Survivor's war on abuse
by Lisa Simpson
Janice McLean fought through depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts after being abused as a child. It wasn't until she attended a presentation by charity Saving Children and Revealing Secrets in 2012, that she opened up about what had happened and started to heal. Three years after taking the Darkness to Light Stewards of Children Training the preschool teacher became a facilitator, determined to share what she has learnt to help others.
“I am a survivor and like most adult victims I didn't come forward — I was abused from 10 to 13 — until 16 years later,” Ms McLean, 37, told The Royal Gazette .
“They [Scars] were doing a presentation at CedarBridge and they happened to have a stall afterwards and I just revealed everything to them.”
A few weeks after attending the presentation, Ms McLean took part in the training and became certified.
“It was like they were telling my story,” she said. “That's when I realised I'm not alone — there's many more of me out there.”
She started counselling but stayed in touch with Scars founder and executive director Debi Ray-Rivers and director of programmes and operations Helen Ponte.
“If you're trying to heal yourself, it's kind of hard to advocate,” she said. “Eventually I just learnt to deal with different coping mechanisms.
“Just talking about it helped a lot. The big thing was forgiveness, forgiving the abuser.”
Statistics from the United States-based organisation Darkness to Light state one in ten children will be sexually abused before the age of 18 and 90 per cent of victims know their abuser.
To help tackle the issue in Bermuda, Scars has trained more than 5,700 people on sexual abuse prevention — making the island the first country to train more than 10 per cent of its adult population.
The programme is aimed at all adults who care for children, and local sporting clubs, churches, summer camps, charities and schools, along with members of the public, have participated.
Because of Scars, many organisations are now implementing codes of conduct and making it a requirement for staff to be trained.
And as awareness has grown, more people have opened up about what has happened to them.
But according to Ms Ray-Rivers, there are still many more who have not, with shame the number one driver in keeping them quiet. Three years after becoming certified, Ms McLean felt ready to become a facilitator and her involvement with the charity increased as she “realised that there's so many of us out there”.
“The children need to be protected and it was just timely. I'm healed, it's nothing to be ashamed of, it's time for me to give what I've learnt.”
She still felt apprehensive about telling people what had happened to her because she did not want their pity.
“I felt sorry for myself for the longest time. I didn't wear dresses, I covered my body [ ...], I fought through depression, anxiety — suicidal thoughts were the big thing.
“But then I realised, if my story can inspire one person to seek the help then it serves a purpose.”
The Warwick resident, who moved to Bermuda in 2008, now participates in the trainings at Argus on Saturdays and volunteers whenever she can.
“I'm a huge advocate. Any time there is volunteer work, I am there.
“All of the Adventure Land staff are trained because I signed them up.”
She added that one of the reasons she became a teacher is to make sure children get to remain innocent.
“They shouldn't have to deal with other people, adults, hurting them and it's a big epidemic.
“The more training I do, the more people come forward and say ‘I'm a survivor'.”
Ms McLean was also featured in a Scars documentary where she told her story of how she went from being a victim to a survivor.
“I do talk about my story now. I basically say, as a survivor you can realise that you can heal.”
Ms McLean said she can see the change in the participants — they leave the course with a “bigger perspective” and aware of the importance of asking more questions.
“We also help parents talk to their children about their bodies,” she said.
“It's a difficult topic and not all parents know when and how to talk to their children.”
And for those who have been abused themselves, she added: “It's not their fault. They have nothing to be ashamed of. They did nothing wrong.”
“The big thing is they need to basically forgive. Don't let that define who you are because for the longest time I did.”
Scars also offers the Safe programme, which provides a “tool box” of information for those entrusted with the care of children.
“They're a great organisation, they are compassionate, they are always available 24/7 — we never stop working,” Ms McLean said.
“There is always someone in the office, someone to talk to. And we are not going to stop till every person in Bermuda is pretty much trained.”
Ms Ray-Rivers added: “Scars is incredibly blessed to have Janice as a part of our Scars family. After three years of countless hours of volunteering with Scars, Janice became an authorised trained facilitator with the Darkness to Light Organisation and subsequently a Scars facilitator. We appreciate her more than words can say!”
Groups get $425K from 'It Shouldn't Hurt to Be a Child' license plates
by Candace McPhillips
Seventeen Arizona non-profits dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect will share $425,000 in grants from the Child Abuse Prevention License Plate Program.
The grants, funded primarily by the sale of "It Shouldn't Hurt to Be a Child" specialty license plates, were awarded last week. Since it began in 1999, the program has awarded more than $9 million in grants.
"This program is having a positive impact by raising awareness and educating the public on issues of neglect and abuse while also supporting programs aimed at minimizing the number of occurrences of child abuse and neglect," said Steve Selznow, chief executive officer of the Arizona Community Foundation.
The ACF is one of the founding partners for the program, along with the Governor's Office of Youth, Faith and Family and The Arizona Republic. Additional matching funds are provided by the BHHS Legacy Foundation, Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust and the Valley of the Sun United Way.
The program helps non-profit organizations throughout Arizona fund their child abuse prevention programs. License plates can be purchased for $25, with $17 going toward the grant fund and $8 toward an administrative fee. Plates can be ordered at servicearizona.com .
"We are proud to once again be a part of the Child Abuse Prevention License Plate Program," said Mi-Ai Parrish, president of The Republic . "The work of these non-profits is so important to the safety of Arizona children.”
The competitive grants are awarded after a review by a community-wide group representing the newspaper, state agencies, non-profits and foundation partners.
"The big outcome of the funding from the license plate program has really allowed us to collaborate around the community and around the state," said Marcia Stanton of Phoenix Children's Hospital. "Without that funding, the work we've been doing wouldn't be possible."
Grant applications are reviewed and scored based on a number of factors, including the organization's financial capacity and measurable outcomes of the programs. This year, grant amounts range from $7,500 to $40,000.
Among the largest grants this year:
Arizona's Children Association , Phoenix, received the top award of $40,000 for its family education and support services that provide training and support for healthy parenting and child development.
Casa de los Niños , Tucson, was awarded a grant of $35,000 for its community education and outreach programs, which includes free classes for parents and caregivers.
Child Crisis Arizona , Phoenix, received $35,000 for family education programs, which provide free resources for families, including parenting classes, workshops and support groups.
The First Steps program offered by Child & Family Resources, Inc., Tucson, received a grant of $35,000. This program aims to give parents support and confidence in their parenting skills, the ability to talk through concerns about their child and referrals to other programs if needed.
Southwest Human Development , Phoenix, was granted $35,000 for its Birth to Five Helpline and Fussy Baby program. Caregivers can call the helpline to speak with child development specialists to get accurate information about child development and parenting. The Fussy Baby is part of the helpline and provides support for parents who have questions about their child's behavior during the first year.
Other organizations receiving grants include:
Prevent Child Abuse Arizona, Prescott Valley, $33,000.
Child & Family Resources, Inc., Phoenix, $30,000.
Childhelp, Phoenix, $26,000.
Jewish Family & Children's Service, Phoenix, $25,000.
Phoenix Children's Hospital Foundation, Phoenix, $25,000.
Chicanos Por La Causa, Phoenix, $20,000.
Maggie's Place, Phoenix, $20,000.
Southern Arizona's Children Advocacy Center, Tucson, $20,000.
Verde Valley Medical Center, Cottonwood, $20,000.
Arizona Youth Partnership, Marana, $10,000.
Haven Family Resource Center, Inc., Lake Havasu City, $8,500.
Parent Aid, Tucson, $7,500.
One Kind Word is sometimes all it takes to stop child abuse
by Michael Machosky
We've all been there: You're out in public, and someone is losing patience with their kid. At first, you're annoyed. Then, perhaps, sympathetic—you know the feeling. Perhaps, you even remember being that kid.
But sometimes it gets ugly. The volume goes up. Threats are made. Hands are raised in anger.
What do you do?
Family Resources, an Uptown-based nonprofit that combats child abuse, offers training for this exact situation. It's called “One Kind Word.” Often, that's literally all it takes, they claim.
“You can do things to distract,” says Jennifer Polly, director of intervention services for Family Resources. “Like, ‘Hey, I'm looking for this item—have you seen it?' Use compliments. ‘That's a lovely dress she has on. Where did you get it?' Use humor, if that's what comes naturally.”
Often, that's enough to cool tempers by itself, without wading too deeply into a family conflict.
“It's not to resolve their situations in their personal life,” adds Lisa Costa, special projects coordinator for Family Resources.
“Even doing the smallest things can influence the outcome,” says Polly. “The goal is not to step in and be a savior.”
Family Resources, which began in 2000, offers One Kind Word as a workshop for organizations of all kinds. Local organizations as large as Giant Eagle and the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium have participated.
“It's a program we developed with Family Communications, now known as the Fred Rogers Company,” says Polly. “We've partnered with church groups, schools, retail. It's for anyone who's in a high stress situation, like shopping.”
But stores aren't the only place this can happen, of course. Polly says doctor's offices are another common setting. “You'd think that most medical staff would be trained to handle negative interactions between patients, but they usually aren't.”
Family Resources offers a broad array of programs besides One Kind Word, all aimed at keeping children safe and helping families deal with conflict. They have 22 locations in Western Pennsylvania, and typically help 3,500 children and families per year.
The Parent-Teen Conflict Program is one that can be particularly intensive. It includes assessments and 90 days of counseling sessions, with no limit on the number of individual sessions with the child or family. The goal is to help the family establish rules and boundaries, taking seriously the child's fears and troubles—and listening to what's said on both sides.
“This program has been a godsend for our family,” says Carol Wagner of Carrick. “I don't know where we'd be without it.
“More often than not, my son and I would end up in a screaming match: ‘You're not listening to me!'” recalls Wagner. “Truancy was a problem. Conflict with the siblings was much more extreme than what you'd usually get.”
But the Parent-Teen Conflict Program helped them find ways to work through issues “without screaming at each other,” Wagner says. They learned skills for taking a softer approach, but “still be parents.”
These are problems that aren't always easily solved, but when you start talking—as the Parent-Teen Conflict Program and One Kind Word help people do—at least the lines of communication are open.
Stern's Bill, SB 756, To Help Child Sexual Assault Victims, Signed Into Law
by Perry Smith
The signing of SB 756 marks the first official piece of legislation signed into law by California's youngest senator.
“Our kids deserve better,” Stern said, after Brown signed the law Friday. “Victims of sexual violence are being denied justice under the current system. SB 756 will assist kids in getting the help they deserve. I applaud Governor Brown for signing this important measure into law.”
Senate Bill 756 closes a loophole in the law that prevents many young victims of sexual assault from receiving restitution that would cover mental health services necessary to treat psychological trauma.
“California requires criminal offenders to pay non-economic restitution, that is damages for pain and suffering,for example, felony child molestation,” Stern said, in front of the state Senate's Public Safety Committee in April, “but (the criminal code) has not been updated for more serious sexual violent crimes against younger children.”
The law sprouted from a local case prosecuted by Jon Hatami, which has devastated the lives of more than a dozen young men in the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys, who were the victims of sexual abuse and rape at the hands of an AYSO soccer coach.
While the coach, Renoir Valenti, was ultimately sent to prison for more than 100 years, when prosecutor Jon Hatami of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office sought restitution for the victims, many of whom struggled in school, relationships and life in general as a result of the abuse and assaults, the state's appellate court ultimate throughout the award because of the way the law was written.
Click here for the text of the bill.
The court recommended a legislative address to fix the problem, and worked with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, and ultimately, with Stern, who represents a portion of the Santa Clarita Valley and successfully introduced the legislation in Sacramento.
In a previous interview with KHTS News, Stern discussed how, as the youngest member of the state Senate, youth issues were a priority for him, and this piece of legislation was a top priority.
Click here to listen to the interview.
Here's a few words on the bill from Stern:
“ SB 756 will help address the mental health needs of children who are victims of serious sex crimes. While California law currently requires criminal offenders to pay non-economic restitution for specified sex crimes, it has not been updated to cover serious sex crimes committed against young children, such as sodomy and oral copulation, and continuous sexual abuse of a person under 14 years of age. SB 756 closes the loophole in the law and requires restitution for the pain and suffering incurred by these victims. The trauma that young children experience from egregious sex crimes takes an enormous psychological toll, leaving them anxious, depressed, withdrawn and even suicidal. To cope, many need the help of a mental health counselor to help understand that they can recover from the abuse, trust adults and lead a normal life. According to a 2003 National Institute of Justice report, 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well. Offenders who have caused this psychological damage need to be held accountable and help pay for the victim's psychological recovery.”
Cumbria Police to join national child abuse and neglect campaign
by Crime Reporter
C umbria Police and partners are supporting a national campaign to raise awareness of the role that everyone has to play in protecting children and young people from child abuse and neglect.
Between April 2015 and March 2017, Cumbria Police recorded 307 child cruelty and neglect offences, including young children being left home alone, assaulted, and being left in the care of those under the influence of alcohol.
A campaign launched by the Department for Education has highlighted that there may be further unreported concerns, as a third of people who suspect child abuse do nothing about it through fear of thinking they could be wrong.
The ‘Together, we can tackle child abuse' initiative aims to change such perceptions, and encourage people to raise their concerns, even if they are not absolutely sure of their suspicions.
As part of the campaign, next week will see Cumbria Police hold an open forum event on Facebook, allowing members of the public to have their questions about child abuse and neglect answered by representatives from Cumbria Police, Children's Services and the NSPCC.
Detective Inspector Jason McKenna said: “We recognise that reporting a suspicion of child abuse or neglect is not an easy thing to do, but if you have a feeling that something isn't right, it is better to be safe than sorry. Anything you may notice may help a child at risk, and could form part of a bigger picture.
“Every child deserves to be protected and even if you aren't absolutely certain of what you've seen or heard, there are many people you can talk to who will then be able to investigate further.
“The Facebook event next week will give everyone an extra opportunity to seek advice from a range of agencies in one place, and I encourage anyone with questions to get in touch.”
A spokesperson for the NSPCC said: “Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child's basic needs and is the most common form of child abuse. Neglect can be in many forms from physical, emotional, medical neglect and a child being put in danger or not protected from other forms of abuse.”
Specific changes in a child's appearance, behaviour and communication can indicate neglect or abuse.
To spot the signs, look for the following changes:
Appearance – such as frequent unexplained injuries, consistently poor hygiene, matted hair, unexplained gifts, or a parent regularly collecting children from school when drunk;
Behaviour – such as demanding or aggressive behaviour, frequent lateness or absence from school, avoiding their own family, misusing drugs or alcohol, or being constantly tired;
Communication – such as sexual or aggressive language, self-harming, becoming secretive and reluctant to share information or being overly obedient.
Cumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner Peter McCall said: “Protecting our youngsters from child abuse is a key priority for the Police. It is appalling that in this day and age, a small number of children and young people can still being subjected to awful treatment by their parents or carers. This is totally unacceptable, and we must all do our bit to look out for the signs and encourage reporting when in doubt. It is only by working together to raise awareness that we can keep our children safe.”
Anyone who has concerns about the welfare of a child can contact:
Police on 101;
Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111;
NSPCC Helpline on 0800 800 500
Childline on 0800 1111
Cumbria LSCB Safeguarding Hub on 0333 240 1727.
Special report: 280,000 young Syrian refugees are being forced into child labor in Lebanon
"I want to be a doctor or a teacher, but I feel like in my life I'm just going to pick oranges."
by Lisa Khoury
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Abed Al Allah was 6 years old when he buried his cousins' dismembered bodies.
He had been sitting outside his home in Homs, Syria, in 2011 when he heard a warplane swoop low in preparation to drop a bomb. He ran away just in time — but his three teenage cousins weren't as lucky. When Al Allah returned, he found their body parts. In shock, he helped load the corpses into a car, dig a grave, and bury them.
Fast-forward six years, and Al Allah, his parents, and four siblings are now refugees in Lebanon. He still has nightmares about that day. But astonishingly, that's not what keeps him up at night.
“My biggest fear is I won't have work,” the 13-year-old says. “If I'm sick or something, I can't support my family, my parents, or myself.”
That's because Al Allah spends eight hours a day, seven days a week, picking cucumbers and tomatoes in a field in the northern city of Akkar. He works in up to 104-degree heat, making $1 an hour and getting yelled at by his boss if he doesn't move fast enough.
When he lies down at night, his back aches from carrying 35-pound barrels of vegetables. Once he falls asleep, nightmares of the Syrian war play in his head. He wishes he could get psychological help to stop the dreams — or even just go to school or play outside like other kids his age.
That's not likely, for a simple but profoundly depressing reason: Al Allah and about 280,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon have been forced into child labor, according to UNICEF. Many of these kids lost their loved ones and homes in their country's brutal civil war. They fled to Lebanon for safety — only to find it comes at a very high price.
Syrian refugees as young as 5 years old are working long hours, often in hazardous conditions — using dangerous machinery in factories, being abused by employers, and working under the hot sun in agricultural fields. They're missing out on the chance for an education, and the grueling nature of the work leaves them little time to process, or heal from, the emotional and psychological wounds they've suffered.
“They are not living their childhoods as they should because for them, life is now just about getting money and putting bread on the table,” says Ahmed Bayram, a spokesperson for Save the Children, an international aid group working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon. “So in the long term, we worry that we're losing a whole generation of minds and talents.”
And with more Syrians pouring into Lebanon as the civil war grinds on, more children are expected to join this lost generation, adding a grim new dimension to one of the world's most horrific humanitarian catastrophes.
Syrian parents feel they have no choice but to send their kids to work
When we think of child labor, we often think of countries like China, where stories about children working on products bound for the US are common.
But it's a problem that extends deep into the Middle East. Child labor has always been a problem in Lebanon because of its dismal economy and lack of effective government oversight. Now the Syrian crisis — one of the most high-profile catastrophes in the world — has caused it to reach alarming new levels.
Take Omar Khaled, an 11-year-old in Akkar. He started working three months ago for one reason: He was hungry.
“I decided to leave school,” he says. “We didn't have money to buy bread."
Khaled's parents came to Lebanon because it's close to home, has a similar culture, and — most importantly — isn't at war. What they didn't realize is the country's weak economy meant there were so few jobs that they'd have to send their young son to work.
About 1.5 million Syrians, or a quarter of the Lebanese population, have taken refuge in Lebanon since the crisis began in 2011, according to the Lebanese government. That's on top of the nearly 300,000 Palestinian and Iraqi refugees Lebanon is already hosting.
To avoid having foreigners take jobs away from its own citizens, the Lebanese government has created a restriction: Syrians can work in agriculture, construction, and cleaning — all low-paying, temporary jobs. Otherwise, they need a work permit.
For well-educated Syrians, like doctors and engineers, that's often impossible to get. So it's no surprise that 71 percent of the 1.1 million Syrians registered with the United Nations in Lebanon live below the poverty line.
Once Syrians do find work, life can be expensive. Unlike Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan, Lebanon doesn't have formal Syrian refugee camps. Instead, Syrians can live in one of the country's 12 Palestinian refugee camps — but they have to pay an average rent of $200 a month, a large amount here.
There is one saving grace: aid from the UN. But as more refugees enter Lebanon, the global organization may have to cut critical programs.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, sent out a warning to donors last month, saying it needs $116 million to help Syrians in Lebanon. Otherwise, by this winter, 174,000 households won't get money for heat, 65,000 families won't receive lifesaving health care, and 30,000 families will be cut off from monthly cash.
“We are quickly running out of resources,” says Dana Sleiman, a UNHCR spokesperson. “And when families face destitute economic conditions, they're more prone to resorting to what we call negative coping mechanisms, such as sending off their kids to work."
Child labor is illegal in Lebanon, but the law is not enforced. Actually, many employers prefer to hire children for their cheap labor.
Firas Saroufim owns Smart Phones Mobile and Accessories in Zgharta, Lebanon, a city about 55 miles north of Beirut. He pays a 10-year-old Syrian child $19 a week to sell lottery tickets and merchandise, and run errands — compared to the $350 to $400 he'd pay an adult to do the same job.
“If I need anything, he goes and brings it and I pay him,” Saroufim says. “You can't find a Lebanese boy who wants to do this work. It's hard.”
Young refugees are forced to work, not go to school
Ahmad Mohammad doesn't know how old he is. But he does know he needs to feed his herd of sheep.
It's noon in Akkar, which is home to more than 104,000 Syrian refugees, and the blistering sun is hitting Mohammad's dark skin, which is crawling with flies. He's sitting on dirt, leaning his back against one of the sheep around him. A ripped cigarette box and cut-up water bottle are beside him — he calls them his toys.
Mohammad guesses he's 3 years old, but he looks more like 6.
He's one of the estimated 155,000 Syrian children that UNICEF says have been left out of Lebanon's formal education system. They're dropping out of school — or not enrolling at all — because of several challenges: limited classroom space, bullying, language barriers, and transportation costs. Others, like Mohammad, skip class for a different reason: full-time work.
UNICEF is desperately trying to educate these kids. It's helped several NGOs open unlicensed schools across Lebanon — reaching about 20,000 Syrians, according to the Lebanese Ministry of Education. Classes are offered in both the morning and afternoon, so child laborers can attend before or after work.
“At least after they come back from work, they can spend four hours in a classroom learning their ABCs and 123s so we put them on the right track,” says Salam Abdulmunem, a UNICEF spokesperson.
But they're not getting on track. These programs aren't certified by the Lebanese government, so students will never have proof of education. That means no diploma, no college, and — ultimately — no career.
So when you ask Syrian kids what they want to be when they grow up, many pause and don't know what to say. Hamzi El Hassan, a fruit and vegetable picker, has stopped allowing himself to dream.
"I want to be a doctor or a teacher, but I feel like in my life I'm just going to pick oranges,” the 13-year-old says. “I'm not going to get any further."
For children not getting formal or informal education, their futures don't look bright.
For instance, 7-year-old Bakir Belo doesn't know how to spell his name. He's one of the 42 percent of children who are either homeless or spend their days working on Lebanon's teeming streets that are illiterate, according to a UNICEF study. About 40 percent of those children have never attended school.
Every night, Belo's dad sends him to El Mina, a city on the coast of Lebanon, with a bouquet of roses. Belo spends about seven hours trying to sell them.
“My dad says, ‘Don't come home until you sold them all,'” he tells me.
When two Syrian boys approach with flowers and candy they're selling, Belo tells them to get away.
“You donkey,” he scolds. “This is my sale.”
Low pay, long hours, and dangerous conditions
As El Hassan, the 13-year-old who says he'll never do more than pick oranges in his life, lies down at night, he feels the strain of the 40-pound crates he carries in the field. The pain starts in his shoulders and shoots down to his lower back.
He'll have to push through the pain, though. He's back at it again in the morning, and he can't miss work like last month, when the sweltering sun gave him a fever for three days. That made him miss out on the 50 cents to $1 he makes an hour.
“I work to support my family,” El Hassan says. “My dad doesn't have paperwork, so he can't work.”
Children who take on the role of breadwinner often take on a physical burden, too. Many work in dangerous conditions up to 12 hours a day and are paid $2 to $6 a day on average, according to UNICEF. The money isn't for them to keep. Instead, they sustain illnesses and injuries to feed their families, cover rent, or pay off their parents' debts.
Kamal Kaneen drives a motorcycle to deliver groceries for a supermarket — without a helmet. The 12-year-old came to Lebanon after his home in Syria was destroyed in an explosion. At first, he went to school and didn't work. But when his dad hurt his leg, Kaneen dropped out to take on 10-hour shifts, six days a week, for $33 a week.
“I wish he can focus on following his dreams, but I need him to work,” says Roukaya Ayoub, his mother. "He is our only source of income."
Belo, the 7-year-old who sells roses on the streets of El Mina, risks his life every time he dodges a moving car to make a sale. In fact, 30 percent of street-based children have been involved in traffic accidents, according to UNICEF's study.
And then there are kids like 8-year-old Mustafa Soufan, who goes to El Mina's boardwalk at night, when it's busiest, and wanders the street alone. His dad sends him with a heavy basket of candy and nuts that hangs from Soufan's shoulders, his back aching as he tries to sell as much as possible.
Other children are abused by employers. Bayram, the spokesperson for Save the Children, says employers are committing child abuse simply by hiring a child. Some take it to the next level, though — yelling at the kids and even hitting them.
“This is one of the worst forms of child labor — where children are exposed to abuse, being threatened with your daily wage if you're not working a full 10 hours,” Bayram says. “We meet children who are not allowed to have their sandwich with their friends in the shade for 10 minutes.”
A lost generation of Syrian children
Mohammad Abdul Razzak has a recurring nightmare: He sees ISIS make men get on their knees in the street. He sees the terrorists tie their victims' hands behind their backs. And then he sees them pull out swords and behead them.
It's a scene he witnessed in Syria three years ago.
“I wake up scared and I jump up,” the 12-year-old refugee tells me.
Razzak doesn't receive psychological help. He doesn't go to school either. Instead, he spends 12 hours a day, seven days a week, building windows and doors at an aluminum shop in Tripoli, Lebanon.
While most refugee programs work to send Syrians cash and food, few offer one-on-one counseling to kids like Razzak — who are traumatized by both the war in Syria and work life in Lebanon.
“We have about 500,000 to 600,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, and a fairly large number are not receiving the emotional support they should receive,” Bayram says. “Emotionally, they are left to basically live with their pain, with their traumas, with their different kind of exhausting thoughts.”
Several NGOs in Lebanon offer psychosocial support programs — mostly through group activities, like soccer and painting.
“We try to stray away from one-on-one counseling because we want to optimize the delivery of the program and reach as many refugees as possible,” Sleiman says.
Save the Children offers group activities twice a week for a group of 25 child laborers, including soccer games and art therapy. They get to leave work for one hour, forget about their stresses, makes friends, and just be themselves.
But it's hard to convince employers to send kids to these activities. Many parents don't see the point. And the groups can so far support dozens, not the nearly 300,000 who might actually need their services.
“When we outreach and introduce our services, parents' expectations are only financial,” says Talar Mahredji, a psychologist with Save the Children. “So they kind of say, ‘Hey, you want my child to play for two hours in your center and in return there's no financial benefits?'”
If the focus continues to be on money — and not on a child's well-being — what will the future of this generation look like? That's a question Ghida Ismail, who helped conduct a study on child labor at the American University of Beirut last year, often asks. She worries not only about these neglected children — but how they will, in about a decade or so, have a major effect on the world.
“If they're not in school, they're more vulnerable to join extremist groups and more vulnerable for child labor and begging on the streets,” Ismail says. “This is, even for the future of Syria, very bad. If things get better in Syria and Syrians can go back there, most of the new generation are not receiving education. How can they reconstruct Syria?”
Utah Couple Charged With Child Endangerment After Giving Drugs To Newborn
by Shreesha Ghosh
A couple in Utah has been arrested and charged with four counts of child endangerment and a first-degree felony charge of drug distribution after they allegedly gave drugs to their newborn daughter right from the day she was born. The couple also tried to cover up their daughter's addiction to drugs, reports said Sunday.
The accused, Colby Glen Wilde, 29, and 26-year-old Lacey Dawn Christenson, have three other children, all boys of ages 2, 4, and 8. Two boys also tested positive for drugs, according to the police officials.
"Child endangerment refers to an act or omission that renders a child to psychological, emotional or physical abuse. Child abuse based on the offense of child endangerment is normally a misdemeanor, but endangerment that results in mental illness or serious physical illness or injury is a felony. The child who is subjected to child endangerment is called an abused child or a neglected child," according to USlegal.com.
The punishment range for a child endangerment felony charge in most states is two years and could increase up to twenty years.
Authorities in Utah said they learned the mother had been taking heroin and prescription pain medication during pregnancy, and thus her child was born addicted to drugs. They also said parents who are drug addicts and give birth to babies already addicted to drugs try to mask the addiction by using prescription drugs like suboxone or methadone and apply it to the gums of an infant.
"They administered the drug hours after the baby was born," said Sgt. Spencer Cannon, a Utah County Sheriff's spokesperson, referring to the newborn girl.
"It makes me sick to my stomach," Cannon, a member of the investigation team said, CBS News reported.
"You've got an infant who cannot do anything for herself and the people who should be providing her nurture and love and care are the ones who are harming that child and the same thing for the other three children," he added.
Confessing to their crime, the couple said they tried hiding the two-month-old baby's drug addiction from the nurses in the hospital where she was born. "They took this medication crushed it up. They would wet a finger dip it in the crushed up pills and apply it to the gums of the child," Cannon said.
Police said their first encounter with Wilde, the father of the baby, was on June 26 when the authorities responded to the Spanish Fork Walmart, Utah, after a possible theft in the store. Wilde was accused of stealing an item and trying to get a refund pretending he had bought the thing earlier. When the staff in the store attempted to stop him, he ran away carrying his two-month-old daughter.
"He ran into one of the sliding doors and dropped the child who was in the car seat, the car seat rolled across the floor," Cannon said. Wilde picked up the car seat and dropped it again and "Handed the car seat and the child to a stranger and then got in the car and took off."
Police chased him down and arrested him on suspicion of driving under influence, possession of drugs, and possible charges of theft and child abuse were listed then, according to NBC Affiliate KFOR.
Authorities said the 26-year-old Lacey Dawn Christenson, his wife, and the child's mother was also in Walmart along with their other 3 children. She was also arrested.
While the pair was in jail, a woman who went to care for the couple's pets at their home June 28 reported to the police she found drug paraphernalia in the house.
Deputies immediately investigated and discovered drugs and paraphernalia in the home. One of the drugs they found was Suboxone, a prescribed pain medication used for addiction treatment.
Authorities said the two younger boys along with the newborn girl tested positive for methamphetamine. The two-month-old girl also tested positive for heroin and morphine, according to Fox8 Live.
Internet Crimes Task Force: Sex Trafficking Cases In Kansas On The Rise
by Deborah Shaar
A task force that works to prevent crimes against children is seeing an increase in the number of sex trafficking cases in Kansas at this halfway point of 2017 compared to last year.
The Kansas Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force investigates all exploitation, missing, human trafficking as well as physical and sexual abuse cases involving child victims.
Richard Powell of the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says so far this year, they've identified 43 victims and 29 suspects in domestic minor sex trafficking.
"The majority of these cases involve technology-facilitate prostitution," Powell says. "Additionally, we have not only seen the advertisement of these crimes across the Internet, but the perpetrators also are also utilizing a lot of social media to recruit victims."
Powell says there are more than 8000 registered sex offenders living in Kansas, and about 15 percent are in the greater Wichita and Sedgwick County area.
The task force works with 39 city, county, and tribal law enforcement agencies across the state.
The Sedgwick County Commissioners last week approved a $285,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to continue the task force.
400,000 child sexual abuse images found by NZ Customs last year
by the NZ Herald
When people think of Customs, they may think of people sifting through their mail, or rummaging through their suitcases at the airport.
What they might not know is that New Zealand Customs officers were responsible for uncovering 400,000 images and videos of child sex abuse in 2016 alone.
The chilling reality is that the figure is only a fraction of the objectionable material being shared by people in New Zealand, usually online.
The 400,000 files were picked up by Customs' child exploitation operations team, but it doesn't include the objectionable material found by the police or the Department of Internal Affairs, and it doesn't include the material that is never detected by these agencies.
Chief Customs investigation unit officer Shaun Fujimoto said the three agencies work together to fight child exploitation. They have a motto: "It takes a network to defeat a network."
"Our role in this is obviously to protect New Zealand's borders, which includes the virtual border, from online offending."
Customs officers are able to arrest and prosecute anybody in New Zealand importing or exporting objectionable material. This means their targets include people uploading or downloading the material to or from an overseas site.
Much of the material is found online; numbers of items being brought in and out of the country in hard copies or on electronic devices is dwindling.
Figures released by Customs showed 488 items of objectionable material were seized at New Zealand airports in 2013. In mail centres 213 items were intercepted. In 2016, that number was down to 55 for airports and 19 for mail centres.
Meanwhile, online offending continues to grow.
"This is a growing, ever-increasing sort of threat, not only to New Zealand, but globally."
International estimates are that at any one time, 750,000 people are sharing child exploitation material.
Fujimoto emphasised the importance of referring to the images and videos as "child sexual abuse material" rather than the commonly used "child porn".
"The term is outdated and misleading, and it implies there is consent from the child," he said.
Each picture or video "shows a child's quality of life horribly damaged or destroyed", and every time the file is shared or viewed, they are revictimised, he said.
"This is not a victimless crime."
The Customs team working on this is a small one, with just a handful of people.
Fujitmoto said there are support mechanisms in place to help staff deal with the horrific material they come across. If they are exposed to it, they are regularly screened and debriefed by a psychologist.
"The mental wellbeing of our staff is top priority for us."
Fujimoto's "bunch of very dedicated, committed staff" have to remind themselves not to let the offending get to them.
"We have to be mentally resilient. We have our own coping mechanisms for that."
They had to stay focused on the job at hand and not let their emotions get in the way of it, he said.
"At the end of the day we're only human, but we just have to view this objectively in terms of we're professionals and we have a job to do."
The Hidden Epidemic
by Ben Arnon
Trending on Facebook: yet again, parents charged with abuse inflicted upon young children. Revolting. Disgusting. We scroll past the headlines. Child abuse is not something we want to think about, talk about, or even know about.
But whether or not it is discussed, child abuse is an epidemic on the rise. The United States is among the worst of the developed nations with five children dying everyday from abuse and neglect. In this past year, the number of children involved in reports of abuse rose from 6.6 million to 7.2 million.
Child abuse comes in the form of neglect and physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. The younger and more vulnerable the child, the higher the rate of abuse. Over a quarter of victims are under three years old; 24.2% are less than one year old.
This abuse not only robs victims of their childhood, but also of their future. For individuals affected, child abuse paves the way for a lifetime of mental health issues, sexual and reproductive issues, and an increased likelihood of substance abuse and criminality. Reports of six or more incidents of abuse are tied to a two decade decrease in life expectancy.
As a nation, we want to protect innocent children from evil abusers. But what happens when the perpetrator is the child's caretaker? Almost 40% of abusers are the parent or guardian of the victim, while a total of 90% are in some way related to the victim.
Despite the prevalence and severity of this issue, it is still largely a dirty secret, underreported. An estimated 50% of maltreatment fatalities are not recorded on death certificates.
Working to build a society in which victims are protected and perpetrators are brought to justice involves working to spark conversation about these scarcely discussed, yet preventable incidents.
Boldly confronting this seldom confronted issue, Writer/Producer, David Goldblum, and his business partner, Dom Laurin, have acquired the film rights to A Child Called “It” , a heart-stopping, compelling story of a child whose courage and unyielding determination enabled him to survive extreme life-threatening odds.
Goldblum says, “This is a hidden epidemic that is only getting worse. Our hope with [the project] is to bring this issue to light so that the millions of abused children who suffer in silence realize that they are not alone.”
Written by internationally bestselling author Dave Pelzer, A Child Called “It” chronicles the harrowing, unforgettable account of one of the most severe child abuse cases in California history. Pelzer was brutally beaten and starved by his emotionally unstable, alcoholic mother - who played tortuous, unpredictable games. She no longer considered Dave a son, but a slave; no longer a boy but an “it.” The outside world knew nothing of the nightmare played out behind closed doors. But throughout, Dave kept alive dreams of finding a family to love him. This book covers the early years of his life and is an affecting and inspirational story of the horrors of child abuse and the steadfast determination of one child to survive.
A Child Called “It” was on the New York Times Best Seller List for a record-setting 6 plus years and is the #2 most checked out book in school libraries behind only To Kill A Mockingbird . The book has a massive fan base, and it has made a phenomenal impact around the world. The US sales are over 5.5 million, and it has been translated into over 25 languages. For many years, A Child Called “It” was the # 1 bestseller in the UK, as well as in Japan, Australia, India, Ireland and Europe.
Tamlin Hall, a UCLA MFA Screenwriting graduate and Humanitas Prize winner, has attached to direct the film adaptation of the book. His film, Holden On , starring Matthew Fahey (MTV's “Awkward”) premiered at the 2017 Atlanta Film Festival.
The film is based on a true story about a teenager who fights to keep his mental illness a secret at all costs. A Child Called “It” tells a powerful story that will serve as an attempt to expand the dialogue of this taboo subject. It is important that victims feel more comfortable beginning a discussion, and that bystanders feel required to take action. A Child Called “It” seeks to provide the public with a glimpse into this hidden, disturbing reality.
The Children's Society has launched a brand new service aimed at helping children and young people who are victims of domestic abuse and substance misuse
by Katie Williams
A new service to help children and families affected by domestic abuse and drug and alcohol misuse has launched in Dorset.
The Children's Society's has introduced ‘Reveal' (Reducing Violence Through Education and Learning), a service that will provide training for professionals who work with young people affected by these issues.
The charity provides life-changing support for children and young people across the country who are at their most vulnerable.
Reveal is funded by a grant of nearly £375,000 by the Department for Education and will provide training for up to 150 professionals. The service focuses on early identification of signs of domestic abuse and substance misuse so that a preventative approach can be taken.
It has launched as part of The Children's Society's Weymouth-based WAVES programme, and will have supported around 175 children and young people aged 10 to 18 across Dorset by next April.
Figures show that domestic abuse and drug and alcohol misuse were factors in a rising number of referrals assessed by children's social services in Dorset.
The number of domestic abuse incidents recorded by Dorset Police rose by nearly 60 per cent, compared with a national rise of 43 per cent.
Services include one to one counselling and group therapy, as well as working with families to offer support. Reveal will also help children to recover from the impact of witnessing or being a victim of domestic abuse involving their parents – both violently or psychologically.
Katie Chantler, Reveal practice manager at The Children's Society's WAVES programme, said: “It is a new and different service because historically, programmes around domestic violence have focused on the adult victim. There hasn't been a service which focuses on the needs of children and young people.
"I think it's true to say that in the past, the needs of children were overlooked.
"With this service, we do group work and we do a lot of work in schools. We tell school staff how to recognise what children may have gone though.
"Typically, children and young people suffer from low levels of confidence. Domestic abuse and substance misuse are often connected and can have a major impact upon children's physical and emotional health."
Ms Chantler said that services provided by the charity can really change a child's life. She said: "We find children are better at concentrating, their attendance improves, their confidence and their emotional wellbeing is better.
Children who were affected by drugs and alcohol, either because their parents have an issue with these substances or they themselves are using them, will be given support under the new service. It is hoped the support will help to reduce domestic abuse, substance misuse and anxiety and depression while improving family relationships.
It will build upon the existing support for children and families affected by domestic abuse provided by WAVES which operates in Weymouth and Portland . If successful the approach could be replicated across the country.
Referrals can be made by calling WAVES on 01305 768768 or emailing Katie Chantler at Katherine.firstname.lastname@example.org.
New State Law Will Limit How Child Sexual Assault Victims Are Interviewed
by the Los Angeles Times
Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed into law a measure placing limits on how alleged child sexual assault victims may be interviewed during civil legal proceedings.
State Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) said he authored the bill after meeting with parents who decided not to file suit because they were afraid defense lawyers would traumatize their children. He also met with parents who felt defense attorneys' experts had manipulated their children.
“Manipulation is currently allowed under the existing anything-goes process … for litigation on child abuse cases,” Beall said in an interview. “This bill would start imposing some standards or rules of behavior when it comes to cases that involve interviewing children.”
Defense lawyers previously were permitted to conduct a seven-hour-long deposition, as well as have doctors or psychologists evaluate the children with few limits and no supervision.
'End The Isolation' Around Male Child Sexual Abuse, Say Survivors Of Assault
"It robbed me of who I could have been."
by Indrani Basu
Five-year-old Rajiv Pandey really wanted to ride a motorbike, just like his father did. His father worked out of town, and his mother was busy helping run the big joint family home in Bihar where Pandey lived. The little boy was fascinated by his father's Royal Enfield, and longed to ride it. His caretaker, a male domestic help who was his constant companion, told him there was a special "medicine" that would solve his problem.
In an empty room in the big family home, his caretaker told the child that he had to keep it a secret in order for the "medicine" to work. "He then pulled down my pants, and abused me," Pandey recalled, 35 years later. "It hurt me no end, but I bravely bore it. After all, I was on my way to becoming like my father."
The abuse continued for a long time, until Pandey realised the "medicine" wasn't helping him ride a bike. He told his mother the "medicine wasn't working", only to have her punish him for "getting into mischief". The caretaker was told not to come to work anymore.
It was only years later, after Pandey met his wife Insia Dariwala, also a survivor of child abuse, that his healing process began. Pandey, who is an author and television writer, and Dariwala, a child activist and filmmaker, together started the non-profit 'The Hands Of Hope Foundation' in 2014 to address child sexual abuse in India. They are now petitioning women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi to conduct a study to examine how boys are abused in India and act on addressing the issue. Their online petition launched last month has already gathered over 45,000 signatures.
"I have also experienced such abuse when I was about 8 years old," wrote one signatory, who described how an old man molested him inside a cinema hall. "I got scared and left the place to join my parents who were sitting in the front row."
The online campaign , called "End The Isolation", has male child abuse survivors who have come forward to share their stories in a bid to help others to speak openly about their perpetrators. Through their campaign, they hope that the government will pay more attention to the issue.
The only study on child abuse in India was conducted in 2007 , where it was found that over half of such victims were boys. The study, where 12,447 children across 13 states of India were interviewed, found that one in two children were sexually abused. Fewer male survivors report sexual assault, as a result of sex-stereotyping, writes Dr. Girish H Banwari in a medical paper on male sexual abuse.
"Although common, sexual abuse of boys is under-reported, under-recognized and under-treated," according to Dr. Banwari. "Under-reporting is believed to occur due to sex stereotyping, which minimizes male victimization."
While many cases of child abuse go unreported in India, the social and legal structure has an unequal focus. Sexual crimes against children are also recorded under sections that are focussed more towards female survivors--for cases of rape, sexual harassment, assault, voyeurism, stalking, and other sections that deal with outraging a child's modesty, the victim in the case has to be a girl. Only the Protection Of Children From Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, introduced in 2012 , which is gender-neutral, can be used in cases of male survivors, besides sodomy laws. In 2015, the perpetrators of over 15,000 sexually assaulted children were booked under POCSO, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
Reporting sexual abuse is difficult for most adults--the fear of the perpetrator, social taboo, legal hurdles, psychological toll--all add to the trauma. For obvious reasons, children find it harder to speak out against an aggressor, and many times realise much later in life that a crime was committed against them. For boys, all this also carries an extra layer of social taboo, where they are taught to be "tough".
"As a male child I was always expected to be strong," recalled 23-year-old Praveen Minj, a professional social worker from Pune, who was abused when he was eight years old. "Sadly, more than the abuse, it was the trauma of it changed me as a person."
"It robbed me of who I could have been."
Testimonies on site of five men who were abused when they were children. They are all part of the ' End The Isolation ' campaign.
29 arrests ordered in 'revenge rape' of Pakistani girl, police say
by Samantha Schmidt
The extended family members all lived within yards of one another, in a small village near a riverbank in Pakistan's largest province, Punjab.
It was in this village, near the city of Multan, where the first of two rapes occurred.
A daughter of the family, around the age of 12 or 13, was cutting the grass in nearby fields on July 16 when a boy raped her, police said. The boy was a 16-year-old relative of hers.
In the days that followed, the family's elders gathered in shock and anguish, seeking to resolve the matter.
But mourning soon gave way to vengeance. The elders — who effectively served as the “panchayat,” or village council — decided that justice should be served as revenge. They instructed the victim's brother, also about 16, to rape the teenage sister of the alleged attacker in retaliation for his crime, Ahsan Younis, head of the Multan city police, told The Washington Post.
So the 16-year-old brother assaulted the teenage girl in his family's home, effectively carrying out what Younis called a “revenge rape.”
Two rapes, within two days, all in one extended family. It turns out that the first alleged assailant's father is a brother of the second alleged assailant's grandfather.
“They are victims and accused at the same time,” Younis said Thursday morning. “It's barbaric.”
Indeed, the case is shocking. But it is not entirely unheard of — such “honor” crimes still take place in some parts of Pakistan and India. But what made this case different was that somebody spoke up, and authorities took action.
The rapes were reported to the Violence Against Women Center in Multan, and authorities investigated. But as they investigated the case, police learned that several other family members also were involved, Younis said.
Authorities ordered the arrests of 29 people — all members of the extended family. Of those, 25 have been taken into custody, including the first of the suspected assailants.
Family members admitted to police that the second rape was ordered as retaliation for the first one. But they asserted that the decision was a consensual one between the two sides.
A representative from the Violence Against Women Center told the Pakistani newspaper Dawn that the mother of the first accused had offered either of her two married daughters to settle the score, on the condition that the first victim's family not take legal action against her son. But the panchayat demanded that she instead hand over her unmarried teenage daughter to be raped as punishment.
This was a distinct type of a panchayat, made up entirely of elders from the same extended family. Most such village councils have leaders from different, unrelated families in the area.
The two males accused of rape could face a maximum punishment of the death penalty, Younis said, but “that is up to the court.”
The “revenge rape” has spurred outrage in Pakistan and prompted its chief justice early Thursday to order the inspector general of Punjab police to submit a report on the case, according to Dawn .
It has highlighted the continued prevalence of the panchayat system, an informal village governance system in which leaders have been known to settle disputes over women with forced marriages, stonings and other punishments.
Human rights lawyer and activist Asma Jahangir on Wednesday urged the government to crack down on all panchayats, which she said have no legal standing.
“Panchayats have no standing and the courts have stated the same,” Jahangir said, according to Geo News . “If they act outside of law, then the panchayat and its members should be prosecuted according to law.”
The story also underscored the problem of violence against women and girls in Pakistan, which has ranked as the world's third most dangerous place for women, according to a 2011 Thomson Reuters Foundation expert survey . More than 1,000 women and girls in the country are victims of “honor killings” every year, according to Pakistan's Human Rights Commission.
But progress has been made. Last year, Punjab lawmakers gave unprecedented protection to female victims of violence, passing a law that criminalizes all forms of violence against women, whether domestic, psychological or sexual. It also mandated the establishment of women's shelters and a toll-free abuse reporting hotline, Reuters reported.
The case also had several parallels with the most high-profile case of its kind, which occurred in the same district: the gang rape of a woman named Mukhtar Mai.
“Such incidents remind me of what happened with me in 2002,” she told Geo News on Wednesday, saying she was heartbroken by the case and encouraging the rape survivors to speak out.
In 2002, Mai was allegedly dragged into a house, raped and pushed back out naked. About 200 tribal leaders watched in approval nearby, as The Post's Pamela Constable reported. The woman's father was too afraid to save her.
The gang rape had been ordered as punishment after her brother was accused of having an affair with an older woman.
Mai did what many in Pakistan do not have the courage to do, because of the stigma surrounding sexual assault: She reported the attack and challenged her assailants in court.
After a lengthy and humiliating investigation and trial, judges acquitted most of the 14 men accused in her gang rape.
Mai became an international symbol of women's rights, won awards and founded a school. Her story even inspired an opera, “Thumbprint,” which opened in New York in 2014 .
But despite all this, she continued to stay in her poor, native village in Punjab.
“I have so many students and poor women turning to me,” she told The Post in 2011. “I cannot leave them.”
Spencer proposes changes to Hidden Predator Act
by Gordon Jackson
WOODBINE — The author of a law that enables victims of child sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits against their attackers is proposing new legislation to strengthen the Hidden Predator Act.
State Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, will hold a press conference at 9:30 a.m., Aug. 2, at the state capitol in Atlanta, where he will be joined by a bipartisan group of co-sponsors.
Organizations that knowingly cover up child sexual abuse could face civil lawsuits if the Hidden Predator Act of 2018 is approved during the next legislative session. Increasing the statute of limitations age for victims is another goal of the bill.
“I am holding this press conference in light of the recent developments regarding litigation implicating child sexual abuse cover-ups by various organizations,” Spencer said. “The details of these cases highlight the need for new and tougher changes to the current Hidden Predator Act. It is necessary that we address many of the injustices uncovered in recent child sexual abuse litigation and the shortcomings of a shortened statute of limitations.”
So far, no organizations have expressed opposition against the proposed legislation, but Spencer expects some groups to oppose parts of it designed to hold sexual predators who have escaped criminal investigations accountable for their actions. Some people have escaped prosecution because of expired statute of limitation laws that Spencer said don't give victims enough time to seek justice.
“The thrust of the bill is to identify hidden child sexual predators, root out sex traffickers and complement existing criminal laws with meaningful civil remedies that will provide justice to victims and expose the identity of these predators and their enablers to society,” he said.
The new bill also proposes extending the age to 38 for someone to file a civil suit. The age is 23 under the existing law. The reason for the change, Spencer said, is research shows the average age of disclosure of child sexual molestation for an adult is not until middle to late adulthood.
“Most survivors of child sexual abuse will not disclose until well into adulthood, and it is usually about the time they start having their own children,” he said. “Many times the memories of sexual abuse return when their own children reach the age of when the victim was abused. This extension gives more time to the victim and it puts the perpetrators and enablers on notice that their actions will not be protected by arbitrary time limits set in law.”
Spencer also wants a two-year “retroactive window” that would enable victims to confront their perpetrator in court. Under the existing law, negligent entities were immune from civil claims. The new window will enable a victim to file civil claims against a perpetrator and a negligent entity.
Entities engaging in human sex trafficking would be held to the same evidentiary standard as the perpetrator.
Spencer said the legislation is getting strong public support from victim advocate groups, child protection organizations, district attorneys and Democrat and Republican women's groups across the state.
“The safety and protection of children should not be political and what I have seen is a wide and broad coalition building to support the passage of House Bill 605,” he said. “We have to go further with new changes to the Hidden Predator Act to bring grossly negligent organizations who were reckless accountable for not protecting children who were trusted in their care. How many more children have they subjected to these monsters?”
Florida's first responders to child abuse overwhelmed, inexperienced
by Olivia Hitchcock
WEST PALM BEACH —
The first people the state dispatches to the homes of potentially abused and neglected children in Palm Beach County are overworked and in some cases cutting corners, data show.
A dozen former and current Florida Department of Children and Families child-protective investigators in Palm Beach County tell The Post and its news partner WPTV NewsChannel 5 that an inundation of paperwork, an ever-expanding job description and a ballooning number of cases have led to what some are calling a “mass exodus” of investigators statewide.
“Out all night, up all day, you aren't getting any sleep. How can you make a sound decision about a child's safety?” a current investigator said.
The employees The Post and Contact 5 investigators spoke with asked not to be identified for fear of losing their jobs or facing retaliation.
At one time or another in 2016, nearly every investigator in Palm Beach County juggled more cases than state policy recommends they should, an analysis of data provided by the state shows. In fact, some investigators handled more than double the recommended caseload — 15 — at one point in 2016, data shows.
In a telephone interview with The Post and WPTV, Department Secretary Mike Carroll said child-protective investigators have the most critical function in the state's child welfare system. That job, though, is an entry-level position with a starting salary of $35,640.07 as of April 17, though there are opportunities for raises, a department spokeswoman said. The only specific qualification to apply is a bachelor's degree.
Those who have done the job told The Post and WPTV the lengthy job description can feel impossible.
“When you have a caseload of 20-25-30-35, you are bound to not just fail, but the families you are charged with overseeing and helping are going to fail,” said a former investigator. “Something has to change.”
‘A 24/7 job'
High caseloads lead to resignations. It's a fact cited in DCF's annual report and studied by the Child Welfare League of America .
The state's department considers 15 open cases the maximum any one investigator should be assigned. For each allegation of abuse or neglect, an investigator is required to look into the claims by interviewing numerous people — all within 60 days of receiving the case. Cases are assigned — when possible — based on proximity to an investigator's home or specialty.
An analysis of state data shows it was common for an investigator in Palm Beach County to manage between 15 and 20 cases a day last year.
Some handled significantly more.
In fact, a fifth of the county's investigators carried more than double the state's caseload limit at one time last year. Two investigators were assigned as many as 38.
A review of data provided by the state indicates high caseloads aren't due to a particularly busy day or two. During nearly half of last year's workdays, the county's caseload average exceeded the recommended 15 cases per investigator.
Employees interviewed pointed to the Abuse Hotline 's reluctance to throw out a complaint for the constant stream of new cases. The hotline takes calls, faxes and online submissions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“We can't shut off the hotline. It is what it is,” Carroll said. “And as people call, we are mandated to get out there.”
A former employee argued that investigators are assigned cases that have “absolutely 100 percent nothing to do at all with child safety.” Some blame a “knee-jerk reaction” and a fear of having a child fall through the cracks for leading to the inundation of cases.
The department's 2016 annual review states that the total number of reports of abuse and neglect have decreased less than a percent since the last fiscal year. The number of cases deemed worthy of an investigation, though, increased more than 3 percent.
Even when investigators question whether a case involves a child's welfare, they are required to investigate — and fill out paperwork — as they would any other case.
“When you get two or three cases a day, you literally cannot do what you need to do to make sure that you're doing a good job. You can't do it,” a former investigator said.
Employees call in sick just to finish reports. One investigator took a week's vacation to close cases, sources told The Post and WPTV.
A 2013 review of the department's investigations protocols cautioned the department to assess how much time is needed to properly complete reports. Those reports were designed to be completed by investigator with a maximum of 15 cases, not for those with nearly double.
Employees say a significant effort is placed on training investigators on using the methodology properly — partly because, statewide, three-quarters of investigators have fewer than two years of experience with the department, but also because of what some call a reactive system that changes when a child under the state's eye dies.
Intense public scrutiny following 10-year-old Nubia Barahona's horrific death at the hands of her adoptive parents in 2011 sparked statewide change in how the department investigates abuse cases. Nubia's body was found decomposing in a pesticide truck on the side of Interstate 95 in West Palm Beach. Her twin brother, Victor, was also in the truck, barely alive, doused in chemicals.
When Tayla Aleman starved to death in April in her Loxahatchee home after multiple department interactions with her family, investigators in the southeast region of the department were retrained in how to handle cases, Carroll said.
But the constant training creates less time to actually complete the reports.
And less time to be investigators.
“There's no break,” according to a former investigator. “And so you suffer emotionally, mentally, physically. Not just yourself but your own family that you are supposed to come home to at night.”
Coping with chaos
Some quit. Others cut corners.
Thirty-seven of the county's 100 some investigators left the job last year, state records show, and 20 percent of the county's investigators quit within their first year in the job.
Turnover is to be expected, Carroll said, for a job with as much stress and as many demands as that of an investigator. It's emotionally exhausting.
“Eventually every (investigator), I don't care how good you are as (an investigator), will experience a case you have an outcome that's less than what you were striving for,” Carroll said.
To make the job more bearable, Carroll said, he wants to make the workload more manageable.
“When I say make workload manageable it's not going to be easy, it's not going to be light, it's just not the nature of the work,” he said. “But make it manageable and give them some semblance of a work-life balance, then I think we can reduce the turnover.”
Some investigators said the only way to do the job is to falsify records.
In the last few months, two former Palm Beach County child protective investigators have been arrested for doing just that.
Ana Milagros Rubirosa of Boynton Beach said she faked reports because she was overwhelmed.
Authorities say Matthew James Wilcox of Lake Worth lied in a 2015 child-endangerment report. He never visited the medical center or spoke with the child at the center of the allegations, officials allege. Wilcox confessed to the allegations but said he did it because he felt it was his only choice. The documentation needed for each and every case, he said, was too much.
Both Wilcox and Rubirosa pleaded guilty to a charge of falsifying records and were sentenced to a year probation.
Neither is currently employed with the department.
Carroll had harsh words for investigators who cut corners.
“That makes me angry, because let me tell you, is workload an issue? Yes, but we have workers every day who bust their tail and do it the right way,” Carroll said. “We are an agency that everything we do hinges on our personal credibility. … If you give up your credibility, and I don't care why you give it up, there's no room for you in this agency. I'm sorry.”
But multiple current and former investigators admitted they too have cut corners. They just haven't been caught.
“There's such an emphasis on hitting these performance measures that some individuals are willing to do whatever it is they need to do to make sure they hit that deadline,” a former investigator said. “It becomes more about numbers and statistics than ensuring a child is safe.”
Girl raped twice in one night at UK railway station
by Lauren Said-Moorhouse
A manhunt is underway in Birmingham, England after a 15-year-old girl was raped twice in a single night by different attackers, police say.
The girl was walking with a friend into Witton train station when a man approached her, led to her to a secluded area of the station, and raped her.
Shortly after the attack, the girl left the area and flagged down a passing car to ask for help. When she got into the vehicle she was sexually assaulted for a second time by another man, police believe.
The girl reported the attacks -- the first of which took place between 7 p.m. Tuesday and 2 a.m. Wednesday -- to police when she got home.
Birmingham authorities and the British Transport Police have appealed for witnesses and launched a major investigation into the "horrifying" attacks, which are being treated as two separate reports of rape.
"This was a horrifying ordeal for this young girl and we have specially trained officers supporting her," Tony Fitzpatrick, a detective chief inspector from the British Transport Police, said in a statement.
"It is now vitally important we investigate exactly what happened as well as identifying offenders for both of these awful incidents."
Authorities have seized all CCTV footage from the vicinity in a bid to identify the perpetrators and are appealing to anyone who may have been in the area at the time to come forward.
Police described both suspects as Asian men in their early twenties.
Fitzpatrick added: "We are now doing all we can to trace the people responsible and bring them to justice."
The Latest: Experts say priest's age makes abuse unlikely
by the Associated Press
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. — The Latest on the release from prison of a former Roman Catholic priest convicted of child rape (all times local):
Two psychologists who evaluated a defrocked pedophile priest concluded that he is unlikely to sexually abuse more children because he is now 86 and has health issues.
Both psychologists found that Paul Shanley meets the psychiatric criteria for pedophilic disorder. But they said in written reports that research suggests that recidivism rates for people of his age are extremely low. They also cited the fact that his last reported offense was in 1990.
Shanley was one of the most notorious figures in the Boston clergy sex abuse scandal. Dozens of men came forward and reported that Shanley had molested or raped them when they were children.
He was released from prison Friday after completing a 12-year sentence for raping a young boy at a Newton parish in the 1980s.
Police in the town where a notorious figure in the Boston Roman Catholic priest child abuse scandal is expected to live have plenty of experience with sex offenders.
Paul Shanley was released Friday from prison after spending 12 years behind bars on a child rape conviction. The state's sex offender registry shows Shanley is the 20th Level 3 sex offender to move to Ware. Level 3 offenders are considered the most likely to re-offend.
Several other sex offenders already live on the street where the 86-year-old Shanley will live.
Ware Police Chief Shawn Crevier says it's one the most heavily patrolled areas of the town.
He says he will “do what we need to do to make sure the citizens are protected and (Shanley's) rights are also protected.”
Ware has about 10,000 residents and is located about 65 miles (105 kilometers) west of Boston.
The governor of Massachusetts says he plans on reviewing the standards used to determine whether a person who has completed a prison sentence for a sex crime is sexually dangerous and can be civilly committed.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker made his comments Thursday, the day before Paul Shanley, a central figure in Boston's Roman Catholic priest sex abuse scandal, was released from prison. Shanley was released from a Bridgewater prison after serving 12 years in prison on a child rape conviction.
Baker says he knows people “who were horribly affected and damaged by Paul Shanley.”
Prosecutors sought to hold Shanley beyond his criminal sentence under a law that allows civil commitment of people deemed sexually dangerous. But two experts hired by the state found he did not meet the legal criteria to hold him.
A lawyer who represented dozens of men who say they were abused by a former Boston Roman Catholic priest who's been released from prison says the man shouldn't be in “the outside world” where he can gain access to children.
Paul Shanley was released from a prison in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, on Friday after serving a 12-year sentence for the rape of a boy.
The state's sex offender registry lists Shanley as a Level 3 offender, meaning he is most likely to re-offend. The registry says he plans to live in the town of Ware. Shanley won't have to wear an electronic monitor.
Lawyer Mitchell Garabedian says Shanley should be confined to a hospital where he can be treated.
Shanley's lawyer says he has served his time and is not dangerous.
A notorious figure in the Boston Roman Catholic priest sex abuse scandal has been released from prison after completing a 12-year sentence for the rape of a boy in the 1980s.
Massachusetts prison officials say Paul Shanley was released from the Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater on Friday.
Shanley was a “street priest” who ministered to alienated youth in the 1960s and ‘70s. Decades later, dozens of men came forward and said Shanley had molested or raped them. He was defrocked by the Vatican and convicted of raping a boy at a Newton parish.
Abuse victims say they're The state's sex offender registry lists Shanley as a Level 3 offender, meaning he is most likely to re-offend. The registry says he plans to live in the town of Ware. Shanley won't have to wear an electronic monitor.
His lawyer says he has served his time and is not dangerous.
Protesters are vowing to demonstrate outside the Massachusetts prison where a notorious figure in the Boston clergy sex abuse scandal is being released after completing a 12-year sentence for raping a boy in the 1980s.
Paul Shanley is expected to be released from the Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater on Friday.
Shanley was a “street priest” who ministered to alienated youth in the 1960s and ‘70s. Decades later, dozens of men came forward and said Shanley had molested or raped them. He was defrocked by the Vatican and convicted of raping a boy at a Newton parish.
Sexual abuse victims say they're concerned the 86-year-old Shanley will not have enough supervision after he's released. He'll be monitored by probation officials, but isn't required to wear an electronic monitoring device.
Call The 'Church Scandal' What It Is: Sexual Assault By Priests
by Lawrence Jack Cohen
It was big news across New England and beyond when Paul Shanley was released from prison on Friday. Shanley is a defrocked priest who was at the center of the exposure of widespread sexual abuse of children — and its cover-up — within the Archdiocese of Boston.
As I followed the coverage of this story, I noticed the repeated use of the word “scandal” to describe the sexual assault of children by clergy and the cover-up and abetting of abuse by the hierarchy of the Archdiocese. (For a sampling of this usage, see WBUR , The Boston Globe , The New York Times and the New Hampshire Union Leader .)
The word "scandal" implies a damage to reputation or a violation of propriety. Certainly the reputation of the Church was damaged, and certainly convicted pedophiles are guilty of violating social norms, but let's call it what it is: a violent crime. I don't think any of these news outlets would describe any other pattern of violent criminal activity as a “scandal.” Let's also call the cover-up what it is: the protection of rapists at the expense of victimized children and adult survivors who courageously came forward despite disbelief and re-traumatization.
There's another word that caught my attention in most of the coverage of Shanley's release: molestation. CNN , for example, posted a moving video of Rodney Ford, describing the way that Shanley destroyed his son Gregory's life, and naming the crimes for what they were: brutal rapes. CNN's caption for this clip, however, referred to the crime as “molesting.” That word appears in most of the articles about the case.
Like “scandal,” the word "molestation" minimizes the traumatic impact of child sexual abuse. To molest someone is to bother them. Once again, let's call it what it is: rape, sexual assault, indecent assault and battery. These are the proper terms in the statute.
Shanley, for example, was convicted of two counts of rape of a child and two counts of indecent assault and battery. Not molesting a child. Not “fondling,” another word that has no place in discussions of sexual assault. Fondling is what people do affectionately with a child they love, or a consenting adult partner. See how unfitting that word is in this sentence from an AP story that appeared on WBUR's website: “But in 2005 [Shanley] was convicted of repeatedly raping and fondling a boy at a suburban parish…”
Language matters. Some people avoid the words rape and assault when the sexual abuse involves seduction, grooming and exploitation rather than physical violence. But this type of violation is also violence. In fact, it is a form of violence that can have deeper and longer-lasting impacts than the use of force.
Language matters even more in areas of life that have been secret and shame-filled. Consider the term date rape. When that phrase entered the vocabulary I had clients and friends who had sudden clarity: This is what happened to me; I never understood before there was a name for it .
Language matters. I think it must have been easier for higher-ups in the Archdiocese of Boston to shuffle molesters from parish to parish than it would have been to shuffle child rapists .
My reaction to the misuse of the word “scandal” has been more frequent — it has appeared in countless headlines since The Boston Globe began its Spotlight series on sexual abuse and cover-up in the Church. But my reaction to “molestation” has been more personal. I'm a psychologist, and I have worked with many adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse — by family members, clergy, teachers and strangers. I always try to follow their lead in how they name their experience. I'm also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse myself — violent assaults by teenage neighbors when I was 4-years-old. I had to fire a therapist who kept using the word “molestation” to refer to what happened to me, even though I explained several times how this undermined my ability to name my experience. In effect, he was saying to me the same thing those boys said to me: You're making a big deal out of nothing.
Language matters. Let's eliminate the words "scandal" and "molestation" from all of our discussions of sexual assault.
Metro Council approves ordinance requiring employees report child abuse
LOUISVILLE (WHAS11) -- Metro Council members also approved an ordinance on Thursday night requiring Metro employees to report child abuse.
Kentucky law already requires Kentuckians to report child abuse but this ordinance is meant to strengthen the importance of reporting it as a Metro employee.
This follows a lawsuit claiming children were raped and sexually abused during their time as Explorers in LMPD's Youth Explorer Program.
LMPD officers are currently facing criminal charges related to this case.
Vietnam reports nearly 700 child sexual abuse cases in first half of 2017
by the Sun Daily
HO CHI MINH CITY: Vietnam detected 805 child abuse cases, including 696 cases of children being abused sexually, in the first half of this year, the General Department of Vietnam Police said at a seminar here on Friday, China's Xinhua news agency reported.
In the six-month period, localities reporting many child sexual abuse cases included Hanoi capital with 32 victims, southern Tay Ninh province with 31, southern Kien Giang province with 30, and Ho Chi Minh City with 28.
According to statistics of the general department, in the 2014-2016 period, over 4,100 cases of child sexual abuse occurred nationwide with more than 80% of victims being females.
Among the victims, 278 were aged under six, 1,333 aged six to 12, and more than 2,500 aged 13 -16.
Of the victims, some 30% were sexually abused twice or more, and around 11% were street children.
By the end of last year, Vietnam had a population of 92.7 million people, with 45.75 million males, accounting for 49.4%, and 46.95 million females, accounting for 50.6%, the country's General Statistics Office announced early this year.
A survivor's courage: Recognizing child sexual abuse
by Alisha Laventure
GARLAND, TEXAS - Feelings of shame and embarrassment often cause victims of sexual abuse to keep their stories hidden.
When sexual abuse is suffered at the hands of a trusted family member, it becomes less uncommon to hear a public account.
Melissa was courageous enough to discuss, in detail, the decade of abuse she suffered. Her step-father and two of his brothers were her abusers.
"I don't remember my first time," explained the 28-year-old mother. "I don't remember how I lost my virginity."
Melissa's earliest memory of being abused is while living at her step-uncle's house in San Antonio. She was four years old.
"I remember asking him for another popsicle, and he said the only way I can get the popsicle is if I touched him, and if he touched me."
Melissa moved to Mesquite with her mother and step-father two years later. Dallas County court documents show this is when her step-father began molesting her.
"When I was six years old, he said that he was going to touch me, and he was gonna give me some pesos, and I could use the pesos at Walmart and buy whatever I wanted,” Melissa explained.
The abuse took place at Melissa's home, in her bedroom or her parents' bedroom. She says it often occurred while her mother was at work; she believed her mother was unaware at the time. Melissa described the encounters as sometimes painful and often "confusing," particularly because she was so young.
"I doubted everything I did,” Melissa said. “I doubted who I was."
A second step-uncle eventually molested Melissa by the time she was 10. She says her relatives never abused her at the same time, and does not believe they knew about each other's encounters.
Approximately 33 percent of active registrants in the Texas Public Sex Offender Registry have targeted a child classified as a relative, according to information reported by arresting police departments. More than 90,000 profiles in the database were reviewed in March 2017 to arrive at this figure.
"The most likely place that abuse happens is in the home by somebody that loves them," said?Kristen Howell, a social worker and chief programs officer at the Dallas County Advocacy Center, or DCAC.?
“We see it every day here at a volume that I could not leave before I started here,” Howell said.
Howell says about 60 percent of child sex abuse cases handled by DCAC occur within a family. The average client is a 9-year-old girl who started being abused for several years prior.
Melissa endured her step-father's abuse the longest, believing he targeted her because she was not his biological child.
"I really wished to be his daughter, just so that way, I wouldn't go through that," she said.
Melissa says her step-father's abuse escalated from molestation to sexual penetration around age of 10. She says he threatened to hurt her or her mother if she ever told anyone.
“I felt trapped for so long. I felt mentally in prison,” Melissa explained. “I think he knew how much power he had over me, and he knew that I wasn't going to say anything.”
The trauma of repeated abuse caused Melissa to suffer frequent headaches and lose focus while she was a child. She says she grew to be withdrawn and often blamed herself for her plight.
“I thought it was my fault," she said.
Melissa eventually became pregnant at age 16, unbeknownst to her mother and friends at school because of her weight. She admitted that she was in denial for most of her pregnancy.
"It was painful just to imagine that I was having [the] baby of my stepfather," she said. Melissa eventually gave birth to a son at 17. Six months later, she confessed to her mother that her step-father is her son's father. Her mother encouraged her to report him to her school counselor.
“When I was a child, I wish my mom would have heard someone else talk about this, and she would have been more aware of this,” Melissa explained. “I want people to be brave enough to talk about it - to ask for the help that they need.”
Melissa's step-father was ultimately convicted of sex abuse crimes and sentenced to 60 years in prison in 2006. Her two step-uncles also served time in prison.
Roughly 12 years after escaping her abusers, Melissa is now married and studying to become a teacher. She and her husband are raising their 4-month-old daughter, along with Melissa's now 10-year-old son. Melissa's son only knows his biological father is prison. He is unaware of that he abused his mother.
“When you see something different, even if it's a little thing, pay attention to those little changes," Melissa warned. She hopes sharing her story will encourage parents to be more of the potential for a relative to get too close to a child.
Kristen Howell, Chief programs director at the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center, says it is essential that parents and guardians to constantly evaluate the people in a child's life, as it is often difficult for children to admit on their own they are being sexually abused.
“We never want to put the responsibility for keeping the child safe on the child," Howell said.
Children with disabilities, children who may be questioning their sexual identity, or children live in a household with family conflict and/or domestic violence are over-represented in the abuse population, according to Howell's professional experience.
When it comes to identifying a child that is being sexually abused, “The truth is, is there aren't as many indicators as we think,” Howell explained. However, a child that suddenly begins to resist a relative's affection, no longer want to show that relative affection, or no longer wants to visit said relative, it may be worth exploring that child's feelings with open-ended questions, e.g.
- Is anyone hurting you?
- Has anyone ever touched your private parts?
- Can you tell me more about that?
Howell explained an abuser's grooming process can be slow and methodical, in some cases taking years before ever physically touching a child. She outlined the following methods a perpetrator may use to achieve his or her end goal:
- Behavior: An abuser may treat a young girl as though she's older, and behave much younger when targeting a young boy.
- Building high trust: An abuser may use rewards or gifts to establish a relationship. “We have something special. Our relationship is different than your relationship with other people. We get to do certain things that are different.”
- Confusion: Perpetrators will blur lines between what's appropriate and inappropriate, causing a child to be unsure of what is happening. “Was that touch accidental? Or intentional?”
- Fear or intimidation: Abusers may use veiled threats or create a lie around a consequence. "I love you, but if you tell this, someone will get hurt, you might get hurt."
Dallas Children's Advocacy Center
Child Sexual Abuse | RAINN
The paedophile hunters who catch predators online by pretending to be underage girls
'As soon as we say our age, they should stop talking to us. The majority of them don't'
by Jessica Walford
Wales' only paedophile hunting group have revealed how they catch predators online to try and tackle child exploitation on the internet.
Set up in May, Newport-based group Petronus is run by three people – including founder and legal expert Will* and mum Jo* - after they were the victims of child sex abuse when they were younger.
They see this as their way of trying to help others after their ordeals, and have already convicted three men for trying to meet up with underage girls for sex, with many more set to face court next month.
Each sting – the act of catching a paedophile – starts with conversation online.
Every hunter makes a profile and puts it on various chat sites. When the conversation gets sexual, which it often does very quickly, they immediately say their age. But that doesn't stop them.
Jo explained: “What we tend to do is set up a profile using an adult's face – we have permission to do that, we have people who agree to do - and we put the profile on chat sites or apps on my phone.
“I tend to get people to come into KIK messenger but I know other people do different methods.
“The adult always approaches us first, we never approach them. As soon as they start talking to us, we tell them our age, which can range from 11 to 15. There are other groups who have used people who are a lot younger than that.
“As soon as we say our age, they should stop talking to us. The majority of them don't.
“We just pursue the conversation with them then. They keep chatting to us and it can range from what they're doing in the day to all of a sudden a picture of a penis sent through.”
But the group have to make sure they stay within the law in order to secure a conviction.
Steps like ensuring the paedophile makes contact first and letting them ask about meeting first make sure they have a better chance of getting a conviction.
Will, who founded the group and was a former police officer for 11 years, said: “We've got to be very careful in how we talk to these men. We have to be quite passive with them – we can't lead in any way. They always approach us.
“From the moment, that happens, they're told the age of the girl or boy. The conversation is led by them all the way through.
“At the end of the day, the girls put their conversations where I can see them. If there's anything that needs to be changed or the direction needs to be changed, I'll talk them through it.”
And he said working with local police forces, especially Gwent, has helped them boost their chance of securing more convictions by directing them.
He said: “They've given us some pointers of where they want us to go. For instance, every time the conversation gets sexual we iterate how old the child is.”
As soon as a place to meet is agreed, the hunters strike.
Jo said: “As soon as they say they want to meet up, we try to control that - the meeting place and the time and date. We try to get them to travel to us. But we always try to control where and when that meet will take place. Obviously, we've got families and I've got to arrange childcare.
“It could be as quick as a day. We had a case last month where he arranged to drive up from Swindon, book himself into a Premiere Inn in Cwmbran and arranged a meet that evening. “But it could take months.
“We've done a lot of research before the meet happens to make sure who they are, if there's any past history. When they turn up at the meet place, we have a photograph. We try and check that everything is as it should be.
“When we approach, I'll generally be on the phone to the police. We have a folder full of chat logs and we go up and approach them. Generally, they kind of accept that they've been caught. They always do. They say they've been depressed or they thought she was over 18. We've had one who said he'd been catfished. They always come out with some wild excuse.
“They are really compliant. They'll stand there and chat and try and have a laugh with you. There's nowhere, really, they can go to because they've come to us, we've got control of that situation.
“We'll take the car keys off them – we just ask and they give them. And the same with the phones. We haven't got any power to take it off them, but if you ask and they give.”
Jo said she started hunting after being a victim of child abuse herself.
She said: “I've got a child now and it's just something I feel I need to do. And I'm quite good at doing it.”
Will was also a victim of child sexual abuse when he was younger.
The team have already had three convictions and many more perpetrators who have pleaded guilty. More cases are planned to be heard in court in August.
One of Jo's latest convictions was a married man who was caught trying to meet a 14-year-old girl for oral sex.
42-year-old Mark Pritchard pleaded guilty to sexual grooming at Newport Crown Court on Tuesday July 25 after he was caught by the team trying to meet up with the underage girl.
The court heard that his marriage had broken down, leaving him “distressed” and “socially isolated” and had made contact with the girl on a messaging app.
After arranging to meet at a pub in Malpas at 9.30pm, Pritchard panicked and went back home to Cwmbran.
But he was followed by the team and “detained” before agreeing to attend Cwmbran police station where he was arrested.
He is one of hundreds of men chatting to the hunters.
Jo says she has about 200 men wanting to talk to her - with more adding to the list every day.
She said: “At the moment, I'm actively speaking to nine men, but I have got over 200 in my back up.
“I get about an extra eight every day. I've been on a site called Kiss Chat – within five minutes I had 70 men trying to chat to me, and they all know I'm underage.” But the group want to start working with police to secure more convictions and get tighter control on rogue hunter group who do live stings – meetings streamed live over the internet.
Only recently, Gwent police crime commissioner Jeff Cuthbert came out and said he things police should be working with groups like Petonus more in the fight against online child exploitation.
He said: “It is important that police forces work closely in partnership with their communities to get the evidence they need and of course the police are best placed to investigate and bring people to justice.
“However, we recognise that other groups exist, who are intent on playing what they see as their part in combating abuse and that they will continue to do so. Indeed, such groups have been involved in a significant number of criminal convictions.
“I understand in this and many other aspects of crime or anti-social behaviour that there is often an impatience and I can understand that when people want to get on with things. What we don't know of course is how many potential perpetrators have got away with it because it's not been done properly or walked away because it's not stood up in court, so it's a question of balance.
“We need to find a way to ensure that this type of activity is carried out as safely as possible, with appropriate focus on minimising the risks to the volunteers and the subjects of their activity, while maximising the chance of getting a conviction. It can be very risky if these groups are operating in isolation.
“Locally, I would encourage members of these groups to become special constables or police volunteers so as to mediate that risk and to ensure they have the right training and skills to carry out this work safely. Working within the policing framework, with their assistance and support, is the best way forward.”
As well as calling for more regulation to stop ‘rogue' hunters, Will agrees - saying the police are just too busy to put the time in needed to catch the predators.
He said: “They don't have resources to do it. They're too busy dealing with reactive cases and historic cases. They're up to their necks in that.
“Mr Cuthbert he's saying the same thing - that we need to pull everyone together now and allow us to do this on the basis that we're doing it, polish it up a little bit more in terms of regulation and give us more help. We're turning that corner now.”
Former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency, Jim Gamble agrees, and suggested that 1,500 volunteers be drafter in to try and help – costing around £2m a year.
But Will says there's a simpler solution.
He said: “Gamble has his ideas of 1,500 special constables and my own view of it is for the amount of money you're spending on training 1,500 people a month are too high.
“I think you could actually have 200 people nationwide in a paid environment. All you need is half a dozen attached to each constabulary and pay them and that would be as effective.
“It doesn't take a big team to work like this. It just takes somebody dedicated to doing it.
"Jo and I work at least 20 hours a week on top of our family and professional lives. I just think you could make it into a full-time job and cut the numbers down.
“Any way of it being regulated and any way of working with the police has got to be a good thing.”
Washington County community encourages parents to be more aware of child abuse
by Katiann Marshall
Child abuse is not to be taken lightly, and parents should take precautions to make sure they know all they can about the people with whom their children are spending time, local child advocacy officials said.
"Before you bring an individual around your child, you need to know them well. Make sure you have vetted that person completely before bringing the wolf around a lamb," said Michael Piercy, director of the Washington County Department of Social Services.
Child abuse that leads to death, Piercy said, more often than not is at the hands of someone who is not the child's biological parent.
"It's the paramour principle. A paramour is any individual with whom you do not have a marital relationship and is a nonparent, so boyfriend, girlfriend, new stepdad or stepmom," he said.
Piercy knows that this is not always the case, and that every circumstance is different, but he said it does happen. And while it cannot be prevented in every case, there are things that parents can do to reduce the likelihood of it happening to their children.
He suggests that every parent should be using resources like Maryland's judiciary case search to see if the person they are dating or is watching their child has a criminal background. The site — casesearch.courts.state.md.us — is free.
"You can see if people have former drug charges, domestic violence, assault, battery ..." Piercy said. "Any violent crime would be a huge red flag to not introduce that person into your life and especially your child's life.
"I know this isn't politically correct, but our children need to come first."
Piercy also suggests using sites like FamilyWatchDog.us , where you can put in your street address and see if there are any sex offenders in your neighborhood. He said if a parent does not have internet access, they can use a computer at the Washington County Free Library for free.
"That again is definitely something you certainly want to be aware of. I know I want to know who is in my neighborhood," he said.
An attorney's perspective
Brett Wilson, an assistant state's attorney for Washington County and a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly, said that with due diligence child abuse and fatalities could be reduced.
"Always before introducing a new adult in your family circle, you should be checking case search, sex offender registry ... those are no-brainers," he said.
Wilson has worked on several cases of child abuse involving death in the area and said more often the offender is a paramour than a biological parent.
"Cases that I've had, in some of them, the biological parents had only known them for a short period of time before allowing private access to their children or even dropping them off at a daycare that to them isn't well known," he said.
Piercy said he has seen parents who have entered into a new relationship move in with someone after only a week or so of knowing each other.
"In our modern culture, there is a phenomenon of co-habitation that occurs rapidly after being introduced to someone, which can be problematic," he said.
Wilson said a paramour usually has not developed a track record of good parenting skills and is not prepared to deal with a child.
"They are adults and they lose their temper, and for a small child that can be very dangerous," he said.
A mother's perspective
Jordan Lysczek of Hancock lost her 6-week-old daughter, Bella Appel, to child abuse in 2010.
"Parenting is hard. Nobody should have to do it in isolation. It truly does take a village to raise a child," she said. "I'm not sure that child abuse occurs because parents aren't exercising due diligence as much as there are parents out there getting violent in a time of frustration.
"Frustration with a child for some reason or another, and feelings of desperation are often what leads to a child being abused. Even shaking situations often turn out with the offender saying they were simply tired of (the child's) crying. That certainly doesn't excuse the behavior, but it might provide a clue as to how we can actually prevent some abuse."
Lysczek said she believes the best thing anyone can do to combat the frustration that ends in violence against children is to become a little more community-oriented.
"Get to know your neighbors. Lend a hand when you can. Try to help out a parent if you can, especially a parent who is visibly struggling," she said.
"The next time you're at a store and see a parent losing their temper, flash a smile and try something like, 'Kids, where do they get the energy?' Something to diffuse the anger. You never know, your small act of kindness toward a parent who's about at their wits' end might just be the tipping point that prevents an episode of abuse."
A grandmother's perspective
Dee Myers, whose 4-month-old grandson, Justice Christopher Calvin Myers-Cannon, died in 2007 after being shaken by his mother's boyfriend, said "there isn't always a sign."
"There were no signs whatsoever or anything that made us think that he would ever harm Justice," said Myers, of Hagerstown. "I do think though that people think because someone is loving and caring that whenever they are alone with the child that is the way they will always be. Parents have to realize that's not always the case."
Myers said her daughter's boyfriend portrayed himself as someone completely different than he truly was, painting "a big blue picture, but the background was all black."
She said the tragedy has been a very emotional roller-coaster. Even after 10 years, she doesn't have the words to explain it.
"I think it is more of a thing saying, 'It could never happen to me,' because this family never in a million years thought it would happen. You may see it on TV and you feel terrible when you're watching it, but you turn off the TV and think it can't happen to you. But there's no one that is safe from this," she said.
Myers and her family spent most of the last decade fighting to put into place "Justice's Law," which changed the maximum sentence for someone convicted of child abuse resulting in death from 30 years to life in prison.
Myers said Maryland case search and the sex offender registry are good tools, but she wants to see more. She said her family's next goal is to establish the first child-abuse registry for the State of Maryland.
"We have a sex offender registry where anyone can get on and know where they live. Why not have that for our children? What about the people who abuse and kill children?" she asked.
Myers said she knows there is nothing she can do to bring back Justice, but she will continue to dedicate her time to saving other children.
"Just hold your children close and do the best that you can. This world can be an evil place, and there's not always a sign," she said.
Piercy said children need their parents and guardians to protect them and be their voice when they have none.
"The greatest defense a child has is you as a parent," he said.
Woman takes on role of interviewing child abuse victims
by Cathy McKitrick
OGDEN, Utah — As a teen growing up in northern Utah, Anastasia Pili fell in love with the law. And at the tender age of 23, she believes she's found her life's calling.
Pili's passion for justice steered her toward criminal justice, and she majored in that field at Weber State University, graduating in 2015. Pili also earned a minor in Child and Family Studies. That academic training, combined with her own life experience, landed her the job of Weber County's first forensic interviewer for the Weber Morgan Children's Justice Center (CJC) in Ogden.
Utah currently has 23 such centers throughout the state, where personnel are tasked with interviewing and examining children who are crime victims. For the past 13 years, Rod Layton has served as executive director of the CJC in Ogden, which has now become the fifth in Utah to hire a forensic interviewer to undertake that difficult but needed mission.
Pili described her role as that of a neutral fact-finder.
“Whenever a case is open with law enforcement or the Division of Child and Family Services that involves any type of abuse — whether sexual or physical — that directly endangers a child, they interview them here,” Pili said of their facilities in the former Becker family home.
“We let them provide a narrative account of what occurred to them, so it's not an interrogation,” Pili said of the interview that ultimately gets sent to law enforcement and Child Protective Services for use in court “in hopes the child won't have to testify at a preliminary hearing.”
Since starting in mid-March, Pili has conducted 110 such interviews, a sizable number considering her predecessor did 144 over an entire year.
“There's two areas of thought across Utah,” Layton said. “One is you get somebody who is more experienced and has been doing it a long time, and the other is you get somebody who's brand new and you start with a clean slate. I prefer the second option. Each center is a little different on who they feel that person should be, and I'm just glad I have Ana because she's fit exactly what I was looking for and it's worked out very, very well.”
In the past, law enforcement officers have typically filled that role, but they tend to slip into interrogation mode, Layton said
“One thing we look for is personality type — can she blend in with a team of people who have been doing this a long time and is she teachable” Layton said, noting that some who have worked in the business a long time acquired bad habits that are hard to break.
Pili said she relies on her training, along with pointers and insights from a multidisciplinary team made up of professionals from law enforcement, child protective services, schools, mental health and the legal profession.
But Layton cautioned that this type of work takes a toll.
“I've had detectives come up here, and eight to nine months later they say, ‘I'm out of here, I'm not doing this.' These are different from any other cases you'll work in law enforcement,” Layton said.
While empathetic by nature, Pili withholds emotion during the interview process. She's also keenly aware that anything she does can be seen as leading or persuading the child.
“I'm not a therapist or the child's advocate. I feel for the kids though, and it's hard to hear the tragic, horrible events that happen to them,” Pili said. “You watch their hearts break as they retell their stories — you can see it on their face, you can hear it in their voice. You can see it happening to them.”
She also takes heart in their resilience.
“It surprised me how strong the kids are when they're talking about their abuse. They don't always cry, they're not always a mess, they're very factual about it,” Pili said. “And you can see this weight lifted off them when they leave the interview. They told their story fully, and it's a little bit off of their shoulders.”
The kids and teens Pili interviews would likely love it if she gave them hugs or said she was sorry about what happened to them.
“But that's not what helps the child,” Pili said. “What helps the child is me doing my job the best way that I can — getting the evidence and the facts so the detective and CPS can put the perpetrator away and make sure it doesn't happen to this child anymore.”
And for Pili, this is where it gets personal: “I've been in similar situations, and more than anything I wish someone would have done this job for me.”
Years later, Michigan child welfare still under judge's eye
by Ed White
DETROIT — Michigan's child-welfare system remains under court oversight, 11 years and millions of dollars after a sweeping lawsuit challenged the way the state cares for vulnerable kids who are removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect.
There is no dispute that Michigan has made improvements in many areas, including faster adoptions and the return of children to families from foster care. But there will be no exit from court without consistent performance in a wide variety of categories, such as health care, education and workload per caseworker.
The case could stretch beyond 2018 and be handed to a new governor — the third since the lawsuit was filed in 2006. A key issue: a computer system that has frustrated employees and made it difficult to measure progress.
“Our goal is to get out as quickly as possible,” said Herman McCall, the new director of the Children's Services Agency. “We have a road map about what we need to accomplish and how long those things need to be in place.”
The cost to taxpayers has been substantial. Michigan so far has paid $14 million to outside experts who track progress and flaws. An advocacy group that brought the lawsuit, New York-based Children's Rights, has received $8.5 million in legal fees. In addition, the state has paid $400,000 to be represented by John Bursch, a lawyer in private practice.
Sara Bartosz, a lawyer with Children's Rights, said the pace of reform has been “slower than we hoped.”
“There are many commitments the state made that are vital to the safety and well-being of children,” she said in an interview. “Those vital commitments have not been met. They're far from being met.”
In 2006, the Department of Human Services under Gov. Jennifer Granholm was sued on behalf of thousands of kids who were trapped in a cycle of physical and emotional abuse due to unfit foster families, miserable group homes and a lack of urgency by the state to do much about it. Early retirements and budget cuts had sapped the agency.
The state in 2008 struck a deal with Children's Rights to make improvements, but it fell apart in 2010. Adoption goals were missed, kids in foster care were turning 18 without a permanent home and the state couldn't produce basic statistics.
Gov. Rick Snyder's election that year led to a new agreement with Children's Rights. In 2016, a third deal was reached, cutting the number of performance categories to 71 from 240.
The department was overseeing 12,216 kids, half of them age 6 or younger, at the end of June 2016. Foster families were taking care of 35 percent of the children; 33 percent were with relatives; 9 percent were in institutions or shelters. The rest were with their parents or other caregivers.
During a recent update in court, monitors appointed by the judge reported success in many categories.
But data were incomplete in other areas and couldn't be analyzed. Bursch, a lawyer for the state, said the complexity of the software is “deeper than the software that Amazon.com uses.”
“It's really been a lot more daunting than people believed,” U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds said.
Right to the Point
by Audrey Matura-Sheperd
It takes a lot to kill a child
The issue of domestic violence has many tentacles because, as I wrote before, there are various forms of domestic violence as defined by our laws. These forms being physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse and financial abuse are likewise comprised of their own variations and how each is practiced. It needs to be clear that there can be a combination of these abuses and more often than not the one form of abuse that accompanies each is the psychological abuse, because abuse no matter the form has an impact on the psychology of the person. The psychology having to do with the mind.
A battered person
A person who has been the victim of any form of domestic violence for all intents and purpose is a battered person. Be it that the battering take a physical form or a non-physical form, whichever it is, the person is battered. Now battered persons act out in different ways and when they do, society becomes judgmental, contributing further or compounding the abuse already experienced in the home.
Let me pause here to first set the foundation of it all. Firstly, the home should be the first place of safety for any person; secondly, those in the home share the responsibility of making the home a secure place; thirdly, in each home there is a head of household and figures of authority who set and enforce the mood or rules of the home; and fourthly, a person's interaction in their immediate community outside the home will be very much dependent on what one experiences at home.
You may see a person walking around, talking and even participating in society, but that does not mean they are not battered… they may be physically battered or emotionally and psychologically battered. While “battered” is usually used in the physical sense, I am extending it to the emotional/psychological sense. What is amazing about a person who is going through abuse, is that they themselves often fail to recognize that they are abused and have become “comfortable” in the abuse, because it may be what is the norm for them and what they are used to. I go as far as saying that even adults who remain in an abusive relationship, do so because from childhood they have been the victims of some form of abuse and so they may grow in age, but not in their mentality and psychology because they remain stuck to the time of the trauma of abuse. This is because there is a cycle of abuse which needs to be understood which seldom starts at the adult age, but rather started from childhood and was never dealt with, so the person grows up accepting abuse as a natural way of life, and may even become an abuser.
For example, a child who grows up in a home where the father is always hitting the mother, and even the children, and calling them names and dominates them, is likely to grow up and either become an abuser or continue being a person “comfortable” in abuse. Maybe the most obvious of these are females who grow up in a physically abusive home and then during their courtship accept very dominant boyfriends who even become physically abusive to them. They may cohabit or marry such men, and literally stay in said domestically abusive relationship when all else tells them, they should leave. When things are bad she may even seek help from relatives, but when he seeks forgiveness and begs her to stay, she loves the feeling of the honeymoon period, goes back until again the beating takes place. If you analyse this and look into their childhood you should not be shocked to learn that from home these females were the victim of some form of abuse, but because one as a child seldom has anywhere to escape and so must forgive their parents and stay in the home, they have a learned pattern of behaviour that perpetuates a cycle of abuse.
How much beating and abuse?
Unless you have been in an abusive home, you cannot even begin to imagine how much beating a child could take and how much emotional and psychological abuse a child can endure before they are dead or go mad. The human mind and being is a really resilient entity, and some of us are just more resilient than others. In a home the abuser always picks on the weakest. So there may be a total of three, six or even twelve siblings, but the abuser, most likely having been a victim of abuse, or just a sick bastard, can detect which child is the weakest and gravitates to that one and inflicts his/her abuse on that one child more than the others. This, however indirectly, is also abuse on the others, who must witness it and live with seeing that abuse of their siblings. So the person looking on may not be physically abused, but the witnessing or knowing of the abuse inflicted on his or her sibling is a form of emotional and psychological abuse that he/she experiences. Thus it will NEVER be the case that the only abused person is the one receiving the beating, as such acts never occur in a vacuum.
The recent case of Faye Lin Cannon is like a textbook case of how much abuse a child could endure before she/he dies from it. And many never die physically but their death is a mental one that sometimes they wish they were dead rather than alive. Some of my readers will be able to relate but some will just be clueless. When you are a child and the abuse starts, it may be from the moment you can move on your own, but there have been instances where almost from birth the child is subject to abuse when he/she starts to cry and the abusive parent does not know how to cope. The much talked about post mortem report of Faye Lin is an attestation of how much abuse she had already endured before she was killed… apparently murdered at the hands of those responsible to protect her.
You see a child can survive broken bones, burns, gashes, swollen arms, face, and even burst head… and they could survive it for years and not be dead. For example, I have shared with very few that I was a victim of childhood domestic violence. I had a very abusive father, who for any simple little thing would get angry and beat the living hell out of me and my siblings. The irony of it is that even when you are being beaten you want to go to that very same person and get a hug to be consoled despite that being the person who inflicted the pain. That desire to seek consolation is just normal for a child who will be seeking refuge, and that refuge in your developing mind is the person who is the head of your house, your protector, provider and parents(s). My mother just could not protect us because she too was in her own position of being a victim of abuse. I stopped living with my parents at age thirteen and moved to live with an aunt, and that was another form of abuse to cope with and, trust me, sometimes to an abused child death seems a relief not a punishment. I am yet to gather the courage to write all the details regardless of who gets offended by the truth!
When I learnt of the Faye Lin case, I appreciated and understood what she endured and the reason she ended up dead. No court of law, no police, no DPP, no community, except another abused person could ever relate to the extent of what a child endures and can keep on enduring until the time they are old enough to just get out. But trust me, when they do get out that does not mean they will be a “normal” functioning member of society. Some turn to drugs, become abusers, return to abusive relationships, turn to prostitution or even just try to be a workaholic or commit suicide. All those clamouring that they want to help and feel the anger, are only living one percent of what that child endured and they can never imagine how many times she may have wished death upon herself instead of to continue living as she did.
The post mortem report only speaks about the physical proof and can never speak of the emotional and psychological scars Faye Lin died with. Thus I say you will never know how much abuse a child can endure before he/she dies from the abuse… indeed it takes a lot to kill a child.
Faye Lin is dead
There are many Faye Lins walking and “living” in our midst. You only have not paid attention because they did not make the news and they did not get murdered, but they are victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional/psychological abuse and they are not dead yet, or may not even be murdered by their abuser, but they, unless they get help, will never be fully functional. Some have become abusers themselves, some have silently stayed in really bad abusive marriages/relationships; some are of loose sexual behaviour, some are over-zealous religiously; some are alcoholics; some just party their life away, but all of them silently suffer and carry the shame and guilt, and just cannot come to terms with it sufficiently to speak about it. Few however, have gotten help. They may have done so through a counsellor, a friend, and just sheer will power and some are just so resilient they have learned to “cope” and still be technically functional. The topic is taboo and so, with little or no discussion in the public sphere, many will never be able to speak out. And with social media as a forum for bullying and disgrace, 99%, I guess, will never speak out for fear or shame.
They are your friends and neighbours and may even be you, but abuse has a way of making us hide and feel ashamed as if we did something wrong, even when the wrong is done to us. Then the more salient cases such as Faye Lin may surface, and in a knee jerk reaction many will comment, and act out and demand justice, but then that dies off too and still the real issue does not get the attention and solutions it needs, and so the abuses in the homes against children just continue until the next news item.
Just looking at Faye Lin's case, from the little that has been revealed by the Director of Public Prosecution we know that she was definitely subjected to both sexual and physical abuse, which inadvertently leads to psychological abuse. In an interview on July 13, 2017 following charges of “Cruelty to a child” against David and Anke Doehm, the adoptive parents, Cheryl-Lynn Vidal stated: “We don't very often see this degree of criminality. The observations section of the post mortem report reads like a horror story and the doctor says, of course with a caveat that we don't want to try the case here, but that he observed fresh injuries, old injuries and all of them significant injuries. When interviewed under caution, both persons admitted to knowing of injuries being sustained by the victim.” [emphasis mine]
This goes to show that Faye Lin had for some time been subjected to physical abuse because of the old injuries observed, yet there is no known evidence yet that she was ever taken to a doctor to have these treated. Then the fresh evidence is proof that the abuse was ongoing. According to various sources, I understand that one of the injuries was the piercing of her heart by her rib that was broken. So I pause to think what kind of force or weight had to be applied to her chest that would cause her rib to break to the point that that broken rib bone could then pierce her heart. My instincts, my common sense tells me she could not have inflicted this injury on herself. It also tells me that someone had to apply extreme pressure to her rib-cage area to break the rib bone and said bone had to have cracked or snapped forcefully enough to then become a projectile that pierced her heart and thus contribute to her death.
No matter what the charges, no matter what the verdict in court, no matter if the police ever get brave enough to charge the only two persons who had unlimited access to her for the last three weeks of her life when she was left locked up… the overwhelming evidence points to the fact that she did not cause those injuries to herself. The DPP had said, “They [the Doehms] were of the view that she [Faye Lin] was suffering from a certain illness and in all that time they never took her for any kind of medical treatment. In all that time they never took her to a doctor to be diagnosed. Instead they decided to administer valium to her and to perform some Japanese healing technique on her.” This information had me thinking that you can kill a person by an act or an omission when you have a duty to act, but enough acts were done, including administering valium, which is a prescription drug… how the hell they got that and who prescribed it for the child? Or is it an illegal prescription and where did they get it? And if they believed she was ill, why have her locked up for three weeks? How come no one missed her? How come she does not go to school? How come they failed as parents to take her to a doctor? And what “Japanese healing” they administered? Were they qualified practitioners to administer this healing? Even with all the answers it does not change the fact that Faye Lin is dead… and it took a lot to finally kill her!
I have always pondered about the issue of abuse, and have done my best to understand it, appreciate why people in abusive situations cannot help themselves, and understand that when I see people as adults act up, I may really be dealing with an inner child still affected by abuse. I do not take people at face value. If you are reading this and know you have been victim of abuse you will appreciate my next statement. When you have been abused you either choose to blank it out or you re-live it each time, until you get professional help. Let me explain. An abused person finds it easier, in the short-term, to blank it out because to talk about it, admit it happened and deal with it up front, is just too painful and hard to cope with… you got to delve deep down and address it and that is so painful you prefer to just blank it out… mind you, it later always comes back to haunt you. Then there are those who cannot blank it out and so usually act out in really “strange” ways to those who cannot identify an abused person crying out for help. But one thing all abused persons go through, when they have not yet sought help to deal with it, is that each time they see, read or hear a report of a person abused in the manner they were abused, they relive their abuse all over again… yes, through knowing of another's abuse, you re-live your abuse!
Those too shallow to understand will never know that a sexually abused child relives that abuse each time he/she hears of another sexually abused child, and a physically abused child re-lives that abuse each time he/she hears of another physically abused child… some joke it off, ignore it, try to be numb…. But in the depths of their mind they re-live it. Faye Lin's case just brought to the surface the pain of so many abused children out there… though some may be adults right now… the child in them has never healed.
God bless them!
Over the Rainbow: Overcoming Parental Narcissistic Abuse
by Julie L. Hall
Rainbows appear like little miracles, transforming rainy, gray clouds into colorful prisms of light across the horizon. Rainbows happen when sunlight is bent through water droplets, changing the light's wavelength and appearing as different colors.
Children of Narcissists Are Rainbows
As an adult child raised by one or more narcissists, you are a rainbow. You're born as a perfect droplet of water, Earth's basic element, and your sustaining source, sunlight, bends you into different colors.
As a result of narcissistic abuse , maybe you feel black or gray or brown or alarm-red. But in reality, you are a rainbow of colors with choices to make for yourself.
Altered Rainbows: Narcissistic Trauma
Children of narcissistic parents experience brain alterations in response to a relentlessly stressful, changing, and unsafe environment. Lacking empathy and constantly bolstering their unstable self-esteem at the expense of others, particularly their families, narcissists are disastrous parents who cause lasting emotional and physiological damage to their children .
Especially those who are targeted for abuse as scapegoats , children in narcissistic homes are under siege. They become hypervigilant to attack, whether emotional, psychological, or physical, and their body's emergency response system (limbic system) is constantly turned on, which it is not designed for.
Children under such circumstances nearly inevitably develop complex PTSD , including
difficulty regulating emotions;
a harsh inner critic;
avoidant behaviors; and
difficulty trusting others.
Children of narcissists also may experience
vulnerability to depression;
anger or sublimated anger directed at self;
compromised immune systems;
a range of health problems, often mystifying to medical doctors;
vulnerability to addictions.
Most Abused Children Don't Become Abusers
Children of narcissists are by no means destined to become narcissists themselves. Studies show that the majority of abused children do not become abusive as adults.
As the adult child of an NPD father, NPD stepfather, a loving but also enabling and somewhat narcissistic mother, and an enabling stepmother who constantly scapegoated me, I have suffered with just about all of the symptoms I've listed above. And yet with other models, such as two loving grandparents, supportive teachers, and good friends; the saving influences of nature, animals, literature, and writing; and smarts, a drive to fight for justice, lots of processing, and sheer will, I managed to land on my feet and become a dedicated, loving mother and partner.
When I had my daughter I was overwhelmed with the conviction that I would NEVER parent her as I had been parented.
Avoiding Relationships with Narcissists
Adult children of narcissists (ACoNs) are particularly vulnerable to attracting and being attracted to narcissists . Worried that you might be flirting with, dating, or getting in thick with a narcissist? Read about early warning signs .
Listen to the awesome Rolling Stones song “ Blinded by Rainbows .”
Massive West Coast sex trafficking ring included 15-year-old sold in 'plain sight'
by Susan Abram
Thirteen girls and young women, including a 15-year-old, were rescued recently as part of one of the largest sex trafficking rings on the West Coast, Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials announced Thursday.
The rescue began with a missing persons report in Tulare County in late 2016.
The missing girl was a teenager, and her disappearance and discovery in January in a West Hollywood apartment unit led detectives from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department to a massive human sex trafficking ring that ran across California and into Nevada. Investigators found apartment units were being rented and used as brothels in more than a dozen communities, including in Chatsworth, Burbank, West Hollywood and Las Vegas.
“Years ago, a human trafficking case of this magnitude was not likely,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said in a news conference in downtown. “We knew the more we looked, the more we would find.”
The six-month investigation by the Tulare County Sheriff's Department, Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, and the California Department of Justice, has led to two arrests so far. Quinton Brown, 30, of Highland, and Gerald Turner, 32, of Fresno, were arrested on suspicion of 54 charges relating to sex trafficking, pimping, pandering, grand theft and identity theft.
The complaint, filed Wednesday by the California Attorney General's office, alleges that Brown lured victims from the Central Valley as far back as in October and trafficked them throughout the state. Investigators also said:
. The 13 victims include eight minors who were sold for commercial sex.
. A 2017 Maserati Ghibli, a 2017 Maserati Levante, and a 2016 Porsche Panamera, all confiscated by investigators, were used in the ring and obtained through fraudulent means.
. Eight people were victims of identity theft.
16 sites across California and in Nevada were used as brothels as part of the ring.
Investigators are still looking for Mia McNeil, 32, of Los Angeles, who they believe is the one who rented the locations to be used as brothels, McDonnell said. She also leased high-end vehicles to transport the girls and young women. Investigators are asking the public's help for information leading to her location, McDonnell added.
He said investigators learned that Brown and Turner “would traffic the victims in plain sight,” using the Internet to post photos to announce that they were for sale.
“They are as young as 15 years old, bought and sold for commercial sex,” McDonnell added.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said at the news conference such sex trafficking cases mostly involve victims born and raised in the United States. He said 72 percent of the victims found in California say they are American.
“Human trafficking, which includes sex and labor trafficking, is one of the fasting growing crimes in the world. Its reach is not limited to foreign countries,” Becerra said.” In California, human trafficking is reported here in our state more than in any other.”
Investigators said the case is ongoing, including finding those who solicited the teens and young women.
“The predators online that are looking for an 11 year old … these people are not the traditional johns that most people think of.” McDonnell said. “These are predators. These are child molesters that are out there taking advantage of some of the most vulnerable in society.”
Since the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force was established in 2015, there have been 697 arrests, and of those, about 30 percent were male buyers. In addition, there have been 185 victims rescued, a majority of them youths who were sex trafficked.
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said he has since met with one of the victims rescued, and she has received help and is back in school. But he implored parents to watch their children carefully, especially while they are on their mobile phones.
“To the parents, be vigilant,” he said into news cameras at the press conference. “Pay attention to what your children are doing online. Social networking is an environment for predators to prey on and exploit the innocence of our children.”
Anti-trafficking groups evolve with Oklahoma's sex trade
by Dylan Jackson and Abby Bitterman
Oklahoma City — Seven years ago, at a truck stop in Bakersfield, California, a young woman approached Mark Brown's truck.
“What are you doing?” he said.
“I work for him,” she said, pointing to a car on the fringes of the lot.
“I'm sorry to hear that,” said Brown, as he watched the girl move on toward a different truck. He said he regretted that decision for many years. He is now the director of transportation safety education at Central Technology Center in Drumright and gives speeches to carriers and Rotary groups about his experience.
Brown's experience once was typical of prostitution at truck stops. But a bolstered, determined law enforcement presence coupled with help from the trucking and travel plaza industry has forced traffickers to become more sophisticated — shifting business online and becoming less visible.
In response, law enforcement and anti-trafficking groups are working to train truckers and the public to insure situations like Brown's never happen again through education and targeting of societal norms. But there is a problem: There is no solid data to gauge effectiveness.
Evolving methods, limited data
Law enforcement officials have been taking large strides toward combating sex trafficking by increasing their presence, boosting funding and establishing trafficking-specific units — like the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Control's Human Trafficking Unit.
Michael Snowden, agent in charge of the bureau's Human Trafficking Unit, said that several years ago, the trafficked victims would walk around the truck stops looking for customers, like in Brown's case, but that is not the method of operation anymore.
“Basically, what we're seeing now is a truck driver can, and sometimes does, access various Web pages online — whether they're called escort services or dating sites or whatever — and they invite the girls out to the truck stops,” Snowden said.
Mike S., a grey-haired man wearing a florescent green shirt and an accent that betrayed that he was born in Michigan, has been a trucker for 29 years and believes that truck stop prostitution is on a steep decline. He would not give his full name due to the sensitive nature of the subject.
Though he doesn't stop at truck stops at night as often now, opting to stay at his destination, he has seen and heard a decrease in the traditional method of prostitution at truck stops — women roaming lots and knocking on doors — similar to the experience Brown had.
“It's been several years since I've had somebody knock on my window,” said Mike.
Mike points to growing awareness of the brutality of the sex trade, increased law enforcement presence and a crackdown by travel plazas.
Law enforcement, though, is hesitant to say that decreased presence in women walking from truck to truck means that trafficking is on the decline.
Data on human trafficking is filled with holes and inconsistencies. There is no national or statewide database for sex trafficking. Each police department maintains its own records, but there is no sharing between agencies.
Many law enforcement officials point to the Polaris Project, work done by a nonprofit in Washington, D.C. that compiles data from the anti-trafficking hotline: National Human Trafficking Hotline.
According to a voluntary survey compiled by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Control, less than half of sex trafficking cases are reported to law enforcement first.
The Polaris Project puts Oklahoma relatively low on the list, 27th, in human trafficking call volume. In 2016, 263 calls to the hotline came from Oklahoma — a higher number than the past six years.
But many warn against connecting calls to a higher number of trafficking cases — calls can be a positive sign, showing that more people are acting. This leaves groups fighting against trafficking with only circumstantial and qualitative methods for gauging how successful measures combating sex trafficking are.
“The issue is it's very difficult to quantify how big of an issue it is because it's covert,” Snowden said. “It's underground. It's secretive.”
Kylla Lanier works for the nonprofit Truckers Against Trafficking, a Tulsa-based organization that began out of a ministry initiative. The organization partners with truckers and industry groups, building a network of over 7 million people in the trucking industry.
Lanier said it's nearly impossible to get empirical data on the pervasiveness of sex trafficking — but she believes that progress can be measured based on awareness.
“We measure based on how pervasive and distributed our materials are,” said Lanier. “I've seen it myself. Once truckers understand the harm and true story behind commercial sex, they come to regret not acting.”
Crowdsourcing and education
Snowden acknowledges that law enforcement officials face several challenges. Manpower, getting victims to seek helpful services and debunking public misconceptions about human trafficking are all problems. But Snowden said his unit has done a lot of work to inform people and raise awareness in the past few years to get people to report something odd when they see it.
And although success is difficult to measure, Snowden and Lanier aren't discouraged with their work.
“But lately, I mean for the past five years, we've been educating the public and putting out the information about those hotlines and obviously, we're getting more referrals,” Snowden said. “Not all of them pan out. As I tell my investigators, whether it's one or a thousand, it was worthwhile.”
Lanier says educating truckers helps fill the gap in manpower.
“Seven million in trucking industry, 3 million are actually drivers. They're already trained to be vigilant in their jobs,” said Lanier. “They're in areas that might intersect with victims during the normal course of their jobs: businesses, loading docks, hotels, motels and truck stops. They're sort of the perfect audience for us to train.”
Some blame Oklahoma's sex trafficking problem on it being a crossroads for interstates, but Snowden says that is not at the heart of the problem.
“We have human trafficking in Oklahoma not because of our interstates, but because we have a demand of people wanting to buy sex,” Snowden said.
He is not alone in his belief.
Tajuan McCarty is the founder of Wellhouse, an Alabama-based ministry that provides homes to trafficked women who have escaped their traffickers.
She says by addressing demand, the supply will diminish and the trafficker will be out of a job.
“It's basic economics,” McCarty said. “Supply and demand.”
“The demand are lawyers, doctors, pastors, judges. From people that live in public housing, to presidents,” said McCarty. “Most men think they're doing it willingly. They don't understand they're raping her. Men who purchase sex in the majority are good men. It's a physical act.”
McCarty, warm with a dark sense of humor, spoke openly about her past: a little over a decade of being trafficked, enduring horrors that few ever experience.
But she escaped. And though her life would zig and zag for years after, she says she has saved hundreds of women from returning to the sex trade.
Lanier echoes McCarty's point. The educational effort by her and law enforcement agencies hinges on societal intolerance of sex trafficking.
“Attitudes in society where we say, 'Prostitution is a victimless crime' and 'Prostitution is the world's oldest profession.' Or, ya know, we sort of accept it,” said Lanier. “We need a paradigm shift. It's not a victimless crime, and I think we have to look at going after the demand side a lot harder. We need to hold people (responsible) with greater accountability.”
Backpage Seeks To Block Missouri's Sex Trafficking Investigation
by Wendy Davis
Online classifieds site Backpage.com is asking a federal judge to block Missouri Attorney General General Joshua Hawley from pursuing action against the company as part of a crackdown on sex trafficking.
Hawley "has made no secret of his intention to censor Backpage.com, despite bedrock federal law preempting his actions and many court decisions declaring his goals and tactics unconstitutional," Backpage writes in court papers filed Thursday.
Backpage is asking U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Patricia Cohen in St. Louis to issue an injunction blocking Hawley from enforcing a "civil investigative demand" that would require Backpage to turn over seven years' worth of records relating to operations and editorial practices.
The company's fight in Missouri is the latest in a long string of battles with state law enforcement officials over ads related to sex trafficking. Backpage -- which previously successfully sued state officials in Washington , Tennessee and Illinois -- argues that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects web sites from prosecution for ads posted by users.
"The Attorney General's CID and his public statements make clear that here he has no interest in pursuing individuals who may have actually been involved in illegal activities using the Internet," Backpage writes in a request for an injunction. "Instead, he wants to shut down Backpage.com -- the intermediary that provided the forum where online information appeared. This is exactly the opposite of Congress' policy choice in Section 230 -- that holding intermediaries liable would chill speech by causing them to over-censor third-party content."
Hawley's office has said it is investigating whether Backpage violated a state consumer protection law that bans unfair and deceptive practices. But Backpage counters that the federal Communications Decency Act trumps state laws, including Missouri's consumer protection measure.
In January, Backpage said it would shutter its "adult" ads section, which observers said mainly contained prostitution ads. But since then, many of those ads since appear to have migrated to other sections of the site.
In addition to its courtroom battles with state attorneys general, Backpage has faced numerous civil lawsuits brought by sex-trafficking victims. The company has prevailed in many of those cases. Most recently, in January, the Supreme Court refused to reinstate a lawsuit claiming that Backpage facilitated sex trafficking. But Backpage continues to face new actions: Since January, at least six new lawsuits were brought against the company on behalf of victims of sex trafficking.
Data Science Can Help Us Fight Human Trafficking
July 30 marks the United Nations' World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, a day focused on ending the criminal exploitation of children, women and men for forced labor or sex work
by Renata Konrad and Andrew C. Trapp
The following essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation , an online publication covering the latest research.
July 30 marks the United Nations' World Day Against Trafficking in Persons , a day focused on ending the criminal exploitation of children, women and men for forced labor or sex work.
Between 27 and 45.8 million individuals worldwide are trapped in some form of modern-day slavery . The victims are forced into slavery as sex workers, beggars and child soldiers, or as domestic workers, factory workers and laborers in manufacturing, construction, mining, commercial fishing and other industries.
Human trafficking occurs in every country in the world, including the U.S. It's a hugely profitable industry, generating an estimated US$150 billion annually in illegal profits per year. In fact, it's one of the largest sources of profit for global organized crime, second only to illicit drugs.
Analytics, the mathematical search for insights in data, could help law enforcement combat human trafficking. Human trafficking is essentially a supply chain in which the “supply” (human victims) moves through a network to meet “demand” (for cheap, vulnerable and illegal labor). Traffickers leave a data trail, however faint or broken, despite their efforts to operate off the grid and in the shadows.
There is an opportunity – albeit a challenging one – to use the bits of information we can get on the distribution of victims, traffickers, buyers and exploiters, and disrupt the supply chain wherever and however we can. In our latest study, we have detailed how this might work.
Finding people at risk
In most countries, resources to fight human trafficking are woefully inadequate. Agencies strive to use them as effectively and efficiently as possible, and often find themselves fighting for scarce funding and support. A government, for example, may need to decide how best to fund or schedule labor inspectors to detect child labor in the manufacturing industry. An organization with limited resources may need insight into which prevention program to run, or what type of awareness campaign to implement.
We can use data to identify populations most at-risk and target prevention campaigns to those populations. Risk factors for being drawn into trafficking include poverty, unemployment, migration and escape from political conflict or war. Experiences with organized crime and natural disasters can also change to a person's risk.
Trafficking often begins with fraudulent recruitment methods, such as promises of employment or romance. Data can help identify specific economically depressed areas, where we can deploy awareness campaigns and social service support.
In operations research, scientists apply mathematical methods to answer complex questions about patterns in data and predict future trends or behaviors. Analytical tools similar to those used in transportation, manufacturing and finance can help us decide where to best allocate resources and help locate shelters for victims.
Victim identification and location
Trafficking networks are dynamic. Traffickers are likely to frequently change distribution and transportation routes to avoid detection, leaving law enforcement and analysts with incomplete information as they attempt to identify and dismantle trafficking networks.
However, researchers can help by tracking subtle trends in data at various locations; at access points where we actually come in contact with victims, such as the emergency room; and in the activity of local law enforcement.
In the sex trade, for example, clues may be found in patterns of petty theft, by looking at transactional data from purchases at retail outlets. Victims sometimes steal essential supplies that traffickers may not provide for them such as feminine hygiene products, soap and toothpaste. Trends in the use of cash for transactions normally made with debit or credit cards – hotel bookings, for example – may also raise a red flag.
Traffickers advertise on social media and internet-based sites. Analytics could seek patterns in photos through facial recognition software, comparing images from missing person reports or trafficking ads.
Sex trafficking activity, in particular, leaves traces in the public areas of the internet, mostly in the form of advertisements and escort ads. Advertisers tend to use social networks and dating websites, while more proficient traffickers frequently alter their online presence to try to elude identification.
Machine learning – a type of artificial intelligence where computers teach themselves to do tasks, such as recognize images – can be used to detect online trafficking activity. Recent advances in matrix completion , a type of machine learning, could even help clean up falsified information or make predictions about missing data.
Traffickers are also known to take advantage of increased demand for commercial sexual exploitation during major events , including conventions and large sporting events. Analyses that look at both location and timing of online ads could help law enforcement detect and possibly interdict transportation of victims to the event. They could also suggest when and where policymakers should focus intervention efforts.
Interrupting the flow of people, money and other components of trafficking is critical to identifying trafficking networks, disrupting their infrastructure at the source and eliminating them.
Unfortunately, network interruption requires the cooperation of authorities and the public surrounding the network. In some countries, such as Nepal and Costa Rica, officials are threatened or bribed into ignoring or otherwise allowing human trafficking. There is often inadequate regulatory oversight of industries known to use trafficked laborers. Traffickers can easily fabricate or alter a victim's identification documents, rendering them invisible to overburdened authorities.
To help authorities identify trafficking operations to target, researchers could turn to network analysis, a mathematical way of representing real world systems and their interactions. For example, network analysis can be used to map out the dynamics of users and their connections embedded in social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. This can possibly identify at-risk persons or, alternatively, traffickers or customers.
Social network analysis could also help to determine which contacts have a critical influence over others. This may enable early identification of either a victim or trafficking transaction.
Human trafficking is a serious crime and an appalling violation of human rights. Almost every country is affected by human trafficking as a source of victims, a transit point, or a destination and location of abuse. These new mathematical tools show great potential both to interrupt the human trafficking cycle and to provide the information needed to help victims escape to safety.
This article was originally published on The Conversation . Read the original article .