ICE seeks public's help to identify additional victims in child exploitation case
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) are seeking the public's help to identify possible additional victims in an ongoing child sexual exploitation investigation involving a man who volunteered with Little League Baseball for the St. Pete Breeze.
Michael Joseph Armano, 43, of St. Petersburg, was arrested April 27, 2016, by HSI special agents for child enticement, production of child pornography and possession of child pornography.
Armano is originally from North Andover, Massachusetts, and later moved to St. Petersburg, where he worked at Landstar and was a volunteer Little League Baseball coach for the St. Pete Breeze.
He also taught pre-school in Hartford, Connecticut, and coached Little League Baseball or instructed players in Hartford, Connecticut; Cheshire, Connecticut; Lawrence, Massachusetts; and North Andover, Massachusetts.
Evidence shows that Armano posed as young male and female juveniles, approximately 11-14 years old, utilizing the Internet in Saint Petersburg, and enticed other young male and female juveniles, in the same age range, from around the country to engage in sexually explicit conduct, utilizing webcams or other mediums, which was recorded unbeknownst to the victim children. The social media applications he used from approximately 2010-2015 were Facebook, OoVoo, AOL instant messaging, Twitter, Kik Messenger, Instagram, Google, Myspace, etc.
“We are certain there are more children that were victimized by this predator, and we ask for the public and parents to help us identify them and make sure they receive the support they need,” said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge for HSI Tampa. “This case serves as a grave warning to our communities to be vigilant about our children's online activities. These young people thought they were communicating with their peers, when in fact, it was an adult predator on the other side of the computer.”
Any person who was, or knows of someone who may have been, a possible victim of Armano's is urged to contact HSI at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or http://www.ice.gov/webform/hsi-tip-form.
Armano's sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 28. This case is being prosecuted by the office of Acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow, Middle District of Florida.
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 14,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2015, nearly 2,400 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 victims identified or rescued.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.
Recent sex abuse cases affecting local survivors, therapist says
by Nadia Romero
SEATTLE – As we continue to follow the Mayor Ed Murray child sex abuse allegations, there are thousands of people in our area potentially affected. National numbers show one in five adults were child sex abuse victims. So that would mean 300,000 people in King County alone.
Murray has denied the allegations, calling them false and hurtful. But a local therapy group says just having the issue of sexual abuse prominently raised in the news can affect people who are struggling with their own pain.
“You know in a word, sickening,” said Janice Palm, the Shepherd's Counseling Services executive director and therapist.
Whether it's the case of convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky, or accusations of sexual abuse leveled against President Donald Trump or Mayor Murray, Palm says the allegations being broadcast for the world to see can have real ramifications.
“We saw notably after the Sandusky allegations and then confirmation happen, a lot of men came forward and called. And a lot of that was fueled by so much anger at what had happened,” said Palm.
Then she says women flooded the lines after sexual assault allegations against Trump hit the airwaves.
“In the weeks after, we'll get calls from people who say, OK, this triggered a whole bunch of memories and I've got to deal with this now,” said Palm.
Palm added that it's seeing it happen to someone else that can give a survivor the strength to come forward. Shepherd's Counseling Services exclusively works with adults who are child sex abuse survivors.
“'I believe you' are the three most important words that a child or adult could hear,” said Palm.
Murray's private attorney noted that it took the mayor's accuser three decades to come forward.
“For 30 years, nothing is said. And all of a sudden an accuser comes who apparently, and has been reported, has a long criminal record and makes these allegations,” said attorney Robert Sulkin.
“It's not unusual actually at all for adults to wait decades before they come forward and speak out about it. Sometimes people feel like, well, that decreases the credibility and not at all. That's usually how it goes, actually,” said Palm.
And what about the claims that accusers want money, fame, or political advantage so they simply make it all up?
Trump said of the allegations against him, “The events never happened, never. All of these liars will be sued."
“As far as adults, the range I've seen for adults who falsify events are 2 to 8 percent,” Palm said.
She added that even means people who have a troubled past.
Murray noted his accuser admitted in his lawsuit that he had been addicted to drugs in his teenage years, dropped out of high school and engaged in prostitution. “I understand the victim making these allegations is troubled and that makes me sad as well."
But Palm said that shouldn't disqualify what someone says, but actually gives them more credibility.
“Depression, anxiety, drug, use, promiscuity, acting out. These are things that happen in efforts to get away from the pain, to deal with the pain,” said Palm.
She says society almost always puts the victim on trial when she says they deserve our support.
Click here to learn more about Shepherd's Counseling Services.
Groups work to address human trafficking
by Andy Fillmore
If you have bought a shirt made in Asia or a lower price tomato at the supermarket, or have eaten at a restaurant that seems to have an extremely high employee turnover rate, you may have encountered one of the many forms of human trafficking.
The shirt may have been made in a slave labor factory, the tomato picked at a farm using forced immigrant labor and the restaurant could use similarly indentured workers, said Marion County Sheriff's Office Detective Zachary Hughes during a recent human trafficking presentation at First Presbyterian Church of Ocala.
Hughes, who has a master's degree in criminal justice, said human trafficking is defined as the use of force, fraud or coercion to compel a person, including minors, into servitude in commercial sex or labor. He said it often is the crime of choice because the victims - who Hughes also calls survivors - can be used over and over rather than being sold once, like a bag of drugs or a gun.
He called the crime a “community issue” and not a “dirty little secret” anymore.
According to the Polaris Project, a nonprofit funded by private donors and the Department of Health and Human Services, in 2016 Florida (550) ranked third in the US behind California (1,323) and Texas (670) in human trafficking cases reported.
The cases in Florida were sex trafficking (401), labor trafficking (92), unspecified (29), sex and labor trafficking (28), with the top venues/industries being hotel or bar, commercial-front brothels, escort service, online ad, street-based, domestic work, agricultural work, traveling sales crews, restaurants/food service, and hospitality. The victim analysis was 460 females, 86 males and four “gender minorities.”
The Marion County Human Trafficking Task Force includes representatives from Kimberly's Center for Child Protection, The Centers, Kid's Central, the Florida Department of Children and Families, the Child Advocacy Center, Adult Protective Services, the Ocala Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff's Office.
Donna Guinn, Supervisor of the Ocala Police Department Victim advocate Program said the task force has been in place since 2010 and meets quarterly.
Guinn said the group provides presentations about human trafficking and dating violence to youth organizations and is working to provide a curriculum for high school students and to place posters in schools to bring attention to human trafficking-related crimes.
She said OPD Victim Advocates, who are members of the task force, “provide victims on-scene crisis intervention, safe shelter and counseling referrals, transportation, legal aid, injunction for protection assistance, criminal justice advocacy and support, assistance with crimes compensation and relocation assistance when appropriate.”
The Marion County Sheriff's Office provides the same victim support and services, according to Public Information Officer Lauren Lettelier.
Highlands Baptist Church pastor Chris Gilliam is spearheading an effort to build a “faith-based coalition” between non-governmental organizations, including the faith community and law enforcement, to enhance communication among the groups on combating human trafficking with empathy toward victims.
Gilliam has been holding meetings to familiarize attendees with the “dark and ugly” crime of human trafficking. He stresses the plight of victims who might in some cases, officials say, be further traumatized by being treated as a criminal.
Gilliam said the group, which has no formal name, has sponsored members of local law enforcement to attend training with the International Association of Human Trafficking Investigators.
Hughes' study and work in human trafficking began in 2008 when he encountered a case where one or both parents were suspected of using their 17-year-old daughter as a prostitute to support their crack cocaine addiction.
“Many times the victim has had early exposure to domestic violence and drug use,” he said.
He said that a person may gain the confidence of, for example, a 13- or 14-year-old girl by giving her clothes and other things and say “I love you” to win them over before putting them on the street.
And, he said, the biggest facilitator for human trafficking in this area may be the digital device at nearly everyone's fingertips.
“If you have been here more than 10 years you may recall places where there was (open solicitation) for prostitution,” Hughes said. Now, much of the activity for paid sex is “invisible” and found online, he added.
Strengthening families prevents child abuse
by Jennifer Ohlsen
Parenting is an awesome responsibility and a tremendous privilege. It's rewarding to watch our children learn, grow and thrive. Most parents work hard to give their children the best opportunities and ensure they feel safe and loved.
But parenting can be a tough job, even under the best of circumstances. Tension and conflict often increase when parents encounter stressful circumstances such as raising children alone, facing unemployment or homelessness, or suffering from substance addiction or poor mental health. Sometimes parents need extra help to create loving homes where children can thrive.
April is recognized in Florida and throughout the nation as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Gov. Rick Scott, first lady Ann Scott, state legislators, community leaders, child welfare professionals and child advocates participate in activities and outreach to share the message that everyone plays a role in preventing child abuse and neglect. This is a good time to assess the well-being of the children around us and consider our efforts to help children and their families succeed. A community can take action to prevent child abuse and neglect by supporting activities that strengthen families. One community-based program that successfully strengthens families while preventing child abuse and neglect is Healthy Families Florida.
In 1998, the Florida Legislature created Healthy Families Florida, a voluntary program for expectant parents and parents of newborns experiencing stressful life situations. Family support workers are invited into families' homes and provide guidance on parenting techniques, independent living skills and healthy child development. Parents learn to recognize and respond to their babies' developmental needs, use positive discipline techniques and cope with the stress of parenting.
Families in all 67 Florida counties have access to Healthy Families Florida services. Last year more than 17,400 children in 9,600 families benefitted from the program. Backed by decades of research and founded on strict quality standards, the program has proven to be highly successful in preventing child abuse and neglect. In fact, 98 percent of children are free of abuse and neglect while enrolled in Healthy Families Florida and 95 percent remain free of abuse and neglect three years following completion of the program.
Building on these successful outcomes for families, we continuously seek ways to improve and offer more assistance. Targeted Healthy Families sites now offer mental health services and coordinate behavioral health care for families experiencing substance abuse, domestic violence, mental health concerns or other challenges threatening their ability to succeed.
Investing in programs proven to prevent child abuse and neglect is far less costly than treating the consequences of child abuse after it occurs. The annual cost of providing services in response to child abuse –child welfare, hospitalization, juvenile justice and special education – exceeds $105,000 per child, whereas Healthy Families effectively prevents child abuse and neglect for an average of $2,100 per child. Prevention services are a sound investment in our families that pays dividends for generations.
Everyone can take action to prevent child abuse and neglect. To find out how you can help, contact your local Healthy Families program: On the Space Coast, that's Healthy Families Brevard. If you know a family who would benefit from a program proven to strengthen families so children have the best chance of healthy development and happy childhoods, contact the Healthy Families program in your community.
Jennifer Ohlsen is the executive director of Healthy Families Florida.
April timely for a subject the media should cover more
by Michael Reagan
Sometime this month I hope our rabid anti-Trump media find a little time to cover a subject that has been very important to me since I was eight -- child sexual abuse.
Child abuse of all kinds is an epidemic here and around the world.
In 2015 about 700,000 American children were victims of neglect or physical or sexual abuse. How many more cases were never reported to authorities is unknown.
Neglect accounted for 75 percent of victims, most of whom were under a year old. About 17 percent suffered physical abuse and 8.4 percent suffered sexual abuse. Some kids were abused in multiple ways.
The long-term affects of abuse on children are well known. Abused children are more likely to end up arrested as juveniles and adults, more likely to commit violent crime and more likely to end up in prison and develop psychological disorders.
Child sexual abuse isn't something that affects just poor kids or is committed by a few "celebrity" predators like Jerry Sandusky, the convicted serial rapist, child molester and retired Penn State football coach.
American boys and girls of all ages, races, ethnicities and economic backgrounds are vulnerable. According to the experts, one of every three girls and one in five boys will be sexually abused before they reach 18.
These innocents won't be victimized by random strangers. Sixty-eight percent will be molested by a family member and 90 percent of victims know their abuser in some way.
So it's not just the parish priest, the gym teacher or the odd guy down at the end of the street we need to watch.
More than likely, it's Uncle Charlie. And whether it's in the family, in the church or in the school, it most likely will be the abuser who is believed and protected, not the child.
A child has to tell someone they've been abused seven times before the first person listens to him or her -- and even then they still may not be believed.
One predator will sexually abuse 117 kids in their lifetime. That means when you see someone arrested and charged with a couple of abuses, it's usually because they didn't get caught earlier in their lives.
Predators are quick to attach themselves to vulnerable or troubled children who are looking for someone in their lives.
The guy who molested me at an after-school day camp and took naked photos of me in 1953, when I was eight, taught me how to throw a football and shoot a basketball.
He gave me the fatherly accolades and "atta-boys" I was not getting because my father and mother Jane Wyman had divorced and I was living with my mother.
Every child needs parental love, accolades and "atta-boys." If you don't give them to your child, they might be given by a predator. So be a good father, a good parent.
I never told my mother I had been molested or that the guy who did it took photos of me. I didn't tell anyone until 1987 -- 34 years later, when I was in my forties.
"Why didn't you tell someone when it happened?" I've been asked. But that's the worst possible thing you can say to a kid.
For an 8-year-old, it's not in their lexicon. "I went to school, threw a football and was molested today, Mom. What else do you want to know?"
What happened to me 64 years ago still lingers today. You never outgrow it. You don't outlive it.
Sexual abuse is the worst possible thing you can do to mess up the young mind and heart of an innocent child. Unfortunately, as I know, death can become a welcome option.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
First established by presidential proclamation by my father in 1983, it's a time for families and communities to make themselves aware of child abuse and neglect and work together to prevent it.
There's are many fine government and private social agencies and family organizations devoted to preventing child abuse or helping its victims, and there's bound to be one of them not far from your neighborhood.
Sadly, they have a lot of work to do. They could use your help.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, and the author of "The New Reagan Revolution" (St. Martin's Press).
Child abuse prevention a multi-organization effort
by Bonnie Arnold
Kellie Early, president of the Child Services Board, is passionate about child abuse victims getting their immediate needs met, first in those moments when they are being removed from a dangerous situation, and then following up with them in temporary placements.
These volunteers placed the 377 blue ribbon signs at the Kerr County Courthouse, their annual reminder of how many children are hurting here.
Early and the other CSB volunteers know first-hand that a child often is literally taken to safety with nothing - no suitcase, spare clothes, toothbrush, favorite blanket or toy, sometimes no shoes or socks.
Working under County Commissioners' Court, this nine-member board keeps the Rainbow Room in the Child Protective Services office stocked with everything they've learned is useful – baby diapers, formula, children's clothing including shoes, blankets, toys, duffle bags, car seats, portable playpens.
The Rainbow Room coordinator, currently Robin Laxson, has been keeping some duffle bags packed so the volunteer can grab one marked for the right gender and age, and take it. Those contain a blanket, flashlight, teddy bear, pajamas, toothbrush and toothpaste. Early said they get donations, but prefer to receive only new items to give to the children.
“In 2017, we've helped 377 kids; and that's up from 346 the year before. It breaks my heart. And that increase here is because of the parents' use of methamphetamines. Most of the kids are neglected because of the parents' drug use.”
The big goal is to place the kids with a relative or somebody else they know. But the logistics of that are hard.
“Imagine if someone called you and said, ‘Come pick up these kids in two hours.' Would you and your house be ready? So we concentrate on beds, especially bunk beds, and other furniture. The CPS case workers and our volunteers jump through hoops to meet the CPS regulations – car seats for young children, having a fire extinguisher, an individual bed for each child.”
She said even when they find a relative willing to take in children removed from their parents, that relative probably doesn't have a bed for each child, or dressers, or a car seat for an infant.
Early said the many CPS rules make their volunteer work difficult and hard on their wallets sometimes.
“We had a case where the boy was to be taken out of state to a relative, and he had nothing of his own with him. Our volunteer spent her own money to buy him three sets of clothes so he could start school in the new location, and two pairs of shoes. When she filed for reimbursement, the state said they couldn't pay her back for two sets of clothes and one pair of shoes. It was excessive by their rules. So the Child Services Board helped her.”
The Child Services Board is all-volunteer; and all their donations are directed to children and families in Kerr County.
Another task they've taken on is to redecorate the family visitation rooms in the CPS office downtown, where parents have to begin the healing by being observed while they visit with the child. One room has been repainted and refurbished; and the observation room got improved technology in cameras and speakers, so those watching can hear and see everything.
Work continues on the second visitation and observation rooms.
Stephanie Cash, director, and the staff and volunteers at Court Appointed Special Advocates are on the front lines of dealing with the victims of child abuse.
“Many victims need help on how to find services. And we help them move forward and heal.”
Currently, CASA volunteers are aiding 84 children in foster care, who are part of 52 legal cases.
She said in their fiscal year Sept. 1, 2015, to Aug. 31, 2016, Kerrville CASA helped a total of 296 foster children; and, of those, 182 or 67 percent were from Kerr County and the rest from Gillespie, Kendall and Bandera counties.
“The problem is more prevalent here and we're serving more children here,” she said.
They closed cases in that year on 66 children who were part of 38 legal cases.
Assigned CASA volunteers are among those making recommendation to the court about what happens to the child in these situations.
“'Closed' means the child found permanence for a home, and the courts considered the case closed. That ranges from being reunified with a parent to being adopted by a relative or non-relative.”
CASA serves children in abuse situations from birth to age 18; and sometimes over 18 only if the child is still in high school.
Cash said she started as a CASA-trained volunteer in 2013, and became a staff member and then director. Now she also serves on the state board of CASA.
“Across Texas, about 56 percent of abused kids have an assigned volunteer. Here 100 percent have a volunteer. Here, people understand the problem and step forward to help. In urban centers, it's more difficult to connect trained volunteers with kids.
“People need to realize these abused children didn't come from somewhere else. They're our neighbors,” she said.
For these children, the first step in the process is that the child is a victim of something. Then the child may be removed from his or her home.
“To children, that's being removed from everything they know, and everything they had is taken away at once. Then in the foster situation, the foster parents provide for their daily needs, but the kids lose what they know and hold dear,” she said.
Removal from their home happens because of an imminent significant risk to the child's safety.
Cash said they work with the family, to try to get them family services and have the family stay together. The goal is to get the parents healthy and providing a safe and stable home.
An increasing problem in Kerr County, she said, is the tie between children getting CASA services and mothers using drugs.
“Right now CASA is working with four infants born with chemical dependency because of their mothers' drug use,” she said.
On the positive side, she said they have a handful who were in foster care for five years or more who are graduating from high school soon, and CASA helped get them prepared to be accepted to UTSA and attend college. “We're closing the office and all going to their graduations.”
She said CASA's goal is to have one volunteer working with one child, to be their friend and understand that child's wishes and dreams.
Cash said some agencies here recruit people to work with foster families, and when they're trained, the first choice for any child needing foster care is to place him or her with another relative.
The second choice is to look for foster family placement which could be temporarily at K'STAR or at Hill Country Youth Ranch or in a single foster home. (The last is a function of the state's Child Protective Services.)
“That work is an incredible gift. Statewide there's a shortage of foster care beds. There were 292 kids in foster care last fiscal year; and the trained CASA volunteers average driving 209 miles per assigned child, to serve them.”
CASA was formed here in 1989 and started with 24 volunteers. They have 95 now.
“They are part of a collaborative effort here, so everyone gets what they need, and we don't duplicate services. In this community, people really want to help, to see the kids and families be safe, and we're all willing to collaborate. It's the sum total of community efforts that makes the difference.”
She said they have about 300 children in foster care in four counties, and called it a “big problem even if it's not growing much. It's still a big problem. But we have a lot of what we need here to help.”
She said typically criminal charges are not filed against the parents unless the abuse is egregious. But it can be a civil family case. Through CASA, they put all the associated problems in the open and solve everything they can.
CASA volunteers are charged with doing independent investigations and what they learn leads to the recommendations they make in court.
Hill Country Crisis Council, KAP
New Executive Director Brent Ives at the Hill Country Crisis Council now oversees the HCCC and Kids Advocacy Place, to provide an emergency family shelter for victims of domestic and sexual violence, 24-hour hotline, counseling, court and hospital accompaniment, legal advocacy, and referrals to community resources.
KAP helps coordinate investigations, interventions and treatment of child abuse across five counties, partly through the recorded forensic interviews with victims.
He said 26 percent are ages 0-5; 48 percent, 6-12 years; and 26 percent 13-17 years of age. Also, 67 percent are female.
KidCARES provides abuse prevention programs free to area school classes and training for faculty and staff.
Other HCCC work serves domestic violence cases including adults. Ives says their focus is intervention, prevention, education and outreach.
Besides about 22 paid staff members, HCCC volunteers answer the hotline; do lawn care, painting, shelter meals, and fill other needs.
The organization was known as Hill Country CARES for some time but the board is returning to its Crisis Council name. The website will be changed.
In FY2016, Child Protective Services, through its statewide intake, had 800 reports/allegations for Kerr County; and 221 of them were confirmed as abuse. The CPS website says nine were confirmed as sexual abuse, and 36 as physical abuse.
“We have a shelter; provide trauma-focused therapy; offer a domestic violence support group; and the staff includes victim advocates for legal aid, independence skills, and job-seeking. We may accompany victims to court for protective orders or divorce cases,” Ives said.
The prevention programs in schools address bullying, body safety, and sexual assault prevention, depending in the grade level. “In high school it's about what's okay and what's not,” he said.
Presenters often get lots of student feedback about bullying, he said.
They're just starting the body safety sessions; and schools are required to make reports to CPS on suspected abuse directly to the state.
“Child-serving agencies here are all working toward the same goal,” he said – in Kellie Early's words, to have zero blue ribbons on the courthouse lawn.
Stopping the pain: Chattanooga police, child advocates hope to boost abuse reporting
by Emmett Gienapp
Last year the Chattanooga Police Department handled 442 cases of child abuse, almost half of which were sexual abuse.
Even so, officials say the crime is grossly underreported and they're turning up the heat this month on community awareness and prevention.
Patrol officers have attached blue ribbons to their cars for April to raise awareness and Lt. Anthony Easter, commander of the Family Justice Center, said it's all about getting people to speak up when something is amiss so children don't continue suffering in dangerous situations.
"We would much rather have overreporting and screen out the cases that are not legitimate than to have underreporting and have real victims out there being abused repeatedly," Easter said.
Part of what makes the issue tricky, Easter said, is the topic is wildly uncomfortable. Many people are unwilling to get involved with such sensitive cases without knowing the full story, but he said it's better to be safe than sorry.
"Accidents happen. Kids get hurt and it doesn't always mean they're being abused, but we don't want the real cases slipping through the cracks," he said.
Reporting is complicated by the fact that 90 percent of the time, victims know or are related to their abusers, who often are authority figures or breadwinners. Victims may be unwilling to step forward or others might be unwilling to get involved.
"Like many of the family-related offenses — domestic violence, elder abuse-type cases — more often than not, that is a relative or caretaker that does the abuse," Easter said.
While people might be uncomfortable with reporting suspected abuse, which can range from physical or sexual assault to simple neglect, the Chattanooga officers who actually handle these cases have to grapple with what they see and hear day after day.
"When I first started working this stuff, I couldn't believe it," Easter said.
More than one officer working in the special victim's unit has run the risk of medical complications as a result of job stress. Easter said he's had officers whose doctors have told them to take time off because their blood pressure was edging into unhealthy territory
"Anybody with a heart is going to realize these cases do take a toll on you," Easter said. "Psychologically, emotionally and physically. It's the pressure surrounding these types of cases. "
He and others know the vast majority of people agree that child abuse is wrong, but motivating people to actually report a hunch is a challenge for groups like the Children's Advocacy Center of Hamilton County.
Kristen McCallie, the advocacy center's interim executive director, is working to ramp up outreach efforts and educate as many people as possible about the realities of child abuse and what steps the community can take to curtail it.
"Everybody's a reporter, but not everybody knows that," she said.
Tennessee law requires mandatory reporting of child abuse, but the onus falls primarily on educators and other caretakers who interact with children consistently. The center provides community education programs to those adults who are often on the front lines of reporting.
McCallie and her center coworkers aim to serve children coping with the unimaginable. The nonprofit is nationally accredited by the National Children's Alliance and provides forensic interviews, medical examinations and therapy while working closely with law enforcement.
"We provide an evidence-based curriculum to almost every single Hamilton County schoolteacher," McCallie said.
"We've been partnering with the school guidance folks — last year we trained almost all the elementary school teachers and this year we trained almost every single secondary education teacher through this curriculum called 'Darkness to Light.'"
The guidelines and necessity of mandatory reporting jumped to the forefront in Hamilton County last year following the rape of a high school student at Ooltewah High School and school officials' failure to report the incident.
More recently, three teachers were suspended from The Howard School in March for allegedly failing to report child abuse. The investigation of that incident is ongoing.
Despite what people may think, McCallie said, abuse is a cancer that affects children from every demographic — no community is immune.
"We get kids from every single ZIP code. This is not something that is a discriminatory crime," she said. "Perpetrators come from all walks of life, just like victims do."
Of the children served by the center in 2015 and 2016, 58 percent were white, 33 percent were black and another 4 percent were Hispanic. The gender gap was relatively small, with males making up 40 percent of the children served.
For those wondering when or how to contact authorities about potential child abuse, the advocacy center has outlined standards on what to look for and what to do on their website at cachc.org.
Obvious signs of physical abuse should be red flags, but sexual abuse may be harder to spot. Easter said people should call in "if you notice an adult deliberately trying to spend extra time with a child, trying to be alone with that child for an extended period of time or not respecting their privacy."
Witnesses are encouraged to call the abuse hotline at 1-877-54-ABUSE. Callers can remain anonymous and those who are interested in following up will receive a case number that allows them to see whether the call has been handled or not.
Aunt of baby in child abuse video: 'She stuffed the bag in his mouth!'
by Ashley Monfort
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -- An extremely disturbing video of a child being abused, allegedly by his mother, is going viral on Facebook.
It was posted by his aunt, who lives in Richmond. She says she posted it because she claims authorities in Humble, Texas - where the child lives - were not taking her calls for help seriously.
The images are deeply upsetting. NBC12 is choosing to only show a small portion of this video because the rest shows a one-year-old boy being severely abused.
"She stuffed the bag in his mouth, then he was throwing up, he was gagging," said the child's aunt Ra'Neicha Broadnax. "She burned him on his hands with cigarettes."
She says the abuser is allegedly the child's mother.
"In the video, you could hear her voice," she said.
Broadnax says the video was sent to the baby's father's new girlfriend.
"When I pressed play, I just immediately started crying, because my nephew was choking. He couldn't breathe. He was crying, she was punching
him in his face. I called the police," said Broadnax.
She says she had an address for Humble, Texas where she called the police department there.
"They said, 'Ma'am, did you see you're in Richmond, Virginia?' I said, 'Yes.' They said, 'Okay, I need you to call Richmond City Police.' I said, 'What can Richmond City Police do when they are in Texas? I need somebody to do a welfare check or something!' They said they couldn't," Broadnax explained.
So that's when Broadnax said she uploaded images of the abuse to Facebook, because she felt like that would get the department's attention.
"I want to say 30 minutes later, police departments from different states were calling me," said Broadnax. "Then finally, the Humble Police called, Child Protective Services called."
Now Broadnax says she was told the baby is now with other family members. The Humble Police Department says Harris County law enforcement is now taking the lead in the investigation, but they could not offer any other information about the child's mother.
A sergeant with the Humble Police Department says they take calls like this seriously, and a dispatcher told officers. The sergeant could not offer a timeline on the call.
A call to the Harris County Sheriff's office was not returned on Friday.
Broadnax tells us the mother's name is Janelle Paterkin, and according to online court records, she's now charged with endangering a child.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services tells NBC12 that any time they receive a call about alleged child abuse, they will investigate it.
The baby's family here in Richmond says they want to take care of the child and are just waiting to hear back from police.
Weak laws pave way for child sexual abuse
by Michael LaForgia
By bedtime it already was too late for the boy. The lights blinked out and the camp counselor, a predator, lay down at his feet. Curled up in the dark, he was ready to attack.
Getting here was all too easy for James Roy Melton Jr. When the convicted child molester volunteered at this Palm City church summer camp, nobody stood in his way.
Not the church. It welcomed the tall, rangy 34-year-old as its newest youth chaperone without screening his background.
And not the state of Florida. For 30 years, lawmakers have passed measures to protect kids in child-care centers while ignoring harm at the hands of summer camp workers.
Florida camps are completely unregulated. Nobody knows how many operate here. Nobody checks up on the people who run them.
As a result, children have suffered profound harm, a Palm Beach Post investigation has found.
That's what happened on this night in the summer of 1997. Melton, who 10 years earlier had admitted raping as many as 12 children, lay down among boys in Palm City. The kids fell asleep. He pulled down one 14-year-old's shorts and molested him.
Convicted again in the Palm City attack, Melton was sentenced to 30 years. He still is in prison.
But, across Florida, the dangers for children remain.
The state's system of safeguarding kids in child-care centers relies on licensing. State regulators inspect day cares and other licensed businesses to ensure employees are thoroughly screened. There are no such requirements for camps.
That means molesters like Melton, along with violent criminals or the severely mentally ill, can sign on — and have signed on — as camp counselors statewide.
In a six-month reporting effort, The Post compared millions of corporate filings with records of criminal convictions; pored over tens of thousands of pages of court documents, police reports and news clippings; and conducted dozens of interviews. In coming days, the newspaper will lay out its findings in a series of stories. Among the key points:
Kids have been harmed.
They have been sexually molested in instances of preventable abuse.
And cases of harm — preventable or otherwise — happen regularly in Florida summer camps. Since 2000, at least 50 children have been victimized in summer programs, or abused by workers the kids first encountered at camp organizations.
Because child sexual abuse often goes unreported — one estimate puts the reporting rate at one in 20 cases — that figure likely under-represents the number of victims statewide.
Many more kids are at risk.
All 50 states consider child molesters and other sex offenders so dangerous that the government tracks their movements, but nothing stops them from working in Florida camps. More than a few got jobs in summer programs.
In scores of other cases, rapists, murderers and other violent criminals have led organizations that often run camps. Roughly 170 church or neighborhood youth programs have been operated by felons statewide, including more than two dozen businesses led by child molesters or other sex offenders.
The groups are disproportionately clustered around the state's poorest neighborhoods.
Lawmakers have known for years.
Since the mid-1980s, legislators have been warned repeatedly of dangers in camps. Even so, they have taken virtually no steps to protect kids.
Jennifer Dritt, executive director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, said The Post has identified a significant problem.
“I think people should pay attention to it,” Dritt said. “And our legislature should pay attention to it.”
Florida is one of six states that don't license camps in some form.
Its population of 19 million dwarfs the others on the list: North Carolina, Washington, Missouri, New Mexico and South Dakota.
In Texas, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte sponsored a successful bill in 2001 requiring greater scrutiny for Texas camp workers.
“Children are extremely vulnerable, and particularly children who are in a summer camp,” she said. “Don't you want to … select a camp that has gone through the types of processes that make sure that everyone who has access to your child has had a background check?”
Florida's lawmakers haven't ignored camps altogether. On paper, laws requiring stringent FBI background checks appear to cover summer camp workers. But the same laws make no one responsible for enforcing the rules.
“That is a mistake in the legislature not doing that,” said Pam Huddleston, the detective who arrested Melton in his first child sex abuse case in 1987. She now works as a prosecutor in Tennessee. “Somebody dropped the ball. Somebody should have sealed up that loophole a long time ago.”
The state's chief child-care regulator, the Department of Children and Families, has the power to close camps that don't comply with background screenings — but only on a complaint basis. Since 2010, DCF has gotten five camp complaints. None resulted in regulators taking punitive action.
Even if required to, DCF couldn't easily weed out bad operators. The law doesn't force camps to make themselves known to the state. That would put the burden of finding them on regulators.
Spurred in part by stories published in The Post in 2010, DCF last year mounted an intense public awareness campaign, contacting more than 1,100 camp operators while issuing news releases that sounded a reassuring note for Florida parents.
The effort yielded a list of 582 camps statewide, according to an internal audit obtained by The Post in February.
Even so, the audit found evidence that most camps had ignored screening requirements.
It concluded that, under current law, the agency doesn't have the power to police summer programs adequately.
Most parents are startled to learn that Florida doesn't license summer camps. Among them was Gov. Rick Scott, who reacted with surprise.
Told that child molesters were free to find jobs in camps, the governor replied, “How can that happen?”
The answer can be traced to an episode that spawned Florida's screening laws, to 1984, when a startling sex abuse case played out in Dade County.
In an upscale Miami suburb, the affable Frank Fuster ran a popular day care called the Country Walk Babysitting Service.
Only after he was arrested did it emerge that Fuster previously had been convicted of manslaughter, and of molesting a little girl.
Children told authorities tales of horrific abuse. They said Fuster wore a scare mask as he raped and tortured his tiny victims.
After the attacks, one boy tested positive for gonorrhea in his throat.
Prosecuted by then-Dade State Attorney Janet Reno, Fuster was convicted of rape and molestation. He went to prison for life.
After Country Walk, the legislature in 1985 passed the state's first background screening law, requiring day-care employees be fingerprinted.
The law evolved into today's standards: FBI background checks for employees of any “child-care facility,” businesses that are paid to watch more than five children at a time.
The system hinges on licensing, charging DCF with suspending or revoking licenses of operators who don't obey the rules.
From the start, there was confusion over whether the law applied to summer camps. And in decades that followed, the issue was raised with lawmakers more than half a dozen times.
In the latest instance, in 2010, The Post reported that gaps in screening requirements allowed even child molesters to work in camps.
Responding, a handful of influential state lawmakers — Senate President Mike Haridopolos; Stuart Rep. William Snyder, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; and Sen. Ronda Storms, head of the Senate's Children and Families Committee — immediately pledged changes.
Haridopolos said, “We need to quickly close that (loophole) up.” Snyder said guarding the vulnerable is “one of the primary responsibilities of government.” Storms called the lack of action “appalling” and said it made her want to shake someone by the lapels.
But when the legislature met in 2011, nobody brought up camps. Nothing changed.
Today, Melton is locked in a Central Florida prison cell.
If he were freed tomorrow, he couldn't get a job at a day care, or a school, or a child rec center.
But he easily could find work at another summer program — or open a camp of his own.
CONCERNING KIDS: How do you spot possible child abuse?
In Oklahoma, a mandatory reporter includes every person with reason to believe that a child under the age of eighteen (18) is a victim of abuse or neglect. So by law, this includes all of us — you, me, every single adult with concern for a child's safety.
We often explain that it's not your job as a concerned citizen to prove abuse, nor should you try. If you're concerned about the safety of a child, make a report. Child Protective Services and Law Enforcement, often in partnership with Ray of Hope, are trained to investigate the safety and well being of children in our community.
If a child directly discloses abuse, you are obligated to make a report to OKDHS (1.800.522.3511), or if a child is in immediate danger, always call 911. But sometimes, there are warning signs or red flags that may also warrant a report to the authorities. While the symptoms listed below may not be indicative of abuse, they may be reasons for concern. Several of them together could be reason to make a report.
When you call the child abuse hotline, they'll want to know the name and age of child and where that child can be located. They will also want to know when you last saw the child and what you observed that was concerning. The following information divides abuse and neglect by category and the symptoms associated with that particular type of maltreatment. It may be helpful in determining if you need to make a report.
Neglect is the failure of a parent, guardian or other caregiver to provide for a child's basic needs. This can also include failure to protect them from a known risk of harm or danger.
• Poor growth or weight gain.
• Eating a lot of food in one sitting or hiding food for later.
• Lacks needed medical, dental or psychological care.
• Lacks sufficient clothing for the weather.
• Indicates there is no one at home to provide care.
• Exposure to domestic violence.
• Allowing known sexual offender or abuser to live in the home.
Physical abuse is the non-accidental physical injury of a child. Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether the caregiver intended to hurt the child. Physical discipline, such as spanking or paddling, is not considered abuse as long as it is reasonable and causes no bodily injury to the child.
• Child has unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones or black eyes.
• Injuries that don't match the given explanation.
• Unexplained absence from school.
• Seems frightened of caregivers.
• Reports an injury by an adult caregiver.
Sexual abuse is anything done with a child for the sexual gratification of an adult or older child. This may include non-touching offenses such as exposure to pornography or adult sexuality.
• Sexual behavior or knowledge that is inappropriate for the child's age.
Resiliency in the face of ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences'
by James Molnar, Janice Houchins, Michael L. Howard and Mike Johnson
Charita Goshay's April 5 article “Did childhood help lead a man to murder?” evokes thoughts of Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs.
Many of us have at least one ACE, events we were around or witnessed in our youth.
The 10 ACEs are: substance abuse, parental separation/divorce, mental illness, battered mother, criminal behavior, psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect and physical neglect.
Many of us, too, have more than one.
In the mid-1990s, Vincent Felitti, head of Kaiser Permanente's Department of Preventative Medicine in San Diego, and Robert Anda, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, surveyed more than 17,000 Kaiser Permanente volunteer patients. This survey, titled Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, consisted of 10 questions ranging from substance abuse to physical neglect.
ACEs can lead people to negative decisions later in life that then lead to health problems. Examples include calming nerves by smoking or trying to forget the past by drinking to excess and to a level of addiction. Some of us overeat, use drugs improperly, or lack proper physical activity. Some suffer mentally and emotionally from depression and thoughts of suicide. Others suffer physically from diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, COPD, and even STDs and broken bones. Some of us, too, abuse those we love. Of course, this does not mean all of us. However, it means more of us than we'd like to think.
Having one or more ACEs can create an environment of continuous stress in a child. This continuous, or chronic, stress over-develops a child's reacting to an event while stifling the ability to reason out the event. A primary result of reacting without thinking is risky behavior.
Many times, we don't even know why we react as we do. Our reactions are kneejerk and are based on the pictures our minds recorded years ago. Many were the coping mechanisms we saw our parents use. From children, we grew into adults and these reactions we witnessed became the ways we often unknowingly decided to respond to adverse experiences later in our lives.
However, not all our childhood experiences lead to negative decisions, in fact many of our decisions are positive. The positive ones make us resilient. We tend, however, to not think of those skills as valuable. In fact, we seldom think of those skills at all. And so, we seldom think to pass those positive decisions onto our children. Why? Perhaps we're too humble. Perhaps we simply don't know that we can or should. But they are how we endure. They are how we overcome. They are how we bounce back.
The brain, the body and the person can bounce back, however, through, for example, a positive nurturing relationship.
To be resilient one must feel safe.
Supports, or positive and nurturing relationships, are the most important resiliency factor. Faith also falls into this category.
Service promotes our feeling of value and being able to contribute.
Learning skills like anger management, problem-solving, leadership and stress management are empowering and promote resiliency.
Resiliency, along with its leading adversary trauma, are the focal points of Stark County Family Council's Trauma & Resiliency Initiative. This initiative carries a banner of the points explained above: “The 4Ss of Safety, Supports, Service and Skills.”
The Trauma & Resiliency Initiative is intent on helping our community understand that we all have trauma, or adversity, and we all have resiliency to bounce back from ACEs.
Here are some examples of community resiliency, all of which can be found in Stark County.
A hospital is one of the large-scale examples of resiliency. Almost 100 percent of cities in America have one to take care of its own residents. In Stark County, we have a handful.
Stark County also has organizations like United Way, the Stark County Fatherhood Coalition, the Stark County Hunger Task Force, and the Stark County Human Trafficking Task Force, all meant to aid each other and our children. These organizations — and so many others — are created by individuals for individuals. They are all led by adults because of a want to take care of each other and our children.
On a small or individual scale, every tornado alert we encounter we deal with by calming ourselves and our families by moving to safety and surviving. We go to work. We make sure our children do their homework. We purchase healthy foods. We help our children look both ways before they cross the street. We get up after a bad day and start all over again. Each one of these are simple but extremely effective examples of resiliency.
All these efforts, large or small, are done purposefully, yet almost always without the understanding that they are driven by our resiliency, our ability to bounce back. They are born from our desire to take the best of our survival instincts and use them to help each other and pass them along to our youth.
We need to “see” these positive decisions in ourselves and not take them for granted. We need to realize they are born from within. They are the best within us and used by us to bounce back from the adversities we face. We need, too, to realize that we learn from each other. These are the good things we find in ourselves and teach our children.
Many situations we read about in our newspapers are the negative responses to negative past situations, just as Charita Goshay highlighted. We see them as paths to a future we cannot change. Yet we do change them. We often change them.
We tend, however, to see and to talk about the negative decisions much more than our positive ones. We will always react with positive or negative decisions. We can choose those negative decisions if we want to, or we can learn that our way across the rivers we encounter lay not in blaming the past, but in relying on our ability to bounce back through the positive decisions we make. Those positive decisions we need to thank ourselves for and thank others who share them with us. Those positive decisions are our resiliency, and resiliency is something each one of us has.
Molnar is the development coordinator for the Stark County Family Court's Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program.
Houchins is executive director of the Stark County Family Council.
Howard is a retired judge for the Stark County Family Court.
Johnson is retired chief executive officer of Child & Adolescent Behavior Health.
Sex traffickers get away with selling children online
While Congress reacts to abuse of female gymnasts, it allows classified advertising websites to profit from the sexual abuse marketplace.
by Mary Leary
In late March, the Senate Judiciary Committee convened a public hearing to express its outrage at the sexual abuse of female athletes in the American gymnastics program. The senators' comments painted a picture of a vast bipartisan effort to protect our children from sexual assault and exploitation. During the hearing on the “Protecting Young Victims of Sexual Abuse Act,” senators warned the Olympic Committee that they would take action, described sexual abuse as “a parent's worst nightmare” and declared that “protecting children from abusers has been a top priority” of Capitol Hill.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
When one examines more broadly what Congress could do, but has thus far failed to do, with current legislation to protect even more children from sexual abuse, one sees a very different picture.
During the March hearing, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said the senators were there to build on a bipartisan commitment and to “learn what more can be done to keep our nation's children and young athletes safe from sexual predators.”
One thing they could learn to do is answer the call that 47 state attorneys general made four years ago and amend the law that not only permits internet and tech companies like Backpage.com to profit from the sale of children online but actually gives them immunity in doing so.
Until very recently, Backpage.com was the largest online marketplace for child sex trafficking. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children testified before Congress that “most child sex trafficking is facilitated by online classified advertising websites” and that the more than 800 percent increase in reports of suspected child sex trafficking “are directly correlated to the increased use of the internet to sell children for sex.”
My own research of a decade of published judicial opinions reveals that online advertising of children for sex is a significant (if not predominant) method of selling children into sex trafficking.
These companies have been sued by surviving victims throughout the country for facilitating their sex trafficking, and, with one exception, these companies have been able to hide behind Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) and claim immunity for their actions by claiming that it grants them protection from prosecution for the transactions that they facilitate.
When Congress drafted Section 230 of the CDA in 1996, we lived in a different world: The internet was still in its infancy, and online commerce had yet to become a major force in American life. Yet as the internet has developed and the “dark web” has emerged, Congress has failed to amend this provision to respond to these new challenges. As a result, 47 state attorneys general have written Congress to demand the CDA be amended to prevent this.
Law enforcement, child advocates, local politicians and victims themselves have begged Congress to make this important change and close down the largest marketplace for the sale of children in the world.
To be fair, some of Congress has acted against Backpage.com specifically. Earlier this year, the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations for the Committee on Homeland Security investigated Backpage.com, forced compliance with its subpoenas, and issued a scathing report about Backpage.com's role in child sex trafficking. In that report, the committee itself acknowledged that Backpage.com “knowingly facilitated prostitution and child sex trafficking.” On the same day, Backpage.com, announced it would no longer have an adult services section on its American site.
But our children need more protection than addressing one company at a time. Prior to Backpage.com, Craigslist fulfilled the role of auctioning block for America's children. No doubt now, another company will take up the mantle. And why wouldn't they? The law, according to Congress, immunizes them from prosecution, even when their websites serve as de facto digital brothels.
The industry claims that the First Amendment requires that Section 230 cannot be touched in any way, no matter how many children are sold over online venues. Yet this is misleading: While the First Amendment is critical to a free society, it is intended to inform us on how to navigate complex areas of competing rights, not to preclude any discussion whatsoever of ways to limit damage and destruction due to forms of speech.
In certain narrow contexts, the First Amendment has yielded to other societal needs, such as not constitutionally protecting threats. If one can't threaten a 13-year-old with rape, one should not be able to facilitate the rape.
Who stands to lose if Section 230 is amended to allow the prosecution of websites where children are prostituted? Pimps and traffickers to be sure – but also big business tech and internet companies who profit from child sex trafficking by receiving payment for such advertisements or increased traffic to their platforms.
They have wasted no time influencing government after the election. Within days of the president's election, internet companies wrote to the president-elect to protect their interests, seeking preservation of the Communications Decency Act. Unfortunately, it appears they have political power in Washington. For example, just last month, Congress repealed FCC privacy restrictions on internet service providers that would limit their ability to collect and sell information about ordinary citizens to the highest bidder. Who benefited from such legislation? The very same entities opposed to amending Section 230.
The Senate Judiciary Committee should be commended for their actions responding to the sexual abuse of athletes. But they should not feign outrage at child sexual abuse unless they're taking every possible step to prevent it. If they meant what they said about protecting children, they would amend the Communications Decency Act – a much smaller effort with a much larger impact.
At last week's hearing, the senators warned that a “culture of money and medals had taken priority over the safety” of heroic female athletes. Perhaps that same culture of money has successfully targeted Congress as well. And we may never see a hearing for its victims.
Spotlight: Sexual abuse at New England boarding schools
by Dina Rudick, Globe Staff
Private schools, painful secrets
More than 200 victims. At least 90 legal claims. At least 67 private schools in New England. This is the story of hundreds of students sexually abused by staffers, and emerging from decades of silence today.
This story was reported by Spotlight team reporters Jenn Abelson, Bella English, Jonathan Saltzman, and Todd Wallack, with editors Scott Allen and Amanda Katz.
Update: Report names 12 at Choate Rosemary Hall who allegedly abused students
Steven Starr reached into the back of his hallway closet and fished out the old camera, a gift nearly 50 years ago from the man he says molested him.
“It's like a talisman or a grim reminder,'' he said, holding the dusty Minolta Autocord in his Los Angeles apartment. Not that he could ever forget what he alleges happened to him when he was 11 at the Fessenden School.
In 1968, he was a lonely sixth-grader from Long Island when he met James Dallmann, a Harvard graduate who taught geography at the all-boys private school in West Newton and was an avid photographer.
Dallmann took Starr under his wing. He made the boy his apprentice and encouraged him to visit the teacher's bedroom in their dorm at Moore Hall after lights out to learn how to use his makeshift darkroom. The teacher photographed Starr and delighted the boy by giving him the twin-lens Minolta.
Then one night, Starr said, Dallmann served him a mix of Tang and vodka, got him to pose naked for pictures on a bed, and performed oral sex on him. This is our secret, Dallmann told Starr, who said the abuse went on for about a year.
For nearly half a century, Starr kept his feelings of betrayal and humiliation inside, sharing his story only with therapists and a few confidants.
But now he is among a growing number of former students at New England private schools who are breaking their silence about sexual abuse by staffers. They are emboldened by a cascade of recent revelations about cases — many of them decades old — that were often ignored or covered up when first reported, and that school administrators still struggle to handle appropriately today.
This video interview with sexual abuse survivor Steven Starr contains content that some viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.
So far this year, at least eight New England private schools have launched or disclosed sexual misconduct investigations. At least five of the probes — at St. George's School in Rhode Island, Taft School in Connecticut, Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, Thayer Academy in Braintree, and Concord Academy in Concord — have led to staff members being placed on administrative leave or fired.
The troubles go way beyond those institutions. At least 67 private schools in New England have faced accusations since 1991 that staffers sexually abused or harassed more than 200 students, the Spotlight Team found through an examination of court cases, as well as interviews with alumni, relatives, school officials, and attorneys.
At least 90 lawsuits or other legal claims have been filed on behalf of the alleged victims, and at least 37 school employees were fired or forced to resign because of the allegations. In addition, nearly two dozen eventually pleaded guilty or were convicted on criminal charges of abusing children or related crimes.
The Globe also found 11 cases in which private school employees who were accused of sexual misconduct went on to work at other schools — an echo of the Catholic church scandal in which abusive priests were often moved to other parishes. At St. George's School alone, at least three staff members accused of misconduct have gone on to jobs where they faced subsequent sexual misconduct allegations involving children, including one teacher accused in a lawsuit of abusing a teenager in Hawaii.
Large as those numbers of cases and victims are, they almost certainly underestimate the problem. No central database exists of allegations against private school employees, who are typically not required to be licensed. And schools often keep the reports confidential, even when payments are made to alleged victims. And it can sometimes take decades for survivors of sexual abuse to find the strength to come forward, if they do so at all.
One 1957 graduate of Deerfield Academy waited until 2013 to allege that he had been repeatedly raped and groped by an art teacher starting as a freshman, 60 years earlier. An accomplished arts administrator who had also struggled with nightmares, anxiety, and depression, Truman Reed Jr. had never even told his wife what had happened.
“Will I ever be completely free of the trauma I experienced at Deerfield? No,'' Reed wrote to the school's head. The teacher, Robert Bliss, died in 1981. Deerfield officials said they couldn't substantiate the allegations, but last August the school settled for almost $100,000 with Reed's estate. He had died six months earlier.
There is no research available on the prevalence of abuse at private schools and whether it is more common than in public schools, where one federal study found nearly 10 percent of students are targets of unwanted sexual attention by educators in grades K-12. But boarding schools, in particular, present unique opportunities for educators to have close contact with students. Students often go weeks or months without seeing their families, while spending time with staff before and after classes and living alongside them in dorms.
The schools, many with rich histories and famed alumni, have often struggled to balance the need to respond robustly to abuse allegations with a desire to guard their reputations. Historically, few allegations were reported to law enforcement, and many schools avoid publicizing them even today. Getting past the schools' reticence is a challenge; because these are private institutions, they are exempt from public records laws. And when the Globe sent surveys to 224 private schools on their experience with sexual misconduct allegations, only 23 — about 10 percent — chose to reply.
Survivors of abuse are now trying to change this culture, simply by telling their stories. Last December, the Globe revealed the ordeal of Anne Scott, who as a young woman was pressured into signing a gag order about her alleged rape by St. George's then-athletic trainer Al Gibbs. Since Scott's revelations, lawyers for victims say they have received credible allegations that nearly 50 alumni were sexually abused — most by staff, some by other students.
This video interview with sexual abuse survivor Anne Scott contains content that some viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.
In March, after questions from a Globe reporter, Phillips Exeter Academy acknowledged it had failed to disclose that an award-winning teacher and administrator, Rick Schubart, had admitted in recent years to sexual misconduct with two students in the 1970s and 1980s. Instead, Phillips Exeter quietly forced Schubart out in 2011 and barred him from campus in 2015. Within days of the Globe story, alumni reported new allegations about other teachers, including one who was then fired.
“People who would behave badly or would commit wrong acts can be right under our nose,” said Peter Upham, executive director of The Association of Boarding Schools, which censured former Exeter principal Tom Hassan for not having disclosed the misconduct before the association gave Schubart an award in 2012. “I was as shocked as anyone when this news came to light . . . Honestly, [Schubart] was an icon in the private school universe.”
Even when schools try to confront decades-old abuse, finding the right course is challenging. Fessenden sent a letter to alumni in 2011 identifying one alleged abuser, but the school has come under fire for not naming others accused by 12 alumni, including Starr, who have come forward since then. Headmaster David Stettler said he has no reason to doubt the allegations but hesitated to expand on the original letter out of concern for the privacy of victims.
Share information about sexual misconduct at private schools with the Boston Globe Spotlight team by completing this request for information.
“It's awfully hard to know what the next right thing to do is,'' Stettler said. “There's no blueprint about how to handle a horrible history like this.''
On Thursday, in anticipation of the publication of this article, he sent a letter updating the Fessenden community on the ballooning allegations but named no additional alleged abusers.
For Starr, the school's actions are inadequate, and he has become impatient enough to speak publicly about his experience.
“I want [Fessenden] to take complete responsibility for what I now know to be a history of lies and deceptions around what was going on there,'' said the 58-year-old filmmaker, who is writing a book about his ordeal. “All these stories, they're the tip of the iceberg of a history of abuse, of privilege, of secrecy, of broken lives.''
“Nothing ... ever happened in the school”
The story made national news on Dec. 9, 1977. “Lucrative Child-Sex-For-Sale Ring Involved Prominent Men,'' read one headline in a Fitchburg newspaper.
Police had arrested 15 men in three states who were among 24 indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury on child molestation charges. Many had paid $5 to $25 for sex acts with boys as young as 9 in a house in Revere.
Among those charged with sex offenses were two men employed for years by the exclusive Fessenden School: Arthur P. Clarridge, the school's assistant headmaster, who had resigned shortly before his arrest; and Dallmann, a longtime teacher.
Clarridge, now 88 and living in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., later admitted that he paid to have sex with 20 boys some 40 times over five years at the Revere address. But the charges against him were dismissed, he recently told the Globe, after he helped the state by testifying against a Back Bay child psychiatrist also ensnared in the alleged pedophile ring. Dallmann, whose case records couldn't be found at Suffolk Superior Court, died in 1986 at the age of 44.
At the time of the arrests, Robert P.T. Coffin Jr., the headmaster of Fessenden, which had more than 300 boarding and day students in kindergarten through ninth grade, issued a statement to parents expressing “considerable shock,'' adding, “We certainly are sorry for Mr. Clarridge and Mr. Dallmann.''
Fortunately, Coffin told the Globe at the time, “Nothing to my knowledge has ever happened in the school.''
That wasn't true, and Coffin knew it, former students say 40 years later. One says he went to Coffin about seven years before the arrests to say Clarridge had molested him.
John Sweeney entered Fessenden in 1969 at the age of 11. The son of a Newton surgeon, he played on the hockey team.
Clarridge was Sweeney's math teacher and dorm master at Hart Hall. The teacher was a hockey fan and invited Sweeney to watch Bruins games on the TV in his room. He took the student for rides in his sleek blue Corvette.
One night Sweeney was in bed when Clarridge came by. He noticed that the boy had a bad cold.
“Geez, Johnny, you don't feel so well,'' Sweeney recalled Clarridge saying.
“No, Mr. Clarridge, I'm all stuffed up,'' Sweeney replied.
Clarridge took out what appeared to be a Vick's Inhaler and encouraged Sweeney to take a whiff.
This video interview with sexual abuse survivor John Sweeney contains content that some viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.
Sweeney believes he was drugged. The next thing he knew, Sweeney recalled, he awakened to find Clarridge giving him oral sex while the teacher masturbated.
“I screamed,'' Sweeney, 57, said tearfully, during an interview. “And he falls off the bed, pulls his pants up, telling me, ‘It's lights out.'”
The next day, Sweeney said, he called his mother to tell her what had happened. But she had met Clarridge and was charmed by his Harvard University credentials; she didn't believe her son.
So, at the age of 12, Sweeney went to Coffin's office.
“He put his pipe down, tapped it in the ashtray real hard, and goes, ‘Come now, Johnny, come now. You've got a vivid imagination,''' Sweeney recalled.
Sweeney, who went on to serve as a Green Beret, believes his abuse by Clarridge led to his post-traumatic stress disorder, drug abuse, and troubles with the law.
Clarridge recently told the Globe that he never had sexual relations with any Fessenden student, although he acknowledged having sex with boys under the age of consent in Revere.
“Even if my memory is poor, I certainly know that [Sweeney's allegation] is not true,'' he said.
For Adrian Hooper, who began attending Fessenden in the early 1960s at age 11, the climate of abuse at the school was so distressing that he finally ran away.
One winter day around 1964, Hooper said, he wet his bed, infuriating his dorm master, Claude Hasbrouck, who was also the school's glee club and drama director. Children feared Hasbrouck, who was known for squeezing the flesh under boys' chins — “chinnies,” he called them — and for his Nazi memorabilia collection, including a Nazi flag on his apartment wall.
This time, Hasbrouck made the 13-year-old Hooper drop his pants and underwear, then spanked him with a paddle.
Hasbrouck then began stroking Hooper's penis and urged him to stop wetting his bed, Hooper said. When Hooper got an erection, Hasbrouck suddenly squeezed his testicles hard, hurting him.
The next day, Hooper said, he put on his warmest clothes and ran away in a snowstorm.
“I was crying. I was raging,'' recalled Hooper, 64, who says he trudged several miles along the highway to the Boston University gymnasium, where he took refuge in the boys' locker room and fell asleep on a pile of wet towels. “I came to the conclusion that I could not trust adults.'' Hooper later became addicted to drugs, but he is clean now and runs an online resource for people with substance abuse problems.
This video interview with sexual abuse survivor Adrian Hooper contains content that some viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.
Hasbrouck left Fessenden in 1972, according to a school spokesman, and died in 1997. Hooper said he was expelled shortly after he ran away.
Like Hooper, former student Steven Starr struggled for years with drugs and alcohol — and with intimacy — after what he said were at least half a dozen episodes of abuse by Dallmann, starting in 1968. And Dallmann wasn't his only molester, he said. The school psychologist, Mickey Clampit, came to his bedroom one night and fondled him under the covers, he said, and attempted to do so other times as well.
Two other former Fessenden students told the Globe that Clampit abused them, too. One, who said Clampit fondled him at school and on a trip to Arkansas and Mexico, sent the school a letter demanding compensation for the abuse through attorney Mitchell Garabedian in 2015. The other man, who settled a claim against Fessenden in the 1990s, said Clampit was among four people there who abused him.
Clampit, who left Fessenden in 1976 and whose license to practice psychology in Massachusetts expired in 1996, could not be reached for comment at any of his known addresses or through his family. But his niece, Michelle Clampit of Los Angeles, said she never heard such accusations about him and was puzzled why they were surfacing now.
Starr said he was too ashamed to tell anyone about the abuse at the time and felt helpless to stop it. He has no doubt that other staff in the insular school knew what their colleagues were doing to him, he says, and is convinced that Hasbrouck, the drama teacher, cast him as a flirtatious cowgirl in the all-boys student production of “Oklahoma” for the abusers' amusement.
As Dallmann took pictures and Starr's parents watched in the audience, the boy, in a dress and bonnet, sang words that had secret, painful overtones for him: “I'm just a girl who cain't say no.”
“This is exactly what happened to me”
It took Marshall more than 40 years to bring himself to look into what had become of one of his former teachers at St. George's, Bill Lydgate.
What he found, when he searched online in 2014, was the story of a $30 million lawsuit against Lydgate from 2008, filed thousands of miles away in Hawaii, for alleged sexual misconduct that sounded all too familiar.
“I thought, this is exactly what happened to me. This is exactly how this guy operated. It's real. Forty-five years later, he's still doing it,” said Marshall, who asked to be identified only by his middle name.
Marshall was a soft-spoken freshman at St. George's in 1968 when he met Lydgate, a cool and charismatic young English teacher who offered private guitar lessons to students in his apartment on campus.
Lydgate encouraged the introverted boy to call him by his first name and found ways to spend time together outside music lessons: He drove the boy to therapy sessions in Boston, got him high for the first time, and found the teenager a summer job, the St. George's student alleged in an interview with the Globe.
“I felt like a really special person,” Marshall said.
This video interview with sexual abuse survivor “Marshall” contains content that some viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.
On one occasion, Lydgate invited the boy to Block Island, where they slept in separate twin beds in the same room. In the morning, Lydgate allegedly walked over to the 15-year-old's bed, pulled down Marshall's underwear, and said: “OK, let's see what you got.”
Lydgate performed oral sex on him, Marshall said, and guided the boy's hand onto Lydgate's penis. “I was just shocked,” Marshall recalled.
Marshall's accusations appear anonymously in an investigative report released in December by St. George's.
The teenager shared what had happened with his school-referred psychiatrist. The doctor, who has since died, told him it was rape, Marshall recalled. It's unclear whether the psychiatrist informed school officials.
Lydgate apparently left St. George's in the middle of the year. Reached by phone in Hawaii, he would not answer questions about the terms of his departure, and he denied Marshall's accusations. “I have no recollection of any such incident,” he said.
St. George's declined to comment on the allegations because of ongoing investigations by an independent attorney and by the police.
After the alleged assault, Marshall struggled with drugs and was kicked out of St. George's for a semester. For decades, he told no one else what had happened, and he battled alcoholism and depression.
Lydgate, meanwhile, went on to other teaching jobs. In January 2001, he was hired as an English teacher at Island School in Kauai. The small school welcomed the gregarious, Yale-educated teacher, who asked people to call him by his middle name, Tony.
Lydgate paid some of his male students — often those from single-parent homes or low-income families — to do odd jobs at his house, according to interviews with several students who worked at his home and school officials Peggy Ellenburg and Adrya Siebring. At least four students later confided to school officials that he made sexual advances to them. One fled the teacher's home after Lydgate suggested they “explore the physical aspect” of their relationship, according to an interview with that student, whose accusations were recounted in the 2008 lawsuit filed by another alleged victim.
Lydgate told school officials he had done nothing wrong, and he reiterated that denial in an interview with the Globe.
“Obviously, if there had been any misconduct given the situation in the world today, I and everyone else involved would be in jail,” Lydgate said.
Even after Lydgate resigned in the spring of 2003 — at Island School's request, a school official said — he allegedly kept pursuing several teenage boys, getting one 16-year-old drunk and engaging in oral sex, according to the 2008 lawsuit.
Lydgate, in court records, acknowledged sexual encounters with the boy but described the relationship as consensual. Lydgate even recorded a phone conversation with the teenager to confirm that he “was not coerced to participate in sex acts with him” and “participated of his own free will,” according to court documents.
Lydgate and the school countersued the student, and they eventually reached a confidential settlement.
Siebring, dean of students at Island School, said she wasn't surprised to learn that another student had accused Lydgate of sexual assault decades ago.
“I've never understood why that man's not in jail,” Siebring said.
Last year, a new parent at Island School told Siebring about a great visit she had to a local chocolate farm called Steelgrass Farm, where she met a smart, engaging man named Tony Lydgate.
She said he offered to mentor her teenage son on the chocolate farm, Siebring recalled. Lydgate declined to comment on the encounter .
Siebring said she quickly filled the parent in on what had happened at Island School and offered three words of advice: Call the police.
St. George's School in Middletown, R.I.
“I would certainly file that report today.”
Eight days after the Globe's first story in December on abuse cases at St. George's School, the school released a report to alumni on the history of sexual misconduct there. Signed by headmaster Eric Peterson and board chair Leslie Heaney, the report cited 26 alumni who had told an investigator they had been abused by one of six “employee perpetrators.” The most recent case cited was from 1988.
Not mentioned were a series of more recent abuse allegations that came during the tenure of the current school administration, an omission whose consequences are still ricocheting among three schools.
The Boston Globe attempted to survey more than 200 private schools in New England about allegations of sexual abuse. Most declined our request for information. If there are incidents of abuse that you think should be reviewed by the Spotlight team, you can submit that information here or email Spotlight@Globe.com.
St. George's had received complaints about athletic trainer, technology officer, and then-dorm parent Charles Thompson by 2003, when one teenage boy told his family that Thompson had touched, harassed, and stalked him. The school placed Thompson on leave the next year after 10 more boys told school officials that he had touched them inappropriately or made them uncomfortable. One former student said to the Globe that Thompson invited him into his room at night, supposedly for physical therapy sessions, as “an excuse to try to stick his hands under my shorts.”
But Peterson, who became headmaster in 2004, concluded on the advice of a lawyer that the allegations didn't amount to sexual abuse or need to be reported to authorities, and Thompson was allowed to return to teaching. He moved on in 2011 to become director of information technology at the Taft School in Connecticut — and the allegations were omitted from St. George's 2015 public report on abuse allegations at the school.
That was hardly the end of the story, however.
In the wake of media coverage of abuse allegations at St. George's, the Thompson case and others are being investigated by Rhode Island State Police. And St. George's officials are awaiting the findings of a second investigation of sexual abuse after criticism of the first review's independence.
Officials at Taft, where Thompson now works, placed him on leave in January while they conduct their own investigation. They also criticized St. George's for not disclosing the earlier accusations; Thompson came with “highly favorable references,” a Taft spokeswoman said.
“All these stories, they're the tip of the iceberg of a history of abuse, of privilege, of secrecy, of broken lives.” Steven Starr
Tim Richards, who in 2004 had interviewed the boys in Thompson's dorm as St. George's dean of students, apologized for not having reported Thompson to authorities himself. “I should have known,” wrote Richards in a Jan. 24 e-mail to the community at Pomfret School in Connecticut, where he is now head of school. “I would certainly file that report today, and would expect the same from all Pomfret employees.”
One week later, Richards apologized again, this time for not acting promptly to investigate an allegation at his own school. In 2015, an alumnus had written to say he was molested in the early 1970s by then-Pomfret chaplain and dorm master John Edmonds. Richards took no action until the Thompson story became news.
“It's odd to me that Tim Richards didn't do anything with my letter of almost a year ago until the St. George's thing broke,” said the former student, who asked not to be identified.
Richards informed child welfare officials and apologized to the alumnus directly. “I want you to know how terribly sorry I am that you were the victim of inappropriate conduct on the part of a former employee of Pomfret,” Richards wrote.
Edmonds, now retired and living in Maine, said in a phone interview that he did not remember initiating sexual contact with students, but acknowledged that on several occasions “kids embraced me,” including “kissing.” He declined to provide further details.
Edmonds said he recently wrote a letter to the head of school to say he was sorry if he offended anybody.
“If I did something that somebody inferred was inappropriate, I'm sorry about that,” Edmonds told the Globe. “I don't remember an occasion, but if that happened and somebody is offended and there is a problem, I apologize for that.”
Through a spokeswoman, Richards said: “In hindsight, this particular matter likely should have been reported 10 months earlier than it was.” Pomfret, too, has hired an independent investigator.
More than 200 students have been victims of sexual abuse and harassment at New England private schools since the 1950's. At least 90 students or their families have filed lawsuits or other legal claims related to sexual abuse at New England private schools. At least 67 private schools in New England have been affected by allegations of sexual abuse by employees disclosed over the past 25 years.
The question of when and what to report is not always straightforward. Educators and individuals such as health care professionals are required to report suspected child abuse to state welfare officials under mandated reporting laws, but even state agencies can differ on what that means in practice. In Rhode Island, the attorney general's office told the Globe that schools must report every allegation of sexual or physical child abuse, including by school employees, to the state's Department of Children, Youth and Families within 24 hours. But the child welfare agency said the law generally only requires schools to report abuse by parents and guardians, not by teachers.
Some are pushing efforts nationally, including in Massachusetts, to prevent schools from allowing problem teachers to move from institution to institution.
“The laws that we have are so woefully insufficient,” said Eric MacLeish, an attorney who represented hundreds of clergy abuse victims and now represents more than 30 alleged victims of St. George's. “If there is a stick of dynamite in the form of a predatory child molester and that person gets thrown into another school, or another parish, it should be a crime.”
St. George's officials stand by their decision not to report the Thompson episodes to authorities or to include them in the 2015 report. School spokesman Joseph Baerlein has said that the school felt the alleged incidents did not rise to the level of abuse.
To survivors, that rings hollow. Many are calling for the headmaster's resignation.
“Eric Peterson has been covering this up since 2004,” said Harry Groome of Arlington, who says he was raped by an upperclassman in 1979. Groome says he told Peterson about the rape three times but got no response until the report was issued last year.
Baerlein said in April that the board of trustees is standing by Peterson.
Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Mass.
“The running tally of what we know”
David Stettler hadn't even started his job as Fessenden's new headmaster in April 2011 when he cracked open a dark chapter in the school's history, one that his predecessor, Coffin, had confidently denied in 1977.
Faced with a legal demand from a man who said he was abused by Clarridge at the school in the 1970s, Stettler agreed to begin an investigation.
He learned that Fessenden had received another complaint in 2008 and had settled three claims in the 1990s, including one by the former student who told the Globe he was abused by four people at the school.
“The school leadership has come to the realization that this intolerable behavior in past decades may have been broader in scope than we once had reason to believe,'' Stettler wrote to the school community in October 2011.
Stettler felt he had set an example for how schools should confront past sexual abuse. But some recipients of his letter were startled and angry.
Sweeney, the alleged Clarridge victim from Newton, was furious that Stettler wrote — in an echo of Coffin — that at the time of the 1977 arrests, “there was no indication that Fessenden boys were abused or that any misconduct occurred on the School's campus.''
Today, Stettler says he has no doubt that Sweeney had indeed complained years before the arrests to Coffin, who died in 1981. Unfortunately, Stettler said, he didn't know that when he wrote the letter, because hardly anyone from that period still worked at the school.
Even if Stettler's letter was incomplete, it did have considerable effect: Twelve more former students, including Starr, Sweeney, and Hooper, contacted Fessenden to say they had also been abused. They named a total of five staffers.
Stettler said that deciding when to update the Fessenden community was challenging, in part because some alleged victims spoke to him in confidence, and partly because the number of allegations kept changing.
“Let's accept for the moment that a follow-up letter would be appropriate,'' he said. “When? Should it have been an annual letter? ‘Here's the running tally of what we know'? . . . Maybe there should have been.''
In the letter he did send to the community last Thursday, Stettler said the school had taken note of alumni criticism of Fessenden's leadership in the 1960s and 1970s and had recently removed Coffin's name from the ice rink.
David Wolowitz, a New Hampshire lawyer who has represented private schools facing sexual abuse allegations, said it's understandable that alleged victims want the fullest possible disclosure — and also that schools want to proceed with caution.
Officials often have no evidence to corroborate abuse alleged to have happened years earlier, and merely naming someone as an alleged abuser can destroy a reputation.
“Once the accused's name is published, the damage to that individual, to their career, to their livelihood, to their personal reputation, maybe to their family, is done,'' Wolowitz said.
Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H.
“Part of a healing process”
In April, Lawrence Jenkens called up the man he says molested him 43 years ago at Phillips Exeter Academy.
“Do you remember me?” Jenkens recalled saying as the conversation was secretly recorded by police in Greensboro, N.C., where he lives. “I stayed one night with you. I stayed there and you fondled me.”
Police declined to share the transcript of Jenkens's conversation with former Exeter admissions officer Arthur Peekel, but Jenkens remembered it vividly.
“Maybe one of us was dreaming,” Peekel then said, according to Jenkens and his wife, who was also listening to the call.
“I'm sure I wasn't dreaming.”
“Maybe I was dreaming,” Peekel responded.
Jenkens had been on an overnight campus visit in that fall of 1973, checking out the New Hampshire prep school. Peekel told the 14-year-old he had to sleep in his bedroom. There was a small cot set up next to Peekel's bed, so close that the edges almost touched. Then the lights went out. Peekel allegedly reached under the covers and fondled the boy; he then used the teenager's hand to stimulate himself.
The boy immediately confided in his mother about the alleged assault, and his uncle met with school leaders the next day.
Peekel told the Globe that school officials confronted him with the accusations several days later and he denied that anything had happened. He took a leave of absence in December 1973 and resigned the following year, according to Exeter officials. Peekel said in an interview that he left to take care of his sick mother in Illinois.
Jenkens, a college professor, shared his story on Facebook in March, one day after seeing some of his Exeter classmates speak out this year about teacher Rick Schubart's sexual misconduct. With some online sleuthing, Jenkens found that the man he says touched him that night had gone on to an illustrious career in education elsewhere. In 1991, Peekel was honored as the Illinois Teacher of the Year.
But by leaving New Hampshire for another state, Peekel also opened himself up to prosecution — the statute of limitations was suspended when he crossed the border.
That's what led the Exeter and Greensboro police to get involved, and what drew Jenkens to a small windowless conference room, accompanied by his wife and a police detective, where Jenkens talked to Peekel on the phone. The detective from time to time passed notes across the gray table about what to ask.
“It's important to me as I'm looking for closure that you say you're sorry for what happened,” Jenkens said.
“Absolutely, I'm sorry. I wish I could make it up to you,” Peekel replied, according to Jenkens's and his wife's recollection.
“Thank you for saying you're sorry,” Jenkens said.
Jenkens was shaking as he hung up the phone. He felt he was either about to vomit or burst into tears.
“He needs to have a public accounting for what he did,” Jenkens said.
Peekel, however, told the Globe that he apologized to Jenkens but not for any wrongdoing.
“I invited him and another student to stay with me. . . . I'm just sorry that I put him and another boy in a situation where they could have imagined something happened,” Peekel said.
The events of that night long ago at Exeter left an indelible mark on Jenkens's life. “I couldn't bear to be touched by other people, and it took me a decade to be able to be intimate with another human being. It has taken the better part of a lifetime to rebuild what was taken away so casually,” he wrote to classmates in Exeter's class of 1977 Facebook group.
Jenkens has in recent weeks received messages of support from dozens of classmates, including the woman who first alerted the Globe about Schubart's sexual misconduct.
“For me, it's part of a healing process that I wasn't aware I hadn't finished,” Jenkens said.
The network of alumni providing support to each other, like the group SGS for Healing, which has formed to advocate for St. George's alumni, has been key for many abuse survivors. Some, in the last few months, have told their families or gone to therapy for the first time. The group effort has also been important in pressuring the schools to take responsibility for past events that, for former students, have had lifelong implications.
“It never occurred to me that there would be a group of survivors of sexual abuse or that I would put myself in that place,” said Marshall, the St. George's student who was allegedly molested by the teacher Lydgate. “I want to stay in touch with others, and I also want to reinforce the public understanding that sexual abuse is not about the particular incident of sexual abuse. It's about what happens to people's lives.”
For all the investigations, some survivors feel there still needs to be a more comprehensive look at how independent schools operate.
“I wish there would be a deeper conversation about behavior, about culture, about signs of someone who is being abused and how to respond to that,” said Anne Scott, the St. George's alumna. “There's an important opportunity for independent schools right now. It is not about protecting the image. It's about using this as an opportunity to transform how we talk about and deal upfront with something that all these years we've buried.”
The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center provides support and resources around the clock at 1-800-841-8371 and www.barcc.org.
Lisa Tuite of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Videos by Anush Elbakyan, Taylor de Lench, Emily Zendt. Additional footage by Bret Hartman for the Boston Globe. Produced by Emily Zendt, Anush Elbakyan, and the Globe Spotlight team.
Contact us: The Spotlight Team would like to hear from readers with tips about this series. Confidential messages can be left at 617-929-7483. Email the team at email@example.com.
Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jenn Abelson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @jennabelson. Bella English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Todd Wallack can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @twallack.
Michigan Doctor Is Accused of Genital Cutting of 2 Girls
by Jacey Fortin
A Michigan doctor has been accused of performing genital cutting on two 7-year-old girls at a medical clinic, in a case that federal officials believe to be the first prosecution under a law banning the brutal practice.
The doctor, Jumana Nagarwala, 44, was arrested on Wednesday on charges that she performed the genital cutting at an unnamed medical clinic in Livonia, Mich.; transported minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity; and lied to federal agents.
According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court on Wednesday, Dr. Nagarwala performed the procedure on two girls from Minnesota who traveled to the clinic with their parents in February. The complaint also said that “multiple” other girls, including some from Michigan, may have been victimized between 2005 and 2007.
One of the girls told investigators that she thought she and the other girl had gone to the doctor because “our tummies hurt.” The other said the cutting procedure was so painful that she screamed and could barely walk afterward. She drew a picture of the room where the procedures were allegedly carried out, marking an “X” on the spot where she said she had bled on the examination table, according to the complaint.
“Dr. Nagarwala is alleged to have performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims,” Kenneth A. Blanco, an acting assistant attorney general with the Justice Department's criminal division, said in a statement on Thursday. “The Department of Justice is committed to stopping female genital mutilation in this country, and will use the full power of the law to ensure that no girls suffer such physical and emotional abuse.”
Dr. Nagarwala appeared in court on Thursday and was ordered held in jail until another hearing on Monday. The doctor's lawyer, Shannon M. Smith, could not be reached by phone for comment on Thursday. According to the complaint, Dr. Nagarwala said she had never performed genital cutting on any children.
Dr. Nagarwala, who practices emergency medicine at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, has been placed on administrative leave, said David Olejarz, a spokesman for the Henry Ford Health System.
“The alleged criminal activity did not occur at any Henry Ford facility,” he said in an email. “We would never support or condone anything related to this practice.”
Female genital cutting involves removing parts of the genitalia. The World Health Organization has documented the practice in 30 countries, most of them in Africa. The procedure, which is illegal in the United States, is typically performed on girls before they reach puberty and can lead to infections, childbirth complications or pain during urination or menstruation.
The World Health Organization estimates that worldwide, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of genital cutting. A study last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than a half million women and girls were affected by, or at risk of, genital cutting in the United States in 2012.
Genital cutting has been illegal in the United States since 1996, but that law was amended in 2013 to outlaw what is sometimes referred to as “vacation cutting,” or transporting a girl overseas to carry out the procedure.
The Michigan case is significant because it can help to raise awareness of an issue that often flies under the radar, said Shelby Quast of Equality Now , an international women's rights advocacy organization.
She said people who might see evidence of genital cutting, such as teachers and health care providers, are not always aware of obligations to report it. “We need better information about exactly where they are,” Ms. Quast said of practitioners of genital cutting. “We know that this is a child abuse issue, and we know that we need to start training our child protection folks better.”
Prout and Kuster pave way for more sexual assault survivors to come forward
by Alyssa Dandrea
Chessy Prout never wanted the fame and attention. She never sought the spotlight that only national television cameras can bring.
The young woman at the center of a high-profile rape case that rocked Concord felt helpless as the darkest corners of the Internet took control of her fate: Anonymous strangers were posting pictures of her, her family, her home.
Her name and pieces of her past were slipping from her grasp, and she knew it was time to go public.
She wanted other victims of sexual assault to understand that they, too, didn't have to hide in the shadows anymore, and let fear and shame keep them from speaking out.
In her first interview on NBC's Today show this past August, Prout reclaimed her identity and her life. The focus shifted from a teenage victim to a survivor's bravery. She had owned her truth, and pledged to take a traumatic personal experience and turn it into something positive.
Her healing journey brought her to the public stage, a place few victims of sexual violence ever go.
With the support of advocates in New Hampshire, Prout has joined a growing national movement to end sexual violence and help other survivors find their voices. Since launching her #IHaveTheRightTo campaign on social media in August, millions of survivors and supporters have responded.
U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster was among the first to do so, tweeting “Incredibly proud of Chessy Prout for bravely sharing her story & letting sexual assault survivors know they are not alone.”
Two months earlier, Kuster had stood behind the lectern on the House floor to tell the world about the sexual assaults she suffered as a young woman nearly 40 years earlier. What had motivated her to go public were the words of a woman whom the world had come to know as “Emily Doe.” The woman was sexually assaulted by Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, who in early 2016 was sentenced to just six months in jail. The court's decision sparked outrage.
“The message we hear and the message the court sent in Stanford is that we are not safe, we are not secure and we do not deserve to be free,” Kuster said from the House floor in June. “Free from sexual assault, free from rape, free from rude, crude, obnoxious, offensive assault on our body, our being, ourselves. We are all Emily Doe.”
Two months into her own awareness campaign, Kuster watched with admiration and respect when Prout bravely shed her anonymity. Kuster reached out to Prout to say she was impressed with “her eloquence and courage.”
That initial conversation laid the foundation for something bigger than maybe either of them realized at the time.
Just last week, Kuster and Prout stood beyond the steps of the U.S. Capitol to announce the launch of a new congressional task force to end sexual violence that includes representatives from both sides of the political aisle. The task force will focus on issues such as sexual assault education, campus safety, data collection and law enforcement training.
Kuster told reporters that public stigma surrounding sexual violence has fostered a culture of silence, and that “it's long past time we shatter that silence.”
The congresswoman and Prout will be among the panelists at the “Voices for Change” event planned for Monday night at University of New Hampshire Law School in Concord.
Together, they are helping reshape the public dialogue by speaking openly about a public health crises that for generations has been shrouded in secrecy. In doing so, they are paving the way for a growing number of men and women in New Hampshire – and nationally – to tell their stories and ask for help.
For those who choose to speak out, the reporting process can take many forms: One person may call a confidential hotline to speak with an advocate. Another may begin a conversation with police and decide not to go forward. Others choose to go public with their stories and attach their names. The Monitor will publish the stories of some of those survivors in the following days as part of a series called “Unsilenced.”
A victims' decision to report sexual abuse is not one they reach lightly, and can be complicated by a number of factors, especially if the perpetrator is known to them. Sometimes fear, sometimes the thought of sending someone to prison are enough to keep a victim quiet.
Not all who have experienced sexual violence are after justice in its most traditional form: a guilty verdict. For those who are, prosecutors are up front about the uphill battle ahead, and the real possibility that the case may never go before a jury.
“It's hard to get that rock solid evidence,” said Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo. “Sexual assault victims are subject to a level of scrutiny that is unlike what we see in any other crime.”
Prosecutors noted very few instances of people filing false reports of sexual assault in New Hampshire. Interviewers said they are trained to ask non-leading questions and to listen for certain details that can help them weigh the truthfulness of the claims.
One of the primary reasons sexual assault victims don't come forward is because they don't think anyone will believe them; instead, they fear they will be blamed for what happened. The average person is unlikely to ask a robbery victim, “Did you want it? Were you asking for it?” Whereas in sexual assault cases, those questions are an all-too-common reality for victims who disclose.
“It's the victim always placed on trial, never the defendant,” Assistant Merrimack County Attorney David Rotman said, noting that his or her credibility will come under attack by the defense.
Sexual violence is believed to be the most underreported crime, and it is almost always perpetrated in a secret place where there are no witnesses. In many cases, there is little, if any, physical or medical evidence, especially in situations of delayed disclosure. These factors make prosecuting sexual assault cases extremely challenging, but not impossible, prosecutors say.
“Every case is so unique,” Saffo said, “and while it would be great if we had a checklist to follow, that's just simply not the reality.”
Legal professionals, advocates and medical providers say that new strategies that promote frequent collaboration between and among their agencies has helped foster greater awareness and understanding of the victim experience.
Seven years ago, the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office launched a statewide initiative to develop and implement Sexual Assault Resource Teams (SARTs) in all 10 counties. The goal of the teams is to enhance the quality of the response and investigations in adult sexual assault cases, said SART Coordinator Kathleen Kimball, a retired detective/sergeant with a 23-year career in law enforcement.
So far, the program has launched 11 resource teams in eight counties, including in Grafton and Hillsborough counties, which each have more than one. The group is working on establishing teams in Carroll and Coos counties as soon as possible, Kimball said.
“There are some victims who just want somebody to listen to them and hear them. Personally, I don't think the criminal justice system always helps victims, so there has to be other ways to support them,” she said.
During her more than two decades in law enforcement, Kimball regularly heard police officers and prosecutors say, “It's not happening in my part of the state. We don't get those cases.” To which she would respond, “Yes, it's happening. People just aren't reporting.”
She said she believes the SART program is changing the reporting experience in a positive way, and making adults feel more comfortable about coming forward. For some, their stories are now being heard at child advocacy centers in the state, which have historically provided safe spaces for interviews with 3 to 17 year olds.
One of the organizations that benefits from the SART initiative is the New Hampshire Violence Against Women Campus Consortium, a statewide nonprofit agency whose mission is to provide a forum where post-secondary institutions can “discuss, develop, and implement strategies to end violence against women on their respective campuses.”
College Consortium Coordinator Kathryn Kiefer, who began her work as an advocate in college, said there is great value in connecting higher education professionals with community agencies, which can provide immediate access to resources in crisis situations.
“It's the difference between a person saying, ‘Here's a brochure with a crisis center number,' and a person saying, ‘I'm concerned about your well-being and safety, I'd like to get an advocate on the phone for you,' ” Kiefer said.
The decision to speak publicly about sexual assault or to remain anonymous is equally honored by advocates and mental health professionals. The choice to identify as a victim or as a survivor is individual, and isn't necessarily clearly defined.
“You never know how one person feels,” said Paula Kelley-Wall, the director of the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire. “Your personal journey should not be something that holds the weight of the world – and, yes, there are changemakers in this world who are going to go out and scream about what happened. They're really going to move into a form of survivorship that's different. Some people really stay in victimhood, and that's okay. Something traumatic happened to you, and however you deal with it is 100 percent your choice.”
For those who stay anonymous in their fight for justice, there is a safe place for them to leave their mark.
Dozens of brightly colored handprints that cover the walls of New Hampshire's advocacy centers serve as a silent reminder of how prevalent sexual abuse still is in society. The handprints help reaffirm for children – and, as of recently, some adults – that they are not alone.
Bivona reminds us to pay attention to child abuse
by Pam Sherman
Did you know that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month?
Is it because you can't keep up with all the causes that have a national month? Or is it because this month — the month of April showers and (hopefully) flowers — is all about possibilities and hopefulness, but child abuse is a subject that's just, well, hard.
Well, too bad.
It's time you paid attention to something that, according to statistics, happens every 10 seconds. Think about that for a moment. And how about knowing it's happening not just to other people's children, but to a child you may know. Would that make you pay attention?
If it was up to Mary Whittier, executive director of the Bivona Child Advocacy Center, we would all know what happens to children at every moment and we'd do whatever we could to pay attention and find ways to prevent child abuse.
She and other dedicated professionals in our community work tirelessly to educate, prevent and support children who are struggling with abuse. Last June I witnessed her give an impassioned TEDx talk on the lack of public awareness about how pervasive and insidious child abuse really is.
Mary is stepping down as executive director in June, but until then she continues to use her considerable skills and leadership to provide a voice to the voiceless.
I first met Mary when a friend asked me to attend the Bivona fundraiser, Open that Bottle Night, last year. Sitting in the audience, I was incredibly moved not just by the generosity of those in attendance but by the bravery of what was shared on stage. Angela Holahan, then a senior in high school, spoke with incredible grace about her abuse and how it shaped her childhood.
After holding up my paddle in support and recognition, I went home thinking I'd done my job. But then, the universe made me look deeper. I was asked by a client from California to help her share the story of her survival from childhood abuse in order to make a difference in her community.
For research, I contacted Mary and took a tour of the Bivona Center. The Center is one of 800 Child Advocacy Centers around the country and has grown in national recognition since its inception.
April 26–28, Bivona will host hundreds of professionals from all over the country at the ninth annual Child Abuse Summit. The keynote (open to the public) will be delivered by Sacha Pfeiffer, a member of the Boston Globe Spotlight Team. For more information, go to: www.bivonacac.org/bivona-summit/
Through Bivona and from working with my client, whose story is one not just of survival but of the work it takes to thrive after a childhood trauma, I've learned so much. I've learned the horrifying statistics of the prevalence of child abuse in our society, but I've also learned that there are compassionate adults in our community who are working to prevent child abuse and continually finding ways to make a difference.
I've learned not to shy away from listening to someone's story just because it's hard to hear a story of a child in peril, whether it occurred yesterday or 25 years ago.
I've learned we must pay attention to this issue not only to save those who are affected today, but to show our support for the emotional trauma that lives on in so many adults who were abused as children.
And most important, I've learned we must do all we can to pay attention not just in April but every month, every day, every 10 seconds, to prevent any child in our community from being abused.
Offspring Agency and Foundation Editorial Connect For National Child Abuse Prevention Month
Spots directed and edited by Austin boutique highlight the importance of awareness
by Lauren Bayne
Austin,TX--(SPW) -- Offspring Agency, an Austin based creative agency, recently partnered with post production studio Foundation Editorial to direct and edit for Dell Children's Child Abuse Resource and Education Programs (C.A.R.E) new campaign.
“We wanted to create a campaign that focuses on what to do when you recognize abuse and how to report it, making the community's role more visible while inspiring action on behalf of children", Lauren Bayne, Offspring's Founder and Creative Director remarked. "Having worked with Foundation previously on our SafeKids campaign, I knew Jason and his team would nail it as usual. His decision to bring a dramatic cinematography style to these spots was a brilliant way to set the mood and tone. I especially like working with Foundation because the work goes from the set, to post, with Jason's leadership the whole time, which is a value-add to the process because it streamlines any questions about shots we have, story structure, etc.”
Mary Alice Warner, Clinical Program Manager said, "Foundation Editorial and Offspring Agency helped the Dell Children's C.A.R.E. Program to create three PSAs for child abuse prevention, driving the viewer to report abuse to the Texas Abuse Hotline. With Jason and Lauren's amazing partnership, we were able to produce messages without frightening statistics and depressing images. We changed the emphasis from the problem to the solution, focusing on what to do when you recognize abuse and how to report it and made the community's role more visible to inspire action on behalf of children. Instead of stigmatizing child abuse, we concentrated on increasing awareness, engaging the community, and inspiring action for child abuse awareness and reporting. This was the CARE team's first time creating PSAs, and we couldn't have had a better experience."
“We worked hard with Offspring Agency and Foundation Editorial on our Safe Kids Austin campaign, to create a subtle and positive message focused on preventing unintentional childhood injuries." Said Stewart Williams, Injury Prevention Manager. "From this experience, it seemed a natural fit to connect the Dell Children's CARE Program to Offspring and Foundation to work on an intentional injury project. Together we were able to deliver a community call to action to put an end to child abuse. The intention was not to create a piece that would shock viewers, but rather communicate how vulnerable children are to abuse and how desperately they need the community to be a voice for them. Getting a community to respond and be a voice can have a significant impact on a child's future. Jason captures this positive result by creating an urgency for our community to act when they suspect abuse.”
“When I got the call from Lauren to work with on this project, I didn't have to think twice about it.” said Jason. “Working with Lauren is always a great experience for all of us at Foundation. To me, this campagin is not only meaningful and emotional, but personal on many levels. I can't imagine what they see and go through on a daily basis. Stewart and Mary Alice have always been so helpful and great clients to work with."
Dell Children's CARE (Child Abuse Resource and Education) Program exists specifically to ensure that the kids we see in our clinical settings are safe, healthy and not in abusive situations.
The CARE Program serves as the clinical consult service for child abuse at Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas. The CARE team provides medical and psychosocial assessments of children in whom abuse and/or neglect is suspected. The team evaluates for a broad spectrum of child maltreatment, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, medical child abuse and various types of neglect. The team's goals are to ensure that children are safe and healthy and that child maltreatment is identified and managed appropriately.
Founded in 2015 in Austin, Texas, Offspring partners with purpose-based brands who value the family demographic while creating original, creative content to help spread their message. http://www.offspring.agency
About FOUNDATION EDITORIAL CO.
Foundation is a full service boutique and a one-stop destination for direction, production and editing. The company's portfolio includes broadcast commercials, PSAs, digital media, documentaries and films. http://foundationedit.com
Report names 12 at Choate Rosemary Hall who allegedly abused students
by Joonathan Saltzman
A scathing report Thursday named a dozen former educators of Choate Rosemary Hall who allegedly sexually abused or assaulted students at the elite Connecticut boarding school since the 1960s, including a Spanish teacher who, witnesses said, forced a female student to engage in sex in a swimming pool while on a school trip in Costa Rica.
The report, by an investigator hired by the school, graphically recounts the experiences of 24 survivors of sexual misconduct and cites a consistent pattern: In almost all of the cases, school officials failed to report sexual misconduct to the authorities when the accusations first surfaced and quietly fired teachers or allowed them to resign.
The sexual misconduct ranged from intimate kissing to groping to sexual intercourse. It occurred from 1963 to 2010, according to a letter to members of the school community from Michael J. Carr, head of the Choate board, and Alex Curtis, headmaster. But the greatest number of reports concerned abuse in the 1980s.
In perhaps the most egregious allegation, the school failed to report the alleged 1999 assault by Jaime Rivera-Murillo, a teacher, on the 17-year-old student in Costa Rica. A male classmate of the girl allegedly tried to separate the teacher from the teen.
Rivera-Murillo was fired for “just cause'' shortly after the alleged incident, the report said, but went on to work at other schools. He resigned as principal of Wamogo Regional High School in Litchfield, Conn., last week, according to a lawyer for the public school. Choate had recently contacted the school district.
The teacher denied the allegations when interviewed by the Choate investigator. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.
“The detailed content of this report is devastating to read,” Choate's headmaster and the chairman of the Board of Trustees wrote in a letter accompanying the 50-page report to the school community. “One can only have the greatest sympathy and deepest concern for the survivors. The conduct of these adults violated the foundation of our community: the sacred trust between students and the adults charged with their care.”
The letter from Choate was the latest in a series of apologies by private schools in New England in recent months about educators' sexual abuse. Dozens of schools launched investigations in response to a Globe Spotlight Team series last year that found staff at more than 110 private schools in New England had faced allegations of sexual misconduct in the previous 25 years.
Eric MacLeish, who represents a 1992 Choate graduate with whom two teachers allegedly had sexual relationships, said no other private school has named so many teachers as abusers since he began representing former students who said they had been abused about 25 years ago.
“The number of people they've named is absolutely extraordinary,'' said MacLeish, a Cambridge attorney. “And it's a credit to them.” MacLeish said he met with the investigator and “was impressed that they wanted to do this the right way.”
Choate, in Wallingford, is one of the nation's most storied boarding schools, with alumni that include President John F. Kennedy, two-time presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson, and playwright Edward Albee.
Over the past seven months, Nancy Kestenbaum, a lawyer hired by Choate, has interviewed more than 100 individuals, including alumni, staff and trustees, and with her team reviewed more than 23,000 pages of documents.
Among the teachers named in the report:
John Joseph. A revered faculty member from 1944 to 1977, he taught Latin, Greek, etymology, and English and served as a housemaster. The Student Activities Center, a scholarship, and an endowed faculty chair were named for Joseph, who died in 1984. Since his death, three male graduates, from the classes of 1963, 1967, and 1970, reported to Choate that he had engaged in misconduct including fondling of a student's genitals and asking a student to masturbate him. Last year, amid growing concern about the allegations, Choate removed his name from the student center and from other honors.
William Maillet. A faculty member from 1961 to 1983, Maillet taught English, coached soccer and basketball, and served as a house adviser. He died in 2012. But Choate's headmaster in 1983 got Maillet to resign that year after another faculty member reported Maillet had made inappropriate advances toward the teacher's 12-year-old son. Nonetheless, Maillet obtained a letter from a Choate dean recommending him for a graduate fellowship at the University of South Florida “with enthusiasm.”
Frederic Lyman. An English teacher, house adviser, and coach at Choate from 1980 to 1982, he allegedly engaged in sexual relationships with two 16-year-old classmates who graduated in 1983. One of the two women told the investigator that her parents complained to the school, and this led to his resignation at the end of that school year. Her report was corroborated by contemporaneous journal entries she provided to the investigator. Lyman, through his lawyer, declined to speak to the investigator. A woman who identified herself as Lyman's wife in Concord, Mass., said he was not available and declined further comment.
Bjorn Runquist. A French teacher at Choate from 1981 to 1993, Runquist began a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old student before she graduated in 1992. The student, Cheyenne Montgomery, described the relationship in a Globe story last October.
Runquist, in an e-mail to the Globe last year, said that his relationship with her “was an extremely painful, utterly isolated event in my life.” School officials ultimately forced him to resign. But Choate acknowledged in the story that an administrator had written a recommendation letter for Runquist, who landed a job months later at another private school in Connecticut.
Kestenbaum, the investigator, also noted Montgomery's allegations that she had a sexual relationship with another Choate teacher after she turned 16.
The report's description of the alleged misconduct by Rivera-Murillo, the Spanish teacher, is particularly disturbing. A female alumna said that he forcibly engaged in anal sex with her in the swimming pool at a resort swimming pool in Costa Rica in 1999 — an account corroborated by three former classmates who said they had witnessed the episode.
One of her classmates tried to yank Rivera-Murillo off the girl, and the teacher “tried to take a swing at” him, said the report.
When Choate learned of the allegation, it sent the dean of students to Costa Rica less than 24 hours later. When Kestenbaum interviewed the former Choate teacher in March, he acknowledged drinking with the students that night but denied engaging in sexual misconduct, according to the report.
Christine Chinni, a lawyer for the public school district where Rivera-Murillo was employed until last week, told the Globe he served as principal of the Wamogo high school for less than a year and used only Rivera as his last name.
“He didn't list Choate as a former employer when he applied,'' Chinni said.
Since 1965, the report said, Connecticut has had a statute that requires the reporting of suspected child abuse or neglect to the Department of Children and Families. Teachers have been mandated reporters since 1967. Nonetheless, Choate did not make any reports to the DCF regarding adult sexual misconduct before 2010, when it relayed allegations about a teacher who had resigned that year, the report said.
In July and December 2016, Choate filed complaints with the DCF about incidents described in Thursday's report. But the agency said it was not accepting the reports, sometimes indicating the former student was no longer a minor.
As in the case with alumni from other New England private schools interviewed by the Globe in recent months, some Choate graduates told the investigator that they were flattered at the time by the attention they received from faculty or staff, but later recognized that they had been abused.
Many of the victims said they did not report the misconduct at the time, fearing they would not be believed.
Although the report names a dozen educators and advisers, it said that a number of other teachers were accused of misconduct but were not identified because of insufficient corroboration or because they were less serious offenses.
Choate has set up an independent therapy fund to help alumni who suffered sexual misconduct.
Read the full report here. (Warning: The report contains graphic details.)
Sexual Abuse at Choate Went On for Decades, School Acknowledges
by ELIZABETH A. HARRIS
Choate Rosemary Hall, in Wallingford, Conn., has acknowledged decades of abuse by at least 12 former faculty members. Jessica Hill for The New York Times
Choate Rosemary Hall, the elite Connecticut boarding school, said on Thursday that at least 12 former teachers had sexually molested — and, in at least one case, raped — students in a pattern of abuse dating to the 1960s.
The allegations in a report prepared by an investigator for the board of trustees include instances of “intimate kissing” and “intimate touching.”
The parents of a Choate student complained to the school in the early 1980s after their daughter contracted herpes from an English teacher. And in another case, the report describes a student's rape on a school trip to Costa Rica.
None of the teachers' actions were reported to the police. In some cases, teachers were allowed to resign after being confronted with evidence of misconduct, and administrators wrote letters of recommendations for teachers who were fired.
Choate, in Wallingford, Conn., is a blue-blooded school whose alumni include President John F. Kennedy and his brother Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. It is the latest in a string of prestigious private academies that have faced accusations of sexual abuse by faculty members, including St. George's School, in Rhode Island, and Horace Mann and Poly Prep in New York City.
“They are closed systems, especially residential private schools where kids are separated from their parents,” said Paul Mones, a lawyer who represents victims of sexual abuse. “It's not like a public school, with people coming in and out all the time. There are many more opportunities for teachers to do this.”
Choate said it had been compelled to examine this ugly history in 2013, after two alumni alerted the school to sexual misconduct they had experienced as students, the report said. In 2016, The Boston Globe published an article that described abuse at the school, and shortly thereafter, Choate announced that it had appointed an investigator from the law firm Covington & Burling.
In a letter to members of the school community that accompanied the report, Michael J. Carr, the chairman of the board of trustees, and Alex D. Curtis, the headmaster, apologized and thanked the victims who came forward.
“We hope that through this report, our community can address the issue of adult sexual misconduct in a frank and direct manner,” the letter said. “Throughout this self-examination, our goal has been to come together as a community to provide validation and support to those who suffered from abuse, to learn from the past.”
The report names 12 former faculty members who it says abused students, both male and female. In some cases, faculty members had sexual relationships with students for months, some of which continued after the students left the school.
In the Costa Rica episode, a Spanish teacher named Jaime Rivera-Murillo is said to have raped a 17-year-old student in a swimming pool after drinking heavily with a group of students. Another student came to the young woman's aid.
The next morning, students told the school's administration what had happened, and the dean of students went to Costa Rica to investigate. Mr. Rivera-Murillo was called back to the school and fired for “just cause,” but he went on to work at several other Connecticut schools, including as the principal of a high school in Litchfield County. He resigned from that post this month after the Choate investigator contacted him and the district superintendent.
According to the report, Mr. Rivera-Murillo said he had been drinking with the students but denied any sexual misconduct.
Of the 12 former faculty members identified, five are dead. The New York Times tried to contact the remaining seven on Thursday evening, but none responded. The report said that no current faculty members were implicated in abuse, and that investigators had received no reports of episodes relating to current students.
For years, the school kept allegations of sexual misconduct from getting out, according to the report. “Sexual misconduct matters were handled internally and quietly,” it said. “Even when a teacher was terminated or resigned in the middle of the school year because he or she had engaged in sexual misconduct with a student, the rest of the faculty was told little and sometimes nothing about the teacher's departure and, when told, was cautioned to say nothing about the situation if asked.”
Cheyenne Montgomery graduated from Choate in 1992, and as a student there, she said she was abused by two teachers. In a telephone interview, Ms. Montgomery described herself as an unusual Choate student because she had very little money. The Times does not usually identify victims of sexual assault by name, but Ms. Montgomery wanted to share her story publicly.
Angus Mairs, a math teacher, encouraged students to come to him for extra help, she recounted, and during her sophomore year, he suggested that she visit him to study.
“Conversations with him started getting more personal,” she said. “He started kind of sharing information about himself and digging into information about me, mostly about my father, and kind of through that, it developed into what felt to me like a boyfriend-girlfriend situation. And it became physical.”
Mr. Mairs left Choate at the end of the school year.
During Ms. Montgomery's senior year, she said, she was abused again, this time by a French teacher, Björn Runquist, whom she had told about the abuse she suffered at the hands of Mr. Mairs. Shortly after she graduated, Choate learned that the two had an inappropriate relationship, though the report says administrators were unaware that the relationship was sexual. The report said this prompted Mr. Runquist's exit from the school at the end of the academic year. He “then returned to the Kent School, where he had taught before joining the Choate faculty, and from which he retired in 2013.”
Ms. Montgomery recounted her experience in the 2016 Boston Globe article.
As recently as 2010, a longtime faculty member named Charles Timlin kissed a student and made inappropriate sexual comments to her, the report said. Edward Shanahan, the headmaster at the time, is quoted as saying that Mr. Timlin had been a “25-year faculty member, great teacher, great coach, great faculty member,” and Mr. Shanahan decided that the conduct did not warrant his dismissal.
Mr. Shanahan said Mr. Timlin could stay on at Choate if he saw a psychiatrist and moved out of the girls' dorm, where he worked as an adviser. He was also required to sign a letter of resignation, which could be used if any other accusations came to light or if the episode with the student “became more of a public matter.” In the fall of that year, the student's father contacted the school, after which the school informed the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and dismissed Mr. Timlin, though he was paid through the end of the academic year. Mr. Shanahan could not be reached for comment.
Ms. Montgomery described the release of the report as an important step but said there was much more work to be done.
“These things were really embedded in the culture, and not just at Choate,” she said. “A lot of progress has been made, but we can't feel like we've just tied this up into a tidy little gift and said, ‘It's in the past.' We're talking about the past because we have to deal with this in the present.”
Rape ruins lives, destroys relationship, and costs over $120,000
by Mark Rivera
(Video on site)
TAMPA — As part of Sexual Assault Awareness month, 10News is looking into the true cost of rape.
It can ruin lives and relationships. We now know the individual monetary cost. The National Institutes of Health estimates the cost over a lifetime for a rape victim at $122,461.
Today, Mark Rivera talks with Rena Romano, a rape survivor.
RIVERA: The National Institutes of Health just came out with the number of how much money it costs a victim of sexual assault over the course of their life. It's $122,461. And I was shocked by that.
ROMANO: There's a huge financial loss because there's loss of productivity once the crime is committed. Medical expenses, loss of work, maybe losing your job. People become addicted, so yeah. That can be a huge financial burden. Definitely. So, I think that number is probably low.
RIVERA: What happened?
ROMANO: Well, at first as a child, I am a survivor of child sexual abuse. It started at the age of four and went on for years. And then as a young adult, in my early 20s, I was working for a company and I was assaulted in my home, he broke in my home, by a colleague. And this is been many years ago, and I've done a lot of healing since then.
I didn't report it. I couldn't report it. And I couldn't go to my boss, because my boss was sexually harassing me, too. So, I lived with that. I lived with it, and I thought I would be blamed anyway, so I didn't report it.
And that's a huge thing for survivors, or victims, they don't want to report it because they think they're going to be blamed.
RIVERA: In a word, it's helplessness.
ROMANO: Absolutely helplessness, hopelessness, you feel like you are alone. You don't know who to turn to. One thing that I do regret, that I didn't tell, I didn't go to the authorities, and I didn't get help sooner. And I want to see other survivors don't take the path that I took because you can get help right away. And one thing – we have nothing to be ashamed of. And that was a huge "ah ha" moment for me one day. Unlike, I'm living in this deep dark secret of shame, and it's destroying my life. But why should I be ashamed of a crime that I didn't commit? That was a huge "ah ha" moment for me, and I want to share that with other survivors.
Sexual assault support services aren't nearly enough for survivors
Why am I treated as less important because the person who abused me is also a woman?
There has been much discussion in the news regarding sexual abuse and the way that lawyers (defence and the Crown), police and professionals-at-large treat victims. I have read and heard people wax poetic for better training, the end of victim blaming and the end of re-victimization by a system that is supposed to help survivors. If only they practiced what they demand of others.
I have a substantial history of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. I have had many good people (therapists, police, medical staff, social workers) help me along the way. I would be dead without their assistance. This last year, I summoned up enough courage to deal (in-depth) with a period in my life where, as a child, I was sexually abused. I was frightened (terrified, actually) but resolved to face my past. I had heard mixed reviews regarding local support services, but I had seen advocates on the news and was duly impressed by their compassion and authenticity. With hand to my heart, I went to meet a therapist.
This therapist specialized in art therapy. She seemed personable enough; super-friendly, super-energetic, super-positive. Things were going well until I identified the sex of my abuser. My perpetrator was female. I was sexually abused (as a child) by an adult female. The paedophile, MY paedophile, was female. It was downhill from there. The therapist became hostile, passive-aggressive and embarked on a bizarre series of petty humiliations. I was bullied and intimidated by her.
I do not know if she had encountered any other victims of female predators, but my testimony seemed to threaten her idealization of females. From her perspective, only men could prey on girls, women. Not so. Males can prey on males. Males can prey on females. Females can prey on females. Females can prey on males. This predation can be physical, mental or sexual and the ramifications for its victims (of either sex) is equally devastating, and equally destructive. No gender has a monopoly on being impacted by aggression.
The final straw occurred when I was discussing the stigma and shame of being sexually abused by a female. I mused that there was little to no coverage in the media about female predators. To paraphrase the response of my therapist: “Women have been oppressed by men for so long, once we”—feminist counsellors—“have dealt with the harm done to women by men, then we can deal with the harm done by women.” Wow. Heart/mind/body blow. One form of abuse takes precedence over another form? My pain, my grief, my sense of shame is to be subservient?
I complained to her supervisor about the lack of professionalism, maturity and integrity of the therapist. I told them that being forthright about childhood physical and sexual abuse at the hands of a female predator isn't a betrayal of feminism. I told them that the reason that females (and males) are loath to report being victimized by females is due to the very type of reaction that I received.
As for my future, I do not know what I will do. I feel uglier, smaller—expendable. As for the police, legal system, medical system, I have no problem with them. They have integrity. They have treated me well, and I thank them for doing so.
Animal control officers would be required to report child abuse under proposed bill
by Fox 47 News
A proposed bill would require all animal control officers to report suspected child abuse to Child Protective Services (CPS).
Representative Robert Kosowski (D-Westland) introduced the legislation.
Ingham County Animal Control Director John Dinon ias been in the animal control business for quite sometime. Dinon came from Ohio where reporting cases of possible child abuse is already part of the job.
While it may not be law in Michigan, it's a standard in Ingham County.
"We have very strong relationships with child protective services, adult protective services, and community mental health," said Dinon. "We want to know when they see animal cruelty and they want to know when we see family violence or mental health issues."
Responding to over 1,000 calls a year, on a monthly basis Dinon says animal control officers are in touch with CPS.
They often people that'll abuse their pets will often abuse family members as well.
"We can get into places sometimes child protective services can't get in," said Dinon. "If we get a complaint about animal cruelty, we investigate where they need to meet certain criteria."
"Usually we're the first ones to visit chaotic and disorganized households where there may be neglect or there may be deliberate abuse going on," said Dinon.
The bill would go into effect 90 days after it being signed into law.
Ingham County Animal Control is working on a program for those in abusive situations to provide a safe place for their pets as well.
Local educators trained to spot child abuse
by Meredith Shamburger
The teachers at Ned E. Williams Elementary School often are on the front lines of identifying children who might be abused or neglected at home, Principal Cynthia Wise said.
"Any child who walks through that door, you know, we're there to greet them, there'll be some adult there to greet you," Wise said. "You could have a scar on your head and we'd go 'Hi, good morning! What happened? Where'd you get that?' "
That's why those same teachers are trained to look for signs of child abuse and why they're legally required to report potential abuse, Wise said.
It's also a reason Longview ISD teamed with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, East Texas CASA, Buckner Child and Family Services and the Martin House Children's Advocacy Center to hold a remembrance ceremony and program Wednesday at Ned E. Williams as part of Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month.
The goal of Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month is to focus on ways to help children in abusive environments and to prevent abuse, and that mission was repeatedly talked about Wednesday by Longview ISD and county officials.
During the program, students sang and read a poem before helping to release two colors of balloons. Blue balloons represented all of the Gregg County children who have experienced abuse and neglect. White balloons were for children who have died as a result of abuse.
Between September 2015 and August, Gregg County had 1,078 investigations of child abuse or neglect, 532 confirmed victims, 135 removals and three deaths.
"For years, child abuse has been thought of as a private issue or something that's left to social workers and law enforcement," Wise said. "But we seek to engage all members of our communities, from churches to businesses to civic groups. It is everyone's responsibility to keep children safe. The more we can do to educate the community, the greater the probability we can reduce child abuse."
Longview ISD Superintendent James Wilcox called child abuse "a cancer on our society." Schools such as Ned E. Williams, he said, act as safe havens for abused and neglected children.
"They can come and be safe and understand the worth that they have and what they can do with their lives no matter what they're having to overcome away from school," he said. "They come here and they see hope and they see success and they see a future and they see an opportunity to move past what they may have been exposed to."
AP uncovers numerous sexual abuse allegations against UN peacekeepers
For years, the United Nations (U.N.) has grappled with incidents of sexual abuse during peacekeeping missions.
Earlier this year, a news release by the organization announced the creation of "a diverse High-Level Task Force...to develop as a matter of urgency a strategy to achieve visible and measurable improvements in the way the Organization prevents and responds to sexual exploitation and abuse."
A recent Associated Press, or AP, report highlights the extent of the problem. The news outlet uncovered 2,000 sexual abuse allegations made against U.N. peacekeepers over a period of 12 years. Hundreds involved children, and in a number of cases, those living in the impoverished nation of Haiti.
Sri Lankan peacekeepers are said to have established a sex ring there in 2004, notes the AP.
Between that year and 2007, an estimated 134 individuals from the Asian nation exchanged money or food for sex with children as young as 12 years old.
An internal U.N. report reviewed by the AP indicates that in connection to the ring, "114 [Sri Lankan] peacekeepers were sent home. None was ever imprisoned."
As the New York Times notes, "In cases of soldiers who are accused, the United Nations itself cannot investigate the allegations. That is up to the peacekeepers' home countries, which vary widely in their willingness to hold their troops accountable, and to inform the world body of the results of any inquiry."
While Haiti's cases are numerous and tragically grim, the nation is not the only one to describe excessive victimization at the hands of the United Nations' peacekeepers, nor is Sri Lanka the sole country implicated.
In another instance, the Washington Post reported in January of 2016 that peacekeepers said to hail from Gabon, Burundi, Morocco and France and stationed in the Central African Republic paid between 50 cents and $3 to have sex with girls barely in their teens.
Back in 2015, Ban Ki-moon, then U.N. Secretary-General, called the persistent sexual exploitation and abuse allegations a "cancer in our system."
What is child abuse?
by Katherine B. Wiens
When you think of vulnerable groups in our society, who do you think of? Children are one of the most vulnerable groups because they have no power when compared to adults. This lack of power means they have no ability defend themselves. Typically children are able to survive and thrive because of loving supportive adults in their life. However there are children that do not have adults who care for them. When this happens children are often abused and neglected and society must step in to protect them. But how do we know when a child is being harmed?
The Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers these guidelines for recognizing child abuse and neglect.
“Physical abuse is non-accidental physical injury (ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures or death) as a result of kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap, or other object), or otherwise harming a child. Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether the caregiver intended to hurt the child. Physical discipline, such as spanking or paddling, is not considered abuse as long as it is reasonable and causes no bodily injury to the child.”
“Sexual abuse includes activities by a parent or caregiver such as fondling a child's genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.”
“Emotional abuse is a pattern of behavior that impairs a child's emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance. Emotional abuse is often difficult to prove and is almost always present when other types of maltreatment are identified.”
“Neglect is the failure of a parent, guardian, or other caregiver to provide for a child's basic needs. Neglect may be physical, medical, educational, or emotional. Physical neglect is failure to provide necessary food or shelter, or lack of appropriate supervision. Medical neglect is failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment. Educational neglect is failure to educate a child or attend to special education needs”
We must rise up and defend children when they are trapped in these situations. Children do not have the ability to assess their own situation and need adults outside the suspect circumstances to evaluate and recommend appropriate changes.
Eau Claire County child abuse and neglect cases on the rise
by Emma Wheeler
Eau Claire (WQOW) - The Wisconsin Counties Association reports statewide, cases of child abuse and neglect have jumped by 30 percent since 2007. That trend is reflected in Eau Claire County.
While there has been an increase locally, staff with the Eau Claire County Department of Human Services said the real change they are seeing is the type of cases.
Staff said 80 percent of the cases, in which Child Protective Services intervene, are attributed to drug use. Around five years ago, that number hovered around 50 percent. The department said many of these cases are defined as child neglect, which is typically associated with drug use, which staff said can be extremely complex and can pose many more challenges when trying to resolve the situation.
"We talk about what we're seeing today...we're seeing something different. It is not the neglect, just of basic needs which is certainly incredibly concerning, but we're seeing neglect at a level of, parents or responsible adults not being able to function as a result of substance abuse, and contributing to the harm of the development by their behaviors of children," said Eau Claire Department of Human Services Director Diane Cable.
The department intervened in 438 screened in reports in 2016, compared to 391 the year before. There were 234 reports of neglect in 2016, up from 198 in 2015. Staff said the increased case load is stretching the department's resources thin.
Governor Walker has proposed a $5 million increase in 2018-2019's budget devoted to child services, and while the department said it would help, it's just the tip of the iceberg. They said the state is also seeing a shortage of people entering the field, requiring recruitment efforts at universities.
Human services staff said one thing the community can do to help is to know and support their neighbors and to reach out to those who need a helping hand because a small act of kindness can go a long way for those who are struggling.
6 Survivors Of Child Sexual Abuse Share How It's A Never Ending Nightmare
by Soniya Ahuja
Whenever, he comes to meet my parents, as he enters my house, I shiver with fear and want to run away. I turn into that little girl again.”
This is a real horror story of a 22-year-old female student at my university. She adds, “I am a healthy, single woman, happy and fun-loving. But every once in awhile, I have to face my abuser, and it's a traumatising experience, every single time.”
Facing the very relative who sexually abused you when you were a child, is an everyday reality for thousands of people. And it is astonishing how little it is talked about. A study by psychologists suggests that adults who had to go through sexual abuse in their childhood show symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anxiety and Depression.
What's The Deal With Child Sexual Abuse & Why Is It Still Not Discussed?
When it comes to child sexual abuse, it is very important to understand that there are three types of culprits:
Sexual abuse by an adult
Sexual abuse by a legal minor (a person less than 18 years of age but considerably older than the survivor)
Sexual abuse by a person of the same age as the survivor
By definition, child sexual abuse is “an act that involves mental, physical and emotional abuse of a child through overt and covert sexual acts, gestures and disposition – when informed consent or resistance by the child victim to such acts is not possible.”
However, the third category is usually dismissed as “young people experimenting with their sexuality”. The problem is that by definition, it's still a crime. “I remember when I was 12-year-old, I was playing in the locality with some kids my age when one of my playmates suggested that if I lose, I will have to let him put his hand up my shirt. It was only after growing up that I realised how wrong that was.
But was it a crime? I am unable to answer. Am I traumatised by it? No. But some people might be. How do you categorise such incidences? Was it abuse or not? The key here is to treat cases independently because every individual is different (Psychology 101).”
The first category is a pretty straightforward case of paedophilia. It is the second category which is a labyrinth social problems because the abuser is legally a minor. However, the act is still not innocuous because it physically and mentally affects the survivor.
Limited sex education and a mismatch between the age of consent and the age of puberty, makes this a difficult issue to talk in straight terms. A child reaches puberty between the age of 12-14 (generally) but he or she does not have the right over his or her body, or means to consent till the age of 18. Additionally, Indian society is sexually regressive and it makes these acts of child sexual abuse difficult to accept and confront.
These intertwined social and legal problems make child sexual abuse a very difficult subject to discuss. The survivors are not even sure whether what happened to them was an act of sexual abuse and what they feel about it.
Lokesh, a student, explains, “I don't know if it was abuse because I was 9 or 10 and my cousin was 15 or 16. He did some things to me. It was really weird but I was too young to understand then. Now, that we are grown up, we never talk about that, and it doesn't matter because we are not even close. It feels wrong but I guess he was also not sure of what he was doing. I don't know if it's right to blame him.”
Here I have to mention that these are not some official categories. I have concurred these categories to understand where a person draws the line when it comes to abuse. While in conversation, people said that they don't consider some acts they did with other kids of their own age as sexual abuse despite the fact that these acts were sexual in nature. The criteria of sexual abuse are very straightforward; it's any act that is sexual in nature without consent. But when it comes to abuse by other children, it gets messy.
I Was Too Young To Know I Was Abused
Neha, a university student shares her story:
“You can say that I did participate in my own sexual abuse because I was too young to know what I was doing. I was 11-years old and my cousin was 21-years old. At that time, I did whatever he asked me to do. It was only after I came to understand what is sex and that what I did with him was a sexual act, that it started to bother me. I can't share it with anyone because I am afraid people are going to say ‘but you participated in it, so it shouldn't bother you'. But it does (bother me).
Whenever my cousin visits I can't sit in the same room. I can't make an eye contact with him. I have been avoiding him for the last 10 years. One time, when he was in my house, I ran away and climbed a tree in the nearby park and sat there all evening, till dark. I don't know how to deal with this; facing a family member who has sexually abused you is like having a phobia. It makes me so anxious. That's all I can think about whenever I discuss anything related to sex. It affects my sexual life as an adult.
I know, I was not at fault but I am mortified that if I share it with my family, nobody is going to believe it and they will assume it was my fault. Because that's what happened in a conservative Indian family; the accusing finger of a man always finds a woman.”
According to psychologists the Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS), a disorder often present in adults who were sexually abused as children, frequently, display secrecy and avoid disclosures. The study indicates that the majority of abused children do not reveal abuse during childhood and have a hard time disclosing it as an adult. In India, the stigma attached to sexual assault makes it even more difficult people to come out to report the abuse, or seek help.
The Longer You Wait, The More Difficult It Becomes
Richa, a 27-year old PhD student, shared her story with us:
“It happened when I was seven, or eight. It has been two decades, and I don't even know if it's worth perusing confrontation in my case. I have moved on, and now remember the incident as a bad dream, and it is fading away. He is my maternal uncle and I have met him thousands of times since then. I haven't forgiven him and his company still makes me uncomfortable. I try not to be alone with him or any other of my uncles.
The only thing is that it has affected my relationship with my extended family. I don't like my uncles and I don't like their family. I do sometimes wonder if it happened to any of my cousins, but I am too afraid to talk to them. What if I am the only one? What if it has happened to all of us? Either of the possibilities is nerve racking.”
One In Three Rape Victims Are Children
There is a lack of awareness about child sexual abuse. It is a horrible reality that an incident is reported only when a child is raped, causing injury and by someone not in the family. When the sexual abuse is not forced, but rather is done by manipulating, or blackmailing the child, and does not cause a physical injury, or is done by someone in the family, it either goes unnoticed or is not reported due to the fear of bringing shame to the family.
A statement released by Louis-Georges Arsenault, UNICEF Representative to India, clearly establishes that children in India are facing child sexual abuse at such a young age.
“One in three rape victims is a child. More than 7,200 children including infants are raped every year; experts believe that many more cases go unreported. Given the stigma attached to rapes, especially when it comes to children, this is most likely only the tip of the iceberg,” Arsenault states.
There comes a time in the early years of puberty when a child realises what sex is. It is only then that he or she discovers that someone they loved and trusted has sexually abused them. It is an extremely stressful realisation and can bring up intense and myriad feelings like shock, rage, confusion, denial, disbelief, and guilt. The child gets overwhelmed with such strong feelings. An incident like that can affect a person their entire life.
But every mind is different and that is why everyone reacts differently. Some people move on, forget and forgive. It doesn't make it a less of a crime but it does make the life of these people much easier. However, there is a small section of people who are affected beyond repair.
Kiran, a 24-year-old sales executive working in Delhi, says, “I have no feelings or interest in sex. I can't trust a single person in this world, especially a man.” When Kiran was 14-years old, her father did something that she has never disclosed to anyone. She was one of those brave kids who did not keep it inside and she told her mother, who decided to move out of their house with her children. But no one in the entire family gave them refuge. Running out of money and without any support, they had to move back. It's been 10 years and she is still living with her father. They don't talk anymore. Kiran says she has lost interest in men, and relationships.
I Feel So Weak, Vulnerable And Scared, Even Today
Minal, a 22-year-old student, shares:
“I was abused by my father's cousin brother. Not only abused but harassed and bullied. It all started when I was 12 and lasted many years. He made fake accounts on social media and messaged me. He would call me from different numbers and say bad things. Even today when he is in my house, I feel so weak, vulnerable and scared. I am not myself. It is frustrating and infuriating. I am not a weak person. But when he is around I am not me; I am that 12-year-old and she is scared.
I have not been single in the last 10 years. I have dated three men, almost back to back. During the few months when I have not had a partner, I felt restless and lonely. I understand that women don't need men to be safe. I know women are stronger than men and that this dependence for security on men is so patriarchal but I can't help it. I don't like this but it's the only way I feel safe.
And the reason why I depend on a partner so much because I am the eldest child and I have no heart to tell my father about this.”
Even though all the above experiences were of women, an astonishingly high number of young boys get sexually abused in India. A study was conducted in 2007 by Ministry of Women and Child Development in India covering 13 states. The study reported that among the participants 57.3% boys and 42.7% girls reported being sexually abused as a child.
Unfortunately, I could only convince two men to talk to me about their experiences, and I believe it does affect our understanding of how adult men get affected by child sex abuse.
Manish, a 25-year-old UPSC aspirant studying in Delhi shares:
“I was very young and I don't remember much. He was my father's friend and our neighbour. He used to call me to his house, whenever he was alone. He used to give me a lot of chocolates and made my play his sick little games. This went on for a couple of years, a few times in a year. When I was 12 or 13 I realised that what he used to make me do was sexual in nature and I stopped going to his house. I felt disgusted and then forgot about it.
A few years back I watched Satyamev Jayate and became aware of the fact that it was a crime, and that I was abused. That uncle still lives in the same house and has grandchildren. I have seen him a few times. I don't feel anything about it. It was disgusting what he did but what is done is done. I just hope he doesn't do it with his grandchildren.
Sadly, there is no one to talk to about these things. I don't want to tell my family. Between friends, we don't talk about such things and I don't think so it will make any difference. But speaking about this here will help people to whom this bothers more than me.”
Child sexual abuse is a social injustice that is given the least attention in our society. Dealing with these reactions and helping your child recover from the abuse, requires time, strength, and support from your extended family, your community, and from professionals in law enforcement, child protection, and mental health services. It may be difficult but it is important to notify law enforcement if your child discloses sexual abuse. This is an important step in keeping children safe in our society. However, the most important thing is that this subject needs to be reiterated, discussed publically so that those who suffer silently for many, many years can overcome this trauma. Hopefully, someday more perpetrators will also be brought to justice.
If you are a survivor, parent or guardian who wants to seek help for child sexual abuse, or know someone who might, you can dial 1098 for CHILDLINE (a 24-hour national helpline) or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.
‘Engaging New Voices' theme of Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2017
by Kaija Swisher
NORTHERN HILLS — First observed in the United States in April 2001, Sexual Assault Awareness Month exists to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities on how to prevent it.
This year's theme, “Engaging New Voices,” reminds everyone that their voices can change the culture to prevent sexual violence, which includes a range of actions and behaviors such as rape, child sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and sexual harassment, which can happen to people of all ages, races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, abilities, professions, incomes, and ethnicities.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center describes that “Sexual violence is any type of unwanted sexual contact. This can include words and actions of a sexual nature against a person's will and without their consent. Consent is voluntary, mutual, and can be withdrawn at any time. Reasons someone might not consent include fear, age, illness, disability, and/or influence of alcohol or other drugs. A person may use force, threats, manipulation, or coercion to commit sexual violence. Anyone can experience sexual violence, including children, teens, adults, and elders. Those who sexually abuse can be acquaintances, family members, trusted individuals, or strangers.”
Mary Koens, executive director of the Victims of Violence Intervention Program, Inc., which operates the Artemis House, a shelter for those experiencing domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault, said that the organization is putting up facts about sexual violence on its Facebook page and fliers around the community throughout April.
“Education is important as there are so many myths about sexual assault,” she said, describing that awareness months are important to allow people to focus on one issue at a time. “At least for one month, we can focus on a subject that we may not want to think about.”
Koens said that people often ask, “Is there really a need for that here?” or “Don't they have family?” when hearing about the needs for local resources for victims of sexual assault.
“They are surprised that a majority of offenders are known to their victims,” Koens said, adding that rape can occur in marriage and in long-term relationships and that sexual violence is often committed by people the victims know well. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, from 2005-10, approximately 55 percent of rape or sexual assault victimizations occurred at or near the victim's home, with another 12 percent occurring at or near the home of a friend, relative, or acquaintance. In addition, 74 percent of adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well, with 21.1 percent victimized by a family member.
“… the entire family is affected by domestic violence,” Koens said. “Unfortunately, child sexual abuse is also part of the horror. At Artemis House, we appreciate our partners at CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), CPS (Child Protective Services), the schools, and the many great counselors in our area. The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners at Regional (hospitals) are well trained and passionate about their work. When a victim of sexual assault goes to the emergency room, they begin on the path to healing. They will have access to great health care, advocacy, and information to help them to decide if they want to report the crime to police.”
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center estimates that an estimated 63 percent of sexual assaults are never reported to the police, and this occurs for a variety of reasons, including concern about not being believed; fear of retribution from the attacker; shame or fear of being blamed; pressure from others not to tell; distrust of law enforcement; belief that there is not enough evidence; or desire to protect the attacker.
School Resource Officer Candi Birk of the Spearfish Police Department said that even if an adult victim is not ready to report the crime to law enforcement, it's important to take care of themselves by going to the hospital. Det. Sgt. Darin Pedneau of the Spearfish Police Department added that while adults are not required to report the crime to the police, he encouraged victims to have the evidence collected at the hospital so it is preserved on file, should a victim make the decision later to report the crime. No one can force a person to talk about something they aren't ready to talk about, and Birk added that it's important for victims to know they have people to whom they can reach out.
“Be the person someone can reach out to,” she said. “If you think something is going on, stay invested in that person's life. Be a resource for them; even if they're not ready to come full circle with it, be open and be available and be someone that they can depend on.”
“Pretending it didn't happen does not make it go away,” Koens added. “Healing begins with reaching out. If your loved one is a victim of sexual assault, you may also be affected. Speaking to an advocate or a professional counselor will give you the tools needed for healing.”
Victims of Violence Intervention Program, Inc., the police department, and other organizations partner to provide programs and presentations to university and public school students and the community to help spread awareness, such as the recent digital safety presentation at Spearfish High School. Birk said that there are many technological tools to provide additional safety, such as an app that will alert a group of people when someone gets home safely after a date — but that technology can also pose risks. She encouraged parents to educate themselves and not be afraid to look through their children's phones to be vigilant about what they're doing and with whom they are in communication.
Koens said teaching respect for all people is important toward creating a culture of empathy, respect, and equity. People should also strive to model supportive relationships and behaviors and speak up when they hear or see inappropriate or suspicious behavior.
Help is also available. Those in danger should call 911. The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline is available at 1-800-656-4673; the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available at 1-800-799-SAFE; and the Victims of Violence Intervention Program's toll free number is 1-800-999-2348, or 642-7825 locally.
For more information, visit www.nsvrc.org.
Thanks for 30 years of hope and healing
by Tracey Noe
In my years with Kankakee County Center Against Sexual Assault, I have been amazed, uplifted and deeply moved on countless occasions as I have watched the organization grow and spread roots into the hearts of our community.
Each day, I encounter someone whose life has been touched by our unique brand of hope and healing, and who is a testament to the deep faith our friends and neighbors have in our mission. Every day, I see evidence people continue to enthusiastically support KC-CASA as it expands and upholds the vision it has promoted for 30 years. Happy 30th anniversary, KC-CASA! We are more than a quarter of a century strong and growing in 2017. Our deepest thanks to all of you who are celebrating with us.
Back before John R. Tate and other concerned citizens formed the agency that now is KC-CASA, survivors of sexual assault had nowhere in the community to turn when they went to the ER, interacted with police, were called to court or wanted to receive emotional care for the toll the abuse took on their lives.
In 1987, Mr. Tate, a local community activist and police social worker, understood the need for services for the victims who were coming forward after a sexual assault. That initiative early on was started by volunteers and, later, carried on by a small staff that formed the foundation for what KC-CASA is today. After 30 years, KC-CASA has expanded to meet the needs of survivors and the community.
The agency has a 24-hour hotline answered by specially trained staff and volunteers, and provides support to victims that go through the hard ordeal of going to the emergency room and/or reporting to police. Our volunteers contributed more than 10,000 hours to our mission last year.
In the last year alone, KC-CASA has provided more than 3,300 hours of service in the areas of medical and legal advocacy, counseling and prevention education. Advocates provide support throughout each court case, many of which can cause years of pain and confusion for the victim. Individual and group counseling is provided to help child and adult victims and their families cope in the aftermath of sexual abuse. Along with the services provided in response to sexual abuse, KC-CASA has developed and provided prevention and educational programs in schools and for the community to prevent sexual abuse and create awareness about the issue.
Two other programs that KC-CASA has initiated in the community are Kankakee Iroquois Human Trafficking Task Force to address this growing problem and the continuation of our Sexual Assault Response Team program that is a partnership of agencies addressing the many roadblocks to justice in sex crime cases.
This collaborative approach to sexual violence helps meet the needs of victims/survivors and more effectively holds offenders accountable. One of the main functions of SART is to coordinate and optimize the criminal justice response to sexual assault in Kankakee and Iroquois counties. That goal makes core agencies and professionals essential to the team. The coordination of services provided by these disciplines can have a critical impact on the experience of a victim seeking help and the careful, thorough collection of evidence to build the strongest case possible.
In the coming year, we plan to celebrate the great strides of our organization, and to look forward to many years to come. KC-CASA remains an asset made of and supported by the members of our community. KC-CASA is a not-for-profit, which provides assistance in the recovery in the aftermath of sexual assault and works toward the elimination of sexual violence.
Be on the lookout for various announcements, projects, campaigns and public events to show our appreciation to our supporters and to extend our services to everyone in need. Please call us, anytime — 815-932-7273 — to see how you can get involved, or visit us online at kc-casa.org
Child abuse cases rose sharply in Minnesota last year
by MinnPost staff
This is bad news.
MPR reports: “Nearly 40,000 Minnesota children were suspected of being abused or neglected in 2016, 25 percent more than 2015, state officials said Tuesday in a worrisome report that also noted a huge jump in maltreatment investigations.
The data posted by the Minnesota Department of Human Services didn't explain the increases in detail but said the spike likely came from ‘increased awareness about child protection issues, changes in how reports are reviewed and a growing opioid crisis.'
Children in struggling families — those stressed by poverty, unemployment and addiction who lack social support — are particularly at risk, the department said.”
Search for Haitian boy rescues hundreds of children from human trafficking rings
by Kathryn May
(Video on site)
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — It was Super Bowl Sunday. Across America, people were having parties, eating hot wings and watching the big game.
Meanwhile, in Haiti, a group of Americans docked a yacht outside a small resort for what appeared to be a pre-game party on the beach. But their minds were not on football; they were on children.
Timothy Ballard and his team at Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), a nonprofit organization that fights human trafficking, worked undercover pretending to purchase young girls for sex. A Super Bowl party was the perfect disguise to lure in suspected human traffickers.
“They were so grotesque,” Ballard said, “talking about 10-year-old kids and what they were going to do; talking about them like they were selling computer parts.”
Ballard said the men sold him 20 minors as young as 11 years old and nine 18-year-olds — all of them trafficked for sex. “These kids were the subject of child pornography, videos that were being distributed outside of Haiti. Some of the kids had been branded as property,” he said.
When police arrived, they arrested nine men from three separate human trafficking rings and liberated 29 victims.
Ballard's team has been conducting missions like this in Haiti for more than three years. They originally went to the country looking for Gardy Mardy, an American born in St. George, Utah, who was kidnapped outside an LDS church building in Haiti shortly before his third birthday.
OUR's very first bust rescued 28 children from an illegal orphanage where kids were being sold. Ballard said he was humbled by Guesno Mardy's reaction when he told him his son was not found in that initial attempt. He remembers the father saying, “If I have to lose my son so that your team could come and rescue these 28, that is a burden I am willing to bear."
The search for Gardy led to more busts throughout Haiti and into the Dominican Republic. “We've rescued over 100 kids just on that island,” Ballard said, “and we're on that island because of Gardy.”
Guesno Mardy is now a regular volunteer on the OUR team, serving as an interpreter and a liaison with Haitian police, but his satisfaction is bittersweet. He runs an orphanage in Haiti where some of the victims rescued by OUR now reside.
"When I think about it, myself caring for other people's kids and knowing that my own child is at the hand of criminals, not being protected or loved, it is painful,” Guesno Mardy said. “But I understand it is part of my trial on this earth and I bear it."
Guesno Mardy and his family have shed a lot of tears over the last seven years. Gardy would be 10 years old now.
“I'm just hoping and praying that we'll find him alive, in whatever condition that might be at the moment. I'd be happy with that,” Guesno Mardy said.
With each bust OUR makes, Ballard remains optimistic they will find the first child they set out to save.
"We continue to look for Gardy. We'll never stop,” Ballard promised. “What we've realized is the more that we look for this little boy, the more time we spend on this island, the more kids we end up rescuing."
Since its inception a little over three years ago, OUR has rescued more than 600 victims in 15 different countries. Ballard said they've also helped police arrest about 280 traffickers and pedophiles.
Slew of sex offender bills heard in Nevada Senate committee
by Wesley Juhl
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard a number of bills dealing with sex crimes Tuesday afternoon.
State Sen. Patricia Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, presented a bill that would expand laws against sex trafficking to include “facilitators.”
Senate Bill 488 would make it a crime to facilitate sex trafficking or child porn by making travel arrangements, for example. The bill would also increase the minimum sentence for those convicted of sex trafficking and establish a Medicaid program for victims.
“In Nevada we don't have statutes that protect children who are exploited at this level,” Spearman said.
Clark County Deputy Public Defender Nadia Hojjat opposed the measure, which she called “overbroad and vague.”
“These provisions are ripe for constitutional challenge,” she said, adding that the law could ensnare adults engaged in consensual prostitution.
“The mere act of paying for a plane ticket makes a person a sex offender,” she said.
State Sen. Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, presented three bills adopted from the interim recommendations of the Legislative Committee on Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice:
Senate Bill 470 would allow Nevada schools to enter into a memorandum of understanding with juvenile probation officers in order to share information about the school attendance and grades of youths in the system.
Senate Bill 473 would “clean up” a state law against indecent exposure in front of a minor. The bill would exempt other minors from being charged under that statute.
Senate Bill 472 would change state law to exempt some juveniles convicted of sex crimes from having to register as a sex offender or appearing on public notification sites. Critics of the current law's juvenile provisions have argued that public notification disenfranchises juveniles who could be reformed.
The juvenile provisions were cut from a 2015 bill that was vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
The committee did not take action on these bills.
Eyes of the highways: Raising a 'trucker army' for trafficking fight
by Eoghan Macguire
There was a time when truck driver Kevin Kimmel knew little about the scourge of human trafficking. That all changed when he pulled into a gas station in New Kent County, Virginia, on the morning of January 6, 2015.
Kimmel recalls a quiet scene with few other people around. Yet a "kind of unusual" family recreational vehicle parked nearby caught his eye. "The thing that stuck out was that this was an old RV with black curtains which wasn't very family-ish," Kimmel says.
He watched as a man approached the RV and knocked before entering. Moments later, it began to rock back and forth. Kimmel then saw what he thought was a "minor female" appear from behind the curtain before abruptly disappearing.
He immediately pulled out his smartphone and looked up the contact details of the local sheriff. Police cars were soon on the scene, ushering away what Kimmel describes as "a female in really bad shape." A man and a woman in handcuffs soon followed.
Sex trafficking victim
Although Kimmel gave statements to the police and FBI, that was the last he would hear of the incident for months.
He later saw on the news that the woman he spotted was a 20-year-old sex trafficking victim. She had been lured away from her home in Iowa, held against her will and subjected to a gruesome ordeal of torture, sexual assault and forced prostitution.
Iowa couple Laura Sorenson and Aldair Hodza were subsequently sentenced to 40 and 42 years in prison respectively for the crime. At trial it was revealed that the pair had driven nails into the victim's feet, burned her with metal instruments heated up on the RVs stove and pimped her out at truck stops to men who answered ads online.
The victim was never named publicly and reports at the time stated that she struggled to talk about what happened to her.
Yet without the concern or quick thinking of Kimmel, she may never have been found.
Eyes of the highways
Truckers like Kimmel are increasingly seen as operating on the front line in the fight against human trafficking.
The crime is described by the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH) as "a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against his (or) her will."
Victims are often women and young children but men and boys are also trafficked. Potential incidences of trafficking have been reported in every state in America, according to NHTH hotline data, and the issue was recently described as an "epidemic" by President Donald Trump.
Those most at risk are usually individuals without strong social or family support networks. However, anyone can be targeted.
Kimmel, who still drives a truck and speaks about his experiences at anti-trafficking events around the country, says that truckers tend to spend a lot of time in the places that victims pass through given the transient nature of their job.
"[Traffickers] are constantly moving these people. They stay in the darkness. That's why they can't be anywhere too long," he explains. "But when you're moving them, then you come into my world. If we know the signs and are vigilant then we can make a big piece of this problem go away."
This is a point echoed by Kendis Paris of anti-trafficking charity Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT). Her organization seeks to educate truckers about what to look out for, how to report suspected incidences of trafficking and why it is important to do so.
While Paris explains the majority of sex trafficking offenses will be arranged online and take place in hotels and motels, pimps will also look to sell their victims in the likes of truckstops while in transit -- hence the importance of trucker diligence.
"At any given time in the United States there are more truckers out on the road than there are law enforcement officers," Paris says. She adds that her organization essentially wants to raise up "a transient army, a mobile army that can report these situations instead of having them take place under their noses."
Yet equipping that potentially huge force -- there are 3.5 million truckers operating across the country, according to the American Truckers Association -- with the tools to be effective in identifying trafficking is another matter.
"A lot of guys are not sure if they're really looking at prostitution or trafficking and they just need to be helped," Paris says.
That assistance may soon come in the shape of new state laws.
In recent weeks, a bill has been brought forward in the Texas senate that would make it compulsory for anyone looking to attain a commercial vehicle license to undergo a human trafficking awareness course. Legislation to this effect is also in the pipeline in Kansas and Arkansas, Paris states.
Ohio already requires prospective truck drivers who opt into any of its state regulated professional truck driver training programs to complete human trafficking training prior to receiving their Commercial Driver's License.
The Texas Senate bill was introduced by Senator Sylvia R. Garcia who became interested in the subject after discovering how much of an issue trafficking was on the roads between Houston and El Paso.
"Once truck drivers know what to do, there is an increase [the NHTH] gets in leads. This is leading to more cases being made," Garcia says. "I think any help that law enforcement gets in terms of tips that they can follow ... that's great for everybody."
Yet others say that such endeavors, while a positive step, can only go so far in addressing what is a complex and multifaceted problem.
Jamey Caruthers, an attorney with Houston nonprofit Children At Risk, recently told the Texas Tribune that there needs to be more done to help helping human trafficking victims.
Paris admits that truckers are "only one piece of the puzzle."
She adds that "law enforcement needs to be trained. Prosecutors need to make human trafficking cases a priority and actually prosecute these guys to the fullest extent of the law."
On top of this "our legislation needs to be stronger so that these guys don't just get a slap on the wrist and get right back out there ... and not just the traffickers but the buyers as well," she adds.
Kimmel acknowledges that truckers are often seen as potential customers for traffickers looking to pimp out their victims. But he says that's another reason why educating and changing attitudes is key.
"We need to get rid of this thought that they (prostitutes who approach truckers) are doing it because they are putting themselves through college or that was their choice" as that's seldom the case, Kimmel says.
"We need to inform truckers about what's really going on," he adds.
Interpersonal abuse in early life may affect cognitive skills
New York, April 11 (IANS) Experiencing interpersonal abuse before the age of 18 may affect the capacity to concentrate and stay focused during later life, a study has showed.
by IANS Feeds
New York, April 11 (IANS) Experiencing interpersonal abuse before the age of 18 may affect the capacity to concentrate and stay focused during later life, a study has showed.
Interpersonal abuse includes intimate partner abuse, adult survivors of child abuse, sexual assault, child abuse, bullying and elder abuse.
The findings, appearing in the journal Brain and Behavior, revealed that this failure to concentrate was associated with abnormal connectivity in the brain, between the amygdala — a core region for emotion — and frontal areas that help maintain focus.
The study offers a new perspective on the long-term impact of psychological trauma years, if not decades, after childhood, the researchers said.
“Trauma during one's youth may not just cause difficulties with emotions later in life but may also impact day-to-day functioning like driving, working, education and relationships due to brain changes that stem from the trauma,” said Michael Esterman, Assistant Professor at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).
For the study, the team compared two groups of young: One had a history of early life abuse, while the other did not.
Both groups performed a concentration test while their brain activity was measured.
The group that experienced trauma prior to 18 had worse concentration and abnormal communication between “emotional” regions (amygdala) and “attentional” regions of the brain (prefrontal cortex).
“Our results suggest that early psychological interventions could result in better cognitive abilities as an adult,” Esterman said.
Covenant Children's Report - Child Abuse Awareness Month
by Terri Furman
Lubbock, TX - The community has come together to spread awareness about the problem of abuse and the signs to look for.
In 2016 there were 1,033 confirmed cases of Child Abuse in Lubbock County. A number one Trauma nurse hopes to lower through education.
Belinda Waters explains where the Blue Ribbon campaign began. "A grandmother in 1989 had two grandchildren who suffered serious abuse at their parents hands. One of the grandchildren died and the other had critical injuries. So she tied a blue ribbon around her antenna so that people would ask what it was for. What does the blue stand for."
Waters tells us some clues to think about when it comes to abuse and neglect are bruising, not meeting milestones, and being afraid of a caregiver, and shaken baby syndrome. If you see any of these symptoms you need to report it. She tells us, "if it is a critical injury to take the child immediately to the Emergency Room or call 9-1-1. If the injuries are not critical call CPS or get online and then CPS has 48 hours to follow up, but that Police and CPS are who you want to contact."
The most vunerable victims are children ages six and under. Waters stresses that education can help prevent child abuse. She says, "to tell your friends and family and anyone you know. If you are stressed out you need help in caring for the child, you may think you don't need any help but you do. If you think there is a child at risk you just have to realize it is preventable."
If you see a child you are concerned is being abused or neglected you can contact CPS through their website www.txabusehotline.org or call the hotline number at 1-800-252-5400.
Prevent child abuse by learning safety precautions
by Andrea Williams
Emily Pollard was just 8 years old when she finally told her mother about the times her father would sneak into her room and crawl into bed with her. She says she often thought about hiding in her closet — that maybe he'd give up his search after a while and retire to his own bed, leaving her innocence intact even for just one night.
But at the risk of making an already traumatic situation even worse, Pollard never hid from her father. Instead she endured years of sexual abuse, years that Pollard now says “encapsulate her whole memory of her childhood.”
Then, while her mother was packing for a trip to Arkansas, Pollard walked into her bedroom and divulged her darkest secret. “The next thing you know, my dad is in the room, and (my mom's) asking him, ‘Is this true? Is this true?'” Pollard says. “He's crying, and we're all crying. And finally he says, ‘Yes.'”
Today, at age 23, Pollard calls her mom a hero — and not just because she believed Pollard and was willing to leave (and prosecute) her father, even though he was the family's only financial support. Pollard's mother sought support for her daughter through the Davis House Child Advocacy Center in Franklin. (Douglas Ray Pollard pled guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual battery. He served 8 years in prison and is now listed on the Tennessee Sexual Offender Registry.)
Like any child dealing with the heaviness of abuse, Pollard recalls being scared and confused when she first arrived at the Davis House. But she also recalls feeling safe and cared for. “One of the things I remember is that, after the interviews, I got to go in another room and pick out a stuffed animal to take home.”
Because of that experience, Pollard wants to make a difference in the lives of other young victims and is now pursuing a master's degree in counseling at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
Protecting the innocent
According to the 2015 Child Maltreatment Report published by the Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Sciences, there were about 683,000 victims of child abuse and/or neglect nationwide. That equates to a rate of 9.2 victims per 1,000 children, though the figure skyrockets to 24.2 per 1,000 for children age 1 or younger.
While organizations like the Davis House offer services to help children and their families to recover from abuse, the ultimate goal, says executive director Marcus Stamps, is to prevent it altogether.
Regarding sexual abuse, Stamps says that 80 percent of incidents occur during one-to-one interactions between an adult and a child. “So one of the prevention tips that anybody can do is to really be cautious — especially in child-serving organizations,” says Stamps. “For example, keep doors open, and have two adults with one child. When situations can be either observable or interruptible, you will greatly eliminate the ability for a perpetrator of abuse to commit their crime.”
Communication is also important, and parents, especially, should be vigilant about maintaining ongoing dialogue with their children. Stamps recommends discussing the differences between appropriate and inappropriate touching and also telling kids what to do and who to talk to if they've been placed in a situation that makes them uncomfortable.
Most importantly, says Stamps, parents must be open to the possibility that anyone could be a potential perpetrator. Ninety percent of sexual abuse victims are abused by someone they know.
“So the challenge is acknowledging that without putting your child in a bubble,” says Stamps. “What we try to tell people is that it's kind of like adults putting a seat belt on when they get in the car, or putting a helmet on your child when he's riding a bike. There are safety precautions that you can take that will put you in greater shape.”
Education is key
Kristen Rector, president and CEO of Nashville-based Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee (PCAT), says her organization takes a two-generational approach to abuse prevention by educating both parents and children in the area.
“Much like building a home, the architecture of the developing brain begins with laying the foundation, framing rooms and wiring the electrical system,” Rector says. “The quality of what happens early establishes either a sturdy or fragile foundation for all of development and behavior that follows. Every day, we work with parents to give their children the best start in life. … We are encouraging and coaching parents to build healthy, loving relationships with their children and break their own cycle of abuse and neglect.”
PCAT programs include in-home support visits for parents, two 24-hour helplines and advocacy and training initiatives aimed at parents, businesses and community leaders.
“When children grow up in a safe, stable environment with caregivers who nurture them, they are more likely to have a healthy, prosperous life,” adds Rector. “By giving every child the childhood they deserve, we are strengthening the fabric of our entire community.”
Child abuse consequences by the numbers
14 percent of men and 36 percent of women in prison in the United States were abused as children — about twice the frequency seen in the general population.
Victims of child abuse and/or neglect are about 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activity.
Abused children are 25 percent more likely to experience teen pregnancy.
About 30 percent of child abuse victims will later abuse their own children.
According to one study, about 80 percent of 21-year-olds who were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
The financial cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States is estimated at $585 billion.
Source: 2015 Child Maltreatment Report
PCAT's child abuse prevention programs
Healthy Families Tennessee: For young or first-time parents, covering topics including bonding with baby, healthy child development and child safety.
Nurturing Parenting: For parents with children ages 12 and younger, assisting with day-to-day issues and stressful situations, with an emphasis on fostering nurturing, protective adult behaviors.
For more information or to apply for in-home support, visit www.pcat.org/support-for-parents
The Tennessee Domestic Violence Hotline , 1-800-356-67670, the only 24/7 domestic violence hotline serving all of Tennessee, immediately connecting callers to crisis intervention specialists.
The Parent Helpline ,1-800-CHILDREN (1-800-244-53736): Counselors answer parenting questions and offer guidance on a wide-range of topics.
Parent Leadership Initiative: Trains parents to advocate for programs and policies that strengthen families and communities.
For more information, visit www.pcat.org/advocacy-education.
Montco Man Accused Of Abusing Kids With Shock Collars, Pliers
by Jim Melwert
LOWER PROVIDENCE Twp., Pa. (CBS) — A Montgomery County man is facing a long list of charges on allegations he beat and abused his children for years.
According to charging documents, 44-year-old Joseph Myhre, of Greensway Circle in Lower Providence Township, home schooled his two children.
In the documents, police said his 11-year-old daughter told them going back to when she was 4-or-5 years old, her father would hit her on the head with sticks or PVC pipes. He would strangle her and beat her head on the ground until she entered into a “dream state.” The girl said her father would squeeze her fingers with pliers, stick needles in her fingers and toes, and use a dog shock collar that she said would leave burn marks.
The 13-year-old son told investigators that Myhre would kick him the stomach, or hit him on his feet with a stick that would cause him to bleed. According to the documents, the boy also told police Myhre would put the dog shock collar on the back of his leg or on his stomach, then walk around the room acting normal while the boy was being shocked and yelling in pain.
According to charging documents, the children had wooden boxes for beds with a small opening and vents to let in air.
Investigators said an audio recording was found on a phone. The recording lasts 53 minutes. In it, the affidavit says a male voice can be heard calmly talking while children are screaming in pain. The male voice is quoted saying things like, “He doesn't care, he didn't give me a hug for 10 minutes,” and “You can blame your mom for this.”
The affidavit also says there were white boards in the living room of the home with messages described as “threatening and manipulative in nature.”
The child abuse allegations came to light after Myhre's wife was hospitalized with a broken skull. While investigating that case, police interviewed the children.
Investigators say when Myhre was questioned by police, he gave a written statement saying he grabbed his children by the neck and arms, and hit the children with sticks. The documents say he told police the children never cried or told him they were in pain. According to the affidavit, Myhre said he put vice grips on his daughter's fingers but only “playing around” to feel what it felt like to grip our fingers.
In addition to previous charges based on the allegations from his wife, Myhre is now facing twelve-counts of aggravated assault of a child less than 13, four-counts of unlawful restraint of a child, two counts of endangering welfare of children, and numerous misdemeanors.
He's in the county prison on 1-million dollars bail.
Opioid epidemic adds to child neglect cases
by Allie Morris
Every 19 hours on average, a baby was born exposed to drugs last year, according to state data.
As the opioid crisis continues to ravage New Hampshire, the Division for Children, Youth and Families has seen a surge in the number of babies born exposed to substances and the number of child maltreatment reports related to addiction.
Last year, substance abuse in a home was cited as a risk factor in more than 5,700 calls to DCYF intake – roughly one in five calls. Nearly 470 babies were born exposed to drugs last year, slightly lower than the 2015 number, but still far above the 367 cases in 2014, according to DCYF.
“We're really in a crisis situation,” said Marcia Sink, president of CASA of New Hampshire, which advocates for abused and neglected children during the court process. Eighty percent of the cases CASA now sees are impacted by substance abuse at some level, Sink said.
Children born addicted can experience their own symptoms of withdrawal.
“People addicted to drugs really want to be good parents, but once the drug takes over ... where the only thing they can focus on is using the drug, neglect starts to come in,” said Linda Douglas, a trauma-informed services specialist at the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
As the use of fentanyl has grown, so too has the number of drug-related deaths. The powerful painkiller was a factor in about three-quarters of the more than 434 overdose deaths last year, according to the state medical examiner's office.
While in the past DCYF had used safety plans to deal with substance abuse, telling parents to alternate days when they would use drugs, the agency now better understands how to deal with substance abuse, Sink said. A new law that took effect last year makes it easier for child protection workers to act on evidence that a parent is abusing opioids.
Early action, through either services or treatment, can save the state money and resources in the future, Douglas said. Studies show the estimated lifetime cost of a child who has been non-fatally abused or neglected can average $210,000.
“It's just not good for kids to be in these situations,” she said. “We need to provide supports for whole family, so hopefully kids can be with someone who can provide some of that care and resilience to them that they need.”
Fatal flaws – Part 2 of 4: Tracking N.H. child deaths linked to abuse or neglect
by Allie Morris
Four days after Katlin Paquette gave birth to a baby girl, child protection workers were among her first visitors. They came to the hospital to investigate whether her daughter, Sadee Willott, had been born exposed to drugs, agency records show.
Over the next 21 months, child protection met with Sadee's family 29 more times to check whether the blue-eyed toddler was being physically abused and neglected.
Every report was dismissed, except for the last – but by then it was far too late. When the ruling was made, Sadee had already been dead more than a year.
Paquette told police she was trying to get her daughter to sit down in the bath in September 2015, when she pushed her down, causing Sadee's head to smack against the cast-iron tub.
Sadee is one of at least 25 New Hampshire children whose deaths have been linked to abuse or neglect since 2010, records show. Most died before reaching their fourth birthdays, having been beaten, poisoned, smothered or neglected by parents or caregivers. In a troubling trend, the number of child deaths has risen steadily – from three in 2011 to 15 over the last two years.
At least eight children died under the watch of the Division for Children, Youth and Families, according to agency records obtained under a right-to-know request.
A Monitor analysis of these cases and interviews with experts reveal problems within the agency meant to keep children safe. Facing increased caseloads and high staff turnover, DCYF rarely substantiates reports of abuse or neglect, provides few prevention services to at-risk families, and occasionally doesn't follow its own investigation protocols.
Monitor analysis shows:
In 2014, only 4.7 percent of abuse reports in New Hampshire were found to have merit, far behind the national average of 19 percent and last in the country. That year, DCYF substantiated 652 reports, out of nearly 13,900, according to most recently available federal data.
Child protection workers at times failed to interview enough people about abuse and neglect allegations, potentially missing information about a child's safety or risk.
DCYF no longer has funding to pay for child care, counseling or drug treatment for families who want help – a major gap in coverage, experts say, because prevention services can keep kids safe and reduce stress on the system later on.
‘Trail of unfounded reports'
Sadee's case is not unique. Child protection workers often looked into multiple allegations of abuse or neglect in a home before a child died, but rarely substantiated the reports and took action.
DCYF investigated treatment of Christian N'Tapolis and his older brother four times before the 8-month-old Merrimack boy drowned unattended in a bathtub, records show. Agency workers looked into the care of 8-month-old Izik Davis-Miller two months before he died from fentanyl poisoning, after his mother's painkilling patch got stuck to his abdomen, according to DCYF records.
Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers declined to speak about specific cases, but he acknowledged the state's low substantiation rate and said the department is working to address it.
One major problem, stakeholders say, is that allegations can be true, but still labeled unfounded in the current system. Those could include cases where a parent admits to spanking a child or using marijuana, but DCYF determines the action doesn't meet the threshold to go to court.
While other states have a special label for those kinds of reports – acknowledging that something did happen – New Hampshire does not. Experts criticize the state's practice, saying any evidence of abuse or neglect should be reflected in a family's file so workers can look back and spot potential patterns.
“If the incident occurred, intentional or not ... the report ought to be founded,” expert reviewer Jerry Milner, with the Center for the Support of Families, said last December when the center released an outside review of the agency. “We're seeing fairly often a pattern of not only repeat reports, but a trail of unfounded reports, even if those incidents occurred.”
DCYF faces a difficult task: deciding which children are in such danger the agency should petition the court to remove them from their parents.
Experts say personal judgments should be minimized and decisions should be guided by a tool – a computer-based process that projects a child's risk based on factors such as adequate food and shelter, history of past reports or the presence of domestic violence and drugs.
DCYF has such a tool, but the results have little bearing on agency decisions, according to the outside review. DCYF took no action against parents in all four “very high”-risk cases surveyed by the review. Sometimes, the tool is not used at all.
Former DCYF workers said a supervisor or attorney's discretion can determine whether reports are brought before a judge or closed out.
“One person's interpretation of the law can be one way, and somebody else can look at it totally in a different light,” said Laurie Pelletier, who left the agency last October after working there more than 15 years.
Substantiation rates can vary across offices. Child protection workers in Coos County determined more than 15 percent of abuse and neglect reports in 2012 had merit, while those in Merrimack County substantiated just 5.1 percent, according to a Dartmouth College policy brief from 2014.
Meyers said there's a lack of common understanding about how child protection laws operate, which he said can be solved through better training for courts and DCYF staff.
Facing a staff shortage and a rising number of reports, DCYF doesn't always enforce its own protocols, leading to incomplete investigations that remain open far beyond the agency's deadline. Workers have 60 days to take action on a report or close it out.
Records show a DCYF investigation into the treatment of 2-year-old Noah York was still open on Day 62, which is when the agency got word the sandy-haired toddler had been brutally smothered by his mother's boyfriend.
While policy requires DCYF workers talk with the child victim, siblings, parents and at least two people outside the home, that doesn't always happen, records show.
Child protection workers never met with a North Country family at the center of a neglect report in May 2014 because the mother refused, agency records show. Weeks later, she dropped her infant twins out a second-story window and then jumped herself, landing on her son Barry McGuire, who later died of his injuries, according to prosecutors.
It's reports like those – assigned the agency's lowest priority level in its three-tier system – that face delays and less thorough investigation, records show.
Overwhelmed by rising caseloads, former workers recall having had to push off work on lower-level reports to deal with incoming high-priority ones, where children can be in immediate danger.
“When you have a Level 1, you say, ‘I must drop everything and see this child,' ” said Heather Raymond, a former DCYF worker who left the agency last year. “By having these tiers you emphasize the emergency of the Level 1 to such an extent that it's easy to then de-emphasize the level of 2s and 3s.”
Meyers said he has concern about the three-tier system and plans to look into why child protection workers don't have access to other tools that can aid in investigations.
Social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, are blocked on most DCYF computers, meaning workers can't look up a what a parent is posting about their children or home life online.
“There are appropriate uses for social media, and it is relevant to DCYF,” Meyers said. “It's an area that I am going to be following up on with the Department of Information and Technology.”
A search for help
For thousands of troubled families, assistance is out of reach.
Experts say prevention can save money and, more importantly, children's lives. But New Hampshire's Legislature eliminated funding for such voluntary services five years ago.
Now, only the most problematic parents that DCYF brings to court can get child care, counseling or drug treatment covered by the state. For the thousands with unfounded reports, DCYF can recommend services, but parents have to pay their own way. An agency referral doesn't bump someone to the top of a waiting list, so families may struggle for weeks before getting into an addiction program or mental health counseling.
“Prevention is such a high priority,” said John DeJoie, with Child and Family Services of New Hampshire. “If we don't find a way to offer services to these families that want help and need some help, they are just going to wind back up in the protection system, probably with more severe injuries.”
DCYF can't force parents with unfounded reports deemed unfounded to get help. Over the course of eight DCYF investigations deemed unfounded, Sadee's family was given a crib, referred to a parenting program and encouraged to have the toddler “followed regularly by a primary care physician,” records show.
One former DCYF worker frustrated by the lack of options said she would keep investigations open past the 60-day deadline to keep checking in on families, scheduling their doctor's appointments or helping them work through problems.
Becky Carpenter and Evan Thorsell-Cary were basically homeless, living in a single-bed motel room in Rochester, when one of their infant twin sons stopped breathing in May 2016.
The couple had been investigated by DCYF three times prior for neglect allegations, including “unstable housing.”
Though Carpenter said they did nothing wrong, their son Dennis died of sudden infant death syndrome, the couple reluctantly agreed to sign papers admitting to neglect. A finding was the only way they could get DCYF-funded services, she said, which ultimately helped them get off a waitlist and into a two-bedroom townhouse.
“We needed help and we wanted help,” she said. “We didn't know how else to get help.”
Dept of Justice
Garden Grove Man Who Traveled to Canada to Have Sex with Girl He Met Online Sentenced to over 7 Years in Federal Prison
SANTA ANA, California – A Garden Grove man who convinced a 13-year-old girl he met online to send him explicit videos – and then traveled to Canada to have sex with the victim – was ordered this afternoon to serve 87 months in federal prison.
Paul Binh Do, 30, was sentenced by United States District Judge David O. Carter.
Once he completes the prison term, Do will be on supervised release for the rest of his life.
Do pleaded guilty in May 2016 to one count of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and one count of receipt of child pornography.
According to documents filed in United States District Court, Do began an online relationship with the then-13-year-old girl in September 2013, and soon thereafter they began exchanging naked videos of themselves engaging in sexual conduct.
In May 2014, Do traveled to Canada from Orange County to celebrate the victim’s 14th birthday and have sex with her, but he was stopped by Canadian law enforcement as he attempted to enter into the country.
When he was stopped by Canadian authorities, Do possessed digital devices that contained naked videos of the victim. Following his arrest in Canada, Do obstructed justice when he contacted the victim and asked her to tell law enforcement that she had lied to Do about her age when, in fact, she had been completely truthful about being 13.
In a sentencing memorandum filed with the court, prosecutors noted that evidence gathered from Do’s digital devices “showed that defendant was having conversations of a sexual nature with five other individuals that had indicated that they were minor girls.”
In August 2016, after he pleaded guilty, Do’s bond was revoked and he was remanded into custody after he visited eight different Orange County parks on 12 different occasions in violation of the terms of his release. At the time, Do claimed that he was playing Pokemon Go when he went to the parks in July 2016.
The investigation into Do was conducted by the Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force, which includes special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The Task Force received substantial assistance from HSI’s attaché office in Vancouver, the Calgary Police Service, Canada Border Services Agency, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Southern Alberta Internet Child Exploitation Unit.
The case against Do was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Vib Mittal of the Santa Ana Branch Office.
FROM: Thom Mrozek, Spokesperson/Public Affairs Officer
United States Attorney’s Office, Central District of California (Los Angeles)
Child Abuse Prevention Month: How to protect Kentucky's children from abuse and neglect
by North Kentucky Tribune
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month; a time set aside to recognize our collective responsibility to prevent and confront all forms of child abuse and neglect across the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, according to the Kentucky Department of Community Based Services, the number of substantiated findings of child abuse and neglect in Kentucky rose 55 percent over a four-year period.
The blue ribbon is the international symbol of child abuse prevention. Started by a Virginia grandmother in 1989 whose simple act of tying a blue ribbon on the antenna of her car after her grandson's death has grown into a global effort to spread awareness of the impact that child abuse has on the entire community's well-being.
Family Nurturing Center is partnering with the Face It Movement to end child abuse and Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky to coordinate a community-wide effort to not only promote awareness of the issue of child abuse in Kentucky, but to also educate the public on the role that every adult must take to keep children safe.
“Children's well-being is an adult responsibility,” said Jane Herms, Executive Director for Family Nurturing Center. “Permanent cultural change in the way a community prevents and responds to child abuse occurs by educating adults and empowering individuals. Committing time and resources to do this is an investment in a better future.
“The U.S. spends more than $104 billion every year on law enforcement, health care, insurance, incarceration, mental health services, foster care and loss of productivity to society to address the needs of child abuse. That is why money invested in effected prevention and early intervention programs are so important and will result in future financial savings.”
For almost 40 years, Family Nurturing Center has been at the forefront providing child abuse education, prevention and treatment services to thousands of children and families in Northern Kentucky. Their mission is to end the cycle of child abuse by promoting individual well-being and healthy family relationships. Services are provided free of charge to children and families and include nurturing parenting programs, child abuse treatment counseling, groups for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, adult educational trainings through Stewards of Children, and elementary age puppet troupe Kids on the Block teaching child abuse and bullying prevention.
The Face It Movement, based out of Louisville was conceived and created in 2012 as a response to the public outcry against the increasing number of child abuse deaths in the Commonwealth. It was officially launched in April 2013 as an initiative led by Kosair Charities and has grown to be a statewide effort. Face It directly addresses the unacceptable incidences of child abuse and neglect in Kentucky with the promotion of best practices in child abuse prevention and intervention, engaging the community, and advocating for effective policies to improve the child welfare system.
“We at Face It understand that ending child abuse requires action by our leaders in Frankfort and thoughtful programming by nonprofits in each Kentucky community, like the Family Nurturing Center in Northern Kentucky. It also demands that every preacher, principal, policeman, and pediatrician, and every other citizen face it and end it. Ending child abuse is up to all of us,” said Jerry Ward, Chairman of the Board of Kosair Charities.
Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky is the Commonwealth's only statewide child abuse prevention organization based out of Lexington. Established in 1987 when the Kentucky Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America merged with Parent's Anonymous of Kentucky. Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky is recognized as the Kentucky affiliate of Prevent Child Abuse America and comprehensively develops and promotes effective strategies and programs, through community involvement, public education and advocacy. Efforts are centered on recognizing the inherent potential and goodness of children, strengthening families and empowering the community to become involved with the mission.
“Kentucky's kids need our attention and support year-round, but April is the perfect time to commit to prevention, if you haven't already done so,” said Jill Seyfred, Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky. “We have more than 150 partners throughout the state, each of whom is working to improve the lives of Kentucky's kids. The safety of our children begins at home, but parents and grandparents sometimes need a listening ear; and kids need a safety net. It's never too early…or too late to be involved in prevention efforts.”
In Kentucky, any person who knows or has “reasonable cause” to believe that a child is a victim of child abuse or neglect has a duty to make a report to the Child Abuse Reporting Hotline at 877-KY-SAFE1 or online at the KY Report abuse/neglect web site.
To learn more about Child Abuse Prevention Month activities taking place across Kentucky, visit:
What every adult can do to protect a child from abuse and neglect:
Learn the indicators of abuse and neglect.
Really listen to a child if they disclose a situation or person who is harming them.
Reach out to a family who is struggling and in need.
Talk to your child about abuse and go beyond “stranger danger.”
Report your suspicions of abuse and neglect.
Take a Stewards of Children training to learn how to prevent child sexual abuse.
Share this article with your social media circle of friends to let them know you care about protecting children.
$10M available to help prevent child abuse
by Marian Hetherly
New York State-approved Child Advocacy Centers have an additional $10 million to help protect children from sexual and physical abuse. The announcement of the two-year federal grant was made to coincide with the beginning of April: Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month.
Child Advocacy Centers were developed as a way of trying to better coordinate investigations and minimize trauma for child victims of crime. The centers bring together the parties dealing with the child, such as law enforcement and family court officials, identifying just one person to speak to the child while the others view.
“If you imagine a six-year-old child who's been through a traumatic event, having to sit in a police squad room answering questions or being in a District Attorney's office,” New York State Office of Victim Services Elizabeth Cronin said. “That can add to the child's fear and lack of feeling safe.”
The state office, which obtained the $10 million grant, said New York's 36 Child Advocacy Centers can apply for up to $75, 000 annually over two years to pay the salary and benefits of a forensic interviewer, as well as up to $50,000 to purchase and install video recording equipment used during interviews of young abuse victims.
Locally, this includes the Lee Gross Anthone Child Advocacy Center of Child and Adolescent Treatment Services (CATS), as well as the Child Advocacy Center of Niagara, a service of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.
Niagara Executive Director Ann Marie Tucker was excited to hear the funding news.
"Questioning a child about terrible events of abuse often perpetrated by someone who is close to them, someone that they know and trust, is a very challenging task," said Tucker. "So we want to make sure, both for the integrity of the case and also for the support of the child, that the people who conduct those interviews are trained to do them and are following recognized practice standards."
Tucker said her small, regional center opens about 250-300 cases annually. About 75 percent of those are for suspected sexual abuse. Others involve children who witness a violent act, cases of physical abuse or other maltreatment, including exposure to drug behavior.
"I've been doing this work for a very long time and we're just seeing very severe situations, where a number of children affected, sometimes severe injuries for children, even in worst-case scenarios, fatalities of children," she said. "So in my personal opinion, I think not only are seeing increases in the number of reports, but the severity of the situations that are the subjects of those reports are extreme."
However, there is not one factor contributing to the change, Tucker said. There is poverty and the breakdown of families without reliable caregivers. However, she believes drug abuse is increasingly the problem. More and more, she said, it is an overlapping factor in local child abuse cases.
Funding applications are due on May 12, with grants scheduled to be awarded in early summer.
Too Many Unreported Child-Abuse Cases in Illinois
by Veronica Carter
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and in Illinois, 125,000 children are the victims of abuse or neglect each year.
According to the Department of Children and Family Services, the problem could actually be worse, with as many as 100,000 abuse cases a year going unreported.
Veronica Resa, deputy director of the office of communications at DCFS, said in the last four years, the agency has received more than 1 million calls to its child abuse hotline. She said that means Illinois residents are making the socially responsible choice to keep kids safe, and get families the help they need before it's too late.
"Sometimes, these calls are referral to services,” Resa said. “But the first thing we do, hopefully within 24 hours, a social worker tries to reach that family or that family member that needs our help."
Child abuse is defined as mistreatment of a child under 18 by a parent or their romantic partner, an immediate relative or someone living in the child's home, a babysitter or daycare worker, or any person responsible for the child's welfare. That could include a healthcare provider, teacher, coach or youth program volunteer.
The Illinois Child Abuse Hotline number is 800-25-ABUSE.
It's estimated that 1-in-5 children will experience abuse before age 18. Resa said people shouldn't be afraid to report suspected abuse or neglect because it doesn't automatically mean a child will be taken from the home.
"What we're going to do is hopefully find them family services, help them stay united through supporting them, with things such as parenting classes or anger management classes,” she said. "We even have classes to help them with finances."
National Child Abuse Prevention Month events and awareness campaigns are being held across the state, including an art exhibit at the Thompson Center in Chicago, a pinwheel and blue ribbon display at the Governor's Mansion in Springfield, and the first-ever "Twitter Chat" of parenting advice on April 25.
Child abuse probes handled by the book, CYS head says
by Joe Pinchot
MERCER – It was just by chance that a good samaritan saw the little boy.
The caller had seen the neighborhood children playing outside before deciding to contact Mercer County Children and Youth Services on June 6, 2014.
They appeared to be normal, happy children.
But this time, they had a new playmate, a boy, a child whom the caller had not seen before.
The caller thought he might be about 5 — and described the boy as a “walking skeleton,” according to a report from the state Department of Human Services.
The boy was two days away from turning 8.
The caller said police had been called the previous day. Greenville-West Salem Township police confirmed the call and said a patrolman had gone to the home, but it appeared no one was there, the DHS report said.
Two CYS caseworkers returned to the Greenville address and knocked on the door. They could hear running footsteps inside, but no one came to the door. The caseworkers continued knocking, moving also to a side door. Still, no one answered.
When a caseworker announced police would be called, someone answered the door.
The caseworkers asked to see the children who lived in the home. Four came forward. Three appeared to be healthy, but one was “emaciated and sickly,” according to the report.
After talking with family members and doctors, a caseworker drove the child and his mother to a hospital, where the the boy weighed in at 25 pounds. He was transferred to a children's hospital, where he was diagnosed as “profusely undernourished.”
Dr. Jennifer Wolford of UPMC Children's Hospital Child Advocacy Center told police at the time, “The child was starved. (He) is the worst case of medical neglect that I have ever seen in my seven years as a pediatrician.”
Other doctors also expressed their shock at the child's condition, Dr. Wolford said.
“He was being starved in his own home around others of normal weight,” she said.
And his plight almost went undiscovered.
Had the caseworkers been unable to see the child — or if that caller had looked the other way — the case might have ended very differently, county officials said.
“The worker's persistence saved the child's life,” the DHS report concluded.
The boy started gaining weight immediately upon admission to the hospital.
“The most important medicine used to treat him at the hospital was food,” Dr. Wolford said. “He was within a month of having a major cardiac event that he probably would not have recovered from.”
According to the police report, the child was only given a shower as punishment and the water was ice cold. He was not permitted out of the house except onto the back porch, where he would find bugs and sometimes eat them.
“The only thing this child needed was to eat,” former District Attorney Robert G. Kochems said in March 2015.
The boy's mother, Mary Rader, then 28, initially faced multiple charges including criminal attempt of murder of the first degree, criminal attempt of murder of the third degree, aggravated assault, unlawful restraint of a minor where the offender is the victim's parent, false imprisonment of a minor where the offender is the victim's parent, endangering the welfare of children and criminal conspiracy.
His grandmother, Deana Beighley, then 48, and his step-grandfather, Dennis Beighley, then 59, who also lived in the home, were arrested and charged with nearly identical charges. Mercer County Common Pleas Judge Christopher St. John later dropped some of the charges against Dennis Beighley, and altered charges against Rader and Deana Beighley.
Kochems plea bargained the case. All three admitted to starving the child. Rader pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, a felony of the first degree, which normally carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, and was sentenced to 5.5 to 15 years in prison.
Deana Beighley pleaded guilty to aggravated assault as well, and was sentenced to 5 to 10 years in prison, followed by 10 years of probation.
Dennis Beighley pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child, a felony of the third degree, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years, and was sentenced to 22 months to 5 years.
The boy was put in foster care, and as of December 2014, he was no longer being treated and was put on customary one-year checkups with a doctor.
This is just one of the investigations that local children's services workers do on a daily basis in Mercer County.
Sometimes the calls pan out, and sometimes they don't, but those who make it their business to protect children from abuse and neglect take each case seriously, and each report as a potential chance to save a life.
But they cannot make decisions about guilt or innocence, or even whether a child should be removed from a home, on their own.
Investigations by county children's agencies are controlled by state laws including the Child Protective Services Act and the Juvenile Act, said Kathryn Gabriel, administrator of Mercer County Children and Youth Services.
“If it meets the criteria by law, it is registered with the state, and there are provisions in the law that tell us what to do,” Gabriel said.
The process changes only if a law or regulation changes, she said. That was the case with an update in the Child Protective Service Act following the Jerry Sandusky case. Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was convicted of child sexual abuse in 2012.
The update added to the list of professionals and others who are mandated to report suspected child abuse; expanded the definitions of child abuse and who is a perpetrator; clarified the background checks required for people who work with children; increased the responsibilities of schools in looking out for a child's welfare; changed the recordkeeping that gives the state and county agencies improved access to information; and gave county agencies the authority over student abuse cases, which had been the responsibility of schools.
“It was so needed,” Gabriel said of the updates, which went into effect in 2014 and 2015.
While Gabriel said her agency is not allowed to confirm or deny that an investigation has taken place in a case, information sometimes becomes available through a secondary source, such as a criminal prosecution or a civil custody case. She said the state also makes public on its website reports concerning the deaths of children, and instances in which a child comes close to death, that were investigated by county children's services agencies.
These reports, which are redacted to remove most names and other identifying information, outline the case and the local agency's response; name strengths and weaknesses of the agency's actions; and list recommendations for things the agency could do better, or things the agency did that could be considered a best practice and be emulated by other agencies.
In some instances, the agency finds that no abuse or neglect occurred, such as in cases where a child died of a natural cause. In others, the reports detail changes the agency made when a shortcoming was exposed.
In the Mercer County case of a 2-month-old boy who died of malnutrition and dehydration in 2009, state officials said there were “serious communication problems” between CYS and the local police department. CYS did not conduct proper investigations of earlier calls about this family and failed to follow through on the probe of the boy's death, the report said.
CYS was required to submit a corrective action plan, and it developed a protocol to improve communication and increased training sessions with medical professionals on their responsibilities as reporters of child abuse.
A 2015 case led to CYS increasing its investigations and case history reviews in instances where caregivers seek to return custody of children to parents.
The biggest challenges CYS faces are building transparency where case confidentiality is demanded, and relationships with law enforcement, prosecutors, schools, service providers and other agencies that can impact the life of a child, Gabriel said.
She said one of her main goals as director is education. She said she wants people to know how CYS works, and why it acts as it does.
“The only way we can keep kids safe is to bring awareness to child abuse and protection and request people to make a report if they suspect child abuse and neglect,” she said. “When people lose confidence in the system, it's the kids who suffer.”
Child abuse: A different and difficult crime
by Gene Blair
Since April is Child Abuse Prevention month, it's appropriate to talk about a subject that strains the resources of our society and tests the capabilities of law enforcement professionals and social services workers everywhere. Child abuse presents some unique challenges to the agency and investigator in our 21st century world.
Part of the challenge comes from the ambivalence we have toward issues that impact child abuse. Sexual frontiers continue to be pushed back, and behavior tolerated today was totally unacceptable a few years ago. Corporal punishment is always a hot topic, as parents and some schools still argue the case for their right to hit kids with something.
Neglect, the most common form of abuse, is still as common as ever. Teachers can tell you about emotional and verbal abuse they have witnessed in their students' parents, if you haven't seen it in the grocery store. Clearly, there continues to be a lack of agreement over just what constitutes abuse.
This diversity of views is also manifested in the ongoing abortion discussion. Somewhere between conception and a few minutes after birth, a child gets rights that are protected as an adult's rights would be. What is to be done with partial birth abortions and accidental births, where the pregnancy was terminated but the baby lives? Infanticide or the mother's rights?
As our culture becomes more tolerant of formerly aberrant behaviors by adults, and as more families become increasingly dysfunctional, child abuse remains very difficult to resolve. Children's Protective Services attracts a lot of attention when a caseworker or investigator makes the wrong call. Law enforcement does not always get the outcome it desires either. However, look at what both face that investigators elsewhere don't.
In child sexual abuse cases, accused adults are often in trusted positions, well-respected and credible, when they are accused by mere “kids.” These suspects seem to be solid citizens. Who should we believe? While most crime reports are initially accepted as factual, with child abuse everyone wants to believe it did not happen. So, the officer or CPS investigator must first establish that a crime did occur, as opposed to a car theft, where it is more obvious.
Child abuse is very often not a one-dimensional crime. There is an additional need to continue to protect the child. This is unlike a burglary, where the police department has no responsibility to safeguard the victim's home into the future. It's unlike the bank robbery, for the officer responding to the bank never says, “Don't worry, we will make sure this doesn't ever happen again.” Instead, even if you didn't break it, you bought it — the child must be protected.
Some assaultive crimes are random. Child abuse is not. The victims are always kids, often very young. That's a big reason why they are picked as victims. Their communication skills are limited; they may be nonverbal or preverbal. For the novice, getting a child to talk about their abuse can be as difficult as getting a statement from a blind person speaking Russian.
And the victim comes with a built-in credibility gap. You come out of the store to find a person driving away in your car. How would you like to be asked by the responding officer: Was your car really stolen? I'd like to believe you but ...” The child abuse victim has to prove his or her own credibility.
Just when you start to believe the child, you find that nonabusive situations may look like abuse. Over the years, inquirers have had to ask themselves questions like, “Are these bruises or Mongolian spots? Are these multiple abuse fractures or osteogenesis imperfecta? Are these infected cigarette burns or impetigo?”
At the same time, abuse may masquerade as an accident. The wrong diagnosis or a mistaken accusation can leave a victim in danger or ruin an adult's reputation forever. Fortunately, there are ways to distinguish abuse from apparent accident.
Then there is time pressure to act. Evidence may be fleeting, and the victim may be in continued jeopardy. Other victims may be in danger, as in sexual exploitation cases. This means quick decision-making about the child's welfare by the caseworker/investigator. We get to read about the ones they get wrong, not so much with the ones they get right.
Child abuse occurs in private. Rarely does an officer drive up on a child abuse in progress. Usually there are no witnesses, or the witnesses are intimidated kids. Victims may even try to hide evidence, and deny the crime occurred, thinking about their future survival. Contrast that with the likelihood of you telling the officer after you are held up and your ATM card taken, “Well, now that I think about it, maybe I wasn't robbed after all.”
Finally, the proper investigation and resolution of child abuse cases requires unusual teamwork by law enforcement, the district attorney's office, CPS, physicians, therapists, counselors, and sometimes other state and federal agencies, all of whom must cooperate and share information and authority in ways quite different from those working other crimes.
So how many of us would want to work under those trying circumstances? Not surprisingly, CPS says the turnover rate for investigative caseworkers runs at least 33 percent. And yet their work rivals anti-terrorism in importance, as child abuse rips at the very fabric of our society. Let's be thankful for the dedication of those who do not leave.
And let's be thankful for one more group, volunteers all, the Court-Appointed Special Advocates who serve Walker, San Jacinto and Trinity counties. Newly relocated above the First National Bank commercial motor bank on 10th Street, the CASA organization provides abused and neglected children removed from their homes with strong advocates who will guide them through the intricacies of the criminal justice and social services systems. Sometimes they represent the only adult friend the child may have.
Being a CASA volunteer is the most responsible volunteer job there is. If you would like to volunteer your time or your financial support, please contact CASA at (936) 291-6363 or visit the website at www.casaofwalkercounty.org.
Just remember, when it comes to preventing and resolving child abuse, it's easy to criticize. In truth, there's a way for every one of us to help these kids. What's yours?
Gene G. Blair has lived in Huntsville for 36 years. He is retired from the Criminal Justice Center at SHSU and the U.S. Army. He is a former advocate and is a Director on the Executive Board of CASA of Walker, San Jacinto and Trinity counties.
NSPCC welcomes damning new report into child sexual abuse in Bucks by the Buckinghamshire Safeguarding Children Board
by Shruti Sheth Trivedi
A children's charity has welcomed a damning new report which highlighted significant failings and “shockingly inadequate” attempts to tackle child sexual abuse across Buckinghamshire – including ignoring pleas for help from vulnerable young victims.
A serious case review into child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the county between 1998 and 2016 was carried out by the Buckinghamshire Safeguarding Children Board (BSCB), with victims, survivors and families, as well as agencies, speaking about their experiences.
It found that in the past, agencies were “not equipped” to provide “adequate” advice, information or support to young people and their families, while issues around the lack of help for ethnic minorities and concerns around taxi drivers were also highlighted.
The report went on to say that some young people who asked for help were “not heard”, and others were not believed, while some described being abused in care.
The NSPCC said it was “clear” that some vulnerable victims of CSE had been “let down” by “inadequate” services in the past.
A spokesman said: “Worrying gaps in the provision of services in Buckinghamshire have been improved over time and this review highlights the positive change that has been made.
“It is clear that some vulnerable young victims of child sexual exploitation have been let down by inadequate services in the past and it's now crucial that each of this review's recommendations are swiftly adopted.
“Child sexual exploitation is all too often a hidden crime and, increasingly, young people are being groomed by abusers on the internet, so parents and carers need to be vigilant about the relationships their child is forming on and offline.
“We all have a duty to look out for a child's welfare.”
If you are concerned about a child or young person, you can contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 500 1111.