From the FBI
The Scourge of Child Pornography
Working to Stop the Sexual Exploitation of Children
North Hills Man Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison for Producing Sexual Images of Minors. Melrose Man Sentenced to 60 Months for Child Pornography Offenses. Boylston Man Charged with Distributing Child Pornography. Navajo Man from Churchrock Pleads Guilty to Federal Child Sexual Abuse Charge. Vestal Man Pleads Guilty to Distributing and Receiving Child Pornography. Binghamton Man Pleads Guilty to 12 Counts of Distributing Child Pornography.
Rarely a week goes by in the United States that a child pornographer is not charged or sentenced for federal crimes related to the sexual exploitation of children. The press release headlines above from the Department of Justice were issued on a single day last month.
In coordination with local, state, federal, and international partners—both law enforcement and non-governmental organizations—the FBI devotes extensive resources to fighting the sexual exploitation of children. And while the high number of arrests and convictions speaks to law enforcement's successes, there is still much work to be done. According to a 2016 Department of Justice report to Congress, “The expansion of the Internet has led to an explosion in the market for child pornography.”
“After you've been doing this awhile, you think you've seen it all, and then you get a new case,” said Special Agent Eric Campbell, who investigates violent crimes against children in the FBI's Phoenix Division. “I am surprised by how often I am surprised at what people will do.”
Campbell points to one of his recent cases as an example. In February 2017, a 28-year-old Arizona woman was sentenced to more than five years in prison for mailing child pornography to her imprisoned husband. He was behind bars in Tucson awaiting trial on separate child pornography charges—for which he would eventually receive a 20-year sentence.
Some of the images the woman mailed her husband were of girls as young as 9 years old. “She was trying to sneak them into the prison,” Campbell said, “trying to give her husband what he wanted.”
The FBI coordinates its efforts to protect children through the Violent Crimes Against Children (VCAC) program. The mission is to lower the vulnerability of children to sexual exploitation, to provide a rapid and effective investigative response to such crimes, and to provide appropriate training and other resources to state and local law enforcement partners.
Investigations are conducted in each of the FBI's 56 field offices by Child Exploitation Task Forces, which combine Bureau resources with those of other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Nearly 400 law enforcement partner organizations participate in these task forces and are assisted by FBI intelligence analysts, victim specialists, and subject matter experts. The task forces also work closely with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).
In addition, because the Internet has blurred traditional notions of borders and jurisdiction, the FBI's legal attaché offices in more than 60 countries around the world coordinate with their foreign counterparts on investigations ranging from child sex trafficking to sex tourism.
Those who engage in the production and distribution of child pornography come from all walks of life and represent varied ages, races, occupations, and education levels. Typically, their crimes are carried out on the so-called dark web—where they can remain anonymous—and their actions are unknown to spouses, families, and associates.
“Most of these guys don't have any criminal history,” Campbell said, “and no one has any idea of what they were doing until we catch them.” The agent said that the work he and his colleagues do is important, but also emotionally wrenching. “The payoff,” he explained, “is that you are able to uncover these perpetrators and shine a light on them, and do everything possible to make sure they are no longer able to victimize innocent children.”
“After you've been doing this awhile, you think you've seen it all, and then you get a new case.”
Eric Campbell, special agent, FBI Phoenix
Shining a Light on Child Pornography
The producers and consumers of child pornography operate in the shadows, and anonymous Internet networks such as Tor often allow them to carry out their illicit activities without fear of being unmasked and caught. Below is a glimpse of the enormity of the problem (compiled in a 2016 report to Congress by the Department of Justice called The National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction:
The FBI's analysis of one particularly egregious website on Tor found that it hosted approximately 1.3 million images depicting children subjected to violent sexual abuse. Analysis of these specific files identified at least 73 new victims previously unknown to law enforcement.
NCMEC estimated that more than 26 million sexual abuse images and videos were reviewed by their analysts in 2015. Additionally, NCMEC reported that since 2002, more than 10,500 victims depicted in child pornography have been located and identified by law enforcement. According to NCMEC, 4.4 million CyberTipline reports were submitted in 2015.
Between 2011 and 2014, researchers from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst looked at five of the most common peer to peer (P2P) networks used to trade child pornography. They estimated that three in 10,000 Internet users on these five P2P networks worldwide were sharing known child pornography in a given month. They also estimated there were 840,000 worldwide unique installations per month of P2P programs sharing child pornography, thus indicating a significant volume of new devices trading confirmed child pornography that connected to at least one of the P2P networks analyzed for the first time.
An FBI investigation of a single website hosted on Tor had approximately 200,000 registered users and 100,000 individuals had accessed the site during a 12-day period.
Utahns make 'Promise to 'Protect kids from child sex abuse
by Sandra Olney
SALT LAKE CITY — If you have kids, it might be the most important 30 minutes you spend on your computer. More and more Utah families are making a "Promise to Protect" their kids from child sex abuse.
Inside her family's home in Alpine, Utah, the reigning Mrs. Utah, Rachelle Rutherford, is chatting with her two youngest daughters. She asks, "What's the new thing you learned?"
Four-year-old Aubri is quick to answer, "My body, my rules."
Mom agrees, saying, "Yes, that's one of the important things that we've talked about."
There's been a lot of talk in the Rutherfords' home lately about the touchy subject of child sex abuse. Rachelle Rutherford was a victim of abuse as a young girl. But when she turned to a trusted adult for help, her family shunned her.
It was a painful and lonely period in Rutherford's life. "I had to, I guess, find my own way and I had to work through my own healing process over many years," she says.
KSL typically does not name victims of child sexual abuse. However, the Rutherford family openly talks about it as part of their work to bring attention to the issue and encourage more educational programs and training.
Part of Rutherford's journey to a place of healing has been her work to make sure teachers, kids and parents know how to spot and answer a call for help.
"Our first response always needs to be to listen to the child, to always report it and to take action," Rutherford says.
Gwen Knight is the School Services and Community Outreach Program administrator at Prevent Child Abuse Utah (PCAU). "We can't just keep burying our heads in the sand and not empower our children to know how to protect themselves," Knight says.
Rutherford has teamed up with Knight and others at PCAU to raise awareness of the agency's in-person and online programs, which stress education as the key to prevention.
So far, PCAU's report card is earning high grades for the agency's efforts. In Utah, 30,000 teachers and other school personnel and 60,000 students have trained in how to recognize, resist and report child sex abuse.
This school year, encouraged by PCAU's "Promise to Protect" program, hundreds more Utahns, many of them parents and community members who work with kids, are going online to learn more about this difficult topic.
Scott Rutherford, Rachelle's husband, goes online to show us how easy it is to find the PCAUtah.org page and the icon to click on to take the "Promise to Protect" course.
The couple completed the online training at home in about 30 minutes. And now they know what their kids have been learning about the topic at school.
Rachelle Rutherford says, "This is not sex education. It is having children receive age-appropriate training on what to do and then creating a safety plan."
It is a plan that empowers children to say "No, and stop," and finally to "go tell" three trusted adults what happened.
Eight-year-old Eva Rutherford says she "would tell Mom, Dad, a teacher or her older brother."
The Rutherfords' eldest son, Grant, was a victim of child sex abuse at age 5. It took him almost three years to reveal the incident to his parents, and they acted immediately to ensure his safety and work on his recovery.
"It's taken us several years of working with our son, and now he's able to talk about child sex abuse without shame, without fear, without worry because he knows it was not his fault," says Rachelle Rutherford.
It's never a child's fault, yet they will often suffer the long-term psychological effects of being a victim, including drug abuse and suicide. These are critical issues that the state of Utah spends upwards of $1 billion a year treating and working to prevent.
However, Knight says those aren't the costs they are most worried about at PCAU. "We're most concerned with the cost to the human spirit and the human soul of these young victims."
Earlier this week as part of the observation of National Child Abuse Prevention Month in Utah, 17-year-old Grant Rutherford was honored for being a young leader in the fight against child sex abuse.
Grant's senior thesis paper, titled "And There Was Light," focuses on life after abuse, why this is still such a challenging problem and the importance of education going forward.
You can prevent abuse
A church that keeps children safe meets three essential standards
by Anna Groff
For many of us, church feels good and safe. We were loved there as children and respected there as adults. In fact, we often describe our churches as “families” or caring communities where all are accepted. We trust one another and feel confident that others want the best for us and our families.
But for some of us, church was not only unsafe, it was destructive. Abuse by a church leader or an adult in the church community impacts us forever and can drastically change how a victim/survivor understands God.
We know one in six boys will experience some form of sexual abuse and one in four girls. While this abuse hasn't necessarily occurred in church settings, we can consider how much of our lives and our children's lives are connected to church and church institutions like schools, camps and more.
No church is immune to an abuse crisis. And if we're not a part of the solution, we may be part of the problem.
The clear majority of victims/ survivors know their offender as a family member or friend of the family. This gives new meaning to the “we're like family” description. We don't need to start distrusting everyone, but we should acknowledge that the higher the trust, the higher the risk that an offender may exploit our trust. “Stranger danger” is a myth.
Without diminishing the gifts that church offers for people of all ages, it is important to create healthy boundaries so that churches can be safe spaces for everyone, especially children.
We can prevent abuse and learn how to respond well after a crisis. Your church can act now to keep kids safe tomorrow. Here are three main steps to becoming a safe church:
Create and implement a policy. A child-protection policy communicates to everyone that children are valued, and it serves as a reminder that adults are responsible for keeping children safe. Avoid working on this alone. Share the load with a safe church committee made up of men and women — and perhaps a known survivor who is open to participating. Remember victims/survivors do exist in your church and can help lead the way in creating a culture of safety. In your policy, consider facility safety, supervision of children and the two-adult rule, screening and background checks for volunteers, social media/communication guidelines, transportation challenges and the risks and benefits of mentoring programs.
Have regular training for adults and children. While we can teach and empower children to say no or to talk to their parents when they feel unsafe, we can't expect them to prevent grooming and abuse on their own. This is up to the adults, and many adults need information and training to enable them to aid in these efforts. Ideally, your policy would require annual trainings for volunteers and staff working with children, but including all adults has many benefits. Bringing in local resource people from your community for these trainings helps build awareness and partnerships. Dove's Nest Speaker's Bureau provides these trainings.
While sexual abuse is the most common form of abuse in church settings, also teach about the other types of abuse — physical, emotional and neglect. Make it a goal to use Circle of Grace, a Christian safe-environment curriculum. Remember that some adolescents also commit sexual violence against their peers or younger children. Christian education can support a culture of safety. Also, be wary of using youth to care for children unsupervised.
Talk about boundaries and appropriate touch. Part of the work of a safe church committee is to create an atmosphere where all bodies are respected. Allow children to initiate affection, and teach adults that affectionate touch is best when observable and interruptible. Adults should feel free to decline hugs or other kinds of touch. If a youth says he or she feels uncomfortable with someone, take him or her seriously. Whether a touch is good, bad or confusing is determined by the receiver's experience of the touch, not by the intentions of the person doing the touching. The pulpit and Sunday school classes offer places for abuse to be named and to lift up children.
Dealing with pushback
Keeping children safe seems like something everyone would easily agree about, but don't be surprised when people question some parts of the policy or the renewed emphasis on safety. Unfortunately, many of us doubt stories of abuse or find ourselves skeptical of victims/ survivors. So be prepared for pushback. Address cynicism directly and with care.
For example, someone might say, “We don't want to scare people away from interacting with children.” The first thing is to educate adults in your trainings about what grooming is and is not. Grooming is not general friendliness to children. Grooming is finding ways to be alone with a child or showing one child special attention with the intention to sexually harm him or her.
Encourage adults to talk to children and youth. Many youth want to be heard and to have genuine conversations with adults at their church. Affection and kindness can safely happen in public and be interruptible — and still be meaningful to children and youth.
If a child/youth discloses abuse to you or you suspect abuse, believe him or her and make a report immediately to Child Protective Services or the police. You don't have to have evidence or proof. Do not do the investigation yourself — or anything that resembles that. Cooperate with professionals who conduct the investigation.
After reporting, notify the pastor and/or child protection team.
Immediately attend to the victim and his or her family's safety and needs through church leadership and an outside agency, like a child advocacy center. Keep the victim's needs at the center of any process.
Immediately relieve the alleged offender from all responsibilities involving contact with children until the conclusion of the investigation.
Consider the likelihood that there is more than one individual harmed.
Within 48 hours, notify all parents whose children may have encountered the alleged offender. Let them know that allegations have been made and reported.
Keep victims and offenders separated during the investigation. Support child victims in engaging in age-appropriate activities.
Inform area conference leadership or the equivalent.
After the investigation, follow all legal implications for the offender. Inform the entire church. Secrecy not only makes children unsafe, it also does not help offenders.
Even if the abuse is not confirmed, attend to the dynamics that prompted the allegations and consider the degree to which victims and offenders need to remain separated.
Make pastoral care available to all involved. Prioritize the needs of the victim over the offender.
Communities need healing from crisis. This can happen through informational meetings, gatherings to hear harms and feelings and formation of a task force to do problem-solving.
Hundreds of paedophiles are using sport clubs to prey on kids with at least one report EVERY DAY
Sunday People investigation reveals sex assault allegations are far more widespread than those reported in last year's abuse scandal at professional football clubs
by Nicola Fifield
Hundreds of coaches and officials at sports clubs across the land have been probed over child abuse, a Sunday People investigation has found.
We can reveal that sex assault allegations are far more widespread than those reported in last year's abuse scandal at professional football clubs.
The conclusions from our probe into every local authority in England and Wales are disturbing.
Swimming, martial arts, rugby and gymnastics are the four sports worst affected after football, followed by tennis, cricket and athletics.
Parents will be horrified to learn that local authorities received the equivalent of one report of abuse EVERY DAY between 2012 and 2016.
More than half of these allegations were sexual. The remaining cases concern maltreatment such as physical and emotional abuse and neglect.
Ex-golfer Chris Unsworth, director of the Offside Trust which was set up by Chris and other sport sex abuse victims including footballer Andy Woodward, said: “It is shocking that the public has been kept in the dark about the scale of this problem.”
Last night children's charity the NSPCC said our horrific findings proved that urgent action is needed to beef up Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.
The charity wants to close two alarming loopholes that allow perverts to infiltrate sports clubs.
Offenders could lawfully have sex with 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds in their clubs because trust laws do not extend to sports coaches or youth leaders. Clubs can find out if a potential recruit is legally barred from working with children only if that person will be working unsupervised.
This means convicted sex offenders are able to get in by taking up assistant or support roles.
The latest pervert to be unmasked at a sports club is squash coach Hirusha Henricus, who was jailed for 14 years at Manchester crown court on Friday for a string of sickening offences including rape.
Henricus, 25, a coach at the city's National Squash Centre, preyed on ten teenage boys, including some he had access to as a coach.
The Sunday People asked all 174 local authorities in England and Wales for details of allegations involving abuse of children at sports clubs.
Three-quarters of the councils responded.
And according to our stats obtained under Freedom of Information laws, they dealt with 1,881 reports over five years.
That figure could be as high as 2,500 if it includes the 46 local authorities that didn't respond.
In two appalling cases in WEST SUSSEX a six-year-old child was sexually abused at a swimming club and multiple victims aged between six and 15 were abused at a gym. The offenders were prosecuted.
In DURHAM a tennis coach was sacked for sexual abusing and grooming a child. In POOLE, DORSET , a lifeguard was dismissed for abusing a 12-year-old boy.
Also in Poole, girls aged between 15 and 18 were sexually abused at a hockey and cricket club. The offender was sacked and convicted.
Other cases across the country included a paedophile being sacked from a karate club in OXFORDSHIRE for sexually abusing a teen and a pervert at a swim club in BERKSHIRE being convicted of having indecent images.
BRISTOL city council dealt with a case involving children aged between ten and 15 who were sexually abused at a football club. Their abuser was convicted. In another case involving football, a paedophile was sacked from a club in SWANSEA following allegations of sexual abuse.
In the LONDON borough of Tower Hamlets, claims that a 16-year-old was sexually groomed at a judo club were referred to the sport's governing body.
In LINCOLNSHIRE a paedophile who preyed on under 16s at a rugby club was jailed.
In BUCKINGHAMSHIRE a swimming coach was sacked for sexually abusing an 11-year-old child.
Our investigation comes after the world of football was plunged into scandal last November with a series of former professionals revealing they were sexually abused as youth players.
The first to waive his right to anonymity was former Crewe, Bury and Sheffield United player Andy Woodward, 43.
After he spoke out, several other footballers followed suit, including former England and Tottenham midfielder Paul Stewart, 52, and ex-Manchester City striker David White, 49.
Stewart said he believed the sport could be facing a crisis on the scale of the Jimmy Savile scandal.
A hotline was set up and investigations are being co-ordinated by the National Police Chiefs' Council. So far 252 suspects and 560 victims have been identified.
But the Sunday People investigation using local authority records shows the scandal stretches across virtually every sport.
Offside Trust boss and former victim Chris Unsworth said: “Too often we have been told that our horrific experiences could not be repeated today.
“But these new revelations prove that we must do more to keep our children safe.”
Chris added that it was likely our figures represent only the tip of the iceberg as many victims will not have spoken to the authorities.
A spokesman for the NSPCC, which is fighting to close loopholes in the checking system, said: “We want the Government to extend trust laws – which do not apply to sports coaches or other youth leaders – so they cannot lawfully have sex with 16 and 17-year-olds in their care.”
Under child protection laws every council must have a designated officer to co-ordinate the response to fears that an adult working with children may have caused harm.
All allegations that come to the attention of an employer or made directly to the police must be immediately reported to the designated officer.
Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the police chiefs' head of child protection, said: “We urge anyone who may have been a victim of child sexual abuse to report it by dialling 101 or contacting the NSPCC helpline, regardless of how long ago the abuse may have taken place.
“We can guarantee that we will listen and treat all reports sensitively and seriously.”
Sick reign of soccer ref on teen players
Youth football coach and referee Johnathan Bedford was locked up last year for a string of sickening offences against teenage boys including rape.
The 34-year-old, who met his victims through his involvement with youth football in Lincolnshire, also persuaded young boys to send him indecent photos of themselves.
He was jailed for 11 and a half years and placed on the sex offender register for life. Lincoln crown court heard how Bedford had wrecked the life of the 18-year-old lad he had raped.
The offences, which related to the period between September 2008 and December 2010, involved 10 teenage boys.
Sentencing Bedford, Recorder Graham Huston told him: “I see no indication of remorse. No apology. No regret.
“You are a thoroughly selfish man who never once sought to consider the damage you were causing.
“Everything you did, you did to get the opportunity of a sexual encounter.
“The Football League and all the other referees and coaches who give up so much of their time to support youth football have been let down by you.”
Lives ruined by gym fiend
Gym coach Leslie Oliver preyed on young girls he was training and subjected them to appalling sexual abuse.
The 58-year-old was jailed for 12 years for a catalogue of assaults against five girls aged between five and 15 in Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted, Herts.
His offending spanned 38 years, from the 1970s to the present.
He attacked them during training sessions, in his bedroom at home, in his car, at a school and in a local park.
One of his victims bravely told St Albans crown court, Herts, how he used friendship as a facade for abuse, giving them lifts in his car.
Oliver, from Swansea, was told by Judge Andrew Bright: “What you did to each of those girls has had a profoundly damaging effect on each of their lives.”
“You took their innocence and ruined their childhood.”
NSPCC's six club tips for worried parents
1. Find out if the club has a child protection policy with a clear procedure for dealing with concerns about possible abuse, and ask to view it.
2. A well-run club will welcome questions about their activities and policies. They know they have a responsibility to give information to anyone who leaves a child in their care.
3. Check if the club has a written code of behaviour showing what is required of staff, volunteers and participants.
4. There should be guidelines about physical contact and social activities between staff, volunteers, children, and parents.
5. Ask whether all staff and volunteers have been selected through a proper process of interviews, references and police checks.
6. All staff and volunteers should have up-to-date safeguarding training and your child's coach should have a recognised qualification that includes child-protection training.
NSPCC'S HELPLINE: 0800 023 2642
Child abuse cases on rise in Fannin County
by Jerrie Whiteley
Fannin County experienced a 25 percent increase in the number of victims of child abuse in 2016 over the previous year. Data Books from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services show there were 135 alleged victims of child abuse and neglect in Fannin County in the year that ended last August 31 and 108 in the year that ended August 31, 2015.
Officials who work with the abused children and their abusers say the reasons behind the increase in numbers are varied. Fannin County Children's Center Executive Director Sandy Barber said the center has seen the numbers rise and fall in the past.
“It is hard to speculate why they go up and down,” she said.
Fannin County District Attorney Richard Glaser said the rise in the numbers can be attributed to things people are doing right, like reporting abuse when they suspect it. He said schools and other agencies are now required to report suspected abuse where they once weren't. Glaser also said as more cases of child abuse get prosecuted, the children who are being abused see that trusted adults will listen to their outcries and take them seriously.
Glaser provided the numbers to the Herald Democrat that show crimes against children are up in Fannin County. For instance, in 2014 his office brought charges on 33 cases of abuse of a child and in 2015, that number was 31. Then in 2016, that number went up to 40. So far this year, the office has secured nine indictments for crimes against children.
The cases are broken out, Glaser showed, by a particular type of crime against a child and sometimes those numbers fluctuate. For instance, he said, in 2014, his office secured 10 indictments for the charge of indecency with a child. Then in 2015, the office secured four such indictments and in 2016, seven such indictments. However, in 2016, his office also secured 19 indictments for the charge of abandoning or endangering a child. His office secured no indictments for the abandoning or endangering charge in 2014 and only three in 2015. So far, four people have been indicted on that charge this year.
His office secured indictments for continuous sexual assault of a child — a charge that can carry a life sentence — twice in 2014 and once in 2015. His office secured that indictment twice in 2016 and once so far this year. The case indicted this year, Glaser said, is an example of an incident wherein the children continued to make outcries once they felt they were safe.
In April, grand jurors returned an indictment of continuous sexual assault of a child against Noemi Isobel Noria, the 41-year-old mother of Jhoel Noria, 12, who was struck by an automobile in September 2015 while waiting on a school bus. The investigation into the crash led to outcries of abuse by Jhoel's siblings. Noemi Noria and others were indicted last year on sexual abuse charges. Earlier this month, Glaser said the most recent indictments came from the children being comfortable enough to continue to make outcries. Noemi Noria, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges she faces, is represented by Steven Miears, who did not immediately return a phone call Friday afternoon.
Some of the children at the heart of the indictments secured by Glaser's office are removed from their homes. Barber said the number of children removed from their homes from Fannin County in 2016 was 46. By comparison, the number of children removed in the last five years has ranged from five to 20 per year in Fannin County, she said. She said those children often have to go to foster homes outside of the county because there simply are not enough such places in the county.
Finding purpose: How one victim of child abuse uses her pain to help others
by Isaac Smith
WEST FRANKFORT — Melanie Whittington was born in the frying pan, and, at age 6, was put into the fire.
Born to a mother with schizophrenia and to a father with substance abuse problems, Whittington and her five siblings were taken from their biological parents because of environmental neglect.
Whittington said she didn't have all the details but remembered some.
“My biological mother kind of had, like, a psychotic break … she wasn't taking her medications,” she said.
The siblings were taken from their Kentucky home to a close relative's house in Mill Shoals through the Department of Child and Family Service's relative foster care program.
Things did not get better there. They got worse.
“That's initially where all of the abuse occurred was with the foster care placement,” Whittington said. “It didn't start right away. It started out a little less harsh and gradually got worse.
“Most of it was physical but there was a lot of emotional tied in with that as well.”
It wasn't just her foster parents, either. Her foster parents' children were in on it too, Whittington said.
Telling their story
In a video posted Nov. 18, 2016, on the Facebook blog Steph & Mel, which Whittington runs with her younger sister, where they discuss their experiences with child abuse and the foster system, Whittington remembered one of her worst memories.
On the day in question, her foster dad was cutting down corn stalks with a hoe while she followed behind, taking the stalks from the garden.
“He started screaming for me to pick things up faster and to quit being lazy and to just move quicker, so of course that's what I did,” Whittington said in her video entry.
As she was picking them up faster, Whittington said she was also getting closer to him.
“And he turned around and he lifted the hoe above his head and he said, ‘What is wrong with you? Why are you going so fast. I could have cut your head off with the hoe,'” she remembered him saying to her.
She remembered saying what any young child would say — “Well I was just doing what you told me to do.”
“I never told you to do that so tell me the real reason,” she remembered being told. “So, I did what we always did when we were in trouble — You make up excuses until he finds one good enough to punish you for.”
She first told him she was hot and wanted to go in, so she picked up the pace.
He didn't accept that.
Then she said she was hungry and wanted to finish quicker to eat.
That didn't satisfy him, either.
Finally she said she hurried so she could go play with a friend up the road. This one worked. He said not only was she not going to play with a friend but that she was going to be punished for “acting like such an idiot,” Whittington said.
“He told me to go get my own switch. He didn't approve of that. So, he walked to our rosebush and broke off a branch with thorns on it and made me pull down my pants and my underwear — because the pants would provide padding for my beating — and he beat me with that thorn-covered branch for so long until I physically could not stand any longer from the pain,” she described as tears rolled down her face.
After it was over, she went and soaked in the tub.
“I sat in that water and it instantly turned red from all the blood falling off my bottom,” Whittington said. “I just remember in that moment wishing he would have killed me."
She said she was tired of being hurt.
“I just couldn't understand how someone who was supposed to love and care for me and be my family would hurt me over and over and over again for no reason,” Whittington said.
She and her brothers and sisters stayed in that house for four years. In fact, she and her siblings — there was one more of them as her mother had another baby — were to be adopted into this family.
Whittington said she felt failed by the foster system.
“Our caseworkers were never consistent,” she said, adding that they didn't get many home visits.
“They didn't speak with us very often to even pick up on the signs that there was stuff going on,” she said in a recent interview.
She said they never recognized the abuse and wouldn't have had her older sister not spoken up that day in court.
“They pulled us aside, you know, and was talking to us about everything and the process, and that's when my sister spoke up and said that they were abusing us,” she said.
The response was swift.
“We were taken directly from the courthouse to the hospital for examination,” Whittington said. “That's when we all got split up.”
Whittington said she went to two homes briefly with her younger sister before she landed in West Frankfort. Within 13 months of staying with this foster family, she and her younger sister were formally adopted by them.
She was in foster care for seven to eight years.
The stability of a supportive family was not something she was used to. She said she was the rock of the family for many of the years she and her siblings suffered abuse.
“It was really learning for me to adjust to being a child and not the parent, I would say was the hardest part of it,” she said. “I play the mom role a lot.”
The transition was not easy. Whittington said she suffered from depression and on more than one occasion considered suicide. She said she was in one form of counseling or another while she was a foster child, but after she was adopted, this all stopped. Whittington said she considered from time-to-time going back to therapy but never took that step. She said the counseling she got through DCFS was not really helpful.
“I didn't learn a lot of coping mechanisms and it didn't last very long,” Whittington said.
She explained that she has mostly tried to push the memories away. She said starting the blog with her sister last year was cathartic but also proved to be harder than she had thought it would be.
While Whittington enjoys a supportive relationship with her adoptive parents, who she now calls “Mom and Dad,” there is some sense of survivor's guilt — she and her sister were the only two of the seven siblings to be adopted.
“Growing up, siblings is all I had, and so partially I do feel bad that … my older siblings didn't get that loving family they always wanted,” Whittington admitted, struggling with the words. “It just seemed a little unfair.”
'OK not to be OK'
Whittington, who is now 19, managed to climb out of the hole of abuse, but admitted she still struggles. However, she is now on a full-ride scholarship through DCFS to Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where she studies social work. She wants to be the foster care caseworker she wishes she had years ago.
“I'm able to connect with the children and maybe help them in ways that I didn't get helped,” Whittington said. “Knowing that what I went through is going to help children that will definitely be very helpful."
In school Whittington does well. She is poised to graduate a year-and-a-half early because she came from high school with college credits. She doesn't plan to graduate so soon, though. She wants to use that time to do extra studies focusing on sign language, Spanish and trauma therapy. She said she wants to be able to help those silenced by their abuse.
“I know a lot of trauma and abused children have a hard time communicating,” she said.
As she has grown older and been able to process all that has happened in her life, she has found purpose.
“Everyone has their, I guess, place in the world and mine is definitely to help [others],” Whittington said.
She said she has learned a lot through her recovery that she wishes she had known years ago. When she is able, she shares this with the world through her blog. Whittington said it's so important for those being abused to do the hard thing — ask for help.
“You have no idea what's out there and all the resources and people that can help you,” she said.
However, once on the other side of abuse there is a lot to process. She said there is one deeply important thing for victims to do — she said accepting their feelings, owning them is a key part of recovery.
“It's OK to not be OK sometimes,” she said.
'Do better for the kids': Marion County steps up child abuse response team
by Whitney M. Woodworth
In the face of extremely complex and challenging child abuse cases, the Marion County District Attorney's Office is launching a pilot program designed to increase coordination during high-risk child abuse investigations.
Officials with the Marion County Child Abuse Response Team announced the pilot project Friday.
"We are proud to work with partners who continually seek to do better for kids," Marion County District Attorney Walt Beglau said.
Child abuse investigations require the involvement of a wide array of agencies, including district attorney's offices, school districts, Oregon Department of Human Services and law enforcement. By law, child abuse multidisciplinary teams are required for every Oregon County.
Under the pilot project, law enforcement, child abuse prosecutors, Marion County DHS case workers and specialized child abuse medical personnel would work together to streamline and coordinate the county's most high-risk child abuse investigations.
In 2016, the Marion County District Attorney's Office filed 294 child abuse cases. During the same time period, almost 500 petitions were filed requesting children be placed in state custody. The filings only represent a sliver of cases investigated by DHS and local law enforcement, according to district attorney officials.
In addition to the existing multiagency teams, the Salem Police Department, Keizer Police Department, Marion County Sheriff's Office, Woodburn Police Department, Marion County District Attorney's Office, and DHS agreed to join a new specialized child abuse investigatory team.
The team will review daily the most at-risk cases known in Marion County and use Liberty House Child Abuse Assessment Center as its home base, which will allow investigators to collaborate with specialized medical personnel and quickly connect families and children to services.
Deputy District Attorney Brendan Murphy said the project has no increased costs and is instead using existing resources. Going forward, the district attorney's office will be seeking grants for funding.
Many people from several agencies were involved in the organization of the project, Murphy said, but ultimately it will be focused on having a core team of four or five people — a prosecutor, law enforcement officer, a DHS case worker and medical personnel — keeping a close eye on cases and taking action.
"(We're) committed to doing the best job we can for the kids," Murphy said.
Ultimately, it's about finding a better way of doing work to get better results for families.
"That's really what it comes down to," he added.
Beglau thanked the leadership at Salem Police, Keizer Police, Marion County Sheriff's Office, Woodburn Police, Marion County DHS and Liberty House for their involvement.
"Without their commitment to this effort, this opportunity would not have been possible," Beglau said.
Emotional abuse as damaging as physical abuse to a child
by Karin McCay
"Sticks and stones will break my bones, But words will never hurt me."
Dr. Patti Patterson says this about that adage, "That's absolutely not true. When it comes to children, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse."
Dr. Patterson is a Texas Tech physician who is board certified in Child Abuse Pediatrics. She says emotional abuse can bring long-term consequences like depression, alcoholism, and drug abuse, among other problems.
So, even though child abuse is more easily recognized with burns and bruises, Dr. Patterson says hurtful words or the threat of bodily harm can trigger physical problems. "increased cortisone levels, glucose levels, your adrenaline – your fight or flight," she says, "if a child is always threatened, those actually go up and can lead to long-term consequences like high blood pressure or increased risk of diabetes."
So what about yelling at children? Would that be considered abusive? Dr. Patterson says some families are just loud and that's how they communicate. The difference, she explains, is the intent or anger behind those words.
Click on the interview with Dr. Patterson and you might be surprised to hear more of the hurtful ways that children are often abused.
Those can include everything from neglect to sarcasm. She says children may not understand adult humor. So, repeated teasing, which may appear as playful to some, could be devastating to a child's self-esteem.
Children with history of emotional abuse ‘10 times the risk of developing psychosis'
by Rick Morton
Children with a history of being emotionally abused and neglected are at 10 times the risk of developing psychosis and severe mental health problems by the age of 21 a landmark study out of Queensland has revealed.
The study, one of the first to use longitudinal data on proven cases of abuse for children under the age of 14, revealed a significant link even after poverty and other disadvantageous factors were controlled for.
“This really is a remarkable study based on a treasure trove of data,” University of Queensland associate professor James Scott told The Australian .
“The association is so strong, between abuse and psychosis, and one of the really key points here is that it is emotional abuse and neglect that made people particularly vulnerable.
“When we talk about abuse we often think of sexual abuse, which is horrific, but emotional abuse does as much damage to a much greater number of people. When you think about it, the emotional trauma would have to be pretty severe before a child agency intervened and yet we know it does so much damage.”
A litany of studies around the world have previously indicated a link between childhood poverty and trauma to ongoing changes in the brain of those same people when they became adults, such as an inability to handle stress.
But Professor Scott said this work, led by PhD candidate Amanuel Abajobir, marked a dramatic leap forward in the way psychosis is understood.
“It used to be assumed that psychosis was biological, but this points to environmental factors being involved and, at that, factors that are extremely modifiable,” he said.
“The mechanism by how that happens is less clear. There is some interesting and very cool work based on imaging which shows an increase in striatal dopamine in people with psychosis.
“There are five pathways in the brain which involve dopamine, but we also know when people don't have psychosis but do have a history of trauma there are increased levels of striatal dopamine released, too.”
Professor Scott will introduce the findings to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists next month with sober advice.
“If we can intervene early with parents and give them skills and support to better handle their emotions around children, this can save a lot of pain in the future,” he said.
Emotional abuse hides in plain sight
by the Tryon Daily Bulletin
The victims of emotional/psychological abuse may never suffer broken bones or bruises, but the children who suffer this type of abuse describe it as one of the most harmful destructive forms of child abuse.
There is no evidence to show, no way to prove their suffering. In this society, emotional/psychological abuse is often seen as less serious than other forms of child abuse due to the lack of physical wounds. However, emotional/psychological abuse can have serious effects on the child.
An emotionally abusive parent doesn't only resort to the use of verbal abuse; in fact it may be that some words are actually kind and appear supportive to everyone around, including other family members. This leaves the victim confused and serves the very important need for the abuser to appear caring and nurturing. This covert type of abuse can be administered in small discrete ways gradually over time.
Emotional/Psychological abuse is used to control, shame, isolate, belittle, and brainwash children. The child is often seen as an extension of the parent. The emotional abuser is so incapable of owning their own guilt, pain, and anger that they manipulate and project their own insecurities onto the child.
Emotional abusers often covertly assign the role of scapegoat to this victim to carry the family's transgressions so that the family can continue to outwardly appear as a happy, healthy, functioning family, all the while robbing the child of their own identity.
Sometimes the abusive parent even trains the remaining family how to treat the targeted victim and this behavior becomes the norm that everyone in the family assumes is the normal way a family operates. Often the victim may try to call out the abuser to loved ones, only to be invalidated by the enabling loved ones who experience fear themselves of the abuser's rage and rejection.
All human beings have an innate longing for unconditional love and acceptance. It is this that emotional abusers take advantage of. The child is afraid of losing the parent's love and approval if the child were to dare to stand up and express the pain and abuse.
Parents who pull their love away from their children simply because they are not given their way are engaging in emotional abuse. Love, acceptance, and affection are not things a child should fear losing and should not have to be earned. It is a child's God given right to be loved and accepted. When a child is forced to function in a life that their very self-identity revolves around keeping the abusive parent from the explosive rage and rejection, the child often feels lonely, afraid, frustrated, hurt, and overwhelmingly filled with feelings of inadequacy.
Emotional abusers often use brainwashing techniques to make the child believe that any attempt to expose the abuse would be futile and that the child is the problem not the abuse.
Often emotional abusers will mask the verbal abuse and humiliations as “jokes” that the child just can't take because of being “over sensitive” or they “need to grow up.” No one ever grows up enough to justify and accept abuse, regardless of the form or age.
Emotionally abusive parents will often discredit and tear down any and every achievement and accomplishment that the victim makes in efforts to affirm their negative characterization of the victim. In fact, in many cases only the mistakes and failures are highlighted.
Even when this type of abuse is brought to light and the abused victim tries to reach out for help or tries to be a voice against emotional and psychological abuse, they themselves are attacked. It is important to remember that when a victim speaks out, it is not to gain approval, acceptance, or fans, because the sad reality is that they likely will receive the opposite, it is the victim giving themselves back their voice and taking back control of a life that was stolen.
No matter how much people often want to silence those victims who want to stand against this type of abuse because it is “uncomfortable,” it is important to bring awareness to the reality of how damaging emotional and psychological abuse is and educate people to help put an end to child abuse in all its forms.
In observing April as Child Abuse Awareness Month, to the survivors of all forms of child abuse, I offer this Survivor's Psalm from www.Giftfromwithin.com:
I have been victimized.
I was in a fight that was not a fair fight.
I did not ask for the fight.
There is no shame in losing such fights.
I have reached the stage of survivor
And am no longer a slave of victim status.
I look back with sadness rather than hate.
I look forward with hope rather than despair.
I may never forget, but I need not constantly remember.
I was a victim.
I am a Survivor.
Angela Price Jenne -- Mill Spring, N.C.
New Tool Aims To Prevent Child Abuse
by CBS Denver
DENVER (CBS4) – Leaders in Colorado have developed a new tool to fight child abuse.
Gov. John Hickenlooper joined leaders in the Department of Human Services and more than 200 partners in preventing abuse to announce the new program on Thursday.
It's the first new plan in 20 years that is focused on protecting and supporting Colorado's children.
The plan will be rolled out in 10 communities first and then throughout the rest of the state.
“Specifically we want to see more positive outcomes in childhood development, better health care utilization, better school readiness, better emotional development,” said Deborah Daro, Ph.D. at the University of Chicago.
Organizers say this new prevention framework for action will serve as a national model for preventing child abuse.
Local experts report more cases of child abuse every year
by Leanna Scachetti
BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month and local leaders are using it to educate the community.
Last year, there were nearly 4,000 reported cases of child abuse in the 14th circuit alone. (The 14th Judicial circuit includes Bay, Gulf, Calhoun, Jackson, Washington and Holmes Counties.)
They say child abuse in our area is rampant and they're stepping up efforts to stop abuse on the front end.
Some things in life are not easy to talk about. Cayla Keaton, 11, knows this first hand.
"I was sexually abused by my step-father when I was seven... until I was eight," she said. "I was scared to come home. And in school I was less focused."
But now Cayla realizes that using her voice to talk about these things proved to be the best way to solve them.
"My mom started asking me if anything was going on," she said. "And that's when I was like, I should probably tell her."
Cayla began therapy at the Gulf Coast Children's Advocacy Center. Last year, almost 2,000 children received therapy and guidance for abuse and trauma.
Before her own abuse, Cayla said she didn't know much about abuse. But now she's open to talking about her experience so others can learn. She has told some of her classmates and has asked her principal to host a day where students and staff wear teal in support of Child Abuse Awareness Month.
"Because it's at a young age where, like, they soak up all of this information," Cayla said. "Even now in middle school you still kind of, but you want to get it young so that you know it's OK to tell. Because it could happen to you at any time."
That's the exact mission of the CAC's Community Advocate Program.
On this Thursday, Monique Gorman is standing before a group of fifth grade students at Deerpoint Elementary. As the agency's only full-time community advocate, she has begun visiting local schools with a state-approved curriculum. In one portion of the lesson, she tells students that no one should look at, touch or talk about their private parts. Gorman uses engaging lessons and techniques to teach students how to identify abuse and how to address it, especially as the CAC receives more reports of child abuse each year.
"It happens every day," Gorman said. "It happens in the best of families. It happens in the best of communities, so it's time. We've got to open our eyes to it and we've gotta start talking about it."
In six months of doing this, almost 100 children have told their secret, they're being abuse. That doesn't include other children who may have revealed their secrets to another trusted adult, whom they learned to identify through the lesson.
"It's not an easy thing for a child to step up and say, 'This person is harming me,'" Gorman said. "So to watch these students after receiving the lesson be empowered to speak up and say something has been incredible."
Some of the students in the lesson were surprised to see how in depth the lesson got.
"I thought she was gonna talk about the obvious stuff," said fifth grader Wyatt. "You know, stay away from strangers and stuff like that. But it actually got more deeper than I thought it would."
"Hah! Yeah," laughed another student Lacie.
While the material strays from scare tactics, it is meant to be eye opening.
"She was really nice to come in the classroom and warn us about all that stuff," said Lacie. "Because we probably would have found out later."
"This stuff really does matter," said Wyatt. "I bet that she did teach some kids some stuff they needed to know later in life. And she wanted to teach them that you don't have to lean this first hand. You can learn this from us [Gorman] and you can prevent that from happening."
And he was right. Gorman said about a student per class ends up confiding in her potential abuse.
"It's so hard to event picture that there's abuse of neglect within our community," said Cathy Harcus. "But it is rampant."
Harcus is on the front end of the fight against child abuse. She works with Healthy Families, teaching local moms and moms-to-be how to properly care for and discipline their children.
She hopes to provide more moms the opportunity to take classes with Healthy Families, just as the CAC hopes to add more staff like Gorman to the roster to teach in more schools and civic organizations. They hope lawmakers approve more funding to make that happen.
Harcus said many local cases of abuse stem from drug abuse and a history of domestic violence. And though abuse can be passed from parent to child, she said there are ways to help. Plus, state law makes every Floridian a mandated reporter of child abuse. Failure to do so is a felony.
Harcus says they can't change everyone, but says that people do have the power to influence the people immediately around them by keeping watch and reporting anything suspicious.
"I would say do your part to make sure every kid in your avenue, your arena, your sphere, your neighborhood has a great childhood," she said. "If nothing else, a great childhood."
Cayla is bravely living out what is shaping up to be a happy childhood. She wants to be a veterinarian. While she is no longer in therapy, she does meet often with a girls group made up of other young girls who have had similar experiences.
She wants to teach kids to speak up and for grown ups to listen. She knows what happened can't be erased, but she does know she has the strength to forge ahead.
"I can be very brave when I want to." she said, smiling. "It's amazing. It's a great feeling."
Advocacy Group Says Child Abuse Cases Detrimental to Economy
DALLAS (WBAP/KLIF News) — Child abuse cases in North Texas could be costing both taxpayers and the economy a lot of money.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the lifetime cost to care for a mistreated child is $124 billion. The Dallas Children's Advocacy Center, those costs begin to add up immediately after a child is abused.
“[The child] then goes to school and is expected to focus on math and reading,” said Kristen Howell with DCAC. “Well the truth is, she's not. She's thinking about safety and shame.”
Howell says that has a cumulative effect, negatively affecting a child's ability to succeed in school and in turn become a productive member of society.
She says in Dallas County alone, there are roughly 20,000 reported child abuse cases each year, leading to thousands of hours of therapy and thousands more forensic interviews.
“If you don't wrap around services around a child who's been abused early on, if you don't stop that abuse, and if you don't help the system change, they have cancer, they have heart disease,” Howell said. “They have chronic illness that is very, very expensive.”
The organization says in order to help bring down widespread child abuse, the community needs to actively advocate against it.
“The advocacy center cannot run unless people in the community say that it's important,” Howell said. “The truth is, it affects all of us economically and morally.”
Protecting children from child abuse
by We are Central Pa
Severe injuries suffered this year by a three-week-old baby compelled area residents to gather in her name and to renew efforts to fight child abuse.
Baby Lilly from Osceola Mills, had both of her legs broken, suffered bruises on her ribs and nose, cuts on her face and a rectal tear. For most of us that's hard to believe, but some people hear this type of report much more often than you realize.
"Oftentimes, the media doesn't pick up on the stories unless it's a case where it's a really small child and, you know, these horrifying situations. The fact is, I get kids almost over a hundred kids a year," says Mary Tatum, Director of the Child Advocacy Center of Clearfield County.
And Clearfield County District Attorney William Shaw adds that, "It goes on, and it goes on far more often than people would realize."
Statistics show that more than 300,000 children were taken care of at child advocacy centers last year, with two-thirds of the cases involving sexual abuse. Girls were much more likely to suffer some type of abuse.
Most often a child was hurt by a parent, relative, stepparent, boyfriend or girlfriend of a parent, or someone else the victim knew. Most abusers were 18 or older.
Abby was sexually and physically abused, starting when she was six, first , by her other's boyfriend.
She remembers, "He was an alcoholic and very abusive, when we finally left him my mom got married to her current husband my stepdad, and sexually abused by him since the age of 8 to 18."
She told her mother about the boyfriend's abuse, but her mom didn't believe her and attacked her, instead
Abby says, "I was grounded for awhile, beaten, so I didn't tell no one about my step dad..."
She suffered ten years of rape and other types of sexual abuse.
Crystal's half-brother sexually abused her when she was just seven until she was 13 years old. She also asked for help. She says, "I went to my teacher and told him I was bleeding, and I told him where and he, I remember the look on his face. He called my mother and she came and got me and she handed me a jar of vaseline and said put this on yourself and go lay down."
Crystal says her mother was afraid of her father, and that her mom, the school, the police, and the rest of her community were actually trying to protect her from her dad's anger. He was an alcoholic who became violent .
"They had come to the house during fights with my parents and my mother obviously beaten. and if I showed my face they knew that I had been involved in some fashion, but they never took him away. It was a family issue," she explains. Crystal says she was also punched and thrown by her father when she tried to defend her mother.
Later, Crystal was raped by two of her sister's boyfriends, and a brother-in-law. She says she told a school nurse after she was raped and became pregnant, but the nurse just kept her in her office, where Crystal miscarried. No one told her parents.
Hearing of Baby Lilly's injuries gave Crystal nightmares and made her angry. Her way of coping now? She came to the Child Advocacy Center In Clearfield County to speak out in hopes of helping other children.
Of the CAC, she says, "this is incredible. I got tears in my eyes, the first time, I walked in this building, to know that number 1, it was going to stay busy, but number 2, that they're really thinking about the child now."
In the past few years, five counties in our region, Blair, Cambria, Centre, Clearfield, and Jefferson opened safe places for children who may have been sexually or physically abused,
At Child Advocacy Centers, victims can talk about what happened with specially trained forensic interviewers who work with law enforcement to investigate and prosecute abuse.
Tatum says,"They ask open ended questions that aren't leading so the child can disclose sometimes kids aren't ready and that's okay."
She says talking about abuse is the first step toward, helping children and getting abusers out of their lives.
"As soon as your kiddos can talk they should know what their private parts are," Tatum advises, and adds that children need to be told who can be allowed to touch these areas, i.e. doctors when doing a medical exam and parents when washing them.
"One of the things we try to teach children is keeping secrets that aren't surprises or good secrets could get them into trouble, it could not be a safe thing," is another lesson Tatum mentions. "We tell children, if something bad happens, tell until you're heard. Don't stop telling until you're heard, because somebody will hear you and get you help."
Twice, Crystal tried to get help after repeated sexual abuse, once from a teacher, and a second time from a school nurse. Neither report went anywhere.
In the 70s, the law didn't require school employees to report suspect physical or sexual abuse,
They're now mandated reporters as are people in many fields such as health care, religion, child care, emergency response, and law enforcement.
Mandated reporters and anyone who suspects child abuse can report it by calling the Childlike at 1-800-932-0313. Tatum says if you're not sure, report it and let the professionals sort it out.
DA Shaw says, "I think the reporting has increased so we see and hear about it more often, but i think it's been going on for years and generations."
And he adds that , new tools and techniques are also improving the investigation and prosecution of child abuse.
The presence of child advocacy centers, along with the increased awareness and mandated reporters are designed to give today's children a much better chance to avoid or escape abuse...
Advocates say it's important to listen to children and believe what they have to say.
Abby and Crystal say you can't overemphasize this message.
"Number one, say something and if the first person doesn't do anything, go talk to somebody else," as Crystal puts it.
And Abby adds, "don't hold it in it makes things worse. Second thing would be that there's a light at the end of the tunnel."
Abby says for her, it's her faith and her church family.
Crystal says, "Given the choice I would not have lived it, but having lived it and not having the choice, "I'm glad that I can use that as a gift for somebody else."
Florence youth emergency shelter helps homeless children, sex trafficking victims
by Matt Parris
FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – There are more than 750 homeless children in South Carolina according to a 2016 study from the SC Coalition for the Homeless. Those children in the Pee Dee will now have a place they could call home.
“There were a number of people experiencing homelessness in the Florence area,” said Cindy Williams.
Williams, a Florence native already working with inner-city, homeless, and at-risk youth in Baltimore, Maryland, knew there was a need in her hometown.
“There were no programs in the Florence or the Pee Dee region that specifically served runaways, homeless children or victims of domestic violence, sex trafficking,” said Williams.
Seeing the need, Williams and her team's work has finally, paid off as the new Loving Arms Youth Shelter, the only one of its kind in the Pee Dee, recently opened its doors.
“Since opening, we've already served four young people,” said Williams.
Williams said they hope to serve many more.
The non-profit house will serve youth ages 10 to 18 and provide outreach and case management up to 24 years old.
“We do provide individual, family, and group counseling on-site for them, we provide mediation,” said Williams. “We provide for their basic needs, food, shelter, and clothing.”
Williams said while basic needs are important, getting at-risk kids back in school is important as well.
“If they're not currently in school, we work with the school district to get them back enrolled in school to get them on track toward getting a high school diploma or GED,” explains Williams.
After school, the young people can get counseling, behavior, and anger management training, or unwind in the lounge or bedroom areas. For Williams, it's all about providing a place to call home for kids who have been through a lot and put families back together.
“We can help get that family housed into permanent housing and hopefully get the child back with their family because we believe that families make children, not systems,” Williams states.
Williams said it's important to help these children so they don't wind up in an endless cycle of trouble.
“Instead of putting kids into the foster care or juvenile justice system we really need to figure out what happened and where did they get off track with their own family,” Williams said. “If possible, let's work with families to keep families together.”
Williams invites the community to celebrate the grand opening of the Florence shelter May 9 from 10 a.m. to noon.
HV Lawmaker Wants Hotels To Provide Human Trafficking Recognition Training
by Allison Dunne
A New York state assemblywoman from the Hudson Valley was at a Ritz Carlton hotel in Westchester County Thursday. She was there to promote legislation she authored to require lodging facilities to provide human trafficking recognition training.
Anneka Lucas says she figures she was raped about six hours a week before age 12, during the time she was trafficked from 1969-1974.
“I was sold by my family in 1969 as a 6-year-old child,” Lucas says. “And I was sold into a murderous network.”
This was in Belgium, and she says the pedophile network operated in Europe, its members aristocrats and leaders. She told her story in a video.
“It went viral and I got a lot of attention and a lot of questions and I thought, this is a time to do something, so I wanted to choose something to do,” Lucas says.
And so Lucas, a Brooklyn resident, approached Democratic Assemblywoman Amy Paulin of Scarsdale, telling her that a lot of child sex trafficking occurs in hotels, and legislation to educate hotel employees could make a difference. Here's Paulin.
“I've introduced legislation that will require all hotels, motels and other lodging facilities in New York to require all employees to take a human trafficking recognition training program, much like we've seen implemented here, post in plain view and in a conspicuous place, in the lobby in the public restrooms, a notice which will include the National Human Trafficking Hotline telephone number,” says Paulin.
Paulin modeled her bill after legislation in Connecticut, which passed a similar law in 2016. Paulin discussed her bill at the Ritz Carlton in White Plains, which is owned by Marriott International. Tu Rinsche is director of corporate social responsibility for Marriott. She says the company put in place a human trafficking training requirement in January.
“Requiring human trafficking training of all our hotel associates in our 6,000 properties around the world so that they can better understand how to identify the many signs of human trafficking,” Rinsche says.
So far, 86 percent of Marriott's employees have undergone the 30-minute training. William Yahr is general manager of the Ritz Carlton in White Plains, where he says some 85 percent, or 185 employees, have received the training.
“What this has done is it opened the eyes, especially to some of our heart-of-the-house, or back-of-the-house, ladies when doing this training with our housekeeping team, the questions and the aha moments, just to know what to look for,” says Yahr.
But there is not the requirement, as outlined in Paulin's bill to post a notice that would include a hotline number. Marriott co-developed the training with ECPAT-USA, a Brooklyn-based group that seeks to end commercial sexual exploitation of children. Carol Smolenski is a founder and executive director of ECPAT-USA.
“Everyone needs this training, every hotel worker needs it and we're going to save a lot of kids,” Smolenski says.
Lucas says she may have sought help had someone reached out to her or if there were someone to call.
“Because I was always looking to get out somehow, if I had seen one sign somewhere that would have said that a child is not a prostitute, for me, that would have made me think a lot because I thought I was a prostitute and I was never told otherwise,” says Lucas.
Paulin says she's in the education phase with her bill.
“My hope is to move the bill,” says Paulin. “My hope is to move the bill even if, whether we're able to make it law, we only have a few weeks left, or whether we raise awareness and get the bill in good shape for next year, both are good objectives.”
The bill has several co- and multi-sponsors in the Assembly, and Paulin says Jesse Hamilton, an Independent Democrat from Brooklyn, will sponsor the bill in the Senate.
The terrorizing torment of child abuse, neglect
by Don Hinkle
From 2012 to 2014, Isidro Cruz-Basurto sodomized and molested a seven-year-old girl. When questioned by authorities, he said he was conducting private medical exams in his bedroom to test if anyone else was abusing the victim. A Jackson County jury rejected his explanation and on April 19 found Cruz-Basurto, 33, of Kansas City guilty of four counts of statutory sodomy in the first degree and two counts of child molestation in the first degree.
Cruz-Basurto, who is an illegal alien, faces up to life imprisonment on each sodomy count, up to 15 years imprisonment on each molestation count and a total minimum of at least 40 years. His sentencing is set for June 8.
“It took the jury less than an hour to return a guilty verdict on all six counts,” said Missouri Attorney General Joshua Hawley, whose office handled the case upon request of the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office. “I attribute that to the diligent and meticulous work of our attorneys, and I am proud of their efforts to seek justice. My hope is the people of Jackson County can rest a little easier knowing this dangerous criminal is behind bars and away from their children.”
In 2015, the Missouri Department of Social Services (MDSS) received 121,842 reports of possible child abuse or neglect. Of those reports, 68,623 are classified as investigations or assessments completed by the MDSS' children's division. Some 100,625 children were involved in the investigations and assessments.
There are 39 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse living in the U.S. today. More than three million American children are current victims. Most are struggling alone, believing there is no adult who can help them. This ought to spur Missouri lawmakers into action in making the state's adoption and foster care processes easier and safer.
Shockingly, an estimated one in 20 teenage boys and adult men sexually abuse children and an estimated one teenage girl or adult woman in every 3,300 females molests children, according to the Child Molestation and Prevention Institute (CMPI). That is five million children! Fifteen out of every 100 Americans have been either a molested child or a molester when we tally the number of child victims, adult survivors and child abusers combined.
Amidst this problem, there is a common misconception: The issue of child sexual abuse ought to be left to law enforcement, courts, physicians and therapists. However, such a notion presents a problem: They can never put an end to the abuse. Why? Because they come on the scene too late. By the time they get there, the abuse has occurred. Only you and I can get there in time. Child molestation prevention is most effective when we get involved.
Unfortunately, most children will never tell someone they have been – or are being – abused. Some children are confused, some are afraid. If the abuser is part of their family, they will often not say anything to protect their family, saving them from the pain of knowing.
Here are some things CMPI recommends:
• A child molester is an older child or adult who touches a child for his or her own sexual gratification.
• Child molestation is the act of sexually touching a child.
• A child is a girl or boy who is 13 years of age or younger
• What is the age difference between a molester and a child? It is five years, so, for example, a 14-year-old “older child” sexually touching a nine-year-old is an example.
Psalm 127:3 says, “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” Child sexual abuse flies in the face of this truth. Such abhorrent behavior does not render the respect and dignity due to children made in the image of God.
Jesus made it clear where he stood with children. He loved them and He used them to teach us the kind of attitude we should exhibit as we seek salvation through a personal relationship with Him. Mark 10:14-16 is instructive: “‘Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.' And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.”
May we join hands in combatting child abuse? Let us obey God and view children as a “gift,” blessing their lives so they grow into mature followers of Christ.
Fighting myths about sexual assault
Outmoded understanding of sexual violence leads to the wrong interventions
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, an opportunity for us to recognize the impact sexual violence has in our community. Sexual violence is still shockingly common in the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 431,840 rapes or sexual assaults were committed in 2015 alone, the most recent year for which data is available. Millions of American men, women and children live with the long-term effects of surviving sexual abuse.
Culturally, we have a long way to go in our understanding of sexual violence. Although most people now accept rape as a violent crime that the state should prosecute in the interests of public safety, dynamics of sexual violence and appropriate prevention efforts are frequently misunderstood.
Contrary to the stereotype of a stranger lurking in wait, most victims of sexual violence know their rapists and attackers. Rapists are usually friends, acquaintances, dates, family members or friends, often well-known and trusted by their victims.
This dynamic complicates our understanding of sexual violence. Victims who know their attackers may blame themselves for the violence, or be confused about what really happened. Normal victim behavior, like lack of physical resistance, delayed reporting and continuing contact with the perpetrator, is often interpreted as an attack on the credibility of the victim.
As our understanding of sexual violence improves, we can better prevent these crimes. Rape prevention classes used to be an exercise in victim-blaming, targeted only toward women and focusing solely on victim behavior. These misconceptions are unfortunately not extinct. In 2011, a Toronto police officer famously suggested that women should “avoid dressing like sluts” to prevent sexual assault, a claim with no supporting evidence.
Given the serious nature of these crimes, we cannot afford to design interventions based on conjecture and a desire to police women's behavior. We must take seriously our role to support survivors, hold perpetrators accountable and prevent future violence.
Innovative, evidence-based prevention efforts teach both men and women about sexual consent, respect and bystander intervention.
There are bright spots in our community's response to sexual violence. Washburn University recently hired a full-time victim advocate with state and federal grant funds. The new position will serve victims of crime and support wider prevention efforts on campus. Two local organizations specialize in providing advocacy and counseling for different populations of victims. These organizations are worthy of our support, as they advocate on behalf of survivors.
The LifeHouse Child Advocacy Center serves children and their non-offending family members in the court system. More information is available at www.lifehousecac.com.
The YWCA Center for Safety and Empowerment serves adult survivors and offers a 24-hour hotline at 1-888-822-2983. The YWCA holds its biggest fundraiser of the year this Friday, April 28. The Concealed Revealed Art Auction offers nearly 80 pieces of artwork, with all proceeds supporting the vital work of the YWCA. More information is available at www.ywcaneks.org.
Members of The Capital-Journal's editorial advisory board are Zach Ahrens, Matt Johnson, Ray Beers Jr., Laura Burton, Garry Cushinberry, Mike Hall, Jessica Hosman, Jessica Lucas, Veronica Padilla and John Stauffer.
Court documents: Mother had abused teen in kidnapping case
by Sheila Burke
COLUMBIA, Tenn. (AP) - A 15-year-old Tennessee girl who authorities say was kidnapped by her teacher had endured months of abuse at the hands of her mother, according to court documents, making her particularly vulnerable to an adult predator.
The mother is scheduled to appear in court next month and has pleaded not guilty to five counts of abuse and neglect involving several of her children. The girl's father filed for divorce Monday, citing the alleged abuse. His daughter was found safe with her teacher last week at a cabin in a remote part of Northern California.
The girl's father has said the 50-year-old teacher brainwashed his daughter. In divorce documents, he said the teacher used his position of authority to "prey upon her, groom her, and ultimately entice her into running away with him."
The Associated Press is not naming the student or any family members because the teen is an alleged victim of a sex crime.
The teacher, Tad Cummins, faces federal charges of bringing a minor across state lines for sex and state charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor. Cummins' attorney has said the girl went with her teacher willingly, and was not forced, threatened or coerced.
School records showed the girl often relied on Cummins "like a friend and a counselor" when she became upset or anxious at school.
A history of abuse at home can make children particularly susceptible to manipulation disguised as help, said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
"They're very vulnerable to the grooming because this is an adult who seems to care about them and is interested in them, and that's probably something they're not getting elsewhere," he said.
Authorities said the mother physically abused several of her children for about a year, beginning in November 2014. The teen's father was living at home during that time, but the couple separated in November 2015 and the father took sole custody of the children, according to the divorce filing. The parents have been married for 30 years and have 10 children together, though only four of them are still minors.
The mother is accused of hitting her children until they bled, knocking a daughter unconscious with a wooden board and throwing a chair at another daughter, bruising her leg, court documents show. The mother also smacked a child in the head for injecting herself with her brother's EpiPen.
The mother said she can't comment about the case. Her attorney has asked for more detail on the allegations and access to the children's social media accounts.
The mother has been ordered to stay away from the children, court records said.
The mother is alleged to have banged the 15-year-old's head on a washer, and at another point, she threw the girl down basement steps and locked her inside, the documents said.
The children wrote letters to the Department of Children's Services about the abuse before the mother was arrested, according to one of the teen's relatives.
Department spokesman Rob Johnson said he could not comment on the case.
The girl's relative said Cummins knew the girl had been abused and took advantage of that information.
"We have a 15-year-old girl with a 50-year-old man and he obviously used his power, his authority to, whether it's groom her or convince her, to do certain things," the girl's sister-in-law said.
In January, another student reported seeing Cummins kissing the girl on the lips, setting off an investigation into their relationship. The teen and the teacher denied they had kissed, but the investigation found that the teen often relied on Cummins for support.
"She looks at him like a friend and a counselor who knows how to calm her down when she is experiencing anxiety," school records said.
Cummins described the girl as "a really good friend" and told school officials the girl did leave her other classes to come see him "when she needs someone to calm her down."
School administrators told the girl she needed to go to a school counselor for anxiety issues and ordered the health science teacher to stay away from her. Cummins disobeyed that order a week later and was suspended, the records said.
He wasn't fired until about a month later - a day after the girl was reported missing March 13, when the case began to attract national attention.
Federal court documents alleged the teacher had been plotting his escape with the girl after their relationship was discovered and planned to take her to Mexico, possibly by boat.
Authorities credit the caretaker of the remote Northern California property for helping police find the girl. The caretaker will get a $10,000 reward Friday.
Abused children are often exploited by teachers, coaches and other people in authority, but what makes the Tennessee case so unusual is that they left the area together, Finkelhor said.
Still, he said, there's a reason there are laws protecting children from statutory rape or abuse by authority figures.
"And the reason why," Finkelhor said, "is we want these people to be thinking about the welfare of children without having their own sexual gratification become part of the equation."
Bullock Signs Bill Creating Commission on Child Abuse
Gov. Steve Bullock has signed legislation creating a commission to help guide policy on child abuse and neglect.
by the Associated Press
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Gov. Steve Bullock has signed legislation creating a commission to help guide policy on child abuse and neglect.
The governor signed the bill on Tuesday along with five others. He also issued an amendatory veto on a proposal that sought to restructure fees for agricultural nurseries.
The new commission would examine child abuse cases to better understand the causes, particularly in cases that result in death. The bill was sponsored by Democratic Rep. Kathy Kelker of Billings. The commission would be comprised of members appointed by the governor and Attorney General Tim Fox.
The commission is expected to issue a report that could guide legislation to address the matter.
The bill is one five signed by the governor focused on the state's foster care system.
Panel in Amarillo says answers to child abuse must be community-driven
by Lauren Koski
Child abuse and neglect is 60 percent higher in Amarillo than the state average.
Kristie Tingle, a research analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, revealed the number Tuesday during a presentation that painted a picture for community leaders, municipal candidates, professionals with Child Protective Services and representatives from Amarillo's non-profit sector about the current state of Texas Panhandle families.
Tingle said the difference in Amarillo's high percentage as compared to the state's average might be attributed to increased reporting of abuse and neglect cases.
However, she and Sasha Rasco, the associate commissioner for the Texas Department of Family &Protective Services Division of Prevention &Early Intervention, also suspect there's another significant contributing factor: Amarillo's high rate of domestic violence.
“We know that violence is violence,” Rasco said. “Violence in the home generally impacts both the adults and the children, so it's easy to conclude there's something about violence that needs to be tackled in the panhandle area. Not that we don't see domestic violence or physical abuse around the entire state, but it does seem to be concentrated here.”
The forum was sponsored by PEI and featured a panel of professionals including Bruce Moseley, executive director for the Turn Center in Amarillo, Dubb Alexander, founder and director of Fathers Add Value in Amarillo, and April Leming, executive director for the Bridge Children's Advocacy Center.
The panel specifically discussed how preventative measures can steer families away from abuse, neglect and the inevitable involvement of Child Protective Services. They also talked about how to support children with developmental needs, how to empower fathers and the various ways that families deal with stress.
Rasco said PEI serves about 62,000 families in Texas through their prevention programming. According to a recent study by the Texas Institute for Child &Family Wellbeing at The University of Texas at Austin, 97 percent of those Texas families did not experience CPS involvement.
Shawn Vandygriff, CPS Region 1 director, said the study's outcome shows that prevention measures actually work.
“What we currently have is great, but how much greater that could be and how many more people we can touch if we have more prevention type of resources in each of our communities?” Vandygriff asked. “Because obviously, that data shows that if parents can get the help they need in order to remain stress free — or to provide a food box or whatever the situation might be — that we (CPS) don't become involved with them. If they have the ability to reach out on their own to get what they need, then it does alleviate some of the caseload we (CPS) would end up getting.”
Using the analogy of a river, Rasco described the flow of child welfare in Texas.
Most recently the focus has been shifted solely to saving children who might be drowning in the river — foster care — but Rasco believes attention should be given equally to children and families who are upstream, who might later find themselves in that situation.
“There's generally, on any given day, around 36,000 children in foster care - but there's 7 million in the state of Texas,” Rasco said.
Tingle shared with the panel many of the descriptive statistics she's gathered about families in the Texas Panhandle. She said she's concluded that the region has “concerning trends” that negatively compare to those in larger metropolitan areas across the state.
“Dallas had only four more domestic violence homicides than Amarillo did, but Dallas has six times the population,” Tingle said, referring to research from 2015.
“It's not existing in a vacuum,” said Tingle. “The high rates of family violence are feeding back into the high rates of child abuse as well.”
Tingle added that the research conducted on area families also includes changes in the region's demographics, specifically changes in population by race along along with an increasing Hispanic population.
Courtney Seals, division administrator for DFPS Division of Community and System Support, said these are community-based concerns and therefore the answers must be community-driven.
“There is a role for everybody,” Seals said. “This is not just an issue for social workers in Amarillo, this is not just an issue for people at the schools, this is something that every single person h
as the ability to influence in some way, whether it's within your own company by creating a space that supports families and allows families the time off they need to go to doctor visits with their kids, or whether you're educating people in the community about this issue. But everybody can do something.”
Rasco echoed Seals, encouraging the creation of a culture that embraces families, even when a two-year-old might be throwing a temper tantrum at a grocery store. The usual response to that situation might be to frown at the mother, Rasco said, but an encouraging word or understanding smile instead can become a catalyst of positive change.
“Imagine how differently that mom goes home with that kid,” Rasco said. “There really are micro things you can change in a community to make it a happier, healthier place to raise children. That's not about the social work, that's not about CPS, that's about the community deciding how they want to embrace children and families and help parents.”
Child Abuse and Neglect in the Texas Panhandle
15.5 out of every 1,000 children in Amarillo
9.1 out of every 1,000 children in the state of Texas
This is a 60 percent difference in confirmed child abuse and neglect cases in Amarillo compared to Texas state average
Factors Affecting Child Abuse and Neglect in the Texas Panhandle
The average family of three needs $48,000/year to survive in Amarillo
29 percent of Amarillo jobs cannot provide that annual salary
Potter and Randall counties combined had more than 26,000 domestic violence cases in 2015
Potter County violence against women is 6.8 per 1,000 women per year which is three times higher than the statewide rate
In Amarillo, there were 7 homicides committed by a family member or partner in 2015 as compared to Dallas, with six times the population, which had 11 homicides that same year
Source: Kristie Tingle, research analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities
CPS says it is working on new ways to combat child abuse
by Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje
While the rate of child victims of abuse or neglect declined somewhat in Bexar County last year, the rate of children removed from their homes for such maltreatment increased, with more than 1,900 kids being taken from their parents by the state.
And last year 11 children in the county died at the hands of their caregivers, up from only four such deaths in fiscal 2015.
Despite such dark statistics, officials with Child Protective Services and others involved with child welfare gathered Tuesday to discuss what the state agency is doing right to combat child abuse in Bexar County, which routinely posts some of the worst numbers in the state.
“We've made a significant number of changes in a short time,” said Erica Bañuelos, CPS regional director.
The meeting happened as lawmakers in Austin continue to debate bills that would restrict the role CPS plays in cases of child maltreatment, and as a federal judge's order looms over the beleagured Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, saying it must improve its deficient foster care system or risk coming under federal oversight.
The event, sponsored by the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, brought together those in law enforcement, the court system, nonprofits and others who Bañuelos said are collaborating like never before to reduce the high number of child abuse cases in Bexar County, which was second only to Harris County last year — even though the latter has double the child population size.
“Our number one goal is to reunify families whenever possible, and when it's not, we focus on providing attention and support to kinship families,” Bañuelos said, referencing relatives who take in children of family members. Last year, some 60 percent of children in Bexar County who were removed because of maltreatment were placed permanently with relatives.
District Court Judge Peter Sakai noted all the progress that's been made locally in helping troubled families while acknowledging the work is far from over. Sakai, who oversees the Early Intervention Court — the so-called “baby court,” for parents whose kids are younger than 3 — said the tendency after high-profile child abuse cases is to blame CPS.
“And there are some issues with CPS, but we've got to remember these are some complex issues that involve some very complex families, and we're all doing the best we can,” he said.
.Among the legislation under consideration in Austin is a provison that would take all case management functions away from CPS, apart from investigations, and give it to nonprofit child-placing agencies.
Bexar County District Attorney Nicholas “Nico” LaHood spoke about the need to pass HB 3301, which would increase the potential prison sentence for the serial abuse of children under 6 years old, the elderly and the disabled. Under the bill, abusers who commit an offense two or more times could face a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years or life in prison. If there was serious bodily injury, the abuser would face at least 15 years to life.
A House committee heard testimony on the bill, which has bipartisan support, on Monday, but it remains pending.
During the meeting Tuesday held at the United Way, several CPS caseworkers spoke passionately — and sometimes in tears — about why they do the work they do.
Jillian Williams, an investigator, spoke of finding a baby with a broken arm under a bridge, in the care of a heroin-abusing parent. She spoke of visiting horribly injured kids in the hospital.
“When I go home at night I see their faces in the face of my children,” she said. “I hold my children longer, I hug them tighter.”
Child abuse is everyone's problem to solve
by Kathy DiLallo
Sadly, child abuse numbers have risen again. A federal report published by the Administration on Children, Youth and Families showed the number of children in the United States who have experienced child abuse and neglect rose for a third year in a row. More disturbingly, child fatalities increased by 2.25 percent.
For the children who survive, experts state that the toxic stress that results from childhood abuse and neglect triggers hormones that impact the child's body and brain, putting the child at greater risk for disease, poor school performance, poverty and even early death.
Here are some ways to take action.
If you see something, say something.
Offer to help a parent or caregiver who is stressed and overloaded.
Learn about the various forms of child abuse, including Shaken Baby Syndrome, neglect and maltreatment.
Encourage state lawmakers to strengthen our laws and increase sentencing for those who harm innocent children. On the New York State level, learn about JJ's Law, whose namesake was from Buffalo. Support the expansion of JJ's law, which would increase penalties for those who abuse children.
Become familiar with and urge the passing of Brittany's Law, which would require any offender convicted of a violent felony to register with the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services upon release from prison. The registry would be accessible to the public, as is the sex offender registry. Brittany's Law has passed in the New York State Senate six times in a row, however, it has not passed through the Assembly. Brittany's Law recently gained the support of the New York State Sheriff Association.
On the federal level, become familiar with the Kilah Davenport Child Protection Act of 2013. The act directs the U.S. Attorney General to issue a state-by-state report on child abuse prevention laws with a particular focus on penalties for cases of severe child abuse. Every three years a report is to be issued to highlight deficient laws and provide states with the opportunity to fix the laws. In some states, those who commit crimes against children typically receive 25 percent of the sentencing they would receive if they committed the same crime against an adult.
The rise of child abuse and maltreatment is unacceptable and preventable. During Child Abuse Awareness Month and every day, we need to stay vigilant; we need to be the voice for our children. Remember, every child has the undeniable right to be happy, nurtured, loved and safe!
Kathy DiLallo is a program coordinator for New Directions Youth and Family Services, which provides services to at-risk children at residential youth homes throughout the Buffalo Niagara region.
N.C. Calls Harnett County Residents To Action For Child Abuse Prevention Month
by The Daily Record
In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the District 11 Guardian ad Litem Program is issuing a call to action for residents of North Carolina to stand against child abuse and take action to support children who have been abused or neglected.
At any given time, the cases of over 10,000 children are in the state's abuse, neglect and dependency courts. Most of them are in foster care or other out-of-home placements. These children come into the child welfare system through no fault of their own.
“The needs of North Carolina's children coming into care are more complicated than ever before, and life in foster care can be chaotic,” said Iris Derrick, Atlantic Cape Fear Regional administrator. “Every child deserves the support of caring, consistent adult with the training to help them heal and thrive.”
Throughout the month of April, the North Carolina Guardian ad Litem Program is calling on members of the community to help the program serve more of Harnett County's most vulnerable children. Throughout the district, Guardian ad Litem staff and community volunteers are recognizing and partnering to bring awareness to child abuse prevention.
Without intervention, the odds are stacked against children in foster care. A child with a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) volunteer, however, will leave the foster care system two-and-a-half months earlier, on average, compared to a child without a (GAL) volunteer. Studies show children with a (GAL) volunteer receive more services that are critical to their well-being than children without an advocate, and those children are more likely to achieve educational success.
“NC GAL volunteers are a constant for the child in a time of chaos,” said John Webster, GAL Program supervisor. “A child may have multiple social workers, attorneys, therapists and foster placements throughout the life of the case but only one (GAL) volunteer, which can make all the difference for the child's future.”
District 11 NC Guardian ad Litem of Harnett, Lee and Johnston counties is a member of the North Carolina Guardian ad Litem program, a statewide network of programs in all 100 counties across North Carolina. At the heart of the movement are over 5,000 highly-trained volunteers who advocate for the best interests of more than 17,000 of North Carolina's children who have been abused or neglected. In Harnett County, there are 39 volunteer advocates fighting for the best interests of 85 children but 16 more children need the care and support of a GAL volunteer.
For more information about the North Carolina Guardian ad Litem Program in Harnett County, visit www.volunteerforgal.org or call (910) 814-4690.
Child abuse reports in Fannin County rise 25 percent
FANNIN COUNTY, Texas (KXII) -- The number of child abuse cases in Fannin County is rising, hitting a record high since they started tracking the numbers 16 years ago.
CPS data shows there were 135 victims of child abuse and neglect this past year in the county, 25 percent higher than the year before.
Fannin County authorities call the increase staggering, but there may be silver lining.
"It's a very sharp increase in the sexual abuse and physical abuse of children and it's very disturbing that we've had that much going on," Fannin County Sheriff Mark Johnson said.
With April being Child Abuse Awareness Month, the Fannin County Children's Center and county officials are speaking out about the increase in victims of abuse.
"The past three weeks, we've had a huge increase in sexual assault of children and the physical abuse of children, this current week, we've got two more," Sheriff Johnson said.
"Honestly this one is a real depressing report, ya know every year the numbers kind of ebb and flow, but this was the worst year since I've been at the center," Fannin County Children's Center Executive Director Sandy Barber said.
The center said the number of children taken from their home in the county per year normally ranges from five to 20, but last year, 46 children were removed.
Executive Director Sandy Barber said though this is the highest she's seen since she started there in 2001, the number of children served through counseling is also higher, with 789 sessions this past year.
"The good news is people are reporting this, professionals are able to investigate this and the professionals are able to provide treatment and healing for these kids," Barber said.
The sheriff's office said they just applied for a grant to hire an investigator to work directly with the children's center to crack down on this crime.
They said though they don't know what's behind the increase, they do know that as people become more aware, more people will report possible abuse.
"It's a matter of awareness, not just numbers, cause sexual assault has always been there, we will continue to prosecute them and keep Fannin County safe," Fannin County District Attorney Richard Glaser said.
The center is holding two free classes for community members to learn how to identify the warning signs and report child abuse.
The class “Stewards of Children” will be Tuesday, May 9 from 5:30 -7:30 p.m. at the center. The center said this class focuses on preventing child sexual abuse, as well as how to identify warning signs and how to respond when child sexual abuse is suspected.
The class “Recognize and Report” will be Tuesday, June 6 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the center. The center said this class focuses on recognizing and reporting all types of child abuse.
Both classes will be held at the center: 112 W. 5th Street in Bonham. To reserve your spot, contact Andrea at (903) 583-4339 or at email@example.com.
Survivors of sexual abuse speak up, heal
by Kevin Sweeney
NEW ULM — Carol Brennan remembers when she and her seven sisters learned each other's terrible secret. They were at a family baby shower in January 2013, a few months after the death of their father. The will was going through probate, waiting for signatures from their brothers.
“One of younger sisters came in and said, ‘Well, we've been raped for the last time. They're never going to do that to us again,'” Brennan said.
That was the first time that the sisters realized that six of the eight had been sexually abused as children, growing up on the farm near Springfield. None of them had told the others, or realized it was happening to their sisters too.
When the sisters had a chance to get together and talk a month later, “It was just amazing to us that so many things had happened throughout our childhood that no one shared. It was to be kept a secret, you were threatened. There was this empowerment that they felt they could impose on us, and it wasn't just one person.
“It is especially hurtful and frightening when it's someone you should be able to love and trust. These are people within your family who should never think to do the things that they did.”
As the sisters shared their stories with each other, they realized that they had to be together on this. And they have been united in their search for healing, and in their advocacy to let people who have suffered sex abuse know that they must tell someone, that what is happening to them is wrong and that they are victims.
Last Thursday the sisters, dubbed “The Amazing Eight” by their advocate, received the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault's (MNCASA) AWARE award. The event took place at the Best Western Capitol Ridge in St. Paul which is where the MNCASA headquarters are located.
MNCASA has been holding “AWARE,” an event to support survivors and raise awareness to end sexual violence, since 2007. The AWARE award is given to both individuals and groups and recognizes the way in which awardees courageously responded to sexual abuse and assault and how they transformed their personal adversity into prevention.
In addition to Brennan of New Ulm, the sisters include Laura Lee Bast and Clarice Platz of Springfield, Joleen Amberg of Redwood Falls, Wanita Nosbush of Park Rapids, Jean Lange of Glenwood, Miki Schultz of Morgan and Mary Schmit of Randolph, Wis.
Even though the abuse happened decades ago, the sisters had not found true peace or healing. Brennan said she still remembers what happened to her when she was very young, six decades ago. One of her sisters had repressed the memories and went through the pain of recalling them.
Some of the sisters contacted a law firm in Minneapolis which specializes in these kinds of cases.
“They were wonderful,” said Brennan. “The first thing they asked us was, ‘Have you sought help?'”
Through counseling, the sisters have started the healing. They decided to file a lawsuit under the Minnesota Child Victims Act that opened a three-year period (now expired) to allow adult victims of childhood sex abuse to confront their abusers.
For the eight, the lawsuit was not about the money. It was about coming out from behind the shroud of shame and secrecy that surrounds sexual abuse. It was about holding their abusers accountable and reclaiming their lives.
After the lawsuit was settled, each of the sisters found different ways to “pay it forward.” Several made generous donations to advocacy agencies so victims of sexual violence could get the help they needed. They also realized there was a bigger, more societal, task at hand — that of making sure youth and the overall community received education and prevention information on sexual violence. They knew it was important to let other abuse victims know they were not alone; there is hope and there is help.
In April 2016, Alison Feigh of the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center presented “Safe, Not Scared” to over 700 Redwood Valley and St. John's Middle and High School students. That evening Patty Wetterling presented “Building a World that is Worthy of its Children” to over 450 community members. In 2017 oldest sister Laura Lee led the charge and raised enough money to fund two more prevention/education events. The Illusion Theatre Teen Troupe provided prevention/education in the form of theater performances for the youth of both the Springfield and Red Rock Central School Districts. And Patty Wetterling once again offered her message of continued hope for our children, this time to close to 1,200 people in the sisters' hometown of Springfield.
“If we can save one child from crying silent tears and feeling like it was their fault, and getting the help they need so they don't have to live with it. It happened to me 61 years ago, and it still hurts,” Brennan said.
Going forward, Brennan said, the sisters are hoping to bring national advocate Erin Merryn to Minnesota to speak. Merryn, also a victim of child sex abuse, is pushing to have “Erin's Law” passed in all 50 states. The law requires all public schools in each state to implement a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program, which teaches children, through age-appropriate techniques, to recognize chid sexual abuse and to tell a trusted adult; to teach school personnel about child sexual abuse, and to provide parents and guardians with the warning signs of child sexual abuse and to provide assistance, referrals or resource information to support sexually abused children and their families. The law has been passed in 26 states and is pending in 17 more, including Minnesota.
Column: Now Is Time To Act To Protect Children
by Michael Weeks
Bermuda is an idyllic place of natural beauty and community connectedness. We abide by a deep sense of shared responsibility and belonging. Many of us have access to educational and economic opportunities that most in the world can only dream of.
But Bermuda also has its divisions and secrets. Concealed beneath the surface is a generations-old affliction, one that results in untold emotional hardship and shattered relationships. An affliction that is a root cause to alcoholism, depression, anxiety, social isolation, poor academic achievement, adolescent pregnancy, eating disorders, violent crime, drug abuse, sexual violence, and even suicide.
That root cause is childhood trauma. And perhaps the most devastating of childhood traumas is sexual abuse.
As we come to the close of Child Abuse Prevention Month, the opportunity exists to bring our affliction into the light.
According to Bermuda's Department of Child & Family Services [DCFS], from 2011 to 2014 there were 541 reported sexual abuse cases involving children between the ages of 9 and 14. For sexual assaults in any jurisdiction, the incidence of crime far exceeds the incidence of reporting.
Child sexual abuse is a persistent and pernicious public health problem. It is likely the most prevalent health problem children face, with the most serious array of consequences.
“Epidemic” has been used with good intention to convey the alarming number of children affected by sexual abuse. But, by definition, an epidemic is an outbreak; a sudden widespread occurrence of a disease or phenomenon. Epidemics spike, but then they recede.
Not so with child sexual abuse. More accurately it is endemic in Bermuda. It is an affliction that is commonly and unremittingly found across generations in every race, religion and socioeconomic class. While there are risk factors that increase its likelihood, no segment of the population is spared.
While the endemic nature of childhood sexual abuse is true across the globe, Bermuda and many of the British Overseas Territories have a unique and particularly problematic dynamic.
Childhood sexual abuse has been endured in silence for so long because we are so connected, so tightly knit. The unearned shame of children who are sexually abused has caused them to hide from those who are best able to help them, because those people are connected to their abusers.
But through their advocacy work, the SCARS charity is helping Bermuda to come out of hiding and is throwing off that contract of shame. SCARS stands for “Saving Children and Revealing Secrets”, and the organisation is doing exactly that.
In 20011, Debi Ray Rivers, herself a product of rape and then a survivor of child sexual abuse, founded. Mrs. Ray-Rivers has built an organisation that has been powerfully and swiftly embraced by the community and by youth-serving organizations island-wide.
Local sporting clubs, churches, summer camps, charities and schools have mandated that adults working with children be certified in Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children, a U.S. based child sexual abuse prevention training, which SCARS provides free of charge.
Through SCARS' work, Bermuda has become the first country in the world to have trained over 10% of its adult population in the prevention of child sexual abuse. Due to its public awareness and public education initiatives, SCARS is now a household name.
Parents are now having open, protective conversations with their children. Other organisations are establishing much needed policies and codes of conduct that divert offenders. They are altering their physical environments to keep children safe.
Countless adult survivors are coming forward with their stories, not only during trainings, but also within their families where the abuse has frequently taken place. Support and healing is becoming more commonplace.
In fact, the close-knit nature of Bermuda, once a reason for secrecy and shame, is becoming our best asset in the movement to protect children. The embracing of knowledge and healing has been nothing short of phenomenal at the level of the everyday person.
However, the top down systems have failed to do their part, sometimes deplorably so, to enact legislation and structures that would keep children safe. As of today, the commitment to our children by our people has outpaced the commitment by our governance.
Our community has been rightly outraged by the release of former police officer and convicted child sexual offender John Malcolm ‘Chalkie' White. As an example of the current failing system, Mr. White's original sentence of 22 years was reduced to 18 years on appeal. Permitted to opt-out of treatment and rehabilitation while imprisoned, he was still released after only 12 years.
For 12 years, this man sat in prison without intervention. The opportunity for such intervention existed for 12 years. Today, his threat to children remains completely unchecked. Mr. White is under no obligation to receive treatment. He has no obligation to be monitored by a parole officer. He has no limitations on his access to children in schools, playgrounds, childcare facilities and other establishments frequented by children and families.
And it should be acknowledged that his victims will see Mr. White roaming the community with the knowledge that he has not undergone any treatment. I wonder how that must feel?
We need our legislative body in Bermuda to do its part.
We need the judicial system to mandate rehabilitation and therapy as a condition of eventual release.
We need that rehabilitation to be provided by professionals who are fully trained and vetted to understand the manipulative attitudes and behaviors of child sex offenders. We need that rehabilitation to be enforced by the prison system.
We need convicted sex offenders to be evaluated by a panel of professionals prior to their release, to assess them for their risk to children.
We need safe zones for children that convicted sex offenders may not enter.
And we need legislation that mandates child sexual abuse prevention training for staff and volunteers in organisations that serve children.
These needs have been made known, and supporting research is readily available to our politicians. Still, our community waits for their action.
The Bermudian community is being safely ushered by SCARS through a process of awareness, education and commitment to the safeguarding of children. As they receive Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children program, everyday people have given their hearts and their consistent effort to the cause of child sexual abuse prevention. SCARS commitment is to provide information and training to all adults that are entrusted with children in our community.
So, what is our commitment? It is a myth that the issue is just now coming to the forefront in Bermuda. We have been aware of it for far too long without decisive action from our legislators. On behalf of the children of Bermuda, I say now is the time to act.
Top tips on working with adults who have experienced CSE
There is a risk of sexual exploitation being ignored by adults' services
by Ruth Hardy
Child sexual exploitation is one of the areas of most concern for local authority children's services, following the publication of the Jay and Casey reports into the response of statutory agencies to CSE in Rotherham. But adults' services will also have safeguarding duties towards some victims and survivors of abuse, and should be prepared for this.
In a piece for Community Care Inform Adults, Angie Heal and Sam Mayne provide a comprehensive, practice-focused guide to working with adult victims of CSE. These are some key points from their piece; Inform subscribers can read the full guide here.
Safeguarding practice issues
There are three key practice issues that managers and staff in adult social care/safeguarding may need to consider:
People who continue to be abused by perpetrators after the age of 18/21 when they transition to adults' services, including adult safeguarding. Where a young adult is experiencing or at risk of abuse because of sexual exploitation, adult safeguarding should lead on a safeguarding investigation in conjunction with the police and other agencies. Even if the individual does not meet the criteria for an enquiry under the Care Act, this should happen as part of a local authority's duty to ensure wellbeing.
Survivors who are no longer being abused but disclose previous CSE. Adult social care or adult safeguarding should lead a safeguarding investigation, in our view.
Adult social care/adult safeguarding may be providing services to adults who are parents of children who may be the subject of or at risk of CSE. Staff in adults' services need to be alert to the indicators and risks and refer to police/children's social care.
Taking action to protect those who have been abused
Investigations have shown that even when issues of sexual exploitation or abuse have been clearly identified and reported to statutory agencies, they have not been acted on. There are a number of reasons for this, including that the severity of the situation has not been understood.
Any adult safeguarding enquiry launched as a result of allegations of sexual exploitation or abuse should involve a meeting to plan who takes what action. This should include the police. Where local authorities undertaking or commissioning a safeguarding enquiry suspect a criminal offence has been committed, the Care Act statutory guidance advises immediate referral to the police to determine whether this is the case. Early referral to the police may help them secure evidence or use police powers to initiate protective actions for the adult.
Those who may be victims of abuse often find it difficult to speak out about their situation, particularly when they have been sexually abused as it will require disclosing very personal details.
Relationships of trust need to be built over time and staff need to be skilled in active listening and be able to pick up on small clues, such as lack of eye contact, reduced appetite or a sudden unexplained change in behaviour, that may arise during contact with adults. Spending one-to-one time with an adult when they seem upset about something might mean that a disclosure of abuse follows during or after the session as a result. Where adults do disclose concerns about sexual exploitation/abuse, these should be ‘heard', taken seriously and acted on.
There is a risk of sexual exploitation being ignored by adults' services and seen as a ‘children's issue' only. This is clearly not the case; young people will be transitioning into adult care, and those in the care of adults' services may be affected by the impact of sexual abuse or exploitation as an adult. Adults receiving care and support from adult social care may have children themselves who may be at risk of CSE.
Angie Heal has over 35 years' experience of working in public and voluntary sector organisations, including the NHS, police and local authorities. Her work as a strategic drugs analyst for South Yorkshire Police and Partnerships led to her researching child sexual exploitation in Rotherham because of the links between the two issues. Sam Mayne has 30 years' experience as a social worker, 12 of these as a senior manager in adult social care specialising in older people's services and joint working with health.
Want to prevent child abuse? Start with strengthening families
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. Governor Rick and first lady 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 benefited 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 the Healthy Families program in your community. 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. Find your local contact at www.healthyfamiliesfla.org.
Walsh calls child abuse a problem that is 'everywhere'
by Dede Biles
Television personality, criminal investigator and victim rights advocate John Walsh delivered a sobering message Monday night at USC Aiken's Convocation Center while speaking during a fundraiser for the Child Advocacy Center of Aiken County.
“There is a problem everywhere,” he said. “Everybody has a problem with the abuse of children. I don't give a damn if you live in Beverly Hills or you live in the inner city in the ghetto. Your children can be victims at any time. We are the richest and most powerful country in the world, but we have more child abuse than any other third world country.”
In Aiken County, Walsh said, the Advocacy Center assisted 55 victims of child abuse last month.
“The people who prey on children are a lot smarter than most criminals,” Walsh said. “They know how we hate them, and they now how insidious what they do is. They are cunning, and they are good at it.”
Walsh is the former host of “America's Most Wanted,” which aired on the Fox television network for more than 20 years and then moved to the Lifetime cable network for a brief run before it was canceled in 2013.
On the show, actors portrayed dangerous fugitives and recreated their crimes. There was a toll-free telephone number that viewers could call to provide information.
Since 2014, Wash has been the host of “The Hunt with John Walsh” on CNN, and like “America's Most Wanted,” its mission is to nab the bad guys.
In 1981, however, Walsh was doing something much different. He was a developer of luxury hotels.
“I had the American dream,” Walsh said. “I never thought crime would impact me.”
Then his 6-year-old son, Adam, was abducted from a department store at a mall in Hollywood, Florida, near Walsh's home.
Two weeks after the boy's disappearance, his severed head was found in canal.
Walsh described in detail to the Advocacy Center fundraiser's audience how horrifying the experience was for him and his wife, Reve, and how difficult it was to get help from law enforcement officials and the media.
After Adam's death was confirmed, “my life spiraled down into hell,” Walsh said. “I lost 30 pounds. I had nothing to live for. I was dying of a broken heart.”
But from the ashes of Walsh's despair, rose a determination to help others whose lives were devastated by criminal acts and also to track down the perpetrators.
Along with his wife, Walsh pushed successfully for the passage of national legislation to make efforts to find missing children more effective. He also was instrumental in the founding of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Walsh spoke fondly of the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, saying the Republican from South Carolina provided support for his initiatives.
"Love him or hate him, I thought he was a good old guy," Walsh said. "He was like that semi-senile grandfather we all have and we all love, but he also would come into some incredible moments of clarity."
Only one in five seriously injured child abuse victims treated at major trauma centers
by Medical Xpress
Only one in five victims with serious injuries caused by suspected child abuse in England and Wales is treated at a designated major trauma centre, reveals research published online in Emergency Medicine Journal.
This is despite the fact that these children are nearly three times as likely to die of their injuries as those who have been injured unintentionally, the findings show.
Physical abuse is an important cause of major trauma for children, but has a different injury and age profile from unintentional injury. And the researchers wanted to find out if there were any differences in how these two groups of children are treated before and after reaching hospital.
They therefore examined the case information for children under 16 years of age supplied by hospitals to the Trauma Audit and Research Network (TARN) for England and Wales between April 2012 and June 2015.
Between 2012 and 2015, the details of 7825 children were entered into the database, 7344 (94%) of whom were classified as unintentional (accidental) injury, and 481 (6%) of whom were classified as suspected child abuse.
Children suspected of having been physically abused were much younger than those with unintentional injuries: three out of four were under the age of 1, with an average age of 4 months.
Their injuries were more severe and they were more likely to have a serious head injury.
They were also more likely to reach hospital by car rather than by emergency transport and to arrive some considerable time after being injured—averaging 8 hours compared with 1 hour for children involved in accidents.
But once they reached hospital, they were less likely to receive time critical, potentially life-saving procedures, with only one in five treated at a major trauma centre.
The researchers point out that organised trauma care networks rely on correct and prompt identification of patients with serious injury and emergency transport direct to a trauma care centre rather than the local hospital.
Without the right trigger, delays are likely, and outcomes for these children are likely to be poorer, they say.
"This study shows that trauma care systems need to modify their conventional approach to activation to enable early recognition of these infants and swift escalation up to 'major trauma patient' status in order to minimise delays to delivery of definitive care," they write.
More information: Major trauma from suspected child abuse: a profile of the patient pathway, Emergency Medicine Journal (2017). DOI: 10.1136/emermed-2016-206296
Penquis Opens Advocacy Center to Help Child Sexual Assault Victims
by Taylor Kinzler
Penquis is opening a children's advocacy center in Bangor to help in the fight to end child sexual assault.
The center is a safe space where police, victim advocates and mental health professionals can conduct interviews with potential victims and develop a plan for cases.
DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew says in the US, 1 in 10 children will experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. And most of these acts will go unreported.
There are many barriers in place for police investigators.
Maine State Police Lieutenant Troy Gardner says this children's advocacy center eliminates that.
“Often times, we're interviewing kids in the same location where the abuse occurred,” said Gardner. “So you can understand the challenge of trying to get a child to discuss or talk about something that happened, perhaps in the same room where you're actually talking with them. So the CAC provides a neutral location where you can bring victims.”
“To provide an environment that helps the healing and provides the resources to both the children and their families,” said Mayhew.
Penquis representatives say child-friendly environments like this can reduce trauma for kids by putting several agencies in one room, minimizing the number of times children must recount cases of abuse.
For more information about children's advocacy centers in your area, visit the Penquis website.
India shamed by silence on child sexual abuse within the family
Priya Virmani says a culture of victim-shaming sees abused children carry the scars well into adulthood, while the perpetrators roam free, and calls on the world to hold India to account
by Priya Virmani
Sexual abuse of children has reached alarming proportions in India. A 2013 study by the Indian Journal of Psychiatry said half of all children had encountered some form of sexual abuse and one in five had experienced severe forms of abuse. Yet, between 2001 and 2011, only 48,000 cases were reported.
A 2007 study by the Women and Child Development ministry indicated that 150 million girls and 73 million boys were the victims of abuse in India. That total is more than the combined populations of the UK, France and Germany. Yet, almost nothing has been done by the government to encourage the reporting of cases, to shift the mindset that allows perpetrators to act with impunity and, most crucially, to challenge the space that is the predominant site for such abuse, that is, the family.
https://www.howrevealing.com/Now, a website set up by young Indian professionals is enabling survivors of abuse, of any age or gender, to post anonymously. The site, www.howrevealing.com, is providing a much-needed space for non-judgmental solidarity for survivors, and their stories highlight the level of abuse in India.
One girl recounts how holidays to visit her grandparents were the best part of her childhood, till the abuse by her grandfather began. Her story offers an insight into the social constructions that shame the victim while the perpetrator goes unchallenged. “I have not shared this with anyone in the family,” she wrote. “I am 28 and married, he is 94 and healthy for his age. I still get the creeps when I meet him.”
A man recounts his shocking story of how an aunt abused him, and how his older sister later took over the role of abuser: “The first time I ‘acknowledged' my sexual abuse was at the age of 20,” he wrote. “My life and approach to relationships had been ruined. Every time I met my sister, it would twist my soul.”
Any recourse to counselling, therapy, or the presence of trusted elders who victims could turn to, are conspicuous by their absence.
Moreover, it is unnerving that victims still come into social contact with their abusers who remain free to prey on newer victims.
We need to empower the abused and turn the perpetrators into repositories of shame, even if they are family members. The website is arguably a step in the right direction. But much more needs to be done.
India is home to 19 per cent of the world's children, making this a problem that everyone must take note of, and uncompromisingly hold India to account. This code of silence has to be broken.
Dr Priya Virmani is a political and economic analyst
Prevent child abuse
See something, say something
by Brenda Schory
GENEVA – A survivor of child sexual abuse was the first one to release bubbles, followed by an avalanche of bubbles – from a small machine and from about 70 people with their own bubble bottles – releasing them en masse into the cool spring breeze.
The bubble launch, Debra Bree said, is symbolic of the release of secrets that all victims of child sexual abuse carry.
That is until they tell someone, and then the burden of the terrible secret of child sexual abuse is released.
Bree is executive director of the Kane County Child Advocacy Center and a Kane County assistant state's attorney who prosecutes sexual crimes against children.
The bubble launch and ceremony April 20 at the center's office in Geneva marked the 330 child sex abuse cases prosecuted last year, and it highlighted April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
The center's porch was festooned with blue ribbons, the lawn with blue and silver pinwheels, and participants wore blue ribbons, which symbolize the month, as Bree and Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon spoke about the survivor who would address the crowd.
“He threatened her,” McMahon said. “Despite that threat, despite the attempts to intimidate her … she confronted him.”
The 21-year-old survivor, who was to remain unidentified and not photographed to protect her privacy, told how her father's cousins abused her when she was 5 years old as her father slept because he worked a night shift and her mother was at work.
The cousins threatened that her family would be torn apart if she told, she said.
The cousins eventually moved out and back to Mexico without any more contact, but she carried the burden of the secret for 10 years.
‘Justice for a little girl'
“I thought it was too late to tell anyone what had happened to me,” the survivor said. “I was watching a movie on TV one night and it was about a woman being raped. I had flashbacks of what happened to me, and I started crying. My mother asked me what was going on.”
The survivor said her mother believed her, and she felt the first big weight of the secret lift off.
Months later, the family attended a Mexican Independence Day parade, where she spotted one of her abusers in the crowd, she said.
The family told police, and they looked but could not find him in the crowd.
Every step of the interview and investigation was explained to her as the process at the advocacy center continued, she said.
“The day of the trial came, and just the thought of seeing [him] again was nerve-wracking,” she said. “When it was time for me to testify, it was very hard for me, and I broke down halfway through."
The survivor said she got through it with support from the advocacy center team.
“They are my heroes,” she said. “They got justice for a little girl.”
Her abuser was convicted and sentenced to 24 years in prison, she said.
The other cousin who abused her is still in Mexico and will likely never return to the U.S., she said.
Her advice to other victims of child sexual abuse is not to be afraid to tell.
“It's never too late to speak up and bring justice,” the survivor said. “Do not let it crush your hopes and dreams.”
‘Be the voice for these children'
Part of the message for child abuse prevention is just that – prevention, Bree said.
“For every one of these 330 investigations … somebody picked up a phone and called,” Bree said.
“It's everybody's responsibility to do something. If you see something, say something,” Bree said. “Be the voice for these children. We've come a long way with awareness, but still have a long way to go with prevention and education. Victims need to know that if they tell, someone will listen and do something.”
Bree said the effects of child abuse last a lifetime for the survivors.
“The reality is society is still reluctant to discuss child abuse,” Bree said. “Child abuse is hidden behind a wall of secrecy and silence. But the fact is that child abuse does exist. It crosses all social classes, religions and races. Child abuse is everybody's problem. It doesn't happen to just that family, just that child. One in six boys and one in three girls will be sexually abused by the time they reach the age of 18.”
McMahon also urged getting involved.
“I am asked what can other people do to end child abuse and child sexual abuse,” McMahon said. “Report child abuse when you see it, whether that is physical or sexual. You can do that anonymously. You can do that without fear of reprisal. And you can do that by calling 1-800-25-ABUSE.”
McMahon said not being a mandated reporter “shouldn't stop your neighbors or your friends or family members from saying something when they see something.”
“You can make a difference. It changes people's lives, and it puts a stop to a horrific experience,” McMahon said.
In America's Poorest Communities, a Greater Risk of Child Abuse Deaths
by Karen Pallarito
MONDAY, April 24, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Growing up in a poor family is a well-known risk factor for child abuse, but a new analysis suggests it may also raise a young child's chances of dying from that abuse.
More than 11,000 children, from newborn to age 4, died of physical abuse in the United States during the 15-year study period.
In U.S. counties with the highest levels of poverty, rates of child abuse fatalities were more than three times greater than in counties with the lowest levels of poverty, the researchers found.
Infants accounted for 20 percent of children in the study, but 45 percent of child abuse deaths. In high-poverty counties, there were 9.6 infant deaths per 100,000.
The study also highlights racial disparities. It found that the fatality rate for black children in the lowest-poverty communities is higher than the rate for white children in counties with the highest levels of poverty.
"Child abuse fatalities truly remain a significant problem for especially young children in the United States," said study lead author Dr. Caitlin Farrell.
Farrell, a staff physician in pediatric emergency medicine at Boston Children's Hospital, said this study is the first nationwide analysis to show a link between community-level poverty and rates of child deaths due to physical abuse.
While the notion of community risk factors is relatively new, Farrell said researchers are examining such relationships across various health outcomes, such as the relationship between poor communities and child lead levels.
It's not clear why growing up amid poverty puts kids at greater risk of death. The study authors did not examine why this is happening, and Farrell wouldn't speculate on potential causes.
"We really need further research to understand why this increased risk exists," she said.
The findings were published online April 24 in the journal Pediatrics .
Dr. Robert Block, a University of Oklahoma pediatrician, blames "stresses related to poverty," such as food insecurity, poor education, unsafe neighborhoods and little access to jobs. Parents' frustration can result in "fatal maltreatment of their children," he wrote in an editorial that accompanied the study.
Teasing out the impact of poverty-related factors on child abuse is "really a thorny issue," added Joshua Mersky, co-director of the Institute for Child and Family Well-Being at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Any number of factors -- from mental health and substance abuse problems to fractured families, domestic and community violence and incarceration -- could play a role, said Mersky, who was not involved in the study.
Farrell and her colleagues examined child abuse deaths from 1999 to 2014 among young children in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Their study used federal data on child abuse deaths due to various means of assault, included assault by blunt object, drowning and bodily force; suffocation; and strangulation, Farrell said. The database did not include deaths due to child neglect, she noted.
The research team also used population and poverty data from the U.S. Census Bureau to calculate "county poverty concentration," meaning the percentage of people living below the federal poverty level.
The federal poverty threshold for a family of four was just over $17,000 in 1999 and $24,250 in 2014, the study authors noted.
Overall, there were 3.5 fatalities per 100,000 children, the study showed. Fatality rates varied from 1.3 per 100,000 in counties with the lowest levels of poverty to 4.5 per 100,000 in counties with the highest levels of poverty.
Boys had higher fatality rates than girls -- 3.9 versus 3.1 per 100,000 children.
Black children had 8 deaths per 100,000, compared with 2.7 deaths per 100,000 for whites.
"This to me is calling out for policy solutions to address this problem," Mersky said.
He suggested that "home visiting" programs targeting at-risk parents and children may be one approach. These programs use nurses, social workers or other health practitioners to teach positive parenting practices and ensure that mothers' and babies' basic health needs are met, Mersky explained.
Farrell noted that the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stepped up efforts to prevent child abuse injury and death -- not just react to it.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on child abuse prevention .
4 Conversations That Can Help Guard Children Against Sexual Abuse
by Haley Halverson
Child sexual abuse is perhaps one of the most heinous crimes imaginable.
As a result, people often avoid thinking or talking about it. But pushing such a serious problem under the rug might be doing more harm than good.
It's always difficult to gather national statistics on the prevalence of child sexual exploitation because so much of it goes unreported. Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18. Whether this number is exactly precise or not, it's clear that child sexual abuse is more prevalent than we would like to believe.
What is child sexual abuse?
Children cannot consent to any form of sexual activity, period. Child sexual abuse can range from fondling or sexual touch, to any form of oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse, to sex trafficking. Child sexual abuse also does not require physical contact between the abuser and the child. Showing children obscene images, exposing oneself to a minor or convincing the minor to expose themselves in person or over the internet, exchanging sexually obscene messages, are all forms of abuse as well.
So what can a parent, or concerned adult, do to help prevent or intervene in child sexual abuse?
Perhaps one of the simplest and easiest steps is to talk about the subject in an age appropriate way, and to build a foundation of trust and openness.
Here are four conversations you can have with a child to help guard against sexual abuse:
1) No means no, and nobody is allowed to touch you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable or scared.
Body boundaries are easy to teach even young children. You can start with simple concepts like “this is your body” and “this is my body.”
Build up to discussing consent, and the idea that, “No means no.” This can be applied with simple games. For example, any time you are tickling or kissing or hugging the child you can immediately stop if they ever say no. After you stop touching them, you can reiterate the message by saying something like: “Any time you don't like the way someone is touching you, you can say no, and they are supposed to stop.”
2) Name the body parts.
This one is fairly controversial.
While some parents may not be comfortable teaching their child anatomically correct terms for their body at a young age, it could one day prove vital to their safety.
We have heard some tragic cases where an abuser targeting children used code words for private parts, such as “cookies.” The child didn't have the correct language to explain the abuse to a parent or trusted adult, which helped shield the abuser from detection.
Have a conversation with the child about how some parts are “private parts,” and as early as you feel comfortable teach them the anatomical names (breast, penis, vagina). Do not give fake names to the body parts, or imply any body parts are “dirty” or “bad.”
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has tools for teachers, which parents or other adults could easily use, including free downloadable resources to explain “The Underwear Rule.”
3) Sometimes people we think are good guys, act like bad guys.
Tragically, many child abusers are members of the family or a close friend. Other abusers could be police, doctors, neighbors, teachers, etc.
Let your child know that sometimes people who should be good guys act like bad guys. As many as 93% of child sexual abuse victims under the age of 18 know their abuser. So it is vitally importantly to tell them that you will trust and believe them if they ever get hurt by someone—even if that person is your friend, or someone you both love.
4) You can always talk to me, even if you feel embarrassed or scared.
Repeat this message over and over to the child in your life. It is also useful to emphasize that there should never be secrets about where or if someone touched you. For example, sometimes a doctor may need to examine a child during an appointment, but it should never be a secret.
You can reinforce this message by not acting awkward or embarrassed if they have questions about their bodies or sex. Set a foundation of open communication, and let them know that they can come to you with questions at any time.
Also let them know that they can always tell you anything, even if they feel scared that something bad might happen. Many abusers threaten they will physically harm the child or their family. As clearly as possible, let the child know that if someone threatens to hurt them or anyone they love, they should always tell you right away because you have a safety plan that can help, or because you know the best way to protect them.
In addition to having these active conversations with the kids in your life, you can help guard against child sexual abuse by keeping alert to the signs.
StopItNow has developed a Tip Sheet for warning signs that could indicate a child has been sexually abused. Of course, the presence of any of these signs does not automatically mean a child has been sexually abused, but if several of these red flags appear then it may be a good time to ask some questions and consider seeking help.
Behavior you may see in a child or adolescent can include:
Nightmares or other unexplained sleeping problems
Trouble focusing or becoming suddenly distant
Sudden changes in eating habits
Drawing, dreaming, or playing involving sexual or frightening imagery
Signs more typical of younger children:
An older child regressing behavior to act like a younger child (such as bed-wetting or thumb sucking)
Resists removing clothing at appropriate times (bedtime or bath time)
Wetting accidents unrelated to toilet training
Signs more typical in adolescents
Self-injury (cutting, burning)
Inadequate personal hygiene
Drug and alcohol abuse
Running away from home
For the full StopItNow Tip Sheet visit here. If you suspect a child is being abused, visit RAINN's page here for guidance about how to speak to the child, and about how to report the abuse.
Child sexual abuse is an unspeakably horrific crime, and even attentive parents and adults can miss the signs.
But that's no reason to remain silent.
In fact, that's the reason we must speak up.
Lawmaker continues push to end child marriages in Maryland
by Kathy Stewart
WASHINGTON — Child marriages in Maryland are still legal, after a bill to stop them failed again. But a lawmaker has vowed to continue her fight to end child marriages in Maryland.
“I've heard so many stories that have brought me to tears,” said Maryland Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, D-Howard County.
Atterbeary has introduced child marriage bills in the Maryland legislature. But for the second year in a row, her bill to end child marriages in Maryland has failed. Atterbeary said she planned to introduce another bill next year to raise the marriage age in Maryland.
“I'm really hoping Maryland next year can do the right thing,” she said.
It might be hard to imagine that child marriages are still taking place. But this problem is not just happening in some other country — it is happening here in our own backyard.
Fraidy Reiss with Unchained At Last said that nearly 250,000 children as young as 12 were married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010. Reiss said some of these marriages started out as statutory rape. She said child marriages put the child at greater risk of being involved with domestic abuse, dropping out of school and living in poverty.
Unchained At Last, a nonprofit working to stop child marriages in America, and Tahirih Justice Center, a nonprofit that helps victims flee domestic violence, are two forces behind a national movement to end child marriages.
Last year the organizations were successful in changing Virginia's law, and they continue to work to change the law in other states.
“So this bill has been incredibly, incredibly important,” Atterbeary said.
Under current law, a 15-year-old can marry in Maryland if they have parental consent and are pregnant or had a child.
“Within the past 10 years (in Maryland), we've had about 3,200 child marriages and these are 15-, 16-, 17-year-olds,” Atterbeary said. “The majority of these, over half are girls marrying men that are 10, 15, 20 years their senior.”
She said there is a significant amount of abuse — sexual, physical and emotional abuse — in these marriages. “And it's a situation that they can't get out of because they are (minors),” she said, and they have no rights.
Atterbeary said although her bill (HB 799) failed, she has made lawmakers and Maryland residents more aware of the problem.
First Things First: Summit will look at impact of adverse childhood experiences
by Julie Baumgardner
Many children are exposed to abuse, neglect and family dysfunction, factors experts often refer to as toxic stress.
Why can some kids who encounter toxic stress move beyond it and lead a healthy life while others cannot? That's the question researchers set out to answer in one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and later-life health and well-being.
The study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente, is known as the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study.
The original study included more than 17,000 health maintenance organization members from Southern California who received physical exams. The members completed confidential surveys regarding their childhood experiences (abuse, neglect and family dysfunction including divorce, incarceration, substance abuse and mental health issues) and current health status and behaviors.
Researchers found that exposure to adverse childhood experiences hinders the ability to form stable and healthy adult relationships. Plus, those experiences increase risk for experiencing substance abuse, depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and premature death.
Conversely, healthy relationships in the home, school and community nurture a child's physical and emotional growth. In short, children need these types of relationships from birth forward in order to thrive and become productive adults.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, of the 73 million children living in the United States, a staggering 50 percent of them will experience violence, abuse, crime and psychological trauma before they turn 18.
The National Survey of Children's Health, conducted by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, surveyed parents of 95,677 children 17 and younger. It asked whether their child had ever seen or heard "any parents, guardians or any other adults in the home slap, hit, kick, punch or beat each other up."
The exposure rate for children living with their two married biological parents was 19 out of every 1,000 children. For children living with a divorced or separated mother, the rate of exposure was seven times higher (144 children per 1,000). These comparisons are adjusted for differences across age, sex, race, family income, poverty status and parents' education level.
In 2012, Tennessee conducted its own ACEs survey through the CDC to see how adverse childhood experiences affected the state's general population. It found that about 42 percent of the population experienced two or more ACEs and that one in five Tennessee residents has experienced at least three categories of ACEs. Emotional abuse, substance abuse and parental separation or divorce are the most common adverse experiences in this state.
In May, Chattanooga has a unique opportunity to learn more about adverse childhood experiences and their impact on education, the workplace and throughout our community at the ACEs Community Summit, part of Building Strong Brains, Tennessee's ACEs Initiative. Attendees can learn how to help create safe and stable homes for children, recognize the signs of ACEs in adults and learn how to promote healing for those who have been exposed to toxic stress.
First lady Crissy Haslam, who has been instrumental in creating awareness of ACEs, will attend the summit. Her goal is to help make Tennessee one of the first states to launch a comprehensive public policy shift that focuses on preventing ACEs in young children before they are exposed to ongoing "toxic stress" that increases taxpayer and community costs.
Dr. Pat Levitt, the Simms/Mann Chair in Neurogenetics at the Institute for the Developing Mind, Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, will be the keynote speaker.
The free summit is scheduled from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 2, at Memorial Auditorium, 399 McCallie Ave. You can register at unitedwaycha.org/ACES.
We all share responsibility for the well-being of children in our community, and we can promote healthy child development together by helping to create safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments that kids need. Mark your calendar and plan to attend the summit, because families, companies, churches, nonprofits, agencies and other community organizations can truly benefit from learning about the impact of ACEs.
Child neglect, abuse, drug culture overwhelm Idaho's foster system
by Julie Wootton, Tetona Dunlap and Alex Riggins
TWIN FALLS — Robert Wayne Welch's girlfriend discovered something worrisome in 2014: His infant son was losing weight and vomiting. The baby's head appeared larger than normal, too.
Paranoid that his heavy methamphetamine use would be discovered, Welch didn't take baby Robert Welch Jr. to a hospital, prosecutors said later. But his girlfriend did.
Doctors in Boise found a fractured skull and a brain bleed. The infant appeared to suffer from shaken baby syndrome and was severely malnourished, getting only enough calories to keep his heart beating. He needed emergency surgery.
Welch would lose his parental rights and be sentenced for felony injury to a child. His son would suffer the consequences forever.
The boy is Josiah William Baker now — fostered, then adopted, by Jon and Tina Baker of Twin Falls, who picked up the 4-month-old from the hospital. Now 3 years old, he has permanent brain damage and developmental delays. He's non-verbal and can't be left alone.
Idaho needs a foster care system for Josiah and other neglected, abused or abandoned children. But it's an overburdened system with a shortage of foster parents, overworked social workers, a lack of systemwide oversight and a culture “undercut by a constant feeling of crisis,” according to a February report by the Legislature's Office of Performance Evaluations.
The need is especially pronounced in south-central Idaho, where far fewer foster placements are available than anywhere else in the state. And the number of children removed from their homes is on the rise.
Last year, 181 south-central Idaho children were removed — most due to neglect — compared with 161 in 2012, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
Idaho legislators in March passed a resolution to create a committee to study Idaho's foster care system and recommend improvements. But as lawmakers debated more funding for child welfare and higher payments to foster parents, south-central Idaho still faced an extreme shortage of licensed foster parents.
And the need can't wait. A child removed from a dangerous situation needs a bed to sleep in that night. Food and clothing. A sense of security. Love.
Someone has to be willing to help.
‘I wasn't a good parent'
Other parents with drug problems, like Sara Bloss, try to beat the drugs and reunite their families.
In a Plant Therapy warehouse smelling of lavender, citrus and peppermint, Bloss gave a cheerful “Hi!” and a wave to a co-worker sealing a package of essential oils March 13. Before starting her afternoon tasks, Bloss showed a photo taken with her husband that weekend — the first time she'd seen him in nine months. He wore a blue prison suit.
“He told me, ‘When you talk to the reporter, you tell her it was all my fault,'” said Bloss, a 30-year-old Twin Falls mother with a 3-year-old son.
Bloss' husband violated his probation, was charged with felony possession of meth and is serving 2 1/2 years in prison in Kuna. In November, Bloss was charged with the same crime and sentenced to 30 days in jail. She left her son, Gus, with a friend.
But that friend got arrested after police found drugs in her vehicle, and Gus was put into foster care.
“It wasn't neglect,” Bloss said. “Not all children are taken because of neglect.”
Now Bloss has to prove to Health and Welfare that she deserves to have her son back, she said as she double-checked the essential oils inside a box headed for Canada.
When her son entered foster care, Bloss didn't know where he was living. She was scared.
“You don't know who he's with because you are in jail,” she said. “It was the most stressful 30 days of my life.”
Then she met Gus' foster mother — Amanda Connors, who grew up in foster care in Twin Falls and Jerome — and her worries subsided.
“She's a young girl paying it forward,” Bloss said. “I know he's in good hands with her.”
Growing up, Connors bounced around different foster homes and group homes. Her father committed suicide when she was young. Her mother and stepfather used drugs; she has a good relationship with them today, though they don't talk much.
Connors, 29, has fostered eight children and has four in her home now — including Gus, who ran over to Connors as she sat at the dining room table Feb. 13.
“Mom!” he yelled, clutching a bag of Skittles. Connors tried to refuse the yellow candy he pushed toward her mouth but eventually ate it.
“Ahh!” Connors said. “No more. Thank you.”
Connors is glad to hear her foster children call her Mom. They must feel secure, she figures.
“It's pretty neat to watch the kids grow and feel safe,” Connors said, “and see how happy they are when they see their family.”
Of all the biological parents Connors works with, Bloss is the only one who consistently shows up for scheduled visits.
“I need to be there for my son,” Bloss said. She wishes she could see him every day. “That just kills me.”
But before Gus can return to her care, Bloss must complete a four-hour online parenting class, have a job and finish a twice-weekly drug treatment program at the Walker Center in Gooding. Bloss has the Plant Therapy job and has completed the parenting class, but the third requirement remains. After work March 13, she planned to drive to Gooding for three hours of the drug treatment class.
Bloss is allowed supervised visits with Gus for an hour each week. Instead of doing it at a Health and Welfare office, they play at parks or JumpTime Idaho and get ice cream at Arctic Circle.
“I'm blessed we get to have those kinds of visits,” Bloss said.
She often brings toys for the other foster children in Connors' home, so they don't feel left out.
Gus would start play therapy in mid-March. Bloss' social worker said Gus was having trouble expressing himself with words.
“It kind of confuses him,” Bloss said. “Playing shows kids love.”
Connors sends Bloss photos of Gus on the swings and the slides.
“He's at the park and it lets me know he's OK,” Bloss said. “The foster mom is amazing. She's so cool.”
With a court date approaching, Bloss hoped to get unsupervised visits with her son. And at the next court appearance, in June, she hopes the judge will let her have Gus back.
“My goal is to stay sober for the rest of my life,” she said. “I wasn't a good parent before. I wasn't being the best mom I could be. My son needs me.”
‘How can you send them back?'
And what did the baby with a fractured skull need? Not what his biological dad could provide, a court concluded.
When doctors found infant Robert Welch Jr.'s skull fracture and brain bleed, Welch's ex-wife told police he'd blamed the injury on their two children jumping on the bed the infant lay on.
And, court documents say, she told police how Welch had replied when she confronted him: “Am I supposed to tell the cops that I beat the s— out of my own kid so they can put me in jail for the next 15 years?”
In February 2015, Welch was sentenced to a therapeutic program with the Idaho Department of Correction, known as a rider, and then to seven years of supervised probation starting in October 2015.
“I'm very sorry for the things I've done,” Welch said at his sentencing hearing. “I realize I do have a problem. I love Junior more than anything. I pray for him every day.”
During a brief phone interview March 20, Welch blamed the neglect on his heavy meth use.
“I was not a good person,” Welch remembered. “I did my rider — pretty much six months of an intense in-patient program — and it changed my life for the better.”
But he won't see the boy anytime soon. Welch gave up his parental rights in a child-protection case, and a plea agreement in his criminal case restricts Welch from seeing the boy until he's 16. The birth mother wasn't in the picture in 2014; she went to prison six days after giving birth for a parole violation on a forgery conviction, according to court records.
Willing to speak only briefly last month, Welch defended himself, pointing out he was convicted for neglecting to seek medical care, not for beating the infant; he said he still doesn't know how the baby's skull was fractured. He called losing Junior “heartbreaking” but said he's trying to put those events in his past.
Welch's conviction was for creating an environment that allowed his son to sustain a skull fracture or failing to seek treatment. A second count of felony injury to a child, dropped in the plea deal, said Welch failed to feed the baby.
The Bakers, already foster parents for other children, thought they would be providing hospice care during the baby's final days on Earth. But that was three years ago, and now the renamed Josiah is their adopted son. He's like an infant, but more demanding, Tina Baker said. He's “super smart” but yells if left alone.
On a Friday afternoon in mid-February, Tina pulled a photo off her refrigerator: Josiah as an infant, at the Boise hospital where they took him in.
About 45 foster children have come through the Bakers' doors since 2011. Six children live under their roof now: Jon's biological daughter, two foster children and three children the couple fostered then adopted.
“How can you send them back when you love on them?” Jon said.
Adopted daughter Chloe Baker, 4, carried a pink florescent balloon around the living room that afternoon and showed off her stuffed animal, Olaf from the Disney movie “Frozen.” A 6-month-old foster girl napped in another room. On a kitchen chair, Josiah watched a video on an iPad.
Josiah was recovering from a procedure earlier that day at St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center, Tina said. Sedated, he received Botox injections — eight in his calves and two on the soles of his feet — to counteract the curling of his toes, a result of his brain injury.
Tina and her husband usually say yes to taking in foster children. But the night before Josiah's procedure, when they got a call about an 11-year-old girl who was suicidal, they were maxed out and said no.
“I didn't want an extra worry on my plate,” said Tina, who was already stressed out.
Health and Welfare would have to find the girl a different home in Idaho's overburdened foster system.
'Full Measure': Sex trafficking
by Lisa Fletcher
PORTLAND, Ore. (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - Prostitution is sometimes called the world's oldest profession but these are dangerous new times. The age-old image of streetwalkers is being replaced by cybersex hookups. The thinly veiled alleged prostitution platforms hiding in plain sight are contributing to a rapid increase in sex trafficking, and that includes both recruiting and exploiting teenagers.
According to one advocacy group, 63 percent of child sex trafficking victims were advertised online. "Full Measure's" Lisa Fletcher traveled to Portland, Oregon and found a thriving online market for pimps trafficking young American girls up and down the West Coast.
Lindsay Whittaker: "I'm in, like, the smallest, skimpiest outfit. It's freezing and it's raining outside. He's trying to rob me and I'm just scared for my life, like I'm in somebody else's car, like, he could have easily killed me."
Whittaker is one of the lucky ones. She was a prostitute for six years and lived to talk about it. Born in Vancouver, Washington, she ran away from home at age 12 and landed on the streets of Portland.
Fletcher: "At what point did you go from being a runaway kid with a troubled life at home to a runaway kid who was pushed into the sex trafficking business?"
Whittaker: "Mainly just being around the wrong people. There's pimps and mean, dirty people like that everywhere and they approached me. I told them what was going on because I was scared, you know, a little child in the streets not knowing where they are going to eat, where they are going to go, so when you don't have that and somebody comes and tries to comfort you and take you in, you know, you're a kid and you fall for it."
Fletcher: "They sort of groom you?"
Whittaker: "Yeah, like, they train you, they slowly manipulate your mind and slowly say little things that just get you to where they want you."
Jeff Tiegs: "These predators out there, these terrorists out there, are looking for their prey."
Tiegs leads the Guardian Group that works to disrupt sex trafficking in the U.S. He is also a counterterrorism expert who spent 25 years in U.S. Army Special Operations.
Fletcher: "Is recruiting for ISIS similar to recruiting for child trafficking?"
Tiegs: "It is, in my opinion, identical."
Fletcher: "So, they're looking for somebody who's vulnerable."
Fletcher: "Then what?"
Tiegs: "They befriend that individual. So, they begin to groom you and give you the things that you need but, ultimately, that grooming shifts to a breaking phase where they want you to do something that violates your character. That can be something from the terror world as violent as - and final as - a suicide bomber or, in the trafficking world, they convince you to start turning tricks and having sex with men."
Whittaker's pimp sold her through strip clubs in Portland and also posted her availability online. She looked young and that was fine for the clients or "johns."
Fletcher: "Were there johns that specifically requested you because they knew you were a kid?"
Whittaker: "Yeah. Yeah, definitely, like, that's, that's probably why a lot of them chose me anyways. Um, obviously, we wouldn't broadcast that I was a minor, but it was very clear, like, when you're a child, you look like a child, act like a child."
Fletcher: "Do you remember how old you were the first time you were raped?"
Whittaker: "Around that time, when I first got into the streets, around, like, 12, 13."
Fletcher: "If you had to guess how many times you were raped, what do you think it would be?"
Whittaker: "Oh, I can't even say a number. That's just a lot."
Fletcher: "More than 100?"
Whittaker: "Yeah. A lot. A lot. I don't know, it's a sick world, that whole part, that world, it's just horrible. And I don't want, I don't want any girls to ever have to go through that, you know what I mean? Like, I would save every single one if I could."
Det. Chad Opitz: "The main goal is if we get any minors, but the traffickers are the other things."
In Beaverton, Oregon, a suburb southwest of Portland, Opitz makes it his mission to save as many of these girls as he can. Posing as an interested client, he sets up a date.
Fletcher: "You know, I was watching you text this morning, setting up these dates, and then I was thinking, you could be booking a plane ticket or a dinner reservation, I mean, it's that easy."
Opitz: "Yes. It's, sadly, it's too easy."
Fletcher: "How many texts a day do you think these women get on average?"
Opitz: "I would say dozens. And that's probably being a safe number, it is pretty much right when they post, they get inundated with, with potential johns.
"These two have just responded for possibles …"
Opitz showed us just how easy it is to buy a girl online, through websites like Backpage, a classified advertising site.
Opitz: "Right now, we are waiting for Maya to show up, she posted as an 18-year-old here on Backpage. And she's supposed to be showing up probably in the next 15 minutes.
"Hi, Det. Opitz, Beaverton Police Department, how are you?"
Maya ended up being 16 years old.
Opitz: "I just need to find out who you are and I need to make sure that you're OK. OK?"
She was taken back to the police department.
Counselor: "Have you ever been in this sort of situation before?"
She received counseling and was eventually released into the custody of her mother.
While Portland's "brick and mortar" sex shops are dwindling, the internet has only made it easier for prostitution and sex trafficking to flourish - and for men interested in young girls to find exactly what they want.
Tiegs: "Every single one of these girls is for sale right now. And you can see the time and date stamp on when they were posted, and the thing that we work with law enforcement on is there, there are clues hidden in these ads that, that help you understand who they are, where they are, and help law enforcement become more efficient. And as we move closer and closer to that capability in the United States, trafficking is going to get crushed."
Child sex trafficking with cell phones
by George Will
PHOENIX — Three months ago, State Trooper Jonathan Otto, 33, of the Arizona Department of Public Safety pulled over a car that had caught his attention by traveling 104 miles per hour long after midnight, just south of Kingman. He smelled marijuana in the car. It was driven by a man with an adult female wearing only lingerie. Their passenger was a female juvenile whose fake document showed her to be 18. She was, Otto says, "not wearing a whole lot of clothing."
The adults had taken this 16-year-old from California to Arizona and were heading for Las Vegas. The girl gave Otto the California phone number of her grandmother, who immediately told him the girl might have been in prostitution since she was 15. Trained in interview techniques for such situations, and experienced at noticing people who somehow do not belong together, Otto correctly suspected DMST — domestic minor sex trafficking.
Trooper Mitch Jergenson, 46, stopped a car driven by a man whose passenger was a 17-year-old girl he had gotten to know via Facebook and other social media. He had paid for her ticket from California to Phoenix and was taking her to Las Vegas. She said she was going to be a "model," then said she was going to work in a strip club. This, says Jergenson, is "the start of a process" whereby minors often wind up working the streets. "Las Vegas has strict regulations, but … ."
Sgt. Scott Reutter, 47, who watches the motels near the Phoenix intersection of I-17 and I-10, where prostitutes are active, approached a young girl talking to an older man. She said she was 22. Reutter, whose daughters are 22 and 19, thought she was "14, maybe 15." She had been a runaway for 17 months, since she was 13, and said that if she were returned to the custody of child services she would run again. After a 10-minute hearing, she was returned. She immediately ran, and did so repeatedly. To be in law enforcement is often to feel condemned to bailing an ocean with a thimble.
Frank Milstead, too, knows how Sisyphus felt. When nature designed him, it had a director of the Department of Public Safety in mind. Large and laconic, he is the 54-year-old son of a Phoenix cop and, although he spent some time doing stand-up comedy, he knows in the marrow of his bones that "there are so many people out there who want to take advantage of other people."
It is unclear how many victims of DMST there are because for many reasons the crime is not often reported by its victims. They are, Milstead says, usually abducted, sort of, from "some environment where nobody missed them," adding, however, that traffickers cannot control "people who are unwilling."
But many trafficked minors, "who no one had made to feel valuable," are, Milstead says, "chronic runaways" with attenuated capacities for self-determination. They are products of poor or nonexistent parenting; their traffickers provide food, shelter, a simulacrum of caring, and drugs that produce dependency. Milstead guesses that 80 percent are addicted. Hence, they engage in "survival sex."
Milstead's troopers patrol motel parking lots and get to know those who do the motels' housekeeping and notice suspicious activity. Big sporting events, of which Phoenix has many — the Super Bowl, the Final Four, NCAA championship football games — attract traffickers. Troopers also watch bars and nightclubs where minors are offered for sex, and, increasingly, monitor the internet and social media.
The website Backpage, whose founders live in Arizona, began as a place for normal classified advertising but, a U.S. Senate investigation concluded, found its most lucrative business being a sexual marketplace. The New York Times reports that law enforcement officials say Backpage's "dating section" often "used teasers like 'Amber alert' and 'Lolita' to signal that children were for sale." According to the Times, "In the midst of a Senate investigation, a federal grand jury inquiry in Arizona, two federal lawsuits and criminal charges in California accusing Backpage's operators of pimping children, the website abruptly bowed to pressure in January and replaced its sex ads with the word 'Censored' in red."
Holding up his smartphone, Milstead, whose vocation reinforces his inclination to look on the dark side, says: "Leaving your kid alone at night in his room with this? You might as well leave him or her in the city park downtown. Anything is available on a phone."
Human Trafficking Is In Plain Sight. Are You Supporting It Without Knowing?
by Nicole Fisher
Human trafficking is a growing epidemic. In addition to the estimated 21.3 million refugees around the world, there are also an estimated 20.9 million people who are currently being trafficked or enslaved. But enslavement is not what we in America often think it is. Those suffering unthinkable psychological, physical and social trauma are part of a global problem that we, as Americans, see, touch and support every day without knowing it. “The general public does not have a real awareness of the magnitude of the problem,” says Barry Koch, a former Assistant District Attorney in New York County, now with his own consulting firm. “Whether it's labor trafficking or sex trafficking, the number of victims is staggering, yet many of them remain “hidden in plain sight.” After drug dealing, trafficking of humans is tied with arms dealing as the second largest criminal industry in the world, and is the fastest growing. Raising public awareness is an important element in the fight against human trafficking.”
More than 14 million people are being trafficked for labor.
The construction, manufacturing, and mining industries compose over half of the labor trafficking industry.
4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys.
Refugees are a major target of traffickers.
According to the International Labour Organization, forced labor in the private economy generated $150 billion in illegal profits in 2015.
Of those exploited by individuals or enterprises, 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation.
Qatar's World Cup in 2022 has led to such a large increase in forced labor that an estimated 4,000 workers will die during preparations.
It's Not Someone Else's Neighborhood
Trafficking happens 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in every zip code. The U.S. State Department explains that, “The old way of slavery was that the boss really owned you ... But now legal recruiters and employers work in tandem to deceive workers who, vulnerable and isolated in a strange culture, are forced to accept harsh terms. It is in that context that you have endemic forced labor today.” Meaning that those trafficked are in all sectors, and represent all races, religions, cultures, ages and genders. Modern day slavery is right in front of us all the time.
According to Dr. Annalisa Enrile, Clinical Associate Professor, USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, “When we talk about trafficking, most people assume we are just talking about sex. But, there are actually more people enslaved through labor trafficking. Millions more. Impoverished communities, migrant workers, and children are all at risk for indentured servitude, forced labor, and other forms of labor trafficking.”
Women and children are also exploited for labor, not just sex. And here in the U.S., they are often manipulated into forms of slavery despite being legal workers. The Urban Institute claimed in their 2014 report, Hidden in Plain Sight, 71% of the labor trafficking victims in the study entered the United States on lawful visas. While labor trafficking takes many forms, it is primarily located in the following industries: agriculture, fisheries/fishing, construction, factory work, and domestic service. This often goes unnoticed because those most vulnerable, are largely migrant workers isolated from others, and lacking documentation. This further means that those being trafficked, have almost no access to health care.
The Cost of Life – Follow The Money
Trafficking and exploitation of people costs lives, but earns a lot of money – for individuals, organizations and governments. And not just oversees in countries like the Philippines, Brazil and Thailand, but here in the United States. According to the Financial Action Task Force 2011 Report, the estimated annual profit per woman in forced sexual servitude was $100,000, and the estimated annual profit per trafficked child was $207,000.
In farming communities, and similar trades, being targeted by traffickers is nothing new. A San Diego State University study found that in San Diego County, 31% of undocumented, Spanish-speaking migrant workers had experienced labor trafficking. The money to be made is so great that legal worker's documentation goes missing regularly. Human Rights First estimates that $9 billion in profits is made through agriculture - including forestry and fishing – with no slowing of demand in sight. To combat this, Blue Numbers has created a global platform where individuals can voluntarily register themselves for self-identification using documentation and facial recognition.
Unfortunately, money may be the seed of the problem, but it is only part of the problem. Kate Kennedy, Managing Director of the Freedom Fund, explains that, “The reasons for human trafficking are complicated. Three of the main factors include, 1) the economic demand for extremely cheap labor, 2) lack of individual liberty or marginalization, and 3) weak rule of law.” And, until those are addressed we will not see improvement.
Grassroots To Global
While there are no silver bullets to solving the worldwide trafficking problem, a globalizing world, government accountability and new technology have experts in the field optimistic. Technology, for example, has reached a point were an app like TraffickCam can use hotel room recognition, in hopes of finding where those being trafficked are working. Another site, LaborVoices provides real-time crowdsourcing of factory sites so workers can report conditions.
In construction, contractors can develop various technologies while also ensuring their relationships with legal entities creates social impact. According to Mr. Koch, “We can make a difference in the fight against labor trafficking and labor exploitation by passing laws (and monitoring for compliance) that regulate supply chains. Consumers can refuse to purchase goods from retailers who use trafficked labor or child labor in their supply chains. Institutional investors can divest their positions in such companies.”
Legislation is also being crafted throughout the country to fight human trafficking, but thus far has done little the curb the problem that goes beyond verbal calls for human rights. In California, the Transparency in Supply Chains Act (TISC) forces businesses who work with suppliers or subcontractors that violate anti-trafficking laws to disclose violations and discontinue the contract. But those minimal efforts are not well enforced nor replicated in other states. Defining infrastructure comes from U.S. Government Procurement policies. But that has also been slow to implement. However, states and other countries are beginning to learn from emerging examples. For instance, the U.K. Modern Slavery Act of 2015, “Has been a powerful antidote to end modern slavery,” claims Kate Kennedy. “The Act requires organizations with a turnover of more than £36 million operating in the UK to publish an annual ‘slavery and human trafficking statement', setting out what they're doing to address this form of extreme exploitation in their supply chains and business operations.”
Individual companies can help further legislative action. For example, CMiC, a computer software company based in Canada can develop technology to help current government procurement policies hold contractors accountable. Oliver Ritchie, Vice President of Product Strategy at CMiC, contends that, “We should be able to insure that every dollar that the government spends on a project be slave-free. Legislation gives us a way to do this through transparency and compliance. Our product technology provides the opportunity for true implementation.”
But partnerships are also vitally important in the anti-trafficking space. The Freedom Fund, a philanthropy focused on strategic planning and financing, has supported almost 100 partners around the world doing grassroots work to fight modern slavery. Their mission is to identify and invest in the best efforts that allow local entities to thrive. This is because the best efforts are often by those who know the local culture the best. Further, academics research, capital funding, NGOs and nonprofit efforts and media awareness all have to come together to work collectively and educate the public.
Policymakers also have to take greater action – both in understanding the problem and in crafting legislative solutions. "Our collective hope,” says Dr. Enrile, “is to increase collaboration and to work in parallel on the crucial areas of legislation, awareness, research, and interventions. Our commitment as a school of social work is to be a convener of thought leaders in the anti-trafficking movement to make meaningful collaboration possible." There are thousands of people doing work to stop trafficking. But we need that number to be in the millions. We, collectively, need to do better. Millions of lives are at stake.