is holding a four-day hearing into child sexual abuse involving government institutions, including the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the Australian Defence Force as well as state and territory justice and community services departments.
Australian Defence Force vice chief Raymond Griggs told the hearing the cadet organisation had been reformed in the wake of testimony about sex abuse presented at the commission last year.
The hearing, before Justice Peter McClellan, continues.
Blue Knot Helpline 1300 657 380
Care Leavers Australia Network 1800 008 774
Survivors & Mates Support Network 1800 472 676
Disabled Kids at Higher Risk of Abuse, Study Finds
Certain conditions linked to greater odds for neglect, bullying
by Amy Norton
Children with certain mental or behavioral disorders are at increased risk of abuse or neglect, a new study suggests.
The findings add to evidence that children with disabilities face higher abuse risks. But they also suggest those risks vary depending on the type of disorder a child has.
"We've known for years that children with disabilities have an increased risk of abuse," said Dr. Vincent Palusci, a pediatrician at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City.
But the new study "took a deeper dive," he said.
Overall, the researchers found that children with autism, Down syndrome or certain birth defects, such as spina bifida, were not at heightened risk of abuse.
But, children with intellectual disabilities were. The same was true of kids who fell into the broad category of "mental or behavioral disorder" -- which included problems ranging from depression and anxiety to developmental delays to personality disorders.
Palusci, who was not involved in the research, specializes in treating children who've been abused or neglected.
He said if pediatricians know which children with disabilities are most at risk of abuse, they can take steps to help lower the odds. For one, he said, they can try to prepare parents for some of the stresses they might face in dealing with their child's special needs.
Kids can be at greater risk, Palusci noted, when their parents feel overwhelmed and unsupported.
Melissa O'Donnell, the lead researcher on the study, agreed.
"Those who work with families who have a child with disability should be aware of the extra support required for these families, to assist in meeting the child's health and developmental needs," said O'Donnell. She is a research fellow at the University of Western Australia's Telethon Kids Institute.
Parents may need extra help in "managing the often more complex parenting environment," she added.
But parents themselves are not always the perpetrators of abuse, Palusci pointed out: It can be any caregiver.
"So you also need to be very careful about who you leave your child with," Palusci said.
Other kids can be the culprit, too. One recent U.S. study found that children with disabilities were more likely to be bullied at school, compared with other students.
The new findings come from data on more than 500,000 children born in western Australia between 1990 and 2010. Just under 5 percent had an abuse or neglect allegation on record with child protective services; "abuse" included physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
O'Donnell's team found that while children with disabilities made up about 10 percent of the population, they accounted for one-quarter of all maltreatment allegations -- and 29 percent of all substantiated allegations.
When the investigators took a closer look, they saw that the risk varied based on the type of disability.
Children with intellectual disabilities were at greatest risk. They were twice as likely as kids without disabilities to have a maltreatment allegation on record. But even among those kids, the picture varied. Those with severe disabilities were not at elevated risk, while those with milder impairments were, the findings showed.
Similarly, children with autism, Down syndrome and birth defects were not at heightened risk, the study authors said.
According to O'Donnell, there are some potential explanations. Families of children with those types of disabilities may get more support, for one. In addition, parents of children with autism and Down syndrome tend to be older and higher-income, versus other parents -- which may mean they have more resources.
In fact, O'Donnell said, children with disabilities that were most strongly linked to abuse often had other risk factors. They were more likely to have parents who were young, low-income or had mental health issues of their own.
As far as which came first -- the abuse or the child's disorder -- it was not always obvious. It "could definitely be the case" that abuse contributed to, or worsened, some kids' behavioral problems or mental health symptoms, O'Donnell said.
In other cases, though -- such as with intellectual disability -- the abuse clearly came later, she added.
The findings point to a need for more "collaboration" between child protective services and the people who care for children with disabilities, O'Donnell said.
In the United States, those services differ by state and locality. But in general, Palusci said, there is growing awareness that many kids who suffer neglect or abuse are also "medically fragile."
So, a child with a disability might be placed in a specific foster home prepared to handle her special needs.
"It is getting better," Palusci said. "But we still need to do a lot more."
The study results were published online March 6 in the journal Pediatrics .
The U.S. Department of Education has resources for parents of children with special needs.