D.C. Residents Outraged That More Than a Dozen Black, Latinx Girls Missing
Police say there is actually not a spike in the missing, but more awareness now that they are using social media.
by Angela Bronner Helm
As of Thursday, over a dozen District teenagers, ranging in age from 14 to 18—all Black or Hispanic—are missing.
NBC 4 News DC released an interactive map which shares information on the teens including their photos, their ages and the dates and locations where they were last seen. The outlet says the map will be updated daily.
On Wednesday night, a town hall-style meeting was held in predominantly-Black Southeast D.C., which was hosted by Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White, according to Fox 5 DC.
Hundreds of people packed into the Excel Academy Public Charter School, and many others had to wait outside, where tensions and fear ran high about the recent spate of disappearances.
“ The difficult thing is some of these kids do go missing multiple times ,” said Acting Police Chief Peter Newsham. “ When they go missing, guess what? You have a child out there and there are people in our community that will prey on those children .”
Some members of the community reportedly shouted down officials, saying they were not doing enough. They called for more mental health services for youth as well as the lack of “Amber Alerts” for these missing cases.
Fox reports that the number of missing in Washington is not actually going up statistically, but because of a new program using social media instituted by Commander of DC Police Youth and Family division Chanel Dickerson, each missing case is being posted on social media. Dickerson took over the unit in late 2016.
“One child missing is one too many ,” said Derrica Wilson, president of the Black and Missing Foundation. “ It is not so much about the numbers. It is about the ones that are missing, what we can do to get them safe.”
Comedian and radio host D.L. Hughley tweeted earlier this week asking how NFL quarterback Tom Brady's Super Bowl jersey has been found but many of these young women have not.
MS-13 gang member deported 4 times sexually abused 2-year-old girl, police say
by CBS News
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- A MS-13 street gang member who had been deported from the U.S. four times stabbed two women and sexually assaulted a 2-year-old girl in a New York City suburb, police said Thursday.
Tommy Vladim Alvarado-Ventura, 31, of Hempstead, New York, pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bail Thursday. His court-appointed attorney declined to comment.
Alvarado-Ventura is suspected of assaulting the child Tuesday night while the girl's mother was at work, acting Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said at a news conference.
Krumpter said that in his 28 years in law enforcement, the alleged crime is “probably the most heinous criminal act I've ever seen. It really is nauseating.”
Authorities said that after the assault, Alvarado-Ventura went to a nearby bar, where he argued with a woman over a marijuana deal and then stabbed her in the parking lot. The woman, who was not identified, suffered a collapsed lung, police said.
He then returned to the apartment where the alleged sexual assault took place, police said. When the child's mother returned home from work at about 4:15 a.m. Wednesday, she discovered injuries to her child and argued with Alvarado-Ventura. During that argument, he stabbed the woman, Krumpter said.
The mother was able to flee to another part of the apartment and called police. Alvarado-Ventura was sleeping when officers arrived and arrested him, police said.
Police say Alvarado-Ventura was deported to El Salvador four times between 2006 and 2011. According to Krumpter, he had a history of prior arrests for offenses including drunken driving, disorderly conduct, assault, false impersonation and contempt of court. Details on those arrests were not immediately released; police said their investigation is ongoing.
It was not known when he returned to the United States. He was charged with attempted murder, assault and weapons possession, and he faces life in prison.
Victim of child sex abuse speaks out to help protect kids
by Keith Eldridge
OLYMPIA, Wash. - A victim of child sexual abuse is speaking out in an effort to make all kids safer.
It's called 'Erin's Law', which is a nationwide campaign to get schools to teach age-appropriate 'personal body safety' classes.
Erin Merryn has been traveling the states to urge lawmakers to enact her bill (HB 1539). She's not letting the fact that she now has a baby girl slow her down.
Erin testified at the state House Education Committee Thursday, "Good morning, I flew here yesterday from Chicago with my 9-month-old daughter because that's how passionate I am about protecting kids from abuse."
Erin is testifying about what she calls the 'silent epidemic of child abuse.' She says children learn about fire drills, earthquake drills and stranger danger, but she says they need to know about how to stay safe when 9 out of ten abuse cases involve someone the child knows..
Erin, "As a young child 6-8 years old I was abused by my best friend's uncle who lived with her. This man repeatedly abused me and told me 'I know where you live I'll come get you.' So I stayed silent."
It only ended because her family moved away. But she added, "Only to wake up a few years later to a male older cousin abusing me."
Again she stayed silent because she didn't know what to do.
She says Erin's Law would help show kids what to do if they experience sexual abuse, telling them that their body is private, that it's not okay to be touched in certain way, that it's not their fault and they should feel safe to tell a trusted adult.
She says it's working in the 28 states that have passed Erin's Law like a recent case in Alabama, "Two more kids came forward after being abused because of Erin's Law being taught and I'm sharing stories being sent my way from all over the country."
"She is amazing," said the bill's sponsor Rep. Gina McCabe, R-Goldendale. McCabe says even though it's late in the session she believes chances for passage are good, "We're just going to stay tenacious and we're going to keep moving forward.")
They tried passing this bill last year but it failed because of the million dollar price tag. Since then a national Erin's Bill has been passed making federal dollars available to states.
Solving child abuse means abandoning 'what's wrong with you'
by Adam Duvernay
Instructor Carly Twilley promised third graders at Harlan Elementary School in Wilmington they wouldn't be graded on the questionnaires she placed at each desk. She just wanted to ensure that the lesson from weeks before had sunk in.
It was simple enough: "Tell, tell, tell."
Twilley is a prevention education specialist for the non-profit Prevent Child Abuse Delaware, a group with a staff of 12 who reach thousands of children and faculty in Delaware schools every year. Next year such efforts will be mandatory when Erin's Law, which mandates sexual abuse prevention training in schools, takes effect.
"That's going to necessitate that somebody talk to these children about abuse prevention, and that number is about 58,000 kids. You can imagine going from 10,000 — which is what we see now — to 58,000. That's a big jump," said Executive Director Karen DeRamos.
She is hopeful that the state will support groups like hers and the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children to meet the newly-mandated goals. Prevention, DeRamos says, solves the issue of child abuse before long-lasting damage is ever done.
But there's likewise an effort to rethink how Delaware's public employees think about and react to child abuse.
Dr. Aileen Fink heads a section of the Delaware Children's Department devoted to training state agencies in trauma-informed care, where those responsible for children's safety are conscious that effects of extreme stressors can be magnified by the slightest error.
"When you talk about trauma and you understand the brain science and the impact to the child's ability to regulate emotions and behavior, there are absolutely things — and this is true whether you're a police officer, whether you're a teacher — that you can do in interacting with a child who's been exposed and is being impacted that will help them stay in better control and keep everyone safe," Fink said.
It's part of a philosophy change in Delaware some equate to exchanging the question "What's wrong with you?" to "What's happened to you?"
Training to that effect now permeates the Children's Department and is mandatory for new employees. But Fink also is exporting the new culture to faculty in schools, to police officers and to Family Services caseworkers who must interact with children who've been traumatized by abuse.
"There is a grassroots effort in Delaware for people to come together and really talk about trauma and adversity and what we know about the impact and how we can work together to respond," Fink said. "No one system is going to solve this problem. Healthcare isn't going to solve it. Social Services isn't going to solve it. Education isn't going to solve it on its own. It really takes a collective effort."
Most Delawareans won't see child abuse, though it happens all around them, and without seeing the trauma and suffering on a daily basis it's easy to miss how much of a miracle recovery is.
"The kids that completely turn things around always stick in my mind," said Susan Dougherty, a social worker for People's Place, a non-profit which helps older children referred from DFS move toward independent living. "I had a youth. She would sit in my car — she had been sexually abused by mom's boyfriend — and she'd say to me, 'I wouldn't change it because it's made me strong and who I am.' "
Sophia, an 18-year-old now attending college after years of child abuse and foster homes, still has contact with the now-incarcerated mother who beat, harassed and humiliated her for much of her early life. She agreed to share her story with The News Journal provided her real name wasn't used.
"My mom had an addiction. Half the time, she wasn't herself. I can't walk around being angry at my mom all the time. That's not going to help. I haven't fully forgiven her, but I am forgiving every day," she said. "She's probably going to die sooner or later because she's very sick. I don't want to regret not being able to forgive my mother."
Prevention, not reaction, is the real goal, and that starts with root causes.
"We blame parents for everything," said Karen DeRamos, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Delaware. "The parents are not the problem; the parents have problems."
That's why so many advocates and even the state pushes to keep families together.
Despite terrible accounts of abuse and neglect, children want to be with their families no matter how dysfunctional they are, said Timothy Brandau, director of Child Inc, Delaware's only shelter for abused kids. Most in the state shelter use their day passes to go visit the very people the state has deemed incapable of taking care of them.
“Kids are almost always better off with their families than in foster care,” he said.
And the power of the family unit can't be ignored, founder and CEO of Connections Community Support Programs Cathy McKay, which sees about 25 families across two clinics in the state. In keeping the families together and teaching parents how to be a parent rather than taking their children away, McKay said families can avoid further trauma.
"That's the best thing we can do for prevention," she said. "Parents want to follow someone else's lead or have some kind of intentional role model, but for a lot of them, it's a black hole."
"They tell me 'I want to do better but I don't really know what better is,'" McKay added. "We've got to give them those tools."
Input needed for future child abuse prevention training event
by Fox 47 News
Lansing's Firecracker Foundation is looking to hold a future child abuse prevention training event and need your input.
The goal of the event is to give those responsible for children tools and resources they need to keep children safe.
The need for the event comes in light of the Dr. Larry Nassar case.
Nassar, a former doctor at USA gymnastics and who operated a clinic at Michigan State University, is being charged with sexual assaulting multiple girls and possessing child pornography.
Nassar is in jail without bond.
Your responses will help determine where it'll be held, topics of discussion, and what panelists will be present for the event.
The Firecracker Foundation provides help to survivors of sexual trauma and their families living in the Mid-Michigan area.
Click here for a link to the survey.
Close loophole on reporting child abuse
by Andrew Wolfson
Courier-Journal investigative reporter Andrew Wolfson had a simple question for Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad: “Greetings. I am trying to see if the department reported the allegations against Officers Betts or Woods to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Child Protective Services, as required by law.”
The question stems from Courier-Journal reporting about claims that former Louisville police Officer Kenneth Betts and current Officer Brandon Wood raped a teenage boy in the Youth Explorer program and that Betts had been investigated in 2013 over possible “improper contact” with a teenage girl in the program.
The only acceptable answer to Wolfson's question should have been a simple yes.
Under Kentucky law, any person who knows or has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused is required to report it.
But the law allows such reports to be made to local police, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Kentucky State Police or a county or commonwealth's attorney.
As uncovered by Courier-Journal reporters Phillip M. Bailey and Wolfson, the law doesn't explicitly require a police department that learns of an abuse allegation against one of its own to report it to another authority specified in the law.
That must change.
A spokesman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the agency charged with protecting children, said the wording of the law suggests, but doesn't mandate, that the agency be notified.
The law must be clear that suspected child abuse or child sexual abuse at the hands of police must be reported to the state. There can be no reports that slip through bureaucratic cracks or are hidden.
We urge the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to work with the Kentucky Legislature to clear up any ambiguity — the legislature returns for the final two days of this year's session later this month.
In the meantime, we await Chief Conrad's answer about what he knew and when.
The Continuing Effort to Prevent Child Abuse
by Norma Stillings
Even before the “Go Blue” Child Abuse Awareness Committee was organized in Douglas County, there were agencies and individuals who were concerned and working to prevent child abuse. The Children's Division of Family Services, the Douglas County Health Department, Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA), Kiwanis, and others were working independently and sometimes in partnership to stop child abuse. Several state and national organizations were conducting campaigns to bring child abuse to the attention of society.
Child abuse can be defined as: any mistreatment of a child that results in harm or injury. It can be physical abuse such as beating, burning or punching. It can be emotional abuse from an ongoing pattern of criticism, insults, and rejection. It can be sexual abuse including rape, touching/fondling, or involving a child in pornography. It can be failure to provide for a child's basic physical, medical, emotional or education needs. It involves a situation where the child is at the mercy of an adult who has some sort of control over the child.
An abuser is often someone the child knows, possibly a parent, a neighbor, or relative. It can happen in families in all cultures at all education and income levels, but poverty, lack of social support, and family stress can increase the risk.
It has been said that approximately 3 million cases of suspected child abuse are filed in the U.S. each year. Many cases may never get reported. It is a problem that touches all of us. Child abuse affects families and communities even after the child grows up. It can lead to violence, substance abuse, mental health problems, and the abused child may grow up to be an abuser. With the right treatment and support, victims of abuse can overcome the past and lead happy healthy lives, but it takes effort.
These are some of the reasons that the “Go Blue” Child Abuse Awareness Committee continues to work to prevent child abuse.
Ingebrigtsen's bill addresses child abuse
by Al Edenloff
Last week, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, presented "Erin's Law" — legislation designed to prevent child sexual abuse in Minnesota.
The bill, SF 1346, would allow school districts to provide child sexual abuse prevention instruction to students and child sexual abuse prevention training to staff.
Erin's Law is named after a childhood sexual assault survivor, Erin Merryn of Illinois. Legislation under the same title is currently in effect in 28 states, and pending in an additional 20 states, including Minnesota.
The bill allows K through 12 schools the option to implement prevention programs with the purpose of preventing sexual abuse and sexual violence.
The legislation also allows families to review the content of the curriculum to determine if they would like their child to participate.
The Echo Press contacted Alexandria School District 206 to find out how it addresses child sexual abuse. Through the school district's health curriculum, students are taught a number of things relating to student safety in a developmentally appropriate manner, ranging from appropriate touch to stranger danger to bus safety and more.
Annually, District 206 teachers receive training about the mandated reporting law. They're also trained on signs of abuse and from an ethical and legal standpoint and will make referrals to the building principal and/or school social worker for further investigation. School personnel do not counsel on matters of child sexual abuse but refer to experts in the field.
Child sexual abuse is more common than most people would believe, with some statistics suggesting that one of four girls and one of six boys are abused by the age of 18, Ingebrigtsen said in a news release.
"Often these situations go unreported, since students and teachers have little knowledge or training to report and prevent abuse," Ingebrigtsen said. "I'm proud to be carrying legislation this session to bring this issue into the light, and I am hopeful that with its passage we can reduce sexual abuse and violence in our state."
Merryn's goal is to get the legislation passed in all 50 states. She shared her personal story on the website, www.erinmerryn.net:
"Growing up in Illinois public schools, every year I was educated with my classmates on tornado drills, fire drills, bus drills, stranger danger, and learned the eight ways to say 'no' to drugs in DARE," Merryn said. "As a child, I never had to take cover because of a real tornado. I never had to stop, drop, and roll or run out of a burning building. I never had to evacuate a school bus due to an emergency, but I had the knowledge to know what to do if any of those situations happened. Where was the drill on how to escape a child molester? Where was the lesson plan on sexual abuse? I never learned about safe and unsafe touches or safe and unsafe secrets. I was not educated on, 'How to tell today or how to get away.' I was never educated on, 'My body belongs to me.' When a grown man I knew lay on top of me at 6 1/2 years old and threatened to tie me to a bed if I did not lay still and be quiet as he raped me or when my teenage cousin locked me behind closed doors and warned me, 'This is our little secret; no one will believe you; this will destroy our family' as he sexually abused me on a bed, I stayed silent and lived in that silence alone. When I was raped and sexually abused as a child, I did not know what to do. I was confused and scared. My body seemed to belong to the men that used and abused me. It was the message I was educated on. ... Children need a voice. As a society we are responsible to give them that voice."
South side takes a stand against child abuse
by Emily Baucum
The Blue Ribbon Task Force is hosting a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at McCollum High School to discuss growing rates of child abuse and domestic violence on the city's south side.
The meeting was prompted by the horrific case of a one-year-old girl from south Bexar County who was stabbed and raped.
The suspects, a man and a woman, were arrested in January. Only then did family members learn the girl had been abused before.
"He almost took her life,” relative Cassie Roghnholt told us in January. "The damage is done and is permanent. She's going to live with this for the rest of her life."
Advocates say 30% of abused children they help are from the south side.
"We know this impacts the entire city. The entire county. This is a starting point,” says Task Force lead Carrie Wilcoxson. "We're encouraging folks to come and be brave in this conversation - candid and brave - so we can make improvements where we need to make improvements."
Lawmakers have started by hiring more caseworkers at better salaries.
Next, State Senator Carlos Uresti (D - San Antonio) wants to go after continuous child abusers.
"The penalties need to be higher,” he says.
He hopes to walk away from the meeting with ideas to stop abuse altogether.
"What our plan of action going forward for the city and the county ought to be,” State Sen. Uresti says.
He knows there are more children out there like the little girl who fought for her life.
"We could have been planning a funeral right now instead of putting together a room for her," Roghnholt said as the girl recovered at a local hospital in January.
Kentucky opening secret files to help prevent ‘a mother's worst nightmare'
by John Cheves
To protect children from the people who are paid to care for them, the General Assembly this month passed a bill that will crack open confidential files at the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services for prospective employers.
Senate Bill 236 will allow parents hiring babysitters — and it will require public schools and publicly funded youth camps hiring anyone who will work with minors — to ask job applicants for a letter from the cabinet that shows if they are one of the 92,418 people who presently have a “substantiated finding” of child abuse or neglect, as determined by a child protection caseworker. The bill prohibits schools and camps from hiring people who have such a black mark.
Licensed child-care centers already are required to vet their job applicants against the cabinet's database of people with a substantiated finding of abuse or neglect. In 2016, the cabinet performed 26,608 searches at the request of daycares. Of those, 211 searches, or not quite 1 percent, turned up a finding.
The bill will take effect in July 2018 if Gov. Matt Bevin signs it into law. (Bevin's office had not announced his plans for the bill as of Friday morning.) It's one of several that lawmakers filed during this session either to strengthen background checks for the tens of thousands of people who work with Kentucky children or to create a public registry of people who have been accused or convicted of mistreating them.
“There's a lot of people out there who don't have good intentions, who have a history, and I don't want them working with our children,” said Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, sponsor of the Senate bill.
“My expectation is that if you're trying to get a job with a school system and you know you have a finding on your record, once you're told to provide this letter, you're going to want to save face,” Adams said. “You'll say, ‘Thanks very much, I'll get right back to you,' and then you'll just move on to another job. You won't even continue with your application.”
However, critics say Adams' bill would deny Kentuckians employment because of internal cabinet records that sometimes contain factual errors and offer little due process for those accused of wrongdoing by harried caseworkers investigating families in chaos.
“These findings are often based on someone's gut feeling. But we're supposed to be a nation of laws, not digestive tracks,” said Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.
Unlike a criminal conviction in court, which requires that evidence prove the defendant's guilt to a judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt, child protection caseworkers can substantiate a finding of abuse or neglect through “a preponderance of the evidence.” That's legal jargon for saying it's more likely than not that the suspect is guilty. Some call it “the 51 percent rule,” because it rests on the assumption that at least 51 percent of the evidence points to wrongdoing.
“You don't have a trained judge making that finding. It's an administrative finding by a cabinet worker, with a supervisor looking at it,” the cabinet's deputy secretary, Tim Feeley, explained to senators at a hearing earlier this month. “Again, the focus there is to protect the children.”
Findings can be overturned through a formal appeal process. But critics say the process is poorly explained and secretly conducted without informing all parties to a case, and appeals can drag on for years. Even so, about 400 people appeal a finding with the cabinet's ombudsman in a typical year, with more than half ultimately getting their records cleared.
Among those to fight the cabinet over a finding was a longtime Lexington foster mother named Joyce Givens. In 2009, the cabinet found Givens guilty of neglect because a 15-year-old girl in her care failed to take medicine she needed to protect a transplanted kidney from rejection. The caseworker assigned to investigate acknowledged that the teenager lied to Givens, claiming to take all of her pills every morning, until she landed in the hospital.
“As a 15 year old, it would be hoped that (the girl) would have been capable of understanding the importance of taking her medication as prescribed and shouldering the responsibility to do so. However, this was not the case,” cabinet officials wrote in their order. Still, they added, “More rigorous supervision would have prevented the health crisis that occurred.”
Without an attorney, Givens filed a two-sentence appeal with the cabinet, which promptly denied it. Next, with an attorney, she sued the cabinet to get the finding overturned. A circuit judge and the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled against her, deferring to the cabinet's appeal process.
“They're so strict about how you're supposed to appeal, and yet they're also so vague about what your rights are and why you're being denied,” said Gayle Slaughter, Givens' lawyer. “I don't like that these findings are made by a social worker who, as far as I know, has no particular legal or investigative skills. I've had clients who never even got to see the evidence that was used against them to substantiate a finding.”
‘A mother's worst nightmare'
Over the winter, state lawmakers heard horror stories about paid child-care workers who deliberately injured the infants they were supposed to be nurturing. In some instances, the workers had undisclosed histories of harming children, parents testified.
“A mother's worst nightmare just came true,” Lori Brent of Henry County tearfully told the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on March 1, testifying about the babysitter who broke her 4-month-old son's arm and leg in 2008. “Just because you're happily married, have a college education, go to church and eat family meals together does not exclude exclude you from child abuse. Our family is proof that child abuse is real and can happen to anyone.”
Lawmakers responded with two different kinds of legislation. The first would give parents and other employers access to records identifying people with allegations of child abuse or neglect in their past. The second would require state agencies to create and post online a “child abuse and neglect registry” that anyone could search, similar to the state's sex offender registry, with names, ages, cities of residence, a description of the offenses and photographs if they are available.
House Bill 47, which was assigned to a committee but saw no further action, would publicize the names of anyone who has a substantiated finding of abuse or neglect. A competing measure, House Bill 129, was written more narrowly to identify only those who have been convicted of various felonies involving children. Essentially, it would compile public court information from 120 counties into one large, easily searchable database.
The House unanimously approved House Bill 129, but it has been stuck for nearly a month in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Two days remain in the 2017 legislative session for lawmakers to pass bills, next Wednesday and Thursday. Senate Judiciary Chairman Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, did not return calls seeking comment.
“My argument is that we have a list of bad babysitters, but we aren't making that list accessible to the public,” said Rep. Dennis Keene, D-Wilder, who initially sponsored House Bill 47 but has agreed to back House Bill 129.
Keene said he hears from many parents whose children were abused by babysitters or daycare workers. Some parents, especially single mothers, are reluctant to file criminal charges because they feel guilty for relying on paid caregivers and fear they will be held partly responsible for the injuries to their child, he said.
“This is something that I suspect happens a lot more than we know,” Keene said.
In Jessamine County, Natasha and Joe Sizemore are lobbying for House Bill 129, which carries the name of their daughter, Kylie Jo. Last year, the infant was hospitalized with fractures to her skull, ribcage and leg after a severe beating. Police charged her 35-year-old babysitter with criminal abuse and assault; a trial is scheduled for later this year.
The only job their daughter's alleged attacker ever held was babysitting for families, so it's likely that even if she is convicted, she will try to resume that occupation after serving her time, the Sizemores said. A registry of convicted child abusers could alert future employers to the woman's history, they said.
“More often than not, people who abuse children are like sex offenders. They'll do it again when they get out,” Natasha Sizemore said. “You can't necessarily stop them from trying, but you can warn people so they'll at least keep their kids away from them.”
‘Rumor and innuendo'
Using criminal convictions against job applicants has proven less controversial around the country than using findings by child protection agencies — as Senate Bill 236 would — because convictions are a matter of public record, and they rely on a higher burden of proof. Kentucky already requires public schools to run criminal background checks on job applicants that turn up past convictions.
By contrast, a public registry of findings “would amount to little more than a statewide database of rumor and innuendo,” said Wexler of the National Coalition of Child Protection Reform. Caseworkers try their best to determine if an alleged incident of abuse or neglect actually happened in a given situation so they can decide how to protect the children who are involved, not so they can create “a blacklist,” he said.
“These registries are clearly a big mistake, because they have misinformation that errs in all directions. There are people who should be on there but aren't, and there are people who shouldn't be on there but are,” he said. “You are creating a blacklist of innocent Kentuckians who won't be able to get a job in their fields even though they have done nothing wrong. This is a classic example of feel-good legislation that simply lets politicians thump their chests.”
Federal courts have urged states to be careful not to violate the 14th Amendment's right to due process when they publicly identify people as child abusers based on a caseworker's conclusions.
In 1995, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals sided with a teacher's aide, Anna Valmonte, who sued to have her name removed from New York's statewide child abuse registry. (Valmonte slapped her 11-year-old daughter when the girl was caught stealing; an employee at the girl's school reported the slap to a child abuse hotline.) In her lawsuit, Valmonte said New York only let people appeal an abuse finding after they were denied at least one job because of it, by which point their professional reputations already were tarnished.
The court sympathetically noted in its decision that three-fourths of the New Yorkers who appealed the state's abuse findings prevailed.
“If 75 percent of those challenging their inclusion on the list are successful, then we cannot help but be skeptical of the fairness of the original determination,” the court said. “Although we recognize the grave seriousness of the problems of child abuse and neglect, and the need for the state to maintain a central register for insuring that those with abusive backgrounds not be inadvertently given access to children, we find the current system unacceptable.”
In response, New York agreed to change its procedure, allowing people to appeal the findings against them in formal hearings before the information is released to prospective employers.
Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said his organization worked for passage of Senate Bill 236 because there should be more barriers between vulnerable children and adults who would harm them.
However, Brooks added, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services does need to reform its systems for substantiating abuse findings and giving those accused a fair chance to appeal. One major problem, Brooks said: Varying rates of child abuse substantiation among the cabinet's regional offices suggest a “spin-the-bottle situation, where substantiation means something different in Western Kentucky than it does in Eastern Kentucky or in Lexington.”
“Senate Bill 236 was, to me, the opening chapter in what should be an ongoing story. If we stop here, then I think we're going to have some unfinished business,” Brooks said.
Adams, the senator sponsoring the bill, said she understands the due process concerns about using a caseworker's conclusions against applicants for teaching and child-care jobs.
“I don't think there's any system that's perfect,” Adams said. “But at the end of the day, you know, there are many different ways you can be employed. I'd rather err on the side of keeping our kids safe.”
Bills referenced in this story
? House Bill 47 would require the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to establish and post online a registry identifying people with a substantiated finding of child abuse or neglect, as determined by caseworkers. The bill was assigned to the House Health and Family Services Committee on Jan. 3 but went no further.
? House Bill 129 would require the Kentucky State Police to establish and post online a registry identifying people with a criminal conviction for homicide, assault, kidnapping, indecent exposure or “family offenses,” such as flagrant nonsupport or endangering the welfare of a minor, if the victims were minors. The House passed the bill unanimously, but it has awaited a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee since March 2.
? House Bill 374 would establish federally mandated fingerprint background checks for child-care workers, state employees whose positions involve the care and supervision of children, and foster and adoptive parents. The legislature passed this bill and delivered it to the governor, who signed it into law Tuesday.
? Senate Bill 236 would allow parents and require public schools and publicly funded youth camps to perform background checks on people they hire to work with children using confidential files at the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Job applicants would have to submit a letter showing if they have a substantiated finding of child abuse or neglect, as determined by state caseworkers. The legislature passed this bill and delivered it to the governor on March 15.
Sex abuse on child by ex-social worker accusation: Other victims?
by Toni MCallister
Authorities are seeking public help in locating potential victims of alleged sexual abuse by a former social worker.
Ruben Alonso Herrera, 26, was arrested March 22 on charges of unlawful sex with a minor and is currently behind bars on $25,000 bail.
Herrera allegedly took advantage of his position as a contracted social worker and gained the trust of his victim before sexually assaulting the child, police said.
Anyone with information about other potential victims of sexual abuse are encouraged to contact LAPD Mission area detectives at (818) 838-9971, or 1-800-222-TIPS.
Pope's sex abuse adviser seeks to keep survivor voice heard
by The Associated Press
ROME — Pope Francis' top sex abuse adviser has insisted the pope is “thoroughly committed” to ridding the church of abuse, but says his advisory commission must regroup following the clamorous resignation of Irish survivor Marie Collins.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley told a seminar Thursday that the commission has always maintained a “victims first” priority and that the issue of continued survivor involvement would be discussed at the group's plenary meeting starting Friday.
Collins resigned from the commission March 1 citing the “unacceptable” lack of cooperation from some Vatican offices in implementing the experts' proposals. Her departure dealt a blow to the commission's credibility and again raised questions about the commitment of the pope and the Vatican to fighting abuse and accepting outside expertise.
Several Vatican cardinals, including Francis' deputy, attended the conference.
Author tells her story of childhood abuse, listens as others tell theirs
by Tammy Ayer
YAKIMA, Wash. -- When author Laura Landgraf makes an appearance to promote her latest book, she reads short excerpts before answering questions, always expecting it to take longer than planned.
That's because this book, “The Fifth Sister: From Victim to Victor — Overcoming Child Abuse,” often prompts listeners who have experienced sexual or physical abuse to share their stories, occasionally for the first time.
“I'm never away from a place in two hours, because people come and say, ‘This is my story,'” Landgraf said. “A 60-year-old woman came up to me and said, ‘I've never told anyone.'”
And that's exactly what Landgraf, who will be at Inklings Bookshop in Yakima at 7 p.m. Thursday, wants to see and hear. Her mission is to empower women and men who have survived childhood abuse.
It was a long process for her, nearly a lifetime. But she did it, and others can too.
“I don't feel victimized any longer. I actually feel like, ‘Bring it on,'” Landgraf said in a recent phone interview.
“The Fifth Sister” is about Landgraf, her four sisters and her own children. Her father, who impregnated her oldest sister, avoided consequences in the United States by moving to Africa, according to a news release.
When her children were threatened, Landgraf went undercover and found her father's latest victim. Armed with that and her sister's deposition, she proved a 30-year history of child sexual abuse.
It was a lonely process.
“I lost my church. I lost my family. I lost my married family,” said Landgraf, who is also a Huffington Post contributor, activist, speaker and life coach. “I could count on one hand the people who were going to walk with me through this journey.”
Landgraf has worked with the Victim's Assistance Program in Southern California and led adult support groups for the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, according to her website, lauralandgraf.com. She has trained college staff psychologists in child abuse patterns, crisis intervention methods, and brief therapies for recognition and treatment of date rape and help for young adult sexual abuse survivors.
“The Fifth Sister” is supposed to give voice to the voiceless, Landgraf said.
“It sounds like a tough story to read, and it has some pretty tough parts, but it is really written as a message of hope. That was the point of it,” she said.
If You Go
¦ What: Reading and signing with Laura Landgraf, author of “The Fifth Sister.”
¦ When: 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday
¦ Where: Inklings Bookshop, 5629 Summitview Ave., Yakima.
¦ Information: inklingsbookshop.com or http://www.facebook.com/inklingsbookshop
Intergenerational abuse all too common in child exploitation
by Joe Goldeen
STOCKTON — Child sexual exploitation and trafficking is a vigorous enterprise, despite many earnest efforts to curb it. It happens in Stockton. It happens throughout San Joaquin County.
"Unfortunately, child sex trafficking can happen in any community. It's not just an urban issue. It is cities, towns and particularly the internet has made it that. It can really happen anywhere," said Kate Price, a survivor of commercial sexual exploitation as a child who today, at 46, is working on her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Price's research focus is on how organizational and legislative discrimination toward similarly abused children can re-traumatize them instead of providing necessary services and protection.
Wednesday, she addressed a large crowd at Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium that had gathered for the 37th annual Women's Center Youth and Family Services luncheon, praising the work of the center for bringing the community and resources together to address human trafficking and trauma issues.
"What really impresses me about the Women's Center Youth and Family Services is that they understand that complexity and also understand that kids that are unfortunately being sex trafficked usually have a history of trauma that makes them vulnerable to that," Price said.
The Women's Center Youth and Family Services provides free, confidential shelter and services specifically designed to meet the needs of homeless and runaway youth and victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking in San Joaquin County. It is located at 620 N. San Joaquin St., Stockton. Information: (209) 941-2611 or WomensCenterYFS.org.
It operates three 24-hour helplines:
Domestic violence: (209) 465-4878
Sexual assault: (209) 465-4997
Youth/human trafficking: (209) 948-1911
"The organization is really addressing this in a larger scope than just focusing on human trafficking. They are talking about history of family violence and also partnering with a tremendous amount of community services and law enforcement and various organizations. They are clearly addressing this as an entire community and they are an organizing factor in that, and that is incredibly impressive to me."
During her address, she shared that her own father was her "exploiter," but then noted that he was the child of two "town drunks" and his own mother trafficked him to pedophiles. Easy access and the abuse of drugs played a big role in her father's life, especially as an adult.
Price was raised in the Appalachia region of Pennsylvania in the 1970s and '80s. Her father used a CB radio to "advertise" his young daughter to truck drivers passing through.
As Price began to mature, she said, "The demand for me fell away." She also started to realize something wasn't right.
"I remember saying to my father that this wasn't fun anymore." Like many children, she did not realize at the time she was a victim. Instead, she thought the attention paid to her was "special."
Price's mother, too, was a child victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her own father. Price then spoke of how common it is to find an intergenerational history of domestic violence and child sexual exploitation among young victims.
As Price was being victimized by her immediate family in a cycle of violence, she was overlooked by her community even as extended family, neighbors and teachers suspected she was being harmed. But nothing was done; no one intervened.
During a chance encounter at the age of 10 with a friend's mother, Price said she found hope:
"That one visit gave me a vision of what I knew my life could look like beyond those cycles, and I held on to that inspiration for dear life as I fought my way out."
While Price was able to put an end to the cycle of abuse and exploitation that plagued her family, many are not so lucky.
Jennifer Jones, the Women's Center's chief executive officer, proposed breaking away from referring to people such as Price as survivors.
"We must teach our community's victims to thrive, not merely survive," she said.
Her organization, Jones said, is committed to eliminating the trauma that comes with being a childhood victim of sexual exploitation. Like the friend's mother who inadvertently inspired Price to a fulfilling journey, Jones said: "We all have the ability to change a life."
To learn more about the work of the Women's Center Youth and Family Services, visit WomensCenterYFS.org or call (209) 941-2611.
Fate of child abuse bills frustrates New Mexico official
by Susan Montoya Bryan
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The head of New Mexico's child welfare agency is frustrated that a string of measures aimed at closing loopholes and toughening penalties for those convicted of child abuse and similar crimes failed to reach Gov. Susana Martinez's desk.
The 60-day legislative session wrapped up March 18, leaving on the table bills that had the support of Monique Jacobson, secretary of the Children, Youth and Families Department.
"We brought forth bills that hold those who hurt our children accountable, hold those who hurt our workers accountable and make our juvenile justice system more effective," she told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday. "We believe those should be priority pieces of legislation and so for them to either die or not have time to even be voted on is frustrating."
Facing a state fiscal crisis, the Democratic-controlled Legislature spent some time wrangling over the provisions of budget plans that called for millions of dollars in tax increases and other fee hikes despite the governor's promise not to raise taxes.
The governor chided lawmakers for wasting time on legislation she did not support, adding to the chorus of criticism from various advocacy groups that the Legislature was spending too much time on non-binding measures such as designating special songs and a state green chile cheeseburger rather than addressing serious problems stemming from poverty.
Senate Democrats have argued that key pieces of legislation are awaiting the governor's signature, from a balanced budget to measures important to communities around the state, such as banning the possession or purchase of firearms by people under permanent protective orders for domestic violence incidents.
As for the child welfare bills, one would have made it a felony for someone to lure a child to a secluded place with the intention of raping them or committing some other illegal act. Another would have expanded "Baby Brianna's Law" to require mandatory life sentences for people convicted of intentional child abuse resulting in death, regardless of a child's age.
The child welfare agency also supported a bill that would have closed a loophole in existing law regarding the transmitting of sexual images to children.
Also, the House overwhelmingly supported a bill calling for tougher punishments for abuse that didn't result in death or great harm, but the measure stalled in the Senate.
Jacobson described photographs in which belt marks and bruises covered one boy's legs while another boy had two black eyes.
While the state has been rocked in recent years by a wave of deadly child abuse cases, she said those that don't have fatal results shouldn't be minimized.
The agency receives about 20,000 calls annually that warrant further review for possible abuse or neglect. That number has escalated nearly every year since at least 2009.
State figures show close to 30 percent of the cases reviewed during the 2016 fiscal year were substantiated, with more than 2,800 cases involving physical or sexual abuse.
Lawmakers also let languish a measure boosting protection for social workers battered or assaulted while on the job. There have been instances in which workers have been followed home and the windows of agency cars have been shot out.
Jacobson questioned inaction on that measure given that lawmakers previously approved similar legislation to protect sports officials who are accosted.
Some lawmakers argue there's no appetite for increasing penalties and that the focus should be on preventative measures.
Jacobson said her agency is doing what it can administratively to protect workers but that legal changes are needed to support that work and establish consequences for offenders.
"In New Mexico we need to send a message that we will not tolerate child abuse and this is an issue that matters to us as a state and yes we will focus on prevention but we also will hold people accountable," she said.
Utah mom calls for stricter child abuse laws after man convicted in brutal beating gets ‘light sentence'
by Tamara Vaifanua
PROVO, Utah – A Utah county prosecutor calls it one of the worst child abuse cases he's ever seen: an 8-year-old boy nearly beaten to death at the hands of his mother's ex-boyfriend.
The man was sentenced to 3 years in prison, and now the boy's mother is pushing for stricter child abuse laws.
Ashley Bellazetin leans on her sister as she recounts the nightmare that played out in her Provo home on July 25, 2016. Her boyfriend at the time, Metua Ngarupe, was babysitting her four children.
When she got home from work, she found her 8-year-old son Nikko laying on the couch, covered in a blanket and vomiting.
“Every inch of him was just covered in bruises, there were hand marks,” Bellazetin said.
Ngarupe admitted to spanking the boy for falling outside and chipping his tooth on a sprinkler, but Bellazetin's 7-year-old daughter confirmed the horrific details.
“He kicked, punched Nikko, that he was stomping on him. Just yelling horrible names at him,” Bellazetin said. “He hit his head into the faucet, and that's how his front teeth were chipped.”
Nikko was Life-Flighted to Primary Children's Hospital and suffered a concussion and numerous internal injuries. Bellazetin says the man who her children looked up to showed no remorse.
“He even made the comment that Nikko is going to be so much stronger because of going through this," Bellazetin said. "He's a little kid. He shouldn't be made stronger. If anything, it broke him.
Last week, Ngarupe pleaded guilty to three lesser charges of second-degree felony child abuse. The judge sentenced him to three years in prison with credit for time served, due to mitigating factors such as a lack of a criminal history.
Right now, Utah does not have a first-degree felony child abuse law on the books.
“Even in court, they said had he done that to an adult it would have been attempted murder," Bellazetin said.
Bellazetin's family is fighting to change the laws. She has reached out to lawmakers to ensure other children don't have to suffer.
“This was an 8-year-old boy, maybe 45 pounds," Bellazetin said. "Small, little boy that he almost killed. And he could be out in as little as 3 years. It's ridiculous."
Ashley's next step is to ask the Utah Parole Board to extend Ngarupe's sentence. She has created a Facebook community to connect with others who are willing to join her fight.
Robots could help children give evidence in child abuse cases
by Timothy Revell
Would a child open up to a robot? A team at Mississippi State University is suggesting using robots to question children in investigations of child abuse. But not everyone is convinced.
Children's accounts are often vital evidence in cases of abuse. But even specially trained police interviewers can find it tough to stay neutral when talking to children. This can result in leading questions and bad evidence, because children can be very suggestible to saying what they think someone wants to hear.
The stakes are high: poorly conducted interviews can lead to someone being convicted of a crime they didn't commit, or a child being returned to an abusive environment.
Cindy Bethel and Zachary Henkel at Mississippi State University say robots could reduce bias and lead to more reliable outcomes.
Best-practice guidelines for police interviewers in child abuse cases include asking open-ended questions and maintaining neutral body language, facial expressions and vocal tone. Such procedures improve the quality of information obtained, but can be hard to follow. A 2014 report into child sexual abuse cases in the UK described police compliance with guidelines as “poor”.
“The techniques are not perfect, because humans are not perfect,” says Bethel. She and Henkel suggest that an interviewer could remotely control a robot that asks questions. That way, the interviewer can focus on asking the right questions, without worrying about their delivery. More advanced future robots might be able to conduct the whole conversation. “Robots will always follow the procedure, no matter the situation,” says Bethel.
“Interviewers find it difficult to talk to children who have been abused. Robots don't”
Robots could also monitor a child in ways an interviewer can't, using sensors to record body movement to help see if they are upset or uncomfortable.
And there is evidence that children will open up to a robot. In one study, children were as willing to share a secret with a robot as they were with a human interviewer. In another, children were more willing to share details about bullying with a robot.
This may not always be a good thing. “There is a risk of children being tricked into disclosing information that they do not wish to disclose,” says Henkel. Testimonies acquired through deception would be inadmissible as evidence, so it would be important for children to understand that their conversations with a robot will be shared with authorities.
One of the biggest hurdles could be if robots inadvertently encourage creative storytelling. “Interview rooms are normally very plain, because when they are not, people embellish their stories more often,” says Henkel. We don't know if a robot could have the same effect. “Children might really want to continue talking with the robot, so could say things that aren't true to continue doing so.”
Bethel and Henkel presented their work at the Conference on Human-Robot Interaction in Vienna, Austria, this month.
Michael Lamb at the University of Cambridge isn't convinced that robots would be better than adults at interviewing children. His research focuses on getting high-quality information from children by creating a caring but non-suggestive relationship during interviews. “I am doubtful that this will be easily achieved [with robots],” he says.
But Marilena Kyriakidou at Coventry University, UK, who trains police interviewers in Cyprus, says robots could bring huge benefits, with more research. “Interviewers say that it's difficult to talk face to face with children who have been abused. Robots won't have that problem,” she says.
Bill would require child abuse hotline posters at schools
by Chris Kudialis
CARSON CITY — A toll-free hotline to report child abuse and neglect would be posted at Nevada public schools if a bill presented to a Senate committee today becomes law.
Senate Bill 305, sponsored by Assemblyman James Oscarson, R-Pahrump, calls for posters designed by the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services to be displayed in a conspicuous place and at the eye level of students.
Bold-type text in English and Spanish would display the state's toll-free child abuse and neglect hotline number.
“It's a much easier mechanism for the children than we have now,” Oscarson said before the 11-member Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. “This is attempting to be another tool in the toolbox.”
The hotline, established in 1985, operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Some members of the Assembly Committee on Health and Human Services asked if the posters could prompt fraudulent calls or exaggerated claims from students.
Oscarson said hotline operators are trained to recognize legitimate calls. “I think the people on the other end can determine whether little Johnny is just mad his parents are making him do his homework or if his uncle is doing terrible things to him,” Oscarson said.
Several groups testified in support of the bill, including representatives from the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services and the Children's Advocacy Alliance. Nobody testified against it.
Man jailed until he unlocks encrypted hard drives in child abuse images case
Former Philadelphia police officer Francis Rawls, who has been in jail for 17 months, has refused to obey a court order to unlock the devices
by Olivia Solon
A former Philadelphia police officer who has spent 17 months in jail will remain there indefinitely unless he agrees to unlock two encrypted hard drives. The suspect, Francis Rawls, has so far refused to comply with the court order, citing the fifth amendment, which protects him from self-incrimination.
The case has become a battleground for civil liberties campaigners, who believe that citizens should have the right to protect their critical information and to be protected from self-incrimination. However, the suspected nature of the encrypted content makes for a challenging ethical quandary: those hard drives are believed to contain images depicting child sexual abuse. In order to stand up for the rights of citizens across the US, organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) must defend a suspected pedophile.
According to court documents obtained by Ars Technica, the case started in 2015, when the Delaware County criminal investigations unit got a warrant to search Rawls' home after investigating his online activity. Officers seized two iPhones, an Apple Mac Pro and two external hard drives and got a warrant to examine their contents. Rawls refused to give up the passwords required to decrypt the hard drives, which were encrypted with Apple's FileVault software.
That didn't stop digital forensics experts from finding incriminating content, including an image of a pubescent girl in a sexually provocative position and logs showing the device had been used to visit sites with titles commonly used in child exploitation. The forensic investigation also revealed that Rawls had downloaded thousands of files known by their “hash” values to be child abuse images, although the files themselves couldn't be accessed. The suspect's sister also told police that she had seen hundreds of images of child sexual abuse on the hard drives.
In August 2015, a court issued a decryption order, compelling the suspect to unlock the encrypted devices. He unlocked one of the iPhones, but said he could not remember the passwords to the encrypted hard drives – an assertion the court rejected based on testimony from his sister, who said she had seen him enter his passwords from memory. In September, a district court held the suspect in contempt of court for refusing to comply with the decryption order. On Monday, the third US circuit court of appeals upheld the decision.
Rawls remains imprisoned without charges (for much of the time in solitary confinement) in Philadelphia's federal detention center until he complies with the court order.
“Theoretically, he could be held in jail for contempt forever ... until he's dead,” said Dan Terzian, a lawyer from Duane Morris.
“Given the powerful evidence here that the defendant knows the passwords, he holds the key to his own cell. It is his own refusal to provide the evidence covered by the search warrant that is keeping him there,” added Adam Klein, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
In ruling against Rawls, the court of appeals has decided that his constitutional rights against being forced to self-incriminate are not being breached. This is because of an exception to the fifth amendment known as a “foregone conclusion”, which is when authorities already know something exists – in this case, police say they know there are child abuse images on the hard drives because they have a witness who saw the files (Rawls' sister). The EFF and ACLU argued in an amicus brief that they did not believe the government could demonstrate with “reasonable particularity” that it knew the documents existed.
Why don't they go to trial without the files allegedly stored on the encrypted devices? It comes down to reasonable doubt.
“The government wants every piece of evidence they can get to show the jurors what a disgusting person the defendant is,” said Terzian, who has previously attended a trial where no actual images were presented as evidence in a case addressing child abuse images.
“Witnesses said he was searching for it, but he was found not guilty because the defence convincingly argued that if there was child porn, the government would have shown it,” he said.
There is also the issue of identifying child victims of sexual abuse and their attackers.
In her essay on the topic, published in January, the Brookings Institution fellow Susan Hennessy explained the “immediate and real” problem:
Whereas with respect to terrorism cases we often end up hypothesizing how law enforcement and policy makers will respond to “the next big attack”, in the child exploitation context the next attack is happening literally every day.
Children as young as infants and toddlers are raped or otherwise abused on camera; those images are routinely shared among a community of offenders; and those offenders deploy technologies that make it difficult or impossible to discover the perpetrators, prosecute their crimes, or identify and rescue victims.
Hennessy proposes that instead of forcing technology companies to create backdoors for law enforcement, “lawful hacking” – in which the government exploits vulnerabilities in encrypted systems – and regulation should be more broadly applied.
The suspect's attorney, Keith Donoghue, a public defender, said he was “disappointed in the ruling” and was studying the decision to determine the next course of action.
“The fact remains that the government has not brought charges. Our client has now been in custody for 18 months based on his assertion of his fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination,” he said.
Rockville High School parents demand answers in rape case
by Fox 5
Parents of students at Rockville High School and other concerned Montgomery County, Md., community members finally got their chance to have some of their questions answered by school administrators at a PTA meeting held Tuesday night, five days after police say a 14-year-old girl was raped by two other students inside a school bathroom.
Before the meeting, anti-illegal immigration protesters were seen outside of the school holding signs in opposition of being a sanctuary county or state.
Inside the high school, the meeting was filled to capacity, but FOX 5 and other media organizations were not allowed to bring their cameras inside.
Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent Dr. Jack Smith, a police detective and other school officials made a presentation and then took questions from the audience. Smith would also issue an apology to parents.
During the gathering, one parent said this meeting happened five days too late as the issue of the school district's lack of response and communication with parents was raised. The audience also wanted to know why they were getting more information from the media rather than the school system. The superintendent said they wanted to gather all of the facts, and at a press conference earlier in the day, he also said he regrets not being available sooner.
The 17-year-old and 18-year-old charged in this case were in the country illegally and this was a major point of contention Tuesday night. There was also concern about the fact that these two were attending Rockville High School as freshmen. At one point during the meeting, Dr. Smith said this is not a conversation about immigration, but about a horrible event, which received some applause and some jeers. One person was seen visibly upset and ended up leaving the meeting
Literature was also handed out to parents highlighting that all people under 21 years old must be admitted to school under Maryland law, a Supreme Court decision prohibits schools from denying education based on immigration status, Montgomery County Public Schools does not require information on immigration status and school staff should avoid asking about students' status – citing the Supreme Court decision.
There were a lot of different opinions on how the meeting went.
“The mood was simply cover our reputation,” said attorney Robin Ficker. “There were long speeches from the principal, from the superintendent, from others who were associated with them explaining why this could never have happened when it did. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound to cure it.”
“You have young adult males that really do not have our culture and you are putting them in the same classroom as our 14-year-old girls and they are saying there is nothing we can do about that – sorry,” said community member Theresa Rickman.
“I was glad there wasn't a riot about immigration or anything having to do with that,” said student Julia Williams. “People just asked questions and they were answered.”
The superintendent said there is currently an intensive review underway on making students safer.
Chicago Facebook Live gang rape: Suspects sought as family speaks out
by Fox News
Chicago police were working Wednesday to identify whoever was involved in the apparent gang-rape of a 15-year-old girl that was streamed live for the world to watch on Facebook.
Interviews are ongoing but no formal suspects have been named, according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. On Twitter , he denied reports that a suspect had been arrested.
Guglielmi added that investigators were working to build a criminal case; no charges have been announced.
Police first learned of the attack after the girl's mother approached Superintendent Eddie Johnson late Monday afternoon and showed him screenshots of the alleged assault. The teenager had been reported missing Sunday night after failing to return home from the store.
The horrifying attack was made even more disturbing because as many as 40 people watched the live feed showing up to six people sexually assaulted the teen and did not report it to the police.
The girl's mother Stacey Elkins told WLS that the look on her daughter's face when she saw the video was “just pure fear.”
“It was very, very graphic. She's pulled toward the bed,” the girl's uncle Reginald King, who first spotted the video, told the Chicago Tribune . “To have it put out there like that, publicly. It's not right.”
He added: “It hurts me to my core because I was one of the last people to see her. I want to make sure this never happens to anybody else's kids, and if that starts with taking down this one group, I'll make that my life's mission.”
King said a teenager alerted him of the assault. “This is one of the bravest things I've ever seen a kid do. There were adults who saw this. None of them had the wherewithal to day, ‘Hey, I gotta call someone.'”
The teenager was found walking about four blocks from her home on Tuesday and taken to the hospital for treatment.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the girl is a student at Lane College Prep High School, a selective enrollment magnet school. She had been reported missing for a few days last November before being safely reunited with her family.
Investigators know the number of viewers because the count was posted with the video. To find out who they were, though, investigators would have to subpoena Facebook and would need to "prove a nexus to criminal activity" to obtain such a subpoena, Guglielmi said.
A spokeswoman for Facebook, Andrea Saul, said she had no specific comment on the Chicago incident but that the company takes its "responsibility to keep people safe on Facebook very seriously."
She added, "Crimes like this are hideous and we do not allow that kind of content on Facebook."
Alderman Mike Scott, whose ward includes Lawndale on the city's West Side, told the Sun-Times he was baffled by the Facebook Live post.
“Of course, I didn't grow up with social media. But it's becoming a place where young people act out movie scenes if you will, people are getting shot and killed and beaten on Facebook Live,” he said. “I really don't understand the fascination or the glorification of this violence. People want to get Facebook and Instagram famous, not knowing the consequences.”
Jeffrey Urdangen, a professor at Northwestern University's law school and the director of the school's Center for Criminal Defense, said it isn't illegal to watch such a video or to not report it to the police. He also said child pornography charges wouldn't apply unless viewers were downloading the video.
This is the second time in months that Chicago police have investigated an apparent attack streamed live on Facebook.
In January, four people were arrested after cellphone footage streamed live on Facebook showed them allegedly taunting and beating a mentally disabled man.
The suspects in that case -- Jordan Hill, 18, Tesfaye Cooper, 18, Brittany Covington, 18, and Tanishia Covington, 24 – were charged with hate crime and battery for allegedly torturing the white man for as long as 48 hours, while shouting racial and anti-Donald Trump slurs.
Health and behavior problems can linger after child abuse
Children who have suffered from abuse or neglect may have physical or behavioral health problems even after the mistreatment stops, new guidelines for pediatricians emphasize.
The guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics build on previous advice for doctors to be on the lookout for signs of past maltreatment. Since the last guidelines came out in 2008, new evidence has documented the connection between mistreatment early in childhood and subsequent health problems, and studies have provided fresh insight into the lasting effects of chronic stress.
"Child maltreatment is seriously under-reported," said lead author of the guidelines, Dr. Robert Sege of Tufts University and Health Resources in Action in Boston.
"As a result, pediatricians who are treating a child for complex behavioral problems, especially when these problems seem difficult to treat, might do well to consider that the symptoms may have arisen due to prior abuse or neglect," Sege said by email.
Although some children recover from adversity, traumatic experiences can result in significant disruption of normal development, researchers note in Pediatrics.
Children, like adults, can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that may be accompanied by depression, anxiety or disruptive or defiant behaviors, for example.
Child abuse early in life is also a risk factor for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
When children have experienced neglect or abuse, they may respond to certain sights, sounds, smells or actions in ways that appear overly dramatic or inappropriately emotional, the guidelines note.
This may happen because when children are exposed to reminders of past maltreatment, their brain experiences a fight-or-flight response similar to what occurred during the initial abuse or trauma.
Kids may also have behavioral responses to teachers or caregivers that are shaped by past mistreatment. For example, stern warnings can become louder and brusquer and discipline can seem harsher.
Early brain development can also be impacted by what's known as toxic stress, or chronic exposure to severe stress over a long period of time. This can also alter kids' hormonal development and influence how soon they enter puberty.
Pediatricians can ask about exposure to stress, abuse or neglect as part of taking down a child's medical history, the guidelines note. Doctors can also help parents and caregivers understand that children with a history of maltreatment may not feel psychologically safe and may need different types of support or discipline than other kids.
"The good news is that once in the safe care of non-maltreating adults, there are a set of parenting skills that can be learned that are very helpful in responding to child behavior that may be the result of traumatic response," said Melissa Jonson-Reid, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis who wasn't involved in the guidelines.
"The other important take-home message is that children are not responding in ways meant to disrupt the family," Jonson-Reid said by email. "Parents can help their own stress level by realizing that these are just adaptations to past events not a reflection of the current feelings or negative thoughts the child may have of them as parents."
Parents and pediatricians should be alert to potential signs of abuse or mistreatment such as a lack of interest in usual activities, sleep disturbance or changes in appetite, said Dr. Charles Nemeroff, a researcher at the University of Miami in Florida who wasn't involved in the guidelines.
"Isolation, drop in grades, and reluctance to take part in certain activities are all warning signs of possible abuse," Nemeroff said by email.
"Parents need to be vigilant about the safety of their children and educate their children about appropriate and inappropriate behavior," Nemeroff added. "Perpetrators often seek positions with access to children including coaching, gardening, repairmen, clergy, and often perpetrators are family members."
Child abuse numbers rise; awareness event planned in April
by Matthew Kent
With a rising number of child abuse cases in Bartholomew County, efforts to raise awareness remain a top priority.
Abuse and neglect cases in Bartholomew County have gradually been on the rise since 2012, according to the Kids Count Data Center. For 2015, the most recent year available, 247 neglect cases, 23 physical abuse cases and 39 sexual abuse cases were reported in Bartholomew County.
That's up from 217 child neglect cases, 13 physical abuses cases and 18 sexual abuse cases in 2014 that were substantiated by the Department of Child Services, the report indicated.
To raise both awareness and money, local events tied to National Child Abuse Prevention Month, observed in April, are planned in Bartholomew County.
Following an event kickoff March 31 at Puccini's, pinwheels will be placed at Columbus City Hall beginning at 7:15 p.m.
The pinwheels represent a carefree childhood that Family Service Inc. wishes for every child to have, said Julie Miller, executive director of the organization. Pinwheel plantings will also take place at other locations in Bartholomew County on April 3-5.
Kids on the Block, a student-produced puppet show, will also take place at area elementary schools during April. The program uses teen volunteers with a focus on topics such as healthy relationships, preventing bullying, how to keep themselves safe, and physical and sexual abuse, said Lisa Teague, Caring Parents coordinator with Family Service Inc.
The program, which is also presented at schools in Hope and Edinburgh, helps pre-kindergarten to fourth-grade students learn new information in a unique way, Teague said.
One of the awareness effort's largest fundraisers is the Child Abuse Prevention Adult Prom, an April 22 sold-out event at The Commons.
The Adult Prom raised slightly more than $70,000 a year ago. But Miller said she hopes to bring in $80,000 this year from the formal event, which runs from 7 to 11 p.m. and has a capacity of 650 people.
Like a traditional prom, five men and five women who will vie to become prom king and queen. Winners are determined by the highest tally of votes, which cost $1 each, from people willing to donate money for child abuse prevention efforts. Information about the candidates and voting can be done by visiting the CAP Adult Prom's website at capprom.com. Voting will be accepted online until 5 p.m. April 22, with votes also being accepted during the event.
Proceeds from the prom will also go toward Family Service's Healthy Families program. The voluntary home-visiting program is designed to promote healthy families and children through a number of services, including child development, access to healthcare and parent education, according to the Family Service Inc. website.
The program, which serves about 300 families annually, is designated for families who have children up to age 3.
Money from the prom also goes toward the nonprofit's Caring Parents program, which provides education to parents at Columbus Regional Health about child abuse prevention. It is designed to teach parents how to react when their children are crying excessively in order to prevent shaken baby syndrome.
Education is also provided during child-development classes at Columbus East, Columbus North and Hauser Junior-Senior High School, Teague said.
Parents are given educational material, including a copy of a book, “Caring Parents ABC: All Babies Cry,” and a DVD, “The Period of Purple Crying,” Teague said.
“Sometimes it helps in reminding them of what they can do,” she said.
Child Abuse Prevention Month activities
March 31: Child Abuse Prevention Month kick-off from 6 to 7 p.m. at Puccini's, 318 Washington St. $5 family special includes slice of pizza, choice of salad or two breadsticks and a drink. After the meal, a pinwheel garden will be planted at Columbus City Hall beginning at 7:15 p.m.
April 3: “Bullying Prevention” from 6:30 to 7 p.m. at the Bartholomew County Public Library Red Room. Presentations will educate children about the impact of bullying and include topics such as the types of bullying, ways to respond, decision-making skills and what to do as a bystander.
April 20: “Discipline vs. Punishment” from 6:30 to 7 p.m. at the Bartholomew County Public Library Red Room. The presentation is meant to help guide parents and caregivers in identifying age-appropriate discipline techniques. It will also focus on teaching parents and caregivers how to recognize the difference between discipline and punishment while reviewing how both affect children.
April 25: Dine to Donate at Chipotle, 2260 National Road, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Customers are asked to mention Family Service Inc. so the organization can receive proceeds from patron visits.
Other programs: Kids on the Block, a student-produced puppet show, will be held April 7 at the Bartholomew County Public Library, and at Smith Elementary School during the second week of April. A performance will also be held at Cambridge Square Apartments in April. Times and dates will be announced at a later date.
Pinwheel planting schedule
6 to 7 p.m.: Child-abuse prevention ceremony at Puccini's Pizza, 318 Washington St. Pinwheel planting will begin at 7:15 p.m. at Columbus City Hall.
9:30 a.m.: United Way and Family Service Inc., 1531 13th St.
10 a.m.: Hope Town Hall, 404 Jackson St., and QMIX radio station.
1 p.m.: Prestige Printing, 1307 12th St.
2 p.m.: Flintwood Wesleyan Church, 5300 E. 25th St.
3 p.m.: Al Furlani Insurance, 1720 Central Ave.
10 a.m.: Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. administration building, 1200 Central Ave.
11 a.m.: Columbus Fire Department Station No. 1, 1101 Jackson St.
1 p.m.: WKKG, 3212 Washington St.
4 p.m.: Foundation For Youth, 405 Hope Ave.
1 p.m.: Discover Columbus, near Interstate 65.
Anti-child Abuse Laws Overburden PA Child And Youth Agencies
by Eleanor Klibanoff
This week, former Penn State University president Graham Spanier is in court for his role in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. This trial is one of the final chapters in a legal saga that has stretched since Sandusky was arrested in 2011.
But outside the courtroom, the effects of Sandusky's actions are still being felt statewide.
In 2014, the state legislature passed 24 laws aimed at preventing something similar from happening again in Pennsylvania.
These laws widened the requirements for who is required to report suspicions of child abuse, increased penalties for those who don't report, and required background checks for anyone who works with children.
If the goal was encouraging more people to report child abuse, the laws worked: The Department of Human Services saw a 62 percent increase in child abuse reports from January 2014 to January 2015. Every county (other than Juniata) had an increased number of child abuse cases reported. The background checks identified more than 1,800 people with sexual abuse records who were applying for jobs working with children.
Great news, right?
Yes ... and no.
The Auditor General announced last week that he will be looking into the impact the additional laws have had on these agencies — and not for the better.
"There is no question in my mind that the legislation following the Sandusky revelations added extra burdens onto many of these agencies and the Department of Human Services," said Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. "The challenge was, did the funding ever follow the additional requirements?"
DHS and the county-level Children and Youth agencies were not given additional state funds to accommodate these changes. Both entities have been crippled by the increased workload and lack of funding, according to state audits.
"Everyone was prepared for an explosion of reports coming from this legislation," said Brian Bornman, executive director of Pennsylvania Children and Youth Administrators. "More reporters, a wider definition of child abuse, all of that was going to lead to more reports."
Bornman says the agencies receive funding allocations two years in advance and have to prove a "trend" of change over at least three years before they can request supplemental funds. Since the changes went into effect all at once, multi-year trends are only beginning to show now.
"Counties were seeing a 30 to 120 percent increase in the amount of work their investigation units were performing, but there wasn't much interest [from legislators] in a supplemental budget," said Bornman. "Now that we've been documenting that for a few years, these agencies are just now going to be able to bring people on to accommodate that workload."
Governor Tom Wolf's budget includes a $44 million increase in funding for Children and Youth agencies, but that's still $27 million short of what they'd need to be at full capacity. And some of the damage has already been done: Caseworker turnover is as high as 80 percent in some counties, says Bornman, and some county agencies are on provisional licenses because they can't provide adequate services.
Naming the problem
The Auditor General has been auditing individual counties Child and Youth agencies, but decided to do a special report after an audit of ChildLine. The 2016 audit revealed that the child abuse hotline didn't answer 42,000 calls in 2015, almost a quarter of all calls.
"That prompted me to go back to my team and say, 'we have to double down on our efforts with Child and Youth Services audits,'" said DePasquale. "As we were going through those with a fine-toothed comb, a lot of these same issues were cropping up."
County after county was reporting high staff turnover, high caseloads, and overburdened systems. The impact was tangible: missed calls, missed cases, and slow response time. DePasquale selected 13 — a mix of urban and rural demographics — to investigate further. That report is due out this fall.
While DePasquale won't speculate yet on what the takeaways will be for the agencies, he said, "I would be stunned at the end of the day, when we come out with the report, that funding isn't going to be part of the problem. But I'd also be stunned to say it's all about funding as well."
Bornman is pleased that DePasquale is getting involved — particularly if it means more funding will be provided to the agencies.
Sometimes, he says, it takes "someone from the outside taking a look at things and saying, 'if you want this to be effective, you really have to go about it a different way.'"
"You can't just pass laws and say, years later, maybe you'll get the money, maybe you won't."
Teachers' duty to report child abuse extends to home, court rules
by Alexis Krell
Teachers and other professionals must report child abuse, even if they learn about it in a setting outside of work, including their own homes, the Washington State Court of Appeals said Tuesday.
The court ruled in the case of a Bethel School District middle school teacher who was charged in 2015 with failing to report that her husband had inappropriately touched her daughters.
Since-retired Pierce County Superior Court Judge Brian Tollefson dismissed the charges after the teacher argued she didn't learn of the abuse allegations in the course of her employment.
Prosecutors appealed that decision.
In her appeal, the teacher contended there wasn't a basis for allegations of “severe abuse,” the standard for what parents must report.
Teachers and certain other professionals, such as police officers and nurses, must report more than just “severe abuse.” They have to report when they have “reasonable cause” to suspect child abuse or neglect.
The Bethel teacher argued that, in her own home, she could be held only to the parental standard, not the one for educators.
The teacher also contended she didn't have reasonable cause to suspect the abuse, even if the stricter reporting requirements do apply in her home.
The opinion from Division Two of the State Court of Appeals overturned Tollefson's decision and said the teacher must meet the higher standard
“... because of the status of teachers or other mandatory reporters in the community, a child might go to them outside of their work to report abuse,” said Judge Bradley Maxa, writing for the unanimous court.
“And the obvious goal of the mandatory reporting statute is to prevent child abuse. Holding teachers to a higher standard would help stop instances of child abuse that otherwise might not be reported.”
It's a harsh requirement to mandate that teachers report suspected child abuse in all circumstances, Maxa acknowledged, but he said the court can't rewrite statutes, even when they seem “unduly harsh.”
Not limiting an educator's reporting duty to work, he wrote, “means that a teacher can be subject to prosecution for failing to report suspected child abuse based on information obtained at home, on vacation, or anywhere else.”
The News Tribune is not naming the Bethel teacher or her school, to protect the identities of the children. A school district spokeswoman said Tuesday the teacher still is listed in the staff directory.
According to the original charging papers, a youth pastor reported the alleged abuse of the girls to authorities. Prosecutors said the girls told investigators they had told their mother about inappropriate touching by their stepfather.
The appellate court sent the case back to Superior Court, and the Prosecutor's Office said Tuesday it intends to go forward with it.
She has 30 days from the appellate decision to decide whether to ask the state Supreme Court to review the case.
“She's got a teacher reporting requirement, she's got a parent reporting requirement,” her attorney, Barbara Corey, said Tuesday. “There's a conflict really as to which reporting requirement applies. ... That really is an issue probably that the Supreme Court should decide.”
USC Upstate Conference Takes Aim at Child Abuse
by USC Upstate
A child-abuse pediatrician and a psychiatrist with more than a decade of experience with trauma victims who suffer from addiction are on the slate of speakers presenting at conference on March 31 at the University of South Carolina Upstate. The conference will be held on the main campus in the University Readiness Center located at 800 University Way, Spartanburg.
The conference, in its eighth year, features six confirmed speakers, including Greenville pediatrician Nancy Henderson, M.D., who practices at the Center for Pediatric Medicine and is affiliated with Greenville Memorial Medical Campus, and also practices at the Julie Valentine Center for Sexual Assault & Child Abuse Recovery, also in Greenville.
Another confirmed speaker, psychiatrist Susie Wiet, M.D., is a co-founder of Salt Lake City, Utah's Trauma-Resiliency Collaborative.
“We bring national experts to Spartanburg to examine pressing issues related to child abuse and neglect,” said Dr. Jennifer Parker, director of the USC Upstate Child Protection Training Center. “Our attendees are front-line child protection professionals and community leaders. With a diverse program and audience, we can obtain a deeper understanding of the complexities of child maltreatment and improve our response and prevention efforts.”
Parker said that child abuse and neglect are prevalent and can harm not only the child's development but the entire community.
“We are educating students so that they come into this field with better skills to detect and respond early. We are also bringing hands-on training to the professionals who are already working to improve the lives of children. It is not always possible for our professionals and community members to attend national conferences, so we bring that level of training here, and we do that for a modest fee.”
As many as 400 attendees are expected at this year's conference, and while many will be professionals in a range of child-protection fields, Parker said she hopes the conference will be educational for others in the community, as well.
“We also want business and community leaders to attend – that's the awareness piece,” she said. “There's awareness of the problem and the need for it to be addressed, not only by social services, but by everyone from education to nursing to business to patient services.”
Registration is $35 for participants and $15 for students. In addition, continuing-education credits will be offered.
For more information or to register, visit the Child Advocacy Conference page.
AMBER Alert Update 3: Elizabeth Thomas
by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
Efforts to locate missing high school freshman Elizabeth Thomas remain active and ongoing as the concern about her relationship with former teacher Tad Cummins – and his intentions for her – only heighten the urgency surrounding this ongoing AMBER Alert in Tennessee and Alabama.
Thomas, 15, disappeared on Monday, March 13 th and is believed to have been kidnapped by 50-year-old Tad Cummins, a former teacher at her school in Maury County, Tennessee. On Tuesday, the school district in Maury County terminated Cummins in the wake of an ongoing investigation into alleged inappropriate contact he had with Thomas at the school earlier this year.
On Monday, investigative efforts placed Thomas in the area of Decatur, Alabama. Since then, however, there have been no credible sightings of either individual or the vehicle in which investigators believe them to be traveling. Neither individual has had contact with their families in spite of public pleas by relatives of both for the young girl's safe return to Tennessee.
The TBI has received approximately 250 tips from 24 states. (See below for the list of states.) The low number of tips, combined with the limited resources Cummins is believed to have in his possession, leads investigators to believe he may be keeping her out of view of the general public. For example, he potentially may have them sleeping in the vehicle or Cummins may have driven them far away from Tennessee to a rural community. Having now been on the run for more than five days, Cummins may have taken her, frankly, anywhere.
Investigative efforts, over the past few days, continue to reveal a troubling pattern of behavior on the part of Cummins, and indicates he potentially planned this abduction prior to Monday. Nothing investigators have learned about Cummins or his intentions for the young girl since issuing the AMBER Alert calms the imminent concern for Elizabeth's well-being. In fact, it only heightens it.
Thomas is a 15-year-old white female, with hazel eyes, stands 5'5” and weighs 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing a flannel shirt and black leggings. Thomas is believed to be in the custody of 50-year-old Tad Cummins, a white male, who stands 6'0”, weighs approximately 200 pounds, and has brown hair and eyes. He is believe to be armed with two handguns and driving a silver Nissan Rogue with Tennessee tag 976-ZPT. A warrant has been issued for Cummins for Sexual Contact with a Minor and Aggravated Kidnapping. On Friday, the TBI added him to the state's ‘Top 10 Most Wanted' list. There is a $1,000 reward for information leading to his capture.
The TBI would urge the public to remain vigilant and report any information that may prove beneficial in the ongoing search to 1-800-TBI-FIND. If you spot the vehicle and can verify the license plate to be TN 976-ZPT, call 911 immediately.
STATES REPORTING TIPS:
TN, AL, WI, MS, AR, TX, GA, PA, KY, MO, WV, IA, IN, IL, MN, UT, VA, NC, MI, NE, CO, CA, NY, FL
AAP report provides guidance on managing child abuse
by Sege RD
The American Academy of Pediatrics and other pediatric behavioral health organizations released a report that outlines guidance and recommendations for clinicians treating children with past maltreatment.
“Abuse or neglect during early childhood (ages birth to 6 years) can endanger a child's normal development and increase the risk for long-term physical and mental health problems,” Robert D. Sege, MD, PhD, FAAP, of Health Resources in Action in Boston, and colleagues wrote. “Recent population surveys of adults and adolescents report that more than a quarter of U.S. children have experienced abuse or neglect. Comparison of this estimate with published incidence data drawn from child welfare systems suggests that most child maltreatment is undetected or unreported.”
In conjunction with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, Council on Foster Care, Adoption and Kinship Care; American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Committee on Child Maltreatment and Violence; and National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, researchers established a clinical report to guide clinicians in recognizing and managing behavioral and mental health symptoms of child maltreatment. The report is an update to the 2008 clinical report from the AAP, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and National Center for Child Traumatic Stress.
McAuliffe signs legislation after child abuse reports at local dept. of social services
by Elizabeth Tyree
ROCKBRIDGE Co., Va. (WSET) -- Delegate Ben Cline (R, Rockbridge) announced that his bill to extend the jurisdiction of the Office of the State Inspector General to include local Departments of Social Services has been signed into law.
Governor Terry McAuliffe signed House Bill 2237 into law on Thursday.
“I am pleased that my bill to extend the jurisdiction of the Office of the State Inspector General has been signed into law. The recent tragedies involving abused and neglected children in Rockbridge County has highlighted the need for more transparency and accountability in our child welfare system, including our local Social Services departments,” said Cline.
“The Office of Inspector General was created by the General Assembly to provide more transparency and accountability, and by extending the Inspector General's jurisdiction to local offices of the Department of Social Services, this will provide more oversight that is greatly needed," Cline continued.
Cline said the bill extends the jurisdiction of the Office of the State Inspector General by way of amending the definition of “state agency” to include any local offices of the Department of Social Services.
Delegate Cline introduced the legislation after reports that complaints of child abuse and neglect went unanswered and possibly covered up following the death of a child in 2016.
A 38-page report also revealed the supervisor had been shredding important case files and ignoring calls.
Page after page details negligence of the Rockbridge Area Department of Social Services toward the very children they were supposed to protect.
Investigations by law enforcement agencies are ongoing.
The law will go into effect July 1.
Children's Advocacy Center of Benton Co. Offers Hope for Child Abuse Victims
by Nate Kuester
LITTLE FLOCK, AR -- - Seventeen years ago the Children's Advocacy Center of Benton County opened its doors, providing a number of services to help victims of sexual and physical abuse. The Center shared how the organization works to help children make the difficult transition from victim to survivor.
"It's just not easy to talk about," explained Benton County Children's Advocacy Center Executive Director Natalie Tibbs.
Child abuse is a very real problem and the Children's Advocacy Center of Benton County provides the support young victims need to deal with the emotional and physical scars it causes.
"To think about a child being neglected, physically abused, beaten, to be sexually abused, murdered; those are the worst case things that we could ever imagine," Tibbs pointed out. "But they are happening in our community."
Tibbs said the Center's core mission is focused on empowering children to find their voice. Recent cases, like the murder of six-year-old Isaiah Torres -- which resulted in the death penalty for his father and life in prison for his mother, get a lot of public attention. However those high profile cases only scratch the surface of the vast numbers the Center sees.
"We're bringing light to the issue of child abuse," Tibbs proclaimed.
The Children's Advocacy Center has eliminated the need for children to talk to multiple people or agencies by streamlining the whole process under one roof.
"They are taken to one place and where everybody comes to them, where that child now becomes the focus," Tibbs explained.
On March 31st the center's advocacy will become more visual when they place hundreds of pinwheels around the area, kicking off the Cherishing Children Pinwheel rally.
"We have about 18 different agencies across Benton County that are going to be hosting the pinwheels," Tibbs said. "And there are going to be 439 pinwheels at each location, which represent a confirmed case of child abuse within our area from last year."
There are a number of ways you can show your support for the Children's Advocacy Center and the kids they serve. You can learn about the Glow run that's happening on April 21st -- which includes a kids superhero dash, a chip-timed 5-K and a chip-timed 10-K by clicking here. For more on the Children's Advocacy Center of Benton County and its mission, click here.
Two child abuse bills pass OK House; State Representative speaks about personal abuse experience
by Rhiannon Poolaw
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (KWTV)- Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, shared his story as a victim of child abuse for the first time in an effort to help pass two bills that would give victims more time to come forward. Those bills to protect victims of crimes passed unanimously in the House today.
Before now, McDugle could count on one hand the number of people he told about his experience with his youth minister.
“Finally, one night, I got an invitation to go to his house and stay the night, like a lot of kids that always talked about going,” McDugle said. “He put me in his bed and put on some movies that we shouldn't have watched and proceeded to think that he could touch me wherever he wanted to touch me and wanted me to touch him places.”
Up until he was elected into the Legislature last year, McDugle did not mention what happened.
“That one night, for me, took me 35 years to get to a point that I could actually openly talk about it,” he said. “I'm a Marine Corps veteran, a drill instructor, so it's not a story that I wanted to tell.”
According to KWTV, Oklahomans have to report child abuse by the time they reach 31 years old if they want to press criminal charges, and they only have two years after the abuse to seek damages from their abuser. House Bill 1468 and House Bill 1470 change both those limits to the age of 45. The legislation also makes it a felony for anyone who falsely reports child abuse.
“Whether it's a teacher taking advantage of a kid, a representative taking advantage of a kid, we have to do all we can to stand for that kid because I promise you that kid won't be able to stand for themselves,” McDugle said.
House Bill 1468 creates the Hidden Predator Act which provides that the prosecution of rape, forcible sodomy and other related sex crimes must be commenced by the 45th birthday of the alleged victim. It also removes the requirement that the victim notify law enforcement within 12 years after the discovery of the crime. Any person who knowingly and willfully makes a false claim the person knows lacks factual foundation may be reported to local law enforcement for criminal investigation and, upon conviction, shall be guilty of a felony.
House Bill 1470 extends the statutes of limitation for alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse or exploitation by allowing them to sue for civil damages until their 45th birthday. The legislation also removes the requirement that evidence of the alleged abuse include both proof that the victim had psychologically repressed the memory of the facts upon which the claim was predicated and that there is corroborating evidence that the sexual abuse, exploitation or incest actually occurred.
Both bills will now head to the senate for consideration.
KVCAP to lead initiative to prevent child abuse, neglect in Kennebec County
Maine Children's Trust awards prevention grant.
by The Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel
WATERVILLE — The Kennebec Valley Community Action Program was awarded funding from the Maine Children's Trust to implement a three-year pilot project charged with preventing child abuse and neglect in Kennebec County, according to a news release from Andrea Pasco, KVCAP development director.
This is the second round of funding for these prevention grants. Grants have also been awarded to the child abuse and neglect councils in Somerset, Franklin, Androscoggin, Penobscot and York counties.
Kennebec County rates in substantiated child abuse and neglect have been on the rise in the last year. Babies younger than 1 years old are by far the age group most affected by child maltreatment in Kennebec County as well as across the state. Identifying risk factors such as substance abuse, domestic violence, and poor mental health is vital in order to develop responsive prevention strategies that support families throughout the county, according to the release.
In partnership between DHHS and the Maine Children's Trust, KVCAP will lead the Kennebec Initiative. A local community group will be established and will include key community stakeholders and people who work with children and families throughout the county.
This group will focus on identifying gaps in programs and supports for families and select relevant evidence-based prevention strategies. Members will engage in a strategic planning process that will ultimately help coordinate and enhance child abuse and neglect prevention services in this region.
For more information, contact Lanelle Freeman at 859-1577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mayor urges lawmakers to strengthen child abuse reporting
by WHAS 11
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – Mayor Greg Fischer is urging lawmakers to strengthen child abuse reporting requirements.
Mayor Fischer recently appointed a special investigator to look into sex abuse allegations into the Louisville Metro Police Explorer Program.
The program has been temporarily suspended after claims two police officers had sexually abused a young man for two years.
“We're going to follow this wherever it takes us. What I want to know is what the truth is and we will hold people accountable all along the way. Where the chips are going to fall, they are going to fall,” he said.
The Mayor is also asking the FBI to investigate potential violations of federal law surrounding the case and ordered a city government-wide inquiry to ensure all city programs involving youth meet national standards.
How to talk to your children about sex abuse 'early and often'
by Mary Bowerman
When it comes to talking to your children about sex abuse, the motto should be start "early and often," according to Kimberlee D. Norris, co-founder of nationwide litigation practice, Love + Norris, which represents victims of child sexual abuse.
In many sexual abuse cases, the abuser is someone the child knows, and the parents may trust — like a coach, family member or even another child. Recently, The Indianapolis Star , which is part of the USA TODAY NETWORK, reported more than 360 cases in which gymnasts accused coaches of sexual transgressions over 20 years.
"The risk is anywhere that we gather children in any context," Norris said. "For the preferential offender who prefers a child as a sexual partner, any activity that gathers children becomes an attractive target."
But how do parents broach the subject of sexual abuse with their children?
It doesn't have to be an emotional sit-down talk about sex abuse, according to Shannon Self-Brown, a professor Georgia Statue University, and child clinical psychologist.
“There are things you can do from the moment you have your child that really start communicating about healthy relationships and boundaries with your body,” she said.
Here are a few tips about how to talk to your child about sexual abuse:
Use the correct terms for body parts
It may make you feel more comfortable to call your daughter's vagina a coo-coo, and your son's penis a pee-pee, but you should call their private parts by their correct name from the get-go.
“That way your child isn't learning there is any shame or anything to be embarrassed about with their genitals or private parts,” Self-Brown said.
Talk to your child about touch
Norris said that all abusive circumstances begin with barrier testing, when the abuser tries to figure out what the child will allow in terms of physical touch and "erode the sense of what is appropriate by repeated touch."
Parents should let their children know that there are people, and sometimes even relatives or those close to us, who have the wrong motive when they touch.
"You don't have to go into it in great length, but let your child know any place your bathing suite covers is only for you," Norris said.
You should continue to reiterate that your child's private parts belong to them and them alone, according to Alice Sterling Honig, a Professor Emerita of Child Development in the Department of Child and Family Studies at Syracuse University.
Honig said parents can tell their children: “[Private parts] are supposed to be covered up when you are dressed, and no one should touch your privates except you, and you shouldn't touch anyone else's private parts,” Honig said. “It's not right for grownups to fondle your private parts even if they say they love you, and it's never right for grownups to get you to touch their private parts.”
Explain that people may try to trick or bribe them
Parents should explain to their children that people may try to trick them in order to harm them, according to Honig. A trick could be something as simple as a stranger saying that they have a present in their car, or a coach touching an athlete inappropriately and telling them that they will harm their family if they tell.
Honig said it's important to let children know that they need to tell an adult if something that makes them uncomfortable happens, even if they promised not to tell.
"You have to tell someone if somebody is doing something wrong to your body," Honig said. "Even if it feels good and you're told not to tell anybody, or if a person says I am going to hurt your mom and daddy, and even if you promise that person never to tell, it's never wrong to break that promise."
Yeah, it's awkward, but you should talk to your kids about sex
Think your child in late-elementary school or middle school doesn't know the basics about sex? Think again.
Norris said many parents put off "the talk" with their kids until later, so it becomes a "weird, awkward" conversation where the child doesn't want to talk about sex and becomes hesitant to bring it up to their parents if something happens.
"Part of the solution is making conversation about sexual topics early on happen in a natural way, so it's not happening in this strange, bizarre, unnatural way with a child," she said. "And just keeping the communication pathway open about every subject matter."
In circumstances where abuse may have occurred, parents many times find out because they asked the child if something was going on, or asked if they needed to tell them anything, Norris said.
She said parents can find ways to educate their children about sex at an early age by using real-life situations.
"My child was 3 and a half ... when we had a cat that adopted us in the neighborhood, and she had kittens and it was a great opportunity to talk about mommies and daddies and where kittens come from," she said. "Communicating early on about sex-ed with real names of body parts and communicating that you have the right to determine who you are physically affectionate with and you have the right to say no."
Don't force your child to give physical affection if they are uncomfortable
Physical interaction should never be forced on a child, Self-Brown said.
“When introducing a child to new people don't force them to give a hug to someone they just met,” Self-Brown said. “There are subtle modeling things important in communicating to children that their body belongs to them and they don't have to go along with things adults tell them to if they don't feel comfortable.”
For more on symptoms that a child may be victim of abuse visit StopItNow.org.
Victim to Survivor: Matthew Sandusky Shares Story about Sexual Abuse
by Kathy Welsh
BREWSTER – In recognition of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Child Advocacy Center of Putnam County will present its inaugural Champions for Children Breakfast. The event will be held Monday, Apr. 3, 2017 from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Putnam Golf Course located at 187 Hill St. in Mahopac.
The guest speaker will be Matthew Sandusky, the adopted son of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who sexually abused Matthew from the age of 8 to 17.
When Matthew decided to break his silence, his story became the subject of one of the most publicized child sexual abuse cases in history.
Matthew will share his powerful story, and his journey from victim to survivor.
In addition to raising awareness, Matthew is committed to empowering and educating children to use their voices and to help protect them against abuse. Through the Peaceful Hearts Foundation, which Matthew co-founded with his wife Kim, he advocates for child sexual abuse survivors and campaigns for stronger legislation to fight child sexual abuse.
Eric Gross, a long-time sponsor of the Children's Expo & Public Safety Day and a founding member of the Friends of Putnam CAC, Inc., will be presented with the Champion for Children Award in recognition of his extraordinary service to the children of Putnam County. A renowned local journalist, Eric writes for both the Putnam County Courier and its sister paper, the Putnam County News & Recorder.
“Child abuse is preventable. Each day people make choices that will change the outcome of not only their lives, but the lives of others,” said Marla Behler, program coordinator of the Child Advocacy Center. “For change to happen we must all make choices regarding our everyday actions as part of our community. Eric has been an inspiration and an example of the impact one person can have on the lives of many children.”
Tickets can be ordered online at www.friendsofputnamcac.org/champions-for-children for $25 or purchased for $30 at the door.
The Putnam County Department of Social Services is the lead agency in Putnam County dedicated to protecting children. Along with Child Protective Services and Child Welfare Services, the Child Advocacy Center is deeply committed to serving children with professionalism, sensitivity, and compassion.
The Child Advocacy Center is a program of the Putnam County Department of Social Services and provides an immediate coordinated response to child abuse allegations while supporting child victims and their families. For more information contact email@example.com or call (845) 808-1400.
Child sexual abuse: Ministers of religion in sights of law change
by Sarah Vogler
Ministers of religion will be forced to report child sex abuse to authorities under new laws to come before State Parliament this week.
Independent Member for Cairns Rob Pyne will introduce a Private Member's Bill enshrining mandatory reporting requirements for churches.
The requirement already applies to teachers, nurses and doctors in Queensland, and will apply to childcare workers from July.
It requires those professionals to make a report to the Child Safety Department if they “form a reasonable suspicion that a child has suffered, is suffering or is at an unacceptable risk of suffering significant harm caused by physical or sexual abuse, and may not have a parent able and willing to protect them”.
They also should report “reasonable suspicion” that a child is in need of protection caused by any other form of abuse or neglect.
Mr Pyne said he believed the rules needed to be extended to churches.
“It (the Bill) inserts a new category into the relevant legislation called ‘ministers of religion',” he said.
The category captured every minister of religion, from priests to imams.
“We have seen all these horrible cases of abuse against some of our most vulnerable children, and the people that need to be held to account need to not only be the perpetrators but the people that have covered for these perpetrators,” said Mr Pyne, who quit Labor to join the cross bench last year.
“We have had people teaching morality on the Sunday and covering for pedophiles during the week.
“They need to be held to account.”
Mr Pyne called for Labor and the LNP to back the changes when they came back to the House for debate.
Mr Pyne also recently tabled a private member's Bill to decriminalise abortion, but it was withdrawn when it became apparent it did not have the numbers to pass.
'Deadliest Catch's' Sig Hansen isn't the only Discovery star to be accused of child molestation
by Fox News
Reality stars from the Discovery Channel keep making headlines – and not in a good way.
On Friday, news broke that the estranged daughter of “Deadliest Catch” star Sig Hansen is claiming her famous father sexually abused her when she was a toddler. She filed a lawsuit stating that she battled depression, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts and other trauma due to the memories of her father's abuse of her as a 2-year-old in 1990.
“I have memories … of being in a room alone with my father and crying out in pain,” Eckstrom stated in a court declaration, according to the Seattle Times.
Hansen has reportedly denied the allegations and called the lawsuit "completely frivolous."
Discovery Channel has yet to comment on the suit.
Discovery – and its sister network TLC – have had similar accusations plague a several of their reality stars.
As a result, in 2015 TLC aired a one-hour special titled “Breaking the Silence” to "shine a light on the challenging journey faced by those affected by child sexual abuse, as well as offer useful information where people can turn for help."
The special was brought on in part because of “19 Kids and Counting” star Josh Duggar's admission that he sexually abused several of his siblings as well as a family babysitter when he was a teen. Two of the Duggar sisters were featured in the TLC special about child sexual abuse.
Several other stars from Discovery Channel and TLC have made headlines because they were linked to child molestation claims.
Discovery Channel's “Sons of Guns” was cancelled when star Will Hayden was arrested for aggravated rape of a minor, who family members identified as his daughter. Later, his older daughter and former costar claimed her father had molested her when she was younger as well. He is currently awaiting trial.
TLC, meanwhile, shut down the shows "Cheer Perfection" and “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” due to associations with child molestation claims. "Honey Boo Boo" was shut down after photos surfaced that showed star Mama June spending time with an ex-boyfriend who served time for molesting her daughter. And "Cheer Perfection” was canceled when a mom featured on the show pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree sexual assault and engaging a child in sexually explicit conduct.
TLC and the Discovery Channel's parent company, Discovery Communications, has repeatedly declined to Fox News' requests for comment regarding their vetting process.
Help sex trafficking victims
Juvenile females may soon find sanctuary in Muskogee to escape sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.
A donor purchased a 5,000-square-foot one-story building to help a local nonprofit organization provide that sanctuary.
The building cost about $200,000, said Keri Spencer, executive director of Restoring Identities after Sexual Exploitation.
The building has space for six beds, but could expand to 12 beds.
The facility is expected to need an annual budget of $325,000 to $350,000.
Much of that budget could be covered if 250 people, businesses or churches would pledge $100 per month, Spencer says.
The group also has applied for several grants.
But in the spirit of the donation of the building, we encourage others to help RISE reach its goal.
Nearly 300 cases of human trafficking cases were reported in Oklahoma from 2012 to 2016. Over that same period of time, an average of 230 calls per year were made from Oklahoma to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Those numbers show a need for this facility.
Now, RISE needs your help to do its work and to help as many as possible.
You can help
To donate to the Restoring Identities after Sexual Exploitation (RISE) fund drive, go to: www.riseshelter.org; text “give” to (918) 558-2437; or send a check to RISE, 3600 E. Shawnee Bypass, Muskogee, OK, 74401. All donations are tax deductible. RISE also needs twin sheets, shampoo, deodorant, cleaning supplies, laundry soap, towels, stuffed animals, clothes.
INFORMATION : (918) 822-3539 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special L.A. Court Hopes to Better Serve Young Victims of Sex Trafficking
by Christie Renick
Los Angeles County leaders are expected to release funds tomorrow to support a dedicated courtroom for child welfare system-involved young people who have been victims of sex trafficking.
The county's Board of Supervisors will vote on Tuesday to execute an agreement with Children's Law Center of California for $250,000 to cover the costs of running the courtroom, named the Dedication to Restoration through Empowerment, Advocacy, and Mentoring (DREAM) court, at Edelman's Children's Court in Monterey Park for one year.
Children's Law Center (CLC) represents the nearly 35,000 children in foster care in Los Angeles County as they make their way through the county's dependency courts. CLC also represents children in Sacramento County.
Advocates believe that anywhere from 40 percent to 58 percent of youth in California who are victims of sex trafficking have been or are involved in the foster care system.
The DREAM court, which is largely modeled after the Los Angeles County Probation Department's STAR court, first began hearing cases in January of 2016, and by June of that year had been assigned 45 cases. According to L.A. County's Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the court currently has more than 150 cases assigned to its calendar.
“The purpose of the recommended action is to support CSEC [commercially sexually exploited children] and promote changes to view and treat CSEC as victims who are in need of protective services rather than criminals in Los Angeles County,” reads the request from DCFS.
The intent, according to a DCFS official, is to hear all CSEC cases in one courtroom.
“All staff within the court are trained on CSEC so they have an understanding of the needs of the youth, and when a child comes in they're a little more compassionate to what's going on than a typical courtroom,” said Edward Fithyan, division chief of the agency's Bureau of Specialized Response Services during the March 20 meeting of the county's Commission for Children and Families.
“The children's attorneys are much more interactive with the child; they go out and visit the child, [and] they have telephone contact on a regular basis with the child, sometimes in the middle of the night,” Fithyan said in describing the opportunities presented by having a dedicated court for CSEC youth. “The hearing officer – the judge – is very involved with the child when they walk into the court, very talkative, and they see the kids more often, at least every three months, [and] sometimes more often than that.”
The DREAM court is a product of the 2014 passage of Senate Bill (SB) 855, which clarified that CSEC, or trafficked youth, fall under the jurisdiction of the child welfare system as victims of child abuse and neglect, rather than the criminal justice system.
SB 855 also created a statewide CSEC initiative that counties can opt into in order to receive financial support for CSEC-related activities such as multidisciplinary teams, advocacy, prevention and intervention. This $14 million allocation in the state's general fund is the mechanism through which the DREAM court will be funded.
Halting Traffic: Truckers, Survivors, Fighting Human Trafficking
by Nicole Erwin
When Beth Jacobs was 16 years old, she needed a ride home. She had missed her bus after work again after promising her father she was responsible enough not to make it a habit. She asked a man she thought was a friend to give her a lift. He offered her a drink from his car's cup holder. She took a sip and woke up in a parking lot hours later.
“And he was like, ‘Baby do you know what I am?'” Jacobs recalled decades later. “He said, ‘I'm a pimp.' I reached for the door, and he grabbed my hair and he said, ‘I own you now.'”
The pimp told Jacobs if she didn't cooperate he would kill her and her father. Jacobs believed him. “He had taken me home before, he knew where I lived.”
The pimp told her she was going to sleep with a man in a truck. “The driver raped me,” Jacobs said. The driver asked the pimp for some of his money back. “Because I cried too much.”
Jacobs was then beaten openly for others to see, and they did nothing.
“People kind of watched it happen, and they didn't help, so I felt like I kind of had to go with him,” she said.
Jacobs went from being an average 16-year-old to a human trafficking victim. Later she was convicted of prostitution, an offense that would prevent her from securing a job as a human trafficking investigator with the state of Arizona.
Jacobs contacted every legislator she could to explain that the conviction had become a life sentence. The state listened, and now others across the U.S. are working towards implementing legislation that targets “vacatur convictions” — bills to help survivors of human trafficking clear their criminal records of non-violent crimes they were forced to commit during their exploitation. Removal of such convictions paves the way for fewer obstacles in hiring or financial or housing aid.
Today, at 53, Jacobs is among the small but dedicated group of former victims of trafficking and abuse who are working to find solutions. Jacobs works with Truckers Against Trafficking, or TAT, a non profit that trains truck drivers to recognize and report instances of human trafficking.
The FBI refers to human trafficking as today's slave trade and says the numbers are increasing every year.
Estimates place the number of domestic and international victims in the millions, mostly females and children enslaved in the commercial sex industry for little or no money, according to an FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally.
Crimes associated with human trafficking and sex slavery are often associated with places outside of the U.S., such as Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. But borders simply don't stop trafficking that can take place via the air, across state lines, or from one backyard to another. It happens everywhere, including the Ohio Valley region.
In 2016 the Polaris Project, an organization that runs the National Trafficking Hotline, reported 375 human trafficking cases in Ohio. Kentucky had the second highest in the region, reporting 89, and West Virginia the least with 19. Most states also only record cases that involve minors, so data on adult trafficking victims is only reported through calls to the hotline.
The rankings clearly correlate to population, but they are also related to how active a state prosecutor's office is with increasing awareness. Both Ohio and Kentucky have a Human Trafficking Task Force, and West Virginia has started to gain momentum in organizing stakeholders to increase public awareness.
Education among law enforcement is critical, according to Allyson Taylor, Director of the Kentucky Office of Child Abuse Exploitation Prevention.
“What I really think you are seeing across the state is that law-enforcement has not really identified trafficking cases as trafficking cases,” she said.
For instance, Taylor said the state sees a lot of parents or caregivers who will trade sex with their kids for drugs. “We see that all over the state,” she said. Under the law, that's human trafficking.
But Taylor says officers will typically see that instead as a sex crime.
“So things like that we are still trying to get law enforcement to wrap their heads around,” said Taylor.
Not only does this affect data associated with human trafficking cases, it also prevents funds set aside to aid the victims.
“Our state law also has a $10,000 penalty per conviction,” she said, and that money could go toward a human trafficking victims fund.
At present, the account is empty.
“I think it is just lack of education.” Taylor explained.
“Human Trafficking is the fastest growing human enterprise in the world,” Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear said.
“One of the ways that we can best educate people,” Beshear said, “is that, in Kentucky there is no such thing as a child prostitute. That child is being human trafficked.”
Until 2013, minors picked up for prostitution in Kentucky would essentially lose their childhood in the eyes of the law. Rather than recognizing the child as a victim, the child would be treated as a criminal. Safe Harbor Legislation helped to change that. According to a Protected Innocence Challenge report, 2016 is the first year that all 50 states have laws specifically criminalizing child sex trafficking.
Beshear and other AG officials around the country have teamed up with TAT as well.
Ohio and Kentucky have programs to train truckers. Before drivers can receive a commercial license they have to train with a TAT video.
Kendis Paris founded TAT along with her mother. The organization began as an initiative of Chapter 61 Ministries in 2009 and became its own non profit two years later.
“It was my mother, Lynn Thompson, who came up with the original idea,” said Paris.
Her parents owned a hotel when she was a child and truck drivers were some of their frequent customers. So when Paris and her mother decided to fight human trafficking, Paris said the answer was right in front of them. Click here for federal laws about human trafficking.
“One of the things we knew we needed right away was something to go to all the places we couldn't go,” she said. There are hundreds of thousands of trucking companies in the U.S., and most of them operate fewer than 20 trucks. “So how are you going to get this information into the hands of the industry?”
Paris said the answer was to turn to the drivers, whom she now calls the “Knights of the Road.” Equipped with TAT training and an information card that fits into a wallet, drivers can better identify problems and connect victims with help in every state across the country.
The Road to Help
The TAT training includes contact information for t he National Human Trafficking Hotline, run by the Polaris Project. Almost 27,000 calls were made to the hotline in 2016, a 35 percent jump in cases over the previous year.
Polaris attributes the increase to people spreading awareness of human trafficking and the hotline. While sex trafficking has the highest numbers, labor trafficking is second and increasing at almost 50 percent since last year.
The hotline connects victims to resources such as shelters and detox facilities — places to get off the streets and start over.
These services are critical not just as a safe place for victims to sleep at night, but to help them deal with trauma and often drug abuse. Ohio's Anti-Human-Trafficking Coordinator, Elizabeth Ranade Janis, said human trafficking adds demand on facilities already strained by the opioid epidemic. Detox facilities are in short supply of beds, and they are almost always full.
To get a sense of the state available treatment resources, consider Amy Nace-DeGonda's job. She's an outreach coordinator for the Human Trafficking Program at Catholic Charities, located in Louisville. She estimates that statewide, approximately 45 beds are available for human trafficking victims at various times throughout the year. Polaris reports that Kentucky had at least 89 human trafficking cases in 2016, That would means more than half the victims calling could be turned away.
Kellie Russell is a co-founder of Victory Through Grace Ministries, a home and counselling center for female human trafficking victims in Paducah, Kentucky. Russell brings a personal view to the work when she offers a room to a victim.
“I was also sexually abused and trafficked,” she said.
The home has five beds. Russell wants to add more, but that takes money that isn't readily available.
“We network with several different organizations, so they all know when we are full,” she said. Fluctuations in demand make it hard to predict, but Russell said the three beds she wants to add would quickly be filled.
Russell said it is important to her that her facility is not a shelter. Her personal experience in and out of facilities over the years made her realize that the more home like a place can be for the victims, the quicker they become empowered to stay and work through their struggles.
“I went through a couple places, like a 30-day program,” she said. “It felt like I was on lockdown, so I left.”
Acts of Kindness
Occasionally an act of kindness triggers enough courage for a victim to seek help. But if they have nowhere to go, then they usually end up back on the streets. When Beth Jacobs is conducting one of her training sessions, she says it is important not to promise something you can't guarantee, like a place to stay.
“I tell them it's just the random acts of kindness, you know, listen to them,” she said “If they look scared and hungry, feed them, ask them if they want a drink of water.”
That little bit of kindness can plant a seed of trust, she said, and if it happens often enough, a victim might eventually reach back for help.
Is sex education in our schools good enough?
Students need lessons in life and love at a time of easy access to the dangers of porn
by Peter McGuire
Sophie was sexually abused by her stepfather from a young age. And yet, right through her childhood and into her teens, talking about sex was utterly taboo, so nobody gave Sophie the words to explain what her stepfather was doing to her.
Now a successful psychologist with a doctorate from a major Irish university, Sophie comes from a fundamentalist Christian family. When she was growing up, it was forbidden for a child to have their own boundaries or to stand up to adults in any way.
She believes that a good relationships and sexuality education (RSE) could have saved her from over a decade of terrifying abuse.
“We should start talking about sexuality from an early age. We need to have conversations with children about how to be safe and what parts of their body are private, as well as safe touches and consent.”
There are new and growing risks to children, especially teens, from the easy availability of pornography.
Young people, especially teenage boys, may act out what they see online if they haven't been told that most pornography bears no relationship to the nature of healthy, positive and consensual sex.
Sexualised images are creating unrealistic expectations of how young people should look. Educators are struggling to keep up with all of this.
Sophie says that people are understandably afraid to talk about sexuality with children, but this can be done in an age-appropriate manner.
Part of this involves giving young children the right name for their genitals: this prevents them being confused or ashamed by euphemisms, gives them a sense of control and means that, if an adult is abusing them, they have the words to talk. This education should continue into their teens.
It's too late to turn back the clock for Sophie, but the Stay Safe programme, introduced in primary school in the early 1990s, has made an impact.
The programme teaches children how to recognise, avoid and respond to abusive situations.
It was brought in despite implacable opposition from conservative activists and was made mandatory in recent years.
However, a cursory search through school inspection reports (known as “whole school evaluations”) clearly shows that, even up to this year, many primary schools have either not implemented the programme or have poorly developed policies around it.
And it certainly hasn't succeeded in eradicating abuse; studies suggest about 27 per cent of the population have experienced some kind of sexual abuse in childhood.
One of the big problems is that many second-level schools still have little or no RSE programme so, just when young people are most curious about sex and relationships – and at risk of abuse in their teens – they are denied that information from responsible sources.
Eileen Finnegan is clinical director at One in Four, which advocates for and treats survivors of child sexual abuse; she also manages Phoenix, a treatment programme for child sex offenders.
It's a difficult and challenging job but, she explains, she does it because it helps keep children safe from abuse. Like others who work with abusers, she has learned that, in the majority of cases, abusers are interested in power and control rather than mere sexual gratification, and that few are paedophiles in the sense of being sexually attracted to children.
And between a quarter to a third of abusers are under the age of 25; many are older teens who abuse younger teens or children.
Finnegan believes that, if we are serious about protecting children from abuse, we need to go further. “If we go into schools, we should not be merely talking about what to do if you are abused or how to stay safe.
“We need to talk to young people about how, when these sexual hormones start coming in, they can make you feel powerful and what behaviours are and are not appropriate.
“If there's a young person who is full of anger and animosity, and a child comes along, those hormones, that power and this rage can lead to abuse. What gets me the most is that the abuser just wanted their own needs fulfilled. They never even cared about the child. We need to explain why this is wrong. I'm not saying that not having these discussions necessarily leads to offending, but it is certainly one of the factors.”
Several years ago, Finnegan was at a conference in Amsterdam. “The young participants came together and said that they didn't want another talk on sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy. They wanted to know about safe and healthy sex and what is appropriate, and they wanted to have a discussion.”
In Ireland, some schools are having this discussion and delivering comprehensive models of RSE with a focus on healthy relationships, protection from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, and consent and emotions.
Others are not. None of this is monitored by the Department of Education and, despite guidelines, schools are free to have no effective sex education at all if they feel it may conflict with their religious ethos (although there are many religious-run schools that provide full and comprehensive relationship and sexuality education to their pupils).
They may plump to bring in a religious organisation to provide RSE which focuses exclusively on abstinence or which lies to children by telling them that condoms fail up to one in three times.
They might, due to their own lack of knowledge, ignore how children can avoid being abused – or abusing another child – online.
Mary Tallon and Joan Cherry work at the Northside Inter-Agency Project, which treats young sex offenders.
Tallon is a senior social worker and Cherry is the organisation's director. “Sexuality is very different now from when we grew up but there is a lack of understanding about that,” says Cherry. “Of the young abusers we have worked with, they are quite ignorant of sex education.”
Young people don't want to hear about sex from their parents, so the information needs to be given professionally, Tallon suggests.
“A lot of parents may say to their children not to let anyone touch them inappropriately, but they rarely say: ‘it is not okay for you to touch someone [inappropriately or without consent] and it is not okay for you to post a sexual picture of someone online when you break up with them'. Or that lots of people are curious about sex but that doesn't give you permission to touch someone's private parts.”
Recently at group therapy in NIAP, the young offenders were asked about their experience of RSE in school.
“Some of them may not have been in school or maybe missed that class,” says Tallon. “But those who were there said it was all about sexual function and biology, rather than how we explore consent in relationships, or that it's not okay to send an explicit image [across social media or the internet] of a person they know. It is scary how little they know. Some of the lads genuinely think that wearing a skirt means that a woman is ‘asking for it'.
“But they could be educated in schools. Some parents say that they don't want their son or daughter exposed to this conversation and yet they are happy to give them a mobile phone or tablet – where they can access anything they want at the touch of a button – and let them go up to their room and close the door with no discussion.”
In the UK, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) is rolling out a programme about online safety but, says Tallon, we are far from that here.
“We can prevent child sex abuse,” she says. “The World Health Organisation believes this too. In the US, the ATSA [Association for the Treatment of Sexual Offenders] is working on an initiative to stop it within a generation. The statistics are falling. By treating it as a public health matter, and through education, we can do this.” This article was supported by the Mary Raftery Journalism Fund
RESOURCES: HELP AND SUPPORT
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article you can contact:
One in Four oneinfour.ie
Cari (Monday-Friday, 9.30am-5.30pm) at email@example.com
The Samaritans on 116123 or firstname.lastname@example.org
HSE counselling services on 1800-235234
Rape Crisis Helpline on 1800-778888
Childline on 1800-666666
Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children on 01-6794944
For details of sexual assault treatment units, see hse.ie/satu
You can report concerns to Tusla, and learn more about how the support process works, at tusla.ie/children-first/ how-do-i-report-abuse
To report online child sex abuse material, see hotline.ie
Office for Internet Safety (run by the Department of Justice): internetsafety.ie
State Rep. Opens Up About Child Abuse To Support Legislation
by Jessi Mitchell
OKLAHOMA CITY -- A state representative is opening up for the first time about his experience as a victim of child abuse.
Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, is sharing his story in an effort to pass two bills that would give victims more time to come forward.
The state House of Representatives is voting on House Bill 1468 and House Bill 1470 Monday, and there may or may not be a debate, but McDugle encourages his colleagues to think about the victims like him.
Before now, McDugle could count on one hand the number of people he told about his experience with his youth minister. As a young teenager, the popular minister was the epitome of cool among his church friends.
“Finally, one night, I got an invitation to go to his house and stay the night, like a lot of kids that always talked about going,” McDugle said.
To this day, he still does not know how many of his peers were exposed to abuse there.
“He put me in his bed and put on some movies that we shouldn't have watched and proceeded to think that he could touch me wherever he wanted to touch me and wanted me to touch him places,” McDugle said.
Through his service in the Marines up until he was elected into the Legislature last year, McDugle did not mention what happened.
Now, he is thinking of the thousands of other victims who have endured worse.
“That one night, for me, took me 35 years to get to a point that I could actually openly talk about it,” he said. “I'm a Marine Corps veteran, a drill instructor, so it's not a story that I wanted to tell.”
Right now, Oklahomans have to report child abuse by the time they reach 31 years old if they want to press criminal charges, and they only have two years after the abuse to seek damages from their abuser. The bills change both those limits to the age of 45.
Opponents argue these bills could lead to more false accusations. The legislation does make it a felony for anyone who falsely reports child abuse, and McDugle said he hopes that provision allows skeptics to change their minds.
“Whether it's a teacher taking advantage of a kid, a representative taking advantage of a kid, we have to do all we can to stand for that kid because I promise you that kid won't be able to stand for themselves,” McDugle said.
CASA SHaW calls residents to action for Child Abuse Prevention Month
by My Central Jersey Staff Report
WASHINGTON – In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Court Appointed Special Advocates of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren counties (CASA SHaW) is issuing a call to action for residents of the tri-counties to stand against child abuse and take action to support children who have been abused or neglected.
Every year, there are more than 500 children in foster care in Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties. These children come into the child welfare system through no fault of their own.
“While the number of children in care overall is decreasing, the types of issues we are seeing, like heroin addiction, sexual abuse, and physical abuse, are increasingly serious and concerning," said Tracey Heisler, CASA SHaW's executive director, in a news release. "These children need our help, and they need it now.”
Throughout the month of April, CASA SHaW is calling on members of the community to help the program serve more of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren counties' most vulnerable children.
“The needs of the children coming into care are more complicated than ever before, and life in foster care can be chaotic,” Heisler said. "Every child deserves the support of caring, consistent adult with the training to help them heal and thrive. We at CASA SHaW work to Give Every Child a Chance (#GECC)."
There are many ways members of the community can help, including:
Participate in a “Go Blue for CASA” day in April, where you and your peers wear blue in honor of abused or neglected children and make a donation to CASA to support its child advocacy mission;
Learn more about the issues by visiting www.casashaw.org, www.twitter.com/casa_shaw, or www.facebook.com/casa-shaw
Have Alice Condo, CASA's board president, and Heisler, stop by your office during Alice's Child Abuse Awareness walk April 1 to 7 to share information about the issues of child abuse and neglect. Condo is walking from the courthouse in Belvidere to the courthouse in Flemington to the courthouse in Somerville in a show of solidarity with the children we serve;
Join Condo, Heisler and other CASA supporters on April 1 at the park across from the Warren County Courthouse at 9 a.m. as Condo starts her week-long journey. The address to the courthouse is 413 2nd St., Belvidere;
Contact us at email@example.com to learn more about becoming an advocate at one of CASA's information sessions. The next preservice training is in June.
Make a donation at www.casashaw.org
A child with a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer leaves the foster care system two-and-a-half months earlier, on average, compared to a child without one, according to the organization. Studies show children with a CASA volunteer receive more services that are critical to their well-being than children without an advocate, and those children are more likely to achieve educational success.
“CASA volunteers are a constant for the child in a time of chaos,” Condo said. “A child may have multiple social workers, attorneys, therapists and foster placements throughout the life of the case but only one CASA volunteer, which can make all the difference for the child's future.”
CASA SHaW is a member of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (National CASA), a nationwide network of programs in nearly 1,000 communities. At the heart of the movement are nearly 77,000 highly trained volunteers who advocate for the best interests of more than 250,000 of America's children who have been abused or neglected. In Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren counties, there are more than 80 volunteer advocates fighting for the best interests of 200 plus children but 300 more children need the care and support of a CASA volunteer.
For more information about how to become a supporter or to volunteer, go to www.casashaw.org or call 908-689-5515.