Victims break silence on child sexual abuse
by Theresa Tan
When Alice's father started sexually abusing her when she was nine, she did not tell her mother about it, unsure if her mum would believe her. Her father - whom she feared - repeatedly told her not to tell anyone.
Alice (not her real name) told The Straits Times: "I was afraid that it (reporting the abuse) would be life-changing for everyone."
It took about a year before she finally confided in her teacher.
She had no clue how to stop the abuse. But even then, she never wanted to put her dad in jail.
After her teacher reported the abuse, her father was sentenced to 20 years in jail and her relationship with her mother, who was angry with her and became depressed, deteriorated. Her two older sisters also had to deal with gossip.
Now 29, Alice works in a charity. The shame, guilt and pain from the abuse that took place almost 20 years ago still lingers.
"There was a lot of pain and tears and I wished my family didn't have to suffer the way they did," she said. "He was a breadwinner, husband, father, son and sibling to my family members and his absence left a void in their lives too."
Her story is one of 12, told by people who were sexually abused when they were children, in a book, Survivors: Breaking The Silence On Child Sexual Abuse. It will be launched on Nov 15.
It was written by Ms Eirliani Abdul Rahman, executive director of Youth Adult Survivors and Kin in Need (Yakin), and Dr Daniel Fung, chairman of the Institute of Mental Health's medical board.
The pair started Yakin to help people who were sexually violated as children, and there are plans to start programmes to help adult survivors of sexual abuse.
Last year, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) investigated 107 reports of sexual abuse of children under 16. This was 30 per cent more than the 82 cases in 2015 and more than double the 45 cases in 2009.
In most cases, the perpetrator was a family member.
While last year's figures are preliminary, an MSF spokesman said the increase in the number of reports is partly due to more professionals, from social workers to educators to healthcare staff, having been trained by MSF to spot abuse. The ministry has also introduced more rigorous screening tools that have improved the detection, reporting and management of child abuse cases.
The Singapore Children's Society has also started a programme to teach pre-schoolers how to protect themselves, by teaching them the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching, and what to do if they have been sexually abused.
The MSF recently handled a case involving a 14-year-old girl who had confided in her teacher that her stepfather had been sexually abusing her since she was eight.
The school made a police report and the MSF's Child Protective Service stepped in. However, the mother doubted her daughter's account and sided with her husband, the MSF spokesman said.
For her safety, the teenager was placed in a children's home and later, under her aunt's care. She has been receiving help to cope with the trauma but she continues to display worrying behaviour, including self-harm.
Her stepfather was not charged in court due to insufficient evidence.
As for Alice, years of counselling and therapy have helped.
Her father writes to her regularly from prison and although she has visited him, she is apprehensive about his impending release.
She said: "I don't know what recovery truly feels like, but it does get better with time. While the pain doesn't go away completely, it doesn't make me bitter."
Don't let Kevin Spacey muddy the facts about sexual abuse
by Louie Marven
Since the stories of Hollywood studio executive Harvey Weinstein's sexual abuse and harassment began publicly circulating, countless survivors of sexual violence have bravely added their voices to the movement.
The courage of these women in publicly sharing their stories inspired the actor Anthony Rapp to name the person who abused him — actor Kevin Spacey — in an interview with BuzzFeed last week. Rapp said his motivation was to help end the silence that allows sexual abuse to continue.
Soon after BuzzFeed published the article, Kevin Spacey released a statement that muddied the waters of the public conversation about sexual violence. In the statement, Spacey offered a tepid apology filled with qualifiers (“If I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior”) after saying he has no memory of “the encounter.” He then pivoted to coming out as a gay man.
Choosing that moment to address the rumors surrounding his sexual orientation provided a manipulative distraction from the primary issue at hand: that Spacey was accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year old child when Spacey was 26.
LGBTQ people in the entertainment industry — including Wanda Sykes, Billy Eichner, and Zachary Quinto — saw through this cynical public relations strategy and immediately issued public condemnations. But many media outlets unfortunately continued to lead with the story of Spacey's coming out rather than the abuse.
Historically, the sexuality of gay men has been stigmatized as deviant and unhealthy. Because of the work of brave LGBTQ pioneers — including Anthony Rapp, who came out in the early 1990s when it was less safe to do so — that stigma is not as strong as it used to be. But myths that gay men are sexual predators persist, and Spacey's statement painfully fed into that incorrect narrative.
In fact, abusive sexual behaviors have nothing to do with the abuser's sexual orientation — gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight. Most sexual abusers are not acting from a place of sexual attraction.
Consider a hypothetical case of a 26-year old straight man abusing a 14-year old girl. In this scenario, we would not assume the cause of the abusive behavior was his heterosexuality. Abusive sexual behaviors are usually carried out in an attempt to meet complex emotional needs, often having to do with feeling powerful or entitled.
The Kevin Spacey case has to do with abuse of his power as an adult over a child, and of an adult celebrity over a child actor.
Anthony Rapp's story stands out in the current public conversation around sexual violence in the entertainment industry in part because his is a story of being abused as a boy.
Adult male survivors of sexual assault make up a significant part of our communities: Research has shown that one in six boys in the United States have experienced childhood sexual abuse before their 18th birthday.
When considering barriers to reporting sexual abuse, we can imagine that the actual prevalence may be higher.
One of the biggest barriers to reporting is homophobia, a powerful tool used to silence male victims, who have been socialized to understand masculinity as at odds with appearing weak or powerless. Boys may fear being ridiculed with homophobic slurs after disclosing victimization. Homophobia is a form of oppression, which compounds trauma and keeps victims isolated and silenced.
Sexual violence is a tool of oppression, and oppression is a tool of offenders to silence victims, and in order to end sexual violence we must fight oppression in all its forms.
We all have a role in ending sexual violence. We can believe survivors like Anthony Rapp when they share their stories. In our areas of influence from parenting to the workplace, we can model treating people with respect. In our communities, we can advocate for equality and volunteer with our local sexual assault centers.
Together, we can create the space for victims of sexual violence to work toward healing, and we can ultimately prevent sexual violence from happening in the first place.
Louie Marven is a training specialist at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, which is operated by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
Male sexual abuse survivors conference to 'take lid off can of worms and throw it away'
by Chelsea Daniels
When Ken Clearwater was admitted to a psychiatric emergency ward after threatening to kill a man over a game of pool, he knew he needed help to deal with a secret he'd been carrying for decades.
He had been raped as a child.
Clearwater, 38 years old at the time of the outburst, had spiralled into a deep depression fuelled by drugs, alcohol, gangs and a whole lot of violence.
"Drugs and alcohol is a survival mechanism, it helps to numb the brain so we don't have to deal with stuff going round and round in our heads," he says.
"As males, we're supposed to be staunch and tough. We're not allowed to talk about things, share our feelings or else it's seen as weak."
His two daughters broke him free of suicidal thoughts and he mustered up the courage to speak out about being raped at the age of 12.
Targeted, groomed and sexually abused by a neighbourhood paedophile - it was his mother who noticed a change in his demeanour and called the Christchurch Police.
He says throughout his childhood, he was sexually abused by both male and female perpetrators, something he says people often find hard to take in.
Nearly three decades later, and Clearwater is now one of New Zealand's most prominent advocates for male sexual abuse survivors.
He's been involved in Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse New Zealand since 1996.
The group's peer support model, for male survivors to help male survivors, has garnered international interest, with Clearwater himself speaking at the United Nations.
"Even now in 2017, we start working with a man he asks 'am I the only one', and we're able to say 'no'."
He believes at least one in six boys are abused by the time they are 16 and says more than half the men coming to him for help have been abused by women.
He says research reveals it takes anywhere from 23 to 30 years for a man to disclose what's happened to him - and 74 per cent of men never tell anyone.
However, he says there are very limited resources male sexual abuse victims can turn to for help.
"There are just not enough specialists in this country... it's an untouched area in a lot of ways."
Clearwater says the experience never goes away.
"I still get triggered on a regular basis. Fortunately, I have support services around me."
He says research shows up to 65 per cent of men in prison for violence have been sexually abused in childhood and believes there's a direct connection between those who are abused and those who go on to commit family violence in their adult life.
Clearwater also says research shows 62 per cent of men who have been through the mental health system have got histories of sexual abuse.
"We've got the figures and the facts, but no one's interested in hearing them."
In the organisation's 20th year of helping victims, they're bringing a Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Conference to Christchurch.
It's the third gathering of the South-South Institute - an international partnership involving the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust Aotearoa and the Refugee Law Project, Men of Peace and Men of Hope organisations in Uganda; and the First Step organisation in Cambodia.
Clearwater says his main goal bringing the conference to Christchurch is to take the lid off the can of worms that is male sexual abuse, and throw that lid away.
"We've got this can of worms in our country, now how are we going to solve that? Have we got the services available to help these men? There's no putting the lid back on and now it's up to the country now to accept there's a massive issue."
A retired FBI profiler and writer for hit US TV show Criminal Minds will be one of the conference's keynote speakers.
Jim Clemente, a globally recognised expert in sex crimes, child sexual victimisation and child abduction/homicide, is one of about 30 speakers from New Zealand and around the world who will talk at a conference.
Clemente was a child victim of sexual abuse and worked with the FBI to catch his abuser.
The conference runs from November 5-10.
THE BRISTLECONE PROJECT
Bristlecone pine trees survive and thrive in the harsh conditions of the western Rocky Mountains, a mountain range in North America.
The Bristlecone Project: Portraits of Male Survivors was developed in 2012 by 1in6 founding board member Dr David Lisak.
Sexually abused by the age of 5 by a young man who boarded with his family, Lisak now works tirelessly to increase public awareness of sexual violence and its impact.
A US clinical psychologist and avid photographer, he began photographing and interviewing male survivors.
Ken Clearwater was the first New Zealander to be photographed for the project.
"They're stories of trauma, but also stories of hope," He says.
Now, The Bristlecone Project has photographed and interviewed 24 Kiwis who are survivors of sexual abuse.
"It's going to be in people's faces. They're going to see faces to stories and understand what these men have been through," says Clearwater.
"We're talking about men who have been sexually violated by their mothers, aunties, uncles, fathers, priests, scout masters. Every form of survivor and perpetrator is shown through these photos."
The exhibition will be shown at the Canterbury Museum until April 2018.
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.
If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:
DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234
There are lots of places to get support. For others, click here .
If you suspect child abuse, will you act?
T he devastating and preventable death of 17-month-old Semaj Crosby of Joliet Township forced restructuring this summer at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services .
Numerous child welfare investigations into her home and regular visits by caseworkers did not save the toddler from somehow becoming pinned under a sofa. Her death in April due to asphyxiation remains under investigation.
The adults who lived with her didn't protect Semaj. The caseworkers didn't save her. But outsiders concerned about her well-being and the safety of her three older siblings, and other children at the home, did speak up. Anonymous citizens alerted child welfare officials of possible abuse and neglect at least 11 times between April 2015 and April 27 of this year, the date of Semaj's death, according to a DCFS investigation.
The citizens who picked up the phone, who warned of alarming circumstances over a two-year period — allegations of child abuse, a baby wearing only a diaper playing near traffic, a constant rotation of adults and children at the house, unsupervised kids playing at a nearby park — are not named in the paperwork DCFS released. Generically, they are called “reporters.”
“Reporter states that child (name redacted) hits himself in the head, stated no one cares about him, alleged mother was hitting him and leaving marks, and was observed to be always hungry, along with statements that there is no food in his home,” reads a report from Oct. 5, 2016, regarding one of the children in the home.
Five days later: “Reporter states that children (name redacted) age one, and sibling (name redacted) age three, both have scratches, bruises and marks on their bodies that look like they are injuries from the use of a belt.”
Who were the reporters who alerted DCFS of alarming circumstances at Semaj's home? Teachers? Nurses? Neighbors? Whoever they were, they wanted to help. The trigger for most child abuse investigations are ordinary citizens who step forward.
Would you be one of them?
Illinois law identifies a range of people required to contact DCFS if they suspect abuse or neglect. They're called mandated reporters. Their lines of work bring them into regular contact with families and children. In Illinois, medical professionals, law enforcement personnel and teachers are among a robust list of several dozen mandated reporter categories.
An effort to expand that list to every adult in Illinois began earlier this year in Springfield. State Rep. Kelly Cassidy , D-Chicago, sponsored legislation that would require universal reporting: Any person, agency, organization or entity “that knows or in good faith suspects a child may be an abused child or a neglected child shall immediately report or cause a report to be made to the Department,” the bill reads. Failure to report possible child abuse or neglect could result in fines or even jail time.
Dozens of lawmakers from both parties signed on as co-sponsors, but the legislation lacked enough support to advance to the full House. Several prominent child welfare organizations testified against it. Here's why:
More than a dozen states have a so-called universal reporting law. Reviews are mixed. Some child welfare advocates say the laws flood child welfare hotlines with calls from people who aren't properly trained to detect abuse. If hotlines and investigators become overwhelmed, legitimate cases of abuse might fall through the cracks or, worse, professionals in those mandated career categories— teachers et al — might become frustrated that their calls weren't being addressed and become less likely to report.
“Right now we have a system that doesn't work,” says Anita Weinberg, a Loyola University Chicago law professor who specializes in child welfare. “People who use the (DCFS) hotline have no confidence that the response is going to be helpful for the family.” Why send more calls into a dysfunctional system?
The more effective solution, she says, is to better train mandated reporters on how to spot abuse and drive home the importance of following through; that is, intense and targeted training for them, not a wider net of well-intentioned but inexperienced reporters.
Supporters of universal reporting — including officials in Indiana, where every adult is a mandated reporter — retort that the more reporting, the better. What should Illinois do?
As the disturbing case against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky unfolded in 2011, states around the country began examining their child-abuse reporting laws. Some states added coaching personnel to the list of mandated reporters; others implemented universal reporting laws like Indiana's. A serial pedophile, Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of child abuse and sentenced to 60 years in prison.
Three of Sandusky's colleagues were charged with varying counts of child endangerment and failure to report child abuse. None of them picked up the phone to alert civil authorities, even after a witness told them he saw Sandusky in the shower with a young boy.
Prosecutors won convictions or plea deals that included jail time for Sandusky's enablers. As in many states, laws already were on the books to punish those who flagrantly and knowingly fail to report.
Which leads to our verdict but also our encouragement to everyone who reads these words. Illinois doesn't need a new law to compel responsible adults to do the right thing. Yes, legally mandated reporters should double down on their vigilance. But we should all consider ourselves mandated reporters. We are all answerable: If you suspect abuse or neglect, call the DCFS hotline. A trained professional will determine whether your concerns warrant an investigation. The law protects any “good faith” effort to report, even if the abuse report turns out to be unfounded.
The anonymous citizens who alerted DCFS 11 times of problems at Semaj's house did not, in the end, save her life. But those calls triggered investigations that might have — should have — prevented further abuse. DCFS has to answer for its failures. Those calls did, though, eventually lead to safer environments for Semaj's three older siblings; they were removed from the home and are living with foster families.
Those callers acted by the standard we all should: If you see something, say something. You might rescue a helpless Semaj.
Why online child sexual abuse must be taken more seriously
by Pat Branigan
Relatively little is known about the impact of sexual abuse involving online and digital technology. To improve understanding of the effects of this type of abuse, the NSPCC commissioned researchers from the universities of Bath and Birmingham to explore and compare how online and offline sexual abuse impacts young people, and how professionals respond to it. The report reveals some thought-provoking findings.
While the research found that online child sexual abuse had the same degree of impact on victims as offline sexual abuse, professionals often perceive this type of abuse to be less impactful and less of an immediate concern than offline abuse.
Professionals are also not always clear what is meant by online abuse. They may not realise the full range of technologies that can be used to facilitate it. They may also think there is a clear distinction between abuse that happens online and offline, without understanding that the two can be, and often are, entwined. This could mean they do not ask young people about the involvement of technology in abuse, nor offer them appropriate support after they've experienced online abuse.
This study was conducted via interviews and questionnaires with children and young people who had been sexually abused online, and professionals from across the social care, health, education and law enforcement sectors, who work with affected families.
On some level, it's understandable that professionals don't yet fully appreciate the extent of the impact online child sexual abuse has on its victims. There isn't the same volume, range, or depth of research into it as there is with offline abuse. The NSPCC's first involvement in combatting online child sexual abuse came in April 2006, when we helped fund the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, a command of the National Crime Agency.
Technology and the online world have both changed dramatically over the past 11 years – we didn't even have iPhones and Twitter then. A lot can also change in just three years, as demonstrated by the 250% increase in calls to Childline about online sexual abuse since 2014.
In order to ensure we respond appropriately and offer the most effective support to young people following an incident of online sexual abuse, we need to first better understand what impact the involvement of technology has and support professionals to know how best to respond.
Young people who took part in the study told us that when digital technology – everything from SMS to instant messaging apps – was part of their abuse, it enabled abusive strategies, such as: an increased ease of access to victims, lowered inhibitions, powerlessness, control of the night-time space, emotional and digital blackmail.
They also described a number of ways in which their sexual abuse had negatively impacted them, giving rise to difficulties such as self-harm, suicidal thoughts, panic attacks, anxiety, nightmares, behavioural problems at school, self-blame and low self-worth. Some of the young people interviewed felt that the initial abuse had made them more vulnerable to further abuse by sexualising them, by leading them to drink heavily or take risks, or by reducing their sense of self-worth and confidence.
Holly's abuser used the internet and digital technology to blackmail her and force her to commit sexual acts against her will. The 17-year-old said: “He would make me send pictures of myself, very inappropriate pictures, videos of me in the shower, doing all sorts of things, and make me Skype him or use MSN to perform all sorts of sexual acts.”
Many of the young people interviewed for the impact report spoke of adults in their lives not understanding the impact of their abuse. A high proportion of young people blamed themselves for the abuse. This appeared to be triggered or made worse by unsupportive approaches from professionals, school, peers and family. They also suggested that if adults had a better understanding of online and digital technology assisted sexual abuse, this could have enabled earlier intervention to stop the abuse.
How adults can help:
Through following these six steps, the children and young people involved in the study believe that professionals and the adults in their lives will be able to help them overcome the impact of the abuse they suffered, and also help prevent the same abuse happening to others.
1 Provide good education on healthy relationships, abuse and consent from a young age.
2 Ask, understand and notice.
3 Recognise the seriousness of online sexual abuse.
4 Increase support and make it more accessible.
5 Increase sensitive and effective therapy.
6 Improve the approach of the criminal justice system.
In addition to this, the NSPCC provides a number of resources for professionals working with children. Here are a few things you can do today:
Sign up to our NSPCC and O2 Net Aware e-newsletter and be the first to hear about new social networks, apps and games, and how to keep children safe online.
Download or order our Share Aware guide to use with the children and families you work with.
Brush up your knowledge on sexting – advice for professionals .
Visit our new online safety for teachers resources page.
Read our guidance for professionals on responding to online child abuse.
Complete our Keeping Children Safe Online course – introductory online training for anyone who works with children or families.
Preventing and Understanding Child Sexual Abuse
by Maria Sikourtris Di Iorio
Current news regarding Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, George H.W. Bush, as well as Dustin Hoffman's sexual assault accusations can cause us concern and to question the safety of our own families and children. Although the media informs us that adults were affected, how can we not think about our own loved ones and especially our children. Children of all ages, races, ethnicities and economic backgrounds are vulnerable to sexual abuse and it affects both girls and boys.
Children are most often sexually abused by someone they know and trust. Abusers can be very manipulative by arranging special trips and activities or anything to keep the child engaged. They will buy gifts, offer rides and show interest in whatever is most important in their lives. If they do not comply with the abuser, they are frequently threatened that if they tell anyone, they will be hurt or sent away or their whole family will break up. Most children will not disclose the abuse for this reason. If the abuser is someone the family cares about, the child may worry about getting that person in trouble. Children may also believe that the abuse is their own fault and may fear getting in trouble.Oftentimes, children are afraid that their parents will not believe them.
Children who have been sexually abused experience feelings of anger, rage, acting out, depression, anxiety, withdrawal, nightmares, sleeping problems, shame, guilt, fear about being left alone amongst many others.
Sexual abuse can be any interaction between a child and an adult (or another child ) in which the child is used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator. It can be touching behaviors including sexual intercourse or non touching behaviors such as voyeurism, or exposing children to pornography.
It is important for us to educate our children. Teach them accurate names for their private body parts, teach them what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior, educate them about “secrets” and the difference between good and bad ones. Good secrets are short term and would include a surprise birthday party, a Christmas present whereas bad secrets are meant to be kept forever and never disclosed.
It is critical to focus not only on detection, but on prevention and communication with our families/children. Have these discussions with them openly and let them understand the importance of body safety and healthy body boundaries.
NOW is a good time to discuss this with your child especially with all the recent news … it is a good segue to a serious conversation. If you suspect that anything has occurred to your child, please call and/or report to RAINN Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network – 24/7 – 1800-656-4673 or local Union County 908-233-7273.
At the Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ, we have a team of licensed professionals who provide individual, family, couples, children and adolescent counseling. We are available day, evening and weekend hours. Visit us www.hellenictherapy.com or on FB or call 908-322-0112
Fearing Increase In Sexual Abuse, UK May Soon Ban Socal Media For Kids Bel9ow The Age of 13
by the India Times
Children below 13 in UK may have to give up their Facebook accounts as, under a new legislation to be debated in the UK's House of Lords later this week, children under the age of 13 will be barred from joining Facebook and Twitter to keep them safe from child abuse on the social media platforms.
According to a report in The Telegraph , the government's Data Protection Bill will legally enshrine the age at which children will be allowed to create accounts on social media platforms.
The proposal, however, might not get support from cross-party peers who are insisting that the measure must be accompanied by new rules forcing companies to adapt their sites for younger users.
The move comes as Home Secretary Amber Rudd is to meet executives from the Internet giants in the US this week. Writing in a national daily The Sun on Sunday, Rudd said social media giants must do more to stop child sexual exploitation, adding that the companies have a "moral duty" to go "further and faster" in their efforts to tackle the abuse.
"Online technology had made 'vile child sexual abuse content vastly easier to find'. It is an absolute urgency that I call on all Internet companies to go further and go faster in tackling online child sexual abuse.
"We need you all to bring your resources and your technical expertise to help us turn the tide on this horrendous scourge. It is your moral duty," she added.
Donated cellphones give sexual assault victims a lifeline
by Camalot Todd
Cricket Wireless plans to donate 12 smartphones with six months' worth of service to the Rape Crisis Center in Las Vegas at 1 p.m. today. The aim is to help survivors of sexual assault have communication with police, medical staff, therapists and family in incidents where their phones were either lost or stolen during the assault or seized as evidence during the investigation.
“Unfortunately, these victims tend to be among the most vulnerable members of our society and without communication, their ability to recover immediately and in the long term is compromised. Being able to supply these clients with a working cellphone is a lifeline, as it helps ensure they can continue to connect with services they so desperately need,” Daniele Dreitzer, executive director of the Rape Crisis Center, said in a media release.
The center hopes to serve many more survivors by recycling the phones once they are no longer needed, and welcomes the community to help pay for wireless coverage going forward.
Marlon Young, territory sales manager for Cricket Wireless, said the company is always looking to help the community through such partnerships with nonprofits.
“There are people out there who are victims of assault that need help, and I would just suggest people find ways to connect with the RCC to help in any way possible,” Young said. “I know there are amazing people out there in Las Vegas that really want to help."
According to its website, the Rape Crisis Center has logged 1,950 counseling hours, answered 15,685 hotline calls and seen 747 clients in the hospital this year. Immediate and long-term recovery services are provided free of charge.
"Hopefully, in the aftermath of the #MeToo campaign, and people understanding that this is an experience that many people have shared, there is a lot of help and resources available for people who have experienced some form of sexual violence," Dreitzer said.
The free Circle of 6 app allows you to choose six individuals to reach immediately in situations that may escalate to violence. Key features range from a help message that sends with your GPS location to a phone icon you can tap to send your contacts this message: “Call and pretend you need me. I need an interruption.”
In the aftermath of assault
If you have been sexually assaulted, the Rape Crisis Center recommends having an exam done by a specialized nurse at University Medical Center at 1800 W. Charleston Blvd. The exam is free and will treat any physical injuries you may have sustained during the assault and collect evidence of the crime. (If you can't get the exam immediately, it can still be done three to five days later.)
To preserve the evidence for the exam, refrain from showering or bathing; changing clothes; drinking, eating or chewing gum; smoking; using the restroom or douching. Other items that may hold evidence (discarded clothing, blankets, sheets, etc.) should be put in a paper bag or pillow case and not in plastic.
If you report the crime to the police first, they can take you to UMC.
You don't need to report the crime to law enforcement to have the exam if you are an adult. However, the nurse is required to report the crime as child abuse to police if you are a minor.
7,000 adults trained to help prevent child sexual abuse
by the Express
BELLEFONTE – Centre County has reached a new milestone in child protection.
Statistics for child sexual abuse are startling. In the United States alone, one in 10 children will be sexually abused before the age of 18, making this one of the most prevalent health problems children face. Children affected not only suffer serious short term consequences from their abuse, and long term effects are often devastating for their family, relationships, and communities.
In over 90% of incidents, children are abused by someone they and their caregivers know and trust.
However, in Centre County, 7,000 adults are now trained to create environments that reduce the risk for abuse and allow children to learn, play, and worship in safety.
“Our community has a very unique collaboration that is dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse and it's long lasting consequences.” said YMCA of Centre County's Director of Community Outreach Jamie SanFilippo. “Our mission is to keep every family and child happy, healthy, and whole.”
The YMCA of Centre County, Centre County United Way, Centre County Women's Resource Center, and the Centre County Youth Service Bureau are a coalition with a proven and continued commitment to preventing child sexual abuse in Centre County.
Register for a free Stewards of Children® training program, schedule a free training for your organization, or learn how to become an authorized facilitator today: you could be the 7,001 person in our community trained to prevent child sexual abuse. Make a commitment today to protect the children in your life. Contact Jamie SanFilippo at JSanFilippo@ymcaocc.org for education, training, and volunteer opportunities and visit ymcaocc.org for more information and upcoming trainings in your area.
Jamie is a Darkness to Light affiliate, authorized to facilitate Stewards of Children trainings within the Centre County community, as well as certify new facilitators. She is the lead trainer and coordinator for all Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children® trainings in Centre County. Jamie is a Penn State graduate and has been with the YMCA of Centre County for almost 10 years.
Darkness to Light (D2L) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2000 with the mission to empower adults to prevent child sexual abuse. Through education and awareness, the organization seeks to create a safer world for children to grow and thrive. Darkness to Light's flagship program, “Stewards of Children®,” is an award-winning training that teaches adults to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. To date, over one million educators, youth serving professionals, organization volunteers, and community members have been trained. “Stewards of Children” is the largest training program of its kind, with the largest network of child protection advocates in the world. For more information visit D2L.org/Stewards.
For further information, please contact Darkness to Light Authorized Facilitator Jamie SanFilippo at 814-237-7717 or JSanFilippo@ymcaocc.org.
ASU partners in nation's 1st housing complex for survivors of sex trafficking
by Arizona State University
Arizona State University is a partner in the first facility in the United States to offer long-term housing to victims of sex trafficking and their children. Called “Starfish Place,” the 15-unit apartment complex is in north Phoenix and offers furnished two- and three-bedroom units. Families could begin moving into the facility the second week of November.
On Nov. 3, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton welcomed about 100 people to the grand opening of the complex that was originally built in 2013 and refurbished by the city. Councilmembers Jim Waring and Debra Stark spoke at the event as did Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions. An actress involved in stopping sex abuse and a survivor of sex trafficking also talked at the grand opening.
“In Phoenix, we are sending a message that we will not tolerate an inherently harmful industry that deprives people in our own backyards of their basic human rights,” Stanton said. “And as a community we will embrace and help our most vulnerable.”
The apartment complex has a large grass area and features a community center with a full kitchen, offices and a learning area for kids.
Interns from the ASU School of Social Work will help staff the facility and work with tenants and their children. A $50,000 grant from the ASU President's Office and the College of Public Service and Community Solutions will pay for the internships, therapeutic opportunities such as yoga and cooking classes and cover the costs of a program evaluation.
“We have people who are going to come in and teach children all the things they need to know to prevent them from being trafficked themselves,” said Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, an associate professor of social work and director of the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research. “The funding will also pay for an evaluation to make sure that if we want to replicate this somewhere else, we can hand this to the city of Seattle, the city of Chicago and say ‘this is how we did it.'”
Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions, announced that ASU will offer scholarships to human trafficking survivors. The university will make available five slots in the ASU Public Service Academy, a civilian leadership program modeled after the military Reserve Officer Training Corps. Koppell says the scholarships reflect ASU's commitment to accessibility and inclusiveness.
“This is a spectacular place and it's entirely appropriate because what this project, to me, is about is human potential,” Koppell said. “The individuals who will be living here are not merely trafficking survivors. They're individuals with tremendous potential.”
During the grand opening ceremony, Stanton thanked the many city of Phoenix agencies, local nonprofits and donors that helped make Starfish Place a reality. He also thanked a city of Phoenix human trafficking task force led by Waring and Cindy McCain.
“Without her efforts this wouldn't be possible,” said Waring, who represents northeast Phoenix. “But, it's not just here in Arizona where she (Cindy McCain) has made an impact, it's international. And she deserves every round of applause she gets and every award she receives for her work on this issue.”
McCain and the McCain Institute worked with the ASU Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research on several studies that measured sex trafficking in Arizona and developed evidence-based training for law enforcement and professionals who work in child welfare, health care and education. Their findings helped guide new policies adopted by the city of Phoenix and the state of Arizona and informed a U.S. Senate subcommittee examining nationwide solutions to sex trafficking.
“We are all here because we understand that everyone has a responsibility to fight human trafficking,” Stanton said. “Not just law enforcement — although law enforcement is critically important. Not just city officials or government. Everyone in our community has to be part of the solution.”
Actress AnnaLynne McCord, who starred in the reboot of the TV show 90210, spoke at the grand opening. McCord is an ambassador for the No More anti-sexual assault campaign.
“I had my first experience with how amazing Phoenix as a city is in fighting human trafficking a couple of years ago when the Super Bowl was here and I am just completely blown away by the continued efforts,” McCord said. “I hope that our country listens and uses this trend in other cities.”
Sex-trafficking survivor Lois Lucas told the grand opening audience that had such a facility existed when she needed help, her story might be different. Her son was taken from her and put up for adoption because she couldn't escape prostitution. She finally got the help she needed and now helps other women recover from their trauma and abuse.
“There are a lot of survivors with children ready to get here to get the help they need to change their lives,” Lucas said. “There's just no place to go before today.
“So thank you city Phoenix and everyone involved for creating this special place for sex-trafficking survivors who don't get to just survive. They get to thrive!”
Organization fighting sex trafficking working to open place for victims to live in Okla.
by Lauren Partain
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) – The Demand Project is an organization fighting sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children. Now they are expanding their services to help even more people across the country.
“In January of 2017 we were asked if we were interested in some property that was already a children's home,” said Krisitin Weis, co-founder and executive director of the Demand Project.
The facility is based in a secluded area in eastern Oklahoma. The location is on a need-to-know basis to keep victims safe from harm.
“We have to be really careful because we have an enemy out there that is targeting our children and those traffickers see our children as their product,” said Weis. “It's how they make a living. They make a living off the backs of these kids. So when we are able to pull them out of this and help them get out of this, they are going to see we are definitely a threat to their business.”
She said currently in Oklahoma there are only 18 beds for adult victims of human trafficking and 8 beds for minor victims of human trafficking.
Their facility will add 30 to 60 beds for minors and three to six beds for adult survivors with a kitchen, living room and bathrooms.
“This won't be just for Oklahoma,” she said. “It'll be a national organization so it won't just make a difference for Oklahoma, it will make a difference for Texas, Colorado, Tennessee and wherever in the United States that there is a traffic victim. If they need help, they can come here.”
They will also have a crisis center.
“Our crisis center is going to be absolutely integral to helping law enforcement and the community with human traffic victims," Weis said. "Because there are not many facilities. Where do you put them once they get rescued? The crisis center will be their very first stop."
They've already had help including donations like carpet, tile and people's time to make the place ready.
“Right now it's just trying to make the place look like a home but what we at The Demand Project see is the moment a child steps foot in here and knows that they are safe for the very first time,” she said. “That's why we're doing what we're doing.”
They hope to have their grand opening March 4th.
Next Friday, Nov. 17 they will have their annual gala to raise money for the facility.
Tickets are still available.
Police: Mich. girl who was with her dad yelled 'stranger danger' over hat
Police said the child yelled the phrase after her father bought her a hat she didn't like
by PoliceOne Staff
SOUTHFIELD, Mich — A child screaming “stranger danger” while being pulled out of a store wasn't being abducted - she was just upset over a hat her father had purchased for her.
WTCF-TV reports that on Halloween, police received a number of calls from people, including the child's mother, who were concerned for a 7-year-old girl after she was seen visibly upset and yelled “stranger danger” at a store. A store surveillance photo circulated on social media before police were able to confirm the identities the man and child in the photo.
Police said the man in the photo is the child's father and that she did not like the hat he bought her. They said they have spoken to the child about the consequences of yelling “stranger danger” when there's no emergency.
Understanding and preventing bullying
by Malinda Williams
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It's also National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, which makes sense because these two issues are often linked and share some characteristics.
A 2013 study showed children exposed to domestic violence as toddlers, but not after, are more likely to bully other children. Studies also show that many children who are bullies continue being aggressive as adults.
A 2010 study of 1,400 men, published in the Journal of Pediatrics , concluded men who were bullies at school are four times more likely to physically assault their wives or girlfriends than men who never bullied.
According to StopBullying.gov to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and involve: One, an imbalance of power – bullies use power like physical strength, knowledge about embarrassing information, or popularity, to control or harm others; second, repetition – bullying behaviors happen more than once.
Aggressive acts can be verbal, social, or physical.
Verbal bullying – the most common form students report – includes teasing, name-calling, sexual comments, taunting, or threats.
Social bullying , the second most common, includes leaving someone out on purpose, telling others not to be friends with them, spreading rumors, or publicly embarrassing them.
Physical bullying can be hitting, kicking, pinching, tripping, pushing, spitting, breaking possessions, or making mean or rude hand gestures. Physical bullying also includes inappropriate touching and sexual assault.
Bullying affects all children: victims, bullies and witnesses. Victims are more likely to develop depression and anxiety; health issues; have lower grades and standardized scores; participate less in school; and are more likely to drop out.
Children who are bullies are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs; fight; carry a weapon; vandalize property; drop out of school; engage in early sexual activity; and become perpetrators of domestic violence and child abuse. Bullies are five times more likely to become criminal defendants than non-bullies. Children who witness bullying have increased use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs; increased depression and anxiety; and are more likely to skip school.
The best way to deal with bullying is to prevent it. Teachers, parents, and school staff can take action to make schools safer. Help children understand bullying. Talk to them about what it is and how to intervene or report it safely. All classes should have regular discussions and role playing to help children understand bullying and how to respond.
Parents should check in with children often about school and what is going on with other kids at school and on the playground. Children can be taught bullying is everyone's problem and everyone's responsibility to stop it.
One of the most important things we can do as adults is to show children in the community how others should be treated. Children learn how to behave by watching us. So if we always treat everyone with kindness and respect, our children will do the same – at school and as adults.
Malinda Williams is the executive director of Community Against Violence, Inc.,which offers FREE confidential support and assistance for adult and child survivors of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking; community and school violence prevention programs; re-education BIP groups for domestic violence offenders; counseling; shelter; transitional housing; and community thrift store. To talk with someone or get information on services available, call CAV's 24-hour crisis line at 575-758- 9888, TaosCAV.org .
Alliance expands child abuse training to Spanish-speaking residents
by Marcia Moore
In an effort to protect children from neglect and abuse, the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance is providing free onsite mandatory training classes to everyone, including Spanish-speaking residents.
"Spanish-speaking mandated reporters now have the same opportunities," said Angela Liddle, president and CEO of PFSA, the state's leading child abuse prevention organization.
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services provides the funding to PFSA to provide free, in-person or online training to anyone interested in learning how to identify and report suspected child abuse.
This fall, the training was expanded to include classes in Spanish and to faith-based groups, Liddle said.
The Latino population is the fastest-growing ethnic group in Pennsylvania and the needs of religious-based institutions are specific, she said of the importance of expanding the training.
"Our new tailored training materials take into account the specific concerns religious-based groups have about their interactions with children. They are committed to protecting children who worship, participate in youth activities, enroll in child care and attend classes in their religious programs," said PFSA Training Director Haven Evans.
The free, three-hour in-person training session is offered to groups of 15, Liddle said.
Raising awareness and understanding is vital to keeping children safe, she said.
Abuse led to the deaths of 46 children in Pennsylvania last year and another 79 children survived their abuse but are listed as near fatalities due to the trauma they endured, according to the state Department of Human Services.
People who reported the abuse saved lives, said Liddle.
"Last year there were 8,200 community permissive reporters (people not required by law)" who reported suspected child abuse claims to Pennsylvania authorities, Liddle said. "Every kid deserves to grow up in a place that is free from harm. That's what we're all about."'
For more information about the training or about PFSA, call 1-800-448-4906.
Spokane Co. sees spike in child abuse cases
by Ryan Simms
SPOKANE, Wash. – Crime statistics said child abuse cases are going up in Spokane County.
The child abuse statistics in Spokane County are also the worst in the state.
Police believe one of the worst cases happened on Sunday when a toddler was left in a coma. Ths 21-month-old is still in intensive care here at Sacred Heart. She is currently in critical condition and has brain swelling. Brandon Oquendo is in jail on first degree child abuse charges in connection to the incident.
In the past decade, the Spokane Regional Health District reports the number of child abuse cases has spiked almost by a quarter. Health officials said 5,431 of those cases happened just in 2015. Spokane's child abuse rate is far above that of both Washington state and the U.S.
Back in February, Kitara Johnson's 9-month-old nephew died. Police arrested the boy's babysitter, who is now awaiting trial for murder. Johnson is now a leading advocate for the state to make changes that would prevent child abuse. At the top of her list is affordable and safe childcare for low-income families.
"You're seeing a lot of single moms using the boyfriends to off-set the cost," Johnson explained.
Studies show the average cost of childcare for a toddler is $730 a month. For an infant, it is around $1,000.
Johnson plans to present her recommendations to Washington's Blue Ribbon Commission, a new state agency that combines information from such departments like Department of Social and Health Services but focuses solely on kids and families. Lawmakers insist it will streamline information sharing.,leading to faster action for at-risk kids across the state.
Survey Reveals 1 in 2 Children Suffer From Child Sexual Abuse
by Bageshri Savyasachi
While researching for this article I spoke to my peers in college about sexual abuse they might have had in their childhood. While I waited for their responses I found myself being confident that everyone would have something to contribute (because everyone must have gone through something similar). It is appalling how much we internalise our childhood traumas, even enough to think that we were the ones at fault.
A survey participated in by more than 45,000 children in the 12-18 age group, across 26 states in the country, revealed that one in every two children is a victim of child sexual abuse (CSA).
The survey conducted by humanitarian aid organisation World Vision India with a sample of 45,844 respondents. These survivors have been sexually abused and assaulted when they were children and sexually inactive. They were viewed as sexual objects and taken advantage of in their vulnerability and innocence.
Adult survivors have been living with these memories for a long time. Some survivors keep the abuse a secret for many years. They may have tried to tell an adult and met with resistance or felt there was no one they could trust. The survey also revealed that one in four families do not come forward to report child abuse.
For these reasons and many others, the effects of sexual abuse can occur many years after the abuse has ended. Remember that there is no set timeline for dealing with and recovering from this experience.
It's not always easy to know what to say when someone tells you they've been sexually assaulted, especially if they are a friend or family member. For a survivor, disclosing to someone they care about can be very difficult, so we must be as supportive and non-judgemental as possible.
Here are three stories of CSA from 21-year olds :
“I used to be in day-care until the 5th standard, my stalker lived in the same building. Every day for 5 years, he would wait for me to return from school, hear me climbing up and pop out to say hello. He was a man in his late 40s who lived with his wife and two married sons.
He never missed a day, he would see my rickshaw dropping me off at the gate and be there to see me off. He would pat and rub my shoulder and ask me to visit him. In sixth grade, when I stopped going to day-care, I was in my school rickshaw with other students being taken home. Suddenly during a stop at a signal, on the bike next to us was my stalker.
He unbuttoned a few buttons of his shirt and leaned ahead on his sports bike to wave at me. Over the next two kilometres, he drove alongside us and asked me where I lived and if he should follow me. When I panicked and screamed at him in tears, my rickshaw “uncle” began laughing. He entertained my stalker for another kilometre until I fainted in my seat.
My stalker soon left us and never contacted me again until recently when sent me a friend request on Facebook. I could not tell anyone at the time because he was an adult and I felt like my voice was not strong enough and that no one would understand or believe me. Every second of that incident is still etched clearly in my memory, at the age of 12, I was made to feel so unsafe and afraid of being a girl. The mental trauma still haunts every time I step out.”
“I was in the seventh standard when I stayed back after school with my friends to hang out. When we were walking through a slum area because it was the shorter route, it was in the afternoon. We were walking in a group when a man stood on the other side of the path and just pulled out his penis and started wanking. Me and my girlfriends were so terrified, we had never seen male genitals before and this was our first exposure.”
“I was 13 when my uncle from abroad came to visit us, I had not seen him for 3 years since he'd sexually abused me. When I was 10 he would visit us regularly and take me to the park during those visits. We would drive there and wait in the car.
He would always have a lolly for me and ask me to suck it, while I did that he would slide his hands up and down my shorts. He would massage my groin over my shorts and watch me with the lolly. I went home that day feeling filthy and small. I did not like how he touched me and I was shocked because he was my uncle, I trusted him. I knew that it was wrong if an adult touched me there unless I was injured. I hated myself.”
To anyone who has encountered sexual abuse as a child or adult, the only befitting reply is “I believe you, it is not your fault, you are not alone and I am sorry this happened to you”. You are strong to have carried this burden of trauma, you are resilient for living life anyway and now you must be brave to tell someone who cares about you, so that they may help you.
Peoria PD: Classmate helps save girl after months of sexual abuse
by Joe Enea
PEORIA, AZ - An elementary school student is credited with helping to save a friend after 18 months of sexual abuse by a family friend, police say.
Peoria police report that on October 27 they were contacted by an elementary school who alerted them that one of their students may be the victim of sexual abuse.
The school was contacted by a parent who reportedly told them that the victim confided in their child that she was being tied up, sexually abused and photographed. She was also threatened by the suspect with death if she exposed him.
The victim also allegedly told her friend that the suspect had broken her arm. School officials confirmed to police that the victim did come to school in a sling, at the beginning of the school year.
Police and investigators from the Office of Child Welfare removed the child from the Peoria home and interviewed her.
The victim reportedly recalled multiple incidents over the past 18 months of sexual contact, and the taking of sexually explicit photos. She identified the suspect as 30-year-old Andrew Cook, a family acquaintance.
Police collected Cook's cell phone memory card. On it, police say, they found multiple nude photos of the victim and Cook. In one of the images, a tattooed "W" is reportedly seen on a man's finger. Police say Cook has the same tattoo on his finger.
Cook was arrested at his home on October 27 and is being held on a $500,000 bond on 23 various sexual crimes with a minor.
Police say even more charges may be filed, as they are investigating the possibility of a second victim.
More children than ever need our help. But they are being ignored
by Ray Jones
It is hard for the media to tell the same story again and again. News needs novelty to attract attention. Yet while the media begins to turn away, austerity continues to grind down public services and the poor – and force more children and families to breaking point. This may be one reason why the 2016-2017 children in need statistics for England received hardly any media attention when they were published last week.
But there is a story here that ought to be told; one of services struggling to cope and of children and families left without help.
The statistics show that children's social services are being increasingly rationed. The number of referrals to children's social services in 2016-17 was 646,120, an increase of 4% on the previous year and a 7% increase since 2010 (when the Department for Education timeline starts). But the proportion of referrals that, following assessment, do not result in any involvement or help from social services is at a high of 27.8%, up by 2.5% from the previous year and 8.7% since 2012 (when this data were first collected).
So in 2016-17, there were more referrals but a reduction in those getting further help from social services. As a result, a smaller proportion of children – 330.4 per 10,000 aged under 18 – are now categorised as children in need than at any time since 2010.
When children's social services do get involved, engagement is much more likely to be defined, and responded to, as child protection concerns. This trend escalated quickly following the Baby P case and the Sun's infamous headline accusing social workers of having “blood on their hands” .
Since then, child protection investigations have increased by 108% to 185,450 a year. Initial child protection case conferences are up 73% to 75,890, and a record number of children – 51,080 – have a child protection plan, 75% more than before the Baby P case in 2008.
There has also been a 130% increase in care proceedings and a 21% increase in the number of children in the care of local councils over the same period.
These are staggering increases. They have occurred at a time when central government funding to local authorities has been reduced by 40% since 2010 (pdf), when specific grants such as Sure Start have been ended (pdf), and when social security benefit cuts have badly affected poor families with children .
It ought to come as no surprise that the main reasons children are subject to child protection plans are neglect (48.1%) and emotional abuse (33.8%) – or that child protection activity is much higher in areas of deprivation and disadvantage . Parenting children well gets harder and harder in the face of increasing poverty and dwindling help.
This is the story that has largely gone untold. It may be less newsworthy now, but it is a shameful scandal.
And things are set to get even worse for children's social services. As government cuts continue, the Local Government Association has warned that services are already at “breaking point” , and that there will be a £2bn shortfall in funding for children's social services by 2020. However, Robert Goodwill, the children's minister, says that he will not be asking the Treasury for more money as he is not convinced current funding is being well spent.
The future for children in poor families is also worsening as the government continues to cut welfare benefits and remains determined to roll out the ill-designed and not-fit-for purpose universal credit .
The consequences will be seen in the 2017-18 children in need statistics next November – but they will also be experienced every day by children and families in difficulty, and by those who would like to be able to help them.
Police, hospital team up to help sex trafficking survivors
The partnership between London police and St. Joe's is dedicated to meeting survivors' unique needs
by Kate Dubinski
The needs of survivors of human trafficking are unique.
A partnership between St. Joseph's Health Care and the London police aims to meet those needs while considering the trauma those who have escaped sex trafficking have experienced.
"Historically, victims of trafficking have been taken to the emergency room, where the treatment is good but the wait can be long," said Dr. Susan McNair, the medical director of the Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Program, which teamed up with London police in March.
The program sees about 300 individuals a year who have been victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. It's impossible to pinpoint how many of those have been victims of trafficking — some victims don't think of themselves as having been trafficked, or they don't disclose what's happened to them.
Since the partnership began in the spring, the centre has seen four women or girls who had just escaped sex trafficking.
"We want them to, at the very early stage in their escape, begin the recovery process," McNair said. "Individuals who come to us are victims of significant trauma — psychological trauma and sexual violence — and they come to us with a vast array of trauma, bruises, abrasions, lacerations and even fractures."
Helping with recovery from beginning
The team is made up of three full-time nurses, four part-time nurses, and sexual assault nurse examiners who are trained in trauma and sexual violence. There are also five family doctors, a nurse practitioner and social workers who work with the survivors.
The program has two exam rooms, counselling rooms and a waiting room. St. Joe's administrators are setting up an interview room for police to use, so women can be interviewed on site, instead of having to be taken to the London police station.
"The long haul is what they need," said McNair. "Sexual violence, by its very nature, takes away control from the very beginning, and we need to give (survivors) back that control. We need to let them know that we'll be there to follow up on the STI testing, that we'll be there for primary care needs, and we'll be there for the longer term in terms of psychological care."
Louis C.K. Is Accused by 5 Women of Sexual Misconduct
by Melena Ryzik, Cara Buckley and Jodi Kantor
In 2002, a Chicago comedy duo, Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov, landed their big break: a chance to perform at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo. When Louis C.K. invited them to hang out in his hotel room for a nightcap after their late-night show, they did not think twice. The bars were closed and they wanted to celebrate. He was a comedian they admired. The women would be together. His intentions seemed collegial.
As soon as they sat down in his room, still wrapped in their winter jackets and hats, Louis C.K. asked if he could take out his penis, the women said.
They thought it was a joke and laughed it off. “And then he really did it,” Ms. Goodman said in an interview with The New York Times. “He proceeded to take all of his clothes off, and get completely naked, and started masturbating.”
In 2003, Abby Schachner called Louis C.K. to invite him to one of her shows, and during the phone conversation, she said, she could hear him masturbating as they spoke. Another comedian, Rebecca Corry, said that while she was appearing with Louis C.K. on a television pilot in 2005, he asked if he could masturbate in front of her. She declined.
Now, after years of unsubstantiated rumors about Louis C.K. masturbating in front of associates, women are coming forward to describe what they experienced. Even amid the current burst of sexual misconduct accusations against powerful men, the stories about Louis C.K. stand out because he has so few equals in comedy. In the years since the incidents the women describe, he has sold out Madison Square Garden eight times, created an Emmy-winning TV series, and accumulated the clout of a tastemaker and auteur, with the help of a manager who represents some of the biggest names in comedy. And Louis C.K. built a reputation as the unlikely conscience of the comedy scene, by making audiences laugh about hypocrisy — especially male hypocrisy.
After being contacted for an interview this week about the on-the-record accusations of sexual misconduct — encounters that took place over a decade ago — Louis C.K.'s publicist, Lewis Kay, said the comedian would not respond. “Louis is not going to answer any questions,” Mr. Kay wrote in an email Tuesday night.
Neither Louis C.K. nor Mr. Kay replied to follow-up emails in which the accusations were laid out in detail, or to voice messages or texts. On Thursday, the premiere of Louis C.K.'s new movie “I Love You, Daddy,” was abruptly canceled, and he also canceled an appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”
The stories told by the women raise sharp questions about the anecdotes that Louis C.K. tells in his own comedy. He rose to fame in part by appearing to be candid about his flaws and sexual hang-ups, discussing and miming masturbation extensively in his act — an exaggerated riff that some of the women feel may have served as a cover for real misconduct. He has all but invited comparison between his private life and his onscreen work, too: In “I Love You, Daddy,” which is scheduled to be released next week, a character pretends to masturbate at length in front of other people, and other characters appear to dismiss rumors of sexual predation.
At the same time, Louis C.K. has also boosted the careers of women, and is sometimes viewed as a feminist by fans and critics . But Ms. Goodman and Ms. Wolov said that when they told others about the incident in the Colorado hotel room, they heard that Louis C.K.'s manager was upset that they were talking about it openly. The women feared career repercussions. Louis C.K.'s manager, Dave Becky, was adamant in an email that he “never threatened anyone.”
For comedians, the professional environment is informal: profanity and raunch that would be far out of line in most workplaces are common, and personal foibles — the weirder the better — are routinely mined for material. But Louis C.K.'s behavior was abusive, the women said.
“I think the line gets crossed when you take all your clothes off and start masturbating,” Ms. Wolov said.
‘You Want to Believe It's Not Happening'
Ms. Corry, a comedian, writer and actress, has long felt haunted by her run-in with Louis C.K. In 2005, she was working as a performer and producer on a television pilot — a big step in her career — when Louis C.K., a guest star, approached her as she was walking to the set. “He leaned close to my face and said, ‘Can I ask you something?' I said, ‘Yes,'” Ms. Corry said in a written statement to The New York Times. “He asked if we could go to my dressing room so he could masturbate in front of me.” Stunned and angry, Ms. Corry said she declined, and pointed out that he had a daughter and a pregnant wife. “His face got red,” she recalled, “and he told me he had issues.”
Word quickly reached the show's executive producers, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, who both confirmed the incident. “What happened to Rebecca on that set was awful,” Ms. Cox said in an email, adding that she felt “outrage and shock.”
“My concern was to create an environment where Rebecca felt safe, protected and heard,” she said. They discussed curtailing the production. Ms. Corry decided to continue with the show.
“Things were going well for me,” Ms. Corry said in the statement, “and I had no interest in being the person who shut down a production.”
A fifth woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect her family's privacy because she has not been publicly linked to the incident with Louis C.K., also has disturbing memories about an incident with the comedian. In the late '90s, she was working in production at “The Chris Rock Show” when Louis C.K., a writer and producer there, repeatedly asked her to watch him masturbate, she said. She was in her early 20s and went along with his request, but later questioned his behavior.
“It was something that I knew was wrong,” said the woman, who described sitting in Louis C.K.'s office while he masturbated in his desk chair during a workday, other colleagues just outside the door. “I think the big piece of why I said yes was because of the culture,” she continued. “He abused his power.” A co-worker at “The Chris Rock Show,” who also wished to remain anonymous, confirmed that the woman told him about the experience soon after it happened.
Ms. Schachner, a writer, illustrator and performer, admired Louis C.K.'s work. They had met in the comedy scene; Ms. Schachner's former boyfriend was a comedy writer who had worked with Louis C.K. In 2003, when she called Louis C.K. with an invitation to her show, he said he was at work in an office as a writer on the series “Cedric the Entertainer Presents,” she recalled.
Their conversation quickly moved from the personal — Louis C.K. had seen photos of her on her boyfriend's desk, he said, and told her he thought she was cute — to “unprofessional and inappropriate,” Ms. Schachner said.
She said she heard the blinds coming down. Then he slowly started telling her his sexual fantasies, breathing heavily and talking softly. She realized he was masturbating, and was dumbfounded. The call went on for several minutes, even though, Ms. Schachner said, “I definitely wasn't encouraging it.” But she didn't know how to end it, either. “You want to believe it's not happening,” she said. A friend, Stuart Harris, confirmed that Ms. Schachner had described the call to him in 2003.
For years afterward, Ms. Schachner said, she felt angry and betrayed by an artist she looked up to. And she wondered what she could have done differently. “I felt very ashamed,” she said.
A Run-In, Then Fears About Speaking Out
During Ms. Goodman and Ms. Wolov's surreal visit to Louis C.K.'s Aspen hotel room, they said they were holding onto each other, screaming and laughing in shock, as Louis C.K. masturbated in a chair. “We were paralyzed,” Ms. Goodman said. After he ejaculated on his stomach, they said, they fled. He called after them: “He was like, ‘Which one is Dana and which one is Julia?'” Ms. Goodman recalled.
Afterward, they ran into Charna Halpern , the owner of influential improv theaters in Los Angeles and Chicago, where Ms. Goodman and Ms. Wolov performed, and relayed what had happened. “I didn't know what to do, I didn't know what to tell them to do,” said Ms. Halpern. Ms. Goodman and Ms. Wolov decided against going to the police, unsure whether what happened was criminal, but felt they had to respond in some way “because something crazy happened to us,” Ms. Goodman said.
Hoping that outrage would build against Louis C.K., and also to shame him, they began telling others about the incident the next day. But many people seemed to recoil, they said. “Guys were backing away from us,” Ms. Wolov said. Barely 24 hours after they left Louis C.K.'s hotel, “we could already feel the backlash.”
Soon after, they said they understood from their managers that Mr. Becky, Louis C.K's manager, wanted them to stop telling people about their encounter with Louis C.K. Lee Kernis, one of the women's managers at the time, confirmed on Thursday that he had a conversation in which he told Mr. Becky that Louis C.K.'s behavior toward the women had been offensive. Mr. Kernis also said that Mr. Becky was upset that the women were talking openly about the incident.
Mr. Becky denied making any threats toward the women. “I don't recall the exact specifics of the conversation, but know I never threatened anyone,” he wrote by email on Thursday. Ms. Halpern and Robert Schroeder — Ms. Goodman and Ms. Wolov's agent at the time — said that the pair told them that they felt they had been warned to stop talking.
Mr. Becky arguably wields even more power in comedy than Louis C.K. He represents Kevin Hart, Aziz Ansari, Amy Poehler and other top performers, and his company, 3 Arts, puts together programming deals for nearly every platform.
Ms. Goodman and Ms. Wolov moved to Los Angeles shortly after the Aspen festival, but “we were coming here with a bunch of enemies,” Ms. Goodman said. Gren Wells, a filmmaker who befriended the comedy duo in 2002, said the incident and the warning, which they told her about soon after Aspen, hung heavily over them both. “This is something that they were freaked out about,” Ms. Wells said.
In the years since, Ms. Goodman and Ms. Wolov have found some success, but they remained concerned about Mr. Becky and took themselves out of the running for the many projects he was involved in. Though their humor is in line with what he produces, “we know immediately that we can never even submit our material,” Ms. Wolov said.
Private Acts, Public Jokes
Jokes about masturbation have been a regular part of Louis C.K.'s stage shows. In one bit, he complains about not being able to find a private place in his house to do it. “I'm on the streets now,” he says, “I've got nowhere to go.” In another bit he laments being a prisoner of his perversions. “Just the constant perverted sexual thoughts,” he says, then mimes masturbating. “It makes me into a moron.”
Tig Notaro, the comedian whose Amazon series, “One Mississippi,” lists Louis C.K. as an executive producer, is one of the few in the fiercely insular comedy world to speak out against him. Her career received a huge boost when he released her 2012 comedy album, about her cancer diagnosis. But their relationship has crumbled and she now feels “trapped” by her association with him, she wrote in an email.
Her fear is that “he released my album to cover his tracks,” she said. “He knew it was going to make him look like a good guy, supporting a woman.” Ms. Notaro said she learned of his reputation after they sold the series to Amazon, and a recent story line is a fictional treatment of the alleged masturbation episodes.
“Sadly, I've come to learn that Louis C.K.'s victims are not only real,” she said by email, “but many are actual friends of mine within the comedy community,” like Ms. Corry, who confided in her, she said.
In his forthcoming film, about a television writer whose teenage daughter is wooed by a Woody Allen type, one character aggressively mimics masturbating in front of others. The content has raised eyebrows. Given the rumors surrounding Louis C.K., the movie “plays like an ambiguous moral inventory of and excuse for everything that allows sexual predators to thrive: open secrets, toxic masculinity, and powerful people getting the benefit of the doubt,” Joe Berkowitz wrote in Fast Company.
Yet in an interview with The Times in September at the Toronto film festival, where “I Love You, Daddy,” was shown, Louis C.K. dismissed stories of his alleged sexual misconduct as “rumors,” and said the notion that the masturbation scenes referred to them never occurred to him. “It's funny, I didn't think of that, ” he said.
Apologies With Troubling Implications
In private, though, he appears to have acknowledged his behavior.
In 2009, six years after their phone call, Ms. Schachner received a Facebook message from Louis C.K., apologizing. “Last time I talked to you ended in a sordid fashion,” he wrote in the message, which was reviewed by The Times. “That was a bad time in my life and I'm sorry.” He added that he had seen some of Ms. Schachner's comedy and thought she was funny. “I remember thinking what a repulsive person I was being by responding the way that I did,” he wrote.
Ms. Schachner accepted his apology and told him she forgave him. But the original interaction left her deeply dispirited, she said, and was one of the things that discouraged her from pursuing comedy.
In 2015, a few months before the now-defunct website Defamer circulated rumors of Louis C.K.'s alleged sexual misconduct, Ms. Corry also received an email from Louis C.K., which was obtained by The Times, saying he owed her a “very very very late apology.” When he phoned her, he said he was sorry for shoving her in a bathroom. Ms. Corry replied that he had never done that, but had instead asked to masturbate in front of her. Responding in a shaky voice, he acknowledged it and said, “I used to misread people back then,” she recalled.
The call confounded her, Ms. Corry said: not only had he misremembered the incident, which made her think there were other moments of misconduct, he also implied she had done something to invite his behavior. “It is unfair he's put me or anyone else in this position,” Ms. Corry said.
Ms. Goodman and Ms. Wolov said that with other allegations swirling around the entertainment world, they could no longer stay silent. “Because of this moment, as gross as it is, we feel compelled to speak,” Ms. Goodman said.
Ms. Notaro said she was standing in support of those with the courage “to speak up against such a powerful figure,” she said, “as well as the multitude of women still out there, not quite ready to share their nightmares.”
Oklahoma woman who married mother after two 'hit it off' pleads guilty to incest
by Fox News
An Oklahoma woman who married her biological mother in 2016 after they reunited and allegedly “hit it off” pleaded guilty to incest Tuesday.
Misty Spann, 26, of Duncan, Okla., pleaded guilty in Stephens County District Court and under the deal was sentenced to 10 years of probation.
Her mother, Patricia Ann Spann, 44, has pleaded not guilty to incest. Her court date was slated for January. She could face 10 years in prison if found guilty, Tulsa World reported.
Prosecutors said Patricia Spann also married one of her sons in 2008. The marriage was annulled in 2010 due to “incest,” The Associated Press reported.
The mother said she thought the marriage to Misty was legal because she had lost custody of her daughter and two sons years ago and is not listed on their birth certificates.
Patricia allegedly told authorities she was reunited with Misty in 2014 after losing custody and the two “hit it off,” Tulsa World reported.
KOCO 5 reported Patricia's marriages to her children were “all ploys to manipulate state laws.”
“Misty and Patricia told me they got married to basically defraud the state in order to receive more benefits under health care. That sort of thing,” Detective Justin Smith told KOCO 5 .
Smith said the mother-daughter-duo was attempting to adopt a child and believed their marriage would shorten the process.
Authorities reportedly learned of the marriage in February 2016 and opened an investigation.
Call It What It Is: Child Sexual Abuse
by Vicki Tidwell Palmer
The recent allegations about a 1979 incident involving then 32-year old Alabama Assistant District Attorney Roy Moore illustrate, once again, that we are woefully misinformed and misguided about the reality of childhood sexual abuse and assault.
When an adult—whether a teacher, clergy member, coach, or in this case a prosecutor in a courthouse—initiates a sexual conversation or has sexual contact with a minor child, the incident is child sexual abuse, period.
The most commonly used terms to describe adult sexual contact with a person under the age of 18 include:
Dating, or “He asked her on a date”
A minor child does not have the ability to give consent for sexual contact with an adult. That is why consent laws exist, and why an adult who has sexual contact with a minor child is guilty of a criminal act.
An adult, no matter what his/her status, is in an authority role over a minor child. A child does not freely—without direct or indirect coercion—enter into a relationship, sexual relationship, sexual relations, or “date” an adult. In fact, adults have a duty to protect children from such coercion and exploitation.
Some Moore apologists have argued that because the age of consent in Alabama is 16, Moore's other accusers who were older—but still teenagers—are in a separate category from the 14-year old victim, Ms. Corfman. At the time of the alleged abuse, the age of consent in Alabama was three years younger than the legal drinking age. Today, the legal drinking age in Alabama is 21, yet the age of consent remains 16.
Regardless of what you believe is the appropriate age of consent, there is no rational basis for requiring a person to be 21 years old to consume alcohol, yet maintaining that they have the maturity to consent to sexual contact five years sooner.
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse—especially women who were abused as teenagers by a respected authority figure such as a teacher or a coach—feel a toxic stew of emotions including , shame, guilt, and affection as a result of their abuse. They wonder, “Did I bring this on myself? Was it really abuse if I felt flattered, special, or ‘in love'?”
One of Moore's alleged victims, Ms. Corfman, describes how Moore's actions impacted her:
When the abuse continues for months or even years, the victim often feels as though she/he is in love with the perpetrator. The impact of childhood sexual abuse creates deeply confusing and ambivalent feelings about the abuse and the perpetrator that may persist for years—or even decades.
If Ms. Corfman's allegations about Moore's conduct are true—and there is no reason to believe that they are not—she is likely one of many more victims beyond the three others identified in the Washington Post report.
The description of Moore approaching Ms. Corfman and her mother in that Alabama courthouse in 1979 posing as their protector is classic—and practiced—predatory behavior. The proper term for his alleged behavior is “grooming,” and its purpose is to lay the groundwork for sexually abusing the predator's target in the future.
It's time to start calling childhood sexual abuse what it is. To do less is to make invisible the trauma of our children—allowing child sexual predators to minimize their behavior and continue to offend and abuse.
Surviving abuse: 'It's not what happens to us that defines us'
Teen kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart brings a message of hope to Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center
by Julie Muhlstein
One was a captive, abducted from her Utah home at 14, chained to a tree and raped nearly every day for nine months. The other, a longtime Snohomish County deputy prosecutor, spent much of her career seeking justice for sexual assault survivors and championing children's rights.
Both women's powerful stories were shared Thursday at the Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center's fifth annual Transforming Hurt to Hope Luncheon .
“Dawson Place is a place you should be proud of,” said Elizabeth Smart, who in 2002 was kidnapped from her bedroom in Salt Lake City. Now 30 and a married mother of two, Smart was keynote speaker at the fund-raising lunch that brought more than 700 people to Everett's Xfinity Arena conference center.
Near the end of the program, former Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Seth Dawson, for whom the center is named, announced that Lisa Paul is the recipient of the organization's 2017 Secure the Future Award.
Paul, 59, was a deputy prosecutor in Snohomish County from 1988 until her retirement in June, much of that time as head of the Special Assault Unit . The unit handles child abuse cases and adult sexual offenses.
Dawson, who hired Paul, said she “played a major role in the creation of, and the ongoing success of our child advocacy center.”
“Beginning in the '90s, in two long stints as the head of the Special Assault Unit, our award winner often kept the messiest and most challenging child abuse cases, and handled them herself,” Dawson said. “The beautiful, tender way she treated those children earned her many admirers, and set the standard for other prosecutors.”
Dawson Place, at the northeast corner of California Street and Hoyt Avenue in downtown Everett, provides services for child victims of physical abuse, sexual assault and drug endangerment. It also helps child witnesses of violent crimes. Counseling, forensic exams and some of the work of police, prosecutors and the state's child protective services happen all in one place.
Earlier Thursday, Smart toured Dawson Place. With the purchase of a building next door, the center was recently renovated to be more child-friendly and expanded, adding more room for therapy and a prevention and outreach program. Lori Vanderburg, Dawson Place executive director, said the center serves nearly 1,200 children and teens each year.
As Smart came to the dais, a hush fell over the crowd — which luncheon emcee and deputy prosecutor Adam Cornell said was the largest ever in the Xfinity ballroom.
In chilling detail, the beautiful young woman talked about her kidnapping and the sickening months that followed. At the time, Smart said, she was “a shy wallflower, so excited to leave junior high.” That horrifying night, June 5, 2002, she said she awoke in her bedroom to hear a man's voice saying: “I have a knife at your neck. Don't make a sound.”
She said he took her up a hill in the darkness, and told her, “I'm not going to rape and kill you — now.”
That man, Brian David Mitchell, and his female accomplice, Wanda Barzee, at first kept Smart in a tent. They told the teen she was Mitchell's wife. He raped her, used metal cable around her ankles to bind her to trees and told her every day that he would kill her and her family if she yelled or tried to escape.
“There are people that evil,” Smart said. “I didn't run because I didn't feel I could.”
Early on, she wished for death. “I felt so soiled, filthy, dirty,” she said. Yet, remembering the love of her family, especially her mother, Smart decided “I'd do whatever I could to survive.”
After her captors took her to Southern California in the winter, Smart said she convinced them to hitchhike back to Utah. In March 2003, police found the kidnappers and Smart in Sandy, Utah. Smart's face was hidden behind a veil.
Smart, who was overjoyed to be reunited with her family, said she'll never forget her mother's advice: “It's not what happens to us that defines us. It's what we do next,” she said. Her mother also told her that the best punishment for her captors would be for her to live a happy life.
After her ordeal, Smart attended Brigham Young University , completed a missionary trip and married Matthew Gilmour.
She testified against her captors. Mitchell was sentenced to life in prison. Barzee, who pleaded guilty, was given a 15-year sentence.
Two productions will bring Smart's story to TV audiences this month . The two-part “Elizabeth Smart: Autobiography” is scheduled to air Sunday and Monday nights on A&E. And a young actress portrays her in a TV movie, “I Am Elizabeth Smart,” airing Nov. 18 on Lifetime.
Smart said that in bringing her nightmare to audiences, she aims to give other survivors hope.
“When Elizabeth talked about how she survived, I would say thrived,” Cornell said. He shared an apt quote from “A Farewell to Arms,” by novelist Ernest Hemingway: “The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”
Accepting her award, Paul was brief in her comments. She expressed thanks and said the honor was a complete surprise. She then shared what had just happened in the hallway. Paul said she was at a table handing out name tags when she noticed a girl looking at her.
Paul had met the girl in court.
“She went through two trials, and was adopted by a lovely family,” Paul said. Applause rang out for that young survivor as Paul thanked the girl and her family, who were sitting in the audience.
Anthony Edwards Writes About Sexual Molestation At Hand of Gary Goddard
by Anita Busch
Actor Anthony Edwards has just written an explosive essay on alleged sexual molestation at the hand of Gary Goddard, who has been under the microscope in the past involving similar allegations from an underaged boy who also accused X-Men franchise director Bryan Singer. The accuser, Mike Egan, later withdrew his lawsuit against both men that he accused of sexual abuse. One note: The Gary Goddard Agency, based out of Toronto, is completely unrelated to the Gary Goddard referenced here. The man whose name is in the Toronto moniker passed away in 2002.
Here, in his own words, is what Edwards writes what happened to him when he was young at the hand of the other Gary Goddard. He posted this on Medium :
Yes Mom, There is Something Wrong
From Victim to Survivor
When I was 14 years old, my mother opened the door for me to answer honestly about the rumors she had heard about Gary Goddard — who was my mentor, teacher and friend — being a pedophile. I denied it through tears of complete panic. To face that truth was not an option as my sense of self was completely enmeshed in my gang of five friends who were all led by this sick father figure. I met Goddard when I was 12, and he quickly became a dominant force in my life. He taught me about the value of acting, respect for friendship, and the importance of studying. Pedophiles prey on the weak. My father, who suffered from undiagnosed PTSD from WWII, was not emotionally available. Everyone has the need to bond, and I was no exception.
My vulnerability was exploited. I was molested by Goddard, my best friend was raped by him — and this went on for years. The group of us, the gang, stayed quiet.
Why? One of the most tragic effects of sexual abuse in children is that the victims often feel deeply responsible — as if it is somehow their fault. With their sick form of control, abusers exploit a child's natural desire to bond. The victims are required to play by the abuser's rules, or else they are “out” — banished from the only world they know. Abusers are successful when they keep control of that little world — a world that is based on fear. The use of fear to control and manipulate can be both obvious and subtle. Abusers will often use the word “love” to define their horrific actions, which constitutes a total betrayal of trust. The resulting damage to the emotional development of a child is deep and unforgivable. Only after I was able to separate my experience, process it, and put it in its place could I accept this truth: My abuse may always be with me, but it does not own me. For far too many years, I held onto the idea that love was conditional — and so I would look for someone or something other than my higher self to define those conditions and requirements for me.
I have been so fortunate to have had access to therapy and fellow survivors. Shame can thrive easily when we are isolated, but it loses its power when people come together to share their common experiences. 22 years ago, I happened to run into Gary Goddard at an airport. I was able to express my outrage at what he had done. He swore to his remorse and said that he had gotten help. I felt a temporary sense of relief. I say temporary because when Goddard appeared in the press four years ago for alleged sexual abuse, my rage resurfaced. At 51 years old, I was directed by a group of loving friends to a therapist who specializes in this kind of abuse. By processing my anger in a safe place with a professional, I was finally able to have the conversation that I wish I could have had with my mom when I was 14.
I've learned a lot in these last four years. Most importantly, I've learned that I'm not alone. One in six men have an abusive sexual experience before they turn 18. Secrecy, shame and fear are the tools of abuse, and it is only by breaking the stigma of childhood sexual abuse that we can heal, change attitudes, and create safer environments for our children.
Right now, there are children and adults who want to talk. Right now, there are people who have witnessed this kind of abuse but don't know how to help. Right now, there are millions of victims who believe that the abuse they experienced was somehow their fault.
There are millions of children in our country who are one conversation away from being heard. Just as there are millions of adult men who are one step away from healing.
I did not go from being a victim to a survivor alone. No one does. I had to ask for help, and I am so grateful that I did.
Two organizations that I have found to be excellent resources are: 1in6.org and Joyfulheartfoundation.org
Victims of child abuse, often take decades to report abuse
by Cristina Flores
After 4 women publicly claimed that GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore of Alabama sexually assaulted them when they were teens, he denied the allegations and said if they were true, the women would have reported years ago.
Gwen Knight, with Prevent Child Abuse Utah, said it's not uncommon for people who say they were assaulted to wait years before reporting.
“88 percent of adults who were sexually abused as children did not report the abuse,” she said.
Knight says that often times a child victim of sexual abuse feels intimidated by the abuser who is may be someone in the child's circle of trust.
Abuse takes time to process – especially for a child whose brain is still developing.
She said adults who report abuse years after it occurred, should be believed.
“If an allegation comes forward, it needs to be investigated,” she said.
Terry Mitchell said she waited over 30 years to "out" the man she says raped her when she was 16.
“I didn't understand that it wasn't my fault at the time,” she said.
Mitchell, recently filed a civil lawsuit against the man who she says forced her into having sex when she was a child.
Richard Roberts was a federal prosecutor at the time, sent to Utah for the trial of Joseph Paul Franklin, a man who was accused of shooting and killing two of Mitchell's friends.
Mitchell was the star witness of the trial as she was with her friends when they were killed.
She said Roberts groomed her and took advantage of her telling her that if people knew they were having sex, she could ruin the trial and her friends' killers would go free.
Mitchell said for years, she buried any thought of Roberts or what he allegedly did to her.
She felt nobody would believe her. She and her mother felt there was nobody who could help them. Plus, Roberts was powerful.
“I was too afraid to say anything and it caused psychological trauma,” she said.
Recently, Mitchell recorded a conversation with Roberts where he confessed to a sexual relationship with her as a teen.
She gave the recording to the Utah Attorney General's Office who declined to prosecute, saying back then, the age for consensual sex was 16 and would have only been a misdemeanor. Besides they said, they couldn't extradite Roberts from Washington D.C. for a misdemeanor charge.
Mitchell was angry that the AG shared a report of the investigation with Roberts rather than prosecute him.
In 2016, Mitchell filed a civil lawsuit against Roberts saying he raped her as a teen.
Roberts suddenly retired the day the lawsuit was filed.
The lawsuit is still pending.
Mitchell said the Utah Attorney General's Office filed a brief in support of her lawsuit.
She said going public about her alleged abuser was not easy, but it's given her some relief.
She encourages others to do the same.
“If it takes you 30 years to speak out – great,” she said.
Beyond #MeToo: It's time to confront child sexual abuse
by Lyndon Haviland
It's easy to mistake the recent claims of underage sexual misconduct by Alabama Senate GOP nominee Roy Moore and actor Kevin Spacey as just another round of salacious news headlines in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
For those of us who understand the underreported prevalence of child sexual abuse, these allegations represent something deeply profound.
They indicate the #MeToo movement has extended beyond workplace harassment to include child sexual abuse survivors, who have long struggled to come to terms with their past, and find the strength to stand up and speak out. And it has opened a door for lawmakers to lead by example and confront this critical topic that is often kept in the shadows due to its discomforting and unsettling nature.
#MeToo has been a watershed for survivors everywhere, helping scores of women around the world find the strength to come forward with personal accounts of harassment. These brave individuals deserve our respect, as they have pioneered an important conversation over the intolerable behavior they've had to endure at the hands of others, simply to get through each and every day.
That same sense of helplessness these remarkable women felt before #MeToo went viral — where they felt silenced by their oppressors — is known all too well by child sexual abuse survivors. And just as #MeToo has inspired targets of sexual misconduct to channel their voice, no one deserves that more than those who have been molested as children.
It's a topic no one wants to talk about. And if we don't, child sexual abuse will continue to impact communities in record numbers. Abusers use the stigma of it as a weapon, as they know the children they prey upon will feel ashamed, and likely won't tell anyone about it. It's why child sexual abuse continues to be one of the most underreported crimes around the world. Statistics show one in 10 children under the age of 18 will be affected — and only a third of them will report it.
The only way to shatter this perpetual cycle is to de-stigmatize the issue and address it, head on. And raising awareness, and focusing on prevention, is where it starts. If we're truly committed to ending the cycle of abuse, we must do our part to change how we talk about it, how we perceive it, how we deal with it — and what we need to do to stop it by recognizing the warning signs.
Above all, the most important role we can play is to support abuse survivors. Because when they know we are there for them, and that we won't view them differently, and will be at their side, there's hope that one day, they may be able to confront the unspeakable events that have happened to them.
That's precisely what the #MeToo campaign has done for those who have experienced workplace sexual harassment. It has established a shared sense of community that has forged a bond, where they know they're not alone, and no longer feel threatened or handcuffed by the actions of their perpetrators.
It's no coincidence the allegations against Roy Moore and Kevin Spacey — or the claims raised by Corey Feldman regarding alleged pedophilia in Hollywood — have surfaced in this environment. #MeToo has helped many who have lived silent, for years, come forward and tell the world that what's happened to them isn't their fault .
It's why members of Congress owe it to these survivors to pay attention, and take action. It demands that we have an open discussion about child sexual abuse in the bright light of day. Survivors should never feel that they have nowhere to go, or believe that it's safer to stay quiet. It's up to us to do everything we can to help them. And that will only happen if we run toward the problem, not cower away.
As Rose McGowan herself said last month before The Women's Convention in Detroit: “We are pure, we are strong, we are brave and we will fight. … The scarlet letter is theirs, it is not ours.”
May those same sentiments inspire survivors of child sexual abuse everywhere, #too.
Lyndon Haviland, MPH, DrPH, is and advocate for public health and is former CEO of Darkness to Light, a nonprofit that aims to prevent child sexual abuse.
Kevin Spacey and the Culture of Silence: Are we Witnessing a Major Cultural Shift?
In the complicated world of sex therapy, the concepts of abuse and victimization are not as easily defined as they are in the public's mind.
by Joe Kort, Ph.D.
As a sex therapist, what is happening with the actor Kevin Spacey is professionally interesting. His public downfall began with two men who revealed that Spacey had assaulted them as teenagers. Since then, more have come forward, including men who Spacey assaulted when they were adults. It's increasingly clear that Spacey and many others in high positions have abused their power. Not surprisingly, in my years of practice, I have heard hundreds of such stories.
What happens in most public discourse on this topic is immediate expressions of moral outrage and self-righteousness, quickly labeling the older person as a pedophile…and the conversation stops dead. Many therapists know, however, that the picture is far more complicated. It cannot be dealt with such simple projections and judgments.
For instance, it is widely held in our culture that being gay and being a pedophile are identical. I can assure you, they are, in fact, very different. Calling child molestation of a boy by a man “homosexual,” or that of a girl by a man “heterosexual,” is to misunderstand pedophilia. No true pedophile is attracted to adults, so neither homosexuality nor heterosexuality applies.
Sexual abuse is never okay.
Let me be clear. It is always wrong for any adult to sexually approach a teenager or a child, or pressure them into being sexual with them. Ever. It is sexual abuse, and can traumatize the adolescent or child and cause chaos in and out of his sex life for the rest of his years. Among other things, these encounters can cause the victim to become confused about what their true sexual orientation really is; hypersexuality, in which a person experiences loss of control over their sexual behaviors; sexual dysfunction, such as erectile disorders; and other issues involving attaching to a significant other.
It is also great to hear that the boys Spacey made advances said no, and confronted him. This is not always the case. I give them a lot of credit. If it feels wrong, say something, do something. Understandably not everyone can do that.
There is so much about stories like this that is controversial and difficult to understand. Yet it is important to have the conversation about the issues both the abuser and abused are dealing with, including sexual abuse, sex offending, and how long-term closetedness can lead to mental health and behavioral issues.
Are all instances of sexual abuse traumatic?
What may surprise most people, however, is that not all those who were sexual with an initiating adult consider it abuse or victimization. Let me give you some examples: Some years ago, a gay client told me how he first had sex with his best friend's father … and loved it! In fact, he described the father as big and hairy, and how he had ever since been attracted to big, hairy men. No sense of victimization there. Since then, there have been countless gay men who told me that, as boys, they were warned to avoid the man, say, in the house down the block because he was a pedophile. Not knowing what it means to be a pedophile or the potential trauma that could result, they purposely sought out the man out to have their first sexual experiences because, as closeted gay pubescent teens they couldn't turn to any of their peers. Remember, gay and bisexual boys are isolated and alone as children and teens until they have the courage to come out. Even then they are isolated amongst their heterosexual peers. As adults in my office, these men did not consider themselves victims, nor were they traumatized at the time of this sexual experience.
There also are men and women of all sexual orientations who have told me that, coming from neglectful families in which they weren't loved and didn't receive affection, having sex with an adult was the first time someone expressed what felt to them like love and nurturing. Even though they now know that developmentally this was not in their best interest, they still feel strongly that some good came out of these experiences.
As a therapist, I would try to convince them they were victimized and even traumatized, but they refused to accept that. They boldly told me to back off, and that while they could understand it fell under the category of abuse, for them it was not that. There is even research now showing that not all victims of abuse are traumatized. Even so, I still try to explore with my clients the negative influences that can occur in such cases, given that the perpetrator and the victim are developmentally in such a different place psychologically, sexually, emotionally, and most other ways.
Then there are the many stories I've heard from heterosexual clients who also described sex with an adult not as traumatizing abuse, but as their pleasurable first sexual experience: Young heterosexual women who were sought out by older men, young men who were sought out by older women, and every nuance in between.
Here is yet another factor I've previously written about: underage gay and bisexual boys going on Grindr claiming to be 18-year-old young adults (and looking so, as well), seeking sex with older men. They are looking for sexual contact because they are so isolated and lonely, and want to express themselves sexually like their heterosexual counterparts. I tell them they are putting these older men, who have no idea they are underage, at risk for being prosecuted as sex offenders.
Who then is the abuser, the boy or the naïve man?
This brings me back to Kevin Spacey. We know very little, really, about him, other than the fact that he has been a closeted gay man for many years, but his brother has written about growing up with their father, whom he calls a “Nazi child rapist” who sexually abused the two brothers for years. Correlation? Many believe that sexual abusers have themselves been sexually abused as children. This can be true, but certainly not always. Studies have shown some correlation, but not causation. Often, they display the tendencies for what has been called, “returning to the scene of the sexual crime,” reenacting their first sexual experiences with others, who are often the age at which they themselves were sexually abused.
What are the effects of long-term closetedness?
Something else that Spacey's case brings to mind: for a gay man, being closeted for long periods of time before coming out can produce many negative consequences—depression, addiction, self-harm, out-of-control sexual behavior, and worse. I am not, by any stretch, condoning Spacey's behavior, but we should recognize, at least, that closeted men are at higher risk of acting out in negative ways unless they get therapy. We need to understand more clearly why someone would make these kinds of choices. As Jack Morin, author of The Erotic Mind, so elegantly put it, “If you go to war with your sexuality you're going to lose, and instead have more chaos in your life than what you started with.”
place, almost a soul cleansing, with people finally confessing what they have hidden for years. What I hope would go hand in hand with this shift, is a long-overdue public discussion—especially by therapists—about human sexuality, its nuances, and myriad manifestations.
An adult conversation, if you will, with less of the kind of quick moralizing and pejorative terminology that neither increases understanding nor diminishes our sense of compassion for those either afflicted by their own sexual troubles or those subjected to another's behavior. In the complicated world of sex therapy, the concepts of abuse and victimization are not as easily defined as they are in the public's mind.
Perhaps the best outcomes we can hope for from this recent exposure of dirty laundry are that sexual harassment and abuse will no longer be forced into the shadows by shame and fear and that we can begin to discuss our sexuality with greater honesty and openness.
This is how you stop online exploitation of children
by Rod Rosenstein and Amber Rudd
We are living in a truly remarkable era, in which each day seemingly brings a new technological innovation -- from health to education, communications to manufacturing -- that improves the lives of people around the world.
But some of these advancements have left children unsafe -- sometimes even in their own homes. Vile predators who seek to prey upon children's innocence have used numerous new media by which to participate in online child sexual exploitation -- through peer-to-peer file sharing, through chat rooms and through online forums.
To effectively pursue criminals and protect our children, we need a coordinated global response from governments, industry and society.
On Wednesday, the UK Home Office and the US Department of Justice joined representatives from Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter to discuss our collective efforts to fight child exploitation and possible new ways to work together to thwart these crimes.
This week, representatives of our respective governments met to discuss ways to address Internet child exploitation offenses. We are already seeing significant progress.
In the WePROTECT Global Alliance -- a coalition of 70 countries, international law enforcement agencies, civil society organizations and key players from the technology industry -- we have an unprecedented collaboration with the influence, expertise and resources to transform the global response to child exploitation crimes.
Online sexual abuse of children is a modern scourge in both the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as many other nations. The UK Home Office and the US Department of Justice will continue to attack Internet child exploitation whenever we encounter it. Unfortunately, we are encountering it with great frequency. Our respective nations, therefore, have devoted significant law enforcement resources to combating the issue.
For example, the Department of Justice assigns prosecutors in each of its 93 US attorneys' offices to specialize in prosecuting child exploitation offenses. They are assisted by the 61 Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces that the Department funds throughout the United States. In addition, the Department has a specialized unit in Washington — the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section — that helps train prosecutors and investigators on the best ways to address these crimes. And the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, and the US Postal Inspection Service are just a few of the US law enforcement agencies working to stop child exploitation.
The UK's response is underpinned by the world-leading Child Abuse Image Database (CAID), a capability launched in 2014, which enables all police forces in the UK and the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) to search seized devices for indecent images of children, and assess images for their severity.
CAID's use has enabled the NCA to review a seizure of material that would have taken a minimum of six months to review, in six weeks. The UK has brought together the technical expertise of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) with the National Crime Agency in a joint operational team, to target the most sophisticated offenders, and invested £20 million (US$26.38 million) in the last four years into specialist undercover online activity, targeting offenders who attempt to groom children in chat rooms, and on platforms and fora In the UK, results include identifying 524 victims in indecent imagery of children in 2016, and UK law enforcement is safeguarding around 500 children a month from sexual abuse and harm.
Still, there are obstacles that makes stopping predators difficult. A key problem is the movement of child exploitation images across international boundaries via the Internet. Images that were produced in one country are often sent to other countries. Fighting international crimes requires international cooperation.
To effectively pursue criminals and protect our children, we need a coordinated global response from governments, industry and society.
This includes working together to formulate innovative new solutions to disrupt criminal networks and autonomous criminals who operate internationally. Governments have territorial limitations and finite resources. They cannot be everywhere, and certainly not in the ether of the Internet. It is essential, therefore, that the technology industry work with governments to safeguard the platforms, products and applications that can be used to harm children.
Thankfully our two nations have a lengthy history of uniting to protect society from international threats, including criminal threats. Our countries repeatedly have cooperated to address emerging threats to international security and safety, and our way of life.
Technology is a key weapon in our arsenal against these horrendous crimes. We are encouraged by the development of Project Arachnid, a groundbreaking technological approach developed by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. It uses hash lists, the "digital fingerprints" of known child exploitation images, to proactively detect child sexual abuse material online, and issue notices to content hosts so that they remove these items.
Unfortunately the pain and suffering caused by the sexual abuse of children continues when images of the abuse are shared on the Internet. Survivors report feelings of re-victimization when an image is viewed. This is another reason why we must work with Internet technology companies to erase such images from the Internet.
Consider the real case of a child who was sexually abused for 10 years, starting when she was 6 years old. The person who abused the child has been convicted and imprisoned, but now the victim must live with the knowledge that others are viewing images of her abuse with glee. The victim has received some solace from the knowledge that Arachnid found images of her. These images then were removed from the Internet, and Arachnid will continue to search for the images.
Tragically there are thousands of other victims whose images are circulating on the Internet. Our governments are striving to stop this, and technologies like Arachnid appear to be helping.
The Canadian Centre is now working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to develop Arachnid into a global tool that will help technology firms of all sizes ensure that their platforms are not being misused by criminals, and that victims are identified, protected and spared further suffering.
As US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has stated: "All of our citizens deserve to live free from the threat of harm — especially our young people. So our efforts to improve public safety will make the fight against child exploitation and human trafficking a top priority."
Our agencies will continue to fight the proliferation of sexually explicit imagery of children and the harm that it causes. But our efforts alone will be insufficient to eradicate these images internationally. And as long as such images exist along with the Internet, they can be sent anywhere in the world. That is why international cooperation is essential.
Police Reports: Centralia Couple Said They Didn't Think 54-Pound 16-Year-Old Was Sick
by Natalie Johnson
In November 2016, nearly a year after a 16-year-old boy was discovered critically underweight with a dozen medical diagnoses rooted in prolonged starvation and neglect, parents Mary and Anthony Foxworth, of Centralia, told detectives they didn't know he was sick.
Instead, they said he didn't like eating his vegetables, was going through a growth spurt or had the flu.
“Mary began talking about her depression and anxiety and admitted to not noticing (him) losing so much weight,” Det. Patty Finch wrote in her report, which among other documents was obtained by The Chronicle through a public records request. “When confronted about (the boy's) severe malnutrition, Anthony said he was not aware that (he) was malnourished. Anthony maintained that he did not do anything wrong …”
Anthony and Mary Foxworth pleaded guilty in October to one count each of first-degree criminal mistreatment after their 16-year-old son was found weighing 54 pounds and malnourished with dozens of neglect-related medical conditions, rotten teeth and poor hygiene. He was still wearing pull-up diapers and hadn't been enrolled in school since 2011. When first admitted to Mary Bridge Children's Hospital in Tacoma, he had patches of hair missing and was too weak to open his mouth wide enough for an examination.
The teen and two other children were taken from the home by Child Protective Services. The other children had health issues as well, according to court documents, but charges were not filed in their cases.
However, neither defendant showed up for their sentencing hearings on Nov. 1, and were arrested a few days later after fleeing to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It is unknown when they will be extradited back to Washington. They had previously pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement and were expected to each receive a four-year prison sentence.
Police reports detailing a year's worth of investigations show the Foxworths alternately blamed a grandfather, each other or denied their son was really that sick in discussions with police, social workers and medical professionals.
Anthony Foxworth told police when questioned that he thought his son was simply “going through a growth spurt.”
“Anthony talked about how the children took baths every day and brushed their teeth seven days a week and at least two times a day,” according to police reports. “He talked about how the family ate three meals every day that consisted of good food.”
However, doctors and social workers associated with the case contradicted his rosy view of the family's life, expressing their shock and frustration to detectives during the investigation and in their own medical reports.
“I remember thinking ‘that kid is the most pale kid I have ever seen in my life,'” the first doctor to examine the boy in January 2016 reported to Centralia Police Det. Corey Butcher during the investigation.
Dr. Yolanda Duralde, with the Mary Bridge Child Abuse Intervention Department, reported that the boy's medical conditions were caused by years of “malnutrition and growth retardation,” and “his mother has been constantly at his bedside and has given duplicitous and contradictory histories about (his) health.”
Another doctor noted that the boy suffered from more than a dozen neglect-related illnesses.
“At best, this is neglect, but maybe also physical abuse,” the doctor wrote, according to Butcher's report.
Butcher also noted that social workers reported concern that Mary Foxworth, who was spending time with the boy while he was hospitalized, “is still not understanding the severity of her son's weight loss and muscle mass loss.”
A social worker reported that Mary Foxworth was “upset” CPS was involved and “does not feel it is warranted at this time. She could not give forthcoming answers as to why he had lost so much weight and medical attention had not been sought.”
Doctors also expressed concern that Mary Foxworth would not follow through with a specialized diet designed to help the boy recover, and reported that the Foxworths snuck the boy junk food while he was in the hospital. However, when interviewed by police later, she blamed her husband for the family's poor eating habits.
She also told police Anthony Foxworth didn't want the children enrolled in public school.
Despite the boy's condition when first seen by doctors, social workers and police did not immediately suspect neglect on the part of the Foxworths.
On Jan. 20, 2016, the day after Mary and Anthony Foxworth took the boy to Northwest Pediatrics and he was later admitted to Mary Bridge Hospital, police responded to a Child Protective Services referral to the family's south Centralia home.
Officer William Phipps, with the Centralia Police Department, noted in his report that CPS staff were expecting to remove the Foxworths' other two children.
Phipps summarized the CPS referral, in which social workers reported that Mary Foxworth blamed the children's grandfather, who lived with them and had dementia, for stealing food particularly from the starving 16-year-old boy. She also blamed him for bruises found on the boy.
Both Mary and Anthony Foxworth did not work at the time, telling police they were disabled.
“The referrer expressed concern as to why (the boy) is so malnourished when Mary is home with him. (They) stated that (he) could not have become this malnourished in just one week's time,” Phipps' report states. “Mary was unsure how many times per day (the boy) eats because she has not been watching him.”
Phipps' report also notes that the person who made the CPS referral noted that electronic health records showed the boy had not been to the doctor in seven years.
Phipps reported that he arrived at the house before CPS staff and saw Anthony Foxworth leave the home with the other two children. Officers stopped the car and Foxworth reportedly tearfully asked them to not take the children.
Officers and CPS staff decided that day not to remove the other children, according to Phipps' report.
On the following day, Jan. 21, 2016, Phipps reported the social worker contacted him to report he had seen the 16-year-old boy at Mary Bridge Hospital and confirmed he was emaciated, but said he believed he had a stomach condition that was causing his current medical issues and that he believed the grandfather was also a causing factor.
The case was put on hold pending further information.
However, a few weeks later, the investigation changed its tone.
Phipps filed his next report Feb. 12, 2016, after a call from another CPS staffer who reported that she and medical staff were now concerned the boy had been neglected by his parents.
The CPS worker reported the boy gained 12 pounds in his first two weeks in the hospital.
At that point, CPS took steps to remove the boy and the other two children from the Foxworths' care.
The boy's medical file indicated he had been malnourished for years, Phipps reported, and that his current medical conditions were a result of that malnourishment, rather than the other way around, as was originally thought.
The case was passed on to Centralia Police Department Detectives Corey Butcher and Patty Finch at that point.
The detectives began interviewing the children in April 2016.
Detectives reports show the children gave accounts of their lives that conflicted with each other's statements and with evidence found by police. While one child said they never brushed their teeth at home, the 16-year-old reported he brushed his teeth most days.
However, medical records show 24 of the teen's teeth had cavities or decay necessitating root canals, crowns or extraction.
According to Butcher's report, the 16-year-old had a nasogastric feeding tube when interviewed.
When detectives told the boy, doctors said he was “basically starving,” the boy replied, “I wouldn't say that.”
The boy reported he did not always eat breakfast in the morning and ate lunch two or three days a week and that his parents rarely prepared either meal, telling the kids to fend for themselves if hungry. He told detectives he felt much better since being in foster care.
The teen also reported he was home-schooled every day by his mother, but police later learned he only did about a half hour of school work a day.
By the time the boy was discharged into foster care on Feb. 17, 2016 — about a month after he was admitted to Mary Bridge Children's Hospital — he had gained nearly 20 pounds.
In November 2016, police interviewed the boy's foster mother, who reported the boy was terrified at first and “paced like a cat,” once home.
At first he would hardly eat and was sustained with a feeding tube. He also refused to bathe, saying his parents told him “he didn't need to bathe more than once or twice a year,” Butcher's report states.
His foster parents slowly got him to try fruits and vegetables using videogames as an incentive. He liked peaches and peas, but didn't know what a strawberry was.
They also took him shoe shopping for the first time and wrote about all his accomplishments in a “book of firsts.”
By December of that year — the same month his parents were charged in Lewis County Superior Court — the teen weighed more than 90 pounds and was still growing, healing and going to school for the first time in his life.
Texas has hired its first ever director of human trafficking prevention
In an interview with the Texas Tribune, Kim Grabert, the state's first director of human trafficking prevention, discussed how the state plans to recover and rehabilitate runaway youth who are sold for sex.
by Edgar Walters
Earlier this year, the Tribune's Sold Out series examined how state policies — including a severely underfunded child welfare system — failed to help child sex-trafficking victims. Since then, lawmakers set aside a budget increase of more than $500 million for the foster care system and the governor's office approved new funds for trafficking prevention initiatives — including the state's first-ever director of human trafficking and child exploitation.
Kim Grabert, who in July came to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services from a similar agency in Florida, said in an interview with The Texas Tribune that she hoped to help multiple state agencies cooperate to help Texas trafficking victims.
We talked with Grabert about what the state is doing to track down runaways, whether online data-mining could help find victims, what should be done about the lack of specialized homes for recovered teens and what Texas can learn from Florida's example. Below are her answers, which have been edited and condensed.
Kim Grabert: The position came out of a grant through the governor's office, and really the position was created so that I can focus all my time on one topic.
My background and my strength is really in all the collaborative team-building and the ability to kind of look at what's going on everywhere, figure out where we can plug in and where is the opportunity to leverage what's already existing.
We're going to introduce a screening tool, so [DFPS will] be using the same one that the governor's office is using [and that] their grantees will be using, so we can get really good evaluation information out of that.
And then we're going to be looking at our continuum of care and understanding where there's opportunities to build specialized placements or specialized services [for trafficking victims], and how can we work with what already exists, through education, to grow the population that they're serving.
TT: You came here from Florida. In your time here, have you seen things that Florida is doing on child sex trafficking that Texas is not, and are there things that Texas has to learn from other states?
KG: I think there are things that Texas is doing that are totally innovative and cutting edge and ahead of the curve on a national basis, and it's really around this multi-disciplinary structure, the coordinated care model, that everybody in a local, regional area are targeted. That's amazing, and it really brings in some of the work that's occurred in other places, but it brings it in with an ability to look at what didn't work in the other places and try to fix that here.
I definitely think there were unique aspects to Florida's system that don't exist here and vice versa. So it's hard to draw exact comparisons. They've done a lot of frontline training here. We want to build on that, and really give people who have an interest in this in-depth knowledge and really start to build subject experts around trafficking because the issue is really complex.
The one thing I see in both those states that I think is absolutely critical is the partnerships that exist among the players.
TT: When you say the players, who are you talking about?
KG: It's the Legislature, it's the state agencies who are involved ... so health departments, your child welfare, your juvenile justice entities, governor's office. It is your non-governmental organizations, it's your faith-based community, it's your survivor leadership ... [and] of course law enforcement.
The reality is we all want to help victims. And we also have to recognize that there's different mission statements for all those people that are involved, and so collaborating becomes really important in making sure that we're always doing what's in the best interest of the child.
One of the things about this population is, treatment needs to be long-term. It can be extremely expensive ... where's the opportunity for prevention? Who's treating the community children? What programs and services are able to cross across conservatorship and community, and where are all those opportunities to serve the entire spectrum of the population and not just carve out specific pieces?
TT: One of the issues that we have written about when it comes to trafficking is the difficulty surrounding child runaways. In your opinion, what can DFPS do better when it comes to tracking down runaways?
KG: I think they're doing a good job right now. When I got here, I was able to sit in on some of the work groups that they have going on, to really look at those kids that are missing from care, where there may be issues that we specifically need to address about a provider — are there opportunities for training around those issues?
Sometimes people say runaway and they think, ok, well, it is what it is.
But for teenagers, just because they are 15, 16, 17 years old, they have the ability to make a phone call or they have the ability to ask for help. They really are high-risk victims when they're on the street and running because they don't see their own exploitation and they don't recognize the grooming. And they don't recognize that they're being targeted, and it makes them very vulnerable.
The whole implementation of these [DFPS] special investigators is awesome. The fact that they have these staff who are being assigned as soon as a child is reported missing and start working those cases has really ramped up the idea of a sense of urgency.
The commissioner has spoken with regards to the criminal analyst position. I think that's really the last piece that's really going to help us, to have somebody that is really going to be utilizing social media and utilizing the Internet to reach out and find these kids.
TT: My last question, which you touched on earlier, is that a lack of specialized placements for recovered victims has been one of the biggest challenges that we've written about. What are you guys doing about that?
KG: There's two issues around what you're saying. One is that we have to recognize ... the majority of these children live in their community when they're trafficked. They live in their homes; they live with a relative. They're not in the custody of child welfare at the time they're trafficked.
So we have to be able to identify youth that are in our conservatorship, we have to be able to identify them as having those at-risk factors and making sure that we are cognizant of providing services that are specific to their needs.
But again, we don't want a boilerplate response. Every child that's identified as a trafficking victim does not need a specialized safe house or safe home.
I've had the opportunity to work with a lot of survivors around the nation and even those that are very healed and who've been out of the life for a very long time and are survivor-leaders, they still have ongoing needs.
So we have to have a mechanism to be able to provide a response for those kids who are in the community and not in formalized care, whether that's juvenile justice or child welfare. When parents or caregivers reach out and want help, there has to be a mechanism and funding to give for that type of treatment.
And there has to be an expectation by the community as a whole that government is not going to be able to fund the treatment of sex-trafficking alone and in totality. Everybody has to step up.
We need our churches, we need all of our agencies to come together and look at where are the opportunities to use the funding streams we have. Where can those entities and the community seek out foundations and where will they need to do fundraising? Where can individuals and corporations step in?
This has to be a community-wide response because of how comprehensive the needs are and how long they are. They're going to go past that child turning 18. And we have to make sure that we can transition them into adult programs or into adult services.
This is a huge issue. It's easy to say we just need to do these couple of steps, but it's bigger than that.
26 Young Women From Nigeria Found Dead in Mediterranean Sea
by Gaia Pianigiani and Christine Hauser
ROME — The bodies of 26 young Nigerian women and girls were retrieved from the Mediterranean Sea over the weekend and taken to Italy, where officials said on Tuesday they were investigating how the women died.
“It is a tragedy for mankind,” said Salvatore Malfi, the prefect in the port city of Salerno, where the bodies arrived along with 400 migrants who were rescued in the central Mediterranean in recent days.
“I think prosecutors will start working soonest to evaluate whether it could be homicide,” he said in televised remarks, adding that autopsy results for the women could be released publicly in weeks.
The young women were estimated to be between the ages of 14 and 18, said Marco Rotunno, the communications officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Italy. Their bodies were found floating in the water by the Spanish Navy on Friday, and survivors on nearby rubber dinghies, which had partly capsized, told the authorities that they were Nigerian and had departed from Libya.
Since the corpses arrived in Salerno on Sunday, no one has stepped forward to claim them as family members, Mr. Rotunno said. He said 400 migrants also landed on the same day. “So there was not a chance to speak with all of them, but probably they were not relatives of these girls,” he said.
When such groups of young women and girls are alone, the probability is high that they are victims of sex trafficking rings, he said.
“For Nigerian girls, it is pretty standard, the issue of being trafficked,” he said. “It is a regional network, unfortunately. I have seen younger than 14, and they were alone and from Nigeria.”
The women were in dinghies that left Warshefana, an area outside Tripoli, Libya, late last week, and capsized in bad weather, Mr. Rotunno said, citing accounts later provided by the survivors.
“People at sea were trying to swim; most of them don't know how to swim,” he said. “They have never done it.”
On Friday, the Spanish vessel Cantabria saved 64 people and recovered the bodies of 23 of the young Nigerian women from one of the boats, the International Organization for Migration said on Tuesday. About 50 people were still missing, it said.
“On the sunken vessel, there were several very young Nigerian girls,” the statement said.
In a separate operation, an Italian naval ship retrieved the bodies of three women from another inflatable boat that was transporting about 139 migrants, transferring them all to the Cantabria, the I.O.M. said. Eleven migrants from that boat are missing.
“This tragedy affects a group of people particularly at risk,” said Federico Soda, the director of the I.O.M. Coordination Office for the Mediterranean. “It is very likely that these girls were, in fact, victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.”
He said the I.O.M. has estimated that 80 percent of Nigerian girls arriving in Italy by sea may be victims of trafficking.
Thousands of people have fled or been trafficked in the perilous routes across the Mediterranean Sea for Europe. The latest deaths bring the total number of deaths in the Mediterranean in 2017 to 2,925, compared with 4,305 during the same time last year.
“It is more difficult than ever to forecast the trend right now,” Mr. Soda said. “The number of departures from Libya has slowed in the last four months, but we are still seeing large numbers being rescued and brought to Italy in relatively short periods of time.”