Teen Dating, Early Detection of Domestic Violence Tendencies
by Jim McCarty
CREST HAVEN – “2015 proved to be particularly deadly to domestic violence victims in our state. According to the New Jersey State Police, there were 49 domestic violence homicides in New Jersey in 2015, an increase of 16 percent,” according to a release from Nicole Morella, executive director of Public Policy and Communications for the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence.
Those statistics do not include deaths that were related to domestic abuse such as suicides, deaths of first responders, or child fatalities.
The 2015 “Domestic Violence in New Jersey Report” indicates that Cape May County reported 457 domestic-related assaults, 34 terroristic threats, and six sexual assaults in that year.
These numbers reflect a stable reporting dynamic, although most professionals in the field believe that domestic abuse incidents are still significantly under-reported.
Females were the victims of these crimes 74 percent of the time. Drug and alcohol usage was involved in 33 percent of those assaults, 42 percent of the threats offenses and 24 percent of homicides statewide.
There is another aspect to the problem of domestic violence that needs attention. That is, how does the pattern of domestic violence get its start? What can parents and especially teens, boys and girls, do to break that pattern at an early age?
Teen Dating Violence
According to the N.J. Domestic Violence Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board, “Teen Dating Violence (TDV) is defined as (a pattern of) physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence within a dating relationship including stalking, harassment, and financial abuse (that is often expressed to coerce and control the victim, isolating her/him from friends and family while degrading them and depriving them of the right to act autonomously and independently without fear of reprisal or harm). It can occur in-person or electronically (phone, text and email) and might occur between a current or former dating partner.”
Early Start to Teen Dating Violence
According to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), 22 percent of female and 15 percent of male adult survivors of sexual assault, physical violence and/or stalking at the hands of an intimate partner reported their first experience with intimate partner violence that occurred between the ages of 11 and 17.
Only one-half of teens ever report violent or abusive relationships; 21 percent of all female teens report physical or sexual abuse while dating.
Teen Awareness, Prevention
Abuse at such an early time in the social development of children can trigger other injuries besides the physical pain of violence. Victims also experience depression and/or anxiety, engage in anti-social behavior and are prone to alcohol or drug usage.
The Coalition Against Rape and Abuse (CARA) has published a “Dating Bill of Rights” that all teens should consider carefully.
These rights can serve to raise awareness among teens and parents so that the pattern of TDV can be prevented.
The Dating Bill of Rights
I have a right to my own separate identity.
I have a right to have my own friends and hobbies.
I have a right to speak my mind, even if it means disagreeing with my partner.
I have a right to change my mind.
I have a right to express my feelings.
I have a right to decide where I go and what I do on a date.
I have a right to refuse to do anything that makes me feel uncomfortable.
I have a right to pursue my dreams.
I have a right to live without fear of my partner.
I have a right to end the relationship at any time.
According to the Review Board, “Jealousy that goes beyond normal feelings and is controlling, blaming others for their problems, never admitting wrongdoing, cruelty to animals, holding rigid beliefs about the roles of the sexes, are early indicators of a TDV problem.
"Teens often perceive certain behaviors as harmless, such as teasing and name calling, as normal parts of a relationship,” but these behaviors become demeaning, they can also be red flags that may indicate a problem.
Prevention, Awareness Not Just for Girls
Girls are disproportionately the victims of teen domestic violence. CARA wants to ensure that they are aware of the warning signs early in their social development.
But CARA also wants boys to take steps to avoid starting down a path that can end in violence as a teen, and later as an adult.
CARA poses these questions for boys to ask themselves:
Do you have a problem controlling your anger?
Have you hit or hurt someone you care about?
Have you lost friends because of the abusive way you acted?
It's important for you to reject the idea that physical abuse is okay before it gets worse.
If you are abusive to a girlfriend, stop it now.
Talk to a school counselor and ask for help to change your behavior. It's also not okay for your girlfriend to treat you in abusive ways.
If parents or teens wish to explore Teen Dating Violence in greater depth, they can visit the Coalition Against Rape and Abuse (CARA) at http://www.cara-cmc.org/outreach.htm or the NJ Domestic Violence Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board at www.njcedv.org.
Cosby trial puts U.S. states' sex-crime prosecution laws in focus
The opening of Bill Cosby's sex assault trial on Monday highlights a quirk of the U.S. legal system, in which standards vary widely from state to state on how much time prosecutors have to file criminal charges after an alleged assault.
State statutes of limitations on prosecuting sex assault vary widely - from California, which has no limits, to New York, where prosecutors must bring charges within five years for many attacks on adults.
Advocates for sex-assault victims say feelings of shame after an attack can delay people from reporting alleged assaults, particularly if they are victimized as children.
The clergy sex-abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic church, which burst onto the international stage in 2002, prompted calls to reform laws on prosecuting child sex abuse. The Cosby case, in which only one of dozens of alleged assaults is subject to prosecution, has prompted a new focus on the limitations of prosecuting cases involving adults.
"I had never been asked about adult rape statutes of limitations until the Cosby cases," said Marci Hamilton, CEO of Child USA, who has researched child sexual abuse and legal limitations for more than 15 years. "It literally kick-started the conversation."
Here is a look at the complicated rules of criminally prosecuting sex crimes:
* California in December passed a law to eliminate time restrictions for prosecuting rape and many other sexual offenses, against adults. Previously, the state had a 10-year statute of limitation for assaults on adults and gave prosecutors until the victim turned 40 to prosecute abuse suffered as a child.
* About 10 states, including Delaware, Wyoming and South Carolina, have eliminated the statutes of limitations for felony sex crimes against adults, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, a national anti-sexual violence organization.
* Thirty-seven states, including Arizona and Virginia, have eliminated time limits on prosecuting child rape, according to Child USA.
* New York has some of the shortest prosecution deadlines for adults. Many sex crimes other than first-degree rape, including when a person is unable to give consent to sex because they were intoxicated, must be charged within five years if the victim is an adult. The state allows more time if the victim was a child or was drugged.
Children of sin: Quebec and Irish orphans share stories of abuse under care of Catholic Church
On both sides of ocean, babies born to unwed women in 1940s and 50s abandoned to Church-run institutions
by Jaela Bernstien
In a tucked-away office at Montreal's Concordia University, a video conference connects two groups of survivors separated by an ocean but linked by their so-called "illegitimate" births — Quebec's Duplessis Orphans and the survivors of Ireland's Mother and Baby Homes.
One by one, they introduce themselves, starting with their names and where they were born: Mount Providence orphanage in Montreal, Saint Patrick's Home in Dublin, Baie-Saint-Paul orphanage in Quebec.
Communication is slow and halting; the Quebecers speak French, the Irish, English. Some never learned to read or write.
But when survivors hear the familiar story — even in a foreign language — they nod along.
On both sides of the ocean, children born to women out of wedlock were abandoned to institutions run by the Catholic Church, in many cases falsely labelled as mentally deficient and abused sexually and physically for years.
"When you [are] a bastard … [it's like] being born into a garbage can," says Quebecer Louis-Joseph Hébert, or Nestor, as he prefers to be called.
"You never have a happy life. Nobody will know you. You will be the dirt of the society."
He says the nuns gave him the surname Hébert, just like every other baby born in the same month as he was.
Nestor wishes he could cry about the abuse that he suffered and witnessed during his childhood, but he can't.
"I have trouble to cry when I have a big emotion. [I would be] so happy if I could cry."
When he cried as a child, he says, the nuns beat him.
Even as an adult, it's something he can't shake.
Nestor and his fellow Quebec survivors were born in or turned over to Catholic-run institutions in the 1940s and 50s. They lived out their childhood — and in many cases, their early adult years as well — in orphanages-turned-psychiatric institutions.
They were labelled as psychiatric patients as part of a plan by then-premier Maurice Duplessis to obtain federal subsidies.
As the Duplessis Orphans shared those stories during Thursday's video conference, the Dublin survivors chimed in with similar anecdotes.
They pointed to birth records and medical documents that declared them mentally deficient.
The parallels are striking — both groups have stories of physical and sexual abuse, being forced to take medication and to perform hard labour as children — all because, as they put it, the Church regarded them as "children of sin."
They paid the price, says Nestor.
"We never did nothing wrong to God," he protests. "I didn't even know Him. My eyes weren't even open, I was in the stomach of my mother."
The Catholic Church has never offered a specific apology to the Duplessis Orphans.
In 2001, then-Quebec premier Bernard Landry offered compensation and apologized for the "sombre episode in our history."
In 2006, the Quebec government announced it would pay a further $26 million in compensation.
Survivors were required to sign a waiver declaring that, in exchange, they would not take legal action against the Catholic Church.
Canadian composer connects the dots
It was Canadian composer Alyssa Ryvers who helped connect the Duplessis Orphans to some of the Irish survivors.
She'd worked with the Quebec survivors for years, using music to share their stories.
While working in Ireland in March on an unrelated project, she happened to glance at a newspaper headline about the discovery of a mass grave of babies and children in Tuam, County Galway Ireland.
The burial site was found at a former Catholic care home.
"I thought to myself, 'Oh my God, this sounds a lot like what happened here,'" Ryvers said.
She managed to meet a group of adults who'd lived through the Irish care-homes experience, and she was struck by how their stories echoed those of the Duplessis Orphans.
"Sitting around those survivors, it was the weirdest thing.... There was just this sort of sameness," she says.
Ryvers hopes the first conversation between the two groups leads to something bigger.
"It seems clear that there were some parallels, and we could try to get to the bottom of why those parallels may or may not exist."
"It's going to be interesting to see how things unfold in the next while. I don't think it's the end of it," she says.
Focus on child abuse prevention
In the past four years alone, the state Department of Child Services has added 550 case managers and supervisors in trying to keep up with Indiana's horrifying surge in child abuse and neglect cases. It hasn't been enough.
Even with the additional employees and increased funding, DCS has still failed to comply — for the past six years — with a state law that requires limits on case managers' workloads.
How far short has DCS fallen in meeting the legal standard? Case managers are supposed to handle no more than 17 ongoing cases or 12 initial assessments. Yet, case manager Mary Price, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana in a lawsuit filed against DCS, was responsible for as many as 43 cases at one time in 2015. No one handed that workload, no matter how dedicated and talented, could adequately protect vulnerable children.
Still, it's too simplistic to blame DCS for this problem. The agency has aggressively added workers in the face of a 65 percent increase in the number of suspected abuse and neglect cases since 2010. It will use another $200 million in state funding, approved by the General Assembly and the governor, to hire even more case managers this year and next.
But even that might not be enough to keep up with the need. The explosion in heroin and other opioid addictions across the state continues to strain the ability of state and local agencies, hospitals, law enforcement and nonprofits to cope with the damage.
What can be done? DCS spokesman James Wide hit on the best long-term solution this week when he brought up the need to focus on prevention. The case manager system, by necessity, is set up to be reactive — investigators respond to suspected abuse and neglect. But the state and its nonprofit partners must find ways to better identify and help at-risk kids before they suffer harm.
Preventative measures must address not only abuse but drug addiction as well. Indiana is one of 16 states now receiving Centers for Disease Control funding to reduce overdoses. State leaders need to closely monitor progress on those initiatives and quickly invest more money in the efforts that show progress. Such steps not only can help ease the state's drug abuse epidemic but also better protect kids from neglect and abuse.
Does the state need more child abuse investigators? Without doubt. But continuing to pour more and more resources on the back end of the problem without better confronting the conditions that lead to abuse will yield limited results.
We've tried reacting to this problem and made important but inadequate progress. We need to do a much better job of working to prevent children from ever being hurt in the first place.
We each have a role to play in child abuse prevention
If you find yourself angry after reading the Star-Telegram's special report on confronting child abuse in Tarrant County, you are not alone.
It should make you furious — furious enough to take action of your own.
What the five-month investigation uncovered — 5,162 confirmed cases of child abuse or neglect in Tarrant County, and a shocking number of child deaths ruled undetermined or that remain unsolved — is a clarion call to citizens and community leaders to be more vigilant and involved in protecting our kids.
While Tarrant County has made some strides in helping to protect vulnerable children, it still has the second-highest total number of reported abuse cases among the state's five largest counties.
Even more devastating is the finding that many instances of abuse are entirely preventable.
Most children experience abuse at the hands of a parent or other caretaker, and nearly half of abused children are age 3 or younger.
That means they can't fight back or even report their abuse to another trusted adult.
But in many of the situations highlighted by the reporting, another adult was aware of or at least suspected mistreatment of a child.
And in some cases, CPS officials or law enforcement authorities had similar suspicions but were unable or unwilling to pursue charges against a likely perpetrator.
To be fair, child abuse is a difficult crime to prosecute even after the death of child.
While the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office does not have an eyebrow-raising number of “undetermined” deaths, the classification can hinder or even halt investigations that might help put abusers behind bars before they can claim another victim.
The Tarrant County district attorney's office Special Victims Unit is taking action, filing more cases involving the injury, endangerment, abandonment or death of a child in 2016 than the year prior, but that's hardly a consolation to the victims and families who witness an abuser get away unscathed.
It's easy to point fingers at state and local officials for systemic and enforcement failures. But protecting kids requires more than punishment after abuse has occurred. It requires awareness, prevention and vigilance.
Everyone has a role to play looking out for and reporting abuse.
We owe our kids that much.
Child sexual abuse: Awareness is key, says P.S The Children
by Jane Raj
MELAKA: Awareness is key to the prevention of sexual abuse cases and the ability of both children and parents to recognise these key areas are vital towards eradicating such crimes from society.
These were the focal points that pinpointed areas to be addressed by delegates at the Awareness and Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse talk organised by the Family Life Ministry of Melaka this morning.
Protect and Save The Children Association of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur (P.S. The Children) head of training Elizabeth Gnanapragasam raised the four core steps towards prevention of child sexual abuse.
"We need to talk about it, prevent opportunity, recognise the signs, react responsibly," said Elizabeth.
"Do let your child know from young, no one should touch their private parts. Sometimes the touch itself might feel uncomfortable, they should be taught to say 'No'," she said.
She added that parents should be aware of a child's emotional state and thoughts because the offender could come from anyone, from those known by victims to those within their own families.
"A child tends to show signs through emotional and behavioural signs which are common. Physical signs may not be common, but it is better to bring them to a professional for further check-ups," she said.
She added that sexual abuse can be driven by interest in child pornography, which is in itself sexual abuse, thus child sex abuse now involves non-touching and touching acts.
Children with mental disabilities are the most vulnerable group, she said, for they are not able to understand things that are happening to themselves.
"That is why we must create a safe enviroment where children are not left in one-on-one situation with any adult or older child without any supervision," she said.
She also spoke on the grooming process towards a child, which offenders carry out in four stages starting with finding a opportunity, targetting a child, introducing physical touches and finally sexual touches.
Online grooming is now one of the popular means where paedophiles target children, where it is done through several social media sites and applications.
"We call this sexting, where the offender shares explicit information to a child through the internet," said Elizabeth.
"Talk to your kids about the dangers of sending nude pictures to anyone because it can be a threat for them in the future," she said.
"Some children tend to not inform their parents when such things happen to them, because they fear diclosure, further harm, remembering, being blamed, shame, and losing love."
Elizabeth said if an abuse has taken place, parents should believe in their child, be calm and prepare the child on what will happen next.
Future plans for the association would be creating more talks and raising awareness, to help reduce the chances of offenders getting the children.
Breaking the wall of poverty: Catching it early on
by Nathan Owens
EL DORADO — Early brain development in children who come from adverse circumstances: poor living conditions, temporary housing, or unstable families; are facing high chances of being unable to adapt to the outside world and lead healthy lives — a path that close to 30 percent of the city's population have faced.
In 2012, roughly 700,000 children in the nation were classified as victims of abuse or neglect, probably more, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In 2016, the number of Arkansas Children living in poverty decreased, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which measures child welfare in four domains: economic wellness, education, health, and family and community.
One factor countering child abuse in Arkansas is foster homes and willing families.
Currently there are 69 reported children from Union County in the foster care system, with an average of more than a hundred annually, said Shaneil PJ Yarbrough, executive director for the Agape House Children's Home — the only group home in the county.
Agape House, located at 1838 Morning Star Road, is able to house up to seven children with one supervisor, and with two supervisors the group can manage eight children. A benefit of a children's home is that it can cater to siblings who want to stay together, Yarbrough said.
A former foster child herself, she said, there's a correlation between families living in poverty and children in foster care.
“I think a large portion of them come from a poverty stricken family,” Yarbrough said. “Just knowing what I know now, that would be something I'm willing to say is definitely a factor.”
Studies show that children living in poverty begin to exhibit lower cognitive and academic readiness, are more likely to repeat a grade, be expelled from school, are prone to chronic health problems, and it can have lasting effects on brain structure — persisting even into adulthood, according to First Focus, a non-partisan advocacy organization.
“My many years in childhood development, the formative years are zero to five, therefore in traumatic situations and abusive events it certainly can affect how they develop,” Yarbrough said.
Not all parents who live in poverty abuse their children, but it can lead to unhealthy stress brought on by difficult access to necessary resources like food, water and shelter, said Karen Langston, Union County coordinator for The Call, a Christian organization that connects families with local children in foster care.
An ongoing issue for foster children is the amount of available housing in Union County. About half of the 69 children in the foster care system are housed within the county, the other half are placed with families and group homes outside of the county, potentially in another region of the state, Langston said.
In result, the children from El Dorado who are living in a foster home outside of the county are further away from their familiar world and are ineligible for the El Dorado Promise Scholarship.
Currently, there are 22 foster care families in Union County, each with roughly 2-3 foster children. They are brought into foster care due to three main reasons: child neglect; drug abuse within the family; and traumatic family events, like evictions and deaths in the family, Yarbrough said.
In Union County, primarily children are placed in foster care because poor young families who abuse drugs are raising them, Langston said, with child neglect being the second most-likely cause.
“Very seldom do we see environmental neglect, but that doesn't mean we don't see it” she said.
If a child isn't raised in a healthy environment, then people are assisting the problem that persists at the county, state and national levels.
At the age of 18, foster children grow out of the system that some have become accustomed to, and they have the option to continue into transitional housing or walk out. Most, when of age, try it alone without a grasp of their identity and make inevitable mistakes, Langston said.
“Then we have this population that's uneducated without a family to back them up,” she said, adding later. “If this system has taken care of these kids for so long, where else are they going to go?”
This is part 3 of a series touching on poverty in the city of El Dorado. All reporting was finished as of May 16, 2017. The series will touch on issues within the city, poverty on a personal level, organizations in place to help, and an answer to an ongoing dilemma throughout the country.
‘Just Ask' shining light on teen sex trafficking problem in Fairfax Co.
by Kathy Stewart
The crime of teen sex trafficking is not going away. In fact, it's only getting worse, experts say. One part of the solution is education.
WASHINGTON — The crime of teen sex trafficking is not going away. In fact, it's only getting worse, according to Deepa Patel, a licensed clinician and executive director of Trauma and Hope in Springfield, Virginia, who works with trafficking victims.
But one way to battle the issue is to raise awareness.
That's exactly what community leaders, law enforcement, students, parents and concerned residents did on Saturday morning as they kicked off the county's inaugural teen sex trafficking awareness walk/run on the grounds of the county government center.
They came together to shine a light on a problem people either don't know about or don't want to talk about.
Jodi O'Hern with Just Ask Prevention Project to end teen sex trafficking spoke to the crowd before the event got underway Saturday morning.
“Many of you don't know that we have had trafficking victims from every single high school in this country, many victims from many middle schools and some elementary schools, some children as young as 9-years old,” she said. “It's tragic isn't it?”
She said the only way to eradicate the problem in Fairfax County and in the U.S. is to talk about it.
The Just Ask nonprofit was created by detectives from the Fairfax County Police Department and brings together county agencies, schools, and community leaders to educate and raise awareness about human trafficking in Northern Virginia.
The walk/run was organized by Just Ask.
According to the Just Ask website, the FBI lists teen sex trafficking as the second-fastest growing crime in the country and Northern Virginia is one of the top hot spots for teen trafficking.
Liz Payne is a volunteer with Just Ask Prevention and also works with Fairfax County Public Schools as the curriculum coordinate for health education. She said Just Ask works with the schools and does a lot of community outreach about teen sex trafficking.
The walk grew out of those community outreach efforts, according to Payne.
Another issue with teen sex trafficking is that gangs like MS-13 are very involved. So much so that soon, sex trafficking might eclipse their drug traffic trade.
“It's really profitable for them,” Payne said. “You know when you sell a drug that it's done. When they sell children, they sell individuals in prostitution, it's an ongoing product they can use again and again and again.”
Fairfax County police Detective Bill Woolf agreed that the gangs are cashing in on this dark crime, which targets mainly girls.
“The gangs in general are shifting to human trafficking as a source of revenue. It's a higher yield and less risk,” he said.
In 2009, while working as a detective dealing with gangs in Northern Virginia, he learned about the problem of teen sex trafficking and how pervasive it was in Fairfax County. Since then, he's been a force fighting to eradicate it.
He said it's his goal.
Woolf said he's learned from interviewing teen sex trafficking victims that prevention is possible.
Several years ago, they recovered a 17-year-old girl from a Fairfax County hotel who had been trafficked for three years in Northern Virginia, Woolf said.
The teen told them she had both parents at home and she'd been living at home during the trafficking.
They asked her how it was possible for her to be trafficked for three years.
She told Woolf that, during that time, she had a counselor and she was going to school and talking to her teachers.
During the three years that she was being exploited in Northern Virginia, there were people who were engaged in her life.
Woolf asked her how was it possible that this happened to her.
“Nobody asked, nobody asked me what was going on,” she said. “If somebody would have just asked I wouldn't have been a victim.”
That's how the non-profit got its name: Just Ask.
Woolf said prevention starts with education. He also said at least more than one victim who talked to him said they might not have been a victim if they simply knew about trafficking.
“If someone talked to [them] and educated [them] about the issue,” Woolf said.
He said the goal is to educate everybody about the realities of trafficking. That it's real and it's happening right here.
The proof, Woolf said, is that law enforcement recovered more than 200 victims in the Northern Virginia area over the last two years.
Just Ask has an list of local resources on human trafficking on their site.
Cyclist spreads awareness of sex trafficking with ride across America, stops in Iredell
by Megan Strague
Richie Wolfe pedaled his way through Mooresville last week, making a quick stop in town as he continues to bike across America to raise awareness about the problem of sex trafficking.
Wolfe, 26, who lives in Kansas City, has been an avid cyclist since he was a child, but started doing long-distance rides at the age of 19.
“In high school, I did a 100-mile ride for MS (multiple sclerosis),” he said. “In 2011, I rode from Kansas City to Illinois, and I also did a bike ride along the coast of California in 2014.”
Those expeditions left Wolfe eager to try a cross-country tour, so in 2015, he started mapping a route and saving up funds.
“I finally set a date for April 1, 2017, and decided I was going to go for it, no matter what,” he said. “But then I started thinking about whether I was just doing this for myself, or if I wanted to raise funds to help someone else.”
Wolfe said he decided to “make the whole thing really worthwhile” and do the ride for charity. After speaking with a friend, he chose to make the 7,000-mile journey into an awareness mission for Restoration House, a nonprofit in Kansas City that serves victims of sex trafficking.
“I learned about sex trafficking in high school, and I know what a huge problem it is in this country,” Wolfe said. “It was a cause already close to my heart, and after talking to a friend that works at Restoration House, I liked what they did and I knew I wanted to spread awareness of the problem.”
Wolfe met with the leadership team at Restoration House before he began his ride, and built a web site, JourneyTowardsHope.com, to document his ride. He was also able to secure a few sponsors to help with expenses, and is now telling “as many people as I can” about the work that Restoration House does.
“Sex trafficking is a huge problem in the U.S., and on my web site, I have statistics and facts for each state,” he said. “I also linked each state's Restoration House, or if they don't have one, a similar nonprofit that does the same type of work, so you can get involved locally.”
Kicking off his ride in Escondido, Calif., Wolfe made it to Mooresville around 6 p.m. last Tuesday, and plans to continue riding north, hitting Maine, heading through part of Canada, and eventually coming back through several northern states to return to San Francisco by late September.
He stopped in Mooresville for a quick break overnight with Jennifer Wilkinson's family, which has mutual friends with Wolfe.
So far, Wolfe said, the journey “has gone pretty smoothly,” with a tire replacement in Austin, Tex., along with a few flat tire fixes and handlebar adjustments.
“I've raised $750 so far, but I'd really like to keep getting the word out there so I can reach my goal of $10,000,” he said.
To follow Wolfe along his journey, send him words of encouragement via email, or to donate to Restoration House, visit JourneyTowardsHope.com.
Stay the course on fight to curb sex trade in Minnesota, nation
A new Minnesota U.S. attorney should be committed to continuing important work on sex trafficking and countering terrorism.
The U.S. attorney's office in Minnesota just wrapped up 21 more indictments of sex traffickers — part of its ongoing work to break up what have become sophisticated, international criminal organizations that exploit immigrant women and girls. To their credit, the exceptional work of prosecutors and investigators has not skipped a beat despite the loss of their former leader, Andrew Luger, who was forced to step down as U.S. attorney after President Trump requested mass resignations months ago.
Now a replacement must be named, and the question of whether and how that work will continue is a significant one. U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken of Minnesota are seeking a replacement to nominate, but one committed to carrying on the work already started. “Sex trafficking has become a horrendous problem in Minnesota and across the nation,” Franken said recently. He said that he and Klobuchar consider it essential to nominate someone who will “continue this important work.”
But this White House has a track record of appointing those with views contrary to the missions of offices they would operate. Minnesotans should make it a point to add their voices to those of their senators, making clear that the vital work this office has done to curb sex trafficking, both of juveniles and young immigrant women, along with its dedicated efforts on countering terrorist extremism, must proceed under a new U.S. attorney.
Acting U.S. Attorney Greg Brooker recently told the Star Tribune Editorial Board that he and his staff are pressing ahead with their work, building on the valuable, intelligence-sharing network forged with other law enforcement agencies and nonprofit organizations. They remain intent on wiping out what has become an organized crime network centered around the cross-country trafficking of modern-day sex slaves.
Sadly, Minnesota has become a hot spot for such exploitation. Brooker said traffickers are drawn by a combination of “tremendous demand here,” and modern airports, roadways and shipping ports. The U.S. attorney, working with Homeland Security, the St. Paul Police Department and a host of others, has uncovered and now is prosecuting one of the largest sex-trafficking rings in the country. Their combined efforts have delivered what one agent called “a gut punch” that now is being followed up by Internal Revenue Service analysis to track the money trail across the world.
These are complicated cases, with webs that span nations and elaborate money-laundering operations that run into tens of millions of dollars. The work, Brooker said, is far from over. Traffickers have the sophistication and resources to create fictional identities for the women they prey upon. They evade U.S. immigration laws by fraudulently obtaining visas. Victims smuggled in then spend years working off the expenses incurred by their traffickers.
And now a marquee event is coming. The Super Bowl has become an unwilling magnet for sex traffickers and soon will land in Minneapolis. That will require a ramping up of investigative work, not a pullback.
A new U.S. attorney will, of course, have his or her own objectives for the office. But the efforts to curb international sex trafficking here and across the country have proved their worth: attacking harmful criminal activity, revealing weaknesses in the immigration system and halting the violation of basic human rights. That work must go on.
Ex-Penn State officials face sentencing today in Sandusky scandal
by Marc Levy
Former Penn State President Graham Spanier and two other former school administrators are to be sentenced Friday on charges of child endangerment for failing to report a 2001 allegation about Jerry Sandusky to authorities in a child sex abuse scandal that first broke more than five years ago.
Prosecutors are seeking jail time for Spanier, 68, with sentencing guidelines calling for up to a year in prison. His lawyers are pushing for probation.
Spanier, who was convicted at a jury trial, has said he plans to appeal.
Former athletic director Tim Curley, 63, and former vice president Gary Schultz, 67, each pleaded guilty.
Prosecutors say the men hushed up an allegation about Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a football team shower in 2001 to protect the university's reputation.
As a result, they said, the former assistant football coach went on to victimize more boys.
All three men denied they were told the encounter in the shower was sexual in nature.
Prosecutors dropped more serious charges against Curley and Schultz as a result of their pleas, and agreed they would not recommend a sentence for them. But in documents filed on the eve of the sentencing, they assailed the two men over their testimony at Spanier's trial.
They suggested that Curley was purposely forgetful, and that it defied common sense that Schultz seemed unwilling to acknowledge the sexual nature of the allegation about Sandusky.
Spanier's trial revolved around testimony by an ex-graduate coaching assistant, Mike McQueary, who said he reported seeing Sandusky molesting a boy in 2001.
Sandusky was not arrested until 2011, after an anonymous email to a county prosecutor led investigators to approach McQueary. Sandusky was found guilty the next year of sexually abusing 10 boys and is serving a prison sentence of 30 to 60 years while he appeals his conviction. At least four victims at Sandusky's trial said they were molested after 2001.
The scandal led to the firing of beloved football coach Joe Paterno shortly after Sandusky's arrest, and he died of cancer two months later at the age of 85.
The Hall of Fame coach was never charged with a crime, but a report commissioned by the university concluded he was part of an effort to keep a lid on the allegations against Sandusky for fear of bad publicity.
Penn State's football program suffered heavy sanctions from the NCAA, and the university has paid out nearly a quarter-billion dollars in fines, court verdicts, settlements and other costs.
McQueary testified about how he went to Paterno a day after the shower encounter to discuss what he had seen. Paterno notified Curley and Schultz, and McQueary met with both of them about a week later. In his 2011 grand jury testimony, Paterno said he was told by McQueary the encounter involved "fondling" and was of "a sexual nature," but wasn't sure what the act was.
The prosecution's key evidence included notes and email exchanges in which Curley, Schultz and Spanier debated what to do after McQueary's report.
Ultimately, they agreed not to contact child welfare authorities. That decision formed the heart of the case against the administrators.
Breaking the Silence: A child abuse survivor's story
by Shelby Fenster
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -- In 2016, the Child Advocacy Center saw 1,092 child victims. One of those victims has decided to share her story with 1011 News, in hopes other victims will come forward.
We'll call her Kasey to protect her identity. Kasey's abuse began about 5 years ago.
"He just did some bad things and it wasn't right for a kid that was only 11 or 12,” she said.
After another victim came forward, a then 14-year-old Kasey made her first visit to the Child Advocacy Center.
"I didn't feel like I was comfortable enough to say anything at first, because I didn't know what to say… I told them nothing had happened and it wasn't true."
The other victim's experience was enough to put her offender behind bars for more than 2 years.
"I didn't even know he was coming home right away. So I got surprised and I got a little nervous when he came there and I kind of didn't want to say anything at first."
Like so many other survivors Kasey knew her offender -- she lived with him.
With time, the abuse began again.
"He made me do some illegal things. And I told my mom about it."
Almost two years after her first visit to the CAC ahead of Kasey's 16th birthday – she was ready to come forward with her story.
“At first it was a little nerve-wracking because it was finally my time to tell them what was actually happening. And I felt relieved after I was interviewed because it was just a load that was taken off of me that someone finally knew what had happened."
Kasey was then paired with an advocate who helped her every step of the way.
"I appreciate her very much. And she doesn't -- she may understand -- but to me, she probably doesn't understand how much she has helped me. With her staying in touch with me, it really assures me that everything is and will be okay in life. And if I ever need anything from her, she is always there for me. And I don't have to be scared to talk to her.”
After more than a year in the court system, Kasey's case finally ended in the fall of 2016. Her offender accepted a plea deal and returned to prison.
"I feel more comfortable since he's been sentenced and taken away. I know he's not going to be back any time soon. So that has really moved me towards moving on with my life. And trying to figure out what I want to do with my life."
While Kasey wasn't in the courtroom for sentencing -- her advocate was.
"She went there for me and told me everything that happened. And she told me that he was going to away for a long time."
By the time he is released, Kasey will be an adult and won't have to worry about living in the same home. Home. A word that stuck out as Kasey spoke about her time spent at the CAC.
“It just felt like home here... I probably wouldn't have made it to be honest. I know my therapist would be there for me but to just have someone reassure me of my life and what I have going for me is just a nice, helpful reminder sometimes. And it's just nice to have someone there for you."
In sharing her story, Kasey has an important message for the far too many victims who have yet to come forward.
“You shouldn't keep living your life like that. It's awful the way kids are treated. And it's awful that the kids feel scared to tell someone. You just have to find someone you trust to tell them."
Every day, for more than a year, Kasey has worn a bright blue bracelet on her right wrist. The bracelet was given to her by another survivor at the CAC.
It reads, “You don't have to be the biggest or the strongest to be the toughest."
Abused Children Slam Minnesota Foster Care Program
by Dionne Cordell-Whitney
MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – Survivors of physical and sexual abuse claim the Minneapolis-area child protection system is among the worst in the country, unable to protect minors from widespread abuse and neglect.
Ten children said to be victims of child abuse or neglect filed a class-action lawsuit, through their adult representatives, against Hennepin County and county officials in Minneapolis federal court on Wednesday.
According to the complaint, Hennepin County has regularly failed to properly investigate reports alleging children have been abuse or neglected. The plaintiffs say the county also has not provided appropriate foster care placement or permanent homes for children who cannot return to their original homes.
“Hennepin County is failing to live up to its responsibilities, and defendants have long been aware that its child protection system has devolved into a confusing, underfunded, and erratic system that inflicts harm on the children it serves on a widespread and measurable basis,” the lawsuit states.
Nevertheless, Hennepin County has allegedly not improved or expanded its services to children still living at home in the past two years.
Instead, the county has increased the number of children who are removed from their homes and who are legally available for adoption, according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs say neither the number of safe and appropriate shelter care and foster care placements nor the number of permanent adoptive homes has increased since 2015.
“Hennepin County's child protection system is among the most deficient child protection systems in the nation,” their lawsuit states.
The children suing Hennepin County range from 4 to 14 years old, and allege the county employs an inadequate number of case workers and fails to provide adequate training.
The turnover rate among child protection case workers is also high, according to the 91-page suit.
Moreover, the county allegedly fails to investigate or even assess the “far too many” reports of alleged abuse.
Many of the investigations and assessments that are conducted are often not completed on time, according to the complaint, and placement of children is also problematic.
“When it is necessary to remove children from their homes, children often languish in an inadequate emergency shelter system and/or are placed in poorly managed and dangerous group homes or foster homes, and many children experience multiple destabilizing moves between foster homes,” the complaint states. “Many of the children who are returned to their homes from foster care are re-abused and re-enter the child protection system.”
Three siblings – T.M., 13, T.E., 9, and A.T., 4 – are all in the care of Hennepin County Department of Human Services and Public Health, and are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
In 2014, they came to the attention of the department after a caller reported that they had witnessed their mother stab their grandmother with a box cutter in her face and arms and pour gasoline on the floor while threatening to burn down the house, according to the complaint.
The day after the incident, the department received a report that T.M. had attempted suicide and that his mother had beaten him, the lawsuit states.
In response, the county made a finding of maltreatment against the mother, but did not remove the children from the home or file a child in need of protection, or CHIPS, petition. The case was instead transferred to a child protection field unit and was eventually closed.
Months later, according to the lawsuit, the Department of Human Services and Public Health received multiples report that T.M. had been punched in the face by his stepdad and had a large bruise above his eye, according to the lawsuit, but the problem wasn't addressed.
“The case was closed almost immediately,” the complaint states. “The department ‘advised' the mother that, if an additional incident happened, she would be held responsible, advised both the mother and stepfather on appropriate physical discipline, and referred the family for voluntary services through the Parent Support Outreach Program, a program run by DHS which provides voluntary services for families whose maltreatment cases were screened out but who have ‘factors that put children at potential risk.'”
Other reports received by the department allegedly said that T.M.'s mother had beaten him by hitting him in the face with a broken broomstick, and that T.E. had run away from home because her mother told her to leave.
“[One] call stated that the mother had instructed T.M. to pour buckets of hot and cold water over T.E. as punishment,” the lawsuit states. “The police who responded to the call noted that the home was unsanitary and filled with garbage.”
Since those incidents, the three siblings say they have been in and out of foster care and shelters.
T.M. is now temporarily staying with his grandparents and both A.T. and T.E. have returned to their mother on a trial home visit, despite concerns about her mental health.
The children say Hennepin County violated their constitutional and statutory rights by not conducting appropriate investigations of reported abuse and not developing a plan to allow them to safely return home.
The plaintiffs also claim the county violated their due-process rights and the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980.
They are represented by James Volling with Faegre Baker Daniels in Minneapolis.
Hennepin County did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.
A Fort Worth doctor changes how the war on child abuse is being waged
by Jeff Caplan
If Dr. Dyann Daley's groundbreaking work proves successful, in 10 years she could well be lauded throughout North Texas — and beyond — as a pioneer in the eradication of child abuse.
A pediatric anesthesiologist, Daley believes she had progressed through the first stages of a potential landmark project that identifies the city's most vulnerable areas for child abuse. Once targeted, preventative action could be implemented to prevent abuse before it occurs, saving hundreds, and ultimately thousands, of at-risk children from long-term physical, emotional and psychological trauma — if not death.
Gauging results will take years of implementation and data collection. Indicators of success will include a gradual decrease in the high number of child abuse cases recorded in Fort Worth and Tarrant County each year, and a rapid increase in the number of cities, counties, hospitals, police departments and social service agencies that take notice, and begin their own research and implementation.
“That's my goal, because that's how we're going to figure out how to prevent child abuse,” Daley said. “The more people we have doing this framework, the more geography that we can cover with this framework, the faster we're going to figure out how to make a positive, preventative impact. So, to me, scale is important. The faster we scale, the faster we'll be able to help some little kid who needs us.”
However, Daley will now watch her creation, The Center for Prevention of Child Maltreatment at Cook Children's Medical Center, carry on her work from somewhere else.
Daley told the Star-Telegram that Cook Children's “invited” her to resign in May because she refused to sign off on a plan to sell the research that is being done by the center.
“I told them ... I would not do that,” Daley said, explaining that it's important for the information to be easily accessible to the child welfare community.
Larry Tubb, a senior vice president with Cook's Center for Children's Health, said they will continue to be a passionate voice for victims of child abuse and neglect.
“While Dr. Daley's characterization of why she left Cook Children's is not accurate, it would be inappropriate for us to debate with her in the media the actual reasons that brought our relationship to an end. Cook Children's conducted a two-year pilot project to study the topic of child maltreatment,” Tubb said in an email. “After a long and thoughtful assessment of the project results through our Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment, we decided to refocus our data, research and programming around child abuse and neglect solely on our six-county primary service area. This is more in keeping with Our Promise, ‘to improve the health of every child in our region.'
“We are committed to using our resources to do this in the most efficient and effective manner possible,” Tubb said.
Daley acknowledged that she has a different vision from Cook Children's on the direction the work should go moving forward.
“It has to be a larger scale or it will take way too long to see what works for prevention. If you do it just in Fort Worth, it could take forever to see what actually works,” Daley said.
Daley said she hopes to continue her work with a national organization that she declined to name.
‘The million-dollar question'
Daley, who joined Cook Children's in 2006, earned the approval of the hospital's board of directors to create the center in 2012.
Following its inception in February 2014, the center has since joined forces with TCU's Department of Criminal Justice in utilizing risk terrain modeling, a type of predictive analytics that pinpoints high-risk areas for child abuse and neglect by analyzing six significant risk factors: poverty, domestic violence, aggravated assaults, runaways, murders and drug crimes.
Areas dealing with a high combination of risk factors have shown to be hot spots for child abuse. The risk terrain modeling used 2013's data of confirmed child abuse cases to see if it could accurately predict 2014's confirmed cases in Fort Worth. Daley said it predicted 98 percent of the cases.
Once these vulnerable areas are identified, the staff at The Center for Child Maltreatment can mobilize, flooding target areas with preventive resources. One example is the city's east side in Stop Six. Donna Floyd, founder of Justin's Place, which aids teenage mothers who lack a support system, issues baby beds provided by Cook Children's to ensure that mothers don't sleep with their newborns. Co-sleeping can lead to suffocation.
“Now you can figure out where are the schools, where are the churches, fire stations, police departments, community centers, any kind of location inside the geography that's high risk where prevention resources could be deployed,” Daley said. “Then, we've been working on this with the state ... you can look to see, OK, all of these services that the state pays for, are they allocated to the people that need them the most? You can start to match up need with actual delivery.”
Espousing preventive measures seems logical. Yet during a blue ribbon state panel in December 2015, Madeline McClure, chief executive of TexProtects, the Texas Association for the Protection of Children, said the state spends about $60 million annually on prevention of abuse, but a staggering $1.4 billion on its aftermath.
A report released last month by the Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing at the University of Texas at Austin shows that receiving services from child maltreatment prevention programs greatly prevents future child abuse cases.
The staff at The Center for Child Maltreatment is just at the early stages of determining which prevention resources will make the biggest impact, and where they can deliver the resources in high-risk areas. A significant obstacle is that areas such as Stop Six and Las Vegas Trail on the city's west side, often lack amenities such as community centers or ample child care facilities to utilize as education centers.
“That's the million-dollar question, right?” asked Dr. Jayme Coffman, medical director for The Center for Child Maltreatment. “That's part of the research that's going on as well as to look at, OK, once we find these areas that we have a higher risk of abuse, then what are the services that aren't being provided versus those that are? And then let's look at which of the services that we do provide that make a difference.
“So this isn't going to be a short-term answer. We're in it for the long haul.”
‘This one baby in particular'
Just reading the list of common injuries to babies and toddlers at the hands of their abusers is grotesquely unnerving.
Skull fractures. Retinal hemorrhaging. Torn neck ligaments. Snapped ribs. Lacerated livers.
Daley, 40, bore witness to this stark reality up close as these battered little bodies, one after another, day after day, were rushed into the Cook Children's operating room. Daley, fresh from returning from maternity leave after having her second child in 2012, could not reconcile the heartbreaking beatings she was seeing.
“There was this one baby in particular that died in the operating room, which usually we can keep almost anybody alive to get to the ICU,” Daley said. “But this child's injuries were just too awful and he bled to death.
“And so it was during that case that I made a promise to that baby that I would try to help little children like him. And the thing that pushed me over into that space was I was just imagining it was his family that was doing this to him. I know, just from having children of my own, that he was looking for comfort from the man who was beating him to death.”
Daley acted on her promise and formulated a plan that was initially rejected by the hospital's board of directors. After brainstorming sessions with her husband, Daley introduced a more comprehensive plan to the board, and it was approved on the spot.
“That's when,” she said, “the work started in earnest.”
There's plenty of work to be done. Fort Worth and Tarrant County annually record some of the highest rates of child abuse and infant mortality in the state.
According to Cook Children's, from 2010 through 2016, the hospital recorded between 1,387 and 1,520 visits each year for child abuse. The hospital tracks visits and not patients because some patients make multiple visits.
‘Change the world'
While child abuse occurs across all demographics, it is often the result of crises: ill-equipped teenage mothers, drug and alcohol abuse, economic hardship or violence in the home and neighborhood.
Abuse can also stem from neglect: An unattended baby wandering into an apartment pool, co-sleeping causing accidental suffocation, lack of child care choices that force working mothers to rely on baby-sitting from an ill-equipped relative or boyfriend.
Many agencies in Fort Worth have worked for decades to fight these crises. Daley's work is producing a co-mingling agencies to consolidate their efforts.
“Identifying the area of need is the first step, and making sure agencies and organizations work together to provide these needed resources is the second step,” said Brenda O'Quin of One Safe Place, an agency devoted to preventing crime and violence in Tarrant County's neighborhoods, schools and homes. “Dr. Daley has been successful, in addition to her data, in bringing organizations together to focus their services in areas identified by the risk terrain model as areas of need.”
Added Floyd of Justin's Place: “I know that Dr. Daley's geo-mapping is going to do nothing but change this world. When you can pinpoint where it's happening, what excuse do we have not to get in there and do the hard work to make these kids' lives safer and more full of the fun and opportunities the rest of the world has.”
Expanded NC law adds more child abuse protections
by Rex Hodge
HAYWOOD COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) — Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill Thursday clarifying the state's child safety laws. It gives more protection to children who might be living in dangerous conditions.
Existing statutes protect children under abuse and neglect laws. Haywood County Department of Social Services director Stoney Blevins said the expanded law will also apply in civil cases and arm law enforcement with court warrants.
“So, that it gives the deputies or police officers the ability to go and take custody of a child in a civil custody case between parents if they feel like children are not safe,” Blevins said.
Waynesville attorney David Wijewickrama said it clarifies existing law.
“Have the same standard of ability for district court judges and law enforcement that they have in DSS,” he said.
Wijewickrama was joined for the signing with the governor by District Court Judge Donna Forga.
“With this law being signed today, we have the opportunity to have the same authority for law enforcement to be able to go in and obtain the child,” she said.
“Now, they can actually get a warrant to take a child into their custody in civil custody cases similar to laws that exist already for children who have been abused or neglected,” Blevins said.
“It's going to give us another tool in the bag to help protect children,” Wijewickrama said.
The law also protects officers from criminal or civil liability.
The bill's primary sponsor is mountain Sen. Jim Davis.
Could you uncover child sex abuse in Lafayette?
by Joseph Paul
LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Hundreds of children in Tippecanoe County have been sexually abused over the past five years.
Could you recognize one of the victims?
Lafayette Police Department and the Heartford House Child Advocacy Center are seeking "Stewards of Children" who can identify the telltale signs of child sexual abuse in both victims and perpetrators.
The "Stewards of Children" program, which is open to all adults, teaches participants how to "prevent, recognize and react responsibly" when encountering a possible case of child sexual abuse.
Jen Bushore-Barry, executive director of the Heartford House, said adults should look for behavior changes in children and suspicious behavior in adults.
"What we need to know as adults is we're not always going to be able to pick somebody out of a crowd that's likely to do this," Bushore-Barry said.
The event comes after Child Abuse Awareness Month in April, in which blue pinwheels were placed outside schools, police departments and other organizations.
“In the state of Indiana we are all mandated reporters. … If you suspect abuse it should be reported to child protective services,” Patti O'Callaghan, a founding board member of the Tippecanoe County Child Abuse Prevention Council, told the Journal & Courier in April.
The Indiana Department of Child Services has substantiated nearly 300 cases of child sexual abuse in Tippecanoe County from 2011 to 2015, according to data provided by the Indiana Youth Institute.
But for every substantiated case, there are many more that go unrecognized and unreported, said Shana Wainscott, a crime prevention specialist for Lafayette Police Department.
"There's always children that are too afraid to tell what happened to them," Wainscott said, "so the numbers are always going to be smaller."
The "Stewards of Children" program will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at the LPD Training Center, 1301 South Street.
To register, call the Heartford House at 765-420-9764.
Sex trafficking is coercion, period
We've learned a lot about what sex trafficking is, and what it isn't, in the seven years since a football legend's prostitution arrest in a Ramapo hotel exposed this form of modern-day slavery was occurring in our own backyard. While New York's laws have led in many ways when it comes to protecting sex trafficking victims, the state still lags in key areas. This year, the state Legislature has the chance to fix some of the faults.
Key legislation includes fixing New York's statutes so traffickers can be prosecuted for the full extent of their crimes, without having to prove the obvious force, fraud and coercion they employ against young people swept in their web. Another bill would provide training for hotel staff on how to detect trafficking, a crime that is so often hidden in plain sight. Another bill would exempt trafficking victims from providing a DNA sample to be included in the state's DNA criminal offender database; these are victims of criminal acts, not perpetrators. All three are sponsored in by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, who has advocated for years to protect trafficking victims, prosecute perpetrators and develop ways to prevent such crimes.
The need for action was underscored by that explosive 2010 case: NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor was accused of buying sex with an underage girl in a hotel. The Bronx girl, who went into the room tear-stained and bruised from her pimp's brutality, had been forced into prostitution after she had run away. She was being trafficked, for sex, right in the Lower Hudson Valley. Sadly, it was neither the first nor the last case of local trafficking victims living a tortured existence, unprotected, exposed to grave danger.
That case, Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe told the Editorial Board during a May 31 meeting, underscored the weakness of state law when prosecuting traffickers. His office left the prosecution of Rasheed Davis, who had ordered the girl to LT's room, to the U.S. Attorney's Office. That's because under New York law, sex trafficking needs proof of force, fraud or coercion, no matter the age of the person who is prostituted. Under U.S. law, those variables don't need proof if the the person induced to perform acts of prostitution is under 18. Paulin's bill would align state law with federal statutes, so the fact that the victim is underage is proof of force and coercion.
Paulin and Zugibe joined the Editorial Board discussion about human trafficking and the risks to minors in the region. Also participating: Fredric Green, chief of the Westchester D.A. Office's Special Prosecutions Division; Kevin McGuire, Westchester social services commissioner; Phil Goldstein, director of program development for Westchester DSS; and Jessie Boye-Doe, director of the JCCA's Center for Healing, a Pleasantville-based program for children who have suffered sexual abuse and or/exploitation.
The Taylor case also underscores the need to train hotel workers. Paulin has introduced a bill (A6834 / S05955) that requires lodging facilities to train all employees in how to recognize human trafficking. Workers who may have encountered the victim as she negotiated the halls of a Holiday Inn apparently failed to detect any troubles.
Paulin said she was warned that hotel management and their unionized workforce would not welcome such a law. However, she's found nothing of the sort. "Hotel owners don't want activity like this," she said. "It's bad for business." She also noted that many large chains already do such training for their workers, who have been receptive. "They want to be trained what to do," she said of the workers.
Zugibe said that's what he found after the county shut down a Days Inn independent franchise in Nanuet by invoking a public nuisance statute after numerous drug and prostitution arrests there. He said the corporation has been very cooperative, with "downward pressure" on the local franchise to train staff.
Human trafficking happens in high-end hotels, too, Green said, in the Lower Hudson Valley and beyond. He has found many are receptive to his offers of training, which he provides for police agencies and others.
And it's not going to stop anytime soon. Sex trafficking is a $9.8 billion industry in New York, Goldstein said. "It's more profitable than drugs."
Sadly, the supply of vulnerable young persons will continue, too. Young victims of sex trafficking often come from traumatic home lives and backgrounds full of struggle. Many are runaways. "They become vulnerable to the kind of siren's call of the human trafficker," McGuire said. "They think they are making their own decisions, but they're not."
The ubiquitous nature of social media has brought the dangers of sex trafficking from street corners to living rooms . "The internet has infinite amounts of nooks and crannies," said Boye-Doe.
Many trafficked victims were victims of child sex abuse, Boye-Doe said. Their young lives are already marred by victimization.
"The average age of entry is 12," Paulin said. "A 12-year-old is in sixth grade."
However, the ability to support young victims remains severely limited. Boye-Doe said that JCCA's program called Gateway offers residential treatment for girls ages 11-18. The program has 13 beds. It is the only one in the state, including New York City, an international trafficking hub. While JCCA and others offer day treatment programs, there's not nearly enough to fill the gaping need, panelists agreed.
Zugibe, president of the state's District Attorney Association, thanked Paulin for her efforts, including the 2015 Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act, which strengthened penalties for traffickers and buyers in the sex trade. It also changed penal law to strike the term "prostitute" to refer to people who are, overwhelmingly, victims forced into prostitution.
Green emphasized the importance of such language: "You have to bring victims into the viewpoint that they are victims."
Indeed, the girl sold for Taylor's use made a statement outside the Rockland County courthouse in New City following Taylor's 2011 sentencing: "I am not a prostitute. It makes me sick that I've been labeled one. I am a victim. I am hurting." (Taylor, by the way, got six years' probation, paid a $1,400 fine and was deemed a "low level" sex offender, considered at minimal risk of re-offending. Davis, the trafficker, got seven years in prison.)
New York fixed that egregious labeling. Now, the state must update its laws to make clear that trafficked minors are always victims of coercion. And the state must ensure all are trained to spot this insidious criminal activity so more young people can be saved.
Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry begins with profound apologies
by Janice Burns
SURVIVORS who say they were abused as youngsters in residential care heard a succession of “profound” and “unreserved”apologies from organisations on the first day of Scotland's national child abuse inquiry.
Groups including Quarriers, Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, Sisters of Nazareth, De La Salle Brothers, the Bishops' Conference of Scotland and Crossreach, the social care arm of the Church of Scotland, were among those voicing regret for past cases of abuse or alleged abuse.
The apologies were offered in opening statements from a range of bodies as the public hearing phase of the far-reaching inquiry into historical allegations of the abuse of children in care in Scotland got under way. It followed remarks from chairwoman Lady Smith who said the process will be “painful” for many, but necessary to achieve “real, substantial and lasting change”.
In their opening remarks, representatives of Quarriers and the Marist Brothers offered “unreserved” apologies to anyone who was abused in their care.
Canon Boyle, representing the Bishops' Conference of Scotland, told the hearing in Edinburgh that Archbishop Philip Tartaglia had offered a “profound” apology in 2015 to those harmed as a result of the actions of anyone within the Catholic Church.
“That apology stands and is reiterated again today,” Canon Boyle said.
He said there is “an overwhelming sense of shame that these abhorrent crimes have occurred in the context of the church”, felt by all Catholics.
Laura Dunlop QC, representing Crossreach, said it was “inescapable” that the Church has provided a setting in which children have been abused in the past. She added: “That is a matter of profound regret by all associated with the church's social care organisation and indeed for all connected to the church in Scotland in any way.
“The Church... offers a heartfelt apology to all who have suffered in its care.”
Gregor Rolfe, representing the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, said it is “horrified” by allegations of abuse made by children formerly in its care and offered its “deepest sympathy and heartfelt apology” to any former resident who felt “let down” by those entrusted with their care.
Representing the Sisters of Nazareth, Alistair Dunlop QC told the hearing: “Suffice to say that where abuse has occurred, the sisters apologise unreservedly.”
The spokesman for the De La Salle Brothers, David Anderson, said nothing could be said to defend the mistreatment of children. “Where a brother at any of these schools was responsible for the mistreatment of a child or young adult entrusted to the congregation's care, the congregation offers an unreserved apology,” he said.
The hearing was also told that the Good Shepherd Sisters “deplore” that physical or sexual abuse could occur, while the Christian Brothers expressed their “continuing deep regret” that serious sexual and physical abuse took place at St Ninian's residential school in Falkland.
Anyone wishing to contact the inquiry can do so by post at PO Box 24085, Edinburgh, EH7 9EA. Email for general inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org. To discuss giving evidence, the email address is email@example.com, or you can call on Freephone 0800 0929300.
The inquiry also keeps its website up to date with news and information about its progress and rules. The website address is www.childabuseinquiry.scot .
Sickened: Former friend of rapist priest Eugene Fitzpatrick tells of her horror at what he did
by Sam Gelder
A former friend of rapist priest Eugene Fitzpatrick is in shock after learning the man who regularly visited her family home had been abusing children for decades.
Maddie Noonan, 59, said had she stayed in the area she wouldn't have thought twice about leaving her children with the popular cleric of Our Lady and Saint Joseph in Balls Pond Road.
Fitzpatrick, 68, was sentenced to 22 years in jail on Friday after being found guilty of raping a boy between 1986 and 1992 while working at the church, and sexually assaulting another in the 1960s and '70s.
Police believe there may be more survivors of his abuse, and have urged anyone suffering in silence to come forward.
Fitzpatrick was a close friend of Maddie and her family, who lived a stone's throw from Our Lady and Saint Joseph. To her, he was the friendly parish priest who restored her faith in the Catholic church.
But she now knows that in the period he was stopping by at her family home, he was also raping a child.
“I'm horrified,” Maddie, 59, told the Gazette. “That he denied it, he's even more disgusting. It must have taken a lot of courage for those people to come forward. It's absolutely disgusting.
“He was the local parish priest. We lived in Balls Pond Road and moved to Mildmay Park. He married me and he was a very close friend of my grandmother. He was always in our house, we loved him.”
Maddie, who now lives in Ireland, said Fitzpatrick left the church “overnight” in the early 1990s. She now plans to write to him to tell him what she thinks.
“I was very close to him as an adult,” she continued. “I had lost faith in the Catholic church many times, based on stories like this. Eugene was the one person that restored my faith.”
Fitzpatrick, of Canterbury, was withdrawn from ministry in 2006. He was found guilty of 11 counts of indecent assault and indecency with a child relating to the first victim, for which he received a total of five years. The first attack took place in 1965 in Tufnell Park when he was 17 and the victim under eight.
He was jailed for 17 years for raping the second victim, of which he was guilty on two counts. The two terms will be served consecutively.
Fitzpatrick, who had denied all charges, was also ordered to sign the sex offender register for life.
Investigating officers Det Cons Lorraine Simpson and Klementina Balint, said: “There may be additional survivors who continue to suffer in silence. I urge anyone who has been abused by Eugene Fitzpatrick to contact police.”
The NSPCC echoed the police's calls and said by pleading not guilty, Fitzpatrick had forced his brave victims to relive their ordeal.
The Diocese of Westminster has said it cooperated with police on the investigation and has stripped Fitzpatrick of his priesthood.
A spokeswoman said: “The Diocese of Westminster is deeply sorry for the hurt that he caused to his victims, their families and the wider community, and acknowledges the gravity of the abuse he inflicted as is reflected in the severity of the sentence.
“The diocese is committed to the safeguarding of all children and vulnerable adults in its care.
“Over the past two decades, in conjunction with the Catholic Church in England and Wales, robust safeguarding policies and procedures have been developed and put in place across parishes, schools and agencies of the diocese to provide better protection for children and vulnerable adults in its care.
“If anyone has any concerns of a safeguarding nature involving the Diocese of Westminster, they are asked to contact the authorities or the Diocesan Safeguarding Coordinator.”
Contact the Met's Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command by dialling 101.
Child marriage is a problem in the United States too
Marriages are forced upon children as young as 11 in the US for reasons ranging from religious beliefs to poverty. Activists, some of whom are former victims themselves, are fighting hard for a nationwide law that prohibits the practice.
by Mehboob Jeelani
Mention child marriages and images of adolescent girls with middle-aged men sporting beards and wearing long traditional robes is what springs to mind for most people. It's a practise largely attributed to Middle Eastern and South Asian cultures, as if people in the West are no longer involved in such habits.
But contrary to widespread perceptions, child marriages are still prevalent in the United States as well. Even though the US government vehemently criticises other countries for their records of child marriages — a US State Department document describing it as a "human rights abuse that contributes to economic hardship," for instance — the numbers are quite shocking within US borders.
More than 167,000 children below the age of 17 have taken marital vows in 38 American states between 2000 and 2010, according to a report compiled by Unchained at Last, a non-profit organisation based in New Jersey.
Fraidy Reiss, the founder of Unchained at Last, was herself a victim of a forced marriage. At age 19, her parents arranged a marriage for her, which turned out to be abusive in the first week.
“I was trapped for 15 years,” she said in a recent podcast interview with the independent website, Tap into Westfield. “When I finally managed to escape, my family shunned me saying our daughter is dead.”
Sherry Johnson is another former victim of child marriage. She was forced to marry her rapist, a member of her church, when she was just 11. A few years ago, she escaped her abuser and is now fighting to set a minimum age for marriage in Florida. Like in half of the US states, Florida has no marital age bar, and one child still gets married in the state every few days.
What does child marriage in the US look like?
The minimum age of marriage, according to US law, is 18. There is a legal gray zone, however — every state allows marriages of children below 18 with parental or judicial consent.
The underage marriages are happening in families practising various faiths: Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, Islam, Mormonism and Buddhism.
Parents force their underage children to marry for various reasons. The main ones are: to control their sexuality; to protect the family “honour”; to protect perceived religious ideals. In many cases the motive is economic. Many of the children are married either for money or to someone living in a big city.
LEGALISING STATUTORY RAPE
Most of the marriages happen between underage girls and adult men. Though the sexual contact between them violates statutory rape laws, the marriage is still considered valid from a legal perspective.
REPUBLICANS REJECT BANS
After years of public outcry, New Jersey was supposed to be the first state to ban underage marriages but Governor Chris Christie vetoed the legislation in early May 2017. Christie argued that the proposed legislation did not “comport with the sensibilities and, in some cases, the religious customs, of the people of this state.”
About 90 percent of married children in New Jersey are girls, a figure on par with global trends.
Similarly, the Republican-led House in New Hampshire rejected a bill in March 2017 that called for raising the marriage bar to 18 and ending child marriages.
HIGH DIVORCE RATE
Half of adolescent marriages in the US end up in divorce, according to a study. Apart from affecting girls' health, education and economic mobility, the underage married girls are at constant risk of experiencing domestic violence.
The public outcry and social activism has pushed eleven states to consider banning underage marriage. The state lawmakers who resist the legislation to end child marriage generally either believe that any legal measure could hamper religious freedom or they consider marriage as a better solution to teenage pregnancy than abortion.
LEGAL ACROSS THE US
Virginia is the only state where the legislation to ban child marriages has been passed. Even in progressive states like New York, little has been done to resolve the problem. A bill to end child marriage was introduced in the New York senate in February, seeking strict penalties against marriages involving under 17-year-olds. A month later, a new bill was introduced with a clause that allowed underage marriages with judicial approval, which was unanimously passed.
There is no legislation to raise the marriageable age bar or to ban child marriages in the other 38 states of the US.
Europol shows clues from child abuse images to track offenders
by the BBC
Europe's police agency has launched a new webpage that displays objects in child sex abuse images to try to find the perpetrators and victims. Europol hopes details like a logo on a bag or a shampoo bottle may alert someone who can then contact police by an anonymous tip-off or social media, writes the BBC's Anna Holligan in The Hague.
Tens of thousands of paedophiles are involved in abusing children and distributing the photos and videos online.
Tools such as live-streaming have increased the ways in which the vulnerable are exploited.
Europol wants to harness the global digital reach to capture those creeping behind the cameras.
Investigators call it crowd-knowledge sourcing.
"We have eyes and ears across the whole world," explains Steven Wilson, the Scotsman who heads up Europol's cyber crime unit.
"These are normally secretive types of investigations. But we have exhausted all our leads, so this is a last resort. We need the public to help us collect pieces of the jigsaw puzzle."
Pictures flash up on the screen inside a high-security ops room.
Most of the material the cyber-detectives seize is too disturbing to share. They have chosen two photos, each blurred to obscure the child's identity, to demonstrate how the mundane items appear in the scenes of abuse.
The first shows a young girl wearing a multi-coloured jumper. Her bottom half is bare and exposed to the camera. She is being groomed to take graphic pictures of her genitals.
In the shot you can see a plastic shopping bag. The webmasters have zoomed in on the logo and shared it on the website, in the hope someone will recognise it.
Wil Van Gemert, deputy executive director of Europol's operations department, says: "We're not just talking about family members or a neighbour, but if someone can tell us which country it comes from, there's our lead."
Twenty images at a time will go up on the website, Stop Child Abuse. The first selection includes a ram or unicorn logo on a tiny blue and white polo T-shirt, an orange pamphlet, a medicine bottle behind a baby lying on a changing mat.
Each photo has an option underneath to send an anonymous tip to Europol or share on social media. The detectives want users to realise the potentially vital role they can play, they believe a few clicks could help to rescue a child.
Past experience has shown a background object can provide a breakthrough.
In one case, Steven Wilson tells us: "There was a trampoline in the garden. We zoomed in and saw a manufacturers' mark. They told us it was only sold in one country - that led us to the right area, and eventually, the suspect."
The officers are aware there is a danger that the perpetrators will spot their pills or their victim's pyjamas and flee before police can reach them.
But they say it is a calculated risk, and the shots have been cropped to remove the sickening evidence of their crimes against children.
This is a pilot project. Europol is hoping to replicate the success of its "Most Wanted" campaign - 35 of the 50 suspects featured online have been apprehended, 11 thanks to tip-offs from the public.
But they say this website is not just about solving cases. It's about saving the children.
Parents who allow children to use iPads unsupervised can put them at risk of sexual abuse, NSPCC says amid a huge rise in cyber sex crimes
by Nick Harley
Parents who allow children to use iPads unsupervised can put them at risk of sexual abuse, the NSPCC says amid a huge rise in cyber sex crimes
Around 15 children everyday are being exposed to cyber sex crimes new figures have revealed.
In total, there were 5,653 child sex crimes recorded in 2016/17 involving the internet, an increase of 44 per cent on last years figures.
The NSPCC, which obtained the data through Freedom of Information requests, said it was urging the next government to introduce strict internet safety measures to protect children.
The charity has developed a tool called Net Aware to help parents to protect their children and says younger children should be supervised.
NSPCC policy manager Lisa Mccrindle said: "Parents need to keep an eye on youngsters using devices and monitor the content they are accessing. Parents should absolutely be supervising their children.
"Before they let them use them they need to make sure they are happy with the settings.
"Parents know their children best and they need to ask them what they are looking at. They may want to supervise them depending on how sensible their child is."
For the past two years, police have been required by law to add a "cyber flag" to any child sexual offences that involved the internet in some form.
This could include activity such as online grooming, using the internet to meet up with a child, or an individual pretending to be someone online that they were not.
The data showed that among forces that recorded ages, 13 was the most common age of a victim. There were almost 100 crimes committed against youngsters aged 10 and under, and the youngest victim was aged three.
An NSPCC spokesperson said: "As soon a s achild goes online parents need to be having conversations with them, they shouldn't leave them to it.
"If they are going out on their own it is the same mentality, how to keep them safe from stranger danger, parents need to be having an equivalent conversation when their child goes online. Young children need to be supervised."
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said the government needs to "urgently address" the issue.
"These figures confirm our fears that offenders are exploiting the internet to target children for their own dark deeds," he said.
"Children also tell our Childline service that they are being targeted online by some adults who pose as children and try to meet them, or persuade them to perform sexual acts on webcams, before blackmailing them.
"We are calling on the government to force internet companies and social media sites to adhere to rules that keep their young users safe."
New research by anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label revealed that more than one in two gamers have experienced bullying while playing online.
The survey of 2,515 people aged 12-25 found 47 per cent had received threats while playing a game, while 22 per cent have stopped playing as a result of bullying.
Other findings included four in 10 people receiving unwanted sexual contact in a game.
New tool to teach children how to identify, respond to sexual abuse
by Javene Skyers
SEVERAL Government and non-government organisations have come together to help in the fight against child sexual abuse through the development of a storybook and other creative materials to teach children how to identify, respond to and report sexual abuse.
The storybook package, entitled The Tribe-Break the Silence, was conceptualised and created by KQC Enterprises and funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), under the BNTF7 (Basic Needs Trust) fund, administered by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) at a cost of $7.1 million.
Other partners include the Ministry of Education, the Child Development Agency (CDA) and the Office of the Children's Registry (OCR), among other local agencies.
The launch took place yesterday at the Hope Zoo in Kingston, which saw the presentation of the storybook package which includes a big book with a comic book-style illustrated story, accompanying DVD with music, narrations, illustrations and sign language translation and teacher's guide with lesson plan and additional resources.
The materials are intended as a teaching/learning tool for guidance counsellors to use as the Ministry of Education-approved core curriculum materials in classes of children ages 8 to 12 years old.
The production will also include 40 Braille copies of the book, as requested by the Education Ministry's Special Education Unit. The expected roll-out of the storybook package in schools is expected to be in September.
KQC Enterprises, which produces Jamaican edutainment reading and musical materials under the brands Reggae Pickney and KQ Comics for children, was charged with the responsibility of identifying and developing material which would appropriately shed light on the issue of child sexual abuse.
According to president and project director of KQC Enterprises Jana Bent, the idea for the storybook package came five years ago when she was contacted by the then executive director for the Dudley Grant Memorial Trust Cecile Minott about doing a new series of children's books addressing the 13 types of violence against children speaking directly to children.
This suggestion, she explained, was made by the trust's chairman, Professor Elsa Leo-Ryhnie, in the wake of a front-page story of a “particularly gruesome” sexual assault of a toddler by a family member.
She added that she got “chills in the moment the idea was shared” and though there were roadblocks along the way, such as rejection from entities for funding due to apprehension about the sensitive topic, they were all collectively happy and proud the storybook had finally come to fruition.
“It is our hope that this project will help to prevent child sexual abuse by arming children with the skills they need to protect themselves and encouraging more people to break the silence and encourage other organisations like JSIF and the CDB to step forward to help us create other formats of this book and also to complete the other books in the series of child violence prevention to further the vision of a region where violence against children is a thing of the past,” Bent stated.
Her brother, Rupert, who along with his sister is credited as one of the authors of the book, also shared his experience producing, recording and editing the materials needed for the package. Noting that while working on the actual attack scene in the book pushed him to take a break several times, it was the interaction with students during the testing phases that left a strong impression.
“When I put this question to class, how I cope with sexualised content in the media….there were shrugs, they are desensitised; we need to think about that. When asked if they knew anyone like Uncle Roy, the attacker or abuser in the story, everybody jumps up and say 'yes', we need to think about that; when we suggested as a trusted adult, your pastor, we got just as hearty….'no miss, no sir',” Rupert stated in his remarks.
He added that responses to the question if parents listen to when their child expresses concerns were largely comprised of “no, they are too busy”. He aid that he was struck by the lack of an emphatic yes from that question.
“The one that hit me hardest [was when] one girl [in response] to the question what is a trusted adult, she answered, 'there is no such thing, you can't trust anybody'. That girl seated herself in the furthest corner of the room, kind of wedged up behind some other kids,” he recounted.
“Well, the guidance counsellor picked this up and started working with the child immediately after the testing session and this was not an isolated event. During testing we got a little glimpse how impactful this product can be,” he added.
Managing Director for JSIF Omar Sweeney said the storybook package is something that is needed on the landscape and while apprehensive at first, having garnered the full support of the Ministry of Education, the company was happy to move forward with development.
“I'm an optimist, but we have to face the reality that there are persons in our society that prey on the vulnerable. A study by the OCR in 2014 indicated that one in 10 Jamaicans were willing to report child abuse and it was there that we felt that we needed a product, a tool that would allow the children to play an active role in their own protection,” Sweeney stated.
Sweeney thanked the various agencies which contributed to the project and expressed his hopes for the continued success of the package.
He added that the funding of the package will also cover the video recording of story readings to be done in six select primary schools by KQC Enterprises, which will be posted on Youtube for teachers to access and use with the manual.
In addition to the video recordings, mandatory parents' forums are to be held in each school, one to three months after principals and staff have been engaged. OCR representatives will also be requested to conduct sessions.
Atty. Gen. Beshear providing nearly $80K to help child sex abuse victims
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear announced Wednesday grants totaling close to $80,000 that will be used to help victims of child sexual abuse.
The initiative will happen as part of a partnership with the Child Victims' Trust Fund, according to a news release. The funds will be used to pay for costs connected to more than 1,000 child sexual abuse forensic exams.
Beshear says the funds will be used in the upcoming fiscal year and dispersed across Kentucky's 15 Children Advocacy Centers.
During the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30, more than 650 child sexual abuse forensic exams have been funded by the Attorney General's office.
The fund will also give support to child sexual abuse prevention programs.
People who wish to donate to the Child Victims' Trust Fund can do so in three ways:
Through a private donation
The purchase of an "I Care About Kids" license plate at your County Clerk's Office
Donations to Kentucky's income tax refund check-off program
Dept of Justice - PRESS RELEASE
Pimp Pleads Guilty to Federal Sex Trafficking Charge Related to Young Woman Forced to Work as Prostitute in Inland Empire
SANTA ANA, California – A local pimp who recruited a woman through a social media website and advertising her services as a prostitute in an online publication has pleaded guilty to a federal sex trafficking charge.
Lawrence T. Gunn Jr., 33, whose last known residence was in Woodland Hills, pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion.
Gunn pleaded guilty before United States District Judge David O. Carter, who scheduled a sentencing hearing on October 2. As a result of yesterday's guilty plea, Gunn faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison, and he could be sentenced to as much as life in federal prison.
Gunn, who is also known as “Classified,” forced the victim to get a tattoo of his moniker on her face after he recruited her on Facebook, according to a plea agreement filed in United States District Court.
Gunn admitted that he used force, threats of force, fraud and/or coercion that led the victim to engage in commercial sex acts between May 2015 and late February 2016.
Gunn took all of the money the victim collected from customers, according to the plea agreement. Gunn physically struck the woman if she attempted to keep any of the money or if she tried to leave, breaking her nose on one occasion. Gunn also admitted in his plea agreement that he threatened to kill the victim if she tried to leave him.
Once he completes his prison term, Gunn will be required to register as a sex offender.
This case was investigated by the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, which include representatives from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations. The Moreno Valley Police Department, the San Bernardino County Sherriff's Office, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles Police Department assisted in the investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Abigail Evans of the Riverside Branch Office.
FROM: Thom Mrozek, Spokesperson/Public Affairs Officer
United States Attorney's Office, Central District of California (Los Angeles)
The importance of building children's resilience
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 environment where 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 (PDF). 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 (PDF) 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 (PDF) 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 (PDF) 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.
Shanta R. Dube is an associate professor in the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.
Quebec report of child abuse and neglect increasing: 20 new cases a day
by Charlie Fidelman
According to a new report, Quebec has about 20 new cases a day of child abuse: babies shaken and choked, sexually molested, beaten or starved. But child abuse is more than bruises and broken bones. Children can be neglected, left to their own devices in dangerous situations, made to feel stupid and useless, or abandoned altogether.
Whatever the maltreatment, the emotional toll on children can be heavy and last a lifetime, said the head of the 44-page report into child abuse in Quebec released Wednesday. The report shows a dramatic jump in abuse of children under age five — some only days old. Based on cases investigated and substantiated by the provincial youth-protection agency, the report tracks a disturbing trend of maltreatment of children in the last decade.
In 2015-2016, child welfare evaluated 27,946 alerts for children five years of age or younger. The rate of alerts to child welfare authorities spiked by 40 per cent in the past eight years compared to 2007-2008, and of these, the number of cases it acted on had increased by 27 per cent.
Last year alone, youth protection confirmed 7,700 cases of abuse in children younger than five, Fannie Dagenais, director of the Montreal-based Early Childhood Observatory, told the Montreal Gazette. “That represents about 20 new situations every day. We thought that's of great concern,” she said.
The Observatory's mission, a project of the Fondation Lucie et André Chagnon, is to make sure Quebec's very young children are a priority for society, Dagenais said. Last year, the Observatory's survey-based portrait looked at the Quebec environment in which children live. It raised an alarm because of its data on violent parental behaviour, Dagenais said. “To go beyond the limits of surveys, we decided to examine that behaviour by looking at administrative data from youth protection.”
Under Quebec law, doctors and other professionals are obliged to report to the youth protection director any case where they believe a child is in danger.
It's important to note that youth protection data is likely just the tip of the iceberg, Dagenais warned. Many cases of abuse are not referred to child welfare, she said. Also, young children may be more vulnerable to abuse because they are isolated at home, they don't attend daycare and are less in the public eye than older children who go to school, she added.
The definition of maltreatment varies according to the experts. Under the Quebec Youth Protection Act, which is in line with the World Health Organization's definition, maltreatment includes situations where the security or development of a child is considered to be in danger if the child is abandoned or neglected, subjected to psychological ill treatment, or sexual and physical abuse.
The report is called: Violence and maltreatment: Are Quebec's youngest children safe from harm? It cites 3,703 cases of negligence last year, 1,864 of violence, 1,570 of psychological ill-treatment, 461 of sexual abuse and 12 children were abandoned.
For Dagenais' team, maltreatment is “all forms of neglect or abuse that can affect a child's development.” Babies, toddlers and preschoolers are at a crucial period of development, Dagenais said. “We need to be concerned because maltreatment can harm cognitive, physical, emotional and social development. We see language delays, attention and memory problems, difficulties in controlling emotions, depression and anxiety … when babies are shaken it can alter their brain structure. We know these negative effects can carry to adulthood and last a lifetime.
“It's a vicious circle we really need to stop,” she said.
There are known risk factors for abuse, Dagenais said. Children may be at risk when their parents experience several pressures: economic instability and poverty, poor social support, employment stress, depression, anxiety and personality disorders, substance abuse, and having children with developmental needs.
An estimated 13 per cent of Quebec children live in low-income families, according to 2013 statistics, and nearly a third of all parents reported high levels of stress related to work-life balance.
“It's not just poor families, every parent is dealing with work/family balance. And we can't isolate one single factor. It's always an accumulation,” she said. “But there is good news. According to the scientific literature, anything that alleviates the distress of parents is positive. For example, access to adequate social housing and good schools.”
The report is a call for action, Dagenais said: “It's our hope that the publication of this special report will encourage members of Quebec society to work together to find solutions to prevent maltreatment of the very young.”
Marie Rhéaume, director of Réseau pour un Québec Famille, welcomed the report. When her organization celebrated Quebec Family Week two weeks ago, families issued a slew of complaints about navigating a health system where services have frittered away, and talked of their struggles to maintain family-work balance, Rhéaume said. Mothers used up vacation days or missed work to look after sick children. Parents say they spend hours in hospital emergency rooms or run desperately after dwindling health services, for example, for autistic children. All parents, regardless of their economic situation, can end up in trouble, she added.
“We're one bout of gastro away from chaos,” she said. “The pressure increases with the number of children in the household, and the pressure is always the same people — the adults of the family. Add to that relationship and work problems … . You know when you have a problem with a child and you're told it will take 18 months to get help, that can aggravate everything.”
The report results came as no surprise to Dr. Christine Grou of the Quebec Order of Psychologists, who knows first-hand of wait-lists in the public sector for those with depression and anxiety. But she was struck by the number of children suffering from psychological ill-treatment — ignored or neglected, screamed at or bullied. The parent is not there to respond to basic needs, she said.
“It tells me that their psychological distress is greater than we thought and we need to address that,” she said.
“Young children are young humans under construction,” she said. “We have to help the parents help their children.”
A new program pairing child-abuse victims with dogs helps with healing
“One of the things we know from the research is when kids are around dogs and they have that interaction, it increases the chemical in the brain called oxytocin.”
by Rebecca Addison
Editor's note: The name of the child in this story has been changed to protect her identity.
When 5-year-old Jamie first began attending therapy sessions at the Center for Victims, her therapist says, she suffered from low self-esteem and disobedience. Jamie had been sexually abused and had few coping skills to manage the emotional experiences she'd gone through.
“[Jamie] presented with trauma symptoms of hypervigilance, avoidance of use of language to describe thoughts, emotions and experiences,” says therapist Megan Cook. “She had little awareness of personal space for self or others, engaged in repetitive traumatic play in session with themes of self-blame, guilt, confusion and a general sense of being in and causing trouble.”
But then Jamie met Gryffin, a 10-year-old German shepherd serving as a “canine advocate” at the Center for Victims, a victim-services and advocacy organization. Jamie's parents gave permission to include Gryffin in their daughter's therapy session, and they quickly saw a change in her behavior.
“Having Gryffin available to her has had such a positive impact,” said Jamie's mother. “He has helped her self-esteem so much.”
Gryffin is part of a new program launched in February at the Center for Victims and the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) at UPMC's Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. The program is in partnership with Pups Providing Hope, a nonprofit aimed at providing service agencies and the courts with access to trained dogs and handlers in order to bring comfort to victims of violent crimes and other traumatic events.
The program, believed to be the only one of its kind in the country, is designed for canines to follow children and their families through the various processes involved in child-abuse cases, from the investigation into prosecution, and throughout trauma treatment. Gryffin began working with children in April.
“One of the things we wanted to do for Pennsylvania crime victims is expand our services to help people heal from the negative experiences they have,” says Tracey Provident, chief program officer at Center for Victims. “These dogs will stay with a child throughout the process they are enduring as victims of child abuse. Through all the systems they have to interact with, they will have that consistency.”
Children are introduced to Gryffin in the waiting room prior to a therapy session at Center for Victims or the forensic interview at the CAC. Potts checks to make sure the children don't have any allergies that could be aggravated by interacting with Gryffin, and ensures the children aren't afraid of dogs.
The children then walk Gryffin, learning how to clip and unclip his leash. They also learn how to give simple commands like “sit,” “shake” and “lie down.” After each session, the kids are allowed to play with Gryffin to release any built-up tension.
“It gives them focus. It gives them something to do and it calms them down,” says Tammi Potts, Gryffin's owner and the canine-assisted advocate at the Center for Victims. “The dogs are so calm that when the kids are escalating up, the dog brings them back down. And if you have a child that's not responding well, they don't want to speak or interact, what we do is we use it as an ice-breaker and an empowerment tool for the kid.”
During the session, Gryffin serves as a source of comfort for the children. In forensic interviews, children are asked to recount the abuse they experienced. The interview can be traumatic.
“He'll check in with the child every so often and if they need him, he'll interact with them,” says Potts. “They can reach down and pet him. Sometimes they'll get down and sit with him on the floor.”
Potts has been a dog trainer for more than two decades. She's trained canines to be therapy dogs and work in nursing homes, but Gryffin's training has been far more extensive.
To make a dog suitable for what we're doing you need a dog who's bomb-proof,” says Potts. “They have to be able to handle pretty much anything. I had a kid drop a bucket of crayons next to his head. You just don't know what the children are going to do, so you have to be prepared for anything.”
One child in a recent therapy session was fixated on Gryffin's whiskers. Despite the discomfort that all the pulling on his whiskers might have caused, Potts says Gryffin tolerated it for a while before calmly sighing and turning his head.
“Rather than reacting or responding in an inappropriate way, he knows how to respond in a way that is gentle for the child,” says Potts. “He didn't upset her. He didn't interrupt the process. He's trained all his life for this.”
As part of the Pups Providing Hope program, inmates at the State Correctional Institution-Forest have been tasked with training additional dogs for service. In order to participate in the program, an inmate's behavior and interactions with other inmates and correction officers is evaluated. A pair of inmates is then assigned a dog from an animal shelter or foster program for intensive obedience training.
“I did a training with the inmates on trauma and the importance of what they're doing and how it helps our victims here,” says Cindy Snyder, clinical director of the Center for Victims. “They were, without exception, excited about being able to give back to victims, and also excited that they were potentially helping to put people in jail.”
Six dogs are being trained right now, and a poodle named Cooper has been identified to begin working with children in July. Dogs that don't end up meeting the requirements to work with children can go on to serve as emotional-support dogs in other settings or return to shelters, where they will be easier to adopt.
“The rigors we put the dogs through in training are closer to what you'd see with a service dog,” says Potts. “We train for many things that therapy dogs do not go through.”
But despite the extensive training, canine advocates are limited in the amount of sessions they can do in a day.
“The dog absorbs all of those emotions, so he can only do one or two sessions a day, depending on what the level of emotion is and how long that interview is,” says Potts. “Occasionally we'll go from the CAC interview over to the hospital and do their medical interview with them as well.”
While the sessions take their toll on the canines, the aid they provide to children going through the legal process is invaluable in ensuring child abusers are convicted.
“One of the things we know from the research is when kids are around dogs and they have that interaction, it increases the chemical in the brain called oxytocin,” says Snyder. “And that happens to be the hormone that helps kids get connected to other people, it helps kids manage their stress, it helps make them less nervous and less anxious.
“If the child is less stressed in the interview, you'll get better information. If the child is less stressed in a medical exam, you'll get better evidence. And the child will be better able to testify when you get to court.”
While the outcomes of cases involving children whom Gryffin has worked with have yet to be determined, his impact on the children is clear. Following sessions with Gryffin, parents are surveyed, and the feedback thus far has been overwhelmingly positive.
“What we're looking for is for the kids to remember the good experience rather than the negative part of the interview and whatever may have been discussed,” says Potts. “Some of the parents say their kids would not have been as comfortable without him there, would not have been able to say what they had said without him there.”
Nine out of 10 incidents of child abuse go unreported
One in two children in Greece aged 11 to 16 falls victim to physical abuse either from family members or their guardians, although some evidence suggests this statistic may even be as high as 76 percent of children in this age group, according to data published as part of the first national program for the prevention of physical abuse, which is supported by the ELIZA Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
Even more shocking is that 90 percent of all instances of abuse are never reported, and that one in five instances are of a sexual nature. Early prevention is key to saving a child from abuse, especially those under the age of 4, who are at the greatest risk of losing their life due to it.
There are also troubling signs that child abuse is increasing. In recent years, the number of calls made to the Smile of the Child charity's physical abuse hotline (1056) has increased. In 2015, the hotline received 919 calls, compared to 527 in 2009.
'Little House on the Prairie' star Alison Arngrim speaks out against sexual abuse in Hollywood
by Stephanie Nolasco
Alison Arngrim insists more work needs to be done to protect child actors from potential predators.
“We need to go further, we need to make it really, really easy for kids to have a place to report stuff because sadly there is a high incidence of sexual abuse in the industry,” the former child star told Fox News.
Arngrim, who found fame as bratty Nellie Oleson on the western drama “Little House on the Prairie,” was sexually abused starting at the age of six by a family member.
However, the now 55-year-old wouldn't open up until her 40s, when she first made the shocking confession to Larry King in 2004.
Then in 2010, Arngrim published her memoir titled “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch,” where she got candid about her experience in the hopes it will encourage other victims to speak up.
Arngrim said that while things have gotten better in Hollywood over the years, parents of aspiring actors still need to be aware of the dangers that exist in the industry.
“You have people who are looking for places where children might be unattended,” she explained. “And they'll go, ‘Gee, I can become a manager or a casting director or just do something that involves kids and show business.' Their parents may not be thinking clearly. Instead, they'll go, ‘Wow, this person is going to make my child a star!' This gives a lot of predators access to kids and they know it. There is a danger there.”
Becoming “nasty Nellie” proved to be therapeutic for Arngrim. She previously told Fox News that being bad onscreen helped her cope with the sexual abuse she faced as a child.
“There's one episode where I'm screaming, trashing the kitchen, and getting flour everywhere,” she recalled. “I just remember raising my fists and screaming. I looked back at it and went, ‘Yep, I was very relaxed after that day … ' it helped me get a lot of things out of my system.”
Arngrim also revealed how other child stars could face abuse closer to home.
“There are also high incidences of parents who don't have their children's best interest at heart,” she said. “Someone who pushes a kid to work while they steal the money — those same kinds of parents are unfortunately the ones that could sexually abuse them … but there are so many more resources now.
"Back in my day, there wasn't a sexual harassment hotline. There was a safety hotline if you're doing dangerous things [on set]. But now there are multiple hotlines, including one through the union where you can call and report if you're being sexually harassed. This didn't exist in my time.”
Arngrim is hoping more work will be done to help other young victims in need.
“I'd like to see really close supervision on set,” she said. “They're supposed to be there. On ‘Little House' it was there … but it's not always there today and I'd like to see more of that.
"There are many parents who work and can't take their children to the set so they'll have a trusted relative. But you know, sometimes they'll just get a friend, or the friend of a friend. Or they'll hire someone as some sort of babysitter. They're supposed to be a guardian, but they're not guarding anything.”
Lawmakers again focus on criminals more than sex-trafficking victims
Six months ago, a Texas Tribune series exposed how the state's decade-long crusade against sex trafficking has done little to help victims — especially children. The 2017 Legislative session, which wrapped up on Monday, continued that trend.
by Neena Satija
Six months ago, a Texas Tribune series exposed how the state's decade-long crusade against sex trafficking has done little to help victims — especially children. The 2017 legislative session, which wrapped up on Monday, largely continued lawmakers' trend of focusing on criminals more than victims.
Here's what lawmakers did — and didn't do — on the issue of sex trafficking during the session.
Continued focus on criminal enforcement. This year, the Legislature increased the penalty for "promotion of prostitution." People charged with promotion aren't suspected of directly selling sex but rather of benefiting from the transaction by driving the seller to meet the buyer or posting an advertisement for sex online. Prosecutors say increasing the penalty will help deter people from getting involved in human trafficking; opponents worry it will unintentionally sweep up trafficking victims, too. The bill awaits Gov. Greg Abbott's signature.
More public education/outreach on sex trafficking. New bills sent to the governor's desk would require truck drivers to receive training on the issue and mandate new places — from strip clubs to abortion clinics to hospital emergency rooms — that must post signs aimed at reaching potential trafficking victims.
Another tool to go after businesses that may be facilitating prostitution. Hundreds of massage parlors across the state openly advertise prostitution services but are difficult to go after — and even harder to implicate in a human-trafficking case. A new bill waiting for the governor's signature tweaks nuisance laws, making it easier to shut down massage parlors that may be bad actors.
A small grant for child-trafficking victims. The governor's office will receive $1.3 million per year to create a grant program specifically for child-trafficking victims, aimed at providing them with services like housing and counseling. However, behind closed doors, lawmakers stripped out a proposal to create a $3 million grant program aimed at helping all trafficking victims. That continues a pattern first begun in 2009, when lawmakers called for the creation of a $10 million-per-year victim assistance program but never appropriated the money for it.
A funding boost for the state's beleaguered child welfare system. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services will receive an extra $500 million over the next two years — about half of what child welfare officials had asked for — mostly to hire more personnel. Child welfare advocate Katie Olse said the increase would lead to "modest improvements, or at least stabilization of a very shaky, underfunded system." The Legislature also ordered the child welfare system to perform a study on how to best help trafficking victims who are in foster care.
They tried — and largely failed — to lessen criminal penalties against those who may be victims of sex trafficking. Many trafficking victims end up in the criminal justice system themselves for charges like prostitution, drug possession and theft — crimes that their trafficker may have forced them to commit. A bill that would have helped expunge their criminal records sailed through the House but died in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Another bill aimed at reducing penalties for selling sex never received a vote in either chamber (similar legislation in 2015 had passed with widespread bipartisan support, only to be vetoed by the governor).
Coronado neighbors worried about historic mansion turned transitional home
by Amanda Brandeis
CORONADO, Calif. (KGTV) - For decades, Coronado's historical Hansen Mansion has drawn in spectators. It was home to Leo and Helen Hansen and generations of their family for 66 years.
But now it's attracting attention for what its future holds.
The nonprofit organization GenerateHope will be utilizing it as a transitional home for sex trafficking survivors. An anonymous donor purchased the mansion and offered it to the nonprofit.
Gregg Anderson lives in the neighborhood and believes the mansion isn't a good choice for the project.
"It's a nice little town. It's not too good to have transitional housing here, that's not the point. The point is we have a huge mansion that will be unregulated and will be transitional housing," Anderson said.
He worries that the 14,000 square foot home could mean too many people living there.
But the nonprofit is in their rights to set up shop in the community. In 2013, California passed a law allowing transitional homes to be in residential neighborhoods.
Anderson says some are also worried about safety.
"Do we have a reason to be concerned that people will follow these women and young girls? Because it's out now," said Anderson.
GenerateHope says the answer to that is no. Executive Director, Dan DeSaegher, says victims of these crimes are rarely chased by their traffickers, who go on to find new victims.
DeSaegher also says overcrowding the home isn't in line with their mission. They want to give each woman their own room and space to aid in the healing process. They plan to house six to eight women, and there will be two house moms overseeing the facility.
The women who choose to live in the home will have already undergone an 18-month program.
Charles Crehore lives in Coronado and says regardless of concerns, the nonprofit has a right to be here.
"I think they are to be commended," Crehore believes. "These are people who are trying to help these women, who are going to give them housing, give them training, give them an education so they can get on with their lives."
He says while some want the city to step in and do more, it's out of their control.
"It's a state law that affects everyone in California, including here in Coronado," said Crehore.
DeSaegher will be at a community meeting Tuesday night to talk to neighbors. He understands why they have questions and hopes they'll be able to have a positive conversation.
Australia plans to ban pedophiles from traveling overseas
by CBS News
CANBERRA, Australia -- Australia plans to ban convicted pedophiles from traveling overseas in what the government said Tuesday is a world-first move to protect vulnerable children in Southeast Asia from exploitation.
Australian pedophiles are notorious for taking inexpensive vacations to nearby Southeast Asian and Pacific island countries to abuse children there.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she would cancel the passports of around 20,000 pedophiles on the national child sex offender register under legislation that will be introduced to Parliament soon.
"There has been increasing community concern about sexual exploitation of vulnerable children and community concern is justified," she told reporters.
Almost 800 registered child sex offenders travelled overseas from Australia last year and about half went to Southeast Asian destinations, she said.
"There will be new legislation which will make Australia a world leader in protecting vulnerable children in our region from child sex tourism," Bishop said.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan said no country has such a travel ban. He said 2,500 new convicted pedophiles would be added to the sex offender register each year and would also lose their passports.
The register contains 3,200 serious offenders who will be banned from travel for life. Less serious offenders drop off the register after several years of complying with reporting conditions and would become eligible to have their passports renewed.
Independent Senator Derryn Hinch, who was molested as a child and was jailed twice as a radio broadcaster for naming pedophiles in contravention of court orders, took credit for the government initiative.
Hinch said he had not known that convicted pedophiles were allowed to travel before he received a letter from Australian actress and children's rights campaigner Rachel Griffiths soon after he was elected to the Senate last year.
"If we can take a passport from a bankrupt, why can't we stop our pedophiles from traveling to Myanmar?" Griffiths wrote. Under Australian law, a bankrupt person cannot travel overseas without a trustee's permission.
Hinch, who was involved in drafting the legislation, said temporary passports could be provided to pedophiles who need to travel for legitimate business or family reasons, and for pedophiles living overseas who need to return to Australia as their visas expire.
"This will not apply to a teenager who has been caught sexting to his 15-year-old girlfriend," said Hinch, referring to sexual phone communications.
"I know sometimes, I think unfairly, they go on registers, but we're trying to work it out so they don't," he added.
Bishop said governments in the Asia-Pacific region wanted Australia to do more to stem child sex tourists.
"There's most certainly deep concern among countries in our region about the number of registered child sex offenders in Australia engaging in the child sex tourism industry," she said.
Australia has attempted to crack down on Australian child sex tourists by adding a new criminal offense punishable by up to 25 years in prison for Australian citizens or residents who molest children overseas.
How LA County Began to Face Its Big Problem With Youth Being Sex-Trafficked
by Kristy Plaza
LOS ANGELES — Michelle Guymon is a hero in the world of child sex trafficking prevention.
Seven years ago, she had no idea Los Angeles County had a child sex trafficking problem
Now Guymon is director of the Child Trafficking Unit for the Los Angeles County Probation Department and is part of the group that aims to make LA's efforts to combat child sex trafficking a model for the nation.
Her connection to child trafficking began in November 2010. She was the director of Camp Scudder, one of the two girls' camps in the probation system.
Guymon also served on the Interagency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect (ICAN) committee, which — as the name suggests — looked at various types of child abuse within the county. At a committee meeting, an FBI agent gave a presentation on human trafficking worldwide, and domestic sex trafficking of minors. She was startled by the domestic part of the presentation.
Today, child sexual exploitation is a significant problem nationally. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one in six of the 18,500 children reported as having run away from home in 2016 were “likely sex trafficking victims.” The organization defines sex trafficking victims as young people under 17 years old — boys and girls — who are “exploited through commercial sex.” Of these, “86 percent were in the care of social services when they went missing,” NCMEC says.
But back in 2010, Guymon didn't realize the scope of the problem. “At this point in my life, the only thing I knew about human trafficking was that it happened in other countries to other kids,” she said. “It had nothing to do with me.”
She had no idea that the year before an FBI report had named Los Angeles one of the 13 most intense child sex trafficking hubs in the U.S.
When ICAN wanted to form a subcommittee on the domestic sex trafficking of minors two weeks later, Guymon still wasn't all that interested.
“I didn't see this happening in LA.”
Then her friend Judge Donna Groman of Juvenile Delinquency Court called Guymon and said she needed to be a part of this subcommittee. “How do you tell a judge no?” Guymon said.
A transformative epiphany
The first subcommittee meeting was Nov. 16, 2010. “I remember the date so vividly,” Guymon said, “because it was a day that had a profound impact on my life. It was here that I learned that this exploitation wasn't something happening [only] in a faraway country. In fact, it was happening right here, in our community, to the very young women I was charged to protect.”
She realized that the young kids she'd viewed as teenage prostitutes throughout her probation career were no different than the victims from other countries the FBI agent was talking about.
“The girls at my camp that are in for prostitution are victims of sex trafficking?” Guymon thought. The concept made her head spin.
“I questioned why these young girls were doing that, not really understanding that this was something being done to them, not something they were choosing to do. I had no idea that they were under the control of an exploiter. [That] they were not out there by choice,” she said.
After this realization, Guymon talked to the now-retired chief of the probation department, Jerry Powers. “We've got a system full of these kids,” Guymon told him. “If they're victims, then they shouldn't be in detention. They shouldn't be locked up.”
Guymon was relieved when Powers supported the creation of a new approach. When David Mitchell became bureau chief of probation, he also gave his full support.
Around this same time, Commissioner Catherine Pratt of the Juvenile Delinquency Court was making the same discovery in her courtroom, as she noticed an increase in prostitution cases. Pratt realized the minors being charged were victims of child sex trafficking.
In LA County Probation, the average age for trafficked kids is 15½, but the exploitation often starts earlier, Guymon said. “We don't see 12-year-olds in the probation system,” she said, “but in one of my early cases, a girl in a group home said her exploitation started at the age of 11 when her adopted mother sold her to support her drug habit.”
In 2011, Pratt and LA Juvenile Delinquency Court and Guymon with the LA Probation Department both applied for three-year federal grants.
Pratt proposed to open a dedicated courtroom that would focus on providing alternatives to detention and assistance for commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC). Guymon and her team applied to create a human trafficking unit inside probation, the first in the county. She hoped the grant would help her unit secure advocacy services for victims. The idea was for the advocates to help keep kids out of detention altogether, or to help shorten their detention time and get them into services and support.
Their timing was good. A year before, in 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice had published the National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, outlining ways to address the growing problem of child exploitation, including providing grants to state, local and tribal government agencies, along with nonprofit partners.
Both got their grants. Pratt developed and supervised the STAR (Succeeding Through Treatment and Resilience) Court, and Guymon developed the human trafficking unit.
All hands on deck
Today Guymon's team includes nine probation staff members, plus a supervisor, with Guymon as the head. But Guymon began her team with just three people: herself and two other probation officers.
At first, she and her two staffers were stretched thin. Getting a huge county bureaucracy — like that of Los Angeles County — to shift gears enough to move on a problem, even a problem as urgent as child sex trafficking, isn't easy. After a presentation by Guymon and company at a meeting of the LA County Board of Supervisors, the board became supportive. Yet the problem couldn't be addressed by just one agency, a few nonprofit advocacy groups and a small alternative court.
On Jan. 10, 2012, the Board of Supervisors passed a motion directing many of the county's main agencies — probation, the District Attorney's office, juvenile courts, Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), Mental Health (DMH), Health Services (DHS) and the Interagency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect (ICAN) — to develop a strategy for uniting the various relevant groups to address the complicated problem. The board also requested a feasibility study for making a more permanent version of Guymon's unit within probation specifically devoted to helping CSEC victims.
Nearly four years later, on Nov. 16, 2015, the board passed another motion, noting that LA needed “a single, countywide body to manage coordinate, and monitor the county's many CSEC initiatives.” No one agency could handle such a task, the board agreed. The result was the LA County CSEC Integrated Leadership Team, now known by the slightly awkward acronym of CSEC ILT. The Team was to be jointly led by probation, DCFS and the LA County Sheriff's Department.
The ball was moved forward still farther when in September 2015 the U.S. Department of Justice provided a $1.5 million grant to the U.S. Attorney's Office and the sheriff's department to jointly create an LA Regional Human Trafficking Task Force to work in partnership with other law enforcement agencies, and with CSEC ILT. The task force also partnered with the Los Angeles Police Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and 46 independent police departments in LA, uniting law enforcement to combat this issue collaboratively.
One of the most important puzzle pieces when designing the multiagency effort was the court system. In that arena, LA County was one step ahead.
In 2011, while Guymon was launching her unit, Pratt had launched the STAR Court, a dedicated courtroom in Compton where Pratt now hears only CSEC cases two days each week. As an adjunct to the courtroom process, a special multidisciplinary team (MDT) meets on Wednesdays. The team — a public defender, a district attorney, an education advocate, a human trafficking advocate, a DCFS agent, a probation officer and Pratt — fosters relationships with the kids who come through the court. While most judges only see such juveniles twice per year in their courtroom, Pratt checks in with them every three to five weeks, when each kid has a scheduled court appearance to review their case and personal progress.
In between, the multidisciplinary team keeps in touch.
Probation is the leader of the team and Guymon is proud of its function. “The level of [individual] engagement that we've created [with kids] is what makes a huge difference in the STAR court,” she said. “We have a dedicated probation officer who is the court liaison to Judge Pratt for all matters that go through her calendar on both of those days.”
Guymon admitted that the unit doesn't have the personnel to supervise every case. But they try to find solutions in whatever way they can, she said. If, for example, they identify a young person who they believe is at risk of CSEC, but who is close to turning 18, when they will be out of reach of the juvenile system, they introduce the youth to a probation officer with resources in the community, so that officer can help the youth once he or she is technically an adult. In other cases where the young person is already positively connected to a probation officer in their community, that relationship is folded into the protocol.
“One of the things that we know about this population is, it's very relational,” Guymon said. “We don't want to move them to another probation officer who they don't know. We triage it, so we take most of the kids that are 16½ and younger; that way we have some length of time to work with them.”
In the beginning, the MDT was a group of five. Now about 17 people participate in those Wednesday meetings. And since public health issues also impact CSEC victims, in the near future a public health nurse will join the team, navigating health services such as pregnancy, parenting, personal safety, etc.
Human Trafficking Task Force
Law enforcement was also a crucial piece of LA County's newly created system. The key to getting cops to invest in the program was training, said LA County Sheriff's Captain Chris Marks, who is now the head of the LA Regional Human Trafficking Task Force.
“When we rolled out the first responder protocol last year to all the stations, the deputies were very receptive to this,” he said. “It's not that law enforcement was opposed to it. They didn't understand it. With the information and knowledge that came through [our] training, they realized what they were missing.”
The first step, according to retired captain Merrill Ladenheim, who helped create the task force, was to make a concerted effort to cluster representatives and agents from different law enforcement agencies and community-based organizations under one roof.
The task force and leadership team work better together, he said. “We don't incarcerate CSEC victims, because victims don't belong in jail. Our Marks beccagoal is to steer them out of probation, and into a victim-centered, trauma approach. Law enforcement [alone] isn't the best to do that.”
One of the community organizations that partners the most actively with the law enforcement task force is CAST , Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking.
From the moment they receive a referral or crisis call, CAST and the task force wrap services around the child through an emergency first responder protocol, according to Becca Channell, CAST's task force coordinator.
“We meet with the [victim to ensure] they get safe housing, clothing and any basic needs in that time of crisis,” Channell said. After that first step, CAST coordinates the longer-term services the young person needs, such as as health care, more permanent housing, employment training, education and more.
“They receive legal services from the very beginning,” she said. “When they were being exploited, survivors had to rely on their trafficker for income, housing and food. These services are essential to break that tie between the survivor and trafficker so they can move forward and build a life of their own.”
The coordinated effort with law enforcement is also critical, according to Channell. “It [gives] us an avenue to reach the victims.”
In addition, law enforcement provides protection, which in CSEC work is of crucial importance.
Working with the LA County Sheriff's Department “helps us keep the victim and staff safe every step of the way.”
Once a youth turns 18, however, matters become more complicated legally, and the task force tends to step away. CAST tries to bridge the gap for young people who leave the juvenile system by providing resources and services such as food, shelter, tattoo removal and job training, as well as help with expunging their records.
CAST also offers training for law enforcement staff.
In the beginning, many in the sheriff's department were operating under an old view of human trafficking, and had not yet understood that it was essential not to treat victims as criminals, Channell said. “We do this training with all the new people who come in from the [sheriff's] academy to continue to shift those mindsets. It's an ongoing process.”
In addition, she said, CAST does training with patrol officers who don't work with human trafficking cases per se, “but are very likely to come across a human trafficking victim.”
This happens with regularity, according to Marks. “A couple weeks ago,” he said, “the San Gabriel Police Department was doing an operation that led them to a motel unrelated to sex trafficking. They came across three victims and three pimps.”
The San Gabriel cops knew they had some kind of sex trafficking situation, he said, “because of the awareness that's catching on. But they still needed some help. So they called our Task Force.” He paused. “It demonstrates how law enforcement is being educated and retrained on this. It's evolving for the better.” (For more information, see the First Responder Protocol.)
Solving recruitment problem
One of the greatest difficulties both the task force and the leadership team face is keeping kids from being recruited in the first place, Ladenheim and Guymon said. This is particularly problematic when dealing with youth in the probation system or in the group homes of LA's child welfare system, where other young people who are being sexually exploited themselves will try to recruit peers by glamorizing the life. They tell other kids about all the “good” things they could have, things they might not normally get, if they join.
In order to combat recruitment, CSEC ILT conducts educational workshops in the county's three juvenile halls. It's a prevention curriculum, according to Guymon. The idea is to ensure that kids understand what the commercial sexual exploitation of kids really means.
“We teach kids the tactics exploiters and peer recruiters will use to get them into the life. [At the workshops] we get a lot of disclosures, where kids are saying, ‘This is what my boyfriend does to me.' They are starting to question what their peers have told them about the life,” Guymon said.
Those young kids who are recruiting their peers are under an enormous amount of pressure by their trafficker, according to Guymon. “Many of our adult survivors say they regret recruiting other kids. They did it out of fear, to try and keep themselves safe,” she said.
Preventing victims from returning to their traffickers once they've been extricated is another difficulty.
“On average, the victims run back to their traffickers because of the trauma bonds or Stockholm Syndrome that has developed,” Ladenheim said.
Channell agreed. These children face various mental health issues, she said, such as attachment to the trafficker because they lack a support system, and very often do not have a home or family where they are safe. “Finding these children a safe environment where they can grow and thrive is difficult, especially when they might still have that connection or romantic feelings for their trafficker.”
“They're vulnerable because of all these tragic things that have happened, and the trauma in their lives that puts them in a place where traffickers, pimps can sniff them out,” Captain Marks said. “[Pimps] are experts at manipulating these girls. They find them and put them in these horrible positions.”
With this issue in mind, about two years ago, the leadership team added additional training for task force members on the intersection of trauma and sexual exploitation. It's important to include such training, Guymon said. Otherwise staff and officers often don't understand why kids run away from placement and back to an exploiter.
For a very long time, she said, law enforcement viewed trafficked children with the lens of criminality. “We saw them as teenage prostitutes, we didn't see them as kids who were being victimized and exploited.” And the exploitation often starts at home, or close to home.
Adult survivors, according to Guymon, often say that their personal history of child sexual abuse was more devastating to them, long term, than their exploitation by strangers. “That childhood abuse and trauma is something they still struggle with today. We help with unpacking the layers of trauma these kids have had.”
Vidhya Ananthakrishnan, a project director at the Vera Institute of Justice, explained why underlying trauma is a driving force. “Sexual abuse, family violence, it forces kids to make this choice [to run away]. They end up on the streets homeless, so they are recruited into being trafficked. It's about survival, and trying to make the best out of a terrible situation.”
When Channell was an emergency response manager, she learned from victims how difficult it is to get out of being trafficked: “At least they know they'll eat and know where they'll sleep.”
Problem of vanishing testimony
The conundrum of solving the child trafficking problem is exacerbated by the fact that it is so difficult to convict the traffickers.
According to Guymon, the task force struggles to get trafficking cases to court primarily because trafficked kids are terrified and not willing to testify. Without the primary evidence of victim testimony, the case against the trafficker usually vanishes.
If a child is willing to testify, then CSEC ILT works on the case with the DA's office. They use a protocol developed specifically for victims who are witnesses in these cases to ensure the child receives protection and services throughout the process.
“What we have done in the past is to wrap as many services around them as possible. If there are any threats, intimidation or harm, we work with the DA's office to get the kids relocated,” Guymon said.
The risk is very real, she said. When a child is testifying against someone who has sexually abused them, they run the risk of harm from their trafficker, and others, especially when the trafficking is gang-related. The trafficker is the one being prosecuted and going to prison, but the gang is still in the community.
Guymon said they are looking for better solutions, such as having the victims testify via closed-circuit television, so that they don't have to face a trafficker while testifying.
California Senate Bill 176, approved in 2015, already allows for alternative court procedures to protect the rights of a child witness who are under 13. But youth over 13 were left out of the equation.
A subsequent bill, California Assembly Bill 1276, approved on Sept. 26, 2016, went one step further. This bill allows children 15 and younger to testify via closed-circuit TVs outside the courtroom. Guymon wishes the bill included all teenagers, although she believes it's a good starting point. “It should have been everyone under 18 years old,” she said.
So, for now, she said, the force wraps the young people in services in whatever way is possible. “We want kids to know that if you are testifying, you're not just a case. We will put the services, support and protections all the way through.”
Critical next steps
So, what should be done next to better solve the tragic problem of child trafficking?
For Guymon, more training is among the main steps most needed.
To date, CSEC ILT has trained about 12,000 professionals in Los Angeles county in the First Responder Protocol for CSEC youth — a sort of CSEC 101 that builds awareness of how the commercial sexual exploitation of children works, the vulnerability of the kids involved and what exactly puts children at risk. Those trained include probation officer, cops, county social workers, foster care providers, health care providers and more.
Guymon argues that everybody and anybody should be trained to increase public awareness. “You [the average citizen] might see something, so you need to know what to do,” she said. Her voice is professional, but also filled with an urgency often present when she talks about the kids who have become her mission.
“That's the only way you stop things. You have all eyes on deck.”
Marks agrees. He said it is essential for the public to “truly understand the magnitude of the problem.”
To illustrate he described one of the task force's recent sting operations in which they posted fake ads, then an investigator talked to potential customers. One ad produced 1,200 text messages exchanged with would-be buyers, he said.
“That to me portrays the problem — and the demand that exists out there. Demand is immeasurable, you can't quantify it. You post an ad and within seconds, you're getting a response.”
So, now the task force is putting an emphasis on “the demand side” of sex trafficking, Marks said. “This is what we're really looking at and coming up with ways [to combat it]. Combating demand involves enforcement, of course, but also, he said, it means “ the portrayal” of what the public considers “a john” to be. “He's exploiting a woman, [or] a child for money.”
The other part of the “awareness campaign,” he said, is getting the message out “to these kids that are already in this life.” He wants them to know that law enforcement now understands that they've been victimized.
“Most of the youth are girls, but boys too, [and] they don't t
rust the system.” The challenge, Marks said, is to break through that lack of trust that makes CSEC children so vulnerable to pimps and traffickers. He wants trafficked kids to know they're not going to be treated like criminals, as was nearly always the case in the recent past.
“We're not looking at you like you've done something wrong. ... You have a safe place to come to. We want to help you.”
Another Voice: Law protecting child sex abusers must be changed
by Melanie Blow
I know where a dangerous sex offender lives. He's not registered under Megan's Law and can pass a background check. I believe he is still abusing kids. I know where he meets them and where he abuses them. There is nothing I can do to stop him.
I know this man is dangerous because when I was a child he sexually abused me. I didn't tell anyone, because he's a relative and I didn't want to cause family strife.
When I heard he sexually abused another girl, I called the police hoping to protect other kids. However, I learned that at the tender age of 24, I was too old to press charges. New York's statute of limitations had closed.
I've attended hundreds of support groups and met thousands of survivors. My story is common. One in five children are sexually abused. It takes them an average of 21 years to disclose their abuse. By the time most survivors can talk about their abuse, they can't press charges. That's wrong, and dangerous to children.
We assume that children are capable of telling a compassionate adult about their abuse and that authorities are immediately notified. Of the thousands of survivors I've talked to, exactly two told someone right away and were subsequently protected.
Many survivors can't process their own abuse or the possibility of others falling prey to the same abuser. By the time we heal and gain our voice, we learn that the statute of limitations bars many of us from accessing justice. The same statute that keeps victims from court keeps abusers on the streets. Research shows only 10 percent of people who sexually abuse children ever see a day behind bars.
A bill called the Child Victims Act (S.809) eliminates the statute of limitations for new sexual offenses and gives victims one year to sue our abusers, providing survivors a way to out their predator's crimes, and protects other children.
The bill is being opposed by the Catholic Church and insurance companies, which fear disclosure and accountability. New York's Republican Senate has blocked every effort to move the bill, putting our children at risk.
One in five is a huge number that seems hopeless, unchangeable. While the public largely ignores the epidemic, survivors live with the memories every day. Abusers are parents, and beloved neighbors, teachers, coaches, scout leaders and day care workers. Their victims know they endanger children but we are the ones the law silences.
People say child sexual abuse is one of the worst types of abuse someone can endure. Being forced to sit idly by while more children are abused is worse. And that won't change until the laws change. We need to call upon our leaders in Albany to pass the Child Victims Act.
Melanie Blow, of Rochester, is the chief operations officer of the Stop Abuse Campaign.
Abused and neglected children need a voice
by Charity Stubb
As the Montana weather gets warmer and we approach a new season, families are beginning to make plans for the end of the school year. Many children will have the opportunity to participate in summer camps, recreation and opportunities to spend more time with family and friends. However, a number children will be wondering where they will get their next meal or sleep at night, who will be a stable adult in their life outside of school, and even worry if someone in their home is going to hurt them. Changes during the year can be a time of significant uncertainty for children experiencing abuse or neglect.
When abused and neglected children enter the judicial system, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers give them a voice by advocating for their best interests. CASA of Missoula is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization dedicated to finding a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible for children who have experienced abuse or neglect. While the goal for each child is to reunify with their family, sometimes this is not possible, and kinship or adoptive placements become a promising option.
All children deserve a safe, nurturing home where they can thrive. CASA volunteers dedicate their time to ensure the needs of each abused and neglected child are being met, that they receive permanency in a safe and stable environment and that they have access to necessary resources and services so they can flourish. Through an objective lens, CASA volunteers gather information regarding the child's situation and build a relationship with each child. CASA volunteers provide sound concerns and recommendations to the court to ensure each child's best interests are a priority.
Having been a CASA volunteer myself, I was able to be the voice for four children who had experienced abuse or neglect. Both cases I served on ended positively: two children were adopted by a loving foster family, and two children were able to be reunified with their biological parent.
Now, as the executive director, I have the opportunity to see the great work CASA volunteers do on a larger scale. Each day, I continue to be grateful for the generosity and support from our CASA volunteers, board of directors, staff and the community for supporting our mission and helping us reach our goal in providing a voice for every abused and neglected child.
As the rates of child abuse and neglect continue to rise, the need for a caring adult to be the voice for every child is critical. CASA of Missoula is currently serving over 400 abused and neglected children in Missoula and Mineral counties. We are very proud to say that 301 children are appointed to CASA volunteers, giving those children a voice; however, our work isn't done. There are still 117 abused and neglected children who need a voice in the judicial system.
Please join us in reaching our goal of providing a voice for every abused and neglected child in Missoula and Mineral counties. There are so many ways you can help: become a CASA volunteer, donate to CASA of Missoula, or participate in any of CASA of Missoula's events throughout the year.
To learn more, visit our website at casamissoula.org, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office at 406-542-1208
Live-streamed child sexual abuse contributing to global crime 'pandemic'
by Amanda Copp
Technological advancements, such as faster internet, live streaming and expanding storage, are also leading to ballooning rates of online child sexual abuse, new research has found.
Videos and images of child abuse, as well as the more recent trend of live-streaming child exploitation, are all on the rise within Australia, according Anti-Slavery Australia's 'Behind the Screen' report.
One of the researchers, senior law lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney Ian Dobinson, said instances of ‘live-distant child abuse' is growing. The “sickening” practice involves using a webcam to broadcast real-time incidences of child sexual abuse to remote locations.
Mr Dobinson says Australian laws haven't kept up with technology and there is a “disconnect” in the sentences handed down for crimes committed online compared with those for abuse involving real-life contact with a child.
“Yes there is a difference between online offending and contact offending, but in many cases there is a real connection between the two - it's contact offending that generates the images,” Mr Dobinson said.
“Each one of those images is a scene of a crime which is incredibly severe and serious in terms of the way we could classify our offences.”
In cases of live streaming, “the person might as well be there in the room with the adult who is sexually abusing the child”.
But police officers interviewed as part of the study said live streaming is extremely hard to detect because it is not stored anywhere.
The report calls for a peak body to be established in Australia to manage the nation's combined effort against child sexual abuse online.
In 2013-15, the volume of child sexual abuse material increased by more than 400 per cent according to Internet Watch Foundation.
Jennifer Burn is the director of Anti-Slavery Australia and said there has been a “phenomenal” increase in child abuse material available online.
“Huge advances in modern technology has fueled the growth of child exploitation material,” she said.
“The technology has increased so substantially and brought with it so many benefits to all of us in our everyday lives, but it also has a dark side and that is that technology enables the ready facilitation of any kind of material but including material showing children being exploited.”
A senior police officer is quoted in the report speaking about the sheer scale of material being seized by police.
“Back in the early 2000s, we were dealing with kilobytes and megabytes, now we are dealing with petabytes, mainly terabytes now when we do our seizures,” the officer said.
Boy Scouts insist on keeping sex-abuse secrets
by Christian Boone
For decades, secrets of alleged sexual abuse have been collecting dust in the Boy Scouts of America's headquarters in Irving, Texas, and in state and regional offices across the nation. And the Scouts are fighting hard to keep them locked away.
Former Scouts in Georgia and other states, many of them now middle-age, say the national organization's refusal to make public the files helped facilitate sexual abuse inflicted by their scoutmasters.
The accusers' claim of a conspiracy of silence is the crux of a lawsuit filed last week against a former Athens, Ga., scoutmaster who allegedly molested a dozen or more Scouts and other boys in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. It's the latest in a series of such lawsuits filed against former Georgia scoutmasters.
"Instead of making information publicly available or reporting it to the appropriate authorities, defendants kept silent while actively soliciting new Scouts when they knew without doubt that many Scout leaders had been credibly accused of pedophilic/ephebophilic tendencies," says the lawsuit against Athens businessman Ernest Boland, who died in 2013.
In 2012, a Portland judge ordered the release of files collected nationwide from 1965 to 1985 that detailed the expulsion of 1,247 Scout volunteers. But the Scouts have successfully fought against releasing files from before or after that period, and, in some cases, even those compiled in the time outlined by the judge.
The Scouts organization argues that confidentiality must be maintained to protect the victims. The alleged cases of molestation, it says, also happened more than 40 years ago in some cases and that comprehensive policies and procedures that are "barriers to abuse" have since been put in place.
But accusers insist that the Scouts should publicly release internal documents chronicling the predatory behavior of volunteers dating back at least as far as 1947.
By withholding the files, they argue, the Boy Scouts are contradicting their stated mission to "prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes" and, perhaps, their legal responsibility to protect the children they sought to mold.
"By doing this," the lawsuit against Boland contends, "defendants knowingly put the youth communities of Athens-Clarke County, the state of Georgia and others across the United States, at risk of sexual molestation."
It's a conspiracy that persists, says attorney Darren Penn, co-counsel for the two men in the Boland case, whose names The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is not releasing because they are alleged victims of sexual abuse.
Their lawsuit challenges the Scouts' status as a private organization, a position affirmed by the Supreme Court during the fight over prohibiting "open or avowed" homosexuals from leadership positions. That ban was lifted in 2014.
The lawsuit, in which the Boy Scouts of America and its Northeast Georgia Council are among the defendants, argues that because the Scouts often use public property for their activities, and target the public at large in their recruiting, the Scouts' secretive behavior about known or likely predators constitutes a public nuisance.
"That continues today - hiding information, concealing information, keeping it confidential," Penn said. "But the law mandates that if you learn about this type of behavior you're supposed to report it. Instead, they continue to hide it."
The Boy Scouts of America and the Northeast Georgia Council declined interview requests. In a statement last week, Northeast Georgia Council CEO Trip Selman made reference to the allegations being more than 40 years ago in some cases, a common response also cited in a lawsuit filed last year by a Gainesville man against Fleming Weaver, a longtime scoutmaster who was a protege of Ernest Boland.
Selman said the Scouts have adopted stringent policies and procedures to prevent abuse.
"These include a thorough screening process for adult leaders and staff, criminal background checks, requiring two or more adult leaders be present with youth at all times during Scouting activities, and the prompt mandatory reporting of any allegation or suspicion of abuse," Selman wrote. "In recent years, the BSA conducted a thorough review to ensure all circumstances that pre-dated this policy by many years were reported to law enforcement."
The battle over the release of the files has been building for years.
The public disclosure ordered by the judge in 2012 was prompted by a case _ tried by Paul Mones, co-counsel for the men suing Boland _ in which an assistant scoutmaster, who had already confessed to molesting 17 Scouts, was allowed to continue volunteering with the program and thus abuse more children.
It resulted in a $19.9 million ruling against the Boy Scouts of America and a statement from the organization's national president acknowledging that, "in certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong."
Despite the ruling, however, the Scouts have continued to successfully fight against the release of files in most such cases.
In a Georgia lawsuit filed last year against former Gainesville scoutmaster Fleming Weaver, the Boy Scouts acknowledged in court documents that they have "acquired knowledge that Weaver has been accused of sexually abusing Scouts from other troops from a time period prior to his appointment as Troop 26 Scout leader" in 1969. But they've yet to consent to turning over Weaver's file.
The lawsuit by Robb Lawson of Gainesville alleges that he was sexually abused by Weaver almost four years after the scoutmaster admitted to the pastor of First Baptist Church, which sponsored the troop Weaver led, that he had molested two of its Scouts. A prominent Scout official who attended the church was told about the abuse by his pastor but they agreed not to inform the Boy Scouts, the Northeast Georgia Council or law enforcement.
"One thing we've found, when we look at all the Boy Scouts cases, is a constant fight against releasing any of the documents," said Emma Hetherington, director of the University of Georgia Law School's Wilbanks Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation Clinic, founded to assist the survivors of child sexual abuse.
They've even fought some of the files that have been released publicly from being used in court cases. In doing so, Hetherington said, the Scouts have maintained that their interest is in protecting the victims. Disclosure would discourage people from reporting other abuse because the Scouts could not guarantee confidentiality.
"No one is asking them to release the names of the victims," Hetherington said. "They're protecting themselves, not the children."
"If you really want to protect more boys, you release the names of the offenders," she said. "It's about holding them accountable and holding the Scouts accountable. This is an organization that led the public to believe their child would be in one of the safest places they could be if they were in Boy Scouts."
The Boy Scouts, like several other youth organizations, have experienced a membership decline in recent decades. Current youth participation is down more than 4 million from peak years, according to the BSA.
Help raise awareness in the fight against child abuse
National Child Protection Week started yesterday and is a good opportunity to teach children about their rights. Adults should also be educated on what child abuse is, how to spot the signs and where to report it.
by Retha Nel
MALALANE – With so many cases of child abuse reported in the region, National Child Protection Week, from May 28 to June 4, provides a great opportunity for local organisations and institutions to raise awareness of children's rights.
The annual event began in 1997 and has educated adults on their obligation to protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse and teach children about their rights.
Children's rights are clearly set out in Section 28 of the Constitution and the Children's Act of 2005 . This includes having a loving and caring family, a safe and comfortable home, clothing, healthy food and access to medical care, not being forced to work (which includes begging on the side of the road), being treated with consideration and safely by police if a child has done something bad and to speak and be heard.
The full list can be found on both Childline South Africa and the SAPS' websites.
Childline South Africa is one of the biggest champions of children's rights in the country and its website is full of interesting information for children, teens and adults.
Children are encouraged to contact it on 0800-55-555 for free to get information or advice on topics like abuse, depression, HIV/Aids, neglect, bullying and harassment.
Child abuse can include sexual, physical and emotional abuse, as well as neglect.
According to the police, physical signs that a child is being abused include bite marks, bruises in strange places, cuts, burns, frequent injuries, hand marks, multiple injuries at different stages of healing, as well as looking unhealthy due to poor care.
Children who are being abused
• tend to avoid physical contact with others,
• wear clothing to conceal injuries, like long sleeves
• refuse to undress for sport or physical exams at school
• give different reasons each time someone asks about an injury
• are often late or absent from school
• have difficulty getting along with others
• play aggressively and often hurt their peers
Children who are being abused or adults who want to report abuse can contact their nearest police station or Childline's toll-free number, Amanda de Swardt of Go Purple Malelane on 072-371-8993 or the local CMR social workers, Charmaine Botha, on 013-793-8391.
New Accuser Sues Former Speaker Dennis Hastert, Claims Child Sex Abuse
Disgraced former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert was facing new allegations of sexually abusing a boy when he was a teacher and wrestling coach in the 1970s, after a new accuser filed a lawsuit in Kendall County.
The accusations come less than three months before Hastert is scheduled to be released from federal prison, where he is serving a 15-month sentence for violating banking laws to cover up hush money payments to another victim.
The lawsuit filed Friday claims Hastert forced himself on a 9- or 10-year-old boy in a Yorkville High School bathroom in the early 1970s.
The plaintiff said he didn't know who Hastert was, but a few days later, when he saw Hastert in a gym class at Yorkville Grade School, he recognized him as his attacker.
The suit claims when the boy recognized Hastert, he began shaking and crying, and Hastert walked up to him and took him into a hallway, asking if the boy had reported the assault. Hastert allegedly warned him against reporting the attack, threatening that Hastert's father was the sheriff, and if the plaintiff told his parents, he would go to jail.
The lawsuit also claims the plaintiff tried to report the crime to the Kendall County State's Attorney's office years later, but prosecutors threatened to charge the plaintiff with a crime, and accused him of slandering Hastert.
The plaintiff has sought at more than $50,000 in damages related to mental and emotional distress. The lawsuit names Hastert as defendant, but also indicates Yorkville High School might be sued as well.
Hastert's attorney has not responded to requests for comment.
Major child protective services reforms head to Gov. Abbott's desk
by Julie Chang
Major bills to address the state's troubled child welfare system are now headed for Gov. Greg Abbott's desk.
Both the House and the Senate on Sunday gave final approval on changes to Senate Bill 11 filed by Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, which would expand “community-based foster care” to at least two additional areas in the state over the next two years. The state would have to transfer foster care case management, including caseworker visits, court-related duties and decision-making on where children live, learn and receive services, to a nonprofit agency or a governmental entity such as a county or municipality.
“We cannot continue to fund a statewide system that does not take into account individualized community supports, efforts and services and further traumatizes children by moving them from one side of the state to another away from their siblings, their family and their community that they know,” said Schwertner.
Community-based foster care, also called foster care privatization, has been promoted to lawmakers this session as Child Protective Services and the foster care system come under the microscope for child deaths, high turnover and a failure to see endangered children within state-mandated time frames.
A federal judge last year ruled that a major part of the state's foster care system was unconstitutional and suggested that, in some cases, children were better off before they entered the state's care.
Gov. Greg Abbott included fixing foster care as one of his four priorities for the Legislature this session.
Skeptics of community-based foster care, including four of the six members of the Austin delegation in the Texas House, fear that nonprofits who contract with the state might have interests that do not jibe with the best interests of foster children.
Proponents of the community-based model say that a Fort Worth pilot program has kept a high number of children in their communities, decreased the number of times children moved from home to home and increased the number of foster homes, particularly in rural areas, according to the state child welfare agency.
SB 11 would also:
• Create standardized policies for child abuse and neglect investigations.
• Require the state to collect and monitor repeated reports of abuse or neglect involving the same child or by the same alleged perpetrator.
• Cover the costs of day care services for foster children.
• Ensure that the state child welfare agency collects data and creates a plan to address foster home shortages in regions where privatized foster care hasn't occurred.
• Create pilot programs in two geographical areas for the privatization of family-based safety services, which help families who have been investigated for abuse.
Also on Sunday, both chambers approved House Bill 5 by Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, which would make the Department of Family and Protective Services its own agency; currently it's housed under the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
However, some foster care advocates are concerned about an amendment that was slipped into HB 5 by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, that they say would give immunity from lawsuits to private entities that contract with the state to provide child welfare services. They wouldn't be held liable for property damage, personal injury or death unless due to gross negligence or intentional acts or omissions. Huffman said that the provision would encourage private entities to contract with the state.
Schwertner said that the language has been toned down so that nonprofits are offered the same immunity as charitable organizations in current law.
Last week, the Texas Legislature also advanced two other major foster care and child protection measures — HB 4 and HB 7 — to Abbott. HB 7 addresses the court proceedings that affect foster children and their biological parents and HB 4 would increase payments to people who foster children who are their family members.
The budget approved by the Legislature on Saturday boosts funding to Child Protective Services by $500 million to give caseworkers raises and hire 500 new ones in an attempt to slow the alarmingly high turnover at the beleaguered agency.
‘I Am Still Here' Uncovers America's Harrowing Sex Trafficking Underworld
by Anthony D'Alessandro
(Trailer on site)
Last week amid the noise of the Cannes Film Festival, a brave independent film about the atrocities of child sex trafficking, I Am Still Here, took Best Feature at the Nice International Film Festival, one town over on the French Riviera. Directed and written by Mischa Marcus and produced by Stephanie Bell, I Am Still Here, follows 10-year old Layla (Aliyah Conley) during the first 48 hours of her abduction in her neighborhood, and how she battles to escape the underground.
“During my freshman year of college, a brothel housing child sex slaves was busted in a neighborhood close to mine. Hearing this shook me to my core. I was raised to believe I live in our ‘Land of the Free,' but that day, I discovered slavery, even of children, is still a very real problem,” says Marcus who based I Am Still Here on her exhaustive research of real sex trafficking cases. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, sex trafficking will overtake drugs and weapons as society's most pervasive crime. Between 2012 to 2016, reported child sex trafficking cases increased close to two-fold. Many go unreported, hence that stat is just the tip of the iceberg. Eighty-one percent are abducted by their “controller” versus abductions over the internet (14%) and by phone (5%).
I Am Still Here stars Johnny Rey Diaz ( Hawaii Five-O ), Erika Ringor ( Love & Basketball ) and Ciara Jiana ( Sharknado ). I Am Still Here has played 25 festivals to date, collecting in sum 15 awards. Kirk Roos and Brad Brizendine's Conduit is handling foreign and domestic sales. Recent Conduit projects include Voltage Picture's horror movie Bedeviled from Nicholl Fellowship winners Abel and Burlee Vang, high school debate documentary Figures of Speech narrated by Chris Pine, and the doc Gold Blooded starring Discovery's Gold Rush star Dakota Fred Hurt. Roos has produced a number of projects including Veep Emmy nominee's cinematic canon — High Road starring Dylan O'Brien and Ed Helms and A Better You starring Brian Huskey and Horatio Sanz. Other producing credits include The Brass Teapot, and the Peter Winther sci-fi thriller Painkillers which Roos also co-wrote.