Special court seeks to aid teen sex-trafficking victims with support and rehabilitation
by Kristina Davis
A few weeks ago, a small group of people who represent various corners of the juvenile justice system gathered around a table with stacks of case files ready to review.
The files contained the institutional history of girls or boys who were already deep into their victimization of being trafficked for sex or showed the telltale signs of being at risk. Their involvement in commercial sexual exploitation may have been more obvious, such as being caught in a hotel room with an older man and condoms. Or more subtle, perhaps a runaway addicted to drugs and arrested for shoplifting.
The group was looking for the first round of potential candidates to participate in a special intervention court dedicated to providing skills, treatment, education and mentoring to change the destructive and traumatizing path many of the youth are on. It's called RISE Court, which stands for Resiliency Is Strength and Empowerment.
It took the group — a prosecutor, judge, public defender, probation officer, social worker — a year to get to this point. And on Nov. 6, youngsters — most likely girls — chosen to participate are expected to make their first appearances before San Diego Superior Court Judge Carolyn Caietti in the inaugural hearing.
“A lot of kids have this horrible, nightmarish existence, and it's going to take a lot to get them back so they're going to feel they've recovered their self-worth and sense of security,” said Robert Trentacosta, presiding judge for the Juvenile Court.
The program will start with just a few at first, but the goal is to eventually enroll 40.
Unfortunately, that probably won't be difficult, said Caietti.
“It's my understanding that we will not have a problem long term trying to fill the spots,” she said.
For the girls who intersect the juvenile justice system in San Diego County, the statistics are grim. An estimated 70 percent are either at risk for commercial sexual exploitation or already involved, authorities said.
The special court is the county's latest weapon against human trafficking, an issue that has grown into one of the region's leading public safety and social causes.
A study by University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University set out to quantify the problem in the county and estimated an average of 5,000 victims — mostly teenage girls and young women. The average age of entry into the lifestyle is 16, and foster youth are particularly vulnerable, the study found.
The results, released in 2015, confirmed what case workers on the field and in the courts were seeing and launched an energized effort to attack the problem from all angles.
There are several intervention courts already in San Diego County — drug court, mental health court, military veteran court, homeless court — designed to address the underlying issues rather than focus on the crime itself, a major tenant of the restorative justice movement.
While those concepts may still be somewhat novel when it comes to the adult criminal justice system, they lie at the heart of what happens behind the closed doors of Juvenile Court, which are generally not open to the viewing public.
“The goal is to rehabilitate the youth,” said Trentacosta. “With that as the North star, the rest falls into place very, very quickly. What is it that can be done, what does the child and the family need, in order for this kid to be successful and for society to be protected.
“What we've found is that a collaborative approach where everybody wants the same thing has proven to be very, very powerful.”
That approach has appeared to pay off in San Diego County and around the state. Here, the number of youths supervised by the county Probation Department has declined by nearly 40 percent between 2012 and 2016, according to the San Diego Association of Governments. The arrest rate and Juvenile Hall population has also plummeted as authorities embrace early intervention and rehabilitative services.
So when Caietti, who spent the past 10 of 11 years as a judge in the juvenile division, suggested a court to address the specific needs of underage sex-trafficking victims, it was not hard to get everyone else on board.
The court is modeled after a mental health court already in operation. Caietti and others also visited similar sex-trafficking courts in Los Angeles and Sacramento, as well as got input from sex-trafficking survivors about what they would have liked to see in such a program.
Jobs, empowerment and improved self-esteem were some of the answers, Caietti said.
The program is voluntary, and having the kid and the family buy-in will be important.
“Most of these folks are living lives of somewhat quiet desperation, and finally when their secret is out, there can be a sense of relief,” Trentacosta said.
“Some of the girls, not so much. Some are so fearful of their pimp they have to be convinced they are in fact going to be protected. Some of the girls, it's more than they can wrap their head around. They have very mixed feelings; this person may be showing them affection and giving gifts.”
Those who do sign up will be connected with several services as part of an individualized plan. Education and job skills, mental health counseling or trauma therapy, substance abuse rehabilitation, and other programs will be stressed. Participants will be partnered with a mentor who will be a positive role model and a listening ear. There might be special housing needs to remove the child from a negative environment or family counseling.
Progress reports will be given in monthly hearings before the judge.
Graduation depends on the individual, and it doesn't necessarily mean once they turn 18.
“Case by case they will ease out. Some respond really well and very quickly get squared away, other kids have really, really deep horrific things they have to overcome,” Trentacosta said. “Our hope is to terminate jurisdiction when you're ready. Seal their record so they get a fresh start and so no stigma is attached to what they've been through.”
But challenges are anticipated, especially with this unique population, said Mary Beth Wirkus, juvenile branch chief for the Public Defender's Office.
“They may be acting a certain way, running away and putting themselves in very unsafe situations. How do you balance protecting them and providing services for them? How do you not judge them or punish them because they are victims, but they are also making bad decisions?
“It's going to be tricky.”
Deputy District Attorney Fanny Yu, who has worked on sex-trafficking cases for several years, agreed that comes with the territory.
“They are going to violate probation, sure. Going to possibly run away, sure,” Yu said. “It's realizing that some of those behaviors are stemming from the process of healing. That's the perspective we have to come from.”
Let's talk to our kids about healthy relationships
by Lisa Schulze and Christon MacTaggart
Let's be real. Having conversations about sex and relationships with your children can be awkward and uncomfortable. Maybe you remember squirming through talks with your parents and you're nervous about getting it right with your children. That's normal. Just remember, these talks matter.
October is "Let's Talk Month" and " Domestic Violence Awareness Month " — the perfect time to make the connection between healthy sexuality and emotional, physical and sexual abuse in dating relationships.
Research shows that nine out of 10 teens say it would be easier for them to postpone sex and avoid pregnancy and STDs if they were able to have more open, honest conversations with their parents. And while one in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend, a majority of parents — 58 percent — could not correctly identify all the warning signs of abuse.
Many youth are afraid to tell friends or family about abuse with an intimate partner, including sexual abuse or coercion to engage in sexual activity they do not want. Without support, many of these relationships continue and will escalate in severity and frequency of abuse. In approximately one-third of domestic violence related arrests in Douglas County, the victim was under the age of 25.
This is where talking makes a difference. Engage youth in conversations about these issues in ways they can relate. Allow them to ask questions and be curious. As parents, we are the primary educators of our children, so it's important that conversations cover vital topics like consent, healthy relationships and dating.
Here are some tips:
• Use door openers like, “That's a good question,” or “Tell me more about what you know about that.” Avoid door closers like, “You're too young to ask that.”
• Point out examples of healthy and unhealthy relationships and consent in the media.
• Believe young people and believe IN young people. They are more likely to come forward if we aren't afraid to discuss sexuality.
• Teach youth to critically examine gender role stereotypes. Strict gender norms about what it means to be feminine or masculine have expectations that can contribute to sexual violence.
• Encourage relationships between your child and other trusted adults. Be that person for others. Youth need supportive adults in their lives.
Youth crave these conversations, even if they don't act like it and even if the conversation can initially be difficult. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adults talk to youth as early as age 9 about sex. Children who are comfortable setting boundaries with how they are treated and with their body grow into teenagers and adults who are comfortable setting those same boundaries in their dating relationships.
As adults, it's our responsibility to ensure all youth have access to age-appropriate and complete information — even if we have to step outside our comfort zone. A Family Communications Toolkit with additional resources is available at www.BirdsBeesandSTDs.com . You can learn more about warning signs of abuse in youth at www.loveisrespect.org .
Early childhood adversities linked to health problems in tweens, teens
Study is first to point to brain changes that underlie poor heath in some children
by Jim Dryden
Adverse experiences in childhood — such as the death of a parent, growing up in poverty, physical or sexual abuse, or having a parent with a psychiatric illness — have been associated with physical and mental health problems later in life. But new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has shown that multiple adverse experiences in early childhood are linked to depression and physical health problems in kids as young as 9 to 15. Further, the researchers have identified a potential pathway in the brain to explain how such stressful experiences influence poor health in kids.
The researchers found that a key brain structure involved in regulating emotions and decision-making is smaller in kids who have lived through three or more adverse experiences before the age of 8, compared with kids whose lives were more stable. Young children who faced multiple adverse experiences also were 15 percent more likely to develop severe depression by their preteen and early teen years and 25 percent more likely to have physical health problems, such as asthma and gastrointestinal disorders. Due to the health problems, these kids were more likely to miss school.
The new findings are published Oct. 30 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
“We did not expect we would see health problems in children so young,” said senior investigator and Washington University child psychiatrist Joan L. Luby, MD . “Our findings demonstrate how powerful the psychosocial environment can be. A child's brain doesn't develop based solely on its genetic infrastructure. It's influenced by the stresses of poverty, violence, the loss of a parent, and other adverse experiences, which together can have serious health consequences evident as early as the teen and preteen years.”
The study involved 119 children, who were ages 3 to 6 when the project began. The researchers tracked adverse experiences in the kids' lives — which also included experiences such as natural disasters, a parent's arrest, or a parent with a serious illness requiring hospitalization. The children in the study averaged more than five such experiences before the age of 8.
The researchers also performed multiple MRI brain scans of these children when they were ages 6 to 13. The first scans, performed when the children reached school age, showed that the inferior frontal gyrus was smaller in children who had more adverse experiences. The researchers also determined that the structure appears to be part of a pathway through which the stresses of adverse childhood experiences may influence mental and physical health.
“People exposed to adversity early in life experience changes in the volume of the inferior frontal gyrus that probably can make children more vulnerable to behavioral issues and bad decision-making,” theorized Luby, director of Washington University's Early Emotional Development Program . “We suspect that such changes are associated with issues such as poor diet, risky and more dangerous behavior and generally not taking very good care of yourself, and overall, this contributes to poorer mental and physical health outcomes.”
Previous research has connected adverse childhood experiences to problems such as cancer, heart disease and mental illness in older people, but no one had looked at whether those stressful experiences are linked to health problems in adolescents. And until now, researchers had not been able to explain how such experiences could contribute to poor health in these kids.
The researchers found that when kids had three or more adverse experiences, they also had smaller brain volumes that, in turn, were associated with lower scores on a scale that measures how well a child expresses emotions. Poor emotional expression has been associated with depression and worse social and emotional outcomes.
Such children also had more physical health problems. Parents reported that kids who had more adverse experiences were more likely to have significant health problems that appeared to affect school attendance.
In earlier research, Luby, who also is the Samuel and Mae S. Ludwig Professor of Psychiatry, found that kids can be resilient and, with nurturing parenting, may be able to overcome individual stressors such as poverty or the loss of a parent. This new research indicates that when kids accumulate multiple stressors, the experiences pile up and cause problems early in their lives, and family members and doctors need to be aware of the powerful influence of these psychosocial risks so that kids can get the help they need.
Luby added that the study could alter the way doctors and researchers think about the development of disease.
“We know toxins in the environment can contribute to disease, but this study suggests that kids can experience physical and mental health problems from exposure to psychosocial ‘toxins,' too,” she said.
Luby and her colleagues plan to continue tracking the health of these children as they grow into adulthood. Meanwhile, the researchers also are beginning a multidisciplinary study to follow pregnant women and their infants to see whether psychosocial stressors and adversity experienced during pregnancy and the first three years of a child's life also affect brain development and overall health.
Selling Boys: The other victims of sex trafficking
by Liz Crawford
About 100,000-300,000 American children are at risk of being trafficked for sex each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice
While the majority of those victims are girls, boys are also being trafficked every day. Some studies estimate 10-15 percent of sex trafficked children are boys, but statistics vary because sex trafficking is not always reported.
According to the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking , there are some key differences between female and male victims. The most common age of girls who are sex trafficked is between 14 and 16, but it's likely younger for male victims.
Some experts believe up to 50 percent of male victims in Florida are transgender.
"By and large, these are runaways but they're also what you would call, throwaway kids. It's a terrible term, but really what that means is many of these boys that are trafficked are either gay, bisexual or even transgender," said Geoff Rogers, CEO of U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking.
Rogers described situations when a boy tells his family he's either gay or transgender, and is then kicked out of his home and left on the streets. Traffickers thrive at finding runaways and they know where to look. Next thing you know, the boy is selling himself in exchange for food, drugs or a place to stay.
The business model is also different from male to female victims. The girls are typically manipulated and tend to "love" their pimp. The boys don't always have a middle-man. Instead, they're on their own using sex as a means to survive.
"They believe that they're the ones in control, they're on the street, they don't know where else to go, they need food, they need clothing, they need shelter, maybe they want drugs, and so they themselves think they're in control of the situation and engage in that sexual transaction," Rogers said.
Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Should be Able to Report It as Adults, Says Kanimozhi. But There's Just One Condition
by Sharanya Gopinathan
DMK MP Kanimozhi has said that she will push Parliament for the removal of the statute of limitations for reporting crimes of child sexual abuse. This comes on the back of a September 7th Change.org petition started by a Canadian researcher called Purnima Govindarajalu, who asked the government for adult survivors of abuse to be allowed to report child sex abuse to the police.
The petition mentions Govindarajalu's own experience with child sexual abuse at the hands of her cousin's husband, who performed forced oral sex on her, and her belief (which Kanimozhi has also espoused to reporters) that children often don't understand what happens to them, and want or are able to report the crime only much later.
Currently, under the POCSO Act, the law says that adults who were abused as children can report child sex abuse, but Govindarajalu's case throws up some interesting complications. The POCSO Act, which was enacted after 2012, allows people to report such crimes as adults, but only about instances that took place after 2012. Meaning that all those who were abused as children before 2012 can't claim legal relief as it stands, as what happened to them wasn't codified as child sex abuse at the time.
Similarly, penetration by finger and tongue also did not come under the definition of rape until the major 2013 amendment to the IPC, so in this case, Govindarajalu's alleged rapist would only be tried for molestation.
That being said, it becomes really difficult to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that a person is guilty of a crime like rape or sexual abuse when it's reported only decades later, as it becomes nearly impossible to collect sufficient evidence either way.
'Sentencing for paedophiles is a joke'- survivor on the devastating and lasting impact of child abuse
by Shaneda Daly
I am writing this letter in response to the sentence handed down to Tom Humphries.
As usual in this country the sentencing of paedophiles and sexual predators is a joke.
As a person who was sexually abused myself and groomed all my childhood and went on to press charges against my father, Harry Daly, I'd like to give some insight of how it affect a person's life.
My father is currently serving time in Arbour Hill prison for his crimes.
My abuse began when I was six and continued until just before I turned 18.
To the outside world I was just the same as any other child. I showed no obvious signs of the hell I was going through at home. From a very young age my father called me his princess. He made me feel like I was his favourite and he loved me more then anyone else, he never threatened me not to tell, instead he told me he would be the one to be taken away. Only now I realise that in itself was a threat to a young child.
I lived two lives. I always thought of abuse as violent and that's where I was wrong.
I was groomed and totally under his control; at least once a day I would be sexually abused and most days it was a couple of time a day.
As I got my teenage years I started to hate what was happening, I kept asking him could it stop and he told me it was all ok...he just wanted to show me how to enjoy sex.
I never got to have a normal teenage life. I hated sex. I never got to have sex with my boyfriend when I was 16 as I thought it was so disgusting. Unlike all my friends who were experiencing normal teenage sexual activities like losing their virginity, I had lost mine many years before.
My abuse stopped when I moved out of home during the night to get away from him. I lived in fear of this continuing into my adult years.
About this time I spoke out the the gardaí about my abuse and my mother was informed. My father left the family home to seek help. During this my mother stood by him and visited him while he was gone from the family home.
This is when the confusion started to get more life-changing.
My whole childhood was becoming a living nightmare. I couldn't understand why no one was defending me.
So after a year she told me he had had therapy and was moving back home. I didn't know what yo do. It was 1992 and I had no family on this side of the country and no where to go, so I just went along with their plans and it was never talked about again.
We all acted like nothing had happened.. it was never spoken about again.
I went onto have my own family, we all acted normal until I was 26 and my father tried to groom me again. He sexually assaulted me again but this time I stood up to him. I left the house, I told my mother, yet she stayed with him. I continued to speak to my mother but I never saw my father after that day.
I felt such a fool, it took me many years to realise I has been groomed and that was the control he had over me.
It was 2010 when I pressed charges against my father.
He was charged with 227 sample charges, 100 sample charges of rape alone. but I had never looked at it as rape before but that's because I was groomed.
The day my father went in on remand the sergeant in charge of the case rang me to say my father was in prison and when I got off the phone I think I went into shock. I started to imagine my poor father walking through the prison corridors and being put into a cell, I felt such pity for him.
It took me until that night to sort out my thoughts - this is when I realised the devastating effects of being groomed.
My father would go onto to be sentenced to 15 years in prison with five years suspended due to his guilty plea.
My mother stood by him, nearly all my mother's family turned against me. But my sister and my brother stood by me.
However, I went into a massive depression and isolated myself from life. It was the loneliest four years of my life.
I took on the biggest fight of my life which was my metal health. I fought so hard to get where I am today, in the the last year I can feel myself coming back to myself.
The heartache I went through all because my father thought it was OK to have sexual relations with his daughter, a little child and because my mother stood by this man, I felt so unwanted and so unloved. It took me so many years to get over this trauma and find myself.
And I have..well nearly...I still feel I've a little but more to go..
And yet just as I get back to myself my father will be released next year.
I'm now content and happy with my life. I love my six children and I love my two grandsons. I just figure if I do the opposite to my parents I will do an amazing job..
For the past year and a half I have been running a support page on Facebook called Survivors Side by Side.
It's for anyone that has been abused and also family and friends. I found it such a lonely road to walk and just wanted to help in anyway I could, just to have someone at the other end of the phone might help.
CNY advocate: Famous 'Me Too' child abuse survivors are a good role model for kids
by Douglass Dowty
Syracuse, NY -- An executive at Onondaga County's child advocacy center said the recent flood of "Me Too" stories can only be a positive for children dealing with sex abuse.
The national trend hit Central New York in a big way when former Cicero-North Syracuse basketball star Breanna Stewart penned a "Me Too" essay revealing she was abused as a child.
Colleen Merced, associate director of Syracuse's McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center, said having someone "really famous" come forward sends the message to others that they're not alone.
"It helps a child not feel guilt and to speak up," Merced said. "I think it's positive when (famous people) show no shame."
More cultural acceptance of survivors coming forward has helped, even before the Me Too phenomenon, Merced said.
Children helped by McMahon/Ryan have gone up from 699 in 2016 to more than 1,000 this year, Merced said. She attributed that increase to more of a willingness to report abuse, not an increase in number of children actually being abused.
She rattled off two other well-known stats: an American is sexually assaulted once every 98 seconds and 1 in 10 children will be abused.
So Me Too has come as education about abuse is changing cultural norms. But it is also pushing the conversation forward, Merced said.
McMahon/Ryan had a Me Too-like moment last year, when Kathryn Bailey told her story of being raped by her brother every week for four years.
"I'm not a victim anymore," Bailey told a crowd of supporters, advocates and media at the center in April 2016.
But having a famous person -- Merced didn't mention Stewart by name -- resonates even more with children who look up to that role model.
"As a culture, it takes people to say enough is enough and know it's not OK," Merced said. She said it takes courageous people to go public.
Bailey, like Stewart, could have their names tied to sexual abuse on the Internet for the rest of their lives. But it doesn't define them, Merced pointed out.
Going forward, Merced said she hoped that more boys and men would feel comfortable talking about being abused -- a stigma of its own -- and that advocates can use the momentum of Me Too to keep child sex abuse in the public consciousness after the stories die down.
She didn't have an issue with Me Too encompassing such a wide variety of sexually motivated acts, from workplace harassment to spousal abuse to rape.
Vera House handles adult victims of abuse by domestic partners, not McMahon/Ryan. And workplace harassment is a different kind of problem.
"It all falls into the same category of abuse against somebody," Merced said.
How To Stop Child Abuse: List of Resources
by Carrie Hodgin
(List on site)
25 children died at the hand of a parent or caregiver in North Carolina in 2013 (the latest data available by the state).
But you can help stop child abuse in its tracks by knowing the signs, symptoms, and reporting it. Here's a list of resources provided by the North Carolina Department of Social Services along with contact information. Also you'll find a list of resources for children in need of foster parents in NC.
Reporting Suspected Abuse or Neglect
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, or think a child could have died from being mistreated, you must report what you know to the county Department of Social Services. This is according to the law. Do not be afraid to report it as long as you are acting in good faith, you cannot be held liable.
Types of Child Abuse
Physical Abuse - injuring a child by hitting, kicking, shaking, or burning, etc. him/her; also includes throwing objects at the child.
Emotional Maltreatment - crushing a child's spirit with degrading derogatory verbal attacks, threats, or humiliation.
Sexual Abuse - sexual contact with a child (incest, inappropriate touching, rape); pornographic use of a child.
Neglect - failure to provide for a child s physical or emotional needs (food, clothing, shelter, medical care, physical or emotional attention); failure to provide guidance or supervision, abandonment.
Recognizing Child Abuse
Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance;
Displays overt sexualized behavior or exhibits sexual knowledge that is inconsistent with their age;
Has not received medical attention for a physical injury that has been brought to the parents' attention;
Has learning problems that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes;
Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen;
Is overly compliant, an overachiever, or too responsible;
Comes to school early, stays late, and does not want to go home; or
Has unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes;
Has bruises or marks in non-prominent, “fleshy” areas of the body (for example, inside of biceps or behind the knees);
Has fading bruises or other marks noticeable after an absence from school;
Seems frightened of the parents and protests or cries when it is time to go home from school;
Shrinks at the approach of adults;
Reports injury by a parent or another adult caregiver.
The Parent or Other Adult Caregiver:
Shows little concern for the child, rarely responding to the school's requests for information, for conferences, or for home visits; denies the existence of or blames the child for) the child's problems in school or at home; asks the classroom teacher to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves; sees the child entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome;
Demands perfection or a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve;
Offers conflicting, unconvincing, or no explanation for the child's injury;
Describes the child as "evil," or in some other very negative way;
Is abusing alcohol, prescription drugs or illegal drugs and that abuse is having an adverse impact on the child;
Uses harsh physical discipline with the child; or
Has a history of abuse as a child.
Recognizing Child Neglect
Begs or steals food or money from classmates;
Lacks needed medical or dental care;
Lacks age appropriate adult supervision ;
Lacks clothing appropriate for the weather;
Reports family violence in the home;
Reports use of illegal substances or excessive use of alcohol by parents or caregivers (for example, to the point the parent passes out);
Abuses alcohol or other drugs; or
States there is no one at home to provide care.
The Parent or Other Adult Caregiver:
Appears to be indifferent to the child;
Seems apathetic or depressed;
Is involved in an abusive domestic relationship;
Behaves irrationally or in a bizarre manner; or
Is abusing alcohol, prescription drugs or illegal drugs.
For Parents Who Need Help
Asking for help is a sign of strength. Call Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina at 1-800-CHILDREN. They can put you in touch with someone who can offer support and help. Or contact your:
Family Physician or Pediatrician
Mental Health Center
1-800-4-A-CHILD a National Child Abuse Hotline)
You should report child abuse to DSS.
Become A Foster Parent
Every month in 2016, the number of children in the foster care system increased dramatically. At the end of last year, there were over 10,500 children in the North Carolina foster care system in need of adoption, according to the Children's Home Society of North Carolina.
“Foster care and adoption are in a state of crisis,” said Brian Maness, President, and CEO of Children's Home Society of North Carolina.
Read: NC Foster Care, Adoption In A State Of Crisis
The Children's Home Society of North Carolina hopes that by raising public awareness, they will be able to help find the right family for all the amazing kids in the system.
Ready to take the next step?
Attend an optional information meeting.
Download the Adoption/Foster Care Application Packet.
Complete the required North Carolina Foster Parent Orientation. If there are two applicants, both applicants must complete the orientation and attach a copy of their certificates with their application or hand deliver at the time of the initial interview.
What are the requirements to be a foster or adoptive parent?
You may be married or single
Must be at least 21 years old
May or may not have birth or other children
Need to have sufficient income for the needs of your own current family
Must provide children with their own bed, and adequate drawer and closet space for their personal belongings
Must live in the state of North Carolina
You are required to complete annual training to maintain your foster care license
For more information on adoption click here.
For more information on foster care click here.
Research finds substance abuse varies widely in association with child abuse, neglect
by Mike Krings
Alcohol and other drug use are regularly linked to child abuse or neglect in families, but simply assuming the former causes the latter is not taking a deep enough look. A University of Kansas professor has authored a pair of studies examining how a range of parental alcohol and substance use behaviors are related to abusive and neglectful parenting behaviors and argues that a more thorough understanding can help address the associated problems to better serve families.
Research has tended to view parental substance abuse as any harmful use or substance use disorder. That has limited understanding of how a range of behaviors can contribute to child maltreatment. Nancy Jo Kepple, assistant professor of social welfare, has authored two studies examining data on severity of alcohol and other drug use among parents and the type of child maltreatment behaviors associated with them. She argues that the current ways of studying substance abuse and child maltreatment are inadequate because they frame substance use behaviors too narrowly.
"Very few of us have tried to look beyond a basic way to measure substance use. Some of the confusion regarding the relationship between parental substance use and child maltreatment has been around the fact that we look at it as an either-or proposition," Kepple said. "By definition, drug use varies widely and along many dimensions."
For her studies, published in Substance Use & Misuse and Child Abuse & Neglect , respectively, Kepple analyzed data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being. The data is a panel survey of children sampled from nine regions across the United States identified as being at high risk for experiencing maltreatment based on child welfare investigation or involvement. For the studies, the sample included children who were not removed from their homes but had at least one investigation of child maltreatment conducted by a child welfare professional. The parents reported on their substance use, substance-related problems and parenting behaviors during three interviews conducted over three years.
The analysis showed that parents who reported at least light to moderate drinking of alcohol or more intensive alcohol and other drug use were associated with a higher annual frequency of physical or emotional abuse behaviors compared with those who reported no past year use of any alcohol or drugs. In contrast, only those who reported past year substance use disorders were associated with a higher annual frequency of neglect compared with other substance use behaviors. The findings show it is not enough to simply assume substance use alone will lead to the same problems for all families.
"If that were true, we should see more increasing frequency of abusive and neglectful behaviors with increasing substance use and associated problems in functioning. But I didn't," Kepple said. "When we look at different types of maltreatment, the findings showed different relationships between substance use behaviors and abuse than for neglect. These relationships are complicated and likely vary by type of parenting behaviors. You can't demonize the parents for the drug use alone; there has to be a connection between the substance use and how it impairs a parent's ability to care for their child . Practitioners and social service agencies working with these families could benefit from research re-thinking the ways we measure alcohol and drug use."
Many caseworkers and social work professionals are doing great work adopting a more nuanced view of substance use when working with families, Kepple said. But improving our approach in research could help provide practitioners with better data and support about how to screen and assess for potentially problematic behaviors before they escalate to maltreatment. Additionally, this information could help professionals in identifying families who may benefit from help early, preventing such negative behaviors before they happen, lessening the trauma to children and the need to remove them from their homes. Evaluating parents for early or high-risk substance use behaviors before they reach criteria for use disorders could greatly assist in efforts to prevent systems from being overburdened by escalating substance-related problems, such as the current opioid epidemic faced in the United States.
"Right now, the news is, 'What are we going to do with these kids who are losing parents or being removed from their families because of the opioid epidemic?'" Kepple said. "My argument is we should look at what we can do to help parents early on and help prevent these problems from escalating in the first place."
Increased understanding of the parenting behaviors associated with different aspects of substance use, such as frequency, type or associated problems in functioning, could help social work develop more effective screening, assessment and interventions. Families affected by substance-using parents may require flexible and adaptive response. Kepple said in future research she hopes to examine different aspects of substance use, such as the experiences of parents in long-term addiction recovery, and add to the body of literature on how and why certain aspects of substance use may contribute to problematic parenting behaviors.
Ultimately, Kepple said, the findings show the importance of studying the unique experiences of substance-using parents across a range of behaviors. This means thinking about them as a unique population rather than collapsing them into a general substance-using population or general parenting population. It's about combining the best approaches from addiction research and child maltreatment research to move our understanding forward.
"We can strive to improve how we measure both substance use and parenting behaviors in the research literature," Kepple said. "It's hard to do, and my studies are far from perfect. But if we make it a priority, we can greatly improve our understanding and give guidance back to the field in a way that helps to better serve families."
Law enforcement, child advocates team up to fight sexual abuse of children
by Marisa DeCandido
GREEN BAY, Wis. - Inside Willow Tree Cornerstone Child Advocacy Center in Green Bay, children have shared some of their most painful experiences.
"It's almost like you can kind of see a weight is lifted off that child," explained Kristie Sickel. "Sometimes they're finally telling a secret that they've kept for years."
Sickel is the program supervisor at Willow Tree as well as a forensic interviewer. Part of her job is interviewing children who have been physically or sexually abused for police reports.
"No child's story or situation is the same," she said. "We see an array of different things."
The interviews can help police put child abusers behind bars. But for the officers who investigate physical and sexual abuse of children, the cases can be difficult.
"It's hard to grasp as an adult, seeing something like this and saying, who could do this?" said Detective Lee Kingston with Green Bay Police. "Who could do this to an innocent child?"
So far in 2017, forensic interviewers at Willow Tree have interviewed more than 400 kids from across Northeast Wisconsin. 260 of those interviews were about alleged sexual abuse.
"Child sex crimes get reported pretty much every day," said Detective Cassie Pakkala with Green Bay Police. "It's rare that we would go for a period of time without one."
Detective Pakkala works on what police call sensitive crimes. Her caseload is mainly child sexual abuse cases.
"I think we as a community as a whole need to realize that this is happening way more than what we want to realize it's happening," she explained.
Officers say these sexual crimes against children are almost never random.
"The scariest part of all of it is that it seems to be most often the perpetrator is somebody that the child knows, usually somebody the child knows well," Detective Pakkala said.
That's why experts say it's important for parents to know some of the signs of abuse. In younger children, they could be:
Changes in behavior
Regression in developmental state, i.e. bedwetting
Starting to use language or words they've never used
Difference in personality
"Parents really are the best teachers for children, and how to talk to their children about making sure they keep their body safe," said Sickel.
Sickel and police have the following advice for parents to help children who might have been abused or are at risk:
Keep lines of communication open, especially at a young age. Make sure your children know they can talk to you about anything.
Teach them about their body when they're young, and what's right and wrong for someone to do to their body.
If someone makes them feel uncomfortable, make sure they know they can go to a trusted adult and will not be in trouble for telling them.
If your child is a victim, Willow Tree offers services like therapy and medical exams for children and teens.
Advocates also help families navigate the court system, even attending court hearings with them to help them in their fight against an abuser.
"We're here for the child, we're here for the family," said Megan Hackl with Willow Tree. "We're always going to be there to support them through the process when other family members might not."
In addition, officers said if there is a new adult in your child's life don't be afraid to look up that person's criminal history on the Wisconsin Sex Offender Database or the state Circuit Court Access website .
For the sex offender database, click here . For access to public court records, click here .
To learn more about Willow Tree and the services it offers, visit their website here .
Falling into foster care
by Caryn Eisert
MACON COUNTY, Ill. (WAND) - Court Appointed Special Advocates departments in Champaign and Sangamon counties say the number of children entering foster care in their counties is the same amount as last year.
Those numbers are rising in Macon County.
It's a crisis in Central Illinois. Reports of abuse and neglect among children are hitting all-time highs. Reynesse Coleman, a C.A.S.A. program manager, says Macon County is not doing something right as a community. She says we are failing our children.
Already this year, over 200 Macon County children entered into foster care. Last year 198 entered the foster care system. The Court Appointed Special Advocates Center projects nearly 300 Macon County children will go into foster care.
Jean Moore, the director of Child First Center, says back when the Child First Center opened in 1999 they were seeing about 125 cases a year. This year in the first quarter from July to the end of September the center saw 97 kids.
The Department of Children and Family Services says Macon County is one of the worst counties per capita in Illinois for child abuse and neglect.
Tanya Andricks, the CEO of Crossing Healthcare, says the evidence shows that when children are living in poverty they are more likely or they are predisposed where they can be in situations of abuse or neglect.
DCFS claims 70 percent of abuse and neglect goes unreported. Moore says the effects of trauma on children depends on the length and the duration of the abuse. What kind of abuse was it? How close was the child to the accused perpetrator? She says when it comes to kids when they're abused by their parents or caregivers, that person was a position of trust. Moore explains some kids want out of this abuse.They might run away. However, on the flip side there are children who are scared of the unknown. They will deal with the abuse. They will keep the secret because they're scared and they are going to be put into foster care or they are scared they are going to be taken away.
Numerous organizations are coming together to find a way to end childhood abuse and neglect. They are narrowing down to four categories that need to be further explored. Those include policy, education, support systems and new approaches.
Anyone who sees a child being abused or knows a child in that situation should call law enforcement.
In Plain Sight: Investigator lifts curtain on child sex trafficking on the First Coast
Drugs, women and little girls are just some of what can be purchased at various hotels across the first coast. An investigator takes us into the sex trafficking underworld of Jacksonville.
by Julia Jenae
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In various hotels sprinkled across the First Coast, there's a supply and demand for the illicit—drugs, women, even little girls.
A veteran private investigator took First Coast News on a ride-along to the places she patrols most often when looking for exploited or missing persons.
FCN is choosing not to release the identity of the investigator to protect the work that she does.
Many of the cases she works involve the sex trafficking of minors.
While working the case of an 11-year-old girl reported missing in Jacksonville by guardians, the investigator takes FCN on a survey of hotels along Philips Highway. She's paying attention to parking lots with rental cars and extended stay locations.
These indicators can point to places where numerous traffickers hide out in the hotels, she said.
“I would say right now in each of these hotel rooms I'm going to, one probably has 10 girls that are being trafficked right now,” the investigator said.
Where is it happening?
The hotbed for the cases she works include the north end of Philips Highway, Baymeadows Road at Interstate 95, Arlington Expressway and lodging off of JT Butler Boulevard's west end.
“A person who is being trafficked is not a person anymore to the trafficker, they are a commodity,” she said. “That person is now a person on a car lot to be sold, upgraded, and driven.”
She has been in this line of work for decades and says two or three times a month, she attempts to buy back people out of the lifestyle from the person controlling them.
“I put out a bounty saying I'll pay to get the person back,” she said. “There may be drugs involved, but most people don't go into prostitution because they want to.”
Duval County currently ranks No. 5 as of June with 26 confirmed cases of child sex trafficking cases, according to state organization surveys. Other counties higher on the list include Broward County, Miami-Dade County and Orange County.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline ranks Jacksonville No. 48 on its national list of cities by the number of calls, with 320 calls made to the hotline about possible victims of sex trafficking in 2016.
Supply and Demand
The missing 11-year old she's searching for was allegedly purchased for a night by a 60-year-old man for $20.
This investigator says buyers, commonly called Johns, come through the parking lots of hotels with their car windows down, ready to make a purchase.
“They know what they are looking for, this is the thoroughfare,” she said. “BackPage.com has been a game changer. It's taken it off the streets [and to the smartphone.]”
BackPage.com, where escort ads are commonly placed, can also be used by investigators for stings, tracking down exploited girls and arresting traffickers.
“Police are doing everything they can, they're aware of it,” she said. “Half of the time, the minor child is with the person that's holding them captive, and they're not going to say a word to police.”
Searching for the Lost
Our investigator tracked leads to an area of Arlington nicknamed ‘Sin City.' She used past records on the missing child to find past homes.
After interviewing neighbors, she learns several remember seeing the 11-year-old girl standing on the corner, trading cigarettes for sex. The investigator suspects the child's mother is involved in the transactions.
“It's little girls, and their mothers or their fathers are the ones pimping them out for drugs. That's every day,” the investigator said.
The investigator views the sex trade as a form of “genocide” for young girls and women who she worries will decide this is their profession after years of being forced into exploitation.
“It's the children that we need to protect, the children that are getting human trafficked away,” she said. “That's where our future is dwindling away.”
There are numerous other factors that make sex trafficking an issue here in Jacksonville.
Big sporting events, such as Florida-Georgia, offer new avenues for traffickers to exploit young girls who are sought by visitors and residents in the area.
The State Attorney's Office looks at these well-attended events, in addition to the developed highway system here in Jacksonville, as factors that make tracking these traffickers difficult.
Human Trafficking relief and prevention resources in Jacksonville
More programs continue to be developed for sex trafficking survivors. The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center is a Jacksonville-based nonprofit organization that helps girls who have been exploited or victimized in the sex trade. Their parent organization, The Open Doors Outreach Network, connects girls with programs like the Policy Center to help young girls and women transition out of the lifestyle of sex trafficking and exploitation and into a healthy environment.
National Human Trafficking Hotline - 1 (888) 373-7888
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children - 1 (800) THE LOST
Open Door Outreach Network at the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center
Polaris Project National Human Trafficking Hotline
Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Coalition
Women's Center of Jacksonville
Jacksonville Sheriffs' Office – Victim Advocate
904-630-1764 or 904-630-7879
Children's Home Society
State Attorney's Office
904-255-3099 (Human Rights Division)
904-255-2500 (Victim Advocate)
Child abuse documentary Hollywood 'didn't want you to see' goes viral
The film An Open Secret died upon release in 2015, but is seeing a renewed interest online amid a cascade of allegations against Hollywood's elite
by Rory Carroll
When the documentary An Open Secret tried to lift the lid on child abuse in Hollywood, it billed itself as “the film Hollywood doesn't want you to see”. The marketing tagline did not exaggerate.
The film died upon release in 2015. There was no theatrical release to speak of, no television deal, no video-on-demand distribution.
“We got zero Hollywood offers to distribute the film. Not even one. Literally no offers for any price whatsoever,” said Gabe Hoffman, a Florida-based hedge fund manager who financed the film.
It did not seem to matter that it was directed by an Oscar-nominated director, Amy Berg, or that it uncovered damning evidence of the sexual abuse of teenage boys by figures in the film industry.
“There was nowhere to see it,” said Lorien Haynes, the film's writer. “I don't think it impacted at all. Nobody saw it. We released a film that didn't [seem to] exist.”
Now, two years later, multiple “open secrets” of predatory behaviour are detonating across Hollywood and the documentary that blew the whistle is getting millions of viewers – but still no distribution deal.
Hoffman released the film for free on the video-sharing website Vimeo this month after reports about Harvey Weinstein 's alleged sexual assaults set off a chain-reaction, with James Toback , Tyler Grasham and Kevin Spacey among those accused of harassment and worse.
Corey Feldman, a former child actor who says he was the victim of a paedophile ring, has raised more than $170,000 through crowdfunding for a purported $10m biopic about the abuse.
Hoffman said he had intended to end the free online viewings of An Open Secret on Tuesday, but extended the window until Sunday because of public interest, with more than 3 million viewings on various social media platforms since 12 October.
“We knew a Harvey Weinstein moment was coming and when it would, that we'd release it for free,” said Hoffman. He hoped the documentary would yet make its way on to television. “We'd love to be on Amazon and Netflix. We're always ready to talk.”
The documentary's initial vanishing into the void and belated re-emergence underlines how Hollywood long ducked evidence of abuse. An Open Secret had the elements to make a splash.
Berg, the director, had earned an Oscar nomination for her film Deliver Us from Evil, about sex abuse in the Catholic church.
Her team obtained evidence of a paedophile ring in Hollywood – managers, agents, publicists and directors – that preyed on young boys and teenagers seeking entry to the industry.
Some hosted lavish parties where men allegedly plied the boys with alcohol and drugs and traded them for sex. Others spent years grooming victims, and winning the confidence of their families, before starting sexual assaults.
A handful were caught and served relatively brief jail sentences before returning to the industry. Brian Peck, an actor and acting coach who worked for Nickelodeon and the X-Men franchise, was convicted of two counts of lewd acts with a child. He is now working in the industry again.
The documentary features interviews with Evan Henzi, who was 11 years old when his manager, Martin Weiss, started assaulting him. Weiss pleaded no contest in 2012 to two counts of child molestation, and was sentenced to a year in jail and five years' probation. He was freed immediately due to time served.
“I shared my story in An Open Secret so other victims who have been molested for years just like me can heal,” Henzi, 24, said this week.
“When the film was released, I witnessed a lot of support by people who actually saw the film. What I did not witness was support from film festivals or Hollywood at large to promote the film. I do believe, though, that both some of the film-makers of An Open Secret and the Hollywood establishment are responsible for this.”
Internal disputes disrupted the film's launch. Hoffman took Berg to arbitration , alleging she did not fulfill her end of the deal. She denied that. There were other rows behind the scenes over the script, crediting and edits.
Berg declined to be interviewed, saying she would let the film speak for itself.
Hoffman downplayed any suggestion that the film-makers had shot themselves in the foot and blamed Hollywood for its distribution travails – for instance initially rating the film R, before relenting and classifying it PG-13. “Hollywood clearly blocked the film. The higher-ups didn't like how it portrayed the industry.”
Hoffman also claimed festivals in Los Angeles, London and Toronto promised to give the well-reviewed film prominent screenings, only to rescind the invitations without proper explanation. The Guardian could not immediately verify this account.
Haynes, who wrote the script, said mid-ranking television executives seemed eager to buy the film, only to be overruled. “At the top of the food chain is where we got the ‘no'. It did feel that people were scared to run it. It is complete anathema to release a film about corruption in Hollywood in Hollywood.”
She acknowledged another factor: a harrowing film about child abuse was a tough sell. “You're expecting a lot of an audience to sit through that.”
For two years An Open Secret existed in film purgatory, available only in pirated online versions, few people aware that here was evidence of abuse, collusion and cover-up in the heart of Tinseltown.
Weinstein does not feature in the documentary – he allegedly preferred women, not young boys – but the accusations against him unleashed a gale which put An Open Secret in the headlines as a “must watch” documentary that explains Hollywood's complicity.
Weinstein has apologized for his past behavior, but denies many of the harassment claims and “unequivocally denied” allegations of non-consensual sex.
Spacey apologized this week after he was accused of making an unwanted sexual advance toward the Star Trek actor Anthony Rapp, who says he was 14 years old at the time of the alleged incident in 1986. Spacey, star of the Netflix show House of Cards and former artistic director of London's Old Vic, said he did not remember the “encounter” but if he had done what Rapp described in an article published by BuzzFeed, it “would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior”.
Meanwhile, Toback, a veteran director, faces allegations from more than 30 women of sexual harassment and trying to trade roles for sex. He has denied the accusations , saying he hired people only on merit. Grasham, a veteran agent, is accused of harassing and assaulting multiple young men. His employer, the Agency for the Performing Arts, fired him after the claims went public. One alleged victim has filed a complaint with the Los Angeles police department. Grasham has not addressed the claims in any public statement yet and could not be reached for comment.
The cascade of allegations have all served to give Open Secret the kind of limelight its backers believe it deserved in the first place.
“The dangers and threats that follow speaking out are very real. I've seen them first-hand. But I believe we've turned a corner,” said Katelyn Howes, one of the producers. “I hope this continues to push these abuses of power into the spotlight, making it safer for so many people, especially children, who aren't in the position to talk about their experiences yet.”
Henzi, the former child actor who shared his story of abuse, echoed that. “I do believe that the allegations against Harvey Weinstein have completely opened up the door to having a grand conversation about different experiences of sexual assault by people in the entertainment industry, and that will be really beneficial for a lot of people. It is about time.”
Special training teaches steps of sexual child abuse prevention
by Jim Alexander
The Indiana Youth Institute (IYI), Crisis Connection, Inc., and the Spencer County Community Foundation are hosting a special training seminar to empower adults to help stop child sexual abuse.
The event is being held Wednesday, November 1 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Youth and Community Center at the Spencer County 4-H Fairgrounds, 1101 East County Road 800 North in Chrisney.
National research has shown that 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
In Spencer County, there were 66 substantiated cases of child sexual abuse in 2015, more than any neighboring county.
Child sexual abuse can be difficult to stop, especially when children can't speak for themselves.
Natalie Bolin is the community education/IT Specialist at Crisis Connection, Inc.
Bolin will walk attendees through the Stewards of Children program, developed by 'Darkness to Light,' an organization committed to empowering adults to prevent child sexual abuse.
Attendees will learn the five steps they need to know to protect kids, including learning the facts about child sexual abuse, minimizing opportunity for victimization, how to talk about abuse, recognizing the warning signs and how to react responsibly.
As part of IYI's Youth Worker Café program, the seminar and lunch are free, but reservations are required.
Youth Worker Cafés are designed to bring together local youth workers to build relationships and inspire collaborations that will benefit children.
Violence against children unacceptable!
We were all children once. This is something we all have in common. Many of us have a child or are involved in the lives of children in some way. We want children to grow up to be happy, healthy, strong and productive. We want them to thrive. Children are both the present and the future. They represent the next wave of parents, grandparents, caregivers, teachers, doctors, police officers, judges, community leaders, faith-based leaders, politicians and decision-makers.
How we address the violence affecting children today will have a direct bearing on future families and societies. Article 19 of the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), defines the scope of violence as “all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.”
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development contains a bold and ambitious call to end violence against children, acknowledging its eradication as a key component of sustainable development. A crucial step towards achieving this universal imperative is the mobilisation of political will and the promotion of evidence-based strategies to address multiple contributing factors, including social and cultural norms that condone violence, lack of adequate policies and legislation, insufficient services for victims, and limited investments in effective systems to prevent and respond to violence.
Central to these efforts is the creation of strategic partnerships, such as the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, to accelerate action, leverage resources, build commitment, facilitate exchange of knowledge and implement work at scale. As part of the End Violence campaign, UNICEF is launching a new report titled “A Familiar Face: Violence in the lives of children and adolescents.” The study focuses on violence children face in places most familiar to them, often at the hands of those closest to them, during all stages of their childhood.
The report highlights rates of violent discipline against children aged one year old and children aged 2-4 years old; sexual violence; homicide; and violence at school. In Zimbabwe approximately one third of girls and young women and one in 10 boys and young men aged 18-24 experienced some form of sexual violence in childhood, and nearly one in 10 girls reported experiencing physically forced sex (rape) before 18; while over a third of the respondents experienced physical and emotional abuse by an authority figure.
Of all the young people who experienced abuse, only 2,7 percent of girls and 2,4 percent of boys knew of a place where they could seek professional help, and received professional guidance. Those at risk cut across all boundaries of age, gender, religion, ethnic origin, disability, socio-economic status, sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression. Gender-sensitive approaches are needed to mitigate children's risk of violence and to address specific care and support needs. Gender discrimination is not only a cause of many forms of violence against girls, but also contributes to the broad neglect and acceptance of violence against girls as a social norm.
Perpetrators are often not held to account and girls are discouraged from speaking out and seeking care, support and protection. While these problems are pronounced in the lives of girls, many forms of violence against boys also go under-reported, often because of issues related to stigma and shame. The impact of this violence against children can be lifelong, and even passed from generation to generation. When young people experience violence, the likelihood of their becoming future victims and of acting violently themselves as adults increases.
Research shows that violence can negatively impact children's educational performance and achievement, which can have long-term economic consequences, including poverty. Exposure to violence at an early age can impair brain development and is associated with a range of mental health problems. Violence can lead to acute and long-term problems for children's physical, sexual and reproductive health as well as their psychological well-being. In all its forms, violence is detrimental; in the worst cases, it can be fatal.
Sound data and analysis are needed to provide a solid underpinning for evidence-based policies to address these factors. This will require dedicated investments for collecting quality data to assess the magnitude and circumstances surrounding violence against children, evaluating the impact of interventions, and working towards filling information gaps. In addition, societies that have greater awareness of the issue can hold governments accountable to their commitments.- UNICEF.
What hurts one affects all
by Christopher Quail
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam – An average of 20 people per minute are victims of abuse in the United States. Local child protective services received an estimated 3.4 million referrals of children being abused or neglected in 2012 according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, emotional abuse, sexual assault, or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control committed by a spouse, partner, family member, or roommate against another. In 1989, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 101-112 designating October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“We recognize the devastation domestic violence causes families,” said Kayla Ogo, 36th Medical Operations Squadron family advocacy education services facilitator. “We help to build and sustain healthy communities by developing, implementing and evaluating policies designed to prevent and treat child and spouse maltreatment.”
The Family Advocacy Program is dedicated to domestic abuse prevention, education, investigation, intervention and treatment. They promote healthy relationships among military families through the use of marital or relationship counseling, domestic violence reporting options, outreach events and couples communication classes.
Every October, the Family Advocacy Program team coordinates activities on Andersen Air Force Base to promote awareness of domestic violence reporting and care options. Some of the events held this year included the Combat Domestic Violence Relay Challenge and an information fair.
The information fair featured helping agencies and support services from Andersen AFB, Naval Base Guam and the local community. Participating organizations showcased their services to inform the public of the available resources on Guam.
The goal of FAP is to encourage people to examine their own behavior and take steps to learn and practice healthier behaviors. Staff members are trained to respond to incidents of abuse and neglect, support victims, and offer prevention and treatment.
“By educating our Airmen and families on the effects and impacts of domestic violence, the chances of preventing an incident of abuse increases,” said Shawn Wilson, 36th MDOS family advocacy representative and clinical counselor. “By learning the skills to effectively communicate in a disagreement and get through the tough times, couples will be able to build stronger, healthier, and happier relationships. The ability to communicate well and manage one's emotions is beneficial in all aspects of life.”
Members of Team Andersen affected by domestic violence in any way, may seek help from support agencies on base such as Military and Family Life Counselors, Mental Health and the Chapel.
Each individual who is a victim of domestic violence has the option of either making a restricted or unrestricted report. An unrestricted report is for victims who want the military chain-of-command to know about an incident and want to have it investigated. A restricted report allows victims of abuse to report details of the abuse to victim advocates, FAP and health care providers to access services or care without their command's involvement. However, if a restricted report becomes known to their command outside of those listed above, the incident will then be investigated as if it were an unrestricted report. In addition, if safety becomes a concern, the family advocacy officer has the discretion to change a restricted report to an unrestricted report. A limitation of a restricted report is the individual's command's inability to implement safety measures, such as military no-contact orders.
Domestic violence is an offense under the United States Code, the Uniform Code of Military Justice and state law. Regulations require military and Department of Defense officials to report any suspicion of family violence to their chain of command. This includes commanders, first sergeants, supervisors, medical personnel and military police.
To report domestic abuse, people should contact the FAP office at 366-5167 during normal duty hours, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. To arrange counseling with a Chaplain, call the Chapel Center at 366-6139. For after duty hours, call Command Post at 366-2981 or emergency cases 911.
U.S. passports to identify convicted child sex offenders
by Laura Koran
The State Department began revoking the passports of convicted child sex offenders this week, in order to comply with a law passed last year. Those affected will have to apply for new passports, which will be marked to indicate their conviction.
International Megan's Law, which was passed last year to crack down on child exploitation, requires the State Department to ensure that all passports of registered offenders are marked with a "unique identifier." It also strengthens the Justice Department's ability to track offenders' international travel.
In a press release Monday, the Department of Homeland Security said the identifiers would be printed inside the back cover of new passports and read, "The bearer was convicted of a sex offense against a minor, and is a covered sex offender pursuant to 22 United States Code Section 212b(c)(l)."
The statement noted that registered offenders will no longer qualify to receive passport cards, since these can't be physically marked.
A State Department official told CNN Thursday that covered child sex offenders can continue to travel on their existing passports until the State Department notifies them by letter that the documents have been revoked.
"As long as the individual continues to be certified by (the Department of Homeland Security) as a covered sex offender as defined in the law," the official added, "any passports subsequently issued to that individual will have the unique identifier."
A 2010 report from the Government Accountability Office found that thousands of individuals on the National Sex Offender Registry had received US passports, and further revealed that the State Department had no legal mechanisms to deny passports to registered sex offenders, except those specifically convicted of sex tourism.
In a response provided to CNN at the time, the State Department called the report "very misleading," adding, "the report appears to suggest, without any foundation, that the Department's issuance of passports to certain Americans facilitated their commission of sex crimes abroad."
Traqkid, mobile-bases child tracking system launched
by Wan Noor Hayati Wan Alias
KUALA LUMPUR: A mobile phone-based child tracking system was introduced yesterday in an effort to assist parents to monitor the whereabouts of their children.
The app, called Traqkid, was developed six months ago by Knightsbridge Resources Sdn Bhd (Knightsbridge Resources) and U Mobile, as part of their community policing programme.
TraqKid Advisory Board chairman Tan Sri Musa Hassan said the application would help parents locate their children and enable them to get help from the TraqKid call centre and members of the community policing programme in case of emergency.
"The TraqKid system uses the U Mobile SIM card, which comes with a location service technology.
"It is very easy to use. There is no need to purchase any other accessory because the SIM-based location technology embedded in the U Mobile SIM card is able to track any GSM device that it is hosted under," he said.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim was present to launch the application yesterday.
Also present were Knightsbridge Resources chairman Kuan Chee Heng and U Mobile Sdn Bhd marketing chief Jasmine Lee.
TraqKid is available now for pre-order. Subscription starts from RM58 per month with U Mobile. Upon registration, there is an upfront fee of RM36 for personal accident insurance.
Meanwhile, Rohani said a total of 723 children were reported missing during the first six months of this year.
She said based on statistics from the police, most of them were teenage girls aged between 13 and 15 years old.
"A total of 345 cases have been resolved.
"(But) This number is increasing and worrying. On average four children are reported to be missing daily." she said.
Meanwhile, Bukit Aman Crime Prevention and Community Safety Department Deputy Director (Strategic Planning), Datuk Fatimah Abd Hamid, said public cooperation is important in helping police locate the missing children.
1 in 4 adults abused in childhood
by Wessex FM
Record numbers of adult survivors of all forms of childhood abuse are being helped in Dorset by Hurting to Healing, a local charity.
Statistics continue to show an increase in survivors who are breaking their silence and disclosing abuse.
One in four people in Britain are believed to be victims of child abuse. Survivors experience symptoms that continue into adulthood. These include self-harm and suicide, depression, anxiety, fear, an inability to trust others as well as chronic physical pain.
A spokesperson for the charity said: “Lives of children are devastated by this heinous crime and their distress continues into adulthood. We are passionate about helping survivors manage the enduring impact of abuse, to give them a voice - this is the ethos of our charity."
Hurting to Healing, formerly Dorset Action on Abuse, has revealed its latest findings, and emphasises the need to launch a major fundraising drive to aid essential support services for adults who were abused when they were children.
The Dorset-based charity, launched in 2003 by the late psychotherapist Dr Moira Walker, deals with complex abuse cases with many victims unable to cope with everyday life.
Today, Hurting to Healing provides therapeutic services to clients, with a team of volunteer counsellors trained to work with clients suffering with the consequences of childhood abuse and trauma.
All counsellors are supported by clinical supervisors who are experienced in the field of historical child abuse.
In 2011, the service received 73 requests through NHS and other agencies but that number increased dramatically to 251 last year with further increases expected in 2017.
There has been no funding or grants to the organisation from the NHS, yet service users speak of significant reductions in their need for medication, reductions in self harming, improvements in their relationships, and ability to secure employment.
Hurting to Healing has been helping victims to overcome the challenges they face through therapeutic and practical support. Services include weekly face-to-face therapeutic counselling sessions, Skype counselling, facilitated therapeutic and wellbeing groups as well as creative therapies to aid the recovery process.
A spokesperson said: "As a specialised charity Hurting to Healing works with people who are trying to recover from traumatic and abusive experiences, providing a service to everyone in the community regardless of income. However we need more funding to be able to continue and welcome all donations."
What society can learn from the Catholic Church regarding child protection
by Mary Rezac
Denver, Colo.- One month after an avalanche of sexual assault accusations were lobbed against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, another Hollywood scandal broke.
This week, actor Anthony Rapp accused actor Kevin Spacey of sexually assaulting him as a minor. Spacey apologized, but said he didn't remember the encounter, and also took the opportunity to come out as gay.
In the early 2000s, the Catholic Church in the United States was also reeling from a sex abuse crisis when the Boston Globe broke the story of a former priest who was accused of molesting 130 minors, mostly young boys, over the course of more than 30 years. This led to a large-scale uncovering of thousands more allegations of abuse in dioceses throughout the country.
Since then, the Church has put into place numerous policies and practices to protect children from sexual abuse, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Charter for Child and Youth Protection.
The charter, implemented in 2002, obligates all compliant dioceses and eparchies to provide resources both for victims of abuse and resources for abuse prevention. Each year, the USCCB releases an extensive annual report on the dioceses and eparchies, including an audit of all abuse cases and allegations, and recommended policy guidelines for dioceses.
Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the USCCB's Office of Child and Youth Protection, said that protective measures were in place prior to 2002, but they "were not comprehensive nor uniformly implemented."
Today, the guidelines of the current Charter are implemented in every diocese in the United States, he said.
"(The guidelines) include measures to promote healing and reconciliation with victims/survivors, guarantee an effective response to allegations, ensure accountability, and protect the faithful in the future. An annual audit of dioceses by an external firm helps to make sure dioceses are effectively implementing the Charter ," Nojadera said.
" For example, the audit ensures that: all clergy, volunteers, staff, educators and children are trained to identify and report abuse; all adults with access to children receive background checks; allegations are reported to law enforcement; victim outreach and support is available in every diocese; and offenders are removed from ministry and further access to children," he said.
The Charter also contains guidelines on how to better support victims and prevent abuse, he added. The USCCB also annually publishes a report of the findings of the yearly audits of the dioceses.
Dr. Elizabeth A. Heidt Kozisek is a psychologist and the director of the Child Protection Office for the Diocese of Grand Island, which is in compliance with the charter.
Her diocese, like most throughout the country, has an abuse prevention program called Safe Environment training that is required for all adult employees and volunteers within the diocese, which trains them in preventing abuse, recognizing warning signs, and reporting incidents of abuse.
They also provide children in the diocese with education on appropriate relationships, Kozisek said.
“We educate children and youth in the qualities of right relationships and what to do when a relationship isn't right; and provide continuing education for youth and adults with a goal of helping all experience right relationships throughout their lifespan,” she said.
“We strive to create a culture of healing and protection, where fostering right relationships, building resilience, and promoting healing are an integral part of who and how we are with children and youth, rather than merely a series of programs.”
Kozisek added that the USCCB charter provides the basic guidelines and principles for child protection in the U.S. dioceses, which then implement them with some specific considerations for their individual communities and the resources available within them.
When abuse allegations are reported, Kozisek said the protocol is first to report the abuse to local law enforcement authorities and to Child Protective Services. The accused person is immediately suspended from ministry pending a legal and internal investigation.
If someone is legally charged, they are immediately barred from ministry. Even if an accused individual is not legally charged, but the internal investigation still finds them “unfit for ministry”, they are removed from their employment or volunteer position, Kozisek said.
The Archdiocese of New York is also compliant with the USCCB charter, and has trained more than 100,000 people in providing a safe environment for children.
Edward Mechmann, director of public policy for the New York archdiocese, told CNA that the local Church has a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to sexual abuse of minors, and that they also follow the protocol of having both legal and internal investigations of each allegation of abuse.
“At the conclusion of our investigation, if the accused is a cleric we submit the case to the Advisory Review Board for evaluation,” he said.
“If they determine that the allegation is substantiated, then a recommendation is made to the cardinal that the cleric be permanently removed from ministry. If the accused is a layperson, and we determine that the allegation is substantiated, then they are discharged from employment or volunteer service and permanently barred from any ministry. As a result, we have a zero tolerance policy that applies equally to clergy and laity.”
Last year, the USCCB found widespread compliance throughout the country in their annual report on the implementation of the charter.
According to the 2016 report, 386 out of the 838 people who reported past abuse as minors accepted diocesan outreach and healing, and continued support was provided to 1,646 victims.
Nojadera also said that while 4-6% priests were accused of abuse between 1960-1980, this percentage has dramatically decreased in recent years.
"...in 2016, there were 35,815 active U.S. priests and 2 new substantiated cases of abuse of minors. That makes it 0.00558425% of priests who committed abuse in 2016. This is according to data collected by an annual audit of all dioceses/eparchies," he noted.
Mechmann said the key to combating abuse is combating a culture of abuse, which the Church has worked hard to do since the scandal of the early 2000s. The Church continuously reviews and updates recommended abuse prevention and reporting procedures and strives for full disclosure and a zero-tolerance policy of abuse.
“In the area of child protection, the corporate culture is the most important element. In the Church, we have successfully made child protection a key part of our regular course of business and we have made it unequivocally clear that any kind of sexual sin against minors is utterly unacceptable,” he said.
“We have put into place strong policies that are aimed to prevent any abuse. These policies are taken very seriously by the leadership of the Church (laity and clergy alike) who have all demonstrated repeatedly that they are committed to the program. We have demonstrated over and over again that we are open to receiving complaints, we take all allegations seriously, we vigorously investigate them, and we are firm in correcting any problem,” he said.
Nojadera added that the Church has learned a lot in terms of creating a safe culture for children since the abuse crisis first broke.
"To bring about reconciliation and healing, we must put victims first. A culture of secrecy only hides the wounds caused by abuse. Openness and transparency are an important part of the healing process," he said.
The Church has also learned that all its leaders must have a strong commitment to preventing abuse and changing policies as well as hearts, attitudes and behaviors of those within the institution.
"This is not a quick fix, it is a long journey," Nojadera said.
"To guide our efforts going forward, we must rely on the Holy Spirit. We constantly pray for the grace of God to effectively carry out our mission to protect and heal the most vulnerable."
Hollywood, Mechmann said, could learn a lot from the Church's work in combating a culture of abuse.
“The contrast with the entertainment industry couldn't be more stark - there is clearly a corporate culture of sexual vice, there is no commitment to cleaning out the bad elements, and they are doing little or nothing to prevent further abuse.”
Nashville schools director: Staff will never be punished for reporting suspected child abuse
by Dave Boucher
Reports of problems with Nashville educators not appropriately notifying authorities of child abuse are "disturbing," Metro Nashville schools Director Shawn Joseph said Wednesday in a letter to all district staff.
The letter follows and references a USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee investigation that found multiple sources who said in March teachers at Glencliff High School were reprimanded for reporting alleged abuse of a student.
The issue is part of a larger problem where educators are delaying reporting known or suspected cases of abuse, local experts also said.
"(Wednesday), a local newspaper published an article I found very disturbing regarding reporting of child abuse and neglect complaints within our schools," Joseph wrote in the letter, obtained by the USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee.
"We take the reporting of suspected abuse seriously, and we want you to know that staff will never be discouraged or reprimanded for reporting suspected abuse."
While Joseph does not directly deny a staff member was punished for reporting suspected abuse, Metro schools governmental relations professional Mark North does so in an internal document also obtained by the USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee.
"To be clear, no staff member has been reprimanded or punished in any way for reporting suspected sexual abuse," North states.
Metro Nashville police recently confirmed "youth services detectives are presently looking into a case involving reporting and are in consultation with the district attorney's office."
Former Nashville prosecutor Chad Butler also recently said there is an investigation into “at least one recent incident where educators at a Metro Nashville Public School were suspended by their school administrators for reporting a suspected incident of sexual assault of a student by a fellow educator.”
But Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk said his office is not aware of the issue at Glencliff.
All adults in Tennessee are required by law to report any known or suspected case of child abuse. But Butler, who left the prosecutor's office after Funk publicly contradicted his statements on abuse reporting in schools, maintains there are still widespread issues with educators not following the law.
A source at Glencliff High School said the teachers were punished in March, the same month school Executive Principal Clint Wilson warned staff against spreading “negative talk, gossip and rumors.”
“When we make or spread false or incomplete information we are contributing to a negative school culture that hurts our co-workers, students and our community. I ask that you refrain from these types of talk and focus on truths and building up our school and community,” reads an email Wilson sent to staff.
Failure to comply with this request could result in discipline actions. If you do have firsthand knowledge of any event or situation, please report it to either school administration or to MNPD.”
Metro school public information officer Michelle Michaud previously confirmed Wilson sent the email with that statement.
In his letter, Joseph notes the district has an abuse reporting policy and encourages all staff to review its contents. The policy was recently updated after school administrators acknowledged a previous version may cause confusion after a Tennessean investigation .
Joseph also says the district prepared a memo outlining the reporting policy and is working with local authorities to "ensure that our organization has clear operating procedures in response to" allegations of abuse.
"I hope you never have to report suspected abuse of a student, but the reality is we must be prepared to act on our students' behalf and understand our legal requirements," Joseph writes.
Funk's office did not immediately answer questions Thursday about its work with Metro schools.
Signs of sexual agression among children often ignored, UK expert says
by Ekatha Ann John
CHENNAI: At a time when the Government of India is planning to set up an open sex offenders registry on the lines of those maintained in the UK and the US, expert voices from the same countries have bared the flaws in this system.
"Sex offenders need treatment. Isolating them will only create bigger monsters," said Donald Findlater , who has been working in the field of child sexual abuse and prevention for the last two decades.
In 2012, when a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern was gang-raped in South Delhi, a juvenile was described as having been the "most brutal" among the six accused. In January this year, a Class VIII boy in Hyderabad had been allegedly sodomized for two months by four of his schoolmates and blackmailed into silence.
The type and scale of abuse may vary, but Findlater, who works with young sexual offenders in the UK, sees a pattern. "When we trace some of their journeys to the past, we find they had shown clear symptoms of aggression early on. That is the age when we need to catch and counsel them. Not after an abuse has happened," said Findlater who, over the last two weeks, has been conducting a series of workshops in a few cities in India on child sexual abuse prevention.
He said there are four behaviours that potential sex offenders exhibit early in their lives, which stakeholders, including teachers and parents, need to recognise, report and refer for counselling.
"Two of these are clear-cut signs: Sexual aggression and those exhibiting sexually harmful behaviour," said Findlater.
While in the 2012 gang-rape, the juvenile had shown aggression, in the Hyderabad case, the four accused had engaged in sexually harmful behaviour. The other two may be more subtle: those engaging in sexually inappropriate behaviour and pre-pubescent children who are sexually reactive.
Sexually reactive children are those who have had direct contact with inappropriate sexual behaviour in the past and now engage in interactions that include excessive sexual play, sexual comments and gestures, emulating what they have witnessed and experiences themselves.
"These children could be victims themselves or potential perpetrators or neither. Families and institutions just need to be on guard," said Findlater.
Findlater, a former probation officer, said the need of the hour now, in India and in the UK, is a programme for treatment of child sex offenders.
"Not all paedophiles are child sex offenders. Conversely, not all child molesters are paedophiles. We need to provide psychological help for those who seek it and recognise those who may need it," he said, adding that child abuse should be tackled as a public health issue.
He said in the UK there are helplines for adults who are troubled by sexual thoughts about children. "The programme is confidential and ensures that no one seeking assistance is arrested. We hope to stop the adult before he or she abuses a child," he said.
Experts at the workshops also stressed on the need for institutions to follow a more stringent protocol while recruiting employees, processes to test the attitude of employees towards children and devise a way to check their criminal records, their past behaviour.
The workshops were conducted by Tulir-Centre for the Prevention and Healing of child Sexual Abuse, Chennai; Butterflies, New Delhi, and Enfold Proactive Health Trust India along with the British High Commission in India.
Abused, neglected children need heroes
There's a hero out there somewhere.
We don't use the term lightly. If the allegations of child abuse and neglect contained in a report released this week by a North Carolina Police Department are true, it would be almost impossible to overstate the importance of the person who alerted authorities to it.
We say “if” the allegations are true not because we doubt what police officers saw with their own eyes in the house – though Lord knows we wish we could – but because our justice system demands it. However, if these charges are proven factual, there likely are people besides the accused who knew. At the very least, the whole appalling case should motivate us all to be more vigilant.
But, thank goodness, there's at least one hero in this story.
Police say they responded to a case in Lexington N.C. home Friday night after being asked to check on the welfare of the children there. Entering the house to what Lexington Police Capt. Michael Hunt described as “an overwhelming smell of feces and urine,” the officers found seven children, ranging in age from 1 to 6, malnourished and living in squalid conditions. Two were 18-month-old twins. One of them was wearing a diaper with maggots, or fly larvae, in it.
Authorities removed all the children from the home. The 1-year-old and the twins were hospitalized. The adults in the home – Michael Patrick McKnight, 26, and Jamie Leigh Hiatt, 25 – have each been charged with felony child abuse and multiple counts of misdemeanor child abuse.
And the conditions don't have to be as bad as what officers described in this case for abuse or neglect to occur.
Not all of those cases resulted in children being removed from the home, and not all met the threshold for abuse or neglect findings under state law. Still, officials reminds us the law requires anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect to report it to their local social services agency. If you believe a child is in immediate danger, call police at 911. The person making the report can remain anonymous.
So, please, if you know of or see a situation anywhere near as awful as the one described in Lexington, alert authorities. Even if you're not sure, but you suspect abuse or neglect is occurring, make the call. When it comes to the health and safety of children, it's far better to err on the side of caution.
And you just might be the hero they need.
Mike Tomlin, Steelers partner with anti-sex-trafficking initiative
by Jeremy Fowler
Coach Mike Tomlin used the bye week to pledge the Pittsburgh Steelers ' support behind a noble cause.
On Wednesday, Tomlin entered the media room with the president of Operation Underground Railroad , which makes its agenda clear on its website: "We exist to rescue children from sex trafficking."
Tomlin, who heard about the initiative in the media and was inspired to reach out during the offseason, hosted an O.U.R. representative to speak to the Steelers during the offseason, sharing the organization's experiences in undercover missions to save children.
"This is something that's easy to get behind. It's not in any way divisive," Tomlin said. "We get an opportunity to utilize our platform and get behind something like this. ... We don't get an opportunity to do enough of this. We respect the platform that is the National Football League, the lessons that we have. We intend to utilize it for good."
Tim Ballard, CEO of the company, said more than 250,000 sex-traffic cases involving children as young as 10 years old persist in the United States. "I've been in the darkest places. It's hell on earth," Ballard said. "We're going into places where people are selling children."
Ballard was floored when he received a call from Tomlin to address the team. He's even more floored by what he termed an "overwhelming" response by the team. "They are wearing our swag and welcoming us to practices and events," Ballard said. "They are on board. It's inspiring to see."
Tomlin made clear during the height of the national anthem protests that the Steelers are a "football group" who want to affect the community but aren't in the business of making a stand on Sundays. This is Tomlin and the Steelers backing up those community efforts.
Four more lawmakers say they've been sexually harassed by colleagues in Congress
by Max Greenwood
One current and three former female lawmakers are the latest to say publicly that they have experienced sexual harassment or inappropriate comments from male colleagues on Capitol Hill.
Former Reps. Mary Bono (R-Calif.) and Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), former Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and current Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) tell the Associated Press that they experienced sexual harassment, including unwanted sexual advances and demeaning comments, during their time at the Capitol.
While they did not identify the perpetrators by name, at least two still serve in Congress, according to the AP.
Sanchez, the fifth-highest-ranking House Democrat, told the AP that when she first entered Congress, a male colleague repeatedly propositioned her. That colleague, who is married, is still in Congress.
“When I was a very new member of Congress in my early 30s, there was a more senior member who outright propositioned me, who was married, and despite trying to laugh it off and brush it aside it, would repeat. And I would avoid that member,” she told the AP.
She also said another male colleague once touched her inappropriately on the House floor, and tried to make it appear unintentional. That man no longer serves in Congress.
Boxer, who retired from the Senate in January, said a male colleague made a sexually suggestive remark during a committee hearing in the 1980s. That comment, she told the AP, was laughed off by the other members of the panel and received a "second" from the chairman.
Bono, who lost her reelection bid in 2012, said a male lawmaker who still serves in Congress, repeatedly made suggestive remarks to her. She recalled confronting him after he told her he had been thinking about her in the shower.
Solis, a former Labor secretary who currently serves as a Los Angeles County supervisor, also told the AP that she experienced repeated harassing comments from a male colleague. She did not go into detail about the comments.
The revelations from the four lawmakers came after Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) went public last week with an account of being sexually assaulted by a male chief of staff, while she was a congressional staffer.
"Many of us in Congress know what it's like, because Congress has been a breeding ground for a hostile work environment for far too long," Speier said in a video posted online last week.
She has already introduced legislation that would require sexual harassment training for congressional staffers, which is currently optional. She has also said she intends to introduce legislation to reform the congressional office responsible for hearing sexual harassment complaints.
That sexual harassment and assault have affected female members of Congress highlights the breadth of an issue that has come to under intense national scrutiny in recent weeks, amid a growing number of allegations against prominent figures in media, business and the entertainment industry.
She was forced to marry at age 11. Now she's working to ban child marriage in Florida.
by Kate Payne
The U.S. State Department considers child marriage a human rights abuse . Still, the practice continues not just in faraway places, but in the state of Florida. A coalition is walking the halls of the state capitol to change that.
For Sherry Johnson , the rapes started at age eight. When a member of her church got her pregnant, Johnson's mother forced her to marry him. She was 11. He was 20.
A county clerk in Tampa wouldn't issue the couple a license. So they went to neighboring Pinellas County. She says the marriage derailed her life.
“I was home, home crying, not knowing what to do with my life. Because now I'm kicked out of school. I can't go to work. I've got three children," she said. "What do you do? What do you do?”
And at such a young age, Johnson had virtually no chance at independence.
“I remember applying for apartments but they told me, you're not old enough. You can't get an apartment. I would apply for jobs. I remember getting the classified ads and applying for jobs, calling people and telling them I would like to work. The moment they ask me my age, it was a no. An automatic no,” she said.
The reason Johnson's forced marriage could even happen is because of a loophole in Florida law . Generally, people younger than 18 can't get married. But there are exceptions, says Fraidy Reiss, head of the forced marriage support organization Unchained At Last .
“First of all, parental consent. If a parent signs a marriage license application, a child aged 16 or 17 can marry in Florida,” Reiss said.
There's also a judicial review option, for those who have a child.
“A child can marry if she is pregnant or if she or he already has a baby,” Reiss said.
Boynton Beach Democratic Representative Lori Berman says many of these marriages are forced or coerced. She's among a group of Democrats and Republicans pushing the effort forward in the Florida Capitol.
“Just because you raised a child doesn't mean you should be able to commit them to an adult relationship or a legally binding contract,” Berman said.
According to the Bureau of Vital Statistics , Florida counties issued 1,828 marriage licenses to minors between 2012 and 2016. 132 of those licenses went to couples where both were minors. That means in 93% percent of cases, a minor was marrying an adult. Reiss says, just as Sherry Johnson experienced, there are very few options for children in this situation.
“Helping a child leave home is a crime here in Florida. Domestic violence shelters are not allowed to take in children before their 18th birthday. Contracts with children are voidable meaning a retainer agreement which a child is pretty much worthless. And bringing a legal action in his or her own name is pretty much worthless,” Reiss said.
When she was 17, Johnson's rapist was imprisoned for not paying child support for their 6 children. She was finally able to get a divorce, and she says she's still recovering.
Reiss says the experience leads to lifelong impacts.
“Right here in the United States, a woman who was married at or before age 18 faces a 23% greater risk of heart attack, cancer, diabetes, and stroke, and an increased risk of nearly every psychiatric disorder that's ever been identified. And these serious health consequences come because of the forfeited education and in the increased risk of poverty,” Reiss said.
Heather Barr researches child marriage around the world for Human Rights Watch.
“I've interviewed hundreds of victims of child marriage myself and the harms are remarkably consistent, the harms that Fraidy described. It doesn't really matter if you live in Bangladesh or in Zimbabwe or in Tampa,” Barr said.
Proponents of the ban on child marriage say there's virtually no opposition. But Johnson says that's not the case. She lobbied state lawmakers back in the 2014 session.
“People [weren't] aware what was going on. They would debate with me and saying it didn't happen, that's not true, the law does not allow a child to be married. And I have to correct them. That is not true! Because I am a survivor of that. So I know that that law is still there,” Johnson recalled.
The bill never made it out of the committee process in either chamber.
“Some don't want to know. They close their eyes to it,” Johnson said.
But this year, Johnson says the issue of child marriage in Florida is getting more attention than before. She hopes lawmakers will continue to open their eyes to survivors like her.
Facebook allowed child abuse posts to stay online for more than a year, Indian court hears
Post advertising rape videos was also permitted to stay online despite being reported several times
by Michael Safi
Facebook refused for more than a year to remove a page featuring images of children taken in public under which users posted graphic descriptions of sexual abuse, according to submissions made to India's supreme court.
A Facebook post advertising rape videos was also permitted to stay online despite being reported several times, the court heard, while police in the western state of Kerala allege another page was being used to run a child-sex ring.
The three cases were raised during an Indian supreme court inquiry into how technology giants including Facebook and Google handle abusive content from India on their platforms.
Last week the supreme court ordered the companies and the Indian government to overhaul their processes for dealing with child-abuse materials and videos depicting rape or gang rape.
The ongoing investigation has raised questions over the adequacy of the moderation systems used by Facebook and others vying to tap a fast-growing and hugely diverse Indian market with users posting in dozens of languages and hundreds of dialects.
Affidavits submitted by Facebook indicated the company does not automatically report the existence of child-abuse material to Indian police – but to American authorities instead – despite a legal requirement to do so under local child-protection laws.
Facebook is aggressively seeking to rapidly grow its user base in India, already one of the world's largest online markets, and one forecast to more than double to 829m people by 2021.
But the extent to which the company, and others that trade on the openness of their platforms, have the capacity to monitor how these hundreds of millions of new members will use their services remains to be seen.
Facebook told the court that between March 2016 and August this year it received 7,802 user complaints from India about possible child-abuse material. It said in an affidavit it “investigated all reports and took appropriate action”.
But in the course of hearings, the court heard that Facebook had declined to take down a page whose name was written in Roman script but translated in the southern Indian language, Telugu, to “little vagina”.
The page featured pictures of of women and girls taken in public, apparently without consent, under which users left graphic comments describing sexual acts they wanted to commit.
According to screenshots tendered in court, a user who reported the page was told it did not violate Facebook's community standards.
Only when the court asked Facebook to remove some of the posts, more than a year after the page was reported, were they finally taken down, according to Aparna Bhat, a lawyer arguing the case for the Indian anti-trafficking NGO Prajwala.
The court also heard the company declined to remove a post listing a mobile phone number users were told they could call to access a video depicting the sexual assault of an actor who was kidnapped in Kerala state in February.
Yet another page, which the court heard was reported but not initially judged to violate community standards, was being used to run a child-sex ring in Kerala state, police allege. More than 40 children were rescued and at least 39 people arrested after the page was reported to Indian authorities.
Facebook said in a statement it was “committed to providing a service where people feel safe”.
“There is no place on Facebook for content that threatens or promotes sexual violence or exploitation, and we work hard to keep it off our platform,” a spokeswoman said.
“We respond to valid law enforcement requests and report apparent child exploitation content to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
“We will continue to work with safety experts and the Supreme Court Committee in India to help combat this abhorrent activity.”
The supreme court last week ordered the technology companies involved in the probe, who also include Yahoo, WhatsApp, Microsoft and Google, to work with the Indian government to expand their list of key words associated with child abuse material.
Key words in Indian languages and slang must also be added, as should terms associated with rape and gang-rape imagery, the court said.
India's elite Central Bureau of Investigation has been asked to set up a special unit to handle reports of abusive material being circulated on social media or elsewhere only.
The Indian government was also ordered to subscribe to the database of the US-based NCMEC, to which Facebook and other companies are required to report online child-abuse material under US law.
NCMEC told the court it has received more than 100,000 reports of abusive material relating to India. But because India is not signed up to NCMEC's reporting system it is unclear how many have been seen by local police. India relies on Interpol to relay relevant NCMEC reports.
The supreme court's orders were based on recommendations agreed by a committee that included representatives from Facebook, Yahoo, WhatsApp, Microsoft and Google, as well as lawyers and police.
Other changes sought by child-protection advocates, but opposed by the technology companies, are currently the subject of reporting restrictions but will be considered in private by the supreme court in December.
The supreme court took up the investigation after Prajwala highlighted the existence of hundreds of videos and images of rape and child abuse being shared across social media platforms.
Bhat, who represented Prajwala in the proceedings, questioned why Facebook and other companies complied with US requirements to report child-abuse material, but not those of India.
“If there is reporting of these instances of child pornography to authorities in one country, why can't they do the same in India?” she said.
She called on web companies to take greater steps to protect vulnerable women and children, even if it meant fundamentally changing the way their services operate.
“If a person is being violated because of the design of your service, and you are hosting a crime on your portal, you need to take another look at it.”
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for 11 December.
Who is John Grissom? Corey Feldman names actor who allegedly molested him
by Maria Vultaggio
Actor Corey Feldman vowed to name the person who allegedly molested him as a child in a viral YouTube video last week—and he apparently stayed true to his promise.
Feldman went on the Dr. Oz Show Thursday and accused actor John Grissom of sexually abusing him, The Hollywood Reporter wrote. Feldman filed a report with the Santa Barbara Police Department during the television show.
Grissom was arrested in 2001 on child molestation charges, according to what was revealed on the daytime talk show. Two years later, he was found guilty and served time in prison, though it was unclear how long his sentence was for.
Grissom wasn't the only person Feldman named. The actor reportedly told Dr. Mehmet Oz about other men who allegedly abused him, but he made those accusations off-screen, according to the celebrity doctor.
Grissom did not immediately respond to the accusations.
Feldman created a fundraiser where he asked for $10 million in donations to make a documentary that exposes the corruption in the entertainment industry. More than $185,000 from nearly 4,000 backers has been raised.
“What I am proposing is a plan that I believe can literally change the entertainment system as we know it, and I believe that I can also bring down, potentially, a pedophile ring, that I have been aware of since I was a child,” he said in the “Truth Campaign” video on October 25. “Right off the bat, I can name six names, one of them who is still very powerful today. A story that links all the way up to a studio and connects pedophilia to one of the major studios.”
It had been long rumored that actor Corey Haim, who appeared in in the 1988 movie License to Drive and Dream a Little Dream in 1989 alongside Feldman, was involved in the "pedophile ring" Feldman talked about.
Haim's mother, Judy, shot down Feldman's claim. “He's been talking about revealing the names of his and other abusers for seven years, since my son died,” Haim's mother told THR Saturday . “Now he wants $10 million to do it? Come on. It's a long con. He's a scam artist. If he was serious about this, he'd share the information he has with the police.”
While Judy maintains Haim was molested by one man, on one incident, Feldman claims it frequently happened by multiple men.
Sex assault accusations against ex-APA agent renew concerns about alleged abuse of minors in Hollywood
by Gus Garcia-Roberts
For Jack Edwards, a 15-year-old British actor, it seemed like “the opportunity of a lifetime” — watching a play in London's West End with a Hollywood agent.
In April 2010, the agent, Tyler Grasham of the Beverly Hills-based Agency for the Performing Arts, or APA, was in town with an actor client, and through a mutual friend Edwards and a couple of other theater students had snagged an invite to join them for a showing of “Grease.”
But the night quickly took a dark turn, according to Edwards and another friend who spoke to The Times, when the then-44-old-year-old agent bought the teenagers round after round of alcoholic drinks before and after the show.
Edwards said that he ended up in Grasham's hotel room, swallowing a pill that the agent gave him to calm his anxiety. He next awoke in a bed, he said, feeling physically unable to move while Grasham fondled his genitals. Edwards' friend, who said he was in the next bed over, recalled hearing Edwards struggle.
Edwards, now 23, made these allegations in an interview and a written statement submitted to The Times. He also produced an email that he said Grasham sent him a month after the alleged assault, asking for the young actor's headshot and resume. Edwards' friend, who asked not to be named, independently corroborated details of the account in an interview.
The allegations of sexual assault against a minor in Britain — where there is no statute of limitations on sex crimes — are among the most serious in a string of similar allegations recently levied against the veteran agent, whom APA fired Oct. 20.
Grasham has not responded to numerous phone and internet messages seeking comment. He also did not respond to a note left at the door of his home by a Times reporter Wednesday evening.
The Times interviewed eight young male actors and film industry professionals who alleged they were sexually assaulted or harassed by Grasham. Five of the accusers said that Grasham made unwanted sexual advances toward them while they were under the influence of alcohol, though they were not of legal drinking age.
The accusers describe Grasham as attempting to use his power as a Hollywood agent as a sexual enticement and to keep them from speaking out.
Two alleged victims have taken their accusations to police. The Los Angeles Police Department has confirmed that it is investigating a sexual assault complaint which film editor Lucas Ozarowski, 27, filed against Grasham on Oct. 20. The complaint alleged that Grasham "reached into [Ozarowski's] pants and grabbed his genitals" at the agent's home, according to a copy of a police report that Ozarowski provided to The Times.
A ninth accuser — 20-year-old actor Tyler Cornell — also filed a complaint with the LAPD last week, alleging that Grasham sexually assaulted him earlier this year, the actor's representative said. Cornell declined to comment. An LAPD spokeswoman said last week that the agency was investigating a report of criminal sodomy against Grasham.
In a written statement, an APA spokesperson said the company “takes these allegations very seriously and our hearts go out to anyone who may have been affected.” The agency said it had retained an independent investigator to “look into these claims the moment they came to our attention. That investigation is ongoing and we will take appropriate action based on the findings.”
The statement added that the agency “never made financial payouts to or settlements with anyone in this regard.”
Several of Grasham's accusers, including Edwards, said that they have been contacted by a Los Angeles attorney who is conducting the investigation for APA.
The allegations — which follow the widening sexual misconduct scandal surrounding disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein — have renewed attention on longstanding complaints in Hollywood about the sexual abuse of child actors. Known cases include Jason Michael Handy, a Nickelodeon production assistant forced to register as a sex offender after pleading guilty to lewd acts on a child; Marty Weiss, a talent manager whose clients included child actors for Nickelodeon and Disney, who pleaded guilty to child molestation; and Bob Villard, a child manager who was sentenced to eight years in prison for sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy.
The issue prompted a 2014 documentary, “An Open Secret,” by filmmaker Amy Berg. Former child actor Corey Feldman has announced he is attempting to raise $10 million for a film exposing pedophiles in Hollywood. Additionally, actor Kevin Spacey issued an apology this week after an actor said Spacey made an unwanted sexual advance toward him in 1986 when was a 14-year-old boy.
“We're getting to where people are more willing to talk about it, but it's a subject that people don't like to discuss — it's very uncomfortable,” said Paula Dorn, co-founder of the BizParentz Foundation, a California-based advocacy group for child actors and their parents. “In an industry where there's money to be made, there's an extra layer of secrecy.”
Founded in 1962 by former MCA agents, APA is known as a venerable and scrappy underdog to the town's glossier agencies. It represents a variety of mainly lesser-known clients — actors, comedians, musicians and public speakers.
The company, which also has offices in New York, London, Nashville, Toronto and Atlanta, has made at least one unconventional top hire. APA's director of operations, Ronald Rewald, was convicted on 94 felony counts in 1985 for running a Hawaiian investment firm that a judge likened to a Ponzi scheme, according to news reports at the time. The case made national headlines after Rewald contended his firm was a front for the CIA. He was released from federal custody in 1995.
APA would not comment on Rewald's background. Rewald did not respond to requests for comment.
APA's reputation as a perennial also-ran made it the butt of insider humor on HBO's “Entourage,” when fictional agent Ari Gold profanely asked who invited the agency to a meeting of major Hollywood firms.
But in the insular world of child representation the firm is very much in the big leagues, industry experts say.
Grasham's specialty — child actors — filled a niche. Before his firing, film information site IMDb listed more than 50 clients under Grasham's name, many of them under 18. His most prominent client was 14-year-old Finn Wolfhard of “Stranger Things” and “It” fame, who left the agency as the Grasham scandal unfolded last month. He did so after filmmaker Blaise Godbe Lipman alleged in a Facebook post and interview that, when he was a teenage actor a decade ago, the agent “fed” him alcohol and then sexually assaulted him.
Actor George Todd McLachlan told The Times that when he was an underage actor, Grasham had him stay at his home, where the agent kissed him and slept in the same bed as him. McLachlan said he was 16 or 17 at the time. Another accuser, actor Brady Lindsey, said that Grasham first contacted him via social media when he was 16 and over the next two years asked the Utah teen to be his boyfriend, go on a date with him and start a life together.
Soon after Lindsey moved to Los Angeles at age 18, he said, Grasham ordered him three glasses of wine and then made unwanted sexual advances, including kissing him and grabbing his crotch.
The habitual nature of Grasham's alleged sexual conduct has raised questions about how APA could have been in the dark about the reputation of the agent who worked there for more than a decade.
In his initial statement on social media, Lipman said that he found it “incredibly difficult” to believe that APA did not know of the alleged misconduct.
In an interview, Lipman said he did not inform APA of his allegations at the time because the agent was already so notorious. “Anybody who knew him — personally, socially, in the gay community — knew … how he surrounded himself with young actor boys,” Lipman said.
APA has said it was unaware of Grasham's behavior. Adam Levin, an attorney representing APA, said in a letter to the Los Angeles Times that assertions the agency knew about Grasham's behavior were false and that senior management never received a complaint from parents about his conduct. “If it had, APA would have taken prompt action to investigate and address such serious allegations,” Levin wrote.
Michael Podraza, a business and legal affairs manager for Lionsgate, said that when he was a 27-year-old actor, Grasham texted him an offer that he would help him get roles if he had sex with him.
Grasham's behavior was so well known in the industry, Podraza said, that he decided not to speak out publicly. “He wasn't hiding,” he said. “This guy was untouchable, and I was trying to not be blacklisted.”
Kellan Rhude, a 28-year-old Boston University student, said he was sexually assaulted by Grasham when he was a 19-year-old aspiring actor. He said he informed APA — albeit anonymously— about Grasham's inappropriate behavior with young male clients.
Rhude said that he was at a party at Grasham's home when he drank too much and passed out. He said he awoke with his clothes removed and Grasham groping him. “I told him to stop and he kept telling me ‘I'm gonna go get a condom ok, just a condom,'” Rhude said in a statement to The Times, which he provided in addition to an interview. Rhude said that he ultimately extricated himself and slept on a couch.
According to Rhude, he also witnessed Grasham discussing massages and asking to sleep in the same bed as a 17-year-old client who was staying with him.
Rhude said he emailed James Gosnell, APA's president and chief executive, to warn him about Grasham's behavior. Gosnell wrote back wanting to learn more, Rhude said, but Grasham also indicated that he knew about the email, which spooked the young actor from further correspondence with APA. Rhude said he had sent the message to Gosnell with an anonymous email address because he was concerned about getting dragged into a legal fight. He said he no longer could access the email messages.
Two former employees who separately spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisals from APA said Grasham's allegedly inappropriate conduct with underage clients was known within the agency.
An employee who had a desk close to Grasham's contended to have heard him on multiple occasions arrange for his underage clients to sleep over, with plans involving baths, massages, wine and marijuana. Another of Grasham's former colleagues said that such behavior with young male clients was “common knowledge” in the agency.
A spokesperson for APA declined to comment specifically on the purported email sent to Gosnell. The agency has disputed assertions that it received complaints about Grasham's alleged behavior.
For many of Grasham's accusers, fear of being ostracized from Hollywood or otherwise embarrassed kept them from speaking out about him until others had.
Edwards, the British TV actor and theater student, said he couldn't bear for his parents to learn the details of the alleged assault.
But reading the other accusers' accounts made Edwards “sick,” he said. “I just want to make sure he can never work with children again.”
At least 15 million teen girls have been forced into sex: UN
LONDON — At least 15 million teenage girls worldwide have been forced into sex — often by partners, relatives or friends — yet only one in 100 sought help, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
Cameroon had the highest rate of sexual violence, with one in six teenage girls experiencing forced sex, the U.N.'s children's agency (UNICEF) said in a report which examined data from more than 40 countries.
“This idea of women being at the disposal of men is a big factor driving the experience of sexual violence of girls,” report author Claudia Cappa told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
In the majority of cases, the abuser was known to the victim — with acts of sexual violence carried out by husbands, boyfriends, family members, friends and classmates.
UNICEF said widespread sexual violence against teenage girls could hinder global progress toward achieving the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — a plan to end poverty, hunger, achieve gender equality and protect the planet by 2030.
The number of girls who have been forced to have sex is likely to be far higher than 15 million as many are reluctant to come forward and data is lacking in many countries, it said.
Abuses ranged from child sexual exploitation in the Dominican Republic's tourism industry to online sexual abuse in the Philippines. The report also highlighted projects to combat violence, including self-defense classes in schools in Malawi.
Better laws to protect children and more support from social services are vital to bring about change, UNICEF said.
“What has proved to be particularly successful has been working with governments to develop national action plans that try to bring together different sectors, such as education and the justice system,” said Cappa.
Prompted by sexual abuse allegations against American film mogul Harvey Weinstein , millions of women and girls around the world have been sharing their experiences of harassment and abuse on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #MeToo .
Weinstein, accused by a number of women of sexual harassment and assault in incidents dating back to the 1980s, has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.
Unemployment triggers increase in child neglect according to new research
by the University of Oxford
The number of reported cases of child neglect in the United States of America increased as a result of the spike in unemployment following the financial crisis of 2007-08, according to new Oxford University research. The first study of its kind suggests that unemployment can cause an increase in child neglect because parents have more limited access to the resources required to provide for a child's basic needs, such as clothing, food and medical care.
Defined as the physical, mental, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect of a person under the age of 18, child maltreatment is a prolific problem in American society, with about 700,000 cases reported in 2015 alone. Neglect describes a situation when parents' inability to provide for their child's basic needs harms the child's health, safety and/or wellbeing.
Child maltreatment is widely understood to have significant consequences in later life, affecting mental health, the chances of employment and the likelihood of substance abuse, among other things. However, the causal effects of economic hardship, and the knock-on impact on maltreatment, are significantly less understood.
The study, conducted by two researchers from Oxford University, has for the first time, considered and quantified these causal effects, specifically whether unemployment causes child maltreatment.
Using nearly a decade's worth of data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), produced by the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN), the team observed every reported incident of child abuse and neglect made to the state Child Protective Services for nearly every county in the U.S. from 2004 to 2012.
The findings reveal a significant link between unemployment and child neglect , with a 1 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate leading to a 20 percent increase in reported neglect. However there does not seem to be a relationship between unemployment and other forms of child abuse .
Elisabetta De Cao, Research Fellow in Oxford's Centre for Health Service Economics & Organisation, said: 'There is increasing research on the causal effect of economic conditions on domestic violence, but this work has never been done for children, which is a very different dynamic.'
The research also considers the value and impact of social (government provided) and private safety nets (partner, family, friends, health insurance), and whether access to these resources can have a mitigating effect on unemployment.
Access to state provided unemployment benefits were found to make a huge difference. Initially offered to people for a maximum of 26 weeks pre-recession, during the economic crisis it was extended in some states, and ranged significantly from 48 weeks to up to 99. In states that were more generous, offering 87 weeks of unemployment benefits or more, child neglect increased by 14% but in states that offered a maximum of 55 weeks of benefits, reported incidents of child neglect rose by 21%.
Dan Brown, PhD student in Economics at Oxford University added: 'Our study shows that unemployment causes an increase in child neglect, with little evidence of an effect on other types of abuse. During hard times, if parents lose their jobs and don't have access to safety nets, they no longer have the means to provide for their children, which ultimately leads to neglect.
'We also found an indication that after a job loss people spend less on basic goods, like food and beverages. In doing so, this can lead to a higher likelihood of neglect.'
While state help offers significant value, the research revealed that access to private safety nets also has a positive effect. A key private safety net the authors looked at is health insurance. The effects of unemployment on child neglect were notably greater in counties where more children did not have health insurance , and were therefore less protected.
In terms of demography, African American children were found to be least likely to have two employed parents living with them, and were accordingly more at risk of neglect when one parent lost a job, than Caucasian or Hispanic children.
Of the potential policy implications of this report, and how the US government can use the findings to better protect children, Elisabetta said: 'In general policies that are designed to enable parents' employment security could prove an important contribution to reducing child maltreatment . There is an indication that cutting these services will lead to an increase in neglect . We need to better understand whether parents face barriers to creating private safety nets, which could help people to cope during bad economic times.
'If we can reduce the number of neglected children, it will have a positive long term impact on society. These children will go on to have better outcomes in adulthood, which will have positive labour, health and economic effects.'
Although the team studied the effects of unemployment in the USA, they are in the process of replicating the study in the UK, which arguably has a more generous welfare system. The results of this work are expected in the next year.
'Privilege to have a child trust you to share their story'
by the BBC
"It's a way to give something back, to feel in that moment that you're making a difference, you're there to listen to children, you're there to help them."
For Marnie, 27, giving up four hours a week to volunteer as a Childline counsellor is a privilege. She says knowing a child trusts her enough to tell her their story is overwhelming.
Childline is urging more people across the UK to volunteer. While it has about 1,400 active volunteers, the charity says 400 more would mean they could answer nearly every child that makes contact.
Currently, the helpline can answer only three out of every four calls or contacts.
Those who can't be counselled immediately are asked to wait in a queue or call or email back at a less busy time - unless their situation is very serious.
'It's taught me to listen'
Marnie has been volunteering as a counsellor for a year and says the experience has helped her learn to listen.
"The art of listening to people has been good," she says.
"We all think we can listen to others and someone telling you about their day or about things that are going on, but I think there's a value in the counselling model and the training you get.
"It really helps you to learn how to listen and pause and let others speak a little bit more than they might have done if you hadn't done that.
"Also, I think, just generally being able to help people reach decisions by themselves - we all have a tendency to think that we can create solutions for others, but actually quite often it's up to everyone to make their decisions in their life - you can help people do that by thinking through all of their options."
So what's involved?
Childline volunteers need to complete 44 hours of initial training and mentoring over a period of a few weeks.
They are then asked to commit to one four-and-a-quarter hour counselling shift at the same time each week for a minimum of one year.
They must also attend regular workshops and debriefs.
Before and after every session, volunteers attend a briefing and debriefing with other volunteers and a supervisor, giving them a chance to talk through the shift and any issues it brought up for them.
Did you know?
The most popular time for children to contact Childline for counselling is between 20:00 and 21:00
This year, half of counselling sessions were between 18:00 and midnight
The most popular day for counselling is Monday
In 2016-17, 71% of counselling sessions were online, compared with 29% over the phone
The charity conducted 295,202 counselling sessions in total last year - 13,746 of these were about anxiety
There are 12 Childline bases across the UK, in Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Foyle, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Nottingham and Prestatyn.
What sort of issues come up?
"It's not one heavy call after the other - there's lots of experiences out there," says Marnie.
"It's easy to forget all the different things that are going on when you're growing up - it can be everything from problems at school, with homework or exams, things like bullying or problems with friends, things in your family and then also dealing with different emotions or pressures in terms of mental health and things like that.
"There are calls about abuse - physical, sexual and emotional abuse as well. We need to be alert to different levels of risk and things like that."
Childline volunteer Michael, 54, says social media is putting young people under a lot of pressure.
"The impact of bullying particularly with social media is relentless," he says.
"In my day, there was no social media and bullying stopped at the school gate and you could go home and be safe - whereas now, young people go home and open their phones and laptops and it's still there on Facebook or Instagram.
"There's pressure from school and to pass all these exams. There's this pressure to achieve and to be perfect and it's really competitive - for many young people it can be too much."
Michael says family issues, such as adult relationship breakdown, often prompt a lot of contacts to Childline.
"There are lots of pressures within families because many parents are struggling," he says.
"There could be breakdowns in relationships, parents getting divorced and different families moving into the home - that can make young people feel isolated. They may feel isolated within their family unit."
How do volunteers cope with the stress?
Michael says you find ways to cope with the emotional side of the work.
"With every contact, there's always positives to take out, like the fact that the young person has had the strength to make that call," he says.
"There's plenty of support from your peers but also from the supervisors that run the shifts and there's also a debrief at the end of the shift.
"Then, it's about self-care - in order to support others you have to be in a good place yourself and make sure you look after yourself physically and mentally.
"The way I look after myself is I leave it here. I do the best I can for the young people, I follow all the guidelines, but I leave it here.
"When I go home I keep busy, but I know I've done the best I can while I've been here."
Marnie says: "It can be difficult hearing some of the things that children are telling us - but we've got so much support in the room, we're never taking that call on our own, there's always a supervisor there.
"If you have a particularly heavy call... then you'll have a chat with one of the supervisors immediately afterwards to talk through what you've heard, what your reaction to that is, what feelings you're left with and then, from having that chat, you're ready to go back into the counselling room."
Is it worth it?
Despite having to deal with some tough calls emotionally, Michael and Marnie would definitely recommend volunteering.
"It's incredibly rewarding - I could have had a difficult day at work, travelled 40 miles to get to base, and then do my four-and-a-quarter hour shift," says Michael.
"But by the end of that shift, I'd feel really good about the way we'd supported the young people that had come through. I'd feel quite humble and proud."
Marnie says: "The sense of privilege that you get from having a child trust you enough to tell their story - it's just such an overwhelming feeling that they want to share their story with you, and at the end of it, they thank you for being there to listen to them.
"And in that moment you feel like you helped them just even to take that first step to getting support or that first step to asking for help or understanding their own feelings - it is just such an overwhelming feeling that you're left with."
Children needing help can ring the Childline helpline on 0800 1111 or get in touch via the Childline website.
Paws for Kids helps foster children cope with adjustments
by WATE 6
Harmony Family Center's paws for kids ( pet assisted wellness and support ) trains emotional support dogs for children adopted from foster care. Emotional support dogs provide therapeutic, physiological, and psychological benefits.
The children Harmony serves have suffered traumatic abuse and neglect. Many have spent years in the state child welfare system in multiple placements – life experiences that can result in physical, emotional and behavioral problems including difficulty with attaching and forming relationships.
Although a forever family may be their greatest wish, many of these children have trouble making the adjustment to family living.
paws for kids is based on research that shows:
Children who are emotionally attached to their pets learn trust and build healthy relationships that contribute to family health and stability.
Animals provide unique safe, nonjudgmental, and nonthreatening companionship. Pets are never critical and don't give orders; their mere presence at home can help provide a sense of security for children.
The trust, patience, and unconditional love of a dog can help a child begin healing from the trauma of abuse and neglect, buffer the effects of stress, and promote emotional attachment.
Dogs selected for the program are professionally trained using the AKC Canine Good Citizen program. Once their dogs have successfully completed training they are matched by Harmony Family Counselors with a child/family through a therapeutic process.
How Can You Tell If Your Parents Are Emotionally Abusive? These Are The Signs Of Emotional Abuse, According To Experts
by Jr. Thorpe
Most of us hope that we know what physical child abuse looks like, and how we could detect it. But emotional abuse of children by parents is a problem too, and the signs and symptoms can be a lot more difficult to detect by an outside observer — even though the consequences are just as damaging for the kids as they grow to adulthood. Children often lack the perspective to be able to identify the abusive elements of their emotional relationship with their parents, and it's only in adulthood that they're more able to detect them. Bustle spoke with experts on emotionally abusive relationships to learn how you can tell if your parents are emotionally abusive , and how it affects people into their adulthood.
Why is emotional abuse such a big deal? One of the most widely disseminated definitions of emotional abuse, by psychotherapist Beverley Engel in her book The Emotionally Abusive Relationship, gives us some clues:
“Emotional abuse is like brainwashing in that it systematically wears away at the victim's self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidating, or under the guise of ‘guidance,' ‘teaching,' or ‘advice,' the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting than physical ones.”
The power imbalance involved in being the child in an emotionally abusive family relationship can make these consequences even worse. So how can someone detect that a parent or parents may still be using various tools to emotionally abuse and manipulate them? Here are six signs of emotional abuse in a parent-child relationship, according to experts.
The Parent Uses Putdowns Frequently
The key part of emotional abuse is that it's usually a pattern. One-off situations where a parent snaps or is rude to their offspring are not characteristic of an emotionally abusive environment. People aren't perfect. But repetitive insults and putdowns can turn into emotional abuse. "Parents have overt ways of emotionally abusing their children such as desertion or speaking hurtful words that break their hearts, cast blame, and make them lose their self-worth," relationship and childhood counselor Shannon Battle tells Bustle. Examples of abusive phrases, she says, are "I wish you weren't born", 'I wish you were more like your sister", or "You are a lost cause."
Parents might have a lot of reasons for insulting their kids — hoping to "toughen them up," for instance. But the underlying message of calling a child dumb, weird, or useless is the production of the feeing that they're unloved and unloveable. The NSPCC's definition of emotional abuse highlights that it "may involve conveying to a child that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person." However, it's important to remember that parents who don't do this can also be emotionally abusive; it's just one of the signs.
But insulting them isn't the only way parents can be abusive. Insulting others counts, too. "The easiest way to detect if a parent is emotionally abusing a child," Dean Tong, Msc , an expert on child abuse allegations, tells Bustle, "is listening to their chastisement of him/her and hearing words that are tantamount to denigration, and vilification of the child's other parent in front of said child. It's a form of brainwashing and poisoning of the child convincing the child the other parent is the bad guy."
The Parent Is Emotionally Manipulative
This is a phenomenon that's particularly common in narcissistic or abnormally self-centered parents: they like to manipulate the feelings of others, including their own children. "Why don't you love me?" is a frequent cry, even if it's manifest in passive-aggressive sighs, withdrawals, threats, and "look how much I gave up for you" rants. The experience of growing up with one of these parents is dominated by the feeling that the emotional process is controlled by others. "Some parents abuse their children because of pathological narcissism," Laura Endicott Thomas, author of Don't Feed the Narcissists, tells Bustle. "They are commanding an unreasonable amount of worshipful behavior from their children."
Children of these kinds of emotionally manipulative parents, note experts, are expected to constantly pander to their emotional needs and will be punished if they show emotional self-sufficiency, or make the parent "look bad." Narcissistic parents often view their children as accessories to impress others, and will manipulate their emotions in order to produce a good impression in public. They're particularly prone, as psychotherapist Amanda Perl writes for Counseling Directory, to the practice of "gaslighting," in which they deny the child's emotional reality and make them question their sanity ("I never said that").
The Child's Own Emotions Are Invalidated
The first rule of emotionally abusive households is often that emotional exchange is one-way. Children's own emotions are not relevant or are seen as competitive to the emotions of the parent who's abusive. If you're scared, angry, upset or have any other emotional response, it's sneered at, misunderstood or ignored. Being "deliberately silenced" is seen as a pretty characteristic sign of an emotionally abusive environment.
The psychologist Carrie Disney, writing in The Guardian , notes that children from emotionally abusive homes often "learned that emotions are dangerous."
"In a good enough upbringing," she writes, "we learn that feelings can be managed, they may sometimes be scary but they can be thought through." In emotionally abusive situations, however, children are faced both by the overwhelming and problematic emotions of others, and by the sensation that their own feelings and thoughts don't necessarily matter — and so they don't develop the capability to deal with or recognize their own emotional life in detail.
The Parent Places Inappropriate Expectations On The Kid
"What would I do without you?" can also be an emotionally abusive refrain. Situations in which children are forced to become parental figures — in the case of parental substance use disorder, for instance — count as abusive; the child faces emotional obstacles and requirements (taking care of a grown person) that are far outside their own emotional needs and comfort zone, or even their abilities. This is part of the spectrum of emotional abuse that the NSPCC calls "inappropriate expectations" : ideas about children's behavior, ideas and lives that is deeply contrary to the way kids should actually function. Expecting them to be capable of mastering piano three weeks after they'd started, demanding that they contribute to the family income at the age of 10, expecting perfect adult behavior at all times: all are unrealistic and can't possibly be maintained.
These elements of emotional abuse are known as "covert" abuse — things that aren't as obvious to exterior observers. "Parents that keep setting higher standards and make [the child] feel that their current accomplishments aren't good enough," Battle says, "are abusive." This behavior, she tells Bustle, "raises the likeliness of their child having increased self-doubt, fear, insecurity, self-criticism, distrust, guilt, anxiety, and self-hatred. As a result, the child have a negative self perception and thoughts that reinforce their unworthiness of being loved, valuable, and respected."
The Parent Isolates The Child
"Emotional abuse includes behaviors by caregivers that includes verbal and emotional assault such as continually criticizing, humiliating, belittling or berating a child, as well as isolating, ignoring, or rejecting a child," psychotherapist Mayra Mendez, PhD, LMFT told Bustle earlier this year. Isolation is a key part of an emotionally abusive parent's arsenal, whether it's done as a way of "shielding" the child (what Shannon Battle refers to as "being overly protective") or as an attempt to prevent the rest of the world from witnessing what happens within the parent-child relationship.
A child who's restricted from interacting with others is often suffering from their parents' excessive control, even if it's stated as "for their own good." "Isolation behavior on the part of emotionally abusive parents," notes the organization Emotional Abuse Answers , "begins with mistrust. They're suspicious of most people outside the family, sometimes assigning strange motives for their behaviors or suspecting some hidden agenda... Isolation is an effective way for emotionally abusive parents to control their children's environment, which makes it easier to control their beliefs and behaviors."
To be kept childlike far beneath their proper maturity level is another, connected aspect of emotional abuse. People may want to keep their children as "babies forever," but enforcing this excessively is terrible for the kid, and another aspect of emotional control.
The Parent Is Just Plain Terrifying
Feeling constantly threatened and afraid as a child because of the environment created by a parent is emotional abuse, even if it never gets physical. Parents who scream, threaten, deliberately physically impose and use their child's fear as a method of control are behaving in an emotionally abusive manner. "A lot of parents abuse their children physically and emotionally because they have poor parenting skills," Endicott Thomas tells Bustle. "They do not know how to get children to behave, and they resort to aggression out of frustration." However, narcissists and parents who lack empathy can also resort to terrifying threats for the sake of control or their own amusement.
This often has a very distinct result for adult survivors of this kind of abuse. "From a counseling perspective," parenthood counselor Elly Taylor tells Bustle, "the way parental emotional abuse would show up between couples was when one partner would seek comfort from the other, but not be able to trust it, so instead of the comfort being soothing when they got it, it would actually increase the person's anxiety and they would then push the partner away... and then seek comfort again. This is the adult version of the parent/child dynamic that occurs when as a child, the caregiver is also a scary person."
If this sounds like you, you're not alone, and it is possible to get help. Emotional abuse as a child, or continued emotional abuse by a parent as an adult, may have left lingering affects in your adult life that have rippled through everything from friendships to intimacy. Finding a support group , seeing a therapist, or just talking to a supportive friend who can help you seek professional aid are all good steps to help you figure out how to recognize and heal the damage.
Has social media changed the way we think about sexual harassment?
by Lizzie Marvelly
Me too. Two little words loaded with the weight of one of society's darkest problems. Over the past few weeks they've become something of a battle cry. For victims of sexual harassment and assault, they have made possible a conversation that has been unthinkable until now.
It's hard to imagine, in the time before social media, millions of people coming forward in the space of a week to share the intensely personal revelation that they had been sexually harassed or assaulted. Such a thing, pre-Twitter and Facebook, would simply never have happened.
And yet, in our hyper-connected age, it did. Thanks - backhandedly - to Harvey Weinstein.
Allegations of abusive behaviour by the powerful Hollywood mogul reported primarily by the New York Times and the New Yorker gave rise to a global outpouring of solidarity. The idea that Weinstein could allegedly harass and sexually assault dozens of women over the course of decades - and get away with it - caused shockwaves to reverberate around the planet. That some of his alleged victims, such as Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, were famous and powerful themselves made the case even more astounding.
Although, of course, neither Jolie nor Paltrow sat anywhere near the top of the food chain when Weinstein targeted them.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Weinstein scandal happened outside of Hollywood, however, when ordinary people took to social media to say "me too". To date, more than 4.7 million people have engaged with the #MeToo conversation on Facebook alone. The trend, originally started by American women's advocate Tarana Burke in 2006, and propelled into the global spotlight by actor Alyssa Milano, has allowed survivors to find strength in numbers.
It has also provided an insight into what many women particularly already knew intimately: that sexual abuse is still an enormous problem.
It is a problem that has remained stubbornly hidden. Dr Jackie Blue, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, says that sexual harassment is a problem in New Zealand, and that there are many reasons why victims don't come forward. "Fear of retaliation, a lack of support in their workplace, self-minimisation of the harassment or concern that they will not be believed if they speak up," all play a role, she says. "Sadly, these factors contribute to sexual harassment in New Zealand going largely unreported."
The Human Rights Commission is one of the organisations in New Zealand that handles sexual harassment claims. It deals with between 60 and 70 cases nationally per year. That number likely should be much higher. The #MeToo hashtag is "a firm reminder that we all need to do more to ensure that anyone, in any environment, will be safe and supported if they report sexual harassment," Blue says.
That we're talking about the issue at all reflects an important moment of social awakening. Although #MeToo may encourage more victims/survivors of sexual harassment and violence to come forward, it may also have the effect of encouraging people to consider their own behaviour. Dr Pani Farvid, a senior lecturer in Psychology at AUT thinks that the impact of #MeToo will be multi-faceted.
After 50 years, Yale New Haven Child Abuse programs help hundreds heal
by Ed Stannard
NEW HAVEN — Beth's twins, a boy and a girl, were sexually assaulted when they were 6 years old by a 14-year-old boy at a summer camp. More than a year later, they're not the innocent children they once were, but they're coping much better while undergoing therapy at the Clifford Beers Clinic .
Beth now runs a nonprofit called Be a Child's Voice , in West Haven, to raise awareness about juvenile sexual abuse and to advocate for a juvenile sexual offender registry.
While the last two years have been difficult, the family has progressed as far as it has because of the 50-year-old Yale Child Abuse Programs , which help the vulnerable victims of child abuse and their families get the appropriate medical, legal and psychological services they need to begin healing.
Beth said of the program's effect on her children, “It's like a tree. We started there, they slowly bridged them in, and through their counseling got them into the counseling that they needed.”
The programs began in 1967 as DART, which stands for Detection, Assessment, Reporting and Treatment, in which four doctors and an advance practice registered nurse, all board-certified in child abuse pediatrics, are called to Yale New Haven Hospital “at any time when there's an injury that is a concern of abuse,” said Paula Schaeffer, coordinator of the Child Abuse Programs, which are run jointly by the Yale School of Medicine and Yale New Haven Children's Hospital.
DART is now staffed by Dr. John Leventhal , director of the Yale Child Abuse Programs, Dr. Andrea Asnes , associate director, Dr. Lisa Pavlovic and Beth Moller , who is both a nurse practitioner and physician assistant.
Now, the programs have expanded. They include the Yale Child Sex Abuse Clinic , an outpatient office at the Yale Family Advocacy Center at 1 Long Wharf, where forensic interviews are conducted in an atmosphere meant to make the child and family comfortable.
Finally, there's the Nurturing Families Home Visiting Program , part of a statewide program. Seven home visitors “go into the home and screen for risk and identify which families are appropriate” to be enrolled in the support program, Schaeffer said. Those services may be provided until a child's fifth birthday
DART paved the way
In 1967, DART was launched as one of the first hospital-based programs set up to identify abused children. Leventhal said he believes child abuse has not gotten worse in the years since he joined the program in 1982, but “the identification has gotten better. The treatment services have grown. The coordination … has made a huge difference in terms of the evaluation of these children and families and their treatment.”
Child abuse pediatrics is a relatively new subspecialty, Leventhal said, with about 400 pediatricians certified nationally. In June, Leventhal completed a two-year term as president of the Ray E. Helfer Society , a national organization of doctors specializing in child abuse.
The DART team examines about 450 children a year, and not all are determined to have been abused, but the team meets weekly to discuss those who are identified as victims of child abuse. Many are children too young to communicate what's happened to them, Schaeffer said.
“Taking care of and evaluating an infant who has been abused in the hospital and helping to sort out what happened is not just a medical problem but requires involvement with DCF, sometimes the police, the family's pediatrician to help sort out what happened to the child,” Leventhal said.
“At the medical end, we can figure out the child's injuries, but understanding how they happened required a much larger team than just the medical providers.”
Included in that team are several pediatric departments in the hospital, as well as the Department of Social Work and the hospital's Women's Center. In addition to the state Department of Children and Families , the DART staff communicates with sexual assault crisis services and mental health providers.
“It's critical to work as a team so that the diagnosis is the correct one,” Leventhal said. “If a child with an abusive injury is sent home with the diagnosis of an accidental injury, there's a risk that that child might return with a more serious injury or even of dying.
“On the other hand, mislabeling a child who has an accidental injury as abuse has consequences as well, because we do not want a child being removed from his or her home because of an accident that was mislabeled as an abusive injury,” he said.
Leventhal said “about 65 percent of the time after our assessment we believe the child has not been abused and the injuries have an accidental cause, sometimes neglect and, rarely, underlying medical problems.”
It's appropriate that the hospital calls in the DART team so often, Schaeffer said. “I think it speaks to the hospital's mission to not miss abuse and accessing the experts on the questionable injuries to help sort out whether it's abuse or an accident,” she said.
The program also works closely with the Yale Child Study Center , Yale New Haven Hospital's Trauma Center and the Clifford Beers Clinic .
Specialty in sexual abuse
Sexual abuse inflicts a multitude of harms to the victim, which last long after, often into adulthood, said Asnes.
“With child sexual abuse what we worry about most is the downstream consequences of the trauma to the children and their families and so the mental health care in particular is crucial in our efforts to prevent those consequences,” Asnes said.
Sexual abuse suffered in childhood can lead to suicidal tendencies, substance abuse problems, relationship problems and early sexual activity, Asnes said. “Not only do they have a higher risk of sexual abuse run in their own families … they also are at risk for problem sexual behaviors in themselves, including that they would abuse others.”
At the Child Sexual Abuse Clinic, also at 1 Long Wharf, suspected victims are made comfortable by child-life specialists, who “prepare the child for the evaluation, give them a tour, show them what's going to happen, including the interview room, show them the cameras that are going to capture what they say … show them the medical room where they're going to have a checkup and our equipment that we use so that they're fully prepared for what's going to happen next,” Asnes said.
“Oftentimes when a report comes in to DCF or police they will ask us to perform this forensic evaluation,” she said. “We have a lot of orchestrating to do” to arrange a meeting including those agencies and the family.
The interview is conducted by a specially trained social worker who is “able to interview children in a nonleading and developmentally appropriate manner,” accompanied by a doctor or nurse practitioner, Asnes said. The child's caregivers also are interviewed.
“The forensic interviewers also ask kids if they have concerns about their bodies,” Asnes said. “It's the nature of sexual abuse that kids are involved in something that they don't understand and they often can be fully confused and they can have worries about their bodies that we can address in clinic.”
Sometimes misinformation can be corrected, such as a worry that pregnancy can result from being touched through a girl's clothes. Some victims worry “that they'll be recognized as damaged goods,” Asnes said. “As medical providers we play a role in giving children an opportunity to share their concerns about their bodies, address them and often reassure them.”
The clinic offers a short-term mental health treatment called the Bridging Program and, once the team meets to determine the best course of treatment, referrals are made to the Yale Child Study Center's Childhood Violent Trauma Clinic, DCF and other agencies, from the Valley to Middletown to Old Saybrook.
While the clinic's staff sees babies and toddlers, most children are between 3 and 18 years old, with the average age 8 or 9, Leventhal said. About three-fourths of the victims are girls, he said.
“Our families meet with police, DCF, a hospital social worker, a medical provider and a victim's advocate, all during this one appointment, and one of my roles is to help make that happen for those families,” Schaeffer said. “The value of this program is really giving back to the community and providing a space for our families to deal with a difficult experience with the most support that we can provide them.”
Services brought home
The Nurturing Families Home Visiting Program is one of more than 50 statewide funded by the state Office of Early Childhood . It aims to support families to prevent abuse from occurring.
“All the programs aim to screen mostly first-time births, but also second-time births, to identify socially high-risk families, such as teen mothers, single parents, families with housing problems, parents with mental health problems and then to offer those high-risk families the opportunity to participate in the Home Visiting program,” Leventhal said. In addition to being visited at home, families are seen in the Yale New Haven Women's Center and on the hospital's postpartum floors.
“About one-third of families who are offered the services agree to participate and their home visiting begins either prenatally or postpartum and can continue until the child's fifth birthday,” he said.
The average stay is about 1½ years, “but each year we have a special graduation for families who stay the full five years and each year, six to eight families celebrate with us that accomplishment,” Leventhal said. About 100 families a year participate in the program, he said.
The home visitor offers guidance about getting a job, earning a high school diploma and connecting with substance abuse or domestic violence prevention programs. Yale New Haven has seven home visitors, one of whom is a man who works specifically with fathers, “which is very important because fathers face special challenges with their infants and young children,” Leventhal said.
“Of the seriously abused children that we see with bruises, broken bones or head injuries, about 70 percent of these children have been injured by men, either fathers, stepfathers or mothers' boyfriends,” Leventhal said. “So you can imagine how important it is to help and to educate young fathers.”
Inspired to take action
For Beth and her twins, it's been a difficult time since the children were abused. “It's been over a year and they still need extensive therapy. … I don't know if my children will ever be the same,” she said. My kids were very shy, very quiet, happy little kids.” Now, her daughter is “mean, she's very bitter, she's not the same.”
But she praised Leventhal and his staff for their treatment not only of the children but of her husband and herself. “They treated my husband and the family with great compassion,” Beth said. “They knew what we were going through. They offered us support groups, they offered us our own mental health counseling.
She launched Be a Child's Voice, which has a Facebook page , and she advocated for the juvenile sexual offender registry bill, which passed the state Senate 30-6 during the last session but wasn't voted on by the House.
Beth also raised $500 for a scholarship to go to a high school senior who wanted to study forensic interviewing. Her newest project, which began Saturday and will run every weekend through Dec. 17, is a toy and clothing collection drive called “Turn that Frown Upside Down” to benefit the Bridging Program. Items may be dropped off at 250 Captain Thomas Blvd., West Haven, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
“I tip my hat to them,” Beth said of the staff at the Child Abuse Programs. “It's such a huge and long process and I don't think the courts realize what the victims go through as much as the people at 1 Long Wharf, all that they do.”
For more information on the Yale Child Abuse Programs, call 203-688-2468.
It's time to recognize male victims of Hollywood sex abuse
by Linda Stasi
Nobody listened as Hollywood pedophiles allegedly raped, molested and destroyed male child actors' lives for decades. Few believed it. Even fewer cared. Most still don't.
To some, the newest revelations reinforce what they already believed about gay men — that gay men like underage boys. How crazy is that?
Pedophilia is no more gay sex than rape is heterosexual sex. Both are crimes committed by perverted beasts, not consenting adults.
The now-grown male victims of these Hollywood rapists and assaulters were laughed at, mocked, shamed, put down, degraded and some say threatened. They were called deranged and wacko opportunists, because, really, who doesn't want to get famous by admitting you were raped by a pedophile power broker when you were a frightened, helpless little child?
Corey Feldman, for one, has been mocked for years for trying to let the world know what happened to him and to his best friend Corey Haim, who he says was raped at 11 years old while filming a movie. He's now raising money for his own documentary about it.
Feldman ended up a Hollywood pariah for among other things, speaking out. Corey Haim wasn't as lucky. He ended up dead at 38 from untreated pneumonia after years of suffering from depression and drug addiction. Some wounds are so deep the only way to get relief is to die.
Now suddenly each day we're hearing about other Hollywood victimized kids, but unlike the tales of women who were sexually assaulted and harassed, the ordeals of these now-adult men tend to be smaller stories.
Take Kevin Spacey — or I should say take Kevin Spacey to court? The allegations he assaulted a child actor, (as well as other young men, which went on apparently for decades) should be front page news every day as each new allegation arises.
But new accusations from men are often relegated to a strip, a mention, a note, while Harvey Weinstein's crimes against women continue to capture the big news.
Spacey is not just seemingly unrepentant, but still so full of himself that he said of the accusation he sexually assaulted 14-year-old Anthony Rapp — in a tweet yet — that he didn't remember the "encounter." Encounter? An encounter implies a romantic interlude between consenting adults, not the sexual assault of a child.
Worse, he then wrote that if it had happened, he had no recollection of it because he would have been drunk at the time.
I once interviewed a notorious pedophile priest who had been accused of raping dozens of little boys. He said the same thing.
A man possibly rapes or assaults a child and he can't remember it? That only makes his alleged crimes that much worse. Do men like this feel so little for their victims that they can't even honor them enough to remember destroying their lives?
Spacey added in that same statement, that he'd had relationships with men and women throughout his life, as though coming out as bisexual would be so shocking that no one would care that he could be a pedophile. That's how sick this dude is.
Now another man has anonymously accused Spacey of attempted child rape, and actors and staffers at the Old Vic, where Spacey was artistic director for 11 years are claiming that a blind eye was turned on his sexual misconduct.
Oh, you missed those stories? Maybe because they weren't that big a deal. Unless you were that kid or those staffers.
In 2014, filmmaker Amy Berg made a documentary about the scourge of Hollywood child sexual assault titled "An Open Secret." Variety called it "nonsensationalist" at the time because the film treaded lightly to avoid lawsuits.
No one wanted to distribute the movie and few believed the accusations, which were met with disdain. It was recently released for free and has had more than 3 million views. Suddenly it's an "overnight" hit and no one's laughing anymore.
We all feel for the female victims of Hollywood sexual assault. Now it's time to feel for the men too — and well past the time for potential criminals all to be prosecuted.
Our view: Prevention is the best fix for Arizona's foster care system
Prevention is the most child-friendly approach to child welfare because children do best in their own homes.
But evidence suggests the default setting for Arizona's child welfare agency has been to remove children – even if the family got involved with the system because of neglect, not abuse .
That's turning around. There is a lot of talk about prevention and intervention.
But it will take more than talk.
Prevention needs sustained funding
Gov. Doug Ducey and the Legislature need to make a strong commitment to fund family support measures.
The Arizona Department of Child Safety recognizes the importance of prevention and intervention to help families. DCS established the Office of Prevention in 2016 and named Sue Smith as prevention administrator.
The office runs a variety programs, including substance abuse treatment, in-home visitation, regional child abuse prevention councils and a program designed to keep substance exposed newborns with their mothers when possible.
But these programs don't serve everyone who could benefit. DCS Director Greg McKay called for expanding successful efforts that were not being used statewide.
“For programs that are working, I don't think there is ever enough funding,” says Smith.
In addition to making a commitment to funding prevention, Arizona needs to take a broader view of what it means.
What we mean by 'prevention'
“We've already failed if a call has gone to DCS,” says Marcia Stanton, coordinator of the Strong Families program at Phoenix Children's Hospital Injury Prevention Center.
She says prevention is about a living wage, affordable child care and available health care. It's about a good public education system that prepares people for good-paying jobs, and an economy that produces those jobs.
It's about helping families before a crisis.
When a child has to be removed from a home, the trauma of whatever happened at home is compounded. Foster care means the stress of losing everything familiar – home, family, siblings.
For children in the system, stress can turn toxic if there is no relief, no trusted adult to provide an anchor.
The impact on a child's brain can have life-long negative consequences , according to the National Symposium on Early Childhood Science and Policy.
When prevention gets short-changed
The Arizona Adverse Childhood Experiences Coalition, which Stanton leads, is working to raise awareness of the impact of these negative early childhood experiences, and to promote prevention that helps families.
There are ways to overcome these adverse childhood experiences , or ACEs.
But preventing them is better – and it can be done.
Arizona has evidence of what happens when prevention gets short-changed.
Programs that help at-risk families were cut deeply during the recession.
What followed was a spike in neglect cases beginning in 2009, according to an independent review of the DCS prepared by researchers at the University of Chicago's Chapin Hall.
The number of children in foster care in Arizona reached a record 18,906 in March 2016. It's been declining, but remains at more than 16,000.
The programs that were cut served working poor families. They included child care subsidies, as well as housing assistance, substance-abuse treatment and job training.
The result: More kids in foster care
Recession-era state cuts to such programs “ resulted in a 40 percent increase in the number of children who needed to be placed in foster care since 2009 and these children are staying in foster care longer because their parents are not provided with the services they need,” according to the Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
That statement from the academy is quoted in a 2015 class action lawsuit filed on behalf of foster children in Arizona by the Center for Law in the Public interest, Coppersmith Brockelman, PLC and Children's Rights Inc. The case has not yet gone to trial.
Cuts to child care subsidies were particularly dramatic.
According to the Chapin Hall report, the number of families receiving subsidies to place children in safe care while mom or dad worked fell from 25,077 in 2009 to 12,634 in 2014 – the year DCS was created to replace the state's previous child welfare system, which was so underfunded that it collapsed under the weight of uninvestigated cases.
Arizona's lack of commitment to prevention also can be seen in the state's treatment of a proactive, pro-family program that has been operating in Arizona since 1991.
Healthy Families works. We have proof
Healthy Families reaches out to expectant and new parents who have risk factors, such as poverty, substance abuse or mental health issues. Parents get home visits, education on child development and referrals for needed services.
“Outcomes are phenomenal,” says DCS's Smith.
Healthy Families is based on a proven national model and has been extensively evaluated in Arizona.
Craig LeCroy, professor of the Arizona State University school of social work in Tucson, has been evaluating Healthy Families in Arizona through LeCroy & Milligan Associates in Tucson.
He says researchers “have found a difference” in parenting behavior, such as fewer incidents of harsh or violent discipline , and higher use of protective measures, such as car seats and childhood immunizations.
“Families told us they were surprised anybody wanted to help them,” he said.
Knowing that help is available and normalizing the idea of asking for help makes it “more likely” parents will turn to community resources in the future. They will seek help with problems before things spiral out of control.
The DCS reports that 96 percent of families who participated in Healthy Families had no substantiated cases of abuse or neglect .
Funding was slashed, never restored
But in 2009, the Arizona Legislature cut 75 percent of Healthy Families state funding .
Some money was restored through First Things First, a voter created program to promote early childhood well being.
But Healthy Families only serves a fraction of families that could benefit, say prevention advocates.
Reaching more families could help more children safely grow up in their own homes.
Of course, the caveat is “safely.” Some parents do not have the will or ability to provide a safe home for their children. In these extreme cases, children must be taken into state custody.
But many children currently in the system might have been able to remain at home if their families been given a little help. More children will be able to stay at home in the future if Arizona puts a greater emphasis on prevention.
The money can be found.
A simple way to fund prevention
When DCS was created, lawmakers increased funding to hire caseworkers. They subsequently added funding specifically to address the backlog of inactive cases, which has been reduced.
As lawmakers and the governor make decisions about next year's state budget, they should not cut funding to DCS in response to the reduced backlog or a reduction in the number of children in foster care.
Any savings should remain in DCS and be directed to prevention and intervention efforts.
Why? Because experience and research done in Arizona shows they work.
Because children do best in their own homes.
About this report
In 2016, when the number of children removed from their families peaked at more than 18,000, the Arizona Community Foundation gave The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com a three-year grant to support in-depth research on the topic. As part of that effort, editorial writer Linda Valdez and our other staff experts investigate the reasons behind the surge in foster children and the systems meant to support and protect them.
Internet giants now support bill to curb online sex trafficking
They believe it strikes a better balance between safety and freedom
by Jon Fingas
For ages, internet companies have fought changes to the Communications Decency Act's Section 230, which protects them from liability for content that might pass through their websites. They don't want to be sued because someone conducted sex trafficking on their sites without their knowledge. They've had a change of heart, though. The Internet Association (which includes Amazon, Facebook and Google) now supports the proposed Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, which would explicitly punish online sites that facilitate exploitation, after lawmakers altered the bill to protect innocent sites against criminal charges and lawsuits.
The amended bill makes it explicit that a site can't use safe harbor rules as a shield if it "knowingly" assists with sex trafficking and other forms of exploitation. Also, any charges have to center around federal trafficking laws, not state-level or tangentially-related measures. All told, sites will only face action if they're either intentionally enabling sex trafficking or receive warnings and choose to do nothing. The previous wording was vague enough (there merely had to be "participation in a venture") that it could have opened the door to legal action merely because a site technically allowed sex trafficking on its servers.
SESTA still has to clear Congress and the President before it can become law, so it's not a done deal at this point. And it still has its share of critics. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, for example, maintains that the measure won't actually stop sex trafficking and may only protect large companies that can afford to fight cases. It may protect Facebook if someone posts an ad for sex slaves, but what about small sites (particularly forums) or consensual prostitution? There's a concern that the bill may push sex workers and trafficking victims offline. Moreover,critics worry that it might encourage an overdependence on less-than-flawless automated filters as companies scramble to avoid even the slightest hint of wrongdoing.
Dept of Justice, Los Angeles
Inland Empire Pimp Sentenced to 15 Years in Federal Prison for Sex Trafficking Twenty Women and Girls as Prostitutes
SANTA ANA – A pimp, known by the moniker “Classified,” who recruited approximately 20 women and girls through a social media website and advertised their services as prostitutes in an online publication, was sentenced yesterday to 15 years in prison for sex trafficking of a child by force, fraud or coercion.
Lawrence T. Gunn, Jr., 33, of Woodland Hills, who was previously convicted for similar conduct, was sentenced by United States District Judge David O. Carter.
According to court documents, Gunn forced his victims into prostitution through physical and verbal abuse and tattooed his moniker “Classified” on their bodies including on the faces of some of his victims who he recruited on Facebook. He branded his victims with the tattoo to permanently mark his sex workers as his own. Gunn admitted that he used force, threats of force, fraud and/or coercion to cause the victims to engage in commercial sex acts between May 2015 and late February 2016. He then took all of the money the victims collected from customers.
Gunn physically struck the women if they attempted to keep any of the money or if they tried to leave, breaking a young victim’s nose on one occasion. Gunn also admitted that he threatened to kill one 16-year-old victim, who he had tattooed “Classified” over her right eye, if she tried to leave him.
The Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking investigation in late 2016 found that advertisement’s for commercial sex acts were placed on various social media sites including Backpage.com and that Gunn had about a dozen women and girls working for him. One of the victims had posted hundreds of ads for sex services in states as far away as Alaska and Minnesota, according to court documents. Several victims told law enforcement authorities that Gunn took all of the money they collected from customers, including more than $17,000 that Gunn caused the victim to wire to him over the course of three months.
Once he completes his 15-year prison term, Gunn will be required to register as a sex offender.
This case was investigated by the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, which includes representatives from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. The Moreno Valley Police Department, the San Bernardino County Sherriff’s Office, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles Police Department assisted in the investigation.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tritia L. Yuen of the Riverside Branch Office.
Release No. 17-198
FROM: Tracy Webb, Director of External Affairs
United States Attorney’s Office, Central District of California (Los Angeles)