ICE HSI agents in Maryland fight human trafficking
BALTIMORE, Md. – Two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were recognized by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan for their efforts in preventing human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery in which individuals are forced to provide labor or services, at a ceremony yesterday held at the Maryland State House.
Special Agent Vaughn Harper and Special Agent Cara Rose, both reporting to the ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) regional office in Baltimore, Maryland, were presented with citations after providing key human trafficking prevention training to thousands of individuals in Maryland representing federal, state and local law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, faith-based groups and governmental and non-governmental organizations.
“Human trafficking is a particularly horrific crime where low-income individuals, defenseless children and the most vulnerable of our society are subjected to forced labor and sexual exploitation,” said Andre R. Watson, special agent in charge of HSI Baltimore. “Maryland-based HSI agents have developed strategies to crackdown on criminal organizations involved in these crimes in order to protect communities; the recognition of both Agent Harper and Agent Rose is well deserved.”
The HSI Baltimore Human Trafficking Group, of which Harper is affiliated, has produced approximately 70 criminal arrests, 68 indictments and 19 convictions. HSI Baltimore is credited with 58 arrests specifically linked to human trafficking, and the group is responsible for the recovery of 62 suspected human trafficking victims. Harper conducted 22 unique human trafficking-related training events last year, and previously provided similar training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and the International Law Enforcement Academies.
Rose, primarily operating out of Ocean City, Maryland, has helped contribute to the 25 arrests, 7 indictments and 10 convictions related to human trafficking in that area. She conducted an investigation into a sex trafficking ring in which members of the criminal organization were forcibly injecting victims with heroin in order to control them through addiction. The main conspirator of that trafficking scheme as sentenced to 145 years in prison, and 13 victims were rescued.
"Making Maryland safer begins with making sure that we have a criminal justice system that holds offenders accountable for their actions and the harm they cause, while also including victims and the community in the process of healing," said Gov. Larry Hogan. "I am very proud of these two agents for the work they are doing to prevent human trafficking in our state, and hope that their actions provide a model for others in Maryland and across the country."
ICE investigations into human trafficking, and the resulting arrests and convictions, have skyrocketed since 2010 by nearly seven times, and HSI collaborates with domestic agencies and foreign countries to identify and provide services to trafficking victims and to coordinate investigations. According to the U.S. State Department Trafficking in Person Report from 2012-2014, primary countries of origin for foreign victims certified by the U.S. government were Thailand, Mexico, Philippines, Haiti, India, Guatemala, China, Korea and the Dominican Republic.
Fifty-five percent of foreign adult victims were labor trafficking victims, of which 70 percent were men and 30 percent were women; 12 percent were adult sex trafficking victims, all of whom were women; and 10 percent were victims of both sex and labor trafficking. Sixty-two percent of foreign child victims were labor trafficking victims, of which half were boys and half were girls; 29 percent were sex trafficking victims, of which 30 percent were boys; and nine percent were victims of both labor and sex trafficking.
If you suspect someone may be the victim of human trafficking or involved in criminal activity related to the crime, then immediately contact the ICE hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or local law enforcement in your area.
Rape victims to be spared ordeal of cross-examination in court
Justice secretary says alleged victims in England and Wales will be given option of prerecording evidence for a trial
by Hannah Summers
New measures to spare alleged rape victims from facing live cross-examination in court will be rolled out as part of changes being made by the justice secretary.
Liz Truss announced that from September victims in England and Wales would be able to provide evidence in prerecorded cross-examinations to be played to the jury once a trial begins.
The rule applying to all adult sexual offences is being introduced following the success of pilot schemes using prerecorded evidence in cases of child sexual abuse.
It was found that defendants, when confronted with the strength of the evidence against them before the trial, were more likely to enter an early guilty plea, reducing the trauma for victims, speeding up the justice process and saving money.
The move comes amid changes that include a crackdown on paedophiles grooming children on social media with a new offence of “sexual communication with a child” to be brought in. It will mean those convicted face a jail sentence of up to two years and an automatic listing on the sex offender register.
Truss said the changes to rape trials would prevent victims facing the trauma of confronting their attackers without reducing the right to a fair trial.
She told the Sunday Times: “There is more we can do to help alleged victims in these cases give the best possible evidence they can give in an environment that is much more suitable than open court. We've been trialling this for children in cases of sex abuses.”
She added: “What this has led to is a much higher level of early guilty pleas. That has a huge amount of benefit. It resolves the case much earlier for the victim. It reduces the level of trauma for the victim. I want to see that being the standard offer in those cases and that will give more victims the confidence to come forward.”
Rape prosecutions are at record levels and the court system is struggling to cope with the high caseloads.
Domestic abuse, rape, sexual offences and child sex abuse account for 19% of the Crown Prosecution Service's total caseload – more than double the figure six years ago.
The volume of rape referrals to the CPS from the police rose to 6,855 in 2015-16 – up 11% on the previous year. Of those referred, 3,910 resulted in charges and 1,300 in convictions. However, campaigners claim only 6% of all reported cases result in a conviction for the perpetrator.
The new regulations will aim to improve the conviction rate with victims and vulnerable witnesses able to give evidence “in a room in court where it's much less intimidating, where there are ground rules set by the judge”, said Truss.
She said the changes would mean judges can limit the length of cross-examination to avoid victims having to testify for days on end and would also allow them to cut out any inappropriate cross-examination of a victim's sexual history before it could be aired before a jury.
Prerecorded evidence is already being launched nationwide for child sexual abuse cases.
The victims' commissioner, Lady Newlove, welcomed the news that the government is to strengthen the support available to victims in the courtroom. “Prerecorded cross-examination allows vulnerable victims and witnesses to give evidence in a safe environment and I hope these long-awaited measures will provide the protection and reassurance they need to seek justice,” she said.
However, some questioned whether the new measures would place the defendant in rape trials at an unfair disadvantage.
James Conte, who founded the website Accused.me.uk, a support group for victims of false allegations, said: “Whilst we would welcome measures that would increase the rape convictions of people who really have committed rape, if you are wholly innocent of someone trying to frame you, you will not welcome these changes because they will increase your chances of being wrongfully convicted.”
But Lisa Avalos, a professor of law at the University of Arkansas who has carried out comparative work on rape prosecutions between Britain and the US, said false allegations of rape make up just 2-3% of all rape allegations according to a study commissioned by the Home Office.
Avalos, an expert on gender-based violence, said: “The overwhelming problem here is rape, it is not false allegations of rape. Studies have shown the majority of false allegations of rape involve unnamed perpetrators so the concerns some organisations have about reputational damage to identifiable individuals are substantially overstated.”
She added: “Concern with false allegation masks another problem, namely that disbelieved rape victims have been wrongly accused of false reporting. Approaching rape victims with scepticism enables rape and discourages victims from coming forward.”
Avalos said that if rape cases were properly investigated in the first place, false allegations would never come to court.
She said: “There are massive failures to properly investigate rapes with police officers only referring between 10% and 30% of all reported cases to prosecutors. There are some international organisations that are putting out excellent rape investigation guidelines but such guidance is yet to be embraced by the UK.”
Three Howard School employees suspended after they allegedly failed to report child abuse
by Kendi A. Rainwater and Emmett Gienapp
Just 15 months after the Ooltewah High School pool-cue rape scandal, three teachers have been suspended from The Howard School for allegedly failing to report child abuse.
The Ooltewah High School rape case grabbed national headlines and led to a Times Free Press investigation that found that a culture of abuse existed at the school and adults overlooked warning signs. The school system said it increased training for teachers and staff on the state's mandatory child abuse reporting law.
The three employees who have been suspended are band director Dexter Bell, ninth-grade counselor Jenny Smith and teacher Amelia James.
A spokeswoman for the Hamilton County Department of Education, Amy Katcher, provided a news release confirming Bell's suspension after an inquiry early Saturday afternoon, which said: "HCDE takes allegations of failure to report child abuse very seriously."
Katcher confirmed the other two suspensions after being pressed for additional information later in the afternoon. It is not clear when the suspensions were handed down. Bell did not respond to a request for comment Saturday and Smith and James could not be reached.
Neither of the statements gave any details on when or where the possible abuse could have taken place, but Katcher wrote that an investigation is pending and law enforcement had been notified along with the Department of Children's Services.
Tiffanie Robinson, the school board member who represents The Howard School's district, applauded the decision by Principal Chris Earl to suspend the employees involved.
"I absolutely believe that Principal Earl did the right thing in suspending his employees that failed to report an abuse case," she said. "As soon as Principal Earl found out, he reported the problem immediately."
Earl could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Robinson also was heartened by the response from Interim Superintendent Dr. Kirk Kelly and his staff, and highlighted their efforts to respond quickly and effectively.
"Dr. Kelly and the central office team have been johnny-on-the-spot taking care of the problem," she said. "From the moment they were notified, they've been involved and notified the school board and taken immediate action on it."
She said the community is so tightly woven together that if the employees withheld information, they likely were concerned with the child's well-being.
"I feel very confident that the reason why these teachers did this is because they were absolutely concerned about the student's home life and what type of situation it would put them in," she said. "It was not a malicious action on the faculty's part."
Bell previously served an unpaid seven-day suspension in May 2015 for insubordination after he refused to meet with then-Howard principal Zac Brown, according to Times Free Press archives.
Following that suspension, then-Superintendent Rick Smith directed Bell to adhere to the state's code of ethics and told him that any further misconduct could cost him his job, according to a letter in Bell's personnel file. In 2008 and 2009, other principals raised concerns about his classroom management and planning skills, according to newspaper archives.
Smith himself resigned as superintendent in March 2016 after a wave of criticism over his handling of the Ooltewah rape case and a lack of communication with the school board.
Cherilyn Bryant, a volunteer assistant to Bell in the Howard band, defended Bell. She said she has only ever seen him support and care for his students, and that he would never withhold information about a student who was being abused.
"That is so not Bell," she said. "His students and other students talk to him all the time about things going on at home or help that they may need because they trust him, they know he's going to help them when they need help.
"He's been a father figure to so many students who have had fathers absent in their lives, to try to guide them in the direction they need to go. That's just who he is," she said.
A happy ending for baby Faith: Girl, 3, whose parents left her with 40 broken bones in one of America's 'worst ever' child abuse cases is adopted by a new family
by Emily Crane
A little girl whose biological parents were jailed for horrifically abusing her as a baby has now been adopted by a new family.
Faith Mason was dubbed Baby Faith back in 2013 when she was found in Southeast Texas with injuries so severe authorities had compared it to falling from a two-storey building.
Now three years on, Faith is still recovering but has a permanent home after being official adopted by her new family on March 10.
The little girl has been living with her adoptive parents and three teenage siblings for the past six months, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Faith is still recovering from her horrific abuse injuries, but authorities say she has already improved much more than anticipated.
During a court hearing last year, prosecutors said Faith was still being fed through a feeding tube and her left arm had still not healed properly in the three years since the abuse was uncovered.
Faith was taken to a hospital in Southwest Texas back in 2013 by her mother Christine Johnson.
An emergency room nurse who was on duty when Faith was brought in called the abuse the worst case she had ever seen, the Port Arthur News reported.
Doctors found she had suffered at least 40 broken bones and fractures, including two broken arms, two broken legs, a broken neck and dislocated shoulder.
They said many of the one-month-old's fractures were about three weeks old at the time she was examined.
The little girl had an IV drip placed in her neck as doctors tried to stabilize her.
Her injuries were so extensive, a team of doctors from a children's hospital in Houston had to fly down to help treat her.
Her biological parents, Christine Johnson and Darrell Mason, were both charged with child abuse.
Johnson was found guilty in 2015 and sentenced to 65 years in prison.
During her trial, the jury heard that Johnson had broken the baby's neck and left her with brain damage when on one occasion she yanked her from her cot.
Faith's father Darrell Mason reached a plea deal and was sentenced to 25 years in 2016 for failing to stop the abuse.
Her new adoptive family requested that their name or location be made public.
Survivor: You don't keep child sex abuse a secret
by Lauren Cross
HAMMOND — Angry, depressed and unable to talk about the sexual abuse she suffered as a young girl at the hands of an older cousin, Erin Merryn was told by a counselor to write a letter to her abuser.
“What would you say to Brian? What would you tell him today?' She said ‘Bring it in next week. You can throw it away, burn it, whatever you want to do,” Merryn said.
“I wrote out five-page letter and I remember looking at this letter, going ‘She doesn't need to hear this. He does.' So I began searching online, found his college email address, and within an hour, I hit send.”
After seven months of letter exchanges, he apologized, she said. Her next email, in which she forgave him, changed her life, allowing her to "reclaim her voice" and turn a negative into a positive.
Merryn's comments came Saturday during the “No More Secrets” symposium at Purdue University Northwest in Hammond, a half-day event aimed to raise awareness about child sexual abuse in northwest Indiana.
Since those exchanges, Merryn has published three books, her first of which details diary entries from her childhood journal. She now travels across the country lobbying states to enact “Erin's Law,” which mandates sexual abuse prevention curriculum in schools.
Indiana's version of the law — Senate Bill 355 — passed the Senate 49-0 last month, but has yet to secure a hearing before the House Education Committee. Versions of Erin's Law has been adopted in 28 states.
Education is key, Merryn said.
“We look the other way, pretend it's not going on, when the reality is it's going on in all of our own backyards,” she said. “There's so much stigma attached. And so often, survivors don't come out until much later in life … because they were never taught as children to speak up, talk. You don't keep this a secret.”
Saturday's event was part of the “No More Secrets” campaign, created by North Township Trustee Frank J. Mrvan in response to an August 2015 report.
The report found Indiana had the second highest reported rate of forced sexual intercourse among high school females in the nation, with one-in-six girls reporting to have been a victim of sexual assault by 18 years old.
The Times of Northwest Indiana is a partner in the trustee's campaign, along with local nonprofits, law enforcement and other media organizations.
The event ran from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. with opening remarks by Mrvan, Mary Beth Bonaventura, director of the Indiana Department of Child Services and retired judge, and Clifford Johnson, first assistant for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The event included three workshops — an introductory course on child sexual abuse, a course on online predators or the sexual abuse survivor's session about coping.
A version of Erin's Law passed in Indiana a few years ago, shortly after Merryn testified to the Legislature, but the bill did not make the education on personal body safety a mandate across all schools. Instead, it made teaching optional.
The bill's current sponsor, Rep. Julie Olthoff, R-Merrillville, encouraged those in the audience to lobby members of the House Education Committee to get SB355 a hearing.
Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter, who spoke during closing remarks, said cases often go underreported, but events like the one held Saturday encourages conversation.
“Things like this create an environment where people can come forward,” Carter said.
Kids who experience sexual abuse develop a year earlier than their non-abused peers
by Mary Kekatos
Abuse accelerates the physical growth and maturity of children, a new study warns.
Scientists say that young girls who are emotionally and physically abused hit puberty eight to 12 months earlier than their non-abused peers.
Sexual abuse in particular forces children to physically mature at a faster rate.
Premature physical development such as this has been linked to breast and ovarian cancers due to the increased exposure to the hormone estrogen over a longer period of time.
Additionally, early puberty is seen as a potential contributor to increased rates of depression, substance abuse, sexual risk taking and teenage pregnancy.
The study, conducted at Pennsylvania State University, compared the pubescent trajectories of 84 females with a sexual abuse history and 89 of their non-abused counterparts.
Working closely with nurses and Child Protective Services, the subjects were tracked from pre-puberty to full maturity via a system known as Tanner staging.
Tanner staging is a numeric index of ratings that corresponds with the physical progression of puberty.
The researchers looked at pubic hair and breast development as two separate markers for pubescent change.
The girls were placed on a numbered scale from one to five: one marked prepubescence and five marked full maturity.
The team found that girls with histories of sexual abuse were far more likely to transition into high puberty stages earlier than the girls who weren't abused.
They developed breasts about eight months earlier than the non-abused girls and pubic hair grew almost an entire year earlier.
'Though a year's difference may seem trivial in the grand scheme of a life, this accelerated maturation has been linked to concerning consequences, including behavioral and mental health problems and reproductive cancers,' said Dr Jennie Noll, director of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network and a professor of human development and family studies.
Dr Noll explained that the body is timed so that physical and developmental changes occur in tandem.
This assures that as a child physically changes, he or she has adequate psychological growth to cope with the maturing.
'High-stress situations, such as childhood sexual abuse, can lead to increased stress hormones that jump-start puberty ahead of its standard biological timeline,' Dr Noll said.
'When physical maturation surpasses psychosocial growth in this way, the mismatch in timing is known as maladaptation.'
This is not the first study to look at the effects of sexual abuse on puberty in young girls. A 2013 Cornell University study found that only did sexually-abused girls reach puberty quicker, but they were also more likely to have emotional problems.
Researchers found that girls who reached puberty ahead of their peers were found more likely to be targets of peer sexual harassment and receive a high number of unsolicited comments on their bodies.
For those with histories of sexual abuse - about one in five girls in the US - these challenges and pressures may become a tipping point for emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety, the authors said.
The researchers for the current study believe they were able to accurately rule out other variables that may have aided in accelerated puberty.
They believe the findings add to the current body of work highlighting the role of stress in puberty, and hope it will lead to increased preventative care and psychosocial aid to young women facing the effects of early maturation.
THE INCREDIBLY DAMAGING EFFECT THAT TRAUMA HAS ON YOUR HEALTH
Experiencing trauma can have a dramatic effect on both our bodies and our minds.
When your body perceives a threat, it activates a stress response, which occurs in both your body and your brain.
The body's response to acute stress is a 'preparation for emergency'.
Adrenaline and other hormones are released.
The body shuts down processes associated with long-term care.
Symptoms can manifest physically and mentally:
Night terrors and insomnia
Agitation and anxiety, especially in unfamiliar places
Withdrawing from social situations, or even personal relationships
Having an extreme startle reflex, potentially resulting in rage or further withdrawal
Anger, rage, and mood swings
Numbness or feeling otherwise disconnected from reality
Aches and pains that have no other explanation
Racing heart and high blood pressure
PTSD is perhaps the most severe type of trauma because of the realistic flashbacks intruding on day-to-day life.
A rehab facility that offers and integrated treatment for PTSD and addiciton camn provide you with a safe, secure, and stable environment in which to process both your addiciton and trauma at your own pace.
Source: Trauma Abuse Treatment
Big rise in number of children needing protection from abuse
by The Daily Liberal
The number of children receiving services to shield them from abuse has increased by 20 per cent over the past four years, according to new analysis from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
More than 162,000 children received a protection service in 2015-16, up from 135,139 children four years ago, Fairfax Media reports.
The number of children in out-of-home care has also surged by 17 per cent from 39,621 in 2012 to 46,500 in 2015-16, with the report finding grandparents are the most likely relatives to take on responsibility for children who cannot live with their parents.
The AIHW's child welfare spokesman David Braddock said the numbers had increased across all areas measured in the report, titled Child Protection Australia 2015-16.
He said high-profile inquiries such as the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse may have led to a spike in reports to authorities.
"One of the theories is that increased awareness about child abuse is having an impact on the reporting," he said. "It's probably the most common question we get – why is the number of children receiving services increasing at such a rate?"
The report examined children who had been the subject of an investigation into their welfare, children in out-of-home care and children subject to legal orders for their care and protection.
It found a high proportion of children were "repeat clients", with 73 per cent of children past recipients of protection services.
Indigenous children were seven times more likely to be involved with child protection than non-Indigenous children.
The number of allegations of child abuse reported to authorities increased by 30 per cent from 273,000 in 2012-13 to 356,000 in 2015-16. The report found almost half the notifications led to an investigation, resulting in 61,000 substantiated cases relating to 45,700 children.
The most common type of abuse in substantiated cases was emotional abuse, followed by neglect, physical harm and sexual abuse. Spending on child protection and out-of-home care services topped $4 billion in 2015-16, an increase of $283.7 million from 2014-15.
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
Memphis bears scars of Adverse Childhood Experiences
by Jerome Wright
I traveled to Nashville last week to participate in the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth's 29th annual Children's Advocacy Days 2017 presentation.
More than 800 people, representing individual groups, agencies and organizations involved in child and family advocacy issues, registered to attend the event at the stately War Memorial Auditorium Tuesday and Wednesday.
The TCCY is a state agency that advocates “to improve the quality of life for children and families, and provides leadership and support for child advocates.”
Children's Advocacy Days (known to TCCY staff as CAD) provides an opportunity for child and family advocates across the state to come together to hear about pending legislation that impacts children and families, meet with their legislators and hear discussions from experts about child-related issues.
I was there to receive the 2017 John Seigenthaler Making KIDS COUNT Large Market Print Media Award in recognition of “outstanding journalism enlightening citizens on issues and problems concerning Tennessee Children.”
I was humbled.
Judging from the crowd inside the auditorium and its hallways, there are an awful lot of people interested in improving the lives of families and children dealing with a range of issues that destabilize households, and negatively impact the mental and physical development of children.
Those stresses have a name – Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs.
It was enlightening to see how much ACEs permeated the CAD discussions and to realize the state, including Gov. Bill Haslam, is seriously invested in finding solutions.
And, all this state concern about ACEs started three years ago in Memphis, when a group of local stakeholders led by Barbara Holden Nixon formed the Shelby County ACE task force.
ACEs grew out of a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente in San Diego.
The long-term research found that “toxic stress” of childhood experiences of neglect, abuse and family dysfunction are major risk factors for leading causes of illness, death and a poor quality of life.
Before members of the local task force announced its formation, they conducted a random, confidential countywide telephone survey in the summer of 2014. They asked questions about childhood maltreatment and family dysfunction, as well as questions regarding their current health status and behavior.
Here is what the survey found:
52 percent of adults in Shelby County report having experienced at least one ACE.
Individuals reporting four or more ACEs have heightened risk for negative adult social and health outcomes.
The most prevalent ACEs in Shelby County are substance abuse, emotional abuse, and violence between adults in the home.
Shelby County has higher prevalence of childhood sexual abuse and violence between adults in the home than the state and the nation.
A child's constant exposure to adverse conditions, especially in the first three years of life, can create “toxic stresses” that negatively impact a child's mental and physical development into adulthood.
That point was stressed by CAD speaker Loraine Lucinski, senior project director for the Home Visiting-Improvement Action Center Team, who talked about toxic stress and how it impacts the rates of mental illness and serious health issues.
She also talked about the importance of children being exposed to stable and nurturing relationships, a point she emphasized by telling the audience that her father was an alcoholic and her mother abused drugs.
Memphian Bernard Williams could relate to the discussion. He is a juvenile services counselor with Juvenile Court, who is finishing up this doctoral thesis on the subject.
When juveniles are issued summonses, or are arrested, his job entails not only dealing with the criminal act, but also figuring out the root causes of why the child committed the crime. Then he works with the family and child to see if the reasons can be mitigated so that the behavior is not repeated.
I asked him what common denominators his research found that help children overcome ACEs. “You've got to address what happened to them; help them finding meaning to what happened to them.”
He said it also is important to get children involved in a sense of community, such as participating in church activities and organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs. Just as important is getting them into a safe environment, where they do not feel threatened. Church and youth clubs can provide the sense of safety, he said.
He also said mentoring is important because it provides troubled children with positive role models, who can build resiliency in a child's life.
Just about every time I write about this, I get push back from some folks who think this is junk science that provides an excuse for bad behavior.
But the city sees the impact of ACEs in the violent crimes committed by young people, the city's high poverty rate, domestic violence incidents, substance abuse, preventable chronic health maladies and the struggle to get children in the poorer areas of the city to achieve academically.
The reality of those problems is not junk science.
Two plead guilty in Penn State Sandusky cover-up
by Sara Ganim and Evan Simko-Bednarski
(CNN) -- Two former Penn State officials who were charged with child endangerment in the Jerry Sandusky scandal have pleaded guilty.
One week before they were set to go to trial on three felony charges, former athletic director Tim Curley and former university vice president Gary Schultz pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of children.
In exchange, the felony charges were dropped. Curley and Schultz could face up to five years in jail when sentenced, though guidelines show that they will likely be given a sentence ranging from probation to nine months in jail.
Sandusky, the disgraced former defensive coordinator at Penn State, was convicted and sent to prison nearly five years ago for molesting 10 boys, many of them on Penn State's campus.
Two of those cases heavily involved Curley, Schultz, and then-university-president Graham Spanier. According to emails recovered in an internal investigation and first reported in 2012, those cases, one in 1998 and one in 2001, were discussed among the three administrators in February 2001.
In the 1998 case, a victim's mother called police and filed a report, saying her son had been inappropriately touched by Sandusky in the football locker room shower. The district attorney declined to prosecute. The emails show Schultz wrote in his notes, "Is this the opening of pandora's box?" and "Other children?"
Then, in 2001, former assistant football coach Mike McQueary testified that he told Curley and Schultz that he'd witnessed Sandusky molesting a boy in the team shower facilities late one night. The emails were written weeks later.
Prosecutors say Curley and Schultz never called the police, even though they knew the accusations were similar to the allegations in the 1998 report.
In the emails, Shultz, Curley and Spanier allegedly discussed plans to tell Sandusky to seek professional help. They also allegedly planned to inform him that his "guests" -- children Sandusky brought on campus -- would no longer be allowed to use Penn State facilities.
Spanier was fired in 2011 over the Sandusky case. He is set to go to trial on March 20, and has maintained his innocence.
The case also ended the career of Joe Paterno, the long-time coach of Penn State's football team, who was fired along with Spanier in 2011. Paterno was also told of the assault witnessed by McQueary, and went on to alert Curley of the allegations.
Paterno died in 2012. His family has denied his role in any cover-up, though an independent investigation funded by Penn State alleged that the coach had knowledge of the suspicions surrounding Sandusky as early as 1998.
A state court previously dismissed more serious charges of perjury and obstruction after defense attorneys for the Shultz, Curley and Spanier successfully argued that Penn State's in-house counsel improperly represented herself before the grand jury.
Penn State Scandal: When Child Sex Abuse is 'Harmless'
by Judith Reisman, Ph.D.
On Monday, March 20, 2017, Graham Spanier, past president of Penn State University, is scheduled to go to trial on charges of criminal child endangerment and conspiracy related to former football coach Jerry Sandusky's rapes of little boys. At issue is whether Spanier, who was president of Penn State at the time, failed to investigate or covered up Sandusky's crimes.
Unfortunately, there has been of late a spate of highly educated authorities, from the Pentagon to other government workers, teachers, doctors, etc., who have been arrested and even convicted for child sexual abuse, including possession of child pornography. Dr. Lori Handrahan's publication of “Professors & Staff Arrested for Trading in Child Rape,” has sparked public outrage as the report has been shared more than 390,000 times in a few weeks. People are asking, how is this happening?
Spanier is academia sexual liberalism writ large
In fact, Spanier's story exemplifies the consequences of sexual liberalism in academia. During his 16 years at Penn State, Spanier oversaw a number of questionable sexually charged activities. For example, Spanier apparently had no problem with Patrick Califia-Rice, a transgender sadomasochism and pedophilia advocate who keynoted a speech at Penn State in 2002. The president likewise supported an on-campus Sex Faire sporting fun for all such as “orgasm bingo” and “the tent of consent.” When asked if the fair was morally wrong, Spanier said, “It depends on what your definition of immoral is.” Given his moral confusion, would reports of Sandusky's child rapes have elicited concern?
That was one of the questions I was asked to answer in 2014, when an investigator for Pennsylvania's attorney general asked me to study Spainer's scientific writings to determine whether there was a factual trail pointing to his not taking child sexual abuse allegations seriously.
My investigation first confirmed that Dr. Spanier held himself out as a sexuality expert. His 1973 doctoral dissertation was titled “Sexual Socialization.” It focused on adult sex with small children. His most important foundational work – his Ph.D. thesis – opens the door to his pedagogical philosophy, which is currently shared by a multitude of similarly educated and credentialed men and women.
From page 3 of Spanier's dissertation:
To study this relationship, data collected by the Institute for Sex Research will be used. … To the best of my knowledge, this is the first study that attempts to investigate empirically how the sexual socializing experiences of childhood and adolescence influence the nature and extent of subsequent sexual behavior during high school and college.
Spanier covers up Kinsey's timed child ‘orgasms'
Spanier's “objective” research was guided by Kinsey Institute/ Playboy magazine writer, Dr. William Simon. Similar to the current charges of a cover-up of Sandusky's child sex crimes, Spanier's dissertation covered-up Alfred C. Kinsey's criminal child sex abuse atrocities, instead skimming over Kinsey's “data” of timed child “orgasms” for his doctoral thesis. He writes, “we” think:
… before age 12 or 13, the [sex assaults] experiences in question would not be interpreted as sexual. … [S]exual assault before ages 12 or 13 was not related to sexual behavior …. whereas sexual assault after ages 12 or 13 was. … [A] child's sex education, sex knowledge, sexual values, and sexual behavior from adolescence onward will not be influenced by childhood [sex abuse] experiences since as a child he or she is not capable of interpreting sexual information and experiences in the same way an adult would. (:373)
It is likely that Spanier would not “label” Sandusky's rapes as deviant, but rather as simple sex socialization of boys. That is illustrated further in a later article in which he found sex acts “deviant” only if we “labeled” them so. The observation below from his paper on one type of sexual deviance, “mate swapping,” could apply equally to child sex abuse.
We choose to view deviant behavior simply as behavior that some value and others consider wrong. An individual's behavior becomes deviant only when others define it as deviant. Much of an individual's behavior can be viewed as a response to this “labeling.” (:145)
According to that logic, Sandusky's violent oral and anal sodomy of 10- and 11-year-old boys would not be viewed as “deviant” in and of itself.
Shortly after receiving his Ph.D., Spanier landed a Penn State professorship in 1977 and later served as vice provost at State University of New York at Stony Brook, provost at Oregon State University and chancellor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1991.
Spanier is representative of almost three generations of leaders who have embraced the mantra of Kinsey (a sadomasochistic, pornographic producing, pedophile professor), that “children are sexual from birth and unharmed by sex with adults.” Between justification by “science” and rampant pornographic stimuli, is it any wonder that so many of our leaders have succumbed to sadomasochistic pedophilia documented by Dr. Handrahan?
Spanier is credited with making Penn State “an internationally recognized institution.” The same claim was made for American University's past president Richard Berendzen – until he was caught seeking sex with children, even telling Susan Allen, a day care owner, he had a 4-year-old “sex slave” imprisoned in his basement. Spanier, like others, is still a tenured professor at $600,000 a year.
So again, the question is what/when did Dr. Spanier know of Sandusky's child sex assaults? And, how many other high-level authorities were trained by a similar sexual worldview as the football coach and the president?
Ladies and gentlemen, an investigation of Kinsey and the Kinsey Institute waits in the wings. It almost happened under President Reagan in 1995 with H.R. 2749, “The Child Protection and Ethics in Education Act.” With President Trump, that window into child sex crimes as the basis of false and damaging research and education can be opened once again. Let those who believe that the truth must be revealed and all children protected gather together to join in the demand to revisit H.R. 2749!
Secons Amber Alert for Tennessee teen who disappeared with her teacher
by Fox News
(Pictures on site)
The search for a missing 15-year-old Tennessee girl believed to be with a teacher has “gone fairly cold,” Fox 17 Nashville reports.
The hunt for blond-haired Elizabeth Thomas entered a fifth day Friday. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is searching for her and 50-year-old Maury County Schools health teacher Tad Cummins. The TBI has issued a second Amber Alert for the girl. Investigators believe Cummins may have abducted the girl to “potentially sexually exploit her.”
“It's absolutely important that everyone in this nation know about these individuals because frankly, they could be anywhere right now,” TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said Thursday, according to the station. “We've amped up our language because we really need the public to know that this young girl is in danger.”
The pair may have driven to Decatur, Ala., on Monday, the station reported Thursday.
DeVine said that investigators have received 125 leads. He said that number was “alarmingly low.”
Cummins is believed to be armed with two handguns, according to the station. An arrest warrant accuses him of sexual contact with a minor.
A friend dropped Elizabeth off at a Shoney's in Columbia, Tenn., Monday morning.
Authorities released surveillance video showing Cummins at a gas station near the restaurant a short time later.
TBI believes Cummins took out a $4,500 cash loan a few days ago.
Cummins, 50, was caught kissing Thomas at school Jan. 23, the attorney for the Elizabeth's father, Anthony Thomas, told The Columbia Daily Herald.
Attorney Jason Whatley said school officials knew a day later but allowed Cummins to keep teaching until Feb. 6 while they investigated, the paper reported Thursday.
“Our client was only informed of the incident on Jan. 31,” Whatley told the paper. “All of his focus is on finding his daughter, and finding her alive. But we have grave concerns about the school's delay in telling Mr. Thomas, and for allowing him to remain in the classroom.”
The school district fired Cummins on Tuesday, according to Fox 17.
Locked in a Cage and Sexually Abused as a Child: Calif. Mom Shares Her Brave Journey of Survival
by Elaine Aradillas
When Michelle Stevens was 8 years old, she was introduced to Gary Lundquist, the man who would soon become her stepfather — and tormentor.
In the opening pages of her new book, Scared Selfless: My Journey from Abuse and Madness to Surviving and Thriving, out March 21 and excerpted exclusively in this week's issue of PEOPLE, Stevens describes the night she was locked in a cage and “trained” to be a sex slave.
“I was badly tortured,” Stevens, now 48, tells PEOPLE in a interview from her home in Pasadena, California. “I still have flashbacks.”
In the book, Stevens recounts in explicit detail how her stepfather, a fifth-grade teacher, raped and tortured her throughout her childhood, ushering her through a world of sex rings and child pornography.
For most of her childhood, she lived a double life: She went to school determined to be a regular girl. But at home, she was Lundquist's slave. (Though he was sentenced to three years' probation in 1985 for engaging in sexual conduct with two girls at the school where he taught, Lundquist died in 1997 without ever answering for the years he assaulted Stevens.)
The trauma inflicted on her caused her personality to split as a way to cope. She was eventually diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, more commonly known as multiple personalities.
“I was a victim, and I understand that now,” Stevens says. “But the stigma around mental illness is enormous. And the stigma around multiple personalities is off the chart.”
As a way to survive, Stevens buried her memories and developed amnesia, eventually escaping her stepfather's abuse when she left for college at New York University. After graduation, she headed to Los Angeles to start a new life.
It was then that her memories came flooding back.
“You have one goal when you're in captivity, and that's to escape,” Stevens says. “Then you do escape and it's not nearly as awesome as you thought it was going to be. Once you're free, it's really hard.”
For most of her adult life, Stevens has worked through her pain with the help of a compassionate therapist. She earned a PhD in psychology in 2012, and she used her own story for her dissertation — which formed the basis for her book.
There was a time that she couldn't imagine her future. Now, with a wife and a young son, and her own private practice, she's looking forward to inspiring other survivors.
“I am in a blessed position,” Stevens says, “to devote my life to helping others.”
Australia's Anglican Church 'ashamed' about child abuse
Australia's Anglican Church says it is 'ashamed' after a new report reveals the scale of child sex abuse.
The head of Australia's Anglican Church said he was 'deeply ashamed' after a government report found nearly 1,100 people had filed child sexual assault claims against the church over a 35-year period.
The interim report, published on Friday by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, said 1,082 people lodged complaints between 1980 and 2015 that identified 569 Anglican clergy, teachers and volunteers as alleged abusers. There were an additional 133 alleged abuses reported by people whose roles within the church were unknown.
The report also found that most children were approximately 11 years old at the time of the first alleged incident of child abuse, and on average it took 29 years for each incident to be reported.
Archbishop Philip Freier, the church's primate, said Anglicans have been "shocked and dismayed" at the findings of the report.
"We are deeply ashamed of the many ways in which we have let down survivors, both in the way we have acted and the way we have failed to act," Freier said in a statement.
"I wish to express my personal sense of shame and sorrow at the way survivors' voices were often silenced and the apparent interests of the Church put first," he added.
Anne Hywood, the general secretary of the Anglican Church of Australia, told the royal commission on Friday that the church acknowledged it "allowed harm to continue".
She also reiterated a 2004 apology to abuse victims, saying the church "apologises unreservedly" and is committed to taking action.
Anglican bishop resigns
On Thursday, Greg Thompson, the Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, announced his resignation months after he testified he was not safe in his community due to his work to address child sexual abuse.
Thompson, who was sexually molested as a teenager by a bishop, said he was quitting to focus on his health.
In November, he told the royal commission that people of power provided protection during decades of abuse by clergy and lay people in the diocese. He also said he felt there were consequences if he did not follow what some within the diocese wanted him to do.
The royal commission is also investigating abuse allegations against other religious institutions.
Last month, it was told the Australian Catholic Church paid $212 million in compensation to thousands of victims since 1980.
The inquiry also heard that about seven percent of Catholic priests in Australia were accused of sexually abusing children between 1950 and 2010.
Church sexual abuse was put into the spotlight in 2002 when it was revealed that US Catholic bishops in the Boston area helped protect alleged abusers by moving them from parish to parish.
Similar scandals have since been revealed worldwide.
Maryland delegate's effort to allow child abuse lawsuits clears hurdle
by Pamela Wood and Erin Cox
C.T. Wilson gathered his courage, told his colleagues in the Maryland House of Delegates about how he was sexually abused as a child and urged them to allow child victims more time to file lawsuits against their attackers.
The first two times he did that, the Charles County Democrat saw his proposal die in a House committee without even being called for a vote.
But this year, he may have prevailed. The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved legislation to let victims file lawsuits until they're 38 years old — 13 years later than current law allows. And Thursday morning, the full House advanced Wilson's bill to a final vote.
"I had no idea it was going to pass" out of committee, Wilson said. "I figured I would fight every year."
He said it was a relief after repeatedly giving painful testimony.
"It's a huge accomplishment. Also a huge weight," Wilson said. "To expose yourself like that is so painful."
For the bill to advance, two powerful opponents had to be won over: the Catholic Church and Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr., chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Their concerns were satisfied when the bill was amended to make it more for difficult for victims older than 25 to win damages in civil lawsuits.
"We think this is a fair compromise," said Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference.
The state Senate unanimously approved a similar proposal Wednesday. Either the Senate bill or House bill must be approved by the other chamber before April 10 for the legislation to advance to the desk of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
Wilson, 45, has told colleagues for the past three years about how he was beaten and raped by his adoptive father as a child, and how the effects of the abuse linger decades later. Wilson's adopted father is now dead.
While the bill is "not a silver bullet," Wilson hopes that it will offer one measure of legal help to child abuse victims.
Often, he said, it takes years for people who were abused as children to come to terms with what happened — sometimes when they have children of their own.
Those victims would then find out that Maryland law only allows civil lawsuits against alleged attackers until the victim is 25 years old. Wilson's bill extends that deadline to 20 years after becoming a legal adult at age 18.
The Catholic Church had fought versions of the bill for years, even before Wilson became the legislation's chief champion. On Wednesday afternoon, two representatives from the Maryland Catholic Conference sat alongside Wilson in support of the bill.
"This is a fair way of allowing these people to have their time in court," Russell said.
For victims up to age 25, the bill allows courts to award damages against institutions that employ or supervise abusers if negligence is proven. For older victims, the bill requires gross negligence — a tougher legal standard — in order to award damages.
Vallario, who is Catholic, said the change in liability for the older cases satisfied his concerns and led him to allow the committee vote after preventing it for years.
Vallario said it can be difficult for institutions such as churches to defend cases decades after abuse is alleged to have occurred. "Sometimes these priests are dead, and it's very hard for the church to defend," the Prince George's County Democrat said in an interview.
The Maryland Catholic Conference had previously objected to the bill because churches that employed abusers would be held to a different standard than government institutions. State law prohibits child sex abuse lawsuits from being filed against state and local governments — including school districts, foster care services and other public institutions — once the alleged victim turns 21. The Wilson bill would not change that.
The church dropped its objection when the bill was amended to make it more difficult for a plaintiff over 25 to win damages.
The Catholic Church has been enmeshed in controversy for years over sexual abuse of children at the hands of priests. The Archdiocese of Baltimore has paid millions of dollars in claims lodged by dozens of people. The diocese's policy is to offer voluntary settlements regardless of the amount of time that passed since the abuse took place.
The church's earlier opposition to letting older victims press lawsuits wore on Del. Eric Bromwell, a Baltimore County Democrat who had sponsored the bill before Wilson became involved. Bromwell withdrew the bill after just one year, having been inundated with criticism. He said the effort had been started by the late Del. Pauline Menes, a Democrat who represented Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties.
On Wednesday, Bromwell rushed from another committee hearing to meet Wilson at the Judiciary Committee. He embraced Wilson and told him he was proud of his work.
"It should have happened 10 years ago," Bromwell said after the committee vote.
Bromwell said it was tough when he gave up sponsoring the bill, unable to take pressure from the church.
"It was the hardest thing I have done in my life," Bromwell said. "I had to call people who had been abused and tell them I couldn't be their bill sponsor anymore."
Then he befriended Wilson, a burly former bouncer who said he had been abused as a child. Bromwell watched Wilson tell his colleagues of the abuse one year, and then another, and then another. Each time, Bromwell said, it weighed on Wilson for days before the testimony and even longer afterward.
It was Wilson's personal story, Bromwell said, that eventually forced the issue to a vote.
"Because it was one of our own, it was inevitable that it would come to a vote," Bromwell said. "And when it finally did, it sailed out."
Perhaps even more important than the expanded legal rights for child abuse victims, Wilson said, is the message that the legislature is sending to them.
He said that even if victims don't end up filing more lawsuits, they'll know that their representatives in Annapolis care about them.
"You want them to know they're not ignored," Wilson said.
Local police detectives express frustration with child abuse cases
by Stephen Elliott
MOLINE -- Local police detectives Jon Leach and Erin Pape said there are overwhelming numbers of child abuse cases in the Quad-Cities along with below average convictions.
The reasons are numerous, both said, and the challenges are many in trying to sort through a myriad of cases with limited resources.
They were two of several speakers at the annual Children Exposed to Violence Conference on Thursday at the iWireless Center. Ms. Pape is a detective with the Davenport Police Department; Mr. Leach a detective with the Moline Police Department.
"You know what I would like to see?" Detective Leach said after the presentation. "Tougher judges. I would like to see tougher judges. Some of the stuff we see ... I guess maybe I don't understand what constraints (judges) they have."
Both detectives spoke to the challenges facing law enforcement, as well as a system of case backlog. Detective Pape said there are enough substantiated child- and sexual-abuse cases in the Quad-Cities to fill 20 school buses.
"We get so many sex assault cases, so many child abuse cases, we don't have enough detectives to handle them," Detective Pape said. "It's physically impossible to investigate every sexual assault. Our command is aware of that and trying to make adjustments.
"It comes down to budgets. It comes down to money. It's a struggle with us as detectives. We know there's victims out there."
Nationally, they said there are 683,000 child abuse victims each year. Every 10 seconds a report is made of child abuse. Four to five children die each day because of child abuse.
Even so, cases get missed or slip through the cracks, Detective Pape said, with kids not in school or day care.
Convictions rates are low for a number of reasons, they said.
One is the ability to testify. Roughly a quarter of the victims are younger than 3, Detective Pape said.
"We know a large portion of abuse is occurring at those ages," she said. "They can't talk. They can't tell us what happened."
Detective Leach said, "above all, what a child wants is to be believed. That's what I try to do -- (tell them) 'I believe you.' If it doesn't go to prosecution or the person doesn't get convicted, that doesn't mean, 'that nobody believes you.'"
He said it's difficult to explain to a child why someone who allegedly hurt them is not punished.
"When you have a conviction, I think that is closure for the child," Detective Leach said. "Somebody believes me (child), and they did something about it."
Local statistics are hard to quantify, both detectives said, because each city compiles stats in different ways.
"When we talk about our numbers locally, it's going to be hard for you guys to compare our numbers to Moline or Rock Island, because each agency reports them differently," Detective Leach told the audience during one of the conference's breakout sessions.
"There are no consistent guidelines on how to come up with the numbers."
But available statistics show conviction rates in both counties are below national averages, they said.
In Rock Island County, there were 201 cases compiled involving sexual abuse and physical abuse in 2016 with 56 arrests out of those cases. Detective Leach said convictions though, were much lower than the arrests, but did not have a specific figure.
Davenport had 111 reports taken of child abuse, neglect or needing assistance in 2016. Detective Pape said there were 13 arrests.
"If you look at the national arrest rate (about 30 percent), obviously, Davenport is way under that," she said.
"Convictions are much smaller than the arrests," Detective Leach said. "We're right in line with Scott County. Rock Island County is so backlogged (with cases)."
Detective Leach said he has a case now involving the alleged rape of a girl by a family member when she was 12. He said the case is now going on 2 1/2 years.
"It's awful this girl has had to wait that long," he said. "She's also enduring punishment from her family saying, 'I can't believe you're doing this.'"
It's one of many frustrations they face.
Detective Leach said he would like to see closed circuit cameras in Rock Island County courtrooms so abuse victims would not have to testify in front of their alleged abuser.
"I think that would be huge," he said. "Families don't want to see their child go through that, especially younger children."
Detective Pape said the job can be frustrating, saying they care about the victims and work hard to get arrests and convictions.
"If we don't have a confession, if we have an uncooperative suspect, they (county attorney) won't allow us to charge," she said. "It's very frustrating on our end."
She said there may be a perception that police don't care about the cases they're working on.
"That's not true," she said. "We work our butts off. It (crimes) bothers us just as much as it bothers everybody else."
Bill that uncovers child abusers wins passage
by Deborah Yetter
Parents seeking babysitters, school systems hiring staff and operators of summer youth camps soon will be able to learn whether someone has a history of child abuse or neglect under a far-reaching law passed Wednesday by the General Assembly.
"I'm just so excited for all the kids in Kentucky," said Lori Brent, a Henry County mother who testified in support of the proposed legislation after her infant son, Jake, suffered two broken bones at the hands of a babysitter. "When Jake was injured, I knew of the need for more awareness."
Senate Bill 236, sponsored by Sen. Julie Raque Adams, a Louisville Republican, sailed through the House on Wednesday after passing the Senate, winning unanimous votes in both chambers. It has been sent to Gov. Matt Bevin to be signed into law.
A Bevin spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, which had worked for passage of the bill, said he's pleased to see it expand access to information now available for only a few occupations including day care workers and people who work at private centers for abused children.
"We need to ensure that wherever kids are, that is where vigilance is required," he said. "Schools and summer camps are great places to extend the protections currently in place in such locations as child care centers."
The Courier-Journal reported Tuesday that the measure gives parents, school systems and others who run youth programs access to confidential information about whether someone has committed child abuse or neglect, as determined by state social service officials. The individual seeking the job must request the information from the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services and provide it to the employer.
Besides allowing parents access to such information – which doesn't show up on a background check – the bill would require public schools, for the first time, to check applicants for teaching or other jobs and deny employment to anyone listed on the confidential registry as having committed child abuse or neglect. The law is voluntary for private schools.
While public school employees are subject to criminal background checks, the measure will add a level of scrutiny not previously required.
The bill also requires school employees to report to school officials any state findings of child abuse or neglect involving them and says no public school district shall employ individuals with such findings.
The checks also would apply to workers or volunteers at youth camps that receive public funds.
Brent said her son is now 8 and recovered from the injuries inflicted when he was 4 months old that included a broken arm and broken leg. The babysitter responsible pleaded guilty to criminal charges, Brent said.
She said she intends to stay active in efforts to fight child abuse.
"I will continue to do what I can to help in any way," she said.
Combating sexual abuse of children
More needs to be done to protect the most vulnerable members of our society
by Daphne Iking
I had the chance of moderating breakout session for the Parents, Community and Non-Governmental Organisations Group during the “Stop Children Sexual Crimes” national seminar held recently.
The general sentiment of the crowd was that the responsibility to combat child sexual crimes has to be a collective effort.
Sex education should be taught at a very early stage, not just by school teachers, but by parents too.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done because not many parents are able to do that due to cultural or religious taboos thus the school remains as a key agency.
Hetty Johnston, the founder and executive chairman of Bravehearts Foundation, an organisation to combat the scourge of child sexual abuse in Australia, says sex education should be taught as early as three years old.
In Australia, they have a nursery song which has effectively taught young children describing which parts of their bodies are their private parts and they should be just that – private.
The responsibility of the father in teaching sex education is equally important.
Most households leave it to the mothers to talk about it; even then, it is still a taboo topic.
Again, parents need to address this issue as it is all about education to empower to ensure our children are protected.If there was one thing I felt was missing from the panel discussion, it would be the presence of religious bodies.
These entities need to be more open in educating the public about sex education and raising awareness about sex crimes.
Educating does not mean we are encouraging the act, but we are empowering our children to make wise decisions.
Participants shared their frustration in reporting the crime, from the insufficiency of knowledge and know–how, to the lack of soft skills of the investigative officers when reporting the crime.
The process is long, lengthy, tedious and embarrassing.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Saroja Egamparam says that training of soft skills among the police force which includes how to talk to the victims, what the Standards of Procedures are and the type of language to use when communicating with the victims.
There was a proposal for police, teacher and medical trainees be given the required skills and knowledge to handle cases of sexual crimes against children.
For the Social Welfare Department, the proposed Social Work Act is needed to ensure Child Protection Officers have the required professional training.
I applaud the announcement made by our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak with regards to the setting up of a Specialised Child Court.
I am confident this would surely expedite legal proceedings against offenders.
The authorities and NGOs dealing with human traffickers and their victims, usually women and young children, need to work closely with each other and those protecting the syndicates, needs to be weeded out fast.
The hall was moved to tears by the raw and courageous sharing of two people; both of whom have daughters sexually assaulted by a family member and how they fought and continue to fight for their child's dignity to ensure the offenders were punished.
The sharing was poignant as many victims do not come forward to report to the authorities because there is the fear that their story will not be heard, let alone believed or validated.
The victims themselves are often isolated by their own fear, shame and self-persecution.
There is also the concerns about confidentiality and the lack of faith in the establishment or with the authorities.
As Johnston points out, “The shame should not belong to the victim.
“The shame should not belong to the family members of the victim.
“The shame belongs to the offender.
“We have to stand up for our children”.
There needs to be a mentality shift that a crime is a crime and no one should protect the offender.
Mohd Shazali from the Malaysian Federation of the Deaf highlighted the need for a professional sign language interpreter to assist the disabled victims like those who are deaf and mute.
Can you imagine how scary and difficult it is already for a normal, young child to explain this horrible ordeal?
What more a child with intellectual disabilities or are mentally/physically challenged!
Imagine the struggle trying to explain their ordeal to the doctor, or the investigative officer or judge without a professional interpreter!
He also said that teachers should not be tasked with doing interpretation at the child courts because they are educators and not professional communication providers.
Sometimes, the case gets thrown out due to lack of evidence or difficulty in getting the report out.
The issue of safety in schools was also raised at the seminar.
Proposals include to stop outsourcing guards to schools and instead make them employees of the Education Ministry to ensure better background checks on the guards.
I hope the fight against child sex predators does not just stop here as we have a long way more in combating child sex crimes.
There needs to be more awareness to explain what child sexual abuse is and what the procedures are to report the abuse.
Emcee and YouTuber Daphne Iking is a mother of four and pledges her support to make anti-grooming laws passed in the Malaysian Parliament.
Child neglect or city overreaction? Charges against Mesa parents raise community concern
by Jessica Boehm
A young Mesa boy, dead set against completing his chores, ran away from home late one night last year and hid in his neighbor's bushes for more than 12 hours.
His parents, Janna and Brian Bentley, now face child neglect charges, accused of failing to contact the police within a reasonable period of time after their son went missing. They could face up to six months in jail.
A video sweeping across Facebook accuses the Mesa Police Department and city prosecutor of overzealous behavior and a "gross abuse of power" in prosecuting the Bentleys. The video has been viewed more than 117,000 times, and more than a dozen neighbors and friends have contacted the city to insist that the Bentleys are upstanding parents who are victims of government overreach.
"In my mind, the city is trying to arrest Ward and June Cleaver. Or Mom and Pop Walton," neighbor Gary Porter said, comparing the Bentleys to the wholesome families featured in "Leave it to Beaver" and "The Waltons."
Mesa police recommend charges
An Arizona Department of Child Safety caseworker responded to the Bentley home after the boy was found but did not remove any of the Bentleys' children. The department can remove a child only if it finds “an unreasonable risk of harm” to a child's health or life, according to state law.
But Mesa police recommended the city prosecutor charge the parents with child neglect — and he did.
In a police report, Mesa detectives suggested the parents did not realize the gravity of the disappearance of their son, who is younger than 10 years old.
A Mesa family advocate detective quoted in report
"Neither Janna or Brian seemed to understand the seriousness of their ... child being gone all night," a Mesa family advocate detective said in the report.
An excerpt of a report purportedly written by a DCS caseworker appears to echo the police detective's sentiment that the parents didn't grasp the significance of the boy's long absence.
"There is concern the parents will not contact the authorities if (the child) runs away again. There is concern the family's religion/faith impairs their judgment," according to the document posted on a Facebook page supporting the Bentleys.
Neither city or state officials nor the family would comment about the case. But police reports and body-camera video show that the boy's parents and public-safety and child-welfare officials called to the home saw the situation in strikingly different terms.
An 'impulsive child'
On March 31, 2016, one of the Bentleys' seven children fled their house about 9:15 p.m. after his mother asked him to complete his chores, according to the police report.
It was common for the boy to hide around the house when he was upset, but after about 45 minutes, Janna Bentley became concerned, she told police. She searched her home and property until about 2 a.m., when her husband returned from work. The two continued looking for another hour and then went to sleep, the police report said.
They woke around 7 a.m. to find the boy had not returned. They searched unsuccessfully for another hour with neighbors and friends and then decided to call police.
Bentley made the call, sounding worried. She told a police dispatcher that her son is an "impulsive child" who often runs off or hides in their backyard. But he had never been missing for this long.
"This is very unusual. I am so surprised we haven't found him," Bentley said in the 911 call. "I feel relatively calm, considering."
She described what the boy was wearing and said his pillow and green blanket were missing from his room. The dispatcher assured her that officers were on the way and would meet her at her house.
During the search, a police officer asked Bentley why she didn't call the police before going to bed, she said, "I prayed about it and felt calm." She also told the officer that God told her that her son was safe, according to the report.
The officer noted that Bentley did not appear concerned about her son's disappearance but rather embarrassed that so many people were at her home searching for the child.
Police dispatched a helicopter to perform an aerial check of the area and made announcements from a PA system notifying the neighborhood of the disappearance.
Police discovered that several juvenile sex offenders lived in a group home two houses from the Bentleys. When an officer asked Janna Bentley if she knew about the home, she said she did, but she did not go to the house and ask if they had seen her son until after she called the police in the morning.
About 10:15 a.m., a neighbor found the boy hiding behind a bush in a nearby front yard. He had stayed outside throughout the night with his pillow and blanket while temperatures reached a low of 41 degrees.
Boy's behavior questioned
When Brian Bentley picked up his son, the boy flailed his arms and legs. In the report, police said, "he appeared to be fighting to get away from Brian" and noted his behavior "did not appear to be normal."
Police body-camera video from the incident shows Brian Bentley trying to calm the boy in a family bathroom shortly after he was found. The child tried to get away from his father and hid in the corner of the shower.
"You're not leaving. You aren't — just understand that. Just stand in the corner and put your face in there and hide, that's fine," Brian Bentley told the boy in the video.
In the video, a police officer asked Brian Bentley if his son's behavior was normal.
"Not to this extent, but he's never done something like this before. He does get a little hyperactive ... and throw a tantrum," the father said.
"Is this normal for you, bud?" Brian Bentley asked his son. The boy responded with a grunt.
The Mesa Fire Department came to the home to transport the boy for medical evaluation, but the Bentleys hesitated, according to the police report.
Body-camera footage shows both parents arguing with police and a DCS caseworker over the need to transport the child. Brian Bentley insisted the child was just scared.
"Can you consider our position?" he asked police. "He now has how many strangers in his house? How do you think a (young child) is going to react?"
Eventually, the Bentleys agreed to allow the boy to be medically evaluated, according to the report. His mother accompanied him to Cardon Children's Medical Center.
A forensic interviewer spoke with the boy and two of the Bentleys' other children, who police removed from school without notifying the Bentleys.
The runaway boy told the interviewer that he left the house the night before because he got in trouble for not doing his "jobs" at home, according to the police report. He said he'd run away from home more than twice before because he doesn't like doing chores, "because he is the only one who has to do them."
All three children interviewed denied drug and alcohol usage, domestic violence, physical abuse or sexual abuse at their home, the police report said.
Police submitted a complaint to the Mesa City Prosecutor's Office indicating that there was probable cause to charge the Bentleys with child endangerment because of their "actions and inactions" — including going to sleep while the boy was still missing and failing to call the police for nearly 12 hours.
Janna and Brian Bentley face misdemeanor charges of assisting delinquency and child neglect. They are scheduled to appear May 15 before a Mesa Municipal Court judge.
'Steamrolled by the government'
Porter, the couple's next-door neighbor, was part of the search party looking for the child in the morning. He said between church members and neighbors, nearly 200 people were looking for him. The boy eventually was found in Porter's bushes.
Porter said he's known the Bentleys for seven years and the child has run away at least three or four times. It's just his nature, Porter said.
“He just likes to explore and he likes to hide. This was not unusual; this is what he does. He always comes home.”
Gary Porter, the Bentleys' neighbor
"This little guy — he's quite the adventurer. This is kind of what he does," he said.
Porter said he was shocked by Mesa's decision to pursue charges against the family, when it was clear to him that the children had a safe home with loving parents.
"I just wish there would have been a little bit more common sense and compassion for a mother and father who had been without their son," he said.
Public Integrity Alliance, an Arizona non-profit, created the Facebook video about the Bentleys and continues to provide publicity about the case, according to Tyler Montague, the group's president.
"It's the type of story that has broader application than just them. We don't like to see someone getting steamrolled by the government," Montague said.
He said since the group shared the Bentleys' story, they've heard many other anecdotes of the "random, capricious sort of enforcement" done by the Department of Child Safety, or other agencies, such as the Mesa police and prosecutor.
"Sometimes they go after less threatening situations where they ignore true abusive and dangerous homes," Montague said.
He said the overwhelming reaction his group has received from viewers is that "maybe (the Bentleys) should have called police sooner, but the prosecution response is way over the top. It's kind of a universal sentiment."
Prosecutor offers general comments
City prosecutor John Belatti declined to comment specifically on the case but said that generally, pressing charges is the prosecutor's only option to "force a conversation between the two parties."
The city can pursue jail time, probation and fines, although there are alternative ways to resolve a case that could avoid these penalties, he said.
For example, the city and defendant could negotiate ahead of trial to get education or counseling or a suspended sentence. Additionally, a judge could order a different option in lieu of jail times, probation or fines.
Belatti said typically when cases involve child safety, they unfold in one of two ways: Someone who is concerned will contact DCS and department officials will respond, possibly bringing in law enforcement later if DCS investigators believe there was criminal behavior. Or, as was the case with the Bentleys, law-enforcement officers are called to respond to an issue and decide to involve DCS if they believe a child is in danger or at risk.
Each agency writes its own report — law enforcement from a criminal perspective, DCS from a safety perspective.
DCS would not comment as to whether there was an open investigation on the Bentleys, but the children were not removed from the home, according to the police report.
Mesa police also would not comment on the case.
According to police, 90 people in Mesa were arrested or charged with misdemeanor child neglect in 2016.
In a statement, Mayor John Giles said he'd been briefed on the case, but "it would be inappropriate for me to interfere with the pending judicial process. I am hopeful that through the judicial process, including a good-faith pretrial dialogue, a fair and just resolution can be achieved."
Bill to expand Baby Brianna Law now in Senate
by the Sun-News
LAS CRUCES — A bill that would expand Baby Brianna's Law toughening penalties for child abuse, to include victims up to the age of 18, has passed the House and cleared its first Senate committee on Tuesday.
House Bill 45 made it out of the Senate Public Affairs Committee on a 4-3 vote Tuesday, clearing the committee where an identical bill stalled last year. But it still must get through both the Judiciary and Finance committees in the next few days to get a vote by the full Senate before the session adjourns at noon Saturday.
“Expanding Baby Brianna's Law should be a top priority this session as it would show that we value every child's life equally in New Mexico,” said Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque, in a prepared statement. “Protecting all our children is of utmost importance to me and I am grateful for the committee's support of this bill today. I have great hope that I will have the opportunity to see it pass the Senate this session and be signed into law.”
The original Baby Brianna bill was passed in 2005, following a two-year effort by former Sen. Mary Jane Garcia of Doña Ana. It was named for Brianna Lopez, a 5-month-old infant whose horrific death at the hands of her parents and caretakers in 2002 shocked the community. At the time of Baby Brianna's death, the crime of child abuse resulting in death carried a much lower penalty in New Mexico than the killing of an adult.
The bill passed in 2005 made intentional child abuse resulting in the death of a child age 12 or younger a first-degree felony, which carries a life sentence. The bill being considered this year would expand that penalty to include all victims under the age of 18.
Stephanie Lopez, the mother of baby Brianna, was sentenced under the old law and was released last year.
The 2017 bill passed on a 55-8 vote in the House. Identical legislation by Maestas Barnes also passed the House by a large margin last year, but was stopped in Senate Public Affairs.
The state Children Youth and Families Department supports the bill, stating, “All children's lives are equally as valuable and should be treated the same under the law. This bill treats the crime of intentional child abuse resulting in the death of the child the same, no matter the age of the child.”
However, the state Public Defender Department noted that under child abuse statutes, prosecutors do not need to prove an intent to kill, or even injure, as is required for a first-degree murder conviction with an adult victim.
“Thus, HB 45 would result in more people serving life sentences for conduct which is less culpable than that proscribed by the homicide statute simply because the victim was 17 instead of 19,” they said.
Mandated reporters critical to stopping child abuse, experts say
by Loari Falce
This week, former Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and former university vice president Gary Schultz entered guilty pleas in Dauphin County to charges of child endangerment.
At issue was the idea that they had been told of improper behavior by retired Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky with a child served by his Second Mile children's charity and did not alert authorities. Sandusky was convicted of 45 of 48 counts of child sex abuse charges in 2012, years after the incident.
Former Penn State president Graham Spanier is still set to go to trial for child endangerment Monday.
Sandusky's conviction and the five-year drama around the three administrators' cases has brought attention on the role of the mandated reporter.
“Mandated reporters are individuals who are required to report suspected child abuse,” said Kristina Taylor-Porter, executive director of the Centre County Child Advocacy Center.
“Their roles can be in a professional, volunteer or caregiver capacity, just to name a few,” she said. “Reporters have the distinct responsibility to be well informed of how to recognize signs of abuse and how to report suspected abuse.”
In the wake of the Sandusky scandal, Pennsylvania made changes that beefed up mandated reporter requirements. More people are reporters.
“Mandated reporters of child abuse are critical to protect children who have been victimized,” Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said. “When people refuse to report child abuse, our kiddos must be able to count on others in trusted positions to intervene and protect them.”
The problem is that sometimes victims can't turn to the people closest to them.
“Often, family members or family friends are the very people that are causing child abuse,” Parks Miller said. “When others fail, the community must step up, report the suspected abuse and be the voice for our most tiny, precious population. They count on us for their safety and well-being.”
The Curley, Schultz and Spanier cases show how seriously the requirements are taken.
“While legal ramifications do exist for those who do not report suspected abuse, the ramifications of not reporting suspected child abuse could mean a child or children are subjected to continued abuse and that could mean life or death in some cases,” Taylor-Porter said. “Child abuse occurs within the confines of secrecy, having people within our community who are required to report their suspicions of abuse, provides some levels of protection for children. Professionals who respond, intervene, investigate and treat victims of child abuse cannot do it without a vigilant community member reporting their suspicions. ”
So are they working? Are people actually making reports?
That's hard to say. In Pennsylvania, reports can be made to ChildLine, a statewide service that allows anyone — mandated or not — to call in.
“The identity of the reporter is confidential; as a result the Children's Advocacy Center is unaware if a mandated or passive reporter made the report,” Taylor-Porter said. “What we do know is that a child has been referred for collaborative and comprehensive services for suspected child abuse. According to the PA Family Support Alliance, the calls made to ChildLine, Pa.'s child abuse reporting agency, 75 percent of the calls are from mandated reporters.”
Child-abuse prevention program still under scrutiny from Children's Commission board
by Tessa Duvall
A year after the Jacksonville Children's Commission board publicly expressed concerns over the underutilization of a child-abuse-prevention program, some board members were still troubled by the direction of the program.
Healthy Families Jacksonville was previously operated by The Bridge of Northeast Florida, but the Children's Commission board decided to pull the contract after the Bridge failed to improve its metrics after a probationary period. The Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition took over the contract on Oct. 1 and has yet to impress some with its performance.
Board members Leanna Cumber and Jill Bechtold spoke about what they say is a slow turnaround of the program.
“I'm coming up on my second year on the board and I feel like these numbers have not changed,” Cumber said. “I have a really hard time sitting here every month, going through this, patting ourselves on the back saying, ‘This is so great,' when this should be low-hanging fruit. … I just don't feel we're moving forward.”
As a part of the larger Healthy Families Florida initiative, the local program provides voluntary, home-visit services to high-risk families living in targeted ZIP codes in Duval County. Services are initiated during pregnancy or shortly after the birth of a baby and can last up to five years. Staffers help families with bonding and establishing a nurturing environment and connect them with additional services they may need, such as medical care, food and job training.
Problems with enrolling families and retaining staff have plagued Healthy Families in Jacksonville.
Jennifer Ohlsen, statewide executive director, said she is actually “very happy with the trend” she's seeing in Jacksonville. It's a complex program to implement, but the new program administrator has shown some positives. The Healthy Start Coalition shows a culture and willingness to reach out and ask for support from the state office, Ohlsen said. Additionally, among families screened for the program, accepted enrollment among eligible families has gone from 52 percent to 84 percent now.
Children's Commission CEO Jon Heymann reminded the board that the Coalition had purged 140 inactive and unreachable families from its rolls after taking over the program last fall. That, he said, was a “huge hit” on the enrollment numbers.
Ohlsen said the next step for the program will be focusing on the retention of families and staff. But, she expects the program to meet its capacity within the next two quarters.
Faye Johnson, executive director of the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition, said her agency works hard to engage moms and dads who may not even realize they need these services. If her program can't help them, who else in Jacksonville can step up to help, too?
“It's not just about the numbers,” Johnson said. “But these are families we're trying to save.”
Bill clarifies statute of limitations for child abuse cases
by Chris Ramirez
Many times, victims of childhood sex abuse don't come forward about the abuse until they are adults, years after it happens. In fact, that happens very frequently.
Senate Bill 91 aims to help victims get through the legal process of holding their predators accountable.
"This is an epidemic," said Levi Monagle, an attorney who has represented dozens of adults who were victimized as children. "One in five children will be sexually abused before the age of 18 and only 12 percent of that abuse is ever reported to authorities."
Right now, New Mexico's statute of limitations to allow a victim to hold his or her abuser accountable in civil court is vague. Sometimes victims are turned away by lawyers because New Mexico's laws aren't on their side.
"In our line of work, we have spoken to a lot of individuals who have been sexually abused as children and because of the statute of limitations did not have viable legal claims," Monagle said.
SB 91 aims to add clarification. The victim would have three years after first telling a medical provider or licensed psychological professional about the abuse to file a legal claim.
"This costs the state nothing. This is a free fix for a serious problem," Monagle said. "We have the opportunity with a bill like SB 91 to protect children and protect access to the courts in a very powerful way."
The bill cleared a House committee Wednesday and now heads to the full House for a final vote. If passed, the governor can either veto or sign it into law.
Unique seminar prepares law students for child abuse cases
by Destinee Russell
The St. Mary's School of Law began piloting an innovative course this spring that teaches law students about issues related to representing clients in the abuse and neglect docket of Bexar County's Children's Courts Division.
The Child Protective Services Seminar may be among the first writing seminars in the country to offer a combination of applicable law, skills, pre-trial and trial procedure, drafting, case analysis and client representation — as well as multiple perspectives on Child Protective Services. The National Association of Counsel for Children has indicated that it hopes other law schools will follow St. Mary's Law's lead in creating seminars with this focus.
“Everyone comes to law school with a notion of saving the world and making things right,” said Rosie Gonzalez (B.A. '87, J.D. '01), an attorney and child welfare law specialist who is a volunteer course instructor. “This seminar is the perfect opportunity for students” to learn the skills and practical application of law required to help a critically important population.
Professor of Law Ana M. Novoa created the course with support from Gonzalez, the National Association of Counsel for Children and the Honorable Peter Sakai of the 225th Judicial District Court of Bexar County. Generally, attorneys are required to be licensed for one year and complete a course before they can take appointments in the abuse and neglect docket. But students in the seminar will be allowed to take appointments as soon as they are licensed.
“It takes a special kind of person with particular skills to be able to be an attorney in this docket,” said Novoa of dealing with this emotionally challenging legal content. “We have an obligation to teach that to students, just like we have an obligation to teach skills.”
Mercedes-Benz of Coral Gables launches ‘Driven to Prevent Child Abuse' partnership
by Community News
Mercedes-Benz of Coral Gables has partnered with Lauren's Kids to launch the “Driven to Prevent Child Abuse” partnership this April in honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month and National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Through this partnership, Mercedes Benz of Coral Gables has placed the Lauren's Kids specialty plate “Love & Healing” on the entire fleet of loaner vehicles.
“We are proud to support Lauren's Kids in their work to prevent child abuse and help survivors heal,” said Greg Barnes, president of Mercedes-Benz of Coral Gables. “We want to help let people know that it's okay to speak up about these things, and that there is help available.”
This initiative will help raise awareness for the foundation — which works to prevent child sexual abuse and help survivors heal — and the license plate program, as well as provide a $25 contribution per loaner vehicle to Lauren's Kids through plate sales.
Lauren's Kids created the “Love & Healing” specialty license plate as a symbol of hope and healing for the 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse in the U.S., it was approved for sale to Florida motorists in 2014. The plate was designed and named by internationally acclaimed artist Romero Britto.
“Raising awareness and educating the community is so important every day, but especially during the month of April,” said Lauren Book, founder and CEO of Lauren's Kids. “It's shocking to learn that one in three girls and one in five boys will become a victim of child sexual abuse before their 18th birthday — but important to know that 95 percent of this abuse is preventable through education and awareness. We are grateful for this partnership and for the opportunity to reach even more members of the Miami-Dade community with information about prevention, reporting, and healing from abuse.”
Florida statute dictates that $25 of each “Love & Healing” specialty plate sale will be given to Lauren's Kids to fund education and awareness efforts to prevent sexual abuse and help survivors heal in communities throughout the state. As of December 2016, there were 4,500 plates on Florida's roads.
The truth behind the headlines of child sexual abuse
by Kate Whittle
One weekend morning last May, I ordered a cup of coffee and sat down at a table to wait for my interviewees to arrive at the coffee shop. Yolanda Mah walked in, accompanied by a tall, chestnut-haired woman I'll call Jessica, which isn't her real name. They both smiled and Yolanda hugged me.
Yolanda had reached out to the Independent saying she needed to talk to someone about her ex-boyfriend, whom I'll call Jeff—also not his real name. Jeff had been arrested by Missoula police and charged with raping children. One of those children, now a teen, was Jeff's and Jessica's daughter. The Independent is disguising Jeff's and Jessica's real names to preserve the victim's privacy.
Over the next hour and a half, Yolanda and Jessica told me what it was like to find out that someone you know and trust has been molesting children. And they were furious with how Jeff's case had been handled by the justice system. Yolanda—mother to a child by another man—told me that while she dated Jeff, she came to suspect he was a pedophile, and reported him to police more than six months before he was arrested. Yolanda had seen recent headlines about other cases in which convicted child molesters received short or deferred sentences. Jeff initially pleaded not guilty, but by the time I met them, the women had both been told by the county attorney's office to expect a change of plea. Yolanda was afraid that the prosecutor's office was going to allow Jeff to make a plea deal instead of going to trial. Jessica said she wanted to see Jeff go to prison for the rest of his life for what he did to their child, who is identified as "Jane Doe 2" in court documents.
Both women had questions, and they wanted me to help them find answers. Why wasn't Jeff arrested sooner? Was Jeff going to be allowed to go free? Who could be held responsible for this child's suffering, and her mother's?
"Why? Why, why, why, why?" Yolanda asked.
Ever since, I have been seeking some understanding of why Jeff's case played out the way it did, trying to find answers to the questions that haunt Jessica and Yolanda. I didn't find any tidy answers or obvious solutions. But the story of this crime can illuminate how such devastating abuse can take place in everyday circumstances, how hard it is to secure satisfying convictions for even the most heinous acts, and how an almost impossible compassion may be the only helpful response to tragedy.
Why wasn't he arrested sooner?
Yolanda, an outgoing social worker and single mom, met Jeff on a dating website. He told her he was a single dad. They sometimes exchanged flirtatious, explicit texts late at night. Transcripts of the texts were later entered into the court record of a custody hearing for Jessica's daughter, Jane.
In his text messages from the summer of 2015, Jeff cajoled Yolanda to share "taboo" fantasies.
"How about you tell me something dirty nasty taboo?"
He explained that he liked to watch incest porn. He described fantasies of their children walking in on them while having sex. He asked Yolanda to describe erotic scenes including little girls.
"Oh. I don't find that sexy at all love and it is hard for me to even say that," Yolanda responded.
"I know but its just dirty talk [sic]. Not ever going to happen. Just a thought that could if we were not the way we r. K like... I mean if we weren't moral parents," he writes.
The text transcripts show Yolanda trying to steer the conversation away from Jeff's incest fantasies, but he keeps circling back to them.
"I know that stuff turns you on but I am really uncomfortable with that shit. It is just so fucked up to me," Yolanda responded.
Yolanda told me that she kept talking to Jeff, trying to see if he would confess to a crime. His texts grew increasingly graphic, describing Jane and other young girls in sexual situations with him. He texted about a fantasy of 10-year-old girls at a birthday party sleepover seducing him.
Yolanda, whose job requires her to report suspicions of abuse, says she had no qualms about breaking up with Jeff and taking her concerns to Child and Family Services and the police in September 2015. She felt sure that the texts were enough to get him arrested.
But she struggled with how to reach out to Jane's mom.
"I didn't know what to do, because I was like, this will tear these fucking lives apart," Yolanda says. She recounts this chronology during our second meeting, months after the first, around Christmas time. "O Holy Night" plays from overhead speakers. Beside her, Jessica sips a latte. An energetic, talkative woman in her late 20s, she wears carefully applied shimmery eyeshadow. She smiles at Yolanda.
"And I say, thank you for ruining our lives, because it had to happen," Jessica says. Then, to me: "I wouldn't have my kid right now. Before I met Yolanda, I started to take [Jane] to therapy. I was like, my kid is going to kill herself, and I don't know what's going on."
Jessica began dating Jeff when they were both teens. He got her pregnant when she was 16 and they broke up. She raised their daughter, Jane, alone until the girl was 2 years old. Suddenly, she says, Jeff reappeared in their lives, wanting to be a father. He signed an agreement that he would pay child support and help take care of Jane. (Jeff has at least one other child with another woman, who has previously filed demands for child support and custody, according to court records.)
Looking back, Jessica suspects that Jeff probably started abusing the girl soon after he came back into their lives. In elementary school, Jane exhibited major depressive and suicidal behavior, and threw tantrums in grocery stores and Walmart. She also showed physical symptoms of emotional trauma, including headaches, stomach aches and insomnia.
Before Yolanda came to her with the texts, Jessica says, she was desperately trying to understand what was causing her daughter's symptoms. Jane had not, at that point, told her mother about the abuse.
"We were seriously driving around Kalispell to get her to a pediatric neurologist just because she's getting all these migraines," Jessica says. "Every sign was there. I'm treating it, I'm trying to get it taken care of, and I'm kind of mad at the medical world for not being, like, 'Hey, we've seen this before.'"
While Jessica grappled with the revelation, Yolanda tried to get the attention of the authorities. Armed with the text messages, Yolanda thought she had clear-cut evidence for Jeff's proclivities. She says she repeatedly called the Missoula Police Department and Child and Family Services in September 2015 with her concerns. She remembers sitting in her car in a parking lot, dialing the CFS hotline every morning before she went into work. "Apparently when I reported 50 million times, they didn't care," Yolanda says. "Nobody called me back. Not one phone call back from them."
Yolanda isn't the first person to encounter little help from Montana Child and Family Services. Across the state, CFS agencies report being inundated, primarily with cases related to parental methamphetamine or heroin abuse. CFS is overseen by the state Department of Public Health and Human Services. In an emailed statement, DPHHS spokesman Jon Ebelt says calls to CFS go through an "intake specialist" who determines if follow-up is warranted. In 2016, the CFS hotline answered 35,226 calls, resulting in 9,154 investigations.
According to state statistics, only 30 percent of child abuse investigation paperwork was completed in a timely manner in 2015. That's down from 80 percent in 2010. A state report released in December 2016 found that from 2015 to 2016, 14 Montana children died within a year of abuse reports being filed. Representatives from the governor-appointed Protect Montana Kids Commission have told several media outlets that there's a "very wide, systemic problem" with CFS' effectiveness.
In a December 2015 custody hearing, Jessica asked a judge to bar Jeff from unsupervised contact with Jane. She submitted transcripts of Yolanda's text messages and included lengthy written testimony expressing her fears about Jeff's behavior. In response, the court granted the order and limited Jeff's access to the girl, though he and his parents were allowed to spend six hours with her on Christmas Day 2015. The judge expressed concern about Jeff's text fantasies and ordered a follow-up investigation by police. Jessica took Jane to the First Step Children's Advocacy Center, which conducts interviews of sexual assault victims in conjunction with the Missoula Police Department, among other services. A detective was present for the interview, according to court documents. Jessica says she wasn't allowed to be in the room.
At that time, Jane didn't disclose anything about her father's behavior. No charges were brought. Jessica says she was enormously frustrated by the inaction. She and Yolanda still don't understand why Jeff wasn't arrested in 2015, or why the text messages weren't enough to generate charges. Throughout the process, Jessica says, she struggled to understand what was happening, even though she frequently kept in touch with the city-county Crime Victim Advocate Program. "I had to constantly call them and be, like, do you have any information?" Jessica says.
I asked Missoula County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Jason Marks why the texts weren't enough to arrest Jeff. Marks says that without incriminating testimony from the victim, his office had no probable cause to press charges.
"Really, we either need a video, which sadly we see sometimes, that establishes that yes, this happened, or we need the kid to be able to say it happened," Marks says. "People being suspicious and having concerns—there being red flags—gets you to an investigation, the kid going into First Step, maybe the suspect being brought in and questioned about it. But it doesn't get you to a point that you can prosecute."
Moreover, Marks says, it's not always a slam-dunk even if the child later does open up and decide to disclose the abuse.
"And then you get a defense attorney who's, like, 'Well, the first time the kid said nothing was going on, and there's been this custody fight or intervening circumstance, so we think Mom's putting her up to it,'" Marks says. "So it makes for a more challenging case."
The path to arrest and a plea deal
The texts alone didn't amount to probable cause. But then one night in 2016 Jeff was drinking at a woman's home in Missoula with some friends. The woman's grade-school-age daughter went to her bedroom in the basement. Jeff disappeared from the party for a little while. According to court records, the little girl came back upstairs later that night and told her mother that Jeff had followed her into her bedroom and forced her to perform oral sex. The mother called 9-1-1. Police arrested Jeff.
Investigators brought Jane into First Step for another interview. With the knowledge that her dad had been charged with assaulting another child, she told detectives that her father had sexually abused her for as long as she could remember.
She finally told Jessica, too. Jessica says she was sitting at home watching TV with Jane when her daughter turned and said she needed to talk. "Everything came out," Jessica says. Jessica learned that when Jeff previously had unsupervised custody of Jane during the daytime, he had molested her in grocery store and Walmart bathrooms.
The county attorney's office charged Jeff with two felony counts: one of rape, for the event reported by the other victim's mother, and one of incest, for the abuse alleged by his daughter.
Jessica and Yolanda both wanted to see Jeff put on trial and sent to prison for the rest of his life. But Yolanda was worried. She thought about those headlines in which convicted pedophiles received short prison sentences. In 2013, for instance, a petition circulated demanding the recall of a Billings judge who sentenced a 47-year-old teacher to a month in jail for raping a 14-year-old student (though the sentence was later overturned and lengthened by another judge to 15 years with five suspended). In May 2016, a former Missoula County Youth Court officer received a six-year deferred sentence—less than the mandatory minimum punishment—for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl. In Oct. 2016, a Glendive man convicted of raping his 12-year-old daughter received a deferred sentence, prompting a dozen constituents to write Gov. Steve Bullock asking for intervention. Bullock responded that he was horrified by the case, but couldn't do anything.
When the county attorney's office announced that Jeff had entered a guilty plea as part of an agreement with prosecutors, Yolanda feared a similarly unsatisfying result. She and Jessica were upset when Marks told them he thought a plea deal would offer a better chance of conviction than a trial. The proposed sentence offered the possibility of parole in 10 years, though it would be months before the sentencing hearing made it official.
Yolanda texted me when the plea deal was reported in summer 2016, furious at the news.
"There is such little support for [Jessica] and her daughter and other victims like her, and so little justice done to the perpetrators, that it is easy to give up," Yolanda wrote. "The process is long, and [Jessica] has given so much time and energy for barely an acknowledgement that her daughter's father committed incest."
Marks says he knows that victims and the public often want to see the harshest possible penalty for men who rape children. Jessica told me that she wanted Jeff to be publicly humiliated for what he did. When news of the plea deal was published in the Missoulian, it prompted outrage from others as well. One commenter demanded that Jeff receive the maximum prison sentence before speculating that Jeff must be related to the judge or prosecutor. Such comments don't escape Marks' notice. But in the absence of physical evidence, sexual assault prosecutions usually rely on testimony from the victim to prove their case. And Marks says that testifying at a trial in front of their abuser and strangers isn't always the best thing for a traumatized child. Prosecutors can ask adult victims to decide for themselves if they want to testify. Children—especially younger children—often aren't able to make that call. Marks won't disclose how he decided that Jane shouldn't be asked to testify, but he does say that, in general, he takes the advice of parents and therapists and performs his own assessment of the situation when deciding whether to put children on the witness stand.
In any case, there's no guarantee a jury will believe the victim. In Jeff's case, Marks says that without testimony in front of a jury, the text-message evidence and First Step interviews alone wouldn't have been strong enough to convict him on the incest charge.
"If a jury comes back with a not guilty [verdict], they're left with—they told the truth about this terrible thing that happened to them, and no one believed them," Marks says. "So there's a lot of countervailing pressures against 'damn the torpedos, take the case to trial.'"
And even if prosecutors secure a conviction, the judge is the sole authority who can hand down the sentence. There's no guarantee what a judge might decide to do.
Determining prison sentences for pedophiles
Montana's sexual assault statutes give judges wide leeway for rape charges involving minors, from a four-year prison term to a life sentence. Judges can opt to defer sentences, too.
In Missoula, former Youth Court officer Vayeeleng Moua was convicted last May of raping a 13-year-old girl. Prosecutors asked for a 20-year sentence with 15 years deferred. Lake County District Court Judge James Manley instead handed down a six-year deferred sentence, and a requirement for community-based treatment. Manley said the sentence was "the most unique and difficult decision I've had to make," and asserted that it was based on psychological evaluations of the offender indicating that he posed little risk of re-offending and had been punished enough by his own conscience.
The outcome frustrated the state prosecutors who worked on the case, but Manley's decision is understandable if you ask Andy Hudak, a Whitefish-based therapist and lobbyist for the Montana Sex Offenders Treatment Association. I called Hudak to see if he could shed light on how judges make sentencing decisions.
It's true, Hudak says, that some judges make uninformed decisions based on personal bias. But other judges sometimes hand down short sentences based on recommendations drawn from the offender's psychosexual evaluation, which the public doesn't have access to.
Hudak—who discloses that he is a victim of sexual abuse himself—says that lengthy prison sentences are not always the best way to deal with sex offenders. He emphasizes that he shares with victims and citizens the same protectiveness toward children and disgust at molestation, but he also thinks that gut instinct isn't necessarily the best source of smart public policy.
"I'm all for spending a million dollars to lock up a high-risk guy to protect the community. Yeah. We're for that. But not for a guy who's low risk, who does not represent a danger to people's children," Hudak says.
Hudak recommends that judges assign punishment based on the convict's risk of reoffense. In the 1980s and '90s, the psychiatric community developed several criteria based on evaluations of incarcerated sex offenders. A 2006 study by Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada examined findings from 29,450 sex offenders: 13.7 percent committed a new offense—lower than the recidivism rate for the general prison population. Child molesters, even those who commit incest, reoffend at even lower rates of 7-8 percent, according to the Canadian study.
Jeff's psychosexual evaluation is sealed, so it's unclear what conclusions investigators drew about his background and motivations and risk of recidivism.
Some studies have shown that sex offenders in general are likely to come from troubled backgrounds. A 2014 study in Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, which examined 679 convicted sex offenders, found that male sex offenders are three times more likely to have experienced child sexual abuse than men in the general population. Sex offenders also reported experiencing significantly more emotional neglect, physical abuse and verbal abuse than average.
Hudak says that doesn't mean offenders shouldn't be held accountable, but it does blur the line between "good and evil" that so often delineates the public discourse about such crimes.
"There's a division the world looks at between offenders and victims," Hudak says. "When you're around long enough you see that frame break down constantly. When I do sex offender treatment, I also do victim treatment. A lot of [abuse] is born of emotional, physical abuse that isn't processed well. The average sex offender is also a victim of abuse."
Hudak says that kind of input from a psychiatrist might prompt judges to offer some compassion. In the Moua case, for instance, Judge Manley said he sided with the recommendations of the defense and the psychosexual analysis to treat Moua not in prison but in his community, where he'll be supervised under the state's sex offender registration program.
Prison sentences don't stop cycles of abuse
No matter how long an offender goes to prison for, the trauma left behind doesn't go away. In Hudak's experience, therapeutic intervention is vital for ensuring that child sexual abuse victims go on to lead better lives. A wealth of studies, including several published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, shows that cognitive-behavioral therapy and other treatments can successfully reduce the symptoms of PTSD and harmful behaviors in traumatized children.
Hudak says it can be tough to convince kids to disclose molestation if they're afraid that they'll be responsible for sending their family member to prison. In early February, Hudak spoke out against House Bill 133, a proposed state bill that would institute a mandatory 25-year minimum sentence for anyone convicted of raping a child under the age of 12. (The measure didn't make it out of committee.) Hudak says that such bills mean well, but that a 25-year mandatory sentence places an unreasonable burden on a child who's told that her testimony could send her dad or uncle away for the rest of his life.
"Often [victims] hate the offense but love the offender," Hudak says. "But then if they tell, Dad goes away for 25 years. ... Then we're back in the 1950s and '60s when nobody came forward."
Child sexual abuse rates are slowly going down. Today, one in five girls and one in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse, according to the Crimes Against Children Research Center. That's lower than when Hudak first started practicing in the 1970s, when the numbers were one in four girls and one in six boys.
While the offender goes into treatment on his own, Hudak says, the remaining family members can find emotional healing if they are willing to communicate and work through issues together. He's most concerned about families in which the trauma of molestation is compounded by other dysfunctions, including alcohol abuse, lack of communication and poverty.
"We've served justice. The guy's gone away for 10 years or 15 years," Hudak says. "But those of us who work with those families, we deal with what happens afterward."
What happens after sentencing?
In a Missoula County Courtroom, on a sunny day in 2016, Jeff sat quietly, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, awaiting his sentencing. Jeff's lawyer stood, his hands in his pockets, seemingly wanting to keep his distance from his client. Jeff had already pleaded guilty to charges of incest and rape. "The mom wants to read a statement," said another lawyer, representing Jessica.
Jessica stepped up to the witness stand and unfolded a piece of paper. Her hands shook as she read her statement, describing how she had learned that Jeff had groomed and sexually abused her daughter since she was a toddler. Jessica wept as she read, and the judge handed her a box of tissues. Jeff's parents sat in a row by themselves, observing the proceedings stone-faced. Across the aisle, a court-appointed victims' advocate kept her arm around Jane.
The judge expressed regret that he couldn't impose a harsher penalty before delivering the agreed-upon sentence: 50 years in total, with 30 years suspended, and eligibility for parole in 10 years. The hearing took about half an hour. When it was over, the judge went to lunch. I went back to my office.
But the story wasn't—and isn't—over for Jessica and Jane.
The sentencing was enormously difficult for Jessica, the last straw in a long series of struggles. She'd been attending the University of Montana and working full time, but she went broke trying to take care of her children (she has a second child by another father), handle Jane's medical needs and pay attorneys fees. Even after Jeff was restricted from access to his daughter and charged with incest in spring 2016, he still legally retained parental rights to Jane, and Jessica had to seek a court order to remove those rights before sentencing.
She got evicted in spring 2015, when I first met her, and eventually lost her job. She tells me she's called the YWCA, the Salvation Army, WORD and the Crime Victim's Advocate Program looking for help getting back on her feet. She says none of them could offer any help—there were waiting lists, or stipulations she couldn't meet, or she didn't qualify for their particular type of assistance. Jessica talks quickly, in disjointed sentences, when she gets upset.
"So from the CVA, I was in there, and I was like, 'We're getting evicted, this is going on, I'm about to lose my job, I had to drop out of school, is there anything you can help me with?" Jessica remembers. "She was like, 'Here's a $10 gas card.'"
Jessica acknowledges she has an "alky problem," too. A few weeks after the sentencing, she was arrested on Highway 93 for felony drunken driving. Her children, including Jane, were in the car. Jessica served jail time, during which family members took in the kids.
The last time I met with Jessica, in December, she was living at the Poverello Center. She doesn't think Jane is going to therapy regularly, but she thinks she has little power over the situation. In February she messaged me: "My life is a mess right now."
Yolanda is trying to move on, though she says she's often reminded of Jeff when she sees the kind of delivery van he used to drive. She says that even though Jeff will be in jail for at least 10 years, she's frustrated that the legal system hasn't offered any help for Jessica and Jane—Jeff's sentence didn't include any restitution—and that the nonprofit system isn't equipped to help them in the aftermath of the crime, either.
"It's like nobody cares. It's like just all forgotten because there's so many [child abuse] cases to keep up with, the problem just cycles over and over," Yolanda says.
It's unclear what the future holds for Jane, but Jessica does say she's more optimistic about her daughter now that they can talk about what happened. She sees Jane befriending other kids who grew up with tough family situations. Jessica says she tries to keep their relationship as open and honest and possible.
"She says, 'Mom, you cannot imagine the things I have seen. I can handle the truth," Jessica says.
U.S. Youth Soccer implements sexual abuse prevention training
by Nick Forrester
U.S. Youth Soccer announced on Wednesday that it is partnering with Abuse Prevention Systems and Pullen Insurance Services to address the risk of child sexual abuse in youth soccer by offering sexual abuse awareness training to roughly 350,000 coaches, volunteers, referees and parents.
Through the partnership, U.S. Youth Soccer will now provide training and resources for each of its state soccer associations in collaboration with Abuse Prevention Systems.
“U.S. Youth Soccer is always looking for valuable resources to provide soccer families through our member State Associations,” Chris Moore, CEO of U.S. Youth Soccer. “We are excited about this opportunity and the positive impact the Abuse Prevention Systems program can have in educating our members and increasing awareness about the risks of sexual abuse.”
Gregory Love and Kimberlee Norris, two law partners, founded Abuse Prevention Systems to help organizations reduce the risk of child sexual abuse in youth sports, as well as other children's programs. The two have provided consulting and training services to organizations such as the United States Olympic Committee, USA Volleyball, USA Rowing, Major League Lacrosse, and others, in the last 15 years.
“The value of youth sport activities for children cannot be overstated, but youth sport can also present an environment of significant risk. It's rewarding to help the nation's largest youth sport organization raise its protective barriers,” Love said in a statement.
“We are living in an environment where no one can any longer choose to ignore this risk,” Norris added. “I'm very pleased that US Youth Soccer is taking this proactive step.”
Protect our children before abuse starts
by Stuart Allardyce
Child sexual abuse is written about everywhere in the media nowadays. Systematic sexual exploitation of children in places like Rotherham and Derby, high-profile offenders like Jimmy Savile, the historical abuse of children in institutional contexts like care homes and faith settings. Every day we are subjected to descriptions of unimaginable harm that leave us angry and distressed.
There's been more over the last few weeks. A Scottish Government committee recently examined a bill to allow victims of abuse to claim compensation beyond the current time bar. If passed, it could permit claims dating back to 1964. The current time bar of three years has been a major barrier for survivors of sexual abuse achieving justice.
Police Scotland's Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boals told the committee that the force last year examined files for the ongoing Scottish child abuse inquiry and identified 2,300 relating to 4,400 victims in the Strathclyde area alone. She argued this was “a small proportion of children who have been abused or neglected in Scotland across the years”.
How big a problem is child sexual abuse in Scotland? It's difficult to estimate as only around one in eight cases of sexual abuse are ever known to police and social work.
The reasons why children find it difficult to tell of sexual abuse are complex. For many, shame and embarrassment are key factors. For others, when the perpetrator is someone close, they may want the abuse to stop but do not want their abuser prosecuted. In some cases the child will be groomed and threatened. Many are just too terrified to tell.
We lack good data in Scotland but the crime survey for England and Wales in 2016 found 1 in 10 adults experienced childhood sexual abuse. Some research suggests higher rates. This means that, at any one time, the number of people who have experienced it in Scotland by the age of 16 is roughly equivalent to the population of Dundee.
Studies have shown that childhood sexual abuse is statistically associated with poor mental health. It's not the case for everyone – in 20 years of working with survivors I have been repeatedly amazed by the strength and resilience of many who have experienced incredible adversity in their early years.
For many, being coerced into sexual activity before they can consent can potentially affect a child's capacity to build healthy relationships in adolescence and adulthood.
We urgently need to discuss what we can all do to protect Scottish children now and in the future. That means acknowledging that we can't simply leave the problem to police and social workers. If we really want to protect children, we have to make sure we all have the basic information and knowledge we need to play our own part in prevention.
Child sexual abuse is preventable, not inevitable. But only when we all – that's parents, teachers, carers - understand how we can play a part in preventing children from being abused in the first place.
Stuart Allardyce is national manager of Stop It Now Scotland, the programme for child sexual abuse prevention. For information, visit www.parentsprotect.co.uk .
Child protection report highlights concerns of abuse and neglect continuing to rise
The number of children suspected of being abused or neglected in Australia is continuing to rise, leading the Federal Government to warn of a "worsening crisis" in the out-of-home care system.
The latest figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) show one in every 33 children in Australia, or more than 162,000 children, received protection services last financial year, an increase of about 6.5 per cent.
Only Western Australia and South Australia saw a decrease in the number of children requiring the services last year, while the ACT recorded a 40 per cent spike in its caseload to 2,388 children.
The trend over the past two years shows an additional 10,000 Australian children becoming involved with care and protection systems each year.
The AIHW's David Braddock cautioned those figures also include children who might have been reported to authorities but subsequent investigations found them to not require urgent government intervention.
But he said the rate of substantiated reports of child abuse also continued to rise.
"There's definitely a clear pattern in terms of increased numbers of substantiations," he said.
Mr Braddock said the statistics could not explain if the increases were actually due to more children being abused or simply that more reports of suspected abuse were being made.
"We don't have the data to be able to say whether the underlying rate of abuse and neglect has increased in the general population of whether this is more of a cultural change," he said.
"[Whether] people are more aware of child abuse issues and are more willing to report it."
The report also showed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continued to be seven times more likely than non-Indigenous children to receive child protection services.
"This is urgent"
Assistant Minister for Social Services Senator Zed Seselja said the AIHW report highlighted the "crisis [was] worsening" in the out-of-home care sector.
"These are our most vulnerable children and we need to do more to get this right," the Senator said in a statement.
"Now we have over 30,000 children that have been in out-of-home care for more than two years and almost 19,000 for more than five years.
"In the last year we saw only 196 children adopted in Australia, which is not even 1 per cent of the children who have been in care for more than two years.
Senator Seselja said last year all state and territory governments agreed to work together on tackling the problem.
"While this is a good step in the right direction, we need to remember this is urgent and we need to do everything we can as soon as possible," he said.
NAASCA in the News
EDITOR'S NOTE: As NAASCA becomes more and more well known, I'm often asked by media to offer a perspective on topics related to issues child abuse and trauma. These requests are solicited from all over the globe. This one's from The United Kingdom. In this article I expressed my personal position on the recent FBI probe seeking to shut down child pornography web sites. As many know, I've an extensive law enforcement background resulting from being a community-policing advocate for some 25 years .. and was a victim of a lot of pre-pubescent child porn myself, starting at 11 years old. - Bill Murray, NAASCA / LACP
Playpen moral dilemma: Is FBI right to erode civil liberties or risk child porn suspects roaming free?
FBI hacked 8,000 computers in 120 countries to catch child porn site visitors – did it overstep the mark?
by Mary-Ann Russon, IBTimes UK
The FBI may have used hacking tools to catch people accessing child pornography, but should the Playpen cases be thrown out of court? IBTimes UK investigates. If you host a child pornography website for 15 days and approve new content uploaded to the site as part of an investigation, does this make you a distributor of child pornography? Is it okay for law enforcement to hack thousands of citizens using just one warrant in order to stop online crimes?
March 14, 2017 -- In 2015, the FBI brought down Playpen, the largest-ever child pornography website on the internet – which at its peak had almost 215,000 members.
Recent statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2011 state that 42 million American adults have been victims of childhood sexual abuse.
The Playpen website was hidden on an unindexed part of the internet called the Dark Web, and the FBI located suspects by using a hacking tool known as a Network Investigative Technique (NIT) to discover 1,300 IP addresses they could trace back to actual individuals.
Over 1,500 cases arose from the investigation involving suspects from all over the US, who faced charges that included accessing the website, as well as intent to obtain, download and distribute child pornography. Many of the cases were heard in federal courts in 2016, but presently the US Department of Justice (DoJ) is still prosecuting 135 people involved in almost 200 cases.
A large number of the defendants have pleaded guilty to the charges, but in some cases attorneys have argued that the FBI needs to disclose how exactly it was able to hack Playpen visitors' computers, which were all protected by the Tor anonymising network.
Not all judges have agreed with this, but in the case involving suspect Jay Michaud, district Judge Robert Bryan ordered the US government to hand over the exploit's source code in May 2016. Instead of doing so, the government classified the source code, and after an eight-month-long legal battle, on 5 March Bryan decided to suppress the FBI's evidence and throw the case out.
This landmark judgement has the potential to unravel many of the other Playpen-related cases currently going through the US courts, which means that 135 people, whom are known to have accessed child pornography and may or may not be a potential risk to society, could soon walk free.
But where do you draw the line? What is more important – the risk of potential paedophiles roaming free when they are known to law enforcement, or the continued erosion of citizens' civil liberties? IBTimes UK has conducted exclusive interviews to get a sense of this key debate.
The FBI has gone too far this time
Michaud's state-appointed federal public defender Colin Fieman says there are significant issues arising from the case regarding the conduct of law enforcement that simply cannot be ignored, even when the issue involves potentially unsavoury issues.
"The FBI went so far beyond the pale of what's considered legal and appropriate, that at least in my view, remedial action by the courts is needed and necessary. As public defenders, our job is to defend the constitution and not just the rights of our individual clients, but more broadly we are an important check on executive powers. We're a frontline bulwark to protect the constitutional rights and privacy interests of the public in general," Fieman told IBTimes UK.
"While in this case we're narrowly talking about child porn allegations, the types of tactics used by the FBI have sweeping implications for privacy rights in general.
|"Of course the FBI did the right thing. If the child porn suspects want their civil rights, they should come out onto the open web. You don't have a right to hide criminal activity. -- Bill Murray, founder of National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse
||As part of "Operation Pacifier", the FBI hacked into a total of 8,000 computers located in 120 countries on a single warrant. According to the federal public defenders and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the magistrate judge from the Eastern District Court of Virginia didn't realise the scope of the warrant he was signing. In case you're wondering, it is illegal for anyone to hack computers outside the US, even if you're a law enforcement agency. You can't take a local warrant and turn it into a global one.
"Our goal is to get a decision from as many courts that are willing to look at it, that in order to hack into a citizen's computer, law enforcement needs to get a warrant and sufficient evidence to search only that specific user's computer. It's not enough for law enforcement to say there's criminal activity on the internet and get one single warrant to search 8,000, 100,000 or a million computers," the EFF's senior staff attorney Mark Rumold tells IBTimes UK.
Despite all that is being said in court by lawyers and activists, the DoJ is standing firmly behind the FBI, so it is unlikely that any internal investigation will arise to discipline the law enforcement agency for its actions.
"Yes, there is always a risk that offenders could go free when evidence is suppressed or the government is forced to drop charges. As we've said in numerous court filings in the hundreds of cases across the country, use of the Tor exploit was lawful and proper. Moreover, it resulted in the identification of 50 children who had been sexually abused and in the identification of hundreds of criminals," DoJ spokesperson Nicole Navas told IBTimes UK.
"The Justice Department is committed to the safety and well-being of our children and has placed a high priority on protecting and combating sexual exploitation of minors and to bringing offenders to justice."
Saviour, or the world's biggest distributor of child porn?
There's also another highly contentious issue about the investigation. During Operation Pacifier, the FBI seized the computer server running the Playpen website from a web host located in Lenoir, North Carolina. But instead of shutting the website down, the FBI continued to run the child pornography image board from its own servers for another 15 days in order to catch the people who sought to access the website.
"To catch those people, the FBI operated the world's largest child porn site and by conservative estimate, distributed at least one million illegal images and videos around the world. There were at least 100,000 visitors during that period," says Fieman.
"New child porn was posted by the FBI while operating the site. Other users submitted it, but the FBI were the ones who technically placed it on the website and made it available to the general public. The FBI could have investigated the Playpen website very effectively without resorting to these methods. They've even admitted it. When do the ends no longer justify the means?"
The problem with what the FBI did is that every time the child porn is viewed, downloaded or distributed, it is essentially a revictimisation of the person who was in the image or video, so essentially it can be argued that the FBI revictimised countless victims during its operation.
Bill Murray, 63, in Los Angeles, has a background in TV and film production. He is the founder of the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (NAASCA), a volunteer-run organisation with tens of thousands of members from all over the world who offer support and at least 30 different services to help survivors heal from child abuse both online and offline.
"The FBI running the site – that's called a sting, a tactic that is used all the time. What about the 350 days in the year that weren't covered by the sting? The Dark Web is a haven for paedophiles. They might be in America but they host their websites offshore in countries where hosting registration can be sold to people who want to look at child pornography," Murray, a former victim himself, tells IBTimes UK.
"Of course the FBI did the right thing. If the child porn suspects want their civil rights, they should come out onto the open web. You don't have a right to hide criminal activity. Everywhere in our country, it's a criminal activity. They go host these websites in countries that don't have those laws, but as soon as they're on the internet, they're accessible from all over the world. We were delighted when the site was taken down."
A severe erosion in civil liberties
Fieman says that the FBI's tactics meant that many innocent users of the Dark Web had their computers hacked even before they could recognise that the site they were visiting was a child pornography site, and this is such a big problem that it cannot be ignored by the public.
To this end, Fieman and the public defenders' office set up a national defence working group and is now actively helping private attorneys across the country to strategise and share information on pleadings on the other cases.
"The cases are complex and the government has done its best to keep information and evidence under wraps. A coordinated effort is needed to defend against such a big operation with so many people being charged across the country," he stresses.
"Child porn is a scourge – I'm a parent myself. It's important these people are monitored, treated and if necessary prosecuted, but it's really important that people are made aware of what the government is doing. So many complicated issues and competing interests get caught up in criminal cases, but if you don't have a balance of advocacy and resources between defence and prosecution, then you're on a slippery slope to a police state."
But what about the fact that potential paedophiles could be released? Murray says that sadly the FBI's work is barely chipping the tip of the iceberg.
"I'd be upset if the suspects go free, but I'm more upset that it goes on and on in our societies. They captured a thousand people, but there are literally a million people doing this that they'll never catch. Every time the FBI comes up with a clever new piece of software, the criminals figure out how to block it, and they're winning by leaps and bounds," he says.
"Fighting child pornography is like climbing Mount Everest and standing at the bottom. We're never going to end it. Maybe it just helps that we even find them. But I don't hate the lawyers. I'm a huge supporter of the concept of civil liberties, it's very important."
13 Steps for Managing Flashbacks
by Pete Walker, M.A.
- Say to yourself: "I am having a flashback". Flashbacks take us into a timeless part of the psyche that feels as helpless, hopeless and surrounded by danger as we were in childhood. The feelings and sensations you are experiencing are past memories that cannot hurt you now.
- Remind yourself: "I feel afraid but I am not in danger! I am safe now, here in the present." Remember you are now in the safety of the present, far from the danger of the past.
- Own your right/need to have boundaries. Remind yourself that you do not have to allow anyone to mistreat you; you are free to leave dangerous situations and protest unfair behavior.
- Speak reassuringly to the Inner Child. The child needs to know that you love her unconditionally- that she can come to you for comfort and protection when she feels lost and scared.
- Deconstruct eternity thinking: in childhood, fear and abandonment felt endless - a safer future was unimaginable. Remember the flashback will pass as it has many times before.
- Remind yourself that you are in an adult body with allies, skills and resources to protect you that you never had as a child. [Feeling small and little is a sure sign of a flashback]
- Ease back into your body. Fear launches us into 'heady' worrying, or numbing and spacing out.
[a] Gently ask your body to Relax: feel each of your major muscle groups and softly encourage them to relax. (Tightened musculature sends unnecessary danger signals to the brain)
[b] Breathe deeply and slowly. (Holding the breath also signals danger).
[c] Slow down: rushing presses the psyche's panic button.
[d] Find a safe place to unwind and soothe yourself: wrap yourself in a blanket, hold a stuffed animal, lie down in a closet or a bath, take a nap.
[e] Feel the fear in your body without reacting to it. Fear is just an energy in your body that cannot hurt you if you do not run from it or react self-destructively to it.
- Resist the Inner Critic's Drasticizing and Catastrophizing:
[a] Use thought-stopping to halt its endless exaggeration of danger and constant planning to control the uncontrollable. Refuse to shame, hate or abandon yourself. Channel the anger of self-attack into saying NO to unfair self-criticism.
[b] Use thought-substitution to replace negative thinking with a memorized list of your qualities and accomplishments
- Allow yourself to grieve. Flashbacks are opportunities to release old, unexpressed feelings of fear, hurt, and abandonment, and to validate - and then soothe - the child's past experience of helplessness and hopelessness. Healthy grieving can turn our tears into self-compassion and our anger into self-protection.
- Cultivate safe relationships and seek support. Take time alone when you need it, but don't let shame isolate you. Feeling shame doesn't mean you are shameful. Educate your intimates about flashbacks and ask them to help you talk and feel your way through them.
- Learn to identify the types of triggers that lead to flashbacks. Avoid unsafe people, places, activities and triggering mental processes. Practice preventive maintenance with these steps when triggering situations are unavoidable.
- Figure out what you are flashing back to. Flashbacks are opportunities to discover, validate and heal our wounds from past abuse and abandonment. They also point to our still unmet developmental needs and can provide motivation to get them met.
- Be patient with a slow recovery process: it takes time in the present to become un-adrenalized, and considerable time in the future to gradually decrease the intensity, duration and frequency of flashbacks. Real recovery is a gradually progressive process [often two steps forward, one step back], not an attained salvation fantasy. Don't beat yourself up for having a flashback.
Committee for Children and Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service Present: "TELLING: Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Step into the Light"
by PR Newswire
SEATTLE, March 14, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Committee for Children (CFC) and Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service (OAASIS) are proud to present the upcoming production of "TELLING: Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Step into the Light." The play features seven courageous adult survivors who step into the light and reveal their secrets to the audience. Their true stories are woven together to create a tapestry of pain, secrecy, and ultimately, hope. Written by Margie Boulé and directed by Jamie M. Rea, TELLING will run March 31–April 2 at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month.
With the use of visual images, original music, movement, dance, and poetry, the TELLING cast share their personal stories of prolonged abuse by brothers, fathers, mothers, teachers, priests, babysitters, strangers, and "friends" of the family. With courage, some trepidation, and even some humor they step onto the stage and recount experiences that changed their lives dramatically. Their stories are a roadmap to healing and hope for other survivors.
" TELLING was inspired by the Secret Survivors National Initiative series created by the award-winning Ping Chong + Company," playwright Margie Boulé noted. "For those looking for an experience that will evoke powerful emotions, negative and positive, and have you leaving the theater feeling hopeful, joyous, and excited, this is the play to see."
Social service organizations around the country who participated in arts and activism training with Ping Chong + Company are now creating their own theatrical productions and projects featuring the voices and experiences of survivors of child sexual abuse.
"We are proud to bring TELLING to the Seattle community, not simply because of its artistic quality, but because of its bedrock message: The only way to prevent and heal from sexual abuse is by talking about it," Committee for Children Executive Director Joan Cole Duffell said. "Audiences will come away inspired by these stories of courage, transformation, and hope."
"What we're doing with TELLING is sharing stories and giving people the opportunity to walk through this journey together," said OAASIS Education Director Klarissa Oh. "We know that child sexual abuse is extraordinarily prevalent, and yet, it's silenced. When we talk about it, some of that power is broken, which is why this production is so important."
TELLING strives to help everyone in the community step into their own light of awareness and hope. A portion of the proceeds will benefit local organizations that work to prevent abuse and serve survivors through counseling and advocacy. To learn more, view our video or visit earlyopenoften.org.
TELLING: Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Step into the Light
Friday, March 31, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 1, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 2, 2017 at 2:00 p.m.
Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute
104 17th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144
General admission—$25 ($26.87 with service fee)
At the door—$30
Student, senior, military—$20 ($21.69 with service fee)
Proceeds benefit the following organizations:
- King County Sexual Assault Resource Center
- Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress
- Sound Theatre Company
- Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute
- Seattle Office of Arts and Culture
Written by: Margie Boulé
Directed by: Jamie M. Rea
Performed by: Elise Bradley, Das Chapin, Cristi Dillon, Digene Farrar, Carolee Horning, Gabriel Mikalson, Gordon Romei
The content of TELLING is powerful but not graphic. Adult issues are addressed on stage. Recommended for ages 13 and older.
The performance runs approximately 90 min without an intermission.
There will be a very short break, followed immediately by a 30-minute Q&A with the performers, director Jamie M. Rea, Executive Director of Committee for Children, Joan Cole Duffell, and Executive Director of OAASIS, Kerry Naughton.
Founded in 1978, Committee for Children is a global nonprofit dedicated to fostering the safety and well-being of children through social-emotional learning and development. CFC is the world's largest provider of research-based educational programs that promote social-emotional skills and prevent bullying and sexual abuse. Today the organization's curricula reach schools in more than 70 countries, including 30% of all U.S. elementary schools. Each year, more than 10.6 million children benefit from these programs. Learn more at cfchildren.org.
Connect with CFC on Facebook and Twitter.
OAASIS exists to support sexual abuse survivors and prevent future abuse. We are an alliance of survivors and advocates committed to employing our personal and collective strengths, energies, and experiences to advocate and support sexual abuse survivors, educate others, and to eliminate future abuse. OAASIS is building a movement that empowers communities to prevent child sexual abuse and help survivors live full, healthy, joyful lives. We do this by honoring the lives—and amplifying the voices—of people who were sexually abused as children. For more information, visit oaasisoregon.org.
CONTACT: Shauna McBride, email@example.com , 206.612.8718
Bill 2 a welcome change for sexual assault survivors
by Kristen Heliotis
Local sexual assault centres are applauding new provincial legislation that aims to make it easier for victims of sexual and domestic violence to come forward when they're ready.
Bill 2, An Act to Remove Barriers for Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Violence, was introduced by the Alberta government on March 7. If passed, it would remove time restraints for when victims can bring forward civil claims.
“It's a positive thing for individuals who have been impacted by domestic or sexual assault. What happens is survivors aren't always ready to report or move forward with what happened to them. It could be a year or two, or more, for them to come forward with their story,” said Gaby Rivard, intake worker/administrative coordinator for The Dragonfly Centre in Bonnyville.
Rivard added that it's something they see often at the local facility.
“That's the majority of our clients; 80 per cent of our clients are survivors of sexual abuse or assault that happened to them a long time ago. Most of them it was child abuse, so they don't say anything until they're older.”
Currently, the Limitations Act specifies that any civil claim arising from an assault must be started within two years of when the victim knows of the incident. Bill 2 would see that limitation removed for claims dealing with sexual assault, sexual misconduct involving a minor whether an intimate relationship or dependant, and non-sexual assault involving a minor, intimate relationship or dependant.
“By eliminating limitation periods, we are making space for survivors of sexual and domestic violence to come forward when they are ready. We respect the time it may take to do this. If passed, Bill 2 will improve the lives of these Albertans,” Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley said in a statement.
Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services CEO Debra Tomlinson added her approval, “This change in legislation increases the opportunities for those who have experienced sexual assault to find justice. This gives survivors another avenue to seek reparation, while holding those who commit sexual assault accountable.”
Removing the two-year condition could give more survivors the strength to come forward, noted Rivard, as making a claim could help them get much-needed benefits to help pay for counselling or healing services to help them move forward.
The repercussions of sexual and domestic violence can be far-reaching, impacting victims in their day-to-day lives. Without the proper supports in place, it can be difficult for a survivor to integrate in society.
“The thing for individuals that have been impacted by this event is that it's hard for them to function in society. It's hard for them to get involved in the community and even get a job, or just keep themselves grounded and commit to something,” explained Rivard, adding that the trauma of sexual assault or domestic violence causes emotions that run a victim's life.
“For survivors, it's hard to have transportation and to commit to counselling, because sometimes they don't even have the strength to leave their own houses. Removing the barrier of two years, I see it as a good thing for individuals to come along and place the claim. It's just another process and hopefully it will help them to have some resources financially.”
The Dragonfly Centre serves a large geographical population including Bonnyville, Cold Lake, Lac La Biche, St. Paul, and the First Nations and Métis settlements in the area. As other agencies continue to refer victims to the service, the centre's seen a jump in the number of clients.
According to Rivard, they had a 100 per cent increase in amount of clients they're serving from 2015 to 2016. The Dragonfly Centre saw around 200 individuals in 2016. Of those, 79 per cent were women and 21 per cent were men; 57 per cent were adult clients and 43 per cent children.
“Because we're still a new agency, some individuals don't know about us until they go to other resources, such as mental health or victim services. They get referrals to come here. We're getting a little bit more well-known because all of these other resources are getting to know about us.”
While there are already some support in place to help victims out with the financial aspect and accessing resources, Rivard noted that Bill 2 is another “step in the right direction” to helping survivors of sexual and domestic violence in Alberta.
Cece Yara to open child advocacy centre for victims of sexual violence
by Murtala Abubakar
The Cece Yara child advocacy centre will provide a safe shelter where survivors will be helped to overcome their experiences.
The centre is equipped with facilities tailored to assist the psychological and physical healing process of survivors.
Cece Yara foundation was established in response to the spate of child exploitation and sexual abuse in Nigeria.
The foundation strives to put in place programs and campaigns aimed at preventing child sexual abuse, raising awareness on the issue and also giving the children a voice and a support system.
One of the foundation's recent accomplishments was getting justice for a 6-year-old girl who was sexually violated by an adult male.
The accused was in February sentenced to seven years imprisonment without the option of fine.
The phrase ‘'Cece Yara'' means ‘'Save the child'' in Hausa language.
Bola Tinubu, a lawyer and founder of Cece Yara, says that “the future of every child, regardless of gender, race or social background, should be preserved”.
The centre will be opened to the public on Sunday, March 19, 2017.
CASA breaks child abuse cycle
by The Athens Review
“CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Trinity Valley is joining with several other child advocacy groups to work with County Judge the Honorable Richard Sanders, and his fellow commissioners to declare April National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month.” said Emily Heglund, CASA of Trinity Valley executive director.
Sanders said, “I wholeheartedly support the work that CASA and the other child agencies do. I will recommend to my colleagues that a proclamation be issued designating April as National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month.”
The Child Abuse Awareness Proclamation will be read on Tuesday, April 4 at noon. This year it will be read at the new Child Advocacy Center (CAC), Maggies House, 808 N. Prairieville St. Athens
Heglund, said, “This April, as we observe Child Abuse Awareness/ Prevention Month and National Volunteer Week, it's important to recommit ourselves to ending the vicious cycle of abuse, and to stand up for every child too young to speak for themselves.”
This month, and throughout the year, CASA of Trinity Valley encourages the people of Anderson, Cherokee and Henderson counties to come together to promote awareness of the child abuse and neglect that exists in our local community.
“CASA of Trinity Valley is one of the 72 CASA programs across Texas that works to ensure that all children placed in the foster care system, due to abuse or neglect, can have the safe, stable and nurturing environments they need to thrive.” said Heglund. “CASA programs recruit, train and support everyday members of the community to speak up for the best interests of children in court to ensure that they are placed into loving, permanent homes as quickly as possible. These ordinary people are called CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteers.”
Last year, more than 47,348 children were in the care and custody of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) due to abuse or neglect. CASA of Trinity Valley, along with their statewide CASA community, provided 9,131 CASA volunteers who served 27,953 children in 213 of Texas' 254 counties over the course of the past year.
Heglund said, “Children in foster care experience a tremendous amount of change and instability. Often, they don't have a consistent adult that they can rely on – someone to keep them safe, and make sure their voices are heard. But children with a CASA volunteer typically spend less time in foster care, and receive better access to support and services.”
In a time when so many are focusing on the problems, CASA programs are collaborating with other stakeholders, and contributing to the solution. On Feb. 15, hundreds of CASA volunteers, staff and board members from the 72 local Texas CASA programs traveled to the Texas State Capitol to bring attention to the challenges facing children and youth in the child welfare system, and to discuss policy priorities aimed at improving outcomes and transforming CPS.
The organization was also honored with a resolution introduced by Rep. John Otto, along with the overwhelming support of many other elected officials in the House of Representatives.
“The future of Texas relies on the healthy growth and development of all children. So this April, as we mark National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I call upon all citizens, community agencies, faith groups, schools, government agencies and businesses to increase their participation in efforts to support families and prevent child abuse, thereby strengthening our entire community.” said Heglund.
With National Volunteer Week coming up April 3-9, now would be the perfect time to get involved with the CASA cause. Last year, roughly less than half of the children in the child welfare system did not have a CASA volunteer to advocate for their best interests – be that someone for a child in foster care – someone who speaks up to change a child's life forever.
Heglund is CASA of Trinity Valley executive director, the organization which recruits, trains and supports volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in Anderson, Cherokee and Henderson counties. Their vision is a CASA for every child who needs one.
Take that first step in helping to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect by calling their office at 903-675-7070, and ask to set up an exploratory meeting, or visit their website for more information: www.casaoftv.org.
Vermillion sees 'huge increase' in child abuse, neglect
Expert says abuse often generational, 'cycles' through the family
by Sue Loughlin
Vigo County isn't the only Wabash Valley community with a high rate of abuse and neglect, according to a recent study.
In 2015, Vermillion County ranked 11th highest among Indiana's 92 counties, with an abuse/neglect rate of nearly 36 per 1,000 children under age 18, according to the recently released Kids Count in Indiana 2017. The state average was about 17 children per 1,000 children.
Parke County ranked 50th among 92 counties, with an abuse/neglect rate of nearly 17 per 1,000 children.
“Vermillion has seen a huge increase ... and definitely outpaced the rate of the state and Parke County,” said Katie Kincaid, one of the presenters during a seminar in Clinton hosted by the Indiana Youth Institute and Valley Professionals Community Health Center.
The seminar focused on youth issues in Vermillion and Parke counties. In 2010, Vermillion's child abuse/neglect rate was 19.2 per 1,000 children; the 2015 rate represented a decline from 2014, when it was 43.8 per 1,000 children.
Kincaid asked the audience, which consisted of about 30 people who work for youth-serving agencies, about possible reasons for the high rate of abuse/neglect. “We see a lot of drug use,” said Andrea Williams, local office director for the Indiana Department of Child Services in Vermillion and Parke counties.
The drugs being abused include meth, heroin and prescription pills, according to audience members.
“I think you hit the nail on the head. Drugs are a big player here,” Kincaid said, not only in Vermillion County, but statewide.
When DCS removes a child from a home, it records the reason, and “in more and more cases, drugs and alcohol abuse on the part of the parents are being cited,” Kincaid said. In 2013, it accounted for less than a third of cases, while in 2016, it represented more more than half of the cases.
Williams said drug use often tends to be generational, which creates challenges when trying to place a child with another family member; those family members — aunts, uncles or even grandparents — may have substance abuse issues as well.
“It continues to cycle through the family, making it difficult to find those stable care-givers who kids are familiar with,” Williams said.
Kincaid cited other parent risk factors for abuse, including lack of understanding of child development; stress; isolation; and personal history of abuse or neglect.
She noted that statewide, reports of neglect and abuse to DCS have increased from 155,867 in 2012 to 202,493 in 2015. While that likely is due in part to increased cases, “It can also reflect increased awareness and more people being aware of the fact they should report and how to report,” she said.
Anyone over age 18 in Indiana is a “mandatory reporter” if they “have reason to believe” a child is a victim of abuse or neglect, Kincaid said. Those reporting don't need to “know for sure” or be able to prove it, she said. If they suspect abuse/neglect, they should call the DCS hotline at 1-800-800-5556 or text [SMS]: 741741.
Also, citizens or those reporting should not attempt to investigate, which is the job of the Department of Child Services. “It's our role to report, and let DCS take it from there,” Kincaid said.
Broc Leslie, principal at Ernie Pyle Elementary, praised the DCS office for creating awareness and educating school personnel, and the public, about the reporting process. He also noted that local schools have hosted a program called Strengthening Families, offered by Hamilton Center.
Vigo County had the third highest child abuse/neglect rate among 92 counties, at nearly 42 per 1,000 children under age 18.
During the seminar, those attending also discussed data related to education, poverty, mental health and violent relationships.
Spot and speak out about child abuse
by Luton Today
Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (BCCG) is urging people to think, spot and speak out against child abuse and sexual exploitation ahead of a national event on Saturday.
The National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Raising Day highlights the issues surrounding child sexual exploitation, to prevent abusers from developing inappropriate relationships with children and young people and ensures healthcare professionals know how to identify children who are at risk, to make sure they receive the support they need.
Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of sexual abuse that involves the manipulation and/or coercion of young people under the age of 18 into sexual activity. It is a complex form of abuse and can be difficult for those working with children or young people to identify and assess, particularly with older adolescents, and is often perceived as consensual relationships.
The health body responsible for buying healthcare services and safeguarding in Bedfordshire is one of the first to employ a Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Lead to work directly with local health staff, so they can identify abuse in the county.
Providing specialist training is vital to give the knowledge and understanding to those in contact with children and young people to ensure the signs, which can be hard to identify, are not missed. The training is being rolled out across the county, and so far training has been delivered to school nurses, GP's and Pharmacists.
Paula Fleming, CSE Lead, Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group said; “I joined the organisation as CSE lead just six months ago and in that time I have been overwhelmed by the interest shown by healthcare professionals in wanting to further understand CSE. My role is key to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation across the county so that we can prevent the abuse of vulnerable young people and children and ensure they receive the essential support they need.”
On March 18, help raise awareness by writing a personal pledge on your hands to show support for the Helping Hands campaign and post your photo on social media with the hashtag #HelpingHands to help raise awareness of CSE.
For more information on the National Awareness Raising Day and putting a stop to CSE visit www.stop-cse.org
If you are worried about a child or young person, contact your local council and ask to talk to the Children's Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub or phone 0300 300 8123 if it is outside office hours. Alternatively call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 to report your concerns.
AG: Grants available for programs preventing child sexual abuse
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – On Tuesday, Attorney General Andy Beshear and the Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Board announced the availability of grant funding for child sexual abuse prevention programs across the state.
“One of the core missions of my office is to prevent and prosecute child abuse,” Beshear said. “We can only hope to end child abuse through the collaborative efforts of advocacy groups, government agencies, community leaders and by engaging families and Kentucky's business community. The grants help support prevention activities and child advocacy programs statewide that want to make children safer and to openly discuss abuse and the ways in which we can prevent it.”
Applications are now available for fiscal year 2018 that begins July 1, 2017, and ends June 30, 2018. Nonprofit organizations and public agencies are eligible to apply.
Two types of grants are available:
Statewide Prevention Grant – This grant is available to Kentucky nonprofit and public agencies that work toward reducing child sexual abuse and exploitation through primary prevention programs. A program is considered statewide if prevention activities will be conducted in all regions of Kentucky.
Regional Prevention Grant – This grant is available to Kentucky nonprofit and public agencies that work toward reducing child sexual abuse and exploitation through primary, secondary and/or tertiary prevention programs.
Prevention grant applications are available annually, but applications for fiscal year 2018 must be submitted by April 10, 2017, to be considered for funding. Questions regarding the grant application process and timelines should be directed to AdamC.Miller@ky.gov or by calling 502-696-5312.
The Board will give priority consideration to applications that will provide Stewards of Children programming on a statewide basis rather than a regional basis, and it is specifically interested in receiving applications to provide prevention programming focused on underserved populations such as adolescents, incarcerated youth, and children and youth with disabilities.
Forced to have sex with 1,000 men, a girl is now suing the motel that she says let it happen
by Samantha Schmidt
The sex-trade is often pretty easy to spot. A teenage girl accompanies an older man at a motel front desk as he pays for a room in cash. Men come and go from the room for 30 minutes at a time. A scantily dressed girl wanders the hallways in the middle of the night.
Motels and hotels across the country are facilitating sex trafficking, often cloaking the traffickers in anonymity and profiting from their business. The pimps and prostitutes are occasionally nabbed and criminally prosecuted. But rarely does anything happen to the hotel owners and staff that turn a blind eye.
Now a lawsuit brought by a 14-year-old girl in Philadelphia and her lawyer aims to change that. She is suing a motel widely known as the “local epicenter of human trafficking” for knowingly renting rooms to men who forced teenage girls to have sex. The target is the Roosevelt Inn, a roadside motel in northeast Philadelphia notorious for drug deals and violent crime as well as prostitution.
In this budget hotel, a lawsuit alleges, the girl was held for weeks and months at a time, barred from leaving, and was forced to have sex with as many as 1,000 men over the course of two years, Nadeem Bezar, a lawyer at the Kline & Specter law firm told The Washington Post.
All the while, the hotel's owners and staff continued to lease rooms to her traffickers, profiting off their abuse and doing nothing to stop it, the suit claims.
The allegations were laid out Friday in a suit filed in the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court against the hotel, its manager, and its parent company, UFVS Management Company, of Purchase, N.Y. It was filed by Kline & Specter on behalf of the girl, who is now 17 and was only identified in the suit as “M.B.”
It is the first known civil suit brought under the Pennsylvania Human Trafficking Law of 2014, which allows for compensation for victims from those who profit directly or indirectly from human trafficking, Bezar said.
According to research by the Villanova Law School's Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation, it does not appear that a hotel has been held liable for an employee's participation in or facilitation of a human trafficking offense in part, perhaps, because victims of trafficking may not “self identify” as victims due to the trauma of their experience and even if they do, they may be unaware that they have any opportunity for redress.
The Philadelphia lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
“People are policing the hallways, men and other johns are coming in and out of the hotel, and young girls walking up and down the hallways are scantily dressed,” said Bezar said. “It's open and obvious, it's about as obvious as it gets.”
The way the girl got roped into trafficking is a familiar story. After a falling out with her parents, she left home and moved from place to place. Desperate to avoid homelessness, she began spending time with the “wrong group of people,” Bezar said. She was sold into sex slavery and forced to perform sexual acts on men more than twice or three times her age, the lawsuit alleges.
Though the girl's abusers have already been convicted and sent to prison, her family and lawyers now hope to hold the motel owner responsible for “allowing this to happen,” Bezar said. The girl's lawyers declined to identify her abusers, saying they feared exposing her to retaliation.
The staff at the motel — which prosecutors have called the “local epicenter of human trafficking” — knew or had “constructive knowledge” that the girl was being sexually exploited, according to the lawsuit, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Her traffickers lured customers to the motel through Internet advertisements, had men call a number to negotiate a price for sex, then had the men go to the motel's front desk.
An employee would then direct them to the room where the girl was forced to work as a prostitute. Condoms and condom wrappers were strewn about, and the room often smelled like marijuana, according to the suit.
A hotel clerk named “Abdul” was made fully aware that the girl “and other underage children were compelled to perform sex for money,” the suit says. The girl was dressed in sexually explicit clothing and “visibly treated in an aggressive manner” by traffickers, according to the lawsuit.
“If she tried to leave there was someone at the bottom of the staircase that prevented her from doing so,” Bezar said.
The teenage girl has since reconnected with her family, and is now receiving therapy and additional services from city and private agencies, Bezar said.
Since the lawsuit was filed, several other victims have come forward to the lawyers to tell them about their own experiences with sex trafficking, Bezar said. Some were young women, but all were involved with sex trafficking at the same hotel under separate circumstances, he said.
The hotel's manager, Yagna Patel, 72, told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday he had not seen the lawsuit and was not aware of any minors allegedly being victimized in the motel. “We just rent the room and that's all we can do,” he said.
Patel, who said he has managed the inn for 30 years, said he has a close relationship with the police and that if there was any inappropriate behavior in a room, the motel guests would be told to leave.
“It's hard to control anybody,” Patel said. “If we think a lot of people are having a party in the room, we kick them out.”
“The motel has a history of illicit activities, from drugs to several incidents surrounding trafficking and prostitution,” Bezar said. Several people have been convicted over the last few years on charges of using the motel for prostitution, Assistant District Attorney Erin O'Brien told the Inquirer.
“Almost every trafficking investigation we have, we see the victim is at Roosevelt Inn,” O'Brien said. “I know our vice officers are out there on a regular basis.”
Reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor call the 107-room, two-story motel a “drug infested, crime ridden, prostitution laced” place where the check-in desk contained bulletproof glass “an inch thick.”
“One thing which made us very uncomfortable was that a lot of “girls” were coming in and out all the time,” one guest wrote.
Another reviewer said: “No security at all, these girls are letting their jons in through side doors that are UN-LOCKED. The smell of marijuana through out the place is disgusting,” and added that the “working girls” and their pimps “run a muck half naked through the hallways.”
A different guest said: “Do not bring your kids here please.”
In March 2014, security footage from the Roosevelt Inn circulated on YouTube showing a dramatic gunfight in the motel. The men ran through the hallways, down a stairwell and into the lobby as they fired shots at each other.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 1,424 cases of human trafficking in hotels and motels were reported between 2007 and 2015, involving 1,867 victims. In 2016 alone, 7,572 human trafficking cases were reported nationwide, including 151 in Pennsylvania.
Bezar said he hopes this lawsuit sends a message to the hotel and motel industry as a whole: “You better pay attention to what's going on in your hallways.”
If the lawyers can get “some compliance” with the hotel and motel industry, Bezar said, “perhaps we can start to stamp out what's happening here.”
“If you're going to run a business, you better be aware of what's going on,” Bezar said. “You just can't continue to exploit children.”
Victim Services sees increase in client numbers
by Dave Sutor
Victim Services Inc. has experienced approximately a 200 percent increase in the number of adult male survivors of childhood sexual assault seeking help within the past year.
That time period roughly coincides with how long has passed since the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General released a grand jury report, on March 1, 2016, in which it provided details about an alleged decades-long coverup of child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona–Johnstown.
Mike Oliver, executive director of Victim Services, said there is “no way to gauge” if the report led directly to the increase because “that's not a question that we ask (clients).”
But the publicity might have led to victims – both those abused by priests and other individuals not affiliated with the church – coming forward.
“I think it's important to note that with all of the media attention on the case with the diocese, a survivor who maybe was not dealing with that specific situation – even a survivor who might have been abused by a family member – has been triggered by the constant attention to it, so we've had a lot of people coming in for that reason, too,” Erika Brosig, Victim Services' clinical supervisor, said.
“Maybe they weren't victims of the church abuse, but they were triggered by it.”
Founders of the new local Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests chapter recently reached out to Victim Services to discuss what can be done to help individuals assaulted by church authority figures. “While we don't have anything official on paper or any type of official linkage whatsoever (with SNAP), we would be able to help those individuals the same as we would be able to provide service to any victim of sexual assault within Cambria or Somerset County,” Oliver said.
Victim Services, located in Ferndale, provides free and confidential counseling to victims and those closest to them, including spouses, significant others, and parents.
“I think that, especially in this case (of the diocese allegations), a lot of family members were impacted, even the community at large was impacted,” Brosig said.
Brosig added: “The aspect of having the spirituality impacted by it I think is a struggle for the people who are abused in the situation. Not only did it break trust with the abuser, but it also then jeopardizes their faith in some cases. And that can be a really strong component in healing is to use your faith as part of that. I think that would be the really difficult aspect just for those victims.”
Hundreds of individuals receive assistance, ranging from therapy to comfort during the legal process and more, every year from Victim Services. Victims seeking help can call the organization at 288-4961.
“I would just encourage not only these individuals that may be involved with the local SNAP group but any individual who's out there and they're suffering and they don't know where they can turn to please reach out to us,” Oliver said.
Jacksonville leaders turn attention to human trafficking, supporting victims
by Tessa Duvall
As a group of Jacksonville elected officials gathered to focus attention on the need to combat human trafficking, survivor advocates in attendance offered their opinions on how it should be done.
City Councilman Tommy Hazouri convened the Monday morning meeting to address trafficking that brought together State Attorney Melissa Nelson and one of her chief assistants, Mac Heavener, along with Sheriff Mike Williams and other council members and law enforcement officials.
In 2016, City Council passed an ordinance introduced by Hazouri that requires human trafficking awareness signs be posted at adult entertainment and massage establishments. The meeting on Monday represented the 2.0 reboot, he said, with the next steps being weighing ways to improve victims' services and offer housing for survivors of trafficking.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, there were 550 cases of human trafficking reported in Florida in 2016. Of those, 401 were sex trafficking and 92 were labor trafficking. The victims overwhelmingly were women, accounting for 464 of the victims.
Florida ranks third for reported trafficking cases, surpassed only by California and Texas, Hazouri said.
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Lt. K.S. Goff said in 2016, police rescued 44 victims out of human trafficking, 10 of whom were juveniles. There were 29 trafficking-related arrests, and 14 federal indictments for trafficking, he said.
Williams said he can't say exactly how much trafficking there is in Jacksonville. For decades, he said, police have addressed street-level prostitution arrests without viewing it through the lens of human trafficking.
“But we continue to dig, we continue to look, to learn more” he said. “I think we have a system here that's going to allow us to do one of the better jobs in the country in terms of identification, prosecution of these cases, and really, helping these victims.”
Kristin Keen, founder and president of Rethreaded, a business that employs survivors of the sex trade, said the city can't forget to tackle the issue of demand.
“Traffickers are doing this because they're making a lot of money,” she said. Keen pointed to Seattle, which implemented an eight-point model that included the business community. “It was more than just the law. It was a whole cultural shift.”
Echoing Keen, CEO of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center Lawanda Ravoira said men need to be allies and speak up about how women and girls are perceived. She challenged the group to rethink even using the term “prostitution,” which she said puts the blame on to the trafficked women and girls. For victims under age 18, it's clearly child abuse and rape, and for those who are adults, even still it's not a choice, but instead driven by poverty, mental health struggles and a lack of alternatives.
“When we charge the victim, then we are blaming the victim,” Ravoira said.
Heavener, as a federal prosecutor, has worked on cases involving human trafficking since 2008. Under Nelson and Heavener, the Fourth Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office launched a human rights division which will investigate and prosecute cases of human trafficking, along with elder abuse, hate crimes and police use of force — the first in the state to do so.
Juveniles are primarily trafficked for commercial sex acts, while adults are typically trafficked for sex and labor. In cases involving juveniles, “there's really no additional proof needed,” but for adults, there have to be signs of force, fraud and coercion, Heavener said. Labor trafficking is more difficult to investigate as it is not advertised in the way sex services are, he said.
Council Vice President John Crescimbeni said the city's victims' services center, located on West 10th Street, used to receive a lot more financial support from the city in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but it has since been subject to budget cuts. It was a model for other cities, he said.
Now, Crescimbeni is heading up a yet-to-be-named committee to specifically address victims' services.
“There's always a way to fund priorities,” he said.
Hazouri said the city owes it to itself to be active on this issue and get the victims' services center funded at a higher level and support survivors of trafficking.
“To me, nobody should be left behind,” Hazouri said. “This takes an extraordinary effort.”
Bill gives lawmakers deeper look into child abuse cases
by Phil Drake
HELENA — The House Judiciary Committee reviewed a bill Monday that would let lawmakers get more details about child abuse cases, but with some caveats.
Senate Bill 113, sponsored by Sen. Frederick “Eric” Moore, R-Miles City, was suggested by the Gov. Steve Bullock's Protect Montana Kids Commission. The bill allows legislators and members of the U.S. Congress to review confidential information. However, they would not be allowed to take notes.
According to the bill, the requests to see the information must be made in writing. The committee took no action Monday. However, the bill passed the Senate 31-18 on Feb. 15.
Moore said the Protect Montana Kids Commission requested the bill, based on a law in Tennessee. He said it was another level of oversight for a growing problem in Montana and could be done without having a staffer prepare a report.
He said it could help lawmakers. Moore said he often gets telephone calls at home about child abuse claims.
“I don't know who's right and who's wrong,” Moore said. Those reviewing the records will have to sign a confidentiality agreement that includes penalties for the unauthorized release of information.
The number of child abuse and neglect cases have grown statewide from 1,030 cases in 2010 to 2,433 in 2016. In Cascade County, child abuse and neglect cases climbed from 112 in 2009 to 386 in 2015, officials said recently.
Simultaneously, 230 children were removed from homes in meth-related cases in 2010, compared to 1,050 in 2016.
Moore said the bill was not putting lawmakers in the position of legal counsel. And he could understand lawmakers who would not want to review the information, adding when it comes to such problems some people “live in blissful ignorance. There is a special place in Heaven for people who do this work.”
“Nobody wants to look at the records,” he said, “but for anyone who wants to delve into this topic, it's a useful tool.”
According to the bill, the legislator receives a written inquiry regarding a child and whether the laws are being followed. The lawmaker submits a written request to the Department of Public Health and Human Services to review the records.
The bill was supported by the Department of Public Health and Human Services.
The Protect Montana Kids Commission was charged with looking to improve systems serving children and families in the state. The panel looked at immediate system improvements, system reviews, and statutory recommendations for the 2017 legislative session.
Man wanted for child sexual abuse named Tulsa's most wanted
by Tulsa World
(Picture on site)
Tulsa police named a man sought for a charge of child sexual abuse as its "Most Wanted" fugitive.
Police are seeking Cesario Martinez, 38, on an outstanding warrant for two counts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12, according to a Tulsa Police Department news release.
Martinez is described as a Hispanic male, 5-foot-5, about 160 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. Once arrested, he will be held in lieu of a $100,000.
Tulsa police are seeking input from the public that could help locate Martinez. According to Tulsa County District Court records, the alleged offenses occurred in March 2014, and the charges were filed in late February.
Anyone with information may contact Crime Stoppers by phone at 918-596-COPS (2677), online at p3tips.com/918 or through the Tulsa Tips app, which can be downloaded from the Google Play or iTunes stores.
95% of child abusers know their victims
by Neil Joseph Brian
KOTA KINABALU: Ninety-five percent of child abusers are comprised of people who actually know the children. This could be the child's parent, teacher or any of their friends, according to medical expert, Dr Joseph Lee.
“Failing to provide clothing, food and protection to children can already be considered as abuse,” said Joseph.
Most of the time, a child will refuse to tell others about their painful experience. If they are getting abused, they would most probably keep it to themselves.
Joseph said that it is important for the adults, especially the parents to establish a friendship between them and their child. This will develop trust and thus the child will be more open about any problems that they might be having.
In his talk, Joseph elaborated on the main symptoms of child abuse. He broke it down into three parts, namely physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
Parents who hit their children is one of the many examples of physical abuse.
“I have worked at Queen Elizabeth Hospital before and now I am running my own clinic. I have seen countless cases of children whose bodies were swollen and some even mentally traumatized as a result from abuse by their parents,” added Joseph.
Joseph further explained that things like this might prevent the children from wanting to go to school, in fear that their scars or bruises may be visible to their friends. They may even come up with excuses to skip school.
As for sexual abuse, the symptoms may be something that is straightforward such as rape or something that is indirect, like showing pornography materials to the children.
“Even talking about sex to children might count as sexual abuse if it is not done in the right context,” added Joseph.
Parents and teachers have the responsibility to educate the children on certain parts of their body that should not be touched by any adult, without proper reason. This information is important to safeguard the children, especially girls.
Perhaps the most overlooked symptom is emotional abuse. Examples of emotional abuse can be something as simple as parents who keep on scolding and giving negative comments to their children.
“Parents who always complain about their child, like calling them naughty all the time, might affect the child's mindset,” he explained.
Joseph reiterated that it is vital for the parents to show the kids the value of acceptance. They need to accept the children for who they are and they should not keep criticizing them.
Emotional abuse may instill bad traits in a child's mindset. For example, children who suffer from emotional abuse may grow up to be violent.
Joseph, who is a registered member of the Malaysian Medic Council and a lifetime member of the Global Mission Medical Group, spoke during the Almacrest Little Fashionista event at Oceanus Mall last Saturday.
The event which was organized by Almacrest International College (AIC) was aimed at spreading awareness on the dangers of child abuse.
The event is part of AIC's assessment/coursework, where students are required to organize a charity event. They have to complete it before they go for their practical.
The assessment, which is called M.I.C.E Management, encourages students to work with NGOs and to address any current social issues. There will be two M.I.C.E events ever year.
This year, the students chose to work with SABATA and the Sabah Child Welfare Association.
This year's event saw the college students organizing a beauty pageant which featured primary school students from all over Kota Kinabalu.
Abused as a small boy. Now what?
by Ted Roelofs
When the fidgety, anxious, 5-year-old boy from northern Michigan came in about a year ago to see pediatrician Tina Hahn, it was soon apparent to her this was a case medication alone would not solve.
“He was trying to hide under the chair. He looked panicked and overwhelmed. He was in that fight or flight mode,” said Hahn, who was then in practice in Alpena.
The boy, she learned, had been taken away from his mother when he was 3, from a home rife with drug use, alcoholism and severe physical and emotional abuse. The mom later died and, eventually, so did the grandfather who adopted the child out of foster care.
This terrified boy crouching under the chair was, to put it mildly, a poster child for the kind of risk factors that can dim the odds of growing into a healthy, capable adult. Adding up the trauma of the boy's brief, chaotic life, the pediatrician calculated a score of 6 on a 10-point scale of Adverse Childhood Experiences – factors closely linked to such children's future physical and emotional health.
The higher the score, the worse the likely outcome.
According to a landmark 1998 study conducted in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, adults with at least four risk factors as children were four times more likely to be depressed, six times more likely to be alcoholics and 11 times more likely to have injected drugs than someone with no childhood trauma. They were also more likely to have heart disease, high blood pressure and severe obesity.
Hahn took the boy off one of two medications he had been prescribed for behavior modification. She enlisted his remaining family – his biological father and stepmother – in finding ways they could help. They came in for weekly counseling visits. She talked to his teacher about effective strategies to deal with his aggressive behavior at school. At her suggestion, his parents enrolled him in a Karate class for exercise and to offer an outlet for his anger.
His grades improved. His outbursts at school dissipated.
Perhaps more important, said Hahn, “He made friends.”
That's the sort of early-intervention success story Michigan officials hope to replicate as they plot a $500,000 campaign to build awareness of the critical role that childhood trauma can play in a youngster's emotional development.
“This is truly a core public health issue if ever there was one,” said Richard Murdock, former executive director of the Michigan Association of Health Plans.
Murdock is overseeing grant efforts this year that will help train teachers, social workers, health care professionals and others across the state to better detect signs of trauma in children and help them get assistance. The project is largely funded by a $451,000 grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund , which supports childhood health programs.
The initial training is to be guided by Dr. Robert Anda, a former CDC epidemiologist and principal investigator for the 1998 study. Anda is considered a preeminent expert on childhood trauma, which he calls a “chronic public health disaster.” He is to speak March 30 in Lansing before an audience expected to include representatives of the medical, mental health and insurance community as well as nonprofit groups like the Salvation Army and Michigan's Children, which advocates on policy issues on behalf of children.
Murdock noted that Michigan doctors who serve impoverished Medicaid patients are now expected to look for signs of toxic stress in younger patients. Effective Feb. 1, they are being instructed to actively screen those under 21 for traumatic risk factors and, if needed, refer them to a mental health professional.
“That part is already funded under Medicaid. So we don't have to go to the Legislature and ask for money,” Murdock said.
Underscoring what's at stake, a report by the Michigan Department of Community Health for 2011-12 found that young people in Michigan are exposed to more childhood trauma than the national average.
According to a state fact sheet, 28.5 percent of children up to age 17 in Michigan in 2011-2012 had two or more ACE factors, compared with the U.S. average of 22.6 percent. More than 40 percent of Michigan children in poverty had two or more risk factors.
Efforts rewarded in Washington state
And judging by what states like Washington have done, Michigan appears to have some catching up to do.
In 2011, Washington became the first state pass laws aimed at reducing childhood trauma, including policies aimed at preventing child abuse and promoting their health. Spokane and Seattle schools changed their disciplinary policies and, in 2012, a public-private partnership funded grants to five rural counties to reduce negative outcomes from childhood trauma.
In Walla Walla, Lincoln Alternative High School Principal Jim Sporleder cut suspensions by 85 percent at the school, in part by encouraging troubled students to talk about what was driving their behavior rather than imposing suspensions or other discipline when students acted out.
According to a news site that reports on research about childhood trauma experience, Sporleder and the teaching staff shifted their approach from asking students “What's wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” The transformation was portrayed in a 2015 documentary by James Redford, son of film star Robert Redford.
At one point in the documentary, a teacher says about a student: “It's not that I'm judging you. I know why are you are smoking weed. I know why you smoke meth. I know why you are in fights. You don't want to feel. That's the big challenge. I'm asking you to try feeling for a little bit. Because sometimes when you feel, it guides you in the direction you should be going instead of where you are.”
Hahn, the pediatrician, who now practices in the thumb region of Michigan, has incorporated the 10-question ACEs survey into her practice for about eight years. She calls the Michigan initiative a badly needed step forward.
The survey asks children if they have suffered any of five harmful experiences: physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect or emotional neglect. It also asks if anyone in their home is an alcoholic or been in jail, if their mother has suffered domestic abuse, if someone in their family has a mental illness, or whether the child has lost a parent through divorce, death or abandonment.
But Hahn said much of Michigan's medical community does yet accept how critical these stress factors can be to a young person's physical and mental health development.
“I think physicians are starting to get an understanding, are starting to know that this is a problem,” Hahn said.
“But a lot of them don't want to deal with it or they don't know how to deal with it. Other doctors say, 'I didn't sign up to be a mental health provider.'”
A wealth of evidence
The correlation between high childhood trauma scores and developmental problems makes more sense when viewed through the eyes of a low-income child growing up in a stressed-out home. Beyond the identified risk factors, children in these circumstances are more likely to have a single parent, more likely to change schools, be homeless at some point and live in a violent neighborhood.
Is it surprising this constellation of problems can mess with kids' development? Research that followed the 1998 ACEs study has begun to unravel what actually happens to the developing brain in such circumstances.
In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics cited mounting evidence that the “toxic stress” of childhood trauma can impair normal brain development in infants and young children – with long-lasting emotional and physical effects. It noted studies that link ongoing stress to physical changes in the brain in children, adding that “the developing architecture of the brain can be impaired in numerous ways that create a weak foundation for later learning, behavior and health.”
But what researchers are also finding is that exposure to trauma need not determine a child's destiny.
Children who tend to overcome such stress typically have one thing in common: At least one stable, caring and committed relationship with a supportive parent or other adult. That might be a teacher, a social worker, mentor, or even a coach.
A 2015 analysis by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University found that these relationships can buffer the effects of early trauma and help children develop positive coping skills, often referred to as resilience.
Support for quality, early-childhood education can be critical in building resilience: “The failure to invest in state-of-the-art early care and education programs...reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how the foundations of resilience are built early in life,” the Harvard report found.
Shortages in Michigan
A 2015 report by the Citizens Research Council and Public Sector Consultants found Michigan has lots of ground to make up. It noted that while nearly two-thirds of Michigan children under 6 were in the care of someone other than a family member on a daily basis, spending on child care services for low-income families plummeted over the previous seven years.
It estimated there were 19,000 children from newborns to age 3 who received a state child care subsidy in 2014. But there were an estimated 108,000 Michigan children in this age group in households that met the federal definition of poverty ? leaving 89,000 low-income children without financial assistance.
Though there has been progress.
Following a 2012 Bridge Magazine investigation that found 30,000 4-year-olds who qualified for free, quality preschool weren't enrolled largely due to lack of state funding, the Legislature approved $130 million in added funding to expand its Great Start Readiness program. That added more than 21,000 additional children to the program.
But Patricia Sorenson, senior policy analyst for the Michigan League for Public Policy, said children of low-income families – especially those age 3 and under - will continue to pay a price as long as so many receive substandard day care. In her view, investment in high quality day care for low-income children is one obvious answer to the childhood trauma dilemma.
Researchers point to other promising programs for supporting vulnerable young people:
The Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco, a clinic in a low-income neighborhood, transformed its practice around the recognition of the role traumatic experiences play in childhood development.
Founder Nadine Burke Harris made the change after learning about the ACEs study, as she puzzled to understand why she was seeing so many children with chronic abdominal pain, headaches, asthma and behavior disorders.
The clinic now screens all children for traumatic experiences and evaluates children for their family history as well as their health history. Children and their families are connected to mental health and social workers and taught coping mechanisms such as meditation, yoga and relaxation exercises..
Minnesota Communities Caring for Children, a nonprofit that works to prevent abuse, has enlisted about 150 “presenters” to spread the word about child trauma research in counties across the state, an initiative that began in 2013. Its training program is based on the same model – guided by Dr. Robert Anda – Michigan intends to implement.
As of 2016, it had reached 54 of Minnesota's 87 counties and more than 24,000 people, including presentations to churches, jails, police officers, schools, medical groups and tribal organizations.
Becky Dale, the organization's chief operating officer, said spreading knowledge about this issue can be transforming. “We have people saying, 'This is changing my life,'” Dale said.
She said the small community of Brainerd in central Minnesota has committed more than $20,000 toward education on identifying at risk for some form of trauma, along with over 500 volunteer hours committed to the cause.
“We are seeing lots of interest, lots of energy,” she said.
Head Start Trauma Smart in Kansas and Missouri is helping children and daycare teachers find more effective ways of dealing with the effects of childhood trauma. It serves about 3,300 children a year where more than 50 percent of them experienced at least three adverse experiences.
Under the program, parents, teachers and school employees, including bus drivers and food service workers, are given training.
A detailed assessment of classroom environment and performance found significant improvements in classroom climate, productivity, emotional support and behavior management after the program was instituted.
One Michigan advocate for children said she hopes the state's initiative will shine a light on the need to prevent childhood trauma before it happens.
“We have been harping on this for years,” said Amy Zaagman, executive director of the Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health and a member of the program's steering committee.
“You have got to be preventive. People don't realize that adverse experiences even in infancy have lifelong impact.”
In Zaagman's view, that means not only quality childhood education, but also support and education for young parents both before and after birth of their child.
Some 25,000 Michigan children benefit from voluntary home-visit programs, in which trained professionals connect with at-risk families to offer support and guidance in positive parenting methods. Studies show such support can have long-term positive impact on vulnerable families.
But a 2014 report by the Citizens Research Council and Public Sector Consultants found that Michigan has about 260,000 children who meet criteria for home visitation - leaving more than 200,000 children lacking support their families may need.
“I think there is great potential to raise awareness. I think there is a lot of room for education,” Zaagman said.
“So many of the ACEs are attributable to the need for positive parenting practices. Positive parenting practices are really hard if your examples (from a parent's own childhood) are not good.”
For more information on ACEs, visit ACES Too High, a website explaining the science of childhood trauma and innovative methods of dealing with it. See also the Centers for Disease Control for research on ACEs and examples of ways to reduce childhood trauma in local communities.
Child Advocacy Center purchases new building in Mount Pleasant
by the Moultrie News
The newly renamed Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center has purchased a new building to meet the growing need of children in the Lowcountry.
For the last 25 years the center has helped more than 26,000 children and their families at their location on King Street, and now is at capacity. By adding a second location, the center will increase its services and partnerships to meet the changing needs of the growing community and better serve its mission to prevent abuse, protect children and heal families.
Just in Charleston County, an estimated 4,154 children are sexually abused, sexually assaulted, or physically abused every year. In Berkeley County, an additional 1,740 children are victimized each year. Over 14,000 children in these counties experience some form of interpersonal violence each year. The center currently has the capacity to provide forensic interviews — the starting point for treatment — to 1,560 children per year.
Projections show the need for Dee Norton's services doubling in 20 years. Without an immediate expansion in services, children are at risk. Today, the center serves 99 percent of children living on the peninsula and in North Charleston who reach out for help, but serves only 36 percent of the children who need help in East Cooper and 21 percent of children on Daniel Island and Cainhoy.
The new building's location, 677 Longpoint Road in Mount Pleasant, will be more convenient for those children who aren't getting the help they need.
“The situation is urgent,” said Dr. Carole Swiecicki, executive director and CEO of Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center. “This problem will increase exponentially as our area continues to grow. We are so thankful for our partnership with the City of Charleston, which has rented us our building for $1 per year since we opened, and which extended this lease an additional 30 years. This partnership will continue to allow us to serve thousands of children in our current location. However, unless we are proactive, one out of two children will not receive the help they need and deserve. Without increasing Dee Norton's capacity, a staggering number of children will never heal from their emotional wounds.”
Over 90 percent of children helped by the center show no clinically significant trauma symptoms after treatment. With an expansion of services, abused children will have access to the help they need to heal.
Dee Holmes Norton was the co-founder of the center, known then as The Lowcountry Children's Center. Norton was an advocate for children of the Lowcountry and South Carolina for more than 20 years. She was a teacher, a tutor, a mentor and a volunteer. In 2001, The Dee Norton Lowcountry Children's Center was renamed in her memory.
Now to expand awareness of its core mission, the center has been renamed Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center.
While the center continues to expand, accomplish new goals and offer new services, the one thing that will never change is the center's core focus – to prevent abuse, protect children and heal families.
The Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center is the region's leading resource to help prevent child abuse, to protect abused and traumatized children, and to put children and their families on the path to healing. Primary services include forensic interviews, medical examinations and mental health assessments as well as immediate support and coordination. The center also provides evidence-based therapy to child victims and their families. For more information, visit deenortoncenter.org.
US teen Iliana Eve tackles child abuse in song
by Carl Gilchrist
At just 14 years old, one might think that budding American teen star Iliana Eve might be shooting above her weight with her latest track, Mommy.
But with the issue of child abuse being topical worldwide, the song could strike the right note with local audiences, maybe even more so because of her age.
Produced by Kemar 'Flava' McGregor of FM Records, whose credits include reggae and international stars, the pop-flavoured song is, unfortunately, based on a real-life situation that affected the teenager.
Having experienced abuse on a personal level, Iliana's delivery of the song's poignant lyrics offers tangible, heartfelt therapy and encouragement for those being similarly affected, not just in Jamaica, but worldwide.
The song, too, is bound to draw comparisons to Queen Ifrica's 2007 number, Daddy, also produced by McGregor and which created its fair share of controversy then.
"For a 14-year-old girl talking about this topic, I think this will make a huge difference, and young people her age won't be afraid to come out and speak on this issue if it's happening to them or someone they know," said McGregor.
He continued, "The topic of this song represents a serious problem that is taking place all over the world in many homes, communities and schools, and a lot of adults and children know of these abuses, but are afraid to come forward. I am looking forward for this song to be released and make a difference in our society by empowering people not to be afraid to report these abuses."
Mommy, which is scheduled for international release on April 21 on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify, comes 10 years since Queen Ifrica's Daddy raised eyebrows because of its direct focus on the topic of child abuse. Mommy promises no less of an impact.
Iliana and her sister, DJ Hannahbella, will release their debut album, Daddy Issues, later this year.
Iliana Eve hails from Texas, but is now living in Kentucky. She has been singing professionally since last year, when she debuted with a single titled Letters, through Snoop Dogg's label, Doggy Style Records.
The impact of Letters and the follow-up track, Long Damn Time, saw her being featured in media outlets such as Billboard and BET.
Education the focus at child sex abuse symposium
by Steve Garrison
CROWN POINT — The “No More Secrets” campaign will host a symposium March 18 to raise awareness about child sexual abuse in northwest Indiana.
The free event will feature a keynote address by Erin Merryn, a sexual abuse survivor and author who advocates for states to enact “Erin's Law,” which mandates sexual abuse prevention curriculum in schools.
It also will feature workshops on the topics of sexual abuse and online predators, as well as a speak-out session for survivors.
The “No More Secrets” campaign was created by North Township Trustee Frank J. Mrvan in response to an August 2015 report that found Indiana had the second highest reported rate of forced sexual intercourse among high school females in the nation, with one-in-six girls reporting to have been a victim of sexual assault by 18 years old.
The campaign promotes Senate Bill 355, an Indiana version of Erin's Law, which passed the Senate Feb. 13. The bill is now before the House Committee on Education.
The Times of Northwest Indiana is a partner in the trustee's campaign, along with local nonprofits, law enforcement and other media organizations.
Isha Haley, a consultant for the trustee's office, said Thursday 211 participants had signed up to attend the symposium, which will provide two continuing education credits to law enforcement and youth workers.
Haley said attendance was capped at 200 participants, but it has been increased to 250 due to the demand.
The event will begin at 11 a.m. with opening remarks by Mrvan, Mary Beth Bonaventura, director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, and Clifford Johnson, first assistant for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Participants will then be able to attend one of three workshops — an introductory course on child sexual abuse, a course on online predators or the sexual abuse survivor's session.
Merryn will provide the keynote address after the workshops.
Merryn said in an email she will discuss her own experiences of sexual abuse, which she wrote about in “Stolen Innocence,” a book she published in high school.
She has since written two more books — “Living for Today” and “An Unimaginable Act.”
Merryn said she also will discuss her advocacy for laws that mandate sexual abuse prevention curriculum, which have been adopted in 28 states.
Lake County Prosecutor Bernard A. Carter and Amy Lopez, chief administrative officer of Regional Mental Health Network, will offer closing remarks.
The event is expected to conclude by 2 p.m. Lunch will be provided to participants.
Residents can register for the event at nomoresecretsnwi.eventbrite.com.
Najib vows all-out fight against child sexual abuse
by Nawar Firdaws
Prime Minister opens up about his feelings, laments lack of public awareness due to reluctance to discuss issue seen as taboo.
KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Najib Razak today expressed revulsion at the prevalence of sexual abuse on children in Malaysia, vowing that the government will go all out to fight the scourge.
In a rare show of emotion, Najib recalled being beside himself with rage every time he heard about the mistreatment and exploitation of the young.
“The country's future, which is the children of today, can be destroyed if they become victims of sexual abuse,” he said, calling on all parties to demonstrate that Malaysia will not tolerate such crimes.
“I remember there was a report about a three-year-old child who was abused by his mother's boyfriend. I was so angry. I was boiling (inside) because the child, who was supposed to receive love from his parents, was treated cruelly until he died.
“That's why we must talk about this issue and scrutinise it from all angles. Child abuse, sexual abuse and exploitation must be stopped immediately,” said Najib.
He was speaking at a two-day national seminar on child sexual crimes at the Putra World Trade Centre here today.
Also present was his wife Rosmah Mansor who is patron of Permata, a child education and welfare organisation. Others at the seminar included former Indonesian president Megawati Soekarnoputri, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Azalina Othman Said.
Commending Rosmah for organising the seminar, Najib said Permata had not only brought the topic of child sexual abuse to a national platform, but presented the government with the opportunity to draft appropriate actions to combat the growing problem.
He said society had to change its mindset and stop treating the subject as taboo.
“There was a report of an eight-year-old who was raped by her own father,” he recalled.
“She was not only raped, but threatened and hit to keep quiet (about it) until her school noticed what had happened to her and reported it.
“I can't imagine how a father can do something that is so wrong on moral and religious levels,” he said.
“But public awareness of the issue is still lacking because of the reluctance to discuss sexual abuse which is seen as taboo. I hope this seminar can help change our society's mindset.”
Najib said sexual crimes against children were among the worst of offences because the experience affected the victims well into adulthood.
It is for this reason that the law against child sexual abuse, which the government is currently drafting, should not be objected to by “any political party”, he said.
“Because this (fighting child sexual abuse) is everyone's responsibility regardless of our political or ideological differences,” he said.
Child sex abuse: Why justice is not served
by Tarrence Tan
The legal process is too onerous, says a pro-child NGO
PETALING JAYA: Child victims of sexual abuse often find it difficult to get justice because the legal process is too burdensome, says an organisation combating sexual abuse against children.
Madeleine Yong, founder of Protect and Save the Children, said the law required too much evidence to be presented before a suspect could be prosecuted.
“You need forensic evidence, which is already hard to get, and then you need corroborative evidence too,” she said. “Those are the two things the authorities look for, and it's often impossible to get both.
“We've had so many cases with forensic evidence, and yet they didn't manage to go through.”
Yong was speaking after a screening of a documentary on paedophilia at PJ Live Arts in Jaya One.
The 46-minute documentary focuses on the investigations by Australian and British police that led to the arrest of serial rapist Richard Huckle last year. Huckle was given 22 life sentences in the UK for sexually abusing Malaysian children while on a teaching stint in the country.
Yong said there were many cases of paedophilia that went unreported in the country.
“When we first started 20 years ago, we used to get many cold cases. Many people, including preschoolers, would come up to us and say they were sexually abused decades ago.
“We will assess the child and if the child is not a strong witness, we usually opt to offer therapy and counselling. That's simply because the criminal justice system is absolutely tedious.”
A representative of the Association of Women Lawyers called for an adequate support system for victims.
She pointed out that the National Legal Aid Foundation provided support only for perpetrators of crime, not for victims.
“That's important because if you want to increase conviction, then victim support services must be in place,” she said. “In Malaysia, we don't have that. In countries like Australia, Canada and the UK, they have support services for victims.”
After the event, Yong told FMT there were much more child abuse cases than cited in recent reports. She alleged that the actual figures were protected under the Official Secrets Act.
A Reuters report last year said there were 12,987 reported cases of child sexual abuse between January 2012 and July 2016. Charges were filed for 2,189 cases, resulting in 140 convictions.
According to Reuters, the government provides data on child abuse only at the request of a member of parliament.
The documentary screened was part of Channel News Asia's investigative series, Undercover Asia. Its official release date has yet to be announced.
Children burdened by weight of feelings
by Pashmina Rashad
Last month's column discussed a pattern of emotional abuse known as emotional or covert incest where a parent uses a child as a surrogate partner, often relying on the child for the emotional support that would be more appropriately provided by another adult. This often leaves the child feeling an intense sense of responsibility for their parents' well-being while neglecting to have his/her own needs met. In situations where one parent is using the child as an ally against the other parent, children end up feeling alienated from the other parent, guilty about needing to take sides and burdened by a feeling of having to hold the family together.
Within the family setting, the consequences of such relational patterns can be far-reaching and painful for all parties involved. One partner may feel shut out and denied opportunities for parent-child bonding. The child, in turn, often faces guilt, resentment and confusion about the parent who is being shut out. Other children often have feelings of being left out as well. They may end up feeling that the “chosen” sibling is more loved and feelings of jealousy and anger are not uncommon. Not only does this harm the parent-child relationships in the home, but also hurts the dynamic between siblings. The siblings who are not in the dysfunctional alliance sometimes end up ganging up on the parentified child, leading to further emotional isolation for the chosen child.
Children who have been subjected to this pattern of abuse grow into adults who often face difficulties in setting boundaries and getting their needs met. After a lifetime of putting their parent's emotional needs before their own, they often experience feelings of intense guilt about making their feelings a priority. Such adults may be attracted to relationships with weak boundaries where each person's autonomy is not respected. Many people end up with a conflicted relationship with their own gender and sexuality. This may greatly inhibit their ability to maintain intimacy in adult partnerships.
The unhealthy sense of loyalty and obligation that develops during childhood can result in a love-hate relationship between parents and their adult children. As adults, victims of such abuse often feel frustrated, angry and overinvolved in their parents' lives. This can often leave people feeling conflicted about becoming parents themselves, sometimes leading to conflicts with their own partners. In addition, since the parenting model of their childhood was emotionally abusive, these adults often suffer from feelings of inadequacy in parenting their own children. Like most forms of abuse, those who were victimized by covert incest are more likely to perpetrate it.
Emotional incest is more prevalent in homes with substance abuse, domestic violence and substance abuse. These issues on their own often lead to a damaging childhood and increased risk for anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and substance abuse. The covert incest only serves to amplify these risk factors.
Healing from the effects of such abuse is usually a long, slow process. It can often take years for people to even identify that they were victimized in this way. Once the realization hits, people go through feelings of grief because it often makes them see their childhood in a new way that makes them face the reality of how profoundly they were harmed. Supportive relationships, open family discussions, self-care through therapy, compassionate understanding and forgiveness are all important factors in healing.
Pashmina Rashad is a mental health counselor who works with clients in Poughkeepsie and Woodstock. Contact her at 845-679-5511, ext. 309; email firstname.lastname@example.org
Teaching teens about healthy relationships
by Message Media
In honor of February being Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, Pearl Crisis Center held a poster contest at Onamia High School.
The contest was part of Teens Against Dating Abuse, which promotes community involvement, opportunities for personal growth and growth in relationships, as well as mentorship and speaking opportunities for youth ages 10 - 18. The awareness is a national effort to promote programs that prevent abuse in teen and 20-something relationships.
One in three teens in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse by someone they are in a relationship with before they become adults, according to the Love Is Respect Organization. A relationship is considered unhealthy if it is based on power and control, not equality and respect. This includes: possessiveness, insults, jealous accusations, yelling, humiliation, pulling hair, pushing or other negative and abusive behaviors.
Warning signs of abuse
• A partner is extremely jealous or possessive
• Unexplained marks or bruises
• A partner emails or texts excessively
• Depression or anxiousness
• Ceasing to participate in extracurricular activities or other interests
• No longer spending time with other friends and family
• A partner abuses other people or animals
• Starting to dress differently
How to help
If there are signs your child or loved one is in an abusive relationship, there are several steps to help. Listen and give support without being accusatory. It may be difficult for a teen to open up because of shame, or fear of disappointing their parents. If they do decide to talk, let it be on their terms. Meet them with understanding, not judgment.
It is also important to believe that they are being truthful in what they are telling you. Next, show concern by saying, “You don't deserve to be treated like this;” “You deserve to be in a relationship where you are treated with respect,” and “This is not your fault.”
When speaking about abuse, focus on behaviors, not the individual. For example, instead of saying, “She is controlling” you could say, “I don't like that she texts you to see where you are.” Avoid giving your child an ultimatum to leave their abusive relationship, because leaving is the most dangerous time for victims.
Remind teens that healthy relationships have boundaries that shouldn't restrict their ability to have independence and freedom. This includes hanging out with friends without their partner, participate in favorite activities or hobbies, not having to share passwords, and mutual respect of individual needs and likes.
Teens who are experiencing abusive relationships are encouraged to call loveisrespect's at (866) 331-9474, or text “loveis” to 22522 to talk with peer advocates 24/7. Visit loveisrespect.org/ for more information.
Guest or victim? Trafficking at motels targeted
by Teddy Kulmala
The egregious acts happening behind closed doors at some Richland County motels can't be seen by the people driving past – sometimes not even by those staying or working at the establishments.
But law enforcement knows what's going on, and the Richland County Sheriff's Department is working with hotel and motel employees to help them spot and report the signs of child sex trafficking.
Hotels and motels are popular venues for traffickers to carry out their illegal enterprise, according to Capt. Joe Odom, who oversees the Sheriff's Department's Region 4. That portion of the county includes the Broad River and St. Andrews areas, home to more than 50 motels and hotels.
Motels allow traffickers to quickly move their operations with ease and without the paper trail, making it more difficult for law enforcement to track and bust the operations, which Odom said are more common now thanks to websites like Backpage.com.
“Social media is ground zero,” he said. “That set everything off.”
It was a posting on Backpage that led to the sting operation last February at a Two Notch Road motel, where Samuel Pratt was arrested and later charged in the sale of two teenage girls to strangers. A federal jury convicted Pratt in December on sex trafficking and child pornography charges.
“Some, we believe, are very aware of what's going on and they're about the money,” said Capt. Heidi Jackson of the victim services unit at the Sheriff's Department. “And then you have others that we're actually receiving phone calls from – ‘Hey, there's somebody young here you guys might want to check out.'”
Often, the victims rescued from trafficking are local girls, according to Jackson. They're usually between 14 and 17, but the youngest so far has been 13.
More than half of the 50 pending state-level charges of human trafficking from 2016 were from Richland County, according to the S.C. Human Trafficking Task Force 2016 report. Of those 50 statewide cases, 36 involved victims under 18.
Odom and Jackson decided to confront motel and hotel operators about the sex trafficking in their establishments, specifically those in Region 4 that see more trafficking and prostitution activity.
Odom lays down the law with the managers and operators first.
“He goes in with the primary information: here's what we've been seeing in your hotel; things are going to change around here,'” Jackson said. “He's letting them know we're kind of putting you on notice.”
Jackson then educates managers, giving them a folder with handouts about signs of trafficking – young girls accompanying older men, for example, who aren't in school when they should be, refuse to give their addresses or are not allowed to speak with hotel and motel staff members. Managers also receive commonly used terms and what is expected of hotel and motel employees in suspect situations.
“Look beneath the surface,” reads a poster to be placed in the lobby. “A victim of trafficking may look like many of the people you see every day.”
A law passed by the General Assembly in 2015 requires certain businesses to post information about human trafficking, including the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline. Odom credits enhanced laws with giving law enforcement “more teeth” to go after trafficking operations.
The Sheriff's Department's new initiative was praised by Laura Hudson, executive director of the S.C. Victim Assistance Network.
“Getting the info out to those individuals and entities that might see that kind of activity is very valuable,” she said. “We've done some similar programs with domestic violence, getting special information out to hairdressers and people more likely to see that kind of situation.”
Odom said trafficking operations often go hand-in-hand with other types of crime.
“It's like this big do, and all the fleas are jumping on it,” he said. “... The criminal element is doing several things. They're not just doing one thing. The guys that want to get with the girls, they're breaking into somebody's house down the road so they can get the money.”
Some motels allow a deputy to examine their guest registries to determine whether certain offenders are renting rooms at multiple area motels, and others allow investigators to take pictures of their rooms so those images can be compared to online postings that advertise sex with underage girls.
Still, traffickers are finding ways around law enforcement.
Vishal Sagdeo is general manager of the Days Inn on Bush River Road, which Odom said has been helpful in reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement.
“If we see any suspicious activity – people going in and out, a lot of cars, anything suspicious – we'll call them,” Sagdeo said, adding that he's made his employees aware of what behaviors to look for and how to report them.
Criminals are smart, Sagdeo said, and those who have been banned from the property will often send someone else to rent a room for them.
“Many times, they cuss me out. Sometimes they tell me to go back to my country,” he said. “But hey, I need to keep my place clean. I need to be safe, my employees are staying over here, my guests are staying over here.”
Jackson said there are three steps to end human trafficking: Stop the buyers, rescue the victims and get the victims in a position to recover and rehabilitate.
“We can't eat the whole piece of cake,” she said. “But we can bite off something. If we're going to bite off something, we're going to go after these young ones. We're going to go after the bad guys.”
In praising the Sheriff's Department, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson called human trafficking a “global epidemic.”
“It's happening right here in South Carolina too,” he said. “Citizens, law enforcement officials, businesses – we all have a role to play in the war against human trafficking, and it's imperative that we work together.”
The Tech Dilemma: Sex Trafficking Enabled
by Aurora Chiste
We tend to think of human trafficking as a foreign issue, not something that is happening in our own backyard. However, Silicon Valley and the surrounding Bay Area is considered one of the largest hubs of human trafficking in the United States. In response to the problem, San Francisco and other Bay Area cities have launched anti-trafficking task forces to identify gaps in services, improve policies, and bolster city governmental response to human trafficking. Yet, we can't just rely on our local governments to solve this issue. For those of us who work in the tech sector, there are many things we can do. We must learn to recognize signs of human trafficking, so that we can help raise awareness of an issue that may be happening right in front of us every day. We must also learn how the technology we create is contributing to the issue. The following information is shared by three local anti-trafficking non-profit organizations: Genice Jacobs of abolitionistmom.org, Vanessa Russell of Love Never Fails, and Ehb Teng of ATHack! Inc.
Sex trafficking of youth has been escalating over the past decade.
Poverty, abuse, and neglect are risk factors. Foster youth, runaways, homeless, unaccompanied minors, and LGBTQ-identified youth are the most vulnerable. Technology, for all of its disruptive capacity for change has rapidly enabled sex trafficking in a number of ways.
Social Media and Anonymous Chat Apps/Sites
The proliferation of social media sites has created easy access to our digitally raised youth. Predators can learn about them through their social feeds and in turn manipulate them through fake profiles. Pedophiles and sex buyers set up their own social media sites in the dark web to share photos and tips on how to go undetected when buying children for sex.
Apps and sites like KIK, Snapchat, and Chatroulette make it easy for predators to target youth while hiding behind a wall of anonymity. It's all fun and games sharing and chatting with strangers until our youth come in contact with the wrong person who says just the right thing to ensnare them.
Sites like Redbook, Backpage, and Craigslist have become marketing platforms for sex traffickers, enabling them to promote exploitation with ease. It's far too easy to create ad after ad even after being flagged by the community. Despite the argument that legitimate sex workers are able to use these platforms as safe ways to screen potential sex buyers, the majority of the activity is still being conducted by sex traffickers who have no concern for those they are exploiting.
There is a tremendous sex trafficking problem within the porn industry that is rarely discussed and obfuscated behind the sex positive conversation. The proliferation of online pornography has socialized our youth into misguided sexual norms and is helping to groom next generations of sex buyers as they become accustomed to acting out the more extreme fantasies viewed online. People do not realize that their porn consumption may be sponsoring sexual exploitation and trafficking.
We neither hold any blanket judgement over tech companies. Nor, do we hold a position on the sex positivity conversation. However, it seems like we are faced with a never-ending struggle with the proliferation of technological avenues that exploiters and traffickers can use.
Better awareness and collaboration is key to solving the issue.
“Technologists love hard problems. Young lives are being destroyed by sexual predators on the Internet. We need some of the smartest technologists on the planet to take on this threat.” - Genice Jacobs, abolitionistmom.org
We must continue to find avenues to raise awareness of the issue and educate the public about the ploys of traffickers through awareness campaigns like the current survivor-informed #DisruptSexTrafficking ads seen on S.F. Bay Area Caltrans cars and Samtrans buses. Genice Jacobs, the creator of the campaign and respected anti-trafficking activist behind abolitionistmom.org, hopes that the campaign will inspire members of the tech community to help combat child sexual exploitation.
“All children are vulnerable to human trafficking. PROTECT's prevention education program educates and empowers teachers, administrators, and students on red flags and trauma informed responses.” - Vanessa Russell, Love Never Fails
Prevention education programs like PROTECT , the brainchild of three anti-trafficking organizations (3Strands Global, Frederick Douglas Family Initiatives, and Love Never Fails), are needed in schools to begin educating our youth at different age levels, so they can learn to recognize the signs of sexual exploitation and predation. This collaborative effort has developed grade-level appropriate and state standard-compliant materials to allow 5th, 7th, 9th and 11th grade teachers to incorporate the topic of human trafficking into their annual educational calendar. The materials illustrate techniques that support identification and prevention.
“We can no longer afford to ignore ways to leverage technology in the fight against human trafficking. Traffickers don't shy away from technology and neither should we.” - Ehb Teng, ATHack! Inc.
ATHack! Inc. is a group of activists and technologists whose mission is to foster innovative tech projects to solve human trafficking issues. They have just launched their ATHack Fellowship Program which is designed to create better collaboration between the non-profit and tech sectors. The fellowship will provide tech support/education, mentorship, and funding in discovering innovative tech solutions to human trafficking issues. The application process is currently open to US based non-profits, activists, survivor leaders, and community leaders.
ATHack! is also developing a human trafficking reporting app called GoodTown through its sister company, Diginido Labs LLC. GoodTown is a public reporting and data gathering app (soon to be available on iOS and Android). It's an easy to use, 3 step process for the public to anonymously report suspected exploitation or trafficking in their communities.
Through initiatives like these we can engage the tech community in helping to protect our children. We need all the brilliant minds in the tech and non-profit sectors to create tools that empower youth to protect themselves and design responsible safeguards for children using digital platforms.
Anonymous donor's gift will help juveniles escaping sex trafficking
by Mark Hughes
A generous anonymous donor has provided a local nonprofit group the location necessary to house juvenile females who are escaping sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.
The donor purchased the 5,000-square-foot one-story building for about $200,000, said Keri Spencer, executive director of Restoring Identities after Sexual Exploitation. The address of the facility will remain undisclosed for the safety of those seeking shelter. She expects the remodeling to cost around $100,000.
“The first thing we're going to do is build a privacy fence around it,” Spencer said. “Right now, we'll have space for six beds, but there's additional property that will allow us to expand to 12 beds.”
If she were building a brand new facility, it would be 15,000- to 20,000-square-feet, capable of housing up to 12.
“As early as Feb. 14, there were six female juveniles sitting in the Tulsa Juvenile Detention Facility needing rescue,” Spencer said.
And on Tuesday, Spencer received a phone call to see if her facility was open.
The only place in Oklahoma for these young girls is in Idabel, and they only have four beds, plus an additional two beds reserved for emergencies, Spencer said. These beds are not exclusively for juveniles escaping the sex trafficking scene.
The website of The National Human Trafficking Hotline reports that from 2012 to 2016 there were 1,150 phone calls from Oklahoma, which averages 230 calls a year. In that same period of time, there were 298 human trafficking cases reported, which equals almost 60 cases a year.
Support from local businesses has been promised, Spencer said. Lowe's manager said he would sell them building material at cost. The owner of Security Alarms System said he would provide the alarm system for free, and RISE would only have to pay the $12 a month for monitoring services.
Spencer's facility will provide refuge for any juvenile female in Oklahoma, and most will be brought to Muskogee by Oklahoma Department of Human Services workers or law enforcement on behalf of DHS, she said.
The group's annual budget is expected to be between $325 to $350,000.
“I would like to have $450,000 in the bank when we open, which would include renovation money,” Spencer said.
She has applied for several grants, including from the City of Muskogee Foundation.
“If 250 people, companies or churches, or a combination thereof, donated $100 a month for a whole year, that would pay for a whole year of operating expenses,” Spencer said.
That's around $3.28 a day, the cost of one fancy coffee.
Even Bill O'Reilly has jumped on the fundraising bandwagon. Spencer mailed him a packet, and he mailed her a personal check for $5,000.
Revisiting Adam and Eve
EDITOR'S NOTE: Were Adam and Eve the the original abuse victims?
by Ryan Stollar
“The snake was the most clever of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. The snake spoke to the woman and said, ‘Woman, did God really tell you that you must not eat from any tree in the garden?' The woman answered the snake, ‘No, we can eat fruit from the trees in the garden. But there is one tree we must not eat from. God told us, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden. You must not even touch that tree, or you will die.”' But the snake said to the woman, ‘You will not die. God knows that if you eat the fruit from that tree you will learn about good and evil, and then you will be like God!' The woman could see that the tree was beautiful and the fruit looked so good to eat. She also liked the idea that it would make her wise. So she took some of the fruit from the tree and ate it. Her husband was there with her, so she gave him some of the fruit, and he ate it. Then it was as if their eyes opened, and they saw things differently. They saw that they were naked. So they got some fig leaves, sewed them together, and wore them for clothes.”
~ Genesis 3:1-7
The classic interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is original sin. By tasting from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Eve become the first sinners on Earth. Through their actions, sin enters into the world and now plagues every single human.
However, this classic interpretation misses a key component: Adam and Eve were the first creatures on Earth to be sinned against. They are not the original sinners. The original sinner is the snake, who uses deception to groom his victims. Adam and Eve are the target, and he succeeds in causing them harm.
I think this missing component is crucial to understanding the story of Adam and Eve. It opens up a child-centric and survivor-centric reading of the story where we can view Adam and Eve as innocent children being groomed by “the most clever” of predators. This missing component also helps us understand han, the idea of original wounds that is discussed in Korean liberation theology (minjung theology).
The traditional reading of Adam of Eve focuses on the guilt and willfulness of the characters. In doing so, it minimizes the role of the snake. If we envision Adam and Eve as like children, we can better understand the story. Adam and Eve are truly like newborn children: they have never experienced sin in their lives. Specifically, they have never experienced someone trying to use their greater status to take advantage of them. They have no understanding of what it means to be manipulated.
Along comes “the most clever of all the wild animals.” Like a predatory adult, the snake targets the children and their natural desires: to be like their parent, God. “God knows that if you eat the fruit from that tree,” he says, “you will learn about good and evil, and then you will be like God!” What children do not want to be grown ups, to be like the parents who made them? By appealing to their natural desires to be like their Godparent, the snake grooms them to be the perfect victims.
In her book We Were the Least of These: Reading the Bible with Survivors of Sexual Abuse, theology professor Elaine A. Heath focuses on this interpretation of Adam and Eve as the original survivors of sinful abuse. “Instead of reading it as a story about guilty sinners,” Heath writes, “we read it as a narrative of abuse. In this story of violence against God's children, we found a paradigm for how original wounds of all kinds, not just of sexual abuse, eventually lead to the bondage of sin. Most importantly, we saw how God looks at sinners first and foremost as those who have been sinned against. Before Adam and Eve ever sinned, they were sinned against. Their sin emerged from the wounds they received from the serpent and its deception” (p. 16-7).
To be sure, Adam and Eve do misbehave, whether we envision them as children or adults. But thinking about them as victims of the snake's grooming gives us a greater understanding of the nature of sin—that it is both the willful actions of predators (like the snake) and the reactions of those preyed upon (like Adam and Eve) to the accumulation of wounds. This brings us to the idea of han, which is discussed in Korean minjung theology.
Han is explored in depth by theologian Andrew Sung Park in his book The Wounded Heart of God. Park draws from minjung theology, which sees han as “the accumulation of bitterness, shame, anger, despair, and other destructive attitudes and feelings that result from experiences of being sinned against” (Heath, p. 186). Minjung theologians see han as a way of viewing sin that provides an antidote to the Western tendency to think of sin on a purely individualistic level. Han, in contrast, looks at systemic oppression—classism, racism, sexism, etc.—and how these stratified levels of marginalization cause pain in the lives of individuals. Thus han helps us distinguish between individual sin (willfully hurting another being) and suffering (being wounded).
Pamela D. Couture explains the idea of han in the following manner in her book Seeing Children, Seeing God: A Practical Theology of Children and Poverty:
“The concept of han from Koren minjung theology offers helpful distinctions that augment our traditional language of sin, evil, and depravity. Han refers to the suffering that is accumulated in the victims of sin, burdening them with agony. For our purposes, han describes the ‘abysmal experience of pain,' of the child, for example, who is abused, neglected, or sexually exploited; who is torn from friends, family, and school by homelessness; who is separated from her parent because of the parent's incarceration at a distance; who watches his parent deteriorate from alcohol or drug use; whose sibling or close friend is killed in meaningless violence; who is hungry or sick with inadequate care. Han focuses on the pain of the victims and reserves the language of sin for willful acts that victimize others” (p. 62).
When we think about Adam and Eve's han , we see that they are the victims of abuse. They have been taken advantage of by a more cunning, mature individual. Yes, they misbehave, but their misbehavior comes not from a willful action, but because they have first been sinned against. As children who have been sinned against and hurt, their misbehavior is understandable. This calls to mind how abused children often act out because of the pain they have experienced. As Couture says, “Godchildren sometimes suffer, often intensely, and behavioral problems result from this suffering. A theology of children….faces the complicated task of describing, without minimizing, the agony, that many children bear and the behavioral problems that become symptoms of that agony” (p. 62).
“At the bottom of han,” Couture writes, “is the deeply wounded heart” (p. 63).
Envisioning Adam and Eve in this manner allows us to think about the Fall as paradigmatic of abuse victims and survivors in general. Rather than being a blame game about how Eve first tempted Adam or how both caused the downfall of the entire world, the story can be viewed as a tragic morality lesson about how han has entered into the lives of children and survivors. It is the story of shattered trust. It is a story of growing up in a world that sins against us, grooms us to fall, that leads to generational trauma. As survivors, we bear the scars of these experiences and we sew together fig leaves to hide our shame.
Yet shame is not the end of the story. Shame is only the beginning, and salvation has the final word.