Avoiding child deaths in a hot car
DOTHAN, Al. (WTVY) -- Situations like the one Mary Esther, Florida, where an infant was left in a hot car for approximately eight hours, remind us of the dangers of leaving a child in a hot car. But according to experts, eight hours is more than enough. Around fifteen minutes can literally mean the difference between life and death.
It's a real danger, children being left in hot cars. Experts say most of those deaths happen between June and August. This is peak time when the weather's the warmest; though tragedies like the one in Okaloosa County can happen anytime. Dothan fire department Battalion Chief Chris Etheredge says even leaving your small child unattended for a few minutes can have deadly ramifications.
"We think, I'm just going to run in for a minute, I'll crack the window's everything will be okay, and it's not. The temperature rises very quickly inside of a car", said Etheredge.
A car's temperature can rise drastically in a short amount of time. Even fifteen to twenty minutes can be critical. Southeastern Pediatrics Dr. Lauren Morris said that fifteen minutes can make a difference and before succumbing to death, symptoms include becoming nauseous, vomiting, and seizures. Even if children are removed, the long term effects can be devastating especially neurologically as well as damage to their inner organs.
"When a child is left in a hot car, heat stroke can occur in as little as fifteen minutes. Basically their body temperatures rise to anything above 104 to 107 internally, and that's what causes death", said Dr. Morris.
Dr. Morris recommends taking several steps in helping a child left in a vehicle. She recommends things like calling the nearest fire department, calling for help, as a last resort breaking the glass on the other side of the child to avoid glass shards getting onto the child. However one thing stressed is not putting a cold cloth over the child. It can have the opposite effect, of what it was intended to do.
"You have to spritz them with some water, not coat them with wet towels because that conducts the heat, try to if you can get a hold of ice. Put cool ice packs underneath the armpit and the groin", said Dr. Morris.
Etheredge said; use common sense before leaving your car. A quick trip to the back seat can make the difference. There are apps that can remind you there is a child in the car. Experts also recommend parents put their purse, wallet or cell phone in the back seat as a reminder.
"Look before you leave. Make sure that all the children are out of the car", said Etheredge.
As a male survivor of child sexual abuse, I need you to know my story
by Tim Verity
I had always known what happened to me as a child. I was eight when the abuse finally stopped but I had vivid dreams reliving the experiences for years. When I realised their significance at 15 they quickly turned to nightmares, turning my life upside down. Now, at 32, I have secured the conviction of the man responsible and finally found some measure of peace. By telling my story, I hope to help other survivors do the same.
I grew up in a happy, middle class home; the son of a doctor and a nurse, loving parents who worked hard to provide for me. I was a precocious child with a wayward streak, never shy about vocalising my thoughts or confronting figures in authority. One early school report read ‘Tim will make Prime Minister, if someone doesn't shoot him first'. Although my campaign for high office never quite took off, people who know me will sympathise with that sentiment. Given that, I often wonder why I kept the abuse I suffered a secret for so long.
It happened on weekend visits to a relative's house during the early 1990s. The woman, who I called ‘auntie', made sugar mice as treats for me. Her adoptive son Neil, an overweight, moustachioed man then in his mid-twenties, would withhold the sweets and use them to entice me to perform sexual acts on him, as well as keeping quiet about the assaults he would carry out on me, behaviour we would today label ‘grooming'.
The abuse occurred on multiple occasions over a period of a few years. For a long time I told myself, ‘it wasn't that bad, other people have been through far worse'. What is important to me, more than any salacious details, is the profound devastation it caused.
Many survivors go through decades of their lives blocking these memories or are unable to process what they mean, only for the realisation to emerge suddenly and unexpectedly. For me, it took the rape of a friend when I was 15 to understand that what had happened wasn't a normal part of growing up. This revelation turned me, almost overnight, from a happy-go-lucky class clown to a deeply troubled young man.
My mental health deteriorated rapidly and nightmares stopped me from sleeping. I experienced depression, anxiety, overwhelming emotions and elements of psychosis, kick-starting a pattern of shame, self-loathing and self-destructive behaviour that continued to follow me throughout my life.
I drank heavily to cope with my waking thoughts, which verged on suicidal. I couldn't cope with being around former friends who I felt had abandoned me and started playing truant from school, eventually dropping out altogether.
My parents had no idea what had happened to their once happy, if argumentative, little boy. They couldn't cope with my increasingly unhinged and unexplained behaviour. They eventually took the heart-breakingly difficult decision to kick me out of the family home when I turned 16, in 2000.
I found myself homeless in a working class seaside town where I had no friends or family to call on, flitting from Bed & Breakfast accommodation to sleeping rough. I spent my time with all manner of ‘characters', from asylum seekers who were fleeing wars in Kosovo and Sierra Leone to a teenage girl who made her living selling herself.
My world was increasingly filled with violence and chemically induced escapism and I knew I wanted out. The only way I could see how was to get back into education. This was no easy task, juggling work, renting a home and my unstable mental health proved challenging, but eventually I got myself back on track and progressed from GCSEs to a masters degree and training in journalism.
When I wrote to my parents to explain what I had been through as a child, their attitude changed immediately. They finally understood what had caused my breakdown and we were able to start building back the bridges that had been torn down between us.
I began to function again within society, but the legacy of abuse continued to follow me. One of the most troubling aspects was the idea that I might myself become an abuser. So often we hear that offenders have been abused themselves and in the grasping and twisted logic of my young brain I assumed, like some vampiric infection, I was doomed to eventually become a monster myself.
This stopped me from wanting children and was one of many factors resulting from abuse that contributed to the breakdown of romantic relationships. Maturity has since taught me that this is nonsense and I know that my experiences will help me to prepare the children I will one day have for the challenges they may face, while protecting in them the innocence that was stolen from me.
Male survivors are a group that has been unrepresented in the past, which is surprising given what we know. ONS figures show that around 11% of boys under 16 have experienced some form of sexual abuse. There are thought to be in excess of 2 million adult male survivors of abuse in the UK, according to Survivors UK. Over 1,000 men report being raped to the police every year and this is likely to be less than 10% of the real number.
Figures also reveal that three quarter of suicides are by men and it is the single biggest cause of death for men under 50. Men are nearly three times more likely than women to become alcoholics, are more likely to die from illegal drugs and less likely to report mental health issues. All of these issues tie in with the experiences of male survivors and make it imperative that we discuss them openly and honestly.
When men do speak out, one often avoided subject is arousal during acts of abuse. This is a purely physical response but something which many survivors experience, including myself, and something which can make even our closest loved ones uncomfortable. In the case of male on male abuse it presents a particular set of difficulties, tied up with notions of masculinity and sexuality.
Some of the shame for men also stems from being unable to stop the person who assaults us. Men are brought up to be strong and to fail to fight off an attacker can feel like we have ‘allowed' the abuse to happen, and therefore deserved it.
Thankfully more and more survivors are talking about their experiences, including men. The revelations around child abusers in football coaching that were sparked by Andy Woodward are one sign of this. Reading about other survivors was a huge source of support for me over the years, which is why I too want to share my story as widely as possible.
I strongly believe that the more we are heard, believed and understood, the less power there is for abusers to stifle and coerce potential victims. We need to be sending the message to people who have survived abuse that they aren't alone and are not damaged, disturbed or in any way abnormal.
Nothing will ever take away what has happened to us and I will forever have to fight the urge to spiral down into the well of negative feelings and thoughts abuse has left me with, but while the war may continue a defining battle has been won.
Neil Day of Park Lane in Ropley, Hampshire, was found guilty of six counts of gross indecency with a child and one count of indecent assault against a child at Guildford Crown Court in January. He previously pleaded guilty to three counts of possessing indecent images of children uncovered during his arrest.
Tim Verity is a journalist, writer and advocate for Child Sexual Abuse survivors. Visit his website at timverity.com or follow him on Twitter @TimVerity. He writes under a pseudonym.
PTSD: Disorder often rooted in childhood trauma
by Joseph Cress
A red flag unfurls when a client says they can't recall their childhood.
Valerie Domenici takes it as a sign that disassociation may be at play in the ability of the adult to cope with an underlying trauma.
“They should have some memories,” the Carlisle therapist said. “One thing I like to do is ask the general question who they grew up with and where.”
A lack of detail may indicate the person was so traumatized as a child they had numbed themselves to the point where they had stopped forming memories.
“The brain switches off,” said Domenici, a clinical psychologist. “They check out. They disassociate.”
Many of her clients are adult female survivors of child abuse. People traumatized as children tend to find their way into abusive relationships as adults.
“They are drawn to abusers,” Domenici said. “One reason why that happens is the impact of childhood abuse on self-esteem. If you don't feel very good about yourself, you don't expect others to treat you well. It feels normal not to be treated well.”
Children are vulnerable if the trauma comes at a time in life when they are developing their sense of identity and a capacity to process feelings.
“It derails them,” Domenici said. The end result can be an adult ill-equipped to handle trauma and prone to post-traumatic stress disorder.
The childhood trauma, though suppressed, could resurface as nightmares or flashbacks or linger on as a problem forming healthy relationships.
A person, place, object or situation could trigger a response in the adult. They may freeze up or flee the scene. They may become aggressive as if ready to fend off an attack.
This is why it's important for adults to be aware of the effects of trauma on children and how behavior can be a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Liz Campbell is a licensed psychologist and the owner of Campbell Psychological Services, a private practice in Carlisle that specializes in treating children and teens.
While slight differences exist in the criteria for arriving at a diagnosis, the general symptoms of PTSD are the same in children as in adults, Campbell said. These symptoms include:
The child becoming distressed at reminders of a traumatic event
The child trying to avoid reminders
Changes in mood or how the child expresses emotion
“Caregivers might notice the child freezing up in certain situations or acting out the traumatic event in their play,” Campbell said.
That said, it is important to remember that PTSD is a specific diagnosis and that children tend to show a range of other reactions that suggest difficulty in coping with a trauma. These reactions include becoming clingy with caregivers, being afraid to be alone and toileting accidents.
“A child might not have PTSD, but still develop signs of depression, anxiety or behavior problems that suggest the trauma has disrupted the child's well-being,” Campbell said. “A teenager might start engaging in risk-taking behaviors or blowing off school.”
She said many children live with chronic trauma associated with domestic violence, physical/sexual abuse in the family and community violence. “It isn't always a once and done trauma a child is dealing with,” Campbell said. “The effects of chronic trauma, especially when it involves abuse by caregivers, can be very wide reaching.”
The effects include an increased risk of physical and mental health issues in adulthood along with trouble forming healthy, stable relationships, she said. “We also know that a disproportionate number of teens and adults involved with the justice system have childhood histories of trauma that were probably never treated,” Campbell said.
She said that, just like adults, children can develop a sense of shame or guilt around their trauma, especially if it involves some kind of abuse or assault. “They may believe there is something wrong with me or I'm damaged and carry that with them.”
Symptoms of PTSD could develop, causing a snowball effect that could disrupt their education and interactions with other children. In Pennsylvania, there has been an increase in attention to trauma in children in schools and the juvenile justice system as people are starting to realize the long-term effects.
Safety is key
If an adult suspects a child is suffering from PTSD, it is important to provide a sense of safety rather than react with anger, frustration or punishment toward the child or the cause of the trauma.
Instinct suggests that asking a child to talk about what happened would be too difficult for them or would make the situation worse, Campbell said. But healing can occur if the child is placed in a safe and supportive environment that encourages them to share.
“This takes time and more than words,” Campbell said. “It's also important to realize that, regardless of what the child has been through, he or she still needs structures, limits and consequences. In fact, these help a child to feel safe.”
If a child is struggling with a traumatic event, the best thing to do is to find a therapist who specializes in working with children and trauma. The most widely researched therapy is Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which involves helping the child develop specific coping skills, talk about the traumatic event and learn safety skills. This can be tricky.
“A 5-year-old isn't likely to sit on the couch and talk,” Campbell said. “Therapists have to be very creative in finding ways to make therapy engaging for the child. But just like therapy with adults, creating a safe space and a trusting therapy relationship is critical. One thing I love about working with kids is knowing that by intervening early, while they are still young, we can make a huge difference in their futures.”
Upstate to train doctors to treat child abuse
by Ellen Abbott
Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital will soon be training doctors who want to focus on treating victims of child abuse and neglect.
A new fellowship would certify a physician in child abuse pediatrics. It's something that's been around since 2009, and it comes at a time when the number of cases in central New York is on the rise. The McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center in Syracuse saw 700 children in their center for child abuse last year, and is on track to see 900 this year.
Ann Botash, an Upstate pediatrics professor and nationally recognized expert in child sexual abuse evaluation, says there's a need for an expertise that's needed in helping victims, especially of child sexual abuse.
“First of all, kids don't disclose right away. They might not tell someone for a year later. And then they come to see us. And it's important for them to see us, because we do an exam. We check them for sexually transmitted infections,” Botash said. “But mostly we're telling them, your body has healed, everything looks fine and you're going to be okay. And I think that goes a long way to the mental health healing that needs to happen.”
Upstate would be the second medical school to offer this training in New York state. Botash says doctors that specialize in this aren't just looking at the clinical cases. They also are involved in the criminal justice system, so they have to learn how to testify in court, and work with other agencies regarding prevention of child abuse.
“It's not as scientific as some other specialties. If you're a nephrologist, you know all about the kidney. If you're a child abuse doctor, you know all about the resources, you know how to differentiate this injury as an accident versus abuse,” Botash said. “What's missing is really the experience working inter-professionally with other agencies in town, being on a team that even reviews cases on a regular basis. Really a lot of it is in the investigative end but there's also prevention types of things.
The fellowship is a three-year program.
Avoiding sexual assault: How parents can discuss a tough topic with kids
by Megan Cloherty
WASHINGTON — A disturbing investigation of sexual abuse in a Maryland school system is likely prompting some parents to have a tough conversation with their kids.
And Eileen Dombo, a trauma expert and associate professor at the Catholic University of America, suggested parents start by talking to kids about how adults can earn their trust.
“It's important not to do anything [adults] ask you to that makes you feel uncomfortable, or [that] someone who you do trust wouldn't ask you to do,” Dombo said.
After Carlos DeAngelo Bell — a former staffer and track coach for Charles County schools — was indicted Monday and charged with the sexual abuse of seven children, Dombo said many parents are frightened and unsure about how to approach the conversation with their children.
A bathing suit is an example of how one can help young kids understand the parts of their body that are off-limits to others, Dombo said.
“What my son calls ‘the no-no zone.' Anytime anyone asks you to see that area or touch that area, you say ‘no.' That area is any area that would be covered by a bathing suit,” she said.
For older children who are starting sexual education in school — around fifth through eighth grades — Dombo suggested broaching the conversation by discussing consent.
“It's a really important time to build on that with conversations about the fact that … anybody who is in middle school cannot consent to any sexual activity. You're a child,” she said.
She advised parents to ensure their children's safety by being present for one-on-one meetings that their child has with adults, such as counseling or tutoring sessions.
“Have a door open. Do it in a quiet area where they can be easily seen by people walking by,” she said.
Stories of sexual abuse can bring up painful memories for children and adults alike, and Dombo said it's never too late to reach out and talk about those experiences.
Here is a list of hotlines in the D.C. area:
DOD Safe Helpline
The Women's Center
Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault
D.C. Police Domestic Violence Resources
Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance
Emotional pain causes lasting wounds
by Ken Potts
It is the emotional pain we hold on to -- the time we had a fight with our best friend, the death of a grandparent, a broken engagement, perhaps the words and facial expression of a rejecting parent.
Most of us have a healthy forgetfulness when it comes to much of the physical pain we suffer, whether it is a pinched finger, a scraped elbow, or an emergency surgery. When it comes to emotions, though, the pain can haunt us forever.
Why? Probably because hurt feelings so often involve people we care about and whom we need to care about us. And our sense of worth as a person -- which is at the center of our whole-person health -- is almost totally dependent on the messages these people give us. If they tell us we are lovable and capable, we will probably grow up to be reasonably healthy and happy adults.
But if these people tell us we are unlovable and incapable, or tell us nothing at all, then we can grow up scarred for life. We will be convinced we can neither love nor be loved, that we will never be good enough.
That's why emotional abuse is so potent. It strikes at the very heart of who we are. Coming from parents, it is especially devastating to a child's developing self-concept.
Why, then, do parents -- often parents who sincerely love their children -- revert to emotional abuse? There are a number of possible reasons. I'll suggest just a few.
Some parents resort to emotional abuse simply because they were emotionally abused themselves. We first learn about how to discipline by being disciplined by our own parents. If we grew up with emotionally abusive language, we are likely to adopt it as one of our disciplining techniques as well.
A second reason may be our frustration at our inadequacies as parents. Sometimes we're going to feel totally overwhelmed by our kids. It's easy to get angry when that happens -- angry at ourselves for not being perfect parents, angry at our children for reminding us of our shortcomings. That anger can come out as abuse.
It is also possible that our abuse of our children has roots in our marital relationship. It is not uncommon for marital problems to get played out through children. We take out on our kids the frustration and anger we actually feel for our spouse.
Similarly, stress from outside can spill over into our family life. Job problems, conflict with friends or relatives, etc., can lead us to abusively vent our feelings on our children.
Sadly, some children are simply not wanted. Unplanned, unwelcome, such children often experience very real and intentional emotional abuse by their parents.
Finally, at the root of much of the hatred expressed by some parents toward children is their own self-hatred. When we feel unlovable and incapable ourselves, our self-loathing permeates all facets of our life, including the way we relate to our kids. Tragically, the emotional abuse that arises out of our own feelings of worthlessness serves to perpetuate these feelings in the generation to come.
There are a multitude of other reasons. What's important is to recognize that emotional abuse is a tragic and prevalent part of many families; that it can produce emotional scars that last a lifetime, and that it doesn't have to happen.
If abuse -- emotional or physical -- is part of your family, get help. A competent family therapist can help you get to the bottom of this family tragedy and work with you to undo much of the damage.
The longer you wait, however, the harder it will be. Get help today.
'Safeguarding young people is everyone's business PCC Sue Mountstevens says as child sex offences double in three years
by Eleanor Young
The number of reports of child sex offences has risen over the past three and a half years, with the police receiving more than 3,528 calls between 2014 and May 1, 2017.
In 2014, 829 offences were recorded by the police – a figure which almost doubled in 2016, with 1,215 cases reported.
While there is no explanation for the rise, the force's Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens has said police need to do ‘all they can' to prevent the ‘exploitation and abuse from happening'.
She added: “Sexually-exploited children suffer adverse consequences which blight their lives.”
Of the 439 cases which have been reported between January and May this year, only 18 have led to people being charged and PCC Mountstevens has said this could be down to a lack of evidence or victim vulnerability.
She added: “Sadly, I have listened to many sexual abuse victims who tell me about their traumatic and testing time at court.
“We need to do all we can to make sure young, vulnerable witnesses have access to specialists who can appropriately guide and support them through the court process.
“Making sure trained judges deal with the most complex of cases, particularly those involving vulnerable young victims and multiple defendants, is vitally important.”
The PCC's office has been working with the police and its wider partners to raise awareness about the ‘terrible' crime so members of the community can learn how to recognise the signs.
PCC Mountstevens added: “Let's be clear, child sexual exploitation is happening. Any child can be targeted and those who are, can experience deep psychological and emotional damage.
“Safeguarding our young people is everyone's business and together we can prevent child sexual exploitation from happening.
“Working together we can tackle this heinous crime, support our vulnerable children and allow them to live free from exploitation and abuse.”
If you suspect a child is being sexually exploited, contact 101 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
Combating Human Trafficking
Clinicians can play a key role in Houston's war against sexual exploitation
by Alexandra Becker
At just 2 years old, Mari became a victim of sexual molestation. The perpetrator, her grandfather, continued to sexually abuse her for years. At 11, she ran away from home and met a man who promised her the world. Then he forced her into prostitution.
For runaways and children of abuse, life can become an unforgiving cycle of commercial sex, trafficking and drug addiction. After a brief arrest, Mari—who asked that her real name be withheld for privacy reasons—worked hard to break free. But after her husband died, she tumbled back into the streets, working truck stops throughout the country and shooting herself numb with drugs to cope. Like many women forced into that world, she was only able to escape through incarceration.
Today, Mari resides at Angela House, a local residential treatment program that helps women transition back into society after leaving the criminal justice system. The nonprofit works closely with Healthcare for the Homeless Houston, an organization that helps women with a history of sexual exploitation regain health and independent living skills through a program called Healthy & Whole. According to Andrea Link, M.D., program manager for Healthy & Whole and a clinical assistant professor with the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, a staggering 93 percent of the women at Angela House have a history of sex trafficking or prostitution.
Programs such as these are in high demand in Houston, considered a major hub for all forms of trafficking due to the intercontinental airport, major water port, international border and sprawl across the I-10 corridor. Statistics released by the National Human Trafficking Hotline show that Texas is responsible for the second-highest number of calls in the country—California is first—and the majority come from Houston.
While in captivity, many of these victims seek medical help.
A study by the Family Violence Protection Fund found that nearly one-third of trafficking survivors had been seen by a health care provider during their time in captivity, for reasons including unwanted pregnancies, STDs, drug-related conditions and other circumstances associated with abuse. Additional studies estimate even higher numbers.
“Emergency departments are often easy places for a lot of these victims to go because they can be anonymous,” said Reena Isaac, M.D., medical director of the forensic nursing team at Texas Children's Hospital. Yet as many as half of these individuals were not identified as victims of exploitation during their clinical experience.
“What is needed is not only more resources, but I would also argue training—for the individuals who we know are going to come into contact with trafficking victims,” said Lisa Muftic, Ph.D., director of the undergraduate criminal justice and criminology programs at Sam Houston State University, during a recent forum on human trafficking in Houston. “We know this has been very beneficial and very effective in law enforcement and believe that the same would be true in the health care arena.”
Clinicians are in a unique position to break the cycle for victims by connecting them to appropriate care and rehabilitation services. But first, they must recognize the signs associated with trafficking.
Malnutrition, dehydration, drug abuse, skin infections and physical injuries in various stages of healing, including bruises, broken bones, cuts and burns are considered red flags. Victims also often report a high number of sexual partners or may have exposure to HIV and other STDs, fertility issues, genital trauma, multiple unwanted pregnancies, UTIs, and mental health issues, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“Studies have shown that PTSD rates in women who have been prostituted on the streets are similar to that of combat-exposed Vietnam veterans,” Link said. “When we tell the women this, the relief on their faces is incredible. Because they have been at war. I think a lot of people haven't recognized that. But trust me, they've been at war.”
Other patterns observed among victims of sex trafficking include scripted answers or inconsistencies in stories about their illness or injury. Their traffickers often accompany them to medical appointments, speaking for them as much as possible.
“Another thing to look out for is simply fear,” said Juhi Jain, M.D., pediatric resident at Baylor College of Medicine and a chair of the anti-human trafficking committee within Doctors for Change, a Houston-based organization that advocates for improvements in health care by connecting medical providers to the public health and policy arena. “They're not able to look you in the eye, or they're not able to tell you their story. And if they do, they don't tell you exactly what's happening.”
Sometimes, the red flags are staring doctors in the face. Certain tattoos with branding designs and bar code images, for example, serve as physical manifestations of the traffickers' ownership and power over victims.
It was exactly that—an unusual tattoo—that clued Isaac into a patient's story a few years ago. A teenage girl had come in with a fairly minor complaint, but during the examination Isaac noticed the name of the girl's “boyfriend” tattooed backwards in large letters across her chest.
“That's a very curious sign,” Isaac recalled. “If you understand the psychology of both the trafficker and some of the victims, essentially the trafficker tries to depersonalize the victim. Why was this person, this so-called boyfriend's name, tattooed backwards on her chest? Because the first thing she would see in the morning when she looked in the mirror was his name.”
Isaac was able to help rescue this patient from her situation because she knew the signs and, most importantly, asked the right questions. In fact, a study by the Vera Institute of Justice found that trained health care providers can identify 60 to 80 percent of human trafficking victims by simply asking two questions: Where do you live? What do you do for work?
“Everyone should be able to tell you where they live or what their job is, and if they have a hard time describing that, or if they tell you something that doesn't sound right, then you delve in deeper and things start to come out,” Jain explained.
Additional screening questions might be: Is anyone forcing you to do anything you do not want to do? Can you leave your job or situation if you want? Have you or your family been threatened if you try to leave?
One of the most critical and challenging actions a clinician can take is separating the patient from whomever is accompanying him or her at the time of the visit.
“You want to be able to have a confidential and secure conversation,” Isaac said. “Be sure to convey care and concern, keep an open dialogue and show patients respect and patience.”
According to Mari, establishing trust with trafficking victims is a critical step in helping them.
“You have to earn their trust,” Mari explained. “Offer little things, just little things to help. Because then they realize that somebody cares about them and doesn't want anything back. It seems like such a little thing to buy them shampoo or give them a sandwich, but it means the world to girls like me that are out there.”
A safe place
If trafficking is suspected and the patient is under 18 years of age, individuals are required by Texas law to report it immediately—just like any other case of child abuse or neglect. Reports should be made to law enforcement or the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) at 1-800- 252-5400 or at txabusehotline.org. The National Human Trafficking Hotline number is 1-888-373-7888.
If the patient is over 18, clinicians and other individuals are not legally bound to file an official report. Experts suggest that health care providers attempt to separate adult patients from any individuals accompanying them and ask screening questions to assess the situation, but to recognize that some adult victims may not feel comfortable or safe exposing their personal situation to law enforcement at the time of medical treatment. The one exception to this rule: suspected abuse of an elderly or disabled person, which requires reporting in the same manner as minors.
Notably, clinicians may always make anonymous tips without revealing protected patient information to local law enforcement, the DFPS hotline, or the Department of Public Safety, accessible via iWatchTX.org. Clinicians should also refer patients to community resources, even if they are not ready and willing to utilize them at the time of their encounter.
“Even if they don't allow you to report their situation while they're there, it's important to give them a safe place to come and talk if they ever want to get out of that situation,” Jain said.
Experts encourage all health care facilities to implement a standard response protocol for suspected human trafficking cases. Ideally, guidelines would include patient assessment and screening tools geared specifically toward trafficking victims, the development of safety protocols, patient separation and reporting procedures, and an easily accessible list of local resources.
Increasing general education and awareness surrounding the issue is also recommended. Doctors for Change has developed a one-hour curriculum approved for Continuing Medical Education credits that is available to local hospitals and health systems. It focuses on identifying potential victims, best practices for helping victims in the health care setting, and available resources in Houston. HEAL Trafficking, a national organization that tackles the issue through a public health perspective, also released an extensive protocol toolkit for health care settings.
“It's important, especially for us physicians, to be aware of this issue and to have it at the back of our minds when we're seeing patients,” Jain said. “If it's there in your mind, you may be able to catch someone who is in that situation and help them. Any small contribution you can do is going to help.”
For Mari, incarceration was the way out. But others may be able to escape through the help of a thoughtful clinician—someone who took the time to learn the signs of trafficking and had the courage to ask the right questions.
A vicious cycle
Often described as a modern-day form of slavery, trafficking is the coercion of human beings for the purpose of forced labor or sexual exploitation. Trafficking does not have to involve the physical movement of a person, and traffickers in the United States prey on U.S. citizens more than international or illegal residents. The average age of a child recruited or forced into prostitution is 11 to 14 years old. An estimated 600 children and adolescents are victims of forced sexual acts every night in the state of Texas.
Common risk factors associated with falling victim to sex trafficking include a history of sexual abuse or substance abuse, disability, mental illness, and unfamiliarity with the local language or surroundings.
Individuals from abusive homes or impoverished situations may be lured by a trafficker's affection or promise of a better life, and runaways often welcome a trafficker's offer of food and shelter. According to National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Throwaway Children, an estimated one out of every three minors who run away is lured into sex trafficking within 48 hours of leaving home.
Victims are recruited through physical contact—on the street, in shopping malls—or, increasingly, via the internet. Advances in technology have granted traffickers more access and increased their methods of exploitation. A recent local Facebook post recounted the story of a young girl who was taped without
her knowledge during a sexual encounter with her boyfriend; unbeknownst to her, he was caught up in a sex trafficking ring. His accomplices threatened to post the video on social media if she did not comply with their demands and the girl, humiliated and scared, was reportedly forced into prostitution. Booked through online websites like Backpage, her traffickers eventually told her she could work less if she recruited others.
It's a vicious cycle that exploits an individual's vulnerabilities. Traffickers place victims in their debt by requiring quotas and demanding long work hours. Through threats, drug or alcohol dependency, isolation and physical abuse, they make victims feel like it is impossible to escape.
Common signs of sex trafficking: Tips for the medical community
Patient is accompanied by another person who is controlling
Patient shares a scripted or inconsistent story
Patient has visible signs of abuse or physical injuries in various stages of healing
Patient acts unusually fearful or submissive and avoids eye contact
Patient is unable to adequately explain where he/she lives or works
Patient has branding-type tattoos
Patient reports an unusually high number of sexual partners and/or unwanted pregnancies
Patient is not in possession of his/her identification documents, especially if international
Patient does not have appropriate clothing
Clinical signs include malnutrition, dehydration, damage to the reproductive system or genital trauma, urinary tract infections, drug abuse, skin infections, HIV and other STDs
Mental health issues include depression, acute anxiety, stress and paranoia, self- destructive behaviors, suicidal ideation, dissociative disorder, eating disorders
Police: 'He is not my responsibility,' says stepfather of child found weighing 25 pounds
by WFTV Staff
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - A second person was arrested in connection with a child abuse case in which the 5-year-old victim was found weighing just under 25 pounds.
Daytona Beach police said Brian Hall, 29, is married to the victim's mother, Naomi Hall , and did nothing to help the neglected child.
Naomi Hall was arrested last week.
Department of Children and Families investigators went to the Halls' Daytona Beach home on June 28 where they found the 5-year-old boy lying on the living room floor.
They said the child was extremely thin, appeared to be dehydrated and was trying to eat cereal scraps from the carpet.
A report said the child's hands and feet were orange-colored, and the victim had peeling skin and blisters.
Naomi Hall told the investigator she did not give her special-needs son his prescribed medications, and admitted that the he went without food for three to four days at a time, according to a report.
Hall also allegedly told the investigator that she made no attempt to feed the child.The child, who could not speak or stand, was found to weigh 24.9 pounds, and was so underweight that he was not even on the growth chart.
Naomi Hall told the investigator she would know if the boy was hungry when he would try to “chew on his hands,” or by his facial expressions, since he was never taught to speak or communicate, police said.
The boy had never received any education and had never been taught how to speak or communicate, according to a report.
When asked about the child, Brian Hall told investigators, “He is not my responsibility. I'm not his father, I come from a rich and white family,” a report said.
According to the report, Brian Hall pointed to the two children living in the home who are his and said, “Those two are taken care of.”
He was arrested Tuesday on a charge of failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect.
DCF took custody of the other children.
The 5-year-old remains in the intensive care unit, where he is receiving physical and speech therapy.
Naomi Hall was arrested in June and has since bonded out of jail.
The judge in the case agreed to allow Hall supervised visitation with the child at the hospital.
Brian Hall faced a judge and was granted a $5,000 bond.
Naomi Hall was at the hearing to support her husband, but did not comment on the case.
Woman Sentenced to Prison for Not Reporting Abuse
by the Associated Press
CANTON, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio woman has been sentenced to four years in prison after prosecutors say she failed to report a child's sexual abuse.
The Canton Repository reports 39-year-old Patricia Horton, of Canton, was sentenced Thursday. Horton had previously pleaded guilty to felony counts of child endangerment and obstruction of justice.
Donell Powell was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison after pleading guilty to counts of rape and gross sexual imposition. The alleged abuse involves a girl who was younger than 10 years old when it began in 2015.
Assistant Stark County Prosecutor Christy Donnelly says Horton was told of the abuse but failed to report or stop it. Court records show Horton also lied to police who were investigating.
Staff at Kent abuse home were 'never' reported, tape reveals
by Callum May
A clergyman who oversaw a children's home where abuse took place in the 1970s and 80s "never once" reported staff to police, he said in a newly-discovered interview.
The Reverend Nicolas Stacey said children could be "manipulative" and make false claims, in the 2006 tape.
Mr Stacey was a director of social services in Kent at a time when girls were drugged and abused at Kendall House in Gravesend.
He died in May 2017 aged 89.
A review published last year found that girls at the home, which was run by the Church of England, were routinely drugged, locked up, and sexually abused.
The recording was discovered in British Library archives by a former Kendall House resident and abuse survivor, Teresa Cooper.
A library spokesman told BBC News that it was unclear whether the recording was intended to be published only after Mr Stacey's death.
'Sent to bed'
The interview with Mr Stacey, who had been a parish priest in South London before jobs at Oxfam and Kent County Council, was recorded in 2006 and published last month as part of a series for the British Library's sound archive called "pioneers of charity and social welfare".
In the wide-ranging discussion with a researcher, he said: "Nobody was to go to the police about accusations against staff without my approval".
He said it was "incredible the way times have changed - I could never begin to do that now".
But he added: "Children, especially children in care, are incredibly manipulative."
Mr Stacey said the sanctions were "terribly few" if children misbehaved, describing how residents of Kent's children's homes were "sent to bed without any supper" if they came in late, suspecting them of having shoplifted or having sex in churchyards.
He said children called Childline to say they were being abused if they were sent to bed early.
"The child would creep down and telephone Childline saying 'I'm being abused'," he said.
Mr Stacey went on to say that he never reported staff to the police, "because I never felt that we had a serious case" - although he did ask some to resign.
"I would try and get them to go to counselling," he said.
"[It's] terribly sad if you're sexually orientated towards children, you know."
He said that if "rampant abuse" had emerged, "of course" he would have gone to the police.
The Kendall House inquiry found that drugs were administered in doses exceeding usual prescribed adult levels to control girls' behaviour, placing them in a constant stupor.
The review found: "The effects of the drugs also increased their vulnerability to emotional, physical and in a smaller number of cases, sexual abuse".
'He failed you'
Ms Cooper, who lived at Kendall House in the early 80s, has called for a further investigation to be carried out into Mr Stacey.
"The ramifications of Stacey's confessional interview are huge," she said.
"This will have an impact on survivors who may have reported abuse to the Kent authorities and police at the time."
Ms Cooper added: "There might potentially be hundreds of allegations and victims facing the serious consequences of injustice based on the unfounded judgement of those meant to protect children."
A spokesperson for the dioceses of Rochester and Canterbury said Mr Stacey's comments raised "serious concerns", given his former position of responsibility for children's homes across Kent.
"We would, of course, be willing to cooperate fully with any investigation into this matter," the spokesperson said.
In a tweet sent to Ms Cooper, the chair of the Kendall House review, Sue Proctor, described the recording as "appalling", adding: "He failed you and countless others".
Dr Proctor could not be reached by BBC News for further comment.
Kent County Council has declined to comment.
ICE investigation leads to 16 arrests related to child pornography offences
by Anna Junker
An investigator with the Calgary police Internet Child Exploitation Unit became visibly emotional Thursday while discussing the content of data seized as a result of a three-month investigation, which led to the arrests of 16 men across Alberta.
The investigation by ALERT's ICE team that began in April and ended June 1, dubbed Operation Icebreaker, targeted suspects accessing child pornography in southern Alberta. The arrests took place in Calgary — where 11 men were apprehended — Red Deer, Airdrie and Strathmore.
Det. Sean Spence said extremely graphic content was recovered during the investigation. He said the images ranged from infants in diapers to those as old as 17. One suspect allegedly had a video of two young children being violently sexually assaulted and then murdered.
“It's important to understand these images and videos are a crime in progress,” said Spence. “They are difficult to watch and get through.”
He had to pause for a moment, collecting himself before continuing.
“They are children that are being sexually assaulted upon, and offenders that are engaged in that behaviour and are observing and watching these videos are getting sexual gratification from the rape and immense pain that is inflicted upon a child.”
From the 510 devices seized during the operation, approximately 161 devices containing 28 terabytes of data have been examined so far.
Of that data, only 20 terabytes have been analyzed, yet this has resulted in more than 19 million images that have been looked through for child sexual abuse. Forensic technicians have so far identified 6,800 images and videos of child exploitation.
Spence said he received information late Wednesday night that a single device had yielded 100,000 images of child abuse.
So far, the operation has identified two victims under the age of 16 from the analyzed data, one residing in Kingston, Ont., and the other in the United States.
Fifty-six charges have been laid against the 16 men ranging in age from 16 to 47, however, none of the cases are linked.
“Operation Icebreaker was significant in the number of search warrants and arrests, and ultimately in the number of charges laid. It clearly demonstrates that child exploitation continues to be an issue in Alberta and impacts communities both large and small within the province,” said Insp. Dave Dubnyk.
Spence expects it will take months to complete the examination of all the evidence seized, and said additional charges could be laid.
Those charged are:
Adam Adler, 39, of Calgary
Marvin Agboro, 18, of Strathmore
Darian Blanchard, 21, of Red Deer
Brent Bulycz, 42, of Calgary
Curtis Brock, 27, of Airdrie
Yency Gomez, 38, of Calgary
Andrew Halliday, 28, of Red Deer
Ryland Jacklin, 28, of Airdrie
Kyle Jacobson, 32, of Calgary
Devin Lamont, 27, of Calgary
Mikael Macek, 25, of Calgary
Brandon McKnight, 23, of Calgary
Ole Olsen, 38, of Calgary
David Steele, 44, of Calgary
John Stewart 47, of Calgary
a 16-year-old young offender from Calgary
"Men4Men End the Demand" takes on sex trafficking
by Andrea Waxman
For James Nelson, a former pimp who left "the life" 32 years ago, talking to other men about the realities of sex trafficking is not intimidating or embarrassing.
"There's no special way to do it. Sometimes we complicate things, when the simplistic approach is the best approach. So you just talk about it," he said.
Nelson is engaging men in these conversations as a volunteer working on an anti-trafficking campaign that launched recently at Gee's Clippers barbershop, 2200 N. Martin Luther King Drive. The Foundations for Freedom's summer campaign, "Men4Men End the Demand" aims to raise awareness that buying sex and consuming pornography drive human trafficking, causing the enslavement of women and men.
The male volunteers are focusing on barbershops because that's where men are found, said Dana World-Patterson, who co-founded (with Martha Love) and now chairs the Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee. They will also talk to men wherever they gather.
World-Patterson, who also founded the nonprofit Foundations for Freedom, discovered that human trafficking generated an estimated $32 billion in illegal profits annually, worldwide. A more recent study reports that the number has grown to $150 billion, said World-Patterson, the nonprofit's CEO. Twenty-one percent of trafficking victims are subjected to sexual exploitation and the others to forced labor, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Foundations for Freedom works to strengthen women and girls, reduce their vulnerabilities and eradicate human trafficking. Initially, it concentrated solely on trafficking victims but several years ago, World-Patterson said she began thinking about holistic approaches and speaking to traffickers.
That's when the seeds of the Men4Men End the Demand campaign were planted. World-Patterson realized that there was power in men talking to other men "about the ills and devastation of human sex trafficking in a way that enhances responsibility, creates accountability and is supportive to end the demand."
"I can talk to men, but it's going to be more impactful if it's men talking to men. To end human trafficking, we have to address both the traffickers and the trafficked head on," World-Patterson added.
Volunteers from faith-based organizations, workplaces and other groups have stepped forward. World-Patterson said she is "thankful for the men who volunteer believing that their voices will make a difference."
Campaign chair Andre Lee Ellis said learning respect for women, children and families is important for the young men and boys he's mentoring in his "We Got This" program.
"They must see me standing at the forefront of causes that are important to our community and to our families," he said.
Sex trafficking is a secret that needs to be brought out into the open, especially in Milwaukee where "it's more of a concern than in any of the top 40 largest cities," said Milwaukee Health Commissioner Bevan Baker. "We've become a feeding ground for the Las Vegas Strip and many other places that take young girls and put them into prostitution and unspeakable lives," he added.
The average age of sex trafficking victims is 11 to 13 years old, according to World-Patterson. Although the majority in Milwaukee are African-Americans, trafficking victims come from all races, socio-economic groups and age groups, from childhood through middle age, and it occurs in all 72 Wisconsin counties. Approximately 80 percent of victims worldwide are female and half are children.
"When we first started nine years ago, people thought trafficking victims were inner-city black girls with no fathers, living in poverty," said World-Patterson. "But we knew that it was far beyond the inner city because the data, at that time, said it was a $32 billion industry."
"The borders have been erased. It's black, white, Asian, it doesn't matter if you're young or middle-aged … The thread (that connects them) is vulnerability."
Nelson, 63, explained that he got into selling women for sex because he was raised in an environment where all the older boys and men were "in the game," pimping, hustling and dealing drugs. After getting out of prison in his early 30s, he was helped by Bishop Sedgwick Daniels, spiritual leader of Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ, and his family, who offered him career alternatives. Nelson has worked in social service since then.
Through his faith and experience working with Career Youth Development (CYD), a now defunct nonprofit that provided a variety of services to underprivileged and formerly incarcerated youth, he has learned the importance of taking action to right wrongs. "What we need," Nelson said, "is for men to go forth and do something."
How a Franklin software company helped rescue 6,000 sex trafficking victims
by Jamie McGee
At a prostitution sting inside a New Orleans hotel, Franklin software engineer John Wagster took ample notes. Two teenage girls had been advertised online and the police officers he accompanied were after their pimps.
Wagster was well acquainted with the horrors of child sex trafficking. His employer, Digital Reasoning in Franklin, had been tapped by Ashton Kutcher's and Demi Moore's nonprofit called Thorn to develop software that would help law enforcement officers rescue victims more quickly. The Louisiana police were using Digital Reasoning's new software and Wagster wanted to refine it.
The software, called Spotlight, allows law enforcement to find online ads most likely advertising underage girls being trafficked and to significantly reduce investigation time. That means more time to find other victims and save more young girls. In the case of the New Orleans sting, law enforcement's first two calls proved to be girls controlled by pimps, Wagster said.
“They finished the night an hour ahead of schedule,” Wagster said. “They were way more effective because of it.”
Since launching in 2014, Digital Reasoning's software tool has helped rescue 6,000 sex trafficking victims, a third of whom are children. Spotlight is used by 4,000 law enforcement officers nationwide and it is now helping find victims in Canada.
“This is the most widely used sex trafficking investigations tool in the world,” said Thorn CEO Julie Cordua. “You are cutting the time to get to this child almost by half but then also doubling the capacity of the existing officers out there doing this work.”
Thorn, based in Los Angeles , was created four years ago by actors Kutcher and Moore to combat online child sex abuse. They observed an online marketplace rampant with escort ads, many of which featured underage teens and children. The massive volume of the online ads was hampering law enforcement's abilities to rescue victims, Cordua said.
Based on interviews with hundreds of rescued girls, Thorn had determined patterns that often show up when an ad is for a child, and the nonprofit sought to use computer software to identify ads based on those patterns. In search of a tech partner that could develop the algorithm, Cordua cold-called Digital Reasoning, which had been developing a national reputation for its cognitive computing methods.
“To their incredible credit, they said, ‘Yes, we will do this with you,' ” Cordua said.
Digital Reasoning President Tim Estes created the company in 2000. He was a recent college graduate and had developed software that could analyze vast quantities of communications. By 2012, when Thorn reached out to Digital Reasoning, the company had landed contracts with the federal government to assist with intelligence gathering and with leading financial institutions on compliance.
More recently the company, staffed with nearly 200 employees globally, has begun working with HCA on health care data. Since 2014, the company has raised more than $76 million from Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Nasdaq and other investors.
Estes said when the call came from Thorn, his team was eager to join their work.
"They showed us the chilling growth in exploiting children online that had happened in the last seven to 10 years," Estes said. "It was very compelling and became a big moral mission for us."
Bill DiPietro, head of Digital Reasoning's product management, and Wagster led the development of the algorithm, working with law enforcement in California and Arizona to study the challenges they faced and their methods. At the time, some law enforcement officers were using Google searches and relying on pencil and paper to find victims and set up stings, Wagster said.
Wagster, called "Wags," observed what clues agents looked for when scanning online ads and trained the software to automate that part of their search process. The software could then point them to the most promising leads.
“The whole goal of what we are trying to do is build software that can do some of the repetitive or redundant tasks on behalf of knowledge workers,” DiPietro said. “Wags was giving them a list, here is the priority. If you are going to call girls, start here and work your way down. That was proving some of the success.”
Spotlight does not replace the role of officers in any way, but it makes them more efficient, Wagster said.
“A big part of Spotlight is empowering officers to feel like they have the ability to pivot and to search through the data to come to their own conclusions,” Wagster said. “It's about building a tool that lets them do their job.”
Thorn raised funds from the private sector, including from the McCain Institute in Arizona, to build out the full application. The tools were provided to law enforcement agencies for free.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, has made human and sex trafficking a focal point of his leadership through his End Modern Slavery initiative and praised Digital Reasoning's contributions.
“It is really helping solve the problem, saving years and years of work that it would take, in some cases, to apprehend folks,” Corker said. “This is morally unambiguous and represents a threat to every community, and here they are.”
At Corker's invitation, Kutcher gave a sobering testimony in February to the U.S. Congress on child sex abuse. During his address, he pointed to Digital Reasoning's role, as well as the value of private and public partnerships in solving this problem.
“The benefit of being a nonprofit and building these types of technology and being 100 percent privately funded is that we can move as quickly as we want and we talk directly to the officers and build what they need,” Cordua said.
Amid the lengthy resume each of the Digital Reasoning leaders is accumulating, they have pointed to their work with Thorn as a high point in their career, if not their most meaningful project.
"Any time you get to work on being a mission-driven organization, it's very rewarding," DiPietro said. "Technologically, it's an interesting problem and a hard problem to solve. On top of that, it's for a great mission."
Cordua said Thorn is exploring further partnership with law enforcement agencies to improve Spotlight's capabilities with more data, including criminal records.
Meanwhile, new Senate legislation sponsored by Corker has been introduced in recent weeks to improve data collection and reporting on human trafficking crimes and to extend programs targeting the issue.
“We talk about rescuing juveniles, but there are a lot of criminals who are making money off those juveniles and only a fraction of them have really been prosecuted because we don't have that data," Estes said. "If we can connect that together, then that's the next story."
Social services on front lines of sex trafficking 'game'
by Ashley Tressle
Editor's note: This is Part 2 in a series on sex trafficking in Mendocino County. This article focuses on agencies that often come into contact with potential trafficking targets, like Redwood Community Services Inc., the Mendocino County Office of Education and the Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency.
The signs of sex trafficking, some mentioned in Part 1 of this series, can be difficult to pinpoint for those who have not lived through “The Game” themselves. It can be dangerous, or even fatal, for well-meaning citizens to try to help someone they think is being trafficked, which is why social service agencies are most responsible for recognizing the warning signs and learning how to effectively communicate with victims, according to survivor Elle Snow.
Snow's background fits the profile of a sex trafficking victim well, she said, traumatic events in her childhood leaving her at a higher risk of being lured by her trafficker. Growing up with an uncle who molested her, being physically abused and receiving no help from law enforcement contributed to her vulnerability and, later, distrust of anyone who may have tried to help her.
Snow said foster children are often conditioned to be the same way, many of them sexually abused before they enter the system and feeling like they are only a paycheck to their new family.
Foster children, craving a secure family structure, are more susceptible to “trauma bonding,” Snow said, and will instinctively befriend someone who is trying to exploit them, rather than experience the fight-or-flight response. The prevalence of drug addiction in foster care also leaves those youth at a high risk of being trafficked, she said. Half of the calls Snow gets reporting sex trafficking are from foster parents.
Kay Lieberknecht, a foster parent in Ukiah, said she sees it happening in her job. Lieberknecht showed up to Snow's talk with the community on June 15, having brought along a 12-year-old girl in foster care so they could learn more about the issue together.
Myranda Ward, 21, a former foster youth and recovering drug addict, that day said she was glad she never had to face what Snow described in her environment. She now has a steady job.
“It just makes me feel very grateful that I never fell into that,” she said.
Snow said if any of the agencies she came in contact with while she was being trafficked had trained their employees to recognize the signs, she may have accepted their help and gotten out earlier.
For example, a young woman frequently visiting Planned Parenthood to be tested for sexually transmitted infections or to stock up on condoms is probably not acting on her own, according to Snow. A victim, fully aware of her own situation, is likely to think an employee who does not ask questions is simply not interested, rather than not knowledgable.
“I just thought nobody cared,” Snow said.
The imagery commonly found in outreach campaigns was also problematic in Snow's experience, as she remembers seeing posters of children with their hands tied up or women from foreign countries (the faces of sex trafficking) and not recognizing herself in those scenes.
What is important for agencies to know, besides how to recognize a victim, is how to relate to them after they have been identified.
“Until we feel like we've established an amount of safety, we won't be able to tell you what happened to us,” said Snow.
Making a victim feel safe after going through such a psychologically damaging period, she said, is no small task; it requires plenty of tact and creativity. The question, ‘What are you feeling right now?' works wonders, she said.
Nearly all victims suffer from complex post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Snow, which can make someone feel mentally crowded, like “having 100 tabs open at once on your computer.”
Having lived in a distorted reality for as long as she did, it was key for Snow to realize there is life after being a victim.
“My biggest issue was living in a world that no one knew existed,” she said.
Inability to communicate wants or needs, feelings of isolation and adrenaline addiction are common in survivors. To satisfy her addiction without drinking (her former vice), Snow rides roller coasters, watches horror movies and exercises vigorously. She told employees of Redwood Community Services Inc. and others their most important task with a survivor is to help them reconnect with the real world.
RCS has been working with the Mendocino County Office of Education Foster and Homeless Youth Services program for the past two years to train social service providers, including Snow's training, according to coordinator Blythe Post. Post said she is working on bringing training into county schools in the next few years, as school faculty members also have the opportunity to identify sex trafficking victims.
Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency employees were also present at the training, some of whom are involved in the county's effort to come up with a local protocol for recognizing and intervening on behalf of potential victims as part of an optional state program that provides funding to county child welfare agencies.
Anne Molgaard, HHSA chief operations officer, said their social workers are now better equipped to deal with the problem of sex trafficking in Mendocino County.
“Our staff noted that the training was important in that it gave even experienced social workers new situations and threats that hadn't existed before,” she said. “HHSA will discuss with partner agencies next week and create new referrals on those they suspect may be CSEC (commercially sexually exploited children) victims so we can accurately document, investigate and ensure they receive appropriate services related to (commercial sexual exploitation).”
The county will have a final policy on commercial sexual exploitation in child welfare by July 31.
Safe Haven For Child Sex Trafficking Victims Coming To S.A.
by Bill O'Neil
A first of its kind for Texas “safe haven” for victims of child sex trafficking will open its doors in San Antonio in October.
It will be called “Centro Seguro,” a collaborative effort involving Bexar County Juvenile Probation and Roy Maas Youth Alternatives.
“Probably one of three of the first drop in centers in Texas. There's only two in the United States (currently), one in Florida and one in California” Roy Mass Chief Program Officer Dr. Julie Strentzsch told KTSA News.
“We connected with Bexar County Juvenile Probation and wrote a grant with the Governor's Office–and we were just notified last month that we received it” Strentzsch said, pointing out the dire need for such facilities.
“At any given time, over 80-thousand youths in the United States are victims of sex trafficking… and Texas has been identified as one of the three leading states” Strentzsch said.
Once open, the facility will be ready to help those in need.
“Bexar County Juvenile Probation or the police department or the sheriff's office can drop them (victims) to us so we can get them services” Strentzsch said, also pointing out a hotline number for victims to call for help will also be established.