Long delay in Tusla dealing with some child abuse allegations
The Ombudsman has criticised Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, for serious failings in its responses to a number of allegations of child abuse made against adults.
The watchdog found that in one case it took five years to clear the name of an accused man, while in another a note recording a complainant's allegations was sent to the wrong address.
The report by Ombudsman Peter Tyndall has its origins in a warning three years ago by his office to the newly-created Tusla about how social workers were handling some cases including allegations of child abuse, particularly historic complaints.
After working with the agency to try to ensure that clear policies and procedures were in place, the watchdog received a variety of new complaints which cast doubt on whether the earlier concerns had been properly addressed.
The Ombudsman then began a systemic investigation - the report on which he published this morning.
It reveals long delays by Tusla in dealing with some allegations of child abuse, breaches of the rights of accused adults, the mailing of confidential communications to an incorrect address, instances of Tusla social workers lacking empathy and a failure by the State agency to follow its own procedures for keeping social work records.
The investigation examined nine complaints received by the Ombudsman as well as 30 complaint files held by Tusla.
In one case, the review found it took five years to conclude that abuse allegations against a grandfather were unfounded.
In a separate case, a female complainant's statement was misfiled and the allegations were not examined until 15 months later after the woman contacted Tusla again.
Then a note of the woman's allegations which should have been sent to her was sent to the wrong address.
The same happened with a subsequent letter.
In another case, Tusla breached guidelines set down in a landmark court judgment from 1997 by failing to give an adult a written notice of the allegations against him before interviewing him.
In another case, Tusla wrote to a professional who worked with children asking to meet him.
The letter mentioned the gardaí but did not specify the nature of the allegation from a person described as "anonymous".
It also failed to state that the man could bring a support person with him to the meeting.
The Ombudsman says the letter caused the man considerable distress and prompted him to fear that he would lose his job because his garda vetting status could be compromised.
Three months later Tusla deemed the allegation to be unfounded.
In a separate case which involved an allegation of a different nature, a foster carer who was the subject of a complaint did not receive details of the social worker's report on her or other material which was to be relied on by a foster care review committee.
This rendered the carer unable to fully respond to the complaint yet her foster care status with Tusla was adversely affected.
One in Four raises concerns
An organisation that works with abuse survivors has said it is very concerned that the majority of the cases it refers to Tusla come back with a determination of "unfounded", even when it has reason to believe that the allegation is very substantial.
One in Four Executive Director Maeve Lewis made the comment in a statement welcoming today's report by the Ombudsman.
"When our clients choose to make a full statement about their abuse to Tusla," Ms Lewis says, "there are often very long delays or even a refusal to meet the survivor.
"Indeed I sometimes have the impression that the social workers simply want to close the case as quickly as possible.
"Some of our clients complain that when they are interviewed by Tusla social workers they are treated in an insensitive and sceptical manner which causes further distress," she says.
"We are very pleased that an independent investigation now confirms the difficulties we experience in supporting adult clients to engage with Tusla regarding their sexual abuse in childhood.
"We notify Tusla of all allegations of child sexual abuse made by our clients. Regardless of how long ago the abuse happens, it is highly possible that the person who abused our client may still be abusing children."
Ms Lewis accepts that in the past number of years Tusla has made a serious effort to address these concerns, and that specialist teams to deal with retrospective allegations are now in place in most Tusla areas.
She praises examples across the country of really excellent services.
However, she adds that One in Four still encounters major problems in other areas "where Tusla staff do not even seem to work within official Tusla procedures".
She says that at core, the subject matter of the Ombudsman's report is all about protecting children from sexual harm.
"After all the revelations of the past decade, we should have one of the best child protection systems in the world.
"I understand that resourcing is a big issue. Irish social workers regularly deal with caseloads that are double those of their UK colleagues and that needs to be urgently addressed.
"Until we have a child protection service that can consistently assess risk to children and respond to keep them safe, then the lives of another generation of Irish children will be blighted by sexual abuse," Ms Lewis concludes.
This Child Sex Abuse Case Could Overturn A Utah Law That Allows Victims To Sue Decades Later
A civil suit over alleged child sex abuse in 1981 is forcing Utah's highest court to weigh the validity of a 2016 state law that revived expired claims.
by Zoe Tillman
A Utah woman's lawsuit against a former federal judge accusing him of raping her more than three decades ago is now at the center of a legal fight over how child sex abuse claims are handled in the state, and whether victims can seek justice for old alleged crimes.
Last year, Terry Mitchell sued Richard Roberts — then the chief judge of the federal trial court in Washington, DC — accusing him of taking advantage of her age and repeatedly forcing her to have sex with him in 1981, when he was a 27-year-old prosecutor and she was a 16-year-old witness in one of his cases.
Roberts, who has since left the bench, denied the allegations, although he admitted having an “intimate” relationship with Mitchell. His lawyers argued that regardless of what happened, Mitchell had long missed the legal window to sue.
The case has turned into a broader dispute over a Utah law cited by Mitchell's lawyers that revived expired child sex abuse claims in the state. Roberts's lawyers argue that Utah lawmakers lacked authority to resurrect civil claims on which the clock to file had already run out.
The Utah Supreme Court will now decide if the revival law is valid. If the justices conclude that the state legislature overstepped its authority and strike down the law “it's going to do an injustice to adult survivors everywhere,” said Lani Wallace, an attorney in Utah who works with child sex abuse survivors.
“It's going to be the final blow. It's going to take away any chance that they have of getting justice or alerting the abuser that what they did was wrong,” Wallace said.
Laws around time limits for filing civil child sex abuse claims vary by state. Utah's laws in this area are among the most permissive in the country, and have been cited by advocates trying to loosen limits elsewhere. In 2015, the Utah legislature eliminated the statute of limitations for civil child sex abuse claims against individual perpetrators. The law did not apply to expired claims, prompting the follow-up legislation in 2016 that's now at issue in Mitchell's case.
The Catholic Church has reportedly opposed efforts in other states to revive expired claims, arguing that doing so would lead to a flood of new cases, and unfairly force defendants to litigate decades-old allegations when witnesses may have died or evidence may have disappeared. Utah's revival law, which only applies to cases against individual perpetrators and not against institutions such as churches or schools, faced minimal opposition.
Mitchell's lawyer, Ross "Rocky" Anderson of the Salt Lake City law firm Lewis Hansen said in an interview with BuzzFeed News that keeping the Utah law in place “means all the difference between obtaining justice and not obtaining justice for the vast majority of child sexual abuse victims.”
“It has tremendous significance in terms of allowing victims of child sexual abuse to hold their perpetrators to account under the law within a reasonable period, taking into account that it oftentimes takes decades for victims to be able to deal with these matters and finally confront their perpetrators,” Anderson said.
One of Roberts's attorneys, Brian Heberlig of Steptoe & Johnson LLP in Washington, DC, declined to comment on the case.
The Utah federal magistrate judge handling Mitchell's case concluded in April that the Utah Supreme Court hadn't clearly answered the question of whether lawmakers could revive expired claims. In June, the judge asked the state court to step in and decide the issue. Mitchell's case is on hold until the state justices rule.
Lawyers following the fight over the 2016 law say they believe Mitchell's case is the only relevant suit filed in Utah since the law took effect. Wallace said information about the change to the statute of limitations is still spreading, and that many survivors may not yet be aware of it. Depending on the outcome of Mitchell's case, the change may soon be irrelevant.
"Bad lapse in judgment"
Utah is one of eight states, plus Guam, to have eliminated the statute of limitations for at least some types of civil claims in child sex abuse cases, according to Child USA, a think tank that researches child abuse issues. States typically delay starting the clock on time limits to file suit until after a person turns 18, and some also allow the statute of limitations to kick in only when they realize or discover the abuse.
Utah is one of three states, plus Guam, to allow expired claims to be revived, although other states have temporarily reopened the window to sue, according to Child USA. Under Utah's 2016 law, plaintiffs can bring expired civil claims against alleged abusers within 35 years of their 18th birthday, or within three years of May 10, 2016.
“Utah was not on the front edge of this, but it's part of that national movement to create more justice for the victims,” said Marci Hamilton, CEO of Child USA and a professor at UPenn, who advocated for Utah's legislation. “Beginning with the Boston Globe story about the coverup in the [Catholic] church, there has been this push to figure out what to do about all those victims shut out by unreasonably short statute of limitations.”
The majority of states, including Utah, have no time limit for filing criminal charges for child sex abuse, according to Child USA. But Mitchell's case would likely have been a challenge for prosecutors.
In 1981, Mitchell was a witness in a federal civil rights case. The defendant, Joseph Paul Franklin, was a serial killer and white supremacist accused of killing two black men who were jogging with Mitchell — who was described in court filings as half white, half Latina — and another woman, who was white. Mitchell claimed that Roberts took advantage of her vulnerability and age, and forced her to have sex with him before, during, and after the trial.
Mitchell sued Roberts in March 2016 over the allegations, which Roberts's lawyers called “categorically false,” according to the National Law Journal. Roberts had an “intimate relationship” with Mitchell, his lawyers' statement said, but it was consensual and did not take place until after the trial.
“Roberts acknowledges that the relationship was indeed a bad lapse in judgment,” his lawyers said.
A report about the Mitchell case, prepared last year for the Utah attorney general's office by former Utah US attorney Paul Cassell, concluded that Utah law criminalized sex with minors under the age of 16 in 1981, when Mitchell was already 16. Cassell also wrote that a rape charge would be “impossible to prosecute,” given Roberts's and Mitchell's different accounts of what happened and whether their encounters were consensual.
Cassell declined to comment about the revival statute now at issue in Mitchell's case, citing his earlier involvement.
Roberts's lawyers argued that the time limits had already expired for Mitchell's civil claims for assault and battery and for emotional distress by the time she sued. They said the Utah Supreme Court has been clear that defendants have a right to rely on statutes of limitations as a defense against expired claims, and that those rights can't be taken away by legislation.
US Magistrate Judge Evelyn Furse, who has been presiding over the Mitchell case, wrote in an April order that, historically under Utah law, there has been a two-part test to evaluate whether a new law could apply retroactively: First, whether lawmakers clearly expressed an intent for the law to be retroactive, and second, if not, whether the text of the law nevertheless allowed for retroactive application.
Roberts's lawyers cited a 2012 decision from the state supreme court in an unrelated case, State v. Apotex , which rejected an argument by Utah that the statute of limitations in an amended anti-fraud law could apply retroactively. Furse found that the Utah court in that case hadn't addressed whether lawmakers explicitly said the anti-fraud law was meant to be retroactive. As a result, Furse wrote, it wasn't clear if the supreme court was getting rid of the two-part test, or had skipped the first part because the anti-fraud law didn't contain a clear statement of retroactivity.
That uncertainty prompted Furse to turn to the state justices for clarity in Mitchell's case, something federal judges can do when they have
questions on how to interpret state law. Furse sent the case to the Utah Supreme Court in early June. The first round of briefs are due later this summer.
Utah Rep. Ken Ivory, who sponsored the 2016 law, told BuzzFeed News that it was “unmistakably” lawmakers' intention to make the elimination of the statute of limitations retroactive. He said they made a point of putting the legislature's intent to revive expired claims in the bill.
“We knew for decades that we had gotten our policy in protecting children wrong,” Ivory said. “It wasn't like this was a hard bill to pass through. It was an overwhelming statement by the legislature that we not only intend to protect children abused now, but [we're] also going to go back and provide relief.”
Judge: Boy Scouts dismissed from sex abuse suit, not sworn testimony
by Nicole Carr
MARIETTA, Ga. - A Cobb County superior court judge has dismissed the Boy Scouts from a sex abuse lawsuit, but not from discovery that will force the organization to explain disturbing details released from internal files.
“We'll be able to actually finally ask the questions as to the concealment of the child abuse to the people who are actually doing the concealing,” said Natalie Woodward, an attorney for a victim in the Hall County case that's being tried in Cobb County.
The Monday morning decision is the latest twist in one of a dozen or so similar suits filed across the state, as one state lawmaker moves to expand sex abuse victim protections.
“We felt like we did open the doors, courthouse doors, of justice to survivors of sexual abuse, but we knew at the end of the day is that it stopped short,” said state Rep. Jason Spencer said.
Spencer authored the "Hidden Predator Act" two years ago. It enabled a window of opportunity for accusers like Woodward's client, Robb Lawson, to come forward in civil litigation decades later, long after the criminal statute of limitations had expired.
Lawson told Channel 2's Nicole Carr he was raped by Scout leader Fleming Weaver back in the '80s. It would be years after the newly released document shows Weaver admitted to raping scouts, but was allowed to quietly return to duty.
Weaver is now in his 80s and has relocated to Florida. He was not dismissed from the Hall County suit, but the Boy Scouts, its Northeast Georgia Council, the First Baptist Church of Gainesville and the estate of a dead Scouts leader were dismissed.
Spencer told Carr the organization's requirement to provide sworn testimony will highlight what he will try to convince lawmakers of for a second time in the 2018 session – those who enabled sexual abuse should be subject to civil action.
“This is going to be a bad PR situation for an institution that knowingly covered up child sexual abuse and did not notify authorities and continued to allow predators to stay within their organization,” Spencer said.
In a statement, the Boy Scouts acknowledged past abuse and its move to correct historical wrongs.
“The Boy Scouts of America is aware of the decision made by the Superior Court of Cobb County. We thank the Court for its time and careful consideration of all viewpoints in this case.
“The BSA is outraged there have been times when Scouts were abused and we sincerely apologize to victims and their families. Nothing is more important than the safety of our youth members.
“In the many years since these alleged actions occurred, we have continued to strengthen our efforts to protect youth. We seek to prevent child abuse through comprehensive policies and procedures to serve as barriers to abuse. These include a thorough screening process for adult leaders and staff, criminal background checks, requiring two or more adult leaders be present with youth at all times during Scouting activities, and the prompt mandatory reporting of any allegation or suspicion of abuse. In recent years, the BSA conducted a thorough review to ensure all circumstances that pre-dated this policy by many years were reported to law enforcement.
“The BSA offers assistance with counseling to any Scout, former Scout, or the family member of any Scout who suffered abuse during their time in Scouting. The BSA has a toll-free help line (855-295-1531) and email contact address (email@example.com) for these sensitive matters.”
The Incest Diary: New memoir chronicles the devastating legacy of family sexual abuse
by Zosia Bielski
A child sits at the side of the road with a suitcase full of pennies and Cheerios. She's run away, but goes back home when she gets thirsty.
“When an animal is scared, it goes home, no matter how terrifying home is,” writes the woman, now an adult, in a relentlessly sad new memoir called The Incest Diary.
The book, published this week by McClelland & Stewart, chronicles the anonymous woman's sexual abuse by her father from the age of three to 21. Her writing is exceptionally clear-eyed and beautiful, though the content is appalling, revealing a monstrous family.
Incest is the worst betrayal of trust, a crime we continue to look away from. While we are slowly coming to understand that most child sexual abuse doesn't come in the form of “stranger danger,” with men lurking in unmarked vans, there is reticence to acknowledge that much abuse happens within families.
Nearly 13 per cent of women and nearly 8 per cent of men have reported childhood sexual abuse by a parent or caregiver, according to an exhaustive meta-analysis of global studies published in 2011. “Incest offending is a big, important puzzle,” said Michael Seto, a clinical and research psychologist who has assessed and treated incest perpetrators and who is forensic research director at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group.
“It accounts for a large proportion of child sexual abuse. It's something that, as a society, we've not fully grappled with.”
The Incest Diary is one in a haunting genre of memoirs that detail incest and child sexual abuse.
They include Canadian author Elly Danica's Don't: A Woman's Word (1988) and Kathryn Harrison's The Kiss (1997), which describes the author's relationship with her father beginning at the age of 20, after she is reunited with the man, who was absent throughout her childhood. Another is the disturbing memoir Tiger Tiger (2011) by the late author Margaux Fragoso, who recounts the 15 years she spent with a pedophile, starting when she was 7 and he was 51. Critics blasted the book for being tantamount to child pornography and rightly wondered who would be reading.
It's very likely some readers will have the same visceral reaction to The Incest Diary : The book is highly graphic, which is problematic. It's a legitimate concern that has been considered by the publisher.
“This is a discussion we had, about whether it is exploitative,” said Jared Bland, publisher of McClelland & Stewart. “Ultimately, I don't think it is. This is a person who in the very authorship of the book and in the execution of the writing demonstrates a profound level of self-awareness.”
The author told her editor that she would have felt less alone had she read such a book in her youth. Bland added that he hopes it will help people trapped in situations involving sexual violence. “It's important for us as publishers, where we can, to publish work that advances the discourse and challenges the way we, as a society, think,” he said.
The memoir shows the complex ripple effects of incest. The Globe and Mail spoke with Canadian researchers, educators and therapists about survivors, perpetrators and what can be done to heal in the aftermath.
How the trauma of sexual abuse imprints on children
Incest is a profound misuse of power and of one's role in the family. Many offenders intimidate children with violence; others threaten to leave the family or commit suicide if the child discloses, as The Incest Diary author's own father did.
“For children experiencing chronic childhood abuse, they're in survivor mode all the time,” said Jacqueline Compton, a psychotherapist at Toronto's Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic who helps women who were abused as children.
Unable to fight back or flee, many children freeze during the attacks, dissociating from their bodies to cope. The Incest Diary author often imagines floating above the scene in the sky during her assaults, though trauma remains afterward. “My body remembers everything,” she writes.
Offenders will often alternate violence with care, creating immense confusion for a child who may love the relative but not his behaviour, which the child is forced to tolerate. Sometimes, the abuse is the only reprieve from other forms of violence: The Incest Diary author surmises that participating saved her from being killed by her physically abusive father. That resonates with the complicated dynamic experts see time and again with this type of abuse.
“We don't get to choose who our caregivers are or who provides us safety, so children have to navigate the world and find a way to survive their environment and get their important needs met: security, trust, attention, connection, care,” Compton said. “Often, when a child experiences trauma, [there is a] linking of having your boundaries violated – or having a belief formed that you don't have boundaries or needs – with some kind of connection and care. It's complex and it builds a map at a young age for how we're going to navigate.”
Damaging new norms can emerge as some children come to view such abuse as the only form of recognition and attention they get within deeply dysfunctional families. “On the nights when my father didn't do anything to me, I felt abandoned,” the author writes. “Was I not good enough anymore?”
As Seto explained it: “There is a normal desire to want to be loved and to want your parents to pay attention to you and to appreciate you. For [the victim], instead of appreciating her because she's smart or athletic or kind – things we value as a society – it has become muddled with, ‘He sexually desires me.'”
Cycles of abuse
Experts agree that not every victim who endures abuse will be permanently scathed. “Some people are extraordinarily resilient and can go on to lead healthy and happy lives,” Seto said. “Others are extremely damaged.”
Sexual consequences can involve inhibition, a delaying of sexual activity, low sexual desire and dysfunction. Other victims develop precocious sexuality, having sex earlier and with more partners. “They're more likely to get pregnant and to get STIs and – this is one of the tragedies – more likely to be sexually victimized again,” Seto said.
Throughout their consensual relationships in adulthood, some victims may develop deep trust issues, severe shame around their own sexual needs or they may start to correlate violence with intimacy. “Trauma impacts how we are in relation with others. … If you are taught not to have boundaries and you step into a relationship not having boundaries, it can be hard to navigate what's safe and what's respectful,” Compton said.
Some victims form unhealthy relationships, such as the author, who takes up with a married 49-year-old man when she is 18 and studying in Chile. Once again, she becomes a family secret, this time, in someone else's family. She is revictimized at various points in her adult life by a teacher who kisses her, a friend's father who solicits sex and a work colleague who rapes her.
“It's a direct line from one abuse to another,” said Lyba Spring, a sexual-health educator who created lesson plans on sexual abuse during her three decades of work with Toronto Public Health. “Kids who are sexually abused, if they don't disclose and they don't get counselling, they become revictimized because they live with the mentality of, ‘I am worthless,' ‘I am garbage.'”
The family members who condone
Tragically, family and friends will often turn a blind eye when children disclose incest. Often, they simply can't believe it is true. “If the perpetrator is an upstanding member of society and is, as far as everybody else is concerned, a good husband and father, people have a hard time reconciling it with the idea that he would do this,” Seto said.
The author's family's well-to-do façade doesn't help matters either: Mom rides horses, dad plays tennis and their beach house has an American flag planted outside. Although abuse crosses all class lines, the veneer helps to conceal the reality.
Her credibility takes another hit because she is, on occasion, “a problem child” who runs away and grows aggressive at school. They are common behaviours among victimized children, but are used to undermine them when they disclose, Seto said.
The psychologist sees parallels with the way people doubt victims of domestic violence, questioning why they stayed or returned to their abusers. “People have a hard time reconciling the anger and the fear associated with being abused with simultaneously still wanting to have a relationship with this person,” Seto said. “What I hear often is, ‘Why did she not leave as soon as she could and never talk to them again?' But it's family. It's complicated.”
The memoir author discloses to a number of friends and family members, but has her story rejected each time, leaving her completely isolated: “These secrets are the most protected things,” she writes. When the abuse comes to light, her grandfather tries to have her committed to a mental-health institution. And when the author confides in a beloved family friend, the woman confesses that she too had been molested and her parents did nothing. She advises the author to “forget it, and get over it.”
But it is her mother's inaction that devastates the author most of all: “More than everything my father did to me, it hurts me that she denies it.”
Mothers who stand by and do nothing often suffer from depression and substance-abuse issues and may be victims of violence themselves, Seto explained: “Sometimes she has her own abuse history and it shuts her down. This is what she grew up with and her way of coping as a child was to shut down.”
In a horrifying legacy of intergenerational abuse, the author divulges that her abusive father's maternal grandfather molests him, his sister and his mother. Says Seto, “It's rare for incest to occur in isolation.”
Why incest offenders do it
The clinical explanations for why people sexually abuse their family members are broad. Some offenders have a sexual preference for minors and some are highly opportunistic or have high arousal, novelty or thrill-seeking tendencies. Others exhibit psychopathic traits: “Their lack of empathy for others and strong desire to meet their own needs for pleasure, thrill or stimulation would be a motivator,” said Julie Zikman Toporoski, a Toronto social worker whose clients include sexual offenders who are mandated by the court system to see her.
Often, sexual offenders will try to rationalize their behaviour with a series of “thinking errors,” as the clinical community calls them. Many offenders are in denial and dishonest with themselves about the harms they've caused. Some will minimize frequency (“It was just once or twice”), intention (“I was educating her”) or seriousness (“She was sleeping, it couldn't have harmed her”). Entitlement is a recurring theme: Some offenders will blame a victim's mother (“She shouldn't have trusted me”) or erroneously believe that a child initiated or willingly participated, as does the author's father before denying it and gaslighting her in front of other members of the family.
“What's different about working with intrafamilial sexual abusers is that there is often quite an almost delusional bubble around the nature of the relationship and their role in the relationship,” Zikman Toporoski said. The social worker will share a list of these “thinking errors” with her clients so that they can identify such thoughts when they bubble up.
Individual therapy can serve to educate offenders on consent. For others, the wake-up call comes during group therapy: “Hearing other people's distortions is so very effective. It's identification: ‘Oh wow. That's me,'” Zikman Toporoski said. The court process can also shatter offenders' mythologies, as can reading victim-impact statements.
The social worker said that while every offender's “lightbulb moment” is different, the rehabilitation process is long.“On some level, they know what they're doing is harmful, hurtful, illegal, immoral and taboo, which is why they do it in secrecy,” she said. “There's a lot of internal conflict around continuing to harm their child.”
Also in dire need of help are the men who have not yet acted out, men who have the fewest resources. “They don't wish to act,” Zikman Toporoski said. “They don't know where to get help. That's a tough group to reach. It's a large, significant group.”
Spring believes schools need to strengthen their education about inappropriate touching and reporting abuse. She also stresses teaching proper dictionary names for all body parts so there is zero misunderstanding when a child discloses. While she does not believe childhood sexual abuse can be prevented, Spring argues that schools can help bring about disclosures, meaning a child can see a counsellor faster and a perpetrator can be removed from the home sooner. “While a kid may not be able to stop someone from doing what they intend to do – because predators are magnificent manipulators – at least they would know that they can come and tell,” she said.
Spring would speak to Grade 5 and 6 classes about sexual abuse: “We'd say, ‘You tell and you keep telling until somebody believes and helps you. Is there somebody in the school you could tell, or a teacher?'” A number of children disclosed to her after class. ( The Incest Diary author recalls a Grade 11 health class where child abuse is discussed. She faints at the word “incest” and later lies to school staff about the assaults. No one pushes the issue further.)
For Catherine Gildiner, a retired Toronto psychologist whose forthcoming book Still Standing is about abuse survivors, the word to watch for is “secrets.” Gildiner advised educators and other caregivers to say this: “If someone comes in at night or when nobody's around and says ‘this is our secret,' it's not a good secret.”
In adulthood, it takes time for survivors of incest to reassert boundaries, explore their own desires without guilt and build a healthy sexual relationship with themselves, something Compton works with her clients on, using art therapy and sensorimotor therapy, body-centred work that asks clients to notice the sensations that the body in trauma holds, and physically work through them.
Gildiner helps people develop friendships, closeness and consensual intimacy. “It takes a long time to figure out what you want. You have shut that down and have no idea what you want,” she said.
It's crucial, Gildiner said, to work to break the bonds victims have with those who hurt them and then reframe their sexuality on their own terms: “It's about understanding that you have rights.”
Child abuse victims 'denied Government compensation' if they 'consented'- despite being too young to do so
Kids' charities claim those groomed or pressured by abusers are being refused payouts by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority if they 'went along' with abuse
by Tess De La Mare
CHILD sexual abuse victims are being denied compensation if they “consented” to their attackers, a group of charities has claimed.
Young victims groomed or pressured by their abusers are allegedly being refused any kind of payout by the government's Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority if they “went along” with their abuse.
Charities including Barnardo's, Victim support and Rape Crisis say victims as young as 12 are being excluded from the scheme, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Children cannot legally consent to sex unless they are over 13 and the defendant reasonably believes they are over 16.
But CICA, which decides payouts of sexual abuse, uses a different set of criteria.
In evidence submitted to the Independent Inquiry into child sexual abuse last year, Barnardo's said that the authority had responded to a claim from one child by saying that “it considers consent as a question of fact…a victim can consent in fact even though in law they may be deemed not to have consented”.
Victim Support said a girl that a 12-year-old girl that had been plied with drink then assaulted by a 21-year-old man had been refused compensation because she had gone with him voluntarily.
The charities claim that children are being made to feel like they are responsible for their abuse.
Update Mass. laws to break chihld sexual abuse cycle
Massachusetts state Senator Joan B. Lovely was sexually abused as a 6-year-old by a maternal uncle, trauma that ultimately has led her to file comprehensive legislation to protect kids.
Lovely's bill focuses on schools and youth organizations, places where adults might recognize that child abuse is happening at home or, more seriously, be in a position to target victims for exploitation. As revelations unfold about abuse at a wide range of educational institutions, it's only sensible to begin reform efforts there. A Globe Spotlight investigation last year found unchecked sexual misconduct in at least 67 New England private schools — including 33 in Massachusetts — with more than 200 victims. Lovely's bill also targets the gray area of sexual relations between educators and students that strikes most as morally wrong but legally ambiguous. When it comes to the teacher-student relationship, sex should be legally off limits.
The proposed legislation, scheduled for a State House hearing tomorrow, cracks down on teacher-student sexual relations by closing a loophole in existing law and imposing stiffer criminal sanctions for any educator or other school or youth organization worker to engage in sexual relations with any teen 19 or younger who is under their authority and hasn't yet graduated from high school. While the age of consent in Massachusetts is 16, if the consenting teen is a student and the other person is an adult in a position of authority, the relationship is not equal, rendering the teen's consent invalid.
Lovely's legislation also requires training for all teachers, personnel, independent contractors, and volunteers at all schools — public and independent — as well as youth organizations, on how to prevent, respond, and report child sexual abuse. It also modernizes outdated regulations by expanding the list of mandated reporters of child abuse to include volunteer coaches, professional tutors, and other independent contractors at schools.
“This bill is unique in the country,” says Jetta Bernier, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children, or MassKids. “More than two dozen states have passed similar legislation mandating child sex abuse education, but none include private schools in the scope.”
Such a law would send a clear message in education circles. “No teacher should ever have any sort of relationship with their student, because we don't send our children to school to have sex with them; teachers are there to guide them,” said Brenda Demers, whose 16-year-old daughter engaged in sexual relations with her special education teacher in Upton a few years ago. She believes the teacher, then 26, would have thought twice about getting involved with her daughter had he known he would face prosecution. Instead, he went on to work at another school.
Lovely's proposal would make sure schools have strong hiring policies and screening standards in place to prevent what's known as “passing the trash,” when problem educators are hired despite histories of sexual misconduct. It would also ban schools from signing agreements keeping any information about an individual's past allegations secret.
Educators generally honor their position of trust. For the small minority who may be tempted to abuse their authority, Lovely's bill would make it clear that what is morally wrong also is a violation of the law.
The trouble with Minnesota's toothless child sexual assault protection law
by Susan Du
April Kane, a one-woman lobbying force, dogged the Minnesota legislature for years to pass a law that would require public schools to teach students how to recognize and report sexual abuse.
Named for a childhood sexual assault survivor from Illinois, Erin's Law had been implemented in more than two dozen states before Minnesota passed its own version this year. But unlike most others, Erin's Law in Minnesota is not mandatory and not funded, tasking Kane with figuring out how to convince school districts to get on board.
Kane's single-minded push over the years included courting both Republicans and Democrats. The law was proposed every year since 2015, but it wasn't until this last session that Rep. Peggy Bennett (R-Albert Lea) succeeded in putting the bill on Gov. Mark Dayton's desk.
The final version wasn't as strong as Kane hoped, and it didn't include provisions that other advocates wanted either. The Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MN CASA), one of the state's largest survivor advocacy groups, envisioned expanding the law to include training for teachers and parents, instead of placing all the onus on children. They preferred to slow down the process in order to do this and secure funding.
Kane disagreed. She believed getting a foot in the door was the most important thing, even if it meant having to scale taller hurdles when it came to implementation.
“Because Erin's Law in Minnesota is just a suggestion, nobody knows about it and the Department of Education hasn't said anything about it,” Kane says. “It allows us to say we've passed Erin's Law, but we really haven't.”
To get the word out about how it's been successful in other states, and that Minnesota schools could tap into federal funding under the Every Student Succeeds Act, Kane planned to go on Facebook Live with the Women's March of Minnesota on Thursday.
The morning of, the Women's March abruptly cancelled the video profile, with organizer Alena Temple explaining that she couldn't appear to endorse Erin's Law considering “turf wars and conflicts among organizations competing for funding or for perspective.”
Temple says the Women's March thought it would be a better idea to fold Kane into a broader video that includes multiple advocates and their strategies for combatting sexual abuse.
Nevertheless, it was a blow to Kane, who has become increasingly frustrated with what she describes as other advocates' standoffishness. She says all she wants is some help informing schools.
“No nonprofit has stepped up to help promote Erin's Law,” she says. “It feels like a gag order. I'm trying to make some forward movement somehow, someway, which is hard.”
MN CASA spokeswoman Caroline Palmer said Friday that although the Erin's Law that just passed wasn't what the organization hoped for -- especially the omission of funding – she felt it was a success.
“There is a lot of support for this issue overall and of course it made it into law, but there was not much ability for us to get funding for it. There are so many competing interests at the legislature right now, so we pulled back,” Palmer said.
“What was passed is a good start. We hope that it leads to some funding to back it up in the future so it has a better chance for broader implementation.”
Fact Check: Does Oregon CPS "Err" On Believing Kids Who Allege Abuse?
by Sydney Brownstone
Over the weekend, the Seattle Times reported that the state of Oregon released new information showing that Child Protective Services (CPS) had investigated claims of child sexual abuse against Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in the 1980s. The investigator concluded that the allegations from Jeff Simpson, Murray's former foster child, were founded.
In response, Murray's lawyer, Katherine Heekin, wrote a letter to the Times saying that Oregon CPS "is supposed to err on the side of believing a child's accusations."
"The agency is not responsible for judging sex abuse cases," Heekin continued. "It merely investigates allegations of sex abuse. In contrast, law enforcement is responsible for determining whether or not a crime may have happened. Here, there was no indictment, no charges filed, no conviction, and no crime.”
On Monday evening, Murray announced he would not step down, as some mayoral candidates and council members have called for him to do.
First, as the Seattle Times story mentioned, CPS cases have a different standard of evidentiary proof than criminal ones. For criminal cases, it's "beyond a reasonable doubt." For CPS investigations, it's a lower standard: whether there's "reasonable cause to believe the abuse or neglect occurred."
But that doesn't mean that CPS errs on the side of believing kids' allegations as a matter of practice.
According to the latest report from the federal Children's Bureau, part of the Office of the Administration for Children and Families, Oregon received 66,100 referrals for child neglect or abuse cases in 2015. Of those 66,100, 38,063—or 57.6 percent—were screened out. (The national average for the percentage of referrals that were screened was 41.8 percent.)
Past the initial screening process, 39,009 Oregon children in 2015 received investigations or alternative responses for child abuse and neglect, and just 11,090 of those cases were found to be substantiated. That same year, Oregon counted 838 victims of child sexual abuse, or eight percent of abuse victims overall. Oregon did not report any intentionally false allegations.
Nationally, the Children's Bureau found that of the 7.2 million children who were referred to CPS for child abuse or neglect, 47 percent received an investigation or an alternative response. Of the 7.2 million, just 9.4 percent were determined to be victims, and 5.6 percent received post response services. The Children's Bureau also reported that mothers made up the highest percentage of reported perpetrators; foster parents made up just 0.2 percent of reports.
Researchers cite numerous reasons why abuse investigators may not believe a child's accusations. Kathryn Becker Blease, an assistant professor of psychology specializing in child abuse at Oregon State University, told The Stranger that, "from a scientific and safety perspective," they should err on the side of believing children because most accusations are true. "But the data don't show that that actually happens."
Part of the reason why the data doesn't reflect an institution that "err[s] on the side of believing a child's accusations," Becker Blease says, is because perpetrators deliberately target victims who don't make good witnesses.
"Perpetrators tell us themselves that sometimes they purposely involve kids in criminal behavior and drugs because it makes it that much harder for kids to come forward," Becker Blease said.
The same conundrum afflicts child sexual abuse cases that actually make it to court, though few do.
"Just getting one of these cases to a courtroom, to a jury, where they can hear the evidence, is so unbelievably rare, and it's so unbelievably difficult," Randy Burton, founder of Justice for Children, a national nonprofit that provides legal resources for abused kids, told The Stranger . "You're presumed, by courts, incapable of testifying on your own behalf if you're under the age of 7, because they say most children are not competent to testify below that age. Then there's vast categories of abuse where it's impossible to get those allegations in front of someone else unless you get a rape kit."
"Perpetrators don't do this in front of a soccers stadium full of fans," Burton continued. "They do it in utter secrecy."
A handful of studies published over the last 30 years also suggest that getting a child sexual abuse case accepted for prosecution may be more difficult for male victims. Another 2012 study published in Sex Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment came to the same conclusion, suggesting that the disparity between male and female child sex abuse outcomes could be explained by severable variables, including the fact that boys are less likely to tell someone about abuse. When they do, the study reported, it's more likely to happen after someone has witnessed concerning behaviors from the child—in other words, acting out—and those same behaviors, the could make boys seem "as a less credible or sympathetic witness by a prosecutor."
Additionally, the study found that when boys did disclose, they were more likely to tell someone about abuse in response to questions about the possibility of abuse in the first place—which, for jurors, could suggest that the victim was "coached." Finally, if a boy had been exposed to porn, a jury might see that behavior as a result of watching porn, not abuse.
Becker Blease, a former foster parent in Washington State, said she also understood foster parents' fear that they might be the subject of false allegations of sexual abuse from traumatized kids who act out. But false allegations are rare—somewhere between 2 and 10 percent—and there's no data on the rate of foster children specifically who make false allegations. Becker Blease said she found Heekin's comments to be "dangerous" and "irresponsible" given the context.
"It's one thing to defend yourself as an individual; it's another thing as an elected official to undermine the integrity of the whole Child Protective Services system," Becker Blease said. "You're essentially saying the system is tilted in favor of believing the kids, but there are a whole lot of vulnerable kids out there who did not have that experience, and you've undermined the integrity of all those kids who are making disclosures."
Both Becker Blease and Burton say CPS and the courts have gotten better at handling child sexual abuse cases. But according to Burton, who founded his organization in the same year that Jeff Simpson, Murray's former foster son, made his first accusation, the 80s were a rough time for CPS abuse cases. Federal funding for CPS mandated that the agencies try to keep families together—even if, Burton said, that came at the expense of the child victim whose perpetrator was a parent. Burton helped change those rules in 1997, when Congress passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act.
"[CPS] is a civic agency that's there for the purpose of removing children from dangerous homes, and they've got this imperative to try and preserve the family," Burton said. "And those two imperatives—can't save the family and can't protect the child—in the case of sexual abuse has been referred to in some articles as professional schizophrenia."
An agency concluding that allegations were "founded" despite that professional schizophrenia likely signifies a strong case, Burton said.
Hundreds of boys abused at storied Catholic choir in Germany, new report says
by Issac Stanley-Becker
BERLIN — A report released Tuesday found that at least 547 former members of Germany's most storied Catholic choir for boys were physically or sexually abused, the latest revelation in a case that has roiled the Domspatzen choir in Regensburg, led for many years by the brother of Pope Benedict XVI, Georg Ratzinger.
The abuse was carried out by priests and teachers at the prestigious choir in southeast Germany, according to a lawyer, Ulrich Weber, who was tasked with carrying out an independent investigation. All told, he discovered 500 cases of physical abuse and 67 cases of sexual abuse.
Claims of misconduct spilled into public view in 2010, amid charges across the continent that the Roman Catholic Church had turned a blind eye to the mistreatment of young boys. The controversy has proved especially fraught for Germany, where Benedict served as archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982. After that, he led the branch of the Vatican, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, responsible for examining allegations of abuse.
The alleged wrongdoing dates from 1945 to 1992, Weber wrote in his 440-page report, though much of it was concentrated in the 1960s and 1970s, when Ratzinger was in charge. Weber has said he had to “assume” the pope's brother, who led the choir from 1964 to 1994, knew of sexual abuse, though Ratzinger, now 93, has denied this.
The former choir director told German media in 2010 that he had slapped pupils in the face but was unaware of the level of brutality described by victims.
“Pupils told me on concert trips about what went on, but it didn't dawn on me from their stories that I should do something,” Ratzinger said. “I ask the victims for forgiveness.”
At the same time, Ratzinger has called it “insane” to scrutinize every wrongdoing over the past half-century, noting that corporal punishment was once widely practiced.
But Weber's conclusions point to a more systematic form of mistreatment. He found that 49 teachers and church officials bore responsibility for turning life at the choir, and the associated boarding school, into “hell,” as victims described it. For many, Weber wrote, their stay at the school was “the worst time of their lives, characterized by fear, violence and hopelessness.”
The Catholic Church in Regensburg did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Speaking at a news conference Tuesday morning, Michael Fuchs, a vicar general, said the church must play a more active role in future investigations.
“We could have done a lot better,” he said, according to a German public broadcaster.
Because many of the incidents described occurred decades ago, the cases can no longer be tried in German courts.
Weber's first report, in early 2016, found that 231 young boys had been abused. That was triple the number published by the Regensburg diocese the previous year. The figures released Tuesday are higher still.
HOME ALONE What are the rules on child neglect and could YOU get in trouble? The advice every parent needs ahead of the summer holidays
The NSPCC received 1300 calls and emails last summer from adults with concerns or questions about the safety of younsters left unattended
by Sarah Barns
THERE has been a sharp rise in reports of parents leaving their kids home alone during the school holidays, a leading children's charity has revealed.
The NSPCC said it received almost 1,300 calls and emails last summer - an increase in about a third on the previous year - from adults with concerns or questions about the safety of youngsters left unattended.
Although the law does not give a minimum age at which children can be left unsupervised, parents can face neglect charges if a child is deemed to have been at risk of injury or suffering.
Tim Haines, 53, was prosecuted for leaving his sick two-year-old daughter, Iset, alone in a car for five minutes while he ran into a chemist to buy some Calpol.
He said his daughter was “barely out of sight” but he returned to find police waiting at his car.
Two weeks later, officers arrived at his Worcestershire home to arrest him for "exposing a child to risk of harm".
“I was taken through the magistrates' court where initially I was convicted,” he told the BBC.
"My solicitor said don't appeal, I got a barrister's opinion which said don't appeal, but I was so angry that I appealed and when I finally got it in front of the judge he said 'five minutes? That's supposed to be a crime?'"
Mr Haines, who won the appeal, says the law allows parental responsibility and "the need to be able to exercise that responsibility".
Meanwhile, mum-of-two Natasha Harding told This Morning's Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield that she used to regularly leave her five-year-old son for up to 10 minutes while she popped across the road to the shop.
While her approach sparked a fierce debate on the ITV programme, she said: “My son is very cautious, if I give him an instruction he follows it.
“My daughter, even at two, is a very different nature and I can't see me ever leaving her at nine.
“I think if you start giving children choices from a young age which you are comfortable with, and you minimise any risks, it works.”
Natasha said a law which clearly states a list of ages of when parents can leave their children would be beneficial, but the NSPCC disagrees.
Mr Haines, who won the appeal, says the law allows parental responsibility and "the need to be able to exercise that responsibility".
Meanwhile, mum-of-two Natasha Harding told This Morning's Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield that she used to regularly leave her five-year-old son for up to 10 minutes while she popped across the road to the shop.
While her approach sparked a fierce debate on the ITV programme, she said: “My son is very cautious, if I give him an instruction he follows it.
“My daughter, even at two, is a very different nature and I can't see me ever leaving her at nine.
“I think if you start giving children choices from a young age which you are comfortable with, and you minimise any risks, it works.”
Natasha said a law which clearly states a list of ages of when parents can leave their children would be beneficial, but the NSPCC disagrees.
A spokesperson told The Sun Online: “Children mature at different rates so a ‘one size fits all' law would not be right.
"The choice is best left to parents who are best placed to know what is right for their child."
So how should parents interpret the law to work out what is legal and what might land them with a fine or a prison sentence?
Of the 1,294 calls and emails to the NSPCC's 24-hour helplines between July and September 2016, 83 per cent were considered serious enough to pass on to social services.
NPSCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless told The Sun Online: “Deciding if a child is ready to be left on their own can be a very difficult decision and the summer holidays can be a difficult time for parents and carers as they face increasing childcare pressures.
“Although the law doesn't specify a minimum age, no child should be left on their own if there is any risk they will come to harm.
“Children mature at their own rate so it's really important parents think carefully about what is right for their child.
“Children shouldn't be left on their own if they are not happy with being left, or if they don't know what to do in an emergency.”
The charity states that parents need to think whether a child would be able to cope with unexpected situations such as an emergency, a stranger calling at the house, being hungry or if the parent is away for longer than they thought.
The NSPCC says babies should never be left alone, and children under the age of 16 should not be left unsupervised overnight.
Solicitor advocate Joy Merriam told The Sun Online that law officials will assess each incident on a case-by-case basis.
"As with many areas of the law it's a matter of degree, so the age of the child, length of time left alone...etc will be factors, " she said.
"The key issue is safeguarding - so if a child is placed at risk e.g. by being left locked in a home unable to get out or left without adequate food /drink this could be considered child cruelty and a criminal offence.
"The more usual consequence, if a child is found home alone, is social services involvement and the child being removed into the care of the local authority while they assess whether it is safe for the child to return."
She added that teens are frequently left in charge of their younger siblings, but caution should be executed around leaving younger kids with siblings.
"Again it is question of the age and maturity of the supervising sibling and the surrounding circumstances," she said.
"Whilst it may be safe to leave a mature 14 year old to look after a 9 year old for an afternoon it would not be appropriate to leave a 12 year old to care for three younger siblings all day, for example."
Extreme examples of children being left alone include a drunk mum who left her two young kids home alone to go out and buy more booze.
The 34-year-old from Huddersfield, who cannot be named to protect the identities of her children, was found intoxicated in an alleyway by cops.
Meanwhile, a bride-to-be who left her two young sons home alone for two days while she jetted to Paris to meet a man she met online was spared jail last month.
County still seeing double-digit child neglect
by James Sprague
Child neglect, over the past few years, has been a growing issue for Fayette County.
It might now be a growing one for another area county, as well.
The Indiana Department of Child Services recently released its May 2017 statistics regarding child neglect, child physical abuse and child sexual abuse for the six-county DCS Region 12, with Fayette County again seeing double-digits with 10 substantiated cases of child neglect, bringing its total – through the first five months of the year – to 56, putting it on pace for roughly 135 cases overall for the year.
That figure, however, paled in comparison to three other area counties – Franklin, Henry and Wayne – which all saw greater numbers of substantiated child neglect cases during that May span.
Franklin, for instance, had 16 such cases of child neglect, quite the high number for a county which normally sees single-digit figures monthly when it comes to child neglect. It also had one substantiated case of child sexual abuse and two substantiated cases of physical child abuse for the month.
Henry County, meanwhile, had 16 such case of child neglect as well, while Wayne County led the pack with 21 substantiated child neglect cases for May.
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 and area officials have previously chalked up the situation with child neglect as a direct correlation of the ongoing issue of substance abuse throughout the state and nation.
Fayette County did match, through the month of May, its 2016 mark of substantiated child physical abuse cases, as it had one for the month, bringing its 2017 total to five cases – the same figure for the entirety of 2016.
Overall, in May, the state of Indiana had 2,488 substantiated cases of child neglect, up from 2,223 substantiated cases in April; 206 substantiated cases of child physical abuse, up from 130 in April; and 276 substantiated cases of child sexual abuse, also up from the state's April figures of 205.
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.
While CPS was investigating him for child abuse, Dallas man beat 4-year-old to death, police say
by Julieta Chiquillo
A Dallas man accused of fatally beating his girlfriend's 4-year-old son had been involved with Child Protective Services before the boy's death Friday, officials said.
Brandon Gordy, 27, has been arrested on a charge of capital murder and a charge of assault of a family member in connection to his girlfriend's allegation that he choked her the day before her son Darwin Delgado was killed. He is at the Dallas County jail, where his combined bail was set at more than $1 million.
CPS already had an open case on Gordy related to the physical abuse of Darwin's 3-year-old brother, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
Gordy told investigators that on Friday he left Darwin standing in a bathtub and later found him slumped and bruised, according to the affidavit. But a doctor in the Dallas County medical examiner's office who examined Darwin's body told police the boy had a host of injuries: a fractured collarbone, a bruised scalp, brain swelling, cut lips, trauma in the rectum and small tears around it.
The boy died from a laceration in his liver and had extensive internal bleeding, according to the medical examiner's office. A doctor told police that the injury could have occurred only from blunt force trauma, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
Gordy was the only adult in the family's apartment in the 8900 block of Park Lane when Darwin collapsed Friday, but he denied harming the boy, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
Quick temper, fresh bruises
Darwin's mother said Gordy had a quick temper and that Darwin and his younger brother were afraid of him, police wrote. Detectives noted that the mother had fresh bruises on her face and neck, and she told them Gordy had grabbed her by the neck and thrown her up against the wall on Thursday.
The next day, the woman went to work at a supermarket and left Darwin and his siblings in Gordy's care, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
Gordy told police that he put soap in a washcloth for Darwin and left him in the tub while he went to check on his 6-month-old daughter. The man said he heard a loud thump minutes later, ran to the bathroom and discovered Darwin partially submerged in the bathwater with one arm hanging from the side of the tub.
According to Gordy's account to police, he held Darwin's head and the boy replied, "I'm OK, I'm OK, I'm OK."
Gordy told police that Darwin became unresponsive and that vomit and feces were coming out of his body. He said he called 911 and banged on a neighbor's door to ask for a ride to the hospital, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
But another boy, Gordy's 4-year-old son, told police that he heard Gordy issue a threat to Darwin: "I'm whooping your [expletive]!"
Darwin's 3-year-old brother also talked to an interviewer at the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center and said he saw Gordy slap Darwin in the mouth.
Police said Gordy became belligerent when he was accused of hurting Darwin. He contradicted the children's allegations.
Gordy was convicted in 2016 on a marijuana possession charge out of Arlington, according to court records.
The Office of Child Safety, which is independent from CPS, will review previous contacts with the family to determine whether the agency followed protocol, said CPS spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales. She declined to elaborate on CPS' involvement with Darwin's family, citing confidentiality.
The family's other children — the 4-year-old and 3-year-old boys and a 6-month-old girl — have been removed from the apartment, Gonzales wrote in an email.
Grandmother notified CPS
Griselda Delgado, Darwin's paternal grandmother, fought back tears Tuesday as she recounted the months leading up to Darwin's death. She said the boy had told her that Gordy hit him and his younger brother.
Delgado said she noticed a cut on the chin of Darwin's brother in April and took him to Children's Medical Center Dallas, where she was given a number to call CPS. The injury is documented in a hospital form and a photo she provided to The Dallas Morning News .
A CPS caseworker interviewed Darwin and his brother at an office in Lewisville, said their grandmother, who occasionally watched the boys at her Oak Cliff home. She said the worker saw the cut on the younger boy's chin.
Later, Delgado said, a caseworker came to her home while the boys were visiting and interviewed their mother when she came to pick them up. The caseworker watched as the boys cried and kicked their feet when their mother took them home, Delgado said.
"The [CPS] worker asked me if they were always like that," Delgado said in Spanish. "I said yes, that they didn't want to be with her."
Darwin's mother doesn't face charges in connection to his death and couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.
Delgado said Gordy and the boys' mother split after a recent altercation but got back together soon after. The woman told Delgado about the reconciliation with Gordy and ordered her to keep quiet, according to the boys' grandmother.
Delgado said she immediately alerted CPS.
"Do you think I'm going to be at ease if I know the children are in danger?" she said Tuesday.
A CPS worker told her the agency would be in touch, the grandmother said, but she didn't talk to CPS again until Friday, when she said she called the agency to report that Darwin was dead.
The Department of Family and Protective Services has been struggling to improve conditions within CPS, which has been beset in recent years with high turnover among front-line workers and supervisors, high worker caseloads, low pay and, at times, slow initial checks on at-risk children.
In Dallas County, CPS' investigations program nearly imploded in late 2015 and early last year, when the annual turnover rate was 57 percent and the agency had to pull in dozens of workers from other regions.
CPS — and its Dallas office, in particular — came under intense scrutiny last year after the death of 4-year-old Leiliana Wright. Her mother and a friend are accused of beating the Grand Prairie girl to death in March 2016. The slaying followed a chain of errors, incompetence and systemic problems at the agency, and it prompted firings, resignations and finger-pointing.
Late last year, the state pumped $142 million into the agency, green-lighting $12,000 pay raises and the hiring of 829 more employees at CPS.
Today, the county has about 100 more fully trained and case-carrying child-abuse investigators than it did a year ago — 213 in April, up from 114 a year earlier, state protective services commissioner Henry "Hank" Whitman recently said. Caseloads are down sharply, and the share of the most at-risk kids mentioned in abuse and neglect allegations who are seen within 24 hours was 85 percent in April, up 9 percentage points from a year earlier.
'Heartbreaking': Child advocates respond to state police crime lab backlog
by Amanda Iacone
WASHINGTON — For Dr. Howard Dubowitz and the young patients he works with, the wait for charges to be filed in cases of child sexual abuse can be frustratingly long.
“The uncertainty, the not knowing — just that is terribly stressful,” said Dubowitz, a pediatrician and professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who specializes in child sex abuse and neglect. “To the extent that these very difficult traumatic situations can be sorted out, the sooner the better.”
Advocates for young victims of sexual abuse have been grappling with evidence and court delays for years. And they say those delays put more children at risk.
“It's very tough for a parent, for everyone involved actually, when these cases get drawn out,” Dubowitz said. “Sometimes it can be many months.”
The Charles County case of Carlos Bell exposed a monthslong backlog of digital evidence waiting to be processed at a state police lab.
In some cases, the sexual abuse of children only comes to light because videos and images are discovered on cellphones or computers. In many Maryland communities, those cases are sent to the Maryland State Police lab that examines digital evidence.
But the skyrocketing volume of cases and the enormous amount of data involved in many child exploitation cases have swamped the state police technical investigations unit, leading to a now 10-month wait to process that evidence. Similar labs run by Prince George's and Montgomery county police departments also a report a backlog of cases up to three months.
“It's really heartbreaking — a 10-month backlog,” said Sen. Susan Lee, a Bethesda Democrat who has fought to provide more money for the state police's computer forensics lab to help them combat cyber predators.
Delays in processing evidence — along with a lack of resources — allow child predators to remain free to abuse more children, Lee said.
Such offenders typically have many victims and the risk to children is real, said Adam Rosenberg, a former prosecutor and executive director of the Baltimore Child Abuse Center.
Bell, 35, of Waldorf, was free for months from the time police seized his cellphones in December up until his June 30 arrest on assault and child pornography charges. A teaching assistant and track coach in Charles County at the time, he was initially investigated for having inappropriate communications with a teenager.
Investigators don't know whether Bell assaulted any other children while the evidence sat waiting to be analyzed for months at the state police lab. So far 10 victims have been identified.
“We lost six months of time we could have stopped him from sexually abusing and assaulting other kids,” Rosenberg said. “That's really unfortunate. The quicker we can process this data, the quicker we can pluck these guys off the street and keep kids safe.“
Videos and images pulled from cellphones and computers can also help the forensic interviewers on Rosenberg's staff by shaping their questions to see if the child can corroborate the digital evidence.
Just as importantly, faster investigations and prosecutions would help the children begin to heal sooner, he said.
Digital doesn't mean faster
Police departments have struggled to keep up with the rapid pace of technological advances over the last decade. And with the advent of smartphones, children now have a direct portal to predators who chat with them through messaging apps, groom them and then sexually abuse them or exploit them.
The result is that more children are victims of sex crimes and police have more digital evidence than ever to comb through. One child pornography case can take weeks or months, police say.
“We are not keeping up with technology,” said Del. Edith Patterson, who represents Charles County.
The Bell case and a similar case involving a man who volunteered at a school in Prince George's County has caught the attention of state lawmakers. And Patterson said the state must provide more funding not just to the state police but also to local police departments.
A state law known as Alicia's Law will provide $2 million to support the state police lab that conducts the forensic examinations of digital evidence. Some of the funding is set to go to local departments that perform similar work and to local advocacy centers that work with the victims of abuse. The measure passed last year, but the money doesn't start flowing until 2018.
“We know that the $2 million allocated will not be enough to address this,” Patterson said.
Lee sponsored Alicia's Law because she was outraged that only a small percentage of all child exploitation cases end up in the hands of police. And she wanted to provide state police with more training and updated equipment.
She plans to keep fighting for more funding next session.
“We need to give angels wings so they can go out and rescue children.” Lee said of police.
Voices heard to protect children and teens from sexual abuse
Lawmakers urged to raise age of consent for sex between teachers and students
by Karen Anderson & Jonathan Wells
Powerful voices on Beacon Hill Tuesday urged lawmakers to do more to protect children and teens from sexual abuse by passing a major bill that includes raising the legal age of consent to 19.
At a hearing before the Joint Committee on Education, survivors shared their painful stories to give police, prosecutors and teachers the tools they need to prevent and protect.
“He took my soul, he took my spirit away. I was a shell of who I was for a long time,” said Jennifer Falcone, who was 11 years old when she says a school administrator started taking her out of class, bringing her to his office and sexually abusing her.
“It was as if he took all the life out of me and I had to pretend to be alive,” she said
Falcone said despite the warning signs, no one ever stopped the administrator. He even started allowing other men to rape her in his office as well, she said.
“By the end, I believed he would kill me if I told anyone,” Falcone said.
The sexual abuse went on for three years until one day Falcone's gym teacher suspected something was wrong and refused to let the administrator take her out of gym class.
“Just that simple act made the abuse stop,” Falcone said. “Just someone saying, ‘I see you're doing something, I don't know what it is, I can't put my finger on it, I know it isn't right, I notice that, I see you.'”
Falcone testified at the State House with other survivors, including parents, police chiefs, and child advocates, all in support of a comprehensive bill to protect children and teens from sexual abuse.
Among other things, the bill would require teachers to be trained to respond to signs of sexual abuse and raise the legal age of consent from 16 to 19 for educators accused of having sex with students.
In 2015, 5 Investigates found on average, the licenses of 15 Massachusetts educators were suspended each year for sexual misconduct, but there often were no criminal charges filed. As the law in Massachusetts now stands, when an educator has sex with a student who is 16 or older, it is not automatically a crime.
Two mothers testified they have daughters who were 16 when they became sexually involved with their teachers.
“Our hands are tied,” said one of the mothers, Laura Siracusa. “We had no legal rights and that is just not right. They need to change the law. They need to change the law to protect students who are vulnerable at that age.”
“We're trying to pass this bill for your children now,” said the other mother, Brenda Demers. “We're doing this so no one goes through the pain we're going through.”
Dudley Police Chief Steven Wojnar said he has been working to raise the age of consent for educators for more than a decade after finding himself unable to prosecute a teacher who was sexually involved with a student in his town.
“Why is it taking so long to have something like this get done?” Wojnar asked. “I am still waiting to hear from someone as to why this isn't a good idea.”
Jennifer Falcone now trains people to recognize signs of sexual abuse.
“If we're looking for it, we can prevent it,” she said.
Police: Woman charged with homicide by child neglect, newborn found in garbage
by Jennifer Saylor
GREENVILLE, S.C. (WLOS) — Information gathered by police indicates a woman gave birth at work and her newborn baby ended up in a trash bag.
The baby boy was pronounced dead at an area hospital.
On July 12, 2017 officers responded to the La Parilla Mexican Restaurant at 1 Market Point Drive in Greenville, in regards to a newborn in cardiac arrest.
Upon arrival, Greenville police say, the baby's mother and grandmother, the mother's boyfriend, and at least two employees advised that the mother had just given birth in the restaurant bathroom.
Greenville County EMS arrived on the scene and rushed the newborn to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.
Greenville Police detectives and Greenville County Forensic personnel then responded to the scene to begin the death investigation.
The medical examiner performed an autopsy on July 13, and could find no medical reason why the child died after birth. The medical examiner also noted that dirt and gravel were found on the baby's body, and relayed this information to the coroner.
When deputy coroners returned to the restaurant for further investigation, other employees told them a different version of events than the original one provided the day of the incident.
The manager informed them that that Estela Ruiz-Gomez, the baby's mother, busses tables at the restaurant, and Lorenza Gomez Rodriguez, the baby's grandmother, is a dishwasher.
According to the employees, Ruiz-Gomez went to the bathroom during her break because her stomach was hurting. When the manager went to get Ruiz-Gomez out of the bathroom at the end of her break, she stated that her stomach still hurt and the manager then went to get her mother to check on her.
A short time later, Lorenza Gomez Rodriguez exited the bathroom and explained that Ruiz-Gomez needed to go to the hospital.
Shortly after they came out of the bathroom, an employee emptied the trash in the men's and women's restrooms. Because she was having difficulty lifting the trash bag, she dragged the bag across the parking lot, causing it to tear and a newborn baby to fall out of the bag onto the pavement.
Ruiz-Gomez's boyfriend, the baby's father, was present when the baby fell out of the trash bag, and retrieved the baby from the ground and took him back inside the restaurant.
It was at this point, authorities say, that EMS was called to the restaurant.
Because of this new information, Ruiz-Gomez and Lorenza Gomez Rodriguez were arrested for child neglect.
On July 17, 2017, detectives met with the medical examiner, who indicated that the baby's death would be ruled a homicide, because he would likely have survived had he not been placed in the trash.
On July 18, detectives charged Ruiz-Gomez with homicide by child neglect and Rodriguez with aiding and abetting homicide by child abuse.
They later found that Homeland Security has an active warrant against Ruiz-Gomez for not leaving the country when ordered to do so in 2016.
Homeland Security is investigating both women due to their immigration status.
Timing Matters in the Effects of Neglect on Development
New research tracks the effect of early neglect from childhood through adulthood
by Rebecca Compton Ph.D.
What are the consequences of deprivation on the developing child? How long-lasting are the effects of early neglect on a child's emotional well-being and developing intellect later in life? The answer is: it depends , and one of the factors it depends on is timing. As shown by a recent study of young adults who had spent time as children in Romanian orphanages, severe neglect in early life can have different consequences depending on the time window of deprivation, and also depending on the person's age when skills and well-being are later assessed. Research findings related to the developmental timing of neglect can have implications for child-welfare policies and can also help adoptive families better understand how effects of neglect may play out later in life.
One key finding of the study (published earlier this year in the medical journal Lancet ) is that severe early-life deprivation lasting more than 6 months led to more serious consequences. Over a period spanning from early childhood through adulthood, the study followed 165 people adopted in infancy from severely depriving Romanian orphanages. All the children were adopted by British families in the 1990's, after the fall of Romania's dictator Nicolai Ceausescu brought to light the shocking conditions of Romanian orphanages. During their time in the orphanages, children were exposed to inadequate food, hygiene, and medical care, combined with a severe lack of nurturance and cognitive stimulation. Since the time of adoption, the children had been raised in British homes. Because the child's age at the time of adoption varied— between 2 weeks and 43 months of age—researchers could examine how the duration of deprivation affected development. For purposes of comparison, children were placed into two groups: those who had spent less than 6 months in the Romanian orphanages, and those who has spent more than 6 months there.
Researchers compared both of these groups of Romanian-born children to a sample of children adopted domestically within the U.K., who had not experienced institutional care and were adopted before the age of 6 months. The comparison between Romanian-born and U.K.-born adoptees controls for the effects of some aspects of adoption, such as the experience of separation from birth parents (which all adoptees experience), while allowing a contrast between adoptees who experienced severe neglect in institutions versus those who did not.
The good news from the study is that those Romanian adoptees who spent less than 6 months institutionalized were generally indistinguishable from the U.K. adoptees across a range of measures of cognitive and emotional well-being. This implies that children have the resilience to rebound from severe deprivation when placed into stable and nurturing homes at a young age. However, children who endured more than 6 months of deprivation did not rebound quite so well. Across a range of measures, including autistic-like behavior, disinhibited social behavior, and hyperactivity, those who experienced longer durations of deprivation tended to show worse outcomes compared to the other groups. Although these results may not seem surprising—logically, it makes sense that longer deprivation would be more harmful—the results have direct implications for child welfare policy. In short, children are harmed when they are placed in institutions for longer than 6 months.
A more surprising finding of the study was that some negative consequences of neglect got better over the child's life, whereas others got worse. Researchers assessed the participants at ages 6, 11, 15, and young adulthood (22-25 years old), and therefore could track the trajectory of developmental change over many years following adoption. One bright spot in the findings was that for the measures of cognitive ability (IQ), significant improvement over developmental time emerged. Romanian children deprived for more than 6 months showed cognitive impairments compared to the other two groups during childhood and adolescence, but not in adulthood. In other words, eventual catch-up in cognitive skills was evident even for the most severely-deprived group.
On the other hand, emotional well-being showed a pattern of worsening over developmental time among the severely-deprived group. Emotional problems were similarly low for all groups in childhood, but the severely-deprived group showed a significant increase in emotional problems in adulthood. That is, in young adulthood (but not at earlier ages), the group who had been severely deprived for more than 6 months as infants had higher rates of emotional problems, both as reported by themselves and as reported by their parents, compared to the other groups. For example, 43 percent of those in the most-deprived group reported using mental health services between the ages of 15 and 23, compared to 23 percent in the less-deprived Romanian group and 10 percent in the group of U.K. domestic adoptees. These findings demonstrate that some negative consequences of early neglect do not become fully evident until later during development. The transition from adolescence to young adulthood may raise new psychological challenges that are more difficult for those with a history of severe deprivation.
In sum, the results of this study offer reasons for both optimism and pessimism. Placement into nurturing homes led to developmental catch-up in cognitive abilities, even among those who experienced longer durations of institutionalization before placement. At the same time, the children who were institutionalized for a longer time during infancy tended to show greater emotional problems in young adulthood, compared to adoptees who were institutionalized for shorter periods or who did not experience institutionalization at all. Thus, while time (and nurturance) may heal wounds, it does not heal all of them completely.
Of course, these results should not be taken as deterministic for any individual child who experienced early neglect. The study focused on children exposed to some of the harshest orphanage conditions yet reported, and may not generalize to less severe experiences of neglect. Furthermore, the researchers reported that even among those children who lived in Romanian institutions for more than 6 months, a significant minority (about 20 percent) reported no problems at any of the time-points measured, raising interesting questions about the causes of individual differences in resilience. Yet, from a public policy standpoint, the implication is clear: children's interests are best served by placement in stable family homes, rather than harmful institutional care, as early in life as possible.
Does grooming by child abusers lead to Stockholm syndrome?
by Medical Xpress
New research from Massey University's School of Social Work identifies how grooming allows Stockholm syndrome to become established in child sexual abuse cases.
Dr Shirley Jülich and Dr Eileen Oak recently co-authored a paper published in Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work. The article, titled "Does grooming facilitate the development of Stockholm syndrome? The social work practice implications," explores the relationship between the process of grooming and the condition known as Stockholm syndrome.
The phenomenon is named after the 1973 robbery of a bank in Stockholm, Sweden. Several employees were held hostage for six days, while their captors negotiated with police. During this time the hostages developed an emotional bond to the hostage takers, forming the basis of a survival strategy. They believed if the robbers liked them, they would not hurt them.
The emotional bond became so powerful, they came to view the police as the enemy. Their relationship did not stop once the siege was over. One female staff member began an intimate relationship with one of the hostage takers.
Dr Jülich and Dr Oak believe grooming techniques used by child sex abusers facilitates the development of Stockholm syndrome, which often protects the abuser for decades.
"Offenders groom the wider environment such as parents, carers, teachers, social workers and the like, by integrating themselves into places and community networks where they are likely to have contact with children, often assuming a position of trust. They often target one-parent families to gain status, or they may target children or young people who have absent parents, and less protection," Dr Jülich says.
"A person under threat perceives kindness differently than a person who has not been threatened, as is the case for instance, in the cessation of violence experience by battered women. Emotional abuse or the threat of harm is a threat to physical survival. Adult survivors of child abuse often reported threats in various ways – physical, sexual, the withdrawal of love, and threats that people they loved, or their pets, might be harmed," she says.
Dr Jülich says Stockholm syndrome is a useful concept as it can provide an over-arching understanding of why victim-survivors of child sexual abuse act and respond as they do. Much research has been done on victimised groups such as concentration camp prisoners, cult members, incest victims and prisoners of war. In all groups, bonding between an offender and a victim occurred, when four conditions co-existed."
These conditions include:
Perceived threat to survival and the belief that one's captor is willing to execute that threat
The captive's perception of some small kindness from the captor within a context of terror
Isolation from perspectives other than those of the captor
Perceived inability to escape
"Advocates of Stockholm syndrome theory would argue that given these precursors Stockholm syndrome can develop. However, we argue that grooming can also facilitate the development of Stockholm syndrome," Dr Jülich says.
"While most of us don't think of children and young people as hostages, they can be victims and held captive in chronic abusive relationships. They are particularly vulnerable to the forces of Stockholm syndrome which can be understood as a survival technique for children in this situation. Victims of child sexual abuse are more likely to develop Stockholm syndrome."
Powerless to stop the abuse
Dr Jülich says victim-survivors in the research said they tried to stop the abuse but were unable to. "Other adults or bystanders who should or could have known what was happening did nothing. All too often when reports or disclosures were made, the abuse didn't stop. Some mothers were unable to protect their children because they were being subjected to abuse as well. This was interpreted by the victim-survivors as proof they were unable to escape."
Dr Jülich says the complex captive-captor relationship central to Stockholm syndrome could still be very strong, depending on where the victim-survivor is on their journey of recovery.
"The relationships do break down over time, but victim-survivors, when they are prepared to disclose, can appear to practitioners as ambivalent and even contradictory. They may tell their story then recant parts of it. It can be frustrating to work with victims of child abuse as they seem to change their minds often, and practitioners may start to doubt them.
"Those who work in the field of child sexual abuse, need to be mindful that support persons can be subjected to the same forces as the abused child was and that they too could be subjected to the influence of Stockholm syndrome and grooming."
Dr Eileen Oak, who carried out the research with Dr Jülich before leaving Massey University for a position at University College Dublin in Ireland, is concerned about the risks posed by instrumentalist approaches in child protection social work.
"This article was an attempt to redress this imbalance by identifying frameworks to conceptualise the types of behaviours social workers observe among survivors of child sexual abuse, in order to develop effective support strategies to inform social work practice," Dr Oak says.
Dr Jülich was one of the founding members of Project Restore, inspired by RESTORE, the research of Dr Jülich and counsellors from Auckland Sexual Abuse Help who help victims to experience justice in other ways, such as civil cases and face-to-face facilitated meetings.
Sex Abuse: Educate Your Child And Break The Taboo
by Ahad Abbasi
Child sexual abuse is one of the most difficult realities we face. No one wants to believe that anyone would do something that terrible to a child, so there's an unwillingness to recognise just how common this type of abuse is. In spite of our collective denial, we all may know a family where sexual abuse is taking place, may be familiar with a sexual predator, or almost certainly know an adult who was sexually abused as a child. The statistics are staggering: one in four girls and one in six boys will be victims of some type of sexual abuse or assault by the time they reach age 18.
According to a report compiled by a local NGO, the number of reported child sexual abuse cases in Pakistan has risen by 10 percent in the last year, with roughly 11 children abused every day. In our deeply conservative society talking about sex or harassment is a crime so who knows how many cases just go unreported. Also, the victims are mostly unwilling to speak out.
In 2015, Pakistan took a step towards punishing those guilty of abusing young girls with life imprisonment or even death after the National Assembly Standing Committee unanimously voted to amend current law but the problem with this amendment is that it only appears to address the sexual abuse of girls aged under 14 and not boys.
Child sex abuse is a widespread problem and there are many types of CSA before we go to the types, signs, how to protect them. Let's have a look into Top 5 countries with the highest rates of child sexual abuse.
Basing its research on official statistics and reports, International Business Times – UK looks into some of the countries with the highest rate of Child Sexual Abuse.
South Africa: One child is raped in South Africa every three minutes , according to a 2009 report by trade union Solidarity Helping Hand.
India: In 2007, Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) released a study report on child abuse. The report discusses incidence of child abuse nationwide. It is estimated that 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 including 65% school-going children have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence. In 2013 report “India's Hell Holes: Child Sexual Assault in Juvenile Justice Homes”, Asian Centre for Human Rights said that sexual offences against children in India have reached epidemic proportion. The report stated that more than 48,000 child rape cases were recorded from 2001 to 2011 and that India saw an increase of 336% of child rape cases from 2001 (2,113 cases) to 2011 (7,112 cases).
Zimbabwe: Child sexual abuse is on the rise in Zimbabwe. According to Zimbabwe Republic Police, more than 100 girls are sexually abused every day in Zimbabwe. It's evident from police investigations that relatives commit most juvenile rape cases.
United Kingdom: A quarter of a million Britons – more than one in every 200 adults – are pedophiles, according to figures released by Scotland Yard, the Telegraph reported in 2000. In 2012/13, there were 18,915 sexual crimes against children. In the UK, one in 20 children (4.8%) have experienced contact sexual abuse and over 90% of children who experienced sexual abuse, were abused by someone they know.
United States: “Even if the true prevalence of child sexual abuse is not known, most will agree that there will be 500,000 babies born in the US this year that will be sexually abused before they turn 18 if we do not prevent it,” according to the Children Assessment Centre (CAC).
The US Department of Health and Human Services' Children's Bureau report Child Maltreatment 2010 found that 16% of young people aged 14 to 17 had been sexually victimised in that year, and over the course of their lifetime, 28% of young people in the US, aged 14 to 17, had been sexually victimised.
“Adult retrospective studies show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18. This means there are more than 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the US,” said the CAC.
There are many types of child sexual abuse, from inappropriate touching, stroking, exposure to pornography, to full forced intercourse and sadistic acts. Victims may be infants as young as few month olds, although the average age of child sexual abuse victims is nine. Abuse may consist of a one-time incident or be ongoing perpetration which continues throughout childhood into teen years.
Mostly the cases of child sexual abuse that make the news are stories about strangers who kidnap children, abuse them for days and in most cases murder. Most child sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows could be Cousin, another relative, a family friend, a neighbour, a teacher in school, a religious teacher (Qari, Priest, Pundit, etc.). From upper to middle and lower-middle class, every socio-economic class, every ethnic community, and among all races no one is safe from child abuse problem. It's just that mostly families or individuals cannot open up for some obvious reasons.
Do you know why in majority of cases, parents don't report what has happened to their children or their children chose not to speak a word? As I mentioned it earlier, talking about sex or such things is taboo in our society.
As now we know how common child sexual abuse is, we need to educate our children and break this taboo. Unfortunately, each and every child in our society is at risk of sexual abuse now. If we hope that it turns out to be a false claim or we just deny and pretend that this can't happen to my child, it is not lowering the risk of your child being sexually abused. The reality of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is a little too ghastly but let's just face it today and better educate our children about it.
If we educate our children about sexual abuse it, may help keep him/her safe from it. When adults talk openly with children about sexual abuse and what to do if they are in a threatening situation, they give the child the permission to tell. Families can help by encouraging a loving environment where children are able to talk openly about their feelings and know they will be taken seriously. 7 out of 10 children sexually abused or harassed by someone they know and trust.
Watch out for warning signs:
Children display signs that “All is not well”.
Teach your children the warning signs of sexual abuse. Trust me it could be lifesaving; if you suspect your child is being harassed/abused talk to your children, listen to them with full attention, reassure them and report the incident as soon as you can. It should be the reality check for you as a parent that your child came to you and told you what's going on.
Now the question is how you can know if your child has been sexually abused.
Here are a few signs:
Behavioral signs : Shrinking away from or seeming threatened by physical contact, regressive behaviours like thumb sucking, changing hygiene routines such as refusing to bathe or bathing excessively, age-inappropriate sexual behaviours, sleep disturbances, or nightmares.
Verbal cues : Using words or phrases that are “too adult” for their age, unexplained silence, or suddenly being less talkative.
Physical signs : Bruising or swelling near the genital area, blood on sheets or undergarments.
(These signs and indications are prepared by professionals)
If you recognise any of the following TALK TO THEM, LISTEN TO THEM, REASSURE THEM & REPORT IT.
Reporting a child sexual abuse or child molestation crime is not easy, especially when you know that you are going to live in the same society that might laugh on you, criticise you; but always keep one thing in your mind that reporting abuse gives you the chance to protect someone who can't protect themselves. Teach your children to speak up. It's NOT your child's fault that he/she was abused sexually, so no shame in reporting it and putting offender behind bars.
CASA's new program combats child abuse and neglect
by Karaline Ann
MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KJCT) -- What would you do if you saw a child unattended or a parent losing their cool during their kid's tantrum?
There's a new push to help stop child abuse in the Grand Valley.
On Wednesday, some people in Grand Junction underwent a special training to learn what to do if you see a child in danger. It was put on by CASA's new initiative, Connecting For Kids.
Everyone has a different style when it comes to parenting.
"Whether it is protective or letting a child learn on their own," said Robert McCann, who attended the training.
The training aimed to teach when discipline crosses the line.
"How to safely intervene in different situations they may encounter in their community," said Lara Bruce, one of the program trainers.
Stepping into a situation can be pretty tricky.
"You want to let them know you're there to help and you're not trying to get too involved, just trying to relieve the tension that's there," said McCann.
It's a training on how to intervene in those sometimes awkward situations.
"Going and talking to the parent or how they would do things differently or empathizing with them, ‘Oh I've had small children and they've gotten into trouble this way before, I understand what you're going through.' Just to de-escalate the situation," said Bruce.
The seminar also touched on how to recognize signs of abuse. A child may be bruised or show signs like be withdrawn from a conversation.
Neglect is more common.
"Dirty, ragged clothes, you don't see a parent around, you see a child crying and nobody attending to the child,” said McCann.
The training talked about approaching a situation if you think a child is in serious danger. First, assess the situation, determine how the parent will react, and think of what you will say.
"Be kind is one of the biggest things, don't attack the parent on how their style of parenting is,” said McCann.
An easy way to intervene is to simply start a conversation.
"I've had kids that way, how old is she? Starting to engage them in conversation about the child maybe not the situation itself,” said Bruce.
CASA is trying to create an online training program because they know not everyone can attend an all-day seminar. The group will gather in a few weeks and talk about how they've implemented some training tools in the community.
Carl Perkins Center for Prevention of Child abuse opens up in Fayette County
by Tom Dees
FAYETTE COUNTY, Miss. - The new Carl Perkins Center For The Prevention Of Child Abuse has opened up in Fayette County.
Before the Center For The Prevention Of Child Abuse opened, children who were abuse victims had to be taken to a center in neighboring Hardemann County to be interviewed.
The thing about the Carl Perkins Center, it puts the child in a child friendly atmosphere to get them to open up about a traumatic experience
Somerville Police Chief David Webb spoke to FOX13 about the power of the center.
"If there was not a Carl Perkins Center, the child would have to meet with DCS and law enforcement. The child would have to be stuck with telling me their story as opposed to someone who is non law enforcement and non DCS. No one would be trained to interview children in a non threatening manner," Chief Webb said.
The center held its grand opening Monday. Even though its been open for a year, FOX13 found out it has helped 125 children and parents in child abuse cases.
"And there are so many more that we are not reaching. So many cases of abuse that are not making it to our court system," Coordinator Haley Duffy said.
Center Coordinator Haley Duffey shared that the Carl Perkins Center operates on donations only, and that the forensic interviews done here save children a lot of pain.
"Those answers are able to be held in court so the child does not have her repeat it repeatedly tell their story," Duffey said
The Carl Perkins Center in Fayette County is still looking for someone to sponsor their building. The centers are used in all West Tennessee child abuse investigations, except in Shelby County.
Follow these steps if your child is a possible victim of sexual abuse
by Christopher B. Dolan
This week's question comes from Shauna, who writes:
Q: “I am the mother of a 12-year-old little girl, who just completed her first year of middle school, and a 10-year-old boy. Recently, my daughter started waking up in the middle of the night, crying from nightmares. She also seemed to be more withdrawn and argumentative with the family. When it started, I thought perhaps it was because she was entering puberty. After three weeks of this behavior, and my husband and I not being able to figure out what was causing it, we took her to a counselor. After a month of counseling sessions, my daughter said that an adult had ‘touched her' and made her ‘feel dirty.' This has been, and continues to be, my family's worst nightmare. My child was in middle school and not involved in outside activities where she would be around adults unsupervised. The only babysitters I have allowed around her are my mother and mother-in-law. She doesn't even go to neighbors' houses to play. As a mom, I still follow my daughter into restrooms in public places. My husband and I believe this may have happened at the end of the school year, with a teacher or an adult on campus. However, she is not at a point in therapy where she wants to give many details about this at all. What do we do about reporting this and finding out some answers? I don't want her to hurt even more from this all.”
A: Shauna, I am very sorry for what is going on right now, as both an advocate and as a father of two children myself. You have taken the critical first step, which is getting your daughter to a safe, neutral party, where she can feel comfortable talking. As your family comes to understand what has occurred, having that environment for her and the rest of your family will be very important.
The next step is to contact your local police department and Child Protective Services. Both of these agencies are charged with investigating crimes and have specific units to investigate child sexual abuse. The criminal investigation into this sexual assault is separate from what can be done for your family through civil litigation to find answers.
If a person assaults a child, he or she can be sued in civil court for the damages the person caused. Unfortunately, most individuals that commit these crimes don't have assets to compensate the victims. Likewise, homeowner's and personal liability insurance don't typically cover these damages.
However, if a child is assaulted in the educational setting, the law requires the school to be held liable for the losses under certain situations. Because education is mandatory, the school your daughter attended has a very high duty of care in making sure she is properly supervised. As parents, we are entitled to have a safe and secure learning environment for our children. The school, as the employer of any staff, is also liable for acts of a teacher or other employee in the scope and course of his or her employment. However, the school must have known or had reason to know about the person's propensity to assault or harm children.
In the school abuse cases that we have handled, we often find that there were prior complaints against a teacher. Sometimes, the teacher is transferred from another school district, or other students complain that the teacher is too “touchy feely” with students.
There have also been instances where the school district investigated complaints, yet allowed the individual to return to the classroom despite evidence of misconduct. This type of paper-trail can demonstrate that the school had notice that the individual could hurt other students.
Because school districts are government entities, special rules apply in regard to commencing starting civil litigation. When suing a school district, you must serve a 910 Government Claim Form on the district, and certain rules must be followed to provide the district notice that you will file a civil case. The rules about serving this document, what must be included in this document, and when it must be filed, are very specific. I urge you to contact an attorney should the assault on your daughter be school related.
The school district will likely deny or fail to act upon the claim form. Then, you may proceed with your civil lawsuit. This, too, has stringent rules regarding time and service.
Civil litigation can be very difficult for young children who were abused. They have been traumatized and must relive this event through the pendency of the court case. In discussing your legal options in how to hold the wrongdoer accountable, Shauna, the attorney should always consider and place paramount your family and your daughter's emotional well-being.
Christopher B. Dolan is owner of the Dolan Law Firm. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Pa. Couple Sentenced for Letting 52-Year-Old Man Sexually Abuse Their Daughters
by Harriet Sokmensuer
The Pennsylvania parents who “gifted” their eldest of nine daughters to a man who then impregnated her — and raped five of the other girls, all of whom came to live with him with their parents' consent — were sentenced Wednesday to prison, PEOPLE confirms.
Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus received the maximum possible penalty for, in the words of the judge, making their children live like “sex slaves” of Lee Kaplan, a 52-year-old former business associate who authorities have said preyed upon the family and convinced them he was a prophet of God.
“For whatever sick purpose — whether or not you fell under the power in a trance-like state of Kaplan — you knowingly allowed your family, your children, your daughters to move into this person's home,” the judge told Daniel at the hearing, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“You exchanged a certain level of comfort for the intellectual, emotional and sexual well-being of your children,” the judge told Savilla. “You watched day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year as Mr. Kaplan took your daughters by the hand, led them into his bedroom [and] locked the door behind.”
Daniel was sentenced to three-and-a-half to seven years in state prison for conspiracy of statutory sexual assault and child endangerment, to which he had pleaded no contest. Savilla, who pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child, was sentenced to three to seven years in prison.
Both are mandated to undergo a mental health evaluation and therapy.
“I regret having to put my children through what they've been through this past year and wish to reunite with my children,” Daniel said in court Wednesday, according to the Inquirer , as Savilla told the judge she was “very, very lost” when she met Kaplan and asked his forgiveness for putting her kids at risk.
The judge's decision shocked Savilla and her attorney, Craig Penglase, who tells PEOPLE that he and the prosecution had asked for the judge to consider his client's cooperation throughout the investigation and trial.
“[When she was arrested,] the world didn't know what this case was. My client made the decision to come forward and expose the gravity of the case,” Penglase
Daniel and Savilla were arrested in June 2016 after their nine daughters were found living with Kaplan, then 51, in his Feasterville, Pennsylvania, home.
At the time of their arrest, the couple admitted they had “gifted” the eldest girl, then 14, to Kaplan to be his wife — years before their other daughters were discovered also living in Kaplan's home.
Shortly after authorities discovered the girls, officials revealed Savilla had also been living with her daughters along with Kaplan, having moved in with the other girls after her eldest daughter gave birth to her first child with Kaplan.
The eldest and Kaplan have two children together: a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old. In total, the girls in the home ranged in age from 3 months to 18 years old. (Authorities previously said Kaplan was found with 12 girls and now say it was 11.)
In the beginning, Savilla and her daughters did not want to share what had happened inside Kaplan's home, which prosecutors previously told PEOPLE was due to his brainwashing. However, Savilla later agreed to cooperate and convinced her daughters' to testify against Kaplan.
In June, a jury found Kaplan guilty on 17 criminal counts including rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and indecent assault.
Kaplan originally faced charges of statutory sexual assault, unlawful contact with a minor and aggravated indecent assault. But Penglase says that prosecutors were able to charge him with more sex crimes after Savilla convinced her daughters to share their stories.
After her eldest daughter gave birth to her first child, Savilla moved into Kaplan's home with the rest of her daughters. Soon, she testified, she too was sleeping with the man authorities described as a self-proclaimed prophet.
Savilla, a mother of 12 (including three sons), testified that despite knowing Kaplan was having sex with her daughters, she and Daniel thought they were doing what was best for the girls.
Savilla said that she and her six oldest daughters considered themselves to be Kaplan's “wives” and had dreams about Kaplan, which they took as a message from God.
During Kaplan's trial, Savilla and six of her daughters testified in court. Among those who spoke out was a 15-year-old girl who said she was 7 when she first had sex with Kaplan.
Matthew Weintraub, the district attorney in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, previously told PEOPLE that Kaplan used the family as “a virtual feeding ground of victims.”
After the sentencing Wednesday, Deputy District Attorney Kate Kohler said the sentences were just. “Daniel and Savilla both committed heinous acts against their children by allowing this to happen,” she told the Inquirer . “These children need time to heal and to learn in therapy about what's supposed to be happening in the real world.”
Prosecutors did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Daniel's attorney could not be reached.
Kaplan's sentencing is scheduled for later this year.
Special sites opening throughout city to provide support for at risk families with young children
by Shirley Chan
NEW YORK – The city plans to open centers designed to support at-risk families with young children, officials announced Thursday.
The Administration for Children`s Services is working to open Group Attachment Based Intervention (GABI) centers in every borough, ACS Commissioner David Hansell said. He announced the program with First Lady of New York City Chirlane McCray in Jamaica this afternoon.
GABI is a program of therapeutic intervention developed by Dr. Anne Murphy, Director of the Rose F. Kennedy Early Childhood Center at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. The program has only been at Montefiore for the last decade. Now, ACS will open GABI sites throughout the city.
“I met so many families who would say in our intake appointment ‘I just want to be a different kind of parent than the kind of parent I had growing up and I kept hearing this over and over and I thought what if we put all of these parents together who have this goal of creating a different kind of childhood for their children what if we bring them altogether, have part of the intervention be part of a two-hour session, have parent and child work together along with other parents who have had this same goal,” said Murphy.
Murphy says she's seen incredible results.
“What we found in our early results is what really has improved in the GABI group is maternal sensitivity has increased significantly as had the quality of the parent child relationship,” adds Murphy.
GABI provides support for at-risk families with children between 0-3 years old. Through GABI, parents gain support from clinicians and peers to help meet the emotional challenges presented by parenting young children. Many families who participate in GABI struggle with trauma that can negatively impact parent-child attachment. The parents are often survivors of upbringings involving tough issues like mental illness and domestic violence - GABI seeks to end the vicious cycle.
“GABI is what we call a two generation intervention. What we mean by that, is GABI both addresses parenting skills for parents, but also cognitive and emotional development for children at the same time,” said Commissioner Hansell.
“Zero to three, all the research tells us, is the most critical time," Hansell said. "It's the most critical time for brain development. It's the most critical time for emotional and intellectual development for children. The building blocks the children learn in those early years will then carry them successfully through the rest of their lives so we think it's most important to intervene early the first few years or life and GABI will help us do that."
McCray, who has made mental health accessibility a focus during her time as First Lady, feels GABI is the perfect addition to her THRIVENYC initiative.
“So many of us who have become parents have had traumatic experiences ourselves and may not be emotionally knowledgeable or equipped to understand the things to raise a healthy child and GABI is here for parents who may have mental illness in their family or have suffered from neglect or abuse or any kind of trauma,” said McCray.
ACS already offers a range of services for stressed-out parents. Over 20,000 families currently receive preventive services each year and these families will immediately be eligible for referral to the new Queens GABI center.
Two Bronx mothers who have been through GABI told PIX11 it's helped their families. We are not providing their last names to protect their privacy.
“Coming to the program was just what I needed, I didn't know what to do, I really felt overwhelmed,” said Tamika.
Tamika is a mom of four. Her youngest, Briya, is just 11 months old. Tamika suffered a breakdown when her fiancé died just weeks before their wedding. She sought help from GABI then and throughout the years. It's made her a better parent.
“I felt down and depressed so the program helped me just to express myself and be around other parents dealing with what I'm dealing with. It felt good to also be the support for other parents.They leaned on me and I leaned on them as well I learned from them as well as they learned from me. It's helpful, it's refreshing, it gives you hope and something to look forward to,” said Tamika.
Ricki, 22, has a strong bond with her 3-year-old son Richie, but that wasn't always the case.
“I had bad anxiety and my experience of what I been through when I was young it still kicked in because I really tried as hard as possible to make sure my son don't see half the things I went through,” said Ricki.
Ricki had a traumatic upbringing. She witnessed a relative die at the hands of violence.
“I learned how instead of yelling at my child, hitting my child because of things he's doing, I learned how to speak to my child and make him understand what you are doing wrong," Ricki said. "Come to this group get help, help yourself, help your kids, better yourself even if your kids are going through a lot, even if your kids are catching tantrums, come to this group."
The First Lady, a mother of two herself, wants city parents to know they're not alone and help is available.
“Being a parent is the most challenging job anyone can have and help Is there, help is available. I want parents to know about 1-888-NYC-WELL for anyone in mental distress,” said McCray.
“GABI is here for parents to figure out how to work through those complicated emotions that may prevent them from attaching to their child, from bonding to their child the way they want to. I always say it's easier to grow a healthy child than it is in mend a broken adult,” McCray added.
The Queens GABI site is located at 161-10 Jamaica Ave. in Jamaica. By Fall 2017, ACS will open a total of seven GABI locations citywide – two in the Bronx, two in Brooklyn, one in Queens, Staten Island and Manhattan. GABI will serve approximately 680 high-need and child welfare-involved families per year.
Child abuse increases with start of school, advocated needed
by the Athens Daily Review
Backpacks, pencils and notebooks are filling up the aisles in stores all over Texas, reminding us that a new school year is just around the corner. The beginning of the school year can be an exciting time for most children, but it can also lead to more reports of abuse and neglect as faculty, staff and other parents notice signs of maltreatment children may have endured during their time away.
In 2016, schools were the most common source of child abuse or neglect reports made to the Department of Family and Protective Services. Of the more than 293,000 reports, a significant increase from last year, a total of 56,980 allegations were from school officials.
“During the summer, it is likely that signs of abuse or neglect will go unnoticed due to fewer interactions with adults outside their family,” said Emily Heglund, executive director of CASA of Trinity Valley. “Fortunately, teachers and school officials are required to report any signs of abuse, so it is quite common for there to be a rise in reports when school starts again.”
The increase in DFPS reports during the new school year frequently leads to more children entering the overburdened child welfare system, creating an urgent need for more CASA volunteers to speak up for the best interests of these children.
Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers are everyday members of the community that are properly trained, and appointed by judges to advocate for children in court. Volunteers are selected to serve one child or sibling group, and tasked with evaluating their well-being by getting to know them, and speaking to any and all relevant contacts in their lives, in order to accurately assess their situation at their foster placement, at school and in other settings.
“In addition to the abuse or neglect they've already suffered, it is traumatizing for children to be placed in foster care, because they are taken away from their home, family, friends and everything they have ever known, due to no fault of their own,” said Heglund. “Our committed volunteers at CASA of Trinity Valley work hard to ensure that they provide a voice for them, and protect their best interests.”
CASA volunteers make an effort to form a relationship with these children individually, while gathering important information about their unique physical, emotional and educational needs. They communicate their recommendations to the court in an effort to help children move out of the temporary system, and into safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible.
CASA of Trinity Valley has served 503 children this year, but that means that there are still many children without a CASA volunteer to advocate for their needs, a number that is likely to grow as the school year begins.
“CASA of Trinity Valley urgently needs more advocates that can make a difference in the lives of these children, especially now that back-to-school season has begun,” said Heglund. “Become a volunteer to ensure that all children get the support they deserve, both in school and beyond, giving them a chance at a brighter future.”
For more information, visit CASAofTV.org or BecomeACASA.org. Training classes are conducted on a regular basis.
Community forum addresses signs, ways to talk about sexual abuse
by Jamie Anfenson-Comeau
More than 80 people attended a public town hall meeting to share information about child sexual abuse Tuesday evening in the wake of an indictment against a former Charles County Public Schools instructional aide.
On June 30, Carlos Bell, 30, of Waldorf was charged with second-degree assault and production of child pornography after law enforcement officials allegedly recovered images of Bell sexually assaulting children from his electronic devices. Bell is a former instructional aide at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School and track coach at La Plata High School, as well as coaching other community sports groups.
At least seven children have allegedly been victimized by Bell, according to the Charles County Sheriff's Office, which has said the investigation is ongoing.
Abena McAllister, founder of Women of Action Charles County, partnered with The Church @ St. Charles to hold a community town hall meeting with experts in detecting and preventing sexual exploitation of children.
“We thought it was important to do this because many of us are mothers, and as mothers, as parents, as a community, we need to have the tools to protect our children, and my goal is to ensure that everyone leaves more informed than when they came and equipped with the tools they need to ensure our kids are safe,” McAllister said.
Fred Caudle, pastor of The Church @ St. Charles, said he was horrified and sickened when he learned of the abuse allegations.
“When the news first broke of this, we were concerned as a church, my heart was broken as a pastor, and one of our first reactions was to want to bring the community together, not necessarily to talk about the past and what ‘could have' or ‘should have' without all the information available, but how are we going to go forward in our community, together?” Caudle said.
Kim Cook, a faith-based counselor with Ashton-based CentrePointe Counseling Inc., said children may have questions about the accusations and what happened, and it is important to give them a space to ask those questions.
“The children have questions, and we may not have the answers yet, and it's OK to say you don't know,” Cook said. “Give them the chance to ask questions, the space where they're free to ask questions, where questions are welcomed, and at the same time try not to give easy, pat answers.”
Dianna Abney, health officer for the Charles County Department of Health, said it is important to give accurate, age appropriate information to children, and not hide behind colorful euphemisms.
“Use proper names for proper parts,” Abney said. “You shouldn't call it a cookie or a purse or a talleywacker or any other name to call it … it's confusing for them, and that can cause problems.”
Abney said that if a parent is uncomfortable talking with their children about such matters, ask a professional.
“Keep with your personal beliefs, your morals, but answer things in age-appropriate, true sentences,” Abney said. “If you're uncomfortable, talk to your pediatrician, or family practitioner; we'll take it from there. We'll talk to them about it for you, with you in the room so we can help you feel confident talking in these situations.”
Catherine Meyers, executive director of the Center for Children in La Plata, said it is very rarely a stranger who sexually assaults a child, and that sexual predators spend a lot of time gaining the trust of children, their families, their school and their community prior to any assault.
“They are the people who are the most helpful, the nicest people, the best babysitters. They are so good with children that we think it's safe to leave our children with them,” Meyers said. “It's not always the person you think it is, it may be the person you would never, ever, ever expect.”
Meyers said parents should try to be involved when their child takes part in sports or other after school activities.
“If you're getting a lot of requests for your child to stay after school for special time, or extra coaching after sports practices, extra time at the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, church group, pay attention to that,” Meyers said.
Meyers said the Center for Children will be providing training for every employee of Charles County Public Schools.
Wanda Collins, in-home services administrator for the Charles County Department of Social Services, said the most important thing a parent can do is communicate with their child, not just when they suspect something is wrong, but all the time.
“Your ability to communicate with your children is key, and how they can feel that they can trust those that are identified as trusted individuals, become key in terms of us finding out about abuse or neglect,” Collins said.
Most kidnapped children are taken by a parent. That doesn't mean they're safe
by Jane K. Stoever
When my client told me her abusive ex-boyfriend had shown up after a long absence, beaten her and kidnapped their children, I assumed the police would respond quickly and issue Amber alerts. But a D.C. police officer refused even to write a report, dismissing the complaint as a “private family matter” and opining, “What safer place for the children than with their dad?”
We were met with similar indifference from the child-abduction unit supervisor, who pondered, “Isn't possession nine-tenths of the law?” (No, it's not.)
The reaction of the judge in the family court's domestic violence unit was equally alarming. She incorrectly questioned whether she had jurisdiction, now that the children were several states away. And when she learned that my client had declined her ex-boyfriend's marriage proposal, and that he'd texted that if she wanted to see their children again she would agree to marry him, the judge said, “Aw, it sounds like he's just heartbroken.”
Eventually, persuaded by my clinical law student's recitation of the applicable law and by my client's visible bruises, the judge entered a temporary protection order that awarded my client custody of the children. After several days on the road, the ex-boyfriend said he would return with the children if my client would not pursue criminal charges for abduction. She desperately wanted her children back home with her and readily agreed.
I was relieved — but also disheartened that the justice system seemed to care so little about the plight of these children who had been abducted by their abusive, estranged father.
(Asked by The Washington Post this past week about parental abductions, a D.C. police spokeswoman said that the department “treats each missing persons case with seriousness and utmost zeal. We use the press, social media and a variety of other avenues to locate missing children as quickly as possible.”)
On the other side of the country, when I began representing abuse survivors in California five years ago, I saw the same state refusal to respond to abductions committed by abusive parents. One client found our domestic violence law clinic after her abuser reported her to immigration authorities, fled with their infant and went to extreme lengths to hide. His actions violated multiple laws. Moreover, we had serious concerns about the baby's safety — our client had been granted a domestic violence green card because of the life-threatening abuse she experienced from this man. Yet several police departments refused to take a police report on the kidnapping, even when presented with evidence of the man's domestic violence convictions. I had to read aloud to a police chief the criminal-code section detailing how taking, withholding or concealing a child from someone who has a lawful right to the child is the definition of child abduction. Even with a police report, though, the district attorney's office did not act.
The case haunted my students in the legal clinic, my co-teacher and me. “Have you found my baby yet?” our client asked every time we spoke with her. And so we continued to search for possible leads, hired private investigators, hung “missing child” posters throughout the region and engaged in a media campaign that, one year after the baby went missing, proved key to recovering her.
Our society fixates on “stranger danger.” Popular media portrays abductors as pedophiles, serial killers and other strangers who prey on children. Parental and societal fears are fueled by the well-known murders of Danielle van Dam, Adam Walsh, Polly Klaas, Samantha Runnion and Carlie Brucia, and the stories of Elizabeth Smart, Erica Pratt and Jaycee Dugard, who lived to tell of their kidnappings.
But contrary to the dominant narrative, nearly all child abductions are perpetrated by family members. Stranger abductions — certainly alarming and tragic — actually occur with “lightning-strike rarity,” as a report in the journal Criminal Justice Studies put it, in contrast to the more than 200,000 parental abductions committed each year that meet the criminal criteria and are not merely delayed visitations or misunderstandings.
That might seem reassuring, but it shouldn't be. Abduction by a parent can pose significant risk to a child's safety and well-being. And for the domestic violence survivor whose child is abducted, this is the ultimate form of abuse.
Parental abduction frequently is part of a larger dynamic of domestic violence. Most left-behind parents report that the abductor physically abused them, threatened their lives and threatened to kidnap the child before doing so. Particularly when the victimized parent seeks to end the relationship, abusive partners commit abduction as a way to exert control, fulfill a quest for revenge or hurt them. And it works. Left-behind victims report that the trauma of losing their children far exceeds any physical, sexual or mental abuse they experienced during the relationship.
Abusive abductors may also be motivated by a fear of losing custody or a desire to gain custody of a child. Because such scenarios are common, and parental abductions occur in families in discord, police often dismiss complaints as messy family situations, assume complainants are overreacting or think that parents are embellishing reports of parental abduction to further their own custody claims.
Domestic violence is also a motivating factor in a smaller number of abduction cases in which an abused parent seeks to safeguard a child from harm. Abuse survivors who flee with their children tend to do so when the courts and law enforcement have failed to provide needed protection.
As with stranger abduction, children kidnapped by their parents are often traumatized and harmed. Unsurprisingly, these children face greater physical danger when the abducting parent has a history of perpetrating domestic violence. A Justice Department study concluded that one-third of children abducted by a parent suffer serious sexual, physical or mental harm, with many more children experiencing other emotional and physical trauma. The abducting parent's deception, which may involve adopting a fugitive lifestyle, creates its own set of problems. Children may be pulled out of school, denied medical attention, coached to lie and warned away from making friends. While some abducting parents return children on their own and some left-behind parents succeed in their self-initiated efforts, 20 percent of abducted children remain missing for more than a month, and some are never recovered.
These kidnappings can end tragically. In one prominent case, Simon Gonzales violated a restraining order and abducted his three daughters in Colorado in 1999. Their mother sought help from police seven times on the phone and twice in person in the hours that followed, but she was rebuffed with comments such as, “At least you know the children are with their father.” Gonzales went to a police station that night and opened fire. After a shootout, police found the bodies of the three girls inside his truck.
Despite the harms of parental abduction, and state and federal laws prohibiting parental kidnapping and custodial interference, these crimes are not typically viewed as requiring legal intervention. Police response and prosecution are rare.
The Justice Department reports that although an estimated 155,800 children are victims of “serious” parental abductions each year, only 30,500 police reports are officially registered, 9,200 cases are officially opened in prosecutors' offices, an estimated 4,500 arrests for parental abduction are made, and 3,500 criminal complaints are filed. In a national survey of law enforcement offices, about half of the 17,000 responding offices said they always refuse to take a missing-child report for a parentally abducted child, instead viewing it as a private family issue or a matter for family court.
The failure to initiate investigations, take reports or obtain photographs is contrary to national guidelines recommending that police be immediately dispatched in response to all complaints of missing or abducted children. Police often instead misinform parents that the child has to be taken across state lines or be missing for a specified period of time before they can respond. Parental abductions most often occur during scheduled visitation with the non-custodial parent, so police instruct the left-behind parent to wait, presuming the issue will resolve itself. However, the first few hours are crucial for locating an abducted child, and any delay favors abductors.
The reluctance to intervene does not reflect legal gray areas. Although the 1932 Federal Kidnapping Act, which made abduction a federal offense, excluded parental abduction based on the presumption that parents always act out of concern for their children, numerous federal and state laws now address parental abduction. For instance, the 1990 National Child Search and Assistance Act prohibits law enforcement agencies from creating waiting periods before accepting a missing-child report, regardless of custody status. Congress went further with the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act of 1993 and the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2006. Current laws could be improved — especially at the state level, where some states require preexisting custody orders to act and others lack family violence defenses — but the failure to implement and enforce existing laws is the first hurdle.
So how can the failure of legal authorities to respond to parental abduction be explained? Although domestic violence is increasingly recognized as a serious crime, we still tend to be socialized to believe that danger lurks outside the home and that harm doesn't often occur within a family. Violent crimes committed by strangers garner significantly more resources and attention, and are more likely to lead to arrests and prosecution, than identical crimes committed against family members or intimate partners.
At the same time, our society longs for parental engagement, especially by fathers. Judges tend to reward fathers who demonstrate interest in custody of their children — overlooking histories of domestic abuse.
Gendered and racialized intervention practices are also telling. The majority of parents who abduct their children, including abusive abductors, are white men. Yet women are more likely than men to be convicted and incarcerated for abduction-related offenses, even when they are fleeing to protect their children from family violence. Studies show that police and courts trivialize and distrust legal complaints from women but don't apply the same skepticism to complaints from men.
And beyond the context of parental abduction, the state has shown itself to be more comfortable targeting, regulating and punitively intruding on families of color, especially poor ones, than it appears to be with white families. For example, poor parents of color are disproportionately incarcerated for not paying child support, which is pitched as a crime against the state. Low-income women of color who experience abuse are often charged with neglect for exposing their children to domestic violence or for living in conditions of poverty. Officials also increasingly arrest and prosecute abuse survivors who inflict defensive wounds, and they incarcerate victims who refuse to testify against their abusers.
Although state intervention is unwarranted and unwanted in some family matters, it is desperately needed to prevent and respond to abusive abductors.
Because histories of violence and kidnapping threats commonly precede parental abduction, family court judges could issue more restrictive visitation or custody orders to prevent kidnappings. Law enforcement, prosecutors and judges also need training on the many laws that facilitate abduction investigations, authorize protective court orders, and enforce and prosecute custodial interference or child abduction. And they need to be able to distinguish between the very different motives and situations of abusive abductors and survivor abductors. Exemptions or affirmative defenses for family violence victims also need to be available and used.
I woke up on Thursday to an email from a fellow West Coast lawyer who represents abuse survivors, seeking help recovering a child who was abducted by an abusive parent to the Midwest. The parent had fled their state with the child in violation of a domestic violence protection order, but, still, law enforcement officials refused to intervene because the child was with a parent.
These children, and the left-behind parents who desperately ask, “Have you found my baby yet?,” deserve the help of our justice system.
Reality of Rape
Sexual assault decreasing but still underreported
by Eve Guevara
VALDOSTA — According to statistics gathered from the U.S. Department of Justice, incidents of sexual violence have fallen nationally by more than half in the past 23 years.
The rate of sexual assault and rape has decreased from 4.3 assaults per 1,000 people in 1993 to 1.6 per 1,000 in 2015.
Across the nation, it is estimated that someone in the United States is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds.
But just how big is the problem in Georgia and North Florida?
Mary Martinez, executive director of The Lily Pad Center in Albany, said her organization has tracked data since 2008.
“The number has been consistent on a yearly basis,” she said. “I don't think we can ever say 100 percent if there is an increase or decrease.”
The SunLight Project team in Georgia and North Florida took a look in the coverage area — Valdosta, Dalton, Thomasville, Milledgeville, Tifton and Moultrie, Ga., and Live Oak, Jasper and Mayo, Fla. — to see how the region stacks up to the national trends.
How is sexual assault defined?
According to the Georgia code of statutes, sexual assault means rape, aggravated sodomy, statutory rape, aggravated child molestation, sexual assault against a person detained in a hospital or other institution, sexual assault by a practitioner of psychotherapy against a patient, incest, bestiality, sexual battery and aggravated sexual battery.
The U.S. Department of Justice defines rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
Georgia has a much narrower definition of the crime. According to Georgia statute 16-6-1, “A person commits the offense of rape when he has carnal knowledge, carnal knowledge being defined as any penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ, of either a female forcibly and against her will or a female who is less than 10 years of age.”
Rape is not the only sexual assault crime one can commit in Georgia.
Aggravated sodomy is “when he or she commits sodomy with force and against the will of the other person or when he or she commits sodomy with a person who is less than ten years of age.”
Child molestation falls under the umbrella of sexual assault as well. It is defined as “any immoral or indecent act to or in the presence of or with any child under the age of 16 years.” In Georgia, child molestation includes sharing pictures or videos of those aforementioned immoral or indecent acts.
Georgia law states “a person commits the offense of sexual battery when he or she intentionally makes physical contact with the primary genital area, anus, groin, inner thigh or buttocks of a male or female and the breasts of a female without the consent of that person."
Sexual battery is a misdemeanor offense unless it is against a person under the age of 16 or a second or subsequent conviction, in which case it is a felony.
“A person commits the offense of aggravated sexual battery when he or she intentionally penetrates with a foreign object the sexual organ or anus of another person without the consent of that person,” according to Georgia law.
Who are the victims?
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, there are on average 321,200 victims age 12 and older of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States.
The majority, approximately 54 percent, are between the ages of 18 and 34. While women and girls are more likely to experience sexual violence — approximately one out of every six — it is estimated that one out of every 10 rape victims are male.
LGBTQ people are at a higher risk for sexual violence.
Approximately 175,000 of the reported rape victims are white, with nearly 50,000 victims being Hispanic and approximately 25,000 reporting victims being black.
For children under the age of 12, an estimated 63,000 a year are the victims of sexual abuse.
Who are the perpetrators?
According to RAINN, the majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone known to the victim.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, in eight out of 10 rape cases, the female victim knew the person who assaulted her. For adult victims, 45 percent of rapes are committed by an acquaintance, 25 percent by a spouse or significant other and 28 percent by a stranger.
Child victims are a little different. Ninety-seven percent of all juvenile victims know their attacker. Out of reported juvenile sexual abuse cases, 59 percent were committed by acquaintances and 34 percent were committed by family members.
The majority of the offenders are white males (57 percent) over the age of 30 (50 percent).
According to data gathered from around South Georgia and North Florida, both states fall in line with national trends.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime statistics only go through 2015.
During that year, there were 2,222 rapes reported with 325 arrests.
In 2015, there were 28 people age 16 and younger who were arrested for forcible rape, 57 people aged 17-21, 79 aged 22-29, 71 aged 30-39, 51 aged 40-49 and 39 aged 50 plus.
Three-hundred-nineteen were male and six were female, while 124 were listed as white and 201 as non-white.
In 2015, there were 65,487 reported family violence incidents, with 441 of those being logged as sexual abuse.
How do Georgia and Florida measure up?
A total of 134 sex offenses were reported for 2016 between the Thomas County Sheriff's Office and the Thomasville Police Department.
Of the 134 incidents, six rapes were reported to the Thomas County Sheriff's Office and seven were reported to the Thomasville City Police.
Thomasville Police Chief Troy Rich said each of the seven reported rapes was investigated.
"They were all unfounded," Rich said.
"Rape cases are difficult, they really are," said Thomas County Sheriff's Office's Kevin Dennis, lead investigator for special victims, adding he believes a great number of rape incidents go unreported.
Crystal Parker, who investigates sex crimes for the Thomasville Police Department, said the bulk of sex offenses reported and investigated by the TPD include rape, statutory rape, child molestation and aggravated child molestation.
"Those are the ones that we deal with the most," Parker said.
Parker also noted the majority of sex crimes are not committed by a stranger but instead by an acquaintance or a family member.
Treehouse Advocacy Center Executive Director Jackla Lawson said a total of 165 forensic interviews were conducted at the Treehouse. So far for 2017, 88 forensic interviews have been conducted.
The Treehouse works with children and adults who have experienced sexual assault, physical and/or sexual abuse.
"Ninety percent of our caseload is children," Lawson said, noting 85 percent of that is sexual abuse allegations.
In Suwannee County, Fla., there were 15 total forcible sex offenses reported in 2016, which accounted for a forcible sex offense rate of 33.8 per 100,000 population.
Additionally, there were six total domestic-violence-related forcible sex offenses reported for 2016.
Three people were arrested for forcible rape in 2016 and three were arrested for non-forcible sex offenses. All six were males.
There was one male juvenile arrested for non-forcible sex offenses.
In Hamilton County, Fla., there were six total forcible sex offenses reported.
Additionally there was one domestic violence related forcible sex offense reported for 2016.
One male adult was arrested for forcible rape and two adult males were arrested for non-forcible sex offenses.
One male juvenile was arrested for non-forcible sex offenses in 2016.
Another Way Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center offers counseling, support and safe shelter to survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Another Way serves Lafayette, Hamilton, Suwannee, Columbia, Dixie, Levy and Gilchrist counties.
Andrea Gottry, executive director of Another Way, said from January to July, there have been 19 victims that Another Way has helped in its seven counties.
Angela Evans, Another Way's sexual violence outreach coordinator, said 51 percent of female victims are raped by an intimate partner.
Monya Engles, Another Way program director, said the 18-33 age range has the highest number of incidents in the North Florida area. She added the 46-64 age range has had a few victims.
Engles said it is statistically proven that a woman's chances of becoming a victim of sexual assault doubles while on a college campus.
Engles said 27 percent of women at college experience some sort of sexual assault.
Valdosta Police Investigations Cmdr. Leslie Manahan reports 13 rape cases were worked in 2016 in Valdosta, and for 2017, the department is at eight. The typical age range is 18-23.
Fourteen sexual assaults were reported to the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office in 2016, including three that remain under investigation and only one that was cleared by arrest. Eleven were exceptionally cleared, meaning there was insufficient evidence to prove a crime was committed. The three cases that remain under investigation are all rapes.
The victims there were all females. One was 14, one was 16 and one was 28. In all three cases, the victim knew the attacker; two of the perpetrators were family friends and one was an uncle. The attackers were between 20 and 30 years of age.
The Milledgeville Police Department investigated three rapes and one sexual assault in 2016. Three victims were white and one was black, with one being 19, one being 23, one being 50, and one being 60 at the time of the attacks.
Two rapes happened in the victims' homes and one happened at a party at the home of an acquaintance, while the sexual assault occurred just outside the victim's home. All of the victims knew their attackers at least somewhat personally, and all were female.
The Dalton Police Department had a total of 50 sexual assault reports for 2016 with 54 victims.
There were 17 rapes reported, five forced sexual assaults, two aggravated sodomy and 25 other sexual assaults reported. Forty of the victims were listed as white. Eight were Latino, four were black and two were unspecified. Forty-seven were female, six were male and one was unspecified. Four victims were younger than the age of 12, nine were aged 12 to 16, 11 were aged 18-21, 29 were aged 22-55 and one was older than the age of 55.
Whitfield County had 32 reported rapes for 2015. The county government would not provide other data without a formal open records request and a fee.
Tift County had 12 reported rapes in 2015.
Mary Martinez, the executive director for The Lily Pad Center in Albany, said the facility serves 24 counties, including Tift County.
In 2016, the center saw more than 300 children for forensic interviews after a reported sexual assault. It conducted more than 130 sexual assault exams on children and more than 65 on adults.
In June, Martinez said there were 15 sexual assaults reported. Twelve of the reports involved child victims. Of the three adults, one was male.
Martinez said more than half of the children helped by the center were abused by a direct family member or caregiver.
“Ninety percent of those who are abused know their abusers,” Martinez said. “This is someone their family trusts or is a family member.”
In Colquitt County, there were 27 sexual assaults reported with a total of 33 victims. Sixteen of those involved children younger than the age of 16.
The ages of the children range from 3 to 15.
In the cases where gender was reported, 23 of the victims were female and four were male.
In Moultrie, there were 15 cases reported for 2016, and all of the victims were female.
Colquitt County fits in with the national trend for juvenile sexual assault cases.
A common thread running through cases where the victims are underage is that the alleged offender is a relative.
Among sexual assaults and child molestation investigations, the suspect is a relative in 11 instances. Of those, five were identified as the father of the victim, two as uncle, and one each as grandfather and brother-in-law. Other suspects included current and ex-companions and friends of the family and/or victim.
Twenty-two victims were listed as white. All of those were female, with the exception of two males who reported sexual assaults in Colquitt County Jail. Another five were black, two of whom were males ages 3 and 6, and another six were Latino.
Look for the second part of the SunLight Project Report in Tuesday, July 25, editions.
The SunLight Project team of journalists who contributed to this report includes Jordan Barela, Charles Oliver, Will Woolever, Alan Mauldin, Desiree Carver, Jessie Box and writer Eve Guevara. John Stephen leads the SunLight team. To contact the team, email email@example.com
The first part of the SunLight Project report was published in Sunday, July 23, editions. The report looks at rape and sexual assault in the SunLight Project area of Valdosta, Dalton, Thomasville, Milledgeville, Tifton and Moultrie, Ga., and Live Oak, Jasper and Mayo, Fla.
Can the actual number of victims be accurately reported?
One thing that anyone who works with victims of sexual assault is quick to point out is that the vast majority of sexual assaults are not reported.
It is estimated that two out of three sexual assaults go unreported to law enforcement.
“To look at the statistics, it doesn't look like there is a lot going on but there is,” said Andrea Gottry, executive director of Another Way.
“Take the statistics for what they are,” Gottry said.
Gottry said the statistics from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement regarding rape are not fair statistics because it only includes reported cases. The aftermath of a sexual offense varies, said Crystal Parker, who investigates sex crimes for the Thomasville Police Department.
"It differs from person to person," she said. "Some wait years, some have immediate outcry."
Although the Valdosta Police Department has a 75 percent clearance rate for rape cases in Valdosta, there are still numerous assaults that go unreported.
“I think it's just hard,” said Valdosta Police Cmdr. Leslie Manahan, who oversees investigations. “It takes a strong person to get up and report it. I can't imagine reliving it. A lot of women wait because at the time they may have been intoxicated and underage. We don't care. That doesn't matter to us. A victim is a victim.”
Mary Martinez, executive director of The Lily Pad Advocacy Center in Albany, said 80 percent of the children who experience sexual abuse never tell anyone about it.
“We live in the South,” she said. “We raise our boys to be tough and that doesn't give them the option to report.”
She said because many children are abused by people they are supposed to be able to trust, or who are trusted by their families, it's “very hard for kids to come out and say this person hurt my body.”
For adults, reporting a sexual assault depends on the age.
“What we have found lately is that most of the ones who don't want to tell are young women, college kids, who are just starting out in their careers,” Martinez said.
She described one victim as a young woman who was sexually assaulted by a co-worker at her first job out of college.
“She doesn't want to report because she doesn't want to lose her job,” Martinez said.
Why do sexual assaults go unreported?
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network estimates that out of every three rapes, two go unreported to law enforcement.
For college-aged individuals, only 20 percent of female students and 32 percent of female non-students report. Twenty-eight percent of elderly victims report sexual assaults. For members of the military, 43 percent of female victims and 10 percent of male victims report.
There are various reasons why victims don't report.
According to RAINN, 15 percent believe law enforcement either could not or would not do anything to help. Twenty percent feared retaliation of some kind.
“It's hard for victims to see perpetrators get away with it and people in high positions of power talk about their ability to use and abuse women without repercussions,” Martinez said.
She referred to the recent case out of California where Stanford student Brock Turner was convicted of sexually assaulting a female but only received a six-month sentence.
And that was a case that went to trial with a conviction.
Out of 1,000 rapes, RAINN estimates that 994 perpetrators will walk free.
“Twenty years ago, you would see a person get arrested for child molestation and think that they were going to do some lengthy prison time … Sadly, we're not seeing those lengthy prison sentences statewide anymore, and especially not with sex crimes,” said Detective Haley Beckham, a member of the Georgia Sex Offender Registry Task Force.
Another issue, Martinez said, is trials take a long time.
“There is a large discrepancy between the amount of reports and the amount of arrests,” she said. “Trials take a long time. We still have incidents from 2012 that haven't gone to trial yet. Many victims just want it to be over.”
Martinez said juries are prey to what she calls the “CSI effect.”
Jurors expect clear DNA evidence that leads directly from the victim to the perpetrator.
“That's just not real life,” she said, but it makes obtaining a conviction difficult.
What comes after the assault?
For people who have been sexually assaulted, it can be confusing to know what the next course of action should be.
Valdosta Police Cmdr. Manahan said there are options as to how the report can be done. If medical assistance is needed, the victim can immediately go to the hospital and staff will alert local authorities, or contact 911 and have an officer sent to the location.
“Our officers speak with the victim and find out basic facts,” Manahan said. “We find out facts so the victim doesn't have to relive the crime over and notify the detective that responds out.”
Arrangements are made to transport the victim either to the hospital or The Haven, a 24-hour temporary shelter in Valdosta for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
Dr. Tricia Hale, Valdosta State University Counseling Center director, echoed the VPD about how college students should handle an assault, stating the incident can be reported to campus police and similar protocols will be followed.
Assaults should be reported immediately as the first 120 hours are crucial.
“The sooner the better,” Manahan said of reports. “That time period is crucial in collecting evidence. The victim should try to not use the restroom or shower. We will also need all clothing and bedding.”
Reports can be filed anonymously as Jane Doe, with evidence collected at the time of assault. It's then held for a year should the woman decide to press charges during that time.
Capt. Chris Crossen with Dalton Police Department advises those who have been sexually assaulted to report it as quickly as possible.
"All too often, we get these reports four or five days after it happened," Crossen said. "And again, I don't want this to seem like I'm blaming the victim. I understand they have been traumatized. But forensically, the greater the delay, the less there is for us to work with.
"Do your best to be aware of where you are, how you got to be there. A good description is a good starting point, and if I have a good starting point, the more likely I am to get on track quickly. If you can leave something of yours behind, and you can tell me where it is, that's going to be good, too."
Angela Evans, Another Way's sexual violence outreach coordinator, said when a victim comes into the office the first step is to make the person comfortable and assess the needs.
“We encourage them to report, but we do not force them to,” Evans said. “The biggest thing is to give them options and explain what each option entails.”
“We want to make it as easy as possible to make the right decision for them,” said Monya Engles, Another Way program director.
A rape charge, if it results in a guilty verdict by a jury or a guilty plea, carries a minimum of 25 years to life in prison, Thomas County Sheriff's Office's Kevin Dennis said.
According to Parker, there are multiple steps prior to a trial.
"The obvious thing is they're arrested," she said.
Parker said there is a series of court proceedings the assailant goes through prior to a trial.
"It's a lot of court time," Parker said.
Both Dennis and Parker stressed the importance of the victim's peace of mind.
"It's important we do everything that we can to make that victim comfortable," Dennis said.
Parker said her method in working with sexual-assault victims is to be as patient and open as possible "so they can trust what they say is meaning something."
"For this specialty type of crime, it takes a special type of training," Jones said.
An investigator of sex crimes for two years, Parker addressed the hardest aspect of investigating sexual offenses.
"As cops, we try to compartmentalize things," Parker said. "You just try not to bring it home with you at the end of the day."
The 2013 Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act made it easier to get a “Jane Doe” rape kit.
As of July 2016, by law, victims of sexual assault have the right to a free forensic medical examination without having to report it to law enforcement.
Victims 17 or younger are exceptions to the protocol.
The physical evidence will be held for at least one year while the victim decides if she wants to report the crime to law enforcement or not. After 12 months, the physical evidence may be legally destroyed.
Having the option to get medical attention without mandatory reporting to law enforcement has helped, Martinez said. Victims get medical treatment and have access to testing for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, as well as counseling.
The Treehouse Advocacy Center in Thomasville also interviews rape victims.
While the Treehouse's clientele is primarily children, adult sexual assault victims are interviewed by facility staff.
"That utilizes a lot of the same resources," said Jackla Lawson, Treehouse Advocacy Center executive director.
The Treehouse is able to produce a sexual assault kit for rape incidents, Lawson said. Whether interviewing a child or adult, Lawson stressed the importance of the forensic interview and the Treehouse overall.
"We know that we have a purpose in finding out if they are safe and that is our main job," Lawson said. "We want to make sure that they have the opportunity to talk to someone if they are not feeling safe."
RAINN estimated 94 percent of women who are raped experience post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms during the two weeks after the incident, with 30 percent reporting PTSD symptoms nine months after.
Victims are at risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
There are avenues that allow victims to get the help they need after an assault.
The first thing to do is to get to a safe place.
It may be a hospital, a rape crisis center or a law-enforcement office. Obtaining medical attention is important, even if there are no visible injuries. It is also recommended that victims get a rape kit, or forensic medical exam, done.
While the process is time consuming and can be invasive, it is vital to collect as much evidence as possible and to ensure the victim is all right. If the victim is younger than the age of consent, it is mandatory to report any sexual assault to law enforcement.
Adult victims can choose not to report. Any physical evidence is kept for at least 12 months after it is collected and victims can decide what they want to do during that time.
While the legal definition of consent varies from state to state, in real life, consent is agreeing to engage in sexual activity each and every time.
The state of Georgia does not define consent in reference to sexual activity. However, consent has been interpreted as the permission of a person who is capable of giving such permission.
People younger than the age of 16 in Georgia are legally incapable of giving consent and any sexual activity with them is considered sexual assault.
Florida defines consent as intelligent, knowing and voluntary consent and does not include coerced submission.
In Florida, anyone who is mentally defective or incapacitated, either permanently due to a disease or defect or temporarily due to the influence of a narcotic, anesthetic or intoxicating substance is legally incapable of giving consent. Anyone who is physically helpless, such as being unconscious, asleep or otherwise physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act is legally incapable of giving consent.
A victim who has been coerced into submission by the use of or threat of violence or threats of retaliation is legally incapable of giving consent.
The age of consent in Florida is 18. Anyone younger is legally incapable of giving consent and any type of sexual activity with them is considered sexual assault.
Giving consent for one activity at one time does not give blanket consent to continued sexual contact.
One common example is giving someone permission to borrow your car. Just because someone gives a person permission to borrow a car one time does not mean the person can borrow the car any time he feels like it.
Consent can be withdrawn any time as well.
“The second 'no' or 'stop' is mentioned, it is rape,” Manahan said.
So, what's the solution?
Gottry said if society was more open about sexual violence, victims may be more willing to talk about it.
Martinez said that people talking about it and being open about it makes it easier for victims to report.
“They're more comfortable and they feel more people will believe them,” she said.
Gottry said law enforcement is actually begging Another Way to get into the schools as early as the elementary level to teach safe touch.
Martinez agreed with the importance of starting young.
“Teaching body safety starts at home. The best way to prevent sexual assault is to talk to your children. If they tell you something, believe them. Have an open discussion about their body and the correct names for body parts.
“It isn't a one time discussion, it takes a constant dialogue,” she said.
For adults, Martinez said it is important to report.
“If someone has done it once, they've probably done it multiple times."
Both males and females should take action to prevent assaults.
“When out, be with friends. Do not let someone walk off with someone they don't know,” Manahan said. “If you see a female that is intoxicated, don't let her wander off. Call the police if need be and we can always give people a ride.”
As for what constitutes an assault, it's simple: No means no, experts agreed.
“You rarely have witnesses to rape and it can be a 'he said, she said,'” Manahan said. “We do see some reports out of spite and for true victims that is a horrible thing to go through.”
“I'd say that with a lot of these offenders, for the public, knowing who your neighbors are is important,” Detective Beckham with the Georgia Sex Offender Registry Task Force said. “Sex offenders might give me an address but then they'll end up finding someone special in their life, and it's usually that person that they end up living with. I might not know that information, because if (an offender) is on probation or parole, that gives them all the reason in the world to try and conceal their whereabouts — not because of the (sex offender) registry per se but because they know they're not supposed to be around kids, they know they're not supposed to be within 1,000 feet of child care or a church, and because they know that, they want to conceal that. If people have a person in their neighborhood who they're suspicious of, they need to call me and they need to report that.”
“Be aware of your surroundings. Know who you are with. And if someone or some situation makes you nervous, there may be a reason for it, even if you can't immediately figure out why,” Crossen said.
He added, "Unfortunately, the potential is always there. But there are things you can do to reduce that potential. If you don't know where you are going, if you don't know the people who are around you, then it may not be wise to go there. Now, I'm not saying that gives anybody the right to do anything to you. But I am saying that if you want to protect yourself, you do have to be careful."
The SunLight Project team of journalists who contributed to this report includes Jordan Barela, Charles Oliver, Will Woolever, Alan Mauldin, Desiree Carver, Jessie Box and writer Eve Guevara. John Stephen leads the SunLight team. To contact the team, email firstname.lastname@example.org
# of rape cases worked by Valdosta Police Department*
2017 (so far): 8
*Although the VPD has a 75 percent clearance rate for rape cases in Valdosta, there are still numerous assaults that go unreported.
Tens of thousands of phone calls to Child Abuse Report Line unanswered despite drop in average wait time
by Lauren Novak
TENS of thousands of phone calls reporting suspected child abuse went unanswered over the past year and one caller waited more than five hours, prompting concerns that serious cases are falling through the cracks.
The Advertiser can reveal that more than 23,500 attempts were abandoned by frustrated callers in 2016-17, or more than a third of all calls made to the Child Abuse Report Line call centre.
The average wait time has fallen by about 15 minutes but, in the worst case, one caller waited five hours and 27 minutes.
About 10 per cent fewer calls went unanswered last year (36.5 per cent) compared to 2015-16 (47 per cent), but advocates fear too many potentially serious cases are going unchecked.
“There are still children in very dangerous situations,” Centacare Catholic Family Services director Dale West said.
“Increased public awareness of child protection issues has raised demand for support services, but this has not been matched by Government resources.”
Opposition child protection spokeswoman Rachel Sanderson said there was “no doubt that vulnerable children are being left in dangerous situations” and questioned if the response would be more urgent if tens of thousands of “calls to police reporting crimes went unanswered”.
Child Development Minister Susan Close said there had been a “massive decrease” in the number of unanswered calls and a backlog of written reports had been reduced by about 60 per cent.
She said the Government had committed almost $520 million in extra funding in response to recommendations of the Nyland Royal Commission into the state's child protection system.
Dr Close announced mid last year that the Government would begin publishing a series of key statistics to improve transparency.
Analysis of the first year of that data, which has been updated monthly by the Child Protection Department, shows:
MORE than 23,500 calls to the Child Abuse Report Line went unanswered last financial year, down from about 26,700 in 2015-16.
THERE were almost 64,900 calls to the CARL call centre, up from about 57,000.
THE average wait time to make a report has fallen from 39 minutes and 21 seconds to 23 minutes and 14 seconds.
THERE are 3470 children in state care, about half of whom live with relatives or others known to them.
Dr Close said she “wanted these statistics to be publicly available to create greater transparency and to help ensure the right changes were undertaken”.
“I am pleased to say in the past year there has been significant reform – and State Government investment - in child protection,” she said.
Documents released through Freedom of Information laws show the longest wait to reach the CARL call centre was recorded on Saturday, November 16 last year.
Nick Xenophon Team MP John Darley, who obtained the documents, said it was “ridiculous for the Government to expect people to wait five and a half hours to get through to report child abuse”.
“The community have a right to be angry and demand that our Government do better,” he said.
Much of the information now published online was previously difficult to obtain and required The Advertiser to lodge requests to the department, or Freedom of Information applications.
At the time the Department began publishing the data Dr Close said the Government wanted to “share the dilemma” facing social workers and encourage more people to consider becoming foster carers.
2016-17 key child protection statistics
64,899 calls to the Child Abuse Report Line — up from 57,034 the previous year
41,304 calls answered (63.6%) - up from 30,301 (53.1%)
23,595 calls unanswered (36.4%) - down from 26,733 (46.9%)
average wait time of 23 minutes and 14 seconds — down from 39 minutes and 21 seconds
33,679 written reports to electronic-CARL — up from 28,016
3470 children in state care — up from 3249
Source: SA Child Protection Department
Visit the department's website or phone 1300 2 FOSTER (1300 2 367 837) to find out more about becoming a foster carer.
Over 100 missing minors from Calais could be subjected to sexual abuse-report
More than 100 refugee minors remain missing after being smuggled into the UK illegally from France during the last 12 months, the Independent has learned, warning of potential sexual abuse of children by their smugglers.
Out of 167 children that were trafficked from France to the UK since last August, 104 minors remain missing, the Independent reported , citing figures provided by the Refugee Youth Service (RYS), a Calais-based charity.
Months after the Calais ‘Jungle' was bulldozed by French authorities in October 2016, refugees, including unaccompanied minors, are still arriving on the banks of the English Channel, hoping to reach the UK. In response, Britain has scrapped the Dubs Amendment, allowing for the resettlement of 3,000 unaccompanied minors.
RYS tracks the records of minors who are known to have reached the UK from France illegally. Once on British soil, the charity refers them to the NSPCC's Child Trafficking Advice Centre (CTAC), providing it with all the information needed to help locate them in the UK. CTAC then reports those cases to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – a process set up by the government to identify and support victims of trafficking in the UK.
In their report, the publication noted that the actual number of missing kids could be much higher, as many of the minors remain “hidden” from child protection agencies after being told by their traffickers not to engage with the authorities.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” Michael McHugh, the RYS coordination and child protection officer, told the Independent. “There are children here who are trying not to be seen, manipulated by people who don't want them to be seen by us, worried about the state interfering. The true numbers will be far higher.”
Charities that deal with child welfare warned that the missing minors could be subject to sexual and drug abuse as well as labor exploitation by the individuals who smuggle them across borders.
Getting a child from France to the UK can cost around £9,000 ($11,700), the report estimates, which most minors are unable to pay. To cover the cost, children practically serve as slaves to the criminal gangs engaged in illegal trafficking.
“Both in Calais and once they reach the UK, children and young people are falling victim to sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, criminal exploitation,” Christine Beddoe, an adviser on tackling child trafficking who co-authored the report, said.
“Very high prices are demanded and if they don't have families who can pay, then those young people are expected to do something to pay back that money, and then that turns into an exploitation situation,” she added.
Beddoe pointed out that sexual exploitation is the biggest problem faced by young male refugees. Because of the nature of the abuse, young boys are reluctant to report the abuse to the authorities.
In response to the report, the UK Home Office has issued a statement, stressing that Britain is doing everything to make sure that the minors arrive to its shores safely.
“We have already strengthened regulations on children's homes and placed a duty on local authorities to tell us about all incidents of young people going missing,” the statement to the Independent reads.
“However, we know trafficked and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children can be particularly vulnerable. Our focus will continue to be on transferring all eligible minors to the UK as soon as possible and ensuring they arrive safely,” it added.
UK child migrants sent to 'pedophile rings' in Australia, inquiry hears
A UK inquiry has been told that child migrants kept being sent to farm schools in Australia despite official knowledge that some harboured pedophile rings
Child migrants kept being trafficked from the UK to Australia despite officials knowing that some institutions they were sent to harboured pedophile rings, a UK inquiry has been told.
Dr Margaret Humphreys of the Child Migrants Trust told the child sexual abuse inquiry in London that recruiters were sent to the UK to select children for church and charity-run farm schools in Australia.
"I think we would categorise that now as child trafficking," she said on Friday.
The inquiry is examining the sexual, physical and emotional abuse suffered by thousands of children in care who were sent to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Rhodesia up to the 1970s.
Among the worst offenders were the Catholic order the Christian Brothers who ran farm schools in Western Australia and the royals-backed Fairbridge Society which ran farm schools in NSW.
The inquiry has heard from former child migrants that say they were routinely sexually abused and flogged by staff, were poorly fed, clothed and educated and used as virtual slave labour on the farms.
It's also heard that authorities in the UK and Australia knew of sex abuse scandals at the institutions but no proper inspection systems were in place and the offending institutions were allowed to keep operating.
"It's much clearer now that there was knowledge that some of the institutions were quite clearly pedophile rings," Humphreys told the inquiry.
She said the sexual abuse of even one child should have prompted an inquiry but that didn't happen and hundreds of children were abused.
Humphreys, who in 1993 was awarded the Order of Australia for her work with former child migrants, said a regime of bullying and beatings at the institutions meant children were terrified to complain of abuse.
She said children who ran away and complained to police were invariably not believed and would be returned to the institution where they were often beaten in front of the other children as a warning.
They were left "lonely and isolated" to deal with the abuse on their own, she said.
Humphreys slammed the defence that such abuse was in line with the "standards of the day".
"When was it ever the standards of the day to rape children, to abuse children in this way?" she said.
On Thursday former British prime minister Gordon Brown told the inquiry the child migration scheme was a "national disgrace" and the UK government must compensate the more than 2000 former child migrants left before they died.
In 2010 Brown apologised to former child migrants on behalf of the British government for the distress caused to them by the scheme.