LePage: Drug, alcohol use by pregnant women is child abuse
by Nok-Noi Ricker
AUGUSTA, Maine — With a bill he submitted earlier this month, Gov. Paul LePage signaled that he wants to take Maine's war on drug abuse to the womb.
LePage on May 2 submitted LD 1556, which would expand who is mandated to report child abuse to the Department of Health and Human Services and require all mandated reporters to report when “they know or suspect substance abuse by a woman during her pregnancy.”
The mandated reporting would apply even if the drugs are prescribed as part of a recovery program. Advocates and addiction treatment professionals say the change would scare away mothers-to-be, potentially causing them to avoid both prenatal and substance abuse care.
The bill is intended to get pregnant woman into recovery programs, the governor says, but it also means prenatal drug or alcohol exposure could provide the grounds for terminating parental rights.
The bill was referred to the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee, which held a May 8 hearing at which members of the Maine Medical Association, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, the Maine Hospital Association and others spoke against the measure.
LePage senior policy adviser David Sorensen spoke in favor. A work session is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday.
“It will have a chilling effect on those seeking treatment, and if there is one person we want seeking treatment — it's a pregnant woman,” Gordon Smith, Maine Medical Association's executive vice president, said Tuesday.
Evidence shows that punitive measures drive pregnant women struggling with substance use disorder away from seeking prenatal care, Oami Amarasingham, advocacy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, told the committee.
The problem with the proposed legislation is that it “broadens who is mandated to report to just about everybody in the world” and could create a system of “vigilante” reporting or mistaken reporting, Smith said.
“A mandatory reporter could see a woman having a glass of wine and report her because they might think she could be pregnant — that is not a good idea,” he said. “It should not be mandated.”
LePage said May 8 on a WVOM radio show that his bill is “about trying to get control of this opioid problem.” More than one person a day died by drug overdoses in Maine last year, with opioid use linked to 313 of the 376 deaths.
“In the last four or five years so many kids have been born afflicted with drugs and now they're starting school and the schools are telling us their problems didn't go away when you detox them — they're life-long problems,” LePage said.
Nearly one out of every 10 babies born in Maine last year was born drug-a ff ected . There were 165 babies exposed to drugs or alcohol during pregnancy in 2005, and in 2016 that number had grown to 1,024.
“If you're abusing drugs, if you're abusing alcohol when you are pregnant, we have to do something. We have to work with you. We have to get you off them,” LePage said.
Paul Trovarello, director of the ARISE Addiction Recovery in Calais, a small community of around 3,000 that has been hard hit by drug abuse and addiction, said he thinks the bill could help.
“Last year, we had 10 drug overdose funerals — two that were for 9-month-old or younger infants” born drug-affected, Trovarello said Tuesday. “The oldest person was only 44.”
The infants were being weaned off drugs they were exposed to in the womb when they died from complications, he said.
“We've seen the effects,” Trovarello said. “It's heartbreaking.”
The proposed legislation also adds substance abuse addiction treatment providers to the list of mandated reporters, which would mean all pregnant women on methadone, Suboxone or once-a-month Vivitrol, the brand name for naltrexone, would automatically be reported.
“I would rather see the state provide substance abuse treatment for those who need it,” said Mark Moran, a licensed social worker who leads Eastern Maine Medical Center's family service and support team. “If we really want to help, eliminate the barriers for those who want access to care.”
Moran said that integrating treatment with prenatal care has been shown to work better than threats.
If enacted, Maine would be the 24th state to consider substance abuse during pregnancy to be child abuse and require mandated reporting, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Former CPS investigator, husband indicted in child sexual assault case
by Kristin Hoppa
A McLennan County grand jury this week indicted Heather Michelle Bond, 29, a former CPS investigator, on a charge of endangering a child. It also indicted her husband, Preston Lewis Bond, 43, on two counts of sexual assault of a child, three counts of indecency with a child by contact, and one count of indecency with a child by exposure.
Preston Bond was arrested in February after a 16-year-old girl told a school counselor he sexually touched her between April and June of 2016. The girl said she confronted Preston Bond about the inappropriate behavior and he told her he would get therapy after the confrontation.
Police began investigating when a 14-year-old girl also claimed she received sexually explicit text messages from Preston Bond in November and additional electronic messages in January.
About two weeks later, Heather Bond was arrested on a felony charge of endangering a child, accusing her of not protecting the child from her husband's abuse, the arrest affidavit stated.
Shortly after Heather Bond's arrest in April, a Department of Family and Protective Services spokeswoman verified that Heather Bond was an investigator with the department and was placed on leave. Her employment was later terminated.
Heather Bond was later released from custody after posting bond. Her husband remains in McLennan County Jail with a bond listed at $180,000.
Trauma Impacts Many Aspects Of Life
by Vi Waln
The National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day was May 4, 2017. Many children experience traumatic events at a very young age. Trauma affects our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health.
Today, methamphetamine and prescription narcotic abuse are widespread. Children are suffering traumatic experiences at a higher rate than ever before because of addicted family members. Alcohol has long been a scourge of the Lakota people. Today, meth and other substances are surpassing alcohol as a drug of choice.
Mental health is not a topic many are comfortable discussing. Still, children are suffering because of the mental state of their parents. Sadly, addictions play a heavy role in the environment our children live in. There are parents out there right now who treat their children very badly.
For example, some children live in homes where the parents are constantly drinking, drugging or arguing. Disrespecting a partner by cussing and calling them derogatory names, or threatening your partner with violence, isn't going to help your children's mental health. It's appalling to know there are families living right here, verbally abusing their children.
It seems as though many parents don't give a second thought to how their words can damage a child. Many children are terribly mistreated by their parents. Physical, verbal, mental and emotional abuse happens to our children every single day.
The unhealthy behavior of unhappy or drug addicted parents are traits children will grow up displaying. There are a lot of mean children in our schools. A lot of these children learned how to be a bully by watching their parents.
There are some children with parents who don't fight in front of them. Fortunate are those children with parents who aren't verbally abusive. Today, children in many homes are told they are hated or wanted dead. Saying things like this to your children is a way to ensure them an adverse childhood experience.
According to the CDC - Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, the environment our children are exposed to can affect how they function as adults. People who experienced certain types of abuse, household challenges or neglect as children, can be adversely affected for the rest of their lives. What you experienced as a child can alter your outlook on life forever. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about.html
Adverse childhood experiences include emotional, physical or sexual abuse. An ACE is also defined as living in a home marked by violence, substance abuse, mental illness, parental divorce or a criminal household member. Emotional and physical neglect are also listed as an ACE.
As long as we continue to engage in unhealthy behavior, our children will continue to suffer. The ACE study shows that children who experience traumatic events may be susceptible to certain afflictions, such as alcohol abuse or illicit drug use, when they are adults. The mental health of our children, as well as their physical, emotional and spiritual state, is very important and very much at risk.
Please be aware of May as Mental Health Awareness Month. It's our responsibility to provide a healthy environment for our children and other relatives. Look to your children and be aware of their overall being.
'Heartbreaking and frustrating'
by Ben Wearing
Vicki Cain recently was in Topeka to meet with legislators as part of May being National Foster Care Month.
Cain, foster care recruitment manager with Salina's Saint Francis Community Services, said she told Salina Rep. Diana Dierks that the number of children needing foster care in Saline County was declining.
However, Cain said, when she got home and took a closer look, the numbers told a different story.
“We have an all-time high of children being removed from the home,” Cain said.
Right now, Saint Francis has 31 foster families in Saline County. It needs 51 more families in order to serve Saline County children. That's an increase of 165 percent.
The typical reasons children go into foster care are “physical and emotional abuse and neglect, things like that,” Cain said.
However, today, a contributing factor has more to do with the opioid epidemic, she said.
“It (the epidemic) is not just in Kansas. It's across the world,” Cain said.
If Saint Francis can't place with foster parents in Saline County, the children go to homes outside the county. That creates a whole new set of problems.
“And this is where it gets heartbreaking and frustrating,” said Cain, who's worked in foster care for seven years, the past 31/2 with Saint Francis.
“Because then the children are away from their schools, so they suffer that loss, and homework suffers, teacher relationships and friendships suffer.
“They're also placed farther away from their biological parents, with whom we're trying to reintegrate them. We like to keep the children in their communities so we can preserve those connections.”
It also puts a strain on their families and social workers when they have to travel to see the children.
The obvious answer is to find more local foster care families. But that goal faces a number of hurdles, including confusion about what makes a good foster parent and finding people willing to take a chance on a child in need.
Are you a cheerleader?
Cain said what they look for in foster parents are “cheerleaders.”
The biggest thing, she said is “just being open to being that mentor, to being that cheerleader, to present options for these children, to be able to cope with the losses that they've endured.”
Some of their best foster parents are those who can relate to what the foster children are going through.
“And then they realize, ‘Oh my gosh! I can do this!' It doesn't take a huge house or lots of money.”
Being a foster parent does come with some requirements, though. For instance, there will be home inspections to “make sure licensing regulations are met.”
“I think people have an idea that they need to have a certain amount of income, a certain size of house, maybe even expertise with child-rearing,” she said. “And sometimes, I think they are a little leery of stepping up and wanting to help.”
A call to the foster care recruitment line at 1-866-999-1599 can provide more information.
Because life happens
Cain said Saint Francis hopes to build on the average three-year length of service for foster parents. While foster parenting isn't easy, when parents drop out it's often not because of the strain of the job.
Often, it's just because “life happens.”
“They have their own children and their families,” she said. “So, a lot of times we see wonderful families come and have to take a break to care for their own parents or a child who has become sick.”
The average length of stay for a child in foster care is from 18.9 to 21.8 months.
What about adoption?
While the goal always is to return the child to his or her biological family, sometimes that can't happen. In that case, the child is eligible for adoption and relatives or the foster parents are the first people Saint Francis approaches.
“Aside from relatives, the current foster care parents are probably our No. 1 adoptive resource,” she said, “which is a great thing.
“Reintegration with the family is always the main goal. We certainly don't want people to go into foster care expecting adoption will occur.”
So, what's the answer?
Cain said Saint Francis has seven recruiters who work to find foster homes in Saint Francis' region, which extends roughly from Topeka to the Colorado border.
They handle inquiries, speak to civic groups, schools and churches while trying to secure foster parents.
Churches, Cain said, might provide the answer.
“I'm sure it's safe to say that we have more than 50 churches in this town or county,” she said. “It would be my wish that every church would identify and support one foster family.
“We certainly could meet the needs right here in Saline County with no problem.”
And, you don't have to be a foster parent to be part of the solution, she said. You might be a mentor to foster parents, or provide them meals and transportation.
WWJD and fostering
Cain also sees a deeper connection between the need to support foster parents and churches.
“Fostering is really, truly what Jesus did, what Jesus called us to do,” she said. “These children and families don't wake up and wish that they would come into foster care.”
She also sees responding to foster children as a matter of civic pride, and long-term commitment to the community.
“These children are a part of our community, and are our responsibility,” she said. “I would wish people would open up their hearts and open up their homes to care for these children in need.”
Children in need
There is a critical need for foster parents in Kansas. Here's how you can help:
• Call to the foster care recruitment line at 1-866-999-1599
• Check out the Saint Francis Community Services foster care page at fostercare-ks.org
• You must be 21 or older and pass a background check.
• You don't have to own your home or be married.
• There's no cost, and the state provides a daily stipend. How much depends on the level of care required.
Is your child a bully?
by Dr Gregory Ramey
When Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 13 people at their Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, there was an effort to make sense out of this senseless act. Initial speculation (which proved to be false) was that their murder rampage was the result of being the victims of bullying.
A few years later, Erika Harold, Miss America of 2003, disclosed her personal trauma with being a bullying victim in high school, and became an eloquent spokesperson for kids who suffered in silence while adults ignored their plight.
We've gone from ignoring a very serious problem to misunderstanding it. Today, rude or inappropriate remarks often get mischaracterized as “bullying.” A teen recently told me that she was being bullied. The so-called bullying consisted of some kids making fun of her makeup for a few days at school.
Ridiculing anyone isn't right, but it's not bullying. Here are the three criteria used by experts to understand bullying.
First, there needs to be some intent to cause harm.
Second, there needs to be a power imbalance between individuals, such as an older child ridiculing a younger person. Bullying often involves someone with a great deal of social status abusing someone who is perceived to be different and inferior.
Finally, bullying has to occur over several months.
When we mischaracterize rudeness and vulgarity as bullying, we diminish the importance of this serious type of emotional abuse. We've taken bullying seriously because we've finally recognized that it has a severe impact on kids.
Most of our efforts have been to identify and protect the victims, but what about the bullies? Doesn't it make more sense to treat the offenders as well?
Are you raising a bully? Here are the three indicators.
1. Bullies have no understanding of the impact of their behaviors. These kids often have little appreciation of the hurt and harm that results from their actions. They are socially inept insofar as they can't anticipate the consequences of their actions.
2. Bullies don't care about the impact of their behaviors. Even when they are aware of their impact, bullies don't change their actions. They simply don't care. Bullying is all about power, those who have it abusing those who don't. Relationships are not mutually satisfying, but rather a way to achieve status and attention.
3. Bullies don't obey the rules. These kids often violate expectations at school and home. They may commit acts of juvenile delinquency or get suspended for destroying property, stealing or hurting others.
Left untreated, young bullies grow up to be older bullies. Let's get help at an early age for these disturbed and disturbing kids.
Verbal Abuse Doesn't Require A Raised Voice: 5 Subtler Types
by Peg Streep
I find it astonishing, especially as someone trained in literature and focused on the power of the words, that the culture remains convinced—despite a robust body of scientific research—that abuse must be physical. It's not just the “Sticks and stones may break my bones/But words will never harm me” thing but the general skepticism that words can be damaging. Consider that it took a rash of highly publicized tween and teen suicides for the culture to recognize that the bully in the schoolyard or in cyberspace wasn't a staple of childhood and adolescent experiences.
When people do concede that words can hurt and even maim, they imagine screaming and yelling, perhaps laced with profanities and a string of searing put-downs. In fact, silence can be just as damaging, especially if it is directed at a child by a parent. Children who are verbally abused in relatively quiet ways—absent the screaming and yelling—are actually more likely to normalize their experiences. They're much more prone not to recognize that a parent is actually abusing them which presents a number of specific kinds of danger and long-term effects.
First, they often don't have the emotional maturity to self-defend consciously; instead, they internalize the negative messages communicated as self-criticism. Self-criticism is the unconscious habit of ascribing failures and setbacks in life to fixed character flaws in the self. The interior dialogue goes something like this: “I didn't make the team/get the job because I'm unlikable and no one wants to be around me,” “The relationship fizzled because I have nothing to offer anyone. It's no wonder he wants nothing to do with me,” “I am too stupid to do anything right which is why I failed the test.” Second, precisely because they've come to think of this treatment as normal, they're likely to be far more accepting of this kind of abuse in their young adult and adult relationships. Children who are verbally abused often grow up to be verbally abused adults.
What science knows about verbal abuse and the brain
A child's developing brain is literally and physically changed by verbal abuse, whether it's the screaming or the quiet kind. The brain adapts to hostility, and among the important parts that are affected are the corpus callosum (transfers motor, sensory, and cognitive information between the brain's two hemispheres); the hippocampus (which regulates emotion); and the frontal cortex (controls thought and decision making). Other studies show that structural changes to the gray matter in the brain also occur with verbal abuse.
Then, there are the psychological changes which are a function of the child's self-armoring and pulling away: insecure attachment, fear, rejection sensitivity, difficulty regulating emotion, self-criticism, low self-worth, impaired emotional intelligence, among them.
And all of this can happen without anyone raising his or her voice.
5 Types of more subtle verbal abuse
This isn't meant to be a comprehensive list but they are the ones which surface most often when children whose emotional needs weren't met in childhood discuss their experiences and the damage done. These are also the behaviors children tend to normalize, much to their detriment. Because the decibel level doesn't rise and there's usually an absence of physically threatening gestures, it's more difficult for a child or adolescent to recognize the behavior as abusive. They feel the pain, of course, but they're likely to think that this goes on in households everywhere. Normalizing the treatment is aided and abetted by the self-justification of many parents as well. All of this serves to make the child feel vulnerable and utterly powerless and, often, ashamed.
The silent treatment
Nothing marginalizes a child more or convinces her of utter unimportance in the world (and the unimportance of her thoughts and feelings) than an adult pretending that the child's question hasn't been asked or that she hasn't said something. We use the word “stonewalling” most often when we talk about this pernicious pattern in adult relationships but children, especially younger ones, aren't able to read or guess at what is motivating the parent. They feel the chill of being ignored or becoming invisible which is enough to make most small children tremble and quake. Many children, especially older ones, will simply disconnect from their feelings to relieve the hurt.
Derision or mocking
Shaming a child is often the unloving parent's weapon of choice and this can be accomplished with words or without. Humiliating a child by rolling your eyes or simply laughing when the child is clearly upset is absolutely devastating and delivers a blow as powerful as a punch in the face. You don't have to call a child “stupid” out loud to make her or him feel utterly worthless.
Piling on the criticism
A child does something wrong—knocks over a vase full of flowers, loses a glove, inadvertently tracks mud into the house—and braces for the torrent that begins “You always” or “You never” and picks up steam from there. With a verbally abusive parent, there's no single incident or mishap but instead a litany of offences, each remembered and recounted no matter how small, that are all highly personalized. It is abusive to tear down a child in this hypercritical and demeaning way even if the tone of voice never rises above that of polite conversation. Verbally abusive parents often justify talking this way by conflating it with “constructive criticism,” “discipline,” or making sure “a child doesn't get too full of himself.” It is none of that.
It's gotten a lot of press recently, most usually in the context of adult relationships, but the fact is that abusive parents gaslight children too. My own mother did, even though I highly doubt she knew her behavior had a name. Its name derives from a play that was then made into a movie called Gaslight in which a character played by Charles Boyer tries to convince his wife that she's losing her mind. Generally, gaslighting involves one person telling another that what he or she thinks happened didn't happen at all. When you gaslight an adult, it takes some skill and manipulation but it's remarkably easy for an adult to gaslight a child; after all, the adult is in charge and supposedly knows more than the child, right? So when the adult challenges the child's recall by saying “I never said that,” “That never happened,” “You're making it up,” the chances are good that even the feistiest of young child will quickly fold his or her tents. Gaslighting makes a child doubt her thoughts, perceptions, and feelings at a profound level, with many pernicious and long-lasting consequences. It is very destructive
Infants and children are hardwired to need their mothers' (and fathers') love, support, attunement, and attention; they come into life utterly dependent and only become self-sufficient decades after birth. Science now knows that the maturation of the brain, long thought to coincide with the maturation of the physical skeleton, happens sometime in a child's late twenties. While rarely talked about in the culture, deliberately withholding comfort when a child is afraid or in need or love or attention or support is also abusive. It doesn't matter whether you call it emotional or verbal abuse or both.
One more thing if you're a parent
If you justify your or your partner's behavior thinking that someone has to play the good cop and someone the bad one, or that sweet and sour balance out, or whatever self-justification you use, you need to stop now. The image of things “balancing out” doesn't apply to emotional development, or the human brain and psyche. We have two different regulatory for the bad stuff and the good stuff, and research shows that the effect of verbal abuse by one parent isn't mitigated in the slightest by the expression of kindness by the other parent.
Abuse is abuse. Words can break a child. Pay attention.
Six Ways to Teach Children without Gas Lighting
by Cindy Brandt
Gas lighting is a term to describe psychological manipulation inflicted on a victim to make them question their perception of reality. The term stems from a 1938 stage play, Gas Light , in which a husband dims the lights in the house, and when the wife accurately points out the fact, he convinces her she is delusional.
Gas lighting is emotional abuse and occurs in an attempt to control others. As with other forms of abuse, victims typically are in a position of vulnerability, accessing less social, political, personal power than their perpetrator.
This is why, although most well-meaning parents don't set out to emotionally abuse their children, we should still be aware of gas lighting by nature of our inherent power over our children. The difference can be subtle, as our parenting responsibility is to influence our children, to discern whether we are teaching, or altering their perception of reality.
The good news is, if you are reading this article–you are aware of gas lighting enough that you are concerned over whether you're inflicting it upon your children–chances are you are not gas lighting them. But because of our children's inherent vulnerabilities, we can never be too cautious as powerful adults in their lives, to ensure we steer clear of abusive tendencies.
Here are six ways to teach children without gas lighting:
“What do you think?” Use this phrase with enthusiasm and often. Get very curious about your children's ideas and affirm and celebrate them. Whenever you introduce a concept or an idea, solicit their creative response by asking, “what do you think?” and yes, you can do this even with a toddler. It is never too early to reinforce that your child has a strong intuition of their own and help them know their thoughts are important and true.
Strengthen their ability to investigate the world. When our children are equipped with tools to explore the world, they will not be easily gas lit as they will interrogate what they're learning against what they're experiencing. This is why an effective strategy of an emotional abuser is to cut their victims off from the outside world. As long as the victim stays sheltered and afraid, one can easily manipulate their reality—ignorance breeds deception. I am reminded of the evil mother in the Disney feature film, Tangled , who kept Rapunzel cloistered in her tower and told her she was crazy to think she can survive in the world. The first step to gas lighting is to instill fear of the outside. Of course, we have a responsibility to shelter our children to a certain extent, but as they grow, we must unfold the world to them and as Laura Wrigley from Raising Children Unfundamentalist says, “strengthen their ability to investigate the world.”
Be careful what you teach. Magda Gerber famously said, “Be careful what you teach, it might interfere with what they are learning.” Remember that we are but one out of multiple influences in our children's lives. They are incredible sponges that soak in learning from external sights and sounds, as well as internal development of heart and mind. A child's brain is creating synapses and making connections at a faster rate than adults. Be aware we are but one aspect of their growth, and to place ourselves in active engagement with other spheres of influence. We can't gaslight our kids if they are interrogating us against their other “teachers.”
Compel, and do not coerce. It is fair and reasonable to pass on values that are important to you as a parent and for your family. In fact, it provides grounding for a child's identity and formation. But it's important that we call our children into shared values by compelling and not coercing them. Much of this will happen organically by living out those values in our everyday family lives. You want your child to be a generous person? Live generously and entice them to that standard by showing them the good fruit of that example. We should never demand or shame our kids for not living up to the values we espouse. Instead, we cultivate their character with gentle instruction and by modeling it.
Model autonomy. Parenting without authoritative control does not mean we do not get to express our own opinions. For mothers, especially, it's important to show our girls how to maintain autonomy and have a voice in a world that often silences girls. But here's how to exert our power without lording over the children's. Use “I think…” statements. Just as we give our children permission to explore what they think, we model it by expressing our ideas. Explain your convictions but tell them why. Kids love stories, and they especially love stories of our past. Tell them the narratives that shape who we are so they know our personhood doesn't come out of a vacuum, but is formed by our own history and other influences. In this way, we don't need to be timid about sharing our strong beliefs but those ideas are framed as our unique story and path, ensuring that we make space for our kids to walk their own.
Subvert power imbalance. The danger to gas lighting our children lie in the power imbalance, so whenever possible, subvert that hierarchy. This means getting down to eye level with the kids to reduce the intimidation of our larger stature. Or speaking softly and not talking down at the children. It's listening lots and giving them control whenever possible. All of these power-equalizing strategies will minimize the risk of gas lighting and ensure we are parenting healthy children with a strong sense of their own truth.
And truth will set them free to live a daring life of adventure. We can only hope they call us to tell us all about it.
WANTED: Common sense in the jury box
by Diane Dimond
We should all have a profound respect for our jury system. In a justice system that is obviously not perfect, average citizens put their lives on hold to serve as jurors so defendants get a fair shot at impartiality. Jurors act as a counter-balance to attorneys' legal maneuverings as they apply their common sense to the proceedings.
But in a world where defense attorneys use every trick in the book and bend the meaning of “reasonable doubt” beyond all comprehension, jurors can sometimes be led off the path to justice. I have sat in many courtrooms and watched this process firsthand.
Take the case against Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu. The complaints about his behavior began as early as 1998. Authorities got disturbing reports the single foster father may have been sexually abusing young boys placed in his care. But over and over again – during at least 18 separate child-abuse investigations – no action was taken against this foster parent. Officials continued to send Gonzales-Mugaburu even more children. Later, it would be said, there had been a breakdown in communication between the various agencies tasked with keeping the children safe.
Over the years, Gonzales-Mugaburu took in a total of 106 young boys by describing himself as especially suited to handle the needs of the mentally challenged and physically handicapped. He received up to $18,000 each month to care for them.
In March 2016, Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, was arrested on charges that he physically and sexually abused eight of his wards, children as young as 8. The District Attorney of Suffolk County, N.Y., made it clear he would like to have filed even more charges but the statute of limitations made that impossible.
At trial all eight accusers – ages 16 to 29 – tearfully testified. They told the jury heartbreaking stories of trying to get help from school guidance counselors, visiting social workers and neighbors. They testified to repeated acts of emotional and sexual abuse against themselves, the other boys and even the family dog. One testified he was locked in his room for a month at a time, stripped of his hearing aids. Their jarring testimony deserves more space than is allowed here, but according to almost everyone in the courtroom their stories were intense, detailed and so similar as to prove the defendant's modus operandi.
Gonzales-Mugaburu always maintained his innocence. His attorney, Donald A. Mates Jr., told the jury, “This crazy story that you heard is just that.”
As Mates pointed out to the jury, the state continued to assign more boys to the Gonzales-Mugaburu home, didn't it? And since the accusers were “troubled boys,” they were likely to make up stories. Mates also told the jury the accusers were likely motivated by money and mentioned they would probably sue the agencies responsible for placing them in the home. Mates waved the “reasonable doubt” flag over and over.
The jury bought it. After a five-week trial, Gonzales-Mugaburu was acquitted of all charges.
The jury foreman, Tim Carney, told reporters after the verdict he tended to believe the boys' testimony but, “I could not put a man away for the rest of his life on what they gave us, the evidence they produced. There was nothing ever to back them up.”
To this veteran court watcher this outcome underscores two flaws within the justice system. First, that judges do not adequately explain – in layman's terms – what reasonable doubt is. As one of my former Court TV colleagues once explained it to me, “A lawyer might tell a jury that the sun will not come up tomorrow. But common sense tells them that is not so.” In other words, our system relies on the common sense of jurors.
The second flaw, to my mind, is that prosecutors don't – or are not allowed by the judge – to explain to jurors the psychological mindset of child sex-abuse victims. Their stories don't spill out all at once in a coherent narrative. They gradually reveal their horrors, watching to see how adults react to each disclosure. And experts say that young boys who have been sexually assaulted are the most reticent to reveal, often never telling what happened lest their manhood be questioned.
Eight young men called victims told their stories to the Gonzales-Mugaburu jury. An ex-police officer neighbor testified that starving boys would come to him for food, locked outside for hours in the snow by their foster parent. Yet the jurors apparently wanted even more corroboration? Like an eyewitness to sexual activity? Physical scars proving the allegations? A school counselor who would admit to hearing a boy's plea but ignoring it? None of that would ever happen outside a TV crime drama. There are few Perry Mason moments in a sex-abuse trial. Common sense must prevail.
I don't like to question a jury's verdict because they alone heard all the evidence and carefully deliberated. But this time I fear this jury may have unplugged their common sense.
NOTE: Links may refer to six victims, not eight. Here's the distinction: There were six boys who testified to actual sexual abuse/penetration. Two others testified to extreme physical and emotional abuse, e.g. being locked out in the snow for hours, not fed, locked in their bedrooms for up to a month at a time, etc. The charges included both sexual and physical/emotional abuse of minors.
How focusing on parent-child relationships can prevent child maltreatment
by Science Daily
Child abuse and neglect is a widespread and costly problem in the United States. Approximately 3.9 million children were subjects of maltreatment reports to child welfare agencies in 2013. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, child abuse and neglect cost the U.S. $124 billion in 2012.
In order to help children facing maltreatment, researchers and clinicians first needed to address the heart of the problem. The relationship between the parent and child is key, argues Kristin Valentino, William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, in an article published recently in a special section of the journal Child Development.
More than 90 percent of maltreated children are victimized by one or both parents, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "My position is that child maltreatment, in most cases, can best be understood as a problem in the parent-child relationship," Valentino says. "Thus, we should focus on enhancing the parent-child relationship in our intervention efforts."
Two broad kinds of relational interventions between parents and children are available to researchers and clinicians. In her article, Valentino examines brief models and long-term models, both designed to improve not only how well parents understand their children and how to react to them, but also the child's attachment security. The latter plays a critical role in supporting positive development, including coping skills, emotional and behavioral functioning, peer relationships and even physical health.
Children who are neglected, abused or otherwise mistreated often develop emotional problems, Valentino says: "Up to 80 to 90 percent of maltreated children develop what is known as disorganized attachment. This classification is one type of insecure attachment and is associated with the worst outcomes including severe problems in emotion regulation, school achievement and the development of psychopathology."
Valentino reviews the pros and cons of brief and long-term intervention methods, and conclusively recommends a tiered approach wherein families are provided with brief interventions first, and subsequent long-term approaches if needed.
"Given limitations on resources and funds to support treatment in the child welfare system, this approach would allow us to provide services to more families, and to identify families who should be referred to more intensive programs in a targeted manner," Valentino says.
Valentino is a clinical and developmental psychologist who conducts research with families through Notre Dame's Shaw Center for Children and Families. Her current research focuses on evaluating the effectiveness of a brief relational intervention for maltreated preschool-aged children and their mothers in a randomized clinical trial design.
Suicide of Cincinnati boy beaten in school bathroom should be treated 'as a homicide until proven otherwise,' coroner says
by David Boroff
A coroner has asked Cincinnati police to treat the suicide of an 8-year-old boy, who was badly beaten in a school bathroom two days before, "as a homicide until proven otherwise."
A Hamilton County coroner's office spokesperson says new evidence has prompted the reopening of the case, but wouldn't say what that evidence is.
Surveillance video of the disturbing assault, much of which took place after little Gabe Taye was knocked unconscious, is expected to be released later Friday.
"There's enough information here that we would like to reopen the case to look at whether we need to amend the death certificate," Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco told WLW Radio on Thursday, according to WCPO. "It was very hard for me to believe that an 8-year-old would even know what it means to commit suicide and so I asked Cincinnati police to treat this as a homicide until proven otherwise and investigate it fully."
School officials had called the boy's mother on Jan. 24 and said he had fainted. Gabe later vomited and complained of stomach pains, and his mom Cornelia Reynolds took him to a hospital that evening. Doctors said he had a stomach virus and sent him home.
Neither doctors nor the boy's mother knew what had happened earlier that day at Carson Elementary School. Gabe hanged himself with a necktie in the bedroom of his Cincinnati home two days later.
During the attack in the bathroom, video shows that Gabe had been thrown against a wall and knocked unconscious. Other students stepped over him while others poked him with their feet as he lay unconscious for 7-1/2 minutes before an assistant principal and then a school nurse came to his aid.
The mother came to get the 8-year-old after the school called her.
Cincinnati Public Schools said in a statement that the boy's mother was asked to pick him up and take him to a hospital "to be checked out."
"On the eve of Mother's Day, it is unfortunate that CPS chose to blame Gabe's mother for not taking him to the hospital after he was injured at school," the family's lawyers said in a statement. "No one from CPS told Gabe's mother that she needed to take him to the hospital. The nurse's notes verify this.
"In fact, if his mother had been told that Gabe was assaulted and was unconscious for over seven minutes on the bathroom floor, she would have taken him to the hospital and not let him return to Carson," the lawyers said. "It is helpful that CPS did not deny that Carson officials withheld this vital information from Gabe's mother."
Lawyer Carla Leader described Gabe as a "happy-go-lucky kid" who had shown no signs of mental issues. Leader said the boy came home from school on Jan. 26, spoke with his mother and went into his bedroom. She later discovered him hanging from his bunk bed.
Scars of sexual violence last a lifetime
by Anne K. Ard
What does a victim of child sexual abuse look like? For many of us, the image we carry in our mind's eye is a child, usually a girl, perhaps with a tear running down her cheek, abused and afraid, eyes pleading for help, for rescue. It is a powerful image, evoking sympathy and outrage — as it should. But it is incomplete.
Victims of child sexual abuse are young girls — and young boys. They are teens, both girls and boys and those questioning their sexual identity. They are young adults, who sadly are at increased risk of being assaulted again. And they are adult women and men, many of whom still carry the secret of the abuse buried inside them. Some struggle with alcohol and drug abuse, others have developed other coping mechanisms both healthy and unhealthy. They are our neighbors, our friends and sometimes our family members. In short, adult victims of child sexual abuse look just like us.
If the statistics are accurate, and most experts agree that they are, then 1 in 4 adult women and 1 in 6 adult men were sexually victimized as children. The next time you are in a crowd of people, a crowd of adults, do the math. Look around you and mentally count off 1 in 4 and 1 in 6. It is astounding to contemplate. In addition to being astounded, looking at the adults around us and knowing that so many of them carry the scars of child sexual abuse should elicit the same sympathy and outrage that comes when we picture a child victim. But unfortunately, that is often not the case. Why is that, I wonder?
One reason, I'm sure, is that most of us feel protective of children, whether or not we are parents ourselves. It is a part of a healthy human response to care and nurture children. But as those same children grow up, we often become less protective and more judgmental in our responses to them. Perhaps it is because the strategies they adopt to cope with their trauma are often less than healthy. Sometimes teens and adults act out in destructive or harmful ways — ways that when not understood in the context of trauma look like disobedience, self-destruction or “manipulating the system.” While most of us would never blame a child for being a victim of sexual abuse or for their response to that abuse, too often it is easier to see teen and adult survivors as somehow culpable, if not for the abuse itself then in how they respond to it as they grew. We doubt their stories and are suspicious of their motives if they don't behave as we think victims should.
I believe that if we truly want to create a society where child sexual abuse is prevented, then we must address sexual violence across the life span. We must recognize the impact of sexual violence on children when they are children and on child victims as they grow into teenagers and adults. We must nurture that child-protective part of ourselves so that it will be extended to those harmed by sexual violence, girls and boys, women and men and those of all gender identities and sexual orientations. Because the truth is, adult survivors of sexual violence don't only look like us — they are us.
Outdated Laws, Unpunished Child Abusers
by Gina Bellafante
Beginning in 1997, and then for the next 13 years, Ama Dwimoh ran the Crimes Against Children Bureau in the Brooklyn district attorney's office, observing a theater of atrocities. Early in her tenure, Ms. Dwimoh told me recently, she handled a case involving a young man who had been sexually molested by his family's landlord for a decade, starting when he was 5.
The abuse had come to her attention through a photo developer, who had contacted the police when he noticed unseemly images in a roll of film brought in for processing. With a picture of someone who appeared to be the victim of various predations in hand, law enforcers went in search of the boy. When they found him and knocked on his door, Ms. Dwimoh recalled, he appeared to feel he was being outed; he got sick and vomited. He knew that what had happened to him was wrong, but he had also experienced his abuser in less monstrous moments. How was the child, or even the young adult he would become, to make sense of all this, of such horrors entwined with the semblance of affection?
A search of the perpetrator's home revealed a trove of old photographs of many other children, indicating he had been a pedophile for years. Ms. Dwimoh, who is running to become the Brooklyn district attorney, realized that if the police had never knocked, it was unclear whether the boy would have come forward soon, or ever, and if he hadn't, how many more children would have been imperiled?
Under New York State statute as it is currently written, someone sexually exploited as a child, with rare exceptions, has only until the age of 23 to bring criminal or civil proceedings against an abuser. This is in spite of the fact that the mental-health professions, as well as the news — witness the recent accounts of abuse at Choate Rosemary Hall, the Connecticut boarding school, or at the Horace Mann School in the Bronx, that transpired decades ago — repeatedly tell us that it can take many agonizing years, often signified by anxiety, depression, addiction and other destabilizing conditions, for victims to understand what had happened to them and come forward.
In January, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, delivered strong support for the Child Victims Act, versions of which have been proposed in the State Legislature for years without receiving enough votes to become law. It would essentially do away with the statute of limitations on prosecutions of child sexual abuse, and eliminate (or, in the governor's version, extend to 50 years) the time limit in which a civil suit could be brought. When he discussed the issue then, Mr. Cuomo, whose proposal is more expansive than the Assembly's (which bars suits after the age of 50), described the existing law as benighted. It isn't merely out of line with established thinking about the psychology of victims, it lags behind laws in seven other states — Hawaii, Minnesota and Delaware, among them — which now allow adult survivors more time to file for civil damages.
As the legislative session has unfolded in Albany, though, the governor's actions have not matched his rhetoric. In response to lobbying from Safe Horizon, a victims' advocacy group, over the past week, his administration questioned whether there was adequate support for passing the bill before the end of the session next month.
As Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Democrat who champions the bill, lamented, “Usually, when the governor wants to get something done, he is pretty effective.”
Colorado's new plan to prevent child abuse: Get everyone involved
Colorado will choose 10 communities to create child abuse prevention plans
by Jennifer Brown
Here's the main message in Colorado's new plan to keep kids safe: it's not the job of child protection caseworkers to prevent abuse and neglect, it's yours.
The “Colorado Child Maltreatment Prevention Framework,” recently announced by Gov. John Hicklenlooper, is using funds from the federal government and philanthropists to help 10 communities in Colorado tackle child abuse through a community-engagement model.
The plan has been in the works for three years, led by researchers at the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, the Children's Trust of South Carolina and the Colorado Department of Human Services. They evaluated the state's existing child-abuse prevention programs to determine which ones actually work. The group says the new community guidelines will put Colorado on the leading edge of a national model to reduce child abuse and neglect.
It's up to each community to use the research to come up with its specific plan, involving everyone from a local librarian to an investor to a parent. Each person discovers their role in preventing child abuse and neglect, and the community emphasizes that prevention is everyone's job — child protection caseworkers help children who already have been harmed.
Research shows home visits prevent abuse, so communities will build up programs that bring people into the homes of struggling families to teach literacy, parenting skills and how to create attachment with young children, for example. And instead of separate child safety programs at various charities, schools or fire departments, the community will collaborate. They should consider, for example, holding court-ordered parenting classes at a local library, which is often more convenient than a human services department and has the added bonus of connecting families to reading.
“We wanted people to understand that there is not one big thing to do to prevent child abuse,” said Kendra Dunn, child maltreatment prevention director in the state's Office of Early Childhood. “We need people to do many things at the same time to be able to reduce child abuse and neglect.”
The state will choose 10 communities in June to receive funding for the process.
The framework focuses on a smaller selection of proven strategies, instead of multiple, competing programs. “Colorado is really great at trying new things, lots of pilot programs and grants,” Dunn said. “One of the things we understand is at the community level, that is almost causing a fatigue. People are already trying this new thing and that new thing, and here is one more thing.”
The main goals were to encourage people to work together and not to add a “laundry list of programs,” said researcher Jennifer Bellamy, an associate professor at the University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work. “It's a really important reorientation in the field,” she said. “I think it's so cool that Colorado said, ‘We can be proactive. We can do better.'”
The research included an online survey of 550 parents, as well as focus groups that targeted fathers, Spanish-speaking parents and more racial and economic diversity than was represented in the online survey. The project was funded by the federal Office of Child Abuse and Neglect in the Children's Bureau, as well as the Zoma Foundation.
Communities can download a “toolkit” at www.co4kids.org/framework.
Amish bishop didn't report child sex abuse, says it 'wasn't really that bad': Police
by Joe Elias
An Amish bishop in Dauphin County has been charged with failing to report two cases of child sexual abuse.
Christ M. Stoltzfus, 69, of Roller Road in Mifflin Township, told investigators that he was informed that one of the incidents "wasn't really that bad" during an interview in February, according to state police.
State police said that under the law clergymen are required to inform law enforcement about cases of child sexual abuse.
In January, a member of Stoltzfus' church told troopers he informed the bishop of the cases of child sexual abuse that occurred in 2011.
Both cases involved Daniel Ray Fisher, 44, of Weaver Road in Mifflin Township, records state.
Fisher was charged in a separate case in November and again January with inappropriately touching a then 5-year-old girl and a then-10-year-old girl, records state.
In one case, Fisher offered to adjust the girl's dress and assaulted her; in the other he asked to see a girl's snow pants and then assaulted her, records state.
During an interview in November, troopers said Fisher began to "sweat profusely" and eventually told the investigators, "You got me," records state.
Fisher has been charged with aggravated indecent assault, unlawful contact with a minor, corruption of a minor and indecent assault in each case.
Fisher is currently free on $50,000 bail. His next court appearance is scheduled for June 8.
During their interview with Stoltzfus in February, troopers told him it appeared as though he was covering up the cases of sexual abuse, police said.
Stoltzfus responded by saying "Well that's what happened in that case...I didn't know everything," records state.
On May 9, Stoltzfus was charged with with two counts of failing to report suspected child abuse. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for June 14.
Court records indicate Stoltzfus has not yet been arraigned on the charges.
Survivors of child sexual abuse find support in SAMSN
by Harrison Vesey
Shane McNamara is a firm believer that even when the odds seem stacked against you, it's still possible to win with the right team.
A survivor of child sexual abuse, Mr McNamara knows the isolation many male victims feel, as well as the lack of support.
But he also knows that living a good life is possible.
“Everyone deserves a chance to enjoy life. It's not all doom and gloom. There is a lot of good things in the world, there is a lot of good people,” Mr McNamara said.
He and Craig Hughes-Cashmore are the founders of Survivors and Mates Support Network (SAMSN), Australia's first national not-for-profit dedicated to adult male survivors and their families.
The two became friends when they were both going through the long process of criminal investigation in 2010. They thought it would be good to have a group to talk to other men about their experiences, but no such group existed – so they started their own.
SAMSN has since become a full-time passion for both men, with support groups around the state as well as in Canberra and Adelaide.
Though statistics indicate most victims were abused by a family member or friend, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has empowered more survivors to speak out.
For many, it's a secret they've carried for decades.
SAMSN social worker Tony Phiskie said having another survivor present makes it easier for men to finally talk about their suffering.
“The guys make a connection with each other, and that breaks their silence which has often gone for 20 years,” he said. “They connect with each other and have a voice.”
Mr Phiskie has been working with victims of child sexual abuse since the 1980s. He said “unfortunately not a lot” has changed in that time and men still face many barriers, including a shortage of services, and the pervasive myth that victims are more likely to become perpetrators.
He and psychologist Mark Griffiths developed a group program for adult male survivors that has been adapted by SAMSN.
The organisation runs eight-week support groups in cities and suburbs including Granville. Each week focuses on a different topic, and the time overall is split between reflecting on childhood and looking to the present and future.
Once men have finished the program they are invited to attend monthly drop-in meetings. The organisation is currently raising more money to start meetings in Parramatta.
Mr McNamara said the groups have helped he and many other men escape the feeling of isolation.
“I have this knowledge because of my lived experience. I was able to get through those traumatic experiences and come out the other end, and I'm functioning really well,” he said.
“For me it's about how I can share that with other guys, to give them more of a chance to experience what life is all about.
“I've met some of the most courageous people that I would never have met if I had continued in my previous profession. Meeting the people and seeing them evolve has been the most powerful thing for me.”
SAMSN also runs supporter workshops for family and friends, as well as service provider workshops for any professionals involved with survivors, including doctors, police, social workers and lawyers.
State Assembly unanimously passes prison guard abuse bill
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state Assembly has unanimously passed a bipartisan bill that would require guards at Wisconsin's troubled youth prison to report child abuse.
The bill passed Wednesday would make guards at the prison in Irma mandatory child abuse reporters. That would protect them from retaliation for reporting incidents. Workers in nearly 30 other professions are already considered mandatory reporters under Wisconsin law. Rep. Joel Kleefisch, who co-sponsored the measure with Democratic Sen. LaTonya Johnson, says adding prison guards to that list is long overdue.
The FBI is currently investigating allegations of widespread abuse at the prison. No one has been charged yet but the allegations have driven several state prison officials to resign or retire.
The Senate approved the bill in March. The measure will now go to Gov. Scott Walker.
Guards at Wisconsin's troubled youth prison would be required to report child abuse under a bill the state Assembly is set to consider.
The proposal up for a vote Wednesday would make guards at the prison in Irma mandatory child abuse reporters. That would protect them from retaliation for reporting incidents. Workers in nearly 30 other professions are considered mandatory reporters under Wisconsin law.
The FBI is currently investigating allegations of widespread abuse at the prison. No one has been charged yet but the allegations have driven several state prison officials to resign or retire.
The Senate approved the bill in March. Assembly approval would send the measure to Gov. Scott Walker.
Numbers show fewer child abuse victims, but investigations up
by Erin Nichols
SAN ANTONIO -- New data into our newsroom shows child abuse in Bexar County is on the decline; however, it's not as simple as just looking at the numbers.
According to the data from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, the number of confirmed child abuse and neglect victims has gone down over the last several years, but the number of cases assigned for investigation has not.
If you look at the data from fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2016, the number of confirmed victims has decreased.
In 2012, there were more than 6,000 victims.
In 2016, that number fell to just under 4,500.
However, there were more than 14,000 cases assigned for investigation in 2012.
Whereas in 2016, there were more than 15,000.
The United Way of San Antonio has been looking at these numbers and experts there say they still see the need and concern in the community through their 2-1-1 help line.
"For a few years the resources at Child Protective Services were strained and they couldn't get to the same level of investigations,” said Mary Ellen Burns with the United Way. “So at first glance, yes, it looks like it's going down, but when you look deeper the reality is more in line with our perceptions on child abuse and that it's not changing."
Last year, Governor Greg Abbott described Child Protective Services as a "broken system."
The Dallas Morning News reported that in December, Texas lawmakers approved $142.4 million for the agency to hire nearly 830 employees and increase salary after the agency failed to see at-risk children quickly.
Since then, DFPS shows caseworkers are investigating reports called in to the agency faster.
In the first week of January, 78% of children in the most high-risk situations were seen within 24 hours of being reported to the state child-abuse hotline. That number increased to 92% between March 19 and March 25.
There was also a sharp drop in the number of caseworkers leaving the agency in January compared to those who quit in December.
The state is also partnering with agencies like the United Way to come up with solutions on how to truly bring these numbers down.
Recently, they have been looking at solutions specific to the needs here in San Antonio and are working on how to bridge care between services so families don't have to make call after call to try and find help.
If you need help with utilities, or think a child may be being abused or neglected, you can call the United Way helpline at 2-1-1.
Bikers take a stand against child abuse
by Nick Nolan
Slowly integrating their way into the community, a group of socially active bikers are taking a firm stand against child abuse by offering friendships and services to neglected children.
Bikers Against Child Abuse (B.A.C.A.) is an internationally organized biker club that takes bikers' perceived leather-clad rugged image to increase children's self-esteem. The Chippewa County temporary chapter, but soon to be full-fledged member, covers the Upper Peninsula and parts of Northern Michigan.
Each member of the club undergoes intensive training to be certified for providing social work. The training includes webinars, phone conferences and in-person training. Several of the club's current 13 members some hail from all walks of social service.
Representatives from the group exclusively use their “road names” publicly in order to avoid legal ramification and preserve anonymity. The nicknames are biker lingo to refer to fellow club members shorthand.
“B.A.C.A. is a body of bikers who come together to empower children to not be afraid of the world they live,” said local B.A.C.A. chapter president Trigger. “We have bikers that come from all walks of life — social workers, home inspectors, computer people. We all come together for one common goal: to empower kids to not be afraid.”
The chapter's president's resume includes domestic violence advocacy, sexual assault advocacy and more.
A parent or guardian has to call the toll-free number to link a child to the group. Then using a set of criteria, the club will “take in” a child who's suffering neglect. B.A.C.A. lists neglect as any form of child abuse including, but not limited to physical, sexual and emotional.
“We bring that child into our family. The child will get a cut (leather vest), a backpack, a road name,” added Trigger. “We ride in and introduce ourselves to the child, and now they're a part of our group.”
The child then retains contacts to their “primaries.” Two assigned bikers who keep an eye on the child.
“It's all for empowering the child and making them feel safe,” said Player, the club's social services liaison, while giving an example of one of the club's services. “We have the ability to escort kids to court if they have to testify.”
Other services that the club can provide include visiting the child at school, serving as a therapeutic retreat or just offering their presences to make the kid feel safe and cool.
“No one's exempt given their personal or professional history (from the training),” said Player. “We're all volunteers.”
With 13 members currently located throughout the region, the club is looking to expand. Trigger said that they meet monthly on the third Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Ramada Plaza Ojibway Hotel on W. Portage Avenue in downtown Sault Ste. Marie.
“We're not a vigilante group. We don't seek revenge,” reiterated Trigger. “We're just a bunch of bikers who are there to help a child.”
For more information visit www.bacaworld.org or call the club at 1-866-722-2264 x5.
Childhelp, U.S. governors partner to end child abuse
by the Paradise Valley Independent
In 2015, child protective services agencies received an estimated 4 million referrals involving the alleged maltreatment of children across the United States.
This month, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, governors across the country have come together and signed a resolution announcing their commitment to end child abuse in America, according to a press release.
This resolution, containing over 45 signatures, was presented by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to Childhelp co-founders Sara O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson, on April 26 at the annual Childhelp National Day of Hope Reception in Washington D.C.
Childhelp is thankful for the Caring Institute's efforts in securing the support of governors across the country, the press release stated.
“On behalf of all the governors and myself, it is a true honor to come alongside of Childhelp co-founders, Sara and Yvonne in their fight against child abuse,” said Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, in the press release. “I hope that the publication of this resolution will bring renewed attention across the nation to the issue that they, through Childhelp, have dedicated their lives to.”
Though much more needs to be done, Childhelp has recently reached a new milestone – having served over 10 million children over the last 58 years.
For decades, Childhelp has remained faithful to its mission, to meet the physical, emotional, educational and spiritual needs of abused, neglected and at-risk children, by focusing on advocacy, prevention, intervention, treatment and community outreach.
“We are overwhelmed by this kind gesture and by the continued support of the U.S. government and state governments to prevent child abuse and neglect and to give hope, healing and a new life to children who have faced such terrible circumstances,” said Sara O'Meara, Childhelp co-founder, CEO and chairman, in the press release.
Childhelp's co-founders, Ms. O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson are Paradise Valley residents.
“We would like to extend our deepest gratitude and all our love to everyone who has made this milestone possible,” Ms. Fedderson said in the press release. “You are all truly changing lives and we know that you will continue to do so, thank you!”
Childhelp has a strong presence across the United States with programs and services including the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, Childhelp Children's Advocacy Centers in Arizona and Tennessee, residential treatment facilities in California and Virginia and Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe, the press release stated.
These programs and services work together to aid and strengthen the fight to end child abuse and neglect throughout the country.
For more information visit www.childhelp.org.
Cellphone app to curb child abuse
The newly launched application was designed to give learners the ability to anonymously report incidents ranging from bullying to sexual or drug abuse.
by the Berea Mail
IN a first for the world, a Durban based specialist child abuse investigation business is using technology to combat and bring perpetrators of such crimes to book.
The Guardian, South Africa, launched the Anonymous Mobile Reporting Application, an App which is designed to give learners at school the ability to anonymously report on incidents ranging from bullying to sexual or drug abuse involving themselves or their friends, this week.
Championed by former Child Protection Unit officer, Marc Hardwick, the app is specifically designed for use in schools and will give children a safe, instant and anonymous tool to report bullying, sexual assault, physical abuse or any of the many challenges facing children today.
“Schools who sign up for the app will pay a monthly fee of approximately R500 and all learners at that school who have downloaded the free app from either the Play Store or Apple App Store can report on issues they or their friends may be experiencing.”
“The system is set up to ensure that only predefined staff at the school can access these reports and the investigation is managed by a senior staff member using reporting system technology,” he said.
Describing how the app works, Hardwick said member schools appoint a staff ambassador for the app.
“A team of staff members called investigators then support the ambassador. When a report is submitted, it will arrive as an email to predefined staff members informing them to login into a system to access the details of the report and take the necessary action to safeguard the child.”
“The staff member has the ability to request further information from the reporter but will never know their identity. This is extremely important to us, as the power of this app, is ensuring the anonymity of the report.”
“We believe that this application will not only help children to report abuse and get the help and support they need, but it will make sure the perpetrators are brought to book.”
“We see is it as a proactive tool in the fight against these kinds of crimes which often go unreported as children are too afraid to speak up,” he added.
More recently, 20 learners at Parktown Boys' High are accusing their water polo coach of sexual assault in one of the biggest scandals to hit a local school.
The outrage began after surveillance footage allegedly caught the teacher fondling a 15-year-old boy's genitals.
Child sexual abuse victims to have more time to bring civil suit under bill signed Wednesday
by Barbara Hoberock
OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday signed a measure giving victims of sexual abuse until age 45 to bring a civil suit against the perpetrator.
The current age is 20, said Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa, the House author of House Bill 1470.
Bush said it often takes a long time for survivors of child abuse to heal enough to talk about what happened to them.
“It gives some sort of closure on a bad chapter of their lives so they can move on,” Bush said.
Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, is the Senate author. He said research shows that child sexual abuse victims normally do not want to talk about the crime until they are in their 40s.
The bill “better provides for justice to be done.”
The Legislature passed and Fallin signed a similar law, House Bill 1468, for criminal cases, Holt said.
Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said the extended time to report is important.
"We have learned many things over the course of time regarding child sexual abuse. One thing is that disclosure is a process which may take many years to accomplish due to the violation of trust that these children endured," he said.
"I supported the elimination of a statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse in criminal cases because society has an interest in removing predators in its midst. In the majority of instances, the delayed reporting of abuse will not result in charges being filed because there would be a lack of credible evidence to back up the victim's story. However, if significant credible corroborating evidence could be developed, then why not at least give law enforcement a chance to investigate the allegations."
Childhood Sexual Abuse: The Last Taboo
For victims of childhood sex abuse, the pain can linger for a lifetime. Now they want to change the law blocking legal action against their abusers.
by Leslie Garisto Pfaff
Fred Marigliano remembers afternoons in the Times Square movie theater when his conscious mind would separate from his body, float to the ceiling, and look down on the shadowy row of seats where Father Contardo Omarini, his parish priest, was sexually assaulting two preteen boys. One of those boys was Marigliano himself. Later, long after the years of abuse had ended, he learned that this state of dissociation was a normal response to stress that otherwise might be unendurable. As a kid in Plainfield, though, he wondered if he might be going crazy.
Today, at 69, Marigliano, now a resident of Green Brook, tells the story of his three years of repeated abuse with remarkable equilibrium. But for decades he didn't talk about it at all, his silence imposed by fear, guilt and shame. It wasn't until his own kids were in their preteen years and Omarini phoned to say he'd like to meet them that Marigliano admitted the abuse to his parents and his wife. (Omarini, who died in 1995, was never charged in any abuse case.)
Marigliano is not an outlier in hiding his abuse. In fact, the harm inflicted by childhood sexual abuse persists well beyond the crime itself. Without treatment, victims can experience a lifetime of depression, anxiety, or both. They can find it hard to establish or sustain long-term relationships, and they're particularly vulnerable to addiction, alcoholism and suicide.
It's not unusual for those abused as children to keep the crimes committed against them secret for years. While men and women suffer these repercussions more or less equally, abuse also leads many men to question their masculinity, a state of affairs that makes speaking out particularly difficult.
“The sexual abuse and exploitation of men is really our last taboo in this country,” says Keith Rennar Brennan of Bayonne, who claims he was repeatedly abused as a child. The crime is also startlingly widespread, affecting one in six men, according to the nonprofit National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
Currently, New Jersey victims of sexual abuse have only two years in which to file a civil suit after they first recognize a connection between their abuse and profound personal problems like depression, anxiety, PTSD, divorce and addiction. But the law doesn't take into account how difficult it is for victims of this particular crime to come forward. In addition to suffering fear and shame, says Keith Smith, author of the sexual-abuse memoir Men in My Town , many male victims “feel complicit in their own abuse.”
Since 2010, survivors of abuse and their supporters have been fighting for passage of a bill that would remove the state's two-year statute of limitations. Given the reticence of men to come out about their abuse (which is not to say that women find it easy) and the near-universal horror with which child sexual abuse is regarded in our culture, you'd think such legislation would be a cinch to pass. It's been anything but.
The latest version of the bill in question, S280 (known in the Assembly as A865), had its genesis in 1999, when Mark Crawford, now director of the New Jersey chapter of the support organization Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), approached Senator Joseph Vitale (D-Woodbridge) about doing away with the statute of limitations. Like Marigliano, Crawford had been abused by his parish priest for many years. In 1983, at 19, he'd met with Newark bishop Jerome Pechillo and Frank McNulty, then vicar of priests in the Newark Archdiocese, and told them about his abuse, expecting that they would report it to law enforcement. To his knowledge, no action was taken at the time.
Sixteen years later, in 1999, Crawford picked up a newspaper and saw a photo of his alleged abuser, then a hospital chaplain, posing with Newark archbishop Theodore McCarrick and a group of children. “I was infuriated,” Crawford remembers. When he met with Vitale, he told him, “This is wrong. They've lied to me over and over again, and this guy's still in ministry; he's still a threat. The laws have to change.” (It wasn't until 2002, Crawford says, that the church reported his story of abuse to the police; by then, it was too late for legal action. According to a report in the Star-Ledger, the offending priest resigned from the ministry that year and later became a conductor for NJ Transit.)
Crawford believes that until the church and other powerful organizations can be more widely held legally accountable, those institutions will continue to aid and abet abusers in the interest of protecting their own reputations. With Crawford's support, Vitale focused first on changing the law that gave charitable organizations immunity in civil cases. In 2006, the Charitable Immunity Act was amended to exclude cases of sexual abuse.
Then, in 2010, Vitale and fellow senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) introduced bill S2405, aiming to repeal the statute of limitations in civil cases involving sexual abuse. While there are no such limitations on filing criminal sexual abuse cases in New Jersey, criminal cases become increasingly difficult to prosecute the longer a victim waits to file. That's because essential evidence—fingerprints, DNA, eyewitness testimony—tends to disappear over time. Civil cases, on the other hand, have a lower standard of proof; they require only that a plaintiff show it was more likely than not that the defendant caused the alleged harm. Given that many sexual-abuse victims can't speak out early enough to file a criminal case, their only hope for justice in the Garden State could be a civil suit unencumbered by a statute of limitations.
The vast majority of states impose some sort of statute of limitation on civil sexual-abuse cases, though the statutes vary widely. In Mississippi, victims have three years to file suit after reaching the age of majority; in Montana, they have three years after discovering a connection between the abuse and some sort of personal/emotional injury; in Massachusetts, victims can file within 35 years of the abuse. New Jersey isn't the only state where activists and legislators are working to change the law. Similar bills are pending in Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania. In January, a new bill passed in California, making it one of only three states with no statute of limitations in civil sexual-abuse cases (along with Maine and Utah).
But in New Jersey, S2405 never made it to a vote and eventually expired. Two subsequent similar bills—in 2012 and 2014—met the same fate. As of this writing, S280 is awaiting review by the Senate Judiciary Committee; if it makes it to a review, it might then be voted on by the Senate and eventually be joined by the Assembly version.
The bill's troubled history has been a source of enormous frustration for Brennan, who testified before the Judiciary Committee in 2010, alleging that he had been abused as a child, first by the musical director of his church, Keith Pecklers, and then by his parish priest, Thomas Stanford. The son of devout Catholic parents, Brennan believed for years that he was alone in his victimization. That changed in 2002 when, at the age of 39, he watched a televised report about dozens of Boston-area priests accused of sexually abusing minors—a story broken by the Boston Globe that inspired the 2015 film Spotlight . “When I heard that there were priests who were being accused of sexually assaulting boys in particular,” he says, “I was just absolutely stunned.”
The revelation triggered a flood of memories, but another six years would pass before Brennan could muster the emotional wherewithal to speak out about his abuse. He “found his voice,” as he puts it, in 2008, after watching another news report on the sexual-abuse crisis. This time it was the identity of one of the talking heads that floored him; the Vatican's spokesperson was none other than Keith Pecklers, now a professor of liturgy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
“After decades of suffering from depression, anxiety, panic attacks, self-mutilation, an eating disorder and the fear that my abusers had given me AIDS,” Brennan says, “finally the light broke through, and I was determined to hold the two men who had abused me responsible for their actions.”
That same year, Brennan, a fashion designer, started work on a documentary film about his abuse and survival (it would be released in 2011 as Of God and Gucci ). He also hired a lawyer and received a low six-figure settlement in October 2008 from the Society of Jesus and the Newark Archdiocese. When Brennan accepted the settlement, he says, it was with the stipulation that both priests be “held accountable” for the alleged abuse by submitting to questions from their respective church review boards and by being removed from any positions that would afford them access to children.
At the time, Stanford was director of Catholic Cemeteries in New Jersey and was also teaching religious classes in a parish in Wayne. After the review, he was fired from both positions. In published reports, Pecklers doesn't deny he abused Brennan but notes that he himself was a minor at the time. Brennan maintains that the abuse continued after Pecklers turned 18.
In 2010, Brennan agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Trenton, which at the time was considering the first version of the bill. Throughout the day, discussion of S2405 was repeatedly delayed. When Brennan finally stood up to testify, he looked out at an audience that seemed poised for a nap. His testimony, which a Star Ledger story described as “a bombshell,” woke them up.
The fireworks, however, proved insufficient to move the Legislature to action. The forces in opposition to S2405 had some heavy artillery of their own and continue to wield it to discourage the legislation.
“In every state that I've testified in, and I've testified in several, including New Jersey, the Catholic church is the lead lobbyist against the elimination of the statutes of limitations,” says Robert Hoatson, a former priest with the Archdiocese of Newark and the founding director of Road2Recovery , a nonprofit organization providing support and advocacy for victims of sexual abuse. He's not alone in tagging the church as the bill's major adversary, although insurance companies—which could be financially vulnerable if the church or other insured organizations were found culpable in a spate of civil lawsuits—are also fighting the legislation.
It “has always been the position of the church not to be supportive,” says Vitale of the bills' history. Crawford agrees. “The lobbying arm of the Catholic church has vigorously opposed any amendments or changes to the law in every state with pending legislation,” he says.
That lobbying arm is the state Catholic Conferences, which represent the bishops of each state in public-policy matters. The New Jersey Catholic Conference has been vocal in opposing repeal of the state's statute of limitations. They've sent their own lobbyists to testify against each iteration of the bill, and in 2013, they hired the powerful Trenton lobbying firm Princeton Public Affairs Group to assist them. Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, testified before the state Legislature in June 2012, asking, “How can an institution conceivably defend itself against a claim that is 40, 50, or 60 years old?” He went on to note that “statutes of limitation exist because witnesses die and memories fade.”
In fact, says Men in My Town author Keith Smith, whether a case is criminal or civil, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. “Just because I drag somebody into civil court and say it happened, I don't automatically win—I have to prove my case,” he notes.
Smith actively supports the repeal fight in New Jersey and elsewhere, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2012 despite the fact that he can't bring his own abuser to justice. In 1974, Smith, then 14, was abducted, beaten, and raped by a stranger (not a priest) who, miraculously, released him after a nearly three-hour ordeal. But in 1975, his abductor was beaten to death, a homicide that was never solved. To arrive at some sort of personal justice, Smith advocates. “I got involved with the bill,” he says, “because I can speak out.”
But would the law, if passed, actually promote justice? In his 2012 testimony, Brannigan claimed that it would not protect a single child, but instead would generate an enormous transfer of money in lawsuits to lawyers. Indeed, the fear of paying out vast sums of money in lawsuits—whether to lawyers or victims—has prompted a number of dioceses around the country to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which allows them to negotiate settlements rather than have the cases go before a judge or jury. In addition to potentially saving money, this tactic keeps cases out of the public eye.
“It's only when these cases actually get to court that the truth is exposed, because of the process of discovery,” Crawford says. And, he adds, exposing the truth—along with the perpetrators—may be the only way to promote lasting institutional change and protect children against future abuse.
For many victims, unshrouding the truth is more important than any monetary payout. “I don't want money,” says Fred Marigliano. “I will have peace when I have justice.”
In 2015, to shed light on the struggle to repeal the statute of limitations, Marigliano walked the length of the state, from the Cape May Lighthouse to Mahwah. Every day, he says, people came up to him with stories of their own abuse or the abuse of those they loved. “One lady was following us in her car for quite some time,” he remembers. Eventually, she pulled over and approached Marigliano. “My husband was raped by a priest when he was a child,” she told him, “and it ruined my marriage.”
Arthur Baselice, too, is a victim of sexual violence once removed. His son, Arthur, overdosed on heroin in 2006 after years of abuse by a priest who, Baselice says, introduced him to the drug. What Baselice, a resident of South Jersey, wants most is “accountability and transparency,” but he's hamstrung, he says, by the statute of limitations. Asked whether he thinks the bill will pass, he states simply, “It has to pass.”
But even some who've fought diligently for its passage have doubts. “The Catholic church has a tremendous amount of political power in our state,” says New Jersey SNAP director Crawford. He and former priest Hoatson believe that, even if the bill passes the Legislature this year, it's hard to imagine that Governor Chris Christie would sign it into law. (The governor's office would not comment for this story.)
Still, movement in neighboring states offers some reason for hope. In February of this year, prompted by a statewide investigation into allegations of widespread sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy, the Pennsylvania Senate revived legislation that would raise the filing limit for old cases of abuse from 30 years to 50 and would completely eliminate the statute of limitations in future cases. And in January, New York governor Andrew Cuomo expressed his support of a similar bill in his state, known as the Child Victims Act.
It remains possible that the state Legislature may pass a compromise version of the bill, perhaps setting an age limit on past cases of abuse, as in Oregon. In fact, according to Crawford, who met with Vitale in February, the bill's supporters in the Legislature are considering a potential amendment that would set such a limit in New Jersey at age 55. “We're still building consensus and support,” notes Vitale, who thinks the bill could pass “this spring or fall” but isn't making any promises.
The church promises to look closely at the latest bill. “We have and will continue to work with Senator Vitale on the legislation,” says Brannigan. “We are currently waiting for the latest amendments to be shared so we have the opportunity to continue to work with the senator on the legislation.”
For Marigliano, who says he'd be loath to consider any amendments, it all comes down to justice. One of “the toughest things I ever had to do was to testify three times,” he says. “But I don't care if I have to testify 1,000 times—I'll never give up.”
SAPARS offering workshop on child sexual abuse prevention
by the Daily Bulldog
JAY - Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services (historically known in Franklin County as SAVES), and the Franklin County Children's Task Force are offering a workshop for parents and guardians called "Parents in the Know."
This free, four-week workshop will meet on Tuesdays, 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Spruce Mountain Elementary School library in Jay, beginning on May 23rd. Childcare will be provided.
“Parents in the Know” is an educational program to learn how to keep children safer by preventing sexual abuse. Statistics show that children are abused 85-95% of the time by someone they know, and it is often someone the family trusts, or an older child. “Parents in the Know” includes discussions and activities, for parents and guardians, about establishing boundaries; information to help in identifying problematic behaviors from adults; steps to promote healthy relationships; understanding age-appropriate sexual development; and strategies on becoming an active adult bystander.
We can protect our children, and learn how to keep all children safer! For more information about “Parents in the Know,” or to register for the workshops, please contact Jenn Bell at (207) 778-9522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services works to prevent and eliminate sexual violence, and promote healing and empowerment for people of all genders and ages who are affected by rape, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, stalking and sexual harassment. Please visit our website at www.sapars.org. You can find us on social media by searching the URL/user name: SAPARSmaine. The toll free, 24-hour Helpline number is 1-800-871-7741.
The Franklin County Children's Task Force is a private, non-for-profit corporation commited to strengthening families and preventing child abuse and neglect through mobilizing community resources and advocating for and providing services that promote healthy children and families. Website: www.fcctf.org .
Students as young as 5 may get annual sexual assault protection training in Texas
by Andrea Zelinski
AUSTIN — Using teddy bears, bathing suits and puppets as tools, students as young as 5 years old could be required to undergo annual sexual assault protection training in school as a growing number of children fall prey to sexual offenders.
The Texas House last week approved the idea, which comes as sexual assaults against children have risen to a high of 51,000 allegations in the last fiscal year, along with increased reports of human trafficking and record numbers of teachers being accused of having inappropriate relationships with students.
“It's unbelievably sick when you think about what's happening in society, my friends,” said Rep. Tan Parker, a Republican from Flower Mound.
In a move to counter that trend, the Texas House passed House Bill 1342, a bill supported by anti-sexual-assault groups around the state that say children should be learning in school to say no to unwanted touching and feel empowered to tell a teacher or parent when someone steps over the line. Action is pending in the Senate, which would have to approve the measure before it goes to the governor's office for his consideration.
The annual training programs are much like “stranger danger” lessons, experts say, although 95 percent of sexually abused children were assaulted by someone they knew, such as a relative or a neighbor.
“It's soul murder,” said Madeline McClure, a former therapist who said she has counseled victims as young as 2 years old as they worked through sexual assault trauma. Now the CEO and president of Tex Protects, which focuses on child abuse and prevention, McClure is pushing the bill.
The legislation would allow the Texas Education Agency to select age-appropriate researched-based curriculum that counselors would present to students every year from kindergarten to 12th grade.
For example, one second-grade lesson would teach students the difference between a safe touch, like a wanted hug, and an unsafe touch, such as a pinch, and an unwanted touch, like covering someone's eyes in an unwanted game of Guess Who.
“How do you talk about that to kids? We have puppets,” said Sylvia Orozco-Joseph, national director of WHO (We Help Ourselves) and director of the Adolescent Symposium of Texas.
WHO offers curriculum that is already in use in Texas. The lessons, which are broken up into different age levels, rely on playing out scenarios, such as analyzing why one of three boys are opposed to vising a teacher's house, or what an eighth-grader should do when the father of a child she baby-sits puts his hand on her shoulder while driving her home.
“That's what we want kids to do — to think their way out of a situation,” said Orozco-Joseph, who said high school lessons include dramatizations about date rape and teen dating violence.
In the lower grades, she uses puppets, including Kimberly Koala who helps children talk about not keeping secrets from adults, and Billy Brown Bear who talks about touching.
The state would have the power to review the curriculum and other programs that rely on animated video lessons or scripted instruction for school districts to choose from.
“I have really mixed feelings about it,” said Sarah Becker, an active parent at Houston Independent School District, after putting her 6-, 4- and 2-year-old children to bed. “I would argue we should be teaching people not to rape people, not teaching people how to avoid it.”
But Becker says requiring high school students learn how to avoid sexual assault equates to sex education, which is a good thing.
Lawmakers in the Texas House sent the bill to the Senate on a 128-15 vote last week, but not before stripping language that referenced combating child pregnancy as part of the purpose for the bill to make the bill more palatable to Republicans.
“This is not about sexual education training. That is not what this is, not at all, no way, shape or form. It is exclusively training to prevent child sexual abuse. Period,” said Parker, who sponsored the bill.
Roughly 10,000 girls under 18 gave birth in Texas in 2014, the latest year which data is available, according to the Wright Family Foundation, which focuses on education for at-risk youth. Of those pregnancies, nearly 500 were to girls between 10 and 14 years old.
While the number of accusations of sexual assault have climbed in recent years, the number of confirmed cases of abuse have slowly dropped to 5,640 from 5,721 last year.
“It is a very touchy subject, but we cannot run from the seriousness of this issue,” said Parker, who sponsored the bill. “We can't sweep it under the carpet. This is very real.”
Families search for 3 missing teens
by The Paulding Progress
(Pictures on site)
PAULDING – Three Paulding Village teens are missing. Cadee Lynn Brown since May 3, Mara Rose Vielma since April 29, and Trent Wells. Their information has been posted on Facebook by their families.
• Cadee Lynn Brown, Paulding. Age: 15. Cadee is 5'4” tall, blonde hair, brown eyes. Last seen at Fairview High School, Defiance County, on Wednesday, May 3.
• Mara Rose Vielma, Paulding. Age: 17. Mara is 5'3” tall, 115 lbs., black and blue hair, brown eyes, nose piercing. Last seen in Paulding on April 29, wearing leggings, T-shirt, maroon colored sweater and black/white DC shoes.
• Trent Wells, Paulding.
Reportedly, the cases are not related and are not abduction situations. The three are entered into LEADS (Law Enforcement Automated Data System) as missing children.
Local law enforcement officials have not shared any information about any of the three, because they are juveniles.
None appear to be listed on any state missing child/person sites, nor have Amber Alerts been issued because the three don't meet the strict criteria for an alert.
If you have any information about any of these teens, contact the Paulding Police Department at 419-399-3311.
Final Push on Bill to Protect Survivors of Child Sex Abuse
by Geoff Redick
The final push is underway at the Capital, to pass a law protecting survivors of child sex abuse.
The bill before the legislature is called the Child Victims Act. But really it helps the thousands of adults, who were sexually abused as children, and never reported it.
It would allow those adults to report their attackers and pursue justice, long after the rapes and abuses occurred -- basically, whenever they finally feel ready to report.
Among those speaking in support of the measure today was Kat Sullivan. She is an alumnus of the Emma Willard School in Troy, which has just this year acknowledged a decades-long history of sexual abuse of students.
Both Williams and her partners in the state legislature say now is the time to help victims come forward.
The Child Victims Act is currently before the Senate Rules Committee. Senator Hoylman has challenged to get the bill before the full Senate for a vote this year -- but the legislative session ends in six weeks, so that could be a tall order.
Child abuse tips silenced for months by DCF computer glitch
by Christopher O'Donnell
TAMPA — Hundreds of reports about potential child abuse may have been overlooked for months because of a Florida Department of Children and Families computer glitch.
About 1,500 tips to the Florida Abuse Hotline — the state's front line for child protection — were not sent electronically to law enforcement agencies between February and April because of a software problem, DCF officials said. That included roughly 230 cases in the Tampa Bay region.
Reports of abuse or neglect by parents, which are handled by child welfare investigators, were not affected. But tips on abuse by others, including neighbors, teachers or strangers, stalled in the DCF's computers.
Some of those cases may still have been investigated, DCF officials said. Even though the software failed, abuse hotline operators were still able to transfer calls to 911.
But local law enforcement agencies received notice of some reports only when the backlog was resolved on May 3. In some cases, agencies are still wading through them to determine if an investigation is warranted.
"As all law enforcement agencies know, a delay like this is never a good thing," said Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco. "We will not know the impact to Pasco children until a thorough review of all the cases is complete, and that review is ongoing."
DCF officials said at least half of the electronically delayed reports reflected a special situation, such as an absent parent or child-on-child sexual abuse. Those calls were relayed to the same child welfare investigators who review complaints against parents.
The glitch was caused by a software update made on Feb. 4 to the system used by hotline operators. It was not detected until April 28.
After the problem was fixed, the backlog of reports was sent to local sheriff's offices across Florida on May 3.
"The department is working with the software vendor to implement an alert system to notify the department anytime a backlog is created in the future," said DCF spokeswoman Jessica Sims in a statement. "The department is continuing to work with our partners in law enforcement to appropriately investigate these allegations and we remain committed to ensuring the safety of all children and vulnerable adults in Florida."
The 1,500 reports included 113 from Hillsborough County, about 70 from Pinellas County and 32 in Pasco, according to the DCF.
Pasco officials disputed that number, saying they had received more than 100 delayed reports.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said most of the backlogged calls his office received were forwarded to police departments in St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Largo.
Of 22 reports in unincorporated Pinellas, only two were new cases, he said.
"Any time anything like that happens it gives you some concern," he said. "With all the technology we have, sometimes systems do have issues."
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office responded to 65 delayed reports, said spokesman Larry McKinnon.
"Our goal is always to get the information as quickly as possible so we can respond as quickly as we can," he said. "We're glad they were able to get the system fixed.
Child Abuse and Neglect Don't Take a Summer Vacation
by Staff Everything Lubbock
LUBBOCK, TX - The end of the school year is fast approaching and with it the start of summer vacation. The end of the academic calendar does not mean child abuse and neglect take the summer off. Last year, almost 1,400 children entered into foster care in the areas served by CASA of the South Plains. Volunteers are still desperately needed to serve as Advocates for children caught up in the whirlwind of change they face during their time in the foster care system. A CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocate is a volunteer who helps a foster child navigate the child welfare system and ensure their needs are being met while working to help find safe, permanent homes. CASA needs the publics' help to meet its goal of 35 new CASA volunteers for its June training class, which would potentially help an additional 70 foster children in this community.
Prospective volunteers are urged to attend the upcoming CASA 101 informational session hosted by CASA of the South Plains on Thursday, May 11th from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. in our office at 1215 Avenue J, Suite 301 in the Reagor Dykes Headquarters. This is a great, no-obligation introduction to CASA and its mission. CASA staff and current Advocates will be on hand to discuss the increasing need for volunteers, what it means to be a CASA, and how community members can help make a difference in the lives of area foster children.
CASA 101 attendees interested in becoming a CASA volunteer can also begin the application and sign-up process. Training classes can fill up quickly and space is limited.
To attend, please register at www.casaofthesouthplains.org or contact Gabe Ballesteros, Director of Communications and Marketing, by Wednesday, May 10th at (806) 763-2272 or via email at email@example.com. Lunch will be provided to attendees.
About CASA of the South Plains
CASA of the South Plains empowers community members to serve as volunteer Advocates that speak for the well-being of abused and neglected children in the foster care system. Court Appointed Special Advocates are community members just like you who ensure each foster child's needs remain a priority in an over-burdened child welfare system while working to find safe, permanent homes for these most vulnerable children.
Child sexual abuse: More than half of the victims are boys
Only 25% of victims reported their abuse to anyone and cops informed in only 3% of cases, says study
by Pawan Dixit
There is a common misconception that children from well-to-do families are immune to sexual abuse. Gender, education and income do not provide any security against this crime. At some point of time, one out of every two children in India faces sexual exploitation – and more than half of the victims are boys, say several studies.
In majority of the cases, the perpetrator is known to the child. Identifying this male abuser, who may be close to the family or a part of the family, is often a hard task.
Alerting children against strangers is easy, but how to make them watch out for abusers within the family is a big task. A study conducted by the ministry of women and child development in 2007 revealed that around 85% of abusers were known to the victims.
Another startling revelation made by the report was that only 25% of the victims reported their abuse to anyone and cops were informed in only 3% of the cases.
The union government has framed the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, to protect children from sexual abuse.
The Act covers all types of sexual abuse, including harassment, penetrative or non-penetrative sexual abuse and pornography.
“The Act has incorporated stringent punishment for child abusers segregated by the gravity of the offence. It provides for simple to rigorous imprisonment for varying periods and also a fine, which will be decided by the court,” said IB Singh, senior advocate, Lucknow bench of Allahabad high court.
The Act also provides for the establishment of special courts for trial of offences under the Act and also provides for completion of trial within a year.
The data collected by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows there has been increase in cases of sexual offences against children. This is corroborated by the ‘Study on Child Abuse: India 2007' conducted by the ministry of women and child development.
Child abuse, pornography victims may get more time to seek justice
by Terri Russell
Reno, NEV (KOLO) -- A small number of committee members were in Senate Judiciary on Monday May 5, 2017 took testimony on Assembly Bill 145.
"It passed the Assembly unanimously there is no opposition here, so be concise," said Senator Tick Segerblom, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Anyone who came to testify did just that.
One by one representatives from law enforcement, the courts, prosecutors, women's lobby and child abuse victim advocates came to voice their support for the bill.
One woman, Kimberly Mull was a victim herself of child abuse and pornography.
In her teens she later realized images of her are out in the internet and will be for the foreseeable future.
While she cannot identify those who placed her in sex trafficking as a young teen or took pornographic pictures of her, she says that's not the case for all victims of abuse and pornography.
"The majority of victims they as children's they do know the names of their perpetrator and do know you know who they were and so that gives them the ability to do that," says Mull.
Mull says victims don't come forward for various reasons.
Those reasons are understandable and legitimate.
But time works against these victims as evidence and memories may not be strong enough for a criminal case once the victim decides to come forward.
AB 145 gives the victim 20 years to come forward after age 18.
It's a good start says the bill's sponsor Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner but she adds it is not perfect.
"One lady waited 70 years to come forward and testify is she is 82 years old," says Krasner.
If the bill can make it out of Senate Judiciary and pass the senate as is, it will wait for the governor's signature.
If the bill becomes law, Nevada will be the 13th state with such statutes.
AP Exclusive: Big child webcam sex bust reveals rising abuse
by Martha Mendoza and Jim Gomez
The suspected pedophile could see people banging on his front door through his security cameras. Were they neighbors? Cops?
One had letters on her jacket. As David Timothy Deakin googled "What is NBI?" from the laptop on his bed, the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation smashed their way into his cybersex den.
Children's underwear, toddler shoes, cameras, bondage cuffs, fetish ropes, meth pipes and stacks of hard drives and photo albums cluttered the stuffy, two-bedroom townhouse. Penciled on the wall, someone had scrawled "My Mom and Dad love me" and a broken heart. In his computer were videos and images of young boys and girls engaged in sex acts.
"Why is everyone asking about children coming into my house?" said Deakin, 53, his wrists bound with a zip tie.
Deakin's arrest on April 20 reveals one of the darkest corners of the internet, where pedophiles in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia pay facilitators on the other side of the world to sexually abuse children, even babies, directing their moves through online livestreaming services.
The relatively new crime of webcam sex tourism is spreading rapidly, with new digital technologies sparking what the United Nations calls an "alarming growth of new forms of child sexual exploitation online." The FBI says it's epidemic, and that at any given moment, 750,000 child predators are online.
Almost every case stems from the Philippines, where good English speakers, increased internet connections and widespread international cash transfer systems combine with widespread poverty and easy access to vulnerable kids. There have been as many as three busts a week there this spring. The youngest victim ever, rescued a few weeks ago, was an infant, two months old. Most are under 12.
This spring The Associated Press watched a raid, rescue and launch of a major investigation that continues to play out on both sides of the world.
"This should serve as a warning," said NBI Anti-human trafficking chief Janet Francisco, who leads the case. "We will really catch them, with the help of our foreign counterparts. We will really put them in jail and they will die in jail."
Bare-chested and slick with sweat, his breath sour and glasses foggy, Deakin watched agents — including FBI computer analysts — crouch on his bed over open computers, rushing to find and preserve hidden files.
The tip that led authorities to Deakin came, as they often do, when an online international money transfer service notified an American internet provider about a suspicious account. Western Union, PayPal, and others have reported concerns in the past — business names in this case are being withheld because of the ongoing investigation. Records in Deakin's town house included debit cards for money transfer services, including Smart Money and Payoneer.
The raid began just before dawn, as seven vanloads of police, investigators, lawyers and social workers rolled out of Manila, past rice paddies and water buffalos, and into a town that was once a large U.S. military base, now a major red light district. The vans passed Fields Avenue, a notorious street lined with bars, strip clubs and massage parlors; shops advertise Viagra and lingerie-clad women beckon customers.
When they reached Deakin's apartment, a small cadre went to his door. Even as they burst in, he was streaming illicit content through the Tor network, which disguised his identity. Agents said he had a webpage open to wipe his phone clean. They tied him up with the first thing they could grab, an iPhone charging cord, before he could hit the button.
"I'm a file pack rat," said Deakin. "I've got files of frigging everything."
AP and investigators asked him repeatedly why he had images of children engaged in sexual acts on his computer and bondage and fetish tools in his apartment.
"I'm just a costumer," he said at first, as if the leather wrist restraints and ropes in the second bedroom were just for dress-up.
"I'm schizophrenic, you know," he later told AP, looping his finger at his temple.
He described a series of houseguests, people he let crash in his small place from down the street, other countries. Perhaps "some Danish guy" used his computer.
And this: "There was no children in front of the cam in my house, not even dressed, as far as I know, not even with their frigging mothers as far as I know."
At one point, he told AP the images might have inadvertently slipped in when he downloaded massive files using BitTorrent. BitTorrent is data tool used legitimately by academics and artists, but also by child pornographers and other criminals because large amounts of digital content can be moved and sorted. FBI agents looking for abusers search BitTorrent to spot people sharing exploitive images.
Hours after his arrest, wrists tied behind his back, Deakin grew nervous.
"I don't even know what you're frigging doing here!" he yelled.
Deakin grew up in Peoria, Illinois, he said, "around the corn fields." His family was splintered, his sister hated him and he didn't finish high school, he said. He was licensed as a roofing contractor in his 30s, seasonal work which left winters free. He used the time to study computers.
Illinois court records show Deakin was arrested on marijuana and drunken driving charges several times before visiting the Philippines in 1998. Two years later, he moved there for a job setting up internet service providers and installing Blackmagic livestreaming production programs.
"The office computers were full of pornography," Deakin would write to Filipino authorities three years later, when an inter-office argument led to immigration charges. The charges were dismissed. He was supposed to leave the country, but he stayed, remotely running computer systems for clients around the world, and hosting, he said, tens of thousands of websites as well.
In recent years, Deakin said, he earned $30 an hour as a systems administrator. But his home was filled with junk, his refrigerator near empty. Stacks of used egg cartons fell from the shelves, and a half-eaten pot of cold rice sat on the stove.
"You know what you've done in this room," an investigator told Deakin.
She showed him a photo he had of several children. Shrugging, he said one of them was probably a few doors away with her cousin. Minutes later, two girls, 9 and 11 years old, were rescued by police.
AP did not interview the girls Deakin told police about; victims of such raids need immediate and long-term counseling and care. But in the tranquil garden of a shelter for sexual exploitation survivors about 60 miles south of Deakin's town house, 19-year-old Cassie described her ordeal. AP did not use her whole name to protect her privacy.
The youngest daughter in an impoverished family of 14, Cassie believed the man who came to her village and promised her a better life and family support if she would go to the city with him. When he told her he would be selling her, she had no idea what that meant.
"I was laughing," she said.
Cassie was 12.
Within months the man bleached her dark skin, straightened her hair, and began waking her at 4 a.m. to meet customers. She started working as a cybersex model.
"He needed some girl to show her whole body in front of the camera," she said.
He told her it was her job, in exchange for an education.
Over time, six more girls came to live in the house, and one had a baby. At school Cassie tried to act normal, hiding her secret from classmates. At home she was terrified and thinking about suicide.
The abuse ended when her older sister found out. Furious, she went to the police.
Dolores Rubia, who runs aftercare programs for rescued girls through Washington D.C.-based NGO International Justice Mission , said parents and relatives turn to online exploitation to for easy money. Some consider it benign, she said, because they think children don't mind taking off their clothes. But that exposure is abuse, and it often escalates.
"It's a myth for some of them, that nothing is wrong," she said. "That anyway, these children are not physically touched and the perpetrators are actually overseas."
Buyers abroad also sometimes try to use the lack of contact as an excuse for their crimes.
"The people I was talking to were hurting people, hurting children in a way that I would never have allowed in my presence," said Scott Peeler, a former Southbridge, Massachusetts, middle school math teacher who admitted he tried to buy live video feeds of children having sex in the Philippines.
"I drifted into a world that repulses me," he said.
Peeler was sentenced in March to 11 years in federal prison.
"It's not just a virtual crime. It is an actual crime," said human rights attorney Sam Inocencio, who heads International Justice Mission's Philippines office, which supports local law enforcement with investigators and attorneys. "Online sexual exploitation is possibly the most evil thing that I've seen."
The first high-profile international case of livestreaming sexual exploitation of children was reported in 2011 out of the Philippines. The proliferation of smart phones and wi-fi have led to rapid growth.
Perpetrators now use bitcoin or untraceable credit cards. By livestreaming, they bypass digital markers law enforcement embeds in illegal content to catch people downloading, sharing or saving child pornography on computers or in the Cloud. Once isolated, pedophiles now operate with virtual anonymity, sharing images and children, say experts.
In 2013, online sex exploitation of children gained global attention after researchers at the Netherlands-based nonprofit Terre des Hommes launched a realistic-looking animation of a 10-year-old Filipino girl named Sweetie. They took the fake girl on chat groups and online forums. Pedophiles swarmed. In 10 weeks, analysts identified 1,000 men in 71 countries who had tried to get illegal images.
Last year, UK-based Internet Watch Foundation worked to remove 57,335 URLs with child sexual abuse imagery. The websites were hosted on 2,416 domains, up from 1,991 in 2015.
The proliferation of crimes, along with new mandatory reporting, led to 8.2 million reports last year to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's CyberTipline related to online child sexual exploitation. That compares with 8.3 million reports in the 17 years prior.
One of those reports led analysts to a four-time convicted sex offender, Louis Francis Bradley, 66, of Baltimore, Maryland, last year. He had paid at least 17 people in the Philippines to take sexually explicit photos of prepubescent girls and share them with him on Facebook. He also admitted in March to paying women to expose their genitals using video streaming programs.
"can u get any really young girls" he asked in one online chat.
Bradley was sentenced May 2 to 35 years in prison.
Because it's a newer crime, legal systems grapple with how to prosecute. In the U.S., the buyers are typically charged with possessing, distributing or producing child pornography. In the Philippines, it's a human trafficking crime. In 2015, five people were convicted of online child sex trafficking in the Philippines. Deakin has been charged with cybercrime, child pornography, child abuse and child trafficking.
Officials at both ends of the abuse agree they need to collaborate to stop it, and last month the U.S. committed $3 million.
Philippines National Police Ge. Liborioi Carabbacan said they're trying to raise public awareness, letting parents and children know it's illegal. One woman forced into prostitution as a child turned the cameras on her own kids when she grew up, he said.
"She thought that's already the norm," he said.
Deakin's bust turned out to be one of the largest seizures of its kind in the Philippines, and also a first for investigators on the case who caught the suspect in the act. His Cheery Mobile Touch HD tablet — which can be wiped clean and reset with a four digit code — had more than 4,000 contacts. One computer had another 13 networked into it, from servers he said around the world. There were 30 hard drives.
"The suspect is really a highly technical person, he is computer savvy, so he was able to hide several computers within the computer," said Chief Francisco.
Investigators hope digital forensics will lead them to rescue dozens, possibly hundreds, of victims. And they expect to catch more conspirators in the wider syndicate, both in the Philippines and abroad.
Neighbors who gathered to watch the raid knew something was wrong in that house.
"No, no, not drugs," said a man who rolled up on a bike. "Computers. Sex. Children."
Josue Santos, who patrols the neighborhood on foot, said he saw seven children, 3 boys and 4 girls, heading into Deakin's home one evening a few months ago.
Others nodded. Bessie Geronimo, across the street, was teary-eyed. She'd seen children going in and out. Now, she wondered, could she have intervened?
"How could they do such a thing?" she asked. "Oh, I pity those children."
Authorities from a village police substation said a housekeeper filed a complaint against Deakin last year: he wasn't paying her, she said, and she was worried about what he was doing with children in the bedroom with the door closed. They visited his house but had no authority for a raid.
"There are many such places," said security officer Mike Wood.
Before Deakin was taken to jail, he asked for a cigarette. He asked to use the bathroom. He asked for his Bible. And he said he'd been planning to leave town.
Just one day earlier, he had texted a friend: "I've got to get out of here."
Child advocates needed to help with child abuse/neglect cases
by Local Sources
Dubois County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is holding an additional training class this month to meet the demand for volunteers caused by an increase in local cases of child abuse and neglect.
The CASA program which has over 55 volunteers is not able to serve all of the children currently in the system.
“Our wait list continues to grow so we are putting a call out to potential volunteers with more urgency, hoping we can bring in more volunteers this month,” said Deena Hubler, CASA Director.
Applications are currently being accepted for a training scheduled to start on May 24. Classes will be held on Wednesday afternoons from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. for six weeks.
CASA volunteers are community members trained to represent children who are part of the court system due to abuse or neglect. Over 150 Dubois County children need a CASA each year.
“We hope that anyone who has been considering joining our cause will see that now, more than ever, we need people who can help,” Hubler said.
An August training will also still be held for anyone unavailable for the May session. The August classes will be held in the evening.
For additional information, contact Deena Hubler at (812) 639-0143 or visit duboiscountycasa.org.
Answering The Call: Incentives for Kids, Inc.
Non-Profit Seeks To Debunk Stigmas Associated With Foster Care
by Jo Ann Holt
DESOTO—Foster children oftentime deal with issues and experiences that many adults can't even fathom. But long after the physical wounds of child abuse heal, the emotional scars remain.
The struggle of adjusting to a new environment and stares and ignorant opinions of others add still more wounds. Without a doubt, it's an overwhelming experience to endure. From a child's point of view, foster care can rescue a child from one nightmare and place them in another.
During Foster Care Awareness Month, one DeSoto group seeks to remove the blot of shame that many Dallas County youth silently endure on a daily basis.
Incentives for Kids, Inc. presents a fun and informative indoor community event at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 13. The open house will take place at the DeSoto High School Freshman Campus Multipurpose Center, 620 South Westmoreland Road.
The event is the brainchild of DeSoto resident and Incentives for Kids CEO Kentria Arkansas. Over the past 11 years the single mom has fostered 52 children in the Best Southwest Dallas County Area, ultimately adopting 5 of them.
“Unfortunately there is a stigma for children about being in foster care and being adopted,” said Arkansas. “We want this event to make them feel special. As well as show appreciation to current foster parents and to encourage other stable adults to consider foster care or adoption.”
The event boasts live musical performances, food, special appearances, local radio stations and vendors. There will be something for everyone in the family.
“We are especially thankful for the support of DeSoto ISD,” said Arkansas. “Without them graciously opening their doors for us, this event would have died in its infancy. The administration there has gone above and beyond the call of duty.”
In the United States there are over 400,000 children and youth in foster care. According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services the number is at 16,000 and rising.
May is National Foster Care Month. An opportunity to acknowledge foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policy makers and child welfare professionals. As well as other members of the community who help children and youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections.
Expanding the Arkansas Clan
After 15 years of working with at-risk youth, Arkansas decided that of hordes of children who impacted her life, there were five she couldn't do without. Robert, Josiah, Marcus, Andrew and Tristan all now proudly don the last name Arkansas.
Life can be hectic but also rewarding, she said. Raising four young boys of mixed heritage. Each boy comes from a different background and faces unique challenges.
Andrew is the youngest. Born into a life of abuse. He has been in and out of the foster care system before finding a ‘forever' home Arkansas. He has an energetic personality and is always ready with a question.
The oldest, Marcus, was born into a life surrounded by illegal activity. Until the age of 8-years-old he was exposed to drugs, guns, incarcerated male figures and pornographic materials. Since then he was placed in foster care with Arkansas. She later adopted him into the family. Now Marcus is a Junior at DeSoto High School where he is a member of the Varsity Baseball team and is working on obtaining his driver's license.
Josiah and his five siblings originally came from Kentucky. Due to circumstances, he ended up in the foster care system in Texas. After eight years in foster care with Arkansas he expressed his desire to be adopted by her. A student at DeSoto West Middle School Josiah is adjusting well. He struggled to redevelop his educational level after missing 90% of the school year in his earlier years.
Robert has been in the system since he was three years old. He migrated through four foster homes before getting to the Arkansas home. Due to physical and drug abuse he developed uncontrollable anger issues. After extensive therapy and acclimating to the Arkansas home environment those issues have vanished. He is now an honor roll student at DeSoto West Middle School, plays football and soccer, and is a member of the Male Leadership Academy.
The newest addition to the group, Tristan, is a ball of energy. Originally from Abilene, he is a bit rambunctious. Despite the fact that he likes to test boundaries (like all pre-teen boys), Tristan is always very respectful and loving. The third Arkansas at DeSoto West Middle School, Tristan enjoys being a member of the football team.
Becoming A Foster Parent
Arkansas says she began foster care in her early 20's. Prior to that she had been a juvenile detention officer, drill instructor at a boot camp, and several other jobs dealing with youth.
“Most of all, since I was abandoned by my parents at an early age I felt like I could relate to these children and I opened up my home to them,” she says. “Fostering and adoption give me the opportunity to give these children the love and affection that I missed from my own biological parents. My wonderful grandmother Charlene Arkansas raised me from birth and she did a tremendous job. I couldn't have asked for a better parent.”
As for the benefits and drawbacks, Arkansas does say there are several “because you are dealing with other peoples' children that have been through crisis [that's a drawback], but the biggest benefit of it all is going to bed at night knowing that you are trying to help save a hurting child.”
Brenda Barnes-Tucker, Program Director at Antelope Valley Child, Youth & Family Services (AVCYFS) in Lancaster, Texas says, “The duration of a foster child in care often times varies because it depends on the case; for example the plan for the child, the progress of the parents or the availability of other family members. Typically, for a child new into care, the duration might be six to 12 months. If a family member is identified subsequent to a child coming into care, the child may go to family prior to six months. However, one of the mandates of states, nationwide, parents are given a maximum of one year to comply with the courts and the State's' mandates. If these mandates are not adhered to parents can and often do lose their parental rights, at which time, the child becomes free for adoption.”
The Need For Loving Homes
It is Tucker's agency, a State Child Placing Agency that recruits, trains and licenses foster and adoptive families.
“There are not enough foster, adoptive, or respite homes to help meet the needs of the many children in care,” says Tucker. “Thus, children end up staying in the foster care system a lot longer than they should.”
Many children come into foster care due to physical or sexual or emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment and maltreatment. Tucker says her agency serves between the ages of zero and 18 years old in these cases.
“Though we have often had children who elect to stay in the foster care system until the ages of 19 and 20,” she says. “These children are in the conservatorship of the State of Texas through the Texas Department Family and Protective Services (TDFPS).”
Tucker reiterates that foster and adoptive families are always in need.
“There are many children returned to parents or family members, but, unfortunately there are just as many that never get to return to their parents. And often there are no relatives available,” Tucker concludes.
More Ways To Support Incentives For Kids
Leading up to the Foster Care Awareness Rally, IFK is also hosting a Skating Party on Friday, May 5, 2017. The family-friendly event and fundraiser will take place at Redbird Skate Land located at 1206 North Duncanville Road, Duncanville, Texas.
For more information, call 214-779-5018. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.IncentivesForKids.net.
For Children Who Have Suffered Sexual Abuse, Criminal Law Is Not Enough
by Atiya Bose
The state needs to invest in human services to better support the children who come forward with complaints of sexual abuse.
Two children recently came before the courts seeking protection from fathers who they allege have sexually assaulted them. In both cases, the courts ruled against the children – according to the courts, the sexual abuse did not actually take place. In the first case, a sixteen-year old girl in Thane filed a complaint with the police claiming her father had raped her multiple times. When the case eventually made it to court two harrowing years after she first made her complaint, the child collapsed under a gruelling cross-examination that, shockingly, made her sexual history the subject of discussion. She retracted her complaint, saying she had made it up, and in an unprecedented turn of events this past December, the court slapped perjury charges on her, aiming to make an example of her. The second case is the more recent ‘French diplomat case' from Bengaluru, where five years after being accused, a father has been acquitted of the charge of sexually assaulting his four-year old daughter – charges raised by his wife, the child's mother. In this instance, the complainant mother was the person put on the dock, her sexual history was judged and her morality and lifestyle were found wanting. The courts said she was not a credible witness and the case collapsed. I do not wish to get into the merits of either case – I will leave that to people better versed at law than I am. My concern is the survivor child and what happens to her.
Criminal law is concerned with offenders: who the perpetrator is, proving his guilt or innocence, and if guilty, meting out punishment. For a child who has suffered sexual abuse, all of that is frequently considered to be beside the point. Stop for a minute and imagine yourself as that child. Imagine having to summon up the courage and find the words to tell someone in your life that a person who they know, respect and trust has been hurting you. Imagine being a child riddled by the guilt of having to ‘tell on' someone you know and maybe love. Imagine being a child, so young, that you do not yet have the words to talk about what is being done to you. Imagine being a child so horribly confused and ashamed by your body's response to being touched in a sexually manner that you can never tell anyone about it. Imagine being the child who tells – and the next thing you know your family has turned against you because of the shame you have brought; your father, or grandfather or uncle who you accused is in jail, and with his income gone your family is on the brink of ruin. If you were that child, what would you be concerned with?
Children in such cases frequently retract their statements especially when the perpetrator is someone they know. A study by the National Law School of India, Bengaluru found that 85.3% of victims – in cases charged under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), turned hostile when the accused was someone they knew. When you look at that fact together with Crime In India Report of 2015, which found that in 94.8% of cases filed under POCSO the perpetrator is a person known to the child, you quickly realise the complexity of the pressure that the survivor child faces. Her testimony and resolve cannot be expected to pass the brutal test of time and cross-examination that a criminal trial imposes.
Criminal jurisprudence relies on evidence, proof and credible witnesses. In cases of child sexual abuse, however, material, ‘credible' evidence, be it DNA, sperm, physical signs of assault or resistance, are often difficult to procure and examine. This is so for a variety of reasons, including institutional incompetence to the amount of time that passes between the incident and the reporting, as victims (or their supporters) try to make sense of the horror of what has transpired, and then somehow gather up the courage to approach the criminal justice system. Imagine being the child who has been violated and now has to repeatedly recount to unfeeling strangers what was done to you and how. Reliving the details of something dreadful, not being allowed to forget for however long it takes the wheels of justice to creak into motion. Having your body inspected for traces of your humiliation and terror. Imagine being a mother and learning that you have failed to keep your child safe. That she has been hurt, and that the person who has hurt her is your own father or brother. What if it's your husband? How are you supposed to believe that is even possible? What does that mean about you? About him? About the life and history you thought you shared? Imagine being a father, knowing your relative or friend or neighbour, someone your child called ‘uncle' has broken her trust, and yours, and has instead used her and hurt her.
This is the emotional and psychological minefield that must be traversed in almost every case of child sexual abuse. Child abuse, as we know, can carry on for years before it is identified and understood, even by the victim herself. Child abuse is frequently couched in love and affection, requiring no brute physical force, leaving no outward physical markings. The abuse relies heavily on coercion, threats and the manipulation of an emotionally immature and vulnerable person who is often in no position to resist or to defend herself, or to get help to stop it. Criminal law is too blunt an instrument to deal with any of this. And yet it is the only instrument we have. It is the only response we have mandated. It concerns itself with finding facts – cold, harsh, unfeeling facts. Where is the comfort in that? Whose job is it to hold the child, and make sure she is restored to wholeness and safety?
Child protection requires an effective system of response, but this must be a human system, not a mere legal instrument. We have to invest in human services that are trauma-informed. Not next year or the year after, but now. We have to do this so that every person in the justice system, starting first with judges themselves, is acutely aware of the extent to which the child's life has been devastated, and are equipped to deal with the child keeping that harsh truth front and centre. We have to invest in training real people to be a support to children and their families. These should be people who live in the communities where the hurt child lives, investing in empowering informal, accessible systems of response and care, rather than endlessly writing laws and policies in which nonexistent experts and mental health professionals provide undefined ‘support' to victims. We have a law that demands the mandatory reporting of even an allegation of child abuse, and while that may get us a pat on the back, let us remember that in the five years since we enacted that law we have not moved one step closer to financially providing for the framework of care that a survivor child actually needs.
Yes, let us strengthen the law by all means. Let us file appeals in cases where justice has not been served and build ‘child-friendly' courts. But let us not for a minute think that a child's well-being and safety will be met by criminal law alone. Let us acknowledge that legal systems can't help but be inimical to the child and might add to the devastation of her world. Let that therefore not be our only response. Because when a child comes before us seeking protection it's fair to say that at the very least the hurting has to end, and she must endure no further harm.
Peace of Mind: Adverse Childhood Experiences
by Beth Sweeney
EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) -- Science shows children's exposure to trauma and toxic stress could lead to major health problems later in life.
Walk into any classroom at Evansville's Ark Crisis Child Care Center, and you will find children who feel safe and welcome.
"A lot of the kids that we see have lived in a number of different places, they don't have a home, they don't have some place to call their own," said Angie Richards Cooley, Ark Crisis Child Care Center executive director. "So we work really hard here at Ark to make sure that this becomes their safe place, their constant place."
The landmark ACES study on Adverse Childhood Experiences (Kaiser Permanente) found that stresses such as violence, neglect, abuse, or divorce, can impair a child's development, putting them at risk for a host of physical, emotional and social problems as an adult.
"Substance abuse, chemical dependency to smoking, heart disease, obesity, all of those things, diabetes, all of these are tied to ACES in some way. It can also affect mental health, cause lots of relationship issues, could lead people into addiction or behaviors they might not have chosen," said Lynn Kyle, Lampion Center executive director.
But Lynn Kyle with the non-profit counseling group, Lampion Center, says these adversities do not have to dictate a child's life story. A good outcome starts with addressing the issues right from the start.
"What is predictable is preventable. We know we can predict some health indicators for later and functioning for adults by what happened when they were children," explained Kyle. "So, if we can make a positive effect with children early on, help them be resilient, provide protective factors for them, they won't have the health effects later."
According to research, the presence of just one nurturing adult in a child's life may often make all the difference.
"It can be little moments with family, with friends, at a child care center such as Ark," said Kyle
"It's being greeted in the morning warmly by a teacher who comes down to your level and can hold out their arms and say I'm so happy to see you today," said Cooley.
"I'm at the grocery and I'm walking by a child in the cart and you're making eye contact, you're waving and you're getting something back from them. I can picture the MRI of that child's brain and it's just going zing," said Kyle.
Kyle and other community leaders are using this research to educate families, child care workers, teachers, and social service providers.
"Helping people that are in the helping profession know how to provide resilience and protective factors for them."
Putting science into action to build a healthier foundation for the Tri-State community's future.
"Giving every child some sense of worth, some sense of being welcomed and belonging, and being a part of an overall picture of wonderful really gives them a sense of value in their own lives," said Cooley.
A high number of adverse childhood experiences does not automatically mean health issues will develop, but it does put a child at greater risk.
Click here for more information on ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and tips for parents and caregivers to better build a child's brain.
The trauma that never ends
The effect of sexual abuse on mental health is profound. The trauma of abuse during childhood leads the victim to direct their shame, despair and anger inwards, which gives rise to psychological distress in adolescence. The denial and repression of the memories of being abused can lead to amnesia of parts of one's childhood, which can be confusing and distressing for the sufferer.
by Dr Mehtab Ghazi Rahman
A shocking headline in The Daily Star, claiming “145 children [were] raped in three months!” caught the attention of many recently. The article reported that 145 children in Bangladesh were raped in the first three months of 2017, 50 of whom were killed. Social media was abuzz with discussions around the article, and the general feedback was unanimous - what is happening in our society is despicable, shocking, nauseating. These 145 cases are only the tip of the iceberg - a multitude of sexual abuse cases have likely gone unreported due to societal taboo, shame and stigma.
Have you given a thought about what happens to child abuse victims in the longer term? What influence does child sexual abuse have on a person's physical, psychological, social and interpersonal functioning in later life?
Child sexual abuse can be defined as 'any sexual activity with a child where consent is not or cannot be given'. The perpetrators of sexual abuse are not always adults; sexual contact between an older child and a younger one can also be deemed as abusive if the victim is unable to give informed consent. Acts considered as sexual abuse include penetration and touching, as well as non-contact acts such as voyeurism and exposure; in plain words, any activity that exploits a victim sexually is sexual abuse. Perpetrators may also exploit children online, by prematurely exposing children to pornography, trapping them into having conversations of a sexual nature in chat rooms and manipulating them into sending pornographic photos of their bodies. Sexual abuse is often carried out by someone who the victims trust - the abuse breaks the trust and leaves the abused children believing that the people they trust will end up hurting them.
Childhood sexual abuse occurs in families of all socioeconomic levels, but is most common in families that are socially deprived and disorganised. Dysfunctional marriages, resulting in domestic violence or parental separation, are associated with higher risks of child sexual abuse (“A Study of Potential Risk Factors for Sexual Abuse in Childhood”, Child Abuse and Neglect, Vol. 21). There is also increased risk with a step-parent in the family or when a child is put into foster care (“Childhood sexual abuse and psychiatric disorders in young adulthood”, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 35). Social deprivation and dysfunctional family environments are likely to leave children vulnerable due to the lack of adequate care, protection and supervision, leaving them exposed to molesters who display fake interest and affection to take advantage of a child's vulnerability. Studies have suggested that physical maturity, attractiveness, early sexual maturation and socially isolated children with few friends have the highest risk of being sexually abused (“High risk children”, A Sourcebook on Child Sexual Abuse).
Childhood is a time when complex changes occur in a person's physical, social and psychological being - these changes are retarded and perverted when a child is abused, leading to abnormalities in their development. Abuse disrupts a child's self-esteem and sense of mastery of the world, leaving them vulnerable to social and personal deficits in later life. The child loses the sense of the world as a safe and trusting environment, the understanding that relationships can be trusting and intimate; in adult life, this leads to an increased risk of low self-esteem, social insecurity, difficulties with one's sexuality and ability to be intimate, and socio-economic failure. Abused children have lower educational attainment - they are more likely to have lower grades, increased absence from school and lower than average attainment in language and mathematics, all of which persists through adulthood if the right support is not provided (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States).
Abuse at an early age, long-term abuse, exploitation by a near relative (such as a parent or sibling) or use of force are more likely to give rise to extreme behavioural symptoms. These behaviours include intense emotional reactions, fear, shame, humiliation, guilt, self-blame, nightmares, flashbacks and poor self-perception. Affected children may develop the belief that they are somehow to blame for the sexual abuse and that they deserved the suffering. The survivor will often take personal responsibility for the abuse, particularly when the abuse is carried out by a trusted adult, as it is difficult for the child to view the loved one in a negative light. Self-esteem is likely to be severely affected - the child may have an increased belief that bad things are likely to happen to them (pessimism) and they may develop a sense that they lack control of their own lives and life events.
Sexual abuse in childhood has been shown to cause significant changes in the brain structure (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States). Researchers have found specific changes in a key part of the brain, the hippocampus, in those who have been maltreated in childhood. Those children who have experienced abuse have been found to have reduction in brain volume in two parts of the hippocampus: the pre-subiculum and subiculum. These brain changes leave a person more vulnerable to anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in adulthood. Childhood abuse also leads to high levels of circulating stress hormones that damage regions of the brain that affect the person's ability to cope with stress in later life.
Women who have been sexually abused will often underestimate their own abilities and seek occupations that are below their capacity as a result of their poor self-esteem. In personal relationships, a victim of childhood sexual abuse is more likely to be dissatisfied with their romantic relationships and describe their partners as overly-controlling or uncaring. Unhappiness in intimate relationships is usually due to the victim's lack of trust in others and a poor sense of his/her own sexuality. Child sexual abuse involving penetration is more likely to lead to unsatisfactory adult sexual relationships. Difficulties with sexual performance are also more common in those who have been abused - male victims are more likely to experience low libido, premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction, while female victims are likely to suffer arousal problems in adulthood (“The long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse: Counseling implications”, counsellingoutfitters.com).
The trauma of childhood sex abuse affects the body's stress system, which lingers on for years after the initial event. The increased level of stress leaves the victim vulnerable to chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Victims are also more likely to report chronic pain syndromes such as back pain, unexplained headaches, pelvic pain, poor sleep, gastrointestinal problems and breathing difficulties in adult life (“The long-term effects of child sexual abuse”, Australian Institute of Family Studies). A clear link exists between sexual abuse and fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and irritable bowel disease. Studies have shown that a victim of sexual assault has double the risk of being confined to bed or restricted in daily activities due to their physical health problems. Eating disorders and body image issues are also common.
The effect of sexual abuse on mental health is profound. The trauma of abuse during childhood leads the victim to direct their shame, despair and anger inwards, which gives rise to psychological distress in adolescence. The denial and repression of the memories of being abused can lead to amnesia of parts of one's childhood, which can be confusing and distressing for the sufferer. There is now a large body of research that links child sexual abuse to high rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, trauma and substance abuse.
Interestingly, research has shown that long-term problems following child sexual abuse are lower in those victims who have confiding and supportive relationships with their mothers (“Childhood sexual abuse and later psychological problems”, Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, Volume 7). Success in sports and academic achievement at school have been shown to be protective against long-term consequences of sexual abuse as they lead to improvement of one's self-esteem and encourage effective social interaction with peers.
The long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse can be complex and devastating. Sexual abuse not only leaves the victim vulnerable to mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and anger, but also chronic physical health problems such as chronic pain and gastrointestinal disorders. Survivors need to be supported with empathy, understanding and empowering messages with the aim to improving their self-esteem and re-integrating them in society. Instead of identifying and targeting abuse victims, the effort should be to provide all adolescents the opportunity to participate in social opportunities that increase their self-esteem and mastery in dealing with life. Enabling victims to achieve success in academics, sports and in the workforce greatly reduces the vulnerabilities to developing mental, physical and interpersonal problems in adulthood.
The writer is a London-based Adult Psychiatrist working for the National Health Service (NHS), United Kingdom.
DARK WEB PAEDO SITE
Sick child abuse site revealed to have 10,000 Brit members including NHS worker and school governor
Perverts used special software to mask their identities on the 'dark web' site
by Paul Harper
A SECRET online paedophile network which allowed sickos to discuss child abuse and post vile images had 10,000 Britons signed up, it has emerged.
An NHS employee, a former school governor and a sex offender who worked at a children's hospital were among 80,000 users registered with the site.
The “dark web” site, which the Sun has decided not to name, enabled guests to discuss their perverted interests and comment on posts without fear of getting caught.
An investigation by the Times newspaper found that users used special software, which directs internet traffic through a volunteer network, to mask their identities.
However, the paper studied the network's server, Freedom Hosting II, after usernames, email addresses and passwords were hacked by anonymous vigilantes and placed on the open web.
Information on 50 Brits using the sick site, whose details match Facebook profiles, are due to be passed to the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The Times reported that the NCA did not comment on whether they were aware of Freedom Hosting II but they found that the earliest website on the server was created in 2014 and more than 155,000 users joined child abuse sites hosted there.
Last week one of the world's largest child sex abuse websites was taken down after a probe led by the FBI and Europol.
It boasted more than 150,000 users around the world and 368 European suspected child sex abusers have now been arrested or convicted in the operation.
The Times reported many users had migrated to the other sites hosted by Freedom Hosting II.
Child abuse victims being forced to take fight for justice to the courts
by The Belfast Telegraph
Victims of historical child abuse are being forced to take their fight for justice to the courts after being "abandoned" by Northern Ireland's warring politicians.
In January a landmark report into state and church abuse recommended compensation, a memorial and a public apology to abuse survivors.
Dozens of victims had given evidence during a four-year public inquiry about the abuse they suffered as children in care.
However, the collapse of the Stormont government has meant a promised redress scheme has not been set up.
A lawyer for abuse survivors, Claire McKeegan of KRW Law, said they now face the trauma of lengthy court proceedings for justice.
Ms McKeegan said redress is not a "windfall" for victims but constitutes the discharge of the debt owed to them by the state, the church orders and the relevant institutions "that so grievously failed them in the past".
"Despite the HIA Inquiry recommendations that survivors of abuse are entitled to proper redress, the Government have yet to suggest let alone implement any such scheme.
"In the absence of any redress scheme with backing from the institutions and the state, we have no alternative at present than to advise our clients to issue and prosecute proceedings through the courts," said Ms McKeegan.
She added: "It is a further wrong perpetrated on these victims to require them to wait indefinitely for compensation and the care and assistance that they are entitled to and so greatly need."
Margaret McGuckin, of the campaign group Survivors & Victims of Institutional Abuse (SAVIA) said: "We have all had enough of this mess and many of us are at breaking point.
"We have been left feeling like we are begging our politicians to care for us, but they never listen. We have been abandoned again."
She added: "We just don't know where to turn for help. I unfortunately can see more of our people passing on without justice."
Secretary of State James Brokenshire recently admitted in a letter to DUP MLA Alex Easton that the implementation of the recommendations was not likely to happen soon.
He said as the report was commissioned by Stormont's first and deputy first ministers in 2012, they were obliged to lay the report in the Assembly.
"Given the current political situation in Northern Ireland, this is not likely to be imminently possible," he said.
Father key to ending child abuse, says pastor
by Jason Cross
Having fathers play more active roles within families may be the solution to the problem of child abuse in Jamaica, says Pastor Eric Nathan, president of the East Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
Nathan delivered reflections on child abuse in Jamaica before scores who turned out for a Child Month church service at the Secret Gardens monument in downtown Kingston yesterday.
The service was held in memory of children who have died under tragic circumstances.
"When the family is together, and where there are fathers able to impart good values to their children, that could immediately change the landscape of abuse of our children. (It) is good when we empower fathers and encourage them to stand up and be counted as a leader in society," Nathan said.
He said he was convinced, based on research, that children generally turn out much better when they are raised with both parents.
"It is interesting, and research shows that even in high-crime neighbourhoods, 90 per cent of the children from stable, two-parent homes - where father is involved - do not become delinquent. It is interesting that when children have good father figures, their self-esteem is enhanced. It would seem as if the children who become easy prey to predators are the ones with low self-esteem, the ones that walk behind and feel insecure and not involved in the group," he said.
"Children with involved fathers are more confident, better able to deal with frustration, better able to gain independence and their own identity. They are more sociable, less likely to show signs of depression, and less likely to commit suicide," he added.
Police partner Lucy Faithfull Foundation to tackle online child sexual abuse images
by the Suffolk Constabulary
Suffolk Constabulary is teaming up with child protection charity,The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, in a new initiative tackling online child sexual abuse images.
Six police forces across Eastern England are launching Operation NetSafe today, Monday 8 May, 2017 in a bid to tackle online viewing of child sexual abuse images.
In October last year, National Police Chiefs' Council lead on Child Protection and Chief Constable of Norfolk Police, Simon Bailey, announced that more than 100,000 individuals from across the UK were regularly accessing indecent images of children (IIOC) online. Operation NetSafe has been launched to tackle this growing threat in Eastern England with forces from Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire taking part.
The operation is being conducted in partnership with child protection charity, The Lucy Faithfull Foundation. Their staff, including former probation officers, social workers, psychologists and police officers, help prevent child sexual abuse through work with victims, families and sex offenders themselves.
The foundation also works with the public to help them play their part in protecting children via the UK-wide ‘Stop it Now!' campaign. This directs offenders, potential offenders and their concerned loved ones to a confidential and anonymous helpline and online self-help resources, enabling them to address any concerning behaviour.
Operation NetSafe represents a new, multi-agency approach to address demand for child sexual abuse images by bringing together the detection and law enforcement work of the police with the prevention work of The Lucy Faithfull Foundation and ‘Stop it Now!'
The operation will include a public awareness campaign using traditional media, social media, posters and other public relations activities to communicate key deterrence messages to offenders and potential offenders. Messages will include: children in the images are real children who are abused each time their image is viewed; that there are severe consequences for those who view such images, including arrest, loss of job, prison, family or relationship break-downs and being put on the Sex Offenders Register.
Welcoming the launch of Operation NetSafe in Eastern England, Norfolk's Chief Constable and National Police Chiefs' Council Lead for Child Protection, Simon Bailey said: "Police services across the UK are dealing with an unprecedented volume of child sexual abuse reports, including online indecent images and these numbers continue to rise.
"Child sexual abuse is a crime and so is possessing images of that abuse. Often offenders convince themselves that as the images already exist there isn't a victim as they don't have direct contact with the children or young people involved. But these children were abused and exploited to make these images and are further victimised every time those images are viewed.
"Police forces are responding to the threat, and we have to consider different approaches such as rehabilitation and treatments as well as prosecution to deal with offenders to ensure children are safeguarded.
"Together, we are committed to protecting the most vulnerable in our communities and to put a stop to online child sexual abuse and exploitation.
Donald Findlater, Safeguarding Consultant at The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, commented: "Too many men seem to think that it is alright to view sexual images of under-18s online. They may do this as part of an adult pornography habit; or they may have an established sexual interest in children that needs addressing urgently. But whatever the reason, they need to stop and stay stopped.
"In our work with those arrested for such viewing and sharing sexual images of children online, we often hear that they did not think they were doing any harm. But the reality is that the children in the images were typically abused when the image was first taken; and they are re-abused every time that image is viewed.
"Police are increasing their capacity to tackle this crime. The chances of getting caught have never been higher. The consequences of getting caught can be severe for families and for offenders themselves. Those offending online must not bury their heads in the sand. That knock on the door will come if they do not stop their illegal and harmful behaviour.
"For those men who are struggling with what they see as an addiction to pornography, including sexual images of under 18's, confidential and effective help is available from Stop it Now! via 0808 1000 900 or by visiting the Stop it Now! website at www.get-help.stopitnow.org.uk.
"Children deserve nothing less than that all agencies and members of the public work together to keep them safe from sexual abuse.”
Rachel Kearton, Assistant Chief Constable of Suffolk Constabulary said, "Safeguarding children is a priority for Suffolk Constabulary. Internet crimes such as these are far from victimless and every image depicts the very real abuse a young child has suffered. We will do everything within our power to protect victims who are subjected to these potentially life changing acts of indecency purely for the gratification of others.
"Any information received about the creation and sharing of such images is investigated swiftly and thoroughly, working closely with other agencies including social services to ensure offenders are caught and prosecuted and any victims of abuse identified are given support and access to the necessary services.”
In just one year, more than 1,800 people from across Eastern England have sought help to stop looking at sexual images of children. 131 people from the region called the Stop it Now! helpline with concerns about their online behaviour; and a further 1,691 people from Eastern England visited the Stop it Now! website seeking help for their own online behaviour, or that of a loved one.
Cambodia vows to crack down on orphanages amid child sexual abuse claims
by Lindsay Murdoch
They are Cambodia's stolen generation.
More than 35,000 children and young people are living in the country's orphanages and other institutions, including some run and financed by Australians, according to a new study.
Cambodia's Ministry of Social Affairs has vowed to crack down on 639 residential care institutions, many of which have been dogged by claims of child sexual abuse and the exploitation of children as tourist attractions.
The ministry's study, which was supported by the UN children's agency UNICEF, found that 38 per cent of the institutions have never been inspected, 12 per cent are unregistered and more than 20 per cent did not have a memorandum of understanding with the government.
"The finding that many residential care institutions are out of the ministry's regulatory framework raises significant concerns for the wellbeing of children living in them," said Voung Sauth, the Minister for Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation.
"Decades of global scientific research has shown that living in residential care can harm a child's social, physical, intellectual and emotional development with long-term impact on adult life," he said.
Research shows that most of the children in Cambodia's orphanages are not orphans and have at least one parent.
Mr Sauth urged poverty-stricken parents not to allow their children to be placed in orphanages, saying the best place for them was in the care of their families.
But the study said reasons for children to be sent to the institutions, other than poverty, included divorce, illness or a large number of children in the family, migration and a lack of social welfare services.
The study found that institutionalising children should only be a last resort and then only be temporary, including for those who are disabled or suffering from HIV/Aids.
Cambodia's government has been under growing pressure from UN agencies and non-government-organisations for several years to close the country's orphanages, many of which are run by religious organisations.
Fifty-seven orphanages were shut last year.
But until now the government has allocated scant resources to police regulations.
Following the study, Mr Sauth said his ministry was committed to reintegrating 30 per cent of the children living in residential care centres to their own communities by 2018.
Children under three will be banned from any centre.
The number of orphanages in Cambodia has doubled in the past five years while they are banned in most Western nations.
The study found there are "stark gaps in Cambodia's care system, confirming long-held concerns of the government and child protection workers for the wellbeing of children living in unmonitored institutions and of the uncontrolled increase in orphanages in the country".
Welfare workers have condemned the recruitment of volunteers from universities in Australia and other countries to work in orphanages.
They say so-called "orphan tourism" and "volunteer tourism" in thinly disguised orphanage businesses exploit the children, tourists and volunteers.
"Your donations don't help orphans - they create them," says a blunt message from the Phnom Penh-based NGO Friends International.
Special Report: Sex traffickers evading tough prison sentences
by Matt Stout
Accused pimps and sex traffickers who could face decades behind bars under state law are often being allowed to plead down to less time and reduced charges, with more than half of convictions netting minimum sentences or less, according to a Herald review.
The softer sentencing patterns identified by a Herald survey of cases prosecuted by the attorney general and the state's 11 district attorneys come five years after lawmakers passed a much-ballyhooed sex-trafficking law billed as a get-tough measure on criminals driving the sex trade. But prosecutors and victim advocates say the sentences highlight the long-standing challenge in bringing complex cases reliant on vulnerable and sometimes reluctant victims.
The law called for sentences of five to 20 years for those convicted of trafficking, and up to life for those who prostitute minors.
But a Herald review of 32 trafficking cases statewide found 21 defendants in a position to serve the minimum five-year sentence or less, with three getting outright probation. At least 18 times defendants took pleas to reduced charges — avoiding a human-trafficking conviction entirely. The average sentence of all reviewed cases fell between four and five-and-a-half years. That's a rate state Sen. Mark Montigny, the bill's chief sponsor, slammed as “abysmal” — and exactly what he was trying to avoid when he drafted the law.
“Never once in my career have I put a mandatory minimum in a bill, but in trafficking of children, I put one in because I didn't want to see plea-bargaining down,” said Montigny, who decried what he called a “societal ignorance” around the seriousness of the sex trade. “It's unbelievable. … Not much has changed. And I'm so disappointed in that.”
Before the bill passed in November 2011, Massachusetts was one of just three states without a human trafficking law, and law enforcement officials at the time bemoaned the lack of the teeth in the laws to punish and deter pimps.
“The penalties we've had,” then-Attorney General Martha Coakley said, “have been far too low.”
At the time, officials often cited the case of Norman Barnes, who was charged before the bill became law with forcing two teenagers into prostitution and having sex with one.
Without trafficking charges in place, he ultimately pleaded guilty to various prostitution and rape charges, getting a five- to seven-year sentence. But even under the law — which now allows for a life sentence for trafficking minors — defendants still have faced similar, sometimes even more lenient, penalties. For example:
• Olivia Lara was charged by the AG's office in 2014 with running a teen prostitution ring after she “sold children for sex, sometimes up to five times in a night,” Coakley said at the time. Lara's arraignment caught headlines after she screamed in court, “I didn't do it!”
But she ultimately pleaded guilty to deriving support from prostitution, a lesser crime, and was sentenced to the three years she already served in jail while her case was pending before being released on probation.
• Dominic Toledo was charged with exploiting a 15-year-old girl, putting her on Backpage.com and forcing her into sex. He pleaded guilty to trafficking, and got the same sentence as Barnes: five to seven years.
• Tyrone Battle, charged with prostituting out a 14-year-old runaway for years, pleaded down to rape and various prostitution charges. He was sentenced to seven to eight years in prison.
Prosecutors have been able to secure some long sentences under the new law. Tyshaun McGhee and Sidney McGee, the first defendants convicted under the statute, got sentences of 10-to-15 and 10-to-12 years, respectively, after a Suffolk County jury found them guilty. Ryan Duntin, who plead guilty in 2015, got a 10-year sentence.
But prosecutors defended their handling of the pleaded, low-sentence cases, noting they face a web of challenges.
Frightened witnesses are often battling intense trauma or substance abuse, and sometimes are reluctant to go to trial, which makes scoring a jury conviction difficult. Other times authorities have initially brought trafficking charges against girlfriends of the pimps, known as “bottoms,” who help recruit and intimidate victims. But they sometimes are also seen as exploited victims themselves, leading prosecutors to later bring reduced charges.
Other circumstances have played a role. In Suffolk County, one accused trafficker pleaded to receive a four- to five-year sentence after one of his alleged victims died of an overdose before trial, dealing a blow to the case. In Bristol County, prosecutors said they were forced to dismiss one case because the victim wouldn't cooperate.
Prosecutors are also wary of forcing victims, especially minors, to take the stand and risk re-traumatizing them, said Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.
“When you've got victims terrified about what might come up when they take the stand ... and they're on board with a guilty plea and we can get a 10-year or an eight-year sentence, that's a successful prosecution,” Wark said.
Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett echoed other prosecutors, and stressed that highlighting that reality is “by no means laying blame on the victims.”
“All DAs want to have successful prosecutions,” he said. “But at this point, we're still trying to shepherd our way through this.”
Stephanie Clark, executive director of Amirah, an advocacy group that works with and houses trafficking victims, said she wasn't surprised traffickers are getting softer sentences, given that cases hinge on victims who may back out.
“But most of the women who are in our home keep up to date on any news story that has to do with sex trafficking,” she said. “And they're always disappointed in any sentence given — because even if it's high, it's never high enough.”
In collecting the data, the Herald sought the outcomes of all trafficking cases since the law went into effect in February 2012. The 32 convictions did not include two cases that were bumped to the federal level in Bristol County, as well as one acquittal in Suffolk.
Five of the DAs said they had no convictions to report, though some have pending cases — such as Plymouth County, with seven. Norfolk DA Michael Morrissey's office identified four cases, but refused to release any information on them.