Attacks on the credibility of abuse survivors are not justified by research
New science of trauma and memory has shown that the assertions of 'false memory' advocates are exaggerated
by Michael Salter
For a quarter of a century, the concept of “false memories” has provided a scientific fig leaf for sceptics of child sexual abuse allegations.
The “false memory” argument is deceptively simple: children and adults are prone to invent false memories of child sexual abuse that never occurred, particularly if encouraged by a therapist or some other authority figure.
So-called “recovered memories”, in which adults recall sexual abuse in childhood after a period of amnesia, have been a particular focus of disbelief.
In fact, scientific studies find that children are far less suggestible than we have been led to believe. Brain imaging studies have identified the neurological mechanisms involved in the process of forgetting and then recalling sexual abuse as an adult.
Delayed disclosure and amnesia are now understood as normal coping mechanisms in response to abuse.
However, for those uncomfortable with the social and legal reforms required to address child sexual abuse, the idea that large numbers of allegations are the product of “false memories” remains attractive.
This argument underpins recent reporting in the Australian , which has called into question the findings of the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, on the basis that sexual abuse survivor testimony cannot be trusted.
Two lengthy articles have raised doubts about the recent prosecution of a mother and father for the prolonged sadistic abuse of their daughter, and challenged the trauma history of anti-abuse campaigner Dr Cathy Kezelman .
This reporting links therapy to the spectres of false memories and false allegations. The implication is that any child or adult who makes allegations of abuse after receiving mental health care may be suffering from therapy-induced delusions.
The “false memory” argument arose in the early 1990s. During this period, adults began pursuing criminal and civil actions for sexual abuse in childhood in large numbers. These legal proceedings were complex, since the alleged offences had often taken place decades ago. Many adults had sought mental health care for the effects of abuse prior to court action.
In response, people accused of abuse claimed that therapy was the cause of the abuse allegations. They paid psychology academics to testify in court about the fallibility and suggestibility of memory. Their theories of “false memories” were widely covered in the mass media by journalists who were dubious of the sudden increase in reports and prosecution of sexual abuse.
Of course, no memory is a pristine record of facts. From the moment it is produced, memory is shaped by interpretation as much as experience, and the meaning and availability of any given memory changes over time.
However, the new science of trauma and memory has shown that the assertions of “false memory” advocates were exaggerated.
Overwhelming experiences of abuse are encoded differently in the brain than other memories, and can produce amnesia and forgetting . My research has found that many perpetrators of severe abuse deliberately traumatise children in order to take advantage of this mechanism and prevent victims from disclosing.
It is vital that abused children and adults receive therapeutic support to address the psychological changes caused by sexual abuse, and their testimony should be taken seriously by law enforcement and the criminal courts.
Nonetheless, the imperative to deny and suppress these allegations is as strong as ever. Sexual abuse is a crime of the status quo. Offenders get away with abuse because they are camouflaged within their legitimate roles (as parents, relatives, friends, clergy, teachers and so on) in the lives of children.
As a result, allegations of sexual abuse are always a challenge to authority, revealing the weaknesses and failings of treasured social institutions.
In response, many are driven to reject the allegations outright, rather than examine the uncomfortable truths they reveal. For instance, church representatives have accused journalists of pursuing clergy abuse as part of a secular attack on Christianity.
Conservatives are suspicious that feminists and the state have exaggerated the problem of sexual abuse to expand control over the family and intimate life. Many progressives frame public concern over sexual abuse as a “moral panic” driven by unfounded anxiety over child safety.
For those who see hidden agendas driving abuse allegations, the “false memory” theory remains as compelling as ever. They find their suspicions reaffirmed by those academics who earn significant sums promoting “false memory” theories in court on behalf of men accused of sexual abuse.
This practice has been criticised as a “conflict of interest” , since objectivity is compromised when academics have such a large financial stake in interpreting research findings in specific ways.
In this light, attacks on the credibility of abuse survivors and advocates, and on the findings of the royal commission, need to be placed in political context. Despite their appeals to scientific expertise, such attacks are not justified by research on sexual abuse and traumatic memory; far from it.
The royal commission has revealed the pervasiveness of sexual abuse in child-focused institutions. Recent prosecutions, and the brave testimony of survivors such as Cathy Kezelman, highlights how family dynamics are manipulated by perpetrators of incest, to the point where non-abused siblings may be entirely unaware of the plight of the victim and groomed to disbelieve them if they disclose.
Perpetrators have many ways of drawing naive bystanders into a position of collusion or collaboration. Responding to the needs and rights of sexual abuse survivors will always prompt resistance from those wedded to the status quo, whether for personal, financial or ideological reasons.
The success of this resistance is evident in ongoing epidemic levels of abuse, and low rates of reporting and prosecution. Abuse needs our complicity. Due process and fair treatment of survivors, as well as the accused, requires a clear minded assessment of how facts and science are often distorted by the relations of power that make abuse possible.
Michael Salter is senior lecturer in criminology at the Western Sydney University
Teach Your Child The Skills They Need To Protect Their Body From Abuse
10 key lessons
by Dr. Anupama Verma
We teach our young children all sorts of ways to keep themselves safe. We teach them to watch the hot stove, we teach them to look both ways before they cross the street. But, more often than not, body safety is not taught until much older — until sometimes, it is too late.
The statistics are sobering: according to a recent survey , one in two children in India is a victim of sexual abuse. In addition, one in every three children in India feels unsafe at school, the main concerns being lack of protection from strangers and being the target of physical, emotional abuse or violence.
Isn't it a matter of shame for us? Yes of course it is, but often we profess helplessness. Parents will frequently tell me that they didn't think this could happen to them. That they never leave their children with strangers. That they always keep their children within sight.
Do your children go to daycare or preschool? Do you have friends or family over to your house? Do they play at the neighbour's house? The fact is, you cannot fully prevent the risk of your child being sexually abused. We have to allow our children to go out into the world and interact with those around them. But we can arm them with something that might save them from being victimised. We can teach our children the skills they need to protect themselves.
Most parents do not talk to their children about body safety early enough. They think kids are too young. It is too scary. But it is never too soon, and it doesn't have to be scary. Here are 10 things that could help your child be less vulnerable to sexual abuse.
1. Talk about body parts early
Name body parts and talk about them very early. Use proper names for body parts. I can tell you many young children call their vagina their "bottom." Feeling comfortable using these words and knowing what they mean can help a child express themselves clearly if something inappropriate has happened.
2. Teach your child that some body parts are private
Tell your child that their private parts are called private because they are not for everyone to see. Explain that mommy and daddy can see them naked, but people outside of the home should only see them with their clothes on. Explain how their doctor can see them without their clothes because mommy and daddy are there with them and the doctor is checking their body.
3. Teach body boundaries
Tell your child pragmatically that no one should touch their private parts and they should never be asked to touch somebody else's private parts. Parents will often forget the second part of this sentence. Sexual abuse often begins with the perpetrator asking the child to touch them or someone else.
4. Tell your kid that body secrets are not okay
Most perpetrators will tell the child to keep the abuse a secret. This can be done in a friendly way, such as, "I love playing with you, but if you tell anyone else what we played they won't let me come over again." Or it can be a threat: "This is our secret. If you tell anyone I will tell them it was your idea and you will get in big trouble!" Tell your kids that no matter what anyone tells them, body secrets are not okay and they should always tell you if someone tries to make them keep a body secret.
5. Tell your child that no one should take pictures of their private parts
This one is often missed by parents. There is a whole sick world out there of paedophiles who love to take and trade pictures of naked children online. This is an epidemic and it puts your child at risk. Tell your kids that no one should ever take pictures of their private parts.
6. Teach your child how to get out of scary or uncomfortable situations
Some children are uncomfortable with telling people "NO"— especially older peers or adults. Tell them that it's okay to tell an adult they have to leave, if something that feels wrong is happening, and help give them words to get out of uncomfortable situations. Tell your child that if someone wants to see or touch private parts they can tell them that they need to leave to go potty.
7. Have a code word your children can use when they feel unsafe
As children get a little bit older, you can give them a code word that they can use when they are feeling unsafe. This can be used at home, when there are guests in the house or when they are on a play date or a sleepover.
8. Tell your children they will never be in trouble if they tell you a body secret
Children often tell me that they didn't say anything because they thought their parents wouldn't listen or that they would be berated. This fear is often used by the perpetrator. Tell your child that no matter what happens, when they tell you anything about body safety or body secrets they will NEVER get in trouble.
9. Tell your child that a body touch might tickle or feel good
Many parents and books talk about "good touch and bad touch," but this can be confusing because often these touches do not hurt or feel bad. I prefer the term "secret touch," as it is a more accurate depiction. Tell your child that even if the "secret touch" feels good, it is sexually inappropriate.
10. Tell your child that these rules apply to people they know and even with another child
This is an important point to discuss with your child. When you ask a young child what a "bad guy" looks like they most likely describe a comic antihero. Make them aware that there's more to it. You can say something like, "Mommy and daddy might touch your private parts when we are cleaning you, but no one else should touch you there. Not friends, not aunts or uncles, not teachers—nobody. Even if you like them, they should still not touch your private parts. If someone does, they are the bad guy/girl."
While these discussions may not absolutely prevent sexual abuse, knowledge is a powerful deterrent, especially with young children who are targeted due to their innocence and ignorance in this area.
And one discussion is not enough. Find natural times to reiterate these messages, such as bath time or when they are running around naked. And please share this article with those you love and care about and help me spread the message of body safety!
Child abuse reports on the rise
by Amanda Christman
There has been an increase in child abuse cases in Luzerne County and statewide but it doesn't necessarily mean more children are being abused, according to some law enforcement officials.
Instead, more cases are actually getting reported, they say.
Years ago many of these cases never made it to a police station, said Butler Twp. police Chief Brian Sabatini, who has 22 years in law enforcement. They didn't result in arrest but were handled in schools by a guidance counselor, leaving the same person who advises children in education to handle the serious effects of abuse.
“It's around us every day. It's not a hidden thing anymore,” Butler Twp. Officer George Keifer said.
He and several other law enforcement officials familiar with child abuse in their jurisdictions gathered recently to discuss the swell in cases.
They believe cases like that of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, which received national news attention, have made people more aware of different types of abuse and have showed the victims of child abuse that it's OK to tell their stories, as difficult as that may be.
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, too, said major legislative changes to the Child Protective Services law enacted in the wake of the Sandusky case resulted in more reports of abuse.
He announced that while revealing the results of a year-long review of the commonwealth's Children and Youth Services system that, coupled with the opioid epidemic, have increased the caseload.
DePasquale offered recommendations to help Children and Youth agencies operate through the increased caseloads and other challenges.
The changes to child abuse laws inundated Children and Youth, creating the heavy workloads along with volumes of paperwork for professionals in a service field with high turnover rates, DePasquale said.
Those changes included the expansion of the law's definition of child abuse and the list of those in society considered mandated reporters of child abuse. A mandated reporter — certain adults who work or volunteer with youths — must report suspicions of abuse or they could face criminal charges for remaining silent.
The new laws
State Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-116, Butler Twp., said in 2012 the governor established a child protection task force to secure changes that would better protect the state's children.
Legislators amended laws that not only further defined child abuse and broadened who is mandated to report child abuse but also required background checks for volunteers who have direct contact with children. Never before, Toohil said, were those checks mandated for volunteers.
The work isn't over.
The Legislature is looking for ways to assist Children and Youth caseworkers. Toohil said recruiting and retaining qualified caseworkers are an issue, as is the protection of caseworkers as she recalled the March firebombing of Luzerne County Children and Youth Services' office in Wilkes-Barre.
She also wants to see certain types of child abuse impact a parent's rights to see them. Some children are severely abused and yet their parents have rights to them.
“(We have) a long road ahead of us when it comes to protecting innocent children the way they deserve to be protected,” Toohil said.
Keifer, an officer with 10 years experience, said the public attention given to all types of child abuse showed victims that police will take them seriously.
Law enforcement is also better trained now on how to handle abuse cases and has more resources, too, said Hazleton police Detective Sgt. David Rodick, also a 10-year veteran.
Rodick pointed to the Luzerne County Child Advocacy Center, Wilkes-Barre, a nonprofit that gets involved in all types of abuse cases and has become an asset to law enforcement, providing free services like interviews by professionals that help not only an investigation but also the victims.
They make the victim feel safe so they can relate the abuse to a professional once or twice, not multiple times as in investigations of days gone by. That prevents the victim from repeatedly having to relive the nightmares they have been through and becoming “re-victimized,” Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said.
Before the center was established, “We were bringing them in, bringing them in, bringing them in and the victim was being victimized, victimized, victimized again and again and again,” Sabatini said, tapping the table in front of him was he spoke. The center also provides other services, like linking victims to therapy that can help them move forward.
The Child Advocacy Center handled 532 child abuse cases in 2016. This year they are on pace to exceed that figure with 527 through Aug. 31.
Based on that information, Shannon Peduto, executive director at the center, predicts they will end up with close to 600 cases for 2017.
“It's not that child abuse is becoming rampant or an epidemic, it's that more people are reporting and becoming educated on the signs of child abuse,” Peduto said.
Businesses are usually excited when client numbers go up, Peduto said, but when the center's does, it's heartbreaking. Yet, staff is “very grateful” they can provide the appropriate services to the children, Peduto said.
Keifer said though abuse victims' stories may be difficult to hear, police officers keep in mind that they are the ones who will make a positive difference in the youths' lives.
That, he said, keeps officers highly motivated to solve these cases and ensures that “no one gets left behind.”
Rodick said justice is something “the victim is owed,” as they have lifelong scars to deal with.
“The day an officer forgets (that) what they're investigating is probably the worst thing to happen to somebody, is the day you need to step back,” Rodick said.
The state Department of Human Services compiled data for cases reported to Children and Youth Services by county, showing Luzerne with a 63 percent increase in cases over a two-year period — 681 in 2014 to 1,113 cases reported in 2016. Of the reported cases, 143 were listed as substantiated.
Meanwhile, Schuylkill County had 568 reported cases in 2016 with 55 substantiated, and Carbon County had 225 reported and 43 substantiated.
Most child abuse cases involve someone the victim knew, like a relative or a parent's significant other or friend, and most of the abusers are males, according to data collected by the center.
Because the victim and abuser are often familiar to each other, Salavantis said, juveniles shouldn't just be told to stay away from strangers; adults need to explain bluntly that no one should touch them in certain ways.
“No one touches you here,” Salavantis said sternly, as an example, raising her voice, “and if they do you tell me.”
Some people are compelled to inflict abuse and/or get satisfaction from it, Keifer said.
Adults have a choice, Rodick said, and understand the difference between right and wrong, and the prospect of arrest should frighten them away from doing wrong.
Yet jail, Keifer said, isn't the most scary repercussion from those accused of child abuse — what is, he found, is the general public finding out about what the abuser did.
That fear is present in the grooming process a pedophile may inflict on their victim — by manipulatively telling them not to tell anyone.
“It's seduction,” Rodick said. It can be buying gifts or the phrasing of words the abuser uses.
Years often pass before child abuse is reported.
Salavantis, whose office is typically involved in cases from early on, said adults routinely report abuse that happened to them as youths and so her office helps police navigate an often-complicated statute of limitations.
The circumstances and types of abuse inflicted on people may be different, Keifer said, but every victim is embarrassed and angry, so they must be in a safe environment when it comes time to relay what happened to them.
Peduto said the Child Advocacy Center helps with that.
The child advocates
The nonprofit, which opened in 2010 and operated under the direction of the district attorney's office, saw 155 children that year. It became autonomous in 2014.
The center has staff specialized in certain fields to effectively speak to children who have been abused and obtain information from them.
Its victim interviews are done by professionals and recorded on DVD so anyone involved in the case can reference it when needed. That prevents the child from having to relate what happened to them multiple times.
The center's staff works in a comfortable setting. Their office doesn't look like a professional office building, it looks like a house; inside, there are colorful rooms meant to relax clients.
There is no charge for the center's services. It arranges for free medical exams, offers advocacy services and can direct clients to therapies that may benefit them and allow the healing process to begin.
The center is the liaison between community agencies like Children and Youth, and prosecutors and law enforcement. They don't work for any of one those, Peduto said; rather, they work for the victim.
And the children, Rodick said, aren't seen as victims in criminal cases.
They are survivors.
Mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse on way this year
by Harry McGee
A mandatory requirement to report suspected child abuse will be introduced for all organisations and individuals dealing with children later this year, the Minister for Children Katherine Zappone will announce on Monday.
Ms Zappone will commence all of the provisions of the Children First Act in mid December giving full effect to the legislation. Only some sections of the Bill have been in operation over the past two years, including the removal of the right of “reasonable chastisement” of children by parents.
With the full commencement on December 11th, statutory obligations will be imposed on key professionals to report child protection concerns to the child agency Tusla.
Providers of services to children will also be obliged to carry out a comprehensive risk assessment of their services and develop Child Safeguarding Statements.
“I am fulfilling a long-standing Government commitment in relation to mandatory reporting of child abuse,” said Ms Zappone. “While I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge for individuals and organisations to comply with their responsibilities under the Children First Act, I believe our children deserve no less.
New court pilot program helps child sex abuse victims to give evidence
by Elise Worthington and Alex McDonald
It's a shocking statistic: less than 20 per cent of all reported child sexual assault incidents proceed to court.
"There's a very high attrition rate in child sexual offence cases, about 6,500 child sexual offences reported in 2015 but only 800 people prosecuted ultimately," NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman told 7.30.
For child sexual abuse victims and their families, the lengthy and often traumatic process of ensuring offenders are brought to justice can be problematic.
"Parents don't want offenders to get off scot-free," Mr Speakman said.
"But they are also concerned about whether it's worth it for their kids to go through the trauma of a court process."
But now an Australian-first pilot, aimed at reducing trauma and getting the best evidence from children, is delivering results in New South Wales courts.
Criminal justice system designed for adults not children
The program involves pre-recording children's evidence and appointing trained "witness intermediaries" who help children to understand questions and get their answers across effectively.
Since March last year more than 700 children have been through the NSW pilot program, which has 44 trained witness intermediaries.
Around half the intermediaries are speech pathologists, the rest are occupational therapists, teachers and social workers.
"A witness intermediary is not an advocate for the child," Mark Speakman said.
District Court Judge Kate Traill, who presides over one of the two courts involved in the pilot, said the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
"We've had amazing results," Judge Traill told 7.30.
"I think both sides, the Crown and the defence, can see the benefit in it, and that's been the most probably heartening part of the pilot, to see how the defence bar have got on board and embraced it."
Victim testimony is crucial in child sexual abuse cases.
Prosecutors rely on it heavily because offences usually occur behind closed doors, veiled in secrecy and have no other witnesses.
For very young children and children with communication problems or disabilities, giving clear accurate evidence can be difficult.
"Our criminal justice system was designed for adults to give evidence in a formal setting in a courtroom," Judge Traill said.
"Over the course of the pilot, I've seen children that may not have ever been able to give evidence or if they did give evidence it would not have been able to be understood, it might have been unclear or just not good evidence.
"It's very heartening to see children have a voice."
Changes could go beyond children
As well as using witness intermediaries, the pilot allows the cross examination of the child to be pre-recorded closer to the time of reporting to police, both methods were recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
"The evidence is being given in a much smaller time frame, and then a trial, if a trial is not listed for a year away, that evidence is preserved and can be played to the jury at a later stage," Judge Traill said.
Judge Traill said the pilot also allows the court to be more flexible to accommodate children's needs.
"I can take off my wig and my gown," she said.
"If we have a jury we can't do that, we'd still be wigged and gowned."
An independent review by University of New South Wales researchers has found unanimous support by stakeholders including both defence and prosecution.
"It's a three-year pilot, we're about 18 months into the pilot, and we can already see the huge difference it's made," Judge Traill said.
Mark Speakman said the NSW Government will consider extending the trial after the full review is complete.
"One possibility would be to expand this sort of system to adults with a disability, some of the children who have been involved in this process so far have developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy and other disability so we would look in the medium term to rolling it out beyond children to those with cognitive and other disabilities," he said.
"This is about making sure children are heard and the justice system is working for children."
Alberta urged to enforce law on child abuse reporting
Those who know about abuse and don't tell authorities could face fines and time in prison
by Bill Graveland
An Alberta law that fines or imprisons people who don't report cases of child abuse or neglect has never been used, something advocates say is a "lost opportunity."
Under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, someone with "reasonable or probable grounds to believe that a child is in need of intervention" must report it. Anyone who fails to do so can be fined up to $2,000 or jailed for up to six months.
That part of the act was added in 2003, but not one charge has been laid.
Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy, who brought to light sex crimes by his former junior hockey coach Graham James, said there are usually people who know what is happening and don't report it. If the law is there, he said it should be used.
"I think it is a lost opportunity," said Kennedy, now an advocate for child-abuse survivors.
"The reality is other people a lot of times have gut feelings that something's not right but don't do anything about it. Somehow we need to enforce an act or empower people with the confidence and knowledge to make them act."
Difficult to convict
Kennedy said it's a myth that children are usually abused by complete strangers. The legislation is another weapon in the battle against child abuse, he said.
"If I look at my situation, the rumours about Graham James were all over the place. I guess if this was an act that was enforced, I probably would never have met Graham James," Kennedy said.
"I think that this is something that we have to look at."
Alberta Children's Services Minister Danielle Larivee said one of the law's biggest challenges is there must be sufficient evidence for a conviction.
"It's pretty difficult to prove that someone knew about abuse and did nothing," she told The Canadian Press. "I honestly don't ever want to see those kind of charges laid, I mean, to know that somebody intentionally knew a child was at risk and didn't report it."
But she said the law will remain on the books just in case while the government focuses on public education and prevention.
"We need to make sure that there is a clear understanding that it is not only a moral obligation but a legal obligation," Larivee said. "So we're going to leave it on the books on the horrible chance that someone would actually make that decision on their own not to report."
'Great piece of legislation'
The president of the Alberta College of Social Workers said keeping the law in place is crucial.
"It's a great piece of legislation," said Richard Gregory. "I think the downside of that piece of legislation is that people don't know about it. It's an absolute necessity."
A criminologist and lecturer at Mount Royal University's criminal justice program isn't surprised the legislation has not been used. Ritesh Narayan said the law's intention is fine but prosecuting under it is problematic.
"If you really start enforcing it then you are opening the floodgates because then you are going to have everyone terrified because they don't want to be prosecuted," he said.
"As a result they'll be calling in when they see a parent smoking a cigarette in a car with a kid present because that definitely could be construed as child abuse."
Using the law could also have a chilling effect if someone knew about possible abuse for a period of time and then went to police to report it, Narayan said.
"If they were to disclose I've seen this for the last few weeks or few months, you're basically incriminating yourself."
What It's Like to Be a Complex Trauma Survivor of Narcissistic Abuse
by Shahida Arabi
“Many abused children cling to the hope that growing up will bring escape and freedom. But the personality formed in the environment of coercive control is not well adapted to adult life. The survivor is left with fundamental problems in basic trust, autonomy, and initiative. She approaches the task of early adulthood??establishing independence and intimacy??burdened by major impairments in self-care, in cognition and in memory, in identity, and in the capacity to form stable relationships.
She is still a prisoner of her childhood; attempting to create a new life, she reencounters the trauma.”
? Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror
Complex trauma is compounded trauma and can result in symptoms of Complex PTSD. Survivors of complex trauma endure trauma not only in childhood, but often in adulthood as well. Imagine, if you will, multiple chains of traumas, all of which are connected in some way to each other. The most recent traumas build on earlier ones, reinforcing ancient wounds, maladaptive belief systems and fear-based physiological responses. These childhood wounds create the foundation of deep-seated toxic shame and self-sabotage for the survivor; each “tiny terror” or larger trauma in adulthood builds upon it, brick by brick, creating an ingrained framework for self-destruction. Even when one wound is excavated, addressed and healed, another trauma that wound was connected to will inevitably unravel in the process.
The complex trauma survivor's life history is layered with chronic trauma as a result of ongoing stressors such as long-term domestic violence, childhood sexual abuse and physical abuse – situations where the individual is held “captive” whether emotionally or physically, feels under the complete control of a perpetrator or multiple perpetrators and a perceived inability to escape the threatening situation.
Yet complex trauma isn't just caused by physical abuse; traumas such as severe verbal and emotional abuse in childhood has the potential to wreak havoc on one's sense of self and navigation in the world, even going so far as to rewiring the brain (Van der Kolk, 2015). According to trauma therapist Pete Walker, “The genesis of complex PTSD is most often associated with extended periods of ongoing physical and/or sexual abuse in childhood. My observations, however, convince me that ongoing extremes of verbal and/or emotional abuse also cause it.”
Complex Trauma and Complex PTSD
The National Center for PTSD notes that those who suffer from Complex Trauma can experience disruptions in the following areas in addition to the regular symptoms of PTSD.
Emotional Regulation. Complex trauma survivors can struggle with feelings of depression, suicidal ideation as well as extreme rage.
Consciousness. Those who have endured complex trauma may relive traumatic events, feel disassociated from the trauma, their bodies, the world and/or have problems with accessing their memories of the trauma. This is not surprising, considering that trauma interferes with parts of the brain that deal with learning, decision-making and memory. What's interesting is that complex trauma survivors can endure not only visual flashbacks of the trauma but also “emotional flashbacks” that cause them to regress back to the emotional states of hopelessness where they first encountered the original wounds (Walker, 2013).
Self-Perception. Survivors carry a sense of toxic shame, helplessness and a feeling of “separateness” from others, of being different and defective due to the trauma. They also bear the burden of guilt and negative self-talk that does not belong to them; Pete Walker (2013) calls this the “inner critic,” an ongoing inner dialogue of self-blame, self-hatred and a need for perfectionism that evolved from being punished and conditioned to believe that their needs did not matter. As he writes , “In extremely rejecting families, the child eventually comes to believe that even her normal needs, preferences, feelings and boundaries are dangerous imperfections – justifiable reasons for punishment and/or abandonment.” Children who experience abuse in early childhood have a difficult time distinguishing between the abuser's actions and words and reality. A child who is told that the abuse is their fault repeatedly will come to believe in and internalize their lack of worth without question.
Distorted Perceptions of the Perpetrator. Understandably, complex trauma survivors have an ambivalent relationship to their perpetrators. The ‘trauma bond,' a bond created by intense emotional experiences and a threat to the victim's life (whether a physical or psychological threat) has been forged so that that victim could survive the circumstances of the abuse. As a result, they might protect their abusers due to being trauma bonded to them, minimize or rationalize the abuse, or they may become preoccupied with their abusers to the extent of seeking revenge. They may also assign the abuser complete power and control over their lives.
Relations with Others. Complex trauma survivors can become socially withdrawn and self-isolate due to the abuse. Since they never develop a sense of safety, they distrust others while simultaneously searching for a “rescuer” who can finally give them the unconditional positive regard they were robbed of in childhood.
One's System of Meanings. It is disturbingly easy to lose hope as a complex trauma survivor. When you've been re-violated time and time again, it is difficult not to lose faith and develop a sense of hopelessness that can interfere with a sense of meaning or belief in a bigger picture. Life may feel meaningless to a survivor who has never been shown proper care, affection or authentic connection.
Narcissistic Abuse and Complex Trauma
Survivors of narcissistic abuse in childhood, who are later retraumatized by narcissistic or sociopathic predators in adulthood, can also show symptoms of complex trauma.
Imagine the daughter of a narcissistic father as an example. She grows up chronically violated and abused at home, perhaps bullied by her peers as well. Her burgeoning low self-esteem, disruptions in identity and problems with emotional regulation causes her to live a life filled with terror. This is a terror that is stored in the body and literally shapes her brain. It is also what makes her brain extra vulnerable and susceptible to the effects of trauma in adulthood. According to Dr. Van der Kolk:
“The human brain is a social organ that is shaped by experience, and that is shaped in order to respond to the experience that you're having. So particularly earlier in life, if you're in a constant state of terror; your brain is shaped to be on alert for danger, and to try to make those terrible feelings go away. The brain gets very confused. And that leads to problems with excessive anger, excessive shutting down, and doing things like taking drugs to make yourself feel better. These things are almost always the result of having a brain that is set to feel in danger and fear. As you grow up an get a more stable brain, these early traumatic events can still cause changes that make you hyper-alert to danger, and hypo-alert to the pleasures of everyday life…
If you're an adult and life's been good to you, and then something bad happens, that sort of injures a little piece of the whole structure. But toxic stress in childhood from abandonment or chronic violence has pervasive effects on the capacity to pay attention, to learn, to see where other people are coming from, and it really creates havoc with the whole social environment.
And it leads to criminality, and drug addiction, and chronic illness, and people going to prison, and repetition of the trauma on the next generation.”
-Dr. Van der Kolk, Childhood Trauma Leads to Brains Wired for Fear
Being verbally, emotionally and sometimes even physically beaten down, the child of a narcissistic parent learns that there is no safe place for her in the world. The symptoms of trauma emerge: disassociation to survive and escape her day-to-day existence, addictions that cause her to self-sabotage, maybe even self-harm to cope with the pain of being unloved, neglected and mistreated.
Her pervasive sense of worthlessness and toxic shame, as well as subconscious programming, then causes her to become more easily attached to emotional predators in adulthood.
In her repeated search for a rescuer, she instead finds those who chronically diminish her just like her earliest abusers. Of course, her resilience, adept skill set in adapting to chaotic environments and ability to “bounce back” was also birthed in early childhood. This is also seen as an “asset” to toxic partners because it means she will be more likely to stay within the abuse cycle in order to attempt to make things “work.”
She then suffers not just from early childhood trauma, but from multiple re-victimizations in adulthood until, with the right support, she addresses her core wounds and begins to break the cycle step by step. Before she can break the cycle, she must first give herself the space and time to recover. A break from establishing new relationships is often essential during this time; No Contact (or Low Contact from her abusers in more complicated situations such as co-parenting) is also vital to the healing journey, to prevent compounding any existing traumas.
The Journey to Healing as a Complex Trauma Survivor
As the complex trauma survivor gives herself time to disrupt dysfunctional patterns, she begins to develop a healthier sense of boundaries, a more grounded sense of self, and severs ties with toxic people. She receives counseling to address her triggers, symptoms of complex trauma and begins processing some of the original traumas. She grieves for the childhood she never had; she grieves the traumatic losses that reenacted her childhood wounds. She starts to recognize that the abuse was not her fault. She takes care of the inner child that needed nurturing all along. She begins to ‘reprogram' the beliefs that underlie her sense of unworthiness. Once she understands why her life has been one emotional roller coaster after the other, the path to recovery becomes that much more clear.
This is just one example out of many of what being a complex trauma survivor can look like, but it is a powerful one that illustrates just how damaging early childhood abuse and complex trauma can be on the mind, body and psyche. Recovery from complex trauma is intense, challenging and frightening – but it is also liberating and empowering.
Complex trauma survivors carry with them a lifetime's worth of bullying regardless of how old they may be. Survivors of chronic narcissistic abuse especially can face the challenge of attempting to address wounds that may be primarily psychological rather than physical, but just as damaging.
The life experiences of complex trauma survivors have given them a great deal of resilience as well as opportunities to obtain more coping mechanisms than most. Yet their struggles are undeniable, pervasive and require intervention by professional support. A network consisting of a trauma-informed professional who understands complex trauma, a survivor community to supplement the professional support and diverse healing modalities that target both the mind and the body can be absolute life-savers for the survivor of complex trauma.
For a survivor who feels his or her voice was continually silenced and discounted, there is potential for immense healing and growth when one finally speaks and is validated.
Challenges for children who witness domestic violence
by Shannon Simmons
The Violence Policy Center recently released a report showing that Nevada ranks No. 2 in the number of women killed by men in a single victim/single offender incident. This report makes us wonder, how many children were involved in these incidents, and are they receiving the intervention and support they need to process and heal from what they've witnessed?
It is estimated that between 3.3 million and 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence each year. Men who witnessed domestic violence as children are twice as likely to be abusive toward their wives than men who did not witness abuse. Woman who witnessed abuse as children are much more likely to accept abusive behavior from a spouse than women who did not. Thirty to sixty percent of domestic violence abusers also abuse children living in the home. Children who experience domestic violence are 15 times more likely to become victims of sexual or physical assault than the national average.
The impact of witnessing domestic violence varies from child to child, but in our shelter, we often see children who are withdrawn, aggressive, hostile, anxious, and developmentally delayed. Many children have insomnia, wet the bed, and have frequent nightmares, all of which will affect their ability to make friends, concentrate in school, and develop confidence.
The road to healing usually starts with the child seeing that his/her mom is safe. Once a victim is out of immediate danger, it is critical to start mending their relationship with their children. Many of these survivors obviously love their children, but have been so focused on survival that they lack the knowledge and skills that they need to raise healthy, well-adjusted children. Advocates to End Domestic Violence offers services such as parenting classes and assistance with almost any parenting task that an abused person needs; whether it be enrolling their kids in a new school, helping them navigate the legal system, or taking a trip to the grocery store to show them how to get their children to behave in public. Survivors will slowly become more confident in their abilities as a parent.
Group and individual therapy sessions are usually necessary to help these children sort through and normalize their experiences so they don't feel so isolated. Children may blame themselves, their non-abusive parent or the police and are often conflicted with feelings of anger and love for their abusive parent. Therapy plays a vital role in the emotional healing for children and their parent alike.
As scary as it may be to decide to stay at a shelter, it may be the best place for a survivor and their children to get the support and resources that they need to break the cycle of abuse.
For information about CCHHS services, please visit our website at http://gethealthycarsoncity.org/preparedness or visit us at http://www.facebook.com/cchhs
Childhood abuse survivors no longer face barrier in civil damages action
by The Herald
A long-standing time-bar which stopped survivors of childhood abuse in Scotland being able to pursue civil damages after three years has been abolished.
The introduction of new legislation means victims no longer face a barrier which requires personal injury actions to be made within a certain period after the incident.
It has been described as a means to ensure amends are made for the "grave failings of the past".
Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Annabelle Ewing said: "Child abuse is the most horrific betrayal of our young people and, even where such crimes were committed decades ago, we will do all we can to help survivors get the justice they deserve.
"This legal milestone would not have happened but for the courage of many adult survivors whose persistence and dedication have shone a light on the dark realities of child abuse.
"Through their brave testimonies they have made clear the great hurt and damage caused by the very individuals and institutions who should have cared for them.
"This removal of the civil time-bar underlines the Government 's commitment to ensuring Scotland is beginning to make amends for the grave failings of the past."
The Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Act 2017 will apply to civil legal actions for damages resulting from child abuse since September 26, 1964.
Ms Ewing, who took the legislation through the Scottish Parliament , said the move was part of wider action to support survivors of childhood abuse.
Other moves include the national survivor support fund, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry and an ongoing consultation into a potential financial compensation scheme.
However, some have hit out over the legislation doesn't apply to "pre-64 cases".
Janine Rennie, CEO of Wellbeing Scotland, said: "We're over the moon. It's something survivors have been fighting, a lot of them, for most of their lives. It's a huge step forward for survivors.
"But it's important to mention the pre-64 cases, a lot of them are very unwell and elderly. We can't forget the ones that can't achieve justice."
Ministers indicated to Parliament during the passage of the legislation that it has not been possible to remove the different time-bar rule applicable to cases of abuse which occurred prior to September 26 1964.
Future Pathways, Scotland's in-care survivor support fund, has been ensuring that the processes for providing support to older survivors is prioritised.
(about a NAASCA family member, Elizabeth Sullivan)
Empowering abuse survivors is Stillwater woman's mission
by Sue Webber
Elizabeth Sullivan carried a dark secret with her for 30 years. She told no one, not even her parents or her husband.
But the secret finally came out in 2012. She is a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
“My folks were divorced when I was 3, and things happened at home when I was with a babysitter,” Sullivan said. “When I was 13, I was sexually abused by my friend's older brother. When I was 14, another friend and I were molested by two adults in the woods outside Stillwater.
“The problem with childhood sexual abuse is that when it happens early, it sets you up for more. I turned to drugs and alcohol then. I got pregnant at 16 and lost the baby. When I was 17, I was raped by a man who had been a friend, like family.”
She never reported any of it, Sullivan said. “Years ago, I thought I would never tell anyone,” she said. “I thought I would go to my grave with it. It owned me. Young victims are told that it's their fault, that they made it happen, that people wouldn't understand. It keeps you quiet.”
But the abuse affects their behavior and how they look at life, she said. “Some victims become promiscuous; some become perfectionists and excel,” she said. “I got into drugs as a way of survival.”
At 17, she quit taking drugs and thought she had put it all behind her, Sullivan said.
But it resurfaced in 2012, when she and her husband were seeing a counselor. By then, she had three children who were the same age as she was when she became a victim.
“The kids' ages, combined with the counseling, triggered me,” Sullivan said. “Every time the therapist asked me about my childhood, I cried. Eventually I became afraid to go back [to the therapist] because I was afraid I would be exposed. It was like a storm was brewing.”
The “storm” hit on a morning soon after, when she was attending Mass with her two youngest children. “I started feeling like I was having a heart attack,” Sullivan said. “I told the kids I had the flu. I ended up calling 911, went to the hospital and was in ICU for two days with a heart rate that was out of control. I had no idea what was happening to me. When I got out of the hospital, the flashbacks started and I had PTSD that was out of control.”
Sullivan, a lifelong resident of Stillwater, began going to therapy twice a week then and started to address the abuse she had suffered years earlier.
“I had basically shut the door to my childhood,” she said. “I never told my family or my husband. Even when I started talking about it I thought people would think I was a horrible person. I wondered how I could raise my kids.”
As she has dealt with her issues during the last five years, Sullivan has learned that the average age at which survivors experience triggering and reliving their earlier abuse is 42. She learned that one of every four girls and one of every six boys is sexually abused by the age of 18, and some have several violators. She learned a lot more through study, support groups and connections with others who had had similar experiences.
“I really started diving into a study of child abuse, pedophiles and family dynamics,” Sullivan said. “I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to find something to help people on a healing journey. I wanted to take on the world, but the therapist said I should work on myself first.”
At one point, she said, “I sat down and had an age-appropriate conversation with each of my kids and told them what had happened to me.”
Once the therapist gave her the go-ahead, Sullivan got busy. She established EmpowerSurvivors in 2014, a group that first began as an online blog and then morphed into a Facebook group that eventually had 3,000 members from all over the world who had suffered every kind of abuse. From there, her work branched out into weekly support groups at the Stillwater Library. In 2016, Sullivan opened an office in Stillwater.
She also co-hosts a weekly radio show on a California station, along with a forensic psychologist.
The Stillwater office, at 1940 S. Greeley St., offers a support group on Thursday nights, plus additional classes and workshops. It became a non-profit organization in 2016, and now has an advisory board and volunteers, some of whom are sexual abuse survivors.
Sullivan is now planning the second annual conference of the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse, set to begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, at the Grand Banquet Hall in Stillwater.
This year's keynote speaker will be Matt Sandusky, whose adoptive father, Jerry Sandusky (formerly an assistant football coach at Penn State) molested Matt from the time he was 8 until he was 17. Matt is founder and executive director of Peaceful Hearts Foundation, and also is the author of “Undaunted: Breaking My Silence to Overcome the Trauma of Child Sexual Abuse,” a memoir chronicling his years of abuse.
Other speakers will include:
• Tara Walker Lyons of Montana, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and mother of two who recently authored and helped pass “Tara's Law” in Montana, to require K-12 education on the topics of childhood sexual abuse, prevention, and what to look for when prevention fails.
• Jane Straub, a victim assistance specialist with the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center and Gundersen National Child Protection Service, who is a national speaker on the Adverse Childhood Experience Study and Survivor Resiliency.
About a dozen local vendors – plus a nutritionist, a yoga expert and an acupuncturist — were represented at last year's conference, and Sullivan is hoping for more participation this year.
“I truly believe you need to involve the whole mind, body and spirit to bring a lot of healing,” Sullivan said.
In the meantime, Sullivan has found the Chamber of Commerce supportive of her efforts, and has met with the assistant prosecuting attorney in the Human Trafficking Unit at South Washington County, who also is supportive.
But she has found it harder to convince some segments of the community that she's offering a needed service. Many people believe that the experience was something that happened in the past and wonder why you don't just get over it and move on, Sullivan said. Much more adult education is needed, she said.
“Sexual abuse is such a taboo subject,” she said. “Most survivors don't get the support they need. We all store trauma differently, and when people deal with sexual abuse in their past, they're right back to where they were as kids. Until you process the trauma, you're going to have issues. Schools don't want to touch it because then people think they're teaching sex education. But if we don't talk to our kids about it, predators will, and they're really good at it.”
She stresses that survivors need to work with a trained therapist first.
When adults first break their silence or something triggers their memories, she said, “They think they're going nuts. They become fearful. You truly believe you are at fault. A lot of people grew up thinking they were damaged or dirty.”
Sullivan is determined to continue working toward giving voice to sexual abuse. “It's important for us to come together as a community,” she said. “Survivors need a safe place to go to understand what happened to them. People are pretty shattered. They don't know how to put it into words. It's really powerful to sit in a group with people who understand. My whole life I've never had things just fall into place. When I decided to do this, it became my mission. I'm still learning, and I always will be. Now I'm putting it to good use and helping people.”
Those interested in attending the Nov. 11 conference may register online. For more information, call 651-300-9180, email EmpowerSurvivors@gmail.com or visit the web site: www.EmpowerSurvivors.biz
Tusla monitors just one sex offender despite 91 notifications
by the Irish Examiner
One in Four, a charity which supports victims of sexual abuse, made 91 child protection notifications to Tusla, the child and family agency, which resulted in the monitoring of one sex offender, writes Joyce Fegan
Executive director Maeve Lewis said: “We are extremely worried that dangerous sex offenders may be continuing to abuse children even though we have brought them to the attention of Tusla.”
In the charity's annual report for 2016, One in Four says that most of the child protection notifications made to Tusla are returned as “unfounded”.
In 2016 it made 91 child protection notifications to Tusla, all of which were based on very serious allegations made by the charity's clients in relation to experiences of child sexual abuse.
Of these notifications, 12 were accompanied by full statements to social care workers, of which eight were not investigated or deemed “unfounded”. Three of the allegations are ongoing and one case has come back as “founded”.
One in Four said that 79 clients of the 91 cases chose not to meet with a social care worker and it was, therefore, difficult for Tusla to investigate an allegation without a full statement.
Ms Lewis stated that Tusla needs far greater resources in order to deal with the volume of notifications because perpetrators of sexual abuse continue to abuse until they are caught.
“Our clients are adults who were sexually abused as children, but we know that sex offenders generally continue to abuse until they are caught. The father who abused his children may now be abusing his grandchildren; the teacher who abused one generation may now be abusing the next,” said Ms Lewis.
“Tusla has made strides in putting in place retrospective teams across the country, but our figures speak for themselves. From all these very substantial allegations, only one offender is now being monitored. We believe that Tusla child protection teams need much greater resourcing to deal with the volume of notifications.”
The annual report includes figures on the number of people who received help from the charity last year.
In 2016, One in Four provided 2,563 therapy hours to 143 adult survivors of child sexual abuse and 53 family members.
Separate to counselling work, the charity's advocacy officers supported 646 people to engage with the criminal justice system as well as to make child protection notifications.
In relation to the profile of its clients, 40% were male, which, according to One in Four, “challenges the idea that boys are not sexually abused”.
In terms of the survivors' relationship to the perpetrator of the abuse, 46% of One in Four's counselling clients were abused in their own families, 11% in the Catholic Church, 10% were abused by neighbours, and 19% by strangers.
Other statistics show that 9% of counselling clients were abused by more than one person.
Ms Lewis said that the charity's waiting list is currently closed, which, because a large number of its clients attempt suicide, is of “huge concern”.
“In 2016 we met 94 new clients and 43 of these had attempted suicide at some point in their lives. It is a huge concern that we cannot respond immediately to people who ask for our help,” said Ms Lewis.
This 1 Hidden Sign Means Someone Is A Victim of Physical Abuse
by Chelena Goldman
When looking for signs of physical abuse , it's common to look for visible bruises, scratches, and any other clear signs of trauma. But what about the bruises that the naked eye can't detect? It isn't unheard of for abuse to go unrecorded because it's unseen.
There is one sign, however, that should set off an alarm that someone may have been a victim of physical abuse.
But first, what constitutes physical abuse?
Physical abuse is defined as non-accidental force that causes bodily harm and injury, and results in unreasonable punishment. Women are more often victims of physical abuse, as well as the elderly, physically disabled, and mentally ill. Physical abuse often manifests itself in intimate relationships. For children, abuse most commonly occurs at the hands of a family member.
Number of reported cases of abuse
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence , 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of physical abuse by an intimate partner at least once in their life. More than 20,000 phone calls to hotlines about domestic violence are recorded in a day, the site reports. One in 15 children are reportedly exposed to physical violence. These children are often eye witnesses to domestic assault in their homes.
Abuse on TV
There are many arguments that the portrayal of abuse on TV makes it more difficult to detect in real life. Some argue that the abundance of violence on TV, in video games, and on social media has made us numb to it. There is also evidence that predisposing someone to violent imagery puts them at a higher risk of becoming violent themselves.
The one sign that someone is a victim
When it comes to physical abuse, a simple touch can become a very scary thing. And one shocking sign that someone has suffered from physical abuse is that they don't like being hugged. While most people see a hug as comforting, a victim of physical abuse is more likely to withdraw in fear.
How the trauma develops over time
Clinical psychologist Aaron Kipnis, Ph.D. explains to DomesticShelters.org why a hug is so terrifying for victims and survivors of abuse. “Abuse leaves an imprint that touch is dangerous,” he says. “For abuse survivors they may flinch, withdraw or retract when hugged, even though they're longing for physical contact.” The reaction is worse when the hug is unexpected, or from behind. “They don't like anyone sneaking up on them,” Kipnis says.
Why this sign is hard to spot at first
Even if you know this shocking sign, physical abuse can still be hard to spot. (An individual without a history of physical abuse may not like to be touched, for example.) But if an individual exudes severe reaction to being hugged, it can raise a red flag that something is wrong. Recognizing changes in behavior — especially if these behaviors are accompanied by visible signs of physical trauma — is key to determining physical abuse, and then seeking help.
There is a plethora of outlets for getting help with physical abuse, starting with the National Domestic Abuse Hotline . For survivors of child abuse, Help for Adult Victims of Child Abuse connects victims with survivors. The National Center for Elder Abuse offers help for seniors, and includes a resources page to help victims find local help.
Experts say online child abuse pervasive, growing, and needs coordinated response
by Ines San Martin
ROME - No culture or religion is immune to sexual abuse of children, it's a crime that's prevalent in every society, it's a public health problem of serious dimensions affecting one in every five girls and one in every 12 boys around the world, participants in a major child safety summit at Rome's Gregorian University heard on Wednesday.
The first morning of the Oct. 3-6 congress titled “Child Dignity in the Digital World”was largely dedicated to statistics. Despite differences in backgrounds, there were several things experts from various fields seemed to agree on: There's not enough information on just how widespread the problem is, and policy changes with a coordinated interdisciplinary international effort are needed to guarantee the protection of children.
“It's difficult to fully access the number of children who are victims,” Dr. Dorothy Rozga, the executive director of ECPAT International said. Despite much progress at many levels, there's no agreed upon international indicators of abuse.
“We need the data,” she said.
ECPAT is a non-governmental organization and a global network dedicated to ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Rozga spoke from the perspective of a global NGO representing civil society, which she said has been at the forefront in the fight against sexual abuse of children for over 20 years. Governments, she said, only caught up in 2012, with the creation of a UK-based global alliance called WePROTECT, combining efforts of governments, international safety forces, the private sector and NGOs.
The alliance is today one of the three main organizers of the international conference taking place in Rome, the others being the Gregorian's Centre for Child Protection (CCP) and “Telefono Azzurro,” the first Italian helpline for children at risk.
Speakers at the first session also included American Professor Michelle Anne Williams, from Harvard University, who spoke on the Epidemiology of Child Maltreatment; Dr. Janis Wolak, also American, and a professor at the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, who gave an overview of the problem; Australian Tim Morris, Executive Director for Police Services at Interpol who gave a global law enforcement perspective; and Rozga who is also American.
Statistics and impact of child sexual abuse
Globally, violence is the eighth-leading cause of death among children, Williams said, though the rates vary by social class, both across and within countries. The statistics of non-fatal child maltreatment, however, are worse. One in three children, she said, are victims of emotional abuse. One in four experience physical abuse. One in five girls is sexually abused before she reaches the age of 18, and one in 12 boys.
About 80 percent of the children who are sexually abused, both online and offline, are attacked by people within their circle of trust, Rozga said. In an estimated 35 percent of the cases, it's one of the child's parents committing the abuse.
“To effectively respond to the crisis at scale, we need to reach to those in the circle of trust of the child: homes, families, education institutions and communities,” she said.
Morris, from Interpol Australia, spoke about the proliferation of images in what is known as the “dark net,” which is difficult to police, and which is rife with child abuse activity. He noted that on these sites, the use of crypto-currencies to acquire child abuse material is rising, and that the demand for new material is “disconcerting.”
The age of victims, he said, without giving specific percentages, is quite young. Frequently, Morris added, they're under eight, and even babies are sexually abused on videos transmitted live.
The physical consequences of sexual abuse, Williams said, range from abdominal injuries to lacerations, burns, gynecological disorders including premature ovarian failure, chronic pain syndrome, sexually transmitted diseases and even permanent disabilities. Mental and behavioral consequences include eating and sleep disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, mood and anxiety disorders, particularly post-stress disorder, depression, attention deficit disorder, suicidal behavior and unsafe sex.
The online threats for children are many, including sexting, sextortion, grooming, and live distant child abuse on the web. Wolak, from the New Hampshire research center, said that their findings indicate that the Internet did not create new types of abuse and exploitation, but it does facilitate “long standing aspects of certain types of these crimes.”
Grooming and seduction, instead of violence, have been used by abusers for a long time, with offenders building a relationship with the victims. This, she insisted, is not new, they're simply using the currently available communication forms to interact with their victims.
The same can be said about the use of photography. The Internet, Wolak argued, had a big impact in the proliferation and distribution of images showing child pornography, but as a method, it's been used since photography was invented.
Society as a whole needs to get involved
Morris began his presentation by saying that no culture and no religion is immune from the sexual abuse of children or from online offending, and that according to their data, there's no correlation with ethnicity, education, social and economic status.
Though there is a correlation with the sexes: men are the majority offenders, and women are the majority of victims.
“How prepared is law enforcement? ‘Kind of' is the answer,” Morris acknowledged, saying that “law enforcement has ‘good people' technology, which allows for quicker identification of offending material, and the increase in data leads to more victims and offenders being identified.”
Despite their efforts, however, images and videos showing child sexual exploitation continue to grow online, and this has been the case for the past five years. Last year, he said, saw a 48 percent increase from the year before. For Interpol and other agencies, it's important to work with the technical industry, such as Facebook.
Representatives from the Internet giant, as well as Google and Microsoft, are among those attending the conference. “The workload is massive for law enforcement,” Morris said, urging for an increased efficiency in information sharing.
“We are not prepared, not totally,” he insisted. “Law enforcement lacks the resources to respond to the endless amounts of offending material in distribution. We have to focus on the worst offenders and the most offensive material.
“Law enforcement is empowered with a unique mandate to tackle online crimes against children, but meaningful change requires involvement of all actors in society,” Morris insisted.
According to Dr. Elizabeth J. Letourneau, an American expert from John Hopkins University, one of these actors is the Catholic Church.
Her presentation was on the need to prevent online offending, saying that the time has come to “stop grasping at straws,” and that focusing all the efforts on detecting and punishing is simply not enough. The United States government, she said, can spend up to a million dollars punishing a sex offender, with policies that do little to make society safer.
“Congressmen and women have told me that it would be better to prevent child sexual abuse, that it would be more humane and more cost effective than intervening after the fact, but they just don't have the funds,” she said.
It's easy to say that there's no money, Letourneau continued, if there's no trust in the effectiveness of prevention. But for a government not to invest money in it, would be like spending funds treating polio, but not in vaccines that can prevent the decease.
“Convincing government policy makers that child sexual abuse is preventable, not inevitable, is a fundamental first step to move beyond grasping at straws,” she said.
And here's where the Church comes in: “I believe the Church can use its extraordinary powers to convene, on display here today, and its extraordinary power to persuade, to convince governments that child sexual abuse is a preventable public health problem, and to demand that governments invest in prevention science for child sexual abuse as they already do for other forms of child maltreatment and childhood illnesses.”
On Friday, at the end of the conference, participants will be received by Pope Francis, and they will present him with a plan of action. Such an appeal, for the Church to become even more involved in its advocacy for the protection of children worldwide, is not far-fetched.
'It Shouldn't Hurt to be a Child:' Childhelp educates children in schools
by Candace McPhillips
This summer, 16 Arizona non-profits shared $425,000 in grants from the "It Shouldn't Hurt to be a Child" specialty license plate program.
The license plate program was started in 1999 as a joint effort between The Arizona Republic/azcentral.com, the Governor's Office of Youth, Faith and Family and the Arizona Community Foundation. Since then, more than $9 million has been distributed to agencies working to prevent child abuse and neglect.
The plates are $25, $17 of which goes to the agencies. Get your plate at servicearizona.com.
This series takes a closer look at the work being done by the non-profits. Featured today: Childhelp.
Childhelp: Providing schools with education for child abuse prevention
Grant amount: $26,000. 480-922-8212. childhelp.org.
Most organizations with child abuse prevention programs focus on strengthening families, providing support or holding workshops for parents. Childhelp wants to make sure children are educated, as well.
This year, a grant received by the Child Abuse Prevention License Plate program helped Childhelp implement a child abuse prevention program in elementary schools.
Program director of Childhelp, Jodi Hall, said Child Speak Up Be Safe was implemented in seven Littleton elementary schools for grades 1-6. She said children participate in lessons focusing on child abuse, bullying and internet safety. They take a survey at the beginning of the year and then after taking the lessons to see what they've learned. Hall said results prove that knowledge does increase.
"The goal is to increase knowledge that children have about child abuse and, as we get into older grades, about social media dangers and also neglect," said Hall. "What we're seeing is that (abuse) happens in every community, every socioeconomic class. It's happening across all demographics and across the country, but awareness is increasing in children as well as adults."
The goal is to "drive home the idea of prevention."
"If people will break down the resistance about the fear of talking about abuse and accept that its happening, we can fight it," said Daphne Young, vice president of communications and prevention education for the organization.
Aside from this prevention program, Childhelp offers classes that educate parents and professionals, help to strengthen families and increase communication skills. They also provide a helpline, foster care and a residential treatment facility, among other services.
"Our official mission is to meet the physical, emotional, spiritual needs focusing on advocacy prevention," said Young. "There's not one area where, once you protect that, the whole house doesn't fall down."
The organization has been in Arizona since 1994 and an important part of its success, Young said, is keeping the ideas of the founders alive.
"A lot of that is just institutionalizing (the founders') legacy into standards and practices," said Young. "For all these years, the founders have had standards that are above and beyond what the state or government would require in the care of children. All of the things that they've been doing has been through their knowledge of working with children and research to back that up."
Young said it's important to the founders to "keep the bar high" and care for children with "love and a soft touch."
SRP presents: 'Saving Arizona's Kids'
What it is: SRP presents an evening celebrating the spirit of family with stories from the men and women making a difference in the lives of Arizona's most vulnerable children. Also: An education fair with local agencies working to prevent child abuse and neglect.
When: Monday Oct. 16. Non-profit fair, 5-7 p.m. Storytelling, 7-9 p.m.
Where: The Van Buren, 401 W. Van Buren St., Phoenix. thevanburenphx.com.
Buy tickets: tickets.azcentral.com.
A teen who was locked up and beaten sues Iowa for bungling her child-welfare case
by Lee Rood
In a rare move, a 19-year-old abused in an Urbandale foster home for years has sued the state for negligence, saying she suffered physically and emotionally because the child welfare case was mishandled.
Malayia Knapp of Des Moines filed the legal action Monday with the State Appeal Board under Iowa's Department of Management.
It comes after three half-siblings were removed in August from the home of Mindy and Andrew Knapp, when a sibling alleged the child abuse continued.
The ongoing case is one of several in the past year examined by Reader's Watchdog that has raised questions about how foster children are being treated after being adopted by parents who are receiving thousands annually in subsidies.
It also has raised questions about why five children adopted by the Knapps were returned to their home even after child-protective workers found both parents responsible for child abuse and Mindy Knapp was convicted of assault causing bodily injury.
Polk County juvenile judge Colin Witt sealed the ongoing juvenile case this year, saying he wanted to prevent further harm to the children.
The claim filed Monday by Malayia Knapp seeks $500,000 in personal injury damages against Iowa's Department of Human Services, its workers and all mandatory reporters under its supervision while she and four siblings were wards in the Knapps' home.
Malayia was 10 when she was adopted by Mindy and Andy Knapp and 12, she alleges, when she was first abused.
In December 2015, the then 17-year-old fled the Knapps' home barefoot to a convenience store in Urbandale.
When police questioned her, they saw she had bruises, raised black-and-blue welts and open sores, police reports showed. She told social workers and police she and a sister had been locked in a basement room repeatedly.
She told Watchdog in January that she and her siblings were beaten so hard with belts that they broke and were forced to exercise as a punishment by Mindy Knapp for long periods of time.
Malayia Knapp and an 18-year-old brother have aged out of the child-welfare system. Another brother was removed from the Knapps' home after being accused of hurting a sibling.
Three other siblings remained in the home until recently.
Malayia's attorney, Jennifer De Kock, alleges in a letter to the board that her client suffered emotional and physical abuse because of the state's negligence. Malayia has said repeatedly she wants to protect her siblings from further abuse.
Iowa law generally provides immunity to state workers in most cases, but that immunity can be waived in certain circumstances.
Iowa's Attorney General has six months to review Malayia's claim with the Department of Management, De Kock said.
Rotherham child abuse investigators charge 12 MORE men in connection with sexual exploitation of kids
The men, mostly from Rotherham, are charged with a string of offences including rape and indecent assault
by Richard Wheatstone
ANOTHER 12 men have been charged as part of a huge investigation into child sex exploitation in Rotherham.
The men, aged between 33 and 38 and mostly from Rotherham, are accused of offences including rape and indecent assault and bring the number charged under Operation Stovewood to 21.
The National Crime Agency said the most recent charges relate to eight girls under the age of 16, over a five year period from 1998 to 2003.
The NCA set up Operation Stovewood after it was invited by South Yorkshire Police to look into allegations of widespread child sex exploitation and abuse in the South Yorkshire town between 1997 and 2013.
Senior investigating officer, Paul Williamson, said: "We have now charged 21 men with over 94 child sexual abuse offences and expect this number to increase as more victims come forward.
"Officers are investigating more than 80 suspects and with the support of partner agencies, are currently engaging with 235 victims.
"Our focus is to bring lasting and worthwhile benefits for victims, helping to build better futures.
"We will listen to their accounts and investigate allegations made to identify and bring offenders to justice.
"This focus has not wavered and we, along with our partners will persist in our efforts to make Rotherham a hostile environment for child sex offenders."
Amjal Rafiq, 38, of Warwick Street, has been charged with false imprisonment and indecent assault.
Nabeel Kurshid, 34, also of Warwick Street, and Iqlak Yousaf, 33, of Tooker Road, each face two allegations of rape and one of indecent assault.
Mohammed Imran Ali Akhtar, 36, from East Road, Tanweer Ali, 36, from Godstone Road, Aftab Hussain, 38, from York Road, and Abid Saddiq, 36, from Walter Street, each face a string of accusations including indecent assault.
Sharaz Hussain, 33, from Fitzwilliam Road, is charged with one count of indecent assault.
Salah Ahmed El-Hakam, 38, from Tudor Close, Sheffield faces one count of rape.
The NCA added two serving prisoners, Mohammed Ashen, 33, and Waseem Khaliq, 33 face indecent assault and rape charges, while another, Masaeud Malik, 33, is charged with one count of indecent assault.
All 12 men will appear at Sheffield Magistrates Court on October 24.
Child sexual abuse spans all geographic areas, races, and classes
by Michael Baker
If you're like most people, you probably don't give much thought to child sexual abuse.
It's been half-a decade since the Penn State scandal broke; it has been two years since Spotlight won the Academy Award for Best Picture. But many children in Marion County don't have that luxury. The shocking reality is that statistics show one in every 10 children you know will likely be the victims of sexual abuse by the age of 18. Don't let that statistic fly by you; think of four girls you know, six boys you know. I want to stress the “boys and girls you know” part again. Child sexual abuse spans all geographic areas, races and classes. It happens in your schools, your churches and your homes. The chances that you will encounter or gain firsthand knowledge of a child being abused may be far greater than you would imagine. Now think of what you would do if you discovered any one of them was the victim of abuse. For any caring adult concerned about a child's wellbeing, the discovery of abuse can feel scary and overwhelming, let alone for the child who is experiencing that abuse, but the Marion County Child Advocacy Center works every day to take a moment of crisis and trauma to turn it into the chance for hope and healing.
In West Virginia, and all across the country, children are referred to Child Advocacy Centers by child abuse first responders soon after an initial allegation of abuse or violence has been made. CACs are child-focused centers where children who have survived abuse, violence and neglect can begin the healing process.
How do CACs do this? They do it by serving as the community's coordinated response center to allegations of child abuse. At the CAC, children have the opportunity to talk to an interviewer who is trained to ask age-appropriate, non-leading questions in a way that reduces the trauma of telling their difficult story. The interview is recorded so the child doesn't have to repeat their story.
Then, based on the interview, a team that includes professionals make decisions together about how to best help the child and their family. Team members come together from law enforcement, prosecution, child protective services, victim advocate, and medical and mental health fields. CACs offer a wide range of services like therapy, medical exams, courtroom accompaniment, victim advocacy and case management — depending on the needs of the child. And when needed, we provide support services, such as transportation to the center.
Prior to the Child Advocacy Center movement, children were moved from agency to agency and endured multiple interviews, which can create additional trauma. A CAC turns that model upside down by providing one safe, child-friendly facility where child protection, criminal justice and child treatment professionals work together to investigate abuse, hold offenders accountable and help children heal. CACs make it possible for children who have lived in darkness and pain to begin to have hope for a bright future.
In the neutral setting of the CAC, team members can collaborate on strategies that will aid investigators and prosecutors without causing further harm to the victim. This innovative, multidisciplinary approach significantly increases the likelihood of a successful outcome in court and long-term healing for the child.
Opened in 2006, the Marion County Child Advocacy Center is a nationally-accredited center that puts the needs of child first. Last year, we provided services to 200 children and their families. And since opening, we've helped nearly 1,000 children and families in our area. We partner with the Marion County Family Resource Network, CASA of Marion County and the Department of Health and Human Resources through the Partners in Prevention Grant. By working together, we can serve these children in our community at a time they need us most.
For some, the path to healing is clear, and for others, the obstacles may seem insurmountable. Regardless of their trauma, their level of need or their ability to pay, the MCCAC is here to help.
To learn more about the services offered by the Marion County Child Advocacy Center, call 304-333-3936 or visit http://marioncountycacwv.com/ .
Little kids and 'toxic stress': we can solve this
by Priscilla Chan and Meredith Liu
All children have incredible potential, most with parents, teachers and other adults in their lives who want the best for them. Unfortunately, many schools, particularly those that serve children with the greatest need, face obstacles that limit children's educational success -- rote curriculums, insufficient support for teachers and scant extracurricular options, to name a few.
Educators, parents and policymakers have long acknowledged such obstacles, but we now know that there is another significant consideration: Prolonged stress at home can disrupt development and set children back before school even begins.
One year ago, we opened The Primary School to 51 4-year-olds from East Palo Alto and Belle Haven, California. Since then, we have welcomed another 200 low-income children and their families to our integrated approach to education and health care.
As we begin our second school year, we want to share some of what we have learned from our effort to build a model of care that truly supports the physical, intellectual and emotional needs of our community's highest-need children. And while we are still in the early stages, and have much more to learn, part of our long-term mission is also to identify innovative solutions for how to serve the needs of the "whole child" -- smart approaches that can one day be deployed in communities across the nation.
Why we need this
A growing body of research shows that trauma at home can seriously affect a child's health and education. Physical or emotional abuse, neglect, parental mental illness, exposure to violence or the accumulated burdens of poverty can trigger what is known as a "toxic stress" response.
In the short term, this can inhibit children's ability to learn, to manage emotions and build relationships with peers, putting them at a disadvantage before they ever even set foot in a classroom. Children who have experienced four or more traumatic experiences are more than 30 times more likely to have a learning or behavior problem than their more fortunate peers.
In the long run, toxic stress can actually disrupt the development of the brain and other organs and body systems and increase the risk for chronic disease, heart attack, stroke, mental illness and cognitive impairment well into adulthood.
The condition is not uncommon. A seminal study led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente found that one in five adults, at all income levels, had experienced three or more adverse childhood experiences.
Despite the prevalence of toxic stress and the severity of its impact on children's lives, existing education, health, and social support systems are not set up to help the children most likely to experience trauma, which often goes untreated. At The Primary School, we are seeking to acknowledge and address toxic stress, so we can arm our children with the academic skills they need to succeed in college and beyond.
This incredibly complex problem cannot be solved by tinkering at the edges. Instead, we have tried to build an entirely new system of care centered around a child's comprehensive needs. We are still very early in our work and are learning more every day, but our approach is grounded in three important ideas.
We start early
The majority of brain development happens in the first five years of life . The achievement gap between low-income children and their wealthier peers begins to open as early as nine months of age. And still, most children start school at age 5.
By then, much of the wiring that enables learning and socio-emotional management is in place. We work with families as early as birth to reach children in this critical time -- helping caregivers build strong relationships with their children -- and our full-time school begins at age 3.
We work with, not around, families
Home life and environment are stronger predictors of academic and health outcomes than either formal education or health care. Furthermore, research has shown that consistent nurturing from an adult has the greatest power to protect a child from toxic stress. We know all parents want the best for their children and have tremendous strengths as individuals and parents.
And so each parent works with a coach and teachers to help them promote learning at home, achieve their own goals and build powerful connections with other parents. We also partner with existing community organizations to connect families to much-needed resources, including food, housing and legal and mental health services.
We unite health care and education in a seamless system of care
Health-care providers and educators rarely work together to address childhood stress and trauma. Educators often lack access to critical information that could help them understand what they are seeing in the classroom. Physicians also are often unaware of physical or emotional issues that show up at school first, or the conditions at home that may impede development.
Another barrier physicians encounter is in getting families to make long-term behavioral changes, such as interventions for developmental delays, obesity and dental care, that require regular support and reinforcement. So, we partner closely with primary-care providers to ensure children are getting high-quality care that extends beyond the walls of the physician's office.
For every child, a group of adults, including the parent, teacher, coach and health-care provider, works together to construct a shared understanding of the child and better solve health problems. This may include a physical health need like asthma that requires consistent support at home and school, or a mental health concern that is difficult to diagnose without a full view of child behavior.
Our experience with this model makes us optimistic. Every day, we see anecdotal evidence of what scientific research has already shown: Children and adults can build resilience and thrive even in the face of trauma. We hope that with the support of our families and community partners, we can provide a strong foundation for all children to succeed in school and life. And we hope other schools and health-care systems around the country can benefit from what we learn here.
We all owe our children more than incremental solutions. We owe them a new system that gives every child, regardless of background, the opportunity to live a healthy, independent and meaningful life. With so much work ahead of us, we look forward to sharing our stumbles and triumphs as we learn for and with our children, and are excited to be among the practitioners and policymakers committed to this challenge.
Dad accused of leaving dying son at crash scene after shoplifting
by Terence Cullen
A New Jersey dad is charged with leaving his dying son in the SUV he crashed while fleeing a Walmart, where cops say he'd just stolen speakers.
Christopher Kuhn, of Hamilton, N.J., is currently held on $5 million for the horrific incident Tuesday night.
The 27-year-old suspect had just lifted a Vizio TV sound bar worth $228 from a Walmart in Tullytown, Pa., the Bucks County Courier Times reported .
He was putting his 2-year-old son, Qadan, in his car seat when someone spotted him, local ABC affiliate WPVI reported . Instead of buckling the ill-fated Qadan in, Kuhn instead focused on covering the license plate to his 2007 Jeep with his sweater.
“It was more important for Mr. Kuhn to attempt to get away from a misdemeanor retail theft by covering his license plate with his sweatshirt than it was to properly secure his 2-year-old son in his car seat before fleeing at a high rate of speed,” prosecutor Bob James told the news channel.
Kuhn ran a red light as he fled the parking lot. A GMC Envoy that had the greenlight wasn't able to stop, slamming into the side of Kuhn's SUV, which flipped and then hit another vehicle.
“I tried to brake, but I couldn't,” Fernando Medrano, who was driving the other car, told WPVI . “It was too late. He was moving too fast."
Qadan, who was never secured in his seat, was sent flying out of the car.
Kuhn got out of the Jeep, walked over to his son and stared at the dying boy before fleeing on foot, the Courier Times reported .
Cops arrested Kuhn shortly after, while his son was rushed to a nearby hospital where he died.
He was charged with third-degree murder, homicide by vehicle, and retail theft, according to reports.
Kuhn, who'd been driving with a suspended license, reportedly broke down during his Tuesday night arraignment.
“Nobody knows what was going through his mind. Not to excuse what he did, but he has a lot of problems. He had a lot of things going on in his mind,” family friend Diana Williams told WPVI .
MSU's opportunity: use Nassar to teach how abuse gets missed
by Kate Wells
Larissa Boyce has good days and bad days.
Today is a good day. Boyce's husband, Adam, a teacher, and their three oldest kids are at school, leaving just her and three-year-old Skyler to visit Grandpa and the central passion of Skyler's life: Grandpa's tractor.
“All done with tractor,” Skyler announces solemnly at the end of their ride. (A few minutes later: “Go tractor?”)
On the bad days, Boyce can't sleep. Or she has night terrors, waking up to a startled Adam. That's when she pulls out the blue paperback notebook with happy little palm trees dotting the cover. She's been writing in it over the last year, using it as a place to put what started out as sadness, which turned to anger, then to numbness.
But on good days like this, she can think about the possibilities.
“I feel like MSU could be leaders in the area of sexual abuse,” she says in her parents' kitchen, notebook on her lap. “Use this to not just make the culture at MSU better, but at other colleges too.”
It's been just over a year since the abuse accusations against former Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar – who also worked as a professor, clinician and team doctor at Michigan State University – became national news. By some counts, more than 100 women and girls have come forward since then, alleging Nassar sexually abused them under the guise of treatment.
After pleading guilty to federal child porn charges in July, Nassar faces sentencing next month. He's also heading to trial for multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct at the state level.
Boyce says she was repeatedly abused by Nassar as a teenager, some 20 years ago. Both she and a fellow gymnast at the time, Sarah (not her real name) say they told their MSU coach that Nassar was digitally penetrating them during medical treatment, without their consent.
But Coach Kathie Klages never reported the alleged abuse, Boyce and Sarah say. Instead, she convinced them that they had misunderstood innocent medical techniques used by a doctor they were “lucky” to even see. Klages, for her part, denies any knowledge of abuse, and stepped down after she was suspended from her job earlier this year.
Now, Boyce says, her and her husband's alma mater has an opportunity to make sure this never happens to anyone else.
“I would love to see Kathie go around and share with people how he had fooled her,” Boyce says, referring to Nassar. “And say, ‘Listen, these are the red flags. This is what happened to me. This is why I believed him. This is why I believed him over the gymnasts.'”
First steps: new policies to protect child safety
Sarah saw the new fliers posted all over MSU Pediatrics.
“I took one of my little guys to the doctor, and they had this thing on the glass on the window, [saying] that MSU has chaperones for all patients,” she says.
“MSU HealthTeam is committed to providing a safe place for patients to receive care,” the posters read. “To help create a safe place, we require chaperones for sensitive examinations. Most exams of children and adolescents require a parent or guardian to be in the room.”
“It was good for me,” Sarah says. “I was like, oh my gosh, this hits close to home. I'm like checking him in and I'm getting this sick feeling in my stomach because I know why this is happening. That is me. Why was that not on the glass when I was little?”
It brought her back to the day she says Klages pulled her out of practice at Jenison field house, and into the coach's office.
“I remember sitting on the carpet in my leotard, all chalky from the bars,” Sarah says. “And the way she was asking me [about Nassar], it didn't feel like it was for my best interest – it was like, 'We need to know what you guys talked about … and we're talking about a doctor who's in and out here all the time.' I was like, is he going to come in and say he's not doing this?”
Sarah says she waited for Klages and the other coaches to tell her dad what was happening. Talking to him herself felt too embarrassing.
But Klages never told the school, the police, or the girls' parents about their concerns, Boyce and Sarah say.
“And I remember feeling kind of disappointed and kind of relieved,” Sarah says. “Like, maybe I don't want to open this can of worms…. Now that I'm a parent, that would infuriate me.”
Multiple women say they told MSU staff – whether it was trainers, Klages, or even the school's Title IX office – about Nassar's abuse. But each time, they say, the response was the same: You're wrong. This isn't sexual. It's medical.
Advocates say Michigan State University has a rare platform now to help students, staff, and the broader community understand how child molesters use our trust against us – and how even the best-intentioned adults can fail to see abuse.
What good training looks like
Katelyn Brewer is the CEO of Darkness to Light, a nonprofit that provides training and awareness education about child predators.
Their training sessions are documentary-style: videos of adult survivors, talking about the abuse they experienced as kids, and their abusers' tactics for staying undetected.
“He was very charismatic,” one woman says in the video. “People liked being around him.” An older couple talk about how charming the new pastor was at their church, always helping out and stepping up to spend time with their son. “He was Mr. Cool,” they say. An Olympic swimmer recalls how her friend's father was always the fun dad. “If we were climbing trees, he was climbing trees.”
But Brewer says getting organizations (even ones that work directly with kids) on board with prevention efforts can be a tough sell.
“It is literally like jabbing a needle under people's finger nails,” she says. “Because they don't want their brand associated with child sexual abuse. And [they think] if we do prevention training, then people are going to think there's a problem.”
What MSU is already doing, and still could do
But a crisis like the Nassar case can create an opening.
“Well, I think we have an opportunity now, I really do,” says MSU spokesman Jason Cody. “If there's a conversation we can start, if there's a broadening of people's minds that we can do that will help prevent that, we of course are going to take every opportunity we can to help do that. And I think that's our responsibility.”
Already, Cody says, MSU is tackling this issue head on: rolling out more background checks, beefing up oversight of youth programs, and reminding staff about their mandatory reporting requirements.
“There were a lot of people who knew Larry Nassar, who worked here at MSU, his family, neighbors – who were obviously, at the beginning, very shocked at the allegations,” Cody says.
“So what is that? That is, people, for whatever reason, and I'm not trying to fault these people, but that is people failing to recognizing or failing to understand what they're being told, or about a potential problem. And I think that's what we need to help change.”
So what would it look like if MSU wrote a blank check to the people who help adults learn how abusers gain our trust and then use it against us?
“For me, it's a public health-style campaign,” says Darkness to Light CEO Katelyn Brewer. “If you're a mandatory reporter and you're not trained, you're not going to know what to do [when you see signs of abuse] and you're going to be overwhelmed.”
First, she says, MSU could set a measurable goal: maybe it's as simple as figuring out what people already know about child sexual abuse. Maybe it's increasing reports, or greater awareness, or just hearing people talk about prevention in casual conversations.
“Saturate the campus with a campaign nobody can avoid,” Brewer says. But don't try to push or pummel people with information that makes them feel like they've done something wrong, she says. Instead, build a connection for them. Have survivors tell their stories. “And say: 'These are the things that would have prevented me from being abused.' That allows people to connect with a person and realize, maybe I could be the one person who helps you.”
But it may not be as simple as having MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon call up Larissa Boyce and invite her to campus to be part of an awareness and training campaign. The university is in the middle of litigation with many of Nassar's alleged victims, Boyce included.
"All our plaintiffs want to see change in the system that can prevent this from happening again," says attorney Mick Grewal, who represents Boyce and several others in their civil suits against MSU. "Including education for adults and children so that they can come forward and talk about sexual assault without being afraid.
But Boyce says if that call ever does come, she's in.
“That would redeem the situation, almost, at least a little bit,” she says. “And show that they really do care and want to change. And just be better than the other schools that have experienced this.”
That's one thing that she and MSU say they agree on that: that out of these horrific abuse allegations, now, there's an opportunity for real change.
RAHI: A support group for survivors of sexual abuse and incest
by Shinjini Chowdhury
RAHI (Recovery and Healing from Incest) in New Delhi has been providing counselling and support to women survivors of sexual abuse since 1996.
Incest is defined as sexual contact between two family members who are considered too closely tied by blood for marriage. Sexual abuse, which is unwanted sexual contact directed from a perpetrator towards a victim, within families amounts to incest. According to the National Centre for Biotechnology Information ( NCBI ), a UNICEF survey revealed that, in 2005 to 2013, 10 percent of Indian girls might have fallen prey to sexual violence between the age of 10 and 14 years, and 30 percent between 15 and 19 years. Almost 42 percent of Indian girls have suffered from sexual violence before their teenage years.
In a chat over the phone, Anuja Gupta, founder of RAHI and an abuse survivor herself, unabashedly states that her own experiences led her to found this organisation. One admires her courage and grit in starting something so unique in the Indian social fabric and speaking about it regardless of possible taboo.
Fighting a brave battle
In 1990, when Anuja was 37 years old, counsellor Ashwini Ailawadi of a group counselling session, and Anuja's brother encouraged her to launch RAHI. Since then, the organisation has been showing light at the end of the tunnel to many survivors of abuse.
For Anuja, it has been a tremendously exciting journey and has demanded all her courage and conviction to create as well as sustain a movement so ahead of her own times. “The impact is long-term,” she says. She is an expert trainer, therapist and educator in the field of child sexual abuse and incest, and she took up these roles when doing so was a taboo in our society.
Anuja conducts training with mental health professionals, students, parents, teachers, counsellors, and social workers. She lectures and presents extensively on the subject at universities, schools, conferences, NGOs and other forums in the country and abroad. She also conducts individual and group therapy with adult survivors and their families. She was part of the national core team that has drafted The Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Bill, 2011.
As RAHI's Programme Consultant and Communications Manager, Ashwini, conceptualises RAHI'S programmes and oversees their functioning. He first started working against child abuse in the nineties, and he has been instrumental in the founding of RAHI.
Wings of fire
Established in 1996, RAHI provides education and awareness about child sexual abuse and incest, along with training, capacity building and skill development to victims. They call it the RAHI model of healing. The organisation believes that it is the survivors who can upturn the system with understanding and effort. Based in New Delhi and working across the country, RAHI offers counselling services and does research on sexual abuse and gender violence. It has published literature on survivor's tales, and did the research for 30 Days of September , written by Mahesh Dattani, which is India's first play on incest. The play was based on the stories that survivors shared with the playwright.
The HumRAHI programme ties the prevention of child marriage to prevention of sexual abuse in homes that young girls live in till they are of age. It trains grassroots workers to prevent and preempt child sexual abuse. Adolescents for Sexual Abuse Prevention (ASAP) is a programme offered to schools to involve both students and teachers in awareness and skill training against sexual abuse. Here, RAHI offers sessions with teachers, counsellors, parents, as well as with teens.
The Peer Education Programme (PEP) in colleges trains college girls to be listeners, and effectors of social change. The programme is aimed to modify attitudes towards sexual abuse and to create resources of healing within the peer group. Launched in 2004, there have been 84 Peer Educators (PEs) so far. Once trained, they conduct educational and cultural events for girls and boys of their peer group. Those who do not have time to be a PE, have the opportunity to attend the one-day How to Help a Friend Workshops on handling disclosure of child sexual abuse.
After being shortlisted through an application form and an interview, the women attend a two-day workshop “combining group work and theoretical information that allows survivors to meet other survivors, share and learn with each other, make meaning of their abuse and gain knowledge on the subject that will help them become advocates. During the workshop, participants draw out a plan of social action according to their interests and skills. The workshop is followed by ‘Firebirds' conducting these activities in their communities. The process continues to be therapeutic and a mentoring support for them,” reports the RAHI website.
RAHI's methods are those of a rooted change — they question, explore and heal the very depths of social wounds.
'Victim blaming' a concern in child abuse cases
by James Whittaker
Victim blaming risks legitimizing predators and makes sex crimes against children much more difficult to investigate, senior detectives and child safety advocates have warned.
During several recent high-profile sexual abuse cases, police have been concerned about the level and tenor of commentary on social media.
It's not just that such comments risk influencing a trial, says Kevin Ashworth, the RCIPS supervisor in the new Multi-Agency Child Safeguarding Hub, which houses detectives leading child abuse investigations, as well as social workers and Health Services Authority counselors. Police are particularly concerned about the potential impact on victims who have yet to come forward.
“This is a small society and it can be like a goldfish bowl at times,” Mr. Ashworth said. “If there are two trials running parallel to each other – one in the courts that is very restricted and one that is on social media, completely unrestricted and fueled by anonymous posts – we have to hope it doesn't damage cases.
“We know there are many more victims out there. There are more witnesses out there that see this behavior and know it is wrong but don't report it because of this victim blaming and witness blaming that takes place.”
When Errington Webster, 55, a prominent Bodden Town resident who had planned to run for political office, was on trial this year for indecently assaulting a girl in her early teens, a small, but vocal section of the community came out in his defense.
Comments during the trial that the child victim had manipulated him and was partially to blame were particularly concerning for Mr. Ashworth. In that case, the court heard that Webster gave the child presents and sometimes money.
“I think I saw a comparison made between an experienced male versus a vulnerable, impressionable child who was essentially groomed,” said Mr. Ashworth. “From a psychological point of view, these are classic cases of empowering a perpetrator to carry on doing what they are doing. Even if it is a minority view, once it is raised on social media, it becomes a talking point and it can certainly have an influence on other victims.”
The impact of victim blaming in child abuse cases is particularly pernicious, says Carolina Ferreira, deputy director of the Cayman Islands Red Cross, because it reinforces what the child may already be hearing from the perpetrator.
“It keeps young people silent and it adds to that fear that they won't be believed. This is what the perpetrator is already telling them: no one will believe you; you were part of it too. Sometimes this is what children are hearing in their own home, for example, if it is a partner of the parent or one of the parents who is accused.”
Statistics suggest sexual abuse is one of the most under-reported crimes in many jurisdictions.
One in five girls between the ages of 15 and 19 reported that they had been sexually abused in childhood, during a comprehensive World Health Organization-funded survey of Cayman Islands teenagers published in 2015. Ms. Ferreira said earlier studies suggest the number was even higher, yet many victims are still not believed when they first report the abuse to an adult.
According to Mr. Ashworth, the MASH unit is bringing a new approach to investigating reports of abuse against children, as the unit involves police, social workers and child psychologists from the outset. He said the unit does not simply treat victims as witnesses in potential criminal cases, but provides a full support structure to help address the issue from a child safety perspective.
He believes, despite some high-profile mistakes in previous investigations before MASH was launched in March, that this new approach has already resulted in an increase in reporting.
By August of this year, the number of cases involving juvenile victims referred to the unit had already eclipsed the total of 286 reports in 2016. The figure for 2015 was 219.
“We are seeing an exponential growth in reporting since the opening of the MASH unit,” Mr. Ashworth said. “We don't think that means there has been an increase in this type of behavior, [but] witnesses and victims know where to come and have that confidence in the system to come forward. It is a positive thing in that the issue is being highlighted and dealt with.”
Ms. Ferreira believes sexual abuse is a multigenerational problem that has gone under-reported in Cayman for decades.
She believes victim blaming on Facebook is the tip of an iceberg that hints at a wider lack of understanding of the dynamics of sexual abuse, the impact of grooming and the steps parents can take to protect their children.
“The reality is that when we are talking about abuse and it is an adult perpetrator and a child victim, the child is never to blame,” she said.
“Yet with girls, the question people always seem to ask is was she really that innocent? With boys, we don't talk about it at all. It is treated as a high-five situation.”
The Red Cross helped form the Protection Starts Here organization in 2012, bringing together teachers, education officials, health professionals, police and others to raise awareness of child sexual abuse in the Cayman Islands and improve training for adults dealing with children.
The project has developed a documentary that highlights the scale and impact of the problem in the Cayman Islands and is used as a learning tool for organizations that deal with children. It also facilitates “darkness to light” training to help adults identify the signs of abuse and protect children against it. The group also offers “Seal of Protection” status to youth organizations, such as summer camps and sports clubs that follow proper protection procedures, including criminal background checks for workers and volunteers.
Ms. Ferreira said it is important for parents to educate themselves and, as consumers, hold such organizations accountable.
Though people fear stereotypical “stranger danger,” in most child abuse cases, she says, the threat is often a lot closer to home.
“In 90 percent of cases, the perpetrator is someone you know and maybe someone you love, which is what makes it so difficult. It is who you give access to your children.”
A Modest Proposal to End Child Abuse
by Laura Hollis
The statistics on child abuse in the United States are shocking and appalling.
According to the child advocacy website ChildHelp.org, a report of child abuse is made in the U.S. every 10 seconds. Each year, child protection agencies around the country receive referrals involving 6.6 million children. In 2014, over 700,000 of those referrals were confirmed cases of child maltreatment. It is estimated that between four and seven children die every day from abuse and neglect -- as many as 2,000 children every year. (And some experts assert that the actual numbers are grossly underreported). The vast majority of child abuse fatalities involve children under 5 or 6 years old, and 80 percent of these deaths involve at least one parent as a perpetrator.
Among those children who survive, the statistics are just as disturbing. Victims of child abuse are substantially more likely to engage in criminal conduct, to display psychological and behavioral issues (such as substance abuse and eating disorders), to have other serious health problems, and to continue the cycle of abuse by abusing or neglecting their own children.
Something must be done; would you not agree?
It's clear that traditional parenting is not working. Congress must act, and act now. Specifically, we need federal legislation that ends child abuse by vesting all parenting responsibilities in the federal government. Congress should create a new federal agency that will be responsible for dispensing parental care to all children in the United States under 18 years of age. For simplicity's sake, we'll call it the Federal Parenting Agency, or FPA.
The magnitude of such a task means that we will have to ease into such a system. We can start with parental licensing, and eventually work to a single-parenting system. It will of course be necessary to make private parenting illegal. The only way the system will work is if everyone is required to participate. Otherwise, some children will be afforded advantages -- like being read to at night -- that others do not get. This is an impermissible form of privilege and discrimination that the federal government must step in to remedy.
Needless to say, there will be those who object. But we are well-prepared for their arguments.
First, a safe and healthy childhood is a right, not a privilege. Those who object to this federal program because they wish to raise their own children are doing so at the expense of other children. They are elitist, selfish and clearly want other children to die.
Second, yes, it will be expensive. But given what child abuse costs us in terms of health care, law enforcement and incarceration, we're sure that we'll save money by the creation of the FPA. We will have the Congressional Budget Office score the costs of creating and running the FPA. (It will probably be off by a factor of 10 or more, but that hasn't stopped us before.)
I hope it's clear at this point that my "modest proposal," a la Jonathan Swift, is an absurd and unserious "solution" to a deeply serious problem. Most parents are good and decent. As bad as the child abuse statistics are (and they are horrid), most children in the United States are not neglected or abused.
And yet these are the types of arguments we hear every day for health care. Most Americans who want insurance can get it, and most of those who have insurance are happy with it. But that doesn't stop those who advocate for single-payer from arguing that everyone should give up their health care and be forced into the federal leviathan they are proposing. And it isn't just an economic issue; it's a moral one: If you oppose single-payer, you are a terrible human being and you want other people to die.
Ditto for constitutional rights, like those under the First and Second Amendments. Speech that offends other people should be banned. So should firearms ownership. (The historical risks of government abuse in an unarmed population notwithstanding.) There are over 300 million firearms in the U.S. (perhaps many more), and the overwhelming majority of their owners never violate any laws. Gun violence is actually down. But every time some nutcase decides to kill people, we're told that the only way we can protect ourselves from people who don't obey the laws or respect our rights is by writing new laws and giving up our rights.
Swiftian sarcasm aside, something truly does need to be done about child abuse. But it should be obvious to everyone that taking children away from good parents is a manifestly wrong approach. So consider -- if you are not willing to give up your rights to raise your children because some people abuse theirs, why would you swallow that argument for any other right?
The call for a Federal Parenting Agency should be patently absurd. But given the way we do everything else, it's completely logical.
That's what's truly absurd.
Dissociative identity disorder exists and is the result of childhood trauma
by Michael Salter, Martin Dorahy and Warwick Middleton
Once known as multiple personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder remains one of the most intriguing but poorly understood mental illnesses. Research and clinical experience indicate people diagnosed with the condition have been victims of sexual abuse or other forms of criminal mistreatment.
But a vocal group of academics and health professionals have claimed dissociative identity disorder , and reports of trauma associated with it, are created by therapists and the media. They say these don't reflect genuine symptoms or accurate memories .
Media references to dissociative identity disorder are also often highly stigmatising. The recent movie Split depicted a person with the condition as a psychopathic murderer . Even supposedly factual reporting can present people with dissociative identity disorder as untrustworthy and prone to wild fantasies and false memories .
But research hasn't found people with the disorder are more prone to " false memories " than others . And brain imaging studies show significant differences in brain activity between people with dissociative identity disorder and other groups, including those who have been trained to mimic the disorder.
What is it?
Dissociative identity disorder has been studied by doctors and scientists for well over 100 years. In 1980, it was called multiple personality disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which outlines the symptoms of psychiatric conditions. Its name was changed in the 1994 edition of the DSM.
Dissociative identity disorder comes about when a child's psychological development is disrupted by early repetitive trauma that prevents the normal processes of consolidating a core sense of identity . Reports of childhood trauma in people with dissociative identity disorder (that have been substantiated) include burning, mutilation and exploitation. Sexual abuse is also routinely reported, alongside emotional abuse and neglect.
In response to overwhelming trauma, the child develops multiple, often conflicting, states or identities. These mirror the radical contradictions in their early attachments and social and family environments – for instance, a parent who swings unpredictably between aggression and care.
According to the DSM-5, the major characteristic of dissociative identity disorder is a disruption of identity, in which a person experiences two or more distinct personality states (or, in other cultures, experiences of so-called possession ).
These states display marked differences in a person's behaviour, recollections and opinions, and ways of engaging with the world and other people. The person frequently experiences gaps in memory or difficulties recalling events that occurred while they were in other personality states.
The manifestations of these symptoms are subtle and well concealed for most patients. However, overt symptoms tend to surface during times of stress, re-traumatisation or loss.
People with the condition typically have a number of other problems. These include depression, self-harm, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and increased susceptibility to physical illness. They frequently have difficulties engaging in daily life, including employment and interactions with family.
This is, perhaps, unsurprising, given people with dissociative identity disorder have experienced more trauma than any other group of patients with psychiatric difficulties.
Dissociative identity disorder is a relatively common psychiatric disorder. Research in multiple countries has found it occurs in around 1% of the general population, and in up to one fifth of patients in inpatient and outpatient treatment programs.
Trauma and dissociation
The link between severe early trauma and dissociative identity has been controversial. Some clinicians have proposed dissociative identity disorder is the result of fantasy and suggestibility rather than abuse and trauma. But the causal relationship between trauma and dissociation (alterations of identity and memory) has been repeatedly shown in a range of studies using different methodologies across cultures.
People with dissociative identity disorder are generally unresponsive to (and may deteriorate under) standard treatment . This may include cognitive behavioural treatment, or exposure therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder .
Phase-orientated treatment has been shown to improve dissociative identity disorder. This involves stages (or phases) of treatment , from an initial focus on safety and stabilisation, through to containment and processing of trauma memories and feelings, to the final phase of integration and rehabilitation. The goal of treatment is for the person to move towards better engaging in life without debilitating symptoms.
An international study that followed 280 patients with dissociative identity disorder (or a variant of it, which is a dissociative disorder not otherwise specified ) and 292 therapists over time, found this approach was associated with improvements across a number of psychological and social functioning areas. Patients and therapists reported reduction in dissociation, general distress, depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts .
Controversies and debates
Critics have pointed to poor therapeutic practice causing dissociative symptoms as well as false memories and false allegations of abuse. Some are particularly concerned therapists are focused on recovering memories, or encouraging patients to speculate that they have been abused.
However, a contemporary survey of clinical practice among specialists of dissociative identity found those treating the disorder weren't focused on retrieving memories at any phase of the treatment.
A recent literature analysis concluded that criticisms of dissociative identity disorder treatment are based on inaccurate assumptions about clinical practice, misunderstandings of symptoms, and an over-reliance on anecdotes and unfounded claims.
Dissociative identity disorder treatment is frequently unavailable in the public health system . This means people with the condition remain at high risk of ongoing illness, disability and re-victimisation.
The underlying cause of the disorder, which is severe trauma, has been largely overlooked, with little discussion of the prevention or early identification of extreme abuse. Future research should not only address treatment outcomes, but also focus on public policy around prevention and detection of extreme trauma .
A meth overdose killed this 3-year-old foster child-and it wasn't her first, lawsuit says
by Jared Gilmour
The first time the 3-year-old foster child ingested meth, she recovered.
But she wasn't removed from the California foster home that she had been placed at just days earlier, according to a lawsuit filed this week.
Two weeks later, though, she ingested meth again — and this time, 3-year-old Mariah died. Paramedics found a baggie of methamphetamine rocks in her room.
A lawyer for her family says her death has received almost no scrutiny because cases in the juvenile and foster care system are confidential.
“They don't have a voice, they don't have people who will speak out on their behalf,” Darren Kessler, the attorney representing Mariah's brother Jeremyah through his guardian, Shannon Villanueva, told the East Bay Times . “What happens is it's a system without accountability. The people who are in control of the kids in cases such as this are the ones responsible.”
The lawsuit was filed on Monday, Oct. 2 — what would have been Mariah's fifth birthday , according to ABC.
Jeremyah and Mariah had been taken from their mother in Alameda County and put into foster care on Sept. 30, 2015, according to the lawsuit, based on allegations of abuse and neglect. Jeremyah was 5 at the time, and Mariah was 3.
They were then placed in the home of Maria Refugio Moore in Stockton, Calif. around Sept. 30.
But just days later, Moore claimed Mariah was “acting strange” and “talking to herself,” according to the lawsuit. The girl's heart was racing, she was shaking and sweating, and she was saw monkeys and bunnies running around where there were none.
Hours later, she was taken to the hospital — and a urine sample revealed she had methamphetamine in her system. The hospital's final diagnosis for the 3-year-old was “altered level of consciousness” and “amphetamine abuse.”
Police and the hospital told Alameda County social workers, who were responsible for Mariah, yet the girl remained in Moore's home.
But on Oct. 16, less than two weeks later, the girl died — held in the arms of her 5-year-old brother, according to the lawsuit.
She said she was seeing spiders, and her hands were cramped and contorted, the lawsuit says. The little girl's fingers shook. She spoke in gibberish as her stomach convulsed.
Jeremyah complained to Moore, her boyfriend and others about his sister's condition. But she didn't get medical help until she was dead, when paramedics showed up to find the girl unresponsive.
Paramedics found the baggie of meth in Jeremyah and Mariah's room — and an autopsy determined she died of methamphetamine toxicity, the lawsuit says.
“Logic compels interpreting Mariah's senseless death and exposure to methamphetamine, twice in two weeks, as an obvious product of abuse and neglect,” the lawsuit says.
Jeremyah was removed from the home later that day.
The lawsuit lists Alameda County, two employees, Triad Family Services, and Moore — the foster parent at the time — as defendants, and seeks compensatory and punitive damages. The lawsuit cites the “lingering and reoccurring effects of extreme emotional trauma from the danger created of experiencing his sister, Mariah, suffer from drug exposure and death.”
Villanueva, his guardian, said Jeremyah, now 7, has had difficulty understanding what happened to his sister.
“When he can't really take it anymore he'll have meltdowns and he'll cry,” Villanueva told ABC. “And he'll cry until he loses his voice sometimes.”
Moore defended herself in a phone interview with the East Bay Times on Tuesday.
“I didn't have anything to do with it,” Moore said. “I was cleared. I was not charged with anything.”
New club fights sex trafficking: 'This is real, this is happening, and this needs to be talked about'
by Caroline Mottur
Hope Here Hope Now, a club whose first meeting was Oct. 1, has made efforts to hit the ground running.
The new club, dedicated to raising awareness for human trafficking, consists of a group of 12 committed, close-knit girls who have plenty of ideas on not only how to bring the topic of trafficking into campus life, but how to fight it.
Resources and information detailing the number of people that trafficking affects each year were distributed at their first meeting.
Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year, and the industry reportedly generates a profit of $32 billion yearly. Just shy of two million children are exploited every year in the global sex trade, according to the distributed materials.
Club President Kerri Moore described the story of a friend who shared with her an individual's personal experience in sex trafficking.
Moore (sophomore-African American studies, political science, criminology) said the friend described that the victim was in a relationship with an older man who supported her financially, frequently showering her with lavish gifts.
One night, he asked her to help him out by sleeping with a few men in order to make some money.
“He just needed her for one night,” Moore said her friend told her.
Little did the woman know that this would be the start of a long, painful road — just the beginning of her trafficking career.
Moore said her friend did not share the truth, that this story was actually about herself, until the end of the conversation.
She had fallen victim to the awful physical and psychological torment of human sex trafficking.
After hearing that story, Moore has made it her mission to create an organization that challenges students on campus to face a topic that isn't so easy to discuss head-on.
The meeting focused on many misconceptions as well as general information regarding sex trafficking and how people perceive it.
Members like Vice President Rae Narun shared how before she did her research and learned about trafficking, she thought it was, “only a foreign issue” and that “it only happened to rich, white girls who were traveling or on vacation.”
However, Narun (sophomore-labor employment) soon learned, after pairing up with Moore, that trafficking is a worldwide problem and not often discussed on college campuses.
The club leaders welcomed all members to share ideas on how to start a discussion about trafficking with college students, as well as actions that can be taken to promote trafficking prevention.
Volunteer coordinator Kailyn Bruno shared her thoughts about potentially visiting high schools in Pennsylvania to start these crucial discussions at a high school level.
“This is real, this is happening, and this needs to be talked about,” Bruno (sophomore-child education) said.
Hope Here Hope Now welcomes all interested members in joining the club to become part of the conversation and the movement aiming to end human sex trafficking.
Arianna Robinson, web coordinator, said, “If there is one thing I could tell people, it would be that you are not invincible. No one is invincible to this.”
For more information, students can visit the Hope Here Hope Now website and follow the organization on social media by searching the hashtag #protectourgirls.
Georgia sheriff, deputies indicted after body searches of 900 high school students
by Kyle Swenson
The sound system squawked at 8 a.m., just as the school day was revving up at Worth County High School. The campus was now on lockdown, the announcement said. Neither the teachers nor students at the south Georgia school knew what was going on.
For the next four hours, 40 uniformed officers — the entire staff of the Worth County Sheriff's Office — fanned through the school in Sylvester, ordering students against the walls of classrooms and hallways, demanding the students hand over their cellphones.
All 900 students were searched, part of a drug sweep ordered by Sheriff Jeff Hobby, according to court documents.
He did not have a warrant. He had a “target list” of 12 suspected drug users. Only three of the names were in school that day, April 14.
By noon, when cellphones were handed back and classes resumed, no drugs had been found.
The sheriff's full-court press, however, would yield legal consequences — for Hobby and his office. In the days following the sweep, students came forward charging they had been inappropriately groped and manhandled by deputies. A class-action federal civil suit followed .
And now, this week a grand jury indicted Hobby and two deputies for their part in the high school raid. Hobby faces charges of sexual battery, false imprisonment, and violation of oath of office, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution .
“The sheriff's position is that he's not guilty,” Hobby's attorney, Norman Crowe Jr., told the news outlet. The sheriff was at the school for the raid but personally did not touch students, the lawyer maintained. “He's committed no crime.”
The search brought unwanted national attention on the department. As the controversy broke, Hobby gave an off-camera interview to WALB in which he said the searches were legal because school administrators were present.
In a statement released on April 18, Hobby elaborated that in “the weeks leading up to April 14, the Sheriff's Office received information and complaints from the citizens of Worth County regarding illegal drugs at the high school. The Sheriff contacted the Superintendent of the Worth County School District and the Principal of the high school to inform them of the situation and the Principal and the Sheriff agreed on the day of the pat down.”
School officials, however, have countered the idea they were willing participants in om Hobby's plans.
“We did not give permission but they didn't ask for permission,” Interim Worth County Superintendent Lawrence Walters told WALB after the raid. “He just said, the sheriff, that he was going to do it after spring break.”
“I don't think anybody in the school system had any idea that it would be of the nature of what actually happened,” Tommy Coleman, a lawyer for the school district, told The Washington Post in June. “I've been doing this a long time, and I've never heard of anybody doing that kind of thing.”
The class-action lawsuit — filed on behalf of nine unnamed students — laid out detailed allegations of groping during the school search. One student recounted that a deputy “looked down the back and front” of the student's dress, then “slid her hands” over her pelvic area and “cupped” the student's “vaginal area and buttocks,” according to the legal complaint.
Another male student recounted a deputy “moving his fingers back and forth” from his pockets to his groin, the lawsuit stated. The deputy's fingertips touched the student's “penis and testicles, over clothes, four to five times.”
A third student recounted how a deputy “reached up under” her shirt, “lifted her bra, and touched her bare breasts, including her nipples.”
In June, when the lawsuit was filed, one of the teenagers recounted his ordeal to The Post . The deputy “came up under my privates and then he grabbed my testicles twice,” the student said. “I wanted to turn around and tell him to stop touching me. I wanted it to be over and I just wanted to call my dad because I knew something wasn't right.”
Following the outcry, Hobby acknowledged in his April statement that “one of the deputies had exceed the instructions given by the Sheriff and conducted a pat down of some students that was more intrusive than instructed.” The sheriff said “corrective action” was taken — but the office has not publicly offered further detail.
The grand jury this week indicted two deputies along with the sheriff: Tyler Turner faces one felony count of violation of oath of office and one misdemeanor count of sexual battery. Deidra Whiddon was indicted on one count of violation of oath of office.
Local prosecutors also announced this week copies of the indictment would be sent to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who has the legal authority to suspend Hobby. The Journal-Constitution reported the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council has already suspended the law enforcement certifications of Hobby and his deputies.
Pope pledges church commitment to fight child abuse online, offline
by Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Acknowledging how often the Catholic Church failed to protect children from sexual abuse, Pope Francis pledged "to work strenuously and with foresight for the protection of minors and their dignity," including online.
"As all of us know, in recent years the church has come to acknowledge her own failures in providing for the protection of children: Extremely grave facts have come to light, for which we have to accept our responsibility before God, before the victims and before public opinion," the pope said Oct. 6.
Pope Francis welcomed to the Vatican participants from an international congress on protecting children in a digital world. Hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University's Center for Child Protection in partnership with WePROTECT Global Alliance, the congress Oct. 3-6 was designed to get faith communities, police, software and social media industries, mass media, nonprofits and governments working together to better protect minors.
At the beginning of the audience, Muireann O'Carroll, a 16-year-old from Ireland, summarized the congress conclusions "on behalf of all children."
Participants appealed to governments, church leaders and tech companies to do everything possible to remove online images of children and young people being sexually abused, identify and help those children, and end cyberbullying and "sextortion," which is using sexual images to blackmail someone. They also asked people involved in health care to increase the training needed to know when a young patient is being abused and how to help them.
Pope Francis told the group that as a result of the "painful experiences" of seeing some of its clergy abuse children, but also as a result of "the skills gained in the process of conversion and purification, the church today feels especially bound to work strenuously and with foresight for the protection of minors and their dignity, not only within her own ranks, but in society as a whole and throughout the world."
The 80-year-old pope said that with the explosive growth of digital technology, "we are living in a new world that, when we were young, we could hardly have imagined."
"If, on the one hand, we are filled with real wonder and admiration at the new and impressive horizons opening up before us," he said, on the other hand its quick and widespread development has created new problems.
"We rightly wonder if we are capable of guiding the processes we ourselves have set in motion, whether they might be escaping our grasp, and whether we are doing enough to keep them in check," Pope Francis told the group.
The "extremely troubling things on the net," he said, include "the spread of ever more extreme pornography, since habitual use raises the threshold of stimulation; the increasing phenomenon of sexting between young men and women who use social media; and the growth of online bullying, a true form of moral and physical attack on the dignity of other young people."
In addition, he said, there is the phenomena of sextortion and the solicitation online of minors for sexual purposes, "to say nothing of the grave and appalling crimes of online trafficking in persons, prostitution and even the commissioning and live viewing of acts of rape and violence against minors in other parts of the world."
"The net has its dark side -- the 'dark net' -- where evil finds ever new, effective and pervasive ways to act and to expand," the pope said. "The spread of printed pornography in the past was a relatively small phenomenon compared to the proliferation of pornography on the net."
The problem is huge and global, the pope said, and no one should underestimate the harm children and young people face.
"Neurobiology, psychology and psychiatry have brought to light the profound impact of violent and sexual images on the impressionable minds of children, the psychological problems that emerge as they grow older, the dependent behaviors and situations, and genuine enslavement that result from a steady diet of provocative or violent images," he noted.
"The spread of ever more extreme pornography and other improper uses of the net not only causes disorders, dependencies and grave harm among adults, but also has a real impact on the way we view love and relations between the sexes," he said. "We would be seriously deluding ourselves were we to think that a society where an abnormal consumption of internet sex is rampant among adults could be capable of effectively protecting minors."
While the internet has given people greater access to information and a vehicle for self-expression, it is not simply "a realm of unlimited freedom" without consequence, the pope said. The freedom of the internet "also offered new means for engaging in heinous illicit activities," often with children as their victims.
"This has nothing to do with the exercise of freedom," Pope Francis insisted. "It has to do with crimes that need to be fought with intelligence and determination, through a broader cooperation among governments and law enforcement agencies on the global level, even as the net itself is now global."
Timing of Army Child Abuse Depends on Soldier Parent's Gender: Report
by Amy Bushatz
When Army children are most at risk for child abuse and neglect depends on the gender of their soldier parent, according to new research released this week.
Children of female soldiers are most at risk for maltreatment from someone in their household in the months leading up to deployment , while those whose soldier parent is male are most at risk in the six months following deployment, researchers found.
That finding could help military officials better understand when families are under the most stress -- and how to avoid family trauma before and after a deployment.
"That was something that we really weren't expecting, and we wanted to get that out there," said Doug Strane, the study's lead author. "This finding allows [the Army] to align their resources so families are getting the help when they need it."
The report, sponsored by the Defense Department and conducted by the PolicyLab at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, was published in the Military Medicine research journal.
It is the last in a series of PolicyLab reports examining child maltreatment cases among 67,700 soldier parents who were deployed one to two times between 2001 and 2007, and their 97,000 young children.
Researchers noted the data on maltreatment cases do not identify who committed the crime, but instead simply identify that a parent in the household is a soldier.
A 2015 report on the data found that Army toddlers are at an increased risk of abuse and neglect in the six months following a deployment, but did not break out cases by the parent's gender.
A 2016 report found that only 20 percent of Army abuse and neglect cases identified by off-base officials were flagged for follow-up by the Army's Family Advocacy Program.
The new report substantiates the 2015 findings that children are at the highest risk for maltreatment after a deployment, PolicyLab officials said, while also identifying specific timing trends among male and female soldier families.
"What we wanted to do with this study was ... be sure that what we think we're seeing is what we're actually seeing," Strane said.
Researchers again found that despite the parent-gender differences, the majority of maltreatment cases occur in the six months following deployment, likely because the majority of soldier parents are male.
"What we get out of doing this study is that we found that this period of high risk is sort of universally seen across these families," he said.
"Even after you control for rank, education level, age or number of children in the family -- even after that -- we still saw this high-risk period following the soldiers' deployment," Strane said.
Denmark lagging behind when it comes to child abuse, UN organ claims
New report from the United Nations sayd Denmark should do more to protect children
by Stephen Gadd
On Tuesday this week, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) delivered a report setting out suggestions for how children's rights could better be safeguarded in Denmark.
The CRC consists of 18 independent experts who monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by states who are signatories to it.
The report points out that Denmark still has some way to go when it comes to both violence and the abuse of children, Metroxpress reports.
More information needed …
The UN would like to see more information made available to increase awareness that violence against children is illegal in Denmark and also emphasise the bringing up of children without the use of corporal punishment.
Additionally, the organisation wants to see a comprehensive strategy formulated to combat child abuse.
Kuno Sørensen, a psychologist working for Red Barnet, thinks this is a good idea.
“If we include the milder forms of violence, one in four children say that within the last year they have been on the receiving end of corporal punishment.”
… and more money
Sørensen would like to see money set aside by Parliament from next year's pool earmarked for improving conditions for vulnerable people in Denmark to be used on children in particular.
“From Red Barnet's vantage point, we can only emphasise to the government that there is a need for extra resources to strengthen security for children and protect them against violence and abuse.”
Areas of particular concern to CRC are the rights of asylum-seeking children in Denmark, the use of compulsory psychiatry treatment, the abolition of the poverty threshold, and the implementation of the ceiling on benefits payments. Special attention ought to be paid to children in Greenland, the committee also recommends.
Religious institution-focused training in child abuse prevention now available
by Anna Nguyen
Did you know mandated reporters are people who are required by law to report suspected child abuse? To tell them about their obligation, the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance provides child protection and Mandated Reporter Training.
Recently, the PFSA began offering religious-based institutions specialized training materials for their mandated reporters of child abuse. Reverend Kathy Nice of the Presbytery of Kiskiminetas had requested these materials to better meet their training needs.
We spoke with Reverend Nice and Angela Liddle, MPA, President and CEO of Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance about MDT and the need to tailor the training for the religious community.
What is MDT and do most institutions have someone trained?
AL: Mandated reporters are people who are required by law to report suspected child abuse. They make more than 75 percent of the calls to ChildLine, the state's 24-hour hotline to report child abuse. They are often the only link between a child and safety from abuse. It is vitally important that mandated reporters understand how to recognize child abuse and how to make reports that are timely, complete, and accurate.
Mandated reporters generally are people who come into contact with children as a part of their employment, practice of their profession and, sometimes, as volunteers in child-serving programs. PFSA's face-to-face and online training, Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse, is one program available to that meets this requirement. Besides Mandated Reporters, there are many everyday Pennsylvanians who care about children who would benefit tremendously from this kind of training.
Why did you request a more religious institution-based child abuse prevention materials?
KN: Our church officers and volunteers are required to be mandated reporters under Pennsylvania law. Because we feel so strongly about child protection, our denomination's constitution also calls for church officers to be mandated reporters. However, many do not see the need for training, as communicating their responsibilities has been haphazardly handled. Many have groaned about a three-hour training that they think should only apply to school teachers, social workers, and doctors.
With a religious institution-based material, we can show “church” examples pulled from headlines and edited to protect the identities. When folks realize that the examples we use sound like settings and situations they are familiar with, their whole demeanor changes. The trainees ask very good questions, based around potential situations they may face. So now we have a group of very passionate advocates within our system telling others to get this training and quickly!
How was the training modified for religious organizations?
AL: Our new tailored training materials take into account the specific concerns religious-based groups have about their interactions with children. Religious leaders in all denominations are committed to protecting children who worship, participate in youth activities, enroll in child care, and attend classes in their religious programs.
The simple truth is that child abuse does not know any faith-based boundaries. In fact, some of the worst abuse documented in the commonwealth has occurred in religious settings. We have written several case examples of how children might present signs of either abuse or neglect in a faith-based setting and how the religious and lay members should react to those kinds of situations to best protect kids. We believe this training will bring added clarity to the cause of protecting children from abuse in religious settings.
Do you think religious institutions will be more receptive to this training?
KN: I know that initially, people in the church setting where I am were not happy about a mandatory training, and many have said they will not attend as they do not see the value or purpose. Once we began using the religious institution-based curriculum, word is spreading about how important this material is for everyone to know. It is still a challenge to get some folks to attend because of a life situation such as not being able to drive at night when the class is offered or they are unwilling to travel to the various locations we are using to centralize the training at this time. But more and more are anticipating a good use of their three hours. It's much easier for me to “sell” the training to fellow churches in our judicatory when they see that it is actually church-related.
What has the response been like?
AL: We have just started to spread the word that these training materials are now available through PFSA. As churches, mosques, parishes, synagogues, and temples become aware of the training, we expect to see an uptick in requests for our faith scenario-based MRT. Under Pennsylvania's Child Protective Service Law, clergymen, priests, rabbis, ministers, Christian Science practitioners, religious healers, or spiritual leaders of any regularly established church or other religious organization are mandated reporters so it is imperative that they understand their obligations under the law.
What should someone do if they suspect child abuse?
AL: The single most important thing anyone can do if they suspect child abuse or think that a child is in threat of being harmed is to call ChildLine at 800-932-0313 and make a report. You do not have to know with certainty that a child has been harmed and you can make the report in confidence. Everyone must play a role in child protection. We like to say at PFSA that each of us can be PA Blue Ribbon Champions for Safe Kids. Because every kid needs a champion.
Death penalty for sexual abuse of children: MP chief minister promises to bring bill
by the Press Trust of India
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Friday said his government will bring a bill in the next session of the Assembly to provide death penalty for those guilty of sexual violence against children.
“We will bring this bill in the next session. After the Assembly passes it, it would be sent to the Centre,” Chouhan said.
The chief minister was speaking at a function here to welcome Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi's `Safe Childhood - Safe India' campaign, aimed at spreading awareness about child safety.
“We should be united in uprooting the deadly mentality which gives rise to sexual violence against children....It is very painful when we hear news of sexual assaults on kids as young as two years,” Chouhan said.
Satyarthi said that his tour, which started on September 11, will cover 11,000 kilometres and pass through 22 states before concluding, on October 16, at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi.
Child abuse and violence survivors are being misdiagnosed and re-traumatised by the NHS
Women who have been abused are often restrained by a team of men, or are punished for their attempts to cope by being stitched up after self-harm without anaesthetic. Many report that when they try to talk about experiences of abuse or violence, it is cast aside as a 'delusion'
by Joy Watts
A high proportion of psychiatric patients have experienced sexual abuse or violence. Yet very few patients are even asked if this has occurred, let alone treated appropriately – as survivors tweeting using the new hashtag #AbusedByServices made clear this week.
A recent systematic review of 21 studies – four from the UK – showed that between 0 and 22 per cent of psychiatric patients are asked about experiences of abuse and violence. This is despite the fact that the Department of Health have required staff to ask about these experiences since 2003 .
Survivors are unlikely to disclose spontaneously , so not asking maintains a culture of silence. This is important given the early experiences of psychiatric patients with serious mental health problems. Between 13 to 64 per cent have experienced childhood sexual abuse, and between 22 to 66 per cent childhood physical abuse.
Traumatic early experiences have clear, demonstrable, long-term effects on the psyche, body and soul . For example, being abused can shatter a basic sense of safety, locking the body into a state of hyper-vigilance, and provoking a number of later symptoms such as hearing voices, feeling alienated or experiencing disturbances in one's basic sense of self.
If only one traumatic event has occurred, it can be easier to speak about, especially if people in the immediate environment recognise that something bad has happened. If violence and abuse have been recurrent in one's childhood, it can be more difficult to articulate.
The current focus on labelling and medication, which patients are socialised into from their first contacts with mental health services, can mask the fact that many symptoms that appear problematic to the distanced observer are actually desperate attempts to cope and survive .
Rage, for example, is often an attempt to keep the other at a safe distance: to mobilise some feeling as a defence against a hopelessness which would alternatively lead to suicide. Self-harm can serve to give a sense of control and agency which would not otherwise be present. Attempting to get rid of these types of feelings and behaviours, without attending to why and how they developed, is always silencing and can provoke a suicide attempt.
Mental health services can end up re-traumatising people who have experienced abuse and violence. For example, women who have been abused are often restrained by a team of men, or are punished for their attempts to cope by being stitched up after self-harm without anaesthetic. Many report that when they try to talk about experiences of abuse or violence, it is not taken seriously, being told that it is a delusion, or that they are “making it up to seek attention”.
It is as if society can only bear its victims to look and present in a certain way – to be able to proffer a clear narrative and demonstrate a trust that authority figures can help. This belies the legacy of early abuse and violence. When people present in a more messy way – for example by oscillating between desperate attachment to staff and then pushing them away – they are likely to receive a diagnosis such as “borderline personality disorder” which makes survivors feel like there is something fundamentally wrong with their character .
These kind of labels are deeply damaging: an ideological violence which serves to allow staff to distance themselves from the root causes of pain at the expense of the understanding and compassion so desperately needed.
Survivors using the #AbusedByServices hashtag report having been desperate to speak to staff about experiences of abuse and violence for five, 10, 20 even 30 years. I wish evidence suggested this was an exaggeration. In fact, the few specialist services that are available are desperately overstretched.
Given the prevalence of abuse and violence in the psychiatric population, the only way forward is to teach the whole workforce to be able to work using a “Trauma Lens”. Staff often report feeling unsure about asking about abuse and violence, because of a lack of confidence that there are appropriate services to refer people to and a fear that they will not be able to contain distress. This has to change.
Trauma Informed Care is a movement which is beginning to gain traction internationally. This approach shifts the focus of care from asking “what is wrong with you”, to “what has happened to you”. Trauma Informed Care tasks include auditing services to make certain that they do not actively re-traumatise patients and ensuring all staff are skilled to ask about, and be able to work, with the sequelae (condition resulting from disease or trauma) of abuse and violence.
We have a two-tier situation in the UK. Survivors with financial means can access long-term psychotherapy privately , where there is time and space to explore what symptoms are trying to communicate. Those from less advantaged backgrounds, already more likely to have experienced abuse and violence , are stuck with the NHS where, despite pockets of excellence, there is a paucity of understanding of the effects of abuse and violence, and where re-traumatisation is rife.
This is simply not good enough. It is time to listen to survivors of abuse and violence. It is time to move towards Trauma Informed Care.
Child-on-child sexual abuse is soaring and these are the disturbing reasons why
by Emma Reynolds
IT'S one of the most distressing crimes that exists, because of the suffering it inflicts on two innocents — both victim and perpetrator.
Child-on-child sexual abuse is becoming increasingly common around Australia, and it's thanks to the society we have all created, say the experts.
When we think about child rape, we typically think of twisted paedophiles who it is easy to despise. But hundreds of minors every year are being sexually assaulted by their peers.
Australian Childhood Foundation CEO Dr Joe Tucci, who runs one of just a few programs focused on sexualised behaviour in children, says the number of cases is only growing.
“The problem has been increasing over the past decade,” he told news.com.au. “When we started running the program, we got about 10 referrals a year. Nowadays we'd get closer to 250.”
Carolyn Worth, spokeswoman for Victoria's groundbreaking Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA), says around 50 per cent of child victims have been abused by other children.
“It's usually an easily accessible child, cousins rather than strangers,” she told news.com.au. “Children are nearly always abused by someone trusted or close to them.
“Paedophiles who go overseas and buy children are in some ways the minority, but they're the ones we see in the papers. Often, it's opportunistic — parents who don't have boundaries and are narcissistic — people abuse their own kids much more regularly. That's also a shocking thing: 75 to 80 per cent of abusers are known to the children.”
There are many causes for the abuse. Many of the children involved are growing up in “chaotic” families with no clear rules or unsupervised, unlimited access to the internet. The experts agree pornography is a major risk factor.
“The advent of broadband has really changed the field,” said Ms Worth. “Before, if kids wanted to look at something, they had to find their dad's Penthouse or Playboy. It isn't so since around 2006.
“There's actually very violent things floating around on free porn sites. From about 2010 or 2011, we were seeing children of 14 or 15 who had very strange ideas about relationships — anal sex and aggression. It's brought about a change we weren't quite ready for,” she said.
“No one thought if you give a child an iPhone they're going to start taking pictures of their anatomy and sending it to people. We were playing catch-up. It's only recently it's become something that's really being looked at and researched.”
Cassidy Trevan, 15, took her own life in 2015 after reporting that she had been gang-raped by boys at her school in Victoria . In 2014, a mother told the ABC she had withdrawn her six-year-old son from an exclusive New South Wales primary school after her son was sexually abused by a classmate and told her boys were being forced to perform oral sex on other boys in the school toilets. She said the headmaster dismissed her concerns. A s imilar situation emerged in Adelaide that same year.
Often, the children involved have themselves suffered abuse, or another kind of trauma, such as family violence or the loss of a significant relationship through separation or death. Dr Tucci said the behaviour typically progressed from touching another child's genitalia to oral sex, intercourse, anal sex and penetration with objects. It is often accompanied by threats and intimidation.
“This behaviour doesn't come out of the blue,” said Dr Tucci. “There's generally some stress in their life, sometimes direct sexual abuse kids have experienced from a family members or someone close to them. They seek ways of reducing the stress, sometimes by looking for intimacy.
“Their needs for love and care aren't met, so they don't know how to grow up in a way that they meet the need for love and care of others.
“They're disempowered. They look for dynamics where they can feel more powerful.”
These often come from porn, he said, which offers “insidious messages about overcoming resistance.”
While these children usually don't initially understand the impact of their aggression, they eventually learn there is some “reward”, added Dr Tucci, and their behaviour worsens.
“We see kids of 16 or 17 who are engaged in very abusive behaviour — violence, threats, coercion, intimidation,” he said. “They're very defensive, they deny it, they're ashamed, they don't want to talk about it. It isolates them from their family.
“There's a lot you have to work on with kids that have to change, but you can change them, especially if you tackle it early.
“They need intervention, treatment and changes in family behaviour.”
That's often not happening, because shame and fear means abuse is so underreported, and children used to family violence have often been coerced into patterns of secrecy.
This week, Vice reported on Melbourne's Gatehouse Centre , which sees around 300 children a year who have abused other children. Gatehouse social worker Michael Keane told the publication these children were typically silent, restless or embarrassed. “One of the hardest things is to get young people to acknowledge what they've done, and that it's wrong,” he said.
Dr Gemma McKibbin from the University of Melbourne said the silence was worsened by grooming. “It takes an average of 25 years for someone to disclose child sexual abuse,” shetold Vice . She said some perpetrators were recreating scenes they had watched, or trying to educate themselves about sex.
Up to 95 per cent of perpetrators are male, and two-thirds of victims female. When the perpetrators were girls, they had often suffered a “cocktail” of abuse and disadvantage, Dr McKibbin added.
Victoria sets the standard in Australia with around 14 centres for victims, who can be referred or self-referred, and the wait is still around eight weeks. In other states and territories, which do not have such a system, it can be months before children get help. That's a long time if they are in danger in their own home.
Young perpetrators are therefore frequently removed from their homes for the protection of a young sibling. “Often they're defined by the behaviour in the mind of the community, sometimes in the media, they're portrayed as sex fiends at just 10 or 11,” said Dr Tucci. “They're young kids, some can't even tie their shoelaces.
“While they are responsible for what they've done, they're really not responsible for triggers that caused that behaviour in the first place — it's the adults who have abused them, exposed them to family violence and supported the porn industry.”
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit the website at lifeline.org.au . You can also contact Reach Out on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit the website at reachout.com . In an emergency, call 000.
NFL stars stand up for sex trafficking survivors in the Dominican Republic
by Don Riddell and Jeffrey York
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (CNN) -- An average NFL career lasts just three years -- 36 months in which to make the most of a life goal, cash in as much as possible and -- if you're philanthropically minded -- your best time to try to change the world.
For some players, that might mean making a statement by taking a knee when the national anthem is played before a game.
For others, it can also mean trying to make a difference beyond their own country.
Denver Broncos guard Max Garcia helped Denver win the Super Bowl in his first season, but now he's turning his attention to the bigger picture. As he told CNN: "When the lights are off and you're not famous anymore, you're going to look back and say what did I do?"
In June, Garcia and five other NFL players traveled to Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, with the NGO International Justice Mission (IJM) to learn more about human trafficking and, in particular, the sexual exploitation of children.
Human trafficking was made illegal in the Dominican Republic in 2003. When IJM arrived to help a decade later, they claim they found minors being exploited for sex in 90% of the communities they studied.
"You can find cases of children being exploited pretty much anywhere in the country," says Fernando Rodriguez, IJM's local field office director.
In fact, IJM says that 1 in 10 victims of commercial sexual exploitation in the Dominican Republic are children.
It would be easy to blame the tourism trade for the problem -- the country welcomes 5 million visitors every year -- but investigators also blame poverty and a lack of education. According to The World Bank, one third of Dominicans live below the poverty line and that poverty is easy to spot when you drive away from the all-inclusive luxury resorts.
Tackling exploitation has been an uphill battle. Such work necessitates time and resources, both of which are in short supply. In a population of more than 10 million people, IJM says that just six officers in the public ministry's anti-trafficking unit are properly trained and equipped to actively pursue sex trafficking cases.
IJM says the abuse comes in many forms: youngsters befriended by pedophiles on the beach, young girls delivered to men on the back of a motorbike, or even exploited at home, by their own families.
The most disturbing stories for the IJM investigators are the ones in which the parents have put their children to work in the sex trade, both young girls and boys. One of IJM's undercover agents is still haunted by the case of an eight-year-old boy.
The boy was the subject of a series of pornographic home videos that were uploaded to a distributor in Spain. His mother, now serving a 20-year jail sentence, made $4,000 for the films, according to IJM. It estimates that between 8 and 10 percent of the child victims they work with are male but it's hard to know for sure how many are affected overall because boys are less likely to report the abuse for fear of being stigmatized.
Reasons for optimism
Since IJM's arrival, its operatives on the ground say that they have seen enough progress to be optimistic.
Just two years ago, the national police force's human trafficking department couldn't boast of even one successful case. With IJM's help, that number became three in 2016 and so far by the time of our visit in July, it's five.
IJM's aftercare director, Daisy Nunez, tells CNN, "We're on it, we can see changes in the government and we have data to support it."
In their day jobs, the NFL players who traveled to the Dominican Republic are big, tough, fearless men, but this trip was an altogether different experience. As they interacted with some of the young girls who'd been rescued, I often caught them lost in thought or on the verge of tears, aghast at the abuse suffered by the victims.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson was taken to visit the Boca Chica red-light district, where he was told that children were being exploited just out of sight, around the corner. "It seems to be commonplace," Watson says. "It's in the open, with no remorse and no consequence."
'Glimmer of hope'
Before the NFL players left for the airport and returned to training camp, they visited another group of children, this time mainly young boys, for a "day of joy." It's hard to imagine what the boys must have been through in the past, but on this day, they were smiling as they learned how to spiral-throw a football from some of the best players in the world.
For most of them, language was a barrier, but the language of sport needs no translation. "That kid can ball," exclaimed Garcia, clearly impressed.
IJM says that the involvement of professional athletes with its program is invaluable; so far in 2017 they're received $1 million dollars from player donations, and those men and women continue to use their platform and reach to raise awareness of the cause.
But on this occasion, making a personal connection was the most important thing -- showing people who have suffered so much that there are people who care and who want to help them.
Watson said that he left with the knowledge that the problem was bigger than he thought, but that the children's smiles demonstrated "a glimmer of hope."
For Don Davis, a two-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots, it put his life's work into perspective. "Playing football and winning championships is so minor when you are doing good for people who don't even know your name," he said. "To bring someone who is suffering some relief, there's no better feeling than that."
Focus of human sex trafficking cases shifting
by Marcus Expinoza
TOLEDO, Oh (WNWO) — A dark side of Toledo's crime underbelly is human sex trafficking.
Something much more prevalent than most would imagine.
"Our direct service programs typically see upwards of 70 clients per year, the majority of those sex trafficking victims," said Dr. Celia Williamson, Director of Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute.
After news broke this week of a third Toledo pastor , in just the past year, being arrested on federal charges of sex trafficking with a minor, Willamson says this is a problem that is not going away.
"We are hoping to educate and sensitize the community to look for these type of kids who may have repeated sexually transmitted disease and infections and older boyfriends running away from home supposedly," said Williamson.
She says the focus of investigations are now shifting from blaming the victim to holding those who purchase the acts accountable.
"Customers who are involved in this are intricate to reducing this crime. It's about supply, the victim (demand) and the customer (supply) everyone of those folks, those players has to be held accountable," said Williamson.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the National Human Sex Trafficking Hotline at this link .