Man drags accused rapist to deputies
The young teen was hysterical, records show, and said Roberto Rubio had repeatedly climbed into the teen's room through a window and raped the teen
by Olivia Hitchcock
GREENACRES, Fla. — When Dennis Padilla Vindel heard that a 13-year-old had been repeatedly raped, he raced home from work and dragged the bloodied man to deputies himself.
Padilla Vindel, whose relationship to the young teen is redacted from Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office records, denied intentionally stabbing Roberto Rubio, though he admitted to having a box cutter on him during their confrontation Monday afternoon just east of Greenacres.
Earlier that day the 13-year-old's mother called Padilla Vindel after someone saw the teen running into a neighbor's home in their Greenacres-area community, away from Rubio.
The young teen was hysterical, records show, and said Rubio had repeatedly climbed into the teen's room through a window and raped the teen.
The first time, Rubio brought a red blanket with him into the bedroom, put a shirt over the teen's mouth and then undressed and raped the teen, Palm Beach County sheriff's records show. He also threatened to kill the teen's parents if the teen didn't do what he said.
He is accused of raping the teen two other times.
By the time Padilla Vindel had learned about the allegations and made it home, the teen and the teen's mother had left to speak with medical staff and detectives.
Relatives at the scene, though, directed Padilla Vindel to Rubio who was hiding in his car on 63rd Way South near Casa Del Monte Mobile Home Park. Padilla Vindel went to find Rubio and brought along a box cutter, he said, because “(Rubio) usually is armed.”
Rubio tried to run when Padilla Vindel approached. They fought one another, during which Padilla Vindel suspects Rubio received the stab wound to the chest. Both men ended up in a canal.
Padilla Vindel eventually got a hold of the man and dragged him to a sheriff's deputy. Rubio had a bloodied shirt and nose and was rushed to a trauma center for his injuries.
After being treated, authorities met with Rubio, who denied forcing the teen to do anything. He was in love with the 13-year-old, he said, and promised to take care of the teen and the teen's family.
The age of sexual consent in Florida is 18. No one under the age of 16 can give consent under any circumstances, according to Florida statutes.
Padilla Vindel was arrested Monday afternoon on an aggravated battery charge. He was released the next day from the Palm Beach County Jail on a $10,000 surety bond.
Rubio was booked Tuesday into the county jail on three counts of sexual assault of a minor. He is being held without bond.
Child abuse royal commission recommends clergy must report abuse allegations made in confession
by Joanne McCarthy
THE Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has recommended sweeping changes to criminal justice systems across Australia, including breaching the sanctity of the confessional to hold clergy responsible for reporting child sex crimes.
“Clergy should not be able to refuse to report because the information was received during confession,” said commission chief executive Philip Reid on Monday as the commission released its landmark Criminal Justice report.
“The royal commission heard of cases in religious settings where perpetrators who made a religious confession to sexually abusing children went on to reoffend and seek forgiveness. The report recommends there be no exemption, excuse, protection or privilege from the offence granted to clergy for failing to report information disclosed in connection with a religious confession.”
The report includes a broad range of legislative and policy changes, including reform to police and prosecution responses, evidence of complainants, sentences and appeals, and grooming offences.
The 85 recommendations in the report are in response to what commission chair Justice Peter McClellan described in April as the almost “insurmountable barriers” facing sexual abuse victims in the justice system.
They include the new offence of “failure to report”, after the commission heard extensive evidence from across the country showing victims and survivors of child sexual abuse reported the abuse both as children, and adults, with little or no response from institutions.
The commission has recommended failure to report child sex allegations should be a criminal offence across the country, and not just in NSW and Victoria which have offences for failing to report child sex allegations. In NSW four Catholic clergy have been charged with failing to disclose child sexual abuse allegations or perverting the course of justice relating to child sex allegations. All have been Hunter cases.
The late Hunter priest Father Tom Brennan was convicted of making a false statement to police when he falsely denied ever being told of child sex allegations involving notorious Hunter Catholic priest John Denham.
Mr Reid said people in institutions “should report if they know, suspect or should have suspected a child is being, or has been, sexually abused”.
The royal commission has recommended that failure to protect a child within an institution from a substantial risk of sexual abuse by an adult associated with the institution should be made a criminal offence.
“The commission heard of many cases where perpetrators were moved between schools and other sites operated by the same institutions when an allegation against them was raised. They continued to abuse children in new locations,” Mr Reid said.
“All states and territories should introduce a failure to protect offence. The legislation already introduced in Victoria provides a useful precedent.”
The royal commission has recommended new laws on grooming that include the grooming of a parent or carer by a child sex offender, after extensive evidence of perpetrators ingratiating themselves with families to gain access to vulnerable children.
The commission has also recommended legislative changes to allow greater use of evidence by multiple victims where there is a single perpetrator, and greater use of joint trials.
“In a number of cases examined by the royal commission, juries have been denied the opportunity to hear accounts that give the true picture of what is alleged to have happened,” Mr Reid said.
The royal commission found there had been unwarranted acquittals after trials where juries heard evidence only from one victim, despite perpetrators having multiple victims.
Research and data examined by the royal commission found concerns that evidence from multiple victims carried a high risk of unfair prejudice to the accused were misplaced.
Mr Reid said the Criminal Justice report recommendations responded to lower rates of sexual abuse convictions in the criminal justice system when compared with conviction rates for other criminal offences.
Although the commission had focused on child sexual abuse in institutions, the 85 recommendations are likely to improve responses to child sexual abuse in all contexts, Mr Reid said.
Seven men arrested in past month for sex offenses against child, crime with far reaching affects
One in 10 children will be a victim of child sexual abuse
by Katie Moore
In recent weeks, several men have been arrested in Topeka in connection with sex crimes against children, an act that has long-term consequences for victims and society as a whole, according to one expert.
Katelyn Brewer, CEO of Darkness to Light, says sexual abuse is the root cause of many societal ills including substance abuse, promiscuity, mental illness and even health problems like obesity and diabetes. An individual who's been violated and hasn't worked through their trauma may use drugs or alcohol to numb their pain or use food to make them appear less attractive, she said.
There's also an economic side to the effects of sexual abuse. By the time a victim is 18 or older, $210,000 has been spent in taxpayer money for various forms of treatment, Brewer said.
It also plays a role in human trafficking — 70 percent of those who are trafficked were first victims of child sexual abuse.
The problem is widespread.
“Unfortunately we work with a statistic that says one in 10 children before the age of 18 will be a victim of sexual abuse,” Brewer said. For those with an intellectual disability, that rate jumps to 50 percent.
Ninety percent of victims are violated by someone in the family or someone the family knows and likely trusts.
“It happens in your home, your neighborhood, your school district,” Brewer said. “It's a silent epidemic and that results in stigma.”
The fear that adult victims have in reporting sexual assault to authorities is the same fear that a child victim has in confiding to a parent or trusted person — that they won't be believed, Brewer said.
Darkness To Light works to empower adults to prevent and recognize child sexual abuse.
The South Carolina-based organization holds training in all 50 states. In Topeka, 318 people have undergone training and in Kansas, 2,303 individuals have completed it. Brewer said that with enough training, she hopes there will be a cultural change that enables more discussion and responsible action.
An estimated one-third of child sex abuse incidents are identified and even fewer are reported to law enforcement.
“It's very low unfortunately,” Brewer said.
However, cases that do result in criminal charges have a relatively high rate of conviction — 80 percent.
Topeka police Lt. John Sturgeon said incidents are reported by people coming forward with information, referrals from the Department for Children and Families and tips received from The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Detectives receive specialized training for these types of crimes and are part of a multidisciplinary team who meet regularly to discuss ongoing investigations. Detectives research the incidents, evidence is processed and interviews are conducted. If probable cause exists, an arrest is made, Sturgeon said.
Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay said prosecuting sex offenders is a top priority for his office especially when a child victim is involved.
Kagay said it's important for the community to be aware of these crimes and take precautions to safeguard children.
“Today's technology offers innumerable avenues of access to our children, and sex predators are all too aware of this reality,” Kagay said. “Many of our case investigations begin with an active parent noticing inappropriate or suspect conversations on social media, and then relaying that information to the police.”
In the past month, seven men have been jailed for felony sex crimes against minors.
Those arrested include:
- Anthony J. Satterwhite, 29, and Jason M. Whitaker, 37, in connection with aggravated endangering a child; criminal sodomy with a child older than 14 but younger than 16; and aggravated indecent liberties with a child-intercourse. Topeka police say the two are known to each other, but not related to the victim.
- Scott Vladimir Anderson, 26, was charged with six counts of criminal sodomy with a child; aggravated trafficking; electronic solicitation and indecent solicitation of a child. Braden Charles Voss, 24, was charged with aggravated trafficking, two counts of criminal sodomy with a child; eight counts of electronic solicitation; and indecent solicitation of a child. Topeka police say the two know each other and are associated with the same case.
- Brandon Greshan Deangel Ewing, 28, was charged with six counts of criminal sodomy with a child; 11 counts of electronic solicitation of a child; two counts of sexual exploitation of a child; and furnishing alcohol to a minor for illicit purposes. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 6.
- Brandon Michael Bourne, 23, was charged with two counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and one count of indecent solicitation of a child.
- Mark Allyn Schumacher, 50, was charged with three counts of sexual exploitation of a child.
More information on Darkness to Light and how to recognize the signs of abuse can be found here. Support is available by texting LIGHT to 741741.
Anchored in hope: Boys' home pushes forward
by Kim Grizzard
A wooden anchor fixed to a wall in a local safe home for children is more than just a decoration.
It is a symbol of what The Anchor House aims to provide: a protective harbor for boys who are survivors of domestic minor sex trafficking. But the anchor is also symbolic of Restore One's efforts to hold to its mission: to open a residential recovery program for boys that is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.
Restore One, which in its five-year history has faced financial challenges, local opposition and a hurricane, stands ready to open the doors of The Anchor House this fall, more than a year later than co-founders Chris and Anna Smith had hoped. The faith-based nonprofit organization is working to finish furnishing the home, hiring staff and acquiring a license from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
“You're naive if you think you're going to take on something like this and it's going to happen overnight,” Chris Smith, Restore One's director of engagement, said.
The husband-and-wife team and Pitt County natives were 23 years old when they first envisioned a home where boys who had been sexually exploited could live while they worked to regain stability.
“We do get the question sometimes, 'What's taking you so long?'” Chris said. “That's OK. They just see a mission. They just see a vision, but what they didn't see is a hurricane or building a program model pretty much from scratch.
“Our hope is just to create something that's going to outlive us and to create lasting life change,” he said.
Built on 10 acres near the Greene County-Pitt County line, The Anchor House is designed to give male sex trafficking survivors, ages 12-18, a place to live, attend school and receive counseling. The home, which eventually hopes to serve as many as 12 boys, will open with one cottage built to house four boys.
Weathering the storms
The Anchor House's two structures, which took nearly a year to build, were flooded following Hurricane Matthew. Both the 4,430-square-foot, two-story main building and the 1,639-square-foot cottage sustained damage.
It was not the first storm Restore One had weathered. The ministry had spent years trying to find a suitable location for The Anchor House. Property donated in 2013 was too small to accommodate the facility. A few months after Restore One broke ground on its current property in 2015, some local residents appealed to the Greene County Board of Commissioners to stop the home from being built in their community.
When Hurricane Matthew hit in October, Restore One had completed construction but was in the midst of a campaign to raise funds for operating expenses for The Anchor House. The damage was not covered by flood insurance, which the ministry had acquired weeks before the hurricane hit.
After the waters receded, the Smiths learned that most of the flooring would have to be replaced, along with baseboards, lower cabinets and lower sections of sheet rock in both buildings.
Steve Grant, a member of Restore One's board of directors, remembers seeing the water that overtook within hours what had taken months to build.
“They (the Smiths) were pretty devastated, as you can imagine,” Grant said. “But I knew even then that we were coming back.
“It's kind of like a family,” he said of Restore One supporters. “It's the same thing we would do if my home flooded. My friends would come help me; my family would come help me. It was kind of that kind of environment. We all just got together and got it done.”
Volunteers from half a dozen churches spent Saturdays ripping out carpet and insulation, hauling away pieces of dry wall and scrubbing sections of floors that could be salvaged.
Leah Little of Crosspointe Church in Winterville was one of them.
“You see the heart that they have for God and the heart that they have for these children, and you just want so badly to see them succeed and to see this come to fruition,” she said. “Every God-ordained ministry or venture has its oppositions and has its setbacks. Satan's going to do everything he can to see this not come to pass, but God's faithful, and he's been with them on this entire journey.”
The response from supporters following the latest setback was encouraging to the Smiths, who were amazed to receive a $10,000 check from a church in Colorado to help repair the damage. In addition, several builders and installers who had been hired during the initial construction came forward to repair or replace damaged areas, volunteering their time and some of the materials to do so.
“We've seen people coming out to work at The Anchor House, and they said, 'I was really disappointed when this flooded, and I wanted to see it back up because this is a really great thing that you all are doing,'” Anna Smith, Restore One president, said. “A lot of people are tenacious about wanting to see restoration of boys happen.”
‘What about the boys?'
Boys often are considered overlooked victims of sex trafficking. According to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority's National Survey of Residential Programs for Victims of Sex Trafficking, of nearly 700 beds available at residential programs across the nation, only about 25 were for male victims.
“We know that about 50 percent of commercially sexually exploited children are boys; about 50 percent of pornography (involves) boys,” Anna Smith said. “We still have no safe homes for boys and very little programs that will work with boys. I think it's a cultural thing. ... We often view boys and men as invincible. They can't be victims. The poster child of a sex-trafficked person is a female.”
That is what Mike Eggleston discovered when he began to research domestic minor sex trafficking programs about two years ago. A corporate attorney in Leawood, Kan., Eggleston was watching a public television documentary about sex trafficking in America when he began to wonder why the program seemed to focus exclusively on efforts to help women and girls.
“The overwhelming thought that came up in me was, 'What about the boys?'” he said. “Who's doing anything to do this same kind of outreach for boys who are being sexually exploited, who have been sexually abused?”
His search for answers led Eggleston to Restore One. He started corresponding with Chris in the spring of 2015, getting ideas for how he might help start a similar ministry in his community. He became a financial supporter of The Anchor House and earlier this month flew from Kansas to North Carolina to see the finished product.
“We could avoid so much hurt and brokeness as a society if we would just quit ignoring that this problem exists,” Eggleston said. “We need it for every single state in the country to stop thinking that sexual exploitation is only about foreign female victims because it's not.
“I feel so passionate about this particular topic and about us as a society creating more on-ramps for boys to get healing and to be transformed,” he said. “(They are) forgotten, underrepresented, no one to speak out for them, no one to really care and show them that this is a problem that is bigger than just them.”
Eggleston understands what it is to feel alone. Growing up in small towns in the Midwest, he was sexually abused by people he should have been able to trust, among them a choirmaster and a teacher.
“It did a number on me and on my self-worth and my identity and who I am, whether I am good enough,” he said. “I somehow blamed myself for these things that happened when I was 4 and a half years old, when I was 14, when I was 16, as if I was the adult in the situation, and I wasn't.”
Though Eggleston reported the assault by his teacher, school officials were hesitant to believe him. After the teacher admitted the abuse, “no one ever followed up with me ever again,” he said.
“I never got any help. I never had anybody to talk to. It was just buried, and it was shameful, and I had embarrassed the family,” he said. “... Somehow it was my fault, and I felt it profoundly.”
A changing tide
Chris Smith, who began conducting interviews in 2014 for the yet-to-be-released documentary film “BOYS,” said he has heard similar stories from other men who were sexually exploited as children.
“The survivors that now are adults say there was nothing available for them to get help,” he said. “They knew deep down if they did come out, there would be no help for them.”
In recent years, the Smiths have seen that perception begin to change as abolition groups such as Shared Hope have begun to devote attention during national conferences to the issue of male survivors of sex trafficking.
“When we first stepped out on the scene – and I don't think this is a sole tribute to Restore One by any means – there were no breakouts on men and boys, no men who were survivor representatives at these conferences,” Anna Smith said.
“We are seeing changes, small change, but we are seeing change,” she said. “I would go so far as to say I believe we're making history by opening this home and by the work that we do. I believe that. We're changing history.”
Chris Smith said he has heard similar statements in the abolition community about Restore One's unprecedented work, but the ministry is keeping its focus on its mission.
“At the end of the day we're just about changing lives and helping boys,” he said, “helping males find peace and restoration.”
Restore One has established a registry at Wal-Mart, Target and on Amazon to provided needed furnishings and supplies for The Anchor House. For more information, visit restoreonelife.org or email The Anchor House Director Linda Royster at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kiwanis Vocational Home: Allegations Mirror Those From Olympia Kiwanis Boys Ranch, Which Resulted in More Than $50 Million in Settlements
by Natalie Johnson
Centralia's Kiwanis Vocational Home, open from 1979 to 1994, was intended to be a safe place for wayward boys, a state-licensed foster home where 11- to 17-year-olds could get an education and job skills in a “family atmosphere,” according to a 1986 Chronicle article.
However, four lawsuits from former residents paint an alarmingly different picture.
“This was a pedophile farm,” said attorney Darrell Cochran, of Tacoma, who represents plaintiffs in all four cases, two of which were filed Tuesday.
The lawsuits each allege physical, sexual and emotional abuse by both staff and residents of the home, intentional understaffing with unqualified workers and financial fraud and negligence by staff and state agencies, including the state Department of Social and Health Services, which licensed the facility.
“These individual defendants continued to support KVH despite clear evidence that it was a breeding ground for sexual abuse and sexually charged physical abuse,” the lawsuit states.
Furthermore, Cochran said evidence gathered in the cases shows conspiracy rife with “political corruption” with the facility acting to conceal allegations of abuse while continuing to profit from state reimbursements for services.
“Despite knowledge of the deplorable condition at KVH, Defendants acted to cover up and shield those from scrutiny, or at a minimum, did nothing to report or otherwise curtail the situation,” the complaint states.
While complaints of abuse and mismanagement came pouring in to DSHS — and even showed up in their own audits of the facility — the agency consistently approved requests to increase capacity for residents at KVH.
The two lawsuits filed Tuesday in Thurston County Superior Court name three plaintiffs identified by their initials — G.V., G.C. and R.P. — and list numerous defendants, including: Kiwanis International; Kiwanis Vocational Home; Kiwanis Pacific Northwest District; Kiwanis of Tumwater; Kiwanis of Pe Ell; Lewis County; Kiwanis of Chehalis; former KVH board members Sam C. Morehead, Edward J. Hopkins and Lewis E. Patton; the state of Washington; DSHS; the state Department of Children, Youth and Family Services; and state Child Protective Services.
The lawsuits specifically allege that each of the agencies and individuals listed acted negligently, putting the juvenile wards of the state living at KVH in physical danger.
“Each and all of the Kiwanis Defendants ignored their duties to the children at KVH and created a danger that Plaintiff would be sexually abused and suffer life-long injuries,” G.V.'s complaint reads.
In all, Cochran's office is involved in four lawsuits regarding abuse at the KVH. A 2016 lawsuit filed on behalf of a plaintiff identified as K.B. lists Kiwanis, KVH, Lewis County Youth Enterprises, Kiwanis of Tumwater, Kiwanis of Pe Ell, DSHS, Children, Youth and Family Services and CPS. That lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in Thurston County Superior Court in July 2018.
A 2015 lawsuit filed on behalf of a client identified by R.N. against the same agencies is scheduled to go to trial in Thurston County Superior Court in April 2018.
The four lawsuits involve residents of the facility from the mid-1980s to the facility's closure in 1994.
Kiwanis International was not able to provide a statement as it had not yet received the lawsuit. Lewis County has also not received the lawsuit. DSHS does not comment on pending litigation.
The Centralia/Chehalis Kiwanis Club did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Many of the individuals named in the documents no longer work with the agencies or groups they did at the time of the allegations, and some have died.
The allegations against KVH are similar to those at another Kiwanis-sponsored facility — the Olympia Kiwanis Boys Ranch — which also closed in 1994.
The OKBR received extensive coverage from the regional media after its collapse. A December 1995 Seattle Times story called the ranch a “house of horrors” and blamed DSHS for allowing it to stay open as long as it had.
When Darrell Cochran began taking on lawsuits alleging abuse at the OKBR in the mid-1990s, the cases literally hit close to home.
“I lived two blocks away from the Olympia Kiwanis Boys Ranch when I was growing up,” Cochran told The Chronicle. “Most of the clients were classmates of mine back in the day.”
He said he remembers the students were troubled, but little else.
“You didn't understand it as a seventh- or an eighth-grader,” he said.
In the past 20 years, he's been fighting cases related to the OKBR, but said these four lawsuits are the first filed regarding sexual abuse at KVH in Centralia.
“We never did one that just focused on the Kiwanis Vocational Home,” he said. “It's unfinished business in the back of my head for all these years.”
According to Cochran's office, Pfau Cochran Vertitis Amala, of Tacoma, dozens of plaintiffs who have sued the OKBR have received settlements totaling about $50 million, all in cases settled “as discreetly as possible” by state and local defendants.
“I feel blessed to be able to expose it and get help for the people who desperately need help,” Cochran said.
Unlike its Olympia counterpart, similar allegations of abuse and mismanagement have not previously been reported in Centralia.
The Kiwanis Vocational Home was founded in 1979 on Sawall Avenue off North Pearl Street after Centralia resident Ben Martin donated more than 300 acres of property just north of city limits to the project. Lewis County Youth Enterprises was formed to govern the home. Kiwanis clubs in Centralia, Chehalis, Grand Mound, Rochester and Tumwater were the initial sponsors of the home, according to a 1990 Chronicle article.
KVH began by taking only a few boys. It grew to include more than 70 residents at its peak, all of whom were wards of the state who were removed from their birth families by state agencies and placed in foster care.
“They come from broken or abusive families,” director Charles McCarthy told The Chronicle in 1990. “They are emotionally hurt and need some training to move back in with their family, relatives or foster homes.”
About 80 percent of the home's funding came from the state, according to a report in The Chronicle from 1987, and the facility was licensed as a foster home through DSHS.
Many of the stories filed in The Chronicle's archives about the Kiwanis Vocational Home are glowing reviews of the facility's mission to help young boys removed from abusive or troubled families.
Coverage from the mid 1980s and early 90s shows students digging in gardens, doing school work and playing ping pong.
Meanwhile, reports of assaults by staff members on students were already starting to alarm state agencies.
In Dececember 1981, DSHS staff wrote to the Lewis County Sheriff's Office expressing concern about violence at KVH. The letter notes five examples of assaults on residents perpetrated by staff or other residents dating to October of that year
“We are told that other assaults may have occurred previously and may have been witnessed by others who have present or former connections with this group home,” wrote Larry Pederson, Chehalis Community Service Officer with DSHS.
Pederson requested the Sheriff's Office's help in investigating the incidents.
The Chronicle has requested records of criminal investigations regarding KVH from the Lewis County Sheriff's Office.
Investigations undertaken through the four lawsuits have identified instances of sexual abuse reported and documented as early as 1982 — three years after KVH opened, according to documents provided by Cochran's office.
In January 1982, a boy living at the home reported a staff member let him drive his car in exchange for oral sex. The boy left the facility for a week and returned to learn that the incident was not reported to law enforcement, according to documents obtained by The Chronicle.
The boy called the Lewis County Sheriff's Office to report the rape, and according to a report from the Sheriff's Office, a staff member took the phone away and dismissed the allegations.
A report from DSHS dated Feb. 4, 1982, notes prosecution was unlikely in that specific abuse report, and agreed to renew KVH's license provisionally, provided the home met training and other requirements.
Further instances of sexual or physical abuse between residents or perpetrated by staff were reported consistently while the facility remained open.
For example, in November 1985, several instances of abuse were reported, including a staff member backhanding a boy, a boy raping another boy with no report filed and physical force used by staff to “maintain order.”
A DSHS memo issued days later dismissed the concerns.
Alleged abusers included both boys at the facility, KVH staff and leadership and Centralia School District staff.
“Dozens and dozens and dozens of kids are being molested in this place,” Cochran said.
He said evidence shows boys identified as victims of abuse were living with boys identified as sexual assault suspects.
In September 1988, a resident was arrested on suspicion of first-degree rape for an incident that occurred at KVH. The Chronicle printed a story on the police report.
That week, a CPS staffer wrote to Chronicle Publisher Jack Underwood chastising the newspaper for calling the incident a rape, as the police report did, and instead insisted the incident was consensual, according to documents obtained by The Chronicle.
In yet another incident, one staff member, who the Chronicle is not naming due to the fact that criminal charges were not filed, was removed from child-care duties at the facility after a DSHS investigation concluded he physically abused a resident in 1990. He was previously accused in 1988 of hitting residents and in 1989 breaking one resident's leg and hand, and was not removed from his post at that time.
In another report, a teacher allegedly threw a student across a room. Dozens of documents obtained by The Chronicle detail other instances of abuse or complaints about the facility.
In addition to reported cases of abuse, staff from the Department of Child and Family Services noted concerns about staff supervision, record-keeping and staff educational backgrounds that did not fit licensing requirements.
A June 1985 audit showed KVH was overbilling DSHS for services, according to documents obtained by The Chronicle. The audit also concluded adequate bathing facilities were not provided, personnel files were not up to date and educational, therapeutic and vocational services were not clearly outlined.
Meanwhile, KVH expanded its capacity for residents.
The facility was issued a provisional license for the period of Dec. 1985 to June 1986 due to more deficiencies identified by DSHS audits, mostly involving record-keeping and facilities.
In May 1987, KVH applied to DSHS to increase its capacity again. In August of that year, McCarthy wrote to DSHS that the facility had already taken children younger than 11, despite not yet having the new license to do so.
In 1990, capacity was increased again, to a maximum of 74 boys.
In February 1991, a DSHS audit of the KVH again found financial discrepancies and that employees of the home did not meet state-mandated qualifications. DSHS ordered KVH to cut its population. That year the home was cut to just nine boys.
According to a 1996 Chronicle article, court documents from a lawsuit over a dispute about the KVH property revealed that the 1991 DSHS audit “determined McCarthy and members of his staff physically abused the boys, that McCarthy misappropriated funds, and counselors failed to meet the minimum educational and experience requirements.”
The audit and subsequent requirement that KVH dramatically downsize was the beginning of the end for the facility.
KVH was renamed Coffee Creek Center after the Children's Industrial Home Board of Directors took over.
Allegations of abuse continued until the home was finally shuttered in 1994.
Royal commission provides a vital blueprint for justice for sex abuse victims-now it's time to act
by Michael Salter
Adult survivors of child sexual abuse have long complained about police disinterest in so-called “historical” sexual abuse complaints: when a report is made years after the alleged offence. The experiences of child and adult complainants in child sexual abuse trials have also been inconsistent. Often, they are alienating and retraumatising.
Against this backdrop, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse's report on criminal justice has powerfully reasserted the rights of survivors to pursue and obtain a criminal justice response. The report recognised this benefits survivors individually and as a group, and is in society's best interests.
The recommendation from the report that has received the most attention is that priests should be obliged to report to authorities information about child sexual abuse they receive during confession.
The royal commission recognised the religious significance of confession practices in many faiths. However, the evidence presented to it indicated that children have disclosed their abuse in confession, while clergy and other offenders have used the confessional to exculpate themselves of guilt.
For this reason, the commission argued the failure to report knowledge about child sexual abuse gained in the confessional should be a criminal offence. It is calling for the creation of a new offence of failing to report sexual abuse in institutions.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has responded by declaring the inviolability of the confessional seal a matter of “freedom of religion”. It thus framed the expansion of its child protection obligations as a form of religious oppression. And Melbourne archbishop Denis Hart has said he would rather go to jail than report a sexual abuse allegation arising from confession.
But given the declining popularity of confession, and the likelihood that perpetrators will avoid disclosure if confession is not confidential, debates over this issue are largely symbolic.
However, this particular recommendation's prominence should not overshadow the substantive changes the commission proposed to the culture and process of criminal justice intervention into child sexual abuse. This is particularly so in relation to “historical” cases.
Improving police responses
The royal commission has understood the critical importance of a respectful response from police from the moment of an initial report of child sexual abuse.
Police act as the “gatekeepers” of the criminal justice system. They can formally or informally obstruct survivors from pursuing complaints in several ways.
Submissions to the commission suggested there has been a general reluctance within police to investigate historical complaints of child sexual abuse. Survivors described police discouraging them from making a formal statement, telling them it was unlikely their allegations could be proven in court.
Survivors flagged issues with policing culture, and described situations in which police told survivors they were culpable for their abuse and should “get over” it.
Survivors felt that some abuse complaints were not investigated due to disbelief, while others were only investigated after sustained pressure and repeated inquiries from survivors.
The commission noted an apparent improvement in police responses to abuse reports over the past 15 years. However, it recommended police develop clear standards that lay out what adult survivors can expect when they approach police, with a focus on ensuring consideration and respect.
Importantly, the commission suggested increased police accountability and outcome reporting for child sexual abuse investigations.
Criminal justice culture and processes
Perhaps the report's most consequential recommendation is in relation to tendency and coincidence evidence – that is, evidence of other acts of misconduct – and joint trials.
When an offender has abused multiple children, the charges relating to each child are frequently heard in separate trials. Corroborating testimony from other alleged victims is often not admitted at trial, and juries may not be informed if the defendant has prior convictions or charges relating to child sexual abuse.
These exclusions significantly decrease the likelihood of successful prosecution.
In response, the commission has recommended law reform to facilitate the admission of tendency and coincidence evidence at trial, and to increase the number of joint trials.
These changes will provide judges and juries with vital contextual information related to the alleged offending, and improve – not prejudice – decision-making.
Another valuable recommendation is that adult survivors of child abuse should be understood as vulnerable witnesses in the criminal justice system. They should gain access to provisions such as the pre-recording of their full evidence, including cross-examination and re-examination.
These provisions have previously only been available to children or adults with a cognitive impairment.
Improving continuity and communication
Reporting child sexual abuse to police, and any subsequent investigation or trial, is a time of profound instability for victims and their families.
What may appear – to police, prosecutors or criminal justice staff – as the justice system's normal operations can be entirely new and disconcerting for victims and allies.
The commission has highlighted the importance of providing accessible information and educational resources to survivors about police and justice processes, and training police and prosecution staff in the nature and impact of child sexual abuse.
This is why a non-judgemental approach to the mental health effects of abuse is vital to promoting a culture of respect and shared understanding.
The recommendations also emphasise the importance of staffing continuity and communication throughout the investigation and prosecution process. Survivors would be regularly in contact with the same representatives, keeping them up-to-date with their case. Key decisions in the direction of an investigation and prosecution need to be transparent and accountable.
After decades of feeling marginalised by policing and justice processes, survivors of child sexual abuse now have a document that not only articulates their key concerns, but maps out a practical and achievable strategy for addressing them. The question now is whether governments will act.
Illinois Eliminates Statutes of Limitations on Child Sex Abuse Crimes
by Kristen Thometz
Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday signed into law a bill that eliminates statutes of limitations for all felony criminal sexual assault and sexual abuse crimes against children.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan initiated the bill sponsored by Sen. Scott Bennett and Rep. Michelle Mussman. Effective immediately, the law applies to future felony child sex crime cases as well as current criminal cases in which the previous statute of limitations has not expired.
“Sex crimes against children are a horribly tragic violation of trust that can take a lifetime to recover from,” Madigan said in a press release. “This new law will ensure that survivors are provided with the time they need to heal and seek justice.”
Prior to the new law, Illinois' statutes required that the most egregious sexual offenses against children must be reported and prosecuted within 20 years of the survivor turning 18 years old. Two exceptions existed for cases in which the crimes were committed on or after Jan. 1, 2014, and either corroborating physical evidence exists or a mandated reporter failed to report the abuse.
“A prosecutor's ability to seek justice on behalf of a sexual abuse survivor should not be hindered by an arbitrary stopwatch,” said Sen. Scott Bennett, a former prosecutor, in a press release. “There should be no time limit on obtaining justice for the survivors of these horrendous crimes.”
The statutes prevented former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert from being prosecuted for allegations of abuse against minors while he was an Illinois high school wrestling coach decades ago.
In 2015, Hastert pleaded guilty to federal charges connected to a hush-money scheme to allegedly keep sexual abuse allegations secret. During the sentencing phase of Hastert's trial, Scott Cross alleged that he was one of Hastert's victims.
“Dennis Hastert used his authority and position as a role model to violate the trust of the youth in his care – in the most unimaginable way possible. And despite the lives ruined and decades of pain and suffering the survivors continue to deal with, he will never be held accountable,” said Cross in a press release. “I am thankful that Illinois law will now allow survivors of these horrific crimes to come forward in their own time, and get justice – no matter how overdue.”
Illinois joins 36 other states and the federal government in removing criminal statutes of limitations for some or all sexual offenses against children.
“This law sends a message to survivors of felony child sex crimes that it is not too late to come forward and report to law enforcement,” said Polly Poskin, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, in a statement.
“Holding abusers accountable is important in a survivor's recovery. A survivor's path to justice should not be unavailable due to Illinois' statutes of limitations.”
Child safety investigations declining
by the Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) — Investigations into reports of child neglect have dropped 8 percent over the last year, even as the number of calls continues to pour into Arizona's child-abuse hotline at a steady rate.
The Department of Child Safety credits the decline to changes made in the last year in how the hotline is operated.
The agency said it has taken steps to weed out reports that do not need state intervention.
A 2016 law said the Department of Child Safety doesn't have to pursue calls where the caller left no details on how to find a child, or cases where the alleged neglect happened more than three years earlier.
The agency said it has implemented a checklist that helps operators better determine what constitutes abuse and neglect.
The agency also has added a recording played to hotline callers, reminding them that any false report could lead to a criminal misdemeanor prosecution.
The agency said all reports of abuse are still checked out, and the changes free up its investigators to focus on only the credible reports of the less-dire allegation known as neglect.
But some worry the state might be missing a chance to do early intervention that could prevent a family situation from becoming more severe.
After the number of Arizona children in out-of-home care peaked around 19,000 in March 2016, data now shows that total declining. Fewer kids are being taken into state custody and more kids are exiting state care, The Arizona Republic reported.
There were initial questions whether the 2016 legislation allowing the Department of Child Safety not to investigate certain reports risked a return to the scandal that led to the creation of the child-welfare agency in the first place.
In 2013, the agency then known as Child Protective Services was rocked by the revelation that more than 6,000 reports of child abuse and neglect had been set aside and marked “not investigated” as child-welfare workers grappled with a flood of reports in the wake of the Great Recession. Ultimately the unit was moved out of the state's overall welfare agency, given a new name and a redefined role. But questions persisted as the number of children it took from their families grew larger.
There were 244 reports excluded from investigation out of the 23,579 received last year, the Department of Child Safety reported.
“That sounds minimal, but it's an incremental gain of time for our investigators,” said Cynthia Weiss, the agency's communication director. With the new guidelines, investigators can spend time on more-serious, quantifiable complaints, she said.
Sixty-five percent of the calls to the hotline in the last fiscal year were investigated, compared to 72 percent a year ago and 76 percent two years ago.
With 35 percent of its hotline calls not leading to investigation, Arizona is moving toward the national average. The Administration for Children and Families, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reported in 2011 that 40 percent of hotline calls did not result in investigations.
First Lady of Arkansas advocated for more services to help abused children
by Diana Davis
A former school teacher and board member of the Children's Advocacy Center of Benton County, the First Lady of Arkansas speaks with passion when it comes to the children of Arkansas.
“We need more centers,” Susan Hutchinson said. “We only have 15 in the whole state.”
Mrs. Hutchinson would like to see the establishment of more Children's Advocacy Centers in Arkansas—perhaps one per county.
Her fervor comes as a result of witnessing what can happen when a victim of child sexual abuse grows up and becomes an adult. Without naming names, she spoke of a close friend whose life was forever altered by the person she should have been able to trust above all else—her father.
“Her Dad was a pedophile and what that meant to her as a child, hurting her and the obstacles in her thought processes with that,” Mrs. Hutchinson said. “Then, I discovered the Children's Advocacy Center in Benton County several years back. I realized that it was a secret that was being kept. If only there was a way to help children get their story out. Get it to the prosecutor, get it to DHS agents, get it to law enforcement so they could be protected and helped.”
Mrs. Hutchinson made the trek to Northeast Arkansas on a rainy Tuesday morning to advocate for the Northeast Arkansas Children's Advocacy Center.
All child interviews at NEACAC are video recorded to reduce the need to have a child repeat his or her story of abuse multiple times. The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner is available to offer every child who is interviewed at the center a forensic medical exam when appropriate.
“The prosecutor out of Huntsville, Alabama came up with this idea,” Mrs. Hutchinson explained. “Why not have the children come and talk to nice, loving, caring people who know how to talk to a child, who train to talk to a child, who can videotape what a child has to say and then pass that information along. That's what we're trying to do.”
Mrs. Hutchinson wants to help more children geographically in the state. With only 15 centers statewide, Children's Advocacy Centers are not always nearby. She feels getting a child that's been sexually abused to a center is vital.
“We are recognized by the Department of Justice of the United States,” Mrs. Hutchinson said. “We're recognized by the state of Arkansas as being vital—as being that connector between the child.”
Hutchinson was honored in 2015 as Arkansas Woman of Inspiration for her work on behalf of children.
At a balloon launch Tuesday afternoon, Hutchinson said places like the Children's Advocacy Center can provide a place that can help children in a definite time of need.
"To get to the children. To get to the young people as well as soon as possible for them to get this released and let the authorities deal with the badness and for us to be there to help them think this through is healing and powerful medicine," Hutchinson said.
Now, Children's Advocacy Centers of Arkansas will honor another woman, Lisenne Rockefeller, on Wednesday, September 6 with a special dinner event at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock, with all proceeds used to support Children's Advocacy Centers of Arkansas.
“What we're trying to do is strengthen those cases so that prosecutors can do their job and the DHS agent can do their job,” Mrs. Hutchinson said. “The children can be rescued and freed from this torture that they have been going through and we can follow-up with counseling.”
If you know or suspect a child may be abused, make a report to the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline at 1-844-SAVE-A-CHILD.
Report on Criminal Justice released today
by My Sunshine Coase
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has released 85 recommendations aimed at reforming the Australian criminal justice system in order to provide a fairer response to victims of institutional child sexual abuse.
The report Criminal Justice , which was released today, recommends a sweep of legislative and policy changes. It includes reform to police and prosecution responses, evidence of complainants, sentences and appeals, and grooming offences. It also recommends new offences, including 'failure to report' and 'failure to protect'.
Royal Commission CEO Philip Reed said the criminal justice system is often seen as not being effective in responding to child sexual abuse cases and conviction rates are lower compared to other crimes.
"Child sexual abuse cases are often 'word against word' cases with no eyewitnesses or medical or scientific evidence. Complainants often take years or decades to disclose their abuse," Mr Reed said.
"Although we have focused on child sexual abuse in institutions, these 85 recommendations are likely to improve responses to child sexual abuse in all contexts."
Mr Reed said the recommendations have been informed by the Royal Commission's public hearings, private sessions, a consultation paper, research and roundtables.
Sentencing standards in historical cases
All states and territories should introduce legislation so that sentences for child sexual abuse offences are set in accordance with sentencing standards at the time of the sentencing, instead of at the time of offending. However, the sentence must be limited to the maximum sentence available for the offence at the date when the offence was committed.
Many survivors of institutional child sexual abuse do not report the offence for years or even decades and applying historical sentencing standards can result in sentences that do not align with the criminality of the offence as currently understood.
Tendency and coincidence evidence and joint trials
Laws should be reformed to allow greater use of evidence by multiple victims in relation to a single perpetrator (known as tendency and coincidence evidence) and joint trials.
In a number of cases examined by the Royal Commission, juries have been denied the opportunity to hear accounts that give the true picture of what is alleged to have happened.
The Royal Commission found that there have been unjust outcomes in the form of unwarranted acquittals because of the exclusion of tendency or coincidence evidence. Research and data examined by the Royal Commission found that concerns that tendency and coincidence evidence carries a high risk of unfair prejudice to the accused are misplaced.
Grooming children and those around them
Legislation should be introduced or amended to adopt a broad grooming offence that captures any communication or conduct with a child with the intention of grooming the child to be involved in a sexual offence.
Furthermore, governments should introduce laws to extend their grooming offences to the grooming of persons other than the child, such as a parent or carer. This helps to protect the child and recognises that grooming behaviour can also harm those who care for the child.
Failure to report and the religious confessional
The report recommends making failure to report child sexual abuse in institutions a criminal offence. This recommendation extends to information given in religious confessions. Clergy should not be able to refuse to report because the information was received during confession.
Persons in institutions should report if they know, suspect or should have suspected a child is being or has been sexually abused.
The Royal Commission heard of cases in religious settings where perpetrators who made a religious confession to sexually abusing children went on to reoffend and seek forgiveness. The report recommends there be no exemption, excuse, protection or privilege from the offence granted to clergy for failing to report information disclosed in connection with a religious confession.
Failure to protect a child within an institution
Failure to protect a child within an institution from a substantial risk of sexual abuse by an adult associated with the institution should be made a criminal offence.
The Commission heard of many cases where perpetrators were moved between schools and other sites operated by the same institutions when an allegation against them was raised. They continued to abuse children in new locations.
All states and territories should introduce a failure to protect offence. The legislation already introduced in Victoria provides a useful precedent.
Read Criminal Justice Report in full.
Read factsheets attached or see below links:
Fact sheet: Outline of recommendations
Fact sheet: Improvements for complainants in court
Fact sheet: Failure to report offence
Fact sheet: Tendency and coincidence evidence and joint trials
The Royal Commission has today also published a research report on child sexual abuse complaints to police from 2010 to 2014, as well as submissions to its model bill to amend evidence laws, and a response from the researchers to submissions on the research into how juries reason.
Read these documents:
Police responses to child sexual abuse 2010–14: An analysis of administrative data for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
Submissions on Model bill
Request and the researchers' responses on submissions on Criminal Justice Consultation Paper
Group works to end the 'silent nights' of child abuse victims
by Kimberly Kochem
The child was just 7 years old when she learned to stay silent. Many silent nights were spent tip-toeing, desperate not to attract attention. Others, she awoke only to suffer, the words “our secret,” “love,” and “don't tell” ringing in her ears. At 7 years old, she was afraid and trusted no one.
The stress she was under began to take its toll on her. Rather than risk attracting the attention of her abuser, she wet the bed instead of getting out of bed. When asked how her day was, she quietly bowed her head, focusing on her feet. Her schoolwork suffered, and she became a shell of the happy child she once was. Despite the hollowness in her eyes, when asked directly how she was feeling, the girl would simply say “I'm fine.”
Wednesday started like many others: silently hiding her soiled pajamas, quietly eating breakfast, and heading to school. But on this day, two special guests appeared in her 's classroom: "Sally" and "Billy." They were unlike other classroom visitors — they were short, colorful, cartoon-like characters. They were, in a word — puppets. Behind these colorful friends were equally friendly and exciting grownups: educators from the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse.
In the world of 7-year-old, they were much, much more. She listened as the colorful puppets acted out scenarios all too familiar to her, focusing on what kind of touch was not okay. Despite the serious nature of their lesson, the puppets brought the lesson to life in a child-friendly way. They talked about how to keep her body safe, and what to do if she felt her boundaries were violated.
Drawn into the magical performance, she took note. Sally and Billy shared with her there was a place she could call for help if she ever needed it. At the end of the visit the entire classroom of children stood, pointed their thumbs at their selves, and repeated “I AM THE BOSS OF MY BODY” three times. She repeated this message, in a whisper at first, then again with more voice, and then once more… when she began to believe it.
Once they concluded their lesson, the children were given a piece of paper they would use to give feedback to the day's lesson.
“If anything has happened to you that didn't feel okay, you can write it down” said their new friend and educator, Amy Quinn. That day the girl and her classmates were given one of the CPCA's signature wooden nickels that remind children of our motto “NO. GO. TELL.” The educators instructed the class “If you feel like something isn't right, say ‘NO', then GO away, and TELL a trusted adult.
That day the girl felt empowered. The caring nature of her new friends made her feel comfortable enough to disclose that something in her life didn't feel okay. Behind the scenes, a coordinated response involving a team of heroes including Child Protective Services, local police, and her very own advocate unfolded immediately. The next thing she knew, she was at the doors of the Child Advocacy Center. When she arrived, this brave child had one thing to say:
“I'm here to turn in my coin.”
What happen next involved a team of heroes: the New York State Police, Dutchess County District Attorney's office, Child Protective Services, and our Child Advocacy Center staff affected a coordinated response to her disclosure that made her feel comfortable, welcomed, and safe.
She played in our family room, talked with our team of heroes, and was offered a snack of apple juice and pretzels. After her visit, she was brought to the Teddy Bear Shelf, where she selected a teddy bear of her very own to bring home and hug very tightly from now until forever.
While she came to our CAC with a serious intention, she left with the smile of an innocent and happy child. She now resides with her family, safe from abuse and empowered to help herself and others (and snuggling her Superhero bear).
Specialized services for children like her couldn't happen without the help of our community. If you would like to support us in our mission to end child abuse, please visit our website at thecpca.com.
Kimberly Kochem is executive director of The Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse.
County child neglect down
by James Sprague
After months of double-digit cases of child neglect, Fayette County saw those figures ease up some during June and July.
The Indiana Department of Child Services released last week its statistics for June and July regarding child neglect, child physical abuse and child sexual abuse for the six-county DCS Region 12, with Fayette County seeing its figures each month drop to single-digits – the first time since January the county has had such low figures.
Child neglect, as defined by the state of Indiana, is when a “child's physical or mental condition is seriously impaired or seriously endangered as a result of the parent, guardian, or custodian being unable, refusing, or neglecting to supply the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, or supervision.”
Many local and area officials have previously chalked up the situation with child neglect as a direct correlation of the ongoing issue of substance abuse throughout the state and nation.
For the month of June, Fayette County had only 5 substantiated cases of child neglect, marking its lowest figure of the year. The previous low had been 6 cases in January.
July saw a slight increase from June when it came to substantiated cases of child neglect, but still clocked in at only 9 such cases – the third-lowest figure of the year thus far for the county.
July also saw Fayette County with one substantiated case of child sexual abuse, bringing its total year-to-date to two such cases, and one substantiated case of child physical abuse, bringing the county's number to six thus far – a number which tops the county's 2016 total of five child physical abuse cases.
Currently, after seven months of 2017, the county has 70 substantiated cases of child neglect, putting it on pace for 120 – a figure which would be 25 percent lower than the county's all-time record high number of 160 such cases in 2016.
The only two area counties in DCS Region 12 to have double-digit child neglect numbers, over the months of June and July, were Henry and Wayne counties.
Henry County had 14 such cases in June, with Wayne County leading the way with 45 cases, while July saw Henry County with 13 cases, while Wayne County had 34 cases.
Franklin County saw its figures drop back down to single digits for June and July, following a monthly high of 16 cases of substantiated child neglect in May, while Union and Rush counties also saw low single-digit figures.
Union County, in fact, had no substantiated cases of child neglect for the month of June.
Overall, in July, the state of Indiana had 2,031 substantiated cases of child neglect, down from 2,505 substantiated cases in June; 119 substantiated cases of child physical abuse, down from 206 in June; and 249 substantiated cases of child sexual abuse, also down from the state's June figures of 323.
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call Indiana's Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-800-5556. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You can report abuse and neglect anonymously.
Substantiated child neglect cases, area counties, July
Source: Indiana Department of Child Services
Pediatricians are debating whether refusing to vaccinate a child can be construed as 'medical neglect'
by Nicole Wetsman
In May, Minnesota reached an unfortunate milestone: The state had seen more measles cases in the first five months of 2017 than the entire country had experienced in all of 2016.
The number of cases was, at recent count, 79. Most of those diagnosed with measles have been children, and more than a quarter of them have required hospitalization.
While no one has died during the outbreak, some children may face long-term complications that include neurological damage and a greater susceptibility to future diseases.
The outbreak can be traced to parents who don't wish to vaccinate their children—perhaps from religious beliefs or the idea, based on now-disproven science, that vaccines may give their child autism. When a parent does not want to vaccinate a child, a pediatrician has few good options.
The physician can educate or cajole the parents or refuse to take on the child's care. But as frustration with “anti-vax” parenting grows, some pediatricians want to go one step further if all other attempts to induce compliance fail: calling child protective services to report the maltreatment of a child.
These physicians consider a refusal to vaccinate to be a case of clear-cut medical neglect—an offense in which a parent refuses proper medical care to the point of putting a child in serious danger. “Parents have a responsibility to get their child vaccinated,” says Frank A. Chervenak, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian. “It's very straightforward.” In an article in The Journal of Pediatrics in February 2016, Chervenak wrote that “informed refusal becomes child neglect, because [parents] are refusing to authorize evidence-based, effective and safe preventive care.”
Whether refusing a vaccine qualifies as neglect, however, is a topic of debate. “If the risk doesn't look immediate, it's probably not neglect,” says Dorit Reiss, a professor at University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, who studies legal issues related to vaccines.
The diseases for which kids receive vaccines are now so uncommon, she says, that refusing usually doesn't put the child in immediate danger. “And most states have exemption laws, allowing parents to sidestep vaccination on grounds of personal belief,” Reiss adds. “That complicates the argument further.”
Doug Opel, a pediatrician and associate professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, collaborated with attorney Efthimios Parasidis, associate professor of Law and Public Health at the Moritz College of Law at the Ohio State University in Columbus, to consider the legal precedents. They found only nine cases in which a parent was brought before a judge on grounds of medical neglect because of vaccine refusal.
In seven of the nine cases, vaccine refusal was considered medical neglect by the court—but five of those cases were in states that did not allow religious or philosophical exemptions to vaccination at the time. In states that did allow those exceptions, the legal arguments focused primarily on whether a religious claim was valid, rather than on the medical risk to a child, says Parasidis. Opel and Parasidis published these findings last December in the American Journal of Public Health .
Beyond the question of whether vaccine refusal constitutes neglect is another issue: What should happen if child protective services is called in? Weill Cornell Medicine's Chervenak doesn't want CPS to remove the child from the home, though he does think parents who refuse to vaccinate should be flagged by the agency. “The purpose of contacting CPS is to help persuade the parents to authorize vaccination,” he says. “It's a way to communicate the importance of fulfilling their parental responsibility.”
Current policy recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, meanwhile, direct pediatricians to call protective services only when vaccine refusal represents an immediate danger—refusing a tetanus shot after a deep, contaminated wound, for instance.
In line with the AAP recommendations, Opel says that he prefers communication over punishment when approaching parents about vaccination. “We need to be very cautious with involving CPS for vaccine refusal,” he says. “It will likely be perceived as coercive and undermine the doctor-parent relationship. My preference is to work with parents, build rapport and trust, and keep communication lines open.”
Representatives from child welfare agencies in Texas, California and Michigan have said that they would not have the authority to investigate a family for medical neglect purely on the grounds of vaccine refusal. But policies in most states are not formalized, and Opel says that CPS needs to provide more guidance for pediatricians.
The problem is that when pediatricians face a parent who consistently refuses vaccines, “they don't have many communication tools in their toolbox,” says Opel. “This is a frustrating scenario.” With more clarity about CPS guidelines, medical agencies and practitioners will be better able to reach the shared goal of protecting children.
Spotlight: Number of child abuse cases in Japan spikes in 2016, welfare workers overstretched
TOKYO, Aug. 17 (Xinhua) -- The number of cases of child abuse in Japan that involved child consultation centers increased to a record level in 2016, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Thursday.
The health ministry's survey showed that cases of child abuse that were handled by juvenile consultation centers around the nation had increased by five times over the past 15 years.
Welfare workers dealing with abused children and their parents in the same period had doubled, the ministry also said.
According to the latest figures, in fiscal 2016, cases of psychological abuse, including those in which children were exposed to verbal abuse or ignored, increased by 14,487 to 63,187, or just over 50 percent of all cases.
Cases of physical abuse, meanwhile, totaled 31,927 cases, accounting for 26 percent of the total cases, while 25,842 children or 21.1 percent of the total suffered from neglect.
Sexual abuse cases stood at 1,622, or 1.3 percent, the ministry's data showed.
Municipal governments have been requested by the health ministry for the first time to report suspected child abuse cases that were initially deemed unrelated to abuse and resulted in the death of a child.
After reviewing 12 suspected cases, it was determined that eight deaths were caused by child abuse, with the number of children who died in fiscal 2015 because of abuse increasing by eight to 52 from the previous year.
The number excluded children who were killed in murder-suicides.
Of the 52 fatally abused children, 30 of the victims were less than one year old, the health ministry's expert committee deduced, stating that "seamless" support programs need to be instituted to deal with issues such as unexpected pregnancy and other issues affecting mothers.
The rising number of child abuse cases in Japan is due to more children being abused psychologically, such as those who repeatedly have to witness acts of domestic abuse at home with their families, the ministry's data suggested.
It also intimated that the continued increase in child abuse here was at least in part attributable to more people reporting cases of abuse and more procedural information being available nowadays as society has become more aware of the issue.
Child welfare officers responding to a government survey said they were overburdened by their caseloads involving Japan's abused children.
Ninety four percent of those polled said that their workload was either "very heavy" or "heavy" according to the statistics bureau.
Experts said despite the ministry's plans to increase the number of child welfare officers by 550 from 3,000 over the next five years, the move would still mean the number of officers and the rising number of child abuse cases would continue to be incongruous.
The revised welfare law and the government's efforts to bolster the legal power of child consultation centers, have both fallen short, and have actually added to the workload of an already depleted field of welfare workers here, experts close to the matter have said.
Putting a stop to child sexual abuse
FAIRMONT, W.Va. (WDTV) -- The Marion County Prosecuting Attorney's Office and local agencies are teaming up together to help victims of child sexual abuse.
"We still feel that there are a lot of cases that aren't getting to us. There are a lot of things we could do to improve reporting so our goal is to partner with schools, partner with churches, partner with nonprofit organizations to address those issues and to provide greater support for victims of abuse," said Prosecutor Robert Peters.
Statistics show that here in the Mountain State, nearly 65% of child sexual abuse victims are under the age of 18 and the most frequently reported age is 15.
The Marion County Family Resource Network, along with other agencies, is working to stop the silence and stigma surrounding child sexual abuse.
"Eventually the child that's offended acts out and then it just perpetrates more and more so we are going to break that cycle of silence and shame for them we hope," said Frank Jarman, Executive Director of the Marion County Family Resource Network.
Pope Francis says sexual abuse by priests is an 'absolute monstrosity' in new book
In foreword to memoir by survivor of clerical abuse, pope promises action but critics say he has not done enough to hold perpetrators to account
Pope Francis has branded sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests a “monstrosity” and pledged action against perpetrators and bishops who protected them.
The pope made the comments in the foreword of a new book titled Father, I Forgive You: Abused But Not Broken, written by Swiss man Daniel Pittet, who was first raped by a priest when he was eight years old.
Pope Francis, whose repeated promises of zero tolerance have been criticised by victims who say the Vatican needs to do much more, called sexual abuse “an absolute monstrosity, a terrible sin that contradicts everything that the Church teaches”.
The foreword was published on Wednesday by the German daily Bild.
The pope said the fate of abused children weighed on his soul, especially those who had taken their own lives.
“We will counter those priests who betrayed their calling with the most strenuous measures. This also applies to the bishops and cardinals who protected these priests – as happened repeatedly in the past,” he wrote.
Church sexual abuse broke into the open in the United States with reports of cases in Louisiana in 1984, and exploded in 2002, when journalists in Boston found that bishops had systematically moved abusers to new posts instead of defrocking them.
Thousands of cases have come to light around the world as investigations have encouraged long-silent victims to go public, shattering the Church's reputation. More than $2bn has been paid in compensation.
In Ireland, a 10-year inquiry into child abuse within the Catholic church and church run institutions concluded in 2009 after documenting thousands of cases of beatings, rapes, neglect and exploitation.
A similar inquiry in Australia, which began in 2013, was also established following revelations of clergy being moved between parishes to cover up abuse. Thousands of survivors of child sexual abuse have testified to the inquiry, which was not limited to the Catholic church.
Pope Francis' efforts against sexual abuse since his election in 2013 have sputtered. Critics say he has not done enough to hold to account those bishops who mishandled cases of abuse or covered it up, and a Vatican commission formed in 2014 to advise him on rooting it out has been hit by internal dissent.
Peter Saunders, an English victim of clergy abuse, took a leave of absence last year in protest over a lack of progress. Marie Collins, from Ireland, also a victim of abuse when she was a child, quit in frustration in March, citing a “shameful” lack of cooperation within the Vatican.
In his foreword, Pope Francis praised Pittet's courage in telling his story, saying he was deeply moved by his ability to forgive his abuser 44 years after he was first molested. The Church has defrocked the abuser.
Pittet, now 58, who as a child endured four years of rapes, abuse and exposure to pornography, wrote that his act of forgiveness had nothing to do with human justice or denial.
“Forgiveness does not heal the wounds or wipe away the misery … forgiving him has allowed me to burst the chains that bound me to him and prevented me from living,” Pittet wrote in the book, according to excerpts released by German publisher Herder.
How to empower your child to spek up against sexual abuse and get help
A four-year-old was recently raped at school in Mumbai by a peon. Here is what you need to teach your child about sexual abuse.
by Debjani Arora
The world is no more a safe haven for our little angels and the proof is the horrific incidences of child sexual abuse that we read in the newspapers almost every day. The predators don't spare girls as young as three-year-olds. Recently the case of a four-year-old being raped in the school premises repeatedly for three days by a peon has shocked us to the core. This wasn't the first child sexual abuse case we heard of that took place inside the school premises. We have heard about children being molested and raped in school premises even before, sometimes at the hands of a male attendant and sometimes even by male teachers.
The abuse just doesn't stop there. These predators also play with a child's psyche, they traumatise and scare them so much that a child puts up with the torture and refrains from speaking about it even to the parents. This is where we as parents need to up our ante. Make our kids confident beings who can speak for themselves and seek help from the right people as soon as they smell danger. We got talking to Niyatii N Shah, sexuality educator, Mumbai to know how to help our kids stay safe and look for help. Here are few tips she has to offer:
Act before it is too late: While it sounds like a cliché, remember, the best way to help your child speak up about abuse is by keeping the parent-child communication open. ‘As parents, we teach them that school is a safe place. The school staff like the mausi (maid), uncle (male attendants) and teachers would take care of them. We instil faith in them regarding the institution. It becomes difficult for them to negate this faith when any of the school staff betrays their trust,' says Niyatii. Being attacked or assaulted by someone they trust is so traumatic that they fail to dig up the courage to speak up about it.
And if the child is living in an environment of tension at home, this makes things worse. ‘So, try to bridge the gap between you and your child and create a safe environment where she can come back and confide in you, even if the abuser has threatened to harm the family. Home should be a place where she is fearless and knows that her words and actions will be taken seriously,' says Niyatii. Here are signs that your child is being sexually abused.
Improve their vocabulary to address sexual abuse: ‘We have been stressing the importance of teaching your child (as early as two years) names of all the body parts including the genitals for a reason. Most of the time kids who are abused don't know what to say to parents or how to address the problem. They might say it is hurting, it is paining, but not know how to describe it. If your child knows what a vagina or a vulva is she might be able to say that it is hurting in my vulva or vagina and that will be like a red flag for you,' says Niyatii. This will help you to question her further and get to the crux of the matter.
Be an active parent: Attend all the PTM meetings and try to make a connection with the teachers. ‘Sure, you won't be able to gift or bribe the teachers, but establish a rapport whenever you get a chance. Just making sure that you are there for your kid does a lot to ensure that anyone would think twice before harming your child,' she says. Niyatii also points out that the abusers don't want to get caught and so they choose their victims carefully. ‘They might either pick up kids who are naive and sublime or the ones who are loud and clear but are never believed. This is why if you are there with your child for meetings, gatherings and annual functions, cheering and patting them for their achievements and failure, alike, this gives an indication to the abuser that your child has a support system in place and he might not want to pick your child as his next prey,' she adds. Here is what you should do when your child is sexually abused.
Teach them to seek help: It is quite possible that when your child is sexually abused even if she wants to talk to someone, she might not know whom to confide. ‘Tell your kid that it is okay to talk to any teacher whom she is comfortable with when she needs help or feels uncomfortable. Not all kids feel connected to the class teacher; some might feel connected to the PT teacher some with the drawing teacher. So, ask her to reach out to the teacher she trusts the most,' says Niyatii. Explain to your child that every teacher in the school is there to help, so she doesn't hesitate to approach anyone other than the class teacher.
Talk to the school about their safety policies: ‘As parents it is your right to ask the school about the policies they have for abuse, both physical and verbal. Just because it is not mandatory, they can't ignore the need for it. By asking about the policy they follow you are no way disrespecting the school, so don't be hesitant. In fact, the school also gets the feeling that you are actively involved in assuring your child's security. This will compel schools to have a policy in place, just like how corporate companies have sexual harassment policy after years of making noise,' says Niyatii.
We all wholeheartedly want this kind of abuse to stop and the criminals are booked and charged with maximum punishment for their crimes, but till then we can take these little steps to ensure that we empower our kids and help them to stay safe.
The lasting damage of emotional abuse
Name-calling, humiliating comments and other forms of shaming can inflict lifelong scars on children. As Dave McGinn writes, those kids often grow up with no choice but to cut their parents off entirely
by Dave McGinn
Shawn Johnston will always remember the taunting.
At 13, Johnston was slightly overweight and had yet to hit puberty. Worst of all, his emotionally distant father would encourage Shawn's two younger brothers to mock his appearance.
“They'd all have a big laugh. It was for ‘fun,' but it actually wasn't fun for me,” said Johnston, 40, who lives in Vancouver and runs a Web strategy agency.
“They would go on for hours where they would come up with fat jokes or late-bloomer jokes.”
The jeering went on for nearly a year, until his mother – they have since divorced – finally put a stop to it.
Yet, that was hardly the limit of his father's abuse. “He was always unkind. There were lots of times when he said he wasn't proud of me or that I was disappointing,” Johnston said. “I still struggle with that sense of unworthiness.”
Child protection agencies across Canada now recognize emotional abuse – screaming, name calling, bullying and making humiliating comments – alongside other forms of parental abuse, including physical and sexual abuse. It can inflict lasting damage on a child's mood, mental health and behaviour. And when emotionally abused children grow up, many see no choice but to end their relationships with their parents.
Even name calling can warrant an investigation of emotional abuse, said Pat Sisson, a child welfare supervisor at the Children's Aid Society of Toronto.
The organization was once contacted anonymously by a person who heard his neighbour yell at his adopted son that the boy was the worst $40,000 they ever spent.”That was enough for us to go out and talk to them,” Sisson said. “It's hard to prove sometimes, but we will go out and begin to talk to parents about how words matter.”
Taunting and group bullying like that experienced by Johnston clearly fall into the category, according to Gary Walters, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto who has studied abusive parents.
He said that emotional abuse can result in anxiety, depression, and, often, risk-taking behaviours, but even the most abusive parent often refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing. “They don't see this as bad,” Walters said. “They really think that this is the way to go.”
Robyn Bambrick, a teacher in Alberta, was raised by a mother she said is a narcissist who not only withheld affection but regularly belittled her. “She would taunt me in the morning when I was trying to go to school,” Bambrick said about a period in high school when the two lived alone following her parents' divorce.
Now trying to be a “healthy, engaged mom myself,” Bambrick has kept her relationship with her mother to a bare minimum for several years. She has seen her at funerals and a nephew's baseball game, but that's it.
“My husband and I have decided she's not really a safe person. She's not trustworthy,” she said. “You love her from a distance and you don't let them in your inner circle.”
(Both Bambrick and Johnston declined to put The Globe in touch with their parents, saying it would cause too many problems within their extended families.)
“The parent who doesn't let the child be an individual and form their own opinions, who denigrate them, [is] being a toxic parent as much as the parent who hits and leaves bruises on the outside,” said American author and therapist Susan Forward.
She considers both emotionally and physically abusive parents “toxic,” as she outlines in her 2002 book, Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life. Toxic parents are those who “assault your dignity, your self-respect, your confidence, your appearance, your intelligence. There's so much self-loathing that comes out of that, and a sense of despair.”
Before patients entirely cut ties with toxic parents, Forward counsels them to first confront their parents and let them know how their negative behaviour affected them in childhood and beyond. If the parent shows some remorse or signs of being willing to build a healthier dynamic, it might be possible to repair the relationship. If not, it may be time to consider a difficult but necessary choice.
“Ask yourself what you are getting from a relationship with your parents, and if the answer is nothing, or pain, then you might want to consider a cut-off,” Forward said.
That drastic decision is rarely easy, but is often the healthiest choice to make, Forward said. “I have taken hundreds of people through a cut-off, and with only one exception, they have not regretted it and it has empowered them and made their lives better.”
Johnston said he has never been able to make his father see the hurt he caused. Five years ago, he asked his dad not to bring a parade of girlfriends to his house, and his father broke ties with him. He hasn't had any contact with him since.
“From my dad's victim perspective, he did the best he could and he sacrificed a lot and he really doesn't understand why we wouldn't thank him for everything he did,” he said.
He and his mother, who is now 14 years sober, have a “workable” relationship now that she has dealt with the alcohol problem she had when he was growing up, Johnston said. “Particularly going through the 12-step process, there was a lot of reconciliation. There was a lot of apologies. It was a healing process,” he said.
The same can be said for conversations he has had with his brothers in adulthood, which showed him that both of them dealt with a fair bit of toxicity as well.
Although the relationship with his father may be over, the effects persist. “There's some anxiety that I deal with from the trauma. I have some OCD tendencies, mostly obsessive thought patterns usually focused around doubt and self-worth,” Johnston said.
He is trying to work through his childhood with a therapist, and doing his best not to repeat any of his own father's behaviour with his two children, a 13-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son.
“My son was being overly dramatic [recently] and manufactured a stutter to pretend that he was extra scared. I kind of mimicked him back. It wasn't the right thing to do. It just sort of happened,” Johnston said. “An hour later, when he was calmer, I sat down and said, ‘It wasn't right and I shouldn't have done that. I'm really sorry. Can you forgive me?' Which is nothing my father ever did.”
Walters, the U of T professor, said that parents must recognize just how much impact even mild forms of shaming can have on a child. No, the occasional sarcastic comment or snide remark toward a child doesn't qualify as abuse, but “they can internalize it, and it will affect them,” he said.
Children of toxic parents often bear lifelong scars, and Johnston said he will never be free of the pain, nor of the hole it left in him.
“I always knew my dad loved me after a fashion. I always wanted him to be proud of me,” Johnston said. “Love is easy enough to give in easy moments. In terms of knowing I was worthy, it's the pride that you hunger for most.”
2 Iowa girls died of malnutrition and abuse, ruled homicides
by Lee Rood
The deaths of two more Iowa children — Sabrina Ray of Perry and Avery McCoy of Riverside — are being ruled homicides after they were malnourished and abused.
Together with the death of 16-year-old Natalie Finn of West Des Moines , the cases are raising more questions about whether authorities are doing enough to heed reports of child abuse.
Avery, 17 months, died last November in the southeast Iowa town of Riverside. So far, no charges have been filed in connection with the girl's death, but it has been ruled a homicide.
“The law enforcement investigation is still open, so it would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time as to whether charges will be filed,” Washington County Attorney John Gish said.
Dr. Paul Towner, the Washington County medical examiner in the case, said the toddler weighed 11 pounds when she died. The exact cause was undetermined, but malnutrition and neglect were factors, Towner said.
Avery McCoy's parents, Anthony Lamont McCoy, 36, and Ambrashia Marie Chrzan, 29, had 11 other children. One brother died before Avery.
Iowans have contacted Reader's Watchdog saying authorities were notified of the girl's abuse.
But Amy McCoy, a spokesperson for Iowa's Department of Human Services, has declined to say whether child-protective workers were involved with the McCoy-Chrzan family.
The agency did acknowledge it is investigating Avery's death, however.
Sabrina, 16, weighed just 56 pounds when she died of severe malnutrition May 12 at her home after allegedly being abused by the family who adopted her from foster care.
The Iowa State Medical examiner's office says the malnutrition was caused by denial of critical care.
Marc Ray, 41, and Misty Jo Bousman Ray, 40, who were accused of abusing other children in the home, are scheduled for a pre-trial conference Sept. 8.
They face an Oct. 31 trial for multiple felonies in connection with Sabrina's death.
Misty Jo Bousman's mother, 62-year-old Carla Raye Bousman, and the couple's 21-year-old son, Justin Ray, as well as a niece, 20-year-old Josie Raye Bousman, also face multiple charges.
Multiple abuse reports were made prior to the death of Natalie Finn, who starved in her mother's home after being adopted and pulled from public schools. Nicole Finn and ex-husband Joe Finn face multiple felonies in connection with that case.
Last year, at least 20 Iowa children died from abuse, shootings and unsupervised accidents, a Reader's Watchdog probe of cases statewide found. That number included 11 deaths from suspected abuse.
Child homicides — those caused by another regardless of intent — hit a low mark of seven in 2013.
But they climbed to 13 in 2014 and at least 14 the next year, according to Iowa's Department of Human Services.
State legislators, the state ombudsman's office, Iowa's Child Death Review Team and Human Services are looking into the deaths.
State prosecutors: Let us go after Backpage.com for sex trafficking ads
by John Hult
On the same day law enforcement announced nine arrests for sex trafficking charges during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, 50 attorneys general asked the federal government to help them target online prostitution ads.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley is among those who signed a letter addressed to U.S. Senate and House members.
The letter urges lawmakers to amend the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 to explicitly allow state and local law enforcement to prosecute online marketplaces such as Backpage.com.
That website is frequently cited as a source of sex trafficking and prostitution ads, the letter says, but some jurisdictions have interpreted the law to bar local prosecution of website operators.
Currently, the law only allows federal prosecutors to take action. A group of lawmakers proposed amending the law earlier this month.
The letter cites the recent arrests of 20 people for trafficking girls 14 and 17 years old in California, the murder of a 16-year-old girl in Chicago, the pimping of a pregnant 17-year-old girl in Georgia and a 16-year-old girl in Florida as examples of cases related to Backpage.com.
Backpage.com announced it was shutting down its adult services section in January, but law enforcement says the ads have moved to other areas of the site.
The letter repeats a request made in 2013, when 49 prosecutors inked a letter to Congress. The wide agreement across party lines is a sign the issue needs attention, Jackleysaid Wednesday.
“It's pretty hard to get 49 of us to agree on anything, Jackley said.
There have been 50 human trafficking prosecutions in South Dakota since then, Jackley said.
The nine arrests in Sturgis were each connected to online activity, Jackley said. Similar operations have taken place in Sturgis, with similar results, for nine years.
The new letter comes a few months after the announcement of the Campaign for Child Rescue, which creates a dedicated law enforcement funding source for sex trafficking enforcement technologies.
Jackley and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that initiative in February.
Attorneys General ask for amendment to federal law to fight sex trafficking
The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to amend the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 and affirm that all law enforcement agencies retain their traditional authority to fight sex trafficking on Tuesday.
The National Associated of Attorneys General released a statement that said a bipartisan coalition of 50 state and territorial attorneys general signed the letter, which urges members of Congress to adopt a simple word addition to the CDA to clarify that all states, territories and localities retain authority to criminally investigate and prosecute online facilitators of child sex trafficking.
According to the NAAG, state and local authorities discover that the vehicles for advertising the victims of the child sex trade to the world are online classified ad services, such as Backpage.com. Certain recent interpretations of the CDA have resulted in websites remaining outside the reach of state and local authorities. The simple addition to the CDA proposed by this letter will help to ensure that children can be effectively protected throughout the entire country, in all courts.
“The internet has become a significant tool used by criminals to traffic children. If we are going to be effective in stopping sex trafficking, it is imperative that Congress change the language as soon as possible, providing us the ability to protect our most vulnerable citizens," Nebraska Attorney General Peterson said.
The letter was started by District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and was signed by 48 additional state and territorial attorneys general.
“It is both ironic and tragic that the CDA, which was intended to protect children from indecent material on the Internet, is now used as a shield by those who profit from prostitution and crimes against children," stated from the letter.
“Federal enforcement alone has proved insufficient to stem the growth in online promotion of child sex trafficking. Those on the front lines of the battle against the sexual exploitation of children – state and local law enforcement – must have clear authority to investigate and prosecute facilitators of these and other horrible crimes.”
The NAAG letter can be found here .
New School Year Can Mean Increase in Child Abuse & Neglect Reports
by Kristi Glasper
Bastrop, Texas – Backpacks, pencils and notebooks are filling up the aisles in stores all over Texas, reminding us that a new school year is just around the corner. The beginning of the school year can be an exciting time for most children, but it can also lead to more reports of abuse and neglect as faculty, staff and other parents notice signs of maltreatment children may have endured during their time away.
In 2016, schools were the most common source of child abuse or neglect reports made to the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Of the more than 293,000 reports – a significant increase from last year – a total of 56,980 allegations were from school officials.
“During the summer, it is likely that signs of abuse or neglect will go unnoticed due to fewer interactions with adults outside their family,” said Kristi Glasper, executive director of CASA of Bastrop, Fayette & Lee Counties. “Fortunately, teachers and school officials are required to report any signs of abuse, so it is quite common for there to be a rise in reports when school starts again.”
The increase in DFPS reports during the new school year frequently leads to more children entering the overburdened child welfare system, creating an urgent need for more CASA volunteers to speak up for the best interests of these children.
Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers are everyday members of the community that are properly trained and appointed by judges to advocate for children in court. Volunteers are selected to serve one child or sibling group, and tasked with evaluating their well-being by getting to know them and speaking to any and all relevant contacts in their lives in order to accurately assess their situation at their foster placement, at school and in other settings.
“In addition to the abuse or neglect they've already suffered, it is traumatizing for children to be placed in foster care, because they are taken away from their home, family, friends and everything they have ever known due to no fault of their own,” said Glasper. “Our committed volunteers at CASA of Bastrop, Fayette & Lee Counties work hard to ensure that they provide a voice for them and protect their best interests.”
CASA volunteers make an effort to form a relationship with these children individually, while gathering important information about their unique physical, emotional and educational needs. They communicate their recommendations to the court in an effort to help children move out of the temporary system and into safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible.
In Bastrop, Fayette & Lee Counties, there are 165 children in the child welfare system. CASA of Bastrop, Fayette & Lee Counties is currently serving 148 children, but that means that there are still many children without a CASA volunteer to advocate for their needs – a number that is likely to grow as the school year begins.
“CASA of Bastrop, Fayette & Lee Counties urgently needs more advocates that can make a difference in the lives of these children, especially now that back-to-school season has begun,” said Glasper. “Become a volunteer to ensure that all children get the support they deserve both in school and beyond – giving them a chance at a brighter future.”
The next CASA Volunteer Training is scheduled to begin in September. Call 512.303.2271 to learn more about becoming a CASA or visit www.BecomeACASA.org .
Missouri child abuse hotline now accepts out-of-state calls
by Summer Ballentine
For years, callers with out-of-state area codes couldn't connect with Missouri's toll-free hotline to report cases of potential child abuse and neglect, an issue advocates worried could discourage good Samaritans and mean some kids might not get the help they need.
It took a phone call from Missouri's first lady to fix that.
After reading a complaint about the problem in a 2014 Office of Child Advocate report, first lady Sheena Greitens called the hotline with an out-of-state number to test it herself. A robotic voice told her, "The number you have dialed cannot be reached from your calling area." Then the call disconnected.
So she called the governor's office, and a staffer there contacted the Department of Social Services. Officials at the agency said they would fix it within days. When Greitens checked again in early June, she got through.
"We know that there's a lot of work to be done on the child welfare system," Greitens said. "This is a step, but we think it was something that was easy to fix and we thought it was important."
Missouri was one of the last states with child-abuse hotlines that didn't accept calls from out-of-state area codes, which the first lady said can cause problems for people who move to another state without switching phone numbers. Now only Nevada has a statewide hotline that only accepts in-state calls, according to the nonprofit national child advocacy organization Childhelp. But 10 other states do not have statewide hotlines and instead refer people to county authorities, according to Childhelp, which also has its own hotline and helps guide people who want to report potential child abuse to the right state or local authorities. Nevada also has separate hotlines for the Las Vegas and Reno areas.
A spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Social Services did not answer why the agency did not act sooner on recommendations for change dating back to 2013 from the Missouri Office of Child Advocate, a state watchdog agency.
Karla Delgado, systems advocate at the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services, said she's confident that people outside of Nevada or state residents with out-of-state phone numbers find alternatives when they can't connect through the in-state-only hotline. They can report abuse to the state division directly, one of its nine rural units, the Clark or Washoe hotlines as well as Childhelp's hotline.
Missouri also had a number for out-of-state callers, but Greitens said finding it took extra time and could have meant a long-distance charge. Advocates say hurdles like that could mean people who want to report potential abuse might not make the effort to jump through another loop.
"Making a hotline call is not an easy decision, especially for a relative to make," said Kelly Schultz, director of Missouri's Office of Child Advocate. "Anything that would discourage them from calling a hotline, including not being able to get through the first time, puts children at risk."
Cyberbullying-Often a Devastating Form of Child Abuse
Deirde's House Urges Patents to Have Important Discussions With Their Children to Prevent Cyberbullying
by Frank Cahill
MORRIS COUNTY — Cyberbullying is often a devastating form of child abuse, and as the new school year is fast approaching, Deirdre's House ( click here for website), which is the Center for Morris County's child victims, is urging urges parents to talk to their children about the damaging effects of cyberbullying.
According to Maria Vinci Savettiere, Executive Director of Deirdre's House, “parents need to have frank discussions with their children about the long-term, sometimes life-threatening consequences of cyberbullying on child victims.''
The most effective way to stop cyberbullying is at its source by educating children as to the often negative, life changing effects cyberbullying may cause.
Here is what you can do to prevent your child from engaging in cyberbullying behavior:
Regularly remind your children about the importance of treating others the way they would want to be treated. They should be encouraged to be as polite online as they are in person.
Talk about how some things we might do or say to someone that seem funny at the time are actually hurtful.
Remind them not to write or forward hurtful messages.
Regularly check in on the online behaviors of your children. Problematic behavior must be addressed with reasonable and appropriate discipline.
Ask them not to send messages when they are angry. Make sure they ask themselves before clicking “send,” how they would feel if they received that message.
Urge them to help kids who are victims of bullying online by not joining in and showing bullying messages to an adult.
Here is what you can do if your child is engaging in cyberbullying behavior:
Explain the severity of their actions. Ask them if they would like their actions reported to law enforcement or school authorities.
Explain to your child that this kind of behavior is unacceptable. Stop any show of aggression you see and talk about other ways your child can deal with the situation.
Ask them to stop the bullying immediately. Make it clear to your child that you take bullying seriously and that you will not tolerate this behavior. Encourage them to apologize to the victim.
Have them take a break from whatever medium they are using, For example, if they are making hurtful comments about others on Facebook, get them to take a break from Facebook for a few days. If they are sending nasty text messages, then they should lose their cell phone privileges for a while.
Talk to them about the devastating psychological harm they could cause. We are all aware of the terrible cases of children taking their own lives because of bullying of all types. Don't sugarcoat the effect that their cyber bullying could have on the child they are targeting. Ask them:how would you feel if someone did these things to you or to someone you love?
Try to find out why:Ask your child – Did something happen to make you act this way? Is there something going on at home that is encouraging this type of behavior? It may be that your child is the target of bullies and turned to bullying in response. Maybe your child has gotten involved with the “wrong crowd'' and has been coerced into bullying by others to stay popular with that crowd. If you discover the cause, try to help them deal with that
Monitor their Internet and phone activity. Move the computer out of their bedroom.
Increase your knowledge of technology. Parents may be unaware of the full range of technologies used by their children. Try to familiarize yourself with these technologies.
Share your concernswith your child's teacher, counselor, or principal. Work together to send clear messages to your child that his or her bullying must stop. If you or your child needs additional help, talk with a school counselor or mental health professional.
Most important, remember: Parents are the first line of defense in the war against cyberbullying!
For more information about Deirdre's House and bullying, click here.
Deirdre's House is the Center in Morris County for child victims of abuse and/or neglect . It is the only site in Morris County where a child victim can be interviewed and digitally recorded by law enforcement, medically examined and treated by a pediatric abuse specialist, prepared for trial, and clinically counseled in English or Spanish—-all under one roof. Since opening its doors in 1996, Deirdre's House has provided services to over 24,000 of Morris County's child victims.
Lack of reporting of suspected child abuse by schools an 'epidemic,' prosecutors say
Exactly when Brentwood Academy officials learned of allegations of the rape and sexual assault of a 12-year-old boy by other students at the school, and when they informed law enforcement of what they knew, is disputed.
The allegations against the elite Christian private school outlined in a $30 million lawsuit illustrate what some say is a systemic problem across the state.
Thousands of Tennessee schoolchildren may be vulnerable because of lax reporting and investigating of possible child abuse, according to the findings of a Tennessean investigation.
State law mandates any adult with a suspicion or direct knowledge of child abuse must report it immediately to either child services or the police. Not doing so is a misdemeanor and could mean jail time.
However, two prosecutors say the failure of principals, counselors and teachers to report suspected abuse to proper authorities is widespread.
"The lack of reporting from schools here in Davidson County and probably surrounding counties has become an epidemic," said Chad Butler, a child sex abuse prosecutor in Davidson County.
"It's happening so frequently that I can't help but think it's not a coincidence."
Stephen Crump, a Republican prosecutor in East Tennessee, said the problem is a cultural issue in education. School officials often want to investigate the alleged abuse instead of immediately reporting it.
"I can't teach the math of my kids in high school. (Schools) aren't trained to do investigations. They will overlook things," Crump said.
'I know they're telling their staff not to report'
Brentwood Academy officials deny wrongdoing, saying they reported what they knew to appropriate authorities at the time.
Brentwood police said the department is investigating allegations of attacks on the boy in the locker room at the academy. That investigation does not include school officials for failure to properly report the attacks, as alleged in the lawsuit.
Kim Helper, the district attorney for Williamson County, said she didn't think non-reporting was a local issue and she can't remember any recent prosecutions for non-reporting.
In Nashville, however, Metro police investigate any reporting law violations if there is a suspicion school officials didn't notify the proper authorities, confirmed police spokesman Don Aaron.
There are active investigations involving Davidson County schools not properly reporting suspected abuse.
"I know they're telling their staff not to report. ... I know for a fact that's what they're doing," Butler said.
"It's gotten to the point in our office where we're just going to start prosecuting them."
The Tennessee Department of Children's Services opened a new investigation Wednesday into allegations at Brentwood Academy, a school for Nashville's elite with annual tuition nearly $25,000. The school has produced at least 10 NFL players.
DCS was unaware of possible child abuse reporting concerns involving Nashville public schools until contacted by The Tennessean.
"In the rare instances that we learn that someone who should have called us did not, we share that information with the local district attorney general's office to see if its staff wants to prosecute. That would be the DA's call, not ours," DCS spokesman Rob Johnson said in an email.
"We are reaching out to the Davidson County District Attorney General's office to see what their staff's specific concerns are about those who do not report child abuse."
'I don't think I've gotten explicit instructions'
Metro Nashville Public Schools instructs principals to review abuse reporting policies at the start of every school year, said Tony Majors, executive officer of student services.
"If you have reason to suspect, whether that be visual, behaviors that you observed or a direct statement you've received, then you should notify DCS. It's DCS' responsibility to investigate," Majors said in a Friday interview.
Majors and an MNPS spokeswoman declined to comment on Butler's statements. But Majors acknowledged some principals in recent years "misinterpreted" the policy, telling educators to inform administrators first before notifying DCS or law enforcement of suspected abuse.
That confusion could stem from the wording in MNPS' policy. Principals are listed before DCS on a list of authorities educators should contact if they suspect abuse.
When informed of the list order by The Tennessean, Majors said it was not intended to be chronological but "now that you've brought that to my attention we'll go back and change the policy."
Majors said the training includes telling teachers DCS' child abuse hotline number. Even though the training is required, Majors said the administration isn't ensuring such training occurs in every school.
Nashville teachers who spoke with The Tennessean said they were told to first contact school counselors, not police or child services, when they suspect abuse.
"I don't think I've gotten explicit instructions on how to file with DCS," said an MNPS teacher, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the policy.
"If you believe there is any abuse, you are legally obligated to report it. But that is within the school."
This teacher, who's been employed by the district since 2010, said teachers have seen mixed results in reporting abuse to a counselor.
Instead, teachers will look for an adult at the school who is close to the student and try to learn more about the circumstances, the teacher said. Once the student feels comfortable, then the teacher said together they will approach a counselor or principal.
While this approach may be well intentioned, Crump said it could not only compromise a criminal investigation but create the potential for a child to be hurt again.
'We have one shot to get a good statement'
There are several reasons an educator might not report an abuse suspicion directly to police or child services, said Kristen Houser, spokeswoman for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
“Sometimes, people err on the wrong side; they think they want more information to feel more sure that it's real before they report it. Frankly, that's really dangerous,” Houser said.
Crump, who serves as prosecutor for Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties, said school officials could divulge information to the possible perpetrator, posing a safety risk to an abused child.
School officials are not trained as forensic investigators, so trying to interview a student about possible abuse can have other drastic consequences.
"We have one shot to get a good statement from a child," Crump said.
The student may not tell a school official everything that happened, Crump said. That could create conflicting statements in the future, or push the school to decide there is no problem when in fact abuse occurred.
Crump knows of one case in which a counselor decided no abuse occurred, but police and Crump's office filed charges after conducting their own investigation.
'I'd go with more of a carrot than a stick'
Scott Berkowitz, executive director of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, said schools nationwide must tell teachers to report directly to authorities if they even suspect abuse.
More training for all educators may work better than prosecuting those who do not report, he said.
"I'd go with more of a carrot than a stick on this," Berkowitz said.
Crump said he's spoken in schools, telling teachers to go directly to school resource officers once they suspect abuse.
But these officers are typically not in private schools like Brentwood Academy.
While Brentwood Academy officials have said all of their staff is trained on mandatory reporting, the student handbook lays out a conflict resolution process that does not specifically mention what to do if sex abuse is suspected.
There can be broader, cultural issues when it comes to abuse and reporting in private schools, said Houser, the spokeswoman for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
“Whenever you end up with an environment that really prides itself on being elite, it can sow some seeds, because you have other priorities that are (seen) as most important,” Houser said.
“Those are vulnerabilities an offender can then exploit to perpetuate abuse and protect themselves.”
Over 250 arrested in Houston sex trafficking sting
by the Associated Press
HOUSTON -- (AP) - More than 250 sex buyers and traffickers have been arrested in the Houston area during a monthlong sting operation, authorities said Friday.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the arrests by his agency and Houston police accounted for about 25 percent of more than 1,000 arrests made by a coalition of 37 law enforcement agencies in 17 states. The nationwide crackdown on sex trafficking is coordinated by the Cook County Sheriff's Office in Illinois and known as the National Johns Suppression Initiative.
In Houston, eight hotel operators cooperated with law enforcement agencies in the operation from June 28 through July 31 that involved authorities placing ads on online sites known to attract people interested in buying sex.
"They sat back and waited for the folks to ring," Gonzalez said. "When the caller said they wanted to meet in person so they could pay for sex, our undercover deputies and officers obliged. In hotel rooms 161 sexual predators offered our deputies and officers money for sex, and that's when they were arrested."
Another 88 sex buyers and nine people identified as sex traffickers were arrested by Houston police.
The sheriff said those arrested were business professionals and a suburban Houston church pastor. They also included a man in possession of 60 grams of the opioid Hydrocodone, a man who already had been arrested in January for prostitution, a convicted sex offender and two suspects with handguns in their vehicles.
"Our aim is for Harris County and Houston to shed the dubious distinction as America's sex trafficking capital." Gonzalez said. "By focusing our efforts on sex buyers who are seeking to take advantage of sex trafficking victims, we are putting these predators on notice that our community won't tolerate their behavior."
Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff Thomas Dart earlier this month announced the arrests of 140 people in his county under the national initiative, the 14th his department has coordinated since 2011. Seattle had 160 arrests, among them a convicted child molester, and Phoenix police rescued a 16-year-old trafficking victim, he said.
Elsewhere in Texas, authorities in McLennan County, which includes Waco, announced last week they made 71 arrests under the program.