From the FBI
Crimes Against Children
Help Us Identify a Child Predator
(Video on site)
The FBI is seeking the public's help to stop a child predator.
The unidentified woman being sought—known only as Jane Doe 39—can be seen in a video with a child who is being sexually exploited.
The video was obtained during an FBI investigation and forwarded to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), an organization that works closely with the Bureau to stop child predators. Further investigation revealed that the images have surfaced elsewhere online, said Special Agent Susan Romash, who investigates child exploitation cases as part of the FBI's Violent Crimes Against Children program. “We know the video has been traded on the Internet,” Romash said, “and we know this child is a victim who needs our help.”
In the video, an adult woman is heard speaking Vietnamese, and at one point her face is shown. “Our hope,” Romash said, “is that someone will recognize this individual's face—or her voice—and come forward with information.”
The publicity efforts to identify and apprehend Jane Doe 39 are part of the FBI's Operation Rescue Me and Endangered Child Alert Program (ECAP) initiatives.
Operation Rescue Me identifies child victims of sexual exploitation by using sophisticated image analysis to obtain evidence. ECAP seeks public and media assistance to help identify the John and Jane Does who display their faces—and other distinguishing characteristics such as tattoos—in pornographic images and videos of children.
The FBI has a longstanding partnership with NCMEC, which maintains a database of pornographic images traded online to help law enforcement coordinate and solve investigations. Working closely with NCMEC, FBI investigators look for metadata embedded within images that might contain GPS or other details that can reveal critical information.
“We also search for clues within the images,” Romash said. “Those clues often help us determine where the image was produced or who created it. If those approaches don't work,” she explained, “but there is an adult in the image whose face is shown, we publicize it through ECAP and ask for the public's help.”
The video depicting Jane Doe 39 and a child victim was first noted by NCMEC in April 2016. The woman is described as an Asian female, likely between the ages of 25 and 35, with long black hair. She is wearing a white, yellow, blue, and red floral dress. In addition, she could be heard speaking Vietnamese.
Anyone with information can submit a tip online or call the FBI's toll-free tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).
Since its inception in 2004, ECAP has resulted in the identification of 26 of the 39 John/Jane Does, and in the recovery of more than 40 child victims. Operation Rescue Me, established in 2008, has resulted in the recovery of more than 200 child victims. “These programs work,” Romash said, “and we are again asking for the public's help to save an innocent child from being victimized.”
Sex offender who impregnated girl won't try to see his child
by David Boroff
A convicted sex offender who impregnated a 12-year-old girl will not try to see the child after being awarded joint custody of the now 8-year-old child, his lawyer says.
A judge had granted parental rights to Michigan resident Christopher Mirasolo, who attacked a preteen nine years ago but served less than a year.
Mirasolo, now 27, was accused of kidnapping the girl and keeping her captive in a house for two days. He pleaded guilty to attempted third-degree criminal sexual conduct in the 2008 attack after initially being charged with rape.
"The plea deal was atrocious as well," the victim's lawyer Rebecca Kiessling told ABC 13 .
Kiessling said Mirasolo later attacked another teenage girl and served four more years.
A custody case was started after Sanilac County in Michigan checked into the issue of child support. Mirasolo's lawyer Barbara Yockey said Mirasolo is "not going to attempt to see the child, no," according to ABC 13.
Kiessling blames prosecutors for much of what happened, pointing to the light sentences that Mirasolo received. She said better laws need to be on the books to protect rape victims and their children.
"First of all, a rape victim should not have to be tethered to her rapists for 18 years," Kiessling told ABC 13 . "She deserves to be fully protected from her rapists, as well as the child. Secondly, we've had several women in our organization conceived in rape, and their biological rapist fathers used visits to molest them as well.
"Someone who raped is unfit to be a parent, they don't respect basic boundaries, so they shouldn't be a parent. You also shouldn't be able to benefit from your crime."
19th Annual Rally & March Against Abuse to be held in Bolingbrook
by Alex Ortiz
BOLINGBROOK – Citizens Against Abuse, a nonprofit organization based in the Bolingbrook and Romeoville area, will be holding its 19th annual Rally and March Against Abuse this week.
The group's mission is to raise awareness of the reality of domestic violence and “inspire unified action toward its elimination and prevention, while remembering victims, empowering survivors and providing resources to those it affects.”
The focus of this year's event is “Bullying Today” with guest speaker Patrick Dati, an author, speaker and advocate against child abuse and bullying, and for LGBTQ rights. Dati is the author of “I AM ME: Survivor of Child Abuse and Bullying Speaks Out.”
He has worked for several organizations, including Center on Halsted, Chicago's community center dedicated to advancing the health and well-being of the LGBTQ community; Teach Antibullying Inc.; Dreamcatchers for Abused Children; The National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse; and RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network).
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people a minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S. on average. One in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 million children witness domestic violence each year in the U.S., and 40 million adult Americans grew up living with domestic violence.
The event is from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the DuPage Township Joseph and Sarah Levy Center at 251 Canterbury Lane in Bolingbrook. Any questions in regard to the event or business/organizations inquiries about being represented at the event should be sent to Info@CitizensAgainst
Abuse.org. The event is free and open to the public.
Police ran one of the biggest child abuse sites on the dark web
by Jimmy Nsubuga
Police in Australia posed as child abusers online in order to catch paedophiles, it has been revealed. Officers ran one of the biggest child exploitation sites on the dark web called Childs Play for nearly 12 months and shared abuse images to catch suspects.
Paedophiles had used the forum to exchange graphic footage and images of child rapes. The operation was uncovered after Norwegian newspaper VG traced some of the posts back to an office in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, in January. Taskforce Argos, a police unit focusing on child abuse, was being run from there.
They had taken over the dark web site in November, 2016, and were pretending to be its founder Canadian Benjamin Faulkner. He was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl in Virginia, United States, in 2016. Inspector Jon Rouse, who is the commander of Argos, told the Guardian: ‘Our team, and units like ours across the world are singularly focused on stopping the sexual abuse of children and we will continue to work together to infiltrate, disrupt and dismantle child sex offender networks like this one.' He said the Childs Play operation had led to arrests around the world and authorities were able to save young victims. But Insp Rouse criticised computer software like Tor that helped mask the identities of users.
It wasn't the first time Taskforce Argos had carried out this type of operation.
A similar operation was used to catch Richard Huckle in 2016, who was labelled the UK's worst paedophile. Child's Play was taken down in September but during its peak it reportedly had one million registered users. It was set up in April 2016. The investigations by VG and taskforce Argos are detailed in a new documentary. Update: A spokesperson from Queensland Police told Metro.co.uk: ‘In 2003, new legislation was introduced that paved the way for law enforcement operatives in Queensland to investigate and prosecute child sex offenders on the internet. ‘Last year, this legislation was further strengthened with the introduction of new offences that increased the police capability to infiltrate and prosecute the networks offenders create to facilitate the sexual abuse of children. ‘Since the implementation of the initial legislation, the Queensland Police Service's Child Abuse and Sexual Crime Group (Argos) has arrested over 1,000 offenders on more than 15,000 charges. ‘More than 500 children have been identified and removed from serious sexual abuse.
‘Further to this, the work undertaken by the team has generated thousands of leads that have been passed on to law enforcement agencies across the globe, resulting in further arrests and the safe removal of children. ‘The use of this legislation is bound by internal QPS policy and protocols. ‘As these methodologies are used successfully and form a fundamental part of the work Argos performs, the QPS will not comment further on their use. ‘The team at Argos and the hundreds of officers working tirelessly in Child Protection Investigation Units across the state are steadfast in their dedication and commitment to preventing child abuse and the sexual exploitation of children.'
Responding to child abuse and neglect-a view from NICE
by Amy Thomas
Children who have experienced abuse or neglect could be offered therapy and their parents given the chance to take part in family support programmes.
A new guideline, from NICE, aimed at professionals who may come into contact with children, gives advice on what to do when faced with child neglect or abuse.
For social workers and other specialist professionals supporting children to recover after abuse or neglect, the guideline sets out the most effective approaches. It details a range of talking therapies and parenting programmes that should be used depending on the child's age and the type of abuse suffered. Children and their families should be given a choice of proposed therapies if possible.
One of these could be attachment-based interventions which focus on improving the relationships between young people and carers or parents. This often means helping the carer to respond more sensitively to the child. Alternatively, child-parent psychotherapy could also be considered when a child has been exposed to domestic violence.
The guideline also includes some recommendations for senior managers and service providers. It says they should plan services that will allow children and their families to work with the same people over time.
Professionals such as teachers, police officers and others working with children outside hospitals, should act on their suspicions if they think a child is at risk or they suspect abuse or neglect has already taken place, the guidance says.
If the child is deemed to be at immediate risk of harm, then professionals should immediately contact police. But if not then the professionals should contact children's social care.
Early help can be provided by GPs, social workers or health visitors. It should include practical assistance, such as help to attend appointments and emotional support.
The guideline also calls on services to ensure they have processes in place to respond to newly recognised forms of abuse such as female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual exploitation, child trafficking and forced marriage.
The guideline is based on the best available evidence and draws on expert testimonies. It gives guiding principles for approaching and responding to each child, and their family or carers.
The committee talked to a group of children and young people who have personal experience of abuse or neglect.
NICE encourages staff to listen carefully to children and their families, and to act on their suspicions. They should tailor their language to the child's level of understanding and employ other methods that children may be more comfortable with. For example, it suggests using drawings with very young children or providing interpreters.
The guideline lists the signs professionals should be aware of, which may suggest abuse or neglect is happening.
These include recurring nightmares and children arriving at school injured and persistently unclean. It gives details of appropriate action to take to help those involved.
It says staff should make sure children know they have been listened to and that they understand and are comfortable with discussions. It encourages professionals to speak to colleagues in other organisations if they have concerns so that children, and their parents or carers, do not have to repeat difficult conversations.
The guidance calls on staff to use their judgement and to follow up to make sure action has been taken.
The guideline describes how to assess the level of risk and what help should be given early on. This includes seeing how a child behaves with and without their parents or carers around them.
It says staff should find out about all significant adults in a child's life such as their parents, carers or siblings. These people should be involved in any plans, unless they are under investigation for inflicting the harm.
The guideline sits alongside existing legislation and statutory guidance on safeguarding children, produced by the Department for Education , and professional guidance, providing important context on what works to help vulnerable children and their families.
Child-on-child sex offence reports 'tip of the iceberg'
by the BBC
Reports of sexual assaults by children on other children are rising, according to police figures seen by BBC Panorama. But those reported cases are only the "tip of the iceberg", according to one police child abuse expert.
Emily - not her real name - was 15 when she was sexually assaulted by a boy in her class, unnoticed by her teacher, who was at the front of the room.
But after reporting the ordeal to the police, she says she was bullied by her classmates.
"About 10 to 15 pupils were all swearing and shouting at me, like 'you're a grass'… I got some comments like 'he should have raped you'. I was tagged in photos. I was called a liar."
She says her head teacher was unsympathetic. "He'd say 'well, maybe this isn't the school for you. You can leave, you know, we suggest you do and make a fresh start'."
The number of reported sexual offences by under-18s against other under-18s in England and Wales rose by 71% from 4,603 from 2013-14 to 7,866 from 2016-17, according to figures from a Freedom of Information request.
A total of 38 out of the 43 forces in England and Wales responded.
The number of reported rapes among under-18s rose 46% from 1,521 to 2,223 over the same period, according to 32 police forces that supplied a breakdown of figures.
Reports of sexual offences on schools premises also increased from 386 in 2013-14 to 922 in 2016-17, according to 31 police forces - including 225 rapes on school grounds over the four years.
Simon Bailey, the national police chief lead for child protection, said: "We are dealing unequivocally with the tip of the iceberg ... we are seeing an increasing number of reports, we are seeing significant examples of harmful sexual behaviour and the lives of young people blighted and traumatically affected by sexual abuse."
James and Anna's daughter, Bella, was six when they discovered she had been sexually assaulted in the playground for six weeks by two boys.
"She burst into tears, she just dissolved in front of me," Anna says.
Anna and James went straight to the police, but were told that as the boys were under the age of criminal responsibility they could not be charged.
The family say they had to fight to get the police to make a record of the incident.
They are now taking legal action against the local authority, as they say the school failed in its duty of care.
"We have all of these unheard victims... and they're unheard because there's no register, because there's no crime," Anna says.
Since March 2013 a total of 1,852 children under the age of 10 were reported to police for sexual offences.
The youngest was a four-year-old accused of attacking another boy, aged five, in Northumbria.
Teachers have a duty to report an alleged assault by an adult, according to the Department for Education, but there is no such obligation if a child is accused - schools are advised to follow their own child protection procedures.
"School leaders and schools want to get it right, but they're not always getting the help and support they need," Sarah Hannafin, policy adviser for the National Association of Headteachers, told Panorama.
"There needs to be some more clarity in terms of the specific procedures that schools must take."
Of the sexual offences perpetrated by under-18s, 74% resulted in no further action, according to responses from 36 out of 43 police forces in England and Wales.
Mr Bailey said such cases are very difficult to prosecute.
"You're dealing with people who'll be reluctant; you're dealing with cases whereby there's been a relationship in the past.
"It's very much a case of the Crown Prosecution Service deciding to charge, invariably on the word of one person against another."
The Department for Education said: "Sexual assault is a crime and any allegation should be reported to the police.
"Schools should be safe places and they have a duty to protect all pupils and listen to any concerns."
You can see more on this story on Panorama on BBC One on Monday at 20:30 BST.
From Boko Harem to Islamic State, sex slavery and trafficking fund extremism: report
by Lin Taylor
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Offering kidnapped women and girls to jihadist fighters as sex slaves or wives helps militant groups lure and retain members, while sex trafficking can bankroll their extremist operations, a UK-based think-tank said on Monday.
Groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and Islamic State in Syria and Iraq may resort more to such practices as they lose ground militarily, the Henry Jackson Society said in its report.
“Propaganda on sexual slavery serves as an incentive for new recruits and foreign fighters, with the promise of wives and sex slaves acting as a ‘pull factor',” researcher Nikita Malik said in the report.
“Religious elements are infused into sexual violence practices to skirt around the moral wrongdoing of rape,” she said.
Since it began its insurgency in 2009, Islamist militants Boko Haram have abducted thousands of girls and women in northeast Nigeria – most notably the more than 200 Chibok girls snatched from their school in April 2014 – with many used as cooks, sex slaves, and even suicide bombers.
Boko Haram members would purposely impregnate women and girls to produce the “next generation of fighters”, the report said.
Similarly, thousands of women and girls were abducted, tortured and sexually abused by Islamic State fighters after the militants rounded up Yazidis in the village of Kocho, near Sinjar in 2014.
U.N. investigators estimate more than 5,000 Yazidis have been rounded up and slaughtered and some 7,000 women and girls forced into sex slavery.
But a final assault on Islamic State's last line of defense in its former Syrian capital Raqqa began on Sunday.
The loss of Raqqa, following its defeat in Iraq's Mosul and its retreat from swathes of territory in both countries, would mark a milestone in the battle to destroy the jihadist group.
The report said as groups like Islamic State, also referred to as ‘Daesh', and Boko Haram struggle to financially sustain their operations, sex trafficking and kidnapping for ransom could increase.
“Historical revenue streams, including taxation and oil sales, to groups such as Islamic State and Boko Haram are decreasing,” Malik said in a statement.
“These are being replaced with hostage-taking and ransom efforts, meaning modern day slavery may increase as Daesh struggles to sustain its financial reserves,” she said.
The report said Islamic State generated up to $30 million in 2016 through kidnapping and abductions.
A toddler was sent outside at 3 a.m. as punishment, her father said. Then she disappeared.
by Marwa Eltagouri
A 3-year-old girl from Texas has been missing for three days since her father sent her out alone to an alley at 3 a.m. — her punishment, police say he told officers, for not drinking her milk.
Sherin Mathews, a special-needs toddler last seen early Saturday in her family's back yard in Richardson, Tex., is thought to be in grave and immediate danger. Her father, Wesley Mathews, was arrested and charged Saturday evening with abandoning or endangering the girl. He was released Sunday night on a $250,000 bond.
Mathews told police detectives that he told Sherin to go stand by a tree near the family's house in the 900 block of Sunningdale at 3 a.m. Saturday because she wouldn't drink her milk, according to his arrest affidavit. The tree was behind a fence, about 100 feet south of the house and across an alley.
Mathews checked on Sherin about 3:15 a.m. and she was gone, according to the affidavit. Police said they were alerted to her disappearance several hours later, about 8 a.m. Mathews told police he thought she would come back on her own, so he did a load of laundry while he waited, hoping he could locate her once the sun came out.
Mathews and his wife, Sini, reportedly adopted Sherin about two years ago from an orphanage in India, said Sgt. Kevin Perlich, a spokesman for the Richardson Police Department. Mathews told police that Sherin was malnourished and had to be on a special diet to gain weight. She had to be fed whenever she was awake, Perlich said, and wasn't cooperating when her father tried to feed her.
“So that was the frustration [Mathews] was experiencing that night,” Perlich said. “But of course we're working to verify all of that.”
It's a narrative that has the community buzzing with questions. In Dallas-area coffee shops, in nearby workplaces and on social media, people mulled over the details of Sherin's disappearance — such as why Mathews waited so long to call the police, or why there are so few clues as to where she might have gone.
“It's just a very sad thing, and there's still so much question,” said Bob Morse, 66, who lives a few houses down from Sherin's parents. “A lot of the story doesn't make sense.”
He happened to be awake and outside at 4 a.m. Saturday, less than an hour after she reportedly disappeared, lighting his grill so that he could cook a brisket later in the day.
“At 4 a.m. in the morning, it was quiet. If a child four houses away cried out, I would hear it,” Morse said. “If a car drove by, I would know.”
The neighborhood is usually quiet, home to mostly South Asian families, neighbors say. Most houses have garages behind their homes, and so families often enter from the back. But rarely does anyone walk around or spend time behind the homes, near the area where Sherin was reportedly sent to stand, Morse said.
Plenty of people are spending time in the neighborhood now, however, since Sherin's disappearance, Morse said. While speaking to a contractor in his front yard recently, he saw 10 cars drive down the street in five minutes — a rare occurrence.
“People want to know. Somebody's got to get the story out,” he said. “But they're not getting much story — that's for sure.”
Because of the lack of information and tips, officials discontinued the Amber Alert they had issued for Sherin after her disappearance. Police said they need a specific vehicle or a suspect to continue the alert. The alert could be reissued if authorities develop new leads, he said.
In the meantime, police are using canine experts and helicopters to try to locate Sherin. Neighbors and volunteers are canvassing door-to-door, posting fliers and organizing search parties.
Neighbors are particularly curious about a detail Mathews gave to police in his arrest affidavit — that he knew coyotes had been seen in the alley. But investigators and volunteers agree that nothing indicates a coyote dragged the girl away.
“There's definitely some holes in [Mathews's] story,” said Shanna Poteet, who helped lead a search party over the weekend. She doesn't know Mathews but has volunteered on past missing-person and runaway cases in the area. “Coyotes don't attack people. I've come in contact with a coyote, and they don't really bother you.”
Neighbors say coyote sightings are common in the neighborhood. But many say that if they spotted a coyote on their porch or in their back yard, it would disappear almost instantly upon being noticed.
“I talked to police three times [about coyotes] this weekend,” said Morse, Mathews's neighbor. “A lot of news reports, a lot of people here are talking about coyotes. But there would have been blood, and there was none of that. There was no pickup of scent.”
Sherin is described as about 3 feet tall and 22 pounds. She has developmental issues and limited verbal communication skills, unlike a typical 3-year-old, Richardson police said. She was last seen wearing a pink top, black pajama bottoms and pink flip-flops.
On Monday, Child Protective Services took custody of Sherin's 4-year-old sister and put her into foster care, said Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the agency. She said the agency had contacted the family in the past but could not elaborate. Neither Sherin nor her sister had been in foster care before Sherin's disappearance.
Sherin's parents are no longer speaking with police and have retained attorneys, Perlich said. Sherin's mother was asleep when Mathews told Sherin to go stand outside and wasn't aware that he'd given her daughter those instructions, Perlich said.
Members of Emmanuel Bible Chapel, the church Mathews and his family attend, have helped search several areas near the family's home since Saturday. One member, Jose Cherian, told NBC 5 in Dallas-Fort Worth that Mathews and his wife are good parents.
“The parents are also loving. They loved Sherin very much,” he said. “They take care of her very much.”
3-year-old boy left behind in corn maze
by Minyvonne Burke
A little boy in Utah was left behind in a corn maze by his family, but his mother is claiming it was a terrible accident.
Police were called to the Crazy Corn Maze in West Jordan around 7:30 p.m. on Monday after receiving a report of a child left behind.
Employees at the attraction told an officer that they found a 3-year-old boy by himself and no one came forward to claim him by the time the maze closed.
The Utah Division of Child and Family Services was called to take the child for the night.
The boy's mother didn't notice her child was missing until the following morning, West Jordan police Sgt. Joe Monson told the Daily News.
Monson said the child's mother called police around 7:40 a.m. on Tuesday to report that her son was missing. Police informed the mother the child was with DCFS.
According to Monson, the child and mother went to the corn maze Monday night with a large group of people. The mother told officers that when the group returned home they put on a movie and she dozed off. At some point during the night, the mother went to bed still unaware her child was not at the home.
When she woke up the next morning, she noticed her son was gone. Monson said he's not sure how many children and adults were in the group.
No charges have been filed but police are still investigating the case. KUTV reports that the child was reunited with his mother Tuesday morning.
They were stalkers, sexters and rapists--and worked safeguarding Florida delinquents
by Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch
For the last few months of his short career in juvenile corrections, Ernest Parker prowled the halls of the Milton Girls Juvenile Residential Facility looking for easily wooed teens.
The medical technician, just months into his new job in the spring of 2012, transformed quiet hours on the night shift at the juvenile program in Northwest Florida into a hunt for illicit sex.
Night after night, Parker had his way with young girls, fondling them and penetrating them with his fingers. He rewarded them with sweet talk, candy and breath mints that sometimes made them feel woozy.
“He doesn't just touch you,” the youngest accuser, 14, would later tell a police detective. “He talks to you first. ... He smiles at you and kinda gives you a hint, like being friendly and nice. Always smiling at you.”
The reported victims at Milton, nine in all, told investigators that Parker presented himself as a gentle father figure — though one who behaved in unfatherly ways. Santa Rosa sheriff's detectives called him a classic pedophile, charging him with 16 counts of sexual battery and other misconduct, part of a troubling parade of employees of the state's largely privatized juvenile justice system caught preying on young girls and boys.
Out of the view of security cameras, in secluded spaces and even on off-campus trips, some of the men and women tasked with protecting and counseling youths turned Florida's juvenile lockups and residential centers into a predators' playground.
“She's an adult. You're a kid. Kids don't have their own choices. She made choices for you and they were not good choices.”
That's what Bridget Hester told her then-15-year-old daughter, who disclosed she'd had sex for three months with a woman who had been her counselor at the now-closed Broward Girls Academy. Riviera Beach police said there was probable cause to charge the counselor with child abuse and lewd or lascivious battery.
But on Jan. 31, 2014, prosecutors declined to press charges, saying they could not “prove all legally required elements of the crime.” The counselor was fired.
A counselor at Broward Girls Academy allegedly engaged in sex repeatedly with Bridget Hester's daughter. When the employee moved on, the daughter carjacked a vehicle to confront the counselor. The teen went to prison. Her mom asks, "Where's the justice?"
“Where's the justice?” Hester asked. “If she did it once, she'll do it again. She knew my daughter was taking medications for her mind, for her thinking. Why do that? That's taking advantage.”
Florida has no tolerance for officers or youth workers who exploit their power over young people, Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Christina K. Daly told the Herald. “Staff are held accountable. We have prosecuted a number of staff as a result of this behavior. I will not tolerate it.
“So many of the kids that come into our system are already victims of sexual abuse and other types of abuse,” Daly added. “I certainly don't want this system to contribute to that.”
Where it began: the ‘rape room'
Before there was a Milton, before there was a Broward Girls Academy, there was Dozier, the taproot of Florida's troubled juvenile justice system. The compound opened on New Year's Day 1900.
When he was sentenced to the now-shuttered Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys 57 years ago, Robert Straley was a skinny 13-year-old, all of 105 pounds. He vividly recalls two guards taking him to what was called the “rape room” and taking turns with him until he passed out. He says the trauma destroyed his life.
“It stuck in my side like a knife: You were raped, and these guys got away with it,” he said recently. “I just did not want to acknowledge that had happened.”
Straley never completely outgrew the anguish. For most of his adulthood, he could not understand why he embraced dangerous behavior, why he avoided contact with men, why he would be gripped by inexplicable rage. “I would get rushes of adrenaline and get mad,” he said. “This went on for 40 damn years.”
A significant number of today's detainees will know Straley's inner turmoil. The Herald examined 10 years of DJJ inspector general reports and administrative reviews and complaints to the Department of Children & Families abuse hotline. DCF tallied 469 accusations of sexual abuse in the juvenile justice system.
Much of what happens is not of the same brutal nature as Straley experienced. But it is nonetheless inappropriate and unlawful. As “mandatory reporters,” DJJ employees and the agency's private contractors must document it.
DJJ has its own tally and conducts its own investigations. There is no doubt overlap between the two agencies' numbers, but they also diverge. Detainees can remain in the system a short time after their 18th birthday. But DCF has no jurisdiction over those who have passed that benchmark.
Since 2007, DJJ's inspector general investigated at least 62 complaints against staff involving “sexual abuse.” The number of cases it substantiated: zero — despite there being several former workers currently in prison or on probation for sexual misconduct. In those cases, investigators may have substantiated different, lesser allegations.
For example, the Herald found 166 investigations of improper conduct of a “sexual nature,” 21 of them verified.
And DJJ investigated at least another 142 complaints of improper conduct resulting from a “staff/youth relationship,” substantiating 53. Such cases mostly involved youth workers crossing professional boundaries — exchanging “love letters,” for instance — but where sexual activity could not be proven.
Such behavior, research shows, is directly linked to sexual abuse. In a 2012 U.S. Justice Department study, almost half of the juveniles who reported being sexually victimized by staff in a correctional program said workers wrote them letters or gave them photos. Nearly two-thirds said the staff member who exploited them “treated them like a favorite” or “gave them a special gift.”
JoEllen Marie Gardner was a worker like that . Gardner was charged by the Collier County Sheriff's Office in December 2015 with distributing obscene material to a 17-year-old after the youth's aunt discovered “inappropriate pictures and messages” from Gardner. He had just been released from the Fort Myers Youth Academy, where Gardner worked.
A detective found “nude pictures” of Gardner and conversations that “indicated a sexual relationship,” a police report said.
Gardner was found guilty of the obscenity charges and placed on three years probation.
A staffer at the Highlands Youth Academy exchanged 52 handwritten letters totaling 92 pages with an 18-year-old detainee in 2015. “Some of the letters could not be deciphered as they were written in code,” a DJJ report said. The worker said she and the youth had kissed about 10 times and they planned to “date” following his release. She later told police “she made a mistake and was ashamed of her actions.” She resigned.
Much of the illicit behavior goes beyond kissing and sharing photos. According to DJJ, DCF and law enforcement accounts reviewed by the Herald, detained youths have been abused by staffers in every way imaginable: penetrated while bent over a laundry sink, forced onto their knees to perform oral sex, pressed and fondled against a wall.
One teen performed oral sex on a staffer while in the bathroom of an off-property dental office, a lawsuit said. The teen said the officer removed his handcuffs, stood behind and forcefully asked: “Are you going to do it?”
In two separate cases, boys told investigators they contracted a venereal disease as a consequence of having sex with program staffers. At least three times, girls were impregnated by their jailers or former jailers. In one case, a therapist bore a child with a teen she had sex with after he left her program. Despite terminating her, supervisors gave her a positive recommendation for another job working with kids.
Remorse, fear, silence
The number of reported cases likely represents a fraction of the abuse that occurs. The U.S. Justice Department has studied custodial rape by surveying inmates and detainees since Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003. “We certainly get high rates of sexual victimization by talking to [detained] kids,” said Allen J. Beck, the Bureau of Justice Statistics' principal researcher.
He said the official numbers don't reflect the reality, and many sexual assaults “don't get reported to correctional authorities, and correctional authorities don't report [them] to us.”
About one in five victims of sexual abuse reported “physical force or threat of force,” the survey found. More commonly, youths were given drugs or alcohol, or “offered protection” by staffers.
Even when juvenile detainees aren't subjected to force, coercion or manipulation, sex with staffers is unlawful and can engender shame, remorse, fear — and silence.
“Whenever you put adolescents in institutions, you have to deal with the potential for some kind of sexual overtures. The worst case scenario involves staff and kids,” said Tom Petersen, a retired juvenile judge who was Miami-Dade's first juvenile public defender.
Petersen added: “The chances that it will go unreported are very high. No one wants to report it. No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to go to the police about it. No one wants to prosecute it. No one wants to be in a courtroom. No one wants to be involved.”
Florida's official rate of victimization was below the national average in the 2012 DOJ report, in which the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics surveyed 8,707 incarcerated juveniles. Nationwide, 7.7 percent reported sexual abuse by a staff member; in Florida, the rate was 4.5 percent.
Where some staffers offer flattery and favors, others employ threats.
A boy at the St. Johns Youth Academy in St. Augustine told investigators in 2013 that the kitchen worker who anally penetrated him in an office “threatened to [mess] him up” if he reported the misconduct.
Several of the reported victims at Milton Girls told investigators they feared being punished for coming forward. One said she believed she would be “restarted” — have her sentence begin from scratch — if she talked.
“I'm just trying to hold on,” she told a detective, according to a transcript of her interview. The girl said her abuser, Parker, had fondled her repeatedly under her pajama pants, and the touching was “unwanted.”
Some detainees are particularly vulnerable. Daniel Armstrong, a psychologist who heads the University of Miami's Mailman Center for Child Development, said well over half of the youths in state juvenile justice programs have some kind of intellectual or developmental disability, diminishing their capacity to make sound decisions.
That may be what Cleveland Richardson counted on. For six years, he worked as a supervisor at the Apalachicola Forest Youth Camp, a Panhandle training center for youths whose mental illnesses or intellectual disabilities rendered them incompetent to stand trial.
Among the youths Richardson supervised was a Tampa girl who kept his secret for more than a year. She could not hide it forever, though. In April 2012, after she had been released, the 17-year-old took her 3-month-old baby for a checkup.
“Her doctor kept asking her who the father of her child was,” a Tampa police report said. “She [had] no reason to lie,” and disclosed that Richardson had sex with her more than 20 times when she was locked up.
The camp's female detainees are given pregnancy tests before admission, a DCF report said, so any pregnancy would be hard to explain. The young mother told Tampa detectives “there was also a girl she remembers that left the youth camp and was already pregnant,” according to the police.
Unlike so many other custodial rape investigations, this one rested on virtually ironclad evidence: Richardson's DNA was a match. He served a three-year sentence for sex with an underage girl and is now a registered sex offender in Tallahassee.
A Glock to the temple
More often, the Herald's analysis shows, authorities are loath to prosecute. In June 2016, an officer at the Orange County Juvenile Detention Center admitted to police that he gave a former detainee money, picked her up down the road from her mother's home, and had vaginal and oral sex with her at least four times — at his Kissimmee home while his wife was out of town, and in the back seat of his parked car.
The officer, Raymond Berry-Brown, told police it wasn't his fault: The teen “initiated the relationship between them.” He said the sex began after the 17-year-old girl was released from the Orlando lockup.
DJJ and police investigations of Berry-Brown don't show it, but the former officer also left undeniable evidence of his involvement with the teen: She, too, had a baby, on April 7, 2017, Orange Circuit Court records say. Following the girl's birth, her mother filed a petition against Berry-Brown for protection from domestic violence, asking an Orlando judge to keep him away from both her and the newborn.
The judge signed a protection order in July, and it gave the mother full custody of her baby.
Even after DJJ substantiated an allegation of improper conduct of a sexual nature — and DCF verified a sexual abuse allegation — authorities declined to charge Berry-Brown with a sex crime. An Orange County Sheriff's Office report said the teen failed to show up for an interview, and the department couldn't determine whether any laws were broken in Orange County.
Detectives did arrest Berry-Brown for kidnapping, aggravated assault with a weapon, domestic battery and aggravated assault with a car — an episode that appears to have been the basis for the teenager's protection request. The teen told deputies that, in “an incident of dating violence,” he choked her until “she could barely breathe,” put what she described as a black Glock to her temple while screaming “I'm gonna f---ing kill you,” and then tried to run her over with his gray Chrysler 200.
The State Attorney's Office declined to file charges in August 2016, saying the case was “not suitable for prosecution.”
Berry-Brown resigned from the lockup.
Pervasive sexual misconduct at one Central Florida program might have gone unchecked had it not been for the local sheriff stepping in where DJJ and the contract provider failed.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd arrested Norma Jean Wynn, the former top administrator of the Highlands Youth Academy, in August on evidence tampering and child neglect charges for her alleged role in covering up abuses at the mental health treatment program.
According to detailed charging documents, one of Wynn's subordinates, 25-year-old Deidre Baucom, was known to have had sex with two different boys one night around March 12, 2015 — including once with a 16-year-old while she was bent over a toilet in a dormitory bathroom. Other youths said they, too, had sex with Baucom.
The scandal was covered up. A DJJ inspector, investigating rumors of sexual misconduct at Highlands, asked for records from the contractor that operates the program but was told there were none, a police report said. Wynn “admitted her knowledge of ‘rumors,' but said the program had found “no truth to the allegations.”
In fact, she had been given signed statements from detainees, the sheriff's office later determined.
The sound of a waistband snapping
In August of 2015 came a new allegation. A Highlands youth worker said he witnessed another colleague performing a sex act on a detainee in the door frame of the youth's room. When he walked closer, he heard “the sound of an elastic waistband snapping,” charging documents say.
The worker reported what he witnessed, but Wynn told him “to not document the incident” as the case was closed. In that instance, as well, a DJJ inspector was told by Highlands that there were no records of the alleged misconduct.
Eventually, Sheriff Judd began to hear disturbing stories. Judd, who had a history with the program — having helped put down a major riot in 2013 that led to a scathing grand jury report — was able to assemble a case where DJJ could not.
Baucom pleaded no contest to sexual misconduct and contraband smuggling, and is serving 10 years probation. Wynn, who resigned, and two other high-ranking former administrators are awaiting trial on charges ranging from child neglect to evidence tampering to failure to report.
More commonly, administrators get a wrist slap when they ignore sexual misconduct. In May 2015, the top two administrators at an Okeechobee youth compound — the program administrator, and his boss, the regional director — were told that two female youth workers had sex with confined youths. One worker purportedly had been seen in a supply closet with a boy; the other was alleged to have kissed and had sex with a boy in one of the showers, an inspector general report said.
The administrator filed a police report that May 6, but with the alleged offenders and victims listed as unknown. The next month, on June 24, a DJJ investigator gave Okeechobee's regional director handwritten statements from two youths identifying two suspected offenders and a possible victim.
DJJ “encouraged” the regional director to review the statements and act on them. Instead, he gave them to the program administrator, who “placed them in the file” without reading them, an administrative review found.
Two months later, on Aug. 14, the same inspector “encouraged” the program administrator “to follow the program's [rape] policy and update the Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office with the names of the alleged suspects and victim,” the report said.
Again, nothing was done. Lacking any details, the sheriff's office closed the case.
“Without a suspect or a victim, there is nothing for me to investigate,” Detective Richard Varnadore wrote.
The alleged sexual misconduct was never investigated. A 56-page report on allegations of widespread wrongdoing at the program, including bounties for beatings, said that without any investigation by police or the state's child welfare agency, which was never told of the claims, DJJ could not determine whether the rape accusations were true.
Asked why he dismissed the allegations, the program administrator told an investigator that he believed they were “false” because he'd spoken to 43 detained youths, and all had denied them. Other than oral reprimands, no staffers were disciplined.
In one of the more outlandish cases in recent years, the mother of a recently released detainee at the Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center drove her 14-year-old to Lockhart, Texas, near Austin, to escape the attention of a DJJ officer she suspected was having sex with her daughter. The case is outlined in police and DJJ inspector general reports obtained by the Herald.
Fleeing to Texas
“My daughter did have physical contact with one of your guards inside djj. Also outside of djj. ... My daughter was not safe inside your detention facilities,” the mom wrote in an Aug. 26, 2016, email to an investigator .
The family's odyssey began shortly after the teen's release from detention, where she had been sent after violating a judge's order to remain in school. While the girl's parents weren't looking, staffer Nelson Roman picked her up from their North Port home, police and inspector general reports said. Grilled later by her mom, the girl described the interior of Roman's home.
“I was planning on leaving the state in a few months, but left immediately after [the teen] got out of detention because of your guard. To keep him away from her,” the mother wrote in the email.
The 20-year-old officer was not easily discouraged. He told his supervisors he needed to visit his grandmother on her deathbed in New York, then sped off in his red Honda Civic to Texas in pursuit of the girl, a DJJ inspector general report said.
When Roman arrived, the former detainee again sneaked away and met up with the detention staffer, police said. The mother sent him a text. “U need to bring [the girl] back right now. U r helping her break the rules of her [probation]. If I call the cops because she is missing she will go back to djj for 21 days. I don't want that but she needs to obey me. U should know shes not allowed to sneak out in the middle of the night.”
Roman ignored the scolding. The girl's mother went looking for the distinctive red car and found it — and her daughter — at a hotel with Roman, the inspector general reported. The mom described the place in detail to DJJ: “Lockhart inn. Bottom floor in the back about 5th door close to the end.”
After the mom retrieved her daughter, Roman still wasn't done with the family: The daughter texted her father back in Florida, stating that Roman had two flat tires on his trip home from Texas and needed money, DJJ and police reports said. The father refused to provide it. He called police .
After Roman made his way back to Florida, his story about the ailing grandmother crumbled. The Civic had two temporary tires — front and rear, passenger side — bolstering the story about the flats that the 14-year-old had described. He told colleagues he had a blowout in Tallahassee, but that was way off course, at least had he driven to New York as he said.
Later he gave investigators a different story: He'd been at a swap meet in a Panda Express parking lot across from the Lakeland Square Mall. The restaurant manager couldn't remember any such swap meet, the inspector general report said.
Finally, the clincher: The Lockhart Inn in Texas had a record of him checking in on July 12, 2016, and checking out the next day.
The Bradenton Police Department closed its case, saying any illegalities would have occurred outside its jurisdiction.
DCF refused to investigate Roman, saying “the circumstances of the incident did not support that the youth was a victim of child abuse” — despite the misgivings of Bradenton officer Del Shiflett, whose report expressed “concerns for the adult guard entering into a relationship with a 14-year-old juvenile inmate.”
DJJ sustained allegations of “improper conduct” — but didn't fire Roman. The lockup superintendent advised him “it would not look good on his résumé that he was fired from a state job,” according to an internal report. Roman quit, walking away with his résumé intact.
The Herald sought to reach Roman for comment but could not locate him.
Return to Safe Harbor
In rare instances, youth workers do face criminal charges. Marvin Gallion is one. Records say he began his conquest with sweet talk and a smoke.
His alleged victim, a 16-year-old resident of Children's Home Society's Safe Harbor, was already frazzled by a panic attack so severe it landed her in a Palm Beach County hospital on Jan. 27, 2015. When it was time to return to the program, Gallion, off duty, volunteered to fetch her.
While shuttling the girl to Safe Harbor, he made his move, according to police, stretching what should have been a 15-minute trip to more than an hour.
First, police said, he invited the girl to smoke a Black & Mild cigar. They stopped at a Mobil station to purchase the single cigar and smoked it in the van in the back of the station, near the dumpsters and vacuum cleaners.
The Greenacres police narrative offers details: “Gallion began complimenting [the girl] on how she looked and asked her personal, sexual questions.”
Gallion, intimidatingly large at 265 pounds, kissed her and motioned for the teen to sit on his lap. She said she quietly cooperated but also “accidentally” pushed the car horn in an attempt to get someone's attention. She apologized for her clumsiness.
“Mr. Marvin knows how to treat a woman right,” she said he told her.
The girl “said she was afraid to say anything because she was alone with him,” the police report states. As they began having sex, the girl wanted to stop. She “stated what was going on was wrong and she wanted to be taken back to Safe Harbor.”
He played the radio as they drove back.
Once back at the shelter for foster kids and troubled teens, the victim “began to shower because she felt dirty,” and told her roommate what had happened. The next day, the roommate ran away, taking the teenager's panties as evidence.
She left a note: “Got the rape clothes.”
The roommate later gave the undergarment to police.
Gallion was fired and arrested on two counts: sexual battery while in a position of control and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He pleaded not guilty, and is awaiting trial.
When a worker in St. Augustine was accused by a boy of having sex with him near the program's kitchen, prosecutors declined to press charges, even though physical evidence and video lent credence to his claim.
It was February 2013. The worker at the St. Johns Youth Academy asked the teen to join him in the kitchen to wash dishes and sweep floors. In the nearby office, the worker, Dwayne Ross , took out his cellphone and allegedly shared images of his penis and of transsexuals. “Ross started talking about how crazy his sex life was,” an inspector general report said, and how his girlfriend liked it “kinky.”
While looking at one of the photos, the youth “asked if he could see it.”
Ross took pictures of the 16-year-old performing oral sex on him, the report said, and told the teen to pull down his pants and lean over a desk. Ross had sex with the youth, and then performed oral sex on him, an inspector general report said.
As Ross walked the boy back to his room, he issued a warning: “He would ‘f--- me up' if this got out,” the youth told investigators.
It got out almost immediately. The detainee told his therapist.
A medical examination showed tearing and swelling that supported the boy's story, and the institution's cameras confirmed that Ross and the boy had been in the kitchen alone, a violation of the rules. The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office sought a warrant to arrest Ross for having sex with a minor. It went nowhere.
Ross didn't remain free for long. On April 10 of that year, officers executed a search warrant at his home and found several videos and still images of children performing sex acts. He was charged with 10 counts of child pornography.
Convicted of all 10 counts, Ross served two years, was released on Oct. 27, 2015, and is now listed as “transient” on the state registry of sex offenders.
Improper relationships between youths and their jailers are sometimes facilitated and cemented by technology and social media, even though detainees are not supposed to have access to cellphones. A worker at the Challenge Youth Academy in Brooksville exchanged dozens of texts, some about sex and drugs, in 2015 with a boy who had been committed there — including conversations when the boy was on furlough to attend his father's funeral, an inspector general report said.
The texts — obtained by the Herald — were mostly flirtatious, with the counselor saying “I'm taking you off the market,” and “I'll give you some time to get the ring.”
The youth counselor later told investigators that the texting was innocent, and that she didn't discourage the contact “in case he was in crisis over his father's death.”
Copies of the text messages show the woman told the boy to keep it quiet because “I would prolly get in trouble.”
That proved prophetic. She was fired on Nov. 10, 2015.
Bible chats and candy
Ernest Parker began working at the Milton program in March 2012 — an accountant without an accounting job. The now-closed 60-bed commitment program, in a small Panhandle town of the same name, provided counseling and behavior management for girls with emotional and behavioral problems.
As a “medical technician,” Parker monitored Module A and conducted evening room checks. He eventually positioned himself as a confidant who was easy to talk to and offered advice readily.
The girls liked him for another reason. He almost never wrote them up when they violated program rules.
But his actions bore the hallmarks of grooming: chatting about the Bible, sharing details about his children and grandchildren, hugging the girls and placing forbidden pieces of candy on their dorm dressers. Some of the girls came to think of Parker as their boyfriend.
The program was about to close in December 2012 after a string of abuse cases. Parker seemed to be in the clear until one of the girls wound up at the detention center in nearby Okaloosa County and asked to speak with an officer. The 17-year-old reported that Parker had touched her breast, and that when she rejected him and started to cry, he gave her a piece of candy.
“Don't let this get me in trouble,” she said he told her.
As DJJ, DCF and Santa Rosa County deputies investigated, more girls were identified, each with a similar story about Parker, including his habit of handing out bitter-tasting mints — white, and blue in the center — that made them feel “dizzy” and “woozy” and “strange.”
One girl was in a medical exam when she disclosed that Parker had kissed and digitally penetrated her in her room. He shared with her personal details of his life: He had just gotten divorced (not true) and he was lonely. He said she had a nice figure and he wanted to have sex with her.
“He told me he liked me, I was cute and I was pretty,” a 17-year-old told police.
One 18-year-old told police that Parker touched her genitalia three or four times while she was standing in her doorway at Milton. On another occasion, he asked her to kiss him and touch his penis outside of his clothes. She did both — and also wrote him notes about what they would do to each other. “I may have formed some kind of feelings toward him,” she told a detective.
“It's good to have a staff on your side,” a 15-year-old said while describing how Parker kissed and fondled her.
At first Parker was remarkably unyielding under questioning by police, but his denials crumbled when detectives asked him one question.
Did he have daughters? Yes, four.
“OK, what if this was your 13-year-old?” the detective continued.
In that moment, the weight of his decisions seemed to crystallize.
“You don't have to go any further. I've ran this thought through my mind,” he said. “But for the grace of God, my 13-year-old could have been in a place like that and there could have been some lowlife like me.”
Parker owned up to a fraction of the crimes with which police charged him. And his remorse only went so far: “I know what I done was wrong. And there's no justifying it,” he said in an interview with detectives after he was charged. “But God as my witness, I did not initiate any of this.”
It took a Santa Rosa County jury one hour and five minutes to convict Parker of three out of 16 charges. He's serving 25 years for having sex with detainees.
At the conclusion of an interrogation, Parker seemed to have an epiphany.
“Wow. I've ruined my life,” he told detectives. “I come 52 years to do something so stupid. Can I call my wife real quick and tell her I ain't gonna be home?”
He kidnapped his preteen stepdaughter. She then endured 19 years of abuse, police say
by Jared Gilmour
She was around 11 years old when her stepfather, Henri Michele Piette, kidnapped her from school in 1997, police say.
Piette then allegedly married Rosalynn Michelle McGinnis in a van in Wagoner, Okla., east of Tulsa, according to court filings reviewed by the Oklahoman. During the ceremony, he allegedly even gave the girl a ring.
After living as a captive and being raped and abused for nearly two decades, McGinnis, 33, said she finally made her escape in Mexico in June 2016, eventually getting help from the U.S. Embassy there, the Oklahoman reports. She was able to bring eight of her nine kids with her. The other child, her oldest, had already run away.
And now, her alleged captor has been arrested , according to Fox News.
Piette, 62, has been charged in Wagoner County with first-degree rape, two counts of lewd molestation of a child and physical abuse of a child, Fox reports. He is believed to have connections to criminal organizations in Mexico , according to KRMG.
McGinnis' mother had separated from Piette in the 1990s following allegations of abuse, according to court filings the Oklahoman reviewed, and the girl and her mother had been living at shelters in Poteau, Okla.
Then, in January of 1997, Piette allegedly abducted McGinnis from school and began traveling around the country and into Mexico with her. He told his other children that she would be their new mother, an FBI agent said in a court filing, the Oklahoman reports.
One of Piette's sons said in an interview with the FBI that he remembered officiating at the marriage “ceremony” when he was only 15, the Oklahoman reports. Then came decades of rape and abuse, McGinnis said.
“I cried every night,” McGinnis told People .
She told authorities that she was beaten with bats, choked and stabbed throughout her time in Piette's hands, and that she was raped daily. Piette and the rest of the family frequently assumed new aliases so they wouldn't draw attention, according to documents reviewed by the Oklahoman.
After moving for years throughout the U.S. and Mexico, Fox reports, she said she was able to escape last year from a tent they were staying at in a remote area of Mexico.
“I knew that if I didn't get out of there, I'd either go insane or I would end up dying and leaving my kids with that man,” McGinnis told People magazine .
McGinnis now lives in the Midwest with her children. A GoFundMe page has been set up to support McGinnis and her family, People reports. Her youngest is 2, and her oldest is 17.
Wagoner County District Attorney Jack Thorp told the Oklahoman that the FBI and federal prosecutors were instrumental in catching and extraditing Piette.
His first court appearance will be on Tuesday following his arrest Oct. 5 in Mexico, according to Fox. The arrest came after the FBI made a break in the case last month , People reports.
Law Students Equip Hotel Workers To Prevent Sex Trafficking
by Christine Schmidt
S tudents at Quinnipiac University's law school have trained nearly 1,000 of Connecticut's hospitality industry workers on how to recognize and report the signs of sex trafficking, equipping employees across the state to identify signs that could lead to uncovering an entire operation.
This could mean taking note of a silent child quivering behind an adult at check-in. A security officer might observe different people individually entering and exiting one room at multiple points during the day. A housekeeper may discover batches of discarded cellphones or even empty condom boxes.
“You might be seeing one sign in your position and you might be thinking to yourself, ‘Well, I see this everyday. This is not out of the norm for me and for what I'm doing,'” said Taylor Matook, a second-year law student at Quinnipiac and one of the trainers. “But we stress that if you report that one sign, then later another employee could see something else and report that sign as well, and now we have a narrative.”
By equipping hospitality workers with the tools to recognize and report potential cases, advocates of anti-sex trafficking efforts hope to provide alternate routes to stopping sex trafficking rings, where individuals are forced by other people to provide nonconsensual sex for a fee, aside from victims reporting the instances themselves.
Theresa Leonard, a survivor of childhood sex trafficking and a co-founder of a ministry focusing on eradicating sex trafficking in Connecticut, said she is working with a family trying to free their daughter from a ring, but “she's so baffled by the lies of her traffickers that she can't see her way out,” Leonard said.
“It's amazing to me how few women knew that they were exploited or trafficked,” Leonard said. She, the law students, and other advocates of sex-trafficking victims, members of law enforcement and government representatives were gathered at a roundtable with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal at Quinnipiac University Monday. “There's a lot that's been done but there's still a lot more that needs to be done. You guys bring hope, hope and hope.”
Over the past few years Connecticut has strengthened the laws surrounding sex trafficking and particularly when minors are involved. In June Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a law increasing penalties for sex trafficking and expanding the conduct punishable. Last year, Malloy signed additional legislation requiring owners of motels, hotels, inns and other types of lodging to have their employees trained in identifying and reporting signs of sex trafficking.
These actions contribute to the rise in reported instances of potential child sex trafficking, said Tammy Sneed, the director of the state's Department of Children and Families anti-sex trafficking initiatives. In 2015, there were 133 unique referrals of plausible cases to Sneed's DCF team — but 202 referrals came in 2016 and 2017 is on track to surpass that amount with 111 referrals reported in the first six months.
Marriott International , which helped develop the training curriculum and distribute it through its hotels, has required employees at Marriott properties to undergo the training, said Tu Rinsche, the company's director of corporate social responsibility. Over 160,000 hotel workers worldwide have been trained in less than eight months, she said, with two hotels preventing trafficking within the first three months of receiving training.
“Hotels are being exploited. There are photos of the rooms, the names of the hotels et cetera that are being exploited online. That eventually potentially will land on our doorstep,” Rinsche said.
Additionally, Blumenthal has pushed a measure in Congress that would crack down on advertisements for sex trafficking opportunities posted online. Technology companies like Facebook and Google have emerged as opponents, however, as the measure snowballs into a larger debate between governmental constraints on the internet and tracking ads for sex trafficking rings that have fled over the years from MySpace to Craigslist to Backpage.com, Blumenthal said.
“Our point is that they should be held accountable …. The remedy here is legislation not litigation,” Blumenthal said. “We have a tough fight even though we have strong support … because some of the industry is against us and they have a lot of sway in the Congress.”
The Quinnipiac students' training is free and the students travel across the state to conduct hourlong sessions, Matook said. Interested individuals can contact the nonprofit Grace Farms at email@example.com to arrange a date.
From aggressive overtures to sexual assault: Harvey Weinstein's accusers tell their stories
Multiple women share harrowing accounts of sexual assault and harassment by the film executive
by Ronan Farrow
Since the establishment of the first studios a century ago, there have been few movie executives as dominant, or as domineering, as Harvey Weinstein. As the co-founder of the production-and-distribution companies Miramax and the Weinstein Company, he helped to reinvent the model for independent films, with movies such as “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” “The English Patient,” “Pulp Fiction,” “The Crying Game,” “Shakespeare in Love,” and “The King's Speech.” Beyond Hollywood, he has exercised his influence as a prolific fund-raiser for Democratic Party candidates, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Weinstein combined a keen eye for promising scripts, directors, and actors with a bullying, even threatening, style of doing business, inspiring both fear and gratitude. His movies have earned more than three hundred Oscar nominations, and, at the annual awards ceremonies, he has been thanked more than almost anyone else in movie history, just after Steven Spielberg and right before God.
For more than twenty years, Weinstein has also been trailed by rumors of sexual harassment and assault. This has been an open secret to many in Hollywood and beyond, but previous attempts by many publications, including The New Yorker, to investigate and publish the story over the years fell short of the demands of journalistic evidence. Too few people were willing to speak, much less allow a reporter to use their names, and Weinstein and his associates used nondisclosure agreements, monetary payoffs, and legal threats to suppress these myriad stories. Asia Argento, an Italian film actress and director, told me that she did not speak out until now—Weinstein, she told me, forcibly performed oral sex on her—because she feared that Weinstein would “crush” her. “I know he has crushed a lot of people before,” Argento said. “That's why this story—in my case, it's twenty years old; some of them are older—has never come out.”
Last week, the New York Times, in a powerful report by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, revealed multiple allegations of sexual harassment against Weinstein, a story that led to the resignation of four members of his company's all-male board, and to Weinstein's firing from the company.
The story, however, is more complex, and there is more to know and to understand. In the course of a ten-month investigation, I was told by thirteen women that, between the nineteen-nineties and 2015, Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them, allegations that corroborate and overlap with the Times' revelations, and also include far more serious claims.
Three women—among them Argento and a former aspiring actress named Lucia Evans—told me that Weinstein raped them, allegations that include Weinstein forcibly performing or receiving oral sex and forcing vaginal sex. Four women said that they experienced unwanted touching that could be classified as an assault. In an audio recording captured during a New York Police Department sting operation in 2015 and made public here for the first time, Weinstein admits to groping a Filipina-Italian model named Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, describing it as behavior he is “used to.” Four of the women I interviewed cited encounters in which Weinstein exposed himself or masturbated in front of them.
Sixteen former and current executives and assistants at Weinstein's companies told me that they witnessed or had knowledge of unwanted sexual advances and touching at events associated with Weinstein's films and in the workplace. They and others describe a pattern of professional meetings that were little more than thin pretexts for sexual advances on young actresses and models. All sixteen said that the behavior was widely known within both Miramax and the Weinstein Company. Messages sent by Irwin Reiter, a senior company executive, to Emily Nestor, one of the women who alleged that she was harassed at the company, described the “mistreatment of women” as a serial problem that the Weinstein Company was struggling with in recent years. Other employees described what was, in essence, a culture of complicity at Weinstein's places of business, with numerous people throughout the companies fully aware of his behavior but either abetting it or looking the other way. Some employees said that they were enlisted in subterfuge to make the victims feel safe. A female executive with the company described how Weinstein assistants and others served as a “honeypot”—they would initially join a meeting, but then Weinstein would dismiss them, leaving him alone with the woman.
Virtually all of the people I spoke with told me that they were frightened of retaliation. “If Harvey were to discover my identity, I'm worried that he could ruin my life,” one former employee told me. Many said that they had seen Weinstein's associates confront and intimidate those who crossed him, and feared that they would be similarly targeted. Four actresses, including Mira Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette, told me they suspected that, after they rejected Weinstein's advances or complained about them to company representatives, Weinstein had them removed from projects or dissuaded people from hiring them. Multiple sources said that Weinstein frequently bragged about planting items in media outlets about those who spoke against him; these sources feared that they might be similarly targeted. Several pointed to Gutierrez's case, in 2015: after she went to the police, negative items discussing her sexual history and impugning her credibility began rapidly appearing in New York gossip pages. (In the taped conversation with Gutierrez, Weinstein asks her to join him for “five minutes,” and warns, “Don't ruin your friendship with me for five minutes.”)
Several former employees told me that they were speaking about Weinstein's alleged behavior now because they hoped to protect women in the future. “This wasn't a one-off. This wasn't a period of time,” an executive who worked for Weinstein for many years told me. “This was ongoing predatory behavior towards women—whether they consented or not.”
It's likely that women have recently felt increasingly emboldened to talk about their experiences because of the way the world has changed regarding issues of sex and power. These disclosures follow in the wake of stories alleging sexual misconduct by public figures, including Bill O'Reilly, Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby, and Donald Trump. In October, 2016, a month before the election, a tape emerged of Trump telling a celebrity-news reporter, “And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. . . . Grab 'em by the pussy. You can do anything.” This past April, O'Reilly, a host at Fox News, was forced to resign after Fox was discovered to have paid five women millions of dollars in exchange for silence about their accusations of sexual harassment. Ailes, the former head of Fox News, resigned last July, after he was accused of sexual harassment. Cosby went on trial this summer, charged with drugging and sexually assaulting a woman. The trial ended with a hung jury.
On October 5th, in an initial effort at damage control, Weinstein responded to the Times piece by issuing a statement partly acknowledging what he had done, saying, “I appreciate the way I've behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.” In an interview with the New York Post, he said, “I've got to deal with my personality, I've got to work on my temper, I have got to dig deep. I know a lot of people would like me to go into a facility, and I may well just do that—I will go anywhere I can learn more about myself.” Weinstein went on, “In the past I used to compliment people, and some took it as me being sexual, I won't do that again.” In his statement to the Times, Weinstein claimed that he would “channel that anger” into a fight against the leadership of the National Rifle Association. He also said that it was not “coincidental” that he was organizing a foundation for women directors at the University of Southern California. “It will be named after my mom and I won't disappoint her.”
Sallie Hofmeister, a spokesperson for Weinstein, issued a statement in response to the allegations in this article. It reads in full: “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. Mr. Weinstein obviously can't speak to anonymous allegations, but with respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr. Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual. Mr. Weinstein has begun counseling, has listened to the community and is pursuing a better path. Mr. Weinstein is hoping that, if he makes enough progress, he will be given a second chance.”
While Weinstein and his representatives have said that the incidents were consensual, and were not widespread or severe, the women I spoke to tell a very different story.
Lucia Stoller, now Lucia Evans, was approached by Weinstein at Cipriani Upstairs, a club in New York, in 2004, the summer before her senior year at Middlebury College. Evans wanted to be an actress, and although she had heard rumors about Weinstein she let him have her number. Weinstein began calling her late at night, or having an assistant call her, asking to meet. She declined, but said that she would do readings during the day for a casting executive. Before long, an assistant called to set up a daytime meeting at the Miramax office, in Tribeca, first with Weinstein and then with a casting executive, who was a woman. “I was, like, ‘Oh, a woman, great, I feel safe,' ” Evans said.
When Evans arrived for the meeting, the building was full of people. She was led to an office with exercise equipment and takeout boxes on the floor, where she met with Weinstein alone. Evans said that she found him frightening. “The type of control he exerted, it was very real,” she told me. “Even just his presence was intimidating.”
In the meeting, Evans recalled, “he immediately was simultaneously flattering me and demeaning me and making me feel bad about myself.” Weinstein told her that she'd “be great in ‘Project Runway' ”—the show, which Weinstein helped produce, premièred later that year—but only if she lost weight. He also told her about two scripts, a horror movie and a teen love story, and said one of his associates would discuss them with her.
“At that point, after that, is when he assaulted me,” Evans said. “He forced me to perform oral sex on him.” As she objected, Weinstein took his penis out of his pants and pulled her head down onto it. “I said, over and over, ‘I don't want to do this, stop, don't,' ” she said. “I tried to get away, but maybe I didn't try hard enough. I didn't want to kick him or fight him.” In the end, she said, “He's a big guy. He overpowered me.” At a certain point, she said, “I just sort of gave up. That's the most horrible part of it, and that's why he's been able to do this for so long to so many women: people give up, and then they feel like it's their fault.”
Weinstein appeared to find the encounter unremarkable. “It was like it was just another day for him,” Evans said. “It was no emotion.” Afterward, she said, he acted as if nothing had happened. She wondered how Weinstein's staff could not know what was going on.
After the encounter, she met with the female casting executive, who sent her the scripts, and also came to one of her acting-class readings a few weeks later. (Evans does not believe that the executive was aware of Weinstein's behavior.) Weinstein, Evans said, began calling her again late at night. Evans told me that the entire sequence of events had a routine quality. “It feels like a very streamlined process,” she said. “Female casting director, Harvey wants to meet. Everything was designed to make me feel comfortable before it happened. And then the shame in what happened was also designed to keep me quiet.”
Evans said that, after the incident, “I just put it in a part of my brain and closed the door.” She continued to blame herself for not fighting harder. “It was always my fault for not stopping him,” she said. “I had an eating problem for years. I was disgusted with myself. It's funny, all these unrelated things I did to hurt myself because of this one thing.” Evans told friends some of what had happened, but felt largely unable to talk about it. “I ruined several really good relationships because of this. My schoolwork definitely suffered, and my roommates told me to go to a therapist because they thought I was going to kill myself.”
In the years that followed, Evans encountered Weinstein occasionally. Once, while she was walking her dog in Greenwich Village, she saw him getting into a car. “I very clearly saw him. I made eye contact,” she said. “I remember getting chills down my spine just looking at him. I was so horrified. I have nightmares about him to this day.”
Asia Argento, an actress born in Rome, played the role of a glamorous thief named Beatrice in the crime drama “B. Monkey,” which was released in the U.S. in 1999. The distributor was Miramax. In a series of long and often emotional interviews, Argento told me that Weinstein assaulted her while they worked together.
At the time, Argento was twenty-one and a rising actress who had twice won the Italian equivalent of the Oscar. Argento said that, in 1997, one of Weinstein's producers invited her to what she understood to be a party thrown by Miramax at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, on the French Riviera. Argento felt professionally obliged to attend. When the producer led her upstairs that evening, she said, there was no party—only a hotel room, empty but for Weinstein: “I'm, like, ‘Where is the fucking party?' ” She recalled the producer telling her, “Oh, we got here too early,” before he left her alone with Weinstein. (The producer denies bringing Argento to the room that night.) At first, Weinstein was solicitous, praising her work. Then he left the room. When he returned, he was wearing a bathrobe and holding a bottle of lotion. “He asks me to give a massage. I was, like, ‘Look, man, I am no fucking fool,' ” Argento said. “But, looking back, I am a fucking fool. And I am still trying to come to grips with what happened.”
Argento said that, after she reluctantly agreed to give Weinstein a massage, he pulled her skirt up, forced her legs apart, and performed oral sex on her as she repeatedly told him to stop. Weinstein “terrified me, and he was so big,” she said. “It wouldn't stop. It was a nightmare.”
At some point, Argento said, she stopped saying no and feigned enjoyment, because she thought it was the only way the assault would end. “I was not willing,” she told me. “I said, ‘No, no, no.' . . . It's twisted. A big fat man wanting to eat you. It's a scary fairy tale.” Argento, who insisted that she wanted to tell her story in all its complexity, said that she didn't physically fight him off, something that has prompted years of guilt.
“The thing with being a victim is I felt responsible,” she said. “Because, if I were a strong woman, I would have kicked him in the balls and run away. But I didn't. And so I felt responsible.” She described the incident as a “horrible trauma.” Decades later, she said, oral sex is still ruined for her. “I've been damaged,” she told me. “Just talking to you about it, my whole body is shaking.”
Argento recalled sitting on the bed after the incident, her clothes “in shambles,” her makeup smeared. She said that she told Weinstein, “I am not a whore,” and that he began laughing. He said he'd put the phrase on a T-shirt. Afterward, Argento said, “He kept contacting me.” For a few months, Weinstein seemed obsessed, offering her expensive gifts.
What complicates the story, Argento readily allowed, is that she eventually yielded to Weinstein's further advances and even grew close to him. Weinstein dined with her, and introduced her to his mother. Argento told me, “He made it sound like he was my friend and he really appreciated me.” She said that she had consensual sexual relations with him multiple times over the course of the next five years, though she described the encounters as one-sided and “onanistic.” The first occasion, several months after the alleged assault, came before the release of “B. Monkey.” “I felt I had to,” she said. “Because I had the movie coming out and I didn't want to anger him.” She believed that Weinstein would ruin her career if she didn't comply. Years later, when she was a single mother dealing with childcare, Weinstein offered to pay for a nanny. She said that she felt “obliged” to submit to his sexual advances.
Argento said that she knew this contact would be used to attack the credibility of her allegation. In part, she said, the initial assault made her feel overpowered each time she encountered Weinstein, even years later. “Just his body, his presence, his face, bring me back to the little girl that I was when I was twenty-one,” she told me. “When I see him, it makes me feel little and stupid and weak.” She broke down as she struggled to explain. “After the rape, he won,” she said.
In 2000, Argento released “Scarlet Diva,” a movie that she wrote and directed. In the film, a heavyset producer corners the character of Anna, who is played by Argento, in a hotel room, asks her for a massage, and tries to assault her. After the movie came out, women began approaching Argento, saying that they recognized Weinstein's behavior in the portrayal. “People would ask me about him because of the scene in the movie,” she said. Some recounted similar details to her: meetings and professional events moved to hotel rooms, bathrobes and massage requests, and, in one other case, forced oral sex.
Weinstein, according to Argento, saw the film after it was released in the U.S., and apparently recognized himself. “Ha, ha, very funny,” Argento remembered him saying to her. But he also said that he was “sorry for whatever happened.” The movie's most significant departure from the real-life incident, Argento told me, was how the hotel-room scene ended. “In the movie I wrote,” she said, “I ran away.”
Other women were too afraid to allow me to use their names, but their stories are uncannily similar to these allegations. One, a woman who worked with Weinstein, explained her reluctance to be identified. “He drags your name through the mud, and he'll come after you hard with his legal team.”
Like other women in this article, she said that Weinstein brought her to a hotel room under a professional pretext, changed into a bathrobe, and “forced himself on me sexually.” She said no, repeatedly and clearly. Afterward, she experienced “horror, disbelief, and shame,” and considered going to the police. “I thought it would be a ‘He said, she said,' and I thought about how impressive his legal team is, and I thought about how much I would lose, and I decided to just move forward,” she said. The woman continued to have professional contact with Weinstein after the alleged rape, and acknowledged that subsequent communications between them might suggest a normal working relationship. “I was in a vulnerable position and I needed my job,” she told me. “It just increases the shame and the guilt.”
Mira Sorvino, who starred in several of Weinstein's films, told me that he sexually harassed her and tried to pressure her into a physical relationship while they worked together. She said that, at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, 1995, she found herself in a hotel room with Weinstein, who produced the movie she was there to promote, “Mighty Aphrodite,” for which she later won an Academy Award. “He started massaging my shoulders, which made me very uncomfortable, and then tried to get more physical, sort of chasing me around,” she recalled. She scrambled for ways to ward him off, telling him it was against her religion to date married men. (At the time, Weinstein was married to Eve Chilton, a former assistant.) Then she left the room.
A few weeks later, in New York City, her phone rang after midnight. It was Weinstein, saying that he had new marketing ideas for the film and asking to meet. Sorvino offered to meet him at an all-night diner, but he told her he was coming over to her apartment and hung up. “I freaked out,” she told me. She called a friend and asked him to come over and pose as her boyfriend. The friend hadn't arrived by the time Weinstein rang her doorbell. “Harvey had managed to bypass my doorman,” she said. “I opened the door terrified, brandishing my twenty-pound Chihuahua mix in front of me, as though that would do any good.” When she told Weinstein that her new boyfriend was on his way, Weinstein became dejected and left.
Sorvino said that she struggled for years with whether to come forward with her story, partly because she was aware that it was mild compared to the experiences of other women, including another actress she spoke to at the time. (That actress told me that she locked herself in a hotel bathroom to escape Weinstein, and that he masturbated in front of her. She said it was “a classic case” of “someone not understanding the word ‘no'. . . I must have said no a thousand times.”) The fact that Weinstein was so instrumental to Sorvino's success also made her hesitate: “I have great respect for Harvey as an artist, and owe him and his brother a debt of gratitude for the early success in my career, including the Oscar.” She had professional contact with Weinstein for years after the incident, and remains close friends with his brother and business partner, Bob Weinstein. (She said that she never told Bob about his brother's behavior.)
Sorvino said that she felt afraid and intimidated, and that the incidents had a significant impact on her. When she told a female employee at Miramax about the harassment, the woman's reaction “was shock and horror that I had mentioned it.” Sorvino appeared in a few more of Weinstein's films afterward, but felt that saying no to Weinstein and reporting the harassment had ultimately hurt her career. She said, “There may have been other factors, but I definitely felt iced out and that my rejection of Harvey had something to do with it.”
In March, 2015, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, who was once a finalist in the Miss Italy contest, met Harvey Weinstein at a reception for “New York Spring Spectacular,” a show that he was producing at Radio City Music Hall. Weinstein introduced himself to Gutierrez, who was twenty-two, remarking repeatedly that she looked like the actress Mila Kunis.
Following the event, Gutierrez's agency e-mailed to say that Weinstein wanted to set up a business meeting as soon as possible. Gutierrez arrived at Weinstein's office in Tribeca early the next evening with her modelling portfolio. In the office, she sat with Weinstein on a couch to review the portfolio, and he began staring at her breasts, asking if they were real. Gutierrez later told officers of the New York Police Department Special Victims Division that Weinstein then lunged at her, groping her breasts and attempting to put a hand up her skirt while she protested. He finally backed off and told her that his assistant would give her tickets to “Finding Neverland,” a Broadway musical that he was producing. He said that he would meet her at the show that evening.
Instead of going to the show that night, Gutierrez went to the nearest N.Y.P.D. precinct station and reported the assault. Weinstein telephoned her later that evening, annoyed that she had failed to appear at the show. She picked up the call while sitting with investigators from the Special Victims Division, who listened in on the call and devised a plan: Gutierrez would agree to see the show the following day and then meet with Weinstein. She would wear a wire and attempt to extract a confession or incriminating statement.
The next day, Gutierrez met Weinstein at the bar of the Tribeca Grand Hotel. A team of undercover officers helped guide her through the interaction. On the recording, which I have heard in full, Weinstein lists actresses whose careers he has helped and offers Gutierrez the services of a dialect coach. Then he presses her to join him in his hotel room while he showers. Gutierrez says no repeatedly; Weinstein persists, and after a while she accedes to his demand to go upstairs. But, standing in the hallway outside his room, she refuses to go farther. In an increasingly tense exchange, he presses her to enter. Gutierrez says, “I don't want to,” “I want to leave,” and “I want to go downstairs.” She asks him directly why he groped her breasts the day before.
“Oh, please, I'm sorry, just come on in,” Weinstein says. “I'm used to that. Come on. Please.”
“You're used to that?” Gutierrez asks, sounding incredulous.
“Yes,” Weinstein says. He later adds, “I won't do it again.”
After almost two minutes of back-and-forth in the hallway, Weinstein finally agrees to let her leave.
According to a law-enforcement source, Weinstein, if charged, would have most likely faced a count of sexual abuse in the third degree, a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of three months in jail. But, as the police investigation proceeded and the allegation was widely reported, details about Gutierrez's past began to appear in the tabloids. In 2010, as a young contestant in a beauty pageant associated with the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Gutierrez had attended one of his infamous Bunga Bunga parties. She claimed that she had been unaware of the nature of the party before arriving, and eventually became a witness in a bribery case against Berlusconi, which is still ongoing. Gossip outlets also reported that Gutierrez, as a teen-ager, had made an allegation of sexual assault against an older Italian businessman but later declined to coöperate with prosecutors.
Two sources close to the police investigation said that they had no reason to doubt Gutierrez's account of the incident. One of them, a police source, said that the department had collected more than enough evidence to prosecute Weinstein. But the other source said that Gutierrez's statements about her past complicated the case for the office of the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr. After two weeks of investigation, the District Attorney's office decided not to file charges. The D.A.'s office declined to comment on this story but pointed me to its statement at the time: “This case was taken seriously from the outset, with a thorough investigation conducted by our Sex Crimes Unit. After analyzing the available evidence, including multiple interviews with both parties, a criminal charge is not supported.”
“We had the evidence,” the police source involved in the operation told me. “It's a case that made me angrier than I thought possible, and I have been on the force a long time.”
Gutierrez, when contacted for this story, said that she was unable to discuss the incident. According to a source close to the matter, after the D.A.'s office decided not to press charges, Gutierrez, facing Weinstein's legal team, and in return for a payment, signed a highly restrictive nondisclosure agreement with Weinstein, including an affidavit stating that the acts Weinstein admits to in the recording never happened.
Weinstein's use of such settlements was reported by the Times and confirmed to me by numerous sources. A former employee with firsthand knowledge of two settlement negotiations that took place in London in the nineteen-nineties recalled, “It felt like David versus Goliath . . . the guy with all the money and the power flexing his muscle and quashing the allegations and getting rid of them.”
Last week's Times story disclosed a complaint to the Weinstein Company's office of human resources, filed on behalf of a temporary front-desk assistant named Emily Nestor in December, 2014. Her own account of Weinstein's conduct is being made public here for the first time. Nestor was twenty-five when she started the job, and, after finishing law school and starting business school, was considering a career in the movie industry. On her first day in the position, Nestor said, two employees told her that she was Weinstein's “type” physically. When Weinstein arrived at the office, he made comments about her appearance, referring to her as “the pretty girl.” He asked how old she was, and then sent all of his assistants out of the room and made her write down her telephone number.
Weinstein told her to meet him for drinks that night. Nestor invented an excuse. When he insisted, she suggested an early-morning coffee the next day, assuming that he wouldn't accept. He did, and told her to meet him at the Peninsula in Beverly Hills, where he was staying. Nestor said that she had talked with friends in the entertainment industry and employees in the company who had warned her about Weinstein's reputation. “I dressed very frumpy,” she said.
Nestor told me that the meeting was the “most excruciating and uncomfortable hour of my life.” After Weinstein offered her career help, she said, he began to boast about his sexual liaisons with other women, including famous actresses. “He said, ‘You know, we could have a lot of fun,' ” Nestor recalled. “I could put you in my London office, and you could work there and you could be my girlfriend.” She declined. He asked to hold her hand; she said no. In Nestor's account of the exchange, Weinstein said, “Oh, the girls always say no. You know, ‘No, no.' And then they have a beer or two and then they're throwing themselves at me.” In a tone that Nestor described as “very weirdly proud,” Weinstein added “that he'd never had to do anything like Bill Cosby.” She assumed that he meant he'd never drugged a woman. “It's just a bizarre thing to be so proud of,” she said. “That you've never had to resort to doing that. It was just so far removed from reality and normal rules of consent.”
“Textbook sexual harassment” was how Nestor described Weinstein's behavior to me. “It's a pretty clear case of sexual harassment when your superior, the C.E.O., asks one of their inferiors, a temp, to have sex with them, essentially in exchange for mentorship.” She recalled refusing his advances at least a dozen times. “ ‘No' did not mean ‘no' to him,” she said. “I was very aware of how inappropriate it was. But I felt trapped.”
Throughout the breakfast, she said, Weinstein interrupted their conversation to yell into his cell phone, enraged over a spat that Amy Adams, a star in the Weinstein movie “Big Eyes,” was having in the press. Afterward, Weinstein told Nestor to keep an eye on the news cycle, which he promised would be spun in his favor. Later in the day, there were indeed negative news items about his opponents, and Weinstein stopped by Nestor's desk to be sure that she'd seen them.
By that point, Nestor recalled, “I was very afraid of him. And I knew how well connected he was. And how if I pissed him off then I could never have a career in that industry.” Still, she told the friend who referred her to the job about the incident, and he alerted the company's office of human resources, which contacted her. (The friend did not respond to a request for comment.) Nestor had a conversation with company officials about the matter but didn't pursue it further: the officials said that Weinstein would be informed of anything she told them, a practice not uncommon in smaller businesses. Several former Weinstein employees told me that the company's human-resources department was utterly ineffective; one female executive described it as “a place where you went to when you didn't want anything to get done. That was common knowledge across the board. Because everything funnelled back to Harvey.” She described the department's typical response to allegations of misconduct as “This is his company. If you don't like it, you can leave.”
Nestor told me that some people at the company did seem concerned. Irwin Reiter, a senior executive who had worked for Weinstein for almost three decades, sent her a series of messages via LinkedIn. “We view this very seriously and I personally am very sorry your first day was like this,” Reiter wrote. “Also if there are further unwanted advances, please let us know.” Last year, just before the Presidential election, he reached out again, writing, “All this Trump stuff made me think of you.” He described Nestor's experience as part of Weinstein's serial misconduct. “I've fought him about mistreatment of women 3 weeks before the incident with you. I even wrote him an email that got me labelled by him as sex police,” he wrote. “The fight I had with him about you was epic. I told him if you were my daughter he would have not made out so well.” (Reiter declined to comment, but his lawyer, Debra Katz, confirmed the authenticity of the messages and said that Reiter had made diligent efforts to raise these issues, to no avail. Katz also said that Reiter “is eager to coöperate fully with any outside investigation.”)
Though no assault occurred, and Nestor completed her temporary placement, she was profoundly affected by the incident. “I was definitely traumatized for a while, in terms of feeling so harassed and frightened,” she said. “It made me feel incredibly discouraged that this could be something that happens on a regular basis. I actually decided not to go into entertainment because of this incident.”
Emma de Caunes, a French actress, met Weinstein in 2010, at a party at the Cannes Film Festival. A few months later, he asked her to a lunch meeting at the Hôtel Ritz in Paris. In the meeting, Weinstein told de Caunes that he was going to be producing a movie with a prominent director, that he planned to shoot it in France, and that it had a strong female role. It was an adaptation of a book, he said, but he claimed he couldn't remember the title. “But I'll give it to you,” Weinstein said, according to de Caunes. “I have it in my room.”
De Caunes replied that she had to leave, since she was already running late for a TV show she was hosting—Eminem was appearing on the show that afternoon, and she hadn't written her questions yet. Weinstein pleaded with her to retrieve the book with him, and finally she agreed. As they got to his room, she received a telephone call from one of her colleagues, and Weinstein disappeared into a bathroom, leaving the door open. She assumed that he was washing his hands.
“When I hung up the phone, I heard the shower go on in the bathroom,” she said. “I was, like, What the fuck, is he taking a shower?” Weinstein came out, naked and with an erection. “What are you doing?” she asked. Weinstein demanded that she lie on the bed and told her that many other women had done so before her.
“I was very petrified,” de Caunes said. “But I didn't want to show him that I was petrified, because I could feel that the more I was freaking out, the more he was excited.” She added, “It was like a hunter with a wild animal. The fear turns him on.” De Caunes told Weinstein that she was leaving, and he panicked. “We haven't done anything!” she remembered him saying. “It's like being in a Walt Disney movie!”
De Caunes told me, “I looked at him and I said—it took all my courage—but I said, ‘I've always hated Walt Disney movies.' And then I left. I slammed the door.” She was shaking on the stairs down to the lobby. A director she was working with on the TV show confirmed that she arrived at the studio distraught and that she recounted what had happened. Weinstein called relentlessly over the next few hours, offering de Caunes gifts and repeating that nothing had happened.
De Caunes, who was in her early thirties at the time, was already an established actress, but she wondered what would happen to younger and more vulnerable women in the same situation. Over the years, she said, she's heard similar accounts from friends. “I know that everybody—I mean everybody—in Hollywood knows that it's happening,” de Caunes said. “He's not even really hiding. I mean, the way he does it, so many people are involved and see what's happening. But everyone's too scared to say anything.”
One evening in the early nineties, the actress Rosanna Arquette was supposed to meet Weinstein for dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel to pick up the script for a new film. At the hotel, Arquette was told to meet Weinstein upstairs, in his room.
Arquette recalled that, when she arrived at the room, Weinstein opened the door wearing a white bathrobe. Weinstein said that his neck was sore and that he needed a massage. She told him that she could recommend a good masseuse. “Then he grabbed my hand,” she said. He put it on his neck. When she yanked her hand away, she told me, Weinstein grabbed it again and pulled it toward his penis, which was visible and erect. “My heart was really racing. I was in a fight-or-flight moment,” she said. She told Weinstein, “I will never do that.”
Weinstein told her that she was making a huge mistake by rejecting him, and named an actress and a model who he claimed had given in to his sexual overtures and whose careers he said he had advanced as a result. Arquette said she told him, “I'll never be that girl,” and left.
Arquette said that after she rejected Weinstein her career suffered. In one case, she believes, she lost a role because of it. “He made things very difficult for me for years,” she told me. She did appear in one subsequent Weinstein film, “Pulp Fiction,” which she attributes to the small size of the role and Weinstein's deference to the filmmaker, Quentin Tarantino. (Disputes later arose over her entitlement to payment out of the film's proceeds.) Arquette said that her silence was the result of Weinstein's power and reputation for vindictiveness. “He's going to be working very hard to track people down and silence people,” she explained. “To hurt people. That's what he does.”
There are other examples of Weinstein's modus operandi. Jessica Barth, an actress who met Weinstein at a Golden Globes party in January, 2011, told me that Weinstein invited her to a business meeting at the Peninsula. When she arrived, he asked her over the phone to come up to his room. Weinstein assured her it was “no big deal”—because of his high profile, he simply wanted privacy to “talk career stuff.” In the room, Barth found that Weinstein had ordered champagne and sushi.
Barth said that, in the conversation that followed, he alternated between offering to cast her in a film and demanding a naked massage in bed. “So, what would happen if, say, we're having some champagne and I take my clothes off and you give me a massage?” she recalled him asking. “And I'm, like, ‘That's not going to happen.' ”
When she moved toward the door to leave, Weinstein lashed out, saying that she needed to lose weight “to compete with Mila Kunis,” and then, apparently in an effort to mollify her, promising a meeting with one of his female executives. “He gave me her number, and I walked out and I started bawling,” Barth told me. (Immediately after the incident, she spoke with two individuals who confirmed to me that she related her account to them at the time.) Barth said that the promised meeting at Weinstein's office seemed to be purely a formality. “I just knew it was bullshit,” she said. (The executive she met with did not respond to requests for comment.)
Weinstein's behavior deeply affected the day-to-day operations of his company. Current and former Weinstein employees described a pattern of meetings and strained complicity that closely matches the accounts of the many women I interviewed. The employees spoke on condition of anonymity, they said, because of fears about their careers in Hollywood and because of provisos in their work contracts.
“There was a large volume of these types of meetings that Harvey would have with aspiring actresses and models,” one female executive told me. “He would have them late at night, usually at hotel bars or in hotel rooms. And, in order to make these women feel more comfortable, he would ask a female executive or assistant to start those meetings with him.” She said that she was repeatedly asked to join the meetings but refused.
The female executive said that she was especially disturbed by the involvement of other employees. “It almost felt like the executive or assistant was made to be a honeypot to lure these women in, to make them feel safe,” she said. “Then he would dismiss the executive or the assistant, and then these women were alone with him. And that did not feel like it was appropriate behavior or safe behavior.”
One former employee said that she was frequently asked to join for the beginning of meetings that, she said, had in many cases already been moved from day to night and from hotel lobbies to hotel rooms. She said that Weinstein's conduct in the meetings was brazen. During a meeting with a model, the former employee said, he turned to her and demanded, “Tell her how good of a boyfriend I am.” She said that when she refused to join one such meeting, Weinstein became enraged. Often, she was asked to keep track of the women, who, in keeping with a practice established by Weinstein's assistants, were all filed under the same label in her phone: F.O.H., which stood for “Friend of Harvey.” She said that the pattern of meetings was nearly uninterrupted in her years working for Weinstein. “I have to say, the behavior did stop for a little bit after the groping thing,” she said, referring to Ambra Battilana Gutierrez's allegation to the police, “but he couldn't help himself. A few months later, he was back at it.”
Two staffers who facilitated these meetings said that they felt morally compromised by them. One male former staffer said that many of the women seemed “not aware of the nature of those meetings” and “were definitely scared.” He said most of the encounters that he saw seemed consensual, but others gave him pause. He was especially troubled by his memory of one young woman: “You just feel terrible because you could tell this girl, very young, not from our country, was now in a room waiting for him to come up there in the middle of the day, and we were not to bother them.” He said that he was never asked to facilitate these meetings for men.
None of the former executives or assistants I spoke to quit because of the misconduct, but many expressed guilt and regret about not having said or done more. They spoke about what they believed to be a culture of silence about sexual assault inside Miramax and the Weinstein Company and across the entertainment industry more broadly.
Weinstein and his legal and public-relations teams have conducted a decades-long campaign to suppress these stories. In recent months, that campaign escalated. Weinstein and his associates began calling many of the women in this story. Weinstein asked Argento to meet with a private investigator and give testimony on his behalf. One actress who initially spoke to me on the record later asked that her allegation be removed. “I'm so sorry,” she wrote. “The legal angle is coming at me and I have no recourse.” Weinstein and his legal team have threatened to sue multiple media outlets, including the New York Times.
Several of the former executives and assistants in this story said that they had received calls from Weinstein in which he attempted to determine if they had talked to me or warned them not to. These employees continued to participate in the article partly because they felt there was a growing culture of accountability, embodied in the relatively recent disclosures about high-profile men like Cosby and Ailes. “I think a lot of us had thought—and hoped—over the years that it would come out sooner,” the former executive who was aware of the two legal settlements in London told me. “But I think now is the right time, in this current climate, for the truth.”
The female executive who declined inappropriate meetings told me that her lawyer advised her that she could be exposed to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuits for violating the nondisclosure agreement attached to her employment contract. “I believe this is more important than keeping a confidentiality agreement,” she said. “The more of us that can confirm or validate for these women if this did happen, I think it's really important for their justice to do that.” She continued, “I wish I could have done more. I wish I could have stopped it. And this is my way of doing that now.”
“He's been systematically doing this for a very long time,” the former employee who had been made to act as a “honeypot” told me. She said that she often thinks of something Weinstein whispered—to himself, as far as she could tell—after one of his many shouting sprees at the office. It so unnerved her that she pulled out her iPhone and tapped it into a memo, word for word: “There are things I've done that nobody knows.”
The Wounded Child, Misunderstood Adult
Experiencing a trauma in your younger years is likely to significantly impact on psychological and emotional stress.
by Gaelene Risk
As a child, did you ever have a negative experience that was emotionally painful or overwhelming?
The most significant childhood traumas are being threatened or harmed by those closest to you.
Whether you have experienced physical, emotional, sexual abuse or neglect, there is no underestimating the effects of this long into adulthood.
Experiencing a trauma in your younger years is likely to significantly impact on psychological and emotional stress.
Unlike an adult going through a trauma, a child is being traumatized during the most important time of their life. You are learning about yourself and other people and how the world is formed from your young perspective. As a child, you are establishing your own ideas of self, your emotions and how this fits in with your family and society.
You are learning about relationships, how to function in these and what skills to learn.
As an adult, survivors of childhood abuse often experience an intense range of emotions without understanding why they are feeling this way, as the underlying cause of the emotions are deeply seated. Some of these emotions may include anxiety, worry, despair, shame, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, fear, grief, sadness and anger.
These emotions are most commonly linked to depression and anxiety, thoughts of self-harm, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol and drug misuse as a coping mechanism and relationship difficulties.
The spiritual impact may be a crisis of faith, no faith at all or a constant yearning to feel ‘whole' again. Sometimes we can feel that we are being punished for experiences that were out of our control.
When an adult experiences trauma you already have a stable foundation of life and yourself, but the child has none of this preparation.
This is what makes the after effects so much more impactful as you become an adult and begin to form a life and relationships around the uncertainties of the child you were.
This is why areas in your life can seem challenging – you haven't yet understood the deeply, ingrained patterns of rejection and lack of self-confidence that tie you to experiences and circumstances that mirror this.
Low self-esteem and lack of self-worth directly affect your decision-making or the lack thereof. Trauma has a significant impact on your adult relationships and the type of personality traits you are drawn to ie. It is common to gravitate towards abusive or controlling partners.
You may be feeling confused by the life you've landed yourself in, but none of this is permanent. The layers can be peeled back, and understood and recreated so that new, positive habits can be formed.
You can begin to offer yourself the support you need on your journey of healing by taking care of all aspects of yourself. Eat nutritiously, drink plenty of water, sleep adequately and give yourself the time you need to begin moving forward. Reaching out to a professional can help regain your power over your beautiful life.
For more, visit The Trauma Coach Facebook page or their website .
Toronto Breaks the Silence on Child Abuse
by Market Wired
TORONTO, ON--(Marketwired - October 11, 2017) - Breaking the Silence just got amplified as the City of Toronto unveiled the official proclamation to name October as Child Abuse Prevention Month.
"This designation is an important milestone in raising awareness about how to identify and help prevent child abuse and neglect," said Kristyn Wong-Tam, City Councillor for Ward 27. "By educating the public about child abuse and neglect -- and their vital role in recognizing and reporting it -- and emphasizing the importance of ending violence in the lives of children and youth, we can make a difference."
Representatives from 10 Toronto community organizations including child support agencies, school boards and police services dressed in purple -- the official colour of Child Abuse Prevention Month -- to witness the signing of the official proclamation. Participants also popped 25 purple balloons to commemorate the 25 th anniversary of the Purple Ribbon Campaign which recognizes Child Abuse Prevention Month in Ontario.
"We all play an important role in protecting the children in our community," said The Honourable Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services. "We must work together to build positive relationships and safe spaces for children and youth. This proclamation today is a sobering reminder that everyone also has a duty -- a legal duty -- to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect."
Events continue throughout the month, including Dress Purple Day on October 24 where Ontarians are encouraged to wear purple to demonstrate their commitment to break the silence on child abuse.
Each year, more than 23,000 referrals are made to Toronto children's aid societies to help protect infants, children and youth who are experiencing abuse or at risk of experiencing abuse. Section 72 of Ontario's Child and Family Services Act, states that everyone, including members of the public and professionals who work closely with children, has a duty to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect.
Dress Purple Day will take place on October 24, 2017. To launch this provincial day of action, the CN Tower will be lit purple on October 23 from sunset to sunrise. (A standard set light show will run for eight minutes at the top of every hour.)
The agencies who have joined together to bring awareness are: Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Centre, Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto, Children's Aid Society of Toronto, Jewish Family and Child, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto District School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board and Toronto Police Service, together with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
Bucks County health system teams up with Beau Biden Foundation
by John George
The Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children has formed a partnership with Doylestown Health to train the Bucks County health system's medical staff on how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
While serving as the attorney general of Delaware in 2010, Beau Biden brought the Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children program to Delaware.
Stewards of Children is a two-hour online or facilitator-led training program that focuses on improving the awareness of the prevalence, consequences and circumstances of child sexual abuse. The training aims to educate adults, primarily those working as child care professionals.
Beau Biden , the son of former Vice President Joe Biden , died in 2015 at age 46 from brain cancer. Joe Biden will be in Bucks County Tuesday with officials from the foundation, Doylestown Health and ShopRite at an event being held at the Ann's Choice retirement community in Warminster, Pa., to announce additional details of the partnership.
Funding for the partnership came from the The Cowhey Family ShopRite, its customers and its vendors.
Working with partners such as Prevent Child Abuse Delaware and the Boys and Girls Club of Delaware, the Beau Biden Foundation has worked to fulfill Beau's pledge to train 5 percent of Delaware's population — of about 47,000 adults. To date, more than 27,000 adults in Delaware have been trained to be Stewards of Children, including 2,500 since the Foundation's programming began in April 2016.
'Resilience' to adversity determines if a child survives or thrives when bullied
by Sameer Hinduja Ph.D.
It's inevitable. Most children will experience some form of bullying at some point in their lifetimes. What's not inevitable is that they will be adversely affected by the experience. So why is it that some children are devastated by bullying while others are not? Is there is a major personal characteristic or trait that buffers and protects them against internalizing the harm intended through bullying and cyberbullying?
The answer is a resounding "yes." That trait is " resilience " or the ability to "bounce back" and successfully adapt to stressful situations. A new study from Florida Atlantic University and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect , validates how resilience differentiates children who just survive bullying from those who thrive when faced with adversity. Children do in fact play a significant role in allowing or disallowing the harm that takes place when bullied. Astonishingly, the ability to be resilient comes naturally, but it needs to be nurtured through social and environmental factors.
The researchers hypothesized that resilient youth are less likely to be targets for bullying both at school and online, and that those who are targeted are less impacted by it at school. To test this concept, they used a validated biopsychosocial 10-item resilience scale to explore the relationship between resilience and experience with bullying and cyberbullying. The scale included statements like "I can deal with whatever comes my way," "I am not easily discouraged by failure," and "Having to cope with stress makes me stronger," with items assessing both the protective capacity of resilience as well as its reparative ability to restore equilibrium in the lives of youth when they face adversity.
Based on a nationally-representative sample of 1,204 American youth ages 12 to 17 and living in the United States, results from the study found that uniformly, students with higher levels of resilience were bullied at school or online less often, and among those who were bullied, resilience served as a buffer, insulating them from being affected in a negative manner at school. Their experience with various forms of interpersonal peer harm also varied inversely with the students' self-reported level of resilience.
"Resilience is a potent protective factor, both in preventing experience with bullying and mitigating its effect," said Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., study author, a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice within FAU's College for Design and Social Inquiry, and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. Hinduja co-authored the study with Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D., a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. "Resilient kids are those, who for a variety of reasons, are better able to withstand external pressures and setbacks and are less negatively impacted in their attitudes and actions than their less-equipped peers when facing this type of victimization."
Hinduja and Patchin hope that the latest data from their study will bring attention to an often-neglected and even forgotten component of the ways that schools, families, and communities address the role and responsibility of the child who is bullied.
There is heavy interest to identify better solutions to bullying these days, and Hinduja recently shared their research on resilience in keynotes with the International Bullying Prevention Association, the World Anti Bullying Forum, and social media companies' intent on helping targets help themselves.
"We want children to learn and develop the skills they need to deal with problems, and yet we rarely help them engage with those problems so that they can grow in their ability to solve them," said Hinduja. "Instead, we seek to constantly protect and insulate them - instead of bolstering their self-confidence, problem-solving ability, autonomy, and sense of purpose - which are all innate strengths."
Hinduja points out that in many forms of verbal and online bullying, targets do have some agency to allow or disallow much of the harm that others try to inflict. As such, youth-serving adults have a responsibility to teach and model for them the proper strategies to deflect, dismiss, or otherwise rise above the insults and hate.
"Cultivating Youth Resilience to Prevent Bullying and Cyberbullying Victimization," is published in the current issue of Child Abuse & Neglect .
Former British PM 'raped an 11-year-old boy', police told
by Nick Miller
Police would have interviewed former British prime minister Sir Edward Heath over 10 allegations of rape and indecent assault against seven men and boys, if he had still been alive today.
One of the alleged victims was 10 years old, and another was an 11-year-old he paid for sex, a police report released on Thursday said.
Wiltshire police chief constable Mike Veale said the findings were a "watershed moment" for those who believed that there had been a state cover-up for senior figures involved in child sexual abuse.
He added, however, that police had reached no conclusion as to the guilt of Sir Edward, who died in 2005, and it would be inappropriate to do so.
Wiltshire police have spent the past two years reviewing allegations of crimes by Sir Edward against 40 people, including two while he was prime minister.
The allegations included child sexual abuse and rape and indecent assault, physical abuse and sexual abuse against an adult.
Each allegation was investigated, and in 24 cases the police took a direct statement from the alleged victim.
In their concluding report, released on Thursday, they said that in relation to seven of the alleged victims, the evidence they gathered would have warranted Sir Edward's interview under caution.
The alleged offences against those victims were:
In 1961, allegedly raping and indecently assaulting an 11-year-old boy during a "paid sexual encounter in private".
In 1962, indecently assaulting a 10-year-old boy during a "chance encounter in a public place" in the company of another adult male.
Around 1964, indecently assaulting a 15-year-old boy during three paid sexual encounters. In 1967, indecently assaulting a 15-year-old male in private "during a chance encounter in a public building". In 1976, indecently assaulting, over clothing, an adult male at a public event. Around 1992, indecently assaulting an adult male after consent was withdrawn in a paid sexual encounter in a hotel. Around 1991, indecently assaulting a male aged between 12 and 14 during a "chance encounter in private gardens".
These alleged attacks all took place while Sir Edward was a member of parliament, but none related to the time he was prime minister. Police added that in the case of the last alleged victim, their investigation gathered information that potentially undermined the account.
Paul Mills, the police commander for the investigation, dubbed Operation Conifer, said Sir Edward would have been interviewed "to obtain his account in relation to the allegations made against him".
"It is clearly inappropriate to speculate what his response would have been… and no inference of guilt should be drawn by the decision to interview him."
He said that police had made no conclusions as to Sir Edward's guilt or otherwise, not least because he did not have the opportunity to respond to the allegations against him.
He conceded that due to the passage of time many investigative opportunities were not available, as memories had deteriorated and potentially relevant documents lost.
Police interviewed Sir Edward's personal police protection officers, his drivers and staff – and also reviewed his private papers held at the Bodleian Library.
The investigation began in August 2015, after the police complaints commission announced it was investigating how Wiltshire Police had dealt with a court case relating to Edward Heath in 1994.
At the time four other police forces were also in the early stages of investigating allegations of child sexual abuse against the former PM.
Wiltshire police chief constable Mike Veale said there were "compelling and obvious" reasons to investigate the allegations about Sir Edward Heath.
"(He) was an extremely prominent, influential and high-profile person, arguably one of the most powerful people in the world," he said.
Mr Veale believes the investigation "signals a watershed moment for people and victims who have suggested or implied there has been a state cover-up for some senior figures who may have been involved in child sexual abuse".
"The allegations against him were of the utmost seriousness and from a significant number of people," Mr Veale said.
"It would be an indefensible dereliction of my public duty … not to have investigated such serious allegations against a former prime minister even though he was deceased."
The report did not apportion guilt, suggest or conclude guilt, and no such conclusion should be drawn. Presumption of innocence was enshrined in the law, Mr Veale said.
He recommended against asking a retired judge to assess the evidence and pronounce a verdict.
"This would neither provide value or money or indeed a legitimate outcome of the guilt or innocence of Sir Edward Heath," he said.
The police reports will, however, be considered by the UK's Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
Mr Veale anticipated criticism of the decision to investigate allegations about a dead person, and said others would have criticised the cost (£1.5 million, $A2.5 million) and others "would always defend the conduct of others".
But the decision to investigate had been "the right moral thing, ethical thing and professional thing to do", he said.
He said the investigation had been conducted objectively, with respect and without fear or favour. It had gone "where the evidence took us".
He said the police had the duty to protect and safeguard children and vulnerable adults.
"My team has not deviated from this legal and professional responsibility," Mr Veale said.
An independent scrutiny panel said the investigation was "fair, sensitive and rigorous with regard to both victims and suspects".
But they added "there is an unavoidable gap in the evidence with regard to Sir Edward Heath".
New tool used to detect child abuse
by Brian Mastre
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- When the mission centers on ending child abuse and neglect, the last thing one wants to do is re-victimize a victim. The latest tool for Project Harmony is a software program and camera allowing for a faster and smoother exam with clearer pictures for investigators.
“We are the first to demo it,” said Project Harmony's Ashley Urbanski. “Sometimes we just can't see everything.”
For example, instead of wearing orange glasses and using a flashlight to look for DNA evidence – the new system does it with a simple filter.
“First we show them what's going to happen. Nothing will hurt and we are just looking at their bodies,” explained Urbanski.
Urbanski is a nurse practitioner. She demonstrated how the camera and software can also see what our eyes cannot.
“This is an example of physical abuse. You see the marks on the neck. It looks red. But when you use the filter, it is really significant. You can see how severe the injuries are,” she said.
“The better educated and informed our community is – the more likely we can prevent it from happening in the first place,” said Executive Director of Project Harmony Gene Klein.
It's why Project Harmony has mobilized 250 community professional from mental health to law enforcement to be its on-campus partners.
It's another layer of service to limit the trauma of young victims suffering from abuse or neglect.
The Omaha Police Department's Domestic Violence Unit is the newest tenant at Project Harmony.
“The number of staff we had when I started in 2002 was 6 employees. Today we have 75,” said Gene Klein. “The intersection between domestic violence and child abuse is pretty close, and whenever kids are living at a home with violence – even if the kids aren't direct victims – they're impacted by that abuse.”
The Omaha Police Department's domestic violence unit moved in June.
“Most large metropolitan areas don't have the facility that Project Harmony offers,” said Sgt Scott Warner with the Omaha Police Department. “It can't be overstated how important what they have here to offer our victims. I feel incredibly fortunate in the job I do to have these resources available."
Royal Commission report shows family were overwhelmingly the subject of 8727 cases reported to police for child Sexual Abuse
by Miles Kemp
“STRANGERS” are among the least likely to be the perpetrators of child sex abuse, a study of offences in South Australia has found.
Family members and family friends were overwhelmingly the subject of the 8727 cases reported to police between 2003 and 2012, according to the report, commissioned by the national Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
People known to the parents were accused in 47.8 per cent of cases reported at the time of the offence and in 32.9 per cent of cases reported that were reported as historic events and the alleged victim was now older.
And parents along with guardians were next, accused by 16.4 per cent of victims who came forward at the time and 24.9 per cent of cases when the alleged victim had grown up before reporting the abuse.
Co-author of the study, University of Sydney expert Professor Judith Cashmore, said it aimed to draw conclusions about the likelihood of child abuse cases being acted on after long delays between the alleged crime and reporting it to police.
Professor Cashmore said the findings should give hope to those who brought their complaints to light even decades after the alleged crime was committed. She said the surprising result was that historic child sexual abuse cases that were reported when the alleged victim was an adult were more likely to proceed than those reported with short delays while the complainant was a child.
“The biggest surprise was in the historic cases, when cases are reported sometimes decades later and we always assumed that the likelihood of them proceeding would be less than if they were reported soon after,'' she said.
“It was assumed that the quality of evidence would be degraded, that you would be relying on evidence from a long time ago, that any witnesses might not be available.”
“Parents need to understand that the perpetrators don't just groom the children, they also groom the parents and the family.” When comparing SA to NSW cases, the study found that cases were more likely to proceed in SA after being reported to police, but also that the prosecution was more likely to be dropped once at court than in NSW.
“That is, the filters operated at different stages — in NSW in the decision whether to charge; in SA, in the decision whether to continue with the prosecution,” Professor Cashmore said.
Many of the historic cases have only come about because the law in South Australia was changed in 2006 to remove the statute of limitations which prevented delayed prosecutions, allowing prosecution of child sex offences committed before 1982.
STAY SAFE What is online grooming and how can you protect your children from sexual abuse?
With 1.8 bn of us now on Facebook, it's becoming more important than ever for parents to monitor their kids' internet usage
by Lauren Windle and Becky Pemberton
FACEBOOK is now one of the world's most popular websites with a staggering 1.8 billion monthly users.
But it can be extremely difficult for parents to know exactly what their children are seeing and who they're talking to on social media.
What is online grooming?
Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child with a view to gaining their trust for sexual or trafficking purposes.
The groomer can be a stranger or someone they already know and the grooming can happen online or in person.
Often this is done by finding out information about a potential victim and trying to establish the likelihood that a child will report them.
They then try and isolate their victim and may use tactics like flattery and gifts to build a rapport or even threats and intimidation to gain control.
They can use chat rooms focusing on children's interests or social media to make contact and often pretend to be younger than they are.
An NSPCC spokesman said: “Following a two-year campaign by the NSPCC grooming is now a crime, and as of April 3 it was made illegal for an adult to send a sexual message to a child.
“Children should be as safe online as they are offline, wherever they are in the UK.
“This law gives police in England and Wales the powers they need to protect children from online grooming, and to intervene sooner to stop abuse before it escalates.”
What are the signs of online child grooming?
It can be hard to know if your child is being groomed online and obviously groomers will go to great lengths not to be identified.
The NSPCC list some of the things that should ring alarm bells include:
Secretive behaviour about what they are doing online
Having older boyfriends or girlfriends
Going to unusual places to meet up with friends
They suddenly have new things like clothes or phones which they can't explain
They have access to drugs and alcohol
Inappropriate sexual behaviour for their age
They may become more withdrawn, anxious, depressed or aggressive
Alternatively they can become more clingy, have problems sleeping and eating or can wet the bed
How to prevent online child grooming?
Fundamentally Children offers the following advice:
As soon as your child starts using social media make sure that they understand who they should be contacting and who they shouldn't
Make sure they understand that social media is for connecting with people they already know in the real world
Teach your children that people they speak to online may not be honest
Make sure you know which social media sites your child has a profile on and join them yourself so you understand how they work
Try not to be overly strict as a total ban may push them to hide their online profiles from you
Make sure you know who your child is speaking to and if you have any concerns ask to see the messages they are sending, always explain why you are doing this so as to maintain trust between you
Show your child that they can come to you if they have any concerns
What should I do if I need more information?
There are a lot of charities out there which can help and support you if you have concerns about child grooming online.
We recommend contacting the NSPCC for more information .
False hope for Md. childhood sexual assault survivors
by Joanne Suder
A t first glance, the newly enacted Maryland law that extends the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse from age 25 to age 38 appears to offer hope to individuals who, for any number of reasons, are psychologically unable or unwilling to seek a remedy for the horrors they experienced as children until they are well into adulthood.
That's not how it worked out, however, and at the very least this law delivers false hope. House Bill 642 instead dealt a stealthy and significant win to the Archdiocese of Baltimore — and any other employer that has allowed perpetrators under their purview to persist in terrorizing children.
Here's why. Although the law extends the statute of limitations from age 25 to 38, it adds an onerous requirement: Victims older than 25 who sue a rapist's employer must now meet the notoriously difficult-to-prove gross negligence standard. Before this law, a sexual-abuse victim had to demonstrate ordinary negligence by the employer. What the new law means is that older victims suing potentially culpable employers, such as the Archdiocese of Baltimore in the priest-rape cases, must prove that the employer was acting with thoughtless disregard for the consequences without the exertion of any effort to avoid them.
Therefore, schools or camps or other organizations that purport to care for children, but allow abuse under their noses, can get off the hook and avoid compensating victims because proving gross negligence is just too hard. Maryland's courts describe this standard as “an amorphous concept, resistant to precise definition.” Unfortunately, Maryland court history is riddled with cases stating that even the most egregious conduct that meets the negligence standard would not pass the gross negligence test.
Take, for example, the case in which an EMT declared a person dead and did not provide treatment, when the individual was in fact alive — and the court failed to find gross negligence (McCoy v. Hatmaker, in 2000).
In short, while it appears that sexual-abuse victims can receive compensation from a court of law, the increase in the standard of proof all but insulates the Archdiocese of Baltimore from the responsibility that it has toward the many adults it failed to protect as children from pedophiles. Even though Archbishop William Lori has pledged to stand “for the victims,” his commitment and any justice that he might support on the victims' behalf are undermined utterly by what is akin to a “Bill of Spiritual Darkness” in terms of its effect on victims.
Further exacerbating matters, the new law only applies to childhood sexual-abuse victims who reach the age of 25 after Oct. 1, 2017. That means that any victim who was age 25 or older before Oct. 1 now cannot bring suit at all because the law as written is not retroactive.
This punitive outcome from legislation that was clearly mischaracterized as rendering only a benefit to victims is unacceptable and it should be changed during the next session of the Maryland General Assembly . One way to right this wrong would be to take the high road — an approach that has worked next door in Delaware. That state lifted the statute of limitations on lawsuits for two years for victims of pediatric sexual abuse, giving them an open window to bring suit no matter how old the incidents and regardless of the reason that the victim failed to file before. Such an approach came at no cost to taxpayers, and it helped ensure that pedophiles were identified and possibly prevented from causing harm to other children.
That decent solution, in concert with reinstating ordinary negligence as the normal criteria for burden of proof, would actually help, not potentially further hurt, victims of child sexual abuse.
Sexually abused third-graders bore responsibility, school district insisted for 12 years
by Scott Travis
For a dozen years, the Palm Beach County School District insisted that four third-grade girls bore responsibility for allowing their teacher to molest them in 2005.
In court documents, the district said the children were “old enough to appreciate the consequences of their actions.”
An outside lawyer hired by the district even called it a standard legal defense, which the district had used since 2006.
The district said in February court papers that the 9-year-old girls “conducted themselves in a careless and negligent manner,” which contributed to any suffering. The students claimed emotional distress and other injuries after former teacher Blake Sinrod molested them in 2005 at Coral Sunset Elementary, west of Boca Raton.
The defense was drafted by the Hollywood law firm Conroy Simberg. School Board member Erica Whitfield said a school district attorney who handles risk management cases reviewed it.
But school district administrators would not directly address who reviewed the case. Superintendent Robert Avossa referred questions to the Hollywood law firm.
Whitfield and School Board members Karen Brill and Frank Barbieri voiced shock that the district suggested the students might somehow be at fault.
“I don't think a child can ever consent to being sexually abused,” said Barbieri, whose district includes Coral Sunset.
School Board members Chuck Shaw, Debra Robinson, Marcia Andrews and Barbara McQuinn did not respond to phone calls on Wednesday, but the school district released a statement attributed to the School Board.
"The board, with its attorneys, must consider all legal defenses on a case-by-case basis. However, this current School Board has never taken the position that a child could be implicit in their own child abuse,” the statement reads.
It took 12 years for the district to decide whether it bore any responsibility in the case involving Sinrod, who pleaded guilty to molesting two of the children in 2006.
Sinrod was fired in 2006 and his teaching license was revoked in 2008. He could not be reached for comment.
The School Board is expected to approve a $3.6 million settlement — one of its largest ever — at an Oct. 18 meeting.
Conroy Simberg has worked on the case since 2006 and its filings have always included the same language about the children being old enough to take responsibility, said Dale Friedman, an attorney with the firm.
She said the defense is called “comparative negligence,” and it's used in court filings before all the facts are known. She said the purpose was not to claim the girls were responsible, but to bring up factors that could reduce the amount of damages the district might have to pay. For example, she said the former students chose not to get psychological treatment.
“We have never blamed these girls or given the appearance of holding the girls responsible for what their teacher did,' she said.
She said this defense is common but declined to name other cases in which it was used.
Jeffrey Herman, a Boca Raton lawyer who has represented clients in about 1,000 sexual abuse cases, said he doesn't recall this negligence defense being used against any abused children he represented. He said it's more common for organizations accused of sexual abuse to lay blame on parents, claiming they failed to protect their children.
“The real problem with this [defense] is it revictimizes the victims,” he said. “There's meaning and impact when you file things. It's forever part of the permanent record that the School Board is blaming these third-graders.”
School Board member Brill said: “It is my intent to ensure that this type of defense is never, ever used again in the district. The board had no knowledge that this was the manner in which the school district was going to defend the case, and in no way is it appropriate. I think we're all outraged.''
School police investigated Sinrod in 2005, when one of the girls told her mother that the teacher had fondled her during a reading group. The girl said he touched her under her clothing and instructed her to touch his private area over his clothing, according to a police report.
The three other girls painted similar pictures to police. They described Sinrod inappropriately touching them during a reading group or classroom movie. Some of the girls said they gave him neck rubs, and some said Sinrod instructed them to place their hand on his genital area outside his clothes, according to a police report.
School police determined there was enough evidence to charge Sinrod in all four cases, although the State Attorney's Office pursued only allegations involving two of the girls. Sinrod pleaded guilty but adjudication was withheld after he met conditions of his probation, according to court records.
The parents of the four children filed a civil suit in 2006. Their lawyer at the time, Charles Bechert, said then that the parents believed Sinrod targeted the children because they were immigrants whose parents may not have known how to report crimes to authorities.
The case has gone through several amendments and appeals since then.
In February, after another brief in the case was filed, the school district hired a forensic psychologist to examine the victims. He concluded the former students, who are now adults, were telling the truth, Friedman said.
“As the facts became clear, we recommended a settlement,” Friedman said.
If the case had gone to trial, she said, the firm would have advised against using the defense that the students were negligent. In another part of its defense, the district argued that Sinrod's actions were “unknown and beyond the foresight of reasonably prudent persons.”
However, the parents' lawsuit says another parent had complained to a Coral Sunset assistant principal in 2003 about a similar incident involving a second-grade girl but was told the daughter must be lying.
Marc Wites, the lawyer for the four girls, argued the school district failed to investigate or take action against Sinrod when the 2003 allegations surfaced.
Police refuse to test 4-year-old's sexual assault kit
by Marisa Kwiatkowski
A nurse conducted a sexual assault exam on a 4-year-old girl in 2015 and police — as has happened repeatedly throughout the country — never submitted the DNA evidence to the lab for testing.
Now the girl's mother is questioning that decision by the Cumberland Police Department, saying she may never know if her ex-husband sexually abused her daughter.
The Anderson woman's frustration comes as Indiana State Police conduct a statewide audit of untested sexual assault kits to determine why many are not being tested.
Although the case is unusual, because it involves such a young child, it sheds light on a national problem that prompted a National Institute of Justice report to recommend all sexual assault kits reported to law enforcement be submitted to a laboratory for DNA analysis.
More than 175,000 sexual assault kits nationwide have never been tested, according to "End the Backlog," a program of the Joyful Heart Foundation. At least 5,000 kits in Indiana have not been tested.
Testing the sexual assault kits can reveal DNA evidence that helps identify suspects, strengthen criminal cases or, in some cases, clear a suspect of wrongdoing.
Like many sexual abuse complaints, the Indiana case involving the 4-year-old is contentious. The girl's mother and father have been involved in an ongoing custody battle, and accusations have been flying.
By not testing the kit, public officials missed an opportunity for an answer backed by scientific evidence. Police and welfare officials, who generally run concurrent but separate child abuse investigations, view the decision differently.
Detective Suzanne Woodland said Cumberland police in part decided not to submit the 4-year-old's sexual assault kit for testing because DCS did not substantiate abuse.
But a DCS official told IndyStar that any evidence — especially that collected by a medical professional — would help DCS make an assessment.
The bottom line: Police destroyed the evidence.
"Something just doesn't feel right," the mother said.
IndyStar is not naming the girl or her family members because she is an alleged victim of sexual abuse.
The little girl told at least four people, including a sexual assault nurse examiner and Department of Child Services family case manager, that her father had inappropriately touched her vagina, according to DCS and medical records obtained by IndyStar.
The 4-year-old initially disclosed the alleged abuse in October 2015 to an adult, who called DCS, state records show. Child welfare officials initiated an investigation and recommended the girl's mother take her to the emergency room.
Medical officials sent them to the Community Hospital Anderson Sexual Assault Treatment Center, where a nurse did a sexual assault kit on the little girl — a relatively rare occurrence for a child that young.
When collecting evidence for a kit, medical personnel may gather clothing, fingernail scrapings and swabs from various parts of an individual's body. It's a comprehensive exam that can take hours.
Holly Renz, the sexual assault nurse examiner who collected evidence for the girl's kit, said they typically don't collect kits on children that young because the alleged abuse must have occurred within 72 hours for there to be viable samples. Most children don't disclose within that window because they are told not to tell anyone, she said.
Renz collected the kit on the 4-year-old because there wasn't a clear time reference and the mother, based on what DCS told her, said the abuse may have occurred the night before, according to medical records.
The Anderson woman said watching her daughter get that sexual assault kit taken was "an image you can't forget."
"There's no words to describe how horrible that was to be there with her, to go through that with her," the woman said. "It's horrible to hear her talk about it. That's not anything you want your child to go through. Ever."
The 4-year-old told Renz that her father touched her "girl parts" with his finger, according to medical records. "It hurts," she said.
The girl also was interviewed later that day by a trained forensic interviewer while a deputy prosecutor, victim's advocate and DCS family case manager watched from an observation room.
During the forensic interview, the girl said her dad "touches her down there in her bedroom," according to DCS records. She said her father "keeps his hand still when he touches her and it hurts very very bad, and that it happens over her clothes," DCS records state. The 4-year-old could not provide further details during the interview.
The initial DCS report said the girl claimed her father touched her while she was being bathed.
After interviewing six people, DCS unsubstantiated the sexual abuse allegation "due to a lack of a preponderance of evidence," records show. It noted the 4-year-old "did not disclose any reliable information of sexual abuse" during the forensic interview.
The girl's father denied any inappropriate conduct involving his daughter. He told IndyStar it was a false report, one of many orchestrated by his ex-wife, who was angry because a judge gave him custody of their children.
"People like her tie the system up," he said.
DCS has received at least 16 reports of alleged neglect, physical abuse or sexual abuse relating to the family since 2012, state records show. None of those allegations was substantiated.
"This is an issue between mom and dad due to the dad having custody," said Woodland, the Cumberland police detective who handled the criminal investigation.
After DCS unsubstantiated the claim, Woodland said, the police department did not test the kit because to do so would be "a waste of the lab's time." She said the department had the sexual assault kit destroyed.
The girl's mother said she is "unnerved" that the department chose to destroy the sexual assault kit. She said it could have helped answer that question of who, if anyone, sexually abused her daughter, now 6.
"If a kit was completed, it should have been tested," the mother said, echoing others who advocate for testing all sexual assault kits. "An officer should not outrank a parent who's concerned."
"Sesame Street" just launched a series of videos to help kids cope with trauma
"There's always something you can do to make a difference in the life of a child."
by Samantha Brodsky
(Videos on site)
In the wake of months wrecked with mass tragedy, Sesame Street's most recent launch of educational videos comes at a time when we need it most.
Last Friday, the "Sesame Street in Communities" initiative by Sesame Workshop , released kid-friendly shorts that teach kids how to find their "safe space" and deal with trauma. It's part of a larger initiative to "help children and adults in their lives reach their highest potential," and includes videos about how to handle emergencies , cope with grief and understand feelings.
As the Traumatic Experiences clip explains, kids "can have big feelings that can seem overwhelming at times, but children need to know they're not alone …You can lend an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on or even offer words of hope. There's always something you can do to make a difference in the life of a child."
These short but informative videos feature characters cherished by generations — like Elmo and Big Bird — and they're just as important for kids as they are for adults. As the site states, when dealing with trauma, anxiety or stress, parents and guardians have the power to help, and "feeling seen and heard by a caring adult, being patiently taught coping strategies and resilience-building techniques" can lessen the effects that scary events have on them.
It's reported that nearly half of all children in the U.S. go through stressful or traumatic events called adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). These include but are not limited to physical or emotional abuse, natural disasters and poverty, and the CDC reports ACEs are linked to "risky health behaviors and chronic health conditions."
It's important to cover a wide range of topics in the hopes that the aftermath of such events does not leave lasting effects. And it seems like Sesame Street thought of everything: videos about dealing with divorce and incarceration , staying healthy and eating well and even explaining what autism is.
The site has further material — forums, articles and online courses — for parents who want to deal deeper into coping tactics. It's also suggested that parents view videos before sharing them with their kids as some are more sensitive than others.
When it comes to your child's personal growth, it's a team effort. And with the right resources, you can foster healthy development and tackle big issues the way it should be: together.
Pay it Forward: Woman makes dresses for rescued victims of child sex trafficking
by Maren Jensen
Arda Molen loves to be creative. She paints and she sings. But most days, she sews.
"I do it six, eight hours a day," she said.
Right now, her sewing room is filled with dozens of dresses. They will go to little girls all over the world--to places like Cambodia, Mexico, Africa, and India.
Molen was inspired to make the dresses after watching the documentary, "The Abolitionists."
"When we saw that, that opened my eyes to the need of that," she said.
She wanted to help girls rescued from sex trafficking jump-start their new life.
"If you present the with a brand new dress, they feel like they're pretty again," she said.
She gives the dresses to the organization Operation Underground Railroad and to any group that can distribute them to young girls in need.
"Send them anywhere anybody will take them," Molen said.
A terrible car accident left Molen with some pain, making some pinning and sewing difficult.
"I've had several back operations and it hurts my back and it hurts my hands," she said.
So family and friends have jumped in to help her with the difficult parts.
But when she's hurting, she looks at the pictures of the girls she has already helped.
"And then I can do it. Because I can't think of anything worse for them," she said.
Molen and her helpers have made over 2,000 dresses over the past couple of years.
She hopes to keep going as long as she can.
"I told my husband I'll be doing it the day I die," she said.
Mountain America Credit Union donated $500 to Molen to help her get more materials and make more beautiful, colorful dresses.
For more information about Operation Underground Railroad, visit its website.
If you'd like to help with the effort to make dresses, contact KUTV through the Pay it Forward submission button and we will connect you.
Inside my life as an ISIS sex slave
by Victoria Craw
After being captured by ISIS, a group of young girls were forced to stand against a wall while men groped their chests.
“If she had breasts, then she was OK to rape,” said a Yazidi survivor recounting the experience. “If she did not have breasts, they kept her there for another three months and came back to see if she had grown in the meantime; whether she was good for raping then.”
The young woman revealed how she was forced to watch other girls being raped in front of her, before becoming pregnant and trying to throw herself down the stairs to force a miscarriage.
“Even women who had three or more children were raped in front of their children,” she told the UK government in 2015 . “There are thousands of other girls right at this moment, in Iraq, in Syria, going through the same thing or about to go through the same thing. Nobody is talking about them and nobody is doing anything.”
The harrowing experience forms part of a new report by the Henry Jackson Society's Nikita Malik, looking at how sex slavery has become a lucrative and critical trade for terrorist groups like ISIS, Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab in recent years.
“ Trafficking Terror, How Modern Slavery and Sexual Violence Fund Terrorism ,” reveals how sex slavery has fueled a thriving marketplace for terror groups through ransom payments.
In the past year, ISIS earned between $12 million and $38 million in revenue from the disturbing trade, which also helps to cement bonds between fighters and is used as both a reward and punishment.
“Terrorists use sexual violence, including rape, sexual slavery, and forced marriage, to bolster recruits, galvanize fighters, and, in the case of Islamist groups, punish kuffar (disbelievers),” Malik writes.
“Propaganda on sexual slavery serves as an incentive for new recruits and foreign fighters, with the promise of wives and sex slaves acting as a ‘pull factor.'”
“Religious elements are infused into sexual violence practices to skirt around the moral wrongdoing of rape. Forced inseminations, forced pregnancies, and forced conversions are a means to secure ‘the next generation of jihadists.'”
The comprehensive report shines a light on an underreported trade that occupies a murky area between sexual violence, terrorism and trafficking and can be complicated by the fact that those involved can be both perpetrators and victims.
ISIS' treatment of sex slaves is well defined within the terror group with a special department and 27-page document setting out “rules” for their treatment.
Fighters' wages can be based on the number of children and women they “own,” with women reporting being bought, sold and raped by multiple men until they were forced to run away.
Malik's research found the fact that such groups have gained a foothold in deeply conservative and unstable societies has helped make the promise of having a sex slave attractive to young men.
Meanwhile, local laws in Syria, Nigeria, Libya and Iraq mean women are exposed to a “triple vulnerability” from sexual violence, trafficking and terror that leaves them without protection under international law.
“We're speaking about national laws where marital rape is not recognized as rape. Where to this day rapists are let off the hook if they marry their victims,” Malik said, adding it also raises the question of what happens to the children born into terror groups.
“Now that these groups are losing their territory, these children have no documentation, besides the documentation that has been given to them by Islamic State — their birth certificates. These are not legitimate documents because it's not a legitimate state. The governments of Iraq and Syria have not been very forthcoming about how they're going to deal with this issue.”
Around 5,000 Yazidi women are estimated to have been sold into slavery by ISIS, while at least 2,000 have been taken by Boko Haram, including the famous abduction of 276 Chibok girls.
Malik wants to have sexual violence prosecuted as a tactic of terrorism and an international task force established on the subject. UK politician Yvette Cooper said it's vital that the links between sexual violence and terror are understood.
“ISIL, Boko Haram and other evil groups are increasingly seeing human trafficking as a possible revenue stream — and we know that terrorists use sexual violence as one of the weapons they use to divide and create fear within communities. It is important this is recognized in the interpretation of terror in our current laws,” she said.
New initiative in Thunder Bay, Ont., to raise awareness around child abuse and neglect
It's everyone's responsibility to protect children and youth, says children's aid official
by Jackie McKay
Dilico Anishinabek Family Care and the Thunder Bay Children's Aid Society are trying to raise community awareness around child abuse and neglect.
They announced the '#ISeeYou' initiative on Thursday as part of the Step Up 2017 campaign, which has run annually since 2009.
The new efforts involve taking self-portraits drawn by children and youth and hanging them up around the city to raise awareness around child abuse. They will go up in local businesses, neighbourhoods and schools.
"I would like to see them all throughout the year not only for the month," said George Rusnak, the assistant director of child welfare for Dilico.
Dilico and children's aid also encouraged residents to wear purple on October 24, in support of child abuse prevention month.
"Thunder Bay has seen an increasing level of incidents and we are concerned about making sure prevention is key," said Coun. Frank Pullia, who has also been designated as Thunder Bay's child advocate.
According to Pullia, city organizations are reestablishing the Children Charter Coalition to help focus resources on keeping children and youth safe. The program was active until 2010 and included over a dozen local organizations in health, education and social services.
"As a community we all have a responsibility to watch out for and protect and support our children and youth," said Brad Bain, the executive director of the Thunder Bay Children's Aid Society.
There will be a colouring station set up for '#ISeeYou' in the Intercity Shopping Centre from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 15.
Online sexual abuse is real. Every child is at risk. Don't look away
by Ann Mroz
Our cover feature this week is one of the most harrowing we have ever run. It may shock you – in fact, it should shock you. Because the situation we find ourselves in is profoundly shocking.
The Metropolitan Police, like every other force in the UK, is struggling to get to grips with the growing menace of the sexual abuse of children online. The situation is so worrying that our commissioning editor, Jon Severs, was given unprecedented access to two of its teams – the Predatory Offenders Unit and the Sexual Exploitation Team – in an attempt to convey the seriousness of the problem.
The children that these teams of officers encounter through their work will attend your schools – both secondary and primary. In fact, the victims in online cases are getting younger, they say, and are now regularly as young as just eight years old.
Sadly, sexual abuse of children is nothing new; it's always been around. What has changed is how it has been amplified through the advent of the world wide web, apps and social media, which have provided new ways to violate and humiliate.
Most of today's parents will have had no childhood experience of the internet, no memory of warnings or stories from their own parents to pass on. Awareness of danger is for many limited to the strangers on the outside. They have little idea of the dangers posed by strangers to their children when they are inside, seemingly safe and secure in their bedrooms. In fact, few of us do.
Opening the door to danger
But when children go online, they are opening the door to a world of predators, not all adults – young people themselves under the age of 18 are abusers, too. And they are doing so with little understanding of the dangers and with little information.
“You would never send a child to the park on their own with no advice. You would never let them cross the road with no advice. We warn them about strangers. But the internet? Smartphones? We just let them do it,” says Dan, an officer with the Met Police Predatory Offenders Unit.
The problem, the police emphasise, is not with the internet or smartphones, but with human behaviour.
And although they recognise it is not schools' job to help them combat this, more often than not, they say, it is teachers that can have the biggest impact.
Thus far, all efforts to deal with the problem of online abuse have been centred on controlling access to the internet, through limiting use of smartphones or through parental controls.
That is clearly not working. So what should we be doing? We can't simply put tech back in its box. Of course, we need to educate children about the dangers and trust them to make the right decisions. But, tragically, sometimes even that will not be enough, as Lorin LaFave – mother to a son who was groomed online and killed – knows to her cost.
According to both the police and Lorin, the problem is a societal one. Culturally, we have ideas about pornography, about what a victim or a paedophile looks like, that are more dangerous than any technology.
The police know that teachers cannot shift culture alone. But it's a start. Teachers, they say, are trusted, are seen as a link to adult reality and children listen to them.
But teachers – and all of us – need to understand the real dangers of the online world, to understand that it can be even more dangerous than the outside world and to be scared. Really scared. That is why our feature is so graphic. And that is why we have asked Lorin to tell her story.
All of this may happen in the virtual space but it's real. Very real. And shocking. Please don't look away.
'Until you see someone go through this, you can't connect with it'
by Jon Severs
Dan fiddles with the cast on his left arm. It's there for arthritis and he claws at its end, where the blue material meets his hand. It's partly a nervous tick, the clawing. Mostly, he does it when he thinks I am uncomfortable – or when he thinks I am about to be uncomfortable – with what he has said or is about to say. Over the course of our conversation, he journeys to the end of the cast with the fingers of his right hand again, and again, and again.
You see, our discussions are very uncomfortable. Dan – we can't use his real name for security reasons – is one of the most experienced officers working within the Metropolitan Police (Met) Predatory Offenders Unit (POU), or the paedophile unit, as you or I might know it. What he sees every day is what most people would never want to see, what most people could not see without a severe and lasting impact on their mental health.
“I have to see the baby rapes, I have to see the abuse of children. Every day,” he says. “We get psychological support. But everyone has a limit. Some may break along the way.”
Over the past five years, Dan has witnessed a change in the pictures he sees. Where once it was clear children in the images were under duress, or you had adults in the frame abusing the children, suddenly you had self-generated images: children's selfies. And it wasn't just pictures, but videos.
“These children are exposing themselves,” Dan explains. “There are no adults in the picture [and in some cases] there are children touching children. The only time you see an adult is when you see the little square in the corner of the screen – that's the person they are talking to via the webcam, and that is usually a man masturbating.”
The internet changed things. Then broadband changed things even more. Not just how children could be abused, but the nature of the abused and the abuser. Now, anyone can become an abuser; now anyone can be abused; and now, often, neither see themselves in those categories.
For some, online sexual abuse is now just “being a teenager” – it's even, as one victim put it, “a bit of a laugh”.
This is why I was sat in an office with Dan, on the sixteenth floor of the Met building near Earl's Court in central London. It's why I spent three days shadowing the POU and its sister unit, the Sexual Exploitation Team (SET). It's why I am writing this article.
The Met – indeed, every police force in the UK – is worried about online sexual abuse and the fact that it's often a pathway to physical sexual abuse. The messages of warning to children are not getting through. The seriousness and the prevalence of the offences are not getting through.
The police want help.
They want teachers to help.
Dangers of Snapchat
Detective inspector Dave Kennett reads through the case sheet that his colleagues have prepared. On it are 11 crimes that have been reported overnight in the Met police jurisdiction and that have been selected as possible cases that may fall under his team's remit to investigate, rather than that of the borough police. As head of the SET, he's looking for a particular type of case.
“Exploitation: is there a power imbalance in the relationship?” he explains. “That could be because of age, because there are drugs or money involved, because the boy is the school captain of the football team, the boy could be a gang member. The definition is quite subjective and it is up to us to try to interpret the law.”
Every single case on this list has an online element to it – the police include anything involving social media and the internet in this category. Nine out of the 11 cases originated on, or were facilitated by, messages on Snapchat. Several involve rape. Kennett ends up accepting all but one as his team's responsibility.
This is normal, he says. The number of cases that make it past the borough police to his door averages about 10 per day. Often, it's teenage girls being groomed by older men, but it's just as likely to be peer-to-peer, where offender and victim are of similar age. Almost every case has an online element to it.
The victims in these online cases are getting younger, Kennett says. They are now regularly as young as eight years old.
To be clear: these are primary-aged children who are either groomed by strangers via their phone and in chatrooms, and who then send explicit pictures and videos of themselves to those strangers; or these are children sending each other explicit images and being exploited as a result.
Kennett reels off examples from memory. He has plenty of them. A nine-year-old girl groomed via Instagram, who sent naked pictures of herself to an adult male; an 11-year-old boy who was groomed in less than 20 minutes via Instagram, and sent explicit images of himself to a “girl” of 13 (in reality, a suspected adult male paedophile, though the case is unsolved); a 12-year-old girl who sent explicit images to another 12-year-old, which were then passed around the school.
These cases, and more like them, add to the numerous examples of older children who have been groomed, who have shared explicit images and video via social channels or chatrooms. There are also the cases in which children have sent images and videos voluntarily.
And then there are the cases where it is children – those under the age of 18 – doing the grooming.
“You get young offenders,” explains detective inspector Philip Royan, head of the POU. “In a couple of cases, I have found a vast array of imagery of young girls on a young person's computer.”
It may surprise you that a child of 8 or 9 – maybe even younger – could be groomed via the internet in less than the time it takes for you to read this magazine. And it may surprise you that a predatory offender (ie, someone who seeks out such images and manipulates others to get them) can be a child. This does not fit with the stereotypes of older teens simply making mistakes or old men in flasher macs with bags of sweets in their pocket. But that's the thing with online sexual abuse, says Kennett: you have to forget everything you thought you knew about it.
“Online is different [to old-style contact abuse],” he explains. “We need to get rid of those perceptions of contact abuse when we are talking about online exploitation.”
To do that, you don't just have to start from scratch with how you envisage an offender, but also with how you imagine a victim. It's about resetting what you thought was safe and what you feared. It's about recognising just how messed up things have become – and taking some collective blame for it.
Becoming a victim
Every creation or distribution of a sexually explicit image, or video, of a child is a crime, but there are many different circumstances in which such a crime can take place.
At one end of the spectrum, you have two teenagers in a relationship who share explicit material of themselves exclusively with each other. That is a crime, but not one that the police will typically pursue.
“If they share images between them, and they are not shared to others and there is no exploitation, there is a crime, but who do we arrest? Who do we give a sexual offences record to?” asks Kennett.
“We are not in the business of criminalising teenage sexual discovery.”
A step up from that is a child sending an explicit image of themselves to another person with whom they are not in a relationship, and where there has been no grooming or exploitation – the receiver of that image is usually a member of their peer group. If the person receiving that image does nothing with it, then again it is unlikely to arrive on a crime sheet. But if that image is shared, you may begin to see some police involvement.
Then you have those cases in which someone is actively seeking explicit material. This could be between children of the same age. Kennett says this is often about blackmail, where the aim is to offer non-distribution of the images in return for the (usually) girl doing something they don't want to do: to have sex or engage in some other sexual practice with the holder of the image; hold drugs or weapons for a gang; or provide access to other girls. It could simply be about bullying, too, he says.
The offenders may groom their victim, or they may get the images through other means (coercion, hacking, stealing from friends' phones, etc).
Finally, on the far end of the spectrum are predatory offenders. Here, an adult offender will groom a victim to get an image or video, and then use that as leverage for further explicit material generation or, in the most extreme cases, to engineer a meeting for sexual contact with the child.
You may not be shocked by the first two categories. The idea that young people send each other explicit images of themselves is now almost accepted as part of growing up. Many adults do it, too. But Dan talks extensively about how the desensitisation to sexual imagery or acts leads to the problems we see at the more extreme end of exploitation – the latter two categories mentioned above. Porn is to blame, he says.
“Social attitudes have changed,” he explains. “In the past, if I wanted to see some porn, I would have to buy a magazine and I would have to use those images time and time again. Those images, which were very ‘vanilla', would then make an imprint on how I viewed women as I grew up and how I viewed sex.
“Now, as a teenager, you have porn sites with hundreds of not just images, but full videos, and those videos are in different categories of sex. They may include threesomes, anal sex, bukkake, scat. That makes those things mainstream.”
Kennett explains that this leads to replication in teenagers' own lives. “It is now the norm that sexual activity will take place between two young people and they will film it,” says Kennett. “It is the norm to take explicit pictures of yourself.”
Dan adds: “We see a lot of bathroom shots, guys and girls exposing themselves – these kids share them with each other.”
The omnipresence of porn and society's reaction to it – along with the technology to make videos and images being in the hands of most children – has not just made the creation of sexual images and video normal, but made niche types of sex mainstream.
Even schools have stopped being shocked. Dan cites an example in which parents raised concerns at a school about their daughter sending explicit images to another student, who in turn distributed them to others in the year group. The response was: this is normal behaviour, don't worry, it's teenage experimentation, it will blow over, we have some great PSHE resources we can share…
Just think about the message that all of this conveys, he says. Think about how this acceptance, this normalisation, influences the behaviour of teenagers.
From a victim's perspective
For example, let's look at peer-to-peer abuse from the perspective of the victim, where the offender and victim are the same age or very close in age. You are 13 years old and a boy in your year (it is almost always a male offender) asks for an image of you exposing yourself. You do it, because everyone does it, right? He says you are pretty, he says he likes you. It's just a laugh, just one picture.
And then you send it. And then he says he is going to send the image to your friends, to your parents. Unless…
Another example, and this time there's a predatory offender: you're on a social media platform or in a chatroom, or you are playing games online, and a message pops up from what seems to be a young girl or boy, and she or he is saying you look great, really pretty, and they want to see more of you – can you send them a picture? They'll send you some pictures back.
You don't know them, but everyone does this. This is normal, right? You send it. It's just a bit of fun. You send more, and then they ask for videos and you send those, too.
If you're lucky, your parents might spot the messages at this stage and report them, or a friend will. But when the SET officers intervene, they say the children are embarrassed, but they rarely perceive the seriousness of the situation.
“Because it is not physical, because it is all online, it is not real to them,” says Danielle Power, acting detective sergeant in the SET. “They just do not see the danger.”
She says she has dealt with many cases in which the victim even says they think the situation is funny.
If this activity does not come to the attention of the police, then it goes one of two ways, says Kennett: “The [offender] will admit to being a horrible 50-year-old and will say I am going to send these pictures to your mum or friends, and now I want you to do x or y. Or they just keep going, they just want the images, and they keep going.”
In one case the team worked on, the offender sent an 11-year-old child a video of what he wanted her to do. It was a sexually explicit video. And it was a video featuring another 10- or 11-year-old child.
Yet another scenario: you are 15 years old and someone contacts you to tell you they are a modelling agent. They tell you that you could be a model. They ask you to send them some images. They tell you it needs to start with some glamour stuff. And you agree, it can't do any harm. Then they tell you it needs to be porn – it's great money, a great place to start out, everyone does it. No one will see it, it will be distributed abroad. And you do that, too, because those videos – you've seen plenty of them – seem harmless. Maybe even glamorous. You're safe in your room – they can't get you. Everyone does it.
Power had a case like that. The “modelling agent”, posing as a female, was a man in his twenties living with his parents. He'd tricked countless girls into creating explicit material.
Sometimes the approach is less subtle, she adds. “A man was getting girls to strip on a website called AdultWork – he handled everything, including the payment from the website that was meant to go to the girls,” she recalls. “Rather than the girls being paid after 28 days from the website, he would pay them himself in advance. And he would give them extra money, so saying something like, ‘Here is 500 quid for a holiday.'
“He would then say ‘You now owe me £700' and tell them they had to be recorded having sex with him, so they could upload the video in order to earn the money back to pay him. One victim was 16. [The offender] put a deposit down on a flat, he gave her drugs, and the videos just got worse and worse. It was violent, extremely explicit.”
One final example: you are in a chatroom and a message pops up. You open it to find a video of a man masturbating, asking you to expose yourself. (This is what some offenders do now: it's a numbers game, and if they don't get a hit, they move on. After all, there are plenty of other girls on social media.) It's no longer shocking to see a man masturbating on screen because you've seen material like that before. You may have even seen classmates doing it. And it's normal to expose yourself, too, right? It's only online. It's harmless. It's only a bit of fun.
“Sometimes the kids watch and think it is a laugh, and the person will ask them to expose themselves, and often they do,” says Dan.
Talking about the risk
Then he tells me about large groups of children creating explicit material together. He saw something recently that shows just how bad things have become.
“The most I have seen is nine girls in the same room,” says Dan. “And they are kissing each other, doing things to each other, while a man masturbates on his webcam. And the girls are saying things like 'Yeah, go on, look, he's wanking', and then they are saying ‘wank over me', and they are taking their clothes off and touching each other. These are girls aged 9, 10, 11, 12.”
He tries to find the words to describe just how horrific this was, but gives up.
And then, after a long pause, he says: “We really need to get a grip on this.”
We've told children to be careful. We've told them more than once. Some children may even parrot the warnings back to you, those tales of danger, snippets of advice, those stories of when things go wrong. But how much have we really communicated? How much detail have we really gone into – as parents, as teachers, as a society?
Because children don't seem to realise that the pictures and videos they send to a boyfriend – or a would-be boyfriend, an online groomer or a random man on a social media platform – could end up all over the internet, shared between paedophiles on specialist websites, on bestiality websites, on gore websites.
Dan, Kennett, Power and the others have to sit through graphic videos of people having sex with animals, and they have to trawl through videos of things such as Mexican drug cartels decapitating a rival with a chainsaw. Because that's the sort of site on which paedophiles hang out. That's the sort of place where they swap selfies and videos. It's where that sort of thing is acceptable.
Children don't seem to realise you can never delete the images, that they exist everywhere and anywhere simultaneously – that they may resurface at any time. Dan explains that the same images crop up over and over again. The police delete them, they resurface – it's a cycle that never ends.
Children don't seem to realise that it is not all normal, the things they see in porn, the things they do to each other, the things they send to each other. They'll realise later, when they get into a real relationship. They'll recognise how serious it really was. But now?
Children don't seem to realise how much information about themselves they are giving to an offender. “They will talk about who their friends are, where they go to school, where they have been. They even send pictures of themselves in their school uniforms,” says Kennett. And they don't know that when they send an image or video from one phone to another while the location settings are on, some simple software can tell the offender exactly where they are located. They don't know that all of this might mean that the offender knows where their bedroom is, that the offender can watch the bedroom, that the offender can see when they leave, when they arrive, when they are alone.
Finally, children don't seem to realise that simply sending a naked photo of themselves to a stranger, or to someone they thought was a friend, someone they thought they loved, might eventually result in a rape. It might end in a situation where they want to take their own life. It might, in the most extreme cases, eventually result in murder. It's rare, but it's not as rare as you might think – or hope.
“Self-harm and suicide are a risk. There are many documented cases of this,” says Kennett. He urges people to watch a video message by Canadian teenager Amanda Todd ( bit.ly/AmandaToddYouTube ), who went on to commit suicide after being exploited online.
But maybe children do realise it. Maybe they are aware of everything that has been documented in this feature. And maybe they still do it because they don't believe they will become one of Kennett's cases, one of Dan's cases, one of Power's cases.
So some blame the kids. The attitude that we as adults did all we could, that this was unstoppable, even that “she was asking for it” is far too common, says Kennett. “The victim-blaming can happen across the board – police, social services, schools – and we guard against that, we watch for it, we make sure that does not happen here,” he says.
But Power still sees it in the eyes of juries, when a girl is kicking off while on the stand, full of bravado, full of anger, full of “this has not affected me, I don't care”. They don't see beyond that.
And we are quick to blame the social media companies, too: they let this happen. They provide the link. If it wasn't for them, our children would be safe.
But Dan says it's not the fault of Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or anything else.
“Yes, there is a moral obligation [for social media companies to help], and many do actually help us, but are they the problem? In reality, how can Google really control it?” he asks. “We have to get out of the blame culture. We are blaming a commercial organisation for human behaviour. We are taking aim at the wrong place.”
And it's definitely not the fault of the children, he says: “Something has gone wrong. And it is not the children's fault. We have to fix this, not blame them.”
It's no one's fault but our own, he stresses. So what can we do?
First we need to recognise that there is no profile of a victim: they could be as young as 5 or 6, and they may not be a vulnerable child, but the top-set girl with all the friends and all the confidence.
And then we have to recognise that we have opened the door to an environment in which children think all of this is OK, and we need to find a way to close it. Or at least to manage that environment.
“You would not send a child to the park on their own with no advice,” says Dan. “You would not let them cross a road without advice. We warn them about strangers. And for all these things, we drill them on the rules, on safety until we are satisfied they are safe. And even if the parents do not do that, there is extensive advice about all that in school. We have all this covered. But the internet? Smartphones? We just let them do it.”
He says we all need to talk more openly about the dangers, as well as the need to scaffold internet access; and we should restrict use of phones until we know children are as safe as they can be.
We also need to be unafraid to talk about sex and porn, highlighting the myths, explaining that all those videos on all those porn sites are not reality, and that this thing you watch can create multiple issues, that you can even become addicted.
“We need to get over the embarrassment,” says Dan, “to talk to children about pornography and say to them, ‘You are going to see things that are not normal – threesomes, being tied up etc – and these are not things everyone does, but porn sites make it seem like they are.' We can't do that if we are too embarrassed to talk about sex.”
And we should not hide away from what our children can be exposed to.
“The information has to be age-appropriate, age-relevant,” says Dan. “We should be warning children at all ages, but doing it in the right way.”
You might argue that this is not the job of a teacher. The police have a lot of time for that opinion.
The officers at the Met have all sat their own children down – they have restricted their internet access, scaffolded their knowledge of the net and talked to them about porn.
“My son would definitely say I am overprotective,” admits Kennett. But he says sometimes teachers are the only ones young people will listen to.
“The teachers, I think they are in a very difficult situation,” he says. “It takes time to learn all this stuff – time they don't have. This is not their job, this is the job of parents. But the problem – or the reality – is that it is often the teacher that is the most trusted person in a young person's life.”
He adds that they may be the only person willing to have this conversation, too.
But it's just words, right? After all, schools have tried. Teachers have got great PSHE resources, great safety advice in the computing curriculum. They've done their absolute best.
It has no effect.
Well, ask yourself, says Dan, did you really mean it? Did you really understand it? Did you go far enough? Did you feel it?
“It is not about sex education, about internet-safety advice, about firewalls on the school wi-fi,” he says.
It's not about a new SRE curriculum.
The officers stress that words are not enough on their own.
An emotional connection to what you are talking about is key to children understanding how serious this is, as well as keeping them safe.
This is why this feature has detailed so many cases and why the details have been so graphic. It is why we have given Lorin LaFave four pages to tell the story of how her son, Breck, was groomed and murdered. And it's why the Met has opened up to us.
If teachers and parents – society as a whole – do not understand how serious the danger is, if they do not understand what really happens and if they don't get scared – if they don't fear the pain of this happening to someone they love – then how can we expect children to take it seriously?
“Is it put across in schools in a procedural way? Do [teachers or parents] do it just because they have to? Without that emotional connection – without that deeper understanding – I don't know if it will have an impact,” says Power.
“Until you see someone go through this – until you see the videos, read the grooming messages, view the videos that are extorted out of these girls, see what can happen next – you can't really understand it, you can't connect with it and you cannot be passionate with it.
“That's the problem: as a society we can be very similar in our reactions, as the girls are – it's online, no harm done. But it is harmful. It ruins lives.”
"It's still a taboo topic, even in 2017": Child abuse forum Oct. 19 in Virginia Beach
by Cindy Butler Focke
M.E. Hart was one of the 200 brave men who stood tall on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 2010 and admitted to being sexually abused as a child.
“It's still a taboo topic, even in 2017,” Hart said. The fact is, sexual abuse happens to little boys as much as little girls, he said.
“It shouldn't happen to any child.”
The CEO of the Hart Learning Group is part of the speakers bureau for RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. He grew up in Kentucky, earned a law degree, and has spoken about trauma recovery for approximately 25 years.
He will moderate “Keeping our Children Safe from Abuse,” Oct. 19 at the Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library.
Being a child victim of sexual abuse, “throws your life off course, but it does not have to define you,” the Hilltop resident said.
Master Police Officer Jim McElligott said it was time to bring attention to the issue. Unfortunately, “child abuse never goes away,” he said. So, the Virginia Beach Police Department Crime Prevention Unit teamed up with the Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association and YCAT, the Youth Community Action Team.
A panel of law enforcement and counseling experts will be on hand. The FBI will also be represented, and survivors will share their stories. The goal is to raise awareness and provide resources, McElligott said.
Child Protective Services finds evidence of child sexual abuse every eight minutes in the U.S., according to RAINN . Sexual violence happens to about 63,000 children each year.
Trina Young Greer has been a licensed clinical psychologist for almost 20 years, and is the executive director of the Genesis Counseling Center.
“I've been through my own healing journey,” said the Peninsula resident. Now, she helps children and adults who have been sexually abused recover from the unimaginable.
Greer is a friend of Regina Marscheider of Spectrum Puppets, who founded the Emmy award-winning marionette program “Simon Says Tell” to help children learn to recognize and disclose sexual abuse in a nonthreatening environment. Both women will participate in the forum.
Attendees may remain anonymous by submitting written questions or concerns.
Hart said many people wait 20, 30, 40 years before talking about being a victim of child sex abuse, and “that has a negative effect on your whole life.” People need a safe place to ask questions, outside of all the “noise you get on the internet,” he said.
if you go
What: Child Sexual Abuse Forum, “Keeping Our Children Safe from Abuse”
When: The forum is from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 19; tables with resources will be open at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Central Library, 4100 Virginia Beach Blvd.
Cost: Free, plus door prizes and refreshments
Info: 757-385-1330 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Drugs at 4 months. Sexual abuse as a child. Now he fights to keep the monster inside
Gabriel Smarch shared his story: that of a victim who repeatedly cried for help and was ignored, and the story of a victim becoming a violent abuser, a cycyle that is far too common in Indigenous communities.
by Jesse Winter
WHITEHORSE—His mother puts the painkillers in the 4-month-old's milk bottle to stop his crying and make him sleep. And he does — so quietly that she may have forgotten he was even there. She disappears that December night in 1978 and never comes back.
By the time his grandparents find him, the infant is alone, unconscious, the codeine eating through his stomach lining.
The emergency surgery in Edmonton marks the beginning of 39-year-old Gabriel Smarch's 2,000-page government case history.
The pages tell a story of repeated failures to keep a vulnerable child safe. Throughout his life, Gabriel asked for help, telling social workers, foster parents, nurses and doctors what was happening to him. He was ignored or not believed over and over again.
By the time he says his school principal, a man identified in court documents only as “J.V.”, raped him as an 8-year-old, the trajectory of Gabriel's life seemed irreversible.
It's also the story of a victim becoming a violent abuser, a cycle that is far too common in communities like the Kwanlin Dün First Nation in Whitehorse — communities still grappling with the intergenerational trauma of Canada's colonial violence.
Indigenous children are drastically overrepresented in the foster care and youth justice systems. Nearly 70 per cent of 161 clients that the Yukon Child Advocate's Office dealt with in 2015-16 are Indigenous, and the vast majority of those are child welfare cases.
“Many of the children we work with are intergenerational survivors of residential schools,” said Annette King, the territory's child advocate.
Gabriel shared his entire history with the Star because he wants people to understand the cycles of abuse he was caught up in, and how they continue today.
Gabriel is 6 years old
His family is large. Housing is cramped. The extended family lives sometimes three or four to a room, with siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles all underfoot. In the evenings, most of the adults go to bingo, leaving the children in the care of one of the aunts or uncles.
“One night I woke up to pain,” Gabriel recalled, decades later. His shoulders begin to shudder. “It hurt. My uncle was having sex with me. He finished, and I couldn't stop crying. Stop crying, he said. Everything will be OK.”
As a child, Gabriel doesn't tell anyone about the sexual abuse but his medical records show he repeatedly told nurses, doctors and social workers he was afraid of being sent home because he said he'd be beaten. He asks to be sent to a foster home, but every time his social workers insist there isn't enough evidence of abuse to take him into care.
Gabriel is 8 years old
In his short life Gabriel has been to the emergency room 10 times for everything from pneumonia to facial lacerations, a cut from a table saw, two head wounds, and scars that look like they came from cigarette burns, but are later determined to be impetigo, a painful rash that can be caused by poor hygiene.
Records show he is consistently late or absent from school. When he does arrive, he is distracted and irritable, and often caught stealing food from other children. One of his teachers suspects it is because he isn't being fed at home.
A local doctor is worried. He writes a letter to Gabriel's social workers accusing them of failing to collect enough evidence to document his mistreatment and take him into permanent care.
“The game we are playing is extremely dangerous,” Dr. Robert Menzies writes. If something isn't done, Gabriel “could easily be further brutalized, and perhaps maimed or killed.”
In the spring Gabriel and a group of other children are taken to J.V.'s house for a sleepover, according to the lawsuit he would file years later.
Gabriel says he woke up to J.V. raping him.
“They say when you're molested as a child your innocence is taken from you and it's replaced with evil,” Gabriel said. “I was replaced with that.”
Despite repeated requests, including phone calls, emails and a hand-delivered letter, J.V. wouldn't answer the Star's questions for this story.
Gabriel is 9 years old
He sits in the pickup truck's cab with his cousin Adrian. The two boys, not yet teenagers, huddle in the night, trying to ward off the cold creeping through their thin cotton sweatshirts.
“We used to do that all the time, run away from the family,” Gabriel recalled. “When they caught us it was always bad. They'd make us cut our own willow branches for them to whip us with.”
A psychological assessment in March 1988 recommends Gabriel be placed in therapeutic foster care for at least a year. He is sent back to live with his family.
“It wasn't an upbringing,” says Jane McIntyre. “It was an existence he had.”
Jane was a sort of unofficial foster parent to Gabriel many times over the years, but their relationship never had any legal foundation. When things in Gabriel's life got desperate, she would take him in. Other times he would show up on Jane's doorstep, with nowhere else to go. He lived off and on with her for years.
Gabriel still visits Jane occasionally, when he needs support. Sitting in her kitchen decades later, he listens quietly as she fixes coffee.
“Those men in his family, they would be drinking,” she says, “and they would hold him up by his shirt with all of them in a ring. They'd tease him and poke him and pull his pants down. He was just a little boy. It was sick.”
Gabriel became friends with some of Jane's other foster children. With his temporary family, young Gabriel spends weekends cross-country skiing and eating family meals — distractions from his life of anger and pain.
Gabriel is 10 years old
On account of Gabriel's behaviour problems he is placed in the Above 60 treatment centre, a now-shuttered residential youth facility outside Whitehorse run by Mike Rawlings.
Almost immediately Gabriel starts running away, “escaping” as his psychological evaluation will later describe it.
He goes AWOL 15 times in three months. Each time he's apprehended he's returned to Rawlings's care.
According to his statements to a psychologist in 2016, Gabriel says he was abused sexually and physically at the group home repeatedly, including at least two incidents of anal rape by unidentified staff members.
He tells the psychologist that after one such assault, he sat in the shower crying for hours.
“They'd take away my boots so I couldn't run away,” he says.
But that doesn't always stop him. One time Gabriel and a friend hitchhike as far as Vancouver Island. They are discovered by police after sneaking onto the Vancouver Island ferry. Family and Child Services records confirm the incident.
Gabriel's records from the Justice Department show that when they were apprehended, Gabriel tells the RCMP officer about the alleged abuse at Above 60. He pleads with the officer not to return him there, and not to tell Rawlings.
Instead, social services records show Gabriel is sent back to the home, Rawlings is told everything, and records say no investigation is done. A case worker makes a note to follow up “if the boy makes more accusations of abuse.”
Gabriel is 17 years old
He is arrested for assault and an attempted break-and-enter.
In the six years since he ran away to Vancouver Island, Gabriel has racked up convictions for a previous assault, stealing a car, assault causing bodily harm and possession of stolen property. His case notes from Above 60 say he is “out of control.”
In January 1996 a nurse makes a note on his emergency room intake form that he's been admitted twice in 24 hours. “The past history on this young man is abysmal for abuse,” the nurse writes.
By this point Gabriel is drinking heavily.
Between April 1, 1996, and June 30, 2012, Gabriel is treated in the emergency room for broken fingers, multiple head injuries, cuts, contusions and damaged ribs, almost all attributed to getting into fights.
Gabriel is 19 years old
Blackout drunk at a party, he's arrested for sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl who was passed out. His arrest record says he had to be dragged off the victim. Gabriel says he woke up in the drunk tank with no memory of the assault, greeted with a pair of handcuffs and a ride to the arrest processing unit at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
He says, and insists to this day, he has no recollection of the assault. He pleads guilty as a way of trying to take responsibility, he says. He's sentenced to 16 months in jail, and two years of probation.
Though he couldn't see it at the time, Gabriel's first lengthy stint in jail will become a turning point.
Almost immediately he starts collecting jailhouse infractions for bad behaviour — mouthing off, fighting, stealing from the kitchen.
But then he meets guard Harvey Reti, a retired infantry soldier and Olympic boxer working at the jail.
Sitting across the kitchen table from his old coach years later, Gabriel recalled their first meeting.
“I was working out in the gym and Harvey just approached me and said, ‘Maybe if you try punching it this way, try moving that way,' and that was the start of the relationship right there. It bloomed,” Gabriel said.
“We saw a lot of guys like Gabe come through the system,” Harvey said. “When you read part of their past you can start dealing with them rather than just being the boss. You try to be a friend, and a helpful friend.”
Gabriel responded to boxing and to Harvey because they spoke to him in a way that no one had ever tried before. Harvey showed him how to harness his anger.
But aside from hooks and right crosses, Harvey taught Gabriel another lesson. “It takes the bigger man to step back from a fight sometimes,” Harvey said.
After his release, Gabriel starts boxing training with a furious intensity. The heavy smack of knuckles on leather shudders through his apartment building's thin walls, broadcasting to every tenant the confined fury of the man in unit 5. He starts dressing almost entirely in black: black jeans, black hoodie, black steel-toed boots laced high up his shins like a gladiator's armoured greaves.
It won't be the end of his conflict with the law, but along with heavy doses of Tylenol 3s and marijuana, martial arts become a way to help Gabriel keep the monster inside.
Gabriel is 21 years old
Gabriel is released on probation with the condition that he enrol in a sex offender treatment program. Notes from his probation officer, Colleen Geddes, say he is doing well.
Gabriel “seems proud of himself. He is staying sober and learning to control his anger,” Geddes's notes say.
His first child is born, a son, though it isn't long before Gabriel and his mother have a falling out. His son goes to live with his maternal grandmother, and Gabriel doesn't see much of him.
His penchant for minor crimes continues, with a number of arrests for thefts under $5,000 and probation breaches, but his violence and drinking appear largely under control.
In the early hours of Dec. 5, 1999, Gabriel is picked up by the RCMP and brought to the ER after being sexually assaulted by an unknown person in the Kwanlin Dün village.
His clothing is collected for evidence, though no one is ever charged. The hospital conducts an examination with a rape kit and discovers a ragged laceration almost five centimetres long between his legs.
Probation officer Geddes writes in her notes that after the sexual assault Gabriel “took it hard,” and started drinking heavily again.
A month later he's dragged unconscious from a car by RCMP officers after going off the road and crashing into a telephone pole.
Gabriel is 22 years old
He starts dating Marie Wilcott, and moves in with her and her daughter.
One evening Marie wants to go partying, and leaves Gabriel at home with her daughter. When she comes back late that night, Gabriel is angry. They get into an argument, and Marie tries to leave.
Gabriel chases her into the street. He pulls her by her hair, screaming, back inside the kitchen. Her daughter is hiding in the next room.
The police are called. They find Gabriel in the basement, trying to hide in a clothes dryer. He is charged with assault and uttering threats.
After the assault Marie leaves Whitehorse with her daughter and moves to Vancouver. Like too many Indigenous women fleeing violence, mother and daughter are homeless for a while until Marie gets back on her feet. Now she helps teach colonial history and the legacies of Canada's treatment of Indigenous people to outreach workers in the Downtown East Side.
Meanwhile case notes from the Whitehorse jail say Gabriel is a “high risk for suicide.” He's placed in solitary confinement.
A case note from April 24, 2001, written by an unidentified jail employee, says Gabriel is asking repeatedly for gym time.
“He asked to see me in my office and before I could ask what he wanted he burst into tears. I ended up spending an hour and a half with him between the yard and my office, and most of that time he cried,” the note says.
Gabriel is 33 years old
A case note from his probation officer in 2004 hints Gabriel may be getting paid to fight in illegal bare-knuckle boxing matches.
His health records from 2005 say he's brought unresponsive to the hospital by ambulance, eyes rolling back in his head. He'd been in a fight the previous day, and was kicked multiple times in the head. He tells doctors he collapsed in the shower.
He has two more children, daughters with two mothers, but is only peripherally involved in their lives.
His criminal record continues to grow. He's arrested and charged multiple times for assaulting another girlfriend, and rotates in and out of jail.
In 2008 he arrives, yet again, at the hospital emergency room. He claims he was beaten up by the RCMP while in custody. “Smashed head against cement wall, dragged across floor, slammed head into floor,” the intake record says.
Notes from his probation officer say he was brought in on an outstanding warrant and was “resisting arrest.”
During this time Gabriel's probation officer convinces him to start seeing a counsellor, Joseph Graham. Over time, Gabriel tells Graham the full extent of the sexual abuse he's suffered. It's one of the first times Gabriel names the thing that's torturing him.
After the sessions with Graham, Gabriel decides to do two things: charge his uncle with sexual assault, and sue the Yukon government over what he says J.V. and Above 60 did to him.
Gabriel is 35 years old
On the morning of his uncle's trial, Gabriel dresses in white track pants and sneakers. His armour — the heavy rings, steel-toed boots, black hoodie — is gone. Pinned to his sleeve is a tiny metal cross. He stands in his apartment, staring out the window, not speaking. Tupac Shakur's “The Way It Is” blasts from the stereo, shaking the thin windowpanes.
On the stand, exposed, Gabriel struggles to maintain his composure, especially under cross-examination. He bristles at every question from his uncle's defence lawyer. He argues with the judge. As soon as his testimony is finished, he stands and bolts from the courtroom.
In the witness room, behind closed doors, he presses his fists into his eyes.
“There are no more words for this,” he tells a court support worker, his shoulders shaking. “I've used them all up.”
Tears stream down Gabriel's face, landing on the black T-shirt stretched tight across his chest.
There is a knock at the door. The court sheriff pokes his head in to let Gabriel know that his uncle and family has gone. Gabriel walks out of the courthouse and into the spring sunshine. He strides three blocks to a nearby church, checks his pockets for change for the donation jar, and walks inside.
The rows of pews are empty, silent. Gabriel tiptoes towards the altar. He crosses himself, kneels and clasps his hands together.
“Thank you, Lord, for giving me the strength …” he begins, his voice trailing off to a murmur. For 15 minutes he stays almost motionless, head bowed.
“I prayed for my uncle,” he says, back outside the church. “I prayed for his forgiveness and for the family. I prayed for forgiveness, too, for all the people I hurt, and for the family, all of them. You have to. God will judge all of us one day.”
A week passes.
“Hey, brother,” Gabriel says, looking up to the sky and waving. At the sound, the eagle dips its wings and scans the man in black, walking along the road beside McIntyre Creek.
It's a good omen, Gabriel says. Eagles always are. That's why Gabriel comes here, to this little strip of marshland wedged into a canyon just off the Alaska Highway. There are eagles everywhere, often a half-dozen at a time. Coming here is a ritual Gabriel has been practising since childhood in one of the only places he feels calm.
Gabriel doesn't know it yet, but the case against his uncle is about to be thrown out. Gabriel urges a potential witness to come to court and back up his story. He loses his temper when the witness says no.
The Crown decides to withdraw its case.
Walking beneath the eagles in the canyon, unburdened by that knowledge, Gabriel says he can feel the crushing weight of his past lifted away on the winds.
“It feels like the freedom I didn't get, the happiness, the peacefulness,” he says. “Where no one could f---ing touch you or punch you or lock you behind some f---ing door.”
It's been more than two years since Gabriel first came forward about his uncle, two years since his family threw him out and disowned him for it, he says. Gabriel figures they were afraid of being tainted by the shame he says he wanted to expose.
“I wanted to be ordinary, like every other kid. I wanted to finish school, do good things, have my own house and a vehicle for my kids. But it was never like that,” he says. “It's still not like that.”
Days later Gabriel's probation officer finally gives him the news that his uncle was not convicted.
He starts drinking again. Weeks pass. Gabriel is nowhere to be seen. Loud music reverberates from inside his apartment, but there's no answer to a knock at the door.
At 6 a.m. one morning, a reporter's phone rings. Gabriel is on the other end of the line. “Hey. What's goin' on?” he says, his customary greeting. He sounds dopey and confused.
An hour later, Gabriel stumps down the stairs from his apartment. He sways, and crashes into the doorframe. Fresh, red scars run down his arms. His knuckles are ravaged and evidence of a fight is written across his face. He winces and holds his sides. He thinks his ribs might be broken.
He got jumped, he says, by a couple guys from the Kwanlin Dün village. There was a baseball bat, he says. There were boots.
He won't say exactly what happened, who started the fight or why.
“This place is death, man,” he says. “It's f---ing evil. I need to get out of here.”
Gabriel is 36 years old
He is leaning against a hotel room windowsill, staring out at the neon night. Vancouver's Granville St. and the entertainment district stretch out before him. It's early evening, but university students are already starting to fill the bar-lined street.
In the morning, he'll see Marie Wilcott, the woman he assaulted, for the first time in more than a decade.
After his uncle's trial, word reached Marie in Vancouver. She says she knew Gabriel's early life had been hard, but she had no idea how hard.
“It totally broke my heart,” she says.
Despite their violent history, she decided to reach out.
A friend at the Kwanlin Dün First Nation offices told Gabriel about a college program in Vancouver. It's a course in auto mechanics, and it's designed specifically for older Indigenous students like Gabriel.
Gabriel flies to the city to visit Marie.
On the SkyTrain from the airport, Gabriel stares out the window, arms clasped tight around his chest. He spends most of the day walking around Vancouver, staring up at the skyscrapers but saying little. Finally, he's standing outside the downtown Shoppers Drug Mart, the appointed meeting place, but at first he won't go in. Finally, he steps forward as the automatic doors open.
Marie is standing inside, waiting. When she sees him, her face is unreadable. Gabriel waves faintly. Marie walks forward, her high-heeled boots rapping on the shopping mall floor. By the time they meet, Gabriel is laughing and Marie is smiling broadly. She links her arm through his and leads him back out to the parking lot.
They climb into her van and drive, winding through the city but not really seeing it, lost in talk. She drops Gabriel at Vancouver Community College for his meeting. The head of admissions tells him he needs to get his high school diploma and improve some grades. Gabriel gets a tour of the auto mechanic shop. He shakes hands with the head instructor, and walks out smiling.
The day ends at Jericho Beach, as the sun is setting over the city skyline. Marie and Gabriel walk along the sand. Gabriel pulls a joint from his pocket and walks alone towards a breakwater. Marie watches him go.
“I don't think honestly in my heart that his family ever wanted to treat him like that,” she says.
“But that's what was learned. That's what was taught through residential schools. Now we have generations of people in their 20s and 30s struggling and wondering why this happened to me.
“Will Gabriel ever get why that happened? That's huge stuff. Who knows if that ever happens?” she says.
She pauses, watching Gabriel standing alone and staring out across the water.
“There's no timeline on this. All I can say is pure patience. Pure understanding of what's going on. Aboriginal people are speaking up about this now, and we're doing it slowly. It took 200 years to do us wrong. It's going to take 200 years to get better.”
The ocean laps softly at the beach. Seagulls wheel in the sky.
“I want Gabriel to find some peace,” she says, finally. “Find happiness. There is happiness in him. There is a good guy in there that deserves to live a good life.”
Present day. Gabriel is 39 years old
After speaking with the admissions staff at Vancouver Community College, Gabriel returns to Whitehorse, enrols in classes at Yukon College and, though it is occasionally a struggle, earns his high school diploma.
He starts spending more time with his children, going on shopping trips with his daughter and driving his son to school each day.
Things appear to be improving for him, but as potential trial dates for his lawsuit over J.V.'s alleged abuse are set and rescheduled repeatedly, his anxiety begins to rise.
He's arrested for assault, and ends up back inside the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. While he's unable to collect his social assistance cheques, the rent on his government subsidized apartment goes unpaid. When he is released on bail he finds an eviction notice taped to his door.
He gets into another fight — jumped again, he says, by three guys. He fights them off, smashing one in the head with a rock and spattering blood across his car's windshield.
The RCMP issues another warrant for Gabriel's arrest. He ends up living in his car for three months until the social assistance office gets the paperwork on his apartment sorted out. Eventually he turns himself in to the police, and is charged and released on recognizance pending another trial date.
The Yukon government puts a settlement offer on the table in his lawsuit against J.V. Gabriel rejects it, but when the government says it will put him on the stand in open court, and use his lengthy criminal history against him, he signs a settlement offer. He gets $19,000 in exchange for dropping the allegations about Above 60 entirely. The settlement includes no admission of wrongdoing by the government or J.V.
Most of the money goes to pay off debts that Gabriel has accumulated over the past few years. In no time he has only a few thousand dollars left.
In August 2017, Gabriel says his social assistance is cut off because his settlement money means he no longer qualifies. His toilet is broken. The heat doesn't work.
“I shouldn't have to use that settlement money,” he says.
“I nearly died for that money, and what did it get me?” he asks, looking around at the pockmarked walls of his apartment. “This? Is this what it got me?”
Domestic violence and research on its effects on children
by the Daily Nonpareil
A frequent question regarding domestic violence is whether or not it has a negative impact on children involved. Some hold the mistaken belief that many children are “too young” to be affected, or that since children are so resilient, they are not impacted as severely by the violence.
These beliefs are not only incorrect, but potentially dangerous, as the fact of the matter is that children who experience domestic violence — even those who are never directly abused themselves — suffer major consequences as a result.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study — a joint study by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — is just one tool which offers proof of the detrimental effects of abuse on children. The study, which gathers information by using a simple 10-question quiz, asks about various traumas experienced in one's childhood.
After the questionnaire is complete, the numbers from each question are then added together to indicate levels of risk for resulting negative repercussions.
For example, the higher a person's ACE score, the more likely they are to experience a range of negative effects from the trauma they experienced in childhood.
The ACE study found that children who are exposed to domestic violence, whether they are a primary or secondary victim, are likely to experience many difficulties — emotional, mental, social, and even physical — as a result of the abuse.
These children are more apt to struggle in school and in building healthy relationships with other children; they are also at a greater risk of developing mental and emotional illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
They are more likely to abuse alcohol and other substances later in life, as well as engage in high-risk sexual behaviors. There is even evidence that children impacted by abuse are more likely to suffer from heart disease, stroke, or cancer later in life.
It is undeniable that domestic violence can have life-altering effects on a child, but that doesn't mean the child can't successfully cope with and recover from it.
Studies show that having at least one healthy, loving relationship with a trusted adult can greatly increase a child's chance of recovery and well-being later in life, despite having suffered abuse.
Another helpful tool available to children is talk or play therapy. These structured, healthy interactions will provide an outlet for the child as well as help them process and work through any trauma they've experienced.
Although violence can have severe negative consequences for a child's mental, emotional, and physical well-being, it remains a fact that children are resilient and, with the appropriate guidance and assistance, can go on to live healthy and fulfilling lives.
Catholic Charities Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Program provides domestic violence and sexual abuse services to anyone faced with these issues through a 24-hour emergency shelter and crisis phone line, court advocacy, educational groups, job and housing assistance, and outreach to under-served populations.
The shelter provides safe, confidential living for up to eight families at a time. Prevention programs are also offered in high schools and through athletic programs.
Catholic Charities serves a nine-county area which includes Harrison, Pottawattamie, Mills, Fremont, Shelby, Audubon, Cass, Montgomery and Page counties in southwest Iowa.
Former firefighter reads letter to his 3-year-old child pornography victim during sentencing
by Emma Kennedy
Danny Ray Murphy was emotional as he read a letter to his victim in the minutes before he was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison Friday.
The 3-year-old boy, whose name Murphy still does not know, was repeatedly raped and both images and video of the abuse were sent to Murphy. The jury who convicted Murphy heard during trial that he had been messaging back and forth with the child's abuser on social media for months, asking for more images and video.
He planned with the abuser to meet to sexually assault the child together, and at one point suggested using the Santa Rosa County fire station where Murphy worked, because it had a soundproof room.
"Not only are you a victim, you're a survivor, and hopefully you never know what it is you survived," Murphy read during sentencing.
The chats started in late 2016 when Murphy responded to a Craigslist advertisement about sexual fantasies.
The conversation turned to sexually assaulting a young boy, and continued for months until Murphy's arrest. Undercover investigators arrested another man in connection to the crime, Charles McConnell, and took over his online identity to track down Murphy.
Murphy asked for leniency based on the fact he was a first responder, a former Marine and a man without a criminal history. Murphy likened himself to a computer program that runs efficiently during its whole life, but temporarily malfunctions.
But Chief District Judge M. Casey Rodgers didn't agree, calling it one of the saddest and most tragic cases she had seen. Rodgers and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Goldberg read portions of the chat messages between the child's attacker and Murphy, maintaining that even though Murphy did not physically touch the child, he solicited the production of child pornography in asking for more images.
During trial, Murphy took the stand and initially said he was only sending the messages in an attempt to save the child. He said he thought if he could arrange a meeting, he would be able to notify authorities.
Though, in sentencing, Murphy said he doesn't know why he committed the crimes.
"I can't begin to understand the depravity of mind and heart you have," Rodgers told Murphy.
Rodgers sentenced Murphy to the maximum allowed sentence for the crimes, which is 40 years. Upon release, he won't be allowed to own a computer, cellphone or use the internet, and he will be on lifetime supervision.
A third man charged in the same case, Jonah Authement, pleaded no contest to his charges this week. Authement also was charged with a slew of child pornography offenses for messaging back and forth with McConnell about meeting to sexually abuse the child. He also was arrested based on undercover investigators' messages to meet up for the acts.
Court records show Authement will be sentenced Dec. 14.
McConnell was charged with 38 offenses including sexual battery, promoting sexual performance of a child, and child pornography possession.
His case is still ongoing in Escambia County Court and his next docket day is scheduled in December.
Taking care of your child's emotional needs
by Katherine Baker
Unfortunately, all too often we hear stories in the media about children and teens being neglected. Neglect can take many forms, including lack of housing, food, and medical care, failure to teach basic personal care, and withholding love and affection. In neglect situations, the child's basic needs are not being met by the parent.
For many families there seems to be a “disconnect” between meeting a child's needs and strengthening the bonds of love, affection, care and support. Parents can neglect their children for multiple reasons – loss of a job causing financial strain, loss of public utilities, depression, parent inattention due to involvement with a love interest, addiction to cell phones, or abuse of alcohol and other substances.
As a school social worker, I see the effects of neglect every day. In this writer's opinion, emotional neglect may do the most damage.
Neglect can leave a permanent scar on a child's self-esteem and well-being. Self-esteem is defined as confidence in one's own worth or abilities and tends to fluctuate depending on what is going on in your life.
Children that are left alone, unsupervised, and don't have regular one-on-one time with a parent frequently have unmet emotional needs. They are not taught the importance of values, morals, and respect for self and others.
Spending quality time with your children should be a priority. However, many children and teens do not get this much-needed attention from parents. They are alone, unsupervised, and left to their own defenses.
On the other hand, children that have actively involved parents tend to have better self-esteem, make better decisions, are better able to respond to the stress of day-to-day living, and are able to verbalize their needs in a healthy manner. The time you spend with your children in elementary school, middle school and high school will promote healthy and responsible relationships.
A big part of parenting is being the parent and not your child's friend. In addition to spending quality time with children, parents should make rules and enforce them, give advice, show love, care, and respect, role model positive and encouraging behaviors and discipline when needed. If a parent is absent these skills are lost, as the child must meet his own needs and function as a mini-adult rather than a child.
Some children who are emotionally neglected become angry and sullen. Others become depressed, develop unhealthy dating relationships, demonstrate poor academic performance, and may show little respect for others or themselves. Showing your child you love them even when their behavior is troubling can go a long way toward building a healthy relationship.
If you are a parent, guardian, or caregiver, make time in your busy schedule - or better yet - eliminate some of the commitments you have and start nurturing and loving your children. Put down the cell phone and talk to your kids. Teach your children how to communicate face-to-face versus the push of a button. Give your children the love and attention we all need and make sure their basic needs are met. Their future - and their ability to relate to others in our world - depends on it.
This column is contributed by Katherine Baker, LCSW, LCAC, school social worker for Youth First, Inc., a local nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families. Youth First provides 39 Master's level social workers to 57 schools in seven southwestern Indiana counties. Over 60,000 youth and families per year are served by Youth First's school social work and afterschool programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors, and maximize student success.
New sex, labor trafficking law could make 'huge difference' in Salinas, advocated say
by Joe Szydlowski
A new law requiring hotels and other lodgings to post information on resources for victims of human trafficking could greatly help combat it in Salinas, advocates say.
"It really has the potential to make a huge difference," said Deborah Pembrook, an outreach advocate at the Monterey County Rape Crisis Center who specializes in human trafficking.
Over the weekend, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill, Assembly Bill 260. It requires all motels, hotels and other lodgings to prominently post resources available for victims of human trafficking in a community, said Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, (D-Los Angeles), who wrote the bill.
"(The law will) provide victims at various lodging places with crucial information that can lead to rescue and follow-up services," Santiago said in a press release.
Salinas' representatives, Assemblywoman Anna Caballero (D-30) and state Senator Anthony Cannella (R-12) , both voted for the bill.
The law is one of the best ways to help victims of human trafficking, said Pembrook, who also chairs the Coalition to End Human Trafficking in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties ' board.
"By far the most prevalent (form of trafficking) we see is sex trafficking. Much of that is hotel trafficking of children and adults," she said. "That can happen at hotels of every economic level."
That's because the victims are controlled using several methods.
The traffickers, also known as pimps, typically target vulnerable people, Pembrook said.
"That could be adults who are vulnerable, could be a youth from anywhere in the community. Especially vulnerable are are kids involved in foster care, youths who experience some form of violence, LGBT youth," she said. "(Traffickers) are looking for an opportunity to make a profit by controlling people who, in some way, they're able to make vulnerable."
Just earlier this year, a Seaside man was found guilty of trafficking two teen girls for prostitution in Salinas.
In 2015, the victims, then 17-years-old, accepted a ride from Jerry Nickens Stringer Jr., 28, to go to a beach in the Monterey Peninsula area and visit friends, according to the Monterey County District Attorney's Office.
Instead, Stringer drove the girls to East Market Street and Kern Avenue in Salinas where he coerced them into walking the streets and offering sex for money.
He also took them to his mother's apartment in Seaside where he posed and photographed the girls in sexual positions. He then used those photos to create advertisements soliciting for sex on a website called Backpage, according to the DA's Office.
Stringer also rented a Seaside motel room for the girls to have sex for money.
At one point, the girls were able to walk from East Market Street to Hartnell College where they called a friend to pick them up, and Stringer was later arrested.
Officials are still working on surveys to gauge how many people in Monterey County are victims of human trafficking. But Pembrook said she's pieced together from anecdotes and interviews with victims that hotels play a key role in trafficking, she said.
Sometimes it's sex trafficking taking place at the hotel. Sometimes it's labor trafficking, such as driving them back-and-forth between the fields and the hotel, she said. Some traffickers move around from area to area.
While the trafficker may not be in the same room as the victim, he may be monitoring them from across the hall or elsewhere, Pembrook said.
Traffickers also tell the victims they'll face arrest or deportation if they come forward.
"They also use very deep coercion," she said. "We want to give survivors the tools to combat that coercion."
Research has shown the posters are one of the best ways to stop trafficking because they deliver the information directly to the victims where they're living, she said.
"At their core, the person who rescues the survivor is the survivor themselves," Pembrook said. "If we look at all the different interventions all over the country... the most effective way for getting this information to people being trafficked is poster info."
The law requires the information on resources to be in English, Spanish and a third language, Santiago said.
It takes effect Jan. 1.