'I thought I was evil and deserved it' - Man who was sexually abused as a child's bid to help others
by Kathy Armstrong
A man who was sexually abused as a child has set up a support group to help other survivors.
Nick Groom has spoke candidly about the self-loathing and suicidal thoughts he felt for decades after being sexually assaulted by a family friend and how that spurred him on to help others.
Nick, who is aged in his late 40s, told Independent.ie: "I was sexually abused when I was nine, it was back when I was living in England.
"It was a guy aged in his 60s who had managed to get close to my family and gain my parents' trust.
"I held onto that practically all my life then when I was in my early 40s, five or six years ago, I was working with an outreach programme in Ballina and something triggered me.
"I couldn't hold onto it any longer and I had to find a therapist almost within 24 hours because I was in such a bad way.
"I hadn't actually spoken about it before, I hadn't even told my parents or my wife, nobody knew about it.
"Certainly telling my parents was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, they asked why I hadn't told them but it was very difficult."
He spoke candidly about the devastating impact the abuse had on his mental health.
He said: "I felt such shame, it's such an awful thing to happen to any child or any adult even, there's just an immense shame that the victim feels.
"As a child I felt like I was evil and I deserved it and that deepened and became more deep-rooted, it's hard to see beyond that.
"I can remember waking up in the morning and thinking that I wished I had died during the night, it totally overwhelms you."
His abuser had passed away before Nick was ready to tell people what had happened to him but he still filed a report with the Metropolitan Police, which he said was "powerful and healing."
Nick, who is originally from Surrey but has lived in Ballina, Co Mayo since 1999, found there were a lack of resources in the west of Ireland, so he helped set up Share, which he runs with Dervilia Culloty.
He said: "You have the Mayo Rape Crisis Centre who do an amazing job but I couldn't find a support group.
"When we first started about five years ago we had people coming from as far away as Sligo, Galway and Donegal, it just showed that there is a demand for our services and there is nothing on this side of the country.
"You know all the statistics but knowing them is one thing but being in the same room as other people with shared experiences is totally different.
"We've found that anyone who suffers any deep trauma can feel a deep sense of isolation, like you're the only person going through this.
"Actually meeting up with other people in the group and talking about how they're feeling without being judged, you can explore your issues in a safe space."
He explained that anyone who wants to contact Share can email Ballinasupportgroup@live.ie or call 087102764, but he stressed that as it's a voluntary organisation that number is not a crisis helpline.
He explained how Share works, saying: "We don't use a set programme like they would in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, we've a person-centred approach so it's whatever people are feeling and want to talk about, it's quite therapeutic in that sense.
"We meet with people who are interested in joining beforehand to explain what the group's about and to see whether they want to progress with their therapy in a group environment and not everyone is, you have to do what suits each person."
Nick is a trained psychotherapist himself, an ambassador for mental health organisation See Change and runs his blog whenthefogcleared.wordpress.com.
The dad says he is in a "good place" now but says that the recovery from the abuse could be a lifelong process and this isn't a subject that should be taboo.
He said: "I see a great psychotherapist, I've been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, which basically means that reactions can be overblown in situations.
"It shows the impact that abuse can have on your mental health, I've worked through things and I think I'm in a good place right now.
"The memories never go away but it's how you learn to distinguish between the past and the present, many people get triggered by things like a voice or a smell and they can be right back to when they were abused, even if it was 20 or 30 years ago.
"It's not a quick fix, some will be in therapy all their lives.
"It's something I think needs to be discussed more, you read about it in the paper or hear it on the news but it's rare people actually speak about the impact child sexual abuse can have on your life."
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article please contact the following services:
People experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts please call Pieta House on 1800 247 247 or Samaritans on 116 123
Victims of childhood sexual abuse please call The Cari Foundation on 1890 92 45 67
Victims of sexual assault please call the Rape Crisis Network on 01 865 6954
Utah mom arrested after locking young children in trunk of car while she shopped
by Mark Green and Lauren Steinbrecher
RIVERDALE, Utah -- A mother was booked into jail for child abuse Thursday after a witness saw her lock her 2 and 5-year-old children in the trunk of a car in a Wal-Mart parking lot while she went shopping.
According to police, several people helped the children escape from the locked trunk before 39-year old Tori Castillo surfaced from the store.
Heidi, who wanted to keep her last name anonymous, was one of those people.
She said she and her friend were unloading groceries nearby when she heard noise coming from the trunk. She walked over and put her ear against the car.
"I could hear some kids crying," she recounted. "I turned to my friend and I'm like, 'There's people in this trunk. There's kids in this trunk!'"
Heidi said she and her friend, as well as two other women, started trying to help the girl inside. She said one of the women had seen the mother put the children in the trunk, before walking into the store.
"I started talking to the little girl that I could hear screaming," Heidi said. "She was [yelling], 'Mom, let me out! Let me out! Mom! Help!" She was screaming, crying."
At that point, Heidi said she started yelling through the license place back at the girl, guiding her on how to open the truck with the emergency latch.
The trunk popped open. Heidi said the children were scared, and sweating from the heat.
"Both kids just came out... they just jumped out at us," Heidi said. "One lady took the 2-year-old, I took the 5-year-old."
While they waited for police, Heidi said the mother emerged from the store.
"The only explanation she had was, 'My babysitter didn't show up,'" Heidi said.
According to the Riverdale Police Department, Tori Castillo was booked into the Weber County Correctional Facility in Ogden. She faces four counts of child abuse with physical injury, and one charge of theft.
The Division of Child and Family Services responded, "and the children were turned over to a responsible party," a press release stated.
Heidi still can't believe the shocking scene she witnessed.
"It was kind of heartbreaking to see that somebody could do something so cruel," she said.
Child abuse — a subject that deserves more attention
by Michael Reagan
Sometime soon, I hope our rabid anti-Trump media find a little time to cover a subject that has been very important to me since I was 8 — child sexual abuse.
Child abuse of all kinds is an epidemic here and around the world.
In 2015 about 700,000 American children were victims of neglect or physical or sexual abuse. How many more cases were never reported to authorities is unknown.
Neglect accounted for 75 percent of victims, most of whom were under a year old. About 17 percent suffered physical abuse and 8.4 percent suffered sexual abuse. Some kids were abused in multiple ways.
The long-term affects of abuse on children are well known. Abused children are more likely to end up arrested as juveniles and adults, more likely to commit violence crime and more likely to end up in prison and develop psychological disorders.
Child sexual abuse isn't something that affects just poor kids or is committed by a few “celebrity” predators like Jerry Sandusky, the convicted serial rapist, child molester and retired Penn State football coach.
American boys and girls of all ages, races, ethnicities and economic backgrounds are vulnerable. According to the experts, one of every three girls and one in five boys will be sexually abused before they reach 18.
These innocents won't be victimized by random strangers. Sixty-eight percent will be molested by a family member and 90 percent of victims know their abuser in some way.
A child has to tell someone they've been abused seven times before the first person listens to him or her — and even then they still may not be believed.
One predator will sexually abuse 117 kids in their lifetime. That means when you see someone arrested and charged with a couple of abuses, it's usually because they didn't get caught earlier in their lives.
Predators are quick to attach themselves to vulnerable or troubled children who are looking for someone in their lives.
The guy who molested me at an after-school day camp and took naked photos of me in 1953, when I was 8, taught me how to throw a football and shoot a basketball. He gave me the fatherly accolades and “atta-boys” I was not getting because my father and mother, Jane Wyman, had divorced and I was living with my mother.
Every child needs parental love, accolades and “atta-boys.” If you don't give them to your child, they might be given by a predator. So be a good father, a good parent.
I never told my mother I had been molested or that the guy who did it took photos of me. I didn't tell anyone until 1987 — 34 years later, when I was in my 40s.
“Why didn't you tell someone when it happened?” I've been asked. But that's the worst possible thing you can say to a kid.
What happened to me 64 years ago, still lingers today. You never outgrow it. You don't outlive it.
There's are many fine government and private social agencies and family organizations devoted to preventing child abuse or helping its victims, and there's bound to be one of them not far from your neighborhood. Sadly, they have a lot of work to do. They could use your help.
The worst sexual abuse scandal in British soccer history is up to 560 victims The allegations are focused on 252 suspects.
by Lindsay Gibbs
One of the worst child sexual abuse scandals in sports history just keeps growing in scope.
Last month, the National Police Chiefs' Council in England released the latest numbers in an ongoing investigation into a child sex abuse scandal in British soccer. As of that report, 560 alleged victims had come forward with allegation against 252 suspects.
So far, 311 football clubs from all ranks, amateur through premier, have been impacted by the investigation.
This week on HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, former Chelsea soccer player Gary Johnson talked to journalist David Scott about the abuse he suffered.
Johnson was scouted for Chelsea's elite youth program when he was only 13 years old by Eddie Heath. One day, after Johnson had a bad day at school, Heath invited Johnson back to his house. Once there, Heath put on a porn movie.
“The next thing I know my trousers and underwear are around my ankles and he started masturbating me to the point of ejaculation,” Johnson said.
Johnson kept the abuse a secret for over 40 years, but decided to come forward after seeing another former soccer pro, Andy Woodward, talk with the BBC about the sexual abuse he experienced as a child at the Crewe Alexandra football club.
“Why would I want to tell anyone? I don't want to have that stigma of going to a game and people laughing at me,” Johnson said, explaining why he was silent for all of those years.
Woodward's BBC interview triggered floods of other victims to come forward, and caused the Football Association to launch an independent inquiry into sex abuse in British soccer between 1972–2005.
While the FA has promised reforms, many are skeptical. One anonymous former football executive whom Scott interviewed said he reported allegations of abuse to the FA back in 2001, and received a letter back saying: “The Football Association has investigated the issues and is satisfied there is no case to answer.”
A few years later, the FA abruptly terminated a study on child protections citing budget cuts.
But it's a promising sign that the FA has launched such an intensive independent investigation —even though not everyone is cooperating with it. Earlier this month, Daniel Taylor of the Guardian reported that eight professional football clubs contacted by investigators have failed to respond to the inquiry.
The FA is considering imposing sanctions if the clubs continue to refuse to cooperate.
“The fact that clubs continue to ignore the FA inquiry and fail to cooperate is deeply concerning,” Dino Nocivelli, a lawyer who is representing a number of the former footballers, told Taylor. “It clearly shows their disregard for survivors of childhood sexual abuse within football and serious questions have to be asked as to the reasons why these clubs have decided not to engage.”
Now, the survivors who have come forward are hoping to get more support from the soccer community at large, and to create ways for victims to get the help they need. Last fall, Woodward and two other victims, Steve Walters and Chris Unsworth, founded an organisation called the Offside Trust to do just that.
However, the organization has seen some turmoilWoodward is no longer a member of the board of directors and the split was reportedly not amicable and the men have been frustrated by the lack of support from today's soccer stars.
“Initially we just presumed we would get the support of every single player and every single club within the country, even global,” Walters told the Guardian in February. “That would be the right thing to do for the sake of humanity. I can understand if they are not sure what the Offside Trust is all about what its aims and objectives are so might have been tentative. But we still need more modern-day footballers to support us because there are about 10 to 15 and that's it. It does disappoint you a little bit.”
Pingry class of 1992 shows solidarity with child sexual abuse survivors, calls on school to take further action
by Nick Muscavage
BASKING RIDGE - Christa Tinari and Emily Goldberg felt that they could not attend their 25th Pingry School reunion without acknowledging the recent developments of sexual assaults that affected alumni of their school.
Tinari and Goldberg, who graduated from Pingry in 1992, wrote a letter and organized a campaign at their reunion on May 20 to show solidarity with the alumni who were sexually abused as students at the school.
"It just seemed like these kids, now adults, never had anyone recognize what had been done to them," Goldberg, a civil rights attorney, said. "The idea of us coming together to celebrate our 25th reunion as if nothing ever happened at our school felt very hypocritical to me."
At the reunion, Tinari and Goldberg handed out teal ribbons, the color recognized for sexual assault awareness, to fellow classmates to show support for the sexual assault survivors. In their letter, addressed to the survivors and also circulated to school officials, they called on Pingry to increase training to their staff regarding sexual assaults and to change the name of an art room that was named after a teacher later found to have been an abuser.
Earlier this spring, according to Pingry spokesperson Dale Seabury, the school made the decision to rename its annual spring concert and remove the plaque outside the men's choral rehearsal room, both of which had been named for Antoine du Bourg, a science and music teacher who engaged in harassing behavior and inappropriate physical contact with students.
Du Bourg, a faculty member of over 46 years who died in 2011, was one of three faculty members found to have been abusing students after Pingry contracted an investigation firm to research claims of sexual abuse.
The investigation, conducted by T&M Protection Resources, found that there was "a pervasive problem of child sexual abuse" at the private school in the 1970s.
According to the 44-page report issued after the firm's nearly year-long investigation, at least 27 students were abused by Thad Alton, a teacher, coach and Lower School principal, from 1972 to 1978 at the school's Short Hills campus. The victims interacted with him at Pingry or when he was a scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 64 or a camp counselor. Most of the victims were boys between 10 and 12.
According to an online resource posted by the National Legal Research Group on its website, the statute of limitations for prosecuting someone for endangering the welfare of a child in New Jersey is five years after the victim turns 18.
In addition to du Bourg and Alton, woodshop teacher Bruce Bohrer was also named in the report. The extensive and graphic anecdotes of Alton's abuse, however, were by far the focus of the report.
Alton, who is alive and living in Manhattan, is listed on the New York State Sex Offender Registry.
Tinari and Goldberg learned of the abuse when they received a letter from the school around the time that news reports of the Pingry investigation began circulating.
"It really broke my heart to think about kids at the school I went to going through that," Goldberg said.
She said that the report was "shocking" and "profoundly sad" and called the scope of the abuse "overwhelming."
When Tinari, who now works as an anti-violence consultant for schools and youth organizations, found out about the abuse, she said fellow classmates "were talking about the survivors and how we felt for them" and thought, "'Why are we talking amongst ourselves? Why don't we reach out directly to the survivors?'"
So the two decided to write the letter addressed to the Pingry survivors, making Tinari, Goldberg and the class of 1992 the first class at Pingry to publicly show support for their abused fellow alumni.
"We, members of the graduating class of 1992, write to express our support for your efforts to seek recognition, healing and justice for the abuse you experienced as Pingry students," the letter, which was signed by over 30 classmates, said.
"We honor your courage and are grateful to you for sharing your experiences and for raising awareness about the impact of child sexual abuse," it continued. "You have exposed the ugly reality of what can happen, even in the most prestigious of educational environments, when children's rights to dignity and safety are not prioritized above all other considerations."
Although Tinari and Goldberg said that the the school's contracted investigation was a positive step forward, they both think Pingry could be doing more to address sexual assaults.
"I would like them to seem as non-defensive as possible and focus on the pain these alumni have experienced," Goldberg said. "It's a much, much wider problem than we probably know at this point because a lot of people have come forward but there are almost certainly a lot that have not yet come forward."
Pingry, in its letter in response to the class of 1992's letter, said that it engages in periodic and anonymous surveys of students in grades six through 12 on a wide range of issues related to health and wellness, and use this information to inform our curriculum, staffing, and student support services.
As for its faculty and staff, the school said it is working diligently to reinforce reporting requirements and appropriate boundaries through professional development, orientation programs, and training with outside professionals.
The school also said in its letter that in recent years school officials have made an effort to grow Pingry's counseling staff.
"Protecting our students is our highest priority, and we are committed to cultivating an environment that promotes safety and transparency," said Seabury, Pingry spokesperson. "The culture, structure, and policies currently in place are aimed at preventing the atrocities of the past from occurring again."
Still, Tinari said that she wants to see her school become a leader in addressing child sexual assaults.
"I think that they have yet to take take a stronger stand that they could take of wanting to be leaders in this area of preventing sexual abuse by faculty at schools," she said.
"I would definitely want my school to be an exemplary leader," she added. "I would definitely want them to set an example that we should talk about this."
Pingry said that anyone with relevant information regarding sexual abuse by school staff should reach out to its investigator Laura Kirschstein at 212-916-8852 or firstname.lastname@example.org. People with information can also contact the Pingry survivors' groups' attorneys, Crew Janci, through the survivors' website at http://pingrysurvivors.org/how-you-can-help/.
Iowa's foster care system needs changes
by Sandra Reicks
Adoption subsidies and home-schooling can be a lethal combination.
Taxpayers are funding adoption subsidies that sometimes provide a generous, supplemental income to abusive parents.
It's an unintended consequence of a well-meaning law. Until the 1980 Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act, foster parents were discouraged from adopting children because foster care payments ended once the adoption went through. The new law gave an adoption subsidy close to what was received in foster care payments. It was for those who had a lot of love to give — but maybe not the financial resources — to adopt hard-to-place children out of foster care.
Foster parents, though, are closely monitored. Those with full adoptive parental rights are not.
A hard-to-place or special-needs child is defined as a Caucasian child who is 8 years of age or olde; a minority child who is 2 years or older; or a child with physical, mental or emotional problems. According to the North American Council on Adoptable Children, parents who adopt a hard-to-place child out of Iowa's foster care system may receive monthly payments of up to $500 to $900, depending upon their special-needs status.
That's for one child. Multiply the money when more children are involved. The subsidy is an entitlement, and the adoptive family's income is not considered when negotiating financial support.
For the average family trying to provide a loving home for these children, the subsidy is likely not enough. And, it's not why they do it. Most want to give these forgotten kids a permanent home and a good start in life. The subsidies are just one tool they can use to help provide for the well-being and needs of their adopted children.
On the other hand, abusers see foster kids as dollar signs. These adoptive parents use subsidies as supplemental income to benefit themselves — not the children. If money didn't come attached to the kids, there would be little interest in adopting them.
Once the adoption goes through, abusive parents can use home-schooling as a method to isolate these unwanted children and conceal neglect and abuse.
Three recent cases in Iowa show the vulnerability of these children. Natalie Finn, 16, died of emaciation. Malayia Knapp, 17, ran away from her home, reported abuse to the police and is a survivor. Sabrina Ray, 16, was found dead in her home. Initial reports are that she was severely malnourished.
All three girls were adopted out of foster care and were home-schooled by parents who were receiving adoption subsidies.
These cases have been so distressing that in an effort to find a fix, some want all parents who home-school their children to submit to new regulations.
But home-schooling, alone, is not the problem. Many children, from all walks of life, are achieving excellent academic results and are thriving in the home-schooling atmosphere.
Adoption subsidies, alone, are not the problem either. Many children have found a loving and permanent home with a family that would not be possible without this financial support.
The problem is the potentially lethal combination of the two. Isolation plus money equals a fraud that can kill. And taxpayer dollars are funding it.
When there's public money involved there needs to be transparency. If parents are accepting adoption subsidies, it should be under the condition that the children be enrolled in public or private schools. It's not enough for Iowa's Department of Human Services to become involved after a complaint is filed. One visit does not compare to regular observations from the public or private school system.
Whenever tragedy strikes there's a tendency to overreact. We don't need to shut down home schools or discontinue adoption subsidies. Both do a lot of good. We do, though, need to look at the link between home-schooling and adoption subsidies.
It's a false narrative to say Natalie Finn fell through the cracks. It implies she was an unfortunate enigma, but all is well everywhere else. And all the while, Malayia, Sabrina and an unknown number of other children suffer.
It's not a crack. It's a chasm, and it demands a policy change.
Daddy Issues: How Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers Can Cope (Part 1)
By Shahida Arabi
This is a five-part series which will feature five common obstacles daughters of narcissistic fathers encounter on their journey to healing and how to heal. This is part one of the series. Look for Part 2 here.
Daddy Issues: How Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers Can Cope, Part 1
Those who have had a narcissistic parent can testify how damaging it can be to one's psyche. Narcissistic parents lack empathy, show a severe sense of entitlement to micromanage the lives of their children, and may even subject their children to neglect, as well as emotional and/or physical abuse.
Daughters of narcissistic fathers face all the common challenges of having an unempathic, cruel and abusive parent, but along with these they may also encounter unique triggers and obstacles on the path to their healing journey. Here are five common challenges daughters of narcissistic fathers experience and tips on how to overcome them on the healing journey. Sons of narcissistic fathers may also be able to relate to these.
The grandiose self-image and reputation of their fathers rarely matched the coldness and indifference behind closed doors, habituating their children to accept interpersonal danger as the norm. Narcissists are masters of impression management and the charismatic narcissistic father is no different. As the daughter of a narcissistic father, you may have noticed that your father prioritized his reputation in the community above the happiness or wellbeing of you and your family members (Banschick, 2013).
Your father was most likely known as generous, friendly and exceptionally charming to all those who knew him in public; yet behind closed doors, he was verbally, emotionally and/or physically abusive to his spouse and children. This is not uncommon in households with a narcissistic parent; their ‘false self' is rarely a match for the true self within the realm of the family unit.
As a result, daughters of narcissistic fathers are likely to have been silenced should they ever have attempted to speak out against the abuse or speak ill of the father within the household or in public.
Combined with gender roles and expectations for young women to be quiet, demure and polite, daughters of narcissistic fathers may have been conditioned to adapt to danger rather than to protect themselves from it.
That is why dangerous situations and people with a Jekyll and Hyde personality – people who are rarely consistent in their character or integrity – feel like an oddly familiar unsafe comfort zone to daughters of narcissistic fathers in adulthood.
What to do:
Validate and acknowledge the experiences you had with your narcissistic parent and don't allow the opinions of others detract from the reality of the abuse you experienced. It is common for survivors of any form of abuse to doubt and question themselves about the horrific violations they experienced.
This is especially true when their abuser is a loved figure in the community or projects a charitable and loving image to the world.
They may have also experienced an enormous amount of gaslighting from their abusers or enabling family members or friends of the family (Canonville, 2015). Survivors of narcissistic abuse tend to ‘gaslight' themselves into believing their experiences were not valid, due to the reputation of their abusers.
If the abuse is taking a severe toll on your mental health and well-being, consider limiting contact with your narcissistic parent to only holidays and special occasions. Limited contact enables you to take your power back, as you can control the frequency with which you interact with the parent and walk away from potentially threatening situations before they escalate.
Some survivors find that their particular situation warrants going No Contact with their abusive parents; if that is the case, know that you do not have to feel guilty or ashamed. You have every right to protect yourself from dangerous people, even if they share your DNA.
Learn constructive ways to self-validate. Journal or speak with a counselor about the abuse you endured to reconnect with its reality. Confer with validating family members or friends who were also recipients of the abuse and do not minimize it. Honor what you experienced and recognize that you did not deserve it, in any shape, way or form.
Find ways to give yourself the emotional nourishment you needed but didn't receive in childhood. ‘Re-parent' yourself with the soothing words, actions as well as acts of radical self-care that can combat some of the destructive conditioning you may have faced in your childhood (Cooney, 2017; Markham, 2014). Connect with your inner child through visualization, meditation and self-soothing whenever you're in emotional distress (Jenner, 2016). We will talk more about specific healing modalities in Part 3 of this series.
Identify and consider limiting contact with any people you currently have in your life who also have a ‘false self' that do not align with their true ones.
Often when we've been raised by a father figure like this, we tend to gravitate towards people who feed us empty words and false promises, or who are also emotionally unavailable. No wonder: our early role models for relationships also lacked emotional depth and an inability to connect with us emotionally.
We can become ‘tone-deaf' to verbal and emotional abuse as well (Streep, 2016). That is why it is important to recognize any toxic patterns of communication we may also be tolerating from our other family members, friends, acquaintances and dating partners and to set firmer boundaries that honor how we deserve to be treated.
Finally, ensure that you're in touch with your authentic self – honor all of the facets of your identity that make you who you are. Know that you don't need to hide your true self from others and that you don't have to follow in your narcissistic father's footsteps in excessively depending on external validation.
Self-validation and connecting with your true self is key on the healing journey. We may not be able to change the narcissistic parent, but we can take steps to ensure that we ourselves are living authentic lives and not modeling the parent's destructive ways of behaving and relating to the world.
Daddy Issues: How Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers Can Cope (Part 1)
by Shahida Arabi
The affection stopped once daughters reached puberty or it may have overstepped boundaries. It is common for parents and teenagers to be engaged in a power struggle especially when it comes to the teenager dating or entering relationships.
Yet with a narcissistic father, the devaluation is excessive and immense during this stage, especially if there was idealization (putting you on a pedestal, doting on you) involved in the beginning.
Perhaps your father did show affection and care towards you when you were a toddler or a young child because you were easier to control. However, the tender hugs right after he came home from work or the sweet praise may have come to an abrupt halt as you reached puberty and he found himself confronting a teenager who was not as easy policed.
For some daughters, affection was never present at all; the narcissistic father may have refused to touch or even care for the infant child and emotionally neglected the daughter throughout her life span.
Perhaps the narcissistic father chose one daughter as a golden child to spoil and dote upon, while assigning another daughter the role of the scapegoat, barely interacting with her at all, or even going so far as to shun her from his attention altogether.
Affection or no affection, the narcissistic father's lack of boundaries can take a disturbing turn. As some daughters of narcissistic fathers can attest to, becoming aware of one's sexuality and entering relationships can be a huge ‘trigger' for the narcissistic father's need to micromanage his children.
The narcissistic father believes he ‘owns' his children and your burgeoning sense of independence – as well as your interactions with those who challenge his power and authority – can cause him severe narcissistic injury and rage.
To the narcissistic father, no one is ‘good enough' for his ‘little girl' but this belief has even deeper and darker implications – he has a need to ensure that his daughter stays in a state of perpetual childhood so that she is easier to control.
Her sexuality and interest in boys (or girls) as an adolescent challenges this and compels him to police and shame her in unhealthy ways. He may have instilled in his daughter an overreliance on his approval that can be difficult to extricate from.
The narcissistic father may have engaged in covert emotional incest that ‘parentified' his daughter so that she felt that he was the only ‘partner' she could turn to (Weiss, 2015). If he struggled with addiction issues, he may have assigned her the role of caretaker or even more disturbingly, in the absence of a mother in the household, a surrogate ‘wife' figure.
He may have substituted emotional connection with financial ‘generosity' and control, teaching her that in order to be loved she had to also be ‘bought' – and that, whoever did ‘purchase' her was entitled to her.
Or, if he had a son, he may have bragged about his sexual exploits and taught his son to follow in his footsteps while holding a sexual double standard for his daughter, who he demanded be kept sexually ‘pure.'
There are many ways that this form of sexual micromanaging can manifest, but rest assured: all of them can deplete the child a sense of security and independence when growing up.
According to Dr. Karyl McBride (2011), in the most extreme scenarios, a malignant narcissistic father can even cross over to sexual abuse and violence. This is because narcissistic fathers have no boundaries in the ways they see their children. They see them as objects to fulfill their needs, as extensions of themselves, rather than individual human beings.
By degrading or devaluing them sexually, they maintain control over their daughters (or their sons) in ways that are damaging beyond words.
How to deal:
Track the journey from idealization to devaluation. Was there a certain point where your narcissistic father stopped idealizing you or was there always devaluation and abuse? Learning the ‘trigger point' can be helpful to reducing the cognitive dissonance that arises when we've been raised by these types of toxic individuals.
As we identify that the point when we were devalued was also when we were becoming independent of the narcissistic parent, we understand that it was not our fault in any shape or form.
We may have felt ashamed or even engaged in self-blame as a result of the abuse, without realizing that this had more to do with the toxic parent's deficiencies and malignant traits rather than any of our own perceived shortcomings.
Recognize faulty and negative feedback as attempts to control you. It's helpful to begin to deconstruct and reframe any criticism we received during this time as illegitimate nonsense meant to keep us from becoming our authentic selves and from establishing relationships that would have facilitated our transition into adulthood.
Replace negative feedback and distortions with healthier self-talk – harness the power of positive affirmations, pattern ‘interrupting' thoughts and behaviors that redirect you from your inner critic, and remodel the ways you've been speaking to yourself (Martin, 2016; Roe, 2015). Bring the power and agency back to you.
Gain mastery over your body and sexual agency. As daughters of narcissistic fathers, our sexuality may have been stifled, eroded or misused to serve the narcissistic father's needs. It's time to regain mastery over our bodies and our sexuality.
Some ways of doing this might include:
reconnecting with a spiritual sense of sexuality that enables us to see our sexuality as sacred rather than shameful
experimenting with self-pleasure and/or greater emotional intimacy in our relationships to increase feelings of safety and trust
working with a trauma-informed counselor to unravel any deep-seated core beliefs or triggers that may be holding us back from embracing our sexuality and finding fulfillment in physical intimacy.
Narcissistic fathers work hard to maintain power and control over their daughters. It is essential that daughters of toxic parents take their power back, emotionally, financially, sexually, and psychologically on the journey to healing.
How to recognise if your child has psychopathic or sociopathic traits
by Olivia Lambert
“I WANT to kill all of you.”
That was the terrifying threat uttered by six-year-old Samantha*, leaving her parents shocked and in a state of unimaginable fear.
After being caught trying to strangle her sister in the back seat of the family's car, Samantha — adopted in to the family — was sat down for a stern talking to. Her mother explained to her that she could've killed her sister.
“I know,” Samantha said blankly. Then she told them that was her plan. She wanted to kill them all.
Samantha had grown up with a desire to inflict pain on others, according to reporters who spoke to the family as part of a story featured in The Atlantic this week.
She practised killing by using her toys and drew disturbing pictures depicting murder weapons, including a plastic bag for suffocating and chemicals for poisoning.
She urinated on a child at daycare even though she was toilet trained and would break open her sister's piggy bank and tear up her money.
She would also smile when her siblings cried and push and pinch them. She didn't outgrow the behaviour.
Now 11, Samantha spends her time in a treatment facility south of Austin, Texas, trying to control her violent behaviour. She's been diagnosed with what experts call “conduct disorder with callous or unemotional traits”.
“She had all the characteristics of a budding psychopath,” The Atlantic reports.
There are a number of chilling stories of children who have acted on dangerous impulses.
One of the most horrific cases of child killers involved two-year-old James Bulger, who was savagely murdered by two boys aged just 11 and 10.
James was in a British shopping centre when two boys, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, grabbed the trusting two-year-old and led him away.
They sadistically tortured and beat James to death and rested his broken body on train tracks.
The boys were found guilty of abduction and murder in 1993 and were jailed. Venables was released in 2001 after serving eight years. Thompson was protected by draconian rules and it is believed he has a new identity.
THE MAKINGS OF A PSYCHOPATH
Senior clinical psychologist and director at the R.E.A.D Clinic, Heather Irvine, told news.com.au the first year of a child's life plays a significant role in determining how they develop.
“Psychopaths don't suddenly come out of nowhere, you need to look at their early history and what's gone on with that child from when they've been born,” she said.
According to Ms Irvine, most children who have psychopathic traits have experienced some sort of abuse, likely in the first six months of their life.
“In terms of how a brain develops, if they've been abused, the emotional system starts to shut down as the rest of the brain is developing. The brain ends up being incredibly impacted because of experiences with abuse, neglect or lack of empathy.”
Ms Irvine said if a child had grown up in a nurturing environment but then began suffering from abuse after they turned five, it would be much harder for that child to develop sociopathic or psychopathic traits because the brain had already developed a sense of empathy.
“In the first six months of your life if you cried and nobody came, you needed to be fed and nobody fed you, you were alone and nobody helped you, your brain is saying your feelings don't matter, you don't matter. The rest of the brain structures start forming around that concept and neurons develop around that concept,” she said.
TRAITS ‘VERY UNCOMMON'
Ms Irvine said callous and unemotional traits in children was very uncommon, with it affecting only one per cent of the population.
“The point is that everything's on a scale, it's not really a case of really good kids and really bad kids,” she said.
“The more severe the abuse, the more likely a child is to have severe psychopathic or sociopathic behaviours.”
Ms Irvine said there were specific behavioural issues children with psychopathic traits had.
“Generally tends to involve damaged property, damage to others or damage to self,” she said.
“You see kids starting to harm animals, punch holes in walls, urinate over furniture or smear poo over toilets. They will inflict significant harm on another human being, usually smaller than them.
“They are trying to understand connections, usually through harm rather than care.”
DO PSYCHOPATHIC CHILDREN BECOME KILLERS?
Ms Irvine told news.com.au a child's brain could start developing callous and unemotional traits from birth. While many psychologists work to help children control their violent tendencies, some can grow up to make poor life choices. Others grow up to be killers.
“You always have hope a child won't grow up to be a killer, but without significant intervention we would predict poor outcomes,” Ms Irvine said.
“They find it hard to succeed in school or make friends and are more likely to engage in a whole range of anti-social behaviours to gain attention or find some kind of place in this world.
“They're therefore likely to engage in substance abuse and spiral downhill unless there's significant intervention.”
Ms Irvine said if there were any concerns a child wanted to inflict harm on another person, on animals, or damage property, they needed to see a GP, paediatrician or psychologist for early intervention.
“A child will hit, poke or punch but that doesn't indicate a sociopath. It's really important parents understand persistent behaviours that show a complete disregard for other people's feelings,” she said.
Ms Irvine said continuously inflicting pain on others, disregarding property, and being unable to repair relationships were also causes for concern.
Ms Irvine said parents needed show their children repetitive love and care to rewire the brain.
“Parents need to be prepared to do the hard work. Children don't need therapists and hours of therapy, they need a loving home,” she said.
Today's school social worker challenge: Students living with trauma
by Mary Abbott
Mary Abbott, lead social worker at Abbott Middle School in Elgin, was among three people recognized by the state social workers organization.
The words "typical" or "normal" do not exist in a school social worker's day.
Our days are unpredictable, chaotic, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants roller coaster rides. We try to keep to a schedule yet must find time to address all the "unscheduled" demands of the day.
Crises occur multiple times a day and vary in intensity. Imagine having a list with many to-do items, but none is checked off by the end of the day. It has nothing to do with working an eight-hour day with no lunch and never sitting down -- but everything to do with all the crises that needed full attention.
Unfortunately, students today present educators with really challenging behaviors and multifaceted, complex concerns. So many students have experienced multiple traumas, which in large numbers can significantly impact children's brain development and their ability to cope and manage their feelings. They stay in a state of fight, flight or freeze, and are in a constant state of anxiety and heightened alert.
As clinically trained professionals, we understand how trauma affects children, and often their behavior in school is a manifestation of something going on emotionally. We understand that discovering information about a child's world can paint a full picture that allows us to more accurately build an effective treatment plan.
Take "Johnny." He is a 13-year-old seventh grader who stopped turning in his work, withdrew from his friends, and easily became irritated and moody when others tried to interact with him. He began missing school frequently. His teacher attempted to talk to Johnny and unsuccessfully reached out to his parents. After that failed, his teacher approached the school social worker for assistance and guidance.
The social worker focused on connecting with Johnny and building a trusting relationship. Often, students demonstrating similar behaviors have things going on outside of school that are very challenging and traumatic. Taking time to build rapport allows the student to be vulnerable and open about the challenges they face.
Johnny eventually disclosed domestic violence was happening in his home and that his mother had to get a job to help support the family. She was working the 3-11 shift, which meant Johnny was supervising his three younger siblings every night. As a result, he had been subjected to emotional and sometimes physical abuse from his father while his mother was at work. He felt angry, hopeless, helpless, scared and anxious.
Johnny also was having difficulty sleeping because he was waiting until his mom got home. Frequently, she and his dad got into fights when she came home at midnight and Johnny couldn't fall asleep out of worry for what might happen to his mother or his siblings. He felt an immense burden to protect them from his father.
Sometimes, when Johnny's mom wouldn't get up in the morning, he had to get his siblings off to school. Then Johnny went back to bed and stayed home from school. Johnny assured the social worker that his mother loves him and his siblings dearly and is doing the best she can do under the circumstances; she is a good, loving mother doing her best to pay to bills and provide food for the family.
It's obvious Johnny loves his mother and siblings and is doing his best to meet all the demands that have been placed on him. It's also obvious he was struggling with some big emotions due to witnessing and experiencing emotional and physical abuse.
So how does a school social worker help a student like Johnny?
There is incredible power in showing care, empathy and acknowledgment. When children feel they've been heard, that someone understands their pain and shows genuine concern, many good things can happen. Social workers are taught to adhere to six core values: service, social justice, dignity of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence.
There's more. To be an effective social worker you must possess and demonstrate patience, flexibility, empathy, warmth, honestly, integrity, strength, love, concern, understanding, and passion. We believe that all people, adults and children, do the best they can do with what they have and know. We believe you start where your client (student) is, not where you want or need them to be.
We do not judge others, because we never know what they are going or have gone through. Social workers are crisis interventionists, change agents, injustice fighters, mediators, data collectors, report writers, advocates, teachers, facilitators, listeners, rights protectors, supporters, helpers and leaders.
We try to help a student like Johnny by applying all of the above. Most of all, we try to connect with him and connect him and his family to all the available resources, such as financial assistance and mental health support.
The reality of school social work is that there is never enough time or manpower to meet the overwhelming abundance of student needs. As a result, we stretch ourselves too thin, multi-task like wild, and take on more than we can effectively manage. But what choice do we have? We see the hurt, pain and struggles of our students, and we are driven to help.
As a result, many of us are subject to burn out or compassion fatigue. Being exposed to others' pain and injustice on a regular basis takes its toll. It can leave you feeling hopeless and overwhelmed. Self-care is essential for survival, but it takes time and devotion to make that a reality.
When I am processing a difficult case, I find myself saying, "I just can't make this stuff up." A part of me just can't believe what I have heard, even though I know it's true. After 25 years in social services, I still hear of something more horrendous than I have heard before. I no longer bother saying "I have heard it all," because I am reminded quite often that I, unfortunately, have not.
I've seen a steady increase each year in the number of students who are hospitalized for threatening to harm themselves or someone else. Ten years ago, I would see maybe one student per month, or every other month, for this type of concern. Now it is weekly. Also, the issues and stories students have today are so complex and intense, and, again, at an ever-increasing frequency each year. Social workers now do crisis triage instead of prevention.
My opinion is there is a correlation with the downturn of the economy: Households fall apart, parents lose their jobs or both parents are working two jobs, homelessness increases, and families have to double up in living quarters. All of this stresses out parents, and their kids see and feel it, too. Parental substance abuse also increases. Stress results in parents who are overworked, tired, worried about how to provide -- they lash out emotionally or are just plain not available to be parents.
Being one school social worker to 800 students leaves you feeling ineffective, at best. So, what makes the work we do worthwhile?
When we make a difference. When we are the only one there to listen and tell a student we care and that we are going to help. When what we did keeps a child safe. When a student says thank you for caring. When you see a child learn to be resilient. When a child's life gets better because you got involved.
Social work is one of the toughest jobs on the planet and requires the tenacity of a fighter and a heart big enough to carry the weight of the world. But it is also the most rewarding.
At the end of the day, I would never choose a different path than the one I'm on. And I am a better, stronger person because of it.
Journey through childhood follows many paths
by Lyn Rejahl Pry
The second Sunday in May is designated as Mother's Day.
For a lot of children that means homemade or store-bought cards and gifts. It may mean flowers and a special brunch—hugs and kisses and maybe some tears of happiness.
Not every child knows hugs or kisses; maybe only tears, but not those of happiness.
Those children take a different path.
“I was a foster-care child from ages 12 to 16,” said Amber Honeywell, the vice president of operations with the Lifeline Children and Family Services Organization. “I was one of a group of 16 children; my mother had 10 children and my father had six—so, I had 15 siblings. I didn't know not to steal; if I wanted something, I just took it.”
She said she had been labeled as “rough” and had been focused on just surviving. Child and Protective Services (CPS) had received a call on its report a concern hotline, 1-800-252-5400. A report may also be submitted online at: www.txabusehotline.org.
CPS may go to court to remove children from their homes if it believes children have been abused or neglected– or are at risk of future abuses or neglect– and they need to be removed for their protection. If a judge decides that a child needs to be removed, the child may go into foster care if no relative or close family friend is a suitable temporary alternative.
However, CPS may remove children from their homes in an emergency, such as from a 911 call, before going to court to ensure their immediate safety. A judge must approve for children to remain in foster care for more than a day or a weekend.
If a child is removed from parental care without a court order, the court will schedule a hearing for the next working day.
“When CPS is called and, if the child is determined to be in danger, they bring three trash bags to pack the child's things and remove the child,” said Honeywell. “Then, the child is entered in a database for a potential match with a fostering family listed with an agency. That agency begins calling within a few hours to try to place the child.”
Within seven days, the fostering agency and its caseworkers take the child to a physician and a dentist to determine if there are any physical issues that need to be addressed in addition to a counselor to deal with any trauma.
“There's always trauma for these children,” said Hillary Sullivan, a caseworker based in Tarrant County. “Even if there wasn't perceived trauma in the home, being physically removed from their familiar surroundings—even if unacceptable—is traumatic.
“There's a huge need with 30,000 Texas children in foster care and in Denton County on any day there are 800 to 2,000 kids with nowhere to go. It means renting hotel rooms and even having them sleeping on CPS floors.”
The court will appoint a special attorney, known as an attorney ad litem, to represent a child's desires and/or best interest in court, because children cannot make legal decisions for themselves.
The court may also appoint a guardian ad litem for a child whose job is to represent a child's best interests. This is where CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) enters the child's life. Visit: www.casadenton.org
“CASA has three roles its volunteers serve in the child's service,” said CASA of Denton County Executive Director Sherri Gideon. “First, we investigate the circumstances at the time of the child's removal, including physical, dental, psychological and emotional development, the school situation and other social interactions.
“Second, we monitor the child's progress against that initial baseline and make a minimum of quarterly verbal and written reports to the courts.
“Lastly, we make a final recommendation for the best result for the child, based on whether the parents have followed the recommended changes, as well as the CPS Family Service Plan requirements to maintain their parental rights.”
Gideon explained that CASA works with the courts and legal system for the civil rights of the child and parents and they attempt to reunite the family; while CACDC (Children's Advocacy Center of Denton County) works with law enforcement and the criminal aspects of physical and sexual abuse with protection from and conviction of the abuser.
“In 2016, 189 CASA volunteers served as advocates for 583 children,” said Gideon. “There were an additional 44 we weren't able to serve, because we lacked the additional volunteers.”
“I was lucky,” said Honeywell. “I had a great foster family. They had two biological kids and had just had a call to foster a drug-addicted baby and then a call came for me at age 12; they didn't even hesitate to take me.”
She added parenting isn't easy on any level, but fostering can involve a major commitment.
“It can involve children who are not used to being parented and, as young as age three, are used to scavenging for food or not ever being in a clean home,” she said. “They don't know how to handle being cared for or being able to depend on someone.”
Sullivan pointed out that: “It's a horrible cycle that can be broken. This is a huge world and it can be confusing for people who haven't been involved with it for some time.”
Although fostering or adopting a child may not fit everyone's ability of skill set, there are many ways to support the children and the agencies and organizations that serve them.
CASA of Denton County is marking its 25 th Anniversary with a special fundraiser, The Power of 25 that began on April 4. The goal is raising $2,500 in the following 25-weeks via $25 gifts.
The 2017 Tri-It for CASA Triathlon on June 11 is now in its sixth year and quickly becoming a CASA tradition. This is an official USA Triathlon event managed by PlayTri for a fun, organized event that will be enjoyed by all racers, new and experienced. The triathlon includes a 500-meter swim, 11-mile bike and 5k run and may be completed individually or by relay team. Held at the Lone Star Toyota of Lewisville Railroad Park, athletes can register through the PlayTri website: https://runsignup.com/Race/TX/Lewisville/TriItforCasa
“We realize it's a huge commitment to foster a child, but people can get involved on some level,” said Honeywell.
How You Can Help:
1. Pray – foster and adoptive parents need the church to lift them up in prayer, seeking the Lord on their behalf. Many families need the Lord's protection as they are under spiritual attack and dealing with a host of emotional, physical and mental challenges.
2. First-night kits — imagine how a traumatized child feels being placed in an unfamiliar home; the smells, noises, and general environment may seem strange and uncomfortable. First-night kits give foster families a tool to calm a child's fears. These kits should be organized by age and gender, filled with items like a toothbrush & toothpaste, a comb or brush, underwear, a stuffed animal, a bedtime story book, etc.
3. Become a respite family — give foster and adoptive families a much-needed break by providing temporary care for their kids, which may involve overnight care. Being a respite provider may require some paperwork and additional training.
4. Donate – Children in foster care generally have little to call their own, and remain in need of clothing, school supplies, and more. Donations of money or specific items would be much appreciated. Alternatively, organizing a fundraiser or donation drive to benefit children in foster care would be so helpful as well!
5. Provide care packages throughout the year — kids in foster care need all sorts of things you or I take for granted — like clothing, school supplies, a backpack, sports equipment, luggage, etc.
6. Volunteer to tutor — offer to help with basic math, reading, writing, etc.
7. Sponsor a child to summer camp — attending a Christian camp can be life-changing for any child, but few kids in foster care have this opportunity.
8. Become a mentor to older youth — spend time with them and invest in their lives. For example, you might offer them a job where they can learn new skills and prepare for life as an adult.
9. Become a foster or adoptive parent — kids need to experience stable, loving and healthy families. There's a big need for families who are willing to open up their homes to sibling groups (rather than split them up), kids with special needs or teenagers
10. Help recruit and refer parents interested in becoming a foster family.
Berrien County educators charged for failing to report child abuse
Four school employees in Berrien County have each been charged with two counts of failing to report child abuse.
In August 2016, the then 12-year-old boy was found by a railroad worker after he was reported missing. At the time, the boy was found to weigh about 47 pounds, and he was dehydrated and exceptionally skinny.
The child told police his father and stepmother kept him from eating, and he said he "was tired [of] being treated like a dog, and he didn't think he would reach his 13th birthday.”
The boy's father, Aaron Zemke, and stepmother, Alicia Zemke, were sentenced to 20 to 80 years after pleading no contest to child abuse 1st Degree.
Prosecutors announced Friday that employees at Three Oaks Elementary School noticed the boy's condition as far back as 2014.
Principal Heidi Clark, Guidance Counselor Matt Cook, Special Education Teacher and Teacher Sherrie Bender are also facing charges.
They are set to appear in court for pretrial conferences during the week of June 5.
Full news release from the Berrien County Prosecutor:
On the morning of August 11, 2016, a 12 year old boy was found near railroad tracks in Galien Township by a railroad worker. The boy lived nearby and had been reported missing the evening before.
Police took custody of the boy and placed him with the Department of Health and Human Services. As a result, the boy was examined by a physician who reported the boy weighed 47 pounds (substantially below the 5th percentile of boys his age in weight and height), was bruised, dehydrated and exceptionally skinny. Further, the physician found a cut lip, old cigarette burns and each rib was observable and well defined.
When interviewed the child told police his father and step-mother kept him from eating. He ran away because he “was tired being treated like a dog and he didn't think he would reach his 13th birthday.” The physician confirmed that his condition was serious and life threatening.
An investigation led to child abuse, torture and other felony charges against his father, Aaron Zemke, and step-mother, Alicia Zemke. Earlier this year, both pled no contest to Child Abuse 1st Degree and each received a prison sentence of 20 to 80 years.
Through the course of the investigation and court process it was discovered the boy's condition was noticed by school personnel at Three Oaks Elementary School as much as two years prior to his running away in August of 2016.
Michigan's Child Protection Law (MCL 722.621, et. seq.; found here: https://www.michigan.gov/documents/DHS-PUB-0003_167609_7.pdf ) requires certain individuals to report information to the Department of Health and Human Services if child abuse is suspected.
More specifically, pertinent parts of the law indicate the following:
• “Child abuse” means harm or threatened harm to a child's health or welfare that occurs through non-accidental physical or mental injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or maltreatment, by a parent, a legal guardian, or any other person responsible for the child's health or welfare…
• “Child neglect” means harm or threatened harm to a child's health or welfare by a parent, legal guardian, or any other person responsible for the child's health or welfare that occurs through negligent treatment, including the failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care; or, placing a child at an unreasonable risk to the child's health or welfare by failure of the parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for the child's health or welfare to intervene to eliminate that risk when that person is able to do so and has, or should have, knowledge of the risk.
• An individual who has reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or neglect shall make an immediate report, by telephone (855-444-3911) to the Department of Health and Human Services. Those individuals who must report under this act are a physician, dentist, physician's assistant, registered dental hygienist, medical examiner, nurse, a person licensed to provide emergency medical care, audiologist, psychologist, marriage and family therapist, licensed professional counselor, social worker, licensed master's social worker, licensed bachelor's social worker, registered social service technician, social service technician, a person employed in a professional capacity in any office of the friend of the court, school administrator, school counselor or teacher, law enforcement officer, member of the clergy, or regulated child care provider.
• A notification to the person in charge of a hospital, agency, or school does not relieve the member of the staff of the hospital, agency or school of the obligation of reporting to the Department of Health and Human Services as required.
• And finally, a person who is required by this act to report an instance of suspected child abuse or neglect and who knowingly fails to do so is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.
It is alleged that Heidi Clark, of Three Oaks, Three Oaks Elementary School principal; Matt Cook, of St. Joseph, Three Oaks Elementary School guidance counsellor; Diane Balling, of Michigan City, Indiana, Three Oaks Elementary School special education teacher; and Sherrie Bender, of Sawyer, Three Oaks Elementary School teacher; all had information, much of which was shared between them, that falls directly into the definitions noted above in relation to the boy's weight, aggressive behavior in obtaining food, and physical well-being over an extended period of time.
While in December of 2015 the Department of Health and Human Services was involved in investigating this situation, it is alleged there were several months before that no report was made by the four named above; and then subsequent to the DHHS investigation, there were observations made by the same four causing continued concern for the boy's health with no report to the Department. Thus, each is charged with two counts of Failing to Report Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect. Count 1 is for a time period during 2015 and count 2 for a period during 2016. All counts are 93 day misdemeanors.
Pre-trial conferences for the four are set for the week of June 5 in St. Joseph.
The Berrien County Sheriff's Department conducted the investigation.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
From River Valley School District Superintendent William J. Kearney:
On May 18, 2017, River Valley School District was notified by the Berrien County prosecutor that four staff members were being charged with misdemeanors around the issue of failing to report suspected child abuse. The failure to report charges focus on the case of a former student and are alleged to have occurred in 2015 and 2016.
“While our records indicate that child abuse was reported by a district staff member in this case, we are awaiting further information from the prosecutor's office,” stated Will Kearney, River Valley Public Schools Superintendent. “We have and will continue to cooperate fully with any criminal investigation.”
District officials confirmed that a District employee did in fact report suspected abuse in December of 2015. The district was subsequently notified by the state in February of 2016 that the evidence from their investigation did not support the concern and thus no action was being taken.
“We have a school policy that puts the needs of our children and community first. The policy is consistent with the law and every teacher and school administrator is informed of the policy and procedures annually,” noted Superintendent Kearney. “We expect every staff member to report suspected abuse immediately.”
The four staff members were expected to be arraigned on the misdemeanor charges of failure to report, over the course of the week of May 22, 2017. The district notified the staff members of the impending charges, provided them with additional copies of the school policy on reporting suspected abuse, and noted that the district would wait to see the outcomes and facts, prior to considering whether disciplinary action should be taken.
“While this is difficult, we will remain focused on our educational mission as well as celebrating the many outstanding accomplishments of the students and staff at River Valley this past year,” said Kearney.
School district responds to allegations it failed to report child abuse
by Emily Monacelli
THREE OAKS, MI -- Employees at a Michigan elementary school charged with failing to notify authorities about a student's suspected child abuse did notify authorities in December 2015, the districts superintendent said.
Will Kearney, River Valley Public Schools superintendent, said he was notified May 18 that four staff members from Three Oaks Elementary School were being charged with failing to report the suspected child abuse of a 12-year-old former student. Kearney said school records indicate a staff member did report the abuse in December 2015 and was told by the state in February 2016 that no action would be taken because they didn't find enough evidence.
Kearney said his district will fully cooperate with the investigation. He said he will "wait to see the outcomes and facts prior to considering whether disciplinary action should be taken."
Three Oaks Elementary School Principal Heidi Clark, of Three Oaks, guidance counselor Matt Cook, of St. Joseph, special education teacher Diane Balling of Michigan City, Ind. and elementary school teacher Sherrie Bender, of Sawyer, have each been charged with two counts of failing to report suspected child abuse or neglect. The first count is for 2015 and the second count is for 2016.
Prosecutors allege the four educators had information, much of it shared among them, about suspected child abuse of a Three Oaks Elementary School student. The four educators allegedly had information involving "the boy's weight, aggressive behavior in obtaining food, and physical well-being over an extended period of time," Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic said.
The boy was found trying to run away the morning of Aug. 11, 2016, the morning after he had been reported missing. A doctor reported the boy weighed 47 pounds, was bruised, dehydrated and "exceptionally skinny," with each rib observable and well defined, according Sepic. The boy had a cut lip and old cigarette burns on his body, and overall his condition was life-threatening.
"When interviewed, the child told police his father and step-mother kept him from eating," Sepic said in a press release. "He ran away because he 'was tired of being treated like a dog and he didn't think he would reach his 13th birthday.'"
The boy's father, Aaron Zemke, and step-mother, Alicia Zemke, since have pleaded no contest to first-degree child abuse. Both are serving prison sentences of 20 to 80 years.
Read Kearney's entire statement below:
On May 18, 2017, River Valley School District was notified by the Berrien County prosecutor that four staff members were being charged with misdemeanors around the issue of failing to report suspected child abuse. The failure to report charges focus on the case of a former student and are alleged to have occurred in 2015 and 2016.
"While our records indicate that child abuse was reported by a district staff member in this case, we are awaiting further information from the prosecutor's office," stated Will Kearney, River Valley Public Schools Superintendent. "We have and will continue to cooperate fully with any criminal investigation."
District officials confirmed that a District employee did in fact report suspected abuse in December of 2015. The district was subsequently notified by the state in February of 2016 that the evidence from their investigation did not support the concern and thus no action was being taken.
"We have a school policy that puts the needs of our children and community first. The policy is consistent with the law and every teacher and school administrator is informed of the policy and procedures annually," noted Superintendent Kearney. "We expect every staff member to report suspected abuse immediately."
The four staff members were expected to be arraigned on the misdemeanor charges of failure to report, over the course of the week of May 22, 2017. The district notified the staff members of the impending charges, provided them with additional copies of the school policy on reporting suspected abuse, and noted that the district would wait to see the outcomes and facts, prior to considering whether disciplinary action should be taken.
"While this is difficult, we will remain focused on our educational mission as well as celebrating the many outstanding accomplishments of the students and staff at River Valley this past year," said Kearney.
Agencies join forces to stop child abuse at annual Child Abuse Protocol signing
COLUMBUS, Ga. — Several agencies are teaming together to stop those who make children victims of abuse. In Columbus, Judge Gil McBride held a discussion about the annual child abuse program.
Multiple agencies including the District Attorney's Office and the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office were present Thursday. Representatives say, it's events like Thursday that help get justice in child abuse cases.
Dozens of city, county and regional leaders gathered in the Columbus Government Center Thursday afternoon. They all re-signed the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit Child Abuse Protocol. It's something officials do-every year. Julia Slater, the District Attorney for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit was among those present. She explains what the signing of the protocol means.
“Being able to collaborate with the school district and with health professionals and mental health professionals and the sexual assault center, all of those groups coming together to collaborate on the investigation and prosecution of the case makes it less stressful for the child and also more successful for our cases,” says Julia Slater.
Slater says having the different agencies come together when working a case, helps prevent the child from re-living their traumatic experiences.
“The child can have a single interview, can have a single medical examination and they are giving each other information,” says Slater.
Samantha DeFranks is the Director of the Children's Tree House Child Advocacy Center. That Columbus organization works to give children a safe place to talk about their experiences with abuse. During her presentation, DeFranks talked about one particular case that happened in April 2015.
“The brother walked in on his sister being violently raped,” says Samantha DeFranks.
She says the brother was 11 and the sister was nine at the time. DeFranks says, the man who raped the little girl was the kid's caregiver. She says, he was given a life sentence, plus 50 years.
“We are finding the truth so that we are finding true perpetrators of crimes and being able to hold them responsible,” says Slater.
According to the Georgia Department of Children and Families, there were more than 2,000 child protective service reports in 2015. District Attorney Slater says, it's efforts like following the child abuse protocol that help rectify such situations.
Nigeria: Child Abuse Prevalent in All Nigeria's 36 States - Unicef
by Suzan Edeh
United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, yesterday, said violence against children was prevalent across the 36 states of the country.
Chief of UNICEF Bauchi Field Office, Abdulai Kai Kai, who disclosed at a briefing on the 2017 Children's Day celebration, said: "According to the findings of the 2014 Nigeria Violence Against Children Survey conducted by the National Population Commission with the support of the United States Centre for Disease Control and UNICEF, there is a high prevalence of violence against children in all the states in Nigeria."
According to him, it had been observed that approximately six out of 10 children experienced some form of violence and 50 percent of all children in Nigeria experienced physical violence.
He added that the "survey also noted that one in four girls and one in 10 boys experience sexual violence, while one in six girls and one in five boys experience emotional violence by a parent, caregiver or adult relative.
"So on the occasion of this year's Nigerian Children's Day, all must take action to end violence against children. Violence against children is found to be prevalent in all the states in Nigeria.
"I particularly call on the six states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Plateau and Taraba, which are supported by the UNICEF Nigeria, Bauchi Field Office to take action to end violence against children."
Kai Kai lamented that of the six states under the UNICEF, Bauchi Field Office, only Plateau and Taraba adopted Child Rights Laws despite the passage of the Nigeria Child Rights Act by the National Assembly in 2003.
Dual-credit bill gets OK from Nevada governor
by Sean Whaley and Ben Botkin
CARSON CITY — A bill that requires school districts statewide to offer dual credit courses to high school students so they can simultaneously pursue higher education degrees and certifications was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
Sandoval signed Senate Bill 19 at Western Nevada College in the capital, where 89 high school students graduated on Monday through the college's dual credit initiative called the “Jump Start” program.
The program allows students to take college courses while in high school and apply them to the credits needed for high school graduation.
Sandoval said the program is a role model for all school districts to emulate. The bill requires such programs to be made available to all high school students through cooperative agreements with their local colleges and universities. The public schools budget includes $2 million for the program, which is offered on high school campuses.
“This is something we need and had to do,” Sandoval told the students, staff, lawmakers and others present for the signing ceremony.
He signed the bill in one of the classrooms where students learn to manipulate robotic machines as part of their training.
Thirteen of the students who participated in the Western Nevada program were from Clark County.
Getting Nevada's high school students into training that will help fill the need for a highly skilled workforce with the many new companies to state state is crucial to its economic growth and diversification efforts, Sandoval said.
Victims bill signed
Sandoval also signed into law a bill that extends the statute of limitations so victims of child sexual abuse have more time to sue perpetrators for civil damages.
Assembly Bill 145 extends the statute of limitations from 10 years to 20 years. The clock on the statute of limitations starts after a victim turns 18 or discovers an injury was caused by the abuse, whichever comes later.
The bill signing was attended by victims advocates, the sponsor, Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner, R-Reno, and prominent civil rights attorney Gloria Allred.
The law will help victims, Sandoval said, noting the length it often takes for them to come forward after the crime.
“It's really going to go a long way to protect them because a lot of times it takes many, many years,” he said, adding that victims deserve their day in court.
Krasner thanked Allred and her legislative colleagues, who passed the bill unanimously in both chambers. The law puts the civil statute of limitations in line with the existing statute of limitations for prosecutors to seek criminal charges, Krasner said.
“Adult survivors of child sexual abuse will have a longer period of time as a result of this new law in which to file a civil lawsuit against the sexual predator who inflicted harm upon them,” Allred said.
The law also allows victims to enter into a confidential settlements with perpetrators, not just publicly filed lawsuits.
Building resilience early in life can help children cope with trauma
by Shanta R. Dube
Childhood trauma can have lifelong health, social and behavioral consequences.
Research shows that different forms of abuse, neglect and related household stressors are unfortunately common among children. These experiences often do not occur as single events, and the risk for long-term outcomes worsens as the number of adversities increase. These experiences can also increase the risk of multiple health problems throughout the lifespan and hinder healthy brain development in children.
Prevention of these and other adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) should be society's primary goal. However, these experiences continue to be pervasive and are often left unresolved for adult survivors.
The time has come for all systems engaged with the care of children to tackle this problem head-on. By building children's resilience early in their lives, we can better prepare them to handle past and future trauma and grow into healthy adults.
Healthy attachment starts early in life
For children, building resilience means learning skills that can increase their ability to manage and regulate their emotions and response to stress.
One key way to build resilience is to strengthen families. This can include teaching caregivers about child development, providing concrete help in times of need and bolstering their abilities to manage stress and develop positive social connections.
These are just some of the ways to provide a safe and supportive environmentwhere children can develop a strong bond with their caregivers. Research shows that healthy, securely attached children are less likely to show separation anxiety. Meanwhile, insecurely attached children tend to be avoidant and struggle to express negative feelings.
The quality of caregiver-child attachment can be affected by everything from facial expressions to the type of touch caregivers provide.
Developing healthy attachment early in life helps children learn to better self-regulate. These children will display an ability to express their feelings openly and exhibit less fear and avoidance of the parent. In addition, adults' attachment style with their own children is highly influenced by the quality of the relationship they once had with their caregivers.
ACEs disrupt the development of healthy caregiver-child attachment. For example, parents with depression or substance use problems may be unavailable to care for their children and provide the support they need. In fact, in a recent study, ACEs were found to be associated with unresolved attachment style in adulthood. These early life events can increase the risk of substance use, which is often used as a coping mechanism.
Helping children cope
The home is not the only place where children can experience trauma. Trauma can be experienced in multiple ways and contexts – from problems at school to natural disasters that hit the community.
For example, when teachers observe a child having behavioral difficulties, they must be prepared to respond in a calm and nonreactive manner. Adults must be aware of their own stresses and triggers in order to avoid potentially retraumatizing the children they care for. Children need to be reassured they are in a safe, supportive and caring environment.
Adults can help children physiologically relax by providing sensory inputs that calm the stress response. For example, listening to sounds that are calming, breathing deeply and taking a walk can help individuals bring the nervous system back to a balanced state. Yoga, creative arts and journaling can also help children relax and process negative emotions.
Once a traumatic event occurs, it cannot be undone. But early intervention can help children recover quickly and more successfully. Therefore, the better informed we are about the signs and symptoms of trauma, the better we will be able to recognize them.
Trauma-informed care takes adverse experiences into account. This approach emphasizes safety and encourages empowerment throughout the recovery process. Ultimately, it's about changing the culture of how we work with children and adults.
To fully embrace trauma-informed care, we must first build awareness that childhood stress and trauma is widespread across the population. Second, anyone who works with child or adult survivors must learn to recognize the symptoms of trauma and stress. Some of these include anxiety, depression, problems with emotional regulation, hyperactivity, substance abuse and eating disorders.
Currently, there is controversy in the public health and medical community over whether we should ever assess for ACEs in adults and children. Some worry that asking about childhood experiences may open Pandora's box. "What do we do when we find out about trauma?" This is a natural response for individuals working in systems that do not have knowledge, skills or experiences about evidence-based approaches to trauma healing and recovery.
However, if we want to provide trauma-informed care, we need assessments to have a better understanding of the population overall for treatment and recovery. Assessment should only be conducted if there are appropriate programs and treatments to refer individuals or families.
While more institutions, such as schools, are now starting to assess childhood trauma, we must be cautious in reading too much into what that trauma means. Assessment is not a means to diagnose, judge or label individuals. It is a tool that informs us about who we are working with and helps us foster understanding and compassion.
If organizations want to provide trauma-informed care, they will need commitment from leadership and staff to change their organization's culture. This means implementing policies that focus on safe, supportive and collaborative environments. It means accepting that our society has experienced historical, cultural and gender-related trauma. There must be recognition by everyone that we all come from different backgrounds and experiences, which make us who we are.
All of this may be difficult to embrace. But we must equip our children – the future of society – with the skills for their physiological and psychological resilience so that they can lead healthy, productive lives.
The NBA's New Policy On Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, And Child Abuse Is Here
by Diane Moskovitz
The NBA's new policy on accusations of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse—negotiated last year as the league came to an agreement with the players' union, and formally approved in December—will come into force on July 1. But according to a report from ESPN's Zach Lowe published last Friday, the league saw no need to stay within the four corners of a policy that isn't yet in place, and already has tried to either strongly discourage teams from signing or effectively ban two players who have been accused of sexual-assault or domestic-violence accusations.
This—and the fact that per Lowe's reporting, the union has pushed back and won part of an arbitration hearing related to all of this—is the background to and context for the Philadelphia 76ers offering a tryout to Brandon Austin, the former Providence, Oregon, and Northwest Florida player. Austin's travels aren't a coincidence. Both of his transfers followed investigations of possible sexual assault involving him.
Austin has never been criminally charged. In one case—at Providence—a university disciplinary board voted to bar him from campus, according to a local newspaper report, but the decision was overturned by a university vice-president. That vice-president still wanted to place him on disciplinary probation, which would have stopped him from playing basketball for a time, and at that point he transferred to Oregon. In the second case, he was found responsible for sexual misconduct, according to an attorney, suspended, and later transferred to Northwest Florida. He helped Northwest Florida win a JUCO championship and since then appears to be trying to break into the NBA.
The NBA's new policy has a lot to recommend it, and incorporates a lot of what critics of sports leagues, including me, have been asking for. There's counseling, a panel that includes independent experts, and a hotline for families. But whether or not the policy will make a big difference is hard to tell. Untangling Austin's playing career—and the NBA's apparent attempts to make sure that it didn't extend to the highest level—is as good as any illustration as to why.
Austin started out at Providence in 2013 after being a highly touted recruited out of the Philadelphia area. Before playing a game for the Friars, though, the team announced in November that Austin and fellow freshman Rodney Bullock were suspended indefinitely, then later for the whole season for “not upholding their responsibilities as student-athletes.” No other details about what they did were released.
It would later come out, via documents provided to the Providence Journal, that a disciplinary board had voted on Nov. 20 to bar Austin from campus until the spring of 2015 after finding that a preponderance of the evidence supported “a finding of ‘sexual misconduct I.'” A no-contact order also was put in place. (At no point does the PJ article discuss what happened with Bullock's university process.) Austin appealed to vice-president Kristine Goodwin.
“Having read the respondent's letter of appeal and your letter of response, reviewed all documents in the case file, listened to the recording of the board hearing, and conducted interviews,” Goodwin wrote, “I cannot affirm the Board's finding of responsibility.”
“However,” she continued, “because the respondent initiated and/or facilitated what was referenced as ‘teaming up' — which put you in an unplanned, unanticipated situation — his behavior was inconsistent with the College's expectations that students treat each other with dignity and respect, as created in the image and likeness of God.”
The PJ reported that Goodwin found Austin “responsible for engaging in behavior that was lewd, indecent and obscene.” She kept the no-contact order but, instead of the ban, placed him on disciplinary probation through the spring of 2014. During that time, he couldn't have played basketball.
Nobody outside of the university administration, though, knew any of this. The PJ article was published more than a year later.
So in January, 2015, Austin left the team, and coach Ed Cooley put out a statement: “We wish Brandon success with his basketball career and with his academic future.” Austin transferred to Oregon, and Ducks coach Dana Altman was quoted in a press release about his talk with Providence before making the decision.
Altman said he consulted with Providence coaches before accepting Austin as a transfer, and they alleviated any character concerns.
“That's always something that we consider very strongly,” Altman said. “But in talking with their coaching staff, we felt like this was something that was not of a serious nature and we'd be able to move on from there.”
None of that was available to reporters at the time. The first details of what had been alleged came out on March 18, 2014, when the Wall Street Journal reported that Providence police were investigating a report that a female student said she had been raped by two basketball players: Austin and Bullock. The university investigation had started in November; the police report was filed a few weeks before the WSJ report came out. Bullock's lawyer, Bill Lynch, talked to the WSJ .
He said the Providence College investigation of the complaint was carried out by a former member of the Rhode Island State Police who leads such inquiries for the school. “After this extensive review and this hearing process in which everyone participated, the penalty meted out was the only one meted by the school, and I think that speaks volumes,” Lynch said.
Lynch got tougher talking to the Associated Press, saying neither student was found responsible for sexual assault and questioning the timing of the report to police.
“The school did an exhaustive review, interviewed all the parties including the two male students, who voluntarily participated in the process,” Bill Lynch, a lawyer for Bullock, said on Wednesday. “There was never a finding against either of the students that there was a sexual assault.”
“Suddenly, a week before Providence is playing on the NCAA tournament, there's a complaint filed? I'm getting too old to believe in coincidences,” he said.
As universities do, Providence didn't say much and insisted the reason why was student privacy. Providence spokesman Steven Maurano later put out a statement saying he would “recommend against drawing any conclusions that our (on-campus) process ended with a finding that our student-athlete was found responsible for sexual assault.”
None of the articles in the WSJ , PJ , or AP at the time news about the police report quote Austin. By that point, though, he had transferred away. A grand jury eventually declined to charge Bullock and prosecutors said since there was no charge for Bullock they decided to not charge Austin either. Bullock stayed at Providence; he's expected to return for his senior season.
On May 5, 2014, the Ducks announced that point guard Dominic Artis was transferring and Austin and junior guard Damyean Dotson were no longer participating in team activities. Later that day, Eugene, Ore., police released a police report showing that the three were part of an investigation of possible forcible rape.
According to the police reports, the student told police that they were at a party at an apartment and she had some peach-flavored alcohol. One of the basketball players lead her into a bathroom where, first, they asked her to shake her butt. She did. Then Austin grabbed her phone, and Dotson forced her to bend over, she told police. She said that Austin then pulled down her shorts and put his penis in her vagina while Dotson put his penis inside her mouth. This lasted a few minutes because then someone walked into the bathroom, she said. They all left the bathroom, per the police report, and at one point Artis got her a glass of water. Then she got pulled back into the bathroom where all three “had me suck their dicks.” Then it stopped, she didn't know why, but she later was pulled into a cab with the men and taken back to an apartment.
Artis went out into the living room to play a video game. She sat on the couch next to him and started to cry, which made everyone except Austin leave. Artis asked her if she wanted to go to sleep; she said yes, so she went to his room with him and curled up on his bed. In the morning, Artis gave her some clothes and called her a cab to take her home.
When police talked to Artis and Dotson, they told officers that the sex was consensual. They added that they'd had oral and vaginal sex with the student that morning as well before she left to go home. Police interviewed the student again and she said that she did remember oral sex with Artis and “fooling around a little.” In another interview, she added that the day afterward had gone over to Joseph Young's apartment.
She had consensual sex with Young later on that day, she told police.
Police talked to her roommate, who said the student hadn't seemed intoxicated to her at the party. Another person told police that she had tried to stop the student from getting in the taxi with the basketball players, telling her “all the guys wanted from her was sex,” but the student still went with them. That person wasn't certain if the student was drunk or not.
Police kept investigating and had the student record her phone conversations with two of the basketball players. First, she recorded a phone call with Artis, in which he said from his perspective she had been a willing participant and they stopped when to him it was clear she wanted it to stop.
Dotson said something similar during his call—by his recollection, they stopped when she wanted them to stop.
He also, twice, mentioned his mother and sister.
Austin was represented by lawyer Laura Fine Moro. He didn't speak to them directly, but Moro gave investigators a statement on his behalf. The police reports describe it as similar to what Dotson and Artis said.
The same day that police released their report, the local district attorney's office told the Oregonian that it would not bring charges.
The district attorney's office listed only Dotson as a suspect when it wrote April 14 that due to insufficient evidence it would not pursue prosecution. It also did not list any of the charges Dotson had been accused of. However, it added, “While there is no doubt the incidents occurred, the conflicting statements and actions by the victim make this case unprovable as a criminal case.”
Days later, the DA's office released a three-page press release detailing all the reasons it felt the case couldn't be won: Nobody at the party could confirm that the student seemed drunk; multiple people saw her flirting with the men both before and after the alleged first and second assaults in the bathroom; and the student “returned to isolated locations with her alleged assailants repeatedly” and “had consensual sex with one of the accused men that morning,” as well as another friend later that day.
“None of the above would be individually inexplicable,” the release concluded, “but collectively, and in the absence of additional evidence, they provide an insurmountable barrier to prosecution.” It ends with the contact information for the then-district attorney, its logo, and the tagline, “We do the right thing, and we do it for the right reasons.”
A few days after that, Oregon announced that all three players were dismissed from the team.
“When you read the police report, it's very clear it was conduct that isn't befitting of an Oregon student-athlete,” athletic director Rob Mullens told reporters, per the AP. “I don't want to get into specifics but it was very clear to us those were individuals we didn't want representing our organization.”
In June, the university announced that all three players were suspended as students for four years or until the woman finished her degree. The woman's lawyer, John Clune, told the Huffington Post that the suspension were due to the university finding the three responsible for sexual misconduct. All three players eventually found new universities where they could play basketball, including Austin. The new teams, however, didn't end the legal battles in Oregon.
Transfers and lawsuits
Austin transferred to Northwest Florida State College, where he helped them win a junior college national championship. But his name, as well as those of Dotson and Artis, stayed in the headlines back in Eugene as the results of the investigations quickly devolved into many lawsuits. The woman sued the university, saying that the university had struck a deal with the players to delay their proceedings in a way so they could still play basketball and more easily transfer to other schools. At first, Oregon sued her in return, saying in no way did they violate federal rules. Then came the revelation that the university had accessed the student's counseling records and felt it had a legal right to do so, an employee who protested the accessing of the records said she was fired, and eventually the student reached an $800,000 settlement with the university.
Two months after the settlement, Austin sued the university over his suspension and how he said Oregon's student judicial process had violated due process. The university had among other things, the suit claimed, damaged his ability to possibly play in the NBA. Dotson and Artis later sued the university as well. All three lawsuits were dismissed by a judge.
By September of last year, Austin was already done with college ball and described by the Oregonian as unsigned after working out with several NBA teams. In June, Philly.com's Keith Pompey reported that Austin had a pre-draft workout with the 76ers, his hometown team. Pompey called Austin's work “impressive,” and a gaggle of reporters interviewed him with video posted to the NBA's website, with one asking him vaguely about “the past” and what Austin wants people to know about him.
“That I'm a good kid, you know. My intentions are never bad,” he said. “I may take, took, a few mistakes in the past but I've grown as a person and I'm still standing to this day.”
No team signed Austin. That, according to Lowe's reporting, was no accident.
Lowe's report is about Austin and another player he doesn't name. Few details are given about the unnamed player except that he was questioned by police after being called a scene of possible domestic violence but wasn't charged.
Last summer, the league sent a memo to all 30 teams instructing any team interested in signing either player to call the NBA office, sources say. Teams that called were told about the allegations, and that the players could face discipline—including suspensions or fines—in the event any team signed them, sources say. No NBA or D-League team did.
The National Basketball Players Association filed an arbitration claim arguing that the memo had a chilling effect, and that the league had overstepped its bounds by telling teams it could discipline players for past allegations, sources say. The arbitrator agreed with the union that the league could not fine or suspend the players going forward based on prior allegations, sources say. The league sent teams a follow-up memo clarifying that after the ruling.
The arbitrator upheld the league's authority to “disapprove” entirely any contract any player might sign based on the NBA commissioner's broad authority, outlined in the league's constitution, to determine that “all players shall be of good moral character.” The arbitrator also rejected the union's claim that the memo amounted to a form of collusion, sources said.
If this move—a league saying it will punish a player for conduct from before he was an employee—sounds familiar, that's it's because it's a classic NFL tactic. The league once suspended Terrelle Pryor for five NFL games for breaking NCAA rules (selling his football gear and possibly getting discounted tattoo) during his college career, and suspended his coach Jim Tressell six weeks in the NFL, though it never did get around to punishing Pete Carroll and Chip Kelly for their NCAA violations when they coached in college. Somehow, Pryor and Tressell were bad for the integrity of the league; Carroll and Kelly were not.
Who and what is good or bad for the NFL's “integrity” has always been involved little more than the capricious whims of Roger Goodell and the owners who oversee him. Their process amounts to sticking wet fingers in the wind and checking which way the public-relations wind blows. It's a system that has mostly failed them in both the court of public relations and actual trial courts. For some reason, though, the NBA decided moving in that direction was a good idea, and it's no surprise that the arbitrator pushed back.
What about going forward? Tucked away in the Lowe report, which opens with Austin's tryout with the 76ers, is information on the NBA's attempt at a policy.
The new NBA policy
First, a short but necessary side track. Even calling these rules by their accepted shorthand, domestic-violence policies, shows how little time people in league offices and, too often, the press spend studying the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. Domestic violence and sexual assault are two very different crimes. They're covered together under the federal Violence Against Women Act because both predominantly affect women. But, outside of that, they vary widely in the ways they should be discussed, prosecuted, and tackled by our society in terms of prevention and change. A person can be a victim of domestic violence without being raped; a person can be raped without it being an act of domestic violence. That people, even in the allegedly progressive NBA, have no problem using the term “domestic violence policy” on rules that clearly cover a broad spectrum of different types of violence shows just how much of this is public relations.
Lowe's report includes a detailed description yet of the NBA policy in its new collective bargaining agreement, which is posted on the players' union website. Its full title is the “Joint NBA/NBPA Policy On Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse,” and it includes some pretty progressive stuff:
A policy committee will be started, made up of two people from the NBA, two people from the players' union, and three independent experts in “domestic violence, sexual assault, and/or child abuse.” Players can reach out to the committee on their own or be sent to it either after a criminal conviction or after the the commissioner has made what's called a “disciplinary determination.”
The committee will pick an expert who will evaluate players who have been referred to the committee. That expert will then develop a “Treatment and Accountability Plan” for the player, which could include psychological evaluations, other evaluations, or counseling.
A player who doesn't follow his treatment plan will be punished, starting with a warning and escalating up to fines and then game suspensions.
The committee also will oversee education and training programs.
A confidential hotline will set up for reporting domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. Although, it's worth remembering, these hotlines already exist, both locally and nationally, and it's hard to avoid concerns that the NBA might gain some power over victims by having them report abuse to someone contracted on their behalf instead of external advocates—similar to when Oregon argued it had the right to access a student's counseling records because she used the university's services.
But it's not all progressive. There's a section where the NBA talks about how it will punish players, including a section reminiscent of the NFL tradition of making players beg their commissioner for forgiveness.
The NBA used to limit its involvement to after convictions, which the old CBA required to be followed up with a minimum 10-game suspension. Beyond that, there weren't any requirements for the league to act although, certainly, it could and did when it felt like public outrage required it. The league suspended Jeffery Taylor for 24 games by citing the “standards of morality and is prejudicial and detrimental to the NBA.” Now, under the new policy, its actions in any case of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse will be explicitly condoned.
Like NFL players, NBA players now will go before their commissioner to plead for leniency. All parties will meet (the CBA doesn't define who these parties are) , talk, and then the commissioner will “determine all discipline under this Policy on a case-by-case basis, upon consideration of all facts and circumstances, including aggravating and mitigating factors.”
The commissioner also can place a player on administrative leave during an investigation. The CBA says that the power is to be used “in only those cases in which a balancing of all relevant factors clearly establishes that it is reasonable to do so under the totality of the circumstances.” Ten bullet points follow about those qualifying factors, including was there a weapon, was anyone hurt, if the allegations are “supported by credible information,” the player's character, and the player's “reputation within the NBA community,” and “the risk of reputational damage to the NBA and/or the player's team.” A player placed on leave can challenged the decision to an arbitrator.
Players who don't cooperate with the investigation can be punished. But there's a big exception carved out to the requirement that players cooperate: “Except in circumstances where the player has a reasonable apprehension of criminal prosecution.”
Adam Silver can punish any player who violates the policy. He also can punish anyone who is found guilty at a trial, pleads guilty, or pleads no contest because those are defined as violations of the policy. He cannot punish anyone who is acquitted after trial.
Will that help? I have no idea. This is, after all, not government policy—and even that goes awry in unintended ways. (The history of the Violence Against Women Act is an example of a well-intentioned policy with huge unintended consequences.) It's public relations by billionaires who need you to keep paying attention to, and paying for, their product.
Sports leagues shouldn't be in the business of playing police, judge, and jury. They are because Americans have lost faith in their real police, judges, and juries and it's easier to just ask the likes of the NBA, NFL, and MLB to make quick fixes, allowing fans to spend less time thinking about the ugliness of society and get back to mindlessly worshiping their sports heroes, rather than actually working for social change. Fixing the criminal justice system is hard. Ending inequality is hard. Changing societal attitudes toward women and children, within and outside athletics, is hard.
Changing hearts and minds—building a culture that respects all women—is much bigger than any of these small steps, and at some point will come in conflict with the one true mission of the NBA: Making shitloads of money. It's easy to punish a guy like Brandon Austin. It's more difficult, though, to wonder what will happen if an investigation happens involving a face of the league like, say, LeBron James or Steph Curry—someone who wasn't supposed to be like that, with a “reputation within the NBA community,” and who scores lots of points.
At the heart of this conflict isn't the players. It's the people who have the most power and money in this situation—the owners, the general managers, and coaches—who are completely untouched by this policy. There is a morbid level in hypocrisy in expecting all athletes to be upstanding men, doting husbands, caring fathers, and informed community leaders when their team owners include the likes of predatory lender Dan Gilbert, anti-public school fiend Betsy* DeVos, and even the Gregg Popovich-led Spurs have to contend with their owner's political donations to Dancing With the Stars loser turned energy secretary Rick Perry.
None of that will change, regardless of whether or not Austin gets a shot at playing in the NBA.
6 months after alleged sexual assault, child victim still has to face abuser
by Kerry Kavanaugh
BOSTON - A local mother says her son was sexually assaulted on the school bus by another student, and she claims the school has done more to protect the perpetrator than the victims.
Boston 25 News first told you about the allegations at the Boston Renaissance Charter School in November.
The mother of one of those victims turned to Boston 25 Investigative Reporter Kerry Kavanaugh because she says her son continues to come face to face with his abuser and relive his trauma.
"My son was able to tell me what happened and as a parent, it broke my heart,” she said. “You don't want to go through something like this."
This mother says her 7-year-old son suffered serial sexual abuse on the school bus.
The perpetrator was another student, a 6-year-old-boy.
“I just want other kids to feel safe going to school. I don't want what happened to my son to happen to anybody else's kid,” she said.
We aren't identifying this mother to protect her son.
This mom says there were other victims, and that her son was assaulted at least 10 times and threatened with violence if he reported what happened.
"The school said they weren't able to take the child out of the school which is initially what I wanted,” she said.
Boston Renaissance told Boston 25 News the same thing: “A number of laws and regulations dictate when and how students can be disciplined and/or removed from public schools. We have acted in compliance with those laws and regulations." Read the fill statement below
The mom says the school made assurances; the perpetrator would have an adult monitor at all times and they provide her son with special transportation.
But she says, despite promises her son is reliving his trauma.
"About two weeks ago, my son started again to feel anxious,” she said. "He mentioned that he had seen the other child, that he was seeing him, lately."
Attorney Tyler Fox says the school is simply falling short.
"No victim of sexual assault, especially a 7-year-old child, should have to face his perpetrator every day in school,” he told Boston 25 News.
Boston Renaissance said it “immediately put in place strict safeguards to ensure the safety of not only the students involved, but all students who attend our school."
The school also said it is in constant contact with the affected families and address concerns as they arise.
But this mom says she can't take any more chances, her son is leaving the school he loves at the end of the year.
"I feel like he's being protected more than my son is being protected. I feel the school advocates for him more than they advocate for my son,” she said.
As we first reported in November, because of the ages of the students involved the District Attorney referred the case to the Children's Advocacy Center.
The mom says her son has been diagnosed with PTSD and the center helped them find a counselor who he regularly sees. But beyond that, the mother says she doesn't seen anyone advocating for her son.
Full Statement from Boston Renaissance Charter School:
Since the incidents that took place on the bus in November, we have worked closely with the families of all the children who were affected. We immediately put in place strict safeguards to ensure the safety of not only the students involved, but all students who attend our school.
We have been in constant contact with the families involved and, whenever a concern has been raised, we have responded immediately to take any action needed to ensure the continued safety of our students.
A number of laws and regulations dictate when and how students can be disciplined and/or removed from public schools. We have acted in compliance with those laws and regulations.
We will continue to work with those families involved to address any and all concerns, and will continue to act in the best interests of all our students.
Know your rights in DCS investigation, attorneys say
by Kara Kenney
The Indiana Department of Child Services hotline has seen a 20 percent increase in child abuse and neglect reports since 2012, records show.
While child advocates are encouraged more Hoosiers are reporting suspected abuse and neglect, the increased reports also mean more innocent people could be finding themselves the subject of a DCS investigation.
A DCS investigation can start with a neighbor, teacher, coach, family member, doctor, or anyone who perceives your child is being neglected or abused.
DCS often protects children and saves lives, and part of their job can involve removing children from the home.
However, the state agency makes mistakes, according to families, attorneys and the DCS Ombudsman.
With 600 calls to the state hotline every day, it's important to protect yourself if DCS comes knocking.
Julie Baumer of Michigan was wrongfully accused of shaking her sister's baby, whom she had taken in and offered to adopt.
An expert later proved little Phillip suffered a stroke, not trauma. However by then Phillip had been permanently adopted. Baumer had no right to see him.
Bryan Ciyou is an Indianapolis attorney who has represented families in cases involving DCS, and said even the innocent can find themselves under investigation for child abuse.
“It can happen to anybody,” said Ciyou. “It's a phone call or an allegation.”
A DCS investigation can start at a hospital with an unexplained illness or if your child says something at school that raises a red flag.
“A doctor can make a report, a therapist, a teacher, and DCS has to investigate,” said Ciyou.
Ciyou said false allegations happen, such as in custody battles, so it's important to know what your rights are.
“A lot of it is fabricated, but the problem is trying to disprove something that never happened,” said Ciyou.
You have the right to ask for identification from a DCS worker, ask what the allegations are, and consult an attorney first before responding to DCS.
You do not have to let DCS inside your house.
“What happens is, you get sucked in, and ‘oh just talk to us for a little bit', but they're in the house and they're looking around,” said Ciyou.
Robert Schembs, an Indianapolis attorney with experience in representing families in DCS cases, said if you don't let DCS into your home, they can get a court order or warrant to force entry if they have any evidence of suspected abuse or neglect.
“The advice I normally give is to call an attorney as early as possible,” said Schembs. “If they want to take statements from the kids, they're allowed to do that.
DCS can talk to your children without telling the parent first, said Schembs, such as at school.
“They have to have reasonable cause to do that,” said Schembs.
Make sure to get a copy of any warrants or court orders.
Know any information you share with DCS can be shared with prosecutors, who could use it for criminal charges.
You can face a DCS investigation without ever facing criminal charges. Ciyou suggests documenting everything.
“Write down everything you can think of that relates to it, so that can be used for a defense attorney in trying to address it,” said Ciyou.
Other attorneys suggest recording all interviews and interactions with DCS.
If DCS decides to remove children from your home or file a Child In Need Of Services (CHINS) case against you, you have numerous rights that kick in, including the right to a free, court appointed attorney.
A family case manager with DCS must give you the following list of rights if your children are removed or a CHINS petition is filed.
1. The right to have a detention hearing held by a court within forty-eight (48) hours after the child's removal from your home. The 48 hours does not include legal holidays and weekends. At this hearing, you may request that your child be returned to you.
2. The right to hire an attorney or request to be represented by a free court appointed attorney. The Court may appoint a free attorney to represent you if the court finds that you cannot afford an attorney, there is a likelihood that you will win based on the facts of your case, and you lack the ability to investigate and present your case without an attorney.
3. The right to cross-examine witnesses. You or your attorney may ask questions of the people who are testifying at the court hearing.
4. The right to present evidence on your own behalf. Any information or evidence that you have about the allegations of child abuse or neglect should be given to your attorney to present in court. You also have the right to present your information on your own, if you do not have an attorney to represent you. You have the right to obtain witnesses by subpoena under Indiana Code 31-32-2-3.
5. The right not to make statements that incriminate you. “Incriminate” means that the things you say might be used to prove that you were involved in a crime or that you were responsible for the abuse or neglect of your child or other wrongful act. Incriminating statements may be used in a court hearing on a petition that alleges that your child is a Child in Need of Services.
6. The right to request to have your child's case reviewed by the county Child Protection Team. The Child Protection Team is a group of persons from the community who advise the Department of Child Services. The Child Protection Team may review any complaints regarding child abuse and neglect cases that are brought by a person or an agency.
7. The right to be advised that a petition to terminate the parent-child relationship must be filed whenever a child has been removed from the child's parent and has been under the supervision of the Department of Child Services for at least fifteen (15) months of the most recent twenty-two (22) months. This means that you as a parent have only fifteen months after your child's removal to prove to the court that your child should be returned to you before the court has to look at whether or not your rights to the child should be ended. If your parent-child relationship is terminated by the court, then your child will become available for adoption without your consent.
8. The right to request a copy of the report and other material that is a part of the child protection services investigation regarding your child. The identity of the person who reported the child abuse or neglect and the identity of other appropriate individuals are protected under Indiana law from being released to you. Your attorney is also entitled to have the same reports made available to him or her. These rights are found in Indiana Code 31-33-18-2.
9. The right to confidentiality of your child's case information under Indiana law, with exceptions spelled out under Indiana Code 31-33-18.
10. The right to receive services, based on the Department of Child Services investigation and evaluation that are ordered by the juvenile court.
You do not have a right to find out who made the report about you or your child, said Schembs.
That's almost always confidential.
Schembs said if DCS wants to drug test you, it's better to take the test than refuse it, even if you think you're positive.
“If the allegations involve you using drugs and you refuse a drug test, if they want to, DCS can take your children,” said Schembs. “However, if you test positive they will normally work with you, especially if you show a series of declining quantities. But if you don't take the test, it's a problem.”
Records from April show DCS substantiates about 15 percent of child abuse and neglect allegations, which means the person is found responsible for abusing or neglecting the child.
That means 85 percent are unsubstantiated, or unfounded.
Experts say DCS's burden of proof is not as stringent as criminal cases, which have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
DCS pamphlets to help educate parents on their rights can be found here and here.
Local Ministry and tattoo shop partner to help sex trafficking victims
by Alicia Pattillo
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Sex traffickers often brand their victims with tattoos stripping away hope of ever escaping.
The life of a human trafficking victim being branded by their trafficker is a control tactic used on victims.
Only a handful of human trafficking victims ever find their way to freedom.
Monster Ink is partnering with Magdalen Hope to erase the past.
In the documentary 'The Trafficked Life,' Dana, a former prostitute recalls nightmares of her past and the tattoo that left a scar on her soul.
"It's like the night of the living dead out there. People are heartless they have no compassion they don't care if you live or die,” Dana said.
Over the course of 30 days there could be up to 750 victims working the streets or being sold online here in Kern County.
Union Avenue is home to Bakersfield's illegal prostitution scene also known as the red light district.
"Well that's the place where we can to go get a prostitute or where the prostitutes are sold," Doug Bennett, founder of Magdalene Hope Ministries.
Doug Bennett is the founder of Magdalene Hope Ministry, a home dedicated to restoring women's lives and shedding light on a subject uncomfortable to most.
By creating the documentary *The Trafficked Life* he hoped to start the conversation by telling the stories and the reality of women who he saved from a life on the streets.
Branding is a common practice to identify prostitutes and self-destruct any hope a victim has left.
It happened to Dana. she had her trafficker's name tattooed on her back.
"She came to me and said i would like to get this off of me. i said i don't think we can get it off of you but we can cover it up," Bennett said.
Bennett called a friend and together they created a partnership to erase the past of human trafficking.
Rogelio Frausto works at Monster Ink in East Bakersfield.
Bennett told him about Dana and the tattoo she didn't want. and Frausto was happy to help.
For every human being trafficked in the United States more than half are branded. Marked like cattle –stripped of their integrity and filled with hopelessness, Dana was one of the lucky ones.
Sex traffickers using emojis to sell children
by Shaul Turner
DENVER -- There are more than 1.5 million victims of human trafficking in the United States, according to law enforcement.
Child sex traffickers are using emoji symbols such as smiley faces to lure young victims.
The FOX31 Problem Solvers learned the symbols are found all over websites such as Backpage.com, where pimps are reportedly known to sell girls and boys as young as 12 and 13 years old for sex.
Masters student Jessica Whitney found a way to crack the emoji code that is used.
“They're a lot harder to detect in a system because you can't just search the keyword,” she said.
Investigators say if pimps used obvious words such as "young” or gave an actual age online, the website would flag them.
Some pimps have used words such as "fresh” or “sweet,” but police were able to track the clues.
Whitney and her professor Murray Jenney figured out the emoji code.
They said the cherry symbol means virgin. The number of roses implies the price and an airplane means new in town.
A crown symbol indicates a girl or boy is under house arrest and the growing heart emoji let's the buyer know the girl or boy is childlike and still has some growing to do.
Homeless teens are an easy target for sex traffickers. The key to helping the teens is getting them to a safe place.
“It is very difficult to especially get younger (kids) who are being trafficked under 18 because they are very well protected and have a very hard time getting away," said Kendall Rames of Denver's Urban Peak organization.
Reports of child abuse in York County third worst in state
by WHTM Staff
YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – Reports of suspected child abuse are at an all-time high in York County and continue to rise, according to new findings by Children Youth and Family Services.
Renovations set for June 2 will expand the York County Office of Children, Youth and Families (CYF), adding 22 employees to its current team of 165.
According to CYF Community Director Terry Clark, there's been a 65 percent increase in the number of reports over the last two years. York County is now the third highest in the state just behind Philadelphia County and Pittsburg's Alleghany county.
Clark said part of the increase in numbers is due to 23 new pieces of legislation that went into effect January 1, 2015. The new legislation changed who needs to report child abuse, who should report and hence broadening the definition of child abuse.
“This is a very positive step for York county and the residents of York county to know their child welfare agency is being resourced with additional staff,” Clark said regarding the added staff.
War on child abuse: Abused girl shares 5 tips to avoid her plight
by Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo
MANILA, Philippines — There are about 25,000 cases of child abuses in the Philippines per year. And now, the numbers are going up not necessarily because cases are on the rise, but due to the advent of social media. More and more Filipinos are speaking out and coming into the light to fight child abuse.
Such has been the observation of Laurence Ligier, founder of non-government organization Cameleon, based on the organization's statistics these past 25 years.
As a volunteer for Smokey Mountain, Ligier discovered that many of the poor residents in the junkyard town in Tondo in Manila came from the Visayas, particularly, from Iloilo and Panay. Upon going to Iloilo, she was astounded at how many children there were suffering from different kinds of abuse.
“I don't have any problems as any of the kids. I want to discover the Philippines not as a tourist but as someone who wants to give back to the country, so I contacted NGOs in France and founded Cameleon,” Ligier retraced the genesis of Cameleon, which, as its name suggests, aims to promote balance and transformation in the lives of its beneficiaries.
Since founding Cameleon in 1997, Ligier claimed to have helped over 7,000 girls from five to 18 years old. Some of these victims, she said, come from entire households, while some were overseas Filipino workers' children.
“Some of those who should protect kids first are the first ones to abuse them,” she alleged.
Thus, part of Cameleon's mission is to educate parents and other adults and to change their mentality that they cannot do anything with their kids just because they send them to school or spend for them.
Incest cases, she said, are happening everywhere in the world but talking about it is still a taboo in the Philippines.
To help break that taboo, Ligier and Shaline Gamala, a Cameleon beneficiary who now has a master's in English, tackled how to one can help end the war on child abuse in a recent press conference.
“When I entered Cameleon, I was vulnerable,” Gamala confessed.
But after undergoing through Cameleon's “structured” therapy and training, Gamala said: “My mindset changed. It opened my perspective that I can do something and not just stay a victim.”
For other victims of abuse like her or for those who want to avoid falling prey to abuses, here are her pieces of advice:
1. Give importance and respect to yourself first.
2. Don't be afraid to speak because if you're afraid, you can't help others. By speaking out, you also help others. You're speaking out not because you're proud of what happened to you.
3. Don't stay in your comfort zone. Accept that you're a victim. Acceptance is a step to help others.
4. Listen to other people. Reaching your dreams is possible as long as you have the right support.
5. Be open for change and be a catalyst for change.
“We should stop the cycle!” Gamala urged. “Children are the hope of our future, but how can it be if they're abused? We should be sensitive to their needs and not just send them to school.”
Over the last 13 years, circus activities helped the girls of Cameleon rebuild themselves. Circus is a “school of life” that develop values such as solidarity and responsibility. It promotes physical wellness; it increases body awareness, circulation, focus, balance, strength and flexibility. On emotional health, circus promotes turn taking, leadership, communication, empathy, self-expression and trust. Engagement to circus activities also provides distraction from one current state of stress or mental instability.
Circus is also a professional integration tool for some of Cameleon's beneficiaries. Fifteen girls have become circus trainers and now give circus training sessions every weekend in the center in Passi (Iloilo) for 60 girls. One of them became the official circus teacher.
This unique program in the Philippines has already shown its positive impact on girls who demonstrate outstanding progress and more autonomy. Thanks to this partnership between Cameleon and French National Circus School, the skills of the girls improved. Four of them went to Peru and France for a one-year training and 15 became regular circus trainers.
On May 29, in celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Cameleon, SM Mall of Asia with support from SM Cares, and the Zonta Club of Makati Ayala, present “Metamorphosis,” a circus show to be held at the Music Hall of SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.
Filipino actress KC Concepcion will host the show, which will also feature “France Got Talent” 2016 third place finalist Alienette Coldfire, French actress Ouazani, a Cirque du Soleil acrobat, and the former abused women performers of Cameleon.
The show, said Gamala, is not only about being onstage and character development. “It will be a good venue for girls to showcase their skills to all kinds of audiences and to build awareness about child abuse.”
Child sexual abusers: Can they be fixed?
There's no consensus on whether offenders who commit sex crimes against children can be rehabilitated.
by Lex Talamo
"Shocked" and "scared."
That's how former cop and preschool teacher Jesse Ward described his reaction to stumbling across a child sexual abuse image for the first time in an online network. But instead of repelling him, the image – depicting graphic and violent sexual acts committed on young victims – sent him looking for more.
“I went back to it for multiple reasons. One was because of the taboo nature of the images themselves,” Ward wrote in a letter to The Times. “There was a ‘rush' of being involved in that world, knowing I shouldn't.”
There's no consensus on whether offenders who commit sex crimes against children can be rehabilitated. Some psychologists and correctional workers point to low rates of re-offending for those who complete treatment programs, while others point to the high rates of re-victimization for those who don't.
“We're talking about images and videos that are so disturbing that I've had to turn them off before I got sick,” said Louisiana State Police Detective Melissa Welch. “And these are individuals who are watching these videos and becoming sexually aroused and masturbating to them. So therein lies your problem with child pornography.”
Susan Tucker, an assistant warden with the Louisiana Department of Corrections who works with the state's sex offender treatment program, said sex offenders can change – or at least restrain – their behavior if given the tools and if they want to change.
“While we've thrown out the idea of curing a sex offender, there is a way to teach them to manage their risk,” Tucker said. “I think it's important for people to know there are some programs that do work.”
Who offends and why?
Research yields conflicting results
Research has yielded conflicting results about who views child pornography, with one clear conclusion – you can't stuff sex offenders into a neat box.
Studies of people convicted of possessing child pornography by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the National Juvenile Online Victimization Study found:
97 percent are male.
91 percent are white.
87 percent had no known prior arrest for a sex offense against a child.
73 percent were employed full-time.
59 percent were married or had been married.
46 percent had direct access to children through their jobs, activities or at home.
42 percent had children.
27 percent made at least $50,000 a year.
A study from the scholarly journal Child Abuse & Neglect painted a darker picture. It described those who commit sex offenses against children as having:
A history of sexual or physical abuse.
Harsh discipline and family dysfunction as a child.
Aggression, violence, antisocial behavior or addiction as an adult.
Problems with adult intimacy and a lack of social skills.
In the past five years, Louisiana offenders convicted on child pornography and sex crimes against children have included repeat sex offenders. They've also included foster parents, deputies, bailiffs, teachers, priests, police officers and mayors, according to a Times review of more than 200 cases.
The reasons this heterogeneous group keeps returning to child sexual abuse images also vary.
According to the NJOV study, some – like Ward – view images for the “thrill” of doing something they know they shouldn't or of entering the dark web, a portion of the public internet that requires special software and authorization to use.
Ward, who is serving time at Louisiana's Oakdale Federal Correctional Institution until 2025, wrote that he experienced a similar “rush” from the images as he did from being a police officer, firefighter and medic.
“I was sickened by a lot of what I saw, yet drawn to other aspects of it,” he wrote to The Times. “That push/pull kept me coming back to try and understand why I was interested in this stuff at all.”
Ward said addiction and ease of access also contributed to his involvement with the dark web.
“The fact that it was so easy to get these images was a hindrance to me getting away from it,” he wrote. “Every time I'd delete all my images out of hate for myself, I could always re-acquire it in a few minutes online.”
People arrested for possessing child pornography cited other reasons for wanting continued access to the images, according to the NJOV study:
Sexual interest in children.
Sex addictions or sexual gratification.
Desire to relive adolescent fantasies.
Desire for power or control.
Clint Davis, a certified sex addiction therapist in Shreveport, said not all sex addicts or adults who view adult pornography will go on to view child sexual abuse images or molest children.
“Everyone who views pornography as an adult, or is a sex addict, does not view children in sexually explicit ways or find them attractive,” Davis said. “There is something cognitively different and broken about someone who views child sexual abuse. We're not wired to view children that way.”
Can they be helped?
A risk-management approach to rehab
The David Wade Correctional Facility in Homer, Louisiana, is a sprawling state penitentiary with imposing gray walls and barbed wire fencing.
Most inmates within the compound serve long sentences – from decades to life. But the staff, programming and institution itself are based at least in part around the hope that inmates will lead productive lives, without re-offending, after their release. Staff said they are committed to helping the inmates, and the prison has elements of a rehabilitative environment such as ornamental gardens, a koi pond and chapel.
The facility's sex offender treatment program is a voluntary program that involves five phases. Tucker, the assistant warden who works with the sex offender treatment program, said it has a 20-year history of success. Only 4.5 percent of sex offenders who complete the minimum year-long program will recidivate, or re-offend, after they return to their communities, Tucker said.
The program takes a risk-management approach to rehabilitation. In the initial phases, inmates are taught to identify “high-risk situations” where they might have an opportunity to victimize additional children, Tucker said.
A major part of the program is building individualized offender “profiles,” with psycho-educational treatment options tailored to offenders' distorted thought patterns, which Tucker termed “cognitive distortions.”
An example of this distorted thinking: An offender who told Tucker that his 6-year-old victim had tried to initiate sex with him.
“That's what we focus on, the thinking," Tucker said. "How did you come to be thinking that it's okay to have sex with a child?”
Warden Jerry Goodwin said another type of cognitive distortion he sees frequently is “minimizing.”
“They'll try to minimize the impact upon the victim. They may tell you their victim was a 14-year-old, a teenager, when in fact it was a 5- or 6-year-old child,” Goodwin said.
Another frequent cognitive distortion is an offender's misinterpretation of a child's physical arousal as consent, said Andres Hernandez, a private-practice psychologist who formerly directed the federal sex offender treatment program in Butner, North Carolina.
“Abuse doesn't cease to be abuse if the teenage boy, for example, has an erection or if the girl appears to have an orgasm when they perform oral sex on her,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez added that offenders often develop this cognitive distortion because they themselves were victims of sexual abuse as children.
“They have grown up believing that if this occurred to me, and I didn't turn out so bad or I actually enjoyed the sex with my abuser, then society must be wrong,” Hernandez said.
Tucker said events from offenders' pasts may make them more likely to re-offend, such as a previous criminal background, a history of violence, a past crime committed against a stranger and inability to maintain intimate adult relationships.
A partnership with probation and parole offices is critical to the program's overall success, Tucker said.
“I would like to see more split sentences where they are on supervision and treatment is mandatory on the street,” she said. “That would be more helpful.”
Risk and re-entry
Sexual predators and 'crimes of opportunity'
Goodwin said most offenders in the David Wade Correctional Facility who committed contact sex crimes against children assaulted their child victim through what he called “crimes of opportunity.”
“The majority of these sexual offenders in prison are not the violent, sexual predator type. They take advantage of certain opportunities,” Goodwin said. “If they're not allowed to babysit their grandchildren anymore, then they are not going to go out and seek a victim. They generally victimize people that come to them.”
Goodwin described these offenders as “the most treatable” of sex offenders. But Hernandez cautioned that even opportunistic offenders can victimize more than one child.
“The story that is not told is that sometimes you have individuals who are serial relational offenders,” Hernandez said. “They move from one relationship to the other and they offend in various relationships.”
Tucker said sex offenders who accessed child sexual abuse images on the internet face exponentially more “opportunities” to re-offend. She called the accessibility of materials on the internet “scary.”
“There are lots of peer-to-peer networks out there that are very violent, full of violence and abuse towards children as well as adults,” she said. “You can look at anything and connect with other people who do the same things.”
Rehabilitation and registration
When offenders go back into their communities
Much like those who commit sex crimes against children, those convicted of internet-related crimes often have conditions of release. Conditions often include no access to a computer or the internet without written permission from probation officers, including computer or internet-access while at work.
Prosecutors and law enforcement officials surveyed by The Times who supported sex offender registration cited public safety. Removing “opportunities” doesn't necessarily remove the desire to re-offend, said Welch, the Louisiana State Police detective.
“Just because you take them away doesn't mean (they) don't want them anymore,” she said. “Just because you take it away doesn't mean you've flipped the switch and that they don't still desire that.”
Critics said registration makes reintegration, including finding stable housing and employment, more difficult for sex offenders. Drew Kingston, a clinical and forensic psychologist at the University of Ottawa in Canada, said specific requirements can counter-productively make offenders more likely to re-offend.
“These include, for example, publicly accessible offender registries and residency restrictions,” Kingston wrote in an email. “Thus far, these approaches have simply increased offenders' risk to harm others because of the challenges it places before them for an overall successful reintegration.”
Solutions to rehabilitating sex offenders nationwide have ranged from the cognitive behavioral therapy and medication used at the Louisiana Department of Corrections to physical and chemical castration.
Castration doesn't work well on offenders who use sex for power or control rather than sexual gratification, Tucker said. In Louisiana, physical castration also is strictly voluntary, and judges often leave the choice of chemical castration up to the offenders.
“We offer it,” Goodwin said, referring to chemical castration. “It's not a popular program.”
What offenders watch
91 percent accessed child sexual abuse materials from home computers.
83 percent of images included pre-pubescent children.
80 percent had images depicting graphic sexual penetration of a child.
51 percent who blackmailed children with images wanted more images.
27 percent had organized collections of child sexual abuse materials.
26 percent who blackmailed children with images wanted to meet the child in person.
20 percent used “sophisticated” technology to cover their tracks.
14 percent had more than 1,000 child sexual abuse materials.
7 percent who blackmailed children with images wanted to money from the child.
Sen. Joan Lovely hosts legislative briefing on child abuse
by Danvers Wicked Local
Sen. Joan B. Lovely, D-Danvers, recently hosted a legislative briefing on her omnibus bill, Senate Bill 295, an act relative to preventing the sexual abuse of children and youth. The briefing featured a variety of speakers and was attended by both advocates and State House staff.
Speakers at the briefing included Reps. Ken Gordon, D-Bedford, and Paul Heroux, D-Attleboro, Jetta Bernier from MassKids, Suzin Bartley from the Children's Trust, and Laureen Browning from the South Shore YMCA and the YMCA's state-wide Child Protection Committee. Gordon and Heroux have filed stand-alone bills of several provisions in the omnibus bill in the House of Representatives.
“We are fortunate to have such a strong team of legislators, advocates and organizations working to pass comprehensive measures to prevent child sexual abuse,” said Lovely. “Their advocacy on this issue has helped bring awareness and provided an opportunity to continue our education efforts at the State House and across the commonwealth.”
S.B.295 is a comprehensive omnibus bill that has several provisions aimed at preventing child sexual abuse by increasing training requirements and awareness of the issue. In particular, employees, independent contractors and volunteers at schools and youth-serving organizations would receive annual training on the identification of, and response to, child sexual abuse. Students would also be provided with age-appropriate instruction on recognizing boundary-violating behaviors.
The bill would also ensure that those adults who have been let-go from a job due to accusations of sexual assault do not again find themselves working in a similar position. Improving screening procedures and recommendation policies between schools and youth-serving organizations can help to prevent children from becoming victims of sexual abuse.
S.B.295 has been referred to the Joint Committee on Education.
Failed by parents‚ failed by the state: Summit on violence against children squares up to massive challenge
by Dave Chambers
The torrent of violence against children is fuelled by a cocktail of poverty‚ substance abuse‚ easy access to weapons and exposure to crime.
To that‚ experts were told at a two-day meeting in Cape Town hosted by the Mandela Initiative‚ South Africa can add the failure of the child protection system.
Victims of abuse are receiving fragmented services that are potentially more damaging to their long-term physical and psychological wellbeing‚ according to Lucy Jamieson of the Children's Institute at the University of Cape Town‚ one of the summit hosts.
Matodzi Amisi‚ director in the Department of Planning‚ Monitoring and Evaluation‚ said even though 11 government departments had responsibilities to address violence against children‚ an “implementation gap” meant the issue was not prioritised‚ child protection was inadequately funded and there was a shortage of skilled staff.
Lucy Jamieson of the Children's Institute‚ which looked at how reported cases of abuse in five provinces were processed in the child protection system‚ said: “We found that police and social services collaborated in only 8% of reported abuse cases.
“The lack of inter-sectoral collaboration and lack of human resources are preventing children from accessing therapeutic and support services‚ and allowing perpetrators to continue to abuse children without any form of criminal investigation.”
The summit was presented with a depressing litany of statistics and research findings about the scale of the problem‚ including:
- Most children experience and/or witness multiple forms of violence in the home‚ family‚ community and school‚ usually at the hands of someone they know;
- Under-fives are most likely to be abused and killed in the home‚ while teenage boys are at increased risk of being killed during interpersonal violence;
- One in three children are victims of sexual violence and physical abuse before they are 18‚ while 12% of children report neglect and 16% report emotional abuse; - In 2013/2014‚ 29% of sexual offences reported to the police involved children — around 51 cases a day; and
- A child is raped and murdered every three days.
Delegates to the summit were told the effects of abuse extended to children's intellectual‚ social‚ psychological‚ and emotional development.
Experienced in early life‚ abuse could also affect brain development and reduce academic performance‚ and was linked to aggressive behaviour in later life‚ especially among boys.
Cathy Ward of UCT‚ Celia Hsiao of Save the Children South Africa and a team of international researchers told the summit they had calculated the cost of abuse to society.
Said Ward: “The cost of disability-adjusted life years lost to violence against children and reduced earnings was estimated at R238-billion in 2015/16.
“If we prevent violence against children‚ on the other hand‚ we save costs by reducing the rates of other national problems‚ such as HIV infection and substance misuse.”
A UCT study of the root causes of violence‚ reported at the summit‚ found that factors include poverty‚ poor living conditions‚ mental health and substance abuse.
Said Shanaaz Mathews of the Children's Institute: “Care arrangements‚ family structure and conflict in the home are key determinants; whereas children living in households where neither parent is present are at increased risk for violence.”
A complex web of social and personal factors contributed to a never-ending intergenerational cycle of violence and abuse‚ said Mathews. Adults' ability to provide care and support was influenced by their own experiences of trauma‚ including abuse in childhood and intimate partner violence.
Mathews said support for parents could break the intergenerational cycle and increase protection for children.
Amisi said an “integrated improvement plan” had been finalised to address issues raised in government's diagnostic review of the child protection system‚ spearheaded by the Department of Social Development.
Department deputy director-general Conny Nxumalo‚ said innovative ways of preventing violence were being tested. “Parenting programmes and community-based services such as Isibindi are showing promise‚” she said.
Isibindi is a community-based programme developed by the National Association of Child Care Workers. It aims to enable poor communities to provide care and protection services for children.
Unicef South Africa‚ which provides technical assistance and support to the government and civil society‚ was also looking for ways to improve matters‚ said the agency's child protection specialist‚ Sinah Moruane.
“Social Development and Unicef are working on strengthening the existing ... programme of linking care services to social grant recipients‚” she said.
The 2013-18 national plan of action developed by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Violence against Women and Children is being reviewed‚ the summit was told.
“This week's action dialogue afforded civil society and academics an opportunity to engage with the plan and recommend actions to strengthen it‚ based on the most recent evidence‚” said a statement after the summit.
“The revised plan of action will be widely consulted with civil society and interested parties to ensure buy-in and inclusiveness in the protection of children.”
Nxumalo hailed the outcome of the summit. “What was recommended aligns closely with the National Development Plan‚ making preventing violence against children a win-win all round‚” she said.
The Mandela Initiative‚ led by universities in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation‚ hosted the summit with the Children's Institute and the Safety and Violence Initiative at the University of Cape Town‚ the Department of Social Development and Unicef South Africa.
Tulsa woman behind bars after TCSO says she sexually abused 1-year-old daughter
by Ashley Holt
TULSA - A woman is facing five counts of sexual abuse of a child under 12 after deputies were tipped off to inappropriate videos and photos of the woman's one-year-old.
The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office investigated 29-year-old Jerrica Lackey after receiving a call from her daughter's father.
Authorities say the father and Lackey aren't together.
He went to pick the child up and noticed inappropriate messages between Lackey and her boyfriend.
When he opened the messages he saw inappropriate videos and pictures of his child shared between them on the Kik App.
“I know initially when we got the call we're like that can't be. I mean that's hard to even comprehend that a mother would do something like that to a child," said Tulsa County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Casey Roebuck.
He called 911. Neighbors said they had no idea.
“They had been face timing and over the course of this relationship he asks her to send pictures and videos of this baby of acts being performed," Roebuck said.
TCSO said the boyfriend is John Marco from Florida, and he and Lackey met online.
When authorities questioned her, Lackey said Marco coerced her into sending the images.
“But the fact that she's a parent to our victim is extremely unusual and extremely heartbreaking," Roebuck said.
Sheriff's deputies arrested an emotional Lackey on Monday.
“Someone being emotional at the time of their arrest doesn't tell me they're sorry for what they did. It tells me they're sorry they got caught," Roebuck said.
"It's surprising that I didn't know because I was here all day, so it's like 'wow,'" one neighbor said.
TCSO said the investigation has been especially hard on its deputies.
“We're all parents. We're moms, we're dads. And it's just in our DNA that we would do absolutely anything to protect those children," Roebuck said.
The child is now in her father's custody.
Lackey had two other children who are now in the care of other family members; Roebuck said there were no signs they were sexually abused.
The FBI is pursing Lackey's boyfriend in Florida who could potentially face federal charges.
Since deputies found additional phones and iPads the investigation is ongoing while they look through the devices.
TCSO says if you suspect anything like this is happening to a child to call 911 immediately.
From the FBI
Recovering Missing Kids
FBI's Role Part of a Coordinated Response
The disappearance of a Virginia teenager—and her successful rescue, within days, hundreds of miles away—provides a glimpse into the FBI's role when kids go missing and are believed to be in danger.
Police were called when the girl was believed missing, setting in motion an intense process that relies on the resources, expertise, and partnerships of local, state, and federal agencies, including the FBI. Also alerted was the non-profit National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), which last year assisted with more than 20,500 cases of missing children—90 percent of them endangered runaways.
Having determined the girl might be endangered—susceptible to human trafficking, child prostitution, or possibly the victim of abduction—local police referred the case to special agents in the FBI's Washington Field Office (WFO). It was a smooth transition because the agencies work cases together on the region's Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force.
“We have a robust task force that includes most of the local agencies,” said Ray Duncan, assistant special agent in charge of the WFO Criminal Division.
Once reported, the missing girl's description was entered into the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC), an index of criminal justice information available to every law enforcement agency in the country. Last year, there were 465,676 reports of missing kids, according to NCIC, which automatically notifies NCMEC when kids go missing. While not all NCIC reports necessitate federal involvement, the FBI is the lead investigative agency if a missing juvenile is in danger or when children 12 or under disappear.
“Then we will try to step in as soon as possible because we believe those kids are clearly endangered,” said Special Agent Rob Bornstein, who supervises WFO's Crimes Against Children squad. “Timing is critical. The earlier we get involved the better.”
In the Virginia case, agents and analysts traced the juvenile's actions from the moment she arrived home from school, dropped off her backpack, and left the house again. Investigators coordinated with local and regional public transit agencies to collect video footage of the girl's movements across the region, and then out of the state. They were able to determine that the girl had been sent a bus ticket, which revealed her destination—more than 1,000 miles away from home. The ticket ultimately led to the identity and location of a subject. Using other sophisticated techniques, the FBI was able to locate the subject that led to the missing child.
WFO investigators, including one of the Bureau's specialized Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Teams, reached out to FBI agents in the field, as well as local authorities, to rescue the girl and make the arrest.
“That's why this worked so well,” said Timothy Slater, special agent in charge of the Criminal Division at WFO. “We leverage our 56 field offices across the country—and our 64 legal attachés around the world—to work as a force multiplier. The amount of resources we bring to bear is intrinsic to solving these cases quickly. If we develop information that is outside our area of responsibility, we can contact our agents there to assist.”
The number of reports of missing kids last year rose by about 5,000, according to NCIC figures. Investigators said the confluence of kids using cell phones and their easy access to social media has made them more susceptible to predators.
The number of children reported missing has declined significantly since NCMEC was established in 1984 following the 1981 abduction of Adam Walsh, founder John Walsh's 6-year-old son. Robert Lowery, vice president of the Virginia-based agency's Missing Children Division, said reports of brazen abductions have gone down significantly over the years, largely replaced by online predators.
“Offenders are still there and the threat still exists,” said Lowery. “Now they're online enticing children.”
“There are bad people out there trying to prey on children,” said Bornstein, adding that advances in technology, including encryption, are making it harder to find the bad guys. Parents, meanwhile, just want to keep their kids safe while “there are more and more ways for parents not to know what their children are up to,” Bornstein said. This underscores the importance for parents to know who their children are communicating with, what they are posting, and what they are looking at on the Internet.
NCMEC encourages responsible use of social media—rather than fully restricting it, which may have a counter-effect—and honest communication between parents and their kids.
“The key to that is we want parents to not be judgmental with their children if they bring something to their attention,” Lowery said. “Sometimes there's a propensity for parents to be judgmental and blame the child for inappropriate conversation when, in fact, these offenders have set the stage for that conversation.”
Investigators say resolve and relationships with law enforcement partners play a big role in the Washington Field Office's success rate in recovering missing kids. “We have a lot of priorities in the Criminal Division,” said Slater. “But crimes against children are among our highest priorities because these crimes play on the moral fabric of our society.”
Many kids, however, remain missing. According to NCMEC, which assists law enforcement and families with missing child cases, about 18,500 of the missing children in 2016 were runaways, who may not want to be found. Posters featuring images and descriptions of missing kids can be found on the FBI website and at missingkids.org, NCMEC's website. If you think you have seen a missing child, contact NCMEC at 1-800-843-5678 or contact your local FBI field office.
It's been a year almost to the day since a 16-year-old North Carolina girl walked out of her home and disappeared.
Hailey Elizabeth Burns, of Charlotte, left her house on May 23, 2016 between midnight and 6 a.m., and was last seen wearing blue jeans, a black long-sleeved T-shirt with Marilyn Monroe on it, and Converse tennis shoes.
Burns has several conditions that require medication, and she did not take her medications with her. She has curly hair that she may wear in pigtails. Burns may be carrying a blue book bag with flowers on it.
Anyone with information concerning the whereabouts of Hailey Elizabeth Burns should contact the FBI's Charlotte Field Office at (704) 672-6100, or the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Crime Stoppers tip line at (704) 334-1600.
National Missing Children's Day
May 25 is National Missing Children's Day, which was established after the May 25, 1979 disappearance of Etan Patz, a 6-year-old New York City boy. His disappearance on the way to school drew national attention to the problem of child abductions. The case remained unsolved for years. His confessed killer, Pedro Hernandez, was found guilty on murder and kidnapping charges earlier this year and sentenced last month to life in prison.
National Missing Children's Day was established by presidential proclamation in 1983 to promote awareness. In 1998, the effort expanded globally when the U.S. and 22 other countries recognized May 25 as International Missing Children's Day.
From the Department of Justice
National Missing Children's Day
About National Missing Children's Day
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed May 25 as National Missing Children's Day. Each year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) commemorates Missing Children's Day with a ceremony honoring the heroic and exemplary efforts of agencies, organizations, and individuals to protect children.
Missing Children's Day is dedicated to encouraging parents, guardians, caregivers, and others concerned with the well-being of children to make child safety a priority. It serves as a reminder to continue our efforts to reunite missing children with their families and an occasion to honor those dedicated to this noble cause.
Learn more: Awards - Poster Contest - Commemorative Stamp Issued - Stay Connected
Also see the Child Abduction: Resources for Victims and Families page for additional information and access to topical publications and resources.
Each year, the U.S. Department of Justice, through OJJDP, recognizes individuals, organizations, and agencies that have made a difference in recovering missing and abducted children and protecting children from exploitation. The Department recognizes the awardees each May at the annual National Missing Children's Day ceremony in Washington, DC. The deadline for 2017 nominations was January 20, 2017.
Learn more about the National Missing Children's Day awards:
Missing Children's Law Enforcement Award
OJJDP Administrator Missing Children's Citizen Award
Missing Children's Child Protection Award
2017 Attorney General's Special Commendation Award
Access the Department of Justice news release to learn more about the 2016 award recipients and their efforts.
With an annual theme of "Bringing Our Missing Children Home," OJJDP invites fifth graders each year to participate in Missing Children's Day poster contest. Submissions for the 2017 poster contest were due by March 16, 2017.
The annual contest creates an opportunity for schools, law enforcement, and child advocates to discuss the issue of missing and/or exploited children with youth, parents, and guardians and to promote child safety.
This year, fifth graders from 34 states and the Aviano U.S.Air Force Base in Italy submitted winning poster contest entries. View the 2017 National Missing Children's Day poster contest submissions.
OJJDP will invite the winning child, his/her teacher, parents and state clearinghouse manager to Washington, DC to participate in the National Missing Children's Day commemoration in May 2017.
The winner of the 2016 poster contest was Michael Wu from Walnut Elementary School in Walnut, California. See the gallery to view the winning national posters from previous years. See winning state posters from 2011, 2010 and 2009.
View the video at the right to learn about the history of the National Missing Children's Day poster contest, the importance of having students participate, and how to get involved. The 2007 winner, Rachel Stevenson, shares her experiences on winning the contest and expresses why she believes it is important to raise awareness for missing children's issues.
Learn more about the poster contest.
Commemorative Stamp Issued
In May 2015, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) issued a Forget-Me-Not stamp to increase public awareness of missing children and ways in which members of the public can assist in search efforts. The stamp shows a group of purple forget-me-nots along with a lone flower and features the words "Forget-Me-Not" and "Help Find Missing Children." See the following resources to learn more about bringing our missing children home and the Forget-Me-Not stamp:
Justice Department Observes National Missing Children's Day
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
USPS: Missing Children
Connect With OJJDP
Stay Connected with OJJDP to receive updates on the National Missing Children's Day Awards, poster contest and events by subscribing to the JUVJUST listserv , the bimonthly online newsletter OJJDP News @ a Glance , or follow OJJDP on Twitter or Facebook
St. Paul's School Investigating Former Staffers For Sexual Misconduct
Report: "A range of credible and very disturbing claims" have been made against more than 30 former staffers at the elite NH prep school.
by Tony Schinella
CONCORD, NH — A yearlong investigation into sexual misconduct allegations at one of the country's most elite prep schools has revealed more than 30 substantiated and unsubstantiated claims against staffers, according to a report released on May 22, 2017, by attorneys investigating the matter. St. Paul's School released the report by the Casner & Edwards law firm in Boston Monday morning. The investigation was led by former Mass. AG Scott Harshbarger after revelations that a former teacher – the Rev. Howard White – was arrested on misconduct allegations in Rhode Island that occurred during the mid-1970s.
White taught in Concord in the late 1960s and early 1970s, so school officials requested the expanded investigation after a 2000 report was found to be “inadequate.” The new, expanded investigation, which runs more than 70 pages, found accusations against 34 faculty members and staffers.
Mocksville-based child abuse advocacy center to expand
by Jasmine Spencer
MOCKSVILLE, N.C. -- Dragonfly House Children's Advocacy Center assists in the recovery of children after child abuse.
Executive Director Brandi Reagan explains the name of the center was inspired by their mission to restore hope to the young victims and their families.
“In Japanese culture, the dragonfly is a symbol of hope and change and that is something that we strive to give every child who comes through our doors,” Reagan said.
The center in Mocksville opened in 2010. It's an 501(c)(3) nonprofit, independent full-service advocacy center for children who experience all types of abuse. Their all-inclusive services are brought directly to the children for their comfort.
“They experienced something that they should never have to go through, so the burden on them to retell their story multiple times, to go to multiple places, to miss school, to relive that moment every time they have to talk about it is not fair,” Regan said.
The center is designated to service judicial district 22b, which is Davie and Davidson counties. However they often lend their staff and services to counties who do not have centers or a medical treatment component.
“Since opening, we have served a total of 23 counties in North Carolina,” Reagan said.
Last year the center assisted 469 children.
Davie County Sheriff JD Hartman serves on the board of directors for the center and explained how vital the center is to their criminal investigations.
“You get a better story here, you get a more precise story here, which helps us with the prosecution end of it when you present that to the district attorney,” Hartman said. “All the agencies are sitting at the same table, which never happened before.”
The center has launched a fundraising campaign to help pay for a new facility. The Hand in Hand Capital Campaign is about 40 percent of the way toward their $1.1 million goal. The new facility, at 6,500-square-feet, would offer more room for training, crisis intervention and therapeutic treatment.
“It no longer fits our needs and we're having to build. We've started a capital campaign, we're working on building and raising support. It's a challenge because so many people just don't quite understand what it is that we do and how we help children,” Reagan said.
Despite the challenge, staff notice instant and long-term improvements in the children's mental health and well-being through their care.
Golden wants commission to study child abuse prevention
by Paula Katinas
Families in which children are in grave danger of being abused have only a small number of programs that can help them avoid tragedy, according to state Sen. Marty Golden, who said New York state needs to do more to save children's lives.
“There is no place in our homes, schools or society for child abuse, and the unfortunate reality is that it is happening all too often in New York,” Golden said.
In an effort to combat the problem of child abuse and neglect, the state Senate recently passed a bill sponsored by Golden to create a commission to study child abuse prevention and issue recommendations for the implementation of prevention programs.
“I introduced this legislation because it is time that we take a stand against child abuse and make the prevention of such a priority. We must figure out how to reverse this trend that is damaging many families,” Golden said. “Reports indicate that there are approximately 80,000 children found to be victims of child abuse and maltreated in New York state each year. These numbers require legislative action so that we can prevent the abuse of children and save families in our state.”
A study by the organization Prevent Child Abuse New York estimated the costs of treating the consequences of child abuse, including incarceration, court costs and foster care to be approximately $2.4 billion each year. The amount spent on prevention is more than $30 million.
Also troubling is the fact that many of these prevention programs are currently available to only a small number of families at risk of abuse and neglect, Golden said. For example, home visitations by prevention specialists are available to approximately 10 to 14 percent of eligible families.
One of the tasks of the commission would be to make recommendations to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature on ways the state can increase the availability of these services, Golden said.
Child abuse prevention programs address not only the crime of child abuse prevention itself but other aspects of family dynamics that threaten children's well-being. The threats include health conditions such as low birth weight, infant mortality, drug-addicted babies and more.
The prevention programs often provide referrals, education, expertise and stability for at-risk families. Some of the programs focus on training for new parents.
“There are parents who can't handle children,” Golden told the Brooklyn Eagle.
The bill has been sent to the Assembly for consideration. Assemblymember Sandy Galef (D-Westchester-Putnam County), a former teacher, is sponsoring the bill in the Assembly.
Column: Protect children from abuse
by Randy Richardville
Every 16 minutes, a child in Michigan is the victim of abuse or neglect. Through national and statewide research, we are learning that childhood trauma negatively affects a child's developing brain and has lifelong consequences on physical and mental health in adulthood. Michigan Children's Trust Fund (CTF) actively strives to provide community members with opportunities to make a difference in the lives of Michigan children.
The work CTF does is critical for Michigan and the next generation of families who will live in our state. Protecting our children often means stepping in early and providing the adults in their lives with the resources, support and solutions that can help them make better decisions. Far too many adults responsible for children face challenges that range from substance abuse to behavioral illnesses to joblessness. For too many of these families, these challenges bring them to the attention of the child welfare system.
Across Michigan, programs serving every county aim to do just that and prevent abuse and neglect before they happen. Through proactive programs and interventions, professionals and trained specialists work with families so they understand and respond to their children's developmental needs and are connected to the support of family and community.
Coordinating this network and the staff and volunteers who prevent abuse and neglect is the Children's Trust Fund, Michigan's only independent statewide nonprofit agency. The work of CTF and its local community-based partners is heroic. The daily effort to keep our kids safe is grueling and often happens far from the spotlight. It goes on every day in small communities in the western Upper Peninsula, in neighborhoods in metro Grand Rapids or Detroit, in rural areas of mid-Michigan and just about everywhere else.
On May 17 at the Lansing Center, CTF held its annual Pam Posthumus Signature Auction Event. With about 650 people in attendance, this year's event raised $410,000, bringing the total donations in the event's history to more than $6 million. Funds from the event go to support the important work CTF does to prevent child abuse and neglect, and bring hope to countless families across Michigan. The event pays for services like respite care, home visitations, child development support and other targeted services so CTF's 102 local partners can continue to provide education and other prevention programs. Every dollar CTF raises can educate 20 people about the dangers of shaking an infant. CTF funds help parents become more nurturing, connect kids to positive role models and so much more.
At the event, Steve Yager, the recently retired executive director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Children's Services Agency, received the 2017 Children's Advocate Award. For more than 30 years, Yager has been a strong advocate for the wellbeing and protection of children. Under his leadership, the value of the CTF prevention mission was strengthened and, now more than ever, they are a critical piece in the full continuum of children's services.
Across Michigan, thousands of children and their families with few resources are getting help through CTF, which is extremely effective at stretching every dollar, spending only around 13 percent of total revenue on administrative costs.
Randy Richardville is board chairman of the Children's Trust Fund.
“I Lost Faith in God...But I'm Now Pursuing Faith in Justice”: Child Sexual Abuse Survivors Lobby For Reform
by Ilgin Yorulmaz
Inspired by his oath of honesty when enlisting in the Navy, 21-year-old recruit Shaun Dougherty decided to be truthful about what had happened to him as a child. He finally opened up to his parents on his first Christmas break from the boot camp in 1991.
Dougherty told them about the three-year long sexual abuse he had endured in 1980 starting at age 10 as a fifth-grader at St. Clement School in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. His abuser was George Koharchik ? a longtime Catholic priest, pastor at St. Clement Church, and Dougherty's basketball coach and religion teacher. His parents, who had attended the Mass conducted by Koharchik for many years at the same church where young Shaun was an altar boy, did not believe him.
Twenty-six years later, the 47-year-old married Navy veteran was in Albany last week, lobbying the New York State Assembly as part of the Coalition to Pass the Child Victims Act. The coalition includes a dozen survivors, faith leaders, and people who were victims or witnesses of sexual abuse as children, or who knew a loved one, friend or congregant who had gone through years of abuse.
Rabbi Ari Hart of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in the Bronx is one of the faith leaders of the coalition. He recently started an online petition in support of the Child Victims Act that has garnered close to 1,000 signatures, 300 of whom are the clergy from Jewish, Muslim and various Christian denominations.
“Faith communities are now beginning to undertake the hard, painful and sometimes disruptive work of confronting the specter of child sex abuse in our communities. We are starting to speak about it publicly, develop policies for prevention, and support the victims,” said Rabbi Hart.
New York State law ranks among the very worst in the nation — alongside Alabama, Mississippi, and Michigan — for how its criminal justice system treats survivors of child sex abuse.
State law provides victims just five years to pursue criminal and civil claims after age 18. Each year, 40,000 children are sexually abused in New York State — one in four women and one in six men — according to the advocacy group Safe Horizon.
The Coalition to Pass the Child Victims Act is a network of victims and advocacy groups, fighting for the elimination of both civil and criminal statute of limitations; the 90-day notice of claim against institutions; and giving a one-year revival window to childhood sex abuse victims in which to file a lawsuit against their abuser, regardless of whether the statute of limitations had passed.
Time passed — 32 years to be exact — until Dougherty, the freckled boy with a mop of red hair grew up, was able to summon the courage to confront his abuser, and testify against him in 2012. His story appears on page 66 of the 2016 grand jury report stating widespread sexual abuse of hundreds of children in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese in Pennsylvania by at least 50 priests over the course of 40 years.
Dougherty is a resident of both New York and Pennsylvania where the senate unanimously passed a bill in February that eliminated the criminal statute of limitations for prospective cases of child sexual abuse and also allows future victims to sue their attackers at any age.
New York state legislators are wary that if the Child Victims Act passes, it might bring a flood of lawsuits and cost the state millions of dollars. Advocacy groups think resistance against the bill is purely based on myths.
California enacted a one-year revival window in 2003. In that period, there have been only 1,150 cases brought to justice, according to Child USA. Very few of these are false claims, and 400 pedophiles have been convicted and taken off the streets since then. Last year, legislators in California went further and lifted statute of limitations on rape and child molestation altogether.
For a decade now, various coalitions involving clergy have been visiting members of the New York Senate and the State Assembly to lobby for the passing of a bill similar to California's.
These clergy and other supporters of Child Victims Act have an uphill battle. In a press conference during the lobbying day, Senator Brad Hoylman, who is the sponsor of the bill, said all he was asking was to hold a public hearing and a vote. “I stand here as a 6-year-old's parent. I'm concerned about her future at the hands of an abuser,” he added.
Given the scale of child sex abuse scandals besieging Catholic Church, the leadership from within the Catholic Church facing the truth and supporting the passage of Child Victims Act is important to victims and advocates.
Nancy Lorence of Catholic Coalition of Conscience, indicated that faith leaders “must come clean.” Referring to Archdiocese of New York's Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, she added, “Cardinal Dolan brought this program. Anybody who is sincere would have to accept that.”
Unlike child sexual abuse, crimes like homicide have no statute of limitations. Robert M. Hoatson, Ph.D., a survivor of sexual clergy abuse, and a former ordained priest who founded Road to Recovery, a non-sectarian organization that has helped more that 3,000 survivors of sexual abuse, observed:
“There is no limitation on the murder of the body. So why should there be limitation on the murder of the soul?”
On the morning that the news of the grand jury report appeared in papers last year along with pictures of his Catholic priest abuser, Shaun Dougherty's mother called him in tears: “She apologized for not believing me when I first opened up to her and my father,” he said.
“I lost faith in God. But I still have faith in our systems. Now I'm pursuing faith in justice.”
2 former LAUSD teachers claim they were fired for reporting abuse
by Anabel Munoz
BOYLE HEIGHTS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Two former Los Angeles Unified School District educators say they witnessed child abuse at a Boyle Heights school and were fired shortly after reporting it.
The educators said they saw one of the teachers holding a child shaking violently to get child to calm down.
Mayra Ponce, a former teacher at Evergreen Avenue Early Education Center, said the student went without eating following that incident. Ponce said she also witnessed a colleague deny a student his lunch after he ignored instructions.
"During the nap time he asked and cried for his lunch and they didn't give him his lunch," Ponce said.
Ponce told Eyewitness News she reported both incidents to school authorities and claims she was later suspended for not reporting them in a timely manner.
According to Ponce, she was told by administrators that she "didn't follow procedures."
Norma Martinez was a teacher's assistant in the classroom at the time and also reported what she saw. The following school year, Martinez said she witnessed another teacher verbally abuse students.
"I reported it to licensing. She was being verbally abusive to her group of kids and she was also in one instance withholding a blanket to a child," Martinez said.
According to Martinez's claim against the LAUSD, the teacher "hurled a barrage of Spanish abusive words at the children, and translated the words in English, making sure that the children understood every term."
The claim translated the words as "pigs," "dirty" and "nasty."
Ponce said she also faced retaliation for contacting the state over a lice infestation administrators didn't do enough to address.
"We had approximately 15 students with lice," Ponce said. "Sometimes I would stop teaching students. I would stop and pull them out. I would say, 'This is what I found on your child's head.'"
"It got to the point where they were forcing our clients to leave and when they were not leaving they were being demoted and ultimately forced to resign," said Rodney Mesriani, the attorney for the former educators.
The women's attorneys said the school district didn't take action when their clients reported the hostility at the school.
The LAUSD said its legal teams are reviewing both lawsuits and it has no further comment at this time.
Advocacy groups split on how to fight for Child Victims Act
by Kenneth Lovett
ALBANY — Even as they share the goal of helping adults who were sexually abused as children gain justice, advocates have split into separate factions.
On one side is a group led by Kathryn Robb, a survivor, and advocate Marci Hamilton, who have been working behind the scenes with the Cuomo administration on ways to move a bill to make it easier for adult survivors of child sex abuse to bring civil and criminal cases against their attackers.
On the other is Gary Greenberg, an upstate investor and abuse survivor who created a political action committee to help fund candidates who support the Child Victims Act. With him is former model Nikki DuBose, a child abuse survivor. Greenberg is a flame-thrower who has taken aim at lawmakers and Gov. Cuomo, whom he accuses of paying lip service to the issue but not doing much to effect change.
And in the middle are groups like Safe Horizon and the Stop Abuse Campaign that have been more openly critical of Cuomo than the Robb faction but more tempered than Greenberg.
“In any significant movement, you can have multiple groups having the same objective but taking a different angle,” Robb said. “Quite frankly, they can all be beneficial and important to reach the ultimate objective.”
She said each group has its own style.
“I don't necessarily agree with the styles of the other groups,” Robb said. “I see them maybe as less effective. At the same time, people standing up screaming, they do put the legislators in the spotlight.”
Things are so split that a lobbyist for Safe Horizon, Jessica Schafroth, explicitly asked Greenberg not to attend a recent state Capitol press conference on the issue.
“Hi, Gary. The coalition I represent is not comfortable lobbying with you on May 9th,” Schafroth wrote. “Some of your tactics, e.g. a recent (Facebook) post calling the 3 leaders friends of rapists, are not in line with the coalition's values or preferred course of action. While we understand that individual survivors are angry — and have every right to be — the coalition would not like to blur the lines between… itself and the PAC.”
For his part, Greenberg said the other advocates' style of working within the system hasn't worked.
“I'm going to be in the face of these politicians,” Greenberg said. “I don't care. Other people want to play the nicey-nice role. They think that will get them a Child Viictims Act. I don't. Their comments haven't worked for 11 years.”
Safe Horizon's Michael Polenberg said, “We are fully committed to the goal of passing the Child Victims Act, which is why we stand with those who support survivors and why we don't shy away from calling out lawmakers who are obstacles to justice.”
For a long time, Greenberg was aligned with the Stop Abuse Campaign, headed by Andrew Willis and Melanie Blow. But the two sides are now fighting in court. Greenberg sued the non-profit for $25,000 over a dispute regarding an email list of 6,400 abuse victims. Greenberg wants access to the list while the Stop Abuse Campaign argues the people who signed up didn't agree to have their names released to others.
“Anything that isn't directly focused on protecting children, passing this bill that will protect children, is a distraction from what we're all trying to achieve,” said Willis, who warned his group could go out of business if the lawsuit continues.
Greenberg declined comment on the lawsuit.
Robb said the division among the advocates ultimately “reflects the pain and anger advocates, survivors go through.
“It speaks to this now almost 11-year battle and the fact that by and large, the state Senate leadership has ignored a constituency that has been profoundly harmed,” she added.
Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who is the sponsor of the Child Victims Act, likened the split among advocates to what happened during the fight to legalize same-sex marriage.
“This is typical of movements that have such broad public support,” Hoylman said. “It's reasonable to assume people have different opinions when they feel so passionate about an issue like child sex abuse or marriage equality — where it strikes to the heart of who they are.”
Jury Selection Begins in Bill Cosby's Sexual Assault Trial. Here's What You Need to Know
by Maryclaire Dale
Hundreds of potential jurors could be interviewed in Pittsburgh this week as a crucial phase of comedian Bill Cosby's sex assault trial gets underway.
The jury must decide if the 79-year-old actor drugged and molested a Temple University women's basketball team manager at his home near Philadelphia in 2004.
Trial consultant Howard Varinsky believes lawyers will be on guard for celebrity worshippers or jurors who may want to serve to write a book.
Cosby is expected to appear in court as jurors are questioned. His wife and daughters have not attended the pretrial hearings over the last 18 months, although his daughters believe he is being unfairly targeted and that race may play a role in what they call unfair attacks. Cosby says his wife has "never" waivered in her support.
Cosby calls the encounter with accuser Andrea Constand consensual. The felony charge carries a potential 10-year prison term, but Cosby also is focused on the court of public opinion. He told a talk radio host last week that he hopes to clear his name and resume his career as a writer and performer.
Cosby said he does not expect to testify because of fears he would misspeak.
Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill will sequester the jury during the estimated two-week trial because of the frenzied media coverage that is expected. Jurors will be about 300 miles (482 kilometers) from home, across the state in suburban Philadelphia.
The trial starts June 5. One other accuser will be allowed to testify for prosecutors who hope to show that Cosby's encounter with Constand was not accidental but part of a broader pattern of sexual misconduct.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are sexual assault victims unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.
A run-down of what to expect as a dozen jurors and six alternates are selected:
Q: Why is the jury being picked in Pittsburgh?
A: Cosby's lawyers sought an outside jury because the case had been a flash point in the 2015 race for Montgomery County district attorney. Former prosecutor Bruce Castor, the Republican candidate, had declined to charge Cosby a decade earlier. First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele, a Democrat whose office had reopened the case, attacked Castor over the Cosby case in campaign ads.
Q: What will it be like to serve on the jury?
A: In a rare move, the jury will be sequestered near the courthouse in Norristown, some 300 miles (482 kilometers) away from their homes. Court officers will keep close tabs on their cellphone use, TV time and reading material, given the huge media coverage the case will bring. The trial is expected to last about two weeks, but could go longer if rebuttal witnesses are called or the jury struggles to reach a verdict.
Q: What type of jurors will the defense seek?
A: The defense will likely seek jurors who are black, male, older and perhaps celebrity worshippers, in the view of jury consultant Howard Varinksy, who advised prosecutors in the murder trials of Scott Peterson, who was convicted of murdering his pregnant wife, Timothy McVeigh and others. Black jurors may be more willing to doubt police and prosecutors, while older jurors may blame the victim for being in the married Cosby's home, he said. Celebrity worshippers may be sympathetic or try to form a connection to the star, relating to the fact they once saw them in a store or come from the same hometown or have children the same age.
Q: How about the prosecution?
A: Younger jurors may have more modern views of sexual assault cases, especially those, like Cosby's, that involve acquaintance situations or a delay in contacting police. Varinsky expects about one in four jurors to say they or someone close to them has been the victim of a sexual assault. Those individuals would likely be dismissed by the judge.
Q: How much leeway does each side have to pick jurors?
A: Either side can ask the judge to strike a potential juror for cause, without it counting against them. That might include jurors who admit having a biased view of the case, or have a hardship — a medical condition, family obligation or financial or job situation — that prevents them from serving. After that, each side can strike seven jurors and three alternates without cause, simply because they sense they fear they would hurt their sides.
Q: Will the jurors be identified?
A: Judge Steven O'Neill plans to keep the jurors' names private. However, the press will be covering the proceedings, reporting on both the nature of the arguments over jury selection and the willingness of people to serve in the high-profile case.
Q: What should I watch for?
A: —Jurors too eager to serve in a celebrity case. Some may even hope to write a book afterward, if past cases are any guide.
—Can the parties find 18 people without strong feelings about the case or Cosby's career? Do they express fond memories of benevolent TV dad Cliff Huxtable or cartoon character Fat Albert? Or are they bitter about Cosby's scolding of the young black community?
—Is the jury pool familiar with the scores of other Cosby accusers? Are people being truthful if they say they're not, given the widespread media coverage?
—What's the final breakdown in terms of men/women; old/young; black/white/other? gay/straight? (Cosby is 79, black, long-married, a father of five, American and a career entertainer. Trial accuser Andrea Constand is 43, white, single, gay, Canadian and a basketball professional-turned-massage therapist.)
—Will politics come into play, subtly or not? Given sex assault allegations raised against President Donald Trump, and his vulgar comments caught on tape about grabbing women, will lawyers try to glean the jurors' political leanings?
Q: Will jurors hear from Cosby during the trial?
A: Cosby told an interviewer this past week that he does not expect to testify, given his fear of wading into trouble while trying to be truthful during cross-examination.
Child abuse reports continue to surge in Allegheny County
by Julian Routh
Reports of child abuse continued to surge into the state's hotline in 2016, but no county saw a greater influx than Allegheny.
County-by-county data from the department reveals that Allegheny County's children and youth agency received 414 more reports through ChildLine in 2015 than in the previous year, the highest surge in the state by more than 200 reports. About two-thirds of counties in the state saw an increased number of child abuse reports in 2016, according to the most recent annual child protective services report by the state Department of Human Services.
But the rate at which the county substantiated those reports after investigating them remained low. After opening inquiries into each report, it substantiated about 4 percent of the more than 3,000 it received, the second lowest rate in the state behind only Montour County, which confirmed one report total.
The low rate of substantiation -— when an agency confirms that abuse took place in a manner prohibited under Pennsylvania's child protective services law -— has been fairly consistent over a five-year period, said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice. It also underscores an important question about the child welfare system's readiness to handle such a high volume of cases.
“Do we have a lot of reports that potentially are not the reports the child welfare agency are equipped to deal with? Or do we have reports that really do meet the threshold, but county agencies don't have the resources and wherewithal to keep up with the reports?” Ms. Palm asked. “We don't know the answer to that.”
County agencies have seen a large spike in total reports since 2014, when the state passed a series of laws after the Jerry Sandusky scandal that broadened the state's definition of child abuse and expanded the list of mandated reporters. More than 44,000 total reports were received statewide through ChildLine in 2016, a 50 percent increase from before the laws were enacted.
After the laws went into effect, child protection experts worried that a substantial increase in reports would strain county agencies and caseworkers. The number of general protective services reports, which don't rise to the level of suspected child abuse but indicate a need for intervention, rose above 150,000 in 2016, more than triple the amount received in 2014.
Bruce Noel, intake manager for Allegheny County Children, Youth and Families, said it hasn't been easy.
“I don't know that there was, quite frankly, an understanding of what it would mean locally,” said Bruce Noel, intake manager for Allegheny County Children, Youth and Families. “But also at the ChildLine abuse registry. They had a good deal of difficulty managing the number of reports. So statewide, its been pretty hectic.”
Allegheny's youth agency spent nearly $50 million on child abuse investigations and general protective services assessments in 2016, the highest total in the state and about $16 million more than Philadelphia, the other other county with more than 200,000 children.
But Philadelphia substantiated reports at a percentage 11 points higher than Allegheny. Though representatives from both agencies said their caseworkers simply follow the law when analyzing abuse reports, Ms. Palm said there could be differences county-by-county in how caseworkers are trained and supervised.
“It varies from worker to worker. Some people may see the presence of drugs in a home -— which is not clear-cut child abuse -—they may see it and say they can make the case for substantiation,” Ms. Palm said. “Another worker may not get to that level.”
Mr. Noel said the decision to substantiate a child abuse report isn't up to any one caseworker. It's a team decision involving a group of managers, including county solicitors who serve as consultants on nearly all child abuse determinations.
Child abuse can have life-long consequences
by Dr Boima
Child abuse is the ill-treatment that occurs to children under the age of 18. It includes all types like physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, neglect and other exploitation that can potentially cause harm to the child. Exposure to family violence or involvement in illegal or anti-social activities has also been classified as a form of child abuse.
It is not always easy or obvious to recognise abuse when it is happening, so abuse can go undetected for many years. This is because children who are abused are often times afraid to complain because they feel guilty about the abuse or are just fearful of the perpetrator. Also the perpetrator may be endeared to them that they feel the need to protect them.
Parents or guardians on the other hand can perpetuate abuse too. They may be the ones failing these children by being in denial or just trying to protect the perpetrator especially if it is a respectable family member or a breadwinner or a reputable person in the society.
Health care professionals are trained to pick certain indicators that may scream “abuse”, so any child suspected of being abused should be handed in as soon as possible to be examined by a doctor. However, it may happen that the doctor picks up suspicious signs incidentally on a child brought in for something else, in which case the doctor is inclined to investigate further and obligated (legally) to breach confidentiality and report the case to the police. This kind of child will need immediate help and protection as delay can cause further harm or damage.
The following indicators could indicate malice and should be noted by the community as they could make a good reason for further investigations and assessments;
Unexplained bruises, welts, cuts, abrasions
Unexplained fractures or disclosures
Child who is wary of adults or a particular individual
Child who is violent to animals or other children
Child who is dressed inappropriately to hide bruises or other injuries
Child who is extremely aggressive or extremely withdrawn
Child who cannot recall how the injuries occurred or gives inconsistent explanations
Children who have;
Torn, stained or bloody underclothing
Bruises, lacerations, redness, swelling or bleeding in genital, vaginal or anal area
Blood in urine or faeces
Sexually transmitted disease
Unusual or excessive itching or pain in the genital or anal area
Age-inappropriate sexual play with toys, self, others
Bizarre, sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge
Comments such as “I've got a secret”, or “I don't like Uncle”
Fire lighting by boys
Fear of certain places eg bedroom or bathroom
Promiscuity or prostitution
Uses other younger children in sexual acts
Try to make self as unattractive as possible
Bed-wetting or bed soiling that has no medical cause
Frequent psychosomatic complaints (eg. Headaches, nausea, abdominal pains)
Prolonged vomiting or diarrhoea
Has not attained significant developmental milestones
Dressed differently from other children in the family
Has deprived physical living conditions compared with other children in the family
Suffers from severe developmental gaps
Severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, withdrawal or aggression
Severe symptoms of self destructive behaviour – self harming, suicide attempts, engaging in drug or alcohol abuse
Overly compliant; too well-mannered; too neat and clean
Displays attention seeking behaviours or displays extreme inhibition in play
When at play, behaviour may model or copy negative behaviour and language used at home
Inappropriate dress for the weather
Extremely dirty or unbathed
Inadequately supervised or left alone for unacceptable periods of time
May have severe nappy rash or other persistent skin disorders or rashes resulting from improper care or lack of hygiene
Demonstrates severe lack of attachment to other adults
Poor school attendance or school performance
Poor social skills
May steal food
Is very demanding of affection or attention
Has no understanding of basic hygiene
Children who are most likely to get abused are;
Under 4 years
Children born out of wedlock or step kids
Unwanted or failing to fulfil parents' expectations
Children with special needs
People who are most likely to inflict abuse are;
People who have been abused as children
Alcoholics/ substance abusers
Mental illness sufferers
Adults that lack awareness of child development
People in dysfunctional or broken marriages/parenthood
People in isolation (lacking support network)
People experiencing financial difficulties (unemployment or poverty)
Facebook accused of failing to protect children after 'alarming' policies on moderating child abuse revealed
Videos of non-sexual child abuse shared on the social network are not removed, but marked as "disturbing"
by Sophie Curtis
Facebook has been accused of failing to protect children, after a trove of documents leaked by The Guardian newspaper revealed the social network's policies on dealing with child abuse.
According to Facebook's internal moderation manuals, videos of non-sexual child abuse shared on the social network will not be removed, but marked as "disturbing".
This could include images of anyone under the age of 18 being kicked, beaten, slapped, bitten, burned, cut, poisoned, strangled, suffocated or drowned.
Videos of toddlers being tossed, rotated or shaken are also permitted, as well those showing toddlers smoking or being encouraged to smoke either tobacco or marijuana by an adult.
Facebook's justification for allowing this content to remain on its platform is that it can help the children in the videos to be rescued.
"We allow 'evidence' of child abuse to be shared on the site to allow for the child to be identified and rescued, but we add protections to shield the audience," it states.
The only time imagery child abuse is removed is if its is "shared with sadism and celebration".
The revealations come after a string of violent attacks were broadcast live on the social network.
Last month a man in Thailand streamed himself on the site hanging his 11-month-old daughter and killing himself.
Wuttisan Wongtalay, 20, accused Jiranuch Trirat, 21, of cheating on him before disappearing with their child Beta.
He climbed to the top of the building with the child before beginning a Facebook live stream. Harrowing footage shows Mr Wongtalay climb down the side of the building to retrieve the dying infant's body before killing himself.
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has made repeated promises that the company wants to improve its processes as regards live streaming.
Earlier this month, the tech giant revealed plans to hire 3,000 people over the next year to monitor reports of inappropriate material.
However, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has condemned Facebook's approach, describing them as "alarming".
"This insight into Facebook's rules on moderating content is alarming to say the least," a spokesperson for the charity said.
"It needs to do more than hire an extra 3,000 moderators. Facebook, and other social media companies, need to be independently regulated and fined when they fail to keep children safe."
Facebook's internal manual on non-sexual child abuse content
Ohio Couple Vanishes During Trial Before Being Convicted of Breaking 25 Bones of Infant Daughter
by Stever Helling
(Pictures on site)
On March 1, 2014, Kayla Fannon took her injured infant daughter to an Ohio emergency room. According to police, doctors quickly determined that the 4-month-old child should be taken to the hospital.
When doctors called the police, investigators determined that Fannon and her boyfriend, Samuel A. Thompson, had caused serious injury to their daughter over the first few months of her life.
“It was found that the infant had in excess of 25 broken bones to her ribs, legs, fingers, arms, toes, shoulders and multiple skull fractures, in various stages of healing, as well as a significant brain injury,” Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said in a statement.
The couple had their parental rights terminated, and the child was permanently placed with the Athens County Children Services. “The infant was adopted by her foster parents,” Blackburn said. “She has shown significant progress over the last two-and-a-half years.”
Fannon, 26, and Thompson, 31, were each charged with two counts each of endangering children and one count each of permitting child abuse. All the charges were felony offenses.
The couple initially appeared in court on May 8 for their jury selection. The appeared for most of the trial, and Fannon even testified on her own behalf on May 11.
But the next day, the defendants did not show up in court. Judge George McCarthy ordered nationwide arrest warrants for both of them. The prosecution and defense then continued the trial, even though the defendants were missing.
On Wednesday, the jury found the couple guilty on all counts. They face up to 14 years in prison. Their attorneys did not respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
Yet the couple remains on the run.
“Kayla Fannon and Samuel Thompson will not be fully held accountable for their actions until they are arrested and brought before the court for sentencing,” Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said in a statement. “Anyone with information as to their whereabouts is urged to contact the Athens County Prosecutor's Office at (740) 592-3208.”
New campaign launched to tackle child sexual abuse and exploitation in Sheffield
by Claire Lewis
A new campaign has been launched today to tackle child sexual abuse and exploitation in Sheffield. The NSPCC and Sheffield's Safeguarding Children Board have launched a year-long campaign aimed at raising awareness of abuse and exploitation, and to improve cross-organisational working in the fight against sexual offences committed against children.
Jane Haywood, of Sheffield's Safeguarding Children Board, said: “This campaign goes to the heart of our work to prevent child sexual exploitation and abuse.
“It's Not Okay, builds on our partnership work with colleagues from Sheffield City Council, South Yorkshire Police, health and the voluntary sector to help make sure that children, young people and parents are able to recognise the signs and indicators of child sexual exploitation, as well as raise awareness of the issue with people of all ages across the city, helping to protect future generations."
The Catholic Church has done more damage than ISIS
by Mick Armstrong
Cardinal George Pell and his supporters, such as Tony Abbott, claim that the latest police investigations into allegations of child sexual abuse are part of an ongoing witch-hunt against him.
It is true that the Catholic church, and in particular Pell, have received a bucketing in sections of the mainstream press over the long history of child sexual abuse and the cover-up of the perpetrators by church authorities.
But given the scale of the sexual and physical atrocities that went on for so many decades, the tens of thousands of lives ruined, the untold numbers of suicides, self-harm and drug abuse, it has to be said that the church has got off remarkably lightly. Its authorities, including Pell, have no serious grounds for complaint.
You just have to compare the treatment of Pell and the rest of the church hierarchy with the ongoing appalling persecution of Muslims.
Despite the widely documented crimes of Catholic institutions, no laws have been passed targeting Catholics. No special changes have been made to citizenship rules to make it more difficult for Catholic immigrants to become Australian citizens. No restrictions have been placed on the movements of Catholics or their ability to obtain passports.
There have been no council bans or vile campaigns against the building of churches or Catholic schools like there have been against the construction of mosques and Muslim schools. No calls by politicians or the press to ban the wearing of the religious attire of nuns – even though the traditional habit worn by Catholic (and Church of England) nuns was virtually the same as the burqa worn by some Muslim women.
No third degree interrogations by Australian Border Force of priests or nuns at airports. No confiscation of the funds of Catholic charities or investigations into how they spend their money. No bans on Catholic parishioners sending money to the Vatican. No Senate investigations (witch-hunts) into Catholic religious practices like the one into halal food certification that provided Cory Bernardi and other right wing bigots with a platform to further demonise Muslims.
Years ago, Catholics faced blatant discrimination in Australia. But that is no longer the case. ASIO and the state police stopped monitoring the sermons of Catholic priests and the content of religious classes in Catholic schools decades ago. Muslims are the target today.
The persecution of Muslims increases by the year, yet the number of lives destroyed in Australia by Muslim fundamentalists is absolutely minuscule compared to the tens of thousands of lives the Catholic Church authorities are responsible for destroying.
For untold decades, Catholic priests, brothers and nuns carried out systematic sexual abuse of children (leave aside the physical abuse of repeated canings, bashings and strappings), which was covered up by leading church officials such as bishop Ronald Mulkearns of Ballarat and archbishop Frank Little of Melbourne. They intimidated or bribed or refused to believe anyone – children, parents, teachers or conscientious priests and nuns – who dared to complain.
According to father Noel Brady, cardinal Pell was directly involved in trying to silence honest priests. Brady was assistant parish priest at St Mary's in Dandenong (Melbourne) when, after meeting up with a number of the victims of sexual abuse, he decided to speak out.
“I spoke out about it at Dandenong in Mass in November 1992 and I was given a round of applause”, Brady told Fairfax journalist Louise Milligan. When he continued to speak out, Brady received a phone call from his superior, then bishop Pell, telling him to shut up about it.
The police and state authorities were heavily involved in the cover-ups and also did their bit to intimidate whistleblowers and victims of abuse. The police chiefs forced out or moved aside cops who wanted seriously to investigate allegations of abuse.
Of course it has not been just the Catholic Church. All around the world, virtually every supposedly respectable institution in capitalist society – the wealthy private schools, the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, the BBC, government-run orphanages, all the institutions in which people were supposedly being cared for by the state, innumerable charities, all the mainstream churches, the exclusive clubs of the rich, hospitals, the police force and the armed forces – have been involved in blatant ongoing sexual abuse and cover-ups.
Fundamentally, this reflects the enormous imbalance of power in our society between the mass of workers and the oppressed (especially children) and those who control and manage the key institutions of capitalist rule. The rich and powerful and their favourites, such as Rolf Harris, treat the rest of us as their playthings to push around, abuse and exploit. They close ranks to attempt to cover up scandals that might seriously harm their “reputation”.
Occasionally the scandal is so appalling that a few changes have to be made and a scapegoat or two offered up – but only to buttress a system whose continued existence ensures there will continue to be more such atrocities.