Man charged with chasing daughter 6, while wearing clown mask
BOARDMAN, Ohio -- An Ohio man has been charged after chasing his 6-year-old daughter around a neighborhood while wearing a clown mask, and another man is charged for firing a gun.
Boardman police say the girl first jumped into a stranger's car, then ran into a stranger's apartment while screaming that a clown was chasing her Saturday night, reports CBS Youngstown, Ohio affiliate WKBN-TV .
Police say a man in the apartment building came outside and fired a gunshot into the ground.
The father, identified as Vernon Barrett Jr., told police he chased his daughter to discipline her for behavioral issues, rather than spanking her. He's been charged with child endangering and inducing panic.
Barrett claimed the girl's mother is serving jail time for child endangerment after being convicted of breaking four of the girl's ribs, WKBN says, citing police.
Barrett said he opted for frightening his daughter instead of spanking her because of what her mother had done, the station adds.
Police say the man who fired the gunshot has been charged with using weapons while intoxicated.
Local child sex abuse cases rising
by Greg Mason
UTICA — Most of the 702 investigations the Oneida County Child Advocacy Center conducted last year involved child sex abuse.
That number also includes computer forensics investigations, but not cases involving serious physical abuse, said Oneida County Deputy Sheriff Joseph Lisi, the center's director.
This year's number, nevertheless, is expected to be even higher, Lisi said.
There have been 534 such cases this year to date the center has investigated, Lisi said. The anticipated increase would mark another uptick for Oneida County, he said. There were 694 cases investigated in 2015.
Rather than citing the increase as a reflection on the community, Lisi said he believes more people have become aware of where they can report possible cases. Child Advocacy Center data from earlier years was not available.
“I don't think it has anything to do with the community changing,” he said. “A lot of these cases were out in the community. Now people are recognizing them more and reporting them.”
According to data from the state Office of Child and Family Services, there were 857 calls in 2016 for child protective services that had indicated findings in Oneida County.
Oneida County recorded the eighth highest number of such reports among all others in the state, not counting New York City, though the number is down slightly from 876 and 882 in 2015 and 2014, respectively. Data for this year was not available.
Lucille Soldato, commissioner of the county Department of Social Services, was not available for comment.
Among all of the contributing police agencies along with onsite access to counseling and medical services, Lisi said the Child Advocacy Center is unique in that it's something like a one-stop shop for protective services.
As such, most police agencies in Oneida County refer their child abuse cases to the center, Lisi said. This year, the advocacy center has carried out 60 arrests to date.
Lisi said one of the challenges has been dealing with a prevalent growth in cases involving cellphones.
To combat this, the Child Advocacy uses a computer forensic unit, though Lisi said there can be time-consuming challenges in identifying the senders of the illicit messages, acquiring search warrants and obtaining the phones. The unit also is trained to monitor internet activity for child sex trafficking. The Child Advocacy Center participates in the Safe Harbour: NY, a program targeted at stemming sexual exploitation and trafficking of children.
“Parents have to understand and children have to understand that once they take a picture, it's out there,” he said. “And once it's out there, anybody can get their hands on it. And that's a huge problem for us.”
Sometime in the future, Lisi said the Child Care Advocacy Center will get funding to add a forensic investigator and recording equipment for victim interviews thanks to a $186,000 grant through the state Office of Victims Services.
Alarming rise in reports of child neglect in Leicestershire
NSPCC said number of reports was up 50 per cent last year
by Nicholas Dawson
An alarming rise in reports of child neglect in Leicestershire has emerged.
Concerned neighbours and family members are making record numbers of calls to the NSPCC helpline.
A shocking four reports a week of child neglect are referred to the police and social services in the Leicestershire County Council area, the child protection charity said.
Its referrals to police and social services in Leicester currently stand at one every five days – which the charity describes as a “significant rise”.
In 2016/17, the NSPCC Helpline dealt with 200 reports in Leicestershire following calls or e-mails from concerned adults – the highest number the charity has ever had to handle for the local authority area (not including the city) and up 50 per cent on the previous year.
A spokesman said: “There were a further 24 contacts where advice was provided about a child possibly facing neglect in Leicestershire during 2016/17 – up from 17 in the previous year.
“Neglect happens when a child's needs aren't met and is down to several reasons. They range from parents not having the skills, support or funds, to having mental health issues.
“A growing number of people contacting the helpline also described parents as having a problem with alcohol and drugs, with some regularly leaving their children unsupervised so they could go drinking with friends.”
The helpline dealt with 77 reports about children living in Leicester – up from 48 in 2011/12 – and handled a further 12 calls or e-mails where advice was offered.
Latest figures on neglect cases have been revealed in the NSPCC's state of the nation report, How Safe are our Children?
The charity said children's social care in England was facing “unprecedented pressures”, with more young people being taken into care and more families needing support.
Sandra McNair, head of service for the NSPCC in the Midlands, said: “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.
“Neglect 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.”
However, the NSPCC believes the full scale of the problem could be much greater and is urging the Government to commission a nationwide study measuring the extent of child neglect and abuse.
Ms McNair said: “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 Government commissioned, nationwide prevalence study on child abuse and neglect needs to be conducted, and sooner rather than later.”
Across the UK, the NSPCC Helpline made 16,882 referrals to children's services or the police in 2016/17 – equivalent to 46 a day.
The charity said child neglect was mentioned in more than a quarter of all UK calls to the helpline last year, and considers the rise to be an indication that more people are willing to speak up about the issue.
It said common signs to look out for include poor appearance and hygiene; being left alone for a long periods; untreated injuries, medical and dental issues; poor language, communication or social skills, and complaints of being hungry.
To report suspected child neglect call 0808 800 5000, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chabad leaders call for reporting child abuse to secular authorities
Rabbinic leaders of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement have signed a proclamation calling for the immediate reporting of child sexual abuse and other kinds of abuse to secular authorities.
“We recognize in light of past experiences that our communities could have responded in more responsible and sensitive ways to help victims and to hold perpetrators accountable,” reads the document released Monday.
The proclamation outlines policies that all Lubavitch institutions, including schools and synagogues, should adopt immediately. They include educating staff in identifying, responding and reporting sexual abuse, and teaching “body safety” to students. The document also states that members of communities must be made aware when a sex offender moves in to a community.
In addition to child sexual abuse and other forms of child abuse, the document includes domestic abuse, elder abuse and abuse of the disabled.
“The reporting of reasonable suspicions of all forms of child and adult abuse and neglect directly and immediately to the civil authorities is a requirement of Jewish law. There is no need to seek rabbinic approval prior to reporting,” according to the document.
In 2016, 300 Orthodox rabbis signed a proclamation urging those suspecting child sex abuse to notify secular authorities and calling on Jewish institutions to take preventative measures to prevent abuse. The signatories included members of the Orthodox Union, Rabbinical Council of America and Yeshiva University.
Members of Orthodox communities have traditionally hesitated to involve outside authorities because of injunctions against “mesirah,” or turning over a Jew to non-Jewish authorities, and publicly airing allegations against fellow Jews, especially communal leaders.
Abuse victims and their families in haredi Orthodox communities have been expelled from religious schools and synagogues, shunned by neighbors and targeted for harassment intended to destroy their businesses or offered bribes to drop their cases.
“Regardless of the standing of the abuser, accusers and their family, members must be treated in an accepting, nonjudgmental manner so that they feel safe and can therefore speak frankly and fully,” said the Chabad statement. “This is necessary for them to receive suitable therapeutic support, and in order to facilitate proper investigation and pursuit of justice. Shunning or encouraging social ostracism of victims, their families, or reporters is strictly forbidden.”
Among those signing the document are Rabbis Yehoram Ulman and Moshe Gutnick, senior dayanim, or judges, of the Sydney Beth Din, or rabbinical court, in Australia; Rabbi Yosef Feigelstock, senior dayan of the Beth Din, Argentina; Rabbi Baruch Hertz of Congregation Bnei Ruven and the Chabad community of Illinois; Rabbi Yisroel Rosenfeld, dean, Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh; Rabbi Yosef Shusterman, senior Dayan and director, Chabad of Beverly Hills, California; and Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick of the Melbourne Beth Din, Australia.
The document concludes: “Ultimately, it is the halachic and moral obligation of the entire Jewish community, individually and collectively, to do all in our power to safeguard both children and adults by preventing abuse and responding appropriately once instances of abuse have occurred.”
Dovid Nyer, a licensed clinical social worker and activist from New York, has coordinated the project.
Program aims to reduce child abuse, neglect
by Ashlie King
SAN ANTONIO — The City of San Antonio approved spending money on a pilot program aimed at reducing the amount of child abuse and neglects cases.
The two-year pilot programed will focus on the 78207 zip code, which the state said has the highest number of reports for child abuse in Bexar County.
“You can spot them right away because they're either quiet or they're very mean,” said Dolores Sotomayor. “They're just rebellious and it's just anger or hurt that they're carrying.”
Until two weeks ago, Sotomayor lived in the 78207 zip code. She has experienced firsthand the dangers of child abuse. A family member was convicted of sexually assaulting her 14-year-old daughter in 2011. Sotomayor said they discovered her daughter has been abused when she gave birth to a baby girl.
“It was very difficult, but I had a large support team,” Sotomayor said.
"I believe that making children a priority will be better for the whole city," said City Council District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales.
Gonzales pushed for the city to invest $260,000 on the two-year child abuse prevention pilot program.
"It involves a promotora program where we will be training community health workers to go out into the neighborhoods and try to address this issue one-on-one,” Gonzales said.
The program will begin when the new budget starts in October.
Physical child abuse cases skyrocket in Davidson County
by Mallory Lane
LEXINGTON, N.C. — The Davidson County Social Services Department said in the past month, the number of physical abuse cases they've received have quadrupled.
Katrina McMasters, Davidson County Child Protective Services Program Administrator, said there is a wide variety of child abuse cases that come through the Department of Social Services' doors, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse, as well as neglect cases.
Right now, there are 180 kids in foster care in Davidson County. In August, DSS received 243 reports of abuse. McMasters said about half of them were screened for assessment.
Sometimes children go through the system multiple times. McMasters said they're not allowed to follow up with families after their case is closed, unless a new report is made.
“Often, we have families who the social worker has established a relationship and they will just kind of make sure that they know if that family is doing well. If they see them in the grocery store, they may stop and have a conversation or something like that, but unfortunately, the way the system is set up, there is not an opportunity to have just scheduled follow up once we've closed a case,” McMasters said.
If cases go through a children's advocacy center, like The Dragonfly House, those children receive help for as long as they need.
“From the day they walk in our door, until the day they don't need us anymore. That may be three months from now, that may be three years from now, it may be even longer. We follow them for the entire life of that case,” Brandi Reagan, Executive Director of the Dragonfly House, said.
The Dragonfly House seems more child sexual abuse cases than physical abuse cases, but physical abuse cases are more common.
Philippe Barbarin: French cardinal to face trial for not reporting child abuse
by Will Worley
A senior French cardinal, Philippe Barbarin, is to be tried for not reporting historical child abuse, according to reports.
The clergyman, who is also the Archbishop of Lyon, was once tipped as a successor to Pope Francis.
But he and six other priests have been ordered to appear in court for allegedly not reporting abuse said to be committed by another clergyman, Bernard Preynat, in the 1980s.
Mr Preynat was dismissed in 2015 and prosecutors say he has admitted charges of child abuse.
His alleged victims have now accused Father Barbarin and others of not reporting the crimes to the authorities.
If follows the refusal of a French prosecutor to put him on trial for the alleged offence last year.
Father Barbarin, who has denied the claims, is the most senior priest to be implicated in the scandal.
The lawyer for the victims, Nadia Debbache, said the scandal goes beyond the accused priests.
"Everyone at his level has participated, including within the Vatican," she said.
The trial will take place next April.
Over 121,000 Investigated Cases of Child Abuse and Neglect in North Carolina
by PR Newswire
GREENSBORO, N.C., Sept. 19, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Early data shows there were over 121,000 investigated cases of child abuse and neglect in North Carolina during fiscal year July 2016 - June 2017, according to Children's Home Society of NC.
"The high number of children impacted by neglect or abuse indicates too many families are struggling and under severe stress," said Rebecca Starnes, Vice President of Children's Home Society of North Carolina. "Abuse and neglect can be the product of a number of issues facing families, including poverty, working multiple jobs to make ends meet, high levels of stress, unrealistic expectations of children, mental health challenges, or substance abuse."
State law requires individuals or institutions suspecting child abuse or neglect to report cases to the Division of Social Services (DSS) for investigation (G.S. 7B-301).
"DSS is an advocate and fail-safe for the more than 2.2 million children and their families in our state," said Starnes. "This vital service is provided by dedicated and hard working staff in all 100-counties across North Carolina."
DSS staff investigates and assesses all suspected cases of child abuse and neglect; diagnoses the problem with the family; provides in-home services to help keep families together; coordinates community and agency services; or, petitions the court for removal of the child from the home, if necessary.
Nearly 70-percent of the abuse and neglect cases were reported by educational personnel, medical personnel, law courts, and human services. Approximately 30-percent were referred by relatives, non-relatives, parents, or care providers. Child victims reported fewer than one-percent of the cases.
"There are different reasons for and levels of abuse and neglect," said Starnes. "The hopeful news is that families have support. Parents can learn about their children's needs and learn new, better ways to react. Parents can change their behavior, and even if they've had problems or challenges in the past, the majority can provide a safe, loving, and permanent home for their child."
Following the investigation of cases in 2016-17, around 45-percent of the findings indicated that services were needed, recommended, or have been provided. Services were not recommended for 40-percent of the cases, and about 16-percent were determined to be unsubstantiated.
"Depending on the specific needs of children and families," said Starnes, "Children's Home Society and other organizations partner with DSS and provide a variety of options including intensive family preservation services (support and education in the home), family education programs, foster care, and adoption services."
Demographically, the male-female ratio of cases was virtually even at 51 to 49-percent. Almost 40-percent of the children were ages 0 to 5, with 39-percent ages 6 to 12. Roughly 20-percent of the children were ages 13-17.
"Most of our abuse and neglect cases require intensive family preservation services," said Starnes. "Teaming with DSS, our specialists work with the child and family daily, providing the education and resources they need to understand and overcome their problems and develop healthier family relationships."
"The success rate of the intensive family preservation program is remarkable," said Starnes. "Over 95-percent of the families completed the program. Six months following completion, 98-percent of the children are still in the home in a situation deemed safe by DSS."
According to Starnes, abuse and neglect impacts rural and urban areas, crosses all socio-economic lines and includes every race.
Approximately 51-percent of the investigated cases last year were Caucasian. African-Americans made up the second largest segment with about 36-percent, followed by Hispanic at around 11-percent. All other races combined, including American Indian and Alaskan, were roughly 13-percent of the cases.
"Partnerships with the staff of DSS are critical to achieve success for the child. One organization could not do the work alone," said Starnes. "We all want children to be in safe, loving, and permanent families, and we're working together to do what we can to help make that happen."
Children's Home Society of North Carolina helps support more than 20,000 children and families annually through a diverse array of services including adoption, foster care, parenting education, teen pregnancy prevention, and family preservation programs.
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Children's Home Society of North Carolina
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S.C. is neglecting its children
by Phil Noble
Suppose you had a neighbor next door who did not adequately feed their children or give them adequate health care, reasonable family support or the economic support needed to have a decent life.
Suppose your neighbor did this year after year. Suppose you regularly showed them how they were not measuring up and there were resources available to them to do better.
Now suppose that from time to time your neighbor did a few things to make the situation a little better but sometimes things got worse. And suppose that in 27 years things only got a tiny bit better. The kids were still worse off than more than 80 percent of the other kids in the neighborhood.
Would you call this systematic child abuse? Well, thus is the status of children in South Carolina.
For the last 27 years, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has been issuing its authoritative Kids Count Report (KidsCount.org) that measures the wellbeing of kids in all 50 states on a wide variety of indexes. They crunch hundreds of thousands of data points that give a clear picture of what's happening.
The good news is South Carolina is at an all-time high. The bad news is we are ranked 41st of the 50 states.
When you dig a little deeper, the news is bad, as South Carolina is not really getting better. Essentially, the rest of the states are getting worse. The summary numbers for the last five years tell a depressing story.
Economic wellbeing: South Carolina ranks 37th. We are worse in the number of children in poverty (289,000), increasing from 22 to 27 percent. For children whose parents lack secure employment (356,000) we are worse, going from 30 to 33 percent.
For children living in households with a high housing cost burden (346,000), the numbers have increased from 31 to 32 percent. And for teens not in school or working (19,00), we have improved fractionally from 8 to 7 percent.
Education: South Carolina ranks 43rd. We are worse in the number of young children not in school (70,000), as it's up from 50 to 56 percent. The number of fourth-graders who are not proficient in reading has improved from 74 to 67 percent.
Eighth-graders not proficient in math has gone up from 68 to 74 percent. High school students not graduating on time has dropped from 38 to 26 percent.
Health: South Carolina ranks 37th. The number of low birth weight babies (5,435) has dropped from 9.9 to 9.4 percent. The number of children without health insurance (60,000) is down from 13 to 6 percent.
The number of child and teen deaths per 100,000 (357) has improved from 35 to 31. The number of teens who abuse alcohol or drugs (18,000) is down from 7 to 5 percent.
Family and community: South Carolina ranks 42nd. Children living in single parent families (432,000) has gotten worse from 39 to 43 percent. The number of children living in families where the head of the household lacks a high school diploma (152,000) is unchanged at 14 percent.
Children living in high-poverty areas (1,667,000) is worse, going from 12 to 15 percent. And teen births per 1,000 (4,297) have improved substantially from 51 to 28.
In the category of actual cases of confirmed child abuse and neglect, we are a lot worse. In 2011, there were 6,803 cases. In 2015, this number had risen to 10,173, a whopping 66.8 percent increase.
What does this blizzard of statistics mean? It means, yes, we are systematically abusing our children in South Carolina.
If you talk to the politicians at the Statehouse, they will give you all sorts of excuses and explain to you why this is so — and none of it matters. The Statehouse crowd have become skilled and practiced apologists for failure, about this and so many other vital issues.
John Kennedy said it best: “Our problems are man-made; therefore, they may be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.”
The systematic child abuse in our state is unforgivable. It does not have to be this way. We can do better. We deserve better.
How big do we want to be in South Carolina?
Phil Noble runs a technology firm in Charleston and writes a weekly column for the S.C. Press Association. Contact him at email@example.com .
'The said my 7-yr-old was sexually active': What survivors of child sexual abuse face in courts
Insensitive interrogation, refusal of courts to follow rules, and overworked judges are failing child sexual abuse survivors.
by Geetika Mantri and Monalisa Das
Anjana*, at first glance, comes across as any other 54-year-old woman. She speaks softly and is easy to talk to. But ask about her daughter, Akanksha*, and the single mother is somewhat guarded. Her memory is a little foggy, and she blames it on the trauma the past couple of years have inflicted on her and her family.
In 2012, Akanksha, then 7, told Anjana that a plumber in her school in Bengaluru sexually assaulted her. As if this wasn't shattering enough, the trial in the case, that started recently, has left the mother and the daughter traumatised. Anjana was questioned for over five hours, and Akanksha had to come face to face with her alleged assaulter more than once, during the trial.
Akanksha's case is just one instance illustrating the fact that, while for the media and the general public, child sexual abuse cases end with the arrest of the perpetrator, the real battle for the survivors and their families only begins at that point. In many cases, the trauma of the trial is as serious as that of the assault.
"It was horrible," Anjana says, "Everything was fine when the public prosecutor examined me. He asked questions about what happened and where. But when the defence began examining me, he asked nothing about the case!"
Anjana's voice cracks and after composing herself, she continues, "I live with my aunt and uncle. He (defense) asked me about my uncle, who is in his late seventies. He kept saying that he sexually assaulted Akanksha. Then he said that my uncle's younger son had done it. I told him he had moved to the US when the incident happened, but the [defence] lawyer didn't listen. He was hell bent on proving that it didn't happen at the school… And then he said that Akanksha is a very sexually active child."
The defence kept repeating that Akanksha was sexually active, implying that the sexual assault was a voluntary sexual act on her part.
"I told him she is not like that. He kept saying that she is. The way he questioned me was as if to make me hurt enough to just walk out from there and withdraw the case. Which mother will want to hear something like this about her child? She was seven at the time! And he was her grandfather's age!" Anjana says.
Five hours later, when Anjana emerged from the courtroom, she was in tears. To her shock, she saw Akanksha, who had been waiting for her mother outside, also weeping and being violently sick – a reaction she has had every time she has had to come face to face with the accused. Akanksha came to associate a "rotten egg smell" with the incident, which triggered her to vomit each time she saw him.
"The first time Akanksha saw him (the accused) after the assault was at the police station where she had to identify him. She saw him and just started vomiting, saying 'rotten eggs smell, rotten egg smell!' The same thing happened when I was questioned. She must have seen him while waiting outside," Anjana narrates.
The trial is still ongoing, and the defence lawyer wants to examine Akanksha separately, in the absence of Anjana or the representative of the NGO which is assisting her. While the hearing was supposed to take place in June, the date keeps getting deferred because neither Anjana, nor her lawyer will allow for Akanksha to be questioned alone.
Akanksha's case predates the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. However, the traumatic court trials which she and her mother experienced aren't limited to pre-POCSO cases.
Scores of child sexual abuse survivors and families - especially mothers - have horrifying stories about being made to feel like criminals, when the law should actually be protecting them.
Has POCSO helped make trials more child-friendly?
When senior human rights advocate BT Venkatesh started his practice in 1986, sexual abuse survivors used to be examined in open court halls where they were asked to disclose details of how and when the assault took place, unless 'in-camera' proceedings were specifically sought for. This experience usually left them tormented.
"At that point, there was a long felt need to bring in a law that would address child sexual abuse cases," says Venkatesh, who has also served as State Public Prosecutor in the High Court of Karnataka and is presently handling a number of POCSO cases.
Venkatesh blames a "culture of denial" which prevents Indians from acknowledging that children in their country are being sexually abused.
However, that changed when CSA was being talked about globally, and India too became a signatory of international conventions meant to tackle it.
While he agrees that POCSO has certain grey areas, he calls it a "good" Act overall.
"For the first time it recognises CSA, it makes the punishment more stringent and the procedure child-friendly. That the law is not being followed in letter and spirit is another aspect," he states.
Ashok GV, a Bengaluru-based advocate with Factum Law who has also assisted prosecution in CSA cases, says that POCSO coming into effect has had little effect on ensuring that trials are conducted in a child-friendly manner.
Before POCSO, judgments (most importantly Sakshi vs. Union of India and Virender vs The State Of Nct Of Delhi, 2009) and amendments to Acts (such as the Indian Evidence Act, 1872) came in.
These, Ashok points out, already laid down all the instructions currently under POCSO before POCSO itself came into the picture.
"What POCSO did was to summarise and consolidate the court orders in the form of a legislation. It wasn't saying anything new in that sense," Ashok says.
Lawyers and activists both argue that the problem isn't POCSO, or if a case is pre- or post-POCSO, but implementation. The issue consists of two major hurdles: infrastructure of the court, and the sensitivity of the presiding officers or judges.
Ashok argues that while Bengaluru recently inaugurated child-friendly courts, many cases regular courts have to double up as special courts under the Act. This creates a problem for the overworked and understaffed judiciary.
"If a judge has 100 cases in a day, he will have to act as a normal judge in 90 cases and, in 10 POCSO cases he has to become a special judge," he says.
Venkatesh too found judges facing this problem in the POCSO training session he was part of. A sessions court judge once told Venkatesh he was a "very special judge".
"All special cases are sent to my court. Be it POCSO, NDPS Act, women's cases or rape cases. So, for everything that is considered a special case, I am the judge," he laughed.
The judge went on to say that he handled so many different cases throughout the day, that he found it extremely tough to change his mindset to suit every case. "It is difficult to constantly switch on and switch off. I falter. It happens, I am human," the judge rued.
Images courtesy: Tulir
Another major problem arises from the manner of questioning itself. For one, under the POCSO as well as Sakshi judgment guidelines, the child cannot be directly examined. The questions must be submitted by the defense counsel to the judge, who would ask the questions to the CSA survivor. The guidelines also mandate that the child's mother or anyone that he/she otherwise trusts has the right to be in the courtroom with them. But these rules are often not followed.
Ashok says there is no mechanism to incentivise or de-incentivise judges for compliance and non-compliance respectively, and neither does it affect their career.
"Only private sector and NGOs evaluate performance of the judges within their own capacity. Within the judiciary, little effort is being made to come up with a scorecard for judges in these matters," he argues.
"Look at it from the other side too - just because a judge is conducting POCSO-compliant trials, it doesn't necessarily mean that his/her career as a judge will progress upwards. What is happening to judges who are doing their jobs properly is what is happening to judges who are not doing their jobs properly," Ashok adds.
The key to a child-friendly trial therefore, he asserts, isn't POCSO itself, but nuanced judicial reforms.
Vidya Reddy of Tulir, an NGO which works on prevention and healing child sexual abuse, believes that it is not the procedures but the people in the system who matter.
"It all depends on the peopling of the system. If you have a very aware and sensible judge or public prosecutor, and you have the worst possible procedures, you can still do a brilliant job. But if you have a judge who sees a POCSO case just like any other case, the best of procedures will not make a difference," she says.
Vidya's argument is demonstrated by a 1996 survey conducted by a Delhi-based NGO Sakshi, to analyse the attitude of Indian judges towards women survivors of violence.
90% of judges said they would not opt for legal redress in the case a female family member was a survivor of violence. 74% said women should be primarily concerned about the family's preservation even if they were facing violence and 68% said they thought "provocative" clothing was an invitation to assault.
"The best and the brightest hardly go into trial practice," Vidya says.
Victimisation of the mother
In July this year, Pascal Mazurier, a French diplomat, was acquitted by a Bengaluru court of sexually abusing his daughter. If one goes through the judgment copy of the case, it's not difficult to smell the stench of misogyny that runs through it.
The defence's strategy was mostly, if not limited to, focused on trying to prove that Suja Jones, Pascal's wife, was a "bad mother" of "immoral" character.
The character assassination attempt advocated that Suja partied with "male and female" friends, took private pictures and that she left her children behind with her husband when she went out.
At one point, it reads, "If at all she being a dutiful mother she ought not to have left the home by leaving the responsibility of the children on her husband for shopping."
On a sunny July afternoon, Suja meets us in a café in Bengaluru. She is dressed smartly, her hair up in a messy bun. She smiles as we take our seats. Her ordeal through the character assassination by the court, while harrowing, does not seem to have weakened her conviction to fight for her daughter.
She believes that Pascal played his white male privilege cleverly and this simultaneously worked against her.
During the initial questioning, Suja says, investigating officers would allegedly ask if she had sex with her husband before marriage, among other things. "They asked me how many lovers I had, and how many times I had lied to my husband to go meet them. They asked me these questions just to make me feel bad."
When she later asked an officer why Pascal wasn't questioned in a similar manner, he allegedly told her, "How can we question him? He is a guest of our country."
"It's disgusting," the mother of three says.
Several professionals on the way advised her to compromise. A psychologist told her that her husband and she weren't having enough sex, and a family court judge didn't want their family to break apart.
"When I reminded her that she was a judge, she told me 'I am a human being too. I don't want your children to suffer'," Suja recollects with disgust.
One of the first questions that she was asked during the trial was how many children she had.
"They asked me the year of birth and whether I had a caesarean. When I said yes, the defence lawyer told me that I had put my three children in danger by getting a C-Section (and not a normal delivery)," she says.
If it was Anjana's daughter's character that the defense went after, in this case, it was Suja's 'morality' which was targeted. What they endured in court, while disturbing, is not far from the norm.
"This (line of questioning) particularly comes to fore if it is a case of incest. If the child is too young, they'll say that the mother's character is not good or that she has cooked up the incident for whatever reason. If the child is slightly older, say above 14 years, then too we have seen cases where they'll say that the child had relationships with many boys in the past and the father didn't like it," says Swagata Raha, a consultant with the Centre for Child an the Law, NLSIU, Bengaluru.
Vidya Reddy, however, is of the opinion that it is the judges who are to be blamed and not defence lawyers when it comes to intimidation of survivors or their families in court.
"We have an adversarial system of justice in India and it is the job of a defence lawyer to behave the way they do. I think it is wrong to fault a defence lawyer for being nasty. I would entirely fault the judge if she/he allows the nastiness to continue. The judge can make sure that the questions are pertinent, focused and not all over the place," she says.
"We've had defence lawyers who have come and apologised to our child witnesses. Who said, 'I am sorry but that was my job in the court'," she adds.
A large part of the problem, Vidya points out, stems from our discomfort to discuss anything to do with sexuality, and more so with sexual violence.
Vidya talks about NGO workers who cannot get themselves to say sexual abuse loudly. She has also seen doctors break down in court when asked questions related to sex or sexual assault.
During a trial, a woman forensic expert presenting evidence was asked by the defence, "Do you know what a penis looks like?"
When she replied in the affirmative, Vidya narrates, "He now looks at her and asks, 'Are you married?' and she says 'No'. And he says 'Oh! Then how do you know how a penis looks like?' She should have said that I am doctor and I should know how the human anatomy looks like. But instead she started crying and ran out of court."
Another challenge that courts often face, Swagata points out, is when dealing with cases involving children above 14 years who get into consensual physical relationships. The POCSO Act does not recognise any form of consent by children in sexual relations.
Understanding how a child describes sexual abuse
Suja Jones talks about how her daughter Amy* used to tell her about the alleged abuse when she was as young as two.
"She would cry when she had to go to him (Pascal). She wanted to sleep with me. She would say some things but I was carrying my third child at the time and the pregnancy had made my mind a little cloudy," Suja says.
But by the time Amy was about three and a half years old, Suja says that Amy's words were a lot clearer. Her language, while limited, was strongly indicative.
"She used to say that it hurts when she peed and pooped because 'papa' hurt her. I took it more seriously then," Suja says.
She consulted with a few doctors and psychologists who examined Amy, and filed a complaint against Pascal in 2012, just a few weeks before POCSO came into effect. She plans to appeal in the High Court against the Bengaluru court order.
Children, especially younger ones, may not know what sexual abuse is. In June, a Delhi court relied on a sketch made by a child for convicting the man who sexually assaulted her.
While there are concerns about the judge convicting the man without consulting with mental health professionals who could expertly interpret the child's visual, the judge's admission of the sketch was an act of acknowledging a child's way of communication.
Swagata says that it's imperative for judges to understand that children do not communicate the same way as adults.
"Children have their own vocabulary of communicating which is very different from that of an adult. So how they communicate and how you interpret it is very critical to the entire case," she says.
In other cases, some children may not have the vocabulary or capacity to describe or remember minute details of the assault.
Tarini* was 14 when a man from her village in rural Karnataka allegedly sexually assaulted her in 2013. Intellectually disabled since she was about three years old, she has the mental capability of a child of the same age. That she also suffers from memory issues was submitted to the court by a mental health professional.
The complaint was filed by her mother Hema* a few days after the assault and the trial is ongoing. Despite her mental condition, when Tarini was cross-examined, she was asked very technical questions about the assault, and about her surroundings, including how many goats she had then, how many they had three years ago, the names of temples in her village and so on.
She was also asked leading questions like, "You did not know any temple?" and "You have not seen the accused before?", which could have been confusing to a child.
Ashok says that the defense counsel is entitled by law to probe the veracity of the witness' claims to the last possible mile. "It's just that when there is a clear measure prescribed in the law as to how it's supposed to be done (keeping the child's sensitivity in mind), why is it not being followed?" he questions.
It does not help CSA survivors' case that in a society where anything remotely about sex is hushed up, and that children are not taught to use proper words for their sexual organs.
Several reports suggest that social workers make it a point to familiarise children with correct names of anatomical parts like 'penis' and 'vagina', rather than using euphemisms.
The advantage of doing so is manifold. Not only does it boost body positivity and self-confidence among children, and make them comfortable with their bodies, but also provides them with the right vocabulary when it comes to describing sexual abuse.
Citing the Delhi court's move, Swagata adds that this kind of understanding is not across the board and that it has to be more systematic. The lack of this understanding, coupled with the fact that POCSO is ambiguous regarding the cognisability of offences, works against CSA survivors.
"It does not make a statement whether all offences are cognizable (arrest without a warrant) or non-cognizable. Depending on the quantum of punishment we have go to Schedule II of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC)," says Venkatesh.
According to the CrPC, in cases where there is no reference to cognizability in a particular law, an offence punishable with less than three years is non-cognizable. This puts POCSO cases in a peculiar situation because in POCSO cases, it often happens that full disclosure of the crime is not made in the first complaint itself.
"In many cases, the child will say the accused used to treat me badly. So, when the statement is made before the police, it is made as harassment or assault. Then when the enquiry is made, the child says the accused did 'bad' things to him/her, which is penetrative sexual assault. But this would not have been registered in the case at all in the first instance. So, the accused could have been booked under a less serious section and could have been let off after signing a bond," he says.
However, a redeeming point of POCSO for CSA survivors remains that while an accused is to be treated innocent until proven guilty, here, there operates a presumption that the accused intended to commit the crime.
Justice delayed is justice denied
In June, Hema, Tarini's mother, had traveled to Bengaluru with her husband for an event where she thought she would be allowed to meet Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. After waiting in a room full of people the entire afternoon, she gives us a call and says that she can speak to us, because the CM did not meet her and she has some time before she has to catch the bus back home.
She talks about her family's ordeal in a resigned manner. The frequent back and forth between the city and their home for court hearings, getting counselling for herself and Tarini, and the inability to forget how the alleged crime tore their family from all other hopes and dreams they had. The financial burden also shows no sign of easing in the near future either.
"We had just bought a few goats before it happened," Hema says softly. "We were thinking of making our lives better, of getting help for Tarini… But now, I have no dreams. Every time I see Tarini's face, for the past two years, I have been reminded of the horrible thing he (the accused) did to her. I know that she hasn't forgotten it either."
She claims that they still haven't received the DNA report, and all the delays have just made their lives come to a standstill. "We aren't able to move on," Hema states.
Image courtesy: Tulir
The quest for justice is an uphill battle in India, and what makes it harder is the slow pace at which the justice system often works. Weeks turn into months and then years, and survivors and their families end up having to repeat their stories, leaving them unable to move forward.
Ashok says that while the Supreme Court had mandated in 2015 that the day a survivor or witness is being examined, the cross examination should be finished the same day, or on the next day at the latest. "But we routinely see adjournments of three months, six months or more in many cases. How can a trial continue unless these directions are followed?"
Another problem which ails speedy trials are the delays in obtaining DNA reports, and medical examiners overstepping their brief/
While medical reports generally come in a few weeks, they are often accompanied by an opinion by the medical examiner on whether the sexual assault happened. Ashok explains that the mandate for a medical examiner is two-fold. The first priority is the health and safety of the survivor, that is, a screening for unwanted pregnancy, STIs and so on. The second mandate is to note down the injuries on the survivor as they are.
"For instance, in cases of incest, the crime is reported, say, 18 months after the assault. The medical examiner will look for injuries, he/she won't find any because they would have healed. And then a report is issued saying sexual assault may not have occurred. This is very damaging to the prosecution and it is very illogical," he argues.
He also points out how in the south, there are two DNA laboratories in Hyderabad and Bengaluru respectively, which are overburdened with the reports for nearly the entire country. This often results in the reports coming anywhere from a few months to over a year into the case.
Survivors of child sexual abuse often want to move on with their lives, leaving the horrors of their past behind. But the lengthy justice system often snatches this choice away from them.
Shruti*, a 12-year- old who Venkatesh is representing in court, was sexually abused when she was four.
The trial is still going on and she does not want to pursue it any more.
"She is highly intelligent. And she asks why is she being made to revisit the incident again and again. I feel bad," the lawyer says.
He opines that in such cases "we must look at the greater good instead of putting the child through so much pain over and over again."
Kik Messenger Promised To Delete Child Abuse Profiles--I Just Found 10 In 2 Hours
by Thomas Fox-Brewster
In August, when Forbes reported it'd found nearly 20 profiles of charged or sentenced pedophiles on Kik Messenger, the hugely popular chat app's owners promised to do better and proactively remove accounts "for users who have been convicted of crimes related to child abuse."
Up until today, though, it's unclear what efforts $1 billion-valued Canadian firm went to in order to remove those profiles. With its 15 million monthly active users, 57% in the 13-24 age bracket, Kik had seemingly deleted just one user named in Forbes ' investigation. But subsequently, this publication gathered more than 25 active Kik profiles linked to horrific crimes against minors, many of whom have been convicted.
In just two hours, some simple Google searching on Thursday last week turned up 11 profiles police had linked to child abuse crimes. Searching the Department of Justice website via Google, with terms like "Kik" and "username," provided a quick way to find profiles of convicted child abuse crimes.
In one of the most horrific crimes Forbes reviewed, 26-year-old Jason Janatsch was operating the username TheLoverOfTheLittle to send images of a female toddler, taken whilst he was babysitting, to a Kik contact in New Zealand. Janatsch was sentenced to 30 years behind bars in October 2016. His profile was still active as of Friday last week.
In another example, the profile jmayes773 , operated by Jarrod Mayes, who was sentenced in 2016 to 60 months in prison, was still online. According to the DoJ , he admitted to first encountering child pornography on Kik, where he would later go on to share and acquire the illegal content.
Forbes ' search for usernames of profiles of convicted child abusers and those sharing exploitation material occurred last Thursday. By Tuesday, Kik had been supplied with the full list of names linked to illegal activity. A quick check 24 hours later found the profiles above were still accessible from the U.K.
But later on Wednesday Kik said it had terminated users where it found publicly-verifiable information linking a Kik ID to a convicted sex offender. It didn't terminate those for which it couldn't find that data, but was continuing to dig Wednesday, a spokesperson said.
As part of its investigation into child exploitation on Kik, Forbes created fake profiles of 14-year-old girls, which received almost-instant contact from male users, some sending sexually-explicit content. A vast number of search warrants also revealed widespread sharing of child abuse material on Kik; in one startling case, a single suspect was found to be a member of more than 200 Kik groups all set up for users to share such illegal content.
Kik investing $10 million in safety
Kik, meanwhile, is building up to a big funding boost and the safety of children on the platform should benefit. The Canadian app is looking to raise a massive $125 million through the sale of its own cryptocurrency, Kin. On September 12, it announced it had already raised $50 million in a presale round .
Forbes understands Kik Interactive, the firm behind the messenger app, will devote $10 million of the funds raised to safety on its platform. That could see more roles dedicating to deleting profiles of pedophiles and child abusers.
CEO Ted Livingston confirmed in a statement sent to Forbes that Kik had launched "a new safety initiative, which is supported by a $10 million budget over the next 18 months."
"We have already increased our investment in moderation and are dedicating additional product development and engineering resources to this initiative," Livingston added.
"As a result, we have recently been able to conduct sweeps of more than 15,000 Public Groups, and terminated 4,000 of those groups after determining they were in violation of our terms of service. In the process of conducting these reviews, we also terminated 500 users and when appropriate made referrals to law enforcement. We want all users to feel safe on Kik and will continue to make Kik a safe, positive and productive place for our users to interact."
UN: Push North Korea to End Child Sexual Abuse
Government Denies Child Rape and Sexual Abuse
by the Human Rights Watch
(Seoul) – The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child should press the North Korean government to protect children who are victims of sexual abuse and harassment, Human Rights Watch said today. On September 20, 2017, as part of its 76th plenary session, the committee will convene a hearing with North Korean government officials to discuss the country's record in protecting children's rights .
The North Korean government claims no one has been punished since 2008 for raping or sexually abusing or exploiting a child because “such acts are inconceivable for the people in the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] who regard such acts as the most disgraceful.”
However, Human Rights Watch documented four cases of child sexual harassment or abuse in North Korea during the period between 2008 and 2015, the current reporting period under review by the committee, and three other cases that took place in the early 2000s. North Koreans who recently escaped to third countries or maintain contacts in the North told Human Rights Watch that when girls are sexually harassed or abused, some guardians refuse to formally complain to police or other government officials because they believe government officials will not investigate, and the girl and the family will face stigmatization.
“North Korean girls really have nowhere to turn to when they are victimized by sexual abuse,” said Phil Robertson , deputy Asia director. “The Committee on the Rights of the Child should debunk the claim that there is no sexual abuse and demand that Pyongyang take immediate steps to ensure real, substantive protections are in place for victims.”
The Committee on the Rights of the Child is a body of 18 independent experts that reviews the compliance of each state party with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the human rights treaty that protects the rights of children. North Korea ratified the convention in 1990. The committee also monitors implementation of the convention's Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography, which North Korea ratified in November 2014.
Governments that ratify the CRC must submit regular reports to the committee on how they are implementing their rights obligations under the convention. States must submit an initial report two years after acceding to the convention and then periodic reports every five years.
In May 2016, the North Korean government submitted its fifth report, due in 2012, combined with its sixth report covering the period between 2008 and 2015. The CRC convened a pre-sessional working group meeting which was held in February , and the committee will conduct its plenary session with North Korea on September 20.
Eyewitness Accounts of Abuse
A total of 26 North Korean adults and children who were interviewed by Human Rights Watch between January 2015 and February 2017 described how it is unremarkable for North Korean woman and girls to witness or experience gender-based violence.
North Koreans interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that domestic violence is usually not punished or checked, but instead government authorities view it as a private matter in which the state and persons outside the family should not intervene. Five of the witnesses from urban areas in North Hamgyong, Ryanggang, and South Pyongan provinces said it was common for children to see men verbally or physically abusing women in public. Reasons received by Human Rights Watch for these abuses varied, but included showing what a man perceived as an “arrogant” attitude, staring at a man at the wrong moment, failing to reply fast enough to a man's question, and having a business disagreement with a man.
Interviewees also described how the state fails to protect children from common types of unwanted sexual contact, such as men groping women and girls' breasts and hips in both public and private spaces and trying to reach under their clothes. Such behavior usually happens in crowded public areas such as official and neighborhood celebrations, on trains, or while traveling by car or truck on the road.
Both adults and girls interviewed by Human Rights Watch said victims do not dare report crimes of sexual violence because they don't trust the authorities to seriously investigate, and they fear repercussions and stigma if it is found out they have been sexually abused, while the perpetrators would remain untouched by stigma or the justice process. Survivors of sexual abuse said that their family members and close friends who knew about what happened discouraged them from going to the authorities.
Each of the North Koreans interviewed told Human Rights Watch that the police and security forces do not consider violence against women a serious crime. A former State Security Department (SSD) agent who received all criminal reports that took place in two provinces for a decade until the late 2000s said in December 2016 that he never saw a single instance of a woman filing a rape complaint about an incident where there were no third party witnesses. In practice, he said the police and the SSD only investigated alleged sexual assault or rape cases when the woman suffered severe injury or death, or if the victim was connected to a powerful family.
The former SSD agent and two former high-ranking party officers said that although there were some cases in which authorities acted against perpetrators of violence against women, those cases were usually brought for ulterior motives, such as political gain when the perpetrator faced loss of their position at the instigation of an opponent wanting that position, or for reasons of personal revenge. The officers said the punishment in such cases rarely included imprisonment, but would more likely entail demotion, or sending the perpetrator to a less desirable posting in the countryside or working in a mine. They added official interventions did not lead to support for victims, who suffered stigma because of publicizing the attacks, and were left vulnerable to possible retaliation, without support or assistance.
Although the number of persons interviewed is not large enough to reach conclusions on overall conditions inside the country, they did provide a consistent picture of abuse based on the interviewees' personal experiences. The interviewees provided disturbing accounts of sexual harassment and rape of children, and lack of child protection.
In 2015, a female North Korean student in her 20s (who escaped North Korea in 2014) spoke with her aunt who lives in Ryanggang province. Her aunt told her that her 5-year-old cousin had been raped by a family friend who was supposed to be taking care of her. “Somehow, she managed to describe what she went through, so they did not let him near her anymore,” she said. But the victim's parents decided not to tell anybody about the rape. They didn't believe the police would do anything about it. They also doubted the perpetrator would be punished and thought that if others in the community knew about the incident, it could ruin their daughter's future and make it harder to get married when she grew up.
The student told Human Rights Watch in February 2016 she was surprised her aunt told her about the case because most adults in the community had told her that rape of a child is an unimaginable crime. But the student said she believed rape of children was more common than what adults talked about. She added that when she was 15 years old, her parents warned her not to pass near the house of an old man who had been disowned by his family for raping his granddaughter and leaving her badly injured. At that time, her mother explained to her what rape was and she realized she had been raped by a neighbor who was babysitting her when she was 6 years old. “I was playing with my doll and he said we'd play a different game. I just remember thinking it was painful and did not like it. He said, ‘Don't worry, let's just count, just ten more, ten, nine, eight…,'” she recalled. “I kept on crying and saying I did not like him, but my parents did not understand what happened to me. After the third time leaving me with him, they decided to keep me away from him.” After realizing what happened, the student decided not to reveal her experience to anyone because she feared being stigmatized and facing problems in finding marriage prospects.
“The North Korean government needs to move past its denial of sexual abuse of children in North Korea, and ensure that survivors have access to comprehensive health, legal, and social services without fearing stigma or retaliation,” Robertson said. “The Committee on the Rights of the Child should call out Pyongyang for allowing these horrific abuses to continue, and demand it puts a priority on the protection of North Korean children.”
Records: 120+ arrested, indicted on child sex abuse charges in Bexar County in first half of 2017
by Caleb Downs
More than 120 people were arrested or indicted on charges related to the sexual abuse of children during the first half of 2017, according to records obtained by mySA .
The 126 total suspects were all jailed on one or more of the following charges: sexual assault of a child, continuous sexual abuse of a child, indecent contact with a child, indecent exposure to a child, aggravated sexual assault of a child, super aggravated sexual assault of a child or possession of child pornography.
Though many of the suspects included in the list were first arrested or indicted in 2017, some were arrested in 2016 and later indicted by a grand jury in 2017 as their cases progressed through the courts.
A small portion of the suspects have faced similar child sex abuse charges in the past, though Bexar County records indicate the majority are facing child sex abuse charges for the first time.
That lines up with recorded recidivism rates for such crimes, though experts say those numbers may not tell the whole story.
Authorities in the Department of Justice pin the sex crime recidivism rate at about 5 percent, citing a 2003 study that followed more than 9,500 sex offenders released from prison in 15 states in 1994. However, estimates for recidivism rates vary widely, according to a report from the Office of Justice Programs by Roger Przybylski, a criminal and juvenile justice consultant with more than 30 years of experience.
"The surreptitious nature of sex crimes, the fact that few sexual offenses are reported to authorities, and variation in the ways researchers calculate recidivism rates all contribute to the problem," Przybylski writes.
Many of the child sex abuse cases are handled by a group of prosecutors from the Bexar County District Attorney's Child Abuse Unit, who "who fight to seek justice for children who have been abused and neglected," according to the unit's web page.
According to Texas Department of Public Safety records, there are almost 3,600 registered sex offenders living in Bexar County, though the percentage of those offenders who abused children is unknown.
Male sexual assault prominent and stigmatized
by Ben Stansell
After the final credits of the documentary “Yeah, Maybe, No” rolled off the screen, a reflective silence settled over students seated in the Ferguson Student Center theater. The pensive quiet was soon replaced by constructive discussion facilitated by Zoe Winston, a representative from the Women and Gender Resource Center, and Lizzie Emerson, a graduate assistant for UA Safezone. Winston and Emerson challenged students with thought-provoking questions centered around “Yeah, Maybe, No,” a film that examines sexual assault and the role of consent from the perspective of a young man named Blake.
The screening of the film was the first event in the Student Health Center's third annual Wellness Week: A weeklong agenda of events designed to promote wellness in all aspects of life. The documentary was partially chosen because it provides viewers with the view of sexual assault from the vantage point of a male, said Brittney Vigna, the coordinator of Wellness Week for the SHC.
“‘Yeah, Maybe, No' incorporates a lot of good information,” Vigna said. “It talks about consent and it also talks about sexual assault from a perspective that happens, but is not heard of very often, which is the male perspective of sexual assault.”
While sexual assaults and rapes perpetrated against males are less common than those perpetrated against females, they still compose a statistically significant portion of overall sexual assaults and rapes. Males are more likely to be preyed upon on college campuses than off.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), males between ages 18-24 who are college students are approximately five times more likely than non-students of the same age to be a victim of rape or sexual assault.
The increase in susceptibility among males in college is consistent with other genders as well, primarily because being in college represents a higher risk time for sexual assault or rape in general, Winston said.
Although it is known that males are victims of sexual assaults and rapes as well, the conflicting public perceptive that surrounds the issue may hinder awareness and support being provided to survivors.
“Often times there is a stigma associated with being a victim of sexual assault and that stigma can be escalated for men, just in the way men and women socialize and the way that we view constructs of gender,” Winston said. “Some people say that sexual assault can be emasculating and someone that experiences it is not really a man, which of course is not true.”
Male survivors may be less inclined to report or receive treatment for sexual assault or rape due to public perception and complications reporting. To combat these issues, the Women and Gender Resource Center underwent a name change several years ago, adding ‘Gender' to the name to make it clear that they serve clients regardless of sexual identity.
In order to further counteract the stigma associated with male victims of sexual assault or rape, Winston said that friends of male survivors should approach supporting them the same way they would a female survivor: with belief, understanding and appreciation.
“The first and best thing I can always recommend is always believe what the person is saying is true. As friends, we're not the jury,” Winston said. “Always believe what someone is saying is true, but also respect that they are saying something happened and it hurt them. Listen and support them.”
The Women and Gender Resource Center offers free and confidential counseling and advocacy for survivors of dating and domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and harassment, as well as adult survivors of child abuse. There is no limit on the number of times people can access their services, which are always free.
Combating Child Abuse: States Take Action
The number of minors in the child welfare system rose to 7.2 million in 2015, up from 6.6 million in 2014
by Teresa Wiltz
Spurred by high-profile cases of endangered children and chronically overworked caseworkers, many states have taken steps this year to shield children from abuse and neglect, including adding caseworkers, tightening reporting requirements and expanding the definition of “abuse.”
Some states and cities are pouring more money into child protection agencies. In Texas, where the foster care system was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2015, lawmakers allocated $4 billion this year, up 17 percent from the previous budget, to shore up the state's Department of Family and Protective Services, including hiring more caseworkers.
In Florida, Tampa child welfare agencies got an additional $4 million in state funding to hire more social workers. And in New Mexico, following the rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl last year, officials in Albuquerque and Bernalillo counties tripled the funding they'd earmarked for a new child-abuse intervention program for at-risk families, to $3 million a year.
The plan is to create a safety net for children, said Katrina Hotrum, Bernalillo County's behavioral health director, one that includes services such as counseling and substance abuse treatment for parents who are not covered by Medicaid.
In other states, there is increasing pressure to act: In the wake of the high-profile deaths of several children in state custody, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, in June signed a law that will form a task force to study the state's foster care system and make recommendations to overhaul it.
A 2016 audit found that the Kansas Department for Children and Family Services and private contractors failed to ensure the safety of foster care children and failed to investigate alleged abuse and neglect in a timely fashion.
In Montana, where the number of child abuse victims jumped from 1,100 in 2011 to 1,900 in 2015, Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, signed a law in April to create a commission to study child abuse. In May, he signed a law that requires the state's Department of Health and Human Services to create a plan to reduce the incidence of child abuse and neglect.
A 2016 report by the state's Children's Justice Bureau found that the state didn't have a consistent way to track reports child abuse and death. That year, 14 children died after multiple reports of abuse were filed to the state's child welfare system.
Pennsylvania's child welfare system has struggled for years to retain caseworkers and keep up with the demand of helping children and families in need. Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Auditor General called that state's $1.8 billion child welfare system “appalling” and said it fails to protect children from abuse and neglect.
The report found that in 2016, there were 46 child abuse deaths and 79 “near fatalities,” compared to 49 deaths and 70 near fatalities the year before. Nationwide an estimated 1,670 children died from abuse or neglect in 2015, the most recent year for which national data are available.
In recent months, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon and Washington state also have enacted laws that either expand the definitions of abuse, establish new protocols for state investigations of child abuse, or require the publication of educational materials about who is mandated to report suspected abuse.
And legislation in the New York Legislature would require testing young children for drugs if their parent or guardian is arrested on drug charges, and restrict child protective investigators to no more than 15 cases a month.
In the past year, at least three New York City children have died from abuse after caseworkers failed to investigate or act upon reports they were being mistreated.
A Confounding Puzzle
In some states, an uptick in child abuse cases has been the impetus for action.
In Massachusetts, where the number of child abuse victims increased from 20,300 in 2011 to 31,100 in 2015, lawmakers this year introduced several pieces of child abuse legislation. Among them were proposals to create a child neglect registry and to further define abuse and neglect of children.
During the same time period, the number of child abuse victims in Georgia jumped from 18,500 to 27,000. In May, Gov. Nathan Deal signed a law that expands the definition of child abuse to include sex trafficking.
Georgia lawmakers also introduced bills meant to strengthen child abuse laws, such as a proposal to revise procedures for how child mistreatment is investigated in custody cases.
High-profile cases of children who've been killed or seriously injured may have helped to boost the number of abuse reports.
The number of minors in the child welfare system rose to 7.2 million in 2015, up from 6.6 million in 2014, according to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The number of children with cases deemed serious enough to merit an investigation by child protective services increased by 9 percent between 2011 and 2015.
Meanwhile the number of child abuse deaths rose by 5 percent in 2015, the most recent year for which data are available. In some states, the opioid epidemic has contributed to an increase in foster care children.
But some child welfare researchers question the federal statistics on child abuse. They argue that it's impossible to get an accurate picture of child abuse rates because state definitions of abuse and neglect differ. In addition, many states have changed either their standards for reporting abuse or the technology they use to track their data.
Still, most states recognize four major types of “maltreatment”: neglect, physical abuse, psychological abuse and sexual abuse. And the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), reauthorized in 2010, defines child abuse as “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm” to the child.
The law sets minimum standards for states that accept CAPTA funding, but each state sets its own definition of child abuse within its criminal statutes.
Combating child abuse is a puzzle that has bedeviled states and localities for decades, said Tracey Feild of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, an advocacy and research organization that works with state, county and city agencies to revise their child welfare systems. Balancing the interests of protecting children at risk and keeping families intact can be difficult, Feild said.
Research has shown that adults who were abused as children can face mental and health issues, including a shortened life span. But removing children from the only family they know is traumatic as well, Feild said.
And what constitutes say, neglect, can be highly subjective, said Maria Mossaides, Massachusetts' Child Advocate, particularly among poor families.
“There is an over-representation of poor people in the child welfare system,” she said. “But you cannot take a child away just because a family's poor.”
Highly publicized cases like that of Jerry Sandusky, the Pennsylvania State University football coach who was convicted of raping children for years, frequently prompt states to crack down, often by requiring certain people, such as teachers, firefighters or doctors, to report suspected child abuse.
After the Sandusky case, Pennsylvania in 2014 enacted legislation expanding the definition of child abuse and reporting requirements.
As a result, child welfare caseworkers suffer from whiplash, said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
“Every time a child dies or gets seriously injured, [caseworkers are] suddenly subjected to a huge amount of press scrutiny,” said Finkelhor, who started to study child abuse and neglect issues four decades ago. “Someone wants to come in and reorganize everything and fire the scapegoats.”
And some states have taken a conservative stance for some time now, not wanting to take any chances. In New Hampshire, for example, any person with a reason to suspect child abuse is required to report it to the Division for Children, Youth and Families.
Massachusetts, which has seen a bump in child abuse reports in recent years, requires hospitals to file an abuse and neglect report for any new mother who tests positive for drugs.
Still, legislation can only do so much, and increasing the number of reported cases causes “chaos,” further burdening child welfare agencies that are already straining at the seams, Feild said.
Increasingly, states are trying to differentiate child maltreatment cases along two lines: Basic neglect cases, which account for about three-quarters of child abuse cases, and criminal cases, Feild said.
Child abuse cases can be processed through the criminal justice system, she said. But with neglect cases, child welfare agencies try to keep families together, using an “alternative response” approach, which treats neglect as something distinct from out and out abuse. Instead, agencies provide families with services, from counseling to parental classes to addiction treatment.
At the height of the crack epidemic in the early '90s, child welfare officials in Cuyahoga County, one of Ohio's largest metro counties, decided to take a new approach to child abuse and maltreatment.
The plan was to keep children safe at home with their families as their parents worked out their issues with intensive intervention provided by the county, said Cynthia Weiskittel, director of Children and Family Services. The county used data to track families and their needs.
Struggling parents could be paired with a recovery coach who has experience with drug addiction.
Today, the number of children in custody is about a third of what it was 20 years ago, Weiskittel said.
“You need to make sure your staff is really well trained in how to approach people,” she said. “At the end of the day, if what you're doing isn't putting a child in an unsafe situation, you're allowed to parent the way you want to parent.”
WRAP promotes local awareness toward domestic violence
by Rachel Townsend
WRAP, an agency created from a need to embrace and empower adult and child survivors of domestic/ sexual violence so that the quality of life of those impacted is sustainably enhanced, has been making much headway in the Dyer County community, and is currently the only West Tennessee agency providing services to both sexual and domestic survivors.
With October being recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, WRAP workers and volunteers are working hard to spread word about services offered locally.
In addition, WRAP is accepting donations for old [functioning] cell phones. Phones collected are distributed to clients of WRAP for use in the event of an emergency. Donations are currently being accepted at WRAP's main office, located at 309 N. Church Ave. [basement level below Post Office].
The agency was originally a Rape Crisis line for women founded in 1975 by a small group of Madison County volunteers, and has grown over the past 40 years to include a full staff including 23 program staff members serving across 19 counties, including: Benton, Carroll, Chester, Crockett, Decatur, Dyer, Gibson, Hardemon, Hardin, Lauderdale, Lake, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, Madison, McNairy, Obion, Tipton and Weakley.
80-percent of the agency's annual $1.2M funding is provided through a combination of state federal funding, with the remaining 20-percent obtained through community fundraising, donor contributions, rental income and intern hours.
Programs offered by WRAP include [not limited to]:
Community-Based Advocacy Project (JARS)
The JARS program (Justice-Autonomy-Restoration-Safety) involves legal justice as well as offender accountability, the protection of victim's rights and social justice for women. The program also encourages autonomy, respecting each survivor's right to self-determination and independence and helping survivors to heal from the emotional and physical abuse endured so they are able to move on in their lives.
In addition, WRAP provides clients with a assistance in obtaining orders of protection and safety planning.
Community Education Awareness Program
WRAP provides education and training to allied professionals, faculty, students and interested business or community groups on a wide array of topics including: adverse childhood experiences, building healthy relationships, building resilience, bystander intervention, faith and domestic violence, parenting/supporting children exposed to domestic violence, trauma-informed services, men and sexual assault, nurturing parenting, socio-cultural underpinnings of violence against women and girls, preventing sexual assault and understanding trauma.
Coordinated Community Response to Domestic and Sexual Violence Initiatives
WRAP is committed to partnering with local communities to maximize resources, increase victim access to resources, enhance victim's safety and experience with the civil/criminal justice system, increase offender accountability, and strengthen community support through the coordinated victim response, domestic violence response team, Family Justice Center, Jackson-Madison County Sexual Assault Response team, Mayor's Council in Domestic
Counseling and Therapy Program
Adult counseling services include individual and group interventions that include education about intimate partner violence and its impact on survivors, raising self-esteem and mood, problem solving skills for independent living and mind-body activities to reduce hyper alertness.
WRAP also works with licensed clinicians who may be consulted if client/s feel therapy would be helpful.
For children, WRAP strives to strengthen the relationship between the child and the non-offending parent.
Crisis Response Program
Partnering with Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee, WRAP maintains a crisis response team available around the clock that is managed by skilled advocates who provide information and referral, crisis counseling, safe home assessments, and hospital accompaniment. Response teams rotate on-call duty to handle all calls that come in through the after-hours and weekend WRAP hotline.
WRAP provides Safe Home assistance to clients unable to enter their own independent housing. WRAP may also provide assistance to help survivors maintain or regain permanent housing and pay for utility deposits and arrearages.
The PREA Program allows WRAP to aid victims of sexual abuse in confinement with treatment services comparable to those receiving treatment outside of confinement.
A national program designed to increase access to the disability income benefit programs administered by the Social Security Administration, SOAR is for eligible adults who are experiencing homelessness or have a mental illness or medical impairment and a co-occurring substance use disorder.
I believed it was my fault: Adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse speaks out
by Megan Sutton
As the government announces funding to tackle the issue of sexual abuse, Dawn, a survivor, shares her powerful story
Sexual abuse is a devastating crime that runs throughout society, yet stigma and taboo around being sexually abused still prevents some survivors from speaking out.
Take Dawn, 42, for example, who experienced abuse throughout her childhood.
Dawn left her hometown at 18 and put her past to the back of her mind; in fact she didn't associate what happened to her as being abuse.
‘I never got a memo when I was 18 that said “you were child abused.” I always just believed what I was told about it, which was “It's your fault and you brought it on yourself.” That's what I carried with me,' she told us.
In her late thirties - after realising she had been abused as a child, and making an unsuccessful attempt to deal with the issue via a GP - Dawn contacted NAPAC (the National Association for People Abused in Childhood) via the organisation's telephone support line.
‘When I called NAPAC it was a revelation to me that they understood – I didn't need to explain to them everything that I'd been through. They believed me,' Dawn said.
‘That's one of your greatest fears as a survivor – “Will people believe me?” Especially when you've had a lot of stuff fed to you from abusers that's a different version of reality.
‘Calling the helpline was a big turning point for me – it was the first time I fully accepted what happened to me, because someone had validated me.'
Thanks to the support and therapy she has received since her first call with NAPAC, Dawn's life has transformed dramatically.
‘I was a shell of a person before and I don't recognise that person anymore. My life has gone 180 since coming in to recovery - I live a completely different existence and thankfully have been able to look back and heal those wounds.
'I'd avoided that for so long, and actually that was the worst thing I could have done - although I didn't know that at the time,' Dawn told us.
‘I'm more successful in my career, my health is better than it was before, I've lost two dress sizes, I'm now a really healthy eater, I've stopped smoking. A lot has changed on the surface as well as internally. That's the greatest gift: once you've healed, you feel different inside yourself.'
Home Secretary Amber Rudd MP is encouraging survivors to come forward 'because we need people to address the trauma they might be carrying around and how that might be impacting on their behaviour', she says.
‘Being brave enough to have that conversation in a community or nationally is a really important part of helping people to heal,' Ms Rudd told Goodhousekeeping.co.uk.
The Home Secretary made the remarks on a visit to NAPAC yesterday, where she met staff behind the organisation which provides crucial support to adults who experienced abuse in childhood via a telephone support line, in-person support groups, training for professionals, research and advocacy work.
The government has awarded £600,000 of funding covering 2017/2018 to four charities that provide support to people who have experienced or are experiencing abuse (NAPAC; Barnado's; Rape Crisis England & Wales, and Safeline Warwick), with £314,360 of that sum going to small charity NAPAC.
Last year, London-based NAPAC took almost 8,500 helpline calls and emails; however, it received nearly 90,000 call attempts – highlighting the disparity between demand for support and resources to be able to help.
Ms Rudd described the staff and volunteers who run NAPAC as ‘extraordinary.'
‘It's always quite emotional and sometimes obviously quite disturbing – the conversations we have about child abuse – and these people who I've been meeting here today spend their lives immersed in it, helping other people. It's quite impressive really.'
Getting rid of stigma
Dawn admits that while progress is being made to break down stigma around childhood sexual abuse, there's still a way to go, which is why she chooses to speak openly about her experiences (although she understands that's not something all survivors feel able to do.)
‘It affects so many people that we should be speaking about it more, like we do with physical health,' she said.
Speaking about other ways the government can work to reduce the instances of children being sexually abused, Ms Rudd highlighted the importance of discussing the issue in schools.
‘One thing I'm particularly pleased about is that we are going to be introducing compulsory PSHE – and one of the things I believe that will help with is giving – particularly young women – confidence about consent and other issues like that,' she said.
‘I think that's a really important step in [ensuring young people are] confident and empowered,' the Home Secretary added.
Donations are crucial
As well the funding of £314,360 for 2017/2018, the Home Office awarded £326,550 to NAPAC covering 2016/ 2017.
‘Without the Home Office funding, we wouldn't exist,' Kath Stipala, Head of Public Affairs at NAPAC said.
‘We need that core funding as our base to try and reach out and get more donations – so it's absolutely vital.'
NAPAC (the National Association for People Abused in Childhood) offers support to adults who suffered any type of childhood abuse - physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect. The confidential support line ( 0808 801 0331 ) is free from landlines or mobiles and calls won't show up on your bill.
For more information visit napac.org.uk ; and to donate to the organisation, click here .
Teach children safety rules to help protect them from sexual abuse
by Patrice Dunagin
Child abuse is a widespread problem in the United States. More than 3 million children are abused each year, according to the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse. Eight percent of those 3 million children are sexually abused; that comes to 240,000 children. Protecting children from physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse is everyone's responsibility.
Sexual abuse is any sexual activity between an adult and a child of any age. The typical offender is a male, but women also sexually abuse children. Sex involving an adult and a child of any age is never OK.
Sexual abuse is traumatic for the child. Generally the adult takes advantage of the child's innocence, trust or affection. Often, the abuser threatens or bribes the child to keep silent. Most children do not tell anyone about the abuse, because of the threats and fear. Keeping the secret of abuse causes even more emotional stress for the child.
The abused child will feel a lot of guilt, often thinking it is his or her fault. It becomes difficult for abused children to trust people. Anger, guilt and fear become common feelings for abused children.
Childhood sexual abuse can cause lifelong psychological and physical damage. The emotional affects of sexual abuse may not be evident until the child reaches adolescence or even adulthood. Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse may find the abuse affects their ability to trust people and form close relationships. Adults also report feeling intense anger, low self-esteem and co-dependent and addictive personality traits.
Approximately 90 percent of the offenders are known to the child. An estimated 77 percent of reported abusers are parents, 16 percent are other relatives and 6 percent are non-related.
Children must be taught basic rules of safety to help protect them from sexual abuse. Appropriate personal safety rules are:
- If anyone tries to touch a child in any way that makes him or her feel uncomfortable, bad or afraid, the child should say “no.”
- Children should tell someone they trust (parent, teacher, family friend, school counselor) about the touch/abuse immediately.
- Children need to be taught the difference between good and bad touch.
- Encourage good communication with your child. This is the best way to protect children from sexual abuse.
- Children should never go anywhere or get in a car with anyone unless you have given them direct permission.
- Children should never take candy, gifts, toys or money from strangers.
- Children should avoid playing alone or walking to and from school alone. When home alone, children should not open the door or tell telephone callers they are home alone.
If a child tells you he or she has been touched or abused in a sexual way, believe him or her. Children rarely lie about sexual abuse. Children need to know you believe them and will find them help to cope with what has happened. Tell the child he or she did nothing wrong. Reassure the child he or she did the right thing by telling you about the abuse. To report the abuse, call the 24 hour Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or your local law enforcement agency.
Seek professional help for the child. The child should see a professional trained to work with sexual abuse victims. If the abuse occurred many years earlier, it is not too late to seek professional help to cope with the emotional feelings.
Parents need to be very aware of where their children are and who they are with. It's wise to keep your children close and to have only a few, well-trusted friends or family who occasionally watch your children. If your child does not want to be alone with a family member, friend or new acquaintance, find out why. It could be the first sign of abuse that has already occurred.
For more information, contact Patrice Dunagin, Smith County FCS agent for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, at 903-590-2980.
University report lifts the lid on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church
by Kieran Tapsell
Melbourne, Australia — The most comprehensive report ever published on the systemic reasons behind child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has recently been released.
The August 2017 report, Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: An Interpretive Review of the Literature and Public Inquiry Reports , examined 26 commissions of inquiry, scientific research and literature since 1985 to find common features in the culture, history and structures of the church and the psychological, social and theological factors that contributed to the tragedy.
The report, five years in the making, comes from a research team at the Centre for Global Research at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University headed by Desmond Cahill and Peter Wilkinson.
The research team's conclusions in this highly readable 379-page document confirm the view of the psychologist Philip Zimbardo that if you find many bad apples in a barrel, there has to be something wrong with the barrel. The pattern of abuse and cover up was the same all over the world.
Cahill is a psychologist and professor emeritus of RMIT University, and Wilkinson holds a licentiate and doctorate in missiology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Both are former Catholic priests, Cahill of the Melbourne Archdiocese and Wilkinson formerly with the Missionary Society of St. Columban.
The authors were also consultants to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2015, and that commission's findings to date are peppered throughout the report.
While the terms of reference of the Australian Royal Commission confined its inquiry to Australia, the authors look at a much broader context of an international church that is operating throughout the world, and indeed growing in some places, particularly Africa.
The incidence of abuse in Australia has dropped significantly over the last 30 years, but then many of the systemic features that provided opportunities for abuse have declined or disappeared: the fall in the number of priests and religious; Catholic schools now staffed almost exclusively by lay people; the collapse of the altar boy system; and the church's withdrawal from boarding schools and orphanages. That is not the case overseas. The church still runs 9,492 orphanages throughout the world, most of them in underdeveloped countries.
The report provides a detailed history of how the church from its earliest times regarded child sexual abuse as a sin, punishable in the next life, but by the Fourth century it was also seen as a crime punishable by imprisonment, as a minimum. That tradition was turned on its head when the 1917 Code of Canon Law abrogated seven papal and church council decrees that required clerics who abused children to be handed over to the civil authorities. Five years later, in 1922, Pope Pius XI (1922-39) issued his instruction, Crimen Sollicitationis requiring all information about child sexual abuse to be subject to the strictest secrecy.
There were a number of reasons for this radical change: The church had decided that it was a "perfect society" that did not need any assistance from the state; priests were ontologically changed and should not be treated like common criminals; clergy might not receive fair trials because of anti-clericalism; the invention of radio whereby scandal could spread at the speed of sound.
The authors also point to another factor: since the early Middle Ages, the church has had a problem with priests soliciting sex in the confessional. Papal and council decrees in 1227, 1622 and 1741 condemned the practice. The Inquisition dealt with many cases of solicitation, most of them with women, sometimes men, but rarely young children because confession was only available to Catholics after the age of 12-14. Pius X (1903-14) lowered the age to 7, thus providing pedophiles with new opportunities.
Pius XI adopted a two-pronged approach to ward off potential scandals. He issued new regulations for screening candidates for the priesthood, and if a "bad apple" did slip through, he imposed the church's highest form of secrecy over all information about his abuse. That policy was confirmed and expanded by every pope since. It is still imposed by Art. 30 of Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela of John Paul II, as revised by Benedict XVI in 2010.
Despite canon law's requirements prior to 1917, the founder of the Piarist Order, St. Joseph Calasanz (1557–1648), ironically still the patron saint of Catholic schools, covered up the serial abuse of several of his senior priests for the usual reason that he did not wish to tarnish his order's reputation. Some recent founders of religious orders, such as Marcial Maciel in Mexico and John Sweeney in Australia, were themselves abusers.
Australia's first bishop, Sydney's Archbishop John Bede Polding (1794-1877), had a problem with several priest abusers under his charge. The claim by the Australian hierarchy that they did not know about such abuse until the late 1980s, and that they have been on a "learning curve" since then, is conclusively refuted.
Synthesizing what has come before
The report sets out the conclusions of all the most important inquiries both by the church and independent bodies in Ireland, the United States, Australia and Europe, including some that are not so well known, such as the Deetman Commission in the Netherlands.
It details the history of priestly formation, particularly from the time of the Council of Trent, where the policy was to take young boys away from their families and put them into minor seminaries. This turned out to be a disaster, giving rise to a much greater likelihood of sexually and psychologically immature priests becoming fixated on children.
The prevalence of sexual abuse within Australian Catholic institutions is compared with other countries. The Australian Royal Commission has come up with figures of 7 percent for diocesan priests being abusers as against the 4.3 percent in the United States as revealed by the John Jay report. The authors of the new interpretive review have some misgivings about the accuracy of the John Jay figures, given that they were derived from responses from the American bishops rather than from the production of documents on which the Dutch, Irish and Australian inquiries relied. There were differences in patterns of abuse between diocesan priests, religious priests and the teaching orders, and between different dioceses. The authors provide plausible explanations for these differences.
The report also rejects the claim that the Second Vatican Council and the sexual revolution were responsible for the outbreak of child sexual abuse, as some have claimed. It also examines various theological and pastoral factors, including "cheap forgiveness" through confession. Despite claims by church spokesmen that the seal of the confessional is inviolable, the authors point out that this has not always been the case.
The report examines in some detail the profiles of the abusing priests and concludes that while celibacy is not of itself a cause of child sexual abuse, it is the major risk factor when combined with poor psychosexual development through the seminary system. The psychological studies have found that homosexuality as such is not the cause of abuse, but when gay seminarians do not come to terms with their orientation in the church's closed homophobic environment, it is more difficult for them to become psychosexually mature enough to resist opportunities with minors.
The report is critical of the church's reliance on secrecy and its antiquated governance structures, including the lack of women in positions of authority. Bishops are effectively monarchs in their own dioceses, and the only restraint on them is canon law. This has caused difficulties when a problem requires a national approach. Archbishop George Pell's refusal to join with his fellow Australian bishops in their 1996 sexual abuse protocol, Towards Healing is the most significant example of this. Canon law does provide for such a national approach, but it requires the approval of the Holy See, something that has rarely been given with child sexual abuse protocols.
The authors criticize the Australian bishops for failing to put in place an education and training strategy about child sexual abuse. While individual dioceses and parishes may have such strategies in place, there are no published figures as are provided by the church in the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The report calls for significant rethinking of many aspects of the church's culture and practice, including its structures and secrecy under canon law, clericalism, sexual morality, the theology of the priesthood and seminary training.
Cahill, Wilkinson and their research team at RMIT University have created a very professional and thoroughly readable synthesis of all the relevant information about child sexual abuse in the Catholic church. The reader is presented with a convincing insight into why the church stumbled so badly over this issue.
[Kieran Tapsell is a retired civil lawyer and the author of Potiphar's Wife: The Vatican's Secret and Child Sexual Abuse and of a submission to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse: Canon Law, A Systemic Factor in Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church . He was a member of the canon law panel before the Australian Royal Commission Feb. 9, 2017.]
Iowa, Nebraska Officials Partner to Fight Sex Trafficking
Iowa officials have announced plans to combat sex trafficking at the state's hotels, with the help of Nebraska officials.
by the Associated Press
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa officials have announced plans to combat sex trafficking at the state's hotels, with the help of Nebraska officials.
The program will provide training at regional sites for people ranging from housekeepers and desk clerks to managers at hotel businesses. But organizers say they also hope to create increased awareness among law enforcement, health care workers, school employees, concerned citizens and others.
The Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery is partnering in the effort with the Nebraska Coalition on Human Trafficking.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg joined law enforcement officials in announcing the initiative earlier this week.
The first training session was held last week in Des Moines and another is scheduled Sept. 25 in Cedar Rapids. Other sessions are planned elsewhere in Iowa.
Sen. Sullivan co-sponsors legislation targeting internet sites used for sex-trafficking
by Webcenter 11
Senator Dan Sullivan is co-sponsoring a bill that would hold internet companies liable if they knowingly facilitate sex trafficking through online content they host.
Along with 29 other senators, including Senator Lisa Murkowski, Sullivan has signed onto the legislation, which targets sites that are often used to engage in covert prostitution and sex trafficking.
In a hearing this week, Sullivan said he'd like to give state attorneys general more power to bring prosecutions under the act in their states if federal prosecutors don't pursue such cases.
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) Alaska:
"But this problem is growing and it's so significant that more resources can mean not just federal resources but the good offices of state AG's (Attorney Generals); it's a very powerful resource and I think it's a key component of this bill. If the standard remains the same, which it does under this legislation, then I think having more prosecutors, is actually, quite an important development here."
Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) California:
"We're not interested in try to, especially not in California, of trying to slow down, just the innovative, innovative explosion that you see going on in the internet. We want that to go on. California benefits from it, but we got to do something to help our kids and people like Ms. Ambrose; and so, simply allowing us to do what sometimes the federal government doesn't have the resources to do, would be just plan smart."
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) Alaska:
"And, were not trying to take a case form the federal government; if they want to go at it, great; but if they can't, we're ready to step in."