Identity in a Fog: Gender Identity After Sexual Abuse
How sexual abuse comploicates gender and orientation self-discovery
by Joseph Kennedy
As a survivor of childhood sexual trauma, there are many misconceptions I live with on a daily basis. My pain is treated as fodder for jokes and people with backgrounds like mine are assumed to be abusers-in-the-making. Both of these are very real issues, but today I want to talk about a third issue that many people don't even realize about sexual abuse victims: the effect that the abuse has had in obscuring our own understanding of our sexual and gender identities. It's impossible for some of us to even understand what an innate gender or sexual identity would even feel like. Our entire perception of our “true” gender and orientation is mutilated by our experiences.
It's a well-established fact that child abuse does not cause homosexuality or gender fluidity, nor does gender fluidity or homosexuality cause people to become child abusers. This is an important truth that needs to be continually disseminated as too many people still think there is a causal link in one direction or both.
It is unfortunate, however, that the well-intentioned desire to keep the LGBT community from being maligned has resulted in the experiences of many CSA victims being silenced because it confuses the narrative. It is a testimony that is actually quite simple: for many victims of CSA, especially repeated CSA, nothing about their identity can be fully separated from the early trauma. That includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Which means that many CSA survivors will tell you that they cannot say with a straight face that their perception of their gender identity or sexual orientation was not shunted down a different road by their experiences.
This requires a steady mind and a grasp of nuance to understand what is being said. Obviously not all, or even the majority if, gay CSA victims attribute their orientation to their abuse. Nor do, or should, gender fluid victims give credit to abusers when it comes to discovering their true self. What it does mean, however, is that men who do say their identity was affected by their trauma should not be dismissed out of hand. In abusive situations, coercion is often mixed with reward (such as emotional attention) and being forced to do something can still lead to physical arousal. Such experiences can rewire the brain into seeking out similar situations as an adult for complex psychological reasons other than because of natural inclination.
Among male victims, the term “SSA” (same-sex attraction) continues to be a meaningful term. This is a term that in other circles has become appropriately abandoned, given the connection and connotations it has with fundamentalist conversion therapies. On its face, the term is benign and non-judgmental. In usage, however, it is a denial of orientation as an innate and non-changing element. That aspect of it, which when applied to homosexuals en masse is insulting and invalidating, is ironically exactly why some CSA survivors willingly apply it to themselves. Because they are not convinced that their sexual attraction to men was not the result of early trauma. In fact, they feel as if recognizing that attraction and their true orientation are at odds is actually a more authentic description of themselves.
I've seen the term “abuse reactive” to label the difference between people who are able to know themselves apart from the abuse and people for whom the self before the trauma is a black hole difficult or even impossible to ever fully explore. One of the confusing aspects to this is that throughout history and even to this day, boys who showed effeminate characteristics were and are more likely to be denied a proper support system. They are more likely to be bullied and socially isolated and seen as unsatisfactory by both peers and adults. This puts them at a greater risk of abuse. No child is immune from the risk of being preyed upon, but many predators look for the outcast unlikely to be listened to or believed and desperate for ANY adult attention. Therefore, because of society's prejudice, LGBT youth are often at greater risk of being sexually exploited.
Drawn to signs of non-heteronormative behavior or not, a predator may very well strike before the boy himself understands his own orientation and gender. Across his entire lifespan, a male is most in danger of being sexually assaulted between the ages of 4 and 13. Think about what you didn't know about yourself at age 7.
The risk here is that conversation like this only gives fire to the bigots who want to say that there is something “wrong” with everyone who identifies as LGBT. That would be the wrong takeaway. The correct lesson is to believe individuals. For those who say “I was always this way,” believe them. For those who say “I can't tell you for sure” or “I'm pretty sure my SSA was caused by my abuse,” believe them too. Don't silence their voice because some people might misinterpret it. Don't assume you know their true selves better than they do.
Nigeria: Child Sexual Abuse - Rights Group Takes Campaign to Public Officials
by Abdullateef Salau
Child rights group, Jose Foundation Nigeria, has taken an awareness campaign to public institutions to raise awareness among government officials on the dangers of child sexual exploitation.
The foundation, in a statement by its president, Martins Abhulimhen, said the campaign was to end child sexual molestation in Nigeria.
"The foundation distributes book titled, "Child sexual exploitation after Rotherham, Understanding the Consequences and Recommendations for Practice", to sink the message to the hearing of all key stakeholders in Nigeria," he said.
The 310-page book, co-authored by Adele Gladman and Angie Heal, gives an insight to the horrific experiences of organised child sexual exploitations.
Survivors of child sexual abuse shared experiences to help professionals get a better understanding of sexual exploitation, abuse and the process with which it was groomed.
The foundation urged the ministries of health, justice and education not to relent in their efforts to educate Nigerians and serve justice to child offenders in the country.
Catholic Church claimed child sex abuse victims 'consented'
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority has refused payment to 700 vicitims and child sexual abuse survivors
by Fiona Keating
The Catholic Church and British local authorities have been accused of using a legal loophole to avoid paying compensation to victims of child sex abuse.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, a government agency, has denied some children financial settlements because it said the victims had “consented” to the abuse, a group of charities has warned.
Lawyers representing victims have warned that this line of defence is becoming increasingly common.
One case that the charity Victim Support brought attention to involved a 12-year-old girl who was given alcohol, brought into woodland and then sexually assaulted by a 21-year-old male. The girl was denied compensation because she had “voluntarily” gone into the woods with the man.
“No child ever gives their ‘consent' to being abused, and the increased use of this line of defence, although still quite rare, is worrying,” said Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England. "I have contacted the Ministry of Justice previously and again recently about this issue and the Government should look urgently at what can be done to tackle it.”
The Sunday Telegraph reported that it had seen documents regarding two cases where the defence was used. A claimant who was raped at the age of 15 was told by lawyers representing the Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark that his abuse "actually occurred in the context of a consensual relationship (albeit one the claimant in retrospect now appears to regret)".
The victim said "I was below the legal age of consent anyway and there's a grooming element to that kind of situation. It was totally disregarded and it made me feel really small." The case was finally settled, with the Catholic Church paying out £80,000.
Dino Nocivelli, a specialist child abuse solicitor at Bolt Burdon told Kent Live : “It is time for the church to practise what they preach and to admit their failings, to take account of the damage this has caused to the lives of far too many children and lastly to apologise for the abuse.”
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Southwark said that the church does not comment on individual cases out of respect for the claimant's privacy. He added that the Archdiocese “supports the right of anyone who has suffered harm to seek compensation.”
Since the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) was launched in 2012, approximately 700 victims and survivors of child sexual abuse have had their claims rejected.
Women who sexually abuse children are just as harmful to their victims as male abusers
by The Conversation
That she might seduce a helpless child into sexplay is unthinkable, and even if she did so, what harm can be done without a penis?
Early literature on sexual abuse, as exemplified by the 1972 quote above , often suggested abuse against children by women was unbelievable and, even if real, less harmful than when perpetrated by men. Despite these earlier beliefs, females are capable of sexually abusing children, with very damaging results.
In a recent US study , one out of every five child sexual abuse cases validated by child protection had a female as the main offender of the abuse. The types of sexual abuse females can commit on children is not limited to touching and fondling. Among many other sexual acts , females can penetrate children with objects, force children to have sexual intercourse with them, or to do sexual acts with animals.
While the public has started to realise females are capable of committing sexual offences against children, research shows the view is that female child sex offenders are less harmful to their victims than male child sex offenders. Yet traditional gender roles are misleading in this area. Not all females are nurturing, caring, and protective and therefore unable to cause much harm, especially towards children.
Harms of female sex offenders
Female child sex offenders can have disturbing and life-long impacts on their victims. These impacts are similar to the impacts for child victims of male sex offenders, including self-injury, substance abuse, depression, and difficulties with sexual identity.
Most alarmingly, research has found victims sexually abused by both females and males said the abuse committed by females was more psychologically damaging than the abuse committed by males.
There are also effects particular to victims sexually abused by females. These include intense rage towards women as well as difficulties in relationships with women.
Research has found female child sex offenders are much more likely to offend against their own children (or a child in their care) than male child sex offenders. In contrast, male child sex offenders are more likely to be other relatives of the child, a partner of the child's mother, friends or neighbours. Many victims of female-perpetrated sexual abuse struggle with the deep betrayal of having the one person they trust most in their entire lives – their mother or caregiver – sexually abuse them.
In instances where the offender is the child's mother, victims also report difficulty developing a sense of identity, even into adulthood. These victims have difficulty establishing a separate identity due to the highly entwined relationship between mother and child. As one individual who had been sexually abused said :
Sometimes I can feel her on my skin. I can't explain […] I suppose it's like as if we are some way, we are melted into each other. I scrape and scrape at my skin but I cannot get deep enough into myself to get rid of her.
Supporting the victims
We know sex crimes are generally under reported, but having a female perpetrator adds an additional layer of difficulty to the child's disclosure of the abuse. Victims of female-perpetrated abuse report feeling silenced and isolated due to the unusual and less common abuse dynamic. Victims describe being fearful of not being believed, which can be linked to gender stereotypes such as females being nurturing and protective.
What about teenage males who appear to be in “willing” sexual relationships with older females? Some reader comments below a recent article about a female teacher charged with the sexual abuse of three male victims included sentiments that this is “every school boy's dream”. Another person commented:
What is truly appalling about this is that as a lad I was never so victimized.
If we continue to underestimate the harm of female-perpetrated abuse, what message does this send to these victims and the perpetrators?
Importantly, there are victims of female-perpetrated sexual abuse in our society who are not disclosing the abuse. They are missing the justice they deserve and the support they require. We need to challenge the perception that female child sex offenders are less harmful to their victims, and be more open to interpreting and discussing sexual abuse in gender-neutral terms.
This 1 Disturbing Sign Means Someone Was a Victim of Child Abuse
by Chelena Goldman
When on the look-out for signs of child abuse, it's common to look at the individuals when they are, well, children. But what about looking for signs of past abuse in adults? It isn't unheard of for abuse to go unrecorded , only for symptoms and behaviors to manifest in adulthood.
There is one sign, however, that should set off an alarm that someone was a victim of child abuse.
But first, what constitutes as abuse
Child abuse takes on many forms, according to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children . There is obvious physical or sexual abuse, and also neglect. The ASPCC categorizes these different kinds of abuse and neglect as “physical abuse, emotional maltreatment, neglect, sexual abuse and witnessing family violence.”
Number of children reported abuse
The stats surrounding abuse are staggering, and upsetting. According to the National Children's Alliance , there was an estimated 683,000 instances of childhood mistreatment and neglect in the U.S. in 2015 alone. It is also reported that “neglect” is the most common form of abuse. According to the same pool of data, a parent is the abuser in 4 out of 5 instances.
Abuse getting reported in adulthood
Surprisingly, most instances of child abuse aren't investigated when the individuals are children. The National Children's Alliance reports that 77% of individuals investigated for abuse in 2015 were over the age of 18. Which makes looking for signs of abuse even more interesting …
The one sign that someone was a victim
Child abuse can mutate into a form of PTSD — and the signs of it can manifest into the victim's adulthood. Many factors play into adults developing PTSD following childhood abuse. Behavior showing PTSD include aggressive behavior, night terrors, and loss of interest in everyday activities, just to name a few.
One giveaway is that a victim might get into abusive relationships as an adult, and be more likely to engage in toxic relationships that reflect their abusive childhood.
How it manifests into adulthood
The National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse explains that many victims disassociate themselves to cope with abuse at a young age. Therefore, many of the PTSD symptoms associated with child abuse might not manifest until the victim is older.
How difficult is it to see this sign of abuse?
Help is certainly available for adult survivors. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to pinpoint an instance of PTSD that is related to childhood mistreatment. The PTSD symptoms, NAASCA explains, mimic symptoms of other chronic conditions. Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse can have the exact same general symptoms.
Where to get help
Although this heinous act impacts many people, there is aid available for adult victims of childhood mistreatment and neglect. Help for Adult Victims Of Child Abuse is one such hub, which is a support system run by adult survivors.
Many of these outlets also give links to connect survivors with therapists and other forms of professional help.
Police: Elderly Seattle brothers spent lifetime collecting sexual images of children, sexually abusing young girls
Three elderly Seattly brothers were charged Monday with possessing images of child-sex abuse, with police still investigating them for allegedly sexually abusing and killing young girls, according to King County prosecutors.
by Sara Jean Green
The house in Seattle's Meridian neighborhood where three elderly brothers have lived for more than 50 years was jampacked with sexual photos and videos of young girls, toys and girls' clothing, as well as notes, books and other documents about child-sex abuse and homicide, according to police and prosecutors.
On Monday, King County prosecutors charged each of the brothers — Charles Emery, 82; Thomas Emery, 80; and Edwin Emery, 79 — with two counts of second-degree possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexual conduct.
All three have been booked into the King County Jail and are each being held in lieu of $500,000 bail, jail records show. They are to be arraigned Aug. 31.
“At the time of filing, law enforcement is actively executing search warrants and interviewing witnesses to determine the extent of the defendants' child exploitation crimes as well as evidence of homicide,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Cecelia Gregson wrote in charging papers, noting the brothers “have spent a lifetime accumulating” their collection of images and videos.
“The investigation revealed that each of the defendants has a sexual interest in minor children and have shared the majority of their lives sexually abusing children to whom they had access and exploiting children depicted in child pornography,” Gregson wrote.
According to the charges:
On Aug. 9, one of the men's relatives contacted Seattle police after finding boxes of obscene materials in the garage of the house the three brothers have shared since 1962.
The relative is the legal guardian of Charles Emery, who was moved into a senior residential home because of his dementia, the charges say.
The charges note that he was a janitor at Seattle Children's Hospital from the 1970s through the 1990s.
The relative turned over a large quantity of items from the garage, including “hand written notes detailing the kidnapping, torturing, raping and murdering of young girls,” according to the charges.
When detectives interviewed Thomas and Edwin Emery, police say the brothers claimed they hadn't gone into the garage for years, and that it contained “Charles' hobby,” say the charges.
Starting last Friday, members of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which includes Seattle police detectives, searched the brothers' home for more than 30 hours, with one detective describing it as “a substantial hoarder home,” charging papers say.
They found sexual images of children throughout the residence along with dozens of pairs of girls' penny loafers, panties and toys. They also found a single-serving vodka bottle and a note indicating the alcohol had been given to a child victim to facilitate her sex abuse, according to the charges.
In the house's crawl space, detectives also found a girl's pink hat partially buried in the dirt, along with a handwritten note that had been burned but was similar to other notes in the house about sex abuse and homicide, charging papers say.
As of Sunday, detectives were still searching additional properties associated with the brothers “for the presence of child exploitation materials and evidence of kidnapping, abuse, and child homicide,” say the charges.
Police say Edwin Emery admitted to molesting female family members, according to the charges.
In 2013, Edwin Emery took his computer in for servicing, and staff at the computer store contacted police after finding sexual images of minors, the charges say.
He was investigated for possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexual conduct but was never prosecuted, say the charges, though prosecutors don't indicate why charges weren't filed at the time.
None of the three brothers ever married or had biological children of his own, and none has any known, prior, criminal convictions, the charging papers say.
11 Signs Your're the Victim of Narcissistic Abuse
by Shahida Arabi
Imagine this: your entire reality has been warped and distorted. You have been mercilessly violated, manipulated, lied to, ridiculed, demeaned and gaslighted into believing that you are imagining things. The person you thought you knew and the life you built together have been shattered into a million little fragments.
Your sense of self has been eroded, diminished. You were idealized, devalued, then shoved off the pedestal. Perhaps you were even replaced and discarded multiple times, only to be ‘hoovered' and lured back into an abuse cycle even more torturous than before. Maybe you were relentlessly stalked, harassed and bullied to stay with your abuser.
This was no normal break-up or relationship: this was a set-up for covert and insidious murder of your psyche and sense of safety in the world. Yet there may not be visible scars to tell the tale; all you have are broken pieces, fractured memories and internal battle wounds.
This is what narcissistic abuse looks like.
Psychological violence by malignant narcissists can include verbal and emotional abuse, toxic projection, stonewalling, sabotage, smear campaigns, triangulation along with a plethora of other forms of coercion and control. This is imposed by someone who lacks empathy, demonstrates an excessive sense of entitlement and engages in interpersonal exploitation to meet their own needs at the expense of the rights of others.
As a result of chronic abuse, victims may struggle with symptoms of PTSD , Complex PTSD if they had additional traumas like being abused by narcissistic parents or even what is known as “Narcissistic Victim Syndrome” (Cannonville, 2015; Staggs 2016). The aftermath of narcissistic abuse can include depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, a pervasive sense of toxic shame, emotional flashbacks that regress the victim back to the abusive incidents, and overwhelming feelings of helplessness and worthlessness.
When we are in the midst of an ongoing abuse cycle, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what we are experiencing because abusers are able to twist and turn reality to suit their own needs, engage in intense love-bombing after abusive incidents and convince their victims that they are the ones who are abusers.
If you find yourself experiencing the eleven symptoms below and you are or have been in a toxic relationship with a partner that disrespects, invalidates and mistreats you, you may just have been terrorized by an emotional predator:
1. You experience dissociation as a survival mechanism.
You feel emotionally or even physically detached from your environment, experiencing disruptions in your memory, perceptions, consciousness and sense of self. As Dr. Van der Kolk (2015) writes in his book, The Body Keeps the Score , “Dissociation is the essence of trauma. The overwhelming experience is split off and fragmented, so that the emotions, sounds, images, thoughts and physical sensations take on a life of their own.”
Dissociation can lead to emotional numbing in the face of horrific circumstances. Mind-numbing activities, obsessions, addictions and repression may become a way of life because they give you an escape from your current reality. Your brain finds ways to emotionally block out the impact of your pain so you do not have to deal with the full terror of your circumstances.
You may also develop traumatized ‘inner parts' that become disjointed from the personality you inhabit with your abuser or loved ones (Johnston, 2017). These inner parts can include the inner child parts that were never nurtured, the true anger and disgust you feel towards your abuser or parts of yourselves you feel you cannot express around them.
According to therapist Rev. Sheri Heller (2015) , “Integrating and reclaiming dissociated and disowned aspects of the personality is largely dependent on constructing a cohesive narrative, which allows for the assimilation of emotional, cognitive, and physiological realities.” This inner integration is best done with the help of a trauma-informed therapist.
2. You walk on eggshells.
A common symptom of trauma is avoiding anything that represents reliving the trauma – whether it be people, places or activities that pose that threat. Whether it be your friend, your partner, your family member, co-worker or boss, you find yourself constantly watching what you say or do around this person lest you incur their wrath, punishment or become the object of their envy.
However, you find that this does not work and you still become the abuser's target whenever he or she feels entitled to use you as an emotional punching bag. You become perpetually anxious about ‘provoking' your abuser in any way and may avoid confrontation or setting boundaries as a result. You may also extend your people-pleasing behavior outside of the abusive relationship, losing your ability to be spontaneous or assertive while navigating the outside world, especially with people who resemble or are associated with your abuser and the abuse.
3. You put aside your basic needs and desires, sacrificing your emotional and even your physical safety to please the abuser.
You may have once been full of life, goal-driven and dream-oriented. Now you feel as if you are living just to fulfill the needs and agendas of another person. Once, the narcissist's entire life seemed to revolve around you; now your entire life revolves around them . You may have placed your goals, hobbies, friendships and personal safety on the back burner just to ensure that your abuser feels ‘satisfied' in the relationship. Of course, you soon realize that he or she will never truly be satisfied regardless of what you do or don't do.
4. You are struggling with health issues and somatic symptoms that represent your psychological turmoil.
You may have gained or lost a significant amount of weight, developed serious health issues that did not exist prior and experienced physical symptoms of premature aging. The stress of chronic abuse has sent your cortisol levels into overdrive and your immune system has taken a severe hit, leaving you vulnerable to physical ailments and disease (Bergland, 2013). You find yourself unable to sleep or experiencing terrifying nightmares when you do, reliving the trauma through emotional or visual flashbacks that bring you back to the site of the original wounds (Walker, 2013).
5. You develop a pervasive sense of mistrust.
Every person now represents a threat and you find yourself becoming anxious about the intentions of others, especially having experienced the malicious actions of someone you once trusted. Your usual caution becomes hypervigilance. Since the narcissistic abuser has worked hard to gaslight you into believing that your experiences are invalid, you have a hard time trusting anyone, including yourself.
6. You experience suicidal ideation or self-harming tendencies.
Along with depression and anxiety may come an increased sense of hopelessness. Your circumstances feel unbearable, as if you cannot escape, even if you wanted to. You develop a sense of learned helplessness that makes you feel as if you don't wish to survive another day. You may even engage in self-harm as a way to cope. As Dr. McKeon (2014), chief of the suicide prevention branch at SAMHSA notes, victims of intimate partner violence are twice as likely to attempt suicide multiple times. This is the way abusers essentially commit murder without a trace.
7. You self-isolate.
Many abusers isolate their victims, but victims also isolate themselves because they feel ashamed about the abuse they're experiencing. Given the victim-blaming and misconceptions about emotional and psychological violence in society, victims may even be retraumatized by law enforcement, family members, friends and the harem members of the narcissist who might invalidate their perceptions of the abuse. They fear no one will understand or believe them, so instead of reaching out for help, they decide to withdraw from others as a way to avoid judgment and retaliation from their abuser.
8. You find yourself comparing yourself to others, often to the extent of blaming yourself for the abuse.
A narcissistic abuser is highly skilled at manufacturing love triangles or bringing another person into the dynamic of the relationship to further terrorize the victim. As a result, victims of narcissistic abuse internalize the fear that they are not enough and may constantly strive to ‘compete' for the abuser's attention and approval.
Victims may also compare themselves to others in happier, healthier relationships or find themselves wondering why their abuser appears to treat complete strangers with more respect. This can send them down the trapdoor of wondering, “why me?” and stuck in an abyss of self-blame. The truth is, the abuser is the person who should be blamed – you are in no way responsible for being abused.
9. You self-sabotage and self-destruct.
Victims often find themselves ruminating over the abuse and hearing the abuser's voice in their minds, amplifying their negative self-talk and tendency towards self-sabotage. Malignant narcissists ‘program' and condition their victims to self-destruct – sometimes even to the point of driving them to suicide.
Due to the narcissist's covert and overt put-downs, verbal abuse and hypercriticism, victims develop a tendency to punish themselves because they carry such toxic shame. They may sabotage their goals, dreams and academic pursuits. The abuser has instilled in them a sense of worthlessness and they begin to believe that they are undeserving of good things.
10. You fear doing what you love and achieving success.
Since many pathological predators are envious of their victims, they punish them for succeeding. This conditions their victims to associate their joys, interests, talents and areas of success with cruel and callous treatment. This conditioning gets their victims to fear success lest they be met with reprisal and reprimand.
As a result, victims become depressed, anxious, lack confidence and they may hide from the spotlight and allow their abusers to ‘steal' the show again and again. Realize that your abuser is not undercutting your gifts because they truly believe you are inferior; it is because those gifts threaten their control over you.
11. You protect your abuser and even ‘gaslight' yourself.
Rationalizing, minimizing and denying the abuse are often survival mechanisms for victims in an abusive relationship. In order to reduce the cognitive dissonance that erupts when the person who claims to love you mistreats you, victims of abuse convince themselves that the abuser is really not ‘all that bad' or that they must have done something to ‘provoke' the abuse.
It is important to reduce this cognitive dissonance in the other direction by reading up on the narcissistic personality and abuse tactics; this way, you are able to reconcile your current reality with the narcissist's false self by recognizing that the abusive personality, not the charming facade, is their true self.
Remember that an intense trauma bond is often formed between victim and abuser because the victim is ‘trained' to rely on the abuser for his or her survival (Carnes, 2015). Victims may protect their abusers from legal consequences, portray a happy image of the relationship on social media or overcompensate by ‘sharing the blame' of the abuse.
I've been narcissistically abused. Now what?
If you are currently in an abusive relationship of any kind, know that you are not alone even if you feel like you are. There are millions of survivors all over the world who have experienced what you have. This form of psychological torment is not exclusive to any gender, culture, social class or religion. The first step is becoming aware of the reality of your situation and validating it – even if your abuser attempts to gaslight you into believing otherwise.
If you can, journal about the experiences you have been going through to begin acknowledging the realities of the abuse. Share the truth with a trusted mental health professional, domestic violence advocates, family members, friends or fellow survivors. Begin to ‘heal' your body through modalities like trauma-focused yoga and mindfulness meditation, two practices that target the same parts of the brain often affected by trauma (van der Kolk, 2015).
Reach out for help if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, especially suicidal ideation. Consult a trauma-informed counselor who understands and can help guide you through the symptoms of trauma. Make a safety plan if you have concerns about your abuser getting violent.
It is not easy to leave an abusive relationship due to the intense trauma bonds that can develop, the effects of trauma and the pervasive sense of helplessness and hopelessness that can form as a result of the abuse. Yet you have to know that it is in fact possible to leave and to begin the journey to No Contact or Low Contact in the cases of co-parenting. Recovery from this form of abuse is challenging, but it is well worth paving the path back to freedom and putting the pieces back together.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, be sure to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1 - 800 - 799 - 7233.
Live in a Poor Neighborhood? Better be a perfect parent.
by Emma S. Ketteringham
Eline's children feared going to sleep in the closet of their studio apartment, but it was the only place they would be safe from the rats. Covered in blankets from neck to toe, Eline would keep an eye on the kitchen entrance and followed the sounds of the rodents rummaging in the cupboards.
I represented Eline (I can't disclose her real name), a mother of two, in Bronx Family Court when she was charged with neglect. Her younger son had been deemed undernourished because of faltering weight. Eline had struggled to keep up the feeding regimen prescribed by the kids' pediatrician. Doctors are required by law to report suspected neglect, so the pediatrician reported her to the Administration for Children's Services. The agency filed a case in family court, and the children went into foster care for three years.
When I met Eline, she described how the rats made it impossible to store fresh food in the apartment. She was a single mother with no family members who could help her. She struggled with depression and a chronic health condition that often required her to go to the hospital. She needed assistance. Instead, the city tore her children away from her and provided more than $1,000 each month to a foster family. After this, she turned to alcohol.
For more than a decade, my colleagues at the Bronx Defenders and I have represented thousands of parents like Eline in child-protection proceedings. A majority of them have never abused a child. Yet child services charges them with “parental neglect,” something of a catchall term that seems to cover poverty, substance abuse and untreated mental illness.
There is a misconception that the child-protection system is broken because child services fails to protect children from dangerous homes. That's because the media exhaustively covers child deaths, but not the everyday tragedy of unnecessary child removals.
The problem is not that child services fails to remove enough children. It's that the agency has not been equipped to address the daily manifestations of economic and racial inequality. Instead, it is designed to treat structural failings as the personal flaws of low-income parents.
In that framework, the answer is not affordable housing or transportation, meaningful employment, health care or access to healthy foods, as it should be. Why is the focus always on removing children to foster care and imposing parenting classes? This never-ending cycle traps generations of low-income families in a punitive system of state surveillance and foster care. Worse, it makes parents fear contacting child services when they need help caring for their children.
“Neglect” cases are often not what they look like on paper. Our clients are trying to raise their kids under tremendous economic and psychological pressures. Often they have faced significant challenges, like homelessness or incarceration. They love their children and cherish their identity as parents. But in court, they face the loss of what is most precious to them: their children.
Any parent would agree that raising a child is hard work. But our clients in the Bronx do the difficult job of parenting in circumstances that would reduce most of us to utter despair.
The Bronx has the highest percentage of homeless school children in the city, the largest unemployment rate in the state and the highest rate of food insecurity in the country. Some parents we represent live in areas where the median household income is under $9,000 and nearly 90 percent of children live in poverty.
And yet parents of color in the Bronx are held to a standard that few white parents in more privileged neighborhoods are expected to meet. A parent in Park Slope, where I live, can deal with depression or anxiety privately. A parent in the South Bronx cannot. A parent in Park Slope can smoke marijuana or lose her temper and still be considered a good parent. A parent in the South Bronx would lose her kids for months, if not years, and have to go to drug-treatment and parenting classes to get custody back.
In the end, Eline reunited with her children after she completed the court-mandated parenting classes and found a rodent-free apartment. Her family is doing well, but what they had to endure is unacceptable.
Eline did not need parenting classes; she already loved and cared for her children. She needed a home that wasn't infested with rats. The city should have helped her find one. She needed support to care for her son's medical needs, as well as her own. The city should have provided her with a visiting nurse service. And it should have given her the financial assistance that went to the foster parents. The trauma of this approach cannot be underestimated: studies show that foster care, even for short periods of time, can carry risks to children and diminish outcomes.
Policy makers must help families get jobs and permanent homes. Substantially increasing the monthly $300 housing subsidy for families involved with the child wefare system would go a long way.
The city also must work more closely with local health and child-care providers to make services easily accessible. It ought to hire highly trained social workers to support families instead of relying on police officers to investigate them.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has spoken about the need to bridge “two cities,” but he has not taken a hard look at how the child welfare system exacerbates the disparities. Until we identify the real problems, our solutions will fall short.
Across the nation, priest sexual abuse cases haunt Catholic parishes
by USA Today Network
In May 2003, Thomas O'Brien, then bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix, admitted to sheltering at least 50 priests accused of sexual abuse, often shuffling them around to parishes across the state.
O'Brien's admission, released under an agreement with the county attorney, acknowledged he "allowed Roman Catholic priests under my supervision to work with minors after becoming aware of allegations of sexual misconduct." He also waived his own immunity should sexual misconduct allegations against him surface.
Thirteen years later, in a lawsuit filed last September, O'Brien — now bishop emeritus — was accused of sexually abusing a grade-school boy.
In recent months, USA TODAY Network reporters at the Pacific Daily News have uncovered scores of allegations involving 14 Catholic priests on Guam , where a former altar boy's accusation last summer that Archbishop Anthony Apuron sexually abused him in the 1970s has prompted other revelations.
Abuse cases also have roiled Catholic parishes elsewhere the nation, sometimes decades after evidence of the crimes first emerged.
In the O'Brien case, an Arizona man sued, claiming repressed memories resurfaced two years ago, according to court documents. The lawsuit accuses O'Brien, now 81, of sexual abuse from 1977 through 1982. O'Brien, who stepped aside as an active bishop in June 2003 after he was found guilty of leaving the scene of a fatal accident, denies the accusation.
The suit names 60 other Roman Catholic priests or church employees, dating back to the 1950s and alleges a cover-up.
The diocese itself eventually exposed some priests as part of an agreement with Arizona prosecutors in the early 2000s. At least two of the priests fled the U.S. and remain at large, and a substantial number are now dead.
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge is considering diocese attorneys' motions to dismiss several of the lawsuit's 14 claims.
The 2003 agreement in O'Brien's case brought major changes within the Catholic Church in the Phoenix area, including victim assistance and training on sexual misconduct for all diocesan staff and volunteers.
In Louisiana: Church's response evolves
Accusations of sex crimes involving Catholic priests and children in Louisiana may date back seven decades, court records reveal.
The case of the Rev. F. David Broussard, who is expected in a St. Martin Parish court on Nov. 27, is the most recent. The 51-year-old former pastor in Breaux Bridge, La., while not accused of sexual contact with children, was charged in July 2016 with 500 counts of possession of child pornography after investigators say they found hundreds of images on his personal computer.
Broussard wrote a public apology after his arrest but pleaded not guilty to the felony charges in May. He remains free on $25,000 bond and is on administrative leave.
Former priest Mark A. Broussard (no relation to F. David Broussard), convicted in March 2016 of molesting altar boys in the neighboring diocese of Lake Charles in the late 1980s, was arrested in 2012 after a man wrote to Lake Charles Bishop Glen John Provost to reveal accusations against him.
Mark Broussard was sentenced in May 2016 to two consecutive life sentences for aggravated rape and 50 additional years for other sexual abuse charges.
The Lafayette-area cases were just two of many involving local priests and children. In 2014, a Minnesota Public Radio investigation uncovered a wealth of court-related documents tied to such incidents in the Diocese of Lafayette.
The link: the Most Rev. Harry Flynn, who was bishop both in Lafayette and in Minnesota, where sex abuse cases involving the clergy were uncovered. Those cases revealed that at least 15 Lafayette priests had sexually abused children.
The accused served in myriad church positions across the Lafayette diocese, including in small Acadiana towns such as Abbeville, where Gilbert Gauthe's case drew nationwide attention in the 1980s. Gauthe admitted to raping or sodomizing 37 children dating back to 1972; in 1986, he pleaded guilty to 11 counts of child molestation and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but he was released a decade early. As many as 100 people may have been abused by Gauthe, according to bishopaccountability.org , a watchdog website.
The Catholic Church's response today to accusations of sex abuse involving clergy members is much different than it was in the latter half of the 20th century, when priests might merely be reassigned to different parishes, evidence shows.
Bishop Provost turned over accusations against Mark Broussard to police; Bishop Douglas Deshotel cooperated with local authorities when F. David Broussard was arrested. The Diocese of Lafayette now says it marches in step with the Catholic Church's mandates to protect children and since 2003 has enacted practices including criminal background checks and fingerprinting for clergy and others who have contact with minors.
In Delaware: Bankruptcy and new allegations
In 2002, as a child sexual abuse scandal in Boston's archdiocese engulfed the Catholic Church, The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., began chronicling decades of child abuse, cover-ups and quiet transfers of priests from one parish to another.
By 2011, the Diocese of Wilmington and several religious orders throughout the diocese distributed more than $110 million to 152 adult survivors who were sexually abused by area Catholic priests.
Tens of millions more were paid in confidential settlements with dozens of other childhood rape survivors who had been abused in families, other churches, non-profit groups or in public, private or religious schools in Delaware, TheNews Journal found. Dozens of living and deceased priests were exposed as abusers.
The Wilmington diocese filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2009, just hours before the start of Delaware's first trial involving sex abuse by a Catholic priest. At the time, the diocese listed assets of as much as $100 million and liabilities of as much as $500 million.
But the victims had the law on their side. In 2007, Delaware passed the Child Victims Act, one of the toughest child abuse laws in the nation. It gave accusers two years in which to file civil suits that otherwise would be barred by statutes of limitation. Under the settlement terms, the church agreed to measures designed to prevent future abuse, such as having survivors address candidates for the priesthood and appointing an independent child protection consultant.
The Wilmington diocese emerged from bankruptcy in 2011, after it laid off employees, liquidated an emergency fund and sold properties, including the bishop's home.
Since the two-year window closed in 2009, six additional plaintiffs have said they were abused as children during the 1970s and 1980s, says Wilmington attorney Thomas Neuberger, who represented many of the original victims.
Wilmington diocese spokesman Robert Krebs said the diocese has not settled any abuse claims since 2011. The diocese did ask Pope Benedict XVI to laicize, or formally remove from the clergy, the nine priests it had suspended because of abuse allegations. Four of the cases are still pending, Krebs said.
In Minnesota: Statute of limitations lifted
Minnesota Catholic dioceses are wrestling with new accusations of priest abuse after a law temporarily lifted the statute of limitations to file civil actions.
By the time the three-year window ended in 2016, accusers had filed more than 800 claims against churches, schools, the Boy Scouts and a children's theater.
The heightened scrutiny led to the downfall of two bishops, and two Catholic dioceses — including the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis — filed for bankruptcy in 2015.
Archbishop John Nienstedt and an auxiliary bishop resigned in 2015, days after the archdiocese was criminally charged with child endangerment over its handling of an abusive priest who ultimately went to prison.
The Duluth diocese filed for bankruptcy in 2015 after a jury found it responsible for $4.8 million of an $8.1 million jury award to just one accuser.
The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minnesota disclosed a list of 71 priests with substantiated claims of sexual abuse of minors, archdiocese spokesman Tom Halden says. Most incidents occurred from the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s. The archdiocese says all men who were assigned there have been permanently removed from ministry.
The Diocese of St. Cloud, which covers a large part of rural Minnesota, is still working to resolve 74 claims, including 31 against clergy members, that were made during the three-year window, spokesman Joe Towalski says. Most claims are related to allegations from several decades ago.
New York: Long-term loans pay out millions
New York accusers have filed 118 claims of abuse by Catholic clergy. The Archdiocese of New York has paid out more than $1.5 million to settle claims filed against six former Catholic priests from the Hudson Valley.
The cases date as far back as the 1970s and involve defrocked priests, including the former president of Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains and one-time pastors at churches in four counties.
Seven men who say priests abused them when they were children filed claims and received individual settlements of $150,000 to $350,000.
Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the archdiocese, has called the 2016 compensation program "a sincere effort to try and help people achieve some measure of healing from what was done to them.”
The Diocese of Rochester published a list in 2012 of 23 priests accused of abuse and said all had been removed from public ministry. Bishop Matthew Clark, who has since left, had promised to update the list as new allegations of abuse arose and disclose the fates of four priests whose cases were still in progress. That never happened.
A spokesman for the Rochester Diocese said no allegations have been made since 2012.
Two victims in Buffalo made their abuse allegations public in 2015, saying they were dissatisfied with how Bishop Richard Malone handled their cases.
Syracuse Bishop Robert Cunningham testified in a 2011 deposition that the victims of child-molesting priests are partly to blame for their own abuse. He apologized after the remarks were reported by the Syracuse Post-Standard in 2015.
In California: A big wake-up call
Uriel Ajeda, an assistant pastor at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Redding, Ca., surrendered to the Sacramento Police Department on Nov. 30, 2011, after complaints he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl in her bedroom when he worked in Sacramento that year. In 2013, Ajeda began serving an eight-year sentence at Avenal State Prison.
Diocese spokesman Kevin Eckery said Ajeda was removed from the priesthood and no longer receives money or spiritual support from the diocese. The victim and her family received counseling.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, which covers 20 counties from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Oregon border, came under fire in 2005 when 33 people accused 10 priests of sexual assault from decades earlier. The diocese settled the lawsuit, offering $35 million to victims one day before a civil trial was to begin.
Eckery said that case spurred the diocese to change their rules to include background checks and fingerprinting for priests and evaluating whether they are fit to work with children. “There's no excuse for what happened,” Eckery said.
In Pennsylvania: Ongoing investigations
A Pennsylvania grand jury investigating sexual abuse by priests recently recommended charges against the Rev. John T. Sweeney of Greensburg, according to a statement by the state's attorney general's office. In July, prosecutors charged Sweeney with deviate sexual intercourse, accusing him of using his position to force a 10-year-old-boy to perform oral sex.
A statewide grand jury is investigating six of Pennsylvania's eight Catholic dioceses. Five dioceses confirmed they were served subpoenas.
A two-year investigation by the state attorney general's office into the Altoona-Johnstown diocese found last year that at least 50 priests or religious leaders were involved in the sexual abuse of children.
Multiple grand jury reports have found that priests in the Philadelphia diocese sexually abused children — one 2003 report found abuse by 63 priests.
In Iowa: From uncooperative to excellent
As recently as 2015, at least one Iowa Catholic diocese was still dealing with the fallout from an abuse scandal that rocked the state in the mid-2000s.
In January 2015, Pope Francis removed Howard Fitzgerald, a veteran pastor who worked in central and western Iowa for decades, after an investigation revealed he sexually abused a minor decades ago. Fitzgerald was the fifth priest defrocked for sexual misconduct in the Des Moines diocese since 2003.
Independent auditors hired by the U.S. Conference of Bishops applauded the diocese encompassing Des Moines in 2004 for “the excellence and extent of Bishop Joseph Charron's communications policy and practices.”
In a 2010 letter, Bishop Richard Pates said the diocese is committed to preventing sexual abuse, pointing out it notifies civil authorities when allegations arise and offers a victim assistance advocate outside the church.
But in contrast, the independent auditors left the Diocese of Davenport "because they were unable to verify whether or not it had adopted the mandated policies,” according to reporting by The Des Moines Register in 2004. At the time, diocese attorneys insisted on being present for auditors' interviews with church leaders and employees.
Davenport's diocese, with $4.5 million in assets, became the fourth in the nation to file for bankruptcy in 2006, following Portland, Oregon; Tucson, Arizona; and Spokane, Washington. Days later, Pope Benedict XVI appointed a new bishop.
The Archdiocese of Dubuque did not reply to a request for information on any current legal proceedings, but church representatives for the dioceses in Des Moines, Davenport and Sioux City said there were no pending cases involving priest sexual abuse.
“The bottom line in all of this is that the Catholic Church cares about children — all children — and wants to protect them,” Des Moines Bishop Pates wrote in 2010. “Jesus had a special place in his heart for them, and the church can be no less loving."
End Juvenile Sex-Offender Registration: It's Ineffective and Based on Rare Cases
by Donna Vandiver and Mark Stafford
U.S. sex-offender registration laws for both adults and juveniles have largely been knee-jerk reactions to horrific incidents of child abductions that ended in sexual abuse and murder or near-deaths. Captured by images of innocent children and moved by national news stories of sexual offenses committed by strangers, the public responded with grassroots efforts demanding that “something be done” to prevent the victimization of more children.
State laws were passed, which evolved into federal laws, such as the Adam Walsh Act in 2006 that required all states to implement some form of sex-offender registration. Surely people and especially children would be protected if there was public access to the names of known sexual offenders, their addresses and other details about them.
Laws have been in place for many years requiring juveniles who commit certain sexual offenses to publicly register as sexual offenders, and the time is ripe to examine them. Critical to this examination is a reminder of why these laws were passed and a look at their faulty foundation. We must be honest with ourselves and acknowledge what we knew when the laws were passed and what we know now, including any and all evidence about their effectiveness or ineffectiveness.
Lawmakers and the public are at a critical juncture: Do we continue down a rabbit hole and ignore empirical evidence or acknowledge that we now have more information to make better decisions? Let's look at the following facts:
Juvenile sex-offender registration laws were passed hastily in reaction to a few horrific sexual offenses that were not representative of most sexual offenses committed by juveniles.
Juvenile sexual offenders do not usually become adult sexual offenders; in fact, the rate of sexual recidivism among juvenile sexual offenders is very low.
Empirical research has not generated systematic evidence that these laws prevent victimization of children.
Juvenile sex-offender registration requirements do more harm than good.
Sex-offender registration laws for juveniles can be traced, at least in part, to the sexual assault of Amie Zyla . Amie's offender, who was a teenager at the time, was arrested and convicted of sexually assaulting her when she was 8. Subsequently, the offender was arrested for another sexual offense when he was 23. Amie and her father fought for tougher laws for juveniles who committed sexual offenses. Amie spoke publicly, including testimony before the U.S. House subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. This led to the “ Amie Zyla Expansion of the Sex Offense Definition ,” essentially expanding sex-offender registration requirements to include juvenile offenders.
Amie, in her public testimony to lawmakers, said juveniles who commit a sexual offense become adult sexual offenders and pleaded with lawmakers not to “sit back and allow kids to be continued to be hurt.” Since then, many researchers have examined sexual recidivism rates of juvenile sexual offenders and the likelihood they will become adult sexual offenders. They have found no evidence that all, or even most, juvenile sexual offenders become adult sexual offenders.
Researchers have found that juveniles who commit sexual offenses have less sexual recidivism than adult sexual offenders. An assessment of seven studies found that only 7 to 13 percent of juveniles who commit sexual offenses sexually recidivate within approximately five years. Additionally, very few who commit a sexual offense as a juvenile go on to commit a sexual offense as an adult. People commonly overestimate the likelihood of sexual recidivism by sexual offenders. Even a U.S. Supreme Court justice made such an error by stating they are more likely than other types of offenders to repeat their crimes, which is contrary to research findings.
The testimony provided by Amie Zyla is heart-wrenching and leaves no one on the side of protecting sexual offenders. Policy, however, should be based on empirical research. Typically, policy and public knowledge of sexual offenses and sexual offenders are not based on empirical research, but rather on national news stories of a few, unique sexual offenses against children.
At the time juvenile sex-offender registration laws were passed, lawmakers acted on the best information they had, which often came from testimony of survivors of sexual assault and family members of victims. Much of the information involved sexual offenses committed by strangers, and many of those ended in a murder.
It is important to emphasize that few sexual offenses occur between strangers, and few lead to murder. Since these laws have been passed, not only do we know more about juveniles who commit sexual offenses; we also know more about the effects of sex-offender registration laws on juveniles. One researcher, Elizabeth Letourneau , and her team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University have demonstrated in several studies that juvenile sex-offender registration laws do not reduce sexual recidivism, do not deter first-time arrests for sexual offenses committed by juveniles, do not improve community safety and can do more harm than good. For example, they can experience alienation from family members and others in the community, which could increase their likelihood of recidivism.
The public registration requirements for juveniles who commit sexual offenses are inconsistent with the underlying philosophy of the U.S. juvenile justice system, which now emphasizes rehabilitation over punishment and acknowledges that juveniles are malleable and have not fully developed cognitively. The Juvenile Law Center acknowledges that juveniles who commit crimes are often less blameworthy than adults and more amenable to treatment. Historically and to a large extent even today, juvenile offenders have justifiably been treated differently than adult offenders. Current sex-offender registration laws, however, deny protections given to juveniles who commit other crimes by lumping juveniles with adults with regard to sex-offender registration requirements. Most people, including lawmakers, have been moved by a few select and highly publicized sexual offenses, demanding severe punishment of juveniles.
Some states are potentially sending a signal to other states by scaling back their sex-offender registration requirements. This includes abolishing lifetime registration for those who committed a sexual offense as a juvenile. As noted by the Huffington Post, 12 states do not publicly register juveniles who have committed sexual offenses unless they have been waived to adult court. Although several high-profile cases of sexual abuse tug at one's heartstrings, we should adopt laws that are guided by empirical evidence. Only then will laws and policies honor the victims and survivors of sexual offenses committed by juveniles.
Mark Stafford, Ph.D., is a professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Texas State University, having previously been a faculty member at Washington State University and the University of Texas, Austin.
Donna Vandiver, Ph.D., is a professor in the School of Criminal Justice and an assistant dean at the College of Applied Arts at Texas State University. She has published numerous research studies focusing on sex offenders. She and Mark Stafford recently co-authored a textbook, “ Sex Crimes and Sex Offenders: Research and Realities .”
ABC House: Helping mid-valley children and families
by Bobby Williams
For the past 20 years, ABC House has provided a continuum of comprehensive services to over 7,500 children and their families. To date, we are the only agency providing child abuse assessment and support services for Benton and Linn counties.
ABC House mission: We work to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect, supporting children as they find their voice and helping children and families heal and thrive.
ABC House vision: We envision a world in which every child has the opportunity to be happy, healthy and safe; parents and caregivers understand the impact of their actions on children; and our community actively and vocally stands up to child abuse and neglect.
ABC House provides comprehensive child abuse assessment and support services to children and their non-offending family members. Our services include:
• Medical examinations by physicians specializing in the recognition and treatment of child abuse.
• Forensic interviews by professionals trained in talking to children to obtain accurate and objective information, without leading, interrogating or traumatizing them.
• Support and advocacy services to help families cope with the discovery of abuse and connect them to other much-needed services.
• Trauma counseling to help children and their non-offending family members begin the healing process.
• Community education to provide information and prevention programming for youth and adult community members.
We believe that education is the key to ending child abuse. ABC House has a strong community outreach program that includes school presentations for youth, training programs for adult professionals and community members, and support groups for at-risk teenage girls. In the past two years, ABC House has helped to educate over 8,000 community members. All educational programming, including support groups, are offered in both Benton and Linn counties.
Each year, ABC House provides education and prevention programming to youth who attend Benton and Linn county schools, and the adult community members and organizations that serve them.
• Child Abuse: What Teens Should Know
• Dating Violence: What Teens Should Know
• Technology Safety
• Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children, an award-winning child sexual abuse prevention training
• Recognizing, Reporting, and Preventing Child Abuse & Neglect
A peer support group designed for teenage girls “at risk,” Girls Circle combines creative activity and facilitated discussion to build resiliency, self-efficacy, and self-esteem. The group includes assertive communication skill-building, stress management and coping skills, and activities that center on building positive body- and self-image, relationships with peers and family, and goal-setting.
Volunteer, donate, events
ABC House is a nonprofit agency that relies on the generous support of the community to help sustain the comprehensive continuum of services for children with concerns of abuse and neglect. There are so many ways that you can become a part of our ABC House team.
We have our seventh annual Runaway Pumpkin Half Marathon & 8K coming Oct. 21 and should have 1,000 participants this year. Not wanting to walk or run in either event, be a virtual runner, or become one of the more than 150 volunteers needed for the event.
Your donations will make a difference. You can make a one-time gift or become a sustaining supporter with monthly donations of any amount. We are also in need of items donated from our wish list.
How to become involved is up to you!
Please visit www.abchouse.org for more information about ABC House, to register for our event, or to schedule a tour.
ABC House is at 1054 29th Ave. S.W. in Albany.
6,000 Chilld Abuse Allegations in Muslim Grooming Gang 'Hotspot' Sandwell in Five Years
by Victoria Friedman
From 2012 to 2016, a total of 6,226 child abuse allegations were referred to social services in the West Midlands borough of Sandwell – an average of three a day.
Regional newspaper the Express & Star reports that senior council figures said the number of children being “abused and neglected” was rising in Sandwell, a borough previously described as a “hot spot” for Muslim child grooming gangs.
Sandwell Council leader Steve Eling said it was a “worrying situation” and called for Government intervention.
“These are some of the most difficult and sensitive matters that we have as a council have to deal with,” he said.
“Over the last few years, we have seen increasing numbers of children being neglected and abused. There are now more children in Sandwell who are subject to Child Protection Plans than we have ever had before.
“This is a national issue and Sandwell like many authorities are having to commit more resources than we have ever had to in the past.”
The issue of child abuse has featured prominently in the UK again this month after another grooming gang was exposed operating in Newcastle. Eighteen, mostly Muslim, individuals were convicted of child rape and human trafficking on August 9th – the largest case of its kind since Rotherham and Rochdale .
Since 2010, Muslim grooming gangs across the country have been uncovered, including in Telford , Oxford , and Keighley .
In 2014, following an investigation by the Birmingham Mail , a West Midlands Police report found that three-quarters of known child sex groomers in the county were of “Asian” (South Asian) ethnicity, specifically of Pakistani origin, and 82 per cent of the victims, aged 14 to 16, were white.
The Sandwell Safeguarding Children Board (SSCB) report stated: “Intelligence suggests that of potential suspects identified, 75 per cent of those known are of Asian ethnicity.
“This has mirrored other forces' experiences of known offenders and, as we have seen from the Derbyshire, Lancashire and Rochdale cases, has the potential to impact on trust and confidence within local communities across the West Midlands.”
In 2015, the Express & Star reported that official documents dating back to 2009 showed West Midlands Police were not aware of the extent of the number of vulnerable children being targetted by the Muslim rape gangs.
Additionally, such as with the Rotherham and Rochdale cases, police were too preoccupied with political correctness and not appearing racist than with effectively tackling child rape.
The media, politicians, and police have come under criticism from the public and campaigners for referring to the rape gangs as “[South] Asian”, referring to any person of Indian, Bangladeshi, or Pakistani origin of various faiths, rather than accurately as, predominantly, Pakistani Muslim.
Following the latest convictions in Newcastle, Sir Trevor Philips, who popularised the term “Islamophobia”, penned a piece for The Telegraph writing : “What the perpetrators have in common is their proclaimed faith. They are Muslims, and many of them would claim to be practising. It is not Islamophobic to point this out.”
Less than a week later, Labour MP Sarah Champion resigned from the shadow cabinet after she wrote an article for The Sun , likewise acknowledging that Pakistani Muslim men target white girls for sexual grooming.
Rauner signs sexual abuse legislation
by Pete Spitler
Perhaps lost in the noise of the school funding fight was news that Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation on Aug. 11 that removes the statutes of limitation for sexual abuse crimes.
The bill, Senate Bill 189, now allows for the prosecution of those crimes at any time. Previously, victims had to report crimes within 20 years after they turned 18.
SB 189 took effect as soon as it was signed and applies to future felony child sex crime cases, as well as current criminal cases in which the previous statute of limitations has not expired.
According to sponsor State Sen. Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park), the legislation puts in place "best practices for dealing with sexual assault cases statewide and puts in place a system that will encourage survivors to come forward and receive justice when they are ready."
The chief proponent of the bill was Scott Cross, who was raped as a boy by former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert during Hastert's tenure as a teacher and coach at Yorkville High School.
"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," Cross said in a news release from Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office. "And despite the lives ruined and decades of pain and suffering the survivors continue to deal with, he will never be held accountable.
"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."
Nationwide, 36 other states and the federal government have removed criminal statutes of limitations for some or all sexual offenses against children.
"Sex crimes against children are a horribly tragic violation of trust that can take a lifetime to recover from," Madigan said in the news release. "This new law will ensure that survivors are provided with the time they need to heal and seek justice."
Randolph County State's Attorney Jeremy Walker said the new law "puts another tool in the toolbox."
"Certainly from a prosecution's standpoint, it helps," he said. "I can't say it will make a huge difference, but the longer the delay in reports, the harder it is to prosecute.
"I don't think (the new law) will open the floodgates, but it puts another tool in the toolbox."
Walker was asked how prevalent child sexual abuse is in the county.
"It certainly occurs in this county and they are very difficult cases to prosecute," he said. "Number one, when it comes down to (a trial), the family doesn't want to put the child through it.
"There are circumstances when the case is investigated and you're fairly confident, but 'fairly confident' isn't without a reasonable doubt."
Rise in child neglect reports to police by NSPCC Wales
by the BBC
NSPCC Wales said 804 calls to its hotline were passed on to authorities in 2016-17 - an 80% rise in five years.
The highest proportion were in Torfaen and Rhondda Cynon Taff, with the lowest in Denbighshire and Monmouthshire.
The Welsh Government said it had taken "important steps to safeguard and protect children".
NSPCC Wales said it was important to know the scale of the problem so that families could be given support.
Neglect means a child's needs for safety, physical care and love are not being met to an extent that it could cause them serious or lasting harm.
Vivienne Laing, policy and public affairs manager for NSPCC Wales, said neglect was the most common reason for calls to the helpline over the last few years.
"We're seeing a rise in calls about neglect because of a number of reasons," she said.
"People are suffering with lots of stress at the moment and a shortage of funds - people are also more isolated from their families and support. So things like this can impair parenting.
"In the past, people might have just thought neglect meant physical neglect - like a child being dirty.
"What can often cause the most harm is emotional neglect - the need for warm, loving, supportive parenting that responds to a child's needs. And I think people are becoming more aware of that type of neglect."
Signs of neglect
The child may be aggressive and hostile, prone to angry outbursts or lashing out towards others
They may be more impulsive than others with poor concentration
Some children may be particularly quiet or withdrawn
Poor appearance and hygiene
Left alone for a long time
Poor language, communication or social skills
Seem hungry or turn up to school without having breakfast or any lunch money
The charity said a growing number of people contacting its helpline described parents as having a problem with alcohol and drugs, with some of them regularly leaving their children unsupervised so they could go drinking with friends.
It said authorities and health providers needed to put in place more support for parents - particularly new parents - to help them develop the skills needed for good parenting.
Des Mannion, head of NSPCC Wales, added: "Neglect can have severe and long-lasting consequences for children and can also be an indicator of other forms of abuse."
A Welsh Government spokesman said: "The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 introduces new duties on all safeguarding partners to report children and adults who are suspected to be at risk of or who are experiencing neglect or abuse.
"The act also introduced our first national independent safeguarding board in Wales."
More than 300 employees reported for abuse or neglect in one MD. school district
by Donna St. George
Child welfare authorities and police received more than 300 reports of suspicious conduct by Montgomery County school employees during the most recent school year, down nearly 9 percent from the year before, according to data from a new report .
Most of the allegations did not result in Child Protective Services investigations, but they often triggered school district action. More than 70 percent led to employee warnings, conferences, disciplinary letters and reprimands, the data from the school system show.
There were 309 reports of suspicious employee conduct in the 2016-2017 school year, compared with 338 a year earlier. School officials described the 8.6 percent dip as a sign of growing awareness and understanding of child abuse and neglect among the district's 23,400 employees.
“People are more familiar with spotting and recognizing child abuse and neglect, so they are not overreporting, but they are vigilant,” said school district spokesman Derek Turner.
The school year that ended in June marked the second since stricter protocols on reporting abuse and neglect rolled out amid a wave of community concern about how the school system handles suspicious employee behavior.
But some in Montgomery said the system of more than 160,000 students still has too many serious cases. John Vigna, 50, a former teacher at Cloverly Elementary School in Silver Spring, was sentenced this month to 48 years in prison for abusing four students and former students during a 15-year period.
The new data, in an August report from Superintendent Jack Smith to the school board , show 29 employee terminations, resignations or retirements related to allegations of abuse or neglect during the past school year — a number that drew concern. A year earlier, there were 26.
“You're this far into cleaning house, and you're still getting numbers that high?” asked Jennifer Alvaro, a social worker who specializes in child abuse issues and who served on a district-created advisory group. “That's pretty significant.”
The refers to cases that led to criminal charges, including one involving the head of security at Richard Montgomery High School , Mark Yantsos, who is accused of befriending a 17-year-old, giving her gifts at school and arranging to meet her in a hotel room where they had sex. He was indicted in June on a count of sex abuse of a minor and of fourth-degree sex offense.
Turner said each incident of child abuse is a concern but said he believes it “speaks volumes” that Child Protective Services screened out or ruled out most of the employee-related reports. In Montgomery, district staff must call Child Protective Services directly with suspicions of abuse or neglect, and officials say they have urged erring on the side of reporting when in doubt.
Turner underscored district efforts since 2015 to expand employee training, add more safety lessons for students and create an employee conduct code. A new compliance unit was recently launched to manage training requirements and enforce protocols related to abuse and neglect, as well as areas such as bullying and sexual harassment, he said.
Susan Burkinshaw, a mother and activist on child abuse issues, said she still worries about underreporting because the system is so large — with more than 200 schools — and because some recent abuse cases have come to light through parents or others outside schools. She said school culture needs to change more.
“I recognize they are doing a lot,” she said, “but I still don't think they are doing enough.”
This year's reports to Child Protective Services included cases against employees involving their own children, according to the district's analysis.
In addition, five volunteers were reported for alleged abuse or neglect. Two were blocked from volunteering in the future, and two received a conference or warning. District data show more than 36,000 volunteers have taken an online training course for recognizing and reporting abuse and neglect, and nearly 1,400 volunteers completed criminal background checks — required for those who serve as coaches or chaperone students overnight and during late evenings.
Lynne Harris, a teacher who is president of the countywide council of PTAs, said that she has found the new employee training substantive and helpful, and she noted its emphasis on reporting anything even potentially problematic.
But Harris said she hopes district leaders take a close look at the 29 cases involving employees who were dismissed or who retired or resigned. Each, she said, should be examined with two questions: “Is there something we could have done to have prevented this? Is there anything we can learn that will make us a better system and make it safer for our kids?”
Police seek possible sex abuse victims, any links to missing kids in Emery brothers child porn case
by Nadia Romero
SEATTLE – Police detectives are trying to identify the young girls in the photos and videos of child pornography found in the home of three elderly brothers.
Police say Edwin Emery, 79, Thomas Emery, 80, and Charles Emery, 82, lived in the same home in north Seattle for about 50 years. They were arrested Monday and charged with possession of child pornography.
Police describe the inside of their home in Seattle and another one in Shelton as being stacked floor to ceiling with pornographic images. That's why police are asking anyone who may have been victimized by any of the three brothers to come forward. Q13 News spoke with one expert who say it's our society's problem with hiding family secrets that allows persistent child sex abuse.
“These three individuals have an obsession with young female children, they've had this obsession for most if not all of their lives and in some cases acted out on that obsession on family members,” said Seattle Police Capt. Mike Edwards.
Police said Edwin Emery admitted to molesting female family members in the past.
Police say the sexual abuse of family members went on for decades, but it's the nameless victims kicking this investigation into overdrive. One brother, Charles Emery, worked at Seattle Children's for a lengthy yet unknown amount of time.
The hospital released a statement to Q13 News saying in part, “At this time we are not aware of any connection between his alleged crimes and Seattle Children's.”
“This is a crime of opportunity and not unusual at all that that is looking for opportunities to abuse children gets a job where they really have a whole bunch of victims right there,” said Shepherd's Counseling Services Executive Director Janice Palm.
Palm has dedicated her life to helping adults who are now child sex abuse survivors by co-founding Shepherd's Counseling Services in Seattle.
“They feel so ashamed and so bad they're not likely to come forward,” Palm said of victims.
It's the secret cycle of abuse that Palm says keeps child sex abusers safe and able to continue their crimes. Wednesday, investigators combed through the north Seattle home pulling out pornography and young girls' clothing and shoes belonging to potential victims.
“We also recovered a lot of extensive number of writings. These writings detail not only some of the sexual abuse, the interest in young female children, but in addition to that very graphic descriptions of harming and doing very disgusting things to children as well,” said Edwards.
Palm argues that opens up the door to any and all victims, including missing persons cases.
“It is very possible that homicide is involved here. We know these things happen and they don't come to light. Then they keep happening,” said Palm. “Perpetrators that act out this much for that long are really capable of anything. There's a detachment from reality and a detachment from any moral sense of what is right and wrong.”
The Seattle Times reported that authorities in Grays Harbor County on Wednesday said they were working to establish a possible link between the brothers and t he 2009 disappearance of 10-year-old Lindsey Baum in McCleary, Wash . However, authorities said there is no information to link the brothers to that case.
While police want any alleged victims to come forward, Palm says it's important for those who may have been triggered by this case of were victimized by the brothers to seek support services like Shepherd's Counseling Services.
You can also find resources on how to keep your kids safe from child predators.
Child abuse calls to Colorado hotline lag in summer months
Child welfare officials say it's because teachers don't see kids in summer
by Jennifer Brown
Calls to Colorado's statewide child abuse hotline are up again this year, but child welfare officials have noticed an alarming trend: abuse and neglect is under-reported when teachers don't have “eyes on kids.”
Call data from the hotline's first two-and-a-half years shows a significant dip in calls from June to August, when kids are out of school for the summer.
Reports of suspected abuse or neglect fell 20 percent in summer 2016 and 21 percent this summer, a difference of about 2,500 calls per month. The hotline receives a spike in calls — presumably from teachers — just before school lets out in May and again when school resumes in the fall.
During the school year, more than 10 percent of calls to the hotline are from teachers and other school staff, compared to 1.4 percent in the summer, according to the Colorado Department of Human Services.
The hotline has received 119,036 calls so far in 2017, up about 2,000 calls from last year at this time. About 60 percent of calls are from mandatory reporters — teachers, doctors, coaches and others required by law to report any suspected child abuse.
In 2015, the hotline's first year, about 75 percent of calls were from mandatory reporters, meaning that since then, the general public has stepped up to report suspected abuse or neglect.
“What we are seeing is that more of the public is calling and that is good news,” said Robert Werthwein, director of the state Office of Children, Youth and Families. “That is what we hoped to do.”
The public is getting the message that “child welfare is not about taking children away,” he said. More kids known to the child welfare system remain in their own homes than not.
State officials want the public to become more vigilant in the summer months. “The more eyes on kids, the better,” Werthwein said.
The hotline number of 1-844-CO-4- KIDS (1-844-264-5437).
Front Porch Program trains concerned participants to identify child abuse
by Jana Benscoter
Present-day neighborhoods don't have the same vibe as neighborhoods of the past. That was the general sentiment shared by Front Porch Project attendees Wednesday, Aug. 23.
The project began in York County in April 2011. Since its inception, more than 1,500 people have been trained statewide to spot child abuse signs and to learn how to engage with people during uncomfortable situations.
Get involved: There were 1,994 reports of child abuse recorded in York County last year, according Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance data. Of those, 204 were substantiated.
Following participation in a free, six-hour course, Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance Program Director Beth Bitler said, the percentage of people who say they will get involved either a lot of the time or all the time if they suspect child abuse increases from 32 percent to over 80 percent.
Getting involved does not mean confrontation, Bitler said. It can also mean being supportive, she explained.
"Just be honest about what you would do," Bitler said.
Generational changes: When talking about why children are often no longer seen in the streets, thoughts ranged from technology's popularity to having two parents who are working who won't allow their children outside while they are at work.
"It's not a lack of trust for our own kids, but it's a lack of trust of the world around them," 39-year-old James Kirk said. The Manchester Township resident and his wife needed mandated reporter training for their foster-care licenses.
Kirk added he thinks the program is worthy for anyone who is a child advocate.
"We don't feel that, that feel, of everyone working together all the time," Kirk said. "I think participating in events like this brings out a sense of community."
Part of the interactive, teachable training was to answer the question 'Would I help?' There were several other interactive moments.
Five possible child-abuse scenarios were presented to each of the 17 people who attended. They were answered by placing a green, yes; yellow, maybe; or red, no, sticker on a sheet of paper.
Points of view differed, but generally, most agreed they would involve themselves to help a child.
"Today's kids are pushed into adulthood quickly," said Maggie Miller, of Lighthouse Youth at St. Matthew Lutheran Church.
According to alliance research, of 1,000 people surveyed in 2013, only 17 percent felt that child abuse is a serious problem; 14 percent felt it was not a problem; and 33 percent felt they had known a child who was being abused. And 32 percent said they actually reported the suspected child abuse.
The Catholic church must stop blaming victims: children cannot consent to sex
by Dino Nocivelli
What has consent got to do with child abuse? A simple question, which should have a simple answer. A child under the age of 16 is in law unable to consent to sexual acts. The age of consent exists for a reason: to protect vulnerable members of society who have not yet developed the emotional or physical maturity to engage in sexual relationships.
Yet years of revelations about child sexual abuse have shown that this is not a settled question even within trusted institutions that should know better. The independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham found police officers believed girls as young as 11 could consent to sex . In Rochdale, council employees said they thought victims of child sex abuse were “ making their own choices ”. And in my own work as a lawyer representing survivors of child sexual abuse, I've seen how the Catholic church, when dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse, often looks to place blame straight at the feet of a victim.
Two years ago, the Catholic church was swift to publicly condemn Father Gino Flaim , a priest in northern Italy, who in the context of discussing paedophilia said some children seek attention from priests that they do not receive at home, and some priests give in to this.
But I have received court documents and legal correspondence from the Catholic church's lawyers that seem to support the idea children can consent to sex. This includes allegations of consent in child abuse cases (where my teenage client had been raped by his family priest, who was in his 60s), a priest who alleged one of my clients was a “child prostitute”, and a priest who felt sexual relations with children caused them no harm.
In my experience of working with survivors, the Catholic church's views on consent frequently hold survivors back from disclosing their abuse at the hands of priests for decades, if they report at all, as they feel they are to blame for the abuse taking place or for “leading the abuser on”. This simply serves to exacerbate the pain and suffering that they are enduring. For too long, the pope has failed to act on his words that child abusers have no role within the church, as evidenced by the church's reluctance to unfrock priests for such crimes .
The government also has something to answer for. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), responsible for awarding compensation to victims of child sex abuse, applies a different test to consent than the legal one : it looks at whether someone has consented to sex “in fact”.
A clear example where the CICA failed a child abuse survivor involved one of my clients who was 15 years old when she was sexually assaulted by her science teacher. Michael Pooley, aged 34 at the time , groomed Beth (not her real name), spending an increasing amount of time with Beth at school and sending her Facebook messages and gifts. After a short period of time, Pooley entered into a sexual “relationship” with Beth when she was still 15.
One of Beth's friends discovered the “relationship”, and the police became involved. Pooley was subsequently convicted of taking a child without lawful authority and sexual activity with a child. He received a custodial sentence, was put on the sex offender register for 10 years, and barred from working with children indefinitely.
The fact that Beth was only 15 when these assaults took place was ignored by the CICA, which instead deemed her to be a willing participant as she had “in fact” consented to sexual acts even though she could not consent “in law”. As a result, the authority said she was not eligible for financial compensation. The CICA wrote to me stating that children as young as 13 can consent “in fact” even though they cannot consent “in law”.
The idea that children can consent to sexual acts is victim-blaming at its absolute worst. It entirely disregards the depraved acts that are committed by child abusers, and instead wrongly shifts blame and attention to the victim.
The CICA was set up to compensate “blameless victims of violent crime”. I cannot think of anyone who is as blameless as a child who has been groomed and manipulated into sexual activities by someone in a position of authority, power and trust. The government urgently needs to change the CICA's rules to ensure this injustice stops now.
Child abuse is never the fault of children. They cannot consent – and we need to make sure that everyone knows that the only people to blame for these despicable acts are child abusers and the institutions that protect them.
Billy Graham's Grandson Says Protestants Abuse Kids Just Like Catholics
Basyle "Boz" Tchividjian is shining a spotlight on the sexual abuse of children in Protestant churches-a scandal he says may be larger than that of the Catholic Church.
by Josiah Hesse
Basyle "Boz" Tchividjian walks a fine line. On one side, he's the ultimate evangelical insider. His grandfather was the famed evangelical preacher Billy Graham , who exerted immense influence over American politics, culture, and theology. Tchividjian has followed in the family business, teaching law at Liberty University, the Christian college of famed Baptist pastor Jerry Falwell. On the other side, he's one of the most articulate critics of evangelical institutions, at times sounding like a new atheist prophet alongside Richard Dawkins or Bill Maher. He says that churches can be ideal environments for sexual predators who target children. And that traditions of shame, male power structures, and public relations myopia help keep abusers in positions of power and the abused silent.
Tchividjian sees it as his Christian duty to root out abuse in the church, and to build defenses against it. His organization, GRACE ( Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment ), has been hired to investigate high-profile Christian institutions like Bob Jones University and New Tribes Mission . GRACE revealed frightening levels of sexual abuse and, as he told me during our interview, "the common thread of institutional protection at the expense of the individual."
Tchividjian has even had to deal with sex scandals in his own family. In 2015, it was revealed that Boz's brother, Tullian Tchividjian, had committed what the GRACE board described as a " gross misuse of power " in his extramarital relations with adult members of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Over the years, Boz has come to recognize that many churches do not have policies in place to deal with accusations of abuse. And too often they blame the victims for seducing their abuser . In an attempt to combat this, Tchividjian recently co-authored The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries , attempting to help church leaders address difficult questions about predators in their communities and how to avoid further harming someone who has already been traumatized.
We recently spoke with the grandson of "America's pastor" about why some churches protect predators, how sexual ignorance leads to abuse, and where Jesus stood on child abuse.
VICE: How big of a problem is child sexual abuse for Protestant churches?
Basyle "Boz" Tchividjian: It's hard to answer that with any degree of certainty, because the research out there is pretty minimal. If you accept the general statistic that one in four women and one in six men will have been sexually victimized before they turn 18, then you have to acknowledge that those same people are inside of our churches and faith communities. So if you had 100 men and 100 women in your church, 20.5 percent of your church would be survivors of child sexual abuse.
VICE: How does the issue of sexual predators within Protestant churches compare with the massive scandal the Catholic Church as endured?
Basyle "Boz" Tchividjian: A few years ago, data was gathered from some of the top insurance providers for Protestant churches. It was found that they received 260 reports a year of minors being sexually abused by church leaders or church members. Similarly, the John Jay Report on the Catholic Church came up with 228 credible accusations by priests.
Again, sexual abuse is one of the most underreported criminal offenses. But if you just look at these numbers, they tell us that more children are being abused within Protestant churches than in the Catholic Church. One aspect of that is that there are way more Protestants and Protestant churches than there are Catholics. But for me, it's important to share that statistic when speaking with Protestant audiences so that they stop pointing their fingers at the Catholic Church and engage more with their own church.
I have a friend who is a pastor in a Presbyterian church, and when she started at a new church, she preached six or seven sermons about abuse. She told me that since then, "I've had ten women approach me and tell me that they had been sexually abused as children, and that I was the very first person they ever told." And this is a small church.
I think the reason they approached her was that in preaching about it from the pulpit, she created a safe space for them to talk about it. It's a great example about how most of our churches aren't creating safe spaces. Too often victims are afraid to say anything because they're afraid of how people will respond.
Bastrop CASA calls for volunteers for child abuse negligence cases
by Andy Sevilla
With school having started in Bastrop this week and classes beginning in Smithville on Monday, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) says reports of child abuse and negligence are likely to increase and the organization is putting out a call for volunteers to help handle the caseloads.
CASA, which trains volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in the court system, expects reports of abuse to rise as teachers, school district staff and other parents notice signs of maltreatment children may have endured over the summer.
“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 and 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.”
In Bastrop, Fayette and Lee counties, there are 165 children in the child welfare system. CASA is serving 148 children in the three counties, but that means that there are still children without a volunteer to advocate for their needs – a number that is likely to grow as the school year begins.
The organization says 52 children are removed daily from their homes and enter the foster care system in Texas. Last year, 1,250 children aged out of the system without finding a home.
Of the 293,000 reports filed with the Department of Family and Protective Services in 2016, 56,980 allegations were made by school officials, Glasper said. The increase in reports during the school year adds more children to the overburdened state child welfare system, which has been under scrutiny for deficiencies in its system.
“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,” Glasper said. “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 are everyday members of the community that are 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 relevant contacts in their lives in effort to assess their situation at their foster placement, at school and in other settings, Glasper said.
In Texas, there are 71 CASA programs serving 28,000 foster children in 213 counties. The organization counts on more than 9,100 volunteers statewide. The next local CASA volunteer training is scheduled to begin in September. For more information about becoming a volunteer, call 512-303-2271 or visit www.BecomeACASA.org .
'100 Percent Preventable"
Child abuse death cases on the rise in Indiana
by Stuart Hirsch
A 1-year-old child died because of acute alcohol intoxication and extensive burn wounds. The child had burns over 11.5 percent of the body, and a blood alcohol level of 0.145 percent. The child also suffered from malnutrition. It was determined the child was burned about one month before death.
A 1-year-old child died as a result of a ruptured stomach with chemical peritonitis, fracture of the cervical spine and extensive scalp hemorrhages. The mother admitted whipping the child with a belt four to five times per day for the past month because of behavioral issues .
A 22-day-old child died from positional asphyxia with a contributing factor of acute mixed drug intoxication. The child's mother fell asleep in a reclining position on a couch while breast feeding the child. When the mother awoke, the child was unresponsive with her face between the mother's chest and arm.
ANDERSON — These clinical descriptions represent the life stories of three Indiana children who died of abuse or neglect in 2015.
And 74 other similar accounts are contained in the Indiana Department of Child Services Annual Report of Child Fatalities for Indiana fiscal year 2015, released this month.
The 77 deaths covered in the report are abuse and neglect cases that child service officials could "substantiate," out of 258 fatalities the department reviewed.
About half the deaths were traumatic — beatings and gunshot wounds. Head trauma was the main cause of death in abuse cases.
One-third of the children died as a result of neglect. Unsafe sleep practices leading to asphyxia were the primary cause of death in this category, and the misuse of drugs and alcohol were frequent contributing factors, according to the report.
What's more concerning: The number of substantiated child abuse/neglect fatalities in Indiana keeps rising, from 34 in 2012, to 49 in 2013, to 66 in 2014, to 77 in 2015.
Of the total fatalities in 2015, 32, or 42 percent, were attributed to abuse. Forty-five (58 percent) were attributed to neglect.
In other key findings:
• In the case of abuse, 85 percent of victims were less than 3 years old.
• In the case of neglect, 73 percent were less than 3 years old.
"This finding demonstrates a consistent trend (nationally and in Indiana) that young children are at the highest risk of abuse and neglect," according to the report's executive summary.
Another disturbing trend revealed in the fatality report: Abuse and neglect is often inflicted by a child's biological parents.
• 84 percent of neglect fatalities and 68 percent of abuse fatalities were caused by a biological parent.
• 10 percent of neglect fatalities and 26 percent of abuse fatalities were caused by a parent's intimate partner or another relative.
The report also showed the most common stress factors associated with child deaths were insufficient income and unemployment, substance abuse and domestic violence.
"Each one of these deaths was 100 percent preventable," said Mary Beth Bonaventura, director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, in a statement.
"Our infants and toddlers are the most vulnerable of all our children," Bonaventura added. "Younger children demand active supervision, attention, care and patience — which may be difficult to give if someone has low or poor parenting skills, or is dealing with multiple stress factors, including substance abuse."
Data complied by the Indiana Youth Institute provides context for Madison County's struggle with neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse, especially if you contrast the community with affluent neighbor Hamilton County.
Hamilton County's population in 2015 was about 309,700, and Madison County's was about 129,300.
Though Hamilton County's population was 2.4 times larger than Madison's, far fewer cases of neglect were reported there: 259 compared to 729 in Madison County. Reports of physical abuse were also lower, 20 in Hamilton County versus 68 in Madison County.
The recently released Department of Child Services report notes that of the 77 deaths in Madison County, DCS officials had prior contact with only four of the children.
Behind these numbers are families and children struggling to cope with poverty, mental illness and rampant drug and alcohol abuse, Madison County child advocates say.
"A lot of people gloss over violence in the home," said Denise Valdez, director of Kids Talk. "We need to look at why there's violence in the home. There are so many factors."
Kids Talk interviews victims of child abuse and neglect and provides information to local law enforcement.
Valdez believes education is a key element in changing the behavior of abusive or neglectful parents.
Valdez also believes humans are born with an innate sense of right and wrong. While many people might not be prepared for the job of parenting, the episodes documented in the fatality report unmask a disturbing pathology.
"I think people who do that have some deep psychological issues that need to be addressed," she said.
Efforts are afoot in Madison County to advocate for victimized children, but there are so many of them and too few resources.
"We're just overwhelmed with the number of cases," said Annette Craycraft, executive director of East Central Indiana CASA.
Currently 400 people are on the agency's waiting list for services.
CASA is an acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocates. Its volunteers advocate on behalf of abused and neglected children in the welfare system. Working with children who have been abused, the volunteers are often the first to see trends and behaviors that affect the well-being of kids.
Like Valdez, Craycraft believes education can help change behavior. After reading this year's fatality report, she said, "The thing that really stood out is that a lot of these deaths could have been prevented."
Craycraft believes Madison County's medical community does a good job of providing information to new parents about safe sleep practices, but it's hard to know what happens when couples arrive home.
For children who are older, Craycraft believes community mentors and organized programs such as those at the new Anderson Township Trustee Girls and Boys Club can help break cycles of violence.
But until whole communities become truly aware of the needs and come together, the fatalities will mount, and there will be more sordid stories like these three.
• In the case of the 1-year-old burn victim, no medical treatment was sought.
The mother's boyfriend initially told investigators the child was burned accidentally when water he was heating for a sibling's formula fell from the stove on the child. Later, the boyfriend told investigators the child was accidentally burned in bath water that was too hot.
Both caregivers said the mother was not home when the injuries occurred. The child's mother was charged with criminal neglect of a dependent and false informing. The mother's boyfriend was charged with criminal neglect of a dependent, battery and false informing. Both criminal cases are pending.
• In the case of the 1-year-old who was whipped, both the mother and father and were charged with murder, neglect of a dependent and battery. Both are awaiting trial. The Department of Child Services found that the death was caused by physical abuse, medical neglect, malnutrition and environmental conditions attributed to both parents.
• The 22-day-old's mother tested positive for benzodiazepines and Tramadol at the time of death, and an autopsy found the child had both pseudoephedrine and nortramadol in her system. The child's pediatrician was aware the mother was breastfeeding, but was not aware she was taking Tramadol. No criminal charges were filed in the case.
Police Taking Action After Rise in Child Abuse Cases
by Deni Kamper
CENTERTON, Ark. -- - A Northwest Arkansas school district is seeing a surge in reports of child abuse.
Centerton Police are using Facebook to bring attention to the issue of child abuse, and encourage people to report it.
"Child abuse is something that is preventable and it needs to end," Cpl. Alex Wallace of the Centerton Police Department said.
Centerton Police posted on the department's Facebook page, after receiving reports of fifteen confirmed cases of child abuse in just ten days.
"It's hard to be proactive in child abuse, being proactive is what I tried to do with our Facebook post," Wallace said.
It's typical to see an uptick in reports at the start of the school year because teachers are legally required to report to law enforcement if they believe a child is being abused or neglected.
"You as an adult, as a teacher may be the one chance this child has to ending the abuse," Natalie Tibbs, Executive Director of the Children's Advocacy Center of Benton County said.
But the Children's Advocacy Center of Benton County says it's the responsibility of all adults to be a voice for abused children and look out for potential warning signs such as bruises in unusual places.
"We should never leave the safety of a child up to that child, It is our job as adults and as a community to help keep this a safe community for our children," Tibbs said.
In 2016, there were 439 confirmed cases of child abuse in Benton County alone.
90-percent of these cases involved children who were being abused by a parent or family member.
Statistics show one in four girls, and one in six boys will face abuse before the age of 18.
"Child abuse has a very common myth that it only happens in poor socioeconomic statuses which is incredibly false and it knows no boundaries, it knows no socioeconomic status," Tibbs said.
If you know a child who may be facing abuse or neglect, you can report it to the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline by calling 1-800-482-5964.
Kids Talk empowers children who might be abused
by Stuart Hirsch
ANDERSON — In the three years it's been open, Kids Talk has helped change how child neglect and physical and sexual abuse cases in Madison County are investigated.
Kids Talk is an advocacy center that conducts specialized forensic interviews when the Department of Child Services receives reports about children who might be at risk. Since 2014, the agency has assisted more than 1,300 children.
"Not only did we want to be reactive" when the program began, said Becky Oldham, a manager and child advocate, "but a goal from the beginning was to get out in schools and work on prevention with kids.
"That's been really important to us, and we were really excited to launch that last year," she added.
Those school-based presentations have been effective in helping children distinguish good behavior from bad, according to follow-up surveys.
"After a program is presented, every child gets an option to say if they want to talk to somebody," Oldham said.
"We had 125 DCS reports come out of those presentations countywide, and we had hundreds of reports where kids came forward about things such as self harm or friends being suicidal, and we were able to refer those to guidance counselors," she added.
About 500 children received some kind of service as a result of the school presentations.
"We were able, I think, to head off a lot of things that would have gone a lot further, as far as sexual abuse is concerned," she added. "I think some children came forward when they were in the initial grooming phase, (which) did not go further because they were empowered by that presentation they heard."
Elwood Police Chief Jason Brizendine said Kids Talk has been an invaluable resource for law enforcement.
"Police just didn't know how to investigate certain things many years ago when I first started," the chief said. "Over the years, they've figured out that you need facilities like this who specialize in the interview techniques and how to deal with the children."
"This is a service I do not ever want to see leave," Brizendine said.
Appointees named to child abuse, neglect panel
HELENA — Appointees have been named by Gov. Steve Bullock and Attorney General Tim Fox to the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Commission.
The panel will review trends of abuse and neglect and examine patterns of child fatalities and near fatalities, educate the public, service providers and policymakers about child abuse and neglect.
The commission will provide a written report to the state on policies and practices that may reduce fatalities.
Bullock signed into law House Bill 303 in April, creating the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Commission.
He and Fox had to appoint members who represent law enforcement, the judiciary, foster parents, health care providers, Montana Indian tribes, the Legislature, and others.
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services will oversee the Commission.
Bullock on Friday appointed: Georgia Cady, director of Human Trafficking and Drop In Center, Tumbleweed Runaway Program; Abby Eyre, therapist in private practice working with trauma survivors and victims of domestic violence; Nichole Griffith, executive director and crime victim advocate for Victim-Witness Assistance Services; Mary Pat Hansen, clinical supervisor for the First Step Resource Center at Providence St. Patrick Hospital; Laura Weiss Smith, deputy director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services; Arlene Templer, director of the Department of Human Resource Development for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes; and Jenn Wihlborg, Statewide Mental Health Residential Service Director for AWARE Inc.
Fox, also on Friday, appointed: Traci Shinabarger, office of child and family ombudsman; Dan Mayland, detective, Gallatin County Sheriff's Office; Katherine “Kitty” Curtis, Retired District Court judge, Flathead County; Scott Pederson, contract deputy county attorney for Carbon County and Guardian ad Litem for 13th Judicial District (Yellowstone County); Shonna Larkey, a licensed foster parent; Sasha Joseph Neulinger, an adult who was a victim of child abuse and neglect; and State Sen. Eric Moore, R-Miles City.
'That little girl lives inside all of us': Survivor says there's life after sexual abuse
Bev Moore-Davis reacts to horrific case of sexual abuse missed by authorities in N.L.
by Mark Quinn
Bev Moore-Davis was disgusted when she heard the story of a 12-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted by her stepfather, given an abortion and then released back into the hands of her abuser.
But she isn't surprised that abuse like this happens. She's survived it herself.
"As a survivor, I remember being 12. And that little girl lives inside all of us survivors," she says.
"The specifics of this case are different but the story isn't. I facilitate a group for adult survivors of child abuse and I hear these stories all the time. History is repeating itself over and over."
Moore-Davis is reacting to an investigative report by the office of the provincial Child and Youth Advocate Jacqueline Lake Kavanagh .
The report outlines how a 12-year-old girl was failed by the social services and health care systems in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The girl was impregnated by her stepfather and then brought to an Eastern Health facility for an abortion, where she gave a fictitious story about her teenage boyfriend fathering the child. Authorities accepted the tale, gave her an abortion, and sent her home with her abuser.
Later, the stepfather moved the girl and her siblings to Manitoba where the abuse continued and she received a second abortion.
"The system failed this little girl," said Moore-Davis.
We don't know where this victim is now, but Moore-Davis said it is possible to survive — and even thrive — after suffering sexual abuse as a child.
"Set up a support system so you can talk," she said. "That inner victim lives in you and it's a struggle when there are triggers and flashbacks, but at least if there is a support system in place, people around you know when you need help. And therapy is a huge component."
"But for anyone who thinks that they can bury it and it will go away — that's not how it works. It's a toxic poison inside that's going to erupt."
Moore-Davis believes the Child Advocate's latest recommendations are good and that they'll help improve the system, but she's also calling for prevention.
"Children also need to be trained," she said. "They need to know what constitutes sexual abuse. They need to know that it's wrong and they also need to know that there is a system in place to help them and protect them and support them."
Moore-Davis also emphasizes that people in the day-to-day lives of children must protect them.
"These are the people that spend the most time with victims and have the most potential to pick up on the red flags. All too often, we hear of people coming forward after the damage has been done. If an adult suspects a child is being abused, they have a moral responsibility to speak out. Better to have been wrong than to allow the abuse to continue."
She said people told her later in life they suspected something was wrong when she was a child. It's part of what motivated her to found Miles for Smiles, a group that supports abuse survivors.
"Nobody said anything, and we need to break that taboo. We need to be able to talk about it. If the education about abuse had been in school, I would have been better equipped to protect myself. I think it might have made a difference."
Human trafficking: It's not always what you'd expect
by Jordan Hensley
HICKORY – Every once in awhile, a post on social media will go viral of a woman claiming she was stalked at the grocery store. She says she noticed a suspicious man or woman following her, so she made eye contact, tried to speak to them and requested an employee escort her to her car.
Sometimes the police get involved.
Sometimes a second man or woman is spotted, too, along with a white van or other large vehicle.
The poster automatically thinks she almost was a victim of human trafficking.
After a few thousand shares, likes and comments, the hysteria dies down and no one hears anything else about the suspicious man.
And perhaps the woman was right. Perhaps she was almost the victim of human trafficking. Maybe the man wanted to snatch her up, throw her in his vehicle and drive off to sell her for sex or labor.
But what about a woman named Paula, whose boyfriend was the offender in her human trafficking story?
Paula's testimony is shared on the National Human Trafficking Hotline website.
After a few months of dating, Paula's boyfriend Justin began to isolate her from her friends and family and took control of her whole life, including her belongings. Eventually, Justin began to force Paula to go on dates with men and engage in commercial sex with them.
Thankfully, Paula was able to escape Justin with the help of friends and family. And after calling the hotline, she was put in contact with specially trained law enforcement and mental health services.
The hotline's website is full of survivors' stories.
A migrant worker working for little pay, no breaks, vacation, access to clean water or restrooms. A child runaway, who ended up working for a pimp as a prostitute. Men and women accepting a job after being promised a steady income or debt resolution only to be held against their will, working a forced-labor or sex job.
Human trafficking in Hickory
In 2015, a post about a woman's experience at a Wal-Mart in Hickory went viral, where she claimed she was stalked in the store and almost kidnapped.
Snopes, a fact-checking website, debunked the story as “probably false.”
“It's not like it is on ‘Taken,'” said Cindy Hathcock, in reference to the 2008 Liam Neeson thriller, where Neeson's character's daughter is kidnapped in Paris and sold into the sex slave trade. “That's the huge misconception, granted it has happened like that, but that's not the majority.”
Hathcock is the executive director and founder of My Safe Haven, which is a Hickory-based nonprofit dedicated to helping human trafficking victims.
Human trafficking is defined as a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against a person's will, according to the hotline's website.
“Majority of the cases, victims that I've worked with, were young,” Hathcock said.
Hathcock and her team at My Safe Haven help victims in Catawba, Burke and Alexander counties. They've also taken cases in Charlotte and other cities across North Carolina.
“If you look at the cases of minors and even in cases where they were adults, they met someone, they became their boyfriend or they said ‘hey, let me show you what I can do for you,' typical of what a pimp would do when he's grooming a girl to be a certain way,” she said.
Once those relationships are formed, it is easier for the victim to be manipulated.
In the instances of sex trafficking, young women, sometimes under the age of 18, make up the majority of victims.
Hathcock said sometimes these women don't even realize they're a victim, and often, they don't want out of their situation.
“The person who is using them has told them they love them,” she said.
Sometimes this is the first time in that person's life they've ever felt cared for or loved.
Hathcock said common characteristics of victims include, a low self-esteem, mental illness, a history of mental, physical and sexual abuse, and a poor relationship with either one or both parents.
With children, many of them are runaways from foster homes or other situations.
While all of those characteristics make a person more vulnerable to human trafficking situations, drug addiction is perhaps the biggest ingredient a pimp will use to lure a victim.
“I've worked with victims where they weren't addicted to drugs before they met their trafficker,” she said. “These offenders use drugs as a way to control the victims.”
One major misconception about human trafficking victims, especially sex trafficking, is that this only happens to people in poverty or with deeply troubled backgrounds.
Hathcock said that is not the case.
“It doesn't discriminate,” she said. “There's been girls that have come from very well off families, but there was a barrier in the relationship with their parents, or they've had great relationships with their parents, but their parents had no idea what was going on in their lives at school.”
Sometimes young women in college become involved in sex trafficking to make money to pay for school, or they become friends with the wrong people and get wrapped up in their lifestyle, Hathcock added.
As for offenders, they can be anyone, she said.
Recently, there was a human trafficking bust in Kingsport, Tenn., after authorities placed a fake advertisement on a website advertising sex with a minor.
Eleven men and one woman responded to the ad, and among the 11 men, there was an EMT, a firefighter, a coach, and a youth leader.
Hatchcock said in some situations, the victim can even become the offender by either becoming a pimp or putting up their own ads on Craigslist and Backpage.
Human trafficking also doesn't discriminate against geographical location.
“In rural areas, it's easier to be situated, and they settle down in that area,” she said.
Small cities, large cities, cities along major highways like I-40, tourist attractions, and major events all attract large-scale and small-scale human trafficking operations.
Abroad, human trafficking looks a lot like it does in the U.S., but that's not always the case.
In countries like Cambodia, parents often sell their children to work as sex slaves. Parents in turn use this money to buy food, pay off debts, or even purchase luxury items like cellphones.
Polaris Project, a global network working to eradicate modern day slavery, estimates 20.9 million men, women and children are the victims of human trafficking worldwide.
The national hotline reports they have received 473 phone calls from North Carolina and 118 human trafficking cases have been reported to them since June 30.
Last year, they received 598 calls and 182 reports of human trafficking cases.
The majority of the phone calls have been from community members and victims, with sex trafficking the most commonly reported type.
The instances of labor trafficking reported often had to do with the mistreatment of agriculture workers.
Hathcock said the victims of labor trafficking are often immigrants, documented or undocumented, who aren't aware of their rights and are afraid to report that their employer is mistreating them in fear of being deported.
Labor trafficking victims may experience unsafe and unsanitary working and living conditions, no breaks, no vacation time, limited access to restrooms and clean drinking water, all at very little pay.
“Labor trafficking is big in North Carolina,” she said. “But there are resources out there for them, including immigrant victims.”
My Safe Haven also has a hotline, and when they receive calls from victims, they usually have never contacted a hotline before, so the national hotline's and Polaris's demographics may be slightly off, Hatchcock said.
More than a crime
While prostitution and labor trafficking are against the law, there's a major underlying issue when it comes to human trafficking: the public health aspect.
While many victims have a form of mental illness, victims often have sexually transmitted diseases as well, such as HIV.
Hathcock said many of these men and women aren't even aware they have a disease and are passing it onto the people who are paying them for sex. Those people, in turn, also don't realize they are infected, so they continue to spread the disease.
Victims of human trafficking, especially sex trafficking, need access to mental health care and drug rehabilitation after rescue, she said. Many of these victims have never held a steady job or paid actual bills, so transitioning victims into a more “regular life” is a challenge.
Sometimes these homes for victims only help women for up to a year. Finding programs for men is difficult as well, Hathcock said.
Since drug addiction is a major way offenders manipulate and draw in victims, access to rehabilitation facilities and programs is essential as well.
But Hathcock says rescue centers must follow up and keep in touch with victims, and without follow up, many relapse.
My Safe Haven works hard to stay in touch with the men and women they've helped once they get them in rehab, treatment, or a transition home.
“If we lose track of someone, we sometimes, unfortunately, find them back on Backpage or some other website,” she said.
Combating the issue locally
“The best thing the public can do is educate,” Hatchcock said.
Being aware can help you identify victims, know how to get them help and know how to protect yourself from becoming a victim.
Hickory Police Department Deputy Chief Reed Baer echoed that and said it's important to inform law enforcement about anything anyone feels is suspicious.
“We operate on the philosophy of community policing,” he said. “One of our foundations is that the community decides what looks suspicious in the community. We're 116 officers; that's only so many sets of eyes.”
Baer said there have been many cases where a team of officers will interview people living near a crime scene to find out the neighbors have been suspicious a crime was taking place all along, but they never called law enforcement to let them know.
“It never hurts to call,” he said. “Let me emphasize that: it never hurts to call.”
Many people may worry about bothering the police, but Baer assures that they'd rather investigate a phone call to find nothing than the crime continue without law enforcement knowing about it.
As for human trafficking in Hickory, Baer said HPD is always looking for suspicious activity online and in the community that might be related to human trafficking.
As of recent, Hickory has not seen anything concerning human trafficking in several years other than someone trafficking their self.
“I think in the south particularly, you see more of the human trafficking with migrant workers,” he said. “That's the majority of human trafficking in this area because of the agricultural base.”
At the state level
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 548 into law July 20, strengthening human trafficking laws as well as authorizing the N.C. Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy to regulate massage and bodywork establishments and requiring these establishments to obtain a statewide privilege license.
In addition, the law gives the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services permission to study human trafficking and identify ways to protect victims of human trafficking.
Section one of the bill increases the penalty of human trafficking from a class F felony to a class C felony if the victim is an adult. If the victim is a minor, it is now a class B2 felony instead of a class C.
The bill also redefines “adult establishment.”
“No (person) shall permit the practice of massage and bodywork therapy in an adult establishment,” according to the bill.
North Carolina State Sen. Warren Daniel is one of three senators to sponsor the bill. He serves Burke and Cleveland counties.
“The intent of the bill was not to single out a single industry, but to help curb human trafficking in North Carolina and to get hotline information into more public spaces,” he said.
Daniel cited the Polaris Project as listing illicit massage and bodywork establishments as the second leading industry when it comes to human trafficking, with escort services holding the first place slot.
“For years, we have only regulated the licensing of massage and bodywork therapists,” he said.
Now the establishments themselves will be regulated.
“With the overwhelming evidence on a national level that there are illicit massage and bodywork establishments that are participating in the scourge of human trafficking, the bill sponsors felt that there was no viable option but to require some sort of regulation to ensure that all massage therapists are licensed, that proper and legal protocols are followed and that the workers are protected,” Daniel said.
Victims are encouraged to contact local law enforcement or call a local or national hotline.
My Safe Haven's hotline is in operation 24/7 at 828-270-2411.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline number also is available 24/7 at 1-888-373-7888.
If you see something suspicious in your community, call the Hickory Police Department at 828-328-5551 or the Catawba County Sheriff's Office at 828- 465-8312.
As for education, Hathcock suggested attending free local lectures on human trafficking or visiting MySafeHaven.org .
Nervous about legal action, schools aren't implementing sex abuse prevention law in Tennessee
by Anita Wadhwani
In response to growing concerns about child sexual abuse, Tennessee lawmakers enacted a law encouraging schools to provide prevention education to teachers and students.
But the 2014 measure, known "Erin's Law," has run into an unanticipated obstacle — one also created by state lawmakers.
The so-called "Gateway law," approved by the legislature in 2010, allows for teachers and school districts to be penalized for providing anything but abstinence-based sex education. It prohibits any discussion of "gateway" behaviors that could lead to premarital sex.
As a result, many Tennessee public schools aren't talking to kids about sex abuse prevention at all — for fear that broaching the subject will spur questions from kids about healthy sexuality, something that could lead to civil fines or lawsuits by parents under the 2010 law.
"Some schools are afraid that if they begin talking about sexual assaults or bystander training the kids will want to talk about sex," said Kim Janecek, education curriculum manager at the Sexual Assault Center.
"A lot of schools also just want to bury their heads in the sand and pretend this issue isn't happening," she said. "They don't want to tackle this topic. They're afraid they'll get parent backlash. But it's more prevalent than they realize. One in six boys and one in four girls are sexually assaulted."
In Tennessee, there were 3,072 child sex abuse cases reported across the state in 2016, a number that child advocates say is under-reported.
A pair of lawsuits filed this month against Brentwood Academy and parents of teenage boys who allegedly perpetrated sexual violence on another boy highlighted the issue of child-on-child sexual abuse and scrutiny of the response of school officials to sex abuse allegations.
Advocates for children say it's critical for schools — where children form trusted relationships with adults in a position to help them — to take greater responsibility for identifying and reporting sex abuse.
"Children and teens spend so much of their waking time in school that it has a great deal of potential for recognizing signs and symptoms of a kid who is being abused and responding appropriately," said Cary Rayson, community engagement coordinator with
Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee.
Neither Erin's law nor the Gateway legislation apply to private schools.
State education officials do not track how many schools have implemented Erin's law, named after an Illinois woman who was sexually abused as a child and has since advocated for similar laws across the country.
In Texas, one of at least 26 states that have passed Erin's law or similar measures, educators increased their reporting of child sexual abuse by 283 percent in the year following its implementation, according to a survey of 79,644 public school staff in 2015.
The Sexual Assault Center created sex abuse prevention lesson plans for Tennessee educators to use for free following the passage of Erin's Law.
Last year 250 out of Tennessee's 1,833 public schools requested the lesson plans, Janecek said.
Davidson County public schools have not implemented any policies or programs associated with Erin's Law but have provided training to counselors and social workers, said Tony Majors, executive officer for the Department of Student Support Service.
Nashville schools have the option to use the Sexual Assault Center training but it is not required, he said.
Majors declined to respond to a question about whether schools generally are concerned about violating the Gateway law by providing sex abuse prevention education.
In Williamson County public schools, "there are many standards covered throughout a students educational journey" said spokeswoman Carol Birdsong. None are specific to sexual abuse prevention.
The standards include: "the student will understand the contribution of family relationships to healthy living," and "the student will understand the stages of human growth and development," Birdsong noted.
Sex abuse prevention training is designed to be age appropriate, talking about "safe versus unsafe touching" and assertiveness skills —- such as knowing when to say no when faced with inappropriate behaviors — at the elementary and middle school levels, according to Janecek.
At the middle and high school levels, the conversations should focus on healthy relationships, online safety skills and bystander intervention, she said.
Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee and the Sexual Assault Center are working to reach parents, teachers and school counselors at community meetings and statewide conferences with a "tool kit" to advocate for implementing Erin's Law in their local schools.
The response has been mixed, according to Janecek.
"Some are very receptive, but we get a lot of push-back sometimes especially in rural counties saying 'we don't think it's happening here. We'll get back to you if something comes up.'"
Teen Dating Violence: Recognize It and Prevent It
by Christi Yoder
One in three adolescent girls in the United States will be a victim of teen dating violence. One in five teens knows someone who has been a victim. Yet, 81% of parents either say that teen dating violence is not an issue or they don't know if it is an issue. Of parents, 82% felt confident they would know if their child was experiencing teen dating violence, yet only 58% correctly identified the warning signs. Only 33% of teen victims ever tell anybody about the violence. With such terrifying statistics, knowledge among parents and teens needs to be increased.
What exactly is teen dating violence? Teen dating violence refers not just to physical abuse, but also to emotional, verbal and sexual abuse. Physical abuse is most often recognized by people as abuse. It can be anything from throwing something at a person, to physically grabbing, biting, punching or kicking a person. According to loveisrespect.org , physical abuse is “any intentional and unwanted contact with you or something close to your body.”
Emotional and verbal abuse are not always easy to recognize, but can be just as damaging to a teenager. There are many behaviors that fit into this category. Stalking is one example that most people can relate to. But there are other, more subtle behaviors that qualify as abuse such as name-calling, yelling or screaming at a person, deliberate public embarrassment, and blaming the victim for the perpetrator's abusive actions. Emotional abuse also includes telling a person who they can and cannot be friends with, what a person can do, and where a person is allowed to go. Gaslighting is a technique often used by abusers, and includes things like asking the victim if they are sure they remember things correctly or telling the victim they are too sensitive. A person using gaslighting may pretend they don't remember what the victim is talking about or accuse them of making things up.
A specific type of emotional or verbal abuse that you might not have considered is digital abuse. According to loveisrespect.org , digital abuse is “the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk, or intimidate a partner.” An abuser may tell the victim who they can be friends with on social media, or they may use social media to keep tabs on the victim. Abusers may insist on having the victim's password to their social media accounts. Status updates may be used by abusers to put down their victims. Victims may be pressured to send sexually explicit pictures or videos. An abuser may constantly text the victim and become angry when the victim doesn't immediately respond.
Sexual abuse includes rape, but also includes other things. A person may prevent the victim from protecting themselves against sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancy. Perpetrators of this kind of abuse may pressure the victim into sexual activity by making them feel guilty or immature for refusing. In short, sexual abuse includes any unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature.
As a parent, how do you recognize the signs of abuse in your child? You may want to believe that your child would come to you if they were experiencing abuse, but statistics show this is rare. Knowing some of the warning signs that your child may be involved in an abusive relationship is key to helping your child. There are several warning signs a parent can look for in their teen, such as your teen's partner behaving jealously and checking on your teen frequently. Observe your teen with their partner. How does the partner behave? Does the partner frequently put down your teen or call them demeaning names? An abused teen may begin to spend less time with friends and family or give up other activities that they enjoy. In a physically abusive relationship, your teen may have injuries that aren't explained.
Some of the warning signs may look just like normal adolescent development and it is up to you as the parent to try to distinguish between what is normal teenage behavior and when it is something more. Your teen's grades may suddenly drop without an explanation. The teen may begin to exhibit signs of depression and anxiety, have difficulty in making decisions, and become secretive. Eating and sleeping habits may inexplicably change.
As a parent, you can empower your child to recognize the symptoms of teen dating violence in their own relationships. Talk to your kids and let them know what a healthy relationship should look like and tell them what warning signs to look out for. For example, let the teen know they may be in an unhealthy relationship if their partner tells them who to talk to, where to go, or what to wear. Let them know it is not normal to feel like they have to walk on eggshells around their partner for fear of how their partner may react.
If you recognize warning signs of an abusive relationship in your teen, let them know you are concerned for their safety. Keep the lines of communication open and offer to connect them with someone who can help them figure it out, such as a counselor or other professional that will keep the conversation confidential. Always make clear to your teen that the abuse is not their fault. Provide the teen with the information they need to know to be able to recognize warning signs themselves and let them know you are there for them if they want to talk about it. Always be nonjudgmental, talking about the behaviors rather than the person. Believe that your child is telling you the truth. Don't give your teen an ultimatum, but decide on what the next step should be together. Finally, recognize that teen dating violence is not limited to female victims, but that males can also be victims.
The internet has some great resources for talking to your children about teen dating violence, such as this one from BreakTheCycle.org . You can also call the National Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 for help finding resources. You will not always be able to watch your child to keep them safe, but you can empower them to learn the warning signs and to take action to protect themselves.
Parental alienation leaves a hurricane of pain
by David Shurbert
Parental alienation is one of the cruelest forms of mental and emotional abuse that anyone can ever experience in their lifetime.
It robs a loving parent of all that is sacred to them, their children, their mental and emotional well-being and on occasion their very lives. They suffer great loss as they struggle to regain some sense of normalcy during their battle to be reunited with their children.
Depression, fear, self-doubt and many other emotions will consume them with a ferocity that most people will never know. Many times sleep will evade them as they try desperately to sort out the multitude of questions as to why this is happening to them. Lack of appetite is a common occurrence when food no longer seems important and this simply heightens the dangers to our health.
Wandering through this process is like walking in the midst of a minefield, as they know each step can be disastrous. Without a strong support network of people who have gone down this path or the assistance a competent and well trained mental health professional, these parents will suffer at an alarming height. They must seek ways to begin the coping and healing process to move forward.
But what about the children? How does this effect their lives? Do they not matter in all of this? Of course they do. They are most important and deserve without hesitation all the love, support and protection from both parents. They are a bi-product of who we are and the love we have inside us. They must always be made to feel they are deserving of all the positive things we can give them.
When parental alienation occurs, it is nothing short of a betrayal to these children perpetrated by the vindictive actions of one parent in their quest to harm their former spouse or partner due to a failed relationship. The short and long term consequences for these actions is insurmountable and without direct and immediate intervention, the negative effects may and do last a lifetime.
Rest assured, parental alienation is abuse and those who deny this are either, the alienating parent themselves, enablers or someone who will profit. When someone purposely chooses to use their children as a weapon against their former spouse and causes extreme emotional harm, it affects the child, as well. There is no doubt that children are caught in the middle and will experience pain though the loss of a parent.
So, the question to ask ourselves is how do we end this epidemic of abuse? Do we pretend the family courts will act in the best interest of our children? How about trusting that somehow, someway our former spouse will suddenly wake up and smell the proverbial roses and understand that what they are doing is wrong?
When parental alienation begins its path of destruction, sadly, it seldom changes course. Instead, much like a hurricane it most likely will intensify in strength and destroy anything in its way. The same is true with the family courts. Until they conduct hearings in the same manner as criminal courts do by demanding evidence in testimony, the abuse will continue.
Until the day arrives when the playing field is leveled, we alienated parents and our children will continue to miss out on all the love and bonds that should have been. We will not be able to enjoy the sharing of memories that were meant to be. Each hour of each day that goes by is another loss for us alienated parents and our children and another win for the alienator.
Certainly, there must be a way that we can turn this form of abuse around and end it. For myself, I choose to promote awareness to the harmful effects caused by one person, their enablers and the very system itself – who is meant to uphold our rights as parents and our children. In doing so, it is my hope that I can provide others the ammo to make change a reality.
Until this day arrives, remember that parental alienation is abuse against both, the target parent and their victim children. This means you must do your best to help spread awareness – parental alienation is abuse.
Breaking the silence on child abuse in sports
by the St Lucia Times
The OECS and UNICEF have partnered to raise public awareness on child abuse in sports. The initiative culminated in a public education campaign strategy on Aug 2 in Dominica.
Despite the Caribbean being recognized for its sporting talent at the regional and international levels, child abuse in sport occurs, but public discussion on the issue is taboo. It is widely acknowledged that physical activity provides all people with a wide range of health benefits, and can limit the effects of many of the world's leading diseases. However, while sport can be used to promote healthy lifestyles and to help create a protective environment, it opens up the very real potential for child abuse with victims often powerless to respond. This includes verbal, physical or emotional violence, whether intentional and unintentional, verbal abuse, physical maltreatment, sexual misconduct between a coach and a child, bullying, improperly treated injuries, playing while hurt/injured, inadequate equipment and poorly maintained or unsafe equipment and facilities.
Official representatives and coaches from the National Olympic Committee, from the Government of Dominica and sports associations participated in the event. The launch of the Communication Strategy on Child Abuse in Sports was also followed by a training workshop dedicated to professionals focusing on identifying and addressing abuse issues.
The OECS-UNICEF campaign aims to raise public awareness on this multi-dimensional issue across the OECS member states. The strategy targets athletes from 10 to 29 years old and the overall realm of youth—parents, teachers, coaches—to provide information on identifying incidents of abuse and the best means of assisting the victims.
The communications campaign has three specific goals: to mobilize member states to integrate child protection as part of its sporting policies; to mobilize heads of sporting disciplines in member states to develop and implement comprehensive child protection policies; and to enhance the capacity of youth (aged 10-18 and 18-29) especially those working in the area of sports to implement actions, behaviors and practices that can protect younger youth from harm and abuse.
“With the launch of the strategy in five member states, the OECS Commission's goals are to bring the produced material to the attention of the regional populace and galvanize relevant stakeholders into beginning or continuing efforts to stamp out child abuse in sports in the Eastern Caribbean,” said Yoshabel Durand, OECS Commission Program Specialist for Social and Youth Development.
The campaign will be aided by the distribution of brochures and radio and television public service announcements in the OECS member states.
The Latest Use for Bitcoin? Fighting Sex Trafficking
by David Z. Morris
Computer science researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have developed new tools to identify sex trafficking rings, making them easier for law enforcement to target and prosecute.
Those efforts have been stymied, according to the researchers' report , by the vast quantity of ads for sex posted to websites like Backpage.com, only a portion of which may point to human trafficking or sex slavery. Screening thousands of new ads every day can also take a mental toll on human workers. The new technique, developed by a team including PhD candidate Rebecca S. Portnoff, combines two distinct approaches to solving that problem. First, the team created a machine-learning filter that finds stylistic similarities between ads for sex services posted to sites like Backpage.com. That makes it easier to distinguish between women voluntarily engaging in sex work, and those being forced into it by criminal organizations posting multiple ads.
The second technique goes even deeper. Because Backpage is the most used portal for advertising sex services, credit card processors like Visa refused to service the site starting in 2015. That left Bitcoin as the preferred means of paying for ads. The Berkeley researchers took advantage of Bitcoin's public blockchain — a record of all transactions — to identify payments for sex ads originating with the same Bitcoin user, again providing evidence of a larger organization and likelihood of trafficking.
Those linkages could be used to subpoena further records from Bitcoin wallet services, or to expand on sting operations conducted using phone numbers or other contact information listed in the ads.
Bitcoin was initially hailed as an anonymous way of paying for services, making it hugely popular among users of Darknet markets like Silk Road and, later, AlphaBay . But law enforcement and cybersecurity researchers have shown that it's not hard to track and trace Bitcoin transactions, and even to connect them to real-world names. That has helped bring down dark markets, while also spurring the development of less traceable cryptocurrencies like Monero and Zcash.
The Berkeley researchers said that, after encouraging tests, NGOs, companies, and law enforcement agencies are either already using, planning to use, or expressing strong interest in the new techniques.
Surviving sex trafficking
by Gerry Tutoti
Often lured or forced into the commercial sex trade as young teens, women who manage to leave that life are confronted with a host of major obstacles.
“You've been taken out of school. You don't have a diploma,” said Cheri Crider, who escaped from her sex traffickers 37 years ago and now works as the office manager at Amriah, a North Shore safe house for sex trafficking victims. “They take your IDs away and you can't even prove you're an American citizen. How are you going to go to school? How are you going to get a job? How are you going to rent an apartment? You have no job experience, so you have nothing to put on a resume. You have no references, because you've been taken away from all your family support. Those are huge obstacles for girls getting out.”
Victim advocates have tried in recent years to reshape the popular dialogue surrounding the commercial sex trade. Rejecting the thought that prostitution is a victimless crime, they say the overwhelming majority of sex workers are coerced or psychologically manipulated by a pimp or trafficker into selling their bodies.
“There's a lack of knowledge or desire for knowledge in society,” said state Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, the lawmaker behind the state's 2011 human trafficking law. “It's easier for people to think of them as delinquents and prostitutes rather than enslaved, trafficked, human beings.”
So who are the victims of sex trafficking in Massachusetts? In some cases, they have been foreign nationals forced into performing sex acts at massage parlors that act as fronts for brothels. Multiple Asian massage parlors in Massachusetts have been busted in prostitution and sex trafficking investigations in recent years.
But the majority of the time, victims of sex trafficking turn out to be women and girls from the local community.
“Part of what we're trying to get people to understand is that this is actually much more of a homegrown problem involving 12-, 13-, 14-year-olds growing up in suburban or rural Massachusetts, in our cities, who are specifically targeted then brought in by someone posing as a boyfriend who turns out to be a trafficker, a pimp,” said Attorney General Maura Healey. “Victims of human trafficking are not Asian women solely. Get that out of people's heads.”
Millis resident Joli Sparkman said she was first drawn into the sex trade while a teenager with a rocky home life in Rochester, N.Y. The owner of a pizza parlor, she said, befriended her and began giving her free food and gifts. After a time, he began manipulating her to perform favors for him in return. He eventually coerced her into dancing for his friends. From there, things spiraled further out of control, and the teenager found herself coerced into posing for nude photographs, then eventually sleeping with men for money, which her trafficker kept.
“I felt dead. I felt empty,” she said. “I just wanted to die.”
Pimps and traffickers, experts say, often prey on young women, and sometimes boys, who have a vulnerability that can be exploited. They then begin a process of grooming the victim, isolating him or her from friends and families.
“The kids we serve are for the most part the most vulnerable in our communities,” said Lisa Goldblatt Grace, executive director of Boston-based My Life My Choice, which works with young women who have been victims of sex trafficking. “While this could happen to any child ... the vast majority of the kids have already experienced abuse and neglect well before entering the commercial sex industry. They're often hungry for unconditional love and acceptance and belonging. An exploiter can prey on that desire.”
It's very common for young trafficking victims to be lured in by a boyfriend, who isolates them, manipulates them and controls nearly every aspect of their lives to make them dependent on him.
“It's a very complicated mixture of love and fear,” Goldblatt Grace said. “This person is usually incredibly violent. It's complicated by this person frequently saying they love them.”
The women who've received services from My Life My Choice report, on average, that they began performing sex acts for money at age 14.
Many advocates say specialized services for male victims, a traditionally overlooked population, are also needed.
“From a global cultural perspective, we perceive men to be perpetrators and women to be victims,” said Steven Procopio, a social worker and consultant who runs trainings and educational programs about male victims of sex trafficking.
Male victims, he said, may be even more reluctant than female victims to come forward.
“In some circumstances, there's too much shame and guilt from a sexism and homophobia dynamic,” he said.
Amirah, one of four New England safe homes for trafficked women, is among the organizations that help female victims rebuild their lives. When women are referred to Amirah, they typically enter an initial 30-day residential program and are connected to mental, social, emotional, medical and vocational services. Following the initial 30-day program, most women stay at Amirah for two years.
Victims, Amirah Director Stephanie Clark said, often have deep emotional and psychological trauma. Most are also addicted to drugs, particularly heroin. In some cases, the women are addicted before entering the sex trade. In other cases, they begin using opioids while being trafficked as a way to cope with the emotional pain.
“What we see in our population is a woman in her 20s or 30s who is trafficked for a period of time, then ran away, is picked up for drugs or is picked up for prostituting herself because she doesn't know how else to make money,” Clark said. “It takes, on average, seven times for a woman to break out of that cycle. They end up getting sucked back in due to huge challenges they face in finding a job, finding trustworthy relationships, and because of the abuse they've suffered.”
While there are more resources for victims than there used to be, advocates say even more are needed. Montigny has called for allocating money for a victim services trust fund. He has also sponsored bills intended to strengthen 2011 state law. His new proposals, which were discussed at a July 18 hearing at the Statehouse, include new public awareness campaigns, as well as training to help law enforcement and medical staff recognize the signs of human trafficking. One bill would vacate trafficking victims' convictions for nonviolent misdemeanor crimes committed as a result of being trafficked.
“You cannot get these people back into productive lives if you do not give them a path from victim to survivor,” he said, explaining that a criminal record often makes it hard for people to get housing, jobs or access to credit.
Crider, the office manager at Amirah, said she hopes to one day work as a mentor to young women trying to escape the sex trade. She's encouraged that there are now resources available to help sexually exploited people rebuild their lives.
“When I got out, there were no programs,” she said. “There were no safe houses. We didn't even have the term human trafficking. I lived with the lie of what they told me I was. I believed it was my choice. That's the coercion they use. That's the manipulation.”
How Congress Can Crack Down On Sex Trafficking
by Rob Portman and Richard Blumenthal
Portman and Blumenthal are, respectively, Senators for Ohio and Connecticut in the U.S. Congress.
Online classifieds are a familiar part of the 21st-century marketplace. People buy and sell cars and couches on public websites every day. They find roommates there, too. But some of the same websites are used to buy and sell women and children for sex . As the Internet has grown, sex trafficking has increased substantially.
From 2010 to 2015 , reports of suspected child sex trafficking to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children increased by more than 800%, a spike they found to be “directly correlated to the increased use of the internet to sell children for sex.”
As this reprehensible illegal market has grown, one website has emerged as the industry leader: Backpage.com. One 2012 analysis by the Advanced Interactive Media Group found that more than 80% of all revenue from online commercial sex advertising in the U.S. was generated by Backpage.
While Backpage's use as a platform for illegal sex trafficking has been understood for years, a recent report released in January of this year by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that the company knowingly and actively facilitated criminal sex trafficking — making Backpage far more complicit in these crimes than previously thought. Moreover, it covered up evidence of these crimes in order to increase its own profits. We also now know from a recent Washington Post report that Backpage aggressively solicited and created sex-related ads to lure customers to its website, promoting the sale of vulnerable women and children for sex.
Despite these facts, Backpage has escaped legal justice in countless lawsuits brought by sex trafficking victims and prosecutors. The company has been shielded by a 1996 law called the Communications Decency Act because courts have ruled that that the law protects companies like Backpage from liability for illicit content that third-party users post on its website, even if it facilitates criminal conduct like illegal sex trafficking. The irony is the law was originally intended to protect children from indecent material on the Internet. Twenty-one years later, it is protecting websites that sell children for sex.
In 2016, the First Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling on a case waged against Backpage by three women who were all 15 years old when they were sold for sex on the website. The court recognized the immorality of Backpage and its owners, but once again confirmed that the company was protected by the Communications Decency Act. According to the court , Congress intended to protect websites from being held liable for publishing content produced by others – a level of protection enjoyed by no other publishers – even when the result is denying “relief to plaintiffs whose circumstances evoke outrage.” No matter how much harm websites like Backpage inflict and no matter how aware they are of the harm they are causing, these websites cannot be held accountable by their victims for publishing, and profiting from, advertisements for sex trafficking. The court opinion further stated that, in order to hold websites like Backpage accountable, “the remedy is through legislation, not litigation.”
In 2013 , 47 state attorneys general called for a change in the Communications Decency Act to hold knowing facilitators of online sex trafficking accountable. And 50 attorneys general from around the country just signed a similar letter calling for a change in the law.
That is why, as Co-Chairs of the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking, and along with 26 of our colleagues from across the political spectrum, we have introduced the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. This narrowly crafted legislation has the support of numerous anti-human trafficking advocacy groups and law enforcement organizations around the country.
It makes three common-sense reforms to the Communications Decency Act. First, it will allow victims of sex trafficking to seek justice against websites that knowingly facilitate crimes against them by removing the law's unintended protection for online sex traffickers. Second, it helps law enforcement by allowing the prosecution of websites that knowingly assist, support or facilitate a violation of already existing federal sex trafficking laws. And finally, it will enable state law enforcement — not just the Department of Justice — to take legal action against businesses that violate federal sex trafficking laws.
This bill will allow victims of sex trafficking to get justice, and it will do so in a way that protects Internet companies that are doing the right thing. Notably, we preserve the Communications Decency Act's “Good Samaritan” provision, which protects actors who proactively block, and screen for, offensive material — thus shielding them from frivolous lawsuits.
Congress has an opportunity to fix a significant flaw in the justice system. Vulnerable women and children are having their most basic human rights stripped from them as they are bought and sold online by predators who epitomize evil. They deserve the ability to seek justice.