Chicago Police Arrest 14-Year-Old in Sex Assault Shown on Facebook
by the Associated Press
CHICAGO — A 14-year-old boy has been arrested in the sexual assault of a 15-year-old Chicago girl that was streamed live on Facebook and watched by about 40 people who didn't report it to authorities, police said late Saturday.
Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said more arrests are expected as the investigation continues. Police have said the attack involved five or six males, and Guglielmi said the boy "was one of the offenders in the video."
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson is slated to provide more details at a news conference Sunday morning.
Guglielmi said the juvenile suspect faces felony charges of aggravated criminal sexual assault, manufacturing of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography.
The spokesman has said police were not aware of the mid-March attack until the girl's mother approached Johnson as he was leaving a police station on the city's West Side and showed him the video.
Johnson was "visibly upset" after he watched, both by the video's content and the fact that there were "40 or so live viewers and no one thought to call authorities," Guglielmi said.
The girl's mother told The Associated Press last month that her daughter received online threats following the attack and that neighborhood kids were ringing her doorbell looking for the girl. The Chicago Sun-Times later reported that the girl's family had been relocated.
The video marks the second time in recent months that Chicago police have investigated an apparent attack that was broadcast live on Facebook. In January, four people were arrested after video showed them allegedly taunting and beating a mentally disabled man.
Increasing awareness of domestic, child abuse
by Tracy Whitaker
The 17th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney's Office is planning to increase awareness this week about the rights of domestic and child abuse victims in honor of National Crime Victims' Rights Week to remind residents that even though it may seem like White County is "a place where things like this don't happen," it absolutely does, according to Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Norene Smith,
"We are designing a large banner to start drawing more attention to victims' rights," Smith said. "Previously not much media coverage shed light on these things and people thought abuse, for the most part, didn't occur locally. Now there are more reports, more cases.
"People thought, 'This happens somewhere else.' It doesn't just happen somewhere else."
Smith is charged with investigating and prosecuting child abuse and sexual abuse cases primarily. It isn't easy, she said, however there are newer ways now to help an abuse victim not only come forward and participate in the prosecution process; such as Hope Cottage and the Children's Safety Center of White County.
"We are asking them to tell us about the worst thing that's ever happened to them ”¦" Smith said of children who are abused by a parent or loved one. "They wish we could wave a magic wand and make that person the person they should be."
Children, in particular, are delicate in these situations and the Children's Safety Center provides a child-friendly safe place for a potentially abused child to be able to confide in an forensic interviewer specially trained in talking with children by asking age-appropriate questions, Smith said. This is different from the way cases would proceed in the past, during which kids are interviewed by several agency's, sent to Arkansas Children's Hospital for sexual abuse exams and subjected to a slew of other hurdles before any charges were filed against their abusers, Smith said. The Children's Safety Center has medical staff that can provide on-site examinations.
"They have done an amazing job to a make a child-friendly place, so we can do our jobs," Smith said. "It's very helpful that a child be interviewed one time."
Prosecuting Attorney Becky McCoy said, "It flows so much better than it ever used to. It's also a place to meet with family so they aren't coming to a very intimidating place."
The center is a place the child goes after an accusation of maltreatment is uncovered to be interviewed by one forensic interviewer -- a neutral and trained individual -- who knows what questions to ask in a neutral way to see if an investigation should move forward.
"We do hear more about it now, but kids still think they have to keep it secret," Smith said.
Smith said due to certain Arkansas Supreme Court decisions that have been changed policies relating to prosecuting suspected child abusers, "that child is now expected to testify." Smith said the Children's Safety Center helps give them the courage and confidence to do this.
"[The center] does a good job and we couldn't do our job nearly as well without them," Smith said.
The prosecutor's office handles the criminal part of the investigation; while the Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Children and Family Services conducts a safety investigation.
"We are helping the youngest most vulnerable people of our community," said Robin Connell, executive director of the center. "These young people grow up to be adult members of our community -- our neighbors -- so if we can support them and help them heal from their trauma at a young age then hopefully we are preventing the physical and mental side effects that can plague them as adults."
Smith provided some statistics about abuse cases in the county:
• The Children's Safety Center in Searcy conducted 420 interviews with children last year, including children from other counties.
• The Department of Human Services found 180 "true reports," -- once the safety investigation had been conducted and the department finds what it believes to be a safety issue -- resulting in 270 victims and 142 children placed in foster care.
• The prosecutor's office filed 717 felony cases overall. Of that, 86 cases involved violent crimes against a person.
In addition to this week being National Crime Victims' Rights Week, April also is Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Women who are abused and struggling with the idea of possibly leaving an abusive spouse or boyfriend have a place in Searcy to "take a break" and possibly gain the courage and life skills helpful in becoming independent in society.
White County Domestic Violence Prevention Inc.'s Hope Cottage houses women and their children when abuse leads them to flee from an abusive relationship or situation.
Hope Cottage provides a safe place for abused women who can participate in peer counseling and learn what abuse means, that it isn't their fault and that it is possible to escape the situation.
Where do you go to get a protection order? Hope Cottage helps women through this process, Smith said.
"What we do primarily is to provide safe shelter to battered women and their children as they flee an abusive relationship -- it's a dangerous time and not easy," said Kaye Candlish, Hope Cottage executive director. "When she gets out of there, the first 90 days after increases her risk of getting killed by 75 percent, if she is going to be killed."
It is possible to make it through an escape from an abusive situation, however, and the mission of the Hope Cottage is to help the abused make it past the danger that has likely kept her in the situation, Candlish said.
"Some women feel like it's impossible to leave," Candlish said. "They are survivors -- they are strong, strong women, and we just have to kind of remind them of that.
Hope Cottage will give a victim whatever she needs to achieve independence, Candlish said.
"It's what we do," she said.
The Hope Cottage teaches job skills, provides a closet with interview clothes and helps to teach personal finance, such as checkbook balancing and budgeting. Some abused women weren't allowed to work, weren't able to work because they were being beaten or weren't allowed to have or handle money, Candlish said.
"We teach classes on what domestic violence is," Candlish said. "A lot of women will say, 'It's my fault, I should not have talked back to him'. We teach them at that is his chosen behavior and that there was nothing she could do to stop it."
The children will have special needs, Candlish said, and steps are taken to help them as well. In a household with a presence of domestic violence, kids need to learn how to not grow up to be victims, abusers and not to use drugs or be promiscuous.
Women often come into the center depressed, but after removing themselves from he abusive situation, "they learn to relax a little and they are just normal people," she said.
As far as professional counseling goes, "sometimes they don't need for the most part," Candlish said. "I think it's hard for people to understand they don't necessarily need counseling, they need safety."
"Long-term abuse can cause a mental health issue," Candlish said. "There is sorrow and they are grieving a relationship that turned out not the way they expected.
"So often, they are not coming in to leave the relationship -- it starts out as a start out a little break and will return home thinking she's demonstrated she will not tolerate the behavior. Or they think that leaving is not possible. Leaving isn't on their radar. But each time they are [at the center], they get a little closer to leaving."
She said that some will come and stay a few weeks, leave and come back for another few weeks. A lot of it depends on their own resources -- they may just need a place to stay until they can save some money to come up with deposits and such.
Hope Restored is a resale shop at 1211 E. Race Ave. and the proceeds benefit Hope Cottage.
"I think we live in a place that looks remarkably like Mayberry -- people think that domestic abuse and child abuse don't happen in this community," Candlish said. "But it's happening to friends and family members right here -- even if they don't see it."
In 2016, Hope Cottage housed 76 women and 59 children.
Despite hurdles, agencies fight high rates of child abuse in region
by K. Janis Esch
There's no simple fix for children whose lives have been ravaged by abuse. The issue extends beyond any individual case: it's systemic, it's cyclical, it's a tangled web of compounding factors and risks reaching deep into family histories. For communities and agencies tasked with protecting the innocent, it's hard to know where to begin.
A report of child abuse is made approximately once every 5 minutes in Illinois. The so-called “hidden epidemic” is on the rise: alleged and substantiated cases of abuse have climbed steadily in recent years, according to data from the Department of Children and Family Services.
Southern Illinois, in particular, has a child abuse problem. Statewide, there are 9.7 incidents of abuse per 1,000, but every single county in our region has a higher rate — in some cases, double or triple the state number.
While Southern Illinois boasts a robust network of agencies dedicated to tackling the issue, those providers are hobbled by a lack of funding due to the ongoing state budget crisis.
“It's not like, the streetlight is broke on the corner of 17th and 4th, and we go fix it and it's over. It's not like that. This is an ongoing and pervasive and ‘family systems' type of issue,” said Lynda Killoran, clinical manager at Centerstone.
Jo Poshard, executive director of the Poshard Foundation for Abused Children, said a myriad of factors can lead to a “vicious cycle” of abuse.
“When you have a child at risk, they are, very often, the ones who are hurt,” Poshard said.
While child abuse extends beyond socioeconomic lines, poverty plays a big role, said Betti Mucha, executive director of Perry-Jackson Child Advocacy Center.
“The poverty rate here is higher, the unemployment rate is higher, and just the general economy here struggles, and when the economy struggles, that can be a contributing factor,” Mucha said.
The risk factors of poverty and a lack of resources are often compounded by substance abuse.
“When people don't have jobs, they don't have hope, maybe they've even experienced some trauma or adverse situations themselves, then they turn to things like alcohol or drugs, or maybe they have mental health concerns and those concerns escalate, and those kinds of things can result in frustration and anger and oftentimes those then get translated and taken out on the child,” Killoran said.
But risk factors don't have to become predictive factors, as long as there are protective factors in place, Killoran said.
“One caring adult in a child's life can make a world of difference. That could be you, me, it could be a scout leader, it could be somebody at church, it could be a teacher, the lady that smiles at you at the grocery store every time you go — one caring adult can make a big difference in a kid's life, and that's where we can really step in as a community,” Killoran said.
And one phone call can change the course of a child's life, Poshard said.
“I do not believe there is a magic formula to eliminate (child abuse), but it is simply one person at a time, being aware, making the right decisions, stepping in, and trying to help that child. Call the hotline, let the professionals do their work. We are the safety lines for these children,” Poshard said.
Southern Illinois' safety lines
By and large, social service providers in the Southern Illinois region work tirelessly for little recognition and little pay, Poshard said.
The all-volunteer Poshard Foundation, chartered in 1999, provides support to agencies that assist abused, neglected and abandoned children in the southernmost 23 counties in Illinois.
Recently, agencies have been forced to cut programs and services because of a lack of state funding.
“The agencies are trying to do more with less funding, and they are very dedicated and they will certainly do that to the best of their ability, but also, when the money isn't present, there are many support services that are cut off, and those support services are things that strengthen families,” Poshard said.
Those services include things like home visiting programs, referrals and counseling for children who have experienced trauma, she said.
Southern Illinois agencies often find themselves in competition with agencies from metropolitan areas when it comes to getting grants or resources, Killoran said.
“The great thing about Southern Illinois … is we have a strong history of working together, even with agencies that might have been competitors in other areas. We come together when we're working with children,” Killoran said.
The Children's Medical and Mental Health Resource Network, a program of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics that calls on agencies to pool their resources, is one example of such solidarity.
The nature of child abuse prevention work dictates that providers address the root cause, but that can be hard to do without proper funding.
“Just focusing on the child kind of ignores what the source of it is. I would want to see working with the whole family to see how we can help the mom, the dad, brothers, sisters, also. It might be that they might need some help paying the electric bill or getting the car fixed, getting a job or an education, things of that nature. But with the state of our state right now, those kinds of things just don't happen,” Killoran said.
Classification and identification
The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines child abuse as “Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
Following are descriptions of the major forms of child abuse and neglect:
• Physical abuse consists of non-accidental injury as a result of punching, kicking, shaking, beating, biting, throwing, stabbing or otherwise harming a child. (Physical discipline, such as spanking, is not considered abuse as long as it causes no physical injury to the child.)
• Sexual abuse involves a parent or caregiver engaging in sexual activities with a child, or using a child to make pornography.
• Emotional abuse (also called psychological abuse) is maltreatment that can impair a child's development or self-worth. It can include withholding love and support, or deliberately humiliating or scaring a child.
• Neglect is a parent's failure to provide basic physical, mental, emotional or medical needs to his or her child.
“Physical abuse can be easier (to identify), depending on the type of abuse inflicted, like welts or marks on the face or body,” Killoran said. “Sexual abuse can fly under the radar, but still we can maybe see some oversexualized behavior in children, or knowing names or performing gestures that typically children those ages don't do. It's emotional abuse and neglect that really fly under the radar. Those are really hard to pick up on, because there's no outward necessary marks or anything that anybody can see.”
Abuse isn't just a matter of “stranger danger,” Poshard said.
“We've found that often the abuser is someone that a child knows — a parent, a relative, a neighbor, a friend of the family. Also, we need to get rid of the stereotype that it only happens with certain socioeconomic groups, that is not the case. We also need to understand that it can happen anywhere. There's no place that is off-limits. All of us have a responsibility to educate ourselves and be more attentive,” Poshard said.
‘We all have more work to do'
On Friday, The Poshard Foundation, DCFS and Prevent Child Abuse Illinois hosted their annual kickoff event for Child Abuse Prevention Month at John A. Logan College.
State Rep. Dave Severin, R-Benton, who sits on the Human Services Appropriations and Mental Health committees in the House, told the audience that lawmakers are actively engaged in discussions this session about ways to strengthen investigatory processes and prosecutions of child abuse cases.
Severin said the child abuse and neglect rates throughout Southern Illinois are concerning. Though he noted the positive work of the many people and organizations who have joined together to combat child abuse, Severin said the data indicates more work needs to be done — particularly in regard to strengthening the state's response system designed to protect children and assist families.
When it comes to addressing child abuse, one of the other discussions that has to take place is what to do about the perpetrators, Severin said. The freshman lawmaker said that just this past week, a committee discussion focused on the lack of adequate mental health treatment for jailed parents charged with child abuse or neglect. In some cases, mental health or substance abuse treatment is needed for that parent, before the family unit can be safely reunited.
But in some cases, weeks — even months — drag on before the individual facing charges is ever assessed, Severin said he learned during the discussions in Springfield.
“There's some people we've found that they do something and they're put in jail and they need to be assessed,” he said. “They may be in a cell for three months before they even get an assessment done to find out what's going on, why these things have happened or what kind of treatment they need. So, we've got to do a better job of figuring out a way to do those assessments quicker.”
Bob Cain, an area administrator of child protection and permanency in 12 counties for the Southern Region of the Department of Children and Family Services, called the increasing rates of reported and indicated child abuse cases “heartbreaking.” But he also noted a silver lining in the troubling data: people are less willing to turn a blind eye to child abuse and neglect. Cain said that at least some of the rate increases over recent years is attributable to efforts to educate the public, which has led to people becoming more comfortable reporting concerns to experts skilled in investigating such matters with sensitivity.
In fiscal year 2016, there were 245,388 calls to the state's child abuse hotline, he said. Of those calls, 78,575 cases statewide were indicated, meaning there was credible evidence of abuse and neglect. He said that one in four allegations the department receives are indicated. About 4 percent of children are bought into protective custody.
“It tells us that more people are letting the department know where they suspect child abuse and neglect. It also tells us we all have more work to do in keeping our children safe in our community, especially in light of the tough economic times, the (budget) shortfalls. With the money (issues) for a variety of our service providers in our local communities, it becomes even more critical,” Cain said.
Killoran hopes this month's awareness campaign will inspire community members to become more attentive when it comes to matters of abuse and neglect.
“Everyone's just trying to see if we can instill some hope. It's not just that the kids are being abused, but hey, we can do something about this. That's what I'm kind of hoping we can get out of it too, is more awareness and involvement and trying to break the cycles,” Killoran said.
Despite the challenges facing providers in Southern Illinois, the public's growing awareness is no small accomplishment, Poshard said.
“Anytime you have the life of a child at stake, that child … with somebody standing up for them and watching out for them, they may become the next president of the United States. There's always hope in changing the lives of children, and so that's why we have to remain vigilant,” Poshard said.
April brings renewed focus on child abuse
by David Palmer
The arrival of April launches a renewed effort to stop child abuse.
Through programs in school, which are available throughout the year, to April's Enough Is Enough: Stop Child Abuse Now! campaign, Javon Daniel, director of Cullman Caring For Kids, believes the public is taking to heart that something can be done to help abused and neglected children.
“The Department of Human Resources tells us that wherever children have someone to turn to and have learned they can get help, they receive reports and are able to help,” Daniel said.
Cullman Caring For Kids provides programs, information on how to spot child abuse and what to do, as well as media campaigns aimed at raising awareness and encouraging action when child abuse is suspected.
“DHR reports there were 999 reported cases of abuse and neglect in Cullman County in 2016. That's up 100 from the previous year. We believe efforts to educate people and show what can be done are helping to expose the problem,” Daniel said.
As an organization devoted to children's health and safety, Daniel encourages people to pause and think about the statistics, and then think of how much children need praise, teaching, love and encouragement each day.
“Twenty-six children died in Alabama last year's as a result of abuse or neglect, Daniel said. “Five children die every day in this country from abuse and neglect.”
Aside from the materials Cullman Caring For Kids provides for stopping child abuse, Daniel said it is important to spend time reinforcing a child's confidence and love. And if a parent or parents are struggling on a financial or personal level, help could be available through various avenues to assist with food to parenting skills.
“The important point is to make sure your child is safe and has love and nourishment. We can help or find help if a family is struggling,” Daniel said.
April will bring forth several events aimed at raising awareness about abuse and neglect. The blue bows and ribbons associated with this month's awareness campaign are already appearing across the community.
“We encourage people to spend time with their children and show love. Take them to lunch, visit school and have lunch with them, take them to church. Even when times are difficult or stressful, they look up to you for security, reassurance, and most of all, love,” Daniel said.
Family Council: Community effort needed to prevent child abuse
by Mary Ann Abel
It is every child's right to be loved and supported in a safe and caring home that is free of violence. The reality, however, is that child abuse occurs at every income level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.
In our community nearly 7,000 calls were made to the Stark County Children Services Report Line in 2016. Of these, 2,892 cases required assistance or intervention. In Ohio last year there were 17,418 substantiated or indicated reports of child abuse and/or neglect — roughly one report every 30 minutes. Most victims of abuse and neglect are infants who cannot talk, or children too young to ask for help. In the U.S., a report of child abuse occurs every 10 seconds and our country spends over $124 billion annually on child abuse and neglect.
Although these numbers are daunting, child abuse is preventable. When we work together to educate, to advocate, and to protect and support our children and families we make a difference.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Throughout this month we are called upon, both as individuals and as community, to celebrate children, to speak out for their well-being, and to raise awareness of the need for healthy parenting and strong families. Each of us is important in this effort, and when our voices are joined we become even more successful.
Learning more about child abuse prevention, and how to contribute meaningfully to preventing abuse, is made easier through the work of the Stark County Family Council partners.
Family Council brings local government, community leaders, schools, hospitals, health departments, community agencies and families and youth together in partnership to work year-round to improve the well-being of families and children.
In April, Stark County Family Council invites you to join the conversation and add your voice to community efforts to prevent child abuse. An important first step for each of us is to have a basic understanding of child abuse. Child abuse is not only physical or sexual abuse, it can also be mental injury caused by a caregiver's threats or activities. Abuse can be the result of emotional maltreatment, domestic violence in the home which impacts the child, or caregiver substance abuse. Child abuse can also be the result of educational neglect caused by caregivers who don't send their children to school or refuse to engage with the school to resolve important issues faced by the child.
Failing to meet a child's basic needs can be child abuse or neglect. Examples include living in a home that is a health hazard because of serious structural issues, lack of utilities, or rodents and other infestations. Being left unattended or with an inappropriate caregiver or not receiving medical treatment for an injury are also examples.
When we begin to think of child abuse in its many forms, and with its many underlying causes, we better understand its complexity and the multitude of services needed from parenting classes to mental health counseling, and school intervention and medical help, to name just a few. No single agency or entity can provide all the services called for in working with families to prevent child abuse. Stark County Family Council's ability to bring together the Board of Developmental Disabilities, Educational Service Center, Family Court, Job and Family Services, Mental Health and Addiction Recovery, United Way and all of the other Council members is vitally important. These partners are committed to helping children and families thrive and succeed in healthy communities and each brings needed expertise to the table.
Family Council is, however, just one piece of the child abuse prevention puzzle. You are also needed. You can become involved on a personal level by committing to learn more about child abuse and how it can be prevented. A good source of information is the Stark County Job and Family Services website: www.starkjfs.org/children-services-division.
We invite you to spend some time learning about the resources and child- and family-serving agencies in our community. A good place to begin is to learn about Family Council and its member organizations at www.starkfamilycouncil.org.
Being involved can be as simple as encouraging or supporting a parent, family or child. You can offer a small act of kindness such as spending some time with a child, or offering to babysit for an hour to provide some relief for an exhausted parent.
Let families know about the many resources, supports and tools available in our community.
Volunteer your time at a school, library or community agency that supports services for families.
Talk to your neighbors, schools, friends, family and co-workers about preventing child abuse and keeping our kids safe.
If you work with children, contact Children Services for information about Mandated Child Abuse Reporting training in which you can learn about the risk factors and warning signs of child abuse.
If you have reason to believe a child is being abused or neglected, report your suspicion to Children Services 24-hour abuse/neglect report line: (330) 455-KIDS or 1-800-233-KIDS.
Bring your family to April First Friday, April 7, and visit Children Services at Market Square where we will honor National Child Abuse Prevention Month with child-friendly activities.
Celebrate Wear Blue Day on April 12 and encourage those you know to do the same. On April 12 everyone is encouraged to wear blue, the color that is used to symbolize child abuse awareness and prevention. We encourage everyone who wears blue to take a picture, either as an individual, or in a group setting, and share it with Job and Family Services in care of Stephen Rowland, email@example.com so that pictures can be posted on the Job and Family Services website and Facebook page.
It is within our power to prevent child abuse. Each of us shares in the responsibility of keeping our children safe and everyone has a role to play. Please help. Join the conversation so that our united voices will be heard not just this April, but all year long.
Abel, the communications director for Stark County Job and Family Services, writes on behalf of the Stark County Family Council and its 27 board members. Stark County Family Council is a partnership of local governmental entities, community agencies and families who work together to promote a system of care for families with children/youth ages birth through 21.
Child Abuse by Omission: How American Law Holds Mothers Responsible for Their Partners' Crimes
by Linda C. Fentiman
Are mothers responsible for the abuse their children suffer at the hands of their male partners? While most of us recognize the complexity involved in trying to protect a child or anyone else from an abuser, the law takes a far less nuanced view -- particularly when it concerns mothers. As a legal scholar who studies how the law is applied unevenly to men and women, I have pored over hundreds of gut-wrenching child abuse cases and observed patterns of prosecution that betray a striking gender asymmetry.
The law disproportionately criminalizes women for failing to protect their children from abuse at the hands of their male partners. It is comparatively rare that men are held legally accountable for not shielding their children from abuse perpetrated by their women partners. Since 1960, there have been 108 published appellate cases in which parents were convicted of child abuse or homicide based on failure to act. Eighty-seven of the defendants were mothers; eleven were fathers; and in ten additional cases, the defendants were either the spouse or live-in partner of the abusive parent.
While this may be a relatively small number, the cases tell us a great deal about the unfair and unrealistic expectations the law places on mothers. It also speaks to the law's indifference to structural factors, such as poverty, inadequate child care and social isolation, which are common in cases of child abuse and domestic violence, and profoundly affect a mother's ability to protect her child.
The earliest reported prosecution of child abuse by omission, Palmer v. State , goes back to 1960. The case exemplifies the ways in which mothers are seen as uniquely responsible for a child's well-being. It also shows how social factors are ignored in favor of vilifying and convicting a mother.
Barbara Ann Palmer became pregnant at 15. After a brief marriage to the baby's father, she returned to live with her parents. Shortly afterward, she began a relationship with a man five years her senior and relocated to another state with him. Tragedy struck one month later when her daughter was beaten to death by her boyfriend.
Palmer was charged with and convicted of involuntary manslaughter. The Maryland Court of Appeals upheld Palmer's conviction, finding both that Palmer had been criminally negligent and that her failure to act was the actual and proximate cause of her child's death. Despite determining that her boyfriend's actions were the "direct and immediate" cause of the child's death, the court found that his violence did not constitute an "intervening efficient cause" sufficient to extinguish Palmer's responsibility for her child's death.
Following Palmer , in the '70s and '80s, prosecutions for homicide and child abuse based on a parent's failure to act spiked. As the number of mothers prosecuted when the actual abuser was the mother's husband or boyfriend began to rise, an unmistakable pattern of class and race bias also emerged: Women of color are disproportionately represented among mothers prosecuted for child abuse by omission.
Intimate partner violence and child abuse frequently overlap. In his 2014 study of criminal prosecution of parents who had failed to act to protect a child from a partner's abuse, journalist Alex Campbell found that in 40 percent of the cases in which the mother or girlfriend was the passive parent, there was significant evidence of intimate partner violence along with child abuse; I found roughly the same percentage in my study of published criminal cases. Mothers in this situation face daunting odds when trying to leave their abusers. At the same time that women fear physical harm, including death, from abusive male partners, many are dependent financially on them. Mothers may also rely on their partners to provide child care while they work low-wage jobs. With the threadbare social services offered to mothers in the United States, few resources exist to help poor single mothers and their children safely transition into healthier environments.
The 2010 case of Miranda Kuykendall sadly illustrates how these factors can converge to keep a woman and her children in jeopardy. Kuykendall worked the night shift at a health care facility and left her children, one nearly four and the other nearly two years old, with her boyfriend, Chris Elliott. Kuykendall was the victim of domestic violence from Elliott; she was also aware that Elliott was abusing her children. However, she continued to work the night shift because she needed "to save money so she could leave ... [Elliott] and get her children away from him before [the youngest child] ... ended up dead." Unfortunately, her plan was unsuccessful, and Elliott killed her son. Kuykendall was convicted of two counts of child abuse based on Elliott's violent abuse of her children.
It is frequently difficult for women who are the victims of intimate partner violence to convince law enforcement and judges that their abuse is real and that they are in need of protection; many mothers can feel trapped in an abusive situation. According to Maryland's Gender Bias in the Courts: Report of the Special Joint Committee on Gender Bias in the Courts (1989), one judge expressed an outlook that is all too common when ruling on the case of a woman who sought an order of protection from her partner's abuse:
I don't believe anything that you're saying.... The reason I don't believe it is because I don't believe that anything like that could happen to me. If I was you and someone had threatened me with a gun, there is no way that I would continue to stay with them. There is no way that I could take that level of abuse from them. Therefore, since I would not let that happen to me, I can't believe that it happened to you.
While we might like to believe that when we enter a courtroom, we leave our biases -- conscious and unconscious -- behind, this disproportionate prosecution of women shows otherwise. Judges, jurors and prosecutors carry with them all of the same biases and preconceptions that operate in the society at large. When determining guilt, the "reasonable person" standard is invoked; jurors and judges must gauge if the defendant behaved in the manner of this hypothetical reasonable person. In theory, this may seem like a fair measure, but in practice, when judges and jurors apply it to mothers, they are likely to construe the "reasonable mother" as someone with near superhuman powers to protect her children and to transcend her circumstances, no matter how dire. This version of "the reasonable mother" is expected to have the ability to foresee and forestall all potential harmful acts of her partner, despite her challenging social and economic circumstances.
To see this in action consider the case of Ginger McLaughlin that took place in 1978. McLaughlin was the mother of three young children. She was charged and convicted of criminal child neglect after she ran an errand for about 45 minutes; while she was gone, her husband beat and killed their two-month-old infant. The prosecutor proceeded on the theory that because McLaughlin knew her husband had a violent temper and had assaulted the two older children eight months previously, it was foreseeable that her husband would brutalize their newborn while she was at the store, and therefore she was negligent, falling below the standard of a reasonable person. Fortunately, the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed her conviction for insufficient evidence.
That mothers should display attributes of extraordinary care and selflessness is a consistent theme in in the comments made by legal decision makers. Jurors who insist that a mother "should have protected that baby with everything she had," prosecutors who assert that a mother's obligation is to "lay her life ... on the line for her child" and judges who impose heavy sentences to condemn a mother who "abandoned or abdicated" her duty are all employing a heightened standard to evaluate accused mothers, one that is more rigorous than the law demands. One judge went so far as to assert that when one parent is the abuser and the other parent either knows or should have known of that abuse, the non-abusing parent has an even higher duty to act, because the child has no other advocate.
As multiple writers, including Katie Roiphe in In Praise of Messy Lives and Carol Sanger in her 1989 Survey of Books Relating to the Law have noted, there is also a strong tendency among jurors, judges and prosecutors to believe that single mothers in particular are highly sexualized beings, whose actions must be closely scrutinized for evidence that sexual desire trumped their maternal instincts. In a Rhode Island case, State v. Cacchiotti , the court was explicit: "The jury could well have found ... that [the mother's] lust for [her batterer] completely overcame her sense of duty to her child."
Finally, the "fundamental attribution error" also drives this heightened criminalization of mothers. This is the subconscious coping mechanism that helps us make sense of disturbing and tragic events. As law professor Carol Anderson explains, in order to continue to believe in a world that is just, in which "good things happen to 'good' people and bad things happen to 'bad' people," we engage in "defensive attribution." When a tragic event occurs, the natural human tendency is to explain it by attributing it to the flawed character or choices of the victim, rather than the situation in which the victim found himself. In other words, we blame the victim. When the fundamental attribution error collides with racial stereotypes and idealized notions of motherhood, the result is that mothers are likely to be blamed for the behavior of others, which is beyond their control.
More than ever, American mothers are expected to single-handedly protect and nurture their children. Blaming them for the crimes of their partners and for being unable to surmount the overwhelming social and economic forces arrayed against them is not only unjust but also does nothing to make children safer. If our goal is to make child abuse an ugly relic, it is time we stop expecting mothers to be superheroes and start demanding the social conditions that will allow every child to thrive.
Suffer not the little children: Report suspected sexual abuse
by Kristen Houser
We all have a role to play in ending sexual violence. High-profile cases over the past few years have triggered a national conversation around sexual violence, illustrating the score and impact of the problem and showing how critical it is for everyone to be involved in response and prevention.
The case involving Graham Spanier is one such case.
On March 24, Graham B. Spanier, the former president of Pennsylvania State University, was found guilty of one count of child endangerment for failing to report that retired assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had been seen assaulting a young boy in the shower of a Penn State football locker room.
According to prosecutors in the courtroom, Spanier knew of a 1998 police investigation about Sandusky taking a shower with a young boy. Yet three years later, in 2001, when Spanier was briefed about how to respond after a graduate coaching assistant reported seeing Sandusky assault a boy in a shower, Spanier emailed two colleagues, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, and noted the “only downside” to their plan of asking Sandusky to not bring children onto the campus would be if Sandusky did not respond appropriately “and then we become vulnerable for not having reported it.”
Those words convinced jurors that Spanier knew he had an obligation to report the incident, yet he acted in a way that indicated that protecting the university's reputation was a higher priority than protecting children.
Regardless of what Spanier's intentions may have been, his silence gave Sandusky more time and prolonged access to the boys he abused. (Sandusky would be convicted in 2012 for sexually assaulting 10 boys. All were truly victims, not "so-called victims," as was recently, and outrageously, suggested.)
In mid-March, Schultz and Curley both pleaded guilty to one count each of child endangerment.
Penn State's administration said in a statement after the Spanier verdict that, “In the view of the jury, with respect to Spanier, and by their own admission, as to Curley and Schultz, these former leaders fell short. And while we cannot undo the past, we have re-dedicated ourselves and our university to act always with the highest integrity, in affirming the shared values of our community.”
What does high integrity look like?
For starters, it means that mandated reporters — administrators, leaders, faculty, staff and volunteers on campus — report potential abuse of anyone under age 18, as required by law. The reports should be made to ChildLine (1-800-932-0313).
Spanier said he thought Sandusky's behavior was just “horseplay.” That is an inappropriate, sanitized word for the situation that was described. Every institutional leader in the country should know by now that it is never appropriate for an adult representative of an organization that serves young people to shower with a child — particularly not in an empty building, after hours.
Institutional leaders set the tone for their organizations and for the community. They must lead by example, follow the law and err on the side of caution to protect children from abuse.
Every one of us — no matter where we work or what our title — has a responsibility to put the welfare of children first. We must report suspicious behavior and allow trained professionals to investigate whether something criminal has occurred. When in doubt, report suspicions and err on the side of children.
If you are afraid to be the first to come forward and question a red-flag behavior, consider this: If your child, or grandchild, or young relative were being sexually abused, you'd want someone to intervene and get them help, right?
As individuals, we need to keep our eyes and ears open to potential child sexual abuse. It is prevalent, and the people who commit these crimes are people with characteristics like Sandusky: popular, gregarious and seemingly trustworthy. They do not publicly look or behave like “monsters,” come across as “evil” or as “predators.”
Today in Pennsylvania, it is the law — not a judgment call — for mandated reporters to report suspected child sexual abuse. But, for all of us, it's more than the law; it's the right thing to do. Protecting a child must be our first priority. Always.
Kristen Houser is the chief public affairs officer for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
Children's advocates: Talking about abuse is key to prevention
by Charlie Reed
Child sexual abuse is tough to talk about, especially for victims.
Their reluctance is what abusers count on to get away with these crimes, sometimes for years.
“Kids know adults don't like to talk about it, which makes it harder for them to talk about it if it happens to them,” said Joy Chuba, executive director of the Children's Advocacy Center Osceola, one of 500 such centers in the U.S. devoted to helping abused children.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, which advocates like Chuba use to bring awareness to the issue and help victims come forward.
“Child sex abuse is significantly underreported,” Chuba said. “We don't really know the scope of the problem.”
The Crimes Against Children Research Center estimates that one in five girls and one in 20 boys are the victims of sexual abuse in the U.S.
What's worse, 90 percent of abusers are known to their victims and 90 percent of victims don't show physical signs of sexual abuse, Chuba said.
“It's tough to wrap your head around,” she said.
These factors make putting abusers behind bars more difficult. While the CAC model is designed so victims can get help, it also increases the likelihood that offenders are prosecuted.
On Tuesday, Chuba gave a tour of the CAC Osceola to community leaders and media to show how it works. Instead of children having to recount their abuse to multiple officials from different agencies in various places, they are brought to the CAC. Law enforcement officers and agents from the Department of Children and Families, along with CAC caseworkers and doctors, work together to investigate and gather evidence in one child-friendly environment.
“It's a less intimidating atmosphere and minimizes the number of times the child has to tell their story,” Chuba said.
The CAC process help build more solid cases against abusers. Still, children are almost always called on to testify in open court if cases are brought to trial. For many children, testifying is simply too traumatic. For others it's empowering, Chuba said.
When it comes to preventing sexual abuse, the key, say experts, is being aware of the problem, learning how to talk about it.
“I think it's a crime that people don't want to spend much time thinking about because it's ugly. We have this great tendency to be in denial,” said Jennifer Dritt, executive director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence.
One of the most difficult aspects of child sexual abuse, Dritt said, is that abusers are known to their victims more often than not.
“Children are at risk. That's a fact of life and people we know and love are capable of doing this to children,” she said. I don't think we've figured out how to grapple with that problem in an effective way.”
And there are ways to talk about the issue without scaring children, she said.
“You can help children keep themselves safe to some degree without frightening them,” Dritt said. “Early engagement around the issue is important. And parents have to talk about it among themselves.”
Predators can be teachers, family members, coaches and babysitters. They often “groom” the children they violate, so identifying those behaviors is one of the most effective means of prevention. Behaivors such as inviting the child to do fun activities alone, being a sympathetic listener when parents, friends and others disappoint a child and buying special treats and gifts for a child.
“You want your child to report early,” Dritt said. “And for people who say ‘I would never let this happen to my kid' it can be hard for them to see the signs because they just don't want to believe it could happen.”
For more information call the Children's Advocacy Center Osceola at: 407-518-6936, Ext. 235 or visit www.osceolakids.com.
President Donald J. Trump Proclaims April 2017 as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month
NATIONAL SEXUAL ASSAULT AWARENESS AND PREVENTION MONTH, 2017
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
At the heart of our country is the emphatic belief that every person has unique and infinite value. We dedicate each April to raising awareness about sexual abuse and recommitting ourselves to fighting it. Women, children, and men have inherent dignity that should never be violated.
According to the Department of Justice, on average there are more than 300,000 instances of rape or other sexual assault that afflict our neighbors and loved ones every year. Behind these painful statistics are real people whose lives are profoundly affected, at times shattered, and who are invariably in need of our help, commitment, and protection.
As we recognize National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, we are reminded that we all share the responsibility to reduce and ultimately end sexual violence. As a Nation, we must develop meaningful strategies to eliminate these crimes, including increasing awareness of the problem in our communities, creating systems that protect vulnerable groups, and sharing successful prevention strategies.
My Administration, including the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services, will do everything in its power to protect women, children, and men from sexual violence. This includes supporting victims, preventing future abuse, and prosecuting offenders to the full extent of the law. I have already directed the Attorney General to create a task force on crime reduction and public safety. This task force will develop strategies to reduce crime and propose new legislation to fill gaps in existing laws.
Prevention means reducing the prevalence of sexual violence on our streets, in our homes, and in our schools and institutions. Recent research has demonstrated the effectiveness of changing social norms that accept or allow indifference to sexual violence. This can be done by engaging young people to step in and provide peer leadership against condoning violence, and by mobilizing men and boys as allies in preventing sexual and relationship violence. Our families, schools, and communities must encourage respect for women and children, who are the vast majority of victims, and promote healthy personal relationships. We must never give up the fight against the scourge of child pornography and its pernicious effects on both direct victims and the broader culture. We recommit ourselves this month to establishing a culture of respect and appreciation for the dignity of every human being.
There is tremendous work to be done. Together, we can and must protect our loved ones, families, campuses, and communities from the devastating and pervasive effects of sexual assault. In the face of sexual violence, we must commit to providing meaningful support and services for victims and survivors in the United States and around the world.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 2017 as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. I urge all Americans, families, law enforcement, health care providers, community and faith-based organizations, and private organizations to support survivors of sexual assault and work together to prevent these crimes in their communities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.
DONALD J. TRUMP
Child neglect, abuse, drug culture overwhelm Idaho's foster system
by Julie Wootton, Tetona Dunlap and Alex Riggins
TWIN FALLS — Robert Wayne Welch's girlfriend discovered something worrisome in 2014: His infant son was losing weight and vomiting. The baby's head appeared larger than normal, too.
Paranoid that his heavy methamphetamine use would be discovered, Welch didn't take baby Robert Welch Jr. to a hospital, prosecutors said later. But his girlfriend did.
Doctors in Boise found a fractured skull and a brain bleed. The infant appeared to suffer from shaken baby syndrome and was severely malnourished, getting only enough calories to keep his heart beating. He needed emergency surgery.
Welch would lose his parental rights and be sentenced for felony injury to a child. His son would suffer the consequences forever.
The boy is Josiah William Baker now — fostered, then adopted, by Jon and Tina Baker of Twin Falls, who picked up the 4-month-old from the hospital. Now 3 years old, he has permanent brain damage and developmental delays. He's non-verbal and can't be left alone.
For Josiah and other neglected, abused or abandoned children, Idaho needs a foster care system. But it's an overburdened system with a shortage of foster parents, overworked social workers, a lack of systemwide oversight and a culture “undercut by a constant feeling of crisis,” said a February report by the Legislature's Office of Performance Evaluations.
The need is especially pronounced in south-central Idaho, where far fewer foster placements are available than anywhere else in the state. And the number of children removed from their homes is on the rise.
Last year, 181 south-central Idaho children were removed — most due to neglect — compared with 161 in 2012, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
Idaho legislators in March passed a resolution to create a committee to study Idaho's foster care system and recommend improvements. But as lawmakers debated more funding for child welfare and higher payments to foster parents, south-central Idaho still faced an extreme shortage of licensed foster parents.
And the need can't wait. A child removed from a dangerous situation needs a bed to sleep in that night. Food and clothing. A sense of security. Love.
Someone has to be willing to help.
'All kinds of drugs'
Baylee Brown was one of those children.
Hospitalized as a high school freshman, she was interviewed by child protection workers. Whatever they learned resulted in Baylee staying with a half-brother instead of returning home to her mother and stepfather.
“They did drugs continuously. All kinds of drugs,” said Baylee, now a 17-year-old Buhl High School senior. “My stepdad was abusive — not toward me, but my little sister."
Baylee tried to protect her younger sister. Then, she said, her stepfather started directing the anger toward her. Baylee didn't want to elaborate.
In January 2014, the night “everything happened," family friend Brenda Hoover received a phone call from Health and Welfare asking if she could help.
Hoover had been friends with Baylee's mother and stepfather since they were teens and had known Baylee and her sister since their births.
“The kids all grew up calling me aunt Brenda,” she said.
After that nighttime call, Hoover looked after Baylee's half-sister, now 6, under a 30-day safety plan from Health and Welfare. Baylee spent that time with her older half-brother, but he couldn't become a foster parent because he was only 20.
Hoover wasn't sure she was fit to be a foster parent. Toward the end of the 30-day plan, she said, “I threw my hands up in the air.”
She prayed, asking God for direction.
The next day, Health and Welfare called, asking if Hoover could become both girls' foster mother. She took the Health and Welfare training, negotiated the difficult emotional waters and helped Baylee become a student athlete and a foster youth advocate.
And in October, after 2 1/2 years of fostering, Hoover became Baylee's legal guardian. Their relationship would be permanent.
'I wasn't a good parent'
Other parents with drug problems, like Sara Bloss, try to beat the drugs and reunite their families.
In a Plant Therapy warehouse smelling of lavender, citrus and peppermint, Bloss gave a cheerful "Hi!" and a wave to a co-worker sealing a package of essential oils March 13. Before starting her afternoon tasks, Bloss showed a photo taken with her husband that weekend — the first time she'd seen him in nine months. He wore a blue prison suit.
"He told me, 'When you talk to the reporter, you tell her it was all my fault,'" said Bloss, a 30-year-old Twin Falls mother with a 3-year-old son.
Bloss' husband violated his probation, was charged with felony possession of meth and is serving 2 1/2 years in prison in Kuna. In November, Bloss was charged with the same crime and sentenced to 30 days in jail. She left her son, Gus, with a friend.
But that friend got arrested after police found drugs in her vehicle, and Gus was put into foster care.
"It wasn't neglect," Bloss said. "Not all children are taken because of neglect."
Now Bloss has to prove to Health and Welfare that she deserves to have her son back, she said as she double-checked the essential oils inside a box headed for Canada and taped it up.
When her son entered foster care, Bloss didn't know where he was living. She was scared.
“You don't know who he's with because you are in jail," she said. "It was the most stressful 30 days of my life."
Then she met Gus' foster mother — Amanda Connors, who grew up in foster care in Twin Falls and Jerome — and her worries subsided.
"She's a young girl paying it forward," Bloss said. "I know he's in good hands with her."
Growing up, Connors bounced around different foster homes and group homes. Her father committed suicide when she was young. Her mother and stepfather used drugs; today, she has a good relationship with them, though they don't talk much.
Connors, 29, has fostered eight children and has four in her home now — including Gus, who ran over to Connors as she sat at the dining room table Feb. 13.
"Mom!" he yelled, clutching a bag of Skittles. Connors tried to refuse the yellow candy he pushed toward her mouth but eventually ate it.
"Ahh!" Connors said. "No more. Thank you."
Connors is glad to hear her foster children call her Mom. They must feel secure, she figures.
"It's pretty neat to watch the kids grow and feel safe," Connors said, "and see how happy they are when they see their family."
Of all the biological parents Connors works with, Bloss is the only one who consistently shows up for scheduled visits.
"I need to be there for my son," Bloss said. She wishes she could see him every day. "That just kills me."
But before Gus can return to her care, Bloss must complete a four-hour online parenting class, have a job and finish a twice-weekly drug treatment program at the Walker Center in Gooding. Bloss has the Plant Therapy job and completed the parenting class, but the third requirement remains. After work March 13, she planned to drive to Gooding for three hours of the drug treatment class.
Bloss is allowed supervised visits with Gus for an hour each week. Instead of doing it at a Health and Welfare office, they play at parks or JumpTime Idaho and get ice cream at Arctic Circle.
"I'm blessed we get to have those kinds of visits," Bloss said.
She often brings toys for the other foster children in Connors' home, so they don't feel left out.
Gus would start play therapy in mid-March. Bloss' social worker said Gus was having trouble expressing himself with words.
"It kind of confuses him," Bloss said. "Playing shows kids love."
Connors sends Bloss photos of Gus on the swings and the slides.
"He's at the park and it lets me know he's OK," Bloss said. "The foster mom is amazing. She's so cool."
With a court date approaching, Bloss hoped to get unsupervised visits with her son. And at the next court appearance, in June, she hopes the judge will let her have Gus back.
"My goal is to stay sober for the rest of my life," she said. "I wasn't a good parent before. I wasn't being the best mom I could be. My son needs me."
'How can you send them back?'
And what did the baby with a fractured skull need? Not what his biological dad could provide, a court concluded.
When doctors found infant Robert Welch Jr.'s skull fracture and brain bleed, Welch's ex-wife told police he'd blamed the injury on their two children jumping on the bed the infant lay on.
And, court documents say, she told police how Welch had replied when she confronted him: "Am I supposed to tell the cops that I beat the s— out of my own kid so they can put me in jail for the next 15 years?"
In February 2015, Welch was sentenced to a therapeutic program with the Idaho Department of Correction, known as a rider, and then to seven years of supervised probation starting in October 2015.
“I'm very sorry for the things I've done," Welch said at his sentencing hearing. "I realize I do have a problem. I love Junior more than anything. I pray for him every day.”
During a brief phone interview March 20, Welch blamed the neglect on his heavy meth use.
“I was not a good person,” Welch remembered. “I did my rider — pretty much six months of an intense in-patient program — and it changed my life for the better.”
But he won't see the boy anytime soon. Welch gave up his parental rights in a child-protection case, and a plea agreement in his criminal case restricts Welch from seeing the boy until he's 16. The birth mother wasn't in the picture in 2014; she went to prison six days after giving birth for a parole violation on a forgery conviction, according to court records.
Willing to speak only briefly last month, Welch defended himself, pointing out he was convicted for neglecting to seek medical care, not for beating the infant; he said he still doesn't know how the baby's skull was fractured. He called losing Junior “heartbreaking” but said he's trying to put those events in his past.
Welch's conviction was for creating an environment that allowed his son to sustain a skull fracture or failing to seek treatment. A second count of felony injury to a child, dropped in the plea deal, said Welch failed to feed the baby.
The Bakers, already foster parents for other children, thought they would be providing hospice care during the baby's final days on Earth. But that was three years ago, and now the renamed Josiah is their adopted son. He's like an infant, but more demanding, Tina Baker said. He's “super smart” but yells if left alone.
On a Friday afternoon in mid-February, Tina pulled a photo off her refrigerator: Josiah as an infant, at the Boise hospital where they took him in.
About 45 foster children have come through the Bakers' doors since 2011. Six children live under their roof now: Jon's biological daughter, two foster children and three children the couple fostered then adopted.
“How can you send them back when you love on them?” Jon said.
Adopted daughter Chloe Baker, 4, carried a pink florescent balloon around the living room that afternoon and showed off her stuffed animal, Olaf from the Disney movie “Frozen.” A 6-month-old foster girl napped in another room. On a kitchen chair, Josiah watched a video on an iPad.
Josiah was recovering from a procedure earlier that day at St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center, Tina said. Sedated, he received Botox injections — eight in his calves and two on the soles of his feet — to counteract the curling of his toes, a result of his brain injury.
Tina and her husband usually say yes to taking in foster children. But the night before Josiah's procedure, when they got a call about an 11-year-old girl who was suicidal, they were maxed out and said no.
“I didn't want an extra worry on my plate,” said Tina, who was already stressed out.
Health and Welfare would have to find the girl a different home in Idaho's overburdened foster system.
Citizen participation can cut inner city crime in half!
by Stephanie L. Mann, Crime and Violence Prevention Consultant
Gun violence devastates family health and safety! We've all heard about violence in Chicago, Baltimore, Ferguson and other cities. Many Americans want more gun control, while others want more police. These are Band-Aid approaches because they don't address root causes. Based on my 39 years as a crime and violence prevention specialist, here are my thoughts on how to make families, neighborhoods and cities safer.
Gun violence alone cost American taxpayers, $229 billion annually. We could cut that cost in half within ten years if we focused on community responsibility for crime.
Crime is committed by a small percentage of people. However, when criminal activities increase, police are forced to increase crime control and officers may become more aggressive. It is important to note, the national average is 2.5 police officers per 1000 citizens. In many communities, neighbors know each other and protect homes from burglars. They may not know all their neighbors or speak up about youthful bad behavior, which police cannot control. Without a healthy balance between citizen participation and police, citizens can become angry, feel powerless and blame police. Police have limitations and CANNOT protect us without involved citizens.
I started as a volunteer in my unincorporated community of 17,500 residents in 1969. We had a crime wave and NO local police department! Ten volunteers planned and implemented the “Neighborhood Responsibility Program.” We educated neighbors on how to stop burglaries and juvenile crime. Within 2 and a-half years, citizens reduced crime 48% with the help of 2 sergeant investigators hired from the county sheriff's department.
Nationally in the 1970's, crime was increasing at an alarming rate and our community received publicity and questions about how citizens, without a local police department, cut crime. I co-authored, “Alternative to Fear: Guidelines for safer neighborhoods.” The book helped launch the national police program, “Neighborhood Watch.” The book was written to empower citizen groups and funded by the California Youth Authority. However, we were concerned as it was distributed to police departments' throughout the US. Over the years, additional police were hired as crime increased and they promoted “Neighborhood Watch.” Crime declined but many citizens were passive about their responsibility to protect the neighborhood and kids on the block.
My co-author, Shirley Henke, worked for the Criminal Justice Planning Agency and formed the county citizens' crime prevention committee with volunteers from a number of cities. When the committee was organized, we received several grants that provided for a central office with 6 area citizen coordinators. Initially, the Police Chief's Association voted against us saying, “Citizens would become vigilantes.” They insisted the committee hire their hand picked retired police chief to work with our administrator. The second year the police chief was dropped. We had proven that citizens were responsible and cared about their neighborhoods.
For six years, we organized and trained 27 citywide volunteer committees throughout our county. We encouraged volunteer committees to be the change makers and bring neighborhoods together. Our office became a county resource center. As volunteers gained trust, they were able to expose “bad” cops while other officers told us which officers to avoid.
We held monthly meetings and annual award dinners with several hundred residents and police officers in attendance. As neighborhood leaders saw success, they became more evolved; and served on school and hospital boards.
In one city with 73,000 residents, a rapist was caught within five days because 43 neighborhood network leaders got accurate information from the police about the rapist and passed out flyers to neighbors. As responsible citizens took control of their neighborhoods, fear was reduced, trust grew and neighbors protected and controlled youthful behavior. Citizen participation increased city safety with less policing needed.
Some areas were bigger challenges! I've facilitated hundreds of meetings. Often citizens had to vent their anger before discussing neighborhood safety. It took 2 or 3 meetings before residents would listen. One officer showed up with a police protection car. I had to explain, that officers also felt threatened by citizens. Once anger was reduced, citizens and police developed working relationships.
Crime, violence and gangs emerge when young people don't have the support and supervision they need. Together neighbors put a check and balance on destructive juveniles and criminal activities before problems got out of control.
One day a lady came into our office. She was angry with police. They were not doing their job to stop the drug dealers in the park. She explained that the city counsel voted to put a fence around the park to keep the drug dealers out. We discussed police limitations and suggested she get her neighbors involved. Without being noticed, neighbors walked dogs, watered lawns and played cards as they took down descriptions and license numbers, which they turned over to police. Within 3 months, the drug dealers and customers were gone. Barbara and her neighbors went to city council to request the money for the fence be used for new swings and benches for the park. Their request was granted. Ten years later, Barbara Vigil became the mayor of San Pablo, CA. Isn't that the way politicians used to emerge, from the grassroots up?
The Americans excel at helping each other if they are encouraged and supported!
At a neighborhood meeting, the discussion turned from home security to seven and nine year old brothers who were vandalizing property, bullying and stealing out of garages. One man said, “I told that mother to get her kids under control” and she slammed the door in my face. Another neighbor said she called the police. The officer talked to the mother and scolded the boys but nothing changed. The group agreed the boys were headed down a self-destructive path if things didn't change. They decided to appoint two tactful neighbors to reach out and let the mother know they were not there to blame but to help. At first the mother was defensive! However, when the neighbors said they would help, she burst into tears and explained her husband had been incarcerated and the boys were angry. The neighbors reached out and took the boys on their family outings and included them in activities. Ten years later, I saw the mother again and asked about the boys. She said, “I couldn't have done it alone. My neighbors made a huge difference in their lives and now the oldest is in college and the younger one is doing well in high school.”
“We the people” are the tipping point for community change, not the police. The stumbling block is corruption in our cities that allow “leaders” to continue “business as usual.” We need to defuse anger and hire citizen coordinators that look like and speak the language of their communities. They can empower residents and create safer cities.
Talk to your city leaders about hiring and training citizen coordinators. Citizens can move beyond fear and social isolation as they “adopt their block.” Involved citizens restore hope, change attitudes and create peaceful cities. Remember…Police react to crime; citizen involvement can PREVENT CRIME and make neighborhoods safer, healthier places for families to grow and thrive!
For more information and Stephanie Mann's bio:
Essex Police responds to dramatic child sex abuse rise
by Conor Gogarty
Essex Police has released a statement on new figures showing four children were abused in Essex every day last year.
The number of child sex offences recorded by police across Essex rose to 1,449 in 2016, up 12 per cent from the previous year.
A spokeswoman for Essex Police said the force "takes all reports of sexual offences seriously and there is no higher priority than protecting vulnerable children and adults in our county".
She added: "We have seen an increase in recorded offences, including those involving children, which is in line with the national picture and is a result of victims being confident to come forward and report them to us.
"Some of the offences reported to us are made by adult survivors of child abuse and there have been some high profile cases involving historic abuse that have encouraged victims to come forward.
"Cases involving historic abuse are still recorded as child abuse and it is our duty to investigate all these reports."
The force also insisted it was fighting the abuse by partnering with other agencies and using experienced officers to keep children safe.
"We will continue delivering the most comprehensive training in the country and improving our communications with staff, partner organisations and victims of abuse," their spokeswoman said.
Last month a report released by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC's) in relation to child protection found that Essex Police is significantly improving.
If you have information about such crimes or are yourself a victim or a survivor of sexual abuse as a child, the force asks you to come forward.
You can contact them directly on 101 and ask to speak to a specialist officer within our child abuse investigation teams.
Survivors demand action as sex abuse royal commission hearings conclude
by Rachel Browne
Three-and-a-half years after the child sex abuse royal commission held its first public inquiry, its final hearing returned to the survivors who started it all.
They had a strong message for governments, institutions and the community: no child should suffer as they did.
Savannah Szoredi told of her hope to break the cycle of abuse, having grown up in a volatile family as a result of her mother being sexually assaulted while in state care.
"She understood the injustices which had happened to her and tried to work her hardest to be the best parent she could be," Ms Szoredi told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
"She was a survivor and she was proud of that as am I."
Now 24 and the mother of a young son, Ms Szoredi described a childhood marred by her mother's mental health problems, drug addiction and poverty.
"Today I feel sad because it could have been so different without all the trauma and my life could have been normal," she said.
Ms Szoredi's father was murdered when she was six; her mother died five years ago aged only 50.
"My son will never get to meet his grandparents and I will never get to share that experience with them," she said.
"I am determined to break the cycle so that my son is not affected by any traits I may have developed through growing up in this environment."
A group of survivors calling themselves the Magnificent Seven echoed Ms Szoredi's hopes for a better future as they brought the final public hearing to a close.
Penny Rose, Sandra Kitching, Robert Cummings, Damian de Marco, Ivan Clarke, Steve Smith and Aileen Ashford come from vastly different walks of life but all felt the devastating impact of abuse.
When asked what should change, Mr Cummings told the inquiry: "What I would like to see is no more royal commissions. It is time to stop the inquiries and start putting actions into place."
Mr Smith agreed, telling the commission: "We should never again find ourselves in this situation where generations have been devastated and lives have been lost due to the indifference and self-serving attitudes of institutions in this country."
Mr de Marco described the impact of child abuse as: "Australia's number one health and welfare problem."
Mr Clarke urged the community to listen to children who make disclosures.
"The voice of a child is only as loud as the adult hearing it allows it to be," he said. "A fractured child becomes a broken adult."
Above all, said Ms Kitching: "Children have the right to be safe."
The chairman of the commission, Justice Peter McClellan, paid tribute to the survivors in his closing remarks.
"We have been told by many people that the public hearings have had a profound effect on the community's understanding of the nature and impact of the sexual abuse of children in Australia," he said.
"This is primarily due to the courage and determination of the survivors who have given evidence. Without them our public hearings would be a hollow attempt to tell their story. Without them the realities of child sexual abuse and the extent of institutional failure could not be recognised."
The royal commission will hand down its final report in December.
Blue Knot Helpline 1300 657 380
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A look back at the royal commission
The royal commission has heard from 1200 witnesses over 400 days of public hearings into institutions ranging from schools to churches and sports clubs. Here are some of the most significant moments.
Cardinal George Pell
One of the highest profile witnesses, the cardinal made three appearances at the commission where he was called on to give evidence about how the Catholic church responded to allegations of child sexual abuse.
Unable to travel from Rome due to a medical condition, the cardinal made his final appearance from Rome in 2016, under the watchful gaze of survivors who travelled to see him.
Grilled over four days, his claims to be ignorant of widespread offending were described as "implausible" by counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness SC.
Over twelve days of extraordinary revelations, the commission heard how former Knox Grammar headmaster Ian Paterson systematically covered up multiple claims of abuse to protect the reputation of the private school.
The commission heard he hindered legal inquiries and deliberately misled a police officer investigating allegations.
In a stunning about face, Dr Paterson later recanted his testimony but this did not dissuade the commissioners from making damning findings about his actions in a report handed down last year.
Catholic church data
An analysis of claims against the Catholic church revealed the staggering extent of allegations of child sexual abuse for the first time.
The data, collated from claims made between 1980-2015, showed 4,445 people alleged they were abused as children in Catholic institutions, identifying a total of 1880 alleged perpetrators.
An analysis of alleged perpetrators in male religious orders between 1950-2010, found the highest proportion in St John of God (40 per cent), followed by the Christian Brothers (22 per cent), the Salesians of Don Bosco (21.9 per cent) and the Marist Brothers (20.4 per cent).
The Salvation Army
One of the first institutions to appear at the royal commission, the Salvation Army was the subject of four hearings between 2014-16. The first, held in January 2014, publicly detailed for the first time the brutal conditions at Salvation Army children's homes last century.
Former residents told the royal commission of horrific beatings and sexual assaults at the hands of the Salvation Army officers entrusted to care for them.
The fourth hearing, held in December 2016, heard the organisation had under-compensated dozens of people who suffered abuse in its care and still had more to do to improve child protection.
Newcastle featured prominently in the royal commission which heard evidence about widespread allegations of sexual abuse in both Anglican and Catholic institutions at two hearings in August last year.
Roger Herft, a former Anglican bishop of Newcastle, resigned from his position as archbishop of Perth after admitting he let down survivors of sexual abuse.
The inquiry into the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle heard of a "long and disturbing history of suffering by children". Philip Wilson, a former East Maitland parish priest now Archbishop of Adelaide, is defending a charge that he allegedly covered up abuse in the Hunter.
‘The Family' documentary – true crime blow torch applied to child abuse cult
by Lauren Carroll Harris
Under the influence of LSD, she had this vision, that you've got to collect all these children from birth because one day there's gonna be either World War III or natural disasters galore where most of the world is going to perish. She was preparing us for when the time happens to reeducate the world — what's left of it.
So describes a survivor of Australia's most infamous sect, The Family, the subject of a new documentary from Rosie Jones, co-financed by Melbourne International Film Festival's production fund. The greatest irony is that, despite her rationale, cult leader Anne Hamilton-Byrne created her own tiny dystopian world in the forests of country Victoria from the 1960s to the early 1990s. But Jones doesn't rely on the tropes of apocalypses and war films. Rather, she uses creepy home-video images and horror-like characterisations of madmen, combined with true crime reenactments, interviews and archival news footage, to create a psychodramatic procedural of the mission that tried and failed to bring down the charismatic former yoga teacher Hamilton-Byrne.
Jones drops us into the outlandish action with a score of tinkling lullabies and thudding heartbeats, accompanied by news footage of a police raid on a property off Lake Eildon in country Victoria. Dozens of children, brainwashed, beaten and dosed with LCD, are rescued and put into state care. Slow-gliding aerial shots of the lake, looking down from a height, mimic a celestial being. The prophet and abuser in question was already on the run: with her husband William and several other key enablers, Hamilton-Byrne had created a highly disciplined sect of stolen children and entranced, paid-up adults, circling around an endless wheel of Eastern, mashed-up spiritual nonsense involving everything from UFOs, eternal rebirth and the promise to cancel karma.
Staying close the true-crime genre, Jones uses talking heads interviews to lead us through the police hunt. Lex de Man, former detective senior sergeant of the Taskforce Operation Forest, emerges as a key figure, but it's the now-grown survivors who leap out of the procedural murk. One former Eildon Child, Roland, recalls being fed LSD at age eight. Another speaks of ceaseless torture. Those who wanted to leave were given shock treatments. Most children didn't know the identities of their parents.
What does it all add up to, this litany of unfathomable abuse? To the film's discredit, it skims across the conditions that allowed The Family's growth. There were adults who knew what was going on and did nothing. Prosecutors were reluctant to move ahead. Solicitors falsified documents. Attorneys defended Anne against prosecution, when it eventuated. Doctors administered LSD. Nurses obtained “unwanted” babies for Anne, as part of an accepted medical culture of taking newborns from unmarried mothers.
Beyond her cult, her reach was enabled by a conservative society that sold out unmarried mothers and children born out of wedlock. And beyond her pathology, her madness, part of Anne's motive was financial, in that her followers gave her funds which she used to secure a series of properties around the world.
But these factors make for less sensational subject matter than the fantastical, psychosexual associations the filmmakers opt to draw on, offering horror-like montages of flowers opening, red-silhouetted trees and yet more gliding shots of boats sunk in the misty lake. These techniques aren't always subtle, and in aggregate, their power wears off rather than builds. Their mawkishness brickwalls the film's deeper aspirations to be a sensitive exploration of trauma as it unfurls, churning away in the psyche, from childhood into adulthood.
The affectless way in which the survivors describe their abuse comes to counterpoint the sometimes histrionic choice of cinematic techniques. “It was like a new person emerged from this experience,” says one about being broken by an especially terrible beating. “There were no humans, just children getting about in an industrial way, making their society work.” “My personality changed,” says another Eildon Child.
Jones makes the mastermind decision to float the survivors' voices, disembodied, over archival images, so it becomes hard to keep track of the identity of the speaker. The effect is an anonymous layering of lost children. They are people who had no identities whatsoever, and even as adults, many of them speak in stilted, alarmed, withdrawn tones, even when expressing their yearning to belong and their motherlessness.
And as for Anne herself — what to make of her? As a character, she evades a vivid portrait. The filmmakers have access only to some archival photos in newspapers, a television interview in which she glibly professes her love for “her” children and some news footage from her trial in the early 1990s.
To me, she seemed a strange combination of Joanna Lumley, in a physical sense, given her patrician, arch-browed British aesthetic, and Pauline Hanson, whose flat affect and empty intellect instantly deflects any attempt at examination or enquiry. There's no cutting through that soap opera-ish vacancy. Like Donald Trump, Anne appears to have no depth whatsoever. She opens her mouth determined to talk, but with no idea what words will emerge, beginning a sentence with no notion of how it will end. The veneer of nothing is so impenetrable, the performance so strong, that half of the time, you think Anne believes what she's saying, and the other half, she appears as the worst, most brazen liar. Does she know we know she's lying, or, like Trump, does she just not care?
It is quite a set of attributes for a documentary character, but they remain unexplored. The Anne we see is far from the person her victims describe: a woman who could “totally destroy the structure of a life”…“You've got to remember she had phenomenal presence”…”she was totally beglamoured, trancy”…”so loving, she had eyes that looked through your soul,” intone her victims. Whether it's the power of their brainwashing or problems in the film's characterisation of Anne, these qualities rarely came across to me as a viewer.
It's a shame that a finer balance wasn't struck between the intricacy and drama of the true-crime plot as it unfolded in the police and the courts, and a more impressionistic, abstract set of audiovisual moments that could communicate the children's trauma.
The longing to belong experienced by The Family's adult cult members and enslaved children is perhaps the least mysterious aspect of the story. To me, the institutional and adult disinterest in rescuing these children, in delivering justice, was both the real story and the most overlooked part of it. In a society that often seems close to dystopia, that is so careless to its mothers and children, it seems logical that figures like Anne (or Trump) will find a way to flourish — to burn up peoples' desire to belong, to promise simplicity, to build a home in the heads of those who are adrift. Perhaps the cinematic language of dystopia would have been the best storytelling approach after all.
'Speaking Out' about child abuse
by Judy Andreson
ELKO — The Family Resource Center is set to host “Speaking Out: A Series of Monologues About the Effects of Child Abuse,” at 6:30 p.m., April 5, at the Great Basin College Theatre. If you've ever wanted to do something to end child maltreatment, and wondered how it affects children, don't miss this powerful event.
John Patrick Rice is directing the theatrical production to include powerful performances by Laura Cdebaca, Nick Cdebaca, Heidi DuSoleil, Meghan Hendrickson, Dawn Rowley, Kathy McHan, Matthew Montgomery, and Kevin Tanner.
Joe Doucette, president of the Family Resource Center board of directors, said, “Since 1985 FRC has been assisting families to live healthier and more productive lives. The staff at FRC is addressing child abuse and the associated risk factors of immaturity, unrealistic expectations, stress and isolation by offering parenting education, family advocacy and childcare payments for grandparents raising their grandchildren. This event is a call to action. Community members must work together in order to keep the children safe.”
The impact of child abuse and neglect is often discussed in terms of physical, psychological, behavioral and societal consequences. In reality, it is impossible to separate these impacts. Physical consequences, such as damage to a child's growing brain, can have psychological implications such as cognitive delays or difficulties. Psychological problems often manifest as high-risk behaviors. Depression and anxiety, for example, might make a person more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol or overeat. High-risk behaviors, in turn, can lead to long-term physical health problems such as sexually transmitted diseases, cancer, and obesity. Not all children who have been abused or neglected will experience long-term consequences, but they may have an increased susceptibility.
Child abuse and neglect can have a multitude of long-term effects on the child and this is the reason the Family Resource Center is drawing attention to the issue by hosting this important event.
“By attending the event, you will experience first-hand through the monologues that as harmful as abuse is while it is occurring, some children may emerge unscathed, while others will suffer long-term consequences,” Doucette says.
At the close of the event participants will be given examples of actions anyone can take to end child abuse and neglect and strengthen families.
Event tickets are $5 at the door with all proceeds to assist those unable to afford individualized parenting education offered by the Family Resource Center.
For information call 753-7352 or visit www.elkofrc.org or Facebook.com/elkofrc
Penn State York remembers child-abuse victims
by Junior Gonzalez
Several dozen students, educators and community members gathered at Penn State York Thursday evening to commemorate child abuse victims.
The sixth-annual “Lest We Forget” candlelight vigil was held by the Council on Family Relations and multicultural clubs on campus. Shawnee Hostetter, president of the Council on Family Relations, said the annual event was initially held as a one-time remembrance ceremony back in 2011, before the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse charges forever changed the university.
“After that, it felt more appropriate to keep doing it,” Hostetter said.
Stacy Rae, a senior at the school, said the event was important because as a human development and family studies major, she especially sees how important it is to care for and protect the most vulnerable people in the community.
“Children are important, some are abused, and we need to make sure people know that,” she said.
Hostetter and Rae said they were happy with the turnout of around 50 people.
“(The turnout) really depends on a lot of things,” Hostetter said, who added their collaboration with the multicultural club helped schedule the event around the school's weekly Coffee Hour, which has free hot drinks and snacks available for students.
The clothesline: For the first time, the event featured students citing child-abuse statistics to attendees. The Council on Family Relations club collaborated with a class on campus on values and ethics, taught by HDFS professor Amber Seidel.
“They did a small project on abused children, and we wanted to share some of what we found,” Seidel said. The project involved students researching recently published statistics on child abuse and finding one that struck them the most.
At the ceremony, students read aloud their chosen statistic from a poster, received a clothesline pin and hung it on a makeshift clothesline. The line of statistics hanging from a thread filled the entire clothesline.
“It seems like a great way to get some background (to the audience) on abuse,” Seidel said.
She mentioned the event was not held only for adults.
“Children need to know about this,” Seidel said. “Children need to know that there are people out there that may not be nice to them all the time.”
She added some children may not fully understand what is being referred to, but giving them the awareness to potential problems is healthy.
“If it's above their head it's OK, but we still talk to them,” Seidel said.
The pledge: After the clothesline event, attendees were handed either tea candles or small candles and a pledge sheet. Attendees formed a large circle outside in very light rain to read aloud the three pledges.
“To all the victims of abuse, male and female, adult and child, known and unknown,” the audience said in unison, “I pledge to educate myself about the realities of child abuse.”
“I pledge to give voice and report any and all suspicions; I pledge to cast a light in the darkness by doing the right things the first time — every time.” the group concluded.
One student in Seidel's class, Britney Hartsock, brought her 4-year-old son, Damien, to the vigil.
“I thought it was very neat,” Hartsock, a first-time attendant, said. “It felt very personal, because it was a smaller group.”
Hartsock said her chosen statistic, that three out of every four abused children are abused by someone they know, hit her personally.
“The circle of trust stuck out to me,” Hartsock said. “When I first read that, my heart just shattered.”
The Penn State York freshman said having a small child makes the statistic especially painful to think about.
“To think it could be possibly someone you know that could abuse your child,” she said, “it's hard to even imagine.”
Oregon's DHS Director Didn't See Major Child Abuse Report Until A Lawmaker Sent It
by Conrad Wilson
In one Oregon home, rats were coming through a rotten floor to bite children, while another kid, in need of a physician, threw their urine soaked clothing on the floor.
Parents in another home threatened their 7-year-old with a return to foster care if his behavior didn't change.
Elsewhere in the state, children were regularly exposed to methamphetamine users. They were only taken from the caregiver a year later after police found one of the children in the backseat of a car, sitting in the lap of a prostitute who was covered in meth.
In all these instances, child protective service caseworkers at the Oregon Department of Human Services were responding to reports of child abuse and either deemed the children were safe or failed to fully diagnose the dangers in the home.
“If those assessments are ending in the determination that those kids are safe, we have a very severe problem,” said state Sen. Sara Gelser, who chairs the Senate Human Services Committee, at a public hearing this week in Salem.
These cases illustrate failures in the state's CPS program that workers say is overwhelmed and understaffed by employees who often lack adequate training to performing time-consuming and challenging work.
The incidents were part of an internal review by the Oregon Department of Human Services, which found a number of serious problems in the way its employees investigate cases of child abuse.
The report was the subject of a public hearing Monday in Salem, where lawmakers used it to advocate for a bill they say would bring DHS back to basic assessments in an effort to address some of the dangers children in some Oregon homes face on a daily basis.
“I'm incredibly depressed at this moment,” said Rep. Duane Stark, who testified in favor of the bill after hearing the report.
“We have to change something and the problems need to be addressed with urgency,” Gelser said.
The report was the result of a child who died after numerous visits by CPS case workers.
DHS reviewed 101 recent cases from 11 counties, including Lane, Washington, Jackson and Clackamas.
In 47 percent of the CPS cases examined, the reviewer did not agree with the case worker's conclusion the children were in a safe home.
DHS Director Clyde Saiki testified during the hearing that the report was not sent to him internally. Rather, he received it when Gelser emailed it to him last week.
“The report that came out of your child safety program where you had 47 kids identified as safe that were clearly very unsafe; what is happening right now, today to address that problem to make sure that there aren't people out assessing kids today and saying they're safe and leaving them in those kinds of conditions?” Gelser asked during the hearing. “What's happened since you got that report?”
Saiki responded that he only received the report last Friday.
“I haven't even had a chance to sit down with staff and say, ‘So, tell me what this report says,'” he testified.
Gelser said it's a report DHS has had for several months.
“Am I the only person that gave you the report?” she asked.
“What's that?” Saiki replied.
“Did you receive the report from me?” Gelser asked.
“Yes,” he responded.
“Am I the only person who gave you the report?” she asked.
“Yes,” Saiki replied.
“Does that concern you?” Gelser asked.
“Yes, it concerns me a great deal,” Saiki said. “Those are internal issues that I need to deal with.”
Gelser, a Corvallis Democrat, is pushing a bill that would require DHS caseworkers determine whether or not a child was abused at the conclusion of each investigation.
A new program Oregon rolled out beginning in May 2014 doesn't require case workers to make that final determination.
While its goal is well intended, Gelser said, the state's CPS system is too understaffed and poorly resourced to adequately implement it on a regular basis.
“The way I've described it is you don't install a hot tub in the backyard before you even have running water in the house,” she said during an interview. “We don't have indoor plumbing right now.”
Without that final step where caseworkers determine if abuse occurred, Gelser said, the cases get lost and it skews child abuse statistics.
“All of the sudden in these counties, it makes it look like child abuse is falling. But just because you're not entering the disposition, doesn't mean it occurred,” she said in an interview. “We're not then able to compare whether kids are safe or not safe.”
Gelser's bill would require DHS to continue making determinations in child abuse cases until
the agency is adequately staffed;
DHS can show they can complete assessments on time;
the kids are seen on time;
DHS can operate a centralized, statewide child abuse hotline for six consecutive months.
“This is not about the workers, who are trying very hard to do this work,” she testified. “We, as a legislature, have not adequately funded our child welfare program.”
During Monday's hearing, Saiki said the agency needs a new approach to fixing its problems.
He said these types of situations in the past have yielded reports with dozens of recommendations that then try and get implemented simultaneously.
“And when you're an agency that's already under-resourced, if you try and do 20 or 30 things — especially when some of those things are significant — at once then you're not going to be successful,” he testified. “We have to prioritize.”
Gelser said she's pulling a series of her own bills this session to help DHS focus on improving the basics.
“These are real lives and real kids and real families and generations of families that are suffering with this,” she said. “We all talk about it for a day and go back to our regular lives. Their regular life is what was described in that report. And that's not ok with me and it shouldn't be OK with anybody.”
DCYF investigated fewer child abuse reports as a result of policy stance, panel finds
by Jennifer Bogden
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The state's child welfare agency launched fewer and fewer investigations over the last three years into reports of child abuse -- possibly with deadly results.
The Department of Children, Youth and Families, experts say, has been misusing a policy under which it has classified everything from allegations of substance abuse to the death of child as an "information/referral" that does not warrant investigation.
At times this has been done in clear violation of state law.
While the number of reports of mistreatment have held relatively steady since fiscal 2014, 1,940 more reports in fiscal 2016 went without investigation under the policy that does not take into account whether multiple calls have been made about the same child or caretaker.
"This is a story, frankly, about how child protective services have failed the children within state care. We see time and again how [child protective services] failed to investigate when there were clear indications of high risk factors," Sen. William Conley, D-East Providence, said.
The policy -- and its apparent failings -- was brought to light as the result of a panel convened by state Child Advocate Jennifer Griffith to investigate the deaths of four babies. In each case, concerns about the children reported to the DCYF were classified as "information/referral" and therefore weren't investigated.
In one case, an infant's death was logged as an information/referral despite the family's history with the DCYF. Another child under the age of 18 months was still living in the home at the time of the report.
"You cannot by law classify a child death as an information/referral," Griffith said this week at a meeting of two Senate committees reviewing the report. "It's illegal."
Information/referral is a classification to be used when a report doesn't meet standards for investigation but some other help might be needed. That includes things such as custody issues related to domestic disputes, children older than 11 left unsupervised where there is no clear and present danger, and overcrowded housing.
How often has the policy been misused? An analysis by the child advocate's office of eight months of reports found 486 of a sampled 2,056 that the DCYF classified as information/referral in 2016 should have been investigated. In the overwhelming majority of cases, concerns had been logged by "professional reporters," including teachers, physicians and judges.
In fiscal 2014, 38 percent of of the 14,374 reports of mistreatment were classified as information/referral. Two years later information/referrals accounted for 50 percent of 14,832 reports. The child advocate's panel recommends that the policy be overhauled or repealed.
DCYF Director Trista Piccola, who has led the agency since March 2, said information/referral policies are not unusual. The problem, she said, is cases placed in that category see unpredictable follow up.
"What is the structured response? That's something that we have to shore up pretty immediately. By immediately, I mean in the next 30 days," Piccola said.
Jamia McDonald, the former chief strategy officer in the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, was acting as the de facto head of the DCYF during the surge of information/referrals.
"I have certainly not been shy about saying [I was] concerned about having somebody overseeing that department that didn't have a child welfare background and that that would lead to deaths," Sen. Gayle Goldin, D-Providece, said this week.
Attempts to reach McDonald, who has since taken a job with Deloitte Consulting, were unsuccessful Thursday. In State House hearings in 2015 and 2016, McDonald talked about the agency's aggressive approach to vetting cases and case workers experiencing lower caseloads with fewer children in state care.
But Griffith said the agency's child protective investigators are in many instances carrying caseloads more than two times the recommended level of 8 to 10 cases per month. Staffing issues at the agency, Griffith said, have contributed to the problems.
Piccola said staffing was an issue she identified immediately. The agency is planning to hire 65 "front-line" workers within its 2017 budget allowance, including child protective investigators, social caseworkers and licensing staff. Roughly 360 of 450 front-line positions were filled when Piccola arrived, according to a hiring plan DCYF provided.
Sex abuse royal commission: Apologies don't go far enough to undo damage, child advocates say
by Nicole Chettle
Institutional apologies to victims of child sexual abuse are sometimes weak, insulting and do not go far enough to address the long-term damage that has been caused, a royal commission has heard.
Bruce Perry from The Child Trauma Academy in the United States was one of several experts giving evidence about the impacts of abuse at the second last day of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse's public hearings in Sydney.
"You can't erase institutional coercion and institutional abuse of process by issuing a statement," Dr Perry said.
"That doesn't undo it. That's not enough."
During the course of his work, Dr Perry said he had worked with survivors who had been offended by official statements from the organisations in which they were abused.
"Some of the responses by institutions that have finally taken responsibility have been so weak and they've been so feeble that it almost feels insulting to them," he said.
"You can't have ... a little PR thing that says 'The YMCA is sorry that we sexually abused all you kids in our child care centres'.
"If your institution contributed to this process for three generations, you need a three generation problem solving process to address it."
Victims suffer devastating health impacts, commission hears
Dr Perry said survivors of child abuse were at increased risk of developing a range of problems including heart disease, depression and schizophrenia.
"There are physical and physiological changes that take place in the body and brains of people who have had histories of sexual abuse," Dr Perry said.
"I think it leads to multi-generational problems.
"Sexual abuse during development can impact certain systems in the body and the brain that are involved in stress response ... and then when they get to be an adult it'll influence the way they parent."
A 67-year old man given the pseudonym AOA told the commission of the devastating impact of abuse he endured for 12 months as a child at Tasmanian school.
"On the outside I appear normal, happy and relaxed," he said.
"These are the invisible wounds of my being groomed for child sexual abuse, in a way I'm still trying to navigate how to connect with a ghost who abused me."
AOA told the commission his past still affected his life and his loved ones.
He cried and said: "I am broken. I am alive. I am blessed."
Systemic change needed, advocates say
Karyn Walsh is the chief executive of Micah Projects, a Queensland-based not for profit organisation which works with vulnerable Australians, including survivors of institutional abuse.
"We have to take the blame off people and accept that we as a country haven't put the right systems in place" Ms Walsh said.
"Institutions that were established to protect children in fact didn't. And there's been long-term, trans-generational consequences."
Dr Cathy Kezelman is a survivor of abuse and president of the Blue Knot Foundation, which provides specialist counselling to adults who were traumatised as children.
She praised the courage and resilience of survivors who gave evidence at the royal commission.
"We have to change the script that the survivors have, that the world is not safe — waiting for the next assault to happen," she said.
Dr Kezelman also pointed to the need for a "top to bottom" change at institutions, including better training of staff at all levels and long-term monitoring.
"It's a systemic change," she said, "and it needs to be ongoing."
Victim says child abuse a life sentence
If the scars of child sexual abuse were visible, Shelly Braieoux believes she would be in a wheelchair with missing limbs and horribly deformed with burns and scars.
Instead, Ms Braieoux and other child abuse survivors carry scars that cannot be seen and fight "a lifelong invisible war".
The damage is catastrophic, Ms Braieoux told the child abuse royal commission via telephone from her Queensland home after ex-tropical cyclone Debbie prevented her being in Sydney for Thursday's hearing.
"Even though we may have physically survived, we have been sentenced to a torturous life sentence full of unnumbered battles."
Ms Braieoux was ostracised and silenced from speaking about the abuse to anyone, receiving no support from the unnamed religion, her family or friends.
"It was a very callous way to be treated and in my opinion, it has been far worse and caused more damage to me than the abuse itself."
Ms Braieoux said the snowball effects of the abuse and her subsequent treatment by the religion have permeated her life like a cancer.
The 45-year-old has struggled with depression, panic attacks, anxiety and overwhelming feelings of anger, worthlessness and betrayal.
For years after the abuse the emotional pain manifested as physical pain, like "being hit by a truck".
"I was robbed of my innocence, my childhood, my adolescence, young adulthood and the years since."
Ms Braieoux is determined not to let the abuse control and define her but has been unable to erase the harm it caused.
"I haven't been able to stop the snowball effects, stop the triggers or reverse the damage.
"I cannot make what happened to me disappear."
Survivor AOA still suffers a range of health impacts, both physical and mental, 54 years after being groomed and abused for a year by a headmaster at Hobart's The Hutchins School.
On the outside, the 67-year-old can appear normal, happy and relaxed.
But on the inside he feels detached, isolated and depressed.
He recently marched himself back into therapy after realising he was in deep trouble.
"I believed I was a failure because I hadn't sorted myself out after all these years, after hundreds of hours of the most effective therapies for complex trauma. I believed myself to be damaged and beyond repair."
AOA knows he needs ongoing therapy.
"I am broken," he said, crying.
"I am alive."
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.
Multicultural Mental Health Australia www.mmha.org.au.
Local Aboriginal Medical Service available from www.vibe.com.au.
Month brings awareness to kids abused and neglected
by the DC Register
It often has been said children and families do their best when they live in supportive communities.
“As the coordinator of Prevent Child Abuse, I'm amazed at the efforts of local organizations and other entities who work tirelessly to enhance the lives of all community members, especially the lives of our children,” said Suzzi Romines.
Every year, 3 million children are reported abused or neglected in the U.S.
According to the Center for the Study of Social Policy, families are more likely to thrive in communities when they have strong relationships among each other, their friends, along with support from local organizations, said Romines.
When parents participate in community gatherings and parent groups, they often are more confident as parents and better able to nurture their children's social and emotional development, she said.
Dearborn County and Ohio County organizations invite parents, teachers, and concerned citizens to participate in the upcoming locally, planned events during April's National Child Abuse Prevention Month to bring awareness to the importance of child abuse prevention. Below is a list of the 2017 April events to attend and causes to consider supporting:
•Tuesday, April 4: CMHC's Directions! Support and Advocacy Services presents Take Back the Night sexual assault prevention event at the Dearborn Adult Center, 311 Tate St., Lawrenceburg, beginning at 5:30 p.m. with a complimentary light dinner, and silent auction.
This year's event features the topic “Social Media & Sexual Coercion,” focusing on helping individuals prevent and avoid sexual victimization through social media.
One in six women and men are victims of rape, and rape statistics have risen by 9.6 percent in the U.S. Dearborn and Ohio County Prosecutor Lynn Deddens will speak on how children are coerced into sexting with complete strangers.
The Clothesline Project will be on display with T-shirts created by rape survivors and their families, and a special presentation on cyber bullying by East Central High School senior class students will be presented.
For more information, contact Catherine Dwyer at 812-532-3470.
•Monday, April 10: Prevent Child Abuse and the Division of Child Services are partnering to offer Family Fun Night at the Lawrenceburg Community Center, 423 Walnut St., from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Board games, open play, crafts, face-painting, poster creations, organizational booths, and door prizes will be featured.
At 7 p.m., a presentation will be given by Cool Critters Outreach, a critter rescue organization that will bring along lizards, spiders and other critters. Bring the whole family!
•Every week in April: View the traveling pinwheel display throughout Dearborn and Ohio counties. Volunteers will place hundreds of blue pinwheels in popular locations as a reminder and a pledge to be respectful and helpful to all children. Wear blue during April to show your support of child abuse prevention.
•Saturday, April 29: SIEOC and One Community, One Family Presents the 21st Annual Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect conference at Ivy Tech Community College, Riverfront Campus from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Mike DeLeon, motivational speaker and filmmaker, will speak on the drug pandemic. Other guest speakers and topics include Heather Meyer, “An Introduction to the Nurtured Heart Approach,” and Jessica Rainbolt, “See me: Why It's Important To Do Assessments and Screenings.” To reserve your place, contact SIEOC at 812-926-1585. A box lunch is available for $8. Everyone must register by Friday, April 21. The conference runs from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
DeLeon has been called many things: drug addict and gang member on the one hand, motivational speaker and filmmaker on the other. His core message is that as a community we need to be aware of what is going on, and talk to our children, neighbors and public officials about this true crisis. His passion is to keep families on the right track.
•Sunday, April 30: National Blue Sunday. Local faith communities are encouraged to join other faith communities throughout the nation as they take the time in their morning service to pray for the victims of child abuse.
Faith organizations can register at www.bluesunday.org. A special offering for your local Prevent Child Abuse organizations or other child abuse prevention agencies is appreciated to continue awareness, education and outreach efforts.
•Friday, May 10: PCA General Meeting at 9 a.m. at SIEOC with special Guest Speaker Shelly Eldridge-Snyder, president of the Ohio River Valley Pride Coalition. Eldridge-Snyder is working with many schools and organizations to offer support to kids of the LBGTQIA community. Everyone is welcome to attend.
There is a great need for foster care parents in the region, and April's Child Abuse Prevention month is an excellent time to consider becoming a foster care parent. As of Jan. 17, in Region 15 (Dearborn, Decatur, Jefferson, Ripley, Ohio and Switzerland counties), 457 children were removed from their homes, with the effort to place them with relatives unless the option is unavailable.
Of the children removed, 257 were placed with relatives, 171 in a foster home, 19 in residential care and 10 placed elsewhere; 217 were placed out of their home county.
As of February 2017, there are only 60 licensed foster homes in the entire region and just 14 in Dearborn County, and two in Ohio County. The need is great in the area. If interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent, call Emily Myers at the Department of Child Services office at 812-537-5131.
To be the first to know about events and activities centered around child abuse prevention, and family activities, or if you would like to volunteer for PCA, contact the organizations above and Friend-Prevent Child Abuse of Dearborn and Ohio County on Facebook.
Also, visit www.pcain.org for educational information, trainings, and if you suspect child abuse or neglect, you can make an anonymous call to the Indiana Child Abuse hotline at 1-800-800-5556, or call 911 in an emergency.
Child abuse specialists offer tips for parents to keep their child safe
by Kristi OConnor
SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - Child abuse specialists tell us child predators often use the same strategy, known as grooming.
News 5's Kristi O'Connor found out how parents can prevent their children from being tricked into a trap.
It can happen to a child as young as three years old, but its more common for a pre-teen or teen to be groomed by a predator.
They often target children of single or working parents, kids who may be more vulnerable to the extra attention they are getting.
Hundreds of child abuse cases come through the Children's Advocacy Center of Sullivan County a month.
Forensic Interviewer Amy Whitt-Bachman who tells me abusers often groom their victims.
It is a way for them to gain the child's trust. It often includes buying them gifts and compliment them often, ut there's always an ulterior motive.
"Maybe the parents that the child lives with can't afford these video games and tennis shoes, well the alleged perp may know that. and so in order to gain the child's trust and the parents' trust, they start buying the child things," Whitt-Bachman said.
Grooming can happen over several years, or even just a couple of months before the perpetrator commits the crime.
Experts say there are warning signs parents can watch out for. Most importantly, they say watch your child's social media use.
"Kids have no right to privacy, they are living under their roof, paying for cell phones and computer they have a right to look through their stuff. No you don't you live under my roof," Sullivan County Sheriff's Office Child Abuse investigator Ray Hayes said.
They say be aware of any adult who wants to spend extra time or time alone with your child and look for behavioral changes. For example, like a potty-trained kid who suddenly wets the bed again, aggressiveness or shying away from adults.
To prevent your child from falling into a trap, experts say teach your kids the proper names of their body parts.
"Always tell them you're body is yours and no one is supposed to touch any part of your body," Whitt-Bachman said.
They say ask them open-ended questions: not "did this happen," but "tell me what happened."
They say if you suspect something did happen to your child, do not approach the abuser, just report it to authorities.
They say the bottom line is a parent can never be too cautious.
"I know it's sad to say, but don't trust anybody," Sullivan County Sheriff's Detective Tracy Haraz said.
"I think if parents have a gut feeling they need to act on it," Hayes said.
Knox County to host child sexual abuse prevention training
KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The Knox County Health Department will observe National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April. More than 10,300 children were victims of abuse or neglect in Tennessee in 2013, according to the Child Welfare League of America.
The Community Coalition to Protect Children will host “Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children” training on April 11.
The training will provide tools on how to stop child sexual abuse. There will be youth-serving agencies at the free event to answer questions.
“So many children brave horrible abuses alone. Statistics show that 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by the age of 18, and some studies' rates are even higher,” said Amy Rowling, violence prevention educator for the Knox County Health Department and co-facilitator of the Community Coalition to Protect Children. “What's also heartbreaking is that 90 percent of victims are abused by someone they know and trust. These statistics are staggering and speak to the need for more training for adults to help protect our children.”
Michael Reed, husband and father to Sevier County wildfire victims Constance, Chloe and Lily Reed, will speak at the event. Before her passing, Constance shared a video on Facebook, telling her story of child abuse.
“Victims of abuse can be affected for a lifetime, and can suffer emotional and health issues including depression, anxiety, self-harm, challenges with relationships, alcohol or drug abuse, and eating disorders,” added Rowling.
Ambler Brown, a Stewards of Children facilitator, will lead the training. Attendees will receive advice and guidance and hear survivor stories.
The event is open to the public. It will be from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at South College Auditorium. To attend, register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill that would better protect Olympic athletes from sexual, emotional abuse gains bipartisan support
by Brian Bondus
WASHINGTON D.C. -- During a rare showing of bipartisan support, Republican and Democratic senators gathered Tuesday to call on Congress to pass a bill that would better protect Olympic athletes from sexual and emotional abuse.
“Children often don't speak up when they are abused. They suffer in silence. They are taught to submit to the authority of adults," former USA Gymnast Jamie Dantzscher said. "This is especially true in the hyper-competitive world of gymnastics.”
The bill calls for the mandatory reporting of any abuse allegations by Olympic athletes. The bill also increases the statute of limitations for athletes to report abuse and requires education about sexual assault for coaches and athletes.
“We do take responsibility and apologize to any young athlete that faced abuse," Rick Adams, chief of Paralympic Sport and National Governing Body Organizational Development for the USOC said. “The Olympic community failed to protect the people it was supposed to protect."
This bill's sponsor said the legislation stems from stories by the Indy Start on how Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics handled reports of alleged sexual abuse.
“I hope this bill passes so it never happens to another child," former USA Gymnast Jessica Howard said.
Senator Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, and Senator Todd Young, R-Indiana, both have co-sponsored the bill and spoke Tuesday a press conference along with several gymnasts who have accused former USA Gymnast staff of sexual abuse.
“We are going to push for accountability. We are going to push to make sure you're protected and we will be with you every step of the way,” Donnelly said. “This is personal to parents. This is personal to Hoosiers in particular and we aim to improve the situation moving forward.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee still needs to approve the bill before it heads to the full Senate.
Pet abuse should raise concerns for physical, emotional safety of children
by Tara L. Harris, M.D., M.S., FAAP
In many families, companion animals play an important role and are considered family members. For children, pets can serve as playmates and non-judging confidants, and they can contribute to a child's development of self-esteem, feelings of empathy and connection to others. Unfortunately, in the web of family violence, pets are not immune, and their abuse can be used to manipulate and harm other family members.
When a pediatrician is told of threatened harm or abuse of a pet, it may not be obvious immediately that this is a concern to prioritize. However, a growing body of research is revealing the worrisome implications for children in homes where a pet has been abused.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, as many as 70% of families with minors have pets (www.avma.org), and multiple studies of women receiving services for domestic violence (DV) have shown a similar pattern of pet ownership. Research in recent decades has revealed that the multiple forms of family violence (partner violence, child abuse, elder abuse) often co-occur; more recently documented is that companion animal abuse also is a component of this dynamic. Up to half to three-quarters of DV victims in shelters report that their abusive partner has harmed or killed one or more of their pets.
Abuse of pets raises concern for the children in these households for several reasons. First, witnessing the abuse of a beloved pet is emotionally distressing for the child. It also models a pattern of behavior that clearly is detrimental to healthy development.
In addition, abusers' unrealistic expectations of pets may lead to abusive incidents such as beating a young puppy for urinating on the floor. This is especially worrisome since unrealistic developmental expectations also are a common trigger for child abuse (e.g., shaking injuries in crying infants and abuse of toddlers associated with toilet-training accidents).
Even when household violence is not directed at children, they may sustain injuries if caught in the “cross-fire.” In most homes where a pet is being abused, the children report intervening or attempting to intervene to protect their pet (McDonald SE, Collins EA. Child Abuse Negl. 2015;50:116-127).
The length of time children remain in these dangerous, sometimes deadly, environments may be prolonged by the presence of pets; concerns about the pets' safety leads many victims to delay leaving their abusive homes.
Abusers whose violence includes abuse of family pets have been shown to be more controlling and to employ more dangerous forms of violence (e.g., rape and stalking) than abusers who do not abuse pets (Simmons CA, Lehmann PL. J Interpers Violence. 2007;22:1211-1222).
What pediatricians can do
For the reasons discussed here, pediatricians must be concerned for their patients' safety when they have reason to believe a family pet has been abused or killed. Following are steps they can take to help protect their patients.
Develop a protocol for how and when to make a report if abuse of a pet is disclosed.
Advocate for local DV shelters to allow pets or develop foster programs to remove this barrier to leaving dangerous homes.
Encourage local child protective service and animal humane organizations to work collaboratively to ensure that when a home is known to be affected by violence that the safety of all dependents is addressed.
Offer trainings for animal control officers on recognizing red flags for child abuse, and participate in development of guidelines for when they should involve child protective services.
Advocate for legislation to add penalties if animal cruelty is inflicted in the presence of a child and/or for child maltreatment that includes actual or threatened harm to a child's pet to acknowledge that such animal abuse is emotionally abusive to the child.
Pediatricians have long understood that to advocate for their patients' health and safety, they must advocate for the health and safety of the entire family. For many families, that includes their pets.
Dr. Harris is a member of the AAP Section on Child Abuse and Neglect.
New courtroom dog provides emotional support to children in abuse, neglect cases
by Shannon Houser
DELAWARE COUNTY, Ind. --- The Court Appointed Special Advocate Team (CASA) in Delaware County is getting a new member. After years of training, the four legged member starts her new job this week.
Frankie is an English black lab. She's one of only two dogs in Indiana trained specifically to help ease the fear of children in courtrooms. Frankie will be in the courtroom during juvenile cases, criminal abuse and neglect cases, and interviews where a child might have a difficult time disclosing personal details to adults.
Frankie's presence alone is enough to calm both children and adults, but Frankie will also sit with children and allow them to pet and hug her for some extra comfort.
"Those kids need somebody by their side and it can't always be a person," said Ashley Soldaat, Director for Delaware County CASA.
Soldaat is also Frankie's handler. She said Frankie trained at Support Dogs Inc. in St. Louis, who trained her and certified her as a facility dog. She has the same training as a service dog, but is not a therapy dog.
"I think we're going to get a lot more disclosures. I think it's going to encourage courage in children," Soldaat said.
Frankie is coming at a time of crucial need for help in Delaware County. In the last five years, child abuse and neglect cases have increased more than 118 percent. Soldaat said there's around 400 children currently on a waiting list that don't have advocates to help them in court.
Frankie's sweet demeanor and puppy-dog eyes will help some of those children feel more at home and comfortable in an otherwise terrifying situation, one that many children shouldn't have to go through in many cases.
Police, DCS, and the prosecutors office assign Frankie to cases. Talk to your investigating department if you think Frankie might be able to help your child in a case.
For more on Delaware County CASA and how you can volunteer to help children in need, click here.
Majority of Kentucky adults have experienced abuse linked to physical, mental health issues
by Melissa Patrick
Many health-care providers have started looking at adverse childhood experiences when assessing their patients' poor health because ACEs have been linked to risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, low life potential and early death, and because 59 percent of Kentucky adults were exposed to at least one such experience as a child.
“There are things that happen to us early that make a huge difference in what happens to us as we get older,” Dr. Connie White, senior deputy commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Public Health, said at a March 22 meeting in Frankfort to prioritize the state's top health issues.
ACEs are “potentially traumatic events that can have negative, lasting effects on a person's health and well-being, including early death,” the department says. They include: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, a mother being treated violently, parental separation or divorce, substance misuse within the household, mental illness in the household, and having an incarcerated household member.
White said it is important for children to live in a secure and nurturing environment during the first two years of their life because this is when brains are “hard-wired” for social-emotional development. But she said it is just as important for children to grow up in an environment that is free of traumatic events.
“It's like building a house,” she said. “There is a foundation, and if you don't start out with a very good foundation you are going to have a very unstable house.”
White said children who grow up with ACEs often struggle academically and behaviorally.
“These children have impaired memory, they have an inability to concentrate, it's hard for them to stay seated, it's hard for them to follow directions, they are constantly on edge, they are easily provoked and they are impulsive because of the toxic stress they have at home,” she said. “So these are children that are hard to deal with and I think the folks in our judicial system see these children all the time.”
At least one program in the state is working to inform educators on how to deal with ACEs. The Louisville program, called the “Bounce Coalition,” provides training on ACEs and resiliency to school staff and out-of-school activity providers in two Jefferson County public schools and will soon expand to three more and more than 500 YMCA programs this spring. This work, funded by a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, is expected to evolve into a state model for addressing ACEs.
Research shows that the impacts of ACEs don't end in childhood. The original ACE study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, found a clear scientific link between many types of childhood adversity and the adult onset of physical disease and mental health disorders.
The report said that as the number of ACEs increases, so does the risk for things like alcohol abuse, chronic disease, poor work performance, financial stress, domestic violence, suicide and poor academic achievement, to name a few. It also found that people with six or more ACEs died nearly 20 years earlier than those without ACEs.
Kentucky just started surveying for ACEs on its 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Survey. The poll found that 59 percent of Kentucky adults had experienced one or more ACEs, 64 percent had two or more and 17.5 percent had experienced four or more, higher than any other state that surveys for ACEs.
Kentucky's survey found similar results as the original national study, showing that the more ACEs a Kentucky adult had, the more likely he or she was to have smoked cigarettes, use and abuse alcohol use, bear or father children in their teens, attempt suicide during adolescence, have chronic depression as an adult, have impaired work performance, and have many chronic diseases.
“So this is an issue that I think we all need to be cognizant of so that we are not asking people what's wrong with you, but we start to think what happened to you and how did you get where you are right now,” White said, noting that it is never too late for a person to learn how to be more resilient.
She added: “We can't go back and fix what's happened, but we can work on trying to figure out where people are coming from and how we can help them be better.”
Outraged mom says TSA treated family "like dogs" during son's pat-down
by CBS News
(Video on site)
A mother is outraged with the Transportation Security Administration after she said officers treated her family “like dogs” at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Jennifer Williamson posted a video to Facebook on Sunday that shows a TSA agent thoroughly patting down her 13-year-old son for about two minutes. She said her family spent about an hour at the checkpoint and missed their flight.
The TSA said the procedures performed by the officer in the video met new pat-down standards that went into effect earlier this month, reports CBS News correspondent Omar Villafranca. Instead of several variations, there is now just one full-body pat-down.
“We were treated with utter disrespect as if we were criminals,” Williamson said in an interview you'll see only on “CBS This Morning.”
She turned her anger into action, recording a TSA officer and posting it on Facebook.
“I believe he was patted down excessively. They went over his sensitive areas, a little more than necessary, especially given that he wasn't wearing bulky clothing or anything like that,” Williamson said.
Williamson said the whole thing started when agents found a laptop in his book bag as it went through the scanning machine. They then said her son would have to submit to a pat-down, even though he did not set off the body scanner. She requested they screen him in other ways because her son suffers from sensory processing disorder, which makes him sensitive to touch.
In the Facebook video, the agent explained the procedure and then patted down his backside, front and down his legs. His supervisor who was observing them then instructed the man to complete the final step. As per policy, the TSA officer used the back of his hands for pat-downs over sensitive areas of the body.
The TSA said the boy cooperated during the screening process and all approved procedures were followed. As for the wait time, in a statement, the agency said the passengers were at the checkpoint for “approximately 45 minutes, which included the time it took to discuss screening procedures with the mother and to screen three carry-on items that required further inspection.”
“His first question to me was, ‘I don't understand why they did this. I don't know what I did wrong,' and to me that was a sign of trauma for him to think that he had done anything wrong,” Williamson said.
New TSA procedures took effect on March 2. The administration consolidated different variations of the pat down into one uniform standardized procedure using enhanced security measures. The change is partly the result of an undercover audit in 2015 by the Inspector General's Office of Homeland Security that revealed major lapses in security.
Ariz. university officers' to wear patches to support sexual assault survivors
The patch is intended to increase awareness, support and encourage conversation with officers about sexual violence awareness, response, recovery and prevention
by the Associated Press
TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State University police officers will wear their support for sexual assault survivors on their uniforms' sleeves for the next month.
The ASU Police Department says its officers during April will wear special teal-colored "ASU Police" patches on their uniforms.
The special patch is the same as the regular patch except for the teal coloring that includes the addition of teal ribbons on each side of the state seal.
According to the department, the patch is intended to increase awareness, support and encourage conversation with officers about sexual violence awareness, response, recovery and prevention.
The department says it considers sexual assault a serious crime and takes all reports of sexual assault seriously.
Just One Teacher
by J.C. Bowman
Eighty-thousand Tennessee teachers can do everything right at their school and in their classes, and one teacher can do something horrendous and give the other 79,999 a bad name. It takes just one teacher to cause irreparable damage.
After all the facts are gathered in the ongoing Maury County case involving a 50 year-old male teacher and a 15 year-old female student, we will see legislative changes that will be directed at helping curb future inappropriate student-teacher activity. This one teacher has created problems for the family of the student, his own family, his community, his school, and his peers.
Unfortunately, we know that sexual abuse and exploitation of children is a growing problem in our society. We should not be shocked when sex offenders seek employment in jobs where they have contact with children such as churches, schools, youth groups, hospitals, and social services. We have to do a better job of screening applicants in those fields. Jennifer Fraser, an abuse survivor herself wrote: “If adults can't recognize abusers, children are even less likely to realize that what's happening is abuse and that it is doing damage of a kind they can't see.”
We must carefully make sure that we are protecting all of our minor children in public education. However, we have seen many false claims made against a teacher, and once an accusation is made it is nearly impossible to restore a teacher's reputation. It is a difficult balancing act. There will never be a perfect system.
ABC News reported that the “FBI and the Justice Department do not keep statistics on the frequency of sex-related assaults involving teachers and students.” However, the “most recent statistics from the Bureau of Justice on school violence show that students are more likely to be sexually assaulted outside school grounds.”
It is atypical for victims, especially children, to disclose sexual abuse at the time it is happening. They fear being blamed for their supposed consent to the abuse. In addition, they fear losing the “approval” of their abuser. They also do not want to disappoint their parents. Many victims wait years, if they report the abuse at all, to talk about what happened to them.
Dr. Kit Richert identified physical indicators of sexual abuse such as pain, itching, bleeding, swelling, or bruising in the genital or anal area; blood in the child's underwear; frequent bladder infections; STDs; pregnancy in pre-teen girls; and complaints about headaches and sickness. The behavioral indicators of sexual abuse are: sudden change in the child's normal behavior, starts acting differently; depression or suicidality; running away; regression to more childlike behavior; changes in relationships to adults, such as becoming more clingy or more avoidant; lower school engagement and lower achievement; exhibits sexually provocative behavior or becomes promiscuous; the child has or talks about friends that are unusually older; the child talks about having sex or being touched; and the child is extremely avoidant of undressing or physical contact at school.
The good news is that there are a number of resources available to empower stakeholders to prevent sexual misconduct and abuse in schools. One organization, Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation is the national voice for the prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment of students by teachers and other school staff. Their 5-point strategy includes:
Increasing public awareness of educator sexual abuse by breaking the silence in a strong and united voice.
Fostering recovery of survivors through mutual support and access to information.
Encouraging survivors of educator sexual abuse to report their offenders to local law enforcement officials and state education department credentialing offices.
Insisting upon implementation of and adherence to child-centered educator sexual abuse policies, regulations, and laws.
Directing attention to the maintenance of proper boundaries between school staff and students by promoting annual training, the adoption of professional standards, and codes of ethics.
It takes one teacher to give all teachers a bad name, especially if it involves an adult sexually abusing a child. We all are victims when one teacher betrays the trust bestowed upon them by a community to educate our children. There are many survivors in our midst. We simply have to do a better job of protecting our children.
Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville
The Family Place hosts 8th annual “Steppin' Up for Children”
by Jennifer Steele Christensen
Esterlee Molyneux, executive director of The Family Place, welcomed guests of the center's 8 th annual “Steppin' Up for Children” event with an expression of gratitude.
“Your attendance shows that you care about children,” she said, next quoting Nelson Mandela. “‘There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.'"
The Family Place has been providing educational, therapeutic and supportive services to individuals and families in Cache and Rich counties for 35 years, with a commitment to child abuse prevention. The agency hosts “Steppin' Up for Children” at the Cache County Courthouse each year as a kick-off for its National Child Abuse Prevention Month activities in April.
Keeping with tradition, the steps of the courthouse were filled to overflowing during the event with 451 pairs of children's shoes, each of them representing a local victim of child abuse during the past year. Miss Cache Valley, Codi Smith, collected the shoes from community donors and helped arrange the display.
“I think it kind of makes it more real that each shoe represents a child in the valley that has been abused in one way or another,” she said. “It's sad to know that this is going on in the valley.”
Each presenter during a 40-minute ceremony expressed similar feelings, acknowledging that no one is immune from the effects of child abuse, neglect and endangerment. Featured speakers included Brent Platt, with the Department of Human Services; Utah Children's Justice Center (CJC) Program Administrator Tracey Tabets; and Deondra Brown, cofounder of the Foundation for Survivors of Abuse.
Speaking of the importance of raising public awareness of child abuse, Platt said, “Here's a secret. Child abuse and neglect, it's happening within our homes. It's happening with relatives, it's happening with neighbors, it's happening with the people we go to church with. I guarantee that every one of us in this room have been affected by child abuse or neglect in some form or another.”
Both Platt and Tabet emphasized the difficulty DCFS, the CJCs and law enforcement often have in addressing the issue.
“Our office and our centers to some degree are really the ambulance at the bottom of the hill, Tabet said. “If a child enters our doors, it's likely because something has already happened.”
Citing the importance of collective action in addressing child abuse, Platt asked, “Where's the faith community? They need to be here. They're a piece to this puzzle. Where's schools? We have to have education involved. We can only do so much because we're already downstream a lot of the time. The fact is, they have to be around the table if we're going to make a difference. ”
Tabet centered her message on resilience. Having worked in the Utah Attorney General's Office for nearly 25 years, where she's witnessed the devastating effects of abuse, Tabet said every child deserves to have access to quality services, and every adult should be “well-versed in Child Abuse 101” and child abuse prevention.
“But we really want people to think beyond that,” she said, “because if we truly want to be empowered as parents and as a community, we need to be thinking bigger. We need to be thinking about protective factors and resilience, and resilience is really just the ability to bounce back.”
Explaining that trauma can result from any sort of violence, loss or emotionally difficult or harmful experience, Tabet said the key to resilience is connectedness—with a positive parent, a supportive school network, a faith community or a neighborhood activity.
“All of those parts are working together to build a safety net of relationships that is reinforced by policies and services that recognize that sometimes citizens may need just a little bit of extra help,” she said. “Your community is only as strong as those who live in it…and this is a community determined to create and maintain strong social ties, to commit resources and to build capacity to help residents weather whatever may fall into your path.”
Tabet described Brown, who was sexually abused by her father, as “the picture of resilience.” Brown and her sister, Desirae Brown, are currently involved in a collaboration between their foundation, DCFS, Utah's CJCs and the Utah Attorney General's Office. The partnership is called One with Courage Utah and addresses childhood sexual abuse. Brown encouraged the Steppin' Up audience to actively advocate for children who experience all types of abuse.
“I wish someone had noticed the shy little girl who was too afraid to speak,” she said. “I wish they had followed up on that feeling deep in their gut that something was wrong. Don't be that person doomed to wonder if you could have made a difference in a child's life. Be the hero that a child is wishing and praying for this very moment. ”
Brown was passionate in expressing her feelings that, while it may take a village to raise a child, “it takes that same village to keep a child safe.” She also said the pain, sorrow, fear and betrayal that come with abuse do not have to define individuals as people.
“We can stand up, face the demons head on, and move forward with hope and optimism for a better future,” she said. “Resilience is a very powerful thing. It means that despite what threatens to knock us down, we get up and push forward to a brighter day. With enough perseverance and determination, we will eventually be able to look back and see how far we've come, and I can promise you there's nothing more satisfying. ”
Steppin' Up for Children concluded with Belva Hansen, after whom The Family Place's Logan facility is named, sharing agency's signature “Starfish Story.” Dr. Diane Calloway-Graham, who has been a therapist at the agency since 1990, was deeply moved by the event.
“What a great opportunity and a privilege it is to be able to work side by side with children, families, adolescents and adults who have experienced difficulties in their lives and help them become more resilient,” she said. “The Family Place is committed to this community and is a great place for people to come and feel safe and to work through their trauma.”
With Calloway-Graham's remarks came a call to action.
“Be committed in your community to make a difference and be a hero, as was said today, to a child, to an adolescent, to anyone that you can help and support along the way.”
Child Abuse Statistics in Utah
The Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) has 1,100 employees statewide working from 36 offices.
A call to DCFS is made in Utah every 8 minutes.
Over the past year, there were 9,993 child abuse victims statewide (451 in Cache and Rich counties), with seven fatalities. Seventy-three percent of the perpetrators were parents or guardians.
On average, 27 cases of child abuse were substantiated per day, or the equivalent of an entire elementary school classroom.
Twenty-two Children's Justice Centers serve abused children in 28 of Utah's 29 counties. They are tasked with helping victims of abuse make disclosures to law enforcement in a safe and supportive environment.
Learning more about sex assault this month
by Christy Steadman
A woman is forced to have intercourse while on a date. She says no, but he says her provocative clothing suggested otherwise.
A child is inappropriately touched by a trusted adult while getting dressed before school in the morning.
A young man in his teens takes a jog at dusk. Moments later, he is attacked, disrobed and fondled.
All of a sudden, those individuals feel unsafe in their world. And more likely than not, none of them would report the offense.
The above scenarios are not unrealistic.Each is an example of a sexual assault. Often it's a hidden crime, leaving the victim silenced and traumatized while the perpetrator remains in the community, without ramifications for his or her actions.
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office states that a sexual offense can be any form of non-consensual sexual activity. This includes rape, statutory rape and sexual touching and photographing. Crimes of moral turpitude, such as obscenity, pandering, pimping, prostitution and indecent exposure, can also be considered a sexual assault.
“Public awareness is the only way the community can address these issues,” said Allison Boyd, director of the 1st Judicial District's Victim Assistant Unit. “Only by victims coming forward can we make the community a safer place.”
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Nationally and across the globe, people are banding together to bring awareness to sexual assault, child abuse prevention and crime victims' rights. Cities will be making proclamations to address these issues and advocates are organizing call-for-action movements.
• • •
Ralston House, which has three locations and serves Gilpin, Adams, Jefferson and Broomfield counties, is a nonprofit agency that provides a safe place for child and teen survivors of abuse to tell their stories and begin the healing process. The organization expects to talk to 1,200 children and teens this year.
“We would love for less kids to show up at our door,” said Don Moseley, executive director of Ralston House. But unfortunately, “child abuse does happen in our communities.”
Moseley said many vicitms of childhood sexual assault do not report it until much later in life.
“These kids are up against offenders who have planned how to hurt them,” he said. “Kids often have no way of protecting themselves. It's important for us, as adults, to protect them.”
In general, Moseley said, the perpetrator will take six months to a year to figure out how to get the child not to tell. Most of the time, the child is led to believe that it is his or her fault. For example, Moseley said, an adult may tell the child that her nightgown was arousing.
These techniques make a child feel guilty, Moseley said.
A 2003 study by the National Institute of Justice found that 3 of 4 juvenile sex assaults are done by somebody that the child knows and trusts. Sometimes threats are involved, such as telling the child that if he or she says anything to someone, the adult perpetrator will kill himself.
“It's a very planned activity,” Moseley said. “Most of these kids sit silent.”
One way that Ralston House helps raise awareness is by being an advocate for the Jefferson, Gilpin, Adams and Broomfield county communities to plant pinwheel gardens in April.
Blue pinwheels are a symbol of child abuse prevention awareness across the nation. The gardens remind child abuse survivors that they are not alone, and that the community supports the child victims, Moseley said.
“Pinwheels are a way for the whole community to say, `We understand that child abuse happens and we are going to try to stop it,' ” Moseley said.
• • •
A common misconception is that sexual assault is only a woman's issue, said Katie Schmalzel, Colorado School of Mines' prevention programs manager and deputy Title IX coordinator.
But that is not true, she said. “It impacts an entire community.”
The Mines campus is active throughout April to bring awareness to sexual assault, Schmalzel said. Among its campus activities is a clothesline project and Wear Denim Day. The clothesline project gives everyone an opportunity to decorate a T-shirt to commemorate a sexual assault survivor. The shirts will hang in the student center for the entire month.
Wear Denim Day is an international movement that takes place the on the last Wednesday in April every year. It is based on a a decision by the Supreme Court of Appeals in Rome that overturned a rape conviction of a driving instructor against a young woman, saying she must have helped him remove her tight jeans, therefore giving consent to sex.
“The case made international headlines,” Schmalzel said, “and the young woman's jeans became a symbol of awareness that what someone wears is never an excuse for rape.”
There isn't a good answer on how to prevent sexual assaults, but Schmalzel suggests “bystander intervention” is one way to fight back.
Be aware that sexual assaults do occur and that anyone can be a victim, she said. Educate yourself, learn to identify what the red flags are and step in when it's safe for you to do so.
“Don't assume that it's not your problem because of the assumption that somebody probably already did something,” Schmalzel said. Often, she added, that's not the case.
• • •
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) reports that out of 193,112 total crimes reported by law enforcement agencies across the state, 3,275 of the crimes were rape. And of the 3,275 total rape reports, 141 of them were attempted offenses, meaning nearly 96 percent of the rapes were reported as completed rapes.
The above statistics are reporting only rape cases, and do not include other sexual offenses. And, it is important to remember that the frequency and actual number of sexual assaults are difficult to pinpoint because it is a crime that is often underreported, Boyd said.
This could be for a number of reasons, she said — victims might think nothing can or will be done about it, or they may think no one will believe them because generally there are no witnesses. Because sexual assault is a traumatizing experience, Boyd said, it is difficult to make decisions on what to do.
“Fear is a huge issue,” Boyd said.
Victims may be afraid that if they come forward, the perpetrator will retaliate.
“It's very important that victims feel supported,” Boyd said.
To show that support, the 1st Judicial District Attorney's Office hosts the annual Courage Walk during National Crime Victims' Rights Week, which takes place this year on April 2-8. The walk happens on April 8 and the entire community is invited to honor victims' courage.
“By raising awareness,” Boyd said, “we can help victims feel safe enough to come forward, break the silence and end the violence.”
How to get involved
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, National Child Abuse Awareness Month and National Crime Victims' Rights Week. Here are some suggestions on how to get involved locally.
Wear a teal ribbon in April. The teal ribbon is the symbol of sexual violence prevention.
Participate in Wear Denim Day. Wear Denim Day occurs on April 26 worldwide. Governmental agencies, businesses and other participating groups have their employees or members pay $5 to wear jeans to work instead of professional clothing. Some local organizations participate as a fundraiser for the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Learn more about the coalition or Wear Denim Day at www.ccasa.org.
Local governments will be making proclamations. The dates are as follows: April 3, Arvada; April 11, Jefferson County Commissioners; April 13, Golden; April 24, Westminster.
National Child Abuse Awareness Month
Plant a pinwheel garden. Blue pinwheels are a symbol of child abuse prevention awareness across the nation. Pinwheels cost $5 each and can be obtained through the Ralston House, which is the benefitting nonprofit. There is no limit to how many pinwheels a person may purchase. People are asked not to drop in to the Ralston House locations to purchase pinwheels, so as not to disrupt any sensitive interviews with children that may be taking place. The Ralston House will arrange delivery of pinwheels. To purchase pinwheels, call the Ralston House at 720-898-6752 or learn more at www.ralstonhouse.net.
National Crime Victims' Rights Week
Attend the Courage Walk. National Crime Victims' Rights Week will be observed this year on April 2-8, and the 1st Judicial District Attorney's 24th annual Courage Walk takes place April 8 beginning at 11 a.m. at the Jefferson County Courthouse, 100 Jefferson County Parkway, in Golden.
Registration and a free continental breakfast will be offered at 10 a.m., and the half-mile walk from the courthouse to the Courage Garden, which is just south of the courthouse, begins at 11 a.m.
The event is family-friendly, the path is wheelchair-accessible and dogs are welcome as long as they are well-behaved and remain on a leash.
The walk is free, but a suggested $10 donation will be used to maintain the Courage Garden and benefit the Victim Assistance Unit. For more information, visit www.victimoutreach.org or call 303-271-5570.
Community Leaders Address Child Abuse Prevention
by Taylor Kinzler
In 2016, more than 2,000 cases of child abuse and neglect were confirmed in Maine.
Law enforcement and state agencies gathered in Augusta to discuss ways to combat this issue.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.
An opportunity for community leaders and law enforcement to come together and ensure the safety of children in maine.
“If we don't take care of our children, where does that leave our future?”
“More than 50,000 phone calls are made annually to child abuse hotlines. But the key to preventing abuse is education and collaboration among law enforcement and protection agencies.”
“What we must realize is that it will take a community effort to keep our children and our family safe,” said DHHS Commissioner, Mary Mayhew.
“We have a network of child abuse prevention councils,” said Jan Clarkin, Executive Director, Maine Children's Trust. “There's one in virtually every county in the state of Maine.”
“You know we can't do it ourselves and they can't do it without us.”
Kennebec County Sheriff Ken Mason has investigated dozens of child abuse cases.
“Throughout my 30 year career, I've seen a lot of things.”
As an officer and a parent, responding to these calls can be difficult.
“But nothing that bothers me quite as much as going into a child's bedroom, where there's a dirty mattress on the floor with no sheets and there's no toys in sight. But I look in the corner and there's a stack of empty 12 packs.”
“When the reports do come in to the state, they do evaluate risk factors present as they substantiate cases,” said Clarkin.
Some of those risk factors include mental health, substance abuse and prior convictions.
Organizations like the Maine Children's Trust work to stop abuse before it happens, offering parent visitation, outreach and early childhood education programs.
Giving families the tools they need to provide a stable environment for their children.
“Ask what you can do reach out to your local child abuse neglect prevention council. See how to be involved. Raising strong communities is not just a parents job, it's a community's job.”
To report child abuse or neglect, contact the the Maine Child and Family Services line at 1-800-452-1999.
The hotline is open 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.
Child Abuse May Lead to Early Puberty
by Rick Nauert PhD
New research establishes that child abuse can influence physical development as well as psychological maturity.
Pennsylvania State University investigators discovered young girls who are exposed to sexual abuse are likely to physically mature and hit puberty earlier than non-abused peers.
While it has long been known that maltreatment can affect a child's psychological development, the new study shows that the stress of abuse can impact the physical growth and maturation of adolescents as well.
Drs. Jennie Noll, director of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network, and Idan Shalev, assistant professor of biobehavioral health, found that young girls who are exposed to childhood sexual abuse are likely to physically mature and hit puberty at rates eight to twelve months earlier than their non-abused peers.
Their findings appear in the Journal of Adolescent Health .
“Though a year's difference may seem trivial in the grand scheme of a life, this accelerated maturation has been linked to concerning consequences, including behavioral and mental health problems and reproductive cancers,” said Noll.
The body is timed so that physical and developmental changes occur in tandem, assuring that as a child physically changes, they have adequate psychological growth to cope with mature contexts. “High-stress situations, such as childhood sexual abuse, can lead to increased stress hormones that jump-start puberty ahead of its standard biological timeline,” Noll explained.
“When physical maturation surpasses psychosocial growth in this way, the mismatch in timing is known as maladaptation.”
In the past, there have been studies loosely linking sexual abuse to maladaptation and accelerated maturation, but the longitudinal work completed by Noll and her team has been the most conclusive and in-depth to date, beginning in 1987 and following subjects throughout each stage of puberty.
Researchers used statistical methods to control for race, ethnicity, family makeup, obesity, socioeconomic status, and nonsexual traumatic experiences. They then compared the pubescent trajectories of 84 females with a sexual abuse history and 89 of their non-abused counterparts. Working closely with nurses and Child Protective Services, the subjects were tracked from pre-puberty to full maturity based on a system known as Tanner staging.
Tanner staging is a numeric index of ratings that corresponds with the physical progression of puberty. The study's researchers focused on breast and pubic hair development as two separate mile markers for pubescent change. Subjects were placed somewhere from one (prepubescent) to five (full maturity) on the Tanner index and their Tanner number and age were mapped out and recorded over time.
“We found that young women with sexual abuse histories were far more likely to transition into higher puberty stages an entire year before their non-abused counterparts when it came to pubic hair growth, and a full eight months earlier in regards to breast development,” Noll stated.
“Due to increased exposure to estrogens over a longer period of time, premature physical development such as this has been linked to breast and ovarian cancers. Additionally, early puberty is seen as a potential contributor to increased rates of depression, substance abuse, sexual risk taking, and teenage pregnancy.”
The researchers believe they were able to accurately rule out other variables that may have aided in accelerated puberty, pinpointing child sexual abuse and the stress hormones associated with it as a cause for early maturation in young girls.
Their findings add to the body of work highlighting the role of stress in puberty, and it is the hope that the research will lead to increased preventative care and psychosocial aid to young women facing the effects of early maturation.
Dr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.
Perry principal, teacher resign after accusations of hiding child abuse
by Dallas Franklin
PERRY, Okla. – A Perry school principal and a teacher have resigned after allegations they both failed to report child abuse or neglect.
The Perry Public School Board of Education met Monday night to vote on whether or not to accept the resignations of 5th grade math teacher Jeffrey Sullins and Upper Elementary School Principal Kendra Miller.
The board approved the resignation agreements, KFOR crews confirmed.
Miller and Sullins each face misdemeanor counts after failing to report accusations of sexual abuse against their students.
Police arrested 85-year-old teaching assistant Arnold Cowen earlier this year on accusations he inappropriately touched at least seven girls.
The assistant chief told NewsChannel 4 at least 20 children may have been victims, likely over the course of several years.
At least 10 students may have been victimized in 2017, according to court documents, when Perry Upper Elementary School Principal Miller dismissed past allegations and failed to notify police or the victim's parents.
Students as young as 10 complained Cowen fondled them and touched their breasts, according to arrest affidavits, sometimes during “lengthy hugs and inappropriate touches.”
According to court documents, Miller fielded multiple complaints from students but told them they had to be accidental.
“Principal Kenda Miller tells her that it's possible, that Cowen has long arms and, when he reaches around to hug her, his long arms touch her boobs,” one student told police, according to the affidavit. “Principal Kenda Miller tells her to refrain from hugging Cowen and to only ‘fist bump' him.”
As a result, students told police they were afraid to tell their parents about the interactions and often would cry in the bathroom.
During interviews with other teachers, police were told “Cowen was definitely the victim of false accusations and he was a model instructor and of great help to the school.”
Miller told police, according to court documents, police were not told of the complaints because they were “deemed to be false by her staff and herself. Stating, ‘we have had these allegations on Cowen before, but we determined they were fabricated by the students.'”
In interviews with police, Miller said Cowen's of “great moral character and was a very ‘nice guy.”
Police said, when Sullins was told of inappropriate touching, he told the student she was “making stuff up,” at one point taking her into the hallway and calling her a liar, documents show.
“[The student] was escorted to the office to see Principal Kenda Miller, but since she was not available, [the student] was sent back to class, where she continued to work with Cowen,” according to the affidavit. “Sullins did allude to the fact that a majority of the teachers were aware of the incident/accusations.”
Cowen faces more than 20 counts of lewd or indecent acts to a child as well as child pornography possession charges.
Miller was charged with one misdemeanor count for failing to report child abuse or neglect. Her court hearing is scheduled for April 27.
Sullins has been charged with two counts of failure to report child abuse or neglect. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Both Miller and Sullins had their teaching license revoked by the State Board of Education last month under emergency orders.
Here's How We Can Start Preventing Child Abuse
by Alana Walczak
Ding! I'm attuned to the sound of Facebook messenger. When my phone chimes, I am drawn to check it. “Who is messaging me now?” I wonder.
Since I began working at CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation), I have received many private messages from people in my life asking for help.
Sometimes, it's a friend who was abused as a child and is talking about it for the first time. Or, it's a colleague who is fostering a child who is dealing with poor attachment and challenging behaviors. Sometimes, it's a teacher who has just become aware of how many children in her classroom are witnessing violence at home.
Every time, it's someone new.
My experience is not unique to me. Everyone who works at CALM hears from friends about their childhood trauma. Everyone is asked for help from someone who never received it growing up.
The commonality of this experience has brought home to me just how prevalent “adverse childhood experiences,” or ACEs, are.
I've learned that only one in four children who experience early trauma — things like abuse, neglect, exposure to violence in the home, parental substance abuse or mental illness — receive help along the way. That means 75 percent of children who need support are invisible. They are often unknown to anyone.
While the scope of this problem can seem overwhelming, I am heartened to know that child abuse is an issue we can address. CALM is partnering with many local organizations to identify childhood trauma early and to prevent it even before it starts. I'm so proud of our groundbreaking efforts.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time when we engage our community to raise awareness about the importance of providing safe, stable and loving environments for growing children.
It is a time to reflect on the urgency of this issue, and the reality that we absolutely know how to prevent child abuse. I invite you to take a moment to learn how CALM and our many partners are working together to interrupt the cycle of violence.
From 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 4, CALM is hosting an open house at our Santa Barbara office at 1236 Chapala St. Please join me and others in our community to learn more about the ways that CALM prevents child abuse.
Of course, we'll feed you delicious treats and welcome you warmly into our space. We will also provide you the opportunity to experience a simulated therapy session and a “typical” educational presentation done in our local elementary schools. It will definitely give you a glimpse of the real-world work we do in our communities every day.
And, if you'd like to know more about ACEs, I'd encourage you to attend a free screening of the film Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope. The documentary delves into the science of early childhood trauma and gives us hopeful strategies — as parents, as grandparents, as teachers and as interested community members — to treat and prevent toxic stress.
I am really excited about this documentary because it shares the research about toxic stress and its direct connection to negative health outcomes throughout the life span. It also speaks directly to the work CALM is doing in collaboration with so many partners throughout Santa Barbara County.
The Child Abuse Prevention Council is offering free screenings of Resilience throughout the month of April:
» April 4, 3:30 p.m. at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, 2975 Highway 246 in Santa Ynez
» April 6, 3 p.m. at Santa Maria Public Library Central Branch, 421 S. McClelland St. in Santa Maria
» April 20, 6:30 p.m. at La Cumbre Junior High School, 2255 Modoc Road in Santa Barbara
» April 24, 6 p.m. at Dick DeWees Community Center, 1120 W. Ocean Ave. in Lompoc
Early childhood adversity is being called the one of the biggest public health crises in our country. My experience of receiving calls and Facebook messages from friends and acquaintances supports the idea that a majority of adults have experienced some level of childhood trauma.
I hope you can take some time in April to reflect on how this issue affects you and your family, and to learn about the issues facing children and families throughout our county. Together, we can prevent child abuse.
— Alana Walczak is CEO of the nonprofit CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation), a leader in developing programs and services that effectively treat child abuse and promote healing, as well as programs that help prevent abuse through family strengthening and support. Click here for more information , or call 805.965.2376. Click here for previous columns . The opinions expressed are her own.
Georgia launches new app to help prevent child abuse, fatalities
GaCFR app designed to be quick resource for families, caregivers, police
by News4Jax staff
In an effort to prevent and reduce incidents of child abuse and fatalities in Georgia, a new mobile app called GaCFR was launched by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in collaboration with the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services and the State Office of the Child Advocate.
A study conducted by the Georgia Child Fatality Review Program, which evaluates all injury, sleep-related and unexpected or suspicious deaths involving children under 18 years old, found that more than half of child deaths in Georgia could have been prevented.
The GaCFR app is designed to be a quick resource for families, caregivers, support agencies and law enforcement agencies. Within the app are links to report missing children, report abuse, investigative checklists and access a host of other resources.
A free download of the app is available for Android, Apple and Windows operating system devices. Use keywords “Georgia Child Fatality Review” when searching for the app. Law enforcement will need an activation code to access the special features.
Law enforcement agencies may contact Georgia Child Fatality Review Program at ChildFatalityReview@gbi.ga.gov to receive a code to access special features within the app.
The GCFR's mission is to serve Georgia's children by promoting more accurate identification and reporting of child fatalities, evaluating the prevalence and circumstances of both child abuse cases and child fatality investigations and monitoring the implementation and impact of the statewide child injury prevention plan in order to prevent and reduce incidents of child abuse and fatalities in the state.
Kentucky Has Second Highest Child Abuse Rate in U.S.
by SurfKY News
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (3/28/17) — The number of Kentucky children who died from abuse, as well as overall cases of abuse, is on the rise.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Children's Bureau “Child Maltreatment 2015” report — released in 2017 — shows a jump in child abuse cases in both Kentucky and Indiana. The commonwealth had 18,897 victims (17,932 in the 2014 report), or about 19 out of every 1,000 children. Kentucky's rate is more than double the national average.
“We're hoping the significant increase in cases is the result of more people spotting and reporting abuse, which means we're potentially preventing even more deaths and getting children and families the help they need,” said Erin Frazier, M.D., chair of the Partnership to Eliminate Child Abuse, which is led by Norton Children's Hospital.
The study also shows 16 Kentucky kids died as the result of abuse, compared with 15 fatalities the previous year. Nationally, child abuse cases and deaths are on the rise. Here's how both states stack up to the rest of the country.
“We've been doing a lot of education throughout Kentucky and Indiana to try to reduce the number of children dying from abuse,” Dr. Frazier said. “Still, it's apparent that we have plenty more work to do.”
“We all can do our part to keep kids safe and put an end to abuse, which is 100 percent preventable, by staying in control, being smart in choosing a child's caregiver, knowing how to get support and identifying the signs before it's too late,” said Kelly L. Dauk, M.D., chair of the Norton Children's Hospital Child Abuse Task Force and pediatrician with University of Louisville Physicians.
In recognition of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, here are some ways you can help:
• If you're a parent and you feel yourself about to lose control, it's OK to step away. Put your child in a safe place and then listen to your favorite song, take a few deep breaths or call a friend.
• Keep a list of friends' and family members' phone numbers to call for support.
• If you know a parent who may need a break, offer to babysit so he or she can step away for an hour or two.
• Offer to run an errand for a neighbor with small children who has difficulty getting out of the house. A small gesture like that can greatly reduce stress for the parent.
• Learn the TEN-4 bruising rule: Children under age 4 should not have bruising on the torso, ears or neck. Infants too young to crawl should never have any bruises. If you see these bruises, there is concern the child may have experienced abuse and you can do something before it's too late.
SC family awarded $3.75M after DSS failed to investigate child abuse case
by Kendall McGee
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – A Spartanburg County family has been awarded $3.75 million after a jury found that the South Carolina Department of Social Services failed to investigate multiple reports that the child was in danger.
According to the press release from the firm that brought the lawsuit, the grandmother called SC DSS multiple times to voice her concern that the 21-month-old baby girl was in danger while living with her mother and the mother's live-in boyfriend.
The grandmother was worried the child was being abused and neglected, and complained to DSS twice over the phone and once in person. The relative reported that the mother's boyfriend, Robert Steadman, had a domestic violence record and the mother and the boyfriend were accused of using drugs, according to the lawsuit.
Despite the woman's multiple pleas to look into the matter, the SC DSS failed to investigate at all.
A press release says the baby was attacked by the mother's boyfriend a few weeks later.
“He hit the toddler in the face, bit her multiple times on her back and buttocks, broke both her arms and her right leg and ripped out large chunks of her hair. She did not receive medical attention until the next day. She was hospitalized for several days in the intensive care unit. She also tested positive for cocaine at the hospital,” said the press release from attorney Heather Hite Stone.
During the trial, the victim's orthopedic surgeon testified the baby's bone breaks occurred over a period of a few weeks, signaling to the doctor that the abuse has been “ongoing and chronic.”
The lawsuit says Steadman was arrested and admitted to felony child abuse and is serving a 20-year prison sentence.
The jury awarded the grandmother $3.75 million, but the damages will be reduced because of the South Carolina Tort Claims Act that caps judgments against the state.
“Had SCDSS investigated this matter they could have prevented the abuse that this poor baby had to suffer. We are pleased that the jury stood up for this child,” said Stone.
posted for Carol D Levine
The story of one. Trafficked Boys: Vandalized innocence hidden in plain sight
by Jerome Elam - Sep 20, 2014
WASHINGTON , September 20, 2014 — It was August of 1970 and the heat of a summer's day in the Deep South refused to relinquish its grip as night descended like a dark curtain. The sweat had pooled in the middle of my back and my hair lay tangled and matted across my damp forehead as I lay face down on the small couch.
The hollow thud of the camper door being slammed shut pulled me temporarily back into realty. The couch I was laying on creaked and groaned as the bald and overweight man stood fastening his belt. The drug-induced haze of cocaine mixed with alcohol had a strong grip on me, but there were times I could almost taste the dust and grit of the world outside.
Since the age of five I had been trafficked sexually by a pedophile ring. It was now three years later and I was a well known and popular “date” for the sexual predators that my “owners” sold me to on a regular basis.
Suddenly the loud roar of an engine boomed outside. It was a bookmark for my life because I knew exactly how the night would unfold. That night I was being trafficked along the amateur stock car racing circuit and customers had traveled great distances to satisfy their twisted sexual appetites.
My life had fallen into a dark abyss early on as domestic violence; alcoholism, childhood sexual abuse and divorce dominated my world.
Following my mother's divorce from my biological father, her life began a downward spiral that left me abandoned and alone, vulnerable to those who prey upon the innocent. My mother's world existed at the bottom of a bottle and when she met a man named Neale who began to molest me, alcohol facilitated her complete escape from the reality of what was happening to me. Before long Neale shared me with the pedophile ring he belonged to. Soon I was being trafficked sexually, trapped by threats of violence against my mother and forced to take cocaine and alcohol.
For seven long years I was trapped in a hell no one deserves. I was nothing more than a shell of a human being enduring suffering and torture at the hands of psychopaths and sociopaths as the world looked on. I attended school, and from the outside appeared to be a “normal child” but I was being trafficked in plain sight. I was often pulled out of school to “service” clients and after school, holidays and weekends were all just a never-ending nightmare for me. All of the signs were there but no one cared enough to look or had the training or education to realize my bruises and lengthy illnesses were all red flags for a child suffering endless abuse.
The Department of Justice estimates that between 100,000 and 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked in this country right now. Human trafficking is a $9.5 billion a year business in the U.S. according to the United Nations and within the first forty-eight hours of leaving home, a runaway child will be approached by a human trafficker. Human trafficking is second only to the drug trade as the largest criminal enterprise according to the Justice Department. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reports that pimps can make from $150,000 to $200,000 per year for each child. The NCMEC also reports a pimp has an average of four children and the Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking non profit, reports the average victim of sex trafficking is forced to have sex 20-48 times a day.
These numbers are shocking and part of a tragedy that is actively swallowing America's children. The life of a child being trafficked is brutal. Drugs, alcohol, beatings and death threats are used as tools to keep innocent children as slaves to the depths of depravity. The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports the average life span of a child being trafficked is seven years. The drugs, alcohol and abusive lifestyle wither the fragile spirit of a child leaving them to die in the shadow of hope.
Our children are being thrown into the darkest abyss of humanity and some have been lost in a broken system. In 2010, Los Angeles officials reported that 59 percent of juveniles arrested for prostitution were in the foster care system. In addition, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported that of the children who are reported missing, who are also likely sex trafficking victims, 60 percent were in foster care or group homes when they ran away.
In July of 2013, the FBI rescued 105 children who were forced into prostitution in the United States, and arrested 150 pimps in a series of raids in 76 American cities. The campaign, known as “Operation Cross Country,” was the largest of its type and conducted under the FBI's “Innocence Lost” initiative. It all took place in just 72 hours. The youngest victim recovered was just 9 years old. (Reuters).
Historically, women have been identified as the overwhelming majority of victims of human trafficking but recent studies have shown male victims of trafficking have been severely overlooked. In a 2008 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, of those who were sexually exploited in New York, fifty percent of victims were found to be boys from the United States, being trafficked domestically. Until now anti-trafficking organizations have been focused on female victims but that tide is now starting to turn. A 2013 study by the organization ECPAT discovered males are more likely to be arrested for shoplifting or other petty crimes even though they are being trafficked sexually.
One of the great myths about male victims of sex trafficking is that they are predominantly homosexual. The truth is the majority of trafficked youths are not gay, according to Steven Pricopio from the organization Surviving Our Struggle, a center for young male trafficking victims. Most are trapped in a life of sexual servitude through threats of violence against their families or themselves. “They don't see them as victims … It's not an issue of sexual orientation, it's an issue of right circumstances which bring you to exploitation or the vulnerability that brings you into being sexually exploited.” Pricopio says.
Also included in the John Jay study was the fact that forty percent of male victims were forced to service female clients. The lens through which we currently view human trafficking has to change and we need acknowledge that this scourge defies gender, race, and socioeconomic status. Instead of viewing victims of trafficking as either a male or female problem we have to now examine the expanse of its scope and treat it as a human problem.
The path to becoming a victim of sex trafficking is similar for both males and females. Income is not the sole determining factor in assessing the vulnerability of children. Traffickers have no limitations on the methods they will use to lure victims into an inescapable trap. Human trafficking has also infiltrated our schools.
Traffickers will hand pick a child to be a recruiter, typically one who has formed a trauma bond with their trafficker and place them in a school. The recruiter will wear nice clothes and jewelry and drive a nice car. When the other kids compliment the recruiter on their clothes or car the recruiter will say, “I can show you how to have all this and more.” It doesn't take long before the trafficker has the new child trapped with threats of violence against their family and friends.
There are factors that do make a child more vulnerable, and one of the most common risk factors among victims is a dysfunctional family environment. Alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse all create a chasm in the self-esteem of a child. Traffickers actively target these children and soon they are lost to the darkness few survive.
My escape from the world of human trafficking came at a high cost. I had tried to tell at least ten people that I was being trafficked and my reward for this was among other things having three of my ribs broken. My life had become an abyss of worthlessness and pain and at the age of twelve, I stood in my mother's rose garden, a bottle of sleeping pills in one hand and a bottle of vodka in the other. As the agents of my demise tumbled down my throat chased by the warmth of the vodka, I felt a sense of peace wash over me. I felt a peace I had never felt before. I had finally escaped the nightmare and I was no longer afraid.
Suddenly, I awoke in the emergency room to a group of wide-eyed doctors who had witnessed me depart this world for a total of three minutes. God, it seems, had other plans for me and I was finally freed from my nightmare as the horrified doctors noticed the bruises that formed a tapestry across my body chronicling the abuse I suffered. I sincerely believe it is through God's intervention that I am here today as a survivor of human trafficking and not a casualty. I stand here today not only as a survivor but as a living testament that there is always hope and a light inside all of us that no one can extinguish.
Please join me in the fight to end human trafficking and save the next child before they are sentenced to a vandalized childhood with a lifetime of broken hopes and dreams. Learn the signs of human trafficking and call the human trafficking hotline at 1-888-3737-888 if you suspect someone is being trafficked. To learn more about the signs of human trafficking visit the Polaris Project website: http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/recognizing-the-signs or the Department of Homeland Security's Blue Campaign http://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/indicators-human-trafficking.
Brazilian woman convicted of human trafficking deported from US
BALTIMORE, Md. – A foreign national who was convicted and wanted by Brazilian authorities for international human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation was removed from the United States yesterday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Stefania Joaquina Campos Rezende, a 39-year-old citizen of Brazil, was arrested Feb. 14 by a Fugitive Operations Team assigned to ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) office in Baltimore. She was identified as a fugitive alien after an immigration judge issued her a final order of removal in 2006. She arrived at Belo Horizonte International Airport in Brazil yesterday and was turned over to local authorities to serve the sentence in her human trafficking conviction.
“ICE is committed to targeting, arresting and removing international criminals who attempt to use the United States as a safe haven from prison sentences,” said ERO Baltimore Field Office Director Dorothy Herrera-Niles. “The removal of a convicted human trafficker will keep our community safe, and allow exploited victims in Brazil to receive justice.”
Campos Rezende had been detained at the Worcester County Jail, located in Snow Hill, Maryland, since she entered ICE custody in February. In addition to her conviction in Brazil, Campos Rezende was recently convicted on felony drug charges stateside.
Since Oct. 1, 2009, ERO has removed more than 1,700 foreign fugitives from the United States who were sought in their native countries for serious crimes, including kidnapping, rape and murder. In fiscal year 2016, ICE conducted 240,255 removals nationwide. Ninety-two percent of individuals removed from the interior of the United States had previously been convicted of a criminal offense.
ERO works with the ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Office of International Operations, foreign consular offices in the United States, and Interpol to identify foreign fugitives illegally present in the United States. Members of the public who have information about foreign fugitives are urged to contact ICE by calling the ICE tip line at 1 (866) 347-2423 or internationally at 001-1802-872-6199. They can also file a tip online by completing ICE's online tip form.
Pair tried to sell baby on Craigslist for $3K, police say
by the Associated Press
ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. — Authorities say a Tennessee couple is accused of trying to sell a 5-month-old baby online for $3,000.
Local news outlets report that the Greene County Sheriff's Office says 37-year-old Deanna Lynn Greer and 26-year-old John David Cain were arrested Friday on charges of aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect or endangerment.
Sheriff Pat Hankins says authorities were alerted after another couple saw an ad posted on Craigslist listing the infant for sale.
Hankins says an undercover officer contacted Greer and Cain and was given the price for the child. He says the couple then met with the agent at a store, exchanged the baby for cash and both were then taken into custody.
Hankins says the child is in state custody.
It's unclear if Greer and Cain have attorneys.
A soldier and a sex worker walk into a therapist's office. Who's more likely to have PTSD?
by Graham Jamieson and Mary Anne Kate
When we think about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), we most often think of soldiers traumatised by their experiences of war. But the statistics tell another story.
While about 5-12% of Australian military personnel who have experienced active service have PTSD at any one time, this is about the same (10%) as rates for police, ambulance personnel, firefighters and other rescue workers.
And while these rates are significant, they are not vastly different to rates in the general Australian population (8% of women and 5% of men).
PTSD is actually most common in populations with a high exposure to forms of complex trauma. This involves multiple, chronic and deliberately inflicted interpersonal traumas (physical and sexual abuse and assaults, emotional abuse, neglect, persecution and torture).
Sex workers, women fleeing domestic violence, survivors of childhood abuse and Indigenous Australians are far more likely to have experienced this complex trauma. In these groups, between 40% and 55% are affected by PTSD.
So, how and why does their complex trauma differ from the PTSD we most commonly associate with the military?
PTSD vs complex PTSD
Complex trauma leads to a specific type of PTSD, known as complex PTSD, which will be listed in the 2018 edition of International Classification of Diseases for the first time.
Complex PTSD applies to responses to extremely threatening or horrific events that are extreme, prolonged or repetitive, from which a person finds it difficult or impossible to escape. Examples include repeated childhood sexual or physical abuse, and prolonged domestic violence.
Generally, PTSD involves persistent mental and emotional stress as a result of injury or severe psychological shock. It typically involves disturbed sleep, traumatic flashbacks and dulled responses to others and the outside world.
But people with complex PTSD also have problems regulating their emotions, believe they are worthless, have deep feelings of shame, guilt or failure, and have ongoing difficulties sustaining relationships and feeling close to others.
Complex PTSD is linked to early trauma, such as childhood physical and sexual abuse. And given girls are two to three times more likely to be sexually abused than boys, this might partly explain why, by the time girls reach adolescence, they are three and a half times more likely than boys to be diagnosed with PTSD. Girls' nervous systems may also be more vulnerable to developing PTSD.
Complex trauma as a child also increases the risk of trauma as an adult. Other studies confirm a link between early trauma and being a victim of domestic violence.
An occupational hazard
People with certain occupations are also at high risk of PTSD. A study of street-based sex workers in Sydney found nearly half would have met the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis at some point during their lives, making this the highest occupational risk for PTSD in Australia. Their high rates of PTSD are attributed to multiple traumas, including childhood sexual abuse and violent physical or sexual assaults while working.
People with histories of complex trauma are also more likely to find work where trauma is an occupational hazard, like the military or police, with the potential to compound their trauma further.
People with histories of childhood abuse and other adverse childhood experiences are also more likely to develop PTSD in the line of duty.
Other groups at risk
Women fleeing domestic violence are at particular risk of PTSD, with an Australian study finding 42% of women in a women's refuge suffering from it.
While domestic violence is a form of complex trauma in itself, it is far more likely to be experienced by women who, as children, experienced sexual abuse, severe beatings by parents, and who were also raised in homes with domestic violence. These experiences of complex trauma in childhood and adulthood significantly increase the risk of having complex PTSD in adulthood.
Another of the most at-risk groups is Indigenous Australians, with a study in a remote community finding 97% had experienced traumatic events and 55% met the criteria for PTSD at some point in their lives.
Indigenous Australians have high rates of interpersonal trauma that frequently begin early in life and are characterised as severe, chronic and perpetrated by multiple people, often those in authority and well known to the individual. These complex traumas are further compounded by the pervasive transgenerational impacts of colonisation.
PTSD in the military, police and emergency services in the line of duty has less stigma attached to it than PTSD associated with domestic violence situations and sex workers, partly because some people think this last group created the problem themselves.
Such misconceptions reflect a lack of awareness about the impact of complex trauma on a person's self-worth, coping skills and ability to gauge danger then effectively respond to it.
Survivors of complex trauma are less likely to be treated for their PTSD despite their symptoms being more pervasive.
This may not be surprising given survivors of complex trauma are often faced with societal, community and family pressure to remain silent, and have a legitimate fear of being accused of fantasising, lying, seeking attention or seeking revenge.
And without adequate professional support, many survivors of complex trauma self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.
Engaging with the health care system
There are pitfalls for people with complex PTSD who engage with the mental health care system. This is because the standard treatment for PTSD, exposure therapy, which involves talking about their experience and their reaction to it, can be potentially retraumatising and destabalising. Health care professionals might also miss the underlying trauma if the focus is on more visible symptoms, like substance abuse, depression or anxiety.
But the new diagnostic category of complex PTSD provides an opportunity to screen high-risk populations that would be unlikely to seek treatment.
The new diagnostic category also allows treatments to sensitively address standard PTSD symptoms as well as the emotional dysregulation, negative self-perceptions and relationship disturbances that come with it.
If this article has raised concerns for you or someone you know, please call:
Blue Knot Helpline for adults survivors of trauma and abuse (1300 657 380)
National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service (1800 737 732)
SANE Australia for information, guidance, and referrals to manage mental health concerns (1800 187 263).
Support for sexually abused a phone call away
Johnstown -- At first glance, a 200 percent increase in the number of adult male victims of childhood sexual assault seeking help from Victim Services Inc. within the past year is alarming.
But put into perspective, the time frame roughly follows the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General's release of a grand jury report detailing an alleged decades-long cover-up of child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
Are the two related? Mike Oliver, executive director of Victim Services, said there was “no way to gauge” because “that's not a question that we ask (clients).”
However, the high-profile case and news coverage it received could have been the impetus for more victims to come forward, Oliver told reporter Dave Sutor.
Erika Brosig, Victim Services' clinical supervisor, agreed.
“With all the media attention on the case with the diocese, a survivor who maybe was not dealing with that specific situation … has been triggered by the constant attention to it, so we've had a lot of people coming in for that reason,” she said.
Leaders of the local Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests chapter would like to collaborate with Victim Services to help individuals who were assaulted by authority figures in the church.
Oliver said his agency, although not officially linked with SNAP, nonetheless “would be able to help those individuals the same as we would be able to provide services to any victim of sexual assault within Cambria or Somerset county.”
Help that is available includes therapy and comfort during the legal process, he said.
Oliver urged anyone who may be hesitant to seek help to contact Victim Services.
“Please reach out to us,” he said. Victim Services' telephone number is 288-4961.
Guidance and support are available to anyone who wants to talk. They only need to make a telephone call.
Alleged Nassar victim reveals her identity: “I'm calling all survivors of sexual assault or abuse to unite”
by Alexandra Ilitch
OKEMOS, MI (WLNS) – We continue to follow the latest developments on the sexual assault allegations against former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
The former doctor faces criminal charges on the state and federal levels. Almost weekly, the list of allegations against him gets longer and so does an on-going federal lawsuit where nearly 80 plaintiffs are suing the former doctor and Michigan State University.
6 News has spoken exclusively with a couple of those plaintiffs. When we interviewed them last month, we didn't reveal their names or identities but those Jane Doe's want you to know who they are.
Among the dozens of women and girls who have been added to a federal lawsuit against Nassar, you'll find the name “Jane Doe BMSU.” 6 News shared her story with you last month when she anonymously reflected on the nearly 20 years of her life that were changed forever as a result of an MSU doctor and gymnastics coach.
She says she was silenced and lost sight of her identity but she's speaking out again to make herself known, with hopes to empower others to come forward like she did.
“You may know me as BMSU in the filings of the complaint, but my name is Larissa Boyce and I'm calling all survivors of sexual assault or abuse to unite,” she said.
It's not easy to talk about sexual assault. In fact, it was far from a simple task for Larissa Boyce nearly two decades ago at the age of 16 when she says she was silenced by then MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages after raising concerns about treatments by former MSU doctor Larry Nassar.
“All of these adults were telling me that it was ok and that I was wrong,” she said during our interview on Feb. 7.
It happened in the 90's and last month, she anonymously shared her story with us for the first time.
“I had to put my mind in other places because there were things that would happen that seemed really inappropriate,” she said.
Feeling defeated by Klages' actions, Boyce said it left her feeling embarrassed and intimidated. A whirlwind of emotions she carried into her adult years.
“It really affected lots of areas of my life,” Boyce said. “I got angry, I started making bad decisions and I always questioned myself.”
REPORTER: “Why did you decide to come forward today and reveal your name and identity?”
LARISSA: “To give other girls courage to do the same thing. Sexual abuse is something that people are afraid to talk about because it's uncomfortable and that is something I want to change.”
Boyce plays many roles in her daily life. She's a daughter, wife, and mother to four kids. She's suing Nassar for years of alleged sexual abuse but she said she's not looking for revenge. She knows she can't change the past, she's using her story to demand change for the future and when we sat down with her for this interview her message couldn't have been more clear.
“I want MSU and USA Gymnastics to be leaders of that change,” Boyce said. “That would give them integrity. I want to see them have that integrity.”
While the healing process takes time, Boyce said she recently found hope after a new Title IX investigation by MSU found that Nassar did sexually assault a woman he treated more than two decades ago.
“That is really what has given me the most closure right now,” Boyce said. “Because I felt validated. I finally felt validated after 20 years of feeling like I was told that I was wrong.”
REPORTER: “Larissa if you could say one thing to Larry, what would be your message to him?”
LARISSA: “I want him to see how many people he's hurt. That it wasn't just us girls, but our families are hurting, our parents are hurting, it's affected more than just us..it's affected his family and he just, he had so much to offer and could have done so much good for people.”
While some people say they told MSU staffers about Nassar's behavior as far back as the 90's, an MSU spokesperson says the university didn't get a complaint until 2014. It investigated that complaint and as a result, set up guidelines for Nassar to follow.
MSU officials say Nassar was fired after they say he admitted not always following those guidelines.
While some people say they told MSU staffers about Nassar's behavior as far back as the 90's, an MSU spokesperson says the university didn't get a complaint until 2014. It investigated that complaint and as a result, set up guidelines for Nassar to follow.
MSU officials say Nassar was fired after they say he admitted not always following those guidelines.
When it comes to former MSU Gymnastics Coach Kathie Klages, she's also been named as a defendant in a lawsuit. Klages retired in February, one day after being suspended by the school.
The school did not initially explain the reason behind the suspension, but said it had to do with Klages handling of controversy surrounding a lawsuit by athletes against Dr. Larry Nassar and MSU.
In a letter to Klages dated February 14, MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis said Klages, during a September meeting with her gymnastics team, “shared with the team your highly emotional sense of shock regarding the allegations against Dr. Nassar” and that “your passionate defense of Dr. Nassar created an emotionally charged environment for the team.”
Shortly after Klages announced her retirement in early February, Klages released a statement through her attorney, Shirlee Bobryk. It said in part: (Kathie) “is deeply disturbed by the recent allegations and lawsuits” and that “she is extremely distressed by the accusations that have been made about her creating any sort of impediment to gymnasts reporting complaints of criminal sexual conduct or sexually inappropriate behavior.”
Attorney Mick Grewal with Church Wyble, a division of Grewal Law, represents more than a dozen of women and girls who are alleging Nassar sexually abused them. Boyce is one of them. He said this in an email statement this afternoon:
“Having worked on these files for over 3 months, our investigation has revealed the complete lack of integrity and honesty from MSU. They clearly failed to report any of the sexual assaults to the authorities, to CPS or even to parents of the minors. They failed to monitor Nassar once MSU implemented their so called restrictions in 2014. MSU created an atmosphere where more and more girls and woman were sexually assaulted by Nassar right under their nose.”
Because of the ongoing investigation into Nassar, Jason Cody, a university spokesman said the university is limited in what it can say but did relay this message: “I can tell you we take all allegations, raised either via victims reporting to police or by legal motions, very seriously. MSU Police are investigating all criminal allegations thoroughly, and any findings would be referred to the appropriate prosecutor for review.”
Nassar now faces more than 20 charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct at the state level. He's also facing federal child pornography charges.
On top of the criminal cases, nearly 80 women in civil court are also suing him.
To date, MSU Police say more than 90 people have filed complaints against Nassar.
Nassar has maintained his innocence in both state and federal court and says the treatments he performed on his patients were accepted medical techniques.
Nassar is due back in court for a preliminary hearing in Ingham County on May 12 and May 26.
The preliminary hearing in Eaton County has been set for June 30.
April marks Child Abuse Prevention Month across nation
by The Norman Transcript
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
In 2016 there were 15,187 substantiated child abuse and neglect victims in Oklahoma, according to a report by the Oklahoma State Department of Human Services. These statistics are a reminder that every possible effort needs to be made in preventing child abuse in Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health, along with networking partners, is working to raise awareness about the importance of ensuring great childhoods for all Oklahoma children. Organizations across the state are working together to host events that demonstrate their commitment to preventing child abuse and promoting a brighter future for Oklahoma children.
“We encourage every citizen to ‘do one thing' when it comes to protecting children and strengthening families. Even small gestures like being kind and supportive to parents challenged in public and/or assisting parents by offering help (i.e. reading a book to a child in the waiting room, providing an extra set of hands at the supermarket, or offering respite for parents experiencing tough challenges),” said Sherie Trice, OSDH Community Based Child Abuse Prevention Grant Coordinator. “These efforts are instrumental in helping families reduce stress and make life just a little easier.”
There are numerous events and activities across the state to support National Child Abuse Prevention Month:
Build a Blue Ribbon Tree for Kids Campaign
Find a tree in a highly visible location and add blue ribbon for the number of new babies born in your community; or number of children abused and neglected in your county; or to represent something that shows your support for children. Remember to register your tree and invite the media and public for a kickoff event. Visit this link for more information: https://go.usa.gov/xX82B
Happiest Day Coloring Challenge
Children are encouraged to simply draw or color their “happiest day”. Children may work individually or in a group with family or as a class. Parents and teachers are encouraged to share these pictures on social media using #PictureaBrighterFuture. For more information, visit this link: https://go.usa.gov/xX82K
Wear Blue Selfie Day
Friday, April 7 is designated as the day to wear blue to help promote and strengthen child abuse prevention efforts in communities. Share your best selfie with others and ask your co-workers to join you! Post your BLUE picture on social media using #PictureaBrighterFuture.
Child Abuse Prevention Awards of Excellence Ceremony
Tuesday, April 11, 11 a.m., Blue Room, Oklahoma State Capitol honoring excellence in prevention.
24th Oklahoma Child Abuse and Neglect Conference
OSDH Family and Prevention Services and the University of Oklahoma Center on Child Abuse and Neglect are co-sponsoring this event. Visit this link for more information: http://ow.ly/9Xhz30acl0q
Connect families with parentPRO
Families can connect with parentPRO to receive free parenting support delivered in their homes. Specially trained professionals, who teach parents how to reduce stress, provide parenting tips, teach child development, and connect them with additional services and resources if necessary. To learn more, go to parentpro.org or call (877) 271-7611.
Get involved with Prevent Child Abuse Oklahoma by calling Parent Promise at (405) 232-2500.
Volunteer to serve on the statewide CAP ACTION Committee and to help with future activities by emailing email@example.com.
For additional information about child abuse prevention or how to get involved with other activities in your community, contact your local county health department or Sherie Trice at (405) 271-7611.
Lawmakers push for child abuse registry
by Christine Van Timmeren
MICHIGAN (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – Lawmakers are considering legislation to create a statewide child abuse online registry, similar to the sex offender registry, but there are strong emotions on both sides of the debate.
Bills to create a child abuse registry have been introduced in Michigan before and there are bills active in a number of other states, at issue is whether registries ultimately cause more harm than good.
The bill in Michigan is being called Wyatt's Law after a young boy who was shaken as a baby by his father's girlfriend and now has permanent developmental disabilities.
Wyatt's mother had fought to keep him away from the girlfriend, but had no idea the woman had two prior child abuse convictions. If she had had a database to look that up, she believes she could have prevented the girlfriend from seeing her son.
“Had there been such a registry, she would have been able to look up her name and know that she had two prior convictions of child abuse,” said Senator Tonya Schuitmaker R-Lawton.
Sen. Schuitmaker is fighting for legislation to create such a registry.
“You want to make sure that whoever is taking care of your young child has not been convicted of child abuse,” said Schuitmaker.
Schuitmaker says the registry would work just like the sex offender registry, but opponents of the bill say registries just aren't effective.
“It's really well intentioned, but it's not going to be effective in what we all want, which is to keep our kids safe,” said Miriam Aukerman, ACLU attorney.
Aukerman says sometimes families want to work through abuse situations because the abuser is a parent, labeling that parent an abuser on a registry could prevent many from seeking necessary help.
“They're concerned that an abusive parent or partner would end up on a registry,” said Aukerman. “Families may not then report.”
Sen. Schuitmaker says it's simple, abusers committed a crime and the public should be aware so they can make educated decisions about their child's care.
“Committing such a heinous crime would put that same stigma on that family, so I just think this puts everyone on notice and protects the public,” said Schuitmaker.
Newschannel 3 spoke to some folks with the Community Healing Center on Monday. They aren't taking a position on the legislation, but say they understand the intent of the law is to protect children from child abuse and say there may be more productive ways to treat and prevent it.
Social media is changing the way law enforcement approaches child abuse
by Emily Fredrick
Monday marks two weeks since 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas was last seen and WAAY 31 learned investigators have looked into nearly 1,000 tips so far.
One source of information for investigators has been Thomas' public Instagram profile. It's covered with quotes about love and relationships.
WAAY 31 wanted to know if Thomas' social media accounts could have hinted toward her relationship with her teacher Tad Cummins days, even weeks before she went missing.
Monday kicked off the International Symposium on Child Abuse in Huntsville and officials with the event told WAAY 31 social media and technology has changed the way law enforcement approaches child abuse.
Chris Newlin, the executive director for the National Children's Advocacy Center said while Thomas' posts may look concerning now with an active Amber Alert, it often takes individuals recognizing the tone of social media posts before something actually happens.
"On the front end you know that seems kinda strange or whatever, but doesn't maybe a call to action, but then when something happens you start going back, and that's been an issue in the child abuse field for quite some time," said Newlin.
The issue of not recognizing a child experiencing abuse or neglect isn't new, but the role technology now plays has changed things.
"So in child abuse cases often times there's evidence you know that you can look at and actually identify as opposed to maybe in the old days maybe it was a child's word versus somebody else's word, but if there's communication and their postings, a lot of times that can be evidence," said Newlin.
Newlin told WAAY 31 it's always better to report suspected abuse or even concerning online posts, rather than waiting for something to happen.
"When someone's reporting something they're not accusing someone they just have reason to suspect and then there are the authorities, our multi-disciplinary team members, who have a responsibility and are very, very well trained to investigate those allegations to determine if something happened," said Newlin.
Kenya: Parents, Neighbours Key Perpetrators of Child Abuse - Report
by Jeremiah Wakaya
Nairobi — Over 30,000 cases of child abuse were reported in Kenya over the past 10 years through a national child helpline service 116.
A report released by Childline Kenya Tuesday indicates that child neglect, sexual abuse and physical abuse incidences totalling to 13,878, 7,832 and 7,317 of the 33,929 cases reported between the year 2006 and 2016, accounted for the lion's share of abuses against minors.
The data which was collected from the helpline run by Childline Kenya also indicates that cases of child labour (3,123), emotional abuse (1,025) and child trafficking and abduction (528) were rampant over the 10-year period.
According to records, immediate family members, neighbours and unspecified guardians are among key perpetrators of child abuses which were more rampant in the years 2012 (6,974), 2008 (5,490) and 2011 (4,853).
Speaking to Capital FM News after realising the report, Childline Kenya Board Chairperson George Okado said most of the victims of child abuse remained unattended to with only 48 per cent of calls made getting the attention of the child protection organisation.
"People are waiting for too long because we only have about 24 counsellors on a daily basis and therefore people are unable to wait for 10 to 15 minutes," said Okado.
Okado however said plans are underway to upgrade the capacity of the 116 helpline by ensuring more centres are opened up in counties to enhance the reporting of cases of child abuse.
"We started off with an expectation of a certain number of children but now when they exceed the maximum, the telephone system cannot handle it and so we are constantly challenged to increase the number of counsellors and improve the telecommunication system," he said.
"We've set up a call centre in Eldoret but we are hoping to have call centres in all the counties so that if a child is abused in Mandera for instance, there are people who can attend to him/her at that level," he added.
According to the report, there were 6,084,461 attempts to reach 116 countrywide with only 2,901,856 successfully received by the available counsellors.
A total of 3,182,605 calls of over the six million calls made were however dropped due to inadequate capacity within the call centre.
Cases of prank and silence on the other side of the line were also high and could have hampered the ability of victims to report. There were 2,868,005 calls classified as such.
Nairobi County led in the number of child abuses of various nature with Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Kakamega featuring prominently.
There were however very few cases Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) reported from Elgeyo Marakwet, Kajiado, Kisii, Migori, Nairobi, Narok, Trans Nzoia and West Pokot counties despite such cases being practiced in most of these areas excluding Nairobi.
In West Pokot for instance, there were no FGM cases reported between 2014 and 2016.
According to the statistics, biological fathers and mothers contributed to a half of the number of FGM cases reported at 17 and 33 per cent respectively.
Unspecified parents mostly believed to be guardians and grandparents contributed to up to 50 per cent of FGM incidences.
Apart from child abuse cases, the 116 helpline also responds to other concerns affecting children which numbered to 37,036 between 2014-2016.
Child abusers ‘mainly clergy,' victims ‘boys aged 10 — 14'
by Dan Box
The perpetrators of institutional child abuse across Australia have been overwhelmingly adult men, most commonly members of the clergy and their victims most like to be boys aged between 10-14, a royal commission has heard.
The opening morning of the 57th and final public hearing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard over a third of child victims reported abuse that went on for over a year.
Thirty six per cent of the more than 6500 victims who have given evidence in private to the commissioners said they had been abused by multiple perpetrators, the commission heard.
“The majority of perpetrators were adult males, that is nearly 94 of child abuse victims reported abuse by a male perpetrator,” counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness SC said.
“The positions held by adult perpetrators within institutions most commonly reported were members of the clergy — that is 32 per cent, teachers — that is 21 per cent and residential care works — that is 13 per cent,” she said.
More than 2000 abuse victims who have given evidence in private to the commission reported sexual abuse in a Catholic institution, the commission heard. Around 500 victims said they were abused in Anglican institutions and over 250 victims reported abuse in institutions run by the Salvation Army.
Almost half of child victims were aged between 10 and 14 years old when first abused, Ms Furness told the commission, although many were much younger, with five per cent of victims saying they were under five years old when first assaulted.
While girls are more likely to be abused in domestic settings, almost two thirds of those who came forward to report institutional abuse during private hearings were male, the commission heard.
“For many survivors, the impacts of child sexual abuse are profound and interconnected. They may be experienced at the same time or consecutively, as a cascade of effects over a lifetime,” Ms Furness said.
“Some people experience deep, complex trauma ... The effects ripple outwards, adversely affecting victims' parents, siblings, partners, careers and children,” she said.
Almost 2000 potential criminal cases have been referred to police nationwide since the royal commission began its work in early 2013.
While this is the final public hearing, the six commissioners will meet personally with almost 2000 more child abuse victims over the next few months, taking the total who have attended these private sessions to around 8500.
In that time, the commission has held public hearings in every state and territory, forced the release of over 1.2 million documents and identified over 4000 institutions where child abuse took place in recent decades.
“After this year, the community's resources, both government and institutional, should be focused on providing effective redress and ... changes to ensure that so far as possible no child is abused in an institutional context in the future,” commission chair Peter McClellan said.
“Survivors have waited too long for an effective response to their suffering and the future protection of Australian children must be given the highest priority,” he said.
The commission's final report is due to be published in December this year.
0 out of 60
Of the 60 reported rapes in 2016, none were charged
by Ashley Nerbovig
During 2016, at least 60 rapes were reported in Yellowstone County.
Law enforcement sent 18 of the cases they investigated to the County Attorney's office to be reviewed for charges and prosecution.
Not a single case was charged.
Rape cases are tough. Both police and prosecutors struggle getting the cases to trial. Once the case is filed, the public becomes the last hurdle and jurors bring their own biases into the courtroom.
During the last five years, Yellowstone County has prosecuted about 15 percent of the adult rape cases investigated and forwarded for possible charges.
In about half the rape cases referred to Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito, he declined to press charges because he didn't think they were strong enough to take to trial.
This reluctance to charge rape cases became an issue for Missoula County officials. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice rebuked the Missoula County Attorney's office for prosecuting just 17 percent of the rape cases referred to the office by police investigators between January 2008 and May 2012.
Between 2012 and 2016, Missoula County, with a population of about 111,000, charged 32 cases of rape with adult victims. During that same period, Yellowstone County, with its larger population of about 154,000, charged 17 cases.
When Yellowstone County officials are asked about why so few cases go to court, they say the problem lies with the hesitation of some victims to go forward and the reluctance of juries to convict people of a rape charge.
Rape victims are often hesitant to proceed with investigations and trials. They may be scared they won't be believed. They may feel re-traumatized by the rape kit exam, in which evidence gathered may include photos of their genitals. They may also be scared of telling a room full of strangers about the intimacy of the assault.
Victims are also often frightened of sitting in a courtroom within a few feet of the rape suspect. Very few rapes are committed by strangers. The majority of suspects are known to the victim, often friends, ex-partners or an acquaintance.
After the DOJ forced changes in the way Missoula County handled rape allegations, Missoula Police Detective Capt. Michael Colyer played a large role in bringing his department into compliance with the DOJ's policies on investigating sexual assault cases.
Police there began training in a “trauma-informed” approach to victims, Colyer said. Before that, investigators had treated adult victims of sexual crimes like any other crime victim. That hurt the victims and stymied the investigations, he said.
“We didn't know what we didn't know,” Colyer said.
An important part of the training was understanding what happens to a victim's memory when they experience a traumatic event, Colyer said.
Colyer offered an analogy from Dr. Rebecca Campbell, who helped train some of the Missoula police: Imagine the way a person stores memories during the day is by using sticky notes. All day long, the person is writing down a memory and then sticking the note to a wall. A traumatic event can cause those sticky notes to blow away, leaving them scattered on the floor. As investigators ask a victim questions, the victim is trying, sometimes under pressure, to sort through that random pile.
Officers relying on traditional indicators of deception may see the victim struggling to recall details as fishy, Colyer said. Police had to shift from viewing reports of sexual assault with suspicion toward understanding the signs of a traumatized mind.
All Missoula police are now trained in a trauma-informed and victim-centered approach to investigations, Colyer said. To help make sure the sex assault cases are a priority, Missoula police established a Special Victims Unit in its detectives division. Detectives get more training and work with advocate Erin Shreder, who was hired to help victims through the process. She has her own office in the police department and sits in on police interviews with the victims.
Victim interviews are no longer done in the sterile investigation rooms used to question suspects, Colyer said. Instead they're brought into a "soft room," a room with a couch and maybe a plant.
A big success of the DOJ-enforced policies has been data collection. Because the Missoula police are tracking these reports, Colyer was able to determine that the number of false reports was much lower than suspected. A previous Missoula Police chief had cited two studies suggesting as many as 45 percent of rape cases were based on false accusations, according to an article in the Missoulian.
The actual number of false reports, at least in Missoula, is between three and six percent, Colyer said. That's close to the rate other national studies have suggested, at two to eight percent.
“The only way to determine what happened in a case is through a thorough and objective investigation,” he said.
Tom Tremblay is the former Burlington, Vermont, police chief who monitored Missoula's DOJ compliance. Police have some control over the number of victims who stay connected with the process, Tremblay said. Missoula police have seen a reduction in the number of victims not following through with cases since the department implemented new policies.
Victims can sense when someone doesn't believe them, Tremblay said. When that happens, they might either recant or walk out of the process, he said.
The training the Missoula Police Department had is something police are only now learning about, and wasn't available 10 years ago, Tremblay said.
The changes didn't come easily for anyone after the DOJ investigation, Colyer said. When the Missoula Police Department entered into an agreement with the DOJ, the report included harsh language. Phrases like "biased police" and "anti-women" got thrown around.
“It made it sound like we set out on purpose to devastate these victims' lives,” Colyer said.
What Colyer saw was a lack of education, not a malicious police force bent on discrediting rape victims.
The Billings Police Department doesn't have a soft room. They don't have advocates in the office, and even if they got them, they wouldn't have a place to put them. As it is now, detectives are working out of storage closets.
"I could easily keep another five full-time detectives busy up here"
There aren't enough detectives in the department to have a dedicated unit to investigate adult sex crimes, said Billings Police Capt. Jeremy House. The Billings Police lost two grant-funded detective positions in the past five years, House said. In 2014, Billings voters rejected a public safety levy that would have given the department additional funding to add staff.
Compared to other cities in Montana, Billings has the fewest officers per 1,000 residents, according to the department's 2016 budget presentation. In addition, the city's population swells during the day with commuters and visitors, said Billings Police Chief Rich St. John.
St. John said he hasn't heard complaints about how his department handles rape cases. Investigators at the BPD are trained and compassionate, St. John said. Officers encourage victims to be brave and to stick with the cases. Patrol officers are all trained in investigative skills, which is critical to the initial rape investigation, the chief said.
Patrol officers investigate initial rape reports and may do some of the follow-up on a case. If the patrol officer thinks an arrest can be made, the case must then go to the detective division. If detectives in turn believe evidence suggests probable cause to have the suspect charged and prosecuted, it is then forwarded to the county attorney's office.
Billings police had 46 adults report being raped during 2016, according to initial reports filed by the office.
The department does not have policies on how to handle these cases, even though the International Association of Chiefs of Police recommends all departments have procedures in place.
The Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office had 14 initial reports of adult rape in 2016.
In total, at least 60 adult rapes were reported to the Billings Police Department and Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office in 2016.
None of these agencies track the cases statistically to monitor victim retention and completion of investigations.
"You see a lot of departments not analyzing data," said Tremblay, the DOJ monitor. Police departments need to know their numbers, he said. It is about making these cases a priority, Tremblay said.
During 2015, law enforcement agencies in Yellowstone County referred about 22 rape cases to prosecutors for charges, with the majority of those cases coming from BPD. That is more than double the number of cases referred by Missoula police to prosecutors that year.
The Yellowstone County Attorney's Office has talked to the state Attorney General's office about procedures. All of the office's policies are the best practices known to prosecutors, Twito said — except that it takes about 45 days from receiving a complete investigation for prosecutors in Yellowstone County to make a charging decision.
Victim-witness coordinators in the office will now make contact with the victim within at least five days of receiving the file.
In response to the DOJ investigation, Missoula tries to make a charging decision within a week.
In a five-year period from 2012 through 2016, Yellowstone County charged 15 fewer cases than Missoula. But when Yellowstone County gets a conviction, the sentences appear to be longer.
In the six adult victim rape cases Yellowstone County prosecutors got a conviction on during that period, the average sentence was close to 24 years. Missoula's average sentence is five years, due mostly to pre-trial plea agreements.
Yellowstone County takes the strongest cases it can to trial, said Twito, making it more probable there will be a conviction and later, a harsh sentence.
In total, law enforcement agencies in Yellowstone County referred 112 cases involving the alleged rape of an adult to Twito's office between 2012 and the end of 2016. Twito's office has charged 17 of those cases.
In as many as 43 cases, victims either did not cooperate or attorneys could not get into contact with them. There are 10 cases waiting for a charging decision, one dating back to 2013.
In about 42 cases, the prosecutors chose not to prosecute because they either didn't believe they would be successful at trial or didn't have probable cause to make an arrest.
Lack of evidence can be a factor in choosing not to charge. Victim credibility can also be a factor in these cases, Twito said.
Twito doesn't have an explanation for why no cases were charged in 2016, saying his office's practices haven't changed from the year before. In 2015 the office charged four cases involving the rape of an adult.
The county did not charge any cases from the Yellowstone County Sheriff's office as misdemeanor sexual assault cases, said the County Attorney's Deputy Chief of Operations Christopher Morris. Any cases of rape returned to Billings police could have been charged by the Billings City Attorney as misdemeanor sexual assault cases, though the office is unaware of any that did.
Twito's sex crime prosecutors are handling far more child abuse cases than Missoula. The 15 rape cases Twito's office filed in 2016 all involved child victims.
Prosecution and rape myths
Missoula County faces many of the same hurdles as Yellowstone County when it comes to prosecuting cases.
Montana Assistant Attorney General Ole Olson sees how difficult it is to get victims all the way from initial report to their first meeting with a prosecutor. By the time victims meet with him, at best, they've only had to tell a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, a police officer and a detective what has happened to them. Then, Olson has to tell them they have to go tell a courtroom full of strangers about what happened, with their accused rapist sitting just a few feet away.
But a victim's testimony is essential to these cases, because other evidence is often hard to find.
To illustrate to potential jurors why these crimes are different from testifying about a theft or a burglary, Missoula Deputy County Attorney Jason Marks does an exercise with them. He will ask potential jurors to turn to the person next to them and describe their last sexual experience. This helps put them in the mindset of the victim.
Missoula prosecutors bring in expert witnesses, along with people like Olson from the Montana Attorney General's office, and they present the best case they can with the evidence they have.
Several of these cases have resulted in juries being deadlocked over whether to convict the suspect. Missoula prosecutors have kept track of some of the alarming comments made by jurors who couldn't agree on a verdict.
One of the prosecutors was told she had “relied too heavily on the guy's confession,” Marks said.
In a case where a student was drunk to the point of being incapacitated, then driven home and raped outside her mother's house, one juror said, “That's just college. You get drunk and things happen.”
Missoula's Lead Special Victims Unit Attorney Suzy Boylan had a juror tell her, "I came in here wanting to convict a rapist and you didn't give us a rape case."
The jurors in that trial were given an anonymous survey to fill out, and one wrote, "Why did you take this case?"
"To us, it was obvious," Boylan said.
These jurors aren't basing their verdicts on the facts of the case, Olson said. They are basing the verdicts on wrong perceptions about rape. Stranger rapists like Toby Eugene Griego, who attacked multiple people in Billings in 2013, is a rare type of rapist.
Part of the reason for jurors' confusion in these cases is that the facts of rape don't fit Montana statute, Boylan said.
When jurors are sent to deliberate over a case, they will be given jury instructions, which allow them to read the sexual intercourse without consent statute. One juror complained the instructions didn't say anything about "no means no," which is true. Montana law does not say that if a person says no to sex, and the other person continues, it's rape.
That is why Legislators have introduced a bill this session to update Montana's consent laws. Montana Attorney General Tim Fox's office has supported the bill to make the changes.
As a nation, we have a problem with sexual assault, Fox said. We can always do better to fight the old stereotypes of rape and take these crimes and these victims seriously, he said.
The changes implemented in Missoula focused not only on the victim's experience in the justice system but also how the county attorney and police communicated with each another, Boylan said.
Prosecutors haven't seen a huge increase in the number of cases being charged, but overall, victims report being more satisfied with the system, Boylan said.
Colyer, the Missoula Police detective, measures how his department is doing on multiple points, including increased reporting and fewer victims declining to help with an investigation. He also measures it by the number of people being charged.
Changing people's minds on rape myths is slow and gradual, like “trying to turn a ship in the sea,” he added.
York support group IDAS welcomes moves to spare victims court
by Alex Ross
A YORK support group for victims of sexual and domestic violence has backed moves to spare them cross-examinations in court.
Justice Secretary Liz Truss has outlined significant changes from September to rape trials to allow for victims to give pre-recorded evidence away from court before the trial, that would then be played to a jury.
But England's most senior judge Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, said her department had “misunderstood”, forcing him to write to all judges to correct the mistake.
Only child witnesses would give pre-trial evidence on videotape – alongside a trial in three centres for alleged adult victims of sexual offences, he said.
But, Downing Street stood by Ms Truss, insisting the policy would go ahead as she had described.
Chris Davies, project manager of York-based Independent Domestic Abuse Service (IDAS), said: “Anything that makes the prospect of the court process less intimidating for women and men who have experienced sexual violence has to be a good thing for their recovery.
"It's an incredibly intimidating prospect to be giving evidence or being cross examined.
“This gives people the best opportunity to recover as quickly as possible.”
The move. following a successful pilot. has also been welcomed by Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner.
“Pre-recorded cross-examinations help victims to give evidence in a more relaxed environment, reducing levels of distress, which can only be a good thing.
“Putting the needs of victims first is entirely consistent with the approach I have in North Yorkshire, and has been the focus of improvements we've made supporting survivors of domestic and sexual abuse."
“I have commissioned services, such as the Independent Domestic Abuse Services (IDAS), to help victims to cope and recover after crime.”
Victims can report incidents to the police or to IDAS directly where you can receive professional support at any time of the day on 03000 110 110.
Child abusers not all 'monsters': experts
by Megan Neil
Labelling people who sexually abuse children as monsters and demonising them does not help protect child victims, say experts who argue there is not enough focus on prevention.
Emphasising the most horrific cases to get the public's attention has backfired by conveying the impression nothing can be done to prevent abuse, an inquiry has heard.
US child protection expert Dr Elizabeth Letourneau says the language used to highlight the problem also conveys a level of impotence.
"It's so bad and it's so awful and these sex offenders are so different from us, they must be monsters and the only thing we can do to address them is after the fact criminal justice interventions - lock them up for as long as possible and if they're let out monitor them and restrict their access in every possible way to children.
"That has proved to be a real failing I think."
The director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse said 90 per cent of community resources go to after-the-fact intervention and almost none to the prevention of child sexual abuse.
"We've convinced folks that it isn't preventable," Dr Letourneau told the child abuse royal commission on Monday.
Child protection specialist Karen Flanagan of Save the Children Australia said more money needs to be spent on early intervention, instead of increasing mandatory reporting or employing more frontline child protection workers.
"Demonising people who sexually abuse children doesn't protect children either," Ms Flanagan said.
"The longer we try to name and shame or lock them away or keep exposing them in the media - I have spoken to men who have sexually offended again to get back into prison because they needed to be safe and that was the only way.
"That surely cannot be a good strategy."
Child abusers are normal-looking people and it is a myth they can be easily identified and excluded through screening, the commission's 57th and final public hearing heard.
Dr Letourneau said viewing them as monsters put "blinders on" when it came to behaviour from a friend, relative or colleague that would be a red flag if it involved a stranger.
"It makes it almost impossible to consider the possibilities of prevention and it makes it very difficult to identify people who are engaging in concerning behaviours but who are people that we know and love or like."
The commission heard most adults who sexually abuse a child in an institutional context already have close contact with the victim before the abuse but the myth of "stranger danger" remains.
Professor David Finkelhor, director of the US Crimes Against Children Research Center, said there is great panic over the internet and "stranger danger" has returned with a vengeance.
"We have this fear about stranger attacks and so it's just very hard to think about the people next door. It's something that we're not going to ever erase from people's kind of alarmist tendencies."
Child abuse case becomes political debate in Iowa Legislature
by the Omaha World-Herald
DES MOINES (AP) — The death of an Iowa teenager has led to finger-pointing at the Legislature, and it's an indication of how much has changed in the 17 years since another death prompted a bipartisan inquiry and passage of legislation to protect children from abuse.
Five months after the death of 16-year-old Natalie Finn, Republican lawmakers have been split over whether to investigate her treatment.
The response was different after the January 2000 death of Shelby Duis, a 2-year-old from Spirit Lake. The case resulted in legislation that allows lawmakers to review confidential child abuse records. It eventually led to a tougher child endangerment law and a commitment from then-Gov. Tom Vilsack to spend millions more combating abuse.
Shelby's mother was convicted in her death.
In the Finn case, the West Des Moines teen died in October from what a medical examiner called denial of critical care. Prosecutors say the girl was starved and tortured by her parents, who have pleaded not guilty to charges related to her death. Although school administrators reported suspected abuse to officials, she wasn't removed from her home.
Sen. Matt McCoy, a Des Moines Democrat, has been seeking Senate oversight committee hearings about the matter, and he has criticized the panel's Republican chairman for not organizing meetings. The lawmaker, Sen. Michael Breitbach, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
McCoy and other Democrats organized informal hearings, and Iowa Department of Human Services officials attended at least one. But department Director Charles Palmer recently declined to send agency staffers to a follow-up meeting. Gov. Terry Branstad has said McCoy is politicizing the girl's death.
On Thursday, Republican Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, said he would hold hearings to examine child welfare services; but he also criticized McCoy, saying he had shared confidential information.
McCoy denied that and accused Branstad and Human Services of dodging questions about the agency's role in keeping track of Finn, who had been cared for through Iowa's foster care and adoption program.
Sen. Bill Dotzler, a Waterloo Democrat, argued that ensuring that children are safe would require Human Services to hire more workers, which could be difficult as the state deals with budget shortfalls and Republicans look for ways to cut taxes.
After Kaufmann's announcement, Branstad spokesman Ben Hammes said in an email that the administration “would support an effort by legislators to learn more about the state's overall adoption, child welfare and foster care systems.”
Survivor of child sexual abuse empowers kids, raises awareness in the Lowcountry and beyond
by Angie Jackson
The trauma of Miranda Burton's childhood didn't catch up with her until she got to college.
She had stayed focused as a youth, driven in academics and extracurricular activities. The distraction helped push the nightmares of her past out of her mind.
But in college, away from the structure of home life, a deep depression set in. Burton's grades slipped. She felt angry and broken, as if she had no control.
Burton recognized this feeling: powerlessness. She had experienced it at age 3, when a male relative molested her. She was victimized again at age 6, that time by a woman, someone close to her family. The sexual abuse went on for over a year. The woman later reached out to Burton in college, triggering her emotions at a vulnerable time.
After immediately disclosing the incident that occurred when she was 3 but being too young to understand the ramifications for the perpetrator, she kept quiet about the later abuse for many years.
Burton, now 32, eventually found her voice.
Through her nonprofit, Marion's House, Burton aims to empower kids who've been sexually abused. She wants them to know they are not defined by their experience.
"In a nutshell, I'm for them what I needed as a child," said Burton, who lives in Hanahan.
Marion's House is named after Burton's late grandmother, a woman who had a penchant for taking in the needy. Burton formed the nonprofit in 2016, but the former teacher has been helping kids and raising awareness for years. Her work gained new meaning when she found the courage to share her personal story.
"Once people realized I was a survivor, it made me more credible," Burton said. "They actually understood that this was a passion and that I'm being transparent."
National statistics about the prevalence of child sexual abuse vary, partly because many cases are never reported. Recent studies suggest the number victimized is 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys.
Carole Campbell Swiecicki, executive director of Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center, which serves Charleston and Berkeley counties, thinks prevention efforts are "tipping the needle in the right direction."
"It been in the last five years that the studies have been showing that the rates are slightly fewer. Obviously it's still way too high," she said, "but I think it's encouraging."
Burton's day job is at the Carolina Youth Development Center in North Charleston, where she advocates for abused and neglected children as they navigate through the school system.
Her nonprofit is largely a grassroots effort with no employees or physical space. Marion's House isn't bound by location. Burton plans to host a training in Columbia next month. She said she's building partnerships in Myrtle Beach and in other Southern states.
Burton often leads training sessions for adults using curriculum from Darkness to Light, a Charleston-based international organization that combats child sexual abuse. She holds personalized workshops, during which she talks about her experiences. Through book readings, Burton teaches younger children about body safety and how to identify trustworthy adults.
She also mentors young survivors. Their talks cover practical matters — writing resumes, interviewing for jobs, applying for college — and address personal issues, like managing anger.
Burton's mother, Brenda, was her emotional rock the first time she shared her story publicly. The women spoke at a luncheon for survivors of a number of hardships: domestic violence, cancer, sexual assault. Brenda Burton was also molested as a child, which her daughter knew about though they'd never really discussed it. That day in 2013, they donned teal, the color of sexual assault awareness.
Brenda Burton was moved to tears as her daughter recalled what she endured at ages 3 and 6. By then, Brenda Burton knew what happened, but she hadn't realized how deeply the abuse shook her daughter. The mother felt guilty. I should have protected her from these people, she thought. But it wasn't her fault, her daughter assured her.
Brenda Burton commends her daughter for shining a light on an issue that many squirm away from. As a mother, she needed an organization like Marion's House all those years ago.
"She took what she had gone through and turned it into a miracle," she said.
After the luncheon in 2013, Miranda Burton penned a Facebook post about her triumph.
"My plan was to speak and inspire others," she wrote that day, "but I got inspired and helped myself along with others."
Lawmakers eliminating time-frame protection for child sex offenders
by Eric Bradach
Those who suffered sexual abuse and assault as children decades ago may soon be able to obtain justice by having their victimizers prosecuted.
State Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, introduced Senate Bill 189 in January, which would eliminate the statute of limitations for all felony child abuse and sexual assault crimes. It already passed the Senate Criminal Law Committee, of which Bennett is a member, with a 10-0 vote March 7 and is now awaiting a full Senate vote, according to Illinois legislative records.
“What this does is say, ‘This shouldn't be so complicated,'” Bennett said. “If a child has been sexually assaulted, the timeline should be up to that survivor to come forward, not some arbitrary time deadline.”
As a former assistant state's attorney in Champaign County, Bennett said he primarily worked on cases of child sexual abuse and assault, and his experiences were a motivator in drafting the bill. The statute of limitations on these crimes can cause victims to hesitate coming forward, he added.
Bennett said he collaborated with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on the bill after former U.S. Speaker of the House John Dennis Hastert openly admitted to sexually assaulting students while a coach at Yorkville High School in Yorkville, Illinois, decades prior. Hastert is currently serving time for financial crimes rather than sexual abuse offenses.
According to a May 28, 2015 U.S. Department of Justice report, Hastert was charged with structuring cash withdrawals to evade currency transaction reporting requirements and making false statements to the FBI.
According to DOJ records, Hastert pled guilty to the charges in October 2015 in an attempt to cover up sexual misconduct with a former student and was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison in April 2016. He began his sentence in June 2016 and is required to enter a sex offender treatment program when released.
“Hastert inflicted unbelievable pain on the lives of the youth he was entrusted to care for, yet he got a slap on the wrist,” said Scott Cross, one of the individuals who came forward about being sexually molested by Hastert, when he testified before the committee March 7. “As he ascended to political power and seemingly became untouchable, the pain and suffering of survivors got buried. He had the power, prestige and law on his side.”
Currently, Illinois law states child sexual offense cases must be reported and prosecuted within 20 years of the survivor turning 18 years old. However, that time frame can be extended when corroborating physical evidence exists or a mandated reporter, such as school administrators and law enforcement officers, failed to report the abuse. There is no statute of limitations in Illinois for murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, arson, treason, forgery or the production of child pornography.
Bennett said statute of limitations are important to protect the innocent; however, like all legislation in Springfield, “it's a balancing contest.”
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services' Child Abuse/Neglect Statistics 2016 report shows 8,426 alleged sex abuse and 2,076 probable sex abuse of underaged victims whose cases are under investigation. There have been 4,978 alleged sex abuse victims and 877 probable sex abuse victims in Illinois as of Feb. 28 for the 2017 fiscal year.
State Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, a chief co-sponsor of the bill, said Cross' testimony was compelling and a key contributor to his, and likely other Senate sponsors', support of the bill.
Cunningham said this law will provide prosecutors with a tool to hold perpetrators accountable and is the best process to combat sexual assault and abuse of minors. However, he added that it can be difficult to prove these cases with the passage of time, but if multiple victims come forward with similar testimony against an individual, prosecutors can make a case, and this bill allows that.
“This bill accounts for the reality of child sexual abuse,” said Julia Strehlow, a social worker at the Chicago Children's Advocacy Center. “Perpetrators rely on threats, secrecy and shame to keep the children that they perpetrate abuse against silent.”
Strehlow, whose nonprofit coordinates child protection staff, law enforcement, medical experts, family advocates and mental health clinicians in reports of child sexual abuse, said abusers are often someone the victim knows and trusts, such as a family member or teacher, which makes it difficult for victims to come forward.
“It can be confusing for children when someone close to them crosses those boundaries,” Strehlow said. “People who are perpetrators of child sexual abuse often use that against children.”
According to Strehlow, the discovery and signs of child sexual abuse cases vary greatly, and it is important to know every case is different.
Strehlow said Illinois has many options to provide assistance to minors who are victims of sexual abuse. In February 2011, Illinois was also the first of 26 states that have passed Erin's Law, which requires all public schools to implement a child sexual abuse prevention program. Unfortunately, it has become difficult to pay for programs because of the nearly two-year state budget impasse, she added.
“While the centers are doing their best, especially in this current budget stalemate, it's hard to predict funding,” Strehlow said.
Currently, there are 37 Children Advocacy Centers of Illinois locations with one in Chicago and four others throughout Cook County, according to the group's website.
With National Child Abuse Prevention Month coming in April, Strehlow said her organization is holding free training courses teaching how to respond and talk to children who may be victims, information can be found on its website.
A full-Senate vote on the bill has not been scheduled. However, Bennett said he hopes the bill will be voted on by the end of the month so it can pass through the General Assembly before the end of the spring session. Both Bennett and Cunningham said they are confident it will pass.
Cunningham said he cannot predict what would happen when the bill moves forward but thinks, “it's safe to say this is likely to be approved by both chambers and signed by [Gov. Bruce Rauner].”
It is important for this bill to succeed because it will increase public safety and make it easier to identify perpetrators without a time restriction, Strehlow said.
“We know perpetrators often have more than one victim,” she said. “By being able to more readily identify and prosecute perpetrators, it would increase public safety.”
'Survivors have waited too long': 4000 institutions named in sex abuse royal commission
by Rachel Browne
Thousands of institutions have been implicated in allegations of child sexual abuse, according to new data released by a royal commission.
As the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse commences its final public hearing, chairman Justice Peter McClellan has urged child protection reform and proper redress for victims.
The $500 million inquiry is Australia's longest royal commission, starting in 2013 and due to finish with a final report to the federal government in December.
In his opening remarks to the hearing, Justice McClellan said governments and institutions needed to focus on redress and regulatory changes, "designed to ensure that so far as possible no child is abused in an institutional context in the future".
"Survivors have waited too long for an effective response to their suffering and the future protection of Australian children must be given the highest priority," he said.
Justice McClellan and five commissioners have heard the testimony of more than 6500 child sexual abuse survivors in private sessions, with another 2000 people still awaiting a meeting.
More than 1200 witnesses have appeared at the commission in 400 days of public hearings.
Data gleaned largely from private sessions found there were more than 4000 institutions where alleged abuse of children occurred.
Religious institutions were most frequently named, with 60 per cent of survivors in private sessions reporting child abuse in a religious organisation. Just over one-third of survivors reported abuse in a government-managed institution.
"It is remarkable that failures have occurred in so many institutions," Justice McClellan said.
"It is now apparent that many of the characteristics of failure within institutions are common."
An analysis of alleged perpetrators found members of the clergy were most commonly identified by those attending private sessions, followed by teachers and residential care workers. The majority of alleged perpetrators were adult males, accounting for 94 per cent of reported abusers.
Counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness SC told the inquiry the statistics are likely to represent a fraction of child sexual abuse survivors.
"It is very likely that there are very many people who have been sexually abused in institutional contexts in Australia as children who have not attended a private session," she said.
The commission heard 64 per cent of people who attended a private session were male. Almost half reported they were abused when aged between 10 and 14 years, while 28 per cent were aged between five and nine years when the abuse allegedly occurred.
"When a child is sexually abused, the effects can be devastating," Ms Furness said. "For some, the impacts of the abuse, and an institution's response to it, last for their whole lives."
The impact of abuse is widespread, the inquiry heard.
"Child sexual abuse affects the whole community," Ms Furness said.
"The effects ripple outwards, adversely affecting victims' parents, siblings, partners, carers and children."
The hearing into the nature, cause and impact of abuse continues.
7 ways to spot that someone is being trafficked
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EDITOR'S NOTE: The CNN Freedom Project wants to amplify the voices of the victims of modern-day slavery, highlight success stories and help unravel the tangle of criminal enterprises trading in human life.
(CNN) It's vacation season for much of the world, with travelers flocking to airports to jet off for some hard-earned R&R.
But it's not just holidaymakers who fly on planes. Airports are also hubs for human trafficking -- where adults or children are transported into forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.
Almost every country in the world is affected by trafficking, and traffickers often use air travel to move their victims. Sometimes, victims are flown into another country on the promise of a legitimate job, other times traffickers move their victims within a country, to keep them powerless or to avoid detection.
But you can help. By being aware of the telltale signs that someone is being trafficked, you may be able to keep them from a life of modern slavery.
We asked four organizations involved in anti-trafficking initiatives to share some of the signs that could indicate that a passenger is being trafficked through an airport.
What you should do
It's important to remember that even if you spot a number of these signs, it doesn't necessarily mean someone is being trafficked. But if you do suspect someone is being trafficked, do not confront suspected traffickers or attempt to rescue suspected victims -- instead, call emergency services or alert the airport authorities.
1 -- A traveler is not dressed appropriately for their route of travel.
You might notice right away that a traveler has few or no personal items. Victims may be less well dressed than their companions. They may be wearing clothes that are the wrong size, or are not appropriate for the weather on their route of travel.
2 -- They have a tattoo with a bar code, the word "Daddy."
Many people have tattoos, so a tattoo in itself is obviously not an indicator, but traffickers or pimps feel they own their victims and a barcode tattoo, or a tattoo with "Daddy" or even a man's name could be a red flag that the person is a victim.
3 -- They can't provide details of their departure location, destination, or flight information.
Traffickers employ a number of tools to avoid raising suspicion about their crime and to keep victims enslaved. Some traffickers won't tell their victims where they are located, being taken, or even what job they will have.
Because victims don't have the means to get home or pay for things like food, they must rely on traffickers in order to get by, forcing them to stay in their situation.
4 -- Their communication seems scripted, or there are inconsistencies with their story.
Sometimes traffickers will coach their victims to say certain things in public to avoid suspicion. A traveler whose story seems inconsistent or too scripted might be trying to hide the real reason for their travel and merely reciting what a trafficker has told them to say.
5 - They can't move freely in an airport or on a plane, or they are being controlled, closely watched or followed.
People being trafficked into slavery are sometimes guarded in transit. A trafficker will try to ensure that the victim does not escape, or reach out to authorities for help.
6 - They are afraid to discuss themselves around others, deferring any attempts at conversation to someone who appears to be controlling them.
Fear and intimidation are two of the tools that traffickers use to control people in slavery. Traffickers often prevent victims from interacting with the public because the victim might say something that raises suspicions about their safety and freedom.
7 - Child trafficking
A child being trafficked for sexual exploitation may be dressed in a sexualized manner, or seem to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
A child may appear to be malnourished and/or shows signs of physical or sexual abuse, such as bruises, scars, or cigarette burns.
This list was compiled with help from the following organizations:
Airline Ambassadors International: Offers a human trafficking awareness program to educate airport staff about the problem.
Polaris: Works to combat and prevent modern-day slavery and human trafficking.
Free the Slaves: Campaigns against modern slavery around the world.
International Justice Mission: Works to protect the poor from violence in the developing world.