National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Every day we bring you news articles, opinion pieces, crime stories and official information from government web sites. These are highlights, and constitute the tip of the iceberg .. a small percentage of the daily information available to those who are interested in the issues of child abuse, trauma and recovery. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" and every voice makes a big difference.
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Recent News - News from other times

June, 2017 - Week 2
MJ Goyings
Many thanks to our very own "MJ" Goyings, a resident of Ohio, for her daily research that provides us with the news related material that appears on the LACP & NAASCA web sites.


2 Toddlers Die in Texas After Being Left in Car for 15 Hours, Sheriff Says

by Matt Stevens

When Amanda Hawkins arrived at Peterson Regional Medical Center in Kerrville, Tex., her two daughters were in grave condition.

As Ms. Hawkins told it, she and the toddlers had been at nearby Flat Rock Lake when one of the girls, then the other, collapsed. She wondered aloud whether the children, who she said had been smelling flowers, had come into contact with something poisonous.

The girls died Thursday at a hospital in San Antonio. On Friday, the authorities in Kerrville, about 65 miles northwest of the city, painted a very different picture of events than Ms. Hawkins had described.

The Kerr County sheriff, Rusty Hierholzer, said Ms. Hawkins, 19, had intentionally left the girls — Brynn Hawkins, 1, and Addyson Overgard-Eddy, 2 — in her car for more than 15 hours while she was at a friend's house.

“This is by far the most horrific case of child endangerment that I have seen in the 37 years that I have been in law enforcement,” Sheriff Hierholzer said in a statement.

Ms. Hawkins was arrested on two counts of abandoning or endangering a child. She was being held late Saturday at Bexar County jail in San Antonio awaiting transfer to Kerr County.

Sheriff Hierholzer said the charges could be upgraded after the case is presented to a grand jury.

He said Ms. Hawkins left the children in her vehicle on Tuesday night, outside the home of a friend she was visiting, and did not return to them until around noon Wednesday. Temperatures rose into the 90s on Wednesday morning, Sheriff Hierholzer told Fox 29 in San Antonio.

A 16-year-old boy who accompanied Ms. Hawkins to the house went out to the car with the children for “a little while,” but returned inside, Sheriff Hierholzer told Fox 29. He will “probably have to face some charges,” the sheriff said. “He does have some culpability in this.”

The sheriff told Fox 29 that someone in the house had apparently heard the children cry out and told Ms. Hawkins to bring them inside, but she did not.

After finding the children on Wednesday, Ms. Hawkins tried to bathe them, Sheriff Hierholzer said in his statement. At first, she did not want to take them to the hospital because “she didn't want to get into trouble,” but later she made up the story about the trip to the lake, he said.

Once medical personnel in Kerrville recognized the seriousness of the girls' condition, they transferred them to University Hospital in San Antonio. They were taken off ventilators and died around 5 p.m. Thursday, Sheriff Hierholzer told Fox 29.

The Bexar County medical examiner's office was scheduled to conduct autopsies on Friday. Officials there could not be reached on Saturday night to discuss the results.

It was not clear whether Ms. Hawkins had a lawyer.

In an interview with The San Antonio Express-News, Alisha Eddy, who the newspaper identified as Ms. Hawkins's mother, said, “I don't agree with what happened,” but added, “I love my daughter. I'm there for my daughter.”

A woman who answered the phone on Saturday at a number listed for one of Ms. Hawkins's relatives said, “We had two babies in our family die this week — we're not talking to anyone,” before hanging up. She did not identify herself.

So far this year, 11 children in the United States have died of heatstroke after being left in cars, according to Jan Null, a meteorologist at San Jose State University in California who tracks such deaths on There were 39 such deaths last year, according to the site.

Sheriff Hierholzer said most were because of some oversight.

“These children were left in that car intentionally,” he told Fox 29.

“Helpless little kids,” the sheriff said. “And it was totally preventable.”



Officials admit child abuse blunders

by Paul Mann

HUMBOLDT — County authorities are admitting to interagency communication breakdowns and negligent reporting in combating rampant child abuse, but say improvements are in the works.

Officials made the admissions late last week in response to two scathing civil grand jury reports about multi-agency failures by schools, law enforcement and county Child Welfare Services to report and combat child abuse effectively.

The grand jury probe concluded that Humboldt's social services system is so structured that at times it appears “dysfunctional.”

The panel issued a two-pronged warning in the wake of an eight-month investigation:

• “The safety net for our children critically needs improvement.”

• “The children of Humboldt County are ill-served by the intake system that is meant to protect them!”

The Union reported in December that the county's child abuse and neglect rate is nearly 50 percent higher than the California average, according to Mary Ann Hansen, executive director of First 5 Humboldt, the family support and child abuse prevention agency (Union, Dec. 10, 2016).

The weekend edition of the Times-Standard quoted Sheriff William Honsal acknowledging that communications between his of ce and Child Welfare Services have “ab- solutely failed over the last couple of years” to react quickly enough to reports of child abuse and neglect. He faulted Child Welfare case workers for lax communications but said the two agencies are at work on shoring them up, the newspaper quoted him stating.

The grand jury report voiced strong skepticism that the promised improvements will materialize.

Times-Standard reporter Will Houston also quoted Chris Hartley, Humboldt County Superintendent of Schools, that school district officials have been meeting monthly for several years with counterparts from the Department of Health and Human Services and that the dual grand jury reports will, belatedly, kick off discussions about coordinating child abuse reporting.

In stinging rebukes, two 2016-2017 civil grand jury reports, “Responding in Time to Help our ‘At Risk' Children” and “Child Welfare in Humboldt: Getting the Door Open,” fault major problems in how schools, law enforcement and county agencies work to protect highly vulnerable youngsters.

“Lack of timeliness and follow-up can have devastating results,” warns the exposé on slow response times. Among the findings:

• School districts struggle with their responsibility as Mandated Reporters of suspected child abuse and neglect. They often describe their con-tacts with law enforcement and child welfare as “frustrating” and “problematic.”

• Of the five school districts investigated, comprising numerous schools, all representatives “expressed high levels of frustration with Child Welfare Services in the initial ling and subsequent handling of Mandated Reports.”

The Arcata School District gave high marks to the cooperation of the Arcata Police Department in child abuse investigations, but other districts registered multiple complaints about sheriff's stations in their locales. Frequently, deputies “do not answer our calls,” “tell us they do not have sufficient personal to investigate” or they investigate “but do not le a report” of the investigation.

School employees were “vociferous in their complaints” about Child Welfare Services. The grand jury spelled out the critical remarks:

• “They often do not return our calls.”

• The Child Welfare hotline is “totally worthless.”

• “We don't go that far South.”

• “That is not within our jurisdiction.”

• “You should call the sheriff's of- ce about this.”

School personnel told the grand jury that often they never receive a reply from Child Welfare about a led Mandated Report. The most common replies, if any, are “does not meet the state requirements for intervention” or secondly, “referred to other services.”

The latter means Child Welfare made an initial inquiry and then referred a family to voluntary social services or another community agency – but did not follow-up on whether the family followed through.

Turning to law enforcement, virtually all the of officers interviewed stated that drugs and alcohol were involved in the majority of the Mandated Report cases they investigated.

Like the school districts, law enforcement cited numerous problems in dealing with Child Welfare. In multiple instances, the difficulty is a severe lack of timely interagency communication.

Two examples, according to law officers (CWS refers to Child Welfare Services):

• CWS tends to send a week's supply of requests late Friday afternoon, making it difficult for the Sheriff's Of- ce to begin investigations until the following Monday.

• In cases involving possible physical or sexual abuse, law enforcement must be contacted within hours, but the sheriff's of ce is sometimes called days or weeks after CWS receives an initial report.

The child abuse report voiced doubts, based on past experience, that law enforcement and Child Welfare will improve their mutual openness and communication.

“While the Grand Jury supports apparent current efforts to create a task force to improve transparency and communication, the history of such past efforts gives us reason to be skeptical at this time.”

All of the social workers interviewed “appeared to be seriously dedicated to the work they were doing” with at-risk children, but said the Department of Health and Human Services has overwhelming caseloads, high turnover and lack of experience in dealing with the caseload.

Child Welfare staff dismissed school district complaints, alleging that many Mandated Reporters do not know how to ll out their reports properly or understand the criteria to be followed.

However, the grand jury found that “of the approximately 250 redacted Mandated Reports that we read, not one was filled out inappropriately or inaccurately.”



Child abuse database launched

Registry holds names of those convicted in cases of crimes against children

by Caitlin VanOverberghe

GREENFIELD — A database that launched this week lists the names of people convicted of child abuse in the last five years.

State officials hope the new child abuse and neglect registry will become the tool parents use to ensure their children are cared for by someone trustworthy.

The online registry is similar to one listing convicted sex offenders.

Parents can search people by name at (click on the link for the child abuse registry).

A person's name will appear in the search results if they've been convicted of child neglect, battery or sexual assault against a child or child selling — crimes that statistics show are being reported more regularly throughout the state.

Child abuse and neglect cases are up nearly 20 percent statewide, according to the Indiana Department of Child Services.

In 2016, the agency handled 241 cases in which a Hancock County child had been neglected or abused, compared with 186 cases in 2015, according to department records.

The site is maintained by the state's division of court administrators and is updated every 30 days. It lists the name of the offender and the county where they were found guilty. It also includes the person's age, their last known city of residence, a photograph and a description of their crime.

Currently, the site only shows convictions dating back to 2012. That means the names of some 60 defendants from Hancock County currently appear on the site because of child abuse and neglect cases. Another roughly 40 sex offenders from Hancock County appear on the new registry.

The database was inspired by a case out of Elkhart County. Nineteen-month-old Kirk Coleman died in October 2014 after suffering a brain injury while in the care of a babysitter who had a history of child abuse. Officials say the woman had been convicted of child neglect in 2006.

The boy's family said that had they known the babysitter's criminal history, they would not have left the child in her care.

The bill proposing the registry passed the house and senate unanimously during the 2016 session. It was signed into law by then-Gov. Mike Pence in March 2016.

Caregivers are often invovled in crimes against children, said Annette Craycraft, director of East Central Indiana Court-Appointed Special Advocates.

CASA volunteers serve as advocates for children who have been wrapped up in a legal case. The advocate conveys to a judge what they believe is the child's best interest.

Often, the children advocates represent victims of crimes, harmed or neglected by an adult in their life, Craycraft said. Typically, that adult was someone who was supposed to help care for the child, to keep them safe and protected.

That could mean a babysitter, new friend or neighbor, she said.

Schools, hospitals and daycare centers typically perform background checks on potential employees who might work with children, but parents don't usually have those resources, Craycraft said. A database should give parents some peace of mind, she said.

The child-abuse registry should help prevent those convicted of crimes against children from re-offending, Prosecutor Brent Eaton said.

He pointed to the sex-offender registry as an example. Since its inception, law enforcement and residents alike have used the online database as a means of keeping tabs on sex offenders in hopes of keeping their neighborhoods safe. Police strictly supervise those whose names appear on the list, and parents have access to it to keep their kids away from people who might be dangerous, he said.

As the child-abuse registry becomes more well-known, it could have the same effect, Eaton said.

“The goal is to minimize the possibility for people to re-offend,” he said. “It will be a good tool for people to look and see if this is somebody who can be trusted with children.”

Use the registry

Parents can search people by name at (click on the link for the child abuse registry).

A person's name will appear in the search results if they've been convicted of child neglect, battery or sexual assault against a child or child selling — crimes that statistics show are being reported more regularly throughout the state.



Cases of child abuse and neglect up 17 percent in Sonoma County

by Martin Espinoza

The number of child abuse or neglect cases in Sonoma County rose 17 percent last year, with drug abuse and mental health issues playing an increasing role in destabilizing at-risk families, according to county data.

The 569 confirmed cases of abuse or neglect last year — up from 487 in 2015 — nearly matched the county's five-year high. The number of children removed from their homes and placed into foster care rose from 208 in 2015 to 263 last year.

Drug and alcohol abuse were a factor in 42 percent of the 2,220 cases investigated last year by the county's Child Protective Services. In 2012, only 29 percent of abuse or neglect cases involved drugs or alcohol.

County officials say the increases occur at a time when the county's most at-risk families are struggling with obstacles such the rise in opioid use and the stress and strain caused by the county's high cost of housing. Other hardship factors for at-risk families include unemployment or underemployment, and mental health problems, said Katie Greaves, section manager at the county's Family Youth and Children services.

“The more of those issues you have, the harder it is for parents to provide stability and the basic needs that children need to thrive,” Greaves said.

That vast majority of allegations CPS investigates are related to neglect rather than abuse, said Greaves, adding that such cases are often at “the intersection” of substance abuse, poverty and mental health. She said the county is currently doing a study of cases to understand what many social workers have been encountering in cases they investigate — the abuse of multiple substances including opioids, methamphetamine, alcohol and marijuana.

“Opioids are definitely the common thread we see,” Greaves said.

Marena Koukis, a psychologist who specializes in alcohol and drug abuse, said families where a parent has an addiction face challenges that are hard but not impossible to overcome. Koukis, coordinator of the county's Drug Free Babies program and Drug Dependency Court, said chronic drug use can alter “the way a brain works.” Parents crippled by addiction do not have the presence of mind they would if sober, she said.

“Our focus is really to treat it like any other disease that's a chronic disorder,” Koukis said. “The risk of child abuse or maltreatment would be increased if there are drugs or alcohol abuse.”

Greaves said the growing scourge of opioids is of particular concern in Sonoma County.

According to the latest public health review of opioid use updated last year, 126,000 county residents — 25 percent of population — had an opioid prescription. Of those, a quarter had four or more opioid prescriptions, and 5 percent of those had prescriptions from four or more prescribers.

The report found 524 people in the county identified specifically as “doctor shoppers” — patients who obtained opioid prescriptions from four or more prescribers and four or more pharmacies. Also, the local rate of emergency room visits for accidental opioid overdose increased 73 percent from 2009-2011 to 2012-2014, from 10 to 17.3 per 100,000 people — 61 percent higher than the statewide rate.

Jane Wilson, section manager at the county's Family Youth and Children services, said each call made to the county's Child Protection Hotline is evaluated by a trained social worker to determine the level of gravity of allegations.

In 2016, there were a total of 5,516 hotline reports made. Of these, 2,220 were investigated.

County officials said that most of the 2,220 cases were resolved with community-based support services that allowed children to remain safely with their parents. In 2016, Family Youth and Children services spent $724,000 on “pathways to prevention” that offered four levels of intervention to prevent the need for foster care.

These range from parent education and housing support to more severe court-ordered “family maintenance” services that provide a family with six to 12 months of intensive social work and support. Only 7 percent of the 2,220 cases investigated by CPS resulted in a child being removed from a family.

Greaves and Wilson said another issue affecting many families is the high cost of housing in Sonoma County, which in some cases results in children living with multiple families or unfamiliar or unrelated people. Sometimes families are living in substandard housing with hazardous conditions.

The high cost of housing puts at-risk families under greater financial strain, making it more difficult to provide adequate food or other necessities, Greaves said.

“For children who live in these conditions, their environment can be unpredictable,” Greaves said, adding that in some cases children are not getting enough sleep, missing school and not receiving proper medical or dental care.

“The high cost of living places an extreme stress on the family so that when they're putting such a large portion of their income on housing, it doesn't leave a lot of resources for other things that are necessary for healthy family functioning, such as child care transportation, utilities,” Greaves said.

The county said local residents are needed to bolster the community-based system aimed at reducing or addressing cases of child abuse and neglect. People can volunteer at county emergency shelters, the Valley of the Moon Children's Home or other organizations that work with youth.

“Our deep-seated belief is that families are good and children need to be with their parents, but they have challenges that get in the way — that's our starting point,” Greaves said.

County officials say there's also a pressing need for more people in the local community to become foster parents who can temporarily care for children who are removed from their homes for their own safety.



Thousands of written child abuse reports go unchecked

by Lauren Novak

UNCHECKED written reports of potential child abuse hit a record peak of 3800 earlier this year, prompting the State Government to put on extra staff in a bid to clear the bottleneck.

The resources boost brought the total back to about 2500 outstanding reports but social workers fear there are children still at risk among them.

The Public Service Association, which represents child protection workers and monitors the backlog, estimates that some of the reports are more than two months old. It is likely that many raise repeated concerns about the same children.

PSA general secretary Nev Kitchin has warned that serious cases could be slipping through the cracks because staff do not have time to attend to all the reports lodged with the electronic Child Abuse Report Line.

These come in addition to the tens of thousands of phone calls made to the Child Abuse Report Line call centre each year, many of which also go unanswered.

Mr Kitchin said temporary extra resources were “barely putting a dent” in the number of e-CARL (online) reports coming in and “staff believe they will not be able to reduce this backlog with current resources”.

Child Protection Department chief executive Cathy Taylor said when e-CARL reports peaked in April, the department added an extra seven staff to the roster for four days to process the electronic reports, she said.

“These actions significantly reduced the reports awaiting processing, and further work is underway to continue addressing the issue,” Ms Taylor said.

She added that more staff would be recruited soon under the new Child Safety Pathway plan, a recommendation of the Nyland Royal Commission into the state's child protection system.

Ms Nyland's recommendations were delivered to Government in August last year.

“It's important to note that e-CARL is not designed for urgent or immediate risk notifications and if the matter is urgent, people are encouraged to call SA police,” Ms Taylor said.

Opposition child protection spokeswoman Rachel Sanderson said it was “extremely concerning that 2500 child protection concerns reported by teachers, nurses and police have yet to be investigated”.

“I shudder to think how many vulnerable children at being left at risk of abuse and neglect because of this backlog,” she said.

More than 28,000 e-CARL reports have been lodged so far this financial year.

In October, 2015, The Advertiser reported there was an e-CARL backlog of about 1000 reports.



How these bikers are protecting kids from child abusers

by Greg McQuade

PETERSBURG, Va. -- Rumbling down the road, these Leather clad bikers can be an an imposing sight. Intimidating even. Riders named Hawkeye, Frosty, Shadow, and Krewzer share an unbreakable bond that extends well beyond their biker brood.

Each rider belongs to the Tri-City Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA).

BACA, which was founded in 1995 in Provo, Utah, has grown to an international non-profit standing up for children who have fallen victim to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.

"Our mission is to be there for that child 24 hours a day," Hawkeye said.

"All they have to do is call and we'll show up. Whoever is available," Frosty added.

Working in conjunction with local and state child advocates, BACA members appear at courtrooms or homes to provide a sense of security.

“We just show up. The kids are always amazing and you wonder how someone could do this to them. How could this possibly be," Shadow said. "One child didn't want her abuser to see her. She didn't want to see him. So we made a wall around her and escorted her in and stayed with her the whole time."

Krewzer, from Hopewell, is BACA's president in Virginia.

"I went on my first ride and I was hooked," Krewzer said. "One in four girls and one in six boys are abused by their 18th birthday."

BACA's presence empowers children through self-confidence and diminishing guilt.

Available around the clock when emergencies arise, BACA members called wounded victims their top priority.

"We're there to support them," Krewzer said. "I don't need the details of the case. I'm going to be there to support that kid if they want me there."

If you look close enough behind the black leather and booming bikes, you'll find big hearts looking after wounded children in need.

"That is what it is about. To tell their story," Hawkeye said. "If they can tell their story. They can move on. They can heal."



Child porn producers should be "shot", federal judge suggests in a Norfolk courtroom

by Scott Daugherty

From the bench this week, a federal judge unafraid of offering blunt opinions said that anyone who produces child pornography should be shot.

An exact quote of what Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar said Tuesday during a case involving the collection of child porn was not available, but in an interview Thursday, he reiterated the comment multiple times.

“I said it. I said that they should be shot,” said Doumar.

He stressed he was referring to producers of “baby pornography” and noted that the case at hand involved particularly heinous images. The pornography included photos of very young children, penetration, bestiality and various other forms of physical and emotional abuse, prosecutors said.

“I feel very strongly on this,” he said. “They are not fit to live in our society.”

That said, Doumar, whom President Ronald Reagan nominated to a lifetime appointment on the bench more than 35 years ago , went on to explain that he did not “actually want to go kill them.”

The maximum punishment for producing child pornography is life in prison, and Doumar acknowledged that is all he can legally do when it comes to sentencing producers.

In 2014, Doumar sentenced a Virginia Beach man to life in prison plus 40 years on charges he was responsible for videos that captured the sexual abuse of seven children under 5 in Hampton Roads. At the time, he called Robert H. Scott Jr. the “epitome of evil” and offered a hint at what he thought was a truly appropriate punishment.

“Life in prison is not a satisfactory solution,” Doumar told Scott, “but it is the solution available.”

Doumar is known in legal circles for telling colorful stories from the bench. During many sentencing hearings in drug cases, he has recounted an extended history of China and the opium trade and compared it to the United States and its drug policies. He fears for the future of the country if drugs are legalized.

The judge's penchant for interrupting attorneys, however, has drawn the ire of lawyers and even the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In 2015, American Civil Liberties Union attorneys representing a transgender boy who sued the Gloucester County School Board over his right to use his school's male restroom asked the appellate court to reassign their case to another judge. The attorneys complained that Doumar repeatedly said in court that their client had a “mental disorder” and that they were more interested in gaining media attention than representing the boy's best interests.

“I'm having a huge problem with everybody knowing that he desires to be a male and, in fact, his attorney advertising that to the world,” said Doumar, who eventually ruled against the boy.

The case remains on appeal. Regardless of what happens, however, Doumar said he will not be involved with it anymore.

“I've removed myself from the transgender case,” he said in the interview.

Last year, a panel of three federal appeals judges criticized Doumar's handling of a 2013 trial in which the head of a defunct Newport News brokerage firm was convicted of defrauding investors out of $1.75 million.

Fourth Circuit Judge Stephanie Thacker took Doumar to task for repeatedly claiming during Jeffrey Martinovich's first sentencing hearing that the federal guidelines were mandatory – even though the Supreme Court had ruled they were not and attorneys for both sides had reminded him they were not.

In the same 32-page opinion – which was joined by Judge Henry Floyd – Thacker also criticized Doumar for repeatedly interrupting defense attorneys and prosecutors during the trial.

“Here, we are once again confronted with a case replete with the district court's ill-advised comments and interference,” she said before referencing five other cases in her footnotes.

Doumar's latest comments came Tuesday during the sentencing hearing of John M. Bowen, a convicted sex offender busted with one of the largest caches of child porn ever recovered in Virginia.

According to court documents, federal investigators found potentially 1.7 million pieces of child pornography on Bowen's computers, along with a handmade sex doll that resembled a small child.

During the hearing, Doumar questioned what, if any, benefit mental health treatment has on sex offenders. He said he had tried to research the matter but couldn't find definitive answers. “Does it do any good?” Doumar asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen Dougherty. “I'm curious about that.”

A 2014 study funded by the U.S. Justice Department noted that some research had found limited and even no benefits to treatment. The author's review of several studies, however, determined it was “reasonable to conclude, albeit cautiously, that certain types of treatment can produce reductions in recidivism for certain sex offenders.”

Mary Davye Devoy, an advocate for reforming Virginia's Sex Offender Registry, said Doumar's comments were “upsetting for sure.”

She agreed people who molest babies on camera deserve the “full extent of the law.” But she said it was inappropriate for a judge to advocate from the bench for more than the law allows. She said a person who hears such comments might believe he or she has the judge's blessing to act outside the law.

“A person saying that on the streets is one thing. A judge on the bench is another,” Devoy said. “It may be time for him to retire.”


United Kingdom

An Election That Forgot About Children

by Martin Barrow

Where have children been in this election? The campaign has taken many twists and turns and ultimately has become, above all, an election about security, following attacks in Manchester and London. But there has been plenty of airtime for discussion about nuclear weapons, the IRA, Brexit, immigration, care of the elderly, the NHS, education and foreign policy.

But children have been absent. The closest we have come has been the farcical argument over whether infant pupils should be provided with free lunches or breakfasts, with people taking sides as if a child could do with one, but not the other. Yet even this debate fizzled out quickly, as grown-ups scrambled to argue about the stuff that really mattered.

And, apparently, the stuff that really matters is policing and security, for after the terror attacks that is where we have ended up. Who could have predicted that a nation that watched impassively as police budgets were scythed, year after year, would suddenly wake up to the devastating impact of this austerity?

I share the anger over police cuts. But why is there no outrage over the decimation of child protection? From frontline social workers and early intervention schemes, through family courts, legal aid, support for foster carers and for adopters. All have been cut to shreds over the past seven years. The landscape for child protection has changed beyond recognition, yet the general public remains oblivious, or indifferent, to the consequences.

If you are troubled by cuts to policing, here is something you should know about child protection. The outlook for children's services over the next few years is frightening. The Government is going to withdraw the ‘formula grant' that local councils rely on for almost all child protection and care services. As Children England has warned, under current plans, by 2020, central government will not contribute any money at all to the services protecting our most vulnerable children. Instead, child protection will rely only on local business rates and council tax. Inevitably, this puts the poorest areas of the country at a further disadvantage. You can read about the change here

The social care system not only protects those children at serious risk of harm, but works to support families to stay together when they're having difficulties, provides care for children with disabilities, steps in to help when families experience a crisis such as the hospitalisation of a parent, and works with young people to help them overcome hurdles to achieve their goals.

Councils have faced an unprecedented surge in demand for support over recent years that shows no sign of abating. More than 170,000 children were subject to child protection enquiries in 2015/16, compared to 71,800 in 2005/06 - a 140 per cent increase in just 10 years. The number of children on formal child protection plans increased by almost 24,000 over the same period.

What becomes of these children and young people, whose lives become the responsibility of a system that has reached breaking point? And how many vulnerable children who suffer neglect or physical and emotional abuse are being denied the protection they need? Austerity has devastated our social care system, while making it more likely that impoverished families and children will need support that is increasingly hard to find. We are rightly outraged when social care fails the elderly, yet rarely hear about how the very same system fails vulnerable children and young people.

Of course, effective child protection is not just about money, just as effective policing is not just about money. But you can only stretch resources so far, and the men and women on the front line only have so much to give. Unless there is a fundamental rethink over funding for children's services, children and young people will suffer harm. And in years to come some will seek to cause us harm.



When children suffer trauma, adults must pay heed

by Steven Berkowitz

Most people think of post-traumatic stress disorder as a condition that afflicts combat veterans.

Too often we hear or read about ex-military men and women who commit suicide or acts of aggression who have been diagnosed with PTSD; some estimate that up to 20 percent of veterans from recent wars are afflicted. There is little doubt that the ravages of warfare can overwhelm even the hardiest of individuals.

What is less understood and appreciated, however, is that PTSD is not just a disease of war. It can affect any individual, at any age, who has experienced a highly threatening psychological or physical event or events. For children, the effects of PTSD can be especially challenging to identify, and often children do not receive effective treatments until they have suffered for many years.

The May 22 terrorist bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England — an event attended by tweens and teens — brings this to the forefront.

So, too, does the recent school bus accident in Lancaster County.

My colleagues and I at the Penn Center for Youth and Family Trauma Response and Recovery have worked with many children who have been traumatized by events. We know that physical recovery is only half the battle.

Family and friends might expect children to be “fast healers,” and that can be true in a physical sense. But kids — lacking an adult's maturity, perspective and life experiences — can also have a more difficult time processing their thoughts, fears and emotions surrounding a traumatic event.

If unresolved, these emotions can present as classic symptoms of PTSD: sleep disturbances or nightmares; unusual irritability or anger; anxiety and panic attacks; withdrawal from regular friends, hobbies or interest in school; or unexplained physical ailments like headaches, stomachaches, or a racing heartbeat.

Sometimes these symptoms may not appear for weeks or even months after the event. Left untreated, they can linger for years — even into adulthood — and are known to contribute to a range of health and social issues such as obesity, drug and alcohol abuse, disrupted education, employment problems and increased risk of incarceration.

There is good news, however. With early diagnosis and intervention, children suffering from PTSD can make a full recovery. Symptomatic kids, much like veterans, don't simply “get over it” or forget about what happened. Successful treatment helps children understand and manage their feelings about the traumatic event in a way that lets them function normally and productively.

Treatment gives kids the means to incorporate the trauma into the fabric of their life story so that it takes on no more power than the occasional sorrow or suffering common in every person's life.

It is important for adults to provide an open and supportive environment for a child recovering from PTSD. This means allowing — but not forcing — a child to express his or her fears and anxieties without judgment. It means taking steps to ensure the child does not isolate him or herself, but remains engaged in the normal routines of school, sports, family events and playing with friends. It means watching for symptoms of PTSD and engaging professional help when needed.

Counseling often can extend to parents and siblings, who experience their own kind of trauma when they think about how close their loved one may have come to serious injury or death.

The potential for childhood trauma is not limited to headline-grabbing events like a bus accident or terrorist bombing. Trauma can be a chronic condition for children growing up in unstable or dangerous environments at home, school or in their community.

Of course, not every child reacts the same way, and many will recover their emotional and behavioral balance on their own after a traumatic event.

Regardless, adults must be vigilant. By being aware of the possibility of PTSD and its symptoms, parents, teachers, coaches and other adults engaging with young trauma victims have an opportunity to be a source of healing and recovery.

Steven Berkowitz, M.D., is director of the Penn Center for Youth and Family Trauma ResponseRecovery.



Child sex trafficking is a growing problem in Southern Illinois

by Mary Cooley

“Tracy” was rescued from her child sex trafficker by a drug dealer. It was the first time anyone had interfered on her behalf in the six years that her trafficker spent recruiting, transporting, advertising and selling her sex for his profit.

“I became so malnourished and depleted, no one wanted to buy me anymore,” she said, which led to a beating. She was broken and bloodied when the drug dealer visited her trafficker and took her away.

Tracy was one of an unknown number of boys and girls forced into the sex trade in the greater St. Louis area, including Southern Illinois. Experts agree the number of victims is “high” and “growing,” but struggle to assign a number or percentage.

Earlier this week, an accused sex trafficker with ties to Belleville was linked to the death of a young child whose decomposed body was found Tuesday in a Centreville garage. Las Vegas police alerted Centreville police of a tip from a woman who said her husband had killed the girl and left the body in the garage in 2015.

The husband has been arrested and charged with sex trafficking his wife and accepting or receiving earnings of a prostitute. The couple had two teens in the Las Vegas home, who are now in protective custody according to reports.

“People always think it's a Ukranian girl named Svetlana. It's Keiras and Keishas,” said Dr. Ann DiMaio, who works with child victims at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital , and are just as likely to be from the greater St. Louis area than not.

Statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation may support that anecdotal evidence: In 2013, the Uniform Crime Report listed six child trafficking victims rescued in the United States. In 2014, there were 57; in 2015, there were 92 child trafficking victims. The number of victims rescued in 2016 has not yet been reported.

“I think if you talk to any of our agents that work (human trafficking), it's really difficult to find who those traffickers are,” said Bradley Ware, a media representative for the FBI in Springfield.

“They're very good at what they do. They really hunker down in the weeds.”

Many victims, doctors and counselors say, are children who are already somehow vulnerable. They become even more vulnerable under a trafficker's influence and control.

In the last two years, a special unit at Cardinal Glennon has treated about 30 young victims, DiMaio said. They come to the hospital for a range of issues, including sexually transmitted diseases, but never admit they are victims of sex trafficking.

“They don't come in saying, ‘Hello, I'm a sex trafficking victim, save me.' Not gonna happen at all,” said DiMaio, a SLUCare physician at Cardinal Glennon. “They're sexual assault victims with a side of domestic violence. They're abused and manipulated by their trafficker.”

“Almost all” victims have a range of physical and mental issues from the abuses they had suffered, she said. All 30 who have gone through Cardinal Glennon's exploitation clinic have had at least one sexually transmitted infection. They also have psychosomatic issues, migraines, repetitive gastrointestinal problems and gynecological complaints.


Donald Boyce, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, said his office has successfully prosecuted six people since 2013 on charges of child sex trafficking. He is careful to distinguish that these cases are public; he would not say whether other cases might exist.

“Sex trafficking can cover a broad scope of conduct,” he said.

Multiple statues may apply but sex trafficking is coercion into sex with someone for money, or something of value such as a place to stay or food.

“Other things that happen to an adult that aren't illegal, but are (illegal) if it's a child,” Boyce said, such as crossing state lines to have sex.

Sex trafficking is a federal crime. Solicitation for sex is a local or state crime, Ware said.

The following six people convicted of child sex trafficking do not include people from Illinois who may have been convicted in other federal courts, such as the Eastern District of Missouri, which includes St. Louis.

? Michael Johnson, formerly of East St. Louis, recruited four girls under the age of 18 for sex trafficking.

“Using actual physical violence or fear of violence, lies and mental manipulation, Johnson made the girls have sex with men for money, which he kept. Johnson knew or recklessly disregarded the fact that the girls were under the age of 18 at the time,” Boyce's office said in a statement when Johnson was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.

Johnson remains in federal prison in Greenville.

? Demerous E. Foxworth, formerly of Centreville, is serving more than 11 years in Greenville for sex trafficking of a minor.

“Documents filed in the District Court establish that in the summer of 2014, Foxworth contacted a 16-year-old female and established a sexual relationship with her. Shortly after meeting the minor, Foxworth offered to help her make money by engaging in illegal prostitution. Foxworth thereafter repeatedly posted advertisements on the Internet offering for the minor victim to engage in prostitution, for which Foxworth received a portion of the money,” Boyce's office said in a statement.

Foxworth also recruited five adult women into prostitution, from which he kept some of the money.

? Timothy S. Griesemer, formerly of Jerseyville, text messaged a woman he knew that indicated he wanted to have sex with a minor. During an investigation, Griesemer repeatedly expressed to undercover agents that he wanted to pay to have sex with an 8-year-old girl.

Griesemer was convicted of attempted sex trafficking of a minor; he is serving 25 years in Greenville.

? David Driskill, formerly of Carrollton, Illinois, was convicted of commercial sex trafficking of a child in 2013. He made arrangements with an undercover officer to have sex with a 7-year-old girl in Jerseyville. Driskill is in federal custody in Florida until 2026.

? A married couple, Marcus DeWayne Thomspon, and Robin Thompson , both formerly of Park Hills, Missouri, were sentenced for sex trafficking of a minor in the Southern District of Illinois. Robin Thompson was sentenced to 25 years for her role in the recruitment, transportation and advertisement of a girl from Illinois for commercial sex acts in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana.

She is serving her sentence at a federal prison in Alabama.

Marcus Thompson was found to have recruited, transported and advertised the minor girl for commercial sex acts over a six-week period. He advertised the girl online, arranged prices, services and meet locations with men to have sex with the girl. Thompson, now 29, had sex with the minor girl at least five times in June and July 2015.

He is serving a life sentence at a federal prison in Arizona.

Getting recruited

Tracy's trafficker, she said, “is gone.” She would not specify if that meant he is away from the area, in prison, or dead.

She said he started with compliments and kindness before moving to physical abuse and drug addiction to control the girl from the ages of 13-19. She is in her early 20s now.

Tracy, not her real name, asked for anonymity and spoke to a reporter by phone. A representative from Hoyleton Youth and Family Services in Fairview Heights was on each end of the calls. For her safety, Tracy asked through those representatives to not allow anything that could identify her to those she knows. She remains fearful.

Tracy would not say whether she or the two other girls she knew while she was being trafficked had sexually transmitted diseases.

Buyers were not all men, she said, and victims are not only girls. Johns were of all races, ages and physical appearances. Anybody could be a john, she said. All kinds of people were.

DiMaio, of Cardinal Glennon, said johns may think they're getting a safer encounter with a younger girl.

“They assume girls weren't as used or full of infection. I hate to tell these guys, but no. You're going to come down with something — I hope it falls off.”

“They've been used,” DiMaio said of the victims. “It takes a while before they can trust” the staff at Cardinal Glennon or other agencies trying to help.

Child trafficking victims are usually in some way considered vulnerable, DiMaio said. Perhaps there's a history of sexual abuse, physical abuse, or neglect. Any of those could make a child susceptible to the techniques a trafficker would use.

“First, it's ‘I'm going to save you. You're so beautiful,'” DiMaio said traffickers tell potential victims. She said most victims have a home life in which they lack attention from parents.

“They can be very charming,” Kristen Eng, a prevention supervisor at Hoyleton, said of traffickers.

Tracy did not speak about her life before being trafficked, and did not say how she initially met her trafficker. But no one intervened at her first meeting with him, which was at a fast-food restaurant.

“Many people seen a much older individual, heard the conversation, and just walked by,” Tracy said of the first time she met her trafficker in person. “Somebody saying something would have made a difference.”

She said that first conversation was “definitely inappropriate.”

“He was in his mid 20s and I was 13. (He was saying), ‘Hey baby, how you doing, wanna go to a party?'”

“Most people see there's something going on so they turn their head away. If every(one) turns away, then nobody helps.”

In the life

Once in, there isn't a choice for the victim if he or she stays or goes, Tracy said.

“You could want out as long as you want (but you're) controlled through fear, abuse and drugs,” she said.

Tracy said her trafficker supplied her with synthetic marijuana and bath salts starting when she was about 15, and the detox after she left was “horrible.” She does not use drugs now, she said.

“Drug use is a major component” of sex trafficking, she said, because it allows the trafficker to use physical control over the victim if the mental control starts to fall short.

Most traffickers will “get the kids addicted to drugs,” Ware said.

Then “we have a better understanding of how hard it is to get these kids away from it,” he said.

Tracy said she knew of two other girls being trafficked similar to how she was. She and law enforcement officials said some children are victimized by their parents.

Finding johns wasn't difficult until the end, Tracy said, after the years of physical abuse, mental abuse, and drug use had taken its toll.

“It was usually somebody (the trafficker) knew” or friends of friends. The trafficker would also drive her to an area known for prostitution. She'd “stand on the street for 20 minutes” or less before a john would appear.

Learning to trust again, and learning life skills that were neglected while they were being victimized, is where organizations like Hoyleton step in.

Recovery can be a long process, Eng with Hoyleton said.

“What does that really look like? What things can we do to help support that?” she said.

Tracy was in “the life” for six years. She spent some time afterward sleeping on the drug dealer's couch, and then crashed with family friends for a couple of years. She did not talk about her family.

“Everyone in the street culture does not agree with traffickers or abuse against women,” she said, citing a kind of street code. The drug dealer who removed her from her trafficker was among those, and gave her food and allowed her to sleep on his couch for a couple of years.

About three years after the drug dealer took her from her trafficker, Tracy found Holyeton.

Getting help

“People do have a passion and want to assist,” Eng said.

Holyeton recognizes that victims need medical help, counseling, a place to stay and the life skills most people learn at home.

Without help, many girls “go right back to the life they came from,” Ware said, a sentiment echoed by DiMaio.

Organizations like Hoyleton all over the state are poised to bring victims like Tracy from victim to survivor to “thriver” status, Eng said.

“Especially if they're recruited as a teenager, they don't have the skills parents would have taught them. Life skills are very important,” Eng said.

Hoyleton helps arrange lodging for former victims, no easy feat given that survivors often arrive with nothing. Hoyleton works with a network of professionals to help survivors to catch up on school, as well as get the medical attention they need. Medical care includes everything from drug abuse recovery to dental care.

One of Hoyleton's programs is called NOVATE — Network of Voice Against Trafficking and Exploitation — that educates agencies and others about how to identify trafficking victims.

Cardinal Glennon staff has come to realize when a patient in the emergency room could be a victim.

“The girl who comes in, and everybody looks at each other and said ‘Something isn't right,'” DiMaio said. “The dynamic is wrong — the ‘aunt' or ‘uncle' is overbearing, controlling. And the patient is passive, submissive. ... Even with the normal mother is overbearing, the kids are rolling their eyes, looking at their cell phone.

“She's fearful of her trafficker,” DiMaio said.

Right now, Hoyleton connects survivors to providers, but may someday provide more direct services.

Tracy said she now works nearly full-time and is attending school. She hopes for a future in public health.

Tracy also wants to help others caught up in child sex trafficking, as only a person with firsthand experience can do.

“When I come across someone who has been in the life, I share parts of my story,” said the soft-spoken woman.

Had someone, anyone, said something to her during that first conversation with her trafficker, her life would have been different.

“Somebody saying, ‘Hey, what are you doing?'” would have made a difference, she said. Instead, “They didn't want to interrupt their day — people don't know how” to interfere.


New York

New York child marriage ban heads to Cuomo's desk

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The New York Legislature has overturned a state law that allows 14-year-olds to legally wed, paving the way to end child marriage in the state.

The Democratic-led Assembly passed a bill Thursday that would increase the age of marriage to 17. The Republican-led Senate passed the measure earlier this week.

New York is one of three states that allows children as young as 14 to marry with parental and judicial consent. The other two are Alaska and North Carolina.

Child advocates say the New York law can trap minors in forced marriages, sexual abuse and domestic violence.

Health department data shows that between 2000 and 2010, 3,853 minors were married in New York. Eighty-four percent were girls married to adult men.

The bill the Legislature approved would prohibit marriage for individuals under 17 years old; those ages 17 to 18 would need court approval. The bill outlines a process of interviews and statements of rights to ensure a 17 year old enters a marriage by free will.

The legislation now heads to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo for approval. Cuomo designated the proposal a top priority in February and praised the Senate and Assembly Thursday for passing legislation to end the "intolerable practice."

"This is a major step forward that will protect children, prevent forced marriages, and create a safer, more just, New York for all," Cuomo said in a statement.

A handful of other states have addressed the age of marriage this year. In neighboring New Jersey, the legislature passed a bill to increase the age of marriage form 16 to 18, but the bill was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie.



Changes coming to how schools report suspected child abuse in Indiana

by Kara Kenney

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana school districts will soon have to follow new rules when it comes to how they report suspected child abuse and neglect.

The Indiana Department of Education sent a memorandum to districts notifying them about a new law, which goes into effect July 1, which states any school corporation, including charters and nonpublic schools, may not establish a policy that restricts or delays a school employee's duty to report alleged child abuse or neglect.

Scott Syverson, Chief Talent Officer for the Indiana Department of Education, said teachers and school staff must also notify police or the Indiana Department of Child Services about the allegations.

In the past, some teachers have only notified their principals about the suspected abuse.

“Essentially what this does is say districts can no longer do that,” said Syverson. “Everybody is a reporter. So even if you tell your principal, which you should do, but it doesn't relieve the obligation for you as a teacher to report it.”

Some teachers have failed to report to police or DCS because of confusion over whose duty it was to report the information, while others may have been fearful of filing a report to law enforcement.

“I think that's how those things got missed,” said Syverson. “They felt ‘hey, I told my building principal, and I no longer have to worry about that.' So, this eliminates that option.”

Indianapolis Public Schools, Mt. Vernon in Hancock County and other school districts have faced scrutiny for failing to report suspected abuse.

The memo also reminds school employees that failing to report suspected child abuse or neglect is a crime, which is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“Simply telling another employee at a school is not enough to protect yourself from criminal charges,” read the memo from IDOE Staff Attorney Kelly Bauder. “It only takes a minute to report suspected child abuse and neglect, and you can report anonymously.”

Per the new law, the Indiana Department of Education is developing model policies that will be made available on the agency's website.

IPS spokesperson Carrie Black said the new law would not affect the way IPS is already doing things.

“We've already practiced this type of first responder reporting,” said Black. “Teachers, staff members, etc. report suspicion of child abuse/neglect immediately without delay of informing the principal, counselor or anyone else first.”

An IPS policy titled “Procedures for Reporting Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect” says all school personnel has a duty to report child abuse allegations to Child Protective Services, and school staff should immediately call the state hotline at 1-800-800-5556.

The policy also states if an employee can't figure out what to do, they should call the Title IX coordinator or the assistant superintendent for human resources.



Proactive Child Abuse Prevention Gets Increased Attention As Fatality Rate Rises In PA

by Eleanor Klibanoff

Summer Chambers, a chubby cheeked 5-month-old died of starvation and dehydration in her crib, four days after her parents died from drug overdoses in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

Zyair Worrell, a 2-year-old boy in Philadelphia, was killed by his mother's boyfriend. He was found unresponsive with lacerations, abrasions, bruising and THC in his system.

Isabel Rose Godfrey, a 3-year-old, showing off a toothy smile in a photo submitted to the York Daily Record, was killed by her mother who was likely on drugs. Police were notified after Godfrey's 6-year-old brother ran into the neighbor's house yelling that his mother was trying to kill his sister.

These are just three of the 46 children who died in 2016 from child abuse.

In addition, there were 79 near-fatalities, where the child would have died without medical intervention. Both numbers represent a significant increase from the year before and the highest number in at least five years. (There were 36 fatalities and 57 near fatalities in 2015.)

The sharp increase in child abuse-related fatalities has drawn the attention of the Auditor General, who has promised a special report on the state's child welfare system, and Governor Tom Wolf, who has allocated more funding for child and youth agencies in his upcoming budget.

Now, lawmakers and law enforcement agencies are calling for an additional approach: funding home-visit programs that proactively reduce the risk of child abuse — before it occurs.

'Lopsided' funding

Currently, Pennsylvania funds child abuse prevention through the 67 county-level child and youth agencies. Those agencies have been struggling since 2014 when the legislature passed 24 new laws aimed at preventing another Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

Those laws widened the definition of child abuse, increased the number of mandatory reporters, and created strict penalties for not reporting suspected abuse. But these changes didn't come with any additional funding for agencies charged with responding to and investigating these claims.

This year's proposed budget increases that funding, which will alleviate some of the burden on these county agencies. But while those agencies are getting funded and functioning again, advocates say it's also time to think about the other end of the equation.

"Our funding is and always has been so lopsided towards being reactive," said Cathy Palm, founder of Center for Children's Justice. "At some point, we have to shift the paradigm from thinking we'll just intervene when something has already happened to a child to thinking, we know what stressors can cause something like this to happen. How can we prevent that from happening?"

Home visit programs

The $9 million lawmakers are requesting for child abuse prevention would go towards funding four home visit programs: the Nurse-Family Partnership, Parents as Teachers, Healthy Families America, and Early Head Start.

These programs help parents help their children, often beginning with pregnant mothers. Paraprofessionals, social workers, nurses and child care professionals visit families in their homes to offer support, teach parenting skills, encourage child development and help parents access services. There is significant evidence that, implemented correctly, home visit programs improve child outcomes, and in some cases, can reduce the risk of child abuse.

"A lot of people like to think of abuse as coming from evil people," said Palm. "We try to remind people that so often, children are harmed because there's this cascade of stressors. Maybe there's job loss, house loss, intimate partner violence and it becomes too much. That's when parents lose their temper and a child gets hurt."

Home visit programs help parents, particularly young parents, develop coping skills and positive parenting techniques. The programs also help children by offering early learning and development opportunities in the home.

"You have to build up and support, in any way you can, parents, because the very best first step in preventing child abuse is having strong healthy parents who understand child development and positive parenting," said Angela Liddle, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance.

The other "H" in the room

The three child deaths mentioned at the beginning of this story have another common thread: substance abuse. The opioid and heroin epidemic has severely taxed the child welfare system, and advocates say everyone has been slow to admit that.

"Standing next to that person who overdosed is a kid, picking up the phone and calling 911 to report an overdose is often a kid, sitting in the backseat of the car where a parent has overdosed is a child," said Palm. "We just really haven't come to grips with that reality."

The heroin and opioid epidemic has burdened Pennsylvania's child welfare system when it is already struggling with unfunded mandates from the legislature. Liddle says there is no way these factors haven't contributed to the rise in child fatalities in Pennsylvania.

Both Palm and Liddle agree that home visit programs are one part of the answer. These programs don't alleviate poverty or prevent substance abuse outright. But they can help parents manage the different issues that lead to abuse and can help keep the right people in the loop.

"When children die in Pennsylvania, a lot of times, these are families that were on someones radar," said Palm. "We know they're under stress, but we don't connect them to proven services that potentially help to mitigate or resolve that stress. Then we all act a little surprised and outraged when something bad happens to that child. But we knew."



No easing of child neglect

by James Sprague

In years past, when looking at the data, Fayette County's situation involving child neglect cases always seemed to be less at the beginning of the year, and pick up as the summer progressed.

Such a trend doesn't appear to be the case in 2017, per statistics released last month by the Indiana Department of Child Services for the six-county DCS Region 12.

Through the first four months of the year, Fayette County has had a total of 46 substantiated cases of child neglect, putting it on pace for 138 for all of 2017.

The county, both in March and April, had double-digit figures of substantiated child neglect cases – 13 each in both months – to bring its total to 46 through April.

And, if the recent trend continues as it has it past years, those figures will only rise during the summer months, putting the county in a position where it could potentially eclipse its record-high of 160 such cases in 2016.

Child neglect, as defined by the state of Indiana, is when a “child's physical or mental condition is seriously impaired or seriously endangered as a result of the parent, guardian, or custodian being unable, refusing, or neglecting to supply the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, or supervision.”

Many local officials have previously chalked up the situation with child neglect as a direct correlation of the community's ongoing issue of substance abuse.

In March alone, Fayette County had 13 substantiated cases of child neglect and one substantiated case of child sexual abuse, while April saw 13 substantiated cases of child neglect and one substantiated case of child physical abuse.

The county is also on pace to break its 2016 mark of substantiated child physical abuse cases – it has four such cases through the first four months of 2017, compared to a total of five cases for the entirety of 2016 – while the March case of substantiated child sexual abuse marked the county's first such case of 2017.

The situation isn't unique to Fayette County alone, however, with Rush, Henry and Wayne counties all seeing double-digits of substantiated child neglect cases for March along with Fayette, while Wayne, Fayette and Franklin counties all had double-digit marks for April.

Overall, in April, the state of Indiana had 2,223 substantiated cases of child neglect, 130 substantiated cases of child physical abuse and 205 substantiated cases of child sexual abuse – all down from the state's overall March figures.

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call Indiana's Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-800-5556. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You can report abuse and neglect anonymously.

Substantiated child neglect cases, area counties, May 2017

Wayne: 32

Franklin: 20

Fayette: 13

Henry: 6

Union: 6

Rush: 2

Source: Indiana Department of Child Services


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.

Increasing awareness

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).



When An Adult Looks Back, And Sees A Wretched Crime In Her Childhood

Survivors of child sexual abuse take years to speak up. In the eyes of the Indian law, that's often too late.

by Rukmini S

Purnima Govindarajulu vividly remembers the event, but not the exact year. She was 22-23 years old and it was 1986 or 1987. She was watching television at her brother's home in Montreal, Canada, where she and her mother had moved, following her father's death in Chennai in 1986.

"I was channel surfing," Purnima recalls. "And I chanced upon a show that talked about child sexual abuse—they were interviewing survivors. And I remember thinking—that's what it's called. Child sexual abuse. That's what was done to me all those years. I am not unique. I am not alone."

Between the ages of six and 13, Purnima, now 53 and an ecologist working with the provincial government in Victoria, Canada, was sexually abused by her cousin's husband, some twenty years her senior, she says. The abuse, which she has detailed in a report to the Victoria police and a complaint to the Chennai police, consists of acts which would today be defined as rape under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act—penetration of the vagina using fingers and tongue, placing of his genitals on her face, molestation of private parts. But by its very nature, child sexual abuse, particularly by a family member, can take years and decades to emerge. It is only now, says Purnima, that she has found the words, the courage and the confidence to speak out.

And when adult women and men in India are finally able to speak about the abuse they endured as children, they are finding themselves falling through the cracks of the law. The police and the judiciary say they are helpless. And families are all too often more worried about being torn apart than about fixing the past.

"There was something wrong with me. I was evil. I was dirty."

Purnima was close in age to the man's daughter, which is why she was often sent over to stay at their house as a child. During those years, her father had lost a lot of money and was trying to recover it by going out to sea. Her mother's Multiple Sclerosis, which took her life when Purnima was 29, had first begun to manifest itself at the time.

The first time it happened, Purnima was six. She woke up in the night from a bad dream or from fear of ghosts and he was there, beside her bed. In the day, it usually involved him putting his hand down her panties. In the nights, he used his hands and his mouth. There were always other people in the room—his wife sleeping on the bed while the kids slept on the ground, or a hotel room on a family holiday full of kids—but that didn't seem to change anything. "I remember thinking it was disgusting, but feeling that I was dirty. I was evil. There was something wrong with me."

"It was my father, wasn't it?"

Purnima told no one the entire time. "Forty years ago in India, I had never even heard the word sex. I didn't know what it was that was happening to me, that there was a name for it, but I thought I was to blame. They were also much wealthier than us, and I remember feeling scared that if I said something everyone would be angry and the help his family gave for my mother's illness would stop." Now, in hindsight, Purnima says, she knows that "grooming" or preying on vulnerable children, is an important and common part of child sexual abuse.

As is a common practice in south India, Purnima's brother married the man's daughter. "One day in Montreal, we were watching TV together and another show came on about child abuse. She started talking about how this would never happen in India. I listened for a while and I said no, no it could. It could, because it happened to me."

Her sister-in-law froze; "it was my father, wasn't it?" she asked Purnima. She told Purnima that she had always thought there was something strange about the way her father behaved with Purnima and the fact that while he appeared to dote on her, Purnima sometimes cursed him out, which was unlike her. "I said yes, it was him, and we didn't talk about it again."

Speaking out

In 1999, Purnima's brother asked her for the first time. His wife, the man's daughter, and he were planning to visit India for the first time with their newborn daughter, and her brother wanted to know if his infant daughter was safe. "I told him she was not," Purnima recalls.

Unknown to her, her sister-in-law had in the intervening years confided in her husband. Now it was time for Purnima to tell her brother the whole story. He confronted his father-in-law about it when he went to India. His father-in-law said, Purnima's brother said in his report to the Victoria police, that he had touched Purnima as a child but in a loving way and that if she had perceived it in a sexual way, he was sorry. When her brother spoke to the man's wife later, she recalled frequently finding her husband by Purnima's bed at night but said it was to console her from nightmares. Later she called Purnima and said, "He says he only touched you in a loving way. Whatever it is, he is my God and I forgive him." Purnima never spoke to her again.

Purnima and her brother decided that it was not enough to protect his daughters only; all the girls in the family needed protection. They sent an email to the entire family detailing what she had experienced as a child.

Soon after, another female family member got in touch with them; she had the same story with the same man, and she had told no one, not even her siblings and parents who are still alive.

Manisha's story

Manisha (name changed) consented to sharing her story but did not want to be identified in this article. She has also submitted her complaint to a lawyer in Chennai. Her description of the abuse is uncannily similar to Purnima's; the timing, the places, the nature of the abuse.

What is also strikingly similar is the impact that both women say that those years of trauma had on their lives. Both struggled with trusting other men. Both struggled with intimate relationships; Purnima says she had a bad marriage for 16 years, which ended in divorce. "My parents were wonderful parents, and they weren't able to stop this happening to me. I was scared to have children because I was scared I wouldn't be able to protect them from this," Purnima says.

"I have spent most of my adult life trying to patch up these huge tears in my personality that [he] gouged out," Manisha's* statement to her lawyer says.

The man, who said he was now nearly 75 years old, declined comment for this story. "I have already spoken to the police about this last year. There is nothing more that I would like to say," he said during a brief conversation on the phone.

Why the cops? Why now?

Purnima works as an ecologist in Victoria, British Columbia, a stunning island just off the mainland of Canada's west coast. She studies frogs and loves her job, loves the city: "I can go for a run after dark if I feel like it. I leave my house and car unlocked. If it all gets too much, I can just take off into the woods," she says.

After making it a rule that she would never again see the man she accused of the sustained abuse, Purnima was forced in 2013 to visit his house in Chennai for a family event. There she grew worried by the behaviour of the daughter of the family's long-time domestic help, who was heavily dependent on the family, behaviour she recognised in herself. "That's when I decided that it isn't enough that the family is protected. This needs to stop. He cannot do this to anyone else, ever."

In 2015, she decided to speak to the Canadian police about the abuse. "The cops were wonderful and were very clear that if this had taken place in Canada, they would have immediately taken a complaint and begun investigating. The problem was that everything took place in India and everyone involved was an Indian citizen at the time," she says. Nevertheless, the Victoria police encouraged her to speak to them and file a 'General Occurrence Report', which she did. "Speaking to them was emotionally difficult for me. I began to have panic attacks. But I am so fortunate to have got counselling and the medical help I needed," she says.

In March 2016, Purnima made a trip to India and submitted a police complaint to the Director General of Police and the Chennai Police Commissioner. "I spoke at length to a senior police officer who was very kind and welcoming and told me that it was great that I was coming forward, and that more women should. But she said that after all this time, she didn't think there was anything she could do. She told me that she could understand my personal reasons for speaking up so late, but that it wouldn't fly in the courts."

Purnima had largely reconciled herself to her case never going to court, and took eight months off work this year to see if she could find a way to raise awareness in India instead. However, Manisha is now also willing to file a formal police complaint, and with two complaints the possibility of police action seems slightly more likely, lawyers have told her. A senior police officer with the Chennai police who is following the case told HuffPost India that they are still in the process of taking legal opinion on how to proceed in the case.

Falling between laws

What this action will be is complex and unclear. Several lawyers HuffPost India spoke to listed the inapplicability of the usual laws. For one, the POCSO Act came into force only in 2012 and like all criminal laws in India, does not apply retrospectively. Then, at the time of the alleged abuse, penetration by finger or tongue did not fall under the definition of rape under IPC 376. By the laws that stand today which were applicable in the 1970s, IPC Section 354 (assault with intent to outrage modesty), known more commonly as molestation, appears to be the only applicable law. But this case will run into the so-called statute of limitations, which prescribes the time frame within which an offence should be tried. Prior to 2013, the maximum punishment under the IPC 354 was two years, which meant that a case had to be brought within three years of the offence being committed.

Moreover, whether the police and courts will be willing and capable of taking on crimes that occurred 40 years ago, with the obvious lack of conventional evidence, is in doubt. "Since this is a report about child sex abuse, most of the questions have been about the what, how and when of the sexual acts he engaged in with me," Manisha's statement says. "But to be able to answer or respond or even describe requires an articulate understanding of what happened to me. And it's taken me approximately 34 years to do that."

Purnima and Manisha are not alone here; lawyers say that India has not yet come to grips with the issue of dealing with historical child sexual abuse, even though more and more adult women and men are coming forward with such stories every day. These are issues countries like the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia have had to grapple with of late, particularly while tackling institutional abuse as in the Catholic church and foster care institutions.

In India, courts still routinely cite "delay in filing complaint" as something that weakens the prosecution's case. Do courts then need to consider relaxing evidentiary standards for cases of historical child abuse in India? "While it is true that many children do not speak up till they become adults, the law will have to balance the rights of the abused child with that of the perpetrator," senior criminal lawyer Rebecca John explained. "Courts or the legislature would be reluctant to introduce new evidentiary standards for fear that the same would be misused. As it is, we are facing a huge backlash with respect to the 2013 [amendments to the rape] law—it has broadened the definition of rape and extended sentences—so I don't think we will see any new evidentiary standards any time soon," she said.

"We have made a mistake in the articulation of the law, by focussing almost entirely on the specific acts that constitute the crime, and ignoring the behaviour that goes into a long period of grooming, which is why the child keeps quiet," senior lawyer Vrinda Grover, who was instrumental in the framing of the POCSO Act, said. "These kinds of cases have not come out enough, but I am beginning to see more of it now. We need the courts to understand this issue of why it might take someone so long to speak out, but we haven't even begun to grapple with this," she said.

"There is ambiguity in the law when it comes to the applicability of POCSO to adult survivors of child sexual abuse," Bharti Ali, co-founder of the Delhi-based HAQ: Centre for Child Rights and a veteran child rights advocate, said. There have been very few such cases where adult survivors want to push for criminal action, and so there has been very little thinking about what to do in such cases, she said. "It is going to be interesting to see how they prosecute this case. I think we need a new section in the POCSO Act which pertains to adult complainants—the law must provide certainty," she said.

Walking away

In person, Purnima is an energetic, witty and articulate woman. She speaks about the abuse clearly, without hesitating or breaking eye contact and without tearing up. But there is no doubt that speaking up has taken its toll on her.

"It is hard, emotionally, pursuing this. It occupies my psyche and is disturbing for me to talk about and disturbing for people to listen to," she says, quietly. When she first spoke up about it, Purnima asked herself—when do I walk away from this? "I decided, it was after I filed my complaint. Part of me feels unlucky that this happened to me, but part of me feels lucky that I had access to counselling and medical help in Canada, and lawyers in India. Now that I've been given this privilege, what is my responsibility? Do I walk away or do I take it forward, and for how long?"

Manisha wants the man investigated and charged, she told HuffPost India; "It isn't just what Purnima and I went through. It is the fact that he still seems to be doing it. There is a currency to it," she said. "If this was in Canada, I would have gone to court and was willing to see him charged," says Purnima, who is more circumspect about legal possibilities in India. "But what I want here, now, is not so much punishment as I want him to stop. I don't want to carry this guilt that he might do it to anyone else. I already know that he did it to one more person—Manisha. I don't want to keep adding to this guilt. If someone could give me a guarantee that he would never do it again, I would sleep easier," Purnima says. What she would like to see in India is the ability for survivors to file complaints and a support system for survivors who are all too often told by their families to forget it.

Purnima says she did get support from some of the members of her family "but at the same time they wish it could all go away and we could be one big happy family again."

For both women, speaking out is an act of assertion. "I didn't want my silence to be seen as complicity," Purnima says. "I'm filing this report because as an adult I don't want to be silent about what happened to me," Manisha says in her statement. "I want to articulate. And I want to do this officially because to me it signifies that my abuser no longer exerts any control over me."


Why child abuse in military families may go unreported

by Jen Fifield

Advocates for children celebrated last year when President Barack Obama signed a law meant to keep military officials from concealing child abuse and neglect on military bases. But U.S. Department of Defense officials say the law doesn't address one key reason why military children who are mistreated may not be getting all the help they need.

Talia's Law, named for a 5-year-old girl who was killed by her soldier father on a military base in Hawaii, requires military officials to immediately report any suspected child abuse or neglect involving military families to state social services agencies. But there is no reciprocal requirement for social services agencies — the agencies aren't required to let the military know about reports of suspected child abuse and neglect in military families.

That's a problem, Pentagon officials say, because if the military doesn't know about the suspected abuse, it can't connect families to the vast resources it has to help victims and treat abusers. Doing so is especially urgent now, the officials say, as many social services agencies face budget restraints and lack the resources to help families in need.

For the past three years, Pentagon officials have been asking states to enact laws or set policies that require local child protective agencies to ask families they work with if they are in the military, and, if they are, to immediately report any suspected abuse or neglect to the military. Fifteen states have enacted such laws or started to follow such policies that were already in place. Nine more states are considering similar bills this year.

Addressing child abuse and neglect in the military can be complicated. Without the laws, the military may not find out about the neglect or abuse until a service member is charged criminally. The laws require reporting far before that — shortly after child protective services finds out about suspected abuse.

But military families, child protective workers and others worry that if suspected abuse by a service member is reported to the military, it could be career-ending.

Social service officials say they consider the military to be a service member's employer, and in other circumstances they wouldn't tell employers about suspected child maltreatment — especially before it's been substantiated.

Harold Cooney, who works on state policy as a northeast regional liaison for the Defense Department, said when he hears this concern, he reminds social service workers that most employers don't have an entire division dedicated to treating abusers and helping their families.

The military wants to know every time one of the roughly 1 million children with parents in the military may have been victimized, so every allegation can be addressed, said Kathy Robertson, program manager of the Defense Department's Family Advocacy Program.

“It impacts the child, the whole family and the military unit,” Robertson said. “Our whole goal is to strengthen military families and to rehabilitate them.”

But not everyone agrees that the military is doing all it can to protect children. The military has received criticism in the last few years from advocates for children for failing to report to police and local social services when it knows of abuse and neglect, and for how it addresses it.


The Family Advocacy Program has about 2,000 counselors, clinicians and other employees stationed at military installations to help families in which abuse or neglect may have occurred. Along with counseling for victims and treatment for perpetrators, the program offers prevention services such as classes for new parents.

Once suspected child maltreatment is reported to the program, clinicians determine whether it meets the program's definitions of abuse and neglect. That determination is not used for legal proceedings, but rather to determine whether the program should formally document the abuse or neglect and require treatment.

Robertson said the program's criteria for determining maltreatment are less forgiving than those used by state child protective services agencies. “We err on the side of prevention,” she said. “We really try to engage that family.”

In the last decade, the rate of suspected child maltreatment occurrences reported to the Family Advocacy Program, as well as the rate of occurrences meeting the program's criteria for abuse and neglect, have both increased. About seven instances of child maltreatment were reported per 1,000 military children last fiscal year, compared to five per 1,000 children in fiscal 2007, according to a recent Defense Department report.

The increase was primarily due to an increase in reports of child neglect, including a lack of supervision appropriate for the child's age and exposure to physical hazards such as bathtubs, electrical outlets and unsafe cribs. Of the 13,916 instances reported to the program last fiscal year, 6,998 met the military's criteria for child abuse or neglect; 4,960 children were victims of abuse or neglect.

The rate of child maltreatment reported to the military is about half of what is reported in civilian families, according to the report. But David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said the actual rate of abuse and neglect is probably about the same as in the civilian population, or perhaps higher.

In a study released last year, Rubin and a group of researchers at PolicyLab found that just 1 in 5 U.S. Army soldiers' children who received a medical diagnosis of child abuse or neglect had a corresponding Family Advocacy Program report. The reason for that, Rubin said, is not because the military knew about maltreatment and ignored it, but rather that military officials were simply never told about the doctors' findings.

“When I think about this late at night,” Rubin said, “I think there are kids out there that aren't getting reported. And what's the magnitude of that?”

Military officials insist that getting treatment or other help from the military won't affect a service member's career. The work of the Family Advocacy Program is separate from military court proceedings that are used to determine punishment for a crime. According to military rules, a commander decides when to start military court proceedings, and the commander can't take any action simply because of a finding from the Family Advocacy Program.

When a service member is accused of a crime such as child abuse or neglect, they can be tried in either civilian or military court, or both. Punishment in military court can result in jail time, a reduction in rank or a dishonorable discharge.


In 2015, a national commission examined how to ensure that no children die from abuse or neglect. To help military children, the commission recommended federal legislation to require information sharing between state agencies and Defense Department family advocacy offices.

The Defense Department is asking states, not Congress, to take these steps because the rules will need to be administered and enforced at the state level, and they should be crafted to local officials' liking, said Bill Huleatt, a social worker for the Family Advocacy Program.

Even in states that haven't enacted these laws, many county social services agencies have already agreed to report incidents to family advocacy offices at local bases. But whether that is happening is unclear.

In Maryland, which does not require social services agencies to report child maltreatment to the military, Anne Arundel County's social services agency has agreements with the two military installations there: Fort Meade and Naval Support Activity Annapolis. But the county still doesn't always report to military bases, according to Susan Tyzack, assistant director of social services. If it is a serious event and the child is in danger, it does. If not, the county asks for the family's permission to tell the base, and most of the time, she said, the family agrees.

Maryland state Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith, a Democrat, introduced a bill this year to require agreements between local social services agencies and the military. She said at least one base in the state was having difficulty establishing agreements with surrounding counties. The bill failed, but Valentino-Smith said she would introduce it again if the issue doesn't get solved at the local level. Social services agencies in the state are facing budget restraints, and the military's resources could help, she said.


Cooney, the Pentagon liaison in the northeastern states, said he sometimes has a hard time convincing service members that having suspected abuse or neglect reported to the military won't tarnish their career.

But Cooney also acknowledges that there are times when punishment is warranted. Speaking to a Maryland House committee considering Valentino-Smith's bill this year, Cooney told lawmakers, “if he's abusing a child or a spouse, maybe it should be detrimental to his career, or her career.”

Whitney Gregg, a counselor near Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina, said the military families she works with are often concerned that information about their relationship or mental health issues will somehow make it back to their supervisors.

Oftentimes, she said, they want to “keep it within the family,” in part because of the stigma associated with mental health and relationship problems.

Military families face unique stresses, including frequent moves that take children away from schools, spouses away from jobs, and entire families away from support systems, Gregg said.

These stresses could put military children at higher risk of maltreatment. In another study, Rubin and other PolicyLab researchers found that children under the age of 2 in military families were at a higher risk of abuse or neglect in the six months after a soldier returns home from a deployment.

The fact that military families move often is another reason the military should know about child abuse and neglect, Cooney said. Otherwise, an abuse record may not follow the family to a new posting.



Child abuse prevention committee reaches funding goal, seeking recipients

by Jacob McGuire

For the first time since 2004, the Cleveland County Child Abuse Prevention Committee said it has reached its goal of raising $12,000. Now it's looking for recipients.

“The funds help organizations who may be lacking funds have the ability to maintain and develop prevention programs,” Cleveland County Court Clerk Marilyn Williams said.

Williams said a few organizations have submitted applications to the group, which consists of a judge, district attorney, court clerk, county commissioner and a citizen of Cleveland County. The group reviews the application to determine how the funds are distributed. Any agency that deals with child abuse prevention is eligible to receive funding.

One of those organizations was Bethesda, which specializes in providing counseling and treatment to children who have been sexually abused.

Bethesda, a nonprofit organization, does not charge its clients for any services, executive director Travis Humphrey said.

“We want to make sure there are no barriers between a child and the opportunity to heal,” Humphrey said.

He said Bethesda is requesting funds to help with costs associated with the initial assessments for children and their caregivers, including 42 clients that are Cleveland County residents.

Norman Addiction Information and Counseling (NAIC) submitted an application for aid, as well, according to organization executive director Teresa Collado.

Collado said if NAIC receives any funds, they will go toward its family drug court program. She said the funds would be used to make NAIC's group room much more comfortable.

“It's directly related to child abuse prevention,” she said. “There is a therapeutic aspect to having serene surroundings, which helps parents do better in the program.”

According to Collado, the purpose of family drug court is to get parents to a place where they are healthy enough to care for their children.

NAIC is a nonprofit organization that assists people who suffer from all types of addiction including drug, alcohol and gambling.

Williams said the fund, which started in the 1990s allows jurors to donate their daily stipend during each jury term. Jurors are paid an average of about $30 a day, which they can donate to the child abuse prevention fund. Cleveland County has five jury terms a year.

“It's really great that the jurors step up and donate to help fund these programs,” she said.

Williams said the committee is accepting applications until June 12. Qualifying agencies can come to the court clerk's office, 200 S. Peters Ave. to pick up an application. The committee is set to meet June 22 to review each application. Each organization will be notified when a decision is made.


New Hampshire

Limited review of closed child abuse investigations approved

by Holly Ramer

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The Executive Council on Wednesday approved a contract with a Florida-based organization to review 100 of the 1,500 child abuse and neglect investigations that were rapidly closed in New Hampshire last year.

The $82,000 contract won unanimous approval Wednesday, though some councilors said they were concerned both about the review's limited scope and a Concord Monitor article describing the deaths of five children under the care of Eckerd Kids in Florida.

"I don't like depending on the Monitor to learn about contractors," said Councilor Andru Volinsky.

A spokeswoman for the organization said three of the deaths resulted from unsafe sleep practices, one was accidental and the fifth remains under investigation. New Hampshire Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers said he didn't know about the incidents before Tuesday, but has confidence in the agency. When Councilor David Wheeler asked why the contract wasn't put out to bid, Meyers said he wanted the review to happen as soon as possible.

Between Feb. 22-23, 2016, workers at the Division for Children, Youth and Families closed out what amounted to nearly 15 percent of the reports it gets in a typical year. After the Monitor reported in March that many of the cases were closed without full assessments after going untouched for months, Gov. Chris Sununu put the agency's director on leave and said the state would consider hiring outside counsel to review where the system broke down and whether any of the investigations need to be re-opened.

Councilor Chris Pappas said he was concerned that only 100 of the 1,500 cases would be reviewed.

"I would hate to see this be the end of it," he said. "It was very troubling what happened."

Meyers said as reports come into the division, they are assigned different levels of risk. The review will include all of those reports that were assigned the highest level of risk.

"This was a good place to start," Meyers said. "If there's any indication that there's any issue at all here, we will expand the number of assessments that are looked at."

The division has been under scrutiny since two toddlers under its supervision were killed in 2014 and 2015. The deaths spurred an independent review of the agency, which concluded that it often fails to help children who are at risk of being harmed.

In a report released in December, auditors also described a seriously overloaded DCYF workforce, a restrictive child protection law that sets a high bar for determining neglect and a lack of services available to families.



Reacting to Facebook post suggesting future sexual abuse against newborn daughter

by Stacy Jacobson

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A Facebook post with WREG tagged in the comments caught the news staff's attention; it appears to show a new father saying he has a newborn daughter and saying he'll perform sexual acts on her when she's 11.

WREG reported the post to authorities and to the Memphis Child Advocacy Center.

“When you really see what child sexual abuse does to kids, it can wreak havoc in someone's life for a lifetime. It's not something to joke about,” said Beryl Wight with the Memphis Child Advocacy Center.

Wight said she sees a lot of joking like this on social media. It is a problem, but it's also an opportunity to spread awareness.

“Parents need to know who their children are hanging out with. In 90 percent of cases, child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child already knows,” Wight said.

In fact, WREG reached the Tennessee Department of Children's Services. A spokesperson said anyone who sees a threat against a child is required to report it by law. That included anything on Facebook.

“There have been instances in the past where people have been really worried about what they've seen on social media. They have let us know. One of the things we can do is collaborate with law enforcement," DCS's Rob Johnson said.

Officials said Memphis Police have a specialty unit that investigates. Unfortunately in Memphis, child sex abuse is all too common.

“20 percent of adults interviewed reported sexual abuse in their childhood. That's about twice the national average,” Wight said of a recent study in the Memphis area.

She said victims of child sexual abuse are more likely to get pregnant as teenagers, be addicted to drugs and have medical problems like heart disease. She urged everyone to take it seriously and report it.

You can report any case online or by calling the state hotline at 877-237-0004. State officials said the hotline is staffed around the clock. They also said they understand those who report abuse don't always have a lot of information but urged people to realize every bit helps.

Memphis Police did not respond to WREG's requests for comment on this case.

DCS said it's aware of the case and officials were "looking into it."


New York

Council supports proposals giving abuse victims more time to sue perpetrators

by Joseph Phelan

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- The Saratoga Springs City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday in support of two proposals currently before state legislators.

The current law allows adults, who suffered sexual abuse as children, up to the age of 23 to file a lawsuit against their sexual abuser. A bill in the state assembly would allow people up to the age of 50 to bring a lawsuit.

“The injustice of this age limit is being proven every day,” Mayor Joanne Yepsen read from the resolution Tuesday night. “For many different reasons, most children do not report sexual abuse. Many victims remain living with their abuser and remain dependent on them for years. Today the average age that victims come forward is 42 years old.”

The senate bill eliminates the statutes of limitation for prosecuting child sexual abuse crimes and filing civil lawsuits for damages against individuals, public institutions and private institutions related to child sexual abuse. It also creates a one-year revival period for previously time-barred civil actions, which alleged conduct representing the commission of certain sexual offenses committed against a child less than 18 years of age.

“These proposed new laws would not change the burden of proof for the claimants, they would, however, provide a longer period of time for the survivor to identify the abuser and gain access to the legal system,” said Yepsen.

Yepsen mentioned studies consistently show adults who suffered sexual abuse as children experience increase risks of alcoholism, substance abuse, poor health, depression and obesity. One study estimates people who experience considerable trauma as children have their life expectancy reduced by as much as 20 years.

“This council supports these new proposals and urges our state lawmakers to give them full and fair consideration. It is a solemn responsibility that we owe to the children of the past, those of the present and those yet unborn. We must not ignore it,” said Yepsen.

She said copies of the resolution will be forwarded to Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, state Sen. Kathy Marchione, state Sen. Jim Tedisco, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.


New Hampshire

Governor signs bills to strengthen rights of sexual assault victims

Bills strengthen shield law, provide protection for victims

by Mike Cronin

CONCORD, N.H. — Victims of sexual violence now have new protections, thanks to several bills signed by Gov. Chris Sununu.

The family of murdered New Hampshire college student Lizzi Marriott has fought hard for them.

“Very overwhelming to have that many people here supporting the bills that were signed today,” said Lizzi's father, Bob Marriott.

Lizzi was sexually assaulted and killed in 2012.

During her murderer's appeal, the state Supreme Court originally ruled Lizzi's sexual history would be made public, but later reversed that decision.

The Marriotts and others then advocated for other victims, leading to the creation of Senate Bill 9.

It will strengthen the rape shield law to keep the sexual history of victims private in any court.

“It's very much a problem that we had to deal with and I'm glad that no one else will have to,” said Marriott.

On Wednesday, Sununu signed three other bills to protect victims.

Senate Bill 166 will make it easier for mothers who were raped to end the parental rights of the rapist.

House Bill 94 amends a statute so those accused of prostitution or human trafficking can't say they didn't know the victim's age or whether the victim consented to sex.

Under state law, House Bill 220 will change the term "child pornography" to "child sexual abuse images" to reflect the seriousness of the crime.

“These bills were all passed with strong bipartisan support," Sununu said. "And today's ceremony highlights that these issues are truly everyone's issues."

Senate Bill 9 and House Bill 220 will take effect in 60 days.

Senate Bill 166 and House Bill 94 will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.



Teachers play a very important role in the reporting of child abuse

by Diane Smith

FORT WORTH -- As students were gearing up for winter break last December, a little girl at a North Texas middle school told a teacher she didn't want to visit family because an older cousin sexually molested her.

The teacher immediately reported the outcry to Child Protective Services, the state agency charged with protecting our children. And she worked with a school counselor and law enforcement officer to make sure the student would be safe during the holidays.

Although the teacher never learned of the CPS investigation's outcome, she fulfilled her responsibility as an educator to report suspected child abuse or neglect.

Nationally, about 1 in 10 children experience child sexual abuse before they turn 18, according to Alliance For Children, a child advocacy center in Tarrant County. And most often, educators or school personnel are the ones reporting the abuse. In fiscal year 2016, CPS received reports of 293,148 allegations of abuse. Of those, 56,980 cases — or 19 percent — were reported by a school employee. Medical personnel were the second-highest group to alert CPS, with 54,630 reports.

A child's cry for help emerges in different ways. Sometimes it is written on a note, depicted in artwork or posted on social media. An attuned teacher can notice subtle mood or appearance changes that indicate suffering, said Jamie Farber, director of guidance and counseling for the Northwest school district.

“They spend a lot of time with us at school,” Farber said. “ I am always wanting to know why — what is behind the behavior.”

Child advocates said it's important to teach youngsters about how danger can lurk among the people they love and trust.

“It's easy to let something grow when its hiding in the dark. You expose it to the light, it is a lot harder to get away with things. Education exposes things,” said three-time Olympic medalist Margaret Hoelzer, who promotes the need for child abuse prevention by sharing her experience as a victim of sexual abuse by an acquaintance.

Teacher training, coupled with increased child abuse prevention awareness, is making a difference, said Katia Gonzalez, a community outreach coordinator with Alliance For Children. Gonzalez said that while Tarrant County ranks No. 2 in confirmed abuse cases in Texas, the number of victims declined by more than 1,000, from 6,213 in fiscal year 2015 to 5,162 for 2016, according to Child Protective Services data.

“We know prevention education is working and that we, as a Tarrant County community, are embracing the fact that we need to take action to make sure child abuse is eradicated,” Gonzalez said.

‘It is my responsibility'

Texas' Family Code requires that anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect must report it to law enforcement or the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Some careers — such as teachers, doctors and day care employees — lead to employees being enlisted as “professional reporters” because they work with children. These professionals are required to report suspected child abuse or neglect within 48 hours of discovery.

In Texas, state law mandates that every adult should report reasonable suspicion of abuse.

“Even if I am just regular Jane Doe and I find out information, it is my responsibility to let somebody know,” said Stacey Lewis, counseling services supervisor at Lena Pope, a Fort Worth-based nonprofit that employs counseling and education as a foundation to help families stay together.

“You may be the only person that has that information, and there may be kids getting hurt. There may be families getting hurt,” Lewis said.

Samantha Jordan, spokesman for the Tarrant County district attorney's office, said the misdemeanor offense of failure to make a child abuse report does not come up very often.

However, “when it's believed an adult knowingly refused to report a situation ... we try to pursue a higher-level felony by charging them with the offense of endangering a child or as a party to the abuse itself, which carries a much higher punishment range,” Jordan said.

Jordan pointed to the case of a mother who was charged with sexual abuse of a child because she would knowingly leave her young daughter in the care of her boyfriend in exchange for the boyfriend supplying her with meth. The boyfriend would then molest the girl. In 2015, the mother was found guilty of sexual abuse of a child under 14 and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Many times people who are aware of child abuse don't know what to do, Lewis said, especially when the perpetrator is a parent or sibling.

“We get a lot of families that call [Lena Pope]... that the first call should have been to Child Protective Services,” Lewis said, explaining that people typically say they wanted to find help for a victim.

Often, people don't want to bring attention to their own families, especially when they are dependent on the abuser for food, housing and transportation.

“Even though the trauma is so bad, most victims have a reservation about making the outcry because the outcry will create such havoc between their own family dynamics,” said Megan Guidry, a counselor at Granbury Middle School.

‘More eyes on the kids'

Michael Hill, assistant superintendent for administration at the Arlington school district, said the state, through legislation known as Jenna's Law, also requires that teachers and school employees know the signs of child abuse. That law, named for sexual abuse survivor Jenna Quinn, went into effect in September 2009.

Arlington schools recently expanded the training to include all teachers and staff, including bus drivers and janitorial workers.

“There are more eyes on the kids and people know what signs to look for,” Hill said.

Kim Rocha, a former spokeswoman for Alliance For Children, said while the state mandates teachers receive training in child abuse and sexual abuse prevention and recognition, “what that training looks like is not mandated.” That means that the training format can vary from district to district. Many school districts turn to a child advocacy center for the training, which can be offered online or in sessions that include victim testimonials and how to identify signs of abuse.

Alliance For Children offers training to area school districts, including Fort Worth, Hurst-Euless-Bedford, Birdville and Northwest. Educators receive a certificate at the end of the training.

Rocha said teachers are taught to call 911 if a child is in imminent danger. They're also urged not to alert the child's parents, especially if they are the alleged abusers. And teachers are taught to limit their questioning of a child making an outcry of abuse, so as not to impede on investigations by police and CPS.

“We're seeing changes in the ISDs to where they realize a three-page PowerPoint is not making anybody do the right thing,” Rocha said. “It's not empowering them. It's not inspiring them to get involved. That's kind of what our training is more about — empowering people.”

‘Not the stranger-danger thing'

Child abuse victims brave fear or uncertainty when they seek out help, and their outcries signal the first step toward healing.

Experts and child advocates say when a child outcries, the response needs to be simple and supportive.

“That kid picked you for a reason. Let them tell you their story,” said Rocha, explaining the foundation of training. “Don't drag them down the hall to the counselor's office, because they picked you for a reason.”

As school districts step up training of teachers and school employees, they also have moved to teach young people how to protect themselves.

In the Granbury school district, about 50 miles southwest of Fort Worth, the district uses grants from the Paluxy River Children's Advocacy Center, an organization that serves Weatherford, Granbury and Stephenville, to teach youngsters about personal boundaries starting in prekindergarten.

“If they have been molested, it often has started when they were very young and they did not understand what was being violated and boundaries,” Guidry said.

Teaching child abuse prevention to children also helps them understand how to react when a friend makes an outcry to them, Guidry said.

Hopefully, the student who receives the outcry will tell a trusted teacher: “So and so told me this and I don't understand it.”

Farber said it's important to empower students, regardless of their age, by teaching them how to tell when someone is crossing a boundary, such as trying to manipulate or “groom” them for potential abuse.

“It's not the stranger-danger thing,” Farber said, noting that most predators know their victims. “It is someone who has worked to form a relationship with that child or that family.”

Farber said the Northwest school district, which encompasses portions of Denton, Tarrant and Wise counties, is teaching children about prevention and builds on other programs aimed at internet safety, preventing bullying and supporting young people contemplating suicide.

“Prevention has become a higher focus,” she said.

Farber said the district has been marketing a tip line that young people can use to report any concerns. Sometimes, young people call to find out how they can help their friends.

“It is our responsibility as a school,” Farber said.

‘You need to go tell your mom'

Hoelzer, the Olympic swimmer, said she experienced inappropriate encounters with a close friend's father between the ages of 5 and 7. The abuse ended when the man moved away.

“This was a man that I trusted — that my parents trusted,” Hoelzer says in a video produced by the national nonprofit Darkness to Light. The video testimony is included in the organization's Stewards of Children training offered to area educators by Alliance For Children.

Years later, at age 11, Hoelzer shared the encounters with a friend, who responded: “You were molested?”

Hoelzer, who serves as spokesperson for the National Children's Advocacy Center, said her friend knew how to respond to an outcry because she had learned about child abuse prevention at school.

The friend urged her to take action.

“You need to go tell your mom,” the friend said.

“That is a true testament as to why the education is important,” Hoelzer said in a recent telephone interview.

Hoelzer said family members need to know the signs of abuse and how to protect their children, including talking about personal boundaries and sexual abuse.

“It is just having those conversations, which are not easy,” Hoelzer said.

Hoelzer said that often, when she tells of her experience in a public setting, someone approaches her with his or her own experience. She said people want to share what happened to them.

“They want to know they are normal,” she said. “That's the least I can do is let them know they are not alone. ... When you are going through it, you feel like you are alone.”



Search the Indiana Child Abuse Registry

by Marisa Kwiatkowski

Indiana has launched a registry that includes the names of people convicted of child abuse or neglect.

Legislators passed Senate Enrolled Act 357, also known as Kirk's Law, last year after the death of 19-month-old Kirk Coleman, who prosecutors say died in the care of a provider with a previous record of child abuse.

"This bill provides parents a way to make sure the person they have chosen to take care of their child has not been convicted of child abuse," former Gov. Mike Pence said last year in a statement. "It is my hope that this child abuse registry will become a resource to help ensure that no child is left with someone who may harm them."

The registry lists the name, age, last known city of residence, other identifying information and a description of the crime for which the individual was convicted.

It includes those who have been convicted since July 1, 2012, of neglect of a dependent, child selling, battery against a child, and all sex offenses. It does not include information on cases that were expunged or sealed.

Explore the registry here:


New Hampshire

Outside analysis of closed child abuse investigations sought

by Holly Ramer

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire's child protection agency wants to pay an outside firm $82,000 to review the rapid closing of 1,500 child abuse and neglect investigations during a two-day period last year.

The Executive Council on Wednesday will vote on a contract with Eckerd Kids, a Florida-based nonprofit that helps public and private child protection organizations. If approved, the agency would analyze a sample of 100 closed cases to determine whether any of them should be reopened.

After the Concord Monitor reported that many of the investigations were closed without full assessments, the director of the Division for Children Youth and Families was put on leave and has since been replaced. The division has been under scrutiny since two toddlers were killed in 2014 and 2015.



For victims, overcoming child abuse is a life-long challenge

by Diane Smith


Dawn was barely a teen when she testified in 1999 against the man who took photos of her in lingerie for a child porn ring.

Some details of that day are hazy, but others are crystal clear.

Dallas County prosecutors had said her testimony was critical if her mother's boyfriend was to receive the maximum sentence.

Wearing a navy suit, she took a seat on the witness stand. “Is the man who took pictures of you in the courtroom?” she was asked.

Without hesitation, Dawn pointed toward him.

The evidence was presented: photographs, clothes.

“It was OK until Dad walked in. That's when it really sucked,” Dawn said recently, her composure cracking. “Because, that was kind of the point, that I think for him ... you kind of feel like you are not his little girl anymore.”

Both her mother and her mother's boyfriend received prison sentences.

The ordeal left her traumatized and vulnerable, but with the help of countless hours of counseling, she became a strong survivor.

Now she helps other child abuse victims as a family life educator and licensed professional counselor intern in North Texas. She shared her child abuse experience with the Star-Telegram on the condition that her full name not be published because she continues to fear for her safety.

“Just because the person gets indicted or charged or arrested, it doesn't stop what happened,” she said. “There is still a lot of processing ... it affects you all your life. You don't let it define you, but you never know what's going to trigger you. You never know what's going to remind you of the situation.”

Sobering statistics

Some child abuse cases make headlines — a child who was kept in a closet and never fed, a toddler who dies at the hands of his mother. But many don't draw attention.

In fiscal 2016, Tarrant County ranked second in the state in the number of confirmed victims of child abuse/neglect with 5,162. Harris County led the state with 5,812.

“Any child who experiences abuse is too much,” said Paul Gravley, executive director of The Parenting Center, a Fort Worth organization that provides services to victims.

“I would be happy to shut down The Parenting Center” if there were no need for it anymore, said Gravley, whose organization is among child advocacy groups that recognized Child Abuse Prevention Month in April.

Another agency, Alliance For Children, has centers across Tarrant County that work with CPS, law enforcement and families on reported child abuse cases.

Shellie McMillon, the agency's director of community engagement, said victims need emotional support to heal. When they don't get it, they endure emotional trauma that can lead to self-harming activities, acting out sexually, running away or drug abuse, she said. Still other victims can deal with the trauma by trying to be perfectionists.

“Inside, there is a lot of emotional pain,” McMillon said. “Kids can and do heal.”

From 2015 through 2016, the organization served 2,088 clients. A majority of them — 1,579 — were for reports of sexual abuse.

Diane Eunice, a licensed therapist who helps women at the Center for Transforming Lives, said child abuse trauma is not uncommon for women who have struggled with homelessness or addiction. Eunice said victims often need to work on multiple issues as they come to terms with a history of child abuse, including finding a home and a job.

Eunice said that during counseling, victims express emotional injuries and trauma caused by abusers such as a relative or family friend and have to overcome feelings of mistrust.

“They can be anybody,” Eunice said of abusers. “They can be the folks next door. Abusers have often been abused. No matter how you dress it up, abusers can be anybody.”

Her brother's victim

In the case of Susana, 39, an immigrant from Mexico who is trying to build a better life for her family in Texas, an older brother was her abuser. She asked that she be identified by her first name. In Texas, 2,161 abuse perpetrators were listed as siblings or other relatives, according to data from fiscal 2016.

Susana is one of seven siblings, including the brother who molested her when he was supposed to be keeping an eye on her. She no longer lives in fear of her brother, who lives in Mexico.

“My brother gave me candies,” Susana said, explaining how when she was 5, he would lure her. Her brother was himself a child of about 8 and she believes he must have been victimized by someone.

Susana's abuse ended when she grew into adolescence, but she didn't start getting counseling until she was in her mid-30s. She is currently receiving counseling services through Lena Pope. Among the services that agency provides is counseling to youths in the Fort Worth school district's family resource centers who have a variety of emotional needs.

Susana said blocking most of the memories was her way of coping. She recalled how she was easily taken advantage of because she was timid, having been scarred in a house fire at age 2. She remembers feeling very isolated and ignored by others.

“I didn't talk. I always played alone,” Susana said, explaining that her brother took advantage of her shyness.

Sometimes she knew when he was coming and would run and hide. Often, while it was happening, she would black out.

For years no one else knew about the abuse. Finally, when she was about 11, her brother “distanced himself,” she said, and tried to victimize a younger sister.

“My brother did this with me, sometimes when I know this is coming, when, my brother came to me, I ran and went under the bed or somewhere because I know what is coming,” she recalled. “And for years I lived this. I lived this for years,” she said.

That's when Susana found the courage to make an outcry.

“I told my mother, but she didn't believe me,” she recalled. “I was mad and I demanded to know what he was doing with my little sister in the bathroom. I was nervous and angry at the same time.”

In the end, Susana said, her sister didn't become another one of her brother's victims.

‘Nobody should have to hear this'

Dawn is matter-of-fact when talking about her abuse, but she cries at the memory of her father entering the courtroom.

He was her safety net, and seeing him in the courtroom with the evidence in front of him was too much to bear.

“It's one thing to talk about it,” she said. “It's another to see it. When he walked through the door, it was no, he needs to go out — he doesn't need to hear this. Nobody should have to hear this.”

Dawn doesn't remember how many pictures were taken of her but knows her mother was often present when it was happening.

The perpetrator was sentenced in February 1999 on charges of sexual performance of a child (20 years), possession of child pornography (10 years) and indecency with a child under the age of 14 (20 years). He was paroled April 14, 2016, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

When police broke the case, a TV station covered Dawn's mother's arrest.

“Anybody who knew her knew what had happened,” Dawn said.

Dawn's mother received 10 years' probation, but it was later revoked and she had to serve five years in prison, records show.

Dawn said her mother died several years ago after developing cancer.

People sometimes asked, “How come you don't see your mom?”

Dawn answered: “My mom's in jail.”

That answer prompted more questions: “What is she in jail for?”

“Well, you know, she is an accessory to abuse,” Dawn would answer.

‘That should have been a red flag'

Dawn and her younger brother dreaded seeing their mother's boyfriend.

“There is he is sitting on the couch reading a newspaper, like ‘Welcome home, kids,' type of thing and you are like, ‘Ugh!' ” Dawn said.

“You just don't want him there.”

Dawn's parents divorced when she was in elementary school. Her father had custody of Dawn and her brother, so that meant the children would visit their mother's apartment. At some point, Dawn's mother met a tattooed man in the complex's laundry room. He would become her boyfriend.

“We would all go hang out,” Dawn remembered, adding that he would take them to gun shows and buy them presents. The boyfriend made comments about Dawn modeling for pictures. Dawn ended up modeling lingerie.

The photographs were discovered when the boyfriend developed them at a pharmacy, Dawn said, explaining that a detective showed up at her school and police contacted her father.

Dawn said her mother, an alcoholic who said she was also a victim of child abuse, claimed her drinks were drugged so she wasn't aware of everything taking place.

Dawn said her mother had always warned them about “stranger danger and safe zones,” but that vigilance disappeared with this boyfriend's actions.

“The buying of lingerie — that should have been a red flag,” Dawn said.

She remembers realizing, during a school discussion of child abuse, that she had become a statistic.

“It was something like 4 out of 10 kids experience abuse,” she recalled. “You are sitting in a home economics room, with everybody kind of paired off at tables of almost 10, and you are like ‘Hmm, well, I know I am the one at this table. How many of the other kids have experienced it?' ”

It wasn't something she could talk about out loud with the other students.

“You are still alone in that way,” she said.

An innocence to protect

Many times, Dawn wanted to tell off her mother.

“Why did you let it happen?” she imagined asking.

Dawn said she struggled trying to understand why her mother didn't protect her. But during counseling, Dawn learned she can choose how she feels about her mother.

“I can still like her even for the bad choices she made,” Dawn said.

As Dawn prepared for the April birth of her daughter, she said she would trust her “gut instinct” so she doesn't put her daughter in questionable situations.

She said she won't spank her either.

“One of the things we have talked about is spanking,” Dawn said. “With physical abuse, spanking can be a big precursor to it, that's usually how it starts. Parents don't mean to. They lose their temper. They hit too hard.”

Dawn said she also wants to respect her daughter's personal space. She said with sexual abuse there is a grooming element that parents sometimes unwittingly contribute to when they insist that children hug relatives or grown friends even when a child is uncomfortable.

“She will own her space,” Dawn said. “My priority is her safety and her well-being.”

Susana is also looking forward.

“I didn't understand what was happening to me — why couldn't I learn?” Susana said of her struggles. “I couldn't concentrate on school. I got bad grades.”

At Lena Pope, Susana is learning to move past the pain of child abuse.

“I am learning here to live my life — to first get rid of that hurt, those feelings,” Susana said in Spanish. “I am learning how to overcome, to have a better life because you become filled with anger, frustration, and sometimes you think all people, all men, are like that.”

Susana is trying to teach her three children how to protect themselves.

“It exists,” Susana said. “They need to be wary of people. It doesn't matter if it is your teacher, your brother. It doesn't matter. You have to be wary when you feel someone is touching you inappropriately.”

Susana also grieves for an innocence lost to abuse.

“I think that is the best chapter in a human's life — childhood,” she said. “It is the most beautiful thing a human being can live.”



New law provides support for military families to prevent child abuse


DENVER (KKTV) - A bill by a Colorado Springs lawmaker officially became law Monday, aiming to prevent child abuse and neglect for military families.

The bipartisan bill, by Rep. Tony Exum Sr., promotes healthy families by providing a service to share information between state and local agencies along with military installations.

“Right now, some children within the military community who are neglected or abused do not receive the services and support they need,” said Rep. Exum, D-Colorado Springs, in a release. “This legislation aims to stop that from happening, while promoting healthy families. This new law is particularly important in my district, which is home to many men and women in uniform and their families. No child who is neglected or abused should fall through the cracks.”

Under current law, county caseworkers are not required to track information about the military affiliation of persons being investigated in connection with a child welfare case, nor are they required to share information with the command authority of military installations about child welfare investigations.

SB17-028 requires the Colorado Department of Human Services to change that by collecting information concerning the military affiliation of any person who is involved in an investigation of child abuse or neglect and provide the command authority of a military installation with notice of reports of known or suspected child abuse. It also clarifies that DHS and county departments may enter into memoranda of understanding with the command authority of military installations to establish protocols with respect to suspected instances of child abuse and neglect, ensuring military families are getting the support they need.

The bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Dan Nordberg, R-Colorado Springs, and Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs.



What you can do to help with child abuse


CHEYENNE, Wyo. (KGWN) - Across the country, a disturbing trend is being reported. Recently, Cheyenne Regional Medical Center forensic nurses are seeing an increase in younger patients.

CRMC nurse, Tiffany Dickey, says, “Many of them are sexual assaults...and many of them are confirmed traumatic child abuse cases where they come in as a trauma and we have to treat them medically.”

She went on to explain that abuse can be cyclical. If you have been a victim of abuse, you could still benefit from receiving help so that the ends.

Dickey says, “Eight percent of victims of violence as children will become violent in some way through their adulthood.”

It all begins with acknowledgment and a simple call to the Department of Family Services.



Proactive child abuse prevention gets increased attention as fatality rate rises in Pa.

by Eleanor Klibanoff

Summer Chambers, a chubby cheeked five-month-old died of starvation and dehydration in her crib, four days after her parents died from drug overdoses in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

Zyair Worrell, a two-year-old boy in Philadelphia, was killed by his mother's boyfriend. He was found unresponsive with lacerations, abrasions, bruising and THC in his system.

Isabel Rose Godfrey, a three-year-old, showing off a toothy smile in a photo submitted to the York Daily Record, was killed by her mother who was likely on drugs. Police were notified after Godfrey's six-year-old brother ran into the neighbor's house yelling that his mother was trying to kill his sister.

These are just three of the 46 children who died in 2016 from child abuse.

In addition, there were 79 near-fatalities, where the child would have died without medical intervention. Both numbers represent a significant increase from the year before and the highest number in at least five years. (There were 36 fatalities and 57 near fatalities in 2015.)

The sharp increase in child abuse-related fatalities has drawn the attention of the Auditor General, who has promised a special report on the state's child welfare system, and Governor Tom Wolf, who has allocated more funding for child and youth agencies in his upcoming budget.

Now, lawmakers and law enforcement agencies are calling for an additional approach: funding home-visit programs that proactively reduce the risk of child abuse — before it occurs.

'Lopsided' funding

Currently, Pennsylvania funds child abuse prevention through the 67 county-level child and youth agencies. Those agencies have been struggling since 2014 when the legislature passed 24 new laws aimed at preventing another Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

Those laws widened the definition of child abuse, increased the number of mandatory reporters, and created strict penalties for not reporting suspected abuse. But these changes didn't come with any additional funding for agencies charged with responding to and investigating these claims.

This year's proposed budget increases that funding, which will alleviate some of the burden on these county agencies. But while those agencies are getting funded and functioning again, advocates say it's also time to think about the other end of the equation.

"Our funding is and always has been so lopsided towards being reactive," said Cathy Palm, founder of Center for Children's Justice. "At some point, we have to shift the paradigm from thinking we'll just intervene when something has already happened to a child to thinking, we know what stressors can cause something like this to happen. How can we prevent that from happening?"

Home visit programs

The $9 million lawmakers are requesting for child abuse prevention would go towards funding four home visit programs: the Nurse-Family Partnership, Parents as Teachers, Healthy Families America, and Early Head Start.

These programs help parents help their children, often beginning with pregnant mothers. Paraprofessionals, social workers, nurses and child care professionals visit families in their homes to offer support, teach parenting skills, encourage child development and help parents access services. There is significant evidence that, implemented correctly, home visit programs improve child outcomes, and in some cases, can reduce the risk of child abuse.

"A lot of people like to think of abuse as coming from evil people," said Palm. "We try to remind people that so often, children are harmed because there's this cascade of stressors. Maybe there's job loss, house loss, intimate partner violence and it becomes too much. That's when parents lose their temper and a child gets hurt."

Home visit programs help parents, particularly young parents, develop coping skills and positive parenting techniques. The programs also help children by offering early learning and development opportunities in the home.

"You have to build up and support, in any way you can, parents, because the very best first step in preventing child abuse is having strong healthy parents who understand child development and positive parenting," said Angela Liddle, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance.

The other "H" in the room

The three child deaths mentioned at the beginning of this story have another common thread: substance abuse. The opioid and heroin epidemic has severely taxed the child welfare system, and advocates say everyone has been slow to admit that.

"Standing next to that person who overdosed is a kid, picking up the phone and calling 911 to report an overdose is often a kid, sitting in the backseat of the car where a parent has overdosed is a child," said Palm. "We just really haven't come to grips with that reality."

The heroin and opioid epidemic has burdened Pennsylvania's child welfare system when it is already struggling with unfunded mandates from the legislature. Liddle says there is no way these factors haven't contributed to the rise in child fatalities in Pennsylvania.

Both Palm and Liddle agree that home visit programs are one part of the answer. These programs don't alleviate poverty or prevent substance abuse outright. But they can help parents manage the different issues that lead to abuse and can help keep the right people in the loop.

"When children die in Pennsylvania, a lot of times, these are families that were on someones radar," said Palm. "We know they're under stress, but we don't connect them to proven services that potentially help to mitigate or resolve that stress. Then we all act a little surprised and outraged when something bad happens to that child. But we knew."



Why you MUST be civil with your ex - for your child's sake: Kids are more likely to suffer depression if their parents have a 'toxic' relationship

by Melissa Bright

Parents are often reminded to keep harmful substances out of their child's reach. But what if a child's experiences at home were as toxic to their health as household solvents and cleaners?

On a basic level, toxins are poisonous substances that lead to disease. Although not stored in a bottle or on a shelf, stress in childhood meets the criteria.

The phrase 'toxic stress' describes the body's reaction to negative experiences that are not only intense and chronic but also caused by the absence of safe, stable and nurturing adult relationships. Toxic stress 'gets under our skin' to change the way we respond to our environment and can lead to disease and disability across the lifespan.

My research at the University of Florida focuses on stressful experiences during childhood and how these experiences relate to a child's health. We're making progress in uncovering which health conditions are related to childhood stress and how we can prevent this stress.

What stress does to the body

When you are in a stressful situation, your brain prepares your body for one of three general responses: fight, flee or freeze. If you are attacked, for example, your body slows down processes that are not as important in that moment – like digestion – and speeds up processes that are important – like blood flow to muscles – so that you can either escape or defend yourself. When the crisis is over, your body goes back to its normal state. This ability to respond to and recover from stressful events is important for survival.

When a child experiences toxic stress, however, that child loses the ability to respond and recover appropriately. If a child lives in a household that uses violence to solve problems, for example, then his or her brain might regularly prepare his or her bodies to fight or flee. This situation gives a body very little time to recover and reset. This repeated response to stress also changes the way a body reacts to future events.

Some people who experience repeated stress become hyper-reactive, which might look like a quickness to react to situations and slowness to calm down. Others become hypo-reactive, which might look like a lack of awareness to situations that necessitate a response. Hypo-reactive individuals may fail to identify danger and become at risk for falling victim again.

The effects of toxic stress are also seen 'under the skin.' Experiencing repeated stress lowers our immune system and makes us more susceptible to illnesses, from the common cold to diabetes to asthma.

Adverse childhood experiences, also called ACEs, can cause toxic stress. Most researchers focus on a dozen or so adverse experiences: physical abuse and neglect, emotional abuse and neglect, sexual abuse, caregiver separation or divorce, caregiver mental illness, caregiver substance use, caregiver incarceration and domestic violence. Click here to see your ACE score.

In the first study of ACEs in the 1990s, researchers found that adults who reported experiencing three or more ACEs were more likely to have two of the top three causes of death of adults in the U.S.: heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (e.g., emphysema or chronic bronchitis).

Experiencing three or more ACEs was also associated with substance use, depression, liver disease, multiple sexual partners, sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancy, suicide attempt and even early death.

Effects on the developing childhood brain

Early childhood is a time for significant brain development. Given that brain development is affected by our environment, toxic stress during this time can be particularly problematic.

In a recent study by my team, we examined adverse childhood experiences and health in a national survey of children aged 0-17 years. We included experiences like emotional abuse, financial struggles, caregiver divorce or separation, domestic violence, neighborhood violence and caregiver mental illness.

We focused on how these experiences related to not just physical health (e.g., vision and hearing problems, asthma) but also mental health (depression, anxiety) and developmental outcomes like learning and intellectual disability in childhood.

We found that experiencing three or more of these adverse experiences was associated with a two- to five-fold increase in the likelihood of having at least one condition in each of the three health categories above.

Adverse experiences weren't just associated with increased likelihood of having one condition. Experiencing multiple forms of adversity was also associated with increased likelihood of having at least one condition in two categories.

Most alarming was that having three or more adverse experiences was associated with nearly a six-fold increase in the likelihood of having at least one physical, at least one mental and at least one developmental condition.

These startling findings tell us two things about childhood adversity. First, negative health effects are seen before adulthood, and, second, they affect multiple domains of health and development simultaneously.

This means that the effects of childhood adversity and toxic stress can be seen in the pediatrician's clinic, the psychologist's office and the teacher's classroom.

Poison control

A critical component to toxic stress is that it occurs only in the absence of safe, stable and nurturing adult relationships. If children experience stress but also have a warm, loving adult to support them, then that child will be able to respond to and recover from even the most difficult of circumstances.

Conversations around child safety need to extend beyond helmets and cleaning substances to include toxic stress and its causes. Parents need to be armed with strategies for creating safe, stable and nurturing relationships with their children. Building these relationships can reduce childhood adversity, toxic stress, and subsequent disease and disability.

Most alarming was that having three or more adverse experiences was associated with nearly a six-fold increase in the likelihood of having at least one physical, at least one mental and at least one developmental condition.

These startling findings tell us two things about childhood adversity. First, negative health effects are seen before adulthood, and, second, they affect multiple domains of health and development simultaneously.

This means that the effects of childhood adversity and toxic stress can be seen in the pediatrician's clinic, the psychologist's office and the teacher's classroom.

Poison control

A critical component to toxic stress is that it occurs only in the absence of safe, stable and nurturing adult relationships. If children experience stress but also have a warm, loving adult to support them, then that child will be able to respond to and recover from even the most difficult of circumstances.

Conversations around child safety need to extend beyond helmets and cleaning substances to include toxic stress and its causes. Parents need to be armed with strategies for creating safe, stable and nurturing relationships with their children. Building these relationships can reduce childhood adversity, toxic stress, and subsequent disease and disability.



Neighbor Kills Oklahoma Man Trying to Drown Twin Babies, Police Say

by Alex Johnson and andrew Kozak

A neighbor shot and killed an Oklahoma man who was trying to drown his 3-month-old twins in a bathtub, police said Sunday.

The babies were "doing great" Sunday after having been released from the hospital, police in Ada told NBC News.

Investigators were reviewing whether Cash Freeman of Ada, about 50 miles southeast of Oklahoma City, should face charges in the shooting death on Friday of Leland Foster, 27, said Lisa Bratcher, a spokeswoman for Ada police.

Bratcher said Foster, who lives in Poteau, about 130 miles east of Ada, showed up at a home where his estranged wife, identified as Michelle Forrells, was staying with their twins.

When Foster pulled Forrells and their children into a bathroom and started trying to drown the children — while holding Forrells at knifepoint — a 12-year-old girl also living in the house ran for help, Bratcher said.

Freeman, a neighbor, grabbed his revolver, entered the home, saw Foster trying to kill the children and shot him twice in the back, Bratcher said.

Bratcher said there might be police video of officers' response to the incident, which was called in at 12:38 p.m. (1:38 p.m. ET) Friday.

A neighbor, Summer Pierce, called the incident "awful."

"I've held the babies, and I've played with them, and I just gave them clothes," Pierce told NBC affiliate KFOR of Oklahoma City.

"I think he did the right thing, because who knows what would happen?" Pierce said. "Who knows what would have happened to the babies if he hadn't intervened? They might not have made it."

The girl who ran for help wasn't identified other than as the granddaughter of the home's permanent residents.



Creating support for victims of child sexual abuse

by Deborah McDermott

YORK, Maine — Efforts are well underway to create a network of support for victims of child sexual abuse in York and regionally following a launch last April, and organizers are hoping interested community members will attend an upcoming meeting to discuss next steps.

Three local women have been leading the charge – York Hospital emergency room physician Dr. Jeanine Ward; York police officer Jamie Rooney Robie; and Grammy-nominated music producer and songwriter Kara DioGuardi. All victims of child sexual abuse themselves, they are looking to raise awareness of the issue.

The purpose of their efforts is to introduce to York a community model based on a Massachusetts program called the Enough Abuse Campaign. The campaign works to train and educate residents, works with organizations like schools to make sure staff are properly trained, and works with state legislators to effect legislation.

The three women spearheaded a meeting of interested community members in late April, and will be holding a second gathering at 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 14, at York Public Library. Everyone is welcome to attend.

According to Ward, there has been a flurry of activity since the April meeting, with more anticipated in the months to come. “It's good stuff,” she said.

Already, Robie has worked to bring Molly Louison, manager of the York County Child Advocacy Center, to the York police station to train officers, said Ward. Ward has invited Louison to lead a training of York Hospital doctors – particularly emergency room staff, “who will be on the first line.”

At least one York Hospital emergency room nurse will be going to intensive, week-long training in Augusta this fall through the state's Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner program. Those trained through the program provide medical and forensic care for a patient who has suffered sexual assault/abuse, are trained in the collection of forensic evidence, and can testify in court as an expert witness. Several others are interested as well, she said. “The hope is to have a cadre of nurses who are specifically trained so if someone comes in, they are called in,” said Ward.

But Ward said there is still much to do. Key among them, she would like to move forward on a community training program. Ward has been trained through the Enough Abuse Campaign to train people who in turn provide free education to parents, children, community groups and school personnel. Other topics on the agenda for June 14 include legislative action and fundraising efforts.

Ward said she's pleased with the efforts that have been made and with the possibility of establishing a vibrant network in York and the region to help the young victims of sexual abuse.

“We're pretty excited,” she said. “We're already making some positive steps and we hope it can continue – in the greater York community, hopefully, and eventually in the entire state of Maine. This is awesome stuff.”



Enraged by child sexual abuse, these people are taking a school to court

by Mehr Gill

A three-and-a-half-year-old girl was sexually abused in a popular Bengaluru preschool. The issue was brought to light in February this year, post which some parents are aggressively fighting the case against the school authorities.

In February 2017, a Bengaluru preschool's male staff member, Manjunath, was accused of sexually abusing a three-and-a-half-year-old girl.

Her mother, Bindu (38) and father Harish Bhatia confronted the authorities. “The principal said the child was making it up and denied the claims. I asked her how a child could make such things up. She said ‘do what you want to do, I will not take action',” Bindu says. The parents filed an FIR and Manjunath was arrested the same day. “The principal called us the next day and told us to let Manjunath go and not file a complaint. Thankfully, I recorded this call,” Bindu adds.

It took some time for Bindu to come to know of her child's ordeal. When the little girl started crying at the thought of going to school, a pattern that continued for 15–20 days, Bindu called up the school to make sure everything was okay, and they assured her that there was nothing to worry about. The next hint came when the child told her that the bhaiya had touched her back. “I dismissed this, since I thought some child must have done this. I told her to inform her teacher,” she says. The next time, the child showed Bindu her buttocks and said that the bhaiya had put his finger in it. “I was alarmed and stunned because she had to be so specific for me to grasp the situation,” she says. The child added, “The bhaiya's name is Manju, he is a bad bhaiya,” and claimed he did this to other kids as well.

Child sexual abuse in India

In 2015, under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), the number of cases registered under child sexual abuse increased to 14,913 from 8,904 the year before. This increase is owed to greater awareness about legal recourse with regard to CSA.

The total number of crimes against children registered in 2015 was a staggering 94,172. These crimes include physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and sex trafficking in minors. Within India, Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of sexual offence cases, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. While in the national capital, Delhi, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data suggests that on an average, three children are raped every day.

In 94.8 percent of the reported cases, the assaulter is someone known to the child, often a neighbour, someone from within the family, or a close relative.

Disappointing response

When Bindu and Harish approached the school the following Monday, they found that no action had been taken.

“We went to the school to tell the parents about the incident, where 30-40 parents claimed that their children have been crying to go to school as well. Apparently, one 18-month-old child had bruises on her bum,” she informs.

“The response from the police has been disappointing because everybody was trying to push us back. Authorities don't want to take any action and that is where my discomfort is. What about the people under whose supervision this happened?” she questions.

Apart from Bindu's daughter, there are three more children, two among whom are witnesses. All the children have been subjected medical examinations and have testified in front of the court. “Even getting the medical report was a pain. The government doctor said things like, “You opened your legs for Manju bhaiya , but what is your problem with me?” when the child was unwilling to do so. It was disheartening to hear these insensitive sentences,” Bindu says.

Manjunath, who himself has a three-month-old child, according to Bindu, has been working at the school for the past eight years. While Manjunath is still under arrest, the principal is absconding and managed to get a stay order against the charge sheet filed against her. Today, the school sees no kids. Not because of action taken by the school but because no one wants to send their kids to such a school.

Looking for justice

A group of parents have filed seven FIRs and have engaged a public prosecutor to take the case to court. The parents want the court to pass a strict judgment against the principal and management and make it necessary for pre-school owners to have licences.

The fee the lawyer is demanding is Rs 13 lakh. The parents, along with Major Aditi Mohan, an ex-Army officer, have started a crowdfunding campaign and about Rs 3.5 lakh has already been raised.

This is Aditi's third crowdfunding campaign. She has previously helped premature twins with their treatment worth Rs 22 lakh and has also helped raise Rs 20 lakh for a four-year-old stage-four cancer patient. Her involvement with the CSA case started after she read the WhatsApp message circulated by Bindu.

“When I reached the school, the principal had shut the door of the office and was sitting inside,” she said. She talked to the police and made the principal come out. “At the police station, statements like, “Did you not know that this happens to little children every day?” were made,” she says.

“In my experience, this is the first family I have seen in Bengaluru that is rightfully fighting for the cause. They want to set an example. Otherwise, people back out and don't try to pursue the case. If this is not done, authorities will get away with this and it will happen again,” Aditi says.

“I question people even in my building running day cares about whether they have licences to run these institutions. While some tell me that they weren't aware of this requirement, others ask me for help,” she adds.

“I hope these families get justice,” she concludes.



Child sexual abuse online more violent and victims getting younger

World Congress on Family Law and Children's Rights opens in Dublin

by Fiona Gartland

Violence against sexually exploited children online has become more severe and victims are getting younger, an international conference on family law and children's rights was told on Sunday.

Speaking on the global realities of child exploitation, Commander Lesa Gale, of the Australian Federal Police, said each day, the police assessment centre in Australia receives imagery depicting infants being sexually abused.

“Officers are reporting a disturbing trend focussing on pain and death involving babies and toddlers,” she said.

“Producers of such material are trying to shock and go to the next level of violence which has created an almost competitive environment. Innocent children are trading cards in these circles that have an insatiable appetite for such material.”

Ms Gale was speaking at the opening of the four-day World Congress on Family Law and Children's Rights in Dublin. Some 150 Irish and international speakers will attend the event along with more than 600 delegates.

The police officer said last month the International Justice Mission, an organisation that works to protect impoverished communities around the world from violence, said 54 per cent of victims rescued by the mission were under 12 years of age. The youngest victim rescued, just a few weeks ago, was two months old. And a 2015 report from NetClean, which produces technology to fight child abuse on line, stated that violence against children recorded in images and videos had become more severe in the past three years, Ms Gale said.

“Victims are getting younger and younger,” she told delegates.

She said of the 3.7 billion internet users worldwide, more than 750,000 are child predators. Online child exploitation was difficult to track and investigate, she said, given secure technologies and the anonymity provided by the dark web and less traceable payment systems.

Content was based on “a simple economic principle of supply and demand”, she said, and a UN report in 2009 estimated child exploitation images generated between $3 billion and $20 billion dollars a year.


In 2016, a study found sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism had expanded worldwide and outpaced every attempt to respond.

“No region is untouched by this crime and no country is immune,” she warned.

She also said that in Australia and around the world rates of live-stream child abuse, via webcam, video footage and image capture was growing.

“We will continue to see an increase in live distant child abuse where a buyer can not only pay for the live sexual abuse inflicted on a child, like you would rent a movie, but they can pay to direct the film,” she said.

She highlighted the We Protect Global Alliance, set up in 2012, to end sexual exploitation of children. The alliance has 63 signatories, including Australia and Ireland. She said it was important governments were aware of the facts of “this atrocious crime”.

Also speaking at the opening day of the congress was Fiona McCormack, chief executive of DV Victoria, Australia, and Lesley Podesta, chief executive of Australian children's charity, the Alannah & Madeline Foundation.



Sexual abuse victims dying before national redress scheme set up, survivor warns

by Annah Fromberg

Tasmanian victims of child sexual abuse in institutional settings will die before they receive redress, authorities have been warned.

A national redress scheme, which was recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, is expected to be up and running next year, but the Tasmanian Government has not set aside any money.

Tasmanian victim Tony Rayner said it was important for the Government to take action.

Mr Rayner gave evidence to the commission and also urged others to come forward.

"There are so many victims who are in their 70s and 80s; there are so many like me who are in their late 60s," he said.

Mr Rayner was just seven years old when he was sent to board at St Virgil's College in 1956.

It was there, he said, he was sexually assaulted, raped and abused.

He fears he may not see redress in his lifetime.

"Following the royal commission I felt that that was not an issue," he said.

"But as we've got further on yes, I have started to worry that it'll just become one of those, 'oh let's get things done soon, oh yeah well it's horizon'.

"There's other things that are more important and really this is one of the most important moral issues of our day."

Mr Rayner appeared before the royal commission in a private session in 2014.

The commission has since estimated 1,750 Tasmanians abused in institutional settings may be eligible for civil compensation under a National Redress Scheme.

More than $33 million was committed in the recent federal budget for the scheme, with states and territories all expected to commit funding.

Tasmanian budget snub claim

Greens Leader Cassy O'Connor said she was disappointed the Tasmanian Government neglected the issue in last month's state budget.

"There's been no mention of the state's need to contribute to this national scheme, and there's no allocation across the forward estimates," she said.

"The Tasmanian Government knows it has to make a contribution."

The scheme is expected to be operating by next March, with compensation payments capped at $150,000.

It is expected to cost states $13 million over 10 years.

"It's such a small sum of money to provide a measure of justice to the survivors of past abuse, it's very difficult to understand why they haven't provided this in the budget." Ms O'Connor said.

But Resources Minister Guy Barnett said there were ongoing talks with the Federal Government.

"A proposal has been put forward by the Federal Government, no states have come forward to accept the Government's recommendation at this stage but we look forward to continuing our discussions," he said.

In a statement, the Tasmanian Government said it had also implemented an earlier redress scheme for children abused in state care, making ex gratia payments worth over $54 million.

The scheme operated between 2003 and 2013 and assisted more than 1,800 survivors who were the subject of sexual, physical or emotional abuse.

Goodwin's legacy must be honoured: victim

There is also frustration over the time it is taking the State Government to introduce new laws to remove the statutory time limits on child sexual abuse victims seeking damages.

Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin, who has stepped aside because of terminal cancer, announced the move while in office last November.

Mr Rayner is worried the legislation has been put on the backburner.

"There are always many other issues to deal with and I'd hate to see this one fall by the wayside because it's terribly terribly important to a lot of victims," he said.

He hoped the Government would continue Ms Goodwin's work.

"It has to happen and it has to happen soon. It's just really important that it be done and after all we want the courts to be able to look at our cases and make a decision on them."

Acting Attorney-General Matthew Groom expects legislation to be introduced in the Spring session of Parliament.


South Africa

Minister says parents must speak out against child abuse

by Mbasa Khwaza

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini has urged parents to speak out against child abuse, even if the perpetrators happen to be family members.

Dlamini has been wrapping up the Child Protection Week campaign in Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape.

Lusikisiki and surrounding areas are notorious for ukuthwala, the practice where young girls are forced to marry older men.

These victims of abuse spoke out about their experiences. They say they want to encourage other victims to break the silence. Some related their stories about sexual abuse and corporal punishment; others about emotional abuse.

A Grade 10 learner was forced to marry an older man last year, when she was only 17; she feels that her parents failed her.

“I told my mom that I don't want to be married, but she said I must be strong and stay, because she is also married at home and obeys her in-laws. I tried to kill myself.”

Dlamini has appealed to communities to rally against child abuse.

“A lot needs to be done, because violence against children starts at home - and even women, they are violated by their fathers, brothers, boyfriends, husbands. That is where we need to start.”

Dlamini has added that parents should not negotiate incidents of abuse in family circles and stop protecting child abusers.

She urged them to report abuse cases to the police.



Victims of teen sex trafficking deal with devastating damage

by Kathy Stewart

WASHINGTON — Teen sex trafficking is a major problem in Northern Virginia. But sometimes victims of this crime are so broken that it's almost impossible for them to ever overcome the damage that's been done.

“It ruins their lives. There's no coming back from it,” said Fairfax County police Detective Bill Woolf, who works with the police department's major crimes division in the child exploitation unit that deals with human trafficking in Northern Virginia.

He said that according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Northern Virginia continues to be a hot spot for teen sex trafficking. And traffickers are very cunning in who they target.

They target both girls and boys. But their main target is girls between 11 and 14 who have low self-esteem.

“This is definitely coercion and manipulation,” said Liz Payne with Just Ask, a nonprofit that works to end trafficking.

Teen sex traffickers are adept at identifying potential victims and they work methodically to hook the victims, she said.

“They absolutely have a business model that they're looking for those who have lower self-esteem,” Payne said. “We've heard reports even in a mall they can say ‘Hey, you're really pretty,' and if they look down, then they know that they have an in and that there's a self-esteem issue and then they can pursue that.”

She also said they've had cases of random texts going to kids to try and lure them in.

According to Woolf, the traffickers are so smooth that sometimes the victims don't even realize what's happening until it's too late. At that point, they have been manipulated and are trapped in the commercial sex trade and controlled by the traffickers.

He said with the internet at their fingertips, traffickers have almost limitless potential to hook new victims.

Payne said social media is a major problem when trying to combat teen trafficking.

“Whether it's Facebook or whatever social media, just entering chats with people — people they (teens) don't know. And then they lure them in with promises of a relationship or you can make money,” she said.

Woolf said he's been trying to get people to understand that this is not prostitution. That these children and young teens are not consenting to the acts. They are being forced to do this against their will, sometimes by the threat of force.

In the business of prostitution, the women consent and voluntarily engage.

“These are children, our teens, that are out there and they deserve to be protected, they deserve to be protected and shielded from predators that are willing to exploit them and their bodies,” Woolf said.

He said it's the concept that this is “just prostitution” that keeps these kids locked in a nightmare.

“Most teens, once they get in it, they feel trapped.,” he said. “The biggest reason I have heard in interviewing several victims of trafficking is: ‘Where do I go for help, who's going to understand?'”

He said the victims feel like there is no one who they can trust and thus no one to turn to get help.

The FBI reports that sometimes the traffickers will use violence such as gang rape or other forms of abuse to force the child to work for them and remain under their control.

Payne said the victims are controlled. The traffickers will take their phone away, they limit their exposure to other people and threaten harm.

“They'll say, ‘We know who your parents are. We know who your friends are,'” she said.

Woolf, who has worked on the front lines of this war for about eight years, said the damage that is done to these kids is sometimes irreparable.

“Unfortunately, when a young person it trafficked, it completely changes their view on life. It changes who they are, how they view themselves. And it takes years and years of work to reverse just weeks of damage by the trafficker,” he said.

Deepa Patel is a Fairfax County clinician who works with sex trafficking victims.

“Unfortunately, the traumatic experiences that they've been through have long-term severer consequences and traumatic effects that affect their ability to form long-term relationships,” she said.

She said the victims also deal with medical issues such as sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and pregnancies. She also adds psychological issues, depression, anxiety, and paranoia to the list of what these victims are left to deal with.

“The key to fighting human trafficking is really through prevention and education,” Woolf said.


The National Human Trafficking Hotline: 888-373-7888, open 24/7.

You can also visit their website at



Rescuing Sex Slaves with Soap and Paper

by Paul Strand

ARLINGTON, Va. – One group fighting sex trafficking calls itself S.O.A.P. - Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution. And they've actually found a way to use soap to battle this second leading crime in America.

This weekend, they gathered a couple of dozen volunteers in Arlington, Virginia across the Potomac from Washington D.C. to pack bags with bars of soap that have the number of the National Human Trafficking Hotline on the wrapper. Then they delivered these bags to hotels and motels around the D.C. Metro area.

The wrapper says “Are you being forced to do anything you do not want to do? Have you been threatened if you try to leave? Have you witnessed young girls being prostituted? If so, please call: 1-888-3737-888 – National Human Trafficking Hotline.”

SOAP Saved a Chicago Girl

S.O.A.P. Founder Theresa Flores recently received a text message from someone about one of these wrappers.

Flores recalled, “It said ‘you are the reason I'm free. I found a bar of soap in Chicago and it gave me a reason to get out.'"

The volunteers working with S.O.A.P. also gave local hotels and motels folders containing a list of warning signs for desk clerks to watch out for, and also photos of missing girls who might be among the potentially thousands of sex trafficking underage victims in the U.S. right now.

Photo in the Right Hands Led to Rescue

Flores was around when a photo of a missing girl put in the hands of a desk clerk worked recently.

“And the clerk said ‘she just checked in 20 minutes ago with an older man.' And she's 15, right? So we were able to call the authorities and go get her immediately, “ Flores told CBN News.

The card for desk clerks is labelled “Warning Signs of Trafficking or Sexual Exploitation of Minors.” Some of these signs it listed:

•  Someone other than guest rents the room, checks in without luggage, then leaves.

•  Guest lacks appropriate ID.

•  Room is paid for with cash or rechargeable credit card.

•  Dominating, older, non-related adult speaks for the minor.

•  Minor is hyper-vigilant; seems fearful or hostile; won't make eye contact.

•  Minor takes on adult roles such as paying bill or requesting services.

•  Patron appears with minor with whom he did not check in.

•  Minor is with guest on school nights or during school hours.

Barbara Amaya was there in Arlington to help train the volunteers. She writes in her book “Nobody's Girl” about being sex-trafficked from the age of 12 to 22. Amaya told CBN News children are a favorite among those who pay for sex.

“I was trafficked in the streets of New York from the age of 12 to 21 or 22,” Amaya stated. "Not once did any one of those men ever say, ‘wait a minute. Hold on. You're just too young.'”

It's Not Like 'Pretty Woman'

For those fooled by movies like “Pretty Woman” into thinking prostitution is a glamorous, fairy tale lifestyle, they need to know what someone like Amaya lived through.

She stated on the Richmond Justice Initiative website, “During my time on the streets of New York, I was abused, shot, stabbed, raped, kidnapped, trafficked, beaten, addicted to drugs, jailed, and more all before I was 18 years old.”

Flores was sex-trafficked, too, as a young teen and says the damage never really goes away.

“It's lifelong,” Flores explained. "When you're trafficked, if it's for a weekend, if it's for two years or five years, it doesn't matter, you're really broken forever. And it takes a lot to heal.”

People who don't think they have any tools to fight sex trafficking need to realize something as simple as a bar of soap and a couple of pieces of paper can lead to rescued lives. They can contact S.O.A.P . or other groups battling illegal trafficking, like Seraphim Global, National Center on Sexual Exploitation or the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to learn ways to help make those rescues happen.