Teaching kids stranger danger isn't good enough anymore
by Sasha Chandler
THERE are three messages that would have changed my life if I knew them then.
I think about it so much, and had I known these things, my teenage years would have been vastly different.
You see, I spent from 14 to 16 years of age having every shred of dignity and self worth stripped away from me by a serial paedophile.
While navigating the anxiety and self-doubt of a pubescent teenager, I suffered the physical and mental torture of weekly beatings and ritualised sexual abuse by one Andrew Dean McIntosh : now serving 24 years in protective custody.
A gruelling six weeks in court supported by family and friends back in 2011 saw this predator taken off the street and a significant risk to our community removed. A childhood lost and a personality forever changed.
It very nearly killed me as thoughts of suicide being my only escape, plagued me through to my mid 20s. Others have not been as fortunate and sadly, thousands of stories will never be told. It has made me stronger, it has given me a voice and most of all an undying determination, through education, to make sure our kids understand how to protect themselves.
One quarter of people in Australia believe someone they know has been a victim of child abuse or neglect from 2017, research from Australian charity Act for Kids can reveal.
Sadly, while almost half (42 per cent) of those surveyed believe that everyone is accountable to protect our children, one in 10 confess to ignoring a potential abuse situation and not doing anything.
The child protection authorities received 355,935 reports of child abuse or neglect in 2015-2016. That's why I'm writing.
Over the past five years, the number of children who were subjects of child abuse or neglect has increased by 21 per cent, that's one child suffering abuse or neglect every 12 minutes.
While 92 per cent of Australians do not believe the public does enough to intervene and protect children from abuse or neglect, one in four (27 per cent) are not confident they could spot the signs of abuse and almost half (41 per cent) admitted they would need to search online to learn how to report suspected abuse.
We as parents and protectors must not bury our heads in the sand and assume this happens to other people's kids. It is paramount that we teach our kids how to identify risk and respond to it.
So what are these three simple messages that our kids need to hear?
1. Be careful of big secrets! If someone is asking you to keep secrets and is asking you to do things that they want you to keep a secret, tell someone.
2. No matter who they are or what authority they profess to have over you, there is no reason for them to invade your personal space, to want to see or touch your private parts.
3. You will be believed, go and tell someone! Tell a teacher, a parent, the police. You will be believed. Tell and tell again.
It was this final message that perhaps would have been the most important one for me to have heard and believed.
I'm proud to be a national ambassador for Act for Kids, an organisation committed to putting little lives back together after abuse. My role as National Ambassador for Act for Kids involves being a national brand and media ambassador and reach into the community.
Their preventive work is just as crucial. “Learn to be safe with Emmy and friends” is a program delivered in Years 1 and 2 to teach kids these messages.
We need to be discussing this stuff in school. We need to give our kids these lessons to they know they will be believed if something ever happened to them.
The basic stranger danger messages are not enough unfortunately. The world is a significantly more complex place than the one I grew up in through the 80s and 90s and access to our kids has taken a digital twist also.
For me, the only voice I heard was his: “Trust me Mr Chandler, the school does.” “No one will believe you if you tell them, I'm the adult and you're just a silly child.” “Show me your penis, it's OK I am your friend, show me you trust me.”
Repeated over and over his voice became the mechanism for breaking down my barriers, removing my will to resist and opening me up to years of torment.
And once they open the door and there is an indecent act, shame becomes the new trap and the knife the paedophile will twist over and over again: “Imagine what your friends will think.” “You will destroy your school's reputation.” “Your family will be the laughing stock.”
I survived but I lost so much. Witnessing others fondly recount their school life experience renders me silent.
I'm here to tell my story because prevention is so much better than cure. And at the heart of prevention is education.
Harm to our children can be avoided. Teach our kids how to say “NO”, teach them to go and get help, let them know that no secret is too big to tell someone who can help you, teach them to protect themselves; we can't be there 24/7 after all.
Sascha Chandler is a partner at PwC and a National Ambassador for Act for Kids, a not-for-profit that rebuilds the lives of little kids who have been abused and neglected. www.actforkids.com.au
State debuts new child abuse hotline
by the News Miner
FAIRBANKS — The state of Alaska has announced a new centralized Child Abuse Reporting Hotline, 1-800-478-4444, and email address, email@example.com .
“The No. 1 priority at the Office of Children's Services is to ensure the safety and well-being of Alaska children,” said Christy Lawton, director of the agency, in a prepared statement. “We rely on Alaskans to call and report children at risk of maltreatment. We are now offering an easier way for residents to help us protect Alaskan children.”
During the last 12 months, OCS received 18,599 reports of child abuse, according to an Aug. 23 news release from the agency.
Every report is screened by the agency for additional action, the news release said.
The Office of Children's Services also expanded its intake office hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. so that people can report suspected child abuse outside of regular business hours.
2nd New Mexico Christian sect leader accused of child abuse
by Russell Contreras
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Another leader of a New Mexico paramilitary religious sect rocked by child sexual abuse allegations was arrested Wednesday, making him the ninth member facing charges in connection with a widespread investigation.
James Green of the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps was taken into custody on Wednesday on kidnapping, child abuse and tampering with evidence charges, according to court records. He was ordered held on a $250,000 secured bond.
His arrest comes after authorities raided his secluded western New Mexico compound last month. Other members and leaders are facing child abuse and child sexual abuse charges, including Green's wife and co-leader, Deborah, who faces charges of kidnapping and child sexual abuse.
Authorities have accused James Green of taking part in a plot to bring over an infant child from Uganda to the United States in 1997 by using forged documents, court documents said. Authorities said James Green convinced his daughter, Sarah, to falsely say the child was hers to smuggle her into the U.S., documents said.
The daughter later left the commune, but the Greens refused to let her take two of her children and the adopted Ugandan girl with her, according to court documents.
Authorities also say James Green took part in covering up the death of a 12-year-old boy who deputies believe died because the commune refused to give him medical treatment for flu-like symptoms.
After authorities began investigating the death, James and Deborah Green made members “clean up” all evidence of children living at the compound, court documents said, including photographs of children and family memorabilia.
“These items were placed into large plastic trunks and buried,” an arrest warrant read.
The sect on Friday did not immediately respond to an email message from The Associated Press seeking comment on the latest arrest.
James Green previously denied his wife was involved in child abuse. He told the KOB-TV last week “hundreds of kids” have safely passed through the group's compound in New Mexico.
The Cibola County Sheriff's Office says 11 children who lived at the compound are being cared for by the state and have been interviewed by an FBI forensic specialist. They were taken into custody after deputies arrested four members who were trying to leave the state with the children in two vans, said Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace.
Mace said deputies believe members were trying to hide the children at another compound in Colorado, and authorities suspect their births were never properly reported to state authorities.
The Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps, founded in Sacramento, California, describes itself as a group that is “revolutionary for Jesus” and provides a free spiritual “ammo pack” to anyone who submits a written request. Photos of members show them in military-style clothing and on missions in Africa.
Its website is laced with anti-Semitic language and anti-gay tirades about same-sex marriage.
The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the sect as a hate group.
Couple who planned to sexually abuse babies and traded child porn walk out of prison decade early
by Lawrence Bonk
A married couple who planned to drug and rape babies is now free, having been released from jail years before their sentences were up, as reported by Metro UK .
Kevin and Susan Barnett, 31, were both found guilty of arranging the commission of a child sexual offense in 2015 after British police found dozens of WhatsApp messages in which the pair planned their cruel acts. Additionally, the pair traded child porn, pleading guilty to offenses relating to indecent images of children.
A third person also took part in these disgusting text exchanges. Nikita Moore, 26, was Kevin's mistress and, after being revealed to Susan, began trading horrific images of children and planning to take part in the sexual abuse of babies. According to court documents, Moore and Kevin discussed having a baby together so they could abuse it. She was convicted of conspiracy to commit child sexual offenses, telling the court that she thought about abusing children “all the time.” Moore was also released after serving only a fraction of her sentence, according to The Mail .
Summing up the case, Judge Christopher Cornwell told the jury: ‘You have heard the text exchange which at times no doubt disgusted you. We could go on and on with the disgust but the central question never goes away. Was there a conclusive agreement and was there an agreement that it should be put into action?”
The jury agreed that there had been a conclusive agreement and all three adults were sentenced to serve over 14 years each. However, they were recently granted parole, after serving just over three years. The courts have not released information as to why they were paroled early, only that a panel took several factors into consideration, including behavior in prison, how likely they are to re-offend and if they are a danger to the public.
All three pedophiles have been placed on probation and must join the sex offenders registry.
Survey finds adults are unaware of child abuse signs or how to report it
by Amy Mitchell-Whittington
A study has found one third of Australians surveyed would not immediately tell someone if they thought a child was being abused or neglected.
The national online representative survey, carried out by Pure Profile and funded by Act for Kids, asked 1004 Australians aged 18 and over a range of questions about whether they knew the signs of child abuse and what they would do.
More than a third (37.4 per cent) said if they thought a child was being abused they would want to know more about what signs to look for before telling anyone while 16 per cent said they would wait to see if it got worse or continued before doing anything.
Of those surveyed, one quarter said they did not know the signs of child abuse and neglect while 41 per cent admitted they would need to Google how to report suspected abuse.
Act for Kids chief executive Dr Neil Carrington said the survey highlighted a lack of knowledge that Australians have about child abuse and neglect.
“What worries me is that over 90 per cent of people who harm children are in a position of love and trust and the fact that one in four Aussies aren't confident about what to do in terms of identifying signs of child abuse is really quite worrying,” he said.
“It really highlights the need for more education, not just for our kids, but also for adults to be able to identify the signs of child abuse and neglect and know what to do in that situation.”
The number of allegations of child abuse reported to authorities increased by 30 per cent from 273,000 in 2012-13 to 356,000 in 2015-16, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
The most common type of abuse in substantiated cases was emotional abuse, followed by neglect, physical harm and sexual abuse.
When the survey respondents were asked what was necessary to break the cycle of child abuse, 69 per cent said making sure everyone was better informed to identify the signs of abuse.
A whopping 78 per cent felt the public could do better to intervene and improve the likelihood of child abuse and neglect in communities.
Act for Kids National Ambassador Sascha Chandler, who was targeted by convicted paedophile Andrew Dean McIntosh during his school years, said people needed to learn how to recognise child abuse and act on it.
“The way I describe it is that child abuse ignored is child abuse, a lot of these kids don't have a voice of their own,” he said.
“I think people are really sensitive that they don't want to offend someone unnecessarily because it is a huge accusation to make but I think there are ways to remove a child from risk whilst the investigation goes on without offending the person necessarily.”
He said in the three years he was abused, he felt he couldn't tell adults for fear of getting someone in trouble.
“I had people asking me if anything was going on and I was outright lying about it,” he said.
“I had been threatened and decided that I wouldn't tell anyone and I truly believed that if I had of told someone they wouldn't have believed me.”
He said the manner in which adults react to what they hear from children who disclose abuse was extremely important.
“There are ways of approaching a child and having a conversation about whether there is something going on,” he said.
“There is no point in the adult getting angry and saying ‘I am going to hurt the person',
“It is about remaining cool, calm and collected because if a child is exposing abuse, they are putting a lot of trust in that adult.”
It took the birth of Mr Chandler's first child for him to come to grips with what happened to him, to speak up about the abuse he endured.
“I realised that as an adult had a level of social responsibility to ensure that any child was protected, particularly my own,” he said.
He has urged anyone who is concerned for a child to go straight to authorities rather than family or friends.
“It is best to go straight to the authorities because someone needs to investigate it,” he said.
“The same if it happens in a school or church environment, the authorities are trained to investigate this stuff without emotion.
“For anyone in a position of either themselves having been abused and wondering whether to go forward about talking about it or those people who are suspicious of someone's actions towards a child, please come forward, it is always better to investigate and be wrong than not investigate at all when a child's innocence is at risk.”
According to Act for Kids website , there are often behavioural or physical signs of stress when a child has been or is experiencing abuse.
These can include aggressive or submissive behaviour, being overly obedient, low self-esteem, difficulty concentrating, excessive rocking, humming, sucking or biting, bedwetting, sleeping difficulties, unexplained bruising, alcohol or drug abuse, suicidal tendencies and inappropriate sexual knowledge or actions for the age of the child.
Child Protection Week kicks off today and includes a range of family fun days, community breakfasts and education sessions to raise awareness of child abuse and neglect.
The Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability services has committed $750,000 over the next five years to Act for Kids to continue to raise awareness.
If you have a reason to suspect a child is experiencing harm, or is at risk of experiencing harm or being neglected, contact Child Safety Services in Queensland, Child Protective Services in NSW, or Child Protection Services in Victoria.
How the Rentboy Case Highlights the Myth of the "Good Samaritan" Sex Trafficker and the Neglected Issue of Male Sexual Exploitation
by Dawn Hawkins
Sex traffickers will always lie about who they exploit and how they do it. One of the most recent examples received national media attention last month when a disturbingly lenient verdict was handed down by Judge Margo Brodie of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn to Jeffrey Hurant, CEO of the website Rentboy.com, which prostituted boys and men.
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) has chosen to speak out on this matter because it believes every individual, no matter their sex or sexual orientation, should be free from the harms of prostitution and sex trafficking , and the Rentboy.com sentence has shown how easily people can sexually exploit others—especially when the victims are male or transgendered—and avoid justice.
Spin Doctors of Sexploitation
Prior to his trial and subsequent arrest, Mr. Hurant ran what the government has called “one of the largest sex work ventures ever prosecuted.” Rentboy.com, has now been taken offline, but was portrayed by Mr. Hurant during this trial as a profitable online enterprise and provider of important “social services” to prostituted males who were solicited on Rentboy.com. Mr. Hurant claimed that the purpose of his website was to help those in prostitution avoid the ills of drugs, pimps, abuse, harassment, and violence, as well as help the gay community.
In truth, this “noble mission” was a farce and a front facilitation of prostitution—i.e. pimping— and sex trafficking in the interest of making money.
Evidence presented by prosecutors demonstrated that Rentboy.com was covertly working with pimps and fronts for prostitution (popularly referred to as “escort services”) to traffic men and boys. In one instance, an account on Rentboy.com was shown to belong to a sex trafficker using the website to sell 10- to 12-year-old boys for sex.
The facilitation of prostitution and sex trafficking on his website earned Mr. Hurant more than $10 million since 1997. Yet, despite profiting immensely from sexual exploitation for the better part of two decades, Mr. Hurant was sentenced to a mere six months in prison—less than half of the government recommended maximum term!
Although appalling, Mr. Hurant's success in securing only a six-month prison sentence for his crimes is not unique. In fact, he followed a familiar pattern that other online facilitators of sexual exploitation often use: he used spin to put a positive twist on his stake in the global supply chain of sexual exploitation.
Perhaps the most notable among spin masters of sexploitation is Backpage.com, the nefarious website known as “the hub” for prostitution advertising and where countless individuals advertised for sex by sex traffickers.
Despite numerous federal court cases and a congressional investigation that led the U.S. Senate to use its contempt powers for the first time in two decades, Backpage.com has succeed in convincing people in many quarters that it is essentially providing a public service because it serves as “a resource” for law enforcement agencies looking for sex traffickers. The irony of such an argument is stunning—we're supposed to give criminals a platform to facilitate criminal activity so that we can catch criminals? If you ask law enforcement how much of the illegality on Backpage they can attack, the answer varies from between 1-5%, which means the 95-99% of the illegality on Backpage is now risk-free and uninvestigated. So rather than helping mitigate crime, Backpage gives it a very public, low-risk stage.
The Sexploitation Double Standard
The Rentboy and Backpage websites provide useful illustrations of another important issue—the normalization of the sexual exploitation of boys and men.
Backpage is routinely in the headlines and has earned national opprobrium from anti-sex trafficking activists, law enforcement officials, and elected leaders for its indisputable role in facilitating the sexual exploitation of girls and young women. Undoubtedly boys and men are also sexually trafficked via the website, but the national spotlight on sex trafficking is so keenly focused on females that the potential sexual exploitation and trafficking of males and transgendered persons on Backpage is completely overlooked.
The failure to recognize sexual exploitation of boys and men doesn't stop there. Ironically, the prosecutors who brought charges against Rentboy were criticized by New York congressmen Jerrold Nadler and Sean Patrick Maloney for wasting government time and resources on a victimless crime. But if Rentboy had been operating under the name Rentgirl, would Nadler and Maloney have dared to make such an argument? Are we to believe that law enforcement efforts to fight sexual exploitation are only an appropriate use of government resources when the victims are females primarily serving heterosexual males?
Mr. Hurant's defense touted during the trial was that Rentboy.com was beneficial to the gay community. Though Mr. Hurant will tell you his intentions were always to serve, protect, ant provide the gay community with “an image of pride and positivity,” remember that he knowingly exploited them for a personal gain of $10 million.
Importantly, payment for sex is a form of sexual coercion whether those being sold serve hetero, homo, or transsexual buyers. Male prostitution is simply male sexual exploitation, and male victims of sexual exploitation are often homeless, suffer from mental illness, and/or are victims of sexual abuse. The idea that selling them online benefits them was a twisted lie Hurant used to put a gloss of altruism on raw sexual exploitation to convince a gullible judge to lighten his sentence.
Bringing the Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Boys and Men Out of the Shadows
At the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) we believe it's time to bring the issue of sexual abuse and exploitation of boys and men out of the shadows. That's why we are working with leaders like Tom Jones of the H.O.P.E. Project, himself a survivor of sexual exploitation, who works with other men who have suffered sexual exploitation. Recently, Tom spoke out about his experiences at Creating a World without Sexual Exploitation: How Consumer Demand Drives the Commercial Sex Trade and What We Can Do About It , an event sponsored by World Without Exploitation and National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Be sure to watch Tom's video .
Additionally, this week the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, together with the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking and Washington College, is hosting the upcoming symposium, Out of the Shadows: Addressing the Sexual Exploitation of Boys and Men . The symposium will take place on September 8th in Washington, D.C., and will bring together various experts from across the country to educate the public and form collaborations to create real solutions to prevent sexual exploitation of boys and men.
Register for Out of the Shadows event or watch it online at https://www.facebook.com/centeronexploitation/ .
Bundaberg chalks it up for child sex abuse survivors
by Sherele Moody
GIRAFFES are known for many things, but saving lives, not so much. Until now.
About 26 years ago, Life Education's iconic Healthy Harold giraffe gave a little piece of information to 10-year-old Jimmy Morrison that would change his life forever.
"I wasn't aware that I was suffering sexual abuse," Mr Morrison, now 36, told NewsRegional.
"It wasn't until we had a visit from Healthy Harold ... he explained about people touching your body and all these things started to line up.
"My abuser said not to tell anyone about the abuse, it was 'our secret'."
Bravely, the youngster put a plan in place to make sure the abuser would never touch him again.
"I made people in my life aware that it was happening so they could do something about it."
The perpetrator was never held to account and the abuse had a devastating impact on Mr Morrison's adulthood, with him turning to the bottle to dull his pain.
Now completely sober, the child safety campaigner hopes his story will inspire others to teach kids about sexual assault.
Experts believe one in five Aussies will experience abuse - this means about 4700 of Bundaberg's 23,342 children and young people are at risk.
Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston hopes our region will join the fight against child sex assault by "chalking it up" for White Balloon Day, on Friday, September 8.
The event is one of many being held across Queensland for Child Protection Week that ends on September 9.
White Balloon Day participants can draw white balloon murals with safety messages for kids and share their artworks with Bravehearts.
"The most important thing about the white balloon is it brings hope," Ms Johnston said.
"We're asking people to draw white balloons so others will see it and know they can seek help."
Phoenix House helps about 200 abuse survivors each year and most of the clients were hurt as children.
"The effects of childhood sex abuse can vary and if it's not dealt with as children the ramifications can impact adult relationships, mental health and physical health," counsellor Lyn Alma said.
Kids Helpline's Tony Fitzgerald said his organisation had 130 counsellors across Australia who were able to respond to range of issues facing kids, including abuse.
"One area that's always been a big issue is child safety and child protection issues," Mr Fitzgerald said.
"Last year we had about 5300 contacts - or 100 a week - from children and young people being abused or at risk of abuse.
"If the child is at imminent risk of harm, we will make sure an emergency response is provided immediately."
IS MY CHILD A VICTIM?
How to tell if a child is being sexually abused:
Unusual or new fears, sometimes around touch.
Difficulty concentrating or with memory.
Eating or sleeping changes.
Fear of being alone with a particular person.
Sexual themes in artwork, stories and playing.
Showing a knowledge of sexual behaviour beyond their years.
Bedwetting or soiling after being toilet trained.
Aggressive, destructive or truanting behaviour.
Withdrawal from friends, depression.
Vaginal, penile or anal soreness, discharge or bleeding .
Problems with friends and school work.
Vague symptoms of illness such as headache or tummy ache.
Zoning out or not listening
HOW TO HELP A CHILD
if you are concerned about a child's safety please:
LISTEN: Listen carefully to all that they say. Have eye contact at the child's level, check that you have understood, put your adult thoughts aside and be respectful of the child's perspective.
AFFIRM: Tell the child that you believe them.
DON'T BLAME: Let the child know that what has happened is not their fault.
SUPPORT: Tell the child that they are not responsible for the assault and acknowledge that it must have been difficult for them to tell you.
SAFETY: Let the child know that you will do everything in your power to help them.
DOCUMENT: Write everything down, using the child's own words as best you can. Include behaviours and anything they have said previously that may have hinted at the assault.
CHECK: If you work for an organisation or government department, check your organisation's policy on reporting disclosures.
ACT: In the best interests of the child, report the disclosure to your statutory child protection authority or the police.
For more information on White Balloon Day please visit whiteballoonday.com.au/chalk-art-project .
Kids Helpline can be contacted on 1800 55 1800 or at kidshelpline.com.au .
Volunteers needed to help in cases of child abuse and neglect
by Michele Blazina
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Cuyahoga County, a program of Child and Family Advocates of Cuyahoga County, recruits, screens, trains and supports volunteers who act as independent fact-finders for the court in cases involving child abuse and neglect.
CASAs collect information that helps the judge make the best decision for a safe, caring and permanent home for children involved in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. CASAs are everyday citizens who are trained and appointed by the court to advocate for the safety and well-being of children who are victims of abuse or neglect. CASAs are assigned at the earliest stages of a case, and continue to be an advocate for the child through their time in the court system. CASAs work collaboratively with all parties on the case, for the best interests of children. CASAs are only assigned to 1-2 cases at a time and spend approximately 10 hours a month on a case.
The CASA is responsible for the investigation, facilitation, advocacy and monitoring of the assigned child's case of abuse, neglect and/or dependency to represent the child's best interests.
Volunteers must be at least 21 years of age; have access to transportation; pass screening; complete training; respect and relate to people of various backgrounds; gather and record factual information accurately; communicate effectively; maintain objectivity/perspective; work within established program policies and procedures and accept supervision from program staff.
Those interested in becoming a CASA may visit www.cfadvocates.org to apply or call 216-443-3377 for more information.
More than 4,000 children in Grimsby area taught how to spot abuse and bullying last year
by Jack Longstaff
A "record number" of more than 4,000 schoolchildren in North East Lincolnshire were taught how to recognise abuse and bullying last year.
Children's charity the NSPCC says that throughout the 2016/17 academic year, 4,361 young people aged between five and 11 were reached by its Speak Out. Stay Safe campaign.
The campaign, set to be rolled out again this year, visited 14 schools in the borough to teach them how to keep themselves safe.
Children in early years education right up to key stage two have been told how to recognise sexual, emotional physical abuse, neglect and bullying, and who they can talk to about concerns.
And NSPCC schools service staff and volunteers are ready to continue their vital work as pupils return to the classroom this week.
But the charity says it is in need of more volunteers in the region to help reach more children than ever before.
Speak Out. Stay Safe consists of separately tailored assemblies - one for early years and key stage one, and another for key stage two pupils - followed by a one hour classroom workshop for children in years 5 and 6.
With the help of NSPCC mascot, Buddy, the child-friendly, interactive assemblies and workshops help children to understand abuse in all its forms and recognise the signs of abuse.
It also teaches youngsters how to protect themselves from all forms of abuse and how to get help, and the sources of help available to them, including the NSPCC childline service.
NSPCC schools service manager for North East Lincolnshire, Mel Holland, said: "Speak Out. Stay Safe is spreading an important message in a lively, interactive and memorable way, while also helping children feel empowered to talk to a trusted adult or Childline.
"We are delighted to have reached so many children in North East Lincolnshire last year and we are looking forward to going back into schools over the coming months.
"But we rely on the help of volunteers to deliver this programme so I would urge anyone interested in getting involved to contact us."
To find out more about what the NSPCC has to offer, visit www.nspcc.org.uk/what-you-can-do .
Assessment tools, interconnected webs of relationships help address childhood adversity, trauma
by News Medical
Two new studies led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggest that the bevy of tools available to assess and address childhood adversity and trauma, as well as the interconnected webs of relationships among families and the providers who care for children, are key to healing the effects of these potentially life-altering circumstances.
The findings, published online in a special issue of Academic Pediatrics , offer useful insights in helping children and their families recover from adverse childhood experiences, which can have myriad and serious health consequences.
Researchers have known for decades that adverse childhood experiences-;which can include physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and neglect, parental incarceration, and household substance abuse, among other circumstances-;are associated with a variety of other long-term health problems or high-risk behaviors, including depression, heart disease, substance abuse and sleep disorders. Only more recently have researchers understood the prevalence of these experiences among children and youth. A 2014 study found that nearly half of all US children had experienced at least one and that effects on health, school success and well-being show up early.
Despite this knowledge, public health efforts have thus far not fully addressed these issues, setting many children up for what could be lifelong health problems.
"This really is a public health opportunity, because we know children can thrive with proper support systems," says Christina D. Bethell, PhD, professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health and director of the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. "With a clear agenda, we can help create a paradigm shift. And that will help more children do well despite adverse experiences."
To establish a research and policy agenda, Bethell and her colleagues at the Bloomberg School and elsewhere worked with more than 500 individuals across a dozen stakeholder groups to address what priorities should be for preventing and treating traumatic childhood experiences in children's health services.
The resulting agenda, published in the same issue of Academic Pediatrics , lays out four primary goals: educating policymakers and healthcare providers; cultivating cross-sector collaboration; restoring and rewarding healthy relationships; and launching research, innovation and implementation efforts.
Critical to this agenda is understanding which assessment tools are most useful. In another paper in the special issue, Bethell and her co-authors assessed the state of tools used to evaluate adverse childhood experiences. The researchers identified and compared 14 assessment tools, each of which used parent responses to evaluate adverse childhood experiences.
The study found that each of these tools share four adverse experiences: parental incarceration, domestic violence, household mental illness/suicide, and household alcohol or substance abuse. Other experiences common to many of the 14 tools are exposure to domestic/household violence, neighborhood violence, bullying, discrimination, or a parent's death.
Each assessment tool used cumulative scoring methodology that assessed health risks based on the number of adverse experiences that an individual had been exposed to, rather than giving more weight to different ones.
The researchers focused on a new measure included in the the National Survey of Children's Health which looked at children's past or current exposure to adversity. Several methods were employed to validate the tool and its scoring.
"Assessing childhood adversity is strongly linked to the health and school success of children and youth. Counting exposures rather than specific events holds up," Bethell says.
A separate paper also recommends encouraging relationships that promote healing. In a review article in the same issue of Academic Pediatrics , Lawrence Wissow, MD, MPH, who holds joint appointments at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School, and his colleagues combine conclusions from three previous systematic reviews examining relationships between pediatric patients and healthcare providers, among healthcare staff at the same practice, and among primary care providers and specialists.
This research suggests that it's vital for patients to form healthy relationships with staff from the moment they contact a care facility, not only including those that directly provide healthcare, but also those that answer phones or check them into appointments.
"For trauma patients, knowing that you'll be respected, that people will explain things to you, that you'll have choices and won't be trapped, all of this is important to achieving good outcomes," Wissow says.
Similarly, he adds, research shows that having staff at the same healthcare practice who collaborate well despite constant exposure to patients' crises, as well primary care providers who have personal relationships with specialists and community organizations that also assist trauma patients, is key to getting patients the resources they need to heal.
"Trauma care really depends not only on what you do for patients but how you do it," says Wissow, who is board certified in pediatrics, psychiatry, and child/adolescent psychiatry. "Forging these strong and healthy relationships among staff creates an environment where you can deliver care that makes a positive impact."
Maltreatment greatly affects young brains
The stress caused by maltreatment greatly impacts the developing brain of very young children, leading to calls for improved early intervention
Children exposed to abuse and neglect from a very young age are already at a severe disadvantage when they start school because of the impact the stress has on their rapidly developing brains, research shows.
An Australian study conducted in collaboration with the NSW Department of Family and Community Services has found maltreated children are three times more likely to have 'developmental vulnerabilities'.
"The children are already showing vulnerabilities in psycho-social development. What we mean by that is that they are already showing social, emotional and cognitive vulnerabilities when they start school," says lead researcher UNSW Associate Professor Melissa Green.
"It's like you are starting school without the tools to get going," Professor Green told AAP.
The concerning findings, have led to calls for government funding to be directed to early detection and early intervention for children who are maltreated.
Researchers from Neuroscience Research Australia and UNSW used data from 68,000 children in NSW, of whom 2000 had been exposed to substantiated reports of maltreatment between birth and five years of age.
Of the 2000, more than 22 per cent had experienced more than one type of maltreatment.
Child maltreatment, sometimes referred to as child abuse and neglect, includes all forms of physical and emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation.
Professor Green says maltreatment can have a critical impact on a child because the first five years of life is one of rapid brain development.
"Exposure to maltreatment during this period where brain elasticity is at its peak may critically impair developmental achievements and learning opportunities, with potential ramifications for cognitive and educational outcomes, as well as social development," she said.
Without early intervention, many maltreated children may not only struggle through school but potentially go on to develop a mental illness.
"Childhood maltreatment is severely over-represented among people with mental illness in adulthood," Prof Green said.
Intervening early will help these children reach their full potential, she said.
"If you could detect early the children who have been maltreated and the children who are showing these vulnerabilities at school entry you would hope to be able to bring them back on to a typical trajectory of school development.
"Again, we are not sure you can do that but the idea is that the brain is very plastic up until age 25 and so the earlier you help to fix the foundation the more likely the next stages of development will get back on track."
Kidnapped Minnesota teen girl swims across lake to flee abductors
by Fox News
The teenager, from Alexandria, Minn., made it safely across the lake before running onto a property where she received help, CBS Minnesota reported.
Authorities said the young girl was kidnapped on Aug. 8 by Thomas Barker, 32, who urged the teen to get into his car and drove her to a residence in Carlos. Barker, his roommate and another friend physically and sexually assaulted the teenager, officials said.
“Barker tied her up with zip ties and then he, his roommate and friend over the next several weeks assaulted her and threatened her with weapons,” Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels said.
Police arrested Barker, Steven Powers, 20, and Joshua Holby, 31, in connection with the kidnapping, the New York Post reported.
The victim was able to make her escape after the kidnappers left her alone Tuesday, officials said. The teen reportedly knocked on the doors of a few homes but she did not receive any answers. She then jumped into the Thompson Lake and swam across.
When she got across the lake, she ran onto a farmer's property. The farmer identified her and took her to safety.
“When she come walking out of the grass I'm thinking, 'oh my gosh, you got to be kidding me,'” the farmer, who did not wish to be identified, told CBS Minnesota. “When I saw her face I knew right away.”
He added: “It was just a great feeling, [I told her] ‘just get in the pickup, we're going to help you now.'”
The 15-year-old was transported to the hospital for minor injuries she sustained.
“This is an unbelievable young woman,” Wyffels said. “She has a lot of strength. We think a lot of her and her family. They're all amazing people.”
The three men were booked and all face assault, kidnapping and false imprisonment charges.
State must take action against child abuse
It's encouraging that state officials have formed a commission to investigate the alarming number of cases of child abuse and neglect in Montana. And the fact that it's a bipartisan effort will help ensure it does not get bogged down in political squabbling.
But investigating is one thing. Lawmakers and other policy makers must use the commission's findings to enact specific and effective measures to stem the alarming increase in the number of child abuse cases in recent years.
Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, and Attorney General Tim Fox, a Republican, appointed the 14-member Child Abuse and Neglect Review Commission recently. Members include a former child abuse victim, health care providers with experience in child abuse cases, a county attorney, a law enforcement officer, a former judge and an attorney with experience in these kinds of cases.
The commission will be looking at 14 suspect cases of children's deaths between July 1, 2015, and Nov. 8, 2016, identified by the Child and Family Services Ombudsman's office. The deaths were singled out because of other factors involved, such as substance abuse or domestic violence issues in the home. Unlike the ombudsman's office, the commission will have access to law enforcement and medical reports for their investigations.
And the commission is reminded there is ample evidence that the state's foster care system has been stretched to the breaking point. The commission should identify immediate specific actions that can be taken to shore up that system.
The commission was authorized by the Legislature earlier this year. It was laudable that lawmakers were sufficiently convinced of the seriousness of the situation to take this action. But our dealings with social ills all too often end up producing weighty reports that collect dust on shelves in some state agency. This is one issue that must not become a victim of analysis paralysis.
Of all the victims of crime in our state, children are the most vulnerable and defenseless. We must make it a top priority to find out why faster action is not taken on reported cases of child abuse — action that could prevent serious injuries and death to children.
British man sentenced to 264 months for child sex crimes in 3 continents
PHILADEPHIA — An investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, (HSI) Harrisburg office contributed to the sentencing of a British citizen, on Sept. 4, 2017, for sexual exploitation of children, blackmail, causing children to engage in sexual activity, and child rape. This was an HSI-led investigation worked jointly between HSI Harrisburg, HSI London, HSI Cocoa Beach, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Brevard County Sheriff's Office, and the Northumbria Police.
Paul Leighton, 32, was sentenced to 264 months in the United Kingdom (UK), for 21 counts relating to child sex crimes. The man committed child sex crimes in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia.
“This sentencing is a testament to the tenacity and tireless dedication of every law enforcement agency involved in this case, and further strengthens HSI's resolve to investigate pedophiles who harm innocent children,” said Marlon V. Miller, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia. “We owe it to the young victims to make certain that pedophiles who commit sex crimes here and overseas pay a high price for their criminal actions.”
HSI Harrisburg coordinated all U.S.-based investigations related to Leighton's U.S. victims, and was instrumental in providing the UK's Northumbria Police with evidence for known U.S. victims. HSI London anticipates the extradition of Leighton to the U.S. to stand trial for additional offenses against U.S. victims located in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
"Protecting children from exploitation is one of the most important missions we have, and as this case demonstrates, it takes the collaboration of law enforcement agencies around the world to tackle this crime,” said James R. Mancuso, attaché for HSI in London. "HSI is committed to working with partners like the Northumbria Police to arrest individuals who commit such heinous acts and ensure that they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator , an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 16,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2016, more than 2,600 child predators were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative, and more than 800 victims identified or rescued.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form . Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page . HSI is a founding member of the Virtual Global Taskforce , an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
Henrico mom who left kids home alone while she vacationed in Mexico will serve 1.5 years in prison
by Sean Gorman
A Henrico County mom who left her three children behind during a September 2016 trip to Mexico was sentenced Wednesday to serve 1½ years in prison.
Henrico Circuit Judge John Marshall handed down that sentence to Aida Stovall on three felony charges of child neglect. Marshall ruled that Stovall could serve that sentence on a work-release program for which she would leave prison for part of the day for her job. Whether she is eligible for work release is up to the Henrico Sheriff's Office.
Stovall, 31, asked two neighbors to watch after the children — an 11-year-old girl and 8-year-old twin sisters — while she went to Cancun, Mexico, according to prosecutors. Stovall didn't have the two neighbors' phone numbers or their last names, prosecutors said. The neighbors told investigators that while they could check in on the children periodically, they were not able to stay with the children.
Stovall said during Wednesday's sentencing that she regretted what she did and that she realizes her actions led to her family being separated. The oldest sister now lives in Florida with her father, while the twins are living in Chesterfield County with their grandmother. Stovall, who has not been living with the children since the Sept. 14 trip, was taken into custody five days later in Miami as she returned from Mexico.
“I wish I never left,” Stovall said during the sentencing. “I wish I had made better decisions.”
Stovall's Facebook page shows images posted during the trip depicting a seaside resort next to beautiful blue waters and palm trees.
In a Sept. 15 comment on one of the Facebook posts, Stovall wrote: “truly having the time of my life!”
The oldest girl, who is now 12, told investigators her mom instructed her to cook for the sisters and make sure they took their medication, police said in court documents. She also said she was supposed to make sure the twins took baths and dressed appropriately for school, police said.
Bobbi R. Graves, an attorney who was a court-appointed guardian for the children's interests in the case, said the oldest sister has feelings of guilt because she was the one who alerted officials at her school about her mom's trip.
Graves said that the girl is having difficulty adjusting to being a child and that she has to be told to go out and play or read a book. The twins also have been suffering from separation anxiety, Graves said.
Stovall spoke in sometimes halting and tearful testimony when she talked about her three girls, adding that she wants to be with her children.
“I walk into the room, and they're not there,” Stovall said.
The defendant said she enrolled herself in a parenting class. There have been seven sessions of that class, and she said she hasn't missed any, Stovall said. The defendant repeatedly said she took responsibility for what happened.
“I strongly believe that I am at fault for everything,” Stovall said.
But Stacey T. Davenport, an assistant commonwealth's attorney for Henrico, said much of Stovall's defense focused on her suffering in the case.
“Ms. Stovall is thinking about Ms. Stovall,” Davenport said.
Although the sentencing guidelines called for no active incarceration because Stovall has no criminal history, the prosecutor said that was not sufficient. Davenport asked for an active sentence of three years in prison. Davenport added that the defendant has testified that her oldest daughter pleaded with her not to go on the trip. The prosecutor called Stovall's actions “appalling” and said they could not be condoned.
“Three young children were left while their mother went out of the country,” Davenport said.
Vincent Robertson, Stovall's attorney, said his client had not deflected any responsibility in the case. Robertson said she enrolled herself in counseling and acknowledged her shortcomings.
“To say she is only thinking about herself and what has happened to her, I just don't think that's true,” Robertson said.
Robertson urged the judge to spare Stovall any active prison time, saying her children have already gone through a lot.
“I don't see what is accomplished by incarcerating their mother,” Robertson said.
But Marshall said he was swayed to go above the guidelines by the facts of the case.
Marshall noted that much of the burden for watching the 8-year-old twins fell to the oldest sister.
“She was left to be a mother to two 8-year-olds and herself,” Marshall said.
California colleges vow to press on against sexual assault despite any federal rollback in protections
by Teresa Wantanabe and Rosanna Xia
C alifornia educational leaders vowed Thursday to press on with aggressive action against campus sexual assault despite any future rollback of the federal guidelines that have prompted universities to crack down on the problem.
In a speech Thursday, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos lambasted Obama-era guidelines as unfair and coercive and announced plans to review them. Later, in an interview with CBS News, she said she intended to rescind the 2011 guidelines, which laid out how campuses should investigate sexual assault cases and lowered the standard of proof needed to find the accused responsible.
University of California President Janet Napolitano said she was “extremely troubled” by indications that the federal government aimed to undo six years of work intended to strengthen protections against sexual violence.
“Today's move will prompt fears of reduced support for survivors of sexual violence, and raise questions about how schools prevent and respond to reports of sexual violence and sexual harassment,” Napolitano said in a statement. “Even in the midst of unwelcome change and uncertainty, the university's commitment to a learning environment free of sexual violence and sexual harassment will not waver.”
Last year, the UC system implemented a sweeping plan to strengthen protections against sexual misconduct, adding mandatory education and training for students, staff and faculty; confidential advocates for victims; and more staff to handle Title IX cases.
The UC Office of the President has increased funding for the efforts from $67,000 in 2013 to $1.6 million budgeted for 2016-17. Individual campuses spend additional money on sexual misconduct prevention efforts.
Stanford University Provost Persis Drell also reaffirmed her university's commitment to fighting sexual misconduct. The university has been criticized for tilting its process toward the accused — last year, for instance, it began requiring a unanimous finding of responsibility by a three-person panel — but also provides support not required by law. Stanford pays for nine hours of attorney time for each side, for instance.
“Stanford has no intention of retreating, in any way, on the subjects of sexual assault and harassment,” Drell said in a statement . “We continue our commitment to move forward.”
Cal State beefed up its efforts against sexual violence on its 23 campuses in November 2014, when it appointed the nation's first systemwide Title IX compliance officer.
“The issue of sexual assault and ensuring that our campuses are safe and free from sexual violence is a priority for CSU leadership,” Cal State spokeswoman Toni Molle said. “We have upcoming meetings scheduled with Secretary DeVos to discuss Title IX with a hope that we have a seat at the table as these policy discussions continue.”
In her speech, DeVos criticized universities for staging “kangaroo courts,” joining those who say universities fail to extend due process protections for those accused of sexual misconduct. She said some campuses do not inform the accused of the allegations before a decision is rendered, and also don't allow in such campus proceedings legal representation, access to evidence, the right to cross-examine witnesses or the ability to appeal findings. She also criticized the Obama administration's guidelines lowering the standard of proof required in sexual misconduct cases.
Mark Hathaway, a Los Angeles-area attorney who has represented accused college students in about 60 cases, said he was gratified by DeVos' move to review federal guidelines. He said he particularly hoped that accused students would have access to evidence and the ability to challenge statements by the accusers and witnesses before a finding was made.
Hathaway also said that allowing one person to act as both investigator and judge, a model used by UC and many other universities, was unfair to the accused.
He added that there was a “wide variance” in policies across California campuses. He praised UCLA, for instance, for fair handling of cases — including providing support for the accused. But he said other campuses allow “secret witnesses” and deny meaningful access to evidence before a decision is made.
“A system that isn't fair doesn't help the victims or the accused,” Hathaway said. DeVos said much the same in her remarks Thursday.
Campus officials for the UC system, Cal State, Stanford and Occidental College said their processes already provide the safeguards raised by DeVos.
Pamela Thomason, Cal State's systemwide Title IX officer, said the university uses a “fair and impartial process to which all participants have equal access and in which all are treated with dignity and respect.”
Danica Myers, Occidental's interim Title IX coordinator, noted that federal officials last year found the college had sufficiently revamped its procedures in sexual misconduct cases to comply with federal law.
“The college stands by its current policies and procedures,” Myers said in a message to the campus community. “They are fair, aligned with our mission and values, and consistent with federal and state law.… No matter what happens, we remain committed to our goal of eliminating sexual misconduct on campus, and to the idea that the best way to address sexual assault is to prevent it from happening in the first place.”
Kathleen Salvaty, UC's systemwide Title IX coordinator, said the 10-campus system moved to use a single investigator to question the accused and accuser separately rather than a hearing at which both sides appeared, in part to avoid direct confrontation and minimize trauma. But any finding may be appealed at a hearing, with both sides allowed to submit questions indirectly to witnesses and each other, she said. Attorneys are not allowed to cross-examine, she said, because the hearings are not criminal proceedings.
Salvaty also noted that any potential changes proposed by DeVos could be constrained by current state and federal law. Under a 2014 California law, for example, campuses are required to use the lower standard of proof — preponderance of evidence rather than clear and convincing evidence — that DeVos criticized. Federal law already guarantees an equal right to appeal, access to information gathered in the case and the ability to bring an attorney or other adviser to hearings.
Asked whether UC officials intended to weigh in during the public comment period that DeVos plans, Salvaty said, “We just want a strong and fair process."
More education, programs needed to prevent child abuse deaths
“One hundred percent preventable.”
That's what Mary Beth Bonaventura said about the 77 Indiana children who died of abuse or neglect in 2015.
Of those 77 “substantiated” deaths covered in the Indiana Department of Child Services Annual Report of Child Fatalities for Indiana, about half of them were traumatic.
According to the report, head trauma was the main cause of death in abuse cases. And a third of the children died as a result of neglect.
What is most troubling is that the number of substantiated child abuse/neglect cases in the state is rising. In 2012, 34 cases; in 2013, 49 cases; 66 cases in 2014, and 77 cases in 2015.
Help is available, but the sheer volume of those who need it is shocking.
Kids Talk, an Anderson advocacy center that started in 2014, has assisted more than 1,300 children. Working with the Department of Child Services, the center provides reports of children who might be at risk of abuse/neglect.
Denise Valdez, director of Kids Talk, believes that violence in the home is often “glossed over,” and that education “is a key element to change.”
“We're just overwhelmed with the number of cases,” said Annette Craycraft, executive director of East Central Indiana Court Appointed Special Advocates. And, the number is alarming. Craycraft said there are 400 people on a waiting list needing services.
And, Craycraft agreed that education can help change behavior. Community mentors and organized programs could be just a start.
Through better reporting of signs of negligence and abuse, as well as more programs to teach good parenting skills and more community resources to help kids and families, this trend has got to be reversed.
If these and other resources aren't addressed, cases will continue to rise.
And, each of them were “100 percent preventable.”
The Herald-Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.
After surviving childhood sexual abuse, Evans man finds strength through faith to help sex offenders, victims
by Tommy Simmons
On a summer day decades ago, in a Midwestern town, a 9-year-old boy hid in a closet and cried.
On the other side of the closet door, throughout the rest of the house, was a group of older boys and men. They'd hunted him for four years now. They lived in his town of about 5,500 and they were looking for him again.
Since he was 5 years old, the older men had periodically found the boy when he was playing outside alone and stole him away to places like this house, where they would sexually abuse him. They would terrify the boy into silence by threatening him, his family and even his pet dog. They beat him. They told him no one would want him if they knew what had happened. Then, after a few hours, they would take him back to town and drop him off, certain he would keep their terrible secret.
The day the boy hid in the closet was the last time they'd hurt him, though. On that day, he prayed three words — "Father help me" — and the tears stopped.
Within a year, the boy's family had moved away from the town and its ring of child rapists.
Looking back, Sean Wheeler, who now lives in Evans, is reminded of the moment he started praying.
From the beginning, Christian faith played an important role in Wheeler's path to freedom from that childhood trauma, he said, as it has in all other areas of his life.
Gradually, after months of counseling, he started to realize by sharing his story, he might be able to help others. In the past few years, he's spoken at conferences and in churches to crowds of thousands of people, working to normalize the discussion about sexual abuse of children.
"My every wound is becoming a weapon to help other people," he said.
Wheeler also speaks to people who have abused children. He seeks them out. In no way does he condone what they did, but he wants to help them if he can. For the past year and a half, he's worked with a prison ministry to share his story with sex offenders recently released on parole. When he says he forgives them, he means it.
Today, when Wheeler remembers the long, winding path he took to freedom from the sexual abuse of his childhood, he is reminded that first prayer has been answered.
Asking for help
For decades, he'd kept what he survived as a child a secret. The group of men who abused him told him his life was pointless after he turned 18, and he believed them. He stopped celebrating his birthday. The hurt he carried with him sometimes pushed his friends away. He lost a job. He thought about killing himself.
It all came to a head one night when he was watching a movie with his wife in 2010. In the movie, a grown man was working to live with a tumultuous past marred by sexual abuse. The man in the movie was an officer in the Navy, just as Wheeler himself had been for years.
"It sent me flying out of the room," Wheeler said. "My wife found me curled up in a ball in the kitchen, crying."
That, Wheeler said, was the night he and his wife decided he should begin looking for a counselor.
When Wheeler, as a man in his 40s, started seeing the counselor he would work with for the next few years, he couldn't say the word "molestation" out loud. He called it the "m word." Verbalizing it was too painful, and he didn't like the word's connotation.
The counselor told him if he couldn't say the word, he should try to write it. That was easier for Wheeler, who had studied journalism in college. Much of his therapy focused on transcribing his memories in journals and fighting through years of pain and guilt through writing. He wrote about the abuse, but it was more than that — he wrote about his childhood and about the sometimes-rocky relationships he had with his family. He was never abused by anyone in his family, but his home life had still been difficult. Later on in his life, he and his dad stopped talking to each other for a time. Those early journal entries were filled with anecdotes about times he felt alone as a child, which made him, in some ways, vulnerable to sexual abuse.
Gradually, Wheeler worked to hammer those painful memories into a timeline, and it allowed him to confront his story.
One in six
It's not a story everyone wants to hear, and Wheeler believes at least part of the reason for that has to do with the fact he is a man. He said in the past, when he's tried to reach out to media organizations to find an audience for his story, he's been told sexual abuse and sex trafficking is a girls-only issue.
"People don't seem to realize this happens to boys," Wheeler said. "Or, worse, they don't seem to care."
Wheeler does not want to devalue the abuse girls endure at the hands of adults. He knows it happens — in America, one in four girls will be abused by the time they are 18, he said.
But, he said, one in six boys will also experience sexual abuse by the time they are adults. And, he said, it can be even more difficult for a boy to come forward about sexual abuse.
"Boys were expected to be tough, and manly, and (there was a belief that) if you let (sexual abuse) happen to you, somehow it's your fault," he said. "Guys don't like to talk about it."
The stigma isn't quite as bad as it was when he was growing up, he said, but it's still there. He cited studies from the 1990s and early-2000s that estimated the number of known cases of sexual abuse against boys was vastly underrepresented, because boys are so reluctant to admit victimization.
Paula Bragg agrees. She is the director of Sexual Assault Response Advocates Inc. in Fort Morgan. Her organization works to provide therapy and advocacy for children who have been sexually abused. The program serves the entire northeastern corner of Colorado, which means it provides services for about 140 kids a year. She estimates about 40 percent of those children are boys, but she said she thinks many more boys are not reporting their abuse.
Much like Wheeler, she blames a culture that emphasizes old-fashioned masculinity.
"I do think there is a stigma (for boys)," she said. "Somebody sexually assaulting them may lead them to question their sexuality."
Because abuse is so underreported, offenders often have many victims. One study found male abusers who perpetrated against girls had, on average, about 52 victims each. The same study reported male offenders who abused boys had about 150 victims each.
"We have boys that cross all ages," she said. "Many times when a boy does report, it's later on."
Sometimes they wait even longer. Bragg said sometimes she's had grown men tell her, for the first time in their lives, they were sexually abused as children. Until that point, they carried that trauma with them and did their best to live around it.
Wheeler did, too. Once the sexual abuse started, he said, friends and family described him as going from being a sweet little boy to an angry, distant child. The anger followed him for years, and by the time he was an adult, he'd developed a tremor in his hands, a nervous tick resulting from the mental trauma of his youth.
The first time Wheeler spoke publicly about his abuse and his path to freedom was five years ago. His counselor, also a Christian, invited him to speak at one of her friend's churches.
At first he told her he couldn't do it. He didn't know what he would say. He was terrified. But he felt called to speak. So he did his best to have faith, as he had with every other step in his healing process, and soon found himself in front of a crowd of about 40 people.
"I was about to say the word 'molested' out loud to a room full of people," he later wrote.
Unsure of what to say, he simply told his story. It was exhausting, and parts of it brought him to tears, but the words gained momentum as he went on.
"Once you start talking, it starts coming out, and it's hard to stop," he said.
Afterward, several people told him they were moved by his words. It was a pivotal moment for Wheeler, who hadn't thought much about speaking publicly before that day.
Earlier in his therapy, Wheeler's counselor urged him to come with her to a service at Rez.Church in Loveland, which has a congregation of about 5,000 people. Wheeler still attends services there.
Rez.Church emphasizes a four-step process to faith, the last of which is "make a difference." Wheeler has adopted that phrase as something of a motto.
"As I worked through counseling I realized my purpose was to help the other me's out there," he said.
It took time to reconcile himself with the reality strangers were going to hear the jagged story of his abuse, survival and freedom. For most of his life, even his friends and family didn't know that story.
In the end, though, that decades-long silence is part of why he chose to keep speaking. He knows people don't talk about sexual abuse of children. He wants to change that.
"I speak because if I don't, who will?" He said. "I'm not that strong or that brave, I just got tired of feeling like I was fighting alone."
He started out small – he spoke at four churches and at two Christian conferences. He recorded a video for Rez.Church's 2015 Easter service, and on that day spoke to all 5,000 of the church's members. He's landing speaking gigs outside the state too — this past month, he estimated about 3,000 people heard him speak at a Bible college in Dallas.
'It gives you compassion'
For much of his adult life, Wheeler hated having his picture taken. The sound of a camera's shutter reminded him of the times his abusers forced him into child pornography. Through his faith and his counseling, Wheeler said he's been set free from the fear and anger the experience ignited within him, but he'll never forget the abuse he survived.
"There are very few days those memories don't run through my head now," he said.
But they don't control him. He uses them as a tool.
A year and a half ago, Wheeler said one of the people at the Rez.Church introduced him to a prison ministry program aimed at working with sex offenders who have abused children. The program's goal is to help sex offenders find faith and to keep from reoffending after they are out of prison. The sex offenders in the program have already become Christians, Wheeler said, and are trying to start a new life outside of prison. He's not a member of the clergy, but he is in a unique position to speak to them.
Wheeler remembers a time a sex offender, wracked with guilt, confessed he'd gone to prison for possessing child pornography. Even after prison, Wheeler said, the man could not deal with his past.
"I said to him, 'as somebody who was on the other side of that camera, I release you from that,'" Wheeler said. "And you could see this weight just lifted off him. Then he cried a lot, and I cried a lot … but I can say that to them and it means something more. You can tell it makes a difference in their life."
Often, he said, offenders are nonplussed when confronted with Wheeler's brand of matter-of-fact forgiveness. They ask him how he, a survivor of such abuse, could ever work with child rapists and people who have possessed child pornography. Wheeler's answer is simple. God forgives everyone, so Wheeler himself needs to forgive people, too.
Most of the people he works with are eager about getting better, but once, he said, a sex offender tried to defend his actions by telling Wheeler child pornography is a victimless crime and he wasn't hurting anyone by watching it.
"I said, 'Tell that to a 7-year-old me,'" Wheeler said.
Still, he said he's able to form honest relationships with most of the sex offenders he meets. He knows sex offenders can't necessarily change their sexual urges, but they can choose not to reoffend. He compares it to the way an alcoholic can choose not to drink.
"When you start to see them as humans who had a terrible past themselves, it gives you compassion," he said. "I have a great deal of affection for the guys I work with."
One of the things that frustrates Wheeler is many people's inability to forgive sex offenders. The prison ministry he works with has been forced to keep a low profile, he said, because once people know where to find sex offenders, they often want to hurt them or force them to move. Even the people who operate the ministry are hesitant to say who they are or what they do, he said, because of the stigma attached to it.
Once, after speaking to a crowd, Wheeler said an audience member came up to him and said he wanted to commit a crime in order to get into prison and hurt sex offenders.
"(It's) sad, really, that some people want to hurt others who are only trying to find healing," he said in an email. "(It) makes me want to corner such people and say, 'Hey, if I can forgive, what's your problem?'"
Wheeler wants to speak to as many people as possible. He wants to help both victims and sex offenders, and he believes God is using his story to do that. It's difficult, but it's getting easier.
Often, after he's done speaking, audience members will come up to him and tell him they are also abuse survivors, and they also kept it a secret. Those are the moments that really matter.
"When people realize they're not alone, that's huge," he said.
No room left for hate
by Grant LaFleche
For those on the inside, prison can seem like a place that time has abandoned.
The immutable routine and the static surroundings make one day bleed into the next and into the next. Sometimes, the length of a man's hair is his only reliable watch and calendar.
Still, in a sea of unchanging days, William O'Sullivan remembers when the wailing stopped. In the years following his sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priest Donald Grecco and his repeated rape by a Christian Brother at St. John's Training School for Boys, O'Sullivan's life spun out of control.
Drugs, booze and crime were staples for many years. Theft and break and enters earned him multiple prison terms, including stints in the maximum security prison in Millhaven.
It was there O'Sullivan began to see his own pain reflected the faces of the men he shared the prison with. While still years away from recovering his repressed memories of being abused by Grecco as a boy, O'Sullivan was keenly aware of what the Christians Brothers had done to him and how those experiences shaped his life.
“Look, it's not an excuse, OK? I never use what happened to me as an excuse for my bad choices. Everyone has a choice, and I made bad ones,” says O'Sullivan, who now lives in a small house in St. Catharines and works full time as a painter. “But what you have to realize is that kind of experience changes you. It hurts you in ways you aren't aware of for a long time.”
He wasn't the only man in prison living with demons forced on him by someone else. So O'Sullivan began to advocate for better treatment and counselling for himself and his fellow inmates. Prison, he believed, should help rehabilitate people rather than just hold them in place.
As deep as his own scars are, there were others whose pain was consuming them.
“A friend of mine (another inmate who was abused) was having a real hard time. He was pleading — I mean sometimes wailing, actually wailing — for someone to help him. But no one did,” O'Sullivan says.
O'Sullivan's cell was across the hall from his friend's. If O'Sullivan looked out the tiny window in the door of his cell and craned his neck a little, he could see into his friend's cell.
One morning, after the man spent a night calling out in pain, a dead silence had fallen on the cell block.
“I looked out of my window, and I could see into the window of his cell. And I could see his torso,” O'Sullivan says, choking back tears. “He hung himself in his cell, and no one found him until the morning.”
It would take a few years before O'Sullivan found his footing, but he was determined to find a better road for himself. He wasn't going to end up like his friend.
The lasting damage of sexual abuse can be difficult to track. The pain runs deep and colours how a victim relates to the world. Those impacts are amplified when the abuser holds a position of trust and authority like a teacher or a priest.
“You have to understand that, if you are deeply Catholic, or come from a deeply Catholic family, the local priest doesn't just work for God. He is God,” says Marion Kelly, coordinator for the Toronto chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “So you never think that it was the priest who did something wrong because God doesn't do anything wrong. Anything that happened is your fault.”
Kelly was sexually abused by her father while growing up in Ireland. She moved to Canada to leave her past behind her but found the ghosts of her childhood clung to her like a shadow.
“I realized I was having a lot of trouble and I needed help. And I ended up in counselling with a United Church minister,” Kelly says. “He sexually abused me for almost 10 years. I was in my mid-40s when it happened. When we talk about clergy abuse, we often talk about children, but it happens to adults too.”
Kelly's abuser was found guilty of sexual assault in 2009.
In many ways, her case mirrors O'Sullivan's. Both came from deeply religious families and were conditioned as children to trust priests implicitly. Fear, guilt and shame kept them silent for years.
“Predators like this are very, very good at picking out vulnerable people and knowing how to manipulate them. It took me a long time to see that was happening to me,” says Kelly who has since found a credible therapist and says her recovery is going well.
“I don't know that you ever fully recover from sexual abuse like that. But you can learn to live with it.”
Crossing the Rubicon from child abuse victim to recovering adult can be like walking through a car wash blindfolded. A person might know where they want to go, but they have no way to navigate the obstacles in front of them.
“It's a hard road to travel. There's no doubt about that,” says Rick Goodwin, executive director of Men & Healing in Ottawa, an agency that helps victims of sexual abuse. “I would start off by talking about the role of therapy. I don't think that's the be all, end all of the ways to recover, but it may be the most conventional or most possible in people's lives.”
Goodwin said when children are sexually abused the normal progression of their self-identity gets warped, creating a stew of self-loathing, anxiety, depression and anger. But under all of that, it is another, more corrosive emotion.
“Shame is more the bedrock of trauma,” says Goodwin. “Shame is probably the hardest emotion to sit with, to express. People go out of their way — people drink themselves to death, people will murder — not to feel shame. It's that much of a kicker of an emotional state.”
For many victims of clergy abuse — crushed by the twin pillars of religious authority and emotional trauma — even admitting that shame exists is a Sisyphean task.
“I never talked about it to anyone,” O'Sullivan says. “You know, as a young man, you think, men don't get raped. Men don't get sexually abused. That happens to women. So if it happened to you, it's like admitting it is questioning your manhood. So I said nothing.”
Goodwin says as male victims age they will often instinctually, and even irrationally, reject male authority figures. This not only impacts future job prospects in several ways, but it also means they are less likely to report abuse to another man.
O'Sullivan says since coming forward in 2010 about what Grecco did to him, he's learned to understand where his sense of frustration, anxiety and rage are rooted.
Perhaps the most liberating experience of his life, he says, came in jail after reading a headline about Grecco's first conviction. The paper did not just unlock suppressed memories of his childhood abuse; it gave him the impetus to do something about it.
“I reported to the jail's lieutenant, which wasn't easy,” O'Sullivan says. “He didn't just treat me with respect, but he believed me.”
Journaling — something he has done since his final days in prison — along with therapy, and support from his children and family have carried O'Sullivan a long way.
But the journey isn't over.
O'Sullivan came face-to-face with Grecco in court Thursday, looking directly at the man while he read his victim impact statement.
“It was very emotional,” O'Sullivan said outside the court house. “I ran into a counsellor from the Niagara Sexual Assault Centre who was at the hearing. She asked me if I was OK, and what I would be doing later.
“I said, ‘Tonight I will be with my family.' And she said, ‘What about tomorrow?' And I said ‘I am going to be calling you.'”
O'Sullivan says he still has dark thoughts. Moments when the idea of violent vengeance seems like justice. But he knows that isn't how he builds a better future.
“I have no more room for hate in my life,” he says. “I want to have a life, you know? So I have no choice but to keep moving forward.”
A response from the St. Catharines Catholic Diocese:
The Standard reached out the Catholic Diocese of St. Catharines to discuss the issues raised in this series. Diocese spokesman Vice-Chancellor Margaret Jong declined an interview request, but did offer the following the statement:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. While we can't understand the suffering, they have experienced, and we can't undo the wrong that they endured we do hope these court proceedings will provide a sense of closure and a time of healing for the victims and the families.”
4 Arrested in Suspected Child Abuse That Left Two Girls, Aged 5 to 10, Dead on a Colorado Farm: Reports
by Dave Quinn
Four suspects have been arrested in the tragic deaths of two young girls whose bodies were found Friday on a farm in San Miguel County, Colorado, according to multiple reports.
The girls, who were between the ages of 5 and 10, were said to be dead for at least two weeks before being discovered in the rural southwestern Colorado farm about 30 miles west of the ski resort town of Telluride, the Associated Press reports.
“In my 37 years as Sheriff, I have never seen anything as cruel and heartless as this,” San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters told ABC News-13 .
The four people arrested — 23-year-old Frederick A. Blair of Norwood, 37-year-old Madani Ceus from Haiti, 50-year-old Nathan Yah from Haiti, and 53-year-old Ika Eden from Jamaica — have been initially charged with felony child abuse causing death, CBS Denver reports .
All are being held in the San Miguel County Jail, ABC News-13 reports, as the San Miguel Sheriff's Office leads the homicide investigation with assistance of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI). It is not known if they have entered a plea or retained attorneys.
A fifth suspect named Nashika Bramble is still at large, ABC News-13 reports. She is wanted on various charges including second-degree murder.
Police are asking for the public's help in locating Bramble, who was last seen Wednesday morning hitch-hiking in the Norwood area, CBS Denver reports. Those with any information should call local dispatch at (970) 728-1911.
Winning the War on Child Sexual Abuse
by Kailash Satyarthi
Despite a shared interest in protecting children, sexual predation upends millions of young lives every year. Now, rights advocates and campaigners in India are calling for a global war to end the silence that has sustained this scourge.
NEW DELHI – With every new crisis that the world faces, humanity's differences appear increasingly intractable. Religion, ethnicity, history, politics, and economics have all become tools to denigrate and demean. People seem to be drifting apart, and no country is immune from divisive discourse.
But there is one fundamental issue where contrasts dissolve into consensus: the desire to keep children safe. Protecting the physical, emotional, and psychological wellbeing of children is a universal instinct that no faith, dogma, or ideology can defeat. And yet, despite this shared instinct, children everywhere continue to be preyed upon. Too often, societies ignore child sexual abuse, owing to family pride or fear of stigma. The world can stay silent no longer.
The numbers are truly alarming. According to a 2016 World Health Organization report, one of every four adults was sexually abused as a child. A 2007 Indian government study found that 53% of children in India faced some form of sexual abuse growing up. And human trafficking, especially trafficking of children, is a booming business, with annual average profits totaling $150 billion . In other words, child sexual abuse is a moral epidemic afflicting the entire world –one that we can defeat only when we openly declare open against it.
Young victims and their families should not have to live in silence while predators roam fearless and free. That is why, in December 2016, I joined a diverse group of Nobel laureates and global leaders to launch the “ 100 Million for 100 Million ”campaign. One of the campaign's objectives is to persuade, provoke, and inspire 100 million young people around the world to raise their voices against violence inflicted on children. The response so far has been overwhelming; tens of thousands have taken the pledge to defend the defenseless.
But I believe we must do even more to awaken the world's slumbering consciousness on this evil. So on September 11, I will embark on a bharat yatra (political pilgrimage), traveling across India to declare war on sexual abuse and exploitation of children everywhere. Together with dedicated campaigners and child-rights advocates, I will travel from Kanyakumari, on India's southern tip, to India's capital, Delhi. More than ten million people are expected to join me physically and virtually on a march that will traverse 11,000 kilometers (6,835 miles), touching all corners of India in a bid to raise global awareness.
Cynics might say that marches cannot change engrained social taboos. I disagree. I have seen first-hand how change is possible when ordinary people speak out.
In 1998, I accompanied a group of young people from around the world to the headquarters of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva. One by one, these brave children told the assembled leaders of their chained lives as forced laborers. They demanded the freedom to chase their own dreams. And they called for an international law against child labor. It was the culmination of the Global March Against Child Labor, and more than 15 million people had joined us by marching some 80,000 kilometers through 103 countries.
The result of these combined efforts was dramatic and pathbreaking. Within a year, the ILO passed Convention 182 , which banned the worst forms of child labor. Today, 181 countries have ratified the convention and passed domestic laws that ban the practice. Back in 1998, when we launched the global march – amid similar cynicism and apathy – roughly 250 million children were being forced to work in horrific conditions. Though much remains to be done, that number has since dropped by about a third, and I am confident we can reach zero within a generation.
We have also had success marching for civil liberties in India. In 2001, our shiksha yatra (march for education) called on government officials to make access to school a fundamental right for all children. Today, that right is enshrined in the Indian Constitution, and primary school enrollment is almost universal.
The world needs a similar effort against child sexual abuse and trafficking. As many as two million children are victims of trafficking every year, with many sold into the sex trade. Young refugees are especially at risk. In 2016, a record number of people – more than 65 million – were forced from their homes by civil war and other unrest. When children are displaced, they become highly vulnerable to trafficking and sexual abuse, underscoring the need to act decisively.
When we begin marching this month, we will do so as non-violent soldiers in a global war. Our goal is to give voice to ordinary victims who have been silenced by fear and social pressure. We aim to tug at the conscience of people everywhere, to provoke others into action.
Mahatma Gandhi galvanized millions of oppressed people through his marches. So did Martin Luther King Jr. Let us be inspired by them, and wage a humanitarian war against child sexual abuse. India is ready to march again on a journey of hope and audacity. We invite the world to join us.
Harvey deals a blow to Texas' already struggling child welfare system
by Marissa Evans
Texas' child welfare system was already in crisis before Hurricane Harvey.
Now, perhaps hundreds of foster families in Houston and along the Gulf Coast have been displaced by the storm and hundreds of child welfare workers have been unable to return to work, said the state official who oversees Child Protective Services on Friday. And state officials say flooded roads have kept caseworkers from meeting in person with some at-risk children as required by law.
"Workers have really been heroic,” said the CPS chief, Kristene Blackstone, who added that caseworkers have been visiting foster families in evacuee shelters, connecting them with services and schlepping carloads of donated clothing, diapers and food to them.
It's about “making sure families have their immediate needs met and then two, making sure the services they need long term are all there for them,” Blackstone said.
Even before the storm, caseworkers were stretched thin, children were having to sleep in state offices when no foster homes could be found, and the agency failed to check on thousands of at-risk children. Gov. Greg Abbott called fixing the " rickety system " an emergency priority this year for the Legislature, which responded by approving money to hire caseworkers, continue pay raises for workers and increase payments for foster families.
Since the storm, Texas has received 86 reports of child abuse and neglect on its 24-hour hotline. Among them, 21 reports were of possible mistreatment of "priority one" children — those considered to be at immediate risk of abuse — in Houston and the Gulf Coast.
State investigators are required to meet with the "priority one" children within 24 hours of an urgent report of possible mistreatment. Less-urgent cases require a visit within 72 hours.
CPS workers are also required to check in regularly with foster families and families receiving special services to keep their children at home.
State officials say they are coordinating with the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to find those families. But a spokesman for the agency that oversees CPS said officials do not know how many families caseworkers have been unable to see because of the storm.
It wasn't easy to recruit enough foster families before Harvey, and child welfare advocates say it could become even more difficult.
“We know that capacity is a real issue and if you were a family that was in the pipeline to become a foster family and you just lost everything, you might put your plans to become a foster parent on hold to rebuild your home,” said Katie Olse, executive director of the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services.
Meanwhile, two residential treatment centers — homes for abused and neglected Texas children with behavioral, emotional and mental health needs — won't reopen and dozens of children have been sent elsewhere for treatment.
Child welfare advocates are already worried about how many current and potential foster families may be unable to care for children as they rebuild in Harvey-impacted areas.
Sarah Crockett, public policy coordinator for Texas CASA, a non-profit helping represent abused and neglected children in court, said the state is “probably going to have a huge capacity crisis that's significantly worse” in the months after Harvey. She pointed out the lack of foster homes available is why children have slept in CPS offices.
“We can't blame foster and kinship care families who put in their notice because they're living in hotels and rebuilding their lives,” Crockett said.
Why Psychopaths Cannot Love Their Own Children, According to a Psychologist
by Lindsay Dodgson
The so-called dark triad personality traits — narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy — manifest in people as excessive self-love, a manipulative attitude, and a lack of empathy.
It's unclear how many people have these traits, but various studies and estimates put the number at somewhere between 1% and 10%.
People with DTP traits are often reported to have an obsession with themselves and struggle to see the point in other people's feelings. Because of this, their relationships are often abusive and controlling. Romantic partners can be manipulated, used, and tricked into believing they are crazy before being abruptly devalued and discarded.
A common question that comes up is whether the offspring of a person with DTP traits would be treated any differently than the person's romantic partners. In other words, can a real narcissist ever truly love someone?
Narcissists 'can never really love anyone'
According to Perpetua Neo, a psychologist and therapist who specializes in people with DTP traits, the answer is no.
"Narcissists, psychopaths, and sociopaths do not have a sense of empathy," she told Business Insider. "They do not and will not develop a sense of empathy, so they can never really love anyone."
This doesn't change when they have children. There's no primal instinct to protect and encourage their child because the child is not seen as a separate entity, but merely a tool at their disposal.
"DTPs tend to see children as an extension of themselves and a possession," Neo said. "So rather than saying, 'I'm going to nurture you so you can grow up to be the amazing person you're meant to be,' [they say,] 'You're supposed to grow up and do this so that you're my trophy.'"
This is very different from the environment a child in a healthy family would grow up in. Instead of being nurtured and taught the ways of the world, a child of a parent with DTP traits can grow up without a sense of self.
"'I can check your phone. I can do anything I want to do. I can just barge into your room, basically not respecting your sense of property,'" Neo said of what people with DTP traits believe. "There are no emotional boundaries either. So the children grow up not really sure about what boundaries are."
The child may be expected to fill all kinds of functions they shouldn't have to. For example, narcissists tend to be very unhappy people with low self-esteem, so they may unload a lot of unnecessary emotional baggage onto their children, who are used as a listening ear for the parent's problems and a source of emotional comfort.
This continues over the years, and Neo says some of her clients have said their parents told them, "The only reason I had you was so you could take care of me for the rest of your life.
"'You're not allowed to have children, and you're not allowed to get married,'" she added. "The parent would be meddling in all these different relationships — left, right, and center — creating all sorts of drama, so the child stays single."
The child may be expected to be a punching bag
Throughout their life, the child may also be expected to be a punching bag, either physically or emotionally. This would become harder as the child ages, because they become stronger and more aware, so the parent may counteract this by hacking away at their self-esteem.
"As the parents grows older and their health starts to decline, their sense of self-esteem becomes really shaky," Neo said. "Then the child grows up, becomes strong, becomes powerful, has more of a sense of self, and it's very difficult for the parent to watch. So there becomes this unhealthy competition, putting the child down, telling the child they're fat, they're useless, they're ugly."
At the same time, whenever the child accomplishes something, the parent could take credit. For example, they might mention that their child is a very good trumpet player but that the only reason is that they scrimped and saved for lessons for years, even if this may not be true.
"Every single thing is always brought back to them," Neo said. "So the child is brought up thinking, 'I have no sense of self, I have no say, and I do not matter.'"
The 'golden child' versus the 'scapegoat'
The dynamics can shift depending on how many children the person with DTP traits has.
Neo says it is remarkable how often the same power dynamics play out in these families with more than one child. In most cases, one child becomes the golden child who can do no wrong.
"The child can live in fear because all they want to do is please mummy or daddy so there's no trouble — so they will be loved," Neo said. "So they get this reward, and it's almost transactional."
A second child may be used as a scapegoat, blamed for everything — so much so that the parent may enjoy playing the children off against each other and creating unnecessary competition.
If there is a third child, Neo says they may become the "lost boy" or "lost girl" who is neglected and more or less ignored.
"If you watch the families and see the traits of narcissistic parents, this is often what plays out," Neo said. "Essentially, it's designed to keep the self-esteem of the child low, so the child will always stay small and as a possession, and there's a lot of dictatorship over what a child can or cannot do because it's all about the parent's sense of self."
Do monsters breed monsters?
One fear that children of people with DTP traits may have is growing up and turning into their parent. However, according to the blog NarcissisticMother.com, written by the psychotherapist Michelle Piper, this is true in only the minority of cases.
Piper writes that narcissistic parents often hate the idea of their children growing up and want to keep them from doing so as long as possible to "keep stroking their thirsty but fragile egos."
"When you, an adult child of narcissistic parents, grow up, you may feel something is wrong but cannot necessarily identify what that is," she wrote. "You may have always associated love and appreciation with conforming to the demands of your parents and therefore assume that is how it all works."
One less common way children of people with DTP traits react is with a "siege response," becoming used to protecting yourself by becoming less sensitive, walled off, and extremely independent.
"You would do whatever you had to do to manipulate others and treat them as if they are the parents who wanted you to meet their every expectation," Piper wrote. "This is more or less a passive-aggressive attack on your parents through other people, doing to others what you wish you could've done to your narcissistic parent."
However, more common is the "compliance response," becoming used to putting your needs to the side and wanting to bend over backward to please everyone you meet.
"Children of narcissists, they tend to be taken over by this compulsion to serve others," Neo said. "That's when they become completely empathetic, over-giving, and are used by more narcissists and more dark-triad people in their lives."
How you turn out sometimes depends on which child you were in the family system. Children of people with DTP traits may have avoided the majority of abuse growing up, but the golden child may end up worse off that the scapegoat.
"The child believes if they do what mummy or daddy wants, everything will be OK — 'I'm going to be loved,'" Neo said. "And the moment you don't do something, you're going to be completely devalued, be insulted and scolded. So you learn that your views and your dreams don't matter."
The scapegoat may have never measured up to the golden child growing up, but they usually do better in their life. They may grow and venture out into the world and discover freedom. By having more obviously negative feelings associated with their parent, they may be more able to break free and create a new, healthy life.
Why teen suicide is on the rise
by Dr. Mike Sosteric
Every 40 seconds, another human life is taken by suicide , according to World Health Organization data.
In Canada, a new report reveals that young people between the ages of 15 and 19, who are struggling with mental illness and addiction, have the highest rates of suicide attempts . Middle-aged men are also at high risk , as are children and youth in First Nations communities who live with the legacy of trauma perpetuated by colonization and the residential school system.
World Suicide Prevention Day this Sunday provokes us to pay attention. Suicide is a silent epidemic that ruins lives and devastates families and communities . As a researcher, I have been examining and researching the factors that contribute to the blossoming of human potential, and the factors that undermine its full realization, for close to two decades. Suicide is the ultimate subversion of human potential.
Why are so many teenagers taking their own life? One factor is what I call "toxic socialization" —a process of physical or emotional childhood and adolescent abuse. Those who grow up in toxic environments are up to 12 times more likely to experience addiction, depression and to try to commit suicide.
Remarkably, more than 90 per cent of people who succeed at suicide have been diagnosed with depression or some other mental disorder. If we want to understand why people commit suicide, we have to understand what makes them depressed.
Like suicide, depression is complicated and caused by many factors. One important contributing factor is childhood and adolescent abuse in a "toxic socialization" process.
Socialization is the process where we are trained —by parents, teachers, priests and others —to be citizens of our societies. Toxic socialization is when this process is characterized by neglect or ongoing physical and emotional abuse . The violence of a toxic socialization process is typically justified as beneficial in some way to the process. "Spare the rod and spoil the child" is the prototypical justification.
Agents of socialization hit, scream, intimidate, threaten, shame and exclude because they feel that violence —such as spanking — turns out a better adult product .
But it doesn't, at all. Toxic socialization —including corporal punishment, emotional abuse and the childhood trauma that is associated with it —contributes to negative behaviours . Children who are exposed to maltreatment, violence in the community or marital violence in families struggle with many forms of mental disability , including anxiety, alcohol dependence, eating disorders, personality disorders and depression .
Why does the violence of a toxic socialization process contribute to depression and suicide? That's a complicated question to sort out, but it's certainly linked to the neurobiological and endocrine damage that results from chronic exposure to the stress of violent environments, especially during the critical early years of childhood and adolescence.
The impact is made worse when perpetrators are people who are supposed to protect and nurture, in environments that are supposed to feel safe and secure.
What about our children?
A staggering one in three Canadians has experienced abuse before the age of 15, according to a 2016 report from the Chief Public Health Officer: A Focus on Family Violence in Canada . In 2014, 131 Canadians also died at the hands of a family member, and there were 133,920 reported victims of dating or family violence .
How do you reduce the risk of depression, mental illness and suicide? The first step is to put an end to this toxic socialization. We have to stop using violent methods such as spanking, and emotionally abusive methods such as shaming, to "teach" our lessons and control a child's behaviour. In order to take this step we will, as a society, have to stop justifying abuse in any form.
There is no evidence to support the notion that violence in the socialization process contributes to strong, healthy, well-adjusted adults. In fact, the evidence points in the opposite direction, that toxic socialization damages us and costs us as a society. One research team has estimated the burden of child maltreatment in the U.S. alone at over half a trillion dollars per year.
It's simply not the case that if we "spare the rod" we "spoil the child." On the contrary, if we want our children to be healthy and well-adjusted, and if we want to save this planet trillions of dollars, we should immediately halt all forms of violence against them.
What about me?
If you are a victim of a toxic socialization process, what can you do to heal yourself?
The first step is to stop telling yourself that violence against you is OK. Violence you experience does not make you a better or stronger person. It damages you. Instead, end your exposure to all forms of violence.
This can be a challenge if you find yourself trapped in an abusive marriage. Organizations such as Stop Abuse in Families (S.A.I.F) in Alberta can help.
Ending your exposure to violence can be a challenge when ending it means ending toxic family relationships that may have endured for decades. Even as adults, we can find it difficult to draw boundaries around abusive parents and siblings. We fear the loss of these relationships, long for the love and support they are supposed to provide and cling even when they cause us serious harm.
The next step is to get treatment. A therapist can help you examine the relationships in your life for evidence of toxic socialization. They should be willing to work with you to help you understand the damage these relationships cause. They should be willing to help you heal the trauma involved.
Mental health crisis
The decision to commit suicide is complicated, but enduring toxic socialization is a significant factor. On the occasion of World Suicide Prevention day, let us be clear that violence perpetrated against children in the name of training them to be members of society is wrong.
If we are going to make any progress against the growing mental health crisis and suicide epidemic in Canada and globally, then we need to change how we raise, educate and socialize our children.
New figures show that cases of child neglect are up by 49 per cent across Hampshire
by Tim Birkbeck
REPORTS of child neglect across Hampshire have risen nearly 50 per cent according to a national children's charity.
New figures show that last year the NSPCC referred 297 cases of neglect in Hampshire to the police and children's services in the county following reports of suspected child neglect.
This is an increase of increase of 49 per cent - compared to 199 referrals in 2011/12 - over five years, the charity's latest figures revealed.
Across the whole of the UK the NSPCC made 16,882 referrals to children's services or the police in 2016/17, equivalent to 46 a day.
These latest figures on neglect cases have been revealed in the NSPCC's state of the nation report, How Safe are our Children? , and comes as children's social care in England face more pressures, with more young people being taken into care, and more families needing support.
Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC said: “Neglect can have severe and long-lasting consequences for children, and can also be an indicator of other forms of abuse.
“This is why it is so important for anyone suspecting a child of being neglected to contact the NSPCC Helpline, so we can alert the authorities to quickly step in and help those in need.”
Mr Wanless added: “At the same time, it is vital we understand the true nature and scale of child neglect in the UK so we can collectively tackle the fundamental causes.
Therefore, a governmentcommissioned, nationwide prevalence study on child abuse and neglect needs to be conducted, and sooner rather than later.”
Neglect can have serious and long-lasting effects; in the worst cases, it can lead to a child suffering permanent disabilities or even dying from malnutrition.
The charity recently issued common signs adults may notice in a child who is being neglected including poor appearance and hygiene, they may be smelly or have unwashed clothes, being left alone for a long time and have poor language, communication or social skills If anyone suspects a child is being neglected they can contact the NSPCC Helpline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0808 800 5000, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Google and Sex Traffickers Like Backpage.com
by Nicholas Kristof
Sex traffickers in America have the police and prosecutors pursuing them, but they do have one crucial (if secret) ally: Google.
Google's motto has long been “Don't be evil,” and I admire lots about the company. But organizations it funds have for years been quietly helping Backpage.com, the odious website where most American victims of human trafficking are sold, to battle lawsuits from children sold there for sex.
Now Google is using its enormous lobbying power in Washington to try to kill bipartisan legislation that would crack down on websites that promote sex trafficking.
“I wanted to bring to your attention an issue that is picking up steam in the Senate and the House,” a Google lobbyist, E. Stewart Jeffries, wrote in a letter to congressional offices last month. He urged House members not to co-sponsor the legislation targeting sex trafficking.
It's not that Google is taking ads from Backpage (it doesn't) or giving it money. But as Backpage fights off prosecutors and worries about the legislation, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, Google has emerged as its behind-the-scenes champion.
Why? Why would Google ally itself with Backpage, which is involved in 73 percent of cases of suspected child sex trafficking in the U.S., which advertised a 13-year-old whose pimp had tattooed his name on her eyelids?
The answer has to do with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects internet companies like Google (and The New York Times) from lawsuits — and also protects Backpage. Google seems to have a vague, poorly grounded fear that closing the loophole would open the way to frivolous lawsuits and investigations and lead to a slippery slope that will damage its interests and the freedom of the internet.
That impresses few people outside the tech community, for the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act was crafted exceedingly narrowly to target only those intentionally engaged in trafficking children. Some tech companies, including Oracle, have endorsed the bill.
“This bill only impacts bad-actor websites,” notes Yiota Souras, general counsel at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “You don't inadvertently traffic a child.”
Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican and lead sponsor of the legislation, says that it would clearly never affect Google. “We've tried to work with them,” Portman told me.
Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the lead Democratic sponsor, adds that “it's truly baffling and perplexing” that some in the tech world (Google above all) have dug in their heels. He says the sex trafficking bill gathered 28 co-sponsors within a week, making it a rare piece of bipartisan legislation that seems likely to become law.
I write about this issue because I'm haunted by the kids I've met who were pretty much enslaved, right here in the U.S. in the 21st century. I've been writing about Backpage for more than five years, ever since I came across a terrified 13-year-old girl, Baby Face, who had been forced to work for a pimp in New York City.
Baby Face said that when she balked, the pimp threw her down a stairway. Finally, one day she was hurting badly and could not bear to be raped any more. So when her pimp sold her on Backpage in Brooklyn and waited outside the building, Baby Face pounded on the door of another apartment, begged to use the phone and called her mom. The police rescued her and the pimp went to prison.
But it's not enough to send a few pimps to prison; we should also go after online marketplaces like Backpage. That's why Google's myopia is so sad.
The Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act won't end trafficking any more than laws end bank robbery, but 50 attorneys general around the country have signed a letter saying that this kind of legislation would help — an astonishing unanimity.
In response to my inquiries, Google issued a statement: “Backpage acted criminally to facilitate child sex trafficking, and we strongly urge the Department of Justice to prosecute them for their egregious crimes against children. … Google will continue to work alongside Congress, antitrafficking organizations and other technology companies to combat sex trafficking.”
Fine, but then why oppose legislation? Why use intermediaries to defend Backpage? To me, all this reflects the tech world's moral blindness about what's happening outside its bubble.
Even if Google were right that ending the immunity for Backpage might lead to an occasional frivolous lawsuit, life requires some balancing.
For example, websites must try to remove copyrighted material if it's posted on their sites. That's a constraint on internet freedom that makes sense, and it hasn't proved a slippery slope. If we're willing to protect copyrights, shouldn't we do as much to protect children sold for sex?
I asked Nacole, a mom in Washington State whose daughter was trafficked on Backpage at the age of 15, what she would say to Google.
“Our children can't be the cost of doing business,” she said. Google understands so much about business, but apparently not that.
Internet has moved sex trade, including children, from combat zones to hotels
by Gerry Tuoti
A state law that went into effect in 2012 has given authorities greater ability to target pimps, including prosecuting them as human traffickers. Anyone convicted of trafficking a child under the age of 18 can be convicted to life in prison.
For people looking to buy and sell sex, standing on street corners and cruising red light districts are largely a thing of the past, as the illicit sex trade has moved into the digital world over the past decade.
“Boston doesn't think we have an issue,” said Audrey Morrissey, a former sex trafficking victim who sold her body in Boston's notorious “Combat Zone” district in the 1980s. “People who were around in the Combat Zone era think it's been cleaned up. They say we don't have a problem because we don't see it.”
Adult classified websites are filled with ads selling sex, often thinly disguised as massage or “bodyworks” services. Others use coded language to advertise sex in posts masquerading as personal ads. On certain message board sites, men hide behind the anonymity of the Internet to share information about sex ads, escorts and massage parlors that offer illegal sex acts. They review sex workers in explicit detail, and share tips on when to call, who to ask for and how to avoid police.
“People can literally go on their computer throughout the day and buy sex on their way home from work or downtown at lunch,” said Attorney General Maura Healey. “It's lawyers, doctors, accountants, guys who are going home this afternoon to a wife and three kids and who will be coaching tee ball on Saturday with 4-year-olds.”
In many cases, a pimp is behind online sex ads, authorities say. A state law that went into effect in 2012 has given authorities greater ability to target pimps, including prosecuting them as human traffickers. Anyone convicted of trafficking a child under the age of 18 can be convicted to life in prison.
Cambridge-based Demand Abolition estimates that 20,000 sex ads are posted online every month in Greater Boston, with the average ad receiving 52 responses. There are more than 9,000 online searches for sex buying opportunities in the Boston area each day.
“The Internet has made it so easy for buyers who maybe years ago wouldn't have had the nerve to visit the old Combat Zone or gone to the back of the Yellow Pages for an escort service,” said Lt. Detective Donna Gavin, head of the Boston Police Department's Crimes Against Children and Human Trafficking Unit. “With just a click of a mouse or on an iPhone, you can pull up a menu and make a date.”
While the volume of online ads is overwhelming, and many are carefully worded to avoid explicitly stating that they are offering sex in exchange for money, police do occasionally arrest would-be johns in sting operations involving phony sex ads and undercover officers.
The attorney general's office has joined the National Johns Suppression Initiative, a series of annual stings aimed at reducing the demand for buying sex. Police in Barnstable, Cambridge, Northampton and Springfield partnered with the state police in a series of stings this spring. Departments in Massachusetts have periodically caught suspected johns by posting decoy sex advertisements online and posing undercover female officers as escorts in hotel rooms.
To increase the effectiveness of stings, police departments in multiple communities should coordinate their efforts, said Detective Sgt. Louis Cherubino, commander of The Cambridge Police Department's Special Investigations Unit.
“The more that we do of these sting operations and the more of a rapport we have with the hotel industry, that's going to prevent a lot of people from being able to do it around here,” he said. “When Boston does an operation, we found a number of individuals coming over to Cambridge thinking Boston is hot. When there's a collaboration between Boston and Cambridge, we find we can eliminate that overflow.”
Some police departments, such as Cambridge, have worked directly with hotels to teach staff how to recognize signs of potential sex trafficking and report suspicious cases to law enforcement. Many pimps use hotel rooms to set up paid sexual encounters. Some victim advocates say they want to see such education efforts become more widespread.
While sting operations have caught suspected johns, investigators have also subpoenaed computer records and engaged in surveillance operations to assemble cases against suspected traffickers.
Healey, whose office has a dedicated human trafficking unit, said investigations are often times consuming and complex. More resources, she said, would be helpful in combatting the issue.
In addition to expanding the reach of the illegal sex trade, the Internet has increasingly pushed it into the suburbs.
“Really what it's done is pushed it to being hidden. You no longer have the red light district and women hanging out on the street, but you have the same problem that's now pushed online and hidden,” said Stephanie Clark, executive director of Amirah, an organization that runs a safe home on the North Shore for victims of the commercial sex trade. “The general population thinks this really isn't a problem anymore, but the reality is if you walk into any hotel anywhere in New England, this is happening.”
Lisa Goldblatt Grace, executive director of My Life My Choice, a Boston-based organization that provides services to young women who've been victimized by the commercial sex trade, said the Internet has also opened new pathways for traffickers to lure and recruit girls and women into the sex industry.
“The internet has made it much easier for exploiters to meet kids in communities where they might not otherwise walk through the area,” Goldblatt Grace said.
By increasingly moving into hotels and apartments, a whole new set of safety issues arises, according to victim advocates.
Morrissey, who is now associate director of My Life My Choice, recalled that back when she worked the streets, a woman who took a john into an alleyway could yell out if she was physically threatened.
“Now they're put in hotel rooms, where they can be raped or robbed,” she said. “They're not going to the front desk saying, ‘I'm turning tricks in Room 302 and this guy just robbed me or raped me.'”
Goldblatt Grace agrees that the Internet has made the sex industry more accessible and less visible.
“When girls were on the streets exclusively, you knew where they were. The community could see those kids and say, ‘We have a problem with this,'” she said. “Now it's moved indoors. Can you imagine anything more dangerous than being a 14-year-old girl alone in a hotel room with a steady stream of men?”